A Fistful of Employment Resolutions to Start the New Year



As published in Nashville Business Journal.

New Year's is traditionally a time for persons to resolve to do certain things differently (and better) in the coming year.  Employers should follow this tradition as well.  Below are several employment-related resolutions manufacturing employers may wish to make to ensure a more successful 2006.

  1. Review and update employee relations policies.
    Do you have a handbook or personnel manual containing your company's personnel policies?  Congratulations.  Has it been since the Clinton Administration that you have reviewed those policies (or better yet, had legal counsel review those policies)?  Then resolve to do so in 2006.  The laws change frequently, and policies should be reviewed annually (or at least once every two (2) years) to ensure their continued compliance with the law.  Examples of policies that may need to be updated since your company's last review are policies concerning harassment prevention, vacation and other paid time off, military leave, and confidentiality of employee medical information.
  2. Examine employee benefits.
    Are you losing employees even though your wage rates are at or above the market?  Are employees accumulating more time off than you would like, or do you find employees feigning illness to use up their sick leave before the end of the year?  If so, it may be time to reexamine your company's benefits and paid time off policies, to avoid creating perverse incentives for employees and to make sure you are getting the most "bang for your buck" by giving employees benefits they truly want.
  3. Workplace safety.
    Have you noticed any trends in your company's history of workplace accidents?  Is the total level of workplace safety increasing or decreasing?  Are certain injuries occurring with more regularity than they did five (5) years ago?  Are you conducting appropriate testing of noise and other levels in the workplace regularly?  Workplace accidents/exposure can directly affect the bottom line through increased liability, and they can indirectly affect the bottom line through employee absenteeism. Other aspects of workplace safety to consider are implementing (or tweaking) a drug testing program and training supervisors on your company's safety policies to minimize TOSHA violations and maximize possible defenses to workers' compensation claims.
  4. Train employees and supervisors.
    On a related point, resolve in 2006 to train employees on your company's policies, and to train your supervisors to be better supervisors.  Many companies provide training to new employees during orientation, but provide no follow-up training when policies change.  Also, just as most of us receive no training on how to be parents, most supervisors receive no training on how to be supervisors.  Instead, they are promoted, told they are now salaried employees and are expected to know what to do.  Being an effective employee does not necessarily equate to being an effective supervisor; a little training on the front end will go a long way.
  5. Protecting technology/confidential information.
    Does your company have certain technology or other confidential information that it would like to protect?  If so, have you taken adequate steps to protect this technology and information?  Efforts may include restricting access to a limited number of employees and obtaining non-competition, non-solicitation, and/or confidentiality agreements for those employees.  If you have not obtained such agreements before, it is not too late.  Resolve to make 2006 the year to protect the "intellectual assets" of your business.
  6. Labor relations.
    Some of you may have a union in place for your workforce, others may not.  In either event, resolve in 2006 to have a more focused labor relations strategy.  If you do not have a union in place and wish to remain that way, spend time planning a union avoidance strategy and training your supervisors to spot the signs of union organization.  If you already have a union in place, then plot a strategy to minimize grievances and arbitrations, and examine your collective bargaining agreement to determine whether it needs to be tweaked.  Most employers who have a collective bargaining agreement in place focus only on wages and benefits once negotiations roll around.  Don't make this mistake.  Read the agreement, consider recent issues that have arisen, and determine whether other "language" provisions in the agreement need to be revised.
  7. Investigate.
    Most companies know they need to investigate when an employee complains of harassment, but investigation should not be limited to harassment cases.  Experience proves that prompt, thorough investigations are excellent deterrents and defenses to all types of employment claims.  Keep your antennae up for situations that need investigating, and train the appropriate employees on how to conduct investigations.  When appropriate, retain a third party (such as a law firm or human resources professional) to conduct a "neutral" investigation and make recommendations.

Taking the above steps may not directly increase your company's revenue, but it can certainly minimize losses.  And that will be worth toasting when December 31 arrives!