Monthly Archives

July 2019

WorkplaceInvestigation x

Workplace Investigation Best Practices

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Workplace investigations are a critical element in establishing a safe work environment. The investigations, however, can involve negotiating several sensitive and personal topics or disputes. Conducted properly, a workplace investigation can actually help to reduce conflict, positively promote inclusion, and reduce the organization’s legal liability.

A workplace investigation can be initiated by suspected substance abuse, discrimination or harassment threats, theft, or outright violations of work policies, or other reasons. All investigations or reasons initiating the investigation will be different, so there is no cut and dry workflow to handle each, but basic procedures should be outlined.

The person(s) chosen to lead investigations should be respected, knowledgeable about company policies, procedures, and employee rights (including employment law), and trained in conducting workplace investigation interviews. When necessary, some situations may require a member of the executive team to be involved. This person should also exhibit these same areas of experience.

Here are some recommended steps for ensuring workplace investigations are executed effectively.

  • Ensure the HR team is equipped and prepared to recognize and introduce an investigation when one is needed.
  • Work quickly to identify involved parties and interview them in a specific manner. For example, start with the person who brought forward the complaint, the accused harasser, any witnesses, and then follow up with a second conversation with the complainant.
  • Use your company’s standard tracking and record-keeping system to maintain and establish and maintain secure files pertaining to the investigation.
  • Document everything. Take notes throughout each interview and compose a summary once complete.
  • Don’t make promises you can’t keep. For instance, promising an interviewee that the information they share will be completely confidential. This is untrue. Elements of the investigation will likely be shared with people who are required to understand the full scope of the incident to take appropriate action in response to the pending investigation.

After the investigation concludes, review all of the steps taken in addition to the final report. Make suggestions for essential improvements to increase effectiveness and ensure future investigations will continue to run smoothly. Contact Harbor America to learn more about workplace investigations, developing the proper policies and procedures, or to customize a solution for everything related to the HR functions you’re unable to give your full attention.

Helping Your Small Business Survive 2019

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Small and medium-sized businesses face different issues than large or enterprise-level companies. For example, early in their journey, small and medium-sized businesses have a harder time predicting growth patterns. Keep your company vision clear, but supplement what you don’t know about the market with what you’re able to control: how you market, how you sell, and your brand perception. Regardless of the size of your business, you too can survive 2019 with these helpful tips:

  • Stay competitive in terms of prices, but keep your budget in check.
  • Quality will never be sacrificed if your budget is always low—even when business is booming.
  • Use the internet to your advantage by selling your services online. Instead of sending a rep on-site, use your digital tools to get back on track.
  • Allocate enough money toward marketing and sales each year including research and industry data that will help your growing business thrive.

Contact Harbor America when it’s time to review your business plan and start planning your 2020 successes.

Minimizing Risk: Updating Your Policies and Procedures

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Companies deal with their policies and procedures in one of two ways: Proactive or Reactive.

A business that operates under the proactive approach will make necessary or anticipated changes as they happen. As the direction of the company changes, or as the generational gap in the employee base closes, companies may adjust their policies and procedures to evolve with more modern wants and needs of the industry and to keep employees happy.

Conversely, businesses that are satisfied with the status quo and have the “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” mindset operate under the reactive approach. These businesses are under the impression that everything is running smoothly and there is no need to either document something that hasn’t happened yet or edit/update a policy simply because of a single, isolated issue.

There is associated risk, though, when it comes to not proactively updating your organization’s operating policies and procedures. For example, more than 19 lawsuits were filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for alleged violations concerning the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) resulting in “more than $6 million in settlements.”[1]

Employers are encouraged to fully understand their responsibilities to their employees, their consumers or clients, and the industry in which they serve. In a situation where the business does not have the best practices in place, there is no time like the present to start working toward getting on track.

Begin by taking a look at all policies and procedures individually, apart from the employee or company handbook as a whole. The handbook may have a recent revision date, but that date will reflect the last revision, not the most recent update for each policy. Each individual policy and documented procedure should feed into the overarching handbook. However, each policy and procedure should also have its own revision or last update date. It is recommended that all policies and procedures are reviewed annually to ensure that nothing gets overlooked every twelve-months.

With each audit or subsequent update, instruct those responsible for managing the process to schedule a training on the updated documentation. Then, once annually, a larger training should be held, in more of a town hall set-up, to review the parent handbook with the entire group. Spending time to review the changes with the entire organization will help business leaders to understand if there are any knowledge gaps requiring additional training on any of the policies or procedures.

Finally, comprise a working list of controls to help mitigate any outstanding or potential risk. This step will help those with the responsibility of managing the regular policies and procedures audit the documentation properly, while actively planning for future improvements.

Going forward, it is important to note that policy and procedure documents should be easily accessible in a digital format, rather than delivered only as printed materials. This will also save the organization when it comes to the need to republish any of the documentation. It can simply be updated digitally rather than reprinted for all employees.

It may be difficult to keep up with the rapidly changing legislation that feeds HR policies and procedures directly. Here are some websites to help keep you current:

If you’re ready to provide your business leaders and employees better policy and procedure documentation, Harbor America can help. Contact us to learn more about improving operational effectiveness and efficiency.

[1] HR Daily Advisor: EEOC, Employee Continue to See Success in Disability Cases

EmployeeTechnologyExperience x

Simplifying an Employee’s Technology Experience

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It’s no secret that employees don’t love change but are looking for ways to simplify their day, at the same time. Employers react by implementing new technology platforms that address one or a handful of tasks or responsibilities. However, these new platforms many times are not replacing existing tools, but are rather in addition to the existing technology stack. The new platforms are likely chosen for their ability to integrate with the existing tools, because they are self-proclaiming the “user-friendly” aspect, or employees will shave XX% off their day-to-day routine.

For the employees, though, the desired effect may never be achieved as the overwhelming sense of relief brought about by the new technology is overshadowed by frustration and confusion. In fact, employee stress levels have steadily increased by 20% over the last 30 years.[1]

As the introduction of new technology fails from poor implementation or miscalculated integrations, employees become increasingly frustrated by the new required platform and the addition of added, unnecessary stress and time spent ironing out issues that, in hindsight, were not that big of a deal in the first place.

Instead of attempting to introduce new technologies to help employees become more efficient, work faster, or manage their work better, consider looking at the work itself and adjusting procedures or workflow to highlight built-in efficiency options. New technology platforms should be introduced to new teams or departments assigned to tasks and responsibilities that give the organization a more technical competitive edge in the eye of the consumer.

When looking at existing departments who are using more than one software to accomplish a single activity, payroll, for example, employers should consider the upgrade (moving to the cloud, a larger multi-purpose platform, etc.) from all angles. The primary goal of the business should be to remain focused on their competitive edge, all while creating value and reducing the employee workload, many times through automation. Keep the focus on the needs of the employees rather than increasing the speed of their work.

Here are some tips for taking steps toward modernizing the technology platforms at your company:

  • Be honest with what is needed to succeed and weigh your decisions carefully in this area. Just because something is cheap and checks most of the boxes doesn’t mean it’s the right choice. What processes does the technology improve? What manual steps are eliminated? What is the real value that will be added?
  • Understand from the perspective of all users what the outcome of embracing a simplified architecture will be. Is your team focused on functionality, flexibility, or design? What is the most hindering aspect of the existing technology for your users?
  • Compile a transition or implementation team to lead the user-facing aspect of the upgrade. This team will be the go-to people for employees who are experiencing issues on the floor. The team should include developers, project managers, an IT representative, and a client or customer-facing representative, also. This group will serve as your cheerleaders and influencers for the roll-out.
  • Once the new technology is rolled out, make it routine and mandatory. Keeping the old technology around will only reopen old wounds. In addition to the implementation plan, there should be a sun-setting plan to phase out and eventually eliminate the old technology.

Ensure a positive employee experience by prioritizing the implementation of a technology that is easy, convenient, and allows employees to access the platform anywhere, anytime. Employees will be able to tell if you put their needs ahead of the needs of the business—maximize the employee experience without adding work or over-complicating existing processes. Contact us to learn more about our cloud-based solution designed with end-users in mind. From HR and payroll to benefits administration with online reporting options and paperless onboarding. It’s time to empower your employees.

[1] Forbes: Workplace Trend: Stress Is On The Rise

Who to Hire: Contractor vs. Employee

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When it comes down to the hiring status, between a contractor and employee, most employers have a preference or at least a policy to help govern the designation of these hires. “The IRS and Department of Labor pay close attention to worker classification issues to ensure that employers are making the right determinations”[1] when it comes to employment.

Here are the main differences between employing a contractor or an employee:

Interested in learning more? Contact Harbor America to get started.

[1] The CPA Journal: Employee Versus Independent Contractor