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Adopt 5 HR best practices to weather the recession

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in Employee Benefits Program,HR Management,Human Resources

by Susan Riffle

During a recession, every organization seems to face its own unique HR challenges, and that’s leading to creative solutions and new ways of thinking.

Still, some tried-and-true best practices endure during good times and bad, and comp and benefits pros who follow them are having some success in helping their organizations during hard times.

Here are five best practices that can help comp and benefits pros make changes that contribute to their organizations’ survival.

1. Benchmarking

Too many organizations set salaries, determine raises and add or subtract benefits without considering the perks their competitors use to attract and retain the best employees.

Regardless of economic ups and downs, it’s important to compare your organization’s comp and benefits programs with other firms of your size in your industry—and then to use that information to shift your strategy to make your company more competitive. In a down economy, you can use the data to help you determine where it’s OK to cut and where cuts might hurt your organization more than help it.

Tip: Invest in a salary market survey to clue you in to how much other organizations pay employees with jobs similar to those in your company.

2. Monitoring compliance

Since last fall, we’ve seen a flurry of changes and proposals affecting health care, executive compensation, bonuses and fair pay.

Some, like the compensation provisions of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, are hard to miss because they’re in the news every day. But others—like those covering employer-owned life insurance or group benefits—don’t get as much attention, so they’re easier to overlook. Still, lack of knowledge of a new law is no excuse for noncompliance.

Tip: Develop a compliance checklist that helps you keep track of pending and adopted HR legislation and regulations. Look here for a checklist that can get you started: www.findleydavies.com/supplemental/Health_Welfare_2009_Compliance_Checklist.pdf.

3. Conducting an HR audit

This can broadly cover all HR procedures or focus solely on comp or benefits. It involves evaluating every HR policy and practice and determining how to make them more efficient. Often, that evaluation leads HR to invest in technology that can reduce duplication of effort and make HR more efficient.

Example: The HR call center of a large health care system adopted an online data-tracking system that allowed staff to keep a record of each employee request or problem and its resolution. They found that when other employees called with similar problems, they could tap into the research and data that helped resolve the situation the first time.

Tip: Even during a recession, don’t shy away from technology. An initial outlay could save valuable staff time.

4. Reducing the cost of benefits

Your organization’s health care benefits could present an opportunity to decrease costs without losing your competitive edge. If your firm offers different benefits plans to employees at different locations, your administrative costs could be higher than necessary.

Tip: Consider offering fewer plans but allowing employees to choose. You might be able to increase employee contributions and still keep costs lower than competing plans.

5. Communicating changes to employees

No employee likes paying more for health insurance, taking a pay cut or paying for voluntary benefits that used to be “free.” Still, your organization will suffer less backlash—and have fewer retention problems—if HR walks employees through the reasons for the changes.

Tip: Communicate constantly—and through various forums, like one-on-one meetings with employees, personalized information packets that show the impact of each change based on employees’ situation and group gatherings.

If employees understand where they stand when it comes to their comp and benefits, they’ll be more supportive and less confused by all of the changes.

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Author: Susan Riffle is marketing coordinator for Findley Davies, an HR consulting firm. Contact her at sriffle@findleydavies.com.

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