Issue: Performing an HR department audit to gauge your organization's compliance and lawsuit risks.
Benefit: Head off legal action, streamline your HR processes and earn kudos from the boss for your big-picture thinking.
Action: Launch the audit using the tips below, then meet with your CEO to discuss suggested changes.
If you're buried under I-9s, W-4s, rÈsumÈs and benefit forms, it's hard to see the HR forest through all those trees. Successfully handling such daily HR tasks may earn you a gold star as a competent HR professional, but it won't help you advance as a strategic member of the executive team.
Advice: Start playing offense, not just defense. Conduct a pre-emptive HR audit to spot potential problems and put out potential legal fires before they flare up.
Then, promote your findings (and related suggestions) as a business strategy to save your organization money and retain its resources. Such big-picture thinking will showcase your broad vision and set the stage for your 2005 promotion.
By performing HR audits, you also prove your "good- faith" efforts at legal compliance if your organization is ever hauled into court.
Are your policies stale? Many employers add new policies piecemeal in response to new laws and court rulings. As these policies pile up, some become outdated, inappropriate or conflicting.
HR audits are basically checklists that help you review policies such as hiring, recruiting, compensation, records, government regulation compliance and more. Audits will reveal where your organization doesn't comply with the law, plus it could show where you're draining company resources by giving employees more legal protection than the law requires.
Who should do it? The best option, if you've got the budget for it, is to bring in an employment lawyer or HR consultant (lawyers are typically better). Pitch this added cost as an "ounce of prevention" that will pay big dividends in saved legal and compliance costs down the road.
Logistics: Whoever you choose will conduct an on-site review of your personnel, payroll, safety and other HR-related records and policies. That review could include interviewing execs and managers about practices that appear out of compliance.
The reviewer issues a confidential report on your compliance status and also recommends changes. The audit resembles what an employer could expect if a government inspector walked through the door. The difference: Results are reported only to your organization, which can take corrective action before any government agency or court learns about the problems.
Tip: Check with your employment-law attorney to see if the firm provides HR audits as a free or low-cost adjunct to other services you're already paying for.
If you don't want to hire a lawyer to audit your employment practices, do it yourself, using the topic list on page 1. You can attack one topic each week.
Or, you can find self-audit checklists on the Internet at sites such as www.venable. com/docs/publication/529.pdf and www.ulmer.com/events/newsletters/ell/2002/ sum2002_audit.html. The problem: Self-audits often aren't thorough enough and, because law firms typically post them, they generate more questions than answers.
Finally, software can walk you through an HR self-audit. See examples at www.hrnonline.com/audit_about.asp and www.laurdan.com.
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