John Wilcox is senior editor of 15 HR Specialist newsletters covering employment law, compensation and benefits, as well as theHRSpecialist.com. A journalist who has covered HR, training, organization development and business management for more than 15 years, John keeps his finger on the pulse of what’s working in HR through daily contact with some of the nation’s top HR pros, business people and employment law attorneys.
I have a question about how to handle software training for our staff. We’re going to be upgrading all the PCs around the office over the next few months, and I’m worried that we’ll have a productivity slump. In particular with Windows 7 coming out, I have concerns that the new operating system and software will have a steep learning curve. We experienced that in spades with Windows Vista, and I don’t want a repeat. We have 18 employees who will be affected. Should we hire a trainer to come in? Send staff for off-site training? Rely on the software documentation and online support? I’d appreciate any advice.—Steve, NE
We’re considering starting a “leave donation” program in which employees could contribute accrued sick, vacation and personal leave to co-workers whose ongoing health problems drain their own leave banks. It sounds like a great idea, but I want to make sure we do it right. For those of you who have such programs, what issues should I consider as I draft the policy? Have you experienced any unintended consequences?—Bill, Colorado
We’re looking to create an incentive plan for all rank-and-file employees who bring in leads that help us land new business. (That’s already part of our sales force’s job, so they would be excluded.) What kind of incentives work best? I’m assuming cash is popular—so how much? How should we track our incentive program?—Bill M., Las Vegas
As our company’s only HR staff person, I’m in an awkward situation. My immediate supervisor reprimanded me for the way I handled a recent change in our working hours. Employees were confused, so I sent e-mails to various managers seeking the correct information. That exposed some serious disagreements between the managers and executives about the new hours. My boss said I should not have been so public about it, and then wrote me up for this alleged “infraction.” I think I handled it correctly and want the reprimand removed from my file. What should I do? I’m afraid the company president will take my supervisor’s side.—No name, no location (because I need this job)
I have two part-time security guards working at the same location. One of them works four nights a week; the other works three nights a week. We need security coverage at this site seven nights a week, 365 nights a year. How do I handle giving them the “holiday” time off they’re entitled to if someone has to be there all the time?—Lisa D.
Two of our employees—a married couple—for years have requested extra unpaid time off for vacations. The husband works for me, the wife works for the company owner. We recently notified all employees that we would no longer grant any additional time off. I’ve made it clear to the husband that he won’t get any additional time off. The owner, on the other hand, sees no problem with giving both of them unpaid leave this year, even while other employees have to live with the new rule. How should I handle this?—J.L., Wisc.
What can I do about an employee who doesn’t sit upright in his chair in an ergonomically correct position? I don’t mean ordinary slouching; this guy practically lies down in his chair! When I catch him doing it, he straightens up, but then he goes right back to his original position. I have offered to provide any type of equipment that might help, but he doesn’t want anything. His main responsibilities involve talking on the phone and entering data. As the person in charge of workplace safety, I’m trying to prevent any injury claims. Can he be reprimanded or forced to comply? Any suggestions?—Tammy, CA
What would be the nicest and easiest way of telling an employee that we do not want to hire her daughter. We have used her daughter for several temp jobs in the past. She was OK, but we never would have hired her for a full-time job. This employee acts like it’s our responsibility to keep her daughter employed every time a position becomes available in our admin department.—Tina, Tennessee
What can we do? One of our employees is not at all productive, but his manager refuses to terminate him. That’s because the employee has a terminal illness. The manager speaks to the employee about his poor performance and not following instructions, but that is far as it goes. At what point should HR intervene and press for termination?—Marilyn
We have to lay off several employees. Some have only been with us a couple of years, but one has worked here for 13 years. We want to treat them right by providing severance pay, but I don’t know how much is appropriate. Those of you who have been in this situation, how much severance did you offer?—Jason, Ga.
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