My boss recently encouraged me to go for my Professional in Human Resources certification from the Society for Human Resource Management. I’m considering it, but need to get an idea of just how big a time commitment I would be signing up for. I see that SHRM says I should plan on a minimum of 65 study hours, but I have a feeling that’s on the low side. For any PHRs out there, how much time did you spend going for the designation? Is SHRM’s three-day prep course worth it?—Bruce, N.J.
We’re hiring again, but have been swamped with applications from unqualified people. We would like to set up a bonus program that pays employees who bring us good candidates that we ultimately hire. What’s the right amount to pay for employee referrals? How should we structure the program?—Steve, N.C.
We just interviewed a candidate who would be a great addition to our call center staff. He has the experience, and most important, seems to have the personality for the job. Only one problem: He has one of those piercings next to his eyebrow. I don’t care, and his potential supervisor doesn’t care, but I’m pretty sure our president will not like it one bit. He’s pretty conservative, and so is our company generally. My question is, who should I talk to about this—the guy we want to hire (tell him to lose the eyebrow thing) or the president (tell him to loosen up)?—Diedre, Neb.
We have a policy that requires all requests for employment references to go through HR; responses are limited to essential information. Managers are allowed to give personal references as long as they are not speaking as a representative of the organization. Lately managers have been asked to “recommend” staff on business-related social networking sites like LinkedIn. Since they are identified as managers of our organization on LinkedIn, wouldn’t that be a violation of our policy? We are split on this question, and I am wondering how other organizations handle this issue. — Peggie, Oakland
As part of my new job, I was told that I would be responsible for handing out payroll checks to the entire staff—hundreds of employees! Some of them are live checks, too. (Why people don’t direct deposit is beyond me.) The result is that I’m spending a good chunk of every other Friday tracking down people, leaving notes on their desks, sending e-mails and so forth, all so they can get their pay envelopes. Is it normal for HR to pass out checks? Shouldn’t someone from accounting be handling this?—R, Cali
Our employees are by far the “gossipiest” group I have ever worked with. Rumors fly around the shop floor and office at lightning speed. These people dish the dirt on each other, and they’re always “learning” that we’ve just lost a big customer or we’re going to cut hours or someone is about to get fired. Of course, most of these rumors are untrue. I try to put out the fires as fast as possible, but I’m wondering if there’s a better overall way to put an end to this weird culture. Has anyone else faced this problem? Any advice on what I can do so gossip isn’t such a distraction?—Pete, Bay Area
A new year, new beginnings and … just maybe … some new ways of doing things! Did you make any work-related resolutions for 2011? Any HR habits you’re trying to quit–or hoping to start? (Around here, we’re resolving to give HR Weekly readers a more robust way to interact with our information.) What’s your resolution?—The HR Specialist editors
I’ve been tasked with resetting our employee pay bands, so they are appropriate for all categories of positions within our workforce. I’m not sure where to begin. Does anyone have any guidelines they use to set employee salaries and raises?—Tara, New York
Bless their hearts, several employees are raising money for charitable causes this holiday season. However, they are soliciting contributions from co-workers during working hours. This has become disruptive, and a few employees have complained to HR. It’s probably too late to do anything this year, but I would like to develop a policy regulating charitable activities at work. What should such a policy cover? Does anyone have sample policy language I can adapt? Thanks.—Dan, Illinois
I’m new to HR and feeling a little overwhelmed. Between administrative stuff, legal compliance, benefits, performance management and all the other aspects of the job, I’m having a hard time prioritizing. Can experienced HR people suggest any tips, tools or resources to help me keep track of what needs to be done and what I need to focus on first?—J.A., Florida