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The HR Specialist Forum

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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
Our front-desk receptionist is a gem. She very capably handles all her duties and presents a very favorable “public face” for the company … except for one thing. She is prone to religious proselytizing, not just with people who work here, but occasionally with visitors, too. Sometimes, it’s just, “Have a blessed day.” But other times, she’ll roll out a whole Bible verse to suit whatever mood she is in. I have received a few complaints about this, but everyone is quite shy about making it a big deal since she is otherwise so great. How can I tell her to tone it down without offending her? Can we get in legal trouble by asking her to stop preaching?—Krista, S.C.
Some of our employees are stealing from us! Not by taking money or supplies, but by stealing time. Some pretend to work through lunch so they can leave work early. Others conduct personal business on the phone or over the Internet. Others just spend way too much time socializing. What can we do to crack down?—Louise, PA
Ever since grade school, you’ve dreamed of a career filling out forms, mediating petty beefs and explaining why bosses can’t make employees run errands for them. But if you hadn’t set your sights on a career in HR, what would you have done instead? If you decided to chuck it all right now and embark on new vocational ventures, what kind of work would you seek? Why?—The HR Specialist Editors
We’re considering engaging with an attorney or law firm to a) take a look at our existing policies, employment contracts and so forth, and b) give us recommendations on how we should develop new policies and procedures going forward. Of course, we would want representation in case we get sued, too. We’re in a relatively small city, and to my knowledge, no firms here specialize in employment law. Should we go with a local firm, for the sake of convenience and day-to-day contact?  Or should we seek out a firm that specializes in employment law? Regardless, what kinds of questions should we ask to help us pick the best representation?—Steven
I wear a lot of hats in our small company. I’m the office manager, handle much of the day-to-day bookkeeping and serve as the owner’s main admin person. I also take care of HR matters, and this has me concerned because my boss doesn’t value that role very much. HR must often take a back seat to whatever else he thinks is important. I’m really afraid we’ll get burned one day because something fell through the cracks. Is anyone else in that position? Any advice on how I can get him to take HR seriously?—Chris in Florida
We recently had a key employee go out on extended sick leave, and we discovered that no one else knew how to do her job very well. It took a couple weeks for us to get back up to speed. Now we have decided to start a cross-training program so at least one extra employee will know how to perform each function. Has anyone done this? What advice can you offer to make the process run smoothly and make sure we capture all the expertise we need?—Nancy O., Virginia
With the holidays coming up, I’ve been tasked with organizing a companywide celebration that—guess what—won’t cost very much. Last year we had a potluck luncheon, but frankly it was pretty lame, and I haven’t heard anyone begging for a repeat. Any other ideas on ways to celebrate the season without breaking the bank?—Nicole, Ohio
I’d be interested in hearing thoughts (pro or con) concerning employees “donating” accrued days off to an ill co-worker. A manager approached me with the idea to help a new employee who hasn’t accumulated much time off. Would co-workers feel inappropriately obligated to donate days? Would they be made to feel guilty if they didn’t?  Has anyone had experience with this?—Cheryl, Missouri
We’re looking to upgrade our human resource information systems software. We need to track training, salary increases, EEO data and performance evaluations, among other things. How should I approach the selection process? What questions should I ask vendors? What HRIS system do you use? Would you recommend it?—Hilda, Florida
We’ve had some discord on our plant floor lately: name-calling, insults and couple of minor shoving matches. When I asked the foreman about it, he said a couple of guys have been purposely needling co-workers and picking fights. What kind of policies can we invoke to put a stop to this nonsense?—GL, Ohio
The owner of our company has a fairly in-your-face, aggressive personality. I and lots of other staff can deal with him—that’s just his style. But several of our employees have complained recently that he’s acting worse and worse, and they’ve come to me accusing him of intimidating and bullying them. Who should I counsel? The boss, to tell him to lighten up? Or the employees, to tell them to get a thicker skin?—Designated Mediator
We have an employee handbook that spells out our policies and procedures. I wonder if we need a similar publication aimed specifically at managers and supervisors? Does anyone have one? If so, what does it include that’s different from your employee manual?—Kristin, Chicago
Management just let everyone know that we're going to continue a salary freeze for at least another six months. For some people, that means they won't have seen a raise in more than two years. How can we keep our employees motivated when it doesn't seem like there's any light at the end of the tunnel?—B.D., New York
As we enter the back-to-school season, office supplies have begun to disappear. Does anyone have any policy or procedure in place to thwart this type of behavior? In your experience, will a firm but diplomatic e-mail help? It's getting expensive and embarrassing as large quantities walk away.—K in FL
Does anyone have a formal policy preventing employees from using vacation or paid time off in between the time they announce their resignation and their actual quitting day? It can be really hard to do the necessary “knowledge dump” if the departing employee spends much of his or her last two weeks on vacation? What’s your policy?—C.P.C., Alaska
It’s back-to-school time, which means a lot of parents in our plant are going to need time off for various school-related activities. Trouble is, we’re in a relatively small community and most of our kids go to the same schools. That means everyone needs time off at the same time. Any suggestions on how to handle this so we can keep our plant running smoothly and be good parents?—A.G., Alabama

We’re trying to fill a technical position and have found someone who I think is extremely well qualified. The hiring manager isn’t nearly as enthusiastic because the man has been unemployed for 18 months after being laid off. The manager says if the guy was any good, he would have found work long ago. What can I do to persuade him to take a chance on this candidate (who, by the way, is willing to relocate his family at his own expense from more than a thousand miles away)?—Jim, Dallas
Our company is doing OK in this lousy economy, all things considered. In fact, we occasionally hire someone! However, it’s not easy doing business these days, and I really can’t say we’re thriving. It’s more like we’re doing a really good job of hanging on. When we conduct interviews, candidates naturally want to know about our financial stability. I struggle with what to tell them. I don’t want to paint a too-rosy picture, but I don’t want to scare off good potential employees either. Has anyone faced this problem? How do you handle it?—Keith, Houston
To save on premiums, we’ve been reconsidering when new employees become eligible for health insurance benefits. Currently, new hires can sign up after their first full month of employment. Management wants to change it so new hires only become eligible after completing their 90-day “introductory period.” We would still pay 65% of the total premium. Has anyone else made this kind of switch? What do you think of the 90-day waiting period? — Eva, PA
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