Oops...Now You're Managing HR: 5 Things You Should Do Immediately

So...you've been asked to manage HR for your organization, but it isn't your background.    Done well, HR helps create an environment where people thrive and great work gets done.  Done poorly, it exposes the organization to risk and results in unhappy people.  

You probably have some familiarity with what the HR function does, but it is likely from the perspective of an employee or manager--not an HR professional.  As you get comfortable with your new responsibility, here are 5 things you may want to do.    

1. Review Employee Handbook and HR Policies

Most organizations should have an employee handbook because it is a document that sets the foundation for how people are managed. It typically outlines policies, procedures and expectations for the employment relationship  while also setting the tone for the culture.  Ask yourself the following:

  • Do you have a handbook and is it complete?
  • Does the handbook reflect the tone and culture of the organization?
  • When is the last time the handbook was reviewed/updated? 
  • Do employees receive a copy and acknowledge receipt when they're hired?
  • How are employees/managers informed when changes occur? 

It is also common for an organization to have more in-depth HR or Management policies that are maintained outside the handbook.  These may cover HR procedures at a more detailed level.  Review these so you fully understand them. 

2. Look At Management Practices

If you're happy with your handbook and policies, the next step is to determine how consistently they're being followed.  Employees feel like they're treated fairly when managers make decisions consistently and transparently.  Connect with the people in your organization who are managing teams.  Have a conversation covering the following:

  • How are your managers trained on the handbook and policies?
  • When the need for exceptions to the handbook or policies comes up, who is involved in the decision?
  • If an employee disagrees with a decision, what recourse does s/he have?

Make sure your managers are equipped with adequate training on the policies and they know where to go with questions.

3. Confirm Record Keeping Processes

Record keeping and filing may not be fun, but it is foundational to good HR processes.  Whether your records are all digital or still on paper, you'll want to be sure that you know what documentation needs to be kept and that you have good processes for doing so.  The following are the types of records HR often maintains:

  • Personnel records
  • Medical records
  • Disciplinary files
  • Performance records
  • Training records
  • HR Information Systems (HRIS)

Much of the information in these records is confidential.  Control who has access to HR information--keep filing cabinets locked and systems secure. You should also understand laws for handling personally identifiable information (PII) like birth dates and social security numbers.  You should also be well versed in what the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires for the privacy of medical information.    

4. Get Familiar with Compensation & Benefits Programs

For most organizations, the compensation and benefits of employees are one of the most significant costs.  Mismanagement of these programs can quickly lead to employee concerns and legal risks.  Take some time to learn how your organization manages processes for these areas:

  • Time & attendance tracking
  • Payroll administration
  • Benefits administration
  • Compensation plans
  • Consistency of pay practices and pay equity
  • Market competitiveness of pay

If you have a coordinator who handles the day-to-day processing,  it is worth taking the time to sit with the person and learn about what they do.  You'll want to be sure someone is cross-trained to handle these things if the main person is not available. 

5. Establish Relationships with Third Party Providers

It is likely that your organization works with one or more third party providers for HR needs.  Proactively reach out to the main point of contact to establish communication.  If one exists, get a copy of the services agreement so you fully understand costs and service level expectations.  The following are examples of third party providers your organization may be using:

  • Benefits administrator
  • Payroll processor 
  • HRIS software provider
  • Outside legal counsel

HR issues often need to be resolved quickly.  It's far better to establish a relationship with key contacts at your third party providers in advance of any issues or problems.   

Get Some Help

HR is complicated and seldom clear-cut.  It is good to have resources lined up to offer advice or use as a sounding board.  Make connections with HR professionals.  Consider joining the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).  There are both national and local chapters that offer resources and events.  Make sure you have outside counsel with good experience in employment law.   

Nimble can also help with your HR needs.  We offer an HR Maturity Assessment that does a full gap analysis of the items above and more.  We can also provide full and part-time HR staff to augment your internal team.  Contact us today for more information.