On the surface, terminating an employee for poor performance seems simple. It’s nothing personal. The employee just isn’t getting it done and would be better off in another job. But even when a termination is 100% justifiable, managers must be extremely careful how they conduct themselves. Terminations, no matter how clear cut, can have legal ramifications.
Most businesses are protected to a certain extent by at-will laws, which allow the firing of employees for no reason. However, at-will employment does not keep an employee from filing a lawsuit for wrongful termination and, even if the courts rule in your favor, your business will be required to pay court costs. It’s best to take a few measures to protect yourself before firing an employee to avoid a costly legal process.
Here are 5 Tips to Termination:
- Document, document, document! Detailed, consistent documentation can defeat many claims of defamation, discrimination and wrongful discharge. Great documentation shows a pattern of clear expectations on your part, and repeated failures on the employee’s part.
- Make your Employee Handbook work for you and not against you. Make sure your employee handbook and policies are clear and concise. If you just downloaded one from the Internet, chances are it needs updating. Review the handbook annually, and get a new acknowledgement from employees every year.
- Make sure your termination process is fair and standardized. It should be delivered consistently no matter who the employee, in fair, non-emotional way. Don’t embellish the reasons for termination, you don’t want a defamation case on your hands!
- Conduct a proper termination meeting. Unless the employee is volatile, do not terminate them via email, phone, or text. If possible conduct a proper termination meeting. Have witnesses, be brief and concise, and document!
- Involve HR! If an employee is in a protected class, has a known medical condition or disability, has taken job protected medical leave, or if there is suspicion of any other legal issue (e.g. harassment, retaliation), be sure to consult with HR or an employment attorney before terminating.
Turn to any HR magazine, blog, or conference, and you are certain to hear the term “HR Metrics” before too long. There are several terms that go along with metrics, so let’s take a moment to define and differentiate each of them:
- Measures (or measurements) are actual numbers and small bits of data used to create the metrics. For example, the number of full time equivalents in your organization and the number of terminations in a year are both measurements. As they say, Garbage In, Garbage Out – so be careful that you are gathering accurate measurements.
- Metrics are the ratios or percentages or numbers that are created using the measures. To continue the example above, if you divide the number of terminations by the number of employees in a given time period, you create the metric of a Turnover Rate for that time period.
- Analytics take metrics and apply them to trends and future-focused events. Analytics… well… analyze the data into useful information that a company can use to make future decisions. Another way to think about it is that analytics turn numbers into a story, often to help pinpoint a need for change in the organization. When used to identify future needs, they are commonly referred to as predictive
- Big Data is a conglomeration of metrics and analytics using a huge (big) pool of data. HR professionals can look to big data numbers to use as benchmarks where relevant.
HR professionals can benefit from employing metrics and analytics into their presentations. Presentations needn’t be formal executive PowerPoint slides; they can be as simple as having a 1-on-1 conversation with your boss and trying to sell him or her on an idea that you have.
I believe that HR Metrics is a hot topic because it provides some sort of measurement to HR’s value to an organization. HR is sometimes viewed as an expense in an organization. Metrics help dispel that viewpoint for effective HR functions. For example, if you can show that this year’s turnover rate is lower than last year, and can tie that to a dollar amount, you can cite the ROI of your new wellness initiative or the cost-benefit analysis of your increase in benefits.
For example, your company is tracking turnover rate, training time, and average time-to-fill for recruiting your talent. In watching the month-to-month metrics on these three items, you notice that the turnover rate has steadily increased over the past year, actual training time has decreased, and the time-to-fill has decreased. What does this tell you?
Using this limited information, we might look at the following options:
- Look at creating a more formal Onboarding program to provide more robust training at the beginning of employment.
- Investigate the recruiting process – are we hiring warm bodies, or are we doing our due diligence to hire the right person? As Jim Collins would say in his book “Good to Great,” are we making sure we are getting the right people on the bus, in the right seats?
- Interview workers and managers in the organization – especially if the turnover is high in one department – to discern if there is a communication error or something more egregious happening. You know the adage: people don’t leave jobs; they leave managers. Taking the time to gather this qualitative data will help you determine if you need to implement manager training, get executive coaching for one particular manager, or look for a way to manage the employee out of the organization.
As you can see, metrics provide the information, which we gather together to tell a story (analytics) to present a business case about WHY we need to change or offer a program. Metrics are a great tool to use to overcome the “because we’ve always done it this way” mentality, because numbers don’t lie.
Jennifer Currence, MBA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, is president of OnCore Management Solutions. She is an HR consultant, corporate trainer, and business coach based in Tampa, Florida.
We’ve all been there. You open your eyes, and know you’re sick. The headache, stuffy nose, body aches. You knew you’d eventually catch the “bug” that’s been going around. But you’re a dedicated employee, so you take some colds meds and head into the office. You’ve got work to do, that project deadline is looming, and you don’t want to leave your coworkers to carry the load. However well intentioned, this is a huge mistake.
Flu season generally starts in October and peaks in February, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and somewhere between 5 and 20 percent of Americans get the flu every year, with hundreds of thousands hospitalized. During this time of year, many Americans with fevers, aches, and runny noses will face a question: Should they go into work?
When it comes to the workplace, the office environment is the ideal conduit for germs to spread, even when only a single person is sick. Consider the routine of office activity, commonly touched surfaces like door knobs, microwaves, phones, and the coffee pot.
Best health practices include:
- Avoiding contact with sick people
- Staying home when sick, and encouraging employees to do so
- Covering coughs and sneezes
- Proper hand-washing hygiene
- Disinfecting common surfaces.
As an employer or manager, you play an important role in encouraging your employees to adhere to these guidelines. You can reinforce good habits by prominently posting the CDC guidelines in common areas; providing supplies such as tissues, disinfecting wipes; and hand sanitizer; and even offering free or low-cost flu shots for those employees who wish to get vaccinated. Finally, encourage sick employees to remain at home until they are symptom free for at least 24 hours.
Note that many states and cities may require employers to provide a certain amount of sick leave, either with or without pay, to their employees. Make sure that your sick leave policy complies with any applicable state or federal laws and is clear in specifying the eligibility rules, whether sick leave is paid or not, how many days are provided each year, and any carryover provisions. Regardless of what is required and what you decide with your sick leave policy, you should include the policy in your employee handbook if you distribute one.
Remember: while it may be tempting to allow a sick employee to come to work in the name of productivity, an outbreak of influenza or other communicable disease can thwart the productivity of your entire workforce for days or even weeks-and that’s a cost no business can afford.
Several high-profile companies like General Electric (GE), are getting rid of annual performance reviews. This development has sparked a debate among HR professionals and business owners about the usefulness of performance appraisals, and the alternatives for deciding who gets pay raises, bonuses and promotions.
Many managers dread the performance review, and will tell you they are dissatisfied with how their companies conduct annual performance reviews. Many HR professionals say the process doesn’t yield accurate information. The reviews are time consuming, and often the results don’t accurately reflect the employee’s contributions throughout the year.
There are other methods of reviewing your employees’ performance that yield more accurate results. Many managers agree that more frequent informal “check-ins” allow you to keep a better pulse on your employees’ performance, and are more meaningful conversations. Instead of basing performance in one sitting, reviewing an entire year, with rankings and ratings, these “check ins” allow for a collaborative discussion on strengths and development areas.
5 Tips to “Rethink” the Evaluation
- Performance is more complex than check boxes and numeric scales. A good system needs to highlight significant incidents, provide clear examples of positive and negative behaviors, and include specifics. Just because we assign a number doesn’t make it objective. Turning performance into a number blinds us to how people are actually performing.
- Provide feedback on things the employee can change. Avoid talking about personality traits or characteristics they can't change.
- When giving negative feedback, focus on specific incidents and examples. Talk about your impressions and feelings, and never make judgments about what's going on in the employee's head.
- Focus on strengths more than weaknesses. Focusing on weakness sends the wrong message. Focusing on strength gets people excited and motivated to grow. A focus on weakness really says that your strengths don't matter.
- Don’t forget about intangible behaviors. Reviews need to be more holistic and find ways to take into account nonobvious team-building behaviors. The person who helps keep everyone else's mood up when things are tough is appreciated, but not really noticed, until they’re gone.
Need guidance on performance reviews? Call your HR Advisor today! (844) 4HR-PROS
Paid time off policies (PTO), managing absenteeism, and administering holidays are common issues for employers. Here are 5 answers to common questions about PTO and holidays to help your organization navigate these challenges and create a competitive PTO plan.
- Are employers required to provide paid federal holidays or PTO?
No employer is required to pay for time off on holidays, but there are many holidays that employers choose to observe and pay employees. There is no requirement that employers must provide PTO, but it's generally a great perk to attract and retain good employees.
- What is the average number of paid holidays provided?
The average number of paid holidays offered by employers is usually 6-10. Usually organizations provide at least 5 paid holidays, however some organizations provide as many as 15.
- Should we credit paid holidays that occur over a vacation?
Generally-speaking, yes. It's a good practice to credit PTO if a paid holiday occurs over a vacation. For example, if employees take July 2nd through July 6th off work and July 4th is a paid holiday observed by your organization, this day would be credited back to the employee's vacation or PTO bank.
- How should we handle employees who take off unscheduled days before or after holidays?
A common way that employers deal with this problem is to state in their attendance or paid time off policy that patterned absences such as before or after holidays or weekends are considered unexcused absences and may be subject to discipline. Employers can also require time off to be approved. The best way to prevent this from happening is to cover it in your policy and enforce it consistently.
- What are some reasons for considering PTO plans versus vacation and sick time?
PTO plans lump all time off into one bucket, versus separate buckets of time off for different types of leave like vacation, sick leave, and personal time (and typically excluding holidays, bereavement leave, jury duty, etc.). PTO plans allow employees to use days off for any reason and as a result tend to make the administrative process of managing and tracking time off easier. The focus of PTO is not on managing the reasons for the absence, but rather giving employees the freedom to use their time as they see fit. More employers are moving to PTO plans for these reasons.
Remember that states will generally enforce an employer's written policy regarding holiday pay, so it's important to follow company policy and to apply the rules consistently and fairly to all employees. For questions about the specific requirements in your state, contact your state labor department or a knowledgeable employment law attorney.