By Alissa Penney
There is little more daunting to an HR professional than navigating the world of state and federal compliance. It can be intimidating, to say the least, and the decisions your team/leadership makes affect not just you but the business as a whole. Employees are directly impacted by required training (their "favorite" work past-time). Your role is affected as you're likely in charge of rolling out reports, training courses, and more. Even finance and overall business ROI is affected as a result of required compliance initiatives.
Companies that aren't compliant with required regulations run the risk of fines, court cases, and high employee turnover. It's enough to put you in a state of mental gridlock. So, how do you go about deciding where to start?
First, take a deep breath and remind yourself that you can do this. No really. If you're reading this you're taking the first big step in organizing your thoughts to make your team and, by proxy, your company a better place to work. Taking a quick moment to calm your mind and remind yourself that you are a competent professional is a necessary first step.
Next, you'll need to grab a pen and some paper (or your trusty computer) because you've got some list-making to do. Take a moment to compile a list of what compliance-related tasks you're already doing. Perhaps you're already doing a few of the things listed below:
- We have training for employees on EEOC, FMLA, safety procedures, etc.
- All business locations are ADA compliant.
- Personal employee data is in a safe, secure location.
- Applicants' demographic information is not available for hiring managers to see.
- Managers know what discrimination is and how to assist employees in resolving complaints.
- We have an employee handbook that is easily accessible by all employees.
Depending on your state and local laws, your list will vary.
Once you've got your initial list completed, start another running list of areas you immediately know you aren't currently maintaining proper compliance. Perhaps you've received complaints about hiring managers asking questions that violate EEOC. Or maybe you know that your employees don't know about FMLA or how to go about asking for FMLA protected leave. After you've got this list compiled, to the best of your knowledge, it's time to tackle the more daunting task of identifying areas that you're not currently aware you need to be compliant.
This area requires more research into federal, state, and local laws which can feel overwhelming if you don't know where to look. Use all of the resources at your disposal, including any local HR associations, the Society for Human Resources (SHRM) website, or the Compliance Online website. Reaching out to other HR professionals and consultants can be a good way to go if you have a limited budget. Brainstorming as an HR team is also a great way to both team build and ensure everyone is on board with compliance research!
To help make this a little easier, I have included a short worksheet for you to use as a starting point.
Tackling Compliance Worksheet
Once you've established where your gaps are, you're ready to identify what requires action immediately and what can wait for now. Some things that will require immediate action include anything that impacts funding, employee turnover and safety, as well as anything with a mandated timeline attached. Compliance related items that have a high associated risk should make the top of your "things to fix" list, especially if they're relatively quick fixes.
From there, prioritize the rest of your list and create a timeline for reviewing and implementing related compliance actions. If any identified items require a timeline or an annual review, be sure to add it to an easily accessible calendar for your team to check back on throughout the year. Using Google, Outlook, or another electronic calendar that allows you to set reminders is a great way to ensure you don't forget!
As always with compliance, don't just set it and forget it. Reviewing items on a periodic basis and signing up for automatic updates to federal, state, and local laws is key for ensuring you stay up to date with compliance and agile for any upcoming changes.
Still not sure where to start or need a little extra help rolling out compliance initiatives? ABetterHR is here to help! Give us a call, send us an email, or schedule a time to discuss your goals and how we can help you get to your Better.
About the Author
Alissa Penney is the Owner and Lead HR Consultant of A Better HR, an HR consultation company focused on helping small, thinly stretched HR teams do Better work. She loves getting to learn about what makes other HR professionals passionate about the work they do and helping answer difficult HR questions! She’s also an HR for HR contributor and community steward for the Legal & Compliance and Wellbeing groups.