What is Compass Business Solutions and how did you become President?
At Compass, we drive organizational performance with proven human resources and business strategies. We determine the uniqueness of each client and build solutions that combine best practices with the needs of the client. No matter what the industry or company size, we have the experience and talent to address any aspect of the employee life cycle. We deliver our solutions either as HR OnCall, our outsourced human resources solution, or through a project-based proposal.
I was in an executive role in corporate America and followed my entrepreneurial spirit. Cheryl Bean, my business partner, and I created Compass about a dozen years ago. Our clients range from start-up organizations with just a few employees to companies with 50,000 employees in diverse industries such as professional sports, healthcare, manufacturing, technology, energy, education, and non-profits.
With such a diverse client base, do you see any problems in common, including the area of employee communications?
Yes. Whether our clients have one employee or 10,000, there are employee relations, professional development and compliance issues consistently across the board.
Employees are our greatest resource and our greatest expense. Regardless of company size, it is critical to effectively recruit, develop and retain a qualified and diverse workforce. Beyond hiring the best team, knowing how to communicate with employees is the key to smooth operations and avoiding problems.
Too often companies are hesitant to put things in writing. Formally communicating policies and expectations helps avoid employee relations and compliance issues. Transparent operations may seem like a trendy term, but the more consistent and open leaders are with their teams, the better equipped employees are to do their jobs and contribute to the company’s success. Tools such as employee manuals, written procedures and company core values are crucial.
How do you avoid employee relations nightmares?
Hire slow and fire fast is what we try to instill in our clients. Having the right team members in your organization to drive your strategy requires considerable thought and a systematic recruitment process.
It all starts with the job description. Think about purchasing a laptop. You know the price you want to pay for the memory, screen size, battery life, weight, look and feel of the product. Yet, most of our clients do not identify the specifications they need when entering the marketplace for talent.
A strong job description defines the necessary requirements to fulfill the position. It also identifies the essential functions and physical requirements for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and determines exempt or nonexempt status under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Implementing screening techniques that tie directly to the job description ensures consistent and fair candidate evaluations. Pre-determined interview scripts that incorporate behavior-based and situational questions with the preferred answers provide a clear path to the best employees.
Finally, properly onboarding a new employee is as important as selecting that employee. Onboarding is not just handing a new employee a laptop and business cards. It is an inclusive, ongoing process that provides technical training, sets performance expectations, and enfolds new employees within the company’s culture. Understanding a company’s code of conduct and social media policy helps avoid as many problems as learning how to safely operate a piece of equipment.
You mentioned firing fast. How does that work?
Letting someone go is hard. If you were on the other side of the desk, how would you want to be treated? That is our starting point: treating the employee with respect while protecting company assets.
Performance management systems are crucial, but they are useless if our leaders do not have the skill sets to coach their employees to strong performance. Our employees are not telepathic so it is our job to ensure that they clearly understand our core values and performance expectations. Recognizing accomplishments and reinforcing desired behaviors is paramount to enhancing performance. Likewise, providing constructive or corrective developmental feedback is critical and should not be avoided.
If an employee has been coached and cannot perform to our expectations, or has attitude issues they are unwilling to adjust, then we must document what we have done to support his or her success and then transition him or her out of the organization immediately.
We have all heard horror stories of firings gone bad. Letting someone go should always include safety considerations for all employees and a crisis management plan that covers “what if” scenarios. Use checklists to collect company property and protect against technology breaches or loss of proprietary information. Implement a communication plan to ensure continued relationships with external stakeholders such as clients and key partners. Compass works in partnership with C4CS®, a leader in strategic communication and crisis management, to help in these challenging situations.
Many companies feel their hands are tied with employees because of all the legal and compliance considerations. What should we do?
No one should feel their hands are tied if they are doing the right thing for the right reasons. That being said, I do not do my own taxes because I do not know what I do not know. HR compliance is very similar. Once you have your first employee, you have compliance issues. Key practice areas include:
- HR Compliance Issues
- Salary Administration
- Employee Manual and Policies
- Staffing Practices
- Orientation Practices
- Performance Management System
- Training and Development
- Employee Relations and Communications
- Record Keeping and Retention Practices
- Benefit Plan Designs and Administration
If you have not looked at your process in the last two years, we recommend that you conduct a review and determine an HR plan to fix any potential areas of liability. Compass uses a stop light approach in our audits. Green is good; keep going. Yellow is a caution; let us get to this soon. Red is a compliance issue; stop and fix it now.