Top Ten

The HR Hammer’s Christmas List

By Stephanie Hammerwold

I like to think I’ve been pretty good this year and that I ended up on Santa’s nice list. So, in the midst of wrapping presents and snacking on one too many holiday cookies, I wanted to take some time to share my Christmas list for the workplace:

  1. Paid leave for parents—The U.S. lags behind many other countries when it comes to paid leave for those who recently had a baby, adopted a child or took in a foster child. Some companies have jumped on board and implemented their own paid leave options, and some states have paid leave programs, but we need to have a nationwide law that reflects the realities of working parents.
  2. Easier access to employment for the formerly incarcerated—One of the keys to lowering recidivism is helping the formerly incarcerated find jobs with a decent income. Unfortunately, having a criminal record can be a huge strike against someone in their quest to find employment. Once released, people have paid their debt to society and should be given the opportunity to rebuild their lives. Opening up access to employment is a huge step toward that.
  3. No more performance reviews—If you are a regular reader, you know my feelings on this topic. It’s time to ditch the traditional review and to go with a system of ongoing feedback.
  4. And speaking of things to get rid of…let’s think about doing away with salary negotiation. I am not a big fan of the game playing that goes on in the negotiation process. I think it immediately sets up a relationship of employer vs. employee. I prefer a straightforward offer and a process that does not solely favor those who happen to be good at negotiation.
  5. Benefits that extend to all employees—Too often when we hear about a company offering excellent benefits, they only extend to office staff. Those who work in low-wage jobs, such as in distribution centers, are often excluded from generous paid family leave and other perks. Some of the hardest working people I know work in low-wage jobs, and we should not forget the value they add to a company when designing benefits programs.
  6. Productive conversations about finding ways to raise the minimum wage—The minimum wage is not livable for employees, and employers worry that raising wages will be unaffordable. We need to have conversations around this issue and find solutions to the huge wage gap we are currently experiencing in the U.S.
  7. A move toward kindness—I recently wrote about this, and I think it is an important reminder as we get further into the presidential election cycle where mud slinging and hate speech are commonplace. There is power in being nice.
  8. Workplaces free from discrimination and harassment—No one should go to work and worry about being harassed or discriminated against because of who they are. We live in a time where same-sex marriage is legal, yet sexual orientation is not a protected class in every state. We have also seen local laws in some place that are aimed at restricting bathroom access for transgender people, and we have heard horrible anti-Muslim rhetoric from some high profile figures. These forms of discrimination are not acceptable, and we owe it to our employees to create workplaces that are accepting and welcoming to everyone.
  9. A focus on finding ways to improve the workplace for employees—Employees are a big part of what can make a company successful, so it is important that we find ways to support them through good wages, excellent benefits, employee appreciation and more.
  10. More books—OK, this one is for me more than the workplace, but I want to encourage everyone to take some time to read in the coming year. It is an excellent escape from all the stresses of work.

Have a wonderful holiday season!


Top Ten Reasons to be Thankful for HR

Fall leaves.jpg

By Stephanie Hammerwold

Here in the U.S., it’s the time of year where we gather for a large meal and to give thanks for our friends and family. It has been a couple years since I left the HR trenches to venture into consulting, and I want to take a moment to sing the praises of my colleagues who toil away on the frontlines of HR, working hard to create better workplaces. Here (in no particular order) are the top ten reasons we should all be thankful for the HR superheroes in our workplaces:

  1. Many HR people fight hard behind the scenes to advocate for what is in the best interest of employees even when upper management argues against workplace improvements.
  2. Do you work at a company with good benefits? Thank your HR team. They are usually the ones shopping around for the best insurance options and putting other benefit programs in place.
  3. HR sets up paid time off programs. Next time you are sitting on a beach and sipping a cocktail and being paid for your time, thank your HR team for paid vacation.
  4. HR oversees compensation, and they are the ones who go to upper management to make a case for better pay.
  5. Who do you run to when trouble is brewing with a coworker? HR people are often a fair and patient resource for sorting out workplace squabbles, and their goal is get issues resolved so that everyone involved can be happy and get back to work.
  6. Along those lines, HR people are the ones who handle serious issues, such as harassment or discrimination. They tirelessly investigate to ensure problems are resolved quickly, and this may involve making difficult decisions and getting in the middle of serious situations.
  7. HR people are a shoulder to cry on. They are the place employees go when they need a leave due to a major life event such as surgery or a seriously ill loved one. They also help connect employees with resources to help them through difficult times. Helping employees in that way is rewarding, but it can also be incredibly emotional.
  8. Do you like the people you work with? When HR hires new employees, they try to find people that not only have the skills for the job but are also a good fit in the department and company culture.
  9.  When you are getting bored in your job and looking to make a change, HR people are excellent career coaches. They can help you find other areas of the company that may be a good way to move up and can point you toward training programs and education benefits to help you get there.
  10. If you get to know your HR team, you will probably find that most of them are pretty friendly people. The job is not just about enforcing policy, and most of us who work in HR do so because we really do have a commitment to improving workplaces.

So, before you settle into your Thanksgiving meal on Thursday, take a moment to thank your HR team for all they do.


Photo by Tim Pershing

Top Ten Things to Remember When Firing an Employee

By Stephanie Hammerwold

Terminations are one of my least favorite parts of working in HR. Even when an employee has committed a serious enough violation to warrant it or when they have been given opportunities to improve, the decision to fire someone is not an easy one. The decision to terminate should be carefully thought out, and you should feel confident in your decision by the time you get to the termination meeting. Here, in no particular order, are the top ten things to remember when dealing with a termination.

  1. No matter how hard the termination is for you, it is much harder for the employee who is losing their job.
  2. Be confident in your decision, and avoid lengthy discussions about the termination when you meet with the employee. By this point, the employee has already been given ample opportunity to improve, or they have committed a major policy violation that warrants immediate termination. There is not much room for an employee to plead their case.
  3. Have plenty of documentation to back up your decision to terminate. This can include warnings, performance reviews, email, samples of work, investigation notes or anything that supports your decision.
  4. Review other terminations to ensure that similarly situated employees have been treated the same way.
  5. Get your emotions in check before the termination meeting. Do not enter the meeting feeling extremely angry or upset.
  6. Give the employee the space to have an emotional response to getting the news that they are losing their job.
  7. Have another manager or HR person in the room during the termination meeting as a witness in case any issues come up. This person can also escort the terminated employee from the building.
  8. Plan the termination meeting for a time when it is easy for the terminated employee to leave the building easily without having to talk to coworkers.
  9. Have a plan in place for how the terminated employee will gather their personal belongings from their workstation.
  10. Be kind. Getting the news of termination is difficult to hear, so approach the conversation with compassion.

For more tips on making terminations a little less difficult, see my Blogging4Jobs post.

Top Ten Performance Management Tips

By Stephanie Hammerwold

Earlier this year I spoke with John Wright of HR Today about performance management and outsourced HR. At the end of the interview, I gave my top ten performance management tips. You can listen to the interview on SoundCloud. For more tips on performance management, check out my post on performance management basics over at Blogging4Jobs.

  1. Performance management isn’t just about the annual review. (See number 2.)
  2. Provide ongoing feedback throughout the year.
  3. Document! Document! Document!
  4. Meet with employees for quick check-in meetings on a regular basis.
  5. Observe how workers manage their time.
  6. Keep job descriptions updated, so employees know what’s expected of them.
  7. Communicate clear goals.
  8. Have employees help draft their own goals.
  9. Train managers on performance management.
  10. Don’t forget about giving positive feedback.

Did I miss anything? Share your top performance management tips in the comments.

Ten Signs It's Time To Hire An HR Person

By Stephanie Hammerwold

Small businesses do not often have a dedicated HR person. Usually HR responsibilities are covered by an office manager, the business owner or someone else with an endless to-do list. While this approach can work when employee numbers remain low, there comes a point when a growing business should consider a full-time HR professional on staff. Here are the top ten signs you need to hire an HR person:

  1. You can’t find the time to adequately manage leaves of absence in accordance with state and federal law.
  2. You have 50 or more employees. There are extra laws that apply when you reach this size, which can be a challenge when you are not an HR professional.
  3. Your most recent employee handbook is so old that it was typed on a typewriter.
  4. Your employee files are unorganized stacks of paper in a drawer.
  5. You believe HR is only about paperwork because that’s the only part of HR you have time for.
  6. Your new employee orientation and training consists of throwing an employee into the job and hoping they figure it out on their own.
  7. Hiring becomes a challenge.
  8. You find yourself googling labor laws on a daily basis.
  9. Managing the people part of your business is all you do, and things like accounts payable/receivable, office supply ordering and such never seem to get done.
  10. You desperately dream of the day you can hand off harassment complaints to someone who has experience investigating such things.

For more information on knowing when it’s time to hire an HR person, see my post over at Blogging4Jobs.