Lessons learned from the ‘move fast and break things’ culture

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In an era where disruption is favored, benefits managers and HR professionals need to know which policies and practices to keep and why as more companies are falling into trouble on issues ranging from pay equity to the #metoo sexual harassment.

But there are some policies employers cannot do away with, and with properly drafted policies will better influence culture, engagement and the company’s bottom line, says Brenda S. Kasper, a partner with the California-based law firm Kasper & Frank.

For example, job descriptions. “This one is a thorn in my side,” she said. “If I had a dollar for every time someone told me in the last five years they don’t need job descriptions, I’d be a wealthy woman.”

Also see: HR’s culture shift: Tackling workplace sexual harassment while navigating legal definitions

“A job description is the DNA of your employment relationship,” she said, speaking recently at the SHRM Employment Law and Legislative Conference.

Employers need the job description to survive a classification audit, For example, are your workers employees or contractors? Are they exempt or nonexempt? The job description is crucial in both wage and hour requirements and a disability accommodation requirement, she notes.

For example, the ADA gives great weight to job descriptions as evidence of essential functions.

“[C]onsideration shall be given to the employer's judgment as to what functions of a job are essential, and if an employer has prepared a written description … this description shall be considered evidence of the essential functions of the job,” the law reads.

Kasper offers employers four best practices to follow when crafting strong job descriptions:

· Assess whether a function is required — Selete those that aren’t, and review and revise regularly.
· Add all functions required by the ability — Regular and predictable attendance, successfully work with others and perform varying shifts or rotating tasks are some examples she provided.
· Consider all factors necessary to perform the job – such as physical, environmental and mental demands.
· Seek input of managers and employees who hold the jobs

Subhead: The #MeToo moment

But another set of policies Kasper mentioned, especially in light of recent headlines, are harassment and compliance policies.

First and foremost, she advises employers to get rid of the “rock star” and “bro Co” cultures where employees might feel treated in a fraternity pledge-like manner. Be thoughtful about identifying your company’s core values, she said, adding that HR must always remain independent, objective and “in the know.”

Also see: 10 key findings: Sexual harassment in the professional workplace

This isn’t just a gender thing, she cautioned, it’s about an abuse of power — by both men and women.

To help prevent harassment in the #metoo era, Kasper says the response time to allegations must be shortened. “You’re going to have to suspend your disbelief and make people feel heard,” she said. “And you have to answer things quickly.”

However, with a shortened timeline, she cautions HR to make sure to get it done right rather than done quickly. “The hardest thing in life is to do nothing thoughtfully,” she added.

Further, she encouraged employers to train managers and employees early and often.

Make sure executives are visibly present and participating in training, and use a trainer with weight on your audience.

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Workforce management Workplace culture Workplace management Sexual harassment Compliance Benefit compliance