That was the blunt directive for SHRM '09 attendees regarding their HR/benefits policies from Hunter Lott, director of

Editor's Note: No, it's not Hunter Lott Day here at the Daily Diversion. The SHRM '09 speaker made several valid and valuable points I thought were important to pass along to you pros, and best to break up into several posts. (But if I'm wrong -- as I admit I've been known to be -- hit the comment button and let me know.)

In his presentation, Lott served up tough love for pros on how to reset their policies governing: 

* Probationary periods. Eliminate them, Lott said, because they're useless and can bring more legal trouble than they're worth. "You can fire at will, but they can sue at will." Instead, simply keep the "employment at will" statement on the books.  

* Exit interviews. Lott said this is an area where pros need to be a lot more creative. "It doesn't make sense," he said. "You're saying, 'The only time we value your opinion is when you're leaving.'" As an alternative, he suggested waiting 90 days to contact former employees.

* Layoffs. In a semantics lesson, Lott advised, "Don't say layoff, because layoff implies callback. If you have a 'layoff,' and then you don't call them when you start rehiring again, they can sue you for wrongful termination." A better, lawsuit-proof term, he said, is reduction in force.

* Performance reviews. Another case of semantics, Lott favors "behavior" over "attitude," since "attitude is not measurable."

* Bans on intraoffice dating. "Why would you say employees can't date?" Lott questioned, adding that it's asking enamored employees to choose: "Which one of you wants to stay, and which one wants to leave and sue us?" He told pros: "Get out of the babysitting business. Change your policy to: 'Any relationship, on or off the job, that affects our ability to do business or your ability to do your job is grounds for firing.' Then handle situations on a case-by-case basis." 

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