Managing a business in San Francisco, having a rock-solid HR policy is essential. In a state and city with a powerful history of protecting workers rights managers need to have a plan that can both prevent disputes and aid in resolving disputes when they do occur. No team is perfect, and even well-trained, trusted professionals can make mistakes. The key is to have a system ready that can help you conduct fair and transparent investigations, should an issue of workplace conduct or labor compliance occur.
This is where integrated transparency comes into play. One of the biggest challenges that HR typically faces is knowing who is telling the truth when a matter is disputed. Did a manager really tell their staff to work through lunch without pay? Was an employee’s formal request for compensation really ignored? The best way to always make the right decision, protecting your employees who are doing their best while penalizing those who flaunt poor conduct, is to make sure you have all the information before an issue occurs.
As a company, you can integrate transparency both into official HR policies and into the company culture with a few important steps.
1) Always Send Requests and Deliver Instructions In Writing
The first and best way to avoid the vast majority of hard-to-investigate hearsay disputes is to encourage everyone to communicate in writing. Requests for things like vacations, FMLA days, or accommodation should always be delivered in writing and approved/denied in writing, even if they were discussed in person. The request or approval is not official until it has been through the company email system.
The same should be true for any managerial orders that deviate from routine policy, with special requirements to document all instructions to take or forego overtime or alter legally mandated break policies. If an employee has been told to do something, they can’t be held to the order unless it was documented. Employees are also encouraged to give their answers via email, including reasons why they will or won’t do as asked.
2) Individual Authorized Logins and Activity Logs
Give everyone an individual login with instructions to keep their password private, even from their closest team members, managers, and coworkers. All company workstations, software, record-keeping, car leasing – anything – should be handled through these individual logins. Pair this with your IT authorization policies regarding access to documents and systems based on levels of trust assigned to each role and person.
From here, keep an activity log of the activities each logged-in account performs as a way to create a record of employee activity that is not intrusive to their personal life or routine. Logging into work kiosks, checking out equipment, or accessing files creates a log that can later be checked – and can also be used to determine if someone is using another’s login.
3) It is Always OK to Seek Clarification
Next, is the freedom to seek clarification. This is a matter of company culture, one you can both train and hire for. Your team should always feel like they can ask for clarification on any request or directive. Managers and team members should also respond to simple clarification questions with a willingness to answer. “Did you mean… ” or “Could you expand on… ” are reasonable questions that can improve the accuracy and efficiency of any team when considered welcome and usually answered.
When asked and answered through email or your company’s communication platform, it can also close the margins for investigators should an order or process fall under investigation. Documented clarification protects employees who are told to do something questionable, and refusal to offer documented clarification can red-flag activities that someone knows are wrong.
[Continued in Part 2]