Better Hiring Practices

“I’ve hired several employees lately but am not overjoyed with those I’ve hired. What am I doing wrong?”

Your HR Survival Tip

Hiring an employee can be a bit challenging and hiring remote employees even more so. The difficulty of finding great employees, plus the differences between onsite versus remote employees, indicates it’s time to review your hiring practices.

Be clear with expectations — We often find companies can’t tell someone how they will spend the full 40 hours each week and are rarely clear about their true expectations. Ideally, you have a job description for each position that outlines the work responsibilities and which skills are needed to perform the job successfully. Given the onsite, remote, and hybrid environment, you also need to be very clear about where and when you expect this person to work. Too many people like the remote and hybrid positions because they think they can work on their own schedule rather than yours. The California wage and hour laws regarding meal and rest breaks and overtime apply to all non-exempt (hourly) employees, regardless of where they work, so they need to follow your policies. Be sure they aren’t accepting an onsite position with the hopes of it transitioning to a remote position.

Confirm the candidate’s skills — Don’t assume what you see on resumes will result in a match of the skills you need. Ask detailed questions about what the candidate has done and make sure they can repeat that success for you. Even remote employees should be tested in similar ways you test onsite employees so don’t ignore steps in your process just because it’s easier than figuring out a way to do it differently. When hiring remote or hybrid employees, make sure they have a home office that is ergonomic and distraction-free, and find ways to ask about self-motivation and initiative since you won’t be there to make sure they’re working.

Compare perks — Your office may have a bagel day, monthly birthday cake, happy hour, etc. In addition, the office staff is more noticeable to the management team and may find it easier to get those promotions and raises. What are you doing for those remote employees? Think of ways to gain their loyalty and for them to build a similar camaraderie with their coworkers.

Sell candidates on your company — You work hard to get and keep your customers. You should work just as hard to get the right employees. Create a marketing package for candidates that includes information about your company and what perks and benefits you offer and their cost, if any. You need to impress candidates as much as you want them to impress you.

While there are differences in hiring onsite versus remote employees, there are also many similarities. When hiring is tough or has been disappointing, review your practices to improve your process. Smaller companies have the ability to hire faster while still moving through all the steps. Use what you have to make hiring a fabulous process for both your team and the candidates.

Proximity Factor

“I’m finding it harder to conduct performance reviews after first being remote and now with a hybrid work environment. It’s difficult to know what they’re doing when not in my presence.”

Your HR Survival Tip

Managing a remote work environment has challenged companies over the past two years. New and different challenges are being noted with the hybrid work environment that incorporates both remote and on-site workers.

The thought behind the proximity factor is whether you must actually be seen working to get credit for the work by your company’s management team. A bias based on proximity may appear when choosing which employees get certain projects or when not encouraging remote employees to be more interactive. Other considerations include:

  • Employees with well-established careers found they really enjoyed working remotely. However, those employees just starting out in their careers felt they must be easily visible to management to further their careers. Plus, younger generations want to work next to the older generations due to the mentoring and training opportunities.

  • Many managers prefer to work in the office at least half the time… and want their direct reports there with them. Trust may be missing for managers who do not believe their remote staff is as productive as their on-site staff.

  • Loyalty and workplace friendships help retention and companies need to consider developing more team projects so work relationships, near and far, thrive.

It’s easier than ever for employees to choose the work/life balance they want. While you might have been hoping for an easy solution to the complexities of remote and hybrid environments, no one has found it yet. Mostly, companies are trying a lot of different things to see what works best for their workforce and business. Consider regular discussions with your management team about the remote and hybrid issues other companies are having and take note of possible solutions you might try. As always, training managers how to work better with remote and hybrid employees, how to better track their production, and how to encourage open communication will help you avoid biases and retain employees.

Recency Factor

“I’ve been conducting annual performance reviews for about five years but, overall, I don’t feel they are very effective. My managers add very few comments. How can we improve them?”

Your HR Survival Tip

Most employees want feedback on their performance and some will even ask for it. The result is often an annual performance review that rarely makes the employee or manager feel good. There are several reasons for this but the recency factor is an obvious one.

Annual reviews require managers to make usable notes throughout the year about an employee’s performance. Too few companies have trained or even thought about training managers to document performance in a way that doesn’t take a lot of time but is useful for anything performance-related. So, when a review is due, the manager is trying to think about how the employee has done over the past year. Unfortunately, without those notes, all they can usually remember is the last 3-4 months… the recency factor. The employee ends up getting judged or reviewed only on their recent behavior.

If you aren’t going to learn how to properly document performance, you need to find another solution for conducting fair reviews. One of the easiest is to create a one-page, simple review form that is used quarterly. This type of review takes much less time to complete, it accommodates the recency factor, and allows you to provide positive and negative feedback more frequently. Plus, both the manager and employee seem to feel better about the process when using them.

A good performance review process takes time and effort to develop. However, before putting in that effort, decide what you want as an outcome. If it’s just to provide frequent feedback so you can keep employees on track, the simple quarterly review can achieve that with less effort. If you want to use the reviews as a training tool, then the review process can be worth the effort of developing one that works toward that result. Decide what you want, then create the proper tool that will get you there.

Alternative Workweek Schedules

“I’m planning on scheduling my employees for 4 10-hour days, starting next week. If I give them a week’s notice, is that enough time?”

Your HR Survival Tip

Since our normal workweek is five 8-hour days, using a schedule of four 10-hour days is called an Alternative Workweek Schedule (AWS). California has provided detailed guidance on how to implement an Alternative Workweek legally but, unlike other scheduling, an AWS is not entirely up to the employer.

Don’t forget California is the one state with overtime after 8 hours in a day. There is a process involved for an AWS and, if you don’t follow the process, you may be in violation of California wage and hour law regarding overtime pay. Most details are in your industry’s IWC Order (Industrial Welfare Commission), that you should have posted next to your employment law poster.

Timing and hours may differ based on industry, which is why it’s important to review the IWC for the group of employees involved. Using IWC Order No. 4, we are able to have workdays of up to 10 hours without overtime, 10 to 12 hours as overtime, and more than 12 hours at double time. Below are the basics about the IWC #4 process:

  • The company creates a proposal citing the employees (group, unit, or department) affected by the AWS and all the details about it. A basic proposal includes the number of work hours and workdays and other features but it can be more complicated. Remember a longer day may also require more meal and rest breaks.

  • Present the proposal to the affected group at least 14 days prior to their voting on it. This gives them time to talk about the proposal and ask questions.

  • The proposal must be adopted in a secret ballot election with at least a 2/3 approval vote of the affected employees before the new schedule begins. If you don’t get 2/3 to vote in favor of the proposal, you must maintain your regular 8-hour days or, possibly, create a different proposal.

  • If the proposal is approved, you may not implement the new schedule for at least 30 days from the voting date.

  • Within 30 days of the approval, you must notify in writing the state’s Office of Policy, Research and Legislation. This becomes a public document and protects you from later claims of unpaid overtime.

  • The employees may be able to choose to repeal this AWS by another 2/3 vote to stop.

This is not a slam dunk situation… you are basically making a sales pitch and asking employees to give up overtime pay in exchange for three days off each week. The above process is a very simplistic description so please review the requirements or ask someone knowledgeable to set up your AWS for you to ensure it is compliant.

Tips for Form I-9

“I’m never sure how to complete the I-9 form so I worry that I might be missing something important.”

Your HR Survival Tip

The Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 is intended to help you and the Federal government know you are hiring people who are legally able to work in the U.S. This process has been managed by the Department of Homeland Security for over 10 years and the form does change every few years. Most of the changes are based on the various forms of identification they allow to be used by employees. Here are a few important things to know about the form:

  • The version of the Form I-9 you are using must be current as of the employee’s hire date. This means you will likely have several different versions you’ve used over the years. You do not have employees complete a new form every time a new version is available. If you do, the form version will not match their hire date.

  • Section 1 must be completed by the employee. When the employee is done, make sure they have signed and dated it.

  • There is a Spanish version of the Form I-9 but, unless you are in Puerto Rico, you cannot use that version. However, employees may refer to it to know how to answer the English version questions.

  • Frequently left blank is the employee info at the top of Section 2 and this must be completed.

  • The most confusing part of the form is Section 2. This is completed by a company representative but does not need to actually be an employee. Employees must either present one unexpired item from List A or they will need to present two forms of identification, one from List B and one from List C. You are not allowed to tell them which forms of identification they should use… just give them page 3 with the lists. Currently, employees can submit a picture or photocopy of their identification. However, you are to review (and touch) that same identification as soon as possible.

  • After entering the identification, you’ll notice the certification section above your signature requires the employee’s first day of employment. This is very important because, legally, you have only three business days to complete this form once the employee’s employment has begun. If the employee hasn’t produced appropriate identification within those three days, the employee must stop working until they do. They are not legally allowed to work beyond those three days until you can finish this form.

There are fines for not completing the form correctly so it pays to audit your forms. If you find corrections are needed, do not alter the form. Instead, explain the correction on a separate piece of paper and attach it to the form. You can find this information and more in the helpful employer’s guide on the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) website.

Promoting From Within

“I have a job opening for a manager and one of my employees asked to be considered. I don’t think he’s ready for it but how do I tell him that?”

Your HR Survival Tip

When companies hire employees, they focus on the skills they need at that moment. And then it seems most companies stop thinking about the employee’s skills. You know your company isn’t exactly the same as it was even three years ago, so why do you expect employees to stay exactly the same… and to be happy in that stagnant state?

The growth in an employee’s knowledge and skills take effort from the employee and from their company. A good supervisor challenges their employees to explore their capabilities and to develop additional skills. A good employee shows the initiative to start on that path, keeps looking for better ways to do things, learns new skills, and attempts to take on more responsibility when possible.

A Gartner survey showed only 51% of employees even know when there is an opening in their own company and only 33% of employees look internally for a better position. This means most employees who want a better or different job are looking externally rather than trying to find a way to stay with your company.

Smaller companies, in particular, have lost focus on what a supervisory position should be. Technically, your supervisor becomes an overseer, a leader, a coach, a trainer for those reporting to them. You shouldn’t promote someone into a supervisory position just because they do their own work well. You promote them because you see the potential soft skills in them that will help develop and lead their direct reports.

If you constantly bring in new employees for those manager positions, you damage the retention and loyalty of your current employees. Instead, look at what skills your current employee has and what you can do to further develop them and learn the skills you want in a manager. Maybe you change the job to a supervisor level instead of manager and spend a little time and money on developing that employee.

You might be surprised at the difference in all your employees when they can envision a future career path with your company. If the employee truly doesn’t fit the role, be honest but kind by complementing their strengths that fit the role and discuss where they have weaknesses that need work. Then work with the employee to create a training path that could make that employee a closer fit for the next opportunity.

Work Pays

“My employee worked overtime even though I had specifically told her not to do it without my approval in advance. Do I have to pay for unapproved overtime?”

Your HR Survival Tip

If the employee works, you must pay for the time worked. While you can punish the employee for not following your policy, you must still pay for the work.

When you are having conversations about money, it is best to follow that up with a memo or email so the employee also receives the same information in writing. Since this employee’s actions are costing you money, get their signature on the write-up so you have proof of this warning and can escalate the discipline more easily, if needed.

If they still disregard your policy, decide on a disciplinary action or plan. Options include, but are not limited to:

  • A written warning that reminds the employee of the policy and the consequences of another lapse.

  • A warning that one more lapse will result in a temporary drop in their wages. Get their signature on this warning and make sure they remain at or above minimum wage if you end up lowering their wages.

  • An unpaid suspension of a day or two.

The action you take may vary based on the number of times the employee has failed to follow your policy. You do need to be consistent in your application of any disciplinary action so you don’t appear discriminatory. It’s best to make a management decision on how you will treat this situation going forward. Avoid any possible misunderstandings by making sure your approval process is clearly laid out and your policy is clear.

Pay for Time Scheduled

“What do I need to pay an employee just to come in one day for a 45-minute meeting?”

Your HR Survival Tip

If the employee understands they are only coming to work for 45 minutes, that’s all the time you need to pay. The problem lies in whether that is fully understood.

There are two primary scenarios for paying someone for less than a day but these aren’t the only reasons. (1) You want them to come in for a brief time so you can terminate their employment. (2) You had too many employees come to work based on the amount of work available.

If we say to come in for just 45 minutes tomorrow, they’ll ask why. If it’s a simple team meeting, you can say that. But if you want to fire the employee, it’s not a great idea to broadcast your intent in advance. Overall, save those short meeting days for something you’re free to discuss. You only need to pay for the time scheduled because the employee is not expecting to be there longer.

If you scheduled too many employees and now need to send a couple of them home, California feels you should take the hit rather than the employee. The employees showed up as requested so you’ll need to pay for “reporting time” that day. Reporting time pay is part of California’s wage and hour laws. When you send someone home earlier than scheduled, you must pay for one-half of their scheduled hours but no more than 4 hours and no less than 2 hours:

  • Scheduled for 8 hours, you’d pay for 4 hours (one-half of the scheduled amount).

  • Scheduled for 2 hours, you’d pay for 2 hours (the minimum amount of reporting time pay).

  • Scheduled for 6 hours, you’d pay for 3 hours (one-half of the scheduled amount).

  • Scheduled for 10 hours, you’d pay for 4 hours (no more than 4 hours is due with reporting time pay).

If you plan ahead a bit, it’s not hard to avoid reporting time pay. Check your workload and the schedule… inform employees before they leave work the previous day that you won’t need them tomorrow. When terminating in the morning include at least 4 hours of reporting time pay on their final check to cover the time for the meeting and clearing out their belongings. Be considerate of employees’ time and be compliant with their pay.

COVID Pay is Back

The 2022 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave (SPSL) is now law and in effect from 1/1 through 9/30/2022. The 2022 version is different than what we had last year so pay close attention to the differences summarized below:

  • Eligibility: A California employee is eligible if they have worked for you for at least 30 days and your company has 26 or more employees (anywhere). Full-time employees must have worked the 2 weeks prior to the time off.

  • Pay Stubs: You must have a separate line item on pay stubs (wage statements) that shows how much SPSL they have used in 2022.

  • Week 1: The first week (up to 40 hours) is paid if they qualify based on their need to quarantine due to symptoms, doctor’s orders, or caring for a family member who has symptoms. They also qualify if they are caring for a child whose school or daycare is unavailable.

  • Week 2: A positive test on Day 5 is required for an employee to be eligible for any pay beyond Week 1. The test can be for either the family member the employee is are caring for or for the employee. No test results, no pay.

  • Using Sick Leave: You must provide SPSL before touching the employee’s available sick leave or other paid time off.

  • Reimbursements: There are no tax breaks or reimbursements for the company.

You only have one full pay period available to get this set up and then you’ll need to start paying it. Since this law is retroactive to January 1st, review your payroll to confirm who might be eligible for a refund of their sick time and change it to SPSL. The one thing that hasn’t changed is having the employee complete a certification form to request the pay and ensure they are eligible.

Sales Rep Confusion

“I’d like to have someone on the phones selling for me but I only want to pay a commission on what they sell. How do I set this up?”

Your HR Survival Tip

You can’t, at least not legally or not this way. The person you’re defining would be classified as an inside sales rep and they must be hourly (non-exempt). That means you’ll be paying for their time on the phone, plus any promised commissions.

When your salesperson spends more time in the office, at a desk, or on the phone instead of having in-person meetings at the client’s site, they can’t earn only commissions. You must pay for all time worked. You can’t even count commissions toward meeting minimum wage unless you pay that period’s commissions at the same time you are paying for that period’s time.

There is a possible “inside sales rep” exemption that would allow you to avoid overtime, but the sales rep must be paid at least 1.5 times the minimum wage to qualify. The exemption is only for overtime; the sales rep would still need to follow meal and rest break rules. This is a tricky exemption and we don’t recommend using it.

Those “outside sales reps” who can be hired as commission-only must spend at least 51% of their time out and about visiting prospects. We call this “knocking on doors.” They cannot conduct sales from their home or office; they must be hitting the streets. You can’t count time spent delivering the product, setting it up, etc. toward that 51%.

We are told too often that the laws have not kept up with technology. Your sales reps may find they are much more productive when doing screen shares for demos or Zooming with prospects but digital sales techniques only work for inside sales reps. Think about it this way… if they’re sitting down, that time probably won’t count toward the outside sales rep’s required 51%.

A final thing to remember is commissions only work if the amount is a percentage of the sale (net, gross, etc.) and the sales rep is actively involved in making the sale. If you just pay a flat amount, that’s a bonus rather than a commission.

Look closely at your requirements for any salesperson and how they are paid. Classify your sales reps properly so you don’t end up in front of the Labor Commissioner or worse.