Key Areas of HR to Review as You Begin the New Year

Jan 30, 2019

As we roll into the New Year, it’s a fabulous time to do a quick audit of your HR function. This will help you start the year on the right foot with a plan. Too often the day-to-day grind keeps us from planning and being strategic. This year, let’s change this!

Your handbook can work for you or against you. It’s always a great idea to revisit your handbook, at least annually, to ensure you are following the policies you’ve set forth and that nothing has changed throughout the year that needs to be incorporated or updated in the handbook. Think of things like the legalization of medical marijuana and any new state leave laws in your area. Your handbook sets the expectations for your employees. If anything in the handbook isn’t how you currently do things, you may have a hard time using it as a defense in any type of claim from an employee.

Job Descriptions
Much like the handbook, your job descriptions can work for you or against you. Many jobs today evolve quickly and it is hard to keep your job descriptions up-to-date. Again, the job description helps you set expectations with your employee on the job and can be a defense tool in any claims by the employee (i.e. legal, workers’ compensation, etc.). Ask your managers to take a few minutes to review the job descriptions for accuracy for the new year.  Also, be sure you have included physical and mental requirements for the job. This will assist when you are trying to work with an employee requesting FMLA, disability, or workers’ compensation leaves.

Employee Files
What’s in your employee files? What shouldn’t be in your employee files? Start the new year off right by getting everything filed. Create a checklist of what should or shouldn’t be in your files and either audit all your files or do a random sampling.

I-9 Forms
Where do you keep your I-9s? It’s suggested to keep them all in a binder separate from the employee files. And be sure the forms are fully completed (including signatures). If anyone is employed through work authorizations such as an H1B, check to make sure that an update is not required due to expired documentation. In addition, be sure you are purging terminated employee I-9 forms according to recordkeeping guidelines.

Effectiveness of Your Recruitment Sources
What are the metrics on your recruitment sources? How many candidates came from each source? How many candidates were interviewed from each source? How many were hired from each source? What’s the retention from each source? Can you make any changes on your recruitment based on these metrics? With the challenges of recruitment today, be sure you are making the most of your efforts and determine what is working and what is not.

What was your turnover last year? Were there any trends by position, level, department, manager, or tenure? What actions do you need to take to minimize this same impact in the new year? If you have not taken the time to do exit interviews, start this process in the new year! Valuable information can be obtained from these quick sessions that may help with turnover going forward.

Company Reputation
What’s your company’s reputation online (Glassdoor, Facebook, Google, etc.)?  Another “must do” for 2019 is to make sure you are looking at your company online and the reviews and comments you are receiving…everyone else is!

Do you have an up-to-date harassment policy in your handbook that all employees have received? Have you trained your employees on the policy? In the wake of the #MeToo movement, it’s highly recommended to conduct harassment training annually or at a minimum, once every two years. Make sure your staff knows what is acceptable behavior and how to address concerns if they have them.

With all the changes to minimum wage, are any of your employees affected by the changes and need compensation adjustments? Many experts suggest that the Department of Labor will revisit the Exempt/Non-Exempt definitions in 2019. Be sure you are ready to re-tackle the issue with exemption status and compensation levels.

Marijuana in the Workplace
What’s the state law regarding marijuana where your workplace resides? How are you going to handle a positive response on a drug screen from a candidate or employee?  Make sure your policy is up-to-date and that it has been communicated to your testing facility and to your employees.

A Few Bonus Reflections…
What were some of your key challenges last year? What can you do differently this year to minimize the impact of similar challenges? We can’t over-communicate with our employees. What is something different you are going to do this year to improve communication with your employees?

Finally, what can you do to find 30 minutes each month this year to reflect and take a more proactive approach to your HR? Think about it; this would just be six hours out of the 2,080 hours in a year to help keep you on the right track in a more proactive manner.  Don’t let those “little” HR items turn into bigger issues during the year. Tackle them today and get 2019 off to a great start!

Strategic Human Resources Inc. is a national full-service HR management firm based in Cincinnati, Ohio. Its president and founder, Robin Throckmorton, can be reached at

Written by:  Strategic Human Resources, Inc.

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