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Overcome potential HR challenges in 2012

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Jason Carney’s tips on how to overcome HR-related challenges in 2012 are featured in the article below from BenefitsPro.com.

 

Challenges in HR: Three issues that can cause problems in 2012

By: Amanda McGrory-Dixon

January 20, 2012

As employers are settling into the new year, talent management remains a large problem that many companies are facing, says Jason Carney, director of human resources at WorkSmart Systems Inc., a professional employer organization in Indianapolis.

There is still much uncertainty regarding the current economy, especially with the upcoming election; therefore, many employers are unsure of how to handle staffing in 2012. While many business decisions are in a wait-and-see mode based on the economy’s performance, this is the time for employers to take an individualized look at what direction their businesses are headed and make decisions from there.

“There are just so many unknowns out there,” Carney says. “Do you run out and ramp up recruiting by staffing another 20 percent of the work force in 2012, or do you prepare for reduction of 20 percent? I don’t think anybody knows, so you need to take a hard look at where your business is going. It’s key for an HR department to get more in tune with its business now than ever.

As social media continues to become a larger part of everyday life, many employers are expected to put a greater focus on their social media policies, but these should go beyond simply telling employees they shouldn’t be on Facebook or Twitter all day long, Carney says. Social media has to power to spread news quickly, and an employer should monitor the kinds of comments that could cause problems in the employer’s interest, such as confidentiality breeches and intellectual property violations, especially when it comes to the social media sites that are more personal in nature.

“I think Facebook can be especially dangerous because of the fact that employees feel much more comfortable using it,” Carney says. “Facebook is a personal site, and it’s not public for the most part. Employees have a tendency to say more potentially disparaging comments about their employer in those forums versus LinkedIn, which is truly a professional-oriented site.”

Still, employers must be careful with their policies, Carney says, because employees have the right to voice their opinions regarding wages and working conditions, and employers cannot punish employees for doing so. For instance, if any employee were to negatively discuss his or her boss on social media, it could fall under working conditions. While it may not be the smartest or most professional move, it could still be protected. Rather than turning to disciplinary actions, HR should look at this as an opportunity to help solve those underlying problems.

“There might be a true underlying problem, so instead of disciplining the employee on why they made those comments, ask them what made them make that comment in the first place. Are the working conditions truly that bad?”

Wellness programs could also present challenges for HR departments in 2012. Many employers seem to think health care reform will significantly cut costs, Carney says, but that is not the case. Employers should expect health care costs to continue to rise, regardless of the upcoming legislation, and the best way to protect their benefits budgets is to help their employees become better consumers.

“There’s nothing that’s going to insulate employers from increased health care costs more now than wellness and consumerism,” Carney says. “Teaching employees to be better consumers of their health care and implementing any type of wellness program are going to be critical in 2012. Those are really the only tools employers have left at this point to keep the costs of claims down.”

Although it is sometimes difficult to convince management to buy into the programs, Carney says, implementing wellness programs is the best way to control costs. Often management needs to see the actual figures of the rising costs over the past several years to truly understand the problem at hand. Without the figures, spiraling costs seem more abstract, but seeing those numbers on paper better illustrates the problem and helps management see how improved consumerism and health can help.

“From a cost perspective, a lot of employers seem to think help is on the way with health care reform, but that’s simply not the case,” Carney says. “It’s not going to be less expensive; it’s potentially going to be more expensive, and HR departments need to educate management and help them see how beneficial it is to spend money on wellness and consumerism.”

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