What do you do when employee morale is at an all-time low? As we all know, it is hard to produce positive outcomes with a workforce that has a negative attitude. I am a firm believer that there is a direct correlation between the level of employee involvement in identifying and addressing workplace issues and the degree of success achieved by efforts to fix those issues.
It seems elementary that if your employees know the limitations on resources available to address workplace issues, they will be the key to developing the most effective ways of prioritizing and addressing issues within identified parameters. Once employees buy into the concept that they are expected to own the issue and are involved in addressing it, morale is bound to improve. Even if there are not sufficient economic resources to fully address and remedy all issues, employees will know that their employer cares about them and is looking to them for solutions. Here are suggestions to help turn employees’ outlook and involvement to a more positive tone this year.
Focus on the basics
First, employers should concentrate on making sure their core practices were in order so they could effectively address specific issues in employees’ work lives. This includes:
- Employee handbook/policy review. When was the last time you reviewed your employee handbook? Make sure your policies accurately reflect your practices as well as recent developments in the law, and check your job descriptions to make sure they accurately reflect the duties of each position, including the essential functions. Remember that virtually anything that’s reduced to writing eventually becomes outdated as practices, individual employees, and legal requirements change. Outdated documents can be more harmful than helpful.
- Supervisor training.Supervisor training is the key to an efficient and harmonious workplace. If it has been more than 18 months since you have held supervisor training on the basics of workplace diversity and harassment, wage and hour administration, and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and American with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements, you need to conduct training early in the year. Although antiharassment training is essential, it isn’t enough. Your supervisors and managers must also be trained on broader issues of legal liability, so they can better understand the context in which harassment and discrimination occurs, recognize potential problems, and seek appropriate guidance.
- Record retention and documentation. Make sure your record retention policies are up to date and are being followed. Remember, federal statutes such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the ADA, the FMLA, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) contain specific document retention requirements. Many state and federal statutes also require that notices be posted and specific records be kept, but the required period for maintaining them varies widely; you should consult an experienced employment attorney for guidance.
It’s equally important that supervisors complete evaluations that accurately reflect employees’ performance and take the time to document when an employee does something wrong. Remember that spotless performance evaluations and a lack of documented warnings will undermine your claim that someone was a poor performer.
- Wage and hour compliance review. These days, all HR professionals are acutely aware that the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has stepped up its audits of employers to determine compliance with the FLSA ― particularly with regard to the classification of exempt employees. Conduct a thorough audit of your exempt and nonexempt classifications. Critically examine whether your salaried employees truly meet all the requirements of one of the recognized white-collar exemptions from the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime requirements. Determine whether they meet the “salary basis” test. Finally, make sure you have procedures in place to ensure compliance with overtime requirements and regulations.
Identify and address current issues
Employee morale may be influenced by the overall economy, but how employees perceive issues are being dealt with in their workplace is an important factor. Now is the time to solicit employee involvement in resolving issues that affect your workplace, such as absenteeism, tardiness, and abuse of paid time off. Once you persuade employees to buy in, you will find that they have good suggestions that you may wish to incorporate in your policies.
Ask the teams to consider how your limited resources can be used to benefit employees, make your company a better place to work, and provide the most use. For example, if one percent of your wage base is available for employee benefits and wage increases, ask the teams how the funds can be most effectively allocated.
Have your employee teams consider policies on some of today’s hot issues, and ensure that you are prepared to respond to an active shooter in your workplace and other instances of workplace violence (more and more of which are originating from outside the workplace). Employee involvement in those issues will provide employees with more security and confidence.
Teaming with employees to identify and address workplace issues in 2016 may not fully resolve all the problems. However, at the very least, it will let employees know you care about them and their problems and result in an improved work environment. Improved communication with employees will almost certainly yield greatly enhanced morale.