By Jamie B. Dokovna, Esq. / Published May 2023
While some may think managing people is straightforward, talk to any manager or board member and they will likely tell you otherwise. It’s a challenge, no doubt. While no article can cover every issue that may arise when it comes to personnel and especially managing them, here are five important lessons that every employer should know:
Hiring the right person sounds simple enough, right? But hiring the right person can prove especially difficult when you don’t do your due diligence and even more so when you are in a tight labor market like today. Resumes provide some insight, but asking the right questions (see page 72)and conducting some research, including contacting references, can often make the difference between hiring the right person and hiring the next soon-to-be ex-employee. The importance of the interview process cannot be overstated. This is a vital step and one where you need to spend enough time to determine whether the applicant will be a good hire or not. Importantly, every job interview should include a discussion about the job duties required for the position to determine if the applicant is qualified. While you may not always make the right decision, and sometimes a bad hire will slip through the cracks, if you do your due diligence in the interview process, you can often save a lot of time and energy later on because a bad hire will always be a bad hire.
Employees expect to follow policies and procedures when they come to work. If you don’t have them, you should. If you haven’t reviewed and updated them in years, you must. Good policies and procedures are the backbone of any organization, and enforcing them with consistency is key. Policies and procedures and especially those included in an employee handbook, if you have one (which you should if you have at least 10 to 15 employees), are guides for both the employer and the employee. They set expectations and can often make the difference when dealing with difficult situations and even those that are routine. While most employers have standard operating policies and procedures, you may need additional ones to set forth the expectations in those situations which are unique to your community. For example, does your community permit employees to perform after-hours work for owners? If so, you should have written policies and procedures for how that situation should be handled. Failure to enforce policies and procedures or failure to enforce them consistently will inevitably create problems at some point. Avoid that. Create policies, enforce them, and be consistent.
Not every problem will have an easy or simple solution. Not every problem will have a yes or no answer, and not every problem can be solved by consulting attorney Google. Sometimes you have to be flexible, especially when it’s needed for the good of the community, for the morale of employees, or to keep and retain good employees. If we’ve learned anything in the recent years, it’s that flexibility is important, especially when being flexible can benefit both the employer and the employee. For example, we learned that remote work in many situations and for many positions can work and makes sense. We’ve also learned that for some employees a four-day workweek can be better than five. You just have to know when to be flexible and when to hold the line. Plus, when you’re flexible, if something doesn’t work, you can just as easily pivot and try something else that may work better.
THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
The following are some questions worth asking when interviewing a new hire:
- Can you perform the job duties for this position either with or without an accommodation?
- Why do you think you’d be a good fit here?
- Tell me two or three things your current or former employer does well and two or three things it could do better.
- Why do you want to leave your current employer?
- Where do you see yourself professionally in the next three to five years?
- Is there anything you think is important for me to know about you?
- What questions do you have for me?
Two of the most underutilized tools when it comes to managing personnel, in my opinion, are job descriptions and performance reviews. Job descriptions should be specific and include everything required of the position. When in doubt about whether you should include a job responsibility on the job description, add it unless it really isn’t an essential function of the job. Job descriptions should be reviewed at least yearly to determine whether they should be updated. Also, you may want to include employees in the process. Often, they are in the best position to tell you what the job entails.
Performance reviews are also often underutilized because they are viewed as time consuming, which is true, but they should be if they are done right. A performance review is not a time for you to just check the boxes or tell an employee the good without being critical of the bad. A good review will include a discussion (followed by written documentation) of all the things an employee is doing well, but it should also include those things which an employee can improve upon and identify goals for the upcoming year. While it may be uncomfortable to discuss an employee’s shortcomings, some employees really don’t know if they are doing a good job or not. An employee cannot improve if those shortcomings are not communicated to them. Help them become better. Help them, help you.
If you don’t document it, chances are someone will argue it didn’t happen. This is a classic example of what I call the alternative universe. In your mind, you disciplined the employee. In the employee’s mind, you had a nice conversation about work, but it wasn’t a warning and certainly not something that would lead to termination. True, documenting is inconvenient, but so are lawsuits. There is a reason why they say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Being proactive is better than being reactive. Take a minute, and write it down. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.
Jamie Dokovna focuses her practice on business litigation, with an emphasis on employment law and commercial matters as well as condominium and homeowner association law. Jamie has extensive experience representing employers in various aspects of employment law and litigation, including litigating claims for wrongful termination, harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and covenants not to compete; claims brought under Title VII; claims brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), including claims brought under Title III of the ADA where business owners are often sued for alleged non-compliant properties; claims under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and Florida Civil Rights Act (FCRA); claims brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for overtime and other wage violations; and claims based on housing discrimination. For more information, call 561-655-5444, email JDokovna@beckerlawyers.com, or visit www.beckerlawyers.com.