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Your Utility Should Avoid Common HR Mistakes

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Many employees at all sorts of companies grumble about their human resources departments, complaining about unnecessary intrusions and paperwork, among other things.

But a good HR department is important, and bad practices at your utility can hinder that impression. And while HR departments in general seem to be improving, maintaining well-defined standards can help increase efficiency, which is the name of the game.

Here are some typical HR mistakes and what you can do about them.

  1. Not maintaining employee files/failing to document performance. Given our lawsuit-happy era, terminating an employee can be complicated, so it makes sense to meticulously document the things that lead to an employee being fired. Of course, you should keep detailed records on all employees, not just the bad ones.
  2. Lack of employee reviews. This goes along with the first item. You should always have regular formal reviews. At least once a year is appropriate for established employees and newer workers should probably have evaluations at six months as well (if not earlier). Document the good and bad and always provide suggestions for improvement.
  3. Having an outdated or incomplete employee handbook. Update your handbook on a yearly basis and be sure to address every conceivable issue. Include a code of conduct; nondiscrimination policies; a clear accounting of compensation and benefits; and information about hiring and termination, among other things. Each employee should have a copy of the handbook — and each should sign a form saying they have read it. Even if employees never read it again, you have some added legal protection since they can’t say they don’t know the rules.
  4. Lack of job descriptions. Employees need to know what their job duties entail and, just as importantly, what is not included in the job description.
  5. Failure to have a written electronic use policy. This policy should apply to all electronic devices, including both work-related and personal devices. You might need to inform employees of privacy rules — especially if you check on internet usage — depending upon the state.
  6. Not properly training employees. This should be mandatory. New employees must know about utility policies and procedures, as well as their job duties. Training for existing employees can’t hurt, too.
  7. Playing fast and easy with compliance issues. Keep up on employment law, whether it’s local, state or federal.
  8. Money should talk. Employees should know when raises will be considered. During an annual evaluation might be a good time to talk salary. Reward your employees as warranted. Even relatively small annual raises should that your employees are appreciated although a $25 gift card at Christmas isn’t going to cut it.
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