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Job Descriptions, Employee Handbooks, and Other Tools for Guiding Performance

General HR
January 27, 2021

About the Webinar

This webinar is must-see viewing for every new HR associate or manager, and a great refresher course for experienced professionals. In this primer, we review key tools for guiding employee performance and how to wield them effectively. Tune in!  

Learn the dos and don’ts of creating meaningful job descriptions and setting consistent performance standards. Review the best practices for maintaining employee handbooks and developing training programs. Finally, get help tackling one of your toughest jobs: taking disciplinary action. 

In under an hour, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the most-effective tools in the performance management toolbox. Watch it now to advance your HR and management skills.    

What You Will Learn:

  • How to set performance expectations through well-crafted job descriptions and SMART goals 
  • The ins and outs of employee handbooks  
  • The four key tenets of effective, compliant disciplinary action  

Contact VensureHR & Help Employees Improve Performance

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About your Hosts

Robin Paggi

Robin Paggi

Training and Development Specialist

Robin Paggi is a human resource practitioner and trainer who bases her advice and training programs on real-world experiences. Her areas of expertise include team building, supervisory skills and communication. 

A California native, she holds an M.S. in Psychology, an M.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Human Resources, and an M.A. in Communication Studies. She is passionate about tackling pressing H.R. issues and dedicated to sharing her knowledge.   

Job Descriptions, Employee Handbooks, and Other Tools for Guiding Performance


Emmet Ore Hello everyone and welcome back to the final installment of our January webinar series, “Hiring, Firing, and Inspiring, HR tools for Guiding Performance.” My name is Emmet. I’m a marketing specialist over here at Vensure and I’ll be your host for the next hour.


Emmet Ore Today our panelist will be talking to you about job descriptions, handbooks, and other tools to help guide employee performance.


Emmet Ore There will be a Q&A session at the end, as always, and we’ll do our best to get to all the questions that you guys have, but if we don’t get to them, we’ll respond to those individually after the session. And just a reminder, that this is being recorded and we will share that with you as soon as we’re done here.


Emmet Ore This webinar is brought to you, as always, by VensureHR. Vensure is the leader of 20-plus PEO partners with clients in all 50 states.


Emmet Ore Our agenda for today includes job descriptions, performance standards, handbooks, training, discipline, and lastly, a Q&A session. So if you hear a topic you need a little bit more clarity on, feel free to submit a follow-up in the Q&A box.


Emmet Ore We’re thrilled, as always, to have Robin Paggi as our panelist for the Wednesday webinar series. She’s a seasoned human resource practitioner specializing in, in training on topics such as harassment prevention, communication, team building, and supervisory skills.


Emmet Ore And also joining us today is John McFarland. John is Senior VP of Client Development at Vensure. He has 13 years in the PEO industry and 20-plus years in HR in, leadership. He is SHRM CP-certified, and he has experience at a Fortune 100 company as well. So with that, I will hand it over to Robin to kick us off.


Robin Paggi Thank you. Before we jump into job descriptions, I just want to catch everybody up. We’ve been talking about interviewing, orientation and onboarding, and notifications you need to have regarding the employment relationship. And today we want to focus on how to set your employees up for success, so you get the results you need from them. So what we’ll be talking about today are some tools that you can do to help them be successful, which helps you be successful. And John’s gonna kick it off with job descriptions.


John McFarland All right. Thank you very much, Robin. So as far as job descriptions, first off, there’s minimum qualifications. The minimum qualification refers to the skills and experience needed for the job being described and identifies the bare minimum skillset necessary to be productive and subsequently successful within that job. Both minimum and preferred qualifications are often indicated in a job description. The latter describing a more qualified candidate for the position. For example, let’s say you have a job description for an accounting associate and it may indicate that the education and experience in generally accepted accounting principles is a must, whereas experience with a specific piece of software, such as Quick Books is preferred because the employer utilizes Quick Books. The absence of Quick Books experience would not preclude the candidate from being qualified for that position because they can learn to use it after being hired. Whereas the absence of education and experience and generally accepted accounting principles is an absolute deal breaker because that’s just what the job is about. The minimum qualifications establish who’s truly a candidate for the position and who was not. This initial vetting helps the hiring entity sift through the applicants, paring it down, so they have a smaller candidate pool with which to work with. The minimum qualifications support the business’ hiring process and can support them regarding claims of discriminatory hiring practices, assuming the hiring manager sticks to the criteria set forth in the job description.


John McFarland Then we have essential functions. Essential job functions are the duties that the employee must be able to perform with or without a reasonable accommodation. It’s imperative to indicate the essential job functions in a job description, because without them the job wouldn’t exist. For example, a job description for an iron worker may indicate that they must be able to lift and carry at least a hundred pounds repeatedly throughout the work shift. If a candidate could not do so with or without accommodation, then they would not be qualified for that position because without this ability they could not unload, carry, or erect steel rebar, which is the position’s primary function. According to SHRM, there are three main areas to evaluate when determining a position’s essential functions. First, is whether the reason the position exists is to perform that particular function. Two is the number of other employees available to perform the function, or among whom the performance of that function can be distributed. And three, the degree of expertise or skill required to perform that particular function.


John McFarland Then there’s reasonable accommodations. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, a reasonable accommodation is any change or adjustment to a job or work environment that permits a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the job application process, to perform the essential functions of a job, or to enjoy the benefits and privileges of employment equal to those enjoyed by employees without disabilities. The private employers with 15 or more employees are subject to Title 1 of the ADA, Americans with Disabilities Act, which protects qualified individuals with disabilities from employment discrimination. Now you need to be aware of state-specific guidelines as well, as there may be more stringent. For example, in California, discrimination protections under the Fair Employment and Housing Act, or FEHA, apply to all employers with five or more employees. Reasonable accommodations could be accessibility to the building or workspaces, devices and equipment, schedule changes, job restructuring, modification of materials for your policy and procedure, training, et cetera, and readers and interpreters, just as some examples. Employers are required to seek reasonable accommodations, may the client the accommodation, if it proves to be an undue hardship defined by the EEOC as an accommodation that would be unduly costly, extensive, substantial, disruptive, or would fundamentally alter the nature or operation of the business. Now it’s important to note that if costs are the cause of the undue hardship, in addition to exploring another accommodation that’s a less cost prohibitive, the employer must also explore potential funding options from outside sources such as, say, a vocational rehab rehabilitation agency, and explore any potential tax credits that would help offset those costs. And finally, the employer must give the applicant or employee the opportunity to provide or assist with the accommodation.


John McFarland Then you have disclaimers. You’ll want to consider adding disclaimers, such as indicating that it’s not an employment contract. And the employment relationship remains at-will, if this is allowed in your state. Or perhaps a disclaimer that the duties indicate a do not constitute a comprehensive list and additional duties may be added to support the needs of the business. Just some examples of potential disclaimers in a job description.


John McFarland And finally, the employee’s signature. SHRM recommends both an employee and supervisor signature on job description because it proves the employee has reviewed, understood, and agreed that they possess the minimum qualifications and can perform the essential job functions, with or without a reasonable accommodation. for that particular position. Your job description is a valuable tool utilized to recruit, hire, evaluate, correct and, if needed, terminate employee throughout the employee life cycle. And having that signature is kind of holding their feet to the fire, if you will, to say, you agree that you possess the skills and the ability to do these functions. And with that, I’ll turn it over to Robin.


Robin Paggi Very good. All right, let’s go on to performance standards. One of the things that you want to clearly explain to your employees is the behavior and the results you expect of them. And a job description helps, that’s a good first step. So that’s one of the reasons you want to have one as well, is because you’re going to use that as a guide for them, and a training tool as well. However, you shouldn’t expect them to know everything they need to know just by going over the job description with them. Now, communicating your expectations is probably more difficult than you think it is, because communication is more difficult than most people think it is. I have a couple of degrees in communication studies, and when I would tell people that I was going to school to learn about communication, they didn’t understand how there could be all these classes for me to take to get a degree. What is so tough about communicating? I’m talking, you’re listening, we’re communicating, right? No, that’s not what it means. The definition of communication is when the center of the message and the receiver of the message have the same understanding of the message. How often do you think that happens? Very rarely. And one of the reasons is because we are all different people and we have different definitions of words and different perspectives.


Robin Paggi So I want to give you an example of how I thought someone and I had mutual understanding and we did not. I told a coworker that a client wanted to train on a day that I was going to be on vacation. And I asked my coworker if he was available to conduct the workshop for me. He said yes. I said great. And I thought we were good to go. So I’m on vacation. And at 5 a.m., my cell phone rang. It was the client wanting to know if I was on my way to the workshop. Of course, it wasn’t 5 a.m. that I was doing the workshop, I was in a different time zone. So my coworker didn’t show up for the training as we had agreed. And I called him and he said he didn’t know he was supposed to actually conduct the training that day. He thought I was just asking him if he was available. He expected me to send him a calendar invitation that finalized the deal. Well, there’s probably some of you where they’re going, of course, you send a calendar invitation. I wasn’t in the habit of doing so. I didn’t think I needed to do so with other people who I had do my training before. I didn’t do it with them and it all worked out. But that’s what his expectation was. So did I blame him for not understanding? No, I blamed myself, because it’s my job as the center of the message to ensure that he understood what I meant. So, I learned my lesson on that one. And hopefully you’ll learn from that mistake.


Robin Paggi Now we’re going to spend all of February webinars talking about communication because it’s so complex. But until then, one way to help to ensure mutual understanding is to establish SMART goals. If you’re not familiar with these, SMART is an acronym, and it stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. And each essential job duty on the job description should be accompanied by at least one SMART goal that shows the employee how to successfully perform that job duty. For example, if a job duty is to provide excellent customer service, a SMART goal would be something like, answer all incoming calls within three rings. So, that is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and kind of time-based. Of course, you still need to specify what you want employees to say when they’re answering the call. And you might think, doesn’t everybody know how to answer a telephone?


Now. Now is a good time to briefly talk about different generations in the workplace. Gen Z is the newest generation and it’s made up of people born in 1996 or after. So the oldest of Gen Z is turning 25 this year. This generation is entering the workforce with less job experience than previous generations. In a survey I read, only 19 % of Gen Z reported working as teenagers compared to 48% of Baby Boomers. That’s the generation that I’m in, and those are the folks born between 1946 and 1964. Also, Gen Z are digital natives, meaning most of them didn’t learn how to do things the old school way, like us Boomers did. For example, people of my generation, in general ,were taught as kids how to answer the family phone. It went something like this, phone rings, you pick it up, Paggi residence. Most kids growing up today don’t have a family phone. They have their own personal cell phone that they answer however they want to answer it. So if you’re older than 30, you need to understand that younger people don’t have the same knowledge that you have. And what might be common sense to you is not necessarily common sense to them. I’m going to provide you a webinar all about Gen Z in April, which coincides with the release of a book I wrote about managing Gen Z.


Robin Paggi Next is fair and consistent. In addition to clarifying your expectations, establishing SMART goals help to be fair and consistent when evaluating performance. And so we’re going to talk about performance evaluations in an upcoming webinar. But one of the things to understand is that your job description and your performance evaluation should basically mirror each other. And when you are onboarding employees, showing them the job description and the performance evaluation that you’re going to use to evaluate their performance helps them understand what you expect from them. Now, let’s go back to fair and consistent, and the expectation to provide exceptional customer service. Some people say I’m really nitpicky, especially when it comes to customer service. And that’s probably because I was a waitress for many years, and I was in the service industry and I was taught to provide customer service. So exceptional customer service probably looks different to me than it does to people who haven’t had the same job experience that I have. So how do you ensure you’re not subjectively evaluating somebody’s performance based upon your expectations, and thus being unfair to them? SMART goals. If the goal is to answer incoming calls within three rings, it’s easy to objectively evaluate that the phone was answered within three rings or it wasn’t answered within three rings. So people can’t accuse you of being unfair when there is that SMART goal,and all you’re doing is evaluating their performance based upon that goal. And it’s also important to be consistent with your employees. Inconsistency not only breeds contempt, it leads to discrimination claims. SMART goals ensure consistency among all of your employees as well, because they have the same performance expectations.


Robin Paggi You need to give people feedback on their performance, especially when they’re new. Now, if employees are doing a good job, you want to tell them they’re doing a good job. Why? So they’ll continue to do a good job. And if they’re not doing a good job, you want to tell them they’re not doing a good job. Why? So that they know they’re not meeting your expectations, but you’re also telling them how to do so. So when employees are new, especially when they’re young, they need extra guidance to ensure they’re on the right path, and feedback provides them with this guidance. Unfortunately, a lot of people are uncomfortable giving feedback, especially when they have to tell people they’re not meeting their expectations. So, that’s why we’re going to have a webinar about it.


Robin Paggi I read a survey that said 66% of Gen Z employees said they want feedback from their managers every few weeks, if not more. But, you don’t have to give this amount of feedback to all of your employees. In fact, doing so might have a negative result. For example, a millennial supervisor told me in a workshop once, that she’d like to meet with her employees individually once a week to give them feedback on their performance. And, as someone who likes continuous feedback, she thought that everybody likes continuous feedback. And so she was confused when one of her older employees told her one of the feedback sessions, Honey, no news is good news. The supervisor didn’t know what that meant. I explained to her that older employees were often used to a management style in which managers generally only talk to employees when they did something wrong. So, the adage, no news is good news. If my super, supervisor is not talking to me, that’s good. And additionally, the employee might have felt degraded by her younger supervisor constantly talking to her about her performance.


Robin Paggi On the other hand, one Baby Boomer supervisor told me she was fed up when a young employee always asking whether he had done a good job on the task she assigned him. And despite the fact that the employee did do a good job, the supervisor refused to tell him because he was so “needy” in her words. I explained to her that younger generations are generally used to getting more feedback and praise from parents and teachers, and that if he was doing a good job, she should tell him. And she finally did. And she reported to me that he stopped bugging her after that. So taking a moment or two to tell employees, especially when they ask, that they met or exceeded your expectations, inspires them to meet or exceed your expectations in the future. And giving employees different amount of feedback based upon who they are. That might sound like a pain. Why can’t you just give the amount of feedback you want to and tough luck if employees don’t like it? Well, there’s a basic life principle that I like to repeat. If you give people what they need, chances are they’ll give you what you need. And when you are managing employees, you need them to give you the results that you’re asking for. And how you communicate with them determines whether you’ll get those results. So again, more about that in February.


Robin Paggi Finally, before we go on, I want to talk about the experiential learning model. A couple of decades ago, I taught public speaking classes at a junior college and I would tell my students how to give a speech, I’d show them how to do it, and then I’d expect them to do it, and frequently they didn’t give me the results that I expected and I didn’t understand why. I clearly showed them what I wanted. I told them what I wanted. I gave them everything that I thought I could give them so that they would know how to do it, and they still didn’t know how to do it. That’s when I learned about the experiential learning cycle. Now, this is a model, and Google it if you want to, so you can see exactly what it looks like. The model says that we learn by having an experience, but that’s not the end of it. We then need to reflect on what went well and what didn’t go well about that experience, figure out what we learned from it, and then determine how we’re going to apply it, next time. And so, after my students would give a speech, I would ask them, what do you think went well? What didn’t go well? What did you learn from things particularly not going well? And how will you apply that next time you give a presentation? We usually need to go through this cycle three or four times with people before they really know how to do something well. So this is a tool that you can use with your employees, too, especially when they’ve made a mistake. They make a mistake, that’s the experience. Ask them, what happened?, what did you learn from it?, how will you apply it the next time you have this experience? And then, that helps them learn your expectations. All right. That’s it for me.


John McFarland Great, thank you. All right, handbooks. So first off, in the handbooks, you’ve got employees’ rights and responsibilities. So, among other things, an employee handbook communicates both employee rights and responsibilities. So employees have the right to a safe work environment, free from hazards and exposures that are harmful or fatal. They have the right to be free from harassment or discrimination, especially for those protected classes as they pertain to race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, pregnancy, age, disability, veteran status, genetic information, and citizenship. I may have missed some, but that’s pretty comprehensive. Note, that anti-bullying training has been added to the list of required trainings in some states, and legal protections are expected in the near future, so that might be another item to that list.


John McFarland And then they have the right to protection against retaliation for filing a claim or action against their employer. This is also known as whistleblower rights. And then employees are responsible for working in a safe manner, reporting unsafe conditions or actions. They are responsible for conducting themselves in a professional manner as it pertains to the anti- harassment anti-discrimination laws, as well as reporting issues to the contrary. They have the responsibility, responsibility of adhering to company policies and procedures. They’re responsible for their specific job duties. And they’re responsible for the performance and obligations, especially as it pertains to the trust that you’ve given them regarding the handling of company assets, confidentiality, trade secrets, secrets, et cetera.


John McFarland And then what should be in a handbook. There can be a plethora of items in a handbook. The general idea is, is it needs to be presented in a way that’s not, and, you know, not discriminatory, not harassing. The items I’m going to go over are just some basic items. There certainly could be additional. But the content should be laid out in a manner that flows from one topic to the next in a natural order. You don’t wanna, you know, introduce the company and then bounce to, you know, benefits, and then bounce back up to something else, it should have a nice flow. And typically, you’ll have the introduction to your company, including your mission and vision, your company’s policies and procedures, including the employees’ legal rights and your company, then your company’s benefits, and then any company standouts that are real specific to your company or industry. And then finally, any disclaimers and an acknowledgment of receipt of that handbook.


John McFarland So company introduction, mission, vision statement. This is your company’s first impression, and sets the tone for what the company’s all about and why they’re in business. It sets the expectations of how employees are expected to conduct themselves as they live into your company’s purpose, culture, mission, and vision.


John McFarland Policies and procedures. Here’s where you want to lay out your employees’ rights, definitions, the do’s and don’ts, such as sexual harassment policy, that’s not a how-how-toto, it’s a what not to do. If you’re subject to ADA, for example, what is it? What is ADA? What are the rights and protections under ADA? If you happen to have specific OSHA standards that you know you’re subject to, what are those OSHA standards? Again, what are the rights and responsibilities of employees under those standards? What is your substance abuse policy? Do, do, you know, do random drug testing? Do you do pre-employment drug testing, and what is the circumstances under that? Code of conduct. How does an employee need to conduct themselves while they’re working for the company? Confidentiality. What is your confidentiality statement? Are there specific items that need to remain confidential? Conflict of interest. Your attendance policy. Your dress code. Details regarding pay, overtime, what it means to be exempt or nonexempt, actually define it, what is it? Performance reviews. How are they done? When are they done? Your disciplinary policy. Advancement, how do you, how do you move up in this company? Transfers, how do I move from one unit to another, or one physical location to another? Use of company property. Cell phone usage while on the property, et cetera.


John McFarland Then, the next section would most likely be your benefits. When we talk about benefits, typically, we think medical, dental, vision. However, this section of the handbook is where you would detail those benefits as well as life and disability insurance, if you offer it, retirement benefits, 401(k), 403(b), pension stock options, et cetera. Do you have paid time off? What type is it? PTO, vacation, sick floating? How do you accrue it? When do you accrue it? Do you offer paid holidays, if so, what are they? Do you offer it only to full-time or do you offer it to part-time as well? Leave policies and the rights under those leave policies. Are you subject to FMLA? Are you subject to a state-specific law, such as CFRA in California? What are your military leave policies? Disability, personal leave? Do you allow bereavement? Is it paid? Define it under the benefits section.


John McFarland Training and education assistance, this is a, this is a real big one. If you are one that will support employees through additional education to get their degree or perhaps certification from some forward-thinking business owners that, that take advantage of Section 127, which enables you to pay a portion of the employee’s student loans under the Cares Act now, which has been extended, but doesn’t impact the employee from a tax perspective. Assistance for licensing and certifications. Do you have a financial planner on your team that, you know needs to do their continuing education? Are you gonna pay for that? Are you gonna allow them time for that? What happens when they have to recertify? Do you cover that? If so, to what extent?


John McFarland And then often forgotten benefits, cause you’re kind of forced to provide it, but they really are a benefit, is worker’s compensation, that’s a benefit for the employee. Unemployment insurance within your state, that’s a benefit. Social Security and Medicare, if anybody ever wants to retire, that’s a benefit. So it’s, it’s not a bad idea to identify those and how they work in your benefits section.


John McFarland And then a company’s standouts. That could be, you know perhaps you have an industry accreditation that you obtained. One I can think of is you know in the alcohol, drug and alcohol rehab industry, there’s a JCAHO accreditation. Well, what are the standards that need to be followed in order to maintain that company accreditation? Accreditation is not always easy to obtain, and there are criteria that need to be followed in order to maintain that, so what is it? That may be a company standout or perhaps you are in, in an industry that handles and stores toxic chemicals. What are the specific safety policies that must be followed due to the nature of your business? That may need to be a standout policy within your handbook.


John McFarland Disclaimers and acknowledgment. So, typically it’s a statement of your at-will employment, if it’s allowed. A statement that the handbook does not create an employment contract. The statement that the employer may change, modify, or eliminate a policy to support the needs of the company. And of course, any of these changes, if they do occur, should always be followed by a handbook addendum or a revised handbook. Either are suitable so long as you disclose that change to the employees. And then a handbook acknowledgment is recommended because it’s proof that your employees received and read the handbook, even though many don’t. But that’s, that’s what they’re stating when they fill out that ack, acknowledgment and turn it in to you. And it’s imperative to have proof of their acknowledgment, if you ever need it for an unemployment claim, a lawsuit, et cetera. It’s very beneficial.


John McFarland And then what should not be in the handbook? Well, any discriminatory or harassing statements or language shouldn’t be in there. Complicated policies. This, this may seem like a no-brainer, but sometimes the policies are so difficult that the, the employees have a hard time even understanding it, so if they can’t understand it, how do they follow it? So you want to make sure that they’re simple, clear, and easy to follow.


John McFarland Language that’s too restrictive. You know, use typically, generally, or may versus you must or you will, because that, that’s a little bit more restrictive.


John McFarland The term probationary period. Back in the day, this was pretty common, but that theoretically indicates that an individual can’t be let go during that timeframe. So instead use introductory or orientation period as a better reference.


John McFarland The reference to permanence within a position or benefit, that implies that it can’t be taken away. And again, you know, back in the day, it was kind of common to refer to a full-time employee as a permanent employee. You want to stay away from language that indicates permanent.


John McFarland Statements regarding just cause or due process without discipline, within a discipline policy. If you’re an at-will employer because you don’t need any cause, employment is at-will with or without cause. Now, you do want to have documentation that led up to it, but you don’t necessarily need to, if you’re at-will.


John McFarland Any policies that use language that could violate an employee’s right to discuss pay and work conditions under the National Labor Relations Act, or NLRA. Very important. So, that takes us to the, to the last item is, why the National Labor Relations Board, or NLRB, cares about your handbook. Some handbook policies may be deemed unlawful under the National Labor Relations Act, or NLRA, according to the NLRB, who interprets and enforces the NLRA. So Section 7 indicates that, it guarantees employees the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining, of other mutual aid or protection, as well as the right to refrain from any or all such activities. And in Section AA 1, makes it unfair labor practice for an employer to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of their rights guaranteed under Section 7 of the act.


John McFarland And as it pertains to these statements within your handbook, some items that have been points of contention are confidentiality. The NLRB may consider it unlawful under the NLRA to prevent employees from discussing policies, work conditions, and pay, personal use for work of the work email. The NLRB may consider it unlawful to prevent employees from using company email for personal use while they’re on their break or lunch, use of cell phone while at work. The NLA, NLRA may allow the use of cell phone while on break or lunch. So a policy that completely prohibit it, prohibits it could be in violation. Prohibiting employees from speaking to the media. Generally, the NLRB will allow a policy that designates certain employees to speak to the media. However, it may not prevent employees from speaking to the media to express their concerns regarding work conditions.


John McFarland And then some policies and dress code. Generally speaking, it, does indicate you can, indicate you have to be, you know, professional attire, but it, you can’t have the restrictions say, for instance, of wearing any attire that has a union logo, for example.


John McFarland An item of particular importance. So, in a note from 2015, there was a memo from the general counsel at the time of the NLRB, which was Richard Griffin, Jr. The NLRB found concerns with handbook policies regarding confidentiality, employee conduct toward the company or supervisor, employee conduct towards fellow employees, employee interaction with third parties, rules restricting use of company logos, copyrights, and trademarks, rules restricting photography and recording, restrictions on employees leaving work, and an employer conflict of interest rules. Now while the NLRB under the Trump administration moved away from a lot of these views, it’s important to understand the, the position of the general counsel at that time, because the Biden administration has already fired Peter Robb, who was the general counsel of the NLRB, and his successor, Alice Stock, after both of them refused to resign at his request, due to Robb’s actions over the past three years regarding workers’ rights to organize and engage in a collective bargain, bargaining.


John McFarland Now, the Biden administration has already appointed Peter Sung Orr as the acting general counsel, pending appointment confirmation of the new general cows, counsel. And the expectation is that the NLRB will have a Democratic majority by August of 2021, because one of the members comes off service as of August 2021. Assuming this is the case, the makeup of the NLRB at that time, will apply their view of the NLRA on cases that have not yet closed, reverting back to more of an Obama-era view, making the previous concerns I’ve mentioned, that, you know, Richard Griffin had found as an issue regarding handbook’s relevant once again, and specifically, there’s concerns that there will be a return, tur, to strict interpretations of employee handbook rules, possibility of all, allowance of use of company emails by unions, and the allowance of micro-units, which is a way that unions can get into an, an, a particular location through smaller units and then grow it from there. And with that, we’ll pass it on to Robin.


Robin Paggi Okay. Who knew that handbooks could be so complicated? So, thank you for that, John. We’re going to talk about training next, my favorite topic. And so let’s move on to the next slide and talk about if you’re going to do it, do it right.


Robin Paggi Now, obviously, you should train people when they are new, but training is not always the answer. And I love it when people ask me to train their employees, but sometimes it’s not what is needed. So, that’s why you need to conduct an analysis to determine whether training is the answer.


Robin Paggi So how do you conduct an analysis? You gather data. What kind of data? Complaints, productivity statistics, performance reviews, just anything, even just comments or surveys by various people, various stakeholders within your organization about the fact that things are not going the way that they should be going or people are not meeting the expectations that were set out for them.


Robin Paggi So, you want to look at this data and if there is enough to demonstrate that a group of employees needs help in meeting performance expectations, then, training is probably a good idea. However, if only one employee needs help, then coaching that employee is a better idea. Now, this happened to me various times because I’ve been training for about 25 years. And let me give you one example. I was asked to conduct a stress management workshop for a client, and I did the workshop for a small group of people, who indicated that they didn’t understand why they were sitting through a stress management workshop. Afterward, I talked to the HR manager about it and she said, “Well, really, it was one of the employees in the workshop who was having a difficult time managing stress.” But they figured that, hey, all the employees would benefit from the workshop, so why not have all of them go through it? That’s not the way to do it. All of the other employees probably resented having to participate in a workshop that they didn’t need. And, so that’s one of the things that I see is that, sometimes employers, HR supervisors automatically think, well, we just need to train everybody, and that’s not necessarily so. So gather the data and determine if it’s one person who needs to be talked to or a group of people. Then design the training.


Robin Paggi When you’re designing the training, you’re trying to determine exactly what skills are needed in order to meet expectations and what skills are possessed by the people who are attending the training. Now, one size does not fit all. And that’s one of the things that happens, too, is, when I conduct supervisory training, people will throw in supervisors who just started and supervisors who’ve been there for 25 years. That’s not good either, because, you have people again who already have skills and then they’re just hearing more about the skills they already possess, which makes them resentful trainees.


Robin Paggi So, here are some things to consider when you’re designing it. What training is needed most. And, that’s what you want to figure out so that you can focus on that. You don’t want to provide all of the training someone needs when they are new on a job, at one time. It’s too much information. So, what is needed most for people to be able to do their job? What knowledge and tasks are critical for them to be successful? How frequently do they perform the task or need that knowledge? How complex are the tasks? How difficult is it to learn the task, in general?


Robin Paggi And the time interval between training and performance. Now, once upon a time, at a job far, far away, I was going through some computer training with my coworkers. And so, we go through all of this training, but then the program that we were going to, that we were trained on, wasn’t implemented for six months later. Well guess what happened during that six months? We all forgot how to do what we needed to do. So, one of the things when people go through training, they should be able to immediately implement what they have learned.


Robin Paggi And then the other thing you need to determine is the availability of time, instructors, equipment, facilities, how much money we’ve got to pay for all of this, how much we’ll need. So that all goes into the design.


Robin Paggi One of the most important things about the design is what you want people to know how to do as soon as they walk out of the workshop. And, so you put that in the form of a learning objective. And a learning objective should state clearly the expected behavior or performance using action verbs. So an action verb is not like the objective is for you to learn about this, the objective is for you to be able to do something. So example, at the end of this training session, you should be able to identify five steps in effective training program. And if I tested you on it, I’d want you to be able to talk about these five things that I’m telling you right now.


Robin Paggi The development is the fun part for me, creating the training itself. What learning material and activities are we going to use? So with the training we’re doing right now, we’re using a PowerPoint. We’re using a short lecture. You don’t want to use a long lecture. People can’t tolerate being talked to for long periods of time. Demonstrations, videos, whether it’s all computer-based or multimedia. And I will tell you, one of the great things that has happened out of this pandemic, is people have learned how important in-person face-to-face training is, because it’s difficult to get everything that you need from just listening to voices and watching a PowerPoint, right? Role-play. I love role-play and most people hate it, but I make them do it anyway, as much as I can make people do anything. And the reason for that is we go back to experience. We learn mostly through experience. So, again, I can tell people how to have a difficult conversation. I can show them how to have a difficult conversation. But unless they go through the experience themself, and then we talk about what happened, and what they learned, and how they’ll implement it, they don’t truly know how to have a difficult conversation or any of the other activities that I’m showing them how to do. So that’s why role-play is so important. Discussion groups, games, anything that you’re going to incorporate, and I suggest a variety of things, but they all have to be related to meeting the objective, the learning objective. People need to know how to do something. And every single thing you do in that training, including games, has to be geared toward people understanding how to do what you expect them to do.


Robin Paggi All right, the implementation, you got to have a plan for implementation. So certainly who’s going to go through the training, but where is it going to be held? And I have been put into some lousy places to conduct training. Warehouses, where heavy opera, heavy equipment is being operated, I’m supposed to yell over this heavy equipment being operated. And so you really got to think about where is the best place where people won’t be interrupted, there won’t be distractions, so that they can just focus on the training.


Robin Paggi You’ve got to figure out who your trainers are going to be. And when I conduct train-the-trainer workshops, one of the first questions that I start with is, “Who here does not like to train?” And I usually figure that no one’s gonna raise their hand. But I haven’t had people raise their hands, they don’t like to train. Well, those are not the people who should be training people that. And so, those are things to consider.


Robin Paggi And, of course, money. How much money do we have to spend on the training?


Robin Paggi So finally, the evaluation is the last step. And the reason you want to evaluate any training is so that you can improve it, whether to continue or discontinue it, and to see what kind of results that you get from it. So there are four levels of evaluation. The first is reaction, and that’s what we ask you to do. We ask you to complete a survey after you watch our webinar that tells us what you thought about it. And that’s nice, but that’s just the first step. Then there’s learning. You want to test whether people have learned from the training. And a lot of times you can do that with pre-test and post-test so that hopefully they’ll score better on the post-test. Behavior, you want their behavior to change, as a result of it. So that’s something that you can observe or ask other people to observe. And then finally results. You want the money you invest in training to give you a return on your investment. That one is very difficult to evaluate. But, if you can do it, it justifies why we’re spending money on training, because we get a return on our investment. Okay, John, you’re up.


John McFarland All right. Thank you, Robyn. So discipline. We can advance the slide, thank you so much. So first off, the importance of accountability. Employee accountability pertains to each employee’s actions, performance, decisions, and achievement of goals. Employee accountability directly impacts morale, engagement, and productivity. Now, employee morale is defined as the attitude, satisfaction, and overall outlook of employees during the association with a business. I equate a work team to a sports team. All members of the team must do their part for the entire team to be successful. Repeated issues, missed assignments, lack of care or attention, has a direct impact on the team’s performance. And other members of the team need to pick up the slack. If this persists, it becomes, it begins to erode the relationships, drives down employee engagement, and ultimately affects the productivity.


John McFarland Employee engagement is defined as the passion that employees have for their job, employer, and/or company. An employee who comes to work every day, completes their assignments, and goes home might be productive, but it doesn’t mean they’re engaged. According to Gallup Poll, 85% of employees are not engaged in their workplace. Yet, businesses that scored the highest in employee engagement showed a 21% higher level of profitability, which directly affects their bottom line.


John McFarland And then employee productivity is a metric that’s calculated based on the amount of output on a project versus the amount of time it takes. If an employee is negatively impacting employee morale and causing disengagement, then productivity will decrease. You ever notice how time flies when you’re having fun? Same is true when you’re having fun at work, you’re happier, you’re more engaged, and your productivity tends to increase.


John McFarland Now, what discipline communicates to the employee. Discipline communicates that you care, and are willing to work with them to correct their actions or behavior. Often, leaders consider discipline as a negative action and avoid or rush through the process. However, discipline can be positive as it shows employees that you care, because there’s an opportunity for improvement and you’re there to help them. Don’t get me wrong, okay, it’s not always positive, but approach it as if it is, because if you approach it as if it’s negative, then that’s what you’re going to portray. I’m not a huge, you know, I’m a huge fan of, of sports, and despite the level that an elite athlete performs at, they still have a coach guiding them, correcting them, and mentoring them. Leaders have an opportunity to do the same for their employees.


John McFarland So, how to communicate when discipline. I’m gonna kind of run down the whole process. So first off, make sure you conducted a thorough and fair investigation. When possible, speak to an employee from the same eye level and eliminate obstacles between the two of you. Both of those actions remove the effect of authoritarian posturing, which can diffuse tensions, right off the bat. Always have a witness, preferably the same gender as the employee. When you’re speaking to them, speak clearly and in an appropriate speed to ensure comprehension. Oftentimes, supervisors rush through this process, not giving the employee the time to understand and process what’s being said. Remember, as a leader, you’ve had time to digest this information, whereas the employee has not. Clearly advise of the employee of the issue and if applicable, the specific policy or policies they have violated. Detail the steps that the employee must take to correct the behavior and why. Oftentimes supervisors leave out the why, and this is key to the employee’s understanding as to how their actions are impacting others and the company, which lends to an increase in acceptance, typically. Ensure factual details are documented on a, some sort of write-up form and present that form to the employee to sign. Employees aren’t required to sign a write-up form. If they refuse, you can just refuse to sign on their signature line, but I strongly suggest you do it after. I’ve learned the hard way that doing it in their presence can often cause unnecessary escalations. So, there’s a, there’s a free, free tidbit. Give the employee an opportunity to ask questions for clarification. Again, the employee’s processing this information for the first time, and they need to ask some questions. Once the employee’s left, have your witness write a statement of all actions that occurred during the discussion, especially any statements made in verbatim exactly what was, was stated, as this could support further steps in progressive discipline, and protect both the supervisor and the company against false allegations. Very important.


John McFarland So, why progressive discipline is a good idea. It provides the employee with an opportunity to change. Assuming the issue was not egregious, giving the employee an opportunity to correct the behavior is a better solution. Some employees don’t even realize there was an issue. Additionally, there are definitely hard and soft dollar costs to turnover, from increases in payroll to cover the shift once they’re gone, recruiting, hiring, training, and all that lost productivity until the new employee is come up to speed. It gives the supervisor an opportunity to explain the corrective actions, coach, mentor, and this employee through this process. And oftentimes, and it’s not always, but often it builds a stronger relationship between the two, the supervisor and the employee, because it improves, which, you know, in turn improves productivity, morale, and engagement. Taking that opportunity with somebody, really explaining it, and showing that, I’m not here to drop the hammer on you, I am here to work through this together. And that type of approach really shows that I care, and I care about your family, and you, and your job, and you remaining as an employee here, really goes a long way and can really strengthen a relationship.


John McFarland A progressive discipline provides an alternative to terminations for minor violations. It’s, it’s, it’s a tool, if you will, to work through those things. It’s better to work with the employee than it is to, you know, call it quits and find somebody else. It gives the supervisor an opportunity to provide a clear explanation of consequences if the employee does not follow company policies or the supervisor’s direction. Very important to understand if-then statements, if you do not do this, then this is what will happen next. It improves morale and engagement by allowing employees an opportunity to correct their actions, as well as it shows other employees, the violations of company policies or bad behaviors will be addressed. One of the worst things for morale overall in a business is allowing a bad apple, if you will, to continue to cause problems in the workspace and not address it. You bring down the mor, morale and you bring down the engagement of the other employees that are involved. One of thus, the most important aspects of progressive discipline, is it provides evidence of all actions the employer took to work with that particular employee to correct the behavior. This may help an employer fight an unemployment claim or defend them against false, allegs, allegations. And then finally, if this is done correctly and consistently, it establishes structure and fairness for the employees of the organization. And with that, we’ll turn it, ov, over to Emmet.


Emmet Ore Thanks, John. Thanks, Robin. Looks like we do have a couple questions here. First one is, Would a small business need to provide an interpreter for a deaf employee if they ask for it?


John McFarland Yeah, I would say yes. I mean, to me, it’s all about reasonable accommodation. If getting an interpreter to assist is reasonable, and that is reasonable under most circumstances, I would say, yes. And typically, even if it’s cost-prohib, prohibitive. But if there are organizations that work specifically with those with disabilities, either at a reduced cost or, depending on the circumstances, for free, depending on the, the particular location, you may be in in a city, county, state.


Robin Paggi I wanted to add to that also. John mentioned the ADA applies to employers with 15 or more employees. However, remember, state laws sometimes require that employers provide reasonable accommodation when they have fewer employees. So, example in California, our employee count is five or more employees. And so that’s one of the things that’s important, to make sure that you know what your state law requirements are as well.


Emmet Ore Excellent. Thank you. So if supervisor, if a supervisor inadvertently acts in an offensive way to an employee, say, says a joke, is it okay to keep the employer, or to keep the supervisor employed if they apologize to the employee, or is always best to let go of the supervisor?


Robin Paggi Oh, I want to jump in on that one. If people get fired for telling a joke, then we’re gonna fire people all over the place. So that’s one of the things that, we talk about, and, as far as training is concerned, is compliance training. And, there are very few states in the country that are required to provide harassment prevention training. And, that’s one of the things that we talk about quite a bit, is joking, and how joking can be offensive. And, and that the intent of people’s behavior is not what matters, it’s the effect of people’s behavior.


Robin Paggi Having said that, I think we’re all guilty of saying things that are offensive to people that we don’t mean to offend. And if we fire people for the first offense, for telling a joke that offends somebody else, we probably won’t have any employees or we’ll have a very stale working environment. So, giving people the chance to correct their behavior is critical for all sorts of reasons. As John explained, progressive discipline is critical to demonstrate, you are giving employees the opportunity to turn it around and to succeed. So you want to be able to do that even in an at-will environment. And then the other thing, about think about it, if you fire people for the first offense, such as telling a joke that is offensive to somebody, everybody is going to be scared to death in the workplace. And you don’t want that, because scared employees are not good performers. So hopefully I answered that question.


Emmet Ore Thank you. Can you advise on how to handle when employees are meeting their job requirements but their attitude is poor, and they share with coworkers their feelings about their job, thus poisoning the pond?


Robin Paggi I’ll take that one. That’s always a tough situation. It’s one of those things where you kind of maybe need to take a step back and look at the general culture of the business. Is, is the culture such that it actually cultivated this? And if so, maybe it’s time to change that within the organization. Or if you determine, you know, no, the culture is good and it’s just this one individual. Sometimes just having a, a human conversation with them, “Hey, what’s going on?,” you know, because you got to realize every single person who walks through your door has an outside life, and what’s going on in their outside life that they’re bringing to work that maybe they’re just bottled up and they’re, they’re lashing out at people and they don’t need to? You know, so it’s either gonna open up an opportunity to improve the culture and they open up an opportunity to address some issues that this employee’s having specifically at work. Or it may open up the opportunity to just have them, you know, let you know what’s going on, and sometimes it’s lending an ear to somebody and getting it off their chest is enough for them to go, “Hey, I appreciate that.” Thank you. But communication is key.


Robin Paggi I want to jump in on that, too. Attitude is something that I encourage people to take out of their vocabulary. And one of the reasons for that is because when you tell somebody you have a bad attitude, the attitude is how they feel about something. And we don’t know what people feel. All we know is what we see and the effect that it has on other people. And so, when you are talking to an employee about their attitude, don’t say attitude. Say something like, “You know, Robin, when I gave you feedback, you rolled your eyes, you sighed, and you turned around and walked away before I finished talking to you. That behavior is unacceptable. This is the behavior I want from you in the future.” And so you really need to talk about behavior that everyone can see. And here’s a funny thing, sometimes people don’t even know that they’re doing it, like rolling eyes. I’m willing to bet there are some of you out there who roll your eyes and you don’t even know that you do it, because we do all sorts of things. That’s why we need feedback for people to tell us about it. And so, and I totally agree with John is that, sometimes what people are complaining about is something that you need to do something about. And so, look at it from that perspective.


Emmet Ore Okay, I think we have time for one more. How do you suggest we direct employees that continue to talk about their salary and how much their bonuses are among each other?


Robin Paggi John, you want that?


Robin Paggi That’s a tough one because employers have the right to discuss pay, work conditions. You, you can’t really restrict it, the best you can do is encourage those to say, listen, this is specific to you, your skills, your abilities, maybe something specific that you did that others didn’t do, and that’s why it’s specific to you. But you can’t outright deny employees the ability to discuss it. Do your best to try and encourage them not to. But, they do have the right to discuss pay, and work conditions, and their supervisors, and such under the NLRA.


Emmet Ore Great, thank you. Well, thanks once again, John and Robin, for presenting today. Thank you all for being here. And we will see you all for the February webinar series.

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