Christina Morillo

2021 HR Landscape: Save Time, Be Safe and Remain Compliant

2020 has changed the workplace – possibly forever. Which makes it even more important to look at the 2021 HR landscape now.

Over the last year, HR professionals have been challenged with the responsibilities of managing a remote workforce. Soon, if they aren’t already, they’ll be tasked with creating “back to work” policies, while keeping safety top-of-mind. With this new normal, it may have been tempting to put your compliance responsibilities on the back burner.

Our advice? Don’t.

So you’re ready for whatever comes your way in 2021, here are just a few compliance topics that require your attention now.

Have You Updated Your Employee Handbook?

The Employee Handbook: That all-important compilation of company policies.

It may not be the first thing on your mind these days. But chances are you have not updated that handbook since before COVID. So, give it another look. For instance, does your handbook cover updated telework and remote work policies? If your employees are back in the office, do you address updated policies regarding sick leave, temperature checks and social distancing?

Through a new lens, conduct a thorough review of your handbook – and avoid confusion and potential lawsuits.

Make Sure You Have the Most Up-to-Date Labor Laws Posted

Do you have a spare $35,000 on hand? Probably not.

Did you know failing to post just one state or federal labor law update prominently in your workplace can mean fines of $35,000? So far in 2020, we have seen 55 labor law changes, and we are aware of at least 20 more changes that will go into effect on January 1, 2021. Don’t risk an expensive penalty; make sure your labor law postings are up to date.

Better yet: Take advantage of services that put this responsibility on autopilot.

Stay Informed: The FMLA is Facing New Challenges

The FMLA has always been difficult to navigate. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it another set of challenges.

Several new state and local leave requirements have emerged as a result of the pandemic. So, it is more important than ever for HR professionals to monitor and manage their employees’ FMLA leave accurately and efficiently. There are a myriad of comprehensive policies, procedures and forms to organize.

Failing to comply with these regulations could easily result in costly fines.

Have Employees Completed 2020 Harassment Training?

With employees working remotely—or not at all—harassment training may have fallen to the bottom of the priority this this year.

Perhaps you were waiting to get back in your office routine to complete the mandated requirements. Truth is, harassment can happen at any time, and at any place. In addition, some states—like Illinois and California—still require harassment training be completed before the New Year. It’s best not to wait.

To stay compliant, consider looking into digital and streaming options. That way, regardless of where they get the work done, employees can complete required training before the end of the year.

Are Your Job Descriptions Accurate?

We bet you weren’t expecting job descriptions to be mentioned in a compliance article. But hear us out.

Did you know a poorly written job description can cause all kinds of issues? From low employee morale to legal troubles? Particularly now that so many positions are remote, it is so important to make sure your job descriptions are accurate. After all, employees must have a clear – and current – understanding of their role and responsibilities. Further, even if you aren’t hiring, job descriptions can play a big role in cross-training and employee development.

While employees are expected to do more from farther away, current job descriptions can help HR develop training and development plans. Quality job descriptions also help ensure employees are operating to their strengths.

Employees Returning? Make Sure Your Workplace is REALLY Safe

For those of you who have returned to the workplace, welcome back!

You are likely to be wearing masks and distancing employee workspaces already. But you still must ensure you’re also following all the updated hazard assessment protocols. Check that your workers and workplace are complying with any necessary temperature checks, hygiene protocols and training requirements related to COVID-19. Additionally, if your workplace implemented additional policies around telework, sick leave and anti-retaliation guidelines, make sure to communicate that information with the rest of your staff.

You really can’t over communicate in times like this. So, keep your people in the know with posted signs and checklists. Also, provide physical supports like masks and hand sanitizer stations to make the return to work feel just that much safer for all.

The 2021 HR Landscape Need Not Be Overwhelming

You have limited time as an HR professional. Resources seem constantly strained. Feeling overwhelmed? Let us help.

We have joined forces with industry leading partners to take the brunt of compliance-based work off your plate and keep you up-to-date on all state and federal policies. Whatever stumbling block gets between you and your 2021 HR goals, we at SHRM can help.

Want to learn more? To discover solutions designed for you, sign up! We’ll immediately start sending regular updates about compliance requirements and solutions.


This post is sponsored by SHRM.



Photo by mnm.all

Work, Love, Gossip, Power: The Thrill and Toll of Office Romance

We all know that office romances happen. But on what scale do they happen, and how exactly do they affect those involved on a professional and personal level?

A recent workplace study by Viking surveyed 2,000 office workers in the UK to uncover the true experience of dating a coworker. Those surveyed were professionals aged from 18 up to 65+, including temporary trainees, executives, middle management, senior management and board members. Participants were from a range of industries spanning from marketing, advertising and PR through to energy and utilities, banking and finance, and leisure and tourism.  

The study found that office romances are extremely common. Almost three-quarters (74%) of office workers aged between 25 and 34 said they had been involved in a romantic relationship of some level at work. Further, 59% of workers surveyed who had been involved with a colleague had made efforts to hide their relationship from others in the workplace, including management and HR. 

Some of the most fascinating facts, however, came when looking into the differences between men and women. There are marked differences in how the genders handle office romance, and how the impact it has on workplace productivity and wellbeing. 

Women Are More Worried About Office Gossip

In any office environment, people talk, and an office romance can quickly become the hottest new water cooler gossip. Understandably, this was found to be a real issue for those who had been involved in an office romance.

The study found that more women than men are worried about gossip in the workplace – when asked about the biggest downfall of an office romance, 46% of women said being the subject of office gossip, compared to 36% of men. You can understand why this number is so high; office gossip does not only bring worries about a loss of reputation in the workplace, but also makes it highly likely that managers or HR will catch wind of the romance. With many workplaces viewing office relationships negatively, people are worried that office gossip could ultimately lead to more serious consequences, including reprisals or even the fear of losing their jobs over their workplace romance. 

However, interestingly and despite the fact women are more concerned about gossip, men are far more likely to keep their office romance a complete secret. 22% of men said they would tell nobody in their office about their relationship, while only 5% of women reported the same.

Women Are More Likely to be Romantically Involved with Their Manager

An interesting angle to consider, especially from an HR perspective, is power disparities when it comes to office romances. It was only two months ago that McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook was fired following a romantic relationship with an employee that violated the company policy. So, on a wider basis across the UK workforce, how common are relationships between management and those they employ? 

Overall, across the study, 15% of workers said they had been romantically involved with their direct manager. Looking at the gender split, this statistic is broken down into 17% of women, as opposed to just 11% of men. The study also looked specifically at upper management, finding that 7% of women and 6% of men reported being involved on a romantic basis with a company director or CEO. 

This brings about a whole host of further issues. While any office romance can be complicated, the disparities of power between managers and their staff mean we need to address the need for psychological safety should these relationships occur. If a lower-ranking member of staff finds themselves in a tricky relationship with an upper-ranking manager, they may be understandably worried of the repercussions or retributions this could bring. HR staff need to ensure there is a safe space and a sense of security when it comes to these difficult conversations, so staff feel like they can come forward and discuss their issues without fear of backlash on their career and professional standing within the company. Further still, with the study finding that only 33.6% of employees knew of and understood their company’s policy on office romances, it is clear that organisations need to be doing more to ensure there are fair, clear, communicated policies in place.

Women Are More Likely to be Negatively Affected 

As well as analyzing the who and the when of office romances, the study also looked a little closer at the psychological effects on those involved. We understand that office romances happen, but do we understand exactly how they are making the workforce feel? 

Again, the study highlighted a number of interesting differences when it comes to gender – it is clear women and men are affected differently by romance in the workplace and women, on the whole, are having a much harder time dealing with the consequences of their workplace relationships. 

According to the study, women find it more difficult to keep their personal and professional relationships separate. One question put to those who had been involved in office romances was whether they found it difficult to avoid letting personal feelings affect professional decisions. Almost double the number of women (31%) said they did, compared to just 16% of men who reported the same. The study also found the quality of work of those involved in office romances was reduced; almost half (47%) of women believed their office romance decreased their productivity and creativity throughout the working day, as opposed to only a quarter (25%) of men. 

An important topic for both HR and business professionals is employee wellbeing at work. How are office romances contributing to stress levels and the overall workplace wellbeing of those involved? Interestingly, 23% of men who had been romantically involved with someone at work reported that the relationship had actually reduced their stress levels in the workplace, compared to just 13% of women. At further look into overall wellbeing in the workplace uncovered that almost a quarter of women (24%) said that their office romance had a negative effect, with just 15% of men saying the same. 

While this study shows us that office romances are as prevalent as ever, it also highlights huge disparities in gender, and how men and women both approach and are affected by relationships at work. Overall, women in a workplace romance are more worried about the consequences and more affected by the negatives of the relationship – whether that be office gossip causing stress, or the relationship itself leading to a decrease in performance and a loss of reputation at work. Men, on the other hand, don’t seem to share these concerns, or at least not on the same scale. This gives us an insight into gender issues, and a hint at a double standard within the workplace, suggesting what is acceptable for men isn’t always acceptable for women. It is clear that there is still much to be done when it comes to workplace cultures: companies need to encourage an environment where men and women both feel equally safe and secure in their jobs.  

As with any personal issues at work, it is important for businesses to be aware of the problems that may arise with an office romance, and to create a safe space where those affected can talk through their issues without fear of repercussions. This will allow the company and HR department to adapt their approach to workplace relationships in the best interest of the business and encourage a safe, comfortable, productive working environment for everyone. 

Workplace Safety: How To Survive Working at Jurassic World

Most businesses have one aspect or another that could lead to employees being injured, maimed or killed. Nurse attendants must move heavy loads, zoo attendants brave cages filled with lions, medical laboratory assistants handle dangerous chemicals, and construction zones are filled with potential hazards. Despite the hazardous conditions, many business and employees fail to take the proper precautions.

The Jurassic Park franchise is the quintessential example of a company who insufficiently planned for the safety of their employees. The Jurassic theme parks, islands, and businesses don’t have a good employee safety track record. The original movie, Jurassic Park, opens with the mauling of an employee. As the movie commences, the parks power fails, the dinosaurs escape, and one by one, the unprepared employees are hunted down by ruthless velociraptors and a ravenous tyrannosaurus Rex. By the end of the movie, only seven of the eighteen employees escape with their lives.

Twenty-two years after the original movie, the geniuses at InGen are at it again. Jurassic World, is around the corner, bigger, better, and with a genetically modified T-Rex (The Indominus Rex). What could go wrong? The fact that the trailer opens with a mother telling her child, “Remember, if something chases you, Run,” does not give me much hope for the park attendants making it through the inevitable escape of the dinosaurs alive.

Their imaginary loss of life and limb is our gain. Let’s take a moment to explore what you and your company should do to ensure you go home each day with your life, limbs, and only minor injuries.

How To Survive Working at Jurassic World

Step 1: Ensure Workplace Safety Protocols Are In Place

Disaster plans are important to prevent damage to monetary assets, raw materials, and personnel. Every company should have disaster preparedness plans to ensure they will be able to stay one step ahead of any potential danger to their company and their employees. The number of safeguards put into place should be dependent on how many dangerous situations you, as an employee, happen to be placed into.

As the disaster plan is put into place, ensure that it is does not sacrifice employee safety to protect the company’s monetary assets or raw materials. InGen owner, John Hammond, led his company and employees to disaster when he refused to purchase the appropriate heavy artillery to deal with any dinosaurs when they escaped their pens. Better, he decided, to protect the million dollar dinosaur than his replaceable employees.

When Jurassic World was opened, InGen learned from some of their mistakes. In order to protect their dinosaurs, their staff, and their visitors, they created over 150 emergency protocols and safeguards” to deal with all of the potential dangers the carnivorous dinosaurs could create.

Over 150 safety protocols. That is the dream of any employee that works in a hazardous field. 150 safety protocols means that the managers spent thousands of hours brainstorming potential problems and developing solutions to deal with those problems.

Step 2: Reevaluate Workplace Safety Protocols Constantly

Safety is not stagnant. Every change in the company, business, or work flow presents new hazards. Jurassic World has a very sophisticated disaster plan, but disaster strikes the path when they engineered the I-Rex without truly understanding the danger the dinosaur posed. Really, it shouldn’t be that surprising when a dinosaur with the size of the T-Rex and the intelligence of a Velociraptor figured out how to climb out of its pen.

Workplace safety is dependent on the constant reevaluation of how new additions to the business and workflow effect the safety plan. As an employee, you should pay attention to if your managers are updating the safety protocols when they should. If they aren’t, bring the problem to management. If they refuse to update the plan, you might want to find a safer place to work.

Step 3: Stress Risk Management

Disaster plans are worthless if you or your co-workers cannot push past the fear and stress that the experience creates. The lawyer from Jurassic Park, for example, decided in his panic that a bathroom made of feeble wood was an ideal place to hide from a T-Rex. Even Dr. Grant, the main character, faired a little better. He kept his cool and discovered that T-Rex can’t see objects that don’t move.

Businesses can deal with equipping co-workers to deal with stress by ensuring that most of the workers hired for high stress positions have a high emotional intelligence (EI). People with a high EI are able to “understand and manage [their] emotions” more effectively. This means that when faced with a T-Rex attack, a fire, a chemical spill, or an injured colleague, they are more likely to keep their cool than their colleagues with a lower EI.

Ohio University Master of Business Administration professor Chris Moberg, who specializes in disaster preparedness, presents another strategy to ensure employees can put aside their panic long enough to keep to the disaster plan. In “Improving Supply Chain Disaster Preparedness” he suggests that management teams should “simulate disaster scenarios.” Repeated exposure to simulated scenario allows all personnel to “develop the critical decision-making and team skills needed to perform effectively during disasters.” At the end of the training period, the individual would be able to keep their cool during the disaster long enough to stick with the plan and get everyone out of the dangerous scenario safely.

Every company faces potential disaster. A Jurassic theme has a higher chance of a high employee mortality and injury disaster. This makes the Jurassic franchise a good case study to determine where problems that put employees into dangerous situations occur, how the disaster plans fail, and how individuals can ensure their own lives are not put into while carrying out their duties. With proper preparation, employees can ensure that they can effectively navigate most of the dangerous situations their work can throw at them. One last word of advice: Remember, if management doesn’t take their disaster planning seriously, run before it’s too late.

Photo Credit: Big Stock Images

Workplace Violence: Myth and Reality #TChat Preview

(Editor’s Note: Are you looking for a full recap of this week’s #TChat events and resources? Read the #TChat Recap: “Violence On The Job: It Pays To Prepare”.)

9/11/2001. Who can forget that morning, 12 years ago, when the unimaginable unfolded before our eyes? Before that fateful day, few of us gave much thought to the impact of violence and disaster preparedness in the world of work.

But among the many lessons of the 9/11 attacks, we learned that no one should ignore the potential for workplace violence, in any form.

So this week as our nation remembers 9/11, the TalentCulture community is coming together at #TChat events to dispel costly myths and discuss vital realities about workplace violence and disaster preparation and prevention.

Making Sense of Risk Management

To lead this important conversation, we welcome two experts:
• Tom Bronack, President of Data Center Assistance Group, specialists in enterprise resiliency.
Felix Nater, Founder of Nater Associates, a business security advisory firm.

To kick-off the discussion, I spoke briefly with both Tom and Felix in separate Hangouts recently. Watch, and I’m sure you’ll agree that this topic deserves closer attention by all of us who focus on the human side of business.

First, Tom set the stage by telling the brief story of one company that paid a tremendous price for operating without a safety or recovery plan:

Next, Felix explained the steep cost of violence in business environments:

We have everything to gain by learning more from pros like Tom and Felix — and by sharing ideas with others in our community. So bring your questions and concerns, and let’s talk!

#TChat Events: Violence Prevention In Today’s Workplace


Tune-in to the #TChat Radio show

#TChat Radio — Wed, Sep 11 6:30pmET / 3:30pmPT

Our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman talk with Felix Nater and Tom Bronack about why preparation is essential in preventing and recovering from workplace violence. They’ll help us rethink myths, and educate us on best practices. Don’t miss this special event — dial-in LIVE with your questions and input!

#TChat Twitter — Wed, Sep 11 7pmET / 4pmPT

Immediately following the radio show, we’ll move the discussion to the #TChat Twitter stream, where Dr. Nancy Rubin will lead an open chat with the entire TalentCulture community. Anyone with a Twitter account is invited to participate, as we address these questions:

Q1: How prevalent is workplace violence today? Why?
Q2: What costs are associated with workplace violence?
Q3: What top 3 things should employers should do to prepare for violence?
Q4: Who should be on your workplace violence preparedness team?
Q5: What technologies enable response planning and safeguarding?

Throughout the week, we’ll keep the discussion going on the #TChat Twitter feed and on our LinkedIn Discussion Group. So please join us share your questions, ideas and opinions.

We’ll see you on the stream!