Whitney Bower, Lauren Kersten, and Liz Warren
At Employer Services Corporation we believe the true value of HR consulting is the strategic component. Strategic HR leads to results in increased productivity, culture changes that impact engagement, and the potential to become an employer of choice (EOC). The “PEOple Cycle” is the “life” of an employee throughout her career with the organization. The process begins from the moment an employer identifies the need for this employee and goes all the way to when the employee leaves the organization and even some possible steps beyond that. In Part I of our series “Strategic HR and The PEOple Cycle”, we focused on recruiting and onboarding. Here we will focus on managing, coaching, and disciplining.
Manage, Coach, Discipline
This part of the PEOple Cycle is perhaps the most important. It is the only one that continues from hire to separation. Managers should provide direction, support, and feedback to their employees, emphasizing open, two-way communication. Coaching should be part of an organization’s culture and be clear, consistent, and ongoing. It helps employees grow professionally and provides direct feedback about areas for improvement.
Clients often tell us that it is difficult for them to have tough conversations with employees. They often avoid them until the situation becomes so intolerable that it has to be addressed. Human Resource Business Partners help clients with the conversation. They offer best practice advice and support, as well as encourage the manager to exhibit “managerial courage” and address situations directly, with actionable feedback and respect. This is more of an art than a science. However, with practice, business owners and managers gain confidence and see results.
Disciplinary Action and Documentation
If coaching an employee proves to be unsuccessful or a more serious offense occurs, we recommend using disciplinary action to inform the employee of the wrongdoing. During an unemployment hearing, an administrative law judge once said, “if it’s not documented, it didn’t happen!” Document disciplinary action with a written warning or final warning. The warning should let the employee know the details of the offense, including an action plan. It should also inform them that their job is in jeopardy and another offense will result in disciplinary action up to and including separation of employment. Having a witness to the disciplinary conversation is essential and is also beneficial in the event an employee refuses to sign the document.
Having proper disciplinary documentation is extremely important. It protects your business from potential litigation, including state unemployment, Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) discrimination claims, and wrongful termination lawsuits. In addition to disciplinary forms, other documentation should be saved if applicable, such as timesheets, witness statements, or surveillance recordings. The ideal outcome of disciplinary action is that the employee will acknowledge what she did wrong and make strong future efforts to avoid this wrongdoing and preserve her employment, and often times that is the case. However, there will be times when the corrective action was not successful in improving the behavior. When this is the case, separation from employment is the next step.
This concludes Part II of our series. In the third and final part, we will explore the final stages of the PEOple Cycle, separation, and post-separation.