Human Resources Kit For Dummies book cover

Human Resources Kit For Dummies

By: Max Messmer Published: 11-28-2012

Align HR practices with your objectives and keep your company competitive

A company's ability to grow and stay on top of customer demand has always depended heavily on the quality of its people. Now, more than ever, businesses recognize that finding (and keeping) a highly skilled and motivated workforce is pivotal to success. Maybe you're a business owner and your company is growing, or you're an employee at a small- to midsize-company and management has asked you to take on some—or all—of their HR functions. Either way, knowing how to set up and implement successful HR practices (not to mention navigating the legal minefields in today's increasingly regulated environment) can be tricky.

Human Resources Kit For Dummies is your one-stop resource for learning the nuts and bolts of HR. It gives you forms and templates that you can put to immediate and productive use.

  • New information on anti-discrimination legislation; measuring performance; hiring, firing, and retaining employees; and training and development plans
  • The latest info on online and social media policies
  • Updated forms and contracts, from job application forms and sample employee policies to performance appraisals and benefit plan worksheets

If you're currently working in Human Resources or are responsible for employees in your business, the tools presented here help you maximize the effectiveness of your own HR program.

Articles From Human Resources Kit For Dummies

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105 results
105 results
Human Resources Kit For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 02-22-2022

Becoming a so-called expert in human resources (HR) can be a complex endeavor because, well, people are complex. But for someone starting out in an HR role, hiring qualified employees and managing them effectively can be boiled down to a few basics: evaluating résumés, interviewing candidates, and creating an employee-friendly work environment. In addition, you need to be aware of key federal laws affecting HR. Keep the following in mind, and you’ll be off to a good start. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons. Inc. Copyright © 2013 Robert Half International, Inc., as to Author-Created Materials

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Five Interview Questions That Reveal the Most about Job Candidates

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

The job interview is perhaps your best opportunity to determine if a potential hire will succeed with your firm. But most applicants now have ready-made answers to standard questions such as "Where do you see yourself in five years?" Here are five questions that can help elicit more candid responses: "What interests you about this job, and what skills and strengths can you bring to it?" The answer shows how interested the applicant is in the position and how well prepared she is for the interview. Strong candidates should be able to correlate their skills with specific job requirements. "Can you tell me a little about your last job?" How a person answers this question can help you determine his passion and enthusiasm for his work and his sense of personal accountability. Be wary of applicants who bad-mouth their employers. "How have you changed the nature of your current job?" A convincing answer shows adaptability and a willingness to take the bull by the horns, if necessary. An individual who chose to do a job differently from other people also may have qualities such as creativity and resourcefulness. "What was the most difficult decision you ever had to make on the job?" What you're looking for is the person's decision-making style and how it fits into your company culture. "What sort of work environment do you prefer? What brings out your best performance?" Probe for specifics. You want to find out whether this person will fit into your company. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons. Inc. Copyright © 2013 Robert Half International, Inc., as to Author-Created Materials

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How to Create an Employee-Friendly Work Environment

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Making your company a great place to work will help you attract — and keep — great employees. But creating an employee-friendly work environment involves more than just offering an attractive paycheck. Keep the following tips in mind to build an appealing and stimulating workplace: Invest in your employees. Offering a variety of training programs shows your workers that your firm is dedicated to helping them improve their skills and grow professionally. Build career plans. Help employees set career plans so they understand the next steps on their career ladders and what they must do to reach them, as well as how they can develop skills that will aid them — and the business — in the future. This provides motivation and helps combat a challenge many small and midsize businesses face: a perceived lack of advancement opportunities due to the size of the company. Establish a mentoring program. Identify colleagues workers can go to for guidance and advice. This can be especially valuable to new employees, who may feel out of place at a new organization. Consider alternate work arrangements. These types of programs — which may include telecommuting, flexible hours, or job sharing — help workers maintain a healthy work/life balance (and, in the case of disabled employees, may be required as a form of reasonable accommodation). Be a good corporate citizen. More and more professionals want to work for firms that do the right thing. Establish programs so employees can become involved in the community and support causes that are meaningful to them. Survey employees. Getting regular feedback enables you to know how your employees feel about their jobs. Not only can surveys identify problem areas, but they also can point out strategies and ideas that can make your workplace even better. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons. Inc. Copyright © 2013 Robert Half International, Inc., as to Author-Created Materials

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Key Federal Laws Affecting HR

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

There's no substitute for the guidance of an attorney, but HR professionals need to have a basic understanding of the many legal issues and challenges that come with hiring and managing employees. Here are several important federal laws you should be aware of. Many states have enacted laws similar to those listed here, and some state laws provide more generous benefits and protections to employees than the federal counterpart. Be sure to find out what laws apply to your organization. ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act): Prohibits employers from discriminating against people with disabilities. Requires employers to provide "reasonable accommodation" for individuals with disabilities. The law applies to all private employers with 15 or more employees, state and local governments, and labor unions. ADEA (Age Discrimination in Employment Act): Prohibits discrimination against employees 40 years of age or older on the basis of age. The law applies to all private-sector employers with 20 or more employees who work 20 or more weeks per year, labor unions (with 25 or more members), employment agencies, and state and local governments. COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act): Provides certain former employees, retirees, spouses, former spouses, and children the right to temporary continuation of health coverage at group rates. Employers with 20 or more employees usually are required to offer COBRA coverage and to notify their employees of the availability of such coverage. COBRA applies to plans maintained by private-sector employers and sponsored by most state and local governments. (Some states also have their own versions of COBRA.) FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act): Establishes minimum wage rates, requires overtime pay for certain employees, restricts the employment of minors, and imposes certain recordkeeping obligations. The law applies to most private and public employers, with some exceptions in certain retail and agricultural industries. FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act): Grants qualified employees a total of 12 work weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period for health-related reasons, including childbirth, family illness, or personal health reasons that preclude handling the job's duties. The law applies to any individual or entity engaged in commerce or in any industry or activity affecting commerce that employs 50 or more employees for each working day during each of 20 or more calendar workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year, and public agencies regardless of the number of people they employ. IRCA (Immigrant Reform and Control Act): Requires that employers attest to the immigration status of their employees, bans employers from hiring illegal aliens, and establishes penalties for such behavior. The law applies to all employers. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act: Prohibits employers from discriminating against employees and applicants for employment, in the terms and conditions of employment, on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The law applies to private employers with 15 or more employees, as well as virtually all government institutions, employment agencies, and labor unions, but not the federal government. WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act): Requires 60 days' advance written notice to affected employees (or their bargaining unit), as well as state and local rapid response/dislocated worker agencies, of mass layoffs or plant closings that will result in at least 50 employment losses within a 30-day period. The law generally covers employers with 100 or more employees. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons. Inc. Copyright © 2013 Robert Half International, Inc., as to Author-Created Materials

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How to Evaluate Résumés

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

When hiring, the résumé is your first contact with a job candidate. To get the most from this important document and determine if someone is worth calling in for an interview, you'll need to know how to read between the lines. Here are some telling characteristics. Signs of a solid résumé: Sufficient detail: Although you don't want an overly wordy résumé, you do want complete descriptions of the applicant's accomplishments in previous jobs and a sense of the skills she's gained over the course of her career. Look for details about how she has increased revenues, lowered costs, or improved productivity. Continual advancement: Steady progression into higher roles indicates a potential hire who is likely able to take on new responsibilities as your business grows. Targeted information: Savvy job seekers show that they understand your company's needs. They reference points from the job posting or outside research and explain how their qualifications can benefit the business. Clean content: The ideal résumé is free of typos and grammatical mistakes. A clean, well-organized document is a sign of professionalism and attention to detail. Red flags to watch out for: Fluff: Some job candidates try to pad their résumés — and, thus, appear more qualified than they really are — by listing the minutiae of previous jobs, overusing the thesaurus, or detailing their love of fly fishing. Vagueness: View with suspicion phrases such as familiar with, knowledge of, or experienced in. This type of wording can indicate that the applicant may not have the actual experience he claims or that his experience is more limited than you need. Short tenures: A series of short stints of employment can be the sign of a job hopper or problem employee. Ask for more background about these roles and the reasons and circumstances surrounding the applicant's departure from prior employers to see if you detect a pattern. Unprofessional mail address or Twitter handle: A job applicant's e-mail address may seem like the last thing an HR manager cares about. But a silly or inappropriate address or Twitter handle may hint at someone who's not serious about his career. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons. Inc. Copyright © 2013 Robert Half International, Inc., as to Author-Created Materials

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Applicant Tests: Personality, Psychological, and Drug Tests

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Some businesses require candidates to take certain tests after being offered conditional employment. Be careful with these tests, though, as there are some laws that may influence what you can require. Personality and psychological tests What do they do? Measure certain personality characteristics, such as assertiveness, resiliency, temperament, or stability. This group of tests also includes interest inventories, which claim to show how close an individual’s interests match those of a particular occupational group. These tests are generally lengthy and sometimes involve elaborate and complex scoring keys to predict different personality profiles and traits. There are a number of aptitude/style indicators available, ranging from the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and NEO Personality Inventory to the Hogan Personality Inventory. Many more are available online. Be careful when selecting a personality indicator (or any other kind of test) to make sure that the one you choose is both legal and appropriate for hiring. Personality testing is rarely lawful and subject to rigorous requirements even when it is permitted. You should consult an attorney experienced in this area before considering implementing or using such testing. Why would you use them? This sort of testing is designed to uncover personality traits that make good employees — or those that make bad employees. Because personality is a component of job performance, finding out all you can about an applicant’s personality can help predict his performance. How reliable are they? Depends on who you ask. These types of tests were originally designed to diagnose mental disorders, and even for that purpose — and in the hands of trained professionals — they often leave much to be desired. A primary problem is that the results aren’t always crystal clear and sometimes need professional interpretation. If this kind of information is necessary to your evaluation process — for example, you’re looking for people who can fit into a certain work team or have certain personality traits that are important to the job — you may feel compelled to use personality tests. Be aware, however, that the subjective nature of the evaluation process creates a legal risk for any company that chooses to use them in the selection process. Consider consulting a lawyer. Drug tests What do they do? Measure the presence in an applicant’s body of illegal drugs or controlled substances. Why would you use them? Substance abuse by employees can mean attendance and productivity problems, impaired performance, safety concerns, and potential employee theft, among other issues. Pre-employment testing to check candidates for current substance abuse can be lawful under certain circumstances — sometimes including only after a conditional offer of employment has been extended to the candidate — though you must always check federal and state law before implementing such a program. For some positions, pre-employment drug tests are mandatory. Certain classes of employees — school bus drivers, for example — must submit to testing for drugs and alcohol under the law. In fact, pre-employment drug testing has become so common in some industries that it causes hardly a ripple. Keep in mind, however, that you must give all applicants advance written notice that you intend to test for drugs and obtain their consent. Generally, you can’t observe the test itself (employers often contract with third-party testing facilities to administer such testing), and you must hold test results confidential. Other requirements include giving candidates notice of a positive result and, sometimes, the opportunity to challenge the result or submit to retesting. Also, you can test only for what you say you’re testing for. Individuals with past drug addictions, and individuals currently in rehabilitation for such issues, are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and possibly state laws. Myriad laws in this area, including privacy concerns, ADA concerns, and federal contractor testing rules, among others, make this a legal minefield. Check with a lawyer before you start any applicant or current employee testing. How reliable are they? If conducted by a competent, reputable lab, very accurate. Shrewd and/or experienced abusers can sometimes slip by, however, either by abstaining long enough to eliminate drug traces from the system or by using other substances to mask drug traces.

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Applicant Tests: Integrity and Polygraph Tests

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Selecting the right test for an applicant to your business probably won’t be a problem because choices abound. Dozens of commercial test publishers collectively produce thousands of tests. You can find out about these tests by looking in two reference books — Tests in Print and Mental Measurements Yearbook, both published by the Buros Center for Testing. Other sources are regional government or nonprofit employment agencies, which may even conduct some of the testing for you. The business centers of local colleges also may provide test materials or at least point you in the right direction (or connect you with an expert who can lead you through the testing thicket). When engaging a staffing firm, the recruiter often handles testing in such areas as computer software skills. Integrity tests What do they do? Measure an individual’s personal honesty and sense of integrity. These tests generally include questions on situations of ethical choice. For instance, what should an employee do if she sees a co-worker stealing? Or they include questions that can reveal personal standards of behavior — whether the candidate can follow simple procedures and keep company information confidential. Why would you use them? An employer needs to determine how an applicant may behave in a position of trust — handling cash or safeguarding property, for example. A test of this nature is designed to identify people who may be too unreliable to trust with the company cookie jar. Most employers understand that honest people make the best employees. Keep in mind, however, that integrity tests must be job related. You can’t ask questions about an applicant’s level of debt or credit rating (a violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act). Tests must remain free of bias based on race, sex, age, or any other protected trait. As is the case with personality and psychological testing, these tests are very risky legally, with many privacy issues to consider. Talk to a lawyer before using this form of testing. How reliable are they? Depends on the exact test. Research has shown that some of these tests can produce reliable, unbiased information, while others aren’t very accurate at all. Polygraph (lie-detector) tests What do they do? Measure stress-related physiological changes, such as blood pressure, sweating, and body temperature, to detect untrue statements. Why would you use them? Employers need to ensure that people who are being hired for jobs with critical security implications are telling the truth about their backgrounds. How reliable are they? Depends on who you ask. The skill of the person administering the test also matters. Most experts agree that a competent polygraph operator usually can detect falsehoods from an average individual, provided that person hasn’t taken any number of drugs that can modify the reactions the machine measures. The problem is the sociopath with no concept of right or wrong who slides right by. The legal community mistrusts polygraphs enough that their results are inadmissible as evidence in any U.S. court. Be aware that the passage of the Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988 prohibits private employers — except under certain conditions — from conducting polygraph tests either on employees or on job applicants. (The same holds true, incidentally, for other devices that purport to measure honesty, such as voice stress analyzers.) Under this law, you can’t even ask an applicant to take a polygraph test. Some states ban the use of polygraph tests in employment decisions, including in hiring. You should consult a lawyer with experience in this area before using or relying on the results of any polygraph test.

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Applicant Tests: Proficiency, Aptitude, and Ability Tests

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Applicant tests are business tools meant to measure specific aspects or qualities of applicants’ skills, knowledge, experience, intellect, personality or psychological makeup. As a Human Recources professional, you should figure out what you want to find out about a candidate and then choose the appropriate test. Proficiency tests What do they do? Measure how skillful an applicant is at a particular task (word processing, for example) or how knowledgeable he is in a particular field. Why would you use them? Proficiency tests measure skills that applicants need for successful job performance. These are useful if a baseline of a particular skill (usually trade related) is essential. How reliable are they? Generally quite good. This sort of testing has a good track record of validity in the business and industrial world. Aptitude and ability tests What do they do? Measure an applicant’s capability to learn and perform a particular job and her capability to learn job-related skills or tasks. These tests fall into the following three basic categories: Mental abilities: Often called cognitive tests, these measure intelligence, verbal reasoning, perceptual speed, and so on. A classic example is the SAT, taken each year by college hopefuls. Mechanical abilities: These tests gauge ability to recognize and visualize a mechanical relationship. For instance, applicants may be asked to distinguish between pulley and lever systems. Psychomotor abilities: These test an individual’s skill and/or ability to make certain body movements or use certain senses. Why would you use them? Aptitude and ability tests show a readiness to learn or perform a certain task. Whether you use them alone or in batteries of tests, they help many organizations, including governments, select the most likely applicants for specific jobs. How reliable are they? Generally excellent to adequate so long as they don’t violate antidiscrimination laws. (Again, you need to make sure that hiring decisions based on the results of such tests [or any tests] do not work to the disadvantage of groups covered by EEO legislation.) Physical ability Definition: An individual’s health and physical condition or ability to perform certain tasks. When important: For jobs that require physical abilities (for example, the ability to lift packages of a certain weight if this is vital to job performance). How to measure: Any number of testing methodologies can test an individual’s physical ability to perform a job. Requiring a physical or medical examination before employment is illegal under federal law. Employers may test for physical agility or ability if it’s a legitimate job requirement under federal law, but they may do so only after they have extended a conditional offer of employment to the candidate. Also, you must consistently administer the same test to other successful candidates conditionally offered employment for the same position. Before you decide that some physical attribute or ability is necessary for the job, however, keep in mind that a number of fire departments around the country have been successfully sued because of their physical tests. Likewise, physical or medical examinations may be unlawful under applicable state law. How reliable are they? Depends on who administers the exam, but they can be quite effective.

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Basic Questions to Ask Applicants during a Job Interview

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

A good job interview question does two things: it gives you the specific information you need to make a sound hiring decision and helps you gain insight into how the candidate’s mind and emotions work and her experience and style. Here are some questions to get you started: “What interests you about this job and what skills and strengths can you bring to it?” The answer is yet another way to gauge how much interest the applicant has in the job and how well prepared she is for the interview. Stronger candidates should be able to correlate their skills with specific job requirements. “Can you tell me a little about your current job?” Strong candidates should be able to give you a short and precise summary of duties and responsibilities. How they answer this question can help you determine their passion and enthusiasm for their work and their sense of personal accountability. “In a way that anyone could understand, can you describe a professional achievement that you’re proud of?” This question is especially good when you’re interviewing someone for a technical position. Someone who can adequately explain the job to those not in the field will be able to step out of her world sufficiently to work with people in other departments. “How have you changed the nature of your current job?” A convincing answer here shows adaptability and a willingness to take the bull by the horns, if necessary. An individual who chose to do a job differently from other people also may show creativity and resourcefulness. The question gives candidates a chance to talk about such contributions as greater efficiencies or cost savings. “What was the most difficult decision you ever had to make on the job?” What you’re looking for is the person’s decision-making style and how it fits into your company culture. Also note how people went about making the decision. This question is an especially important one if you’re interviewing a candidate for a middle- or senior-level management position. “Why did you decide to pursue a new job?” This question is just a different way of asking, “What are you looking for in a job?” Some candidates come so well rehearsed that they’re never at a loss for an answer. Sometimes by phrasing the question in a different way, you can cause them to go off script. “I see that you’ve been unemployed for the past few months. Why did you leave your last job, and what have you been doing since then?” This question is important, but don’t let it seem accusatory. Especially in challenging economic times, it’s not unusual for highly competent people to find themselves unemployed through no fault of their own. Candidates should be able to account for all extended periods of unemployment and demonstrate whether they used that time productively. The reasons for employment gaps may pertain to legally protected information that you may not consider in making hiring or any other employment-related decision. Probing into the reasons underlying employment gaps can unearth information that you may not want to be injected into the hiring process.

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How to Align Staff with Business Needs

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Strategic staffing in your business begins with an effort to reassess your department’s human resource requirements in the context of your firm’s business priorities. It’s a mindset rather than a process. The idea is to begin thinking in terms of need rather than job, long term rather than short term, and big picture rather than immediate opening. Here are some differences between the traditional approach to hiring and the strategic staffing model. Old Staffing Paradigm Strategic Staffing Think job. Think tasks and responsibilities that are keyed to business goals and enhance a company’s ability to compete. Create a set of job specs. Determine which competencies and skills are necessary to produce outstanding performance in any particular function. Find the person who best fits the job. Determine which combination of talent can best handle the tasks and responsibilities that need to be carried out. Look mainly for technical competence. Find people who are more than simply technically qualified but who also can carry forward your company’s mission and values. Base the hiring decision primarily on the candidate interview. View the candidate interview as only one of a series of tools designed to make the best hiring choice. Hire only full-time employees. Consider a blend of full-time employees and contingent workers to meet variable workload needs. Looking at your company’s overall priorities, your job is to determine their staffing implications. You need to make sure that any staffing decision clearly supports these business priorities. You must look beyond the purely functional requirements of the various positions in your company and focus instead on what skills and attributes workers need to perform those roles well, as well as skills gaps that exist within your current workforce. Unless you’re a sole proprietor or run a very small business, you can’t adopt a strategic staffing approach all by yourself. Make it a priority to reinforce the concept with other managers in your organization. Together, you’ll need to identify everything that may affect the efficiency and profitability of your firm’s operations — and not just in the short term, either. To get you started, here are some of the key questions that you and other people in your company should answer before you make your next move: What are your company’s long-term strategic goals or those of departments seeking your assistance in hiring? What are the key competitive threats in your industry? In other words, what factors have the greatest bearing on your company’s ability to compete successfully? What kind of culture currently exists in your company? And what kind of culture do you ultimately want to create? What are the values you want the company to stand for? What knowledge, skill sets, and general attributes are required to keep pace with business goals and, at the same time, remain true to your company values? How does the current level of knowledge, skill sets, and attributes among your present workforce match up with what will be necessary in the future? How reasonable is it for you to expect that, with the proper support and training, your current employees will be able to develop the skills they’re going to need for your company to keep pace with the competition? In addition to on-the-job experience, would programs such as job rotation help reach these objectives? What combination of resources (rather than specific people) represents the best strategic approach to the staffing needs you face over the short term and the long term? Company priorities will undoubtedly shift over time as management seeks ways to keep the firm competitive. As a result, you should consider performing a needs assessment on an annual basis. That helps ensure that you’re still on track with the assumptions and priorities that are guiding your staffing strategy.

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