Christine McDade is a Human Resources professional (PHR & SHRM-CP) with over 20 years in the public sector.
Human Resource (HR) professionals must make an effort to stay current on changes in employment law that affect the workplace. Changes in Washington, D.C. and at state levels across the country affect the way business is done; especially, as it relates to employees and their terms and conditions of employment.
A good example of a change that directly affects employers is health care reform, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Federal regulations regarding who is to receive health care benefits, the level of health insurance to be offered by employers, etc., have employers reviewing the way they conduct their business. These changes are tied to different effective dates that require the watchful eyes of HR professionals across the country to monitor interpretations and language clarification. Employers wanting to get the changes implemented correctly are busy monitoring the activities in Washington, D.C. Failing to implement the changes appropriately will lead to problems for employers.
Common Challenges to Staying Updated on HR Matters
It is crucial to stay on top of matters that affect the workplace. While most HR professionals do their best to monitor relevant legislation and keep current on trends that affect the workplace, the reality of current workplace circumstances often prevents them from doing as good a job as they would like. Some common challenges that HR staff face in the performance of their jobs are:
- Lack of Funding to Attend Professional Training Opportunities: One of the challenges HR professionals face is having the available funding to attend workshops and training seminars that cover pertinent matters. Often, one of the first budgets to get slashed during tough times is the training budget. While training should be seen as an investment and, therefore, a priority for employers, the funding for training and continuing education is usually one of the first things reduced or eliminated.
- No Time to Attend Training: Many HR professionals do not choose to take time out of a normal workday to attend training outside of the workplace. Attending the needs of the employees can take all of the staff's time. Since serving the employees in the workplace is the number one priority, most HR professionals are not able to take much time out of their day to train or do research on Human Resources legislation and changes.
- Reduced HR Staff: Due to streamlining processes through a reduction in staff, many HR departments have a limited staff to do the work that still must get done in their organizations. Properly staffing the office to do the work and receive employees who need assistance on personnel matters means there are fewer staff members available to attend any kind of training.
- Limited Access to Training: Availability to training may be limited for employers who are not located near a City where training is being offered. The travel required to get to even modestly priced training workshops can be expensive enough to prevent an HR professional from being able to attend the event.
While the list above is not a definitive list of what prevents HR staff from receiving important training, it does paint a picture of how easily training can be cast aside for other issues needing attention.
Think OUTSIDE of the Box
Although there are challenges which prevent HR professionals from getting beneficial training, the reality for an HR professional is that the work still must get done correctly to ensure an organization is working within the letter of the law. Employers must follow those laws that protect an employee's rights within the scope and function of their jobs. Often, the best way to tackle common problems is to think "outside of the box" to get the needed results. In the case of current affairs and trends that affect the workplace, there are many ways to ways to monitor the happenings in the world of HR. Consider the following options:
- Network with Local Human Resources Professionals. It is beneficial to network with others who are tasked with the same HR responsibilities. As these folks will be going through the same struggles to keep up with changes affecting the workplace, it will be wise for HR professionals to communicate with them for the purpose of sharing valuable problems solving ideas and workplace practices. Setting up monthly or quarterly meetings with other HR professionals to discuss issues that are being tackled in the workplace will build solid working relationships. This sort of networking may lead to increased communication beyond the meetings through phone calls and emails exchanged between the professionals as needed.
- Attend Local Trainings and Workshops. Since much of the training costs are associated to the travel required to get to the training, it is always a good idea to attend local training seminars and workshops. Law firms often put on low-cost half-day and all-day seminars where they present court cases and changes in the law that affect the employment of workers. Other professional training organizations put on training sessions at hotels and event centers in towns and cities for the convenience of employers. Being able to attend these training sessions can be very beneficial to the training of employees.
- Research Human Resources Trends and Legal Issues on the Internet. Most employees have access to the Internet from their desk or workspace. It is crucial, therefore, to make the most of the research that can be gained through the resources on the Internet. Up to the minute information can be gained by using articles and news that gets put on the Internet for all to read. Supreme Court decisions get posted to the internet immediately by news websites and other legal watchdogs who monitor cases that could affect the business of HR.
- Research Human Resources Trends and Legal Issues in Professional Journals and Magazines. HR professionals also peruse professional articles in publications of magazine and journal articles. Useful analysis of employment law and trends is found in these articles.
- Join Professional Organizations and Associations. Becoming members of professional organizations and associations not only make a resume look good, but give pertinent information about topics in a particular field of interest. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and local HR-related groups provide great opportunities to discuss and learn about HR.
- Take Classes at Local College or University. Some employers will reimburse tuition and book expenses for employees. Rather than send the employees to training seminars during the day, some organizations encourage employees to attend classes that meet after work hours. These classes benefit the employee's professional development. Furthermore, the employer gets a more educated employee who can share their skills with the rest of the workplace. College courses will be able to offer current happenings as they affect HR.
Staying Current Is the Key to a Productive Work Environment
Whether employers have the funds to properly train employees or whether they keep updated on their own, HR professionals must do their part to maintain a healthy work environment for the employees in their organization. HR must know which laws and changes to them are going to affect the fairness and equality that must be afforded to all employees in the workplace. While there are traditional methods that afford an employee the opportunity to gain exposure and needed training, many HR professionals do not have the required funding or the staffing needed to attend the educational seminars and workshops.
Rather, professionals required to stay current are using other means to get the information that will affect employees. Thanks to old-fashioned networking with other professionals, the Internet, and using creativity to gain needed updates on employment law, HR professionals are tapping into the many resources available to them. This sharing of information has been a helpful method for respecting the laws that govern the workplace.
Following Changes in HR?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2013 Christine McDade
sanasiddiqui on July 15, 2015:
Very good and informative advice.