Wednesday, May 18, 2011

For those curious minds...

I've been in the HR field for about 10 years now (and I wouldn't trade it for any other profession), but I sometimes wonder how much easier life was for hiring managers before the government started imposing more and more regulations like the I-9 requirement for example.

Just out of curiousity I did some research on the history of I-9s (thank you WikiPedia, and learned that the U.S. government began requiring the use of I-9 forms November 6th, 1986 following Congress' passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act. As you know, employees fill out the form to prove they are legally eligible to work in the United States.

For those curious souls among you that did not work with I-9s way back when... here is a peak at an I-9 form from 1987... (yes, I know this serves no purpose other than to satisfy one's curiosity... but in case you are interested... take a peek.) I will blog about more important, relevant and timely I-9 issues throughout the coming weeks, stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Paperwork Nightmare, The Dreaded I-9 Audit

Okay, for all you HR pros out there reading this... this is not a news flash.  The I-9 has got to be THE one form that has more mistakes than any other regularly completed employment form, and as some large employers like Abercrombie & Fitch can attest to (now over one million dollars lighter in the pocket book)... it can come with a LOT of fines and penalties if not done correctly.  This is true EVEN IF you are hiring only legal authorized workers... the technical errors can have a big financial impact if you are on the wrong side of an audit.

So, what should you do about it? Make sure you are dotting your i's and crossing your t's (as the expression goes) before the immigration officers comes to check on it for you...  Do your own internal audit! 

If you've never done an internal I-9 audit before, let me offer a little tried and true wisdom for you.  One key bit of info to remember is the required time keeping guidelines.  An employer MUST RETAIN the I-9 for EITHER 3 years from the date of hire OR 1 year from the date of termination, whichever is LATER.  Why is this important to you in your audit?  It is important because if you have errors on an I-9 that you still have on file which should have already been destroyed, you can still be penalized for it!  So why keep that liability laying around? Shred it and discard it! 

Remember also that when you get a notice from ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement)  or DOL (Department of Labor), you have only THREE DAYS to comply.  If you are not keeping your I-9s separate from your employee folders, bring a tent to work and prepare to camp out if you get an audit notice!  You WILL be eating and sleeping there until you get every last I-9 pulled for the audit.  It's best to keep these separate, such as in a 3 ring binder in alphabetical order for all active employees which you would then move to an inactive employee folder upon termination. 

Of course, with the sensitive nature of I-9s and the information they contain, these binders need to be kept in a secured office not accessible to any unauthorized personnel.  If you are not already doing this... as a part of your internal audit project, I recommend pulling them now to avoid the future headache when your official audit comes knocking (just assume it will because frankly, the government is over budget and looking for revenue... I-9 errors can bring in a lot of dollars from fines.  Don't let your employer be one of those footing the government's bills from errors that you can prevent or correct.)  I find it helpful to keep an Excel spreadsheet with the formulas all built into my template which calculates the discard date for me.  Let me know if you need the formulas for this.

This is just the first in a series of blogs I'll be writing on this topic... if I included it all in this post, you would be up all night reading it (even if you started at 2am).  So... come back for more helpful I-9 tips very soon!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


I learned a little something about motivation at the OK HR Conference last week from Olympic Gold medalist and motivational speaker, Peter Vidmar.  At a lot of conferences, you hear great pearls of wisdom from amazing keynote speakers that are a true inspiration for the day or even the week, but then it fades...

Why does it fade? Because life is busy!  It is hectic.  Take my Monday for example... after a 3 day conference at the end of last week, I came back to a MOUNTAIN of paperwork.  In fact, I couldn't find a clear spot anywhere on my desk nor on any of the chairs in my office.  If you have one of those jobs like mine where the work waits for you and doesn't just keep going when you're gone... you know what I mean.  Vacations come with guilty pleasure knowing that you'll be making up for all that time off when you get back. 

However, Peter Vidmar said a few things that are sticking with me through the paperwork mountains I'm tackling this week.  His story about his long grueling work outs where he just kept visualizing and imagining he was in those final moments where it all came down to the wire and was what he had been working towards, that got me thinking.  In HR, we have to do that every day too.  Every hire, every disciplinary action, every promotion, training, payroll, benefit enrollment, I-9 and termination has the potential to be great for the company or disastrous, ending in litigation.  In human resource management, there is a great responsibility to always be "doing the right thing" for BOTH the employee AND the employer.  It can be like a tight rope act sometimes, but it is really important work and must be looked at with the end goals in mind.

You can't just hire or promote someone that you like at the moment... you have to think strategically about the end game.  How can that person grow that role and contribute to the mission?  If you make the wrong selection (which undoubtedly will happen from time to time) then there can be a lot of headaches for both the employer and employee.  No one wants to be in a role that they are not suited for, and interestingly enough, at the conference we heard from another great speaker, Ryan Estis, Chief Experience Officer for Ryan Estis & Associates who mentioned a statistic that stuck with me... only 20% of employees are well suited for their roles.  That explains another statistic he mentioned, that 84% of employees are planning a job move in 2011. 

Turnover costs us all.  It costs employers in terms of recruiting and training expense to fill the position, but it also costs customers as valuable job knowledge is lacking with newer staff.  When hiring or promoting HR folks have a unique challenge of finding candidates that are the right fit for the current position as well as the role that position can and should grow into.  We have to offer a position that can provide professional growth to capture and retain interest of some of the Gen X & Y crowds, and that offers stability for Boomers & the Silent Generation as well as the flexibility to meet each of the generational needs.  We are in a unique time in the history of employment where we have 4 distinct generations all in the workforce, all with very different goals & idiosyncrasies.

How do we manage all of that?  Well, many of the conference topics last week focused on the compliance aspects of employment while several attorneys discussed all of the potential legal pitfalls (and their are many) that we face in our every day decisions.  Of course, this has to be kept in mind as we make decisions, but I think on of the points Ryan Estis made last Friday helps bring all of this full circle.  Ryan stressed the importance of connecting employees with a higher purpose & an opportunity do what they love & make a difference in their job.  This engages them, and an engaged workforce is less likely to complain, less likely to fail to meet your needs and expectations, and less likely to leave.

So as you look at the paperwork piles on your desk this week, remember not to get lost in the paperwork shuffle and the compliance component.  Remember instead to engage your workforce by helping them to see the end game and motivate them by including them on the company's mission.  When you focus on the strengths of your workforce instead of the weaknesses, you will accomplish more and the paperwork mountains will become mole hills.

Have a great week!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Gotta love the Swag

One great thing about a conference like the Oklahoma Human Resource conference is all the great swag from vendors! The recruiter in me just loves hearing their "pitches" and seeing what they bring to the table in terms of knowledge and service. The vendors at OKHR2011 where great!

There were definitely a few favorites for me at this event. 
TFCU (Tinker Federal Credit Union) is pretty high ranking with their awesome leather-like bound tabbed accordion folder. I am REALLY gonna love it when I continue with some audits I have to do in the office next week. <3

More than the swag they offered, the FMLA trivia with Phillips Murrah Attorney & Counselors at Law really intrigued me. I even tried to stump Director Byrona Maule... but she KNOWS HER STUFF! For you HR pros reading this right now, did YOU know that the 1,250 hours worked rule does not have to be worked within just the last 12 months, but within the last SEVEN (yes you read that right, 7) years!!! So for example, if an employee has only worked for you for the last 9 months, but you see that they have worked 1,250 hours... you better not deny them just yet! Do a little more digging to make sure the employee isn't a rehire. If the employee worked for you 5 years ago for 4 or 5 months, then BAM... they're FMLA eligible because that tenure combines to satisfy the 12 months
of employment rule, and they met the 1,250 hours worked rule. Obviously you have to make sure that FMLA applies to your company based on size and the leave itself is for a qualifying FMLA related reason... but you get the picture... that 7 year history piece throws a kink in things. Not only did I not stump Byrona with this tidbit of info, but she was able to give me a little history on the issue and why it came to be... like I said before, she knows her stuff, and I was impressed. Not to mention the nice shiny stainless steel coffee cup she lured me in with... overall... great vendor!

Now, saving the best for last, my FAVORITE swag of the whole convention by far had to be the "Appreciateologist Starter Kit" by O.C. Tanner! It is AWESOME! I just love love loved The Thinkinator button! Hands down, this kit topped my favorite swag list because it is soooo important! I am a huge advocate for employee appreciation. A little goes a long ways too. A little thank you for a job well done, or a little note to say you appreciate someone can really impact their week and increase their productivity. So, if you need a little help in that department... check out

Many thanks to all the great vendors from the OK HR 2011 event!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Top 100

What does it mean to be a Top 100 employer? Yesterday at the Oklahoma State Human Resource conference, attendees had the opportunity to find out straight from the horse's mouth. We heard from American Fidelity Senior VP of Human Resources, Jeanette Rice, and from Quick Trips' VP of HR, Kimberly Owen.

There were a couple of themes I recognized throughout the session that both companies on this Fortune 100 list had in common. First of all, both companies take having fun seriously... meaning it is a part of their strategy. They expressed importance in a camaraderie between employees and went a step further to include the families of employees in many of the fun team building activities. Quick Trips went so far as to take every employee with 25 years in the company AND their significant other on a trip to Hawaii for the company's 50th anniversary celebration!

Although that is not a sustainable day-to-day team building strategy, it certainly had a very positive impact and made lasting memories for their long term employees. With more realistic budget constraints in mind, American Fidelity talked about ways to have fun and boost moral while keeping the cost at under $30 per employee per year! (Talk about being frugal!) We all know in this day and age, you have to do
more with less. American Fidelity proves that it can be done and that their is no reason to skip employee recognition or engagement because of cost... you just have to be creative! Judging by the stories, photos, and videos shown... they certainly know how to be creative and original at AF. I loved the photo of the execs dressed like Elvis and the Blue Man Group! The photo to the left is courtesy of Jeanette Rice and is just another example of employees having fun at work.

Another strategy shared by both of these Top 100 employers is the foundation in the knowledge that their companies' success is based on the employees that help drive it. I agree with the quote shared by AF from Bill Cameron, the grandson of the original founder of American Fidelity, “It is critical to recognize that the success you are credited with is the result of the combined members of your team.”

These were just a few gems of wisdom shared at the OK HR Conference. If you couldn't make it to the conference this year, follow me on Twitter @HR_Lisa for live tweets throughout the conference on other great topics.

Need a Job...

After my last post about job seekers, I laughed out loud when I saw this YouTube video. So, I thought I would share. It was quite amusing...