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Dear HR Lady


Orlando Medical News is pleased to bring our readers this Human Resources Q & A in our continuing series for practice managers.

Q: Do I have to provide a written offer letter for new hires at my practice?

Technically, no. However, it is advised as an HR best practice. Simply put, you will avoid any false claims down the road, such as, "I was told I would be paid $24 an hour versus $18 an hour". Putting the legal risks to the side, an offer letter starts the working relationship out on the right track with transparency and clear communication. An offer letter does not need to be lengthy but should have several components: Job title, Pay amount; Pay type (exempt/ non-exempt); Pay schedule (weekly; bi-weekly); Name of manager; Start date; At will employment (This is not a contract; you may quit or be terminated at any time); Your signature; Acceptance line for their signature. Attach any necessary documents such as a job description, a benefits package or guide, a non-disclosure agreement and/or anon-compete policies (all requiring signatures).

Q: My employee has been with the company for three years, is 55 years of age and has numerous performance issues. These issues have been discussed and were very well documented in the past 3 months. Should I be concerned about age discrimination if I terminate him?

In Florida, employees (and job applicants) are protected by the Florida Civil Rights Act (Florida Statutes Section 760.10) and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA). This protection is in place to prevent employment decisions that are based on age. The ADEA specifically protects individuals aged 40 and older from employment discrimination based on age. The ADEA applies to employers that have 20 or more employees. The Florida Civil Rights Act protects individuals (of any age) against unlawful employment practices on the basis of age, along with numerous other characteristics.

Since you have clearly documented the performance issues your employee is exhibiting, you have proof that the termination is based on performance and has nothing to with age. With that said, I advise, you to have an HR Consultant or an employment lawyer review your documentation prior to the termination. Why? Sometimes managers unintentionally discriminate by using statements referencing or referring to age. Intentional or unintentional, this is still discrimination. Performance conversations and documentation should only focus on ability, performance, and behavior; nothing else.

Q: What is all this talk about employee engagement? Why should I care if they are 'engaged'? I just need them to do their job.

First, let's address what it means to be engaged at work. It means fully understanding the goals and expectations of the manager, what challenges and successes are occurring in the department and what the overall vision is for the department and/or company. Simply put, engaged employees know--they know what is going on, and feel confident with the decisions and communication from above. It doesn't mean they agree with or even like the decisions, but they trust that the leadership team did their due diligence and is making the right decision for the future of the company.

Second, it is important to note that somewhere around 60% or 70% of employees are simply not engaged in any manner. Gallup data shows that only 30% of employees are "engaged." Towers Watson data shows 35% are "highly engaged." Dale Carnegie data shows 29% are "fully engaged."

Why should you care? Engaged employees are high-performers who positively affect the bottom line. What can you do to determine your employee engagement and improve upon it? Employee engagement surveys and interviews are useful to gather information before making any changes. With survey results in hand, you'll be able to see what's working, what's not, implement changes and track improvements over time. If you want to know what the problem is, ask! If you want your culture to change, take action.

Q: My practice is growing so quickly. We have doubled in size in 6 months. I feel we have no time to strategize about and work on the business because we are too busy working in the business. What advice can you give me?

My advice would be to take one day, even if it is a weekend day, to host an interactive corporate retreat. A retreat is an amazing tool for a team that has something important to work on whether it relates to annual strategic planning, a new initiative, training, or sales planning. Not all of your employees need to be there for the entire retreat. Key employees and any board members must be there and be deeply involved. In order to be truly involved as a participant, one should not be facilitating the session. Often, retreats have outspoken attendee's, a full agenda and a short time period, which may leave you feeling frustrated with the lack of results. Hire a consultant (such as BlackRain Partners) to provide retreat facilitation services to help make your retreat impactful. And remember that business retreats do not have to be boring. They should be fun yet purposeful. After all, who wants to come in a weekend without a guarantee of fun?

Wendy Sellers, "The HR Lady" is the COO of BlackRain Partners, a business consulting company. She has a master's in healthcare administration, a master's in human resources, SHRM-SCP and SPHR certifications and is also a licensed Florida 2-15 life and health agent which she uses solely to advise and educate BlackRain's clients.


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