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Changing Rules of Employment – How to Hire and Fire

August 16th, 2021

The employment landscape is rapidly changing. New laws and regulations are constantly being enacted which impact the norms associated with hiring and firing employees. It’s crucial that you remain compliant with all current laws regarding hiring and firing practices to avoid the risk of lawsuits and government agency enforcement.

While it’s always best to work with a dedicated HR consultant who can guide you through the hiring and firing process, we recognize that not every small business has the resources to work with these third-party professionals. If you handle all hiring and firing decisions in-house, the following tips will help you manage these tasks properly.

Hiring Tips to Set Your Business Up for Success

Hiring new employees represents an exciting time for your business. It is usually associated with growth opportunities that will move your company forward. It also represents one of the most important tasks associated with running your business. When you hire the right person, you’ll set your company up for long term success. On the other hand, making a poor hiring decision can create a significant setback for your business.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, the average cost of hiring an employee is $4,000. This is a fairly large expenditure of resources, making it crucial that you properly vet all potential candidates to ensure you choose the right person.

Review Applicable State and Federal Laws to Ensure Compliance

It’s crucial that you understand all state and federal laws governing hiring practices in your place of business. This will help you avoid any potential lawsuits associated with illegal hiring practices.

Most states have made it illegal to ask applicants questions about certain personal information such as religious affiliation, sexual orientation, marital status, or ethnicity. Make sure you’re aware of what you can and can’t ask on job applications to avoid being accused of discriminatory hiring practices.

In addition, some states have enacted other laws governing the hiring process. For example, Colorado’s new Equal Pay Act has established certain parameters regarding what information must be disclosed on a job posting and which internal employees must be notified of specific job opportunities. Failure to adhere to the terms of these laws can make you vulnerable to costly legal issues.

Create an Effective Job Posting

job postingWhile it’s important to carefully vet the candidates for your position, you can take significant strides towards attresacting the right candidates by crafting a clear, thoughtful job posting that makes it easy to understand what is expected from someone who holds this position. Your job posting should clearly explain what skills are necessary and what the daily job responsibilities entail so that applicants can more accurately determine whether they are a good fit before applying.

You’ll also need to review the laws discussed in the step above when you’re creating your job posting to make sure you’re in compliance with all anti-discrimination laws. If you’re uncertain about whether you’re in compliance, you should consult a third-party HR consultant.

One final item to consider when creating your job posting is what type of employment is required of this position. Are you looking for a full time or part time employee? Does the employee need to work in-house or is remote work a possibility? If remote work is allowed, it will open up the potential applicant pool since you can hire talent from anywhere in the country. If the job is short-term, would you be better off listing it as a contract position? But be sure to review your state’s independent contractor rules so that you do not run afoul of these and end up in legal trouble.

Thinking through these decisions will increase the likelihood that you’ll attract the right candidates for the position.

Establish an Interview Process

While you can identify which candidates possess the proper skill set from their resume and cover letter, the interview process is crucial to determining which candidate is the right fit for your business. An employee’s skill set is only one component that must be evaluated during the hiring process. You also want to make sure the person you hire will mesh with your company’s culture and values.

Keep in mind that it’s ok if the candidate you choose doesn’t possess the exact skill set you’re looking for. In many instances, you can help the right employee develop specific skills necessary to perform the job as part of the training process. However, it’s much harder to teach a person intangible traits such as temperament, work ethic, coachability, problem solving skills, and the ability to collaborate well with coworkers. Often, these traits will be greater indicators of future success than the specific skills a candidate possesses, so make sure your interview questions help you gain a clear understanding as to whether this person has the traits your company values.

Conduct a Background Check

background check form as part of the employee hiring processOnce you think you’ve found the right candidate, you should take the time to conduct a thorough background check, including speaking with several references from previous jobs. However, make sure you take the necessary steps to ensure this background check is conducted legally and ethically:

  • You should notify the job candidate in writing that you’re conducting a background check as part of the hiring process.
  • The job candidate must provide written consent to a background check.
  • If you’re going to check references to gain additional insight into a candidate’s character, work ethic and performance, you must inform the candidate that you will do so.

Create an Onboarding Plan

It’s important that you set your new employee up for success. The best way to do this is to create a detailed onboarding plan that outlines everything associated with the training process, including which employees will be involved in providing this training. Your onboarding plan should set a timeline for when specific items should be accomplished as well as for when the new employee is expected to be able to perform each aspect of the job without supervision.

You should also establish a review process to regularly assess the employee’s performance. Make sure you clearly communicate to the new employee when these reviews will take place and how the process will work.

Best Practice Tips for Firing Employees

Ideally, you’ll refine your hiring process to the point where you choose the right candidate every time. Unfortunately, this rarely happens. There are going to be times when you need to part ways with an employee. There may be several reasons for this:

  • You hired the wrong employee
  • Declining revenue forces you to reduce your staffing
  • The needs of your business change and the employee’s role is no longer necessary
  • Creative differences or performance issues develop over time

termination of employment documentIf you decide that you need to fire an employee, it’s important that you take the steps to do this legally in order to avoid a potential lawsuit or negative government agency action:

  • Document any performance issues – It’s crucial that you have proper documentation for the reasons the employee is being terminated. Any significant incident involving poor performance, inappropriate behavior, or any other issues indicating the employee isn’t fulfilling their role properly must be clearly documented. This documentation will prove invaluable to you in the event that you face a lawsuit for wrongful termination.
  • Communicate performance issues in advance of firing – An employee should never be surprised at being fired. The employee should always be made aware of a problem and, with the exception of truly egregious infractions that require immediate termination, be given an opportunity to correct the issue. Any performance issues should be communicated to the employee in advance along with the steps that need to be taken in order to correct the issue. These conversations should always be documented at the time they are held.
  • Follow established company termination policies – It’s important to create clear procedures regarding how employees will be terminated. Every time you fire someone, you must follow these policies to ensure all employees are being treated the same way when they are terminated. This will minimize your risk of potential wrongful termination lawsuits.

How to Handle the Discussion with the Employee

Firing an employee is always an uncomfortable situation fraught with tense emotions. However, there are certain steps you can take to make this difficult moment go as smoothly as possible:

  • Have the conversation in person – Always handle these situations in person. You should never fire an employee over the phone or via email. Even when employees don’t work out, they have invested time and energy in moving your company forward. Handling a termination conversation in person is a common courtesy that the employee has earned.
  • Have a witness in the room – Always have another person in the room when you fire an employee. This will avoid situations where it is your word against the terminated employee during a potential lawsuit. Have the witness document the conversation in writing after you’ve fired the employee.
  • Don’t make it personal – Avoid discussing personal differences when firing an employee. Keep the conversation focused on the facts associated with the employee’s poor performance. Give specific reasons for your decision to fire the employee, and provide documentation of prior incidents that led to your decision.
  • Stay calm – It’s possible that an employee will become highly emotional upon learning they have been fired. If the employee raises their voice, gets upset or becomes confrontational, you must not mimic their reaction. Instead, stay calm and keep your emotions in check. Remain focused on the task at hand, which is communicating the reasons why the employee is being fired. If you are concerned the employee could pose a threat to you or others in the company, do not hesitate to contact your local Sheriff’s office in advance and request an officer be present at the time of the termination.

Safeguard Your Business after Firing an Employee

fired employee holding a box of her belongingsAfter firing an employee, it’s important to take steps to prevent this person from retaliating in a moment of anger:

  • Have the employee turn in any name tags, security badges, keys or parking permits that will give them access to the building
  • Collect any equipment such as laptops, cell phones, tablets or other work-related items that the employee has used as part of their employment
  • Change all passwords to software and systems so that the former employee won’t be able to gain access anymore

Premier Employer Services Can Help You Navigate the Hiring and Firing Process

The process of hiring and firing employees can have far-reaching implications on the ongoing success of your business. It’s crucial that you handle these tasks properly to prevent unwanted lawsuits and ensure you have the right team to move your company forward. Premier Employer Services can guide you through these processes to ensure they are handled properly.

As one of Colorado’s leading HR consulting firms, we understand the specific laws that govern the hiring and firing of employees, and we can help ensure you remain in compliance with these regulations. In addition, our team can help you navigate the hiring process to increase the likelihood that you select the best candidate for the position.

Our unique Elevated Engagement Plus Approach™ has been created with your specific needs in mind. As part of this approach, we’ll listen carefully to understand the specific needs and goals of your business. We’ll then work with you to establish a hiring practice that aligns with your company’s culture and values, while adhering to all state and federal regulations. The stakes associated with hiring and firing employees is very high. When you work with Premier Employer Services, you’ll have peace of mind that these tasks will be handled properly.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation. We serve clients in Denver and throughout Colorado.