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Developing an HR Plan: All the Nuts & Bolts

written by: Jean Scheid • edited by: Linda Richter • updated: 7/23/2013

Most people think of a human resource management plan as creating an employee handbook and delivering it to employees, and your plan is done. While an employee handbook is essential, it is really only one element of what you really need. Jean Scheid discusses the essentials.

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    The Heart of Your Company

    Computer and Screen Wikimedia Commons Think of the human resources (HR) department as the nucleus of your organization. It’s where people are interviewed, hired, and paid, and it's the source for employees to find answers to personnel questions. Beyond all these, it is also the department that sets the rules, not just for employees but also company-wide practices.

    Most organizations can’t just create an office space, hand a person a computer with a few purchased employee template forms and say, “Boom, we have an HR office and a plan!” A human resource management plan includes many elements and each plan should be designed for individual types of businesses; not all businesses require the same elements.

    Without a plan with defined directives, if issues occur, what will you do? That alone is enough reason why you need to formulate a plan.

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    Needs Assessment

    I found a great Checklist for a Human Resource Management Plan from the United Way of Minneapolis, which you can download here. I chose this template to use as a starting point for any HR plan because it covers most areas that businesses will require.

    Before you begin creating your HR plan, first download and print the free checklist and use it as a guide to design your plan. Keep in mind that not every business will require all the items on the checklist where others may need additional elements. Take the time to do an assessment of what needs the organization has as far as the “human” side of things. In your assessment be specific about needs like:

    • Who are our employees?
    • What do they want?
    • What does the company or each individual department want?
    • How can everyone be safe?
    • What are our benefit plan needs?
    • What policies do we want to follow or need to implement?
    • What is required by federal, state or local employment laws?
    • What is our employee evaluation process and policy on incentives or increases in pay?
    • What is relevant as far as employees are concerned?

    Get input from managers and supervisors. All of these questions will help you write your human resource management plan.

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    Creating the Plan

    Once you’ve written your needs assessment, you can begin to break up those needs into elements to create your HR plan.

    First walk your organization through the HR Plan Checklist from our Media Gallery and choose items you know you will either need or want. Then begin a list of items that are immediately essential and those that will be implemented or developed in the future. Set time lines for implementations.

    Keep in mind that not every organization will require the same items in its HR plan, so be specific about what to include and exclude. Think outside of the box as well—you may have HR needs that don’t appear on the checklist.

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    Specific Elements

    US-OSHA-Logo svg Beyond specifics, every human resource management plan should include the following:

    • Hiring Policies – This will help you determine how your company will hire, interview, recruit, and determine if you will need to implement training or development for potential or current employees.
    • Termination Policies – What will be your process for employee terminations or voluntary quits? Describe the laws on unemployment insurance and create or purchase termination forms that are legal in your state.
    • Job Descriptions – For every position within your company, you should create job descriptions including certain requirements needed to fill that position.
    • Employee Assessments – How will these be handled and what process will be followed? Create or purchase employee assessment forms or download one here and set policies.
    • Employee Handbook – Think of your employee handbook as a snapshot of your company policy guide. You can find a great employee handbook template right here.
    • Safety Policy – OSHA does require that every company initiate and follow through with a company safety policy including who will be in charge of safety and when regular safety meetings will occur. Your business insurance carrier can help you create a safety policy at no charge by providing needed forms and safety pamphlets and videos. Visit the OSHA website to find out other essentials such as what forms are required to be posted and where.
    • Discrimination/Sexual Harassment Policies – Again, you can utilize the sexual harassment policy found here or ask your insurance carrier for help. Keep in mind that every policy of this type needs to have clear steps on how complaints and investigations will be handled.
    • Detailed Policies – In your employee handbook, you’ve given the employee a brief overview of company rules and regulations including causes for terminations, vacation, holiday, personal, and sick pay, company benefits, etc. For each of these policies, your HR department should also create more detailed written guidelines for clarification in case the need arises. Detailed policies should also include when and how employees are paid, how bonuses, incentives or salary increases will occur, and all elements that have to do with what happens if an employee leaves the company, whether they are terminated or voluntarily quit.
    • Required Policies - Again, in your handbook, you’ve probably included brief statements about required policies. Required policies are anything that the federal, state or local governments require. These can include military leave, workman’s compensation information, unemployment compensation rights, employee poster requirements, the Family Medical Leave Act, ADA policy, and COBRA insurance information. To make sure you cover all required policies, make a trek to your local department of labor and obtain all the information that is required and then implement these essentials into your detailed policies.
    • Specific Policies - These should include any policies that are specific to your company and various departments.

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    Accessibility of the Plan

    Vista-access Wikimedia Commons How good will your human resource management plan be if no one can access it? It shouldn’t hide inside the HR department where employees must ask to see or search for it. In a large company where I was once the HR Manager, once we created our entire plan (which turned out to comprise five books), we duplicated the plan and made sure every department, including upper management, had a copy of the entire policy plan so that managers and supervisors could refer to the policy and employees could also refer to and read it.

    Smaller organizations may not need large binders full of various policies, so develop and modify your entire HR policies and procedures as necessary, but still keep them accessible. On the other hand, large companies may consider placing their entire human resource management plan in a media format where everyone can access it from a network.

    Never judge an employee for accessing the HR policy. Perhaps he is reading it because he wants to better understand how the company is run. Don’t think of him as an employee who is trying to sabotage the company.

    Make sure you include clauses in your policies that they may be amended from time to time; and when they are amended, make sure everyone knows they’ve been amended and can read any changes made.

    Have employees sign acknowledgement forms that you keep in their personnel files. They will need access to both the employee handbook and the entire HR management plan and its policies and procedures. This is essential in the event an employee and the company have disputes or legal issues.

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    Keeping It Simple

    Easy button Wikimedia Commons Creating an entire HR policy and procedures plan is not an easy task, but there are some tips you can utilize to keep it simple:

    • When outlining the reporting or complaint process, instead of including actual names, state the position as people can leave the company or move from position to position.
    • Get as much free information as you can from both the US Department of Labor’s website, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) website, and from your local department of labor and insert it in your HR management plan. Most of these required policies really don’t need to be rewritten so why reinvent the wheel? You pay a lot for that business insurance so ask them for samples of written policies you can use.
    • Save money by writing the plan on your own. There are HR management companies that can do all of this for you, but consider the cost of their services based on assigned personnel cost that will write the plan to determine which is cheaper.
    • If you need a specific departmental plan, ask the HR department for help instead of writing it on your own—you may miss or interpret some areas that HR heads are trained to understand.
    • Assess your human resource management plan annually to see if anything occurred in the prior year that wasn’t covered in the plan and needs further clarification.

    An essential part of all organizations is the HR management plan. By putting off this important element of your organization, you may find yourself faced with both employees and managers who have no direction when it comes to company policies.

    Image Credits:

    • Computer and Screen (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Computer_n_screen.svg)
    • US OSHA Logo (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:US-OSHA-Logo.svg)
    • Vista-Access (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vista-access.png)
    • Easy Button on My Desk (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Easy_button.JPG)