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The Sustainable Workplace: Getting Started
We are excited to roll out our How to Create a Sustainable Workplace Series.  Each month we will provide steps that you can take to help create your sustainable workplace, to reduce your risk of liability and increase your productivity. 
 
In this Newsletter,  you will find the following tools and information you can use this month:
 
Coming in our next issue: The Sustainable Interview Process;  How to create inteview practices and documents that protect your workplace and help you identify the best people. 
 
 
What are the Four Cornerstones of a Sustainable Workplace? 

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “sustainable” as “capable of being 'sustained'.”  In other words, capable of giving sustenance, of being prolonged, of withstanding pressure, of bearing up under heavy losses; capable to support as true, legal or just. 
 
 
Doesn't that make perfect sense in the workplace?  Don't we all want our workplace to give sustenance, be prolonged, withstand pressure and be legal and just? 
 
 
The Four Cornerstones of a Sustainable Workplace are
  
1.     Sustainable Hiring and On-Boarding Systems.  When you establish clear expectations early and often, your company will be in a better position to reduce its liability and obtain the performance you want.  We believe your Hiring and On-Boarding documents are critical to setting these expectations.  To see some of the components to a customized and sustainable hiring system, click here
 
 
2.     Sustainable performance management practices.  Once you have established clear and shared expectations, you have the groundwork in place for determining whether employees are eligible for reward for meeting expectations or are subject to negative consequences for the failure to meet expectations.  The key to a sustainable workplace is consistently holding employees accountable.  To see some recommended sustainable performance management practices, click here.  
 
 
3.     Educating for a Sustainable Workplace.  Remember: what a manager does or does not do, is what a company does or does not do.  A sustainable workplace depends upon managers who know how to protect themselves and your company from liability, and who can inspire great performance from their subordinate employees.  To learn more about recommended topics, click here.   
 
 
4.     Keeping your Workplace Sustainable through Accountability, Auditing and Adjusting.  Once your sustainable workplace is in place, you will want to perpetuate that sustainable through audit and accountability systems.  To learn more about how to maintain your sustainable workplace, click here
 
By putting the Four Cornerstones in place, you could: 
 
        •        Reduce your risk of liability
 
        •        Increase productivity and profitability
 
        •        Reduce your employee turnover
 
        •        Improve employee loyalty
 
        •        Become more attractive to higher quality talent
 
        •        Decrease the time spent on personnel issues
 
        •        Create more time to focus on your Company vision
 
So, where is the best place for you to start?  Attention to any of the cornerstones is great.  We recommend you start at the beginning, as we will, with Sustainable Hiring and On-Boarding, and specifically with job descriptions.  If we can help you establish any of your cornerstones, please let us know.
 
6 Steps to Creating Your Sustainable Job Description: Protect and Enhance Your Workplace
A thoughtful and well-drafted job description may be your most important Sustainable Hiring and On-Boarding tool.  A bold statement, we know.  Want to know why we think so?  Click here
 
 
 
Aside from Basic Information, which includes the position title, the position that supervises this position (direct or dotted line), minimum education, minimum experience, salary or salary range, you will want to take the following 6 steps to create a job description that protects and enhances your workplace: 
 
1.     Make an informed decision on whether the position is exempt or non-exempt.  In order for a position to be exempt from minimum wage and overtime, the position must satisfy both a salary and a duties test.  Remember, both the job description and the actual duties performed by the employee must satisfy these tests.   The test for exempt vs. non-exempt status is detailed and could be an entire newsletter (and will be, brace yourselves!)  Make sure you understand the test when you are creating your job descriptions; accuracy here can go a long way to reducing your company's risk of liability for unpaid wages.  If you have made the decision that the position is exempt, then the indicia of the exempt nature of the position should be included in the job duties and knowledge and skills  sections of the job description. 
 
2.     Really think about and articulate clearly job duties you want this person to perform.  Spend the time up front to consider what you need the person holding this position to accomplish, and what you want that person to accomplish.  Detail which are essential functions, and which are less essential but still important duties.  If the position is exempt, what duties make it exempt?  For example, is the individual spending more than 50% of her time managing two or more employees, or does the individual have significant impact on personnel decisions?  Does the person manage significant business operations?  What results will indicate that the person in this position is a success? 
 
3.     Be mindful and thorough: what knowledge and skill does the right person need to have?  Of course, there will be basic skills, and you also need to think outside the box.  Does the person need any physical skills?  Do they need written skills?  Do they need interpersonal skills?  Will they need to act independently?  Do they exercise independent judgment?  Think about the last person who held this position: what did they do well, what did they not do well.  Does your job description capture your expectations? 
 
4.     Consider the physical requirements of the position and include them: What tools will this person need to use:  Computer?  Phone?  Shovel?  And how often?  What are the physical surroundings of this position:  Does the person work in a cold room?  Are they in an isolated lab area?  Are they in a darkened room?  A noisy room?  Do they need to climb stairs?  Are there chemicals present?  Does the position require travel?  What are the physical demands of this position:  Does the position require lifting?  Carrying?  Walking?  Standing?  Is it a position that requires speed?  Is it a fast moving environment (i.e., is there "stress" associated with the position?) 
 
5.     Require that the employee acknowledge the current description of the position, while also noting that the duties are subject to change at the Company's discretion.  Include a requirement that if the job description differs from the actual job, that the employee let you know.  While not a guarantee, this language may protect you from claims of retaliation or from claims that an employee is performing non-exempt work notwithstanding an exempt position description.  
 
6.     Audit your job descriptions regularly.  Employees in wage and hour lawsuits often claim that an exempt job description no longer captures their actual job duties.  Employees in wrongful termination lawsuits often claim that the counseling they received for failure to meet expectation was a subterfuge for wrongful conduct, because after all they had not been performing against their job description for many years.  You can reduce the risk of such arguments by comparing performance to job descriptions on a regular basis.  Is the position still exempt?  Should it be?  Is the employee meeting the expectations from the job description, or have you instead modified the position around the employee's performance?  This is a great tool for facilitating difficult conversations about performance (stay tuned, more on this in future newsletters!)
 
If you need help crafting your sustainable job descriptions, let us know.
 
 
Your Turn: Take a Sustainable Workplace Quick Quiz
 
Read through this short story, and take our quick quiz.
 
Avery was hired by ABC Company in 1981 at age 39, with a very detailed job description.  Included in her job description was the obligation that she supervise and mentor subordinate employees.  She is very good at some tasks included in her job description, and doesn't enjoy other tasks.   Avery focuses her energy on the tasks at which she excels.  Her performance evaluations focus on the skills she does perform, and she consistently is rated meets or exceeds expectations. 
 
In large part, Avery hates managing employees.  So, she doesn't do it.  She spends all of her time engaged in the same tasks as her subordinate employees, and leaves mentoring and management of the subordinates to her manager. 
 
Over time, Avery has several managers.  Occasionally a new manager will ask that Avery perform the tasks that she has neglected.  Avery has two responses to this request: either that she is too busy, or that the tasks that are requested are "not in her job description."  Her managers simply perform the tasks themselve, because it is easier than trying to get Avery to do it. 
 
In 2007, Avery has a new 42 year old manager who is adamant that Avery needs to perform the neglected tasks as well.  Avery continues to resist.  The Company ultimately terminates Avery's performance for failure to meet its expectations. 
 
Quick Quiz: Avery and the Job Description
 
1.     Do you see any potential claims here? 
 
       __________________________________________________ 
  
2.     What potential claims do you see? 
 
       __________________________________________________ 
 
3.     What lost opportunities do you see? 
 
       __________________________________________________ 
 
             
4.     What could or should the Company have done differently?
 
        __________________________________________________ 
 
 
To see our thoughts and recommendations, click here.  
 
How We Can Help 
 
Above are the steps that you can use to create your Sustainable Job Descriptions. 
 
 
If you would like additional help, we offer the following resources: 
 
 
 
 
1.     The Sustainable Job Description Review: we are happy to review your existing job descriptions, and to make suggested changes to enhance and protect your workplace.
 
2.     Creating Sustainable Job Descriptions: we can partner with you to create job descriptions that capture your goals, reduce your risk and increase productivity. 
 
Give us a call or e-mail Schor Vogelzang if we can be of any help in this process.  
 
Keep an eye out for next month's newsletter for tips on creating the Sustainable Interview Process. 
 

Schor Vogelzang LLP

Partnering to create your great workplace!

2170 Fourth Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101
P: 619.906.2400 F: 619.906.2401

 

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