Five Steps to Minimize Your School’s HR Risks

Vol. 16 No. 6

businessmanager eletter Vol16 No6 reducerisk

The School Head and Business Office have a mutual responsibility to protect the school from risk. Two sources of risk for many private-independent schools are human resources and employment practices.

Are you sure your current practices are in line with the law? Do you feel sufficiently informed about areas of potential liability? If not, implement the following five-step plan to dramatically reduce your school’s human resources-related risks.

Step 1: Conduct an Audit

Arrange for an audit of all HR-related school policies, manuals, procedures, and benefits. You should work with a lawyer or qualified consultant to perform the audit.

You may ask if someone from your school should perform this audit—especially if this individual has significant HR experience. However, objectivity is mission-critical. The purpose of the audit is to look at all your HR processes with a fresh set of eyes. Therefore, it is preferable to have this process conducted by an external professional.

This audit should review every aspect of your school’s HR practices, including:

  • how you hire and orient new employees;
  • how those employees are supervised, trained, and evaluated;
  • how you manage employee salaries, benefits, policies, and programs; and
  • retirement plans.

The auditor should examine your school practices, concentrating on the following critical elements, and present a written report to the Business Office and School Head.

  • Observation: What happens in your school each day? What, if any, discrepancies exist between written policy (for example, your employee handbook) and day-to-day practices?
  • Assessment: How do your school’s HR activities align with best practices and various federal and state laws?
  • Recommendations: Where are your school’s greatest areas of potential risk? Do you need to change, add, or eliminate a practice? Improve a benefit or program? Additionally, where should you start to limit your exposure as quickly as possible?

Step 2: Negate Immediate Risk

Start with your auditor’s recommendations about the areas of most risk or exposure. Create an action plan to mitigate that risk. For instance, this may include instances where your school is clearly not in compliance with existing law, or ending an apparent, though unintended, discriminatory practice.

Step 3: Address Long-Term Risk

With the larger, more immediate risks resolved, create a long-term plan to address current processes that, while not illegal, might represent poor practice or could stand improvement. One example of long-term risk is a lack of sexual misconduct/harassment awareness training or the lack of sufficiently broad enough insurance coverage should an unexpected event occur.

Step 4: Professionalize HR Functions

Human resource duties should not be an “add-on” to an already swamped Business Manager who is managing financial, administrative, and operating functions. The HR administrator should be well-versed in policy and the law to protect your school appropriately.

Once your school creates a plan to mitigate your current risk, help ensure you limit its future exposure.

  • Emphasize HR expertise in the Business Manager’s professional development plan for the next several years. Training might include attending risk management workshops or sitting for the Professional in Human Resources certification exam. External, web-based HR resources can also be helpful.
  • Hire an HR professional. This could be a full-time staff member, if school size and volume of issues warrants, or a part-time professional. Another option is an external consultant available on an ad hoc basis to advise you on policy, practice, and training matters.

Step 5: Monitor HR Practices

Continue to review your policies and procedures to ensure compliance with often-changing laws and requirements. Conduct an audit each year to stay abreast of current laws to minimize your school’s exposure to risk.

Interested in a 360-degree, customizable risk management assessment service to identify potential challenges and liabilities that could significantly impact your school’s reputation and bottomline? ISM’s Risk Management Assessment analyzes areas of potential exposure in four major categories: safety, facilities, liability, and legal issues, and human resources/employment practices. Learn more about how to protect your school here.

Additional ISM Resources:
The Source for Business and Operations Vol. 3 No. 1 Building a Risk Management Team (RMT)
The Source for Business and Operations Vol. 11 No. 2 Risk Management: Avoiding Scams

Additional ISM resources for Gold Consortium members:
I&P Vol. 41 No. 4 Risk Management Assessment: Reduce Your School’s Exposure
Vol. 41 No. 5 The Risk Management Assessment Process

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