When you and your clients hire new employees, onboarding can be daunting. Tasks include things such as completing payroll and emergency forms, setting up computers or other equipment, and even simple things such as how to get in the door. In addition to job-based training, there are a number of training areas to include that are legally required or strongly suggested through best practices. In addition, there are types of training that take place later than the onboarding period and that should be conducted regularly.
Please note that the information in this article should not be construed as legal advice. You are strongly recommended to consult with a labor law attorney or HR services provider supported by labor lawyers as you develop HR and employment policies, procedures, and training strategies.
Non-Mandated Employee Training
There are different types of employee training. Here are non-mandated training topics that are highly recommended.
1. General onboarding training: orients an employee to the structure and culture of the company.
2. Technical training; depending on the industry and role, this may range from how to use the company's phone system to longer-term, hands-on training.
3. Soft skills training: helps employees understand their own personal attributes and how those will affect interpersonal interactions.
4. Product and/or services training: explains the products or services the company offers.
5. Sales training: this is an obvious type of training for sales professionals, but may also come into play for employees in gatekeeper or customer service roles.
6. Anti-bias and diversity training: employees interact with a wide range of individuals and should understand the need to be respectful to coworkers and customers from differing backgrounds.
7. Managerial and leadership training: employee retention and strategic planning both benefit from investing in skill training for employees.
8. Quality assurance training: quality assurance programs are required in many industries and training around quality assurance is critical.
There are also other types of training that are mandated - compliance training.
Mandated Compliance Training for Employees
Mandated employee training is critical for a small business, not just to avoid legal action, but to protect the well-being of employees and the company. Some common examples of compliance training include anti-harassment and bullying in the workplace, data protection training, OSHA compliance, and healthcare compliance. There are both federal and state-mandated compliance issues that business owners need to understand.
For accounting, bookkeeping and tax professionals, data protection should already be highly prioritized as both an onboarding and ongoing training issue. If you have not already evaluated your data security, implemented a data security plan and carry out ongoing evaluations, this data security workbook provided by Woodard will be of benefit.
Here are two other "big" compliance issues that you might not consider in your office.
Workplace Anti-Harassment Policies and Training
Safeguarding both employees and your company should be at the forefront of your mind in all areas, but anti-bullying and sexual harassment training is critical. Sexual harassment is defined by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC); the definition allows for a variety of actions and speech to qualify as sexual harassment - from unwanted sexual advances to offensive comments about a person's sex.
As of December 2021, there are five states that mandate sexual harassment training - California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, and New York. If you operate in one of these states or have employees in one of these states, you should research your state requirements, including any specific programs that may be required and recordkeeping requirements. It is likely that other states will adopt similar mandates.
Even if your state does not require it, anti-harassment training is a best practice for all businesses. Because of the seriousness of the topic, you may benefit from consulting with an expert to determine the best policies and practices. Here are a few things that you may not have considered.
1. Your employee handbook should include anti-harassment policies, including how to file or report harassment, what the employer will do, and possible outcomes.
2. Do not rely on employees to read the handbook when hired. This is a topic worth highlighting during onboarding, including a discussion of the policy.
3. In addition to training during onboarding, regular refresher training should be scheduled. Annual training is regularly recommended.
4. Training should be conducted in such a way as to highlight the value of each individual on the team rather than a "check-the-box" type exercise.
5. Although humor is often introduced into training, the tone of the anti-harassment training should always be respectful and concerned. It should never include jokes about the topic or any indication that the company is failing to take the training seriously.
Here are resources provided by SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, about policies and procedures Although some SHRM resources are provided only behind the membership wall, there are quite a few in these areas of their website that can be accessed by anyone.
- Compliance Resources - Includes information such as 5 Effective Ways to Upgrade Your Anti-Harassment Policy and 5 Ways to Strengthen Your Anti-Harassment Complaint Procedure
- Training Resources - Includes information such as Sexual Harassment Training Should Be Separate for Managers and Rank and File and When HR Gets It Wrong: Training That Doesn't Work
- Investigation Resources - - Includes information such as What to Say (and Not Say) When Investigating Harassment Claims and When HR Gets It Wrong: Avoiding a Bungled Investigation
Workplace Safety Training
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) requires employers to provide employees with training on the health and safety elements of their jobs. OSHA laws aim to restrict employees from receiving certain job assignments unless they have received prior training, are explicitly qualified for the job, are certified, or both. In addition, employers "must also comply with the General Duty Clause of the OSH Act, which requires employers to keep their workplace free of serious recognized hazards."
As an accountant or bookkeeper, you may wonder why you need OSHA programs and training for your office. Let me share a personal (and cautionary) story.
A family member worked in an office environment. Her office had a floor outlet in the middle of the office, and the outlet was not flush with the floor due to a construction defect. On the afternoon of her last day prior to retirement, she tripped on the hazard and hit her head on the corner of her desk. She suffered a major concussion and breaks in her neck!
I share this story to caution that ALL EMPLOYERS should implement OSHA programs and conduct regular training. If there were an effective OSHA program at my family member's office, the hazardous outlet would have long since been remedied. Instead, my family member suffered life-changing injuries.
Training programs are produced by OSHA and the Administration also gives training grants to charitable institutions and conducts training through accredited educational institutions. Learn more about OSHA training here.
OSHA laws and regulations provide varying requirements based on industry. To determine standards by industry, you can visit this page and search by industry. However, just as with anti-harassment training, the topic is so critical that you would be best served to have a consultation through OSHA's On-Site Consultation Program that offers no-cost confidential services to small- and medium-sized businesses.