HR’s Secret Weapon: Marketing Communications

If you were asked what HR’s job is, I’m sure you’d come up with a list of answers. Keeping the company in compliance, managing workplace risk, providing resources and support to employees, payroll, hiring top talent, maintaining a positive company culture… the list goes on and on. But what ties this all together? 


HR has the responsibility to communicate all this and more to company employees, but all too often the tactics fail to actually get enough attention to be noticed. This is where HR can take some pointers from marketing. Because when it comes down to it, marketing is communication. And HR needs high quality communication to do their job well 

Think about it. How difficult is it to get an employee to read (and understand) their benefits package, or the employee handbook, or any other important information HR needs them to have? Difficult enough to be causing HR professionals some frustrating headaches for sure 

So how do you approach this problem? Following are some marketing tips HR can apply to their communication tactics to getand hold, the attention they need. 

Send out a weekly or monthly email/ newsletter  

HighlightsUse this to highlight work events that are coming up, give a shout-out to a team or employee who has gone above and beyond or completed a big project, and talk about things you want the entire company to know about. This could be an upcoming employee survey, a deadline for enrollment for benefits, or a reminder about checking tax withholdings to help employees prepare for tax season.  

PerksOverview the perks you offer to employees such as opportunities for personal development and career coaching, company retreats, and PTO. Keep the resources you make available to employees top of mind 

GoalsReview company goals and how specific teams and departments can help reach them. This is a great opportunity to highlight what different teams are doing to reach the same overarching goal. This can help align departments and keep everyone focused and feeling the team spirit. Plus, if you give a shout-out to a team or an individual, you’re creating a culture of appreciation and recognition! Talk about a good employee retention strategy!  

TeamworkThis also encourages different departments to see how they support each other, further bringing the community together. The more clarity there is about how teams work together and support each other, the higher functioning the company. And the less time HR spends on mitigating interdepartmental disputes.  

Attract the talent your company is looking for  

Marketing works to help guide people from being prospects to customers by meeting them at all the various points of contact they might have with your company. It’s marketing’s job to draw customers in with useful information, content offers, and guidance specifically targeted to where they are in their journey to becoming a customer.  

HR can take the same approach with attracting the type of employees they want working for the company, sometimes even hitting two birds with one stone.  

For instance, you can create a video highlighting your company values, perhaps interviewing aemployee about their experience or covering a recent charitable event your company hosted or participated in. This type of content is not only one of the more successful types of content marketing, but it could also help promote you to prospective employees. People tend to want to buy from (and work for) a company that shares their values and makes them feel good.  

HR can also take a page from marketing’s book by streamlining the process to apply. Just like you want to make it as easy as possible for customers to interact with your company (i.e., providing social icons for sharing and having easy options for answering questions and contacting support) you want to make it as easy as possible for job seekers to apply to work for you. You can: 

  • Keep the process down to five minutes or less  
  • Offer useful information at different points of the application process to help applicants discover more about you and what to expect throughout the application process 
  • Convey your company values and culture through the job description 
  • Highlight the perks and benefits your company offers 
  • Showcase the employee development and training services you offer 

Great communication = trust 

When it comes down to it, HR has a lot on its plate. So make it easier by learning to communicate often, clearly, and with the employee (or prospective employee) in mind. The better you communicate, the more people feel they can trust you, and the easier it is to do your job. It also means you get your message across in a way that sticks. 

As an HR professional, you work so hard to make other people’s jobs easier and to help provide useful information that will support and inform employees. We know how challenging it can be to find successful channels for communicating. So next time you’re looking for an effective way to provide that helpful information, think about how marketing would approach it and try using some of these tactics to help you. It’ll maximize the work you’ve done to provide support, and it’ll help them receive it.  


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Paying Overtime: No Buts About it

If your employees are willing to go the extra mile, you’ll want to make sure they are rewarded accordingly. Doing so could mean dishing out individual or group recognition, special bonuses, or other creative onthejob perks.   

That said, if going the extra mile means your team is working overtime, creativity may not be an option. If you have employees who are overtime eligible, you’ll have to play by the rules.  

If your overtime-eligible employees are putting in more than forty hours in any given work week, whether it’s mandatory, approved, or unapproved, they must be paid overtime.  

The following are NOT solutions to paying overtime: 

Adjusting hours or pay periods  

An overtime eligible employee who works 60 hours one week and 20 hours the next is still entitled to overtime for those 20 hours worked in week one. This is true even if all of this occurred in a single pay period. Hours worked per week are hours worked per week. Period.  

Work weeks can begin on any day and at any time and may be different for various employees and work groups, but the work week must be a set standard. Employers cannot shift work week start days or times to avoid paying overtime and hours cannot be averaged over multiple weeks or pay periods.  

Withholding pay for any reason 

Overtime pay earned in a particular week should be paid on the regular pay day for that specific pay period. It cannot be withheld as an incentive, until it reaches a certain number of hours, in retaliation, or for any other reason.  

Paying the wrong rate 

One common wage and hour violation is when employers attempt to pay overtime hours at an employee’s regular rate of pay. This is an incorrect payout. While the first 40 hours of the week are paid at the regular rate, all additional hours worked in that same week must be paid at 1.5 times that rate.  

Mixing up employee classifications 

Some employers misclassify employees to avoid paying overtime, but this can be a very expensive longterm strategy. Intentional misclassification of employees can result in time consuming audits and expensive fees and fines. Class action lawsuits can lead to exorbitant legal costs and settlements, negative PR, poor morale, and damaged reputation. 

Replacing it with comp time 

In one studyone-third of 500 private-sector employers said they used comp time instead of overtime — a common violation of the FLSA. Private sector non-exempt employees covered by the FLSA must be paid for all overtime hours worked and are not eligible for comp time. Even if both the employer and the employee would prefer a comp time system, it’s rarely legal. The FLSA still mandates that nonexempt employees be paid overtime instead of granted comp time  

But we didn’t mean to… 

Sometimes employees aren’t out to get anyone. They just don’t understand the complicated rules and regulations and how to apply them.   

  • Supervisors may think all exempt or salaried employees are exempt from overtime.  
  • Employers may not understand how to properly classify their positions.  
  • Employees may be classified incorrectly and not even know it themselves.  
  • Companies may have a comp time policy that is in violation of FSLA. 

Meanwhile, overtime can seem like a squishy concept in the following circumstances: 

  • When employees want to work extra hours and insist they don’t need to be paid for it. 
  • If technology allows workers to be available 24/7 and they are taking advantage of it. 
  • When employees are voluntarily working extra hours and not tracking or reporting it. 
  • If employers instruct employees not to work overtime, but they are doing it anyway. 
  • When businesses are using a comp time system that is in violation of the FLSA.  

In reality, overtime rules are not squishy at all. They cannot be bent, circumvented, or ignored. The FLSA requires that all overtime eligible employees be compensated for overtime if and when they work it, no matter what the circumstances surrounding it may be. Not buts about it. 

It’s important to note that overtime laws and requirements can vary by stateand that they may provide greater protection for employees than what is given under the FLSA. Where federal, state, and local laws are in conflict, the law that is most beneficial to the employee should be upheld. This is why it’s critical to stay on top of your local regulations or work with an expert who knows the laws inside and out.   

Making sure your company is playing by the right overtime rules will decrease your business risk and your HR headaches. And that’s a winning strategy.  


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Photo by Roman Samborskyi

HR PSA: Sometimes it’s Not Your Problem

You got into HR because you genuinely like helping people. You care about other people’s wellbeing and you see the value in building systems that are mutually beneficial for both individuals and companies. You take pride in being able to listen, empathize, and help people deal with problems. 

But being a people person comes with its own challenges. You want to be able to help everyone, but in HR (and in life) that doesn’t always mean allowing them to bring all their problems to you. You’ve got to balance the needs of the company with the needs of individual workers. That does not mean you’re supposed to be the company therapist.  

Although playing the role of the listener is often a part of being in HR, it isn’t your job to listen to employees complain about each other. There are more productive ways to deal with those issues. 

Constructive Conversations 

When employees approach you to complain about a problem they’re having with someone on their team, or their manager, do a quick evaluation to see if they should be talking with you or if they should be taking the first steps to addressing the issue. 

  • Have they tried to solve the problem themselves? 
  • Do you get the sense they just want to change the other person? 
  • Are they trying to absolve themselves of accountability? 
  • Do they simply want to vent and aren’t interested in coming up with solutions? 

In these cases, they should be exploring other methods of addressing the problem rather than giving it to you. Coaching employees and managers to have constructive conversations on their own is key for teams to run effectively. People need to learn to approach, talk about, and solve problems within their team in a professional manner. 

It might include coaching on key concepts like active listeningmirroring, and how to create value from a conversation. Unless it is a matter of safety, such as harassment, this should be the first step anyone takes when dealing with an interpersonal problem at work.  

If your company culture pushes people into the arms of HR before they’ve tried addressing the problem themselves, some changes may be in order. Take steps toward adjusting the company culture around internal problem solving and empowering people to address some level of challenges on their own. 

Need extra support? 

Empowering people to manage their own concerns and disputes is a great way to develop a team. However, sometimes employees are dealing with something much larger than an interpersonal issue.  

Problems stemming from mental illness, grief, or trauma are common and can go unknown to teammates. It may be manifesting itself in disagreements with other coworkersnegativity, and decreased engagement. HR may be the right answer to help in these situations, and you’ll need to take the time to uncover the real issue.  

But often personal problems like this need extra assistanceSome companies have employee assistance programs (EAPs) that are designed to help with these issues. Having an EAP and pointing employees to these services may be especially useful if there was a recent event involving workplace violence or harassment.  

There are other resources outside of your company you can tap into to help deal with a problem that is beyond the capacity of HR. It’s important to be familiar with them so you can make informed recommendations for whats needed to help maintain workplace health. 

Here are some supporting resources you can tap into: 

  • Hire a coach to come work with your team 
  • Offer inperson or overthephone counseling options to employees 
  • Have a list of hotlines you can reference for employees struggling with personal issues 

Saying no 

Learning to say no to people approaching HR with the wrong problems can be difficult, especially when your first instinct is to help. But sometimes it’s necessary—although it doesn’t mean that the problem goes ignored. 

When you send someone away to deal with a problem themselves, and you give them the tools to do so, you are challenging them to take accountability for their situation and assume a leadership role in addressing the issue. You are empowering them by teaching them how to deal with future workplace challenges and showing them they have the ability to solve it on their own. You’re also taking a lot of unnecessary work off your plate. It’s a winwin.  


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Photo by Dmitrii Shironosov 


Employers Beware: Comp Time Could Land You in Hot Water

Employees are often more than willing to put in extra hours to help accomplish a specific team or company goal. Participating in special events, trade shows, product launches, and other occasional high-intensity activities can be fun and rewarding for motivated staff members.

In these circumstances, it can be tempting to get creative when compensating helpful employees for this additional time. It can also be a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

What is comp time?

Compensatory (comp) time is sometimes offered to non-exempt employees in lieu of overtime pay. Rather than paying employees time and a half for those extra hours, a company or supervisor might offer additional paid time off to make up for the additional time worked.

Here’s an example: An employee works 48 hours one week as a result of helping out with a company special event. In return, their employer offers to give them an additional paid day off at some other time. Everybody’s happy, right?

Not quite.

While this may sound like a great idea to many employers and employees, it’s usually illegal.

When is comp time legal?

If you’re dealing with public sector employees under a union contract, you may be able to provide comp time in a manner that doesn’t violate the FLSA. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • The comp time strategy must be spelled out and agreed to before the extra hours are worked, not after the fact.
  • Employees can’t be required to work mandatory comp time on a regular basis.
  • Comp time must be paid at the same rate as overtime pay, meaning they should receive one and a half hours of comp time for every additional hour worked.

Some states have passed laws that allow private employers to provide comp time instead of overtime. If you’re in one of them, you may be in the clear. Just keep in mind that these laws can be complex and difficult to interpret. Make sure you have a clear understanding of what you can and can’t do. Working with an employment law expert when developing your compensatory time program is always a good idea.

When not to use comp time

If you’re a “better safe than sorry” kind of person, you may want to toss the idea of comp time out the window altogether.

Focusing on a clear compensation system that includes accurate time keeping, fastidious record keeping, and careful attention to hours worked and overtime pay calculations might be the best solution for your business and your employees.

If your employees are putting in extra hours, here are few things to keep in mind:

  • Workers can’t volunteer their time or waive their right to overtime pay. Businesses are required to pay overtime to eligible employees, even if that employee wants to work unpaid.
  • Non-exempt, overtime-eligible employees must be paid overtime for additional hours worked, even if the overtime was unauthorized or prohibited.
  • Simply paying overtime isn’t enough to keep you in compliance. Overtime must be paid at the correct rate. Compensating employees for overtime incorrectly is also a wage and hour violation.
  • Overtime can be mandatory, but comp time cannot.
  • Private sector, non-exempt employees who are covered by the FLSA must be paid at time and a half for all overtime hours worked. Offering them comp time for extra hours worked is a violation of federal law. (Unless your state says differently.)
  • Exempt employees are not entitled to overtime pay. However, exempt employees must be classified correctly according to their job role, duties, and salary. Classifying someone as exempt to avoid overtime pay is a big no-no.

it’s not uncommon for employers to do everything they can to avoid paying overtime, but sometimes it isn’t a matter of ill intent or gaming the system. Sometimes, your employees really do just want to go above and beyond, working extra hours in the process. And you may want to let them.

Unfortunately, those helpful staff members may not realize they are actually putting the company in jeopardy— and you might not realize you’re in danger of non-compliance.

Other overtime hazards

Overtime isn’t just about money or being in compliance. Sometimes, it’s about how much work there is and who may or may not be willing to do it.

Even if you are following all the rules, classifying your employees correctly, and accurately paying people for all of their time, there are a couple of reasons you may want to keep overtime hours in check.

Expecting your exempt employees to work more than their fair share on a regular basis isn’t a good employee retention strategy. Employee burnout is real. And so is math. If your exempt employees get to a point where they’re calculating out their hourly wage, will that salary you’re offering still seem appealing? 

Some employers pay out loads of overtime as if it’s a good thing. But be careful about whether those additional hours are optional or mandatory. Not every hardworking employee thinks being paid time and a half is worth missing every one of their kid’s soccer games.

Finding that sweet spot where work hours, employer compliance, and employee satisfaction all come together won’t just keep you out of trouble. It will make your business healthier and your team happier. 


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Photo by Carolyn Franks

Overwhelmed by Overtime? Here’s What You Need to know.

Depending on what kind of business you’re running and the kind of work your employees are doing, it can be difficult to manage the various kinds of time your employees are clocking. Or not clocking. Or should be clocking.

The bottom line is this: When employees put in extra hours, employers need to be extra careful when calculating overtime and extra vigilant about paying it out.

Overtime rules

According to the standard Fair Labor Standards Act, overtime refers to time worked over and above 40 hours in any one-week pay period. Sounds simple, right? But there is more to it than that, including some very specific requirements regarding how that work week is defined and which workers are entitled to and exempt from overtime pay.

Here are the basic overtime rules you need to know:

  • FLSA overtime rules apply to all nonexempt employees.
  • The Fair Labor Standards Act applies on a workweek basis.
  • Employee work weeks must be defined as a fixed and recurring time period consisting of 168 hours, or 7 consecutive days.
  • Work weeks can begin on any day and at any hour as long as they meet the above guidelines.
  • Different work weeks may be established for different employees or groups.
  • Averaging hours over multiple work weeks is not allowed.
  • Overtime pay earned in a particular week should be paid on the regular pay day for that specific pay period.
  • The overtime pay rate is equal to 1.5 times the regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 in one consecutive time period.
    • The first 40 hours are at the standard rate of pay with anything over occurring at time and a half.
  • Most exempt employees are exempt from overtime pay— if they are classified correctly.
  • Exempt employees who make under a certain salary threshold ARE eligible for overtime pay. Again, it’s important to classify employees correctly.
  • Some states and local jurisdictions have their own overtime requirements, which may provide greater protection for employees than what is provided under the FLSA. It’s important to know your local laws.
  • When federal, state, and local laws conflict, the rule that is most beneficial to the employee should prevail.
  • FLSA requires employers to keep records of payments to employees, including overtime.
    • In the case of an audit, an employer must be able to prove payment of overtime that meets FLSA requirements.

Understanding the definition of overtime and how to properly calculate overtime wages is critical to running your business, staying in compliance, and limiting your exposure to liability and risk.

Staying in compliance

If the fear of wage and hour claims keeps you up at night, you’re not alone. And your worries are not unfounded.

Many companies have found themselves suddenly wrapped up in costly, time consuming, and exhausting battles over wage and hour issues. There are many ways for businesses to end up in these situations, including misclassification of employees, inefficient time and attendance tracking, and payroll mistakes.

The good news is that many of these problems can be avoided with some relatively simple strategies:

  • Paying careful attention to individual job descriptions and duties will help make sure your employees are classified correctly.
  • Investing in time tracking and payroll systems that are easy, efficient, and accurate will ensure that your staff is paid correctly and on time.
  • Consulting with outside experts will keep you on the right side of wage and hour compliance.

If you don’t have an in-house expert on staff, consider working with an outside company who specializes in things like time tracking, payroll, and overtime.

Not only will finding the right compliance partner take work off your HR team’s plate, it will help reduce your business risk and keep things running smoothly. And that is time well spent.


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