Today I’m pleased to introduce a regular SmartBlog feature called If You Can Get to Just 1. Each month we will select from scores of upcoming HR/management conferences and will feature the one we feel will be most beneficial to SmartBrief on Workforce e-newsletter readers.
This month’s featured conference, the Society for Human Resource Management‘s Employment Law & Legislative Conference takes place next week in Washington. It brings together hundreds of experts on harassment, the Family and Medical Leave Act and dealing with unions, among other topics. The conference is sold out, but since legal changes are of immediate concern to our readers, SmartBrief’s Sam Taute recently reached out to one of the key presenters, Mike Aitken, SHRM’s director of government affairs, to get some insight into how the new administration and weakened economy are affecting human resources management. An edited transcript of that conversation follows.
SAM: What are the most pressing HR issues for the White House and Congress to address in the current session?
MIKE: The biggest issue being discussed right now is the need for comprehensive health care reform, which the president talked about during his most recent address to the nation. Ideally, a system needs to be created that makes health care affordable and easy to understand, for both employees and employers. We have a Democratic president and a Democratic majority in the both the House and the Senate for the first time since 1993, and there is a lot of enthusiasm to address a variety of issues that affect the workplace.
What concessions should employees be prepared to make to adapt to the economy?
Employees have to get used the reality of reduced salary increases, or even no salary increases at all. They also have to be willing to consider taking time off for sabbaticals and reductions in vacation accruals. The cost of health care is going to increase, and employees might need to consider dropping their health care. With every region in the country being effected by mounting job losses, companies are just trying to figure out ways to stay in business.
What are the most significant changes that the Obama administration will bring to the arena of HR public policy?
Besides being an advocate for health care reform, Obama has also supported a change from the secret-ballot system to a card-check system to determine whether employees want to unionize. This would be the most dramatic change in labor law in the last 60 years, and Obama has to be careful that the card-check system will do a good job of actually representing the opinions of employees.
What advice would you give to employers about how to carry out administrative HR responsibilities without sapping too many resources away from other areas?
I hate to use such a cliché, but now more than ever, companies have to get used to doing more with less. They need to make sure that their resources are keenly aligned with the goals that they have set out for their company. They should also be transparent as possible with their employees, letting them know exactly what the company is doing at all times.
Photo: Mike Aitken, credit, SHRM