Basic Training: Keeping On-Site Workers Up-to-Date on the Latest Employment Laws and Risk Management Issues

Article excerpt

With 110 properties positioned throughout the New York City metropolitan area, Connecticut and New Jersey, building owner and manager Newmark Real Estate has its hands full when it comes to keeping 200 on-site employees up-to-speed on key issues ranging from risk management to labor standards, and everything in between. Despite the challenges, Joe Bellina, executive vice president, said such training is vital to the smooth running of the firm.

"If [on-site personnel are] not up-to-date on all of the issues, the owners and/or managers can find themselves at considerable risk," Bellina said, "and are subjecting themselves to both legal proceedings and financial penalties."

To ensure that doesn't happen to Newmark, Bellina said the firm does regular training with staff members. Most recently, for example, it assembled the management staff to participate in a seminar put on by a group of labor lawyers who discussed "disciplining union staff members." At the seminar, managers asked questions and had the lawyers address issues specific to their respective buildings.

Bellina said Newmark also relies on organizations like the Institute of Real Estate Management to supplement its training and information updates. Two specific IREM courses, HRS402--Human Resource Essentials for Real Estate Managers and MNT402--Property Maintenance and Risk Management, can provide in-depth training on such issues.

Internally, personnel are also kept in the loop via memos and e-mails, typically used when quick updates need to be conveyed to the group. This year, Newmark is also introducing a rewards program focused on the physical condition of the firm's 110 properties, with buildings nominated for criteria such as appearance, tenant satisfaction and engineering/systems.

NAME OF THE GAME

According to Bellina, Newmark's training efforts are all in the name of keeping front-line employees (from leasing agents to maintenance crew to managers assigned to specific properties) up-to-date on legal issues, risk management techniques and regulatory requirements within the commercial real estate industry.

But not all management firms are so diligent, said Ramon J. Venero, CPM, director of administrative services, Society for Human Resource Management in Alexandria, Va. "Many times, the company will toss the new hire a set of keys and a list of properties and wish them well," said Venero, who added that larger management firms have paved the way for others to use a more calculated approach to employee training.

"Some larger firms take pains to make sure people do the right things and get the right information as early in the process as possible," Venero said, "while smaller, regional organizations may still lack the resources to create a formalized orientation and/or training program."

To those firms, Venero said now is the time to implement some type of training that keeps geographically dispersed employees on the right track with labor standards (including the recently revised Fair Labor Standards Act, see sidebar), fair housing laws (for managers of multifamily housing), minimum wage rules, the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the myriad other labor laws/standards currently being enforced.

ONE FOR THE BOOKS

A policy manual is a good way to implement this education, suggested human resources consultant Patricia Murakami, president of Hoffman Murakami Consulting in Palatine, Ill. In it, clearly state the law then outline how your firm follows that law and what steps must be taken to ensure the law is indeed being adhered to. Leave room for updates (which can be sent by e-mail, then inserted into the hard copy manual when warranted), and augment the manual with in-person training (such as a half-day class) when necessary.

An important aspect of the policy manual and subsequent update distribution is an individual sign-off sheet, where all employees who have read the manual sign and date to acknowledge they have indeed done so. …