Mary Ann Haskins, Owner and Senior Consultant at Flex HR.
She’s an experienced Senior HR Consultant with over 30 years of experience in human resources and payroll. Her comprehensive background includes working for an entrepreneur to launch businesses from the ground up with one that went through an IPO on Nasdaq, successfully building or revamping HR Departments in both the private and public sectors, managing the HR component of mergers and acquisitions, and creating HR strategic plans.
She has worked at small organizations with fewer than 500 employees and at a much larger company with operations throughout the U.S., Europe, and Asia. She has both private and public sector experience. In December 2021, she stepped away from the head of HR role at a local Metro Atlanta city in Georgia after 12.5 years to return to consulting.
She has a very broad knowledge base that contributes to her successful consulting work, including implementing HR policies and procedures, compliance audits, management coaching, employee training, HRIS/payroll system selection, implementation, and enhancement, benefits administration, compensation analysis, recruiting, performance management, and employee engagement.
What You’ll Learn In This Episode
- Artificial intelligence at work – policies to consider
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:04] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX studios in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s time for Atlanta Business Radio. Brought to you by On pay. Atlanta’s new standard in payroll. Now, here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:25] Lee Kantor here, another episode of Atlanta Business Radio, and this is going to be a good one. Today on the show we have Mary Ann Haskins with Flex HR. Welcome.
MaryAnn Haskins: [00:00:35] Hi, Lee.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:36] Before we get too far into things, tell us about Flex HR. How you serving folks?
MaryAnn Haskins: [00:00:40] Well, Flex HR has a group of professional human resources folks that can assist any organization from small to extremely large. We get phone calls from clients that just need some oversight on a project. Or perhaps they need us to come in and do an audit for HR and payroll purposes. We also have some clients that use us for their HR and payroll needs, so they outsource their entire department to us. So we really offer a lot of different solutions for clients. It really depends on what you need.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:13] I guess that’s where the flex comes in.
MaryAnn Haskins: [00:01:15] Exactly.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:17] So are you uh, PEO are you kind of taking over that role or is this in a more consultative manner?
MaryAnn Haskins: [00:01:24] My role is a consultant with flex HR. I work with a variety of clients, everything from veterinary clinics, manufacturers, private schools, a lot of variety there.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:37] And then what’s the type of work that you’re actually doing? Kind of on a day to day basis for them?
MaryAnn Haskins: [00:01:43] Uh, I’ve done things such as reviewing handbooks, putting together policies and procedures, training programs, been the outsourced human resources professional for the organization, help them recruit a new HR professional to lead their team. Help them revamp their structure, do a strategic plan. Lots of different types of projects. I have another client. I’m working with them on implementing a new system so my world is never dull.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:10] And is it like what? Are you typically a bridge to help them either triage a situation or to get them to hire a permanent person?
MaryAnn Haskins: [00:02:20] Again, it’s it’s unique for each organization. We have some companies that decided to fully outsource human resources and payroll to us, and we serve as their providers for their team members, which is great to the team members. We’re just one of them, and it works beautifully with other organizations. They bring us in on an intro to help them bridge until they can find the right person to fill an opening, and that’s not unusual.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:50] Now, when you are doing so many different things for the HR people at a given organization, whether it’s, you know, doing the role of HR or just helping them through a situation, how do how do you kind of market for that? How do they know to call you at at the time they have a need? If the need is is pretty much anything HR related?
MaryAnn Haskins: [00:03:13] Well, fortunately we have lots of wonderful clients over the years and we get a lot of referrals. We also have very good presence on the website. If you Google search for help with with human resources, I think we’re at the top of the list are pretty close. Our marketing team does a fabulous job there. You know, I feel like most of my clients have come to us through referrals or finding us in a in a moment of desperation, and our CEO does a fantastic job of assessing their needs and then trying to align them with the right consultant, with the right team to help them.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:50] Now, how do HR professionals deal with things that are new and disruptive like I like? Where can an outfit like flex HR help them manage kind of artificial intelligence when it relates to, uh, you know, work policies?
MaryAnn Haskins: [00:04:08] Well, I think in most cases that’s a topic that’s going to come up when we’re reviewing a handbook. I have had one client who asked about it, but this is still such a new thing. I don’t believe a lot of employers have stopped long enough to assess the risk that generative AI may be causing with their employees. Uh, you know, simple things like folks that are working for you, using something like a ChatGPT to write a report. So really, they didn’t create the work. And you may have violated some copyright rules or something. So you need to have policies in place for things like this to mitigate the risk. And there are different options you can take with how you approach those policies. So with our clients, we generally want to talk to them about it. You know, are you a group that’s likely to be using AI? And even if you’re not a group that’s likely to be using it, let’s talk about putting it in your handbook. So policy that makes sense for you.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:15] Now you mentioned some of the um, kind of risks that are involved. Like if, if someone if one of your clients was kind of a creative. Client that had maybe copywriters or was creating content on the web, and their people are using, uh, artificial intelligence. Um, that can open up a can of worms that the employer may not even think. Think about. Really?
MaryAnn Haskins: [00:05:42] Right. True.
MaryAnn Haskins: [00:05:43] You know, I’m seeing right now. And again, I’m going to preface this statement with everything in the world of AI is changing fast, and there are laws being put into place every time you turn around related to AI. I think in 2022, there were 17 states that enacted some sort of ruling on the use of artificial intelligence. So the world as we know it is ever evolving. And when it comes to policies, most of the policies kind of take three approaches. One of three approaches, they’ll say, okay, we’re going to allow you to use AI at work, but here are the guidelines. What you can and can’t do. The second option is you’re going to limit the use and give them a clear cut list of what’s acceptable. Okay. You can use your chat bot to help draft a letter or an email, but you cannot use it to create a report. You cannot use it to put content on the website. Um, then the other option that I’ve seen some clients take is just prohibited. You know, we’re not going to use it here. You can’t use your work email to create any accounts with any type of AI service, and it’s your choice if you use it at home. But don’t bring it into work. Don’t use it for any work related projects. So that seems to be where the three options are right now for these policies. Um, but then you have to write the policy that fits into which of those three paths you want to take.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:18] And then this is kind of an area where a flexor probably can help organizations, because I would imagine that you’re far more, um, fluent in the language of AI. Uh, probably more so than a lot of these clients are, because you are kind of trying to be proactive, active, and try to get ahead of this.
MaryAnn Haskins: [00:07:39] Well, I hope we.
MaryAnn Haskins: [00:07:40] Are, uh, we make every effort that we can. Um, and I think also, it’s not just an AI policy, it’s your culture. So part of anything that you’re doing when it comes to policies and procedures, yes. You have to write the policy to protect yourself from a legal risk standpoint, and you have to be sure you’re compliant with the laws in those states where you do business. But you also have to realize that every policy you put in front of an employee affects their view of you as an organization, so you’re telling them who you are, if you will. By the way, you word something and the approach you take to whatever the topic is, I dress code, whatever. So we do work a lot with our clients on handbooks. We see a genuine need for organizations to not just create a handbook. And ten years later, remember. Oh yeah, we’ve got that. Everybody signed off that. They’ve read it, but we haven’t updated it forever. You know, your handbook really, to me, needs to be a living document. And right now, in my personal professional opinion, I’m trying to encourage my clients to add something about AI in their handbook when they are reviewing it for an update.
Lee Kantor: [00:08:56] So, um, can you share some advice if you were to, uh, work in an organization that maybe didn’t have a handbook or it wasn’t as, um, robust as maybe you would like it to be, what are some of the actionable things they could do right now to improve their handbook and to make it, uh, that living document that you described.
MaryAnn Haskins: [00:09:18] Well, I’m always.
MaryAnn Haskins: [00:09:20] Surprised, and I’ve seen this professionally, both when I was in private sector, working as the head of HR as well as now consulting. A lot of companies have their handbook that was brought to them by their head of HR or maybe the CEO, and it’s actually their former employer’s handbook, and they just fit a few name changes and slapped an updated label on it and said, okay, here’s our handbook. You know, to me, the first thing every HR professional should do, as well as senior executives, you need to really read your handbook as if you were a brand new employee viewing your company, and so does it have information that’s needed in it that employees should know? Does it provide adequate guidelines in clear and simple terms that people can understand? Is it available to them? I’m a huge proponent of not having printed handbooks because those become stale. I love to have them on the hris system, so that an employee, at any point in time, can log in and pull it up and do a quick search for whatever the information is that they want to read. So if they’re looking to find out about, you know, FMLA and what notices do I need to give? Okay, I’ll just go to the handbook. And you want your employees to be comfortable and know where exactly that handbook is and to find the information quickly. The second thing on handbooks is you really need to train your supervisors on the information that’s in the handbook. Never assume that yes, they read it and yes, they understand it.
MaryAnn Haskins: [00:10:55] You know, the handbook also provides guidance for them in how to interact with employees, both in good times and bad. And so you want to be sure that that policy is representing how you want those supervisors to treat your folks. The same thing is true on I, um, another key thing with the I policies, make sure that you have a statement that lets the employee know, have no assumption that there’s any privacy if you’re using our Wi-Fi, if you’re using our equipment, we have the right to monitor what you’re doing. Don’t assume just because you’ve got a login and password that we can’t see what you’re doing, because we have an obligation to the organization to protect it. So going back to your question, you know, again, read your handbook. If you don’t have one, I highly recommend you call flex HR and let us help you create one. Um, any handbook is better than no handbook, but you need to make sure it’s compliant for your state. Uh, I personally and professionally have also, uh, just, you know, made sure that I set a reminder that at a minimum, I go back and reread the handbook every 12 to 18 months. I have a folder that I keep notes for when the next time it’s updated, things that I want to change, or maybe a new policy that I want to introduce. It’s it’s got to be an active, living, breathing document that the HR professionals think about on a regular basis.
Lee Kantor: [00:12:25] So if there’s a company out there that, um, maybe hasn’t thought about, um, refreshing their handbook or even, um, kind of dealing with the disruption that artificial intelligence is having in workplaces, and they want to get a hold of you or somebody on your team. What is the website? What is the best way to connect with you to have a more substantive conversation.
MaryAnn Haskins: [00:12:50] And just go out to flex HR. Com there is a contact us area there. Uh, we are also partnering with Shrm Atlanta. On February the 29th. We’re going to have an HR boot camp. So maybe the first place to go is to the boot camp and we’ll be there. You can meet us face to face and talk about your issues with us during the breaks. Uh, but we’re going to have some really good topics, including one of the sessions is on handbooks. So very timely.
Lee Kantor: [00:13:20] Well, thank you so much for sharing your story today. You’re doing such important work and we appreciate you.
MaryAnn Haskins: [00:13:26] Well, it’s been a pleasure, Lee. I really do enjoy speaking with you today and, uh, look forward to continuing conversations with anybody who’s interested.
Lee Kantor: [00:13:34] All right. This is Lee Kantor. We’ll see you all next time on Atlanta Business Radio.
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