Last updated: December 4, 2023
The HR department could very well be considered the heart of the company.
The human resources department plays a huge role in day-to-day operations from drug testing to tracking benefits. Having caring, empathetic, and astute people in HR positions goes a long way toward having a thriving business.
Why? Because the core responsibility of your HR team, of course, is to manage your business’ most precious resource.
And, let’s face it, constantly dealing with people in a professional and respectful manner can be difficult sometimes. Especially, when the person you are relating with is an expert at pushing buttons or is extremely upset about something, for instance.
HR teams take great strides toward building employee loyalty. In doing so, it provides your business with a foundational structure from several aspects.
- Recruiting the right people for the job
- Workplace safety
- Employee relations
- Compensation planning
- Labor law compliance
We’ve received contributions for this post from five HR experts. They instinctively hit on the majority of the bullet points on this list when we asked if they’d share their thoughts on employee drug testing.
We’d like to share what we learned from them.
Recruiting the right people
We’ve all seen the tremendous negative impact that hiring the wrong employee can have in the workplace, so we know how important it is to get this right. Ariel Schur, founder of ABS Staffing Solutions, explains how to work this elegantly into early conversations with prospective candidates:
“Workplace drug testing can be a tricky topic to handle and is often a cause of debate. It tends to be most easily accepted if it is presented as a prerequisite for hiring. By implementing a clean drug test as pre-employment criteria it makes it abundantly clear that there is a zero-tolerance.
I have many clients that require a 10 panel drug test prior to being hired. What is fascinating is many candidates will candidly convey to me that they will fail because of recent recreational use. Although I respect their honesty, I explain that they can risk getting an offer. I think young people need to be mindful and recognize the implications of even recreational use.”
Necessary, not scary
“While there is some debate over which drugs should be restricted — especially with several states either legalizing marijuana or pursuing legalization — there are benefits to drug testing. While it may scare off some otherwise competitive candidates, it also ensures that these candidates will be more reliable and productive which is a huge benefit to their colleagues. Who wants to go to work knowing that you’re going to be pulling the weight of a colleague who went on a bender over the weekend?
What’s more, drug use can impact your behavior and cause your colleagues who are typically mild-mannered to react in aggressive forms. The best thing for an employer to do is convey that drug testing is not purely for the benefit of the company, but also the safety and wellness of their employees. Sure, drugs may not impact some in ways that would debilitate them in the workplace, but it is unfair to take that risk to the detriment of their colleagues.
Creating from the onset the understanding that the workplace is drug-free has the potential to greatly enhance health and safety in the workplace. In addition, it would be important to also explain at the point of hire that the employer can always require random drug testing. Drug testing can definitely assist in discouraging people from abusing substances and hopefully create a more productive work environment.”
John Herr is the CEO of Avetta, a global organization that connects a number of the world’s largest organizations to suppliers, contractors, and vendors. The company provides SaaS subscription software that large corporations use to vet contracting suppliers to ensure their compliance with all regulations, testing, and training required for enterprise companies to hire them with confidence all requirements, including drug testing, are met.
Sensitive to safety
In talking to employees, Herr advises first and foremost that the focus be on the absolute requirements for safety. When employees believe testing is a matter of lack of trust or a lack of respect for privacy, they’ll react badly or the culture of the company may suffer. But it’s paramount, Herr maintains, they know that the real reason, even beyond meeting the regulatory requirements that allow the company to be hired by partnering vendors, is the utmost responsibility for the safety of every individual in the workplace.
Worldwide, Herr notes that some 2 million people lose their lives every year due to accidents or illnesses linked to their work. Drug testing is a part of the equation, as are the risks such as exposure to toxic substances, faulty equipment or poor training. Many of these lives could be saved and deaths and accidents prevented through thorough testing and training. Making sure employees are aware of the reasons behind the testing and vigilance can go further than anything toward easing their concerns and letting them know why the company tests in the ways that it does.
Out in the open
This open communication is especially important in the arena of testing for substances such as cannabis. Why? Because the intent of the testing is hard to protect in situations such as a legally subscribed substance, in some cases, that fulfills a need for the individual that the company would want to protect. This situation is trickier still in that the legally prescribed substance may be no issue for someone working in an office position, but what about an individual who operates heavy machinery. Or, more complicated still, what if they are drivers who deliver freight and are working in areas where the substance is legal in one state and in another is not? The opioid crisis is another issue that creates difficulty for companies must navigate in order to ensure safety and compliance while also being sensitive to employees’ medical needs and privacy rights.
Again, open communications about the reasons why the testing and policies exist will contribute manyfold to acceptance and understanding about why the testing exists. Avetta offers some free resource reports to companies with ideas for navigating these issues from the resource section of their company website.
Finally, in talking to employees, companies can do a great service to all participants by going beyond the requirements for testing to encourage any employee who is dealing with substance addictions to know about the resources available to them within the company or with the company’s support and help. Addressing addiction issues early and encouraging employees to come forward voluntarily will do much to increase the company’s safety while also helping the employees to know that the company has their best interests and protections at heart.
Building relationships with employees goes a long way in establishing a long-term working relationship. Moses Laufer M.D, of Holtorf Medical Group, realizes this is an important fact of human relations.
“It’s estimated that 2 out of ten people in the United States knows someone who does drugs, used to do drugs, is trying to withdraw from using drugs, or they have done some drug in their life.”
He goes on to explain, “With the rise of depression and loneliness, more and more people are turning to drugs to try to soothe their aches and pains. Unfortunately, this can create an unsafe and unproductive work environment. That’s why it is essential to test every employee, to make sure they are mentally and physically well enough to work.”
The good doctor suggested a few tips for employers to follow.
Tell your employees when and why you are drug testing.
Hiring a new employee can be a very lengthy and exciting process, but it is important to tell them upfront about your drug testing procedures. Please make sure they fully understand everything. This will improve your communication with them, especially if you are blunt and honest with them the first time. For example, once you hire a new worker to tell them that you will do drug testing at random during their time being employed at your company, but don’t tell them the times when the ” random” tests will be done.
Choose the best test for your business.
There are many tests you can choose from. There are urine tests, blood tests, hair tests, fingernail tests, and even sweat tests to check for a variety of drugs. The cheapest type of drug test you can order is the urine test. It is also the simplest test to administer, so it’s a standard test that businesses go for. Before choosing any type of drug test it is important that you go for a test that is in your budget and is best for your company, and not just get the cheapest thing or blindly follow other people’s advice. Here’s a good tip to follow; get a list of the most common drugs in your area and test for those.
Eliminate the chance of cheating.
Some people will do anything they can to avoid a drug test. While a urine test is cheap and easy, people can still find ways to cheat and hinder the accuracy of one. They can pay a sober person to pee in the cup, or even dilute their urine with sink water. To avoid this, have the test administrator stand by the door to listen to the water. Make sure that the tester doesn’t leave the building until their sample gets to the test administrator. If the tester thinks the rules are too strict and fails to cooperate, you will know who needs to be fired. Make sure to enforce your drug testing producers, and don’t change them because your employees feel uncomfortable about it.
Labor law compliance
Compliance is key to operations when regulated by the DOT (Department of Transportation) or federally contracted in any way. Pre-employment drug testing is a must. So are several other instances. They include random testing, reasonable suspicion, or post-accident drug testing.
Chris Brenchley, is the co-founder of Surehand, a hiring platform for industrial inspection professionals. He understands the ins and outs of compliance.
“For our clients, drug testing is a safety and compliance issue. Most of them are in heavy industrial spaces—oil and gas, nuclear, and aerospace and aviation—where being under the influence of drugs or alcohol has real safety consequences.
Often, the drug testing policy is communicated along with safety policies and is given that context.
One interesting turn of events has been the wave of marijuana legalization in the country, which creates much more complicated conversations (and policy decisions) in states in which cannabis is now legal—especially recreationally.
Companies in those states typically see the most pushback from employees. So far, for companies that choose to keep their drug policies, the communication strategy has mostly been the same: it’s not a moral issue; it’s a safety issue.”
Our final contributor on this panel is Felicia Payton-Mahabir. She is an experienced O&C Specialist in the Hiring, Licensing, Appointments & Registration Unit working in the insurance industry. She also holds a membership with the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).
“While drug test screening is often only viewed in the lens of prospective employees as an integral part of the onboarding process and having a direct effect on them receiving a job offer, drug screening beyond the first step to employment with a company is also an important part of the overall work culture to ensure employees work in a safe, healthy and productive environment. Therefore, it is imperative that we in HR take the responsibility of communicating drug-testing policies, procedures and available options to employees in an empathic, informative, personal and rational way on a continual basis to ensure the stigma around drug testing is not to exclude, ostracize or punish new hires or existing employees but to support our obligation to protect all employees and set the right tone for our organizations goals for a successful drug-free workplace.
Individualizing my approach to each candidate by describing the accountabilities of the job and connecting on a personal level while clearly communicating the expectations of their role in maintaining our drug-free culture through pre-screen drug testing and on-going random drug testing when needed, while educating them on wellness programs allowed me to have constructive conversation around drug testing and results that affect hiring decisions for potential new hires or treatment plan options for existing employees.
As a member of the HR community, it is our responsibility to continue to design, educate, and implement prevention education programs at our workplaces. Encourage employees to seek help for alcohol, prescription drug, or other drug problems without fear of termination. This will remove some of the negative impressions of drug testing from our collective.”
Onward and upward
The Human Resources Department is an essential part of running a successful business. Positive employee interaction is crucial. When employees understand why you do what you do, they feel more a part of what’s going on.
Keeping everyone on the same page creates a force united. When employees are kept in the loop of information, they feel valued. And, a valued employee is far more likely to go the extra mile for their employer.
In conclusion, it’s clear that drug testing is linked to many aspects of a company’s HR department. Furthermore, keeping the lines of communication open is the best way to keep morale high.
That’s the kind of buzz we’re looking for.