Strong business leaders know how to make the most of their HR resource, are more likely to train their line management teams well to implement people processes and focus on what will motivate and engage their people. Sometimes, employment regulations can seem overly arduous, even to the most amenable leaders. At these times I have often heard HR professionals, often well intentioned, sound unhelpful. Their conscientious attention to the rules risks missing the mark in getting a good result for the business. Based on what I’ve heard and learned over my career, as an HR professional, facilitator, coach and business owner, I’ve shared the top four things, that if avoided, can change the way HR professionals can support business leaders through employment disputes, more effectively.
- It’s the law!
There are statutory regulations, it’s true. The implications of not following the ACAS code or the business policies outlined to employees could land a company in an Employment Tribunal. However, if the employer has never experienced the downside of a poor decision in this way, this is not a helpful message.
Our approach is always ‘yes you can’ followed by silence. It gives our clients the opportunity to ‘sit’ with their current thinking and then explore the potential consequences with us. We know our knowledge and experience isn’t important just yet. Once we’ve explored the potential implications and along the way, shared some information and experience that is directly relevant, we find business owners and leaders start to find alternatives, naturally, and we build from there. Appealing to the strength in their ability to make decisions and being clear, without being dramatic, about potential outcomes, makes it easier to weigh up alternatives all round.
- You need to follow the process
Following a rigid process can be tricky for some. Personality types vary and so do ability levels and appetites for it. I find, quite often, it’s not identifying and explaining the steps in the process that present the difficulty. Rather, it’s the ability to navigate the conversation once it’s underway. Over time, HR professionals build up a catalogue of knowledge and experience that line managers may not, because they don’t specialise in it. This is particularly true for difficult issues. So, we tend to focus on supporting the words, language, sequencing and styles that are important to the people both managing, and on the receiving end of a process. Focusing the leaders on listening and clarity also gives them the time to notice and respond well, which makes it easier for them to take the right steps, at the right time.
- You’ll end up in an Employment Tribunal
I’ve met many HR professionals who believe that going to Employment Tribunal means the business has failed. In some cases, this may be true. Not always though. For example, I’ve supported businesses through employment tribunal proceedings when they’ve had good conscience that they had done everything they could. And they’ve had successful outcomes. At Organic P&O Solutions, our focus is to come out of any difficult situation with learning. Sometimes this on its own can be the very boost a business leader needs to take their people strategy to a new level.
As an aside, I also advise HR teams to manage complex cases as if they were going to end up in tribunal. It helps on a few levels. The first, the case documents are ready when needed, should it need go to an employment solicitor. The last thing you need to be doing when that time-sensitive tribunal notification hits is waste time collating information. You’ll need to focus all your efforts on a quality response. Second, it keeps focus at every stage, on consistency of decisions and exercising due diligence. I often help businesses think about how a tribunal panel might weigh up their decision. It helps with perspective. Third, because it has been managed so closely, the likelihood of ending up in Tribunal is reduced.
- If you do it for one, you’ll have to do it for everyone
Consistency and fairness are important. They are also barriers to responding to individual needs and being able to respond well, on an individual level, is at the heart of good leadership. So, striking the chord to achieve what’s ‘fair and reasonable’ (required in our employment regulations) versus ‘what’s really needed here?’ (addressing human needs) is of pivotal importance. HR professionals have a duty to support business owners run their businesses well, which means policies need to be applied in the way that suits the business and its customers. The direct conduit between those two is how employees are treated. So, we advise against blanket approaches and overly standard correspondence. The human element doesn’t automatically show up as favouritism and it could be the one thing that really turns a dispute into a workable solution.
We really enjoy working with businesses to facilitate the dialogue that leads to quality people practices. The themes are often similar, yet the solutions can differ considerably. So, if you could use a discussion about what kind of HR support you might need for your team, we’d love to see how we can help. Get in touch with us today.