Let’s Start at the Very Beginning

Posted in : HR Updates on 8 April 2024
Carol Ann Casey
CA Compliance
Issues covered: Employee Engagement, Absence

A business is nothing without its people so an investment into the employment relationship is key to drive growth.  Each stage of the employment life cycle, attraction and recruitment through to separation, can have positive or negative challenges and it is how one deals with them that drives success. 

Coming from a background that handles contentious matters from an HR and governance perspective, I believe a key strategy to manage the employment relationship is around clear engagement about the role, company expectations and organisational culture from the outset.

On 25th September last, CIPD UK announced that “Workplace absence soars to its highest level in over a decade”; this averages to 7.8 working days per year, and 76% of these days are stress-related.  We listen to such statistics against the backdrop of rising challenges in recruitment and retention. 

This prompted me to think about going back to basics, with a number of reminders:

Hire for attitude; train for talent

Julie Andrew’s song in The Sound of Music ‘Let’s start at the very beginning’ springs to mind as it is really important to put energy into recruitment, selection and fit assessment against team culture. Once you get capability, competence, qualifications and psychometric fit established, this can mitigate against employee issues into the future. If appointees do well, the manager does well, and ultimately the company: It is as simple as that.

Jim Collins’ book, ‘Good to Great’, was first written in 2001 and many of its principles still stand true today.  In essence, have the right people on your bus; even though seats are likely to change, this change can be positive long-term. 

Reiterating starting at the very beginning, I also morph this towards starting at the very top as your leadership team must be agile, motivated, and watchful of both the horizon and the bottom line.

Policies and procedures

In Legal Island’s embryonic years, I recall commenting during a presentation that there is no point in having fabulous interior design if the building blocks are inferior or the foundation is not solid. I still say the same. Policies and procedures must be robust before strategic training, development, etc. can flourish.

Employment law and codes of practice are regularly update.  I recommend doing an annual hubris test to assess that your HR policies, procedures and practices are living breathing documents, giving clear examples of non-acceptable standards and their repercussions for all employees to know what is expected of them in their employment with you.  Also akin to this, I recommend that a guideline document for managers is in situ for them to know what to do and how to handle situations against your company’s procedures. 

I recommend regular training on policies and procedures to staff and separately having a session training managers how to ensure adherence with these policies.

Code of Conduct

Adhering to zero tolerance for any harassment, abuse, inappropriate behaviour, etc., is key to a solid culture.  It should be clear to all employed in your company that any breach of policies, procedures and practices will lead to disciplinary action up to and including dismissal.

Be factual

Never enter into a contentious or potentially contentious matter without having clear facts to hand.  It could be that you can conduct an investigation internally or maybe you need an external voice to independently assure your next move.  One should never progress to a sanction situation without permitting the accused party the right to answer a case, present their viewpoint and have the right to be represented.

Be careful with emotion

It is always best to be firm yet kind, for example, stick to your policies and follow your procedures. Do not deviate nor show bias to any category of employee.  One needs to be self-controlled to ensure kindness regardless of how vexed they may be; this may sound very simplistic yet from experience, it is such matters that exasperate contentious matters.

Data: the glorious phone

Data trails are vital, period.  We have seen so many subject access requests (SARs) in recent years and know the amount of business distraction and time they take.  Sometimes picking up the phone is better.

Preventative measures

What you do for your employees counts: such as workplace health and wellbeing support, flexible benefits, and importantly in recent years, flexible working hours.  Regarding the latter, whilst companies often prefer to have employees back in the office, this needs to be considered against the back-drop of performance, fit, culture and the recruitment and selection process impacts.

Fair and reasonable

Finally, be it starting at the very beginning or the very end, it is really important to be fair and reasonable in how you treat each other and all stakeholders.  Treating people the way you would like to be treated yourself is usually a good success strategy for everyone, and ultimately the company.

Legal Island Training Resources for Your Staff

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This article is correct at 08/04/2024

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

Carol Ann Casey
CA Compliance

The main content of this article was provided by Carol Ann Casey. Contact telephone number is +353 (0) 1 637 3919 or email carolann@cacompliance.ie

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