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Sally Campbell

arvato UK

Director

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A collaborative approach to reduce HR complexity

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As organisations look to address budget challenges, many are starting to focus on HR as an area where delivering the right changes can make a difference. Sally Campbell, Director of Health at arvato UK, explains how Action for Children – a national charity for children and young people – took a collaborative approach with their employees to reduce the complexity of HR policies and procedures while providing a more supportive service.

Although HR policies and procedures are key for managing staff in the workplace, too many of them often cause confusion with employees – particularly when two or three policies are needed to resolve one issue. Keeping on top of policies and procedures can also overburden line managers, which may ultimately impact time spent doing their day job.

While this is a common HR problem across all types of organisations, it really adds to the challenges the third sector is facing at the moment – such as the continual reductions in government funding, greater competition for donations and a growing demand for charity support in society.

Reducing the number of policies and introducing standardised HR processes is one way organisations can ensure consistency and make efficiency savings. However, the standard approach for reviewing and redeveloping HR policies and procedures usually only involves HR professionals, senior level staff and associated trade unions, leaving out one group which is directly impacted by the inconsistencies – the staff themselves. By involving employees and managers throughout the review process, organisations can better identify the most time consuming and troublesome issues, together with pooling suggestions of how the problems can be solved.

A good example of where this approach has proved useful is our consultancy work we did with Action for Children – a charity that provides support for children and young people across the UK. The charity conducted an audit of their existing HR service, and recognised that redeveloping their HR policies and processes presented an opportunity to both create a set of policies more aligned with its strategic objectives and to provide assurance around legal compliance.

Action for Children also identified that in seeking our specialist HR consultancy support, they could benefit from increased capacity and best practice knowledge, gained from over 20 years of working with the NHS. External team independence could also provide clarity on roles and responsibilities, and an informed transformational approach that could be adopted for future internal projects.

Involving staff in the policy development process

To meet these needs and expectations, we engaged with staff from the outset by holding initial visioning workshops to create a new Employee Value Proposition; a statement overviewing the balance of the rewards and benefits that are received by employees, in return for their workplace performance. These were carefully aligned to the existing workforce planning strategies, to ensure that both the staff and organisation had cohesive values to drive future growth.

A new set of policies and processes were also developed that were easier to use and less complicated – reducing the time staff had to spend dealing with HR matters – and included new areas to support employees and managers, such as new working arrangements.

At the beginning of the six-month project, three working groups comprising staff of all levels – including front-line support workers, line management and more senior levels of staff – were set up across the UK in Watford, Glasgow and Cardiff. After putting a new set of policies together based on best practice and input from employees across the charity, we held a series of engagement sessions with these groups to discuss the issues staff had with the existing policies, potential areas for improvement and how employees felt they could be better supported.

The project also invited feedback from across the charity by uploading the new policies onto the charity’s intranet, The Loop, which enabled all employees to review and make any suggestions. Finally, we conducted several Q&A sessions throughout the process to allow staff to voice their opinions.

Creating the policies and procedures to meet the challenges

Drawing on our health sector experience and feedback from staff, we were able to reduce the final set of policies down to 29 from the original 35 and put a standard template in place to ensure the scope of each policy was clear and consistent. Previously, employees had to trawl through large amounts of information in several policies to deal with an issue, but by making this process simpler, the HR burden for staff will be reduced, freeing up more time to focus on their day-to-day roles.

Working arrangements is one specific example, soon to be launched. The charity previously had a number of policies and procedures that discussed several different types of arrangement, such as secondments, employment status, part-time working and agency workers, and it was quite confusing for managers and other staff looking for the right working patterns. To simplify things and reduce the time spent reviewing cases, a single ‘Working Arrangements’ policy was created to form a toolkit for managers.

The primarily objective of this was to enable them to consult the toolkit and ensure that the most suitable employment options, and their accompanying benefits were evaluated when considering new role or service area vacancies.

Separately, the existing investigations policies – used to provide guidance on allegations against members of staff for disciplinary procedures – were also causing staff problems by having to switch between two different policies to solve an issue. From the staff feedback, we were able to remove the investigations policy altogether and simply include it as guidance in the appendices of the relevant policies and procedures.

While many organisations are looking to transform their HR service to address the challenges they face, many overlook the benefits of involving staff throughout the process. Across a national organisation, this approach not only improves the bond with employees, but means each small problem and solution can often be identified much quicker, enabling a more efficient and supportive service to be introduced in a timely manner. 

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Sally Campbell

Director

Read more from Sally Campbell
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