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Giving managers confidence is key to freeing up HR time


In this feature, Claudine McClean, HR Consultant at ConsultST responds to the recently published report which found the majority of HR professionals still find their time consumed with process and paperwork.

This research really underlines much of what we’ve been hearing from both HR and other managers. HR teams feel swamped by the volume of requests they are getting from the line to help with everyday people management issues, leaving them precious little time to focus on making a contribution through the more strategic elements of their roles. Meanwhile line managers face a wide range of challenges everyday. Often they can feel like ‘the meat in the sandwich’ with pressure from above to perform, and from their teams to provide support. Add into that the demand to deliver great HR at the frontline, and it’s not surprising that they can sometimes feel overwhelmed.

ConsultST have looked at the problems faced by managers, employees and HR functions and discovered that by making up to the minute, best practice, legally robust processes, help and advice available to managers 24 hours a day organisations can ensure that their employees receive high quality, consistent treatment and that managers have the confidence and information they need to handle situations such as discipline, poor performance and absence management professionally.

Looking just at absence management, the UK economy loses £11.6bn annually to ‘the sickie’, and in more immediate terms the CBI calculate that businesses carry an extra overhead of close to £500 for everyone they employ to cover annual sickness absence. Short term absence – the odd day here and there – makes up 95% of the UK absences. This figure isn’t spread evenly, it seems the bigger the organisation, the more days sick employees take.
When employers polled by the Financial Times believe that around 30% of the time claimed by employees as sick leave is spent ‘playing hooky’, there’s clear business benefit in tackling the problem.

“Organisations should not just go through the motions with absence management, there needs to be senior-level commitment to sorting out the problem,” says Clare Hinkley, Human Resources Policy Adviser at the CBI. “Employees need to know that if they are off work there will be consequences, but policies have got to be carried out fairly in all areas.” Yet in recent Personnel Today research 73% of line managers were rated less than good at addressing this issue, and many simply don’t understand how they can make a positive difference.

Giving managers the skills, tools and confidence they need to tackle absence management not only reduces absence levels, but can increase motivation and commitment across the business.

In working HR teams to understand how line managers interpret and apply their policies, procedures and processes, we found that much of what was available at the frontline was ambiguous, confusing or just plain wrong. Managers need easy route paths and plain English style advice to gain the confidence they need to tackle tough HR issues at the frontline and are then happy to spend time understanding what to do and learning how to avoid getting into difficulties in the future.


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