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HR Practitioner’s Diary: Standards

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Sue Kingston looks back over her intrepid HR adventures of the last month including rescuing a business from failing its Investors in People reassessment, practical tips on how to manage those World Cup sickies and thoughts on whether HR qualification is all that is needed plus those vital wine, chocolate and boyfriend stats.

Month: April 2006
Seems like we are getting the traditional April showers and the grass is growing too fast to keep up with cutting it! Thankfully my weekly trips to Kent have now ended, the HR task has been completed and I’ve cut the apron strings with my client, which is great timing so that I can work more locally through the summer months and enjoy the long warm evenings. Things have started well so far:

Are we up to Standard?
I’m currently spending three days a week with a company located five minutes drive away from home. Perfect! I can get home for lunch, exercise my dogs and catch up on emails and messages etc.

The company is due its Investors In People re-assessment towards the end of May which has caused quite a headache. It’s full steam ahead at the moment as, since their last assessment in March 2003, the previous HR Manager dropped the ball and has done very little with regards to training and development of the staff since then.

In the last three years not a single appraisal has been carried out at any level i.e. senior managers or general staff! The staff don’t feel particularly valued and it goes without saying that communication is not at its best generally!

I’ve drawn up a project list for the managers and delegated various tasks for them to crack on with, the primary task being appraisals.

Here is where it has been interesting as previously their appraisal forms were anything between three and four pages in length depending on the job role. I have taken these old forms and condensed them down into one page, Personal Performance Reviews (PPR).

This has been well received by the managers as they can see it will save them time primarily, but the focus is much stronger on the actual training and development needs, rather than re-hashing historic negative performances. The whole aim is to make the reviews far more constructive, than destructive and to also lose this image of appraisals being rather foreboding experiences. It’s not often you come across individuals who enjoy ‘appraisals’, but PPR’s just seem to have the desired effect in being a softer, user friendly tool and my experience is that staff do seem to enjoy them.

Given that IIP have again tweaked “The Principles of the Standard” it would seem that there is a stronger focus on being able to evidence the effectiveness of any reviews, training and resulting development.

It has given the Company a great opportunity to get themselves out of a rut and I have been coaching all of the managers on moving towards a more open culture where they encourage empowerment and pro-activity.

What I have observed historically is the managers running around like headless chickens trying to provide solutions to problems. I’ve now had the opportunity to get them to turn it around and get the staff to come up with the solutions to the problems. Already it is proving to be a great benefit and the atmosphere does not seem quite so hectic and stressed! The managers don’t so readily come up with the answers to their staff’s questions, but instead get their staff to work out what the answers are, then actioning them to get the desired result. Everyone seems happy so far, so we’ll see how the IIP re-assessment goes.

Tied to the stake (whether you like it or not)!
I’ve put a proposal in to another local company who need a total HR audit on their contracts, handbook, policies, procedures and training etc. If I’m successful it will be a pleasant challenge to fill a couple of months.

It was interesting having the initial discussions with them and carrying out the basic research I needed in order to put an appropriate proposal together.

Besides not having revised their HR structure and policies for eight years, they have seriously missed the deadline for the introduction of Stakeholder Pensions and don’t have one in place at all!

I have advised them that failure to do so could result in a fine of up to £50,000 and, thankfully, they now have this at the top of their priority to do list.

It would seem that there are still many companies who do not realise the legal requirements for employers to offer Stakeholder pension facilities to all staff. I’m not quite sure whether they believe they are exempt for some strange reason or have simply ignored the fact and chosen to take a risk!

The website for the Welfare and Pensions Reform Act gives clear information for anyone who wants to find out more about the requirements and the exemptions.

World Cup ‘sickies’
With the forthcoming World Cup, businesses are being advised to be as flexible as possible with their staff to accommodate for any time taken off during the tournament. Considerations include:

  • Providing flexible working hours during the tournament.
  • Reminding staff of leave policies.
  • Setting up a first come, first served leave system.
  • Allowing televisions/radios into the workplace, perhaps set up a TV room and provide rotas for those wishing to follow the tournament.
  • Remembering to purchase a TV licence for the duration!

It would also be timely to remind employees that ‘throwing a sickie’ is a disciplinary offence. Research has shown that as many as one in seven men and one in 20 women may take a ‘sickie’ during the tournament!

What does Sue think about the latest employment tribunal statistics?

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Annie Hayes

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