HR Policies - How much is too much?

HR Policies - How much is too much?

  • Date: Monday 29th February 2016

Reading an article by Lucy Adams (former senior HR professional at the BBC) made me reflect on the past year of HR reviews and the general approach many organisations seem to take when it comes to HR policies and procedures.

In her article, Lucy refers to 3 main principles to consider when managing people:

·  we need to treat our people like adults;

·  we need to think of them as customers; and

·  we need to engage with them as human beings.

I wholeheartedly agree with her opinion that most organisations are nowadays neglecting these three principles in favour of rules and regulations.

But why is it that people are scared to talk to people?

One year on, our Employment Law and HR ADVISOR services has helped a number of organisations with the development and implementation of contracts, handbooks, policies and procedures.  If there is a common theme that has emerged from talking to our customers, it certainly is fear of the unknown.

Let’s be honest: the only employment law stories we hear about are the outrageous ones that make the news. How often do we hear about disputes being resolved by having honest conversations, or successful consultation periods during times of change?  We don’t. We hear about companies being taken to employment tribunals and employees being given horrendous awards for issues that escalated out of trivial situations. We hear about yet another Employment Rights related Act being improved, adding complexity to the way we manage our businesses. No wonder SMEs feel confused and threatened and seek refuge behind policies and procedures, hoping to cover every eventuality.

However, the issue with going overboard on policies is: we all deal with people. People don’t usually like to be told what to do, so reading through a pile of rules and procedures during their induction does not set the scene for a successful employment relationship. Clearly, setting guidelines is important. But do we risk alienating the majority of our well-meaning workforce for fear of not covering our backs against the few who like to exploit?

It has been great speaking to so many of our customers about employee relations, the way they deal with people issues and to make them realise that at the very base of a successful working relationship sits exactly that: a relationship!

In a world that becomes more complex, and where case-law sometimes makes us question our interpretation of legislation, it is vitally important that employers take things back to basics:

-       Implement a solid, basic procedure pack.

o    Convoluted policies with plenty of legal speak usually don’t help, they confuse. Too many businesses operate an employee handbook that is not actually being given out and too big to read or understand. Scale things back, make rules clear, ensure that anything you implement reflects reality and is updated regularly and then follow your rules to the letter when enforcing them.

-       Nip issues in the bud.

o    Because if you ignore the little things, they can turn into big issues quite quickly. Get help or advice if you’re unsure about how to approach the situation. But not addressing challenges is not an option.

-       Keep it real.

o    Being open and honest and opening up a little will make people trust you and more willing to engage in times of conflict. 

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