Editors Note: This is a guest post by Nick Hedges. His opinions are his own.
I recently shared a post about some common scenarios and situations often confronting SMEs with typically up to 150 employees who don’t have an in-house HR specialist to deal with situations that arise with employees in the workplace.
As a follow up, here are 3 more common scenarios where an external HR specialist can help your business to overcome unnecessary workplace obstacles:
1. Terminating employment
In the workplace setting, employees can form strong relationships and when it comes time to terminate employment, it can be difficult to manage and sometimes frightening. The incidents leading to the termination can also be of a difficult nature, from poor performance and misconduct to theft or abuse. It is in these times when appropriate procedures and effective communication is most important to avoid an unfair dismissal claim.
Situation: There once was a business owner who wanted to fire an employee. He had been watching The Apprentice with (President elect!) Donald Trump and the business owner was eager to try out a “You’re fired” instead of an official termination process. His wife suggested he meet with an HR consultant. It may sound like a joke but it’s true!
HR Solution: The business owner rang the HR consultant and explained the situation. The owner was provided with all necessary documentation, including appropriate letters and also undertook a procedurally fair process for the employee to take part in regarding their underperformance. The consultant held the hand of the business owner and was shown through the termination process in line with the legislative and standard practices that would be expected. Furthermore, the business owner was coached through the termination process to enable a smooth and agreeable outcome.
Result: The business owner didn’t get his “You’re fired” moment but the termination process was smooth, with a relieved employer, an understanding employee and more importantly a claim free outcome. All parties ended up parting on good terms which as an added bonus left the business with some good employer branding as well.
In a business, management often has a required approach for employees to undertake as part of their role in the course of their duties, but all too often employees lose touch with the specific requirements or simply forget. Training can be tailored to specific tasks within specific roles and even to individual organisations. Training can assist with processes and productivity as well as to meet legislative compliance.
Situation: An organisation with 60 employees had an increasingly high management turnover and it was affecting all of the staff as there was no consistency and systems were gradually changing.
HR Solution: Formal systems and process were reinstated within the business by an outsourced HR consultancy. After a thorough evaluation, it was determined that a poor workplace culture was permeating throughout the business due to lack of defined systems and poor communication. The lack of communication was having an impact on employee interaction which led to poor efficiency and outputs. The process at times was being ‘stifled’. Management and staff were developed and trained to communicate more effectively and develop a culture that enabled staff to be more transparent and trust each other more readily.
Result: Turnover has reduced dramatically within the business. With a steady workforce who are all well-trained, the organisation has good productivity and employee morale is high. The atmosphere within the workplace has also improved. As an interesting point personal sick days reduced after HR assisted with the solution.
3. Lending an ear
Sometimes, in business, just like in life, the cross over between one’s personal and professional world are intermingled. Particularly in small business, the relationships we hold can become quite personal due to the deeper bonds that we form with one another. This is not uncommon, and bosses can be seen as friends and confidantes.
Situation: There was a business owner who approached the HR consultant due to one of the employees suffering from some issues in their domestic life. Naturally and inevitably the personal issues were impacting on the employees ability to undertake work and whilst in the workplace struggled to concentrate and fulfil their responsibilities effectively and to the required standards. The business owner decided to call in for back up and called an HR consultant.
HR solution: Essentially there were 2 issues at play, one was the employee’s personal situation which was causing them grief, anxiety and hardship at a personal level and clearly impacting their ability to work and the other was their inability to function at work. Rather than go down the disciplinary road and commence a formal process with the employee, the main goal was to get the employees mental state in a position where they could function again effectively and get back to full capacity. The consultant provided a number of options to the business owner for the employee to approach. Such solutions involved counselling, medical treatment, time away from the workplace, legal advice and flexibility with their work hours.
Result: The employee was most grateful for the employers understanding, empathy and compassion. In the short term other members of the team had to step up, but in the medium to longer term the employee felt a higher sense of engagement and responsibility to the team and the business. The business owner also has a stronger bond with the employee affected and the wider team as they also realise that the business was seen as a human being and not a ‘bottom line’ commercial brute. The workplace also in general became a happier place due to the feeling of team and camaraderie between the individuals.
Whilst most business owners and managers can effectively deal with most day to day situations with their staff, there are times when situations can get difficult to handle. Many business owners are comforted to know that they don’t always need a full-time in-house HR person or department. If necessary, businesses can always reach out to an outsourced HR consultancy to help them overcome obstacles and move their business forward successfully with a positive, cohesive and productive workforce.
Nick Hedges is the founder of Resolve HR, a Sydney-based HR consultancy specialising in providing workplace advice to managers and business owners.