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Get HR ducks in a row for smooth sailing

Avoid poor morale and employee turnover by having effective systems in place

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock these past few weeks, you’ve probably read and heard the various news stories about a local business that’s been absolutely vilified on social media. The post, set up by a former employee, seemed to have poked a hornet’s nest, causing a swarm of comments and support from both former and current employees who are unhappy. In other words, the employer was literally "Facebook Fried."

In spite of a corporate letter stating that harassment in any form would not be tolerated, along with the business contracting an HR consulting firm to deal with the issue, the fire has continued to rage. In fact, former employees are now demanding some form of compensation and assistance for mental distress.

 It’s unfortunate this situation has ended up on the front page and on every local television channel. It seems the former employees felt they had no choice other than to create a social media storm. No matter what, it’s certainly garnered a good deal of attention. At the same time, from a human resource perspective, it clearly demonstrates that workplace behaviour is a critical issue in any and all organizations — not that it wasn’t always important. Now, with social media, employees have a new tool to make their voices and complaints heard.
Most employers can empathize with this public relations nightmare, and we all know it will be hard to recover from this situation. However, while steps have been taken to remove the issue from the public domain, reviving the employee brand will take much more of a strategy and much more time and energy.

The reason is that employees are indeed such an integral part of a business brand. They are the first and last contact for customers. They are the ones who provide the direct service. They are the ones who receive the compliments and they are the ones who receive the complaints. So, if employees are unhappy, this will be reflected in how they treat customers.

In addition, if employees are unhappy, they’ll require a significant amount of perseverance, stamina and emotional control in order to create a happy face in front of customers. Believe me, this effort will result in exhaustion, burnout and, of course, high employee turnover.

Thus, I believe that an employer has a duty to ensure strong and effective human resource management within their organization. This includes putting good systems in place, hiring and training employees, and managing problems as they arise. Employees who have all the tools to do their jobs, enjoy their jobs, feel respected and be productive are a significant benefit to an organization. This is what good human resource practices are all about.

So, how do you go about implementing effective HR systems and creating a high-performing organization culture? The following guidelines will give you a good start.

Create a compelling mission — If you have a mission statement already, review it to determine if it really says what you want. Does it really define your business? Does it define your core values, your ethics and culture? Keep writing and rewriting until it clearly states the purpose of your business and enables staff and customers to quickly understand what you are all about.

Hire for cultural fit — It’s well known that an employee can have all of the technical skills needed for a job, but just not fit in. Therefore, once you have created and communicated a strong set of values, be sure to build culture into your recruitment strategy. Create a set of selection criteria that enables you to select the right type of candidates to help carry your culture forward.

Train, train, train — Training is more than a one-shot deal. Training needs to start right from Day 1 on the job. And any and all employee training needs to teach how to create and implement your organization’s culture. This includes new employee orientation, product/service training, customer service training and management training. Annual training and refreshers are important to keep employees focused on implementing your values in their day-to-day work.

Human resource advice — It’s important to develop a relationship with a human resource professional to provide you with ongoing advice at all stages of your business. This includes setting up your initial HR policies, training leaders on human resource and employee relations issues, and providing ongoing advice when problems arise. Later, once you have more than 100 staff members, it is critically important to hire your own HR manager.

Effective problem solving and decision making — It’s well known that employees don’t just leave their employer, they leave because of managers. Therefore, I strongly believe that managers need to have additional training on how to effectively solve human resource related problems and make timely decisions. This includes conducting a quick assessment of issues, determining and considering multiple options and then making a timely decision. Problems don’t simply go away — they get bigger and more difficult to solve, especially those related to harassment.

Meet regularly — Consistency in how work is carried out is critical for developing a positive work environment. This is done through regular meetings and frequent communication with employees. Keep employees informed on the latest news about your organization, and be sure to inform employees of any upcoming changes so there are no surprises. Help them to speak the corporate line by providing standard statements of response.

Reward and recognition – This doesn’t need to be elaborate; in many cases, a simple day-to-day "thank you" and recognition for work well done will do it. Employees who feel appreciated and respected for their contributions will have a positive attitude, and will transfer this feeling of well-being to their colleagues and customers.

Learn from exit interviews — There will always be some turnover in every business, but if you ask an employee why they were leaving and how things could be improved, you will get some good feedback and advice. Exit interviews are also valuable in terms of identifying issues that may be quietly boiling behind the scenes, so you can rectify them before they grow bigger.

Jump to the pump — I love this phrase! It applies to every business. It means when you hear of a problem, you need to deal with it right away. In fact, in cases of harassment, knowing about a problem and not doing anything is a liability issue. Avoiding controversy and pushing problems aside only causes more problems.

There is no two ways about it: human resource management affects every aspect of your business and provides many spinoff benefits. This includes employee loyalty, strong employee retention rates, personal job satisfaction, team collaboration and co-ordination throughout your organization, open communication between management and employees, and a strong work ethic.

Failing to pay attention to human resource management issues and organization culture can be costly. It will lead to high employee turnover, high levels of absenteeism, increased potential for accidents and work errors, poor morale and lower productivity. None of these issues are good for corporate growth. None of these issues are good for your corporate brand.

So, as we have all learned with the recent public relations nightmare, human resource management is indeed a critical component of business success.

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