Inverting the pyramid

Many years ago, when I gained promotion to my first management job, I thought it was a case of telling people what to do and making sure the numbers added up.  Pretty soon I was swamped with insecure staff asking my advice, poor performing staff taking up 80% of my time, high staff turnover etc. etc…………. It was all so confusing; if they just did the job the way I used to it would be fine.  After all, I had been promoted on the basis of my performance.  
Outside of work, I had been forced to take professional advice on some personal issues, which resolved most of my problems by downsizing my ego and reducing my own sense of importance.  A great friend and mentor of mine (having listened to a couple of hour of my whinging) recommended that  I apply the same principles to management and passed on a technique for doing this.  He suggested that when I was commuting to work in the morning, I visualised my role as being at the bottom of the pile and that my function was to enable staff to achieve their potential – not get them to do everything my way.  He also suggested that I learn to not react immediately – because my instincts were clearly not working at the moment – so I needed a few minutes to think things through rather than “wing it”.  
 
Those of you who know me will recognise how hard I found it to take that advice!
 
By taking this route I discovered the most powerful question I could ask when I was being asked for advice was “What would you do about this then?” I also found that if I received the answer “I don’t know that’s why I’m asking you” the best response was to give them my advice and ask them to complete some other task for me that I had been unable to finish.  This avoided the problem of making people think they couldn’t come to me with problems but they didn’t bother me with trivia. 
 
The results were immediate and made my life substantially more satisfying.  I also found that by giving all the credit for work well done to my staff, they seemed to enjoy the experience much more as well. 
 
The other point was that I also had to learn that no technique would work for every member of staff, so I had to adapt my approach to the personality in front of me. Not all of my staff were natural problem solvers, but give them a piece of detailed work to do with clear instructions and they could plough through work and get it right first time, you just couldn’t rely on them to solve any problems.
 
I can’t say I managed to maintain this behaviour as much as I should, but I managed to do it enough to realise it was a goal worth working for.  So, with a certain smugness I starting passing on this new “wisdom” only to find that John Timpson’s excellent book “Upside Down Management” was already doing so in a far more eloquent way. 
 
Sometimes my ego is my worst enemy!

Not right for the job

What do you do when you are talking to a manager about how you can help them do their job better and they spend 80 minutes of a 90 minute meeting in tears?
Clearly the opportunity to help them do their job is limited as in between the snuffles and sobs they tell you that everything is OK and in fact it’s getting better. Really, so how do you behave when things are really bad?
Well some people are just in the wrong job and for whatever reason they will not accept this. At this point the Directors have to take a hard decision. Problem is that if you are in one of the public sector arenas you have been tied down by endless procedures and policies that just prolong the torture. Plus if you go down the procedural route it’s quite likely that the manager will get combative and you not only have a performance problem, you also have a growing antagonism between the directors and their manager, not good for the organisation or for the rest of the staff.
Whenever I post something like this on Social media I am usually met with the response that  you can avoid problems like this by always treating people with respect, agreeing an “action plan”, reviewing it on a weekly basis, giving the person achievable targets and getting their “buy in” to the solutions orientated process that has been set up. All very well as long as you’re happy to ignore the staff that have to fill in for the underperforming manager while you go through this process – who are becoming increasingly frustrated by your lack of care for their predicament.
Getting the manager’s cooperation in working towards an “action plan” can be a good way to deal with things when the manager takes up the position; but most of the time we are brought in long after things have gone wrong. If you want to make an analogy, it’s a good idea to teach people how to swim when they are in a training pool and supported, if you see them drowning you don’t spend time coaching them, you pull them out of the water.
So in short as a director or senior manager you have to think of all your staff when dealing with issues not just the one who is having a problem, which sometimes means making hard decisions.

Taylor Report: Sorting out the mess

Initially the idea of the Taylor report was to address issues found in the “gig” economy, where staff were not employees but took on work on an as and when basis. However, in a development that surprised no-one, some of the recommendations affect all employees.  
Back in the good old days when trains ran on time and kids played football in the streets, life was simple.  You were either an employee or you weren’t (with the exception of casuals who did work as and when they were needed).  Then for reasons that are not clear we deemed it necessary to create a new category called a “worker”.  Ever since then law firms have made a decent living arguing over the minutiae of employment status. 
Now in a change that could well have virtually no impact other than a corrective one, these “workers” are to be called “dependent contractors”.  As far as I can see the only effect of this is that some poor soul will have to go through the whole of employment legislation and change the word “worker” to “dependent contractor”. 
 However, in a development that surprised no-one, some of the recommendations affect all employees and therefore all of our clients.  
 The main changes will be: 

  1. Written contracts of employment are expected to include a description of the statutory rights they are entitled to (I look forward to the contract for a male worker which includes  the right to a risk assessment if he becomes pregnant!)
  2. Contracts should be issued on day one of employment or employers could face a claim for compensation.
  3. “Workers” to be treated as employees for tax purposes and provided with contracts on day one.
  4. The definition of “dependent contractor” to include more self-employed people.  I have no doubt this will have a major effect on the construction industry.
  5. Changes to the current situation where the right to send a substitute to do the work is a determining factor on whether somebody has “worker” rights
  6. Holiday pay to be “rolled up” i.e. paid as it is accrued.  It is not clear which who this will apply to, but presumably it will include casuals and dependent contractors. This will certainly make life easier for some of our clients.
  7. Zero hours’ workers to request regular hours after 12 months.  Most of you will know I am no fan of zero hours’ contracts; rather than manage staff effectively, employers simply stop offering work, with the result that a constant stream of ineffective staff flow through the organisation.

The effect of this report will very much depend on what the government decides to do with it.  As our government is quite preoccupied with other issues at the moment, it is not certain that the recommendations will be put into practice in the near future, but it is better to be aware of what may be coming down the line.   
Meanwhile if you have people working for you who have not been given a contract of employment contact us on 0161 850 1122 and we will help you get ahead of the queue on this issue. 

Doing The Right Thing

Sickness absence is one of the most frequent problems we deal with at KHES.  In particular, the employee that says they are unable to work because of stress or depression.
One of the key worries of our clients is that the employee is just “pulling a sickie”.  
I used to manage a group of legal advisors and there were three staff who had a lot of time off for depression or stress related issues. When I took over the department the situation had been going on for nearly 2 years. 
As stress and depression are often self-diagnosed I decided to book each one of them in for a medical assessment with a clinical psychologist.  
The first person was felt to be suffering because he had recently lost 2 close members of his family.  The psychologist recommended a course of counselling and a programme of gradual return to work.  The process was successful and after 6 months we had an effective member of staff who was happily handling a heavy workload.  
The second person immediately refused and claimed that we were treating him unfairly.  In truth, I suspect he was worried that an expert would see through his depression, so he left before he was pushed.  The claim of unfair treatment went nowhere. 
That just left the third person, who returned to work as soon as the second person resigned. We found out that she was only off sick because she was constantly having to cover for the second person, but didn’t want to subject herself to a medical examination. 
The net effect was that we got 2 members of staff back in work and contributing to the company and got rid of the member of staff who was unwilling to address his high absenteeism. 
The lesson in this is that the system works well for employees who have a genuine illness and ensures they are taken seriously and not discriminated against.  From the company’s point of view, it also works just as well for those employees who are “swinging the lead” who discover that their claims of illness will be thoroughly investigated.

Flexible Working Boon or Curse

It all depends, but to steal a quote “I’ll tell you a story”.  
I was managing an employment law helpline when we offered a job to a woman who came highly recommended from a competitor.  We had done it all properly, issued letters with salary details, start date and everything when she phoned me to apologise and say she couldn’t take the offer as she had just found out she was pregnant.  
Two things to remember here.
1.     I did not know this woman
2.     She was an experienced employment law adviser
 
Quite apart from the fact that it was a large department and I had no problem covering maternity leave, I do feel that women suffer disproportionately in the workforce because of their role as a mother.   It would be a very stupid employment law expert who withdrew the offer of employment on the grounds that the employee was pregnant.  
She joined us and it immediately became clear her offer not to join us was genuine and she was both professional and reliable.  Her concern had been that she was expecting twins and wasn’t sure how she would cope after the birth. In addition, when the children were born it became clear that they had some health problems and this added to the challenges she was facing.  We discussed what work she was able to do, because by then we knew we had a fantastic employee on our books and we didn’t want to lose her. 
In the end, we agreed she could come in during the afternoon and work until early evening.  The effect was amazing. When the rest of the helpdesk were low on energy and motivation after several hours on the phones, she came in at about 3pm and mopped up all the outstanding jobs that had been left on one side.  Giving helpline advice for 8 hours a day is a pretty stressful job so she gave a lift to the entire workforce. 
Now I know that there are many unsuccessful examples of flexible working arrangements but I would argue that properly arranged it can be a positive experience in most environments, especially the service sector. 
 
This coupled with the increasingly compelling evidence that part-time workers are more productive than their full-time colleagues makes giving it a try well worth the risk. 
One other factor that convinced me of its value; the staff turnover for full time traditional employees was significantly higher than for staff who worked part time or flexibly.  At a cost of approximately £3000 for each recruitment exercise, that can save a lot of money whilst keeping skilled staff on board. 

EMPLOYING OVERSEAS WORKERS.

How do you make sure that job applicants have the right to work in the UK? This can be a confusing subject and the official Home Office guidelines use some strange terminology so I have tried to give you the basics in a straightforward way.

As an employer you are obliged to check, before you take someone on, that they are entitled to work here. If you don’t do this, and retain evidence of what you checked and when, you can end up being fined up to £20,000 or even imprisoned. Make sure that whatever you do is done routinely to all applicants to avoid any allegations of discrimination.
The best way to do this is to ask everyone who is invited to an interview to bring their passport and birth certificate with them. Have a look at their documents-you MUST see the originals and do so in their presence. If they were born in the UK, just photocopy the birth certificate-as long as it’s a full one, not the short version-and keep it on file if you employ them, destroy it if you don’t.

If they were not born in the UK, but hold a passport from any European Economic Area (EEA) country then they have a right to live and work here. If you decide to employ them you don’t need to do any follow up checks but you must retain a clear copy of what you saw when they started.

If they are from a country outside the EEA have a look inside their passport as any stamp (the Home Office call them ‘vignettes’) or visa’s/ letters which give permission for them to work here may be inside it. Also ask to see their Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) which contains all the necessary information. The BRP started being rolled out in April 2015 and should have been issued to everyone entitled to hold them by July but we understand this may not yet have happened. If they cannot provide any evidence that they can work here you are taking a serious risk if you employ them. Once you employ them you need to check their documents annually.

If you see and retain a copy of evidence of the right to work here and do the necessary follow up checks, you have what is a called a ‘statutory excuse against a civil penalty’ if they do turn out to be here illegally. Check the documents carefully but you are not expected to go beyond that –some forgeries can be very clever.

The Home Office offer a document checking service if you have any concerns. You can get more details from their web site where you will find ‘An employers’ guide to right to work checks’ which is detailed and comprehensive along with other useful guidance documents. There are also online interactive tools to help you understand what documents are valid depending where an applicant is from.

If you want advice on getting a safe recruitment procedure set up please give us a call on 0161 850 1122

Reference checking

One of the services we offer here at KHES is reference checking. Reference checking can be a time consuming and difficult process for an employer. The level of information you require will vary depending on the role you are recruiting for, but some of the areas you may want to know about are given below. The most important areas are to confirm are that the candidate was employed when they said they were and that the sickness absence does not indicate problems ahead.

  • Job title
  • Employment history – e.g. roles undertaken
  • Length of employment
  • Qualifications
  • Experience
  • Salary
  • Capability in current role
  • Any training/qualifications received
  • Sickness absence record
  • Disciplinary record
  • Reasons for leaving
  •  Would you re-employ

Who should I be contacting for a reference?

  • Current employer
  • Previous employers (last 5 years normally)
  • College/university/school
  • Friend/colleague (character reference only)

At what point should references be requested?

Employers must remember that seeking references before you make a formal job offer, can cause problems if their current employer is unaware of their wish to leave. Therefore it is essential to ensure you obtain the candidate’s permission before contacting referees.

What can I expect?

Except in the financial service industries companies are under no obligation to provide a reference and many now adopt a policy of providing very limited information. This is often limited to how long the person was employed by the organisation and role undertaken.   While a glowing reference can seem very impressive it is not always an accurate indication of how the candidate will fit into your organisation and may actually reflect how much they want the person to leave!

TUPE. The revised 2006 Regulations and the new 2014 Regulations which came into force on the 31st January 2014.

Sometimes we have no choice other than to get all formal and legal and this is one of those times. The law has changed and you need to know about it so that you will be able to decide whether it applies to you or not. If you think it does, then get some advice because it is a complex area which we are happy to help you with. There are massive text books on this subject alone so we can’t possibly cover it all in a short article but we have tried to outline what the law says, how it has changed and what to look out for so that you know what questions to ask.

Some of you will have heard about TUPE and had experience of it, but for those who haven’t it means ‘Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment)’.

In broad terms the purpose of this legislation is to preserve the continuity and terms and conditions of employment for employees who transfer to a new employer when a ‘relevant transfer’ takes place.

This can happen when a business or undertaking, or part of one, is transferred from one employer to another as a going concern (often known as a ‘business transfer’) and can include situations where 2 companies cease to exist and combine to form a new 3rd company. The identity of the employer must change for this to be deemed a ‘relevant transfer’.

This law also covers situations where work is contracted out or where the contracted work is reassigned to another contractor or is brought back ‘in house’. This is called a ‘Service Provision Change’.

These 2 categories are not mutually exclusive. It often happens that a transfer is both a ‘business transfer’ and a ‘service provision change’, particularly when work is being outsourced.

For TUPE to apply the activities carried out before and after the transfer must be more or less the same and must be carried out by an ‘organised grouping of employees situated in Great Britain which has as its principle purpose the carrying out of the activities concerned on behalf of the client’. That grouping may be a small as 1 person employed by a contractor, as is often the case with cleaning small business premises.

Unfortunately there are a lot of grey areas in this legislation which means that some of the terms used in it do not have a clear definition and can only be decided by a Judge. The new law hasn’t really helped with that I’m afraid and in fact, not that much has changed in practice as most of what

is now included in the legislation was happening anyway because case law had padded out what was a very brief piece of legislation when it was first introduced.

So what has changed?

It has been clarified that where a Service Provision Change has taken place, the activities carried out before and after the change must be fundamentally the same. So, for example, if you tender for a contract that used to provide cleaning services to a block of offices, TUPE will only apply if you are contracted to provide cleaning services. You will then have to follow the procedures laid down to take on the staff and maintain their terms and conditions of employment.

It has always been the case that you could not make changes to employees’ contracts, or dismiss anyone who has TUPE’d in to you if your reasons are related to the transfer of undertaking. This has been clarified a little and now says that contracts cannot be changed if the changes are solely or principally because of the transfer. However, you can still make changes where the sole or principal reason for the change is an economical, technical or organisational reason entailing changes in the workforce. Let’s say you make a particular type of door and your main competition is in the same county and they offer to sell their business to you because it’s not their core product. You have up to date computer controlled equipment and they don’t so their process has required more staff to make fewer doors than yours does and you don’t need their staff and yours to double production. So you have to take on all their staff but you can then look at making some of the now joint workforce redundant for technical (more advanced production methods), economical (economies of scale) and organisational ( you don’t need as many people in some jobs, some jobs don’t need to be done and there are new roles too) reasons. What you can’t do is only select those who have transferred to you or that would be solely or principally because of the transfer and as such, unlawful. Remember you still need to follow a fair and legally compliant redundancy process. Changes which seek to align terms and conditions between existing staff and transferred staff would be unlawful as they are solely because of the transfer.

It may be that the transferred staff need to move to their new employers premises to continue working and so the law now says that a change to the location of the work is now covered by the phrase ‘entailing changes in the workforce’ and can be done without anyone saying it is solely because of the transfer. Of course, staff can choose not to transfer and if they do so they will be deemed to have resigned. However, if the change of location is major and makes it too difficult or expensive for an employee to transfer then they may claim constructive dismissal and if the tribunal deem that the changes constituted a ‘substantial change in working conditions’ and the employer is found to have acted unreasonably, they may win.

If more than a year has passed since the transfer and the employer needs to vary terms of the contracts of employment that were incorporated from collective agreements they can do so as long as the employees are no worse off overall.

There is a new provision that in some circumstances, rights to terms and conditions provided for in collective agreements which were entered into after the date of the transfer do not transfer. This is so that preferential changes to contracts which would have to be honoured by the new employer cannot be made to give the transferring staff an advantage that they would not have had but for the transfer. I have seen additional holiday added in, company sick pay provisions, pay rises etc. Such changes do not normally have to be matched by the new employer.

If you are what the legislation terms a ‘micro business’ with 10 or less employees you will not have to elect representatives to carry out your statutory duty to ‘inform and consult’ the staff who will be affected by the transfer but can do so directly by treating each employee as a representative for themselves. This duty to inform and consult involves making sure everyone knows what is happening ,and when, as soon as you know, along with any measures you expect the new employer to take including possible redundancies.

There is a legal requirement for the existing employer (the transferor) to provide the new employer (the transferee) with relevant information about the business and its staff. This is commonly known as NELI which stands for Notification of Employee Liability Information and includes all the details of the contracts of employment, employees details, any collective agreements, records of disciplinary action taken and grievances raised, details of any legal action taken by an employee in the 2 years prior to the transfer and any legal action that the transferor believes may subsequently arise. The deadline for providing this to the transferee used to be 14 days before the actual transfer but has now been increased to 28 days. This will give the transferee more time to check the data provided and have a better understanding of what they will be taking on should they proceed with the planned transaction. If the transferor fails to comply with this requirement and does not provide the information the transferee can take them to a Tribunal and may be awarded compensation of at least £500 per employee unless the Tribunal thinks this would be unjust if, for example, an honest mistake had been made rather than deliberately withholding information.

There has been an amendment made to the Trade Union and Labour Relations ( Consolidation) Act 1992 so that a transferee can start to consult on proposed collective redundancies (applicable where there are 20 or more staff) before the transfer takes place. The transferor must agree to this happening.

 OTHER THINGS TO BE AWARE OF.

If you are tendering for a contract with the public sector the rules are much the same but be aware that there is separate specific guidance for transfers of admin functions and what to do about pension provision. We can point you to the appropriate Government documents.

It is usual for the transferee to ask for the contract to contain an indemnity to protect them from any losses which would otherwise have been incurred by any wrongdoing by the transferor such as breaches of contract or employment law.

The transferee must make sure they know in advance what their liability relating to pension provision will be as if the transferred employees already have a pension scheme then the transferee will also have to provide one and may have to match some of the provisions including the previous employers’ contributions in some circumstances. This can be a substantial cost and can affect the profitability of a new contract so make sure you look into this well in advance. If the transferee has already had to comply with auto enrolment then the new employees will also have to be enrolled when they transfer.

If the transferor is insolvent there are separate arrangements to assist a new owner who tries to rescue the business which, depending on the circumstances, may mean that not all the debts transfer and some changes to terms and conditions may be allowed if this will keep the business afloat.

CONCLUSION

Well I did warn you! I could go on-and on and on and on but that’s probably enough to be going on with. If you have any questions just give us a call.

Why do I do this for a living?

Managing employment is one of the hardest balancing acts in business. As an employer you want an environment that is productive and happy, but you don’t have the time to take account of everyone’s needs and wants and indeed the employees who are most “needy” are often the least productive.

I well remember a moment about 12 years ago when I had just finished my 3rd year of managing staff when two things stuck me

1)      I liked managing staff

2)      I had to watch that I didn’t get too emotionally involved

Which is unusual because most management appointments are not made because the person is a good manager. They are made because the the candidate is either good at the jobs of the people they manage or they say the right things at interview. What happens then is that the manager  wistfully looks back at their time “on the tools” and wish they could drop this management b*****ks and “get back to some real work”.

Now either the MD of the firm that promoted me was very perceptive or just lucky on this occasion (I respect and like him so I’ll go with the former!). So whilst I still mucked in with the rest of them to do the work if we were short-handed or I felt I needed reminding of what the job was like, what I really enjoyed was watching a team gel and individuals fulfil their potential (my most precious moment was when a (young) grandmother came up to me and said she was so grateful to me for persuading her to do something she didn’t think she was capable of).

I spent years looking at management systems, trying them out and finding them ultimately unfulfilling. I tried the reductive approach and found my naturally sociable nature rebelled against the rigidity of the systems (plus I discovered that any  ”foolproof” system reckoned without the ingenuity of “fools”).

I found that measured bonus schemes made people concentrate on the parts of the job that earned them a bonus to the detriment of the rest of the job. And that bonus schemes trying to cover every aspect of the job became hideously complicated and tied up management in an “industry” of measurements to the exclusion of everything else.

I have tried to “help” people achieve their fullest potential and accommodate their personal lives, only to feel betrayed when they refuse to exhibit what I consider to be the appropriate level of gratitude. (A friend to whom I will be eternally grateful listened attentively to my whinging before telling me to grow a thicker skin!)

What I want to do now is refocus management support away from the personalities of the employees and the systems needed to manage these, and back to the personal qualities of the managers. So that each manager can find their best management approach, suited to their values. That doesn’t mean they don’t have to learn and grow, but we should stop trying to hammer square pegs into round holes. Which is easier and better than trying to guess what employees want according to someone’s political views or simplistic assessments of “human nature”.

I believe that too many “experts” have inserted themselves into the employment relationship. Everything I do is to try to give the relationship back to the most important partners, the employer and the employee. I believe that is the only way to make the relationship positive for both of them. It starts with employers being honest with their staff and employees taking responsibility for their actions.

So if you are sick of experts trying to sell you “sure fire” management techniques and consultants who talk in a language that seems to be meaningless try the following approach

1) Decide what your area of responsibility is meant to achieve

2) Decide what you need from each member of staff to achieve it

3) Tell them what you want from them and where they need to improve

and most of all treat them like adults.

You may be surprised by the results

Is it time to invest in a Human Resources Department?

I’ve just had a discussion with a business in Manchester about when during the growth of a company does it become necessary to think about setting up a Human Resources Department.

Well obviously given what I do, my answer is always going to be on the side of outsourcing but it made me think what are the triggers for making some form of Human Resources department attractive, and why do some companies manage perfectly well without a Human Resources professional on the payroll, and have over 300 employees, and others feel they need one when they get more than 50 staff.

My take on this is as follows:

When an entrepreneur (or anyone else that matter) starts an organisation they personally recruit the staff and have regular day to day contact with them either face to face or over the phone. The staff member and the owner get to know each other pretty well and if they get on, all generally goes according to plan. If it doesn’t go well the employee usually gets another job (most of the time without being dismissed, they just leave.)

This continues as the organisation grows and the driving force behind the organisation keeps regular contact with the staff, communicating their vision to the employees, who either buy into this or not.

In my experience it doesn’t matter whether the driving force is a skilled motivator, who keeps staff involved and makes them feel included and loved, or a martinet who barks out instructions and expects them to be obeyed. In most cases the staff either stay, and just get on with it, or leave. So the nature of the driving force determines the type of employee they get. What surprises some HR professionals is that there are people out there who prefer to work for a Genghis Khan type of character, rather than an inclusive charming motivator.

So far so good, but when the organisation develops further and gets above a certain size, the driving force no longer has direct contact with each employee and has to employ managers to do that for them. This means that the vision the entrepreneur has is no longer directly passed on to the staff, but filtered through a third party. The point at which this occurs differs depending on a number of factors:

1)      The ability of the driving force to spread themselves thinly

2)      The structure of the organisation (i.e. is it multisite or single location)

3)      The complexity of the tasks the organisation undertakes

4)      The influence outside bodies have on how the organisation functions

Each of these factors is worthy of discussion on their own but for now the point is that all organisations reach this point in their own time.

Once this happens it is the appointment of managers which can be the key. If the people who are appointed to management positions have management and administration skills rather than just being good at the job they do, and their style of management matches or at least compliments the driving force’s style. Things tend to move ahead remarkably well.

If any of these factors aren’t properly established then the organisation starts to fracture and not be properly focussed. This is when people start asking for a Human Resources department to bring things together into a coherent and consistent management style, and to cover all the administration work that is required both in law and to keep the business ticking over. The first steps are then taken to getting an HR manager. Often the person given this job is the P.A. to the driving force because she (and it usually is a she), has the most in depth knowledge of what the driving force wants and is usually an effective administrator. The problem with this is that sooner or later the P.A. gets bogged down with HR management work and is no longer able to fulfil the functions that she originally had. I would also observe that I have worked with some fantastic P.A.s in my time and the best of them had an attitude of “give to me, and I’ll deal with it”. The problem with this is that it tends to mask the shortcomings of internal managers.

But what if the company approach an HR manager from outside? They may not follow the driving force’s way of doing things, indeed the very fracturing that created the need for an HR manager in the first place is made worse by their appointment. Also in these circumstances, all the HR manager is doing is talking over the functions of the operational manager, weakening their authority and allowing poor performing managers to “dump” jobs they don’t like.

In my view it is for better to recruit the right managers who follow the lead of the driving force, and insist they take responsibility for their management decision.  Then you outsource the technical stuff making sure the provider is fully conversant with the driving force’s style and vision because then if it doesn’t work out you can just cancel the contract and get someone else in. With an HR manager you will have to deal with them as an employee. The problem is you brought them in for just the type of expertise you now need to use on them!

The final point is this, a full time HR professional can cost between £25k and £35k on salary alone (the cost of employing someone is usually calculated as about one and a half times to twice the salary). Then you need to see if they need admin support which can cost an additional £15k to £25k on salary alone, outsourcing a full HR support package will usually cost less than half this amount.

Also as someone once said to me, if you appoint an HR manager and they make a mess of it, you will have to pay the bills. If you outsource it and it doesn’t work you claim off the contractor’s insurance.

I know this is a somewhat contentious view but as someone who has been both the driving force and the person who tried to work against the flow (with the expected consequences on both occasions!), I know an internal HR manager would have made no difference to the final outcome in either case.

What are your experiences of managing HR in your business? How did you resolve the issues raised above? Are you going through this at the moment?

Any comments and opinions would be welcome and you can respond directly by calling me on 07879 551256 or e-mailing kieronh@khes.co.uk