HR processes – do something less boring instead

I came across a piece of HR advice recently that made me quite cross.  It was the sort of risk adverse, process for the sake of it stuff that gives HR a bad name.  Essentially, someone was advocating getting all your key employment policies signed by your employees.  I mean why?  There are so many reasons not to do this I barely know where to start, but I will have a go.  Firstly, you will have to do it again every time you change them unless you want the original to be worthless.  Secondly, some poor sod in HR will have to chase for every unsigned copy, and the chances are that if you ever need to rely on the document it will the one person that never returned it that you have an issue with.  This puts you in a worse position than if you had just sent it to them with the contract of employment and left them to read it or recycle it. 

And more important IT IS NOT NECESSARY!  Sorry to shout.  As long as your policies are well communicated (such as in your induction etc.) and easily available (intranet?) then this will be fine.   Your employment policies should be living, breathing documents that are regularly reviewed and updated, making this sort of suggestion nothing short of a full time job.  I just think that HR could be doing better things. 

We have a rule in our HR services team.  We only have a HR process if it meets one of the following tests:

  1. There is a legal requirement for it
  2. There is a sound and sensible reason for it such as reducing risk, or meeting a standard
  3. It adds real value
  4. We do something with the output (filing it doesn’t necessarily count unless it also meets numbers 1, 2 or 3)

This has led me to refuse to do all manner of things.  Exit interviews were a good example.  We spent years collating information via lengthy telephone interview about why people were leaving (at which nearly everyone said ‘personal betterment’ or some other such vague and useless statement).  Results got put into a spreadsheet that no one ever reviewed.  Queue – process consigned to dustbin. 

So, things to keep; contracts of employment, signed variations to terms and conditions, training records.  Examples of things to stop; signing documents that don’t need to be signed; collation of information that no one uses to inform decision making or make changes; things that you file ‘just in case’ unless you really think you are going to use it in the future.

So, here is my suggestion for keeping yourself sane with your HR processes.  Get a willing volunteer to go through and list every life-cycle process you undertake in your HR team and every piece of paper you produce and send out to your employees.   You will easily find a volunteer as it will make their life a whole lot easier in the long run.   Apply the rules above and be ruthless. If you are not sure whether people use your outputs just stop doing them and see if anyone notices (its been two years so far with one process I stopped).     And then see what you can do to add more value with the time it gives you back.

2 thoughts on “HR processes – do something less boring instead

  1. Out HR dept are amazing but here is my possibley contraverial view. So many HR policies amount to lectures and show profound distrust of employees – many, like expenses policies that rambles on for pages and has soany caveats could be summarised as ‘do the right thing for your company’. Holiday entitlement policy and the vast and costly means of booking and tracking it is usually unnecessary as employees not on shifts but committed to the organisation could easily regulate their own and balance it with their work objectives, it can be left up to them how much they take. If an employee is not committed to an organisation, it’s not the holiday policy that will uncover it. A major rethink of HR policy, not on the basis of them being updated, but on whether they are are needed can if properly measured both save huge costs and inspire previously un imagined levels of mutural trust and commitment from employees – ask Netflix for one.

    • Hi Paul. I agree with some of your points- especialy the one about the HR team being amazing 🙂 Netflix are interesting in terms of their policies (for those not in the know, they have no holiday days in the contract – you take what you want, and some of their policies such as Gifts and Hospitality tell you just to be sensible – no lengthy document). But, there is a big difference – they operate in a different employment law regime. They also (I understand) only tolerate excellent performance and non performers are invited to leave. Therefore, I would argue that there is a different type of potential issue (knowing nothing about what their employees think at all). You might have trust from your employer to run your own holidays, but you equally might get the DCM (don’t come Monday) talk if your performance slips. That might limit how many days off you take! It is interesting though and we can learn from it – but I’m not sure many organisations are culturally ready yet to take this leap, or the UK employment law would work with this kind of loose approach either. It takes a brave employer though to take this on. One of the reasons most employers have such long policies is trying to cover every eventuality in the event of a claim to the employment tribunal. I have seen many times in my HR career how one word, phrase or paragraph can get analysed to death when determining whether an employer is in the right or wrong. This can lead to an overly risk adverse approach and a desire to document every possibility. That said, we managed to get our social media policy down to eight bullet points, which is a start.
      Thanks for the comments, you have got me thinking………
      Apologies to Netflix if I have got anything wrong – largely working on hearsay here.

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