A change worth making?

There have been plenty of HR related headlines of late in the mainstream press. In the last week or so there has been the Amazon expose into their alleged awful culture. Dubious practices from restaurant chains relating to the deduction of tips from their waiting staff have been all over social media. And we have seen the predictable indignation about proposed employment law changes, this time relating to the impact of the living wage on care homes, making breakfast television.

Many of these headlines are not news to those of us involved in people stuff. Unite for example have been campaigning for some time against restaurant chain Pizza Express and their practice of deducting an admin percentage for tips paid for by credit card. There has been previous publicity about the scientific managementesque working practices at Amazon’s distribution operations. And as I have blogged before, when any  employment law change provides new rights or benefits to employees, there is usually a queue forming to discuss how it will irrevocably damage industry. Only what this often really means is that it is going to impact our profitability. This of course is at the heart of most crappy treatment of employees. Profit before anything else, no matter what the cosy corporate values might suggest.

It used to be said that today’s newspaper stories were tomorrow’s fish and chip wrappings. In our social world, it doesn’t even take that long before we have moved on to the next tweet, the next blog post, the next subject of online outrage. Timeline gone by.  So whilst the people related headlines may come and quickly go, how does effective, meaningful change occur?

Another often said phrase within HR, is that you get the employee relations that you deserve. This one does still holds true for me. If you treat your people badly, then some of them will leave. Others will respond to their treatment through their absence rate, through the effort they expend (or don’t), or through the comments they make on Glassdoor.

I’d like to think that HR have the solution to these challenges. That we can fulfil our obligation to create better work and better working lives, through our actions and activities in our own particular organisations. But individual HR professionals can only achieve so much.

Where profit is at the heart of how we treat people, maybe impacting profit is our greatest opportunity to make a difference. Our primary ability to influence and impact how employees are treated, might simply be the choices that we make as a consumer. If you don’t like the fact that your regular supermarket doesn’t pay the Living Wage, shop someplace else. If you don’t think restaurants should deduct a share of the tips from their waiting staff, then eat somewhere different instead. Buy your Christmas presents from a company with a better reputation.

I’ve said before that I believe the employee experience flows into the customer experience.  Maybe it is time for the customer to help out the employee in return.

Just a thought.

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