It’s time to prepare for return to work – Covid-19

It’s time to start getting back to work. We all need it. Thankfully we now have an outline plan to help guide many of us back to work and our economy back to life. These are important milestone steps and we all have a responsibility to manage this unfamiliar transition effectively.

If you are a Business Owner or a Business Leader you will be charged with managing this for your Business. As I see it, there will be two key responsibilities:

1) Ensuring the Health, Safety and Wellbeing of your returning colleagues

2) Allowing your returning employees get on with restarting the Business by letting them get on with their Jobs.

Number 1 should be your primary concern. You will need to focus building employee trust that you will protect them and make the ‘new normal’ safe for them. They will thank you for this effort and will repay you many times over by putting commitment and energy into restarting and reigniting your Business.

So what should you be paying particular attention to right now, in purely practical terms. All of the following as a minimum;

a) Communication. Communicate regularly with all at home affected employees. Communicate with them before the planned return to Business opening date and build on this especially on Day 1 of return. Focus these communications on how they will be protected and kept safe as they get back to their jobs.

b) Have a Plan, but be prepared to share it and refine it regularly based on feedback and input from all affected employees.

c) Build new visual signage that explains the key aspects of the new ‘onsite normal’ working arrangements. Clearly mark and identify hand wash/sanitiser stations, PPE supply stores, new office layouts, etc.

d) Develop clear new and updated procedures around social distancing, canteen seating, break times, work station spacing, face coverings, etc.

e) Upgrade the office or building cleaning schedules. Build in deeper levels of cleaning and more frequent cleaning intervals.

f) Consider the need to develop new shift patterns and schedules also. Be prepared to seek buy-in and support for new role changes and responsibilities. This will be critical in the early stages of Business recovery.

g) Plan to restrict visitors to your work premises to essential services, mainly deliveries.

h) Provide a forum for all employees to ask questions and seek clarification.

i) Allow staff to settle in to the new work model and focus the first return to work day exclusively around effective communication and Q+A support.

j) As the Business Owner or Business Leader be visual and available to all your staff, especially in the early days of return to work.

Finally always remember your key responsibility, the Health, Safety of each member of your staff. If you can earn that trust, your team will focus on rebuilding the Business and making it even better than before. They will I believe do so with greater buy-in, effort, engagement, collaboration and Teamwork. They will know and see you have their best interests at heart.

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Re-Shaping The HR Function

The HR profession continues to evolve, adapt and grow its presence and influence as part of Organisational Business Models. It has shown itself to be a resilient profession, capable of effective adaptability towards its mission to support the Businesses it serves. Its Business contribution is adding value more of the time, justifying its call to be recognised as an equal partner on senior leadership teams. The continual evolution has seen many new trends emerge, the current latest examples focussed on the following:

– A reduced layering within HR Organisations with overall HR team sizes continuing to steadily reduce.

– An increased use of Individual Contributor roles, subject matter experts across HR disciplines.

– An increased level of HR outsourcing, especially within Project & Admin related activities.

– A greater focus on the use of Technology and Data Analytics to support conclusions and recommended solutions. Coupled with this is an increased use of Business-case modelling to engage better with Business Leaders.

– A reduction in the number of HR Generalists roles across the function.

– Deeper centralisation within HR Organisational models, primarily focussed on global policy rollout with local application latitude.

There are many other HR trends emerging for sure, but the above are now quite well established. The key question becomes, how effective are they proving to be?

Sean Kane

Kane HR Projects Limited

Employment Law Core Elements – What’s the Law on Annual Leave

All employees are entitled to 4 weeks paid holiday leave per leave year

Employees qualify for paid annual leave and accrue same from day 1 of their employment. In other words there is no qualifying service level period

If you become ill while on holiday and are certified as being sick, you can take these days again as annual leave, as these days are not considered annual leave

You must receive at least one holiday period of 2 consecutive weeks, somewhere throughout the leave year

You must take your annual leave entitlement and both you and your employer are legally obliged to ensure you do so

It is the employer’s perrogative as to when annual leave may be taken

In Ireland, employee’s are also entitled to 9 public holidays in addition to their 4 weeks annual leave

Gender Pay Gap Reporting

Gender Pay Gap Reporting will become law in Ireland over the coming months. It is now appropriate for companies affected by same to be upping their preparation and assessing its impact.

Gender Pay Gap Reporting Update

The current Irish gender pay gap Information Bill 2019 should become law either later this year or more likely early next year.

It is very likely to mirror much of the current UK similar legislation.

The affected Irish threshold for reporting purposes is likely to be Organisations with 50 employees or greater, introduced on a phased basis.

Fulltime and part-time employee groupings will be required to be reported on and separately.

Bonus payments and BIK payments will also be required to be reported on separately for male and female employees

Reporting is likely to require official reporting to the relevant authority together with communication to Company employee populations.

Enforcement is likely to be via the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC)

Reporting is likely to be a once a year activity

Reporting formats/manner/etc. will be laid down in the legislation or its enabling regulations

Key Points to remember

The Irish workforce is essentially 50% male 50% FemaleIreland has a current Gender Pay Gap standing at 13.9% (based on 2014 data)

Gender Pay is not the same thing as Equal Pay

Good preplanning initiatives to consider now would include

Review of existing flexible working policing & arrangements

Development of An Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Policy if one does not already exist. If one does it may need to be updated and expanded

Conducting of an Equal Pay Audit

Conducting a current Pay Gap Report to get an insight into current status well in advance of reporting requirements.

Sean Kane

Employment Law Core Elements – What’s the Law on Working Time

Working time in Irish employment law is defined as any time an employee is at his/her place of work or at his/her employer’s disposal and carrying out their role related duties

Time spent on ‘standby’ or ‘on-call’ is not considered working time. However an employee actually ‘called-out’ is considered at work

Employers must implement a system to accurately record and manage actual hours worked by all their employees. Such records must be kept and retained for inspection

Employees are entitled to a 15 minute break after working 4.5 hours without a break

Employees are entitled to total rest breaks of a minimum of 30 minutes per 8 hour working day

There is no entitlement on employers to pay rest break periods and such breaks are not considered working time

Employees are entitled to 11 hours consecutive rest in each 24 hour period

Employees are entitled to a period of 24 hours consecutive rest each week

The maximum allowed average working week is limited to 48 hours

Full particulars of rest breaks must be provided in writing to all employees and are usually detailed in employment contracts

It is not illegal for an employee to have more than one job. However in such circumstances the above limits and obligations apply to the totality of the dual employment circumstances

The relevant piece of legislation that details the above is ‘The Organisation of Working Time Act 1997’

Employment Law Core Elements – What’s the Law on Transfer of Undertakings (TUPE)

This legislation protects the individual rights of employees affected by a business transfer. It is a complex area within the employment law arena.

The Irish law is based on EU regulations. The protections afforded employees relate primarily to protection of employment conditions and individual employment contracts. Employees affected by a business transfer are given information & consultation rights and the preservation of employment is also significantly protected as a core tenet.

The regulations apply to all business transfers, either whole or partial. The scope covers all employees in any business that is either transferred to another business, acquired by another business or merged with another business.

Typically a transfer is deemed to have occurred where there is a change of employer.

With limited allowable exceptions, continuity of employment is also another right preserved in a transfer.

Employee dismissal by either the company being transferred or the company receiving the transfer is specifically prohibited on the sole grounds of the transfer taking place.

There is however a specific ground upon which employee dismissal can be actioned. This is provided for if the required dismissals relate to economic, technical or organisational reasons. Often this is vague and open to interpretation. In such scenarios the total new combined workforce must be considered when deciding on any required redundancies and there must be clear factual evidence to support such decisions.

Both the transferor company and the transferee company are obliged to consult with their respective employee populations prior to the transfer actually happening.

The relevant piece of legislation that details the above is ‘The Transfer of Undertakings Regulations, 2003’.

Crafting well written Goals

What do well written goals look like? What characteristics define them?

SMART goals summarise this well

Specific – The goal needs to be stated with great clarity and focussed on a single defined end outcome or result

Measurable – The goal needs to clearly state how you will know if it is achieved or completed

Attainable – The goal needs to be achievable. It can be a stretch and you may not know how it will be attained, but you believe it can be attained

Relevant – The goal needs to be relevant and consistent with higher level goals. Its achievement must be seen to fit into an overall strategy or higher level purpose

Timely – A time period for full goal achievement needs to be set in advance. Deadlines focus effort and completion

Goals built with these characteristics embedded, are worthy goals with a strong focus and intention on successful completion. They are also much more likely to be achieved

The much maligned Job Interview

The Interview, in spite of its many flaws is still the benchmark tool for effective recruitment. It should give you 70% of the detail and answers you need to make an informed decision. You should use the interview as your main decision-making input and supplement it with some of the other suggested tools to bolster, calibrate and copper fasten your decision. As with all steps in the recruitment investment process, pre-planning is the key to success.

Keep in mind the following;

Ensure the interview environment is laid out properly and conducive to putting candidates at ease and engendering rapport building.

Pre-plan all interviews in terms of timing, questioning focus, etc. This is especially important if you are using panel interviews. It helps ensure consistency/flow/smooth transferring/question allocation/time management etc. In panel interview format, always designate a panel chair.

Spend time at the start of the interview focussed on building candidate rapport and putting applicants at ease. Make introductions and outline the format the interview will take.

Explain the role clearly for each candidate upfront and ensure they are made aware of any specific job requirements/aspects of the role that candidates need to be familiar with.

Always remember that interviews are a two way process and both parties may have a decision to make. You have to sell as well as buy.

Use well thought out competency based questions to gain an insight into the level of specific competencies each candidate possesses.

Probe where appropriate for greater detail and understanding by use of focussed follow on questions.

Avoid the use of leading questions.

Make sure the talk ratio is balanced. For effective evidence of competency, the candidate should be doing most of the talking throughout.

Active listening is an interviewer competency. Use it extensively.

Maintain good eye contact with each candidate throughout the interview discussion. This is key to building trust/openness and engagement.

Allocate sufficient time for applicants to ask questions they might want to cover or clarify and don’t rush this section. Allow them time to add anything further to their candidacy that they feel is important.

Outline next steps in the process for candidates before closing the interview.

Note taking is key. Spend a few minutes after each interview and write up summary notes including a next step recommendation. If you are part of an interview panel an overall panel note or interview report is fine. It is advisable not to take notes while a candidate is answering your specific questions and best practice may be to appoint a note taker in advance.

Ensure you remember that once an interview is complete you have a decision to make. You must have enough insight and data to make that decision. The first and key decision you must be able to answer is, can the candidate do the job?, the second if the first can be answered in the affirmative is, will he/she be a good cultural fit to and for your Organisation? Remember you must be able to justify your decisions with evidence.

Finally, be sure that interviews are conducted within all legal requirements.

Good interviewing is complex. Preparation is key. Skilled interviewers are essential. Getting it wrong can be expensive.

Core skillsets your HR Data Analytics Team should possess

HR Data Analytics is very topical right now in Human Resources. It is a new emerging trend within the building blocks of a best in class HR function. It is also a very under developed science and is stronger in the theory than the practice. Indeed there is also a growing logic that it is really an IT discipline rather than a HR discipline. In most organisations that have such established roles it most often aligns with the SME(subject matter expert) sub team within the larger HR functional team.

Most HR knowledge is found in a myriad of company databases. To clean this data up and get it ready for analysis, it ideally needs to be transferred to well catalogued data warehouses. From there the data can then be data mined and that’s where data analytics activity commences. Data can then be interrogated, analysed, trends identified and/or hypothesis challenged. As the model and skillsets grow, it can aspire to reach the level of predicative analytics. Given all this, what are the current skillsets that HR professionals working in this HR discipline will need to display?. A word of warning, they are in short supply and very hard to find.

Skilled HR Data Analysis requires a diverse and often unrelated set of skills and capabilities. The early emerging skills that seek to define the successful HR Data scientist best, include as many of the following as possible.

  1. Business Acumen
  2. HR Acumen
  3. IT/Technology Infrastructure
  4. Project Management
  5. Statistics
  6. Procurement
  7. Stakeholder Engagement
  8. Data Mining
  9. Storytelling

The ultimate aim of all data analytics is to drive better decision making based much more on scientific analysis rather than pure hunches or generalisations. The HR journey into this playing field is only starting, but long overdue.

Great Job, Well Done, Thank You

We all crave recognition and appreciation. It is part of the human DNA. In Organisations this goes for managers as well as team members. In sport it goes for coaches as well as players. In families it goes for parents as well as children. We all seek validation and like to be valued by others and recognised for our efforts.

We as HR professionals need to be fully aware of the above and focussed on it. We have a responsibility to facilitate positive, proactive praise & recognition as part of our overall HR strategy. Modern-day workforces are demanding instant feedback and constant positive reinforcement when they deliver good results. They are no longer prepared to stay with companies who ignore this or who haphazardly engage in it.

Organisations who want to build strong engagement and higher performance levels need to invest in well thought-out and structured reward and recognition programs. The good news, to do so is not costly, at least not in financial terms. It does however require deep insights into your Organisation, your employees and what motivates them individually. Such programs must be developed into specific, visible, appropriate and timely recognition outcomes. They must be part of an overall culture tenet and moulded into a system that automatically recognises and rewards positive behaviours and work output.

Managers who seek to build teams, challenge them to innovate and strive for high performance will need to invest time and creativity in this arena. Authentic leadership will require such proactive effort.

My advice, never underestimate the power of recognition and personal appreciation. It correlates well with building effective engagement levels.