As employers start 2021 the same as 2020, we know the year will eventually bring change, perhaps more normality, but what are the challenges that lay ahead for HR and employers. We ask HR professionals from Sagegreen HR and advohr for their professional insights into the year ahead.
It’s a strange new (employment) world – or is it? UK employment has been through a rollercoaster ride over the past year. From lockdown, to furlough, to the beginnings of recovery and the ‘new normal’ and straight back again, all of these things have had HR professionals working hard to determine the appropriate path to support and advise organisations. But we haven’t suddenly moved into the Wild West where employers and employees alike are at liberty to take rogue actions without fear of consequence, the fundamentals of employment law and the employment relationship are unchanged.
High quality management / staff relationships, supported by good employment contracts and relevant policies and procedures, all make for the most effective tools to navigate these troubled waters, and provide the best basis for employment law, where it is needed, to sort out right from wrong.
As HR professionals, we know that so much of how employment law plays out is determined by the case law which is derived from the tribunals and is often based on the concept of ‘reasonableness’. In my view, this is where we may see some evolution due to the societal impacts of Coronavirus and our economic recovery from it. It would not be unthinkable to anticipate that in some situations, what may have been ‘reasonable’ in the age BC (Before Coronavirus) may have shifted in light of a world AD (After Disease). However; I find I am shifting focus to some degree in three key areas: Employee mental health and wellbeing, Flexibility and homeworking; and Safe working environments.
In my view, taking a proactive approach to tackling these issues will always be preferable and the most likely way to avoid being on the back foot when they arise. its possible future tribunals will expect employers to have this at the forefront of their mind when considering what might be a ‘reasonable’ response to any given employee issue.
On the whole, most organisations are looking for ways to secure their future and maximise their chances of success by having the right people in the right place at the right time. Careful consideration of how employee mental health, flexibility and providing safe working environments have been affected by Coronavirus will support employers in their futureproofing approach, alongside having strong and relevant contracts and policies to support the manager / employee relationship. Of course, it shouldn’t be forgotten that alongside these evolved considerations, employers need to keep current with the ordinary and upcoming employment law changes. Remember, myself and other HR professionals are here to help.
Pippa can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 07848 872018.
“The coronavirus pandemic has transformed workplaces but there remains a concern on the unrelenting workloads you and your colleagues face, caused by the knock-on effect of all the changes that, if we ae not careful, will without appropriate support impact your physical and mental wellbeing. Never be too proud to ask for help.
So, how do we remain resilient? The concept of “resilience” has been much-discussed and employers have had to show “organisational resilience” and be able to anticipate, prepare for, respond and adapt to change and sudden disruptions in order to survive and prosper. In doing so, we may forget the need for “personal resilience”. As such, we all need to prioritise our own wellbeing. Yes, we can become all consumed by the day-job and easily forget to look out for our own needs. I’m sure you are guilty of this as much as the next person. Certainly, as HR professionals we try to lead by example. Employers need to have a clear plan of action around looking after their own and their employee’s wellbeing such as considering how to maintain remote social connections with others and putting in place effective boundaries between work and home life. It’s more important than ever to take regular breaks during the day and taking annual leave when needed so to avoid burnout. One thing is sure, there are further challenges that lie ahead and it’s a reality that many businesses are still struggling to survive and that as a HR team we can offer a great deal of support to help businesses remain resilient, not least handling the ever-changing directives from Government.
We remain at the centre of helping businesses respond to COVID-19 and in turn ensuring the wellbeing of you and your colleagues during a climate of recession and high unemployment. Now is the time to prepare and be ready to respond to what further challenges await us in 2021”
Going forward post-BREXIT and as we move through the pandemic there are going to be lots more challenges and changing trends for businesses in the UK in future. Many businesses will not re-open and therefore redundancy and restructure will create added uncertainty. For other businesses, work patterns are more likely to have to be flexible in future and many may want a hybrid model of working between remote and office based with hours around family and also a move to a shorter-working week for health and wellbeing. This will pose additional challenges for managers and the need to review family friendly policies and employment law for the future to adapt to the changing environments and review working hours. Managers will have to be more focused on outputs and productivity but also ensuring they take more of a proactive support role for mental health and wellbeing. Companies more than ever will need to review their employee benefits to see what support both psychological, insurance and financial they have in place to support their employees and have additional health and wellbeing policies in place.
Where do we start? Covid, Brexit???
We are in the midst of a social or second industrial revolution in my opinion, so we have gone full circle from the little cottage industries that became regimented factories and offices and are now back to people working at home doing their own thing. From a HR perspective that has implications on ways of working and managing, and our focus needs to shift for this to work – less focus on timekeeping and attendance management and more focus on output management, also more use of technology for communications, training, and business management. All of these factors will require us all to adapt our management styles and behaviours. We will need to think about how we will build relationships and teams. If we are moving towards more homeworking we will also need to consider the suitability of the working environments and who pays the cost for equipment, furniture, heating and light.
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Psychologists tell us that within human nature there will always be the basic needs of paying the bills and job security but the other recognised human needs of belonging, self-esteem, and self-actualization should never be forgotten.
Although we live in a different new world, people will always aspire to more than just a job. Candidates want something they love, something they can enjoy and a working environment and culture which cares about them and their career.
So, whilst appealing to the wallet, it’s not always all about the money. Companies need to appeal to the heart and soul. Some candidates will often take lesser pay if they truly feel that not only, this the job for them but are being provided with a warm welcoming environment by a team who really care.
Companies may wish to consider total renumeration package. What employee benefits are offered and are they relevant. What is right to one candidate may not be right for other. Some candidates may love extra holiday whilst others may welcome gym membership or dental care. Within a diverse workforce, a flexible benefits package may be hugely attractive.
Look after the team by offering an Employee Assistance Programmes which supports not only mental health issues but also offers such things as legal, landlord / tenant or financial advice. As an employer, you care, as you are providing your employees with professional help which may be invaluable, and for which they will be truly thankful and may never forget!
Don’t forget those little inexpensive quirky benefits such fresh fruit, morning toast or Friday cakes in the office. Little touches make a true difference, become cultural and can make employees feel so valued and love working for you!