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HR Policies – Why Hire an HR Consultant?

Many small and medium size business leaders are often run off their feet focusing on operations and don’t realize their need for HR resources until it is too late. When you employ any number of staff, HR practices are essential to running your business efficiently. Employees want to believe that they are being treated equitably and consistently and by having basic policies established and communicated, employees will feel valued and engaged in the business. Well developed and articulated policies can also ensure that your business is in compliance with various employment legislation.

That said, small and medium size businesses may not be able to justify hiring a full time HR resource. By turning to a consultant, they can access a high level of expertise, but carefully manage costs by using the resource only as needed.

What is the cost benefit of hiring an HR Consultant?

The cost incurred to set up basic policies to protect both the employer and the employee will generally be much less than the potential costs should an individual file a complaint or sue for discrimination or constructive dismissal. In addition, when employees feel valued and engaged they are often more productive resulting in greater business efficiency.

What value can an HR Consultant provide?

A consultant can help you to set up and implement a basic set of policies and communicate them both verbally and in writing in the form of an “employee handbook”. They can also act as a sounding board on an as needed basis when potential issues arise or management wants to gauge employee sentiment. Often times, a small business leader may not realize that their informal policies or practices are in contravention of prevailing employment legislation.

What are some of the basic policies to consider?

  • A solid recruitment and selection process that ensures that all candidates are treated equitability and consistently, and are onboarded properly.
  • A clear policy on harassment or unacceptable behaviour in the workplace that defines harassing behaviour and the process for filing and investigating complaints.
  • Disciplinary practices outlining the consequences of unacceptable behaviour that is in contravention of any of the organization’s policies.
  • Hours of work policy that outlines what is considered a standard work day, paid and unpaid breaks, and overtime policies.
  • Time away from work policies that detail:
    • Vacation entitlements including how vacation is earned, when it can be taken, and what happens if it is not used;
    • Statutory holidays and how they are to be paid depending on the type of worker and whether or not the holidays are worked;
    • Sick time and disability policies, if appropriate, to manage absenteeism; and
    • Other mandated leaves including (but not limited to) jury duty, compassionate care, maternity and parental leaves, and bereavement.

What to look for when hiring an HR Consultant

  • Breadth and depth of experience – have they worked in a number of different industries and/or across different HR functions?
  • Do they ask you the right questions to understand your business model and the type of workforce that you employ?
  • Do they have a successful track record of implementing policies and programs?
  • Are they transparent and honest regarding the scope of the work and will their timelines work with yours?
  • Are they going to help you drive your business forward by helping to coach your staff in understanding general HR regulations and practices?

How simply HR Inc. can assist Business Leaders

Using a breadth of experience across industries and HR functions, simply HR Inc. can help you by auditing your current policies and recommending changes or new policies for implementation. We will work collaboratively with you to determine what the business needs are, and customize a plan to help you meet your goals. We simplify your HR needs by taking the complication out of managing people, ensuring compliance with the appropriate legislation regulating your business.

Contact us today for a complimentary consultation – www.simply-hr.ca/contact.

 

 

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HR Shades of Gray

I often listen to friends or acquaintances complain about their HR departments and the way that policies are applied. Many times, the employee perception of the application of company policy is that there is no flexibility or room for interpretation pertaining to individual circumstances. Often times, managers themselves do not understand the policy, which results in poor communication back to the employee and the policies are then viewed as a poor excuse for not allowing certain requests, either personal or career related, or for justifying disciplinary actions. With respect to disciplinary action, this misperception can also lead to a lack of understanding of why certain behavior was not acceptable in the first place and result in continued or escalated behavior.

While there may be some organizations that do apply the majority of their policies in a black and white manner, employee disengagement may simply come down to misinterpretation of HR or management actions, lack of management training, or a lack of communication among all parties. Managers may not be taking the time to listen to their employees and HR is conveying information through the managers, resulting in communication similar to the classic children’s game, broken telephone.

HR relies on managers to convey the information as intended, however, we often forget that managers are operational business leaders and may simply take the information and relay it to the employee exactly how it was delivered to them, often with the message, “HR / policy says…”

Company culture can also drive variability in the application of policy. Large multi-national organizations may have a lower tolerance for shades of gray and policy interpretation, while smaller, entrepreneurial organizations may have higher tolerance and demonstrate more flexibility by permitting managers to exercise judgment in the interpretation of a policy.

How do we overcome this barrier to engagement?

When managing people it is important to remember that employees all have different personalities and skill sets which require managers and HR professionals to apply different approaches in each individual situation, rather than a “one size fits all” approach.

Interpretation and application of policy can make or break employee engagement and people leaders are often uncomfortable making these decisions or are insufficiently trained in the interpretation and application of policy.

When using judgment in the application of policies, the following are some considerations to think about:

What was the original intent of the policy? Was the intention to limit certain behaviors or provide basic guidelines on a certain area of employee relations, ensuring fairness and consistency.

What are the regulations and are there any legal implications? Was a policy implemented to ensure compliance with certain regulations and protect either the company or the individual, or both?

Are there any previous related instances or will this set an undesirable precedent? Have concessions around this policy been made before and if so, what was the rationale / result. What precedent will the decision set for future policy enquiries?

What behavior is the policy encouraging? Is the interpretation of a policy engaging employees and encouraging positive and productive behavior or is the interpretation inadvertently rewarding unproductive behavior or disengaging employees?

While we don’t necessarily want to do away with policies completely, it is useful to be mindful about when a policy should be treated as a guideline and when it needs to be more black and white. Further, the application of the policy is only as successful as the manner in which it is communicated. Remember to make sure managers are trained and are comfortable in delivering key messages.

Let simply HR Inc. help you in developing or reviewing your policies and demystifying the shades of gray. For more information or to book a consultation, contact us at lhurst@simply-hr.ca.

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