It dawned on me earlier this year, that I’ve been working within the HR profession for 25 years. Although that sounds a long time, I guess in reality it isn’t, especially in this day and age where more and more of us are working more flexibly and have longer careers.
Many things are clear to me as I reflect back on my experience and the organisations that I’ve worked for, and a key theme wherever I’ve worked, is the importance of getting the basics right. Sporting professionals talk about “getting the basics right”, and how without them in place, they don’t perform at their best, won’t reach their goals or achieve ultimate success. You can apply this way of thinking for HR. Getting the basics right is just as relevant to our profession and how we support the businesses we work for to perform at their absolute best, achieve their goals and ultimate success. It’s very easy to get caught up in the exciting HR project work, but unless you get the foundations right, such as, making sure that procedures are documented, published and communicated, that employee’s contract information is accurate, that they are paid correctly, their data is held securely and that they are treated with respect, you won’t have the time for the bigger stuff as you constantly fire fight the basics.
Even in my first role as a Personnel Administrator, unless I got the basics of setting up interviews right, the paperwork prepared, candidates notified and provisional offers drawn up correctly, the reputation and professionalism of the team and organisation I was working with, would be effected.
When I joined one company, there were few HR procedures documented properly and the method by which employees were paid allowances and benefits was not clearly communicated or understood. This led to inconsistency of approach, no transparency and naturally a scepticism of the HR and Management teams.
It took months to understand what the practices actually were, what should be in place and what was appropriate for the business going forwards. This involved many hours of discussions with line managers and union representatives before some common ground and understanding was reached and the policies & procedures documented. This was all about setting up those foundations for getting the basics right and developing the reputation of the HR team as trusted advisors.
Elsewhere, a claim culture had developed as employees realised that they had nothing to lose by submitting a grievance or a claim to Tribunal due to lack of processes and bad practices. It felt like an uphill battle to turn things around, but over time and with training and support, managers and the leadership understood what they needed to do differently, realising the benefits of following procedures and not only from a financial perspective!
Developing a strong relationship with stakeholders and the leadership team to reach an agreement on what “basics” needed to be put in place first is critical. This will vary from one organisation to the next . For example, for one business it may be about getting the right structure in place, whereas in another it could be about getting those critical procedures documented.
What is key is that HR understand the business, what the vision is and what “getting the basics right” means to that particular organisation. Issues that are taking up valuable management (and HR) time need to be resolved otherwise there is a danger that the firefighting continues, whilst the business demands for project work remains. Ultimately, you wil end up having a worn out HR team who are trying to achieve what then feels like the impossible, with disengaged employees and a disappointed leadership team. Understand your organisation, get the HR basics right and support your business to perform at its absolute best.