June 9, 2020

employment law changes

Our client employs approximately 150 people, working in third sector. 

The majority of these employees are based at the main office with some in three outstations. Staff are represented by UNISON, the recognised trade union, with high levels of membership.  

The challenge of line management 

Typically, it was recognised that managers across the business needed additional support with managing people. There was a wide variety of experience, capability, knowledge and confidence levels across people managers and as a result there were inconsistencies in the way managers approached their role and handled day to day people management issues: 

  • Absenteeism was considered high;
  • Employees in some parts of the business were leaving;
  • There were several formal grievances and
  • It was perceived that there was a lack of progression opportunities because of the use of external recruitment. 
  • There were tensions between the Union and management, and relations could be strained at times;
  • Conflicts were also arising from the lack of consistency in how staff were treated; and
  • Overall there was a perception that such people management challenges were having a negative effect on the business: 

Our client wanted to improve how their people were managed and planned to upskill and invest in their managers. 

The HR business partner explained that they chose LBJ Consultants because of the recognised quality of their training, and because it represented ‘industry best practice”.

Solution:

We met with both the Senior management team and the Trades Union representatives to discuss the current position and what we proposed to help improve this.

We gained the confidence and support of both parties before we implemented a wide range of initiatives to improve people management, including on-site training for people managers in various areas including how to conduct:

  • Investigations;
  • Disciplinary hearings;
  • Grievance meetings;
  • Performance Management;
  • Absence Management; and
  • Mediation skills;
  • Regular meetings between the union and senior management team to openly discuss the business; 
  • Senior managers carrying out walkabout on a weekly basis; 
  • Creating a joint team of managers and employees to discuss responses to colleagues’ ideas;
  • Introduced e-learning training packages for employees where they can enhance their skill sets;
  • Introduced an HR Management System.

This additional training allowed employees to raise their skill sets that would allow them to progress their careers with the client.

A series of meeting were held and finally the Trades Union recommended to its members that they should agree to sign up to the new proposed terms and conditions.

Considering this, a new Employee Handbook was introduced which contained all existing, amended and new policies.

A new policy and procedure for performance management was developed. In part this was because it was felt that the previous policy did not cover all issues sufficiently. It also created an opportunity for partnership working, as the union was heavily involved during creating these new policies. 

Additionally, by involving Senior management and the Trades Union this gave employees confidence in the process and ensured that the policies reflected best practice. 

Outcome:

By enhancing people management training, and introducing the new policies, line managers had become more skilled and confident in dealing with their people management responsibilities. 

Managers were seen to be conducting better appraisals, improving their performance management methods, better at handling difficult conversations, improving their recruitment processes, enhancing their ability to manage absence, and helping staff link their role to the organisation’s strategy. 

Additionally, they had gained an understanding of the importance of good people management and were engaging with these processes and taking ‘ownership’ of their responsibilities, rather than treating them as a paper-based exercise or as dictated by HR.   They gained a greater understanding of employment law, which both reduced their fears and increased awareness of best practice. 

People management has also improved, demonstrated through a wide range of indicators including improved engagement, and internal progression and development. Staff turnover, although generally low, has shrunk considerably in previously problem areas. 

Mediation is now written into policies, with the aim of resolving disputes at an early stage, and it is being used in some parts of the business.  Most of the issues are “nipped in the bud”, before they become a big issue that would have led to a grievance being raised in the past.” Overall, there has been reduced individual employee conflict.

Improved communications the management ‘walkabout’ was highlighted for enabling employees to talk freely to managers and Senior managers, staff welcomed the opportunity to share their views. It was felt that managers were now approachable, and that the union or their members could discuss issues freely 

Absenteeism rates have also decreased in most areas. This was helped by absence management training, which raised awareness of how to handle long term absence appropriately and effectively:  The introduction of the HR management system helped both reduce absence and helped monitor performance management.

Substantially fewer grievances were raised, and line managers’ efforts to improve their people management skills were credited for the decline in staff complaints: “Managers were obviously managing in a more effective manner for those grievances to have dipped.” (HR business partner). Across the business there are relatively few discipline cases, although the HR Business Partner noted there had been a slight increase but believes this reflects on increased managerial confidence to tackle problems early, rather than an actual rise in disputes. 

Overall these initiatives had a positive impact upon our client and its people. 

Our client needs to continue to focus on developing their people and management practices. This will include: 

  • training new managers in people management; further decreasing their absenteeism rates; 
  • Developing their internal mediation provision; 
  • Enhancing succession planning and staff development; and 
  • Further improving internal communications, especially between departments. 

The client at the end of this process signed up to our Second Opinion Service, to support their in house HR department.

Learned

Improving people management has led to a better place to work, thus reducing conflict and, therefore increasing productivity.  The management training gave them the confidence to handle disputes more effectively, develop their skills, and improved workplace fairness. 

Employees feel more valued and that they can raise issues at an early stage that can only be good for the business.

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