Shape Up or Ship Out of HR-or Business

With Maslow in mind, one of the key ingredients in attaining a sense of satisfaction in life is working in a profession that you are proud of. I consider myself as working in two professions: HR and Business Ownership.

There are times when I am hugely proud of both, but other times I am hugely disappointed with both.

Not surprisingly, given the job I do running an HR Business, I am, on a regular basis, asked for advice about employment issues when with friends, family and generally out and about outside of work. Jaluch only supports employers so, at times, it’s refreshing and interesting to support friends on the other side of the fence. But in doing that I am frequently appalled at the behaviours of the HR staff and business owners they are dealing with. Don’t they ever bother to find out what their legal obligations are? Is it laziness or belligerence?

Staff should not have to fight for their basic employment rights, they should be given them from day one. I accept that some situations are complicated and what the actual rights are is not always clear cut, but for the most part it is usually pretty clear cut what rights people have.

Why should I have to give advice to a group of people this week, that they have rights in the UK to holiday pay? They said that no one in their business (a restaurant) has ever had an employment contract, sick pay or holiday pay. And I won’t even mention the word ‘pensions’. And when the business was sold to a new owner last year none of them were given continuous service, despite many having several years’ service. They were just given a P45 and told that tomorrow they would be working for the new owner.

Their staff have families to raise and rent to pay so I am appalled their employer has no interest in providing even the most basic employment rights. I only wish that such ignorance of the law or refusal to comply with the law was treated as seriously as other legal infringements. It reflects badly on all business owners and I’m sick and tired of being tarnished by the ‘all bosses are bad or greedy’ brush. And the reality of course for the business concerned is that if the staff choose to take legal action, the compensation would be enormous given the multiple breaches against multiple individuals so would probably sufficient to push the business into bankruptcy. No one wins.

And my weekend wasn’t free of strife either. One friend has so far met with 4 members of the HR team in her business through a suspension, dismissal and appeal hearing. Ultimately, she has been picked on and sacked as a result of complaining that part time workers should not be discriminated against when it comes to holiday, rest breaks and sick pay. Her claims are of sex discrimination and disability discrimination, but not one member of the HR team seems to even be aware that those words should make them sit up and check the legality of their actions. Blissfully ignorant would be my impression – but ***** they work in HR – there is no excuse for being ‘blissfully ignorant’, its their job to know and if they don’t know, their job to learn and keep asking the necessary questions. A claim just submitted last week for just under £100K might now make them sit up and take notice, but I won’t hold my breath…  They probably think that if a tribunal finds against them there will be some limitless ‘kitty’ somewhere in the business called ‘legal costs’ that can pay out.

I wouldn’t employ any of those HR people for even two minutes in my business. They are a disgrace to our profession in their ‘huddle’ of stupidity.

And yet another story related to me this month was that of an HR Manager going on the record saying that an employee should take the blame for one of their colleagues being sacked…sacked, as it happens, for turning up to work drunk yet again, even though his job involves driving. The employee now being blamed formally, raised a complaint against him as it appeared HR were repeatedly turning a blind eye as ‘it’s better to have a drunk employee than a vacancy’ and she was concerned about him drunk at the wheel.

Who is appointing such idiot HR people who don’t have even the most basic grasp of the law and their responsibilities? Its okay not to know all the ins and outs of our very complicated law, but there is no excuse for not knowing the basics and not knowing when there are loud warning bells going off and you need to get proper legal support.

And let me finish up with pointing a final finger at a big corporate I dealt with recently. Throughout my presentation on unconscious bias their CEO sought to undermine every single thing I said, ‘the problems are made up’, ‘people are weak’, ‘we’ve dealt with all this decades ago’ was the relentless drivel coming out of his mouth.  So, if you’re dead set against acknowledging and addressing any diversity issues why bother to pay me to deliver a session about unconscious bias? A pathetic sop to your share holders or an insincere message to your staff? Please don’t waste my time if you have not got the competence or vision to run your business for, in aspiring to get to the top of the Maslow Pyramid, I have not factored in time to justify why there is benefit to be had from leading and managing your people fairly and in line with the law.

But I don’t want to bash all HR people and all business owners. There are plenty who are good, and many who are in fact very good, but if we choose not to speak out or take action we are all dragged down by tolerating these incompetent lazy, no hopers who we work alongside.

A few years ago, I lost a client – a situation that was entirely of my own making I acknowledge. At the end of an expensive project that was so appallingly handled by the Head of HR I wrote to the CEO expressing my concerns about a person who was so clearly out of her depth that it was costing the business hundreds of thousands of pounds in legal compensation. He acknowledged my letter and told me to mind my own business. No real surprises there. But I see she is still in her job and still being as incompetent as ever. So, I wash my hands of their own personal disaster zone. I did what I professionally felt I needed to do. If the CEO ignored me, that’s his choice and no doubt his burden going forwards.

So, when did you last speak out and speak up when faced with stupidity or incompetence, even though that might cost you? Please don’t let me always be the one to stand alone. I want to be in a profession that continually seeks to drive standards up, not tolerate the lowest common denominator.

Any thoughts, ideas or opinions…please do share!



2 replies added

  1. Anon 12 April, 2018 Reply

    I don’t think you’ve been too harsh – refreshingly blunt in fact. But this is not an issue specific to ‘HR’ as an industry. I am constantly disappointed by the calibre of professionals that I interact with – solicitors, accountants, bankers…
    This goes, in part, to the issue around productivity in the UK. I honestly don’t think that we have a ‘productivity’ issue; we have a ‘professionalism’ issue. We accept poor performance too easily – we should constantly demand the best of ourselves and our colleagues.
    I will just say that this isn’t a failure of teachers – it’s a failure of society to set appropriate expectations. When one of the most popular TV shows is about watching other people watch TV, we should recognise that our culture is getting something wrong.
    Much to be done and business leaders should be standing up (like you are here) and expressing their dissatisfaction when they see it.

  2. Anon HR Director 26 April, 2018 Reply

    This is one of the best HR rants I have read in a long time. Well done!

    I am constantly amazed when I meet HR people who appear to have no idea of the impact of hiding behind policies or accepting poor performance of themselves and others, is having on employees and the business. Do not get me started on the number of HR employees that don’t even like talking to people and want to do everything by email.

    To balance that there are some really excellent HR professionals that understand the value of doing it well. They really care about moving people from good to great and their work and businesses reflect the success that this brings. This is where HR shines. Yes, there will always be processes that need to be followed and some hard decisions that need to be made, however HR are uniquely positioned to do both transformational and transactional. They need to both, and do both very well.

    Our people are the only reasons why businesses thrive and survive. HR’s job is to ensure that they have everything they need to so that to the best of their ability. If HR people don’t get that, they need to find another career.

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