It might be well-intentioned, but some employment legislation poses a real risk to businesses on a number of levels. Consider, for example:
- The time taken up by keeping up to date with the legislation
- An unscrupulous employee threatening litigation or being disruptive
- Trying to improve employee performance against a backdrop of national decline in productivity
- Juggling resources to ensure the business functions as optimally as possible through its highs and lows, and gaps left by employees on leave or off sick
Apart from having to sort out issues such as shared parental leave pay and claims of unfair dismissal, businesses large and small also have the new legislation about paternity leave to contend with.
Every step taken in business often seems beset with red tape and issues around compliance. Throw office politics, warring factions and employees with resentments into the mix and we have a set of challenges that need to be addressed.
It is sensible for any organisation to pre-empt or neutralise claims of unfair dismissal by embarking on a programme of measuring and monitoring attitudes and behaviour if you feel you have issues that need to be addressed. Don’t just ignore them. Instead, put in place a system for managing employee performance, attitudes and behaviour.
Such a system should be highly discreet, yet promote engagement and transparency with staff. Employees will know they are on it and will be able to see their own audit trails, but not those of others. The manager or director in charge should be able to see all the trails.
This trail includes an individual’s performance, attitude, behaviour, compliance with the business’s values, rules and regulations (and compliance with external regulations and standards) and how staff have responded to training, mentoring – and warnings.
If the trail is digitally date-stamped it can be used to support a business if a case goes to an industrial tribunal. Pre-litigation, if the business feels it’s on strong ground because of what the audit trail shows, it can demonstrate the weakness of the employee’s position by sharing the trail with him/her, thereby putting a stop to any thought of legal action by the employee.
Ensure information is gathered and analysed objectively (e.g. by some sort of commercial software application) to prevent allegations by an employee of bias. The alternative is to use an external firm (or consultant) with demonstrable experience of carrying out appraisals of work performance, behaviour and attitudes.
As inferred earlier, such a system does not need to be used solely for defensive measures. It can also be used to:
- Show where upskilling by training, mentoring or coaching is required
- Allow the employees to make as much of a positive input to their training as possible
- Ensure staff are fully aware of the objectives and targets of the business, and that all training is allied to those objectives and targets
- Educate staff in the values of the business
- Improve work performance and productivity
- Identify the top, and worst, performers. But be aware that a poor performer in one role might be a much improved, or top, performer in another
These points also enable the business to more easily identify where its strengths and weaknesses lie in terms of its people and make it much easier to fill gaps left by those off sick or on holiday.
Ultimately and ideally, you, the CEO/MD should:
- Lead from the front in any change initiative and be seen to be staying involved until it’s completed.
- Ensure you are informed of issues around employees who require attention because they are underperforming in one way or another. Or appoint a director or manager to oversee what would hopefully be a turnaround for those employees.
It may be common sense to add that a business should ensure staff go through an appropriate selection process before being taken on, but in some firms that does not happen!
To conclude, real threats are posed to a business by employment law-based compliance and litigation (or even just threats of litigation) and by staff who underperform and/or are disruptive. But those threats can be greatly reduced, and in some cases eliminated, by taking the steps outlined above.
Shirley Barnes is Client Relationship Director at Dinamiks Ltd. Dinamiks is a cloud-based employee performance management tool designed for use by SMEs that can also be used for talent management, compliance and employee development planning [EDP].