Article, Employee Compliance, Employee Relations, Employee Satisfaction, Employment Legislation

The HR Iceberg

HR professionals are often looked upon as the fire fighters, putting out fires, reacting to problems and identifying solutions as they arise.  They are often viewed as a policing function, with main responsibilities of hiring and firing in the organisation.

And yes, while, on the surface, these are two large areas of the HR function, they are merely the tip of the iceberg for the role HR play at both an operational and strategic level in the organisation. There are many unseen and below the surface layers to the role of Human Resources in the organisation.

In this article, you will observe the many facets of the HR function, beneath the tip of the iceberg.

Hiring and Firing

Building key relationships, developing rapport and asking questions are all critical skills that HR need to possess in order to develop a good understanding of the various roles across the business and the skills, knowledge and behaviours that a candidate would need to demonstrate to perform their new roles successfully.

Educating people managers and senior leadership teams about the importance of objective recruitment procedures, competency or value-based questions and interview structures, employment equality and thorough feedback conversations all form part of the hiring process.

Terminating the employment relationship is a decision that should always be approached with caution.  Has the employee been communicated thoroughly with during their probation period?  Have they been set up for success and understand their role and responsibilities?  Do they understand the expectations that their line manager has of them?  Have they been set goals for the first month, three months, six months?  And for an employee who has been with the business for a longer time (and greater than 12 months), are they clear on the internal policies and procedures in relation to potential disciplinary procedures and the grounds upon which an investigation or disciplinary procedures may be followed?  Has there been internal knowledge sharing sessions on internal policies and procedures to ensure that staff understand the internal rules in the organisation?

HR Policies and Procedures

HR are responsible for developing internal policies and procedures, for example, absence policy, protected leave (family leave, sick leave, domestic violence), dignity at work, bullying and harassment in the workplace, protected disclosures, and remote working, to name but a few.  Policies and procedures are the guiding compass for managing staff and ensuring compliance with same.

Hand in hand with this, is Employer Compliance, with all Irish employment law, for example: the Organisation of Working Time Act, the Payment of Wages Act, the Unfair Dismissals Act, the Terms of Employment Act, again, to name but a few.  Keep an eye out for my next blog post which will deep dive into some recent case law to explain some consequences, both financial and reputation, for Irish employers who failed to comply with Irish employment law.

Ultimately, it is the role of HR to educate people managers and senior leadership teams about the importance of following internal policies and procedures to minimise the potential risk of litigation, ensuring fairness and equality is adhered to, in line with employment legislation and when enforcing internal policies and procedures.

The Performance Review Conversation

This area links back to what I mentioned earlier; about setting the employee up for success, defining their role and responsibilities, and being clear on what the employer expects of them in their role.  The performance review conversation is not a one-time conversation annually.  It needs to be an ongoing conversation, at a time that is agreeable between the employee and line manager, to review their progress again goals, both operationally and strategically.  It needs to be an open and honest conversation between the manager and the employee to discuss what is going well (always explore this area firstly) followed by what areas could be improved upon.  Again, like the hiring process, it needs to be objective and non-biased.  It is always very important to document the performance review conversation so that both the manager and the employee have a written reference of the feedback, goals, progress against goals and next agreed actions including future review dates.

The role of HR is to support, guide and advise on this more fluid approach to managing performance with a shift away from a one-time annual conversation to a more frequent and ongoing approach to managing performance.

Hand in hand with managing performance, are employees’ opportunities for further Training, Learning and Development in their roles.  To build employer brand and reputation, employers should always focus on growing their own and developing the talent that exists in the organisation.  The role of HR is to support on analysing the training needs and identifying the skill sets that need to be further developed to support employees to perform their duties optimally.

Employee Wellbeing and Engagement

I read a quote recently, author unknown, which said “The better a leader is at giving recognition, the more engaged their employees are.”  This aspect of HR is so important to ensure employee retention, good employee morale and a positive workplace culture.  A recent article in the Irish Times, stated that gratitude goes a long way in fostering employee engagement.  Due to the changing landscape of the workplace over the last four years, and with the introduction of remote / hybrid working, employees may feel less connection with their peers.  Furthermore, based on the same article from The Irish Times, which references a recent Gallup survey of 5000 employees across Ireland, Britain and Belgium, employees in these countries are the most burnt-out in Europe.  Employees need to feel valued and believe that their work is meaningful.  And it is the role of HR, alongside people managers and senior leadership teams to identify who drives their people, what motivates them and to determine what employee recognition looks like to ensure a happy and thriving workforce.


Engaged HR Blog

Welcome to the Engaged HR blog. Here you will find a range of blogs where I share advice and tips for employers and employees alike on a broad range of HR related topics. Hope you enjoy and feel free to get in touch if you have any questions!

Ailbhe Carty Nairn


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