7 challenges keeping HR Directors awake at night | elementsuite
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7 challenges keeping HR Directors awake at night

We’ve all been there – you wake up in the night with cold sweats, thinking about a work-related problem or an email you should have sent or written differently. We all aspire to be the best at what we do, and in these troubled times of global pandemic, the people in your business, and the humanity aspect of running a workforce – with all its legal and emotional contract obligations – can weigh heavy on the spirit and cause sleepless nights.

Based upon our wide ranging conversations and connections in the marketplace, what follows is a listing of things we believe are causing challenges for HR Leaders. Whilst they’re not quite seven deadly sins, they have the potential to cause considerable insomnia.

1. “Excel Hell”

The problem of working with inflexible systems

A number of companies have been unable to implement COVID-19 related pay changes within their HR platforms and were forced (either through vendor inflexibility, or short-sighted investment choices) to implement legal and statutory changes in Excel, rather than secured and standardised systems of record.

In a very recent and well publicised example of just how dangerous and endemic the “I’m sure we’ll get by with Excel” mindset is: Dido Harding – the Tory peer in charge of the new Test and Trace scheme – has been urged to either resign or be sacked over coronavirus testing failures. The problem was caused by an Excel spreadsheet reaching its maximum file size, which stopped new names being added in an automated process. QED – Excel is not designed to be a system of record.

2. The “being chased” dream

What if HRMC challenge our Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) or Job Support Scheme (JSS) claims?

A number of businesses have taken advantage of the CJRS – which comes to an end at the end of November, and replaced by the Job Support Scheme. Companies are obliged to ensure that they have adequate records and audit history in order to be able to substantiate claims, and demonstrate appropriate reporting capabilities to HRMC. Whilst primarily a finance responsibility, in the melee of the pandemic, a number of companies are not able to produce robust response in how their claims have been prepared, owing to the lack of joined up data between their HR, Time and Attendance and Payroll functions.

3. The “falling” dream

How do I maintain productivity and performance?

In a world where traditional models of being present, seen and working in physical locations, are replaced with virtual presence, many businesses are struggling to understand how basic principles of Workforce Management can apply to their business – where physical management must necessarily be replaced by virtual tools and measurement. Employee engagement of course is a factor in driving productivity, but how do businesses forecast and understand their workload, and distribute this fairly and equitably amongst their staff, with appropriate measurements and rewards – ensuring that the hardest workers are recognised and not driven to burnout, whilst simultaneously identifying and benchmarking poor performance so it can be managed via training or other measures.

 4. Data Anarchy

How to control HR Information Security and Data Protection?

There are numerous benefits of working from home for many people – including proximity to family, reduced commuting time and cost and improved work-life balance. However, WFH is a Data Protection Officer’s worst nightmare. Of course computers can be stolen from a place of work and laptops can be stolen on a commute – but the risk of data that was once primarily processed in an access controlled secure facility, on secured and regularly validated IT infrastructure, now being stored on non-encrypted file systems in far flung places of the world where is doesn’t belong – is now far greater. Added to this is the ever increasing sophistication of hackers, and the penchant for home users to not be quite so rigorous about their WiFi security and usage – and you have a recipe for HR data breaches to be prevalent, with risk of associated GDPR penalties.

5. The “All my friends hate me” dream

How do I engage my employees remotely?

Many businesses (and particularly business who have not previously embraced digital engagement technologies) are finding that they have little or no way of communicating reliably, consistently and effectively with their staff. This leads to a mistrust between the employee/employer emotional contract, with employers either communicating too little, too much or inconsistently, and employees bemoaning the lack of, overbearing nature of, or choppy rollercoaster of their communications. The most successful companies have fallen back to the “helms deep” of their company mission statement, culture and values, and found a regular cadence of simple messaging, backed up by an engagement portal – where employees can find as much or as little information as they need to stay informed and engaged with their company brand.

6. The “failing exams” dream

How to execute compliance and training remotely?

How do you ensure ongoing compliance of staff in accordance with company policies and procedures at an appropriate level when they are working remotely? It’s far harder to track work and ensure that standards are being kept at an appropriate level when visibility, and human interaction is reduced.

Many companies are finding they need to invest in far more automated systems, workflows and eLearning to accommodate and compensate for the difficulties in managing quality. Fitting a “black box” to your business may just de-risk and reduce your future insurance claims.

7. “Judgement Day”

When all is said and done, there’s a lot more said than done 

Whilst there are good intentions and much HR-talk regarding how to e.g. manage workforces during the pandemic and digitally engage with them, many companies have not put this into practice, and have not treated employees as they would their customers – and missed opportunities to implement solutions and systems to prove their commitment to their staff.

How well employees treat their staff during this extraordinary time, may well turn out to be the biggest driver of how well employees perform for their employers post-COVID. Reciprocality and the employee emotional contract is a powerful thing. We are told that a common cure to insomnia is to write things down that are troubling you, and so it has been our aim to write down the challenges, and in so doing, to externalise and extinguish them.

The number seven often represents completeness and perfection (both physical and spiritual), and whilst elementsuite doesn’t claim to have all the answers, if any of the challenges above resonate with you, we have solutions available and people to help.

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