Addressing HR Process Reluctance
by Lynne Campbell on November 8, 2023
When did you last watch a movie where the hero/heroine followed correct process? More likely they are a lone maverick fighting the system! Entertaining, but not what you want when running an organisation.
Rather, you need to trust (preferably know) that every staff member in every corner of your business is following relevant procedures, and the law of course, every time.
However, processes can be dull, and few enjoy admin. As implementers of policies and processes that affect all colleagues, Human resource (HR) and employee relations (ER) departments can often be seen as a source of red tape and frustration.
HR processes can be complicated and annoying
Employee issues can be complex. HR departments must understand every likely scenario and have a plan for how to deal with it. Whether it’s managing absences or health matters, performance issues or grievances, they need to know the law and create relevant policies. They are responsible for ensuring that each employee is treated fairly and consistently, and for protecting the business from risk. Data must be collected; forms need to be filled in!
Take a disciplinary case for example. It will require careful investigation, multiple meetings, correspondence with interested parties, reports, etc. In this scenario, most people understand the need for due process to be followed and information carefully logged. The case could end up in an Employment tribunal and they will review every single action taken.
But the need for other processes may not be so obvious. For some line managers (not all), dealing with people issues can be the worst part of their day. It could even lead to individuals attempting to handle smaller issues without the input of HR or reference to procedure. The maverick strikes!
How do you counteract HR process reluctance?
How would you know if someone in your organisation is not following due process? Visibility can be hard, especially if you have a workforce dispersed across several sites.
Cultural challenges can also be a factor, especially when implementing new processes. For instance, if you have a workforce who are used to speaking to someone personally about their issues, they may be reluctant to move to an online system.
And of course, time is also the enemy. A line manager under pressure may skip corners. A busy employee may miss out key information from a form, creating delays in the process.
Burton’s Biscuits encountered such challenges. A concern about the lack of visibility of HR issues at their various sites led to the introduction of a new online HR Support system. However, their ageing manufacturing workforce were initially reluctant to embrace the change. So, alongside the introduction of a Workpro HR case management system to enable them to better track HR cases across the organisation, they initiated a campaign to educate and support colleagues in the new process. If you’d like to learn more, you can read the full case study here.
Two ways to improve HR process engagement
Full disclosure! We are a case management supplier, so our interest is in how a case management system could help you to address HR process reluctance, focusing on two example areas:
- Visibility: Both management control and employee engagement
- Simplicity: Ensuring process steps are easy to follow.
There are two sides to visibility:
- Senior management’s need to know what is happening throughout the organisation. For example, unusually low numbers of absence cases in one area of the business could raise a red flag. Could there be a reluctance to log cases there? Of course, high absenteeism in another area of the business would raise a different kind of flag – could there be an issue in that team?
Burton’s Biscuits were able to monitor engagement with their new HR Support system by tracking the increase in enquiries received over time. Their Workpro case management system collects data throughout the process that feeds into management information. Understanding trends and root causes feeds into improvement and training initiatives.
- Employees’ need to understand what processes are in place, and when and why they should follow them. For example, you might need to collect demographic data for equality monitoring or other types of data for statutory reporting to regulators. Being clear about why you need data will make respondents more likely to provide it without reservations.
Workpro includes letter and email templates that help HR teams communicate with the wider workforce quickly and effectively. For example, when Burton’s Biscuits launched their new payroll system a group of people couldn’t access their payslips. The HR team were aware of the issue and knew the steps that each employee needed to follow to resolve it. With a Workpro template in place, the team were able to quickly and effectively respond to everyone who needed the instructions.
It goes without saying that adherence to policies is more likely if you make them simple to follow. Training is part of this, and we have already mentioned how analysis of trends and root causes can highlight training needs across the organisation.
Your HR team’s reputation for good service to employees and line managers will obviously be enhanced if they respond to enquiries quickly and are seen to process cases consistently and fairly. Case management systems are designed to help them do just that – providing clear workflow steps, alerts and reminders and other tools to ensure processes are followed correctly without fuss.
Employees and line managers also need a simple way to submit cases, with tools that encourage them to provide all the required information first time.
Workpro Connect is an optional self-serve portal designed to help line managers to easily log and track their own team’s cases. It includes collaboration tools that ensure they can access support from their HR colleagues as needed, while the HR team and their managers can see exactly what is going on throughout the organisation. Given the key role line managers play when employees have career issues, this tool ensures they are better supported to do this well. Read more about Workpro Connect here.
In addition, providing a webform that is integrated with your case management system will ensure employees can easily raise their case and provide the required information. The Workpro webform includes dropdown lists that feed directly into the main Workpro system, reducing manual input. The Workpro system can also auto-populate data that an employee could forget to supply, their employee number for example, saving a lot of back and forth.
People First, Processes Second
We’d like to finish with a quick note on creating trust that the HR department will find the solution which is best for everyone involved.
People often only interact with HR when there is a problem, so the interaction can be stressful for them. We therefore think it is important that your system makes room for the human touch, to ensure that all parties feel heard and understood.
At Workpro, we are big fans of responsibly implementing new technologies, you’ll sometimes hear us refer to this as considerate automation. This means that before we make any big alterations to our system, we think about the people it will affect. We have also built flexibility into our Workpro case management system to allow your caseworkers to apply their experience and knowledge within the process boundaries you set.
We like this advice from Steve Browne, Chief People Officer at LaRosa’s (in a vlog from the Academy to Innovate HR), for HR departments on how to put people first and processes second; and ensure this is visible to everyone:
- Share positive things that HR are involved in around the company - This could be done via your company intranet, Teams, or even an internal newsletter.
- Stay involved with senior leadership - If you can develop personal relationships with senior leadership they are more likely to be supportive of HR functions when you bring in new policies and procedures and this can trickle down to company-wide attitudes.
- Bring your full self to work and encourage others to do the same. It's essential to set the tone by leading by example, demonstrating authenticity, and creating an environment where individuals feel valued for their unique perspectives and experiences.
Once you have this covered, employees will be more open to hearing what HR have to say and you can start improving attitudes towards policies and procedures.
At Workpro we understand HR and ER departments are pivotal in maintaining a well-functioning business and we want to ensure that your case management system is designed to help all employees to interact positively with you.
*Read the full Burton’s Biscuits case study