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Tuesday, 19 March 2024 16:29

Employer Challanges

For small and medium sized businesses, (SMEs), steadily increasing the number of employees symbolises significant progress and reflects growth and ambition. However, this progression does not come without its own set of challenges. Being an employer is as much a profession that requires specific skills and knowledge as manufacturing products, producing goods, or providing services to clients.

Attaining a stage where some provision of HR becomes a requirement is very much a chicken and egg scenario. SMEs are unlikely to be able to afford the ideal of someone in a dedicated HR role, who ensures employment law compliance and best practice from the outset.

Businesses will invariably wait to build a critical mass of employees, but there is no fixed point when a requirement for HR is standard. Instead, SMEs will tend to reach out when employee issues and problems start occurring so frequently that resources become directed away from the organisation’s core purpose and towards managing those people issues instead.

It’s commonly businesses owners and senior managers who get caught up handling the issues that arise; the very people in the business who’s value is least well spent away from business focussed duties.

The range of potential employee issues is very broad; something we at HR Champions can attest to. In addition to the usual suspects like attendance and performance, we are witnessing a notable rise in cases where mental health is a feature. Common issues and their impact include:

Attendance and Punctuality: Regular absenteeism or lateness can significantly disrupt operations, especially in smaller team where each member's role is likely to be more defines. Addressing this requires a delicate balance of understanding and firmness, ensuring that genuine problems are sympathetically managed while maintaining clear expectations and consequences for poor attendance.

Performance Management: Identifying poor performance is rarely lacking. Addressing it in a fair but effective manner can be an area where smaller businesses tend struggle; often through lack of experience in doing so. Developing clear performance criteria and conducting regular reviews can be time-consuming but are essential for maintaining standards and supporting employee development. Without these measures, underperformance can go unaddressed, harming the business's overall productivity and negatively affecting morale. Don’t think other team members don’t spot when someone isn’t pulling their weight.

Misconduct: Even when businesses have clear disciplinary procedures in place, dealing with cases of misconduct and gross misconduct fairly and consistently can be challenging. Again, this is very often down to a lack of experience. Accusations of unfair treatment can escalate to formal grievances, or even employment tribunals so it’s imperative that proper procedures are followed and outcomes are uniform.

Bullying and Harassment: Whether from managers or peers, workplace bullying and harassment, including sexual harassment and misconduct, can not only lead to increased stress and reduced morale among employees but also result in higher turnover rates, sickness absences, and potential legal consequences. The close-knit nature of small teams means that the effects of such behaviours can be particularly pervasive, damaging the company culture and affecting every aspect of business operations. Depending on the perpetrator, there may also be mixed loyalties, especially when it is an otherwise high achiever.

Supporting Mental Health: Increasingly, businesses are expected to support the mental well-being of their employees and cases that involve mental health have become much more prevalent; especially since Covid. Whilst smaller businesses can feel unprepared owing to a lack of resources or knowledge, mental health issues are often new territory for organisations of all sizes. Failure to understand issues and support employees effectively can lead to increased absenteeism, decreased productivity, and can exacerbate the challenges of managing underperformance and misconduct.

Compliance with Employment Legislation: There is a myriad of employment laws in the UK and they are constantly being updated and added to. Contracts of employment , working hours, holiday entitlement, absence rights, the legal framework is extensive. Keeping up with legislative changes can be a struggle at the best of times, which can lead to inadvertent breaches of employment law. Such breaches not only risk legal action but can also damage the reputation of the business.

While these challenges may seem overwhelming, there are proactive steps all businesses can take to mitigate the risks and manage employee issues effectively. Preparative and preventive strategies that businesses can take include:

  1. Invest in Training: Equipping managers with basic HR training can enhance their confidence and competence in handling employee issues. We have a range of courses that meet the needs of managers at all levels.

  2. Develop Clear Policies: Creating and communicating clear, written policies on attendance, performance expectations, and conduct provides a framework for addressing issues and ensures that all employees understand what is expected of them. We do this; ask us.

  3. Foster Open Communication: Encouraging an open, transparent communication culture can help to identify and resolve issues before they escalate. Regular check-ins and an open-door policy can facilitate this.

  4. Seek Professional Advice: For complex issues, legal concerns or just to check you’re doing it the right way, seeking advice from HR Champions can prevent costly mistakes. We offer flexible support suited to a range of business budgets.

  5. Consider Mediation Services: For resolving disputes, mediation can be an effective, less confrontational approach. It involves a neutral third party helping to find a resolution acceptable to all involved.

Employing staff can and should be a rewarding experience but it does introduce a raft of challenges. However these can be managed with the right preparation and approach. Investing in foundational HR practices, fostering a positive workplace culture, and seeking professional advice when needed can help navigate the complexities of employment and support business success.

We are here specifically to support employers with HR & Employment Law support and with training business owners, managers, and their teams. Start a conversation with us on 01452 331331 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

  

Read 403 times Last modified on Tuesday, 19 March 2024 17:55

IN A NUTSHELL

HR Champions provide first class HR and Employment Law support and advice to UK businesses; operationally and strategically. If you're an employer you'll potentially need some, if not all, of the services we offer.

We deliver excellent management and soft skills training suitable for all organisational levels. We are ILM and City & Guild accredited and Ken Blanchard approved.  

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We have clients all over the UK but predominantly within about an hour's drive time of our offices; in Gloucestershire, South Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Bristol and Swindon & Wiltshire.

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