How Best To Review Your HR Function

Starting with the ‘low-lying fruit’

Photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash

Running a business is difficult at the best of times, and these are certainly not that.

COVID-19 has had an impact on every aspect of every business. For many companies merely finding a way to survive until the following week (and then the week after that) has taken all of their time.

Some businesses will fail, especially those that were already struggling before the pandemic.

Companies will undoubtedly be in a better place than their less forward-thinking competitors if they can start to consider whether how they have operated in the past is the most efficient and effective way to run going forward.

You may undertake a quick review process and quickly be able to tick off most of the items.

Take the HR function, for example. How many of the following items do you do, or think that you do?

  1. Do you maintain a list of all of your HR policies and procedures?
  2. Does each policy and procedure have:
  3. An owner (who is aware of external factors that may impact their policy, and be able to amend it accordingly)
  4. A defined review period (so they never get out of date)
  5. Version control (so that you can quickly identify what the wording of a policy was at any particular point in time)
  6. An approver or approvers who will sign off the changes (to demonstrate that there is governance over the changes made and that the nominated person confirms in writing the decisions made in this regard).
  7. Are your HR policies legally compliant and in line with best practice? (Do you have the expertise within your team to know if they are legally compliant, and if not how can you engage somebody to assist you with this task.)
  8. Are your HR policies written clearly? Are they easy to locate? Is there clear and consistent signposting between different, but connected policies? Do staff read them? Do they want to read them? If they don’t read them, do you know why?

These are just some of the issues that I would consider as I start to review the risks and controls in place within an HR Function. Risks that exist without controls to mitigate them can lead to either financial loss, reputational loss, or both. The higher the risk, the stronger the controls needed to ensure that the business minimises them.

I would follow a similar process through other areas of the HR Function. For example:

  1. HR Function & Strategy — to consider whether the HR function is effectively structured and resourced and has well communicated and measurable goals
  2. HR Policies and Procedures — (see above) to assess whether they are in line with UK employment law; appropriate for the business; and, improve employee engagement.
  3. Recruitment Processes and Procedures — to ensure the processes themselves are clearly defined and that decisions made at any interview are per the policy, and documented in writing.
  4. Succession Planning and Talent Management — the loss of key personnel, can have a significant impact on the business, so there must be plans in place to find suitable successors or replacements should that happen.
  5. Employee Induction, Performance Management & Training — when employees know what the organisation expects of them, and where they have the skill and opportunity to meet that expectation in the way in which they perform, they tend to perform better and are more engaged. Evidence of annual objectives; performance reviews and annual appraisals; induction; and, development and training programmes will demonstrate that the business is mitigating risks in this area.
  6. Performance Management Processes — the control of employee’s capability, conduct and performance, by firms following appropriate sickness absence management processes and disciplinary and grievance procedures, demonstrates efficiency and effectiveness.
  7. Remuneration and Benefits — to ensure that there are effective pay strategies that take account of the role levels within the company as well as external comparisons with similarly sized jobs.
  8. Payroll — it is crucial to establish that the right people are getting paid, and also that they are getting paid correctly. The function will need to show that joiners get added to the payroll, and leavers get removed from it at the appropriate time, to minimise the opportunity for them to make an error or incorrect payments. It is also essential that where authority for payments come from a more senior manager, that they give such approvals in writing.

By ensuring that the correct procedures are in place, the company is not only minimising risk but also:

  • reducing employee confusion
  • increasing consistency of treatment
  • demonstrating fairness and equal opportunities
  • showing that they are legally compliant
  • improving employee engagement

If ever there was a time to review practices, it is now. With a little outside help, it doesn’t have to be too difficult an exercise to get things right, and the best place to start is with the low lying fruit.

However, as I have said before, when you’re looking for low lying fruit:

“Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad!”



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Paul Helsby HR

HR Consultant @ PR-HR Solutions Ltd. Writing to share experiences — good and bad — gained from 25+ years in HR.