The report of the annual HR Survey by law firm Speechley Bircham and King’s College, London issues a stark warning for the economy. Recovery needs a workforce that is engaged and focused, but employers have put engagement initiatives on the back foot, relying on a downsized workforce that needs to work longer hours under greater pressure. Employees who are stressed, discontented and only working because they need a job cannot be relied on to perform well and give good customer service, no matter how many hours they work.
Problems Reported by HR Managers
HR professionals expected levels of grievance against line managers to average at 45% during 2011, but the actual level reached was 62%, well above their expectations. Yet another emerging problem is ‘presenteeism’, when employees still attend for work even though they are ill, because they have no job security and worry about getting behind with their work.
Levels of uncertainty about the business environment are said to have grown by 50% since 2009, and this lack of confidence is what has driven both employer and employee behaviour in forming these trends. It seems that the business world is not expecting an economic turnaround and everyone keeps on preparing for the worst.
Many employers are instructing HR to use temporary workers when needed, but to ensure they keep to short assignments from agency staff because of the new requirements of the recently introduced Agency Worker Regulations.
Lessons to Learn
Employers need to consider whether they are concentrating resources mainly on promoting their brand and their business, and not considering the wellbeing of their overloaded staff? They should aim for a better balance if they want their workforce to remain loyal and engaged.
HR managers should consider where most of their resources are focused. Of course they want to try to lift poor performance, but not at the expense of losing the high achievers in the business, or leaving them with less chance of achieving their full potential and making even greater contributions. These are the people whose loyalty they really need to retain, and they would get a far better return on their investment if they concentrated resources on them.
Where HR expects the workforce to become older following the default retirement age changes, businesses should be prepared to include older workers in training and development programmes.
Organisations need to find ways to measure the impact that staff performance has on the business. HR managers need to understand the business objectives and be kept informed of all the changing nuances of its aims so that they can deliver the people power needed.