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Face2face: HR in your business

In our latest Face2Face, Employment partner Oliver McCann meets Jenny Bond, branch chair of Lancashire CIPD, to examine how HR and employment professionals can improve an organisations performance while empowering employees.

Oliver McCann (OM): From my perspective a HR professional enables an organisation to maximise the contribution of its workforce by building a people strategy and providing the framework of policies and procedures related to staff employment.

Jenny Bond (JB): Yes I agree and in addition, HR must turn external business trends and stakeholder expectations into internal action, focusing on business results and human capital improvement. HR professionals ensure individual ability and organisational capabilities are developed to their full potential.

OM: Absolutely. An organisation’s most important asset is usually its people – so it’s critical to get the most out of our greatest asset. By doing so, a business will reap substantial rewards in terms of increased innovation and productivity, thereby helping a business to grow.

JB: If we take growth as an example, HR professionals can find and retain people that embrace the business and its values, and create organisational alignment. If your employees aren’t living your values then they aren’t really engaged in what the organisation is trying to achieve.

OM: Lack of engagement is a key issue. HR professionals have a decent grasp of an employer’s legal obligations and employee rights, but they do not understand the complexities of employment law. Bearing in mind the already difficult task HR professionals have in implementing people strategies, it is unrealistic to expect them to be employment law experts as well. This takes many years training and experience – I should know!

JB: This is why the partnership between HR professionals and lawyers is key. We focus and manage the employer employee relationship and align the organisation’s culture with its people. In contrast, employment law experts generally act in a representative or advisory capacity and don’t get involved in the administration of systems and procedures, or in monitoring and surveillance.

OM: In relation to helping an organisation achieve its objectives, we want to understand at the outset what our client’s plans and objectives are. We can then develop a plan of action with HR in a manner that effectively navigates employment legislation and mitigates the risk of potential claims, while putting the business in the best possible position to defend any claims. We also support clients in an employment tribunal.

JB: And that support is critical. Employee relations is key to the success of engagement initiatives and achieving growth. Employment lawyers can support HR professionals in keeping productive relationships between management and employees strong and healthy. Good employee relations shows employees that the business is committed to their interests and working with them, while achieving its own objectives.

OM: It’s important that lawyers are there to help free up HR professionals to focus on key initiatives such as building employee relations. We also act as a sounding board for strategic plans that could have an impact on staff and cause problems, or even legal claims – for example, a restructure, redundancy programme or changes to terms and conditions.

JB: That support function is critical as lawyers can help HR professionals with advice on compliance issues from changes to benefits and pension arrangements through to managing all things TUPE and auto-enrolment duties. They can then assist the HR professional in delivering other projects and that partnership between the two is very powerful in achieving organisational objectives.

Employment & HR - Partner - Oliver McCann