Housing Associations (HAs) are under significant pressure to identify efficiencies and cost cutting options across the board. The HR team can provide a valuable contribution to this. A holistic re-assessment of your workforce, people policies and strategies could identify a number of areas where changes and improvements can be made. Below we set out the five key areas to focus on.
This is a good time to review your employment contracts and policies. Assess what benefits are provided under your contracts of employment. Are these benefits necessary for all new recruits? For example might your holiday or notice entitlements be over-generous, or could you make certain benefits dependant on passing probation? Of course there are statutory minimum requirements in some cases, but often historic benefits can carry a significant cost and can be reduced going forwards.
HAs often use long standing policies and procedures which are inherited, or influenced by their local authority roots. Such policies can be complicated and involve many more stages or requirements than the law actually requires. For example current statutory requirements only require one opportunity to appeal a grievance decision. Some HA policies will allow two appeals, thus taking double the time and resource to deal with. Other policies can be long and difficult to understand meaning that managers either require more HR support to implement them, or the policies are simply ignored, thus creating risk for the organisation. A clear, sensible and user-friendly suite of policies can assist enormously in creating an efficient HR operation.
It can seem a simple question, but are your employees being paid at the right level? How do you manage pay rises? Are pay and benefits consistent across the organisation for those with similar levels of responsibility? HAs are increasingly considering formal pay and reward structures to ensure that historic anomalies are ironed out and that consistency and fairness is achieved between employees. Any job evaluation and grading process should also involve a benchmarking in the sector and local market. There is a key balance to be achieved between attracting and retaining high quality employees, and not paying over the odds in these difficult times. Finally, it is worth considering more elements of performance related pay, to incentivise high performance and maximise efficiency.
Training is something which can fall by the wayside when budgets are tight. However, ensuring that managers are properly trained on implementing HR policies and procedures can pay dividends in terms of minimising the risk of employment tribunal claims. Empowering managers to deal with poor discipline and poor performance can have a significant positive impact upon the organisation. Investing in training has also been shown to have a real impact on morale and engagement of employees, thus improving retention.
HAs, like many employers, find it challenging to deal with performance management. However, when the organisation is facing cuts and being required to demonstrate efficiency, individual teams cannot afford to ‘carry’ employees who are not working to the appropriate level. Managers should be required to identify poor performers. Annual appraisal systems can help, but are these really effective?
Think about challenging managers who are consistently marking their whole team as ‘meeting expectations’. Can a more regular formal supervision process be implemented, perhaps requiring a review of objectives on a monthly basis? For those who are not performing, put a formal process in place and ensure this is followed up. Performance management is not easy, but once employees can see that it is being addressed and taken seriously, this can result in positive improvements across the organisation.
Given the government cuts many HAs will be forced to consider redundancies. However before doing so think about the alternatives. Might the situation be resolved by a re-structure, eg moving employees to different positions or changing the job roles of particular employees? Employees may be willing to agree changes to their terms and conditions of employment as an alternative to redundancy. During the recession there were many examples of employees agreeing to reduced hours, loss of benefits or even a pay cut to avoid large scale redundancies. It can be helpful to use an employee forum, or trade union, to discuss such options.
We have in-depth experience of supporting HAs on all of these matters. Please contact us if you would value a discussion or meeting about HR strategies for your organisation.
This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at November 2015. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms & conditions on www.TLTsolicitors.com