As we approach the end of another year (wow, that was quick), it’s that time again for HR teams and organisations to look toward next year and the key priorities to achieve success for your people and your business.
Luckily, at Insight HR, we’ve been speaking to the experts across a wide range of areas within HR and the world of work, and we’re delighted to bring you a special two-part series, where we’ll guide you through the leading advice from those in the know.
In this, the first instalment of our two-part series, we’ll hear from employment law experts, people development professionals, wellbeing leaders, and our very own HR consultants, to guide you through the plans and priorities to keep you ahead of the challenges that 2023 may bring.
If you’d like to discuss your HR and organisational challenges to one of the team, on a confidential, no commitment basis, then why not arrange call here?
For now though, let’s read on!
We begin our guide with insights from Sinead Proos, Head of Health & Wellbeing at Laya Healthcare who spoke to us about the results of Laya’s Workplace Wellbeing Index 2022, one of Ireland’s largest studies among Irish employees and employers in the workplace.
The main findings from this survey highlighted some very interesting results in relation to the priorities and concerns felt by Irish workplaces.
- Only 35% of employees said that their mental health was good in the last 6 months
- 63% of hybrid workers reported better work life balance in the past 6 months
- 60% of employees say that promotion of work-life balance is a top consideration when thinking of a new role, a very close second to salary (61%)
However, most notably, Sinead also told us that 5 of the top 6 causes of employee anxiety and stress relate to financial concerns.
So, in light of these findings, what should HR teams and organisations be prioritising? And what can they do to help their people? We’ve already heard that 98% of HR professionals were feeling burned out at the start of the year, so is this yet another task that HR teams and leaders must add to the list?
In short, yes. But the good news is, there are a wide range of things you can do!
“There’s no silver bullet. Stay close to your people, really understand what motivates them, and what they value; they will tell you.” Sinead Proos, Head of Health & Wellbeing at Laya Healthcare.
Our advice, be informed, be organised, and be intentional. With substantial reports and data like the Laya Wellbeing Index available to everyone, the first step in gaining an understanding of the main wellbeing issues is to look at the data and look at the reports. Then the key second step, look at your own organisation.
Alongside the results of this survey for instance, ask yourself;
- Are my employees likely to be under financial pressure? If so, what can we do about it? Are we in a position to increase salaries? Can we re-assess our pay and rewards?
- Are my employees likely to be stressed or unwell due to a mental health illness or condition? Can we gather information or a sense of this from sickness trends in our organisation?
- Can we be more flexible about our working models? Why are people moving or leaving our organisation?
Once you have a sense of the external factors affecting your employees, and the internal concerns and challenges your company faces, only then that you can begin to formulate a holistic, intentional and fit-for-purpose wellbeing strategy for your organisation.
Check out our full discussion with Sinead Proos here, filled with information and guidance on wellbeing trends, strategies and challenges.
Sickness In The Workplace
With regards to sickness in the workplace, most HR professionals and organisations will be focusing on the Sick Leave Act which was passed into law on the 20th of July 2023.
The Act gives eligible employees the right to three days paid sick leave per year from their employer. This will increase to five days in 2024, seven days in 2025, and finally ten days in 2026. The rate of payment is 70% of an employee’s normal wages, capped at €110 per day. To be eligible, employees must have at least 13 weeks service and be certified by a medical practitioner for the duration of the absence.
It has been announced the law will now commence on 1st of January 2023.
However, in our recent discussion with Karen Killalea, Partner and Head of Employment at Maples Group Ireland, we explored this topic beyond just what the latest update means for companies, but also some of the key considerations when it comes to managing sickness in the workplace.
“Attitudinally, things are changing, from both the employer and employee perspective.” Mary Cullen, Founder and Managing Director at Insight HR.
Interestingly, one of the first key points from our discussion did not concern the law at all, but the change in attitudes to illness post-pandemic. We need only imagine all of those times that many of us went to work pre-2020 with a cough, a cold, or not feeling our best. However, as Mary mentions, this has become a no-no in the post-pandemic world. Although there are some nuances, especially when it comes to remote working, this is something that many employers will be handling differently, versus how they did in pre-pandemic years.
“Trust and confidence is a key part of any employment contract. There is an implied term of trust and confidence between the parties. Given the shift in attitudes over the past year or so, it is important for employers to be sympathetic and supportive, and to not confuse sporadic absences with things that may be going on in the background.” Karen Killalea, Partner and Head of Employment at Maples Group Ireland.
Building on the attitudinal factors and combining them with simple best practices in HR strategy and culture, the key advice for short-term absences coming from our discussion was clear.
- Be open-minded and supportive when it comes to sickness patterns that may point towards other personal issues for employees
- Check your policies as the key reference point for the obligations from both an employer and employee perspective
- Watch the record-keeping when it comes to absences, and make sure the certification is there
- Conduct return to work meetings; don’t be afraid to have the conversation with your employees
- And last but not least, treat people consistently.
Check out our full discussion with Karen Killalea here where we speak further about short-term absences, and also delve into longer-term absences, taking a closer look at the obligations, legislation and best practice across various types of absence.
Role Of Line Managers
“In many cases, managers feel like they need to be indestructible. And it should be OK to actually say, I’m having a bad day, I’m feeling the stress of the various requirements, and I need help. From a mental health perspective, from a physical health perspective, from a business perspective, we need to connect with those people.” Liam Barton, Senior HR Consultant at Insight HR.
As we all know, there has been a major shift in the world of work in recent years, with line managers now facing fresh challenges in managing remote and hybrid teams.
Line managers have a very important role to play, not only in managing people and operations day-to-day, but also in implementing HR and other organisational policies and in supporting their team’s development. It’s therefore important to give proper thought to how line managers are appointed, managed and developed to make sure they are successful in their role. – Source, CIPD.co.uk.
Given the seismic shift in ways of working and the employer-employee relationship in the past year, in our latest discussion on Line Managers, Mary Cullen, Founder & Managing Director at Insight HR, argues that in many cases, the line manager has been forgotten, as they tackle a range of managerial challenges within new models of work and tighter timelines. And although this has been exacerbated by the pandemic, the CIPD reports that this is a challenge that line managers have been facing for a number of years.
How can you be confident in your HR department, that you know how your line managers are feeling?
Be intentional and schedule some time on a regular basis with you and the line manager team to really get a regular pulse from a key group.
What resources and support mechanisms are there for the line manager?
The line manager needs support too, so from a people perspective, a resourcing perspective and an from an employee wellness point of view, assess the lines of communication and supports that you currently have in place. Are your line managers comfortable in coming to your HR team for help and telling you how they actually feel?
“Understand the job, understand the people, look at what’s working well elsewhere, and ask yourself what might we be able to do in this organisation to support managers.” Mary Cullen, Founder & Managing Director at Insight HR.
HR Policies – Training & Communicating
There has been some fantastic developments in HR policies in recent months, with companies such as Lidl and Bank of Ireland showcasing some progressive policies to inspire further development for people and organisations of all sizes. However, any policy is only as good as its implementation, so what is the general advice for making sure your policies are not just well-informed, but well-implemented?
“Raising awareness around dignity at work matters. And do this through focused, specific, regular training.” Máille Brady Bates, Solicitor and Employment Law Expert.
We recently spoke to Máille Brady Bates specifically around the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace, however the recommendations and advice from Máille could absolutely be applied to all policies and procedures.
The advice in a nutshell? Training, communication, effective resolution, and support.
Ensure that training is there, no matter what. In reference to sexual harassment and the significant underreporting element, Máille made a key point that is pertinent to all policies and challenges – just because you may not have faced something before, doesn’t mean you should wait around until it happens. Be aware of your policy, build it in to your culture, your principles and your values, to prevent the issue from arising, or at least, fully preparing your people for when it does.
With many policies and challenges within the workplace, it is often how the manager or HR team handles the process that really affects the outcome.
Our advice? Provide guided training and communication on your company’s policies, not just to line managers, but to all employees, where relevant. This ensures that all employees know what kinds of behaviours are acceptable/unacceptable, but also provides employees with the knowledge of the process when an issue arises, and the confidence that the organisation will deal with it effectively.
Is it time to update your HR policies? Check out this podcast, dedicated to this exact topic.
If you need support on understanding tricky employment law and policy issues such as sexual harassment, unfair dismissals, workplace theft, and everything in between, then get in touch with us today, and let us help!
Or if you’d like to train your team, at scale, with a range of tools, resources and advice from the experts on bullying, harassment, and sexual harassment, sign up to our new online, on-demand Dignity At Work Investigations training! Now only €299 (excl. VAT) for a limited time!
Company Culture & Business Performance
“If there is a toxic culture, people will probably be afraid to speak up. So, you can’t assume that if a problem gets too bad, people will speak up. Try and get their voice, and listen to it, before you see people handing in their notice.” Julie O’ Sullivan, Head of People Development at Jigsaw Better Business.
Although we hear many reports telling us that flexibility and salary are the leading considerations for employees deciding to move roles, a 2021 study by MIT revealed that that toxic workplace culture was 10 times more likely to be the reason an employee would leave their company than their salary.
It makes sense, right? “People don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad managers” is a phrase we constantly hear, and many of the reports citing flexibility or salary as the leadings reasons for changing roles simply cannot include ‘the hope of a better manager’ as this is something that nobody can predict.
In our recent podcast discussion with Julie O’ Sullivan, Head of People Development at Jigsaw Better Business we discussed the cost of toxic workplace cultures, and how HR teams and organisations can drive better performance through better workplace culture.
With employee engagement and workplace culture on the minds of leaders and organisations everywhere, this will most certainly be one of HR’s leading priorities for 2023. So, what can we do to improve workplace culture?
Thankfully, Julie outlined some of her key advice for driving positive culture within organisations.
Respect – People obviously need to feel respected at work. If they don’t, it’s massively demotivating. A lack of honesty and recognition or treating people differently are some of the leading causes of toxic cultures, stemming from an absence of a huge factor, respect.
Communication – Listen with an open mind, to feedback. Provide open channels of two-way communication between you and your team. Hearing the thoughts of your employees isn’t just about innovation or continuous improvement, it’s about providing an atmosphere where people can feel seen and heard.
Walking the walk – Look out for ways to showcase positive behaviours and use your leadership position to set an example for your team and your colleagues. On a simple level, if you want people to look after their health and take breaks, then make sure you’re looking after your health and taking breaks.
Small steps make a huge impact – Toxic cultures don’t happen overnight, and achieving a positive culture won’t happen overnight either. No matter the size of your organisation, or the complexity of the culture, have patience and optimism as you work through it. Who are your people, and what do they value? Listen to your people, use the data, and take a step-by-step approach.
“It’s bad for people, it’s bad for business. You’re taking a huge avoidable risk, if you allow toxic workplace cultures to develop.” Julie O’ Sullivan, Head of People Development at Jigsaw Better Business.
Is there a toxic culture in your business that’s effecting company performance? Or worse, creating a culture of bullying or similar behaviours? If so, check out our guide to managing and preventing bullying in the workplace.
That’s all for now, but there’s more coming!
We’ll be back next month with part 2 of our advice from the experts on what you as a HR professional, HR team or leader should be prioritising in 2023. But in the meantime, talk to us about your HR priorities and challenges!