Written by
Changeboard Team

Published
12 Apr 2010

Is there an easy way to remain compliant in HR?

12 Apr 2010 • by Changeboard Team

The Challenge of keeping line managers in line

For HR managers, the problems are not necessarily their own knowledge and performance, but that of line managers who make careless mistakes. By the time a grievance hits the HR managers desk, the damage is already done and acrimony already set in because the line manager invariably failed to manage the situation or follow the regulatory requirements. All too often, HR managers find themselves salvaging a situation instead of actually managing the issue.

Training alone does not solve the problem because putting theory into practice is a huge Challenge in itself. In a real life situation, what is important is that the line manager performs exactly as intended, and follows the procedures exactly as laid out.

For any HR manager, regardless of the size of the organisation, ensuring that employees comply with regulation when carrying out all processes is a significant task. While the HR manager will be aware of the legislation that sits behind any process, rolling processes out company-wide can often mean that things are lost in translation. The UK alone spends up to ??5.7 billion annually on consultancy services for compliance, which demonstrates how significant an expenditure this is for any business, but for an HR professional it's also a time intensive and laborious task. 

Regulation is constantly changing, and there is a huge Challenge of keeping all processes throughout a business compliant with the latest legislation. There are 4.5 million businesses in the UK, of which 4,510 employ over 500 staff; the problem of compliance affects us all. 

Processes: the Challenge of consistent performance

Employees at all levels use and carry out certain processes. Although it may ultimately be the HR managers responsibility to ensure compliance, on a day-to-day basis it's important that staff can conduct processes such as reporting complaints or fill out appraisals without supervision. By making individuals responsible for certain processes, they will automatically take more responsibility for their actions. 

By giving individual line managers the right processes, the onus is removed from the HR manager, although they can remain confident that there will be no possibility of straying from the regulated process. Performance must remain consistent across all levels, and companies are increasingly recognising the need for an underlying system that will guarantee the same standards regardless of who is conducting the process, or in the case of multi-site operations, where the employee is. 

The HR manager also needs the support of a tool that ensures that they themselves cannot overlook any step in a process. 

Process: the importance of audit trails

All processes should be inherently compliant, so that those using them at any level can do so without any understanding of the underlying regulation. 

When UK or EU law changes, the processes which companies use need to change; a new approach is for these updates to be central to software which operates the processes, rather than for HR managers to individually update paper based processes.

As any HR manager knows, there are cases where legal action taken against a company requires a specific audit trail. Keeping track of paper audit trails can be unreliable (not to mention not very environmentally friendly) and online documentation is a more effective and efficient way of recording processes. 

It's important that companies are able to easily produce audit trails even years after an incident, and employees must feel confident that they have got internal support and are being given the right procedures to follow. 

Case study: X-Genics

GP practitioners have above average compliance requirements which can be a struggle to adhere to on a day-to-day basis. X-Genics software is being installed in a growing number of multi-location practices, and staff have been trained in basic compliance. This has brought all sites up to date with the latest regulation immediately, and full implementation has taken less than two to three weeks, reducing the workload of a practice manager by up to 70%. Staff members have been made responsible for their own actions and find themselves able to handle processes they were not previously able to. 

The key to X-Genics technology is not just the software but how the data is designed. By insisting on machine readable data instead of text descriptions wherever possible, this is instantly analysable and this process can be automated. This technique is applied to everything from how complaints have been handled to staff appraisals and performance management.

Looking in more detail at a specific process such as staff appraisals highlights this; as this is a laborious process for all involved, and line managers often do not know how to conduct appraisals in the most effective way. Employees approach them negatively; but by turning the process on its head and inserting a structured self-assessment, HR managers can make staff feel more positive about their strengths before identifying areas that can be improved. X-Genics appraisal process begins by asking a series of simplistic questions which also identify strengths which are not yet being used by the employer, thereby making the employee realise their benefit to the company. 

As with all X-Genics processes, the appraisal is standardised, and takes no more than 20 minutes to complete by the employee. This means that the manager receives answers to review in a set format, shortening the whole process  and making it far less onerous on all concerned. 

Store supervisor, Specsavers, on the Staff Appraisal Process:

I think its a very useful way of gathering and storing information. It also allows us to answer questions about ourselves that are sometimes not asked. Very straightforward.

Another advantage is that it is easier to store this information for further uses. It is great software.

It also takes away that nervous feeling when sitting in a room with a manager.

Future proofing against HR regulation

While no one could predict how HR regulation will change in the coming years, it's certain that there will be significant change. In order to arm HR managers to tackle these constant changes, a software system is imperative.

Similarly, providing employees with the ability to handle processes themselves, so that they can tackle disciplinary and grievance processes at the front line, in turn frees up the time of the HR manager. 

Compliance is at the forefront of the minds of HR professionals, and in order to enable them to support employees effectively, expert systems are the definite way forward, providing consistency, compliance and a total sense of confidence when following procedures, rules and regulations.