The consultants at Narrow Quay HR are regularly instructed to carry out investigations for clients. Clients may want to engage external HR consultants because the issue is particularly sensitive, because they don’t have sufficient HR capacity in the business or because they recognise that investigations can be time consuming and may therefore pull key staff away from their day to day duties.

The investigations may form part of grievance, disciplinary or complaints processes. The case study below sets out some of the issues we regularly deal with when carrying out investigations, but is not based on the specific facts of one of our cases.

Case Study

A client of Narrow Quay HR, has an administration team made up of approximately 10 members of staff. One of the staff working in the team, Jessica, joined the team less than a year ago. She offered her resignation, writing a letter which referred to bullying, harassment and victimisation by her line manager. Following this, the HR Manager met with her and persuaded her not to resign, and asked her if she would be happy to have her concerns treated as a grievance. She agreed to this and Narrow Quay HR were asked to undertake an investigation into the line manager’s conduct.

Our Investigation

In order to give the investigation structure, the key components of Jessica’s grievance needed to be identified. In this case, it was possible to focus on the nature of the language used by the line manager to Jessica as one broad theme and to also focus on victimisation, in the way that Jessica understood it, in terms of being picked on by her line manager.

Jessica was very nervous about raising a grievance as she feared repercussions. In conjunction with the client we were able to reassure Jessica that she was doing the right thing by raising her concerns, that we were taking her concerns seriously and that the client would act should there be any negative consequences of bringing a grievance.

We then met with Jessica’s line manager. The line manager felt that Jessica’s performance was poor and that she failed to take on board or listen to instructions. She felt that Jessica was overly sensitive and denied her behaviour amounted to bullying, harassment and victimisation.

As part of the investigation we interviewed other employees identified as witnesses by Jessica and her line manager. This enabled us to gather further evidence as part of the investigation in order to consider all of the issues and arrive at our conclusions and recommendations.

The Outcome

Narrow Quay HR prepared a comprehensive investigation report containing an executive summary and  detailed findings, which was provided to the client together with all evidence gathered during the investigation, in an indexed and paginated appendix to the report.

In this situation, where a member of staff has raised a grievance relating to bullying or harassment, we needed to not only to make a recommendation as to whether the grievance should be upheld or not, but also to recommend whether disciplinary action should be commenced in relation to the member of staff accused.

In this case it was found that Jessica had been subjected to bullying and harassment by her line manager and so we made a recommendation that her grievance should be upheld and that the client should commence disciplinary proceedings.

Using our report, the client had a clear route map to follow and was able to progress the matter in the knowledge that a fair and reasonable investigation had been undertaken by an independent third party.

To find out how you can benefit from Narrow Quay HR’s investigation expertise, please contact Sarah Martin on 0117 314 5363 or Caitlin Anniss on 0117 314 5264.

Employee Well-Being and Resilience

Why Investing in Employee Well-Being and Resilience Should Be on Your To-Do List

Employee well-being and resilience are hot topics in HR right now. In this article we explore why investing in employee well-being and resilience is a no-brainer for your business and provide you with tips on how to get started or progress on your organisation’s well-being journey.

Essentially well-being is about creating a state of contentment where individuals can flourish*. Resilience is about an individual’s ‘bouncebackability’ and developing resilient employees is likely to feed into a well-being agenda.

Historically, well-being has focussed on safe working practices or management of ill-health. But more recently, a much more holistic view of employee well-being has developed.

Sitting alongside this, there has been much more of a focus on employee mental health, given the escalating numbers of employees suffering with poor mental health and the evidential links between poor mental health and poor work outcomes. This is highlighted in the Government’s recent review undertaken by Dennis Stevenson and Paul Farmer, which places responsibility on employers (along with other stakeholders) to take greater responsibility for employee mental health. In particular, Stevenson and Farmer recommended that all employers, regardless of size, should implement mental health core standards in their business.

If this isn’t enough to persuade you that employee well-being should be high on your agenda, there is growing evidence to suggest that investing in this area produces a financial return in the shape of increased productivity and lower sickness absence as well as making your organisation a great place to work.

Whilst a number of organisations have some well-being initiatives already in place, the evidence shows that well-being programmes will be most successful where they are central to the organisation. So where should you start? Below are our top tips:

  • Get buy in at a senior level. Your senior leaders set the tone and lead by example. Demonstrating the business benefits might help you to do this.
  • Identify what will work for your organisation. No two businesses are the same and what is important to one workforce might not be to another. Speak to employees via employee forums or use surveys to drill down into the details of what initiatives might work best. Look into whether there are any recognised well-being initiatives that might be useful.
  • Prioritise. Are there any quick wins you can introduce? Certain initiatives may be cheaper and easier to implement – get moving with these and then move onto the trickier, longer term projects.
  • Keep well-being on the agenda. Don’t just tick it off the list and move on. Keep the conversation alive by continuing to publicise what you are doing and continue to talk about well-being.
  • Monitor and evaluate. Only by doing this will you see what is working and positive outcomes will pave the way for future investment.

Narrow Quay HR can help your organisation on its well-being journey. Get in touch with us today to find out more.

 

*CIPD

 

Unconscious Bias

Handling Difficult Conversations

Anyone in a role managing staff within their organisation will need to be handling difficult conversations from time to time. Whether it’s talking to someone in your department about their work not quite being up to standard, managing team dynamics or dealing with a difficult personal matter that someone wants to talk to you about, conversations which may make you feel uncomfortable can’t be entirely avoided. In fact, they are a key part of strong line management and leadership. So, how can you deal with them in a more effective way?

The first step is to ensure that you are the right person to have the conversation with the member of staff. Should it be dealt with by a line manager, referred to HR or perhaps to a more senior manager? Assuming you are the right person, don’t avoid having that difficult conversation or put it off, tempting as that might be.

These are often very important discussions to have and delaying them, or, avoiding them altogether, can cause real problems. Not addressing an issue when it arises, can give the employee the impression that it’s not that important. It can also lead to low staff morale if the issue relates to a team problem. In an appraisal context, appraisers are often keen to focus on the positives and avoid having any conversation about areas which could be improved. This can mean that poor performance can go unaddressed for years, with appraisal records showing only glowing reports. At the point at which the performance needs to be tackled, this can cause real problems for employers.

Difficult conversations can be uncomfortable because they take us out of our comfort zone. They may not go as we plan or people may become upset or confrontational.

Good preparation is key.

Check the facts relating to the issue you want to discuss, and check any relevant policies or procedures. Make sure you have the necessary support from HR or your line manager if you need it. Take control of the discussion, and set the agenda. Communicate the issues and give examples and evidence to support what you are saying. Make sure the member of staff has the opportunity to respond and try to give effective and objective feedback. Try to keep calm, even if the staff member becomes emotional. Be professional; while it can be appealing to approach these discussions as a friendly colleague, and of course you do need to be understanding in your approach, it is best to approach in a professional manner.

Take notes and highlight any actions that will need to be completed after the meeting.

It is important to recognise that emotions are likely to be involved; both the employee’s and yours. It may be difficult to predict how the staff member will react. They may be angry, or they may become upset. Similarly, recognise that your emotions may be involved in this, but stay as calm as possible.

It is critical to try to end the discussion with a plan for the way forward. This will set boundaries around the issue in hand. Discuss the options with the member of staff, make a decision and agree on follow ups or reviews and where appropriate, a date and time for a further meeting.
Narrow Quay HR can help you and your line managers to deal with difficult conversations by offering training sessions on this and other essential HR topics for line managers.

For more details, please get in touch.

Employee investigations and hearings are a regular challenge for HR professionals in the public sector.

These activities form a core element of our HR Consultancy practice.

To begin we ensure we focus on our client as an individual, because whatever the size of the organisation, the needs for HR support are always best initially served at personal level. We combine our expertise, genuine teamwork and client commitment into a blend of services that set us apart, and this is why we’re confident that we always deliver the most effective HR support to our public sector clients.

Investigations into complex grievances or disciplinary matters are invariably time consuming and take key people away from their core responsibilities. This is where we can step in and conduct investigation work, sensitively and efficiently.

We carry out investigations, interview witnesses, gather evidence and prepare investigation reports, attending resulting disciplinary and grievance hearings as the investigating officer, as the need arises.

If our clients have resourced the investigation in house, we can provide support with other stages of the process. We can provide on-site HR support and guidance to panels hearing grievance, disciplinary or capability issues. If it’s appropriate we can also act as a panel member, if this is needed because of the nature of the particular case.

It is important to understand ACAS guidance in carrying out investigations as these suggest that independent representation and involvement is important:

“Key points

  • An investigation is a fact-finding exercise to collect all the relevant information on a matter.
  • An investigator should be given clear guidance on what exactly they are required to investigate, and how their findings should be reported.
  • Whenever possible the investigator should not be involved in the issue being investigated.
  • The investigator should gather and document what the issues of the matter are, consider what evidence may be available and relevant, and how it may be collected.”

Creative, pragmatic and professional are the words we’d use to describe our style. If this resonates and you have a current or upcoming challenge that would benefit from impartial, professional HR support, please get in touch.

Barristers HR Support

Barristers in need of HR services and support can rest assured they’ll be well looked after by Narrow Quay HR, from our team operating from our offices in Bristol, London and Birmingham. Barristers HR solutions are our focus.

We provide access to experienced HR consultants for Bar Council members who need us to be on hand to help with both day to day queries and larger projects, where there may not be the HR resource in their Chambers to deal with such challenges.

Why is it important to consider outsourcing your HR to consultancies like us?

Firstly it’s a balance of available resources, technical expertise, wide sector knowledge and experience and of course, consultants who are by definition always keeping up to date with the latest regulations, legislation and best practice.

Please get in touch for more information.

How to effectively manage employee underperformance is a key skill in a manager and team leader’s repertoire.

This article is designed as a general guide for how to begin approaching this sensitive subject. It is not a replacement for professional advice and support so please get in touch so that we can help your particular situation.

There are many reasons why underperformance needs to be addressed, quickly and effectively. These include: improving the performance and quality of output of the organisation; encouragement of optimum performance from staff members; minimising of sickness absence; avoiding legal challenges such as discrimination; minimising damage to staff morale, burden and quality of service.

Poor performance may manifest in a variety of ways such as declining quality of work, reduced productivity or delays in completion of projects and tasks and an overall decline in attitude to work, peers and management.

To address employee underperformance a fair procedure must be followed where there is a clear definition of the poor performance from the outset. Of course, if the underperformance is occurring at the start of someone’s employment then a probationary period with clearly defined purpose, length and terms, can help alleviate quickly and effectively, increasing issues later.

The process of dealing with underperformance of a member of staff begins with an informal approach. This may include establishing the facts, informing the employee of the situation, an initial meeting and discussion with them, setting of clear and attainable written targets for improvement within clear timescales and provision of support to help them achieve them. At this point a clear review date is required and a warning that failure to meet the targets may lead to formal action.

Gathering the facts at this informal stage may identify the root of the problem, underlying issues, and the triggers.

If the informal approach does not achieve the desired positive outcomes then the formal approach is required.

The formal approach requires a detailed investigation, written invitation to the employee to attend a capability meeting (the employee may be accompanied) with a note taker present and a reference back to the informal approach or appraisal. Further targets and timescales for improvement may be set at this stage and further appropriate support may include additional training, delegation of work and re-allocation of duties.

At this point, sanctions may need to be applied, such as a written warning, final written warning, dismissal with notice or other sanctions such as demotion.

If the result of the process is a dismissal then it must be fair in all the circumstances under consideration. There is an ACAS guide to disciplinary and grievance procedures for example which contains general principles of fairness and these can be incorporated within the employer’s own procedures.

Managing an employee who is underperforming is a complex, intricate and sensitive legal process. To ensure you have the appropriate support and processes in place please get in touch and we can talk you through the steps required.

improving employee engagement

How to improve employee engagement should be a real focus in the work of leaders, managers, team heads and of course HR professionalsHow to improve employee engagement should be a real focus in the work of leaders, managers, team heads and of course HR professionals.

Employees are the heart blood of every organisation. Without them there is no organisation. Some businesses allocate countless resources to their branding, marketing, production, innovation and business development, and place their people lower down the list of priorities.

People are what makes the organisation tick and so figuring out how to improve their engagement should be high on the list from board meetings to day to day operations.

We would love to share our experience with you to see how we might work together to improve the engagement of your staff. Please get in touch.

In the meantime you might be interested in visiting Engage for Success.

HR Support Healthcare

You have found a consultancy who provide dedicated HR support for Healthcare Practices.

From helping you to manage your current employees, assessing your workforce levels, or recruiting staff to support the growth of your practice, Narrow Quay HR provides customisable HR solutions to support you both strategically and tactically.

HR Support Package for Healthcare Practices

For a fixed monthly fee, we are able to support your healthcare practice, with HR services from commencement to termination of employment and everything you encounter in between.

We balance a commercial approach with pragmatism, to ensure you comply with best HR practice and receive practical advice that works.

Our HR consultants are qualified Employment lawyers who specialise in HR, giving you the best of both worlds: solid legal expertise and HR solutions.

We don’t just tell you what you can and can’t do, we work with you to find a tailored solution that’s best for you and your practice.

 

  • In-depth HR audit at the start of the relationship, to enable us to understand your practice
  • Fixed annual fee, taking away any concerns over unforeseen expenses
  • 24-hour telephone and email helpline
  • Training events at discounted rates
  • Invitation to an annual round-table meeting with our HR team to discuss strategy and to review progress
  • Subscription to our Employment Law Brief to ensure you are kept up to date
  • Template employment contracts and handbooks
  • Investigations into disciplinary, grievance or other challenging HR issues and panel support where required
  • Support with redundancies or restructuring, with on-site support if needed

For further information, please contact Sarah Want on 0117 314 5363 or Caitlin Anniss on 0117 314 5264 

staff appraisals

Staff appraisals and their link to pay can be one of a manager’s most challenging and contentious moments in their role.

Narrow Quay HR has a bespoke training designed as a package of services to help schools, businesses and health practices create, and delivery a robust and effective appraisal process.

The bespoke four hour appraisal training workshop includes:

The importance of appraisals and the legal context in which they are held
How to conduct an effective appraisal – they skills needed, how to set objectives and how to assess performance
Practical guidance and real life examples
How to tackle performance concerns and interplay with the capability procedure

The workshop is designed to provide practical training to those carrying out appraisals in schools, businesses and health practice and covers the skills that are needed as well as the wider context of the appraisal system.

We also focus on providing strategic advice and can provide a suite of tailored appraisal documentation.

So how does the Effective Staff Appraisal workshop happen? Initially we will meet with you to discuss your current appraisal process, concerns over the current process and your key aims. We will then provide written recommendations of the practical steps you need to implement or improve within your appraisal system.

This will be accompanied by a comprehensive suite of appraisal documents including: guidance for appraisers and appraisees; an appraisal policy; appraisal forms; and a letter to staff, introducing them to your new system.

We have worked with many different organisations, reviewing their pay policies and can work with you to ensure that your policy is legally compliant and operates to support your strategic aims, including linking pay with performance where appropriate.

We are on hand every step of the way to support you with implementation of the new policy and to help address any implications for staff.

Please contact us if you would like to find out more.

Unconscious Bias

Unconscious Bias is a hot topic right now. The progress towards creating a more diverse workforce at all levels is an objective that most employers are focusing on today.

Raising awareness and investing in staff development in this area through the use of interactive workshops and training is key.

Unconscious bias is a bias that we are unaware of, and which happens outside of our control. It happens automatically and is triggered by our brains making quick judgements and assessments of people and situations, influenced by our background, cultural environment and personal experiences.

Unconscious bias can occur in many situations and in relation to many prejudices, which could include, but are not restricted to: Physical characteristics or appearances; Social context; Stereotyping and favouritism

Research has shown that unconscious bias is a habit that can be changed.

We run workshops that can help to highlight the role unconscious bias can play and provide practical strategies to mitigate its effects. This will help leaders and managers to make fair and transparent decisions and minimise discrimination.

Our unconscious bias workshops are a key strategic tool in promoting equality and diversity within your workplace and eradicating unlawful discrimination.

The workshop covers: Key concepts from the Equality Act 2010 including the protected characteristics and the types of discrimination; Examples of the Equality Act in practice; Exploring unconscious bias and how it can impact in the workplace; Practical advice on how to mitigate the effects of unconscious bias.

Please get in touch for more information and to book a workshop for you and your team.