Over the last week or two I have been on vacation, and this has given me the chance to catch up on all the "nice to read" business magazines that have been sitting in my in-tray. One that I do enjoy reading is the Harvard Business Review, as while it does have a rather North American slant to its articles, I appreciate that many of the issues and themes are universal in business.
I did have a chortle at the statistic presented in the April 2013 magazine that for every hour of interrupted sleep missed the night before, employees tended to spend 8.4 minutes in the course of a 42 minute task "cyber loafing".
I am not to sure if it was because I was out of the office and therefore free to spend some time to be deliberate in my thoughts around what I as reading, but I did find myself getting curious around how researchers discover these links.
Having spent a little time at low level academia (completing my MSS) I am aware that there is a need to present a hypothesis prior to fully researching the topic - i.e. I believe that there is a linkage between interrupted sleep and cyber loafing, and my research will either prove or disprove this theory. I also know that it can be very hard to not predetermine the outcome of the study and therefore find that you inadvertently disregard certain evidence that you come across, as it doesn't fit into the theory that you are trying to prove.
This issue of predetermination is very much human nature and universal in its application. When dealing with an employee over alleged misconduct, it can be easy to jump straight to the end of the process, and in turn make some assumptions that deny the employee natural justice to fully explain or deny the issue at hand.
This can also be seen if we apply the lens of predetermination in a poor performance scenario. Sometimes as employers we can find ourselves making value judgements that an employee who is not performing either doesn't want to, or can't make the necessary changes to improve. Even if a formal process is entered into, it is hard not to then find fault in work done that validates this assumption. And there is nothing more satisfying than being right!
I guess as people managers we not only have a responsibility to bring leadership and management expertise to the table, but we also have a responsibility to leave predetermination and assumption at the door.
The concept of good faith pretty much underpins employment agreements world wide; whether it is provided for in the country's respective employment legislation (such as New Zealand and Australia), or is implied by the act of entering into an employment contract.
Employers can often struggle with the concept of good faith, as many times the requirement to act in good faith generally occurs where the employer needs to make a "business decision" (such as restructuring, redundancy, poor performance etc), and the employees are a secondary component in the equation. Generally in instances such as this, the businesses may seek legal advice, either through their in house HR team or at times independently.
Lawyers have a very specific purpose in this process, and that is to provide legal interpretation around the tolerance for the employer to act within that is provided for in the respective legislation, and to provide legal council and representation should it all go pear shaped.
What lawyers generally are unable to do is to provide the moral and ethical aspects around what good faith means, and this is where your HR partner should be able to step up and assist. A good HR partner should not only be able to advise the employer of the legal implications of what the business is attempting, but should be able to bundle this up within the aspects of what good faith should provide for.
Seeking HR advice at the start means that a business can not only have a higher level of flexibility in the execution of business decisions, with less costs associated for procedurally deficient processes; but can still deal with its employees in a legal, ethical and moral capacity.
Not a "tea and tissue" HR person, I actually believe that HR can provide strategic advice of value to an organisation. Not only do I believe HR can, but I actively work to do so.