The reality is that in the process of decision making, line managers, supervisors, department heads, and company executives tend to look at expediency over equity.
In other words, the decision is based on, ‘what do I need right now to ensure this job is done’? The decision is not always based on ‘what does the Human Resources (HR) policy say?’ That is simply because, the underlying attitude is that HR will take care of the details.
And there would be no problem at all if the decision made was within the provisions of the approved employment policies, but sometimes, actually, oftentimes, the decision is not aligned to the policies. You may find that someone was offered a job and the remuneration agreed without the involvement of HR, only to find that the package agreed is not available to the job grade and salary band within which the new recruit falls.
But the manager would argue that, for the sake of competitiveness, the person simply had to be hired at all costs. You may also find that someone was fired outside the usual processes. There was a meeting called between the manager and the employee, a conversation ensued about how dissatisfied the manager is, and the employee asked to hand-over everything and leave, or submit his resignation. The conversation would have been held without HR, who would only receive an email requesting payment of terminal benefits.
The HR office is not there to frustrate colleagues in their decision making processes. But if HR is not able to guide the decisions, the whole business is going to be frustrated by the negative impact on the employer brand and the financial implications of an unfavourable outcome of the trade dispute that an aggrieved employee could successfully lodge against the employer.
The interesting thing about it is that most managers are aware of HR policies and indeed many of them cite those policies on a daily basis when dealing with their teams. But when canvassed, managers say they bend the rules, or avoid them altogether, for various reasons. Some felt it had been necessary to get the job done.
Or that the policies are unfair, restrictive, outdated or simply irrelevant. Some felt the policies were ambiguous and open to interpretation. Others said they should be able to use discretion especially in emergency situations. Funny, some actually said
A few went as far as saying ‘they did not think the rules were morally right’. There was one manager who said she routinely bends rules to return favours, you know, that when there is a high-performing team member who happily goes beyond the call of duty to ensure targets were met, why should she start quoting policy when that same employee needs a favour?
For instance, if an employee willingly takes on extra duties, agrees to out of town assignments and so on, and suppose I give the employee time off, how does it hurt anyone if the time off is not recorded?
So, you see that some of the deviation from policy appears harmless while some of it verges on fraud. But instead of going on a clean-up campaign (let me assure you that if you are the HR practitioner in that business, more often than not, the CEO or MD is aware of these games played behind your back and probably won’t address them because to some extent he is also implicated), so instead of going on a head-to-head campaign against the colleagues in management, the most useful approach has been found to be an educational lobby campaign where you talk about the policies on a regular basis, reminding managers of the values and risks around compliance.
Because some of them may not be sure how to apply the policies and are being misinformed by friends outside the organisation. Once you have started the campaign, you can lobby the MD or CEO to enforce application by incorporating compliance into performance contracts, so that being found to be the most HR compliant manager would attract a bonus or incentive of some sort.
It is common practice for the HR office to think that because everyone knows about the availability of policies, it means everyone is complying. That is not the case. This is perhaps one of the reasons why it is difficult to build that enabling culture. But without the culture, how will your HR office deliver on the strategy? And the mandate?