UNDERSTANDING HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT
1.0 RECRUITMENT AND SELECTION
Recruiting and selecting the most suitable person for a job is a complex task which requires an organisation to be compliant of the relevant legal framework and good practice standards. In UK, public authorities must adhere to strict antidiscrimination laws as well as conform to the best practices in recruitment and selection. A properly conducted recruitment and selection exercise has the advantage of minimising employee’s issues that might arise in future or during the recruitment process. The opposite is also true; a poorly conducted recruitment and selection exercise will have far reaching implications to any organisation. That being the case, LBBD has every reason to ensure that the recruitment and selection is conducted in line with the laid legal framework and observe the best practices in the industry.
1.2 Legal Framework
The ultimate goal of a recruitment process is to find the most appropriate person in terms of qualifications, skills, aptitude as well as experience (Noe et al 2011; Newell, Brown, and Swain, 2012). That notwithstanding, the whole process must be fair and inclusive. As a result, every employers need to be aware of their anti-discrimination duties imposed by the legal framework. Some of the laws affecting the recruitment and selection process include the Equality Act and the protected characteristics, fixed term employment, Employment of ex-offenders, data protection, safeguarding children and vulnerable adults, criminal record checks, Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and eligibility to work in the UK laws (Proctor and Leighton, 2003).
Off all the key legislation, the most likely law to impact the recruitment and selection process is the Equality Act 2010 which harmonises and strengthens all antidiscrimination laws. For the purpose of the Equality Act, there are nine protected characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership and pregnancy and partnership. LBBD embodies these rules in its current Single Equality Scheme 2013-2016. Some of the objective of this scheme is “to ensure that the promotion of equality and human rights and elimination of discrimination and all LBBD practices through leadership and organisation commitment, and “to ensure the development of an effective and diverse workforce that is representative of the communities served by the council” (SES 2013) Every employer has to ensure that no applicant is treated less favourably on account of any of these protected characteristics. Any less favourable treatment can be interpreted to either be direct discrimination, discrimination by association, perception discrimination, indirect discrimination, harassment, harassment by others or victimisation.
To conform to the equality and diversity policy, LBBD has some of the best strategic aims for recruiting staff. According to its recruitment booklet, some of its strategic aims are:
(i) To achieve a workforce that reflects at all levels and in all occupations, the diversity (different backgrounds) of the community and customer it serves. This aim lies squarely with the council’s community priority which is to “promote equal opportunities and celebrate diversity” (LBBD 2014).
(ii) To give all groups of people the opportunity to apply for and secure jobs, and for individuals from minority groups to compete on equal terms. This is a noble aim for ensuring inclusivity and diversity.
Beside this critical strategic aims, the council has also developed several policies to compliment the key legislations. For instance, the Policy on the Employment of Ex-Offenders in line with the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 states that the council is “committed to achieving equality and diversity in employment, and to recruiting the right people for the right jobs at the right time and in the right numbers, in a fair, consistent and cost-effective manner”. Other important policies within the council are the Equalities and Diversity in Employment Policy and the Safer People for Safer Services Policy. To ensure that the employment and recruitment process meets the equality and diversity threshold, ever applicant must fill a “recruitment and monitoring form”. Although it might seem unethical to ask people to state their racial background, sexual orientation, or any other protected characteristics, the information gotten by filling this form helps the council in monitoring how effective the Equality and Diversity in Employment Policy is.
1.21 Positive Action and Indirect Discrimination
While LBBD has a sound policy to ensure equality and diversity in its recruitment process, it has to deal with challenges that come with act such as the provisions of “positive action” and ban on the health status of question on job applicants. According to the Equality Act 2010, employers are required to undertake positive actions to ensure that person with protected characteristics who are underrepresented in an organisation are recruited more to fill the gaps. This provision requires that if an organisation is faced with two qualified candidates, one with a protected characteristic, the organisation should settle on the one with a protected characteristic to promote its equality and diversity. In the case of disability for instance, the positive action go to an extent of suggesting that treating a person with a disability more favourably is not discrimination.
The challenge of implementing the “positive action” provision is that there is a very thin line between the provision and positive discrimination. The latter is illegal. For the Borough to implement the provisions and be without running the risk of positive discrimination, it must be aware of the elements of equal merit, reasonableness and proportionate mean. These elements are critical for justifying positive action. Beside these challenges, the council has done well in proactively promoting the recruitment of disabled people through its “Positive about Disability”. For this commitment, the council was awarded the “Positive about Disability Two Tick symbol” as early as 2002. Creating a balance between positive action and positive discrimination is what the council need if it will retain the symbol under its Single Equality Scheme 2013 to 2016 Action Plan.
Within the strict anti-discrimination laws, LBBD must strike a balance between equality and diversity and the need to recruit the most qualified candidates to match the job description. The best way to go around this is by ensuring that the council attracts the most appropriate applicants among the people with protected characteristics. With this approach, the council will ensure that even it recruits people with protected characteristics, they are appropriate for the job.
1.3 Best practices
According to the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham (LBBD) recruitment policy, “the council aims to provide quality, accessible and relevant services for the local community, and believes that the success or otherwise of this aim is dependent upon the staff who work for it” (LBBD 2014). This strategic aim appears to incorporate some of the best practices in recruitment and selection. Some of the best practices in recruitment and selection include identifying the vacancy, proper job description, and using the appropriate advertisement strategy to attract the most suitable candidates for the job (French and Rumbles, 2010). The recruitment and selection process need also to be fair (Taylor, 2002; Flynn, 2012). Apart from advertisement, an organisation can as well recruit from within or use the services of employment agencies or recruitment consultants (Martin, Whiting and Jackson 2010). LBBD has undertaken measures to ensure that its recruitment and selection process falls within these best practices. Some of the LBBD’s recruitment strategies are:
(i) To recruit the right people into the right jobs at the right time and in the right numbers, in a fair, consistent and cost-effective way.
(ii) To recruit using clear and justifiable job-related criteria
LBBD “application pack” includes an application form where applicants fill in the details of the job they are applying for, a covering letter, job specification, person specification and the details about the department being applied for. The application pack may also include the service area the job is based and the particular conditions of appointment that are relevant to the job. Such an application pack contains the relevant information for a recruitment process. As Whiddett and Hollyforde (2003), Leatherbarrow, Fletcher and Currie (2010), Martin Whity and Jackson (2010) notes, an application pack should disclose more information about the vacant position and seek the right information from the applicants to match the job specification. The job specification, personal specification, details about the department applied to, the service area in the job and the particular conditions of appointment in the LBBD pack certifies the recruitment criteria. What the council needs to do to attract appropriate applicants is to use the AIDA (concept) in its job advertisement. The AIDA concept advocates that an effective advertisement has to create Attention, Interest, Desire and Action (Martin, Whity and Jackson 2010, p.134).
Once an organisation receives application, the next stage is selection. LBBD notifies those who are selected through letters or phone call. Whether to use either of this depends with the appropriate medium to reach those who are shortlisted. The main method of selection at LBBD is interviews which always involve the line manager. Where necessary, the selection process may include a test like presentation skills, listening skills and word processing.
The interview method as applied by the council has its own strength and weaknesses. It is the best method for assessing whether the applicant has the requisite communication and social skills required for a job, assessing the applicant’s knowledge of the job, determining compatibility, it is flexible, can obtain supplementary information, and may be the best method of picking the best among the equally qualified applicants (Flynn, 2012). However, the interview method may be subjective, influenced by stereotypes, give more weight to negative information and not as reliable as tests (French and Rumbles 2010). To improve in the selection process:
ü LBBD needs to rely more on tests where necessary.
ü In case it has to rely on interview, the council needs to put up measures to validate each process (Taylor, 2002).
ü In order to get the best out an interview, LBBD should follow the WASP (Welcome, Ask, Supply, and Part) interview structure (Martin, Whiting, and Jackson 2010)
ü The LBBD recruitment guidelines does not emphasise the importance of induction. As Newell, Brown and Swain (2012) have observed, induction is an important stage in the recruitment and selection process. The best practice in recruitment and selection is to treat induction as an important activity and to devote enough resources to actualise it. According to Martin, Whiting, and Jackson “new employees who have undergone an effective induction programme are likely to be competent performers at their jobs more quickly than those whose induction was scanty or non-existent’ (2010, p.145). Induction also helps in retention of newly recruited employees.
Beside the challenges in the recruitment, LBBD will also have to devise mechanism to deal with pressures exerted by the changing labour force. The UK is experiencing a demographic change of the labour force due to age variation, more women entering the labour force and more immigrants becoming part of the UK labour force. Other pressures include the increased demand by modern employees who are demanding flexibility in contract of employments (Erickson, 2008; CMI 2008).
2.0 PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT
As Armstrong and Baron correctly observes managing performance is a critical focus of human resource activity (2004). Basically the role of performance management is to ensure that employees are contributing their best towards the achievement of the organisation goals (Grint 1993). It is from this background that Armstrong and Baron define performance management as “a process which contributes to the effective management of individuals and teams in order to achieve high levels of organisational performance (2004, p.1). As the CIPD (2014) notes, the qualities of a performance management is that it is strategic and integrated. It includes performance improvement, development and managing behaviour (CIPD 2014). As much as this process is important, organisations experience problems in developing processes, tools and delivery mechanisms to improve performance (Armstrong and Baron 2004).
The performance management at LBBD is based on the understanding that members, staff and residents expect the council to deliver quality services. As such the council has set its priorities around what it considers as the “LBBD Core Competency Framework”:
ü Customer first,
ü Achieving Excellence,
ü Working together,
ü Taking responsibility,
ü and Fairness and Respect
To support these priorities, LBBD has put in place a robust “Performance Management and Policy Development” structure. More importantly, the council has put in place Performance Indicators (PIs) to determine how it attains these priorities (CIPD 2010). In LBBD’s Performance Score 2013-2014 for instance, the achievement is measured around 11 indicators: Inspection Performance, Tenancy Audit Performance, Capita Performance, ASB Performance, Mutual Exchanges, Complaints Performance, Complaints Justified, Members Enquiry performance, Sign Up and SIV Performance, Voids Performance and Sickness Monitoring. The measurement for each of the indicators is done each month which is the best to show consistency (Brown, 2010). Each individual performance is linked to these indicators.
Performance management has the ability to transform an organisation if performed properly, but if it fails, like Likert (1959) it can lead to “irreparable harm”. According to Baron and Armstrong (1998), performance management fails when employees view it as a “punitive, top-down control device” rather than a holistic, total approach to engage everyone in an organisation. The process fails when organisation fails to develop effective tools, processes and delivery mechanism to monitor performance (Baron and Armstrong 2004; ACAS 2012).
Some of the best practices that can be adopted for the performance management process to produce the desired outcome include:
ü Frequent reviews and reports,
ü Communicating performance
ü Considering all the aspects of performance,
ü Ensuring that performance measures do not lead to perverse or negative behaviours
ü Reporting performance, and
ü Benchmarking performance against peers
The principle that runs through the best practices is fairness and objectivity.
The observance of these best practices has been so difficult to an extent that that Coens and Jenkins (2000) writing out of North America experience recommended “abolishing performance appraisals”. However, like Armstrong and Baron (2004), argue performance management can be effective if organisations:
(i) Design performance management processes that reflect the context and nature of the organisation,
(ii) Create supportive delivery mechanism, and
(iii) Evaluate and continuously develop performance management strategies to reflect the changing business environment.
As Brown also notes organisation can move to true performance management if they practice a “true performance management philosophy, rather than a top-down-imposed appraisal approach” (2010, p.4). A genuine performance management system can be realised if the whole process is simplified and both managers and employees made part of the system (E-reward 2005, Brown, 2010). To Coens and Jenkins (2000), providing a clear link between the appraisal and the organisation goals in the midst of extensive paperwork is an effective component of performance management.
Looking at the LBBD’s Performance Score 2013-2014, the council seems to be doing well if the performance indicators are anything to go by. Apart from in the ASB performance where satisfaction level averaged between 36 per cent and 60 percent between June 2013 and March 2014 all the other PIs averaged between 80 percent and 100 percent. Arguing from the perspective that effective performance management is associated with high performance, it is easier to conclude that LBBD has an effective performance management system.
In line with the best practices, LBBD has set a performance management environment in which managers meet their employees for a formal one-to-ones at least once in a month. This conforms to the best practice of frequent reviews. In addition, the council has established a monthly performance score meaning that there is frequent report. More importantly at the council, line managers are at the forefront of the review process.
Again, the LBBD’s principles of appraisal conform to the best practices. According to the LBBD’s performance management appraisal scheme, an appraisal is:
ü A chance for managers to show that they value their staff (LBBD 2005, p. 5)
ü Supportive, open and constructive
ü About staff doing their job and developing
ü Part of on-going management, and,
ü A formal process
These are sound principles to deconstruct the notion that performance management is a top-down thing (Mohrman, and Mohrman, 1995, p 72). Some of the measures that LBBD can do to improve on its performance are to simplify the paperwork, ensure that pay progressively increases as performance goals are met, and continue to provide training for both the appraisees and appraisers.
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