I was at a wedding this weekend and I was able to catch up with my friend Donald. He’s a fairly senior manager in an NHS Trust and years ago we briefly worked together.
Naturally, I asked how things were going and, unsurprisingly, Donald started to tell me about a “transformation” project he was working on. In essence, he needed to make cuts in line with his decreasing budget and was trying to restructure his team. He described his frustration because his plans weren’t running as smoothly as they should be and ended his story with
“….and in the end, I just did what HR told me to do.”
I think I was a bit blunt in my response – I blame my northern roots. But it transpired that Donald didn’t actually understand what HR was advising him, so he thought it would be quicker and easier just to do what he was told.
There lies several issues with this. As advisers on HR matters we need to ensure that managers understand what we’re advising. I frequently ask managers whether they are “comfortable” (my exact words) with my advice. Because if they aren’t, they won’t do it.
But more importantly Donald is accountable for his actions. It is tough going through restructure, but employees will respect their manager more if they “own” the process. And lastly, I don’t think Donald would come out of an Employment Tribunal with his dignity in tact if he uses the “HR told me to do it” defense.
So this Monday morning, I hoping Donald is going to pop into his HR department. And for me, it reminds me once again how important it is that we, HR practitioners, explain complex policies and procedures in way that is plain and simple.