Look beyond the law to understand HR

As a professional, it is disturbing to see HR and Employment law in one sentence. It is a bit like seeing “Relate” and divorce courts lumped together. In every case the aim is to improve situations but HR and lawyers each have very different approaches as do “Relate” and the courts.

At its heart HR is about effective communication between people; that means engagement and some regard for individual well being. These words do not appear in the Employment Rights Act – other than in “re-engaging” someone who has already been dismissed !!

Human Resource Practice (7th Edn) is to be published by the CIPD in July 2016. But here is a brief insight into some of the authors’ thoughts.

HR is the inter-relation between people. How people work together, how the building blocks of an organisation interact to achieve the aims of the organisation. That means teamwork, compatible values and excellent communication. All these fire high productivity and great achievements. Michael Porter recognises these inter-relationships as what makes organisations competitive.

At an individual level the psychological contract means contribution. Of course the legal contract underpins it and it helps protect the employer if an employee leaves. But if employees simply work to the limitations of their job descriptions, let alone to just their contracts, an enormous contribution is overlooked.


  • Will help you get the right employees. The right employee will contribute many times more (literally) than the average and the wrong employee typically costs 2 ½ times their salary by the time they have been replaced. I discuss this in another blog.
  • Will help you get performance from your employees. You’ve invested in recruiting and selecting your employees; you want to make sure you get the most from them. Engagement and well being are part of this.
  • Enables proper reward. Over-paying your employees is safer than under-paying them, especially for key workers that you want to retain. But I am sure you don’t want to over-pay for goods and services on your purchase ledger, so why over pay employees? Incidentally an inappropriate pay rise does nothing for an employees motivation, contrary to some employers’ expectations.
  • Means identifying training and development to keep pace. Change is inevitable, and constant, whether is in the political landscape, the law, the economy, the social fabric, technology or the environment. Organisations who train so they are one step ahead, are one step ahead.
  • Resolves conflict, which means you can focus on your business

Of course the law is prominent at the outset of an employment relationship, as it is in a marriage. But for either to flourish you have to look beyond the law.

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