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HR Policy Overhaul: Where to Start

It’s a jobseeker’s market again, and in a competitive environment, small details can make a big difference in attracting talent. Some HR leaders and recruitment managers might be surprised to learn that one factor can make their company stand out during the hiring process – and it’s not a bigger salary, or benefits like free meals.

It’s a piece of paper.

To be precise, it’s an up-to-date remote working policy that takes account of the new reality after Covid-19.

In our conversations with candidates, for contract and permanent roles, it’s the one issue they consistently bring up. They want clarity from their prospective employer about what they can and can’t do. And they want it in writing.

By now we all know how the upheaval of the past year led to a huge, and probably permanent, change in ways of working. Some organisations adapted seamlessly, some figured it out as they went, others grudgingly accepted the circumstances and secretly counted the days until offices could reopen and they could return to the ‘old normal’.

Some organisations already had HR policies that allowed remote working – even if it was a perk of the job reserved for certain staff only. Others had no option but to relax previously strict guidance on attendance in the workplace.

Now, with widespread reopening finally on the horizon, the fog of the past 18 months is giving way to a clearer picture.

And make no mistake, candidates actively looking for roles want clear rules. Will their employer expect them to come to the office all the time? Are there a set number of days per week where they have permission to work off-site?

We’ve seen a trend where people during the pandemic relocated to a different part of the country over the past year, and set up a home office far beyond practical commuting distance from their employer’s office. We’re aware of a lot of pushback with candidates in this position, who don’t want to come to the office five days a week. In some cases, it’s non-negotiable: they’re refusing moves to potential employers unless they can keep working as they’re doing today.

But does your company’s official policy reflect this changed state? Are you revisiting your guidance and updating it? Or just resetting to 2019 and it’s ‘as you were’ on remote and hybrid working?

Without clarity, you’re in danger of undermining your existing staff, and making your company less attractive to potential hires. As we know, technology candidates have their choice of jobs, so you run the risk of losing valued and experienced existing members or losing out in a race to recruit fresh talent.

This is not to say candidates hold all the cards. In the UK, a trend is emerging where candidates who want the job to be fully remote are get a lower salary. It’s easy to imagine this approach might take root into the Irish market. But if the cost of living is lower for the employee, then maybe that’s an acceptable trade-off for them?

We’re not saying we have the answers. What’s important is to ask the questions. Before committing pen to paper on a new HR policy, a good place to start is by having focus groups among teams to find out how they want to work. A top-down management decree won’t necessarily reflect the diversity of views among team members – and that way lies the path to employee disillusionment. 

Keep the existing leave policies and health benefits intact but update parts of the policy to reflect people’s experiences in working from home. Mental health will probably need to be more prominent than before, so the policy should have clear guidance on working hours to make sure staff burnout isn’t a risk.

As you’ll probably discover, your mileage may vary: if your company has a broad mix of ages, one hard and fast rule won’t suit everyone’s circumstances. Someone in their late 30s or early 40s with a young family may want to continue working from home regularly, or even permanently. A person at the start of their career may want the buzz of being in the office, forming relationships with co-workers and teammates.

Your HR policy should be flexible enough to cater for multiple options, if that’s an approach you’re comfortable with. Who says you can’t have team meetings with four people based in the same office and another four dialling in remotely? That’s even more of a reason to look at HR policies in a fresh light. If the past year and a half has taught us anything, it’s that ‘the way we’ve always done it’ can change quickly if it needs to. +353 (1) 295 2850 Jobseekers