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AN OPEN LETTER TO CEOs, BUSINESS OWNERS AND ENTREPRENEURS

I recently read an article on BBC News where Greg Jackson - Founder and CEO of Octopus Energy stated that he didn't have an HR Department and that even though he has a billion pound company with over 1 200 employees he felt that 'HR Departments don't make employees happier or more productive in his experience.'


My initial reaction was emotional - rather brutal for someone to 'diss' a profession that I have proudly spent over 25 years in, honing my knowledge and skills with the belief that I am adding value to businesses. Then, the sceptic in me thought that Mr Jackson saw the headlines that Charlie Mullins – Owner of Pimlico Plumbers, was receiving on his somewhat controversial views on HR matters and decided to jump on the bandwagon. After all, don’t the PR Hacks say that any publicity is good publicity?


But to get to the point, the minute you employ even just one person, the function of Human Resources kicks in. Whether you wish to have an HR Department or not, minimally the ‘legal stuff’ needs to be taken care of. Such things as employment contracts, knowing the National Minimum Wage, how to calculate holiday pay, what is some-one’s part-time rights, Agency Worker rights, Working Time Directive, Discrimination laws - I can go on. Leaving these matters to individual managers to manage just opens you up to unfair practices and potential law suits. Not least you will have an unhappy workforce as they will deem that they are being treated differently.


An unhappy workforce leads to less productivity. To support this claim, I took a look at the reviews on Glassdoor. A forum which allows current and past employees to review the company. So, at Octopus Energy the reviews mainly state that the pros are that the people that work there are fantastic, great team spirit, good benefits. But the cons are more telling. No structure, high work pressure and pay not equivalent to the work demands, managers need to listen to feedback, treatment depends on the team leader you have, favourites are given promotions and pay rises, etc. etc. So not all rosy then and certainly if these comments are not taken seriously it will lead to an unhappy workforce.


Interestingly I also reviewed Pimlico Plumbers. The free gym and canteen are huge successes. Yet the cons are issues such as high staff turnover, no appraisals, big brother environment, management tried to change employment contracts, bad communication from management, etc.


It is issues such as I highlighted above, where the HR Department really earns its stripes. Naturally, we take care of the legal and compliance stuff, but that’s the baseline and the building structure. Where we can add value is to address the issues that breed toxicity and in turn, work with you to create an environment which supports growth and a happy workforce.


If you’re interested in knowing what I can do to assist, drop me a line on meryl@mekeda.co.uk

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