The future of performance management in a hybrid world

How do you know if an employee is working ‘properly’ from home? And more importantly, does it even matter?

Some organisations are completely comfortable with remote work, whilst others are clearly very uncomfortable. I call this dichotomy “Remote first or remote forced”.

Organisations who are truly remote first have worked out that how a person performs work is less important than the actual work performed. This perspective shift enables them to overcome the challenges associated with remote and hybrid work, especially those around bonding, collaboration, and visibility.

One example of remote first is technology firm Font Awesome. A remote first and globally distributed team from the beginning, Font Awesome holds mandatory one week retreats every quarter that it calls ‘Snuggles’. For one week the team lives and works together, a time which Font Awesome says helps build and repair relationships, conduct planning, and review successes and failures.

Whilst Font Awesome is a great example of how remote first works in a smaller organisation, Atlassian (with almost 11,000 employees in 13 countries) demonstrates how to pull off remote work in a large one.

Central to Atlassian’s culture is Team Anywhere, the philosophy that puts team members in control of their own priorities. Atlassian also has a dedicated team devoted to arranging in person meetups for Atlassian’s departments and teams, ensuring that in-person time is as effective and productive as possible.

Looking at both these organisations, the main thing that jumps out is their focus on turning communication and meetings into deliberate and valuable activities.

As Peter Drucker wrote: “Meetings are by definition a concession to deficient organization. For one either meets or one works. One cannot do both at the same time.”

These organisations are overcoming the challenges of remote work whilst also tackling the bane of remote and in-person working – the meeting that needn’t be.

On the other hand, most organisations are remote forced. They were forced to enable remote work by the pandemic and have been forced to remain hybrid by their workers, who are reluctant to surrender the benefits of working anywhere simply to justify their employer’s ten-year office lease. This results in the worst of both worlds; managers without the organisational support to properly measure their employee’s contributions, and cultures that were formed pre-pandemic and encourage conflict between those who work fully in the office and those who don’t.

The problem with accidental managers

It’s understandable that so many managers find managing performance in a hybrid world to be a challenge. Without training they rely on imitating the styles and practices of managers they’ve worked under in the past – and in the past, observational supervision was a key part of determining the old measures of performance. That is, making sure employees turn up on time and look busy.

As HR leaders we need to get better at measuring what matters. Not only is reforming performance management key to managing hybrid workers, but also to tackling the stagnation of productivity seen over the past twenty years.

Without properly training our managerial team we end up in a situation where performance is measured in terms of costs and efforts, rather than results. Even the most accidental manager can identify how much effort the worker next to them puts in or calculate the amount they cost the organisation. What’s harder to assess is their effectiveness, impact, and contribution to results. For that, the line manager depends on HR to provide the tools and measures that matter.

Introducing inappropriately named ‘productivity monitoring software’ is rarely the answer here. My biggest argument against them is that they monitor activity, not productivity, and confusing these two things is the biggest barrier to improving productivity we have. It serves only to foster a lack of trust between manager and managed, encourages clockwatching, and fails to measure the impact of work, only that it happens.

Instead, we need to improve and upskill our managers. 82% of managers are accidental – without any formal leadership training. 28% of employees say they have left an employer due to poor management. And of course, we also need to be aware of the Peter Principle – that people are promoted to the level of respective incompetence before they stop advancing.

Performance management: HR’s time to shine

So, we should start looking at this another way. How much are managers with high employee turnover costing the organisation in recruitment costs? I’ve previously discussed how managers are rarely effective recruiters, and in the same vein, they’re also rarely good at reviewing and managing performance. They excel in the day-to-day of motivating and using their teams to deliver the organisational objectives they have responsibility for.

It is HR who are experts in the organisation’s performance management procedures. And it is HR that has the organisational reach to understand what counts as a result across departments and help managers to truly judge an employee by contribution to results, rather than efforts.

And this is the key to managing performance in a hybrid world. A hybrid working world is one where efforts cannot be easily observed. But equally, it’s one that proves efforts and results are not the same thing and this should provide the push your organisation needs to start measuring performance in terms not of efforts and outputs, but in results and outcomes.

Finally, a word of warning to those organisations who are ‘remote forced’. As more organisations start to insist on a full return to the office, the group that has the most to lose from this are women, who are statistically likely to have benefitted most from having the flexibility to support other responsibilities such as caring.

My feeling is that a test case under the Equality Act 2010 that challenges a mandatory return to the office as indirect discrimination on the basis of sex is likely sooner rather than later. The outcome of this could have major knock-on effects – including a de facto requirement to effectively make all roles hybrid unless they can’t be.

Our Manager Guidance: Performance Management e-learning course gives line managers practical support with reviewing performance, developing careers and tackling poor performance.

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Recruitment & Selection

AI and its impact on inclusive recruitment

Don’t worry. This isn’t going to be yet another long read about inclusive recruitment that tells you all about how diverse workforces are more likely to outperform their peers, and how you need to put job adverts in unusual places, or you’ll fail to attract the people you need to serve diverse customer audiences.

I know that you know that – you wouldn’t be here, reading this, if you didn’t. But knowing something doesn’t make it happen. We’re going to look at the barriers an organisation puts up against inclusive recruitment practices and how I think we’ll soon overcome them.

First, let’s look at the story so far. You’ve:

  • Got your executive leadership on board
  • Taken out all the gendered language from your advert
  • Realised that even though the Guardian is progressive, its readership is still as homogenous as the Telegraph
  • Proactively sought out ad placements in places that aren’t Guardian Jobs that genuinely reach diverse audiences
  • Actually produced a shortlist of quality candidates from diverse backgrounds that can be delivered to the hiring manager

And then, guess what? The hiring manager, who’s delighted that their unconscious bias training taught them that their favourite tactic of hiring someone as close to themselves as possible is so widely practiced it has a name, picks the person who ‘reminds me of myself 10 years ago’.

My point is this. As HR leaders we can only take the organisation so far. We must understand and appreciate that line management can and will completely ignore us in the majority of their decision making. As far as they’re concerned, their jobs and reputations are dependent on making the right hire – after all, they’re the ones who’ll have to work with the individuals. So, they’ll pick the safe option; the mini-me. It is an incredibly rare manager with the confidence and, often, arrogance to believe that they’re so good that their reputation can absorb the potential damage of a risky hire that ends in failure.

De-risking recruitment

This clearly makes increasing diversity in the workforce quite challenging. The answer is to de-risk recruitment. And this already happens. Graduate schemes are run by HR, which means that even if a line manager feels their grad is a liability, it’s not a reflection on their selection skills. The graduate can be given time, moved around and find their specialty without any risk to the manager.

And strangely, despite the concerns of bias, it’s probably Artificial Intelligence that will give us the ability to de-risk recruitment for managers. The HR and recruitment teams of the near future will be able to conduct full recruitment cycles using AI to select the best candidate.

Let’s be honest, recruitment isn’t fun. It’s also a distraction from daily deliverables, highly time-consuming, and demands that the hiring manager make an expensive, long-term decision with minimal, largely unverifiable information. In short, most line managers don’t enjoy being hiring managers, and would happily pass that responsibility off to a trusted ‘other’. Even to AI.

But, I hear you say, the AI models are biased. Well yes. And sorry to break it to you, so are every single one of your hiring managers.

And the solution to AI’s biases rests with you, and your data. Foundational models (the underlying data and code behind AI products) are being licensed or open-sourced for organisations and individuals to use and build their own technology on, using their own data.

Which means the level of bias in your AI powered recruitment journey will be, fundamentally, down to you. You will have control over the data you put in and the patterns the AI discovers. And what’s more difficult? Iterating and adjusting for the bias in your single AI recruitment model, or dealing with tens, hundreds, or even thousands of hiring managers all with completely different biases?

But that’s the destination – how do we get there?

As HR leaders it is our responsibility to identify and understand the opportunities ahead of us. AI is the biggest opportunity and the biggest change in the world of work since the dawn of the internet and will have an even greater impact.

However, having your own bespoke AI solution is still a couple of years away for large organisations and probably five years away for small and medium ones. So how do we de-risk recruitment for our hiring managers today, so that we can collect the inclusive recruitment data we need for tomorrow?

Firstly, prove the hypothesis. Do line managers in your organisation want to be responsible for hiring decisions or not? And certainly, there will be many who do, especially at more senior levels.

If the feedback is that certain levels do want recruitment responsibility, but others don’t – great. It may be a greater short-term burden, but moving activity gradually into HR now will make the eventual move to full AI recruitment much easier. But be super aware of your own biases!

Secondly, collect the data that’s important. Depending on resourcing, getting a data analyst to work on this with you can be helpful. They’ll be able to identify key metrics and indicators to be aware of that you can use to improve recruitment now and in the future.

Thirdly, look at the best things about recruitment now, and make sure to embed them into the future. It’s still a human process – people still want to engage with people, even if evaluation and selection is done by a big pile of computer code. And that’s something, if we’re honest, that we’ve not been doing well on. The AI recruiter will be able to share instant feedback on candidate strengths and weaknesses – human recruiters often end up ghosting candidates who ask for feedback. We can drag out the process far too long searching for that ‘golden egg’ and lose outstanding candidates. But we can be great at supporting candidates, building great experiences, and removing barriers.

So, think about what you’re doing well, and what you want to do better. You’ll be able to invest more time doing those things by automating the others. After all, bias in decision making is usually caused by making them in a rush.

AI isn’t the answer to bias in recruitment, but it is a tool that can help you find a solution. Easy access to AI is going to change how we work completely – you’ve probably already received cover letters and CVs written by ChatGPT. But along with threats and challenges come opportunities, if you know where to look.


Creating an EDI Strategy and Plan

What’s the difference between strategy and planning? Well, Peter Drucker, godfather of modern management, distinguishes the two as external and internal focuses. Drucker’s definition of strategy is:

“A pattern of activities that seek to achieve the objectives of the organization and adapt its scope, resources and operations to environmental changes in the long term.”

Compare with his definition of strategic planning:

“The continuous process of making present entrepreneurial and therefore risk-taking decisions systematically and with the full knowledge of their futurity; and then systematically organizing the efforts needed to carry out these decisions through organized systematic feedback.”

When discussing strategy Drucker talks of objectives, the wider environment and long term. Planning involves decisions, the present and use of the feedback loop.

A common error in organisational management is to confuse plans for strategy. We’ll produce a whole list of tangible, measurable actions, and deliverables, and call them a strategy. Can you see where this causes a problem for EDI?

We’ve spent an awfully long time explaining to organisational leaders that investing in EDI isn’t just being nice, or the right thing to do, or a PR activity; it results in improved organisational outcomes. And one of the key reasons for this is that a representative workforce that considers EDI as part of its business as usual delivers a better product, service, and experience for a greater proportion of the population.

That’s an example of an external factor. There is increased diversity outside of your organisation; in your customer base, your suppliers, your competitors. And that external environment is changing; it’s becoming more diverse and therefore there are new opportunities, risks, and requirements.

This of course is the main problem caused by most EDI functions sitting within the HR hierarchy. In HR we’re naturally insular, looking to improve the organisation by empowering and developing the people inside it. As a result, our EDI strategy and planning starts with employees and, in the best cases, might end with future employees by virtue of community engagement and talent programmes. It is a rare organisation – the most notable being HS2, which empowers EDI to sit outside of the HR function and become a team which looks both within and without.

Identifying strategic priorities

So, lets imagine we’re starting our EDI strategy afresh. We’re able to extract our why from organisational strategy – this EDI strategy is required for the organisation to meet its strategic goals. Building our strategy then becomes about how. How does EDI factor into the strategic goals? If the organisational strategy is to expand into new global markets, having greater cultural diversity within the organisation becomes a key part of the EDI strategy. We also need to keep an eye on other aspects of the external environment. The news that ethnicity pay gap reporting will not be mandatory means that the race pay gap will, sadly, be deprioritised in many EDI strategies.

The what moves us away from strategy into the discipline of strategic planning. If part of the organisational strategy is to counter attempts from competitor X to eat into some of our market segments, our EDI strategy reflects this by ensuring we have the right people, skills, and knowledge to serve that market. It’s no good basing actions on a starting point of simply having relatively too few women in leadership positions; our strategy must explain:

  • Why that should change (women are underrepresented in our customer base, and competitor X is focusing on taking those we have)
  • How we intend to change this (increasing the number of women in leadership positions so that their experience and viewpoints are properly reflected during the decision-making process, which will improve our product and ensure it adds the value that customers are going to competitor X to find)
  • Our strategic planning should then define what we are going to do to achieve our strategic goal of more women in leadership positions (comparing benefit packages and flexible working opportunities to competitors, implementing development programmes and mentoring, creating a Women’s Network/Employee Resource Group)
  • And who is responsible for these actions. If HR is responsible for recruiting and connecting mentors and mentees, we’ll fail. Tell senior leaders that they’re expected to mentor a junior colleague, set a minimum expected SLA for mentors, and give it a value in the leader’s performance objectives, and suddenly the pressure to make the relationship succeed pivots from HR as a third party to the mentor.

By creating a clear line between strategy and strategic planning we’re telling our colleagues across the organisation that we are creating solutions to their problems. The EDI strategy isn’t a distraction or a social justice project; it has a clear value proposition that supports you, people in the finance team, and you, people in the sales team, and you, people in the service team, to achieve your own strategic goals.

An independent audit of the current situation helps ensure the foundations are in place and that gaps can be highlighted – both at a legislative and at a best practice level.  This involves interviews with key stakeholders, a document review, analysis of employee data, employee survey results and employee interviews.  The resulting report can be delivered as a document outlining short-term and longer-term recommendations or a presentation to senior leaders.

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Structuring your strategy

There are five key components to the perfect EDI Strategy:

Overall aim

With an explanation of why this is the main aim and how this relates to the organisation’s main strategic priorities. This section is forward looking – a vision of the organisation in a future where the organisation’s main strategic goals have been met.


Where we are now, and why it’s a problem. This section is focused on your organisation’s past, identifying the underlying reasons behind why both the Overall aim (above) and the EDI Strategy are required. The background should take the reader right up to the second before this document was written and is a good place to include any independent audits.

Competitor / benchmarking information

Where we are now in relation to the external environment. This section provides supporting evidence for why the EDI Strategy is important and why you have selected the priorities you have. Again, refer back to the Overall aim and how other organisations are approaching their own challenges.

Current situation including achievements and progress

You’ve reached the metaphorical banana skin! Whilst the temptation is to showcase how brilliant we are and wax lyrical about our success, this section should be the shortest. Here is your opportunity to provide evidence to add credibility to your strategic vision but remember that strategy is long-term thinking. Awards, achievements, and milestones are the consequence of what you’ve done, and whilst an essential part of reviews, reflection and analysis, should mainly form part of the background section.

EDI priorities 

Now we finally reach the how of your strategy. Identify the tangible priorities along with manageable KPIs. In our example above, we may want to do this by increasing the proportion of women in leadership positions from 20% to 25% in year 1, reaching 40% by year 3. By including a medium term and long-term target we ensure we’re thinking long term, as well as breaking ambitious goals into manageable steps. Use all the space you’ve saved by trimming down your long list of previous wins to produce really clear priorities that explain how creating change in this area will directly contribute to better results across the organisation. 

Well done! You’ve written your EDI Strategy without falling into the trap of turning it into a strategic planning document. Now it’s time for the strategic planning. Your action plan sets out the whats and whos that turn your strategy into activity. Use the EDI priorities from your strategy as headings and place your planned activities and initiatives beneath each. Some activities may contribute to multiple priorities – this is excellent and demonstrates efficiency in your planning. Simply describe the activity in full the first time it’s featured, and summarise it, with a brief explanation of how it specifically impacts this priority, on all subsequent priorities.

The action plan would include any new policies/procedures/processes required, reviews of existing ones, EDI related training, communication campaigns, engagement surveys, recruitment related proposals, and monitoring and measurement activities.

By taking this approach you ensure your priorities are all aligned to the organisation’s priorities, and all your activity is aligned to your priorities. You’re demonstrating that EDI is a key contributor to organisational success and that you’ve got a firm grasp of the organisation’s needs and priorities. Well done superstar!

Policies & Procedures

Handling Discrimination Investigations

Meet Ali, an ambitious HR manager in a perfectly ordinary organisation. They are admired by colleagues for their dedication to diversity and inclusivity and are eager to advance their career to a senior level. But like many HR professionals at some point during their career, Ali is navigating the complex landscape of discrimination claims. This article follows Ali’s journey in dealing with a race discrimination claim and the steps taken to ensure a fair, thorough investigation.

One day, Ali receives a complaint alleging racial discrimination within the company. The claimant, a valued employee named David, feels he’s been passed over for promotions due to his race. Ali knows the gravity of these claims and understands that they must be handled delicately and efficiently.

Realising the need for subjectivity in this process, Ali decides to bring in a professional external investigator to ensure a fair and unbiased investigation.

Engaging an external investigator offers multiple benefits. Firstly, it demonstrates the company’s commitment to establishing the facts and addressing the issue impartially. Secondly, it offers reassurance for all involved that the investigation is being conducted by a professional who is experienced in dealing with such matters and understands the nuances of the Equality Act 2010. Lastly, an external investigator can make recommendations to prevent similar situations in the future, reinforcing the company’s dedication to a diverse and inclusive workplace.

Ali also understands the importance of timely action. Race discrimination employment tribunal claims must be made within six months less one day from when the alleged discrimination occurred.

In the 2021/2022 period, there were 200 discrimination cases in which compensation was awarded, with the maximum award reaching a staggering £228,117 in a race discrimination case​. These figures highlight the potential financial implications of a successful claim.

Over the course of the investigation, Ali keeps David informed about the process and assures him of the company’s commitment to a fair investigation.

When the investigation concludes, Ali implements the investigator’s recommendations and takes proactive steps to further foster an inclusive workplace. This includes organising diversity and inclusion training sessions, reinforcing the company’s anti-discrimination policies, and taking steps to ensure transparent, merit-based promotion practices.

Ali’s story provides a practical, relatable guide for HR leaders like you, demonstrating the benefits of external investigations. By understanding these aspects, you too can navigate such challenges with confidence and contribute to building a fair and inclusive workplace.

Policies & Procedures

Making Workplaces Shine: Practical Steps to Boost Inclusion and Engagement

We all know that a welcoming and inclusive workplace can make a massive difference in employees’ happiness and the overall success of an organisation. So, how can we practically apply this knowledge to help employees thrive? Let’s dive into real-world examples and explore how staff surveys, coaching, mentoring, and training can create positive change in the workplace.

Inclusive Cultures: Getting Real with Staff Surveys and Policies

Imagine this: Sarah, a talented team member, feels left out because her ideas aren’t heard during meetings. To effectively create an inclusive culture, improving your understanding of the current state of employee engagement and EDI within the organisation is paramount. Conducting staff surveys can help identify situations like Sarah’s, as well as assessing employee engagement and inclusion across the organisation. Surveys offer a window into employees’ experiences, revealing areas that need improvement and providing an opportunity to identify gaps and challenges.

Organisations can use these insights to implement targeted strategies and supportive policies to foster inclusivity. For example, a policy that encourages open communication and values diverse perspectives can make employees like Sarah feel more comfortable voicing their ideas, fostering innovation and promoting a sense of belonging. When organisations create policies that value individual differences and promote a sense of belonging, employees feel more connected and are likely to contribute more effectively to the organisation’s success.

By combining staff surveys with the implementation of inclusive policies, organisations can create an environment where employees feel comfortable bringing their whole selves to work, ultimately enhancing engagement and driving success.

Coaching and Performance Management: Boosting Employee Growth with e-Learning

Picture Tom, a dedicated employee who lacks confidence in his leadership skills. Coaching is an invaluable tool that can help employees like Tom set clear goals, build confidence, and develop transferable skills, ultimately improving their job satisfaction and engagement. By providing employees with the right guidance and resources, coaching can lead to long-lasting benefits both for individuals and the organisation.

Incorporating e-learning into coaching and performance management initiatives offers flexibility and accessibility, allowing employees to learn at their own pace and revisit materials as needed. This tailored approach enables employees like Tom to engage with content more effectively, leading to better understanding, retention, and ultimately helping them reach their full potential.

By combining the power of coaching with the convenience of e-learning, organisations can create a supportive and effective environment for employees to grow and excel in their roles, contributing to the overall success of the organisation.

Mentoring: Empowering Employees through Connection

Consider Lucy, a new recruit who feels overwhelmed and isolated in her role. Mentoring relationships can be a game-changer for employees like Lucy by increasing self-confidence, enhancing communication skills, and providing opportunities to learn from experienced colleagues. By learning from the guidance and insights of a mentor, mentees can enhance their career trajectories and positively influence the organisation’s overall performance.

With the support of a mentor, Lucy can develop a professional network, gain valuable insights, and feel more connected to her workplace. This connection ultimately boosts her performance and contributes to the organisation’s success.

There are also benefits to the mentor. They get to hear a new perspective on the organisation and its operations that many senior leaders aren’t exposed to, especially in more hierarchical organisations. And they’ll often get the opportunity to learn huge amounts about a person with very different life experiences and goals than themselves.

By incorporating mentoring into the workplace, organisations can foster growth, enhance communication, and create a supportive environment where employees feel connected, engaged, and empowered to excel in their roles.

Training: Crafting Inclusive Leaders and Streamlining Recruitment

Inclusive leadership training is essential for addressing issues caused by managers unintentionally creating barriers for diverse employees. By training leaders to be more aware of and responsive to different perspectives, they can create an environment where everyone feels valued and supported.

Imagine a new employee, Priya, who is unsure about her workplace’s commitment to diversity. An induction program that includes EDI training can help communicate the organisation’s values and demonstrate that all employees are embraced and respected, fostering a sense of belonging from the outset.

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), Focus Groups, and Listening Groups can offer employees like Priya a platform to share experiences, express concerns, and contribute to the organisation’s strategies. These groups can also provide employees with a supportive environment for professional growth and collaboration. Like mentoring arrangements, they are an effective way to break through organisational hierarchies and deliver ‘unfiltered’ feedback on the organisation.

Meanwhile, recruitment training for line managers is another essential component of promoting an inclusive culture. Equipping hiring managers with tools to make unbiased decisions ensures that the workforce is more representative and inclusive, reflecting the organisation’s commitment to EDI.

Choosing the right training method is also crucial. While e-learning can be effective for sharing information, virtual or face-to-face (F2F) training will often be better suited for case studies and experiential learning. Combining these approaches ensures a comprehensive and engaging learning experience, allowing employees to thrive in a supportive and diverse workplace.

Creating a thriving, inclusive workplace is a worthy goal for all employers. But reaching that goal involves multiple activities, strategies and policies. achievable through staff surveys, supportive policies, coaching, mentoring, and targeted training. But by putting all these things into action it’s proven that organisations can enhance employee engagement and performance, leading to a more diverse and successful environment.

Policies & Procedures

Hybrid Working in 2023

Hybrid working has become a buzzword for many HR professionals in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has also become a hot topic for employers as they try to find a balance between employees’ desires for flexibility and the need to maintain productivity, collaboration and creativity in a workplace setting. However, the move to widespread hybrid working has not been easy, and employers are still grappling with several challenges that need to be addressed to make the transition a success.

Back to the office: This is one of the biggest challenges faced by employers. While some employers are dictating one, two or three days per week in the office, others are mandating a fixed number of days, with Disney even going as far as to mandate a 4-day week. While some employees may welcome the flexibility, others may be less enthusiastic, as they value the structure and social interaction that comes with being in an office environment. Employers need to find ways to balance these competing needs to ensure that all employees are happy and productive.

Many young people may also feel that changes to working patterns and the rise of remote work is a fair trade off for the sacrifices made during the pandemic. Or it may simply be that the pandemic accelerated changes that were already in progress. After all, most external meetings remain virtual. 

Productivity: The government has claimed that home working is leading to a loss of productivity, which is a concern for many employers. However, the research on this issue is mixed, with some studies suggesting that remote working can lead to increased productivity, while others suggest the opposite. A study I commissioned pre-pandemic found that productivity towards remote working can be highly dependent on personality type, and as such the way a worker is managed is likely to be at the root of performance issues. ‘Accidental managers’ have been causing problems for HR since time immemorial, and our organisational failures to properly equip line managers for in-person management, let alone remote management, are likely to be at least as big a contributor to productivity issues as the remote employee.

Is working remotely good for both employees and the organisation?: Employees have a good case to make for remote working, as many have been doing their jobs remotely during the pandemic. Many see little reason to return to the office, especially if they can do their job just as effectively from home. However, employers need to consider the impact of remote working on their culture, productivity and collaboration. Employers should also consider the needs of their employees and find ways to accommodate their preferences, whether through a hybrid working arrangement or by offering flexible work arrangements.

Work/Life Balance: Being forced to return to the office for even two or three days per week can be as costly as commuting into places like London full-time. Employees may feel that the benefits of remote working, such as reduced commuting costs and increased flexibility, outweigh the benefits of being in the office. Employers should consider the impact of commuting on their employees’ wellbeing and consider flexible work arrangements, such as flexible hours or remote working, to alleviate the burden of commuting.

The challenges: Another challenge employers face is providing opportunities for employees to socialise, create, and innovate. In an office environment, employees can bounce ideas off each other, collaborate on projects and build relationships. However, in a hybrid working environment, employees may feel isolated and disconnected, which can hinder creativity and innovation. Employers need to find ways to foster collaboration and interaction, whether through regular in-person meetings or virtual team-building activities.

Health and safety: Many employees may not have an appropriate workspace at home. Risk assessments are often overlooked, leading to back pain, eyestrain and other physical ailments. To mitigate these risks, employers must provide guidelines on ergonomics and workstation setups for home offices/workspaces. Employers can also offer flexible work environments, such as allowing employees to work in a shared workspace, which can be beneficial for employees who do not have the necessary equipment or workspace at home.

Workplace benefits: Restaurants, gyms, health incentives and other in-office benefits are largely redundant in a hybrid working environment. However, employers must find ways to compensate for the lack of these benefits by offering other perks, such as flexible working hours or additional paid time off. Employers should also look at ways to support employees’ mental health, such as offering access to counselling services or mental health days.

The Gender Pay Gap: Finally, there are claims that hybrid working is bad for the gender pay gap, decreases women’s chances of promotion and that it increases gender biases. I feel this is counter intuitive. One of the greatest contributors to the gender pay gap is the absence of flexible work for mothers – the gender pay gap is actually inverted in favour of young women before motherhood. Being able to work in a hybrid fashion delivers the flexibility that young parents (both mothers and fathers) need to continue their careers.

Diversity & Inclusion

Tackling the gender pay gap with data

The gender pay gap remains a significant issue in most UK workplaces, and the most recent statistics indicate that women still earn 14.9% less than men. In 2017, the UK government introduced gender pay gap reporting legislation, which requires all companies with over 250 employees to report their gender pay gap data. But reporting alone isn’t enough. The HR world has a critical role to play in using this data to identify and address pay disparities.

Data collection and analysis

The first step in using data to address our gender pay gaps is to collect and analyse the relevant information. This includes gathering data on employee salaries, job titles, work levels/grades, and other contextual information such as experience and education level.

This information can then be analysed to identify any disparities in pay between male and female employees. We can also use these insights to identify any barriers that may be preventing women from joining or advancing within the organisation, such as a lack of representation and role models in senior positions or unequal access to training and development opportunities.

Developing strategies

Once the data has been analysed, we can begin to develop strategies to address any disparities or barriers that have been identified. The gender pay gap reporting legislation gives organisations the option to publish an action plan alongside their pay gap data, outlining the steps they will take to close their pay gap. I’d encourage you to do this, as it demonstrates organisational commitment and keeps leaders focused!

One effective strategy is to conduct a pay analysis, which involves comparing the salaries of male and female employees who hold similar positions within the organisation. There is often confusion between equal pay and the gender pay gap, with some employers mistakenly assuming they have addressed the issue by paying men and women the same for the same work.

Despite this, differences due to scales or banding can become embedded into an employee’s pay over multiple years. If disparities are identified, adjustments can be made to ensure that all employees are being paid fairly for their work.

Another strategy is to implement policies that support women in the workplace, such as proactively offering flexible working arrangements or providing training and development opportunities to help women advance within the organisation. By creating a more supportive environment for women, companies can both help to close their gender pay gap and ensure all employees have the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Communicating Results

Under the gender pay gap reporting legislation, companies are required to publish their pay gap data on their website and the government’s gender pay gap reporting portal. It is also important to communicate the results of any data analysis and strategies implemented to address the gender pay gap to all employees. This includes sharing information on any changes to pay structures or policies that have been made, as well as providing regular updates on progress toward closing the pay gap.

By communicating openly and transparently with employees, companies can build trust and create a more inclusive workplace culture.

Blaming COVID

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the UK workforce and the gender pay gap. With many companies facing financial challenges and a shift to remote work, progress in closing the pay gap has slowed down or even stagnated. However, this shouldn’t be seen as an excuse to ignore the issue. Instead, HR professionals should use this as an opportunity to re-evaluate their strategies and ensure that they are doing everything possible to close the gap.

Improving Quality and Quantity

One of the key challenges in using data to tackle the gender pay gap is ensuring that the data is accurate and relevant. HR professionals must ensure that they are collecting high-quality data on a regular basis, including data on bonuses, overtime, and other benefits that may contribute to pay disparities. We should also look to combine our payroll data with data from employee surveys and focus groups to gain a better understanding of the experiences of female employees and identify any additional barriers to closing the pay gap.

Using Data from Multiple Sources

In addition to internal workforce data, HR professionals can use data from external sources to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the gender pay gap. For example, they can review industry-wide salary surveys and government statistics on pay disparities to identify trends and compare their own pay gap data to industry benchmarks. By using data strategically from multiple sources, HR professionals can develop more informed strategies to address pay disparities and improve overall equity in the workplace.

Inclusive Recruitment

Tackling the pay gap starts in recruitment. But reducing opportunities for bias to creep into hiring processes is only one part of the puzzle. One often neglected piece is to ensure you’re advertising inclusively in the first place. This is much harder to do, as things like inclusive language may conflict with approved style guides, and increasing the number of locations to advertise increases the cost of the recruitment process. This is often to the detriment of diversity in the mid-level roles which feed into management pipelines, as the roles themselves aren’t seen to justify the extra expense.

Measuring your recruitment properly and at scale can help identify inequalities that may not seem obvious at the individual level. By recording at each stage of the process (applications, shortlisting, appointments, offers made and accepted) statistical anomalies become clearer and barriers become more visible.

We like to concentrate on getting more people into the pipeline, but often forget about the women who exit it. Exit interviews are often a formality but but done right can provide valuable insights into what’s going wrong with your retention strategy.

Socioeconomic Factors

While the gender pay gap is often attributed to differences in salaries between men and women in the same roles, there are several other socioeconomic factors that can contribute to pay disparities. For example, the choice to have children and the cost of childcare can limit women’s career progression and earning potential. HR professionals must take a holistic approach to addressing pay disparities, including addressing these socio-economic factors and promoting policies that support women’s career advancement and work-life balance.

We also need to recognise that many mothers make the choice to prioritise their children and deprioritise their careers beyond maternity and even beyond early years. This can include avoiding extra responsibility, choosing roles solely on the criteria of working patterns (often in a different industry or business area than before) or eschewing development opportunities.

Tackling the gender pay gap requires a commitment from HR leaders to use data and analytics to identify and address disparities in pay. The gender pay gap reporting legislation provides a framework for companies to collect and report their pay gap data and develop action plans to close the gap. HR professionals must collect high-quality workforce data, use data strategically from multiple sources, and develop effective strategies to address pay disparities. They must also consider socio-economic factors that contribute to pay disparities and ensure that their policies support women’s career advancement and work-life balance.

By taking such a comprehensive approach to closing the pay gap, we can create more inclusive workplaces that support the success of all employees, regardless of gender. Coupled with collecting and analysing data, developing effective strategies, and communicating openly with employees, data-led HR can make a real difference to employee’s lives that extends far beyond organisational level pay gaps.

Policies & Procedures

Hybrid Working – July 2022

I hope you didn’t spend too much on your home office. The corporate fightback against working from home is in full swing, led by corporate landlords, Elon Musk, and weirdly, the Daily Telegraph, who have an entire section of their website dedicated to telling readers how lazy homeworkers are responsible for the UK’s current ills.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Elon Musk is making headlines with his infamous memo, indicating that working from home is fine, once forty hours have been completed in the office. For a man who’s still trying to get the self-driving part of his self-driving cars to work, this may be a big mistake. Artificial intelligence experts are in short supply, even in Silicon Valley, and it appears they quite enjoy home working.

Apple recently went into full reverse ferret on their mandatory return to the office after their director of machine learning, Ian Goodfellow, resigned in protest at the policy. Goodfellow was unsurprisingly and immediately snapped up by Google, and before enterprising Google recruiters had a chance to do too much damage to Apple’s disaffected AI team the iPhone maker hit pause on the policy, although grumblings (and rumours of anonymous letters to executives) persist.

First Steps

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Laziness or Exhaustion

Of course, there are disadvantages to homeworking. We’ve probably not gathered enough evidence yet to see if it does indeed prevent younger workers learning from more experienced colleagues. We also know that it doesn’t suit everyone; some research I previously commissioned found that different personality types faced very different challenges when it came to hybrid working.

There’s also the economic challenge. We’re going through a rapid shift in where people spend their days and their money. Businesses reliant on ‘office’ traffic, especially in the hospitality sector, but also retail, have lost footfall. The economies of scale that allow them to operate in densely occupied spaces simply can’t be supported in the ‘dormitory’ towns and villages where people now spend their days.

It’s this rapid change that has led to the emerging PR campaign of ‘lazy’ references to homeworking. Pre-pandemic we saw productivity sit at an immovable constant, defying any attempt to improve it, regardless of how much time we spent in offices. Lord Sugar, of ‘well, that’s not a lawful reason for dismissal’ fame, likes to use the ‘L word’ regularly on Twitter and newspaper articles, although his opposition to home working is surely unrelated to AMSprop Estates’ many investments in prime city centre offices.

A similarly simple explanation explains the Telegraph’s editorial stance. The Telegraph owning Barclay Brothers have invested heavily in the London hotel market, and falling demand for commercial property coupled with decreased need for business stays can’t be good for business. And no doubt people no longer needing to drive to work has a substantial impact on the plans of the world’s most valuable car manufacturer.

Because actually, the evidence suggests otherwise. Commuting is exhausting, and means workers start work fatigued. Reduced commuting supports healthier lifestyles as workers are able to trade commuting time for healthier activities – and yes, getting enough sleep is a healthy activity. I can only presume that ‘laziness’ is inversely measured by exhaustion.

Hybrid Opportunities

Too often the clamour over working from home seems to be ‘yes for me, but not for thee’. Take the recent headline “We’re paying the price for the cult of idleness” – yes the Telegraph, and yes about people having the temerity to want alternative working patterns. The author writes a number of regular columns and has published over half a dozen books and musicals; it’s unlikely they do this alongside colleagues in an office.

There’s already an inherent classism around hybrid working, which will take time to resolve. It’s absolutely easier to work from a dedicated office than the kitchen counter or a dressing table, and I’m sure that no one would deny that this has an impact on efficiency.

There’s a definite opportunity for casual co-working spaces to proliferate where people reside, rather than where organisations are based, but this will take time. WeWork’s well known struggles have dampened the appetite for investment in this area, but both councils (as part of the levelling up funding) and local business groups such as chambers of commerce could provide an anchor for local schemes.

This would also nurture networking and mentorships with the people that hybrid workers work alongside, rather than just their colleagues. For employers who prefer to live in their ideal world rather than the real one, this raises big red flags around talent being poached, organisational secrets being leaked and employees not being fully devoted to their employer. But only if they’re unaware of existing concepts like ‘the recruitment industry’, ‘LinkedIn’ and ‘work-life balance’.

The benefits to this could be huge. Community projects would be revitalised by local talent networks, as well as a more diverse volunteer base. Like local politics, many projects and volunteer groups are usually dominated by the time-rich; usually retirees. My own local council recently moved its meetings from 7pm to 2pm, as it was more convenient for the majority of (non-working, non-child-caring) councillors. Removing the commute opens opportunities for younger and more diverse groups to become more involved.

Taking action

So what can you do?


Consult with employees. Everyone needs different levels of support and finding out what works shouldn’t just be a job for line managers. Having several different ‘default’ working patterns, with the flexibility to adjust each to the employee’s and employer’s needs, allows HR to maintain structure and policy whilst supporting hybrid working arrangements.


Identify opportunities for collaboration. This could involve arranging local (optional) meetups for employees living close to one another or co-working days. These sessions drive creativity and innovation and are a great way to break down organisational silos and build relationships.


Gather evidence. If or when a CEO may want to change working patterns, they will be asking HR to assess the impact. We’re at an excellent point to be gathering evidence on how well (or not) working patterns are working. As Apple found, highly valuable employees may feel particularly strongly about the issue and being able to give a fully informed evaluation will be important.

Next Steps

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Diversity & Inclusion

Navigating the D&I Landscape – May 2022

D&I has never been more on the minds of our organisation’s senior leaders. Far from the old days of having to urge action, we’ve moved to a stage where many leaders are not only embracing D&I action, but also getting heavily involved through mentoring, listening to ERGs and employees, and sharing their own stories.

Nonetheless, whilst the desire to take action is there, that doesn’t mean our leaders have the expertise and skills to actually deliver D&I progress. That’s where you come in. This month we’ll explore how you can identify organisational D&I priorities, equip leaders for success and go above and beyond your peers.

The minimum

Whilst we may consider legal compliance the starting point, it’s often the case that legacy or informal policies, procedures or paperwork may not be up to scratch. Examples may include boilerplate text that gets added to job descriptions or policies as a matter of course, or line managers whose methods are tolerated as the results are good and their current team is happy.

Scratching the surface of any organisation often uncovers well-established behaviours. Part of the D&I journey is to identify and break old un-inclusive practices and procedures to obtain the benefits of an inclusive working environment. And this isn’t an activity that only takes place at the beginning of the journey; it’s a challenge to tackle throughout.

It’s at this early stage that we can establish the organisation’s current situation and challenges. Performing a D&I audit allows us to set a baseline and a starting position as well as identifying initial priorities.

From here we can develop a plan and a set of objectives. It’s also at this stage we can begin to manage the expectations of senior leaders. We find most, if not all, leaders start their own D&I journey considering D&I to be like a project, with a defined start date, a team working on delivery, and a predicted end date.

“In twelve months, we’ll be highly inclusive and a role model for our sector.”

That’s not an unusual sentiment and needs to be challenged early on. By not doing so we find ourselves having difficult conversations at a much later date – closer to the perceived ‘project end date’ and with less enthusiasm for taking action.

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Going above the legal minimum is an indication to your workforce that the organisation is serious about taking action. It’s at this point you begin to take definitive steps towards the short-term objectives you set after your audit.

The actions you take at this initial stage should be completely defined by these measurable objectives. The reasons for this are twofold; hitting clearly set objectives indicates that the organisation is progressing along its plan, maintaining the momentum and interest of leaders. The second reason is to maintain focus on the issues that challenge your organisation. Whilst your contemporaries may be happily rolling out unconscious bias training around their workforce whilst shouting ‘look how much we’re doing’, your organisation may be better off building ERGs and acting on the concerns of underrepresented employee groups.

The actions you take at this early stage establish the tone and importance of D&I in your organisation. ‘Firework’ initiatives that quickly fizzle out after a lot of early noise and activity are a common way of ensuring the employee belief that D&I will go away if you ignore it.

The aim of organisational D&I is to ensure that every employee considers the D&I implications of every decision they take and action they make. It’s to create a culture where every member of an organisation takes ownership of the organisation’s success and its objectives.

The biggest challenge to D&I initiatives isn’t objections but apathy. It’s not a vocal minority that will kill your efforts, it’s the silent majority who ignore them. That’s why we like to see active engagement and advocacy of D&I initiatives from senior leaders, not just at the beginning, but continuously.


Maintaining a level of D&I engagement across your organisation above the legal minimum for any length of time is a challenge in itself. It requires constant reinforcement and reinvention, agilely changing programmes which aren’t working before they reach a stage of failure.

Going even further isn’t something that can be achieved by a D&I team, the HR function or even the senior leadership. It represents a level of buy-in to the importance of D&I that only a handful of organisations are even close to achieving.

It relies on a demonstration of how diversity and inclusion has impacted on organisational success; hard numbers showing the effect on customers or service users, profits or budgets, employee happiness and opportunities.

This takes time. One exceptional month, quarter or year is an anomaly; successive ones become a pattern. Improvement becomes self-sustaining as employees feel free to challenge and innovate. Leaders become enablers, rather than controllers.

Taking action

So what can you do?


Go back to the beginning. No matter what stage you’re at on your organisational journey, it’s always worth periodically checking policies, paperwork and procedures. This isn’t just about bad habits slipping in and becoming embedded, although shortcuts will always try to undo your hard work. Language is constantly changing, especially in the D&I space, and what was correct can quickly become inappropriate.


Take another look at your objectives. Check that they are SMART and aligned to actual numbers. Make sure you have a clearly defined idea of what D&I success looks like, then share it. Share it with the board, but also on notice boards. D&I isn’t suited to being opaque – making your plans and ideas as transparent as possible not only reduces the opportunity for objections but also encourages people from across the organisation to contribute their own ideas and become involved.


Identify self-sustaining activity. If it’s constantly being driven by D&I practitioners or HR, then your ideas aren’t landing properly. This is where empowering employee resource groups comes into its own; for a small budgetary outlay you end up with a group of usually underrepresented employees who feel empowered, deliver huge amounts of activity, and are embedded in functions and teams in all parts of the organisation.

Next Steps

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Policies & Procedures

HR’s role in a crisis – April 2022

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has shocked us all. It’s returned the world to a state many of us hoped never to see again, and with stakes many others have never experienced.

It’s an important reminder for us HR professionals to always expect the unexpected. Very few organisations, even those operating in multiple countries, will have plans for dealing with invasions.

However, I’ve always been proud of our profession’s ability to adapt. We’re asked to develop long term strategies, only to be the last to find out about major organisational pivots. It’s this resilience to change which makes HR the obvious choice to manage crisis situations.

This should be a prompt to reassess risks. Despite long-term conflicts in the Middle East, we saw Ukraine as a stable country. Are there similar blind spots in other jurisdictions? Other places where conventional wisdom suggests that something is impossible?

What is your exit strategy? Are there employees who need to be expatriated, and what is the policy for local employees? In Ukraine we’ve seen conscription announced for all men aged between 18 and 60, as well as many civilians volunteering for service. If your employees were to walk out of work to pick up a rifle, how would you deal with that?

Many organisations simply won’t be able to leave a conflict zone. Many facilities can’t simply be turned off and left. If the worst were to happen, what happens to the employees that are needed to stay? And how confident can you be as an organisation that they will?


The Russia/Ukraine conflict is widely seen in the media and society through the lens of Ukraine Good, Russia Bad. This has tipped over into anti-Russian sentiment which could mean employees needing additional support. Whilst most organisations will have established diversity and inclusion programmes, our interventions are typically focused at groups who have always needed support. Organisations will need to act quickly to ensure people whose backgrounds are associated with a conflict are able to access support they may not have needed before.

Whilst politicians were careful from the outset to refer to ‘Putin’s war’ to avoid blaming soldiers, the emergence of war crimes on social media will doubtless make this line less sustainable.

The narrative in the west and the anglosphere has been firmly positioned behind Ukraine. But it’s important to realise that a huge number of countries in the Global South are following a different narrative in support of Russia. Remember that these countries, and nationals of these countries in the west, may hold very different views than the prevailing one, derived from different sources. Bear in mind the old adage that in conflict, especially one being shared live on social media, truth is always the first casualty.

There are also implications for organisations with operations in Russia. Many multi-nationals are withdrawing services from Russia, so what does this mean for their employees at offices and facilities in the country? If sanctions on financial transfers are invoked, can employees in Russia still be paid? If not, what support can you provide?


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HR’s response will be part of a wider organisational reaction. Many, if not all, parts of the organisation will be enacting protocols and planning next moves. For this reason, it’s crucial that the organisation’s response is being coordinated centrally. Force Majeure events are by their very nature fast moving. The information coming from the scene is sporadic, often contradictory, and rarely accurate.

HR’s cross-organisation role makes it best placed to coordinate the response to a crisis. Human life is always the most important thing, so having the most people focused part of the organisation in charge helps maintain that priority. Most other departmental responses are less time critical. None-the-less, we should identify key partners.

Finance is an obvious one. How do we release the funds required to secure transport? And how do we get it to employees on the ground?

Legal is also essential. The boycott of Russia has meant many multinational firms, including McDonalds and Ikea, have seen their stores taken over by copycat brands. These brands have been allowed to register trademarks that clearly infringe those of the original, Western brands. This partisan application of the law raises a clear problem for HR, as it suggests the law will not protect a foreign organisation. Suddenly you have no protection against overseas employees doing anything at all, from data abuse, corporate espionage, or exposure of interests. 

Finally, the CEO. It’s important during crisis planning to set escalation procedures. At what point does the CEO have to personally authorise an action, and how far can a department proceed along a planned sequence of actions before business as usual becomes an emergency?


So what can you do?


Wargaming. For the past twenty years war has been something that happened far away to other people. The invasion of Ukraine is somewhat closer to home, and a reminder that not only is the world less safe than before, but for the majority of the world, it was never safe to begin with.

It would be a valuable insight to explore the likely consequences for your organisation of different scenarios. Some organisations may have high exposure to reserve service obligations (especially those with ex-military recruitment programmes) whilst others may be demographically exposed due to a young workforce.


Update social media policies. As I mentioned earlier, in war, truth is the first casualty, and your employees are likely to be discussing conflicts on social media. Is an employee who denies that one side is committing war crimes, or claims that the war is fake, in breach of a policy? They may be bringing their organisation into disrepute, but will any disciplinary action hold up to an employment tribunal?


Identify digital weaknesses. Cyber warfare has the potential to knock HR systems offline – what are your contingencies if rota software or payroll is down for a prolonged period? How long would it take to enact offline processes? Focus on the bare essentials of what employees need and make sure you’re always able to deliver.


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