3 questions for the evolving HR manager

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As one of India’s leading payroll companies, we interact with HR personnel on a daily basis. Hence, we understand that the core of an HR managers’ role is to deal with organisational functions like recruitment, onboarding, attendance, leaves, payroll and others. These functions are mechanical and have a rigid process that needs to be followed in order to get a desired outcome. There is, however, another responsibility that an HR manager should take interest in and that is the general happiness of employees in the organisation.

Since the human element of human resources, is more dynamic, it’s a little more difficult to stay up to date with what are the best practices. The workplace has evolved a fair deal in the last 30 years or so. We’ve seen the inclusion of more creative offices with games and other luxurious amenities to boost employee morale and employer brand.  While these inclusions are extravagant, there are other smaller things that can be done to achieve this though. With the article this week, we wanted to talk about a couple of things that may not have been even considered as an option a couple of years ago.

1) Should employees be allowed to discuss salaries among themselves?
Traditionally, employers have always preferred employees keeping hush about the salaries that their drawing. The knowledge of how much your peers are earning can leave you demotivated if you feel underpaid or make you defensive if you’re paid higher.  This might also create a sense of tension in the environment of the workplace and between the employer and the employees.  Hence, a large majority of organisations do not promote salary discussions in the workplace.

But then there’s Buffer.  They’re a social media promotion platform that has over 3 million users (according to their website).  Buffer not only lets employees know what their co-workers are drawing, they’ve also made this information public.  You can view how much each Buffer employee earns through a publicly accessible spreadsheet.  They also have devised a formula that creates a transparent salary structure.  Other companies that have an open salary environment include Whole Foods, AMVBBDO and SumAll.

So what’s the benefit of keeping salaries open? We’ll for one; it ensures it eliminates discrimination.  It can also be used as a performance enhancement tool.  Employees who perform better, will be rewarded with higher raises which should push them to try harder.  Since things are transparent, this also creates a sense of respect between the employee and the employer.

Something that definitely worked for the companies that have implemented an open salary workplace is the boost to their employer branding. Candidates know that things are in black and white and know that they will be rewarded fairly.  Media coverage has also been kind to workplaces that have an open salary structure.

Employers know best if their organisation should have an open salary structure or if they need to control these discussions. However, the notion that salaries should never be discussed among co-workers is certainly fast changing.

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2) Are flexible working hours better than fixed working hours?

Fixed working used to be the norm for generations. Employees come in to work, complete their hours and go home. There are a couple of benefits of fixed working hours, which include:

  1. A stable work-life balance
  2. A synchronized workplace
  3. Formalised work environment
  4. Effective time management

Despite the obvious benefits to fixed working timings, organisations and Startups are moving to a flexible timings approach. Employees are handed out tasks and deadlines and they can come and go as they please so as long as they hit their targets.  The evangelists of flexible timings believe this leads to greater productivity and employee morale when compared to fixed work timings.  Flexible work timings increase the employer brand as candidates perceive it as a more convenient system. Moreover, the option to avoid rush hour traffic or leave early for a day or two is a tempting proposal. From the employer’s point of view, employees will be more willing to stretch the hours they clocked on important days.

There are, however, downsides to this system. Employees coming in at different times might affect the flow of work. Moreover, it may also lead to a casual work environment which might take you extra steps to curb.  Some departments are time bound and need to work at specific timings in order to serve their purpose. Hence, while workplaces are slowly evolving into the flexible work-timings system, it may not be for all organisations. It is, however, slowly becoming the norm since more attention is given to results as compared to hours clocked in.

3) Do formal work attires have an upper hand over casuals?

This isn’t a new debate but one that is worth talking about.  Emerging companies prefer the informal work environment hence they also allow employees to work in casuals. The traditional approach, however, has always been formals and despite the shift in mindset, many companies still continue to enforce the formal dress code.  The question worth asking here is does it really make a difference?

From an employee’s perspective the freedom to choose what you wear is a big plus.  While choosing an employer, candidates will take into consideration how they can dress at work.  Workplaces that enforce formal attires are usually perceived to have strict organisational norms and practices that may be preferred by some employees. On the other hand, workplaces that encourage casual attires are perceived to have a relaxed approach with more importance given to creativity rather than rigidity.  This approach is also greatly appreciated by candidates who feel they can be more productive and happy in a casual environment. This is why the attire that a workplace follows plays a huge part in the kind of talent it attracts.

That being said, there are many aspects that affect employee performance and happiness. Work attire is only a small part of that.  Certain sectors like banking and hospitality have always enforced formals at work since this affects stakeholders’ perception of the company. A survey by Economic Times of the “Best Places to Work” in 2016 had American Express, Lemon Tree Hotels and Oberoi Hotels each of who enforce formals at work given the industry that they are in.  On the other hand, others in the top 10 like Google and SAP labs encourage casuals at work.

In a nutshell, although work attire may not be a deciding factor in employee happiness, it does affect the talent that a company attracts especially for SMEs and Startups.  It does affect how candidates will perceive the employer and hence you should decide on attire based on how you wish to shape your employer image.


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