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Strategic HR Insights with Jennifer Opare-Aryee

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Talia Knowles is an avid reader, writer, and coffee enthusiast, with over five years of experience in writing and editing.

Strategic HR Insights with Jennifer Opare-Aryee

Strategic HR Insights with Jennifer Opare-Aryee

Today, we welcome Jennifer Opare-Aryee, the visionary behind JOA HR Consulting, a firm that prides itself on its unique approach to HR solutions. Inspired by her West African heritage, Jennifer has cultivated a business that emphasizes uniqueness and partnership in people management.

JOA’s commitment to providing customized, reliable HR services across diverse sectors showcases Jennifer’s innovative and inclusive leadership style.

In this interview, we’ll explore Jennifer’s insights and experiences, offering valuable perspectives for fellow HR professionals.

Jennifer Opare-Aryee

Employee Relations

HR – How do you approach grievance and disciplinary investigations to ensure fairness and objectivity?

Jennifer – The approach for conducting a grievance and disciplinary investigation is based on the following: establishing and understanding the grievance or the complaint, determining the appropriate HR policies (e.g., bullying and harassment) that apply to the allegation, ensuring the accused is aware of allegations and the HR policy or policies that will be used to conduct the investigation (e.g., disciplinary) as well as the likely outcome of the investigation.

Establish clear terms of reference for the investigation and communicate this to all parties (e.g., the complainant and accused). Allow flexibility to adapt terms of reference as more evidence or allegations come to light. Ensure all parties are kept abreast of updated terms of reference where necessary. Provide the opportunity for all parties, including witnesses, to respond to the allegations through a confidential meeting and inform the complainant and accused of their rights to representation at the meeting (e.g., recognised trade union or work colleague).

Gather information from investigation meetings and other sources. Protect the privacy and confidentiality of information by restricting information to relevant or restricted parties (e.g., commission officer). Write the investigation report based on facts or evidence gathered to approve or dismiss allegations. Ensure that the investigation falls within the terms of reference and that the outcome of the investigation is based on facts, policies, and legislation and not on opinions.


HR – What strategies do you use in performance hearings to foster positive outcomes?

Jennifer – Performance hearings are highly emotive and stressful for all parties. Thus, it is important that I create a safe space at the hearing by ensuring that all parties have opportunities to state their case and be heard. I achieved this by preparing an agenda and coaching the panel (if I am a panel member) beforehand. The same will apply if I am chairing. I prepare and ensure all parties have access to relevant documents, including the right of representation, and I communicate possible outcomes in advance.

During the hearings, I send the agenda, reiterating possible outcomes, promoting active listening, and allowing clarification questions to aid further understanding where there are gaps in evidence or narrative. I ensure I have no preconceived ideas by basing decisions on facts and policies. Understanding the history of an employee’s performance and how they have been managed also plays a part in the decision-making process. For instance, if an employee has been employed for a number of years and their performance has not been questioned, then it is always useful to explore changes that may have occurred that may have negatively impacted behaviour.

Workplace Mediation

HR – Can you share an example of a challenging mediation situation and how it was resolved?

Jennifer – The issue involved cultural and gender differences, which led to a breakdown in working relationships. Language barriers also played a significant role. The issues were more complex than initially presented, and there was a commitment from one party to the agreed-upon outcomes to repair the relationship. Some insights involving coaching and counselling for the party have been recommended as alternatives to the way forward.

Policy Development

HR – What are the key elements of an effective people management policy?

Jennifer – The key elements for ensuring that people management policies are effective start by regularly updating the policies as legislation changes. Furthermore, it is important to embed the policies about the organization’s language, culture, and values. This will ensure that it is understandable and relatable to employees, as it can promote shared norms. In addition, the policies will need to be accessible to all employees, and any changes should be communicated to them. Developing a tool kit for managers and offering training on how to interpret and apply the policies are also important in making the policies effective. Finally, ensuring that the policies are incorporated in new starters, induction packs will set the expected standards of behaviour as well as inform employees of their rights and how to access support.

Training Programs

HR – How do you tailor your people management training programs to different organizational needs?

Jennifer – I don’t believe in the one-size-fits-all approach. Therefore, my approach is to partner with the organisation (usually, this is a nominated person from the leadership team) to understand their mission, values, direction of travel, and the intended outcome of the training. I will work with them to agree and define how we will identify and measure the success of the training. Furthermore, subject to the size of the organisation, I may conduct a survey, focus group, or one-to-one interview if it is a small organisation. The programme will be designed on best practices, which will also involve group work or case studies where necessary to ensure a collaborative approach, ownership, and inclusivity. I will allow flexibility to allow for adaptations to cater to neurodiversity where necessary.

Employee Handbooks

HR – What are the most important aspects to include in an employee handbook?

Jennifer – The most important aspects of an employment handbook involve a welcome message, ideally from the CEO and/or leadership team, and the introduction of the company to include history, mission, objectives, and values. The document should also include key HR policies, such as annual leave (e.g., accrual, leave year, the process for requesting leave and approving leave), absence management (to include pay, reporting, and management), grievance, disciplinary, performance or capability, bullying and harassment or dignity at work, family-friendly policies, lunch breaks, and duration. Other non-HR policies should include health and safety.

Retention Strategies

HR – What innovative approaches do you recommend for employee retention?

Jennifer – Every organisation is unique and different. Therefore, the starting point is to define what turnover is expected and develop metrics to measure success. Additionally, I will analyse turnover to understand the average length of service, turnover of the type of job roles and grades, and the drivers for turnover. In the absence of data, I will conduct a stay interview to establish factors that may lead to turnover. 

Additionally, I will work with the senior team to understand the financial landscape and identify a financial envelope to develop retention strategies based on feedback and that is bespoke to the company. I will build a process to evaluate and measure success and allow for the plans to be adapted to cater to any internal and external changes that may impact the strategy.

Cultural Change

HR – How do you assist organizations in managing cultural change?

Jennifer – Before, I embarked on assisting organisations in managing cultural change. I make time to understand the historical context of the organisation and define the outcome by holding a series of upwards and downwards conversations, which may take the form of questionnaires, focus groups, and one-to-one interviews to ensure buy-in and to empower the organisation to own and drive the change.

I will provide training to help employees and managers adapt to the change, which may include aspects of the grieving process of change, and create a process for values to be embedded in policies and the recruitment process to ensure that new employees are recruited to the values of the company. I will incorporate plans that ensure that the changes are actionable by leaders demonstrating the values of the company. Finally, I will build a process for continuous feedback via one-to-one meetings, appraisals, team meetings, and other employee forums.

Health and Well-being

HR – What strategies do you find most effective in promoting employee health and well-being?

Jennifer – I am a firm believer that one-size glass shoes don’t fit all. However, there are some key steps that are effective for promoting employee health and well-being. It all starts by creating an environment where work-life balance is embraced and promoted, and employees well being is part of the agenda. Where finance is not a constraint, employers can subscribe to employee assistance programmes, and health and other well-being programmes, such as offering discounts to gyms. Alternatively, if finance is a challenge, promoting physical exercise like a walking/jogging club and working with charities or health service providers to create a forum to sign, post, or hold webinars may foster a support environment for employees’ health and well-being. Appointing and training a health and wellbeing champion may also create a safe space for employees.

Team Building

HR – Could you provide insights into your most successful team-building activities?

Jennifer – My recent successful team building exercise involved using personality tests, conducting surveys, individual meetings, and meeting with the senior team to establish local intelligence and outcomes in order to design the team building away day. The day involved a range of individual and group exercises on goal setting, accountability, communication and career development, and discussions around best practices. I also held a debrief with individuals to discuss the outcome of their personality test, in addition to a group meeting to share their motivation and drivers to enhance working effectively to avoid conflict.  The measure of my success is based on the positive feedback from the client.

Pay Reviews & Benchmarking

HR – How do you conduct pay reviews, and what benchmarks do you use?

Jennifer – The starting point is to establish and understand the goal of the review. This is followed by gaining access to salary data, the financial budget set for increase, as well as understanding the current pay structure of the company. I will benchmark companies pay against similar companies of the same size in the same industry. I will complete the exercise by addressing any pay gaps or salaries below the market values and provide recommendations. Exercise of this nature may involve contractual change; hence, consultation may be required to implement any recommendations.

Change Management

HR – What are your key strategies for managing significant organizational changes, like TUPE or redundancies?

Jennifer – Managing changes such as redundancies and TUPE involves carefully preparing and planning and ensuring that leaders driving or implementing the change are aware of their legal responsibilities and coached where necessary to ensure compliance with the law. Drafting a consultation document that communicates the drives for change, the timeline of the change, the process for feedback, and involving recognition.

Trade unions are a must for ensuring, at a minimum, that change is managed without the risk of an employment tribunal. It is important to identify whether a company has an approval process and incorporate this into the planning before launching a consultation. The change affects individuals differently; hence, it is important to create a support structure like coaching or counselling and sign employees to that so they can get ongoing support.

Keeping the lines of communication by holding group and individual meetings will ensure that employees have a forum to raise concerns and discuss the impact of the change and offer, where applicable, counter-proposals. The latter is not applicable where TUPE applies. Taking time to evaluate the process post-consultation and embed employees’ feedback as part of implementation where necessary is advisable.