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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.
How do you approach grievance and disciplinary investigations to ensure fairness and objectivity?
The approach for conducting a grievance and disciplinary investigation is based on the following; establish and understand the grievance or the complaint, determine the appropriate HR policies (e.g Bullying and Harassment) that applies to the allegation, Ensure 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 comes to light. Ensure all parties are kept abreast of updated terms of reference where necessary, Provide opportunity for all parties including witnesses respond to the allegations through a confidential meeting, inform complainant and accused of their rights to representation to the meeting ( e.g recognised trade union or work colleague), Gather information from investigation meeting and other sources. Protect the privacy and confidentiality of information by restricting information to relevant or restricted parties for example, commission officer), Write the investigation report based on facts or evidence gather to approve or dismiss allegations. Ensure that investigation falls within the terms of reference, Ensure the outcome of investigation is based on facts, policies and legislation and not opinions .
What strategies do you use in performance hearings to foster positive outcomes?
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, 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 and invite to the meeting including right of representation, and communicate possible outcomes in advance. During the hearings, I sent the agenda, reiterating possible outcomes and 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 which may have impacted negatively on behaviour.
Can you share an example of a challenging mediation situation and how it was resolved?
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 outcomes to repair the relationship. Some insights involving coaching and counselling for the party have been recommended as alternatives to the way forward.
What are the key elements of an effective People Management policy?
The key elements for ensuring that people management policies are effective starts by regularly updating the policies as legislation changes. Furthermore, it is important to embed the policies on the organisation’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. Moreover, 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.
How do you tailor your People Management training programs to different organizational needs?
I don’t believe in the one size fit 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 practice 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 neurodiversity where necessary.
What are the most important aspects to include in an employee handbook?
The most important aspects of an employment handbook involves a welcome message ideally from the CEO and/ or leadership team, introduction of the company to include history, mission, objectives and values. The document should also include key HR policies such as such annual leave (e.g accrual, leave year, 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.
What innovative approaches do you recommend for employee retention?
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 in a process to evaluate and measure success and allow for the plans to be adapted to cater for any internal and external changes that may impact on the strategy.
How do you assist organizations in managing cultural change?
Before, I embarked on assisting organisations to manage 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, 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, 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 in a process for continuous feedback via one to one meetings, appraisal, team meetings and other employee forums.
Health and Well-being
What strategies do you find most effective in promoting employee health and well-being?
I am a firm believe that one size glass shoes doesn’t fit all. However, there are some key steps that are effective for promoting employee health and well-being and it starts by creating an environment where work-life balance is embraced and promoted and employees well being are part of the agenda. Where finance is not a constraint, employers can subscribe to employee assistant programmes, health and other wellbeing programmes such as offering discounts to gyms. Alternative, where finance is a challenge, promoting physical exercise like walking/jogging club, 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 wellbeing. Appointing and training a health and wellbeing champion may also create a safe space for employees.
Could you provide insights into your most successful team-building activities?
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 outcome in order to design the team building away day. The day involved a range of individual and group exercise on goal setting, accountability, communication and career development and discussions around best practice. 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
How do you conduct pay reviews and what benchmarks do you use?
Starting point is to establish and understand the goal of the review. This is followed by gaining access to salary data, 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.
What are your key strategies for managing significant organizational changes, like TUPE or redundancies?
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 which 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. Change affects individuals differently hence, it is important to create a support structure like coaching or counselling and sign[ost employees to where 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.
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