Confessions of a benefits manager: Candid examines HR policies


I am still reeling from the shock. Big Bad Boss has called me in and said they (presumably the Higher Beings on the third floor) want me to update the intranet. What all of it? Big Bad Boss seems to think so. He waves my concerns away with the back of his hand. Just the HR policies that make up the online employee handbook, he says. Just? I totter away to have a look.

It may be my name came to mind because I was involved on an intranet project team when there were technical changes made to allow employees to access information from their phones. At that time, we prettied up all the HR policies to be consistent with latest employer branding. But that was ages ago, and just because I worked on a project doesn’t mean I own the intranet.

Getting started

I click on the link to the online handbook. It is indexed and contains links to embedded pdfs on more than a hundred policies. I am disappointed to see that since the employer branding update all the structure and formatting has been lost and it does look a bit of an incoherent mess. I glance down the list of topics. Absence: well, you could say that relates to my team as there are references to the health scheme, but the majority of the content is around the rules for reporting sickness and what happens after that. Performance management comes next. This topic is jointly owned between my team and the idiots in organisational development (OD). I’d say the documentation side of falls to OD; we are only really interested when it comes to any link to bonuses. Grievances: definitely not my area, although I could certainly raise a few (lack of job demarcation, for example). Travel policy: I’ve noticed employees constantly ask our team about that because it is an insurance thing, but I argue it is not a benefit. No, travel goes firmly home to finance. Health and safety? I am not even going to go there. I can see someone has created an encyclopaedia on it though – even to the point of telling employees they must put a cover on their cup if they are to walk back to their desk with a coffee in order to prevent scalding. Yet, there is no mention of the risk of dying from stress-related disease. I’d really like to see them do a risk-assessment on that one round here. The formatting of the health and safety policy is terrible and it is riddled with spelling mistakes. I have to fight the urge to go and tidy it up straightaway. But no, this is not my area.

A review of content

Overall, I think there is far too much content out there. There is a general tendency in HR to create seven documents when one will do. Whenever we have an initiative, say something like improving diversity, our HR team will rush around creating a dozen documents. There will be the actual policy, and a ‘quick guide’ to the policy, and a manager toolkit, a presentation for managers, an HR training presentation, a training handout, a checklist, and often more. I pity the poor employee who is expected to navigate through all that and decide what is actually relevant.

Finally, there is a small section relating to compensation and benefits. I click on a few links to check they are up-to-date. I scan the pay review process, the latest bonus scheme, notes on pensions auto-enrolment and claiming health insurance. All is current, on brand, spell-checked and in the right font. Job done.

I do have a problem with the international mobility policy. Although, I wrote the original policy, that area now comes under a colleague in the US, and I can see she has messed about with the wording. She has taken out some of the key points that we needed to make things work for European and Asian expats. Although her CV reads like who-is-who in international benefits, in my opinion she isn’t very good and I don’t like what she has done. This is an opportunity to put things straight. I’ve been given the task of updating HR policies, so I go in and quickly and create a new version. She might notice and change it back, but at least if she complains, I can now say that Big Bad Boss told me to do it.

Those are the only changes I have any intention of making. All the policies for compensation and benefits are in good shape, and I don’t see why I should play nanny to the generalist HR kindergarten by tidying up their mess. This is a busy time for me with a major benefits re-broking exercise underway. My colleague Lazy Susan is on holiday, and, although she does so little her absence is barely noticeable, it makes for a good excuse.

A legal perspective

My problem is when it comes to the HR policies that fall under UK employment law there is no single person responsible. I guess that’s why the policies have already got in such a mess. Then I remember the new HR manager we’ve just hired to look after several UK-based functions. Jeremy was one of the most expensive HR managers we’ve ever hired, as his career started as a lawyer and his salary has only gone up from there.

I tell Big Bad Boss that I’ve reviewed as much as I can on the intranet. He is even persuaded that it would be an idea to use Jeremy’s experience to do a proper legal review of the rest. Sometimes the best way to do a good job is to give it to someone else.

Next time… Candid goes on a training course.