Confessions of a benefits manager: Revenge on the cards

A department scorecard system inviting staff feedback on HR services reopens an old wound, but Candid may have the answer

There is a new irritation in corporate HR called Peter. In the US, they have already started calling him the Hall Monitor because he walks round the corridors checking who has gone home early. That gives you an idea of the kind of man we are talking about. He wants to get to the top in human resources, and he doesn’t mind how many backs he has to step on to get there. Indeed, I think it is his strategy to get as many of his colleagues fired as possible, so he will be the only one around with any experience.

His latest peer sabotage effort is the department scorecard. In order to smooch up to as many Higher Beings from the management floor as possible, he devised this survey to ask people for feedback on the services they receive from HR. The trouble is, they have all been waiting for just such an excuse to have a good old whinge about the succession-planning debacle.

Last year, someone decided it would be a good idea to put our succession planning process online using a self-service tool. It had seemed jolly sensible: we can track progress, run reports, all that good stuff. The only problem is, the programme they chose is about as intuitive to use as a Nasa spacecraft. We have all spent weeks training managers and fielding support calls, but the system is so difficult, even the trainers got confused.

It does not take much to colour the judgement of our Higher Beings. I have seen decisions change because they had a bad lunch that day, but make them look stupid by asking them to use a tricky new system and you are just asking for trouble. The annoying thing is, the fuss had just about died down when Peter Prefect brought out his little scorecard. Now the wounds are reopened and it will take twice as long to heal. Everything else HR does is pretty sound, really. OK, there are things we could do better, but nothing is broken. But, like a bad smell in the corner, the succession planning system has tainted the whole department.

Big Bad Boss has just got back from another HR-bashing meeting about the scorecard. He looks even more haggard than usual. It seems he took a fair amount of punishment himself. Now I guess he is going to take it out on us. He can, and he will, because he has been told to go back and show the scorecard to his team. It has one of those traffic-light codes they use for project management: green means everything is OK, yellow means it is simply not good enough, and red means it has all gone horribly wrong. The whole chart is so red, it looks like someone has bled all over it, which is exactly what is happening.

The whole department is haemorrhaging with bad publicity over one stupid system. Luckily, the rewards area is only partially red. Indeed, we even have the only green dot on the whole chart, showing that the Higher Beings think the executive medical programme is OK. Well, so they should; it must be the most expensive plan in England. But, apart from that tiny success, it seems everyone hates our plan communication and hate most of our reward programmes.

Other departments have fared much worse. Creepy Caroline’s department is a mass of red dots. So, too, are the scores for those nasty women in recruitment. Even Peter Prefect’s generalist area seems to have measles. At least there is some justice in the world.

Big Bad Boss tells us we have to brainstorm what HR can do to improve its scores. Brainstorming? Whoop-de-do. Big Bad Boss’s idea of brainstorming is to immediately dismiss everyone’s ideas unless they tally with his own. I suggest we could spend less time on witch-hunt activities like the scorecard, and get on with our work instead.

Lazy Susan suggests an off-site meeting. I knew she would. It doesn’t really matter what we are working on, an off-site meeting is what she craves to relieve the boredom of a working day spent talking to her friends on the phone. Unfortunately, Big Bad Boss seems to give this idea consideration. I guess he thinks we can show the Higher Beings we are taking the matter seriously. I know what this will entail. We will all gather at some hideous (cheap) local hotel at some ridiculous hour over breakfast with stale pastries and stewed coffee. There will then be endless break-out sessions and flipchart report-outs, which will be forgotten the moment we are back in the office.

I say we need a more radical approach. I don’t know what it is yet, but I know Big Bad Boss likes radical approaches and I want to distract him from this off-site idea. Could we reorganise? Decentralise? Put more authority into the hands of local management? That sort of talk always goes down well, even though no one knows what it means.

Obviously, in reward we will continue to do our stuff as normal. But this is not really about reward, it is about the perception of the whole HR department. Why don’t we create some complicated chart to show that, actually, the succession planning tool all the fuss is about falls under Peter Prefect as the HR generalist? Let him take the flak. For once, Big Bad Boss actually agrees with me.

Next time…Candid finds managers helping themselves.