This week, with New Year’s Resolutions firmly to the fore, we have been taking our trainees through the process of learning how to review and update important employment documents like terms of employment and employee handbooks.
Paperwork, as it is collectively referred to in our office, is bread-and-butter work. It is not difficult but it is a bit disjointed, time-consuming and requires a high level of concentration and attention to detail. When phones are going all round you and you’re frequently breaking off to tackle other work, the task of paperwork becomes more arduous, with a greater risk of error. Since terms of employment end employee handbooks are the very foundation stone of the employment contract, getting it wrong is unacceptable. Cue revisiting training the trainees to learn how to review paperwork.
Like all employers, we have to train staff on work tasks. This is how we tackled a particularly knotty problem.
Our trainees are becoming well versed in discipline and grievance maters, redundancy and managing attendance, all common areas for advice in an HR environment. They have been working on some basic paperwork under supervision for some time, but It was clear that despite templates, explanations and practice they were struggling.
In some ways, it’s strange that they find it difficult. 80% of the work is compliance so it follows a template. That means following the list of requirements set out by The Employments Right Act 1996 and subsequent changes (all listed in our guidance notes) and ensuring that these points are correctly covered in the document. The remaining 20% is about ensuring that the document is correct taking into account the following. The document should:
- Include arrangements which may be specific to that business or industry;
- address social or technical issues or risks e.g. social media;
- include specific contractual entitlement;
- reflect the needs of the organisation;
- ensure that grammar, typing and spelling are correct;
- be written in a user-friendly, clear way that engages the reader;
- ensure consistency in presentation throughout.
We created a structured training module, starting by setting out standards specifying what we mean by success in this area. We told them to study our templates, read the reference material we have available, go through some papers and ask us questions. We wrote a number of probing questions relating to the subject. If they work through these questions they should have a pretty good working knowledge of the subject. It always helps to have underpinning knowledge as to the reason for doing something and if you understand the reason why you’re doing something, you’re more likely to remember it. We have also produce a short guide to basic English and grammar to help them.
The last leg of activity was to take the original set of papers, the set that had been reviewed by the trainee and the set of the trainee’s work that had been reviewed by a consultant and take the trainee through, a line at a time. We did not point out what they had done wrong or what needed to be done differently. This time we asked why the point had been highlighted and they had to work it out and explain the reasoning. It caused a bit of chewing on the end of a pencil and furrowed brows, but they stuck with it and got there.
By the time we’ve done this once or twice more, I will expect them to be pretty much 100% there. They know that they will both be assessed (we’ve set them different projects) at the end of this module to determine whether they meet our standards.
What are the key points arising from this description?
- Don’t assume that other will find work easy and obvious, even if you do.
- Make allowances, especially for young workers.
- Break training tasks down in to small chunks of work.
- Provide lots of examples.
- Encourage them to do their own thinking. It builds intellectual muscle and memory.
- Allocate time in specific chunks. This can be tiring for you as well as them!
- Allow plenty of time for the learning process.
- Specify what your standards are at the outset and check at the end to ensure that they have met those standards. If not, take corrective action.
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