The impact of low performing HR practices and teams

My upfront apology as I am very passionate about this subject and it’s something, I could write pages on, however, I will try and keep this brief.

Human Resources teams are and should be at the forefront of employee engagement, health and wellbeing (in tandem with the front-line Managers) but, what happens if they are not?

Without even going anywhere near the company (using this instead of businesses, organisations) or HR people (1) (HR North Star) strategies, if you don’t have an engaged employee base, your employees don’t have a healthy working environment and their wellbeing is not considered, the base layers (Maslow) will not be solid and the foundations of your company  etc. will not be stable enough to build on let alone press ahead with more complex strategies.

Here’s a real example; just recently my family and I were holidaying in New York City and whilst we were there, we went to the a fashion (I won’t name the name) store on 5th Avenue. On entering the store, we noticed straight away that there was a team discussion/meeting being held in the middle of the shop. What ensued was the supervisor/manager giving her team a dressing down, in a very directive style and stating quite rudely what she wanted from them and in front of the shoppers in the store.  Consider this:

1. Clearly the supervisor or manager was unhappy with her team, but do you think they were engaged or embarrassed after that?

2. You could clearly see the employees were not happy so how much stress did this unnecessarily generate?

3. Where would you put the wellbeing of the staff in the store?

4. What sort of impact do you think this made on us the shoppers and invariably the brand?

Now you could argue that this was an isolated incident and just plainly dismiss the whole thing; or you could take this a stage further and is this a consistent theme in other companies?

Anyway, it’s an example but one that absolutely demonstrates at multiple levels the impact on employees, brands and consumers.

Ensuring that employee’s engagement, health and wellbeing is a key focus of HR teams is a must, and if not taken seriously it has and will have a fundamental impact on people’s ability to work, be loyal to your company and to go the extra mile. With the millennials now in play in the working environment this is a key focus area for them, and it is also a bigger part in how the generations blend into cohesive teams (which is a topic for another article).  

More and more today coaching is a necessary tool in HR’s learning and development armory; I’ve said it before, and I will say it again that if there’s not a change from mentoring to coaching then innovation will be stalled and the younger generations different way of looking at things will not be released. It’s also linked to the Talent agenda too insomuch that we need to ensure that all of our employees are treated as talent and we should try and stop putting people into boxes.

Engagement, there’s so much on this today but I wonder how companies are monitoring engagement and whether their HR teams really have the finger on the pulse of their company (remember employees are the heart-beat) and this should be linked to the people strategy. So, another impact of a low performing HR teams, is the lack of awareness of not just engagement but also the other data and factors such as people turnover (leavers), sickness (how much is being recorded vs actually happening) and working hours (are people doing more for less!) 

Coming back to the incident in the NYC store I have to wonder whether the employees had a way of being able to feedback to their Manager how they made them feel? Also, were they empowered to even do that and what if any policies or procedures were in place to enable them to raise any flags.

Lastly, wellbeing (buzzword) is still a concept that most companies around the world have yet to truly embrace.  True story, I remember that there was a particular legal firm (naming no names) that were given a detailed paper about how wellbeing would not only benefit their employees but would also create a positive on their balance sheet; however, the immortal words allegedly came back from them to say “if we had it hard then they should too!”  Needless to say, that narrow-minded approach lost that firm a lot of money and invariably a lot of quality people too.

Now obviously HR teams can’t be everywhere, but I do have to wonder if the building blocks of every company is sound and if it’s not, how many other employees are suffering and not being heard.


Human Resources as a function should be as a minimum focused on the engagement, health and wellbeing.  Of course, there are other levels in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs model but without these your company doesn’t stand a chance of surviving.  Remember that employees are your shop-window to the world and until AI and Robotics changes that picture, we have to treat employees as our most priceless commodity.  HR teams own L&D, they own engagement and they should be owning wellbeing; if there not then what are they doing? There are some great high performing HR teams and practices out there but what’s yours like?

Note: This article is drawn from the book Human Resources Changes the World by Glenn G Jones.