Avoiding the Long Arm of the Law

Flow-Right is a specialist drainage and plumbing company who service their customer’s needs around the clock. The family-run business has seen extensive growth over the past decade, evolving from a small organisation run from a family residence. Flow-Right is now a growing team of over 30 experts, equipped with a fleet of vans, a tanker service and a permanent HQ.

In 2018 Flow-Right dismissed an employee following an act of gross misconduct that occurred on client premises. Despite having firm grounds for dismissal, the dismissal processes taken led to costly problems for Flow-Right. After finding themselves on the wrong end of the tribunal decision, the Directors recognised that with growth, comes change. Changes were required with regards to working practice and a maturation of adherence to industry legislation.

The Challenge

Facing familiar challenges to that of many small and medium sized businesses, Flow-Right were experiencing recurring challenges with regards to employee attendance, performance and the retention of their most skilled workers. The loss of key employees, in turn, placed added workload onto the shoulders of managers who struggled to balance client demands, underperforming staff and the fear that any remedial action could lead to further human shortages.

“We knew what needed to be done but just didn’t have the time, resources or expertise to strategically implement and manage this process from start to finish. Not wanting to be tripped up again by the legal and financial implications of making mistakes around employment law, we knew we had to stop fighting fires and get ahead of potential problems. We saw potential in putting a solid HR structure in place to support our teams and to safeguard the business.”

Flow-Right CEO, Chris Smith

In order to realise a long-term solution and address the key issues summarised here, Flow-Right began their partnership with Bespoke HR Solutions.

Adopted Approach

  • Partnership: We believe it is optimal to work in partnership with organisations when solving HR challenges.
  • Empower: We also understand that HR works best when managers within the organisation are empowered to effectively manage the day-to-day staff interactions.
  • Support: Finally, we recognise that providing ongoing specialist support to our partners provides not only peace of mind, but it also frees up their valuable time, enabling them to do more of what they are best at.

What We Did

The full solution comprised of the three key stages:

  • Exploration: An HR Consultant undertook a full Bespoke HR Health Check of the HR practices within Flow-Right.
  • Solution Creation: After diagnosing the ‘pain’ points within the organisation, custom-built solutions were devised that fully met the needs of Flow-Right.
  • Implementation: We successfully embedded the new practices into the business and enabled long-term change. We see long-term positive change as the most critical aspect of our service.

The exploration stage identified four areas that required intervention. These were:

  1. Compliance
  2. HR documentation systems
  3. Employee relations
  4. Onboarding processes

Under each area we then facilitated the creation of a solution and full implementation:

1. Compliance

  • A full re-write of key policies and procedures was completed that appreciated legal updates and the increased size of the organisation.
  • Employee contracts were updated so that they met the needs of the organisation, including the introduction of an employee handbook. 

  • Staff were re-engaged under the new terms and conditions.
  • Training was provided to ensure that managers and staff were able to correctly access and use the portal so that data could be accurately captured.

2. HR Documentation Systems

  • To overcome the issue of paper records being stored in multiple locations, a cloud-based HR monitoring portal was put in place to ensure that day-to-day information such as rota, attendance and holiday could be centrally recorded.

  • Training was provided to managers so that situations arising could be consistently dealt with in a fair and assured manner, as informed by policy. Managers also received training so that they felt confident in implementing the adopted policies with their teams.

3. Employee Relations

  • Thresholds for staff sickness and absence were identified, resulting in a raised awareness with regards to emerging trends in staff data.
  • A structured competency framework was developed to enable Flow-Right to understand the aspects of human behaviour that they were seeking in their staff. This enabled a greater level of consistency in feedback that was being offered in one-to-ones and appraisals.

  • Managers were educated on the national averages for staff sickness and provided with further training around the absence policies, enabling early intervention where absence was occurring. This included empowering them to put in place attendance improvement plans and review processes.
  • Behavioural indicators were extracted from the competency framework so that managers and staff could understand what was expected of them within their role performance. Managers were trained to value an open and two-way appraisal process as a means of having productive and motivating appraisals with their teams.

4. Onboarding Processes

  • Developed a programme to assist new employees to understand their role, and to enabled them to engage with their colleagues and managers in a more structured manner.

  • The HR Consultant was present to support managers with the delivery of the onboarding training to the newest employees. A blended learning approach was taken to ensure the highest possible levels of engagement and learning took place.

  •  Following this initial process, a full review was undertaken of the new onboarding process to ensure that any future developments could take place thus ensuring continuous development.

Outcomes Achieved

  • Flow-Right can now be confident that the implementation of their HR documentation now means that they are fully compliant with legislation and that their policy is fit for purpose.
  • Data is now centrally collected and stored within more stringent data protection measures.
  • Following training in the new policy, managers now feel confident to enforce the policy where required to do so.
  • Despite no specific cases of chronic illness, initially, 35% of the workforce were displaying sickness and absence levels above the national average. After solution implementation, this dropped to 5%.
  • There is now a more positive appraisal philosophy in place that has resulted in the completion of more productive appraisals. Not only have staff been given an opportunity to be listened to within this process but managers have also reported instances of staff being more open to feedback and development planning.
  • New employees have been more successfully embedded within the organisation, reporting that they understand quickly what is expected of them.

"We wanted our managers to be in a position where they could spend more time tendering for contracts and building stronger links with influential partners, rather than seeing their time consumed with day-to-day staffing issues. The work we have recently completed with Bespoke HR Solutions around our policies and procedures has enabled them to do this."

Flow-Right Operations Manager, Chris Eland

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