New way of making complex HR decisions?

When we gathered together our research for enable-hr, there was clear confirmation of something we knew already as Human Resources practitioners.  We get involved in some pretty tricky situations.  No other function has to balance quite so many considerations in just about every decision.  Resolving an alleged fondle during a staff Christmas party, and dealing with a Director fudging sales figures to enhance bonus, were just two of the many situations I faced in my corporate HR role.  Both issues became increasingly complex, involving multiple stakeholders and interests, and far more angles than ‘just’ right and wrong, especially as the wrongdoers were also high achievers.

This is why one of our facets in enable-hr is Balance – it’s about spinning plates, and keeping multiple perspectives and needs in view all the time when deciding what to do.

The two examples I gave above are both reactive situations, where we’re called upon to sort out a conflict that appears out of nowhere.  Added to this, more proactively we’re also required to develop initiatives, policies and procedures that balance the needs of varying interested parties, in situations where you can’t possibly imagine keeping everyone happy.  Then, we have to be the diplomat too in implementing them.

CIPD research on making HR decisions

So, we were interested to read about some recent research done by the CIPD, which is geared towards helping us scope out the complexity of our world – based on using principles. ‘Principles represent high-level judgements of value that practitioners make when considering alternative courses of action and the range of consequences resulting from their decision. This process of value judgement – or ethical choice – in a business goes beyond the questions of legality or adding to the organisational bottom line. Instead, it is founded on fundamental beliefs concerning the relative importance that the decision-maker attaches to the different types of value in a particular situation.’

We’re continually called upon in HR to be more business-savvy, and yet the organization still tends to expect us to be its conscience.  At first glance these two seem to be in conflict, and yet we need to create alignment – and and, rather than either or.  This is exactly where we started with enable-hr – we wanted to help HR practitioners find their way through this complexity by reviewing how they operate.  This work by CIPD on Principles looks really useful – not least in helping us to explain to others just how complex the considerations are in any particular judgement.

The 8 Lenses of the CIPD Principles for the Profession

In their report CIPD have developed the following 8 Lenses. I’d love to hear what you think: please email me on

‘1 Well-being Lens: workplaces should promote well-being in its broad sense, not because it increases employee engagement or productivity, but as an outcome in itself. Work should provide individuals with autonomy and happiness. When there is a choice of providing bad and providing good (for example, when the interests of different stakeholders conflict), the decision should provide as much good and as little bad overall as possible (even though some might be worse off as a result of this).

2 Rights Lens: the rights of people should not be violated just to improve the outcomes for someone else, so individuals shouldn’t be treated simply as means to an end. People have a right to be protected from harm and to have a choice over what happens to them. In the workplace, this means the right to be treated with dignity and respect, to exercise autonomy and control.

3 Merit Lens: workplaces should be designed to guarantee equal opportunities based on individual talent and hard work, rather than irrelevant characteristics such as gender, race, sexuality and social class.

4 Fairness as Justice Lens: in practice not every individual is able to compete based on their merit – people have unequal access to education and development, for example, and don’t have the same ‘power’ to argue their cause independently. Workplaces should be designed with an eye to those who might end up being the worst off as a result of the decision.

5 Markets Lens: rather than distributing benefits based on ability and need, people should get what they can freely negotiate. Some people are lucky enough to have scarce qualities and ability to negotiate freely to command higher wages, for example. Others are unfortunate to end up with less, even though they might be no less worthy.

6 Democracy Lens: people should be able to influence the decisions that affect them. Workplaces should give a right of voice to everyone whose interests are at stake and implement procedures for agreeing decisions collectively.

7 Character Lens: decision-makers should demonstrate integrity, despite circumstances that might require compromising the principles. Making choices in a difficult situation is about not about following a rule, but doing the ‘right’ thing, something a ‘decent person’ would do.

8 Handing Down Lens: the long-term interests of people, organisations and society are more important than short-term gains. Workplace decisions should look to preserve the past and support the future interests of the people, the business and the communities.’

Download the full report from best to good practice HR: developing principles for the profession’ Published October 2015

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