First 90 days as an ER manager

Joining a new business can be daunting – and that is why the first three months are crucial in determining how firmly you hit the ground running.

As an Employee Relations (ER) manager too, this role is pivotal in helping to sustain a company’s long-term future and should be a central key enabler and advisor in any staff engagement strategy. Therefore, your initial ‘settling in’ period offers the chance to lay down a fresh approach and ensure the processes are in place to join the dots between the support – and care – of colleagues.

However, you also need to be mindful that not everyone will be as quick to jump on board with the changes, so remain flexible and adapt to the needs of everyone.

Overall, a positive outlook to implement ‘quick wins’ and achieve longer-term plans, can be vital in you – and your firm – getting the most out of the ER manager role. So, how do you make such an impact when first starting out? Here are 6 ways from our founder Peter Byrne…

1. Get to know the company

It might sound obvious, but it is an absolute must for any ER boss. Why? Because you need to truly understand how your firm ticks, and ultimately put yourself in a strong position to action changes further down the line.

You should have already conducted research into your company when applying for the role – so put that effort into action, and assess the whole structure, and its wider HR and ER functions. Really understand where these sit in the organisation’s priorities, to set the agenda and focus for key recommendations.

Is ER seen as a low priority tactical and operational activity – like the payroll of old? A piece of the strategic jigsaw to get absolutely right? Or somewhere in between?

Such insight will rest your future success and legacy. After all, there is no point recommending key strategic advancements that cost money if the senior management team do not ‘opt in’.

2. Build relationships from the outset

In any new job, there is pressure to get to know people quickly – and every single interaction counts, as well as the decisions made, following the conversations you have.

Using the time to understand a team’s needs should help create an overall picture of how to drive the business forward – and who is best placed to assist.

You should be cultivating positive relationships to gain trust and knowledge during this time too, and finding out what they want more – or less – of.

Also, spend time gaining the confidence of business unit directors and line managers because they will be your key customers and stakeholders going forward.

Finally, understand their key ER drivers, capabilities, support requirements and analyse the core root reasons for such issues – then put your findings into a plan of action.

3. Immerse yourself in Board expectations

While building strong relationships throughout, always be open to the fact your directors, stakeholders and founders might be used to the way things have always been. Could they be resistant to innovative change?

Find out what the company’s overall goals and objectives are, and consider how ER can impact upon those targets. Always align ER activity to those key business objectives too.

Understand what really drives each senior management team leader – it could be a mixture of bottom line profit and shareholder value to the CEO and finance director perhaps, or regarding market share, sales turnover, retention, recruitment, and employee engagement.

By assessing each individual’s own drivers and priorities, any actions and changes must make a positive contribution to each identified target. And, you must be able to demonstrate this very clearly – and quickly.

Be present and engaged in meetings too, if you positively contribute when you are altogether, changes may be smoother to implement over the course of your employment.

4. Create a strong line between employees and line managers

As well as getting to grips with how people work – and building on those relationships – it is also important to have a seamless strategy to enhance internal communication. After all, you are the ER manager!

If you are out on the frontline from day one, you should be able to use the information you gain to your advantage, and find out how people prefer to work.

A strong in-house structure will help when implementing strategic changes in future too, because people will remember the early impact you made, and the effort to foster trust between colleagues.

5. Set-up a strategy

Once you feel well-versed in how to engage the workforce, it is time to start putting things into practice – a forward-plan is crucial here.

You need to be bold and realistic. Consider what your ER unit is going to stand for, and represent. The absolute key question to answer in those first 90 days is this:

“Is my ER team a key customer advisory service delivery unit, really owning the ER agenda and leading the charge? Or a reactionary operational unit that ‘turns the same handle a bit faster than before’?”

Such decisions and insight will rest your future success.

But, of course, leading change takes time. Having clarity in the type of team and service you want to have, and deliver – and to whom and when – is crucial in the initial three months.

So, do not waste a moment to or get immediately drawn into the tactical ‘muck and bullets’ because it could impact upon your own reputation and others’ perceptions of you as a leader of strategic change.

6. Make a seamless transition

The settling in period is not an overnight process. But there are ways you can help make it a little easier.

Firstly, leave your old job behind – and how you used to do things – and focus on the here and now, which is the future in your new organisation.

Use your experience to improve this new, exciting venture – so soak everything in, and do not run before you can walk. Take time and do things calmly.

If major problems exist, from motivational to reputational or overgrown caseloads – they existed well before you arrived and have emerged over many years, so you are not going to change things overnight.

As an ER manager, you will be required to be so much more than someone who looks into how staff members operate in a positive working environment. You will be the company’s ‘people manager’ and need to make strong decisions that will impact upon the whole organisation.

Remember that you have been employed because you are a leader for others to follow and be motivated by. You are not a fire-fighter, turning the same handle that bit faster – you are analytical, strategic, and have ideas to make things better for those around you.

By being collaborative and understanding your company’s ethos, you should be able to make a true mark during your first 90 days, and beyond.


We are the HR and employment law experts from esphr.

It’s our mission to advise and develop the employment law capability of HR professionals wherever we can, helping HR teams make a real commercial difference to their organisations. That way, you spend less time solving operational issues and more time actioning projects that drive far-reaching change in your company.

Call 0333 006 2929 or email info@esphr.co.uk today to discover exactly how we can help you.

 

Author: Peter Byrne

Founder, ESP Group

Pete set up ESP Group in March 2003, after running an HR resource management business for three years.