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Look Who’s Talking…


Tuesday 14 May 2019

At a recent HR event I attended, Kieran Mulvey, former Director General of the Workplace Relations Commission, spoke and he said he always applied the rationale that “conversation trumps investigation”. It struck me that often in the workplace we can jump in and start investigating and disciplining when really a simple word to someone could be as effective, if not more so, in dealing with the issue. But how does that sit with the adage that if you don’t write it down, then it didn’t happen? This is where we can struggle at times, if we proceed too informally then we could face issues if a situation does escalate. How do we work around this?

The fact of the matter is that services are all in the business of relationships; with the children in their care, with parents and with the colleagues and staff. These relationships are with human beings and so conversations and meaningful communications are a critical part of that. It is these communications that build the foundations of trust and create the emotional connection. This is where the real magic happens and the service can thrive.

The problem is that often as employers we feel inhibited by our processes when trying to have these conversations. We want to make sure that we are recording everything correctly by writing it all down and so the person only sees the top of our heads whilst we are busy writing, or we don’t write it at all and try unsuccessfully to do it later. How can it be done? How can you give an employee meaningful feedback, good or bad, and still tick the box with the correct process and fill in the correct form? Sometimes the process doesn’t bear in mind that there is a human being sitting in front of you whom you are trying to have a conversation with.

Consider this scenario for a moment. You have a staff member who is with your service a mere three months. They are getting on fine, but you are concerned that they aren’t using their initiative. They don’t push themselves and are holding back a bit. Their work is good but could be better. You want to talk to them about it but don’t want to make it a “big deal”. Equally you are aware that they are on probation and you have limited time in which to deal with it. You want to make sure you follow process in case they don’t get better and you need to take further action. So, if you have a “quiet word” is this formal enough? Now put yourself in the shoes of the staff member. You have started a new job. You understand the role, but you aren’t entirely sure what is expected of you. You are trying hard, but you need more clarity around how to be better. You would like an outline of this but don’t know how to ask.

It was this type of scenario that Early Childhood Ireland’s Early Years Employer Service team considered when developing the new One to One Meeting record. This resource was designed so that you can use it for performance reviews or supervision but is adaptable to use for any kind of informal meeting where the main actions can be recorded and follow up agreed, in a non-obtrusive way. It will assist you in keeping communication open and frequent with staff and ensure that all meetings are accurately recorded. This resource was designed so that you record informal conversations/meetings quickly and easily without losing the human connection. This way you can promote engagement, whilst ensuring you have accurate records.

So, remember it’s always good to talk and now it should be easier to keep the record straight when you do!

Gillian Moore is the manager of our newly launched Early Years Employer Service. With over 10 years experience working in HR and a prior legal background, Gillian’s focus will be on supporting Early Childhood Ireland's members as they navigate the complexities of running a service and helping them have confidence in their HR and business practices.
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