· 2 min read · Features

Back to school, back to work: four priorities for HR in the autumn term


It’s back to school week. For many, now is the time when the pace of work picks up again after a summer lull enforced by annual holidays and absent colleagues.

Like the kids who are starting a new year at school or off to college, there is always a feeling that September brings a clean slate and the opportunity make changes which will set us up for success as we head toward the end of the year.

Add this to the fact that our economy seems to be out of the tunnel of gloom for the first time in five years and it seems a good moment for employers to think about what they need to be planning for when it comes to attracting, retaining and motivating their people.

Here are the top four items which I think should be on everyone's agenda.


  1. Employee finances The issue of falling living standards for UK workers isn't going away anytime soon. Survey upon survey is showing the extent to which take home pay has fallen in real terms at the cost of preserving jobs. While employees may be increasingly ready to move for better pay, the overall reward and benefits package can still play a critical role in retaining talent. Now is the time address this as a priority.
  2. Working parents - This is an important group of employees who have barely been out of the headlines this year as the coalition ruminates over what kind of support it will give in the future. We may not know what the final arrangements will look like for 2015 but we know that change is on the horizon. For employers I think this means action on two fronts. The first is explaining the changes to employees when it is announced and helping them take advantage of it. The second is a strategic question of how employers can improve the support they give to working parents through a combination of existing benefits, new ones and creative HR policy. I am sure childcare will be one of the big issues of 2014.
  3. The changing demographic of the workplace - A lot of fuss is made about how HR can meet the needs of Gen Y. The truth is, employers have always had to accommodate the needs of the latest generation as it comes into an organisation and the media focus on the younger cohorts misses the bigger challenge: catering for a wider age spread with different working patterns and needs in terms of pay, reward and benefits. As older workers stretch the age range in organisations we need to think about how we can offer the personalisation and choice necessary to meet their expectations in HR policy, reward, benefits and working practice.
  4. Sustainable performance - As Serco becomes the latest big business to be questioned about the way it runs its contracts with Government, we are reminded it isn't just banks who are finding that the wrong type of employee behaviour can lead to serious trouble: reputational and financial. Organisations need to focus on sustainable performance and that has to be tied into the right values and behaviour. Barclays is staking its future on this approach. So while there can be few employers who will have missed this point, now is the time to take stock of whether the way you reward and recognise your people is driving the behaviour which will help you succeed or may undermine you in the future.


So there you have my top four issues for the final stretch of 2013. Your priorities may differ - I am sure for instance those in the public sector where the cuts agenda looks set to stretch for years to come that will be the case.

The main point is to take the opportunity of a new start to think hard about what your organisation needs now and in 2014.

Andy Philpott (pictured) is sales and marketing director at benefits solutions provider Edenred.