HR Nitty-Gritty: Small businesses, Engagement, and Employee Tribunals

by Duncan

In our ‘HR Nitty-Gritty’ series where we speak to HR practitioners and Experts. In this interview, we speak to Jill Barlow, a HR specialist based in England's beautiful Peak District.

1. How has HR changed since you first entered the sector?
I principally provide services for small businesses, most of whom can't afford an HR department of their own. HR for them is a matter of managing their employees well enough to keep out of employment tribunals - getting a sufficient understanding of employment law to deal with conduct and performance issues, managing restructuring and redundancies (fewer of the latter now, thank goodness) and managing absence.

2. How are HR departments managing / promoting employee engagement, in your experience?
Employee engagement is not something that seems to be top of the list for my small clients in any structured way. I recently left a large organisation to become a freelance consultant, and they were making a specific effort to look at employee engagement this year.

3. What's the most common HR mistake you see?
In small companies, it's not managing employees' performance in a timely fashion, then taking action that's completely over the top. Not very strategic, but that's the way it is! I don't personally have much knowledge of working in an HR department as it held no appeal for me. You seem to get disliked by both management and workers, which is an uncomfortable place to be.

4. What's the future for the HR department, what does HR's role look like in 10-15 years?
I've seen a fair amount of outsourcing of the HR function over the past few years and this may well continue. I was recently asked by a large organisation to devise some training for their HR managers, to make them more noticeably valuable to the managers - effectively turning them into in-house consultants - and I can see this being a feature of the future.

5. What are some of your favorite websites for HR news?
People Management and Personnel Today. Also, Daniel Barnett's emailed EAT summaries Daniel Barnett's emailed EAT summaries.

6. What does your company specialize in?
Provision of phone and email employment advice, employment document and management training, principally for small businesses. For more see

Photo Credit: James Grant's Peak District Photos

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