Month: September 2016

HR Word: ISO 9000

ISO 9000 definition

A family of standards of excellence, created by the International Organization for Standardization, related to quality management systems. ISO 9000 standards can be applied across any industry and company size, making them a well-known symbol across the globe. The standards were first published in 1987.

Frequently cited advantages of ISO 9000 often include: reducing audits, strengthening marketing efforts, increasing potential for international trade and improving employee awareness. A common criticism is the time and effort required to achieve certification.

HR Word: Insubordination

Insubordination definition

Insubordination occurs when someone explicitly or implicitly, but always consciously, disobeys the orders or wishes of a superior. It is commonly used to describe instances in the military where junior personnel actively disobey superior officers.

 For insubordination to occur, the superior officer must have the remit and authority to compel the lower-ranked individual to act.

In the workplace, insubordination is a reason for dismissal, although the term has fallen out of favour as authoritarian leadership styles and hierarchies based on rank become less common and less important.

 Actual instances of insubordination are rare due to workplace structures that increasingly permit free dialogue and give greater weight to the views of less senior employees.

Another reason instances of insubordination are rare in the workplace is because increasing autonomy has meant that superior staff tend to provide guiding principles or overarching rules to subordinates designed to act as a litmus test when making decisions. Because there are no formal orders given regularly, it would be very hard to prove that insubordination had occurred. Professionals are also trained to advance the interests of their employee – although the principal-agent problem can still cause issues.

Insubordination in the military can be a form of protest – in the workplace this will commonly present as workplace deviance,counterproductive work behaviours or workplace incivility.

Effective superior-subordinate communication can help reduce the potential for insubordination.

HR Word: Informal Communication

Informal Communication definition

Informal communication in the workplace is communication that takes place outside the formal, communication structures of the workplace. Some people refer to informal communication as the ‘grapevine.’

Note that informal communication can occur in the same setting as formal communication, such as in a private meeting room during the appraisal process. A manager may conduct the appraisal process and then upon its conclusion tell the employer something about their personal life that is not meant for general workplace consumption or to be recorded formally.

Gossip is a form of informal communication in the workplace and often fuels shifts in culture and office politics. Gossip can be destructive to workplace relationships because it can introduce falsehoods and unproven information into the ecosystem.

Historically seen as completely negative, the grapevine is considered by some as a valuable, inexpensive peer-to-peer method of disseminating information, although its efficacy and consistency is questioned. 

HR Word: Industrial & Organisational Psychology

Industrial and Organisational Psychology definition

Industrial and organisational psychology (IO psychology) is the use of psychological knowledge and techniques to better understand how businesses work and how employees function in the workplace – what drives them, motivates them, angers them – in order to develop a more engaged and productive workforce.

Organisations hire industrial psychologists in order to drive productivity and efficiencies in the workplace through the latest scientific research and knowledge.

Industrial and organisational psychologists may be hired to perform a range of tasks in the workplace, including job analysis, recruitment and selection including psychometric testing, talent and performance management, motivation improvement, cultural change and improving team behaviours and function.

IO psychology uses a range of scientific methods, including quantitative and qualitative research.

Leadership is also a common focus for industrial psychology, particularly helping senior executives become better leaders to drive company performance. There are three main strands of IOP with regard to leadership:

  • Leader-focused: a trait-based approach underlined by a belief that effective leaders have certain qualities that less-effective leaders lack
  • Follower-focused: underlined by the methods leaders use to motivate and enthuse employees
  • Contingency-focused: behavioural approach underlined by a belief that effective leaders are more able to assess a situation and adapt their behaviour to meet the situation’s needs

An emerging sub-discipline in IO psychology is occupational health psychology (OHP), which is specifically concerned with mental, physical and emotional wellbeing in the workplace.

HR Word: Induction

Induction definition

Induction is the process of introducing a new employee to the company culture and processes with the aim of bringing them up to speed as quickly as possible as well as making them feel socially comfortable and aware of their professional responsibilities. 

Companies will typically have an induction programme in place and follow the same processes for all new hires, although the induction process is may vary depending on the industry, the job role and the seniority of the new hire.

Induction is technically synonymous to onboarding, although onboarding  is typically the term used when describing a more complex process with a greater emphasis on the social side. Inductions are also likely to be time-limited, such as a week or two, whereas onboarding is commonly seen as a long-term, logical process to integrate a new hire with an organisation’s values.

HR Word: Independent Contractor

Independent Contractor definition

Independent contractors are self-employed individuals who provide work under a contract for services. For legal and tax purposes they are not classified as employees.

 Independent contractors typically have specialist skills or knowledge that is required on a fixed-term basis. They also provide their own tools and equipment. 

Commonly-cited advantages of working as an independent contractor include relative freedom to set workload and business rules and not having to report to a superior. 

Independent contractors are also free to build a network of businesses and work for a variety of companies, barring any non-competing clauses in their contracts. Another significant advantage is independent contractors will typically own the copyright to any works created in the line of duty, whereas employees generally give up this right.

Disadvantages of being an independent contractor includes the lack of rights and benefits associated with being classified as an employee. 

Contractors are also responsible for their own tax affairs 

For HR, independent contractors can provide additional resource when needed without the financial burden of permanent employment, however they are typically more expensive than employees and have more bargaining power because (most of the time) they will have a roster of other clients. . 

HR Word: Incentive Pay

Incentive Pay definition

Compensation awarded for results rather than for time worked. Incentive pay, also known as pay-for-performance, is so-called because the prospect of financial compensation is supposed to be an incentive for an employee to remain motivated, work hard and strive for the best possible results.

 Commission, where sales staff get paid a proportion of each sale they make, is a common form of incentive pay.

Taxation around incentive schemes can be quite complex and HR will need to ensure compliance.

Although incentive pay refers most often to money, some companies do offer other incentives, particularly when part of a larger, more complex incentive scheme. Non-monetary incentives, or those where the employer has already borne the cost (such as dinners or gifts), are often known as ‘casual incentives.’

Employers who want a structured incentive scheme in place but don’t want to build one can often buy pre-made incentive schemes – the vendor is responsible for provision of incentives, but the tax liabilities will still fall to the employer.