The pencils are sharpened, the bags are packed and there’s a definite sense of new beginnings in the air. September is traditionally the time for fresh starts. People return from their holidays relaxed and refreshed and set about their work challenges with (hopefully) renewed vigour.

new approach

For HR professionals, it’s a great time to take a step back and think about the challenges the coming months will bring. What employment law changes are on the horizon? What disruptions are likely to affect the sector your organisation operates in – and what HR strategies can you put in place to help the business stay ahead of the game?

The following are just a few of the issues HR folk might want to put on their agenda for the ‘new term’:

1. Planning for Brexit

After a brief lull over the Summer, Brexit is back in the headlines. Even though many firms are still adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach, many are feeling the impact of ‘Leave.’

A new survey from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) found that 5% of organisations have already experienced resignations from EU employees. One in ten businesses report that a significant number of their EU workers have signalled an intention to quit.

Willis Towers Watson, suggests that many organisations have been paralysed by uncertainty following the Referendum. Less than one in five firms have an HR Brexit team. And half said they had not even considered how they might need to adapt or respond.

HR professionals have a key role to play in encouraging the business to think about likely scenarios. In an HR Magazine article, Michael Jenkins, Chief Executive of Roffey Park, suggests organisations need to take a three stage approach. Look at critical issues that need to be dealt with right away; ‘tame’ issues that can be planned for and ‘wicked’ issues which are uncertain. “I would advise HR directors to start thinking of the best, most likely, and worse-case scenarios and plan accordingly,” he says. “They shouldn’t wait for all the information to become clear, as those two years after Article 50 is triggered will go by very quickly.”

2. Gender Pay Gap Reporting

Despite the introduction of the Equal Pay Act over 30 years ago, the gender pay gap still stands at around 24%, with women earning an estimated £300,000 less than men over their working life.

New laws on gender pay gap reporting come into force in early 2017. For those organisations affected, HR needs to start thinking now about whether the business is collecting the necessary data. And if not, they need to put systems in place to make sure it can meet its reporting obligations.

Although organisations won’t be obliged to make financial adjustments, they will have to go public with their gender pay gaps. A ‘naming and shaming’ initiative the Government hopes will prompt offending organisations to take action.

An article in Personnel Today suggests it may be helpful to conduct a test analysis, which will allow the business to anticipate its results and address any concerns. It’s also a good opportunity for HR to gather information on the gender profile of the organisation in general, and if necessary to think about what initiatives you could put in place to ensure diversity and equality of opportunity.

3. Rethink performance reviews

Not sure that the end of year performance review is delivering the right results? Now would be a good time to revisit your approach, so you have time to implement any improvements.

A recent article in Harvard Business Review suggests shifting to a strengths-based reviews can turn performance management around. Poor performance, of course, has to be addressed. But making the focus of discussions on what employees do well – and how they can do more of it – can lead to a real step change. Research by Gallup has shown that this stance not only pays dividends in terms of employee engagement, it also has a direct impact on the bottom line. Organisations who focus on strengths reporting significant increases in sales, profit and customer satisfaction.

4. Refreshing your approach to learning

Technology has revolutionised the way learning and development is delivered. Online learning portals make it easy for people to access content as and when they need. And it can also provide employees with the opportunity to share their knowledge and expertise.

Mobile learning apps mean busy executives can learn on the go, without having to wait for the next training course to come around. Face-to-face development programmes will, of course, always have their place. But, if training budgets are tight and needs are changing, now is a good time to look at what the market has to offer in the digital space.

Coaching, mentoring, job swaps and secondments initiatives could also give people the development they need to move to the next level. A people management software can help with tracking this.

5. Focus on your own career development

HR people often put so much focus on developing other people’s careers that they forget to pay their own. The ‘autumn term’ is a great time to think about how you can take your career to the next level.

Will a formal qualification give you the credibility or experience you need to specialise or make your next move? Are there opportunities to learn from conference circuit experts over the next few months? Are their opportunities to learn from peers and build your network through professional associations like the CIPD? What are the latest must-reads for HR?

If you want to develop a culture of learning in the business, it’s important you keep your knowledge and professional practice right up to date.

Erika Lucas author image

Erika Lucas

Writer and Communications Consultant

Erika Lucas is a writer and communications consultant with a special interest in HR, leadership, management and personal development. Her career has spanned journalism and PR, with previous roles in regional press, BBC Radio, PR consultancy, charities and business schools.