How many empty chairs were there in your office on Monday morning after England’s 6-1 victory over Panama?

Sporting events like the World Cup do present some challenges for HR. What’s the policy on  allowing people to watch crucial games during working hours?  How do you deal with employees who have – ahem – over-celebrated and come to work hungover or half-cut or failed to turn up at all?

The answer will vary from business to business, but regardless of the official stance, HR people everywhere will no doubt be watching events in Russia closely – possibly because they are interested in the ‘beautiful game’, more likely so they can assess the possible impact on the workplace if England continues its winning streak.

In the meantime, we’re joining in with the football fever with our HR guide to World Cup terminology:


England have clocked up eight so far – but what are your HR goals? Is it to help the organisation build an agile workforce that will help it thrive and survive in today’s competitive, turbulent climate? Or maybe it’s to create ‘a great place to work’ so the business can attract and retain the best talent? In today’s fast-moving environment, HR people are often so busy doing ‘stuff’ that they don’t have time to take a step back and make sure it’s the right stuff. If HR is to add value, it’s vital to ensure the people strategy is supporting the business strategy and geared towards helping the company achieve its commercial goals.


Up to 20 million Euros or 4 per cent of annual global turnover to be precise – for failure to comply with the recently introduced GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations), depending on the gravity of the infringement. Then there’s the increased Tribunal compensation awards for unfair dismissal, the possibility of unlimited fines for failure to report and take action on gender pay gaps and the cost of getting it wrong on Right to Work. Making sure the business doesn’t fall foul (pun intended) of the legislation is a key task for HR – especially when the wider business doesn’t always appreciate (or want to listen to) the implications of flouting the rules.

Key Players

As a raft of recent research has shown, we are in the midst of an emerging war for talent, with two thirds of employers already struggling to fill vacancies. Good candidates at junior and mid-level management are proving particularly hard to find – with the UK’s imminent departure from Brexit only likely to worsen the situation. In business, as in football, forward-looking companies have realised they have to invest in the best candidates early on by building relationships with schools, colleges and universities and investing in training for high potential employees. And while the average Premier League players weekly wage of £50K plus is probably not on the table for most recruits, organisations are finding they are having to swallow a hike in salaries if they are to attract and retain the most talented players.


A role HR often finds itself in. Warring colleagues, power struggles within teams, managers who get accused of unfairness or bullying by their staff – all the kind of disputes that regularly end up on HR’s doorstep. Conflict in the UK workplace is rife, with research suggesting that 4 out of 10 employees has experienced some form of interpersonal conflict within the past year. The cost to industry is huge (an estimated £33 billion a year), which makes it important that HR practitioners develop the skills to handle conflict successfully themselves – and to equip managers throughout the business to do the same.


When it comes to the final whistle, one of the initiatives that is likely to give HR the biggest kudos is the introduction of an HR software system. Not only can it take the administrative burden away (automating holiday requests, supporting the performance management process and allowing employees to manage their own data), it also has the potential to support the more strategic aspects of HR’s role. Today’s sophisticated HR platforms can provide the data to inform workforce planning, for example, can highlight people-related risk and support decisions about talent and succession. Embracing the latest technology gives HR the opportunity to up its game – increasing its influence in the boardroom and adding real value to the business.

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.