Last week, on the Forum Agile Administration #fav17 in Stuttgart, Ard Leferink of buurtzorg was the Key Note speaker.
On the evening before, he had told me that buurtzorg has no HR-Department (human resource), just like they have no marketing department, no sales department, and, naturally, also no CRM System (Customer Relationship Management).
Well, I actually know a few companies that have no human resource department. As a general rule, however, those are small enterprises with a number of employees that does not exceed the two-digit scope. In the Netherlands alone, more than 10,000 people work for buurtzorg. Well, I guess that can be considered a little bigger, can’t it?
Yesterday, I discussed this with an entrepreneur I am good friends with. He immediately replied by asking: “So what do they do with their personnel records?“ To which my reply was the question: “What do you need personnel records for?“
I actually believed – and have believed for some time – that in an enterprise that is agile and based on trust, personnel records are as unnecessary as a personnel department, not so speak of a “director personnel”. For the administrative processes (paying the salaries, …), a list of employees with very little information would absolutely suffice. Everything else is unnecessary “overhead”.
But before I give you reasons for my opinion, I will describe for you all the things a personnel record consists of.
- As a general rule, the personnel record is started when an employee is hired. That is old knowledge as it has been handed down over the centuries.
- When a new employee is hired, a master data list is made. It contains all the data about the employee necessary for realizing the working procedure, such as his/her birthday, sex, social security and retirement number, religious belief, etc. The work contract is added and sometimes the (successful) application letter with the CV and diverse diploma (school, education, academic grade). And, of course, the protocols of one or more job interviews is filed here as well.
- Then the personnel record is updated all the time by adding:
- All extensions of the work contract;
- All goal-oriented agreements;
- Organisational changes,
- Gratifications and social support (costs for child-care);
- All documentation pertaining continuing education; (the many “private educational measures” that, for instance, a software developer is doing all the time are not part of this);
- Documentation of sickness and health insurance; In Germany, all employees who have been sick for more than three work-days have to bring a doctor’s testimony. To me, this looks like a method for creating work and money for doctors – I never knew a doctor who did not write such a testimony when asked by the patient,
- Special events (change of marital status…) and activities (presentation, …) will also be written down.
- Protocols of yearly evaluation interviews and all other relevant discussions;
- Interim job references;
- All “disciplinary” things such as misbehaviour and/or written warnings;
- In former times, positive letters were also kept in the personnel record. For instance if a colleague received a special tax-free payment because of a jubilee (company employee) or the birth of a child. However, now that these are no longer tax-free, there is less motivation for the employers to pay any special gratifications.
- Today, less agreeable data are also part of the personnel record. They suggest a strange concept of humanity. Because humans, too, are now considered a measured object. For instance, we find the results of strange tests (Score-Cards as results, for example, of the Reiss-Methode), as well as “psychological” reports about the employee’s personality and numbers that indicate his performance for the enterprise. I do not know if this is legal, but I know it is done.
(In some companies, they have agreements that state what may be added to the personnel records and what may not be therein. And the works committee controls in regular intervals).
If someone has been an employee for many years, then this report folder can become quite extensive. It might weigh a few kilograms. If you have a hundred employees, you need quite a bit of storage space. That is why you have to have a digital HR application. And, incidentally, you will also get quite some problems with “privacy protection“.
Because, by definition, IT systems are not secure. To be sure, the drawers with the personnel files in locked rooms were not very secure, either. I actually remember some creative employees who managed to get the keys. And I also remember a personnel file lying around on the desk of a “boss” overnight. But in those days that was not a problem.
In IT, you have to introduce processes that define who can read what under what conditions. It has to be documented. And again, you have one of those coffin nails that will do damage to an agile and slim enterprise and give you yet a little more bureaucracy and administration.
In other words – everything you do not really need is something you better avoid!
Incidentally, the dialogue with my friend continued. His reply to my question why you need personnel records was (after some hesitation):
“For writing references?“
Indeed. As we all know, in Germany the employer has to write a reference for an employee when he leaves (or whenever he wishes one). That reminded me of when and how I used to write letters of reference. Here is what I did:
First and foremost, I asked the employee to write down everything he did for the company and mark which of those things were important to him. Then I took this input and added my own knowledge and estimation, before finishing with one of those famous phrases taken from a book that lists all the relevant phraseology.
But I only ever took a look at the personnel folder when I needed a birthday for wishing someone many happy returns.
For more articles of my entrepreneurial diary, click here: Drehscheibe!