From Hollywood to HR | What Home Alone, Love Actually & more can teach us about HR

What Home Alone, Love Actually & more can teach us about HR

Who doesn’t enjoy watching a Christmas film, snuggled up next to the log fire whilst overindulging in a box of Celebrations (minus the Bountys, of course). Despite having seen them many times, your favourite Christmas classics are like a comfy pair of pyjamas… you just can’t wait to get them on.

But have you ever thought what these films could teach you about your business?

It might sound a little Bah Humbug, but even our favourite festive films throw up some employment conundrums, as Peninsula’s HR Advice & Consultancy Director, Kate Palmer, explains...

Nightmare Before Christmas

In this spooky classic, Jack Skellington swaps his role as Pumpkin King for something a little more festive. Despite his best intentions, Jack isn’t quite up for the role of Santa and, as a result, the whole of Halloween and Christmas town spirals into a world of trouble.

Hiring is hard and sometimes employers can get things wrong - just look at how Jack unwittingly sabotages his newfound position. This can lead to some awkward conversations, but you have a duty to your team to get the right person in the right job. That’s why probation periods are so important. They allow you to see how your new hires fit within your team – and see if they think your company is a good fit for them. If things don’t work out, you can use the experience to streamline your recruitment process, assessing your expectations of the role and making improvements if necessary.

Love Actually

Around one in ten of us find love at work. But blurring the lines between romance and professionalism can sometimes leave you in a sticky situation. Harry’s affair with his assistant Mia is rife with HR complications, like the power imbalance associated with a senior/delegate relationship, and Mia’s demands for ‘something pretty’ for Christmas.

And, earlier in the film, Harry remarks that female employees should steer clear of one of their colleagues unless they want to be ‘fondled’. As the Managing Director of a company, Harry should be investigating this matter and doing something about it, rather than making light of it with his comments loaded with sexism.

Guide to Internal Mobility and Retention

Guide to Internal Mobility and Retention

Internal mobility is a hot topic for hiring teams - and rightly so. Many are being asked to do more with less while also facing high turnover rates, with projections expected to reach 35%.

TA teams are fighting for retention, forcing many to revamp their internal mobility programs. But internal mobility isn’t about who has been at a company the longest, who knows who, or any other arbitrary factor—it’s about making decisions based on the data that will help you build a resilient workforce that's fit for the future.

Our Internal Mobility Guide proves the case for skills-based hiring and how to use technology to make more effective decisions.

Read the guide and learn how to:

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  • Create internal mobility programs where employees feel empowered

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But he’s not the only one pushing the boundaries of what’s acceptable when it comes to workplace relationships. We also have the Prime Minister engaging in a steamy relationship with his aide, and writer Jamie with his housekeeper.

It’s important to note that a blanket refusal to tolerate any relationships in the workplace is not likely to go down well. Instead, have a workplace romances policy in place that sets out established channels of dealing with matters of the heart, including guidelines around requiring disclosure of relationships, and outlining what happens in the case of senior/delegate relationships. For example, are they forbidden, or would you require seniors to transfer position/department if a relationship like this develops?

Jingle All The Way

We’ve all felt it – the stress of that last-minute rush to get a loved one a Christmas gift. In this 1990’s classic, we see on-duty postal worker Myron setting out on a perilous journey to track down the elusive Turbo-Man action figure for his son – a big no-no for HR.

Shopping should never be done on company time. And with 77% of UK workers admitting to doing online shopping during their working hours, it’s clearly an issue that most employers could face as Christmas approaches.

Rather than simply blocking retail websites, employers should communicate to employees about their company’s internet usage policy. At most workplaces, this means employees will still be able to use break times and personal devices to snap up bargains or track down that elusive must-have gift without it impacting on their work productivity.


It’s clear that Scrooge had very little interest in employee welfare. From low wages and denying time off requests, to screaming at his well-meaning staff, it’s likely that morale was in short supply in Scrooge’s factory.

The festive period can be a stressful time for some industries. While for some, things could be winding down, in other industries such as retail and hospitality this is the busiest time of the year. When things get hectic it’s easy for stress levels to boil over, which can lead to conflict in the workplace and burnout.

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You and your employees are a team working towards a shared goal. The best way to achieve this is to work through any issues together. Encourage an open environment where employees can raise concerns and agree next steps, helping manage feelings of stress and anxiety before they grow into something unmanageable. This might require growing the team, dividing workloads, or signposting to support systems like your employee assistance programme (EAP).

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Job departures can stir up bitter emotions. If an employee leaves your business on bad terms, they could engage in some Grinch-like behaviour and attempt to steal some of your most valuable clients.

Clients are crucial for any business’s development so losing some to a competitor can make you feel very ‘Bah Humbug’. But unlike the citizens of Whoville, your business can implement policies to prevent this from happening. Having a policy in place from the very beginning helps ensure that there is no ambiguity around the issue of client poaching. That way should the worst happen, you have clear legal proof that your ex-employee breached their contract and acted dishonestly.

The Santa Clause

When toy salesman Scott Calvin inadvertently causes the death of Santa Claus, he finds himself recruited to take on the role himself. And whilst he might have had the right experience, he wasn’t quite ready for the responsibility that came with his new job.

This brings into focus the important of effective succession planning and serves as a stark reminder to employers to ensure that should staff leave, they are able to fulfil the roles to minimise business disruption.

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It’s crucial to have open conversations about the future of your business so that you can identify who is best suited for leadership roles. Fail to plan ahead, and you could find yourself scrambling at the last minute looking for anyone who could fill in.

Office Christmas Party

If you’ve seen this film it needs no explanation. But if you haven’t, imagine an office Christmas party that goes to every extreme imaginable: heavy alcohol consumption gives way to drug-taking, orgies, reckless stunts, vandalism, and a full-blown riot.

Celebrating with a few drinks at a work do is fine in most cases but having one too many can cause headaches – both the HR variety and otherwise. And partaking in anything illegal is a one-way ticket to dismissal.

A Christmas party is an extension of the workplace, so the usual rules do still apply. This means that inappropriate behaviour at a work party can result in disciplinary action. It may be beneficial to remind staff of this prior to events so you don’t have to be a Scrooge if the festivities do get out of hand.

Home Alone

Some workplaces can start to feel like a ghost town around the festive period. It’s the time of year when employers can expect to be inundated with requests for time off, which, if not managed properly, could leave bosses running around frantically like poor Kevin McCallister.

Christmas can be the busiest time of the year for many businesses, so having an adequate number of staff working is crucial for you and your team.

Having a first-come, first-served policy can help you manage absences in a fair way and ensure that you still have enough people to keep business moving during this time of year.

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