Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Summer HR Horror Stories – And How To Avoid Them In Your Business

Any time of the year brings challenges for business owners when it comes to managing a team of people, and the summer is no different. Everyone might be in a slightly better mood when the sun starts to shine, but there are potential issues that you need to be aware of to ensure the smooth running of your operations. No one likes to think about the worst case scenario, but being prepared and thinking about your plan of action is always better than being caught off-guard.

Here, we’re going to take a look at a few HR horror stories from the summer months, and explain how you can avoid the fallout in your business.

A key member of staff gets stuck in a foreign country

Millions of British holidaymakers fly out to sunnier climes every summer, and most journeys are without any glitches. But what would happen if your member of staff got stuck in a different country due to a cancelled flight, and they’re due to meet a very important client or deliver a big presentation? Back in 2010, the ash cloud from a volcanic eruption in Iceland caused massive travel chaos.

The reality here is that if a similar situation struck, there’s very little that you can do about it. The key is making sure that you’re not putting your business in a situation whereby one member of staff is irreplaceable. There should always be someone who can step up and make sure that the job still gets done.

You see a ‘sick’ member of staff enjoying a holiday on social media

You think that your employee is absent due to illness. But then you see them tagged in a photo on Facebook, looking very well and enjoying some beach time in an exotic resort. What do you do next? Well first of all, it’s wise to resist jumping to conclusions. The picture could have been taken a long time ago, and you might have simply got the wrong end of the stick.

If you suspect though that your policies aren’t being adhered to, then it’s vital that you follow your own rules and investigate the situation before making a decision about the best course of action. This is why having robust and up to date policies is absolutely essential.

Productivity drops through the floor, and targets aren’t being met

Many workplaces face a productivity slump over the summer season. Staff are out of the office, looking forward to holidays, and their social lives might step up a level while they enjoy beer gardens and barbecues and festivals. It’s normal for output levels to vary depending on the time of the year, but you can’t just let the situation continue.

As we head towards the end of the summer season, it’s a great time to consider how you’ll ensure that your business and your staff are fully prepared for a big push towards achieving your goals in the final quarter.

Maybe you have an HR horror story of your own that you know you need to deal with before it spirals out of control? We can help you at The Human Resource. Get in touch today on 07884 475303 to arrange a no-obligation consultation, and we can discuss how we might be able to work together to overcome your people management challenges.


Wednesday, 23 August 2017

What if you refuse annual leave, and the employee takes time off anyway?

You don’t need us to tell you that the summer period is peak season for staff members wanting to take some time out of the office. The kids are off school, people are thinking about a few weeks in the sun, and the holiday requests start to come rolling in.

All business owners know that it’s essential to have a robust policy in place to manage leave requests and ensure that they’re handled fairly and efficiently, so you can fulfill your duties as a responsible and fair employer, and also make sure that organisational requirements and targets are being fulfilled.

But what happens when you’re forced to decline a request for leave, and then the employee in question fails to turn up for work anyway? The initial reaction might be to think that they’re taking the Michael, and that it’s time to roll out your usual disciplinary procedures. In some cases, that might indeed be appropriate. Let’s not jump to conclusions though. Take a step back, and look at the full picture.

If your employee has called in sick in line with your absence policy, then of course it might be an entirely genuine coincidence, and it wouldn’t be advisable to wade into the situation full of accusations.

If, however, your employee simply doesn’t turn up to work and provides no reasonable explanation, then it’s a different kettle of fish. In these circumstances, you should launch an investigation to establish whether the absence was for genuine reasons. If you determine that it’s a disciplinary issue, then your usual policies and procedures should be followed.

Of course, these situations are much easier to handle if you already have systems in place. No one expects things to go wrong, and when you’re managing the day-to-day running of your business, it’s easy to neglect the finer details of your HR provisions. Until you’re faced with a situation that you know could escalate into a disaster if it’s not handled properly.

You’d be amazed to know just how many business owners overlook things like this until an issue arises. You’re certainly not alone, and we’re not here to judge. But we can help you to get things in order – whether it’s as a precautionary measure to save you from headaches in the future, or you’ve found yourself facing a problem that needs to be handled sharpish.

Either way, give us a call at The Human Resource today on 07884 475303, and we can arrange an initial no-obligation consultation to discuss where you are right now, and what you need to do to move forward towards better peace of mind.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Should You Have A Summer Dress Code For Your Employees?


There are some pretty weighty issues kicking around in the world of employment at the moment. We’re still in the dark about what will happen as a result of Brexit. No one really knows just yet whether the new government will hold together. But the temperatures have been hitting some pretty lofty heights recently, so there are more pressing issues on a lot of people’s minds…

Like, what exactly you’re supposed to wear for work when the mercury is hitting 30 degrees.

If you impose a dress code on your employees? Then it’s worth considering whether it needs to be revised over the summer months. It’s the kind of thing that you won’t regularly give much thought to, but when the baking heat hits us, it’s the only thing that your staff can talk about.

You might decide that it’s the reasonable thing to do to allow your staff to relax their uniform a little bit. Whether or not this is really appropriate though will cone down to the role that they have in your business, the nature of the service you offer, and how much contact they have with your customers and clients.

Health and safety is a key issue here, and sometimes hard hats and steeled capped boots might just be 100% necessary. Comfort is important, but keeping your staff away from danger should always be your number one priority. If they’re struggling to carry out their roles because of soaring temperatures, then you need to reconsider how their days are mapped out and what you can do to support them.  

Presentation is another concern, but it’s fair to say that plenty of businesses are stuck in the dark ages when it comes to this. It’s worthwhile to think about the individual circumstances of your organisation.

If you run an accountancy firm, and your staff are meeting corporate clients? Then smart dress is obviously appropriate.

But if you’re a small clothing retailer with a hip clientele who come through your doors to access the latest fashions? It’s a different story.

If you’re an up and coming tech firm serving creative industries, and you’re eager to make your mark? Somewhere in the middle is likely to be the order of the day.

Back in 2014, Starbucks took a u-turn on its anti-tattoo policy, and finally accepted that no one really cared if their barista was adorned with body art – and that actually, many of their customers would prefer it.

There’s an interesting conversation to be had here about your employees serving as a mirror to your customers, and how similar styles can foster better rapport and more trust.

The key takeaway? Dress codes are sometimes important. But the safety and comfort of your staff are paramount. Don’t get stuck in old ways of working that might not be serving your business.  Contact us today at The Human Resource to discuss ideas about adapting your ways of working, and how to introduce changes.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

How to manage teams in the midst of change

“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.” Charles Darwin

And this holds true for change in the workplace too.

If you can manage your team effectively through change, helping them to adapt and adjust, it’s much more likely to be successful.  Investing your time will pay dividends following this Four E’s structure:   

1       Embrace

 Communicating a constructive mindset is the first step to embracing change – whether or not team members ‘like’ or ‘agree’ with it: 

  • Make time for the team to discuss the change together openly. Put it in context, explain why it’s happening, why it’s necessary and what it entails.
  • Be open and realistic about the pros and cons. This will encourage constructive ideas about any issues and help the team to buy into the change.  Listen to concerns and show you understand, especially normal feelings of being unsettled and unsure. 
  • Invite questions and either respond immediately or find out answers and follow up with them later.
2       Evaluate 

  • Provide key facts to answer questions and concerns
  • Evaluate the change with the team, involve them in assessing its impact and gaining clarity in their minds so they can overcome their doubts and fears.
  • Ask the team for their reactions and acknowledge any reservations. Ask - “What would help you make the adjustment?”
  • Identify any challenging areas that might need further support. If difficulties are raised which can’t be resolved immediately, make a note and follow up.

3       Evolve
  • Help the team to adapt and evolve their behaviours to begin to ‘have a go.’
  • Identify skills and learning solutions that will help the team adapt to the change
  • Be visible and present to deal with questions and identify issues.
  • Advocate a ‘one step at a time approach’ to build confidence and make sure the team learns from mistakes.
  • Be fair and supportive - and encourage the team to be patient and supportive with each other.

4       Engage 

  • Give people the freedom to ‘get on with it’ and practice, so that they stay focused and start to commit to the change.
  • Invite the team to use their initiative, adopt a “keep on learning” mindset and continually improve their performance.
  • Give regular feedback to reinforce learning and boost confidence. Show appreciation and highlight the progress the team has made and give credit on their achievement.
  • Review progress at team meetings and encourage individuals to share their knowledge with other members of the team.
  • At every opportunity remind the team of the purpose of the change and the priorities.

 And finally! Be transparent with the team. There is no crystal ball to determine in advance whether or not the change will work.   No one can predict every eventuality - which means that some changes will be changed again! 

This is a Guest Blog by Melanie Luteijn of Go Further Goals, a Training and HR consultant with over 20 years’ experience helping SME’s across a range of sectors thrive and achieve their goals. She believes that engaged employees are integral to business success. All employees must have clarity, conviction and confidence to perform effectively and fulfil their potential at work. Go Further Goals can help by designing and delivering tailored training solutions that fit the business.



Friday, 24 March 2017

Employment tribunal judgments are now published online


Employment tribunal decisions are now available online and can be accessed by anyone free of charge. The intention is that all future decisions will be published on the website.

What impact will the publication of decisions have for businesses and employees?
Some employers already screen job applicants by viewing their social media, so using the new online tool to check if applicants have brought claims against previous employers would be a simple extension of the vetting process. Some job searchers will fear that businesses will “blacklist” anyone who has taken a previous employer to a tribunal.

 The fact that tribunal decisions are accessible online also has implications for many employers.

 The fear of an employee’s tribunal claim finding its way into the press has always had an influence on an employer’s attitude to tribunal proceedings and some employers have preferred to settle claims rather than incur any adverse publicity or reputational harm arising from tribunal proceedings.

 Although the majority of tribunal hearings have always been in public, the risk of adverse publicity previously has been relatively small. However, the risk for businesses is now much greater under the new system of online publication of decisions. As a result, some employers may be more inclined towards a quick settlement when threatened with tribunal proceedings, a fact that may not escape many employees who have a grievance.

 If a settlement can be reached before a hearing, there will be little information that can go on to the website, and virtually none about the dispute itself.  However, tribunal decisions made after a hearing contain a lot of factual detail about an employer’s decisions and procedures, and significantly can contain critical assessments of the conduct of the employer’s witnesses.

It is not just employers’ names that will go into the database; individual managers in the business who are also named as respondents to a discrimination claim will have their names published as part of the record. Even if they are not listed as parties to the claim, they are likely to be identified in the judgment and may be the subject of adverse criticism, particularly if there are allegations of bullying or harassment.

Another possible implication of the new system is that employees who bring a claim are likely to come to the hearing with copies of previous decisions made against the employer and will encourage the tribunal to draw adverse inferences about the employer from findings made against it in previous decisions, particularly those relating to discrimination claims.

The online database is likely to be here to stay.  It remains to be seen what impact it will have on the tactics employed by those involved in disputes. However, it is fair to say that the increased accessibility of tribunal decisions is likely to have consequences for many businesses that should not be overlooked when an employment dispute arises.
This is a Guest Blog by Tony Brown.  His law firm, Bath Employment Law, specializes in helping employers meet their employment law obligations in a way that supports their business objectives, protects their reputation and minimises operational disruption. He has advised employer clients on employment law for more than 25 years.



Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Why You Should Never Download Your People Policies Online

 If you’re like most employers, then the very first time that you realised that you were going to need some people policies to make sure that you’re compliant with the law and doing everything you can to drive performance and engagement, you probably carried out a quick Google search to grab what you needed.  

It seems like the obvious place to start. You’ve no doubt picked up a ton of valuable business advice online during your time as an entrepreneur, so search engines often become your trusty advisor when it comes to the things that you just don’t know.  

Of course though, it pays to exercise more than just a little bit of caution. You’d know better than to search for medical advice online, or just hope for the best when it comes to what you’ve heard about managing your finances… So should you really trust Google to give you the policies and templates that have the power to make or destroy your business?  

Here’s why you might want to have a rethink…

You have no real idea where your advice is coming from

You don’t have to be an expert legal advisor, or even an HR consultant, to knock up a website and share your views and opinions online. Pretty much anyone with a laptop and the patience to watch a few YouTube videos can do it. You might say that it would be pretty pointless for someone to intentionally give you the wrong advice, and that’s probably true. But it’s not worth leaving anything to chance.

Working with a skilled HR professional will make sure that your documentation is informed by legal requirements and cutting-edge best practice.

The law changes regularly

What applies right now in terms of good HR advice isn’t necessarily going to be good advice in 6 months from now. New legislation is released on a regular basis, and it’s your job to make sure that you are compliant.

When you access information and templates online, you can never be certain when they were last updated. Of course, we always keep you up to date with what you really need to know, so it pays to sign up for our free updates.

One size doesn’t necessarily fit all

It’s true that the law applies across the board, regardless of what kind of business you run. You’re not exempt from following the rules just because you have just a few employees, for example. Still though, there are certain things that only apply to businesses of a certain size, and what works for a large multinational corporation isn’t necessarily going to work for a small family business.

When you work with a professional to get what you need, you can ensure that your practices are fit for purpose. Your HR consultant can get to know your individual needs, and craft a strategy accordingly.

There are times in your business when doing a few online searches is going to give you exactly what you need. But when it comes to managing your most valuable asset – your people – it’s never worth cutting corners.

If you’re concerned about whether your practices are hitting the mark, get in touch today with The Human Resource on enquiries@thehr.co.uk  and we can have a no-obligation chat about where you stand, and what your options are.





Wednesday, 15 March 2017

What To Do When An Employee Unexpectedly Resigns

So things are ticking along nicely in your business… Your people are engaged, productive, and they’re doing brilliantly. Sales are on the rise, and you’re feeling quietly pleased that you’ve managed to grow and nurture such an awesome bunch of employees.

But suddenly, there’s a spanner in the works.

Completely out of the blue, a key member of staff tells you that they’re moving on to pastures new. In a small business, this can be a serious blow, and it can have a real impact on your bottom line if it’s not managed effectively.

So let’s take a look at what you need to do, in practical terms…

Establish exactly when the person will leave

Any employee with over a month’s service has to give a week’s notice, and the individual’s Terms of Employment will often specify longer than this.  Check on the notice period that applies to the person resigning, and agree the leave date.

This way, you can sort out the outstanding admin arrangements, including payroll, and start to work out your next steps so there’s minimum impact on your business.

Where there’s a long notice period, employees sometimes ask if they can leave before the end.  While you don’t have to agree to this, there won’t be much point keeping a disengaged team member around once they’ve completed their handover, especially in a customer facing role.  Consider a compromise so that outstanding holidays are taken at the end of the notice period: you’ll have to pay them anyway.

Carry out an exit interview

You can’t retain everyone you recruit, but it makes sense to keep an eye on the reasons why people move on to different things. An exit interview, informal and in private, will allow you to pull together some valuable feedback about why your member of staff decided to leave. It may uncover common factors in the workplace that, if improved, would help to retain other team members, such as lack of career prospects or problems with colleagues.

You can’t make any assumptions unless you ask the person! There are often immediately apparent reasons and then underlying reasons.

A good structure is to explore the pull and then the push factors: start with the new role and why it attracted them, and move on to the reasons for leaving – especially what might have encouraged the person to stay.  Finish on a positive note and ask what they’ve enjoyed about working for the company.

Remember that because you’re the boss, you’re not always going to get the full and complete truth. It might be worth outsourcing this part of the process, so you can be sure that you’re getting more reliable and meaningful information to work with. The Human Resource can do this for you as retained HR consultants.

Craft your continuity plan

We appreciate that it’s not easy in a small business to plan for key people leaving but once you have the resignation, you’ll need to move quickly to work out how you’ll make sure productivity remains high, and your business doesn’t suffer.

Part of this is likely to involve looking for a new member of staff.  Factor in at least a month to recruit a replacement, often several months.  If you really need to move quickly, consider an agency temp or fixed term contactor.

For now, consider how you can bridge any gaps by using your existing workforce, without making unreasonable demands. It may not be ideal, but there’s often a silver lining: you could be giving an ambitious employee an opportunity to step up and broaden their experience.  

Make sure the person leaving gives a proper handover so that work continuity doesn’t suffer in the short term.  Most people take pride in making sure their job is done properly and would hate to think of everything they’ve done being wasted when they leave.  You can use this potential co-operation to make sure they pass on the detail and know-how.  This could be to others in the team, to you, or just handover notes.
Thank your employee for their contribution

Keep the future in mind: the person leaving could go on to refer business your way, or they may even become a customer or a client in the future.
And of course, you definitely don’t want to face the fallout that could come with your employee ending their time with you on a sour note. A little bit of consideration can go a long way.

If you’re currently dealing with a surprise resignation, or you’re worried that it might happen in the not too distant future, then get in touch with us at The Human Resource on 07884 475303 or enquiries@thehr.co.uk. We can have a chat about your options, and help you navigate your way through the potential pitfalls.