INSIGHTS

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Could We Learn a Thing or Two From Sweden’s Six-Hour Working Day?

Sweden has made headlines in recent weeks after some companies decided to make the shift to a six-hour working day, in an effort to increase productivity and offer staff a more fulfilling work-life balance. Interestingly, Toyota workplaces in Gothenburg went down this route thirteen years ago, with great success and it’s been reported that the business experienced a profit increase, higher retention of staff, and happier employees.

6 Hours A Day? I Wish….. 

As an employer, it’s likely that you read these latest developments with great interest. But did you applaud the decision to do things a little differently, or did you roll your eyes and quietly confess to yourself that this kind of working arrangement could never work in your business?

Maybe you think that cutting down the working day is a nice idea but not something that you could realistically try any time soon. It’s true that you can’t successfully roll out changes like this overnight. But the changing culture in Sweden offers an excellent opportunity for us all to rethink how traditional working practices could be holding your business back.

Let’s consider the constraints of an eight-hour working day…

There’s no denying that it’s almost impossible to stay alert and focused for the entirety of a nine-to-five shift. When it comes to your members of staff, and even your own performance, it’s highly likely that a significant chunk of the day is spent on mundane tasks that add no value to the business. From browsing social media to staring out the window looking for a little inspiration, eight hours in the office are very rarely eight hours of productivity.

And of course, we’re all familiar with how tricky it can be to find a happy balance between work and our personal lives. If we could find the secret sauce that allowed us to work less hours, enjoy more time at home, and still make an effective contribution at work, then the benefits could be endless.

Is it just habit that’s holding us back?

The concept of an eight-hour working day is one that’s been carried down for generations, so it’s no surprise that so many companies work this way simply because they’ve never even stopped to consider any other alternative.

Final thought

Swedish companies embracing the six-hour day will no doubt have their fair share of challenges ahead, but with effective leadership and a commitment to questioning the status quo, it could prove to be one of the most meaningful initiatives that the world of employment has ever seen.

 

If productivity is a problem in your workplace, or you’re simply looking for ways to get more from your staff, then get in touch today to arrange a no-obligation consultation. After taking the time to get to know your business and the key challenges that you’re facing, we can implement an action-plan to ensure that you’re on track to achieve your wider strategic goals.  Get in touch at hello@thehrhub.co.uk, or give us a call on 0203 627 7048.

Image by Matthew Peoples

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Team In The Run Up To Christmas

At this time of the year, business leaders are starting to really knuckle down on just how they’re going to hit their numbers in the final quarter.

After all, there’s ample time to sign up new clients and customers before the end of the year and for many it’s their busiest time. Perhaps you’re rolling out special offers on your services to entice using-up-of-budget spending? Have lined up a email marketing campaign that even the most hardened buyer cannot ignore? Or maybe you have an exciting new line of products whose features just sell themselves…

Whatever your goals are, these strategies can work, for sure. But if you’re serious about really upping the ante and ending 2016 in the best position possible, then don’t ignore your greatest chance of hitting those numbers – your people. Here, we’re going to share some practical hints and tips that you can start implementing right away.

Consider whether you need to roll out refresher training

At this time of the year, exemplary customer service and focussed sales skills can make a huge difference when it comes to your profits. Are your staff comfortable with talking about your products and services? Can they pinpoint opportunities to offer an up-sell? And are they really firing on all cylinders when it comes to their day-to-day work?

Take the opportunity to consider how you can offer training to drill down on key points you need to change, and take performance up to that next level. You don’t necessarily have to spend a fortune on bringing in external providers, so think like a bootstrapped startup when it comes to how you can deliver any development needed. Perhaps pairing up members of the sales & marketing team to hone in on the key value proposition your product/ service is offering to clients and customers would give a much needed boost to those who are struggling to bring prospects along the sales pipeline? Many sales tools record your calls and can be used to immediate feedback to people that can be started as soon as this morning….  Or how about some e-learning courses to give some focus and boost skills? Bitesize courses can be found on all manner of topics from customer service to google Analytics on sites such as Lynda.com & Alison.com

Make sure that everyone has goals to be working towards

If your staff have been in their positions for a while, then they can really easily fall into a mundane routine. Particularly in the run up to Christmas. After all, everyone’s a bit well, knackered? They turn up to work, do their bit, and then go home.

Could it be the case that they’re feeling complacent? If so, now’s an excellent time to get your leadership team together and ensure that everyone has realistic but stretching goals to be making progress towards. So gather them all in a group huddle if you don’t have time for individual meetings this week and make it crystal clear what you need from everyone and what you need to deliver by the end of the year. Word to the wise however: now is not the time to be beating people up over performance: think ‘motivate’ rather than ‘denegrate’…..

Everyone should understand and recognise the contribution they make to the bigger picture, so make sure they understand the part they play and are recognised, though it’s also sensible to think about how you can encourage staff to work together to achieve bigger things.

Work out how you’ll incentivise this fabulous performance  

If you’re after a short sharp focus to hit specific targets, then bonuses could be the answer here. Although not scientifically proven to help in all cases, behaviour can be changed if the task is simple, the rewards understood and the task not too difficult – so get to work on creating an incentive scheme that says ‘thanks’ a lot to the team but makes sure you hit the right goals.

Again, this doesn’t have to be something that puts a strain on your budget. There’s a ton of things that you can do to offer an attractive incentive for outstanding performance, even if you’re on a tight budget & for more ideas on how to do this with your sales team, check out Katy Cracknell’s article How To Motivate Your Sales Team Without Focussing On Just The Money And, of course, you should never underestimate the value of of rolling out a Blue Peter-Style Thermometer to really visualise your sales. In addition of course, to simply saying thank you….

The year’s speeding to an end, but if you start taking action right away on the points that we’ve outlined above, you can make a big difference to your final results. So what are you waiting for?!

If you need some help with managing that final push, then pick up the phone. We’ll be looking forward to having an initial chat about how we might be able to work together, without any obligation or pressure. Get in touch at hello@thehrhub.co.uk, or give us a call on 0203 627 7048.

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Create An Employee Handbook That Doesn’t Send Your Team To Sleep

Call them what you will – Employee Handbook, Staff Manual, Operating Procedure, Playbook  – for many companies, they are one of the most common ways of setting the standards for what you expect in your workplace and are given to employees to read when they first start. Often they include things such as how you get paid, what to do in a fire, what happens if the company doesn’t think you are not doing your job etc. Or just a general collection of all the policies ever written in the business that someone thinks you might need at some point. Maybe.

I’ve written and read hundreds in my time. And not many I would want to do so more than once (and therefore haven’t!). The reason being that most are relentlessly dull. Written by many for the sole purpose of having one there to bring out and dust down to prove in a case of disciplinary/ grievance/ policy breach/ tribunal that you had a policy on whatever in question. They are in this case seen as the last line of defence. The ‘Goalie’ of your employment practices.

But the odds of you needing them for such a purpose are slim. And even if you do so, no amount of “we had a policy on that” will guarantee you a free pass if it is clearly at odds with how you’re actually operating as a business.

A handbook is an great way of communicating your culture, as well as one which sets expectations for your team and which helps them feel at home as well as understand what to do if they go off sick. So why not spend all that time putting creating a handbook which people will actually read. Which reflects your culture and practices. Which is actually useful to managers and employees alike? You are much more likely to ensure that expectations are set (often in a lot of important areas that need to be made clear) and that all of your team read and understand your handbook if you make sure that it is engaging, relevant and real. If it actually reflects the culture of your business and the practices which take place.

It’s not always easy. And it does take a bit of time. But like any good marketing, if you want to ensure that your employee experience is as good as your customers, then it’s worth the investment. To help you out, here are my top ways to help start you off in creating a handbook which is engaging, relevant and readable for your audience of internal customers:

  1. Keep it short: if it’s as long as the bible it just won’t get read. Or if you can’t keep it short….
  2. Make sure you can navigate it easily: whether it’s a word document, google docs or online, structure it in a way which can include appropriate guidance/ hyperlinks to help people to the right places.
  3. Be less officious: avoid the Latin in your writing and stick to the Germanic. “The working day commences at 9.00am’? Is that how you would speak normally? Nope. Thought not.
  4. Avoid punitive language. You know the type. “The employee cannot/ should not/ will not etc” . It’s okay occasionally when you want to really ram something home, however anything more than a light sprinkle of this and your team will feel like they are instantly transported back to school…
  5. Use pictures or videos (or emoticons): no-one made a rule that you only have to have words in your handbook and like any other form of marketing, images are much more engaging than words most of the time🙋🙌🙀 Ok, Ok. So only if they’re relevant!
  6. Lend some humour: inserting inappropriate jokes inside the ‘what to do if you get sick’ paragraph might be a bit out of place and undermine what your message is, but done in the right way, any document which makes its reader smile is likely to stick
  7. Make it available: Don’t just print off a hard copy and chuck it in a drawer. Ensure you share on whichever online collaboration tools you use.
  8. Make it personal: it will be full of practices which apply to everyone, but don’t forget to speak to the reader. That means more ‘You’ and less ‘The employee’.
  9. Keep it live: Don’t forget to update it on a regular basis. This doesn’t mean that people need to re-sign it every year (a practice I personally don’t believe in – after all, most handbooks are non-contractual for very good reasons). But businesses evolve. So make sure your handbook does.
  10. Reinforce it: whatever is written down, make sure it is how you actually operate beyond the pages.

For more help and advice at every step of the employee journey (including creation of employee handbooks)  sign up to theHRhub – the ultimate online support service for SMEs. ser

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Photo Credit: j_lai – Toyko-09

HR Horrors: Managing The Underperformance Of A Longstanding Employee

When we think about underperformance we predominantly relate it to new or nearly new employees, when issues can be put down to recruiting the wrong person or mismanagement in those precious first few months . After all, the process of finding the right member of staff can be tricky, and there are many things that you need to do to ensure that you’re giving individuals everything they need to hit the ground running.

But what if you have a member of staff who has been with you for quite a while, someone who previously has always made a solid contribution, and you suddenly start to notice that their performance is slipping?

These circumstances present a unique set of challenges. And if you find yourself in this situation, it’s really important that you know exactly what to do to address the problems and get things back on the right track.

It’s essential that you don’t panic. Read on – we’re going to walk you through absolutely everything that you need to know:

Don’t Pretend That It’s Not Happening

If your member of staff has previously met their goals and made a strong contribution to the company, then you might think that the best approach is to just wait and see what happens. After all, doesn’t everyone go through patches when they’re feeling a little unmotivated?

Take this approach and you may well find that things fix themselves. But this is absolutely NOT the thing to do though if you’re serious about growing a strong and engaged workforce. The wider team will soon notice if you start treating certain individuals differently and you’ll run into problems sooner rather than later. Perception and trust are important. You need to act with integrity and in a timely manner.

Nobody wants to have difficult conversations, especially when it’s with valued members of staff who have been with the business for a long time. As a leader though, it’s your duty.

If you’re struggling to bite the bullet and take action on the situation, take a step back and think about things objectively. Emotions can overtake your common sense, and no one’s expecting you to be a machine. How is this person not meeting your standards exactly? What impact is this having on productivity, profits, and relations within the team? Often, you’ll quickly realise that you have no other option.

Get Together For An Informal Chat About The Situation

You don’t need to blow things out of proportion. The beauty of being proactive is that you can often nip problems in the bud and get things back on the right track without any hassle or fuss.

As a first port of call, arrange an informal meeting with the individual in question. Raise your concerns about the problems you’ve become aware of. Speak to them about what they feel is going wrong, and find out if there’s anything that you can do to support them.

There’s a whole host of issues that could be at play. Pinpointing precisely what is going wrong is the first step in getting things back on course. It could be the case that they’ve been working on the same projects for a very long time, and they’re struggling to stay engaged. They may have problems outside of the workplace that are having an impact on their performance.

Don’t jump to any assumptions before you’ve got all the information, and be sure to act on the details that you take away from the meeting. Almost all leaders and managers will say that they listen to their members of staff, but all too often, they’re just going through the motions. Make sure that you don’t make this mistake.

Put An Improvement Plan In Place

Once you’ve spoken with your employee and you’ve agreed that changes need to be made, it’s absolutely vital that you create a structured and detailed improvement plan. Simply telling the member of staff that they need to make changes is not enough. It’s ambiguous, it’s open to interpretation, and it’s not going to help anyone.

Instead, set objective goals for the individual to meet. Make sure that your employee agrees to them, and get them down in writing. From here, you can arrange to have follow-up discussions to assess the progress that is being made.

It’s important that the plan will help you to get things back on track, but don’t expect miracles overnight. Consistent, small changes are often more sustainable, and will be easier to manage.

Provide The Necessary Support

It’s not enough to agree to the necessary changes and then assume that everything will fall into place. You need to ensure that your employee has the support that they need. Of course, what this will look like in practical terms will depend on the individual and the specific circumstances in hand.

It may be the case that extra training is required. It’s worth noting though that going down the more formal route is not the only option, and there are many things that you can do within the workplace on a day-to-day basis that will ensure your staff feel supported.

For example, you could allocate mentors and coaches, arrange regular catch-up meetings, and invite plenty of feedback around what you could do to help staff to reach their goals. Again, listening is essential. Remember that your workers are individuals, with differing needs and preferences, and a one-size-fits-all approach will rarely create the results that you’re looking for. For more on this check out our article Learning On A Shoestring: How To Develop Your People Without Breaking The Bank.

Act In Accordance With Your Policies And Procedures

Your policies and procedures exist to uphold standards. They ensure that you act in accordance with the law, that your staff are treated fairly and equally, and that everyone is working towards wider goals and objectives. So make sure that you’re using them! 

Sometimes though, you can find that your policies are no longer fit for purpose. They may be outdated, or you may realise that you haven’t been implementing them in the way that you initially intended. You may find our article HR Policies: Everything SME Leaders Need To Know  a helpful read here. 

If you have concerns about how equipped you are to manage underperformance, then we can help. Get in touch today at hello@thehrhub.co.uk or by calling 0203 627 7048 to arrange an initial, no-obligation consultation. We’ll pinpoint any potential issues that are at play in your workplace, and give you practical advice around what you need to do next.

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Can Your Employees Afford To Travel To Work?

“Still stuck at East Croydon…. Be in as soon as I can…”.

This type of text (with insert variation of town thereof) is a familiar one to be received by most managers on an almost daily basis this Summer. It’s annoying for all parties: those stuck on the platform/ carriage who are desperate to get where they want to go to as well as those who make it into the office and have to rearrange schedules around them.

Added to this annoyance is some analysis undertaken by the TUC and the Action for Rail campaign which has found that fares have rocketed by 25% over the past six years, while average weekly earnings have only seen a 12% rise. In other words, the cost of travel is increasing at more than double the rate of wages leaving people could quite feasibly be paying through the nose for going nowhere. And given that just under 10% of the workforce commutes to work by rail, it’s something which might pose some serious issues for businesses.

If your staff commute from a distance, what would happen if they started to seek out opportunities closer to home? Could they be forced to seek out a higher pay packet, to cover their costs? And could the stress of the daily commute leave your workers feeling frazzled and demotivated?

When you scratch the surface, it’s easy to see how the issue could start to create real headaches in terms of how you manage your workforce and so it’s definitely worth thinking about how you could take a more proactive approach…

First of all, let’s consider for a second whether you actually need to have your staff in the office, every single day of the week. In some businesses, it’s a very obvious prerequisite to your ability to offer a quality service to your customers and clients. In other companies though, a more flexible approach could bring about huge benefits.

If your staff can work from home, their travel costs may be cut. They’re also going to be spending less time in cramped train carriages, and this can have a positive impact on morale and productivity. Alternatively, letting your staff choose their start and finish time, within a designated window, could mean that they miss rush hour. Plenty of business owners have reservations about offering flexible working practices, but it could be time for you to bring your business up to date.

Some employers decide to take a different approach, and provide financial assistance to help with travel costs. You could add season tickets to your employee benefits, or cover a chunk of the yearly fee. Or you might offer an interest-free loan so your staff can afford to take advantage of the savings that often come with booking a chunk of travel in advance.

You might jump to the assumption that you can’t afford to fork out for extra expenses & want people in the office all of the time, but it’s sensible to take a step back and consider the bigger picture. Can you afford to have your staff leaving your business because of escalating travel costs? It might be a balancing act, but it could be worth it.

Would you like the opportunity to discuss your challenges and concerns with an expert, without any obligation? If so, pick up the phone and give us a call. We can arrange a suitable time for an initial consultation, and help you to establish how you can up your game as an employer.

Get in touch today by dropping us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk, calling 0203 627 7048, or book in here for a no-obligation chat about how we can help you improve your on boarding and performance management process.

For more reading on how else you can tackle thorny issue with confidence, then download our new eBook: Leadership 101: The Ultimate Guide to Being an Inspirational Leader.

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Image Credit: Commuters Jthornett

5 Tips To Share With Your NightWorkers

According to research carried out by TUC, the number of people regularly working through the night has rocketed to over 3 million since the start of the recession. Interestingly, more and more females than ever before are becoming night workers.

Regardless of the industry that you operate in, it’s quite likely that there will come a time when you need your team to work night shifts, even if it’s just temporarily. Perhaps your IT staff will have to install important updates outside of usual working hours. Maybe staff on your shop floor will be asked to change their shift patterns to stack the shelves in the run up to the festive period.

The potential health and lifestyle implications are well documented and you have a responsibility to ensure that you’re giving your workforce the support they need. Let’s take a look at some valuable tips that could make all the difference to your staff if the times comes when they have to work unsociable hours:

Think carefully about the journey home

Most of us know what it’s like to feel exhausted after a long day, and drive home almost on autopilot. After a nightshift though, tiredness can become a serious problem that can quite quickly escalate into a potentially dangerous situation.

It makes sense to consider how you could help with provisions for getting home at the end of a nightshift. It might make good business sense to provide financial support for the cost of taxis, or to share information about local public transport arrangements.

Create good sleep routines

Sleeping during the day can feel unnatural, so it’s important to get into a good routine if you want to enjoy quality rest. Blackout curtains can make a big difference, as well as avoiding using mobile phones before sleeping, and ensuring that you aren’t exposed to too much daylight before trying to nod off. In other words, it can really help if night workers get straight to bed after their shift.

Of course, every individual is different, and there’ll be a strong element of trial and error when it comes to finding the best pattern and routine. To support your staff though, be sure that you’re sharing guidance and positive suggestions.

Never underestimate the value of quality sleep

Many of us would agree that there’s no better feeling than crashing out in a comfortable bed, but it’s way too easy to underestimate just how important sleep really is. There’s a whole host of medical problems and conditions that have been linked to poor sleep patterns, including heart attacks and diabetes.

Be sure to promote the importance of sleep to your workers. If they’re struggling, do the right thing and suggest that they make an appointment with their GP to discuss their options.

There have been calls to give extra rights to staff working night shifts, to help protect them from the physical, mental, and emotional strain of working such unsociable hours. Whether this is something that will happen remains to be seen. Right now, you need to focus on doing all you can to support your staff and ensure that you’re taking reasonable steps to protect their wellbeing.

If you’re confused about your responsibilities, or you need to know more about the law when it comes to nightshift, get in touch. We can help you to understand exactly what you need to know, drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk or call 0203 627 7048.

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Photocredit: Walter Worklife balance