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Are we nearly there yet? Tips to finish the year with a flourish

With Christmas too far away to mention (damn!) and September already in the past, it seems a void opens up every year during this same period, only to be filled by our collective stresses which multiply as each week passes. For those that have their year-end in December, it signals a time to get heads-down and make a final push. Your focus and intent trained on whatever particular goals you might have whilst, at the same time, being busy wondering how the hell the end of Q3 came and went so quickly & how can you make sure that your team stays focused on the goals set as you approach the last few months.

When the going gets tough. The tough get prepared.

Going gung-ho at your business for 9 months flat can leave even the best of us feeling a bit, well, tired…. As a business leader however, you not only have to overcome your own feelings of lethargy in the face of relentless and competing business needs, but also try to buoy everyone else up in the team so that 2015 will truly be a corker.

Deep breath then and try out these tips to help keep things pushing on through:

  1. Create your own soundtrack…There’s not a person I know who isn’t uplifted by music and while there are few who would admit to (or want to be) standing in front of the mirror miming to the opening song from ‘Rocky’ hairbrush-in-hand, creating a playlist of the songs which you find most uplifting (Spotify should come in handy here) is a great way to get the inspirational juices flowing. Better still, let the team take over the speakers at the office: nothing like a bit of light banter over who has the best track to stoke them.
  2. Update and share progress on those business goals you spent so much time on and communicate, communicate, communicate your progress. You’ve no doubt spent some considerable time this year assessing what needs to be focused on to be more successful and if you haven’t updated progress on them or made them crystal clear to your teams, do so now so they know how they’re doing. Hold a stand-up meeting, corner them over the tea maker, take them out to lunch, send that email or preferably do all of the above to help reinforce the messages you need them to hear. Success with a new client? Tell them. New product to launch? Tell them. Motivation and energy are infectious, so channel your inner Huffington/Branson/Gold or Jobs and just go for it.
  3. Be clear about what exactly you expect of individuals for the rest of the year and communicate communicate, communicate this too. Some companies use systems such as KAPTA to track individual goals alongside company and team goals, some just use a pen and paper and some just meet regularly to discuss them. There’s no perfect way but if you’re not trying out at least one of the above, then start now.
  4. Praise Be: Use the carrot not the stick to generate improved performance. It’s proven that if you praise behaviour, you are more likely to see it repeated. With criticism, there is no such data. Optimum is 5 bits of praise to every 1 bit of criticism.
  5. Figure out what barriers there are to getting things done and what support you need (warning: shameless plug…): No person can do everything, so be proactive. If you want your teams to be more effective, or are planning on increasing/changing the structure of your team, then talk to us about how we can help you achieve this.
  6. Paint a picture. Not an actual picture. But instil hope in the team about what things will look like when that piece of software has been released, or when that client signs the deal or when the process is working smoothly. It’s proven to improve performance.
  7. Look after no.1 and meditate. Yes, seriously. Those who know me well would be surprised that I even know what the word means, but so many competing priorities can be overwhelming at times and research proves just ten minutes mediation per day can yield results of improved mental health and less stress. Sign up for a free trial of at Headspace. It’s simple to follow, plus you get to watch the faces of your fellow commuters as they try to work out just what the heck you are doing…..

Photo Credit: 42-1552965 by meridican

You’re fired – no, seriously, you are: The Dos & Don’ts Of Giving Someone The Boot

Like most human beings, I don’t like firing people. I don’t find it easy to tell someone that they are no longer needed in any business, regardless of whether there is a good reason (most of the time) or not (some of the time). It doesn’t mean I won’t do it, but there is absolutely zero job satisfaction in giving someone their P45. And I would consider it a sure fire indicator that I should sling my CIPD badge in the bin and take up something meaningful, like, er scientology, if I came out of a dismissal meeting wanting to high-five everyone around.

I have been asked to fire people in various scenarios over the years: when a firm’s top engineer was deemed too ‘weak’ even though all their clients loved her and she was raking in the most money for the company ….. (stupid company); where someone had been raking in their expenses ….(stupid employee), but most of the time it is because the employee has been viewed to not quite get ‘it’.

Regardless of the reason that brings you into that room, like dumping a partner, there are bad and ‘better’ ways to end things. Outside the standard practices you should adhere to (to minimise any legal risks – not covered in this particular post) here are my do’s and don’ts of how to let someone go that won’t leave you questioning yourself afterwards:

  • Don’t let your HR Manager or Advisor do it on their own: Not just because its unadvisable from a legal perspective. It’s a chicken sh** way to deal with an employee and destroys any respect anyone has for you as its patently obvious that you’re the one behind it.
  • Don’t attend the meeting and let your HR person explain everything: See above for explanation. If you don’t know what words to say, then run through it with your HR Advisor or someone else you trust and have them help you until you feel more at ease. I’ve run through scripts with the most confident of managers, posing all sorts of questions in my role as ‘employee’, until they are comfortable with their words. It’s a testament to your own learning that you feel a bit out of your own comfort zone doing this.
  • Do come prepared with a couple of examples: The chances are that the employee will either want to continue discussions about this to extend out the meeting and work out what to do (remember they are just processing this information that you have had days or weeks sitting on). They might simply not understand and need a picture clearly painted for them so they can grasp the issues and reflect later.
  • Do it quickly and get to the point fast: I have been in dismissal meetings when half way through the meeting, the employee started a dialogue thanking the manager for his praise in the most recent project. The manager introduced the topic of dismissal in such a random and elongated way, that at one point the employee had the distinct impression he was up for promotion.
  • Thank them: Whatever it is that they have done or said to get to this point, it is unlikely that they are horrible people or have been deliberately trying to get dismissed. They may just not have had the right skills or style for what your business needed at that point in time. So part with good manners, at the very least, if not sweet sorrow. Thank them for their time and wish them the very best in future endeavours.
  • And finally, do make it final: There is no point in making it seem like somewhere down the line there may be a place for them in the business. You know as well as they do, it ain’t gonna happen so there is not point in letting them hang on in there.

It is a mostly horrible process for all concerned and even if there are ‘good’ ways to do it (it took me a while to learn this and I freely admit to learning from experience in this regard) the reason why most managers take to ending employment in an almost robotic way, without any conversation, is to spare their own feelings as much as those of the people on the receiving end. No-one wants to be in that room, but all parties will come out of it better people if you take the time to create an honest and clear explanation of what led to that point.

Photo Credit: It Could Be You by Stuart Richards


Keeping New Talent: 30,000 Reasons Why it Pays to Have a Decent Onboarding Process

Keeping New Talent: 30,000 Reasons Why it Pays to Have a Decent Onboarding Process

A Gallup global engagement study estimates that two- thirds of all employees do not feel actively engaged in the business they work in and as a result are open to receiving offers of employment from elsewhere. Not great news admittedly for employers. But not new news. On the plus side, it suggests employees are not always actively looking for other work, even if they remain open to offers. Even more worrying, however, are the recent findings of Indeed’s Talent Attraction study, where, 65% of employees admit to actively looking for a new job within 3 months of starting somewhere new. Just to reiterate: that means that two thirds of new starters are sitting at their desks contacting recruiters, applying for jobs and going to interviews. All on your clock!

Of course, the study doesn’t indicate what proportion of this 65% go on to actually leave within the first three months. Many may well be hedging their bets and still be being pursued by companies from a previous recruitment round. But it does mean that resting on your laurels once the ink is dried on the contract is not an option. It also shows that the traditional understanding of the probation period, where the company is trying the employee out, is no longer quite the case.

Why New Employees Leave

I didn’t do a survey nearly as robust as Indeed did. But a quick straw poll of colleagues, associates & casting back on my own experiences revealed some similar tales from the front line, which could be loosely grouped into the following categories:

  1. Not feeling welcomed – no manager there on first day, not being introduced to colleagues, people simply not offering any help at all
  2. Not having the right tools – no equipment there on day 1, no access to the right systems, not knowing who to speak to about parts of their job
  3. Not liking the other people – patronizing/ stupid/ uber-political colleagues tasked with buddy-ing but really spending time asserting their own authority
  4. Roles being mis-sold – “I was told that I would have a team of 4 to help me achieve what I was being tasked with. But on week one I found out I had no team, no budget and no likelihood of ever achieving what was expected…It was depressing to say the least”

Spot anything that could happen in your business?

Effective Onboarding Can Help Retain New Recruits

Whilst it’s never going to stop those who have a tendency to be fickle in their pursuit of employment, onboarding is definitely a step in the right direction for most. Onboarding (used interchangeably with the term ‘Induction’) is the process of socializing a new employee within a business for them to get the necessary knowledge, skills, and behaviours to be effective. Often in the past, these programs have been confined to health & safety briefings (which still fall under the boring-but-important category btw) or limited to a series of presentations about the workplace or a short demonstration of how your new job should be done. Given that it can takes weeks ( and sometimes months in the case of a highly specialized role) for someone to be firing on all cylinders, an hours on boarding doesn’t really seem to cut it in the learning department.

Most progressive companies are wise to the idea that onboarding starts way before the employee has even set foot in the building on their first day. Many build programmes which start from the recruitment stage to at least three months into the employee lifecycle to ensure that new starters are set up for success. AirBnB are trailblazers here. Their employee onboarding reflects the detail and care that their customers and hosts experience when they join. These holistic programmes are designed & implemented to make the employee feel welcomed, support them in the learning about the company and reinforce the company culture (a.k.a “how we do things round here”).

Implementing such a programme is not a cast iron guarantee that someone won’t walk out of the door. But if rolling out the red carpet to your newbies can save you £30,000* (the average cost of recruitment estimated by the Oxford Institute), isn’t it worth a go?

*Incorporates logistical costs including advertising, temporary worker replacement, management time to hire, recruitment costs not to mention the loss of output caused when an existing employee is training and when the new employee is learning.