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Expert HR Tips For Maximising Your Profits This Christmas

 

Have you started to think about how you’ll maximise your profits this festive season yet? Savvy business owners are starting to pull together their plans and ensure that they’ve built some strong foundations for success. Of course though, some expert guidance can really make all the difference, and that’s what we’re here to provide.

Perhaps you’re feeling confused at the prospect of receiving profit-boosting tips from an HR professional. Surely we just take care of the ‘people issues’,leaving the tasks like income generation and new client acquisition to the marketing team? Well actually, that’s not the case. HR isn’t a function operating on its own. When it’s done correctly, it adds real value to the business, and is strategic as well as operational.

Make Sure Your Staff Are Upskilled In Key Areas

You probably already run regular training sessions throughout the year. As an ambitious leader, you’ll appreciate the importance of giving your staff the support they need to excel in their roles. It’s time to build on that though, and consider what you can do to take things to the next level. You might want to consider some initial or refresher training on things like:

  • Identifying upselling opportunities and making the sale
  • Delivering exceptional customer service during busier periods
  • Understanding product and service lines
  • Leading and managing in stressful circumstances
  • Handling customer complaints

Balance Your Books

If you’re in an industry which enjoys more of a Christmas onslaught than rush, you might have decided that you need to recruit some temporary team members to help you to deal with an increased demand. Before you go ahead with this though, make sure that you’ve struck the right kind of balance. Recruit too many, and your profits will take a hit. But if you don’t recruit enough, you could miss opportunities due to operational constraints.

There’s no one size fits all’ approach here. It’s not possible to say that a business of a certain size will need ten seasonal workers, for example. It’s about getting down to the nitty-gritty and making calculated estimates that are in fitting with your ways of working and overall goals.

Assess Performance Throughout The Rush

Christmas offers your employees a time to shine. If you get caught up in the rush, and all your usual people management processes get forgotten, you could really be missing out. Be sure that your managers know to keep their eyes open. You might discover that a certain member of staff really excels when it comes to upselling. Or an individual might step up to the plate and  show that they’re future leadership material.  If you didn’t have these considerations in the back of your mind, you’d be going into the New Year unprepared. Whilst you may be focused mainly on the Christmas rush at present, don’t forget that what you’re doing right now will have a direct impact on your future profits.

Each and every business out there is different, so whilst these tips will get you off to the best possible start, there will be countless other unique opportunities that will allow you to get the most out of your human resources so you can drive profits towards the end of the year. Give us a call today. We’d be happy to talk you through how we might be able to help.

 

Photo Credit: Santa’s Helper’s | A Christmas Fantasy by chris alcoran

Is Cognitive Bias Making You Hire The Wrong Guy?

Picture the scene: You’re interviewing someone for a role that’s been difficult to fill for a few months. The person you’re interviewing looked OK on paper but now that they’re in and speaking to you, they’re acing it! There’s something about them that just clicks with you. Halfway through the interview you decide you want to hire them based on your gut feeling because, hey, you like them and you feel like you can trust them and giving this person a chance might just be the right thing to do. A few months into the role and they’re not really what you expected from your initial feeling. What happened!?

Whilst there are plenty of reasons they might not have been right, sometimes the gut feelings we have about people can lead us astray. The same goes in all aspects of business  – gut feel can be good to discern between two close choices but it can sometimes be hazardous if that’s all we have to go on.

Gut Feel is A Subconciuos Culmination Of All Our Learned Experiences

Historically speaking, we evolved and were successful as a species by learning lessons from past experiences and applying them to future situations. If our ancestors were able to remember which berries were food and which were poison the likelihood is they survived longer than those who couldn’t. As the descendants of these people, we have the same ability to notice patterns and use them to our advantage.

The world we live in is more complex and nuanced than that of our prehistoric ancestors. Our brains, being geared to notice patterns, can sometimes pull out patterns that are illogical or over-simplified. These patterns are what we unconsciously use throughout our daily lives – and could just be what led you to make that bad hire.

I’ve highlight the 3 most common cognitive biases below. The bad news; you probably do all of these. The good news; so does everyone else! The best thing you can do is understand what is going through your head and work out if it’s a good gut feeling, or a bad one:

Doppelgänger effect

Have you ever come across someone who reminds you of a good friend, or possibly someone who reminds you of yourself when you were their age? Often we will meet these people throughout our lives and treat them in the same way we would treat that friend or our younger self; this is called the doppelganger effect.

This might occur because of how someone looks, their accent and mannerisms or possibly because of a career path they have followed. We naturally want to side with people who are doppelgangers of ourselves or our friends and will also assume they hold similar values. The problems is that the similarities you see may only be shallow, without the same experience or values to back them up. Many people have hired a youngster who reminds them of themselves, only to find out they want very different things out of life.

You’ll probably notice this easily – it’s the one that makes you want to throw the rest of the interview questions out of the window because you know this person gets it without having to even ask the rest of the questions. My advice is to keep asking those questions – the likelihood is they will have a different approach to things than you might think at first glance.

Fundamental Attribution Error

If you read the sports section at the back of the paper you’ll probably be familiar with the stories about the latest manager or player getting hauled over the coals for the loss of a game. If you think about it logically there’s probably more to it than just one person’s actions but we like to have a convincing story with a hero or a villain. If the article went into how the players’ relationships were going, the weather on the day or how many fans were cheering them it wouldn’t be as compelling to read about. This oversimplification of a number of complex factors to create a more compelling story is a great example of Fundamental Attribution Error.

At interviews it is easy to get drawn in by a great story about how successful the launch of some initiative was, or what percentage increase in revenue was gained because of someone’s actions. The reality of these situations are more complex than most care to explain. If you think about times when you have taken similar actions, but in different companies, and count the number of times the outcome has been the same you’ll see how a convincing story might not be the whole picture.

A good way to avoid this error taking hold at interview is to look out for people who are the self appointed hero of a story that might be more complex than they are letting on. A bit of insightful questioning at these times can uncover someone who recognises the factors involved and works with them, or someone who is missing a few pages of the story.

Outcome Bias

If you give a thousand monkeys some money to invest on the stock market, by the law of averages (amongst other factors) you could expect to come back in a week and find that half of them had lost their money and half had made more. Come back a few months later and you might find one monkey who is now a millionaire. In the papers, the monkey would be hailed an investment guru. In reality, our millionaire monkey was doing the same as the other monkeys (and is most definitely not an investment guru).

Often we will look at the outcome of someone’s successful actions and assume that the actions that came before are what caused the success. Similar to fundamental attribution error above, people may not see the possibility that something was a success because of a number of factors… maybe even despite the person’s actions! Google is hailed as a great company because of their open and creative culture, but how many companies with an equally open and creative culture have gone bust? We could probably learn as many lessons from those failed companies as we could from a success like Google.

At interview it’s good to hear success stories from our applicants – I wouldn’t be too keen on someone who didn’t have any. That being said, it’s better to assess people’s actions and their thought process to see how they work through situations, rather than assuming that their actions were good purely because of a successful outcome.

So next time your in the interviewer’s chair, pay attention close attention to your own bias and make sure you’re giving all applicants a fair shot…

 

Photo Credit: Final Reunion 366:365 by Andreas Nilsson

Building a Culture of Trust in Your Workplace

In my last post I introduced the topic of trust in the workplace and promised you some tips for creating a culture of trust in your organisation – so without further ado, here we go:

Look in the mirror

If you are the leader of your business, trust starts squarely with you.  Many business leaders woefully underestimate the size of the shadow they cast through their day-to-day actions and behaviours (which are, of course, driven by the values, beliefs and attitudes going on inside them). Your actions and behaviour have a real and significant impact on your organisation.  Like the rest of the human race, your staff have a natural desire to fit in hardwired into their subconscious (as pack animals, our survival depends on it, genetically speaking).  So they will look to you and their managers for behavioural cues around how to behave, what behaviours are valued, and what it takes to be accepted in the company.   Think about people you have worked with in the past who ‘didn’t fit in’ or whose ‘face didn’t fit’.  This is likely to have been because of a mismatch between their style and values, and the culture of the company or ‘the way things are done around here’.

So coming back to trust – your company will not develop a culture of trust if you do not actively role model the right behaviours yourself. This means wholeheartedly placing your trust in your people and behaving in ways that encourages them to place their trust in you.

Act with integrity

From time to time, the temptation to cut a corner, mislead a customer, show a bit of favouritism for a member of staff, or indulge in some creative accounting can be strong.  Particularly if you believe the need is business critical.  It’s easy to persuade ourselves that expediency is king and occasionally the end justifies the means.  However it is in exactly these situations that you must be most aware of how your actions as a leader reflect on you.

If your employees see you forgoing your ethics, then your reputation for being honest and trustworthy will be immediately shot to pieces – and damaged reputations are difficult to repair.  Moreover, having seen you mark down the value of honour and integrity – how will this influence the choices your people make in the future?  Having seen you cut corners, will they be so motivated to do the right thing?   If you have been disingenuous, how much value will they place on your word in the future?  So be consistent and act with integrity at all times, and make clear to your managers you expect them to do the same.

Listen to your people

The ability to listen, to make the other person feel they have something interesting and helpful that deserves to be heard is a powerful communication skill.  But most of us are far worse at listening than we think. Before the other person has got their words out we’re leaping ahead, assuming we already know all we need to know, or we’re just nodding politely and thinking about other stuff.  No doubt you are very smart, but you can’t know everything. And while listening doesn’t mean you have to agree with all that you hear, it’s likely you’ll learn plenty of useful information if you’re open to it.

Ask your employees for their thoughts, ideas and feedback.  Make it ok for them to voice disagreement, give you bad news or say things they think you might not want to hear (if they’re thinking it anyway, or discussing it between themselves, wouldn’t you rather know?).  Your people should see you as approachable and open to listening to what they have to say. You can disagree, of course, but try to do so thoughtfully in a way that shows you heard them rather than dismissing them out of hand.  Granted, this might take a few extra moments of your time but in terms of building trust it’s going to be time worth investing.

Give your employees some freedom

Much of the research that has been done on motivation at work shows that when people feel they have the freedom and space to make decisions for themselves, try out different approaches and challenge the way things have always been done, they feel more enthusiastic and motivated in their work. Indeed this helps them go on to become even more productive. Likewise if they feel they can innovate, take thoughtful, calculated risks, and make mistakes without fear of being punished or criticised, you will not only see a culture of trust develop, but one of courage and creativity which are of course essential drivers to business growth.

 An important management skill is recognising there is usually more than one ‘correct’ way to get something done. So allow your employees freedom to act, and ensure all your managers do the same.    

Show some vulnerability

Don’t be afraid to share an occasional fear or weakness with your team.  If you make a mistake, be prepared to admit it, with humility. To help your people get to know and understand you, allow them a glimpse of the real you from time to time. We trust people we believe are real, like us, and can relate to on a human level. But you have to be authentic here – no faking.  

Trust is not the same as warmth

This is not about morphing into a kind-hearted and cuddly people-person, so don’t worry about needing a personality transplant if that’s not how you see yourself.   We’re talking about authenticity, integrity and fairness here.  You can do all of that and still be the same tough-minded and direct leader.

A culture of genuine trust is a powerful asset for an organisation.  It motivates people to give their best efforts and do their best work.  And whether it exists at all is firmly within the control of the leader.

The factors influencing workplace culture can be complex and as hard to define as they are to change. Get in touch with TheHRhub today for all the advice and help you need on this and any other HR issue.

Photo Credit: mechtoy07 by David Bleasdale

 

The Millenial Generation & Social Media – Friend Or Foe?

For the more mature among us, or as we are referred to – Gen Xers, understanding Generation Y (or the the Millennial Generation as they are also known) can be a challenge. Especially if, like me, you don’t utilise social media to communicate everything from your latest holiday snaps to what you had for breakfast. Their generation was the first to grow up with computers in their homes. Many enjoyed a 250+-channel home TV universe whilst those of us from Gen X were happy with just 4 and well remember the launch of Channel 5 back in ‘97.  When it comes to social media and how we interact with friends, family and work colleagues, our two generations can often feel a world apart.

I am increasingly coming across issues where employees have posted pictures or comments about one another outside of working hours, which they then expect HR to deal with once the relationship turns sour.  Trying to run a organisation in an environment where everybody knows everybody else’s business (literally) can be a real challenge, as the lines between work and personal life are becoming more and more blurred.

The Perils of Mixing Business with Pleasure on Social Networks

In the past 10 years social media and its impact on business has changed dramatically – particularly since the launch of Facebook in 2008.  Indeed, one of the more popular forms of media use by Millennials is social networking. When recruited they will naturally tweet, post on Facebook and even Blog about their new job. On first look this may seem positive as they tell their ever increasing circle of friends about their new employer.  However, on closer inspection you may find that some individuals are using your company name on websites where they give a far from professional representation of themselves. Offensive behavior and image issues are among the most common problems that surface when employees mix business with personal use of social-networking sites. Employees are all too ready to post things on their Facebook page that they wouldn’t normally say to someone’s face, which can leave employers in the impossible situation of trying to separate genuine work related issues from something altogether different which should have remained outside of work.

But Banning Social Media Usage Altogether Is Unadvisable

Research published by the Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in 2010 found that students who used social media and decided to quit showed the same withdrawal symptoms of a drug addict who quit their stimulant. A powerful indication of how reliant Millennials are on social media vs. their older counterparts. On that basis, it’s not realistic or wise to simply ban employees from using social media. So how should you manage it?

Ensure You Have a Social Media Policy In Place

At the very least to deal with issues of people posting things on social media sites which could impact your company and its reputation. Technological issues & complaints are the fastest growing area for disputes. A social media policy takes the guesswork out of what is appropriate for employees to post about your company to their social networks. And given how shareable social media is, in this case in particular it’s definitely better to be safe than sorry.

Implementing Clear Social Media Rules Can Have A Positive Effect on Your Business

A social media policy can do more than avert problems. You shouldn’t think of it  as a list of restrictions for employees. Having clear guidelines can also help employees understand ways they can use social media to help achieve the overall business goals. For example, a policy could advise employees how they can comment on blogs or social networks to boost key brand metrics and drive traffic to the company’s site.

Shaping and Encouraging Social Media Usage Is An Opportunity To Improve Engagement and Retention

Employees are using social media for work purposes anyway (whether we like it or not) so really it is about how to use it as a positive force for both employee and employer. Two of the greatest challenges for employers and HR professionals in the workplace at the moment are engagement and retention. Actively seizing the opportunity of this current form of behaviour by millennials, and giving them the responsibility, trust and respect to play a small part in representing the company online could be an important way of improving these metrics.

Social Media Use Is Only Becoming More Widespread and Relevant

Just think about the workforce demographics of today’s typical environment. Generation Y/Millennials will make up the majority of our workforce in a few years time. And hot on their tails will be Generation Z – also known as Digital Natives or Screenagers, born after 2000. It is predicted that Gen Z will make up more than 75% of the workforce by 2025. To them, even email is old fashioned.  Ultimately, social media will increasingly shape how we manage our businesses and how employees interact both inside and outside of work, so it’s best to tackle it head on now and not once a problem has arisen.

And Remember Social Media Is No Longer A Plaything of the Young

The fastest growing demographic on Google+ are 45-54 year olds and on Twitter 55-64 year olds. So despite the challenges we face when trying to understand youngsters, those of us born prior to the technological boom are doing our best to keep up with the times. So make sure you circulate that Social Media Policy to everyone – not just the fresh-faced interns!
For further advice on the important items to include in your Social Media Policy get in touch with theHRhub today. Go on, don’t be shy!

Photo Credit: Facebook Wants A New Face by Rishi Bandopadhay

Coach Your Way To A Better Team Dynamic

It’s early Monday morning…. There are a thousand tasks to do before 9am and you’re rushing to get to work. And for what… yet another weekly team update. If this meeting is one you dread because conversations get derailed, questions get raised but not resolved, or team members seem to be carrying thinly masked resentment then you may be suffering from a lack of team work!

But some issues can’t be resolved by a team ‘jolly’ whilst a workshop might feel too much

Getting to know each team member is often improved with a trip to the pub – great for socializing but sometimes misses the mark regarding important work practices. And having a workshop to discuss teamwork can often feel like a big waste of time. To be clear, I am not against having a workshop – workshops can really help. Especially if tensions have been rising or there is a lack of honest communications. But for the less serious team matters, there is an alternative….

Coaching is often a really effective way to prevent minor problems coming to a head

According to research by VitalSmarts Inc., the cost of avoidance (or not having a ‘crucial conversation’) is estimated at $1500 and an 8-hour day for every conflict that is avoided rather than resolved. Sometimes conflicts that may be bubbling under the surface need to erupt to get resolution. But this can be messy and potentially very damaging. Instead of letting issues build up, the smart way is to nip them in the bud before they become a big issue. As the old saying goes…an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of remedy. And this is where where coaching comes in.

Coaching will help you with many situations that you and your team members may face including:

  • Time Management
  • Delegation
  • Learning & Development (of themselves and others)
  • Team Relations
  • Stress (work or life)

Start first by putting yourself in their shoes

Understanding why people don’t give their best is worth thinking about. Each of us has different motivations for working, working hard and kicking back. Dan Pink has identified the surprising factors that influence motivation in this video. Also, ask yourself if problem team members were set up for success to begin with? Was their job description a true reflection of the job in hand? Were they recruited against a sound person specification? Did they receive an adequate orientation to the business? And/or allocated a buddy to help them find their feet and feel a sense of belonging early on? Sometimes the root cause of an issue might be closer to home then you think….

Managing v Coaching – A Quick Recap

There are more books, courses and specialist advice on this topic than we can do justice to here. But here is brief comparison of the two approaches to help you get started:

 

Manager Approach Coach Approach
Answers questions when asked Asks questions to help team member better understand options and strategies
Describes excellence to the team Models excellence by mentoring team members’ achievement
Evaluates results and provides feedback Observes behaviours and gives feedback
Coaches when necessary Coaches as an ongoing priority
Gives team members action steps to follow and then goes back to other duties Guides team members through steps as they implement action plan
Gives feedback at appraisal and/or between evaluations Gives timely, consistent feedback during the daily flow of work
Treats obstacles with team members as real issues Probes issues with team members to discover the root cause behind the obstacles
Outlines challenges for team members Guides and supports team members as they uncover their own challenges

And coaching is not just about you and each team member. The more you can encourage a coaching culture, the easier it will be for others to jump in and help when their team member is off track.

Here are my top 5 tips to help you and the team get the best out of working together by using coaching as an ongoing tool for success:

  1. Introduce a coaching agenda as part of the orientation/onboarding into the company. Refer to the job description to discuss areas of the job that are easy, difficult and where coaching might be helpful.
  2. Help team members get to know a new team member, either informally or before the first day in the new job. Invite people to discuss what their strengths are and the areas that they would like to get help and encouragement to develop.
  3. Schedule weekly or if strapped for time, fortnightly coaching catch ups and give time to discuss what the team member thinks is important
  4. Help the team members to coach each other. Show then how you coach one on one and then how it can work in a team setting.
  5. Create a culture where coaching conversations are growth focused and help team members see how they are progressing in the role and the organization.

There is a range of activities and agendas to help you introduce coaching practice to your business. To help get the coaching conversations started, it is sometimes helpful to have a team coach kick off the conversation.

TheHRhub team can help you develop your coaching skills further. Contact us here  for more details.

 

Photo Credit: Chambers Coaches Up The Bench by Ben Stanfield