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Half-Time HR Checklist for a successful rest-of-year

The Summer holidays are now upon us and many business owners who have come late to the people-planning-party and are now frantically trying to ensure that they’ve ticked all the boxes to make the rest of the year ahead a truly successful one.

If you’re sheepishly admitting that this includes you, then the key is to not panic. But you do need to recognise that now’s the time to take action. What you do now could really set you up for success over the next 6 months, so it’s definitely worth scheduling some time in your diary to work out what you need to do, and how you can do it.

We specialise in helping businesses to get their people processes and systems in place, and that’s exactly why we’ve created this guide.

Here, we going to walk you right through the important points that you must think about if you want to get it right for the rest of 2016. We’ll also ask the questions that will encourage you to develop the answers that you need. Every business is different, and there’s often no one-size-fits-all approach, so it’s all about unearthing the right information and moving forward from there.

So let’s get started…

Have you aligned your overarching goals with your people practices?

HR should never be a function that exists in its own bubble, away from the rest of the business. It should help you to meet your big goals.

Think about:

  • Have you communicated your business priorities to your staff?
  • Are staff rewarded for their contribution to the bottom line?
  • Do staff have access to training and development that will allow them to excel?
  • Are your managers willing and capable of bringing everyone together and working towards strategic goals?

Have you considered whether you’ll need to recruit/ change plans?

Welcoming new staff to the team is often an exciting time, and it’s often the result of growth. You need to get it right though, or it could prove to be costly and time consuming.


  • Do you need temporary or permanent workers?
  • Are you familiar with associated legislation and what your responsibilities are?
  • How will you ensure that new recruits are quickly brought up to speed?
  • Where can you get access to the top talent, and how can you make your business an attractive prospect for them?
  • Are your induction and on-boarding processes up to date and fit for purpose?

Have you thought about how you’ll keep hold of your top talent?

Making sure that your employees are happy in their roles is important. If they decide to leave for pastures new, this can create serious problems.

Ask yourself:

  • What’s the current climate amongst your workers? Are they happy and engaged? And how do you know, and how can you be sure?
  • Are there any external factors that could have an impact on retention, such as new businesses opening in the area?
  • Do you have contingency plans in place so productivity won’t take a hit if someone does leave?

Have you planned for any busy periods?

Most businesses have their busy periods. The run up to Christmas is typically busy for not just retailers but B2B businesses as people rush to close their financial years. You’ll no doubt already be aware of how your sales and operations are impacted throughout the year.

  • Will your staff need extra customer service training so you can tap into more opportunities?
  • How will you manage rotas so operational requirements are met, and workers are happy?
  • Will you need to bring in any outside help so you can make the most of the rush?

How will you develop as a leader?

It’s all too easy to become preoccupied with your business, and overlook your own development. If you want to achieve big things this year though, you have to consider how you can step up.

  • What are your current strengths, and how can you build upon them?
  • Where do you have room for improvement, and which of these areas should you work on?
  • How will you not only learn what you need to know, but ensure that you implement it?
  • How will you measure your improvements and stay accountable?
  • How can you welcome open and honest feedback from your staff about your skills as a leader?

Is your management team operating to a high level?

If your business has reached the stage where you have a team of line managers who handle day-to-day HR issues, then you need to make sure that they’re capable and motivated.

  • Are line managers assessed on their capabilities to manage and lead?
  • Do they have systems that they can use to ensure their tasks are carried out properly and in a timely manner?
  • Are you having conversations with your managers on a regular basis, so you can understand their challenges and achievements?
  • Have you thought about succession planning, and where your next managerial talent will come from?

How can you move beyond compliance and become an exemplary employer?

Ticking boxes is one thing, and it’s often a necessity, but if you really want to excel, you’re going to have to go a step further. How can you make the leap from compliance to true excellence?

  • What is the current state of your employer brand? What is it really like to be your employee?
  • How can you benchmark against other organisations, to help you to raise the bar?
  • How can you create a culture of excellence?

Are you leveraging the power of systems?

Technology has the power to make your life easier, and your business more successful. It’s a case of working out which solutions you need, and how you can use them to your best advantage.

  • How can you automate current people processes (e.g. payroll, absence management, and so on), so you save time without compromising on quality?
  • Where can you make cost savings, so you can free up budget for more strategic purposes?
  • Are you getting the most out of your current systems?
  • Are there new solutions that you haven’t yet considered?

How will you manage difficult conversations?

Difficult conversations are a part of everyday business. Unsurprisingly, many leaders aren’t comfortable with them, and this can be to the detriment of their company culture and bottom line.

If you want to remove barriers to success, then you need to make sure that you’re brushing up skills in this area. Being prepared to handle problems before they arise will give you more confidence, and better tools for dealing with issues.


  • Do you and your leaders tackle problems head-on, or is there room for improvement?
  • When’s the last time that you ran training (either formal or informal) in this area?
  • Are you leading by example?


As you might have noticed, we’ve covered both strategic and operational issues throughout this checklist. There’s a very good reason for that. Effective people practices tackle everyday concerns, but they can also contribute to growth and bring huge, business building value.

You’ll have a lot on your plate right now, and we completely understand that. But it’s important to recognise that none of these points that we’ve covered are about adding extra work. In fact, when time and care is taken to implement them, they can save you huge amounts of time and hassle.

Perhaps you’re eager to make the rest of 2016 a time when you finally get a grip on creating HR practices that will best serve your business, but you’re uncertain about what you really have to do to get to where you need to be.

If this is the case, we can help, book your free consultation here.

You’ll walk away with a clear idea about what you need to do next.

TheHRhub: the ultimate support for startups and SMEs. Sign up here for free tools and guidance.

p.s – To get ahead of your game when it comes to another area important to your employees: Reward and Recognition, download our FREE eBook: Show Me The Money! The Ultimate Guide To Reward And Recognition In An SME.

Photocredit: Patricia Yeo – Oranges

The Unusual Suspects: How To Do Diversity In An SME

‘Diversity’ as a word tends to anaesthetise or polarise most people in SMEs in my experience. Either they zone out on the basis that it’s not something they need concern themselves about or they get them slightly on edge and a wee bit defensive.

And I understand the defensive part. Because if I ran a company of, say 100 people, but had no significant proportion of anyone but middle class white males (or any other homogenous group) in my management team, I’d be fidgeting in my seat too….

But zoning out and thinking it’s an issue for other people is just not cool either. Because it shows you up as someone who is closing your eyes and ears to doing something which will help your businesses exponentially.

Want more innovation in your mix? Our creativity and problem solving skills get better when we mix with people who challenge our own stereotypes (Richard Crisp, HR Magazine). So if you’re sitting in a room with people who are ‘just like you’, you’re less likely to be innovative.

Want better performance? Step forward Diversity again. Having at least 30% of women in leadership (it’s 19% currently in UK SME’s btw) adds to your profit margin ( The Peterson Institute).

Want to understand your customers? The starting point to most marketing. However if you serve a variety of clients or customers but yet you only ever employ a narrow section of the population, you’re doing yourself a disservice in recognising what their needs are.

Want to keep your great employees? Anecdotally, a prominent reason openly discussed in women’s networking groups as to why so many successful women have left their businesses to set up on their own, is due to the lack of recognition they receive in their previous (mostly male) organisations.

And it’s not that I think most SME’s I’ve encountered are anti-diversity. They’re just often not interested in being ‘pro’ it, falling into the zoning out category mentioned up front.

For example, I know that most would simply say that they believe with regards to their hiring policy that they should hire the best person for the job. Who has the best experience. And pay them what they need to in the market rate. And if that person just happens to be a middle class, white, male. Well, who am I to turn them away? When put in those terms, all practices sound reasonable. Admirable even. And definitely not sexist. But recognising that there is something wrong with that picture? Not a jot.

It’s genuinely sad that I even need to start this post by listing the business rationale for mixing it up a bit. In just about every other aspect of our lives we’re surrounded by an equal mix of both men and women. Because we’d get bored if not and we instinctively recognise in our personal lives that variety is a good thing. So why not at work?

So, assuming you want your business to succeed, that you want to have the benefits a representative mix of the population can offer you, the next challenge is how you practically start to change things. In the words of one of my clients: “What do you want me to do? Fire my existing team?!. Obviously not (unless they’re cr** that is). But how about trying out these practical steps to pave your way forward:

  • It all starts at the beginning… So get real in your advertising & job descriptions and think about the words you are using to describe the candidates you are looking for. Most businesses write a wish list which don’t actually describe what they are looking for and an instead provide an easy way to screen out good potential candidates. Is it really essential that this person has over ten years experience in a specific type of environment at a senior level? Because if it is, then you might have unwittingly just ruled out anyone who’s ever had a career break. Surely you want someone who’s delivered the best results and in which case, change your criteria (and your questions later).
  • Shortlist a blend of candidates: The next time you go to hire, ask the person helping you with your hiring to provide an equal amount of male and female candidates in the mix. It’ll be tough in some industries, but challenge yourself and them to do so.
  • Highlight the unconscious bias that sits in all of us when it comes to interviewing: Make everyone who is interviewing candidates watch at least 3 of the videos in Facebook’s series of unconscious bias training. They take about 15 minutes each, can be watched over lunch and I guarantee will have people thinking more about their own unconscious biases and the impact of them. This isn’t a male or female ‘thing’. We’re all in this one together.
  • Promote the women in your business. And I don’t mean promote them to a new role all the time. But promote and recognise their accomplishments, encourage them to showcase their work internally and externally.
  • Find role models for your female team members to look up to: if you can’t find any internal mentors (because you only have men on the senior team) then provide external help or encourage them to join networking groups in your industry where they can find support.
  • Offer greater flexibility. Shared Paternity Leave is a start, but culturally we are a long way off Geoff from the rugby club telling his mates that he’s taking 4 months out to look after the twins whilst Georgina goes back to work… To help us get to that point however, instead focus on a results and DO THE MATHS: a superstar employee of either sex will outperform an average one by about 5 times. So if your superstar employee is female & does want a bit of flexible working, don’t penalise yourself by penalising her and not allowing it. Because if you don’t offer it, someone else will….
  • (But) Be consistent: Allow the same degree of flexibility for everyone in your business and don’t penalise people who have different hours: in one firm I knew of a highly respected (male) developer came and went as he pleased without comment, whilst a mother returning to work was practically put on clocking-in such was the concern that allowing her flexibility would ‘open the floodgates’. Open the floodgate to what exactly? Fabulous performance?

My own experience tells me that there is little in SMEs beyond token nods towards improving diversity. And although mine is only a small data set to use, the stories I hear from other female friends and colleagues plus published research, backs up these views.

The good news however, is that many are open to these changing and I hold a very strong hope that by the time my sons enter the workplace, that their attitudes, and those of their peers will be so far removed from the ones which currently prevail, that ‘Diversity’, as a label, will be obsolete due to it just simply being the norm.

If you want to see what opportunities there are in your business to benefit from being more diverse, get in touch with us for an initial chat about how we might be able to work together: or call 0203 627 7048.

You’ll walk away from your free consultation with a clear idea about what you need to do next.

TheHRhub: the ultimate support for startups and SMEs. Sign up here for free tools and guidance.

p.s – To get ahead of your game when it comes to another area important to your employees: Reward and Recognition, download our FREE eBook: Show Me The Money! The Ultimate Guide To Reward And Recognition In An SME.

Photo Credit: Carl Jones – The Usual Jellies

Could You Be Guilty Of Ghosting Your Customers?

I had several run-ins recently with a business provider I’ve been using for a couple of years now: changes to my account not made, incorrect invoicing issued multiple times, threats to cut my service and the final nail in the coffin…….deafening silence to all communications.

I have been a staunch advocate of their business. I’ve even recommended them to several other businesses. But I’m actively searching for a replacement as the value I get from them has been outweighed by the lack of value I feel in return. I don’t want to do this particularly: it’s a pain for me, it’s time consuming and it will impact on my own business short term.

I believe that the people who collectively have provided this terrible service are all very nice individually. And I have nothing against them personally. But their business is a prime example of what can happen as your business grows and you don’t take customer service seriously or pay attention to what can fall between the cracks and how this impacts on your customer’s journey.

Most leaders would probably be quick to say that it isn’t a problem in their operations & that for one or two small customers to be upset is one of the things you have to suck up when you’re growing fast. But is that a wise thing to bank on? Can you honestly say that you couldn’t make some improvements? Working on upping your game in this area is the type of activity that could have a quick and tangible impact on your reputation, not to mention you profits – so it’s worth taking some time to pinpoint potential issues and get a handle on them.

If you’re experiencing issues in your customer service and aren’t sure where to start fixing it, then take a look at the following areas and wade right in….

Your staff don’t know what good service looks like

First of all, ask yourself whether your team even know what’s expected from them. In your mind, you no doubt have a clear vision of how you want your team to handle queries and sales. But have you communicated this to the right people, and have you created accountability? Accountability is different to a rigid hierarchy: you don’t need one to have the other. But it’s vital that your teams fully understand what outstanding service looks like, and when they’re hitting the mark. You might be amazed by how easily problems can be avoided when you take the time to share your expectations.

You haven’t invested in training

Training isn’t about talking your staff through some PowerPoint slides, or sharing some broad theory about how things should be done. It’s about giving your team the practical skills they need to deliver results. If it’s been awhile since you offered customer service training to your workers, then you could have identified your main problem.

Your staff don’t care about your overarching aims and objectives

Let’s take a step back for a second. Perhaps you feel confident that your staff understand what good service looks like, and you know that you’ve offered quality training, If problems still exist, then you need to consider the possibility that you have some deeper cultural issues that need to be addressed. Having your staff onboard with what you’re trying to achieve in the broader sense is essential if you want to continue to grow.

When you know that changes need to be made, the road ahead can seem daunting. You don’t have to do it on your own though. It makes sense to work with a professional with a proven track record. After all, don’t you want results as quickly as possible?

So when it comes to fixing the problems that are holding back your workforce, get in touch with us for an initial chat about how we might be able to work together: or call 0203 627 7048.

You’ll walk away from your free consultation with a clear idea about what you need to do next.

TheHRhub: the ultimate support for startups and SMEs. Sign up here for free tools and guidance.

p.s – To get ahead of your game when it comes to another area important to your employees: Reward and Recognition, download our FREE eBook: Show Me The Money! The Ultimate Guide To Reward And Recognition In An SME.

Photo Credits: Tom Margie

HR Stars: The Best Companies in the UK For Perks

HR Stars: The Best Companies in the UK For Perks

More than a third of employees admit perks and benefits are amongst their top consideration before accepting a new job. They’re never likely to be the ultimate deciding factor (culture and opportunity will outrank for most in this regard) but they can show a lot about the company culture without even stepping foot in the building.

And companies are getting more and more creative when it comes to what they offer in order to attract top talent. So here’s our pick of the Top 10 in the UK which we feel deserve their own headlines:


Happy birthday 600x400

It sucks working on your birthday, but at cloud services provider Rackspace you don’t have to – they give all employees their birthday off work.

Body Shop

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In line with their “enrich not exploit” ethos, the cosmetics giant pays staff for five volunteering days per year allowing employees to satisfy their inner altruist.


Cuddle 600 x 400

Known as the ‘Huddle Cuddle’ – if you get a job at Huddle you’ll be welcomed with a golden hello of £5,000. Yup – you read that right – £5,000.

Swinton Insurance

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The annual  ‘Christmas shopping day’ provided as a perk by Swinton Insurance is highly valued by its employees – particularly those who leave everything to the last minute….


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AutoTrader UK has a wine club, giving employees discounted wine delivered to their door every month. My kind of club….

Peer 1 Hosting

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The HQ at Peer 1 Hosting in Southampton has a giant helter-skelter slide, a tree house, a pub, pool table, a putting green, a giant swing, a cinema, and there’s even a place where putting your feet up is an office rule. 


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To appeal to those with itchy feet, comparisons website Skyscanner lets it staff work in one if its 10 overseas offices (including Miami and Barcelona) for up to 30 days every two years. The UK office has also negotiated employee discounts at the local pub and beauty salon.


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Hip London startup Swiftkey invites guest speakers for lunchtime talks to keep their employee’s minds stimulated and inspired. Celebrities such as Stephen Fry have talked in the past.

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London based now allow employees dogs in the office saving employees £s in annual dog-sitting fees and making everyone that little bit happier.

Mind Candy

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Gaming company Mind Candy has turned their place of work into a play den including every imaginable office toy. Staff can even unwind with a quick game of Guitar Hero.

TheHRhub – the ultimate support service for startups and SMEs.

Lead Photo Credit: Playing With The Stars by Pedro Vasquez Colmanares

Article Photo Credits: cj sorg, Daniel Thornton, Yukariryu, Stav, Chris Frewin, Daniel Godavid reid, Adrain Scottow, Tine Steiss, Brian Turner

When I grow I want To Be An Astronaut: Supporting Your Team in their Own Dreams ( Whatever they may be)

The first time I came across true personal development was during a stint working with a public sector organisation on the fringes of healthcare. The organisation in question – which had around 60 employees – gave each team member £250 per year to put towards any personal development activity they wanted. And yes, that was any personal development they wanted: from basket weaving to tennis coaching and beyond….

Genius I thought. What a fabulous way to get people interested in learning as a process itself. Many questioned the link between this and any actual benefit to the business though. After all, how the hell do you get a Return on Investment from activities where the output seems just to be a few wonky pots proudly displayed in the office and anecdotes of someone’s ‘vastly improved’ back-hand….

This was quite some time ago however, and it’s a trend which has been gaining more ground recently. Only a few weeks ago, I heard on the radio show I was listening to, how all their employees had been given a set of classes to sign up for which included anything from art to singing.  So assuming that their management team wasn’t doing this with the sole purpose of unearthing the next Tracey Emin or Emili Sande (although you never know!), the evidence for the business benefits of activities must be there.

Whilst many companies might not see the benefits in encouraging pure personal development, aligning an individual’s personal interest development with that of your business is really the holy grail of learning & development at work. Simply allowing your team time off to do something different is likely to make them happy in itself. But helping someone develop in an area which they are interested in, can increase someone’s new motivation to life in general, which will in turn translate into greater motivation at work.

Dreaming Never Hurt Anybody

Cook is family run company based in my own neck of the woods. Over the last 10 years it has built its reputation on providing not just fantastic home-cooked frozen food, but by caring for those who work for and with them. Each year,  they offer up a handful of places into their very own Dream Academy: a personal development programme with a difference. One which brings their dreams to life be they personal or professional. From losing weight to even moving jobs (!), those who aspire to joining the academy jot down their desire each year and a lucky few they have catered for many employee’s desires over the years they have been running it, helped along by their own personal coach they call the Dream Manager (How cool is that?!).

Sadly the original personal development programme I was involved with came to a stuttering end not long after I’d left when someone had objected to their wine tasting course not being approved. Apparently the powers that be felt that someone might draw connections between public funds being used on an alcohol course and that risk of potentially ending up on the front cover of the Daily Mail was greater than the risk of holding back their development. And maybe there was something in that. But it’s a shame they couldn’t think of a way round it, as the implications were much greater than preventing one member staff from learning how to tell the difference between a Cote du Beaune and a Shiraz.

TheHRhub: sign up here for advice, support and tools for SME’s

p.s – For tips and tricks on reward and recognition to help your business rocket, download our free ebook: Show Me The Money! The Ultimate Guide To Reward And Recognition In An SME

Photo Credit: Native American Dream Catcher by Image Catalog