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4 Ways You Can Reduce Absence In Your Business

According to research by PwC, the annual cost of sickness absence has rocketed to £29 billion for UK organisations. Simply put, your staff are calling in sick, and it’s having a severe impact on your bottom line. If you want to mitigate the impact, it’s time to think about how you can nip the problem in the bud.

Now of course, it’s important to note that managing absenteeism isn’t about trying to ensure that every single employee is always present and correct. Even with the best people management policies and procedures, it’s highly likely that you’ll still have to pick up the phone now and again and be told that an important member of your team can’t make it into the office today.

But there are key things that you can do to make sure that the occasional absence doesn’t spiral out of control, and become a real problem for your business. Here, we’re going to outline some proven ways that you can put into action.

Clearly outline your expectations

If you don’t already have an absence policy, then this needs to be a key priority. You can’t expect staff to follow your guidelines, if they don’t even exist! A good policy will outline arrangements for calling in sick, identify trigger points that indicate that absence has reached an unacceptable level, and will be clearly communicated to all staff.

Of course, your policy won’t be worth the paper it’s written on if it doesn’t become part of the way you do business on a daily basis. Line managers need to be confident with putting it into action, and it’s vital that the rules are applied to everyone. If you have staff members with a disability, then there will be extra considerations that need to be made. For help with complex issues, speak with an HR consultant about your circumstances.

Always hold return-to-work discussions

After any period of absence, whether it’s two days or two months, there should be a return-to-work discussion between the individual and the line manager. It’s important that you establish the reason for the absence, assess what you might be able to do to support that person back into work, and follow the procedures outlined in your policy.

Even when schedules are busy, make sure that these conversations are always marked into the diary. When they’re carried out correctly, then can help you prevent a whole load of potential issues.

Think about engaging your team more in what you are trying to achieve

The reality is, is that not all ‘absence’ is linked to sickness. So you can have policies galore to show what you need to do, how you need to communicate and when you need to report in regards to someone being sick, but evidence suggests that those who are less engaged in their business are more likely to take days off.

Take a flexible approach to managing the workload

It’s important to recognise that your team have a life outside of your business: they may want to attend a parents’ evening, go see their favourite band, or have to take care of serious matters such an ill family member or relative. If they’re forced to choose between missing out and calling in sick, then you aren’t always going to win. There is of course un-paid dependant family leave people can take in an emergency, however most are disinclined to do so due to it being unpaid, so many don’t even really see this as a viable option. 

Ask yourself instead whether it would be feasible, from an operational point of view, to add some flexibility into how working schedules are managed. From time to time, could you allow staff to swap shifts, or catch up with their work later in the week? As long as you have firm boundaries in place, this kind of approach could help you to minimise problems.

If absence is an issue in your business, then the bad news is that you probably can’t make improvements overnight. You need a considered and careful approach, and it’ll certainly be a learning curve. But when you get it right, the benefits will be huge.

Do you want to discuss your challenges with a professional, and walk away a manageable action plan so you know exactly what you need to do? Book here to get in touch today for a no-obligation chat. 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.

Photo Credit: Tina Franklin

10 Morale Boosters For Your Team Which Won’t Break The Bank This Summer

The summer months can be a tricky time for employers. Members of staff are likely to be jetting off on holiday, and those left holding the fort can feel demotivated and restless.

Let’s be totally honest here – when the sun is shining, most of us can easily think of dozens of things that we’d rather be doing than sitting at a computer in a stuffy office.

When we think about ways to give morale a boost, it can be tempting to fall into the trap of thinking that a big difference can’t be made without splashing a whole load of cash.

And it’s true that if you’re serious about creating a positive workforce that really excels and gets things done, you can’t ignore the fact that you’re going to have to do some strategic work.

Sometimes though, thinking outside of the box can provide you with plenty of inspiration when it comes to breathing some fresh air into the workplace. There are many things that you can do this week that can lift spirits.

Here, we’re going to talk you through ten morale boosters that you can implement straightaway to make a real difference to your productivity, output, and the general mood and feel within your business.

Pick a couple, and get to work. You might be amazed by how much difference they can really make!

  1. Say thank you: Think that boosting morale is about huge gestures and complicated initiatives? Think again. Never underestimate the value of thanking your staff for their contribution. This might seem like simple common sense, but it’s something that’s often overlooked in the busy day-to-day running of a business.
  2. Support a local charity: There’ll be causes that are close to your employees’ hearts, for a variety of reasons. Think about how you can support charities and get your staff involved in some fundraising activities. From bake sales to sponsored walks, there are many options that you could pursue.
  3. Work out what your staff really want: It’s easy to jump to the assumption that a pay increase is what will really make the difference. Often though, this isn’t actually the case. The best way to find out what you staff are looking for? It really couldn’t be any simpler. Ask them. Formal staff surveys can be useful in many instances, but you don’t have to make things any more complicated than they need to be. Next time you’re catching up with your staff, ask questions about what they’re currently dealing with, what their biggest challenges are, and how they think improvements could be made.
  4. Team up with a local gym to provide complimentary fitness sessions for employees: At this time of year, many of us are thinking about how to improve our health and fitness. And of course, wellbeing is vital if staff are to make a solid contribution to the business. Consider how you could create a partnership with a local gym or fitness facility to kickstart a healthier lifestyle. Involvement should never be compulsory, so take into account personal preferences, and don’t make staff feel obliged to get involved.
  5. Encourage lunch breaks away from the desk: In many businesses, lunchtime involves a sandwich hastily eaten in front of the computer. This can decrease creativity, and leave your staff feeling lethargic. This week, ask your managers to lead by example by taking a lunchtime walk, or checking out a new local café, and invite their staff to do the same.
  6. Order ice cream for everyone: Everyone enjoys an ice cream when the temperatures are soaring. Get in touch with a local supplier and treat staff to a cool treat during their lunch break.
  7.  Let creativity shine through: Creativity is something which should be harnessed and encouraged in the workplace. So what can you do to shake up day-to-day routines and inject some creative thinking? You could introduce art-and-craft related activities into the canteen, bring in a karaoke machine, or encourage a little friendly competition with a prize for the most inspired new idea.
  8. Introduce a short daily meeting: Email can be a wonderful tool for communication in the workplace, but there’s no substitute for face-to-face discussion. Try holding brief ‘huddles’ at the start of every day, so staff can get a feel for what everyone else is working on, and be reminded that they’re working towards a common purpose.
  9. Take work outside: When the sun’s shining, consider whether you could encourage staff to enjoy some outdoors working. Of course, you may have to tread carefully if your staff are handling sensitive documentation, but a little forward thinking can often go a long way. Don’t write ideas off completely just because there may be some hurdles that will have to be overcome.
  10. Allow employees to enjoy a short nap: Sleeping on the job is typically frowned upon, for obvious reasons. There’s a ton of research though that suggests that a short nap during the working day can rejuvenate staff. Consider whether you could encourage workers to take a brief snooze on a comfy couch.

What next?

There’s a huge amount of value that can be taken away from trialling and testing different initiatives to boost morale. Every business is different, so it’s really important that you take an approach that works for you, and gets the best possible results.

Of course, quick fixes can be really effective, but they should never be used to overcome problems that are more deeply rooted in a company’s culture. If low morale is a serious problem and it’s having an impact on your bottom line, then work needs to be done at a strategic level to make changes.

Businesses often go through stages in terms of how they engage their staff and keep them working towards their bigger vision, so if things aren’t quite clicking the way you want them to be, the first step is to recognise that something has to change.
From here, you can start to look at what really needs to be done to move forward in the best possible way.

If you’re concerned that low morale could become a serious problem, then you need to take action right away. Get in touch today, and we can arrange to have a no-obligation discussion about your options. Having a professional on your side can help you to get back on the right track as quickly as possible, so don’t wait around!

Want some help on kickstarting your team? Book here to get in touch today for a no-obligation chat.

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

Photocredit: flickr

School’s Out For Summer

The school holidays are upon us now and while the kids are demob-happy the summer break can be a real headache for working parents.

“So what?” You might say. “Their kids. Their problem”. But it’s definitely in employers interests to do more. The number of parents leaving the workforce to seek more flexibility by working for themselves is ever increasing. A recent survey of 2000 working people in the UK by on-demand staffing app Coople found that one in 5 parents had missed a significant moment in their child’s life because of work. A even more worryingly, 11% said working late and not ‘switching off’ had distanced them from their children.

So with the long school holidays looming, we’ve pulled together a handy checklist on how small business can (reasonably) support parents this summer:

  1. Flexible Hours: Every employee has the right to request flexible working – whether this be flexible hours or location. In both cases, this request must be made in prescribed form and employees are entitled to only one request a year. Fixed office hours can be impractical for parents during the holidays. And the flexibility to work when they want to (often in the early morning or evening) can be a god-send.
  2. Flexible Locations: This does’t always mean working from home. In fact, if the kids are there it’s often the last place parents want be if they’ve got work to do. Working in a location closer to home, however, with a shorter commute could really help. Professional work spaces are popping up all over the place and are a great option here. Not only will they have excellent broadband they can be a valuable networking opportunity too. With both flexible hours and flexible locations, it’s important both parties are clear if this is a permanent of temporary change. If it’s for the short term, be sure the time frame is understood.
  3. Parental Leave: Staff that have worked for their employer for more than one year can ask for unpaid parental leave to help with childcare. Parental leave generally allows each parent to take up to 18 weeks unpaid leave per child before the child’s 5th birthday. This leave must be taken in blocks of one week and in theory should be requested 21 days in advance (although you may choose to be lenient here). If employees fall within these guidelines, you’ve got little choice but to let them take it unless there are sound business reasons why not that would stand up to scrutiny at a tribunal.
  4. Time Off For Dependents: Any employee (however long they have worked for you) can ask for “time off for dependents” to deal with emergencies. This would be unpaid and whilst there’s no set time, if its regarding a childcare issue 1-2 days would be reasonable, before it then becomes Parental Leave (above).
  5. Summer Childcare Guide: There are often lots of summer childcare options available locally but sometimes it can take hours of research to get all the information. A great task for the work experience chap if ever there was one. Make such information easily available to employees on the intranet or noticeboard and who knows, if there’s significant interest you might be able to negotiate a discount or even provide minibus transport from the office and back.

Holiday requests are likely to be coming in thick and fast. Remember to re-circulate your Holiday Policy so everyone knows the score and read ‘Is Your Workplace Beach-Ready?’ for straight-talking advice on how to keep everything running smoothly over the next few months…..

Want some help on how better to manage the team? Book here to get in touch today for a no-obligation chat.

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:  Diana Susselman

HR Horrors: What To Do If Your Think Your Employee Is Pulling A Sickie

The weather definitely feels like it’s on the turn. And whilst the sun normally brings a smile to most folks and a boost to the energy levels, it can also bring a touch of, well how can I put it politely? The ‘Sicknote’ in some….

Yesterday morning on the radio show I was listening to, they were talking about how to prepare for ‘pulling a sickie’: the premise being that you needed to have laid the groundwork already in preparation for not turning up today (low voice, murmurs of a weekend spend feeling under the weather etc etc). And I bet many will have been taking note. Because it doesn’t help suspicions when a YouGov survey recently found that 19% of British workers had lied about being sick to get off work in the last year.

So what do you when you suspect your team might be pulling a fast one and you don’t know how to call them on it?

You might be tempted to leap into a stern word on the phone or get on their case when they return. But tread carefully. If you suspect that an employee of yours is guilty of lying about their sickness, it falls under misconduct and therefore should be dealt with under your written disciplinary policy in a formal way. Hopefully this has been already communicated to your team members when they joined the business, but if not, you need to clearly outline it to them.

The first part of this will normally be to undertake an investigation to include to see what evidence you can find to corroborate your suspicions and therefore even whether a disciplinary is necessary. Having a ‘feeling’ therefore is not exactly firm evidence. Nor is someone just being active on social media (if you’re connected on any medium you may be able to see their activity) necessarily evidence of lying, as we all know that updates can be made within seconds. Updates which include selfies of them swimming in the nearest lake may prove more interesting (!), but still need to be investigated (take screenshots) and the employee given a chance to explain before any action is taken.

Even if you have none of these, what I would recommend, is to speak to your team members on their return, and hold what we in HR call a ‘return to work interview’ and explain your concerns about their sickness and find out what you can do to support them. You might not be able to prove that they were off for the reason they gave, however you may just shower them with so much care that they’ll think twice before doing it again….

Want to chat about this or any other issue you may be facing?  Book here to get in touch today or call us on 0203 627 7048.

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.

Jeremy Gould: Ferris

10 Ways To Help Your First Time Managers Become Superheroes

When someone steps up in their team and changes their role from that of a technical specialist to managing a team, it’s a really special moment for them. One that can be a wee bit scary sometimes too…. But definitely exciting. There are definitely those who take this change in role in their stride, who seem to possess the innate talents needed to help motivate their team, be able to gain their respect quickly and manage situations with diplomatic aplomb. But for most a little help is needed to get them on their way….

Aside from sending them on a training course to learn about ‘management techniques’ (and a word of caution with these, if choosing this route, make sure you find a provider whose public courses share your style of management culture as otherwise, attendance can have the opposite effect to that desired!), there are plenty of ways in which you can use your expertise and experience to set your new team members up on the path to success, which will help your manage your business better and free you up to have more time focussing on the strategic parts of your business. After all, you wanted to delegate, right?

  1. Be clear to them on what you expect from them in terms of management style and content: from what reports, stats and updates you expect through to how often you want to meet with them to have 1-2-1’s. Your actions here will help define how clearly they manage.
  2. Establish and articulate clear your goals: you have your company vision, you have your company values and goals. But don’t expect your new managers to be able to communicate these well to the team if you haven’t done so first!  Communication of your aspirations from the top level to the tiniest level will only enhance the magic for your team.
  3. Encourage them to spend time with their teams really getting to know what they want: they may already know the team from being a peer/ side by side on a project, but spending time finding out what their long term career goals are, is probably unlikely conversation from by the water-cooler and worth the time to find out.
  4. Let them know that management is not about them: they may be desperate to prove how great they are in their role as manager, however ultimately, if you are managing people, it’s all about the team. “A great boss takes all the credit for any mistakes made and none of it for the successes”, is what I was once told…
  5. Provide them with tools and resources for them to manage: if there is budget for team building, make it clear on what it is. If there is no budget for any team building, make that clear too.
  6. Keep the door open: give them time to talk through situations as they arise, making clear your door is always open and that there sometimes will be situations that arise that are better dealt with two-heads than one
  7. But recognise that someone might not make the right call in any given situation and don’t come down on them too hard when they do!
  8. Provide regular, quality informal feedback: you can do this by regularly checking in with the new manager and feeding back to them what’s great and what they can improve on.
  9. Encourage them to seek ideas and feedback from their own teams: a team with a new manager might be a little nervous however nerves and fear of change can be eliminated if they are encouraged to be ‘part of’ that change.
  10. We are the Champions!: Make sure that every person has got a champion for their career in the business to help them to discuss their own career aims and development goals. If you don’t have enough internally and your budget will stretch, find one externally to provide this support.

If you want to find out how TheHRhub can help your new managers get to grips with their new role without flailing, then book in here  for a no-obligation chat. You’ll walk away with a clear idea about what you need to do next and how this can help your business immeasurably.

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: Superheroes