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Easy (& Cheap) Ways To Do Team Building Events

We all know that successful teamwork is the key to productivity in many aspects of work. And whilst most teamwork is found through generic work practices and sound motivational and leadership actions, there comes a time in the year when people need a bit of a gee-up. And this is when the suggestion of some sort of ‘team-building-thing’ is often thrown up.

A big fan of these in principle, I find it’s best to approach the design of these however with extreme caution. After all, a weekend in the Yorkshire Moors may sound like a whole load of fun when leafing through the brochure in July. But is hauling Dave in sales out of the Malham Tarn during a gale in October really the ‘bonding’ you’re hoping for?

Hideous memories of off-site events I’ve attended in the past also colour my view on what is a ‘good’ event… It’s fair to say that I don’t like my ‘fun’ forced on me. I’ve also never knowingly wanted it to include the words ‘boiler suit’ and ‘telegraph pole’ either. So, early in my career, having been shipped off to a forest somewhere off the M3 with 30 or so other colleagues dressed like prisoners, I spent over an hour sweating profusely after seeing the 40ft wooden structure we were told to scale, weighing up my two options: escape or tears. Tears won. And after lots of (half-hearted I have to say) encouragement from the facilitator, I dissolved after the second rung, only to feel like a total d*** in front of my colleagues. Thanks team building!

So here are a few suggestions which should avoid tears and tantrums, not to mention a large bill.


Simple, easy, cheap and works far far better than you would expect, my go-to team building activity is to get a few Lego kits together. Choose kits which are not over complex ( the Millennium Falcon, for example, is probably a tad excessive here…), split up the teams and ask them to work together to build.


Or rather a variation of one which is more close to home. Ask the team to provide obscure facts about themselves (famous people they’ve met, embarrassing moments etc) and incorporate into the questions to inject a bit of “You did what?!” to the event.

Lights, Camera, Action!

The days of iphones and ipads have brought movie making within reaches of all of us. Split out into teams, choose a series of themes (which may or may not correspond to workplace situations) and give them two hours to come up with a production.


There’s few self-respecting start ups which don’t have some form of table tennis/ football table they can use here, however if you’re lacking in this department, you can pick one or more of these up on the internet for small change. Simply set up and create a league table of pairs.

But at least my experiences were never as bad as those conveyed by my oldest and dearest friend, who, upon landing her new swanky and very senior role at a national pub chain, skipped off merrily to attend a two day event with her new management team. It turns out that one of the obligatory ice-breakers was placing a spoon between her cheeks (yes, those ones!) and walking (waddling?) across the room without dropping the spoon…. I can’t imagine what the facilitators of this torture were trying to achieve with this exercise, but I’m sure they hadn’t got in their objectives the words “termination of contract”….

To find out how else you can promote great team work in your business or for details of any other HR challenges you might have, drop us a line at or call 0203 627 7048.

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Photocredit: Bogdan Morar Teambuilding

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 or call 0203 627 7048.

TheHRhub: The ultimate online support for startups and SMEs.

Join us here and get all the HR advice, tools and software you need to grow your business.

For more great tips on how to grow your own skills as an SME leader, in our FREE eBook : Leadership 101: Your Ultimate Step by Step Guide To Being An Inspirational Leader

Photocredit: Walter Worklife balance

Dealing With A Dementor At Work

Dementors – for those of you who skipped the biggest literary sensation of the last twenty years – are soulless creatures who guard the wizard’s prison in the Harry Potter series of books. They suck the joy out of life and their presence makes all around them grow cold and dark. In real life, they’re the ones who like to put a negative spin on every conversation: from pointing out the health and safety risks when someone does an ice-bucket challenge through to spelling out that the snack you’ve just consumed is full of additives which can cause cancer. Glass half empties. Debbie Downers. You catch my drift.

And quite frankly, if you’re the skeptical type, it wouldn’t be too difficult to find a whole host of reasons to feel negative right now: the CIPD ran a survey earlier this month which found that nearly half (44%) of UK workers feel pessimistic about the future as a result of the UK’s vote to leave the EU, there are terrorism threats looming around every corner, the list goes on and on.

When out socially, you can swiftly move away from these cheery souls. But in the workplace? No such luck. And given that negativity can spread like wildfire, how exactly should you approach the situation if you have one employee who’s bringing down the rest of your team?


Sometimes, people simply need a sounding board for their frustrations and concerns. Burying your head in the sand and hoping that things will fix themselves is very rarely a sensible strategy. Instead of just paying lip service to the concept of having an open door policy, make sure that you live by it.

Get to know your staff. Work out what makes them tick. Unearth the real issues that are at play. This is what makes the difference between a manager and a leader.

Challenge negative thinking

There are external things going on that you and your business can have no control over. No one’s expecting you to solve all the problems in the world. If comments are being made about internal issues though, you need to tackle them.

If they’re true, take the time to explain the reasoning behind why things are the way they are, and how employees can play a part in improving the situation. If false statements are being shared, speak up immediately and put the record straight. Sometimes, a little strong leadership is what’s needed to get things back on the right track.

Recognise the difference between a bit of negativity and serious mental health problems

Most of us are guilty of letting negative feelings take over now and again. Some might say that it’s all part and parcel of living in the modern world. As a leader though, you have a responsibility to know the difference between this, and mental health issues amongst your employees.

If you suspect that there are more serious problems at play, you have a responsibility to ensure that your staff are supported and given the professional assistance that they might need. In this situation, your first port of call should be to speak with an expert. Remember that discretion is key, and you absolutely must honour the confidentiality of your employees.

The feeling and mood in many workplaces goes through peaks and troughs. It’s your job to make sure that your staff are motivated and productive. If you’re experiencing problems, it may be worthwhile to have a chat with us about your challenges.

Get in touch today by dropping us a line at, calling 0203 627 7048, or book in here for a no-obligation chat.

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.

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

Photocredit: Bob Kieffer Dementor

Poor Performance Or Poor Communication? Know The Difference

One of the most common complaints I hear from employers is that one of their team isn’t performing in one way or another: not pulling their weight, not getting it, or simply not delivering what’s been asked of them.

Sometimes (often) we are all quick to judge the performance of others, before first considering our own part to play in our team’s performance. But communication is everything when it comes to performance and so follow the tips below before jumping right in there and hauling someone over the coals (or worse…).

There is no one single way to get great performance every time, but there are some simple steps you can take to make the path clearer for your team:

  1. Set Expectations From The Outset: From up to date job descriptions to quality time during the interview process and discussing what success in the role looks like. This stage is critical.
  2. Support Them When They Do Join: Don’t just leave it to chance that they’ll ‘pick it up’. Spend time with your new recruit on a regular basis outlining what you expect from them and when. Like to be updated on a weekly basis on how the product is progressing? Tell them. Show them. Share with them how you do it. Try it all.
  3. Focus On WIIFT: For you it’s probably very clear what you get out of their high performance, but What’s In It For Them? Learn what motivates them and push those buttons to get the most of out of your team.
  4. Return The Favour: Give them feedback on how their doing. Do it immediately and make it real. A well-timed comment along the lines of “That campaign you ran totally hit the mark in terms of coverage but the signups we were after didn’t materialise. Let’s analyse it together and see how we can do it differently next time” is far more supportive and constructive than leaving it a few months to the end of the probation to tell them they didn’t get the results you were after. You’ll have missed valuable time for them to improve and will look as though you were too incompetent to raise it beforehand.
  5. Keep Talking: Few people like to work in a vacuum, so keep the conversation flowing. It builds relationships. Makes giving feedback (good and bad) much easier. And makes people feel involved.

You know what you mean. You might think everyone understood what you said, but when you play it back in your head did you really summarise everything clearly? Did you involve them in how they might deliver what was being asked? Did you check to see that they understood what you had asked? And, crucially, did you do this in a way that works best for the whole team? Because each team member is likely to hear different things. Your role here is as a coach, helping them to see how they can achieve the goal in hand, providing the support (and environment) so they can deliver with aplomb and inspiring them to want to do it.

For more details on this or any other HR challenges you might have, drop us a line at or call 0203 627 7048.

For more reading on giving your own leadership style a bit of a kickstart , then download our new eBook: Leadership 101: The Ultimate Guide to Being an Inspirational Leader.

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

Photocredit: uncoolbob

Brainfood: Smart Ways To Grow Your Tech Team

A recent study from CultureAmp found that the no.1 reason for staying with a technology business was the opportunity to grow. But when you’re short on levels of ‘management’ and don’t have the funds to invest heavily in this area, how do you carve out the kind of opportunities a technologist might stay for? And compete with the likes of Google/ Facebook/ ANother Startup-Down-The-Road to get employees’ development on track?

Here are our top tips for growing tech talent:


Yes, I appreciate that this word ranks up there with ‘low hanging fruit’ and ‘reach out’ in terms of business terminology that’s had it’s day – and is therefore tempting to ignore – but the literal meaning of working together to achieve results is something we should all be doing. And collaboration is something that is truly valued by most developers I’ve ever worked with. The chance to get stuck into something, to share the problems and even to out-do each other with solutions, is motivating in itself.

Pair Up

Pair Programming has proved popular in many tech businesses, mainly because of it’s ability to increase the quality of code as the output of such exercise. In this type of work, two developers are set to work side by side on a project, playing different roles (writing or observing) and switching them frequently. Although increasing the (wo)man-hours needed to deliver on a project using this style of work, the benefits of increased motivation & quality may be worth it.

Perform (and help others do the same)

I’ve been told in the past (by managers mainly) that developers don’t ‘do’ performance reviews: that they don’t believe in these kind of structured process; that they have no value. Hmmm, that’s interesting. As whatever collective behaviours may be exhibited from one employee group to another, I’ve yet to meet an individual or group which didn’t want feedback….. So if someone’s saying that to you, maybe it’s because they don’t ‘doyour performance review. So shake it up a bit. Try to to do them little and often and for gods’ sake, include some sort of peer review.

The speed of technological change makes it very difficult for tech companies to keep employees’ skills up to date – but a recent Upwork survey found that 89% of IT professionals would consider leaving their job for better training somewhere else, so it’s worth making the investment. Their development needn’t cost an arm and a leg – so for more ideas on how to inject some growth to the team, check out Fleur Winter’s great article ‘L&D On A Shoestring’ for some other cost-effective ideas.

For more great tips on how to grow your own skills as an SME leader, in our FREE eBook : Leadership 101: Your Ultimate Step by Step Guide To Being An Inspirational Leader

TheHRhub: The ultimate online support for startups and SMEs.

Join us here and get all the HR advice, tools and software you need to grow your business.

Photo credit: Scott, Jell-O-Brains