INSIGHTS

follow us here and on twitter @ukhrhub to get all the latest HR hints, tips, advice and news

Mental Health Week Special: The Stepping Stones To Becoming A More Mindful SME

Mental Health Week Special: The Stepping Stones To Becoming A More Mindful SME

Now in it’s 19th year, Mental Health Awareness Week always begins on the second Monday in May. In 2019, it takes place between 13th and 19th May.

In a world that is increasingly opening up to – and understanding those with – mental health issues, it’s no surprise that Mental Health Awareness Week is attracting more and more attention in both the media and business worlds year on year.

Whilst I am a great supporter of anything that raises people’s awareness to mental health issues in the workplace, it takes more than just one week in the year to adequately support your employees’ mental health.

Right now, 1 in 6 workers is dealing with a mental health problem such as anxiety, depression or stress. Clearly, this can stop people from performing at their best.

Organisations perform better when their staff are healthy, motivated and focused. Smart businesses support employees who are experiencing mental health problems to cope and recover. The support people receive from employers is key in determining how well and how quickly they are able to get back to peak performance.

Here are 10 simple steps SMEs can take to make a real difference to their teams’ mental health, all year round:

1. Create a culture that supports staff to be open about their mental health: Send a clear signal to staff that their mental health matters and that being open about it will lead to support, not discrimination. Work with your employees and managers to break down the stigma related to mental health.

2. Ensure your sickness absence and return to work policies apply to mental as well as physical health problems: Policies should make it clear that people must be treated equally whatever their health problem. Make sure this is communicated effectively so everyone in the business is aware.

3. Train managers in how to support their team through mental health problems: You can’t just ‘expect’ them to feel comfortable dealing with issues that have previously been considered taboo. Giving them the tools, confidence and support to engage in the right conversations is key to supporting employees properly.

4. Open up the discourse on mental health: It’s vital managers routinely ask staff how they’re doing and reference their mental health – it helps build up people’s confidence to speak up earlier on and get the help they need sooner.

5. Fully support anyone who discloses a mental health problem: Once you’ve opened up the dialogue on mental health with someone, the priority is to develop positive steps to address the key issues they’re struggling with. Generally, these steps are small and involve simple adjustments to someone’s job role or extra support from their manager. Often the necessary change is one of attitude, expectations or communication – rather than a major change or significant cost.

6. Develop proactive action plans that work for both the individual and the business: Support managers to work together with their team members to develop a personal action plan to proactively manage their mental health. This allows people to plan in advance and develop tailored support for a time when they’re not coping so well. It also facilitates open dialogue with managers – leading to practical, agreed steps which can form the basis for regular monitoring and review.

7. Be flexible and open minded to simple changes: When people feel under pressure they can find it hard to prioritise their workload. Flexible working hours and increased one-to-one supervision can help people better manage their time and plan and prioritise. Some find a regular surgery-style trouble-shooting session with their manager helpful, where managers can go through the person’s to-do-list with them to coach them on how to approach challenging tasks. Often this acts as a useful pressure valve to help people regain confidence and cope with challenges.

8. Manage an employee’s time off sick effectively: Sometimes an employee may be so unwell they need time off work to recover. The way organisations manage a period of sickness absence is key in shaping how well and how quickly people are able to return to work and get back to peak performance.

9. Prepare for an employee’s return to work: When people are ready to return to work managers should arrange to meet up in a neutral comfortable venue to catch up and discuss the details of their return together. An effective return-to-work interview is vital to build trust and engagement with the employee and support their smooth and sustainable return to work.

  • take a person centred approach and be sensitive to the individual’s needs
  • be proactive and get involved as early as possible if someone is unwell
  • be positive, professional and supportive throughout the process
  • maintain contact with people throughout their sickness absence.

10. Engage with a provider who can support you through the challenges: It’s always reassuring to know that you don’t need to have all the answers yourself.  HR consultants (such as TheHRHub) have a wealth of experience in supporting managers and employees through all kinds of mental health challenges.  It’s worth having someone on your side for support, should you need it.

For help and advice on any HR issue, get in touch for a no strings discussion about your business needs and how we can help. Drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk or give us a call on 0203 627 7048.

Image: Canva


Managing (Not Avoiding) Conflict In An SME

Managing (Not Avoiding) Conflict In An SME

Let’s face it, most of us avoid conflict if we can. It makes everyone feel uncomfortable and it’s not particularly productive. But even if you’re the most placid business owner in the world, inevitably there will be occasions when arguments between colleagues break out and insults are traded.

This can particularly be the case in an SME where the environment is much more intimate and intense. If you don’t manage conflict carefully it can quickly escalate, creating a toxic working atmosphere and worse still, potentially damaging your business reputation.  

The Confederation of British Industry estimates that ‘conflict’ costs UK businesses £33 billion per year, taking up 20% of leadership time and potentially losing up to 370 million working days.

However many books you’ve read about ‘managing difference’, it is tough to navigate strong personalities or working style clashes.

But Ignore Conflict At Your Peril

One of the most common (and most damaging) approaches we tend to see is simply ignoring conflict/issues in the hope that it will just go away or resolve itself. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, it will, but more often than not, issues left unacknowledged will fester, then escalate and ultimately may end up being a bigger problem than it ever should have become. When it comes to conflict, ignorance is most definitely not bliss.

Now, that’s not to say you need to jump in and resolve every single difference of opinion or challenging conversation that takes place in the office, but if you’ve noticed a potential problem brewing, then it’s safe to assume the rest of the team have too; and they will be looking to you (or your management team) to step in and resolve things.  

Sometimes All That’s Needed Is A Frank Conversation

More often than not, initiating a conversation and facilitating both parties being heard can be enough to cool the heat and allow people to get back to what they are meant to be focussing on!  

If Conflict Remains An Issue Here’s What To Do:

  1. Set the tone –‘The culture of any organisation is shaped by the worst behaviour the leader is willing to tolerate’ – Gruenter & Whitaker.  People tend to follow the example set by the most senior members of the business, make sure you and your management team are role modelling the behaviour you want to see in others.
  2. Create a culture of trust, respect and honest conversations –  no one wants to work in a company where their opinion isn’t heard. Most people enjoy a healthy debate on how to get things done. If the culture of your business is one where people can engage in these types of conversations, disagree respectfully (i.e. without name calling, abuse or aggression) and then go about their day, you’re onto a winner for limiting the amount of damaging conflict you’ll need to be managing.
  3. Listen to your staff – ask questions to find out the underlying issues. It may be that there is a difference in value or even a simple misunderstanding.  Don’t assume that you know the problem without asking, as this can often make matters worse! It may be worth getting someone impartial (like TheHRHub) to either handle the situation or at least be present throughout any discussions.
  4. Train your managersthey are on the front line when it comes to witnessing and resolving conflict within teams. Giving them the confidence, skills and training to deal with these issues as they arise will hopefully stop smaller issues escalating into time consuming and painful ones.
  5. Have a clear policy on how you intend to manage conflict at work – for when things just can’t be managed informally, you need to have a clear and consistent approach communicated that outlines how the company will manage conflict. This doesn’t need to be “War & Peace”, just a section in the handbook or a one pager outlining a process you will follow, should an issue get to that stage.

At TheHRHub, we are experts in navigating SME’s through the difficulties of managing conflict.  Our pragmatic, personable but legally minded approach allows us to help you put a quick end to issues that have the potential to bubble away for a longer time, or even explode into something much harder to resolve.

We can offer you advice, draw up handbooks and policies to help manage future situations, deliver management training or even mediate conflict for you (although we do like to encourage our clients to take responsibility for solving their own problems, it makes for stronger leaders in the future).

Why not give us a call to see how we can help you make your business better. Drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk or call 0203 627 7048 for a no strings discussion about your business needs.

Image: Canva

Still Can’t Find ‘The One’? 7 Ways To Refresh Your Recruitment

Still Can’t Find ‘The One’? 7 Ways To Refresh Your Recruitment

We all know that recruiting great talent is one of the top priorities for most businesses. And we all know that it’s  bl**dy difficult to do so (amount of people I’ve ever heard saying in my entire career “ I can’t move for quality candidates”? = zero…). And whilst the buzz that you can get when you finally find the right candidate can be highly energising & worth the wait, even the most experienced business owner or recruiter can feel like getting to that point can be a hard slog when the wind isn’t going in your direction ….

If this is chiming a chord with you, then you need to get out of the rut, step back, re-group, and take a fresh look at what else you could be looking at doing to attract people. Strengthening your branding, positioning and process will certainly come into play and influence your hiring on longer term basis, however if it’s a quicker boost you’re after, then nothing beats getting out there and going on the hunt for talent yourself. To help energise your efforts, we’ve spoken to our own network of gurus from The HR Hub who shared some of their favourite ways to kickstart things:

  1. Use social media in the way it was intended: Taking a peak at people’s professional profiles  on LinkedIn is definitely recommended & not to be confused with stalking someone all over Facebook ….. You can pay right up to a Recruiter seat on the site costing £££s per year, however even as a basic entry level user, you can type in job titles or industries in the search field and a list of those people in your immediate network with those criteria will appear for you to click on. If you see someone’s profile who interests you and who you have in common, then ask for an introduction or use the direct messaging to find out if they’re interested in speaking further. Candidates are always more likely to respond if you are contacting them directly about a role in your business and find this approach more flattering than a spamming/ cookie-cutter approach adopted by some less selective agents, so don’t be shy & get connected!
  2. Be open to talent in unusual places:  One of my favourite recent hiring stories is a long time client of ours who hired someone into their business after they were served by them in a chicken restaurant. The server in question demonstrated such fabulous customer service towards my client that they struck up a conversation and ultimately a few weeks later, the server became her new sales & marketing assistant. It might not work for all roles, however bear in mind that most people have transferable skills and one of the most sought after traits people are after in hew hires is a great attitude!
  3. Tap into your (existing) network: Employees first. I almost left this one off the list as I figured it’s such a common channel for people to use when hiring, but then thought again as it’s value is so important that it’s still worth a gentle reminder for those who still haven’t tried it….. However if you’re not asking your existing team if they know of anyone who might want to come and work for you, then you should do this straight away (& then remember to keep asking on a regular basis to keep it front of mind). Financial incentives can work well in this area and provide a tidy little bonus for those who successfully refer someone they know (one of my former companies paid up to £5k per successful referral which was still less than the average recruiter fee for their industry) but you don’t always need to stretch the budget that far as many will be simply happy to refer people they want to work with. If you are going to provide an incentive for employee referrals however, then make sure it’s clear, consistently applied and isn’t over complicated.
  4. Tap into your (existing wider) network: Referrals from employees are one thing, but a less utilised route is to make your wider network of suppliers, clients and partners aware that you’re hiring and what roles you have. Asking people directly might not feel like the comfortable thing to do in some cases, however adding a note to your footer of your emails or doing a few posts on social media to say you are hiring can be just the jogger they may need to drop “I might know just the person…”.   into conversation when you next speak.
  5. Get objective about your adverts:  I was introduced recently by a client to a wonderful site called Textio, the augmented writing site which demonstrates how your words (in this case , job adverts) will be perceived by others. It’s brilliant in terms of showcasing which words are more persuasive than others as well as highlighting the gender attractiveness of different words and phrases used and is well worth the time plugging your own job ads into their free trial to see how yours can be improved.
  6. Keep track of the numbers: this doesn’t need to be complicated, but in order to track how effective your recruitment activities and processes are (and at each stage), then you need to start measuring them to see which parts need re-visiting and addressing. If you’re using an Applicant Tracking System then many will have these built in, but if not, then set up your own spreadsheet with the ones most important to your business and build out from there. Ones I’ve used in the past include: number of applicants at each stage, time to hire , cost per hire and quality of hire.
  7. Outsource it: (I feel it would be remiss of me not to mention here….) But if you value your time over spending a little bit of cash or don’t have the internal resources to focus on this area, then we have our own service we provide to many customers – one that has been developed from the experience of hiring hundreds of people over the last 15 years and which – for the want of a better name right now – I’m going to call Recruitment-in-a-box.  We take the brief, recommend the media, write and place the advert right through to sifting and conducting first round interviews.

When it comes to channels, there’s never just ‘the one’ however. A lot of people still just stick to either agencies or advertising for any new hires. But by narrowing all channels to just one or two, you rarely see the results you want (and definitely not if you’re hiring for multiple roles). Here at theHRhub, we’ve used dozens of different ways to hire and are all in favour of multiple recruitment channels. But rarely at the same time and always varying the approach depending on the role. Would you woo a Managing Director for a contract worth millions in the same way you would get signups for your SaaS product? No, of course you wouldn’t. Same goes for finding the right people.

None of these on their own are silver bullets and the reality is that (as with any good sales process) you will need to apply these processes in a consistent way over a period of time to see really strong results. But a fresh perspective and a bit of analysis and tweaking can work wonders on kickstarting things again.

Need any extra help?  TheHRhub helps ambitious business owners hire, manage and grow their teams in a direct and pragmatic way. Find out more about us here at www.thehrhub.co.uk or drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk or call 0203 627 7048 to chat about how we can help.