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HR Hacks: 90 Days To Win Over A New Team

We’ve all been a situation where we need to work hard to win over someone over in the workplace. Whether it’s a new team, the Board or the whole company you need to get on side – our step by step plan should definitely help you out:

Day 1 to Day 6

Your job this week is to get your head around the situation. Maybe you just acquired a small company and you want them to feel part of the family (and keep them from leaving), or possibly you have a new strategy you would like an existing team to adopt. Whatever the situation, you need to understand 100% what you’re talking about so your reasoning could stand up to the scrutiny of a board of directors, or your son’s nursery group (especially the nursery group).

I recently watched a great video of a physicist explaining gravitational fields and black holes to students using a trampoline and rubber balls. What it demonstrated to me was that no matter the complexity of the subject you’re talking about, if you have a deep understanding of the subject and your audience you are on the right track to helping them understand what you’re talking about. So after week 1 you will have one element: an understanding of the subject. The next step is getting to know your audience.

Day 7 to day 30

As Mother Teresa once said, ‘there is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread’ and this is equally important in business as in the rest of our lives. Your job for the next couple of weeks is to take the time to listen to the team and to understand their point of view. You don’t necessarily have to agree, but if you can put yourself in their shoes and understand their point of view then you’re doing the important bit. Being in a small business, you will hopefully have a much better chance at knowing most of the people you will be trying to win over than those at larger corporations, but this might still take some effort to put your own agenda to one side to hear out the team.

The key thing to avoid here is listening to what the person is saying, hearing something mentioned that you have a really good point about, and switching off until they stop talking so you can say your interesting point. Doing this really turns down our ability to listen and understand people.

Take, for example, a recent exit interview I was in. The person said that one of the reasons they were leaving was that they’d been offered a much higher salary, one that we couldn’t match. Whilst there were reasons queueing up in my mind about why our salaries were at the level they were and why our package was competitive I put that to one side and tried to understand why salary was important to the person. As it turned out they didn’t actually care too much about the salary and had been offered higher salaries pretty much since they started. They had eventually had a bad experience where they didn’t feel their work was appreciated so the offers of higher salary stopped falling on deaf ears. After the interview the person told me they actually felt a lot better having got it all off their chest.

Once you have this rapport with people and they see that you’re willing to take the time to understand them they will put a lot more stock in your words than if you hadn’t taken that time.

Day 30 to day 37

Time to take what you’ve got so far and start actually talking to the team about your particular message you want to get across. Channelling the spirit of that physicist with the trampoline (how often do you get to say that?) you will need to use your understanding of what you want to say and why, and mix it with what you know about the different team members’ motivations and concerns so you can create a message that is well thought through and accessible to the audience.

Be ready to take difficult questions and, if you’re feeling brave, encourage them. Hopefully by this point you will be able to anticipate what the questions will be and the root of what the questioner is asking about.

Day 38 to 60

As the old adage goes, ‘actions speak louder than words’. These weeks are your chance to put your money where your mouth is and do whatever you’ve said you will do. This might be demonstrating something that shows your commitment to what you’ve said, like booking tickets for the new team to come and visit HQ to feel part of the family, or to put a process in place that backs up your new strategy (or stop an old process that doesn’t fit any more).

People will often take words lightly and wait for something to actually happen before believing what has been said will actually happen. Until you take some sort of action to back up what you have said, you’ll still have your skeptics. So don’t hesitate to back your message up with tangible action, multiple times. If you do this enough people will start to see that something is happening and be more likely to engage with it.

it is also important to consider what other key people are doing or have done in the past. For example,  if half your management team are changing how they operate and the other half are going a different direction or standing still then people may doubt that what has been communicated is genuinely believed by senior management.

Days 60 to 90

This time period will be a good time to take stock of how it’s going. Have the staff started engaging with the message? Did you lose focus and stop demonstrating what you mean? After a month or two was the original message what you meant to say or do you need to clarify or course correct?

At this point you should feel comfortable revisiting any of the stages that have come before as needed to make sure everything is still on track and running smoothly. I know a yoga teacher who told me that it takes 3 months to form a new habit; 1 month to break the old habit, 1 month to learn the new way and 1 month to settle into the new habit. Although I’ve not managed 3 months of yoga in a row there is some wisdom in this. I have seen some great messages that have been rushed fall by the wayside and others that have been less powerful stick around much longer because of the consistency of approach discussed above. So in that spirit, namaste and good luck!

 

For help and advice at every step of the employee journey sign up to theHRhub – the ultimate online support service for SMEs. Find out more about us here.

 

Photo credit: soccer practise by woodleywonderworks

Why Video Interviewing Is Your New Best Friend

Taking a mental snapshot of what I’m wearing now so I can have a laugh in 30 years time, my prediction is that, in the future, video interviewing will be as commonplace as phone interviews are today.

In a recent study titled ‘Engaging and Empowering Millennials,’ global professional services firm PWC pointed to a few areas that are more important to millennials (I really hate this term, partly because I am one, but it means those born between 1980 and 1995). When compared to previous generations, millennials look for greater flexibility in their jobs, are much more globally focussed and are much quicker at adopting new technologies. In the same paper, PWC estimated that 80% of their workforce would be millennials in 2016, quite a proportion and definitely worth considering when reviewing how you connect with people. Leveraging camera technology that most people will have built into their home computers as standard (or can buy for the same price as a train ticket) will become more commonplace as part of normal working life, particularly as a more globalised workforce will need ways to connect in a cost effective way.

So, it seems you could easily switch to using video interviews and capitalise on how the newer workforce likes to work… but should you?

Can a video screen really give you the same experience as having the person sitting in front of you? My honest opinion is, no, you really can’t match the experience of meeting the person in the flesh (yet), but video interviews trump telephone interviews hands down and are pretty damn close to face-to-face interviews in terms of being able to read body language and get a good feel for the person.

With the development of cheap or free options like Skype you can actually get a better interview experience for free, and having been in a position where I’ve had to decide which candidates to fly in for an interview because there’s only budget for one, conducting video interviews can mean the difference between seeing 3 interviewees or 1 – and the cost of a flight really isn’t the best way to select candidates.

An element just as important as your ability to assess the candidate is their ability to assess you as a potential employer. With millennials taking a lot more stock of the flexibility of the places they work demonstrating that you are comfortable using technology to increase flexibility is important and can only work in your favour. Furthermore, candidates will get a look at your offices, how you dress, how you interact with each other and of course your lovely smiling faces! All this can help to sell your workplace as the right choice over others who may be a voice on the end of the phone line. Finally, video interviews are so quick and easy to set up – if you have a room with a computer and a camera you could be face-to-face(ish) within the day and pip your competitors to the post while they’re trying to work out train timetables and expense claims for tickets for an interview a week away.

If you don’t believe me that video candidate selection is on the rise then pay attention to your careers inbox. If yours is anything like mine you might have started to see recruitment agencies sending speculative applications out in the form of picture and video intros for candidates. I believe this trend will continue and you will start to see more and more candidates sending applications that involve pictures, colour, video and all sorts of other media to try and sell themselves and their individuality. And if they’re going to all that effort to get your attention, why not upgrade their interview experience from phone to video and give them their moment in the spotlight?!

For help and advice at every step of the employee journey sign up to theHRhub – the ultimate online support service for SMEs. Find out more about us here

 

Photo Credit: Surface Skype by Irish Typepad

Know Your Values: Articulating Your Company Values With Honesty

If you’ve ever done an online dating profile you’ll know how hard it is to come up with wording that perfectly encapsulates all of your interests, personality, humour and everything else that makes you dateable. If you’ve gone a step further and dated someone whose profile you liked, you might have had a situation where the person is nothing like what they wrote in their profile. Unless the person is actually much better than you thought, this situation is not likely to be the basis of a long term healthy relationship – and if like one of my previous online dates might leave you looking for the nearest exit!

Writing down your company values is not so far removed from your online dating profile. And the last thing you want is to leave your employees bewildered or running for the hills. So let’s start by looking at a couple of sets of corporate values from other companies:

Company A

  • Communication – We have an obligation to communicate.
  • Respect – We treat others as we would like to be treated.
  • Integrity – We work with customers and prospects openly, honestly, and sincerely.
  • Excellence– We are satisfied with nothing less than the very best in everything we do.

Company B

  • Stewardship
  • The Best People
  • Client Value Creation
  • One Global Network
  • Respect for the Individual
  • Integrity

At face value, there’s not really much difference between the core message of these two sets of values. You’ll probably have seen some of these at previous companies, or from your competitors. Now for a bit more information… The values under Company A are actually the corporate values stated in the 2000 annual report of Enron – the company behind one of the biggest bankruptcies of our time, run by a number of executives who were later indicted and imprisoned for their involvement in misleading shareholders and concealing the loss billions of dollars. The values under Company B are those of Accenture – one of the most successful consultancies in the world who regularly make the cut of the top 100 companies to work for. This is pretty staggering considering the similarities between the set of values and the reality of the companies they represent.

So what can we learn from these examples?

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

OK, so I know the title of this article is about how to articulate your values, but there are many ways to articulate yourself outside the written word. If you gave your significant other a written appraisal of their cooking you’d get a quizzical look at best, at worst you’ll be wearing the subject of your review. You’d probably be a bit safer by clearing your plate and finishing with a big “mmm”. Verbal, written and non-verbal actions/communication all form part of how you articulate yourself to those around you so you should consider all of these when you’re thinking about how to articulate your values to your stakeholders.

If you’re looking at what your corporate values should be you should first look at the values that are displayed by your actions. Do your executives aggressively chase new business or do you work on partnerships that might not result in a deal for months or years? Do you train people who are bad at their job, or fire them? When faced with a financial crisis do you tell all the staff or keep the image of serenity to avoid panicking them?

How you act in these situations will be a demonstration to everyone at your company of what you value and how you act. Often these behaviours are echoed throughout the organisation but sometimes they aren’t, which leads us to our next point.

Their Values vs. Our Values

The reason a lot of sets of corporate values don’t really hit the mark is because they don’t reflect the values across the business. If you have inconsistencies between what your executives value and what your staff value then the corporate values you articulate might not ‘stick’ in the way you might hope. Executives are different from most other staff in that they are well paid, have access to sensitive information and have the power to make their decisions a reality, so it’s easy to see how there could be disconnects between the groups.

The executives of the company need to take the time to understand what their staff value and what it is about the company that keeps them coming back each day. You could do a staff survey… but the best way to find out about staff values is to talk to people from across the business to find out their views. Like I said earlier, there is a lot more to articulating your values than writing them down.

If you’re confident that you’re all on the same page then the hard part is done, all that’s left is to (you guessed it) articulate them!

‘Living’ The Values

You might have heard this a lot but living the values is really the only way to keep them, well, alive. In practice, this means using your values to make important decisions about which business deals to take on, who you partner up with, who you recruit, how you decide pay rises… where your hold your christmas party!?

If you’re committed to having a set of corporate values then you should be ready to look at your policies to see if they reinforce or sabotage your values. For example, if you have a value of placing team achievement higher than personal gain, then a bonus structure that rewards individual achievement will encourage people to act in a way that goes against your values. In another example, if you have a corporate value of independence, you might decide to reject a lucrative business deal if it could lead you to become more dependent on another business for your income. These sorts of tough decisions are what will articulate your values to everyone inside and outside the business, and are the sorts of things that will set you apart from the competition.

And once you’ve done all that, please feel free to put them on a poster in reception.

For help and advice at every step of the employee journey sign up to theHRhub – the ultimate online support service for SMEs. Find out more about us here

 

Photo Credit: New York YMCA Camp by New York YMCA Camp

The 3 ‘R’s of SME Recruitment

Two’s company, three’s a crowd and under 250 is a small to medium enterprise – as the government definition goes. If you’re somewhere within that range then it’s likely you have tried multiple routes of recruitment and had both good and bad experiences. Advertising is a standard route for most so I’ll avoid talking about that today. Instead, I’ll aim to introduce you to a few different routes of recruitment and explain some of the positives, the negatives and ways to get the most out of them.

Referrals

I mention employee referrals first because if you’ve only got time to read the beginning of this article you’ve got to least discover the benefits of employee referrals – they’re ace! There has been a lot of research into the value of referrals. This great infographic by social recruiting company, Jobvite is a particularly good example. On average, referrals are more successful at interview, start with the company quicker, stay for longer and are more productive from day 1. You also have the bonus that the people coming through your staff have already been vetted by your staff as someone who would fit in with the culture and approach of your company – this sort of fit is essential, particularly when you’re small.

If you’re going to try and take advantage of referrals, it’s worth offering a referral fee to reward your staff for their referral and to encourage them to send their friends to you. You should think about whether you want to offer higher fees for more difficult to hire roles, or less for very easy to fill roles. There’s no right or wrong approach to these schemes so try and pick an amount that is enough to make it worthwhile for your staff to go to the trouble of referring their friends, but not so much that they’ll send anyone through just to get the fee!

Some pitfalls of this approach can arise from employing too many people who are the same. This will be important not only in terms of the diversity of your workforce, but also the diversity of thought in your teams. If you end up with a group full of people who all think the same and agree with each other, whilst harmonious, it’s not great for innovation and looking at alternative ways of working

Recruiters

Until the stage you are able to hire an internal recruiter (and even after that point) you will likely lean heavily on recruiters. They’re the bounty hunters of the recruitment world, expensive but with access to a lot of great candidates and avenues to find the right people. Many a CFO has paled at a recruiter’s invoice for a key hire and it can be tempting to get burned and avoid recruiters, but they can help you out when you need it most.

If you are going to work with recruiters here are a few quick tips:

Take your time to find a recruiter who wants to get to know your business: A recruiter who understands what you value in people will be able to filter CVs much more effectively and send you only the best people for your business.

Negotiate on terms: Have a look at things like the standard fee % (around 15% is a good deal, but not so cheap that you’ll be at the bottom of their list), how refunds work if the person doesn’t work out and what happens if temporary hires go permanent.

Understand their goals: Recruiters often earn commission based on the % of the final salary the person is hired at. What this means is the higher the salary and the more hires made, the higher their bonus. Their goal is not necessarily to find you the best person who is good value and will stay for the long term.

A good recruiter can be great for your business and get you the key hires when you’re really up against it. If you can find one who understands your company and is keen to build a long term partnership with you you’ll be in the best position.

(Online) Resources

OK, so I had to fudge the heading of this one a little. With referrals and recruiters covered you’ll have some good strong avenues to get candidates in. When I talk about your online resources this is wherever your potential candidates will see you online. Whilst the candidates you get from these sources might be a bit more hit and miss you should make sure your shop front is set up and ready to sell your company to potential candidates. These days candidates are looking for more than just a salary and a job title – they want to see that you’re a good employer, that your values fit with theirs, and that they’re not going to make a mistake coming to work for you. Here are a few key points to consider:

Your website: Everyone who applies to you will look at this, use it as a soft sales pitch for who you are as a company and what you value. Talk about what it’s like to work with you and even talk about ‘politically correct’ topics like equality and gender split – you’d be amazed by how many good candidates will make a decision based on these things.

Review sites: Sites like Glassdoor are rising in popularity and exist whether you approve of them or not. Staff and interviewees will leave reviews of your company and, if you’re not careful, can hang out all your dirty laundry for all to see. Pretend you’re applying for a job, Google your company and ask yourself, ‘how does our company look to an outsider?’

Free advertising: There are a lot of free resources, such as special interest groups on LinkedIn, job sites like Indeed and industry specific forums. Getting access to these can be as simple as setting up a user account and can give you free access to people who are relevant to your company. If you’re not sure where to go, ask your staff, they’ll know all the popular forums and groups to target.
Hopefully you can use these to fine tune some of your hiring – if you’re looking for a few recruitment war stories or other recommendations for how to find the right people check out the HR Hub forums – sharing is caring!

theHRhub is the ultimate online support service for startups and SMEs. We provide software, templates, expert advisers, a community forum and up to date news and views – straight to your tablet or mobile device. Find out more here

Photo Credit: If at First You Don’t Succeed by Tom Gill 

Dealing With Stress And Depression At Work

In an article for the Sunday Times, David Baddiel once wrote “It’s not soft to say you’re depressed. It’s hard as hell.”. Whilst mental health issues can be among some of the most disruptive, they can also be the hardest to talk about, particularly in the workplace. Partly because of the view that personal issues should be left outside the door when you go to work, and partly down to us Brits having a ‘stiff upper lip,’ issues like stress, depression and anxiety are seldom talked about or dealt with at work, unless someone blows up or has a breakdown. Often these issues will go unnoticed and many won’t notice them as easily as they would more visible problems.

According to the Mental Health Foundation around ‘12 million adults in the UK see their GP with mental health problems each year. Most of these suffer from anxiety and depression and much of this is stress-related’. This is no small number when you consider there are roughly 42 million adults of working age in the UK (ONS, 2015). Add to that the fact that the leading cause of death for men aged 20-34 is suicide, it’s a pretty stark picture. And definitely something worth talking about.

In a work context, 13.3 million working days are lost every year due to stress, depression and anxiety in the UK alone. You’ve probably experienced the impacts of these conditions in your workplaces before, and you may have even had to deal with members of your team who have been through them. This article aims to give you a few pointers and tips on how best to deal with mental health issues at work.

  1. Try to notice patterns if someone in your team is acting unusually: Stress situations release the chemicals in our body that govern our ‘fight or flight’ reactions. Over time these chemicals can wear the body out and cause issues such as headaches, nausea and indigestion. These stress situations can also cause people to change emotionally, causing them to become withdrawn and distant, or sometimes tense and angry, and pretty much anywhere in between. At work it’s often easy to see these behaviours as a lapse in performance and something that should be clamped down on or, more often, left alone unless they go completely off the rails. Whilst it can be a temporary dip in performance and no more, it’s worth paying attention to these changes as they can be pointers to the fact that someone is going through a tough time and may need some support.
  1. Don’t tell them to cheer up: Unlike sadness which is a temporary feeling, often linked to an event or bad situation, depression can often be a general feeling that the person cannot shake, and often cannot tie to a particular event or issue that they can fix. Many people would love to put a smile on and feel better. But unfortunately it doesn’t work that way in practice, so if someone confides in you they they are stressed or depressed, try and avoid making light of it or making it seem trivialAnother trap to avoid is to assume that two people will suffer in the same way. If you have a friend who had depression and got over it by taking up a hobby, and you meet someone else with depression, the instinct will be to launch into the story to try and help that person out. In reality the best thing you can do is listen to them and take the time to understand how you can help them.
  1. Consider getting external help: Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are a great way to offer support to your staff. They will often come in the form of a telephone helpline and/or website with the option of telephone and face-to-face counselling. There are companies that provide these services and they often aren’t too expensive. And as a bonus, some schemes will offer you additional services such as employment law or tax advice. If someone is seriously affected and taking time off work you can also look at setting up occupational health referrals, whereby you will pay a health professional to meet with the employee and make an assessment about how best to deal with the employee. Health insurers like BUPA and other employee wellbeing companies can help set these up for a fee. Importantly with both of these suggestions, if you end up further down the road with a dismissal or resignation related to mental health issues, getting and expert medical opinion and offering staff an EAP will also show to a tribunal that you have supported your team and that you have gone a fair way to meet your ‘duty of care’ as an employer.
  1. Don’t be afraid to deal with it: This point comes back to the opening paragraphs of this article. Mental health issues are generally shied away from at work because of a lack of understanding and a bit of fear of doing the wrong thing. If someone is showing signs of stress or depression, listen to them and try to understand what they are going through. If they’re having trouble dealing with it by themselves, offer support if you can. But if they go off sick or start misbehaving at work, deal with it as you would with any other employee. Leaving someone without any contact for months for fear of saying the wrong thing could do more harm than getting on the phone and checking that they’re speaking to people and dealing with it. Equally, letting them get away with rudeness to colleagues or being distant and withdrawn can send the wrong signal that that behaviour is accepted. Obviously try and be your most tactful, but dealing with the issues is always better than leaving them to drag on for months.

The build up to the half year and the added pressure it brings can make this time of year particularly difficult for those with mental health issues. So keep a watchful eye over your team over the next few weeks and make sure no one’s suffering in silence.

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Photo Credit: alone by Georgie Pauwels