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HR Futures: Engagement With A Fractional Workforce

HR Futures: Engagement With A Fractional Workforce

Fractional: [adjective] Relating to only a part of something; Extremely small or insignificant

The fractional workforce is a phrase new to many. But not for long I suspect.  A term used to loosely describe those who provide work to one or more businesses, it includes many of the 5 million people in the UK who are classified as ‘self-employed’ –   the contractors, the freelancers, the ‘gig’ workers, the temporary staff you have on your books – not to mention those who might be on your payroll on a part time basis. The common denominator of all of these being that they are just not solely dedicated to your business.

But far from these being just the ‘giggers’ who have grabbed the headlines in recent months – those who deliver your food, clean your house or ferry you home at the end of an evening – 60% of these fractional workers are found to be in highly skilled or managerial professions (ONS), and most of whom have turned to fractional work out of choice.

Over half our SME client base are increasing their use these types of workers to supplement their own teams on a regular basis – as accountants, marketeers, designers, data analysts, developers…even HR folks – but a handful have gone one step further by having them as core members of their senior or leadership teams. And anecdotally I know of plenty more highly innovative businesses who use diverse and fractional teams gathered from their wider networks to deliver high profile projects, because they just don’t have the skills they need in their existing employee pool.

But given that many of these highly skilled people turn to fractional work because it supports the things which motivate them most: freedom (in location, work patterns, scope) and ownership of what they do, how do you as a business owner make sure that these broader team members are as ‘engaged’ and ‘onboard’ as your permanent staff members, whilst balancing the risk (and fear associated) that you may lose control over some of the work? From extensive experience on both sides of the fence, here are our pointers on some things you can practically do to rapidly assemble a crack team and get the most out of your working relationships with this group:

  1. Get the basics right, but recognise that a contract simply cannot cover ‘every eventuality’: It goes without saying that a properly worded contract is a no-brainer to manage your legal risks, however our experience is that a properly worded contract is not one which attempts to try and control every single thought and word a person emits during their time working with you (having had many run-ins from those not willing to sign away their entire thought catalogue in a crudely worded IP clause, this is a route which does not bear well with many!). One which seeks to do this beyond what is necessary for the delivery of the work will no doubt hold up the process for any onboarding as wordsmithing goes back and forth, giving your competitors a chance to steal a march on you!
  2. People are people, regardless of ‘working status’ & so speak to them as such: The Contractor’ is not an appropriately named designation for most to respond to and is something which should be reserved only for an introduction by  Hollywood-voiceover-man to something infinitely more fictional….
  3. Treat your wider teams as a community: communities support each other and work for the greater good; they embrace differences, thrive when there is co-operation and provide a vast array of talent for you to pull from which you might otherwise not get access to. Communities do not take the pi** with each other, as they know that they may be the one asking for a favour the following week….
  4. Communicate in a way which is fluid & which builds trust: ask yourself whether you really need different email lists for ‘employees’ and ‘contractors’? Many businesses also exclude non-permanent staff from their communications platforms, however this serves to alienate at best and cause productivity issues at worst. Remember (see point 1) they’ve already signed the same sort of confidentiality clauses as anyone else in the business…
  5. Don’t ignore wider development needs: from onboarding and beyond, make sure you are inclusive and relevant in providing development opportunities. This doesn’t mean sponsoring someone on the MBA if they are only with you for 2 weeks, but may include including them in your onboarding programme, lunch and learns etc
  6. Reward is still important (but outside of traditional methods look to recognition and referral as currency to use): You may think that paying the monthly invoice is reward for these team members done and dusted, however (even if you haven’t read oodles of posts about this one – really??) ‘reward’ to most people is more than just a wedge of cash…. Angela Mortimer, a successful recruitment firm specialising in PA and support staff hold an annual event to celebrate and recognise their temporary staff who don’t get to always get to join in on the social side from the organisations they provide service to or be included in their reward practices. A nice touch I think, which in addition plays to point 3 (above).

This post doesn’t (purposefully) address some of the legal ramifications for employing different types of workers that make up this section of the workforce – that’s definitely for another day and is dependant on ever evolving legal challenges being made – however fractional work is on the increase & those who can strategically think of their workforce as beyond those on their payroll, will already be one step ahead.

For more details on integrating your workforce or any other HR challenges you might have, drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk or call 0203 627 7048.

Image Credit: unsplash

 

Tis the season to crack on…. action plan to stop the Christmas wind down affecting your business

Tis the season to crack on…. action plan to stop the Christmas wind down affecting your business

Let’s face it – it’s that time of year when the mornings are getting darker, people are distracted by festive tasks and busy social lives, and understandably coming to work is the last thing on earth they want to do.  But this time of year is also perfect for reconnecting with employees and colleagues you haven’t spoken to in a while, or even the person you sit next to every day.

Business leaders can still knuckle down on the tactics that they’ll use to make the most of the final quarter.  Whatever your goals are, these strategies can work. By motivating your most valuable asset – your people – you can not only end 2017 on a high but also enter into 2018 with a renewed sense of purpose and commitment from your employees.  

Invest time in refresher training

At this time of the year, exemplary client service can make a huge difference when it comes to your profits. Are your staff comfortable with talking about your products and services? Can they pinpoint opportunities to offer an up-sell? And are they really firing on all cylinders when it comes to their day-to-day work?

Take the opportunity to consider how you can offer training to drill down on key points, and take performance up to that next level. You don’t necessarily have to spend a fortune on bringing in external providers, so think outside of the box when it comes to how you can deliver. Many sales tools record your calls and can be used to do some internal training within the team. Or how about some e-learning courses to give some focus.

Invigorate the mundane routine and re-establish the immediate goals to focus on

If your staff have been in their positions for a while, then they can really easily fall into a mundane routine. Particularly in the run up to Christmas. After all, everyone’s a bit well, knackered?  Could it be the case that they’re feeling complacent? If so, now’s an excellent time to get your leadership team together and ensure that everyone has realistic but stretching goals to be making progress towards. In the long term, staff value opportunities for professional development, adequate training provision and an appropriate support network far more than you think.

Everyone should understand and recognise the contribution they make to the bigger picture, so make sure they understand the part they play and are recognised, though it’s also sensible to think about how you can encourage staff to work together to achieve bigger things.

Tis the season…

Finally knowing your employees, and providing the right incentives for them to do their best, will result in more productivity and a general “feel good” factor.  Let your staff know about the Christmas plans for your office and get in the spirit with them.

  1. Offer staff a couple of days of festive flexible hours throughout the month, allowing them to re-arrange their hours, working later or starting earlier, so they can balance work with parties, shopping and being with their family.
  2. Relax staff dress codes. There’s no need for them to wear suits every day, if workers aren’t in a customer-facing role.
  3. Organise the Christmas party or team lunch.  If you don’t have a budget, ask workers to bring their own in nibbles, you provide the drinks and have an office picnic with a token gift for employees to take home.
  4. Introduce ad-hoc prizes for staff who hit their targets over the run up to Christmas, such as a bottle of champagne, or theatre tokens.

TheHRhub is the ultimate online HR support service for Startups and SMEs – providing software, templates, expert advice, whitepapers and up to date news and views, straight to your mobile or tablet. It’s like having an HR director in your pocket but without the price tag!

Call us on 0203 627 7048 or drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk for a no-strings chat about your HR needs.

Virtual Reality: How Do You Manage Remote Employees?

Virtual Reality: How Do You Manage Remote Employees?

A recent survey by Timewise found that 63 per cent of permanent, full-time staff enjoy some degree of flexible working – including working from home & flexible hours. Indeed in our own client base, of mostly technology and business services based businesses, we estimate that this figure is closer to 95%, showing that those doing 9-5 in the office, really are fast-becoming the minority. Added into mix the other shifts in the workforce of today which include the rise of the gig economy and the increasing use of freelancers, SME leaders who have such flexible and diverse workforces are now being presented with even more interesting challenges when it comes to management. 

Because although the cost benefits of working with remote teams can be a no-brainer, managing employees across different locations (and sometimes time zones) is an entirely new skill in itself. If not done effectively, these virtual teams can become a real headache, lead to unsatisfied, disconnected employees and in some cases even negatively affect your customers. 

First off, you’ll need to take the time to work out how you want to manage the teams first: some may prefer to micro manage and use technology as their control (one company I know makes a point of sharing with any new employees the fact that they collect data on their key strokes whilst working away from the office….) however our experience has shown that this leads to a quickly deteriorating relationship between you and them. Or alternatively empower all with a simple results-only approach, something which can leave the employee feeling autonomous ( although please note that this shouldn’t be confused with a total absence of contact with your employees from one week to the next & does require clarity over the results actually needed and the support to get there…).

You should also help your managers develop these skills, it can be pretty daunting to be given the task to build up rapport with teams you may never meet face to face, so put some measures in place to encourage relationships to be built and avoid the team becoming too reliant on purely communicating electronically.  Phone calls and Skype can be great at over riding the initial awkwardness and getting people to connect in a more ‘normal’ manner.

Yikes! If you feel like this could be a problem waiting to happen for your growing business, get on the case now, read on for our top 10 tips to managing remote employees:

  1. Hire The Right Skills

You need ‘doers’: people you can trust to just get on with the job, without you holding their hand all the time. So we would always recommend assessing their result-orientation as part of the assessment process.  Great communication skills are also a must here, as you need people who recognise the importance of constantly keeping their colleagues in the loop and building relationships from afar. 

  1. Hire The Right Managers (& support them)

If you decide to delegate the day to day management of your virtual team members then of course you need to ensure you’ve got the right managers in place. They need to be comfortable with a more results-based style of performance management and giving their direct reports the space to approach tasks in their own way (without dictating to them how to do it). They will however be required to offer a lot of support and encouragement to their virtual team (often more than those who are sitting next to them and interact with them on a more regular basis), so a positive outlook and approachable demeanour are hugely important. A flexible mindset is also key: managing effectively across different locations and time zones is always not a 9-5 job …

  1. Onboard Carefully

On-boarding is even more important with remote workers than office-based ones, as it can be even harder (and take longer) to make them feel like part of the team. Bear in mind that sometimes they won’t meet their team for months after they’ve joined, this part needs to be as friendly and welcoming as possible & what goes on in real life (introduction, shaking hands, high fives if you’re than way inclined…. etc) can be translated into Slack and Skype just as easily with a bit of effort. In addition to a lot of 1:1 support, being clear over objectives & encouraging the team to interact, make sure you have a raft of suitable introductory videos for them to digest for the bits of ‘downtime’. And these shouldn’t just be on training, but also on the vision and culture of the business as well. To a certain extent the onus is on you to- after a full briefing – take a step back and leave them to it.

  1. Have Clearly Defined Ways Of Working

Well thought-out processes provide structure and direction for getting things done – wherever you are and whatever time it is. Project management and other software can be especially helpful here, but just as important are what norms are expected: when, with whom and how often you are expected to share information and for what purpose. There are an equal amount of businesses where 1-2-1 email is still very much encouraged as there are those who copy everyone and anyone into every email, so be clear on what type of working processes there are in yours to reduce the stress of the team and encourage efficiency in this regard. 

  1. Make Document Sharing A Priority

One of the most important virtual team disciplines is how the team shares and edits information. Dropbox, Googedrive, OneDrive as well as a whole host of other document sharing systems are a godsend here, however in addition to being clear over what is used for which information, be sure to share any security protocols with the team when you use these too (I still haven’t forgotten the moment when one unfortunate new member of a team I was working with deleted three month’s work overnight…).

  1. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

You won’t be bumping into each other in the corridor, so the emphasis with virtual teams is on the leader in particular to make an effort to stay in touch and keep channels of communication open. Constantly ensure your virtual team members know what they are supposed to be doing and how this fits into the bigger picture of the business as a whole. Reiterate your business objectives and vision throughout the year and remember that your culture and values are being reiterated with every interaction you have with them. Which is the right  method of communication is important too: Instant messaging is great for quick team interactions & keeping people in the loop, video chat is great for team meetings to ensure non-verbal cues are communicated also however if members of your team work in different time zones, make sure that you have an overlapping period where everyone is working and organise your virtual meetings during these times. Got anything sensitive? Give the general Slack/Convo channel a wide berth and book in that 1-2-1 phone call……

  1. Create A Team Culture

If people know what’s going on and what they’re all working towards, then you’re one step closer to this, however you’ll need to make a bit of an extra effort initially to make sure this really sticks. Some I know encourage leaderboards on their software in all sorts of areas (from steps to sales made) to try and encourage a bit of healthy competition and camaraderie. Another set out to lead by example by assigning a member of staff an extra role to make sure all events are loaded up and shared with everyone (until it became the norm for everyone to do the same). And always mark birthdays and other special occasions with some sort of a card / gift (of even gif??), remembering the typical whip round no longer applies, but that most love a nod on their special day still!

  1. Promote Individual Accountability

Whilst how virtual employees complete their tasks should be largely down to them, they must still be accountable for their contribution – and have it recognised. A message board where everyone posts what they’ve done that week is a good idea as are monthly one to ones, as is using online performance management software to help transparency, such as 7geese .

  1. Provide A Means For People To Give Feedback Easily

Understandably, it may take some virtual team members longer to feel comfortable enough to give constructive feedback. Set up a feedback portal to ensure that any issues or frustrations are addressed and that no fresh ideas are missed: there is tonnes of software out there to help this on a more structured way (CultureAmp and Peakon are just two which spring to mind right now), but as with the general communication, lead by example and share your own feedback first in an open way which encourages others to do the same.

  1. Get Everyone Together Once In A While

Working on one’s own suits many people down to the ground. But to develop and reinforce an even better team dynamic, individuals should see each other face to face and get to know each other. In Real Life. Team away days needn’t cost the earth and are often the number one way to help improve team efficiency.

TheHRhub is the ultimate HR support service for startups and SMEs. For advice and help on any HR issue contact us today on 0203 627 7048 or drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk

Image : Twenty20

We don’t all jump for money – other ways to motivate sales teams

Having a motivated sales team is crucial to the success of any business. The relationships they build, create the foundation of your business, selling your brand or product to clients and customers.  This is not just in terms of individual sales, but also your overall reputation and growth.

Of course money works as a motivator, financial incentives are hugely attractive, but sometimes employees need more than that to make them feel impactful, appreciated and part of the team. So the huge question is, just how can you motivate your sales team beyond the money?

A traditional sales structure would set targets and offer commission paid in line with reaching these. Others add in a “fun” route with contests, trips, tickets, dinners and other innovative rewards.  All of these things are great and have their place but in my experience sales professionals need more than gift cards or event tickets; they also want to succeed in their chosen profession by climbing up the ladder whilst having a fun and dynamic environment to work in.

Even by switching things around a little you can create a feeling of success, for example, additional incentives could be offered for winning new business rather than simply taking repeat orders.

This one sounds a little bonkers but how about rewarding people for not getting sales? Dan McGraw, founder and CEO of Fuelzee, said that one of the best ways his company learned about motivation was by rewarding the sales team for ‘no’s. “Every time someone got a ‘no’, we tracked it in our system, and the person with the most ‘no’s received a $100 gift card every week”, McGraw said.  ”This might sound crazy, but you get a lot of no’s when doing sales. The more no’s you get, the closer you are to getting a yes. The prize of getting a yes is way larger than $100, so you still wanted to get there. This nearly doubled our outbound calls and motivated the whole team.”

Have some fun/create a fun working environment. For some salespeople, the ability to have a little fun during work time is as much of a motivator as money (remember that your salespeople are working long hours and are in the office for a large proportion of their week). Common rewards for reaching sales goals include leaving work early, winning a team trip, a Big Boss lunch, or simply being given one hangover pass to be used at any time.  

How about getting your favourite song played when you finalise a deal, create a team dance move to rock out when you hit a target, circulate sales team quotes and gifs to increase office banter.  Fun in small spurts adds to the culture of your company and can be just as motivating and rewarding as the financial rewards you offer.  You should strive to create a fun sales environment where everyone wants to come into work every day.

Career progression is one of the most simple cost effective ways to motivate your sales team too. Although the fun and financial rewards work short term, sales employees, ultimately want to do well but also have the opportunity to get ahead in their careers. Intrinsic motivators such as development and personal growth play a huge part with a competitive sales team so don’t underestimate the power of offering training, and development opportunities, showing that you are supportive of allowing them to develop their skills to help move them to the next level or win that promotion

The simple things can also have an impact on your sales team’s motivation. The majority of employers (and not just those in the sales industry) now offer table football, ping pong tables and similar activities to be able to switch off, take a break and socialise. And although you might not think that a Ping-Pong table for the office would push people and drive behaviors, why not try it, from experience these types of incentives can make a real difference to team spirit.

When it comes to understanding how to motivate your sales team there is no simpler approach than asking them. You can do this via a survey, face-to- face or through team meetings but make sure that they understand that by giving their suggestions does not mean that you will put the reward in place. Gather ideas and suggestions and consider what works best for your business, employees and your culture.

These are some of the ideas you can use to motivate your sales team without just focusing on money. Try to keep things fresh in your business and consider what your employees want to see and use this as a basis to generate new innovative ideas.  By offering a variety of rewards, you stand a greater chance of having a motivator for every personality type on your team and developing all of your salespeople into top-tier team players. When your goals and their goals align, only the best things can happen.

For further information or advice and support on motivating your sales team join us at www.thehrhub.co.uk.

Image : Jared Sluyter

Is Pawternity Leave The Next Big Thing?

According to the RSPCA, around a half of UK households own a pet. Though there’s no legal right for employers to give their staff time off to look after an ill animal, or to help a new puppy settle in at their new home, ‘pawternity’ leave is something that’s being discussed more and more.

Though some might say it’s all a bit ridiculous and it’s taking things a step too far, there’s a strong argument for business owners to consider whether they should add some leeway into their policies and procedures for those whose children are of the furry variety. For many people, their animals are a big part of their family, and an illness or a death could be absolutely devastating. Would it really be reasonable to expect a member of staff to turn up to work and just get on with things under these circumstances?

On a similar note, many employers now allow pets in the workplace. Guide dogs can often be classed as a reasonable adjustment for those with certain disabilities, but plenty of businesses have opened up their doors to the pets of their workers too. It can enhance the mood of staff and offer them a little more flexibility.

Like we’ve mentioned, there’s no legislation on the matter, so it largely comes down to discretion. Statistically speaking though, it’s an issue that you’re likely to face at some point when you’re running a business and leading a team, so if your thinking of introducing four-legged friends to the office, here’s some tips to keep you out of the dog-house:

Top 5 Tips For A Pet-Friendly Workplace

  • Consider those with allergies or those who are afraid/uncomfortable around dogs – your responsibilities lie with the health and wellbeing of all your employees first. Ask them if there is any way around their issue. If not, it may well be a non-starter
  • Have designated ‘Pet Free’ as well as ‘Pet Friendly’ areas – and ensure dogs are on a lead or in a crate at all times
  • Specify that only housetrained, defleaed and well-socialised dogs are suitable candidates
  • Limit the number of dogs in the office at any one time – just one is fine…
  • Ensure the office is safe for pets – protect furry friends from hazards such as loose cables and open bins

theHRhub is the ultimate online HR support service for Startups and SMEs – providing software, templates, expert advice, whitepapers and up to date news and views, straight to your mobile or tablet. It’s like having an HR director in your pocket but without the price tag!

Call us on 0203 627 7048 or drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk for a no-strings chat about your HR needs – large or small!