School’s out for (what seems like..) forever right now. It shouldn’t be that time of year again… This calendar month is not the one where we are supposed to be winding down into the Summer holidays: a time when ‘juggling’ skills become paramount as parents across the land dread balancing their work deliverables with the fact that their kids have 6 weeks plus holiday stretching out in front of them. But yet here we are. In May. Finding ourselves weaving in our work and home life on a scale never seen before.
For many in your teams, initially working from home may have been a joy to remove from the commute and a time to show how productive one can be without the daily “ do you want another coffee?”. Yet for 7.9 million households where workers have dependent children (and particularly those with under tens who will remember this time as a very ‘special’ time indeed….), the challenges presented by working from home when your kids are off school/ nursery can test even those with the patience of Job.
Indeed many years ago when mine were much younger, I experienced my first very own ‘BBC’ moment when a newly acquired client called up to discuss a very sensitive situation with their team. Thinking both sons were napping, I took the call, put on my most professional voice, only for my son to start hollering about his nappy activities. He’s always been articulate (and did I mention loud?), so there was no doubt whatsoever about the cause of his complaint, although said client did his best to be British in the situation and completely ignore that this was happening …..
It’s been a few years since then and between us at TheHRhub now, we now have a bevvy of children aged between 1 and 15. But whilst the experience of working flexibly over time has given us some insight into how to do this, managing your work and your children 24/7 without external childcare, presents even greater challenges than we’ve seen before. So we’ve pulled together our own tips about managing to keep on top of things, without losing your cool:
- Plan to Fail: Turn ordinary planning on it’s head and assume that whatever you plan for will not stick. Instead, plan for alternatives. Yes, you may have your day mapped out on a visual planner, colour coded and brimming with unicorns so that all know what is going on and the kids can look forward to the fun times as well as see when you have your less ‘fun’ (i.e work!) plans too. But it’s 100% guaranteed that your kids will have other plans about how they want to spend the day…. So plan what alternatives you have when the ‘schedule’ backfires: activities, doing the more thought intensive work with them on your lap or in front of the telly ( yes, we all have those things we can do with one eye on things). I’m also a big fan of bribery at these times & would propose the liberal use of star charts to nudge along.
- Be elastic with your team: There’s not a person on Zoom/ Skype/ Hangouts who hasn’t been interrupted at some point by a chatty/ screaming child or voices in the background. This is life at the moment and unless you have the unlikely scenario of a fleet of nannies waiting in your cupboard, there isn’t a damn thing anyone can do about it. So not only tell your team you are relaxed but show them too, by inviting in your own family to come and say Hi if they’re about.
- Show trust and reasonableness in timings: If there’s a hard deadline for something then make someone aware of this in advance ( and not on the day). But make sure that your team knows you are not going to be checking in every five minutes and are comfortable in trusting all to manage themselves and their time: this way if they need to take the kids out to the park before frustration and fight levels reach DEFCON Five, then they can do so as they feel the need to feel guilt about it because it’s in ‘work time’.
- Working Time Extended: Not in an effort to make people work for longer each day. But to give people the opportunity to start later, intersperse their days with breaks to focus on their kids and manage all that they need to do in the best way possible. In the words of my own teenager: 9-5 is sooooo dead….
- One Size (Doesn’t) Fit All: It’s unlikely what’s going to work for someone with a two and three year old is going to be the same for a twelve year old at home, so recognise that there’s no one-size fits all approach and talk to your team about what might work best for them.
- Be prepared to offer/ take ‘holiday’: we may not be able to escape at the moment to that gorgeous villa in the sun or the yearned for city break in Barcelona, but by taking some of our annual leave and not focussing on work, could help many out by reducing stress levels in order to focus on just one area.
Fancy a chat? We don’t need to Zoom ( yes, we’re getting sick of it now too!!). Give us a bell on 0203 627 7048 or email on firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get right back to you.
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Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash
There will be good days and bad days for all of you at the moment as you navigate what the impact of Covid-19 means to your colleagues, your teams and your business. And although you will of course be considerate and supportive of the wider team, we know that this situation is likely to be just as tough for you, as it is for them. Often more so, as you also might be feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders in leading at a time when the business pressures are unlike any most have ever seen and many of the answers are unknown.
A Black Swan event is largely described as an unexpected one that has a disproportionate and disastrous effect on our economic world: think Dot Com crash in 2001 and Financial crisis of 2008. The biggies that we all know and remember. Brexit may have been deemed one of them until recently, when the ‘C’ word has well and truly knocked it out of the park.
During such periods of disruption and change that accompany these events, people respond at different levels of intensity and speed, but my experience is that we are pretty predictable in following the Kubler-Ross ‘change’ curve, the model used to describe an individual reaction to grief and death, but which can often be applied to general responses to circumstances and which has also become known simply as the ‘Change Curve’ in the decades since the first research was undertaken.
As a leader of your business, the ‘Change Curve’ is a useful model to understand: for now, and planning for the future. Not just with regards to understanding the reactions which your team may be having and behaviour being displayed, but because it can also help to understand, navigate and adapt your own feelings and behaviour. The last 3 weeks have brought shock and panic to most, followed by confusion and possibly anger as many realised how fast the impact of this would make on their businesses and then themselves (for many business owners of course, this is one and the same).
Self doubt often accompanies these stages and at its worst, it develops into a form of depression: Why couldn’t I see this coming? Why didn’t I plan something different? What am I going to do now? During this stage, productivity starts to drop and the focus on self takes over. However the good news is that – provided you don’t languish in those darker stages for too long – the next few weeks have the potential to offer something much brighter for you, as the fighter in you adapts and develops to seek new opportunities.
You wouldn’t think that breadmaking as an activity was synonymous with energy, but it appears to be an unlikely, yet splendid, example of individuals taking actions to move themselves forward along this curve. This weekend, as images flood social media and family whatsapp groups of various batches, explanations I’ve read of our current obsession, talk of people doing this to tap into their unconscious feelings to retain a sense of control. Something we all need as a basis for moving forward.
Bread not your ‘thing’? From a business perspective – and assuming you’re not a bakery that is – what else can you do to gain this control and propel yourself forward to the ‘Acceptance’ side of the curve:
- Keep talking to yourself: No, really… Start with the positives each day: what are you grateful for; what have you enjoyed the day before. I promise it will help.
- Keep talking to others: other members of your leadership team or (if you don’t have one of those) your networking groups or advisors (we’ve been in conversations with most of our clients in the last couple of weeks and please be assured that our conversation extends way beyond HR if you’re free & keen!)
- Stick with some of your routines: team meetings are good as they form consistent conversations and adapt to what you are doing already. It’s likely that you have increased these in the last few weeks, however as we settle into the ‘new’ norms, be careful not to overload them or have them so frequently that you put pressure on yourself to be able to come up with answers you don’t yet have or that people won’t have actually managed to do anything agreed since the last one… For a bit of a refresher on how to get the most out of working from home generally, read (or re-read) our own general guidance here
- And increase the frequency of others: most will agree that you need to be on top of your finances more than ever right now, making sure you scenario plan for different forecasts.
- Allow yourself time: by all means have a brief pity party for yourself – it’s an acknowledgement of the impact of this and shouldn’t be glossed over – but use the time you have to think of as many different ideas as you can think of for your business. Most business owners I know are not short of these, and many have come up with some of the best ideas they’ve had whilst on holiday. Whilst I’m not pretending this is a holiday for anyone, there may be times you have (gardening this Easter break at all?) when you can tap into your own innovation and start to imagine a post-Covid world and how this might look different. On your own – be it in your head or doodling – you can rip up the rule book all you want and the world really is your oyster. This in itself is motivating and helps provide a lift to most.
- Decisions, decisions….: Most of you will have made some tough decisions already ( furlough, redundancy and cost cutting to name a few) and there are a few ones which will come from external forces, but the decisions I refer to here are the ones which you can take yourself which will take you mentally forward once you’ve evaluated some of your ideas. Want to develop new products or services? Double down on your purpose or client group? Or change it completely? These are the ones which I see as the opportunity for the next few weeks. Most of you will have a strong degree of impatience at your core and won’t be content to sit and wait ‘and see what happens’ , so can use the next few weeks to crystallize your decision making about the direction of your business.
In the words of the late, great David Bowie: turn and face the strange 🙂
We definitely can’t predict when this will end, but we can definitely be here to support you through it. For any help you need – or even if it’s just a chat you’re after – drop us a line via email@example.com or call 0207 627 7048.
Most leaders would be quick to say that having high performing teams are near the top of their wish list for things they want to have in their business, but in my experience most also dread getting their head around performance management as a strategic way to achieving this. And often it’s for fear of being overwhelmed, not getting it ‘right’ and/or not finding the time.
I absolutely understand all of those things. But the truth is that the longer you put off addressing performance any more than holding the occasional 1-2-1 meeting, the more overwhelming it will seem. There is no ‘perfect’ system, no ‘wrong’ way to do it and you will find the time once you realise how beneficial it can be for you personally, as well as for achieving your overall business goals.
Have no fear however. See below for a helping hand in getting you moving and taking your performance practices to the next level:
- Create a business process that actually, well, supports the business….. Performance management appears to have found it’s home with HR over the years, but the reality is that any performance process is a business one which should support the overall goals of the team and be culturally right. So if you’re not a formal kind of place, don’t overegg the forms and language. If you’re an agile kind of business, make sure your conversations are little and often too. If you haven’t recently reviewed your own process to see if it’s supporting your team, then take this as a reminder to do so.
- Design a framework to manage conversations There needs to be a degree of flexibility in your conversations, and each and every member of staff will be different. Still though, having a framework that allows you to structure the meetings and cover key points is essential. For the record those mostly include setting expectations (via goals/ objectives/ OKRS etc), developing to meet those, reviewing performance and rewarding said performance. Exactly what you decide to include at each stage will depend on the nature of your business however as a hint – for most people, annual objectives are a tad too long to be relevant. Ditto for checking in.
- Try focussing on strengths: As with writing any contract, policy or process, assume that you are creating it for the 99% of employees who are competent and want to do a great job and spend time focussing on what people have done well, rather than ‘fixing’ what you think needs correcting in an employee’s behaviour or performance. Evidence from the CIPD (Strengths-based performance conversations 2017) found that focussing on an individual’s strengths during these conversations improved personal conversations between the manager and employees as well as the frequency.
- Be future focussed: Likewise to the point above, don’t spend the valuable time you have dwelling on the past. If you’ve been having reasonably regular 1-2-1’s, you shouldn’t need to re-hash events which have gone before – a summary should be enough. The rest of the time should be focused on what the individual has learned from the past and how that’s going to help them in the future in terms of their career objectives.
- Upskill your managers who are taking part: As your business grows, it’s unlikely that you will be able to manage all the performance discussions. The responsibility will be passed over to your other managers, and this of course makes sense if they are the ones who staff report to on a daily basis. What you need to think about here is how you’re ensuring that these managers have the appropriate skills and training. Are they confident with the task? Do they understand its importance? And are they operating within the policies and frameworks that you have created? One-off interventions can be useful but for more sustained change and impact on behaviours, it’s best to look at a longer term programme to help them.
- Involve others: Some people think that a performance discussion simply involves the member of staff being ‘talked at’ for half an hour. This should never be the case and research shows that an individual is more likely to feel invested in the outcomes and actions of any performance conversations or ratings (if you go down that road) if they have also given the chance to have their say. Always ask individuals to share their thoughts on how they’ve performed over the past quarter, and what they think they need to focus on in the near future. Not only might you unearth important information that you hadn’t previously thought about, but making it a two-way conversation shows your staff that you respect and value their contribution.
- Welcome feedback on your own performance : You no doubt spend a decent amount of time thinking about how you can get the most out of your team. But have you stopped to think about how you’re performing as a boss? If you’re not already doing so, think about how you might be able to collect meaningful and honest feedback from your members of staff. Being a good leader is an ongoing process, and you need to have continuous development on your list of priorities, always.
Need a little help getting started?
If you’ve recognised that your performance management processes have some room for improvement, then get in touch. We can help you to assess where you are right now, and where you need to make changes. Get in contact via firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0203 627 7048 for your no-obligation chat.
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Pull out your coats and put the flip flops back in the loft. Although we have a few more days until it’s officially ‘Autumn’, the gentle chill is already here. For me, like many, September is my preferred ‘January’: the time where I sort out what’s going on across all areas of my life, reset my goals and generally set myself up as best I can for full steam ahead to the end of the year.
And because I find that a little organisation can go a long way to helping me hit my goals, I get my metaphorical rubber gloves on and do a bit of an audit on everything in my business which has been slightly bugging me, before lining up everything I need to focus on hitting my goals in each part of it. The unsightly paperwork that was lurking for so long on my desk that I filed it in a ‘boring but important’ folder where I couldn’t see it? Or the nagging question I never got around to asking my accountant yet? Yep, they’re both on my to-do list for this month.
Same with your People. You might feel like you have your work cut out for you, but we want to lighten that load though, and give you the tools and prompts that you need to get focused, and do the work that really matters. Below therefore is a quick checklist to help keep you on course for success for the rest of the year:
- Ensure that everyone has goals to be working towards toward the end of the year : There’s often a bit of a slump in productivity at this time of year. After the excitement and de-stressing for many of Summer, the mood can suddenly dampen, and you can find yourself with a problem when it comes to ensuring that the work gets done with gusto and enthusiasm. You can prevent this by getting your team together and spending time with them individually, reassessing priorities, and agreeing goals to inject motivation. Communication is key here, so be sure to lead with positivity and enthusiasm and remember to explain ‘why’ these are important….
- Consider how to increase your business capability: If you’ve assessed your organisational goals, you’ll be clear on what capabilities your team need in order to deliver what is going to drive you forward as a business and give you the edge you need. Many of your team will also be coming to work having thought about what else they’d like to do in terms of skills/ roles/ development. Recognise this, and use it to your advantage. Talk to them about what you will need longer term and consider how you can encourage staff to step up and develop their skills and talents outside of just their existing role. Formal training is an option, but it’s not the only route that you can take. Consider coaching, mentoring, and untapped opportunities for development that already exist in your business.
- Double check your basics: No Autumn Clean would be complete without looking at some of your basics and whilst I would be the first person to say that a document is unlikely to be the thing which spearheads high performance in every corner, your HR policies and procedures should never just be documents that gather dust on your hard drive and are never again looked after once they’ve been created. By regularly reviewing their effectiveness, and assessing whether they are fit for purpose, you should take a look at them with a critical eye and ask yourself: Do they help you run the business? Do they answer questions which others still come to you for? Are they really being applied on a daily basis? Are there any gaps that you need to fill? Do your staff even know they exist?
- Plan your development as a leader: Don’t forget yourself in all of this…. It’s likely that you have already considered how you will increase your staff’s capability this year. But what about YOU? As the leader of your business, it’s essential that you’re continuously developing your own skills. Running a business is challenging, and it absolutely must be a process of learning and growing. If you know that you struggle with a certain area, then it could be time to overcome that, or bring in help to make sure that your business doesn’t suffer as a result. I’ve recently signed up to an online business coaching course (after months of telling myself I simply didn’t have time to do anything like this…) to give me support with a few key things and whilst it’s early days, I ultimately recognise that I investing in myself (as I wouldn’t hesitate to do with others), will provide significant benefits.
- Reach out and get the help you need: As your business grows, you quickly discover that you can’t do everything on your own. There aren’t enough hours in the day, and you can’t be expected to be good at everything! To achieve your big goals, you’ll need to consider how you are growing your team of expert advisors.
If you know that your HR practices and procedures need work, then we can help. No-one is an expert on everything and if you’re looking for an affordable way to outsource some of your People practices, then get in touch today at email@example.com or 0203 627 7048 to arrange a chat. No strings attached. Just a frank discussion about how we can help you.
Image: Unsplash: Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash
As the Summer stretches out before us and much needed holidays are almost within touching distance, like many in my shoes, my workload expands from my normal work-work, to incorporate the role of COO (Chief Organising Officer) of my household. It’s a role I never really interviewed for and which I’m also not sure I’m totally qualified for either… but one which is made infinitely more manageable by the most basic of things: checklists!
As a teenager, I used to tease my best friend mercilessly about her love of checklists: her ability to turn any event into one needing such a list remains unrivalled by even the strongest of Project Managers I have met to date . However I have grown to make these lists my friend in latter years and find they are the only way that I get through any busy period, ensuring dogs, children and sometimes even me too, have everything we need for a smooth and enjoyable Summer time. Packing checklist? Check. Activities checklist? Check. Menu plan checklist? Check!
They’re also invaluable on the ‘work’ work front too: on boarding, off boarding, during boarding… you catch my drift. They are essentials which can be used for all manner of processes.
And it’s not just me who’s a fan of these brilliant basics. Google has been widely reported to have increased their news starter’s productivity by 25% as a result of sharing a simple but effective checklist for managers to follow the night before their new starters joined. Their checklist focusses on clarifying their roles and responsibilities, introducing them socially, setting up time to meet over the first few months, pairing them up with a buddy and practising open communications. But there are also other steps you can add which support the practical questions people need to know as soon as possible – “ how to print”/ “ Invite for lunch” etc
So in the spirit of helping you maintain a happy and healthy Summer at work, we’ve compiled a checklist of our own, descriptively-named …
Your Summer Checklist.
- Reflect on your progress to date this year against your goals
- Get feedback from your own team on your management style and behaviours (you can use when you reflect on your own goals and progress as you know you will do the minute your head hits the sun lounger…..)
- Schedule your end of Quarter reviews/ 1-2-1’s for your return and start drafting next Quarter’s goals with your team (even if not confirmed until post-Summer it’)
- Ensure all holidays for all the team are known
- Meet with all team members & use as an opportunity to give them feedback on their contribution to date
- Share who’s-going-to-cover-what whilst you’re away and that they know who to escalate anything to in your absence
- Surprise your team by letting them knock off early one evening or take them out to lunch
- Block out some time in your diary on your return to catch up on all progress
P.s We don’t need to tell you this part but just in case…
- Don’t bombard your team with emails whilst you’re on holiday (It smacks of not trusting them very much – instead make drafts if you’re overcome with inspiration to share with them …)
- Don’t email your team members whilst they are on holiday.
For any other HR queries – holidays or other – contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0203 627 7048
Bon Voyage 🙂
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For many, Glastonbury weekend heralds the start of an increasingly busy summer calendar of live cultural and sporting events. And more and more businesses are capturing some of this magic for their employees by hosting their own summer ‘do’.
Here, Matt Turner, founder and MD of Clownfish Events explains how work summer parties can be the perfect antidote to employee stress and gives us some great event theme ideas to boot…..
If work is stressing you and your team out at the moment, you’re not alone. Research shows that people in the UK work longer hours than anywhere else in Europe. Stress can be hugely detrimental to productivity and engagement, not to mention our wellbeing. Over 11 million days are lost at work every year because of stress, according to annual reports by the Health & Safety Executive. More significant to business owners is the £1.24bn cost to UK employers of these high levels of absenteeism.
Balance sheets aside, we all know about the powers of exercise and mindfulness for combating workplace stress; but one of the best (albeit rather underrated) antidotes is a well thought-out summer office party. Done right, it can recharge the batteries of the most jaded of employees, whilst boosting engagement and reinforcing cultural values at the same time.
The Rise & Rise Of The ‘Digital Detox’ Party
Given the contribution of smartphone addiction to stress levels, not to mention the current ‘always on’ culture, it’s unsurprising that Digital Detox parties are a huge trend at the moment, as employers opt for summer events that urge colleagues to re-connect face to face and share quality time away from their devices.
They can be surprisingly cost effective too. Think fires-side alongs: a tipi, firepit, cosy blankets, toasted marshmallows and maybe an open mic for coworkers to show off their talents. There’s no need for expensive catering or fine wines, but you could include a discreet photographer, so no one is tempted to use their phones and post the action on social media!
And a digital detox event is suitable for all brands, regardless of their specific cultural values, because it makes the vital connection between respecting work/life balance and the impact of proper downtime on mental wellbeing.
But if a detox isn’t needed for your team, and you’d like something more bespoke to your business, here are four more cost-effective options that can be used to convey specific brand values and create a consistent cultural experience that boosts employee engagement levels…
Creative Summer Party Themes That Reflect Specific Brand Values
- White Party – stylish, sophisticated and achingly cool.
This theme is ideal for luxury brands and high-end professional services companies that might also want to celebrate their organisation’s emphasis on promoting diversity and a cosmopolitan culture.
Think Mediterranean islands, white furniture and ambient lighting to recreate an exclusive holiday hotspot. Add a dance floor, DJ, chill out zone and plenty of entertainment for an event worthy of an A-list beach club.
Brand values: passion, attention to detail, diversity, dare to be different, simplicity, style
- Traditional English Fair – heritage, tradition, under-stated style and practicality.
This theme is great for brands that want to emphasise their British provenance as a sign of quality – like custom manufacturers, food and drink producers and ethical brands.
Choosing a garden party theme with traditional accents like deckchairs, bunting, fairground rides and side stalls (with some Pimm’s and strawberries thrown in!) is a great way to celebrate the summer, keeping costs down but still delivering an event that is unique and memorable.
Brand values: community, fun, quirky, sustainable, heritage, traditional.
- Sporting Fun – competitive, team spirited, entrepreneurial and spontaneous.
This theme is the perfect choice for challenger brands, start-ups and dynamic/fast moving industries where risk-taking is the norm.
With the FIFA Women’s World Cup this year and increasing numbers of companies wanting to promote health and wellness amongst employees, sporting challenges are likely be very popular this summer.
Brand values: excellence, growth orientated, teamwork, courage, commitment
- Boho Festival – glamorous and fun; a good fit for international brands looking to emphasise the importance of ‘down time’ and adventure.
If your employees are longing to be back at Glasto, why not bring the Pyramid Stage to them with music, hay bales and street food vendors.
Brand values: innovation, distinctive, creative, open-minded, sustainability
Summer Parties Are Quickly Overtaking Christmas Dos As The Must Have Annual Event
Whereas a Christmas party is often fairly traditional, summer events can be much better at conveying an employer’s brand values and reinforcing its personality. This is important for everyone but especially for millennials, who tend to value personal experiences, their employer’s values and a sense of feeling appreciated over material rewards.
Furthermore, they are flexible to organise, cost effective and a greater return on investment in terms of improving productivity. So why not take inspiration from Glastonbury, The FIFA Women’s World Cup or simply your local village fete and make your work summer party a legendary fixture in the event calendar for your team…
Matt Turner is the founder and MD of Clownfish Events. He started his first business aged 13, DJ-ing at community discos, and now runs themed events, team building and parties for some of the UK’s best known brands and business owners.