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HR Folks Might Be Highly Skilled But We Can’t Read Your Mind! Here’s How To Get The Most Out Of A Partnership

HR Folks Might Be Highly Skilled But We Can’t Read Your Mind! Here’s How To Get The Most Out Of A Partnership

As your business grows, you might decide that the time is right to start working with HR. It’s certainly true that having a people professional on hand and on your side can bring huge benefits, and it could be exactly what you need to create steady and manageable growth you’re after. But before setting the wheels in motion, it might be useful to take a step back and think about what you can do to ensure that any relationship reaches its full potential. Let’s explore the practical steps you can take.

Be Open And Honest About Absolutely Everything

When you first start to work with any kind of professional services, there’s always a period during which you’re still getting to know each other. You’ll be asked questions about business, and it can be tempting to try to gloss over the less attractive parts, and not be completely honest about your situation and how you’re feeling about it. Here at theHRhub we’ve seen (most of) it all before, and aren’t here to judge. We just need all the information you can give us – the good, the bad, and the ugly – so we can work out an action plan to get you to where you want to be.

Remember To Use Their Services Strategically

Many people first start working with an HR service  because they have a particular problem that they need expert assistance with right away. It could be an issue with a new recruit, or it would be a routine disciplinary matter that’s gone horribly wrong. It’s safe to say though that most business owners’ first contact with their HR service is the result of an operational matter. And that’s fine, of course. Sometimes, there are things that you can’t cope with yourself, that need to be tackled ASAP. If you really want to get the most out of your working relationship though, recognise the strategic value that is there for the taking. Engage in conversations about the future of your business, the big challenges you face, and how HR can help you to get you to where you want to be with less hassle and less fuss.

Speak Up When You Need Help

The world of HR, just like any industry out there, is full of jargon and terminology that you might not be familiar with. The good news here though is that we at theHRhub will break down everything you need to know, so it’s easy to understand and digest and so that you get to know your TUPE from your EAP. If there’s anything at all that you feel unsure about, don’t be afraid to speak up. As skilled as we are, we can’t read your mind! And we’re always more than happy to go that extra mile so you’re really reaping the benefits of having your own on-demand HR point of contact.

It’s normal to feel slightly overwhelmed at the thought of working with an HR service or consultant. You probably felt the same when you first called upon the services of your accountant. If you follow these steps though, teething problems can be avoided, and you’re likely to quickly discover that taking the plunge was the best decision that you’ve ever made.

Want to have a discussion about how all of this could work for you, in really practical terms? Drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk to book in a free consultation.

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.

It’s like having an HR Director in your pocket!

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Photocredit: Kenny Louie Ahhhhhhhh

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.

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.

Managing the practicalities of the Christmas workplace (without being a Grinch)

Managing the practicalities of the Christmas workplace (without being a Grinch)

Tis the season to be jolly…. but as a small business owner the idea of Christmas can understandably bring with it a slight feeling of dread. All that time off, the great wind down, the slow down from clients, lack of productivity and the season for winter bugs, it is a lot to contend with.

You are not on your own, every year at around this time, we receive a ton of questions about workplace issues at Christmas. From parties to time off and everything in between, is your business really ready for the festive period?  Don’t panic you are not a Scrooge to your office of Bob Cratchets, all of these are perfectly normal and practical questions to ask and we hear all of them, a lot, at this time of year.

Do I have to host a workplace party?

Unless a party is agreed to in the contract of employment, you don’t have to offer one. It’s worth noting here too though that if you’ve always held an event previously, it may be the case that it’s now expected. It’s true that parties can often throw up a range of HR headaches, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t celebrate with your employees and take the opportunity to thank them for their good work throughout the year. You don’t have to break the bank, and it could be a great morale booster. Remember New Year is around the corner with tempting new opportunities for your talent to eye up other options – so hosting a party, lunch or drinks is a nice touch to remind them that this is a great place to work.

What do I do if I suspect someone is throwing a sicky the day after the Christmas Party?

Unfortunately not a lot! Suspecting faking illness is incredibly hard to prove and a very sensitive subject.  You are much better off taking preventative action up front to discourage this behaviour.  Make your expectations clear, you are throwing this party for everyone to enjoy and celebrate the end of the year together, you expect everyone to be in the office the next day even if you are all feeling a little worse for wear.  If you are feeling generous, you could offer a slightly later start time to pre-empt any late excuses – or lay on some bacon butties to get them all back into action.

Do I have to grant all requests for time off?

No. It’s not always going to be possible to give all members of staff the exact leave that they request, and it goes without saying that you have operational requirements that you need to fulfill. What’s most important here is that your policy around leave requests is very clearly communicated, and that you take a fair approach.

Can I make employees take annual leave if I close down the place of work?

Yes. If you will be closing the workplace for a period of time over Christmas, you can require staff to take that time out of their leave allocation, as long as there is no agreement to the contrary. You do need to give appropriate notice though – you’ll find the festive spirit might be lacking if you only inform them right at the last minute! – and the arrangements should be covered in your relevant people policies.

What can I do to avoid any issues arising?

Communicate well with your team: understand what people are doing and when they have time planned off. Your role is to continue to motivate the team and being proactive could save you a load of time, money, and hassle. Take the opportunity now to ensure that your expectations over what needs delivering by year end are made crystal clear, ensure  any relevant policies are up to date, that your managers are onboard, and that you’ve pinpointed how to minimise any risk. You may even want to consider issuing a statement to staff about acceptable codes of behaviour ahead of any functions or events. 

If you know that you need to do some work to ensure that the festive season passes by without any hiccups, get in touch. We can help you to make any necessary changes, and provide you with the practical guidance you need.  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?

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

10 Top Tips For Managing A Virtual Team

With the rise of the gig economy and the increasing use of freelancers, SME leaders are increasingly finding themselves in the position of managing employees across different locations and time zones. This type of leadership requires a differently nuanced skill set to leading a team that you can see in front of you and, if not done effectively, can be real headache not only for you but for other members of your team and your customers.

Here are our top 10 tips to managing remote employees:

1. Hire The Right Team

You need ‘doers’ – people you can trust to just get on with the job, without you holding their hand. To a certain extent the onus is on you to, after a full briefing, take a step back and leave them to it. You also need to hire good communicators who recognise the importance of constantly keeping their colleagues in the loop.

2. Hire The Right Managers

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 line 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. 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 not a 9-5 job and may involve some travel.

3. Onboard Carefully

Onboarding is even more important with remote workers as it can be even harder to make them feel like part of the team. As well as a lot of 1:1 support, make sure you have a raft of suitable introductory videos for them to digest. And these shouldn’t just be on training, but also on the vision and culture of the business as well. Dedicated buddies and mentors are a crucial part of the onboarding process too.

4. 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 software can be especially helpful here.

5. Make Document Sharing A Priority

One of the most important virtual team disciplines is how the team shares and edits information. If you have a team project management tool then this may also have a facility to share files. If not good old Google Docs is a great alternative.

6. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

You won’t be bumping into each other in the corridor so the emphasis 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 remind them of the business’ culture and values on an annual basis at the least. It’s important to chose the right method of communication too. Instant messaging is great for quick team interactions, whilst video chat is the best option for team meetings to ensure non-verbal cues are communicated also. 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. Remember that anything potentially sensitive requires a 1:1 phone call.

7. Create A Team Culture

Keep them up to date on what’s going on in other parts of the business – so they always feel in the loop. Try and involve everyone somehow in important events and projects and find ways to celebrate success together – even its just adding a little bonus to their pay packet or sending a voucher. Always mark birthdays and other special occasions with a card or gift.

8. 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.

9. Provide A Means For Virtual Team Members 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.

10. Get Everyone Together Once In A While

Working on one’e own suits many people down to the ground. But to develop and reinforce a true team dynamic, individuals need to see each other face to face and get to know each other informally. 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: Canva