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It’s no longer Sci Fi, the workplace really is going AI

Alexa and Siri have appeared in our homes, now the workplace looks set to embrace the world of artificial intelligence (AI).  With Apple making moves to build up its artificial intelligence talent this week, it’s safe to say that this is now very much on future business radars.  

Many have speculated that its increasing popularity and sophistication will replace human workers, and employees should be concerned. In fact, recent research from Bersin by Deloitte found that 33% of workers expect their jobs to be augmented by AI in the near future.

It surely does sound a bit far fetched but it’s certainly true that many businesses could benefit from considering how to better harness AI and use it to support and refine existing processes. But how exactly? And what will the future really look like?

Interestingly, it’s been suggested that AI could rid the recruitment process of human bias. It could screen the characteristics and qualifications of those who exceed in certain roles, and assess candidates through screening and selection activities. Choosing the right member of staff doesn’t get much more scientific than that, although on the flip side how often have you seen the perfect candidate on paper then realised they just wouldn’t fit in with your company culture.

AI could also allow leaders to be just that – leaders. When admin tasks are largely automated, it frees up time to focus on motivating a team of staff. So whilst many are worried about technology replacing people, it could be argued that it will allow individuals to really hone in on their soft skills and their ability to lead.

Of course, much of this is speculation. If one thing’s for sure though, it’s that we’re entering a new frontier in the world of work and employment, and opportunities and challenges will exist that we probably haven’t ever even considered before. According to The World Economic Forum 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in new job types that don’t even exist yet.

Are you excited about what the future holds? And will you be looking at ways to automate more of your operations? 

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Credit: Photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash

SMEs & HR Data – The Top Ten Metrics You Should Be Tracking

A lot has been written recently about BIG DATA. And I’m not surprised. It has revolutionized the way many companies approach decision-making regarding their people in the quest to improve their bottom line. But what about the data which comes out of businesses who don’t have an army of analysts sitting in their backrooms, frantically researching the important correlations between the amount of jelly beans consumed in a day versus time spent on ‘rest breaks’*? Those who don’t have the volume of data required for this activity, and/or can’t afford to hire the skill set to do this? What about small data?

While most SMEs don’t have the same abundance of people data as the Big Girls and Boys, that doesn’t mean that predictive analytics and deriving meaning from data is totally out of reach for them either. ‘Small Data’ can be useful too; it’s just a question of cutting your cloth accordingly.

The good news is that there are lots of HR experts in SMEs around the country who love gathering data and have been doing so on a small scale for years, using it to influence decision making and track what’s working and what’s not. Sure, they may not be able to create a dashboard which looks like Joseph’s Technicolour Dream Coat. But they sure as hell know what data signals things are about to go belly-up. The even better news is that this type of data and insight is accessible to all SMEs even without an in-house expert: just work with the data you have whilst you build it all up. And go back as far as you can to spot the trends.

Start simple. And think about the things you really care about.

After some debate within the team, these are our top ten HR baseline measurements for SMEs:

  1. Time to Hire: Not to be confused with cost-per-hire (a related but distant cousin in efficiency metrics). A low time to hire affords minimum business disruption and can indicate a strong employee brand.
  2. Quality of hire: There is no one standard metric here. Productivity, cultural fit and 360 view can all play a part. A very crude way to look at it is at the end of a 6 month period (no less), answer the question “Would you hire this person again?”.
  3. Recruitment channels: In the same way the ‘ultimate’ question for your customers is “would you recommend us to a friend?, the referral rate reveals the same from your internal customers – your staff. Too high and you risk having a diversity issue, but too low, and it can indicate your people just ain’t believing in you…
  4. Voluntary Turnover (they walk out of the door): High turnover can indicate a lack of engagement, leadership and/ or poor recruiting process.
  5. Involuntary Turnover (you push them out of the door): High figures here can indicate a lack of management skills and/ or poor recruiting process.
  6. Performance issues: I use the term ‘issues’ rather than disciplinaries, as often they never get to become a formal disciplinary case. Tracking these at management level can give incredible insight into skills and expectations of staff.
  7. Complaints (aka. grievances): Starting from when these are voiced, rather than when they become responded to as a formal grievance, the number of complaints can be an indicator of engagement, organisational health and management skills.
  8. Time spent on ‘noise’: Not a traditional measure you see in many Business Balanced Scorecards, however I would argue that given how significant the time taken to discuss issues with people can be (restructures, rumblings, pay etc.), this is one you should start tracking to show how smoothly (or not) things are going in the business.
  9. Absence rates: Either as a percentage of time or a score such as the Bradford factor (the premise of this being that a high volume of short days is more disruptive to a business than long periods of singular absence), these can be an indication of the obvious workplace risks but the less obvious engagement and management skills and should be used carefully as they really only give you any meaning once you go above 12 months of data.
  10. Employee happiness score: I put this one last but for many this is the only employee score considered. A happiness score should not be taken as the ‘employee magic’ score (there are other surveys which can measure that & are the sum total of all of the majority of these metrics listed here), but at its most basic, feedback from your team should be taken at regular intervals (better to ask 1 question once a month and score it rather than 50 on an annual basis) and acted upon immediately. This builds trust and keeps the involvement high.

You don’t need to measure all of these – I have seen firms disappear up their backsides trying to cover every eventuality. But if you get into the hang of doing just a few at least once a month when totting up all your other numbers, then in just a few months time you will already have some pretty powerful insight to feed into your decision-making going forward. Wondering if that staff jolly ‘did it’ for the team who went to Tenerife? Or whether your reiteration of the vision and values had any impact? Look no further… Add in some costs around average salary (for managers and all staff) and relevant customer data and very quickly you’ve got yourself several nifty ways in which to work out how you could influence your costs and, more importantly, your bottom line.

*A joke. I have never seen such a study (although it honestly wouldn’t surprise me if there had been one…..)

Photo Credit: Analysing Financial Data by Dave Dugdale

New Ruling About Private Messaging: Do You Want To Be known As Snoopy?

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that employers can justify reading their workers’ online private messages.

An engineer in Romania asked the judges to rule that his employer had breached his right to confidential correspondence, but it was ultimately decided that the individual had broken the terms of his employment by sending messages on company time. Interesting, the ECHR commented that it wasn’t “unreasonable that an employer would want to verify that employees were completing their professional tasks during working hours”.

Now of course, this raises some very topical issues for employers: messaging platforms like Facebook/ WhatsApp/ Twitter/ or whatever are very much part of our day-to-day lives and you’d probably be hard pushed to find an employee who hadn’t used one of these even within the past 24 hours.

We’re all more connected than ever, and these sites and apps put communication and distraction right in the palm of our hands.

Maybe it’s something that you’ve been concerned about before. After all, it’s your job to make sure that everyone’s performing to the best of their ability, and it’s not difficult to see how modern technology could easily sway your staff away from their roles and responsibilities. It’s worthwhile taking a little step back here though and thinking about the bigger picture. Does this mean that you can snoop on your employees, and access their personal conversations on a whim? No, of course not. Legislation and regulations aside, it would be a breach of their confidentiality in most cases, and it would certainly do you no favours in terms of creating trust and fostering good relationships with your team.

The value of a little common sense is often overlooked, and it certainly applies here. But that doesn’t mean that you should bury your head in the sand. If you don’t have a clear and considered approach to the use of social media and private messaging in the workplace, then you could be leaving yourself wide open for problems in the very near future. Not sure where to start? We can help. Here are some practical tips for ensuring that your business is prepared for bumps in the road:

  • Create a clear policy about the use of social media and private messaging in the workplace, and ensure that it’s communicated to all members of staff. This way, everyone knows what’s expected of them, and it’s easy to see when boundaries have been crossed.
  • Make sure that you cover not only what you expect from your employees, but also your own rights and responsibilities. If it’s not explicitly stated that you can access communications, then you should err on the side of caution and assume that this would be unacceptable
  • Be reasonable. Many employers allow some use of social media and online messaging in the workplace. Unless your staff are customer-facing and it could cause problems in terms of service, or there are safety issues to consider, then a degree of flexibility could serve you well. As long as there are boundaries in place, there’s often not really the need to enforce an outright ban
  • Recognise that this isn’t just an HR issue. When it comes to how your business handles data and information, you need to make sure that you’re taking a strategic approach that encompasses all the company’s functions. Could it be time to rethink your practices and procedures?

It’s pretty unlikely that this case will be the only one of its kind. In fact, the use of personal technology in the workplace is an issue that’s likely to rear its head, in some shape or form, for every single employer.