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School’s Out: Supporting Working Parents During Lockdown

School’s Out: Supporting Working Parents During Lockdown

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 hello@thehrhub.co.uk and we’ll get right back to you. 


Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Black Swans and Bread Making: Embracing The Strange

Black Swans and Bread Making: Embracing The Strange

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 hello@thehrhub.co.uk or call 0207 627 7048.

Tick Tick! Relax Into Summer With Your HR Checklist

Tick Tick! Relax Into Summer With Your HR Checklist

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 hello@thehrhub.co.uk or call 0203 627 7048

Bon Voyage 🙂

Photo by James Lee on Unsplash

Succession Planning For SMEs: Managing Promotions Without Starting An Internal War

Succession Planning For SMEs: Managing Promotions Without Starting An Internal War

Within SMEs, career development opportunities can seem few and far between. And within a small team, their impact can be huge. Here are our top tips on how to go about promoting from within – whilst keeping your team intact.

Succession Plan For All Roles

Take it from me, any time taken away from the coal face to think about the development  of your people will never be wasted time. Think carefully about who will be the successors for all roles – including yours – and don’t just go for the obvious. This strategic thinking could impact not only on your recruitment over the next few years but also on your team’s engagement and business strategy as a whole. As a small business grows, many early team members will be concerned that their impact may be diluted by a whole new senior team being recruited externally, so be open with the team about what opportunities there may be in the future and how they may be a part of this.

Be Realistic About Skills Gaps

Where possible, I would always try and recruit from within. If an internal candidate has 70% of what’s required to do the job and that extra 30% can be learnt in house – what are you wanting for? Give them a chance. Witnessing hard work and talent being rewarded can have such positive effect on the whole team. But sometimes, particularly with technically specific roles, to keep ahead of the competition you’ll need to bring the talent in. This can be huge investment, so make sure you do it properly with a well thought out recruitment campaign , carefully considered on boarding programme and (crucially) with the buy-in and/ or involvement of some of your existing team.

Create A Personalised L&D Plan For Each Individual

For every potential internal promotion, think carefully about how you as leader can help individuals get the skills they need to move up. Sometimes this may involve investment in external training. But in my experience some of the most valuable learning opportunities can be provided in-house. Mentorship programmes and job shadowing for example can be hugely valuable, for all parties involved. Empower the team to take ownership of their own learning too. One of my favourite ways to do this is to let each employee expense the odd ebook/podcast/periodical relevant to the business or their function and share their learnings with the team.

Bin The Annual Review

For me, yearly reviews have always seemed pretty pointless. Meet once a month if you can, but at least once every few months. Whilst catching up on operational issues and where team members are vs targets, check in on where they are at with their own development too to make sure it’s moving forward. There’s little point in having an personal development plan if that’s all it remains…. If you demonstrate to the team that their personal development is a priority for you (and action anything you’ll say you do promptly)  it’ll be a priority for them and become part of the culture at your organisation.

Be Conscious Of Those Left Behind

Seeing a close team member move up to a new role without you can be hugely demotivating whether you were in line for the role or not. Communication here is so important – and you must be in control of the messaging. The last thing you want is for your employees to find out about an internal promotion through the office jungle drums. Once you’ve made the decision, let them whole team know asap – ideally at the same time – what is going to be happening and why. And where possible, try and turn what could be a perceived set back into an opportunity for everyone, positioning it within the context of a team re-structure with enhanced roles/responsibilities for all. If you’re aware of a particular individual who might take the news especially badly, take them out for a chat to discuss specifically and head this off. Making sure its you they vent to (rather than others in the team!), will give you the chance to offer some explanation, words of support and help those sour grapes taste a little less bitter.

For help or advice on any HR issue get in touch today at hello@thehrhub.co.uk.co.uk or call 0203 627 7048 to speak to our team direct. We’re offering a free initial review to help you understand how to make the valuable changes to best support your business.

Image: Canva

It’s not you, it’s me: How to handle it when your employees say goodbye

It’s not you, it’s me: How to handle it when your employees say goodbye

A resignation – like being dumped – can often feel very personal. Particularly if the person in question has been with you for some time. Particularly if you think they are critical to your business. And particularly if you let it.

I mean, it’s sod’s law isn’t it? Just when you think everything is teed up to have a great 2018: Goals in place? Tick. Marketing lined up? Tick. Sales Pipeline trending the right way? Tick. – when someone pops their head around the door clutching an envelope and utters a few words in ‘that’ tone …”er, can we have a quick chat?’. And it’s the ones who are the most valuable to you which always hit you hardest.

Of course, not every resignation is bad news. If you are planning on going through a restructure or making redundancies and the person in question was going to be affected, then you may have just saved yourself a bit of heartache ( not to mention a few quid). But most are not wanted, downright annoying and expensive too.

With an average employee in the professional sector costing up to £30k to replace , the best way to ensure that you handle this well, is to prioritise keeping your team as you would your clients. And plan for it by doing some of the following:

  • At budgeting time, include staff turnover in your forecasting figures and set targets for turnover. The UK average is approximately 15% but this rises to closer to 20% in the digital sectors. You do need to keep new ideas flowing within the business and adapt to your changing model, so not all turnover is bad and it’s likely that you will want to see some movement to avoid becoming complacent, but set targets for this which you can check progress against. It’ll be less of a surprise.
  • Identify your ‘keepers’. The people which, if you lost, you would be stuffed. And then plan how you are going to to show them the love. To support them in what they want out of the business. Too many business leaders don’t take the time to speak to their teams on a 1-2-1 regular basis to uncover what it is that their people want and show support by their actions. Oh, for the times when I’ve seen an account manager hauled over the coals after a devastating client loss. “When did you last meet with them?” is often one of the first things their manager will ask after the bombshell has been dropped.” How did they seem? Were they unhappy? Did they say anything which gave you a clue?….”
  • Take the time to get to know your team. To know what they want out of life on a wider level than just what they are doing at work. I know it’ll come as a shock to many, but most people don’t simply dream of doing better at work! So find out what possibilities lie for people within the confines of the business and how they can help them get to where they want to be.

And I’m not saying it’s easy by any stretch. It’s a hell of a commitment to meet with your team each week/ fortnight/ build a relationship/ keep it going through the good and the tough times. But people are less likely to leave a place where they feel valued and listened to than anywhere else. And even if you can’t keep them, the chances are that they will feel more comfortable giving you a heads up that they may be off, allowing you a bit more time to plan and handover.

But back to that resignation. In practical and immediate terms, you have a few options:

  1. You can take it very personally, considering it a personal slight that someone would not want to work from you and act out in that manner. One boss I know didn’t speak to their team member for their ENTIRE notice period, leaving him to work in an isolated office away from the rest of the business such was the disgust they felt at their team member leaving them. Their maturity wasn’t lost on the entire company…
  2. Or ( a popular option) you can launch into telling them all the reasons why this is all wrong for them and that if they stayed for another £5/ £15k/ £25k then you will be able to fix whatever it is they are concerned about. One business I know spent more money on retention bonuses for those who had resigned in a particular year than they did on the entire bonus pot for existing employees who had delivered for them that year. The‘retained’ employees in this instance lasted on average another 3-6 months before bailing out for real, leaving a red faced boss and disgruntled colleagues who had found out all about the separate arrangement…
  3. Or you can listen to what they are saying. And then really listen. And learn from it. On the odd occasion I have seen someone ‘bought back’ by their business when they’ve resigned, it’s been because the relationship and loyalty was there already, they’d just let things get stale. The drama of resigning was enough to wake both parties up to see that there were other ways for the team member to grow and they’re very happy.

Option 3 doesn’t always mean they stay and you may well still have to say goodbye to someone you would rather not. But at least by taking the time out to find out what is really going on, you will truly understand why your business is not right for the person standing in front of you. But why it may be for another time. Ah yes, Boomerang employees. Now there’s another post….

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.