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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

 

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How SMEs Can Support Working Parents This Summer

The school holidays are just around the corner. And while the kids will be demob-happy, the summer break can be a real headache for working parents.

“So what?” You might say. “Their kids. Their problem”. But it’s definitely in employers interests to do more to help. The number of parents leaving the workforce to seek more flexibility by working for themselves is ever increasing. A survey of 2000 working people in the UK by on-demand staffing app Coople found that one in 5 parents had missed a significant moment in their child’s life because of work. A even more worryingly, 11% said working late and not ‘switching off’ had distanced them from their children.

So with the long school holidays looming, we’ve pulled together a handy checklist for how small business can (reasonably) support parents this summer:

  1. Flexible Hours: Every employee has the right to request flexible working – whether this be flexible hours or location. In both cases, this request must be made in prescribed form and employees are entitled to only one request a year. Fixed office hours can be impractical for parents during the holidays. And the flexibility to work when they want to (often in the early morning or evening) can be a god-send.
  2. Flexible Locations: This does’t always mean working from home. In fact, if the kids are there it’s often the last place parents want be if they’ve got work to do. Working in a location closer to home, however, with a shorter commute could really help. Professional work spaces are popping up all over the place and are a great option here. Not only will they have excellent broadband they can be a valuable networking opportunity too. With both flexible hours and flexible locations, it’s important both parties are clear if this is a permanent of temporary change. If it’s for the short term, be sure the time frame is understood.
  3. Parental Leave: Staff that have worked for their employer for more than one year can ask for unpaid parental leave to help with childcare. Parental leave generally allows each parent to take up to 18 weeks unpaid leave per child before the child’s 5th birthday. This leave must be taken in blocks of one week and in theory should be requested 21 days in advance (although you may choose to be lenient here). If employees fall within these guidelines, you’ve got little choice but to let them take it unless there are sound business reasons why not that would stand up to scrutiny at a tribunal.
  4. Time Off For Dependents: Any employee (however long they have worked for you) can ask for “time off for dependents” to deal with emergencies. This would be unpaid and whilst there’s no set time, if its regarding a childcare issue 1-2 days would be reasonable, before it then becomes Parental Leave (above).
  5. Summer Childcare Guide: There are often lots of summer childcare options available locally but sometimes it can take hours of research to get all the information. A great task for the work experience bod if ever there was one. Make such information easily available to employees on the intranet or noticeboard and who knows, if there’s significant interest you might be able to negotiate a discount or even provide minibus transport from the office and back.

Want some help on how better to manage the team? TheHRhub is the ultimate HR support service for startups and SMEs. Get in touch today for a no-obligation chat. Call us on 0203 627 7048 or drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk

 

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How To Manage Holiday Requests Like A Pro

Over the next few weeks, you’re likely to have holiday requests coming out of your ears. And whilst you would like to accommodate everyone, the demands of the business means this isn’t always possible – particular during the summer holidays.

Of course employees are entitled to request holiday, but you are not legally bound to give  it. The Working Time Regulations 1998 permit an employer to refuse a worker’s request, provided the company serves a counter-notice at least as many calendar days before the proposed leave is due to commence as the number of days being refused. But this sometimes isn’t the best course of action for positive workplace relations, so here’s how you can manage requests like a pro and keep (nearly) everyone happy.

The Secrets To Managing Holiday Requests Effectively

1. Have A Holiday Policy In Place

If you’ve already got a holiday policy in place – circulate it now. If you don’t and can foresee managing holidays being an issue this summer, it would be wise to write and communicate one pronto. This ensures all holiday requests are processed fairly and consistently.

A holiday policy needs to include:

  • how holiday should be requested
  • to whom such requests should be made
  • the circumstances in which holiday requests may be refused

You might also want to consider:

  • how many department members/ senior managers are allowed off at once
  • the maximum number of days that can be taken off in one go (detailing any extenuating circumstances here such as weddings/honeymoons)
  • how much time in advance requests need to be given
  • how much time line the employer has to respond to requests

There may be additional requirements unique to your business/sector you would be wise to include too. For example to protect against fraud, finance companies often require certain staff to take at least one 2 week holiday a year.

2. But Be Aware Of How Holiday Requests Are Dealt With In Practise

Equally important to having a policy is how holiday requests are dealt with day to day by your line managers. In particular, there should be consistency across the business in how holiday requests are prioritised. Is it on a first come first served basis? Or for popular holiday days such as Christmas, should employees be granted time off on rotation?  Managers need to be seen to be prioritsing holiday requests fairly and consistently. Otherwise they could be accused of favourite and even discrimination.

3. Make Sure The Holiday Calendar Is Visible To All

Sharing the employee holiday calendar with the team is one of the easiest and most effective ways to avoid holiday scheduling problems. It empowers team members to propose holiday dates that avoid clashes with their colleagues and gives those remaining at work the ability to plan projects/meetings accordingly.

4. How To Say No To A Holiday Request

Sometimes, with all the love in the world, granting holiday just isn’t possible. Here’s what to do if you need to have ‘that’ conversation….

  • Do it quickly: More quickly than stated in your holiday policy if you can, as a sign of goodwill. As always, face to face is best.
  • Explain your reasons: Reference your holiday policy so the individual knows it’s not personal. Talk them through the need to cover off certain business areas of that period  Reiterate the business decision behind the refusal and ensure them that it is nothing to do with their performance (unless it is).
  • Offer an alternative: Such as other dates when a request would be manageable. For accommodating others, some business offer one or two extra holiday days as a way of saying thank you.
  • Tell them how much you value them: When  a holiday request is denied it can make individuals feel undervalued, particularly if they have been performing well. Make sure they leave the conversation feeling positive about themselves and their contribution to the business.

5. What To Do If The Cheeky Beggars Take The Day Off Anyway…

Clearly, it’s a  bit suspect if an employee calls in sick for a day they previously asked to take off as holiday. Gather evidence if you can (social media can be invaluable here!) and hold a return to work interview when they get back. Tell them about your concerns and then explain the impact their absence had on the rest of the team. This is usually enough to stop repeat performances without getting too ‘heavy’.

 

For more tips on achieving leadership across your teams, theHRhub team are ready to help. We are 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. 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.

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Time For A Pit Stop: What To Do Now To Ensure a Successful Year-End

Deep breath! We’re almost half way through the year and although it might feel that you have no time to step back from the day to day running of your business, now’s a great time to do just that and consider the bigger picture. It’s easy to get caught up with the issues going on right in front of you – the urgent emails, the latest operational crisis – but great leaders know that regular strategic planning is essential and is something which can’t wait…

When it comes to your people and their management and growth, most leaders are just thrilled when there’s little ‘noise’ going on with them. There might be a few niggles that they’ve noticed – perhaps some have been less responsive or engaged recently or perhaps there have been a few issues with leavers/ joiners – but to smash your goals, people management is a key part of your plan for success, so here are some tips on where you need to focus on.

Check your Objectives are still relevant and recommit 

When we’re six months into a year, it can feel like the writing is already on the wall for the year. In fact, the goals that you set back in January can seem like a distant memory if you haven’t been regularly assessing them. So check-in with them as you would anyone else in your team: what’s your progress is against them so far? Are they still relevant (if not, then change now)? What else can you do to make sure you achieve them?

And don’t forget to share with the team: let them know how you’re doing and what else they can all do to contribute. Being involved and informed is hugely motivating for your team and could be a great time to celebrate success in a few key areas. 

Make sure you’re people are happy 

Happy employees = happy customers (something we’ve written about before here) = happier you! So chat to your team and find out how they’re doing: in their work and in their general lives. You will have a better chance of your team opening up about their challenges at work if they trust you and so spending some time building relationships with them as well as checking on on their progress against their goals will pay dividends.

Make sure you have your HR brilliant-basics sorted

We don’t like to talk about HR in terms of box ticking. It’s deeper than that. When you get it right, it’s about driving your strategic objectives. It’s about nurturing folks. It’s about adding real value to your bottom line. But we’re also realistic, and there are some basics which you should make sure you’ve covered to ensure that you’re compliant with legislation, with your duties as an employer and that they have everything they need to do a great job. This can be anything from making sure all your policies and procedures are up to date in light of legislative changes (as well as relevant to your own culture – don’t over egg them), reviewing your salaries to make sure you are within market rates (remember, salary can be a de-motivator if not paid along the lines of peers and the wider market) or making sure they have the right tools and technology to actually achieve what they needed to do. In one business where I worked, a quick conversation with the team over ‘what do you need’ resulted in a few extra keys being cut for the office so that people could actually access the office before the office manager arrived!  

Start planning for a successful year end

Even if you think you haven’t been as ‘on-it’ as you should have been to date, there is more than enough time to focus everyone on what is needed to achieve what you need to. So when the weather’s warm and summer holidays are the current topic of discussion, talking about Christmas almost seems unnatural. Some forward planning can help to avoid a whole world of problems though. If your business experiences a rush around the fourth quarter, then consider exactly how that will map out and if you need to start thinking about recruiting/training/promoting individuals now. As well, consider your practical people issues. You might experience an influx of leave requests, for example, and you need to be prepared for keeping up and keeping track.

If you’ve taken your eye off the ball and you feel like 2017 is just happening to you, then we can help. We offer an HR audit service, and we can make sure that you’re in a position to make this year a resounding success for your business. Drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk or call us on 0203 627 7048 to arrange your initial no-obligation consultation.

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Calling All Business Leaders: Think HR is boring? Then Read This…

This article isn’t about some new fancy techno widget you can download in a jiffy and implement overnight. No. It’s about HR. The function that helps you get the most out of your people. Hang on, don’t go….

Let’s be honest, we know HR has something of a reputation for being a little bit boring amongst some business leaders. It’s a burden that we’ve carried for years and it’s one that refuses to budge in a lot of circles.

But is there any substance behind it? Are we really just a group of thundering bores who can bring nothing more to your business than bureaucracy and forms to fill in and pointless policies that never see the light of day?

We’re more than willing to look at the arguments….

Here are 3 reasons why HR is vital to your business: 


We Can Keep You Out Of Tribunals

Because the court room is really exciting, right? It’s definitely where most business owners want to end up when they’re in the middle of balancing everyday concerns and striving towards growth. Though of course, it’s not. It’s your worst nightmare and it can be costly and stressful. Good HR practices ensure that you’re not accidentally breaking the law.

We Can Save You A Load Of Money

Is making money more tempting than saving money? It could be argued that it is. If you’re particularly daring, then you might decide to just focus on bringing more in, whilst ignoring the fact that your spending is spiralling out of control and you’re wasting cash all over the place. But good leaders know that it’s a mix of both… And that’s precisely why they use HR professionals to make sure that their staffing budget is invested in all the right places.

We Can Make Your Workplace A Peaceful And Productive Place

Some people thrive on drama and arguments and scandal. They might say that without these things, life is pretty dull. If that sounds like you, then HR might not be your cup of tea. Most managers though just want everyone to be able to get along and form positive working relationships, so they can enjoy their time at work and make a contribution.

Still think these things are boring? Then HR is guilty as charged. But if you recognise that these things are in fact prerequisites for running a profitable and sustainable business, then we should talk. We can bring the right brand of ‘boring’ to your business, and steer you clear of the unnecessary headaches and dramas.

Give us a call today on 0203 627 7048 or drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk to arrange your no-obligation consultation. We might just surprise you.

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Supporting Workers With Elderly Dependents

We talk a lot about how best to support working parents and the advantages of retaining these workers. But with the rise in older workers (and the ages of their parents and other elderly dependents) employer support for those who have care responsibilities outside of work should be something that is discussed just as much.

This week is Dementia Awareness Week. Dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, has overtaken heart disease as the leading cause of death in England and Wales, latest figures reveal. In 2015, more than 61,000 people died of dementia – 11.6% of all recorded deaths.

Given the impact that Dementia has on those around them and the likelihood of (given current statistics) those within your organisation may encounter it at some stage in their life, here we look at what employers can do to lighten the load for all those who have adult/elderly dependents to look after:

Improve Working Practices

It’s not uncommon for new parents to be allowed to work more flexibly in order to manage their childcare requirements. But remember anyone is entitled to ask for more flexibility. And perhaps to promote fairness across the business, it’s a good idea to expand this entitlement to all workers, which would benefit those with elderly or sick dependents in particular.

Time Off For Dependents

All employees are entitled to ‘time off for dependants’. This is a reasonable amount of unpaid time off to deal with unforeseen matters and emergencies involving a dependant, including leave to arrange or attend a funeral. A ‘dependant’ could be a spouse, partner, child, parent or anyone living in the household. It could also be someone who relies on an employee for their care or for help during an emergency, such as an elderly neighbour. Unlike, Parental Leave, where parents are entitled to 18 weeks of unpaid leave to care for children under 18, there is no such entitlement specified for those with adult dependents. So the amount of time of for dependents you offer is something you will need to cover off in your policy stack.

Compassionate Leave

For when the worst happens and someone dies, many employers have a policy for compassionate leave, which spares line managers the awkward and unfamiliar  task of having to assess the seriousness of the situation themselves. If you don’t currently have a compassionate leave policy, again, you may want to think about the amount of time that is reasonable for employees to take off work when someone close to them dies now. When this amount of time subsides, it’s common for compassionate leave to them become sick leave (on the grounds of supreme stress and emotional distress) for which employees will require a letter from their doctor.

Make Sure Your Position Is Communicated To Employees & Managers

No-one wants to spend hours ploughing their way through the company handbook when a loved one is seriously ill or has passed away. So do what you can to ensure everyone is aware of the entitlements you provide. Making sure your managers know the level of discretion they have over provision for time off for dependents, compassionate and sick leave can be immensely reassuring for everyone concerned and removes a lot of anxiety during these difficult times.

Keep Your Eyes Open

Bear in mind that many carers are well used to putting others first – and their own health and wellbeing last. So be on the look out for anyone under extra pressures and be mindful that you may be the one to reach out to them first.

For help on this or any other HR issue, give us a call on 0203 627 7048 or drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk