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Managing (Not Avoiding) Conflict In An SME

Managing (Not Avoiding) Conflict In An SME

Let’s face it, most of us avoid conflict if we can. It makes everyone feel uncomfortable and it’s not particularly productive. But even if you’re the most placid business owner in the world, inevitably there will be occasions when arguments between colleagues break out and insults are traded.

This can particularly be the case in an SME where the environment is much more intimate and intense. If you don’t manage conflict carefully it can quickly escalate, creating a toxic working atmosphere and worse still, potentially damaging your business reputation.  

The Confederation of British Industry estimates that ‘conflict’ costs UK businesses £33 billion per year, taking up 20% of leadership time and potentially losing up to 370 million working days.

However many books you’ve read about ‘managing difference’, it is tough to navigate strong personalities or working style clashes.

But Ignore Conflict At Your Peril

One of the most common (and most damaging) approaches we tend to see is simply ignoring conflict/issues in the hope that it will just go away or resolve itself. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, it will, but more often than not, issues left unacknowledged will fester, then escalate and ultimately may end up being a bigger problem than it ever should have become. When it comes to conflict, ignorance is most definitely not bliss.

Now, that’s not to say you need to jump in and resolve every single difference of opinion or challenging conversation that takes place in the office, but if you’ve noticed a potential problem brewing, then it’s safe to assume the rest of the team have too; and they will be looking to you (or your management team) to step in and resolve things.  

Sometimes All That’s Needed Is A Frank Conversation

More often than not, initiating a conversation and facilitating both parties being heard can be enough to cool the heat and allow people to get back to what they are meant to be focussing on!  

If Conflict Remains An Issue Here’s What To Do:

  1. Set the tone –‘The culture of any organisation is shaped by the worst behaviour the leader is willing to tolerate’ – Gruenter & Whitaker.  People tend to follow the example set by the most senior members of the business, make sure you and your management team are role modelling the behaviour you want to see in others.
  2. Create a culture of trust, respect and honest conversations –  no one wants to work in a company where their opinion isn’t heard. Most people enjoy a healthy debate on how to get things done. If the culture of your business is one where people can engage in these types of conversations, disagree respectfully (i.e. without name calling, abuse or aggression) and then go about their day, you’re onto a winner for limiting the amount of damaging conflict you’ll need to be managing.
  3. Listen to your staff – ask questions to find out the underlying issues. It may be that there is a difference in value or even a simple misunderstanding.  Don’t assume that you know the problem without asking, as this can often make matters worse! It may be worth getting someone impartial (like TheHRHub) to either handle the situation or at least be present throughout any discussions.
  4. Train your managersthey are on the front line when it comes to witnessing and resolving conflict within teams. Giving them the confidence, skills and training to deal with these issues as they arise will hopefully stop smaller issues escalating into time consuming and painful ones.
  5. Have a clear policy on how you intend to manage conflict at work – for when things just can’t be managed informally, you need to have a clear and consistent approach communicated that outlines how the company will manage conflict. This doesn’t need to be “War & Peace”, just a section in the handbook or a one pager outlining a process you will follow, should an issue get to that stage.

At TheHRHub, we are experts in navigating SME’s through the difficulties of managing conflict.  Our pragmatic, personable but legally minded approach allows us to help you put a quick end to issues that have the potential to bubble away for a longer time, or even explode into something much harder to resolve.

We can offer you advice, draw up handbooks and policies to help manage future situations, deliver management training or even mediate conflict for you (although we do like to encourage our clients to take responsibility for solving their own problems, it makes for stronger leaders in the future).

Why not give us a call to see how we can help you make your business better. Drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk or call 0203 627 7048 for a no strings discussion about your business needs.

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The Secret To Achieving Your Goals? Building Healthy Habits….

The Secret To Achieving Your Goals? Building Healthy Habits….

You know what? I’m really not a fan of the ‘new year, new me’ mantra that gets rammed down our throats from 1st January onwards. I’m also not keen on putting unrealistic pressure on myself to change who I am just because the year has clocked up another digit. But I do understand why people use January as a fresh start. A new year has an irresistible draw, it somehow allows us to wipe clean the mistakes of the past and commit to reinventing ourselves and finally achieving those #lifegoals we have secretly yearned to brag about on Facebook and Instagram.

As an experienced life coach (as well as an HR consultant), I specialise in helping people make positive changes in their lives – at any time of year.  Here’s my take on how you and/or your team can really achieve a goal (or two!) that will make a positive difference to your business as well as yourselves.

Forget Starting With The Big Life Goal

It’s way too intimidating. Just starting this process is the scariest part for most people and it’s usually because we begin by imagining a great, lofty goal, such as losing a stone or running a marathon. The gap from where we are now, to where we want to be seems insurmountable. So we shove another leftover Quality Street in our mouth and pretend we’re doing ourselves a favour by clearing out the treat cupboard and removing future temptations (yeah, we’ve all been there).

Focus On Daily Habits Instead

“Habits are the architecture that help us to achieve our goals”

One of my all time favourite quotes. So how about, instead of focusing on the massive goal, focus on the daily habits that will help you work towards that bigger achievement.

These mini goals can then build upon each other and be focused on either individually or as a small group….eat one extra portion of green veg each day, go for a brisk walk 3 times a week, cutting back on the sugar in your tea… Try one of these for a few weeks, nail it and then add a new one when it becomes second nature (or habit!).  Suddenly that big #lifegoal doesn’t seem so scary and unachievable does it?

It Might Take More Time But The Benefits Of Habitual Change Will Last A Lifetime

Ok, so you might not get where you want to be by the end of January but c’mon, how many times have you quit all your good intentions by then anyway because actually, running 6 times a week whilst cutting out all sugar and getting up at 5am to do yoga isn’t actually that much fun after all?! A slower pace with a more concentrated effort stands a much better chance of making new habits stick.

The Right Coach Can Make All The Difference

Building a set of healthy habits is not as complex as you might believe, it just takes a bit of time, focus, support and the right set of questions, ideally from a kick ass coach who will challenge your comfort zone and push you to take responsibility for yourself.

Now I appreciate that we don’t all have the money to invest in a personal life coach and it’s really bloody hard to motivate yourself to make healthy changes when you don’t really know where to start. There are a million contradictory articles online and a building pressure from social media to be amazing every day (it’s enough to make you quit life and go live in the jungle somewhere isn’t it?!) but I have a suggestion for you that might be more realistic…

Invest In ‘The Building Healthy Habits Workshop’ From TheHRHub

Convince your employer (or budget for it yourself if you’re responsible for employee wellbeing) to get the team at TheHRHub in to run our fabulous ‘Building Healthy Habits’ workshop and reap the benefits of a healthier, happier, more productive team. We use classic performance coaching techniques to help you (or your team) break down your goals and commit to the healthy habit changes that I guarantee will help you all move towards where you want to be in 2019.

Drop us a line hello@thehrhub.co.uk or call 0203 627 7048 to find out more…

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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.

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Mission Impossible? Getting Performance Right In An SME

Mission Impossible? Getting Performance Right In An SME

Whilst the everyday discussion of performance does not (to most I hope) harbour potential disasters of such epic proportions as the explosions common to any one of the Mission Impossible series of films, confidence and success in this area for many businesses can seem as unattainable as overcoming a threat against the annihilation of all humans or being able to recreate ‘that’ memorable heist scene which saw Mr. Cruise landing just a couple of inches from the floor. And be just as sweat inducing too…..

Over 60% of our clients here at TheHRhub in the last year have had concerns and challenges with their team in the area we’ll collectively call (for the purposes of this post) ‘performance management’, reflecting our experience as in-house practitioners that this is one of the most common areas of concern for business leaders and showing that despite its many evolutions or size of company, most have just not cracked it yet.

Most leaders instinctively understand that being able to share what they’re trying to achieve, what they see each person bringing to that party and that having a transparent way of checking progress against this is going to be key to keeping everyone’s performance on track, yet far from providing clarity over a way of doing this, somehow wrapping it all up in the term ‘performance management’ and creating a process around it serves only to confuse matters.

So before people lose the will to live over finding the perfect ‘process’ (there isn’t one btw) in what is too important an area not to take seriously in a business, we share what we feel are some fundamentals to bear in mind in this area.

Purpose matters when it comes to any new process, so be clear on why you’re you’re spending time having these conversations. Is your vision clear to all and will this help? Trying to give the team support? Are you you trying to get alignment? Trying to build communication? Drive accountability? Transparency? Or all of the above and more. You may not get it right initially but by being clear to the team over your expectations in any performance management process, you’re taking a very important first step.

Timing is also important (but don’t let it drag you down…). I’ve always been a fan of the little-and-often approach and you’ll have no doubt read countless articles in the last year or so on how the annual appraisal is ‘dead’, not applicable to today’s workforce and not a thing which millennials would dirty their hands with….. However if once a year is currently the only time that you meet with your team members, then for goodness sake make sure you keep that diary appointment!

There’s nothing wrong with starting with the basics. If you don’t feel you have the dedicated time, skills or energy to pull together a bells-and-whistles program, then start little (and often) with every manager having 1-2-1 conversations to build on.  By talking to your team members regularly and agreeing what they’re going to be focussed on, how you’re going to both communicate progress and what you need to do to remove any blockers in doing so, you’re doing better than about 70% of businesses.  

To ‘rate’ or ‘not to rate?’ is a much debated question. And to be honest, there’s no real right or wrong here. Personally speaking I find that when discussing how someone is developing in their role, understanding what motivates them and how they can deliver more of what they do well in a business, that then distilling said efforts and the results they’ve achieved into one single number doesn’t exactly elicit the spike in motivation for the majority of cases. True, being given a ‘high’ rating is probably likely to a smile inside many, but then the same can be said for some well thought out feedback which shows encouragement and recognition. And if you are going to go with ratings? Maybe stop shy of having the 15 (!) levels one particular business I know constructed in their process…. 

Online tools can help manage the consistency side of this for you too (nudging you when it’s time to chat just in case you forget, giving you tips on how to discuss issues) but I’m afraid that nothing is going to replace good old fashioned practice and regularity in this regard. Manage this and your teams will be flying. Because whilst many may complain about form filling or query what their objectives were, I’ve never ever heard an employee say that they didn’t appreciate spending time with their manager and discussing how they can do better.

Like many sound practices, it’s not impossible to achieve results in this area in a reasonably swift time, but it does take focus, persistence and regularity.

Think you’ve cracked it? Congratulations. And now might just be the time to answer that advert for MI6 you saw encrypted….

For others who want help in unlocking your team’s performance, give us a bell for a free chat to discuss how we can help you via hello@thehrhub.co.ukor 0203 627 7048.

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The Bad HR Habits Of Good Bosses – How Many Are YOU Guilty Of?

The Bad HR Habits Of Good Bosses – How Many Are YOU Guilty Of?

Even the most well-meaning of leaders can fall into habitual behaviours that can have a negative impact on their people. It’s the same as eating or drinking too much,  it’s only when things spiral out of control that you realise you’ve got a problem.

Here are some of the bad HR habits we’ve witnessed over the years. And the good news is they’re easy to fix….

Carrying Out Annual Reviews On An Annual Basis

Hang on a sec – why exactly is this a bad habit?? Shouldn’t you be making sure that performance discussions do take place?? Of course you should. But if they’re only happening once a year, then you’re missing a trick. Managing and improving performance needs to be built into your everyday working practices. If it’s not, then you can’t realistically expect to improve productivity.

Getting Stuck In The Filing Cabinet

You don’t need us to tell you that the world of business is moving faster than ever before. You’re probably using online tactics when it comes to your sales and marketing, for example, but what about HR? It could be time to ditch the notion that HR lives in the filing cabinet, and bring your business up to speed. Online systems with good security are as secure as any filing cabinets and will often save you time and hassle with your HR Admin.

Thinking That Training And Learning Are One And The Same

There’s no denying that training can be expensive. Send a few employees to a conference, book in some places on an external course, or bring in a professional trainer for a couple of days, and your bill will be hefty. Sometimes, formal training is essential and/or advisable: when you’re rolling out new software, when your team require a recognised qualification etc. But what’s arguably much more important is ongoing learning within the workplace. Nurturing your talent isn’t a one-off event – it’s about what happens in your business on a day-to-day basis. So get to it with those lunch and learn sessions, involve all the team in what they can all learn from each other and challenge your team to show what they’ve learnt on an on-going basis.

Hogging All The Decision Making

As the boss you may be thinking: but that’s what I’m here for! Obviously there are some key decisions that only you and your top team should be making, but imagine how much time you would free up in your life if others around you came up with a range of solutions to the things which had been stopping you from sleeping for most of the previous night, gave you ideas for your next product or sorted out problems they had about the office move between themselves…. Allowing and encouraging your team to make decisions (or at least contribute to them by involving them) inspires trust and confidence which can pay you back massive returns in terms of loyalty and engagement, not to mention the innovation which can come from a varied viewpoint.

Being self-aware enough to recognise and correct your own bad habits is a hugely positive example to show your team. Even more so if you’ve had the courage to ask for their opinions first.

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.

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HR Surgery: What Should I Be Doing As a Startup Every Month For HR?

HR Surgery: What Should I Be Doing As a Startup Every Month For HR?

Time flies when you’re running your own business. One minute it’s January and you’re hiring your first few team members, telling yourself you’ll align their progress with the rest of the business, and then the next, you find it’s Summer already and all your good intentions have never not quite translated into any sort of strategy ….

Very Few Startups & SMEs Allocate Time Once A Month To Focus On HR

And whilst it’s likely that you’ve kept a regular eye on your sales and finance tasks in a structured way every month, when it comes to your people, chances are that any structure has been left to happen ‘naturally’. If you’re close to the team, check in regularly as a matter of course and have spent time building relationships with them from the word ‘go’, then this is all good news as you’ve built some really strong foundations already despite no mention of the words ‘HR’. However if you’ve left all checkups and communications aside as you have your head down, there not only may there be a risk that the next “have you got a quick minute?” directed your way, might just be a complaint or – worse still – the dreaded resignation letter, you will also be missing a trick in planning and investing in your biggest asset: your team.

Our Monthly HR Checklist For Startups & SMEs

To help you structure what can sometimes seem a daunting task, we’ve created a monthly HR checklist for you, designed to make sure you keep your business and your people on track. Nothing heavy. And nothing daunting. But a few things that – if you review on a regular monthly basis – will significantly help boost your team’s productivity and your overall leadership, saving you oodles of time and hassle in the long run.

1. Step back and do a quick people overview (as you would your sales or finances): What are its strengths and weaknesses? What does your team look like this year in size, shape, roles and productivity? More importantly, what do you want them to be doing differently in the next 6 – 12 months to meet your own overall goals?

2. With 1) in mind… how you want to develop the team and what are the 1, 2 and 3 priorities you will be looking at for the coming 6 months with them?

3. Set up some simple KPIs to track in relation to your team. Basics ordinarily will include things such as headcount, salary bill, absence rates etc (which track directly to your finances), right through to those which might tell you a little bit more in the long run & will take a bit of time to start yielding the insight you’re after. In this latter category, you need to put your thinking cap on about what you want to measure (employee satisfaction, time you spend with each employee, number of new ideas/ initiatives generated by the team etc) and why it’s important.

4. Clarify to the team what the company goals are and what progress is being made towards them. Too busy for an All Hands/ Town Hall/ Company Meeting? Whilst face to face is often best in this regard, we find that the ‘little and often’ approach works best to get the message across and make people feel involved, so just make sure that there is some communication on this each month, even if via Email/ slack/ video etc

5. Get feedback from the team on how they are finding each project/ progress against the goals. Whilst there are now many different software programmes which can help do this for you in a regular and structured way, at the very least, add on a question to all at the bottom of any team wide communications that make clear that you want to hear from people or walk around the office and ask people face to face.

6. Put together a simple action plan to address any queries which arise. And forecast for the team over how their roles might change, what their risk profile is and how you can support and motivate them

7. Make the team see you as human: take them out to lunch to chat away from the office and stay connected. One former CEO I worked with liked to take afternoon tea with his team & another took each person out for lunch in their first week to find out more about them, both delightful traditions appreciated by all.

8. Review the behaviours of your current team. Look at what the qualities of the team are displaying are and what channel they joined you via. When it comes to recruiting, referrals can be a really good channel & work wonders on those KPIs. Share recognition about great performance: your team will love you for it (even if they’re a bit embarrassed initially…)

9. Take stock of what learning may be needed for individuals/ teams to support your goals. This doesn’t need to be expensive (we have heaps of ideas in a previous blog ‘Learning on a Shoestring’) but as a no.1 area for motivation as well as often being needed to adapt to a changing business, getting a clear idea on where people can develop is key.

10. Talk to the team and bounce ideas off people who don’t have a direct interest in your business to get some objective advice and open your mind to trying out new ways of doing things. But whether you’re are start up with just a couple of employees or hitting the big time and your headcount is getting into triple figures, it’s never the wrong time to focus on getting the most from your team and providing a great environment for them to thrive.

If you’re struggling however with getting the full benefits from your team and finding the time to develop your ideas, help from a switched-on HR professional could be what you need.

For help in getting (and keeping!) your business on track with it’s team please email hello@thehrhub.co.uk.co.uk or call 0203 627 7048  and speak to our team. We’re always happy to help and offer a free initial review to help you understand how to make valuable changes to support your business.

TheHRhub: helping restless business owners create and manage good working relationships with their staff in a direct and pragmatic way. #employeemagic