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 email@example.com and we’ll get right back to you.
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Do I need to wait until the end of the probation period to dismiss? What if I’m not quite sure about an employee by the time I get to the end of their probation period? Should I extend? All are questions we at the The HR hub are asked quite regularly as people struggle to work out what to do when someone they’ve hired isn’t quite the wunder-hire they’d hoped…..
First some basics on about being ‘on probation’: probation periods are not guided by employment law per se, but instead are a contractual arrangement between your business and their employees. Typically they will be used to set expectations that during the initial period of employment – normally 3 to 6 months – and sometimes are extended to cover a further period if a relationship has not been cemented or performance standards are not met.
Essentially however, yes, you can dismiss an employee before the end of their probation period if you feel things are not working out. But there are a few things you need to be mindful of and it’s not just a simple as saying ‘bye bye’ one morning. You need to give them the correct notice period and, as with any other dismissal of any other employee, it should be for a fair reason, including conduct, capability, breach of statutory provision, redundancy or some other substantial reason (nb – we find that most situations fall into performance during this period however, where the employee hasn’t demonstrated to the employer that they’ve met the standards needed).
BUT. Before you have that conversation, take a minute to think whether that you have really done all you can to make sure the environment is right for their success in this regard. After all that time and money spent on hiring that person, have you spent at least the same again investing in making sure that the newbie understands what’s expected, held their hands a little (at the very least) and given them the support they need to make a success of their role? Often people think they have but then often this is not the case… So I ask again: Have you really done all you can to make sure they had the chance to succeed? Were you clear about what was expected? Did you give them regular feedback on how they were doing and offer them the chance to address any areas which weren’t sitting well? Was there anyone even around to provide regular support to them? If you can’t answer these as honest ‘Yes’es, then I would suggest that you look at giving them one final chance.
According to past research from Spring Personnel, 20 percent of employees fail to pass their probation period in a new role or have it extended, so if you did go down this route you would be in good company.
Thinking of extending their probation instead? You should always make sure that this provision is written into their contract in the first instance. If not, then although there is nothing stopping you from extending the period and making that clear to the individual, you could be liable to pay them the full notice period laid out in the contract for post-probation should you subsequently dismiss during the extended probation period. As an aside, we also wouldn’t recommend extending their probation for any further than an additional three months: an extended period will impact on their engagement for one and for another, after 6 months in post, you should be able to make a decision one way or another.
Probation periods can be a challenging time for both employee and employer and if you want to find out more about how you’re getting the best out of your team through this time and beyond, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0203 627 7048 for your no-obligation chat.
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#probation #ticktock #lightthespark #employeemagic #development
Most leaders would be quick to say that having high performing teams are near the top of their wish list for things they want to have in their business, but in my experience most also dread getting their head around performance management as a strategic way to achieving this. And often it’s for fear of being overwhelmed, not getting it ‘right’ and/or not finding the time.
I absolutely understand all of those things. But the truth is that the longer you put off addressing performance any more than holding the occasional 1-2-1 meeting, the more overwhelming it will seem. There is no ‘perfect’ system, no ‘wrong’ way to do it and you will find the time once you realise how beneficial it can be for you personally, as well as for achieving your overall business goals.
Have no fear however. See below for a helping hand in getting you moving and taking your performance practices to the next level:
- Create a business process that actually, well, supports the business….. Performance management appears to have found it’s home with HR over the years, but the reality is that any performance process is a business one which should support the overall goals of the team and be culturally right. So if you’re not a formal kind of place, don’t overegg the forms and language. If you’re an agile kind of business, make sure your conversations are little and often too. If you haven’t recently reviewed your own process to see if it’s supporting your team, then take this as a reminder to do so.
- Design a framework to manage conversations There needs to be a degree of flexibility in your conversations, and each and every member of staff will be different. Still though, having a framework that allows you to structure the meetings and cover key points is essential. For the record those mostly include setting expectations (via goals/ objectives/ OKRS etc), developing to meet those, reviewing performance and rewarding said performance. Exactly what you decide to include at each stage will depend on the nature of your business however as a hint – for most people, annual objectives are a tad too long to be relevant. Ditto for checking in.
- Try focussing on strengths: As with writing any contract, policy or process, assume that you are creating it for the 99% of employees who are competent and want to do a great job and spend time focussing on what people have done well, rather than ‘fixing’ what you think needs correcting in an employee’s behaviour or performance. Evidence from the CIPD (Strengths-based performance conversations 2017) found that focussing on an individual’s strengths during these conversations improved personal conversations between the manager and employees as well as the frequency.
- Be future focussed: Likewise to the point above, don’t spend the valuable time you have dwelling on the past. If you’ve been having reasonably regular 1-2-1’s, you shouldn’t need to re-hash events which have gone before – a summary should be enough. The rest of the time should be focused on what the individual has learned from the past and how that’s going to help them in the future in terms of their career objectives.
- Upskill your managers who are taking part: As your business grows, it’s unlikely that you will be able to manage all the performance discussions. The responsibility will be passed over to your other managers, and this of course makes sense if they are the ones who staff report to on a daily basis. What you need to think about here is how you’re ensuring that these managers have the appropriate skills and training. Are they confident with the task? Do they understand its importance? And are they operating within the policies and frameworks that you have created? One-off interventions can be useful but for more sustained change and impact on behaviours, it’s best to look at a longer term programme to help them.
- Involve others: Some people think that a performance discussion simply involves the member of staff being ‘talked at’ for half an hour. This should never be the case and research shows that an individual is more likely to feel invested in the outcomes and actions of any performance conversations or ratings (if you go down that road) if they have also given the chance to have their say. Always ask individuals to share their thoughts on how they’ve performed over the past quarter, and what they think they need to focus on in the near future. Not only might you unearth important information that you hadn’t previously thought about, but making it a two-way conversation shows your staff that you respect and value their contribution.
- Welcome feedback on your own performance : You no doubt spend a decent amount of time thinking about how you can get the most out of your team. But have you stopped to think about how you’re performing as a boss? If you’re not already doing so, think about how you might be able to collect meaningful and honest feedback from your members of staff. Being a good leader is an ongoing process, and you need to have continuous development on your list of priorities, always.
Need a little help getting started?
If you’ve recognised that your performance management processes have some room for improvement, then get in touch. We can help you to assess where you are right now, and where you need to make changes. Get in contact via email@example.com or call 0203 627 7048 for your no-obligation chat.
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Pull out your coats and put the flip flops back in the loft. Although we have a few more days until it’s officially ‘Autumn’, the gentle chill is already here. For me, like many, September is my preferred ‘January’: the time where I sort out what’s going on across all areas of my life, reset my goals and generally set myself up as best I can for full steam ahead to the end of the year.
And because I find that a little organisation can go a long way to helping me hit my goals, I get my metaphorical rubber gloves on and do a bit of an audit on everything in my business which has been slightly bugging me, before lining up everything I need to focus on hitting my goals in each part of it. The unsightly paperwork that was lurking for so long on my desk that I filed it in a ‘boring but important’ folder where I couldn’t see it? Or the nagging question I never got around to asking my accountant yet? Yep, they’re both on my to-do list for this month.
Same with your People. You might feel like you have your work cut out for you, but we want to lighten that load though, and give you the tools and prompts that you need to get focused, and do the work that really matters. Below therefore is a quick checklist to help keep you on course for success for the rest of the year:
- Ensure that everyone has goals to be working towards toward the end of the year : There’s often a bit of a slump in productivity at this time of year. After the excitement and de-stressing for many of Summer, the mood can suddenly dampen, and you can find yourself with a problem when it comes to ensuring that the work gets done with gusto and enthusiasm. You can prevent this by getting your team together and spending time with them individually, reassessing priorities, and agreeing goals to inject motivation. Communication is key here, so be sure to lead with positivity and enthusiasm and remember to explain ‘why’ these are important….
- Consider how to increase your business capability: If you’ve assessed your organisational goals, you’ll be clear on what capabilities your team need in order to deliver what is going to drive you forward as a business and give you the edge you need. Many of your team will also be coming to work having thought about what else they’d like to do in terms of skills/ roles/ development. Recognise this, and use it to your advantage. Talk to them about what you will need longer term and consider how you can encourage staff to step up and develop their skills and talents outside of just their existing role. Formal training is an option, but it’s not the only route that you can take. Consider coaching, mentoring, and untapped opportunities for development that already exist in your business.
- Double check your basics: No Autumn Clean would be complete without looking at some of your basics and whilst I would be the first person to say that a document is unlikely to be the thing which spearheads high performance in every corner, your HR policies and procedures should never just be documents that gather dust on your hard drive and are never again looked after once they’ve been created. By regularly reviewing their effectiveness, and assessing whether they are fit for purpose, you should take a look at them with a critical eye and ask yourself: Do they help you run the business? Do they answer questions which others still come to you for? Are they really being applied on a daily basis? Are there any gaps that you need to fill? Do your staff even know they exist?
- Plan your development as a leader: Don’t forget yourself in all of this…. It’s likely that you have already considered how you will increase your staff’s capability this year. But what about YOU? As the leader of your business, it’s essential that you’re continuously developing your own skills. Running a business is challenging, and it absolutely must be a process of learning and growing. If you know that you struggle with a certain area, then it could be time to overcome that, or bring in help to make sure that your business doesn’t suffer as a result. I’ve recently signed up to an online business coaching course (after months of telling myself I simply didn’t have time to do anything like this…) to give me support with a few key things and whilst it’s early days, I ultimately recognise that I investing in myself (as I wouldn’t hesitate to do with others), will provide significant benefits.
- Reach out and get the help you need: As your business grows, you quickly discover that you can’t do everything on your own. There aren’t enough hours in the day, and you can’t be expected to be good at everything! To achieve your big goals, you’ll need to consider how you are growing your team of expert advisors.
If you know that your HR practices and procedures need work, then we can help. No-one is an expert on everything and if you’re looking for an affordable way to outsource some of your People practices, then get in touch today at firstname.lastname@example.org or 0203 627 7048 to arrange a chat. No strings attached. Just a frank discussion about how we can help you.
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According to Deloitte Insights (Bersin) coaching comes second only to goal setting as a management practice which drives employee engagement. Many employers sit their workers down once a year for a review. At that time, the employee finds out what they’ve been doing right or if there are areas in need of improvement. But what happens the other 364 days of the year?
Coaching is a different approach to developing employees’ potential. With coaching, you provide your staff the opportunity to grow and achieve optimal performance through consistent feedback, counselling and mentoring. Rather than relying solely on a review schedule, you can support employees along the path to meeting their goals. Done in the right way, coaching is perceived as a roadmap for success and a benefit.
Here at the HR Hub, we think coaching is an integral part of the managers’ toolkit and we regularly encourage our clients to participate in coaching conversations with their teams. So, here are some easy steps that you can take to start building that coaching relationship TODAY
- Build a relationship of trust: The foundation of any coaching relationship is rooted in the manager’s day-to-day relationship with the employee. Without some degree of trust, conducting an effective coaching meeting is impossible
- Be specific: If the ideal outcome of the coaching is to change a behaviour/action or ensure that an employee does more of something they did well, then they will need to know specifically what they did, what the impact was and why it’s important they do/don’t do it again – vague coaching will have little positive impact
- Follow a loose framework such as ‘GROW’: Giving the coaching conversation some structure can do wonders for its impact. Using a simple framework like GROW (goal, reality, options, way forward) can help make it a meaningful use of everyone’s time and not just ‘another’ 1:1 conversation
- Give advice but let them come to their own conclusions: Coaching is considerably more powerful when the actions and outcomes are owned by the individual and not enforced upon them. Let them decide their own outcomes from the session (even if you think they should do something differently, you can always coach them again if it doesn’t quite go to plan!).
- Train your managers in the foundations of coaching their team: The HR Hub runs a fabulous 90 minute bitesize session which equips managers with the confidence and tools to have meaningful coaching conversations. Why not get us in to run a session for your management team?
The key with making an impact here is building up a culture of regular coaching and feedback conversations. One off coaching will be beneficial for sure, but the real positive stuff comes when this is just the way you do things in your business and everyone engages in these types of conversations regularly.
It will take time and effort initially, but the rewards (such as higher performance, better engagement, happier employees, higher productivity) are definitely worth the investment.
To find out more about how we can help you develop the coaching capability within your business, drop us a line at email@example.com or call 0203 627 7048 for your no-obligation chat.
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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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Train your managers – they 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.
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0203 627 7048 for a no strings discussion about your business needs.