INSIGHTS

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HR Surgery: How do I manage expectations for progression in an SME?

As an SME one of your key assets are your staff, and time and time again we see talented staff leave, simply because they are not being given the career development opportunities they think they deserve or expect.  This is such a easy fix if you just take the time to focus on understanding and exploring your employees career development expectations.

We know finding the time to do this may seem impossible and get pushed down the to do list, but it is absolutely key for engaging and retaining your top talent – so make it a priority, new years resolution even!

As we all know, development is all about making employees feel valued and invested in, but the upshot is by giving them encouragement to progress individually, you will ultimately see them propel your business forward and reward them in the same move as they push into more senior levels of responsibility. Win win.  

The uniqueness with SMEs is that during the Startup phase of a business, the rate of personal growth is often enormous: most people are learning nearly 100% of the time and pitch in on areas that they wouldn’t normally associate with.  Everyone feels important and integral to the success. It’s as you start to scale and evolve that many of the challenges present themselves.  The need for providing learning opportunities continues, but structure and roles are more solid and the informal learning opportunities that once naturally presented themselves, suddenly seem more restricted.  

The great Albert Einstein once said “Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death”. Its within our nature to grow, we have been growing since we were little and whilst our physical growth slows over time, that ambition of personal growth never goes away.  

If development is disregarded, knowledge becomes out of date, motivation levels stagnate and careers begin to drift and these factors have an obvious impact on hard measures like productivity and staff turnover.  Then you run the risk of getting to the point where training and development comes last on the To Do list, with a common reason being “we just don’t have the budget for it”….

Not everything needs to cost the earth though, if you’re prepared to think creatively and invest a little time, you can easily organise all sorts of focused learning activities. And your team will thank you for it by being brilliant.

  1. Peer to peer learning: Having the respect of our colleagues means a lot to us, so encourage people to speak at conferences, enter competitions, or host meetups  with their peers to share knowledge with others. Sometimes it’s going to be necessary to fund employee’s’ attendance at these external events.  So to maximise your investment in doing this, make it a condition that staff share their learnings when they are back in the workplace.
  2. Everyone needs a sense of purpose: It may be that you aren’t setting out to save lives or some other noble cause, but the chances are that your business has a higher purpose than just simply seeking cash. So help staff understand how they fit into this bigger picture by spelling it out in order to capture people’s true potential.
  3. Allow people to show off what they’ve learnt: Decide on the core skills for your business and each technical function and assign different levels of expertise required for each (competencies) which people can earn credits to show they’ve attained the level.
  4. Share “best practice”: Bring in a recognised expert for your employees to spend some time with: use your network and contacts to find someone you admire and value and bring them into work with you. Get the more experienced members of your team to share some of their past notable successes.
  5. Give them wings: give your new employees more responsibility or ask them to undertake a challenging piece of work or project and don’t be surprised when they rise to the challenge and hopefully surpass your expectations! Give a mini group within your company a real business problem and challenge them to come up with the solution.
  6. Use Skills Already In-House: There are loads of ways you can do this, depending on the circumstances which include asking  team members with specific areas of expertise to deliver short training programmes or presentations for other staff, focussing on their specialist areas; Promote inter-departmental sessions, for example by organising ‘brown bag’ lunches, with each hosted and run by a different department in turn.  
  7. Time out to play with new ideas: Encourage your team to pursue their personal goals by allowing flexible work schedules, the freedom to work remotely, and arranging social gatherings outside of work.
  8. Explore E-Learning: Training courses are no longer just about hotel conference suites and flip charts. These days there’s a whole new world of virtual training on offer, with courses available on almost any topic imaginable.  Online training means staff can learn at their own convenience and pace, with costs generally low and many even free. Check out websites like www.learndirect.com, www.e-learningcentre.co.uk, and www.learningtree.co.uk, to find out more.

We naturally want to become bigger and better than we are, there is no right or wrong way to go about it as long as everyone feels like they are moving forward, no one wants to stagnate, but remember we measure that with different views and on our own scales.

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.




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Credit: Photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash

HR Housekeeping For The Summer Break

For many businesses, the pressure eases off slightly over the summer months when customers and clients are away on holiday. This downtime can be an important opportunity to address those admin tasks you’ve been putting off to help clear the decks and ensure you deliver the rest of the year with aplomb.

Here’s a checklist of the important HR tasks to address during the summer slowdown:

Consider your cold, hard figures

When some leaders think about HR, they think about fluff without any real substance. But we’re now long gone from the days of it being known as the department of “tea and tampax” (genuinely how the function was described to me when I first joined….) and HR has evolved into something the smart money knows isn’t just a ‘nice to have’. In fact, it’s completely non-negotiable if you’re serious about sustainable growth. So with this in mind, and considering the fact that we’ve just come to the end of another financial year, it’s time to look at your numbers. How much are you spending on staffing? And more importantly what activities are bringing the greatest return on investment? Only once you know where you are, can you create a map to where you want to be.

Look At Your Leadership Funnel

Who are the managers of tomorrow, who is their back-fill and how are your developing them all to prepare for their next move? L&D doesn’t need to cost the earth – a lot can be done in-house through on the job training and mentorship. Individuals should also take responsibility for their own learning too – keeping themselves up to date with the latest trends in their business function.

Review Your Hiring Strategy

If gaps are appearing in your staff and you’re looking to recruit in September think now about how you can attract the best talent possible and how will they be on boarded to set them and the team up for success? Is there anyone internally who, with the right support and training, could take on the role instead?

Give Your Company Culture An MOT

Is it what you’d hope it to be when you set out or is it veering off course? As leader, it’s for you to set the tone of the business and reign things in if they go astray. Of course it’s only right that your culture is shaped and adjusted when you bring in new talent, but your core values (and, more importantly how these are demonstrated in practise) should remain constant. Step back and ask yourself if this is really the case and think about how to implement any changes you need to make.

Refresh Your HR Policies

Yes I know there’s always something more pressing to do than update your HR policies. Truth is, you never experience their true value until you need to use them. And if you don’t have the necessary policies in place when you need them, it’s too late.

Surprisingly there are only 3 policies that are required by law.

These are:

But there are also a number of policies that you should provide because they have legal minimum requirements.

These are:

Pay Legally you must pay your employees at least the National Minimum wage and ensure Equal Pay; you must also provide an itemised pay statement and not make any unauthorised deductions from employees pay
Equal Opportunities Legally you must not discriminate against staff or allow harassment and bullying and you must make reasonable adjustments for staff in the work-place if they are disabled
Working Hours and Overtime including rest-breaks and holidays Legally  you must comply with Working Time Regulations provisions for employees and workers
Sickness policy and unauthorised/authorised absence Legally you must make statutory sick pay payments to employees and allow them time off for dependant emergencies, Jury Service etc.
Maternity, Adoption, Paternity Leave, Parental Leave and Shared Parental leave You must make statutory maternity / adoption / paternity payments to employees and give the appropriate leave
Flexible Working You must consider all employees flexible working requests

There are few other policies that you could  consider to ensure consistency within your business. For example:

  • Personal e-mail / Internet Usage
  • Dress Codes
  • Data Protection
  • Expenses
  • Smoking
  • Holiday

Ensure Everyone Knows Where They Are Headed For The Rest Of The Year

Energise the team on their return to work by recapping on the objectives for the end of the year and where their individual contributions fit into the bigger picture. After the summer holidays is a good time to galvanise some team spirit with an away day, so you could start planning now – and don’t worry they don’t need to cost the earth… Check out our article here

Book Yourself In For An HR Health-Check

The vast majority of business owners do everything they can to comply with relevant employment legislation and create practices and policies that make their workplace a happy environment. Let’s be honest though – we all have constraints on our time, and it’s not always possible to go the extra mile. If you know that you’ve been putting HR on the backburner, then there’s no time like the present to review how you’re really performing, and what you could do to improve your business.

If you’d like a little ad-hoc assistance without committing to a tying contract, then you’re in luck. Our HR health-check service is just the ticket if you feel like it could be time to step back and take stock, before creating your plans for the future.

Drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk or give us a call today on 0203 627 7048 to book yourself in or find out more.

Image: Canva

Losing The Dressing Room… What To Do When The Team Turn Against You

After a truly horrific couple of weeks, the Sunday Times reported last weekend that Tory MPs have given Theresa May 10 days to ‘shape up – or ship out’. Hardly an enviable position to be in. But she’s not the first and won’t be the last leader to lose the support and goodwill of her team.

But what are your options if this happens to you? Do you even have any…?

Don’t Pretend It’s Not Happening

The ‘head in the sand’ reaction – while understandably tempting – is rarely an effective long term answer. Ignoring a problem won’t make it go away, in fact it usually makes things much worse. So put your big boy or girl pants on and set out to…

Identify And Address The Root Cause

The first rule of problem solving is ‘define the problem’ – so approach this in the same way. Write down in clear terms exactly what the issue in the team is, what it looks like, and how it is making you feel. Sometimes just doing this can help neutralise some of the anxiety many leaders in this situation feel as it will help you fully understand what you are dealing with. Then once you have done this you can set about trying to work out the root cause.  Which might not be easy: so to help you begin, you could…

Find Someone To Talk To

Crystallising the issue for yourself will make it easier for you to articulate what’s going on to someone else. Find someone you trust with whom to talk this all through. An independent third party perspective is likely to be helpful, both in terms of identifying possible root causes, and mapping out what steps you might take to resolve the issue with your team. It’s a particularly good idea to approach someone who you know will be honest with you, as exploring team issues like these are sometimes uncomfortable for leaders. In other words, you’re likely to need to…  

Look In The Mirror

Is there anything in your leadership style that might have created or contributed towards negativity in the team? Be honest – you won’t get anywhere if you’re not prepared to admit the truth to yourself. For example, how far do you consider the impact of your actions and decisions on your people? How would you rate your ability to communicate, delegate and listen to them? Have you ever asked them for their honest feedback on you as a leader?  If you suspect that the root cause might have something to do with you – then you need to be prepared to accept this. And not only that – but act on it. An open conversation your team – either altogether, or in the form of one-to-ones – with a bit of humility and a genuine desire to listen and improve could pay enormous dividends. The real test of course will be in identifying what personal changes to make, and how you can sustain these. It takes courage and hard work, but I have seen leaders brave enough to admit they got things wrong in the past turn seemingly dire team situations around with aplomb.  

Of course, it might be that the problem isn’t you at all – in which case you may need to…

Identify And Address ‘Problem Individuals’

Quite often the root cause of what seems to be a whole team issue can be traced to one or two people with a negative attitude infecting the rest of the team.

If this is the case, then swift and decisive action is essential. You have to deal with trouble making or insubordination straight away, regardless of how busy you are or how much you dislike conflict.  Treat it as you would any other performance issue. Hold a one-to-one meeting with any individuals concerned. Share with them the specific examples of the behaviour you view as unacceptable (such as repeatedly criticising your decisions) and spell out what the impact of their behaviour has been (such as on the attitude or performance of the rest of the team). Explain that such behaviour is not acceptable, because it not only affects their ability to work as part of the team, but undermines the performance of the team as a whole. Make clear what acceptable behaviour looks like, and agree some targets around this if necessary, together with a date to review. Explain in specific terms what the consequences will be if their behaviour doesn’t change. Emphasise that while you are open to debate, hearing other suggestions, and accept that not everyone will always agree with you, there is a line to be drawn and you will not tolerate behaviour that’s obstructive, inappropriate or unprofessional.

But Remember To Treat Everyone With Respect

To increase your chances of a successful outcome in these situations it’s important to adopt a self-assured and adult demeanour. You might think their behaviour has been childish but don’t start telling them off and don’t get angry. Or maybe you find them a little intimidating, or you dislike openly tackling difficult people situations like this – in which case, you’ll need to quickly brush up on your assertiveness skills. Either way, you must treat them with respect: they might not have been fully aware of how they’ve been coming across, the damage they’ve done or the possible ramifications for themselves. It’s not always easy but if you can show them a bit of the respect you are asking them to show you, and are prepared to listen to their side of the story (though you may not agree with it, of course) then you will know you’ve handled the issue in a fair manner, with professionalism and skill. In these situations, I have seen some team members accept corrective feedback and improve their attitude to the benefit of all. I have also seen some people who are unprepared to make the required changes within the agreed time frame, shown the door. Sometimes this is unavoidable and necessary, so be prepared to follow through.

As for Mrs May, it will be interesting to watch what changes she makes to her leadership style over the coming days – if any. Leadership takes courage. And the true test of a great leader is when crisis hits….

theHRhub is the ultimate online support system for startups and SMEs. We offer expert HR advice, a lively members forum and all the tools as templates you need to manage your team effectively. Find out more here

Photo Credit: Blacknut SMTN on flickr

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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Training: How To Make Sure It’s A Good Investment For Your Employees AND Your Company

Training can often be a costly business for SMEs especially as your business grows and you try to retain your key talent. Have you ever paid for an employee’s training believing that they would remain loyal to your company only to watch them leave for another job? It’s truly gutting, and hard not to take personally. Whilst there’s precious little you can do about that particular situation now, you can take action in advance to limit your financial exposure in the future.

Actually, the process of recouping costs is relatively simple and straightforward. It involves you entering into a formal agreement with an employee before they start their training.

Follow these simple steps to ensure that you have some comfort of seeing a return on your investment:

  • Discuss what benefits the requested training will have for the employee and your business.  Only offer to provide funding for training when you can see a direct benefit for your company.
  • Once you have agreed to pay for all (or some) of the training course agree what the terms of repayment are going to be if the employee resigns. The most effective way to do this is to decide on a staggered system of claw back whereby the amount to be repaid by the employee decreases with time until a certain period has lapsed after which no repayment is due. You can calculate your own specific rules with regards to claw back but a common approach is to stipulate a repayment of 100% of the training costs if the employee resigns within 3 months of completing training; 75% repayment after 3 – 6 months; 50% after 6 – 9 months and 25% after 9 – 12 months. After 12 months, no repayment would be due.
  • Put the agreement in writing and give the employee a clear explanation of what the terms mean. You should also make sure that the employee signs the agreement to give their consent to the repayment terms. Such repayments cannot be implemented retrospectively without the employee’s consent because the repayment constitutes a deduction from pay. A deduction of this kind that is not agreed with the employee beforehand is an unlawful one.
  • Remember that you can only put a formal training agreement in place for training outside of any regular in house training that you offer as a business (such as the costs associated with their induction). The cost of on-the-job training is something that you should budget into your normal expenses and is not something you will be able to recover, even if your employee leave 2 weeks after the training.

Although training can be costly to your business, work-related training courses can be an invaluable investment for both you and your employees: your employee spends their time learning new skills and widening their knowledge; your business benefits from an individual who can play a more significant role in the business, in turn contributing to increased profits, more streamlined internal processes etc.

Need help formalising your training agreements? Contact us at theHRhub on 0203 627 7048 for more information on how to support your employees training needs. Or drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk

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