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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


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How To Give A Gift Without Tax

As we enter the final few weeks of 2016, a well-placed reward or gift could be just what the team needs to help them cross the finish line with aplomb. But it’s that straightforward. Rewarding your staff without them being taxed is a very tricky thing to do. Hard cash and vouchers are pretty much out. But whilst HMRC aren’t particularly generous here, there are a few exceptions where the taxman can’t help himself to some of the value of the gift:

1. Celebratory Presents

Whilst employees will incur tax on all benefits on top of their salary and bonus, modest ‘celebratory gifts’ to mark a special occasion such as a birthday or new baby should be fine. Also included here would be a modest Christmas present.

2. Suggestion Scheme

Employers can pay staff £25 tax free for responses to an ‘organised’ suggestion scheme which formally asks employees for ideas on how to improve the way their business is run. But it get’s better. If a suggestion yields financial rewards for the business, the firm can pay the owner of the original idea 50% of that financial yield accrued in the first year (or 10% of the yield accrued in the first 5 years) up to a maximum of £5k, without tax.

3. Encouragement Awards

Merit based rewards to motivate high achieving staff are included in the concessions. A cash payment is allowed but only up to £25, but it’s better than nothing!

4. Recreational Reward

Businesses can lay on parties/functions for their workers up to the value of £150 per person without incurring any tax liability.  So it’s always worth ring-fencing the money for the annual Christmas do if you can….

5. Loans

Ok so you can’t give them money tax free, but you can lend them it. Companies can lend employees up to £10,000 without any tax implications. Ideal to help pay for season tickets for example.

But Sometimes The Best Rewards Are Free….

A ‘reward’ doesn’t have to be tangible and/or cause you to put your hand in your pocket: Praise your team wherever possible – it’s proven to be motivating. As well as making staff feel more appreciated, it improves their confidence and self esteem too. Remember to say ‘Thank You’ – the most important two words in the workplace. Better still, write handwritten thank you cards to staff, each with a personalised message expressing gratitude for their support on a particular project or issue over the past year. Such a simple gesture, but one that will go a long way to making them feel really valued.

For many hard-working employees, having time spent focused purely on them, discussing their performance, hopes and future in your business and ensuring their voice is heard would be the ultimate way to motivate and show they are valued. So as the traditional annual appraisal process enters the fray at this time of year, make sure you make the most out of this time by encouraging all managers to side-step the rankings (there is scant evidence these help to improve anyone’s performance) and simply focus on, what I like to call, “having-a-conversation” with your employees. Better still, ditch the ‘annual’ and lead by example, making sure these conversations are taking place on a much more regular basis….

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Gifts That Aren’t Just For Christmas: The Top Companies In the UK For Perks

Gifts That Aren’t Just For Christmas: The Top Companies In the UK For Perks

Is it really better to give than to receive? Well, given that more than a third of employees admit perks and benefits are amongst their top consideration before accepting a new job – as far as your business goes, I’d say yes. Whilst they’re unlikely to be the ultimate deciding factor (culture and opportunity will outrank for most in this regard) they can demonstrate a lot about a company culture without the candidate having to step foot in the office.

And companies are getting more and more creative when it comes to what they offer in order to attract top talent. So whilst talking to your employees over a glass fizz this Christmas, ask them what perks and benefits would attract them to your business now and what would urge them to stay.

So you’ve got some suggestions of your own up your sleeve here’s our pick of the Top 10 companies in the UK for perks with details of the ‘little extras’ that make them so great….


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It sucks working on your birthday, but at cloud services provider Rackspace you don’t have to – they give all employees their birthday off work.

It sucks working on your birthday, but at cloud services provider Rackspace you don’t have to – they give all employees their birthday off work.

Body Shop

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In line with their “enrich not exploit” ethos, the cosmetics giant pays staff for five volunteering days per year allowing employees to satisfy their inner altruist.


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Known as the ‘Huddle Cuddle’ – if you get a job at Huddle you’ll be welcomed with a golden hello of £5,000. Yup – you read that right – £5,000.

Swinton Insurance

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The annual  ‘Christmas shopping day’ provided as a perk by Swinton Insurance is highly valued by its employees – particularly those who leave everything to the last minute….


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AutoTrader UK has a wine club, giving employees discounted wine delivered to their door every month. My kind of club….

Peer 1 Hosting

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The HQ at Peer 1 Hosting in Southampton has a giant helter-skelter slide, a tree house, a pub, pool table, a putting green, a giant swing, a cinema, and there’s even a place where putting your feet up is an office rule. 


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To appeal to those with itchy feet, comparisons website Skyscanner lets it staff work in one if its 10 overseas offices (including Miami and Barcelona) for up to 30 days every two years. The UK office has also negotiated employee discounts at the local pub and beauty salon.


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Hip London startup Swiftkey invites guest speakers for lunchtime talks to keep their employee’s minds stimulated and inspired. Celebrities such as Stephen Fry have talked in the past.

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London based now allow employees dogs in the office saving employees £s in annual dog-sitting fees and making everyone that little bit happier.

Mind Candy

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Gaming company Mind Candy has turned their place of work into a play den including every imaginable office toy. Staff can even unwind with a quick game of Guitar Hero.                                                                                                                

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Article Photo Credits: cj sorg, Daniel Thornton, Yukariryu, Stav, Chris Frewin, Daniel Godavid reid, Adrain Scottow, Tine Steiss, Brian Turner

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Team In The Run Up To Christmas

At this time of the year, business leaders are starting to really knuckle down on just how they’re going to hit their numbers in the final quarter.

After all, there’s ample time to sign up new clients and customers before the end of the year and for many it’s their busiest time. Perhaps you’re rolling out special offers on your services to entice using-up-of-budget spending? Have lined up a email marketing campaign that even the most hardened buyer cannot ignore? Or maybe you have an exciting new line of products whose features just sell themselves…

Whatever your goals are, these strategies can work, for sure. But if you’re serious about really upping the ante and ending 2016 in the best position possible, then don’t ignore your greatest chance of hitting those numbers – your people. Here, we’re going to share some practical hints and tips that you can start implementing right away.

Consider whether you need to roll out refresher training

At this time of the year, exemplary customer service and focussed sales skills can make a huge difference when it comes to your profits. Are your staff comfortable with talking about your products and services? Can they pinpoint opportunities to offer an up-sell? And are they really firing on all cylinders when it comes to their day-to-day work?

Take the opportunity to consider how you can offer training to drill down on key points you need to change, and take performance up to that next level. You don’t necessarily have to spend a fortune on bringing in external providers, so think like a bootstrapped startup when it comes to how you can deliver any development needed. Perhaps pairing up members of the sales & marketing team to hone in on the key value proposition your product/ service is offering to clients and customers would give a much needed boost to those who are struggling to bring prospects along the sales pipeline? Many sales tools record your calls and can be used to immediate feedback to people that can be started as soon as this morning….  Or how about some e-learning courses to give some focus and boost skills? Bitesize courses can be found on all manner of topics from customer service to google Analytics on sites such as &

Make sure that everyone has goals to be working towards

If your staff have been in their positions for a while, then they can really easily fall into a mundane routine. Particularly in the run up to Christmas. After all, everyone’s a bit well, knackered? They turn up to work, do their bit, and then go home.

Could it be the case that they’re feeling complacent? If so, now’s an excellent time to get your leadership team together and ensure that everyone has realistic but stretching goals to be making progress towards. So gather them all in a group huddle if you don’t have time for individual meetings this week and make it crystal clear what you need from everyone and what you need to deliver by the end of the year. Word to the wise however: now is not the time to be beating people up over performance: think ‘motivate’ rather than ‘denegrate’…..

Everyone should understand and recognise the contribution they make to the bigger picture, so make sure they understand the part they play and are recognised, though it’s also sensible to think about how you can encourage staff to work together to achieve bigger things.

Work out how you’ll incentivise this fabulous performance  

If you’re after a short sharp focus to hit specific targets, then bonuses could be the answer here. Although not scientifically proven to help in all cases, behaviour can be changed if the task is simple, the rewards understood and the task not too difficult – so get to work on creating an incentive scheme that says ‘thanks’ a lot to the team but makes sure you hit the right goals.

Again, this doesn’t have to be something that puts a strain on your budget. There’s a ton of things that you can do to offer an attractive incentive for outstanding performance, even if you’re on a tight budget & for more ideas on how to do this with your sales team, check out Katy Cracknell’s article How To Motivate Your Sales Team Without Focussing On Just The Money And, of course, you should never underestimate the value of of rolling out a Blue Peter-Style Thermometer to really visualise your sales. In addition of course, to simply saying thank you….

The year’s speeding to an end, but if you start taking action right away on the points that we’ve outlined above, you can make a big difference to your final results. So what are you waiting for?!

If you need some help with managing that final push, then pick up the phone. We’ll be looking forward to having an initial chat about how we might be able to work together, without any obligation or pressure. Get in touch at, or give us a call on 0203 627 7048.

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Can Your Employees Afford To Travel To Work?

“Still stuck at East Croydon…. Be in as soon as I can…”.

This type of text (with insert variation of town thereof) is a familiar one to be received by most managers on an almost daily basis this Summer. It’s annoying for all parties: those stuck on the platform/ carriage who are desperate to get where they want to go to as well as those who make it into the office and have to rearrange schedules around them.

Added to this annoyance is some analysis undertaken by the TUC and the Action for Rail campaign which has found that fares have rocketed by 25% over the past six years, while average weekly earnings have only seen a 12% rise. In other words, the cost of travel is increasing at more than double the rate of wages leaving people could quite feasibly be paying through the nose for going nowhere. And given that just under 10% of the workforce commutes to work by rail, it’s something which might pose some serious issues for businesses.

If your staff commute from a distance, what would happen if they started to seek out opportunities closer to home? Could they be forced to seek out a higher pay packet, to cover their costs? And could the stress of the daily commute leave your workers feeling frazzled and demotivated?

When you scratch the surface, it’s easy to see how the issue could start to create real headaches in terms of how you manage your workforce and so it’s definitely worth thinking about how you could take a more proactive approach…

First of all, let’s consider for a second whether you actually need to have your staff in the office, every single day of the week. In some businesses, it’s a very obvious prerequisite to your ability to offer a quality service to your customers and clients. In other companies though, a more flexible approach could bring about huge benefits.

If your staff can work from home, their travel costs may be cut. They’re also going to be spending less time in cramped train carriages, and this can have a positive impact on morale and productivity. Alternatively, letting your staff choose their start and finish time, within a designated window, could mean that they miss rush hour. Plenty of business owners have reservations about offering flexible working practices, but it could be time for you to bring your business up to date.

Some employers decide to take a different approach, and provide financial assistance to help with travel costs. You could add season tickets to your employee benefits, or cover a chunk of the yearly fee. Or you might offer an interest-free loan so your staff can afford to take advantage of the savings that often come with booking a chunk of travel in advance.

You might jump to the assumption that you can’t afford to fork out for extra expenses & want people in the office all of the time, but it’s sensible to take a step back and consider the bigger picture. Can you afford to have your staff leaving your business because of escalating travel costs? It might be a balancing act, but it could be worth it.

Would you like the opportunity to discuss your challenges and concerns with an expert, without any obligation? If so, pick up the phone and give us a call. We can arrange a suitable time for an initial consultation, and help you to establish how you can up your game as an employer.

Get in touch today by dropping us a line at, calling 0203 627 7048, or book in here for a no-obligation chat about how we can help you improve your on boarding and performance management process.

For more reading on how else you can tackle thorny issue with confidence, then download our new eBook: Leadership 101: The Ultimate Guide to Being an Inspirational Leader.

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How To Motivate Your Sales Team (Without Just Focussing On The Money)

We all know that a motivated sales team is critical to the success of any business. The relationships they build with your clients and customers create the foundation of your business — not just in terms of individual sales, but also your overall reputation and growth.

So how can you motivate your sales team without just focussing on money? There are many different ways to motivate a sales team. Some companies use a traditional sales structure with set targets and commission paid in line with reaching these. Others go the “fun” route with contests, trips, tickets, dinners and other innovative rewards. All of these things are great and have their place but in my experience sales professionals need more than gift cards or event tickets: they also want to succeed in their chosen profession by climbing up the ladder whilst having a fun and dynamic environment to work in.

In the past traditional rewards of lower base salaries with a commission structure sitting alongside it (typically based on number of sales) have been commonplace. The majority of salespeople are used to a system that rewards only the top sales performers, however the tide is turning (and arguably has already turned). More recent trends show that employers are becoming much more savvy and imaginative when it comes to rewarding their sales teams.

Some companies are now following the trend of using reward systems that reward the individual that tries the hardest. Dan McGraw, founder and CEO of Fuelzee, said that one of the best ways his company learned about motivation was by rewarding the sales team for ‘no’s. “Every time someone got a ‘no’, we tracked it in our system, and the person with the most ‘no’s received a $100 gift card every week”, McGraw said. ”This might sound crazy, but you get a lot of no’s when doing sales. The more no’s you get, the closer you are to getting a yes. The prize of getting a yes is way larger than $100, so you still wanted to get there. This nearly doubled our outbound calls and motivated the whole team.”

You might think that a scheme like this could detract from your biggest sellers, but don’t worry, managed properly it won’t and it will simply act as a motivator to those who have the potential to get to a top spot in your business by providing them with recognition as they progress through the business.

Create a fun working environment. For some salespeople, the ability to have a little fun during work time is as much of a motivator as money (remember that your salespeople are working long hours and are in the office for a large proportion of their week) Common rewards for reaching sales goals or benchmark include leaving work early, attending a happy hour or maybe giving a trip to reward success over a long period of time.

Fun in small spurts can be just as rewarding as the financial rewards you offer. Rick Hanson, VP at Hewlett- Packard has said that his company uses Fantasy Sales Team to award points to “players” (sales reps) for carrying out their daily tasks, like increasing a pipeline or closing a deal. The unique twist is that the reps don’t just compete as individuals, Hanson said: they build teams just as in fantasy football. “Reps earn points for their FantasySalesTeam based on the performance of their chosen peers and friends, and this creates an environment of encouragement and pressure amongst the players” he said. “To win the game, they must rely and push on each other to perform. Even more exciting is just how many reps in our sales organization can, and want to, participate”.

Personally in businesses where I have worked you ‘hear’ when a sales representative succeeds. For instance, a closed deal results in the playing of a song of the salesperson’s choice, and sometimes a subsequent team dance (!).

Create Competition and take advantage of your team members’ natural competitiveness as a way to engage your people, boost morale, and make work more fun. Competitions are also excellent for improving performance during slow periods. Focus on a strategic business goal that you all need to meet. Devote a wall in the office to the contest, and post news about wins, display real-time updates and standings, and celebrate achievements. To make it more interesting and valuable, offer a small prize or reward.

Ask your team members what they would like to receive, or use your own judgment to come up with something creative and remember that it doesn’t have to cost the earth!

Take time to celebrate the good times and recognize success publicly. Jeremy Hudson, director of sales at Logic Supply’s motivational secret is “When the wins come, we celebrate them. It can be as simple as a shout- out on the sales floor, an email message to the whole company to recognize the efforts, or on occasion I will request that the CEO take them out for lunch.” Getting the ‘big dog’s’ involved in some of the rewards and incentives can work wonders as your sales team are likely to value some dedicated face to face time with a Director.

Career progression is a simple cost effective way to motivate your sales team too. Although the fun and financial rewards often work, for some sales employees, the ultimate reward is the opportunity to get ahead in their careers. Intrinsic motivators such as development and personal growth play a huge part with a competitive sales team and so don’t underestimate the power of offering training, and development opportunities, showing that you are supportive of allowing them to develop their skills to help move them to the next level or win that promotion (download our complimentary E-book on rewards for more information on intrinsic and extrinsic here).

The simple things can also have an impact on your sales team’s motivation. The majority of employers now offer table football, ping pong tables and similar activities to their staff. And although you might not think that a Ping-Pong table for the office would push people and drive behaviours, I would recommend that you try it, from my experience these types of incentives can make a real difference.

Try to think outside the box and try simple, one off recognition schemes. Colleen Stanley, president of SalesLeadership Inc., believes that email is nice, but a handwritten note is much more meaningful because it shows you’ve taken time to find a card and write a personal note. “I have seen cards sitting on a salesperson’s desk, however, have never seen an email propped up.”

You could also consider sharing content across your sales team. If you have intellectually curious salespeople on your team share with them a cool book, podcast, video or blog – something that you have personally found helpful and really enjoyed. Just be sure to pick topics that are relevant to the jobs or your industry to keep it ‘on point’!

When it comes to understanding how to motivate your sales team there is no simpler approach than asking them. You can do this via a survey, face-to- face or through team meetings but make sure that they understand that by giving their suggestions does not mean that you will put the reward in place. Gather ideas and suggestions and consider what works best for your business, employees and your culture.

These are just some of the ideas you can use to motivate your sales team without just focusing on money. Try to keep things fresh in your business and consider what your employees want to see and use this as a basis to generate new innovative ideas. By offering a variety of rewards, you stand a greater chance of having a motivator for every personality type on your team and developing all of your salespeople into top-tier team players. When your goals and their goals align, only the best things can happen.

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