In the swirling mix of economic forecasts, 2024 presents a peculiar paradox. We’re technically in a recession, yet it doesn’t quite fit the mold of the gloom-and-doom scenarios we’re accustomed to. “Not a ‘real’ recession,” some might say, as they try to pin down the elusive nature of our current financial climate. Yet, the business leaders I’ve chatted with echo a singular sentiment: the road ahead is peppered with challenges.
A common thread among these conversations is the wavering confidence levels. It’s not that customers and clients are vanishing into thin air; they’re just becoming more discerning with their wallets. This newfound pickiness casts a long shadow over budgeting and forecasting, making financial crystal balls fuzzier than ever.
Teams feel this uncertainty keenly.
Watching clients hesitate on the usual orders or campaigns sends ripples of insecurity through the ranks. No one I know has ever enthusiastically embraced downsizing or its myriad of euphemisms (“trimming the fat,” “getting a haircut,” “a close shave”). Yet, when profits shrink, the spotlight invariably falls on the largest expense for most businesses: their people. And believe me, everyone senses when that spotlight turns their way.
Amidst this backdrop, some may adopt a ‘survive until 2025’ mantra, tightening the proverbial belt a notch and looking to make cuts wherever possible. But whilst reviewing all costs is the sensible thing to do when the pressure is on and you enter what is colloquially known as ‘squeeky-bum-territory’, there is another path to consider as well: optimising team potential and steering through the fog, not just waiting for it to lift.
Open, transparent communication with your team can help.
Being candid about the company’s financial health doesn’t mean laying all your cards on the table, but sharing enough to maintain trust. It’s about giving your team a glimpse into the decision-making process, the challenges faced, and the strategies employed to navigate through them.
You can’t forecast the future with absolute certainty, but communicating regularly and openly with your team can dispel as much fear as possible. In times of uncertainty, bold ideas often take a backseat, but it’s precisely these ideas that can pave the way forward.
Acknowledging the economic elephant in the room while encouraging your team to brainstorm ideas and innovative solutions can replace a culture of internal competition with one of collaboration.
Upskilling is also a beacon of hope here too. Whether through internal training, shadowing, or leveraging the plethora of free resources online, equipping your team with new skills can turn the tide and help people see problems with fresh eyes and skills, offering flexibility and resilience in spades.
Positivity will thrive where you and your team have strong wellbeing and resilience.
The cornerstone of navigating these turbulent times is the well-being of your team. And whilst it’s not just all-on-you to ensure that support and positivity thrive, your influence will be considerably stronger than others in the team in this regard.
Paying attention to your own resilience quotient therefore in each of the four key areas – physical, mental, spiritual and social – can help boost your own wellbeing before turning to see how it can help others. From get togethers (social) to regular walk-and-talk meetings ( physical and social) right through to positive self talk and encouragement of feedback (mental), all of these small steps build to create a team with healthy habits and get you all in the right place. External help can also support, including providing tools and resources that bolster efficiency and effectiveness and Employee Assistance Programmes which allow for expert support in areas that you or your managers may not be equipped ( or be appropriate) to discuss.
Explore all avenues (but don’t forget to take your team on the journey too).
Adjustments may be inevitable, including the difficult decision to resize the team. Yet, there are many avenues to explore before reaching that point. I’ve seen businesses pivot to part-time arrangements or explore voluntary redundancies as a first step before making anything more permanent. But even if that is the end result, transparency and openness early on in these discussions can significantly impact how fair and respected team members feel and what this does for your businesses’ long term health.
In the heart of economic downturns lies an opportunity—not just for survival but for growth and innovation. It’s a chance to reframe challenges as catalysts for change, encouraging leaders and teams alike to adopt a proactive stance. Together, there’s immense potential to not only weather the storm but to emerge stronger, more cohesive, and innovative on the other side.
If you want to chat through options to steer your way to success, drop us a line at email@example.com or give us a call on 0203 951 1208.
Later this year,The HR Hub team will be moving up in the world, as we take part in the Three Peaks Challenge.
The race to climb Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon (the three highest mountains in the UK) within 24 hours, is one I’m both looking forward to and with apprehension in equal measure. On the plus side, it will be great to spend some time with the team away from laptops and with the wind in our hair ( and perhaps the odd blister on our feet too….). However given that the last time I saw Scafell Pike through a window out of the back of an ambulance as I was whisked away to the hospital having suffered hypothermia was on a Silver Duke of Edinburgh exercise, I’m hoping very much that my visit this time will be with less need for medical intervention!
Notwithstanding this, the team and I are all primed and ready to start our training for the big weekend! And so how lucky we are then, that in the first month of our training for the race, that May is none other than National Walking Month – an annual campaign that takes place every May to encourage people to walk more and improve their physical and mental health – something that can only. boost our motivation to lace up the trainers.
The campaign is led by the charity Living Streets and aims to raise awareness about the benefits of walking, as well as promoting walking as a sustainable and environmentally friendly form of transport. It’s also therefore a great opportunity for you to support your team members in engaging with this & some suggestions of how to do this are shown below:
3 Weeks Challenge: Create a walking challenge for different team members to rack up the distance of the Three Peaks Challenge between them, but to be done over the remaining days are left in the month. Less sleep deprivation needed for this one that the real Challenge but still provides a sense of achievement for those who take part.
Walkey Talkey: Encourage team members to take their meetings outside and walk while they talk. This can be a great way to boost creativity and productivity, while also getting some exercise.
Happy Feet: Create a walking club within your company, where team members can get together and go for a walk during lunch breaks or after work. This can help foster a nice sense of community and support among the team as well as often getting to see parts of your city and town that you’ve never seen before!
Keep on track: Share resources to help people get started such as route maps, apps to share or trackers in order to make it more accessible & achievable for everyone.
Lead from the front: As a business owner or leader, you can set an example by prioritising your own physical activity and encouraging your team members to do the same. This helps create a culture of Unity as well as one which values and supports their team’s well-being.
For more information on how to keep your team engaged and firing on all cyclinders, drop us a line via firstname.lastname@example.org, give us a call on 0203 6277048 or pop in a diary time here.
#walkthismay #lighthtspark #employeemagic #wellbeing
It’s an unfortunate inevitability that loss and the grief, will affect every one of us at some point. And whilst it might not seem the most cheery subject to bring up on a wet November morning, there’s a) never a right time to bring it up and b) perhaps one to store away in the files until you might want to re-visit.
While the death of a loved one is often the cause of grief, it’s important to remember that grieving is not ‘one size fits all’. Studies have found that all kinds of life-changing events can cause feelings of grief. These can include the end of a friendship, the loss of a job, the loss of a pet or a decline in health. Likewise, many different factors affect how we grieve and why, including the support we receive.
And that goes for the support of colleagues and employers as well as friends and family.
As a business leader, the process of supporting employees through grief can be one of the most difficult and delicate tasks you’ll face. This is why it helps to have a more comprehensive understanding of what employees value most when grieving in order to formulate how you would provide support in such an event.
Keep reading for some key strategies on how to support employees through grief.
Look Beyond the Legal Requirements
Here in the UK, there are certain legal requirements for employers to follow when supporting employees through grief, but only for bereavement.
Legally, employers must grant two weeks’ bereavement leave to employees following the death of a child under 18 years old and for dependents (such as a parent or partner) you must grant a ‘reasonable’ amount of bereavement leave. Given that in most cases, there is no legal right to any paid time off for bereavement, it falls to you as employer to determine what you feel is ‘right’.
As a compassionate and emotionally intelligent leader, you can commit to doing more than the bare minimum, something which will be welcomed by any of your team experiencing such loss, as well as other team members who are aware.
Instead of letting these limited and vague legal requirements guide you, think about the support you would want to receive following a loss. This isn’t always financial and could be in the form of a reduced workload, greater schedule flexibility, or emotional support. Factors such as the size of your company may limit the leave and benefits you can provide. But there shouldn’t be a limit on the patience and understanding your company offers to grieving employees.
Formalise Your Procedures for Supporting Employees Through Grief
Whatever decisions you make, we recommend creating a set of formal guidelines detailing how you and your company will support employees through grief. Keep some level of flexibility in it (I know of one business I worked with who spelt out the number of days paid leave provided upon the death of a very specific list of different relatives which felt a tad too prescriptive) however doing so allows you to take a proactive and considered stance, rather than rushing to react to situations as and when they arise and allow your managers and team members to review rather than just try and ‘fill in the blanks’.
Creating a framework for supporting grief encourages an environment of awareness and acceptance around the subject. You might also consider some kind of sensitivity training for your employees about the effects of grief and how best to support a grieving colleague.
And for employees who need support through grief, knowing that there is a policy already in place shows that you understand the complexities of loss and grief and are willing to honour that through formal procedures and guidelines. Requesting that support is then less likely to make them feel as though they’re ‘asking for a favour’ rather than getting the support they’re entitled to.
Following a significant loss, paid time off can be beneficial as it gives your employees the time and space they need to grieve in private. In cases of bereavement and certain traumatic life events such as divorce or loss of a home, they may also need to use this time for attending the funeral or making arrangements. Knowing that they won’t lose out financially also avoids adding to their stress and forcing them to come back before they’re ready.
Consider Non-Financial Support
But financial help isn’t the only way to support employees through grief. You should also consider how you can help by offering emotional support.
Loss and grief are sensitive topics that call for a delicate touch from the moment your employee makes you aware of the situation. Beyond offering your condolences and reiterating the leave they’re entitled to, ensure that they feel valued and supported as a person as well as an employee.
Help you can offer include regular check-ins, an open-door policy, and colleague support networks.
One of the best ways to support your employees through grief is by being patient and listening to what they need. Some people may want to return to work to keep themselves busy. But for those who need more time, you might consider offering reduced hours or more flexible schedules. Easing workloads and adjusting expectations can give your employee space to heal following a loss.
Although this can seem risky when running a business, planned absence is always preferable to unplanned absence. As well as supporting your employee’s healing process and fostering loyalty, addressing the issue head-on allows you to plan effectively to ensure the work still gets done.
Depending on your business environment and resources, you might consider offering a transition period back to a normal routine. This period could involve working from home more often or a lighter workload. You may also need to help them avoid situations, tasks, or environments that remind them of their grief.
Use External Sources if Needed
Remember, as well-meaning as your intentions are, you may not always have the necessary training and tools to support a grieving employee in-house.
Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression can arise or worsen following a significant loss. If you notice worrying signs or become concerned that your employee isn’t coping well, don’t hesitate to take advantage of outside resources such as Cruse Bereavement Support or these useful contacts supplied by Mind.
Also, if your workplace offers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that includes access to a grief counsellor, you should ask employees if they’d like you to put them in touch.
Devising Your Strategy to Support Employees Through Grief
Knowing how to support employees through grief can be difficult. Not least because grief is a very individual experience that often defies prediction or definition.
But as an employer, by defining and formalising your company’s grief support framework now, you’ll be well prepared to provide the right kind of support for your employees when they most need it.
For more information on tools and techniques to support and empower your employees, feel free to contact us via email@example.com or call on 0203 627 7048.
Sorting out some boxes in our attic the other day, I came across a couple of scrapbooks I’d been encouraged to fill when on Summer holidays as a child. Amazed that these were still intact, I browsed through the first one and was transported back to ’84 immediately via fuzzy photos of the Epcot Centre, tickets to attractions that are faded beyond recognition, a Mickey Mouse sticker and many (many,…too many!) different-yet-all-slightly-out-of-focus shots of my family on a miscellaneous beach in Florida. It was clear this was my first Summer let loose with film….
I didn’t capture all that we did that Summer in the book of course, but the essence of what a fabulous time we’d had was unlocked as soon as I looked through it (together memories of some epic fights I’d also had with my siblings over Pacman scores too) and it reminded me how lovely it can be to have such a chaotic way to capture a period of time. Sadly, I didn’t keep it up for much more than a couple of Summers, however it certainly brought on a flurry of hastily downloading and creating photobooks (so much more reliable than an old pritt stick!) from my phone to keep more recent memories alive.
“Some” might say that a post like this belongs in the ‘back to school’ category of early August (and it may be that I’ve broken some unspoken Marketing Calendar rulebook – whoops!) however in the HR Hub world ‘Summer’ breaks are never just confined to July and August and the rolling nature of them are an essential part of what energises us throughout the year. Cue my first attempt above to capture some of what we as a team have been up to!
This Summer our relay of HR Hub team breaks (so far – still a few to go) has taken us to Athens, Italy, Croatia, Spain, Athens again , the Canary Islands and then most recently, mainland Spain again. Oh, and let’s not forget Suffolk & the South Downs too: bathed in glorious sunshine, the likes of which England hasn’t seen in years. In short, we do holidays as well as we do HR!
During these times, we’ve been swimming, cooking, done some epic walks, paddle-boarding, sailing, not to mention indulging in food, friendship and family along the way. And of course, let’s not forget the spot or two of reflection that comes with the territory of such downtime ….
I know that I’m not alone in the fact that a change of environment and a break from a ‘typical working’ day is always a trigger to start thinking about what I’ve done or not done in the last few months or year. And whilst I’d be lying if I said that there was no negative self talk at all (beating myself up about not doing everything on my ‘list’ is a ritual and activity which has always featured….) , over the years I’ve taught myself to minimise the ruminations and instead think about the steps forward we’ve taken, the impact we’ve had and what myriad of fun plans may take shape in the future. It’a a great way to recognise progress and spur yourself on.
This year I reached the positive stage pretty quickly however, because despite needing a new code for the team in our time tracking to show ‘getting your passport stamped’, during this same time period we’ve delivered some fabulous programmes for our clients, making it one of our busiest (and most enjoyable) Summers ever at HR Hub towers.
I often describe HR as a ‘bit like being a GP’, however the following categories describe just how varied some of the help we’ve provided to our clients:
- Supported our client’s expand by hiring numerous roles end to end across functions as broad as Finance, Development, SEO, Account Management, Sales, Data and People functions
- Upgrading the onboarding experience for new hires
- Increasing personal and management skills through, training and coaching to multiple clients reaching hundreds of teams across subjects as diverse as new manager ‘bootcamp’ training, courageous conversations, setting direction, creating a culture of inclusion, financial wellbeing and general mental health to name a few
- Undertaking successful due diligence & compliance work for those clients acquiring funding (yep – there’s still a lot of it about despite what you might read this week!)
- Resolving multiple concerns team members and managers have had about their work environment, roles and relationships and setting them on a path which is much more constructive
- And last but by no means least….building confidence in leaders to create their own version of magic in their teams through 1-2-1 support, advice and discussions.
Reflecting on all our delivery these last few months, we’ve definitely managed to pack in a lot! And whether it’s training or trekking, the stats we’ve collected over the last few months are incredibly motivating in terms of recognising progress. I’m immensely proud of our team for supporting each other and our clients to find the right balance for them.
If you want to create great memories with your team and could do with a little help and support as you grow and thrive, drop us a line firstname.lastname@example.org, give us a call on 0203 6277048 or pop in a diary time here.
Typically I write about things you can do as a business leader to accelerate the support you provide to your team members to give greater impact. But I feel that this week – following Loneliness Awareness Week specifically focussed on tackling loneliness – that this one (she says pointing somewhere in the middle distance towards you, reader)? This one’s just for you…
The World Health Organization (WHO) describes ‘loneliness’ as “the pain we feel when our social connections do not meet our needs”. So although it doesn’t automatically follow that we would associate loneliness in an employment context, given that we spend so much of our lives ‘working’ in some form or other and that work/life is no longer balanced but blended, it’s only natural that we make many of our social connections when we’re ‘9-5’.
Mental Health UK found that 1 in 5 workers feel lonely at any one time, with certain risk groups (including younger workers) feeling the impact of it at an even greater rate.
But what about business owners? Some may feel that with (the perception of) more choice, autonomy and the ability to connect with everyone in their business, that surely this group would fare better? Not so according to recent research undertaken by the super lovely & brilliant Penny Power: when it comes to business owners, a whopping 66% of them feel it too. Empty. Isolated, Solitary. Whatever your name for these feelings are, running a business it seems, can sometimes be the loneliest place to be within it.
And I’ve felt it too. Not all the time, for sure, and there is much to be said about the energising and meaningful interactions that one gets to have as their business evolves. But there have been distinct moments when I’d have loved to have been able to sit down and open up about what I was really thinking about. To chew through a really tricky decision. Or to voice my doubts about the path I was following. Essentially, to have the kind of connection and conversation which really met ‘my’ needs and not someone else’s.
For me – perhaps perversely – just knowing that there are so many others out there feeling a similar way gives me some comfort that what I may be experiencing from time to time, has some sense of ‘the typical’ about it. And I also know that the loneliness that I have felt has been pretty fleeting and not the more deep seated type which can play havoc with your mental health longer term.
Because if you are starting to feel it creep into the ‘norm’ it can cause you to feel alienated to the point of doubting yourself, losing confidence and struggling with the things you would normally do on auto-pilot.
Even those who would be viewed as extroverts can feel it (perhaps more so?) and it’s not always that you are afraid to open up or be vulnerable to your team. You can exist as a person who is helping to create an open and supportive environment for your team members whilst simultaneously struggling to open up as ‘the boss’. There could be a genuine feeling of wanting to avoid ‘burdening others’ or the fact that you are trying to make a tricky decision that will impact the very people who are around you at work most and who you are trying to protect.
Whatever the reason is that you may be feeling this way however, there are various ways that you can help yourself work through these periods and (unsurprisingly) many of the tips to help beat loneliness when you’re the leader don’t vary tremendously from when you have a different role in the business. However the one thing I would just say that there are a few nuances to avoid if you want to avoid any David Brent moments….
Firstly, perhaps do a bit of analysis on yourself. Start by going back to the definition of loneliness by WHO (see above) and really think about what your ‘needs’ are. Is it someone to listen to you without judgement? To bat ideas off? To help you solve problems? Or is it that you spot a group of your team members merrily laughing over their lunch and miss the feeling this gives? I find that there are different people that can support these different needs and spending time thinking about what I’m actually missing helps me.
This could lead you to start engaging with a mentor, a coach, an expert in a field you feel less comfortable in and that you spend most of your time operating in. Or simply it can remind yourself of who you do know that you can reach out to that you may have forgotten.
Internally, you could also try your hand at a more ‘democratic’ style of leadership that invites others to help make your decisions. After all, if they’re not all resting on your shoulders, then not only will it feel like some of the weight of the world has been lifted off them, but you should get more ideas to boot. Many business owners I find delegation a challenge, so test yourself to see if you’re creating a rod for your own back in this regard.
And finally, look beyond your own business and get to know others in similar spaces. Don’t know where to start? Ask the people you trust where they ‘hang out’ and start looking out for events that you like the ‘style’ of. I’m not a massive fan of ‘networking’ in its 1990’s form (and have yet to find anyone who is tbh…) as the term feels a bit ‘conference room at the Ibis’ for me, but I do like talking to interesting people and the sparks that come from great conversations and so sometimes it is worth putting in the effort to seek them out. Online or offline, regular or infrequent, there will be a group out there where you can feel at home.
For other ways to address loneliness (for both you and your team), I would urge you to take a look at the resources offered by Mental Health UK here . They’re far reaching and have helped me and many others understand what helps what hinders when the feelings come.
We know we can’t be by your side at every meeting, decision and challenge you face, but we are prone to loving a cup of tea and a chat at any given time of day! So if you feel like a virtual cuppa (with a particular leaning towards Earl Grey…) drop us a line at email@example.com or call on 0203 627 7048
Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash
There will be good days and bad days for all of you at the moment as you navigate what the impact of Covid-19 means to your colleagues, your teams and your business. And although you will of course be considerate and supportive of the wider team, we know that this situation is likely to be just as tough for you, as it is for them. Often more so, as you also might be feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders in leading at a time when the business pressures are unlike any most have ever seen and many of the answers are unknown.
A Black Swan event is largely described as an unexpected one that has a disproportionate and disastrous effect on our economic world: think Dot Com crash in 2001 and Financial crisis of 2008. The biggies that we all know and remember. Brexit may have been deemed one of them until recently, when the ‘C’ word has well and truly knocked it out of the park.
During such periods of disruption and change that accompany these events, people respond at different levels of intensity and speed, but my experience is that we are pretty predictable in following the Kubler-Ross ‘change’ curve, the model used to describe an individual reaction to grief and death, but which can often be applied to general responses to circumstances and which has also become known simply as the ‘Change Curve’ in the decades since the first research was undertaken.
As a leader of your business, the ‘Change Curve’ is a useful model to understand: for now, and planning for the future. Not just with regards to understanding the reactions which your team may be having and behaviour being displayed, but because it can also help to understand, navigate and adapt your own feelings and behaviour. The last 3 weeks have brought shock and panic to most, followed by confusion and possibly anger as many realised how fast the impact of this would make on their businesses and then themselves (for many business owners of course, this is one and the same).
Self doubt often accompanies these stages and at its worst, it develops into a form of depression: Why couldn’t I see this coming? Why didn’t I plan something different? What am I going to do now? During this stage, productivity starts to drop and the focus on self takes over. However the good news is that – provided you don’t languish in those darker stages for too long – the next few weeks have the potential to offer something much brighter for you, as the fighter in you adapts and develops to seek new opportunities.
You wouldn’t think that breadmaking as an activity was synonymous with energy, but it appears to be an unlikely, yet splendid, example of individuals taking actions to move themselves forward along this curve. This weekend, as images flood social media and family whatsapp groups of various batches, explanations I’ve read of our current obsession, talk of people doing this to tap into their unconscious feelings to retain a sense of control. Something we all need as a basis for moving forward.
Bread not your ‘thing’? From a business perspective – and assuming you’re not a bakery that is – what else can you do to gain this control and propel yourself forward to the ‘Acceptance’ side of the curve:
- Keep talking to yourself: No, really… Start with the positives each day: what are you grateful for; what have you enjoyed the day before. I promise it will help.
- Keep talking to others: other members of your leadership team or (if you don’t have one of those) your networking groups or advisors (we’ve been in conversations with most of our clients in the last couple of weeks and please be assured that our conversation extends way beyond HR if you’re free & keen!)
- Stick with some of your routines: team meetings are good as they form consistent conversations and adapt to what you are doing already. It’s likely that you have increased these in the last few weeks, however as we settle into the ‘new’ norms, be careful not to overload them or have them so frequently that you put pressure on yourself to be able to come up with answers you don’t yet have or that people won’t have actually managed to do anything agreed since the last one… For a bit of a refresher on how to get the most out of working from home generally, read (or re-read) our own general guidance here
- And increase the frequency of others: most will agree that you need to be on top of your finances more than ever right now, making sure you scenario plan for different forecasts.
- Allow yourself time: by all means have a brief pity party for yourself – it’s an acknowledgement of the impact of this and shouldn’t be glossed over – but use the time you have to think of as many different ideas as you can think of for your business. Most business owners I know are not short of these, and many have come up with some of the best ideas they’ve had whilst on holiday. Whilst I’m not pretending this is a holiday for anyone, there may be times you have (gardening this Easter break at all?) when you can tap into your own innovation and start to imagine a post-Covid world and how this might look different. On your own – be it in your head or doodling – you can rip up the rule book all you want and the world really is your oyster. This in itself is motivating and helps provide a lift to most.
- Decisions, decisions….: Most of you will have made some tough decisions already ( furlough, redundancy and cost cutting to name a few) and there are a few ones which will come from external forces, but the decisions I refer to here are the ones which you can take yourself which will take you mentally forward once you’ve evaluated some of your ideas. Want to develop new products or services? Double down on your purpose or client group? Or change it completely? These are the ones which I see as the opportunity for the next few weeks. Most of you will have a strong degree of impatience at your core and won’t be content to sit and wait ‘and see what happens’ , so can use the next few weeks to crystallize your decision making about the direction of your business.
In the words of the late, great David Bowie: turn and face the strange 🙂
We definitely can’t predict when this will end, but we can definitely be here to support you through it. For any help you need – or even if it’s just a chat you’re after – drop us a line via firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0207 627 7048.