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Black Swans and Bread Making: Embracing The Strange

Black Swans and Bread Making: Embracing The Strange

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 hello@thehrhub.co.uk or call 0207 627 7048.

Tick Tick! Relax Into Summer With Your HR Checklist

Tick Tick! Relax Into Summer With Your HR Checklist

As the Summer stretches out before us and much needed holidays are almost within touching distance, like many in my shoes, my workload expands from my normal work-work, to incorporate the role of COO (Chief Organising Officer) of my household. It’s a role I never really interviewed for and which I’m also not sure I’m totally qualified for either…  but one which is made infinitely more manageable by the most basic of things: checklists!  

As a teenager, I used to tease my best friend mercilessly about her love of checklists: her ability to turn any event into one needing such a list remains unrivalled by even the strongest of Project Managers I have met to date . However I have grown to make these lists my friend in latter years and find they are the only way that I get through any busy period, ensuring dogs, children and sometimes even me too,  have everything we need for a smooth and enjoyable Summer time. Packing checklist? Check. Activities checklist? Check. Menu plan checklist? Check! 

They’re also invaluable on the ‘work’ work front too: on boarding, off boarding, during boarding… you catch my drift. They are essentials which can be used for all manner of processes. 

And it’s not just me who’s a fan of these brilliant basics.  Google has been widely reported to have increased their news starter’s productivity by 25% as a result of sharing a simple but effective checklist for managers to follow the night before their new starters joined. Their checklist focusses on clarifying their roles and responsibilities, introducing them socially, setting up time to meet over the first few months, pairing them up with a buddy and practising open communications.   But there are also other steps you can add which support the practical questions people need to know as soon as possible – “ how to print”/ “ Invite for lunch” etc 

So in the spirit of helping you maintain a happy and healthy Summer at work, we’ve compiled a checklist of our own, descriptively-named …

Your Summer Checklist.

  • Reflect on your progress to date this year against your goals
  • Get feedback from your own team on your management style and behaviours (you can use when you reflect on your own goals and progress as you know you will do the minute your head hits the sun lounger…..)
  • Schedule your end of Quarter reviews/ 1-2-1’s for your return and start drafting next Quarter’s goals with your team (even if not confirmed until post-Summer it’)
  • Ensure all holidays for all the team are known 
  • Meet with all  team members & use as an opportunity to give them feedback on their contribution to date
  • Share who’s-going-to-cover-what whilst you’re away and that they know who to escalate anything to in your absence
  • Surprise your team by letting them knock off early one evening or take them out to lunch
  • Block out some time in your diary on your return to catch up on all progress

P.s We don’t need to tell you this part but just in case… 

  •  Don’t bombard your team with emails whilst you’re on holiday (It smacks of not trusting them very much – instead make drafts if you’re overcome with inspiration to share with them …)
  •  Don’t email your team members whilst they are on holiday. 

For any other HR queries – holidays or other – contact us at hello@thehrhub.co.uk or call 0203 627 7048

Bon Voyage 🙂

Photo by James Lee on Unsplash

The Work Summer Do: Why You Need One And How To Get It Right

The Work Summer Do: Why You Need One And How To Get It Right

For many, Glastonbury weekend heralds the start of an increasingly busy summer calendar of live cultural and sporting events. And more and more businesses are capturing some of this magic for their employees by hosting their own summer ‘do’. 

Here, Matt Turner, founder and MD of Clownfish Events  explains how work summer parties can be the perfect antidote to employee stress and gives us some great event theme ideas to boot….. 

If work is stressing you and your team out at the moment, you’re not alone. Research shows that people in the UK work longer hours than anywhere else in Europe. Stress can be hugely detrimental to productivity and engagement, not to mention our wellbeing. Over 11 million days are lost at work every year because of stress, according to annual reports by the Health & Safety Executive. More significant to business owners is the £1.24bn cost to UK employers of these high levels of absenteeism.

Balance sheets aside, we all know about the powers of exercise and mindfulness for combating workplace stress; but one of the best (albeit rather underrated) antidotes is a well thought-out summer office party. Done right, it can recharge the batteries of the most jaded of employees, whilst boosting engagement and reinforcing cultural values at the same time.

The Rise & Rise Of The ‘Digital Detox’ Party

Given the contribution of smartphone addiction to stress levels, not to mention the current ‘always on’ culture, it’s unsurprising that Digital Detox parties are a huge trend at the moment, as employers opt for summer events that urge colleagues to re-connect face to face and share quality time away from their devices. 

They can be surprisingly cost effective too. Think fires-side alongs: a tipi, firepit, cosy blankets, toasted marshmallows and maybe an open mic for coworkers to show off their talents. There’s no need for expensive catering or fine wines, but you could include a discreet photographer, so no one is tempted to use their phones and post the action on social media!

And a digital detox event is suitable for all brands, regardless of their specific cultural values, because it makes the vital connection between respecting work/life balance and the impact of proper downtime on mental wellbeing. 

But if a detox isn’t needed for your team, and you’d like something more bespoke to your business, here are four more cost-effective options that can be used to convey specific brand values and create a consistent cultural experience that boosts employee engagement levels…

Creative Summer Party Themes That Reflect Specific Brand Values

  • White Party – stylish, sophisticated and achingly cool. 

This theme is ideal for luxury brands and high-end professional services companies that might also want to celebrate their organisation’s emphasis on promoting diversity and a cosmopolitan culture. 

Think Mediterranean islands, white furniture and ambient lighting to recreate an exclusive holiday hotspot. Add a dance floor, DJ, chill out zone and plenty of entertainment for an event worthy of an A-list beach club.

Brand values: passion, attention to detail, diversity, dare to be different, simplicity, style

  • Traditional English Fair – heritage, tradition, under-stated style and practicality. 

This theme is great for brands that want to emphasise their British provenance as a sign of quality – like custom manufacturers, food and drink producers and ethical brands. 

Choosing a garden party theme with traditional accents like deckchairs, bunting, fairground rides and side stalls (with some Pimm’s and strawberries thrown in!) is a great way to celebrate the summer, keeping costs down but still delivering an event that is unique and memorable. 

Brand values: community, fun, quirky, sustainable, heritage, traditional. 

  • Sporting Fun – competitive, team spirited, entrepreneurial and spontaneous. 

This theme is the perfect choice for challenger brands, start-ups and dynamic/fast moving industries where risk-taking is the norm. 

With the FIFA Women’s World Cup this year and increasing numbers of companies wanting to promote health and wellness amongst employees, sporting challenges are likely be very popular this summer.

Brand values: excellence, growth orientated, teamwork, courage, commitment

  • Boho Festival – glamorous and fun; a good fit for international brands looking to emphasise the importance of ‘down time’ and adventure. 

If your employees are longing to be back at Glasto, why not bring the Pyramid Stage to them with music, hay bales and street food vendors.

Brand values: innovation, distinctive, creative, open-minded, sustainability

Summer Parties Are Quickly Overtaking Christmas Dos As The Must Have Annual Event

Whereas a Christmas party is often fairly traditional, summer events can be much better at conveying an employer’s brand values and reinforcing its personality. This is important for everyone but especially for millennials, who tend to value personal experiences, their employer’s values and a sense of feeling appreciated over material rewards. 

Furthermore, they are flexible to organise, cost effective and a greater return on investment in terms of improving productivity. So why not take inspiration from Glastonbury, The FIFA Women’s World Cup or simply your local village fete and make your work summer party a legendary fixture in the event calendar for your team… 

Author

Matt Turner is the founder and MD of Clownfish Events. He started his first business aged 13, DJ-ing at community discos, and now runs themed events, team building and parties for some of the UK’s best known brands and business owners.

Image: Canva

Team Need A Jump Start? Your 90 day plan to get the spark back.

Team Need A Jump Start? Your 90 day plan to get the spark back.

More than any month, June is often the time when employees run out of battery. The excitement and momentum from the first quarter has begun to wane and summer holidays seem a long way off. Staff are the engine room of any business, and when their spirit starts to tire, employee engagement and well-being are at risk, not to mention business efficiency and effectiveness. If you think this is even a potential issue in your organisation you need to take action now….

The single best way to jump start your team is good, old fashioned TLC. Happily for SME leaders, you are the exactly right people to give it – all it takes it some thought and a little bit of time.

Here’s how to give the team the boost they’ll need to keep going ’til the year end: 

  1. Remind the team of the Vision: You know the one I mean. ‘Why’ you are all here in the first place. ‘Why’ it’s important to them that you hit those goals. ‘Why’ the company is in existence. Without this connection to the purpose, they could be working for anyone….
  2. Spend time giving a little feedback: It’s one of the best (and cheapest) ways to help someone grow. Raise their self awareness by praising the things they have done a great job on.
  3. Listen to what the team have got to say: They may seem tired, grumpy, lazy or any other seven dwarves, but you can bet they’ll be feeling motivated after some time spent with their leader and the given the opportunity to have their say.
  4. Hold a 30-day Check-in: Meet with all the team, communicate what progress has been made and what a difference this has made.
  5. Allow trust to flourish & go easy on the micromanagement: It’s tempting when things aren’t going as we like to jump in and start holding meetings every day to see how you’ve progressed, but If you set out clearly what you are looking for your team to deliver, give them support to do so, then allow them some breathing space to do just that, without their diaries being clogged up by meetings and their autonomy jeopardised.
  6. Add a little extra incentive: We’ve all read that the evidence for complex bonus structures and remuneration packages driving motivation is lacking (even decreasing it in certain areas..). However incentives which are offered for a simple, easy to understand and achievable task are a different kettle of fish all together. So offer a meal out, front row tickets to the Donmar or whatever floats the particular boat of your team to get them focussed on a short term competition.
  7. Hold a 60-day Check-In: Reward any progress which has been made (publicly and privately) to reinforce the behaviour you want to see.
  8. Wheel in your best client : Have one of your customers/ clients come in to talk to the team about what a difference your product/ service has made to their business. Get’s straight to the point of ‘Why’ they’re here and helps instil a sense of pride.
  9. Give them a break: It doesn’t have to be an expenses trip to Dubai; but a Friday afternoon/ early evening jaunt to somewhere local to get a bit of downtime will be something to look forward to for all.
  10. Cut yourself some slack: With all this focus on other’s it’s easy to forgo the progress you have made, so re-visit where you were this time last year and give yourself a pat on the back.

TheHRhub is a complete HR support solution for SMEs. We provide operational and strategic HR expertise in-house, ad hoc or online. Give us a call on 0203 627 7048 for a no strings discussion about your business needs or drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk. 

Photocredit: Canva

Childcare Vouchers: What’s Going On??

Childcare Vouchers: What’s Going On??

You could be mistaken for thinking that the current Childcare Voucher scheme has now closed (after all we have been talking about it since 2017 now….) however it has now been extended for new members by another 6 months following a Commons debate, with a revised closing date of October 2018 (exact date still tbc).

The current Childcare Voucher scheme (which means that parents can save up to £933 a year on childcare) was due to close to all new members on 6th April, making way for the new Tax Free Childcare scheme which was launched in April 2017.

So, what’s the difference between them? In short, both schemes reduce the cost of childcare but one scheme may suit an individual’s circumstances better. The most significant difference between the 2 schemes is that Tax-Free Childcare offers savings per child per year, while childcare vouchers offer savings per parent per year.  

With childcare vouchers, each parent can take up to £55 each week from their salary before tax and National Insurance, or £243 a month, to spend on childcare no matter how many children they have, as long as the parent is a basic-rate taxpayer and the employer has chosen to run the scheme.

The Tax-Free Childcare initiative however is much more akin to a savings scheme and under the rules parents have 20% of their childcare costs each year met by the Government, up to a limit of £2,000 a year per child (or £4,000 if your child is disabled) The scheme is directly managed by the employee and not the employer and so employees are not restricted based on whether or not their employer runs the scheme.

What do you need to know as an employer?  If you don’t offer child care vouchers to your employees you don’t need to do anything! However, if you do offer Child Care vouchers you should be aware of the following:

    • Anyone who joins the Childcare Vouchers scheme before the scheme closes can continue to benefit from the savings for as long as their child remains eligible, they must also stay with the same employer, or have received a voucher within the last 12 months;
    • Employers will continue to benefit from up to £402/year savings in employer NI for every parent on the scheme;
    • Once an employee has left Childcare Vouchers to move to Tax Free Childcare scheme, they cannot rejoin
    • Employees can’t use both schemes at the same time.

For help or guidance on Child Care Vouchers or any other benefits related query contact us at www.thehrhub.co.uk.

Image Credit: Unsplash

New Toolkit Encourages Businesses To Promote Healthy Eating And Exercise To Employees

New Toolkit Encourages Businesses To Promote Healthy Eating And Exercise To Employees

Public Health England and Business in the Community have published a toolkit in an effort to encourage employers to promote healthier eating and exercising to their employees. Keen to stress the business benefits, the toolkit explains that such initiatives can boost productivity, slash absence rates, and play a key role in facilitating a happy workforce.

And while this might fall into the yet-another-thing-I’ve-got-to-do category (quite far down for many if I’m honest) of what to look at whilst running a business, what is becoming increasingly clear is that the health of the nation is a ticking time bomb. According to the NHS, the number of people being diagnosed with diabetes has more than doubled in the past 20 years, and rising obesity levels continue to grab headlines. As an employer, you have the ability to make a positive impact in your staff’s lives, as well as strengthen your business for the future, so it might be worth having a gander…..

Occupational health isn’t just about ensuring your staff have comfortable chairs to sit on (although yes, that is one of thing basics…) as the real benefits will be gained by those who are more proactive with their responsibilities as employers, tapping into the opportunities that exist for all of us to have a much more holistic impact on our team’s lives.

The toolkit includes:

  • Suggestions that healthier food and drink options should be available within the workplace, including at meetings and events
  • Ideas around organising ‘family days’, so staff can get their loved ones onboard with healthier habits
  • Advice for managing shift workers and remote workers: two groups of staff that will experience unique difficulties when it comes to maintaining their health and wellbeing
  • Guidance for handling sensitive mental health issues in the workplace

Though the suggestions are comprehensive and provide a lot of food for thought for employers, it’s also stressed that there’s rarely a one-size-fits-all approach. Businesses are encouraged to involve their staff in any initiatives from the very earliest stages, giving them a voice and the opportunity to hone a way forward that’s really going to work for them. After all, if your staff aren’t engaged and onboard, then your efforts are going to fall on deaf ears and fail to meet their objectives.

We recognise that employers have a lot on their plates. You may well think that you simply don’t have the time to consider promoting better levels of health and wellbeing to your staff. You’ve got performance reviews to handle, back to work meetings to schedule, and a whole load of paperwork that seems to mount up on your desk on an hourly basis. 

But there are benefits to be had by adopting some of the suggestions here ( others we’ve seen and shared previously), so if you can find the time, you should definitely give some careful consideration to how you can ‘borrow’ a couple of the ideas in order to boost the long-term prospects of your business.

Not got the time but like the idea? Drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk for a quick chat on how we might be able to help or call 0203 627 7048.

Image: Unsplash