How flexible are you?

Parents and carers were given the legal right to request flexible working in 2002. From 2014 any employee with over 26 weeks’ continuous employment with their employer has the right to request flexible working. However according to a recent CIPD report, Megatrends: Flexible Working, the number of employees working flexibly has flat-lined since 2010.

Why not be flexible?

Apprehension and at times downright negativity about flexible working is not unusual. Requests to work fewer hours, compressed hours and/or working from home often provoke this response. This is particularly the case if the employee manages other employees. Employee visibility is the issue and managers think if they can’t see their staff, they don’t know they’re working. Managers question their employee’s honesty, convinced they will be ‘out shopping, or walking the dog when they should be working’.

Trust issues?

Anecdotally, it’s reported that some employers have banned mobile phones, personal emails and phone calls during working hours. Allegedly, some employers even time employee toilet breaks. Where does this lack of trust come from? Employers need consider if they expect employees to use mobile devices to deal with work outside of normal working hours. If they expect flexibility but don’t reciprocate due to a lack of trust, employee goodwill will wane.

Reciprocal flexibility works

Perhaps this is a bit extreme, but trusted flexibility can work both ways to the benefit of everyone. It just requires a bit of extra thought about how it can work. If employees want flexibility and their employer gives it to them, their engagement, loyalty and commitment will increase. If employers refuse requests, employees will ask why they should go the extra mile when the company isn’t prepared to do the same for them. They will be less motivated and may begin to ‘work to rule’ or look for a job elsewhere. I don’t think any employer would want that outcome, especially at a time when the ‘war for talent’ seems tougher than ever.

Managing flexible employees

Some jobs really can’t be done flexibly, but requests need to be considered properly. Managers are often concerned about managing less visible employees. However, if outcome-based objectives are set and the employee’s performance dips, it should be easy to address. It’s entirely possible that managers feel overstretched and feel they don’t have the time or energy to consider how it might work. But companies that provide flexibility will benefit from increased talent retention, engagement and productivity. At a time when there are reported skills shortages, surely it’s worth the effort?

If you would like help managing flexible working in your company, or support in dealing with a request, please do get in touch.

Recruiting the best

Having the best talent in your business is key to its success. Whatever your business, if you don’t have the right people in the right roles, you may find achieving success difficult.

If you do hire the wrong person, the cost can be great. Of course there’s the financial cost of replacing people through the usual channels i.e. recruiter fees or advertising costs. It could also result in decreased productivity, decreased employee morale, not to mention the cost of management time and potentially, damage to your employer brand.

By introducing a sound recruitment process you stand a much better chance of hiring the people your business needs.

Our top tips for recruiting the right people
  • Make sure you have an up to date job description outlining the responsibilities of the role you need to fill, and what skills and experience needed.
  • Use the job description to shortlist applicants for interview by identifying relevant experience and skills.
  • Use the job description to create themes you would like explore at interview.
  • Prepare some welcoming questions, to put the candidate at ease, and smile!
  • Use the candidate’s CV to create questions in the themes you have identified.
  • Consider and prepare some probing questions to follow up.
  • Keep the questions on point, and avoid asking any personal questions. ‘Getting personal’ can potentially get you in to a world of trouble, so just avoid those questions altogether.
  • Interview in pairs, so you can really listen to the candidate and develop a rapport without worrying about taking notes, and agree with your interview partner who will ask which question in advance.
  • Allow time for the candidate to ask you questions, and think about how best you can ensure you’re presenting an attractive and authentic impression of the company.
  • Make sure you take notes of the actual answers given, rather than your thoughts or feelings about the candidate’s answer.

Nothing is guaranteed when it comes to interviewing and selecting the right person, but by adopting this approach you stand a better chance of recruiting someone who can actually do the job you need filled, and do it well.

If you would like help with your recruitment processes, please do get in touch with Helpful HR

The Season of Goodwill

As the festive season approaches, business leaders have probably been thinking about goodwill gestures they could make, to show their employees they recognise the value they bring to the success of the business. This might be an additional day off, or an end of year bonus and both or either of those options would obviously be very welcome, I have no doubt.

Is it reciprocal?

But how many business leaders approach the end of the year and consider goodwill from a different perspective; that of the employee? How many business leaders will question the goodwill their employees feel towards them as an employer? And how many employers have been pro-actively creating goodwill throughout the year, through their everyday working practices?

Why does it matter?

As Linda Ray commented here, employees who feel appreciated will have a positive attitude towards their employer. As a result they will be much more engaged and loyal, which will help to keep employee turnover rates low. This will lead to reduced recruitment and on-boarding costs, both in terms of money and time. Ultimately this employee engagement, when coupled with structured performance management processes will increase employee productivity and performance, making a direct contribution to the success of the company.

We can help

If you would like to find out more about how to gain or grow the goodwill of your employees, and discover how engaged your employees are, we can help, so get in touch with Helpful HR.

The Employment Status Conundrum

The ‘gig’ economy has been centre stage recently in the news and has caused confusion around individual’s employment and tax status.

Recent cases

Uber is adamant its drivers are NOT employees. However, an employment tribunal  concluded they are, ‘workers’.  Addison Lee  also had a recent employment tribunal judgement, which came to the same conclusion.

The consequences

These cases demonstrate the pitfalls of getting it wrong, on a large scale. The judgements of the tribunals have definitely provided Uber and Addison Lee with bucketloads of negative PR.  They also have the administrative headache of changing their status, backdated rights to holiday pay and the National Living Wage. There’s also a strong chance that HMRC will collect backdated employer’s tax contributions for all of their newly defined workers.

How to establish status

In order to avoid the same problems as Uber and Addison Lee, employers are well advised to make a proactive and honest assessment of people they hire and ask the following:

  • Does the individual work off-site?
  • Are they using their own equipment?
  • Is there a mutual obligation about you offering work and the individual having to accept work when offered?
  • Does the individual regularly work for other companies?
  • Can the individual send someone else of their choosing by way of a substitute, to carry out the work?
  • Does the individual control how or when the work is completed?

If the answer to one or more of the above questions is ‘no’, the individual you’re hiring is probably not self-employed. If you treat them as self-employed, in the long-term you may very well come up against some difficult and costly issues.

We can help

If you need any advice or support on determining the employment status of individuals working for your company and what it means, get in touch with Helpful HR.

What does being a ‘Manager’ mean?

I’ve come across several situations where a team, or individual members of a team, are suffering with low morale and poor performance. They’re on a downward spiral as not enough care and attention has been paid to the management of that team and the individuals within it.

Some managers genuinely think their Human Resources department are there to line manage each employee in the business. They don’t feel HR is part of their role and concentrate on providing functional business leadership.

Managing people as well as a function is not easy. As a manager you have several things to think about and probably several people, all with different needs and abilities. The role of HR is to help and guide managers through this aspect of their role and it’s a constant learning curve.

Top tips for successful management

I’ve come up with some ‘top tips’ for managers to help them flourish as a truly good manager:

GET TO KNOW YOUR TEAM.   You may think you know them, but have you spent any quality 1-1 time with them?Do you really know who they are, what they do, what they want to do and what they think of what they do? Regular 1-1s are invaluable and should be in the diary at least monthly.

ADAPT YOUR STYLE.   Remember that as the manager it’s your responsibility to adapt your management style to get the best out of your team. It’s not their job to adapt to you.

MANAGE PERFORMANCE.   Make sure you ask people in your team what they think of their performance. Ensure  you discuss and agree with them what their specific objectives are, and when they are expected to achieve them.

COMMUNICATE.   Ensure you communicate any non-confidential management and financial information to your team. This can include any information you think is relevant, useful and of interest. No-one really complains about being given too much information.

CELEBRATE DIVERSITY.   Accept and ENJOY the fact that you have people in your team with different goals, skills, experience and beliefs. Provided you’re all working to the same departmental goals, it’s a benefit to have such diversity within the team, so draw on it.

PROVIDE CLARITY.   Ensure that everyone in your team knows what their role is, what the boundaries are, where they have authority and what you expect of them.

This isn’t a definitive list, but it should set you up for success as a manager. If this doesn’t work, or you have a more specific need then that’s what your manager is for, to provide you with guidance.

If you advice and support to grow and develop to become the best manager you can be, get in touch. We can’t do the job for you, but we can definitely help!