How flexible are you?

Parents and carers were given the legal right to make a flexible working request 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 making the request 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’.

Where does this lack of trust come from? Employers need consider if they expect employees to deal with work outside of their contractual 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

It’s a reality that some jobs really can’t be done flexibly, but every requests need to be considered properly, to see if it can be accommodated. Managers are often concerned about managing less visible employees. But if outcome-based objectives are set, it should be easy to identify and address a dip in performance levels. 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

Love is in the Air

Valentine’s Day is less than a month away, so our thoughts are turning to ‘romance at work’ and the questions that subject raises. During a working week we spend up to half of our waking time with our work colleagues, so it’s not surprising that close friendships and romantic relationships form.

We all know people in long-term relationships with partners they met at work. Whilst personal relationships can cause issues, it’s probably unrealistic to ban personal relationships at work. If you introduce a ban, it would inevitably force budding romances and friendships to become covert. This would lead to an environment of mistrust, deception and fear. However it would be unwise to stay silent on how you deal with relationships as an employer. So, what is the best way to approach them?

Developing a policy

Here are 6 top tips for a developing a policy:

  • Be Realistic. Focus on transparency and create a working environment where your employees can be open with you.
  • Be Specific. Define the point employees need to declare a relationship beyond that of a good working relationship – be it a close friendship or a romantic relationship.
  • Be Cautious. Include clients, suppliers and customers in the policy.
  • Be Fair. Ensure you are clear about the possible outcomes of declaring a relationship. For example in a management relationship, allow for a change to reporting lines.
  • Be Professional. Clearly communicate expectations about professional conduct, i.e. public displays of affection and favouritism.
  • Be Prepared. Accept that sometimes relationships don’t work out, and this too will need to be managed appropriately.

Following these top tips will ensure your policy is realistic and practical, and will ensure your business isn’t compromised by relationships at work.

So, while things can go wrong and issues may arise, having a clear policy will make it easier to take a fair and consistent approach, with the least disruption to your business.

If you would like help developing a policy about managing personal relationships at work, please get in touch.

Blue Monday?

Apparently this coming Monday, 15th January 2018, is ‘Blue Monday’, the most depressing day of the year.  January can be a tough month after the (hopefully) joyous Festive Period and a welcome break from work. But can we really pick one day out of the 31 in January, or the 365 in the year, and say that this coming Monday 15th January 2018 is the most depressing of all?

The science bit

The term Blue Monday was, so we’re told, invented by the marketing team at Sky Travel in 2005 in an attempt to encourage people to buy a holiday at a quiet time of year. There’s even a formula for calculating the date, which includes weather, debt, days ‘til payday, time since Christmas, resolutions broken. It also includes some feeling factors which somewhat compromise the ‘science bit’.

Resistance is not futile

There’s definitely a case for rebellion here. January is tough, but we shouldn’t be told how to feel on a particular day, should we? There are enough challenges to face in this fast-moving world, so let’s all resist this phenomenon! To help us, there’s even a website dedicated to encouraging positive acts on Blue Monday.

Blue at work

The Blue Monday phenomenon does have potential implications for businesses. There may be many people who believe the hype and expect to feel blue on Monday 15th January 2018. And purely for this reason, they may succumb to the negative feelings Blue Monday is designed to exploit.

Be part of the solution

What can employers do to counter these negative feelings? We live in a time when businesses are struggling and ‘austerity’ feels like it has become part of our culture. So how can you motivate a workforce who are feeling the pinch and maintain positivity at work?

There’s no easy, one-size fits all answer. People are motivated in different ways, whether it’s hitting advertising targets and achieving bonus, or receiving accolades for good performance.

Top tips

Here are 5 top tips that should support the rebellion against Blue Monday:

  • Spend time getting to know your team as individuals. Find out hat they enjoy, what motivates them, how they like to be recognised.
  • Make sure you diarise regular 1-1s with your team for the year. Show your commitment to them through the giving of your time.
  • Give thought to what you can do to help them achieve their career aspirations. It may be development, training, work-shadowing, job swapping, coaching and/or action planning. There are many possibilities to consider.
  • Start the year with a team meeting to share ideas and make a plan for the year ahead to which everyone can contribute.
  • Consider a physical activity, to get those endorphins flowing, maybe a team walk at lunchtime, or a sponsored activity which everyone can engage in.

These top tips should help to create a positive working environment where employees can flourish at any time of year. Developing an open, inclusive work place where everyone feels valued will definitely help to build this positivity.

So, while these top tips won’t necessarily stop people from being conned into feeling Blue on this coming Monday, it might help in the longer term.

If you would like to find out more about what you can do to build a positive working environment, we can help, so 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.

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!