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.

Keep it civil

Rudeness at work seems to be on the rise. In a survey by Professors Porath and Pearson, 40% of respondents said they had ‘no time to be nice’ and 25% said they were rude because their bosses behaved that way. We live in a busy world and people have many demands on their time. That’s not news, but in the words of Harry Hart (quoting William Horman) in Kingsman: The Secret Service, “manners maketh man”. Something has obviously gone wrong. Is politeness a thing of the past?

What’s the impact of rudeness?

There’s a great opportunity for business leaders and senior managers to have a positive impact on this issue, and ensure everyone in their business is treated respectfully as a result. 48% of employees on the receiving end of rudeness intentionally decreased their work effort and 47% intentionally decreased the quality of their work. Rudeness at work causes commitment to decline, turnover to increase, productivity to plummet and recruitment costs to increase. By creating a polite and respectful workplace, commitment and productivity will increase and your turnover and recruitment costs will decrease, because you’ll be able to attract and retain the best talent.

What can you do?

Small changes can make a big difference, so here are our top tips for creating a respectful workplace.

  • Be friendly, greet people warmly, say ‘thank you’ and ‘you’re welcome’.
  • Give 100% of your attention in meetings. Put your phone down and engage in the matter at hand. The meeting will probably be shorter and more focussed as a result.
  • Listen to your team members’ thoughts and ideas – they may be on to something.
  • Make it clear that rudeness won’t be tolerated and there are no excuses for it. If you make politeness part of day to day interactions, it will be contagious, so the impact could be huge.
  • If you see rudeness, address it directly, and encourage employees to report any incidents to their line manager.
  • Establish a staff forum where employees can share concerns with a nominated senior team member and discuss how the concerns could be addressed.
  • Hire and retain employees who exhibit the ‘right’ behaviours.
  • Lead by example, regardless of who you’re talking to and your own stress levels.
  • Carry out exit interviews to find out what employees really think.
  • Train and coach line managers in respectful people management practices.

If you’re concerned about behaviours in your company and want to discuss ideas on how to address it, 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.