Strategic HR – Helping You Build Loyalty, Growth and Profit

Strategic HR – this article explains what it is and how can it benefit organisations and employees alike.

Most people know what they think the Human Resources team is all about.  But it will depend on their point of view.  An employee (especially one who has had a difficult time with an employer) might say that HR is the place to go to complain when something goes wrong.  They might think HR is there to look after their welfare, or to pay them.  They probably think that HR recruited them in the first place.

On the other hand, an employer might think that HR is there to protect them.  They use HR to write their policies and processes so that they are legally compliant.  They rely on HR to deal with difficult people problems and enforce the rules.

Of course, HR professionals can do any or all of those things – and much more as well. But what about strategic HR – how is that different?

Your strategic HR partner

An HR strategist should be a true partner to your business.  We should be engaged at Board level, working with the Managing Director. Our role is partnering with the business in decision making, business planning, marketing, financial planning.  This will ensure that the people elements of every decision are considered.

For a business to be successful, the people who work there are key to that success.  Every employer says “our employees are our best asset”.  This is true – good, happy, engaged people are the very best  tool you can have in your business.

A good HR strategist will help you to ensure that your people really are your best asset.

How strategic HR can help you

An HR strategist looks at your business challenges from the perspective of the impact on employees and workers – current and future.  So when you are doing your business planning, an HR strategist can inform your thinking about training and development needs; recruitment needs; potential restructure or even what to do with the people who have skills which are now obsolete.  We advise on legalities and best practice to help you decide on your priorities.

Of course, this can then all feed into the formulating of policies and procedures, but they will be aligned to your business objectives and needs, rather than “off the shelf” standard processes.

A quick internet search for the most common business challenges reveals: recruiting and retention; technological changes; regulation and legislation; financial management.  All of these challenges can and should be planned and prepared with input from an experienced HR strategist.  We should be advising on the people aspects of your marketing planning, your financial objectives, your growth plans.   All of these things have an impact on your employees, or are affected by your people, their skills and behaviours.

Benefits to you if you get the people strategy right

Employee (and customer) loyalty, business growth and improved profits are three of the benefits of a good HR strategy.

If you get the people element right, your employees will look after your customers.  They will be your best advocates.  Additionally, you will gain their loyalty, so they want to continue working for you and they will be unlikely to go off sick so often.  People will enjoy being at work and so will put in effort. They will go the extra mile for you when you need to meet a deadline or deal with a particularly tricky client.  Your staff will speak highly of you and you will build a reputation as a good employer.  That will make recruitment easier.

In terms of growth, engaged employees will look after your customers.  They will look after your suppliers.  As a result, they will look after your business and prevent stagnation.  You will have employees with better skills and a better attitude.   Your improved reputation will grow your customer base.  Your suppliers will be keen to do business with you.

These things naturally lead to increased profit and profitability. Additionally, engaged and productive employees will help you to streamline your processes.  They will lead to better ways of doing things.  You will find it easier to attract the good candidates for your roles.

Is it time for a business overhaul?

If you get a reminder that your car is due a service, then you would not ignore the warnings.  You may not want to spend the money, but you know that the cost could potentially be far higher if things start to go wrong with the engine.   Even if you did manage to overlook the service, you would certainly take action if the orange warning light came on to show that your engine oil was low. The consequence for ignoring that one would be too great to contemplate.  The engine could seize up while you or someone else was driving.   Even if you managed to avoid injuring someone, the cost would be huge and there is a danger of losing all your confidence and pleasure in driving.

The moral of this story, of course, is that you should be prepared to spend a little time and money  for regular servicing of your car – and your business –  by a professional.

Don’t ignore the warning signs

Then there were the ignored warnings.  In business terms, these warnings may be high staff turnover, or maybe a large amount of sickness absence.  Or maybe some of your employees  do not get on with each other, or some employees are not performing very well.   How many businesses ignore those kind of warnings and end up with an expensive crisis – maybe even defending legal action.  Or it might be just the loss of a key employee and a difficult and costly recruitment exercise.

That is what strategic HR is all about – it is the planning and servicing which an employer needs to get professional help with.  If you have those warning signs in your business, or you just feel that your company culture is not quite what you intended it to be, then we need to have a no-obligation discussion about whether and how I can help.

If you think this article is useful,  please join our mailing list.  Or if you would like any strategic HR support or information, then don’t hesitate to contact us to arrange a no-obligation discussion.

Jill Aburrow runs an HR strategic consultancy business – JMA HR .  She provides strategic HR advice and support to businesses who don’t have an in-house HR strategist.  Jill has been a professional strategic HR advisor for over two decades. She is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (FCIPD) and has a Post Graduate Certificate in Employment Law.

 

7 Steps To Build Trust In The Workplace

What does trust in the workplace look like?

It might be better to ask what trust feels like.  Trust is really an emotional response in the workplace, as it is anywhere.  Employees need to know that their managers are on their side and that they will be treated like adults, not children.   This means that you should avoid micro-managing.  If you oversee people with a light touch and trust their judgement, then they will prove trustworthy.

If your employees trust you, they will have confidence in your decisions.  They believe that you will do what you say you will do and so they feel “safe” with you. If your words and actions do not match, then that trust will be lost.

Once trust has been lost, it can be very difficult to recover.  It is much better to build trust from the very beginning of your interaction with every employee. You need to earn the trust of people by delivering on what you say and keeping promises.

Behaviours to build trust in the workplace

  1. Gratitude: Find something to thank people for and give them praise when it is due. We all like to receive unsolicited, unplanned praise and thanks.   It feels good if our actions are noticed and appreciated.   But it has to be genuine.  Give credit when you see good work and you will start to build an appreciative culture in your company.
  2. Compassion: Show your employees that you care about them and what they are doing and feeling. This can be demonstrated by listening to what they say and taking action where appropriate.  Want the best for your employees. Value them as people more than you value them as “resources”.  Be kind and say “yes” whenever possible.  If you have to say “no”, then explain why.  Be approachable and friendly.  We trust people we like.
  3. Communication: Give others a chance to talk, to ask questions, get answers and voice concerns. Get to know them – and smile! Share information as much as possible – especially when it is necessary to the individual. Think about your body language and non-verbal communication and whether that is supporting what you are saying.

What other behaviours build trust?

  1. Avoiding Blame. Show support for your team members, even when they have made a mistake.  Respond constructively to problems and help to find solutions. Keep your perspective and don’t over-react.  Take responsibility for failures – even when they are avoidable.  They are your responsibility because you are the boss and you must protect your employees.   You might find it helpful to give your employees the benefit of the doubt. On the other side of the coin – admit when the company makes mistakes, or when you personally make a mistake. Treat mistakes as learning opportunities for you and your employees.
  2. Competence: Be good at what you do and be passionate about your work.  This doesn’t mean you have to know everything – it is OK for your team to know more than you.  If you do not know something, then admit it and say you will find out the answer.  Then make sure you feedback your findings. Model the behaviour you want to see and make sure your managers do the same. Competence is important and you also need to invest in your employees’ development to improve their competence
  3. Credibility: Be transparent with your team and don’t try to hide things. Try to explain your thought processes. Be honest with them and ask for their feedback. It is critical to keep your word and follow up on promises.  When you (and your managers) acknowledge your mistakes as well as successes, employees see you as credible and will follow your lead. Be comfortable owning mistakes. Consistency is also important, so don’t keep changing the goalposts. Consistently doing what you say you’ll do builds trust over time – it can’t be something you do only occasionally.
  4. Respect : Respect everyone and treat your employees like adults. Try to avoid bias and beware that sometimes bias is unconscious. You should try to remember that everyone else is just as important as you are. Always be respectful of other peoples’ ideas and perspectives and give people the benefit of the doubt.

Things you can do to build trust in the workplace

You need to be aware of how your managers and supervisors behave.  It will help to build trust in the workplace if all of your supervisors are capable of forming positive relationships with people who report to them. The relationship between employees and managers is key to having trust in the workplace.  When that relationship goes sour, then it permeates throughout the team.  Choosing your managers and supervisors is key .

So-called “soft” skills are critical in the workplace.  This includes skills to build relationships with people. This is not just for supervisory posts, but for everyone.  These skills can be learnt and so it is wise to invest in developing people in these skills.

It is important to provide as much information to employees as possible.  If there is a hint of some changes or anything which affects the workplace, then people will gossip and speculate. It is counter-productive for rumours to run through the organisation and so be as honest as possible and make sure you keep communicating. It is difficult to over-communicate.

Managing people issues helps to build trust

Your actions can build trust in the workplace just as much as your words do.  It is important to deal with difficult employment issues firmly, quickly and fairly.  People will be watching what you do.  If you allow someone to “get away with” poor attendance or behaviour, then the trust of other employees will start to evaporate.

At the same time it is really important to protect the interests and the confidentiality of all employees, even those who are causing some difficulty. You must not talk about absent employees and you must not allow others to talk about them.  Opinions about employees and their actions should only be shared with the individual him or herself.

I have already said that if you trust people they will prove trustworthy.   If you believe that all of your employees are capable and willing to do their work to the best of their ability, then they will put in their best efforts to prove that you are correct.  When you treat them like approachable adults, they are less likely to behave like sulky children.

If you think this article is useful and you would like any strategic HR support or information  on building trust in your workplace – please join our mailing list, or contact us for further guidance.

Jill Aburrow runs an HR strategic consultancy business – JMA HR .  She provides strategic HR advice and support to businesses who want to improve loyalty, growth and profit.  Jill has been a professional strategic HR advisor for over two decades. She is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (FCIPD) and has a Post Graduate Certificate in Employment Law.

 

Increase Productivity Using These Simple Tips

Worker productivity in the UK is continuing to decline.  This has been going on for the last decade or so since the financial crisis.  There are many reasons for this and plenty of theories about how to reverse the trend.  But why does it matter?

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines Productivity  as “the rate at which a company or country makes goods, usually judged in connection with the number of people and the amount of materials necessary to produce the goods”.

It matters, according to the BBC, because it is the main driver of long-term economic growth and higher living standards.

You may think that this is for the Government or the large companies to worry about. It is not an area where smaller companies can have much impact.  This article will give you some tips about how you can make a difference in your own company and why that is so important.

What can any one employer do to increase productivity?

  • Recognition. This does not need to be a large and involved recognition and benefits scheme.  When business talks about recognition, it often means salary levels and all of the benefits which can be given to employees to retain their loyalty.  Of course, we all hope that our efforts will not go unnoticed and we like to be recognised.  Each Person, a company specialising in employee recognition,  conducted an employee survey recently.  Almost half (48%) of employees surveyed said that a simple “thank you” would make them feel valued.
  • Respect. This one is a two-way street. If you show respect to your employees, then they are more likely to respect you.  Nobody says that people have to like each other to be able to work together.  But mutual respect is important and a professional approach is always the best one.
  • Integrity. If your recognition is not genuine, then it will have the wrong effect.  If it is too casual or generic it will demoralise workers.   People can see through falsity and non-genuine approaches.  So if you find it difficult to empathise with someone, then you may need to consider some personal development in the softer skills for yourself.

Who should we include in any recognition?

  • Include everyone. When you set up a formal recognition and reward scheme, or even if you are just giving out informal thanks to employees, then make sure that these schemes and informal approaches cover every employee. I have worked in companies which give out certificates of thanks, together with some kind of small monetary gift.  This is great when you are on the receiving end.  But what if you never are?  If someone is never or rarely recognised, when others get singled out regularly, then it will lead to resentment.  It may result in  a feeling of unfairness and will ultimately end in employees becoming demotivated.  This can lead to other problems with sickness, retention, poor employer reputation – even legal action.
  • Encourage peer to peer recognition. It can be really powerful to receive recognition from a colleague, rather than from the top down. I know of a global company which encourages its employees to give unattributed small gifts to each other on Valentine’s Day (and at other times of year as well).  So an employee comes to their desk to find a mug with some chocolates in it and a thank you note.  They don’t know who it is from, but their task then is to reciprocate by giving some kind of thank you to another colleague in secret.  Now this kind of approach is unlikely to work in every company and I am not suggesting that you should implement this.  But we all like to be appreciated by our co-workers and so it would be a good idea to encourage people to thank each other for noteworthy efforts.  This could be an email, a phone call, or a sticky note attached to a computer or telephone.

Things to avoid if you want to increase productivity

A “one-size-fits-all” approach to reward and recognition is a recipe for disaster in modern diverse and varied workplaces.   Individual members of staff will prefer to be rewarded differently.  Reward schemes are as varied as the people in the workplace.  Alcohol is never a good reward – many do not even allow alcohol into the workplace and so to give it as a reward seems rather perverse.  With such diversity in our workplaces, we need to move away from rewards which people from some cultures or religions may find offensive.  Even if not offensive, they are potentially just a waste of money.

Many current reward schemes include points or vouchers to allow discounts in high street or online retailers.  Even this may not be an acceptable reward for some.  Such schemes may only have participation from the most popular retailers and not everyone uses those retailers.  Some workers may prefer time off as a reward, or additional flexibility.

The timing of rewards is another potential area for pitfalls.  It is better if the recognition can be given at a time appropriate to the work undertaken, rather than on a regular occasion.  Otherwise it becomes more of a ritual and less of a genuine appreciation. If there is too long a gap between the work and the reward, then people might feel that the recognition is only paying lip service.

Other potential barriers to increasing productivity

Many workplaces allow and encourage remote working, home working, variable or irregular working hours.  Any reward scheme must be designed to include reward for anybody who is working to non-standard working patterns.

Another potential issue is the public nature of any recognition.  You may feel it is something to be covered in team meetings or in a public area.  This would appear to bring the greatest benefit as it should encourage people to make greater efforts so they can also achieve recognition.  However, you must be aware that not everyone will feel comfortable at the public scrutiny.  Any potential benefits to retention or productivity might be lost if someone feels embarrassed or singled-out in front of colleagues.  It is important to show some empathy when dealing with any kind of people issues – good or bad.

One final point to remember is that any recognition scheme – formal or informal – must be operated fairly.  There must be no room for anyone to feel they have been treated unfairly.  If there is any such feeling, then any good from the recognition scheme risks being wiped out.

In brief

The productivity levels in the UK are continuing to fall or at least to stagnate. We are falling behind competitors in other countries.  This will have a detrimental effect on our ability to compete.  This, in turn, will lead to lower salary increases and less growth.  On an individual company level, if you have low productivity you risk a high staff turnover.  This leads to costly and difficult recruitment.  The staff you retain are likely to be sick more often and to perform at a lower level.  This will have a direct effect on profits and growth and may affect client relationships.

One simple way you can begin to turn this around and increase productivity is to set up a formal or informal recognition scheme.  That way your employees are rewarded for their efforts and feel valued, included and part of your company’s success.

If you think this article is useful and you would like any strategic HR support or information  on dealing with this  – or any other people-related issue in your business – please join our mailing list, or contact us for further guidance.

Jill Aburrow runs an HR strategic consultancy business – JMA HR .  She provides strategic HR advice and support to businesses who want to improve loyalty, growth and profit.  Jill has been a professional strategic HR advisor for over two decades. She is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (FCIPD) and has a Post Graduate Certificate in Employment Law.

Why Your Business Vision Must Include Your Employees

Let me tell you about someone who runs a successful garden centre. The business is doing reasonably well and employs 20 or so people.  But the owner is frustrated.   His business vision was to design gardens for people and then sell them the plants and equipment to maintain the designs.  He knows he can expand his business hugely, doing what he loves best.

His advertising all includes the garden design offering and he talks to customers about it if he gets the chance – but he doesn’t often get involved in the customer-facing end of the business.  He spends his time producing wonderful designs for gardens which are only in his imagination.

His problem is that he hasn’t told his employees of his vision.  They all know they work for a garden centre and they work quite hard at selling the plants and suggesting suitable tools for customers.  But they are unaware of the garden design option.

One day the owner happens to be chatting to a neighbour of his who runs a motor mechanic business.  The friend is praising the staff at the garden centre, but then says that he wants the derelict area at the back of his garage made-over to provide a garden as a benefit for his staff and customers.  Crucially, he comments that he has mentioned it a few times to the staff in the garden centre, but nobody knew of anyone who did garden design.   One had mentioned a garden designer who they had seen advertising on the internet, but they were based a distance away and the motor mechanic had hoped for someone closer.  But he was going to check out this option as he did not have any other ideas.

Sharing Your Business Vision

The obvious point of this story is that if the garden centre owner had shared his vision with his employees, then they could have directed queries about garden design to the owner.  So he might have been able to move closer to his business vision more quickly.

But there are other reasons for sharing your vision with your employees.  And the way you share it is important too.  Many organisations have their business vision written as a statement and displayed for all to see.  But even if employees know what the vision is, that does not mean they automatically buy into it.

My business is too small to bother about this

Even a business with only one employee (the owner) has a vision of why they exist and what is the purpose they are aiming to fulfil.  In fact, smaller businesses often have a much more clear idea of their vision.

If a business employs someone else as well as the owner, even just one employee, then it is important to share your business vision with that employee.   That person is critical to your success and expansion.  They need to understand that they have an important job, and why it is important.

You need to have a clear vision for your organisation.  You need to understand what it is that you are aiming to achieve and you need to be able to communicate that to your staff.  At this point, you may be thinking “but I just want to make and sell widgets”.   You need to think about what your customers want and how they want it.

Do they want fine quality, high-end widgets for which they will be happy to pay a premium?    You can then have a vision along the lines of “XYZ Company makes the best widgets in the county.  We make our widgets sustainably and sell them to people who want to buy premium widgets.”

Or do your customers want large number of cheap widgets, which are quickly available? In that case your vision can be “XYZ makes thousands of low cost widgets and we keep our customers happy by delivering them the next day”.

You could use either of these as your business vision but you would need to show your employees where they fit into that vision.

Why share my business vision?

  • If your employees know what is your business vision, they will work towards it.
  • As a result of your employee understanding how their own job fits into your business vision, they will feel more job satisfaction and a sense of belonging in the company.
  • When your employee understands how they are working towards the business vision, they will feel more loyalty to the company, more pride in your achievements and will contribute more in terms of ideas, solutions, suggestions.
  • Your employee will feel trusted and valued if they know they are part of your vision. This will help them to trust you as well.
  • If an employee feels trusted and valued and can see the importance of their job, they are less likely to leave to work elsewhere. They are less likely to go off sick. Their loyalty to you and your business will increase.
  • All of these benefits will contribute to growth and profit for your business.

How can I share my business vision?

This is about more than putting up a notice proclaiming what the business vision is.  Many companies do this and there is nothing wrong with it.  But you need to do more.  The danger is the belief that a notice stating the vision is enough to embed that vision in people’s minds.

In my garden centre story above, the owner had included his vision in his advertising, but the employees and customers were still unaware of that vision.  When we read something often enough, it ceases to sink in and have any meaning. The vision statement of a large corporate company where I worked was written in large letters in the reception area.  I walked past it several times a day for six years and I cannot tell you what that vision statement said or what the vision was for that organisation.  Certainly nobody ever talked to me about how my job contributed to that vision.

And that is the key.  Line managers need to speak to individual employees on a regular basis and outline what is the company’s vision and how that individual contributes to it.  Just telling people once is not enough.  It needs to be reinforced regularly.

Team meetings, company newsletters, appraisals, inductions for new staff, any company communications – these are all opportunities to reinforce the company vision.

Tying it all up

Every business, whatever the size, needs a clear business vision to aim towards.  But just because you know your business vision, it does not mean that it is clear to everyone else.  And even if it is clear, that does not mean that your employees are all working towards it.

You need to communicate the purpose of your business to everyone – customers, suppliers, potential clients (advertising) – and, most importantly, your employees.

Your employees need to understand where their job fits into the achievement of this vision.  They need to believe they are an important cog in the wheel.  And this message needs to be reinforced and repeated at every opportunity.

Get this right and it will build trust and loyalty, which are an invaluable asset and will contribute hugely to your business growth and profit.

If you think this article is useful and you would like any strategic HR support or information  to help you understand your business vision and communicate it to your employees – please join our mailing list, or contact us for further guidance.

Jill Aburrow runs an HR strategic consultancy business – JMA HR .  She provides strategic HR advice and support to businesses who want to improve loyalty, growth and profit.  Jill has been a professional strategic HR advisor for over two decades. She is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (FCIPD) and has a Post Graduate Certificate in Employment Law.