Articles

Climate Strike Strategies – 20 September 2019

Young people in the UK and globally have been taking action for climate change and now they are calling for adults to join them by walking out of work on 20 September in a global “climate strike”.

Employers would be well advised to prepare for this.  You have a little over a month now to consider what you will do if your employees take part in this action.

What is a climate strike?

This proposed action is called a climate strike as the intention is for people to take a day out of work in protest against climate change.

In employment terms, a strike is lawful where a workplace has a recognised union and the strike is a result of a dispute between the employees and the employer. There are strict (and fairly complex) rules about balloting for strike action.  If these terms are not met, the strike is unlawful.

The climate “strike” is not as a result of a dispute between employer and employees and many people who are intending to take part may not be part of a trade union which is recognised in their workplace.

What action can an employer take?

As with all things, my first advice is to talk to your employees.  Find out if anyone is intending to take part in the action.

If a significant part of your workforce is planning some action, then you need to consider what work will not get done that day and how you can cater for that.  Can you change deadlines, appointments, deliveries, etc?  You can discuss these plans with your employees and get their help and ideas to manage the workload for that day.

In terms of payment for the day off work, there are various options and it may depend on your own concerns (or otherwise) about climate change.     You could insist that anyone who takes part in the climate strike has a day of unpaid leave.  Or you could ask employees who intend to strike to use up a day of their annual leave allocation.  More likely is a combination of these.  This would mean they take a day of their annual leave, but they can choose to have a day of unpaid leave instead and use their annual leave another time.

You could be really generous and just give people an extra day of annual leave.  For those not taking part in the “strike”, you need to be fair and allow them an additional day of leave to take at another time.  You might even want to close the Business for a day and take part in the “strike” yourself!

Unintended Consequences

The hard line is that people cannot just choose to walk out of work and expect to be protected from unfair dismissal.  If they strike, there are well-established rules about how that is conducted.  Where a workplace has a recognised trade union, the employees may be more likely to comply with the rules, but where there is no such recognition, then there are real risks for employees who want to take action.

Where an employer is prepared to allow employees to use annual leave (or even unpaid leave), there are other consequences.  The work still needs to be done and if the whole workforce decides to take advantage of the extra day off, then employers might be left in a very difficult position.

Alternatives to Climate Strike

As an employer, you might want to get ideas from your employees about alternatives to climate strike.  The point of this action is to pressurise governments and businesses (and all of us) to take action to slow climate change.

Your employees may have ideas about how you, as a Business, can make a difference.  There might be actions that you can take which have a greater effect for a longer time.  There are some very simple things which can make a difference.  Some you might already do, others you may not have thought about.  Things like recycling waste; replacing bottled water coolers with coolers plumbed into the main water supply; reducing thermostats by one degree.  Make sure you use local suppliers.

You may want to make a real difference in greater terms and this would involve looking at your company environmental policy – or setting one up.  You could instigate a review of all of your organisational policies and procedures to identify any impacts on the environment.  There may be smaller changes you can make immediately, or some bigger issues which need planning and financing.

You might even think about organising a special event on the day of the strike, to support the action.  Your employees would then feel they are making a difference, but without the need to join the strike.

Starting a dialogue about climate change

Every employer and employee will have a view about climate change.  If you start a dialogue between all parties, that is the best way to make a difference.

The last thing you need in your workplace is an unofficial walk out by your employees.  This could leave them in an untenable position, without legal protection.  The best way to prevent that is to start by talking to them.

This one day of climate strike could be the start of a new approach from employers (whether or not their employees join the strike).  That snowball could start an avalanche which really could make a difference.

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.

Strategic HR – Making The Difference (A Return On Investment)

How is strategic HR making the difference in Business and what is the return on any investment you  make in HR strategic support?

This can be broken down into three important areas of impact.  These are the operational impacts, the impact on the employees and the financial outcomes.   They are, of course, all interlinked and of equal importance.

Where is strategic HR making the difference?

The most obvious sphere of influence for an HR professional is the impact on the employees, isn’t it?  That is, after all, what HR means – Human Resources, ie. the people.  But the three areas are closely related.  If the employees feel valued and included then they will be loyal to the Business.  Customer service will improve and the impact on the Business operations becomes more clear.

If employees are achieving at work each day and feel loyalty to the Business, then staff turnover will slow down.  You will find it is easier to recruit and keep your employees.  Those employees will be more productive and will perform their work to a higher standard.

If the operational side of the Business improves, then that will have an impact on the financial outcomes.  Profitability will improve and you will start to see revenue growth.

The impact on your employees

If you have strategic HR support for your business decisions and planning, and if you continue to use HR strategy to improve your employee relations, then the impact on your employees is tangible and marked. When your employees understand their purpose and their importance to the Business, then they begin to appreciate other benefits of working for you.  That is strategic HR making the difference.

If employees feel valued and included, they will perform better.  This improves their sense of achievement and loyalty to the Business. Additionally, this means their interest, enthusiasm, customer service all improve.  They will be positive about the Business and your employer reputation will be enhanced. This will help to improve recruitment, turnover, sickness absence rates.  The cycle of improvement will spiral upwards. Again, strategic HR making the difference.

Operational Impacts

In addition to improved turnover, absence statistics, performance as outlined above, there are other potential operational impacts of strategic HR intervention.  Improved performance leads to higher quality and fewer concerns about safety.  If employees are engaged, then they will notice if things are not quite right and they will care about making improvements.  You will find it easier to comply with legislative and governance requirements.  This leads to a lower risk of legal actions against your Business.  Improved performance can also lead to an improved rate of completing tasks and a higher amount of work being achieved.

Your employees are critical to the smooth running of your Business.  They are a major component of the potential achievement of your business goals.  Your employees are your most important investment and it is wise to nurture that investment.

Financial Outcomes

Arguably, the most important impact that strategic HR support can have is on your bottom line.  The financials are, after all, one of the main reasons why you set up the Business in the first place.

If you take care of the people aspects of your Business, you will find that there is a positive impact on all of your financial measures.

When your staff are happier, you spend less on absence cover, recruitment, performance improvements, and so your return on sales and return on assets both improve.

If customer service has improved and the speed and amount of work has increased, then the obvious outcome is revenue growth and higher revenue per employee.   And because your revenues have improved and your expenses are reduced, this means that your profitability is higher.

A necessity, not just “nice to have”

As with most things in life, some planning and preparation go a huge way to making business successful.  The right support is important, as you run your Company on a daily basis.  You pay for strategic financial and marketing advice, so why not include strategic HR support?

This article has demonstrated that an HR strategist can provide a real and tangible return on your investment. By all means, continue to use an in-house administrator or your Personal Assistant to record sickness and absence. Or to calculate maternity pay and leave and other administrative tasks which you might consider to be HR responsibilities.  But if you value your Business and want to improve your bottom line, then please contact us for a no-obligation chat about the difference that strategic HR can make for your Business.

If you think this article is useful and you would like any strategic HR support or information  on how we can make the difference for your Business – contact us for a no-obligation chat.

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. Why not join the JMA HR mailing list?  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.

How To Change Your Corporate Culture So Your Profits Increase

Do you think you need to change your corporate culture?  If nothing is wrong, you may not think you need to change.  But just because nothing seems wrong, it doesn’t mean a change is not necessary.

Some time ago I worked with a company of about 300 employees who were spread across a number of different sites.

The Company had grown from a family owned and run small business and had built up a reputation for quality and innovation.  Sadly, to a certain extent, they were still relying on their good name and the culture had slipped in to one where people were just jogging along.  There was no innovation and productivity was getting lower.   Nothing was particularly wrong, but there was a general air of boredom and a lack of enthusiasm.

Additionally, there were petty squabbles among staff and people were quick to raise a grievance.  The rate of sickness absence increased for minor ailments.

Taking Action

The Board of Directors decided to combine the work done at the various sites.  Consequently they would move everybody to one site.  This was intended to decrease the overheads.  Additionally, productivity might be increased by bringing everyone under one roof.  Such was the thinking.

I was brought in to facilitate the site moves. I soon realised that these moves, in themselves, would not solve the productivity problem.  In fact, initially, things were likely to get worse.  Rebuilding teams from people who had worked in separate physical sites was a challenge.  Particularly as each site had its own, slightly different, culture.

Deciding to change your corporate culture

If you think you might need to change your corporate culture, then where do you start?

For us, the first step was for the Board to recognise that a change was needed. They could see that the different site managers had each had a different approach.  This had led to a stricter, slightly stifled regime at one site, whilst a couple of others had become lax and mistakes were creeping in.   The first need was to establish what the desired culture should look like.  Then we had to build a roadmap of how to achieve that, with milestones along the way.

Collaborating with employees

If you want to change your corporate culture, it is really important to talk to the employees.

We wanted to know what worked and what did not (and why).   The organisation was unionised and we worked with the Trade Unions.  But additionally, at each site, we set up a working group of volunteers to plan the site moves.  We sent out a survey, to be completed anonymously.  This was to gauge what worked and what did not.  We also used the Trade Unions to speak to their members and line managers to speak to their teams.

One critical factor was to communicate the plans and proposals.  We also provided some training on managing change.  Where individuals had specific concerns and issues, we held individual consultation meetings.  Along with practical issues about the move, we also communicated our desire to build a new, collaborative, culture.  We asked employees to work with us to outline our future direction.  Their suggestions contributed largely to our plans.

Accepting casualties

We found that not every employee shared our vision of collaboration and engagement.  Some decided that they did not want to move sites; some decided that they did not like the new “feel” to the Company.  We provided training and support, where applicable, to help people to adjust, but we also accepted that some would never settle and agreed to an amicable parting.

There were also a number of people who were content to continue jogging along at their steady pace.  They were doing a good job, but not an excellent one.  They were not disengaged from the Company, but were not actively engaged either.  We approached this by giving every opportunity for them to voice their opinions, give their ideas, get involved.

For many, we accepted that “a good job” was good enough and that these were the backbone of the company. We trained our line managers in spotting signs of disengagement.  We gave them the tools to engage with their teams.

For the minority of high-achievers, who were full of innovation and enthusiasm, we had given a chance to shine.   We subsequently found that the number of these high-achievers increased.

Walking the walk

The first step in this change had been to engage with the top team.  This continued to be an important step and is an ongoing need.  The team at the very top of a company needs to be the example they want to set.  The adage “be the change you want to see” is critical in business.

Whether or not it is a conscious decision, employees will always take their lead from managers. If your employees see you working long hours, they will do so too.  They will assume that is what you want from them.

If you fail to take a break, or if you send emails late at night, then that is also what your employees will do.  If you go into work even when you are obviously sick, then your employees will drag themselves in as well – and pass their germs to all and sundry.

Getting it right leads to other benefits

When we are shopping, we want to buy from responsible producers and suppliers. We want to feel comfortable with their ethos and approach.  In the same way,  employees want to work for companies which have a culture which they can fit into.  If you have a good reputation as an employer, then you will find that recruitment is easier for you.  You will be able to retain good employees.  You will have a lower rate of sickness absence.  It is likely that you will have fewer performance issues.  This will also have a positive effect on your marketing and will appeal to customers.

So you might want to change your corporate culture, even if you don’t think it is bad.

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 – contact us for a no-obligation chat.

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. Why not join the JMA HR mailing list?  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.

A Highly Engaged Workforce – The Secret To Increased Profits?

A highly engaged workforce is, of course,  a “nice-to-have” in business. But in these days of anxiety about Brexit and recruitment difficulties, you might feel that you have more important things to worry about.

You need to concentrate on the bottom line, making the money come in, paying your employees and keeping your customers happy.  Sure, it would be great to have a highly engaged workforce.  This has been an important topic in the business world  for years.   But some research carried out by Dale Carnegie shows that many organisations are not happy with the progress they have made in this arena. As many as 85% of leaders say that employee engagement is a priority.  But only a third of organisations actually take meaningful action.

Signs of success

The evidence is there that companies who have  highly engaged workforces are outperforming their competitors by a large margin in terms of earnings per share.

It costs approximately £30,000 to replace the average employee.  Surely, it is better to keep your employees happy so you don’t need to replace them so often.

But how and where do you start to raise levels of employee engagement?

“It ain’t what you do…”

I have talked in previous articles about the key factors of employee engagement.  It is easy to say that an organisation needs to increase trust and integrity.  It is easy to understand that employees need the chance to have their opinion heard, or to be thanked for an achievement.

But how can these principles be embedded within an organisation?

“….It’s the way that you do it”

How can you ensure that you have highly engaged workforce? The most important step for you to take  is to make it a strategic business priority.  Make sure that everyone knows the importance of employee engagement and the benefits of it.   This includes you, your managers – and everyone working in the organisation.  Start at the top and make sure that all of your managers are highly engaged.  Dale Carnegie’s research showed that only a third of senior leaders felt engaged with their organisation.   If your managers are not engaged, how can they inspire the people who work with them?

Once you make employee engagement  a strategic priority, you can put steps in place to enable your managers to achieve this goal.  Managers need some specific skills to help them build an environment of engagement.  See my article about management skills for more information.

If you think this article is useful and you would like any strategic HR support or information  on making employee engagement into a strategic priority – please  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.

 

How Workplace Gratitude Can Inspire Productivity

Workplace gratitude is not a phrase which comes readily to mind.

Most of us are taught as children to be grateful for gifts and to thank people for kindness.  This carries over to adult life and many have a daily habit of gratitude.  Some keep journals of things for which to be grateful. Speaking from personal experience, this can have a profound effect on life and mental wellbeing.

But this does not often spill over into the workplace.  In many organisations it may not feel appropriate or comfortable to show gratitude.  Employers may be missing out, though, if they don’t encourage a culture of workplace gratitude.

Why should employers encourage workplace gratitude?

Gratitude in daily life can raise energy and positivity.  It makes us feel good – and makes the recipient feel good too.  In the same way, gratitude at work can raise productivity; help employee engagement and lead to a positive organisational culture.

In turn, these changes lead to better teamwork, higher productivity, staff retention.  Employers can see an increase in employee resilience.  This can lead to less sickness absence, more innovation, better performance.

Workplace gratitude is definitely a worthwhile investment.

Why don’t we encourage workplace gratitude?

It is, perhaps, understandable that many managers find it difficult to give negative feedback to employees.  But why is it so hard for us to say “thank you” at work?

Some managers cannot see why someone should be thanked just because they do their job.  But what I am suggesting is that we thank people for specific things they do, rather than just general thanks for doing the job.

There may also be concerns that someone will expect more than just a thank you.  If we thank them for doing something well, will they expect a pay rise or a bonus?   That is another reason to build a culture where gratitude is an everyday occurrence.

Another fear is that gratitude is somehow “soft” or “cheesy”.  The emphasis is on being genuine and authentic.  Don’t say “thank you” unless you really feel gratitude.  But when you think about the effort involved – or the time saved, or other benefit – then it is easy to feel gratitude.

How to build a culture of gratitude in the workplace

It starts at the very top.  If the business owner and leaders take the time to notice the small things which ease the day and contribute to success, then it encourages everyone else to do the same thing. You might feel uncomfortable thanking someone for making sure the printer was stocked with paper but if you thank people regularly, it will become second nature.

The more specific you can be with your thanks, the better.  If you thank people in general terms for their work or their contribution, then it ceases to mean much.  They will think it is just so much “management speak”.  They may not see the real gratitude behind your words.

In the same vein of keeping it authentic, it is better to thank people at the appropriate time, rather than waiting to thank them in a team meeting every month.  And remember, some people don’t like to be thanked in public and may prefer an email or a quiet personal word of thanks.

Your thanks will be more authentic if you can show awareness of the small things, as well as major achievements,.  Of course it is good to celebrate big successes – a major sale or bringing a new product to market.  But it is critical to also thank the employee who took on extra work to cover for a sick colleague, or the person who worked so hard to turn around a complaint from a customer.

Encourage your employees to show gratitude

Encourage your employees to give back to charity initiatives, or to show social responsibility by contributing their skills or time to help others. You can lead the way with an organisational social responsibility agenda, or preferred charities which your company supports.

If you are trying to build a shift in your culture, then consulting with your employees is a good way to start.  Talk to them about gratitude and how it can be shown – and received.  They will have their own ideas and they will be able to tell you what works for them, and what doesn’t work.

Train your managers and employees to thank each other when things go right and to avoid blame when things are not so good.  Look on mistakes as learning opportunities.

But don’t force it.  If it is not authentic, then it will feel unnatural and people will be very uncomfortable. We all crave genuine gratitude when we have achieved something or had a success.  But that can very soon go sour if there is a lack of authenticity.

Random Acts of Kindness in the workplace

There is a movement afoot in the world to encourage people to carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward. This encompasses things like paying for a coffee for a stranger, or letting a vehicle merge into traffic from a side street.

As with other forms of gratitude, carrying out a random act of kindness  leads to more  empathy and compassion.  It  can help us to  connect with others and it brings a higher level of energy.

One way to increase workplace gratitude is to encourage random acts of kindness within the workplace.  Some suggestions:

  • Be on time – or let people know if you cannot avoid being late
  • Start and end meetings on time
  • Ask questions and really listen to the answers
  • Say thank you and mean it
  • Make time to chat with someone who needs it
  • Pay for someone behind you in the cafeteria, or buy for a colleague
  • Give someone a compliment
  • Give up a good parking spot
  • Smile
  • Leave change in the vending machine
  • Hold the door open for someone
  • Listen to someone else’s point of view without jumping in or judging them
  • Solve someone’s problem
  • Do something for someone without being asked
  • Make a recommendation about someone
  • Give good feedback on someone to their boss
  • Do a charity drive (for example, collect postage stamps for your favourite charity)
  • Clean up the mess in the kitchen (even if you didn’t make it)
  • Ask someone how they are and really be interested in their answer – show you will listen if they are not OK
  • Let go of a grudge
  • Admit your mistakes
  • Be friendly
  • Respect others

 

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.

Strategies To Create A Positive Organisational Culture

As business owners, we all like to think that we have a  positive organisational culture.  Ideally, we want the  people who work for us to be happy and see the organisation as positive and supportive.

If our employees work well together and collaborate with each other, we will see increased profitability and growth.

In previous articles, I have talked about sharing your vision so that everyone is working towards the same goal and can understand their own part in that journey.  Where people are trusted and appreciated, they have the impetus and the freedom to be innovative and creative.

Avoiding blame

Where communications are clear and leadership is strong and collaborative, then the climate is right for people to develop and grow.

So how can a blame culture creep into our organisation?   However much we work on sharing our vision and values and communicating our goals, organisational culture is defined by the people who work for us and their interactions with each other.

It is critical, therefore, that we learn to recognise the signs of a less than positive organisational culture and that we act to change the direction before there is a downward spiral.

Benefits of a positive organisational culture

Harvard Business School professors John Kotter and James Heskett did some research in the 1990s over a 10 year period.  Their findings showed that positive organisational cultures were linked to financial growth (a four fold increase).

A positive culture aids recruitment and retention of employees .  It can have an impact on customer service and it gives public credibility to your business.

Reviewing the situation

You may think your company culture is positive, but it is always helpful to review the situation.  Even if your employees are happy and motivated, you may find underlying trends which are less than positive.  If there is no conflict at all in your business, that could be a warning sign.  This can indicate complacency or a lack of confidence in suggesting a change to the status quo.  If you have a lack of diversity in your workplace,  you might find this will lead to stagnation.

On the other end of the scale, what happens when people cannot work well together?  This can lead to bad decision-making, loss of confidence, financial loss – even public embarrassment (remember the recent Ted Baker scandal?).

Warning signs

Many business problems are down to people issues.  You may be concerned about financial slowdown,  governance and legislative difficulties or other business-related difficulties.  But when you drill down into these, they are often rooted in difficulties with employees.

If you struggle to get new products to market, the fault may not be the organisational processes.  There might be a human aversion to risk which is at the bottom of the problem.  If you are finding it difficult to comply with governance or legislative imperatives, have a second look at your employees.  There is likely to be a problem with decision-making, ownership or understanding.

You may be proud of the fact that you collaborate with your employees, and allow them to collaborate with each other.  But have you given any thought to your consultation processes?  The real problem might be that people are spending hours of their time in large, unwieldy and unproductive meetings.

Alternatively, you may be very clear that you do not have a culture of blame in your organisation.  But have you listened to what people are saying to each other?  There might be implied criticism, even where it is not explicit. This can have a really detrimental impact on the confidence and abilities of the person on the receiving end – especially where there is a difference in position within the company.

Putting it Right

It is a fact that most of the problems in business are “people problems”.   We all have our own ways of doing things, our own unpredictability.  We are complex and we are all different.  This can make it difficult to resolve problems, but where you are able to create a positive organisational culture, you will reap the rewards.

The key to successfully changing your organisational culture is based on the same principles I have been writing about recently.  If you can engage with your employees, you will be well on the way to a positive culture.

As a reminder, those principles are:

Have a strong vision which you share with your employees and they can understand their part in helping to achieve the vision;

Give your employees a voice, so they can be confident in giving opinions and making suggestions in a blame-free culture, where they know they will be heard.

Show appreciation  of your employees and recognise their skills and achievements, so they are encouraged to give their utmost.

Build an environment of trust and integrity as a two-way street so that your employees feel confident in your leadership.

Achieving a positive organisational culture

The dictionary definition of culture is as follows: the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society.  In business – your business – culture is based on your values and behaviours.  When those align with your business strategy, then your employees will be engaged and your customers will be happy to buy.

A positive organisational culture allows each person to take responsibility for their own work, their own achievements and successes, their own mistakes.  It allows others to recognise that we all do things differently and the only “right way” to do something is the way that works for the individual and the organisation.  Where people make mistakes (as we all do), there is no blame.

So it is in your hands to create a positive culture within your business and to ensure that it stays that way.   If you can achieve that, then you will find it easier to deal with those business problems and difficulties and you will achieve productivity and growth.

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.

Collaboration, Collaboration, Collaboration – Implementing A Positive Employment Culture

In recent articles we have looked at how to implement a positive employment culture in business.  This will help to increase employee loyalty, business growth and profitability.

But who is responsible for introducing employee engagement into an organisation?  And how can trust and engagement be maintained?

Can a strategic HR partner – such as JMA HR – implement employee engagement for you?  The answer to this is that –  whilst we can support, advice and facilitate –  we cannot make it happen.  The change in the organisation’s culture has to come from within –  from the top –  and everyone in the company has a part to play.

Living the dream

It is a bit of a cliché that you need to model the change you want to happen.  You would probably like to have a workforce which is actively engaged in improving your business.  You want them to work towards achieving your business vision and to be an advocate for your organisation.  Your attitudes, behaviours and approach  will all filter down throughout the organisation.  If you are invariably polite, helpful, and friendly to people, then you are a positive role model for your employees.  If you lock yourself in your office and discourage others from interrupting you, then you cannot blame your staff if they do not make an effort to engage with your customers.

In previous articles we have looked at positive ways of interacting with your employees.  If you show trust in people, recognise their efforts, listen to their ideas and concerns and share your vision with them, you are a model for the behaviours and attitudes you want them to demonstrate.

Implementing a positive employment culture

The individuals who have people management responsibilities (including you if you manage others) are key to the successful introduction of a positive employment culture.  Like the senior team, they are role models for the workforce.  But their role is more critical.  They will hear employee views, concerns, ideas – and ensure implementation, or answers.  They are the people in the ideal position to recognise – and highlight – small successes.  You need to provide training and development for line managers, so that they know and understand their role in achieving a high level of engagement.

Other stakeholders

There may be others within your business who have an impact on the levels of employee engagement.

If you recognise Trade Unions and have Union representatives within the organisation, then you need to partner with them. Again, they may need some training or development.  At the very least, you need to consult and collaborate with them on the best ways to achieve success.   Even if you do not recognise Trade Unions, you may have employees who are members of a Union.  Those employees will want advice and support from their Union and if you are aware of such a link, then you may want to inform the relevant Union of your intentions and the (positive) impact you are intending.  In my experience, relationships with Trade Unions work much better where the Union is considered as a partner with the business.  Everyone is (or should be) aiming for the same goal – fulfilled, engaged and happy employees.

The most important player

The lynch pin to all of this effort is, of course, the employee him/herself.  You can implement as many positive practices as possible but if the employee does not engage with you, then you cannot force that to happen.

In my experience (and reinforced by recent research), there are relatively few actively disengaged employees.  These are the ones who are seeking other employment and who are taking every opportunity to give negative views of your business.

It is far more likely that your workforce is largely made up of people who come to work every day, do an “OK” job and are not really terribly interested.  They may take another job elsewhere if the opportunity arises, but they are not actively seeking a change and may stay with you, jogging along, for years.   Think how much your business could grow and thrive if you could catch and maintain the interest of even some of these people.

Where do we start?

The key to a positive employment culture is to actually start engaging with your employees.  It sounds obvious and simple but it is, surprisingly often, the missing ingredient.   You can start by telling your employees what you are trying to achieve and why – and emphasise the benefits for them.  If you collaborate with them on ways and means to achieve their engagement, then it will start to happen.

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.

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.