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.

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.

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.

How Listening To Your Employees Can Transform Your Business

Listening to your employees is essential if you want to grow your business and be profitable. You need to carry your employees along that journey with you.

They are the face of your business, as well as the engine room,  and their actions on your behalf are key to your business success.  Critically, you must listen to their ideas, hear their concerns and ensure they have the means to voice their ideas and suggestions.

And there is little cost for a huge business advantage.

I am Jill Aburrow and I have been a professional strategic HR advisor for over two decades.

The purpose of this article is to explain “employee voice” and why you should care about listening to your employees.  I will share some of the mechanisms you can use and some of the barriers you may come up against.

Most of all, I hope to inspire you with some of the benefits if you get it right.

What is “employee voice”?

We all spend a great deal of time at work.  How tragic it is that some people are very unhappy at work and just live for the working day to end, or the weekend to start.

The reasons why people are unhappy at work are many and varied.  But if you can give your employees a chance to be heard, then that will be a big start to improving things.  We all need to feel that our opinion matters.

There is a great deal of discussion in management circles and the HR world about “employee voice”.  But this is not just about giving employees the chance to have their say.  It is also about the channels of communication.  Additionally, it is about the arrangements the employer makes for employees to be consulted.  It is about employees being involved in decision-making.   And it is a way of ensuring that your workers can influence things which affect them at work.

So it is not just about hearing your employees.  It is also important for you to consider what they say and act on it.

Why should employers care?

Your employees are the best placed to tell you what works and what does not work in their individual part of the business. If you can gather that information and make productive use of it, then you will improve decision making and innovation in your business.

From an employee perspective, they will feel more motivated and get more enjoyment from their work.  You will benefit from their creativity and increased commitment.  You are likely to see higher productivity and reduced absences and turnover.

What are the benefits of listening to your employees?

Your employees are also in a good position to warn you about any potential problem areas or difficulties.   This might be for them personally, or in the wider team arena.  You can then adjust the working arrangements accordingly. Or you might need to provide training, or move people around to make the best use of their skills.

If you create opportunities for employees to be heard at work, then you are treating them as valued stakeholders in your business.  They will feel able to influence their working conditions and this will help to build trust between employer and staff.

Where the working relationship is good, your employees will feel able to share suggestions for improvements in the organisation.  For this to happen, they need to trust that you will listen to their suggestions and that they will not be blamed if things go wrong.

Mechanisms for listening to your employees

The obvious way for you to be able to listen to your employees is to arrange regular one-to-one meetings with their line manager.  Of course, you need to ensure your managers (including you!) are equipped to listen properly.  They must have the communication skills to hear, deal with and respond appropriately to anything raised.

Some other potential channels for employee voice to be heard are:

  • Team meetings;
  • Trade unions (where they are recognised within the workplace);
  • Staff forums;
  • Suggestion schemes;
  • Attitude surveys;
  • Workplace social media.

It is unlikely that you would use only one of these mechanisms, but you can use a variety which suits your business.

If you have 50 or more employees in your organisation, then the Information and Consultation of Employee Regulations (ICE Regs) apply.  This means your employees have the right to request that you make arrangements to inform and consult with them about workplace issues. If you need support and advice on this, then please don’t hesitate to contact us.

What can go wrong?

If your employees do not feel they can raise issues, concerns and suggestions at work, then it is very likely that they will become disengaged.  The symptoms of this are likely to be an increased absence rate, higher staff turnover, clock-watching.  Their performance may get worse and they may have difficulty in relationships with managers and colleagues alike.

Additionally, employees may use other channels to express their feelings about work.  They may complain about work through external social networking channels.  They are likely to complain to friends and family.  This will not be good for your employer reputation and may have a negative impact on things like recruitment and marketing.  You may find your clients become less satisfied.

Barriers to effective “employee voice”

Sadly, it is not uncommon for employers to find that their employees fail to speak up about concerns or suggestions.   Even where people feel their suggestions could make a positive difference to their work or workplace, they are often reluctant to raise things.

This can be caused by a lack of trust between managers and employees.  There can be a perception that people may be blamed, or even punished, for speaking out.   Even if this is not the case, it can cause people to remain silent, which can lead to major organisational failure.  When the emissions scandal  hit Volkswagen in 2015, one of the factors was shown to be that people felt fearful of speaking out.

Employees may stay silent because they are frightened of being viewed negatively or of damaging working relationships.   In order to combat this, you need to make sure that people feel safe to raise issues or suggestions.  They also need to feel safe to raise a complaint.  This can only happen where there is trust between employees and employer. It is not good enough to say that there will be no blame.  You must demonstrate that this is true.

People may also think it is not worth raising suggestions because “nobody listens”.  This is why it is critical to respond to all suggestions.  This does not mean you have to agree to every suggestion.  But you need to give reasons why you are not going to take up the suggestion.

The changing work environment

The way we work is constantly changing and this brings new challenges with listening to your employees.

The rise of remote working, variable working hours, alternative work arrangements all have an impact on when and how you can ensure you hear your employees. Changing technology can also have an impact.  It is important that you consider this when you are agreeing to changes or recruiting for new jobs.

Another challenge is the increased diversity in the workplace.  There is a need to consider how you communicate with everyone.  Some may have mental or physical challenges.  Others may be affected by cultural differences.  All of these things must be considered to ensure that you consider all needs when you identify mechanisms for your employees to give their views over their work conditions.

Getting it right 

Listening to your employees can bring positive outcomes for your business and for the individuals who work there.

Being able to participate in decision making is important for employees – both for their wellbeing and their motivation.  It can be the means of improving their working environment and conditions. It can give them a sense of control over their own work.  And it can help them to use their knowledge and develop their skills.

If you listen to your employees and engage with them, you are  likely to benefit from their improved job satisfaction.  You will see higher productivity and innovation.  Your absenteeism levels will reduce and staff turnover will improve.  You are likely to see reduced workplace conflict.

If you get it right, your employees will be involved in decision-making and managing change as you will have effective communication and consultation in the workplace. Your managers will be skilled in listening to people. They will seek the views of employees and make sure their responses are appropriate and timely.

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.

Managing People – And Why You Need To Get It Right

You understand that your employees are key to your business success and you know what are the key ingredients to ensure that morale is high and people are loyal.  You pay well and your staff benefits are as good, or better, than those offered by your competitors.

But you are still having problems recruiting the right people.  Your sickness levels are higher than average, with people constantly taking days off sick.  What is more, you are finding it difficult to keep good people once you have managed to recruit them.

Is there anything you can do to improve things?

Managing people, on a day to day basis, is a challenging task which needs a comprehensive set of skills.  If your managers  do not have the right skills then you are leaving a big part of your business success to chance. This includes you,  if you are managing people yourself.

Choosing Your Managers

When we need to set up a management structure, then our first consideration is who should be promoted into a management position.  Often the choice falls to the person who is the best performer in the team.  This can be a short-sighted way of selecting a manager.  Just because someone is good at the job, does not mean they will be good at managing people who do the job.  Some people do not have the ability to manage people. Others may not have any desire to do so.  There may, of course, be some who want to have the “power” of being a manager, but who have none of the necessary skills..

Skills for Managing People

In order to manage a successful team, managers need to have a variety of skills, and those are not necessarily practical task-related skills.  So the best person for a job may not be the best person to manage others doing that job.

In particular, you need to ensure your managers have a range of more human, so-called “soft” skills.  This includes things like leadership, emotional intelligence, critical thinking, change management.

Some Key Skills for Managers

You might expect a list of the key skills needed to include some of those in the list below.  But others may be more of a surprise. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but covers some of the skills which your people managers need to have.

  • Communication Skills. Every manager needs to be able to communicate with their team members.  This is more complex in these days of remote working and more diversity in the workplace.  Giving and receiving the right messages are both absolutely key to managing a team.
  • Emotional Intelligence. This skill is quoted a great deal as a necessity. A quick look on Social Media shows that Emotional Intelligence is a subject for much discussion. So what is it?  It is difficult to define, but includes things like: keeping an open mind; being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes; compassion and caring; the ability to engender trust;  integrity; honesty; following up on promises; thanking people; engaging with people.
  • Change Management. Any workplace is likely to go through change from time to time.  Sometimes such changes are brought on by external events – eg. legislation.  Or they may come from a changing market or different leadership.  Whatever the reason, people can find it extremely difficult to be productive during periods of change and it is essential that managers have skills to be able to support their teams through it.
  • Stress Management. The mental health of employees is something which is acknowledged more and more in the workplace and managers need to be able to judge stress levels and likely consequences.    They also need to know how to manage employees who have mental (or, indeed, physical) health challenges or issues.
  • Conflict Management. A successful manager needs to be able to resolve conflict between team members. There are likely to be occasions when two people have a difference in opinion and the manager needs to be able to resolve that with a fair and transparent approach.

Managing Time

You may wonder why time management is not included in the list above.  And, of course, it is a critical skill for any busy manager.  But there is also a key role for the Managing Director in this one. You may recruit a new manager, or promote someone into a management role.  But often they are then expected to do their “day job” as well as managing a team of people.  Managing people is a role in itself.

A manager may be able to oversee one or two people as well as doing other work, but they cannot do a good job of managing a whole team of people, as well as having to meet other work deadlines.

This is another reason why it is not a good idea to promote someone to manager because they are good at the work done by the team.  You do not want to lose the skills of a high performing team member.  A good manager will spend a large proportion of their time managing people and so cannot do another full-time job as well.  If you do promote someone, then you need to ensure at least some of their work is taken from them.  This is so  they can concentrate of their management responsibilities.  You also need to invest in some training for them in those required skills.

In conclusion

If you want high performing teams who are productive, loyal and happy at work –  then you need to make sure they are managed properly.  And this does not mean micro-management.

To achieve such growth and productivity for your business, then you need to choose and train your managers carefully.  This will ensure  that they can work with your employees to achieve the best possible results for your business.

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

4 Secrets to Stop Your Employees Leaving

A client recently told me he was concerned as his employees don’t want to be at work.  As a result, people go off sick, or they leave.   Sometimes they have not worked for the business very long when they decide to leave.

Another client told me that some of his employees don’t perform their jobs very well.  They just don’t seem to be very interested in being at work. He thought the problem was that the work is boring and he cannot offer much variety.

The reasons why employees become disengaged may not be what you think

The boss often thinks that the reason why people don’t stay long is because they are not paid enough.  Or it may be that the work is boring and mundane and people get bored quickly. Maybe they are just lazy.

Of course, all of those things – and others – could be part of the problem.

But there are some more fundamental reasons why businesses may have trouble in keeping their employees.

The 4 main reasons why people are not interested in their work

1.Our contribution. We all like to believe that we are important.    The need to contribute something to the world is in all of us.  No matter how mundane, “boring”, or repetitive our job may be, it is critical that we can see why we are doing it.

2.Appreciation.  We also want to believe that what we say, think and do is noticed and valued.  We all like to be thanked for things we have done.  It gives a warm feeling.

3.Our voice. Part of being appreciated is being able to give an opinion and knowing that it has been heard.  No matter how mundane the job may be, the person who does it every day is an expert.  They may have a good idea about making it more interesting, or speedier.

4.Trust.  We like to think we can be trusted to “get on with it” without interference or micro-managing.  We want to be able to trust those around us and, particularly, those in a position of authority.  In return, we want them to trust us.

These things are inter-related, but all stand alone as well.  They are the four critical factors if you want to engage with and motivate your employees.

So what should the employer be doing?

1.Vision. You should share the vision for your business with your employees.  All of them.  If your aim is to provide the cheapest Will Writing service in your town, then make sure your employees know that.  Make sure you show each employee that their specific role contributes to that goal.

The work placement student whose job is just to answer the phone needs to know that he/she is a critical part of the operation.  If the phone calls don’t get answered quickly and politely, you risk losing business and credibility.  It doesn’t matter how cheap your service is if you don’t have any customers.

This message should be repeated often.  Make sure your employees know the importance of their part of the business.  Ensure they don’t forget how important you believe they are.

2.Appreciation.  It doesn’t cost anything to thank people for their efforts.  You may think that someone hasn’t actually made much effort.  So thank them for the time they have invested.  Sometimes just an acknowledgement that someone has turned up for work is all that is needed.

One of the most successful managers I know made a point of going to the desk of each of her staff every day and saying “Good Morning”.  She would ask them how they were and have a one or two line conversation, passing the time of day.  It reaped huge benefits for her in terms of loyalty and effort on the part of her staff.

3.Listening.  Many managers say they have an open door policy.  But do they really mean it?  Are they so busy that their diary doesn’t have a free space for two weeks? So if your door is not really open very often, don’t advertise that it is.  Your employees may be brimming with fantastic ideas which could save time, money and effort.  Or they may have a pressing issue which really needs your input.  Or they may just want to let off steam.

You need to ensure that your employees can raise suggestions, complaints or ideas, whatever their reason.  And you need to really listen to those things and respond carefully. If they feel they cannot be heard, they will leave your employment to go and work somewhere else where they can be heard.

4.Integrity and Trust. Your employees need to know that you trust them.  They may need some supervision if they are unsure of the work, or are new to a process.  But once they have learnt the ropes and feel confident, then you should trust them.  Of course, if they abuse that trust, you will need to take action.  But it is much better to trust them until they prove untrustworthy. The vast majority will bend over backwards to deserve your trust.

Strangely, you will find that if you trust your employees and show them that trust, then they are very likely to trust you as well.  That is the basis of a sound working relationship.  Your employees are far less likely to leave your employment if they feel valued and trusted.

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

 

The Facts You Should Know About Employee Engagement

There are many things which are talked about in the Human Resources (HR) world which employers don’t understand or pay much attention to.  They just think it is so much jargon. If they don’t understand it, the danger is that they ignore it.  This can cause them problems in their business.

Employee Engagement probably comes under that heading.  So the purpose of this article is to explain employee engagement.  It is important to you as an employer – for business success and growth.  It should be easy to achieve, at least on a basic level.  And it is something which needn’t cost you much money.

So what is employee engagement and why should you care?

What is employee engagement?

Essentially, it is the ingredient that makes an employee want to come to work every day. It is what makes employees give commitment and loyalty to their work and workplace.

For employees, it is the feeling of being trusted and valued by your employer.  And it is about understanding your job and how that fits into the overall direction of the organisation. Another element is being free to give your opinion, or raise concerns.  You want to feel that you have been heard and your view is valued.  This doesn’t necessarily mean your suggestions will be acted on or agreed with, but your view is valued and you are encouraged to voice it.

There are many, many factors which contribute to employee engagement and they all inter-connect, but the things outlined above are the basics the employer needs to ensure are in place to help employees feel  engaged.

Why does employee engagement matter?

If your employees like coming to work and are happy when they are at work, then they will be productive.  They will be loyal and will do what they can to support your business.  This equals growth and is likely to bring you increased profits and a more successful business.

Your people are key to business success and you need to put them at the centre of your plans for the business.  Of course, there are other things that are critical to your success.  Some of these are finances; customers; regulation; your ability to innovate.  But these things (and many others) are all impacted by the people in the business and your relationship with those people.

If you do not engage with your employees, then you risk high absence and high turnover of staff.  You will find that your staff lack motivation and cannot interact well with your customers.  They will not be creative or innovative.  They are the key to the success of your business, or its decline.

You can measure employee engagement and you can take steps to increase it.

How can an employer achieve employee engagement?

Employee engagement is a gradual change to the culture of the organisation. It can take some time to achieve changes, but there are things which you can do immediately.

The key is for this to be a genuine change in direction on your part.  It is no good just to pay lip-service to the idea of employee engagement.  In essence, you need to cultivate a real desire and intention to engage with your employees.  You need to listen to them, understand their needs, make changes as a result.

Managers in any organisation are critical to the success of employee engagement.  You need your managers to buy into the change. They may even need some development and skills training.

You need to have a clear vision for your organisation.  For a start, 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. Ideally, you can then help your staff to understand how their specific job contributes to the success of that vision.  They need to be able to see that their job is important and valued by the organisation.

It will really help you if you take steps to ensure that you and your managers are effective at managing people.  You need to know how to listen to people and have the skills to motivate and empower them.

Listen to your employees  

Another key to having motivated employees is for them to feel that their views are valued.  They know the job and what works – or doesn’t work.  Undoubtedly, they will have views about the best way to achieve results.   You need to ensure you have a method for hearing what they say.  They will probably have some good ideas, which could make positive changes in your business.  If they come up with a suggestion which isn’t practical, then it is fine to turn the idea down.  But you must explain why it won’t work, or why it needs to be delayed.  The employees want to feel that you have really considered their views

Trust and Integrity – a two-way street

The final key step to an engaged workforce is potentially the most important one.  It involves  building an environment where there is trust between you and your staff.  You need to live up to your promises.  You need to make sure your managers are living up to them too.  It is all very well to have policies and rules, but you need to ensure they are followed – by everyone.  Managers and employees alike.

Summing up the basics of employee engagement

The four key steps to successful employee engagement are:

Vision – have a vision of where your organisation is heading.  Make sure you are able to communicate that vision to your staff, so they can see the importance of their own role in achieving that vision.

Management Skills – make sure you and your managers are skilled in listening, empowering and managing staff.

Listen to your employees – make sure you have a mechanism in place for your employees to voice their ideas, concerns and suggestions.  And ensure that you consider those ideas and give them proper feedback.

Ensure trust is a two-way street – trust your employees and make sure they can trust you.  Live up to promises made.  Apply rules and procedures to everyone, including managers.

These steps are just the starting point, if you really want to engage with your employees.  Over the next few weeks, this blog will cover each step in more detail and talk about some of the many other things you can do to engage with and motivate your staff.

If you can connect with your employees and make them understand their contribution to the success of your business, then you will have a loyal, engaged workforce who will help you to grow your business and increase your profits.

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

Keeping to the Bare Minimum Wage

I spoke to an employer last week who was quick to tell me that they don’t pay more than the minimum wage.  If someone goes off sick then they only pay Statutory Sick Pay.  He was quick to justify this… “Like any small employer, every penny counts and we cannot afford to pay out anything more than the absolute minimum we can get away with”.  I came away from the conversation feeling very sorry for his employees – and with concerns about the sustainability and growth of his business.

The question is not whether an employer can afford to pay more than the absolute minimum, but whether they can afford not to.

 Keeping Low

Of course, there are obvious benefits of keeping the wage bill as low as possible.  It is the largest outgoing for most employers.  Rightly, they will do everything they can to control it and prevent it from spiralling uncontrollably.

You want to feel you have not wasted that money and have preserved it to spend on other things which will grow your business.

It is also true that pay is not a “motivator”.  You can pay a high salary without seeing reward in terms of performance by the employee on the receiving end.  But money (or perceived lack of it) is a de-motivator.  If an employee feels they are not getting a fair deal, they will have no incentive to go the extra mile for your business.

“Give and Ye Shall Receive”

It is a fact in life that you get back what you give out – if you project love and generosity, then that is what will come back to you.  If you “give” to your employees (in terms of money, and in terms of valuing their contribution in other ways) then they will repay you with loyalty, with support to you and your customers, with performance beyond your expectations.

If you stick to paying out the very minimum, then there is no incentive for your employees to work hard or to put in more than basic performance.  There is a saying I have heard many times in the work place:  “if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys”.

The danger  – if they are a high performer – is that they will “mark time” with you until a better opportunity comes along.  Even worse, if you have a poor performer, is the danger that they may stay with you as they cannot get another role. In that case, they will never be really happy at work and they will only ever perform at the level  at which you value them (ie. the minimum). They will become more and more disillusioned and their performance (already low) is likely to spiral downwards over time as they tick away the days until they can take their pension.

Spreading the Germs

If you only pay the minimum amount possible when someone is off sick, then they will hurry to come into work as soon as they can.  This sounds like a good thing and is the reason why some employers only pay Statutory Sick Pay.  But what if the person has something contagious (even a stinking cold) and comes into work because they need the money?  They pass their germs on to others they work with and, before you know it, the whole team is sick.

And what is the quality of the work someone produces when they are feeling below par?  There is a strong likelihood that their work will be slow and may be full of mistakes.  In the long run, this could cost more than paying them whilst they are off sick and not contributing at all.

Spreading the Love

Again, we come back to the value you put on your employees.  There is a reason why the wage bill is generally the highest bill you face each month.  If you get it right, it is because the people are the highest performing asset you have and will make your business grow and prosper.

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