Good People Managers – Top Tips from JMA HR

Setting a good example

When you are a people manager, others will take their lead from you and follow your example – so make sure you set a good one!   They will copy all your bad habits and characteristics as well as the good ones.  If you stay working until all hours, that is what they will think you expect of them as well.  If you come into work, even when you are feeling lousy, then they will think that is what they need to do as well.

So be enthusiastic about your goals and vision and bring your team along with you.

Show you care

One of the best people managers I have ever known made the effort to visit each member of her team (sometimes virtually, by email or text) and check in with them each day.  That simple gesture – sometimes nothing more than “Good Morning, how are you today?”- endeared her to her team and gave them a chance to raise with her anything which might be bothering them.  It showed she cared about them.

Don’t give out blame or shame

Even when there are disasters – and there always are some – there is always something positive to latch onto.  That is much more healthy than pointing a finger.  Find out what happened and why – that way you can prevent a recurrence. Even if you feel blame is justified, it is rarely helpful to point it out.  How you react can make your team love you or can damage your working relationships for ever – it is your choice.

Be Transparent

Share as much as you can about the vision, goals and direction of the company.  And do it regularly.  Celebrate when things go well and thank people.  Share the bad news, as well.  Your team deserves to know how things stand, and if they feel trusted they will put in the effort to help you recover.

Listen and learn

Communication is a two way street and you need to be able to listen to your team and hear their concerns, frustrations and share their achievements.  People need to feel they can raise anything with you, without fear.  If they can’t talk to you, they will gossip with others and the truth will get garbled.  Communicating in person with them will help them feel valued.  Ask them what they want – they might surprise you.

Invest some time in helping your employees to grow

Invest some time and effort in helping your employees to grow.  You will reap the benefits and they will thank you for it.

Help them to get promoted.   They will stay longer and the Company will benefit.

Set them free and they will fly high

There is no need to micromanage everything and everyone.  When you empower others, give them space and allow them autonomy, then they will surprise you with their achievements. If you are not flexible, they will not trust you and they will become demotivated.

If you let them know they are valued and you trust them, they will soon be reaching for the stars.

Be good at what you do, but even more be a good people manager

People are often promoted to management positions because they have good technical skills.  Which is great.  Your team will be able to use your skills as a point of reference.

But even more important are the “soft” skills which enable you to be a good people manager.  These are the skills which you may not already have when you become a manager.  The good news is that they can be learnt.

The key message for now is that you need to learn them, fast.

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Personal Financial Wellbeing – How Can You Support It?

Do you know about the personal financial wellbeing of your employees?

Earlier this year, I wrote a guest blog post for Nikki Ramskill, the Female Money Doctor.  Nikki is a medical doctor and she sees first-hand the effect that financial worry has on people’s health.  In my article I said that “A caring employer who wants to benefit from a healthy, happy and productive workforce should be thinking about how to provide financial advice.”

I am returning to this subject as it is dear to my heart and there has recently been a study by the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) into employee financial wellbeing guidance in organisations.

This study looks into what employers can do to support the personal financial wellbeing of their employees and why they might want to.

Horror Stories

There have been recent headlines  about people who are holding down jobs but are homeless.  And there have been other stories about people who are in full time work, but below the poverty line.

Of course, these are the extremes, but many people are in debt and are unable to save.  They are struggling to pay mortgages or rent and to feed and clothe their families.  Other studies over the years have come up with statistics such as: 40 per cent of adults say they are not in control of their finances; only 28 per cent of people have a savings buffer equal to three months’ income and a third of employees state financial worries are their biggest concern.

All of this will inevitably have a negative impact on the health of your employees.  It will give them higher stress and anxiety levels and affect their ability to sleep, their concentration levels and their absence due to sickness.  If they are suffering, then your business is also suffering.  They will not be performing well.  Their decision making will be affected.  They will have a reduced ability to concentrate.

You may be paying well and providing other benefits on top, but are you aware of the financial health of your employees?  If not, then you may be missing out on a good way to improve productivity, employee engagement and your employer reputation.  There are many low cost or even cost-free ways to help your employees to enhance their personal financial wellbeing.  And if you help them, then you are helping yourself too.

How can I help?

You could start by setting up an employee financial wellbeing strategy.  This does not have to be difficult.  It would be a good start to look at all the help you already provide and put it all into an easily accessible package.  You probably provide help already, but not in a clear format.

You can also signpost employees to help which is available for them – usually at no cost.  There are all kinds of support mechanisms, debt counselling, financial guidance, pension advice, savings schemes, etc which is available if employees know where to look.

Sometimes all that is needed is some financial education.  People are frightened of managing their finances because they feel they don’t have the skills or knowledge.

But I don’t want to invade their privacy

In these days of enhanced data protection, identity theft, invasion of privacy, employers are nervous of enquiring into the personal finances of their employees. But you don’t need to know specific details, unless the employee wants to share it with you.  Additionally, you might assume that your employees have adequate knowledge to make decisions about their finances – especially if you already provide advice on things like pensions and flexible benefits. But the IES study found that that many employees would positively welcome some engagement from their employer to help them to resolve any difficulties they may be facing.

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Who Cares For The Carers? Their Employer Should

If you employ even only a few people, it is likely that one or more of them is a carer. This means they spend several hours a week giving care to a family member or friend on a voluntary basis. Many of these may be struggling to balance work with their caring responsibilities.   It is likely that most of them will have to take time off work or work irregular hours because they care for someone else. Some of them may need to choose whether or not to continue at work.

And these figures are rising.

It is not just about the demands on their time or the need for flexibility at work.  Caring for someone can be physically exhausting and an emotional drain.  As a result, the carer may feel isolated and unsupported.

Caring For The Carers is Good For Business

Your employees do not have to tell you if they are carers, but if they feel supported at work they are more likely to do so.  And this means you can provide the support they need.  This helps you to plan for unexpected eventualities or the need for emergency leave or a sudden need for some time off.

If they don’t feel supported, then they may make the decision to leave work and concentrate on being a carer.   That is a potential headache for you as their employer.  Especially if they are a key member of the team and good at their job.  Not to mention the extra cost involved in recruiting and training new staff.

On the other hand, if you are supportive to the carers in your workplace, then you will find that employees are more keen to remain in your employment.  Even those who aren’t carers (yet!).  They are also more likely to be willing to put in extra effort.  They want to stay with a good employer as much as you want to keep a good team.   Then, when you do have to recruit new staff, that may be easier too if you have a reputation as a good and supportive employer.

Additionally, If you are looking after your employee, then they are less likely to go off sick themselves.

And all of this increased productivity comes at little cost to you as an employer.  The measures we suggest are all easy to implement and at little or no cost.

So how can we support them in their caring responsibilities?

  1. You could put something in your employment policies about the rights of carers, or  you could even have a dedicated carer policy.  And then you should regularly tell your staff about it.  This raises awareness of your support for carers.  This helps those who are carers, of course, but it will also have a positive effect on others in the workplace, as a demonstration that you are a caring and inclusive employer.
  2. You might want to train your line managers – and yourself – on how to support carers and being an understanding employer. This will enable you to help any carers to balance the demands of work and their caring responsibilities.
  3. Offer flexible working. This could be through formal policies, but also informal arrangements where there is an emergency or sudden need. This does not just mean flexible start and/or finish times, but also home working or part-time working.
  4. It would also be helpful to provide somewhere private for employees to make a personal phone call and give them the time to do so.
  5. Allowing leave at short notice for carers could make all the difference if they need to manage a crisis. All employees have the right to take a reasonable amount of time off work for dependants on an unpaid basis, but you may want to offer more.  For example, you could allow carers the chance to take extended leave.
  6. Provide information about support available (both internally and externally) and how to access it.

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Work-Life Balance – What Is It And How Do We Find It?

We all strive for greater work-life balance.  Employers even use  “good work-life balance” as an incentive in their recruitment advertising.    But what does it mean?  And how do we achieve it?

What is a balanced approach?

The difficulty is that the phrase “work-life balance” means different things to different people.  To many, it means that they want the flexibility to take their children to school before starting work.  Or they want to leave early to collect them.  Many are willing to “make up the hours” in the evening, once the kids have gone to bed.

For others, it means only working for four days in the week.  Some take this to the extent of working “compressed hours”, where five days’ worth of work are squashed into four days.  Sadly this often means that 10 hour days or more are worked for each of those four days.  This can mean a longer weekend – but how much balance is there  during the four long working days?

Others again want the flexibility to work from any location they choose. This takes out travel time and, ostensibly, leaves more time for home and leisure activities, to balance against work time.  In reality, though, most homeworkers are hard at work for much longer hours than their work-based colleagues.  So the balance may be lost.

Balancing the cost

If balance can be achieved by reducing working hours – then who should pay for it?  When people are less stressed, healthier, happier and more refreshed, they are likely to have a raised level of productivity.  This makes a good case for employers to continue to pay their employees for a full week, even when they have reduced their hours.  If we are still getting the same work for less hours, then why wouldn’t we be prepared to pay the same for it?

Of course, the difficulty is that many employers need to provide their service for full working hours, or even 24/7.  In those cases, they would need to employ extra people to cover the hours. So any benefit the employer may get from improved productivity and better quality work will be negated by the cost of additional staff.

So would people be prepared to take a reduction in their take-home pay, if this meant that they worked fewer hours and had more time with their families?  It is not that easy.  Many people live on a knife-edge where their salary is only just enough to pay for all of their expenses.  More leisure time is likely to equate to larger expenses and so a pay cut is often not really practicable.

A reduction in working hours does not necessarily bring balance

A large proportion of the workforce is already working part-time.  Others are balancing caring duties with work.  Many work in the gig economy and so are employed on an ad-hoc basis.  Others work for themselves, or as contractors.

Technology doesn’t help.  It is too easy to be “always available” to answer that one email, or take that one call from the other side of the world.  Even when we are on holiday, many of us find it impossible to leave work behind and so take our laptops and smart phones with us.

If reduced hours don’t work, how can an employer help?

There are several things you can be doing to help your employees achieve a healthy work-life balance:

  1. The first action you can take is to talk to your employees about how to achieve work-life balance. If you collaborate on a solution then it is more likely to work for everyone.
  2. You should try to avoid a “one-size-fits-all” solution. Everyone has a different idea of what they consider to be a balance. What is great for one person could be a nightmare for someone else.
  3. Don’t expect your employees to work long hours for no extra reward. It is fairly normal for people to work unpaid overtime – especially if they have reached supervisory positions.  Many employers don’t expect this, but most of them accept it and do not take steps to discourage it.  If you need people to work longer hours, then employ more people – or at least pay overtime.
  4. Lead by example. If you are in the office for long hours, then your staff will think that is what you expect of them as well.
  5. Don’t just pay lip service – actually be that flexible employer who expects your employees to have a balanced life.
  6. You can start to reap the rewards of increased productivity, reduced sickness, reduced turnover and happier staff.

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Finding The Perfect Recruitment Fit

Many employers tell me that successful recruitment is their biggest challenge.

The reasons they give are many and varied:  the skills they need are in short supply; it costs a fortune to advertise in the right places; there are plenty of candidates but none of them “fit”; people are too young, old, not skilled, over-qualified… the list goes on.

But the problem may lie closer to home.

Many employers forget two very important things.  Firstly, recruitment is a two-way street and the candidate for the job also has a choice.  Secondly, the recruitment process should not stop when the new employee has signed the contract.

Showing your best side

If you were trying to sell your house for the best price possible, then you would spend some time and effort in preparing for the sale.  You might tidy up the garden .  You could increase the “kerb appeal” by a lick of paint on the front door. It makes sense to clean the house and make the beds. You might even go as far as putting fresh flowers on the table, baking some bread or brewing fresh coffee so that there is an enticing smell when people come to view.

But don’t forget that the candidate is also checking your business out to see if they want to work there.  If they are skilled and/or enthusiastic, you are unlikely to be the only person who is interviewing them.  So it makes sense to show your business to its best advantage.  Make sure the candidate is welcomed when they arrive and that they get a friendly reception from everyone they come into contact with.  Give them a chance to see the environment they will be working in and to meet their potential colleagues.  Ensure you explain the role accurately and clearly.   Make sure you spell out the benefits of working for  you.

Preparing for recruitment

You are probably extremely busy and recruiting people takes up a good deal of valuable time.  That is why it is important to get it right, so you don’t have to repeat the process too many times.  A little care could prevent the need.   Take time to prepare properly for the interview.  Make sure you have read the person’s CV and know a little about them.  Remember to use their name – if you need to check how to pronounce it, then ask them at the beginning of the conversation – and listen to their answer, so you get it right from then on!  Make sure you have prepared some questions to ask all the people you are interviewing, so that you can compare their answers to help you choose the best fit.

Beware the trap of over-selling, though.  The candidates need to get a good impression, but it needs to be the right one.  Don’t promise work which exists but you know is going to someone else.  Make sure they get a true picture of what you need them to do for you.  And don’t show them the beautiful new desk in the airy space by the window, if you are going to put them in the tatty old workspace near the gents’ toilet.

Decision time

You need to decide quickly about whether a candidate is right or not.  If you are not sure, then it is probably a “no” and you need to tell them so.  Time is of the essence and it is critical to get the offer of a job out quickly.  Otherwise, your ideal candidate will have got fed up waiting for your decision and accepted another job elsewhere.  Even if you have made a verbal offer and they have accepted it, you still need to get the paperwork out quickly.  It is not unusual for someone to accept a verbal offer and then to start another job in the time it took you to get the written details out to them.

I have often known employers who think that someone they have interviewed “might be OK” but they want to interview a few others before they decide.  They are frightened they will miss out on a “better” candidate.  In my experience, perfection is impossible to find and if someone is “good enough”, then snap them up.  Otherwise, you risk losing out on employing them because you are looking for someone perfect, who probably does not exist.

After the party

How many times have you moved into a lovely new house, only to discover there are rotten floorboards, rats in the loft and a jungle hidden at the bottom of the garden?  OK, perhaps that is an extreme, but you get the point.  In the same way, a new employee will be wondering if they made the right choice.  What if the job is not the one which was advertised and which they wanted to do, but turns out to be something different which they don’t want to do?  If the reality is very difficult from the promise at interview, then they will very quickly move on.  Then you will have to go through the whole process again.

Recruitment is their choice too.

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Nicely, Nicely, Thank You

There is a character in the show “Guys and Dolls” called Nicely Nicely Johnson. He always answered “nicely, nicely, thank you” when asked how he was.  He was always one of my favourite characters.  I loved his name when I was a kid, and I still do now.

“Nice” is a much underrated word.  I have often heard it used as an insult and I have been told countless times in life that I am too nice.  How can anyone be too nice?  I have always taken it as a compliment, even though it is usually meant as a put-down.

So what makes a “good” employer? 

Well, an employer that people want to work for is “nice” to their employees.  Is that such a crime?  Surely, being nice to people makes it a more pleasant world for everyone.

You may have to do many things as an employer which neither you, nor your staff, like doing.  If there is a downturn in business for some reason, then it may be necessary to lay people off or make them redundant.  If someone misbehaves or breaks the rules, then you will have to discipline them.  If someone cannot do the job for some reason, then you need to deal with it.  If someone is off sick a great deal, you may need to take action. In the worst extremes, that could mean someone loses their job.  None of these things is pleasant or “nice” to do.

So how can I be “nice” when I have to do these things?

 “It’s not what you do, it’s the way that you do it – and that’s what gets results”, as the song says.

When I was a little girl, I embroidered a present for my aunt.  Based on a Native American prayer, it included the line “never criticise a man until you have walked a mile in his moccasins”.  It is very easy for managers to get caught up in the everyday pressures of running a business or a team.  It can be difficult to see beyond the goal or the deadline or the budget.   But try imagining what the other person may be feeling or going through.  How would that make you feel?

Next time you have to deal with a difficult situation with an employee –  or with anyone else for that matter – try to “walk in their moccasins” for a few minutes.  Treat them how you would like to be treated in their situation.  It will change the way you handle the issue and make it more pleasant for everyone.

Oh – and the good thing about being “nice” is that it makes you feel better too.  You may find it takes some of the stress out of a difficult day.

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Human Resources, Personnel and Pineapples

Should it be Human Resources or Personnel?  Two people have raised the point with me this week that it was “better” when it was Personnel.  After all, people are people –  not resources like staplers or widgets, which employers can discard when there is a problem, without considering feelings or anxieties.

Why Human Resources?

Historically, the Welfare department looked after the people.  Then Welfare was re-branded as Personnel, to get away from the “nanny” image.  But we have moved on a bit since then.  People are a resource and there is no getting away from that.  Of course, they are different from staplers and need different treatment, but they are a resource which contributes to the effectiveness and success of a business.  So calling them “Human Resources” does what it says on the tin – they are human and they are resources  – and the role of the HR department these days is very different.  Whilst there is still an element of pay and rations, the HR director acts as a strategic partner to the business.  HR is there to help the organisation to use their workforce in the best way to achieve their business aims.

So what is the problem?

The real message behind this concern about the name, is that people feel unloved in the workplace.  They feel as though their employer does not consider their feelings or consult them.  They feel used (like a stapler) and then ignored. As I have stated before, people want to feel they are part of the organisation.  They want to feel that they matter,  and they want to be treated fairly and professionally.

If you get this right, then it doesn’t matter what you call the workforce – personnel, human resources, pineapples (!).  They will be happy and loyal and will be a great asset and ambassador for your business.

We will provide some help for you to achieve this in the near future.  Watch this space!

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Counting The Pennies

This is a guest-blog written for The Female Money Doctor, Dr Nikki Ramskill.  To read more, please go to http://thefemalemoneydoctor.com/blog

Are you giving your employees financial advice and support?

Your financial responsibility towards the people working for you shouldn’t stop with their pay cheque.

When people are struggling financially, they always hope for more income.  They try to find an extra job.  They volunteer for  some overtime, or hope to get a pay rise.  This is all so that they can pay their bills and feed their families.  Many people have more than one job or work overtime, so they can bring in a bit more money.  As an employer, you are already helping them by paying for their services.  But is there more you can and should be doing?

 

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Five Steps Towards Easing The Recruitment Headache

 

One of the key issues faced by business today is recruiting the right person with the right skills and attitude.  There is no magic bullet which achieves this, but there are things which every employer can and should be doing, some of which may not cost much – or anything at all – which could make a huge difference to their workforce and their productivity. The average length an employee spends in any one employment is only about four years and it can cost about a third of an employee’s salary to replace them. Happy and fulfilled employees are more productive, more creative and less likely to leave, or take time off sick.

If you follow these simple steps, you will be on your way to making your Business stand out in the marketplace, so that your employees (and prospective candidates) can see a difference between you and your competitors.

  • We all need to feel valued and to have our efforts recognised.  Think about how much it brightens your day if someone thanks you unexpectedly for something or writes an appreciative rating or note about something you have done.  Just a simple – but genuinely heartfelt – “thank you” can go a long way.  It doesn’t have to be any big award or specific mention in public – just a pause by someone’s work station to let them know you have noticed their input and appreciate it.
  • We all need to feel that we belong to a tribe or are part of a team.  Where employees are in a team, then it is a fairly straightforward task  for the team manager or supervisor to manage and to engender a team spirit.  Where a person works on their own, or is not a team player, then it is more difficult, but even more important that they are made to feel welcome by others in the workplace and that they are included.  We all want to be seen and to feel appreciated.
  • Being an important cog. People need to understand how what they do benefits them, the team and the Company mission.  This needs to be reinforced regularly, so that they can see their contribution is valuable and valued.
  • We all have views and opinions on everything and a different viewpoint can sometimes bring a whole new perspective.  We need to feel that our opinion is sought and valued.  This does not mean that every suggestion has to be acted on or agreed, but if someone has made the (sometimes difficult) effort to put their head above the parapet and make a suggestion about work, then that deserves to be carefully considered and a response given.  If it is an impractical suggestion or there is a reason why it cannot be implemented, then the person who raised it deserves an explanation for that decision.  Implementing a suggestion scheme can be really powerful, as long as all the suggestions are properly considered and responses are given.
  • We all thrive on development, either of our skills, or personal development.  It may not cost a huge amount to provide some training, and it does not need to be complex training.  No matter how experienced someone is in their work, there is always something new to learn, or some new technique or improvement which can be taught.  If a worker feels their employer has invested in their training, and they feel even slightly more qualified as a result, then they are more likely to want to remain with that employer.  To quote Richard Branson “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough, so they don’t want to”.

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