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.

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.

The Truth About Zero-Hours Contracts

In recent years there has been a great deal of discussion in the UK press about zero-hours contracts and how they are used to exploit workers.  It is rare to find a positive word and there have been calls for such contracts to be banned.

Yet the majority of people do not even know what a zero-hours contract is.  And many of those who actually work on such a basis are quite happy to continue.  So what is the truth and should you consider offering zero-hours contracts to your employees?

In my many years of working in Human Resources, I have seen examples of zero-hours contracts which work extremely well for all parties. I have also seen evidence of exploitation.  The devil, as they say, is in the detail.  As with all things that involve people, the key is common sense, flexibility and  good intentions.  Where those factors are brought into play, this type of employment contract can work really well.

By the end of this article you will understand what is involved in  zero-hours contracts.  You will know the advantages and disadvantages of using them and what the changing legal picture around them looks like.

What is a zero hours contract?

There is no legal definition of  a zero-hours contract.  It is just a contract between a business and a worker which outlines how the work is done. So for employees it is an employment contract, but unlike other contracts of employment it does not specify a number of hours to be worked.

Typically, such a contract is offered where work fluctuates and an employer cannot anticipate how many hours per week might be needed. So in some weeks there is a need for, say, 37 hours (a full-time week) and other weeks might only require a few hours – or even none at all.

The benefit (and sometimes disadvantage) of such an arrangement is that there is no guarantee of any paid work at all in any given week.  For the employer, the benefit is that they only have to pay for work when it is needed.  For the worker, the advantage is that they can fit work around other commitments.  This type of contract is popular with students who can work and still find time for their studies.  Some parents of young children or people with caring responsibilities like these contracts.  It means they can manage work to fit around family or other commitments.

The agreement between the two parties is that the business may ask an individual to work for them, but there is no minimum number of set contracted hours.  The contract states what the individual will be paid if they do any work.  It also covers what will happen when they turn down any work that is offered.  There is a statement about what will happen if there is a change or cancellation of the work.

What are the advantages of a zero-hours contract?

If care is taken with introducing a zero-hours contract, it can be a working arrangement which works successfully for everyone.

For those who have read any of my previous articles, you will know that my first advice is always to consult with your employees .  If you have the kind of fluctuating work which would lend itself to this type of contract, then talk to the individual(s) concerned.  You can agree what might work for them as well as for your business. Beware, though, that this type of contract is not suitable for everyone.

Some people value the flexibility which allows them to balance work with studying or with caring responsibilities or other commitments.  But there are other ways of providing such flexibility.  In addition, there are other considerations with regard to things such as mortgages and other personal financial commitments.  Where possible, you  should accommodate the hours which individuals tell you they need to be able to work.   This will lead to a happier workforce.

For some workers, this might not be the only job they have.  They use it as a way to top up their income without having to commit to a specific number of hours per week.   For others, it may be a way to gain experience in a specific type of job or industry.

Why are zero-hours contracts not suitable in some cases?

If you want to use zero-hours contracts, then you must ensure that you provide a contract which details what the payment will be for any hours that are worked.  You must also  agree and specify what will happen when work is cancelled at short notice.

Someone may have to make specific arrangements in order to be able to do the work on offer (childcare, for example).  It can be costly and difficult if the work is cancelled with little notice.  It is sensible to agree between you what is workable notice and what is not.  Where the notice you can give is shorter than the notice period agreed in the contract, then you may want to agree to pay compensation.   Whatever you do agree with an individual, this must then be spelled out in a written contract.  That will avoid any conflict at a later date and will  help to give the worker some confidence in the arrangement.

For some people, the variability of the work and thus the earnings can cause financial hardship and contribute to stress and anxiety.  Where people have financial commitments, mortgages, loans, etc, they need to have a regular income and zero-hours contracts cannot supply that.  They may also need to show regular hours in order to be able to access such financial arrangements.  You should discuss these things with individuals prior to agreeing a zero-hours contract.  That will help to ensure that they have taken these factors into consideration.  A failure to do this can contribute to mental health issues, such as stress, depression or anxiety.

Things to consider when implementing a zero-hours contract arrangement

There are some things which any good employer will consider before implementing such a contract:

  • Think about the nature of the work you have on offer and how it fluctuates. Will this be a short-term issue, or do you need a longer solution?  Does the type of work lend itself to being carried out on this type of contract? Does the work have to be done by a specific deadline?  Are there other types of flexible working arrangements or employment practices which might suit this type of work?
  • Consult with the individual(s) who will be impacted. Does this type of arrangement work for them?  Have they thought about financial implications?  Do they need to have a guaranteed minimum number of hours?  How much notice do they need for some work to be offered? How much notice should you give if you need to cancel the requirement to work, or change the number of hours?
  • Consider the employment status of the individual. Will they be an employee of your business?  Or will they be self-employed and providing work and invoicing direct or through a third-party?  Can they refuse work offered?   What happens if they want to do some work for other people?  Can they provide a substitute if they are not available?  Will they provide their own equipment and tools?

Other things to think about

  • Make sure the contract  is clear about the agreed terms, particularly the employment status, the payment due and any cancellation agreements. If you agree a minimum number of hours, then you must specify that. You must also include provision about the obligation or otherwise to accept work offered.
  • If you intend that the worker will be an employee of the Company, then you are required to provide an employment contract which includes terms and conditions of employment in line with other employees.
  • It is helpful for you to regularly review the situation with the employee.  This is a chance to decide whether the employment relationship has changed and whether the arrangements still work for both parties. Such review should be on an annual basis, at least.
  • You may need to provide training to line managers to ensure they understand the implications of zero-hours contracts.  They need to know how to manage the work and the individuals who are contracted to do the work.
  • You should ensure that people doing the same job, whatever their employment status, are paid comparable rates of pay.

The changing legal picture

Since 2015, if someone is employed under a zero-hours contract, then it is against the law for their employer to prevent them from working elsewhere.   So an employer cannot include a clause in a zero-hours contract which excludes the person from working somewhere else.

In July 2017, the Taylor review on modern working practices was published and the UK Government has issued its response.  Many of the recommendations have been accepted by the government and some are currently under consultation.

The two major proposed changes with regard to zero-hours contracts are:

  • To give workers, including those on zero-hours contracts, the right to request a more predictable contract;
  • The possibility of paying a higher National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage for hours which are not guaranteed as part of the contract.

Beneficial for business

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) in UK has called for zero-hours contracts to be banned.  One of the reasons cited is that their research shows that most workers on zero-hours contracts feel exploited and want to be able to work more hours on more stable contracts.

Since 2017, the fast food chain McDonald’s has offered its  UK workers the option to move from zero-hours contracts.  Workers can move to fixed contracts with a minimum number of guaranteed hours per week.   McDonald’s has offered this change because some of their staff complained that they had difficulty in some financial arrangements  because they lacked guaranteed employment.

McDonald’s ran a trial across some of their sites, but 80 per cent of workers in the trial chose to remain on their current contracts.  This is in contrast to the TUC findings above. McDonald’s now offer employees the choice.

The benefit to McDonald’s has been an increase in employee satisfaction.  They believe this is because they consulted with staff about their hours.

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.

Will Flexible Working Rebound On My Business?

What is flexible working?

Flexible working just means that the employer is able to accommodate a range of working arrangements.  Some people may prefer the traditional 9 to 5.30  in the workplace every day, with an hour’s break at lunchtime.  Others may prefer to arrive or leave earlier or later than those hours.  Some may prefer to work elsewhere occasionally, or regularly.  Flexible working means different things to different people.  But the more flexible you can be, the more productivity you will get from your employees.

In employment terms, flexible working might encompass a whole range of things.  These can include flexi-time, flexible working hours; working from home, either regularly or occasionally.  Or it might mean working from another location.  Flexibility for employees might include fitting round family and caring responsibilities.  For example people might want to finish early and make up hours at other times.  Or they might need to work round the school run.  It can mean they don’t need to watch the clock.  They can stop feeling guilty for arriving later or leaving earlier than colleagues.

Why is flexibility important for my business?

Allowing individuals to have flexible work arrangements which suit their needs gives them the chance to do their work when they feel most able to. This means they will be more productive.  There are other benefits for the employer, as well.  You may be able to cover a longer working day with a variety of people.  Some may prefer an early start and some want to finish late.  So you have a better chance of someone being available when your customers need your services.

Your reputation as a good employer will spread and you may find it is easier to recruit and to retain the staff you have got.  The people who work for you are likely to feel more trusted and valued and so will put in more effort for you.

You may even find that absence is reduced if people feel more able to work from home if they have a cold or upset stomach.

Recruitment as a flexible employer

Previous articles have talked about employing older workers or carers and both these groups of people will benefit from flexibility in the workplace.  Research shows that older people would be very appreciative of flexible working hours.  Working with these needs would widely increase your pool of available employees.

Beware, though, of advertising that you are an employer who offers flexibility, and then not allowing people to work flexibly.  This can be seriously detrimental to your reputation and employer brand.  If the operations of your business are such that you cannot allow flexibility, then it is far better to admit that openly.  Explain the situation to potential employees, giving the reason why.  You may lose a few candidates as a result, but the benefit is that employees will know what to expect.  So they will only accept a role if they feel suited to your environment.

How do I make flexibility work?

The most important factor in a successful employer/employee relationship is trust.  If you build a culture of trust within your business, then you will be able to introduce flexible working and know that your employees will not take advantage of you.

As managers, we often find it hard to trust our employees to get on with the work when we are not watching them.  My experience is that most people can be trusted.  If you give them that trust, they will bend over backwards to avoid taking advantage.

You need to get across the message that you trust your employees to do their job and behave like adults.  They also need to understand that the work is their responsibility and that you will judge them by the results they achieve, rather than the hours they do.  Interestingly, having the conversation and allowing them to work flexibly will increase their commitment.  They know what is good and don’t want to risk losing it.  In fact, most people work longer, and harder, when trusted to be flexible.

What if I can’t allow flexible working?

Where people request flexible working in some form or other, then try to accommodate such requests wherever possible.  This means that on the occasions when you really cannot allow some flexible working, people will understand that there is a good reason why.  If you do have to turn down such a request, then make sure the individual understands the reason why it cannot be allowed.

If you are going to give people trust and autonomy, without checking up on them, then you also need to establish regular contact.  Make sure you build in team events and training opportunities.  Arrange regular meetings (in person or otherwise).  This will prevent people feeling abandoned, unloved , forgotten or not needed.   It will also prevent them from heading off down a different work path than the one you need.

On the odd occasion you may find that someone has betrayed your trust and has not produced the required work, or has clearly been taking advantage.  In those cases,  make sure you deal promptly and strongly with the issue.  This prevents any resentment or repetition from colleagues.

Final Word

I am a great advocate of trust in the workplace.  If you want employees to flourish in your workplace, then equip them with the skills and tools they need.  Then give them the freedom (and support) to fly.  If you allow flexible working, they will return your trust in spades.  You will then find that you have a motivated, productive and happy workforce.

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.

Can Older Workers Fill the Skills Gap?

I read a report in the HR press this week that recruiters are facing ever-increasing difficulties.  This is partly due to skills shortages and partly due to a drop in the number of migrants applying for work in UK.

Yet I have also recently been reading other articles which are about  older people in the workplace who are facing discrimination and being overlooked in favour of younger people.

Is it just me, or is there an obvious resolution to both issues?   We could give the older workers a chance to shine, instead of making the assumption that they “aren’t suitable”, “wouldn’t like it”, “are unable to change”.

The average working age is rising

The population is ageing.  People are living longer and fewer babies are being born.  So the average age of the working population is set to rise. Pension ages are rising. I know there is a great deal of debate about the rights, wrongs and fairness of this.  It is inevitable, though, for it to remain sustainable for the State to continue to pay pensions to retired people.  So people need to work longer and many want to do so anyway.

Nearly a third of the workforce in the UK are now aged 50 and over.  Additionally,  forecasts predict that one million more over-50s will enter the worforce by 2025.

So why don’t employers make use of these people who are skilled, experienced, loyal and have huge amounts to offer?

Age discrimination is rife in the workplace

My own father finished work at age 58 and could not find another job.  Yet he lived until he was 92.  He  remained active, lucid and enthusiastic right up until his death.  I am not saying he could have worked  until he was 92. But an employer could have had really good service from someone who had a very fine mind  – for at least another 15 years.  He was also able to pick up new technology and learn new ways of doing things and didn’t really slow down until he was in his late eighties. An employer’s loss was society’s gain, as he volunteered and gave great service to the local community for many years.

Of course, there are some older people who may have health issues and need adjustments or to work fewer hours.  But that is true of everyone, young or old.  We need to start viewing (and interviewing) people as individuals.  They may have issues to overcome which others do not have.  But they may also have the skills and experience you need.  If you think they “might” be suitable if they weren’t “too old”, then you should talk to them about your concerns.  Give them a try and you might get a very pleasant surprise.

What can an Employer do to improve the workplace for older workers?

Any employer can gain huge benefits from creating an age positive culture and joined-up approach to managing age-related issues in the workplace.

There are some specific management areas where your attention could be spent initially.  Areas such as recruitment; flexible working; learning and development.  But a complete overview of your policies, procedures and practices is always a useful exercise.

Recruiting  and retaining older workers

Recruitment , in particular, is an area where there is often bias towards younger candidates.  This may not be explicit – or even intentional. Careful wording of advertisements and training of recruiting managers will go some way towards helping you to remove age bias in your hiring processes.

Increased flexibility in working hours and other practices can benefit every employee, of course.  But older workers may be more likely to prefer part-time hours, in particular.  They are also more likely to be nervous of asking for flexibility as their fear of losing their job may well be greater than for others in the workplace.

Increasing skills and engagement

Many older workers may feel they are “stuck” in a role which has no interest or challenge for them.  But do you give them learning and development opportunities? If they have missed out on the opportunity to learn a new skill, but are keen and enthusiastic, then it would be sensible for an employer to help them to gain that skill.  The benefits are clear for both the employee (improved job satisfaction and engagement) and for the employer (skilled and enthusiastic worker, who is loyal and can also add life experience into the mix).

This is the tip of the iceberg and there are huge steps any employer can make to recruit and retain older workers, who will form the basis of your future workforce.   There are also enormous benefits for both the employer and their employees.

Watch this space as we will return to this issue in future articles.

In the meantime, 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.

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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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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