Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Fight or flight – it’s not a thing of the past!

Over the millions of years of evolution, one thing hasn’t changed that much...our biological response to stress, known as ‘fight’ or ‘flight’. What has changed is society’s idea of how it is acceptable to react, especially in your workplace. Managers and HR definitely don’t want to see fights in the post room or staff fleeing their desks when it all gets too much. So the question turns to how do we manage this? How can HR support staff to deal with these biological reactions?

As we all know with the joy of working with people comes the different personalities and the understanding that Tom won’t react in the same way that Joyce does. Stress is based on the notion of how we perceive a given situation and the tools we have to cope. Everybody has different ‘trip wires’ for example to one person standing and speaking to a large crowd is no problem to another it’s the most terrifying experience they could encounter.

By acknowledging the trip wires of your staff you can support them to overcome the stressful reaction. For some people the reactions become almost unmanageable and can lead to mental illness. For an employer this is far from ideal, the cost of sick pay, a loss of a valuable team member and a drop in productivity (which is a big cost for a small employer). You can ensure your support is given by doing the following things;


  • An open communication channel.  Prep an employee if a big project is coming up, ask them how they feel, can they handle the responsibility? Have they done public speaking before?
  • In house training. New IT systems may be easy for you to get your head around but for some employees this can really throw their work off kilter, leaving them with a panicky feeling when invoicing comes up. 
  • Back to work interviews, no you’re not just being nosey! This is a great way to establish patterns of behaviours and find out if there is something deeper going on.
  • Don’t micro manage, this can be a bug bear for some people anyway but given the bigger picture this also allows for employees to become comfortable in the knowledge that everything will be taken care of for them. We all need a little bit of stress to get the job done and if you’re away for annual leave or taken sick who will pick up the pieces? The amount of panic and stress that will spread across the office can have a knock on effect on their quality of work. Allowing others to think for themselves from time to time will also make them more resilient because they’ve taken knock backs before.


We will be talking more about resilient mindsets, ‘trip wires’ and supporting your staff in our workshop on March 10th Don’t miss your chance to attend, all places are free. We will be hosting at the Corsham Community Campus with two additional guest speakers Heather Girling from LifeCraft and Michael Gardner from ACAS. To book your place visit: Work Wiltshire Events Page.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Cross Generation – The Modern Workplace

The modern workplace consists of a range of employees.  Some may consist of an aging workforce who are looking to stay in employment longer due to financial restraints and receiving their pensions later in life, right through to young employees who are joining employers straight out of school on apprenticeships or full time work due to Raising the Participation Age (RPA).
Each generation brings with them a different set of skills, learning styles and expectations of reward from their employer. We must consider these differences between generations in HR when interacting and communicating with employees. The below table from the CIPD shows the current statistics for each age group currently in the workforce.
% in the workforce
Over 60
Baby Boomers
45 – 60
Generation X
30 – 44
Generation Y
16 – 29

There are a number of areas which should be considered when employing a cross section of generations;
Management:  mis-communication may occur when line managing somebody from a different age group due to differing priorities and past experiences. Generation Y may need more of a ‘hand holding’ approach having recently left education and therefore not aware of how a work environment operates. Whilst an employee from Baby Boomers would be more self sufficient.
Retention: it is understandable that Veterans would have been through a lot of change during their careers, ‘jobs for life’ rarely exist anymore and technology has come on leaps and bounds, it is reported that this means a Veteran is more likely to stay within the company. Whilst Generation Y would be more inclined to leave an organisation if their colleagues are made redundant, this is because they have more of a social network and rely on this heavily.
Reward: interestingly only baby boomers feel pay should be based on their length of service whilst other generations feel pay should be based on performance. This is important to consider when designing your rewards and benefits packages. Having something to suit everybody may not always be possible but a review of your employees demographic can help shape this.   
Other interesting facts about each generation which you may recognise from your companies include...
Veterans want to feel personally valued within the organisation and look for others to recognise their loyalty and experience they bring to the role. Baby boomers show a strong desire for work/life balance. They are also keen to engage in corporate social responsibility as much as possible and class this as an important part of their work/organisation.
Generation X are very engaged and believes in a strong sense of team and socialising. They are very loyal to people within their organisation. Generation Y are the generation most likely to recommend peers to their employers over other generations and are the most engaged when access to continual professional development (CPD) is strong. Generally they are also more optimistic this is probably because they have had less uncertainty during their working life.
To summarise these are some points to consider when attempting to blend various generations in one company;
-       Be flexible with your management skills, one style won’t fit all!
-       Ensure knowledge sharing is prevalent between generations to break down barriers and open the channels of communication.
-       Use coaching/mentoring to help guide cross working across the generations.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

As we approach the end of another busy year, everyone’s attention is slowly turning to Christmas... once at home with our family and friends this is a great holiday but for a business owner this can be fraught with potential issues.

-       Staff arriving late after one too many at the Christmas party the night before
-       Long lunches (we don’t really need an excuse for two Christmas parties right?)
-       The dreaded Christmas cover rota
-       Staff winding down (weeks before annual leave even starts)
-       Party pictures appearing on social media channels...
-       Upset staff who didn’t find their secret Santa very comical after all

Its better not to bury your head in the snow but rather ensure you have festive guidelines in place so you can manage staff expectation ahead of time. If you do need to stay open for business ask employees to nominate a few days they would each be willing to work, hopefully this will aid you in having enough cover for all of your open days. Also try to strike a good balance of work and fun – mince pies at the team meeting and office decorations won’t go a miss – you wouldn’t want to be classed as the Scrooge of managing directors!
It’s also a good idea to ‘remind’ staff of the Social Media, Sickness Absence and Conduct policies around this time. Remember your clients may be following your personal social media accounts and any inappropriate behaviour may damage your company’s reputation. If you do need to hold an investigation remember to follow these simple steps;

-       Where possible have an impartial investigator carry out the procedure, where this isn’t possible in a small business ensure the person is as open minded as possible.
-       Talk to all parties involved and produce written statements, include any additional evidence for example, social media posts, pictures or timesheets.
-       Ask all parties who contribute to the written statements to sign the document to show they agree, this protects against disagreements later on down the line.
-       The last stage of the process is to hold the investigation meeting, ensure a letter is sent to the employee involved giving them a reasonable amount of time to respond and to organise a companion who can accompany them to the meeting.

Whilst this task isn’t something you would wish to be undertaking at any time of year let alone Christmas remember it’s important to act accordingly and follow the procedures that are in place. 
Impress HR can offer lots of free resources on our Work Wiltshire website  – fill in a request form and we can email over the required policies and employee handbooks.
Happy Holidays – we hope it’s a stress free time of year for you and your employees!

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Employer brand - what does it say about you?

Employer branding is far reaching.  It encompasses the perception of your company from a wide audience including; employees, both current and future, stakeholders, customers and peers in the business community. It is a term used to describe an organisations reputation as an employer as opposed to its more general corporate brand reputation. Thinking of employer branding in this way implies there is a lot of pressure to get things right!
An employer brand promises a particular kind of ‘employment experience’ when you think of the likes of Google and Virgin, their brands are strong and well known. When you think of Google we understand it’s fun, it’s quirky and has open spaces, this in turn reflects the way they wish their employees to work. To allow for free flowing ideas and to prompt innovative ideas and creative thinking.  Virgin are very much people centric in their approach to employer branding.  They have great benefits for the individual and their families for example recently revealing they will be offering a year’s full pay for employees on maternity, paternity or adoption leave (after 4 years services...) staff also receive unlimited leave! This leads customers and potential employees to think Virgin are family employers, they are caring and want to look after their customers and staff.
You don’t have to look that far afield to discover great employer branding within Wiltshire, for example Apetito in Trowbridge offer their staff secondments where possible to broaden their knowledge and this is based not just on skill sets alone, if an employee has the passion and drive they will be considered for development. The company also offers a great induction package to new starters, ensuring new employees will learn about all areas of the business and create contacts across the service areas. Another example of a Wiltshire based employer who has outstanding employer branding is Monahans, they support their staff through structured learning and development (examinations) and via personal continually professional development (CPD), they also offer a great work life balance to ensure the employees are happy in their work.
We can see by these examples the effect employer branding has on a company’s reputation.  In this case it’s positive, but it’s important to remember that whether you make a conscious decision or not to develop an employer brand, your perceived brand will grow via reputation regardless. Ensure you jump on board and help to mould your brand before it gets away from you.  Don’t let others determine what the market thinks of you, in an ideal world you should have these ideas set out from the get go.
 This can be done at the initial recruitment stage, setting the scene for applicants, helping them to understand your company culture. This should then be reinforced in the induction process and furthermore throughout the employees life cycle via performance management, team meetings and internal communications. Even at the end of an employee’s time with the company, keep it professional.  You can learn a lot from exit interviews and so learn to embrace them. Remember a happy employee or ex - employee is free advertising they become advocates for your company! You should be eager to develop this and put it as a top HR priority in all sectors but especially in those sectors where the market is tough, where skills shortages lie and where there is a need for fresh new talent.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Company culture – what’s your story?

At the conception of a new business the managing director (MD) works within the business day in day out creating a unique culture and ways of working. Those that join the team at this point are emotionally invested they wish to see the business succeed to enable growth. As the company grows it becomes harder to monitor staff engagement and more difficult to ensure everybody has the same induction process as a new starter and understanding of the culture compared to those who were there from the outset.
Therefore it’s important to undertake annual staff survey’s to check in with staff and highlight the main aspects of company culture to ensure everybody is still on the same page. As the business grows the MD’s role evolves and they become removed from day to day operations.  Thus are unable to be present for every new starter’s first day and to attend every meeting.  This is where company managers now become ambassadors for the company’s culture. This is important for staff as they need a culture to identity with to allow them to feel engaged.  It is vital they understand end goals and that their colleagues are working towards the same purpose; from the newest recruit up to the senior managers.
The importance of having a culture embedded in your company is huge; it will reflect how your employees deliver customer service and represent your business. Whilst you don’t want all employees functioning in the same way like robots, you will require consistency in how your business is delivered to customers to build a positive employer brand.
Never stop telling your story, the story of how the business came to be, where the passion came from and show that passion still exists day to day. Tell your story from the recruitment process through to team days and meetings, a culture once embedded is hard to change make sure it’s right from the outset.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Attract and Retain - Employee Benefits

Attract and Retain – Employee Benefits
Employee benefits come in all shapes and sizes, whether you’re a company with less than ten employees or a growing organisation of fifty plus there’s something out there for everyone. And the best part is, it doesn’t have to cost a fortune!
A new era of employee benefits has evolved...the total reward package. This brings together both financial and non-financial rewards, it’s important to consider which type of package will work for your company, firstly consider the employees you have. For example some employees will find salary, training and career development of greatest appeal whilst others may be looking for a better work life balance including help with childcare and the ability to work flexibly.
So you’ve considered your workforce composition  and what is likely to appeal best to them, now you want to establish what you can actually afford to give them, after all you are running a business. Examples include; flexible working, child care vouchers, holiday allowance (above the minimum requirements), paid employee birthday  holidays, increased autonomy,  meaningful work, clean/spacious and inspiring  work environment ,health care packages, company car, free food or drink in communal areas (water, fruit, cake Fridays!) discounted gym memberships, enhanced maternity/paternity leave/pay, company sick pay, recognition schemes; a mention in the newsletter or award of the month or team away days/socials.
Before implementation of any scheme careful consideration must be given to the following points;
1)      Have you consulted with your staff on what they would like to see? This is quick and easy to do with a staff survey.
2)      How much resource is needed to implement and maintain these benefits? Don’t get in over your head; if a particular benefit takes up too much time and you don’t have the time or energy to keep it going you’ll be promising something to your staff which you can’t deliver.
3)      Are there legal implications? Any benefit which you will pay tax or NI on will need to be recorded and reported to the HMRC for example company car or childcare.
On the whole a benefits package is twofold; to attract candidates into your business and also to retain them. As an employer it is important to think about what makes you different and how to stand out from your competitor. Pick a package which will reflect your company’s culture, identity and values. No matter the size of your company there’s something to suit everybody.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Apprenticeships - the future of your business?

Apprenticeships – the future of your business?
As the new government comes into power they pledge to create 3 million new Apprenticeships over the next five years, it’s now time to consider where an Apprentice could fit into your business. Gone are the days of Apprenticeships only existing in carpentry, plumbing and hairdressing. The market is now open to digital, leisure management, veterinary nursing, HR and many more. With 1,500 job roles available in over 170 industries it’s hard to find a business that couldn’t find a suitable Apprentice.

Some argue Apprentices are young, unprepared and not work ready. We counter that argument - you can become an Apprentice at any age! Apprentices bring an enthusiastic attitude, new ideas and an enquiring approach. They may come with experience from the world of work and propose new ways of working; they may be fresh out of education and have skills you didn’t even know existed.
Reports from the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) state that 71% of Apprentices stay with the same employer once their course is finished and 79% of Apprentices report their career prospects have been improved due to an employer giving them the opportunity to take part in an Apprenticeship, it’s difficult to see why an employer wouldn’t consider this route. These statistics are positive and promising for our Economy and the real benefit lies in how an Apprentice can carry your business forward, into the future.
Employing an Apprentice is succession planning at its best – it’s about growing your own.