Lovebirds in the Workplace

I could not let Valentine’s Day pass without a mention.

We spend so much time at work with our colleagues, often sharing the same interests, goals, aspirations, and let’s not forget the space we share at work. So, it is not unnatural to find ‘chemistry happening’ … and people falling in love with their work colleagues. When the heart rules, the head has no chance!

Many of us also know that anything to do with love is not all butterflies and roses. And there are definitely pitfalls when the love of your life is your work colleague, and when those feelings start to deepen or, alas, to fade.

Try not to play Cupid!

I believe that we, as HR professionals, have a part to play in Love in the Workplace. No, I don’t mean as Cupid … look what happened in the case of Craddock v Fontoura t/a Countyclean … The boss tried to bring two people together and the employment tribunal found that his attempts to “play Cupid” with his staff constituted sexual harassment, despite his apparently benign motive – see No. 10 in the Personnel Today article mentioned below.

This article in Personnel Today highlights 10 potential problems with workplace romances. The issues are all too true and should be considered by every organisation, no matter its size.

The article mentions that many large corporates have in place policies to govern … L-O-V-E. I’m pleased to say that I have had direct experience in Small to Medium Sized Enterprises (SME’s) where it is even more important to have some guidelines about this sensitive matter.

To have or not to have a Romance Policy

Many years ago, the management in a company I worked with were very aware of the impact that workplace romances could have and we had a debate about whether to have a romance policy, or not to have a policy.

Whether a policy, or guidelines are decided, the main thing, as with everything to do when working with people, is communication. Early communication by a manager with the romantics concerned – usually separately – is a big YES. It is important to ask if there is anything in it, if it looks like rumours abound or if you can see or feel that there may be ‘something going on’. If it is confirmed, then the ‘talk’ would be about ensuring that their love-life does not interfere with work. To discuss the importance of maintaining a professional presence and ensuring that if there are problems between each other that it is sorted away from the workplace. It is also a good idea to tell the two concerned that if their relationship starts to sour and they find it is difficult to work together, they should let someone know – hopefully their manager. If the organisation’s guidelines or policies are open and freely communicated, your people will offer the information when they believe the time is ripe.

Managers have a very important role to play at work and need the skills to deal with sensitive matters such as this. I know that there is never a simple answer to most workplace issues and sorting things out often takes longer than you would expect. I take my hat off to the good managers who are around and are not afraid to deal with sticky workplace problems.

Often small business owners and managers do not have the time or prefer to keep out of dealing with sensitive issues and we, as HR professionals, work alongside them especially to take the hassle out of HR.

Chemistry at Work

I’m very pleased to say that I have seen Love blossom in the workplace. I have watched Love journey on to become a loving and caring relationship. I have witnessed Love ring out the wedding bells and I have beamed as Love produced tiny babies … all from the Chemistry at Work.

In the instances of which I am aware, those lovebird’s did not make their colleagues feel uncomfortable at all. Congratulations!

When things are not going right, of course, it always causes a problem. The Personnel Today article mentions that when this happens, very often the couple sort things out themselves, even if it means one or both of them decide to move on. It’s always a tough time for all – who are you aligned with? Do you invite one out, or the other? Someone gets hurt. Someone draws the short straw.

For managers, this will be a very sensitive time because it may well affect productivity as well as the morale in the workplace. How do you step in? Do you take any action? Again, sensitive and open communication is needed. Managers are not counsellors, unless they have been trained, and they should not assume this role.

I say that when love is in the air at work, it is another instance where managers should not bury their heads in the sand but share the happiness and ensure that the couple know what the Romance Policy at Work is about.

Having said that I wish all at work a very Happy Valentine’s Day!

May you find your ‘lobster’* in your happy workplace if you haven’t done so already.

*Thanks to Phoebe from Friends!

 

14 February 2017


If you would like to discuss how you can manage employee relationships, or have a chat about your general HR requirements, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR.

T: 07767 308717 or send a message.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.

 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Appraisals and why Once a Year is Not Enough

January is a good time to look at things anew – and this month we take a look at sorting out the appraisal process, or you may refer to it as a review process.

Speak to many people – employees and managers – about the annual appraisal and you’ll be met with sighs, muttering and often downright mutiny.

Many people consider the whole appraisal process as a waste of valuable work time, an interruption of their working day, and a pointless box-ticking activity.

Yet the theory behind the appraisal process is a good one – it allows both parties to discuss performance, look at ways to improve productivity, employee engagement and company morale, and can encourage employee engagement – if it is done in the right way.

However, many of the big companies are now scrapping the annual review and turning instead to real-time feedback. Accenture, one of the biggest companies in the world, did just that in 2016 – a massive task considering the 394,000 people involved – as did accounting giant Deloittes.

These organisations have come to the conclusion that the money, time and effort involved did not achieve what it should – that is, better productivity from employees and in turn improved profits for the company.

Instead, these organisations have opted for a ‘little and often’ system, where ongoing feedback is provided after assignments. Small businesses can learn from this, as the big businesses have already done the research!

Is this something you could implement?

It is becoming apparent that having a meeting once a year is not the way. This allows far too much time for anger or resentment to simmer before the employee or manager has a chance to address an issue – be it performance or conduct.

If there are problems with performance, they should be raised when an issue comes to light, not further down the line. There should be ample opportunity for comments about staff’s performance, strengths and weaknesses and discussion of progress throughout the year.

Weekly check-ins are used by many firms now – this could be as simple as a five-minute chat in the corridor after a presentation. It is so important to make dedicated time to speak to your staff. Everyone is busy and oft times staff do not want to ‘worry’ a busy manager and hence ‘molehills become mountains’.

Any sort of appraisal should allow for the staff member to discuss their own ambitions, what training they need, how they feel about their job and if they have any concerns.

If you still plan to use appraisal forms, when they make their way back to HR they should be used as a tool – not filed away to tick a box! It can be used to get a feel for employee morale, the sort of training and changes staff would benefit from, and to identify ways to help employees progress within the company.

Technology and social media have even been introduced by some firms to assist in their feedback system. PwC for example, uses a mobile app called Snapshot. This allows its employees to ask managers or peers to assess them in five areas: business acumen, global acumen, technical capability, leadership skills and relationships. They will be told if they are meeting, exceeding or falling short of expectations.

In our always-on society, where changes take place frequently, information is available at the touch of a button, and where we are used to getting what we need in seconds, it makes sense that appraisals should also happen frequently, with regular updates.

If you would like to discuss how you can update your appraisal system, or have a chat about your general HR requirements, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR.

T: 07767 308717 or send a message.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.

 

 

 

 

 

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Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.

The Future of Work – Part 2

As we mentioned in our previous blog in this series, the world of work is ever changing – and never more so than now.

Fundamental Changes

One of the most fundamental changes is the boom of the gig economy. This is where people work on a freelance basis, for different employers, and possibly in different roles.

A new report from McKinsey, entitled ‘Independent work: Choice, necessity, and the gig economy’ is proving to be quite groundbreaking – for two reasons.

Not only is it the first time that any real study has been made of freelancer workers in the 21st century, it has made a – to some – surprising discovery about those workers.

It has been assumed generally that people who work in the ‘gig economy’ do so because they are desperate and unable to find a ‘real’ job. But this report reveals that 74% of independent workers in the UK do so because they want to – and it’s not limited to young people by any means – only of a quarter of those in this category were under 25.

Not only that, but these people seem to be happier than traditional employees, with more job satisfaction. This gig economy stretches across many professions, from less well-paid ones to sectors such as construction, transport, doctors, therapists, accountants and writers.

And PwC’s My life connected report says that while technology is helping to drive the trend, the main catalyst is workers who are keen to take control over their own careers.

The gig economy is set to grow according to McKinsey’s report – which found 14 per cent of traditional workers expressed a desire to become an ‘independent worker’. Forecasts say that by 2020, the gig economy will be worth around £2 billion in the UK and $63 billion globally.

Are HR departments ready to tackle this change in direction? Not according to PwC’s The future of work, which discovered that fewer than one-third of organisations are basing their strategies for future recruitment on this change – even though nearly half of HR professionals expect that 20% of their staff will comprise temporary and contract workers by 2020.

Around half of organisations don’t offer training or appraisals for casual staff – and the figures are even higher for freelance and agency workers.

Embrace Change

HR departments will need to embrace the idea of the gig economy, and form networks with former employees who leave – in case they want to use their new skills in the future. The flexibility that freelance staff can provide can enable companies to be productive for longer hours – maybe making sales or opportunities available with companies in different time zones, to cover staff absence more effectively and to bring in specific skillsets as and when they are needed.

PwC, for example, has an online platform that connects independent professionals with its own teams. Freelancers can register at Talent Exchange and upload their CVs and then apply to work on various projects within PwC. It means the company can access the talent it needs at short notice – what is there not to like?

Talk to your department leaders, find out what resources they are short of. Discover what requirements they need and you could set up a similar system to make a more effective system in your own organisation.

Organisations will need to make changes in their culture and their leadership, as well as marketing and recruitment – and this is a great opportunity for HR to lead the way…

If you would like to discuss this further, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Embrace HR Limited, based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, helps SMEs who do not have their own HR departments, or those who need HR support from time to time. Please get in touch if you have any questions or require more information on this article by email: cecily.lalloo@embracehr.co.uk or phone: 07767 308 717.

The Importance of Neuroscience in HR

People tend to get worried when terms such as neuroscience are bandied about. But don’t be alarmed – nobody is expecting HR professionals to start reading up on brain surgery. However, knowing how our brains work can be a valuable tool in your arsenal.

Neuroscience refers to the impact the brain has on behavior and cognitive functions and how it reacts in certain situations – for instance ‘fight or flight’. It can apply to how the brain develops, memory and learning, sleep, stress and the senses.

Understanding what can help the brain can be invaluable

Understanding what can help the brain, and what can hinder it, can be invaluable when you are trying to work with staff to improve their skills and productivity.

For instance, when you send someone on a training course, they don’t necessarily retain a large percentage of the knowledge that is imparted. But if that course is delivered with consideration about how the brain actually learns and retains information, you get much better results. In fact, some companies are introducing exercise into their training courses, as aerobic exercise (along with decent sleep) can contribute to a better learning environment.

Being able to work with the brain has to be advantageous

And being able to work with the brain and its functions, rather than fighting against it, has to be more advantageous for everyone’s mental health and wellbeing.

HR professionals can also practice what they preach. By understanding how the brain works and reacts, they can help their people when they are under stress or in difficult circumstances. Communicating with them in the right way can have a huge impact – and help them improve performance and productivity, as the brain cannot function properly if it is under too much stress.

And by helping the people within the organisation to recognise how the brain works, they can also help themselves. For instance, by understanding their personality and why it makes them behave the way they do; recognising the way other people’s minds work can help them to function together as a team; and of course recognising how they learn best and so choosing the right kind of courses or other ways of learning new skills.

Utilisation of this science can help

Neuroscience is not all new – and indeed you may be using some of these techniques without even thinking about it. But the utilisation of this science can help in so many ways:

  • Performance: Managers can be helped to work on giving ‘brain-friendly’ feedback, which will leave their staff open to their comments, rather than shutting down.
  • Learning: Your average workshop produces knowledge retention of around 10 per cent. If you can deliver it using ‘brain-friendly’ techniques, you can substantially increase that figure.
  • Productivity: Some tasks are by their very nature, mindless and repetitive. But productivity can be improved if the workers are aware that what they are working on will be of benefit to someone else.
  • Coping with change: neuroscience can be used to help to improve employees’ resilience and thus support them when they have to adapt to change.
  • Engagement: Improve employee engagement by focusing on people’s strengths

If you would like to discuss training, change management or your HR requirements, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR.

The Future Of Work

In the first of this series, we look at how the way we work and the type of work on offer is changing the face of employment in the UK. In the following two blogs we will look more closely at the gig economy and at how HR professionals will need to adapt to keep up with the rapidly changing world of employment.

Changing face of employment

The world of work is changing at an amazing rate. Unless you had your finger on the pulse of technological developments, you were unlikely to have known 10 years ago that ‘social media expert’ would be a job title – or that it would be possible to take a qualification in Games Design at your local college!

And who could have forecast that the founder of Games Workshop would help to revamp the computing curriculum, and be planning to open two new free schools that will specialise in computer science, technology and the arts? In a few years, these new-look schools will be sending candidates through the doors for interviews – and they will have quite a different skill set from this generation.

Not only are the jobs changing but the way we are actually employed is altering too – the ‘gig economy’ sees many people taking up temporary positions as a matter of course and companies using independent or freelance staff for short-term contracts. It’s predicted that by 2030, millennials will be managing teams of people aged from 17 to 70 – all working in different ways. Many will work remotely and most will be on highly individualised contracts. An interesting proposition for the HR department!

Gig economy

Many people will start to question if their job will actually exist in another 15 years, as the gig economy is fast-growing – with a study by Intuit predicting that by 2020, 40% of American workers will be independent contractors. The World Economic Forum, meanwhile, notes that by that time more than 7m jobs – mostly in white-collar and admin roles – could be lost to ‘disruptive labour market changes’. It’s a sobering thought.

Both of these developments are going to change the face of HR, as more and more employees are likely to be on short-term contracts. Many will have to face the fact that their chosen career path is likely to disappear and will need to adapt and retrain to continue to have a function in their organisation.

It also means that when recruiting, companies will have to look for employees who are flexible and willing to adapt and evolve as the world of work changes around them.

It is going to be a challenging and yet exciting time in the HR arena. Are you up for the challenge?

Next month: we focus on learning and development in this ever-changing environment.

Embrace HR Limited, based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, helps SMEs who do not have their own HR departments, or those who need HR support from time to time. Please get in touch if you have any questions or require more information on this article by email: cecily.lalloo@embracehr.co.uk or phone: 07767 308 717.

Mental Health – The Invisible Problem

It’s easy to know how to deal with someone who breaks their leg and has to take time off work because they are unable to travel in or need to go to physio appointments – but dealing with mental health in the workplace is harder because it is invisible.

Mental health and stress is the main cause of absence at work

And yet it is something that anyone working in HR must address.  In 2015, for the first time, the CIPD Absence Management Survey cited mental heath and stress as the main cause of absence in the workplace and now states that reported health problems at work has risen from a quarter to almost third in the past five years (and to 46% in the voluntary sector).

One in four suffer from a mental health condition

With one in four people in the UK suffering from some kind of mental health condition, this is not something that can be swept under the carpet. If you knew of a condition that could potentially affect a quarter of your staff, surely you would be encouraging staff to share experiences, maybe even form some sort of support network…

Mental health problems in the UK adds up to £26 billion a year

And yet the sad fact is that many people who are open about their mental health issues find that they become sidelined at work – albeit discreetly. Not only is this very unfortunate for the staff involved, it can also open up a new can of problems for the employer. Staff affected by a mental health issue are not going to perform to their best ability, and one employment lawyer told us that he is seeing more and more claims from employees who are feeling under pressure to walk out of their jobs and are making claims for constructive dismissal. And the Centre for Mental Health estimated that the total cost of mental health problems for UK employers adds up to £26 billion a year.

But it is not just about absenteeism. According to the CIPD research, around half of people experiencing mental health problem still go into work – which can result in them finding it hard to concentrate, having difficulty making decisions, and taking longer to carry out tasks.

Steps you can take as the employer

So what can you do to help? An open culture that makes employees feels comfortable about revealing their mental health issues, without fear of redress, is vital. In the Employee Outlook report from the CIPD (July 2016) only two in five respondents said they would feel comfortable disclosing mental health issues with their manager or employer. But they also need to know that being honest about their problems will be met with understanding and support. Helpful, and yet quite small changes, such as adjusting working hours or workload can make a big difference.

Of course, understanding the range of mental health problems is also an important part of the procedure. Depression and stress may immediately come to mind but there are other issues, such as panic attacks and OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Colin Minto, founding partner of Big Idea Talent, a network of HR and resourcing associates, suffers from OCD. It’s not all about obsessive cleaning, as some would have you believe, but the obsessive compulsion can attach itself to all kinds of scenarios. Yet, Colin says on the CIPD website, it is not always a disadvantage: “I see benefits to my OCD. I can see on a page of writing, a half point-size difference between two letters. I can analyse things and spot a risk a mile off. I’ve been told I think differently at work – I bring a different perspective to other people. In some ways, OCD helps me do my job better.”

He would love employers to see how people’s ‘differences’ could actually help improve their business.

“I want businesses to realise it doesn’t need to affect productivity and performance – on the contrary, if you support people, it could actually increase them. People who are different come up with different, sometimes better, solutions, and form better teams.”

Embrace HR Limited, based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, helps SMEs who do not have their own HR departments, or those who need HR support from time to time. Please get in touch if you have any questions or require more information on this article by email: cecily.lalloo@embracehr.co.uk or phone: 07767 308 717.

Workplace Stress and How to Avoid it

In the last of our series on wellbeing, we are looking at stress, how HR can help managers and staff to avoid it, and what effect it can have on companies.

The number of working days lost to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2014/15 was 9.9 million, according to a Labour Force Survey.

That means that the condition affected 1,380 workers in every 100,000, with each person losing 23 days a year – that’s nearly a month of working days! Public services such as health, education, and public administration are particularly hard hit by these conditions. It is also more prevalent in larger organisations.

So what is causing this phenomenon?

According to the survey, the predominant cause was workload, including tight deadlines, too much work, pressure and responsibility.

Other factors included a lack of managerial support, organisational changes at work, lack of control, violence and role uncertainty, ie, the lack of clarity about the job and uncertainty over what an individual is meant to do.

What’s more, a study by the British Heart Foundation found that those affected by workplace stress also put their health at risk by smoking more, drinking more, eating the wrong foods and failing to exercise.

Most of the issues can be tackled within the workplace.

What you can do

When it comes to workload, deadlines and pressure, ensuring that staff are taking the holidays they are entitled to, and that staff absences are not putting pressure on those workers who are left to cover is vital. Proper holiday planning, detailed handovers, and monitoring of the number of days taken off are all vital. Monitoring may highlight patterns for instance of sickness absence, that a manager can then address.

It also means that if staff leave, or are absent for some time, proper cover should be provided, rather than relying on other members of staff to cover their own work as well as that of a missing colleague.

You also need to make sure that hours are in line with the Working Time Regulations – working no more than 48 hours a week on average – normally averaged over 17 weeks.  And those under 18 cannot work for more than eight hours a day or 40 hours a week. There are exceptions of course, in professions such as the armed forces, police and emergency services, security and surveillance.  Staff may opt out of the Working Time Regulations and you can find details on this at the Gov.uk website here.

The Working Time Regulations govern the hours most workers can work and set:

  •  limits on an average working week
  • statutory entitlement to paid leave for most workers
  • limits on the normal hours of night work and regular health assessments
  • special regulations for young workers.

As with so many things, prevention is most definitely better than cure. The company needs to have procedures in place so that issues are reported with confidence, and regular reviews between managers and staff can ensure that any problems are picked up early, so that measures can be put in place to prevent situations worsening.

You can also encourage managers to lead by example and by creating a far more pleasant workplace culture. They should encourage regular breaks, not expect long working hours, encourage lunch to be taken away from a desk, and also be open to flexible working, if it is viable in your industry.

There is a lot to take in here. You might like to refer back to our two previous blogs in the wellbeing series.

  •  Holidays are vital to a healthy workplace – click here
  • Fit and healthy staff make for a fit and healthy company – click here

But the overriding message is simple, look after your staff and it will pay dividends!

If you have issues with planning and managing holidays and absenteeism, do talk to us about HR software solutions. We recommend Staff Squared.

Equally, we are well placed to assist you in implementing a plan to address managing wellbeing in the workplace, including drawing up clear and relevant job descriptions, objectives setting and appraisals; all of which can help identify learning and development needs giving your teams more confidence to do the job effectively and efficiently.

We look forward to hearing from you. Email us or phone Cecily on 07767 308 717.

Embrace HR Limited, based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, helps SMEs who do not have their own HR departments, or those who need HR support from time to time.

Fit and healthy staff make for a fit and healthy company

This is part two of our wellbeing series. You can read our previous blog on how vital holidays are for a healthy workplace here.

As we head into summer, health and fitness come to the fore. We all start to feel more energised once the sun shines, and are more inclined to eat healthily, get out in the fresh air and do a bit more physical activity.

In the second part of a three-part series on wellbeing, this month we look at how employee health, wellbeing and engagement lead to organisational success.

“There is substantial evidence showing that employee health, well-being and engagement are important for organisational success” CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development

The Research Insight from which the above is taken states: There is substantial evidence showing that employee health, well-being and engagement are important for organisational success. If employees are in poor health and/or disengaged, there are potentially significant risks for their employer, such as: costs associated with sickness absence, presenteeism (employees present at work, but not performing because of health problems) and employee turnover, and the legal or reputational risks associated with employees taking a case to an employment tribunal or other litigation. Conversely, where an employer looks after the health and well-being of the workforce and engages employees, they can expect positive gains, including improved performance and productivity.

Holidays

We may be off work, but how many of us are, in effect, just away from our desks? The rise of smartphones and other portable devices means that even if we’re on the other side of the world, we are likely to see work-related emails and posts – and of course more likely to engage, even while we sit by the pool!

In a Harris poll of 2000 UK employees conducted for jobs review site Glassdoor last year, 51 per cent admitted to doing some work while on holiday. Of those employees who worked on holiday, 11 per cent said they were worried about getting behind with their workload; 10 per cent said were hoping for a pay rise; and even more worryingly – 6 per cent feared they would lose their job.

Creating a culture where employees either can’t or won’t switch off does nobody any favours. In the UK, workers are entitled to 5.6 weeks (28 days) paid holiday a year – a guideline intended to ensure their health and wellbeing. Workers who are always ‘on the job’ are more likely to fall prey to stress-related illness.

Employers can also risk falling foul of employment regulations, as staff who are ‘on call’ like this are not properly on holiday, and guidelines on working hours and holiday entitlements could be breached.

Productivity

According to research by Towers Watson (Fairhurst and O’Connor 2010), the happiest and most productive employees are those that enjoy both high levels of wellbeing and high levels of engagement. An employee who has a high level of engagement but whose wellbeing is not taken care of may be very productive, but is more likely to leave an organisation or simply burnout.

Those with high levels of wellbeing, but a lack of engagement, are likely to stay with the organisation for a long time, but are less likely to be committed to the company’s goals.

You may like to download and read a copy of their related strategy article: Employee Well-Being: Taking Engagement and Performance to the Next Level.

So, to keep your staff at their most productive, you need to take care of both their wellbeing and their engagement levels – and ensuring that they take ‘proper’ holidays is one way you can do this.

Three ways you can help staff take a proper break:

  • Ensure an appropriate handover to the staff who remain occurs before they go away.
  • Insist that texts or emails are only sent for very urgent matters.
  • Set up phones and emails with an out-of-office message and divert emails and calls to another member of staff for the duration of the holiday.

If you need clarity regarding holiday entitlement for your staff, or on any of the other points above, please do get in touch. Email us or phone Cecily on 07767 308 717.

Embrace HR Limited, based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, helps SMEs who do not have their own HR departments, or those who need HR support from time to time.