HR

Why Corporate Jargon And Nonsense Stops Businesses Taking HR Seriously

10 Jan
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, Compensation, Contract of employment, Employees, Employment, Human Resources, people manaagment, Policies and Procedures, Recruitment, training   |  No Comments

(And The Four Processes That Most Business Owners  Need To Go Through When Dealing With Staff)

I’ve been studying and practicing HR for over 25 years. 

Which means that I ‘get it’.  I ‘understand’ it.  However ludicrously worded something is, or however jargonny a contract sounds, I can usually root out the genuine meaning, and what it means in the real world.

However, use the term HR or Human Resources in front of your common or garden business owner and you’ll often get a blank look, especially if they have never worked in large organisations or corporations that have had a whole HR department dedicated to looking after the staff, employees, and contractors.

But here’s the thing, whether you’re Mickey the Butcher or Microsoft, you still need to be able to practice HR correctly – failure to do so puts your business under significant risk from an employment tribunal.

With that in mind, this article is designed to help you to do exactly that, by cutting through the jargon and breaking down the four processes that you’ll need to go through, whether you’ve got two employees or 20,000.

So the first area is recruitment: the hiring of the right staff. 

Make sure that you know the skills that you need and that the people that you are hiring have the ability to do the job, but don’t forget that attitude and aptitude are also really, really important. 

Making sure that somebody has the right attitude, is going to fit in with your business and your culture will engage with your goals and has the ability to learn the rest of the skills that you need to give them is absolutely vital. 

Why?  Nobody is going to come fully formed, so you need employees who can be moulded, and moulding is all about attitude. 

And, as a plus point, when employees are not fully formed, they are generally easier to work with – they don’t have the same fixed ideas about things that someone who has ‘been there and done it’ has.

In addition, it is also really good idea to hire people who are better than you at key elements of the business. You shouldn’t be sweating over the books when someone else will be able to do them quicker, easier and more effectively than you.

Similarly, you may be good and able to type your letters up yourself, but actually having a VA or an in-house PA is going to drive your business forward much quicker for you as they are freeing up your time. 

 

The second element is Employee Relations

Now, this is a big area for HR!

At the most basic level, it means giving all of the staff that you hire a contract of employment. 

It means making sure that you have made decisions about:

  • How much holiday they are going to have
  • What you are going to do in the event of sick pay
  • What dress code you want within your business
  • What time you want people at work
  • What time they work till
  • How long their breaks are

Sound extreme?  Perhaps.  But by documenting all of these from day one, there is absolute clarity for you and for your staff, and no one can pretend that they didn’t know what was expected of them.

 

The third element is training, development and learning. 

Now, all three of these take time and happen in multiple phases, but all business owners need to be mindful of them; otherwise, they generally don’t happen.

Generally, the first phase is known as “induction” and when you first bring somebody into the business, the best way to get them to hit the ground running is to induct them properly. 

Once they know what they should be doing, it is all about monitoring and managing their performance so they are performing at the best possible level that they can.

And again it takes practice and they will improve over time, which is why regular documented progress meetings are a really, really useful tool.  No matter what size your business, whether you have one employee, five employees, or 25 employees, sitting down with your staff on a regular basis, sharing your vision, sharing the goals and asking them to deliver key elements of those goals is essential to moving the business forward. 

 

And then there is reward. 

Reward can come in multiple formats. 

Pay is the most obvious but there is also commission, bonus and other incentives which you give to your staff to encourage them to reach the targets that you set or to reward them for achieving certain outcomes. 

However, reward is also about the environment in which people work. 

It’s about the way in which you treat them, the pizza in the office on a Friday or giving people a day off to go and deal with an emergency because you know that they have been in the office late working on projects for the last three or four weeks.  

Reward is also about the culture and the corporate social responsibility that the business shows. 

Many youngsters nowadays are choosing to work or not work for companies based on the ethos of those companies. 

People are becoming more picky and people want to work for great bosses and brands that they believe in. 

Consequently, positioning your business (no matter how big or small) as an employer of choice will really help you to recruit and to retain the right staff for your business. 

So, as a business owner, the next time you think about your role within the business, you are not only the finance person, the marketing person and the salesperson – you are also the HR person. 

You are responsible for the recruitment and retention, the training and development, the reward and the frameworks within which your staff work and operate. You are also responsible for the way in which your staff are going to help you to achieve business success, by making sure that you are an effective manager.  That takes practice, but as they say, practice makes perfect.

UK Employment Law is no longer fit for purpose!!!

25 Feb
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Brexit, employee rights, Employment Legislation, HR, Human Resources   |  No Comments
Donna Obstfeld (FCIPD), HR Specialist / Managing Director

Donna Obstfeld (FCIPD), HR Specialist / Managing Director

I’ve been in Human Resources (HR) for over 20 years. When I was first introduced to the discipline, it was known as Personnel and today when I am speaking with clients, I refer to it as ‘managing employees’ or ‘staff management’. Why give a fancy name to what business owners just need to be able to do to run their business effectively?

10 years ago I set up my own business. I didn’t have a clue what I was going to do with it or what it could become, but it was mine. I knew I didn’t want to be an interim HR Manager for large businesses, I wanted to help small businesses to grow and through their staff, achieve greater success. Over time my own business grew and like so many of my clients I had to take the decision whether to take on staff. This was an absolutely terrifying decision. Could I generate enough income for two of us? Would my clients trust someone else with their ‘HR’? How do I transfer my approach to managing employees (which is very different) to my team?

Fortunately, being in the profession, I knew how to do the people things ‘right’. How to hire, how to induct, contract of employment, how to monitor performance etc. But I was still scared. However, I had a safety net – the ‘zero hour contract’. I could guess how much time I would need the staff for and if there wasn’t enough work, they didn’t work. For one member of staff, if the work in a day dried up or she was waiting for 5 different people to come back to her and couldn’t’ move on, she would take a break for 3-4 hours and come back on later in the day. It suited my staff and it suited me and my business. It meant I could hire a number of people with different skills and deploy them as the business needed. They were employees, so bound by our policies and procedures, invested in – in terms of training and coaching, and supported with their personal development, but able to collect kids from school, take holidays or meet friends for lunch as they wanted. As a small business owner this was the flexibility I needed.

As time has gone on, my business model has changed, we have expanded and the inflow of work is more sustained, being able to pay staff at the end of each month is less scary and I know I have staff to deliver client work as needed, but I still have concerns and I believe that all small business owners feel the same:
• What happens if someone decides to take a hit at the business?
• What happens if someone thinks they have been treated unfairly?
• What happens if someone resigns and fails to work their notice period?
• What happens if someone leaves and takes your clients with them?
• What happens if someone leaves and takes your staff with them?

These are realities for almost all of my clients and some have had to shut up shop as a result!!!

Contracts of employment are great because, if written properly, they set out certain rules, policies and procedures which employers and employees commit to when signing the contract. However, as I warn many of my clients, they are not worth the paper they are written on unless you are prepared to enforce them.

Let me describe a scenario at this point –based on a real client: A firm of gardeners. Employees were provided with tools and a van. Employer came in one Monday morning to find the van unlocked in the yard with a note from the employee saying “I quit”. No notice provided. The employer then has to cancel and reschedule work at very short notice.

If the employee had been fired, the employer would have had to pay 1 months notice or the employee could take him to the employment tribunal for failing to do so. However, in this instance it is the employee who has breached his contract and not given the required notice, but what options has the employer got – in reality, none!

The situation gets worse – Over the next few weeks the business owner starts to receive cancellations from clients no longer wishing to have their gardens maintained by the company. No one would say why, but a pattern emerged. They were all clients who had been serviced by the former employee. Not only had he left with no notice, he was now poaching clients as well.

What options has the employer got? Well he could try to take out an injunction, but if the IMG_0275clients choose to leave, that is their right. They can purchase their gardening services from whomever they wish! Same gardener, same services but cheaper… why wouldn’t you?

So the business owner is left feeling ‘had’. The contract of employment, although legally binding, costs too much in time and effort to enforce. So is there another way?

I believe there is, but it requires a change in the law. Theresa May’s 10 point plan for the post-Brexit UK economy ‘supporting businesses to start and grow’ is one of her main objectives for Government intervention. This points towards the entrepreneurs, the micro and small business owners, those which account for 99.3% of private businesses in the UK and employ over 15.7million people.

With Brexit around the corner and a once in a generation opportunity to create our own laws as we come out of Europe, this is the time to really look at our employment legislation and to balance the needs of employers and their businesses with the protections required for employees.

Frances O’Grady of the TUC together with other Trade Unions and their officials claim that the fees that an employee has to pay in order to take their employer to an employment tribunal are unfair and prohibitive and should be scrapped. There is a consultation taking place at the moment on this very subject and while the whole subject of employment tribunal fees is under review, I ask the question “is the system of employment tribunals even fit for purpose?”

Another scenario for you: A customer service call centre with a sales team of 2. Both employees are new and being trained. Both have contracts and are on a 6 month probation period. One of the employees is really struggling. Extra help is bought in to support her, extra supervisions are provided and weekly meetings are being held. It emerges that the employee is spending about 3 hours a day surfing the internet. At 3 months she is given a performance review and told she is not at the required standard, reminded that she is on a probation period and that she needs to start making some profitable sales. At 5 months she announces she is pregnant. A week short of her 6 month end of probation, there is a review meeting in which she is told that as she has failed to improve, failed to take on board the training she has been provided with, is still spending too much time on her phone surfing the internet, her employment is being terminated by reason of failing her probation.

It is stressed, that she is not being fired for being pregnant (there are plenty of other workers who have been pregnant, had babies and returned to this workplace), but because she is just not capable of doing the job for which she has been employed.

IMG_0277A week later ACAS contacts the employer to advise them that the employee is taking a case against them. It eventually emerges that the employee wants £28k and is threatening a sex discrimination case on the grounds that she is pregnant.

The employer does not want to settle as they have done nothing wrong, but they now have two choices, settle and pay something or fight it and incur a lot of time money and stress with no guarantee of the outcome. ACAS makes no attempt to resolve the issue, they purely act as a go between for what should be 4 weeks, could be 6 weeks or could be less if the other side play stupid games. At the end of this period the ACAS system automatically issues a certificate saying that conciliation has failed and the employee can now take the employer to the employment tribunal. Until this point, the employee has not had to pay any money, but if the employer refuses to pay a settlement they are now likely to end up in the employment tribunal.

The TUC claims that Employment Tribunal claims have dropped since the introduction of the fees and yes they have, but not for the reasons that the TUC and others would have us believe. The figures have dropped because employers want to get on with running and managing their businesses. Business owners do not have the time, money or energy to fight with the risk of losing, with the costs of solicitors to defend the case or with the time wasted in preparing for an employment tribunal just because an ex-employee has decided to take a chance.

They are after a settlement. Their solicitors often don’t want a settlement as they earn more from defending a claim in the Employment Tribunal, but the employee wants a quick pay-out and I frequently come across people who have already taken one employer to the tribunal (or threatened to). Employers end up paying at the ACAS stage to make the employee’s claim go away, to know what the financial impact is as a fixed amount and to enable them to move on and focus on their business.

There are lots of different systems across the world and while I recognise that some are better than others, if this government is serious about enabling small businesses to grow and succeed, the noose has to be removed from around their neck and the laws need to be equalised between employer and employee.

Discrimination

15 Dec
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, Discrimination, Video   |  No Comments

This is one you need to understand to ensure you protect your business!
Boring – Yes!
Essential – Yes!
Expensive if you get it wrong – Yes!

Special Needs

05 Dec
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, Disability Discrimination, Discrimination, HR, Interviewing, Recruitment, Video   |  No Comments

People don’t need to be employees to take an employment tribunal claim against you (although they usually are, or have been). Job applicants who feel they have missed out on a job due to discrimination can also lodge an employment tribunal claim and therefore taking any special needs into consideration at the recruitment and interview stage is really important.

 

 

If you need any support with recruitment or interviewing, give us a ring or take a look at our Interviewer’s Toolkit.

 

 

Testing

22 Nov
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, Video   |  No Comments

Testing applicants is a great way of determining whether they can actually do the job you need them to do. You can test for skills, aptitude, personality etc. There are hundreds of tests on the market and selecting the right one is really important. You also need to ensure you know what a pass or fail looks like and why.

More nuggets for you in the video

 

Telephone Screening

21 Nov
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, Interviewing, Recruitment, Video   |  No Comments

When you are recruiting, you could end up with hundreds of applications, once you have sorted the ‘not a chance’ from the ‘possible’, telephone interviewing is a great way of producing a manageable long list (or short list, if you are able to be that tight on your criteria).

Work out what your key questions are – if they MUST be able to drive, or MUST hold a specific qualification or MUST be able to work evenings, then these questions should form part of your telephone screening process.

Do make sure that you don’t inadvertently introduce any discrimination – you can ask any question, it is how you do it which matters!!!

Sifting CVs

18 Nov
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, Recruitment, Video   |  No Comments

Once you have a pool of aplicants, you need some way of determining who to short list, who to reject and who to keep warm and put on hold. In today’s 52 Top Tips, I share a few thoughts.

To find our more about our recruitment services, check out our recruitment pages

To order your 52 top tips, you can do so here

 

 

Marketing

17 Nov
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, Video   |  No Comments

Before you can recruit your staff, you need a pool of applicants to choose from. You need to attract applicants to your business and to the role. This is no different to any other marketing exercise. It is about getting your message clear, knowing who your market is and deciding on the right media to use.

In this short video, HR Specialist Donna Obstfeld shares one of our 52 top tips.

When Social Media Goes Wrong

13 Aug
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, HR Policy, Social Media   |  No Comments

Having to give an employee their notice is never a pleasant experience for either party.

If the situation does arise, the best outcome is that both you and the member of staff in question can leave the relationship amicably with the right contracts and paperwork to back you up…

However, that’s not always the case.

I came across an article this week that described the recent dismissal of a canal worker:

http://www.personneltoday.com/hr/social-media-misconduct-fair-dismissal-facebook-boasts-getting-drunk-standby/

After eight good years of service, the employee was dismissed due to his actions on Facebook two years previously, he took his case to a tribunal where the mitigating circumstances allowed him to claim unfair dismissal.

Now I don’t claim to be the Queen of social media, but I DO  know that posting derogatory comments about your work and your boss on your Facebook account, plus letting the world know you’re getting drunk on company time is a rather stupid idea that definitely isn’t going to stay private.

The Employment Appeals Tribunal  have since overturned the decision, and the unfair dismissal charge has been dropped.

As these cases involving social media are still fairly new and few in number, it’s easy to see why businesses aren’t always prepared when their staff act inappropriately online.

However, it’s essential that you layout your  expectations and make sure your employees have the correct guidelines, knowing what they can and can’t do when they are using the internet not only at work but when referencing work as well.

How to create boundaries between social media at home and work…

  • Develop a policy setting out  what is and what is not acceptable for general behaviour and the use of the internet, emails, smart phones and social media at work.
  • Employees should regularly check the privacy settings on their social networking pages, as they can change.
  • Employers should inform and consult with their employees if planning to change the monitoring of social media activity affecting the workplace.
  • Make sure you have the necessary clauses in your contracts to back up your policies.
  • Make sure your policy on bullying includes references to ‘cyber bullying’…..just in case!

Make sure your business is covered and it’s far less likely that your team will make such misdemeanours or that your employees can take action against you.

The Dreaded Appraisal

22 Oct
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, HR Consultancy, HR Policy, HR Support, Performance Management, Policies and Procedures   |  No Comments

Results sign postThis time of year, we find many of our clients want to take the opportunity to appraise staff. Of course there is no hard and fast rule as to when to do this and some companies will link appraisals to the financial year end, the end of the calendar year or the employee’s anniversary with the company.

It’s important for every business to have an appraisal process in place as part of its general performance management framework. Staff must have objectives set that are aligned to the business goals and these are often cascaded down through any management structures which exist within the organisation.  Appraisals are  also an excellent tool for keeping  staff fully engaged with the business as they help them to understand the business and to set their personal goals to that they contribute to future success.

An appraisal is an opportunity to step off the rat wheel, to step back from the daily grind and to review successes and failures with the benefit of hindsight. Activities and progress from the last year should be discussed and lessons learnt turned into positives. Nothing should be raised in an annual appraisal which has not already been discussed in a timely fashion throughout the year. This is a review and summarise activity which plays a significant role for future goal setting. Any areas for concern or opportunities for development should be discussed in an open and honest way during the appraisal.

There are four stages to an effective appraisal:

  1. Preparation
  2. Meeting
  3. Write up
  4. Follow through

Preparation

Preparation for both the appraiser (manager) and appraisee (employee) is essential. The appraiser should ensure that the appraisee has all the paperwork at least a week before their meeting. The manager should ask the employee to work through the paperwork, filling it all in with their opinions, thoughts and views. Having a copy of last years appraisal or any interim reviews, targets etc. would be a useful starting point for reviewing the year.

The manager also needs to prepare and they should go through the same process for each of their direct reports.

The Meeting

The meeting is a two way process. It is an open and honest discussion, during which the appraisal form is jointly completed. While the employee has a significant input, if the appraiser and appraisee can not agree, it is the appraisers view which is documented and the appraisee has the opportunity to make their views known in a comments box. Examples and feedback from others are particularly powerful in an appraisal meeting.

Write it up

Following the meeting, the paperwork is finalised. Despite any differences of opinion in the meeting, the appraisers view is what is documented, hopefully with consensus. The employee should get the opportunity to add their comments and should be given a final copy of their appraisal form.

Follow up

Once complete, businesses do one of two things with the appraisal documentation. Many will just put it in the personnel file and forget about it until next year. Successful organisations however, will bring the document to life, making it a working, evolving and directive tool for guiding progress and development throughout the next 12 months. The documentation should be used in monthly or quarterly 121 meetings and updated where appropriate as roles change, the business evolves and set objectives are met.

Does your business carry out appraisals? Do you see a benefit in them or are they a waste of time? Do you even look at your appraisal notes during the year? We would love to know your views.

For help and assistance with any of your appraisal needs from policy to forms or training, we are happy to help.

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