How big is your employee handbook?
Seriously, if it was printed out, how many pages would it be?
Have you ever asked yourself why you need so many policies? How many you have ever used? What the purpose of such a hefty tome is?
Have you ever read your employee handbook?
I’ve trained hundreds – possibly even thousands of managers over the years, and whenever I ask a group if they have read their employee handbook, or HR policy manual, a glazed expression crosses their faces and some coughing and shuffling of paper tells me all I need to know. In fact, around half of them can't even say where they would find a copy.
I’ve also worked with business owners who have blown the dust off their employee handbooks and realised they haven’t been updated (and probably haven’t been looked at) for years.
Here’s the truth. If it sits on a shelf, or on a computer, and no-one ever reads it, or knows what is in it, then it isn’t fit for purpose.
If managers take action (or don’t take action) in the area of performance or absence management or any other HR matter without bothering to read the policy first, then the manual or handbook isn’t fit for purpose.
And if you don’t understand every word of your HR policy manual or employee handbook, and those documents don’t guide every action you take with your employees, then I’m sorry but your policies aren't fit for purpose.
An employee handbook should help you “sell” your business to new recruits by showing them what it’s like to work for you, and the kind of culture people can expect. It should enable new recruits to hit the ground running, because it answers all the early questions they might have, like
Equally, your employee handbook, and HR procedures, should help managers easily understand what their legal responsibilities are, what triggers they should look out for to prompt them to take action, and how to take action lawfully, so that they can protect the business from a potential tribunal claim.
The employee handbook can be part of your contract of employment with your staff. If you don’t understand the handbook, or the contract for that matter, then you are likely to breach the terms of your agreement with an employee, and the first time you become aware of this could be when a tribunal claim is lodged.
Sadly, the most detailed and comprehensive employee handbook in the world won’t save you at an Employment Tribunal if you don’t actually follow your own policies.
For your first 10 employees, you generally need about 6 key HR policies, (unless you are in a particularly regulated industry). Written in plain English, so that everyone understands them.
And perhaps, then, people might even read them!
Managers often ask me what the secret is to improving employee performance. Usually, I imagine, in the hope that there is something about the employee that can be "fixed". Sometimes those managers are surprised to find out that the answer may be a bit closer to home! Here are 5 mistakes people managers regularly make, that can have a serious impact on employee motivation and performance. Which ones are you guilty of?
1) Thinking your team are mind-readers.
Ask people what their organisation or manager could do to improve, and I guarantee that 95% or more will include communication in their top three suggestions.
People don’t know what you expect unless you tell them. Categorically, clearly, with written instructions, examples and pictures if necessary. Be absolutely clear about expected standards of performance, reporting lines and timescales, for every task you ask them to do.
Assume nothing. If you really need the work they are doing by 9am on Friday morning, then don’t ask them to do it “when they get a chance”, or “by the end of the week”.
Communicating clearly, and often, is not micromanaging; it is the only way to get things done when – and how - you want them done.
2) Assuming performance is OK
You should be monitoring everything your team does. Regularly.
Not just performance but attendance, conduct, internet access, customer interactions, quality measures and anything else that matters to your business. Don’t assume that because someone has worked with you for a long time you can stop monitoring – when you take your eyes off the ball, there is every chance that they will too.
Look for obvious drops in performance, but also look at longer term trends. Are people improving as quickly as they should? Is someone struggling with a particular task? Are there signs that the whole team’s performance is dropping? The sooner you know, the more quickly you can do something about it.
And remember to look beyond the headlines. How, exactly, are your team achieving those great sales figures? What shortcuts have they found? And what are the consequences for your customers and your business?
3) Waiting too long to take action
If a team member is not working the way they should, tell them NOW. Please.
Not in 3 months’ time – by then you’ll be really irritated.
And not in 6 months – by then the rest of the team will have had enough, you’ll be fuming, and you won’t want to start capability procedures… you’ll be ready to sack the individual (who still doesn’t know that there is a problem!)
Tell them now. Explain what you want them to do differently. Train them again if you need to. And keep talking to them as they try to do better. They can’t improve if they don’t know what they are doing wrong.
4) Not keeping enough records
Any conversation about performance, attendance or behaviour should be noted, ideally as part of regular 1:1 notes, but if you don’t do those (and you really should!) use e-mails, memos or work diaries.
Record the good, the bad and the ugly. The big stuff, and the more trivial areas that might become the big stuff in due course.
If you get to a point where you need to start formal procedures, the first thing you will have to show is when you first told the individual they were not meeting the required standards, and that you have given them a fair opportunity to improve. If it isn’t on record, then in employment law terms, it didn’t happen.
5) Treating everyone the same
There is no “one size fits all” in management. Your team are all individuals. They are all different, with unique sets of skills, abilities, strengths and development needs. They all have different family and personal circumstances.
Sometimes they will give work 150%, arriving early, working late and contributing way above their pay grade.
And sometimes life happens. Then they need your support. Be there for them, be human, and show them how much you value and care about them by being flexible and patient.
Treat people fairly, but don’t treat everyone the same. Every member of your team needs something different from you as their manager, and those needs will change. It is your job to find the right approach for each person, every day.
Last week saw publication of the latest list of companies to be “named and shamed” for not paying staff the national minimum wage, or national living wage (for over 25s). Included in the list were High Street names such as Debenhams and Peacocks. And within days of its publication, we discovered that Argos would be on the next list, having failed to pay over £2.4 million to 37,000 current and former employees.
If such big names can get it wrong, what hope is there for smaller organisations?
You may be thinking that you have nothing to worry about, as you are confident that you are paying the appropriate minimum rates for your employees.
But if you expect your staff to do any of the following, you may well find you are actually paying below minimum wage:
In short, if you are paying national minimum wage (or living wage) rates to your staff, you need to be sure you are paying them for anything that could constitute working time. Cleaning up, locking up, security checks and attending briefings or work-related events are all working time, and need to be paid for.
Some employers were named and shamed because they had failed to increase hourly rates when employees moved into a new age category. So make sure your pay records are up to date, and the person responsible for payroll is checking dates of birth regularly.
Another way of ensuring you don’t fall foul of the minimum wage rates may be to have a minimum hourly rate for your staff that exceeds the statutory minimum, so that even with additional time worked above, the hourly rate does not fall below the statutory levels. This is the approach that Sainsbury, the new owner of Argos, are reportedly taking.
And just as a reminder, statutory minimum hourly rates for all groups will increase in April 2017 as follows:
25 and over increases from £7.20 to £7.50
21 – 24 increases from £6.95 to £7.05
18-20 increases from £5.55 to £5.60
Under 18 increases from £4.00 to £4.05
Apprentice increases from £3.40 to £3.50
2016 was definitely an eventful year. The UK had its EU referendum, and the associated political fall-out afterwards, while the USA elected a new President with perhaps equally unexpected results. Leicester City produced a miracle, the Olympics brought even more medals back to the UK than expected, and every month seemed to bring us news of another much-loved celebrity's departure.
So what have we learnt about leadership in 2016? Here are nine lessons that 2016 has taught - or reminded us - about.
1. You may have many qualities that could make you an effective leader, but people choose who they are willing to be led by. Your experience, time-served or position in the hierarchy mean nothing if you can’t persuade people to follow you.
2. People want to believe their leaders really understand a problem, and have a vision or plan that will solve it. If your plans don’t sound like they will address the things people are most concerned about, then don’t be surprised if people choose to follow a different leader who offers an alternative view.
3. Leaders who stand up - and stand out – often generate stronger emotional responses, and greater loyalty (or dislike) from their followers, than those who go with the flow. Being different can be an advantage – but use your power wisely.
4. Leaders should never offer a choice unless they are prepared for whatever option the audience selects. Even if they are absolutely sure they know what the audience will choose.
5. It’s not just what you say, it’s what you do that counts. The way you treat your employees will reflect on your brand, your customers will care, and it will impact on your bottom line. Especially if it involves a newspaper investigation, high profile court case or an appearance before a Parliamentary committee.
6. Opinion polls, employee surveys, customer feedback…they are as good as the questions they ask, the audience that chooses to respond, and the leader who selects which responses to believe.
7. When people leave a team, things are never the same again. Departures leave memories. And unexpected departures hurt deeply. Fly high David Bowie, Prince, Victoria Wood, Caroline Aherne, Andrew Sachs and all those we lost in 2016.
8. Success is a combination of hard work, perseverance, and a sprinkling of good luck. And a huge back office team, who are willing to work hard, make sacrifices and fight for a common goal because they believe it is possible. Recognising those who helped you along the way matters. To all those who helped Andy Murray, Leicester City, TeamGB, and ParalympicsGB – thank you for bringing us sunshine this summer.
9. Leaders need regular breaks away from work to rest, spend time with loved ones, recharge their batteries and look at things from a different perspective. Tired leaders make bad decisions. So please take a proper break this month!
Wishing you all a very happy and peaceful Christmas, and very best wishes for 2017.
Five months after the UK voted to leave the European Union, you could be forgiven for thinking that it was all a bit of a storm in a teacup. For many businesses, so far there has been very little change. We have been told that “Brexit means Brexit”, but we still don’t know what Brexit will actually look and feel like when – or if – it ever happens.
Now with the election of a new President of the USA, it’s a pretty safe bet that both globally, and within Europe, there will be change. Whether it amounts to little more than a change of tone and rhetoric, or something substantially different, we will have to wait and see. But change is definitely on the horizon.
For the UK, the last 5 months have been a stark reminder of what can happen when an organisation doesn’t have a Plan B. Panic, hasty decisions, rumour, people heading off in different directions, no-one really quite sure who is making decisions and whether they have really thought things through. Distrust, power struggles, demoralisation, confusion and paralysis.
Are you ready for the challenges we might encounter over the next few months and years? Do you have people plans for different scenarios, so that when changes come, you can hit the ground running? Here are some questions you should be thinking about.
Is your business suffering because contracts have been put on hold or cancelled? Or because exchange rates are affecting profitability?
The UK is nearing full employment, and many industries are reporting shortages of skilled applicants already. Competition for candidates with the right qualifications and experience may intensify, potentially pushing up salaries.
Retaining skilled workers
Workers tend to stay with employers who make them feel valued, offer interesting work, and involve them in decisions that affect them.
Right now, it may feel as though nothing has changed. And nothing really has…yet.
But it probably will.
So are you going to be ready?
We are offering businesses in the East Midlands a free consultation to help you get ready for, and manage, organisational change. Contact us on 0790 2903086 to arrange your appointment.
What is the one thing you have in common with every single person you work with, every customer or potential client you come into contact with, every supplier you deal with, and every competitor in your market place? In fact, with every other person on this planet?
The answer? We are all here because at some point, someone got pregnant, and then had a baby.
A recent report found that pregnancy and maternity discrimination in the workplace costs British companies nearly £280m per year through having to recruit and train people to replace women forced out of their jobs by discrimination.
To know that this figure is probably an understatement, as the study did not look at the costs of reputational risk, loss of talented employees, employment tribunals and long term productivity impacts, should make every employer sit up and pay attention.
And women who stay in their jobs are estimated to lose up to £34m in total over the following year because of pregnancy discrimination, such as failed promotions, reduced salaries, demotions and receiving a lower than expected pay rise or bonus because they were pregnant or took maternity leave.
Some of the headline statistics are truly depressing.
Seriously? Just how does that fit with an employer’s duty of care for their employees, or taking reasonable steps to ensure the health and safety of employees in the workplace? It's clear from the research that discrimination against pregnant women and those on maternity leave is actually getting worse. We have a real issue in Britain's workplaces with perceptions about pregnancy and motherhood, and what is acceptable behaviour towards women during this time.
Pregnancy and maternity leave do not have to cause problems at work. Managed well, and with sensible expectations on both sides, they can be a positive experience for employers and employees. So next time someone tells you they are pregnant, here are four things you should do straight away (after congratulating the expectant mother of course!)
Fundamentally, it all boils down to this question. If it were your wife, girlfriend, sister, mother, cousin or friend who was pregnant, how would you want them to be treated?
Imagine spending hours completing a job application, researching the organisation, carrying out a lengthy pre-interview questionnaire, preparing for interview, travelling to and attending the interview.
Consider, after all that effort, commitment, anxiety, and time, how agonising the wait must be to find out if you were successful or not.
And then reflect on what it is like for a job applicant to realise, only after several days or even weeks, that the recruiter isn’t going to feed back the outcome of the interview.
Sadly, the sound of silence is the reality for many job applicants in the UK today. While organisations have been busy automating recruitment processes to save time and money, many have forgotten about the candidate experience. For many candidates, applying for a job has become a soulless and soul-destroying activity, with very little human interaction during the process.
Part of the issue is that the automation that has made the process more convenient for the recruiter, has also enabled candidates to apply for roles from their phones or laptops. Many organisations have seen sharp increases in numbers of applicants, so may feel that acknowledging applications or giving feedback to unsuccessful candidates is an admin task too far.
But closing the application process is good manners. It shows that the organisation values the time the candidate has spent, and only costs the time to fill in an e-mail address.
If you don’t have time to run a recruitment process that engages with candidates throughout, then perhaps this is a task you should consider outsourcing.
And if you already outsource, perhaps it is time to check what kind of service your candidates can expect to receive.
How many hours have you spent in unproductive meetings this week?
A YouGov poll in 2015 suggested that 49% of UK employees waste time in meetings every week, with distracted employees, waffling, lack of agenda and failing to reach decisions being particular bugbears. Here are a few of our top tips for more effective meetings.
1) Invite the right people
Respect other people’s time by only inviting those who really need to be there, and consider whether some people could just attend a part of the meeting relevant to them. Attendees need to have the authority to make decisions and agree next steps; otherwise, the meeting simply becomes a debate with no actions. If substitutes attend it must be on the understanding that they can make decisions at the meeting, and that their decisions will be binding.
2) Use technology to be more productive
Do people really need to travel for an hour or more to attend your meeting? Could they dial in or use video-conferencing rather than spending time travelling? And did you know that a third of people admit to using social media or sending personal e-mails and texts during meetings? Do you insist that phones are switched off?
3) Always start and end on time.
43% of employees said meetings regularly start late or overrun. 6 people in a meeting waiting 10 minutes for the last person to arrive have already wasted an hour before the meeting begins. Always start meetings on time and don’t recap or revisit decisions when latecomers arrive. If you’re feeling really tough, allocate actions to those who haven’t arrived when the agenda item is discussed. People will quickly learn to be on time!
4) Circulate an agenda before the meeting
An agenda lets people decide whether they need to be at the meeting or could send a substitute. It also helps those who need time to reflect and research before they can actively participate in a discussion.
5) Have a note-taker
Give one of the attendees responsibility for noting all the actions and decisions agreed during the meeting, and circulating these to all attendees within 24 hours of the meeting.
6) Make a decision at the end of each agenda item
The aim should be to agree at least one “next step” for every item on the agenda, and to assign that action to someone at the meeting, with an agreed timescale. Then close all discussion on the subject and move onto the next topic.
7) Review action points at every meeting
Hold people to account for the actions they should have taken by allocating time in every meeting to review progress on the action points from the previous meeting.
8) Stick to the agenda
Once all the published agenda items have been covered, either finish the meeting early, or use any time left to allow attendees to raise any other business. But only once the meeting has achieved its original objectives, and always finish the meeting on time.
Joe’s wife has cancer. She has frequent hospital appointments and days when she feels so ill she needs someone at home to care for her, change her clothes and bedding, and help her stay clean and hydrated. Joe has no idea whether the treatment will be successful, or how he will support his wife and children if he loses his job.
Sarah’s daughter has a mental health problem. Most of the time it is manageable. Occasionally her behaviour leads to exclusion from school, visits from Social Services, or self-harming. When this happens, Sarah needs to take time off work to supervise her daughter and, hopefully, prevent her from hurting herself or others. She hates asking her boss for time off again, but she is a single parent and there is no one else who can help – especially as Sarah is also worried that Social Services might take her child into care if they think her mother isn’t coping.
Bill’s father was seriously ill last year, and now needs someone to cook his meals, give his medication 4 times a day, get him up in the mornings and put him to bed. Bill really struggles if he is asked to work away from home, or come into work early to help with a rush job.
If these employees worked for you, would you know?
If their attendance or punctuality dropped, would you issue a warning? Or would you know how to talk to them about flexing their hours to help cope with home and work life?
Would they know they could come and discuss their needs with you, and that you would be able to offer more than just moral support?
Do you have any policies in place to help in situations like this?
A research report for Carers Week 2016 has found there are 3 main barriers for employees with caring responsibilities.
60% of carers surveyed said they had given up work, or reduced their hours to enable them to care.
Another report, this time by the CIPD and Westfield Health, found that only 20% of private sector employers even know how many carers they employ. Yet, this issue is likely to touch most organisations - on average, one in nine employees currently cares for a relative, partner or friend.
The Carer’s Week report recommends employers could take these carer-friendly actions
When the going gets tough for your staff, do you tell them to get going, or do you show them that you care about them, value them, and want to support them?
If you’d like to talk about supporting carers in your workplace, but don’t really know where to start, get in touch today. We can help you show you care.
Marion Parrish MCIPD,