INSIGHTS

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Halloween Tips for Business Owners

It’s quickly approaching that time of year when we start to get questions coming in about Halloween office parties, appropriate costume choices, and how to inject a little fun and joviality into the workplace without letting things get out of hand.

Here in the UK at least, the celebrations around 31st October are a relatively new phenomenon. We used to make do with bobbing for apples and perhaps a poorly made costume crafted out of a discarded bed sheet. Today though, it’s big business. And whether you think of it as a trick to force us to part with our hard-earned cash, or a little treat to lessen the blow of the darker nights and colder days, there are certain things that you need to consider as an employer.

Don’t Be Spooked – Get Someone Else To Deal With It

First of all, don’t blow things out of proportion. If you’re the boss, then you probably shouldn’t be spending your time worrying about who’s going to bring the sausage rolls to the lunchtime party, or whether you’ve got the right equipment to organise a pumpkin carving competition. By all means, it’s fine to allow your staff to enjoy some lighthearted fun, but delegate the smaller details so you can focus on more strategic matters.

Still, It’s Sensible To Think About Your Stance If Things Take A Sour Turn

Your staff are adults, and they should be well aware that offensive costumes aren’t appropriate. Tackle issues head-on – just because it’s Halloween, it doesn’t mean that you should let standards slide, and you definitely shouldn’t dismiss inappropriate behaviour as ‘just a bit of fun’. The perfect opportunity then to cast your eye over your HR policies and keep them up to date. For guidance check out Katy Cracknell’s great article HR Policies: Everything SMEs Need To Know. 

Final Thought

Use your common sense, and enter into the spirit of the season if you wish to do so. And once things are done and dusted, remember that it’s only a few months until you face a whole new set of challenges in the shape of Christmas!! Over the coming months, we’ll be exploring the issues surrounding the festivities, and your responsibilities as an employer. Be sure to sign up for our updates so you get all the guidance that you need, delivered directly to your inbox. Thinking of planning a christmas ‘do’ for the team? Our new ebook ‘The Stressed Out Business Owners Guide To Christmas Parties’ is available to download now. 

Image by jojo 77

Could We Learn a Thing or Two From Sweden’s Six-Hour Working Day?

Sweden has made headlines in recent weeks after some companies decided to make the shift to a six-hour working day, in an effort to increase productivity and offer staff a more fulfilling work-life balance. Interestingly, Toyota workplaces in Gothenburg went down this route thirteen years ago, with great success and it’s been reported that the business experienced a profit increase, higher retention of staff, and happier employees.

6 Hours A Day? I Wish….. 

As an employer, it’s likely that you read these latest developments with great interest. But did you applaud the decision to do things a little differently, or did you roll your eyes and quietly confess to yourself that this kind of working arrangement could never work in your business?

Maybe you think that cutting down the working day is a nice idea but not something that you could realistically try any time soon. It’s true that you can’t successfully roll out changes like this overnight. But the changing culture in Sweden offers an excellent opportunity for us all to rethink how traditional working practices could be holding your business back.

Let’s consider the constraints of an eight-hour working day…

There’s no denying that it’s almost impossible to stay alert and focused for the entirety of a nine-to-five shift. When it comes to your members of staff, and even your own performance, it’s highly likely that a significant chunk of the day is spent on mundane tasks that add no value to the business. From browsing social media to staring out the window looking for a little inspiration, eight hours in the office are very rarely eight hours of productivity.

And of course, we’re all familiar with how tricky it can be to find a happy balance between work and our personal lives. If we could find the secret sauce that allowed us to work less hours, enjoy more time at home, and still make an effective contribution at work, then the benefits could be endless.

Is it just habit that’s holding us back?

The concept of an eight-hour working day is one that’s been carried down for generations, so it’s no surprise that so many companies work this way simply because they’ve never even stopped to consider any other alternative.

Final thought

Swedish companies embracing the six-hour day will no doubt have their fair share of challenges ahead, but with effective leadership and a commitment to questioning the status quo, it could prove to be one of the most meaningful initiatives that the world of employment has ever seen.

 

If productivity is a problem in your workplace, or you’re simply looking for ways to get more from your staff, then get in touch today to arrange a no-obligation consultation. After taking the time to get to know your business and the key challenges that you’re facing, we can implement an action-plan to ensure that you’re on track to achieve your wider strategic goals.  Get in touch at hello@thehrhub.co.uk, or give us a call on 0203 627 7048.

Image by Matthew Peoples

Speak No Evil: The Importance Of Staying True To Your Word

Do you look out for those with ‘synergies’? Encourage a lot of ‘blue-sky thinking’ in your team? Or even regularly ask if there’s any ‘low hanging fruit that you can grab?

Chances are most have slipped into using the occasional piece of corporate jargon (or ****-word bingo as it’s also affectionately known in TheHRhub’s circle…) as we do it without even giving it too much thought. So we’re not going to give you too much stick for it here…. It might be a bit annoying, but the use of corporate jargon isn’t something that will cause you to end up in a tribunal (yet!).

But what about about ‘managing expectations‘? A seemingly innocuous phrase I agree. But when you are ‘managing the expectations’ of your team, what you say and how you say it really matters:

For example, if an individual has money problems outside of the office, then the fact that you insinuated when they were first recruited that they would have had a pay rise by now, is exactly the type of thing that’s going to cause problems. It’s not just about that pay cheque at the end of the month. It becomes about the everyday lives and worries and concerns of your staff. Sure, the cause of the money problems might have absolutely nothing to do with you, and they’re almost certainly not your fault. But when you fail to manage expectations effectively, the impact can be far reaching. The working environment can amplify the issues, and put you in the position of taking the full blame.

So what’s the solution? It’s pretty simple:

Get radically honest…..

Right from the very beginning. You might think that embellishing the truth a little is just part of attracting the best talent, but telling the truth from the offset is going to save you a whole load of time, money, and hassle. If you specify a pay bracket, but new recruits start at the bottom and won’t progress for at least two years? Tell them that.  If working weekends is something that you expect of everyone, even those in higher positions? They should know that in advance. If budgetary constraints mean you won’t be giving out any cash bonuses in the near future? Then that’s fine, but for crying out loud, don’t try to paint a picture that suggests something different.

And if someone is falling short of what you expect in terms of performance or attitude? Tell them. No-one likes doing it, but you can pick up some tips on how to do this in a video we made for you here: 2 Minute HR: How to deliver bad feedback.

Your employees will respect you a whole lot more when you stop living by your own hyperbole, and get really ridiculously honest about your objectives, their role in the business, and what’s likely to be achieved in the near and distant future.

This isn’t about constantly being a prophet of doom, and reducing your team’s hopes and dreams to dust. It’s about recognising both the positive and not-so-positive sides of leadership, acting with integrity, and ultimately, doing the right thing. After all, the right thing to do is always the right thing to do.

Get in touch today by dropping us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk, calling 0203 627 7048, or book in here for a no-obligation chat about how HR greatness can help you achieve your goals.

For more reading on how else you can tackle thorny issues with confidence, download our new eBook: Leadership 101: The Ultimate Guide to Being an Inspirational Leader.

TheHRhub: the ultimate support for startups and SMEs. Sign up here for free tools and guidance.

 

Image by Syanah

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Team In The Run Up To Christmas

At this time of the year, business leaders are starting to really knuckle down on just how they’re going to hit their numbers in the final quarter.

After all, there’s ample time to sign up new clients and customers before the end of the year and for many it’s their busiest time. Perhaps you’re rolling out special offers on your services to entice using-up-of-budget spending? Have lined up a email marketing campaign that even the most hardened buyer cannot ignore? Or maybe you have an exciting new line of products whose features just sell themselves…

Whatever your goals are, these strategies can work, for sure. But if you’re serious about really upping the ante and ending 2016 in the best position possible, then don’t ignore your greatest chance of hitting those numbers – your people. Here, we’re going to share some practical hints and tips that you can start implementing right away.

Consider whether you need to roll out refresher training

At this time of the year, exemplary customer service and focussed sales skills can make a huge difference when it comes to your profits. Are your staff comfortable with talking about your products and services? Can they pinpoint opportunities to offer an up-sell? And are they really firing on all cylinders when it comes to their day-to-day work?

Take the opportunity to consider how you can offer training to drill down on key points you need to change, and take performance up to that next level. You don’t necessarily have to spend a fortune on bringing in external providers, so think like a bootstrapped startup when it comes to how you can deliver any development needed. Perhaps pairing up members of the sales & marketing team to hone in on the key value proposition your product/ service is offering to clients and customers would give a much needed boost to those who are struggling to bring prospects along the sales pipeline? Many sales tools record your calls and can be used to immediate feedback to people that can be started as soon as this morning….  Or how about some e-learning courses to give some focus and boost skills? Bitesize courses can be found on all manner of topics from customer service to google Analytics on sites such as Lynda.com & Alison.com

Make sure that everyone has goals to be working towards

If your staff have been in their positions for a while, then they can really easily fall into a mundane routine. Particularly in the run up to Christmas. After all, everyone’s a bit well, knackered? They turn up to work, do their bit, and then go home.

Could it be the case that they’re feeling complacent? If so, now’s an excellent time to get your leadership team together and ensure that everyone has realistic but stretching goals to be making progress towards. So gather them all in a group huddle if you don’t have time for individual meetings this week and make it crystal clear what you need from everyone and what you need to deliver by the end of the year. Word to the wise however: now is not the time to be beating people up over performance: think ‘motivate’ rather than ‘denegrate’…..

Everyone should understand and recognise the contribution they make to the bigger picture, so make sure they understand the part they play and are recognised, though it’s also sensible to think about how you can encourage staff to work together to achieve bigger things.

Work out how you’ll incentivise this fabulous performance  

If you’re after a short sharp focus to hit specific targets, then bonuses could be the answer here. Although not scientifically proven to help in all cases, behaviour can be changed if the task is simple, the rewards understood and the task not too difficult – so get to work on creating an incentive scheme that says ‘thanks’ a lot to the team but makes sure you hit the right goals.

Again, this doesn’t have to be something that puts a strain on your budget. There’s a ton of things that you can do to offer an attractive incentive for outstanding performance, even if you’re on a tight budget & for more ideas on how to do this with your sales team, check out Katy Cracknell’s article How To Motivate Your Sales Team Without Focussing On Just The Money And, of course, you should never underestimate the value of of rolling out a Blue Peter-Style Thermometer to really visualise your sales. In addition of course, to simply saying thank you….

The year’s speeding to an end, but if you start taking action right away on the points that we’ve outlined above, you can make a big difference to your final results. So what are you waiting for?!

If you need some help with managing that final push, then pick up the phone. We’ll be looking forward to having an initial chat about how we might be able to work together, without any obligation or pressure. Get in touch at hello@thehrhub.co.uk, or give us a call on 0203 627 7048.

Image by Me!bourne Mermaid

Magnificent 7: The Key Attributes of High Potential Employees

At some point, your growing business will require you to do some restructuring and introduce one or more levels of management. This will open up a great opportunity for you to develop a small proportion of your people into team leaders or managers – perhaps even into managers of managers.  Recruiting new managers from within is a powerful way to show your commitment to career development, it’s motivating for your staff, and it’s an opportunity to think about the kind of culture you want to encourage by appointing managers who exhibit the right behaviours and mindsets. Recruiting internally also reduces the risk of appointing someone who isn’t the right cultural ‘fit’ for your organisation. But it’s still a risk – assuming you’re looking at people whose management capability is as yet untested.

So what qualities to look for?  Somebody who reminds you of yourself?  Undeniably tempting, but fraught with obvious risks.. Someone who is super-smart and knows your product, or market, like the back of their hand?  Perhaps, but good managers need other skills too, right?  

Right.  But what skills – what exactly should you be looking for when spotting leadership potential and thinking about moving people into their first management positions?  What is ‘leadership potential’ anyway?  To save you wading through a load of leadership tomes, here are our top 7 qualities to look for:

1. Results-Orientation

This is a good place to start. In order for your business to succeed, your people need to perform. This means everyone understands what they are there to do and they’re focused on doing as good a job as they can, with your best performers keen to achieve ever higher levels of performance. While recognising that not everyone in your organisation will take this to extremes, an overly relaxed approach to performance standards and deadlines hardly sets the right example.  So when thinking about who to promote into a management role, look for people who are really driven to deliver results and move the business forwards. By this I mean they can point to a strong track record of delivery, rather than simply talk a good game.  Strong results orientation obviously should be tempered by..

2. The Ability To Get The Best Out Of Others

The very best managers are skilled in getting the best from their colleagues: they support their peers, inspire their teams, develop their people and regularly give feedback to people on how they are doing.  They are ready to praise and give credit for others’ great performance.  These are the people who show a genuine interest in others, work hard to create a sense of team, and motivate people through their enthusiasm and positive outlook. They are also the people who can..

3. Effective Communication Skills

High potential employees instinctively think about keeping others informed, like to build their networks, and recognise the importance of communication channels. They are skilled in adapting their personal style to the needs of their audience, listen well, and at the same time are prepared to communicate difficult messages constructively and sensitively.

While you can spot skills in communication and getting the best out of others in those with little or no previous management experience, this is obviously a multi-faceted human quality and few of us tick every box!  It’s not the easiest quality to master if it doesn’t come naturally but honest feedback and coaching will go a long way in helping people with leadership potential understand their strengths and take action on any weaknesses in these broad areas of interpersonal and leadership skills.  Another intrinsic personal quality for you to consider is..

4. The Ability To Put The Interests Of The Business Before The Interests Of Themselves

Managers must have integrity.  Do your employees base their decisions and actions on what will most benefit themselves personally, or what will benefit the wider team and the business as a whole?  Integrity, values and commitment to the success of the business matter: you need people you can rely on, and your employees need to see the ‘right’ qualities being role modelled and rewarded.  It can be highly demotivating for staff to see a colleague motivated mainly by self interest promoted to a position of responsibility. Look for people prepared to support colleagues, collaborate and compromise for the greater good of the business.  Finally, try to identify people who are…

5. Commitment To Their Own Learning And Development

According to Morgan McCall, one of the most influential thinkers on leadership development (check out his book High Flyers) learning underpins personal growth. It is, many leadership theorists believe, essential to career success, and particularly important is the ability to learn from experience. So try to identify people who have shown they can do this, and apply their learning to future new situations, building their professional capability as a result.  Look for people who have the confidence and ability to step into unfamiliar situations, who can quickly identify what information they need in order to perform well – and how to find it.  These are also the people who have the confidence to take calculated risks, yet are humble enough to ask for advice and listen to feedback. They are the people who reflect on both successes and failures and learn from them.  

6. Proven Adaptability Under Pressure

Business (and customer) needs can change overnight. You need people who can respond quickly to changing circumstances, think on their feet and change tack while keeping a cool head and bringing others with them. Self-regulation is not something everyone can do effectively  – and it’s a great way of sorting the wheat from the chaff ….

7. Show Strong Evidence Of Self-Leadership

Effective leadership starts with the individual themselves. Punctuality, for example, shows the person values their own time and that of others. Effective diary (and desk!) management indicates good organisation skils. Doing what they say they will builds trust with colleagues and key stakeholders. Also, keep an eye out for someone who has passions away from the office. It takes self-discipline to really nurture and develop interests outside of work and a healthy work-life balance often makes people happier and more effective in their roles.

Fundamental for you in this area of learning capability is the ability to recognise what skills they will no longer need to perform well as a manager. Too often employees are promoted to team leader positions on the basis of their past stellar performance as a team member – without understanding that many of the skills that led to their previous success and promotion are, if not obsolete, then certainly far less important to their future success as a new line manager.  It will be the key management skills of business awareness, strategic thinking, resource planning, objective setting, giving feedback and coaching and so on which will determine their success in their new roles as managers. Ram Charan’s The Leadership Pipeline is brilliant and goes into all this in far more detail.

Promoting people into their first line management role is a critical decision – not only for your newly promoted managers, but for the teams underneath them and your business as a whole. Get it right and you will start to build a capable and inspiring management team committed to growing both your business and its people.

For more tips on effective management and development across your teams, theHRhub team are ready to help.

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Photo Credit: Don LaVange

P.s – If you’re secretly wanting to give your own leadership style a bit of a kickstart and want to take some action on it, then download our new eBook: Leadership 101: The Ultimate Guide to Being an Inspirational Leader.