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How To Manage Holiday Requests Like A Pro

Over the next few weeks, you’re likely to have holiday requests coming out of your ears. And whilst you would like to accommodate everyone, the demands of the business means this isn’t always possible – particular during the summer holidays.

Of course employees are entitled to request holiday, but you are not legally bound to give  it. The Working Time Regulations 1998 permit an employer to refuse a worker’s request, provided the company serves a counter-notice at least as many calendar days before the proposed leave is due to commence as the number of days being refused. But this sometimes isn’t the best course of action for positive workplace relations, so here’s how you can manage requests like a pro and keep (nearly) everyone happy.

The Secrets To Managing Holiday Requests Effectively

1. Have A Holiday Policy In Place

If you’ve already got a holiday policy in place – circulate it now. If you don’t and can foresee managing holidays being an issue this summer, it would be wise to write and communicate one pronto. This ensures all holiday requests are processed fairly and consistently.

A holiday policy needs to include:

  • how holiday should be requested
  • to whom such requests should be made
  • the circumstances in which holiday requests may be refused

You might also want to consider:

  • how many department members/ senior managers are allowed off at once
  • the maximum number of days that can be taken off in one go (detailing any extenuating circumstances here such as weddings/honeymoons)
  • how much time in advance requests need to be given
  • how much time line the employer has to respond to requests

There may be additional requirements unique to your business/sector you would be wise to include too. For example to protect against fraud, finance companies often require certain staff to take at least one 2 week holiday a year.

2. But Be Aware Of How Holiday Requests Are Dealt With In Practise

Equally important to having a policy is how holiday requests are dealt with day to day by your line managers. In particular, there should be consistency across the business in how holiday requests are prioritised. Is it on a first come first served basis? Or for popular holiday days such as Christmas, should employees be granted time off on rotation?  Managers need to be seen to be prioritsing holiday requests fairly and consistently. Otherwise they could be accused of favourite and even discrimination.

3. Make Sure The Holiday Calendar Is Visible To All

Sharing the employee holiday calendar with the team is one of the easiest and most effective ways to avoid holiday scheduling problems. It empowers team members to propose holiday dates that avoid clashes with their colleagues and gives those remaining at work the ability to plan projects/meetings accordingly.

4. How To Say No To A Holiday Request

Sometimes, with all the love in the world, granting holiday just isn’t possible. Here’s what to do if you need to have ‘that’ conversation….

  • Do it quickly: More quickly than stated in your holiday policy if you can, as a sign of goodwill. As always, face to face is best.
  • Explain your reasons: Reference your holiday policy so the individual knows it’s not personal. Talk them through the need to cover off certain business areas of that period  Reiterate the business decision behind the refusal and ensure them that it is nothing to do with their performance (unless it is).
  • Offer an alternative: Such as other dates when a request would be manageable. For accommodating others, some business offer one or two extra holiday days as a way of saying thank you.
  • Tell them how much you value them: When  a holiday request is denied it can make individuals feel undervalued, particularly if they have been performing well. Make sure they leave the conversation feeling positive about themselves and their contribution to the business.

5. What To Do If The Cheeky Beggars Take The Day Off Anyway…

Clearly, it’s a  bit suspect if an employee calls in sick for a day they previously asked to take off as holiday. Gather evidence if you can (social media can be invaluable here!) and hold a return to work interview when they get back. Tell them about your concerns and then explain the impact their absence had on the rest of the team. This is usually enough to stop repeat performances without getting too ‘heavy’.

 

For more tips on achieving leadership across your teams, theHRhub team are ready to help. We are the ultimate online HR support service for Startups and SMEs – providing software, templates, expert advice, whitepapers and up to date news and views, straight to your mobile or tablet. Like having an HR director in your pocket but without the price tag! Call us on 0203 627 7048 or drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk for a no-strings chat about your HR needs.

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Time For A Pit Stop: What To Do Now To Ensure a Successful Year-End

Deep breath! We’re almost half way through the year and although it might feel that you have no time to step back from the day to day running of your business, now’s a great time to do just that and consider the bigger picture. It’s easy to get caught up with the issues going on right in front of you – the urgent emails, the latest operational crisis – but great leaders know that regular strategic planning is essential and is something which can’t wait…

When it comes to your people and their management and growth, most leaders are just thrilled when there’s little ‘noise’ going on with them. There might be a few niggles that they’ve noticed – perhaps some have been less responsive or engaged recently or perhaps there have been a few issues with leavers/ joiners – but to smash your goals, people management is a key part of your plan for success, so here are some tips on where you need to focus on.

Check your Objectives are still relevant and recommit 

When we’re six months into a year, it can feel like the writing is already on the wall for the year. In fact, the goals that you set back in January can seem like a distant memory if you haven’t been regularly assessing them. So check-in with them as you would anyone else in your team: what’s your progress is against them so far? Are they still relevant (if not, then change now)? What else can you do to make sure you achieve them?

And don’t forget to share with the team: let them know how you’re doing and what else they can all do to contribute. Being involved and informed is hugely motivating for your team and could be a great time to celebrate success in a few key areas. 

Make sure you’re people are happy 

Happy employees = happy customers (something we’ve written about before here) = happier you! So chat to your team and find out how they’re doing: in their work and in their general lives. You will have a better chance of your team opening up about their challenges at work if they trust you and so spending some time building relationships with them as well as checking on on their progress against their goals will pay dividends.

Make sure you have your HR brilliant-basics sorted

We don’t like to talk about HR in terms of box ticking. It’s deeper than that. When you get it right, it’s about driving your strategic objectives. It’s about nurturing folks. It’s about adding real value to your bottom line. But we’re also realistic, and there are some basics which you should make sure you’ve covered to ensure that you’re compliant with legislation, with your duties as an employer and that they have everything they need to do a great job. This can be anything from making sure all your policies and procedures are up to date in light of legislative changes (as well as relevant to your own culture – don’t over egg them), reviewing your salaries to make sure you are within market rates (remember, salary can be a de-motivator if not paid along the lines of peers and the wider market) or making sure they have the right tools and technology to actually achieve what they needed to do. In one business where I worked, a quick conversation with the team over ‘what do you need’ resulted in a few extra keys being cut for the office so that people could actually access the office before the office manager arrived!  

Start planning for a successful year end

Even if you think you haven’t been as ‘on-it’ as you should have been to date, there is more than enough time to focus everyone on what is needed to achieve what you need to. So when the weather’s warm and summer holidays are the current topic of discussion, talking about Christmas almost seems unnatural. Some forward planning can help to avoid a whole world of problems though. If your business experiences a rush around the fourth quarter, then consider exactly how that will map out and if you need to start thinking about recruiting/training/promoting individuals now. As well, consider your practical people issues. You might experience an influx of leave requests, for example, and you need to be prepared for keeping up and keeping track.

If you’ve taken your eye off the ball and you feel like 2017 is just happening to you, then we can help. We offer an HR audit service, and we can make sure that you’re in a position to make this year a resounding success for your business. Drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk or call us on 0203 627 7048 to arrange your initial no-obligation consultation.

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Collaborative Leadership: How To Build A Team of Self-Leaders

For business owners, the first step in creating your new business is a leap of faith and hopefully a solid vision. This automatically qualifies you as a leader. But things get a bit tricky as your business grows and you start building relationships and partnerships with others.

It can be your own people or it can be suppliers or trusted associates that help at critical times – the point is, you need every person acting like a leader in their own area of specialism. And they also need to be thinking like a teammate at the same time even if the “team” is not strictly delineated. Since the start of this century, the trend towards partnerships has paved the way for a more collaborative style of leadership……

Collaborative Leadership Starts With You!

Being a collaborative leader means juggling the balance between respecting and valuing the differences of a partner or colleague, whilst smoothing out some of those differences in the interests of making the relationship work.

The leadership principles listed below will help you achieve this balance consistently. Modelling self-leadership is the most powerful way to embed a technique and it is further reinforced when you mentor or coach others.

The Habits Of Self-Leadership:

  • Practice, don’t preach.
  • Observe and listen.
  • Stay connected to your intention for change.
  • Stay with the conflict – don’t avoid it. Resolve it…help creative options open up.
  • Follow your heart-do what you love, love what you do.
  • Keep connected to THE big picture. Talking spiritual may be a step too far for some but the idea is – it’s a big universe of possibilities and serendipity has worked its magic already – make sure you keep connected.
  • Nurture your own space of reflection that supports your life journey.
  • Iterate. Iterate. Iterate. Your focus will improve as possibilities emerge.
  • Use different languages with different stakeholders.
  • If you want to change others stakeholders, you need to be open to changing yourself first.
  • And never give up!

Practical Tips for Collaborative Leaders

  • Develop in collaboration, a common agreement about the objectives and how the relationship will operate.
  • Facilitate enthusiasm – and if necessary, make this a focus to get things started.
  • When things go wrong it’s important that you have created open relationship communications to discuss and resolve difficult issues.
  • Charismatic leadership is not the only way – collaboration is more about helping all voices be heard and agreements reached before acting.
  • Yes, it takes longer but creates stronger bonds to complete the goal successfully.
  • Finally, collaboration is about sharing control. Think about the consequences of too much control and aim to lead with a light touch.

For more tips on achieving leadership across your teams, theHRhub team are ready to help. We are the ultimate online HR support service for Startups and SMEs – providing software, templates, expert advice, whitepapers and up to date news and views, straight to your mobile or tablet. Like having an HR director in your pocket but without the price tag! Find out more about us here.

 

Losing The Dressing Room… What To Do When The Team Turn Against You

After a truly horrific couple of weeks, the Sunday Times reported last weekend that Tory MPs have given Theresa May 10 days to ‘shape up – or ship out’. Hardly an enviable position to be in. But she’s not the first and won’t be the last leader to lose the support and goodwill of her team.

But what are your options if this happens to you? Do you even have any…?

Don’t Pretend It’s Not Happening

The ‘head in the sand’ reaction – while understandably tempting – is rarely an effective long term answer. Ignoring a problem won’t make it go away, in fact it usually makes things much worse. So put your big boy or girl pants on and set out to…

Identify And Address The Root Cause

The first rule of problem solving is ‘define the problem’ – so approach this in the same way. Write down in clear terms exactly what the issue in the team is, what it looks like, and how it is making you feel. Sometimes just doing this can help neutralise some of the anxiety many leaders in this situation feel as it will help you fully understand what you are dealing with. Then once you have done this you can set about trying to work out the root cause.  Which might not be easy: so to help you begin, you could…

Find Someone To Talk To

Crystallising the issue for yourself will make it easier for you to articulate what’s going on to someone else. Find someone you trust with whom to talk this all through. An independent third party perspective is likely to be helpful, both in terms of identifying possible root causes, and mapping out what steps you might take to resolve the issue with your team. It’s a particularly good idea to approach someone who you know will be honest with you, as exploring team issues like these are sometimes uncomfortable for leaders. In other words, you’re likely to need to…  

Look In The Mirror

Is there anything in your leadership style that might have created or contributed towards negativity in the team? Be honest – you won’t get anywhere if you’re not prepared to admit the truth to yourself. For example, how far do you consider the impact of your actions and decisions on your people? How would you rate your ability to communicate, delegate and listen to them? Have you ever asked them for their honest feedback on you as a leader?  If you suspect that the root cause might have something to do with you – then you need to be prepared to accept this. And not only that – but act on it. An open conversation your team – either altogether, or in the form of one-to-ones – with a bit of humility and a genuine desire to listen and improve could pay enormous dividends. The real test of course will be in identifying what personal changes to make, and how you can sustain these. It takes courage and hard work, but I have seen leaders brave enough to admit they got things wrong in the past turn seemingly dire team situations around with aplomb.  

Of course, it might be that the problem isn’t you at all – in which case you may need to…

Identify And Address ‘Problem Individuals’

Quite often the root cause of what seems to be a whole team issue can be traced to one or two people with a negative attitude infecting the rest of the team.

If this is the case, then swift and decisive action is essential. You have to deal with trouble making or insubordination straight away, regardless of how busy you are or how much you dislike conflict.  Treat it as you would any other performance issue. Hold a one-to-one meeting with any individuals concerned. Share with them the specific examples of the behaviour you view as unacceptable (such as repeatedly criticising your decisions) and spell out what the impact of their behaviour has been (such as on the attitude or performance of the rest of the team). Explain that such behaviour is not acceptable, because it not only affects their ability to work as part of the team, but undermines the performance of the team as a whole. Make clear what acceptable behaviour looks like, and agree some targets around this if necessary, together with a date to review. Explain in specific terms what the consequences will be if their behaviour doesn’t change. Emphasise that while you are open to debate, hearing other suggestions, and accept that not everyone will always agree with you, there is a line to be drawn and you will not tolerate behaviour that’s obstructive, inappropriate or unprofessional.

But Remember To Treat Everyone With Respect

To increase your chances of a successful outcome in these situations it’s important to adopt a self-assured and adult demeanour. You might think their behaviour has been childish but don’t start telling them off and don’t get angry. Or maybe you find them a little intimidating, or you dislike openly tackling difficult people situations like this – in which case, you’ll need to quickly brush up on your assertiveness skills. Either way, you must treat them with respect: they might not have been fully aware of how they’ve been coming across, the damage they’ve done or the possible ramifications for themselves. It’s not always easy but if you can show them a bit of the respect you are asking them to show you, and are prepared to listen to their side of the story (though you may not agree with it, of course) then you will know you’ve handled the issue in a fair manner, with professionalism and skill. In these situations, I have seen some team members accept corrective feedback and improve their attitude to the benefit of all. I have also seen some people who are unprepared to make the required changes within the agreed time frame, shown the door. Sometimes this is unavoidable and necessary, so be prepared to follow through.

As for Mrs May, it will be interesting to watch what changes she makes to her leadership style over the coming days – if any. Leadership takes courage. And the true test of a great leader is when crisis hits….

theHRhub is the ultimate online support system for startups and SMEs. We offer expert HR advice, a lively members forum and all the tools as templates you need to manage your team effectively. Find out more here

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