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Virtual Reality: How Do You Manage Remote Employees?

Virtual Reality: How Do You Manage Remote Employees?

A recent survey by Timewise found that 63 per cent of permanent, full-time staff enjoy some degree of flexible working – including working from home & flexible hours. Indeed in our own client base, of mostly technology and business services based businesses, we estimate that this figure is closer to 95%, showing that those doing 9-5 in the office, really are fast-becoming the minority. Added into mix the other shifts in the workforce of today which include the rise of the gig economy and the increasing use of freelancers, SME leaders who have such flexible and diverse workforces are now being presented with even more interesting challenges when it comes to management. 

Because although the cost benefits of working with remote teams can be a no-brainer, managing employees across different locations (and sometimes time zones) is an entirely new skill in itself. If not done effectively, these virtual teams can become a real headache, lead to unsatisfied, disconnected employees and in some cases even negatively affect your customers. 

First off, you’ll need to take the time to work out how you want to manage the teams first: some may prefer to micro manage and use technology as their control (one company I know makes a point of sharing with any new employees the fact that they collect data on their key strokes whilst working away from the office….) however our experience has shown that this leads to a quickly deteriorating relationship between you and them. Or alternatively empower all with a simple results-only approach, something which can leave the employee feeling autonomous ( although please note that this shouldn’t be confused with a total absence of contact with your employees from one week to the next & does require clarity over the results actually needed and the support to get there…).

You should also help your managers develop these skills, it can be pretty daunting to be given the task to build up rapport with teams you may never meet face to face, so put some measures in place to encourage relationships to be built and avoid the team becoming too reliant on purely communicating electronically.  Phone calls and Skype can be great at over riding the initial awkwardness and getting people to connect in a more ‘normal’ manner.

Yikes! If you feel like this could be a problem waiting to happen for your growing business, get on the case now, read on for our top 10 tips to managing remote employees:

  1. Hire The Right Skills

You need ‘doers’: people you can trust to just get on with the job, without you holding their hand all the time. So we would always recommend assessing their result-orientation as part of the assessment process.  Great communication skills are also a must here, as you need people who recognise the importance of constantly keeping their colleagues in the loop and building relationships from afar. 

  1. Hire The Right Managers (& support them)

If you decide to delegate the day to day management of your virtual team members then of course you need to ensure you’ve got the right managers in place. They need to be comfortable with a more results-based style of performance management and giving their direct reports the space to approach tasks in their own way (without dictating to them how to do it). They will however be required to offer a lot of support and encouragement to their virtual team (often more than those who are sitting next to them and interact with them on a more regular basis), so a positive outlook and approachable demeanour are hugely important. A flexible mindset is also key: managing effectively across different locations and time zones is always not a 9-5 job …

  1. Onboard Carefully

On-boarding is even more important with remote workers than office-based ones, as it can be even harder (and take longer) to make them feel like part of the team. Bear in mind that sometimes they won’t meet their team for months after they’ve joined, this part needs to be as friendly and welcoming as possible & what goes on in real life (introduction, shaking hands, high fives if you’re than way inclined…. etc) can be translated into Slack and Skype just as easily with a bit of effort. In addition to a lot of 1:1 support, being clear over objectives & encouraging the team to interact, make sure you have a raft of suitable introductory videos for them to digest for the bits of ‘downtime’. And these shouldn’t just be on training, but also on the vision and culture of the business as well. To a certain extent the onus is on you to- after a full briefing – take a step back and leave them to it.

  1. Have Clearly Defined Ways Of Working

Well thought-out processes provide structure and direction for getting things done – wherever you are and whatever time it is. Project management and other software can be especially helpful here, but just as important are what norms are expected: when, with whom and how often you are expected to share information and for what purpose. There are an equal amount of businesses where 1-2-1 email is still very much encouraged as there are those who copy everyone and anyone into every email, so be clear on what type of working processes there are in yours to reduce the stress of the team and encourage efficiency in this regard. 

  1. Make Document Sharing A Priority

One of the most important virtual team disciplines is how the team shares and edits information. Dropbox, Googedrive, OneDrive as well as a whole host of other document sharing systems are a godsend here, however in addition to being clear over what is used for which information, be sure to share any security protocols with the team when you use these too (I still haven’t forgotten the moment when one unfortunate new member of a team I was working with deleted three month’s work overnight…).

  1. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

You won’t be bumping into each other in the corridor, so the emphasis with virtual teams is on the leader in particular to make an effort to stay in touch and keep channels of communication open. Constantly ensure your virtual team members know what they are supposed to be doing and how this fits into the bigger picture of the business as a whole. Reiterate your business objectives and vision throughout the year and remember that your culture and values are being reiterated with every interaction you have with them. Which is the right  method of communication is important too: Instant messaging is great for quick team interactions & keeping people in the loop, video chat is great for team meetings to ensure non-verbal cues are communicated also however if members of your team work in different time zones, make sure that you have an overlapping period where everyone is working and organise your virtual meetings during these times. Got anything sensitive? Give the general Slack/Convo channel a wide berth and book in that 1-2-1 phone call……

  1. Create A Team Culture

If people know what’s going on and what they’re all working towards, then you’re one step closer to this, however you’ll need to make a bit of an extra effort initially to make sure this really sticks. Some I know encourage leaderboards on their software in all sorts of areas (from steps to sales made) to try and encourage a bit of healthy competition and camaraderie. Another set out to lead by example by assigning a member of staff an extra role to make sure all events are loaded up and shared with everyone (until it became the norm for everyone to do the same). And always mark birthdays and other special occasions with some sort of a card / gift (of even gif??), remembering the typical whip round no longer applies, but that most love a nod on their special day still!

  1. Promote Individual Accountability

Whilst how virtual employees complete their tasks should be largely down to them, they must still be accountable for their contribution – and have it recognised. A message board where everyone posts what they’ve done that week is a good idea as are monthly one to ones, as is using online performance management software to help transparency, such as 7geese .

  1. Provide A Means For People To Give Feedback Easily

Understandably, it may take some virtual team members longer to feel comfortable enough to give constructive feedback. Set up a feedback portal to ensure that any issues or frustrations are addressed and that no fresh ideas are missed: there is tonnes of software out there to help this on a more structured way (CultureAmp and Peakon are just two which spring to mind right now), but as with the general communication, lead by example and share your own feedback first in an open way which encourages others to do the same.

  1. Get Everyone Together Once In A While

Working on one’s own suits many people down to the ground. But to develop and reinforce an even better team dynamic, individuals should see each other face to face and get to know each other. In Real Life. Team away days needn’t cost the earth and are often the number one way to help improve team efficiency.

TheHRhub is the ultimate HR support service for startups and SMEs. For advice and help on any HR issue contact us today on 0203 627 7048 or drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk

Image : Twenty20

HR Horrors: What to do when your employees get shouty on social

There are definitely nights we all come home from work wanting to have a bit of a rant about the latest office politics. And for the vast majority of people, they recognise that this kind of chat is best reserved for their partner or BFF’s to discuss face to face rather than taking to the masses via Facebook or Twitter (not least because if you’ve ever done this and paid attention to those around you, you might have just noticed some eyes glazing over….).But if you’re connected with any of your team through social media as many of you might be (read more on our article ‘Is it ever a good idea to be Facebook Friends with your Employees‘ for our take on this…), you might occasionally have a sharp intake of breathe when you spot a post which is less-than-complimentary about your own workplace/ management style or one of your other colleagues. 

The obvious thing to say to avoid something like this happening, is to make it clear to everyone joining the business that it’s not acceptable (in any instance) to slag off the company and specify that action will be taken should they do so.  

But what if you’re too late?

These circumstances present a unique set of challenges. And if you find yourself in this situation, it’s really important that you know exactly what to do to address the problems and get things back on the right track.

Speed is everything and you should take the conversation offline

Take screenshots of the post you’ve recognised and request that the offending post be removed. Follow it up by scheduling a face to face chat as soon as you can, if this is not possible jump on a call however.   

Don’t jump to any assumptions before you’ve got all the information, listen to what they have to say and take action on the situation. Consider the nature of the comments made and their likely impact on your organisation. It would help if you can give examples of what might be classed as ‘defamation’ and the gravitas that their words could have on your business, staff, customers and clients, before going on to discuss the penalties that may need to be considered. You should also be clear in outlining what is regarded as confidential in the organisation, referring back to any initial employment contracts that may have detailed this.

Make sure you don’t just go through the motions, listen to what they have to say then act with integrity, do not let emotions overcome common sense, keep everything in perspective and do it all in a timely manner.  If the remarks have caused offence to other employees within your organisation treat them with respect and take the appropriate action to record their views, any disciplinary measures will need to take this into account and be documented.

Nobody wants to have difficult conversations, as a leader though, it’s your duty.

Send out a reminder to others

You want to get a grip on the situation quickly, treat it with severity but equally keep your cool and don’t blow things out of proportion. Just by being proactive and nipping it in the bud can help you get things back on the right track without any hassle or fuss – sometimes examples need to be made but no one wants to lose a good employee if it can be avoided. A simple guideline should be enough to avoid further scenarios cropping up.  For example, a company wide note to say, any issues regarding the below should be addressed to HR and not discussed on social media;

  • The employee’s own wages and benefits
  • Complaints or criticisms about management
  • Labor disputes
  • Working conditions
  • Safety concerns
  • Certain situations of harassment in the workplace
  • Sensitive political or racial views

Social networking can be an excuse for avoiding face-to-face conversations. Often a quiet word by a line manager can avoid issues that lead to disciplinary and grievance problems. Emails, texts and messaging systems can leave line managers reliant on communicating electronically lead by example, enjoy more face to face conversations or calls, where the correct tone of voice can be heard and miscommunication can be instantly corrected.

If you have concerns about how equipped you are to manage HR policies and procedures, then we can help. We’ll pinpoint any potential issues that are at play in your workplace, and give you practical advice around what you need to do next.  theHRhub is 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. It’s 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.

Image : Twenty20

 

HR helpdesk – Policies every SME should know

Everyone realises that you are meant to have some kind of ‘HR’ function, but when you are busy growing an sme, all the focus is on just that, so stepping back to write policies and procedures tends to get pushed to the bottom of the list.

Then you have a little freak out moment and realise your HR framework could make or break you. The information age gives everyone knowledge at their fingertips and if you haven’t thought about it, you can be sure your employees will be quick to point out their rights if anything goes awry.  In the early days this could be even more crucial as any hiccup in those early hiring stages could be enough to cause a financial hit you simply can’t take.

Luckily for you, we’re here to tell you which ones you need and which ones are considered best practice.

Writing policies and procedures can be a minefield in this day and age so where do you start? 

Legal requirements

Surprisingly there are only 3 policies you should provide that are required by law. They are:

  • Disciplinary and Dismissal Policy
  • Grievance Policy
  • Health and Safety Policy (needed by law if you employ over 5 employees)

Best practice

There are also a number of policies that you should provide because they have legal minimum requirements – these are…..

Pay Legally you must pay your employees at least the National Minimum wage and ensure Equal Pay; you must also provide an itemised pay statement and not make any unauthorised deductions from employees pay
Equal Opportunities Legally you must not discriminate against staff or allow harassment and bullying and you must make reasonable adjustments for staff in the work-place if they are disabled
Working Hours and Overtime including rest-breaks and holidays Legally you must comply with Working Time Regulations provisions for employees and workers
Sickness policy and unauthorised/authorised absence  Legally you must make statutory sick pay payments to employees and allow them time off for dependant emergencies, Jury Service etc.
Maternity, Adoption, Paternity Leave, Parental Leave and Shared Parental leave You must make statutory maternity / adoption / paternity payments to employees and give the appropriate leave
Flexible Working You must consider all employees flexible working requests

Finally you may wish to consider additional policies to ensure consistency within your business, for example:

  • personal e-mail / internet usage
  • alcohol/drugs in the workplace
  • dress codes
  • data protection
  • Expenses
  • Smoking rules

There are no legal guidelines for these policies and they can be designed around the needs of your business (for example, no smoking, including E-cigarettes, other than during lunch hour).  

You should only put policies in pace that are going to be used.  Having a policy for the sake of it is pointless!  Focus, keep it simple and write policies which are meaningful to your business, then stand by them.

theHRhub is 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. It’s 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.

Image : Pixabay

We don’t all jump for money – other ways to motivate sales teams

Having a motivated sales team is crucial to the success of any business. The relationships they build, create the foundation of your business, selling your brand or product to clients and customers.  This is not just in terms of individual sales, but also your overall reputation and growth.

Of course money works as a motivator, financial incentives are hugely attractive, but sometimes employees need more than that to make them feel impactful, appreciated and part of the team. So the huge question is, just how can you motivate your sales team beyond the money?

A traditional sales structure would set targets and offer commission paid in line with reaching these. Others add in a “fun” route with contests, trips, tickets, dinners and other innovative rewards.  All of these things are great and have their place but in my experience sales professionals need more than gift cards or event tickets; they also want to succeed in their chosen profession by climbing up the ladder whilst having a fun and dynamic environment to work in.

Even by switching things around a little you can create a feeling of success, for example, additional incentives could be offered for winning new business rather than simply taking repeat orders.

This one sounds a little bonkers but how about rewarding people for not getting sales? Dan McGraw, founder and CEO of Fuelzee, said that one of the best ways his company learned about motivation was by rewarding the sales team for ‘no’s. “Every time someone got a ‘no’, we tracked it in our system, and the person with the most ‘no’s received a $100 gift card every week”, McGraw said.  ”This might sound crazy, but you get a lot of no’s when doing sales. The more no’s you get, the closer you are to getting a yes. The prize of getting a yes is way larger than $100, so you still wanted to get there. This nearly doubled our outbound calls and motivated the whole team.”

Have some fun/create a fun working environment. For some salespeople, the ability to have a little fun during work time is as much of a motivator as money (remember that your salespeople are working long hours and are in the office for a large proportion of their week). Common rewards for reaching sales goals include leaving work early, winning a team trip, a Big Boss lunch, or simply being given one hangover pass to be used at any time.  

How about getting your favourite song played when you finalise a deal, create a team dance move to rock out when you hit a target, circulate sales team quotes and gifs to increase office banter.  Fun in small spurts adds to the culture of your company and can be just as motivating and rewarding as the financial rewards you offer.  You should strive to create a fun sales environment where everyone wants to come into work every day.

Career progression is one of the most simple cost effective ways to motivate your sales team too. Although the fun and financial rewards work short term, sales employees, ultimately want to do well but also have the opportunity to get ahead in their careers. Intrinsic motivators such as development and personal growth play a huge part with a competitive sales team so don’t underestimate the power of offering training, and development opportunities, showing that you are supportive of allowing them to develop their skills to help move them to the next level or win that promotion

The simple things can also have an impact on your sales team’s motivation. The majority of employers (and not just those in the sales industry) now offer table football, ping pong tables and similar activities to be able to switch off, take a break and socialise. And although you might not think that a Ping-Pong table for the office would push people and drive behaviors, why not try it, from experience these types of incentives can make a real difference to team spirit.

When it comes to understanding how to motivate your sales team there is no simpler approach than asking them. You can do this via a survey, face-to- face or through team meetings but make sure that they understand that by giving their suggestions does not mean that you will put the reward in place. Gather ideas and suggestions and consider what works best for your business, employees and your culture.

These are some of the ideas you can use to motivate your sales team without just focusing on money. Try to keep things fresh in your business and consider what your employees want to see and use this as a basis to generate new innovative ideas.  By offering a variety of rewards, you stand a greater chance of having a motivator for every personality type on your team and developing all of your salespeople into top-tier team players. When your goals and their goals align, only the best things can happen.

For further information or advice and support on motivating your sales team join us at www.thehrhub.co.uk.

Image : Jared Sluyter

When the office goes viral: handling the coughs, colds and sneezes season

According to recent research from Aviva, 70% of workers admitted they have gone into work whilst feeling ill. Though some might say that their dedication to the job is admirable it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out why having sick people at work might cause issues.

Who knew a sneeze could carry as many as 100,000 germs and apparently be fired up to twenty five feet!? Yikes!  Germs are spread so quickly, so it is a easy to see how before you know it, you could have a situation on your hands that is starting to look distinctly like an epidemic. One colleague ‘sharing’ their germs can mean a whole host of ‘lucky’ recipients all fall down the week after.

Why do we do it?

In Britain we like to adopt a stiff upper lip, and just get on with things, battle on through and enjoy the satisfaction of not letting a little cold beat us. But sometimes it’s less to do with our national culture and more to do with people feeling guilty or fearful of being absent for any period of time.

Of course though, either way there are certain things that you can do as an employer to make sure that office illness doesn’t knock your business off course…..

6 Great Ways To Combat Presenteeism In Your Business

  1. Ensure that you have a sickness and absence policy that’s fit for purpose: It should focus on supporting your staff as well as achieving your goals and objectives. A policy can rarely cover every instance of sickness or absence, however you can use it to set expectations on what you want team members to do in certain situations e.g do you let people work from home when they’re a bit ‘coldy’ but otherwise happy and strong enough to function (but when they are still likely to spread germs)? Or do you have a firm ‘go-home-log-off- and-get-better’ stance?
  2. Lead From The Front: When you or a member of the senior team are ill, make sure the policy guidelines are followed correctly – it’s the best way for behaviours to become part of the cultural norm.
  3. Address workload issues: More than 40% of employees who took part in the study said that they were too afraid their workload would pile up if they were to stay off sick. It may be time for you to take a look at your wider practices, and assess where problems might exist that need to be addressed. For example, is the distribution of the workload amongst the team fair and correct? Is there a system for sickness cover within teams for tasks to be distributed out when someone is off with illness? Is there any low value, frustrating work that can be farmed out elsewhere? And crucially, is the total work required for a project by an individual or team realistic in the time given or is it contributing to their wellbeing in the first place? All this of course can only be brought to light if employees feel able to let you know when things are getting too much…
  4. Consider Mental As Well As Physical Sickness: A new PwC study claims 34% of the UK workforce may have a health and wellbeing issue, with the most common being anxiety, depression and stress. It’s clear that there’s still a lot of work to be done in terms of supporting staff with mental health issues, and tackling the stigma that often exists around non-physical health and wellbeing.  When creating your sickness and absence policies, it’s vital that you consider how you’ll be playing your part in creating positive change.
  5. Encourage Decontamination: It may sound a bit extreme but a simple action like offering hand sanitiser to your staff, or encouraging a dose of desk disinfectant, can go a long way to preventing bugs spreading. Especially in offices where you hotdesk or share a workspace.

If you have issues in your workplace surrounding presenteeism or sickness absence, then it may be time to call in the professionals. We can assess the effectiveness of your existing policies and procedures, ensure that you’re compliant with relevant legislation, and help you to move forward towards exemplary leadership.

Get in touch via hello@thehrhub.co.uk or call 0203 627 7048 to chat about how we can help you on the road to employee magic!

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