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5 Easy Ways To Improve Employee Strength & Wellbeing In 2017

At this time of year, many of us are keen to get back on the right track after plenty of indulgence over the Christmas period. The selection boxes are empty, plenty of fruit and vegetables are back on the shopping list and ‘Dryathlons’ have sprung up everywhere.

It’s fair to say that you’ve probably already considered your own health and fitness, but have you thought about your employees? If you want your team to be firing on all cylinders, then it makes sense to consider how you’re enabling them to live a healthier and more balanced life. When it comes down to it, encouraging your staff to take care of themselves can have many business benefits. If you want a productive and present workforce, there are several things that you can do.

Here, we explore your options:

1. Rethink Workplace Traditions

Everyone deserves a little bit of cake on their birthday. Annual treats are unlikely to do anyone any harm. But when your workplace traditions include fried breakfasts on Monday mornings, pizza during Wednesday meetings, and beers on Friday evenings, the impact can quickly mount up.

Rather than taking away existing provisions, think about how you could put a more positive spin on them. Could you encourage staff to bring in their own healthy bakes? Could you reward completed projects with fresh fruit platters? Could you liaise with local juice providers to supply energy-boosting pick-me-ups during busier periods? Creating new traditions could be just what your employees need.

2. Get People Moving

It could be argued that sitting behind a desk all day is a pretty unnatural state for a human being. Of course though, operational constraints often mean that to a certain extent, you’re stuck with more sedentary ways of working. Small changes can make a huge difference, so don’t overlook them.

Encourage staff to walk to their colleagues’ workstations instead of sending emails. Rather than conducting sit-down reviews, go for a stroll outside. Too often, it’s easy to fall into the trap of getting stuck with existing routines, when alternatives are simple, low cost, and highly effective. When’s the last time you considered doing things a little differently?

3. Create A Friendly Sense Of Competition

People often love a challenge at this time of the year. You can use this to your advantage and encourage good behaviours whilst also encouraging individuals to collaborate towards a goal. You could divide your workforce into teams, and set a milestone, with a reward for whichever group gets there first. It could be miles walked, pounds lost, or something entirely different. Think about the common goals of your staff, and how you can incorporate that.

It should go without saying, but you do need to exercise a degree of common sense here, and do all you can to ensure that you aren’t discriminating against any of your staff. Think about how disabled people may be able to get involved, and don’t make participation obligatory.

4. Protect Them From Stress & Burnout

An overloaded workforce can soon buckle under pressure if steps aren’t taken in advance. Whilst you might not be able to do anything about their workload, you can try to alter how they feel about it.

Encourage the team to take small breaks throughout the day to refresh their minds and keep them energised. You might need to actually diarise these to start with. And make sure it’s not encouraged for employees to work past 6pm – everyone needs a proper evening to relax and unwind in order to be on form the next day. When trying to introduce new cultural norms remember it has to start with the team at the top – so you must be seen to be walking the walk too.

5. Consider Safeguarding Their Financial Wellbeing 

Money worries can significantly add to employees’ overall stress levels. And working hard day in day out with your personal finances in a mess can be hugely stressful as well as demoralising. So there’s an argument to say that their is a legitimate role for employers to safeguard the financial wellbeing of their teams too.

As well as ensuring employees’ pay goes up along with inflation every year, you could also offer them a session with a financial advisor (in confidence) to make sure everything is in good order. So that when they are at work, they feel more motivated as they are genuinely working towards a stronger financial footing for themselves and any dependents.

At first thought, you may think that the health and wellbeing of your employees isn’t really your responsibility. This isn’t the case though. With workers spending more and more time in the office, many would consider it a moral responsibility for businesses to ensure that some kind of balance is achieved. And the business benefits can be plentiful when you get it right….

For advice on support on employee wellbeing or any other HR issue, contact theHRhub now for a no strings chat. Call 0203 627 7048 or drop us an email at hello@thehrhub.co.uk.

Showing The Love: The Best Employee Retention Strategy There Is

January is the busiest month of the year for recruiters. Unfortunately, its not just employers they’ve got on their books. There’s something about the new year and spending time with family and friends over the festive period that can give employees itchy feet and a longing for pastures new…

You might be doing a mental tally right now of the likely suspects to jump ship in your team. Perhaps your quite relaxed as they seem a pretty replaceable bunch. But what if one of your best employees hands in their cards out of the blue? Someone you really can’t afford to lose? What then?

One of the best ways to try and prevent this from happening is to simply demonstrate and articulate to them how much they are valued by the business.

Here are our top ways to show your employees how much you care:

  • Say thank you when someone does a great job: every time this tops the list. Every. Time.
  • Listen to them: most people naturally have a slight initial aversion to receiving ‘constructive feedback’, however those close to you and – crucially – to your customers may well have suggestions on how do things better which you will never get to hear if you don’t give people the chance.
  • Spend time with them: you don’t need to workshop or provide counselling every time you sit down with them, but make sure you give your team regular time to catch up with and the opportunity to talk to you
  • Let them know what’s going on: if people ‘know’, they feel involved. If people feel involved, they are feeling the magic.
  • Give people autonomy in their role: less micro-managing makes people feel less stressed.Instead, give them clear direction and then support and autonomy to get on with what you’ve asked for.
  • Note the little things: remember their kids/ partners/ dogs names and ask after them. If you think it’s not important, think about the last time someone you knew remembered something you had told them earlier about your plans/ family etc. I  used to think that the talent I have for remembering these type of things was almost totally useless ( I’d like to add at this point that this is countered by being able to have a total lapse in memory for things like major deadlines!). But how wrong I’ve been proved.

As in ‘real’ life however, actions mean more than words, so go the extra mile by:

  • Taking action on the suggestions your team has provided to show you’ve heard them: if you can’t address their concerns or suggestions, the action is to let them know why.
  • Having policies that aren’t punitive but supportive: I know that paid sick or compassionate leave can seem like pouring money down the drain, but imagine how you would feel about a boss you had who deducted money from your pay packet when you’re unable to get out of bed? I exaggerate to prove a point.
  • Having an employee recognition scheme whereby people can ‘thank’ others in the team – either at your team meetings or by an on-line recognition tool
  • Give them spot rewards based on interests they have
  • Giving them opportunities to develop and showcase their talents: it’s human nature to want to grow, so show them support and you will be rewarded tenfold

Showing you care doesn’t make you seem like a soft touch. It makes you a savvy leader.

For more tips on achieving  leadership savviness, theHRhub team are ready to help. So sign up to receive the ultimate online HR support for Startups and SMEs here.

Photo Credit: Flickr – High Five!

Expensive HR Mistakes That Many Small Business Owners Are Making

Would you call yourself a ‘reluctant leader’? It’s a title that many small business owners, if they’re being completely honest, might identify with.

You started your company because you had an exciting product or service to share, and you believed in the impact that it could have on the world. As you grow though, there are a ton of extra responsibilities that end up on your agenda.

One of these is building and managing a team of productive and motivated individuals who can help you to reach those big goals. And it’s a whole lot easier said than done!

There are some all-too-common mistakes that tons of small business owners are making, and they often don’t even realise. Let’s take a look at what they are, and what you should do about them…

Acting with the best intentions, but without understanding the law

You value your staff. You want to do your best by them. And you have absolutely no intention of doing anything that could potentially harm your business or bring it into disrepute. The reality here though is that simply trying to do what feels right and fair often just doesn’t cut it.

Employment law can be complex, and it’s your responsibility to make sure that you’re compliant. Do you understand, for example, the legislation around acceptable working hours? Or how you should support disabled members of staff? Or what to do if a worker is expecting a baby? If not, then you need to either improve your knowledge, or take advice from an expert.  

Developing policies and procedures as the need arises

Perhaps you’ve never really considered how you would handle the situation if a member of staff started to underperform, or if their behaviour became unacceptable. Surely, you can address issues like this as and when they arise? Well, this approach certainly isn’t ideal, and it can result in all kinds of problems.

If you don’t have robust policies and procedures in place, then consider this your wake-up call. Not only will making changes reduce your risk of running into difficulties, but it can also help you to drive your business forward.

Believing that investing in help is just for the big fish

When many business owners think about working with an HR consultant, they imagine that it might be something that they’ll do years in the future, once they’ve built a huge team. In actual fact though, we have provided affordable solutions to businesses with just a few employees, and really helped them to nip problems in the bud, and create a clear growth plan for the future.

Seeking out help earlier can ensure that any niggling issues don’t become deeply engrained in your workplace culture, and can give you a massive amount of peace of mind in your role as an employer.

If you’re reading this guide and you know that you’re guilty of making these mistakes, then get in touch. We can arrange to have a no-obligation consultation, and make a plan for getting you firmly on the right track!

Get in touch via hello@thehrhub.co.uk or call 0203 627 7048 to chat about your HR needs.

TheHRhub: on demand and online HR support for startups and SMEs

Image: Canva

“Alexa, how do I motivate my team this January?”

If you’re anything like my family this Christmas, then the newest member of your household will not have been a dog, cat or hamster, but something altogether less high maintenance: Alexa.

Essentially a voice service, accessed through the Amazon Echo (which sold into the millions this Christmas in the UK alone), Alexa allows you to receive an answer to any question you might pose to her by scanning the internet (think Siri here) as well as connecting to a list of services – known as ‘skills’ – which can be found through other apps you may be connected to on your phone or device. The list at the moment ranges from the non-essential but fun (“Alexa, order me a margarita from Dominos”) through to those more promoting efficiency which can link to your home electricity, lighting and heating.

While I could spot that this might be useful if you have your hands full when in the middle of whipping up a meal – “Alexa, how much double cream does this torte need?” (Jamie Oliver being an early adopter of Alexa ‘skills’) or “Alexa, play me Florence and the Machine?” (she retrieves from Spotify or ANother music streaming app services) – I poo-pooed this ‘house-present’ initially and considered it almost a total waste of money. After all, which able-bodied person hasn’t got enough time in their day to switch on a light or put on their favourite album??

A few days into her arrival at our house however, I became a bit of a convert. And not because she seemed to charm old and young guests alike. Or because I realised that I could actually be that totally lazy person referred to above if the need took me…. But because I could see how useful a tool like this could be when it came to my business as well as my personal life.

When I seek specialist advice advice, I do so because it’s just that: tailored for me and for my business. And as such I’m therefore unlikely to replace my accountant or solicitor with a computer for the foreseeable future (the caveat being the speedy progress currently being made in the Artificial Intelligence arena which may cause me to revise this statement in a couple of years!). However the idea of being able to ask a computerised ‘advisor’ to retrieve information for me or answer a question on a specific topic which I’m unfamiliar with, but which doesn’t need to be specific to me, is hugely appealing. Mainly because I can do it in real-time, without trawling the internet and without picking up the phone or needing to interact with others. 

The answer to the title of this post, for example, isn’t one which Alexa can answer right now (I tried 🙂 ) but which can be answered by a previous blog I wrote last year: ‘The WorkForce Awakens: Picking Your Team Up After The Christmas Break‘. It’s information which is applicable to many and useful to some. And therefore is exactly the kind which should be able to be delivered as a ‘skill’, from a verbal request you make. Particularly useful to those who are pondering and planning this January period, out loud.

Not the question on your mind? The more factual the better: “Alexa, how much can I claim for use of my home on expenses?” or “What is the minimum notice period I need to give an employee?”. While obviously I can answer the latter myself, the former is one which I end up Googling or asking my accountant every time I come to do my accounts. It’s not difficult to find out  (if you know where to look) but somehow is the kind of information which never seems to stick in my head, which is useful to me at the point in which I need it but which is not significant enough to me to spend any length of time searching for. 

I still find Alexa annoying from time to time – like most family members of mine I find she interrupts my sentences on quite a regular basis & doesn’t always listen to what I am saying – and essentially like many gizmos, is a tool for the ultimately lazy. However I’m with Amazon in spotting her potential for helping people  and look forward to having ‘Alexa’ as a new team member in the future.

Until that time however: “Alexa, what animal am I?”

TheHRhub: on demand and online HR support for startups and SMEs

Find out more about us at www.thehrhub.co.uk or give us a ring on 0203 627 7048 for a no strings chat about your HR needs.

Image: Amazon

How To Give A Gift Without Tax

As we enter the final few weeks of 2016, a well-placed reward or gift could be just what the team needs to help them cross the finish line with aplomb. But it’s that straightforward. Rewarding your staff without them being taxed is a very tricky thing to do. Hard cash and vouchers are pretty much out. But whilst HMRC aren’t particularly generous here, there are a few exceptions where the taxman can’t help himself to some of the value of the gift:

1. Celebratory Presents

Whilst employees will incur tax on all benefits on top of their salary and bonus, modest ‘celebratory gifts’ to mark a special occasion such as a birthday or new baby should be fine. Also included here would be a modest Christmas present.

2. Suggestion Scheme

Employers can pay staff £25 tax free for responses to an ‘organised’ suggestion scheme which formally asks employees for ideas on how to improve the way their business is run. But it get’s better. If a suggestion yields financial rewards for the business, the firm can pay the owner of the original idea 50% of that financial yield accrued in the first year (or 10% of the yield accrued in the first 5 years) up to a maximum of £5k, without tax.

3. Encouragement Awards

Merit based rewards to motivate high achieving staff are included in the concessions. A cash payment is allowed but only up to £25, but it’s better than nothing!

4. Recreational Reward

Businesses can lay on parties/functions for their workers up to the value of £150 per person without incurring any tax liability.  So it’s always worth ring-fencing the money for the annual Christmas do if you can….

5. Loans

Ok so you can’t give them money tax free, but you can lend them it. Companies can lend employees up to £10,000 without any tax implications. Ideal to help pay for season tickets for example.

But Sometimes The Best Rewards Are Free….

A ‘reward’ doesn’t have to be tangible and/or cause you to put your hand in your pocket: Praise your team wherever possible – it’s proven to be motivating. As well as making staff feel more appreciated, it improves their confidence and self esteem too. Remember to say ‘Thank You’ – the most important two words in the workplace. Better still, write handwritten thank you cards to staff, each with a personalised message expressing gratitude for their support on a particular project or issue over the past year. Such a simple gesture, but one that will go a long way to making them feel really valued.

For many hard-working employees, having time spent focused purely on them, discussing their performance, hopes and future in your business and ensuring their voice is heard would be the ultimate way to motivate and show they are valued. So as the traditional annual appraisal process enters the fray at this time of year, make sure you make the most out of this time by encouraging all managers to side-step the rankings (there is scant evidence these help to improve anyone’s performance) and simply focus on, what I like to call, “having-a-conversation” with your employees. Better still, ditch the ‘annual’ and lead by example, making sure these conversations are taking place on a much more regular basis….

theHRhub – on demand and online HR support for startups and SMEs

Find our more about us at www.thehrhub.co.uk or gives us a call on 0203 627 7048 for a no-strings chat about your HR needs and how we can help.

Image: Canva

Gifts That Aren’t Just For Christmas: The Top Companies In the UK For Perks

Gifts That Aren’t Just For Christmas: The Top Companies In the UK For Perks

Is it really better to give than to receive? Well, given that more than a third of employees admit perks and benefits are amongst their top consideration before accepting a new job – as far as your business goes, I’d say yes. Whilst they’re unlikely to be the ultimate deciding factor (culture and opportunity will outrank for most in this regard) they can demonstrate a lot about a company culture without the candidate having to step foot in the office.

And companies are getting more and more creative when it comes to what they offer in order to attract top talent. So whilst talking to your employees over a glass fizz this Christmas, ask them what perks and benefits would attract them to your business now and what would urge them to stay.

So you’ve got some suggestions of your own up your sleeve here’s our pick of the Top 10 companies in the UK for perks with details of the ‘little extras’ that make them so great….

Rackspace

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It sucks working on your birthday, but at cloud services provider Rackspace you don’t have to – they give all employees their birthday off work.

It sucks working on your birthday, but at cloud services provider Rackspace you don’t have to – they give all employees their birthday off work.

Body Shop

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In line with their “enrich not exploit” ethos, the cosmetics giant pays staff for five volunteering days per year allowing employees to satisfy their inner altruist.

Huddle

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Known as the ‘Huddle Cuddle’ – if you get a job at Huddle you’ll be welcomed with a golden hello of £5,000. Yup – you read that right – £5,000.

Swinton Insurance

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The annual  ‘Christmas shopping day’ provided as a perk by Swinton Insurance is highly valued by its employees – particularly those who leave everything to the last minute….

AutoTrader

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AutoTrader UK has a wine club, giving employees discounted wine delivered to their door every month. My kind of club….

Peer 1 Hosting

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The HQ at Peer 1 Hosting in Southampton has a giant helter-skelter slide, a tree house, a pub, pool table, a putting green, a giant swing, a cinema, and there’s even a place where putting your feet up is an office rule. 

Skyscanner

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To appeal to those with itchy feet, comparisons website Skyscanner lets it staff work in one if its 10 overseas offices (including Miami and Barcelona) for up to 30 days every two years. The UK office has also negotiated employee discounts at the local pub and beauty salon.

Swiftkey

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Hip London startup Swiftkey invites guest speakers for lunchtime talks to keep their employee’s minds stimulated and inspired. Celebrities such as Stephen Fry have talked in the past.

Made.com

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London based Made.com now allow employees dogs in the office saving employees £s in annual dog-sitting fees and making everyone that little bit happier.

Mind Candy

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Gaming company Mind Candy has turned their place of work into a play den including every imaginable office toy. Staff can even unwind with a quick game of Guitar Hero.                                                                                                                

theHRhub – on demand and online HR support for startups and SMEs.

Find out more about us at thehrhub.co.uk

Lead Photo Credit: Canva

Article Photo Credits: cj sorg, Daniel Thornton, Yukariryu, Stav, Chris Frewin, Daniel Godavid reid, Adrain Scottow, Tine Steiss, Brian Turner