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Members' Blog Feed

These blog posts are written by our members and syndicated from their own websites. Clicking a link will take you to their website.

Rules- made to be broken

 
Users of social networking site Reddit have been revealing some of the daftest workplace rules they’ve been asked to follow.  Here are some of our favourites:

  • “We cannot drink coffee after 2pm.  They insist that drinking it in the afternoon is wasteful”
  • “I had a job once where you could only sharpen pencils with the mechanical pencil sharpener during certain times.  It was a weird rule.”
  • “When I worked at a call centre, there was no standing or getting up.  We had to sit, so 5.5 hours of sitting down between last break and getting off work.” 
  • “Can’t grow any facial hair other than a moustache”.
  • “I was asked to take off my pink shirt on anti-bullying day because it wasn’t appropriate for a manager.”

Or the rule reported in the press that the time Sports Direct employees spend undergoing “rigorous” body searches at the end of every shift is without pay, so that they clock up an extra unpaid hour a week. 


Someone in authority in all these workplaces must have thought the rule was a good enough idea to enforce it –  but why? 

In some cases, perhaps the underlying intention of the rule was to improve productivity.  In others, to demonstrate a specific type of workplace. 

It just shows how, if we rely on rules and policies to manage our workforce, we’ll never improve work and working lives.  If rules were the answer, anti-discrimination law would have put an end to sexism in the workplace decades ago.  Which we know it hasn’t. 

You can’t change behaviour by writing more rules.

Instead, what matters is focussing on how things get done and how people behave in the absence of any other guidance: on the working culture.  It’s as much about how things get done as what gets done.  We have to start with purpose, values and the principles that call out what behaviour we expect and the basis for people to make the right decisions. 

When we have everyday conversations with line managers, when we interview, when we train and develop, when we review salaries, when we appraise, when we manage performance, when we design jobs and reporting lines, at all these touch points we need to be conscious of the behaviours we’re seeking to develop and reinforce them at every opportunity. 

Another touch point to communicate your values as an employer is your Employee Handbook.  Not one full of back-covering rules and complex impersonal legalese.  As a focal point to openly communicate what is important to the workplace and why, and how things should get done.  To make sure everyone is clear what you expect and reward regarding customer service, working hours, absence, behaviour, communicating – and why.

At The Human Resource we work with you to identify the values and the good behaviour you expect and to set the boundaries. We then create an employee handbook tailored to your business, communicating clearly to everyone. We support you in leading a productive, engaged workforce that’s committed to what your business is trying to achieve – with a business that people are proud to work for, where their talents can develop and thrive, and where they’re motivated to go that extra mile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dealing with change in your business

 

Change can bring opportunity.  But it can also bring uncertainty.  No matter what form change takes –  growing larger as an organisation, introducing new products or services, restructuring jobs, a merger or acquisition – it means leaving the known for the unknown.  And facing the unknown can be hard.  But it’s possible to develop skills for managing change.  Here are the useful strategies for staying confident and in control if you’re facing difficult change right now, and to prepare you for the stresses of future change too.


Reactions to change

Everyone in an organisation experiences the anxiety that comes from the uncertainty of change.  And probably some of the excitement too, about the opportunities change offers.  Your job as manager is to help the team through the rough spots as things change and keep them motivated and working towards the changes that need to be made.  In order to do that well, you’ll need to acknowledge how the change is affecting you.


Stress and anxiety are infectious so you’ll need to work out your own way of internalising any of your own negative emotions –  spreading them to your team simply won’t help the climate at work. So:


o   try to maintain routines at work and home

o   avoid spending time with consistently negative people

o   remember that work isn’t your entire life

o   develop a relaxation method

o   maintain friendships outside work

o   get plenty of sleep

o   eat well, take care of yourself and exercise.

You’re there to offer leadership and hope, to remind your people of the ultimate goals of the change and the bigger picture, and to point out opportunities that they may not see.


Make an effort to give extra encouragement.  Thank people promptly for work well done.    Let people know you understand they’re under extra pressure and that you notice and appreciate their efforts. Nobody can get too much appreciation, and people are especially needy during times of change.


Communicating during change in the company

As a manager you can have a big effect on how well and how easily your people adapt to change and embrace it.  Open and honest communication is essential to all successful change. 

  • It’s always better for employees to hear the news about change from you rather than through the grapevine.  Hold regular meetings to talk about company events, even if there is no specific information to convey.  Face-to-face dialogue is more effective than voicemail or email messages.
  • Don’t wait to deliver important information.  Share what you know about forthcoming changes as early as possible.  When you have only partial information, share what you do know and admit that you don’t have all the answers.  We tend to withhold information until we have the complete picture – yet the people around us may start to fill in the gaps from their own worried imaginations when we don’t keep them informed.  You don’t need to know everything before you share the news you do have.
  • Allow and encourage employees to openly express their frustrations and disappointments.  Until people talk about the change and how they feel, they can’t move on.
  • Encourage employees to come to you with their questions and concerns.  And express a sincere interest in how the employee is feeling and coping.
  • Don’t make promises you aren’t sure you can keep.  For example, avoid promising that no one will lose their job unless you know for certain that this is true.  One broken promise – even a small one – can seriously damage trust and credibility.
If your company is growing, there’s more advice here about how to take your people along with you.
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Changing terms of employment properly

 
All your employees have written terms of employment, right?  Everyone should have one within 2 calendar months of starting work with you.  (If not contact us of course)

But they aren’t written in tablets of stone, and over time in any business some of the terms of the employment relationship will need to be changed.  Perhaps to reflect changes to the wider business environment, perhaps to tighten up any rules because you can forsee problems – or perhaps to be more generous by improving benefits. How do you go about making the change smoothly and properly?

It depends on the terms you’re changing.

Some changes will be accepted without question and cause no problems.  For example, if you’re awarding a pay rise or changing a job title when someone is promoted, simply tell the person about the changes face-to-face in a confidential setting and confirm it in writing with a short letter.  Include the effective date of change and the sentence “The other terms of your employment remain unchanged”.  End of.

If you’re making any other significant changes to contractual terms, it’s essential that you can show that you’ve acted reasonably as an employer, both to head off legal problems and also to keep your employees on-side.  The Human Resource provides tactical and strategic support to employers handling these situations.  This will include:

·         Follow a proper consultative process. Clearly explain the changes you’re considering and the reasons to the affected employees.  You could communicate this at a group meeting with the details confirmed in a follow up by email, and give people an open door opportunity to discuss issues on a one-to-one basis with you.  Listen to what is raised and demonstrate you’ve taken it on board.  If you meet objections or even outright rejection of the change, listen to the reasons and make some concessions where it’s reasonable. Assess the impact of the change on the employees and consider them carefully.

·         Ensure you can justify the change and the selection of the individuals whose terms are to change.

·         Give people time to adjust to the change and help them to make the adjustment.  For any significant change, three months is usually considered reasonable notice.

·         Ensure you have a good reason for exercising your power to change a contractual term, considering any problems or difficulties it may cause the employee.  Look especially sensitively at any reduction in pay or benefits.

If you aren’t able to obtain consent, you could impose the contractual change anyway, but the employee can:

·         Stand and sue, i.e. work under protest and claim breach of contract.   If the change involves pay there could also be a claim for unlawful deduction from wages. 

·         Resign and claim for constructive dismissal.

In the last resort, you could turn to the nuclear option that health minister Jeremy Hunt was considering to resolve the dispute with the junior hospital doctors’ contracts.  This means terminating the contracts of employees who won’t agree to the change by giving them notice and immediately offering them re-engagement on new terms and conditions.  Such a drastic course of action will have an irrevocable impact on the trust between employee and employer, but in some circumstances it may be your only option and worth the legal risks and damage to morale.

 

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Leading your staff through change

 

We are certainly experiencing dramatic change in our country at present following the Brexit vote and it’s interesting to watch how people are reacting and responding to it. The country’s leadership is in disarray and no-one is clearly showing the way ahead so speculation is rife and emotions are running high. All this is on a grand scale and on the world stage, so let’s learn some lessons in change management as we observe the process. It’s always better to learn from other people’s mistakes if we can!

How can we take our own organisations through change in a way that will bring positive outcomes and minimise the negative outcomes for all concerned?
 

As managers or directors our focus of concern will be the business as a whole and our instinct to give people lots of information about the future, but we should always think about what we would be concerned about ourselves if we heard that change is coming.
Putting ourselves in other peoples’ shoes will go a long way towards ensuring that we do the right thing.  We’d probably be wondering – how will this affect me – my job, my future etc.?  As soon as we hear news of change, our minds start going through what it will mean to us. That means that we probably stop listening to whoever is presenting all the facts and figures because we’re too busy worrying about our own future.

The PIE recipe is a very helpful model for leading your people through change: Participation, Information and Enthusiasm.

Participation

The more involved we are in something, the more committed to it we are. Employees may not be able to make decisions about the actual change, but should be as involved and empowered as possible in how the change is rolled out in their area.  Problem-solve as a team – it’s a great way to think through the implications of the change and what needs to be done to make sure that everything continues to run smoothly.


Information

Give people as much information about how the change will affect their jobs and their future as soon as you possibly can – not as an add-on. Even if people don’t ‘need to know’ they want to know what’s happening and if they don’t have the correct information, the old rumour mill will start.
 
This can be more damaging than you might think – I know of two companies who had to close down because they didn’t quash rumours of impending redundancies. Their highly skilled workers left for more secure employment and neither company was able to remain viable without the skills they needed. All that was needed was a little openness and information about what was happening behind the scenes.


Enthusiasm

A manager can make or break the way people cope with change. If the leader is enthusiastic and positive, then everyone else is much more likely to follow. If the leader is complaining and negative, then everyone else is likely to follow.
 
Explain the vision, expect your people to go through what’s known as the ‘process of transition’ – from the lows of fear (“how will this affect me?”), feeling threat, guilt and depression, and up again through gradual acceptance and moving forward (“this can work and be good”) if it’s managed well.  Help them to deal with the low times by leading the way clearly. If you’re not sure about the change yourself, then adjust your attitude before you talk to your staff about it.

It’s not going to be easy, but concentrating on the people as well as the process will reap many benefits and make the change much more likely to be successful.
 
This is a Guest Blog by Sharon Firth of Inspire Away , a trainer and facilitator with over 20 years’ experience of working with people at all levels and in all industries. She is convinced that developing a culture where managers and employees solve problems together, communicate openly and share motivating goals will lead to increased productivity and employee engagement. Inspire Away can help by facilitating interactive staff workshops and Away Days or designing and delivering training for managers and staff.

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Will Brexit mean “a Bonfire for Workers’ Rights”?

Both sides in the Brexit TV debates made dramatic claims about the repercussions of the referendum result.  At one heated point Angela Eagle, the Labour MP, exclaimed that a vote to leave would mean “a bonfire for workers’ rights”.  This was one of the slogans on Vote Remain posters.

Now we’re calming down again, how likely is it that once the terms of the UK’s exit are negotiated, all European employment law will be thrown out, and there will be no employment rights left in the UK?

To start with, most employment protection rights, especially unfair dismissal and the employment tribunal process were created by the UK independently without the EU.  Equal pay, race and disability discrimination laws all existed in some form in the UK before being imposed by Europe, and there was a UK right of return from maternity leave long before recent EU parental rights laws.   These fundamental pieces of legislation won’t change.

On the other hand, some EU legislation is very unpopular with UK businesses and if anything is tweaked to make it more commercially acceptable or repealed entirely, it’s likely to be these three:

·         TUPE: the principle that employees should transfer when a business changes hands or is contracted out is well recognised, but the government might choose to make it easier to harmonise employment terms within the business.

·         The Working Time Regulations, governing areas such as employee working hours, holidays and rest breaks, is often felt to place an administrative burden on employers and undermine labour flexibility.  The most likely tweak is to remove the 48-hour limit on weekly working hours and the related record-keeping.  Another is to repeal the limits to accrue and carry over holiday pay.  New rules could specifically exclude fluctuating payments such as commission or overtime from calculations of holiday pay, a doubtful recent ruling from the EU.

·         Agency Workers Regulations,requiring agency workers to be paid the same rate for a job as permanent staff after 12 weeks, are  seen by many employers as an unwieldy problem– and aren’t noticeably popular with workers either. Repealing these would reduce business costs and record-keeping requirements.

Discrimination laws and family friendly working legislation seem far less likely to be affected. Employment rights such as family leave, discrimination law and even the right to paid holiday are now widely accepted; indeed, family leave rights in this country go further than required by EU directives.

If you aren’t confident that your business is complying with these pieces of legislation right now, contact us right away on enquiries@thehr.co.uk!

In any case, as we know nothing will change legally for some time.  It will take us at least 2 years to extricate the UK from the EU, and perhaps considerably longer than that to agree exit terms.  Then start repealing and tweaking. Something at least to look forward to….

 

In the meantime, European imposed legislation still applies.  If you have some niggling worries that you may be breaking employment law unintentionally within your business, then get in touch with The Human Resource on enquiries@thehr.co.uk. We’ll be pleased to arrange an initial review of your existing practices.

 

 

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Familiar faces but a new name for law firm

Word Worker press release A specialist conveyancing, wills and probate law firm in Swindon has changed its name. This month Hoffman Male, which has its headquarters in West Swindon and an office in Bristol, became Hoffman Briggs, to reflect the names of its partners: Mary Hoffman and Yvette Briggs. Set up in 1979 by Roger […]

The post Familiar faces but a new name for law firm appeared first on Word Worker – making words work for your business.

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