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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.

Continuous performance management: how to do it

Work is speeding up: most business owners are navigating through a fluid and ever-changing world adapting to evolving business needs. 
To be successful and able to pivot in times of change, a more agile alternative to the traditional once-a-year annual appraisal is needed.  How can you introduce more immediacy and make sure there’s a strong  alignment between your company, its managers and its employees? How do you create a more continuous performance management process in your company?

It depends on your priorities as business leader.

1.   Improvement? –i.e. helping both the employee and organisation to get better results. 

Defining and tracking objectives and their outcomes is one of the best things you can do to make sure employees and the organisation achieve better results.  Most importantly, it connects the work of employees into the company’s strategic plan. 

Set up a process to roll this out from the top down. It fits better with the pace of business life for progress with objectives to be reviewed and reset quarterly instead of annually at review time. 

2.   Coaching & Guidance? –  i.e. a framework for coaching, counselling, and motivating employees.

Frequent 1:1 conversations between managers and employees are much better than having coaching discussions once a year during an annual review. You can empower your employees to prepare for their 1:1s and do most of the talking, so they’re more effective.

3.   Feedback & Communication? – i.e. enhancing both upward and downward communication

Employees now expect real-time feedback to help them achieve their objectives and to improve their performance.  Relying on an annual conversation for feedback doesn’t work in this fast moving world. 
A better alternative is to make feedback readily available by the company culture you create, where giving and asking for feedback is normal and expected.
You can enable social networking or online feedback tools that both employees and managers can use. 
Employee recognition programmes based on values can be created to help employees get the positive feedback they need in order to keep doing great work. For example, you could give special awards to a few people every year for extraordinary technical accomplishment.
4.   Pay? –  i.e. tying individual performance into salary increases &       bonus calculations.

Ratings at the annual performance review were often used to decide on salary increases and bonus allocations.  Unfortunately performance reviews tied to compensation discourage straight talking and asking for help, undermine collegiality, create a blame-oriented culture, work against co-operative problem solving and easily become politicised. They’re self-defeating and demoralizing for all concerned.
So, many companies have moved away from this direct linkage. You can make salary adjustments based on market rates, new responsibilities and team/company performance, with perhaps a broad element for individual performance at the extremes.

5.   Development Planning? – i.e. training & development for high and low performers.

Traditional performance reviews were often used to identify high and low performers and then plan their development in the future. While this process is important, doing it once a year is not frequent enough as it’s already too late to correct or reinforce.  

Instead, use the information from 1:1 discussions and progress with objectives to identify high performing employees or the employees who need further coaching or training.

6.   Preparing the way for dismissal? –  i.e. documenting poor performance extremes in case of later dismissal.

Occasionally annual performance reviews were misused as a way of creating a paper trail of negative feedback on poor performers in case the company later needed to dismiss and defend itself against an unfair dismissal claim. Unfortunately once this has happened within an organisation, it’s very hard to convince any employees in future that an appraisal discussion is for their benefit!

The sensible way to deal with poor performance is to follow a disciplinary process that deals with these situations separately, and properly documents everything based on the ACAS Code of Practice on Discipline.  

The Human Resource supports you with the changes you need to make in order to manage performance continually throughout the year, so that you make the very best of the people you have.  We help you to be prepared, in control and confident that you’re doing the right thing.   

Email The Human Resource on enquiries@thehr.co.ukor call on 07884 475303 to arrange a no-obligation chat. 

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Managing poor performance

Sooner or later any manager will realise they have an under-performing employee in the team.  It’s inevitable. Not everyone can do the job they’re in – maybe their life outside work changes, or they were a recruitment mistake, or the demands of the job become too much for their abilities.  Or they simply need more knowledge or information or understanding.
If you turn a blind eye and hope the person will go away, things will only get a whole lot worse.  You know how you want your team to work – don’t settle for anything less.  Here’s how to tackle it:

Act promptly

As soon as any actual or potential problem in the way an individual is working becomes apparent, deal with it promptly – don’t wait until the next performance review or the end of probation.

Identify what isn’t working

Be clear about the parts of the job the employee isn’t performing well enough. What sort of things are happening – or not happening?  Gather clear examples and facts.

Talk to the employee informally
Arrange one-to-one time with the under-performing employee.  State the issue, give specific examples and clarify what changes are required. 
Listen, express concern, ask about external factors, their own views about their performance, and what they think the expectations of them are. Ask them about training and skill sets.

Agree with the employee on specific action to improve.  Be clear about the timescale you require the performance to improve within: 2 or 3 months is reasonable depending on the level of job. Write down the action plan or objectives and give the employee a copy.

Be kind. The majority of people want to do well at work and it can be a nightmare experience for them if for some reason their performance isn’t up to scratch. Genuinely wish them well and hope that they succeed.

Training and coaching

There’s an obligation on all employers to give their employees reasonable support, guidance and training in performing their job.  When you’re managing underperformance, the more structured and documented this is the better. One day you might have to prove that it happened!

Follow up
As the action plan is followed up, give the employee the support they might need.  Meet regularly after the initial discussion and provide feedback about their progress. Stick to your agreed timescale unless there are exceptional circumstances.

The next stage

In most cases this informal approach is enough to bring about the necessary improvement.  If it doesn’t you will need to progress to something more formal using your company’s disciplinary procedure. 

Ultimately, if each stage in the procedure is followed correctly and the employee fails to improve to the required standard in the timescale you’ve set, this means you can fairly dismiss.  An advantage in the short term is that the employee realises it’s serious, focuses more and tries harder to improve.

Effect on the team

If you fail to address poor performance, your team will probably become less than enchanted with you as their manager, even when the impact isn’t extreme. One of the most frustrating experiences for a team is when they feel they’re carrying someone who isn’t pulling their weight, and frustration can turn to stress when the manager simply does nothing about it.

It’s important to keep whatever you’re doing confidential.  Your team might not know when poor performance is being tackled. But they certainly do know if it is not being addressed at all.

If you manage poor performance well and manage to raise performance, then this not only instills a sense of achievement for the employee in question, it also gives a great message out to other staff that you are fair and tuned in to what is happening.

You don’t have to put up with poor performance.  But tackling it can be tricky and sometimes stressful. 

The Human Resource takes the headaches away and supports you in managing individual cases, helping you to be prepared, in control and confident that you’re doing the right thing.  

Email The Human Resource on enquiries@thehr.co.uk or call on 07884 475303 to arrange a no-obligation chat. A free E-book on Managing Poor Performance is available on our website www.thehr.co.uk.

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is it the place or the people?

At the coffee shop the other day two ladies were enthusing about where they worked. It was nice to hear especially as it is so often that people want moan about their employers. Facilities managers can, given the opportunity, do a lot to make the place of work appealing, but the primary factor in every […]

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Is this the right room for an argument?

If it is where I am sitting then yes, it is. Not that I am advocating argument for its own sake, but more that I want people to challenge my opinions. Allowing debate within the team brings out several benefits. For a start it means that you consider options in more depth so that the […]

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Helping charities isn’t all about running marathons, business will be told

Word Worker press release Businesses interested in helping charities will get some advice and tips at a talk to Swindon networking group Business Village. Caroline Sinclair, of Ronald McDonald House Oxford – Supporting Families with Children in Hospital, will give a presentation at the group’s weekly breakfast meeting on Thursday, February 4. Entitled ‘What charities […]

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Automotive learning and development agency relocates in order to drive growth

Word Worker press release Automotive learning and development agency RTS Group has moved its team to larger offices to accommodate future growth. RTS Group, based in Wiltshire, has relocated from its headquarters in central Chippenham to a new suite of offices in nearby Notton. The company was set up in 1989 and has grown to […]

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Technology lead generation business triples office space to get set for growth

Word Worker press release: Specialist business-to-business lead generation company VHO has moved to new Swindon offices, almost tripling its floor space to give it a launchpad for expansion. The company, which has moved from Commercial Road to Milton Road to accommodate its expansion, now occupies 220 sq m up from the previous 80 sq m. […]

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the art of handwriting

To hear that a number of schools are ceasing to teach pupils handwriting saddens me. I understand that the generations coming through make use of portable devices to write upon, but I don’t agree that these things make the art of handwriting redundant. I am of an age where we were taught to write with […]

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Women cyclists get pedalling for charity

Word Worker press release: A new women’s cycling group in Swindon – the Chainset Chicks – are getting in training for a series of events to raise money for a cancer charity. The group, co-led by Emma Ryder, service delivery manager with Field Recruitment in Swindon, is aiming to get on their bikes in aid […]

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Private use of the internet during work time

A common employment problem is the suspicion that an employee is spending huge amounts of working time on private online messages.  It’s one of those frustrations that you might think you can’t do anything about as the employer.  Maybe you feel uneasy that, were you to look at what the person is doing online while at work, you’d be breaching their human rights to privacy in some way….

What if you find that the employee (an engineer as it happens) has been using Yahoo Messenger to chat not just with his professional contacts but also with his family.  You monitor his communications and are able to present him with a 45-page transcript of his messages, including exchanges with his fiancee and his brother about his health and sex life.

And what if your company’s internal regulations state that it’s strictly forbidden to use computers, photocopiers, telephones, telex and fax machines for personal purposes.

And what if, after you’ve dismissed him, the engineer brings a claim that the company has breached his right to confidential correspondence by accessing his messages, and should have excluded all evidence of his personal communications on the grounds it infringed his rights to privacy.

In fact, this is a case that the European Court of Human Rights ruled on last week. 

The judges said that the employer has the right to check that an employee is completing their work and that the engineer had breached the company’s rules by sending personal messages on its time.  It ruled that the employer was within its rights in monitoring and reading the employee’s Yahoo Messenger chats that he sent while he was at work – it was not “unreasonable that an employer would want to verify that employees were completing their professional tasks during working hours”.

However, the ECHR also made clear in its judgment that it’s not acceptable to carry out unregulated snooping of staff’s private messages.  In this case the employer had a clear, absolute ban on using its IT resources for personal matters: when the employee denied doing so, the employer could only properly investigate by reading his emails.  Many employers allow, or at least tolerate, some personal email use at work, but this wasn’t the case here.  If an employer reads personal emails without justification and has no clear policy allowing them to do so, they could easily find themselves on the wrong side of the law.

So providing it’s reasonable and proportional, employers can monitor internet usage to check that employees are working during their working hours.  The Human Resource can develop a clear policy for your employee handbook about internal rules on internet usage while at work and any monitoring.  This will set expectations and provide a sound framework if there are ever any issues.

If it’s an extreme example as this one, it’s important to follow a proper disciplinary process too, giving the employee the information from the monitoring and the opportunity to respond.
For HR advice on employment problems such as private use of the internet during work time, as well as clear policies about IT and Internet Usage for your employee handbook, contact The Human Resource on enquiries@thehr.co.uk or 07884 475303.

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