Cost of Living Crisis: What’s a CEO to do?

Cost of Living Crisis: What’s a CEO to do?

The Cost of Living Crisis has become a workplace issue and employees expect to be supported

Cost of Living Crisis: What’s a CEO to do?

The Cost of Living Crisis has become a workplace issue and employees expect to be supported

Many businesses are now under extreme financial pressure, as the price of energy bills, goods and services continues to rocket. But that’s not all CEOs are worrying about, in addition most decent bosses will also be deeply concerned about how their people will survive the coming months.

CEOs are grappling with current cost of living crisis and how the aftershocks of the pandemic effect their operations. But you can’t separate the prosperity of a business from the prosperity of the workforce.

There is now a growing, immediate need to make sure people have food, warmth and shelter.

How shocking is it to read that several NHS Trusts have already set up food banks or launched food voucher schemes to support their staff?

As well as being an all-round total sh*tshow for running a business and a household, the UK cost of living crisis inevitably blurs the boundaries between home and work ‘problems’. The burden of everything being too expensive, weighing heavily on personal lives, work lives and mental health.

Leaders now recognise that the cost of living is affecting people at work

How will work life be impacted by the cost of living crisis?

There’s no arguing that life feels uncertain, and the economic outlook is unclear. We don’t know how work will be affected by the cost of living crisis, and many business leaders are still trying to work out what to do for their customers and team members.

If you understand what’s likely to happen in your business, it will help you design the right support for your team…

Shift in balance of home / office working

  • As people choose between the cost of travelling to work vs heating their homes, and keeping money aside for other essentials, we’re likely to see a shift in the balance between the number of home working days and going on to site.
  • Is it more expensive to stay at home and work or travel to site to work?

Key workers will suffer disproportionately

  • The disparity between those who benefit from home/remote working and those who must come into work is likely to widen.
  • At the time of writing, it seems that fuel prices have dropped slightly but they’re unlikely to come back down to the heady days of £1.50 per litre.
  • This disproportionately impacts certain sectors: the emergency services, shops, factories, health worker, refuse collectors, schools … the very people we depended on during the pandemic.

Many working people with modest salaries will be in fuel poverty

  • Although the Energy Price Guarantee has been introduced, the cost of home energy has more than doubled in the past 18 months.
  • The End Fuel Poverty Coalition estimates that the number of households across the UK in *fuel poverty from 1 October 2022 will be 7 million, this could rise to 7.8 million from early 2023.
  • If you have people in minimum pay roles in your business, it’s quite possible that they will be in fuel poverty.

Our pandemic 'heroes' are going to suffer disproportionately vs. everyone else

What can CEOs do right now to support employees through the cost of living crisis?

  • Many companies are now offering one off ‘cost of living’ payments, which come with their own challenges.
  • Bit of a no sh*t Sherlock one this … but prevention is better than cure – make sure you pay people at least a living wage.
  • No, not the National Living Wage but the Actual Living Wage as measured by the Living Wage Foundation.
  • If you’re not sure you can afford a living wage, there may be ways you can make your business more efficient and unleash potential to achieve more, or create headroom for better wages.

If you’ve made more than you thought, share it!

  • If you’ve made greater profits than forecast, consider passing on some of those earnings to your team, as soon as possible.
  • It goes without saying that your people are your greatest asset and should share in the company’s successes.

Don’t pay for employee benefits that nobody uses

  • Stop funding ‘ghost’ benefits and reinvest that money.
  • Whether you’re due to review your employee benefits or not, now is the perfect time to look at the flexible/opt-in benefits that you offer and understand if they’re being used or not.
  • Things like perks websites, opt-in discount schemes, employee health cash plans, all cost money. If they’re not making a difference, get rid and use the money in a different way.

Satisfaction with pay, reward and benefits is constantly changing – you have to keep pace with the market!

“Individuals’ preference and satisfaction levels in relation to reward are dynamic, not fixed. External events, for example a recession, can affect individuals’ confidence, altering their satisfaction with current reward offers.”

— CIPD 2015, Show me the money, the behavioural science of reward

Make sure everyone knows if help is already available

  • If you have an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) it may well offer 24/7 access to wellbeing, financial and legal advice.
  • This means employees and workers (including board members and volunteers) can go to someone independent if they’re struggling.
  • If you’ve got this benefit shout about it!
  • Make sure everyone* that’s eligible knows about it. (*Some EAP providers have a minimum earning level/working hours in the contract so check first.)

Plan for more people coming ‘in’ rather than working at home

  • Facilities, HR and Operations teams should prepare now for greater workspace usage over the winter.
  • Remember: you should have plans in place to comply with any change in COVID-19 public health measures alongside a greater desire to come into the office (if possible).

Proactively talk to your team about the support available to them

What should CEOs do in the medium term to help employees survive inflation?

Just yesterday, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) announced that the main measure of inflation, the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) was 11.1% in October 2022, up 10.1% in September 2022.

CPI is at an eye-watering figure and it’s not something you can control, so what can you do?

Pay your team fairly

  • Many companies are now offering one-off ‘cost of living’ payments, which come with their own challenges.
  • Bit of a no sh*t Sherlock one this … but prevention is better than cure – make sure you pay people at least a living wage.
  • No, not the National Living Wage but the Actual Living Wage as measured by the Living Wage Foundation.
  • If you’re not sure you can afford a living wage, there may be ways you can make your business more efficient and unleash potential to achieve more, or create headroom for better wages.

Bring in independent advisors to help people

  • Financial wellbeing and education is something most employers don’t know they can provide for their teams.
  • We’ve seen plenty of examples of organisations working with independent advisors and coaches to help their teams manage their money well and deal with any debt issues that might also be crippling their household budgets.

Creative thinking around the affordability of travelling to work

  • Travel allowances have fallen out of fashion, but it might be time to reconsider, perhaps refocusing on public transport rather than vehicle allowances.
  • If you’re not able to offer a travel allowance, you might want to consider an interest-free season ticket loan that colleagues can access via payroll.
  • You’re not actually paying for the season ticket; however, you’re helping your colleagues to avoid a crippling season ticket payment and reduce the cost of coming to work.
  • If lots of people drive, consider a carshare scheme.
  • You could also introduce a cycle to work scheme, which would help support health and wellbeing as well as being a travel solution.

Help people charge their cars for free

  • Add EV charging/parking points to your company properties/car parks.
  • This won’t help everyone but as EVs become more popular, it’s another way to help your team and encourage others to switch away from petrol/diesel.
  • If you have solar panels on your buildings, use the energy to feed the EV charging points FOR FREE for your colleagues and visitors. (If you’re in Wales/South West we can recommend some reliable contractors to do this work for you – get in touch)

How can CEOs insulate their staff against future financial hardships?

In addition to the short and medium-term options we’ve discussed in this article, there are opportunities for leaders to help insulate employees against future financial hardship.

Here’s some ‘slow-burn’ options that are likely to help with the family finances, and increase engagement, loyalty, productivity and performance.

Performance-related pay scheme

  • Consider how you can share profits through a performance-related pay scheme.
  • Maybe even consider how an employee ownership model might work for you?
  • There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach here and in some sectors, this wouldn’t be right, e.g. use of public money, however it’s worth looking at if it’s an option that’s appropriate for you.

Shadow equity schemes

  • If performance-related pay isn’t right for your business, you might want to consider a shadow equity scheme (good for VCs and those looking to retain key talent, grow and sell within 3-5 years).
  • A great way to share the benefits of a business sale with your team.

Long term incentives plans (LTIP) for executives

  • These tend to work better for businesses and executives alike, rewarding long term performance and productivity instead of short-term results.
  • In the context of a cost of living crisis LTIPs incentivise executives to make decisions that retain talent and ensure a good customer experience, meaning executives are less likely to make short-term decisions to save a few quid at the expense of long-term performance.

Don't know where to start when it comes to supporting your team through the Cost of Living Crisis?

We are passionate about finding ways to help bosses do the best they can to look after their people.

Some of what we’ve outlined here is simple, but implementing activity that’s targeted to help those that need it most often gets businesses in a pickle. Primarily because they get bogged down about treating all employees the same.

If you need help to work how to support those that need it in a way that’s fair and legal, then please drop us a line. We’d be happy to talk to you.

How to Lead Hybrid Teams

 

“Should I have my whole team in … or my whole team out? In, out, in, out …”

 

Shake it all about! We all know traditional working practices have changed. People have been flipping between being in and out of the office for over 2 years now. Something which has undoubtedly shaken many companies.

Lots of office workers have now been instructed to return for at least some of the week. But the situation that greets them varies hugely between organisations, internal teams and even pay grades.


How does it feel if your CEO has said you have to be in the office everyday, but you’ve not seen them up close and personal for weeks?

Or how about if some teams in the business are in, but others are entirely home-based?

The aftermath of the pandemic has left a huge swathe of organisations with fragile, fractured or ‘not quite figured out yet’ working environments. Some organisations moved quickly to new working policies whereas others have muddled along without formalising new ways of working.

  

C-suite executives expect 87% of work to be done via some form of hybrid working

  

According to research by McKinsey, most organisations don’t yet have a detailed vision in place for hybrid working, with as few as 3 out of 10 organisations having both prepared for and communicated their vision for the post-pandemic world. Despite this, executives expect most work to be done via some form of hybrid work in future. Perhaps many of us are still in ‘reaction mode’ and the case for hybrid working is still unclear?

 

Why could a hybrid working model be good for my business?


If you’re considering it, it’s probably because you’re already doing it in some way. Hybrid working became a necessity in the pandemic.

Some organisations only did it because they had to, and for some companies, being at work in person will always be the best model for them.

You may have never considered it as an option pre-covid but perhaps now you’ve seen some benefits in productivity, staff wellbeing, retention or recruitment. A hybrid mix brings many positives:

  

Hybrid working is no longer a ‘nice to have’, it’s a ‘must have’ for most workers

  

Benefits of Working at Home

  • Focused periods of concentration on tasks that are best done uninterpreted.

  • A place to do virtual calls.

  • Good for those who need adjustments to their working environment, such as people with a disability.

  • More useable time in the day for those who have a lengthy commute.

  • A better work/life balance.

Benefits of Being in The Workplace*

  • Informal learning of technical knowledge … being in earshot of colleagues.

  • Learning good leadership skills by listening to and ‘soaking up’ the actions of positive role models.

  • More chance to naturally include less confident colleagues, in meetings that are in-person.

  • Space for creative conversations between colleagues.

  • More opportunities for new starters to absorb company culture.

*None of the ‘benefits’ of working in the workplace are effective if leaders, and relevant colleagues are not there … AT THE SAME TIME!

  

Absorbing and contributing to company culture is virtually impossible at home

   

How do I lead a fully hybrid team?

Hybrid working is not new. Tech companies like Google have been doing it across teams successfully for many years.


The reason they and others adopted it in the first place was because it was better for productivity.

For hybrid working to work, leaders need to be clear and visible and employees need to understand how their work fits into big picture company objectives.

  

Agree the ground rules for hybrid working, including what leaders need to do

  

Five practical steps to successful hybrid working

There are some specific steps that every leader can take to make hybrid working work for you, your team and most importantly, your customers. One word of warning before you start…don’t be the CEO that says everyone has to work in a certain way, except you. That’s a sure-fire way to make sure hybrid working doesn’t work.

Step 1 – Make an Agreement (Formal or Informal) 

  • If people have become used to the flexibility of 100% home working they need time to put a new routine in place.

  • Remember, people will be factoring in the cost of commuting, cost of living and childcare responsibilities.

  • You may be perfectly entitled to have them back in the office but do it with compassion.

  • Top Tip: an informal or formal agreement can help get people back into the office, particularly if different parts of your business need different levels of on-site and remote working.

Step 2 – Lead by Example

  • You may have always worked from home as a leader, but for hybrid working to be successful, days in the office have to be really meaningful.

  • You need to model this way of working to make sure that engagement with company culture and productivity stays high.

  • Not sure your company culture is strong enough? Here are 10 proactive things you can do as a leader to improve your culture.

Step 3 – Make Office Dates Matter

  • Understand which tasks work better at home and which benefit from face-to-face communication and plan around this.

  • There is no point in scheduling lots of virtual calls on a day when everyone’s in the office. It’s pointless. (Ever travelled to work, done a day of Teams or Zoom calls from the office, then travelled home when you could have been anywhere? Ergh.)

  • Also try to schedule company-wide office dates so that people are able to ‘drop in’ on useful colleagues.

Step 4 – Plan Unstructured Collaboration Time

  • Scheduling unstructured collaboration time will invigorate your team, encourage creative thinking and help people feel positive about coming into work.

  • A Deloitte survey of over 3,500 workers showed that people are up to 20% more satisfied with their workplace culture when they have access to collaboration tools that enable them to work in teams, and 34% happier with their workplace when collaboration and innovation are encouraged.

  • We also know that productivity, revenue, and profitability are all positively impacted by engagement at work – collaboration with colleagues is just one way to keep your team engaged.

Step 5 – More Office Time For New Starters & Their Managers

  • Your organisation is a complex web of different traits, habits, actions … ways of communicating.

  • All of these are compromised if newbies aren’t properly integrated into the organisation.

  • Plan extra time in the office for people joining your organisation and their managers.

  • Top Tip: set an expectation that managers are on-site with new colleagues for their induction, you can share the responsibility amongst a pool of managers so new starters kick-start their internal networking.

  

Ringfence your time at the office for collaboration and engaging with your team

  

Why can’t I get my team to come back to the office?


Lots of people like working from home but it’s not without challenges, subsequently a sensible hybrid model is a pretty logical way of working for most people.

So, if you’re really struggling to get people to come back, it’s likely that your office was not a welcoming, inclusive and flexible environment in the first place!

If you’re a leader that would like a conversation about how to create and manage a hybrid working model, get in touch. We’ll show you how to enhance every professional relationship across your entire business.

  

A welcoming, inclusive and flexible workspace is essential for hybrid working

   

Don’t know where to start?

I know that making changes to your workplace and culture can be daunting – most people don’t know where to start.

I love working with Exec Teams to improve performance and unleash the potential of their organisations. Who knows what you might achieve?

Give me a call if you want to explore the options for hybrid working in your team.

  

 

Image credits

Images sourced from Canva Pro and are photographers are not individually credited. If you see one of your photos above, please let us know so we can credit you here. Photo of Andrew Knight by Nick Morrish from Nick Morrish Photography

References

Digital collaboration. Delivering innovation, productivity and happiness. Deloitte (2013)

What executives are saying about the future of hybrid work. McKinsey & Company (2021)

Cut through to your customers: Use HR Business Partners to sharpen your competitive edge

 

I’m often asked to define the value of HR. For starters, HR Business Partners can create a competitive advantage for your organisation. Here’s how:

 

Business partners are strategic thinkers, who nurture talent and get things done. In HR they can improve people management, reduce pointless admin and get the team firing on all cylinders.


Two women in a meeting, one facing us and one with her back to us, are discussing their agenda and sharing a coffee

They see through internal teams, to focus on bigger business goals, helping create better synergy between everyday work and big-picture company ambitions.

Business partnering was designed by Dave Ulrich almost 30 years ago, to help join up organisational strategy, workplace culture and business objectives. The model creates people solutions that deliver better commercial results.

  

HR Business Partners create solutions that get you better results

  

How do HR Business Partners (HRBPs) work?


Three colleagues, a man and two women, are standing in an open plan office

It varies depending on the business, but there are two common models of HRBP, explored in detail by the CIPID in their Business Partnering Factsheet, but in brief:

 

Standalone HR Business Partners – aligned to a specific business unit

  • The CIPD defines this role as “the focus of the relationship between HR and L&D and the business, ensuring HR and L&D are aligned effectively with the teams and individuals they support. BPs are facilitators and business consultants, ensuring that the HR value proposition is both relevant and effective”.

Three-pronged HRBP model – where the HR service runs across three areas of expertise:

  • Shared Services – A centralised group handling transactional services across the organisation, such as payroll, sickness, recruitment and administrative HR support.

  • Centres of Excellence  Small specialist HR teams, delivering business and people benefits. They tend to manage work around innovation, learning, reward, employee engagement as well as nurturing talent.

  • Strategic Business Partners – Experienced people professionals who work closely with leaders. Embedded in business units, influencing, steering and implementing business and people strategy.

  

HR Business Partners work closely with leaders to implement business strategy

   

What does a good Business Partner look like?


Three healthcare workers are sat around a table. They are focused on one of the documents that is in front of them.

Business partnering is a skilled role that needs a mix of experience, values, capability and knowledge. It’s not suited to everyone.

I’ve seen HR Business Partnering done differently in many organisations and every successful HRBP has a unique set of skills, knowledge and experience.

 

Business Partner Skills

There are some specific skills that elevate fantastic HRBPs way above the mediocre. A top level HRBP will be able to:

  • Quickly establish positive working relationships that deepen over time.

  • Work closely with business leaders and/or line managers.

  • Lead on complex HR projects with credibility.

  • Be change-makers – oozing business culture & values, to shape influence and inspire change.

Business Partner Knowledge

A good HRBP needs to know what they’re talking about and be able to communicate their expertise to others with passion and flair. They will be:

  • Embedded in the business, a person ‘in the know’.

  • Able to use the tools of the trade – models that support change and organisational design, employee engagement tools and other strategic ‘instruments’.

  • Steering and implementing business and people strategy.

Business Partner Experience

An effective HRBP has credibility. It’s not a role well suited to ambition without experience. It works best when a person is:

  • A senior and/or experienced people professional, who may have held a leadership role in the past.

  • A confident generalist although they may have specialised in the past.

  • Familiar with navigating complex people situations, everything from changes and reorganisation to the most challenging grievances, disciplinaries and performance issues.

  

A top-notch HRBP helps leaders to navigate complexity and change

   

How do I know if HR Business Partners would work in my organisation?


Two construction planners are standing together. We can see two hard hats and plans on the table.

It doesn’t work in every organisation, it’s not a model that can be bolted on to a very old-fashioned way of managing people.

You need a certain amount of infrastructure and systems in place already for it to work and you need to work at it once you’ve introduced the model.

  

Making HR Business Partnering work for you will take time, effort and resources

   

Four key questions you can ask yourself to find out if HR Business Partners could transform your organisation…


A man in a suit and glasses, leans forward onto the table and is smiling

As, it’s not a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’, we’ve helpfully devised four key questions you can ask yourself to figure out whether an HRBP model could benefit your business:

  

The best HRBPs transform organisational performance and productivity

  

Question 1 – Do I have clear business strategy or some form of business plan with tangible outcomes, objectives or goals?

This matters because HR need to know how to help teams internally deliver what customers want. True HR business partnering is about enabling your people to achieve their goals and serve your customers better.

Question 2 – Do HR have a seat at the table in top-level decision making?

This is crucial. If your HR Team is not represented at the top level of your business then they’ll never have the opportunity to make the kind of strategic impact you’re going to need.

  • In large organisations this means a Chief People Officer or HR Director on the Exec Team or Board.

  • In smaller organisations this means a Head of HR or Business Partner reporting directly to either the Chief Executive or Managing Director, or one of the directors of your business.

Question 3 – Do I have the infrastructure to produce good (read that as reliable) data about my people?

This matters because good HR is about evidence-based practice and measuring the impact of our work. As the old saying goes ‘what gets measured gets done’.

Question 4 – Do I care about our high levels of engagement, wellbeing and team morale?

Wait…what…of course I do! This question matters because there’s nothing worse than introducing a modern and mature approach to people management in your organisation, if it’s not aligned with the way you do things.

How did you do…?

If you answered mostly positively, then congratulations, it’s likely that a HR business partnering model will work for you! If you answered mostly negatively, then you probably aren’t ready to introduce HR business partnering just yet…but don’t despair, you can get there.

 

In a nutshell, if you don’t have a HR Business Partnering model, you’re probably missing-out


Andrew Knight a HR and Change Consultant takes a call on his mobile

The biggest benefit of the HRBP is to create solid connections between your people and your business goals, making sure that all people activities in your business link with what the customer needs.

In short, if a ‘people task’ doesn’t help you achieve your business goals, then don’t do it.

Give me a call if you want to delve further and explore how a HRBP model could work for you.

 

Don’t know where to start?

I know that HR can sometimes seem like a dark art and the thought of changing to a different way of working can feel overwhelming.

I love working with Exec Teams to improve performance and unleash the potential of their organisations. Who knows what you might achieve?

Give me a call if you want to delve further and explore how a HRBP model could work for you.

  

 

Image credits

Images sourced from Canva Pro and are photographers are not individually credited. If you see one of your photos above, please let us know so we can credit you here. Photo of Andrew Knight by Nick Morrish from Nick Morrish Photography

 

HR myths busted: “Formal annual appraisals are more important than informal check-ins”

HR myths busted: “Formal annual appraisals are more important than informal check-ins”

It’s one of my pet peeves, the annual appraisal that’s nothing more than a box-ticking exercise. It’s time to bin the ‘appraisal’ and make time for meaningful conversations.

There was a time when it would be considered a clear mark of a rubbish employer if there wasn’t a structured yearly appraisal in place. But the modern workplace recognises that a date in the diary once a year, coupled with a fat form to fill in, is nowhere near as effective as regular informal feedback.

Too many businesses conduct annual reviews in a way that is overly formal, creating unnecessary paperwork and ticking a box, without really getting to the heart of the employee’s performance.

Lots of big companies, such as Adobe, have scrapped the yearly appraisal after realising the huge investment in the process often fails to hit the mark.

At Adobe, after a staff consultation, the old performance management system was replaced with check-in discussions at least once a quarter with less paperwork and proper space to review contributions, reward achievements and gather feedback.

It’s a great example, and is starting to be adopted by many forward-thinking companies.

Formal box-ticking appraisals are a barrier to good performance and development

How often should performance be reviewed?

There is no magic formula, but regular and meaningful is a good rule of thumb.

  • Don’t save things up for a yearly formal review
  • Involve employees in decisions to reprioritise workloads in real time, and explain why it’s necessary.
  • Meet monthly for a structured review and if that’s not possible, no less than every six months.

Daily feedback is 6x more likely to be meaningful than annual feedback

How should I be managing and developing performance in my organisation?

  • The key to managing performance is open and transparent conversations, where the employee feels in control of their own destiny.
  • Both employer and employee know what’s expected of them, what they’re great at, and where they need support. It’s not rocket science, this approach builds engagement, which is better for business.
  • Research shows engaged employees generate 43% more revenue than disengaged counterparts. High engagement can also lead to a tripling in profit growth, an 87% reduction in staff turnover and a 20% improvement in performance.

It's not rocket science: higher engagement = improved productivity and performance

What’s the starting point for a new system?

Make sure both the employee and manager are clear about what their performance is being measured against.

You will need:

  • A job description that’s real, not aspirational! It should outline responsibilities, and accurately reflect the job that’s being done.
  • A clear understanding of what’s expected at work.
  • A rock-solid connection between individual goals and the goals of the business.
  • With these basics in hand, managers can agree clear objectives and work out with employees how to regularly measure performance.

Have regular conversations to create a high performance culture

What does a good performance review system look like?

A system that’s working well will increase staff moral, engagement and productivity. It will nip problems in the bud by dealing with anything that comes up quickly, and will prevent the company from spending huge chunks of time on the paperwork that traditional annual appraisals generate.

Top tip: use a blend of formal reviews and informal development conversations

How can I design the right approach for me?

  • What works for you will depend on your business, there is no one-size fits all, although as a general guide everyone could benefit from creating a process that:
  • Reviews energy, engagement, wellbeing, resilience, skills, personal development and priorities.
  • Creates a balanced scorecard which measures WHAT’s been achieved and progress made.
  • Gathers feedback from colleagues, customers and managers on HOW the employees’ approach their work.
  • Outlines goals and commitments …what’s happening next and how will the business support this.
  • Moving from a yearly appraisal system to more regular check-ins may be a huge change for your organisation and managers may need lots of additional training and support.
  • Managers may need training and support to give regular and meaningful feedback
    Organisational wide forms, systems, templates and guidance are a good idea, including making best use of HR self-service and HR systems. Above all, managers need to be self-aware and understand how to tailor their approach to the needs and wants of each team member.

Managers may need training and support to give regular and meaningful feedback

Organisational wide forms, systems, templates and guidance are a good idea, including making best use of HR self-service and HR systems. Above all, managers need to be self-aware and understand how to tailor their approach to the needs and wants of each team member.

Don’t know where to start when it comes to supporting your team through the Cost of Living Crisis?

We are passionate about finding ways to help bosses do the best they can to look after their people.

Some of what we’ve outlined here is simple, but implementing activity that’s targeted to help those that need it most often gets businesses in a pickle. Primarily because they get bogged down about treating all employees the same.

If you need help to work how to support those that need it in a way that’s fair and legal, then please drop us a line. We’d be happy to talk to you.

Does your HR team make things easier or are they getting in the way?

 

Improve People Management, Reduce Pointless Admin and Get Your HR Team Firing on all Cylinders!

 

We’ve talked a lot recently about how to spot when things aren’t going well. We’ve covered cultural blindspots, festering grievances and ineffective organisational structures.


A HR Manager has piles of paperwork in front of him

In lots of cases these problems emerge because those in charge of managing HR are distracted by other stuff!

From holiday pay and recruitment challenges through to furlough – a busy HR team often gets bogged down with no time to see the big picture. It doesn’t have to be this way!

Changes to company infrastructure and HR systems could revolutionise the capacity of your HR team and make it easier for your organisation to get things done. After all, most (if not all) HR people want to do the best for you, your teams and your customers.

 

 

Our job as HR practitioners is to enable you to achieve your goals and objectives

 

What parts of people management should sit with HR?

This might come as a bit of a shock, but virtually all day-to-day people management decisions should sit with line managers, not HR.


This means everything from 1:1s, performance coaching, recognising achievements, managing attendance, and so on …

Organisations that manage people through a centralised HR department are outdated and often not resourced effectively. Gone are the days of HR making decisions for managers or telling managers what to do.

 

 

In modern organisations, it’s HR that enables and managers that manage

 

Great. But what are HR doing, whilst I’m doing all the people stuff?


Andrew Knight HR Consultant is at his office in Cardiff and talking on the phone to a business partner and making notes in his journal

It makes more sense for teams to be given the skills and flexibility to manage their people properly.

If you can achieve this, then your HR team will have the time and space to make your organisation function better. There are four things they can do to achieve this (Ulrich model):

 

Be a Strategic Partner

  • This is about the alignment of HR activities and initiatives with your business aims and strategy.

  • Strategic partners see beyond the internal function of HR to consider the customer and how best to organise the business to serve their needs.

  • It’s usually a job for HR Directors and HR Business Partners.

Be a Change Agent

  • An HR team can be instrumental in supporting change that helps the business to achieve its aims.

  • It’s not about restructuring for the sake of it.

  • The role of HR is to be an expert and trusted adviser, and driver of change activities.

  • They should also be able to understand the future skills and talent needed to make any organisational changes a success.

Be an Employee Champion

  • Being an employee champion is about doing the best for colleagues, leaders, and customers, it shouldn’t be confused with formal advocacy or trade union activity.

  • Good leadership, clear brand values and a solid organisational moral compass will nurture authentic employee champions.

  • These people are crucial and act as the conscience of the business, taking care of people at all levels equally, and prioritising ethical and fair business practices.

Be an Administrative Expert

  • We don’t mean the world’s fastest touch-typist!

  • In the past HR was about writing letters and documents for managers as they ‘couldn’t be trusted’ to do it themselves.

  • These days it’s about creating efficient administrative systems, providing user-friendly templates for managers to personalise and most of all, maintaining excellent HR technology that enables people.

  • In short, this is where HR can and should, get out of your way.

 

 

HR falls down when we focus on one role and not excellence in all areas

 

How are HR using technology to manage and enable people?

Knowing when to automate processes and when the human touch is still needed, is a key skill for HR leaders.


A manager is reviewing an employee appraisal and is smiling

We all expect on-demand and instant service, from banking apps to self-service tills in stores, HR is no different.

Our colleagues expect to be able to easily make holiday bookings, record appraisal ratings and access their data at the touch of a button.

An HR team that’s nailed being an ‘administrative expert’ will be creating, maintaining, and evolving systems, tools, and technology to serve you better. Remember, a system with even a minimal level of automation can save hours of wasted time and admin that does not add value, freeing-up time for HR teams to add value in other ways.

 

 

HR technology can be used to enhance engagement and save valuable time

 

What is the gold standard for a modern HR team?


A photo of a HR Team is shown and not in focus. We can see the outline of people meeting with the backdrop of sunlight coming through the office window

Obviously, all organisations are different, but the key is to enable your HR Team to be an integral part of the business, not an afterthought.

HR Teams come in all different shapes and sizes, but the best and most effective HR functions a focused on their customers.

 

 

Award-winning HR Teams enable managers and teams to achieve their goals

 

We’ll give a gold star to any HR team that …

  • Puts the customer first – HR is a core support function, so an overhead that you need to get the best value for. HRBPs and HR Directors should be structuring the business to better achieve your customer goals. When you understand what the customer needs you can shape systems and processes accordingly.

  • Is a genuine catalyst for change – Top HR teams will ask tough questions about how you’re going to achieve your objectives. This can result in minor adaptations and actions, or major restructures and changes to how the business works. Either way, a top-notch HR team will be help you to manage change effectively and sustainably.

  • Empowers others to make change happen! – Your HR team should be the experts at enabling and empowering managers to deliver the business plan for your customers.

  • Makes the best use of talent and skill – Specialists specialise and generalists generalise. Wait…what? We’re talking about making the best use of talent, skill, and experience both within your team and elsewhere. Rely on your HRBP to get the best from your HR service and help you achieve your goals, and leave specialists to deliver project work and key goals across the organisation.

  • Is totally prepared to say ‘no’ – The best HR teams help leaders to avoid unfocused vanity projects and ad hoc ‘people initiatives’ (so unhelpful) that aren’t linked to a proper strategy or business goals. Empower your HR Team to say ‘no’ to things that will not help to achieve your vision.

 

How can I achieve HR gold?

Be bold and give more power to the people! If your HR team is micromanaging every person in your business from some ivory tower (or just a bog-standard red brick HQ) have a good think about what they could achieve if they weren’t rubber stamping holiday request forms or typing up appraisals.

There is so much that can be achieved by overhauling outdated systems. Even by introducing one single approval workflow in a business, we saved 1,000 hours of management time over a year.

Give me a call and I’ll explain how even minor changes like this can make a dramatic difference.

 

I need the help of a HR specialist to transform my HR function

You might not know how or where to start changing things to create extra capacity in your HR Team. You might need an experienced and knowledgeable HR specialist to help you get started and create an action plan.

I love working with HR Teams to release capacity and release their potential. Who knows what they might achieve?

Get in touch for a friendly chat about how I can help.

 

 

Image credits

Images sourced from Canva Pro and are photographers are not individually credited. If you see one of your photos above, please let us know so we can credit you here. Photo of Andrew Knight by Nick Morrish from Nick Morrish Photography

 

How to put people at the heart of company decision making

How to put people at the heart of company decision making

Introducing a HR strategy that automates simple tasks and frees up time to focus on building a positive, people-focused company culture

Introducing a HR strategy that automates simple tasks and frees up time to focus on building a positive, people-focused company culture

  • There are many misconceptions about the role of HR, which are often driven by a lack of visibility.
  • When managers take accountability for people tasks that were traditionally considered part of the personnel function, it’s often seen as an indicator of good leadership; a sign that the people at the top of the company communicate well with their team. In many instances, there’s not always a need to call on HR to settle issues surrounding things like contracts, training, appraisals or bonuses.
  • It’s more common to call on HR when a more technical or complicated people-related issue comes up. For example, when there’s uncertainty around regulatory or legal requirements surrounding employment, HR may be brought into the conversation as subject matter experts.

Misconceptions about HR are driven by a lack of visibility.

  • A natural downside to this way of working is that many employees will only ever come across a HR professional when they’re being interviewed, or having to go through some sort of formal performance management or disciplinary process. This means that HR is sometimes seen as the department of ‘hiring and firing’, or that the ‘H’ in HR stands for anything other than human.
  • I believe there’s a better way to approach the integration of HR in organisations: one that still allows leaders to stay connected with the people in their teams while placing the focus on core company values to better care for both colleagues and customers
  • HR is the custodian of fairness, equality and inclusion in any business. This means that they’ll put systems and processes in place to make sure that you’re not discriminated against. You may not see them at any point during the selection process, but if you’re treated with dignity and respect, we’ve done our job right.
     
     

How should I be managing and developing performance in my organisation?

  • The key to managing performance is open and transparent conversations, where the employee feels in control of their own destiny.
  • Both employer and employee know what’s expected of them, what they’re great at, and where they need support. It’s not rocket science, this approach builds engagement, which is better for business.
  • Research shows engaged employees generate 43% more revenue than disengaged counterparts. High engagement can also lead to a tripling in profit growth, an 87% reduction in staff turnover and a 20% improvement in performance.

Why quick fixes aren’t enough

  • There’s no question that many businesses set out to do the right thing. Leaders often strive to live and breathe the core values of the companies they run, so that their actions, behaviours and decisions are consistent with these values and their organisation’s overall purpose.
  • Some of the ‘quick fixes’ that businesses choose to demonstrate that they value their people and communities include:
  • Flexible reward and recognition schemes
  • Paying at least the living wage
  • Developing a pipeline of leaders within the business
  • Reinvesting profits in community investment schemes to demonstrate social value

Quick fixes won’t create a lasting and positive culture

  • While these actions are all commendable, there are wider and more strategic decisions that can be taken to create a lasting and positive culture. This is where a dedicated HR expert can help.

A new model for HR

  • Executives, directors, boards, business owners and leaders might consider moving from the Ulrich model (where HR is separated into roles such as employee champion, change agent, strategic partner and administrative expert) to a more evolved HR network model – one that builds on the success of existing business partnering relationships.
  • Nowadays the majority of service centre work can be dealt with via automated workflows, AI, chatbots and self-service apps, allowing people to take care of admin tasks themselves. This means that tasks like managing annual leave balances, recording absences and related documentation or making basic queries about salary payments no longer require the resources they once did.
 

The team that previously would have managed such tasks will now be free to manage self-service platforms and related processes. In larger organisations, personalising and tailoring these platforms to the needs of the people who use them can be achieved without sacrificing efficiency or compliance.

HR needs to change. It’s time to focus on ‘people not process’

Meanwhile, HR project teams can act as internal consultants, focusing on work that is directly informed by the company’s people strategy. Their expertise can call upon a blend of internal and external resources, with subject matter experts working on important strategic areas of work such as:

  • Organisational development
  • Organisation design
  • Diversity and inclusion
  • Rewards

By following a model like this, HR becomes a network of change, engagement and influence. Your people team becomes a key part of wider business decision making, blurring the traditional boundaries of HR and putting people at the very heart of what the company does.

HR networks are excellent at building and growing relationships, managing change and engagement and work to achieve the wider strategy goals. When you consider all this, it seems natural to include HR in your decision making process.

Don’t know where to start when it comes to supporting your team through the Cost of Living Crisis?

We are passionate about finding ways to help bosses do the best they can to look after their people.

Some of what we’ve outlined here is simple, but implementing activity that’s targeted to help those that need it most often gets businesses in a pickle. Primarily because they get bogged down about treating all employees the same.

If you need help to work how to support those that need it in a way that’s fair and legal, then please drop us a line. We’d be happy to talk to you.

Build a pandemic-proof business in 2021

Build a pandemic-proof business in 2021

2020 has been and gone. Here’s how you can make the next year a successful one for your business, no matter what COVID-19 throws at it

The coronavirus pandemic has affected us all in ways we’d have struggled to imagine when 2020 rolled around. If you run a business that has shifted from a face-to-face business model to a blended or virtual offering, the challenges and opportunities you face could leave you feeling all sorts of things: nervous, overwhelmed, uncertain and exhausted, to name just a few.

Now that we’re almost a year into the pandemic, it’s worth considering what the future of your business will look like on the other side of lockdown. If you’re not sure where to start, a HR consultant can help you to reengage with your team, identify the people challenges your business may face in the ‘new normal’ and develop your workforce to make the most of growth and development opportunities.

From leading teams remotely to keeping sight of your long-term business vision, here are some of the ways I’ve helped companies and individuals adapt and succeed during the pandemic.

 

Let your team hear your voice and see your face

Senior teams should be empowered to lead on operational matters and day-to-day issues. Try to create space and time for your team to look after your customers and to take ownership of their projects. This will release your time to focus on strategic matters, whether it’s the marketing plan for a post-vaccinated world or a new treasury strategy to take advantage of record-low interest rates.

Virtual leadership in the age of COVID-19

Leading a team remotely feels very different to managing a group of people in an office. Yet the core principles remain the same: to keep communication clear and open, inspire trust and get the best from the people you work with.

Keep information flowing and regularly share feedback

  • It’s more important than ever to talk to your team regularly about how the business is performing. Involving colleagues in this process (for example, by asking what customers have been saying or encouraging individuals to explain what’s working well for them) can result in a more collaborative conversation where people feel valued and inspired to do well on behalf of the team.

Rebuilding with vision

What should leaders be focused on as they rebuild their businesses following the pandemic? The most important thing is to stick to your core values: making decisions, taking action and behaving in a way that reflects the ethos and character of your company.

Empower others and create space for yourself

  • It’s more important than ever to talk to your team regularly about how the business is performing. Involving colleagues in this process (for example, by asking what customers have been saying or encouraging individuals to explain what’s working well for them) can result in a more collaborative conversation where people feel valued and inspired to do well on behalf of the team.

Stay focussed on your long term plans

  • As well as keeping up momentum in the short term, it’s important to stay focused on long-term plans. You may need to recalibrate (and that’s OK) but don’t lose sight of your vision. Don’t forget to keep talking about it: clearly communicating your vision and plans to your team while engaging them in your COVID recovery plans will show clear and reassuring leadership as everyone recovers from the crisis.

Champion safety and wellbeing at work

  • Above all, prioritise the safety and wellbeing of your workforce, your customers, your partners and stakeholders. People will always remember how you made them feel – you want that feeling to be safe, positive and reassuring.
 

Supporting your business through organisational change

  • Economic and societal change are two of the big drivers for organisational change. COVID-19 has triggered both, making now an ideal time to consider how your organisation can adapt to meet the challenges and embrace the opportunities of 2021 and beyond.
  • Working with an organisational change consultant will help to ensure that you make the most of the process. I’m passionate about helping my clients to optimise their organisations and meet whatever challenges come their way; getting to know the specific challenges your business is facing before coming up with smart, long-lasting solutions that are tailored to your company.

Don’t know where to start when it comes to supporting your team through the Cost of Living Crisis?

We are passionate about finding ways to help bosses do the best they can to look after their people.

Some of what we’ve outlined here is simple, but implementing activity that’s targeted to help those that need it most often gets businesses in a pickle. Primarily because they get bogged down about treating all employees the same.

If you need help to work how to support those that need it in a way that’s fair and legal, then please drop us a line. We’d be happy to talk to you.

People, not personnel: the evolving role of HR in modern businesses

 

From keeping things legal to boosting productivity, HR has come a long way since the personnel departments of years gone by

Imagine a time when offices were filled with cigarette smoke and rows of typists. At the end of the corridor, there’s an office with a big leather chair for the boss. You’re probably thinking of the 1960s and 70s right now, maybe Mad Men (the AMC TV Show) – hopefully not your most recent job at a contact centre!

Somewhere in this imaginary retro office, there’s a personnel department. While they’re responsible for keeping basic admin records about the workforce, the personnel administrators and managers definitely don’t have a seat at the table when it comes to making business-wide decisions.

Now let’s fast-forward to the third decade of the 21st century. Most of us want to forget 2020 – the working from home, the lay-offs, the closures and redundancies, learning how to lead a team remotely while keeping everyone engaged and happy. 

The personnel department from yesteryear wouldn’t have been involved in this kind of thing, but luckily we’ve moved on a bit since then. These days we have people teams instead of personnel departments, and they’re here to help your business and its workforce remain productive and satisfied no matter what the future has in store.

 

People and personnel: what’s the difference?


typewriter.png

The term personnel is a bit old hat now, but for a long time it was the foundation for the way that businesses handled issues within their staff. Personnel departments traditionally fulfilled an administrative role, and were limited in their ability to create a positive culture within the workplace.

But workplaces have changed a lot in the last 50 years, from the organisational systems we use to the role of leadership within companies. What used to be the personnel department has evolved to meet the needs of modern businesses: it’s now more common to hear about people teams, who act as partners with your business and help leaders to make decisions that will benefit both businesses and the people who work for them.

People teams use consumer-standard technology to automate low-value admin tasks, which gives them more time to spend with business leaders. Unlike the personnel department heads of years gone by, people directors often have a seat at the top table, guiding leaders and supporting the business to make sustainable decisions. Their teams are involved in a number of key business roles: recruitment and onboarding, designing and evaluating training, developing a strong pipeline of talented workers, and tackling some of the most significant issues your business will ever face (like a global pandemic, for example).

 

Enabling, not just enforcing


AK standing with client.png

Of course, people teams also have the important role of managing risk in an organisation and ensuring that the legal aspects of employment are dealt with in an ethical and lawful way. Some of the tasks your HR or people team will take care of include:

  

Pre-employment checks

so you don’t employ anyone inappropriate or in a way that would breach legislation. (This is going to become even more important as the Brexit transition period ends and the UK immigration rules change on 1st January 2021.)

Championing integrity in the workplace

many businesses commission third parties to host their confidential disclosure hotlines so that employees and suppliers can report wrongdoing or corruption in confidence. When a report is made, people teams deal with them sensitively and swiftly to protect your business.

   

Managing complex grievance, absence and disciplinary matters

so you don’t break the law when it comes to dealing with tricky issues.

Restructuring

your business won’t look the same in 10 years as it does now. People teams will help you to design a sustainable structure and navigate your way through the restructure process

  

 

The right HR consultant for your business

As you can see, there’s a lot that a dedicated people team or consultant can help your business with. To learn more about the role I play for businesses as an independent HR practitioner, take a look at the services I offer, or get in touch for a friendly chat.

  

 

Image credits

The cast of Mad Men (AMC)

Typewriter photo by Min An from Pexels

Photo of Andrew Knight by Nick Morrish from Nick Morrish Photography

HR myths busted: “You only see HR when someone’s about to be hired or fired”

HR myths busted: “You only see HR when someone’s about to be hired or fired”

If you only think of HR as the department of hiring and firing, you’re missing out on a whole load of business-wide benefits

“Want to experience real power? Walk along the shop floor with a file and clipboard. It’s the signal that a termination is about to happen.”

So then, what else does HR do?

  • Much of what HR teams do is invisible to the majority of people within a company. We take for granted that when we apply to join an organisation, there will be a careers portal and online application process. Similarly, when we are offered a job, we expect to be sent a contract and a set of instructions for our first day. It’s usually someone in HR who makes those things happen.
  • We also take for granted that our workplace will be safe and not contribute negatively to our health, wellbeing and performance. Again, someone in HR had a hand in how the workplace was designed and how wellbeing is supported at work.
  • Many employees only see HR when there’s bad news to be delivered, or when a challenging conversation needs to take place. The truth is that HR teams work constantly to help everyone be at their best.

When you’re being considered for a role

  • HR is the custodian of fairness, equality and inclusion in any business. This means that they’ll put systems and processes in place to make sure that you’re not discriminated against. You may not see them at any point during the selection process, but if you’re treated with dignity and respect, we’ve done our job right.

When you’re on a course or training session at work

  • HR includes Learning & Development, a team of professionals whose sole purpose is to improve your knowledge, skills, qualifications and understanding, so that you can take your career where you want it to go.

When you’ve been given a bonus, incentive or reward

  • HR might not be there when you get the news, but reward and recognition are a key part of any positive organisational culture. It’s HR’s job to make that happen.

When you’re being promoted or moved into a new role

  • HR makes sure that this process is fair and equitable. They’ll update the legal documents and contracts so that you’ve got what you need, they’ll instruct payroll to increase your pay (if that’s part of the job change), and they’ll support your manager to provide any additional training or resources you need in your new role.
 

How can managers and leaders get more from their HR teams?

  • Firstly, don’t see your HR team as a blocker to getting things done at work. They’re not there to tell you what you can’t do; rather, HR teams are chomping at the bit to help you do what you want to do.
  • Proactive HR teams want to partner with you, understand your business and enable your people to give their best. Of course, there are times when we need to tell managers why something can’t be done for either a legal or regulatory reason, but this isn’t a negative thing: it’s preventing you from wasting your time and effort on activities that don’t stack up.
  • Secondly, keep a regular and open dialogue with your HR Team – it’s a two-way street. HR practitioners have access to lots of tools, information and ideas that can really help you and your business to fly.
  • Work with your HR Team on your strategic plan. We can help you with better (and often streamlined) ways to set up your teams, set performance expectations, reward and recognise good performance, deal with challenging issues and help build a positive culture at work.

In short, by treating your HR team as a business partner and not a barrier, you’ll get a ton of value back in return.

Don’t know where to start when it comes to supporting your team through the Cost of Living Crisis?

We are passionate about finding ways to help bosses do the best they can to look after their people.

Some of what we’ve outlined here is simple, but implementing activity that’s targeted to help those that need it most often gets businesses in a pickle. Primarily because they get bogged down about treating all employees the same.

If you need help to work how to support those that need it in a way that’s fair and legal, then please drop us a line. We’d be happy to talk to you.