Dog tired… It’s Friday afternoon

jasper
Jasper with that Monday morning feeling.

The truth about office dogs… At Amelore we have an office dog.

Jasper is a black Labrador/Spaniel cross and comes to work with my husband who is our part-time and very flexible Financial Controller, Head of IT Support and creative lead amongst other things.

Jasper loves his routine. He walks across the fields each morning with my husband to take the children to our local village school. Then they head into the office and he positively runs in the door. Having burst in he drinks a large amount of water and then wipes his wet chops on our Operations Manager Sam. He rushes around to greet everyone and then he crashes out on his bed.

He barks at all the deliverymen and occasionally at clients if they arrive early for a meeting (if we don’t know they are dog friendly he has his own dog sitters in the office next door or failing that he sulks in the family bus).

Now over the years I have come across dogs at work and it can work very well and it can work very badly.

When I worked in the public sector it was quite common in the rural offices for people to take dogs to work but keep them in their cars, walking them regularly and sitting with them at lunchtime.

One of my clients introduced a rescue dog into a crowded workspace and it bit an employee. She was very understanding but that was not sensible on many levels and clearly the employer always has a duty to provide a safe environment for its employees. A bite is a personal injury and can be serious.

Recently we hired someone that wanted to take her dog to a central London office everyday on the tube but we said no to that. The office was busy and there was nowhere for the dog to be exercised.

The thing about any animals in the office is that not everyone likes them. It can really add a friendly, healthy dynamic to your company as we feel Jasper does, but if we wanted to hire someone that didn’t like dogs (they would have to be exceptional!), Jasper would sadly no longer be coming to work.

If you are thinking about having an office dog, make sure everyone is happy about it and set out the rules. Certain environments (warehouses, factories etc) are not dog friendly and the temperament of the dog is a key and major factor.

How to progress your Career

 

fireman

Last week I attended a CIPD focus group.

The topic was the HR professional map (not the fire service…more later) which you are probably only familiar with if you have recently studied your professional exams. Sadly for the CIPD our focus group didn’t use or value it. Thought it wasn’t all bad news as everyone agreed that the CIPD Code of Conduct was a very good document. We share that at Amelore… we send it out with our proposals.

I always think focus groups are a great way to get a quick bit of professional development as they are almost always attended by people that care enough to turn up and say what they think.

The mixture was interesting. There was an L&D bias along with someone from a Reward background and me, a generalist with a twist.

One of the questions was about how our careers had developed. Mine had begun in training administration and progressed, once I had qualified, to HR manager/head of department/HR Director. This was in the days before the dreaded Ulrich model and Shared Service centres which have cut many career development opportunities away.

One guy that attended stood out.

He had a Retail banking background and came across as extremely driven, self-motivated and ambitious. He was an L&D professional and would be an asset to any organisation I have no doubt. He had recognized early on in his career the power of mirroring desirable organsiational behaviour and had used this technique to get himself from a trainer right up to an L&D Director.

Every organisation has its own set of unique and valued behaviours and values. These are often completely different to anything written down or spoken about by HR or the official corporate line.

When you join you need to quickly identify who the people are that are respected and looked up to and mirror what they do and how they behave.

This might include how they dress (very formally or smart casual or with a bit of style and panache), the hours they work (long or flexible or very smart and output driven), the personal values they exhibit (eg winning at any price v humility and respect for individuals), whether they look after themselves (gym, good diet, holidays space v no exercise, bad diet, booze) and how they treat each other.

Sometimes successful powerful people form a club within an organisation which they use to trade favours and keep out competition. If such a thing exists in your company you will need to work out how you can infiltrate it.
Of course analyzing your organisation in this way sometimes helps you identify that you have made a mistake because the person you are, will never match with your organisation.

In which case take a tip from the Fire Brigade…. Get out… Stay out!

But don’t call Fire Brigade, just get another job.

Choosing the right job but the wrong organisation or the right organisation but the wrong job can often shape your career as much as finding somewhere that perfectly suits you.

Successful people are clear about what they want to achieve and achieve it. Like my L&D focus group colleague. He drove his career, from job to job, organisation because he had a plan.

Do you?

Does getting legal benefit anyone?

scales of justice

Well yes it does actually… Lawyers!

If you are an individual or if you are a company, a lawyer may well encourage you to go to Tribunal. Whatever the outcome, for your business or your reputation or employability (employers don’t queue up to hire people that have taken their employers to tribunal) Lawyers will get paid.

If you are an employer, whatever the outcome of the Tribunal, whether you win or lose, they will get paid.

If you are an Individual and have a dispute, getting legal will only end in one place. You getting fired or damaging your career prognosis. Whatever any lawyer says, I just don’t know anyone in any business that has enhanced their relationship with their employer by taking or even threatening legal action. And there is no employer alive that would willingly hire someone that had taken their previous employer to tribunal.

Whatever the outcome.

It damages any relationship. You may win some money. But most likely some of that will go towards paying legal fees. So the lawyers still get paid,you get some money but then you haven’t got a job. The lawyers won’t help you finding a new career, because that is not what they do.

The good news for employers is that with the introduction of fees for Employment Tribunals claims have dropped significantly. The qualifying service for unfair dismissal claims is now two years which has also had an impact.

Thing is most employers don’t realise the average claim is around £4,500. And that claims have actually dropped by 85% in the last year. Let’s hope this isn’t reversed if we have a change of government.

Of course no-one takes good employers to tribunals and you can’t if you don’t have a case. So it pays to make sure your house is in order and get good advice but above all to value and look after your employees. Develop them. Give them feedback. Listen to them.

And if you are an individual and have an issue take advice about how to approach it. Externally is best. Not a lawyer as the workplace is about so much more than employment law. Identify what you want to achieve and if it is just a good moan, think again. Consider signing up to a Career Booster programme. Amelore are offering this soon to help people that don’t belong to a union or aren’t related to a HR advisor but want the equivalent of a HR Manager in their pocket. For more information on our Career Booster programme please email us at office@amelore.com

Since I’ve been in HR, I’ve watched a lot of porn

It wasn’t what I expected that’s for sure….
Lap-dancing clubs for corporate meetings
But having worked in some very male dominated environments it has been the subject of a number of investigations I have led that have often resulted in dismissal.  I can recall one guy that used the company systems to book an escort and others that sent shocking images to junior female staff for a laugh.

I can still remember in my early 30’s when I began working for a small merchant bank (that no longer exists) in the shadow of St Paul’s and going into the dealing room and just seeing a sea of porn on the screen savers.

In those days male traders still entertained male clients at Spearmint Rhino and it would pop out at lunchtime for a bottle of wine and to watch a quick semi naked dance before they slithered back to their desks.  You could always tell who had. They had a far away glint in their eye. It wasn’t nice.
Using lap-dancing clubs as corporate venues certainly excluded women even if one did get invites to go and watch and be one of the lads. Some women felt forced to do this to progress their careers as it was where lots of deals were done as well as recruitment. 
I’d like to say it doesn’t happen anymore but of course it still does.
Porn at work – hard to judge
In the days before the internet, you would not expect to see someone sitting at their desk reading Penthouse or something similar but there is a culture in some workplaces of highly inappropriate emails being passed around.
Now I say highly inappropriate because I am mindful that any pornographic image is probably very offensive to some people and that most people wouldn’t feel it was proper conduct in the workplace.  And of course it breaches the Equality Act as the employer has a duty to provide a positive working environment for all.
But it seems some people find this hard to judge.  Especially District Judge Timothy Bowles, Immigration Judge Warren Grant and Deputy District Judge and Recorder Peter Bullock who have all been removed from office for viewing pornography during working hours via the judicial IT systems.
Penalities are severe (or should be)
None of them work together so it looks to me like the Judicial IT department  have done a random sweep of their systems and picked this up.  Whenever I have done this in a workplace (after issuing a code of conduct and a warning) it has always picked up people mis-using the system and not expecting to get caught.  And it is gross misconduct which means they can be dismissed without pay. And they often are.
But often we don’t take senior folk to task enough.  So I’m delighted that the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice have concluded it was an “inexcusable misuse” of their official accounts and “wholly unacceptable conduct for a judicial office holder”.  I firmly agree. If you hold the office and take the salary you need to behave in a manner that is fitting. We should expect the same standards from MPs and anyone in a senior or responsible role.
What should you do if someone sends you an inappropriate email?
Delete it without forwarding it. To anyone. Even yourself at home.
What should you do if you receive a complaint that one of your employees has done this?
Don’t do what I heard recently and delete the inappropriate content.  That just makes you as the employer more culpable.  You must do an investigation and if appropriate discipline your employee.  Make sure your IT and Communication policies are fit for purpose and update them if not.

Shared Parental Leave – do you know what’s coming?

Paternity leave, parental leave and now shared parental leave…it’s no wonder employers can get confused as to when and how to apply all these different forms of leave. So here’s the lowdown on what this new shared parental leave is, when it can be used and what you need to know.
Shared parental leave is going to be available for the parents of children due to be born or adopted on or after 5 April 2015. It’s a new policy that aims to enable eligible parents to choose how to share the care of their child during the first year of birth or adoption.


Broadly speaking the way this will work is that the parent will opt out of her maternity or adoption leave/statutory maternity or adoption pay and opt into the shared parental leave/shared parental pay. This will then allow them to share the remaining time and leave with their partner.
So how does this actually work?
Here’s an example. A mum may have gone on maternity leave 2 weeks before her baby is born. Then 6 weeks after the birth she gives 8 weeks notice to curtail her maternity leave and notice of taking shared parental leave. This means she will have taken 16 weeks of maternity leave, which will leave 36 weeks of shared paternal leave available. She can now share this 36 weeks with her partner, so either the partner could take 20 weeks and she could take the remaining 16 weeks or they could both take 18 weeks together.
Who is eligible?
This is pretty straightforward. You must share care of the child with either your husband, wife, civil partner or joint adopter; the child’s other parent; or your partner (if they live with you and the child). You or your partner must be eligible for maternity leave/pay, maternity allowance, or adoption leave/pay You must also have been employed continuously for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the EWC; be employed by the same employer while you take SPL; and have main responsibility for the care of the child (apart from any responsibility of the partner).
How is Shared Parental Leave requested?
Now this is where the rules get a bit confusing…
To request shared parental leave you first need to provide a Leave Curtailment Notice to end your maternity or adoption leave.
You then need to provide Notice of Entitlement and Intention to Take Shared Parental Leave. In essence, three notices are required:-
1.     The mother and the partner must each give their employers written notice of entitlement to SPL and ShPP.
2.      The employee must also provide a signed declaration
3.     The employee’s partner must also provide a signed declaration stating
It is inevitable that sometimes an employee is going to want to change their mind over how they want to split this leave. Now, they can do this but unsurprisingly this is going to mean they need to serve another notice of intention to take shared parental leave confirming estimated dates and what leave is available to them. It’s worth noting here that they can change their minds over this as many times as they want.
When an employee is ready to request the actual date of this leave they need to serve a period of leave notice. Employees need to give their employer’s 8 weeks notice of any leave.
One period of leave notice can include more than one block of leave. An employee has the right to provide a maximum of 3 period of leave notices. An important thing to remember is that if an employee wants to change the dates of a period of leave, they need to serve another notice of leave, which comes out of their maximum 3 period of leave notices.
During shared parental leave, all contractual entitlements continue apart from wages or salary. Pension contributions will continue to be paid when shared parental pay is being paid but not when the employee is on unpaid shared parental leave.
So what do you need to do to get ready for the 5th April?
Ensure you have a shared parental leave policy in place
Communicate with your managers so they are ready for questions coming from employees about this new entitlement
Maternity coaching
Maternity coaching is already an established practice and whilst still predominantly female led, at Amelore we are starting to see men join at least one of the sessions.  Coaching before, during and after maternity and potentially shared parental leave provides valuable space for employees to explore significant changes, increase clarity of thought and help really decide the best way of working for the future.
Need help with this?
Amelore can help design a policy that fits your organisation and provide the tools to upskill your managers so they’re ready for the inevitable questions that will start coming through.

Is HR your Friend or Foe?


A few years ago I appeared in an article that the Guardian published in the sadly now defunct Work section.  It was written by the charming Mark King (who now edits Moneywise) and it upset SOME people.

Mainly people in HR.

Dear oh dear.

Here is the article.

At that time I was quite a regular commentator on the Dear Jeremy page as ExBrightonBelle (for anyone that remembers me) and Mark approached me as it was obvious from my responses that I was an HR professional.

I don’t think any of us can get away from the fact that HR serves the management team over the employees. And yes as much as there will be many positive things that internal HR functions can do, they will mainly be focused on reducing costs, getting rid of difficult people and keeping the management team happy.

You can see how from a staff point of view that given those facts they may well see HR as their foe. 

What has been hugely refreshing for me since I started my own business 5 years ago is that I honestly think it’s different when you are external.  You don’t have to deal with politics, you can make recommendations and improve things and often part of our remit is coaching and developing people.  Which you never get to do as an internal person.

The other thing we do a lot of which I love is bringing the brand in-house. The Brand very much being the domain of the marketing department when you are internal.  And those two functions don’t often collaborate too closely.  You can have a Brand bible and a Staff handbook and reading them it’s like two different companies.  So being external we can also be pretty creative. In fact we have to be really to compete – why else would people choose to retain us?

Of course we are not a traditional outsourced HR business because we insist on face to face contact and agreed attendance in the office. Yes we support remotely 24/7 (but we don’t have an advice line – you just call your HR lead directly) and yes we firmly insist on the correct on brand (yours not ours) paperwork and good governance structures (we don’t offer tribunal indemnity insurance because we have never lost a tribunal – not as a company or in the professional history of our founder Ruth Cornish – so why would we slow everything down in that way) because we just don’t do tribunals.

If reading this you are kind of curious about what we could do for your business please get in touch.  We’d love to hear from you.
 

The first of many…

On Thursday I did something for the first time.


I hired someone!


Weird really when you think I have worked in HR for 25 years.


But what I did yesterday was take the big and exciting step of hiring someone to work for me in my company.  Over the years I have probably hired thousands of people.  But never into my OWN business.


I started it 5 years ago but until now have worked with associates.  So very flexible, and it’s a model that can work for some.


Hiring someone has been part of a determined decision and a very thought through plan to grow from a busy consultant to a business.  Our first employee is someone who will focus on Business Development. We already have our second and third lined up – someone to manage Operations and someone to lead HR consultancy.


It hasn’t been easy to find the right person.  In the end we used an agency. I think that can really help when you are small and no-one knows much about you.  Having someone else to tell a story about you and your vision. We did try our own campaigns but we have also recently changed our name.


So I’d recommend that. 


We did a 2 stage process. The very talented individual we hired met me first 1-2-1.  She admitted that she wasn’t keen initially (our location) until she came in and saw our offices. Small but perfectly formed. Light, bright and colourful. But also hearing our story, my vision and plans.


A week later she returned to do a presentation about how she’d approach the job. We had also profiled her personality.  This is critical in my opinion.


On the wall beside my desk I have a map of the personalities of everyone that works in or closely with my business.  I know how people like to work and what they are good at.  And how they like to be managed. This means I can build a balanced team which is so critical in a small business.


I’m lucky that compared to the average SME I have at my finger tips everything one needs to hire someone. Not just the paperwork but the insight about the importance of induction and clear expectations and goals.

Getting the HR side of things right is an important factor for any small business.  I was privileged to get involved with nothonthehighstreet.com in its earlier days which is now a very successful business that everyone has heard of it.  They wrote a second book last year called “Shape up your Business in 30days” which is a very useful guide for any business owner.  We advised on the HR side of things and the section on personality is very interesting.  I highly recommend you invest in a copy.

Why HR and Marketing need to get into bed together… fast.

Traditionally HR has had more in common with Finance than Marketing – systems, payroll, forms and data.  But rarely any analysis from it; rules, regulations; what you can and can’t do. All a bit dull…

Marketeers tended to sit with Sales and care most about budgets, products, and consumers (in that order). HR practitioners were interested in future and current employees rarely thinking of them as customers in the way that the Marketing department did.
 

Despite apparent differences between the functions of HR and marketing, the digital world has brought them closer than ever by eliminating differences between employees and consumers who may actually be one person at the end of the day.

So much so, that most businesses should seriously consider bringing their HR and Marketing departments much closer together as it could be a healthy collaboration.
 

Firstly, Marketing truly understands the brand in the way that HR should.  Brands reflect a company’s reputation, embodying its values and DNA. When consumers are attracted to a company’s brand, they will probably identify with its culture too. And cultural fit drives employee engagement, and productivity. When employees share the values of the organisation, work fulfills important psychological needs and motives; and consumers achieve the same when they buy products that align with their idealised self and identity.

Furthermore, since employees are also brand ambassadors – they share both good and bad experiences of the job and the organisations via Glassdoor, LinkedIn and Facebook – engaged employees are an important asset, not only to marketing but the whole organisation. Conversely, if you hire people who have trouble fitting in they will sooner or later be tempted to harm your brand or work for your competitors. And in an age in which brand loyalty is easier to pursue than employee loyalty, marketing is well placed to teach HR about loyalty.

Secondly, the two keys to successful recruitment are (a) attracting good candidates and (b) assessing their future potential. Thanks to technology and digital advertising, marketing departments are now better placed to accomplish these two goals than traditional technology and analytics free HR departments.

Indeed, most businesses have a strong online presence with consumers, and with it comes the capacity to mine behavioural data that can be translated into valid profiles. Importantly, these profiles can be used not only to predict consumer behaviours, but also employee performance.

For example, knowing that a person has unconventional preferences and is an early adopter can predict not only their likelihood of buying innovative products, but also their ability to innovate, which would make them suitable for a creative role.

Likewise, if companies want to hire emotionally intelligent employees, they could mine consumer transactions that reflect cool-headed and smart purchasing decisions, and refrain from hiring customers who spend a lot of time complaining.

However, there is an important caveat: although the same data point may represent an employee and a consumer, the segments and typologies traditionally used in marketing are not always relevant to HR. Marketing can learn from HR to assess more relevant aspects of human behaviour (eg, the bright and dark side of personality, competencies, personal values and motivations) together with their experience of living with decisions.  If a company loses a customer, it is very different from a big Employee Relations issue that can impact badly on moral and profitability.

Thirdly, it is clear now that employees increasingly want consumer-like experiences. They don’t want a job; they want a meaningful career.  Money matters less than fun, purpose and work-life balance. Regular staff surveys are conducted to monitor employees’ involvement and engagement levels at work – just like sentiment analyses, but of employees rather than brands. And the very futures of employees depend not on their qualifications and skills, but their capacity to self-brand and sell their brand to future employers.

It seems, then, that marketing departments can play a key role in engaging, managing and developing employees.  The businesses revered by consumers will be the best places to work, and being employed by those businesses will strengthen employees’ personal brand, which in turn will strengthen the business. Traditional HR products like clunky appraisal systems; exit interviews and the formal one-way interview need refreshing and replacing. 

Ultimately, marketing is about storytelling, influence and differentiation. But the story of brands is the psychological journey of organisations, and each organisation is its people: their values, ideas, and reputation. Marketing and HR could be a powerful force in any organisation. Bringing the brand in-house to shape and create a culture that individuals wish to join. Marketing it externally. 
Looking at employee data to identify new ways to engage with employees. Creating a place to work driven by individuals not corporate needs.
 

It’s a very exciting thought.