What every manager wants to avoid

In our work, we audit any new company we work with and have observed that a common theme in many is that managers don’t appear to want to manage.

By that we mean managing people. Setting standards on performance and monitoring them, holding employees to account, identifying what behaviours are needed to create the right culture to grow the business and being confrontational if and when it is necessary. Or they are only embracing the nicer side of management. Giving out pay rises and promotions etc

Managers and leaders seldom avoid this type of work for any other reason than they don’t know how to do it and are worried about getting it wrong. Often employees pick up on a fear and become experts on how to make the most of this which is rarely beneficial for the manager or the company. Equally managers aren’t set any targets or held to account about whether they do it (well) or not. So they will naturally focus on what is valued.

As we are all aware, being good at a technical or specialist role can often lead to promotion into a completely different type of role. Leading and managing a team is so much more than being the most senior member of it with the biggest say. The person that earns the most does so because they also have significant people management responsibilities and are accountable for their team as well as business area. Rarely is this properly explained. During recruitment or promotion discussions. Usually the elephant in the room and therefore often misunderstood.

No training or guidance for managers

Here are some of the things that managers have often had no training or guidance on whatsoever:

  • A core understanding of management theory and what is relevant to their company and industry
  • How to delegate and communicate effectively
  • An understanding of their obligations and duty of care under employment and health and safety legislation
  • How to turn key organisational KPI’s into objectives or targets for staff
  • The difference between technical and behavioural competence
  • How to understand and harness the power of personality
  • How to select staff – interview competentantly, understand and recognise unconscious bias and discrimination. Understand the equality act.
  • Motivational techniques and team building

It stands to reason that if you don’t know how to do something you may avoid it or try and get someone else to do it. Particularly if you fear negative consequences for yourself. Or if you observe that no-one else is tackling similar issues.

Revolving door culture

But as many will be aware, not doing something often has a bigger impact on your culture than doing something, even if it’s not perfect. Not tackling people management issues will build up over time until you start to observe that your good people are leaving. You will replace them of course. At considerable time and expense. And then your fanastic new hire might leave before their probabtion period is up and you start to wonder if it’s something in the business.

The truth is that it’s your culture. How you do things. What you avoid or ignore.

Targetted development

But you can address the fear and reluctance of maangers with some targeted management development training. A core part of that should be an assessment of whether you have the right poepe in lead roles.  Often you will have and they just need devellping. But some people don’t make or want to manage people. No matter how much you spend on core Leadership programmes. However they may be suited to a different specialist role? Or have a No 2 that is interested?

What provider to pick?

There are plenty of companies around who specialise in leadership and management development training. Many long established and many newer ones coming through.

Talking to CEO’s about their previous experiences of such engagement they often report that many staff enjoy attending such initiaitves but they rarely had a long lasting effect as they often didn’t address the following issues:

  • Who held managerial posts
  • What their remit was v what they did
  • Whether the corporate structure was correct
  • What the culture was (desirable v actual)
  • How they would be managed post the intervention

It was hard therefore to quantify any return on the investment made often because the desired outcome hadn’t been pinned down or properly understood.

Our approach

At Amelore, supporting organisations to develop managers has become a growing area for us.  We usually work with companies that are already established and performing well but who want to develop their management team and culture to create space for a senior team to focus on the strategy. Often they don’t have an HR Director in their business.

Our work as external HR professionals can involve us recruiting new managers and coaching key individuals along side regular internal workshops. We can honestly say that every company has different needs and consequently different programmes.

What we bring is our insight into how to make companies work better which we’ve gained over many years. And our HR expertise.  And just like Mary Poppins, we stay as long as we are needed. Ultimately our aim is to leave that company in a good place to grow, compete and innovate. To give it competitive advantage because it works as well on the inside as the outside.

Your Recruitment Options

Hiring the right people is as significant to the success of a company as the business model and health of the balance sheet.

Recruitment is a highly lucrative unregulated and fast growing industry. It is important therefore for companies to understand the different options available to them, the costs as well as the benefits and any downside of the choices they make.

Common recruitment mistakes

Organisations in high growth mode often run very inefficient and costly recruitment processes with little thought for the candidate experience even though it is a seller’s market.  Multiple repetitive interviews, waiting until vacancies have been created to start a process and failing to assess candidates thoroughly are typical.

Some Key Facts

The CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) in partnership with Hays Recruitment, conducted a Resourcing and Talent Planning survey in 2015.

Resourcing and talent management in current economy “an employee’s market”

  • Half of CEOs have recruitment & talent management as a priority;
  • Three quarters are recruiting key talent/niche areas;
  • Growing demand for labour – more than half expecting headcount to increase;
  • Skills shortages are escalating – four-fifths feel that competition for talent has increased;
  • Lack of specialist or technical skills & lack of sector/industry or general experience were common problems;
  • Organisations are increasingly required to be creative in both their search for candidates and the packages they offer.

What are your recruitment options?

Your network – Many companies use their personal network to find staff and this can be very effective. However it can also lead to skills shortages and complications with personal relationships.

Advertising on line – Companies may advertise via online sites such as Linkedin, Indeed, Monster, Fish4jobs etc  This has the benefit of advertising that your company is busy and hiring but can create a lot of administration.

Recruitment Agencies – You won’t have been in business long before the sales calls start.  When choosing an agency, try and get a recommendation and check their credentials. Anyone can set an agency up with no qualifications or experience. If things like diversity and inclusion are important to your company make sure you ask about this.

Executive Search or Headhunters – This is usually used for senior or specialised roles due to the cost. Finding a firm that understands and challenges you is worth a lot. Meeting a few firms and interviewing them can be helpful.

Independent HR company or freelance individual – Many experienced HR professionals have strong recruitment experience gained from working in-house. A key component of recruitment is identifying the passive candidate.  You pay a day rate for experienced professionals to find and speak to candidates for you.

They will often also manage the entire process for you, even if you work with an external recruiter. Always a cheaper option but requires an investment in developing knowledge and relationships so the right candidates are identified. Key factor here is that there is no placement fee so no pressure to put up salaries or package to enhance the fee.

What is the difference between Executive Search and Recruitment Agencies?

The aim of Recruitment Agencies is to fill a position with the best available person. Recruitment agencies source from a pool of candidates that are actively looking for a new challenge by advertising on various platforms. This leads to a group of candidates that are “self-selected” of which the selection was not pre-determined by the company.

The aim of Executive Search consultants is to locate and recruit the best person, regardless of whether he or she is already employed or seeking a new position.

This approach can broaden and deepen the talent pool available to a search firm’s clients and places the control of who should be part of this talent pool, squarely in the hands of the client company.

There may also be the use of specialised psychometric tools, resources and skills to enhance the selection process.

The costs

Executive Search and Recruitment Agencies tend to charge a percentage fee or a retainer.

The percentage fee is based on the starting salary of the candidate and is normally payable once the candidate starts work with you. This form of charging is most common and if you don’t find a suitable candidate, you don’t have to pay the agency anything.

However, fees can vary from 8-25% depending on the agency and the salary. If you choose a retainer fee, it is agreed at the outset; with a percentage being payable upfront and the remainder due when the candidate starts their employment.

If you are using an independent HR consultancy you won’t pay a placement fee. Just a day rate which almost always works out cheaper.

Looking ahead

It is important for companies to understand and cultivate their ability to read market conditions, trends, movement and fluidity in order to develop and manage effective recruitment strategies. Needs changes as companies grow and it is important to regularly review this.

The truth about Tribunal Indemnity Insurance

Many busy SME owners choose outsourced HR providers based on the fact that Tribunal Indemnity Insurance is offered and so they feel they have mitigated against a potential financial risk and made a good choice.

However many don’t fully understand what this insurance is and the impact on their business of signing up to such a service. They also have little idea of what risks if any they actually have in their business of someone making a successful claim against them. This blog explains it further.

What is it Tribunal Indemnity Insurance?

Because employment law can appear complex and full of tricky loopholes, the scaremongers selling tribunal indemnity insurance often have a field day by playing on people’s fears of something that can in many circumstances be prevented.

Tribunal indemnity insurance takes various forms which range from insurance against all legal and compensation costs arising from a tribunal claim, to just simply covering legal costs or nothing at all because you didn’t follow their rules.

As with any insurance policy, the first step is to think about the risk you are insuring against. It’s an easy decision for an electrical firm with a warehouse near a river to insure against flood damage. If there’s a flood, all of the stock could be wiped out and the business could go bust. The risk is high, and so is the potential cost of the insured event.

For business owners, it’s not so easy to quantify the risk and potential costs of a tribunal claim, so they go for peace of mind, and take the insurance. The reality is that there are many steps in the journey to an employment tribunal, and an employer who has sensible HR policies and procedures in place, and follows them, is at a very low risk of losing an employment tribunal claim. Even if the employer loses the claim and has to make a compensation payment, the costs are often nowhere near as high as expected.

The claim with the highest sum awarded was in a sex discrimination claim. These are technically uncapped, and can also include awards for injury to feelings.  But the median award in 2016/17 for Sex Discrimination claims was £8,381and for Disability Discrimination it was £10,235. Although there will always be media stories about huge successful claims, they are rare, and the median award is a more realistic indicator of your potential financial risk. The median compensation payment for Unfair Dismissal claims in the same period was £ 7,521.

Three things you should know about Tribunal Indemnity Insurance

No 1 – You may not even need it

The electrical services company will not sit and watch the river rising or not worry about their stock, just because they have insurance. They will use sandbags, move the stock to higher shelves, and stand by with buckets to bale out the water as it flows in. Nobody wants to have to deal with the aftermath of a flood. It’s better to prevent the damage in the first place. If business owners took the same approach to people issues, and took notice and practical action early on, there would be little risk of a tribunal claim, and therefore little need for an insurance policy.

There are HR experts, like us, who can explain all the rules, and help managers to take each step carefully, ensuring that employees are treated fairly and that the needs of the business are also met. This is equivalent to using sandbags.

If managers are not capable of handling an issue with performance, or there is a persistent problem, such as bullying and harassment, then HR experts, can provide training, coaching and even hand holding to support them. This is effectively like moving the stock to higher shelves. But the effect is longer lasting as they are learning how to manage such situations and won’t be fearful of them.

If matters are so serious that the employee is likely to be able to make a claim at an employment tribunal, there are HR experts like Amelore, who can help the business to evaluate the risk of a successful claim, and mediate between the employer and employee.  If that doesn’t work/or it’s to late for that then they can negotiate the terms of a settlement agreement, making a financial payment to the employee to leave the business and waive all their rights to making a claim against you. This is not desirable, and does cost money, but still salvages the situation, a bit like baling water with a bucket. However often this will be much less than you think.

No 2 – Not all of your costs will be covered

If the tribunal claim goes ahead, there will be legal costs, but much more significantly, there will be huge management time lost in the preparation and aftermath of a tribunal – these costs will not be covered by the insurance. The impact on employee motivation, and even on management morale, which ultimately hits the bottom line of the business, doesn’t have a price, and therefore isn’t covered by the insurance.

Using a pragmatic, knowledgeable HR professional to avoid the problem will always be cheaper than paying a lawyer to fix it.

No 3 – Insurance companies don’t like paying out

The real nub of the issue is this – there are so many ‘get out’ clauses in the tribunal indemnity insurance, that an employer runs a real risk of thinking they are covered, only to find that the insurance company then gives lots of reasons why they won’t pay out.

If the insurance is offered as part of an HR service, there will be a big caveat stating that if the employer doesn’t consult the service provider and follow the employment law advice to the letter, the insurance will be invalidated.

This also means that the HR service provider is likely to sit on the fence, or tell their client what the law is, without committing to a recommendation, for fear of invalidating the insurance. So the whole process will go on and on whereas most SME’s need a quick resolution so they can focus on their business.

Some providers may even boast that they help their clients to make sure their paperwork is correct, so that if a claim goes to tribunal, they will have a ‘bundle’ already prepared, saving lots of time. It doesn’t save lots of time for the business owner or manager trying to do their day job and providing them with that paperwork.

In our experience the vast majority of employees are reasonable people, who in turn want to be treated reasonably by their employer. The vast majority of managers and business owners want to have happy, engaged employees.

Surely everyone’s time and effort would be better spent building good relationships, ironing out misunderstandings, and dealing in a reasonable way with problems, than filling in forms, following scripts and ticking boxes to make sure that the tribunal insurance is not invalidated?

Summary

So in summary our advice is if you are looking at HR outsourcing providers don’t base your decision on fear.  Fear of something you don’t fully understand. If anyone is selling you their services and using fear as their main incentive ask yourself why?

A good HR outsourcing provider will audit your business and then make clear practical proportionate recommendations to ensure you are legally compliant and have good HR practices embedded. This may involve training your managers. This significantly reduces the risk of a successful claim against your business.

Also take care that the outsourced HR provider you select doesn’t tie you into a long notice period as that will tell you something important about them. Long notice periods are designed to cover poor service. Most SME’s don’t have the time or the energy to battle their way out of a contract they have signed in a rush without understanding the potentially negative consequences.

If you do have an employee dispute and are supported by an outsourced HR provider that doesn’t offer Tribunal Indemnity Insurance, this will be dealt with swiftly and you will benefit from pragmatic commercial advice about your options and any risks.

At Amelore we don’t offer Tribunal Indemnity Insurance. We work with businesses and individuals and firm but fair. We have also never been successfully taken to an Employment Tribunal.  We are not complacent about that fact but we are extremely proud of it.

Health, Safety and Wellbeing – is it possible on a tight budget?

Small and growing businesses need to keep a tight hold on their budgets if they are to get through those first critical months and years.  One cost that is sometimes forgotten or overlooked is for ensuring that your employees and workers are kept safe, healthy and well at work.  If you have more than five people working for you, you need to ensure that you comply with all of the current Health and Safety regulations.

That sounds daunting and potentially expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Now I’d never advocate cutting corners on health and safety to help with the cash flow, but there are ways and means to help your finances.  You could spend a considerable sum, and there may be some unscrupulous people out there who will scare you in to thinking that you have to; but that really doesn’t have to be the case.

Often the Health and Safety essentials needed by law aren’t as complicated as they sound, so you don’t need to be an absolute expert to put them in place and monitor them.   The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have a lot of free, helpful guidance available online and your own industry association / federation may also provide free or reasonably priced guidance too.  Essentially it will boil down to how complex and dangerous your workplace is – after all, there is a big difference between working in a small office and a nuclear power station.

Some aspects of health and safety might not cost you anything apart from staff time, as long as you already have the basic skills and knowledge in place. Examples can include ensuring that you have the required welfare facilities (eg. a toilet, wash hand basin and drinking water – hopefully things you already have?), that risk assessments and safe working procedures are in place, that staff take rest breaks and staff know what to do in the event of fire / accident / incident.  If you don’t have someone with the necessary knowledge in place already (known as a “responsible person”) you may need to get someone trained or you could buy in the expertise to get you set up.

Other aspects of health and safety will cost you some money, but these could be modest amounts and will certainly be a lot cheaper than doing nothing, only for an accident to occur later.  Examples here could include providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – such as warning or hazard signs, “high viz” wear, steel toe capped boots, gloves or safety goggles / glasses – having a basic workplace first aid kit and fire extinguishers.  As with most things in life, shopping around and comparing quality and prices is key, as it would be very easy to spend a lot of money when you really don’t always have to.

Health and Wellbeing is a growing area and has the potential to cost you nothing or an awful lot.  Keeping your employees healthy and well doesn’t have to involve expensive gym facilities or memberships.  Sometimes the most simple things can reap the biggest benefits.  Recent research has shown that employees who take even just a 15 minute lunchbreak and spend it having a short walk outside are happier, healthier and more productive than those who don’t.  That doesn’t cost you, the employer, a thing – especially bearing in mind that staff typically aren’t paid for their lunchbreaks.

The most successful and effective health and wellbeing initiatives are often simple yet still manage to catch the interest of staff.  I’ve worked in organisations where groups and activities, such as a running group or a meditation session, are run by passionate volunteers who are keen to involve their colleagues. Group activities and interaction can really help staff morale and wellbeing even if they aren’t necessarily “active”. A popular workplace choir in one of my former workplaces springs to mind…..

So even if you are feeling the pinch financially, I hope that you do recognise there is still a need to keep your staff safe, healthy and well.  It doesn’t have to cost a lot and I can guarantee that even by doing a little, it will help save you a lot more money in the long term.

Time for a lunchtime walk anyone?

Self-employment and other workforce dilemmas….

You may well have seen recent headlines about people whose organisation told them that they were self-employed but actually ended up not being – for example the recent cases linked to Uber, Deliveroo and Pimlico Plumbers. So what are the differences between being self-employed and employed?  Or for that matter being a “worker”?

Admittedly this can be a complex area and if you are in doubt or are being challenged by someone who works for you, you are always best to get expert advice.

However, there are some guiding principles and questions to consider when determining what someone’s employment status is. (ie. are they an employee, a worker or self-employed?)

  • Employees

Being an employee tends to be the “normal” form of employment status for many people.  They are directly employed by an organisation via a contract of employment.  This contract of employment outlines their role, responsibilities and entitlements while working for the organisation.  Legally all employees must be issued with a contract of employment (also known as a “statement of particulars”) within 8 weeks of starting with an organisation.  Failure to do this can lead to a financial penalty for the employing organisation.

Typically an employee works directly for the organisation they are employed by, in one of their workplaces, uses their equipment / facilities and is managed (or “controlled”) by them on a day to day basis.  For example, Fred has a contract of employment issued by XCo.  It outlines that he works in the office of XCo and is line managed and told what work to do by Jo, who is also employed by XCo.  If Fred doesn’t attend work, he doesn’t have to send someone else in his place.  As an employee Fred has certain entitlements or rights, such as being paid, being eligible to take paid annual leave and the entitlement to some form of sick pay if he is too ill to attend work.  These are outlined in his contract of employment – so hence it is an important document to refer to to ensure that Fred is being treated correctly.

  • Workers

In the recent cases with Uber, Deliveroo and Pimlico Plumbers the people who challenged their employment status were deemed to be “workers”.  All employees are “workers” but workers are not employees, even though there is some common ground.

A “worker” is defined as “someone who carries out paid work for an organisation but is not bound by or employed by a contract of employment”.   A simple example could be – Jane comes in to do some work tasks for your organisation during the school holidays but she doesn’t have a contract of employment with you.  She may be working via an employment agency (as a “temp”) or perhaps works directly for you.  If Jane doesn’t attend work, she doesn’t have to send someone else in her place but if she works via an employment agency, they might send a replacement. As a worker Jane has certain statutory rights such as she must be paid the national living or minimum wage (dependent on her age), she has the right to the statutory minimum paid time off and cannot be discriminated against. However, as she is a “worker” and not an “employee” she has no entitlement to unfair dismissal protection, redundancy pay or the right to request flexible working.

Confused?  There is further guidance online on the Gov.uk website that you might find useful.

https://www.gov.uk/employment-status/worker

  • Self-employed / Contractors

There is, or should be, a real difference in how self-employed people or contractors work compared to people who are employees and workers.  The fact there wasn’t a clear difference in the cases of Uber et al is part of the reason that the Employment Tribunal / Employment Appeal Tribunal ruled as they did.

The terms “self-employed” or “contractor” do not particularly make a difference when trying to determine someone’s employment status.  What is important is the arrangements for how they are “engaged” to do a task, how the task is carried and by whom, and how the work is paid for.  If someone is truly self-employed there is no contract of employment but there will be a “contract for services”.  The “contract for services” defines what work is to be done but allows the person or people fulfilling it the freedom to decide how best to carry out the work.  It may also mean that one person is substituted for another in order to fulfil the work, perhaps because they have a certain skill or area of expertise that is needed for a part of the work.

Self-employed people work for themselves and do not have a line manager in the organisation they are working for.  They typically provide their own equipment, such as tools, a vehicle or IT equipment.  A self-employed person invoices the organisation they are carrying out work for and receives the full amount of invoiced.  They have to declare this income and pay the relevant tax and national insurance contributions directly to HMRC via their annual tax return. Again this is not an exhaustive or definitive list and further information can be found at:  https://www.gov.uk/employment-status/selfemployed-contractor

The big advantage for hiring organisations is that self-employed people do not have employment rights – so are not entitled to things such as the national living wage or holiday pay.  The hiring organisation also doesn’t have to pay for any employers’ tax contribution, employers’ national insurance contributions or employers’ pension contributions.  These various contributions total up to a significant financial saving for the hiring organisation, so hence why companies such as Uber used the self-employed model to reduce their costs.

This is an area that remains under scrutiny as the government believes it is missing out on significant tax revenue due to people misusing the current system.  The government has recently announced a number of reviews to look at the issue of self-employment, particularly as part of the “gig economy” and for the public sector, in more detail.  There are bound to be developments so watch this space………….

Is in-house HR the best option for your Company?

Having worked ‘in-house’ for much of my career and more recently as a consultant, I’ve had seen both sides. This is particularly illuminated when one performs a detailed ‘access all areas’ HR audit.  Matching the needs of the business against the capability and remit of the HR function. Often it can be a bigger gap than anyone realises.

New role in HR – Work out what you need to do to fit in

When you begin a new role with a Company they are keen that you bring new ideas and change things. But many quickly realise that the most important thing to learn is ‘How they do things around here’. For in many companies not working that out quickly could mean one is not in post long enough to do more than just be new.

Companies by their very nature are insular. The individuals that do well are either the very brave and talented who do their own thing but bring in so much revenue that no-one cares. Equally those that are extremely corporate will have long and successful careers. Individuals that are very bright will move on naturally because there will be many options for them. Those that are clearly poorly performing will be moved on. But everyone else stays.

So, in that context the parameters of what ‘good HR’ looks like are set. This will almost certainly involve maintaining unique processes and ways of doing things. Quirky administrative approaches. Often long winded. And all the unwritten stuff about who gets fired quickly and how.  And what gets ignored or isn’t deemed officially important.

HR ignore half their customers

When a Company initiates an HR audit what they often want to know is how do we compare with our competitors? Do we have the right resources and skills in HR. Too much or too little? That answer is always unique to the organisation as often it is driven by individuals and/or the sector. If you have someone very senior that insists that HR is all about administration and problem solving and nothing more than that will dictate who you have in your function. If you are in a sector where you have high turnover and a lot of ER problems that may require some intense catch up before you move to a different model.

Companies have different motivations for HR audit from are we compliant (will I get my bonus?) right through to do we have the skills and talent in HR and the remit to achieve what the ambitious CEO and board want to achieve.  Often there is quite a gap.

And HR still exclusively focus their activities on ‘employees’. The self-employed, the flexible labour and the workforce of tomorrow are largely ignored which is a bit like only caring about the customers that visit your store and not the ones that shop occasionally on-line or could be buying your products.

Most HR process are substantially similar – not substantially different.

In an article written by Ruud Rikhof, Managing Partner of KennedyFitch he states “We believe that 80% of the activities in HR are substantially similar from company to company, not substantially different”. So, if it is substantially similar, why would you need it “in-house and customised” when you could pass it on to someone else, do it quicker and save money?

So many HR practitioners talk about Best in class. So many CEO’s don’t share these aspirations as they see such a process as long winded, expensive and distracting from core business.

Do ‘best in class’ processes you have contribute to the bottom line?

Whilst core HR processes should be agile and robust, they will never give your business a competitive edge. So, it’s wise to focus what resource you have on the things that will.

One of the issues about benchmarking your company’s HR needs against another is that whatever standard you use may not be the right one.

Your performance management system may have won awards and have some great technology with it – but does it drive performance?

You may have invested in a fantastic HR software system – but where are the reports and does anyone use or understand it apart from HR?

So, do you know what is right and important for your organisation and is that where you are directing your resources?

Individuals want an individual experience

When you go out to market to hire exceptional talent, the person you offer to is unique. You are excited about them joining and may even create a different package to get them on board. The CEO will take an interest in their on-boarding. But at that point the individual approach begins to wane. HR will get anxious that the Company is being inconsistent and will want the new hire to be treated the same as everyone else.

We have observed that increasingly individuals demand that they are treated as individuals. It’s often a deal breaker. Yet in-house HR activities are focussed on treating everyone the same.

What are the alternatives?

Many companies value their long serving loyal HR administrator. Key thing is to ensure you have the right level of senior HR challenge and expertise.

Equally you can contract out the administration, investing in a good system and employ a bright career hungry HR professional to work with your leaders and focus on the big things for your Company.

Many companies have an Employment lawyer on speed dial which absolutely supports the reactive problem solving risk adverse model that is hardly likely to have your HR function doing things differently.

Of course you can have both. HR lead in-house and HR admin in house. But that then results in what many businesses have now. A cost centre that stops more than it starts and manages problems.

Getting your HR capability right can be a powerful tool for increased competitive advantage. Especially in a challenging market

 

www.amelore.com

Happy 2017? Predictions for employers……

2016 was an eventful year and most people are now looking forward to a (hopefully) better 2017.  So, a few days into the year, what can employers look forward to over the next 12 months?

  • Brexit

After dominating the headlines in 2016, 2017 is also likely to be a year where Brexit is in the news.  Assuming that the government does what it has promised, then article 50 will be triggered in March 2017.  What Brexit will actually mean for employers and employees remains to be seen, but hopefully things will get clearer.  Updates to come, watch this space…….

  • Changes to work permits and the Immigration Act

This is hardly surprising given the current Brexit situation.  Some of the changes have already been announced and there will be doubtlessly more to come.

What we do know already is that employers sponsoring foreign workers with a tier 2 visa will be required to pay an “immigration skills charge” of £1,000 per worker (£364 for small employers and charities) from April 2017. The immigration skills charge will be in addition to current fees for visa applications.

In April 2017, the minimum salary threshold for “experienced workers” applying for a tier 2 visa will increase to £30,000.  New entrants to the job market, and some health and education staff will be exempted from the salary threshold until 2019.

  • Gender pay gap reporting

Or the Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017 to give them their full name, which will come in to force on 6 April 2017.  The government published updated guidance on these regulations a couple of days ago and has confirmed that all organisations with over 250 employees need to provide and report on gender pay gap information based on the date of 5 April 2017.  If you haven’t started planning for this, make it top of your new year “to do” list.

  • Apprenticeship levy

There has been much talk about the forthcoming apprenticeship levy and the potential opportunities it brings.  If you are an organisation with a payroll of more than £3m then from 6 April 2017 the levy will apply to you.  The Government has recently published updated guidance for employers on how the apprenticeship levy and the new funding system will work.

  • Salary sacrifice schemes – RIP

As stated in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, there will be significant changes to what type of salary sacrifice schemes employers will be able to offer.  Some of the current items offered, such as gym membership, will be abolished from 6 April 2017.  If you haven’t already reviewed your employee benefits scheme, then now is the time.

  • Rises in the national living wage and national minimum wage

This was another announcement in the Autumn Statement.  Rather than having different dates when there are changes in the hourly rates for the national living wage and the national minimum wage, these have now been aligned.  So the next changes will be due on 1 April 2017 and the rates are set to rise.

  • Trade Union Act 2016

We are waiting to hear exactly when this legislation will come in to force but it will happen at some stage during 2017.

Under the rules, a successful vote for strike action will require a 50% minimum turnout and a majority vote in favour of industrial action.  Strike action in “important public services” will require a strike vote of 40% of all eligible voters.

  • Pensions……

There has been a lot in the news about pensions in 2016 – whether it be related to the demise of BHS or the rise in the “gig” economy.  There are already some known changes planned for 2017, such as the final phase of pension auto-enrolment to encompass all employers and the rise in the minimum employer contribution rate.  It is likely there well may be others….

We’re sure that there will be other developments during the year ahead, so keep your eye on this blog for more updates.  Happy New Year!

www.amelore.com

Fit for business? How about an audit?

People often ask what differences I see between working in the UK and France, particularly as a manager.  If there is one thing that is likely to strike terror in to the heart of a French manager or business owner what do you think it would be? Trade unions? Staff demanding their 2 hour lunch break? The actual answer is an “inspecteur du travail”, who is literally a government “workplace inspector”.  Under French law, people in these roles have the right to inspect any business, big or small, at any time to ensure that the employer is upholding their legal, employment obligations towards their workers and staff.

Surprisingly most French people actually think this role is a good and important thing, rather than being “government interference”.  It helps to ensure staff safety, means that French businesses always have their paperwork in order and apparently contributes to France’s high productivity levels. But it could never happen in the UK could it, especially not after Brexit?!

No – not exactly.  However, if you work in a “regulated industry” or supply services to one, you may actually find your employment practises (including your employee related “paperwork”) come under scrutiny. So what do I mean by a “regulated industry” and could it include you?  The typical kinds of organisations or activities that would put you in this definition would be some of the following examples (though not an exhaustive list by any means):

  • Financial services – particularly product selling and advising.
  • Social care – providing any sort of social care, to people young, vulnerable or old.
  • Health Care.
  • Education – be in for children or adults.
  • Housing providers – private sector, public sector or not-for-profit.
  • Utilities providers – including telecoms, as well as water, power etc.
  • Local government – who may well also provide some of the services outlined above.

When you include organisations and businesses who supply services or goods to the types of organisation listed above, you start to realise what a potentially large number this is.

The people who do the scrutinising or inspecting are likely to come from a regulatory body such Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) or OFWAT, but there are times when other individuals may need or demand to scrutinise your business.  For example, should you be unfortunate enough to have a serious workplace accident, then the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will come in and investigate.  This will include scrutinising your policies, training records, employee files and more. It can be incredibly scary, especially as you won’t have had time to “get your house in order” beforehand so any gaps in your “paper trail”, that you have been meaning to fill in, won’t have been sorted out. Oops.

As you are probably aware, the penalties that the HSE or other inspection bodies can levy can be punitive, substantial and costly.  They can even stop you trading / operating.  All potentially because you haven’t been able to produce a particular bit of information or paperwork, or because you haven’t got a policy or process in place.

Sometimes businesses also voluntarily invite people to come and inspect them too. If your business wishes to gain accreditation from Investors in People or to gain an ISO standard then their assessors will need to scrutinise and check that you say you are doing exactly what you claim and what their standards require.  Again, this will be a detailed look at your processes, procedures, policies and employee files.  If you don’t have the things in place that the standard requires, then no accreditation – and potentially a long wait (and associated cost) until you can attempt to get accredited again.  It may even mean that you can’t tender / provide your services to key customers until you get that accreditation.

So, how confident are you that your current HR policies, processes and employee files would stand up to such close scrutiny – be it on a voluntary or regulatory basis?  If you aren’t sure, then we strongly recommend that you take action now.  Who knows what tomorrow may bring?


What does an HR Audit or HR Operational Review involve?

Bringing in external auditors is not anyones favourite pastime however it is accepted as a normal part of business life.  Important for shareholders and investors to get reassurance that everything is going well and often Directors get well deserved credit for good governance and Internal controls.

However, what a more in depth internal audit can bring is a sensor check of how compliant and fit for purpose your business is.

Depending on your needs, we can just do a paper review and look at key documentation such as employment contracts, employee data and staff handbooks. Or we can also meet key staff and check understanding and needs spotting early problems emerging and flagging them.  We can also assess the fit of key staff in key roles if you would like us to.

We then produce a report with recommendations for you to set and implement your own priorities.  Our work with you may include further reviews to check on progress.

HR Audits give you the heads up on what you could and should be thinking about in your business.


At Amelore we offer a tailored service to help you to get your business in shape and to make sure you are ready for whatever tomorrow may throw at you.  Why not contact us to find out more about our HR audit service or our HR bootcamp?

www.amelore.com

Looking to recruit high quality staff but not succeeding?

Despite the looming shadow of Brexit, many UK organisations are still recruiting – albeit on a temporary rather than permanent basis.  Many industry sectors are reporting that it is still difficult to find the right candidates with the right skills and experience, despite the fact that many people are out there searching for new roles right now; myself included.

Is it a matter of the right skills not being out there in the job hunting population or is something else at play?  Here are a couple of examples to illustrate what I mean….

A friend, J, is looking for a new role and career change.  Knowing this he is prepared to take entry level role with the right organisation as long as it gives him what he’s looking for.  J likes being outside, getting up early and working autonomously – he thinks that being a Postman is just the new career for him.  Then he tries to apply for a role with Royal Mail….. To cut a long and painful story short, J’s “candidate experience” is a very negative one.

Why, you may ask?  This should give you a flavour and is not unique to the Royal Mail:

Applications have to be made via an online recruitment portal, which requires you to register, fill in your personal details and to complete an online assessment.  Easier said than done…. J is fairly computer literate and his brother is an “expert” – they try and fail several times to register a basic application.  There is no phone number, email address or help option for him or other applicants to help them with this labyrinthine application process.

If J wasn’t so keen he would give up now. Other suitable applicants may not have the “IT savvy” or the perseverance, so Royal Mail is losing out on a potentially large candidate pool. (how IT savvy do you need to be a Postman anyway?)

  • Where there are multiple vacancies, perhaps with a minor change such as working hours / days or work base, J has to apply separately for each. Each time he applies for a role he has to do the exactly same online assessment again and again.  Frustrating, a waste of his and the Royal Mail’s time (and money?) and it undermines the validity of the assessment. (practise makes perfect – so repeating the test and getting the feedback means you can easily boost your scores).
  • J finally manages to get an application registered and waits to hear. And waits…. And waits. The closing date has been and gone, and despite being told to check his “portal” for progress / an update, there is none.  There is no phone number or email address for him to chase this up so he has to decide whether he waits any longer.  He’s been invited to attend another interview for a different role – so perhaps he’ll just go with that one instead.

I can echo similar experiences to J’s and can add to the what not to do list further:

  • I have a non-standard address and post code – the computer says “no” to allowing me to progress my application. Now what – make one up? (easier said than done)
  • The salary and the exact work location are a mystery. How do I know if the role is paying enough for my needs and am I able / willing to work in that location? (client confidentiality is not an excuse!)  Should I bother to apply?
  • Do I really want to spend hours filling in a very detailed online application form when the majority of this information is on my CV? Can’t I just upload my CV and add in the missing bits?  Also – I can’t save my application part way through – it’s all in one go or nothing.  I don’t have 2 uninterrupted hours available so perhaps I won’t bother….
  • The recruitment portal promises to save my details for next time, should I apply for other roles with the organisation. It doesn’t….  I have to start again if I want to make another application  – do I want to go through that pain again?

So in summary, many of the issues that are putting people off seem to be due to overly automated process with no “human touch”.  Theoretically going for an automated, standardised recruitment portal should make recruitment slicker, cheaper and easier for your organisation – but what about for the candidates?  The initial impression they get from your recruitment system can be extremely negative and it means you have lost them before you even know about them. Employee branding, good PR, your employer reputation and your brand recognition / values aren’t going to change that.

Is it time for a rethink and change to your recruitment approach? We can help……..

www.amelore.com

Company mergers – creating one big, happy family?

 

mergeIn my HR “life” back in the UK, I often found myself providing advice on managing change, whether it be restructuring, TUPE transfers or subtler cultural change.  I now find myself on the other side of things, as Happy Holidays and one of their former competitors, Smiley Holidays, have both been acquired by a large French company.  While these purchases took place a while ago now, it is interesting to see how the changes have now started to trickle down to the staff (me!).

So, can these changes create one new, contented holiday company / family?  At the moment, the views of myself and colleagues are mixed – we’re not entirely convinced that things will be better, or even as good.  What could be done to change our minds and to keep us engaged and motivated?  Here are some suggestions:

  • Communicate, communicate, communicate

With any changes or takeovers there are always rumours about what will and won’t happen.  Clear, regular communication is key if you are to stop the rumour mill and keep staff feeling engaged, rather than worried for their jobs.  A monthly newsletter is better than nothing but it doesn’t really do all it needs to.  How about using social media and other forms of communication too?  – Especially if staff are based in multiple locations or work different shift patterns.  Certainly face-to-face updates and briefings tend to be the most popular method with staff themselves, so can this be done in any shape or form? (Skype, Facetime, podcasts etc)

  • It’s not all about structures…..

Most people tend to think of “change” as being about restructuring, but that isn’t always the case.  Yes, it can make sense to join up some teams and to make some efficiencies and savings while doing so, however, this shouldn’t be the knee jerk reaction.  If you are keen to keep current brand identities then you need to keep some differences in place, which means not merging and restructuring everything.  Be clear on what structures will change, why and when, so allowing other, not directly affected teams / departments to stop worrying about what might happen to them. (at least for now)  At least they can focus on their roles properly again and not be distracted or worried about what may lie ahead.

  • Timing is everything

Make sure you understand what the businesses do when and why.  Are there any critical or very busy times when it would be unwise to change things?  For example for Happy Holidays, changing all of the company mobile phones over to a new network provider with new phone numbers perhaps should have been done outside of the holiday season!  There would have been no customers in resort trying to call old numbers or not knowing about new numbers, and would have avoided a number of problems, upsets and complaints.

  • Who are we again?  What do we do?

Staff do identify with the organisation they work for and can often be surprisingly loyal to it.  Staff will feel that they have their “psychological contract” in place with their employer, as well as their actual employment contract.  Any change can potentially challenge the trust between employer and employee, and potentially sever the “psychological contract”.

It’s really important that staff can see and understand what the future holds and what will be changing. They can then choose whether they want to be part of this or not, and act accordingly.  This can include seemingly obvious things such as – are we still planning to deliver the same product(s) or service(s) to the same customer(s)?  Will we keep the same company values (eg. “green” or “ethical” commitments)?  Will I still wear the same uniform?  Will I still work in the same place?  Will I be working the same hours?  Things like this can really make a difference to someone deciding whether they will stay and go through the changes, or leave now to avoid them.

Even though this is about the two holiday companies I hope that the suggestions will be helpful for your business too.  If anyone from Happy Holidays is reading this, you know where I am and I’m more than willing to make this change a positive one!

www.amelore.com