Retaining your flexible / seasonal workforce… things to consider

snoopy-charlie-brown-end-of-summerIt is the end of the season now for ‘Happy Holidays’ and most of us are on our way back home for the winter.  Some of us are already thinking about next year though.  You may remember that one of my first postings was about leaving a role from an employee’s point of view.  To bring things full circle, I was considering some pointers for organisations like ‘Happy Holidays’ who are keen to retain their flexible workforce even though there is a break of a few months before work starts again.

Flexible working is becoming more widespread and can be beneficial for both organisations and individuals; after all not everyone wants to work full time, all of the time.  If you have some talented / skilled staff and want to retain them even when work isn’t available what can you do?  Some suggestions could include the following:

  • Does the person know that you would like them to work for you again in the future?  Be explicit about this and make sure that they know that you value their skills and expertise.  Be clear that you would like to offer them work again when it is available.
  • Have an honest, open conversation about the gap in the work and how it affects for you both.  Are you both ok with the gap?  Does the person want to work for you again when the work resumes? (Be clear about both or your expectations.)
  • Are there any other work options coming up?  They may not be the same but they could have tranferrable skills you could use.
  • Assuming the answer is yes, agree how you will keep in touch during the gap.  Keeping in touch means they still feel part of things and will increase the prospects of them returning to you later.  It could be as simple as email newsletters, other corporate updates or even a Christmas card.
  • Do you want them to do any training / skills updating / CPD (continuous professional development) during the gap?  Is this obligatory or just preferable?  (if it’s obligatory are you going to pay them to do it?)
  • Do you want to offer any retainer payments or welcome back payments as an incentive for their return?  Or are there any other benefits you could offer as an incentive to them to return?
  • If they can’t return to work for you, can they recommend you to other colleagues with similar skills and experience who you might want to offer work to?  (this could be another incentive such as a ‘recommend a friend’ scheme.)

Motivated, talented staff are worth a lot – so even if your initial reaction to some of the points above is ‘no’, you might want to really weigh up the costs and advantages again and decide if you really can afford not to do some of these things after all.

So until next season……..  A bientot.

Sports Direct – not the place for the unfit

ambulance_1817580bIf I was the CEO of Sport’s Direct, I would be arranging a swift overview of HR practices after the undesirable press today following a BBC investigation.

A Freedom of Information request has revealed that the East Midlands ambulance service were called to the head office more than 76 times in two years, for some workers with what was described as ‘life threatening conditions’.

It is apparent that Sports Direct have relationships with recruitment agencies that operate a 6 strike policy for temporary staff. According to this policy, workers can receive a strike for a range of “offences” including:

  • Periods of reported sickness
  • Excessive chatting
  • Excessive or long toilet breaks
  • Using a mobile phone in the warehouse

A document produced by one of the agencies stated that they can end an assignment “at any time without reason, notice or liability”. The article reports that “Former workers said some staff were “too scared” to take sick leave because they feared losing their jobs.”

Unite commented in the BBC article today that it had been told that last year there were about 3,000 agency workers at the Shirebrook headquarters of Sports Direct on zero-hour contracts.

A further 75% of staff across its UK stores are also on zero-hour contracts, with Sports Direct accounting for a fifth of all such contracts in the retail sector, according to Unite.

Sports Direct has also reported accidents in its warehouse have doubled in the past financial year.

Amelore comment

Whilst managing sickness absence is key for any employer it is important that any incentive practices don’t encourage workers to attend work if feeling unwell. This can result in the serious situations that have required ambulance attention that could perhaps have been avoided – ambulances that could be needed elsewhere threatening the health of others.

One should always take care that any practices comply with the Equality Act and that organisations are certain that the reason for absence is not linked to a disability.

We are aware of a primary school Head teacher who has implemented a policy of non-uniform day once a month for all children that have had 100% attendance. The ones that have had even 1 day off, are publically identified because they have to by wear full school uniform.

Naming and shaming young children who don’t decide for themselves whether they are well enough to attend is an extremely poor practice.

Sports Direct’s HR Director, CEO and H&S lead would do well to listen to their workers and union representatives and make some changes to their working practices to ensure any preventive accidents or health problems are prevented NOW.

 

Sickness absence – what do your team mates think?


It’s almost the end of the season here in France. Talking to colleagues the other evening we all commented how fit and healthy we were feeling, despite having a busy few months. Looking at our team as a whole, it was interesting to see how healthy we really have been over the last 4 ½ months.

Now to put this into perspective, we are a team of 11 people, 45% of whom are aged over 40 years, with the two oldest people being in their mid 50s. Gender wise we split 45% male and 55% female. Typically if we were like the average UK workforce as a team we would have lost somewhere around 15 to 30 days through sickness absence over the season, depending what industry sector you choose to benchmark us against. Would you be surprised to hear that between all 11 of us, we have only lost 2 ½ days due to sickness absence?

Some of you will know doubt point out that there is bound to be some seasonal variation to consider, as after all we are in sunny France. That could be true but then the first two weeks of the season were cold and wet, but none of us took time off with colds / flu / respiratory infections.

So what do we put our low sickness rate down to? Having discussed it with colleagues, their views were:

• We are getting plenty of exercise, vitamin D and fresh air, so are generally keeping healthier than back in the UK.
• If someone is ill the rest of the team have to pick up the work. It makes you think twice before deciding that you are too sick to work that day.
• The work still needs doing, so a day’s sick today means extra work tomorrow – perhaps it’s not worth it?
• We only get statutory sick pay, so it’s not worth being sick – we might as well soldier on and do a bit of work rather than none at all.

Certainly a case in point is how others in the team respond to their colleagues being ill. Early in the season, one of the younger team members, L, took a day off with a terrible hangover. L didn’t tell his manager he was off work due to a hangover but everyone in the team knew the reason why. Without prompting various colleagues let L know how disappointed they were with him and how they weren’t prepared to pick up his work again if he made a habit of this. A rather shame faced L came back to work the next day and has not taken a day off sick since (despite a few other heavy drinking nights).

Perhaps something to think about the next time you identify that your sickness rates are higher than you would like them to be. Maybe your team can help, rather than it being a management issue?

The future of work – HR implications

Last week it was a pleasure to speak at an event organised by YunoJuno (a freelance resourcing company) about the future of work and HR implications.

It’s a hugely exciting topic and the audience which was predominantly start ups and fast growth businesses were great.

Here are some of the key messages from the night together with a few things I didn’t get time to say.

Conventional HR doesn’t work for dynamic tech companies.

Amelore worked with notonthehighstreet.com in the early days when it was just an amazing idea and later when it was an amazing profitable company and later still as it became a household name. People were a huge issue. Who to hire and occasionally who to fire. What structure, what skill sets were needed as the product range and services grew. When they moved over the rubyonrails that had significant implications for recruitment and how you managed tech folk along side everyone else (answer – you don’t manage them you guide them).

HR had a huge role to play in supporting the founders grow and develop with their business. Everything happened very fast and working in a pacey agile way was key. And always saying yes we can do that.

Workforce is changing, people are working in different ways and value work-life balance. More working longer.

We know that people entering the workforce or at different stages of their careers, want more choice about what they do and when. The removal of statutory retirement means some individuals are thinking actively about careers that they can continue with into their 60’s and beyond. Consultancy and coaching are good examples.

Flexible working is no longer just an option for those with caring responsibilities. More and more people are going freelance.

Technology being used more and more (though not in HR)

Technology is here to stay and is everywhere you look. But most HR departments will focus any effort and budget on HR databases that require lots of feeding. Much documentation is still hard copy and not automated. Identifying and investing in the right systems is important.

Organisations are increasingly using flexible labour

Freelancers are increasingly being used by companies that want to hire specialist skills for a period of time or for a particular project. Peopleperhour estimate that by 2020 upto 50/% of the workforce could be freelance.

Many organisations are paring down or closing their HR departments to use skilled innovative external support when they need it. Many HR professionals traditionally just focus on employees, employment legislation and contractual terms whereas they should be creating an environment and culture that means that is easy for everyone to settle in.

The 5 key things ALL workers need are similar to anyone playing a game.

  1. clear goals
  2. obvious rules
  3. room to manoeuvre
  4. information transparency
  5. real-time feedbackCompany structures are getting flatter

Start ups and growing business tend to have a team with a leader or a few partners and then a workforce. Introducing conventional HR tools like appraisals can create a burden for the 1 or 2 people leading having to appraise everyone.

Our education system is not producing the skills employers need or giving good careers advice

Employers are delighted about the IT skills of those entering the workforce but less so the appitude and attitude of some employees who lack initative. Whilst careers advice can be quite progressive at university level it is severely lacking much earlier on (aged 13/14 yrs) when young people are making important choices and almost exclusively led by educators and not employers.

 Implications for the HR profession

As the world of work changes so must HR.

A venture capitalist shared recently that when she invested in a company, she always advised the CEO that they must spend about 90% of their focus in the first year on people issues. But she said she would never advise them to hire an HR Director because rather than giving them competitive advantage by helping them make quick decisions, she feared they would slow everything down and cripple the business with policies and processes and rules and regulations.

Reward

In a flat structure with a mixture of employees and freelancers, how do you ensure your reward strategy retains all your valuable workers? What else will you offer and will this be available to everyone that works for you or just those with employment contracts? Many companies are still talking about employee engagement which immediately excludes your flexible workforce.

Career progression

In a high tech or fast growing environment flatter structures mean less space for promotion. Even though their remuneration and skill set are progressing, individuals still aspire to that traditional recognition that they are valued. Important to address this with some new and creative thinking unique to your business.

Mindfulness

As we work longer, produce more, expect more – we can burn out. Creating space in your organisation for all your workers to think, to grow, to develop, to innovate and be creative is hugely important for your competitive advantage.

Recruiting & developing the workforce of tomorrow

Careers advice is still led by the educators whose skills set is education. Employers especially smaller ones tend to feel that any activity to guide and develop career choices is wasted however if every employer undertook to influence the careers choice of students in schools or colleges close to them that would have a huge impact on career choices. Corporate career responsibility has a big role to play in inspiring, recruiting and developing the workforce of tomorrow. Who may not all want or need to go to university.

Performance management

At Amelore we have been doing some of our own independent research into the cost and effectiveness of appraisal systems. One organisation with 400 employees is spending approximately 750k on conducting them each year. Hard to quantify the ROI. We think appraisals have had their day for a variety of reasons. They exclude anyone that is not an employee. Most staff don’t value them. Most managers don’t feel they have the times or the skills set to do them properly. If there is an issue people tend not to give honbest feedback or ignore it all together. And most importantly most HR professionals know they don’t work. Many large corporates including Accenture and Deloittes are dropping them in favour of alternatives.

So we firmly recommend you stop appraising and start ameliorating!

And finally

So, be you a business leader or a professional, let me leave you with this thought…

How much of the HR/People related activity in your organisation is focused on things going right rather than things going wrong?

How much of that activity is spent on the majority of your workforce rather than a small minority?

Will that continued focus make you more profitable and competitive? If the answer is no – why are you doing it? Would this focus be acceptable in other departments?

Remember that the definition of madness is continuing the same patterns of behavior but expecting things to turn out differently.

 

Death of the appraisal and the Amelore way

Today at Amelore Towers we have been pulling together an application for a business award. It’s been an interesting process because when anyone asks you why you are different from all the other HR consultancies you need to be able to clearly answer why.

A key point of difference for us is our approach to performance management systems and our long standing view that the appraisal is dead.

“Long live the appraisal!” (I hear the HR experts cry)

We think company energy should be focused away from appraising to ameliorating, by improving and developing staff and building up knowledge. It turns out Accenture agrees with us and is getting rid of its annual performance reviews too, read about it here…

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/accenture-one-of-worlds-biggest-companies-to-scrap-annual-performance-reviews-10421296.html

We have built our own unique systems and approach to performance. Yes it’s quite contemporary but it suits the ambitious clients we work with.

To compare the two approaches, we created the infamous Amelore Triangles and we share these with clients who are interested in changing how they view and manage HR. Here’s the appraisal triangle:

Appraisals cost businesses time and therefore money. We think these systems demotivate staff and create an endless cycle of the HR function chasing people to complete a form that never gets analysed. And then the cycle starts again.

It’s the same with HR services as a whole. The traditional approach is not what our ambitious and entrepreneurial clients want, they need the freedom to make confident decisions to support growth and to take the right people with them.

The Amelore Way…..

Of course, we keep traditional HR safely in our back pocket ready to use whenever a company needs it, as we recognise that not all businesses are ready for the Amelore way. Is yours?

Local MP Neil Carmichael and Amelore visit Treetops nursery.

 

Ruth Cornish. HVV. Neil CarmichaelAt the end of last week our local MP, Neil Carmichael visiting one of our Gloucestershire based clients,Treetops nursery in Dursley, part of the Hill Valley and Vale group.

It was very interesting hearing Neil share more about his new role as Chair of the Education Select committee. His remit is 0-18 and there is no doubt that we were all in strong agreement that society as a whole only benefits when we invest in our children and young people. Not just the provision of nursery education to enable parents to work, but expanding that support for when children start school. Parents can often struggle with childcare because the school day is relatively short compared to the business world. But also some parents need help and things feel less integrated when one moves to a school setting.

Likewise as your child gets older parents need different support and advice. Parenting teenagers is hard work but so is helping them make the right choices with regard to identifying what they want to do. I know the government are looking at what support it can give children and parents and I welcome this.

Treetops are a special client for us as being a working parent, both my younger children went there and had a wonderful time. What really shone out to me as a parent and someone quite familiar with commercial nurseries (from my time in Brighton before we relocated) was that it was very child centred, being not for profit and a former SureStart centre.

A few years ago Amelore supported them to become a social enterprise, advising on TUPE and union relations. The two women leading the bid were doing an amazing job but having had Gloucestershire County Council HR support, they were suddenly in a position of being without any HR support when they really needed it. And were up against the HR department that used to support them and had all the knowledge.

We regularly see this in the community with the shift from centralized services to very small businesses being expected to identify and buy effective support in. And feeling very out of their depth.

Amelore are very mindful of our role in the community and will always offer discounted rates and even free advice for organisations or individuals that need it. Employment law can be complicated and fear can stop people doing sensible and pragmatic things. So we are available 7 days a week for our clients and friends in the community to give them piece of mind.

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