The Gift That Keeps on Giving

As a family, we normally send out over 125 Christmas cards. Often we make them but if we don’t we buy charity Christmas cards. And often we end up sending them first class because we leave it so late.

A few on the Christmas card list we haven’t seen for years. Or thought about beyond the annual card. And many we have seen quite regularly or are in contact with daily on social media. Be it Facebook, Twitter or Linked in.

Hard copy Christmas cards are a lovely part of Christmas but it’s hardly any time before they are in the recycling bin. Lots of effort for little gain.

So this year we decided to do something different with our Christmas card budget. As a family we are going to invest the money we would have spent into something that created improvements and positive change for people.

The charity Lend with Care links people like us with entrepreneurs in developing countries. You invest an amount and eventually that money is paid back to you and then you help other people.

Here are a few of the 70 profiles available of entrepreneurs that want some help. We can’t wait to each choose someone to invest in.

Amelia Bartido

Amelia Bartido of the Philipines wants a loan to restock her store and buy necessary ingredients she needs for her cooking.

Amelia needs £259.66, will you help her reach her target?


Sok Heang Kang

Sok Heang wants a loan to buy a new walking tractor to plough the land. Her old tractor does not work well.

Sok Heang needs £1,926.87, will you help her reach her target?

HR – how does it work in an emergency?

For many years I worked at the Environment Agency and without doubt everyone got involved when there was flooding. As a senior manager I used to take turns with other managers to be a Duty Manager (and give the Regional Director a rest) and lead our region‘s response to any emergency situations over the weekend.

One weekend in particular in July 2007 sticks in my mind. The summer floods rudely interrupted everyone’s plans including mine for my daughter’s first birthday and I spent all weekend on the phone organizing sandbags and staff, to send to other parts of the country to stop people’s homes being flooded. It was serious life changing stuff.

As an HR professional I am aware that there are knock on effects. When I returned to my desk on Monday our organisation was in full scale GOLD alert mode in response to the flooding we were dealing with. This involved most of our staff and as the lead operational HR team we also went into Emergency response mode.

The recent weather has caused me to reflect on what I learnt then.

HR in times of EMERGENCY

Manage people by supporting them

Managing people in times of emergency is very different from when your organisation is in a steady state. From an HR perspective it is all about anticipating and facilitating everyone doing their job. This may include organising accommodation, refreshments, staff briefings, block booking rooms and drafting communications. Turn your hand to things you many not normally turn your hand to. Make it your job to constantly be aware of what needs to be done.

Staff health, welfare and stress

You will see people giving 110% and doing as much as they can. You will want to be among them checking in on them. Everyone from the CEO to the staff on the frontline. People in these situations need nudging: to sleep, to eat, to take time out and hand over to others. To talk about how they are feeling. We drafted in teams of counselors to support anyone that wanted to talk to them.

In particular media interviews can cause great stress and often people get caught in the spotlight with little training. Big organisations have experienced media teams to provide support and council – but HR need to be on the ball too, every employer has a duty of care whatever the situation.

Giving bad news

Whilst we didn’t lose anyone during the floods we were constantly checking on the welfare of all our staff and family were getting in touch if they hadn’t heard. It was tempting to give lots of extra information (especially as people would plead with you) but of course we had to check who they were and stick to facts – speculation is not appropriate during a crisis. Data Protection was still important and we were all mindful of that.

We did have a moment when a staff member went missing and we had to notify the next of kin. We involved the police as we are not trained to give such news and worked collaboratively with them. Luckily they were found working with another team. As part of our review of the emergency response, we ensured that all staff understood why following our strict protocols was important. Losing staff members in this situation can cause ripples as far as the House of Commons!

Document what you’re doing

In any large organisation the people at the top, the general public, the media will want regular updates and you will want to keep a record of the decisions you made and the facts you had to hand. If you are in a leadership role, take care to document at least three times a day what is happening – morning, afternoon, evening. The public sector and first responders have these systems in place already – but if your company, charity or organisation has a supporting role in an emergency, it’s worth you doing the same.

Don’t be a hero

Being in a support role may not be exciting but staying calm, consistent and centered to support everyone else is really important. Also not running yourself into the ground and following the advice you have dispensed to others. Lead by example and others will follow. Just as they will if you run around red eyed and a bit ragged.

Plan for the emergency to continue

Flooding emergencies in particular can go on for some weeks – and even your core office-based staff team may be needed to work emergency hours for some time. If the emergency is localized then many of your staff will be directly affected and not able to get to work. Think about which services are essential and which ones can wait. Plan a staff rota to ensure everyone gets a rest but that essential services are delivered. Things like payroll must continue, even in an emergency, staff being paid on time is one of the most important things you must do.

Brief and Debrief everyone

Even if your role is one of co-ordination, ensure that the workforce are regularly briefed about what is going on. If possible do this face to face so staff can ask questions. Many will want answers to questions. You may have a separate emergency budget they can tap into or need to put in an emergency rota or check that people know they can talk to you if they are worried. Take care about shouting out big successes as this can later embarrass you if it causes others to mirror the behavior which then causes problems.

Praise and thank staff

A good timely (so quite soon afterwards) de-briefing which includes naming and praising by senior management is critical. I was never prouder of the Environment Agency and my own HR team than when we were in Rapid Response mode. Highly professional, compassionate, supportive.

My thoughts are with anyone affected by the flooding.

Making sure it’s a Merry Christmas

Christmas holidays – planning & managing absence

Christmas is a time of celebration for many and employers can help the festivities by planning ahead especially for holiday requests and/or managing absences.

Christmas and the workplace

The Christmas season has a big impact on most businesses and employees in the UK. It’s also a time when there is will be extra demand for products, services and sales in some businesses whilst others may experience a quiet period or may shut completely for Christmas.

Many employees will doubtless request time off for family time, holidays or attend religious services. Employees working over the Christmas period may experience different working patterns, a change in the nature of their workload or face difficulties getting to and from work. It’s also a period when some industries might need extra support and will take on seasonal workers.

Christmas bank holidays

This year the 25 December 2015 falls on a Friday which is a Bank Holiday in the UK. Boxing Day (26 December 2015) falls on a Saturday which means Monday 28 December 2015 is a Bank Holiday. There is no right to have either day away from work or taken as paid time off unless terms of the employment contract allow otherwise. Paid public holidays can be counted as part of statutory annual leave.

There is no legal right to paid leave for public holidays. Any right to paid time off for these holidays depends on the terms of a worker’s contract. Paid public holidays can be counted as part of the statutory 5.6 weeks of holiday.=<a

Annual leave over the Christmas period

An organisation’s annual leave policy should give guidance on how to book time off. However, employers may wish to look at being a little more flexible when allowing employees leave during this period.

Employees should remember however that this may not always be possible as it could be one of the busiest times of the year for the organisation. The key is for both parties to try and come to an agreement and to plan as early as possible while being fair and consistent with all staff.

Some employers may need to restrict annual leave over the Christmas period which is completely acceptable however this must be stated in the contract of employment, implied from custom or practice, or incorporated into individual contracts from a collective agreement.

Restricting leave can take many forms, but some of the most common are:

  • shutting down for certain periods while workers have to use their annual leave entitlement
  • nominating particular dates as days of closure when workers are expected to take annual leave
  • determining the maximum amounts of leave that can be taken on any one occasion and also the periods when leave may be taken
  • determining the number of workers who can be off at any one time.

Sickness absence during the Christmas season

An organisation’s usual sickness policy will apply during this time. This policy should be managed and operated fairly and consistently for all staff. Levels of attendance should be monitored during this period in accordance with the associated policy. Any unauthorised absence or patterns in absence (eg high levels of sickness or late attendance) could result in formal proceedings.

Where an employee is sick or absent from work on a day they requested off but were refused or the day after a work Christmas party, normal sickness policies and procedures would apply.

Updating your holiday policy or contract or advice

If you find your contracts or holiday policy need updating or redrafting or you want some specific advice about a situation do call us. Our number is 01453 548070. Our last working day is 18 December 2015 beyond our usual 24/7 emergency service for our retained clients.

Have a wonderful holiday.

Does the C-suite know what good people practices look like?

One of the million dollar questions in every business is whether the CEO and the senior management team know what good looks like. Because if they don’t, how will they set standards and manage upwards to achieve better results? To compete? To grow? To survive…

There are some areas of the business that they will feel confident, are the main areas to focus on:

Product development

Customer service

Finances and financial performance

IT systems and core infrastructure

Marketing and PR.

But often it is the area of people management, HR, recruitment, the workers, the workforce and the future of work that they will feel less sure about.

In the Harvard Business Review, July-August 2015 edition, Peter Cappelli wrote about “Why we love to hate HR…and what HR can do about it” and observed that “CEO’s and operating executives are rarely experts on workplace issues”.

Many companies say to us that what they have in their HR function is OK or fine or adequate. Many HR professionals talk to us privately about clear areas that could be improved and express frustration that the business doesn’t agree.

In the above mentioned HBR article Cappelli mentioned a Head of HR at a leading corporation who had survived lots of restructurings and was asked about the key to his success. His response was “I do whatever the CEO wants”.

That can happen to HR professionals. HR can become a function more adept at being defensive than inspiring. They go into survival mode and don’t energetically tackle key issues that need their drive. Issues around culture, investment in cutting edge technology, the changing face of the workforce, identifying the workers of tomorrow and ditching the employment practices of yesteryear.

Appraisals are a fine example of an HR practice that we’d say most HR professionals know don’t work. Can you imagine colleagues in Marketing or Finance persevering with such a practice? Especially if it costs great amounts of time and money and critically, damaged their internal brand?

Individuals go into HR because they have vision, insight, energy and enthusiasm about the workplace and people practices. Many have transformational skills in the areas of coaching, recruitment, listening and reflecting that the business they work in doesn’t notice or value.

It is the job of any CEO to make sure they nurture and develop their HR team and if they need external support to help them identify what good looks like then that is a priority. The one thing the C-suite will be united on is the importance of people, innovation and competitive advantage.

Often the HR department is the last place they look or a function that is pared down to the bone, dramatically under invested in compared to other functions (that they understand better) or focusing on the wrong priorities.

Making that re-connection between HR and the business; helping develop business cases for progress and change. Re-energising that relationship by running workshops for the C-suite and HR to define what good looks like is part of what gets us out of bed every morning.