What’s the Best Way to Look After Your People?

This guest blog has been written by Jonathan Lane and Patrick Doyle at SR Consulting who provide insight, solutions and support to growing businesses.

The long term success of your business depends on a large number of factors. One of the most important areas that you need to consider is your people. Are you doing everything that you can to look after them? Are you giving them the training and personal development that they need? Are you giving them the skills they need to help you grow your business? Are you providing with them the motivation they need to stay with your business, through thick and thin?

If you sit back and hope that the people you recruit will perform perfectly and that your business will prosper, you’ll be disappointed. It’s essential that you manage the continuous development of individuals, teams and yourself. This includes developing the knowledge, skills and experience of both new recruits and current employees.

Developing and training your people includes skills training and learning achieved via courses or instruction and covers personal development through coaching, mentoring or self-learning. It applies to all the members of your team, and includes people with little ambition beyond doing the same job until retirement, as well as high flyers. Changes to the world of work through continuing advancements in technology mean that even the non high flyer will at some point have to learn something different, even if it is just a new software version.

People develop knowledge, skills and experience from the day that you appoint them and it continues throughout their employment. The work that people do will also develop as external factors change. Encouraging an environment of development can help your business to meet its evolving needs for performance and delivery as well as fulfilling the people in it. People who develop in a role can also use their new skills, knowledge and experience to help others.

Where Do You Start?

You may have worked for, or be working in, a business that has someone who is responsible for developing the people. However, thinking that it can be left to your ‘Training Manager’ or an HR department, and that it doesn’t have to feature in your role as a boss is a mistake. A conscious approach to engaging everyone in developing your people can ensure you have a team that is doing what you need it to do, in a way that is efficient and effective for all concerned.

Every business is different, so there is no set way of developing people. It will differ from person to person, and you as the boss will also be a factor. Whilst there is no magic formula for this, here are some basic dos and don’ts:

  1. Don’t just rely on holding an appraisal meeting once or twice a year.
  2. Don’t apply it just to the employees who want to take on more tasks and responsibilities, or who are eager for training or promotion.
  3. Don’t think it is just about sending people on training courses.
  4. Do recognise that developing all the people in your team is part of the day-to-day activities of being the boss.
  5. Do acknowledge that people will have different reasons for working and different ambitions in respect to their life and career. As a result they will have different personal development needs.
  6. Do remember that an approach that works for one person isn’t guaranteed to work for another.

If you cover these basics you will be able to grow a stronger, more sustainable business, maintaining the performance of your people and reducing employee turnover. If you need any help with finding the best way to develop the people in your particular business, we can help. Call Jonathan Lane on 07503 891 331 or Patrick Doyle on 07425 150 238, or click here to email us for a conversation about developing your people and your business.

How Do You Discuss Performance in a Positive Way during Appraisals?

Following on from my previous blogs on appraisals – What are the Benefits of Appraisals and Preparing for an Appraisal Interview – I thought it would be helpful to go into further detail about how to deal with an employee’s performance in a positive way during an appraisal. This is especially important if there are negative issues and room for improvement.

It’s important that you are realistic about capabilities and can provide both positive and negative feedback in a positive manner. Negative feedback should be provided in a way that shows that you understand that your employee may need further training, or may have other issues that could be impacting their work. Give them an opportunity to speak freely. This allows them to feel understood, validated, and gives them the opportunity to agree to improvement in the areas needed.

Many people find the thought of these conversations daunting, mainly because it is hard to predict how an employee will respond to negative feedback, unless you know them very well. Here’s some advice on how to handle difficult conversations. Once you’ve learnt these tips, you should find it much easier to have those tricky conversations.

Before the appraisal interview, prepare as much as possible. Ensure you have the following factors listed below in a document that you can store in your employee’s HR file – ideal for measuring improvements over the years.

These factors should be properly defined and used for quantifiable evaluation, which you can share with your employee at each meeting, motivating them to make the necessary improvements. By providing this clear, regularly updated information, appraisal meetings will be far more focused and productive.

Factors for assessing employee performance
 

Job knowledge

 

How in depth is the employee’s understanding of the job? Do they have complete clarity on their responsibilities and the procedures associated with the role?

 

Quantity of work output

 

This can include, for example, promptness in completing allocated tasks, and their reliability in meeting deadlines.

 

Quality of work

 

How clear and accurate is their work? How much supervision is required? Do they effectively meet their objectives?

 

Planning and organisational skills

 

How effective is the employee’s ability to plan and prioritise their work effectively, coordinate different elements of the work, and delegate where appropriate?

 

Ability to learn and develop

 

The speed at which new duties and/or skills are mastered are key to their capabilities, as is the employee’s perceived willingness to learn new things. Consider additional training if there is a weakness.

 

Paperwork

 

How accurate and timely is the employee in the completion of reports and other relevant paperwork?

 

Communication skills

 

Is the employee’s written (including e-mail) and verbal communications with colleagues, superiors, subordinates and/or customers clear, accurate and effective?

 

Working relationships

 

How good is the quality and effectiveness in both working as a member of a team, and their relationships with colleagues and/or customers?

 

Motivation

 

Is the employee’s level of enthusiasm for his or her work noticeable? And how willing is he/she to take different tasks on board, or make extra effort, when asked?

 

Initiative

 

Check on their ability and willingness to come up with constructive ideas, offer suggestions and take responsibility.

 

Supervisory ability

 

 

Where relevant, how effective is their ability to manage, motivate and lead staff effectively?

 

Performance Ratings

Appraisal schemes should contain a system of performance ratings – a scale on which each employee is graded, based on the factors listed above. A grading scheme might run from 1 to 5, with 5 representing outstanding performance, 3 representing competent performance, and 2 or under representing performance below the required standard.

Where such a system is in place, line managers may find themselves challenged by employees who believe that their ratings should be higher than those awarded. Where there is a difference of opinion, you should discuss with your employee:

  • why the employee was graded at the specified rating, backed up by evidence of how the rating has been arrived at; and
  • why the employee believes that he or she should be more highly graded.

Ask your employee to give specific reasons to justify their belief. You need to be prepared to listen to your employee’s point of view, remaining open-minded about the ratings until the interview has been concluded.

Finally, try to remain positive and supportive throughout the appraisal. Use positive words as much as possible, such as ‘improvement’ and ‘achievement’ rather than ‘failure’ and ‘weakness’. Be aware of your body language so that you don’t alienate your employee. Remind them that you all want to achieve success together – their proactive approach to working to the best of their ability and more helps both the business and them as individuals to have a far more successful future.

If you need any help with carrying out appraisals and performance assessments, do call me on 0118 940 3032 or click here to email me.

 

 

Performance Management – How Do You Get The Best From Your Team?

In May 2017 I ran a webinar where we talked about performance management and what you can do to get the best from your team. We covered the success factors of performance management and what effective performance management requires. We discussed the differences between formal and informal performance management and the day-to-day issues that need to be covered. We also looked at Personal Development Plans and how you can use them to get the best from your employees. There was a lot to get through, so I thought I would share more tips here.

Performance management is fundamental to the effectiveness of your organisation, dependent as it is on your people for the goods and services that you provide. Each person can make a difference. Collectively, a workforce that performs at high levels can help your organisation to survive and prosper in a competitive marketplace.

What is Performance Management?

Performance management consists of two parallel processes:

  • the informal, day-to-day management of individuals and teams by their immediate line manager and
  • the formal framework within which the performance of individuals and teams is assessed and improved.

The two processes are mutually supportive and depend on the same factors for success. They involve:

  • monitoring individual or team performance against accepted benchmarks or standards
  • feedback on performance – both praise (positive reinforcement) and feedback highlighting unsatisfactory performance
  • ensuring that negative feedback is delivered in an objective manner and is accompanied by an explanation of why the performance is unsatisfactory, affording an opportunity for the employee to provide an explanation as well as the means to improve in the future
  • coaching, training or other support to address poor performance
  • follow-up monitoring to check that the performance has improved, with the improvements reinforced with positive feedback
  • the option to progress to formal procedures, such as the disciplinary or capability procedures if poor performance continues and represents serious cause for concern.

Effective Performance Management

Effective performance management depends on the quality of the supervisory and people management skills of those responsible for managing your company’s workforce. It requires capable, motivated managers to put the parallel informal and formal performance management processes into effect. It requires the business to have simple but effective formal performance management procedures for your managers to use. Effective Performance Management also needs effective recruitment processes that result in suitable individuals being recruited to people management roles.

In addition, your business needs good induction, and training and development systems that give individuals the skills, knowledge and experience to manage performance effectively. Incentives – psychological rewards, tangible rewards or both – to encourage the workforce to take performance management seriously must be considered. And finally, your company needs formal structures that allow it to make sure that both managers and their reports are observing the performance management policy.

As you can see, improving the performance of your people first requires effective management of that performance, with the processes and procedures to support it. Start by putting the necessary processes and procedures in place and you will be able to effectively improve the performance of your teams.

Listen to the Webinar

If you missed the webinar that I ran on 31 May 2017 and you would like to listen to it, you can hear it here. If you joined us on the webinar, you can also listen again, in case you missed anything.

When you click the link, you’ll need to register by putting your contact details into the form on the page and then you’ll be able to download the webinar and listen to it as many times as you like.

Is it Cheaper to Look After Your Staff or Cheaper to Replace Them When They Leave?

How can the loss of key staff members be prevented when so many employers are not interested in managing retention?

Many employers don’t attempt to manage retention of their staff. Those that do so seldom evaluate the impact of their measures, and often base them on unreliable assumptions about the reasons why employees resign.

Several research studies have shown that retention is linked to employee engagement, which in turn is linked to profitability, customer service and other important business metrics. So is it better to focus on improving engagement, rather than retention. Or should you not worry and just bear the cost of replacing people when they leave?

Despite all the evidence that staff attrition costs money, many businesses take no active steps to control their staff turnover. Research has shown that action is most likely to be taken after the event: when turnover has already become a problem and damage is being done to organisational efficiency.

Studies also consistently show that employers tend to mishandle their efforts to manage retention, focusing on issues that they believe are linked to resignations rather than those that actually motivate staff to leave. Pay in particular is often used to encourage employees to stay, yet it is much less of a deciding factor in employees’ own decision-making than being offered career opportunities, being kept informed and consulted and having faith in the business’s leadership.

What is ‘employee engagement’?

It embraces the older concepts of job satisfaction, motivation and attachment that described individual employees’ attitudes to their employer, but goes beyond them to provide a complete model of the psychological relationship between individuals and organisations. It is a two-way process in which employers and employees interact and respond to each other, unlike the more static concept of job satisfaction.

Employee engagement involves two issues:

  • personal satisfaction in the individual’s job or role (“I like my work and do it well”); and
  • the individual’s contribution to their employer’s success (“I help achieve the goals of my organisation”).

Staff retention can be used as a measure of employee engagement, with many companies now believing that employee engagement is one of the keys to managing performance and retaining talent. Initiatives to improve employee engagement are much more likely to gain the interest and active support of senior management than those focused narrowly on increasing staff retention. Employee engagement has much broader business benefits, including:

  • increased profitability
  • faster revenue growth
  • improved organisational efficiency
  • better attendance levels
  • heightened customer focus.

Look after your staff and they are more likely to look after you and the future of your business. If you need some advice or ideas on employee engagement, email us at sueferguson@optionshr.co.uk or call 0118 940 3032.

Poor Performance – Can You Prove It?

Sometimes as a manager you need to deliver bad news or negative feedback to a member of your staff. You might need to pick them up on an issue of performance that you’re not happy with, or where they are not meeting your standards.

This is not a comfortable thing to do. You need to be quite assertive about it, to be taken seriously, so that your member of staff doesn’t just argue with you! To help you discuss the issue in the right way, you need evidence of the poor performance. You have to be able to show your team member what they’ve been doing wrong or below standard. Just telling them that they’re not doing what you want them to do, won’t have any impact, if you can’t prove it.

You need to collect the evidence, so your team member can really understand what they’ve done wrong and how you want them to change. It’s not about collecting evidence just to use against someone – you really need it in order to get the message across and to make a difference.

Is one of your team repeatedly late coming into work? If so, you need a recording system that shows them when they came it late and how often it happens. If your staff clock in and out every day, you have your system. If not, you need to look for another way of recording the time.

Does a member of your staff keep making errors in their work? How many times have they made a mistake and what was the result of it? Again, you need to create a way of recording the error rate and the consequences.

Do some of your clients repeatedly complain about one of your employees? If so, you need to keep all the emails or letters of complaint that you receive. When a customer complains over the phone, ask them if they would mind emailing you the details for your records, so that you improve the situation for them.

When you can show proof of poor performance, it is much easier to discuss the issue with the particular member of staff and, between you, work out what needs to be done in order to improve their performance.

We discussed the importance of collecting evidence at one of my interactive workshops. Click here to watch the short video and find out more.

Improving Performance Through a Probation Period

Taking on new members of staff for a growing business can be a costly and time consuming process – especially if you get it wrong. Finding the best person for your business is important, and many people think that they can sit back and rest once their new recruit arrives on their first day. But that’s just the start of it!

This blog looks at how to give your new employee the best start with your business.

You worked hard on crafting the best Job Description for your new team member. The adverts went out and the applications came in. You spent time interviewing potential candidates to join your team. Finally you found them – the perfect person to work with you. They even turned up on their start date. What happens next?

If you think you can just sit back and expect your new recruit to get on with their job and perform as you expect them to – with no input from you – you’ll be disappointed.

The first thing to do – even before a new employee joins you – is to decide on the length of their probation period. This could be between three and six months, depending on the type of work being done. The probation period is your chance to start assessing your new recruit; it’s their time to find their feet and get used to their new role. It is a vital tool in measuring the performance of a new employee.

Next you need to plan when you’re going to review their performance, during the probation period. Planning a review halfway through is a good idea – don’t leave it until the end. This allows you to take action if you’re in any doubt about their ability to do the job for which you have employed them. Their performance will only get better if you do something about it. They might not have understood the job that you need them to do, so this is the time to go over what you expect from them. It’s also a good time for them to air any concerns they might have about their future with you.

You should next plan to review the performance of your new recruit before the end of the probation period. This could be after five months, if the probation is six months in length. This gives you time to properly review their performance and plan any action that needs to be taken – such as training or development. This will put you in the best position to be able to confirm whether or not your new recruit will be staying on.

If you decide that they will not remain with you, and your employment contract is correctly worded, the notice period for a new employee is usually less than for someone who successfully completes a probation period. If they have to leave, you can quickly turn your attention to finding a better person to fill their role.

There is no legal requirement for using a probation period at the start of an employment contract. However, it is a very good way of making sure you get the right person for the job, after all the time and effort you put into the recruitment process. Just make sure that your employment contract explains all this and that you discuss the use of the probation period with anyone to whom you offer the job!

What’s the Best Way to Keep Your Staff Happy?

Happy employees make happy clients and customers. Here’s a check list of all the things you should be doing, to keep your staff – and therefore your clients and customers – happy. How many are you doing?

  • Improve their engagement with your company – low cost options include offering flexibility, the opportunity to buy or sell holiday and working from home
  • Cheer everyone up – buy them food at work
  • Give lots of praise – in public, if necessary
  • Recognise their achievements – a lot
  • Be reassuring (but realistic) about job security
  • Be flexible about working hours and opportunities to improve their work life balance
  • Be open, honest and involved with your team
  • Keep them in touch with all the news – good or bad
  • Keep up with employees training and development – it does not need to cost a lot. Don’t abandon development and new opportunities. Job training is perceived as a value
  • Develop your company culture – involve everyone in decisions and provide opportunities for staff who don’t normally work together to get to know each other
  • Offer chances to put forward suggestions – it could save you a fortune and it increases the sense of ownership and belonging
  • Provide regular team meetings to reinforce the company culture and beliefs
  • Think about using a promotion as a low cost way of improving self-esteem and self-worth
  • Treat everyone with respect – it doesn’t cost anything and it improves motivation.

How well did you score? What more could you be doing to keep your staff happy?

What’s the Difference Between Informal and Formal Appraisals?

This is a question I’m often asked by managers, so I thought I would answer it here.

A performance appraisal can occur in two ways – informally or more formally (or systematically.) Informal appraisals can be carried out whenever the supervisor feels it is necessary. The day-to-day working relationship between a manager and an employee offers an opportunity for the employee’s performance to be assessed. This assessment is communicated through conversation on the job, over coffee, or by on-the-spot examination of a particular piece of work. Informal appraisals are especially appropriate when time is an issue. The longer feedback is delayed, the less likely it is to encourage a change in behaviour. Frequent informal feedback to employees can also prevent surprises when the formal evaluation is communicated. However, you should make sure that they don’t become too informal – don’t be tempted to discuss an appraisal in the pub!

Although informal appraisals are useful, they should not take the place of formal appraisals. These are used when the contact between a manager and an employee is more formal. This could be when they don’t see each other on a daily, or even weekly basis. It requires a system to be in place to report managerial impressions and observations on employee performance.

When Should You Carry out Appraisals?

Appraisals typically are conducted once or twice a year, most often annually, near the anniversary of the employee’s start date. For new employees, common timing is to conduct an appraisal 90 days after employment, again at six months and annually after that. ‘Probationary’ or new employees, or those who are new and in a trial period, should be evaluated frequently—perhaps weekly for the first month and monthly thereafter until the end of the introductory period for new employees. After that, annual reviews may be sufficient.

Some managers prefer to meet with their employees more frequently. Some companies in high-technology fields are promising accelerated appraisals— six months instead of a year—so that employees receive more frequent raises. The result for some companies has been a reduction in turnover among these very turnover-prone employees.

A regular time interval is a feature of formal, systematic appraisals that distinguishes them from informal appraisals. Both employees and managers are aware that performance will be reviewed on a regular basis and they can plan for performance discussions. In addition, informal appraisals should be conducted whenever a manager feels they are desirable.

Should We Talk About Pay As Well?

Many experts say that the timing of performance appraisals and pay discussions should be different. The major reason for this view is that employees often focus more on the pay amount than on what they have done well or need to improve. Sometimes managers may manipulate performance appraisal ratings to justify the desired pay treatment for a given individual.

However you carry out appraisals – whether informally or formally – take some time to think about the pros and cons of the different options. This will help you implement the best process for the development of your business and your employees.

How Do You Investigate Staff Issues?

If one of your employees raises a grievance at work, against one of their colleagues, you need to carry out an investigation into the situation, before you make any decisions. How do you go about doing this?

The first thing to consider is that the person against whom the grievance has been raised cannot carry out the investigation. Look for an impartial party to do it, who should decide what information they need in order to fully understand the situation. They should then interview the person who has raised the grievance, before speaking to the other party and anyone else involved. They should produce written evidence and be prepared to look for evidence both supporting the employee and against them.

All people involved should be asked not to discuss the allegation, or look for corroborating evidence or verification of what the employee and other staff are saying. They should also keep an open mind, as what they uncover may not be what anyone expects. For example, someone may be unhappy at work because of a family bereavement they haven’t told anyone about.

The next stage is to respond to the person who raised the grievance, with your decision based on the evidence. It may be appropriate to bring the two people together to discuss the evidence so that they can discuss the situation and plan how to resolve the situation. You must always respond to a formal grievance in writing, with your decision based on your investigation and offer the right of appeal.

The point of carrying out an investigation is so that you do not blunder into a grievance situation, without first finding out what is really going on. If you don’t have your own policy to follow, then use the guidelines published by Acas. As with most employment matters, following a clear process will keep you safe, if an aggrieved member of staff doesn’t like the way in which their grievance has been handled!

Communication is the Most Powerful HR Tool

Communicating on a regular basis with your employees is one of the most powerful HR tools available to you. Talking to your staff can help prevent small issues from turning into more complex, potentially expensive ones, such as grievances or disciplinary problems. Finding out what your employees are thinking can even help you encourage them to work harder for your business.

How do you do this?

One of my clients called me in to help them sort out some problems recently. The management had noticed that their staff were complaining about not being told what was going on in the business. There was actually nothing happening for them to worry about, but because the management didn’t tell them anything, they started to think that the management was hiding something. A regular open forum was held at their quarterly staff meetings, giving employees the chance to speak up and ask questions; but no one ever did. So the managers assumed that everyone was happy.

To find out more, I arranged a meeting with a cross section of the staff, to ask them how they really felt about the communication in the business and how it could improve. One thing they told me was that no one liked asking questions in the open forum. No had had the courage to stand up in front the whole business to speak out!

Next I had a meeting with the directors of the business, to report back what I had found out. There was another staff meeting coming up, so instead of expecting employees to voice their concerns at the open forum, we came up with an alternative. Before the staff meeting, we would split the employees into a number of smaller groups, each with one of the directors. They would ask their group how they would like to be communicated with. One person from each group would then bring forward the ideas from their group to present to the whole business. This allowed people who were brave enough to stand up in front of the colleagues the opportunity to do so.

At the very next staff meeting, a whole range of issues where brought up in front of the whole business in this way. It gave the employees a real chance to tell the management what they thought. There was an opportunity to really discuss, openly, what was going on in the business (and what wasn’t going on!) Concerns were aired and fears where allayed. The end result was a very happy staff – and happy management too.

This is just one example of how communication can be used to improve a business. This solution worked for this business – what is important is that you work with your staff to find out what will be the most appropriate for them.

When you have regular and open lines of communication with your employees, you can help to prevent negative issues from arising and build a happy, engaged and productive team for your business.