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.

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.

Are Your Employees Doing Their Best for Your Business?

Your people are the key to the success of your business. By investing in them you are investing in your success. But how do you make sure they are working as hard as they can, to bring about that success? 

Here are our top 10 tips to help you get the most from your people: 

  1. Provide a vibrant and stimulating working environment and a culture that values the contribution made by each person
  2. Embrace the diverse range of skills, expertise, experience, attitudes and backgrounds of all your staff
  3. Encourage your staff to reach their full potential. Provide them with opportunities to develop their expertise, both in terms of technical and soft skills
  4. Provide formal and informal performance reviews on a regular basis
  5. Set clear objectives and achievable targets with your staff and allow them to air their concerns within an environment of trust and honesty
  6. Deal with issues as soon as they arise. Don’t wait for them to become a significant problem
  7. Equip your managers with the skills they need to deal with difficult situations confidently and effectively
  8. Reinforce and reward good performance. Provide incentives and rewards that motivate each individual member of staff
  9. Offer a clear career path to incentivise employees to be the best they can be
  10. Conduct regular employee questionnaires to highlight areas for concern and ensure staff feel that you value their opinions.

Managing staff is often the hardest part of any manager’s job. Follow these simple tips and you’ll find it easier to encourage your staff to put their best efforts into working with you. If you need any help with improving the performance of your people, get in touch by calling 0118 940 3032 or emailing sueferguson@optionshr.co.uk.

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.

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.