The Difficult Issue of Dealing with Personal Hygiene Issues at Work

Dealing effectively with an employee who has a personal hygiene problem is one of the most difficult and sensitive situations that you’re likely to face, as a manager. The problem may be one of body odour, dirty or stale-smelling clothing, dirty hair or bad breath.

It is advisable not to ignore a problem of this nature as, the longer the matter is allowed to continue unresolved, the more difficult it will be to raise the issue with the employee. Unless the issue is raised with the employee, it is likely that the problem will continue and other employees may become hostile towards the problem employee and disillusioned by management’s lack of willingness to tackle the problem.

Whether a problem of this nature is brought to your attention informally by one or more of your employee’s colleagues, as a result of a formal complaint, as a result of comments overheard by chance, or by evidence that colleagues are avoiding the person, the issue needs to be tackled promptly and firmly.

Open communication

The only effective method of dealing with a problem of lack of personal hygiene is through honest, open, two-way communication with the employee in question. Plain language should be used to explain the problem. Dropping hints, for example making comments about bad smells, putting a bar of soap in the employee’s desk drawer or leaving a stick of deodorant in a prominent place, is unlikely to work, and may create further problems such as ill-feeling or upset.

It will be important for you to bear in mind that a problem of body odour or bad breath may be rooted in the employee’s health and may not always be due to a lack of personal hygiene. You therefore need to have an open mind and be careful not to be seen to accuse the employee of poor personal standards.

Discussion guidelines

To handle the matter, you should arrange to talk to your employee privately, bearing in mind that an interview of this nature is likely to be difficult and possibly embarrassing for the employee. You will therefore need to be sensitive, understanding and patient during the interview. Clearly, discussions with the employee should be held privately and kept confidential, and it will be important for the employee to be reassured that this is the case.

You should specify the problem factually and in plain language. For example, you might say: “I have noticed sometimes that you have quite a strong body odour and I feel that this is something that needs to be addressed” or “I have noticed on occasions that the clothing you wear to work has a stale smell and I feel that this is something that needs to be addressed.”

Depending on the response you get, you might ask your employee if he or she is aware of any reason for the problem, for example an underlying medical cause. If this is the case, you should not ask intrusive questions into the employee’s state of health, but move on to discuss what can be done to resolve the matter.

Make sure that you reassure the employee that the aim of the discussion is to help and encourage him or her to recognise and solve a problem. Do not tell the employee that other people have commented on the problem (even if they have), as this is likely to cause unnecessary embarrassment.

Action agreement

Having pointed out the problem and allowed the employee adequate time and opportunity to respond, you need to ask your employee what solution he or she thinks would be feasible. Depending on what explanation they give (if any), the solution may be one of the following:

  • See his or her own doctor to explain that the problem has been highlighted at work and ask for (further) medical intervention
  • Agree to be seen by a company-nominated doctor at the employer’s expense to discuss the matter and seek a solution
  • Undertake to bathe more frequently and/or to wash his or her hair more frequently and/or to launder his or her clothes more frequently
  • Undertake to brush his or her teeth and/or use a mouthwash more frequently.

If the problem is one of lack of personal hygiene, you should inform the employee clearly and firmly that an improvement is required so as to avoid further difficulties. This should, however, be put across to the employee in a supportive way, and not in a manner that implies criticism or threat. However, do not be afraid to stress the importance of improvement. You may be able to justify a requirement for improvement along the lines of “providing an acceptable working environment for all, given the close proximity in which colleagues have to work” or “creating a positive image on the part of the organisation when dealing with the public”. Do what you can to secure the employee’s agreed commitment to change and set a date for a review, perhaps in a month’s time.

Dealing with a personal hygiene problem in the workplace is certainly no easy matter, but the employee may, in the longer term, benefit from the sort of frank feedback that will be necessary in such a situation.

If you have a problem such as this at work and you’re still not sure how to handle it, call us for a confidential chat and we’ll help you through it. Call me now on 0118 940 3032 or click here to email me.

Source: XpertHR

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.

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?

Can Santa Get the Sack?

Santa

Can Santa get the sack?

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat … but so is Santa! He’s now too big to fit down the chimney; the elves think they have man flu; and Rudolf says the roads are blocked with snow so he can’t get to work!

You might think that Christmas runs smoothly at the North Pole – after all, they have all year to plan it. However, this year there are a few problems for the Head Reindeer (HR) department to sort out.

Father Christmas is too big to fit down the chimney. All year Santa has been relaxing at the North Pole and as a result, his girth has expanded somewhat. The Head Reindeer is worried that he won’t be able to do his job properly – after all, he is supposed to climb down chimneys in order to deliver presents. Can he get the sack for not being able to carry out the work in his job description? If Santa is morbidly obese and can’t carry out his daily tasks, he could be classed as disabled. This means that sacking him because of his girth may be discrimination – something the Head Reindeer would like to avoid!

The elves think they have ‘man flu’. They’re sneezing and coughing and their noses are running, so they’re really like to stay in bed – especially during December when work gets really busy. Are they allowed to take time off sick, when Father Christmas thinks they just have colds? Staff taking time off for sickness usually increases over the winter months, so the Head Reindeer will need to speak to each of the elves and find out what’s actually wrong with them and make sure they have the right evidence to support the reasons for their absence. Keeping in contact with sick staff is always a good idea. After all, how can Christmas carry on without the elves?

Rudolf says the roads are blocked with snow. He says he can’t get to the office because of the weather conditions. He can’t really work from home, although for some staff, it’s worth setting up remote access, so that they can still work, even if they’re not in the office. The Head Reindeer needs to make sure that the Staff Handbook is up to date, to cover issues like bad weather. And he needs to find out how else to get Rudolf to work, if there is snow on the road, or Christmas might have to be cancelled.

With a little bit of forward planning (and perhaps some advice from an expert) the Head Reindeer (HR) manager will be able to make sure that everything goes to plan for a great Christmas. At least he can let all the elves take time off together, once the festive period is over!

How to Make Appraisals Really Easy

Appraisals should be divided in three stages – preparation, the actual meeting and the follow up. Here’s what to focus on at each stage.

 1. Preparation

This is one of the most important stages of the appraisal process and is often missed or skipped over too quickly. You need to have facts about each employee’s performance and evidence of instances in which they have performed well or badly. This will make the appraisal constructive and meaningful.

Throughout the year, track each employee’s performance and keep a log of memorable incidents or projects they’re involved in. Look back at previous appraisal information and job descriptions to make sure they are meeting their agreed objectives.

Make sure that your employees are prepared too. Agree the date, time and place for the meeting at least two weeks in advance; brief them on the importance and scope of the meeting and what you expect from them.

2. The Meeting

Once the preparation is done, here’s how to carry out the meeting:

  • Ask open and probing questions, giving your employees the opportunity to decide how to answer; encourage them to talk freely
  • Listen to what they say without interrupting. Also watch their body language for messages
  • Evaluate performance, not personality. Focus on how well the employee does their job rather than personal characteristics
  • Give feedback based on facts not subjective opinion. Use feedback to positively reinforce the good. In the case of underperformance, use it to help the employee understand the impact of their actions or behaviour and the corrective action required
  • Set SMART objectives for the future and set a timeline for improvement if an employee is underperforming. Look also for development opportunities to help your employees reach their potential
  • Document each appraisal. Write a summary of the discussion, what was agreed and any action to be taken while it’s fresh in your mind.

3. Follow Up

Don’t just walk away at the end of the meeting, breathing a sigh of relief and forgetting about it all until next year!

Do what you say you will do. Fulfilling your promises reflects well on you and your business. If you’ve set deadlines for performance reviews, follow up on them. Check on progress that you discussed in the meeting.

If you don’t follow up with appraisals, the whole process will be a waste of time and something that neither you nor your employees look forward to or find useful.

Still need some help? If you follow all these tips and still think that carrying out appraisals seems too difficult, we can help. Full preparation, support during the meetings and follow up for just £90 +VAT per employee! To find out more or to book dates for your appraisals, call me on 0118 940 3032 or click here to email me straight away.

Scrooge’s Guide to Presents

In case you missed my December email newsletter, here’s a catch up for you!

The start of a new year is the time when some businesses think about how best to reward their staff for their hard work over the last 12 months. Instead of a one-off ‘thank you’, what about putting a more ongoing, sustainable rewards scheme in place?

Here’s the story of how one Dickensian employer got it right!

Ebenezer Scrooge loved Christmas! He really enjoyed giving his staff time off, to spend with their families over Christmas. He encouraged them to go Christmas shopping and to send cards to all their friends.

Mr Scrooge even loved giving presents to his staff. But he often struggled to find the best gift for each person. So one year, had a great idea. Instead of buying each member of his team a gift at Christmas, Mr Scrooge decided to set up a reward system for all his staff, which would run all through the year, rewarding them on an ongoing basis for their hard work.

Here’s what Ebenezer Scrooge did to create the best Christmas present that lasts for 12 months:

  1. He put a structure in place – just a simple one to begin with
  2. He took the time to identify the things that were really important to his staff – including non-financial benefits – and incorporated them into his strategy
  3. He invested in making his company an interesting and fulfilling place to work. This helped him to attract great people and helped keep overall pay costs down
  4. He created a scheme that was simple to understand, so that his line managers didn’t struggle to explain it. They were key to making his reward structure a success
  5. He didn’t assume that it was just about pay. According to research that Mr Scrooge read, some executives would consider a pay cut of up to 35% in order to get their ideal job.
  6. Then he reviewed the scheme and the effect it had on his staff throughout the year, to make sure he was still getting it right
  7. And finally he enjoyed spreading Christmas cheer amongst his staff all year long and they loved working for him!

 

Think about how you can engage your staff beyond Christmas by setting up a reward scheme this year.

What is Motivation and How Can You Improve it in Your Staff?

Motivation determines how your employees choose to allocate their energy – where they put their focus. When they’re at work, you want them to put their focus and energy onto what they’re doing and onto your business.

Motivation is affected by a number of factors, including:

  • Being treated with fairness and respect
  • Getting pride and fulfilment from their work
  • Feeling that they and their work are valued
  • Confidence in the direction in which the organisation is going.

How does motivation work? There are five components, as shown in this diagram.

 

Source: XpertHR 17 November 2010

Your actions create results; these results are evaluated by other people; outcomes occur as a result of those evaluations; your needs will either be satisfied or not by those outcomes. Positive evaluations or outcomes can lead to needs being satisfied and increased motivation!

So what can you do as a manager, to improve motivation in your team?

Think about your answers to these questions:

  1. Do you treat employees with fairness and respect?
  2. Do you know what motivates the different members of your team?
  3. Do you use this information to play to their strengths and keep motivation up?
  4. Are your team meetings a two way process?
  5. Do you allow the sharing of ideas from members of your team?
  6. Do you share achievements of the company and of individuals?

How many of those questions did you answer No to? If it was more than three then you might have a problem with motivation – or you might see one emerging soon!

Employee Engagement – How Do You Get the Best from Your Staff?

Employee engagement is about making sure your employees are happy at work, so that you can get the most out of them, while they’re at work.

Managers and employers need to remember that not everyone goes to work just to earn money. They go for lots of other reasons. It may be that they have to work and they just need a job, but you should also look to see if your people want more from their employment than that. If employees are engaged in their jobs we know that they’re much more productive, that they’ll do much more for your business, and they’re much more likely to stay with your company and help to develop your business – including your profitability. Studies have shown this!

What do people value at work? They’re the same things that we value in everyday life, such as:
–    Being treated fairly and with respect
–    Being told when we’ve done well and if necessary, when we’ve done badly
–    Wanting to work with people who are good managers and who are successful.

These are key parts to feeling part of an organisation and are what make people willing and able to go the extra mile. If you’re a business owner, you want your staff to think about your business in the same way that you do. This doesn’t just happen – it needs work.

How do you do it? You need to look hard at what you offer your employees so that you can get the best out of them. They need to understand clearly what part their role plays within the organisation – how they fit in and why they’re important to the success of the business.

Good leadership and guidance will motivate your staff to go the extra mile for you. Give them opportunities to improve and develop. Don’t think that training in too expensive or that someone will leave once they’ve had some training and developed new skills. Look for ways of developing your staff with on the job training to give them as sense of achievement.

How else can you motivate your employees to be better? Find out more at the workshop I’m running on 17 April 2013 in Reading. The half day session costs just £10 +VAT (or £15 +VAT if you’re not an FSB member) and you can book online by clicking here. Buffet lunch included!

Employee Engagement – Or How to Keep Your Staff Happy

Not everyone goes to work for the money they earn. While some people do only work to earn a living, these days, many people are motivated by things other than just money.

I believe that a more engaged workplace is a more successful workplace. What do I mean by ‘engagement’? Employee engagement can be defined as ‘An employee’s drive to use all their ingenuity and resources for the benefit of the company.’

How do you keep your employees engaged?

If you’re a manager, you need to work on four important factors – motivation (inspiring your team), consideration (recognition and support for team members), care (and understanding of their issues) and conversing (informing and listening to them). Improving each area will lead to better engagement; your staff will be happier and will work harder for you.

If you’re a leader, there are four questions that you need to ask yourself. Do people have faith in me as a leader? Are they inspired by me? Are they excited about the future of the business? How do they perceive my morality? The answers to these questions will show how engaged your team is. If you don’t like the answers you get to these questions, these are the areas that you need to work on, in order to have a more engaged workforce.

What do you do to keep your staff happy? Leave a comment here to share you tips with us.

If you’re not sure how to keep your staff engaged and happy, then come along to the half day workshop I’m running in April 2013 in Reading. Email me if you’d like me to send you the details.

Winter Sick Leave and How Best to Manage it

How are you and your staff coping with the winter weather and the cold and flu bugs that always do the rounds at this time of year? Most people will need a bit of time off at some point during the year, to recover from an illness, so this post looks at the benefits of managing absence in a proactive way.

Both long and short term absences can cost a huge amount – both financially and in terms of manpower. It’s never an easy conversation to have with your employees and it can be difficult to keep up with what action is lawful to take. The bottom line is this – do nothing and the problem won’t go away, but could get worse. Finding out early on what’s going on with an employee who is absent can make a significant difference to your relationship and absence levels in the future. Talking to them allows you to get to the root of the problem and provide the support that they need. By focusing in on the absence it may also deter casual absenteeism – days off here and there.

Dealing with Short Term Absence

You should have a procedure in place that requires the employee to talk to a named person rather than leaving a message when reporting their absence. A standard form should then be completed recording the date, time, reason given and predicted time of absence, to make sure the relevant facts are gathered consistently for each absence.

Discussing the problem is essential especially when an employee is taking recurrent short term absences. Maybe there is a work issue which you can help them deal with and solve. Providing the support they need results in improved working relationships, morale and reduced absence.

You should always speak to a member of staff when they return to work, irrespective of how long they’ve been away. It shows you’re taking the situation seriously and acts as a deterrent for people who shouldn’t really be taking time off. Asking how someone is feeling after they’ve been off for even one day also shows that you care about them. Keep the conversation informal but take it seriously. Ensure confidentiality, have a clear structure, record what’s said and above all remain positive and supportive. You can ask them if they visited their GP, how they are feeling now and if there anything you can do to support them. Don’t ask any intrusive medical questions!

Communicating with your employees improves productivity and decreases absence, so follow these simple guidelines when dealing with short term sick leave. We’ll cover long term absence in another post in a few weeks time.

How do you deal with short term absence in your business?