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.

Legal HR Update July 2013

In June 2013 a number of changes were made to employment law. Here’s a summary of what you need to know.

1. Qualifying period for unfair dismissal claims over political opinions removed

From 25 June 2013, the two year qualifying period for unfair dismissal claims does not apply where the alleged reason for dismissal is, or relates to, the employee’s political opinions or affiliations.

This means that any member of staff who thinks they have been unfairly dismissed due to their political beliefs does not have to have worked for you for at least two years before they can make such a claim.

2. Public interest disclosures no longer required to be in good faith

From 25 June 2013, a disclosure is not protected unless it is, in the reasonable belief of the worker making the disclosure, ‘in the public interest’. Accordingly, an employee who ‘blows the whistle’ about breaches to his or her own employment contract will not normally be protected. The requirement that a protected disclosure must be made in good faith was removed on the same date.

3. Update Service launched by Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)

From 17 June 2013, the DBS Update Service allows employers to check the status of criminal record checks online.

This means that you can look up the records of potential employees and current employees too.

If you need to talk about any of these changes in more detail, if you think they affect you, give me a call on 0118 940 3032.

Happy Staff are Healthy Staff

Well being and staff engagement are very closely linked. When your staff are happy and engaged with their work, they will be less stressed and therefore healthier. When your staff are less stressed and healthier, they will find it easier to be engaged with their work. And engaged, happy staff are far productive than unhappy staff.

Employee well being is about being healthy, self confident, having emotional resilience, having a sense of purpose, an active open mind and a supportive network of relationships.

When you can look after the physical and emotional well being of your staff, and pay attention their personal development and their values, your business will benefit, as this diagram shows.


Source: ‘What’s happening with well-being at work?’ CIPD May 2007

So look after your staff and you will see your business prosper!

How do you make sure your staff are happy and healthy?

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 – Where is it Going?

According to the CIPD Employee Winter Outlook for 2012-2013, employee engagement levels dipped to just 35%. At the same time, a massive 61% of employees are neither engaged nor disengaged with their jobs and their companies.

On a more positive note, engagement is highest in small businesses, with 60% of staff in small businesses saying they’re happy at work. Perhaps this is because a disengaged member of staff can cause more problems within a small team and issues can be spotted more easily than in a large business?

Employees with the shortest service are the most engaged at 43%. This means that as a manager, you need to make sure you look after your staff as they continue their service with you. Don’t get complacent and assume that they’re still happy just because they haven’t left.

56% of staff agree they have achieved the right work life balance. Is this enough or do you want more of your staff to have the right balance?

Here are some more interesting numbers from the survey:

  • 19% feel it is likely or very likely they could lose their job
  • 20% are looking for a new job
  • 26% of senior managers are looking for a new job
  • 36% of employees with 1 or 2 years service are job seeking
  • 33% report that redundancies have been made
  • 14% say redundancies are planned
  • 42% of employers have frozen pay
  • 20% report that working hours have been decreased

How engaged are your staff? How has this changed in the last year?

Can My Employer Insist I Use My Holiday to do Jury Service?

As an employer, can you insist that your employees use their holiday allowance if they’re asked to do jury service? This was a question I was asked recently, so here is the answer.

An employer can’t insist that holiday is used for jury service, but they must give members of staff time off to complete the jury service. They are not allowed to refuse to give employees time off when summoned.

The employer may think that it is not a good time for that member of staff to be away from the business and on jury service – if there’s a heavy workload in the business, or if a number of other people are on holiday or off sick, leaving the company short staffed. In these cases, the employee can ask for a deferment of the jury service, but their employee will be called again, normally with 12 months. This may allow time to plan their time away from the business and make other arrangements for cover.

How are employees paid while on jury service? The employer does not have to pay their staff while away from the business. While employees will not be paid for jury service, they will be reimbursed subject to a maximum daily amount if absence from work causes them to lose earnings, have to pay a substitute to do their job or incur any other necessary expense, such as a childminder. People called for jury service can also claim travelling expenses, a subsistence allowance for food and drink and for any loss of National Insurance contributions they may have incurred.

As an employee, if you’re called for jury service, you could decide to use your holiday entitlement for the time that you’re away, so that you are paid for the time by your employer, rather than relying on the court subsidy. However, that is a choice you have to make, about whether or not you want to use your holiday entitlement.

I’ve made a short video about this topic ? click here to watch it and learn more about jury service.

Keep Your Staff Happy to Grow Your Business

When your employees are engaged with your business, you have a much greater chance to grow a profitable business and keep your customers satisfied.

So what makes an engaged employee? How does their engagement affect your business? How can you achieve engagement with your staff?

As an employer you need to create the right environment to allow engagement to flourish in your workforce. To help you get the basics in place, here are four steps to follow:

1. Create a strategic story – Where are you? Where have you been? Where are you going? As a business owner you probably know this, but do your employees feel part of that story? If they know the story, it lets them see how the work they do fits in with the business’s goals. This isn’t something you can simply put on a poster on the wall to get buy in. You need to repeat the story over and over again to employees and give them a sense of ownership in it. If your story is on the wall, ask your staff to add to it; create a timeline of diagrams, new solutions and innovations leading to your company’s goals. Create a buzz and encourage people to share their ideas, so they can see how their achievements fit into your company’s ‘big picture’.

2. Engage managers – If you try to engage your staff without first engaging your managers you may get limited results. Many employees’ motivation and engagement will depend on how they feel towards their bosses. If those managers are not engaged themselves, where’s the motivation to engage their people? Engaged managers focus their people and enable them to get the job done, treat their team members as individuals and coach and stretch them. When your managers build bigger relationships with people as individuals, those workers will make bigger contributions.

3. Give employees a voice – Listening is a key part in giving employees a voice but it doesn’t stop at the 360-degree survey. A survey might tell you how people are feeling at a certain point in time but it doesn’t tell you why they are feeling like that. Members of staff have insights into why and where things are going wrong. Somebody knows before the event that something is going to go wrong. If they know that they can speak up and be listened to, the problem can be pointed out before it becomes a disaster.

Employees who are able to speak up will share the good as well as the bad. If they feel that their ideas are listened to, they’ll share them, which will increase their engagement in their work.

4. Make sure there is organisational integrity – This means avoiding the “do as I say, not as I do” mentality. If your company’s values are not reflected in the day-to-day behaviours of managers or colleagues, then it will be seen as a corporate spin exercise and will not be trusted by employees. When your values are aligned between staff and managers, then trust is created and so is engagement.

Different companies will need to create different engagement programmes, but if you follow these four steps, you’ll be able to create a strong foundation for any efforts you make to increase employee engagement and develop your business.

Are your employees engaged? Are they giving their all to your business? If they’re not, then come to our workshop on 17 April 2013 in Reading. During the workshop, from 9.30am – 12.30pm, we will look at key ways to improve engagement of your employee, in order toincrease profitability, efficiency and achieve faster growth, and improve attendance, retention and job satisfaction

It is being held at Symantec, Green Park, Reading and costs just £20 +VAT to attend. To book your place online, click here and scroll through the list of events to 17 April 2013.

Are You Up To Date with Recent Legal Changes in HR?

The law is always changing around people issues. To help you keep up to date, here are a few of the recent and forthcoming changes that you need to be aware of.

1. Statutory benefit increases – standard rates for statutory maternity pay, paternity pay and adoption pay will increase with effect from 7 April 2013 to £136.78. Statutory sick pay will increase with effect from 6 April 2013 to £86.70.

2. Compensation limits – annual rises for compensation limits have been announced for all dismissals which take effect from 1 February 2013. The cap on a week’s pay rises to £450 and the maximum unfair dismissal basic award rises to £13,500. The maximum compensatory award rises to £74,200.

3. Sickness benefits – from December 2012, people on sickness benefits are being offered work experience to help them back into a job. Short periods of work experience at an appropriate employer will help people with limited employment history get a flavour of the workplace environment, gain new skills and boost their confidence. People who fail to carry out any agreed work related activity without good reason may face sanctions.

4. Fuel rates and car allowances – HMRC has published new advisory fuel rates for company cars with effect from 1 December 2012. The rates are to be used only where employers either reimburse employees for business travel in their company cars, or require employees to repay the cost of fuel used for private travel. The next review will be 1 March 2013.

5. Criminal record checks – the Home Office has announced a new service whereby employees and volunteers requiring criminal records checks will be able to make one application and have access to an online certificate check rather than have to make new applications for each job they apply for.  The service will be free for volunteers.  The new system will be launched by the disclosure and barring services on 1 March 2013.

If you need to know more about any of these changes and how they affect your particular business, leave a comment here, email me your question or pick up the phone and we can talk about it.

Formal versus Informal Performance Management

There are two sides to performance management that you need to consider with your staff. There is day to day management and there are the more formal processes, which include issues such as appraisals, setting objectives and setting standards.

Formal management

Many managers don’t like carrying out appraisals and they do have a reputation for being difficult to do and timing consuming. Done without any planning they can actually be a waste of time! However, formal, planned appraisals can be of huge benefit to your business and your staff. It gives you the chance to sit down every year with each member of your team and discuss the important issues with them.

Informal management

Don’t neglect your daily and weekly contact with your staff, thinking that you can leave everything to the annual appraisal. Make sure you keep in communication on a regular basis to iron out any issues that might arise. Don’t let minor issues develop into huge problems by ignoring them! Monitor individual and team performance so that you can give feedback at the appropriate time. Keep giving your staff regular praise and recognition for a job well done.

When you can achieve a balance of formal and informal performance management, that best suits you, your team and your business, you’ll be in the best position to create the best performance.

To find out more about formal versus informal performance management and hear me speaking at one of my interactive workshops, click here.

Do you use annual appraisals to improve the performance of your team?

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.