The 12 Days of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas, my HR Consultant gave to me, a Contract in a pear tree. Make sure that you have up to date contracts for all your employees.






On the second day of Christmas, my HR Consultant gave to me, two boxing gloves. Don’t go picking a fight with your employees just because they don’t do what you want them to do. Learn to manage them properly!





On the third day of Christmas, my HR Consultant gave to me, three French Hens. If you have employees from Europe, keep an eye on our blog for news of how Brexit could affect your employees and your business.





On the fourth day of Christmas, my HR Consultant gave to me, four dreaded words. “You have been fired!” Before you rush to sack anyone, check to make sure you have a good reason and make sure you do it properly.






On the fifth day of Christmas, my HR Consultant gave to me, five golden things. Here are the five stages of HR that your business will go through.






On the sixth day of Christmas, my HR Consultant gave to me, six staff-a-laying. Keep your employees delivering all those golden eggs, to the best of their ability, by looking for ways to develop them and their performance.





On the seventh day of Christmas, my HR Consultant gave to me, seven swans-a-swimming. If, like a swan, you’re all grace and elegance above water, while below you’re frantically paddling to keep afloat of all things HR, just get in touch to see how we can help.





On the eighth day of Christmas, my HR Consultant gave to me, eight maids-a-milking. Except that these days, you have to let the men do the milking too, if they want to! You’re not allowed to discriminate. Acas can help you create a fair workplace.





On the ninth day of Christmas, my HR Consultant gave to me, nine ladies dancing. And the men can dance too!






On the tenth day of Christmas, my HR Consultant gave to me, ten lords (and ladies) leaping at the Christmas party. Make sure you lay down a few rules for proper behaviour, so that things don’t get out of hand.





On the eleventh day of Christmas, my HR Consultant gave to me, eleven pipers piping. Make a big noise when your staff do a great job. Look for the best way to reward them.






On the twelfth day of Christmas, my HR Consultant gave to me, twelve drummers drumming. I keep drumming good HR practices into my clients’ businesses, to help them grow successful companies that are great places to work.




Merry Christmas …

And have a stress free New Year with lots of happy, productive employees!








How Will the Apprenticeship Levy Affect Employers?

The apprenticeship levy, which the Government hopes will help create three million new apprentices by 2020, is due to come into force in 2017, with a view to creating millions of apprenticeships across the UK. The levy is expected to raise an estimated £3 billion by the end of this Parliament.

If your business has an annual payroll cost of less than £3 million, then you will not be required to pay the levy. If you have more than this, however, there will be a 0.5% tax on your payroll bill, which will be paid through PAYE.

The Government estimates that approximately 22,000 organisations will be required to pay the levy. Many smaller employers will be impacted as well as the large companies, as a workforce of 100 people and an average salary of just over £30,000 will take businesses over the threshold.

Employers that do not pay the levy will still be able to access government support for apprenticeships through the Digital Apprenticeship Service (DAS). Employers in England that pay the levy and provide apprenticeship training will receive a ‘top-up’ to a digital account. The training must be provided through an accredited provider and, at this point, it is presumed that HRMC will be responsible for enforcing the payment from the employer and ensuring payment to the training provider.

Some employers have voiced concerns over how funding will be distributed, as each course will need different periods of training time and different evaluation methods. For example, an apprenticeship in engineering may need 12 months, while some apprenticeships in sectors such as retail may need less time.

Potentially, it will be difficult to make a one-size-fits-all scheme translate into meaningful and empowering apprenticeships that benefit both employer and employee.

How Can You Use the Apprenticeship Levy?

Consider the areas in your business where training is most needed, to ensure that the apprenticeship levy works in favour of your organisation. It is possible that many employers will not recoup the levy that they pay, and will therefore simply see it as another employment tax.

What Should Employers Do to Prepare?

One of the key parts of preparation for employers is ensuring that you have the financial capability to pay the levy.

Start to think more broadly than the immediate view of an ‘apprenticeship’ as something for young starters. Consider what training your business has put off because of the possible cost, and ascertain what could be done as an apprenticeship so that you can get the best value.

If you’re not sure how best to prepare for the Apprenticeship Levy, or you’d like some advice taking on an apprentice, contact us by calling 0118 940 3032 or emailing

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.

How to Be a Great Boss

It can be tough at the top. Here are some top tips to improve your personal success as well as the success of the people working for you.

  • Lead by example. Provide guidance and support and set the benchmark for team cohesiveness and performance.
  • Understand yourself and work on bettering yourself. What are the things you do well and what can you improve? How effective is your management style? By investing time in developing your individual skills you will drive your business forward and reap the rewards in terms of how successfully you lead your team.
  • Be a good all-rounder and play to all your strengths. Technical skills are important but so are soft skills such as people management skills. Do not neglect one in favour of the other.
  • Learn to delegate effectively. You can’t do it all! By relinquishing responsibility to others you are not only ensuring that your efforts are always directed to best effect but also that the people around you feel empowered to make decisions and improve the business.
  • Build a team that can work without you. A team that falls apart when you are on leave or away from the office is not good business.
  • Maintain boundaries: Whilst it is good to develop a good personal relationship with your colleagues, you must establish appropriate boundaries. This will be important during times when you have to make tough decisions that may not always be welcome by others.

What do you do to make sure that you’re a good boss? Share your tips (or mistakes!) with us by leaving a comment here.

When Can You Use Feedback in Your Business?

Giving regular feedback to your employees is essential if you want them to stay focused and motivated and if you want to prevent small issues turning into something bigger. If you leave it until the annual appraisal, you may find that your staff aren’t as happy or committed as you thought they might be.

Here are some ideas on how to give regular feedback.

Day to day praise. At the end of each day, think of a way of thanking your members of staff as they leave.

Making it personal. Treat each person as an individual and give them their own feedback, even if they are part of a team.

Do it as soon as possible. Feedback has a much greater effect if you can deliver it just after the event, whether you are giving positive or negative feedback.

Negative reactions.  Be prepared for them if you’re giving negative feedback about something that needs to be improved.

Formal feedback. Avoid giving formal, negative feedback in public; take the person aside and speak to them personally. Positive feedback in public can be highly motivating.

Feedback from your employees. Always listen to what they have to say. It’s not just about you giving feedback to them, as they may have something really useful to contribute.

Regular feedback is essential as it maintains dialogue between the boss and your staff. Used well, it can boost performance of individuals, teams and businesses.

How do you give feedback? Leave a reply to share your tips.

How Do You Get More From Your Staff?

The key to getting the best, and more, from your staff is through performance management. What is this and how can it benefit your business?

Performance management is a strategic and integrated approach to increasing the effectiveness of your business by improving the performance of the people who work for you. Put simply, the better the people you employ and the better the investment you make in them, the easier it will be get the best from them and to ask more from them, when you need it.

Research shows that a high proportion of businesses struggle with underperforming members of staff. They spend too much time dealing with issues of absence, sickness, poor attitudes and behaviour, failure to meet objectives and poor standards of work. Then they look to solve them through formal disciplinary procedures. Reacting to issues can be time consuming and costly, as well as very negative. Managing performance focuses on the more positive, preventative aspects of working with people.

Good performance management is about regularly assessing the performance of every individual in your team, providing regular feedback, guidance and support to reinforce good performance and highlight areas for improvement before they become a major issue.

You should also make sure that you have proper disciplinary procedures in place to deal with poor performance. In next week’s blog we’ll share some tips which, if you follow, you will only need disciplinary procedures as a last resort, when informal and positive measures have not worked.

Learn how to get more from your people at our next workshop, in November 2012 at Hennerton Golf Club, in Wargrave, near Henley. This is your chance to really get to grips with improving performance, ask all the questions you have and get some professional support. Places are free but limited. Click here to book online.

Why Bother with HR?

What’s the point of HR?  Do you really need someone to spend time (and money) looking at the people in your business? Surely it’s quite simple and something you can do for yourself?

Here are a few ideas to help you decide whether or not to bother with HR.

The cost of getting it wrong.  Without the right HR systems in place, you could end up on the wrong side of the law, with a hefty bill to pay. A majority of employers believe that claims to Employment Tribunals will increase following the increase in the qualifying period of service to claim unfair dismissal from 1 year to 2 years. Part of the reason for the anticipated increase is that there is no system to prevent spurious claims being made to a tribunal. There is no potential downside for a claimant and potential for a financial windfall.  No win no fee solicitors support the disgruntled employee to have a go on the basis that the business will make a settlement to avoid legal costs. The figures of employment tribunal awards in the year 2011/12 have now been released and show that the median of all wards was £4560, the average award was £9133 and the maximum award was £173408. Keeping up to date with the legal issues is vital if you want to avoid unnecessary problems and payments.

The benefits of getting it right.  In order to avoid further claims businesses are making changes to their policies and procedures and making sure their managers are well trained in these procedures because a majority of employers believe that the most important factor behind a decision going against them at tribunal has been the role played by the line manager. In most cases the decision concerns the managers failure to follow their own company’s procedure!  On a far more positive note, good HR can really help to boost the profitability of your business. By putting HR management practices into your organisation, studies have shown that you can reduce employee turnover by 7%, increase sales per employee by 5.2% and increase overall financial performance by 6%.

Do you bother with HR? Do you do it yourself, or bring someone in to help with HR issues? Is it worth it, or just another business expense? Leave a reply below and let us know what you think.

Annual Appraisals

The success of your business relies on your employees; by getting the best from your team you get the best for your organisation.  Employees need to feel appreciated, supported and that you are invested in helping them progress their careers.   On the flip side, your business can suffer both commercial and reputational damage if issues of underperformance are not managed effectively.

Annual appraisals play a key role in helping to recognise and reward good employees, and identify and coach those whose performance or conduct is falling short of the mark.  If done correctly appraisals will reap rewards – by improving performance you will in turn boost the bottom line of your business.

Preparation, preparation, preparation?  This is without doubt the key to ensuring appraisals are constructive, meaningful and successful.   It is vital to track performance throughout the year; keep a log of any memorable incidents or projects; look back at previous appraisal information/job descriptions to ensure objectives are being met; and gather views from line managers and peers.

A good appraisal is one in which the conversation is free flowing, with range of views expressed by both parties freely and without fear of repercussion.  Evaluations should be based solely on performance, not personality, and the approach must be tailored to the individual.  Feedback should positively reinforce the good or, in the case of underperformance, help the employee understand the impact of their actions/behaviour and what corrective action needs to be taken.

A good appraiser is someone who listens to what the employee is saying, does not interrupt or inhibit the flow of conversation, pays attention to non-verbal communication such as body language, and gives feedback based on fact not subjective opinion.

Well planned and executed appraisals will help you harness the talent and aspirations of every person within your organisation, solve problems and ultimately improve performance.  Are you getting it right?