How to eat an elephant

Breaking it down: an exercise to help you overcome overwhelm

As Desmond Tutu once suggested, no matter how difficult or overwhelming a problem, project or goal might seem, you can always find a way through by approaching it one small step at a time. By breaking it down, even the seemingly impossible can become achievable.

We all know that the best way to tackle a daunting task is to break it down in to manageable steps, but this can be hard if you don’t know how or where to start. This simple, little planning exercise will help you to develop a plan to achieve your goal, even if you don’t know where to start:

11. Transfer your line of post-it notes to a large piece of paper and draw a box next to each task, ready to tick off once you’ve completed it.

Now you have your plan – ready to start when you are. Remember to focus on one bite-size chunk at a time, treating each one as a goal in its own right.

What Should HR be Focusing on in 2020?

As we head into 2020, what should employers be focusing on to ensure they attract and retain the best of Jersey’s talent?

1.Keeping up with Employment Law 

In 2018, disability became a protected characteristic in Jersey giving Islanders with disabilities far more protection from discrimination. On 1st September 2020 the second part of this law will be enforced – reasonable adjustments to the workplace. Employers have had years to consider the physical changes that they can make to their premises to create greater access and opportunity for both employees and customers with disabilities and so let’s hope we see real action rather than excuses.
2020 is also the year in which Jersey’s mums and dads will achieve legal equality in terms of parental leave rights. A seismic shift in workplace and parenting culture is not expected overnight, but employers do need to make sure that their cultures support fathers who wish to take more parental leave over the coming years.  Employers will also need to ensure that they take reasonable steps to provide breast-feeding facilities within the workplace.

2. Closing the Gender Pay Gap

In 2019, two significant Island employers voluntarily shared their gender pay gap statistics – well done Government of Jersey and PwC. GOJ are now developing a strategy to help them close this gap which should (if they get it right) have a significant and positive impact for all public sector workers in Jersey when it comes to fairness and inclusion in the workplace.  Interestingly, at The Diversity Network’s ‘Mind the Gap’ event in November, Constable Richard Buchanan suggested that if other employers did not voluntarily follow suit, government would mandate for it. Our advice to employers is not to wait. Explore now how you can close your gender and other pay gaps rather than fall behind your competitors.

3. Navigating Change

Volatile, uncertain, complex and ambigious (VUCA) – the US military acronym, more recently adopted by the business world, certainly seems like an apt description of the current business climate for many. How you navigate this and predict what is coming is an extremely difficult problem for any business leader. HR practitioners should be keeping abreast of thinking around the possible impact on their organisations of Brexit and, in particular, the impact of any new immigration policies incoming in the next few years on their ability to recruit the best people. As well, as developing the organisation’s long term talent pipeline strategy and recruitment approach (clearly the wider net an organisation can cast locally the better), HR should be helping to create an agile, positive culture that is able to act quickly and take advantage of opportunities as they arise.

Change and uncertainty can be deeply stressful for employees too, so employers must consider how they can support an open and inclusive culture and clear and safe channels for people to communicate their concerns.

Economic volatility may also affect remuneration (particularly bonuses) and pension funding and so, again, a strong employee communication and engagement strategy is key.

4.  Enabling Inclusive Cultures to Stay Ahead of the Game

As you can see, it’s all about diversity and inclusion in 2020, so what other D&I related business trends might we see emerge?

Continuous Performance Management.  The annual appraisal is rapidly disappearing in the U.K. and being replaced by more regular two-way feedback mechanisms and the development of ‘feedback cultures’ where employees and managers feel able to feedback constructively to each other at the time – rather than 6 months down the line in a formal meeting. 

AI in recruitment.  Technology-driven solutions will enable greater innovation and fairness in recruitment and hiring practices. In the U.K., we’re seeing much faster candidate screening processes, time-saving ‘chat-bots’ and, with the opportunity for bias in the selection of candidates significantly reduced, an improvement in the quality of candidates.  

The most forward-thinking employers in Jersey are already adopting these solutions and others must follow suit if they want to attract a more diverse candidate base. Innovative solution-providers are popping up in Jersey so the opportunity is here.

Creating Better Balance: 5 Tips for Stressed Career-Parents!

Times are slowly changing and it was brilliant to see so many dads commenting on International Men’s Day last week about wanting to share child-caring responsibilities and beginning to demand the flexible working that will allow them to do this and spend more time with their families.  As the expectation and confidence to demand greater flexibility and consideration as a parent from men continues to grow (although, let’s be realistic, there is still a mountain to climb before it is seen as acceptable for men to work part-time or flexibly in many organisations), so will equality in the workplace.

Despite some progress, it is still mums who take on the lion-share of the child-caring responsibilities and so it is predominantly women who are having to deal with the day to day pressures of juggling work and family life.  The stresses are often so great that many feel that they have no choice but to opt out – sacrifice their career  – if they have any hope of achieving a work life balance.  Others struggle on to the detriment of their health and happiness.  This is one of the major reasons why Sam Duffy and I felt that there is very much a need and a place for a personal development programme just for women – The Diversity Network’s ‘Her Talent’ programme. TDN Academy

Personally, if I read another blog about how ‘getting up at 5am to go for a run and meditate changed my life’, I shall chuck my iPhone out of the window!!  To be fair, on the odd occasion when I have got up an hour earlier and gone for a run, it has had a hugely positive impact on my day… but what most of us are crying out for – men and women – is practical help to enable us have more guilt-free time with the kids, without it having a negative effect on our career progression, and a less stressful day….

So, with my coach’s hat on, here are the some of the most practical solutions that my clients struggling with the work life balance conundrum  have arrived at….

  1. It’s not ‘one-size fits all’.  Work-life balance is different for everyone.  Caring for pre-schoolers is very different to caring for teens, for example, and so you will need to define what good balance looks like for you.  What are your priorities, and therefore what can you do to help yourself  achieve them?  Would starting and finishing earlier allow you be at the school gate for pick up?  Would working a 9 day fortnight be an affordable way to give yourself back a little more time just for you?

I really like the attached exercise.  It’s a quick and simple way to gain a little insight into the things that are actually core to our wellbeing, but always get over-shadowed by work and family/relationships.  These are the things that, if we can find a way to fit them into our schedules, will give us back a sense of balance – and so a good starting place for your plan. Quartzy Work-Life Balance Exercise

2. Review your work life balance strategically.  Take a calendar view – when are the busy times in your working year – when flexibility may be more difficult – and when are the quieter times when it may be possible to take some time out, reduce your hours or work more flexibly?  Build this into your plan too.

3. If you don’t ask…you don’t get….Think about what would work for you and then confidently propose the changes at work, showing how they will be manageable and explaining why they are so important to you.  If you are aware of precedents that work well, highlight them.  If there is still doubt on your boss’ part, suggest a trial period with the option to revert back to you current working patterns if necessary.  More than likely you will receive a positive response from your boss, but demonstrating a well thought through business case will make it far more difficult for your employer to say no….

4. Be a role model and talk about your family at work.  For years I felt I couldn’t let on to my clients that I wasn’t available at a particular time because I was looking after my kids!  Why?  I’m not really sure, to be honest, but there often seems to be this unwritten code that at work we daren’t mention our domestic needs or pressures in case someone thinks that they will get in the way of our work.  However, by talking about our families at work we are able to bring more of ourselves to work – and make it easier for others to do so too.  I recently received an ‘out of office’ email from the busy MD of a local consultancy firm that explained that he was unable to respond because he was attending his daughter’s sports day.  What a positive role model – I imagine his workplace is a pretty good place to be!

5. Take control of your own work life balance.  Once you’ve started responding to emails at 9pm at night or working on your  days off for a period of time – this becomes the norm for you and the expectation of everyone you work with.  You’re also implicitly suggesting that this is how everyone else should be working, even if that is not your intention.  Work out what is really urgent, and what can actually wait until tomorrow or next week or can perhaps be delegated to someone else .   If you’re addicted to your smartphone in the evenings or at weekends, put it in another room to help you resist temptation.  If you want some ‘me time’ in the evenings or quality time with the family on your day off, set yourself some boundaries and do your utmost to stick to them.   Once you’ve broken the old habits and established some new, more positive ones you might just see the scales tipping closer to that longed for balance…

Tips on Getting Stuff Done!

Is Diversity really just a business buzzword?

Diversity has been a hot topic for many years now, but the lack of progress in so many organisations suggests that this ‘hot topic’ has either passed them by or it has been relegated to HR’s to do list.  If this is the case for your business, I would urge the senior management team to wise up fast!  In our fast changing world, Diversity is quite simply one of the biggest contributors to the bottom line of the world’s most successful businesses.

How do I know that my business needs to change?

If any of the following applies to your business, a meaningful Diversity & Inclusion strategy and action plan may provide the business solutions you are looking for.

  1. Employees are leaving and you’re not really sure why.
  2. You are struggling to attract talent to your business.
  3. You are struggling to move fast enough in a crowded market to win new business.
  4. Management are dealing with a high number of employee relations issues and/or employee morale is low.
  5. You are not confident in the management team’s ability to make the best decisions.
  6. You want to increase the diversity of your leadership team.
  7. You want to be a business leader in diversity and inclusion.

So why is action around diversity and inclusion such a no-brainer?

In a diverse and multi-cultural society, a pro-active approach to encouraging and including employees of different genders, races, ages, disabilities, sexual orientations, backgrounds and thinking styles is clearly the right thing to do But as well as there undoubtedly being a moral argument, diversity is clearly a solution to many of the major business issues facing organisations today (just see McKinsey’s comprehensive 2015 study: Why Diversity Matters to understand how an effective Diversity Strategy has improved business performance and results for many businesses).

To give you just a flavour, an effective Diversity and Inclusion Strategy will help your business to:

 – Find and keep the best people. It’s not an exaggeration to suggest that in a fiercely competitive recruitment market, businesses will increasingly need to access new pools of talent, and think creatively about how they do this, in to order attract the best people. And the same goes for retaining them. Employees are much more likely to stay with an organisation if they feel valued and respected, that they are contributing meaningfully to the organisation’s success and that they are being well recognised for this.

– Have the competitive edge. A diverse workforce leads to a far better understanding of and access to new markets. You will build stronger relationships with your clients, spot new opportunities and adapt to changes in the business environment much more quickly.

– Be more innovative. A diverse workforce that is enabled to think creatively and contribute actively to problem solving, relationship management, production and sales will reduce the limitations of ‘Group Think’ and create a more agile, innovative and commercially successful business.

– Create really collaborative and effective teams from the top down.  Inclusive teams that are able to harness a diverse range of skills, experiences, outlooks and thinking styles will overcome obstacles and achieve common business goals far more quickly and effectively than homogeneous teams.

If these arguments aren’t enough, Diversity will help YOU personally!  At some points in our lives, we will all have moments when we feel like the odd one out or uncomfortable within the group in which we find ourselves.  We might also find ourselves being judged unfairly based on something that makes us  different to others, or even excluded.  Conversely, we may make bad decisions based on the incorrect assumptions that we have made about others.  The more diverse and inclusive a workforce is, the less likely we will be to find ourselves in these positions.


What Do I Need to Do?

  1. Be open to real change.  Scrutinise each and every aspect of your business and be honest about the barriers that exist to creating an environment that is appealing and fair to all, regardless of background.   Don’t be afraid to call them out and change them.  Keep re-evaluating your approach.
  2. Be clear that diversity and inclusion are different things.  It is one thing to employ a diverse workforce, but keeping them and motivating them is a different matter.  It is essential that you create and maintain an inclusive culture to support your recruitment practices.   You can’t afford to rest once you have a diverse range of people on board – be prepared to work hard all the time to maintain a fair, respectful and supportive culture too.
  3. Invest in your people managers, as the success of your diversity and inclusion plan will hinge on them.  Educate and train your managers so that they are enabling opportunities, promotions and pay rises for everyone, not just people ‘like them’, and are sensitive to and understanding of different aspects of diversity.  Have a zero tolerance policy towards bullying and  harassment.  Reward collaboration and team work.
  4. Enjoy the buzz! Make your business somewhere where people from all backgrounds and with different ways of thinking and viewing the world want to work.  Once you have them, treasure their diversity and reap the benefits – both personal and business.

The Productivity Puzzle – Is it so Hard to Solve?

Just over half way through the year, and the UK’s relatively poor productivity is hitting the headlines again, as output shows no sign of improving.  BBC News: The Productivity Puzzle

We think a big part of the solution to the ‘Productivity Puzzle’ is over-hauling old fashioned working practices to enable even large businesses to become faster-moving and adaptable to change.  AI, market uncertainty, growing competition and evolving customer and employee expectations are changing the shape of the business landscape.  Organisations must change the way they have traditionally operated in order to survive.

Back in January, Arbre Consulting had Productivity as number 2 in it’s list of ‘Hot HR Trends for 2018’ (AI was number 1), and advised businesses that reducing bureaucracy & decision making barriers, empowering employees to think creatively, encouraging a more entrepreneurial approach to business development & developing leadership that is more agile and digitally understanding would be key to change.

How do you think organisations can solve the Productivity Puzzle?

Read here to see how well our predictions for 2018 are faring! Our Predictions for HR Trends in 2018


Arbre Consulting can help you make sure the design and culture of your organisation is fit for business in 2018 and beyond.  Please do contact us for an initial discussion about your organisational development needs.  

Time to manage out the appraisal?

Small businesses are in the very refreshing position of being able to break the performance management mould and do things their own, innovative way… Why shouldn’t larger businesses too?

As a business grows and takes on staff, one of the questions I am most frequently asked is, ‘Do we need to implement an appraisal system?’.  These are usually successful, small businesses who have put in place a good, small team of people.  These people have all been on a journey together to establish the business and so generally the team gets on well, is very enthusiastic and motivated and there are few people issues.  As there are relatively few staff, each staff member feels that they really count and everyone can see how what they do impacts the bottom line (factors that can often get lost in a big, corporate environment). Without layers of structure and bureaucracy, decisions can be made quickly and people have the freedom to be innovative.

Quite rightly, however, the business managers recognise that if they now want to grow the business further they need to make sure that they have strong foundations in place.  Good people management, and therefore some kind of performance management (the means by which a business gauges progress towards the achievement of business goals), is part of this infrastructure in order to ensure that people continue to feel motivated and focused on the right things as the business evolves, teams grow and good communication becomes more challenging.

My key concern is always how they can do this without changing the positive, innovative culture of the business and an open-minded and agile workforce.

In addition, there is now a growing trend to question and challenge the value of the traditional, annual appraisal – in large businesses as well as small.  Many HR professionals have been seeing for years ineffective, hugely time-consuming systems which, in the worst cases, actually manage to disengage and demotivate staff.  It is possible to ‘fix’ a failing appraisal system or replace with a much better one, but given current thinking and research on the limited benefits of appraisals, you need to think very carefully about why you might want to implement one in the first place.  Small businesses are in the very refreshing position of being able to break the performance management mould and do things their own, innovative way.

So the HR question becomes ‘How can we strike a balance between remaining flexible and innovative and putting some structure in place to support growth?’.  Increasingly, my clients and I are finding the answer lies not in an appraisal system, but in some simple and cost effective alternatives – that add value to all aspects of the business.  These alternatives include:

  1. Creating an inclusive culture:

  • Stop using ‘performance management’as a means to try to fit square pegs into round holes!  Make sure you have plenty of square holes too – shape the organisation so that it is genuinely inclusive.
  • Ratings systems (where employees are given a formal, generic rating based on their perceived performance) can make decisions regarding reward and ‘identifying’ talent and poor performers more straightforward.  But by having one set of limited ratings we may be missing something special in an employee.  Actively encourage and embrace different ways of thinking.  Work out how someone’s unique talents or perspective – someone different to you perhaps – can work to the advantage of your business rather than against it.  Clearly define this in the individual’s SMART, personal objectives and assess their performance on an ongoing basis in terms of how well they deliver against these meaningful objectives (not just some generic performance definition).
  • Makes sure your business’ core  values (ie what it is important to your business and what makes it different to all the others in your field) are very clear from the very beginning of the recruitment process and throughout the entire employment experience (this means training line managers to recruit and manage within this values framework).  This way, although you may have a diverse set of people working for you, they are more likely to get what you’re about and the way you do business.

2. Replacing annual ‘evaluation’ with ongoing conversation:

  • Ensure that all employees have someone that they can talk to on a regular basis about their performance, goals, personal development, problems, concerns and achievements.  This might be a line manager and/or a mentor – someone with experience relevant to their mentee’s role who can act as a wise sounding board and help them to deliver.
  • Provide guidance so that people understand how this relationship works, the boundaries (eg what is and isn’t appropriate, confidentiality, etc) and the frequency of meetings.   Invest in and provide training to the line manager or mentor so that both they and their mentee can get the most from this relationship.  In the case of a micro-business this role might necessarily fall to the business owner, but whether you are part of a large business or a very small one, regular conversation – with the aim of providing motivation, guidance and personal development – is hugely important both to the individual and the growth of the business.
  • An important part of the ongoing conversation with line managers should be the agreeing and regular review of an individual’s personal work objectives to make sure that everything they do supports the business’ goals.
  • No formal appraisal process does not mean that performance and capability issues are not dealt with.  Indeed, in my experience, this is one of the major flaws of an annual appraisal, because performance related issues are often not picked up and managed properly on a timely basis (so the situation just gets worse).  Good quality feedback, discussion and support should be given as close as possible to an issue becoming apparent – not 6 months down the line when the appraisal takes place.  Ongoing or very serious issues can be managed through the disciplinary process if required.

3) Creating a feedback culture where learning from successes and failures is the norm:

  • Lead by example by giving people timely feedback on their work – the positive and the negative – as close as possible to the action occurring.  This maximises the learning to be taken from the feedback as it is fresh in people’s minds (who can remember exactly the details of an action, event or project a week after it took place, let alone months later!).
  • Importantly, make it clear that this is a two way street by asking for feedback on your own performance and putting in place mechanisms for sharing feedback constructively across the business, for example:

– always holding a ‘take the learning’ meeting after an event or completing a project – where everyone involved meets to share feedback and decide how they will do things differently next time;

– using 360 degree feedback (collated feedback from everyone who works with an individual – bosses, colleagues, direct reports, clients, etc – to get an all round view of performance) to support people’s personal development plans and career aspirations.

  • If you’re going to encourage a feedback culture to foster continuous improvement then it is essential that you train your employees in how to give and receive feedback constructively.

3) Adopt a coaching approach to people management:

  • According to Weintraub and Hunt in their 2015 Harvard Review article ‘4 Reasons Managers Should Spend more Time on Coaching’, managers who coach “…are not coaching their people because they are nice — they see personal involvement in the development of talent as an essential activity for business success”.  Based on their extensive research into effective management (and therefore performance management) coaching is a ‘must have’, not a ‘nice to have’ skill, and will help a business to attract, retain and develop the most talented people.
  • If you agree with this line of thinking, then investing in coaching training for your line managers is essential.

So, in conclusion, yes – you do need to invest in actively managing the performance of your people in order to put in place the foundations for business growth.  However, it can be done with a light touch more suitable to an agile and innovative business.  Instead of investing in a traditional appraisal system, my advice would be to invest directly in your people through providing them with quality training in good communication, giving and receiving feedback and coaching and by creating a genuinely inclusive culture.

Recruitment crisis in Jersey? Time to think outside of the box.

With the elections looming, there has been quite a bit of talk about Jersey’s ‘recruitment crisis’ – across both public and private sectors.  It’s good to hear candidates recognise this and talk about investing in local skills, etc. However, the problems and pressures of a ‘war for talent’ are immediate and are already having a detrimental effect on many local employers.

According to a recent article in Business Eye CI, just 910 people in Jersey were registered at the end of Q1 2018 as actively seeking work – a reduction of 110 people since the previous quarter and 310 since Q1 2017. This follows a similar pattern of decline in available workers over the last 5 years – so the problem is clearly getting worse.

Upskilling and training certainly helps, but it will not fill the shortfall of workers required at all levels of experience and across most industries in Jersey. According to the Jersey Chamber of Commerce, 45% of businesses take 3 to 12 months to fill a vacancy, with 10% taking more than a year. Businesses are attributing this to the lack of available candidates, and it appears that the Finance industry is particularly badly affected.

If they’re not doing so already, it really is time for organisations to think outside the box and consider how they can actively attract untapped talent, such as:

– the huge number of professional women who have taken time out of work but are struggling to find employment that either genuinely offers the flexibility they need to balance work and family or pays sufficiently to cover their childcare costs

– people with disabilities (both seen and unseen) for whom the workplace puts up barriers that makes employment almost impossible for them – despite the fact that they may be highly skilled and capable of work

– young people, often from minority backgrounds, who simply do not consider Jersey’s primary industries of Finance and Law as a career option open to them, because of a perceived (and sadly sometimes genuine) lack of diversity and inclusivity within these businesses.

So what can organisations do to tap into these much needed talent pools? The good news is that it is really not difficult or necessarily expensive to adapt your recruitment processes and working practices to attract and retain new, local talent.

The even better news is that these changes and initiatives will actually make your business more profitable in the longer term. Diversity of backgrounds, perspectives and thinking styles at all levels of your business – particularly at senior levels – will not only make you more attractive as an employer, but will give you access to new markets and improve your creativity, ability to innovate and decision making.

Practices that you could consider that have already been proven to work well for businesses locally include:

– Implementing different working options to suit different needs and work/life pressures. With our 24/7, digital culture, incredibly few businesses can now survive with traditional 9-5 opening hours, and so why would 9-5 working hours continue to be a recipe for business success? Flexible working can work extremely well for your business as well as individual employees, providing you give proper consideration to communication and core hour coverage.

– Providing quality support for parents returning to work after taking time out of work for parental leave.  This will give more employees the confidence to return to work after having a baby. Such support includes maternity coaching, mentoring and genuine flexibility.

– Working with schools to help breakdown barriers to social mobility, by providing information to and mentoring students considering their future career options.

– Adapting your traditional recruitment processes to take into consideration the different needs of people with disabilities, such as dyslexia and autism, and so overcome some of the barriers to many bright people even making it through your recruitment processes. There are several charities in Jersey who can offer brilliant support in this area, such as The Jersey Employment Trust and Autism Jersey.

– Actively considering if recruiting only graduates from a select pool of traditional, red brick universities is really essential to the roles you are recruiting for. Why limit your business to such a small pool of talent for whom there is already fierce competition? The Big 4 professional services firms, such as EY and KPMG, dropped these requirements a long time ago and have reaped the benefits in terms of recruiting diverse talent.

Consider too the transferable skills you are looking for and the types of roles that people might develop them in. Recruiting straight from a very similar organisation has it’s benefits, but can actually be very limiting in terms of bringing in new ways of thinking and seeing the world – which are essential for business growth.


Recruiting for small businesses (a case study)

For businesses who do not have their own HR or Recruitment departments, recruiting new staff can be a difficult and time-consuming activity and often with a low success rate (think positions that seem to be impossible to fill or, worst case scenario, recruiting the wrong person for the job…).  If you have had little experience in recruitment, it can also seem pretty daunting.  It’s no wonder many business managers head for the metaphorical hills at the thought of it!

At Arbre, we have 20 years’ experience in recruitment, with 10 years of experience specifically helping small companies to successfully resource their businesses.  This is across a huge range of roles and industries from finance to hospitality.

How can we help you?

Arbre is not a recruitment agency.  We focus very much on partnering with you to really understand your business needs, and then providing as much or as little support as you need through out the recruitment process – from ad hoc advice, to project managing the process and carrying out interviews.

Alex’s iconic Bee

An example of a recent recruitment process with Alex Monroe, international Jewellery Designer and Manufacturer:

Job spec and ad.  Arbre worked with the recruiting manager to identify exactly what was needed in terms of resources (and what was affordable for the business), resulting in a detailed job description for a Wholesale Manager and a shorter advertisement.

Best route to candidates.  We advised and agreed with the client on where we would advertise the role in order to fill it as quickly as possible – seeking quality of candidates rather than quantity (in this case we advertised on an industry related recruitment website – often much cheaper and more effective than a recruitment agency for many small businesses – and through the company’s own social media).

Managing the process.  We agreed a recruitment process with the client –

  • CV screening and telephone interviews of an initial candidate shortlist carried out by Arbre.
  • First interviews carried out by the recruiting manager
  • Second interview, including a presentation (candidate brief advised by Arbre), consisting of a panel of 3 business people.
  • All candidate liaison carried out by Arbre.

Feedback and contract negotiation.  Arbre provided feedback to shortlisted candidates, and negotiated the job offer.

Interview skills training & induction advice.  Arbre also provided training to the recruiting manager on interview skills, and advised on a best practice induction process to enable the new employee to settle into their new role quickly.

Contract of Employment & Employee Handbook.  In addition, our client took the opportunity to ask Arbre to update their standard contract of employment and Employee Handbook to ensure it was best practice and up to date from an employment law perspective.

The candidate was appointed within 6 weeks of the start of the process, and has now been working successfully in their new role for 18 months – all parties very happy!  Alex Monroe continues to go from strength to strength!

If you would like some help with your recruitment, whether it be one off advice or support/management of part or all of the process, please do get in touch and we’d be delighted to talk it through with you.  Email for a free initial consultation.

You may also find our hints and tips on recruitment for small businesses an interesting read:

And do check out Alex’s beautiful jewellery too!

Recognising stress and knowing how to deal with it

We all experience stress at various points in our lives – before exams at school, moving house, before a sporting event, deadlines and presentations, tricky relationships – and a small amount of stress can actually be a good thing.  Stress can energise and focus you, raise performance, and make you feel raring to go!  However, too much stress – especially if it goes unchecked over time – can be extremely debilitating and lead to further health issues, such as anxiety, depression, high blood pressure and stomach complaints, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

As such, it is important to be able to recognise the signs of ongoing stress in yourself and then take some action to reduce that stress.  If you have a position of responsibility at work it’s equally important that you can recognise the signs of stress in others and know how to help them.


Recognising Stress

The symptoms of stress can vary from person to person, but common symptoms could include:

  • feeling grumpy and short-tempered with others and/or emotional
  • being anxious, nervous, constantly worrying and possibly dreading work or certain situations
  • feeling depressed, unable to enjoy yourself or disinterested in life
  • finding it hard to make decisions
  • avoiding situations that are troubling you
  • biting your nails
  • unable to concentrate
  • eating too much or too little
  • drinking alcohol or smoking more than usual
  • feeling restless, like you can’t sit still or like your thoughts are racing.  You might feel that you can’t switch off.

Physical signs could be:

  • breathing difficulties and hyperventilation
  • panic attacks
  • muscle tension
  • blurred eyesight or sore eyes
  • problems getting to sleep or staying asleep
  • tired all the time
  • grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw
  • headaches
  • chest pains
  • high blood pressure
  • indigestion
  • stomach problems
  • nausea

Practical Steps to Reducing Stress:

Seek medical advice.  If you are experiencing any of the physical signs of stress then your first action should be to seek medical advice from your GP as soon as possible.

Work out your the causes of stress. Identify what causes you to feel stressed and what helps you to reduce your stress levels.  Talking to a friend or perhaps a professional coach can help you work through this, as can keeping a diary of ‘stress triggers’ and stress releases.

Talk to your employer.  Once you’re clearer on your personal pressure points, do speak to someone at work and ask for help.  Stress is sadly a common workplace issue.  According to States statistics, 5000 days a year in Jersey are lost to stress (and stress is probably under reported).  It is certainly a problem that employers simply can not afford to ignore (both financially – the impact on productivity is huge – and legally).

Most employers will want to work with you to help you feel better, whether the cause of your stress is work-related or not, and working with your employer to make adjustments to your role or workplace (such as reducing your workload or enabling you to work flexibly) is usually the quickest and most effective way to reduce stress.

Discover your personal coping mechanisms and build them into your every day life.  Experiment with different coping mechanisms as soon as you feel your stress levels rising.  Be disciplined and make sure you prioritise these coping techniques so that they become a part of your every day life.  Different techniques work for different people, but examples that are proven to help reduce stress levels include:

– Talking and sharing your worries with friends and colleagues.  There are lots of support groups for various mental health issues available on social media, many of them very well informed, but real conversations with real friends will always be more effective at combating loneliness and giving you a boost.  If you lack the right friends to turn to, then charities, such as Mind, offer excellent support services that you can use for free.

– Seek a better balance at work and don’t live for work.  Simply working longer and longer hours ‘to get things done’ is not a productive work approach and one that will only contribute to your stress levels.

Instead, get some help with how you manage and balance your workload.  Keeping a log of how you spend your time at work can be very revealing about how how much of your time is spent dealing with unimportant distractions and putting things off, or doing work that you could be delegating to someone else.

You might also find that you spend a disproportionate amount of time dealing with urgent work, such as fixing problems, crisis management, urgent deadlines, etc – which are hugely stressful activities.  By prioritising and scheduling time for activities that are important, but not urgent, such as project planning, building relationships and developing strategy, you should find that the number of urgent tasks drastically reduces – and so does your stress.

– Take the time to look after yourself by eating well, exercising regularly, finding time to do activities you really enjoy and getting enough good quality sleep.  There is lots of good advice freely available about looking after your own well-being, so do use it to find ways to improve in each of these areas.


A brief guide to GDPR for HR professionals

For many years HR functions have been responsible for looking after a significant part of an organisation’s data – and we have become practised at ensuring that it is securely held and used in a responsible manner.  However, the The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is looming (25th May 2018) and it is likely to mean changes for even the best of best practice HR data managers!

What is GDPR and why should I be concerned about it?

The GDPR is part of the EU Data Protection Regulation and it will replace the existing Data Protection Directive.  It aims to strengthen the rights of all European citizens to data privacy – and so any organisation that deals with people’s private data is obliged to meet the new standards of transparency, security and accountability.

GDPR will see the rights of individuals, including employees, and the obligations of any organisation that has access to their data increase.  The UK may be facing Brexit, and Jersey has never been part of the EU in the first place, but organisations in the Channel Islands will still fall under the wide umbrella of this new legislation if they are offering goods or services to EU (including UK) citizens or monitoring their behaviour.  The States of Jersey have, therefore, decided to incorporate GDPR into local law in line with the EU’s 25th May legislative timetable.

Failure to comply could mean significant fines for businesses, whatever their size and nature.  As such, if you haven’t yet taken action to ensure your HR function is compliant, you really do need to start now!

What steps should your organisation be taking:

1. Awareness and engagement.  Make sure that everyone is aware of the changes ahead and what they will mean for all parts of the business.  And the Board/senior management really can’t duck this one as it is impossible for one person or function to be responsible for all of the organisation’s data management.  Making clear the potential penalties of data breaches and non compliance with GDPR should help to capture senior management attention (up to 20m Euros or 4% of global annual turnover depending on the gravity and nature of the breach/failure)!

2. Data Protection Officer.  You organisation should appoint someone as Data Protection Officer to be responsible for ensuring the whole organisation complies with GDPR (this is best practice, but may be mandatory depending on the nature of your business).  You may want to give a person within the HR department a mini version of this role, to ensure your own department is in order too. The Data Protection Officer should be credible and well qualified to hold this role, and so it may mean that you will need to invest in their training.

3. Data Review.The whole organisation, including HR, should carry out a detailed and comprehensive review of:

  • all the personal data that you hold and if any of it is ‘special category’, such as health data
  • where is it from and where is it sent
  • whether you actually need to hold and process this data (for example, is all of the personal data requested on your job application forms really necessary?).  What is its purpose?
  • how the data is processed and if it is compliant with GDPR
  • how you will provide individuals with details about the processing of their data and their rights under GDPR.

4. Individual consent.  Under GDPR, consent is a key part of ensuring that individuals have control and understanding of how their data is being used and processed.   Consent must be freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous.   As such, there must be a positive indication that agreement has been given and data managers must be able to evidence this.

5. Rights of access.  Individuals’ right of access to data are enhanced and extended under GDPR.  Individuals will have the right to correct inaccurate data, erase personal data (commonly known as ‘the right to be forgotten’), prevent direct marketing, control automated decision making and profiling (common in recruitment, for example) and to understand how data is transferred between controllers (eg from your company to a pension provider).

6. Access requests. You will need to be prepared for access requests and should have clear policies and procedures in place to deal with them, which means you must be clear on data retention periods and rights to have the data corrected.  You will not usually be able to charge a fee for providing the data and a response to the request must be provided within 1 month.

7. Privacy notices.  It is essential that you are clear and transparent regarding how individuals’ data will be processed (including who will be handling it) – at every point in the organisation where personal data is collected.  This may be from clients, suppliers, contractors, employees or other stakeholders.  From an HR perspective this will include all stages of the recruitment process, collecting and holding data on employees and ensuring that data provided to external providers, such as pension providers and training companies, is also correctly notified and handled.  The privacy notice should include:

  • Purpose and legal basis for processing
  • Who will receive the data
  • Countries outside of the EU that data might be transferred to and safeguards in place
  • How long you will retain the data for
  • The fact that the individual has rights and what these rights are, including their right to withdraw consent
  • The contact details of the organisation’s Data Protection Officer
  • The basis of the data provision – ie whether it us statutory, contractual or due to ‘legitimate interest’ (details must be provided to support the latter)

8. Forward planning (Privacy by Design & DPIAs).  You must build into all project planning a mechanism to ensure that data protection is considered and documented early on in any projects and tasks involving data (and then regularly reviewed once established).    It is good practice to carry out Data Protection Impact Assessments (DPIAs), and they may in fact be a requirement for any decisions and projects that could have a legal effect, the handling of ‘special category’ data (an example in HR could be health data) and in the monitoring of areas accessible to the public.

9. Data Breaches.  Any data breaches should be reported to the Data Protection Authority within 72 hours of discovery and, where there is a high risk to rights, impacted individuals should be made aware of what has happened and what these risks are, eg identity theft.

Quick facts for HR professionals:

– Personal data in HR terms includes employee information such as names, bank details, email addresses, any personal information, medical records and photos.

– Recruitment processes and procedures are likely to be a big area of risk and review for HR.  How many recruiting managers have emails and CVs from past candidates in their inboxes and files that should have been deleted years ago?!   Ensure that you are only requesting personal information that is really necessary and only holding it with the explicit consent of candidates for the agreed retention period.  Make sure that all of your employees involved in the recruitment process understand this too.

– You will have the right to process employee data on the basis that you have a legitimate interest or that it is necessary under the employee’s contract.  HOWEVER, given the significant extensions to individual rights and consent under GDPR, you may find that your current terms and conditions of consent as outlined in the contract of employment are no longer sufficient.  As such, it is important to review your contracts of employment and employee data consent forms to ensure that they will stand up to GDPR.  If there is any doubt that they do not, I would recommend that you gain clear consent in writing from current employees (including clarifying their rights, etc), and update your standard contract of employment/consent forms before 25th May.

– You will need to ensure that your security provisions for the holding and processing of data are secure and change the way that you store data if not, eg ensure personnel files are kept in a locked room or cupboard and electronic systems that process and hold data are safe and secure.

– Your own employees will have rights under GDPR, and are free to find out what, why and how personal data is being processed by HR.  They may see their personal data and request that data is corrected or erased if it is not necessary to hold it.  As such, a review of all the information being held on personnel files to ensure only necessary data, and data that is within the required retention period, is held (including disciplinaries, etc).  Failure to maintain your records correctly could result in a fine of up to 2% of annual turnover….


Arbre Consulting will provide tailored support and advice to HR functions preparing for GDPR.  Please do contact to discuss how we can help you.