How will your small business grow?

With spring around the corner, have you done the ground work to support the growth of your small business in 2018? What practical steps should you take to make sure the foundations are strong?

1) Have a clear business idea that you have confidence in. Understand where your expertise lies and if there is demand.

2) Understand your weaknesses. Identify the gaps in your business know-how and plug them with help from professionals who know what they are talking about, whether it be finance, HR or marketing, etc. Consider using a business coach to help you identify your goals and keep on track, unblock barriers and problems, and keep motivated. If you’re on your own, and there is no sounding board to help you make good decisions, this can sometimes make the difference between success and failure.

3) Identify and understand your target market. A scatter-gun approach is rarely successful. Spot a gap and be specific. Seek feedback and conduct research so that you understand your market well and can confirm that there really is a demand for your product or services.

Planning for Success

4) Network, network, network! Good business networking groups, seminars and conferences can offer a real life-line. Aside from providing business opportunities, networking groups especially will allow you to access advice from experienced and often inspirational people – who understand what you are grappling with.

Of course, social media is also essential to networking and something you cannot afford to ignore. Find the right balance for your business though – spend too much time networking on social media (which is very easily done) and you may find that the rewards do not really justify the time input. Make sure you prioritise so other important work is not neglected.

5) Don’t undersell yourself. Research and work out what you should be charging your clients. Your market will tell you if you are charging too much (you won’t have any business!) and it is hard to increase your rates once you have established clients.

6) Create a suitable working environment. It sounds obvious, but if you’re based at home you really cannot work effectively without adequate childcare, office equipment and a peaceful and efficient work-space. Be disciplined and find ways to minimise distractions, such as household chores and the TV.

7) View mistakes positively. We all make mistakes – they’re going to happen and once they have you can’t take them back. Instead of beating yourself up, understand and learn so you make better decisions next time.

8) Accept that the perfect work life balance doesn’t exist and simply seek a better one. Be clear on what your goals are, both at work and in your personal life, and also how much capacity you have to take on new work at any one time. This should help you to feel more comfortable to say ‘no’ to new work when it doesn’t support your end goals, or if it will be detrimental to what is really important.

9) Keep reviewing your SMART business goals to make sure that you are making progress and that they are still relevant. Don’t be afraid to change your plans if circumstances change and definitely don’t waste time flogging a dead horse! Find a new route and way forward….

 

Arbre Consulting provides HR advice and support across the board, and also specialises in small business coaching. Please do contact us to arrange a time to discuss how we can help you.

How to make sure you achieve those New Year resolutions

‘Time Management’ is really a misnomer – the challenge is not to manage time, but to manage ourselves.  The key is not to prioritise what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.  (Stephen Covey)

Time is time – there will only ever be 24 hours in a day – and nothing will stop it or change it.  The notion that we should somehow ‘manage time’ is often what prevents us from making lasting change in how we get things done – because we’re looking at the problem in the wrong way.  Once we start to think about the problem of ‘time management’ as managing ourselves and identifying our priorities, we can start to make lasting changes in our habits and behaviours and the door opens to real progress.

Six tips to help you get things done (be warned: they require discipline!):

1. Identify what is at the root of your ‘time management’ problem.

Find out how you spend your time on a daily basis – and where you’re wasting it – through keeping a Time Log for a week.  Log everything you do in your working day, all the distractions and interruptions that throw you off course, and everything on your to-do list that you didn’t get done.  What are your pitfalls? Be honest about how you chose to spend your time.  Do you spend lots of time online shopping or checking non urgent emails?  Do you regularly put off actions that you find difficult or not particularly enjoyable and replace with other easier or more pleasant tasks?

2. Set behaviour changing goals.

Based on your personal pitfalls, set yourself some goals that will actually start to change your behaviours.  They may well be very simple changes.  For example, you might decide to ban checking your personal emails during work time or, if working from home, only to deal with house-hold chores at ‘lunch-time’.  Try them for a week and see what happens.  More significantly, if boredom or dislike of an aspect of your work feature regularly in your time log as a source of procrastination, you may want to think more fundamentally about the nature of your work.  What could you change in the longer term to make it more interesting and motivating?  Is it actually the right line of work for you?

3. Prioritise ruthlessly.

To help you to identify and prioritise the tasks on which you really need to focus, try grouping them under the following headings in the following order of priority:

  1. urgent & important… (eg projects with a tight deadline, things that have gone wrong and need fixing)
  2. not urgent but important…. (eg planning, relationship building, improving your skills)
  3. urgent but not important ….(eg everyday customer queries)
  4. neither urgent nor important …….(eg browsing the internet, unnecessary admin)

Then:

– IMMEDIATELY STRIKE OFF THE LIST ANYTHING THAT FALLS UNDER NUMBER 4!  Stop doing them!

– Prioritise anything under number 1  to reduce stress and fire-fighting and avoid crises.

– Ensure that you schedule in significant time each week for tasks under number 2 – these are the actions, tasks and projects that will make the biggest positive difference in you achieving your long term work goals.  The more time you spend on these, the less tasks you will have going forward in number 1.

– See if you can reduce tasks under number 3 through delegating to a direct report.  If this isn’t an option, make sure you set aside sufficient time each week to keep on top of them.

Put your prioritised tasks into a plan that works for you (it might be a daily to-do list or a weekly plan).  Experiment to see what kind of plan really helps you to get the important and urgent tasks done.

4. Set Parameters.

Set time limits for tasks, so you don’t take up a whole day in dealing with one thing when you haven’t planned for this, and agree realistic deadlines with clients and stakeholders.  Don’t be afraid to push back if you know a deadline is unrealistic.  It will save you late nights, stress and possibly the embarrassment of missed deadlines later on.  Be honest about how much work you can take on and don’t be afraid to say ‘no’.

5. Actively manage your inbox.

Mountains of emails and dealing with them inefficiently means many of us experience ‘email stress‘.  Try using the ‘4 Ds’ approach as soon as you open an email: Delete, Do, Delegate, Defer.

6. Find time for you.

Build time into your day and week to look after yourself. Regular exercise undoubtedly energises and refreshes, leaving you better able to focus on your work.  Switching off properly at the end of the day (a good book does it for me!) will lead to a much better night’s sleep and greater productivity the next day….

Hot HR Trends for 2018

What are your HR priorities for 2018? Do they match our predictions for the people issues that may be topping the to do list for many businesses?

1. AI.  Many businesses have taken significant steps in engaging technology to attract and retain their best people in recent years, particularly in recruitment, and we predict that AI will continue to spread to other aspects of HR.  HR people can no longer afford to bury their heads in the sand when it comes to technology  (we’re not known for being particularly technically savvy!) and it’s important that we understand just what other businesses are doing and how it is helping them.

Is it time to invest in an HR systems specialist if you haven’t already done so, or to look at L&D providers who are embracing technology to enable more mobile, ‘any-time’ training solutions?  In the longer term, we will need to re-think roles across the business, including in HR, as work becomes more automated – but importantly remember to use this technology to help our businesses become more customer focussed, rather than less so.

2. Productivity.  As businesses embrace technology and Brexit analysis shines a light on how low UK productivity is compared to the rest of the G7,  the pressure to overhaul slow and old fashioned working practices is growing.  Organisations will need to update to more innovative working practices, policies and approaches to ensure that they remain competitive.  This involves HR from both a functional perspective and facilitating change across the organisation.   We have already seen a trend in big organisations  trying to ‘de-corporatise’  so that their business thinks and behaves more like an agile small business – ie reducing bureaucracy & decision making barriers, empowering employees to think creatively and encouraging an entrepreneurial approach to business development.  Leadership will need to be more agile and digitally understanding.

We predict that as one of the first steps in all of this from an HR perspective, the demise of traditional performance management processes and appraisals will speed up, to be replaced with more efficient approaches more closely aligned to business strategy.  Continuous, on demand and mobile learning will be required to reflect our society’s obsession with smart technology and social media.   Of course, on top of all of this, strategies to deal with the Brexit fall-out will be increasingly urgently required.

3. Well-being. Fitness, well-being (especially mental health) and corporate social responsibility (the generation of  socially conscious millennials are now leading many businesses and so the social, ethical and environmental impact of the way we do business will be a core part of many business approaches) will continue to grow and become embedded.  Linked to this is the greater regulation of the Gig economy to ensure all workers are treated fairly – a big HR issue in itself for many businesses in 2018.

4. Weinstein fallout.   Thanks to the media’s response to the Weinstein allegations and the high profile #MeToo campaign, diversity and inclusion are now very much a CEO issue.  It is clear that traditional diversity training over the last 20 years (and equal opportunities training before that) has sadly not made much impact.  Business leaders will be looking to HR for more meaningful solutions in 2018.  Might this include more positive discrimination, fast tracking of minority talent and more flexible working for all levels of staff?  As has been seen with a few progressive businesses in 2017, we hope we will see more policies that enable men to genuinely share caring responsibilities, and for both sexes to take up these opportunities without detriment to their career progression.   We will certainly see a more robust approach towards dealing with harassment and bullying across all industries.

5. Developing best practice employment approaches in Jersey.  Jersey will finally catch up with the UK when we see the enactment in 2018 of its first Disability Discrimination Law, prohibiting acts of disability discrimination in all areas of employment.   This follows the introduction of Race, Sex and Age Discrimination laws since 2014.  As such, if they haven’t done so already, progressive, best practice HR teams should be urgently updating their employment practices in all of these areas – and going further than an arguably flawed and limited set of discrimination laws dictate.  With States elections in 2018, it will be interesting to see the moves towards better practice being mooted by our politicians (a dramatic improvement in maternity provision is just one recent headline grabber).

6. GDPR readiness.  More of a hotspot than a trend, but none the less a real imperative for HR and other support functions this year if the business wishes to avoid hefty fines for non compliance!  GDPR comes in to force on 25th May 2018  and will effect all aspects of data management.  Specifically from an HR perspective, this may well mean far reaching changes in how your business collects and processes employee and recruitment candidate data.  A good opportunity to see perhaps how AI might be able to help you…

 

 

Wishing you a prosperous and innovative year with all of your HR ventures.  We look forward to helping all of our clients lead the way in 2018!

 

Hitting the headlines….

Make sure your business is hitting the headlines for the right reasons!

With so many high profile employment related issues hitting the headlines in 2017 – #MeToo related harassment claims, the employment status of workers in the Gig economy and years of back-dated holiday pay being just a few of the high profile issues potentially effecting many businesses – employers are likely to see an even bigger spotlight shone on their employment practices and strategies in 2018.  This along with the looming GDPR deadline in the UK, new Disability Discrimination legislation in Jersey and the Brexit juggernaut hanging over us all, many business leaders may feel that burying their heads in the sand is the only way to cope with it all…

The good news is that this really doesn’t need to be a head ache for any business.  And at Arbre, rather than simply approach it as a risk management exercise, we view these issues as a positive opportunity for business to establish good employment practice as a means to grow and sustain a successful business.  It’s actually quite exciting!

– Are you confident that your HR policies and procedures are compliant with employment law?  

– Do you have an Employee Handbook in place that is both practical and attractive to current and prospective employees? 

– Are you satisfied that your employment practices are helping you to attract and retain the best people?

If you answer ‘no’ to any of these, then seeking professional help to give you peace of mind should be a business priority in 2018 – whatever the size of your business.

At Arbre, we will work closely with you to provide tailored and affordable HR advice and solutions that will directly support your business strategies.  Do contact us now for your free consultation at kate@arbre.je

 

A Manager’s A to Z for Coping with the Christmas Craziness!

 

‘Tis the season to be jolly and boy can it be a headache for many employers!  Before December gets into full swing, it is well worth making sure you have planned for all of the seasonal eventualities, from alcohol to catching some Zzzs….

A – Alcohol!  The rules are simple – enjoy, but not too much (see D, P & S!)!

B – Bank Holidays and employees’ entitlements.  5 things employers need to know courtesy of Personnel Today: Bank holidays: 5 things UK employers need to know.  And similar advice for employers in Jersey from JACS: Bank holiday FAQs – Jersey

C – Communication.  Clear and timely communications to employees about all of the key factors to a successful festive period at work are essential – from booking holidays and office closures to the social events policy and the Christmas party.

D – Disciplinaries for misconduct after the Christmas party (otherwise known as the ‘HR Hangover’!).  If an incident or behaviour at a work-related event has an impact on the workplace or potentially damages the company’s reputation then you might find it necessary to discipline an employee for misconduct after the Christmas party…

E – Employment legislation.  It doesn’t sound very festive, but it is important that employers are very clear on the aspects of employment law and HR policy that may become particularly prominent or risky in the run up to Christmas.  To be honest, this is probably most aspects of employment law (!), but have a particular care to company policies, legislation and regulations that cover discrimination, disciplinaries and grievances, harassment, absence and sickness management and contracts of employment if recruiting extra staff.

F – Finance.  Christmas is a hugely expensive time and many of your employees may be finding the financial pressures hard to cope with.  Many businesses bring forward the last pay day of the year to before Christmas in order to ease this financial pressure.  You could also consider paying bonuses, or part of them, before Christmas too.

G – Generosity.  Don’t be seen as a Scrooge.  Be as flexible and as understanding as you can afford to be towards staff needs over the Christmas period.  Unless it really isn’t possible operationally, say ‘yes!’ to requests for time off to see kids’ nativities, visiting relatives or charitable volunteering.  It will be in the company’s best interests in terms of morale and well-being.

H – Holiday.  At what is often the busiest time of year for many businesses, employers are expected to juggle increased demands on production with increased demands for time off.  Plan well ahead and make sure everyone is clear on your company holiday policy, and don’t leave yourself short-staffed at crunch times.  Communicate clearly and well in advance company policy regarding shutting down the office over the Christmas period – especially if staff are required to take this time as holiday.

I – Inclusion.  Christmas is traditionally a Christian festival and employees of other religions may not celebrate it.  Be mindful and respectful of this, but do make sure that the festive period is still a fun and inclusive time for everyone.  It is also important to make sure that you have a good awareness of Discrimination legislation and a positive company policy towards supporting the needs of employees of other religions too – for example, by allowing them to take holiday for their own religious festivals or by providing a quiet place for prayer at work.

J – Jogging and other exercise!  Make time for exercise and encourage your employees too.  Exercise is easily pushed to the bottom of the to do list when we are very busy and the evenings are dark and cold,  but it is a great stress relief and mood-enhancer.  Why not try to organise a team ‘Park Run’ (complete with festive hats) or bring in a yoga instructor for a weekly lunchtime session for interested employees?

K – Kindness.  Remembering the true meaning of Christmas and taking the time to support charities as a company through organising or attending events and making donations (even if it is something as simple as an office Christmas bake-off or a Christmas Jumper Day) is a wonderful thing to do for local charities and for employee morale and well-being too.

L – Let go of non urgent deadlines.  In order to ease the pressure on staff at a time of year when work is, for many businesses, even busier than usual,  re-prioritise projects.  Push back the deadlines of tasks that can wait until after Christmas.

M – Morale.  See I, G, K, P and Y!

N – Nuisance travel disruption!  This can be a particular problem over the Christmas holiday period with planned strike action and maintenance work on the railways in the UK, or bad weather disrupting air and sea ports.  Consider offering employees flexibility, such as working from home or another location or making the time up at a later date.

O – Overtime.  If the contract of employment includes a clause requiring an employee to work overtime when required, then it is usually reasonable to request and expect an employee to do so.  Do have a care for Working Time Regulations though and make sure none of your employees are feeling over-worked.

P – Parties!  By all means have fun, but do make sure staff are clear on company policy on Christmas parties and work-related social events.  Perhaps issue a communication in advance of the party reminding everyone of conduct matters, including the dangers of excess alcohol consumption and appropriate behaviour.

Q – Quiet reflection.  Amidst all the end of year hype and activity, make sure you and your employees find time to reflect back on the year gone by – the successes and the failures – so that you can take the learning and plan effectively for the year ahead.

R – Regret!  If you or any of your employees are prone to really letting go at the Christmas party, you might all find the attached article c/o the Telegraph useful! How to have a good time at the Xmas party without regretting everything!

S – Social events policy.  It really isn’t over-kill to have such a policy in place.  As well as being good practice, employers have a duty of care towards employees and may be liable for acts of discrimination, harassment and victimisation carried out by individuals in their employ if they haven’t demonstrated that they took reasonable steps to prevent such acts.

T – Temps.  Make sure you have thoroughly considered your resourcing needs over Christmas and organised temporary cover as required well in advance (it will be much harder to find good quality cover if you leave it to the last minute!).  Make sure you are contracting and paying your temps properly (a temp may actually be considered to be a ‘worker’ in the eyes of the law and therefore be entitled to certain employment rights, such as the minimum wage and paid holiday).

U – Understanding.  Showing understanding for the well-being of employees at what can actually be a stressful time of year for many is the right thing to do, but will also make a big difference to employee morale and productivity.

V – VERY  bad dancing!  It’s perhaps advisable for bosses not to emulate David Brent…..  (see R!)

W – Well-being and sickness policies.  Sickness and stress can both be rife in the run up to Christmas. Employers should be sympathetic to this and employ policies that support and promote employee well-being at all times of the year.  During the Christmas period, an organisation’s usual sickness policy will apply and it should be managed fairly and consistently for all employees.  This may include monitoring absence as per the policy, and any unauthorised absence or patterns of absence (‘morning after’ sick days?!) could result in disciplinary action.

X – X-rated photos and status updates on social media  – in particular avoiding them!  See D, P & S!  As well as being mightily embarrassing for the individual snapped (as well as potentially career-limiting!) such forays into social media can be hugely damaging to a company’s reputation, especially if they are related to a company event.  Do make sure your social media policy is well covered in your social events policy and related communications.

Y – Yuletide fun!  Despite my entries for D and E, don’t be afraid to have fun at work!  It’s what Christmas is all about!

Z – Zzzzs… After all the hard work and festivities, make sure you use the Christmas break to catch up on sleep and recharge your batteries ready for the new year….

 

 

5 reasons why you should engage a coach for your business

Just recently I was asked by a friend if a coach would be able to do for his business what the fictional coach in Billions, Wendy Rhoades, did for fictional hedge fund, Axe Capital.  At the time I laughed and said something about coaches in real life being a heck of a lots less glamorous and rather more conservative (if you’ve watched Billions, you’ll know that Wendy has some ‘interesting’ hobbies!!).

However, on hindsight, I think I was rather rash in dismissing Wendy as a realistic representative of the business coaching profession… If you look at what she turns around for Axe Capital, there is the potential for a strong coach to do just the same for your business (perhaps with slightly different methods), as long as everyone involved in the process is open to it.  In Billions, highly stressed and anxious traders have Wendy to turn to when their performance at work takes a dip, they start to doubt their place at the company, or if it is simply all getting too much.  She is then able to get them in the right place emotionally to restore their confidence and focus and, as a result, their profitability as a trader.    In Axe Capital, Wendy isn’t simply an extension of the HR function.  She is absolutely central to the success of the fund, and very much valued as such by an exceptionally astute (albeit slightly dodgy) boss!

So, here we go!  I can’t promise that you’ll make Billions, but here are 5 ways a coach will make a real difference to the success of your business!

1.Business Goals

It’s essential that your business, and its people, are focussed on the right goals to achieve your long term aims for the business.  The ‘right’ goals will need to be realistic – but they should be bold too.  A coach can help you to identify the right goals,  encourage you to be bold and go for what you really want.  They will help you to get ‘unstuck’ when the going gets tough and find and keep up your motivation (Wendy would probably give you a kick up the proverbial if she thought you needed it!).

2. Creativity and problem solving

A coach can provide you with a safe forum for brainstorming ideas (especially the wild ones!), test theories and thrash out solutions to problems and blockers.  Time with a coach gives us the space we so often lack to be creative and think things through properly.

Many Corporates are now recognising that layers of bureaucracy and years of conditioning people into set roles and ways of thinking are holding employees back from demonstrating their true potential – and therefore holding back the business from achieving its full potential.  They talk about behaving more like a small business – being more agile, encouraging employees to approach problems in a more innovative way and embracing a more entrepreneurial mindset.  I can’t think of a better way to help individuals unlock these skills and develop their confidence to be innovative and entrepreneurial than a good coach.

3. Well-being 

Not many people really like change and so if your business is going through a significant change programme, a coach can be a very worth while investment in helping you to change mindsets, positively overcome resistance and bring employees with you.  A coach can support and help individuals to manage stress, difficult relationships and work life balance concerns.

4. Attracting & retaining the best people

In a competitive jobs market and with workers having an increasingly ‘millennial mindset’ (ie personal fulfillment and meaningful work is now more important than salary to a big section of the workforce), employers are having to think outside of the box in terms of how they attract and retain the best people.  Bright, capable people are likely to be keen to learn and continuously develop their skills.  They’re also likely to want to take on new challenges and see that there is genuine opportunity to move on up or enrich their roles within the organisation.  As well as being a very effective personal development support for current employees, knowing that an employer is willing to invest in business coaching for their people will be a big attraction for many prospective new employees.

5. Fulfilling potential

Coaches have become a common way for organisations to develop their managers’ and leaders’ mindsets and skills – usually once they have already reached this point in their careers and often only when an individual is struggling (I have seen many organisations use coaches a bit like a sticking plaster!).  What is often missed, however, is the untapped potential in people earlier on in their careers.  If you engage a coach to help you to recognise, develop and harness this potential in individuals earlier on, you will have much more  confident, effective and successful managers and leaders coming through.

Most of us have a tendency to sit in our comfort zones and never fully explore or fulfill our potential.  To quote the great, fictional Wendy Rhoades herself (borrowed from Jung!), “In each of us there is another self we do not know.”!  A coach can be a very effective way to help an individual or or small group try new things, explore their own ideas and successfully take on new challenges.

 

At Arbre, we are passionate about helping people to explore their ‘lesser known self’ and fulfill their potential through performance coaching.  Do contact kate@arbre.je if you would like to learn more.

What Does Weinstein and #MeToo Mean for Employers?

As the scandal created by the revelations surrounding Harvey Weinstein continues to grow, perhaps most shocking of all is that no one, either inside Hollywood or out, is surprised a) that this has happened and b) that nothing has been done to stop it.  As the #MeToo campaign makes very clear, women from all walks of life – and sometimes men too – are experiencing sexual harassment as much now as they were decades ago.#metoo

There will be lots of questions asked (and hopefully some serious soul-searching too amongst people who could have done something to stop this sooner) about why sexual predators have been allowed to get away with such awful behaviour for so long.    As Emma Thompson said in reaction to the Weinstein claims, this is only the tip of the iceberg – more and more stories of sexual harassment – and other forms of power abuse and discrimination – will emerge over the coming months.   And this will be in all areas of life, not just Hollywood.  All businesses need to be taking stock and taking real action not just to protect themselves from bad press and litigation, but because it is the right thing to do.  All employers need to ensure that no employee under their watch becomes a victim of sexual harassment or any other kind of abuse or discrimination.

So what should you, as an employer, be thinking about and acting on right now?

1..Wise up.  Make sure you are really clear on just what sexual harassment is, and then make sure that everyone in your organisation is very clear too.   The Citizens Advice Bureau has good, clear advice on this: CAB: Types of Harassment & Discrimination

The important thing to understand is that sexual harassment isn’t just predatory behaviour on a Harvey Weinstein scale.  It could be a silly photo, a small gesture or a seemingly flippant comment of a sexual nature that could be construed as undermining someone’s dignity or causing them hurt or offence.  Don’t forget that a joke or a nickname with discriminatory undertones (whether they be sexist, racist, ageist, etc) can be funny to one person and hurtful to another.  Just don’t go there.

2..Take a frank look at your business.  Review your old HR cases, seek confidential feedback from your employees and be honest about what you personally have witnessed in terms of how your colleagues and workers (and possibly yourself) behave towards each other.  Is it really acceptable?   Take advice from an HR professional if you need to, and do something about it now.

3.. Make sure your policies are meaningful.  Even if you think there are no problems in your business, make sure you have up to date and – most importantly – meaningful HR policies and procedures in place to prevent, educate and deal effectively with sexual harassment and all other forms of discrimination.  Make sure all of your managers are well trained in spotting and dealing with discrimination effectively and with understanding.  If they don’t have the capability to do this then, quite frankly, they shouldn’t be a manager.

Most businesses have a handbook, usually full of ‘legal speak’, covering all necessary discrimination legislation, but many businesses either ignore these policies or handle them badly when an issue does arise.  In the worst cases, employees are actively discouraged from raising a concern or a grievance because of the negative impact it could have on their position or career.  Make sure you have a supportive environment where every employee has a number of people they can to speak to whom they can trust to handle their complaint compassionately and properly.

4.. If you want a real cultural shift, make fundamental changes.  It’s within your power.  Review and communicate your policies and procedures, prioritise manager and employee education and training – and then go even deeper.   If you say you believe in diversity – and we all know by now that it really is a powerful tool for business success – then make your business more diverse.  The talk (and the truth) from Hollywood has been that the only way they can really change the sexist culture of film-making is to ensure that there are more women in positions of power.  This is the same for business too.  Make sure that your workplace is open, attractive, fair and supportive to women.  Appreciate diverse ways of thinking and encourage different backgrounds and outlooks.  Enable everyone within your workforce to have a voice and make sure you, as the employer, work with individuals to challenge and change the status quo to ensure that power is not abused in any way.

5.. Don’t bury your head in the sand.  Be clear – this isn’t just a Hollywood issue and it isn’t going to go away anytime soon.  The silver lining of this dark cloud is that high profile celebrities standing up and sharing their experiences, supported by the very active #MeToo campaign, will encourage many, many more victims of harassment and abuse, from all walks of life, to come forward.  This really could touch your business in a big way so act now.

For help with any of these or other HR matters, please do contact us at Arbre: http://arbre.je/contact-us/

5 Quick Wins to Innovate & Energise Your Workplace

Sometimes the way our businesses evolve unintentionally stifles creativity and can have a damaging effect on morale.  Layers of bureaucracy, an overly hierarchical structure, poor people management and a lack of clear goals are just a few ways in which a business can make it difficult for individuals to come up with new ideas and better ways of doing things or drain the energy and fun out of the workplace.  Some of these stifling ways of working need a serious re-think and overhaul which may take time, energy and investment from senior management. However, there are some quick and easy changes that you can introduce at work that will have an immediate, positive effect.  Even if your business isn’t any where near as dire as Dull.com above (and fortunately most small businesses aren’t!), you can still inject energy, freedom and fun into the workplace and enable a much more innovative culture.

 

1.Love the little things

So often small steps and changes go unnoticed or, at worst, don’t even happen because they’re not high-impacting so therefore not worth the bother.  Instead all the focus is placed on the big, often high risk, business-transforming projects.  What we forget is that it’s the small things that add up to make the big difference   And who says small changes can’t be innovative?

Examples of small changes might be changing the wording in standard communications to clients to make it more engaging, changing the way you run meetings or introducing a company or department Whatsapp group to help communication.   Make sure your business actively sets out to encourage small ideas from all of your employees (perhaps through an ‘Ideas Box’) – and when they work publicly recognise them.  These kind of fuss-free and low cost changes can be implemented quickly and easily, but still have a big impact in terms of benefiting the business through every day efficiencies and inspiring others to to come up with good ideas too – big as well as small.

2. Make inspiration visual

Install an inspiration corner or board or even let people customise the walls of an entire meeting room.  Encourage them to pin up anything they come across that inspires and motivates them in work and gets their colleagues thinking, talking and debating.  An eye-catching advert, beautiful plant, funny picture, email or article, inspirational quotes…  A little, light policing may be required to keep it in good taste, but avoid setting rules or boundaries and let imaginations (and creative juices) run wild..!

3. Walk and talk

It seems that lots of businesses are trying the ‘walking meeting’!  The gentle exercise and fresh air will energise and focus the group and research suggests it stimulates creative thinking too.  If you have a set destination the meeting will also be much more likely to stay on track rather than over-run.   If it’s raining, you could always try a local cafe for a change of scene and a decent coffee, and support a local business whilst you’re at it.

4. Be flexible

Time and again employee surveys show how incredibly valued flexibility at work is by many employees (not just working parents).  For example, in a recent CareerBuilder survey of nearly 4000 workers, flexibility was found to be the biggest driver of employee retention.   As well as improving retention and being an effective recruitment tool too, flexibility at work works wonders for morale and employee engagement.  Flexibility doesn’t just mean formal part-time working arrangements or changes to working hours.  Being able to nip out of the office for a couple of hours to watch their child’s school play, work from home so they can be in for the plumber or perhaps take some extended leave to care for  a poorly relative are not difficult for most businesses to support and may make a world of difference to an employee’s happiness and wellbeing.

5. Think outside the box

‘Innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum’….. Stimulate innovation and productivity, by encouraging employees of all levels to buddy up with another colleague – ideally someone they wouldn’t normally work with, such as a more junior colleague or someone from a different department.  By meeting informally whenever works for them, individuals can gain new perspectives on projects, every day tasks and new ideas by using their buddy as a sounding board.

Use the same approach when setting up project teams.  Don’t just settle for the usual suspects, but actively put together a team of people with different backgrounds, experience, interests and skills sets.  New ideas and problem-solving approaches can have a profoundly positive effect on innovation and progress.  Diversity of thinking is a powerful tool so encourage it.

 

 

Why a sense of belonging at work is so important

Why do we want to feel like we belong?

Human beings are hard wired to want to belong and connect with other human beings.  We are social animals, belonging is how we survive and thrive, and this primal need very much drives our behaviour.   We have all experienced that dreadful feeling of not belonging – feeling like the odd one out, uncomfortable within a group that we want to be a part of or even feeling excluded.  This can leave us feeling anxious or push us instinctively into ‘fight or flight’ mode – neither conducive to a productive or happy experience.

Conversely, when we are in a place or with people where we feel we belong, we are at our most relaxed and happy.

Why is a sense of belonging a good thing for business?

The importance of a sense of belonging at work is not a new concept.  In 1943, the psychologist Maslow rated ‘Belonging’ third in the ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ and progressive employers have been actively integrating versions of his motivational theory into the their values and approaches ever since.  

The most successful businesses have always had a great sense of belonging amongst employees and will actively foster a positive environment where employees feel engaged, included and respected.   A sense of belonging encourages greater productivity, lower sickness and absence rates and higher staff retention.  Relaxed and happy employees will always be more flexible, willing to help each other out and look forward to the next challenge.

In our fast moving business world – where attracting and retaining talent is a battle and creativity and the ability to adapt quickly to an ever changing business context are business imperatives – a diverse workforce is accepted as a means to competitive advantage.  But you can not easily retain a diverse workforce without an inclusive culture, and so a sense of belonging is also  recognised as key.

How can businesses achieve a sense of belonging amongst employees?

  1. Leaders to lead by example.  Traditional leadership has tended to encourage a more command and control, exclusive approach to leadership and it can be hard for leaders to shed years of conditioning in their approach to leading a business.  However, if inclusion is not present at the top, diversity – and all the proven benefits of achieving a more diverse work force to agility, creativity and decision making – may not be sustainable.  People will simply not want to stay.

Aside from simply treating others as they would they like to be treated themselves (it’s not actually rocket science!), all leaders can learn to demonstrate the following inclusive behaviours:

  • Avoid stereotyping employees.  Taking the time to get to know and understand the people around them, will help a leader to value employees’ unique differences whilst accepting them too as part of the team.  Following this up with statements and inclusion initiatives that demonstrate that the leader and the organisation welcome and value difference, will help employees to feel that they can be themselves and work at their best.
  • Challenge exclusive behaviour.  Sometimes an inclusive leader will need to actively challenge others’ exclusive behaviour – and they should see this as an important part of their role.  This could range from delivering personal feedback to an individual about their potentially negative impact on others that they may have just witnessed to changing the way the organisation performs a certain aspect of its business to ensure that it is more inclusive (see point 2 below).
  • Transparent communication.  Make sure you communicate clearly and broadly across the organisation.  It’s tempting for leaders to hold information close, because they simply ‘don’t have time’ or see a business need to share.  However, the more a leader shares information within their organisation the better informed and aligned to business goals employees will be.  And the greater the mutual trust too.
  • Collaborate broadly.  Involve a diverse range of people in strategy, decision-making and organisational projects.  We all have our go-to people that we trust as sounding boards and deliverers, but when this risks being seen as favouritism, not only do you limit your options in terms of arriving at the best possible outcome for the business, you can easily demoralise and demotivate others.  This doesn’t mean you can’t involve your trusted sounding boards,  but enrich the outcome by including others in the process too.
  • Be curious.  Leaders will benefit hugely from actively learning from the wealth of knowledge and experience that exists across their organisations.  They are also modelling behaviour to employees that it’s a good thing to ask questions (and breaking the mould of traditional leadership and hierarchy).

When Greg Dyke was first announced as Director General of the BBC, he spent five months visiting the BBC’s major locations.   Instead of delivering a presentation, he gathered together all of the employees at each location and instead asked two simple questions: “What is the one thing I should do to make things better for you?” And then, after listening carefully to their responses, “What is the one thing I should do to make things better for our viewers and listeners?”

The BBC’s employees respected their new boss for taking the time to ask questions and listen and Dyke used their responses to inform his thinking about the changes needed to solve problems facing the BBC and to identify what to work on first. After officially taking the reins, he gave a speech to the staff that reflected what he had learned and showed employees that he had been truly interested in what they said.

2. Make inclusive behaviour a part of your organisation’s DNA.  Inclusive behaviour should run through every aspect of your organisation.  One of the simplest ways to do this is to include objectives in your performance management processes that actively measure and value inclusive behaviour, ie it’t not just what you do, but how you do it that is really important.  It’s all very well meeting sales targets, for example, but if you trample on others or ignore valuable contributions in the process then the long term harm to the business will out weight the benefits of the sales.  This should apply to all employees from the very top down.

You should include inclusive capabilities, such as collaboration and curiosity, in your job advertisements and job specs, whilst at the same time ensuring that your recruiters and processes are inclusive in their approach.  For example, it is still the case (despite disability discrimination legislation) that some organisations include the use of ‘intelligence’ or competency tests that immediately reduce the chances of success for candidates with dyslexia.  Quite often a dyslexic candidate may be able to ask for adjustments to be made on the grounds of their disability, and the organisation will duly respond – but highlighting difference in such an uncomfortable way is hardly morale inducing.  Unconscious bias training for managers and recruiters will  also go a long way to ensuring fairer recruitment and performance management processes.

Another simple support for an inclusive culture, is to ask your HR departments or recruitment agencies to remove the names, ages and educational backgrounds from CVs before forwarding them to recruiting managers (there’s a terrifying amount of research to show that so many of us are influenced (whether we know it or not) by a person’s name, age or school!

3. Ensure that every employee, whatever their position, has a clear purpose.  Without understanding how what we do matters and makes a difference to the business and each other, work is pretty meaningless.   Without meaning, work is likely to be a joyless experience and will often create a sense of isolation.  We end up counting the hours until home-time or, even worse, seeking excuses not to be there at all.

4. Encourage a sense of togetherness.  Helping employees at work to feel like they belong isn’t about making work a social club and it’s definitely not about forcing people to spend more time together.   We’re all different and we’re not all going to want to become best buddies! That said, encouraging a sense of team and togetherness whilst respecting our differences – coming together to get the job done – is achievable. Providing opportunities for employees to get to know each other better both inside work, such as team away days and ‘bake offs’, and outside of work, through fun, optional activities such as ‘beach cleans’ (a growing team bonding activity in Jersey!), and meals out together (I love the example of Nando’s ‘family meal’ in point 5 below), undoubtedly goes a long way to building mutual trust and friendship.

Team activities that actively exclude some employees should, of course, be avoided at all costs!   Senior male employees making important business decisions on the golf course is a well known cliche, but it still goes on!  Even worse, entertaining clients at a ‘Gentlemen’s Club’ is still a business practice for some (women may be allowed in by invitation, but it is hardly likely to make female colleagues feel included or comfortable…)!

5. Make sure that people feel really valued for their contribution.  And this is not all about financial awards.  Creating a sense, regardless of role level, that each employee is an important part of a special place, is a big part of feeling valued.  Nandos, the international restaurant chain, is not well known for its high salaries, but it is well known for creating a really positive work environment.  The company has five values, the last of which reads “and most of all, family.”.  To realise this value, employees gather for dinner together on Sundays and holidays, often bringing their “other families” to meet each other.

It may sound like a cliche, but managers publicly recognising a job well done and simply taking the time to say thank you makes a huge difference.

The Art of Confident Communication (even when you’re terrified!)….

Words Music Dance…

In a world where so much communication is via email and social media, I sometimes worry that we’re losing the art of good, old fashioned, face to face communication.  We still use it every day – in our personal relationships, at work, in interviews, in our every day interactions.  There’s only so much that we can achieve at work via email and social media alone.  Eventually most of us will to have to engage with clients, colleagues and other stakeholders face to face and so effective, real time communication and personal impact is still crucial.

We often put a lot of time and effort into the words we use to communicate (how long can it take sometimes to edit your message into a 140 character tweet!), but research suggests that around 55% of our impact in face to face communication is down to our body language (‘dance’), 38% stems from our tone of voice (‘music’) and only 7% from our words.

Our choice of words is still important but, if we want to build really good rapport and appear confident (even if inside we’re quaking in our boots!) we need to give much more attention to our tone and especially to our body language:

 

Words:   

  • Select your words carefully with both your audience and desired impact in mind. Consider the emotional impact that you would like to achieve and choose your words accordingly, ie if you wish to be perceived as calm and objective remain neutral and avoid emotionally charged words, like ‘stupid’, ‘exciting and ‘upset’.  However, if you wish to generate some energy and excitement, for example, do consider using appropriate emotionally charged words such as ‘wonderful’, ‘exhilarating’ and ‘energising’.
  • Don’t undermine what you are saying with throw away phrases like, ‘It’s just my opinion..’ and ‘Sorry’ (both negative) or with meaningless fillers such as ‘I mean..’ and ‘Well..’.  Say what you mean directly and assertively (see our blog  http://arbre.je/2017/07/26/four-behaviours-of-effective-people-1-assertiveness/ for a quick lesson on assertive behaviours).
  • Don’t be afraid to have notes with key words to hand as a prompt. However, do avoid the temptation of writing out your speech or presentation word for word.  It is very difficult to read a script and look at and engage with your audience without getting lost.  If you know your content well (practice makes perfect) a few prompts is all that you will need to keep you on track, and the speech will be delivered far more smoothly and confidently.

 

Music:

  • Speak clearly and keep your tone even and moderate to low in pitch (nerves can make the pitch of our voices higher and squeakier!). Don’t make a statement sound like a question by allowing your tone to go up at the end of a sentence.  This only serves to weaken its impact.
  • Slow down your pace, especially if you are a fast talker (and we are all prone to do this when we are nervous!) so that the audience can engage with and follow what you are saying. They will switch off if you gabble your words and it will appear as though you are trying to get your presentation over and done with as quickly as possible!
  • Don’t be afraid of silences – their effect can be powerful (although they may feel like an eternity to you!). For example, pausing after delivering a key message gives your audience a chance to really take on board what you have just said and emphasise its importance.  It also subtly signals that you are in control and confident in what you are delivering.

 

Dance: 

  • Be aware of your posture – stand tall with your shoulders back. If you are sitting down, make sure at least one foot is firmly planted on the ground.
  • Maintain eye contact and smile – the smile will be heard in your tone too making you sound warm and engaging.
  • Make your hand gestures purposeful and deliberate. Avoid fluttery hand movements (they will make you look weak or anxious) and exaggerated and uncontrolled gesticulation (aside from making it likely that you will take something or someone out (!), they may make you seem nervous and distract the audience).
  • Body language is the most difficult aspect of our communication to control as it involves the management of hundreds of different muscles in our bodies and movement that we are often completely unaware of! It is worth asking a friend or colleague for some feedback on your body language (or even ask them to film you giving a presentation) so that you can be aware of your little, unconscious habits and thus do something about them (I never knew that I was constantly fiddling with my jewellery until I saw a rather excruciating video of myself delivering a presentation!  It became a very easy habit to break once I was aware of it though).

Now that you are more conscious of your own Words, Music and Dance – you can use this heightened awareness to better understand the subtleties – and often the real message – behind other people’s communication.   Your colleague might be saying that they agree with you, for example, but if their arms are crossed in front of their bodies and/or they are avoiding eye contact they are probably not being entirely honest…!

 

Just a few sessions of impact coaching can make a huge difference to your confidence and communication skills – and we’d love to help you.  For the months of September and October only we’d be delighted to offer you a special Impact Coaching package of 3 sessions for only £150.00.   Impact coaching is ideal for anyone seeking to improve their confidence in communication, whether it be in preparation for a specific presentation, speech, meeting or interview, or to help you generally in dealing with nerves and anxiety when communicating in work situations.  Please do contact kate@arbre.je for an initial discussion about your individual coaching needs.