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 kate@arbre.je for a free initial consultation.

You may also find our hints and tips on recruitment for small businesses an interesting read: http://arbre.je/2017/05/10/cracking-recruitment/

And do check out Alex’s beautiful jewellery too!  www.alexmonroe.com

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….

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.

 

 

Kate’s top ten tips for setting up your own business…

I set up my business providing HR consultancy and coaching services 10 years ago and, despite the inevitable glitches, late nights and a few moments of soul searching along the way, I haven’t really looked back. So does this mean I got it right? Some bits may be, but there’s been a lot of learning too (and still is) and so here, for those who might be interested in taking the plunge, are my top 10 tips for setting up a business.  What are yours?

1) Have a clear business idea that you have confidence in. I realised my business had to be in HR as it is where all my skills and experience lie and I knew there was demand. I’d love to design gardens for a living, but going on the state of my own this would end in miserable failure!!

2) Understand your weaknesses. I knew I lacked skills and knowledge in some key areas – particularly tax and finance – so I quickly sought help from people who knew what they were talking about.

3) Identify your target market. I wasted a lot of time in the first year with a scattergun approach to my market – which was rather naively ‘all businesses who need HR help’. Spot a gap and be specific.

4) Network, network, network! A couple of referrals from my old boss and a friend secured me my first clients. I also joined two business networking groups. Aside from providing business opportunities, I gained invaluable advice from experienced and often inspirational people – who understood what I was grappling with. I was so inspired that a few years later, I set up and ran a business network for Mumpreneurs from which I gained a great deal of valuable insight, warm support from like-minded people (so valuable when you are working on your own), and new business. Of course, social media is also essential to networking and something you cannot afford to ignore. There is definitely a balance to be found – spend too much time networking on social media (which is very easily done) and I have personally found the rewards do not really justify the time input. Make sure you prioritise so other important work is not neglected. However, I have found that writing blogs and online articles is a great way to keep your skills and knowledge up to date, so there is another big plus to all that time spent.

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 work environment. For me this means no noisy kids (childcare is essential), equipment that works properly (my last printer was nearly hurled out of the window), and not too many distractions (I can’t work with my mobile right beside me – the BBC News app is too tempting (I’m a news junkie!) – and if there is chocolate in the house I will eat it ALL).

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 (this is harder than it sounds!).

8) Accept that the perfect work life balance doesn’t exist and simply seek a better one. Generally, my plan to spend lots of time with the kids whilst they’re young is working out. However, there is a price to be paid sometimes for the successful running of my business. For me, this is some late nights working and feeling guilty when I use the TV as a babysitter so I can send an email or take a work call. That said, if the balance tips too far towards work, I have learnt to say no to new work (even though it goes against the psyche of the self-employed!).

9) Switch your iPhone off after 9pm! The worst thing for a good night’s sleep is reading a work email just before lights out. Your hubby doesn’t much appreciate it either…!

10) 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 (personally and externally) and definitely don’t waste time flogging a dead horse!

Helping you to achieve stress-free and successful recruitment: 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.

An example of a recent recruitment process with Alex Monroe, international Jewellery Designer and Manufacturer (& Alex’s famous Bee!):

 

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 kate@arbre.je for a free initial consultation.

You may also find our hints and tips on recruitment for small businesses an interesting read: http://arbre.je/2017/05/10/cracking-recruitment/

And do check out Alex’s beautiful jewellery too!  www.alexmonroe.com

Does Your Small Business Really Need HR?

SMALL BUSINESS MATTERS: PART 3

There comes a time, when a small business starts to grow, that the business leaders must surely ponder the question of HR and if it is really necessary.  If senior management is confident that they have the time and expertise to provide their business with the following HR essentials and useful basics then the answer is probably ‘no’, at least for now.  If not, and the business really wants to engage and motivate their employees as well as protect themselves from employment law risk, then it is probably time to bring on board some good quality HR support.

HR Basics that Every Small Business Should Have:

  1. Job specifications and a clear organisation structure (who does what and who reports to whom).  They may not be legal requirements, but ensuring that you have identified exactly the kind of roles and experience that you need to support and grow your business before you recruit will help you to avoid expensive recruitment mistakes and ensure that business success is much more likely.  Once you have your employees on board, keeping job specs and individual work objectives up to date will make sure everyone is focused on the right things.  A clear organisation structure will help everyone to see exactly who is responsible for what and to whom each individual should go for line management support.
  2. Contracts of Employment.  A contract of employment is an agreement between an employer and employee and is the basis of the employment relationship – which is why it is much better to have it set out and agreed in writing.  A contract does not have to be in writing to be legally valid (although most employees are entitled legally to a basic Statement of Particulars).  However, a written contract provides peace of mind to both the employer and the employee and absolute clarity on important terms and conditions of employment from the off-set.  By having detailed contracts of employment in place for all employees, as well as fixed term contracts for temporary employees and service provisions for contractors, you are immediately reducing your employment law risk and operating good HR practice.
  3. Basic set of HR policies – Employee Handbook.  HR policies and procedures can cover all manner of work related issues.  Holiday, absence, different types of leave, flexible working, grievance and disciplinary procedures, confidentiality, Health & Safety, notice periods and redundancy are just a few examples of policies that might be required by all businesses at some point (some all the time).  Although it is good practice to include the most important and commonly occurring of these policies and procedures within the Contract of Employment, to avoid it becoming a huge document many companies put all of their HR policies and procedures into an Employee Handbook – which forms a part of an employee’s terms and conditions.  It makes sense to think about and develop your policies carefully, rather than make them up on the hoof when the need suddenly arises (eg a maternity policy if an employee announces their pregnancy), as it is not always easy to amend or change HR policies once they are in place.  Having all of your policies and procedures in one, easy to access Handbook also means that everyone is clear on how things work.
  4. Well trained managers who can motivate and develop employees.  Obviously there is no legal requirement to train your managers. However, the vast majority of employee relations and employment law issues, good people leaving, poor productivity, low morale and poor communication are down to managers managing badly.  In my experience, very few people managers in small businesses (and often large corporates too!) have had any management training before they are expected to manage other people.  Having good people managers responsible for recruiting, developing, supporting and managing their direct reports will make a huge difference to the success of the business.  As such, all businesses should see the professional development of their managers and leaders as essential investment.  It’s likely to be the most impactful ‘HR’ activity that your business can engage in – often making or, if ignored, breaking your success.

What kind of HR support do you need?

In terms of the kind of HR support your business needs, it really does depend on the nature and size of the business. However, for most businesses with fewer than 40- 50 employees it is not necessary to install an in-house HR department, and outsourcing your HR requirements to a consultant or an agency will suffice.  You can opt for minimal HR support, such as a consultant or agency that provides telephone and email support on a needs must basis, and perhaps the provision of some basic documentation, such as Contracts of Employment.  Alternatively, you may feel that the higher costs (although they are significantly cheaper than an employment lawyer) of an HR Consultant are a worthwhile investment for you business.  A good HR consultant should really get to know and understand your business, perhaps spend regular time in your offices and certainly provide HR solutions that are tailored specifically to meet the needs of your business.  A good HR Consultant will add value through helping you to attract, develop and retain the right employees for your business and give you peace of mind that you are not going to fall foul of employment law.

 

If you would like some help to identify the kind of HR support that your business needs and can afford, please do feel free to contact kate@arbre.je for a free, initial consultation.

 

 

Why your business does NOT need an appraisal system…

Small Business Matters: Part 2.

‘Small businesses are in the very refreshing position of being able to break the performance management mould and do things their own, innovative way…’

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)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.
  • 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.  You can read more about setting SMART objectives in ‘What’s holding you back from achieving your goals?’.
  • Keeping reams of paperwork isn’t necessary.  An email summarising key points and actions following a conversation should suffice.  (Serious performance and capability issues should be dealt with through a more formal performance management or disciplinary process.)

2) 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.  For more food for thought on feedback do read:  The Delicate Art of Giving Feedback

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.  To find out a little more about coaching, you might like to take a look at our article ‘Start where you are.  Use what you have.  Do what you can.’

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 your agile, small 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.

 

Arbre Consulting can provide affordable advice and bespoke training in a range of soft skills, including managing people,  communication skills, giving and receiving feedback, coaching and SMART objective setting.  We can also help you put in place essential HR policies and procedures to ensure you are well grounded for business growth and protected from an employment law perspective.  Please do contact us for a free consultation 

The Rise and Fall of Work Life Balance

The Rise and Fall of ‘Work Life Balance’.   A Potted History….

‘Sun up to sun down’ working

In the Industrial Revolution factory owners maximised their output by forcing long working hours (10 to 18 hours a day) on their workers who, by being paid a pittance, accepted that they must work as many hours as possible simply to survive.   Survival was so tough for the uneducated, working class masses that their children had to work too and all in appalling working conditions.  The notion of ‘work life balance’ (as we perceive it) wasn’t even a twinkle in the eye of even the most progressive of thinkers and reformers.

Thankfully this slowly began to change in the 19th Century when British socialists, such as Robert Owen, first proposed the notion of an 8 hour day for workers  – ‘Eight hours labour, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest’.  Although this started to prompt some improvements for workers through the instigation of various Factories Workers Acts, the notion of an 8 hours working day didn’t really take hold in Britain until 1884, when the Trade Union Congress (TUC)  finally made the 8 hour working day one of its primary goals.

The US followed a similar pattern of progress and change and, in 1914, the Ford Motor Company was one of the first businesses to adopt an 8 hour day of its own accord.  Interestingly, and to the surprise of many in industry and the establishment, the impact of this reduction in working hours was huge and positively so.  Productivity increased and profit margins doubled within two years of implementing the new working hours.  What better proof that ‘work life balance’ makes excellent business sense?

‘Work Ethic’ and the Information Age

Skip to the 20th Century and how then had ‘work ethic’  become established so firmly in our working psyche as the best, perhaps the only way to really get on at work?   The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘work ethic’ as “The principle that hard work is intrinsically virtuous or worthy of reward”.  Ask workers today for an every day definition and most will say something along the lines of ‘burning the midnight oil’; slaving away in the office, showing the boss you’re prepared to put in the long hours and making sacrifices.   Thanks to the dawn of the Information Age in the 1980s, and propagated by government rhetoric and policy in support of big businesses, suddenly the 8 hour day became an old-fashioned notion.  Work ethic was no longer about making sacrifices for a moral principal – it was about making sacrifices to find self-fulfilment and success.   Workers were valued for their willingness to burn the midnight oil, as much as the quality of their output.

Work Life Balance and The Rise of the Millennials

Of course, as the eighties and nineties progressed, more and more evidence emerged of just how damaging to your health (and business) being over worked and stressed could be.  EU Legislation was created to protect workers from unhealthily long hours and ‘working smarter not harder’ became the mantra for HR professionals.  Supported by progressive workers’ rights, rapidly advancing technology and forward-thinking corporates and dot.coms, flexible working started to be seen as so much more than simply part-time hours for working mums.

And so to the noughties and the emerging and increasingly influential rise of the Millennials – the children of Baby Boomers and older Generation X-ers.  The kids with a social conscience.  The kids who don’t believe in hierarchy, but do believe in their right to a work life balance.  In 2010, in the US where a huge amount of academic study into the impact of Millennials on Corporate life has been carried out, a study by Hershetter and Epstein showed that nearly one-third of students’ top priority is to “balance personal and professional life” and that nearly 9 out of 10 Millennials placed an importance on work-life balance.  This is in contrast to the ‘work ethics’ of their Baby-Boomer parents and grand-parents.

Technology and Work-Life Integration

To many of the workers who experienced ‘Work-Life balance’ taking shape as a work concept in the eighties and nineties, it has remained just that – a concept that has never really became reality.  With the devastating effect of the global economic crisis on employment, indeed many feel they have been forced to increase their working hours.

But there has been another shift too and perhaps one that will have a far lasting impact on the way we work. According to Dean Douglas, writing for ‘Fast Company’, “the most productive leaders in business aren’t gunning for a work-life balance–that was the myth touted years ago that caused professionals to overbook their calendars and make efforts “to have it all”.”  He argues that with technology being available to everyone, 24/7, and the attitude and energy of Millennials becoming a driving force within the workplace there is a new way forward: Work Life Integration.

‘Work Life Integration’ first emerged as a term alongside ‘Work Life Balance’ in the late eighties/early nineties, particularly in the US.  At the time, the two terms pretty much meant the same thing – properly prioritising work and life outside of work. More recently, with the perceived very limited success of ‘balancing’ work and life, and especially due to rapid advancements in technology enabling most of us to work anywhere, any time, a Millennial’s version of ‘work life integration’ is now being seen by a growing number of business leaders as the solution to happy workers and high productivity.

David Solomon, the global co-head of investment banking at Goldman Sachs said in a recent New Yorker article, “Technology means that we’re all available 24/7. And, because everyone demands instant gratification and instant connectivity, there are no boundaries, no breaks.”  Using technology to integrate work into your life – the complete opposite of trying to create an equal balance between work and life outside of work –  gives us a way to manage to the nonstop work cycle and 24 hour society.  Technology means that you can dial into a conference call from the golf course or respond to emails whilst waiting at the school gate.

‘The Delicate Art of Giving Feedback’

This is an excellent Harvard Review article, by Robert C Poven, about how careful you need to be when giving feedback to employees.  https://hbr.org/2013/03/the-delicate-art-of-giving-fee

It’s a cliche, but feedback is a gift – when given constructively and with positive intent. And especially, it seems, when it is positive feedback.   It’s not difficult to give positive praise, although I agree with the author that it is not given often enough.  Giving negative feedback can also be a gift, but when given badly or unnecessarily it can often achieve the exact opposite of what the feedback-giver is hoping to accomplish – de-motivation, resentment, low morale and lower productivity.

What I enjoyed about this article is that it frees us from the increasingly common notion in my experience that we must always give the negative feedback and more of it! The author refers to a study, carried out several years ago at the University of Minnesota, that showed that employees reacted to a negative interaction with their boss six times more strongly than they reacted to a positive interaction with their boss (in the same way that we would react far more strongly emotionally to losing £100 than winning £100).

What this tells us is that managers really need to understand how and when to give negative feedback.  As Poven says:

  •  Managers need to, firstly, avoid inadvertently criticising an employee’s work if what they have done is good.  They should make clear that their revisions are suggestions only and not criticisms.
  • Secondly, and very importantly, managers need to ‘weigh the trade-offs involved in making negative feedback’.  You will undoubtedly be making some correct points in your feedback, but it will reduce your employee’s morale.  As such, if the issue in hand is actually pretty unimportant in the scale of things, is it really worth making those points?  Does the corrective value of the feedback outweigh the negative impact of giving it on your employee’s mood?  If the answer is probably not, Pozen’s simple message is to keep the feedback to yourself.

This, of course, doesn’t give us licence to avoid giving all negative feedback!  The message to managers still remains that if you have feedback to give that will genuinely improve an employee’s performance (and so the business’) then do give it, but it in an effective way.  And that is a blog for another day…

 

 

Do contact us at kate@arbre.je if you would like some help with learning how and when to give employee feedback.  We offer group and one to one training in this and many other essential management skills.