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People Matter December 2016

Are you a good manager?

We hope it goes without saying that you’re not a Mr. Burns character with a complete disdain for employees (and humans in general). Or like David Brent and his cringing yearning to be popular rather than take management responsibility. Or Sacha Baron Cohen’s Dictator: General Aladeen, whose HR process boiled down to ‘disappearing’ anyone who displeased him.

There are of course notorious examples of bad management styles in the real world too.

There’s many a story about J. Edgar Hoover, the first Director of the FBI. One that tickled us concerned his penchant for scribbling unintelligible notes on the sides of memos. One such memo had very thin margins – his scribbled rebuke: “Watch the borders!” was misunderstood by baffled staff, who were too afraid to ask for clarification.

At, no doubt, vast expense they set up extra border patrol checks with Canada and Mexico. It was later revealed that he was demanding bigger margins so he could scribble his darned notes! There’s probably more than one lesson in there.

Good management technique is a fine balance, and best practice changes over time. At one level, big set-piece events like a conference with a free bar and keynote speech have a place, but in doing things on that scale there’s a danger of being too generic to truly engage employees.

Simple things like taking a new joiner for lunch and asking how they have found the induction process. New joiners often spot things that can be improved but we take for granted because we have always done it like that. Getting staff involved by letting them know how the business is doing and the plans for the future. If decisions can involve their feedback and ideas so much the better particularly when solving the age old problems of parking and keeping the kitchen tidy!

Work-life balance at Christmas

Sainsbury’s 2016 Christmas advert features James Corden crooning as a cartoon man struggles to juggle work and family at Christmas. It has struck a nerve as it trumped the heavy-weight John Lewis marketing machine by racking up the most UK YouTube views.

Work related stress costs 10.4 million lost days annually, not to mention the toll of individual suffering of stressed workers. The advert’s solution isn’t practical (creating toy versions of oneself to handle the ‘work’ bit, in case you haven’t seen it). So how can a proactive employer help staff (and themselves) with Yuletide work-life balance? Some businesses send staff home early on Christmas Eve, and whatever else you do it’s a good idea to have a fair system to manage holiday requests. More generally, an employee assistance programme (EAP) is an excellent employee benefit to offer.

Are your employees going of the rails? 

For members of your staff unlucky enough to commute on the nation’s railways, they may well have had a pretty rotten year. Overcrowding, delays, cancelled services…not to mention the seemingly never-ending Southern Rail workers’ strikes for commuters on the routes affected by those.

So it will surely come as a slap in the face for them to learn that from 2 January 2017 train fares will be rising (by up to 1.9% for regulated commuter fares).

Could you, or should you do anything to help? Whether you should or not is of course up to you. There certainly are things you could potentially do that will create goodwill from your workforce. They may even ward off potential resignations from employees exasperated with their commute.

One popular perk is to offer an interest-free loan for the cost of a season ticket. Helping your employees pay for this big-ticket item up front will help them save a fortune over the cost of daily, weekly or even monthly tickets.

It typically works by providing a cheque made payable to the transport company for the cost of the season ticket, and then deducting the repayments from net salary over 10 or 12 instalments. In most cases, it is bound to be a big help. Remember staff must sign to show they agree to the deductions from their pay.

An alternative benefit, useful in this instance if the commute is not over dozens of miles, is to run a cycle to work scheme. This initiative enables employers to loan bicycles to employees as a tax-free benefit, thereby reducing the price and incentivising the employee to use it for transport.

Your employees dodge the frustrating rail delays and better still will be fitter, healthier and happier. Cycle to work schemes also look great as part of a corporate social responsibility programme, which shows the company is promoting ‘green’ choices to protect the environment. So a great outcome all around!

One final thing to consider is flexible working options. Could an employee with a wretched commute be offered alternative hours to take the sting out of it?

Plenty to think about. For guidance, call The HR Dept.

2017 Resolutions

After all the mince pies and Christmas cheer it is a good time to reflect on your business’s progress during 2016 and decide where you want to take it in 2017.   If you have been working too hard making a few New Year Resolutions to change will be good.  Plan to build the skills of the team, setting realistic goals not pipe dreams and then monitor their performance along the way.  Make time for you and you’ll not only feel better but have more energy to put into your business and make it the success you deserve!

2016 has been a whirlwind! So what can we expect from 2017?

With the rise of Trump and the shockwave that was Brexit, no one can say that 2016 has been uneventful. Nevertheless, 2017 is fast approaching, so it’s best to start preparing. Here’s a heads up on a few things to look out for:

Gender pay gap – As of 5th April 2017, companies with 250+ employees will have to calculate and publish the gender pay gap within their organisation. Even if this doesn’t affect you, you should pay males and females equally for equal work – or risk a tribunal!

The Immigration Act 2016 – This will come into effect in April 2017, designed to discourage businesses from employing migrant workers.

National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage rises – Good news here as these will now rise together, potentially saving you some admin time.

For more detail on the upcoming changes, make sure you have a read of our blog post.

Bah Humbug HR 

At the HR Dept we do get increasingly frustrated by all those miserable so called politically correct practitioners and Councils who proclaim that you cannot say Merry Christmas, have a Christmas tree or a Secret Santa for fear of offending someone. Apart from the fact that the last time I checked a tree is not a religious icon and Santa is just a fat old man with lots of toys, hum maybe he is worrying!

Of course at parties you do need to provide food and drink appropriate for all staff taking into account their religious views and Secret Santa presents must not be offensive so no jokes that could end up with a discrimination claim. Parties are working time so a reminder that good behaviour is expected won’t go amiss but at the end of the night wish everyone a Merry Christmas. Then during the year wish people a Happy Hanukkah, Blessed `Eid  and a happy Diwali!

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