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People Matter June 2016

Absence at work

Every now and again you hear in the news of an employer spotting an apparently ‘sick’ employee watching the game whilst absent. Or getting boozy on Facebook the night before! The arrival of a big international sporting tournament is a good time to reflect on how your business manages absence, as there is more temptation to sneak time off. So with Euro 2016 and the Rio Olympics taking place this summer, a review is extra appropriate to minimise the impact of absence on your business.

How many days on average do you think UK staff take for sick leave each year? Three? Four? It’s actually 6.9 days. And that costs British businesses up to £11.6 billion each year!

Over a year, 7ish days may not seem like a huge number, and there’s no doubt that sickness pay is a good thing; but that figure doesn’t include the other types of absences that businesses face. Whether it’s authorised leave (maternity/paternity, annual leave etc.) or unauthorised, SMEs need to know how to manage it to reduce the impact on the business.

What do you do when staff are absent?

If the absence is authorised and short term, you may want to use your existing team to provide cover, without snowing anybody under! If it’s longer term, you may consider hiring a temporary worker. When there are high levels of unauthorised or unexplained absences, or if a staff goes AWOL (rare but it does happen), a dismissal case may be opened as the employee is no longer deemed ‘sustainable’ to the organisation. If you’re not confident in doing this, seek advice. We can help.

A better way to process absence

Aside from the impact of absent staff, simply processing the requests takes a great deal of a manager’s time – if you still use a paper based system or spreadsheet. If this is you, look into our HR Toolkit service. It automates the whole process through software, freeing you up from the hassle of administration. For more information or a free demonstration, call us today.

Using body language to identify stress

When it comes to workplace body language, there are some staples that everyone picks up on. Eye contact, fidgeting and that old favourite, handshakes: the power-projecting crusher grip, the wishy-washy dead fish or the intimate double hander.

Body language cues can help managers in other ways. Some could give you an indication that staff are suffering from stress, even if they won’t tell you directly.

An eye lid twitch, hair loss and changes, acne or recurring illness can all be signs of underlying stress. Notice them early and you could intervene before an employee reaches breaking point, thus reducing their suffering and disruption to the business. Many of these warning signs are quite personal, so it’s crucial to handle them sensitively. For guidance in dealing with stress in your workforce, speak to The HR Dept.

Beauty is skin deep

Renee Zellweger’s done it apparently. Julia Roberts hasn’t. Plastic surgery to further a career that is! Julia Roberts stated that she‘s risking her career by NOT having a facelift.

Far from being tattle from the gossip columns, sadly the American trend of women opting for cosmetic surgery to enhance their career prospects is coming to our shores.

Age and gender are two protected characteristics in UK anti-discrimination law. So as well as being wrong, it’s dangerous to foster a workplace culture where women feel the need to turn to cosmetic surgery. Tribunals await, so let’s up this trend reverses!

Ways to avoid a social media #fail

As we all know, it’s not difficult for people to land themselves in hot water on their own social media accounts. Mouthing off about employers, bringing a company into disrepute or even cyber bullying. What can you do about that? Well worded social media policies are the trick here for minimising risk and allowing you to deal with fallout if necessary.

But what about when it’s the company’s own social media feeds that go awry? Here are some of the best (worst!!!) corporate fails of 2015 and suggestions on how to avoid them.

Asking for trouble – SeaWorld, yes they who have an incredibly bad press regarding captive orcas, ran an #AskSeaWorld campaign, where the public could pose them questions. The Q&A was promptly overrun with loaded questions about animal welfare.

Make sure employees understand your wider audience – especially if there are hostile elements. Training on stakeholder relations may be useful.

Funny or offensive? – Yep, you guessed it… These are all offensive: The pancake company that tweeted its product was “flat but has GREAT personality” – a not very subtle analogy to a female body shape. The Houston Rockets Basketball team who tweeted emojis of a horse’s head and a gun with the text: “Shhhh. Just close your eyes. It will all be over soon” to one of their rivals. Or Bloomingdales who ran a print advert that spread on social media. It featured a man leering at an oblivious young woman. Rather staggeringly accompanied by text saying: “Spike your best friend’s eggnog when they’re not looking.” It looks awful and unsurprisingly was criticised for encouraging date rape.

Put processes in place for employees who are responsible for social media: for instance, guidelines on using ‘humour’, and making sure they run ideas past other people to gauge reaction before publishing.

Wrong facts – Cringe! BBC journalist Ahmen Khawaja tweeted last year that “Queen Elizabeth has died”.  She had apparently been confused by an in-house BBC rehearsal. Obviously, it is good practice to thoroughly check facts before posting – especially if it is a biggie such as this!

Expert views on being a great boss

How good a boss are you? Or perhaps more important, how good a boss do your employees think you are? It’s not an easy question to answer, but one worth considering periodically. An article on Business News Daily collected ideas from 16 business and leadership experts. Here we present them as a checklist for you, split into personal qualities and methods of employee interaction. Do they ring true? Do you disagree with any of them? It’s unlikely that anyone can tick all these boxes, but you may find they provide a good barometer:

Personal qualities

  • You’re compassionate
  • You’re self-aware
  • You avoid extremes
  • You’re candid
  • You’re relentless
  • You can ditch your ego
  • You’re transparent
  • You have charisma
  • You’re inspiring
  • You’re a good communicator

Interaction techniques

  • You let employees be themselves
  • You’re a team player
  • You want your employees to develop and succeed
  • You praise your employees
  • You give things structure
  • You value feedback

How flexible are you

We are talking about employment practices, not limbo skills!

In 2014, employees gained the right to request flexible working. You don’t have to watch the news for long to see the numerous pressures that might prompt employees to make a request. Particularly those sandwiched between caring for children and aged relatives. And it’s not only employees.

In our 24/7 culture your customers may expect service at what used to be considered anti-social times. Despite this, take-up is low. One survey reported that below 10% of quality job adverts appeared to offer flexible working. Meanwhile, 20% of new mothers say they experience hassle related to flexible working.

But CIPD research shows that 65% of flexible workers are satisfied or very satisfied with their work-life balance, compared to 47% of regular workers. Is the slow take-up your chance to get ahead of the curve and differentiate yourself from other employers?

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