#WorksMakesMe

30th September 2016

OPERATIONS

We all struggle, from time to time, with the thought of going to work.
At the end of a week on the beach or Bank Holiday weekend, it can be particularly difficult to walk back into the office.
Some have the careers that they’ve always dreamed of. Even then, they’d often rather be at home.
For a majority, a job pays the bills and will never be anything special.
Work will never compare to a lazy afternoon sitting by the stream enjoying picnic with your toddler, or a night in the bar with your friends, but what’s a healthy dislike of work and what’s something to raise the alarm about?
Is it right that these are Google’s most popular suggestions?
workmakesme

Have we created a culture where it’s normal to hate your job?

Have you heard of Hump Day?
It’s a nickname given to Wednesday.
Having a Hump Day implies that you spend Monday and Tuesday miserably climbing to the top of the hill, but once you’ve reached Wednesday you’ll be racing back to the weekend.
On Facebook and Twitter, you’ll come across dozens of posts about how hard Monday morning can be.
Here are a few quotes that you might recognise:

  • “In three hours, I’ll have five hours left.”
  • “If I died and went straight to hell, it would take me a week to realise I wasn’t at work any more.”
  • “Oh, so you hate your job? There’s a support group for that. It’s called EVERYBODY.”
  • “Can’t enjoy Sunday. Too anxious thinking about Monday.”
  • “One does not simply be happy on a Sunday night”.

We’re constantly bombarded with messages about miserable Sunday nights. We’re told that it’s normal to be desperate for the end of the working day, as soon as you’ve stepped into the workplace.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the belief that everyone hates their job.

Is it time to speak out and get help?

Nobody should have a panic attack thinking about work. You shouldn’t be lying in bed, crying into your pillow, after a hard day in the office.
Some jobs are more emotionally draining than others.
Hearing a desperate 999 call and trying to keep a mother calm will never be the same as serving customers at a toy shop, but good mental health should not be sacrificed to pay your monthly bills.
We asked people to speak out about the things that they find hard at work. All of these are real quotes from real people like you, with their identities protected.
How many of these can you relate to?
We hope to get you thinking about your own #WorkMakesMe experience.

Natalie says:

 “I get so upset and worried. I’m not understood.
I went part-time due to health problems. I’m being bullied and it makes my life hell.
I’m getting nasty comments on Facebook, so it’s followed me home.
The job is great, but I’m miserable when I think about work. I’m constantly wondering what they’ll blame me for next.
When I had to go off sick, I was treated like I was letting them all down because they had to work harder. I was told I was a slacker.
It’s not the manager doing this. It’s the other members of staff, making me feel like I’m ruining work for them because they have to cover for me”.

Our response:

It’s hard enough to be bullied at work. Now that we’re all online, this bullying can follow us home.
Workplace bullying isn’t acceptable. It can lead to depression.
The Workplace Bullying Institute, over in the US, found in 2012 that 52% of people experience panic attacks as a result. 49% were diagnosed with clinical depression. 29% of the 1000 respondents said that they had thought about suicide.
There is no clear definition of workplace bullying, but if it is impacting on your health then it is important to talk about what’s happening.
First, check your company’s bullying and harassment policy. This might feature in an employee manual, rather than as a separate document. If you can’t find it, ask someone in HR for a copy.
A company policy will outline how your employer deals with workplace bullying. It will tell you what step to take next. You will probably need to have a conversation with your manager or the HR team.
Keep a diary of every incident. Record the date, time, who was involved and what happened. Be sure to also mention any witnesses. If you are being bullied on social media, take screenshots to keep as evidence.
In an ideal world, all workplace bullying would be resolved informally. A conversation with your manager may be enough to make a bully stop and think about their behaviour. You may need some form of mediation, with third party intervention.
Of course, if you’re being bullied by a group then it might be harder to stop.
If the bullying is not dealt with, there are further steps that you can take.
You can make a formal complaint, in writing. The company that you work for is legally responsible for acting on any complaints. They have the right to follow the dismissal process, to remove a workplace bully if the situation cannot be resolved.
If a formal complaint is not enough, you can take legal action at an employment tribunal.
The Acas helpline could provide you with the information that you need to stop workplace bullying, or at least ensure that the bullies don’t get away with their behaviour. Call Acas on 0300 123 1100.

Lianne says:

 “I constantly feel stressed.
I’m the last link in the chain. Other teams don’t keep to the timescales, so I don’t have sufficient time within my working day.”

Our response:

When you’re given too much work, the pressure quickly piles on.
Many people find themselves staying late to get things finished, or spending their time at home feeling guilty.
It is important to remember that, if you are working to the best of your ability, then your workload is not your fault.
Remember not to blame other employees. They may be as overwhelmed as you. If everyone along the chain is struggling, then the problem is compounded by the time it reaches you. Others may have the same issue, which indicates that workload pressures are happening across the board.
UK law states that you cannot work more than 48 hours per week, on average. Some weeks may be busier than others, but you should not be working more than 48 hours each week. If you are staying late, it may be that you are being pushed over this limit.
Also remember to look at the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage. If you are not being paid for any extra hours that you do, then your wage or salary will be spread over a longer working week. It’s possible that you’re earning less per hour than you should be.
Once the practicalities are covered, the problem must be dealt with. It may be that you are not working extra hours, but feel continually stressed through the day.
This can be one of the hardest problems to deal with. How do you prove that it is a workload issue, and not that you’re working too slowly?
Keep a work diary, showing what you’re doing and when, to use as evidence if it’s requested.
When you receive a piece of work, write down what is involved and how close you are to the deadline. Unrealistic expectations will quickly show up on paper.
Arrange a meeting with your manager. They’ll need to be made aware. Ideally, they’ll take action to reduce your workload immediately.
If your manager can’t immediately reduce your workload, then they should take time to find out what is causing a delay. Is it an excessive workload at the start of the chain, a series of slightly late deliveries adding up over time, or one person letting the team down?
A written complaint is often needed to encourage an employer to take action.
It may be that your employer will need to hire more permanent or temporary staff, or could require freelance workers and outsourcing agreements. Alternatively, a better solution may be a change to processes or training to improve staff efficiency.
If you are a member of a union, they may be able to support you with complaints about workload.

Debora says:

 “I do enjoy working, but I often think it’s not worth it.
I have a toddler, and the stress of getting her ready and making her eat her lunch, then getting her to nursery and rushing to work, is all just too much!
I have to fit in all of the jobs at home, plus caring for and teaching my daughter, and I feel rushed all the time. I constantly have one eye on the clock, and when my toddler is ill I dread calling my manager just to receive comments about my lack of childcare.”

Our response:

The work/life balance is difficult enough, without children added in to the mix.
Many parents wonder if being employed is really worth it.
Being a working mum, or a working dad, can mean that you’re missing out on milestones and quality time with your child. It’s a situation made worse when you’re spending so much on childcare, paying someone else to look after your child with the money that you’ve earned in the workplace.
From a financial perspective, the first thing to do is make sure that you’re claiming any support that you’re entitled to.
Does your workplace provide a childcare voucher scheme?
Many companies can give their employees childcare vouchers, up to a value of £55 per week. This is an alternative to cash, so it reduces how much you are paid but will be tax-free and National Insurance exempt. You could save more than £800 per year, if you make use of childcare vouchers.
When your child is ill, your employer must give you reasonable time off. This does not mean that they give you the full day off to care for your child, but should give you an hour or two to make alternative arrangements. You should also get time off for a visit to your GP.
If you have to take further time off, your employer may require that you use your annual leave or sick day allowance to cover it.
Your employer doesn’t need to pay you for time off when you’re caring for your child. Some choose to, but it isn’t a requirement.
If your child is at school or nursery, and you receive a call and need to go and see them, then you can leave work for an hour or two.
Your employer might not be happy with any time off that you have to take, but they should not discriminate against you because you have a dependent. This means that they must continue to treat you fairly and cannot dismiss you as a result. Your employer will also need to agree to any required time off, as long as it isn’t unreasonable.
You may evaluate and decide that time away from your child, and the stress of balancing family life, is simply not worth your take-home pay. If that’s the case, it could be time to hand in your notice.
A career break is a reasonable option, and your partner may even be able to negotiate a slightly higher wage. Read on for tips that could help you to keep your household income on track.

Amy says:

 “Money issues are affecting me.
I don’t feel that I’m earning enough for what I do, and I’m struggling with debt at the moment.
I’m not sure how to ask my manager for a pay rise.
I’m finding things even worse because I’ve discovered that another member of my team is earning more than me.”

Our response:

Whilst debt problems aren’t strictly a work issue, they can certainly affect you in the workplace.
The stress of dealing with debt will spill into every area of your life.
It can be hard to ask your manager for a salary review or pay rise, even if you know that others on your team are earning more for doing the same work.
You may feel that you need your employer to know that you’re struggling financially. You may even be considering looking elsewhere for work, in search of a higher wage.
First, it may help to know that you have a right to equal pay. This means that your employer should pay you the same amount as others that do the same job. Unfortunately, it isn’t that straight forward. Even with the same job title and job role on paper, two people may do slightly different tasks.
An employer can also, legally, recruit someone new at a higher starting salary. If you’ve been working at a company for a while, then there is a good chance that a new recruit is earning more money than you.
If you are being paid less than your colleague sitting next to you, who was employed at the same time and is doing the same work, then you have a right to ask for equal pay. This includes the right to claim backdated payments for up to six years.
A union representative may be able to help with pay negotiations, if you can’t convince your employer on your own.
If your employer refuses all negotiations, then you may be able to take legal action with an employment tribunal.
Rights don’t always need to come into the discussion. Negotiating a pay rise is still an option, even without legal entitlement.
Before asking for a salary review, you should have statistics about the average market salary and why you are a valuable employee. Figures make all the difference.
If you can’t negotiate a pay increase, would you be happy being offered paid overtime or given permission to take a second job?

Leanne says:

 “A lack of appreciation is a big issue.
I feel like the work I’m doing isn’t appreciated, which is really bad for motivation and, honestly, it has an impact on customer service.
There’s a real lack of company direction. Even when I do the work, the goalposts often change. Suddenly, something that was important last week is never going to be used. It means that I waste hours on a project that’s abandoned.  And I never get thanked for any of it.”

Our response:

Some people don’t care about what their employer does with their work, as long as they’re being paid for it. But for most, doing work for no reason can have a very negative impact.
Many people feel undervalued and believe that their time has been wasted. Often it’s not about the time, but the mental effort put into a piece of work that’s simply discarded or ‘set aside for later’.
If people don’t feel good about what they’re doing at work, it’s reflected in their productivity. They’ll learn to care less and do less, because 100% effort has never been appreciated. Then, these workers feel guilty and upset. Nobody likes losing motivation!
Unfortunately, there are no laws stating that your employer needs to wander over and say “thanks” once in a while, or that they have to use every piece of work that you do.
Many people quit their jobs and move elsewhere, as a result of being underappreciated.
Speaking to your boss could be awkward. You probably don’t want to ask them to praise or reward you, but if they don’t see a problem then they definitely won’t be able to fix it. See if others are feeling the same, because this will show your boss that you’re not alone in your thinking.
If you are tackling this situation alone, ask your employer if there is anything that is not meeting their expectations. This will alert them to the problem, whilst potentially alerting you to goals and areas for improvement.

What’s your #WorkMakesMe?

How does your job make you feel?
Do you spring out of bed on a Monday, excited for what’s to come, or do you hit the ‘snooze’ button and wish that you could hide away forever?
Whether it’s positive or negative, we want to hear YOUR #WorkMakesMe today.

Written by Sue Crow

Office Manager - Staff Squared

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8 Reasons why Having an Onboarding Process Could Save your Business

23rd September 2016

OPERATIONS

So, you’ve hired someone new.
Now, you have the complicated task of helping them to adjust to the business and all of the people in it. This is called ‘onboarding’, and having a strong onboarding process could make all the difference to the success or failure of your business.

What exactly does onboarding involve?

Onboarding is the (often lengthy) process of introducing a new employee to the business, the workplace and everything else that comes with their new role.

It begins before their first day…

You’ll need to communicate with your newest member of staff to provide them with their first day details.
Your new employee might also need their own equipment, which you’ll need to have ready.
Ideally they should have a clear list of tasks when they start, taking them through at least their first week, and a single point of contact that they can contact with questions or concerns. This will make the transition significantly easier.

Once your new employee arrives…

The onboarding process continues once your newest worker is in place.
Now, you’ll need to make sure that they fit comfortably into the business.
Tasks for this stage might include introducing them to their colleagues, team mates and managers, and also checking that their workspace is to their liking.
Could you do anything to make it easier for them to settle in? Nobody should be asking for their own personal games console, but perhaps raising their computer monitor could make a difference to their comfort level?
You will need to make your new employee feel happy in the workplace. This might mean that you arrange for them to meet with the other members of their team and have a coffee before the real work begins, or could mean that you provide a map if they’re expected to find their way around.
Initial training is part of the onboarding process. You will also want to check that the employee fully understands their role and responsibility, that they know of workplace policies (such as maternity and sick leave, disciplinary and holiday) and that they have received a tour of the premises.
On their first day, your new employee should have someone ready to greet them on arrival. They will also need to be accompanied to lunch. They will need relatively easy work to ease them in for the first week or two, before the real work begins.
Over the coming months, it is important to regularly check in with your employee and to ensure that they are comfortable and happy. Regularly review their work, giving praise along with any constructive criticism, and make sure that they continue to be involved in social opportunities and events.
A good onboarding process will last for at least a year, and perhaps longer.
Many companies give their employees just a week or two to settle into the business, but without ongoing input there is a good chance that a new employee will be lost in the crowd.
Adapting to a new career, a new job, a new place of work or even a new team can take time, and if onboarding is not properly managed then the result can be an unhappy worker, or a worker that hands in their notice.

8 reasons why having an onboarding process could save your business

A good onboarding process results in better job performance

It stands to reason that a confused employee will not be working to the best of their ability.
If your employee does not understand what they’re supposed to be doing, then you can’t expect them to be doing it.
All sorts of other factors also affect work performance, including social comfort. Employees that are happy to be at work, feel connected with their colleagues and want to play their part within the team are the most efficient and reliable workers.
Job performance also improves when an employee feels appreciated. If a relatively new employee is not thanked for their contribution, then they can quickly feel that their work isn’t making a difference to the business.

A good onboarding process improves future recruitment opportunities

All businesses have a staff turnover. Some companies lose employees every few weeks, whilst others lose them just once or twice a decade. Yours is probably somewhere in between those two extremes!
Employee losses lead to a requirement for new workers. When this happens, you need to look like an appealing employer.
Existing or previous employees, if they feel inclined, can review their experience of employment. Glass Door is one website that enables workers to share their thoughts, leaving them available for potential new recruits to see.
If you’re trying to recruit someone new, the last thing you want is for them to see reviews telling them: “This employer doesn’t care about new workers. I was left on my own after a one-day induction. The other staff seemed to have their cliques and I was barely involved in conversation. Nobody checked up on me, and I didn’t know what I was doing”.
To hire the best in the business, you need to be presented as a company that’s really worth working for. If your existing employees are complaining, publicly or in private, then you’re limiting your future pools of candidates.

A good onboarding process reduces staff turnover

Recruitment costs money.
You may lose a talented worker that you cannot simply replicate, and at that point even the financial cost can pale in significance.
People are more likely to leave if they feel unsettled and haven’t been welcomed.
If you want to avoid hearing the words ‘I quit’, it helps to make sure that you’re creating an environment worth working in.

A good onboarding process can keep sick days to a minimum

Stress can cause people to quit, but may also lead them to continue their employment whilst taking time off to recover. It can lead to physical illness and mental illness, all of which will cost your business.
As well as thinking about your responsibility not to cause individuals to feel stressed or become ill, it is worth considering the cost of stress when your employees are taking time off.
People are more likely to be stressed, and to avoid work, if they are not comfortable with their role or their workplace.

A good onboarding process keeps everyone on brand

Your company values need to be reflected in every single one of your employees. The best way to get them on board is, as you might expect, with a good onboarding process.
By introducing new workers to your existing employees and by getting them involved as much as possible, you will help them to absorb everything that your business is and does.
An employee left on the sidelines, not fully integrated, will not be as wrapped up in workplace culture.

A good onboarding process can improve employee loyalty

Even when an employee has no immediate intention of leaving, they can usually be persuaded when the right offer comes along
If you have invested time, money and energy into helping an employee to settle in, then they are more likely to be loyal to your business. In some sense, they’ll feel that they have an obligation to stick around and reward you for your efforts.

A good onboarding process may alert you to problems within your business

Fresh eyes are valuable. Your existing employees will be used to the way your business runs, and may not notice anything that isn’t working as efficiently as it could be.
A new worker is the most likely person to raise a question that will make you rethink what you’re doing, or could point you in the direction of something that needs improvement.
By communicating regularly with your newest worker, getting their feedback and finding out if there’s anything that doesn’t make sense, you could also be collecting clues that tell you exactly how to make your business better.

A good onboarding process makes future onboarding even easier

Looking long term, each new employee has the potential to be the trainer or manager of the future.
If you have to train your managers to get them up to the required standard, before they are able to train someone else, then you’re wasting an enormous amount of time.
If someone has been built into best practice from the moment they first set foot through the door, they will be the best possible person for passing that knowledge down to future new recruits.
Think of the onboarding process as an investment that will result in improved productivity, higher quality work, happier employees and business longevity. Without it, you’re left with a disjointed business and potentially unhappy workers.

Written by Sue Crow

Office Manager - Staff Squared

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Top 10 Reasons People Quit their Jobs

16th September 2016

OPERATIONS

One of the best things that you can do as an employer, for the continued success of your business from a recruitment and staff retention perspective, is to find out why employees are leaving.
It always happens. Every business has a staff turnover rate, though some are better than others.
When someone hands in their notice, finding out why could be the key to discovering something that’s wrong within your business – a team leader that people aren’t happy with, workloads that are too demanding or an office location that is causing commute issues, for example.
Alternatively, someone could be leaving for a job at a different company. Why? What are they doing better? Why is working for them more appealing than working for you?
If you know why someone is leaving then you’ll possess valuable information that could boost your business, or might help you recruit and keep the best staff members.
Here are the top 10 reasons that people quit their jobs:

1: Not feeling valued

 One of the easiest things to fix, but something that’s prevalent in many companies, is the issue of undervalued employees.
Workers want to feel that they’re making a positive contribution and, more importantly, that what they do is appreciated.
Interestingly, this doesn’t mean providing grand rewards or salary boosts (though nobody is going to complain if they’re offered one!). Often, a simple ‘thank you’ is all that is needed to change someone’s perspective.

2: Poor management

If employees don’t feel that they’re being managed effectively, they may look for jobs elsewhere.
People don’t always get along. You can’t be friends with everyone. Unfortunately, if an individual is struggling to connect with their manager then there will be difficulties in the workplace.
If multiple people are finding one manager particularly difficult to work with, then this might indicate a bigger issue.
Sometimes, the opposite is the problem. A manager can be a good friend to everyone on their team, but might turn out not to be so good at delegating, communicating and keeping projects on track.

3: Lack of progression opportunities

 Many of your employees will want to feel like they’ve still got a bit of climbing room. They’ll want to work hard, then be rewarded with promotions and pay rises.
New challenges are valued. It can be hard for workers to feel that they’re trapped at their current level, with no room to grow and improve. They might be tempted to leave for somewhere that will offer them a chance to continue climbing the ladder.
Be careful! Some employees are happy in their current positions and will not want to progress. Promising promotion opportunities to these employees is just as likely to make them quit. You need to know what each employee wants, which means that you will have to discuss goals in reviews and appraisals.
Remember that a lack of progression ambition does not indicate a lazy or unmotivated worker. Some people are simply happy with their current level of responsibility.

4: Work/life imbalance

A good work/life balance is more important than ever, now that we are connected 24/7 using laptops, tablets and smartphones.
Be prepared for the possibility that a valuable employee could hand in their notice because they’re not getting enough time with their children.
Sometimes, no amount of money is worth early mornings, hours spent travelling, a long day at work, hours travelling home and a rushed dinner before bed, ready to start all over again. People need, want and value their free time, which is why employers have to value it as well.
Many employees are finding workarounds that benefit everyone, offering on-site facilities such as gyms, coffee shops, childcare facilities and customised office spaces, to bring the work/life balance into the workplace.

5: Lack of belief in the business

 If you believe in your business and any plans for the future, make sure that this belief is travelling down the line to each and every worker in the business. Share your goals and dreams, along with your plans for achieving them.
If an employee doesn’t feel committed to the same goals, or if they can’t see the company’s future, they might jump ship for an alternative employment opportunity.

6: Broken promises

The word ‘promise’ doesn’t have to feature in what you’re saying, for an employee to build an expectation.
Be careful about what you say. If there’s a chance that you won’t keep up with your commitments, don’t make them in the first place.
There is a lot of value in annual appraisals and pay reviews, but if people are left waiting then they can become disheartened. When April rolls around, an employee is excited about the possibility of a salary increase and nobody finds time to meet with them, then this could be enough to make them leave the company.

7: Colleague clashes

Good conversation, and a workplace environment in which people feel that they’re amongst friends, can make all the difference to job satisfaction.
If an employee spends every day clashing with a colleague, because they don’t get on or have very different opinions about how the work should be done, then there’s a disaster waiting to happen.
You might want to step in and mediate. If you can’t identify the problem and help to solve it, then there’s a good chance that someone will be leaving.
Sadly, in many cases these frictions are caused by one employee not pulling their weight. Unfortunately, it’s often the harder worker that gets tired and quits before the one that’s enjoying an easy ride.

8: Micromanagement

Employees that are managed in a restrictive way tend to feel that they’re not trusted.
Being free to make their own decisions can make employees happier, can increase their feelings of worth in the workplace and can keep them with you for longer.
Don’t be tempted to control each and every small aspect of a project, insisting that things are done a certain way. You might find that, with a little more freedom, your employees are very creative and effective.

9: Lack of work enjoyment

Personal tastes and preferences change, at every stage of life.
Some people start a degree course at university, only to graduate three years later with the realisation that they no longer want to follow that career path.
Some people decide after decades in the workplace that they’re ready for something new, whilst others spend six months in a role and realise that they’ve made a mistake.
There are very few things that you can do to retain and employee with a different path in mind, but it might be worth seeing what alternative jobs you can offer if you would really like to keep them within your business.

10: Money issues

You might think that money issues are the main drivers behind decisions to quit, but they’re actually less of an issue than personal factors.
Of course nobody wants to feel that they’re drastically underpaid for the work that they do, though people are not as likely as you’d think to leave for a higher rate of pay. Employees will be willing to stick around if they believe in the company, have friends amongst their colleagues and feel that they’re treated well.
Money issues become more of a concern when an employee is struggling to manage financially, when they feel that they’re missing out on promised pay reviews or when they’re earning a lot less than others that are doing similar work.

What can you do to find out why employees are leaving?

A proactive approach is best. Look for signs of unhappiness. Listen to what your employees are saying, whether they’re coming to you specifically or there are murmurs around the office.
It’s best if you can solve problems before they lead to someone handing in their notice. Once they’ve reached that stage, they can’t usually be brought back.
If someone is leaving, invite them to a one-to-one meeting. This is your opportunity to ask them for the reasons behind their choice.
Many people won’t be honest, for fear of getting a bad reference or because they don’t feel comfortable put on the spot, but you may pick up a few valuable gems that can help you to shape your company’s future.

Written by Sue Crow

Office Manager - Staff Squared

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What to Look for in a HR Consultant

2nd September 2016

OPERATIONS

You may know what a HR consultant does – providing human resources support for your business – but how do you know that you’ve found the right one?
What separates one HR consultant from the next? HR consultancy is so skilled, and must be handled so sensitively and professionally, that it’s essential you make the right decision.
Here are things to look for when you’re hiring a HR consultant:

The HR consultant’s availability

It might seem obvious, but can be easily overlooked when you’re focused on finding the right person. Does the consultant’s availability fit with your requirement?
This might mean that they need to be available for as many weeks or months as you expect to need their support, but could also mean thinking about their day-to-day availability. Can you contact them in the hours that you need to? Could they visit your office at the right time?

The HR consultant’s working situation

Is your consultant a part-time freelancer? Are they a full-time HR consultant?
Do they work solely online? This can be a benefit as it really cuts cost and can add flexibility, but may also be a drawback if you need a physical presence or have particularly complex requirements. Instead of an online HR consultant, would it be better to work with someone that can visit in person?

The HR consultant’s experience

You’ll want to know two things about a consultant’s experience:

  • How much experience do they have?
  • Do they have experience that is specifically relevant to your business/industry?

Ideally, you want someone that understands the complexities of whichever industry you work in. They should know what you need from your employees and what they’ll need from you.
Experience levels can be a tricky topic. It makes sense that you would want a HR consultant with plenty of experience, but remember that the most experienced consultants will charge a lot for their service. You will need to balance the experience level with how much you’re happy or able to pay.
Sometimes, taking a chance on a HR consultant with very little real experience can pay off – particularly if they’re looking to build a client base and are offering reduced rates – but you’re taking a risk to get that reward.

Which HR consultants will be working with you?

Some consultants work independently. Others are part of a small team.
When you hire a HR consultant, be sure that you know exactly who you’ll be working with.
There are benefits to having just one consultant working with your business, so that there are no confused messages or miscommunications. One consultant will also be able to learn more about your business, with a full understanding of what it does and how it works.
There are also benefits to having more than one consultant. You can benefit from a number of different brains working together to help you to make the most of your HR consultancy experience. Too many cooks may sometimes spoil the broth, but you never know which mind is going to add the perfect ingredient. The more minds you have working on your project, the bigger the chance that they’ll suggest something incredible. With a team of HR consultants, it’s also more likely that you’ll be able to access immediate help and support whenever it’s needed.

Pricing, payment and billing

It makes sense that the prices charged by your chosen HR consultant should be a top priority. Know what your budget allows for. Cheaper isn’t always better, but the most expensive consultant may not be the right one, either.
How will you pay for their services? Does the payment method suit you? Are the billing terms agreeable?
Does your chosen consultant charge a retainer, invoice by the hour or give you a set price for a specific project?

Career history

When working with a HR consultant, it certainly helps to know that they’ve been in your shoes! Before becoming consultants, many of the best will have years (or decades) of experience working as an in-house HR manager.
What’s their CV like? Who have they worked for? These questions can help you to determine if you’re choosing someone with an array of past successes, a steady and stable career, or someone that has advertised as a HR consultant having just left a touring circus.

References and reviews

Unless you’re taking a chance on someone that’s completely new to the industry (everyone needs to start somewhere!), you’ll probably want some evidence of past success.
It’s fine to ask consultants to share reviews and references. In an ideal world they’d name the companies that they had previously worked with, and that you could contact in person, though client confidentiality will often stop this from happening. At the very least, ask if they have any statistics or quotes to show that others have been happy with their service.

Data protection

You’re going to be providing your chosen HR consultancy with a lot of confidential information. They’re going to have details about all of your employees, with the responsibility falling on you. You need to trust your consultant absolutely.
How are they going to provide data security? What will they do with the information that they’re given?

Rapport

After all of the practicalities have been considered, there’s still one more thing to think about. Do you get on with your consultant of choice?
You might not prioritise interpersonal relationships over prices and experience levels, but you’re going to be working closely with the consultant that you choose. As a result, it’s best that you are able to relax at least a little.
If things feel awkward, if you seem to clash or there are more awkward silences than friendly conversations, then a long-term working relationship is going to be painful for everyone involved. You might also struggle to address certain topics, because you don’t feel comfortable being open and honest.
Choose a consultant that you can sit across the table from, discussing ideas and even cracking a joke or two. You’re going to be talking law, recruitment and possibly redundancy, so the least you can do is find someone that you like to discuss everything with.

Written by Sue Crow

Office Manager - Staff Squared

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How HR Consultants can Help your Business

25th August 2016

SMALL BUSINESS

When you recruit the services of a HR consultancy, you benefit from the advice and knowledge of human resources professionals.
A HR consultant can provide tailored and specific HR information, covering topics such as recruitment, disciplinary issues, payroll and benefits, health and safety and the law.
HR consultants have valuable experience and expertise that you can call upon when it’s needed.
Consultants are not necessarily there to do your work for you, though many will take on tasks that you’re outsourcing. Instead, they are primarily available to equip you with everything that you need to do the work in-house.
Here are the main ways that HR consultants can help your business:

  • The HR consultant can provide an outside perspective

Can’t see the wood for the trees? Sometimes, you’ll be so wrapped up in the day-to-day running of your business that you won’t see the obvious solution. A fresh pair of eyes, in the form of a HR consultant, could help you to pick up on the things that you’re missing.
If you are too close to business processes, it can be almost impossible to see how they might be ineffective or inefficient. Your HR consultant could be able to identify issues that you may not be aware of.
Your emotions, and interpersonal relationships, can also cloud your judgment. Everyone within the company, from a Managing Director right down to the bottom of the hierarchy, will have a vested interest in the business. Opinions can be influenced by workplace friendships and personal experiences, which means that decision-making can be particularly hard.
An external HR consultant comes in with a fresh, objective and untarnished perspective. They are not joining your business permanently, nor do they have an interest in making friends. They can see past the things that block your view. The outside perspective is valuable, helping you to find the right route with the head rather than the heart.

  • The HR consultant can provide general or specialist knowledge

If you need help with a number of aspects of HR management, then a general HR consultant can provide broad and varied knowledge. This might be particularly beneficial if your business is relatively new, and you don’t yet have the knowledge (or in-house team) to deal with HR tasks.
Alternatively, specialist HR consultants may be the better option for more in-depth issues. You might hire a consultant to get you through a certain stage of business management, such as a round of redundancies, or to help you to ensure that your business is legally compliant.
Some aspects of HR management can be particularly complicated and time consuming. Have you thought about just how much work is involved in setting up an employee benefit scheme, and managing it effectively? Your consultant can provide guidance in one area, where there are a lot of points to cover.

  • The HR consultant provides up to date information

Even if you have in-house HR staff, and do your best to keep on top of the latest HR developments, there are risks that you might miss an important change in the law. You may also not be aware of the newest and best tools on the market, to help with your staff management.
When your in-house HR team spends time dealing with your employees, they may find very little free time for reading up on industry changes. It’s incredibly easy to slip into habits that last for weeks, and even months and years, without seeing what might have changed.
Since a HR consultant has to be as valuable as possible, to justify being hired by companies like yours, they will be keeping up to date with the very latest developments. You can depend on a consultant to know exactly what’s happening right now, whether it’s a new element of health and safety law or a brand new piece of HR software that could be perfect for your company.

  • The HR consultant can help you to make outsourcing decisions

Is it time to hire somebody to work in-house, or would outsourcing be more efficient and cost-effective? This is a question that your chosen HR consultant should be able to help you answer. Consultants can provide advice and recommendations, looking at the way your company works and suggesting which approach you should take.
Your consultant may recommend that you do your payroll in house, or they may instead tell you that you’d be better outsourcing that task. Whatever they recommend, they can also help with the next stage, supporting you through recruitment or guiding you in your search for a payroll company.

  • The HR consultant can provide support

Your chosen HR consultant can support you in areas where you need an extra helping hand, or don’t feel confident enough. This can be particularly beneficial during the hiring process, where you might need someone that really knows what they’re doing to sit in on any interviews.
By having a HR consultant involved when you’re hiring someone new, you also have on-hand information for any more complicated queries that arise, or to refer to for information about discrimination laws and reasonable accommodations.
If you are new to interviewing, and unsure what you can and cannot ask (or, what you should ask to get the best view of each candidate), then speak to a HR consultant. They can help you to design your list of questions, to get the most out of your time in the interview room, and can sit in on the interviews themselves. They can then help you, after the interviews are over, to evaluate each candidate and come to a hiring decision.

  • The HR consultant can offer training for existing employees

Most HR consultants are happy to train your in-house employees, to bring them up to your required standard in areas where their existing knowledge or experience might be lacking. This might mean that they provide immediate help with the recruitment process, whilst guiding your existing HR team through the process. That way, your in-house HR team can manage the next recruitment drive on their own.

  • The HR consultant can introduce new technologies to your business

In years gone by, a company’s HR management used forms and printed documents. Everything would be stored away in folders, locked in filing cabinets, with important employee guides on a shelf in the office. Now, businesses appreciate the value of online HR software.
If making the move to embrace new technology seems complicated and confusing, then why not speak to a HR consultant about the help that they can offer? Amongst many benefits of hiring a HR consultant is the chance to rely on their help to get to grips with new software, to work out what needs to be included and how you’ll implement the software and move to it seamlessly.

  • The HR consultant can save time

Some consultants are available to provide information and support, without doing anything too hands-on. Other consultants are happy to be hired as an additional member of your team, for short-term or part-time outsourced work.
You can save time that would be spent on recruitment and training, by hiring a HR consultant to help with some of your HR tasks. You might want to recruit someone to manage just one or two time-consuming jobs, like the implementation and administration of your employee benefits and rewards schemes.

  • The HR consultant can run independent surveys and evaluations

It’s important that you understand how your employees are feeling. What makes them happy? What doesn’t? What do they like about their job? What needs to improve?
Gathering feedback and monitoring public opinion in the workplace might be something that you struggle to find time for. You might also worry that employees won’t be honest with you, if they’re concerned about a lack of anonymity.
A HR consultant can run an employee feedback survey on your behalf. They’ll know which questions to ask, and how to interpret the results. At your request, they can ensure that answers remain anonymous whilst still giving you the important details.

Is a HR consultant right for your business?

From developing internal policies to navigating the complicated world of employment law, a HR consultant can offer specialist knowledge and experience. Consultants have typically worked with a wide range of businesses, all with their own approaches to HR management, which means that you could benefit from the best practices of a variety of companies.
Perhaps one of the most important benefits of HR consultants is that they don’t become permanent members of staff. You can hire a HR consultant for a short period of time, to see if they work for your business, without committing to providing a permanent salary.
Before you hire a HR consultant, think carefully about what you need. Time is precious, and clear goals can help you to make the most of this valuable business resource.

Written by Sue Crow

Office Manager - Staff Squared

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How to Create Consensus Among Staff

19th August 2016

MANAGING STAFF

The best workforce is one that is made not of near-identical employees, but of varied and diverse workers that complement one another. There is strength in difference, but this can mean that getting everyone to agree can seem like an impossible task!

Creating a consensus

Getting your staff to support an idea, or a business development, is not a matter of forcing them all to agree.
You don’t have to ignore anyone’s viewpoint. In fact, it’s best if you don’t.
Everyone should be able to have their say. People should be able to provide alternative suggestions and their own thoughts, which may be valuable throughout the decision-making process.
Eventually, you want a team of people that are willing to stand behind a decision.
With a consensus, everyone will be committed and motivated.
Follow these steps to create a consensus amongst staff:

  • Include every affected employee in your discussions

A consensus within the confines of the meeting room is absolutely useless if, beyond it, there are people that will be affected becoming increasingly bitter.
You should have a management team of decision makers involved in your discussion, but will also need to involve everyone else that will be affected. These will be people at all levels of the business.
Make sure that everyone is involved from the beginning. If you involve people too late in the process, they’ll feel that you’re dictating your ideas to them. If you involve everyone from the start, they’ll feel as though they’re helping to generate the ideas.

  • Have clear rules about discussions

It is important that discussions don’t lead to arguments. Set your ground rules out at the start. Don’t allow personal attacks, bad language or offensive comments. Create a culture of respect.

  • Test employee attitudes regularly

Throughout the process, take time to check in. See where people currently stand. What are their views? Which side of the argument are they on? You will know when you’re close to reaching a consensus, when most people have similar attitudes and when those that don’t could be swayed by a new detail.

  • Provide a variety of ways to contribute

Unfortunately, the “stand up and argue your case” technique isn’t one that works for everyone. Some people back down in the face of confrontation, however mild-mannered and respectful that confrontation may be.
In order to hear a full range of views, you might want to offer alternative ways to contribute. Could people send an email? Could you have a comments box that people can post their thoughts into? These options don’t allow for quick back-and-forth conversation, but could be a better way to gauge the real opinions of the quieter members of your workforce.

  • Ask people to share their reasoning

When someone is giving their opinion, take time to dig a little deeper. Why do they feel that way? What has helped them to make their mind up?
Sometimes, people make incorrect assumptions or have heard something on the grapevine that might not be accurate. If you can separate fact from fiction, you can remove those that are opposing change based on false information.

  • Invite respectful arguments

Debates and arguments can result in the most positive change. Perhaps an employee has a point of view that you hadn’t even considered? Maybe a team member has a strong argument for considering an alternative, that you had previously dismissed?
Don’t stifle comments that don’t fit with your agenda. Encourage your employees to speak up and speak out, if they don’t agree with what you’re aiming for. As long as each member of staff can be calm and respectful, they should be invited to share their opinion. You might find that they make suggestions that you’ll want to take on board to create a successful team.

  • Accept that better ideas might come from others

If you are leading discussions and have your own goals in mind, then you might feel that your way is the best way.
Be open to the possibility that other people may have better ideas than you. Don’t be offended if this is the case. Those good ideas could change your business for the better. Use the best ideas to drive discussion forward.

  • Provide regular breaks

Discussions can be intense. Take regular breaks to allow people to calm down, particularly if people are losing sight of the ground rules.
Regular breaks provide opportunities for everyone to think through what’s been said, compose their thoughts and re-evaluate their opinions. When the discussions are happening, people are often so busy taking information on board that they forget to apply it to their perspective.

  • Accept imperfection

In some cases, everyone will agree. In many cases, they won’t. Some decisions will never result in a full consensus.
It is important to have a discussion that is long enough for everyone to have their say, but your decision-making can’t drag on for months. If you can’t see a consensus happening, draw discussions to a close and try to go with the majority view.
Remember that some people have a lot more responsibility for company decisions than others, so if you’re in charge and you really feel that the majority decision would damage your business, then it’s important to have the confidence to overrule it. It’s unlikely, however, that a sensible group of employees would make a very harmful decision.

The importance of the consensus decision making process

With consensus decision making, the journey is as important as the end goal. Though you might have a decision that you’re hoping to reach, the true value is in the discussions and ideas that are generated along the way.
Some business decisions are best made by one or two people, but in many cases the wider involvement of a varied group of people will produce the best results.
We don’t have time to consult (potentially hundreds of) workers before each and every business decision, so use your time wisely. Get employees to have a say in the choices that directly affect them.
What makes a business a successful or failure? See the top 10 reasons for small business success and failure.

Written by Sue Crow

Office Manager - Staff Squared

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How to Implement HR Software Like a Boss

17th August 2016

PRODUCT

Are you ready to completely change the way your business HR is dealt with?
Moving to HR software after years of paper-filled ring binders, Excel spreadsheets, PDF files and packed-full folders will be the making of something great. But, you’ve got to do it properly.
There are things to think about. There are certain steps to take. Climb the diving board for a graceful sweep into the water, rather than jumping hastily off the side of the pool.

Step one:

Get testing!

Have you found the software that you want to use?
Before dancing off into the sunset, take some time to test it.
Ideally, you’ll make use of a free HR software trial that will give you some time to explore. Get to grips with the features and possibilities, to see how it will work for your business.
If there’s anything that you’re unsure about, there should be a customer service team on hand to guide you through the process.

Step two:

Get up and running!

Once you’ve found the best HR software, you’ll need to get ready to use it. Make sure that you’ve got an account and that everything is properly paid for. Some software providers will make you pay to unlock certain features, whilst others (like Staff Squared) will provide everything that you need for one low price. If you’re using software that comes with many different parts to unlock, make sure that you’ve made every purchase at this stage. The last thing you want is to ‘go live’ with software that’s missing important features.
Take some time to set the system up, once you’ve paid for everything that you need. Add employees. Check that every member of staff has the right usage privileges. Personalise the software, so that it’s ready for your company and your workers.
Perhaps give a few other key members of staff their access to the software at this stage. They can work with you to run your final tests, and can perhaps be roped into creating your training manuals.

Step three:

Get everyone involved!

Other people have got to be as interested in this change as you are. HR software is useless if you’re the only one using it.
The benefit of a good HR software package, like the Staff Squared software, is that it enables everything to be managed online. Used properly, it’s a handy tool that lets your employees file online holiday requests whilst you’re giving them feedback and setting performance goals.
To use your HR software to its full potential, you need everyone to be contributing and sharing. Regular updates will keep your HR software working as it should.
Everyone should know how to use the software, why you’re using it and how it changes your workplace for the better. Why not run a training session, to show what it can do?
It might be best to run a few different training sessions, for each type of user. Most employees will only need to understand the basics, but there will be some that will need a more in-depth explanation of how the software works.
Don’t wander blindly into your HR software training. Prepare in advance, making sure that you feel ready to answer any question that’s thrown at you.
You’ll probably want to create a user guide. Produce a detailed document that employees can refer to, if there’s something that they need to check.

Step four:

Get mobile!

Perhaps one of the best things about HR software is that it stops you from being tied down. You no longer need to be sitting in your office in order to view someone’s holiday request, to check how many sick days they’ve had or to say “thanks” for a job well done.
To take advantage of HR on the go, get the software installed on your phone. With Staff Squared HR software, there’s a handy app that you can take with you wherever you go. You can even contact members of staff by phone, or email, from within the app itself.

Step five:

Be patient!

When you launch your HR software, there will be a steep learning curve. Don’t expect everyone to get it right straight away. Some employees will ask for help with things that should be obvious, whilst others might completely forget what the software is capable of doing.
Be the best boss by answering questions patiently, by going over things that you’ve already explained and by talking people through the guide that you spent hours of your time creating.
Remember, this won’t last forever. Within days, each and every member of staff will be using the software with ease. At this point, any lost hours over recent days will quickly be gained back. Good HR software will make HR management faster, more efficient and more reliable, saving you so much time and money!

Remember:

Be clued up!

There are many HR software options available for businesses like yours. Each will be different, so don’t be afraid to trial a few and see which one best suits your needs.
Some companies spend a small fortune having their own HR software designed. If you have particularly complex needs, this might be something to consider. In most cases, bespoke HR software really isn’t necessary.
Take time to understand exactly what you want from your HR software, and exactly which service can provide it.

Get help!

If you’re struggling, your software provider should be able to provide some support.
The Staff Squared team are happy to help with the implementation of your new HR software, with no extra charge for their time.
We can get you up and running, even helping to import your data from wherever it’s currently stored. The process should be as quick and easy as possible, without time-consuming configuration or complicated never-ending task lists.
Why make HR software implementation any more difficult than it needs to be? Take your time finding the right software for your small business success, and the rest should be a smooth ride.

Written by Sue Crow

Office Manager - Staff Squared

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Skills Assessment Test Worksheet

5th August 2016

OPERATIONS

Following on from our blog post about Skills Assessment Tests, here is an example of one.  By providing a selection of tests, you can build a broader picture of the applicant and potentially narrow down your pool of potential interviewees.

In an Excel spreadsheet, how would you calculate the total number of festival attendees automatically? The figure should be able to change as more tickets are purchased.

musical festival

  1. SUM (B2-B10)
  2. ADD (B2-B10)
  3. TOTAL (B2:B10)
  4. ADD (B2:B10)
  5. SUM (B2:B10)

Please read the following paragraph. Which of the following statements could be true?

Fred married Joan in 1962. He and his wife were both in their early 20s at the time. Together, they have four children. Daniel is their oldest child and was born three years and two months after Fred and Joan’s wedding. Sally is their second child and was born in September, just under 2.5 years after Daniel. Kimberley was their next child and was born in January 1971. Fred and Joan’s last daughter was born in April 1975 and was named Alice.

  1. Fred was born in 1943.
  2. Sally was a teenager before her younger sister Alice was born.
  3. Daniel was born in April.
  4. Fred and Joan married in August.Which of these would result in mail potentially not reaching its intended destination?

Which of these would result in mail potentially not reaching its intended destination?

  1. Frederick Lincoln, 12 Elmwood Crescent, St Albans, Hertfordshire.
  2. Fred Lincon, 12 Elmwood Cres, St Albans, Hertfordshire.
  3. Fred J. Lincoln, 12 Emwood Crescent, St Albans, HERTS.
  4. Lincoln, 12 Elmwood Crescent, St. Albans, Herts.

Samuel is less sad than Sam, who is saddest?

  1. Samuel
  2. Sam

The following phone numbers are all formatted differently. Which is typed incorrectly?

  1. 08272 273972
  2. 08272273972
  3. 0827 2273972
  4. 082 72278972
  5. 08 272273972
  6. 0827 227 3972

Please read the following paragraph. Which question can you not answer?

Albert Reginald Saul worked as a miner in the North East of England between 1940 and 1952, when he lost his job. Albert lived with his wife Eliza May and their four children Carl, Henry, Lucille and Penelope. When Albert lost his job, he decided to retire from work and spent his time creating a thriving allotment. His grandchildren, six in total, would frequently visit to help out. The whole family would take advantage of the items that Albert grew in his allotment, as ingredients for dishes like hot pots, stews, casseroles and broths. When Albert stopped working on his allotment in 1960, his oldest son took over and eventually passed it on to his own daughters, Katherine and Sarah.

  1. How many years passed between Albert’s mining career ending and him giving up his allotment?
  2. What was Albert’s wife’s middle name?
  3. What was the name of the child that Albert passed the allotment to?
  4. What were the names of two of Albert’s granddaughters?

What are the top 10 Reasons small business fail? It’s good to know what the pitfalls are and which successful strategies and tactics you can employ to give your business a fighting chance.   Discover more about the benefits of HR software.

Written by Sue Crow

Office Manager - Staff Squared

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Skills Assessment Tests

5th August 2016

OPERATIONS

Recruitment tests, including pre-employment skills assessments and aptitude tests, help to ensure that the person you’re hiring has the required knowledge and ability.
Skills assessment tests act as a screening method, much like an applicant’s CV. They are not intended to be the only determining factor, but can help you to remove from your shortlist any applicants that do not seem suitable. They should be used alongside other tools and methods.
Here are a few things to remember:

  • As well as general skills tests, your recruitment process should include at least one specialist assessment that is more specific to the requirements of the role.
  • You can create your own skills assessment tests. There are also many available to purchase, or download free of charge. If you can’t find one that meets your needs, you can buy customised tests.
  • The person that is being tested may be able to complete their test online, or send their responses via email. This is convenient, as assessments do not need to take up valuable interview time. However, assessments done outside of your business premises are at risk of being affected by external influences. You cannot stop someone from doing research and finding answers elsewhere, unless you are watching over them.
  • Skills assessments are typically used during the hiring process, but have a value that extends far beyond it. Assessing existing employees can help you to identify areas where further support or training might be required.

Types of skills assessments

You can assess a wide range of job-related skills. Some of the most popular skills assessments include:

  • Data entry
  • Microsoft Office
  • Coding
  • Accounting
  • Telephone communications
  • Verbal reasoning

Skills assessments and psychometric tests

Psychometric tests are commonly used as part of the recruitment process. These are not exactly the same as skills assessments.
With psychometric tests, there are no incorrect answers. The results of these tests help to describe the type of person that an applicant is, not what skills they have. Sometimes, those in charge of recruitment will use psychometric testing to decide whether or not an applicant is suitable for a role. For example, it could be argued that a quiet and emotional individual is not suited to a demanding sales job.
In other cases, the results of these tests are used to determine how easily an applicant would fit within a team, or with overall company culture, which can be just as important as being suitable for the work that the role entails.
Psychometric tests provide a way of objectively evaluating a person’s values, their motivations and their priorities. They can also help to determine someone’s working style.
Skills assessments and aptitude tests cover the more practical aspects, from someone’s ability to follow instructions to their knowledge of the software that they’ll be using.
Tests are not essential as part of any recruitment process, but it is sensible to use both skills assessments and psychometric tests if you are intending to use any at all. Do not rely on just one type of test.
By providing a selection of tests, you can build a broader picture of the applicant and potentially narrow down your pool of potential interviewees.
Tests can help you to find out more about an applicant’s personal strengths and weaknesses, as well as those directly related to the work that they’ll be doing if they’re hired.
See the top 10 reasons for small business success and why SaaS software is so helpful to SMB managers.

Written by Sue Crow

Office Manager - Staff Squared

How can we help?

How to Minimise Exposure to Employee Costs

28th July 2016

SMALL BUSINESS

Employee costs, from the moment that you plan to hire somebody new, slowly begin to mount up.
First, you must deal with the costs that are associated with hiring and recruitment. Then, there are ongoing expenses that continue for as long as the employee stays on your payroll, and potentially even beyond.

What are some of the potential employee costs?

  • The costs of recruiting including advert prices and recruitment agency fees
  • The employee’s salary, or wage
  • Employer National Insurance contributions
  • Pension contributions
  • Holiday pay
  • Sick pay and absence
  • Lateness
  • Training costs
  • Equipment
  • Maternity or paternity pay
  • Possible redundancy pay
  • Possible unfair dismissal case costs
  • Consumables and general overheads (the small costs like tea and coffee, electricity and paper)

In addition to all of the above costs, linked to one employee, be aware of extra costs such as employers’ liability insurance.

How can you minimise exposure to employee costs?

Recruitment

When you’re hiring someone new, consider avoiding recruitment fees by sourcing new employees through existing ones.
Advertise the vacancy on your company website, and ask existing members of staff if they can recommend anyone for the role. You’ll be surprised how far networking can take you!
As additional motivation, you may wish to offer a small reward to any employee that passes on the name of someone that you later employ. Even with the cost of a reward factored in, this should be cheaper than using a recruitment agency.

Sick pay, absence and lateness

As long as it is taken for a valid reason, sick pay is an unavoidable business expense. It is important to support your employees through both short-term and long-term illness.
That said, it is your responsibility (and in your interest) to keep track of employee sick leave.
Using high quality HR software from Staff Squared, you will be able to easily record employee sick days, and view reports that are based on these records. You may discover that someone is taking a very high amount of sick leave, when compared to everyone else in the company, or that they seem to continually be calling in sick on a certain day of the week.
Whilst it is important not to accuse an employee, without evidence that they might not be ill, you may find that it helps to address the issue privately. The employee may have a valid reason for requiring all of the sick days that they are taking, but it may be something that you can help with such as stress or family issues.
Think about whether you could decrease sick leave by providing more flexibility, for example. If employees are taking sick leave to deal with childcare emergencies, could you encourage them to work by offering the option to work from home?
By keeping clear and detailed reports of employee working times and dates, you may also detect patterns of lateness that may be having an impact on your business. If an employee is five minutes late, twice a week, then this adds up to 40 minutes per month or a full working day every year. It might not sound like a lot, but imagine if every single worker was doing this!

Possible redundancy costs

Before taking on a new employee, do your best to look ahead to the future.
Do you definitely have a role available? Can you afford to fill that role long term?
Some new employees are absolutely essential, whilst others are hired to do work that could probably be comfortably shared amongst existing workers if everyone sat down and discussed it.
The key to avoiding the redundancy process might lie with your existing employees, who can provide ongoing feedback about how realistic their workloads are. If employees are consistently struggling to stay on top of their job lists, someone new will need to be brought in. If they’re struggling for a short while, could you handle the extra work with temporary staff or freelance workers? Outsourcing can often remove the need to go through the entire employment process, when a new full time employee may not be absolutely necessary.
If employees might be able to take on a bigger workload, offer some incentives for doing so. Often, these incentives will be cheaper than the recruitment process and potential future redundancy costs. Could you pay some employees to work overtime, if they are happy to?

Possible unfair dismissal case costs

According to the Ministry of Justice, there were more than 61,000 unfair dismissal claims made in the year from April 2014 to March 2015.
Unfair dismissal is a big issue in the workplace, and can also be costly for employers. Most cases result in payouts of £1,000, but the largest from 2014-2015 was more than £235,000.
Regular performance reviews can reduce the risk of an unfair dismissal claim. Employees will be alerted quickly if they are seen to be underperforming at work.
Always have clear goals and targets in place for your employees. Make sure that your expectations are realistic. Objectives are important for individuals, and for the business as a whole.
Unfair dismissal cases can have a big impact on businesses of any size, but will be particularly tough on smaller businesses with limited funds available. It is far better to invest time and money in setting out clear workplace rules, reviewing staff performance regularly and making sure that each employee knows what responsibilities they have to manage.

Consumables

Did you know that the average worker uses 10,000 pieces of paper every year? That’s paper to the value of roughly £40, most of which does not need to be used.
You can save your business a small fortune by keeping many of your documents online. A secure cloud based storage system, perhaps built into your HR software, can enable employees and their managers to collaborate and share documents with ease. You can also store all company policies online, where they can be easily accessed 24 hours a day.

Keeping track

The best way to minimise employee costs is to make sure that you are on top of them at all times. Record details about every employee, ideally using feature packed online HR software.
Don’t be one of the many employers that accidentally approves too much holiday, giving someone paid time off when they’ve already used up their allowance.
Some costs, like pension and National Insurance contributions, are completely unavoidable and should be given fairly. Other employee costs are often the result of poor management or poor record keeping.
Look to online software to help you to keep tabs on every worker within your business, and don’t forget to carefully consider the true cost of each employee.
Find out why most small businesses are successful and why many will fail.  See our small business tips guide can help optimize how manage your HR processes.

Written by Sue Crow

Office Manager - Staff Squared

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