ET Fees – what should small organisations do?

You’ve probably seen today’s news that the Supreme Court has ruled that the current Employment Tribunal fees system is unlawful, primarily because it denies individuals the ability to exercise the rights granted to them by Parliament. If you run a small business or charity, you may wonder what this means for you. Here are some key tips

  1. Don’t panic – today’s ruling simply restores the legal situation to what it was in 2013.
  2. Treat Employees legally and fairly – you should be doing this anyway, most employers already do. If you’re not sure exactly what you should be doing, my posts here and here may help
  3. If you do get a claim from someone relating to a past dismissal (or other issue), alleging they were unable to make a claim at the time due to the fees, seek advice immediately. 
  4. Don’t believe the hysterical nonsense in the Daily Mail (actually, that’s true of most employment law issues)
  5. See point 2

A quiet week

I was sitting at my desk, thinking that this week had been comparatively quiet, but then I started to list a few of the things I’ve done:

·         Advised a client on a recruitment issue, including how to develop what they want and where they might source candidates

·         Worked with a small public sector organisation to review its restructure and recommend some improvements to it

·         Drafted a staff handbook for a growing professional practice

·         Helped a new start-up understand their ‘basic’ HR responsibilities

·         Assisted a client in a hi-tech field to deal with a performance management issue

·         Acting as the adviser for a charity client in a disciplinary issue

·         Dealing with a query about the Apprenticeship levy

·         Writing the script for, and recording a CIPD Level 7 training webinar (not entirely convinced that voiceover artist is a likely career move for me)

·         Finalising the edits for my book (of which more here)

It made me realise that even in the ‘quieter’ periods,  the variety of ‘people’ issues that crop up  in organisations are what makes my work so interesting. So, if your business or organisation needs some HR help, why not get in touch?

 

5 great ways to manage people better

Today is #SmallBizSaturday – a worldwide day for celebrating and supporting small businesses. Here at Ariadne Associates we support small businesses throughout the year, of course, but today seems a good day to remind small business owners and managers of some of the simple things they can do to get the best from their staff.

  1. Say Thank You (and please). Basic good manners don’t disappear once you start work. If someone does something you have asked them to, say thanks. And particularly acknowledge if they’ve done it well – a great piece of customer service, solving a problem, or identifying a new way to increase sales.
  2. Remember you are dealing with people. You don’t have to be best friends with your staff (in fact you probably shouldn’t) but you should appreciate that they aren’t just automatons. Be aware, and take an interest in, the fact that Betty in accounts is worrying about her son’s A Levels; that Rajesh likes to travel to away matches so doesn’t like doing overtime at the weekend; that Paulina who works behind the counter is doing night classes because she really wants to be an engineer.
  3. Be professional. No-one wants to work for an employer who is slipshod about their pay, doesn’t bother to issue them with a contract or who ignores basic employment law. Pay the same attention to this as you do to sales, marketing, accounts etc. And get specialist advice if you’re not an expert.
  4. Be fair and consistent. This doesn’t necessarily mean do the same thing on every occasion, but it does mean that you should consider everything before making a decision. Don’t allow Phil to take extra holidays just because he’s your star salesperson and then not allow Deidre, who may have an equally good reason, but who isn’t doing so well.
  5. Don’t forget that if someone doesn’t appear to fit into your business, you were the one who recruited them. Learn from what went wrong in a bad hire before you start recruiting again.

Small businesses often can’t beat their bigger rivals in the pay and benefits they can offer. So you have to compete in other ways to attract and retain good people. Making your business a good place to work is a great (and low-cost) way to start. And if you’d like to know more about how you can do this, why not read this next?

The Right Deed for the Wrong Reason?

One of my daughter’s current favourite reads is the utterly brilliant Clarice Bean series by Lauren Child. In the third in the series, Clarice and her friends are asked by school to go and visit the old people in the home where Clarice’s mum works. Clarice’s friend Karl Wrenbury refuses, and when Clarice asks him if it’s because he doesn’t like old people, Karl responds that he does like old people a lot, but he doesn’t like being made to feel that he has to visit them.

I could sympathise with Karl when I read about the publication of a new CIPD report entitled “Volunteering to Learn – Employee Development through Community Action”. It’s a part of the entirely laudable programme the CIPD are running to encourage employers and HR professionals to tackle youth unemployment. But I really do have concerns when I read phrases in the report from companies such as ‘We are using community action as a recognised tool for personal development.’ ‘Volunteering activities are effective in boosting employee morale’ or (for me the worst) ‘Clients are asking more and more about our social contribution.’

Now there may well be some charities (including some of my current clients) who may say “we don’t care about the individual’s motivation for volunteering – they are doing good by doing it”. And it’s certainly true that by volunteering individuals can gain or develop skills they might not get elsewhere, which they can then bring into the workplace.

But the point of volunteering is that it’s voluntary. It’s not something you feel pressured or coerced to do (which was one of my many objections to last week’s craze for Ice Bucket Challenges). And if employers want to support employees who want to fundraise or volunteer, great. But I do find it suspect when employers are using the mask of “corporate social responsibility” as a tool for cutting training costs or enhancing their own business prospects.

Social entrepreneur Liam Black once wrote a powerful post entitled “The Poor Are Not The Raw Material for Your Salvation”. They aren’t the means to your promotion, a cheap way to develop staff, or a brownie point for a new client either.

The Value of Values

Originally posted December 2013

My daughter’s primary school had its OFSTED inspection a few months ago and came out of it very well. What was particularly heartening from my perspective was not only that it was hitting good academic standards but that it achieved “outstanding” comments for issues such as pupil behaviour, cooperation and respect for others. There’s nothing particularly special about the school – it’s in what could be described as “working class” district of Liverpool and draws a significant number of pupils from socially deprived inner city areas.

But what is interesting, reading the OFSTED report, is the way it’s run.

  • Its whole ethos is based on a set of values (faith based ones in this particular case, but the important point is that it has values)
  • The school is led by a headteacher who ensures that targets and objectives are based in the context of those values
  • Teachers work within the values, set stretching but achievable targets and lead by example
  • Consequently pupils enjoy school, are interested in what’s going on and promote the culture themselves
  • And finally, as a relatively small school, communication is easier and there is less chance of individuals being “missed” or isolated.

So let’s try a bit of substitution. Change the words headteacher, teachers and pupils to Managing Director (or business owner), managers and employees. Sounds to me that it’s a successful recipe for building a sustainable and profitable business, with engaged and motivated employees. And it seems that smaller businesses may be more able to do this than larger ones – something which is also the subject of my contribution to the recent book of HR blogs “Humane, Resourced”.

If you want your business to be successful, then the question isn’t “why should we bother with values” – it’s “why don’t we have – and act on them – already?”

 

Edit: You might also enjoy this blog from HR blogger Helen Tracey on the same theme:

Are Values Valuable?

The £15000 question

Originally posted October 2013

Here’s an interesting fact for those running a small business. The current adult minimum wage (£6.31ph) equates to an annual salary of roughly £13125 for a full time employee. When employment “on-costs” are added (National Insurance, Employers Liability Insurance etc.) this takes the figure closer to £15000.

Is there anything else you spend £15000 on in your business?

Whether the answer is yes or no, spending that level of money would normally be classed as a significant capital investment. You would spend time deciding exactly what was needed, compare the market for the best deal, and maybe seek specialist advice. You wouldn’t necessarily expect a return immediately, though you would over the longer term; and you’d spend time and money ensuring your piece of equipment was well maintained. What you almost certainly wouldn’t do is throw it away after 6 months and go and buy another at the same price.

Yet when it comes to staff, too many small organisations do the opposite. They recruit quickly, based on “gut feel”; expect the new employee to hit the ground running and produce the goods from day one; don’t bother with looking after the person (which can be as simple as giving constructive performance feedback); and if the person doesn’t seem to be working out they’ll terminate during the probationary period and go out and recruit someone else.

Is frittering away £15000 good business sense? Is it likely to lead to long term success for your business? And is a reputation for “hiring and firing” going to make you attractive to customers and clients, let alone potential recruits?

So stop thinking of employees as a cost. Start treating them as an investment decision, and you’ll suddenly find that hard headed business decisions and “touchy-feely” people stuff go hand in hand for business success. And if you think you need help doing this, why not check out our services page and get in touch?

3 More Tips for Taking on a new Employee

Originally posted October 2012

In my last blog, I looked at 5 key things to take into account when deciding to take on your first employee.

Having put all the effort into recruiting the right person for your business, you may think that you’ve done all the hard work. In fact, to make sure that you get the best from your new team member requires you to spend just as much time on their first few weeks in the job.

Here are 3 key things to remember:

  • Set out what standards you expect from the first day. It’s a lot easier to get things right from the off than try and change people’s behaviour later.
  • You and your staff member need time to get used to each other’s way of working. If you’ve been working on your own you need to understand how to delegate and also to take constructive criticism. Don’t be precious!
  • Everyone makes mistakes – even you!  If your new team member makes a mess of something, don’t automatically treat it as an opportunity to get rid of them. You’ve invested a lot of time and money recruiting them; unless the mistake threatens the business’s survival or reputation, review what you both can learn from it.

If you want to know more about the most effective way you can manage the people in your business, click here