Listen to ideas from your staff - it can help elevate your business

Some of the best ideas that we have had at Peninsula have originated from our employees, I myself started in this business as an advice handler, advising employers on HR issues and talking them through their workplace problems. Having worked on the front line I could see how we advised clients whilst at the same time there were many areas that I thought we could improve or better the excellent service that we delivered. I spoke to the head of advice and even sent emails to Peter Done, the managing director with, what I considered at the time, were ways that we could enhance our service offering and I thankful I was given the chance to prove myself. Many of my ideas were implemented, this coupled with fantastic incentives thought up by my fellow colleagues mean that we have the best employment law and HR advisory service in the country handling thousands of calls per week. 

I’m very proud of the work that we do advising UK businesses on a daily basis and the quality of our service delivery is down to our methods of work and the initiatives that our staff have come up with. Bearing all of this in mind, we would not be in this fortunate position if it was not for the fresh thinking of our employees. 

So if you wish to push your business forward then you need to open yourself up to ideas, some criticism and out of the box thinking, whether this comes from friends, colleagues or your own personal experiences. Learning and listening can have a positive change on your business if you give employees a chance to have their say, be prepared for some constructive criticism along the way and embrace the ideas of your workforce. 


A weekend away with your colleagues may work wonders for your business

I have just returned from a weekend brain storming session in France; I find taking time away from the office, to work with colleagues in a different environment can be greatly beneficial to the business, it boosts discussion, helps form ideas. It forces you to look at what you did right and wrong whilst encouraging you to create strategic ideas on pushing the business forward.  

I have a rule that when we are in discussion our mobile phones should be switched off, equally everyone should be given the opportunity to have their say without fear of being judged and we also ask that personal agendas are left at the door. What comes out of the weekend is a pot brimming with great ideas, we return to the office with drive and ambition and an eagerness to push the business forward. 

Working in a different environment away can really ignite ideas, away from the workplace people feel relaxed and are more likely to express ideas and views. We return to the UK with renewed passion, we are raring to go and are positive that what we discussed will strengthen our business further and help us deliver even higher standards of care to our clients. Try it yourself and see what results you attain, it does not have to last the weekend, a day away from the office can equally work wonders and you never know you may just stumble upon the next ‘big thing’ for your business. I look forward to hearing your results.


Reminder of the disciplinary process

This has to be one of the most frequently asked questions that I receive and so I thought it would be prudent to reiterate the disciplinary process. Remember that this is not an exhaustive editorial and every scenario and situation is different so please ask for expert advice whenever faced with a disciplinary situation. 

How much notice do I need to give for a disciplinary hearing?

There is no legal minimum requirement in relation to the notice you need to give for a disciplinary hearing. However, there are a couple of things that you should be guided by

Contract of employment

It is a requirement of the Employment Rights Act 1996 that you include disciplinary rules and disciplinary procedure in the documentation that you give to your employees. You may have, as part of this procedure, a minimum notice period for invitation to disciplinary hearings and, if you do, then you should attempt to stick to it in all circumstances.

A good deal of consideration should be given when including things like this in a policy because if it is included as a contractual policy (policies can be both contractual and non-contractual) then it becomes an expectation which, if not adhered to, can be a breach of contract. Therefore you should be sure that the notice is both realistic and reasonable.

Acas Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures

This Code does not constitute a piece of legislation in itself, however, it is taken into consideration by an employment tribunal where necessary. Therefore, it can be taken to set out guidance as to what is expected in a reasonable disciplinary procedure. On the topic of informing the employee of a disciplinary issue and holding a hearing, says “The meeting should be held without unreasonable delay whilst allowing the employee reasonable time to prepare their case.”

The term ‘reasonable’ does not offer any useful guidance on how much notice to give, and indicates that in each circumstance, whether there was sufficient notice or not will be down to a tribunal to decide. So what may influence your decision?

If there are reams of evidence to be used at the hearing, the employee may need a couple of days to be able to go through it. If the evidence is made up of a single sheet of records, then it may be reasonable if lesser notice is given.

Many practitioners will state that minimum 2 days’ notice should be given, however, there is no absolute requirement for this and 24 hours’ notice may be perfectly acceptable. In some circumstances where the employer wants to move matters swiftly, and particularly where the employee has a short amount of service, it may be appropriate to tell the employee that a hearing will be held the same day. Where this happens, the employer needs to be aware that such short notice may be challenged by the employee.

In any event, the employee has the right to postpone the hearing for up to 5 days where they wish to be accompanied and it is not possible for their chosen companion to attend at the time suggested by the employer.

Advice should always be taken when inviting an employee to a disciplinary hearing, especially with regard to the amount of notice given.

For further clarification then please contact the Peninsula Advice Service on 0844 892 2772. 

Why good communication is essential

Communication is vital for the success of any organisation, however it can also be essential when it comes to communicating elements of employment legislation with your staff.

However, communication covers various aspects of your business, i.e. not just internal communication amongst your employees – but also communication with your customers and the outside world. It can prove challenging at times to enhance and develop the ways your business communicates; yet with the right practices in place, internal and external communication will become more natural and organic to both your customer and your employees.

As employers and employees, we are susceptible to drearily slumping behind our desk; firing out email after email to various colleagues and members of staff, without physically seeing or hearing from them in days. Is that really communication?

I also believe that when emailing keep messages short and beef. Why would I wish to read a lengthy email that could be summarised in no more than a sentence. I am known for being brief with my emails and I think in business you need to be direct, straight to the point.

I am also a strong believer in picking up the phone or paying a visit to the person in question. Yes it may well be more of an effort but sometimes email lacks empathy, your message can be misinterpreted, however face to face communication can quite easily communicate what it is you wish to say. 

Improving communication doesn’t just apply to the methods in which you and your employees communicate, but also the environment created for communication. Adapting an open-door policy with your employees; and allowing for any work related issue to be brought forward for advice, will go a long way in easing communication and creating a more natural environment.

Improving communication with your customer is a slightly different issue. Though some of the advice above does apply, you must view the two areas of communication separately.

You must allow for a customer to interact and communicate with your business through a variety of communication channels. This is vital, as customers and potential customers are not always sat at home next to a telephone – thinking about your company. With an ever expanding number of communication channels opening up to a consumer, it is your responsibility to keep up and be available whenever and wherever a customer decides to interact with you.

Social media interaction is helpful to your organisation; if it is utilised properly. Bill Murray described Twitter as, “you having a conversation with yourself, hoping that someone else will join in”. There is a certain amount of truth in this, which is why you must make each twitter interaction useful, informative and interesting. In other words, if you’re the interesting person talking to yourself, then there is a possibility that people will start to listen; and talk to themselves about you.

How to overcome the post holiday blues - how to enthuse and motivate yourself.

The Autumn month’s are almost upon us, for many now is the last chance to take that late Summer vacation, however how do you motivate yourself when you return? We have discussed previously how to inspire and enthuse staff, however it’s important that you too are equally motivated.

Firstly try and complete as much of your work prior to your holiday so you have a clean slate when you return. Remember to activate your email “out of office” auto-response before heading off and attempt not to work and that includes answering emails or making the occasional telephone call into the office. 

Return to work with a clean desk, if you have a PA then see that they organise your desk and ensure that your workstation is neat and tidy, start as you mean to go on. It can be disheartening to return to an untidy desk with outstanding piles of workload. If you are not organised then ask someone to help you prioritise and implement an administration system. 

Give yourself a couple of days to get back into a routine, have your assistant stagger appointments so you are not overwhelmed on your first couple of days. Complete one task at a time, try not to over-multitask. I frequently work on more than one deadline, normally this is not a problem, however on occasion it can be an issue, especially if I’m working on a number of important tasks.

Most people will experience holiday blues so set yourself small goals and incentives, if you have a weekend break forthcoming or a special event that why not have a countdown on your desk or at least on your smartphone? Reward yourself once in a while, maybe a day at the spa or a deserving day off, small treats that help motivate you through the Autumn and Winter months.

Published in BusinessWeek

Age diversity

Age diversity is a topic that we receive calls on here at Peninsula and in my opinion employers should look at the positive attributes of employing older individuals.

When hiring ask yourself the question, what abilities does the person possess,  what are they able to do? Just because someone of a more mature age applies for a job, we need to get away from the thought pattern that an individual may be too old for the position; that they may struggle to cope with the role - instead why not concentrate on what people can achieve.

More mature candidates are more likely to possess years of experience, they have faced scenarios and situations that their younger counterparts will never have dealt with - experience can be valuable.

So next time you think to yourself an applicant may be too old for the job  then not only are you possibly in breach of employment law but you may be neglecting yourself the opportunity to employ someone who can make a real difference to your business. Think about what they can achieve and the skills and attributes they may bring to your business and then reevaluate your decision.


Pension Reform - Have you taken action?

According to a Freedom of Information request to The Pensions Regulator, 8,000 employers could have already missed their staging date. This comes as more than 10,000 employers were due to reach their staging date of 1st July 2014. So as an employer what should you have done? 

The Pensions Act 2008 introduced new duties for employers to, by law, assess and enroll their workers into a workplace pension scheme that meets certain standards as of the employer’s assigned staging date.

If you are yet to reach your staging date (the date which yourauto-enrolment duties commence) or are unsure of your staging date, there are a number of items you will need to consider in preparation. A few of which are listed below:

Confirm the staging date with The Pension Regulator. Make sure you know your staging date!  You can check your staging date through The Pension Regulators website using your PAYE reference number. Fines of up to £50,000 can be imposed for non-compliance.

Commence planning at least 6 months in advance. Do not leave planning until the last minute. The legislation can be complex to understand fully. Ensure that enough time and resource is factored in to understand the legislation, review your timescales, understand and make key decisions within the business. 

Review existing pension schemes in use to determine whether they meet the minimum requirements and are suitable for automatic enrolment purposes. Your pension scheme provider will be able to advise whether a scheme meets the minimum criteria. 

Contractual verses Automatic Enrolment. Contractual enrolment requires the worker’s consent to join the pension scheme which is often obtained via the terms of the worker’s employment contract (this includes the authority to deduct pension contributions from the worker’s salary). Automatic enrolment does not require the worker’s consent to join the pension scheme.

Will you be applying a postponement period? Every employer has the right to apply a postponement period up to a maximum of 3 months from the staging date, or from the employee’s employment start date. 

Administrative methods. Will you be administering the new pension requirements manually or do you have a payroll system provider or pension provider who has developed additional tools to assist their customers?

Is this just an extra burden for businesses, is just it more red tape? What do you think? 

My thoughts on which is best, academic qualifications or experience & enthusiasm.

This week we have been talking about the benefits of employing graduates, but as A-Level results are out today I was wondering as employers do you value qualifications or prefer experience and enthusiasm? Personally I believe qualifications are important, at Peninsula our Advice Service consultants possess a wealth of experience and professional skills ideally suited to the advice provided by each individual. Qualifications are important they provide the foundations of theory, they show you have a grasp and understanding of the subject but at the same time I believe experience is also invaluable. Personally I have been an entrepreneur and studied the relevant qualifications suited to my profession, therefore I have both experience and the academic skills which allow me to provide HR advice to employers daily.  

However I speak with many employers who look for both drive and ambition when it comes to recruitment,  not necessarily seeking qualifications, instead looking for a hunger to learn. With many young people deciding to leave school and head straight into employment, many of them advance to become management and build upon the experience and skills they acquire along the way. I personally believe University will not teach people the skills of life but it does provide a solid foundation of theory, combine this with “on the job” training and you have a good basis for success. 

Here at Peninsula we offer graduates and those in training with job experience, we allow individuals the opportunity to perform the role whilst studying at University. I believe in giving everyone a chance to prove themselves, I have employed individuals who have lacked academic skills however they have studied hard whilst working, gained experience and proved that they are more than capable of the job and I am proud to say a number of them are now in management positions. When recruiting I look at skills and experience and base my recruitment decision on that, each individual is different, if they meet our high standards then I offer them a chance. Someone offered me the opportunity to prove myself, I am thankful and have never looked back since.

The benefits of recruiting a graduate

There tends to be a stigma attached to University graduates in regards to a lack of experience in a modern business environment. However, what a graduate may lack in experience, they make up for in a multitude of valuable qualities that would make them an important asset to any employer.

One of the key benefits of employing a graduate is the fresh insight they bring to your business, which should embraced and utilised at every given opportunity. It isn’t very often that we get to take a step back and look at how we run our organisation, to see if there is anything that could be done differently, or to see if there is a message we aren’t quite portraying to our customer. Employing a graduate offers a fresh perspective that your business may need.

University graduates are enthusiastic and keen to learn quickly. Given the right training and encouragement, a graduate can be brought up to speed on most of your company’s processes over a relatively short period of time. You must bear in mind that it takes a certain amount of patience and guidance in order for a graduate, and any employee, to learn how to perform the more complex tasks you may require of them.

Loyalty and advocacy are qualities that can take many years for an employee to develop. However when it comes to a graduate seeking employment in a turbulent job climate; if you are willing to give them the chance to learn and exceed your expectations, you will have a lifelong advocate for your company who will relish the opportunity to sing your praises.

Experience comes with time, but you can decrease the amount of time that takes by offering your own experience. Everyone has to start somewhere, and graduates have already showed the desire to succeed by dedicating time and money to their degree. It’s down to you to shape their drive and passion into your business and turn inexperience into an asset.