Published: More small businesses setting KPI targets for their staff

I am published on the small business.co.uk website talking about why small businesses should implement KPI’s and how they can help grow your business. Any small business would be wise to implement targets for their employees no matter how small the business, whether it be five or 50 employees; KPIs will make a positive difference. You can read the full editorial here

To dismiss or accept a resignation, that is the question.

What if you are proceeding with a disciplinary procedure and the employee then hands you their resignation? Should you stick to your original decision or accept the resignation?

When faced with disciplinary action, it is not uncommon for an employee to take matters into their own hands and hand in their resignation during an investigation into their behaviour, or during the actual disciplinary hearing itself.

When this happens, the best advice is to allow the employee to take some time to reconsider their resignation. Because a disciplinary procedure can be a stressful experience for an employee, their decision to resign may be one which they would not normally take.

Jumping on a hasty resignation may be a bad move because this could, in some circumstances, lead to a claim of constructive dismissal from the employee. Constructive dismissal should always be a consideration where it could be claimed that any pressure was put on the employee to resign. This is particularly risky if the employee themselves approaches you to retract their hasty resignation and you do not allow for this.

So what do you do? You should offer the opportunity for the employee to reconsider their resignation and if this is done verbally, it should be followed up on writing.

You need to make it clear though, that if the employee does wish to withdraw their resignation, that you intend to continue with the disciplinary process at the point at which it was left. A resignation cannot be seen to be an easy way out of a disciplinary process and it should continue if the employee is to remain in the business either because he has withdrawn his resignation completely or because he is serving his resignation notice period.

It is perfectly legitimate to issue a disciplinary sanction to an employee who is serving their notice period, even if this includes dismissal. A dismissal should not be withheld purely because the employee has a termination date set in the future due to his resignation - this may affect your notion of consistency for other similar incidents in the future.

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

5 steps to turnaround an under-performing worker

I am often asked this question, how do I turnaround a under-performing worker? It’s advice I give daily and there are initiatives that you can introduce to help resolve the issue; however my advice is to be fair yet firm. Here are my 5 top tips to tackle an under-performing worker: 

1/ Do not bury your head in the sand, the problem will not go away, be firm but fair, deal with the problem head on. The time to tackle the issue is now. 

2/ Sit down with the employee, outline the problem, give them notice so they can prepare adequate reasoning to their performance related issues. If they wish to bring someone in on the meeting then you should allow this.

3/ Remember that the issue may well be personal, it can also stem from a workplace issue such as bullying or harassment so if they raise a concern then take  it seriously and act upon it. 

4/ Give the individual an opportunity to rectify the problem, come up with a action plan and define time parameters. Ensure that you stick with both the plan and the agreed time. Even afterwards make sure that you continually review any issues so that you are reassured the underperformance behaviour has been resolved. If further training is needed then provide it.

 5/ Finally if performance has not improved despite an action plan then you may need to take the difficult step of dismissing the employee. Ensure that you follow correct policies and procedures, make clear your appeal procedure and provide the employee with their relevant entitlements. 

Always remember to deal with the problem of under-performing workers head on, the issue will not go away and as a business you cannot afford to carry passengers. 

Does allowing staff to come to work in casual clothes impact productivity?

Here is a quick question, does allowing staff to come to work in casual clothes impact productivity? My answer is no providing there are stipulations. Once a month we allow our employees to attend work in smart casual clothing, you have to set standards of course. I issue guidelines and we ensure that other departments are not expecting visits,we do not want visitors to leave us with the impression that we do not dress professionally nor appropriately as this will reflect on the company. This being the case I set out targets for days when casual Friday is on the schedule, I monitor work-levels to see whether the event triggers a more relaxed workplace and whether targets suffer. If they are then we review accordingly, I tend to stick to a Friday rather than any other day of the week, I find it does not impede the business as much. It also brightens the day for the employees, increases productivity and if we can ask participating employees to make a donation to our designated charity then even better. So there are benefits however you need to keep an eye on productivity and ensure that KPI’s are not in any way impacted.

Damaged company property, can I bill staff?

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How an independent Scotland may impact on employment law

In a document recently published by the Scottish Government, several proposals were laid out which set the stall for an independent Scotland, including various plans for the future of employment law in Scotland.

It appears that, should Scotland become an independent nation, it would overturn some of the recent changes to employment law that have been introduced by the UK Government. Many of these recent changes have been advantageous for employers. A reversal in Scotland may see the favour swing back, in the workplace, to the employees.

The proposals include:

  • Reinstating the 90 day consultation period when 100 or more redundancies are proposed within 90 days. The UK Government reduced this figure to 45 days earlier this year;
  • Repealing legislation which implemented the new status of employee shareholder. Again only recently introduced, this move established a special kind of employee who did not have rights to claim unfair dismissal but had to be given a certain amount of shares in the business;
  • Increasing national minimum wage in line with inflation each year;
  • Encouraging wider usage of the ‘living wage’. Although not a legal requirement, employers can choose to comply with the living wage which is set higher than the minimum wage. It is set at a level which is deemed to be enough to eliminate poverty.

Checking email out of hours….is it necessary?

How many times did you check your work emails this weekend? I know I’m guilty. I find that I read, respond and compose messages on a regular basis, which is fine; however we should not allow it to negatively affect our personal time or indeed our relationships. I read recently that VW had switched off its email servers out of hours, in order to prevent employees from accessing email. Whilst in principle I feel businesses do not need to take such steps; it is a good point that VW make. I would not like to think about the number of minutes I spend working on email, it soon adds up. Spending time away from email allows you the opportunity to rest and avoid burnout. You may spend your time thinking up a great business idea; however, you must resist the temptation to immediately email your staff outlining your plan. Everyone needs their time away from work and if you bombard them with emails then they may well feel pressured into responding and this can equate into stress - especially if they think replies are mandatory.

I once had a manager who would send me emails in the early hours and question why I would never respond back immediately. It goes without saying that I was somewhat preoccupied with sleep and expecting a prompt response was out of the question. Some managers expect a rapid response to email, however, one needs to take a step back and realise that not everyone will have the time or resources to reply immediately. We must appreciate that people need time away from the office so they can return with greater enthusiasm and drive. This includes managers and employers. So when you return home tonight limit the amount of time you take responding to email; keep it to 15 minutes, repeat this same pattern and see if it makes a positive difference.

I’m published in Business Week today. 

I’m published in Business Week today. 

The impact of idle gossip/careless talk in the workplace

Gossiping can be defined as talking about someone else’s private or personal business, especially when that person is not present. It can be seen as a common everyday occurrence but when gossip occurs in the workplace it can be damaging to the workplace environment and to careers.

Gossiping will have a negative effect in the workplace by affecting the reputation of the gossiper, affecting the quality of work produced due to demoralising or demotivating colleagues, especially the ones that are being gossiped about, and it can create divisions within the organisation.

The main impact gossip has is that it destroys trust. For example, what if the rumour being spread around the office is that a certain person has done a bit of work wrong, would you voluntarily work with this person again? Would you trust them to do their work again? This breakdown of trust due to idle gossip can have consequences such as employees second guessing each other, an increased need to involve seniors in minor disagreements and trivial issues, and will ultimately cause the death of productive and meaningful teamwork.

Careless talk can have a costly impact for employers as they may now be liable for any abusive or ill-judged remarks that once came under the banner of ‘banter’. A single abusive remark can constitute harassment and if employees become unconformable then this is evidence of that fact. Employers need to make sure that careless talk does not cross the line between ‘friendly banter’ and harassment and they need to provide employees with adequate protection and enforcement through reasonable punishments.

Employers can take steps to stop the negative impact that gossip and careless talk has on the workplace. These could include:

· Communicating regularly and consistently with all employees. This will reduce the influence and need for gossip as all employees are kept well informed and ‘in-the-loop’ so there is no gap in information that can be filled with gossip.

· Discourage gossip in official company policy and make people aware of the consequences. Clear sanctions and consequences can stop gossip progressing and being passed on as employees become less willing to engage in it.

· Don’t get involved in gossip as an employer. Set by example what you expect of employees and showing gossip will not be tolerated by you personally lays down a clear guideline for your delegates.

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. 

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