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It’s a new year and what better time to invest in your people as they plan new year goals and achievements?

Why invest in Executive Coaching?

In the ever-evolving landscape for organisations, the need for exceptional leadership has never been more crucial.

Employees’ expectations have changed. They want to be empowered, listened to and asked for their opinion and they want to work in a collaborative way.

Many organisations have not identified this shift in expectations, resulting in greater levels of disengaged employees. Only 21% of employees are engaged according to a 2022 Gallup report.

Retention continues to be a challenge as well, with the CIPD reporting that 6.5 million UK workers were planning to quit their jobs in search of a better role in the Good Work Index 2022.

Those organisations that do nothing to address these changing demands will lose their best employees, face higher employee costs and struggle to compete.

How can Executive Coaching help?

At its core, executive coaching is about cultivating excellence in leadership. It’s a personalised, results-oriented approach that fine-tunes the skills, perspectives and behaviours of senior leaders.

Executive coaching stands tall as a powerful tool to harness the potential of key leaders within organisations. It’s a strategic investment that yields substantial returns.  Executive coaching nurtures resilience, adaptability, and a growth mindset – qualities indispensable in today’s fast-paced environment.

For organisations, the advantages are clear. Enhanced leadership translates to increased team performance, better engagement, and ultimately improved bottom-line results. One senior leader said, “It has not only proved to be a useful exercise in terms of reflecting on my own path, but it has enabled us to really focus on the key aspects that will help drive the business forward“. It’s a domino effect, a well-coached executive inspires and empowers their team, creating a ripple effect of excellence throughout the organisation.

Executive coaching can help individuals in a variety of ways:

  • prepare for an imminent promotion
  • reflect and improve after not being successfully promoted
  • imposter syndrome
  • conflict resolution
  • time management
  • confidence
  • perfectionism, (the list is endless!)

Ultimately, coaching for employees at all levels contributes to a thriving culture – one that values growth, encourages innovation and fosters a sense of purpose. It’s an investment that pays dividends not just in productivity and performance but also in creating a workplace where people feel valued, inspired and fulfilled.

How does it work?

Before any coaching commences, a free ‘Discovery’ 20 minute discussion is held between coach and coachee, to ensure there is good rapport. If both parties are happy to work together, the coachee completes a questionnaire, highlighting useful background information and detailing areas they’d like to focus on during the sessions. Employers may request to have some input into the topics to be explored with the coachee. Most coaching ‘Assignments’ typically consist of six sessions – approximately every three to four weeks – although the frequency can be adapted to suit the individual.

Coaching is such a rewarding and transformative process, really allowing the individual to experiment, confide and grow. With so many benefits for both employees and employers, the new year could be a perfect time to consider what coaching could bring to your organisation!

To find out more, please contact Caitlin Anniss in our team on 07909 683938.

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At the start of this new year, I have been reflecting on mediations that I ran towards the end of last year. One common theme from those taking part was that they wished they had been offered mediation sooner.

In some cases, the conflict between the colleagues had gone on for well over a year – which made those involved dread coming to work. In one case the person said that when they came into work they would first check the staff car park – if they didn’t see the other person’s car they would relax and have a good day at work. If they did, then it really affected their mood and they would become tense throughout the day, as if they were almost mentally preparing for an argument.

In nearly all cases, the conflict affected all aspects of work and personal lives, leading to problems sleeping and impacting their own relationships at home. Usually, all those involved had endured a thoroughly miserable time and some had had periods of sickness absence. From the employer’s perspective, this conflict meant they had a less effective team.

Root causes

These were nearly always the same whatever the factual matrix: a lack of effective communication – having that difficult and exposing conversation. This had led to individuals making a series of assumptions and creating their own echo chambers comprised of certain colleagues, who instead of suggesting a resolution, had stoked the conflict.

In one case, during the joint mediation session, which happened in the afternoon, it became clear that the dispute was in fact based on a series of misunderstandings. It became apparent to them that there was in fact no real dispute, they agreed on a lot, which they were both very surprised to learn, and were soon apologising to each other for the miserable time the other had endured over the past months. This all happened within less than an hour. They spent the rest of the afternoon agreeing on a way to work positively with each other from then on. The discussion then turned to how they could make their respective teams work better together. The change in the atmosphere in the room was astonishing. This outcome was not unusual – mediation has a 90% success rate.

What does mediation involve?

  • Mediation is a relatively short process. It usually takes place over a day, with some pre-planning beforehand so the participants know what to expect. The day begins with individual sessions where each participant is encouraged and supported to write down the issue from their perspective and what they are looking to achieve going forward. The afternoon is a joint session where both parties come together to share their individual perspectives, listen to each other and generate opportunities for future working.
  • Importantly, solutions come from the participants themselves and they own the outcomes.

Could your organisation benefit from mediation?

Do you have any employees who are having an ongoing dispute with a colleague or manager? How long has this been going on for? If it has not been resolved through dialogue, then it may be festering. A festering conflict can, and often does, lead to workplace tensions, grievances, sickness absence and all the other hallmarks of an unhappy working relationship.

With its high success rate and relatively short timescale, mediation could provide a compelling and effective solution. It’s important to remember that it is a voluntary process – you can’t require them to do it. If you can get agreement from both parties to participate in mediation, then it might be one of the best things an employer can do for your employees’ wellbeing.

To find out more about mediation, please contact Accredited Mediator, Simon Martin, in our team on 07384 813076.

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World Menopause Day is observed annually on October 18th. For HR professionals, it’s an opportunity to reflect on the work being done within their own organisations on this issue and a chance to foster inclusive workplaces by addressing the unique issues that menopausal employees encounter.

The menopause, a natural phase in a woman’s life typically occurring between the ages of 45 and 55, brings about physical and emotional changes. In the workplace, these changes can manifest in various ways, including hot flashes, sleep disturbances, mood swings, and cognitive changes. These symptoms can significantly impact an employee’s performance and well-being.

So, how can we best create a supportive workplace?

  • Awareness: The first step for HR professionals is to raise awareness among employees and managers about menopause. Offering workshops or information sessions can help eliminate misconceptions and reduce stigma.
  • Flexible working: Consider implementing flexible working arrangements, allowing employees to adapt their schedules to better manage their symptoms. Remote work options, adjusted hours, or reduced workload during difficult periods can make a significant difference.
  • Review your policies: Ensure that your organisation’s policies, including sickness absence and performance management, are menopause-friendly. Adapt them if needed and consider introducing a menopause policy.
  • Training for managers: Provide training to managers on how to support employees going through the menopause. Encourage open and empathetic conversations, making it easier for employees to discuss their needs.

There are many benefits of a menopause friendly workplace. Providing a supportive work environment is of course best practice. It also has benefits for your organisation, including improving retention rates, reducing absence rates, and improving the engagement of your employees.

World Menopause Day 2023 is a timely reminder for HR professionals to prioritise the well-being the issue of the menopause in the workplace. By taking proactive steps to raise awareness, adapt policies, and provide support, you can create a workplace that empowers women to navigate this natural life transition with confidence and dignity.

For further advice or guidance, or for training for line managers around the menopause and the workplace, please contact Caitlin Anniss in our team on 07909 683 938.

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Imagine a situation where an employee of yours is accused of serious sexual offences outside of work that doesn’t involve any work colleagues.

At first glance, a default approach might be to say that what happens outside of work is a private matter for the employee and so does not and should not affect their employment. But, it’s often more complicated than that.

In this sort of case, an employer may want to be mindful of three possible scenarios:

  1. Whether the employee’s behaviour outside of work affects, or may affect the organisation’s reputation.
  2. Whether the employee’s alleged behaviour impacts on whether their colleagues would want to work with them.
  3. If your organisation is subject to the Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) rules, then a third question might be about transferrable risk. While the considerations about this are beyond the scope of this piece, it is definitely still worth seeking advice about.

It’s worth remembering also, that the employment law test to arrive at a decision is on the balance of probabilities. This is a lower bar than the criminal test which is beyond reasonable doubt. This means that employers can and should arrive at their own conclusions and not have to feel that they need to wait for, or follow, the judgments and decisions in any criminal case. A word of warning here though: if the police are involved, you need to ensure that you don’t take any steps that the police might claim prejudices their own investigations, so it’s important to open a dialogue with them at an early stage.

This is a very complex area, which has become tricker with the arrival of social media and people commenting on a difficult situation. We recommend you should avoid any knee jerk reactions and promptly form a team who will deal with the process. If the incident has become widely known then let employees know who will be dealing with it and, for instance, designate a point of contact who will deal with media queries.

The standard advice regarding a disciplinary process also applies of ensuring a separation of roles, so someone should be given the task to investigate the matter, someone else (ideally more senior) should be given the task of hearing any disciplinary, should that be necessary; and then a third person (more senior still) should be identified as an appeal hearing manager.

It goes without saying that it is also sensible to take advice. Your organisation may well be facing this challenge for the first time whereas we have got experience in dealing with these matters.

For further advice and guidance on this matter or other HR related concerns, please contact Simon Martin in our team on 07384 813 076.

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The modern workplace has witnessed a noticeable increase in conflicts in recent years. This phenomenon has not only strained relationships among employees, but has also incurred significant financial costs for organisations.

This article delves into the reasons behind this surge, examines its economic implications, and offers proactive strategies for employers to effectively mitigate and resolve these issues.

Understanding the increase

There are several factors contribute to the rise in workplace conflict, including:

  • Diversity and inclusion – whilst diversity is an asset, hiring employees with varying backgrounds, values and beliefs can also lead to misunderstandings and conflict if not managed effectively.
  • Remote work – the proliferation of remote working, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, has altered the dynamics of workplace interactions. Isolation, miscommunication and blurred boundaries have increased the likelihood of conflict.
  • Stress and burnout – employees face heightened levels of stress, exacerbated by uncertain economic conditions, which can manifest as conflict when people feel overwhelmed.
  • Digital communication – the absence of face-to-face interaction can make it challenging to read emotions accurately. Overreliance on digital communication channels can lead to misinterpretation, miscommunication and, ultimately, conflict.

The financial costs

The increase in workplace conflict carries significant financial implications for organisations. According to a study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), workplace conflicts cost UK employers an estimated £28.5 billion per year in absence, decreased productivity and legal fees. This substantial figure highlights the urgency for employers to address these issues proactively.

Mitigating workplace conflict

There are many ways that these costs and strained relationships can be avoided by following good HR practice, embedding a positive culture, and tackling potential issues early on. For example:

  • promote and invest in diversity and inclusion training and awareness programmes for employees. Encourage open dialogue, empathy and respect for different perspectives.
  • enhance communication skills, focusing on clarity and active listening. Encourage employees to express themselves effectively, model what is expected throughout the business, and provide employees with the tools they need to do this well.
  • implement mental health programmes, support and resources to help employees manage stress and build resilience.
  • promote work-life balance, by encouraging staff to establish clear boundaries between work and personal life, even in a remote-working environment. This should include revisiting flexible working arrangements and being more open to trialling new working patterns.
  • consider developing a conflict resolution training programme, to include mediation and negotiation training. Equip line managers with the skills to intervene early and effectively, or consider outsourcing to third party experts if a situation warrants this, before it becomes toxic or it affects a wider cohort.
  • encourage regular one-to-one check-ins between employees and managers, to provide a platform for discussing concerns, clarifying expectations, and fostering a positive working relationship.
  • create a comprehensive Conflict Resolution Policy to outline the steps to be taken when conflicts arise. Ensure employees are aware of the policy and know how to access support.
  • use technology wisely. Organisations should of course continue to leverage technology for efficient communication, but you should encourage in-person meetings whenever sensitive topics need to be discussed (or video meetings if absolutely necessary). Ensure all employees are proficient in digital communication tools.

The increase in workplace conflict is a real and pressing issue for employers to address, with substantive financial implications for organisations to bear. However, by understanding the underlying causes, investing in training and support, and implementing proactive conflict resolution strategies, businesses can mitigate these issues effectively. A harmonious workplace not only reduces costs, but also fosters a more engaged and productive workforce, ultimately benefiting both employees and the organisation as a whole.

If you would like more help with any of these issues or any other HR concerns, please contact Jo Bradbury in our team, on 07570 372118.

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We take a look at recent developments and guidance that has emerged to support employers navigating this important topic.

We previously published an article about the Workplace Fertility Pledge, an entirely voluntary scheme that employers could sign up to in which they pledged to offer support to individuals and couples going through fertility treatment.

Now the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, has launched a guide to employers on how to offer workplace support.

The guidance draws together the work of others, such as Manchester Metropolitan University and Fertility Matters at Work.

What Support Can Employers Put in Place?

Fertility treatment varies and so do the needs and wishes of those going through it, but for those looking at what they can do in their organisation, it’s a useful starting point to review Manchester Metropolitan University’s list of various factors that those undergoing fertility treatment may be dealing with:

  • attending multiple (sometimes daily) clinic appointments – often arranged with little notice
  • finding the time and privacy to take sensitive phone calls from the clinic during the working day, coupled with the anxiety of waiting for, and potentially missing, important updates
  • storing medication (which may require refrigeration) at work and finding a clean and private place to inject medication
  • ‘cycles of hope and grief’- the challenge of receiving difficult news at work and managing the significant emotional transition if treatment is unsuccessful
  • potential strain on relationships both inside and outside work
  • financial pressures if funding treatment privately

As an employer, this list is really pause for thought. Supporting employees through this journey makes good sense, not only because it’s the right thing to do from a human, compassionate perspective but also because you can work with that employee to help them to continue to be effective in their role in a planned way, rather than them staying silent and trying to muddle through.

There’s lots an organisation can do, from educating managers and employees, introducing a policy and allowing flexibility for those undergoing treatment.

Resources

The CIPD has helpfully included their Fertility Journey Policy, which is worth a read for those thinking of implementing their own policy.

Fertility Matters at Work is also a great resource for employers who are searching for information on how they better equip their organisation to support employees who are on a complex fertility journey.

For further information on this topic, please contact Sarah Martin in our team on 07799 136091.

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A recent case illustrated why process and the associated details, can be critical when dealing with disciplinary issues. We look at the basics of a disciplinary process, the importance of following it and what could happen if you don’t!

The case of Miss M Crew and Miss J Mason v Three Milestone Education Ltd shines a spotlight on mistakes that can be made when managing a disciplinary and the importance of considering each case on its own merit. But first let’s take a look at the process.

Why Do You Need a Process for a Disciplinary?

Under the Employment Rights Act 1996, as part of the written statement of terms and conditions of employment, employers must provide employees with information on the disciplinary rules and the procedures for disciplinary decisions and appeals, or refer the employee to some other easily accessible document, such as a staff handbook, containing that information.

What About the Acas Code of Practice?

The Acas statutory Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures provides recommendations for dealing with disciplinary situations at work. Businesses may have their own processes that are more suited to their needs but the Acas statutory code is the minimum an employer must follow. Failure to follow the Acas Code may be taken into account by tribunals in deciding if a dismissal is fair. Similarly an unreasonable failure to follow the Acas Code may lead a tribunal to adjust the amount of compensation payable to the employee.

Any Other Benefits?

There are other sound reasons for having a documented process set out:

  • Provides clarity – confirmation to staff what behaviour is expected behaviour as well as what may be deemed unacceptable or inappropriate.
  • Clear structure – a mechanism to look at and resolve concerns constructively and encourage improvement. Sanctions are not the only outcomes and the process can identify what improvement is required of an employee and outline what support might be available to facilitate the required level of improvement.
  • Consistency and fairness – to ensure rigour in its application across the business and to endeavour to be in the best position to successfully defend any unfair dismissal claim.

What Should a Disciplinary Process Include?

Acas advise six steps in a disciplinary process:

  1. Assessing the options – whether the matter can or should initially be dealt with informally; whether it sits within another process such as a capability process.
  2. Once the process is invoked, undertaking a fair procedure – this includes acting swiftly to inform the employee of the concerns and the process to be followed; at the same time being mindful of the employee’s health and wellbeing. Identifying who will conduct the disciplinary hearing and who might be needed to hear an appeal if one is raised.
  3. Carrying out an investigation to establish the facts of the case. The investigation should be done by someone other than the disciplinary hearing manager to maintain fairness in the process.
  4. Conducting the disciplinary hearing to review the evidence from the investigation – giving the employee adequate notice so they have time to prepare and allowing them to be accompanied by a work colleague or trade union representative. Providing them with the opportunity to ask questions of the investigation.
  5. Following a fair disciplinary procedure, the employer should decide on the best outcome based on: the investigation findings, what is fair and reasonable and what their workplace has done in any similar cases before. The decision should be communicated to the employee in writing and also detail their right to appeal the decision.
  6. Follow up after the hearing as appropriate – this may include talking to those staff who were aware of the issue, to ensure confidentiality is maintained; updating HR records.

Do I Have to Follow All the Steps?

Yes. The requirement is for a fair process that allows all parties the ability to participate and to have access to all of the evidence. Failing to undertake one of those steps such as a separate investigation could undermine the findings of the disciplinary and lead to a possible tribunal claim. But it is also important to consider each case on its own merit and recognise where adaptation to the process may be required.

The case found that an employer who refused to allow an employee’s mother to attend as their companion, was a failure to make a reasonable adjustment. The tribunal found there were extenuating circumstances due to the employee’s disability and the requirement for additional support and that rejecting the request, created an intimidating environment.

The same case also highlighted the importance of independence in investigations. The case involved two employees and as a consequence two hearings and investigations. The employer decided to swap the roles of disciplinary hearing manager and investigation officer between the two employee hearings. The tribunal found that there were “chances of contamination in the investigation between the decision maker and investigator of both cases..” and that the approach taken ” was “outside the band of reasonable responses”.

What Are the Repercussions for Not Following the Process?

  • Risk of claims for unfair dismissal- inadequate procedures or failing to adhere to published processes could mean consideration is not given to specifics of a matter or the process is incomplete ahead of any disciplinary outcomes, resulting in higher risk of a claim being made.
  • Costs of defending a claim – outside of the possible awards that could be made, there are legal costs as well as the costs of management time to consider.
  • Reputational damage – externally to your employer brand which could impact negatively on relations with suppliers, customers and deter future employees. Similarly existing staff want to be reassured that that an organisation follows its own rules and won’t attempt to ‘fast track’ a process.

Employers can avoid these pitfalls by having documented disciplinary processes which are clearly communicated and accessible to all; ensure the processes are adhered to; and provide training to those hearing disciplinaries as well as those investigating them. Disciplinaries will be an inevitable part of the workplace environment, but employers who put these measures in place can reduce potential challenges and minimise risks of future claims.

For specialist HR support with any of these issues, please contact Sue Meehan Boyes in our team on 07384 468797.

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It’s hard to remember a time before hybrid working. But as its usage has increased, so have some challenges. In this article we look at those challenges and consider how you can manage them within your own business.

The Current Picture in the UK


Recent data from the London Underground suggests that office attendance in the key London business districts has levelled off since November 2022. A Centre for Cities report stated that a hybrid working pattern is now most common in the capital, with the average office worker attending in person two days per week with three days worked remotely.

The report raises interesting questions regarding the loss of opportunities to collaborate in person, suggesting that the established economic benefits of ‘agglomeration’ which have been evidenced over the last century, are now on the decline. Although, given technological advances to accommodate remote collaboration in recent years, perhaps the impact is more nuanced than is being suggested.

Being co located with colleagues provides valuable opportunities for collaboration, learning and social interaction. But the pandemic has also demonstrated the value of remote working in fostering employee well-being, and work-life balance, without compromising on productivity.

Many employers continue to offer hybrid or remote-only working opportunities to attract and retain the best talent in a competitive recruitment landscape. Other academic research has evidenced the benefits of remote working to the wellbeing of employees, with the recent 4 day week study being a resounding success with 92% of those participating in the trial adopting the working pattern on an ongoing basis. Many employers who participated in the 4 day week study also offered hybrid or remote-only working opportunities and actually found a distinct increase in productivity.

Is Hybrid Working Right for Your Organisation?


It’s clear that the demand for flexible working is here to stay and that it can work. But it is equally important to recognize that there is no ‘one size fits all’ and organisations should review their own challenges before attempting to adopt any drastic changes to working practices.

As an employer, you might want to consider how you are measuring and monitoring the effectiveness of your current working practices.

  • This could include metrics such as financial data, productivity data, sickness absence data, recruitment and retention metrics, employee wellbeing data etc.
  • Seeking feedback from your employees informally on how it’s working for them through employee forums, surveys or via management.
  • Reviewing your flexible working policy and how you promote this within your organisation.

Peter Cheese, Chief Executive of the CIPD, said in response to the four-day-week trial “[the pilot] has shown the potential organisations have to rewrite the rules on working norms across different roles and sectors… [to] create better balance of working lives for their people while maintaining business output and outcomes”.

Keeping Connected While Hybrid Working


Being truly connected to your team is not simply about being online. The real puzzle is how we can maintain the scope for collaboration when working remotely. A few things you can consider:

  • Train your managers on how to engage, motivate and manage a remote team
    Remember, the skillset required to manage a dispersed team is not the same as managing a face to face team.
  • Create a working environment where innovation is encouraged and nurtured
    Depending on how you work, it may help to schedule some team thinking time. This could be during regular online meetings and/or during face to face development sessions.
  • Make face to face time count
    If you are arranging face to face events that will require investment and travel, make them worthwhile! Seek input from the team on the design of the day and how you will measure its success.
  • Maximise the use of technology but don’t forget the importance of human connection!
    One of the key criticisms of hybrid working is the lack of opportunity for human connection and socialising. You can weave in opportunities for social connection to your face to face events but we would also recommend making space for this remotely too.
  • Review and evolve
    Schedule regular opportunities to revisit the way things are done. It should not be set in stone and the way you work should evolve with the needs of the organisation and the team.

Looking Ahead

The evidence certainly suggests that hybrid working patterns will remain an established way of working for the foreseeable, something that businesses need to consider when they are looking to the future and the development of their recruitment strategies. In a recent survey by Deloitte, 77% of Gen Z and 71% of millennials would consider looking for a new job if their employer asked them to go to their workplace full-time. Likewise existing staff have appreciated the benefits a more flexible approach can bring – whether that’s in reduced travel time, better balance of caring responsibilities. Engaging with staff and giving consideration as to what could really work within the workplace, will help businesses be in the best position to both attract new talent and retain and motivate current employees.

 For a discussion on how you can make hybrid working or other forms of flexible working work in your organisation or the training we can offer, contact Kathryn Chidzey-Jones  in our team on 07881 092524.