SME Adviser Series: HR Success

This article was published by Fashion Rider in conjunction with several HR Consultants who have provided you with valuable information and support. Beavis Morgan is the preferred finance partner to Fashion Rider, the fashion industry’s premium membership site.

Many businesses feel that, in a lot of cases, they lack the expertise to drive forward a successful HR strategy. They simply don’t have the capacity, time or the people to manage all their HR issues which will make them more productive and help them with future growth.

Employees should be your greatest asset – as you cannot build a business without a good team of individuals.

When you do encounter an issue or problem with an employee, it is appropriate to deal with it promptly, as failure to do so will have a detrimental effect on the business – and the rest of the team.

Here are some tips to help you better manage your HR programme, thereby enhancing employee engagement and protecting your business: 

Social media – the biggest workplace distraction

72 per cent of employees regularly use social media to chat to friends and family when they should be working.

Employers need to ensure that they have clear policies and procedures when it comes to social media and the use of the same in the workplace. If social media is approved for work purposes then clear rules need to be provided around how employees conduct themselves to ensure that they do not break any defamation, data protection or privacy laws.

An employee handbook is a great way to document and communicate important information to employees. It can ensure you meet requirements relating to key policy documents that you need to communicate to employees, i.e. your Social Media policy. It can also contain other HR policy documents and important information on the company’s standards and codes of conduct.

Sickness during annual leave

An employee returns from annual leave and announces they were unwell for most of it so they want it to be considered as sick leave rather than annual leave?

Although it is true that employees may have this right, it is not an automatic right. As it currently stands, an employee who becomes sick (or is injured) whilst on annual leave is entitled to discontinue their holiday and re-take their annual leave at a later date.

To qualify to have the annual leave reimbursed, the employee needs to comply with the following:

– Employees should fully comply with the sickness reporting procedure. It is recommended that employees are never permitted to report absence by email or text. If an employee is genuinely unable to call themselves, someone should do it on their behalf.

– In addition to complying with your reporting procedure, you can insist they provide medical evidence of their incapacity. Where an employee is abroad, this can be in the form of a letter from a local doctor. Where an employee fails to report their sickness properly and / or where no medical evidence is produced, you can refuse to reimburse the holiday.

Proof of right to work in the UK

What checks need to be carried out before engaging a new employee?

Before engaging a new employee, every employer has a legal obligation to carry out checks to ensure the individual has the right to work in the UK. You need to be aware that employers have a legal responsibility to see and keep copies of all employees’ documents evidencing they have the right to work in the UK even if they live in the UK.

Employers must closely inspect the validity of the applicant’s original documents in their presence (copies are not acceptable).

The employer must take copies of the documents and record the date they were checked and then retain the copy for audit purposes.

It is good practice to include the request for the candidate to bring evidence of their right to work in the UK during the recruitment process and certainly no later than their first day of employment with you. It is also advisable to include a clause in the contract of employment and any offer of employment letter that in line with the Immigration Act 2016, they are required to provide these documents.

Making these checks will help avoid any huge financial penalties (uncapped) or even imprisonment, should you be found to be employing an illegal worker.

Five key challenges in human resources

Employee engagement is one of the key aspects of corporate life in the 21st century – utilising your business’ talent to get the best from them and creating a positive environment for your staff to flourish.

Companies depend on their people; disengaged staff cost your company money and affects the bottom line.

We have created a model to find out about the employee experience, what the goal is and create a strategy to bring everyone on board and get there – six fundamentals for fast growth, which include looking at creating the right environment, structure, clear roles, what are the value, engagement and strategy.

Here are a few of the most important challenges of human resources.

1.People Strategy
Recently there’s been a greater understanding that growth is more achievable with a people strategy. In the past, it hasn’t been recognised that employees make the biggest impact on a company’s growth, and the value of Human Resources has been downplayed. There’s been a paradigm shift, and there’s been an emphasis on engaging and creating the right culture within a company

2. Recruitment
It is a key part of Human Resources; finding the best talent is always hard. We use seconded recruitment consultants as the landscape is changing very quickly. Historically, recruitment coordinators managed an agency, but now direct sourcing methodology allows you to attract and engage with the right talent. This also means huge savings.

3. Communication
Creating a dialogue is at the top of the list when it comes to employee happiness. Most people need recognition for what they’re doing to be happy in their work. When there have been company issues, they want intervention and apologies, and appreciate openness and transparency.

4. Career path
A clear career path with support makes most employees a lot more satisfied in their role, and the key to that is continued development. We are seeing a lot of businesses opt for training support, especially leadership development. Often employees become managers because they’re good at a role, but struggle due to a lack of managerial experience. In line manager training, we develop key strengths for effective management.

Companies are often too reliant on new technologies, but tech is not the answer – but it is an enabler. Millennials have a different expectation of technology in business and that’s something to develop and encourage.

Two sides of the same coin

Too often HR can be tarred with the a negative brush and seen as a necessary evil. Whereas, in reality, HR has the greatest potential to enhance your work and enable you to realise your potential.

HR is not just about hiring and firing – although recruiting the right person for your company and sensitively managing someone’s departure from your company may form part of our work.

HR should be a constant throughout the lifecycle of your employees. It is our role to help you to provide a workplace where all the employees are fully engaged, focussed and performing to their highest capability.

Your company can be protected by putting in place clear and usable policies and procedures to ensure that you are legally compliant and also showing the best practice and employer duty of care.

Employees can also be provided with a safe place to go to address any concerns that they may have.

Not a week seems to go by without various extravagant news headlines on various workplace issues, be it mental health, sexual harassment, the impact of the menopause, to name a few. All of these issues come under the care of HR.

Businesses and the employer need to be supported, but to ensure compliance and best practice, they also need an employee advocate, advisor and source of welfare in the workplace.

Every employee has the right to be treated fairly and with dignity. It is the role of HR to ensure that this balance is achieved through training, guidance and the provision of advice or information as circumstances arise. Your company needs objective, impartial advice to support not only your organisation, but also your employees. 

Power to the people

You’ve got a great product. Your customers love what you do. Your business is doing really well, and growth and expansion are on the cards. Awesome. Well done!

What’s the main thing that makes your product great? The people who make it. What’s the thing that delights and exceeds your (happy) customers’ expectations? The people that deliver the service.

So, having a great product and great service isn’t all that’s required to strengthen business growth and success.

Nope, it’s about your people. The power is in, and with, the people. We are passionate about people – and that includes you – so indulge us a little and think about this:

What would happen if Dave in Development heard on the grapevine that one of your competitors was hiring people at his level, were offering a bit more money and were also offering a great training and employee development scheme? Dave’s probably thinking of doing the offski is what’s happening.

And what impact would it have if Caroline in Customer Service, who heads up a team who all think she’s the bee’s knees, heard through the grapevine – you get the message.

We’re not saying that you need to be held to ransom by your staff; no- one is irreplaceable. But some are invaluable?

Employers – particularly SMEs that have become a bit stuck in their ways – need to do far more when it comes to their employees. Especially in terms of upskilling, training and ensuring that the company salary scales and benefits packages are realistic, robust and relevant.

Focus on retention with the things you can control – like training, wages, benefits package – rather than having to deal with things you can’t control – like Dave doing the offski.

Recruiting people costs money obviously, but the impact of losing a key member of staff on your remaining workforce can cost even more. 

When good people leave, other good people follow.

Data, recently released from the Office of National Statistics, shows that wage growth in the UK job market in 2017 was a measly 2.5 per cent over that of the previous year. Our candidates regularly tell us that the thing that puts their backs up the most is when they hand their notice in, are called in for ‘the chat’, and their boss offers them a matching pay rise. And better benefits. And agree – finally – to them working from home a couple of days a month. It’s too little, too late.

Retention isn’t rocket science, but it is all too easy to get it wrong. Seek expert advice.

Building the right team

Getting the right team for your business is no easy task, but there are some HR tools which can help out immensely.

Know what you need:  

It is too easy to say ‘I need a …’ and then go out and advertise on Indeed or the like. However, a bit of preparation is good to make your team (and your life) better. The Job Description and Person Specification. These are old fashioned, solid documents which can form the building blocks of your organisation – you can google a template or hire an HR consultant to help you design one that is right for your business. Analysing the tasks and responsibilities, then moving to describe the experience, skills and talents to deliver the tasks will help you find the right person. If you have already hired, it is still a good exercise as you use these to develop and manage your people.

Recruiting Right:

Once you have all the information on the job and the person, it is far easier to write an advert for candidates to review. Personally, I would add in the salary range to the advert so that everyone knows up front what you can afford. The job description will also help you ask the right questions at interview. Ask open questions (ones that don’t lead to a yes or no answer) about when they have done the various tasks before. “Tell me about a time when you…” Past performance is an indicator of future performance! Don’t be afraid of getting candidates to show you work, come in for a couple of hours to work shadow, review their portfolios or get them to complete a piece of work from a specification.

Regular monitoring:

You have a team, now you must manage them. You have heard of appraisals, but how useful are they? For any team, a yearly one-off meeting, where everyone panics, and no one has properly prepared, is useless. Regular one to one meetings focusing on the key elements of the job, making sure targets are on track ensures that you keep on top of their performance. Remember to set goals and targets, whatever the job – you can refer to the job description to find key elements which need to be monitored. Remember SMART – SPECIFIC, MEASURABLE, AGREED, REALISTIC and TIMEBOUND – Google it.

Remember, even Leaders need development and encouragement, it can be difficult to find the right Mentor or Coach, but it is worth it in the long run. Being a Leader can be a lonely business, friends and family are great, but when it comes down to business decisions – picking the right mentor can be a great investment. You can review the Association of Business Mentors (other associations are available) for more information.

When it all goes wrong:

So, things happen, and people don’t work out. If your gut is telling you that there is a problem time to act. If you are having one to one’s, setting goals and have the job clear in the Job description, it will be easy to put facts behind your gut feeling. Best advice is to act quickly and not store up concerns on work or behaviour. Tell the person, respectfully and with examples of where they are going wrong and give them timescales to improve. If the person has under 2 years employment with you then if it is not working out then you can dismiss, paying their notice entitlement and any outstanding holiday. Be careful – the Equality Act applies from the time you advertised so be mindful of potential discrimination.

The worst thing you can do is delay as this will have a knock-on effect on the team and your business. If you are worried about doing the above, you can hire an HR Consultant or phone ACAS for free.

About Beavis Morgan

As specialist business advisers to the fashion and retail sectors, and through our association with Fashion Rider, we work with businesses to identify their unique requirements. We then design and implement a system that will provide all the information needed to run and grow a business, through real-time information on actual performance, within a cost effective and efficient framework.

Contact Steve Govey or your usual Beavis Morgan Partner to find out more about how we can help you with your entrepreneurial ideas and your fashion or retail business. 

We are here to guide you through each stage of the business lifecycle, whilst navigating the challenges and advising on making the right decisions both now and for the future – for you, your family and your businesses.

Click here for more advice and tips for small and medium sized businesses throughout each lifestage – from startup, through growth, maturity and exit

With thanks to:

Fashion Rider –
Social Media, Sickness & Proof of Right to Work in UK – by Practical HR –
5 Key challenges in Human Resources – by Hunter Adams Limited –
Two sides of the same coin – by Evolution HR –
Power to the people – by Kirsty Craig Associates –
Building the right team – by Breathing Space HR Ltd –