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Looking for more in 2017?

marginal gains

Things being as they are in business, we’re all looking to get more out of what we have. So how do you increase productivity?

There are only three ways in which you can get an edge in business: you are either faster, cheaper or deliver better quality than the competition. Whichever you are aiming for, asking yourself a few simple questions will help you to identify areas in your own company which you can work on over the coming year to improve your productivity and profitability.

Do you have the right processes?

Take a look at what happens with each new piece of business.  Perhaps there are areas of your processes that need to be streamlined?  Processes develop as a business grows and you may find that you are doing things just as they have always been done, without looking at whether you could do things more simply, quickly or cheaply.  Are your IT systems a constant source of irritation to you and your staff?  Is there is a bottleneck in your business, where your product or service gets held up, perhaps waiting on an essential member of staff to do their part of the process? By looking at the way your activities are scheduled, you may find ways that the process could be simplified or streamlined to give you that extra edge.

Do you have the right people?

A large number of SMEs have employees who have worked there for many years and know the business inside out.  If you have one of these gems in your team, are you making the best use of their knowledge?  Are they still doing parts of their job that could now be delegated to others so that you can really put their know-how to better use?  Do you have the right tools to ensure that their knowledge forms part of your systems and isn’t just in their heads?

Experts are both incredibly useful, and a risk to your business if they leave or retire.  Do you have a plan in place for if that happens? As your business has grown (and no doubt changed over time), do your people have all of the necessary skills to take your business forward, or have gaps started to appear that you need to address?

Do your team know exactly what is expected of them, and how this contributes to delivering the bigger picture (i.e. your business plan)? As the old saying goes, ‘what’s gets measured gets done’, so it makes sense to review whether your team are still being targeted to deliver the right things.  Think about what you can do to make sure that your staff are motivated to do their best to help your customers and really build your reputation as the go-to company in your sector.

What are the small changes you can make?

Even when it looks like your business is a smooth, well-oiled machine, there are always ways in which you can increase your competitive edge, as Sir Dave Brailsford found with the practice of “marginal gains” that he applied to the highly successful British cycling team.

The team employed small strategies such as taking their own pillows away to ensure a better night’s sleep and ensuring that they washed their hands to a medical standard to reduce infection and illness. The same principles can be applied to your business. Can you improve your demand forecasting to ensure you meet your customers’ needs as quickly as possible without overloading your inventory?  What about maintenance of your systems or staff holidays?  Can down-time be better fitted to the fluctuating demands of the business?  Would better quality-control at certain points in your process reduce waste and add to your bottom line, while improving the reliability of your product?

Even tiny changes make a significant difference when added together.

If you’d like to make 2017 a more productive and profitable year, contact The People and Project Consultancy to discuss how we can help you to achieve this: claire@peopleandproject.com / +44 (0) 7929 021850

 

6 Top Tips for Employee Communication

It’s well recognised that effective communication and employee involvement are huge motivators in the workplace. So, if you haven’t yet taken the opportunity to share this year’s successes with your team, along with your plans for 2017, now is a great time to do it.

Six top tips for effective employee communication (and avoiding the scenario in the picture!):

  1. Think about what it is that you want to achieve with your communication.

Do you want to thank employees for their hard work this year and motivate them to achieve more of the same next year?

Has business been tough and you need to set expectations about what lies ahead?

Do you have ideas for new products or services which you’d like to test out with your team and get their feedback on?  

How do you want them to feel after the communication?  Energised? Motivated? Involved in the business? Recognised for their efforts? Aware that things need to change?

  1. Think about the best format for your communication, whether that’s putting something on a notice board, sending an email, holding a team meeting, having individual chats, or arranging a ‘town hall’ style meeting with the whole business. If you’re simply trying to get across facts, such as annual sales figures, new projects, or new clients, then putting a poster on a well-used notice board, or sending an email may be enough. However, if you want to use the opportunity for two-way communication with staff, to engage and motivate them, or to deliver a difficult message, then face to face will be more effective.
  1. Whatever form your communication takes, keep it clear and concise. Prepare by making brief notes on the key messages you want to get across to your team and then use these to help prepare your written or verbal communication.
  1. Use the opportunity to make your leadership of the business visible, particularly if you don’t have day to day contact with employees. The culture of a company, and its subsequent performance, is set from the top. A face to face all-company meeting is a great opportunity to speak with employees and get across your message in person. If you are sending an email, write it as if you are speaking to your team in person.
  1. Use your communications to build a shared sense of purpose and ensure you provide the context to what you are saying. If it’s been a tough year, but your team have pulled out all the stops and maintained sales figures, then make sure that they know that you appreciate this by talking about the business environment as well as the sales themselves. Conversely, if sales are up, but it’s due to external factors and you know that next year may be harder, use the opportunity to set expectations and energise your staff towards next year’s goals.
  1. Finally, it’s often easy to forget to say a simple ‘thank you’ to employees, yet in a survey by Glassdoor careers site, where more than 2,000 people were asked what makes them work harder, 81% said they are motivated to work harder when their boss shows appreciation for their work. Furthermore, a study by researchers at the Universities of Pennsylvania and North Carolina demonstrated the effect of gratitude on effort which showed that showing gratitude more than doubled the response rate of participants in the experiment. (For more details on the study, check out this blog on ‘3 Proven Ways To Motivate Your Customer Service Team‘.) The study shows that saying thank you and showing your appreciation isn’t just a ‘nice thing to do’ that makes your staff feel good, it can have a tangible impact on the performance of your business.
So, whatever this year’s successes are, and however you choose to communicate them, don’t forget to thank the people that helped you achieve them – your employees!

10 low cost/no cost ways to motivate your employees

It’s true that money is a motivator, and we all know the boost to morale that a pay rise can bring. However, that boost, and the associated increase in motivation and productivity, is usually short-lived. For the employee that is. For the employer, it represents a permanent and ongoing increase in cost that can spiral once you factor in the associated increases to pension contributions (and potentially bonuses) that an increase in base salary can bring.

Sometimes you have no choice, and you know that increasing someone’s salary is the right, and necessary, thing to do. But if you are looking for ways to give employees a boost, recognise their efforts, and differentiate yourself as an employer, then consider these ten low cost/no cost ways to reward and motivate your employees:

  1. Saying ‘thank you’.
  2. Letting them leave early on birthdays.
  3. Public recognition via team meetings/company blog/ Twitter/Facebook.
  4. Providing interesting work.
  5. Giving feedback (not just during the annual appraisal).
  6. Giving magazine subscriptions to your employees (to a relevant industry/professional magazine).
  7. Sharing business information and involving employees in decisions.
  8. Celebrating achievements – company anniversary, winning a new customer, meeting a significant deadline.
  9. Flexibility over hours/work location.
  10. Providing free fruit in the office.

 

All of these are ways of recognising and rewarding the efforts of your employees. Whilst low cost, in a business where budgets are tight, they can all help to create an environment where staff morale, motivation and productivity is high.

 

For more information and advice on creating an environment where your people and your business will thrive, please contact claire@peopleandproject.com  or call 07929 021850.

LOW COST TIPS FOR SME’S ON MAXIMISING YOUR SALARY BUDGET

As always at the start of a new year, labour market commentators make predictions about wage growth for the forthcoming twelve months. Currently, there are opposing views on what the year ahead will bring.  Strong wage growth is predicted as unlikely for 2016, according to analysis from the Resolution Foundation think tank, who estimate that real pay is likely to be just 1 per cent higher by the end of the year.

Conversely research by reward specialists Korn Ferry Hay Group predict that workers will receive a real wage increase of 2.3 per cent on average this year due to increasing employer optimism.

Clearly, it’s a difficult prediction to make, and time will tell whether there will be pressure on company pay budgets this year. However, regardless of the market, no doubt you will have your own salary bill pressures to contend with over the year. When there’s pressure to increase salaries, either because you’re finding it hard to recruit, or are worried about retaining your existing staff, it’s worth considering other ways to make the most of your available budget.

 

When recruiting:

If you’re finding it hard to recruit someone for a particular role, and have become aware that it’s because the salary you are offering is too low, think about job re-design.

In most roles there are normally a mix of tasks and activities, some of which require a higher level of experience or skill than others. If you know that the salary you are able to afford is on the low side for this type of role, consider removing some of the higher level tasks from the job description, or setting them at a lower level.

For example, if you were recruiting for a marketing manager – rather than expecting the job holder to be responsible for setting your marketing strategy as well as implementing it, you could remove the strategic element and focus the role on implementation. Someone who implements rather than creates the strategy is likely to be less experienced, and will therefore command a lower salary than their more experienced counterpart.

You could then buy-in expertise from an external consultant to develop your marketing strategy with you. Whilst this may seem like an additional expense, it is likely that the overall cost of buying in that expertise from an external specialist will be end up being cheaper than the ongoing employment costs associated with recruiting a senior employee to do this for you internally.

 

When trying to retain staff:

It’s true that money is a motivator, and we all know the boost to morale that a pay rise can bring. However, that boost, and the associated increase in motivation and productivity, is usually short-lived. For the employee that is. For the employer, it represents a permanent and ongoing increase in cost that can spiral once you factor in the associated increases to pension contributions (and potentially bonuses) that an increase in base salary can bring.

Sometimes you have no choice, and you know that increasing someone’s salary is the right, and necessary, thing to do. But if you are looking for ways to give employees a boost, recognise their efforts, and differentiate yourself as an employer, then consider these ten low cost/no cost ways to reward and motivate your employees:

  1. Saying ‘thank you’.
  2. Letting them leave early on birthdays.
  3. Public recognition via team meetings/company blog/ Twitter/Facebook.
  4. Providing interesting work.
  5. Giving feedback (not just during the annual appraisal).
  6. Giving magazine subscriptions to your employees (to a relevant industry/professional magazine).
  7. Sharing business information and involving employees in decisions.
  8. Celebrating achievements – company anniversary, winning a new customer, meeting a significant deadline.
  9. Flexibility over hours/work location.
  10. Providing free fruit in the office.

 

All of these are ways of recognising and rewarding the efforts of your employees. Whilst low cost, in a business where salary budgets are tight, they can all help to create an environment where staff morale, and therefore retention, is high.

 

For more information and advice on recruitment, job design, employee reward and retention, please contact claire@peopleandproject.com  or call 07929 021850.

National Minimum Wage – Know the Facts

money

It’s fair to say that probably every employer (and employee) has heard of the National Minimum Wage and, more recently, the National Living Wage.

But did you know that not paying the National Minimum Wage is a criminal offence?

And do you understand the difference between the National Minimum Wage and the National Living Wage?

The National Minimum Wage will increase from 1 October 2015 to £6.70 per hour for employees aged 21 and over, and the National Living Wage will come into force from April 2016. This post sets out some key facts about both.

Facts about the National Minimum Wage

  • The National Minimum Wage is the minimum pay per hour that all workers (apart from some very limited exceptions) are entitled to by law.
  • It was first introduced in April 1999, when it was just £3.60 per hour.  At the time, it was believed that more than 1.9 million people were being paid at a lower rate.
  • The National Minimum Wage rate is reviewed each year and is usually updated in October.
  • The National Minimum Wage rate varies depending on the age of the employee. From 1 October 2015 the following rates will apply:
    • 21 and over: £6.70 per hour
    • 18 to 20 year olds: £5.30 per hour
    • under 18: £3.87 per hour
    • apprentices: £3.30 per hour (This rate is for apprentices aged 16 to 18 and those aged 19+ who are in their first year. All other apprentices are entitled to the National Minimum Wage for their age.)
  • Accommodation provided by an employer can be taken into account when calculating the minimum wage. However, it’s not as simple as just adding the cost of accommodation to the worker’s pay. There are various rules relating to how much you can charge for accommodation, and if an employer charges more than this, the difference is taken off the worker’s pay which counts for the minimum wage. This means the higher the accommodation charge, the lower a worker’s pay is when calculating the minimum wage.
  • Employers who discover they’ve paid a worker below the minimum wage must pay any arrears immediately, as well as increasing the worker’s pay to meet the minimum wage.
  • HMRC officers have the right to carry out checks at any time and to ask to see payment records. They can also investigate employers, following a worker’s complaint to them. If HMRC finds that an employer hasn’t been paying the correct rates, any arrears have to be paid back immediately. There will also be a financial penalty and employers can be publically named and shamed by the government.
  • Employers are responsible for keeping records for three years, to prove that they are paying the minimum wage. Typically this will be your payroll records.

What is the National Living Wage?

A new, compulsory living wage is being introduced from April 2016. It will be paid to workers aged 25 and above. Initially, it will be set at £7.20 an hour, with a target of it reaching more than £9 an hour by 2020.

How is the National Living Wage different to the National Minimum Wage?

The National Living Wage applies only workers who are over 25 years old. Workers who are aged below 25 will not be eligible for the National Living Wage but will continue to be entitled to the National Minimum Wage, at the appropriate rate for their age.

 

Looking for further advice and guidance?  Contact Claire Carr – claire@peopleandproject.com   or +44 (0) 7929 021850.

PEOPLE PRIORITIES IN WELL-ESTABLISHED SMEs

working pic

You’ve enjoyed business success and your organisation is well-established and growing. You’ve taken pride in the way you manage your people-related processes and these have contributed to your business success. However, as your business consolidates, what has driven your success in the past may not necessarily work as well for you in the future.

This month’s update looks at the people priorities that are critical to your ongoing success.

What are your people priorities?

In larger, well-established SMEs, that are consolidating and building on their existing success, the critical people priorities are:

  • Understanding how the wider environment, performance, structure, employee capabilities, people processes, and culture are affecting the achievement of your current and future business plans and priorities.
  • Ensuring you have the right people, in the right roles, to deliver long term business goals.
  • Ensuring your company values are embedded in your organisation and drive the behaviours you need for continued business success.
  • Developing a change –ready culture to maintain flexibility and fleet-footedness.

So what can you do to address these priorities?  Developing a formal HR strategy which directly links to, and underpins, your business strategy and objectives will be key to continued success. Workforce planning will then help you to identify future recruitment needs, skills gaps and succession plans.

Employee engagement surveys are a great way to assess how motivated and committed your people are, and identify ways to increase their commitment to your business goals and drive productivity. It’s also vital as you continue to grow, to ensure that you formally communicate your organisation’s vision and values and embed them in your ways of working. Clear, well communicated values are invaluable – from helping you to recruit people who have a good ‘fit’ with your business, to guiding those same people in their day to day work and decision-making.

Warning signs

As you continue to enjoy success and expand your business further, there are some signs to watch out for, which may mean that your HR approach needs to move up a gear. Do you recognise any of these signs in your own business?

  • Different teams or departments are not working together, which is causing problems.
  • Employees increasingly demand a clear career path.
  • Tensions are evident between the reward expectations of ‘old hands’ and ‘new recruits’.
  • The current organisation structure will not accommodate future business growth.

If these warning signs are familiar to you, it’s likely that the time has come to review your existing organisation structure, revamp reward packages (to balance cost, talent retention and employee engagement), and establish a formal career development process. You may also benefit from establishing an engagement strategy and running cross-team communication workshops to breakdown team silos.

Why does HR matter?

Getting the people and human resources aspects of your business right is an investment in making your business as successful as it can be. Get it wrong, and it could cost you valuable time in sorting out problems that could have been avoided, as well as hard cash if an employee makes a claim against you and wins.

All businesses are different and what’s right for one may not be right for another. It’s important to tailor your HR activities to the size and maturity of your organisation. This will ensure that you’re covering the legal basics; attracting, motivating and rewarding your employees; and yet not creating an unnecessary administrative burden that so often gets associated with ‘that HR stuff’.

Want to discuss how great HR can benefit your business? Contact Claire Carr – claire@peopleandproject.com   or +44 (0) 7929 021850.