18/04/2018

Is virtual collaboration the new norm?

Today we have greater control over where and when we work.  As our businesses spread across the world and technology makes it easy to do our jobs from anywhere there’s wi-fi, more of us have the option to ‘go remote’.   Businesses whether large corporates or small to medium-sized businesses are getting better at allowing more flexible working practices helped by the recent flexible working legislation.   But are we any good at managing the virtual collaboration environment?

Whether you’re calling in from a home office every day or one of your team members occasionally logs in from the quiet car on a train, distance can make collaboration more difficult.  Remote work gives teams flexibility and options, but when you’re not face-to-face with colleagues, it’s difficult to set and manage expectations, deal with inevitable tech glitches, keep your people (and yourself) motivated and engaged, and infuse warmth and personality into the blunt communication tools you’re using.

Harvard have produced a series of guides called The Virtual Manager Collection which give you the solutions you need to be productive, whether you’re managing a team, a project, or just your own work.   The guide is a three-volume set and includes :

  • Virtual Collaboration,
  • Running Virtual Meetings, and
  • Leading Virtual Teams.

The volumes cover a wide variety of tips and strategies such as:

  • Getting your technology up and running—and keeping it there
  • Building and maintaining relationships from afar
  • Communicating well through a variety of media
  • Running productive virtual meetings
  • Setting and managing expectations for your work
  • Leading geographically dispersed teams

If you would like to get further advice about how to manage a virtual team, work more effectively remotely or would simply like reassurance about your current employment practice, please get in touch.   Please also have a look previous blogs from Hafton on related matters:-

01/05/2018

Should you give support and guidance to your staff on financial matters?

Employers are making clear strides when it comes to caring for the physical health of their staff members, but what about their financial health support?

At a time when employees are struggling financially, and the top talent is in higher demand than ever, it’s important that employers work to help their employees with their financial health.  By ignoring this aspect of employees’ wellbeing, they risk losing them to competitors and fail to deliver a holistic strategy.

A recent report by UK Employee Benefits Watch, based on 450 UK employers representing approximately 1.8 million employees, reveals that more than two-thirds of UK employers are failing to provide the financial support and guidance required by employees in the workplace.  Most employers now have pension schemes in place, thanks to the auto-enrolment provisions, but there is little focus on addressing employees’ short and medium-term financial needs.

Providing adequate financial guidance is not only important for employees but is also beneficial for employers, because it means that by nurturing your biggest competitive advantage, they are not hampered by the myriad effects of poor financial health.

If you would like to get further advice about how and when to turn to for financial advice for your employees please get in touch.   We’d love to hear from you and signpost you to some renowned providers.

26/06/2018

The return of “presenteeism”?

Back in 2016, a secretary at the global accountancy firm, PWC, was sent home from work after refusing to wear high heels in line with the company’s dress code.  It was a much publicised case.

Now, the Government Equalities Office have released their latest guidance on the issue of workplace dress codes entitled “Dress codes and sex discrimination – what you need to know.

The guidance is a direct response to requests made earlier this year by both the Women and Equalities and Petitions Select Committees and provides best practice recommendations for enforcing dress code policies.

Amongst the main takeaways from the guidance is that whilst dress code policies remain lawful, they should not be constructed in a way that disadvantages one employee over another. Additionally, whilst dress codes for male and female employees do not have to be identical, the standards imposed should be equivalent and any less favourable treatment on account of gender runs the risk of direct discrimination. To mitigate the risk organisations are urged to avoid gender specific requirements altogether explaining that requiring female staff to wear high heels, make-up or have manicured nails is likely to be unlawful, providing there is no equivalent requirement for men.

Employers are also encouraged to consider if there is a valid business reason for enforcing a specific dress code and if this is truly required to achieve a legitimate business aim. For example, employers in formal settings who wish for their staff to dress smart can reasonably achieve this aim without requiring female employees to wear high heeled shoes.

In other notable points, the guidance recommends that dress codes should:

  • Not be a source of harassment at the hands of colleagues of customers
  • Take into account relevant health & safety requirements
  • Allow for reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010
  • Allow transgender staff to dress in line with their gender identity
  • Allow flexibility around religious symbols and jewellery

Whilst this guidance does little to alter the laws surrounding dress codes, organisations would be wise to consider its recommendations that many commonly enforced requirements either ‘could’ or ‘may’ be considered unlawful should a case ever be taken to an employment tribunal.  Moreover, this guidance adds further weight to the governments ongoing efforts to address workplace inequality which includes gender pay gap reporting and the promotion of shared parental leave.

Please get in touch if you’d like to discuss issues around dress code or talk about any challenges you are facing. We’d be delighted to help you.

01/08/2018

What’s the dress code?

Back in 2016, a secretary at the global accountancy firm, PWC, was sent home from work after refusing to wear high heels in line with the company’s dress code.  It was a much publicised case.

Now, the Government Equalities Office have released their latest guidance on the issue of workplace dress codes entitled “Dress codes and sex discrimination – what you need to know.

The guidance is a direct response to requests made earlier this year by both the Women and Equalities and Petitions Select Committees and provides best practice recommendations for enforcing dress code policies.

Amongst the main takeaways from the guidance is that whilst dress code policies remain lawful, they should not be constructed in a way that disadvantages one employee over another. Additionally, whilst dress codes for male and female employees do not have to be identical, the standards imposed should be equivalent and any less favourable treatment on account of gender runs the risk of direct discrimination. To mitigate the risk organisations are urged to avoid gender specific requirements altogether explaining that requiring female staff to wear high heels, make-up or have manicured nails is likely to be unlawful, providing there is no equivalent requirement for men.

Employers are also encouraged to consider if there is a valid business reason for enforcing a specific dress code and if this is truly required to achieve a legitimate business aim. For example, employers in formal settings who wish for their staff to dress smart can reasonably achieve this aim without requiring female employees to wear high heeled shoes.

In other notable points, the guidance recommends that dress codes should:

  • Not be a source of harassment at the hands of colleagues of customers
  • Take into account relevant health & safety requirements
  • Allow for reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010
  • Allow transgender staff to dress in line with their gender identity
  • Allow flexibility around religious symbols and jewellery

Whilst this guidance does little to alter the laws surrounding dress codes, organisations would be wise to consider its recommendations that many commonly enforced requirements either ‘could’ or ‘may’ be considered unlawful should a case ever be taken to an employment tribunal.  Moreover, this guidance adds further weight to the governments ongoing efforts to address workplace inequality which includes gender pay gap reporting and the promotion of shared parental leave.

Please get in touch if you’d like to discuss issues around dress code or talk about any challenges you are facing. We’d be delighted to help you.

23/10/2018

How to transition well in the workplace?

In 2005, I was working for a government organisation promoting and supporting small and medium-sized businesses in the capital.  I was approached by a staff member telling me that he wanted to live as a woman.    This was well before the Equality Act 2010 and the protected characteristic of gender re-assignment had been introduced.

At that time, we had had no training for staff to help them handle these situations so I had to work with the Gender Trust in the UK to make sure we had a good approach.  I worked with the individual’s line manager to make sure that we sequenced the communication with clients, management and staff as well as in the individual’s family, so that the transition went as well as possible.   I am no longer in touch with the individual concerned so don’t know what the experience is like now.

Even almost 10 years on, many transgender people find they are the subject of discrimination.  Examples such as organisations not having gender neutral facilities, insisting on rigid and gendered dress codes, and colleagues side-lining or ignoring them, means there is still prejudice in the workplace.

Just recently on the trip to San Francisco I met with Dana Pizzuti, a Senior Vice President in a biotech sector company in South San Francisco.  Her experience of transitioning in the workplace has led her to write a book.

Originally Dana set out to write a memoir but she soon realised that she needed to write a guide, the one that she didn’t have when she was transitioning.  The book—Transitioning in the Workplace: A Guidebook—offers transgender people and their employers everything they need to know to ensure a successful transition in the workplace.

By the way in a previous article about dress code see previous article on “What’s the dress code?”, I mentioned the UK Government’s recent guidance which recommends that employers should allow transgender staff to dress in line with their gender identity.

The imperative is not just about being an inclusive employer and making the most of your best talent.  Ignoring good inclusion practice means you could end up having to make a pay out, as Primark found to its cost.  An employment tribunal asked them to make a £47,000 award to an individual who was told she had a ‘man’s voice’.

Please get in touch if you’d like to discuss any challenges around transitioning in the workplace or about dress code for transgender employees. We’d be pleased to help you.

13/03/2019

Some myths about Flexible Working

The flexible working arrangements regulations have been in place since 2014, yet a recent report, Megatrends, published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD) in January 2019 shows that the take up of flexible working has flat-lined – the number of full-time employees taking up a flexible arrangement between 2010 and 2017 has remained 27%. However, the number of arrangements has increased from 23% since 2005 and it is worth noting that the numbers of part-time roles has increased from 4%(1950s) to 26% in 2018.

Any organisational culture in a company or business needs to show that flexible working adds value. We tend to think of flexible working as ‘working from home’. However flexible working also includes working patterns such as compressed hours, a nine-day fortnight, working from another location and better use of technology to promote collaboration such as teleconferencing and secure shared on-line documents. Some larger international companies have allowed different business units to design their own flexible working policies that work for them. Why have a one-size fits all when across the globe countries and cultures have very different needs around work / life balance?

Many employers are still suspicious that if they cannot see an employee in the office at their desk they are not fully working. It’s good to think about introducing the subject of flexible working at regular one-to one meetings with employees to see if a flexible working arrangement would improve productivity and efficiency. This shows that you trust the individual to give their best and shows you are interested in making their working pattern the best it can be.

One challenge facing employers is whether to have a formal flexible working arrangement process or an informal one. Having a formal process can feel a bit patronising, particularly making them fill in an application form. On the other hand, you want to have a consistent approach and make sure all employees are not being treated differently.

So what next? If you believe your organisation could benefit from flexible working arrangements why not give Hafton a call or email them at info@haftonconsultancy.com.

09/05/2019

The Art of Nudging

Normally when you tell people what they need to do, they ignore it or rebel against it.

So how can you influence people to take action? Well, you can nudge them. Nudge theory has been around for a while and has been much written about including Richard Thaler’s book, Nudge, published in 2008. At its core is the premise that people will respond to indirect suggestions and reinforcements so influencing their behaviour and decisions in a positive direction.

In recent years we have seen government initiatives use this theory, with a view of improving social outcomes. For example, the pensions auto-enrolment scheme and Making Tax Digital (MTD), are both based on persuading individuals to take positive action. So you have to act to ‘opt out’ rather than actively ‘opt in’.

A recent CIPD report “Our Minds at Work: The Behavioural Science of HR” argues that the HR professional and management could benefit from using the power of the ‘nudge theory’ based on what and how people are thinking rather than focussing on policy and procedures.

So how should you think about making a good nudge initiative? Ideally it should follow the EAST acronym. Easy, Attractive, Social and Timely. You also need to make the most of a number of human traits:-
• Inertia: Situations where people are lazy and stick with the default option such as organ donation. The government plans to bring in an automatic opt-in from spring 2020.
• Social Pressure: We are social beings, so we tend to follow if the majority of others have taken a certain action. We believe they can’t all be wrong!
• Immediacy of events: After major events like floods and storm damage, people tend to forget very quickly about updating their insurance.
• Framing: How a proposition is put to us is important. If you tell people 10% of people who had this operation needed further treatment within five years, they will probably react with alarm. However, if you present the same information that 90% of people needed no further treatment after five years, they might go into the operating theatre in a better mind-set.

Anyone involved in management or human resources will need to consider how people think and what influences their behaviour. Creating policies and telling staff what they should and shouldn’t do is unlikely to have the desired effect. On the other hand, identifying what will persuade them to buy into increasing their pension contributions, taking up company benefits, joining in the in-house welfare initiatives will make sure that these interventions succeed rather than fall by the wayside.

If you believe your organisation could benefit from some insights into “nudging” or you wish to discuss how to frame some of your organisation’s initiatives then please get in touch with Hafton by giving us a call or email us at info@haftonconsultancy.com.