How to boost your business productivity?

So why is it that some companies are able to steam ahead with great products and market share while others fall by the wayside?

A new book (Time, Talent, Energy) by Michael Mankins explains why he believes that businesses should target high performers to perform mission-critical tasks.

Most business schools used to teach that financial capital was the element that separated winners from losers, but the 2008 crash changed all that.  According to Michael Mankins, the real scarce resources now are the time, talent and energy of any organisation’s workforce.  Yes, the ‘war on talent’ has been around for a while, but here we are talking about the great ideas that people come up with and execute every day.  This is about having employees who are ‘curious’.  Curious enough to want to improve the way things are done, question the status quo and won’t take ‘no’ for an answer if they are not given a clear rationale why management won’t give the ‘go ahead’ for a business initiative.

Mankins’ book claims that most companies, when designing their talent strategies, default to ‘unintentional egalitarism’.  They do this by deploying people who are available or have a certain skill set rather than appointing their top people into mission-critical projects.

So what is your organisation’s mission critical challenge?   Why not call or email us about your next business challenge and how you are going to deliver it.  We’d be delighted to talk it through with you.


Why better HR support is key to productivity

The Chancellor’s recent budget highlighted the UK’s poor productivity growth.  It is complex because there are many contributing factors such as low investment in capital equipment, cheap labour and poor levels of literacy and numeracy.  Increasingly though management quality is coming under the spotlight.   The chief economist at the Bank of England argued in a speech made in March 2017 that management quality is plausibly the main reason for many of the UK’s low productivity companies.

Against this backdrop the CIPD have developed and piloted its People Skills initiative which provided HR support to more than 400 small firms through local partners.

One of the most significant findings from the research project is that the first step to business improvement for many small businesses is getting the very basics of people management in place – establishing staff terms and conditions, drafting job descriptions and having one or two important staff policies in place. The research suggests that until these people management ‘foundations’ are in place, owner-managers don’t have the capability, interest, or time to invest in value-added activity like training staff.   Moreover, HR interventions, if they are to
be applied appropriately and implemented effectively, require specialist knowledge.

The CIPD research found that while the typical type of support delivered to small and medium-sized enterprises (SME)s through the People Skills Initiative service was fairly transactional, there was evidence that the initiative added significant value to participant organisations.

So whether you are needing to get the transactional basics resolved such as drafting your employment contracts and establishing your disciplinary procedures or you are looking for transformational change such as reforming performance management practices or reconfiguring your reward system, please get in touch for an initial free consultation.


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.


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.


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.


How Vlex-ible will your Organisation be in a post-COVID world?

It is extraordinary how the pandemic has challenged long held views.   I remember some years ago trying to persuade a chief executive that flexible working would improve the organisation’s capacity and motivate staff to be more productive.  He was ‘old school’ in that if he couldn’t see staff in the office then he didn’t think they would be working effectively.

Varying reports based on research during the pandemic show that around 70% of people would be happy to continue working from home once the pandemic is over.

While a number of people felt the new way of working was foisted on them, a number quickly realised that the end of the long commute was a good thing, that report they have on the whole been more productive.   However, each individual is different and the challenge, from a people management perspective, is to ensure there is a way of balancing individuals’ desire for flexible and virtual working as well as keeping the organisation profitable and on target

Hafton has supported a number of its clients with on-line questionnaires to gauge the ‘mood music’ of the return to the office and what arrangement they believe will work in the future.  Most of them have opted for a blended approach, allowing staff to work partly from home and partly in the office, hence heralding a new vlex-ible (virtual and flexible) work environment.

So how can you make your organisation more vlex-ible?  Firstly, you need to have a culture of managing performance by output and not the number of hours someone works; secondly you need to have a clear plan to manage the flexible working arrangements in the business so that the work is covered.