The future of the workplace

We are in a fast moving world in which major changes to the workplace over the next few years are envisaged.  In a series of blogs, we will be looking at these key changes and what they might mean to us in HR.  We start with resourcing.

What are the predicted changes?

  • There may be fewer permanent roles in the future, in fact by 2020 it is envisaged that half the people that an organisation relies on, won’t be employed by them;
  • Contractors/freelancers will increasingly be used for specific projects to bring in particular and specific expertise. These are often known as portfolio workers and are part of the open talent economy;
  • According to Deloitte, increasingly companies are expanding their talent networks to include “partnership talent” (employees who are part of joint ventures), “borrowed talent” (employees who are part of contractors or outsourcing relationships), “freelance talent” (independent, individual contractors), and “open source talent” (people who don’t work for the organisation at all, but are part of the value chain and services);
  • There will be a further increase in flexibility (both geographically & hours of work) of the workforce enabling more people to work flexibility and have a work life balance;
  • With fewer in house employees, they will be the people who are able to take on multiple roles and are of significant value to the organisation;
  • Employers are looking for long term relationships once again with their employees.

What does this mean for HR?

  • HR need to tap into and then manage these talent networks as resourcing experts not just recruiters;
  • With fewer employees, employers need to be treating them in a way that indicates they cannot do without them. So further investing in development and career planning, reward/recognition/benefits, performance evaluation and feedback systems will be crucial.
  • Leaders that can manage these talent ecosystems need to be developed;
  • Employees need to be set free from restrictive job descriptions, so they are able to use all their skills as well as be able to take on multiple roles;
  • We will need adaptable HR systems which can deal with the increased the flexibility of the workforce including various work patterns, compressed hours, flexi hours recording;
  • HR will be managing complex contracts and resource arrangements;
  • Further increasing use of technology to enable more remote working and flexibility around working hours and measuring outputs not inputs, in other words measure productivity not length of time in the office.

It is therefore an incredibly exciting time to be in HR! In the next blog we will look at how predicted changes will impact on our approach to recruitment.

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Too hot to work?

As temperatures are set to soar this week, what does the law say about workplace temperatures and what should employers be doing to make things more comfortable for their employees?

What are the rules?

Interestingly there is no legal minimum or maximum working temperature.  This is because some workplaces operate at extreme temperatures. However, guidance suggests a minimum of 16ºC or 13ºC if the work involves ‘rigorous physical effort’.  These temperatures are not absolute legal requirements – the employer has a duty to determine what “reasonable comfort will be” in the particular circumstances.

What should Employers do?

The Health and Safety Executive says employers must take into account six basic factors when deciding whether to keep people in the workplace.  These are; air temperature, radiant temperatures, air velocity, humidity, the clothing employees are expected to wear, and their expected work rate.

Under the Health & Safety regulations, the temperature at work is one of the factors employers have to take into account and may be obliged to carry out a risk assessment and then rectify the situation.

Ultimately, the temperature at work should be “reasonable” when factoring in the type of workplace.

So our job as employers is to keep an eye on the temperatures and do what is reasonable –  relax dress codes, provide fans, have cold water available and tweak working practices where practical.  Overall be sensible and sensitive.

Might things change in the future?

The TUC has called for a maximum workplace temperature of 30C for non-manual work, and 27C for manual work, meaning employees would be automatically sent home if the workplace temperature exceeded it.

The TUC also wants to see an obligation on employers to start taking measures to cool a workplace when it reaches 24C. And while many employers will let staff dress more casually in the summer heat, the TUC wants this written into law.

Self employed is the new employer’s liability

Do you use self-employed contractors in your organisation?

Are you sure that your working relationship is that of a supplier and client?

This is particularly important in light of the Supreme Court ruling on the Pimlico Plumbers case that Mr Smith, a self-employed plumber was in fact a ‘worker’ and therefore entitled to certain legal rights including the right to a minimum wage, holiday pay and protection from discrimination.

It’s therefore a good time to look again at self-employed individuals in your business, what are they doing for you and how is it being done?   Here are some questions you should be asking yourself;

  • Are they providing their services to other clients and free to do so?
  • Do they use their own tools/equipment?
  • Are they free to substitute – send someone else to carry the service/work for you?
  • Are they free to carry out the work how they choose to, not having to follow working practices or procedures stipulated by you?
  • Do they have a written agreement detailing the terms under which they will provide the services to you?
  • Are they excluded from team meetings, company events etc?
  • Do you only give them work as and when you want to?
  • Do they decide when they will work and can turn down work when offered?
  • Do they invoice you for the time/service they provide to you?

If you answer ‘no’ to any of these questions than a Tribunal may consider them a worker and award backdated holiday pay along with other workers entitlements such as minimum wage, sick pay or protection against unlawful discrimination, if they were asked to consider a case.

If you have any questions or concerns on this then please get in touch with the Team at HRML who will be happy to provide you with further advice and guidance.

The unmasking of ‘unconscious bias’

Starbucks closed their US stores recently to provide training for their staff in unconscious bias, following an incident in one of their stores.  What is it and how can recognising and dealing with unconscious bias help us in business and our everyday life?

What it is

Implicit or unconscious bias happens when our brains make incredibly quick judgments and assessments of people and situations without us realising. Our biases are influenced by our background, cultural environment and personal experiences.

From an early age, we are taught, we read, hear and see things in the media and from others around us that include stereotypes.  The brain then uses this when making quick decisions, when we are not thinking.  This is not intentional and we are mostly unaware of this unconscious bias, but it happens.  It can often result in discriminatory behaviour, which though, unintentional, is still discrimination and unlawful and could land your business in an employment tribunal.

Where do you see it in business?

It has been proved that making snap judgements or decisions can influence the recruitment, promotion, recognition and development of others.   For example, people favour others who look like them, have a similar education, are from the same area or are the same ethnicity as them.

Sometimes a positive or negative trait is transferred onto a person, without any evidence or objective reason. Behaviour which reinforces the bias is noticed whilst behaviour which doesn’t, is ignored.

Studies have shown:

  • CVs with white sounding names sometimes receive a more positive response;
  • In scientific institutions male applicants were rated as significantly more competent and hireable than female applicants, were given a higher starting salary and offered more career mentoring than females
  • In healthcare, racial bias influences medical decision making

Cost to Business

  • The wrong candidate being selected and the hire potentially not working out and the cost of rehiring
  • Overlooking skilled and competent people, demotivating individuals and potentially losing them to competitors
  • A discrimination claim (which is uncapped)
  • A less diverse workforce, that all share similar characteristics and views, but are not reflective of your client/customer base and able to relate to them

What can we do?

  • Raise awareness (interactive workshops) so individuals recognise how unconscious bias can influence their judgements and decision making and how to take steps to overcome it;
  • Make sure we make ‘conscious’ decisions which are controlled and well reasoned;
  • Develop concrete, objective indicators & outcomes for recruiting, promoting, recognising and developing our people;
  • Keep monitoring your processes for decision making and raising awareness on an ongoing basis.

And finally – recently, the low number of women on FTSE Boards has also been attributed to unconscious bias so it remains a very relevant and topical issue and one that businesses should address as a matter of urgency.

 

How driving performance can benefit your business

Are you looking to drive performance within your business?

One of the benefits of developing an employee led performance culture in your organisation, is that it encourages staff to understand their value and enables them to support the business to achieve it’s overall goals and objectives.

When individuals set their personal development goals, they are more likely to want to ‘own them’ and therefore they are more likely to achieve or even exceeded them. This increase in ability to contribute to the success of the organisation can result in increased productivity.

How to achieve this is set out below:

Planning

The planning stage outlines what should be achieved and to what standard the performance and competencies must be reached.

Employees will create their own objectives as part of the development plan.  The manager will review the performance and development objectives and then agree the objectives with the employee.

It is fundamental to agree a time scale so that the individual is aware of when the objectives should be met.

Monitoring 

The employee’s progress is reviewed at one-on-one meetings. These meetings allow you to offer assistance and to identify any support or tools needed so they can meet the objectives.

The monitoring stage identifies how the employee is doing and what could be improved, it also gives the opportunity to review the development plan to see if anything needs changing or updating.

It is important to meet regularly to review progress and to provide feedback.  If there are issues which might be affecting the achievement of the objectives this could also be identified and addressed during these meetings.  Once again it should be the employee leading the discussion, so encourage them to book the meetings, prepare in advance and lead the sessions.

Review

At the end of a set period, say 3, 6, 12 months, the individual will carry out a self-assessment as a means to reflect on their achievements.  They should also reflect on areas that haven’t been achieved or partially achieved and the circumstances which might have impacted performance or professional development.

As part of this two-way process, the manager would also review the employee’s performance and provide feedback.

Whilst similar in many respects to what we might consider a ‘traditional’ approach, this employee led process increases engagement and the likelihood of a productive, supportive and achievement-led outcome.

Major sporting events & employment

With the Commonwealth Games underway in Australia and a packed summer of sport on the way, including the Football World Cup, it makes sense for employers to plan how to balance the needs of the business with the interests of individuals wishing to follow these events.

From an employment perspective, the challenges mainly come in the form of increased requests for annual leave, sickness absence and website usage during working hours.

So how best should we as employers’ handle this?

  • Be aware of the time differences and when key events may take place;
  • Discuss with your team their wishes and the needs of the business;
  • Identify if there can be any flexibility on your part and theirs. You may allow staff to swap shifts with their manager’s permission but any change in hours or flexibility in working hours should be approved in advance of the event;
  • Consider how you might handle multiple requests for leave, following your normal process first but then you might agree a ‘first come first served’ approach;
  • Sickness absence policies still apply during this time so remind people that attendance levels will be monitored during this period in accordance with your policy, any unauthorised absence or patterns in absence could trigger disciplinary proceedings. This could include high levels of sickness, late attendance or lower levels of performance at work due to post event celebrations;
  • Consider if you can operate a more flexible working day for a limited period, agreeing when time will be made up;
  • Allowing staff to listen to the radio or watch the TV for key events may be another possible option (always bearing in any mind health & safety implications);
  • You may need to remind people about your policy regarding web use in the work place, what is and is not acceptable use. If you are monitoring internet usage, remember to make it clear that it is happening;
  • It maybe useful to remind people that whilst they may wish to drink while watching events, coming to work under the influence of alcohol or drinking at work may result in disciplinary procedures. You may already have a no alcohol policy in place.

Finally, bear in mind to be fair and consistent with all staff when allowing additional benefits during major sporting events, as not all staff will be interested in the event and may view any ‘additional benefits’ given to colleagues as special treatment.

Right from the start..

You have experienced an increase in demand from your customers, they are becoming more and more demanding and are requesting more of the goods and services you provide.

Due to the demand, you believe you need to increase your headcount to help meet the customer requirement, but equally maintain the same level of service.

You aspire to continue driving the business forward in meeting the customer expectation and the business objectives, therefore you hire extra people.

Now that you have hired new employees into the business, your desire is for them to reflect the behaviours in line with your company culture and values and to deliver an outstanding service to your customers.

So, how could you achieve this?

This can be done by way of:

An effective on boarding programme

Discuss the company’s Mission, Vision and Values and the behaviours you expect of all employees.

Meet the team and key people who will provide new employees with an insight into what the business does and how they fit in.

Other areas you would cover in an induction programme are:

Terms and conditions

It is a good idea to talk through key terms and conditions with the new worker and give them details such as:

  • hours of work, including breaks
  • pay and benefits
  • Sickness and holiday procedures
  • Dress code/PPE

Policies/Company procedures

Provide the employee with a copy of company procedures and employee handbook drawing their attention to the most important areas such as:

  • Equality and Diversity
  • Confidentiality
  • Disciplinary and grievance procedures
  • Code of Conduct
  • Use of Social Media

Health and Safety

You are legally required to provide workers with any health and safety information they need to carry out their job safely.  This would include fire safety procedures, notifying them of any hazards on site and inform them if there are dedicated smoking areas.

Other areas which are beneficial to cover as part of the induction are a site tour and an introduction to equipment, where their job might involve operating machinery.

To further enhance a new employee’s knowledge and skill, you may need to provide technical skills training including customer service and IT skills training along with interpersonal skills training covering areas such as listening, verbal and written communication as well as time management.  This training could be in house or via external training, mentoring, coaching or job shadowing.

The key benefits of carrying out effective inductions together with training opportunities are:

-Enhances your employer brand

-Boosts employee engagement and retention

-Increases potential internal promotions, rather than costly recruitment & training of new employee

-A highly skilled workforce