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Specialist HR Support

Specialist HR Support – How Do You Know When Your Business Needs it? 5 Signs to Look For.

The development of HR in a business often follows a similar pattern. Initially, it starts out as the part-time responsibility of a nominated team member – perhaps with specialist HR support via a telephone advice line to call on for guidance. As the business grows and takes on more staff, the role becomes full-time and is given to someone with basic HR experience.

But there will come a time when this solution is no longer able to cope with the scale and depth of the organisation’s HR needs, and external specialist HR support is needed. While very large organisations can afford to invest in creating a dedicated internal HR resource staffed by experienced professionals, this isn’t an option open to most owners of small and mid-size businesses.

So how do you know when your business is approaching the point when it needs to have access to external, specialist HR support?

It’s different for every business: there are no set rules around headcount, turnover or any other metric. Although it isn’t possible to predict when the time will come with any degree of accuracy, it’s sensible to look out for early indicators so you can be proactive and prepare.

Working with a wide range of clients has given us an insight into some of the more common signals that indicate a business may be nearing the point when external support is needed.

Here are five to look out for:

1. When a single issue seems to dominate & never gets resolved

Many clients we work with employ between 11-50 people. I’ve noticed that when the headcount reaches around 20 or so, a persistent HR issue can often emerge. It might be about virtually anything, but most often, it will relate to a particular individual, and it just won’t go away. Because no one is quite sure how to address it and decisions aren’t made about it, it becomes disproportionate to its size and a distraction to business as usual.

2. When your internal HR resource doesn’t have the solutions you need

As already mentioned, it’s common for HR to be just part of one person’s role in a smaller organisation – perhaps supported by an advice line for guidance on basic rules and procedures. The individual may have minimal HR experience – possibly even none – and expectations of responsibilities will likely be limited to admin.

This kind of arrangement can work perfectly well, but at some point, an issue will almost certainly arise to test the boundaries of current capabilities, and this is a critical moment on the HR journey.

We often find ourselves called in to assist a highly competent individual who’s done a solid job of handling HR up to this point but finds themselves unsure of how to advise the business owner on a complex issue. And why should they? They don’t have the training, experience or knowledge to be able to provide a bespoke solution.

Without the right advice, a business owner who might otherwise be great at engaging and building relationships with employees, can easily find themselves out of their depth, leading to a bad situation becoming worse.

3. When your advice line provides rules & processes – but not the answer

While your HR needs remain relatively simple, subscription-based advice lines can be a cost-effective way to supplement your internal HR resource. However, most of these solutions tend to provide rather generic advice. They are generally great at reiterating rules and regulations and detailing the correct procedures to follow in set scenarios. But their value can be limited in more complex situations which call for a more nuanced approach and where an in-depth understanding of the business dynamics and the personalities involved is needed.

“Our HR requirements have changed as our business and workforce have grown exponentially. While our HR subscription service was still useful for queries relating to junior staff and apprentices, we recognised that we needed help implementing the advice provided. In addition, the service was not robust enough to support our needs in relation to senior staff.” Pete Mills, MD, Pantera. Read full case study.

4. When the consequences of not following due process catch up with you

In a small organisation, it’s easy for HR processes not to be applied quite as strictly as they should be. Lack of time, lack of knowledge, nervousness and a desire not to ‘upset the applecart’ might all be reasons for letting some seemingly minor issues go unchecked.

You might tell yourself that something isn’t important – and on its own, it might not be, but if you don’t follow processes, it’s probably going to catch you up sooner rather than later. Cut an employee some slack because they always meet their target, and when they really step over the line, you’ll find communicating your message much more difficult than it needs to be. Because you’ve not had the right conversations along the way, the employee might not even realise they were getting close to a red line. If you don’t follow the correct process from the outset, relationships can deteriorate, impacting your business – and you won’t get to the point where either the employee complies or you’re within your rights to take formal action.

5. When your business experiences significant growth or change

A period of growth or change in a business can often put pressure on an internal HR resource – especially when it hasn’t been explicitly planned with a specialist HR support focus.

You’ll have a business plan setting out key goals and milestones, but opportunities might present themselves – an acquisition for example, that may lead to an unanticipated growth spurt, or a new contract or client win might require you to add to your skillset by taking on new talent. Both scenarios have the potential to upset the dynamics of a business if they’re not managed with care.

“Our long-term objective is to manage our HR function in-house, but in the meanwhile, we needed an HR professional to advise and support us – and to train our internal resource. Working with Organic P&O Solutions gives us the reassurance that we’re doing things the correct way”. Anthony Young, Director, Bridewell Consulting. case study.

Where Are You on Your HR Journey? Is it Time for Specialist HR Support?

Do you recognise any of the indicators outlined above? If you do, it’s time to have a conversation about supporting your HR resource with external, specialist HR support, expert help and advice. Wherever you are on your HR journey, whatever level of internal resource you already have in place, and whatever kind of HR issues you might have to address, we’d love to assist you in your next phase.

At Organic P&O Solutions, our service can be as flexible as you need, adapting to your changing needs as your business grows. Get in touch with us today for an initial chat.

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Working Parents: 6 Things You Can Do to Help You Get Through Lockdown

Balancing work with parenting responsibilities is tough at the best of times. But with homeworking, home-schooling and changing school schedules thrown into the mix during lockdowns, life has become even more stressful for working parents with children of school or pre-school age.

According to the Modern Family Index, there were 13 million working parents in the UK in 2019. For the same year, the Office for National Statistics reported that 75.1% (three in four) of mothers and 92.6% of fathers with dependent children were in work in the UK. All these numbers have been increasing steadily over the last 20 years or so.

It’s quite likely you’ll have working parents in your team, and you may even be one yourself.

Although we’re all in this together, each of us will be experiencing lockdown from our own unique perspective. As a working Mum myself and with working parents in my team, I can empathise with others in similar situations. I wanted to use this space to share a few of my own experiences and some coping strategies to help working parents – employers and employees alike – deal with these challenging times:

1. Keep talking!
The old adage has it that sharing concerns and worries with others halves the problem, and here at Organic P&O Solutions, we concur wholeheartedly with this simple piece of advice. Many of the challenges we’re asked to help with could have been resolved earlier if people had just had a conversation and reached out for help.

Employers and employees need to engage in open and honest dialogue, so there’s a clear understanding of the support everyone needs to do their job effectively. The answers may not always be easy or immediately apparent, but in our experience, solutions usually emerge from dialogue.

And it shouldn’t just be employees that open up about the challenges they may be facing. There can be a lot of pressure on an employer to present themselves as superheroes to their team. It’s an unrealistic image, and a better approach would be to demonstrate that they are in fact human – by, for example, admitting they’re finding home-schooling tough or that their energy levels have dipped. There’s no need to go into details, but by doing this, they will be helping encourage employees to share their own issues as well as taking the pressure off them to try to be perfect employees.

2. Find ways to connect with people you need & who need you
Lockdowns and social-distancing have reminded us just how much we depend on each other for support, and it’s important we find new ways to stay connected, offer help – and accept it when it’s offered to us. Every one of us is impacted by the pandemic, and by working together, rather than in isolation, there are plenty of ways we can support one another.

Think about where you need help, and about the support those in your work or social network might need. Are there places where these needs cross over? Perhaps there are ways you can mutually support each other professionally, personally or emotionally.

From a personal perspective, although I’m good at working on my own, I do need to interact with my team. I miss the breakfast meetings we used to schedule. While face-to-face conversations over coffee and croissants are not possible, I make sure we do the next best thing and make full use of video calling – not only to discuss business but also to socialise virtually and catch up for a chat.

Outside of work, I love to run, but with home-schooling as well as working I’ve had to reschedule things. I’ve taken to running with a friend once a week when my son stays with his Dad, and I also go on a regular monthly walk with another friend. It’s a temporary routine that allows me to meet my home and work commitments, get exercise and have some invaluable social interaction.

3. Be realistic & go with the flow
For anyone working and having to look after children, these are stressful times. Being a full-time carer, teacher, Mum or Dad, and doing a job from somewhere that’s probably part-home, part-nursery, part-school and part-office; and maybe with a working partner sharing the same space, is likely to stretch anyone’s nerves, patience and energy reserves to their limits.

It’s a situation that requires putting on and taking off different hats throughout the day. As far as is possible, try to engage the right mindset for the task at hand. This is easier said than done, but where you can, try to compartmentalise your time, dedicating set periods to tasks rather than attempting to multi-task too much.

Crucially though, don’t stretch your personal limits. The combination of high stress levels and depleted energy means you need to be realistic in your expectations of yourself and own what you can realistically achieve.

Over the summer, I realised I couldn’t sustain my early morning FastTrack Fit Camp sessions on the same days that needed me to still have energy to run around with my son or go out with him for a bike ride. Something had to give, or I’d burn-out, so Fit Camp sessions had to take a break for a little while.

I do also think that trying to make some space for yourself each day is essential. Being a lark, I start work early in the morning – usually between 6 am – 7.30 am. It means I can be with my son for breakfast and allows me to have some quiet time – for me, an essential ingredient for happiness and productivity. I get to look at the moon, enjoy a good cup of coffee and plan my day before the phone begins to ring or I’m needed on the home front!

4. Recognise that positivity & negativity both have roles to play
Our nature will mean we tend to either lean slightly towards pessimism or optimism. The scale and duration of the current situation call for balance. There’s no point in taking the approach that everything is coming up roses – but at the same time, being a complete Eeyore will get you nowhere either. Positivity and negativity can both be forces for good: the first supports resilience, momentum and forward direction, while the second can be a realism check to help identify potential obstacles and blind spots.

In short, both have their place, so embrace them and try to retain a sense of balance.

5. Allow time to transition between roles
Following on from the above point, a working parent will probably need to transition through a dizzying array of roles each day, morphing from breadwinner to teacher, confidante to cook, parent to partner, team leader to cheerleader – and more besides.

In any given hour I might have a coaching session with a client, check on my son’s schooling, clean the bathroom, work on a future product idea, give guidance to a team member about a project they’re leading and take a call for HR advice.

It’s emotionally and physically exhausting, and I know that if I don’t take at least some time out between each task, I won’t take any learnings from what I’m doing.

It’s only by learning that we can improve and make things better for ourselves, but it’s impossible to learn anything while in survival mode. Allow some time to feel comfortable regularly to allow the learning to emerge, so you can prioritise what’s useful.

6. Know your early warning signs & share them with others
If you’re struggling, it’s all too easy to just carry on and ignore the signals indicating that something is likely to give. Left unchecked work and family relationships might suffer, and mental or physical illness could become a real possibility.

It’s important to recognise as early as possible when things might be reaching a critical point, and often, others will see this in you before you see it in yourself.

Stress affects people in different ways. An out of character short temper, limited attention span, forgetfulness and excessive tiredness can all indicate that help might be needed. Most of us know how we react to stress, and we need to share our ‘tells’ with colleagues so they can look out for warning signs.

Can We Help You & Your Team Get Through Lockdown?
Hopefully, lockdowns and home-schooling will soon be consigned to history. In the meanwhile, if you or anyone in your team is struggling with the challenges of working through the current situation, Organic P&O Solutions can offer advice and support.

Get in touch with us today.

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People Plans

6 Questions to Ask Yourself for your 2021 People Plans

What plans do you have for your business in the New Year? Is your HR strategy in complete alignment with your organisational objectives?

Along with your plans for other core business areas like marketing, sales and finance, your people plan plays a critical role in ensuring your company achieves its goals. But it’s not set in stone: it’s dynamic and must be regularly revised and adjusted to keep pace with changing circumstances.

It’s good practice to review your people plan quarterly, and this is something we do with all our retained clients.

Reviewing your HR needs is an exercise in reverse engineering, requiring you to work backwards from your goals to consider their impact on your people – then check you have the infrastructure, skills, and competencies in place to make them a reality.

In our experience, businesses tend to focus on the resources and roles they need to have in their people plan, giving rather less thought to how those resources and roles need supporting to be effective.

A good people plan will look ahead to consider capability and training needs and try to anticipate potential change – for people as well as the business. If for example, you know an employee is going to be taking maternity leave in a few months, your plan needs to factor this in, identifying how continuity will be maintained, and when any conversations need to take place.

So, how does your people plan measure up against the ambitions you have for your business? Here are six questions to ask yourself:

1. DO YOUR EMPLOYEES HAVE THE RIGHT MANAGEMENT SKILLS?

Does your plan take account of all the skills your people need, highlight where there may be skill shortages, and identify how these will be addressed?

Too often, people are put into line management roles and expected to succeed because they’ve demonstrated they are technically competent. But this doesn’t mean they have the management skills their role calls for. Regardless of where an employee may be in the management line, do they have what it takes to engage, motivate and inspire loyalty in those people who report into them?

Do your people have the skills they need to deal with change? Businesses that invest in training managers and equipping them with the skills they need to manage, motivate and support people and teams are best placed to deal with change.

Inevitably, there will be times when you have no option but to be flexible, react and adapt, but this said, it’s vital to make sure you have a solid infrastructure in place for training people so that when change hits, those people impacted know what to do. Ideally, you will have anticipated and rehearsed potential scenarios, so plans have been experienced and tested.

2. ARE YOUR EMPLOYEES FULLY ENGAGED WITH YOUR BUSINESS?

To make the most of the skills, talent, knowledge and experience in your employees, you need to ensure that each of them is fully engaged with your business.

Ideally, at all levels in your organisation, you should be striving to foster an environment that encourages employees to invest fully in their role, so that for example, they’re prepared to dedicate discretionary time to consider ways systems and processes might be improved.

Building engagement requires looking at the ways you are connecting with your team – and the ways they are connecting with each other. But it isn’t only about communication, it’s also about emotional intelligence, and you’ll need to make sure you’re doing everything you can to nurture this skill within your people. For example, you might have equipped a line manager with all the technical skills required to undertake an appraisal, but do they have the emotional intelligence to have a heartfelt conversation with their colleague? A conversation that will be deep enough for them to fully understand the whole person at work – while keeping within boundaries?

3. DOES YOUR PLAN TAKE ACCOUNT OF YOUR EMPLOYEE’S FUTURE NEEDS?

As much as it possibly can, your plan needs to anticipate the future needs of your employees.

Using all the information available to you, you need to consider each individual within your organisation. What support do you need to put in place to help them be the best they can be? Are there any personal circumstances or life events you need to factor into your plan?

Assessing future needs to ensure your organisation gets the best return on investment in its people – and that employees get the best from the organisation – may involve having difficult conversations. But it’s crucial employees feel they can be open and honest, and confident you’ll listen to their needs as the business develops and grows.

4. ARE YOU LOOKING AFTER THE WELLBEING OF YOUR PEOPLE?

Is employee wellbeing embedded into your organisational culture?

In recent years, there’s been a growing focus on wellbeing in business. Often though, when it’s talked about, it’s in the context of employers going ‘above and beyond’. But it needs to become the norm. The pandemic threw the topic into sharp relief, and unsurprisingly, those employers who already proactively embraced the concept are those that have fared best.

Your employees are your most valuable resource, and taking care of them requires an approach that’s very different to the way you maintain and look after any of your other assets. Your business needs to invest in helping employees to stretch and develop themselves on a personal level, and to take care of their mental and physical health,

5. ARE YOU USING THE RIGHT CRITERIA TO JUDGE PERFORMANCE?

Are you rewarding the right people in your organisation?

Setting targets is key to achieving business objectives, but if you operate one-dimensional incentive schemes that only trigger a reward when a ‘magic’ number is hit – you may not be leveraging the full potential of your people. This kind of culture can lead to extreme swings in performance, and the focus on targets can distract attention from other vital areas and suppress creative thinking.

An ideal solution will identify and reward people who – though they may not always reach every target they’re set, nevertheless contribute to steady, constant and sustainable growth or improvement.

The concept that momentum is as important as achievement is best explained by business guru Simon Sinek in this video How Do You Measure Success?.

6. ARE YOUR HR POLICIES UP TO THE JOB?

Do you have clear HR policies to help guide you through any eventuality?

Taking the time to set down policies and keep them up to date is essential: by having them in place, everyone in your organisation will know where they stand, and they’ll provide a point of reference if clarity is required.

It’s easy to see creating HR policies as more burdensome admin, but not having them when they’re needed can prove disruptive and costly. It’s worth noting that those businesses with unambiguous homeworking policies found it easy to implement new ways of working during the lockdown.

If you don’t have HR policies across all your core people areas, you’re leaving rules and boundaries open to interpretation. Of course, when you come to apply rules, you can use discretion, but not having any to apply will leave you exposed.

Remember, you don’t have to invest your own time in creating HR policies – you can always engage an expert like Organic P&O Solutions to do it for you!

Let Organic P&O Solutions Review Your People Plan!

Tell us about your goals, about the opportunities and challenges your business is facing, and we’ll review your people plan to make sure you’ve got everything covered. Contact us today for an initial chat!

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personalities

Making it Personal: 6 Ways to Use Personality Profiling to Build a Better Business

Being aware of the qualities and characteristics that create the unique personalities of the people we work with is essential – especially right now, when the pandemic means many of us are not able to connect with colleagues in person.

So, do you know what makes each individual in your organisation tick? Can you say what motivates them or which communication style they prefer? Do you know how they respond to stress or the types of people they do and don’t work well with? Can you predict how they’re likely to think and behave in different situations?

These are just a few of the questions you need to be able to answer if you’re going to get the best out of your people – and all of them require insight into the diverse range of personality types you’ll have in your business.

Understanding where your employees – and you – sit on the personality spectrum is a crucial step to developing improved teamwork, communication and productivity.

Thankfully, getting inside the heads of your employees doesn’t require you to be a trained psychologist. Ascertaining personality types is relatively straightforward. There are many profiling tools available that can assess and compare personality characteristics. They vary in sophistication and the level of information they return, but most are based on simple, multiple-choice questionnaires. There’s no pass or fail – each of us has a place on the spectrum – but the information they can provide has a range of practical uses.

You might think of profiling as something primarily used by employers when recruiting, to check a candidate has the qualities – as well as the qualifications and experience a position calls for. Certainly, if you’re recruiting, personality profiling tools can help make sure a candidate is a good fit for a vacancy – although, if this is the goal, they shouldn’t be used simply to identify traits, but rather as a means to understand the preferences of candidates in work situations.

At Organic P&O Solutions, we use personality profiling both for our clients and our own team. Here are six ways you can use it to benefit your business:

1. To Improve personal effectiveness

Profiling tools can be used on a one to one basis to help anyone get a deeper understanding of their personality. The process will provide insight into areas the person being assessed may not consciously be aware of, including how they make decisions, what they like to be appreciated for, their preferred communication style and their stress triggers.

Profiling shouldn’t be used as a one-time checking tool. Personally, I think there’s a good rationale for revisiting results regularly as context and circumstances change. As an example, at Organic P&O Solutions, we recently looked at our own team profiles to learn how each of us was likely to be affected by lockdown. It was a valuable exercise that helped us understand what we needed to do to assist each other and get the best out of ourselves individually and collectively.

2. To increase employee engagement

By helping employees understand their personality traits and how they fit within their team and organisation, profiling can help employees feel recognised, valued and accepted. As a result, it can bring about greater cohesion, a sense of belonging, higher engagement and more robust performance.

Research has shown that employees having the highest levels of engagement with their employer are likely to perform 20% better than other employees and are 87% less likely to leave the organisation. Clearly, engagement is directly linked to organisational performance (to find out more, download our whitepaper here).

3. To develop more robust team dynamics

When team members and managers understand the motives, tendencies and behaviours of each other, they can use this knowledge to inform how they interact. Profiling can create the opportunity for a more effective dialogue where team roles and responsibilities can be agreed, and where communication and conflict are easier to manage – leading to a strong team bond based on mutual understanding.

4. To enhance management skills

Personality profiling can help managers adapt their leadership style to get the best from their team. When a manager understands their own personality characteristics and those of their team, important decisions can be communicated in a way that takes into account what works best for individuals.

5. To build better communications
Personality profiling creates a common language that allows individuals to explore their differences more constructively. Knowing the personality types and preferences in a team, and understanding how you and others like to interact can facilitate better communication

Sharing results with employees will encourage them to adapt their behaviour where change may be needed, and make them aware that people may interpret the same thing in different ways – helping them understand why colleagues might see something one way while they see it differently.

6. To increase productivity
Crucially, personality profiling can positively impact your bottom line. Companies that focus on developing people and strengthening teams to their fullest potential will see an increase in productivity levels. This is because their team learning and individual preferences are linked to how goals can be delivered, and those, in turn, are connected with overall business objectives and performance metrics in a way that works for everyone.

You might believe you know what personality type you are – but you’ll almost certainly know someone who’s opinion of themselves – at least in certain situations, is entirely at odds with your own. You may believe you’re a good judge of other peoples’ personalities, but be honest – how often have you been proved wrong?

The fact is that we’re all capable of working outside of our preferred styles. For many years I worked in an environment that required me to be outgoing, so that’s the persona I adopted – but actually, I lean more towards the introvert/thinker end of the scale. When I have a problem to solve, the last thing I want to do is talk it through with someone: I need time to myself to focus and think things through. Because profiling has helped make me aware of this, and I’ve shared it with my team, they understand that this is how I like to work, they know to leave me alone while I consider the challenge and come up with a solution, before I bring it to the table for discussion.

Tools of the Trade

As mentioned earlier, there are plenty of personality profiling tools to choose from. In no particular order, here are three of our favourites:

  • Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)
    MBTI has been around for nearly six decades. It’s my preferred tool when it comes to working with teams because it’s very scientific and can produce real ‘light bulb’ moments. However, being able to interpret the results and translate them into practical actions requires having a good understanding of the process.
  • DISC Profile
    Even older than MBTI, DISC is an intuitive profiling solution that’s simple to implement. DISC refers to the four behaviour types the test assesses: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Compliance. It is more focused on behaviours than preferences but has the same Jungian roots as MBTI.
  • Thomas Kilmanm Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI)
    TKI looks at how individuals deal with negotiation and conflict – both of which call for the same skills. We use this tool to help people understand how they can adapt their behaviour to address challenges and reduce the likelihood of conflict.

Let Us Help You Make It Personal

If you’ve not used personality profiling, you may not be getting the best out of yourself or your employees. Here at Organic P&O Solutions, we’re expert practitioners in a range of profiling tools. Contact us today to find out more about how we can use them to help improved personal and team performance in your organisation.

Get Your FREE Personality Profile Report!

Would you like a free personality profile report on yourself? We’re giving 7 reports away free of charge – but hurry, this offer is on a first-come-first-served basis.

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Gears

Every Successful Business Depends on Great Suppliers: Meet Ours!

When I started Organic P&O Solutions, I had a clear vision of what I wanted to do. It’s the same now as it was then: to use my HR skills to help organisations optimise individual and team performance, face their key challenges, support them in times of transition and provide the resilience and momentum they need to achieve their goals.

Ambitious, yes, but I stuck to my guns, and seven years later I have a great team around me and we’re working with some amazing clients.

But of course, I didn’t do it all on my own. Besides the other HR consultants who work with me, Organic P&O Solutions depends on a range of vital suppliers who get on with the essential peripheral business functions like finance, marketing, design and IT – leaving us free to do what we do best.

In one of my recent posts, I wrote about seven important lessons I’ve learnt over seven years running a small business. In retrospect, I should have added an eighth lesson: To be successful, it’s essential to build a network of great suppliers who you trust and love working with.

I’m going to put that right now, by introducing you to the suppliers who have helped me grow Organic P&O Solutions into what it is today, and by sharing some thoughts about my own experience of developing a supplier network.

 

Meet the Suppliers We Couldn’t Do Without!

 

Bookkeeping

Bookkeeping Supplier

 Mike Wallace: Rosemary Bookkeeping

One of the first things you realise when you start a business is how much paperwork you create. Managing it is a job in its own right. In the early days I had a virtual assistant to help me with my admin. When it became clear that Nat was too good for this role however, she quickly became my first trainee consultant, leaving me without anyone to do my bookkeeping.

The crunch came one Sunday morning when I found myself with three competing demands. I had to write a proposal for a big client pitch; I needed to prepare and send out my invoices which were overdue – and I wanted to spend some time with my son who had just started school. Something had to give, so I outsourced my bookkeeping to Mike, who I knew through networking.

Since then, Mike has taken care of my invoicing, making payments and looking after credit control. He takes the information from all the financial transactions we make and prepares it for our accountant without me even needing to see it.

 

Accounts

Accountant Suppliers

Ellen Lefevre: Lefevres Chartered Accountants

Of all the supplier relationships a business owner needs to develop, I’d argue that the one they have with their accountant is probably the most important. A good accountant can be integral to helping a business grow, and while it’s not impossible to change an accountant mid-relationship, it’s much better to get it right first time.

Ellen was recommended by a friend who also ran her own business. She did my very first set of accounts and we’ve worked together ever since. Highly proactive, Ellen gets financial information to me early, making sure I do what I need to on time, and keeping me updated on changes to things that impact the business like corporation tax an VAT. She adds real value, sitting down with me each year, taking me through my accounts and giving me invaluable advice.

Crucially, Ellen gets on really well and works seamlessly with Mike my bookkeeper. Together, they have put robust processes in place that mean I don’t need to get involved in the daily admin at all. This has given me space to develop my own analytical reporting information, so when I have my FD hat on, I can focus on the performance of the business – rather than worrying about paperwork and complying with statutory obligations.

 

Marketing

Marketing Suppliers

Lisa Vassallo: One To Three Marketing

Although I look after the implementation of marketing activity for my business, I’m outside of my comfort zone when it comes to marketing strategy. Thankfully though, I met Lisa through networking. I liked her approach right away, and after attending several of her social media workshops, decided she was perfect for helping me with marketing for Organic P&O Solutions.

Lisa has been advising me on my digital marketing activity for about three years now. We meet regularly to discuss my goals, and she helps me plan my social media in line with these, recommending appropriate content and style. Alongside this, she helps me interpret my analytics and refine my marketing, so I get the best results with my budget.

Lisa helps me to be braver and more creative. I have lots of ideas, but I trust her to challenge me if she doesn’t think something will work – and to help me develop the best ideas into something that will!

 

Digital Design

Design Suppliers

Karen Reynolds & Angela Pugh: Creative Associates

My relationship with Creative Associates is another one that goes back a long way. I worked with Karen and Angela when I was with Waterstones – where they were responsible for designing much of the branding and communication material. I always liked their work, so when I set up Organic P&O Solutions, and needed an online presence, I asked them to create my very first website.

The site’s been through several iterations over the years (in fact, I’m about to reveal another one in the very near future, so watch this space!), and Creative Associates are now firmly established as my brand guardians – my go to supplier for all my digital design requirements.

 

Print & Design

Design Suppliers

Tara Morris: Abstract Print & Design

We might live in a digital age, but print still has the power to stand out, impress and be remembered. I certainly use print – in marketing campaigns for postcards and bookmarks, as well as for client training materials – and when I do, I go straight to Tara!

IT Support

IT Fibrefly

Rob Nossiter. Fibrefly

Like most businesses, at Organic P&O Solutions we depend on the functionality of our IT equipment, a secure network and reliable, 24/7 connectivity. Our remote working model makes us especially reliant on the ability to communicate with each other, and with our clients from anywhere – something that’s become even more critical in light of the COVID-19 crisis.

Rob makes it all happen (we have no idea how), looking after all our tech, making sure our software and apps are all up to date and ensuring we stay safe from any viruses and other online threats. Given that IT is so fundamental (and mysterious), it’s reassuring to know that Rob has our back and that if we do have any kind of issue, he’s only a phone call away.

4 Things I Learnt Building My Supplier Network

Nobody works in isolation. Behind every brand and every entrepreneur are a host of suppliers helping them to realise their full potential. Having gone through the process of building my own supplier network, here are my four top pieces of advice:

 

Take time to find the perfect match

When you’re a small business, your suppliers are your team, so it’s essential you find people who share your values, you trust implicitly, and who you genuinely enjoy working with. While there will be plenty of people out there with the technical skills you need, finding those that are right for you and your business is likely to take time.

 

Make the right connections

I relied on a combination of networking, word-of-mouth recommendations and contacts from my previous life in the corporate world. Referrals are great because they come pre-validated, while connections made through a networking group you consistently attend allow time for relationships to develop before you make any commitments.

A word of caution about using contacts you may have made from working in the corporate sector. While some of my strongest supplier relationships date back to my corporate days, I found out early on that not all suppliers are suited to supporting smaller businesses with their very different dynamics.

 

Think about how suppliers will work together

As you grow your supplier network, it will be important to keep in mind that some suppliers may need to work closely together – your bookkeeper and accountant for example, or suppliers of different aspects of marketing. This is where a recommendation or getting to know someone over a period of time through networking can be useful, but in the end, you’ll have to trust your own judgement

 

Learn to let go – outsourcing works!

If you’re not great at ‘letting go’ of things, engaging others to do work for you might take some getting used to. However, when you do start to outsource those tasks that you can’t do, you aren’t good at, you don’t like doing, or that aren’t financially worth you taking on yourself, you’ll quickly see how it adds value to your organisation.

 

Why Not Give Your Suppliers a Shout Out?

It’s easy to take your suppliers for granted but remember that most of us are running businesses that are both clients and suppliers. If you’ve found someone who’s great at what they do, why not do them a favour and share their details with your clients?

 

And if you know any organisation that is looking for help with their HR, please do pass on our details and tell them to get in touch for a chat!

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Culture

Do you Have a Healthy Organisational Culture? Answer these 4 Questions to Find Out!

Many businesses will invest time and effort into defining their brand values – but will give somewhat less attention to shaping their organisational culture.

Is this true for you?

If you’re not nurturing a culture that promotes positive behaviours, habits and ideas in your team, your business is unlikely to be performing at its full potential.

Culture happens organically, but a healthy culture needs cultivating. I sometimes liken it to gardening. Positive aspects need to be tended and fed nutrients, so they grow and flourish, while negative aspects need weeding out before they have an opportunity to take root.

Part of developing a healthy culture in your organisation means identifying those great things that people are already doing in your business – whether intuitively or by ‘accident’, and adopting them across your business.

Although cultural health can’t be measured, it can certainly be felt, and it’s something I can usually pick up on very quickly on visiting a client’s premises. Key signals include the general atmosphere, whether I’m greeted with suspicion or welcomed, the way people communicate and interact with each other and whether they’re happy to speak openly in the office or prefer to meet behind closed doors.

Over many years of being called in to advise on issues that – superficially at least – appear to stem from an individual employee – but ultimately transpire to be deeper rooted, I’ve noticed common factors that give insight into an organisation’s cultural wellbeing.

Based on my experience, here are four questions which will help you to determine if your culture is in good shape, or in need of attention:

How Does Recognition Happen & Who Gives It?

Do you have a culture where people feel the need to ask for recognition from their manager? Or where they’re continually drawing attention to their efforts and productivity compared to that of their colleagues? Both can be indicators of an unhealthy organisational culture.

In the workplace, we all need to feel our contribution is valued. But in a healthy culture, where recognition happens naturally, the way employees are treated and spoken to will let them know that they’re doing their job well and are appreciated. This is as much about people being complimentary about each other as is it is about managers taking time to say thank you and give praise.

How Are People Judged?

In some organisations, the amount of time an individual spends working over and above their contracted hours is seen as a measure of their commitment and loyalty to the business. Early morning starts or late-night finishes – maybe even both, are taken as proof that they’re working as hard and effectively as they can.

But an environment like this is almost certain to be masking cultural problems in an organisation. There’s only one way to measure performance, and that’s by results.

A ‘presence’ culture takes no account of the fact that every organisation is made up of individuals who work differently and have unique responsibilities outside of work. Someone staying late in a healthy results-based culture won’t automatically be judged to be working hard, or working inefficiently. In this kind of culture, management will instead ask themselves what caused the employee to need to work the extra hours, what difference did they make, who benefited – and does it point to a problem somewhere else in the system?

In a results-based culture, values are observed naturally, assumptions are checked before conclusions are drawn, poor performance is explored and issues are addressed and resolved early, so they don’t have the opportunity to grow into more significant problems.

How Are Mistakes Dealt With?

In a healthy culture, people aren’t afraid to ask for advice for fear of being criticised or looked down on. Rather, they know that in raising an issue, an employer will recognise there’s a capability gap in the business – not necessarily in an individual.

In this kind of supportive culture, employees won’t be reticent to come forward if they identify a gap, will be more likely to propose a solution, and individual personalities will not be part of discussions.

Consider your organisation’s approach to dealing with a customer complaint. Is your initial reaction to look for shortcomings in your team – rather than in their skills, in your processes or systems? If so, it may be that you need to work on adjusting your culture.

A healthy culture is one where mistakes are accepted and learnt from. People will have clear ownership and responsibility, and if something goes wrong, processes and systems will be reviewed first, and blame will not automatically be assigned to an individual.

 Are People Forthcoming About Difficult Issues?

Many of the issues I’m asked to advise on began as minor problems. However, because they arose in a closed culture, they were allowed to fester and grow, rather than (back to our gardening theme) being nipped in the bud.

A healthy, open culture leaves no space for rumour, gossip or suspicion. When all team members are fully informed all the time, changes don’t come as a surprise. Because they are anticipated and understood, even difficult decisions are supported.

How did you do? Are all the signs pointing to your culture being perfectly in balance, or do they indicate that you have areas to work on? Whether you need a cultural revolution or just a little evolution, Organic P&O Solutions can help!

 

We Can Help You Develop a Culture that Improves Team Engagement & Productivity!

Your cultural health needs to be a focus whatever the size of your business. The bigger an organisation becomes, the more complex its cultural dynamics, so the earlier you get the right foundations in place, the better:

We can help you to develop a culture where people intuitively behave as they should, recognition occurs naturally, performance is based on results and mistakes lead to change, not blame. A culture where there are fewer misunderstandings and disputes because all team members feel included and valued, confident in raising difficult issues and trust each other enough to have open and honest conversations

If this sounds interesting, get in touch and let’s arrange to have an initial discussion about your organisational culture!

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Lessons Learnt

7 Important Lessons I’ve Learnt Over 7 Years Running a Small Business

This month, Organic P&O Solutions celebrates seven years in business.

Back in 2013, having spent many years in the corporate world working in senior HR roles, I took the plunge, leaving the relative security of salaried employment to go solo and set up my own business.

It was a huge, life-changing step and turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Starting my own business was something I’d been thinking about for a long time. I wanted to create an agency that would provide access to the best learning and development resources, help clients develop effective and productive workforces – and I knew there was a place for my HR ethos.

It was a statistic I saw in an FSB survey that finally convinced me. While nearly all the HR agencies I’d come across (apart from one-person independents) were focused on working with large businesses and corporates, the survey highlighted that 60% of all UK employers were SMEs.

I could see there was a gap in the market, and once I realised I had a unique blend of employee relations skills and specialist qualifications and experience in learning and development – two areas where typically one route is chosen over the other – I knew the time was right to launch Organic P&O Solutions

It’s been quite a journey. In the last seven years, the business has grown from just me, into a team of specialist HR consultants. Today, we’re working with a broad range of companies – and our client base includes SMEs and corporate organisations.

Along the way, I’ve learnt a lot of lessons about running a small business and our 7th anniversary gives me an excuse to share a few of them with you:

 

Lesson #1: Be flexible: things change

It’s true! To paraphrase Helmuth von Moltke, “No plan survives the first encounter with the enemy”. I’d suggest the same is true of the best-prepared business plan – although I’m not for a moment making a comparison between clients and hostile forces!

Yes, have a business plan but keep things flexible. Listen carefully to what your client’s challenges are and be prepared to adapt your strategy if they are not aligned with your original expectations.

As mentioned, when I set out, I planned to use my strong HR and learning development experience to help SMEs. I did, and I still do, but early on, I found I was also being asked by corporate clients to train and support HR teams, and work on complex projects requiring me to engage and manage other specialist consultants.

Because – rather than rigidly following our original business plan, we took time to listen to our clients, our business has evolved and changed shape to meet their needs.

 

Lesson #2: Find out what you’re good at

Whatever area you work in, the likelihood is that you’ll be competing with other businesses for projects. While you might offer similar services, there will be aspects you excel in that set you apart. Being clear about these key differentiators will help you develop a unique identity and ensure you stand out from competitors. Keep in mind that it’s not only what you do that helps establish you as a brand; it’s also the way you do it.

Reading the Pumpkin Plan by Mike Michalowicz helped me understand the importance of identifying a niche, staying focused and being brave enough not to take on projects that don’t fit – no matter how tempting they may seem.

Once we were clear about our HR specialisms and had developed our own unique style of working, marketing and promoting our offering became much easier.

 

Lesson #3: Surround yourself with the right people

A benefit of running your own business is the freedom to be selective about the clients and projects you take on. But of course, you can’t run a business on your own, and making sure you choose the right people to work with is crucial.

If you have ambitions to scale up, you’ll need to hire staff, and even if you don’t, you’ll almost certainly have to appoint suppliers and partners.

From the outset then, you need to surround yourself with people who share your ethics and values. We call our values our Rules of Play, and we use them as a reference point to check the compatibility of anyone we’re considering working with.

Establishing values you’re happy to share with all your stakeholders will probably take longer than you anticipate. Even though I’d worked a lot on values with clients in the course of my career, I didn’t find it easy summarising them for my own business!

 

Lesson #4: Whatever the size of your business, run it like a big company

The professionalism and confidence that doing this will bring will enable you to punch well above your weight. As well as helping you to attract the best clients and staff, it will also reduce any ‘growing pains’ as your business expands.

It’s something I took on board right from the start. Even when I was the only person in the business, I’d schedule monthly board meetings, draw up an agenda and review each function in the company.

As the business grew and finances permitted, I engaged a business coach to fill gaps in my knowledge, teach me skills I’d not needed in my previous corporate roles, and help me make some critical decisions that would have been difficult to work through on my own. As well as outsourcing my general admin, social media and bookkeeping, I invested in technology, and introduced systems and processes (see lesson #7) which meant I – and later my team and I had more time to spend on servicing clients.

We’re still a small business, but we’re ambitious. By thinking and behaving like a big company, I believe we’re far more likely to achieve our goals.

 

Lesson #5: Keep up your personal development

As a business that promotes personal development for our clients, you won’t be surprised to hear that we practice what we preach. I don’t believe self-improvement and personal development should end because you run your own business. If anything, it becomes even more vital. I read a lot of books by and about people who have set up successful businesses, and a commitment to ongoing learning is a recurring theme.

Ongoing development doesn’t have to be overly complicated or time-consuming though. At Organic P&O Solutions, instead of having a big development plan with lots of activities, we simply choose themes to focus on each year.

During 2020, I’m working on rebalancing the time I spend on the business versus the time I spend in it. It’s something that’s changed over time, and the growth we’ve experienced over the last two years means I now need to give more time to my MD responsibilities. Even though I’m still very much involved in delivering for clients, now that I have a team around me, I can give my MD functions the attention they deserve. It’s a real shift in perspective for me, so I’ve made it my development focus.

 

Lesson #6: Don’t let insecurities get in the way of talent

Running your own business can be lonely. Inevitably, there are times when self-doubt will creep in. I’m sure most business owners will admit to the occasional crisis of confidence – especially in the early days – and I was no exception.

My advice is to trust your instincts and believe in yourself. You know more than you think you do. Don’t be afraid to seek advice and share your fears or insecurities with others who might be able to help. I’ve had amazing support from some really great people.

I will always remember when I pitched for my very first project. It was only a half-day training programme, and even though I knew I had the skills and experience needed, I was convinced the client was looking for a bigger, more established consultancy.

At the time, I was fortunate to have an unofficial mentor in Paul Connor who gave me a confidence-boosting pep talk. He reassured me that I did have the expertise the client was looking for and that the size and relative newness of the agency was irrelevant.

He was right. The client told me my proposal was the best they’d seen, that I was the only consultant to ask crucial diagnostic questions, and I won the business!

 

#7 Implement robust systems & processes

To optimise efficiency and ensure you deliver a consistent level of service, you need to have clear, robust systems and processes in place. My business coach Rob Pickering of ActionCOACH reminded me (often!) of this. In fact, I already knew it from my time working in the retail sector – but I wasn’t applying the principle enough to my own business.

Although I’ve always considered myself to be well organised, it was only when Rob got me to focus on documenting things that I realised how much information I was keeping in my head.

When there’s only one of you in the business, it’s very easy to dismiss the need for systems and processes. But establishing them will increase efficiency levels and lead to a better, more consistent client experience. And as your business grows, scaling up will be far easier

There are some caveats though. Focus only on things that will help you to generate more revenue and profit, and bear in mind that ‘back of house’ systems and processes don’t have to look perfect. Also, accept it’s an ongoing process. You’ll always be refining how you work.

There are plenty of tech solutions out there to help too, including things like Hootsuite for managing and scheduling social media, Xero for finance and accounting and Monday.com for project management – to name-check just a few of the online tools we use.

 

Can We Help You to Grow Your Business Organically?

As we know first-hand, growing a business isn’t easy, but it is rewarding and exhilarating. We can support you, helping you to nurture and develop your single-most important assets – your people.

Call us today to arrange an initial conversation.

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Restructure

Getting Ready to Restructure Your Business? 6 Steps You Must Follow

To be successful, your business will have to evolve continually. As it grows, you’re likely to have to reorganise at various points on your journey. Sometimes you might want to make changes to take advantage of new opportunities. At other times, you may need to adapt your business model to respond to challenges.

In our experience, a company that has grown to employ 20 – 25 employees and beyond can anticipate having to restructure every 12 to 18 months on average.

As businesses adjust to trading in the current climate, many will likely need to look at how they are structured. This might involve reviewing and redefining the roles of some employees, and without suitable alternative positions available within a new set up, it might mean having to make some redundancies.

Understandably for employees, an organisational restructure can be an unsettling time, which means it’s important to manage it well. The consequences of not doing so can include added disruption to business, a damaged reputation – and where redundancies are involved, time and expense in defending employment tribunal claims.

In planning any restructure likely to result in changes to job roles or redundancies, it’s essential for an employer to consult with their employees before they make any final decisions.

Here at Organic P&O Solutions, we help business owners and management teams make the (sometimes tough) decisions required to change the shape of their organisations – and to do so in a way that is compliant and fair for all parties.

When a restructure goes wrong, it’s often because the business involved has not fulfilled its obligation to consult with affected staff, or because somewhere in the process, it has failed to follow the correct procedures.

If you’re planning a restructure in your organisation, having the support of a professional HR advisor is highly recommended. Because every restructure is different and has its own unique dynamics, there’s much more to consider than the linear process. This said, there are some fundamental points to keep in mind when you’re preparing to implement a change like this:

1. Review all your business options

Based on the information you have available, and what you are reasonably able to anticipate, you will need to consider all the business options open to you.

If for example, your business has experienced a significant drop in revenue, you’ll need to review – and where possible, reduce overheads in the short term. Looking further ahead and using data extracted from your management accounts, you’ll need to calculate how long your business will be able to trade on the reduced income – and consider what options are open to you longer term should the situation persist.

2. Review staffing against your business options

When you have listed your business options, you will be in a position to review your staffing structure in relation to each potential scenario. It’s important to show you’ve considered your options in this order.

You’ll need to consider each option against the key criteria, making sure you’re being fair and reasonable at each juncture – being extremely mindful at this point to set aside the personal situations or personalities of individual employees.

3. Recognise your obligation to consult with staff

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that restructuring your organisation is purely a business decision, and you don’t need to consult with your employees.

If you’re planning a restructure that’s going to require staff to have to change roles or result in redundancies, you’re statutorily bound to engage in a meaningful consultation process with those staff who will be affected.

Crucially, this doesn’t mean sharing a restructuring plan that’s set in stone and just expecting staff to adopt it.  All too often, we hear of business owners who work on a restructuring plan in isolation, before presenting it to their workforce as a fait acompli: an action more likely to lead to conflict and arbitration than collaboration.

Ideally, it’s best to communicate with staff openly and honestly from the outset. This way, there will be complete transparency before the consultation process begins. You’ll have to allow time for affected employees to respond with alternative solutions, and no definitive decisions can be made until the consultation process has been completed.

4. Pause recruitment activity

If you’re planning any redundancies as part of your restructure, you’ll need to consider whether those employees affected might be offered any other suitable alternative employment within your organisation. To this end, you should pause any recruitment activity during the process.

5. Advise affected staff

When you have identified your preferred restructure route, your next step must be to notify any employees who will potentially be affected, formally advising them that you intend to enter a consultation process.

6. Consult with affected staff

Having taken the appropriate steps up to this point, you’re now ready to consult with affected employees. You will be able to share your proposed restructure plan together with your reasons and rationale for putting it forward.

At the same time, you’ll need to make it clear that no decisions have yet been taken, and you are open to any alternative solutions those affected might want to propose.

You must leave space for plans to evolve and change, and time for other parties to put forward alternative solutions and have them fully considered – so that by the time a final decision is reached, all options have been explored.

I often liken the process of going into a restructure to kicking a rugby ball into the air. In the same way you can’t know which way the ball will bounce on landing, it’s virtually impossible to predict how a restructure proposal will be received when you’re dealing with people and emotions.

Employers will frequently go in one of two directions. They’ll either procrastinate and go around in circles as they attempt to get inside their employees’ heads – trying to anticipate and address questions they can’t possibly know. Or they’ll simply impose their preferred restructure option without consultation, believing they’ve explored all avenues and no other solution is available.

The first of these routes wastes time and energy and is ultimately ineffective as the clarity of any original objective is lost. The second is clearly unlawful.

Going back to my rugby ball analogy, a restructure can have a clearly defined process, but it won’t be linear, and along the way, it will bob and weave. To ensure it runs smoothly and results in a successful outcome, the support of an HR professional who can help you manage the human aspects involved with implementing change – as well as guiding you in respect of compliance, is essential.

Focusing exclusively on compliance when making decisions is not necessarily the best way forward. In some situations, taking human considerations into account might cost you a little more time and/or money – but save you a lot in terms of how your business is perceived by others. This may be a particularly important consideration for owners of small and mid-size companies who have a high profile in their local community.

Can We Help Your Business Restructure?

Do you need to change the shape of your business? Organic P&O Solutions can advise and support you through every step of the process.  We’ll help you balance compliance with fairness so that your team transitions smoothly and painlessly, and we’ll make sure that when your restructure is complete, the reputation of your business – and your conscience – remain fully intact!

Call us today to arrange an initial conversation. Subscribe to our newsletter to keep up to date.

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Natalie Homeworking

5 Essential Tips for Creating an Effective Homeworking Team

None of us has ever had to confront personal or work challenges quite like those we’re experiencing right now. Enforced social distancing has required virtually all of us to find new ways of working. But the disruption to normal life has – for some organisations at least – highlighted an opportunity that could lead to a permanent shift in the way they work.

Although re-evaluating and re-inventing work processes has presented enormous issues for many businesses, some service-based companies have been reminded that they don’t necessarily need employees based in one central location.

Homeworking can deliver a range of benefits. There are obvious financial advantages arising from running a business with a reduced physical workspace – or even none at all.  Some global tech companies had already adopted remote models: understanding that productivity is positively impacted when employees no longer have to commute or travel to meetings, and morale and mental wellbeing levels improve as staff have more quality time available for families, loved ones and personal pursuits.

For many businesses now, the realisation that they can operate effectively with staff working from home – and that the homeworking model offers significant advantages, makes it likely they will look to continue working this way – in whole or in part – post-lockdown.

It’s hard to find many positives during this crisis, but perhaps this might be one of them. Could this be the nudge you need to migrate some or all of your team to homeworking?

Are you ready to fully embrace homeworking in your business?

If you’ve previously had reservations about having your team work from home, perhaps the enforced circumstances of the lockdown have made you think again? Or maybe you have already introduced homeworking into your business, and while you don’t need convincing of its benefits, you want to make it work even better for you? You could have made the initial transition without establishing a working from home policy, trusting people to adapt and get on with things.  This may have worked at the outset, but perhaps you now have team members who are presenting challenges or not working as effectively as they should?

Our business model here at Organic P&O Solutions has always been based around a homeworking team, and we know from experience that the key to success is flexibility. Here are 5 essential tips for creating an effective homeworking team:

Be aware that everyone in your team has unique personal & family needs

Outside of work, team members will have very different family and home lives. They might have shared or sole responsibility for looking after young children or be carers for elderly or sick relatives. Support networks will vary for each of them, and they’ll have to balance work with personal responsibilities.

To get the best out of your team, you’ll need to identify the needs of individual employees, then help them to find and implement solutions that accommodate their circumstances. At Organic P&O Solutions, we’ve done this very successfully with our own team, including Natalie, one of our home-based consultants.

Natalie’s husband, Nick, has a full-time job in the RAF, and they share responsibility for looking after their two young daughters. From the outset, Natalie was very clear about what she needed to be able to carry out her full-time role effectively – while still continuing to share parenting duties and be there for her girls.

Some employers might dismiss out of hand the idea that a mum of two young children and a working partner could find the time (or energy!) to undertake a full-time job. But we knew Natalie was perfect for the role, and by taking the time to understand how she prefers to work, we’ve been able to meet her needs, so we all benefit.

“I told Tash I needed to be able to function as a single parent so that if Nick is relocated, nothing changes for the girls. Tash completely understood this, and as long as I make my commitments to clients and meet my goals each week, she’s happy for me to decide what I do, how and when”.

 “While the lockdown is on and Nick and I are both at home, I’m typically working between 6 am until midday, then doing a couple more hours in the evening. It works well as I’m more productive in the mornings anyway. Nick looks after the girls and helps them with schoolwork. We reverse roles in the afternoon, and I get to do the messy, creative stuff with them while Nick works. Then, when the house is quiet again in the evening, I go back to work.” (Natalie).

All of us in the Organic P&O Solutions team have very different family circumstances, but by having open and honest discussions and testing solutions, we’ve reached outcomes that work for everyone and found ways round our collective and unique challenges.

Family-friendly employment policies are an essential aspect of retaining loyal, engaged, productive teams – for more information, read our blog, 5 ways to make sure you’re a truly family-friendly employer.

Learn to trust your team

For an employer used to sharing the same physical workspace with their team, adjusting to the concept of remote managing can be challenging. As with any relationship – personal or professional, trust is vital.

In our view, team members must be given the latitude to deliver their contributions in their preferred way: working the hours best suited to their situation and temperament – within an agreed timeframe of course. But with that trust, comes the responsibility to own their results, adapt and self-motivate so they deliver. No excuses.

It’s human nature to worry about what you can’t see. But does it really matter if an employee working at home takes five minutes to check their social media during ‘work time’ or get some exercise? We think not. Especially if it means they’re going to get their job done more effectively and be more focused because they’ve taken a short break in a way that works for them.

We’ve had clients question how an employee could possibly work from home if they have to look after their children all day. How could they ever be trusted to be productive, and not put childcare responsibilities first? Our response is always the same. We’ve never let them down or missed a deadline due to our children and when we’re not out delivering for clients, we’re working from home. We’re all parents with differing levels of support, so if we can do it, maybe it’s time for them to think again about what’s being asked of them?

Recognise everyone works differently 

If you’re managing homeworking employees, consider the wide range of personality types within a team. Some people enjoy working on their own and will naturally thrive in a homeworking environment, while others may require a higher degree of support and nurturing.

In an office-based team, employees are generally required to work within a structured, 9-5 day. While this rhythm suits some, it can constrain others who may prefer more elasticity in their routine. Many people are more alert, creative and productive and do their best work outside of these hours.  I know I am and I always have been.

I spent many years working in the retail sector and remember the difficulty I had making the transition to a ‘regular’ working day. I’d become used to working irregular hours with early morning starts, late-night finishes, and week-end working. Making the switch was hard and I found conforming to a regular office day far more tiring than working longer, uncertain hours. Needless to say, I’m far happier working the way I do today! So, our advice is don’t make assumptions about what works for people. We all have different energisers.  Help people find theirs and you’ll see results soar.

Adjust how you monitor individual performance

Monitoring the performance of remote working staff is very different from monitoring performance in an office-based team. When you’re working alongside your employees, you can observe performance first-hand and discuss work in progress, picking up potential issues as they arise.

Technology options abound to make people more accessible but you can’t be there all the time if your team is home-based.  To know what employees have been doing, how they’ve got on and what they’ve achieved, the nature of the conversations you have will need thought, a little planning and some organisation.

So, focus on results – and not necessarily on the process or the hours taken to achieve the outcome. Allow employees some flexibility and freedom to complete work in their own way to an agreed schedule – and be prepared to adjust until you find and keep what works.

Ensure you communicate regularly

With team members working from disparate locations and potentially working different hours, finding time to schedule regular team meetings and one to one catch-ups is vital.

At Organic P&O Solutions, as well as being essential for running shared projects, these meetings help us understand how each of us is managing our work-life balance and can inform our planning.

“We get together for a half-hour team video call at least once a week, discussing what’s going on in each of our areas and sharing ideas. It’s not uncommon for us to start with our children present at first. It gives us a window on what’s going on in each of our personal lives and helps us work better together. I’ll also have a weekly one to one call with Tash to talk about what I’m working on and to plan ahead. This is my opportunity to raise any work-life challenges, and if necessary, discuss any adjustments to the way I need to work.” (Natalie).

 Can We Help Make Homeworking Work for You?

The business advantages of moving to a homeworking model can be significant, but to be effective, it will require careful planning, sensitivity and consultation with employees.

If you’ve implemented home-based team working into your organisation but have encountered issues, or if you’ve considered introducing it but have held back until now because you can’t see how to overcome particular challenges, we can help.  We can work with you to understand your obligations, challenges and opportunities and recommend a strategy that will address your situation and deliver your objectives.

Call us today to arrange an initial conversation.

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disruption

5 insights that create order through disruption and chaos

Uncertainty. Upheaval. Disruption. Life as you know it is changing and it’s not letting up.  What’s your response to it?  Foggy head? Clear head? Ok with going with the flow or do you resent changing your clearly defined plans? As an HR specialist who helps people navigate times of change, I’ve observed (and displayed!) many behaviours that support navigating through change successfully (and not!).

This blog captures practices that build resilience and infrastructure to support leaders navigate the changes that significantly impact people and organisations.

Deploy consistent habits

Put first things, first.  We are conditioned, many of us, for the ‘end’ point.  Passing the exam, getting the promotion, hitting our sales or revenue targets, getting married, losing weight etc etc. It’s great to have a goal and have a plan.  It’s not possible to deliver the plan in a linear order, illustrated beautifully by one of my favourite quotes “No plan survives contact with the enemy”.

I fell afoul of this personally, only recently. I was running up a hill, that was in the plan. I couldn’t run up the hill because I couldn’t breathe. Feeling like I should be able to do it by now (I’ve done it before, it’s the right stage of the plan) meant I tensed and told myself to ‘just get up the hill!’ I had enlisted the help of a running

coach who gave me some sage advice. “Don’t look at the top of the hill, look just forward of where you are, maintain your optimum posture for breathing and moving and keep going with small steps. Believe in your legs, your mind will quit before your legs will.” She was right, of course. As a coach, I knew this, and I’ve been known to give the advice before, but I was at a point of personal difficulty because I was in my ‘get on with it’ mindset. The answer wasn’t in the grit or the capability (it wasn’t a very big hill and I was determined!). It was all in the technique. It was a great metaphor for life and business showing what happens when we focus on the end point and get frustrated that we’re not where we want to be. Identify and practice the consistent habits and processes and we can keep sight of the end point and focus on the here and now moves to get there. In this example, once I focused on technique, my determination had something tangible to deliver, my heart-rate settled and I ran up the hill with less effort than my starting point.

Prioritise often

Prioritising is a skill that delivers plans and takes practice to make sure, ironically, that we prioritise using it. So, blend vision with pragmatism. It’s important to identify possible outcomes and what if’s in times of change however it’s also important not to overanalyse. Keep your focus on thinking about the likelihood of something affecting your plans and weigh it up with gauging the potential impact, then prioritise the things that will make the biggest difference. Once the plan is executed, keep visiting the ‘what-if’s’ and adjust them. Take time to identify what now, then what next, repeat and/or adjust and you’ll create space for movement in the right way without losing time or direction.

In high VUCA (volatile, uncertain, changing, adaptive) situations, the next right move might not be in the well thought through plan, it’s more likely to be found in the evolution of a situation and so prioritising frequently becomes the tool for adapting once a plan is in ‘play’.  It’s especially important when we’re in uncertainty, as it allows you to adapt as information and resources unfold.

Embrace, manage and don’t judge, your emotions

When something rocks our world, whether we think it should, or whether we think it shouldn’t, it has.  Our attachment to something isn’t logical, it’s emotional. We don’t judge our nerves when they tell us something is hot or cold, so when our emotions tell us we feel happy or sad, we need to drop the notion that our feelings are good or bad. Instead, understanding that emotions are the psychological equivalent of our nerve system mean we can access them as data. Uncomfortable data sometimes, yes, but data, nonetheless. So, take the time to find out how you’re feeling about the changes you’re facing, and notice and you’ll be in a better position to move identify what you need and move into a productive space, quicker. For example, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or helpless, accept it. It makes sense when there’s a lack of information and the implications are serious. It doesn’t need to be dramatic, but it isn’t helpful to ignore it.  It will affect the way you function whether you want it to or not, at some point. So, face into it, look it in the eye and process it. Simple ways to do this are moving to another room, going for a walk, making a drink, listening to some music, exercising, talking to someone you trust.  Allow the same for others and you’ll find collective solutions and build trust so, encourage your team to identify and use their emotions, then enjoy the benefits of a more resilient, rounded, solution focused team.

Live through the unknown

Some people have a higher need for certainty and control than others. High change and high uncertainty situations reveal this. Neuroscience explains that we get an addictive hit of dopamine when we deal with something quickly. This feel good hormone keeps us wanting to complete and conquer over and over.  The short-term hit gets in the way of our ‘better judgement’ though and robs us of the longer-term satisfaction of achieving something worthwhile, because the longer-term piece can’t be done in one hit or in this mode of working.  So, next time you find yourself living off dopamine hits, check you’re working in urgent mode because that’s what really is needed. Then move out of it as soon as you can, allow your adrenaline levels to settle so you’ll restore the ability to see and move towards the longer-term gain.

Preparation and practice for times of high stress also work well here. We don’t see athletes at starting lines using things to distract themselves for their nerves, musicians turn up at concerts at the last minute or emergency services arrive in a harried rushed state. They turn up for their event or situation focused on what’s before them in the knowledge they were prepared to cope with what they couldn’t predict because they have rehearsed the habits they’d need for the things they could predict. They rehearse crucial technical pieces.  I’m a rugby fan. Johnny Wilkinson’s 2003 drop goal is my personal reminder of the benefits of practicing for times of pressure – what’s yours?

So, prepare and practice the small things, so you can employ them in habit form when you need them urgently and develop your ability to hold your nerve through the waiting period so you can be ready and able to act at the right time, in the right way. You’ll feel better, more often, longer term.  You’ll also be easier to work with!

Replace your agenda with empathy

Changing and uncertain times feel chaotic because they involve people who are communicating in different ways, with different perspectives, about an evolving situation. As humans, we experience a loss of control when we wait for decisions from others and we experience a sense of control when the decision is ours.

I see it play out with employers and employees often.  ‘Why is she being so difficult?’ they say.  ‘Why is he being so insensitive?” they ask.  There are differences in agendas and to truly understand what’s going on, agendas need to be replaced with a genuine desire to understand the other person’s view.  I have lost count of the number of times I’ve facilitated a discussion where people agreed, but just couldn’t see it at first because they described their experience and views so differently.

This is where judgements really surface too. The minute we start deciding whether someone is right or wrong, it’s because we are comparing it to our own frame of reference.  If it matches, they’re right. If it doesn’t, they’re wrong. It’s human, it’s understandable but it’s not helpful. So, move towards understanding what someone disagrees with by removing your own listening lense, and then share your perspective responsively e.g. in relation to their view, not in an oppositional reply and you’ll find ways towards solutions.  Sometimes you’ll need to adapt more than others and not everyone will respond well. Once you’ve genuinely dropped your agenda, persevere. It’s less likely to feel like a compromise, and more likely to feel like a good way forward.

In summary

Navigating disruption is exhausting for many because of the constant need to switch between being future focused and working with constantly developing information. It takes concentration and energy.  Clarity, planning, adaptability, high emotional intelligence and strong communication skills are pivotal to navigating change successfully.

We work with teams in small and large businesses to support them in their organisational change needs. Whether that’s supporting senior people with their ideas and plans or leading HR teams to a new level of service to their businesses.

If you would like to see how we might help you navigate a period of significant change, we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch today.

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