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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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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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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 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.



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 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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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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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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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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5 ways to confident hiring decisions

You know you’ve worked in a great team when you pick up the phone after a few years to a former colleague and when you start reminiscing about working together, the conversation covers three things. What you’re proud of achieving together, how you got through the tough times and how much you enjoyed working and learning together. Yet, when I reflect on conversations I have with employers, job applicants, freelancers etc about what they look for during a hiring / engagement process, these three things aren’t a ready focus point.

In my experience, great hiring strategies involve a combination of deliberate and accidental matching criteria. The most successful processes have a greater degree of the former (criteria and process) so the latter (surprises) can emerge. The best ones focus on what the team needs to deliver next and what they need both technically and behaviourally to do it. Here are some of the ways we help our clients build their teams making sure they use their own unique blend of foresight and hindsight, to make confident hiring decisions.

Values value values
We know that employers need to hire technical skills and experience. We also know that when appointments go sour, the cause is often behaviour. The behaviour is a problem but not the main issue. Quite often, it’s a clash of personal values. This is often a surprise and that’s because values are innate. And, because they’re innate, they’re usually not discussed openly. Get clear about personal and team values and you’ll have a description for your culture and a tool you can use time after time, no matter what the role is. You’ll also have criteria to help manage individual and team performance.

A note of caution here, don’t rule people out just because they don’t directly agree with you or your team’s ‘norms’. Values transcend diversity. More importantly, difference is essential for rounded performance. Do think about how you’ll manage differences though and don’t take it so far that you find yourself on the wrong side of discrimination. Sometimes the path to collaboration, whilst worthwhile, isn’t smooth!

Business phase and role life span
Have a ‘people’ plan. Something that shows how roles relate to each other and what they will deliver for the business. Identify what you’re happy to invest in and what you expect someone to turn up with.

In your plan, get clear about the phase your business is in. What’s the lifespan of the vacancy? Will it stay in its current form or evolve over time? How much? How quickly? Resourcing is an ongoing activity. Over time, things change. Help people manage careers not job roles and you’ll gain loyalty and commitment that salaries and benefits can’t buy.

Keep in touch
When you meet a candidate you just ‘really liked’ but they didn’t get the job, think about what they would have been right for and keep in touch. Maybe they need a more settled, stable company phase or conversely, there won’t be enough pace, change and challenge in this assignment. If they’re not right for you, they may be right for someone you know and better still, they may be right for your team in the future. There are so many ways to keep in touch, choose what works for you. Perhaps you’ll call them periodically or connect with them on LinkedIn. If it won’t upset their current employer, and you’d like to help them secure a new role, perhaps give them a ‘Kudos’ post. In short, when you meet top talent, keep in touch and nurture it.

Attract the right candidates
Decide on a route to market that will attract and help you identify good candidates, just like you would for attracting customers. Where are the people that would love to find you? What is it that’s unique or different about you as an employer? Spend time building your employer brand as well as your customer brand and you’re more likely to have a quality pool to choose from. For example, where might you find people with the right qualities you’re looking for. Things like empathy, initiative, team player. I have a client who will always interview a candidate who volunteers regularly. They may not get the job every time, but he knows that if they’re a volunteer, they have qualities and values that resonate with what he looks for in his team. The technical training can be learned.

Do more than interview

Good interview skills are essential for giving candidates the best chance of showing you they can deliver. A practical way of looking for an all-round view (technical, experiential, behavioural) is to include a practical exercise in the selection process. It doesn’t have to be a lengthy assessment centre style event, although that may be an option for you. It could be something simple. For example, when I recruit for HR professionals at all levels, I provide scenarios that are unique to the business and role. Part of the exercise will be a form of written correspondence. I need to know the people coming on board can work with more than standard templates. (Tailored, well written correspondence is an absolute must in all HR correspondence, for me).

There are multiple benefits to this, I find out how the ‘fit’ works for the role and business culture, over and above the discussion at interview. I discover congruence so I can assess whether the candidate really can deliver the things they impressed me with during the interview. I receive evidence of things like use of language, tone of voice, empathy, judgment, influence and so on, all critical to the HR role. The blend however may reveal that one candidate is stronger for the assignment than another.

The bonus though, is when a nervous interviewee gets to show me, through the exercise, how they really work and what they’re capable of. Interview nerves don’t go away until they’ve been overcome. Getting through a selection process supports confidence. It’s not always a happy ending, but I can’t put a price on how rewarding it is when it works out.

Where to next?
One of our values is continuous improvement. We make sure we apply our learning from our strongest successes and any of our glorious failures, for future decisions. When it comes to people and organisations, we’ve got plenty we’d love to share and even more passion to continue to explore. Every assignment is unique, every client has evolving needs and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Perhaps you’re a business owner, director or senior manager who could use some fresh ideas or an opportunity to learn from your experiences so far. We’d love to find out how we might help you take your hiring process to the next level. If you’d like to find out more, please get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.

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5 reasons performance feedback fails and what to do about it

Giving and receiving feedback is heartland territory for performance conversations. Both delivery and receipt require a combination of skill and character, making it a strong topic for Leadership and Management training programmes everywhere.  It’s essential for continuous performance improvement and without it, effective change won’t gather pace. Yet it’s often delivered and/or received badly; exacerbating poor communication practices and ineffective working relationships.  Here are our top contributors that we believe hamper effective feedback and our ideas for how to solve them.

  1. Feedback is delivered as a one-way conversation

I’ve seen it often. The perception is delivered in a ‘let me tell you what I saw, experienced, felt’ style and standard rules like be clear, be factual, give examples, be assertive are followed. Agreed, these are all important, however, this approach doesn’t allow for a mutual understanding and resolution to be reached.  Feedback is a response to something that we want changed or repeated, and this means co-operation is required. For co-operation, there must be two-way involvement.  If you have a skilled recipient, the conversation may hold promise because they may be able to receive the information in a way that is useful, regardless of the delivery.  However, without managing the conversation, it’s more likely problems will surface.  Above all else, check first if it’s a good time for them to receive this information and whether you are the most effective messenger.

A message delivered articulately and empathetically is as important as the accuracy of the content, so tailor your message delivery to match the context, environment and circumstances of the recipient. Things like ‘Is this a pattern they have noticed for themselves?’  work well.  Inviting someone to self-assess before giving your view means you are less likely to encounter resistance. Another example could be when you’ve observed something that’s out of character. In this case, ask what was different that day or in that meeting etc. before sharing your observations. The response you receive may negate the need to give your view altogether.

  1. You prepare for the conversation without preparing yourself

Particularly when there’s a tough message involved, feelings of uncertainty, anxiousness, nervousness about the potential response combined with fear of negative consequences, can undermine your approach regardless of your intentions.  To control the discomfort, it’s human nature to want to avoid it (flight) or push through it (fight). This usually happens when someone is attached to being ‘right’.  To bolster your view, you may seek agreement from someone you trust. Then share the information according to when you’re ready. The feeling of ‘There, said it. Phew! Now it’s up to them. Right?’ may resonate here.  If so, have a think about how many times you have reached a satisfactory result following just one conversation. It’s unlikely to have a high yield, if at all.

When I have something I feel strongly about, I let it ‘sit’ for a while. Then I discuss it with someone I trust to challenge my views.  The stronger the reaction, the longer I let it sit and the more I seek challenge. Examining your motives and judgments is important because these determine your beliefs.  And those beliefs? They’ll inform how you feel.  If the conversation is going to lead somewhere good, it’ll be because you kept your opinions, judgments and emotions in check. Not absent, they count, but not in the driving seat. I believer if you feel ‘right’, that makes the other person wrong.  That’s a black and white position with no room for exploration.  With no room for taking in the other person’s experience / perspective then it’s a one-way conversation. The result is more likely to be an uncomfortable transaction, without a sustainable resolution.  So, seek alternative views, talk to someone who may share the other person’s perspective as well as your own and who can challenge your thinking. It won’t change what has happened, but it could shape a stronger outcome.

  1. The delivery is formulaic and fails to inspire an appetite to change

We use a variety of communication models in our work and advocate many different feedback models however, we urge our clients not to rely on them. Instead, consider these as criteria for preparation. Like a set piece in sport or a recipe for a meal, formulas support how something is put together.  So use formulae for infrastructure then employ empathy and responsiveness. Avoid over-scripting and over-managing as this will undermine conveyed sincerity.  Instead, join forces to explore relevant issues and find solutions to secure your best chance of co-operation and commitment to change.

If you really want to inspire change, be proactive with your feedback by finding ways to give forward feedback.  For example, when we work with delegates who are taking part in an exercise in our longer-term programmes, we will draw their attention to a skill they’ve shown in a previous session. For example, “I know you’re not sure how to approach this right now, but I know you can do this because you achieved {[X] result in the [Y] module. Use your [mention special skill] here and you’ll be on your way to really seeing some traction on this”.  Express what you’re looking to see more of and what difference it could make to the results of the company, team, project etc and motivation will soar.  It will also build a habit and mindset that will spread like ripples throughout the team. Not only for the individuals receiving it but for those witnessing the culture you’re fostering. 

  1. A commitment is expected immediately

I remember a time I received some feedback. It was important I heard it and understood it. It stung a bit!  I accepted it and said I’d go away and think about it.  The person who gave me the feedback was upset that I didn’t have a more committed response. I felt I needed time to work out how best to deal with it.  We found our way through it, but I’ll never forget the feeling of being on the receiving end of feedback that was completely valid, yet outside of my awareness.  Why is this important? Feedback is often a no-brainer to the person giving the information, so the impact it has can often be under-estimated.   Remember, it’s only obvious when you know.  And if they know, it’s not feedback!  In which case, I would challenge you to think about the purpose of the conversation you really need to have here.

On the flipside, you may receive an emotional or highly charged response.  In this case, give it some time and distance. Then return, don’t avoid it.  During the gap think about your timing, delivery, what might help reduce the emotional charge when it’s revisited? Go back to your trusted source(s) for some perspective.  I’m not suggesting you accept unhelpful behaviour; I am suggesting you consider the emotional make-up of the receiver and what their motives might have been for their original actions.  In short, re-visit the qualification points and then adjust from there.  And if you got it wrong, apologise and treat it as feedback for yourself.  Boundaries and ownership are key to achieving personal change, so encourage it by being a role model for it by adjusting your approach if you need to.

  1. Agreed actions sit only with the recipient

Feedback is particularly effective when we know what we want to be different.  I hear people express what they did or didn’t appreciate yet fall short on the required change.  Just as the feedback may have been a surprise to the recipient, the actions required to make a change may feel equally like an enigma.  A strong leader will be clear about what good looks like and will understand how to support without reducing ownership on the individual.  So, it’s a good idea to think about how you will make sure you manage the change and progress that you’re asking for. What are the review timescales? What is reasonable to expect and when? What do the incremental changes look like? For example, if it’s greater accuracy, what’s the reduction in mistakes you’re looking to see? If it’s a more positive contribution in meetings, what does that look like? Then think about what support you need to provide. What will you do to actively encourage commitment to the change? What will need repetition and what will need enough space to allow progress from you?  If you’re thinking about how you can support the process, you’ll handle the conversation and subsequent follow up better, and you’ll be in a better place to use it in an exploratory, solution focused way from the start.

At Organic P&O Solutions we’ve worked with individuals and teams, high performers and underperformers, in high output departments and in personally charged employment disputes. We always talk about constructive dialogue being key and we’ve witnessed it deliver improved performance when done well.  It has also supported companies to manage the destructive effects of toxic relationships and move into a more productive way of working.  If you’d like to find out more about how we might help you build a stronger performance amongst your team, we’d love to hear from you.


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HR Professionals

4 Things Leaders Don’t Need to Hear from HR Professionals

Strong business leaders know how to make the most of their HR resource, are more likely to train their line management teams well to implement people processes and focus on what will motivate and engage their people. Sometimes, employment regulations can seem overly arduous, even to the most amenable leaders. At these times I have often heard HR professionals, often well intentioned, sound unhelpful. Their conscientious attention to the rules risks missing the mark in getting a good result for the business. Based on what I’ve heard and learned over my career, as an HR professional, facilitator, coach and business owner, I’ve shared the top four things, that if avoided, can change the way HR professionals can support business leaders through employment disputes, more effectively.

  • It’s the law!

There are statutory regulations, it’s true. The implications of not following the ACAS code or the business policies outlined to employees could land a company in an Employment Tribunal. However, if the employer has never experienced the downside of a poor decision in this way, this is not a helpful message.

Our approach is always ‘yes you can’ followed by silence. It gives our clients the opportunity to ‘sit’ with their current thinking and then explore the potential consequences with us. We know our knowledge and experience isn’t important just yet. Once we’ve explored the potential implications and along the way, shared some information and experience that is directly relevant, we find business owners and leaders start to find alternatives, naturally, and we build from there. Appealing to the strength in their ability to make decisions and being clear, without being dramatic, about potential outcomes, makes it easier to weigh up alternatives all round.

  • You need to follow the process

Following a rigid process can be tricky for some. Personality types vary and so do ability levels and appetites for it. I find, quite often, it’s not identifying and explaining the steps in the process that present the difficulty. Rather, it’s the ability to navigate the conversation once it’s underway. Over time, HR professionals build up a catalogue of knowledge and experience that line managers may not, because they don’t specialise in it. This is particularly true for difficult issues. So, we tend to focus on supporting the words, language, sequencing and styles that are important to the people both managing, and on the receiving end of a process. Focusing the leaders on listening and clarity also gives them the time to notice and respond well, which makes it easier for them to take the right steps, at the right time.

  • You’ll end up in an Employment Tribunal

I’ve met many HR professionals who believe that going to Employment Tribunal means the business has failed. In some cases, this may be true. Not always though. For example, I’ve supported businesses through employment tribunal proceedings when they’ve had good conscience that they had done everything they could. And they’ve had successful outcomes. At Organic P&O Solutions, our focus is to come out of any difficult situation with learning. Sometimes this on its own can be the very boost a business leader needs to take their people strategy to a new level.

As an aside, I also advise HR teams to manage complex cases as if they were going to end up in tribunal. It helps on a few levels. The first, the case documents are ready when needed, should it need go to an employment solicitor. The last thing you need to be doing when that time-sensitive tribunal notification hits is waste time collating information. You’ll need to focus all your efforts on a quality response. Second, it keeps focus at every stage, on consistency of decisions and exercising due diligence. I often help businesses think about how a tribunal panel might weigh up their decision. It helps with perspective. Third, because it has been managed so closely, the likelihood of ending up in Tribunal is reduced.

  • If you do it for one, you’ll have to do it for everyone

Consistency and fairness are important. They are also barriers to responding to individual needs and being able to respond well, on an individual level, is at the heart of good leadership. So, striking the chord to achieve what’s ‘fair and reasonable’ (required in our employment regulations) versus ‘what’s really needed here?’ (addressing human needs) is of pivotal importance. HR professionals have a duty to support business owners run their businesses well, which means policies need to be applied in the way that suits the business and its customers. The direct conduit between those two is how employees are treated. So, we advise against blanket approaches and overly standard correspondence. The human element doesn’t automatically show up as favouritism and it could be the one thing that really turns a dispute into a workable solution.

We really enjoy working with businesses to facilitate the dialogue that leads to quality people practices. The themes are often similar, yet the solutions can differ considerably. So, if you could use a discussion about what kind of HR support you might need for your team, we’d love to see how we can help. Get in touch with us today.

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