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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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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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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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Family Friendly

5 Ways To Make Sure You’re A Truly Family Friendly Employer

During the school holidays I have been fortunate enough to enjoy a great blend of time with my son, time working with clients, time working on the business and some time to use as I chose, for myself. All in varying proportions. My son equally had time with his father, time with his friends, time with his grandparents and time for himself to explore pursuits of his own. It took planning, co-ordination and some juggling. It all worked out well. But there have been times when it wasn’t so seamless and there are likely to be times when I’ll need to think differently again about how I plan for and accomplish meeting differing needs. It got me thinking about the options available for juggling work and family life for employers and employees.

I Googled the definitions of ‘family friendly working’ and was directed to research from Working Families and DirectGov.UK. In the 2019 Modern Families Index they quote that there are 6.2 million couple households with dependent children in the UK and 1.7 lone-parent families. Employment rates for mothers was a staggering 74%, which has only increased 5.1% over the last 5 years. And, employment rates for both women and men with dependent children were higher than for those without. So that’s 13 million working parents (employed and self-employed). For more information about how those statistics play out in other areas I’d urge you to take a look at the report. It’s an interesting read.

From this research, I learned parents working in SME’s were slightly more likely than those in larger organisations, to work flexibly. I found myself asking again, whether the statutory requirements truly facilitate and create family friendly working practices that reflect the real underlying needs of employer/employee responsibilities? The advice I found at DirectGov.UK seems largely to reflect changing working patterns, childcare and supporting ideas for time off. It seems primarily targeted at supporting women into work and motivated by reducing the Gender Pay gap. All good stuff. But it doesn’t go far enough for me. So, here are some thoughts and ideas for striking a ‘give and take’ balance that create a stronger platform for harmonising work and home in our ever-changing, seemingly overly busy lives.

1.      Set clear expectations and boundaries.

There are balances to be struck. As an HR consultant I see employers start off very generously and then perhaps one employee took a little too much for granted or let the team down due to some bad planning, resulting in the removal of generosity for all. With clear boundaries and a direct, constructive dialogue, you can limit the impact on the business and other team members, when things don’t go according plan, without being punitive.

2.      Support employees to plan for what they need

From my own experience I can remember missing a sports day early on in my son’s school career. It wasn’t a big deal at the time, but I learned very quickly that my back-up plan, needed a back-up plan! I learned from it and I schedule commitments differently now. So, help people to plan what they need in their personal lives, for themselves, as well as their work schedule or shift patterns, and you’ll be giving them prioritisation and planning skills they can also apply in your business. You’ll also gain some very loyal employees.

3.      Observe the statutory obligations as a minimum standard

If you Google’ family friendly’ you’ll find around 2, 620 000 000 results and they’re mainly products and services to entice people into something leisurely with their families. Restaurants, theme parks, holiday resorts, experiences, I could go on! Yet when we think family friendly at work, we don’t think about how to enhance their work experience, we think about how to limit disruption. I wonder why employees might think we’re no fun?!

So, when you’re building your Family Friendly suite, don’t focus on limits, think about needs of the customer and the needs of the employees who serve those customers. People who feel valued and appreciated, working in ways that support them, will create valued and appreciated customers. Those customers create a stronger business which means a more certain employment future and that cycle continues. It’s a no brainer then, to help the people who are serving your customers feel like they are encouraged to enjoy their personal lives, as those are the people you’ll retain, content to give their best to your customers.

4.      Include well-being in your Family Friendly thinking

Caring for an elderly relative, supporting a sick spouse, becoming a new parent, adjusting to new school arrangements, researching Universities, responding to special care needs, going through divorce, among many other needs, all evoke emotional stress over and above practical, logistical demands. This eats personal energy, not just time. So, when you’re thinking Family Friendly, think about supporting transitions, think family life as a whole, and therefore what support you can help signpost people to, dependent on their circumstances, that also encourages self-care. A change in work patterns/flexible working may well help, but it may not be enough on its own.

5.      Train your line managers to be open-minded and supportive

So many times, I have witnessed an escalation that could have been prevented with some education for, and empathy from, the first line manager. Think about this example. A young ambitious, keen, productive, supervisor welcoming a maternity returner back to work. They worked well together before she went off on maternity leave. Her needs and perspectives are likely to be different now versus then. Alternatively, the grieving widow who returns to work and just isn’t quite themselves anymore, perhaps they’ve been a little late a few times or they’ve struggled to focus recently and made some mistakes. A little guidance, some simple processes, empathy and awareness training that creates perspective sharing, can ensure all strong performers, stay productive team members in the long run.

We know there are some fabulous employers out there who are really innovative and caring and as a result, create great workplaces. Some of them are our much-loved clients that we support with ideas based on their business requirements and people needs.

We’d love to hear about your experiences of creating workplaces that deliver great results by balancing employee and employer needs and if you could use some ideas, we’d love to see how we can help. Contact us to find out more here or to arrange a no-obligation, free initial consultation.

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policies

Taking the Right and Wrong out of your Policies

Some things are clear cut. Black and white. Decisions are easy. But there is no black and white when it comes to decisions about people, which can create a few problems when it comes to writing and implementing policies for business. A common misconception that is evident from many of the HR policies I come across is that they focus on compliance, adhering rigidly to the various codes and rules we have around employment. And while policies do need to be statutorily compliant, going with a 100% by-the-book approach will cause more problems than it will solve. But we don’t find this out until we need to rely on the policy information to make a decision. So how do you create policies that facilitate strong operating practices and fulfil your employment obligations?

I work best with examples, so here’s a recent client scenario:

A board meeting between directors A and B is in progress. They’re meeting to discuss the holiday policy for their business. The business needs availability for their customers, with a good visibility of staff throughout the year. Bottlenecks in staff holidays are causing a disruption here.  The board are clear that employees work hard all year and deserve their breaks at times that work for them. They are also mindful that the business needs to thrive financially, psychologically and sustainably. Something now needs to change to accommodate both needs.

Director A says he would prefer it if all employees could put in their time off requests at the beginning of the year at the same time, so that the holiday calendar could be organised in advance. Then it’s easier to facilitate different needs and create opportunities with plenty of notice. Director B points out that this simply wouldn’t work for her. She prefers to be more flexible with her holiday, not plan things too far in advance. She tends to see what holiday everyone else has booked and work around that instead. She also mentions that she knows a few other employees who prefer to work this way. Her accommodating nature means many people benefit.

So who’s right?

If we had left that discussion there, it could have meant 2 board members would think that the other was wrong. Director A may be thinking that director B doesn’t plan well, and director B, well possibly, that director A is too rigid in his approach. If director C is then asked to cast a tiebreaking vote based on which he thinks is ‘right’, they could find themselves on their way to dissonance and unhappiness between two directors and a loss of adaptability, currently given freely, from some employees on either side of the argument.

What Can We Learn?

Here’s’ the thing – nobody here is wrong. Each individual’s frame of reference is different. Instead of choosing the option based on what is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ for the business, we helped them look into the ‘why’ behind their decision. We looked at what ‘could’ be done rather than what ‘should’ be done and what was ‘helpful’ or ‘unhelpful’ versus ‘good’ or ‘bad’. The result? We identified some clear options and came up with a solution that was structured enough to suit the business needs, but flexible enough for everyone on the team. Our solutions took into account the culture and working ethics of the business and we did this by parking our judgments and focusing on the objectives.

Many HR policies are drafted based on the need for rules. Ours will provide that. But we find that it’s not the policy that supports the way a business runs, it’s the way decisions about the topic are made. So we identify how the company tends to make decisions and then provide a supporting framework for implementing the policy. This way decisions are clear, consistent and most of all, human. So, when an unpopular decision needs to be made (which is the only time policies come into question!) it is more likely to be respected and accommodated.

We really enjoy working with businesses to facilitate the dialogue that leads to quality people practices. The themes are the same, the solutions differ. So if you could use some guidance about your people policies and decisions, we’d love to see how we can help.  Get in touch with us today.

 

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HR consultant

How to choose an HR Consultant

Your business is growing. It’s evolving and changing, and in many ways you feel great about that. But with each operational change and every new staff member, there are more holidays to cover, more sicknesses and absences to manage and more people issues to handle. At some point in this ocean of ‘to-do’s’, you may realise you could use some trusted support, and that’s where a dedicated HR presence can help. But what can they really help with? How many people justifies external support? With so many different choices out there, how do you choose the right HR consultant for you, your business and your team?

First Step – Honest Diagnosis

As a first step, think about what your current business challenges are. Is it retaining your good people? Is it finding the right people? Is it customer service levels? Perhaps it’s decisions your team are making that you’re unhappy about? It’s important to take an honest look at your business and identify the conversations you’ve been having too many of, or that you’ve been avoiding and you’ll start to understand where you could use support. Whatever the challenges, or business size, a good consultant will explore your needs without any of the judgment you are heaping on yourself, long before they get anywhere near suggesting solutions.

Choose Values, As Well As Technical Expertise

We see this often. The focus when recruiting new people goes more into technical skill, experience and networks they have. But the biggest challenges business owners face usually relate to behaviour and differences in personal values. So when you think about current people capability, spend some time thinking about the characteristics of people that work well in your business and the culture you’ve created. You can then apply that thinking to the choice you make about the external consultants you choose to work with so you get a good match.

Ask For Recommendations

There is nothing quite as reassuring as a personal recommendation. In the age of digital selling, it’s easy for people to make claims about what they can deliver. But they might not be as good as they claim to be and if you’re getting in touch because it’s not your area of expertise, there’s a higher risk that you’ll receive a surprise down the line. So personal recommendations, especially in trusted professions, by people you trust and who know you, are usually a strong basis for finding a good fit. At Organic P&O Solutions, our new business is generated 100% from referrals and recommendations. So, talk to your business connections and trusted friends and ask them who they could recommend. You can also use your LinkedIn network and clients.

Delegate (To A Point)

Engage the team members who are going to work with your external suppliers by all means, but remember you’re looking at support for expertise that isn’t currently in the business. So, while other opinions may be valuable, stay close to recommendations and opinions to make sure you are exploring relevant options.

Qualifications, experience and technical expertise can all be verified. It’s the nature of the solutions on offer and the way the consultant works that are also important for you to think about. Which means don’t delegate the research entirely to someone else. Junior people can’t think like you do as a business owner, not yet anyway! So be there to ask the strategic, searching questions about how the consultancy can meet your business goals now and for as long as you need them to.

Ask Quality Questions

When you’re talking to potential consultants, ask them how they work. Get specific examples. Consider the frequency and level of advice you feel you will need for the current headcount in your business now and for the future. Ask for examples about how they work with other clients, and how that has worked out. What results have they delivered? Most importantly, ask them how they will get to know you, your team and your business so they can deliver the right service for you. It’s also important to find out what they can deliver operationally in terms of capacity too, so you can plan for those future needs you’ve identified.

There’s a lot to think about when deciding who you’ll use to help you with your team. It’s never one-size fits all when you are dealing with people and we know from our experience at Organic P&O Solutions that we are really right for some businesses and not for others. That’s why we refer to partners where we think the service on offer might be a better fit.

If you’d like to know more about us and how we work, so we might explore whether we could be a good fit for you, get in touch with us today, subscribe to our mailing list or visit our website.

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