Posts

Unconscious Bias

Handling Difficult Conversations

Anyone in a role managing staff within their organisation will need to be handling difficult conversations from time to time. Whether it’s talking to someone in your department about their work not quite being up to standard, managing team dynamics or dealing with a difficult personal matter that someone wants to talk to you about, conversations which may make you feel uncomfortable can’t be entirely avoided. In fact, they are a key part of strong line management and leadership. So, how can you deal with them in a more effective way?

The first step is to ensure that you are the right person to have the conversation with the member of staff. Should it be dealt with by a line manager, referred to HR or perhaps to a more senior manager? Assuming you are the right person, don’t avoid having that difficult conversation or put it off, tempting as that might be.

These are often very important discussions to have and delaying them, or, avoiding them altogether, can cause real problems. Not addressing an issue when it arises, can give the employee the impression that it’s not that important. It can also lead to low staff morale if the issue relates to a team problem. In an appraisal context, appraisers are often keen to focus on the positives and avoid having any conversation about areas which could be improved. This can mean that poor performance can go unaddressed for years, with appraisal records showing only glowing reports. At the point at which the performance needs to be tackled, this can cause real problems for employers.

Difficult conversations can be uncomfortable because they take us out of our comfort zone. They may not go as we plan or people may become upset or confrontational.

Good preparation is key.

Check the facts relating to the issue you want to discuss, and check any relevant policies or procedures. Make sure you have the necessary support from HR or your line manager if you need it. Take control of the discussion, and set the agenda. Communicate the issues and give examples and evidence to support what you are saying. Make sure the member of staff has the opportunity to respond and try to give effective and objective feedback. Try to keep calm, even if the staff member becomes emotional. Be professional; while it can be appealing to approach these discussions as a friendly colleague, and of course you do need to be understanding in your approach, it is best to approach in a professional manner.

Take notes and highlight any actions that will need to be completed after the meeting.

It is important to recognise that emotions are likely to be involved; both the employee’s and yours. It may be difficult to predict how the staff member will react. They may be angry, or they may become upset. Similarly, recognise that your emotions may be involved in this, but stay as calm as possible.

It is critical to try to end the discussion with a plan for the way forward. This will set boundaries around the issue in hand. Discuss the options with the member of staff, make a decision and agree on follow ups or reviews and where appropriate, a date and time for a further meeting.
Narrow Quay HR can help you and your line managers to deal with difficult conversations by offering training sessions on this and other essential HR topics for line managers.

For more details, please get in touch.

Employment 2018

Employment : What’s new in 2018, after 2017, a significant year for employers and employees, with the Taylor Review and the Supreme Court’s ruling on tribunal fees taking centre stage.

Employment status will continue to be a hot topic in 2018, with individuals designated as self-employed by their employer seeking the protections offered by worker or employment status. We expect the Government to provide a response to the Taylor Review on modern employment practices and this is likely to impact those working in a gig economy industry.

The ECJ’s decision that workers who are wrongly informed they are not entitled to holiday pay can carry holiday rights over indefinitely and also be paid in lieu for any untaken holiday during their entire period of employment on termination. A Court of Appeal decision will be highly relevant to those who have been classified as self-employed during a contract but are then subsequently shown to be workers or employees.

In April, the first of the mandatory gender pay gap reports for large private and voluntary sector employers will be due. This follows the obligation on large employers to publish an annual report containing data on their gender pay gap, which was introduced last year. Public sector employers that fall within the remit must report by 30 March 2018.

Of course we will also see the introduction on 25 May 2018 of the new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which covers a host of changes in regulations regarding the collection and holding of personal data. Some of the considerations include, but are not limited to:

  • greater penalties for non-compliance
  • increased requirements around record keeping and reporting
  • the requirement to include additional information in privacy notices and contracts with data processors
  • increased information security
  • a far narrower definition of consent
  • changes to the rules around the handling of subject access requests
  • new rights for individuals in relation to their data

Get in touch with us to discuss your current and future employment challenges. We’d be delighted to help.

How to effectively manage employee underperformance is a key skill in a manager and team leader’s repertoire.

This article is designed as a general guide for how to begin approaching this sensitive subject. It is not a replacement for professional advice and support so please get in touch so that we can help your particular situation.

There are many reasons why underperformance needs to be addressed, quickly and effectively. These include: improving the performance and quality of output of the organisation; encouragement of optimum performance from staff members; minimising of sickness absence; avoiding legal challenges such as discrimination; minimising damage to staff morale, burden and quality of service.

Poor performance may manifest in a variety of ways such as declining quality of work, reduced productivity or delays in completion of projects and tasks and an overall decline in attitude to work, peers and management.

To address employee underperformance a fair procedure must be followed where there is a clear definition of the poor performance from the outset. Of course, if the underperformance is occurring at the start of someone’s employment then a probationary period with clearly defined purpose, length and terms, can help alleviate quickly and effectively, increasing issues later.

The process of dealing with underperformance of a member of staff begins with an informal approach. This may include establishing the facts, informing the employee of the situation, an initial meeting and discussion with them, setting of clear and attainable written targets for improvement within clear timescales and provision of support to help them achieve them. At this point a clear review date is required and a warning that failure to meet the targets may lead to formal action.

Gathering the facts at this informal stage may identify the root of the problem, underlying issues, and the triggers.

If the informal approach does not achieve the desired positive outcomes then the formal approach is required.

The formal approach requires a detailed investigation, written invitation to the employee to attend a capability meeting (the employee may be accompanied) with a note taker present and a reference back to the informal approach or appraisal. Further targets and timescales for improvement may be set at this stage and further appropriate support may include additional training, delegation of work and re-allocation of duties.

At this point, sanctions may need to be applied, such as a written warning, final written warning, dismissal with notice or other sanctions such as demotion.

If the result of the process is a dismissal then it must be fair in all the circumstances under consideration. There is an ACAS guide to disciplinary and grievance procedures for example which contains general principles of fairness and these can be incorporated within the employer’s own procedures.

Managing an employee who is underperforming is a complex, intricate and sensitive legal process. To ensure you have the appropriate support and processes in place please get in touch and we can talk you through the steps required.

improving employee engagement

How to improve employee engagement should be a real focus in the work of leaders, managers, team heads and of course HR professionalsHow to improve employee engagement should be a real focus in the work of leaders, managers, team heads and of course HR professionals.

Employees are the heart blood of every organisation. Without them there is no organisation. Some businesses allocate countless resources to their branding, marketing, production, innovation and business development, and place their people lower down the list of priorities.

People are what makes the organisation tick and so figuring out how to improve their engagement should be high on the list from board meetings to day to day operations.

We would love to share our experience with you to see how we might work together to improve the engagement of your staff. Please get in touch.

In the meantime you might be interested in visiting Engage for Success.