Monthly Archives: May 2013

How to Conduct a Meeting – 3 Simple Rules

This is a guest blog by Alastair MacReaDirector of Alastair MacRae Training I mentioned in last month’s blog that I live in the village of Ecton. I love it. It is such a friendly place with a very active social scene. I’m on the committee of the village hall (in village life there are always committees) and we recently had our Annual General Meeting. At a village meeting people are there because they want to participate. They want to show support for the committee or make suggestions for improvements or perhaps volunteer to be more deeply involved. A business meeting can be a very different affair.

I remember when I worked in the corporate world there were some meetings that I didn’t want to attend, didn’t need to attend and didn’t enjoy attending. Very often this was because of the poor management on the part of the person who called the meeting. I very rarely participate in formal meetings these days. I’m usually meeting clients or partners and these meetings tend to be more informal. But even informal meetings have to be managed properly.
There are four basic reasons for calling a meeting; to share information, to review progress, to tackle a problem or to launch change. Very often the first two result in the second two. As a result of sharing information it may be decided that change is necessary or progress is not what is should be because of a problem. Don’t try to do both in one meeting.
If, in your working life, you have meetings there are some simple rules to follow to help you get what you want out of your meetings.
First, and most important, ask yourself – is the meeting really necessary? Could you achieve what you need to achieve by simply talking to people directly and individually? If so, then that’s the way to go because trying to get everyone required in the same place at the same time can take time which means a delay in getting the result you need. So if you feel calling a meeting is really necessary, perhaps because you need multiple inputs or because there is too much information to share piecemeal, then you need to manage it properly.
Second, give yourself and the invitees time to prepare. At the meeting emphasis should be on making informed decisions. Prepare yourself by making sure you know the main subject. Think about what questions are likely to arise and gather the relevant information to respond or have an appropriate expert available. If there is a lot of information to share, distribute it beforehand; meeting time is not reading time.
Third, make sure everyone understands what has been agreed and that that understanding is the same for all participants. Repeat each decision or action as it is agreed; it will be difficult to correct misunderstandings after the group has dispersed and end the meeting with a summary of all decisions and actions.Contact Details for AlastairTel: 07702080941

Long Hot Summer Days – How to Reduce Absenteeism

We can but hope that this summer turns out to be long, hot and sunny, but with that comes the risk that some employees may want to take advantage of the good weather deciding that work is not their top priority.  So what can employers do?

With the long school holidays, one possibility could be allowing homeworking.  Although if such a request is because the employee wants to look after their children then an employer would need to assert that appropriate childcare is implemented.   Work is the top priority and an employee should not be both working for you and caring for their child at the same time.

An employer could consider a temporary change to working hours so that parents can deal with childcare demands.  There is no obligation to respond to such a request and when considering this an employer should adopt a consistent approach to avoid discrimination.  There should be a clear arrangement communicated in writing.  When considering a request the impact on colleagues should be considered.

Another option could be time off for dependents where employees have the right to take a reasonable amount of time off to deal with unexpected emergencies.  The definition of dependants can include children, their spouse/civil partner, parents, and even someone else living in his or her household, but not lodgers.  Employees can take time off where it is necessary to provide assistance themselves or arrange for care if their dependants fall ill, give birth or are injured or assaulted.  They can also take time off where it is necessary to deal with unexpected breakdown of arrangements for the care of a dependant.

Unpaid parental leave rose to 18 weeks on 8 March 2013 and this could be an option that parents could use.If an employer finds there is a definite increase in sickness absence rates during the summer period perhaps with a Monday/Friday pattern then a return to work interview is recommended taking documented notes which will serve as evidence for a disciplinary hearing if the situation does not improve.If an employee is clearly absent without leave then the disciplinary procedure should be followed.

If an employee falls ill on their holiday then provided they can show proof in the form of a fit note then they should be paid sick pay rather than holiday pay and their statutory holiday entitlement should be re-instated.

Having clear procedures and policies in place is key to managing staff during the summer period as any other time of the year.

7 Deadly Sins of Management

Good managers are vital to the success of any organisation through motivating their staff to work hard therefore increasing profits, but they have a tough life being wedged between the leadership and employee layers of an organisation trying to please everyone.

Good managers inspire the workforce but bad managers can increase costs through their detrimental behaviour.  I am sure everyone can clearly remember and describe a bad manager they have had in their working lives, so the following list may ring true with a compilation of the least favourite management characteristics that can be sometimes be displayed.

Lack of performance

Most managers are promoted because they are skilled at what they do, however, a promotion to the next level might be one step too far.  If they haven’t been provided with a structured induction or a training programme to take them to the next level things could be disasterous.  Management development programmes can help managers develop in an all round way and that includes learning how to manage their staff well.

Poor communication

Communication within a team or department is vital to ensure the wheels run smoothly.  Although we are animals that communicate to one another on a daily basis, too often in organisations communication breaks down.  A manager is key to how communication works within a team, but often this does not happen because the manager may be too wrapped up with other things.  Implementing simple communication methods such as team meetings and/or a newsletter can help improve matters along with manager communication training.

Undermining the team/staff

Everyone wants to feel valued and needed, but if we are undermined by a manager that makes us feel demotivated which can have a knock on effect with productivity.  Being undermined can also be a symptom of bullying and harassment which if linked to a protective characteristic within the Equality Act can be discriminatory.  Some managers get carried away with being in charge and consumed by power because they have been promoted.  They don’t listen to or involve their staff, bark out orders and push people around.  Managers need to learn the art of constructive feedback that should be used only where appropriate.

Poor people skills

Too often bad managers don’t know how to manage their team.  If good HR skills are not inherent then managers need to be trained in the art of HR management.  Managers need to be aware of the people they manage which starts with good recruitment skills followed by strong incentivisation of performance.

Not being accountable

Bad managers blame others for their failings particularly their team and take no responsibility if things go wrong.  Bad managers take the credit for the team effort without recognising the efforts of others.  Good managers share the fall out when things go wrong and acknowledge great team effort.

Not focused

Being taken up with too many low value urgent tasks can create a lack of focus for a manager.  Managers should carry out the requirements of the organisation’s vision through their own objectives.  Poor focus will cause managers to fail.  Managers who focus on change and innovation keep an organisation fresh and dynamic contributing to the bottom line.

Poor delegation skills

Poor delegation creates stress and eats into precious time.  Managers need to be able to let go of tasks and have trust in those to whom they give those tasks to without worrying.   Their job is not to carry out but to facilitate and to create.  Being able to delegate ensures that tasks are completed on time and encourages involvement of the team to the shared goal.

Manage Conflict in the Workplace Using Social Styles

The social styles model is a useful tool that can help interaction in the workplace.  Each style is defined by a particular pattern of behaviour.  If each of us understands the style that governs our behaviour and how we interact with other styles, we can then consider changing our behaviour to better interact with others.  Conflict arises where there is a failure to understand the power of social styles.

The model is made up of four styles – driver, expressive, amiable and analytical.

The features of the driver style include:

Priority is important – getting things done
Measure success in tangible results
Achieve their goals through shaping their world
Rely on control and dominance
Independent and strong willed

Prominent celebrities with this style could include Alan Sugar, Gordon Ramsay and Margaret Thatcher

To influence a driver you must use a fast decisive speaking style, be assertive, well briefed, succinct, professional and business like.  You have to stick to the facts focussing on the bottom line.  It is good to push for a decision on the spot.

The features of the expressive style include:

Measure personal status by acknowledgement and recognition from others
Place emphasis on relationships
Seek person to person relationships
Like to be centre of attention
Enthusiastic and optimistic

Prominent celebrities with this style could include Davina McCall, Richard Branson and Fiona McCall.

To influence an expressive you must match their style, be friendly and stimulating, frame proposals that will enhance their status, allow them time to talk and link to your ideas.  Ideally you should press for a decision on the spot whilst they are animated.

The features of an amiable style include:

Like to get to know people and build trust
Like to support others by listening and being warm
Steady, agreeable, calm
Want little change
Make decisions after only careful consideration

Prominent celebrities with this style could include Michael Parkinson, Jamie Oliver and Bob Monkhouse.

To influence an amiable you must talk slowly and easily, be warm and likeable, focus on the positive, offer reassurances and guarantees, involve them, get acquainted and build trust.

The features of an analytical style include:

Dislike of change and personal attention
Task is a priority, method and detail are vital
Serious, orderly, persistent and cautious
Set high standards for themselves and others
Prefer to work alone and like organisational structures

Prominent celebrities with this style could include Heston Blumenthal, Patrick Moore and Stephen Hawking.

To influence an analytical you must not be over friendly, be formal, logical and to the point.  You should speak slowly and deliberately presenting logically.  You should cover all angles to show that you have done your homework and expect questions of how your proposal will work in practice.

In some situations it is good to flex your style to achieve a win win situation.  First you need to identify your style.  You next need to identify the style of the individual you need to influence, this can be done by monitoring their behaviour.  You then need to plan what you will say and how you will act.  In practice you may need to monitor how you are doing.  When faced with conflict we often revert to our inherent behaviours, but it is really important to focus on the behaviour of the other person to calm things down.  If things are not working out and you are not managing the situation well you may need to correct your behaviour.

Conflict in the workplace exists on a daily basis, but understanding social styles may be to reduce this to a great extent.


What’s In a Name?

This is a guest blog by Snéha Kilhay, Director of Blue Tulip Training which supports organisations in the areas of Cultural Diversity and Bullying/Harassment

What’s in a name?  That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.’  William Shakespeare.

I recently conducted a bullying and harassment investigation for a large organisation.  I interviewed a witness who, despite being told my name both by email and at the start of the meeting, asked if she could call me ‘Mary’.

I must confess, given the serious nature of the interview, I was surprised and rather uncomfortable at this request.

Generally, I am in awe of the multicultural aspect of the UK.  However, the witness’s response made me question whether we have made as much progress around diversity as we like to believe.  I recall that, when at school over 35 years ago, during registration there would routinely be heavy pauses as teachers tried to read my name and then state along the lines of ‘the girl with the foreign name that I can’t be bothered to pronounce’.  This was also aligned with a stream of awkward corrections as teachers tried to pronounce my name, to which their main response was ‘Why can’t we call you ‘Sue’; it would make our life so much easier?’
Fast forward 35 years, into a new century and the exciting world of technological advancement allowing greater connection world-wide.
Yet, in December 2012, the all party parliamentary group on race and community published a study showing that women who ‘whitened’ or ‘anglicised’ their names on job applications sent only half as many job applications before being invited for interview. (Guardian, 12 April 2013)
What is the trigger of discomfort, this resistance to foreign names?  Whilst we indulge in celebrities’ giving their children unusual (and some might consider them outlandish) names, for instance Gwyneth Paltrow’s daughter Apple, David Beckham’s daughter, Harper 7, do we resort to past patterns of experience to create, even insist on familiarity because it provides some form of safety?
Mohammed Siddique*, a well established and successful entrepreneur, made a conscious decision to anglicise his name.  He explained that, given he had adapted his dress, his accent and even his diet to be accepted in Britain, it seemed only logical to adapt his name to overcome hurdles, get results and be successful.  His established clients admitted that they would not have contemplated doing business with companies whose MD had such a foreign-sounding name.  Mohammed acknowledged that he was weary of the negative, terrorist-related connotations around his names, especially in airports; so much so that he is now considering changing his name by deed poll.  Does this mean that some immigrants have needed to anglicise, adapt or even ditch their foreign sounding names despite living in an evolving, multicultural Britain and its heavy focus on equality legislation?
I am aware that, amongst friends and colleagues, there is a dichotomy about changing names.  Some believe that having an ethnic and /or unusual name limits their recruitment opportunities and career progression.  Others believe strongly that the solution to this problem of latent, subliminal bias in recruitment and promotion is to take authority and anglicise their name.  Others change their names simply to fit in, acknowledging that their foreign name is hard to pronounce and it is therefore more convenient and sociable to adapt their name or create a nickname to which their peers can warmly respond.  It is common knowledge that Barack Obama used ‘Barry’ rather than his birth name whilst at college.  One colleague acknowledged that her family changed their surname to an anglicised spelling, as they had been living in UK for some years and wanted to be fully integrated into the society which they had become part of.  She added that, had the changes to her name been imposed on her, she would have felt resentful.
There are a number of communities, for instance, Jewish Refugees during WW2, Poles shortly afterwards and, more recently, those coming from Iran, China, India, and Africa who, as a coping mechanism, have assigned easy to pronounce, anglicised names whilst retaining traditional ethnic names for their family and communities.
On the flip side, many feel strongly that, by changing their name, they are negating their sense of self, betraying their culture and eradicating an important part of their ethnic identity, that too only in favour of social convenience.  Others believe that anglicising their name would be a mockery, a sense of contempt of their identity.  Their argument is that names can be broken down into short syllables and colleagues can get used to unusual names after repeating it a few times, just like learning any other new word.  One friend said she could not bear to be insulted with the term ‘coconut’ – white on the inside and brown on the outside were she to anglicise her name and not be true to her roots and origins.
Fundamentally this is about choices.  It is apparent that – not just in the UK – but in other parts of the world, there is a degree of contempt and prejudice against ethnic minorities.  The issue is whether people choose to change their name, to get their foot in the door, whatever that door represents.  Is there a willingness to take time to explain and understand the correct pronunciation of their name, perhaps its meaning and facilitating a productive conversation with the peers in the process?  In the situation with the witness, whether her reasons were; fear, ignorance, anxiety or even lack of effort, she indicated an indifference about my name and wanted to impose a name familiar to her but not right for me.  The crippling aspects of indifference, negative judgement or even apathy – an ‘I can’t be bothered’, attitude leaves me wondering if British organisations, despite advancements in equality legislation, are taking one step forward and two steps back if there are in favour of only British-sounding names.
‘If you acknowledge my name you pay me a subtle compliment, you indicate that I have made an impression on you.  Acknowledge my name and you add to my feeling important’.  Adapted from Dale Carnegie’s Quote.

‘Our job as recruiters is to send what we deem to be the right CV to our clients.  If I put forward a candidate with an unusual or a foreign name, 90% of the time I will hear nothing.  When there are 300 CVs to go through any foreign name is likely to be deleted without even being opened.  We feel dreadful about it but essentially it is a matter of time saving’.  Guardian April 12 2013

‘My name has 14 letters.  When I graduated, the university took time to ring my parents to ask how my name should be pronounced at the ceremony.

It was really nice of the university, we were all (pleasantly) shocked.  People are usually just too ignorant to make the effort’.  Quote from Student Forum
*Names have been changed

Snéha can be contacted at:

Blue Tulip Training
(Essence of Equality)
Telephone: 01923 467885
Mobile: 07788 446191


Key Requirements of the Resident Labour Market Test

Companies that employ immigrant workers need to be aware of the resident labour market test.  Before bringing in a worker from a foreign country on a Tier 2 visa it is important to complete this test unless the job you are recruiting for is on the list of shortage occupations.  You will need to show that there is no suitable settled worker in the UK that can do the required job.  All vacancies must be advertised to settled workers for 28 calendar days by either:

a) advertising the vacancy for a single continuous period with a minimum closing date of 28 calendar days from the date the advert first appeared or,

b) advertise the vacancy in two stages where each stage lasts no less than seven calendar days and both stages add up to 28 calendar days.

The job must be advertised in the UK so make settled workers aware of the vacancy and this must be in accordance with a code of practice specific to the sector and job.  If there is no code of practice for then the job must be advertised using Jobcentre Plus.

If the salary for the job is £40,000 or under then it must be advertised for a minimum period of two weeks.  If the salary for the job is over £40,000 then it must be advertised for a minimum period of one week.  The job must be advertised at an appropriate market rate of pay (see the relevant codes of practice).

The advert must include:

  • the job title
  • the job description
  • location
  • salary package
  • skills and qualifications
  • closing date for applications

If, after following the above procedure, no suitable applicant can be found then the job may be offered to a suitably qualified national of a country outside the European Economic Area and Switzerland, provided that the employer has obtained a  Sponsorship Licence.  A Certificat of Sponsorhsip must be issued within six months of placing the advert. This is to make sure that the results of the advertising reflect the current availability of the skills needed. The only exception is where an organisation recruits a migrant using a milkround, when a Certificate of Sponsorship must be assigned within 12 months of the milkround.

The Certificate of Sponsorship should specify the annual equivalent salary for the job if the migrant will be working in the United Kingdom for less than 12 months. For example, earnings of £10,000 on a six month contract would mean an annual salary of £20,000.

The methods that can be used to advertise a job are set out in the relevant codes of practice.The following is a list of methods that might be used:

  1. National newspaper or professional journal
  2. Annual recruitment programme
  3. Recruitment Agency
  4. Internet
  5. Head-hunter

On the sponsor management system under Tier 2 (general) you must confirm that you have completed a resident labour market test being unable to fill the post with a settled worker or the test is not required for the job.