Monthly Archives: April 2014

Kaizen – The Art of Employee Involvement


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I recently watched Digby Jones – The New Troubleshooter a programme on BBC2 that involves a management consultant giving advice to small businesses on how to improve their processes and ultimately their profits.  This week he focused on a small manufacturing organisation, Ebac in the North East which has made water coolers and dehumidifiers for years.  In an effort to grow the business through diversification the MD, Pamela Petty, had purchased Norfrost a failing company that had been very successful in the 1980s.  Lord Jones introduced her to Kaizen – the art of employee involvement.  These are the principles on which Nissan works producing over 500,000 vehicles every year bringing high profits to that company.

Kaizen involves all levels of employees in business decisions. Employees who feel as though their opinions and ideas are important are typically happier, more productive employees than those who are not.  Therefore it makes sense to involve employees in decision-making.  Employee involvement can help competitiveness and therefore job security so it is in employees’ best interests.

With employee involvement comes empowerment.  With management demonstrating to employees that their opinion counts, it shows that employees are respected.  Empowered employees are more confident and happy to contribute more.

Employee involvement encourages buy in.  This can be invaluable when difficult changes are planned.  When being asked for their opinion, employees’ dissent may evaporate away to a certain extent and pave the way for successful change thereby reduced conflict.  Not getting buy in can increase low morale and ultimately affect profits.

Employees may bring to the table lots of fresh ideas.  Problems can be solved and profitable ideas can be uncovered.  The old adage “two heads are better than one” can often mean something.  Employees who do work day to day will have a better understanding of works and what doesn’t and can add insight to management perspective.  Top down decision making may not always be the best way forward.

Employees who are involved feel they are a valued part of the team.  The will take ownership of new initiatives if they have contributed and commitment is much stronger.  Employees’ skills and experience can be used to great advantage.

There are several ways in which employees can be involved. Email can be used instead of face to face whereby key questions and issues are raised with employees by senior management.  Face to face is quite common whereby meetings and focus groups can be set up for discussions.  Suggestion schemes are where ideas are put to management.  Project teams can be set up to discuss work organisation.

In addition, a company may set up an employee forum, regular union/management meetings or a works council.


Four Reasons to Review an Employment Contract

Much of the work that I do as an HR consultant is reviewing employment contracts and employee contracthandbooks.  This can be due to taking on a new client with existing documents as well as providing this service to existing clients. Here I provide four reasons to review an employment contract.

Employment law seems to change every five minutes.  The government have now decreed that employment law changes should be made April and October each year, but often changes are often implemented outside of these months.    Employment law therefore can move on very quickly and employment terms and conditions can get very out of date if they are not reviewed on a regular basis.  For example pension auto enrolment will be hitting the SME market and it is important to add in an appropriate clause to the contract to comply with statutory law.  This is important if there is no clause relating to pensions in the document or an existing pension scheme is detailed.

Sometimes an employment contract may not contain all the appropriate clauses.  For example I recently reviewed a document that did not contain a continuous service clauses.  This is essential as detailed by the Employment Rights Act 1996.  In a TUPE situation where an employee transfers from one employer to another and possibly again and again, often the only way to track an original start date is by the continuous service date on the contract.  The Employment Rights Act 1996 (part 1) details all the essential clauses that need to be included.

These are:

  • the names of the employer and employee
  • the date when the employment began
  • the date on which the employee’s period of continuous employment, as mentioned above
  • the scale or rate of remuneration or the method of calculating remuneration,
  • the intervals at which remuneration is paid (that is, weekly, monthly or other specified intervals),
  • any terms and conditions relating to hours of work (including any terms and conditions relating to normal working hours),
  • entitlement to holidays, including public holidays, and holiday pay
  • incapacity for work due to sickness or injury, including any provision for sick pay, and
  • pensions and pension schemes,
  • the length of notice which the employee is obliged to give and entitled to receive to terminate his contract of employment,
  • the title of the job which the employee is employed to do or a brief description of the work for which he is employed,
  • where the employment is not intended to be permanent, the period for which it is expected to continue or, if it is for a fixed term, the date when it is to end,
  • either the place of work or, where the employee is required or permitted to work at various places, an indication of that and of the address of the employer,
  • any collective agreements which directly affect the terms and conditions of the employment including, where the employer is not a party, the persons by whom they were made, and
  • terms relating to where the employee is required to work outside the United Kingdom for a period of more than one month

A copy of the employment terms and conditions should be provided to the employee within eight weeks of commencing employment.

Another reason for an employer to review an employment contract is when they wish to make changes and negotiate new terms.  A review of the existing terms first may highlight the changes that need to be negotiated.  However, the employer can not change terms and conditions of employment on a whim, there needs to be clear justification, not least, to convincingly explain the situation to employees. It is important that all the terms are clear.  Often I come across contracts that contain discretionary clauses.  When discretion is used to make judgements human subjectivity can come into play possibly leading to discrimination when one employee is treated less favourably than another.  Rather than have discretion, clauses should be clear to avoid any discriminatory variances.

Following a merger or acquisition where two companies (or more) may come together, a company may be faced with various terms and conditions.  An employer may wish to harmonise terms and conditions following a TUPE situation for various reasons – difficult business conditions, simplicity, cohesion, redress imbalances, restrictive convenants or difficulty with providing benefits.

Previously with TUPE legislation it was impossible to change terms and conditions post-merger except for an ETO (economic, technological or organisational) reason as previous terms were protected.  However since 31 January 2014 the law has changed. Businesses with collective agreements may negotiate a change one year post-transfer provided the changes are not less favourable.  Contractual changes will be permitted for economic, technical or organisational reasons with the agreement of the employee and or where a contractual right of variation exists.  However, the latter does not permit an employer to unilaterally impose a change and consultation should always be undertaken and written agreement gained.

If a contract is reviewed and changes are to be made consultation with and written agreement from employees is essential.  Employees can be provided with a brand new set of employment terms and conditions to sign or may be issued with contract variation letter with copy for signature depending on the extent of the changes.

How In Control Of Your Career Are You?


With the daily assault of data, emails and information delivered at a rapid rate and requiring an equally rapid response, plus social trivia from Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram, how many of us are remembering to focus on the longer term important issues concerning our career?  It is frequently reported that most people will spend more time considering their next holiday or purchase of new electronic devices than they will planning their career.  It is also worth considering that ‘good luck’ is often about where preparation meets opportunity so some career planning and preparation is needed if you want to be lucky!

Here are some tips to ensure you remain in control:

1. Know Yourself

  • Do you know what is most important to you at work?
  • What do you want to achieve over the next five years?
  • Which are you key skills and which do you need to develop?
  • What type of environment do you want to work in?
  • Where do you want to be located in 3 -5 years time?

2. Know Your Options

  • How aware are you of the various options which maybe open to you?
  • Which skills and at which level are required for the next steps in your career?
  • Have you researched the reward and benefits in the role which interested you?
  • Are you clear about the type of team culture you want to work in?
  • Have you made a plan for achieving your goals?
  • What hurdles might you face?

3. Know Your Brand

  • Are you clear what your personal brand/reputation is?
  • Have you reviewed how you present your brand in the last year?

4. Know Your Network

  • Are you an active member of face to face networks?
  • Have you got an up to date profile on Linkedin /Twitter etc.?
  • Do you contribute to online discussions?
  • Have you got career supporters? e.g coach, buddy or mentor

5. Knowing About Making Decisions

  • Are you able to make your own decisions, or do you prefer them to be made for you by others or circumstance?
  • Have you got a systematic process for making decisions?

Running through these points you may find that you do very few or very many of these things.  Most people may be in between. Leaving things to chance may be some people’s preferred way of dealing with things and others may be very structured in their approach, so which is the best way forward? The reality of a 21st century career which is likely to be long with disruptions on the way means that we will need to ensure that we can weather the ups and downs and deal with disruption.  The way to do this is to consider and develop the key skills for managing your career proactively by adopting some of the steps above.

This is a guest blog by Gill Amos of Active Development.

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Telephone: +44 (0)1604 708064


Maria Miller’s Demise – A Blow for Equality?

It could be argued that Maria Miller’s demise does not bode well for equality.  There are now only three women in the cabinet and her role was filled by a man, Sajid Javid who is to become the new Minister for Equalities.

Women have long been under-represented in the government and particularly at senior level.  It was a miracle that Margaret Thatcher rose to the heady heights of Prime Minister and shattered the glass ceiling.  As she rose through the ranks she dyed her hair blonde in an effort to appear more feminine in response to criticism, however, once she got into power she chose to act like a man and had voice coaching to tone down her shrilly voice.  She was only interested in self-advancement however as there were few other women in her government and none in her cabinet.  She did little to advance equal pay or childcare.

Tony Blair’s Labour government encouraged more women into the profession but it is still a male dominated environment.

Today in all professions there are very few women at the top and it is a struggle to get there.  Ruthlessness seems to be the key. Some women emulate men discarding their high heels and wearing trouser suits in an attempt to bury their femininity.

Women do have an important and equal contribution to make to the workplace.  So what can they do to improve their chances of making it big?

Well they should take on diverse and challenging assignments, taking every opportunity to develop new skills.  Having completed an accomplishment they should shout about it to the rooftops.  Women need to be visible and promoting their talents.  Hiding their light under a bushel will get them nowhere and they will be trodden on by the stampede of men eager to get to the top.  Men are naturally competitive and women should show more willingness to compete in a man’s world.

Women should take more risks, after all nothing ventured nothing gained.  The “fake it till you make it” attitude should prevail.  Women should be open to any opportunity – who knows where it might lead.

Women should learn to be direct and succinct.  They should attempt to leave the soft and fluffy image to one side if they want to get ahead and get to the point without trying to wrap ideas and statements up in soft language and waffle.

But what can employers do to ensure that women have a helping hand to rise through the ranks?  Positive action in terms of recruitment and promotion are essential.  “Women are actively encouraged to apply as they are currently under-represented” should be included in job or promotion adverts.  Women should be given every opportunity to progress in the workplace and be included in succession plans being identified for roles at the top.

Flexible working for all employees comes into force in June 2014 and flexible working requests should seriously be considered by employers so that they can hold onto valuable women’s skills rather than let them be a statistic in annual turnover or being a casualty of a poor work life balance attempting to have it all. Women should be assigned a mentor to help them develop and employee reward should be structured so that equal pay rules and the current gender pay gap is closed.

Managing That Friday Feeling At Work


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In general the UK workforce long for the weekends and often start thinking about what they are going to do with their time on a Friday.  There is evidence to show that many workers reduce their productivity in the afternoon which can impact on the bottom line for businesses.  Certainly the ##FF tweet regularly appears on Twitter at the end of the week showing it is on people’s minds.  In this blog we look at the “Friday feeling” phenomenon and how employers should be managing that Friday feeling at work as some employees may appear to wind down ready for the weekend, long before necessary.

British Airways’ research done last year seems to indicate that many UK workers start clocking off for the weekend mid afternoon on a Friday and often once 1.30pm has passed.

Strange things happen on a Friday, it seems, that are not conducive to a productive working day. Many employees admit to taking it easier on a Friday compared to the rest of the week. Some workers deliberately put things off till Monday.  Phone calls and emails may be ignored and important meetings are never convened for the end of the week.  That “Friday feeling” provides for a better atmosphere it seems and workers say their boss is more lenient on that day.

Apparently the working day on a Friday consists of using Facebook, organising weekend plans, emailing friends, booking holidays and doing online banking.  That’s all well and good, however, if HR policies allow for these activities.  The use of Facebook and other social media should be governed by a social media policy and very few allow for the use of social media within working hours and should stipulate procedure in non-working hours if permitted.  So for employees who potentially do not comply  with a robust social media policy, they may face a disciplinary process.  An IT use policy likewise should give guidance on personal use of IT equipment in working hours.  It depends how tough an employer wants to be on its employees who want to wind down at the end of week and may not give their employer their all.  An employer needs to think about morale and staff motivation, but within reason..

The official clocking off time is usually from 5pm onwards, but the lucky few are allowed to get away earlier.  I know of one company that lets some workers work longer hours Monday to Thursday to fulfil their working week so that the whole of Friday can be taken off, which is fine if the nature of the workload allows for this.  Complete Fridays or Friday afternoons off are indeed a wonderful benefit.

The roads do seem much quieter on a Friday so perhaps many employees benefit from this perk.

Claiming sickness absence could be another ruse for extending the weekend off.  Employers should be aware of patterns developing with employees who regularly take off Fridays (and sometimes Mondays as well) and tackling any problem that emerges with an employee as quickly as possible.

If an employer is unwilling to give Friday afternoons off or allow an earlier get away another perk to offer could be a dress down Friday if appropriate.  However, that practice should be accompanied by a robust dress code to avoid any faux pas.

Figures provided by the CIPD a few years ago were used to assess the cost to UK industry for the lack of productiveness on a Friday and this was estimated as being £50m per year, which is a hefty sum.

An employer must trade off possible lack of productivity with the generous ability to allow staff some time off.



Dressing For Business In The Workplace

As soon as this topic is mentioned many people think, ‘formal dress,` certainly a jacket at the very Janeleast! This was certainly the case 10-15 years ago, happily dress codes have changed and relaxed, however this leaves many in a clothing dilemma surrounding ‘smart/casual’ business wear! Many, though not all, do not understand what this entails and often ask ‘does it really matter?’

My answer to this is, how eager are you to earn more money? Get promoted faster? Find a new job, or simply just get noticed in the office rather than fade into the background. Many hours are spent honing their CV hoping to impress the reader and yet when it comes to the interview, few spend more than a couple of minutes considering what their visual impact should be!

James Caan of Dragon`s Den fame, was taught as a young recruiter that you look from the feet up to decide whether the person he was interviewing was a suitable candidate. Why should your shoes be so important? Well, you can tell a lot by how they are cared for! Dirty, worn, scruffy shoes may indicate a person who is not interested in detail and has no pride in themselves. This may seem harsh but contrast this to a pair of clean, shiny shoes, this is clearly someone has taken the trouble to make sure every last detail is covered off and could indicate at work you are happy to go the extra mile!

Some might dismiss this out of hand as being unimportant; however in this very competitive market place can you afford to leave any small detail to chance? Considering your personal brand is vital to make sure your image is congruent with the company you represent. You would not trust a solicitor wearing jeans and a t-shirt, equally would you wouldn’t want a receptionist greeting your clients chewing gum, wearing bright garish nails and spending all the time on her mobile phone!

If you would like to be ahead of the competition and be remembered for the right reasons, an hour`s image audit could make the difference between success and failure! At the very least, you will become more confident in your outward appearance which will pay dividends, not only in the work place but socially too!

This is a guest blog by Jane Sumner of Image Matters.

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