How can Leaders help Employees find Meaning at Work

Organizations spend considerable resources on corporate values and mission statements, but even the most inspiring of these — from Volvo’s commitment to safety to Facebook’s desire to connect people — tend to fade into the background during the daily bustle of the work day.
What workers really need, to feel engaged in and satisfied by their jobs, is an inner sense of purpose. As Deloitte found in a 2016 study, people feel loyal to companies that support their own career and life ambitions — in other words, what’s meaningful to them. And, although that research focused on millennials, in the decade I’ve spent coaching seasoned executives, I’ve found that it’s a common attitude across generations. No matter one’s level, industry or career, we all need to find a personal sense of meaning in what we do.

Leaders and Managers can foster this inner sense of purpose — what matters right now, in each individual’s life and career — with simple conversation. One technique is action identification theory, which states that there are many levels of description for any action. For example, right now I’m writing this article. At a low level, I’m typing words into a keyboard. At a high level, I’m creating better leaders. When leaders walk employees up this ladder, they can help them find meaning in even the most mundane tasks.
Regular check-ins that use five areas of inquiry are another way to help employees explore and call out their inner purpose.

Ask your employees: 

What are you good at doing?

Which work activities require less effort? What do you take on because you believe you’re the best person to do it? What have you gotten noticed for throughout your career? The idea here is to help people identify their strengths and open possibilities from there.

What do you enjoy?

In a typical workweek, what do you look forward to doing? What do you see on your calendar that energizes you? If you could design your job with no restrictions, how would you spend your time? These questions help people find or rediscover what they love about work.

What feels most useful?

Which work outcomes make you most proud? Which of your tasks are most critical to the team or organization? What are the highest priorities for your life and how does your work fit in? This line of inquiry highlights the inherent value of certain work.

What creates a sense of forward momentum?

What are you learning that you’ll use in the future? What do you envision for yourself next? How’s your work today getting you closer to what you want for yourself? The goal here is to show how today’s work helps them advance toward future goals.

How do you relate to others?

Which working partnerships are best for you? What would an office of your favourite people look like? How does your work enhance your family and social connections? These questions encourage people to think about and foster relationships that make work more meaningful.
It’s not easy to guide others toward purpose, but these strategies can help.

Article from Harvard Business Review

Retirement – Dealing with the retirement age challenge

In many countries, there is increasing pressure on employers to put in place more flexible retirement policies. This has been mainly triggered by developments in social policy, increases in state pension age (with the resulting income gap) and the potential shortfalls in occupational pension provision. These factors are leading to a greater number of requests from employees to continue working beyond their contractual retirement age and employers having to respond to these challenges.

It is important that employers review their retirement age policy to ensure that they are well positioned to deal with any challenges from employees and changes in legislation. Any retirement age policy should ideally fit in with:

  • The new statutory framework and age-discrimination legislation
  • The needs of the employer’s business in the areas of career progression, succession planning and productivity
  • Retirement income adequacy for retiring employees taking account of Company and State pensions

Employers often think that employees will have to retire when they reach the defined Normal Retirement Age under their occupational pension scheme. However this is not the case. The majority of pension schemes provide flexibility for benefits to be taken before or after Normal Retirement Age and it is essential to look more broadly at what has been communicated about retirement age within employment contracts and within employment policies that have been implemented in the past.

The new statutory framework introduced in 2016 and case law emanating from Irish courts and tribunals has made it clear that the setting of a compulsory retirement age must be objectively justified by the existence of a legitimate aim and evidence that the means of achieving that aim is appropriate and necessary. One of the consequences of the new law is that if fixed term contracts are offered post retirement, the employer will have to demonstrate evidence of objective justification for the termination of employment at the point of expiry of the fixed term contract.
Where changes are made, particular care needs to be exercised when amending the terms of pension and risk benefit plans including:

  • Reviewing the funding and cost implications of altering retirement age in defined benefit plans
  • Trying to introduce retirement flexibility while still operating within the Revenue Commissioner’s restrictive rules in terms of pension access.
  • Considering how to deal with the potential gap between the company’s retirement age and the new State pension age (which is gradually phasing to age 68).
  • Amending the terms of death and disability plans with insurers to reflect new retirement policies.

Employers should be cautious in how they approach the retirement age issue

There are many pitfalls for employers in trying to deal with retirement age and it can be a very sensitive issue for employees.

Employers need to:

  • Engage with employees as they reach the retirement window and ensure that contracts of employment specify a retirement age
  • Have an “objective justification” for any defined specific retirement age. Reasons which have been accepted by the courts in the past include succession planning, and the promotion of intergenerational fairness
  • Reserve the right to vary and review the retirement age as the needs of the business evolve and develop
  • Be careful in setting precedents where employees are allowed to work beyond a set retirement age (even if it involves offering a fixed term contract). Such practices can make it more difficult for employers to enforce their set retirement age in other cases.

Article provided by Willis Towers Watson

Tips to Consider when Introducing Performance Management

A culture of high standards can only be achieved if the company strategy, goals and objectives are shared throughout the workforce.  The company needs to provide an interactive platform for engagement and alignment for both management and employees.

Let’s look at the basics:

First thing we would recommend is making sure all job descriptions are fit for purpose and relevant for the job. Depending on the size of your organisation, line or departmental managers will play a vital role in instilling a culture of high performance throughout your organisation. Here are a few tips that we would recommend to get your company ready for performance reviews and goal setting for the rest of the year.

  • Do you currently have a policy in place in relation to performance management? If not this is something we recommend you look at. The policy should demonstrate the company’s commitment to a high performance environment throughout.
  • Set goals and targets for the company, then each department/team and then for individual staff members. By including each team member in the goal setting task this will get everyone thinking about what they want to achieve not only in terms of the company but also on a personal level. If people have a personal interest they are more likely to work harder to achieve the goals.
  • Have continuous meetings. Organisations are moving away from, what some have referred to as the bureaucratic annual performance reviews and are having weekly or monthly catch ups to make sure everyone is still working towards the same goal. We think this is a god idea and it ensures there are no surprises for either party.
    • Don’t just focus on under performers, your star players will need to be incentivised and motivated as much as an underperformer………

Having continuous and regular performance meetings with all employees is essential for the growth and sustainability of a company. By having clear targets and goals set in advance of the year ahead you will keep everyone working towards the same goals.

If you would like any support or further advice on managing performance Contact Right Hand HR and Mary will be available to support you.

Contracts without Specific Working Hours (Zero-Hours Contracts)

Do you know what a zero-hours contract is?

A zero hours contract of employment is a type of employment contract where the employee is available for work but does not have specified hours of work. If you have a zero-hours contract this means there is a formal arrangement that you are required to be available for a certain number of hours per week, or when required, or a combination of both. Employees on zero-hours contracts are protected by the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 but this does not apply to casual employment.

The Act requires that an employee under a zero-hours contract who works less than 25% of their hours in any week should be compensated. The level of compensation depends on whether the employee got any work or none at all. If the employee got no work, then the compensation should be either for 25% of the possible available hours or for 15 hours, whichever is less. If the employee got some work, they should be compensated to bring them up to 25% of the possible available.

If you use these type of contracts ensure you are being fair to your employee!!

For more information, contract mary on 086 8225448

Ireland’s National Workplace Wellbeing Day, 31st March17

The Benefits of Workplace Wellbeing

Did you know that the European Network for Workplace Health Promotion has defined workplace health promotion as the ”combined efforts of employers, employees and society to improve the health and well-being of people at work”?

According to the World Health Organisation, there are many benefits of workforce health promotion to the employee and the organisation.

Benefits of Workforce Health Promotion

To the organisation To the employee
A well managed health and safety programme A safe and healthy work environment
A positive and caring image Enhanced self-esteem
Improved staff morale Reduced stress
Reduced staff turnover Improved morale
Reduced absenteeism Increased job satisfaction
Increased productivity Increased skills for health protection
Reduced health care/insurance costs Improved health
Reduced risk of fines and litigation Improved sense of well-being

Large and small companies across the country are encouraged to participate in Ireland’s National Workplace Wellbeing Day, which is on 31st March2017.  The event aims to improve employee health through promoting better nutrition and physical activity. Click on the link to find out how your company can get involved:

Guidance on How to Conduct Disciplinary Hearings



When preparing for a hearing it is prudent to list a series of questions before the meeting so that you can ensure you discuss all the relevant issues arising from the allegations and also cross reference to any witness statements.

  • Ensure that before you start the meeting you can, were possible identify clearly in your company policies which procedures or regulations have been breached. Having a copy of the employee handbook and the signed employee contract at the meeting is a useful tool for this.
  • Where possible have all witness statements to hand (ensure that they have been given to the employee in good time before the meeting) you can quote directly from them in order to aid your argument (e.g. employer: did you refuse to follow the instruction of the manager? Employee: No, employer: in that case why did the manager and the witness both state that you did?  At this point refer and produce these statements).
  • Minutes should b, where possible, written word for word (example at the rear of this document) and all discussions should be recorded even if you do not consider it to be relevant.
  • These minutes are a suggested template only, as each hearing will differ depending on its facts; this document covers salient points which should as a matter of course be included in the minutes of any disciplinary meeting.
  • This document should not be on show or available in the disciplinary hearing for this document “itself” may become evidence, we recommend that you jot down or transpose for yourself as an reminder as to how to conduct the proceedings
  • Where possible, ensure that the manager conducting the disciplinary hearing has had no involvement in the investigation procedure or is not a witness, and does have the authority to issue a disciplinary sanction up to and including dismissal: (due to the size of the organization this may not be possible, and if this is the case it should be stated in the Employee Handbook
  • At any point during the hearing, the manger/disciplinary officer may adjourn the proceedings if it appears necessary or desirable to do so, e.g. for the purpose of gathering further information.

Give Mary a call on 086 8225448 or email on for more information





Tips on Email Etiquette Rules Every Professional Should Know

email etiquette

Include a clear, direct subject line.

Examples of a good subject line include “Meeting date changed,” “Quick question about your presentation,” or “Suggestions for the proposal.”

“People often decide whether to open an email based on the subject line,” Pachter says. “Choose one that lets readers know you are addressing their concerns or business issues.”

Use a professional email address.

If you work for a company, you should use your company email address. But if you use a personal email account — whether you are self-employed or just like using it occasionally for work-related correspondences — you should be careful when choosing that address, Pachter says.

You should always have an email address that conveys your name so that the recipient knows exactly who is sending the email. Never use email addresses (perhaps remnants of your grade-school days) that are not appropriate for use in the workplace, such as “babygirl@…” or “beerlover@…” — no matter how much you love a cold brew.

Think twice before hitting ‘reply all.’

No one wants to read emails from 20 people that have nothing to do with them. Ignoring the emails can be difficult, with many people getting notifications of new messages on their smartphones or distracting pop-up messages on their computer screens. Refrain from hitting “reply all” unless you really think everyone on the list needs to receive the email, Pachter says.

Use professional salutations.

Don’t use laid-back, colloquial expressions like, “Hey you guys,” “Yo,” or “Hi folks.”

“The relaxed nature of our writings should not affect the salutation in an email,” she says. “Hey is a very informal salutation and generally it should not be used in the workplace. And Yo is not okay either. Use Hi or Hello instead.”

Be cautious with humour.

Humour can easily get lost in translation without the right tone or facial expressions. In a professional exchange, it’s better to leave humor out of emails unless you know the recipient well. Also, something that you think is funny might not be funny to someone else.

Know that people from different cultures speak and write differently.

Miscommunication can easily occur because of cultural diferences, especially in the writing form when we can’t see one another’s body language. Tailor your message to the receiver’s cultural background or how well you know them.

A good rule to keep in mind, is that high-context cultures (Japanese, Arab, or Chinese) want to get to know you before doing business with you. Therefore, it may be common for business associates from these countries to be more personal in their writings. On the other hand, people from low-context cultures (German, American, or Scandinavian) prefer to get to the point very quickly.

Proof read every message.

Your mistakes won’t go unnoticed by the recipients of your email. Don’t rely on spell-checkers. Read and re-read your email a few times, preferably aloud, before sending it off.

Add the email address last.

You don’t want to send an email accidentally before you have finished writing and proofing the message. Even when you are replying to a message, it’s a good precaution to delete the recipient’s address and insert it only when you are sure the message is ready to be sent.

Double-check that you’ve selected the correct recipient.

Pay careful attention when typing a name from your address book on the email’s “To” line. “It’s easy to select the wrong name, which can be embarrassing to you and to the person who receives the email by mistake.

Keep your fonts classic.

Purple Comic Sans has a time and a place (maybe?), but for business correspondence, keep your fonts, colors, and sizes classic. The cardinal rule: Your emails should be easy for other people to read.

Keep your tone neutral.

To avoid misunderstandings, Pachter recommends you read your message out loud before hitting send. “If it sounds harsh to you, it will sound harsh to the reader,” she says.

For best results, avoid using unequivocally negative words (“failure,” “wrong,” or “neglected”), and always say “please” and “thank you.

Nothing is confidential — so write accordingly.

Always remember –  Every electronic message leaves a trail.

“A basic guideline is to assume that others will see what you write,” she says, “so don’t write anything you wouldn’t want everyone to see.” A more liberal interpretation: Don’t write anything that would be ruinous to you or hurtful to others. After all, email is dangerously easy to forward, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Extract from “The Essentials Of Business Etiquette.” By career coach Barbara Pachter.

Carrying Over Annual Leave


It’s coming to the end of the year and I’m sure everyone is trying to get the last few loose ends tied up in anticipation of the Christmas break and the New Year.                                                                                                   christmas

However this time of year also throws up one of the major administrative headaches that an Company may encounter, and this is regarding annual leave entitlements and people carrying over leave into the following year.

This can be quite onerous for employers as the more people you employ and the more that take over additional annual leave, the more difficult it becomes to manage the process effectively.

Strictly speaking all employees should receive at least 20 working days or four working weeks annual leave in a year. However there are times when it is simply unavoidable due to employee or business circumstances (maternity leave/sick leave/specific projects that need completion) to ensure all employees take their annual leave in the calendar year. In certain cases it may be detrimental to the business to allow persons to take all of their annual leave by the end of the leave year if they have a very short window in which to take this, so the end result is employees having to carry over annual leave.

The other scenario is where an employee just hasn’t used up their annual leave in the leave year and so has days remaining which they must carry over. In the latter case there may be a situation where an employee has been doing this on a regular basis and so year on year there is annual leave being carried over and it can be an administrative nightmare.

An employee’s annual leave is governed by the provisions of the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997, and it specifies that the timing at which the annual leave can be taken shall be determined by the employer having regard to certain requirements. These requirements relate to the opportunities for rest and recreation and taking into account the work life balance. However the legislation also specifies that an employee should take their annual leave entitlement in a leave year and if they do not then within the first six months of the following year.

In cases where an employee is carrying over annual leave, it is important to highlight the time frame in which the additional annual leave should be taken. Some employers are willing to allow up to six months in which to take the additional leave, whereas some require it be taken in the first quarter of the year. Some companies also have a “use it or lose it” approach. It is at the discretion of the employer. However it should be specified in the company’s annual leave policy as to what the situation regarding this will be.

In an effort to address this issue it is important to have a well-structured policy which employees and management alike can refer to with regards to issues like annual leave.

Internally it is also worthwhile to pre-empt such a situation by setting a reminder in the calendar for September or October where you can go and proactively check how many days annual leave are remaining for some staff. This will give you the opportunity to address this matter with staff who have a large amount of days remaining and request that they take these days within the leave year. It will resolve the headache of carry over days and lead to an easier life for those controlling this issue.

If there are employees who are carrying over days and not using them, you could potentially look to give them notice of these days and book them for the employees by giving sufficient notice. This should only be used where the employee is unwilling, despite several requests, to take the annual leave and the company is left with no option but to book the days for the employee.

A well thought out and easily communicated policy will resolve a large amount of issues employees may have with regards to taking leave and carrying over excess days, which in the long run will lead to a more efficient and streamlined process.

Office Christmas Party Time


Christmas is round the corner and this year more companies are planning to have a Christmas party. But planning a Christmas party can be troublesome if certain do’s and don’ts are not followed. Christmas is all about enjoying and having fun with colleagues and co-workers. But in the fun of enjoying Christmas parties certain things should not be forgotten.

Employees often forget parties are an extension of the work environment and as such some basic guidelines should be followed if you want to set the right impression.  Employers need to set the scene – this is not to stop the fun night out, but rather to ensure that there are no repercussions as a result of the party.

I highly recommend that the employer communicates to all the employees some key messages which would include:

  • Reminder that the party is a work function and an appropriate standard of conduct is expected. The guidelines as laid out in the employee handbook will apply (e.g. Harassment Policy and Grievance Procedures, Dignity and Respect at Work Policy or Code of Conduct).
  • It is also advisable to remind staff to drink alcohol responsibly and in moderation.
  • A reminder that the use of illegal drugs is prohibited at all times during the Christmas Party.
  • Mention not to drink and drive – arrange for a lift if possible

If you have managers, advise them on how to respond to any unwanted conduct that may occur at the event, and that they should not talk office politics at the party.

For any more information please contact Mary at or on 086 8225448.



Many of us encounter varying degrees of stress throughout the course of our working days however it can cause serious illnesses if an employee suffers from prolonged bouts of stress. Stress is unique to each individual and is not specific to any particular job. Stress means a negative reaction to pressure, accompanied by fear of not coping, loss of control and lack of support.  It is a physical and emotional experience and can effect blood pressure, hormone activity, digestive disturbance and sleep patterns to name but a few negative effects of stress. It is important to note that stress is a “state” and the effects differ from person to person. Workplace stress occurs “when the demands of the job and the working environment on a person exceeds their capacity to meet them”. There are varying factors which cause work related stress such as poor communications, bullying and harassment, work overload, long or unsocial hours, etc.

It goes without saying that work related stress impacts both the employee and the organisation. For the employee it can impact them physically and mentally. This may result in them calling in sick, or taking a leave of absence from work. For the employer it leads to a loss of manpower, productivity, efficiency, and customer service to name but a few.

Employers have a duty of care to employees and this is reinforced in the Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005. It would be advisable for employers to have a procedure in place to tackle the issue should they identify an employee experiencing such stress. This not only empowers the employer to take action to help the employee, but it also shows the employee experiencing stress and other co-workers that the company cares and that they are willing to help alleviate such stresses.

Policies and procedures that can be put in place to protect and support employees can include:

  • Dignity at Work
  • Grievance and Discipline Procedures
  • Performance Management Programme
  • Employment Assistance Programmes

Employers should ensure that demands that are placed on employees are reasonable. It is best practice that if employers become aware of staff members suffering from stress, they take action immediately to ascertain the cause and identify ways of removing the stressor. Often one of the first instances of when an employer becomes aware that an employee is suffering from stress is when they receive a sickness certificate from the employee. Once this occurs, the employer should write to the employee immediately expressing concern regarding the nature of the illness. The employer must take steps to establish the cause of the stress and remove it, if practicable, for the employee’s health and safety.

There are a number of actions which an employer can take in dealing with work-related stress. One such action is to refer an employee for an Occupational Health Assessment which will provide them with objective medical advice on the employee’s condition. Another action is to identify the causes of stress, be they working hours or workload and take steps to alleviate them. The employer can also offer the employee sick leave, annual leave or unpaid leave to take time to recover from the stress related illness. Other alternatives include a move to a different position or department which does not have the same stressors as their current role. Each individual case is unique to the individual circumstances and each employer must bear this in mind in evaluating the best course of action to tackle the issues.

If an employer fails to take action when made aware of an employee suffering from work related stress, they then can become liable for damages as they failed to adhere to their duty of care. If an employer is aware that an employee is susceptible to stress and fails to take necessary precautions to protect them, the employer is liable for any damages arising from their failure to act.

A happy workforce is a productive workforce and companies need to be more aware that each employee has a personal as well as a work life. Sometimes it may be the impact of either work or personal issues which causes stress, or a combination of both. This is why it is a good idea to have one to one appraisals with employees from time to time to get a better insight into the employees work life and should any issues arise, it can be taken from there.

Appraisals and employee meetings allow for a better rapport to be built with the employees and pave the way for more communicative relationships.