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:  http://www.who.int/occupational_health/topics/workplace/en/index1.html

Guidance on How to Conduct Disciplinary Hearings

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GUIDANCE NOTES:

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 mryan@righthandhr.ie 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

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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

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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 mryan@righthandhr.ie or on 086 8225448.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO REDUCE WORK RELATED STRESS

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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.

How To Avoid Illegal Or Inappropriate Interview Questions

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As many employers are now hiring again, I felt that it may be appropriate to remind you of some areas of questioning that may be potentially illegal or inappropriate to venture into.

Some interview questions are obviously discriminatory and avoided by almost all employers. However, when trying to build a friendly rapport during an interview, it can be easy to innocently stray into ‘grey’ areas which may seem harmless but are in fact discriminatory, and therefore potentially illegal. Employers may think they are just making conversation but could be leaving themselves open to litigation.

How you can find out all the information you need in an interview without straying into potentially litigious territory?

  1. Before you start the interview…

Although anti-discrimination legislation can feel like a minefield, it doesn’t have to complicate the interview process.

By simply asking questions in a different way, you can find out the information you really want to know (ie the candidate’s suitability for the role) without asking the interviewee to divulge information about their personal life (that you don’t need to make a decision).

The exception to these guidelines is when there is an occupational requirement for a role, when an employer can objectively justify why a specific type of candidate is required, eg a religious organisation may stipulate that only candidates of that religion should apply, if it is a genuine requirement of the role.

  1. Place of Birth, Ethnicity or Religion

Employers should steer clear completely of any questions regarding a candidate’s birthplace, background or religious affiliation. If an applicant has an unusual name, don’t ask about its origin, as the answer could possibly be grounds for discrimination.

While it is legal to ask about ethnic background on application forms, this is for monitoring purposes only and usually anonymous, and should never be brought up in an interview.

You may want to ask about religious practices to find out about any scheduling conflicts around weekends or religious holidays, but you should never ask a candidate about their beliefs. Instead, simply confirm they are able to work when they will be required to.

Don’t ask: What country are you from? Where were you born?

Do ask: Are you eligible to work in the UK?

Don’t ask: What is your native language?

Do ask: This job requires someone who speaks more than one language. What languages are you fluent in?

Don’t ask: What religion do you practice? Which religious holidays do you observe?

Do ask: Can you work in the days/schedule required for this role?

  1. Marital Status, Children or Sexual Preference

Asking questions about someone’s children is usually just making conversation, but not appropriate in an interview setting. You cannot ask a candidate if they are planning a family, if they are pregnant or about their childcare arrangements.

This also applies to questions about marital status, which could be grounds for discrimination, as some employers may believe that married employees are more stable, or single people may have more time to devote to the job.

Any mention of an applicant’s sexual preference should also obviously be avoided.

Don’t ask: Do you have or plan to have children?

Do ask: Are you available to work overtime on occasion? Can you travel?

Don’t ask: How many children do you have? Do you have childcare arrangements in place if we need you to work out of hours?

Do ask: This job may require some overtime work on short notice. Is this a problem for you? What days/hours are you available to work?

Don’t ask: Is this your maiden name?

Do ask: Are any of your references or qualifications under another name?

Don’t ask: If you went on maternity leave, would you come back to work afterwards?

Do ask: What are your long term career goals?

  1. Gender or Age

Steer clear of any questions that reference a candidate’s age or gender. You should certainly ask about their ability to handle the challenges of the role, but never imply that their gender or age may affect this.

The only question regarding age which is acceptable is to establish whether they are of the minimum age required for the role. A prime example of what not to say to an applicant would be to ask of someone in their sixties, “and how many more years do you see yourself in the workforce?”

Don’t ask: We’ve always had a woman/man in this role. How do you think you will handle it?

Do ask: What can you bring to this role?

Don’t ask: How do you feel about managing men/women?

Do ask: Tell me about your previous experience of managing staff.

Don’t ask: How old are you?

Do ask: Are you over the age of 18?

Don’t ask: How much longer do you plan to work before you retire?

Do ask: What are your long term career goals?

Don’t ask: When did you graduate?

Do ask: Do you have a degree or other qualification related to this role?

  1. Location

It is very common in interviews to ask about commuting distances and times, to make sure the candidate will be able to get to work on time. However, this can be difficult to judge, as how far people are willing to commute varies wildly. Some employees are willing to travel for over an hour, while others think 20 minutes is too long.

In addition, asking someone about where they live could create discrimination issues if it is in a neighbourhood heavily populated by a specific ethnic group or social class.

Don’t ask: How far would your commute be?

Do ask: Are you able to start work at 9am?

  1. Disability or Illness

Interviewers should be careful around any questions related to illness. Asking a candidate to explain any gaps in their CV due to long term sick leave is acceptable, but asking directly if they have any health conditions is not.

Questioning a person over a disability and whether or not it would affect their ability to do the job is grounds for disability discrimination.

Don’t ask: How many sick days did you take last year?

Do ask: How many unscheduled days of work did you miss last year?

  1. Lifestyle Choices

An employer cannot ask an interviewee whether they smoke or how much alcohol they consume. While an employer can set rules for professional conduct and substance use at work, what an employee does in their own time should have no bearing on whether they are suitable for the job.

While you can ask about criminal records on an application form, it’s generally not a good idea to bring it up at interview. Likewise, while some roles require a CRB check, you cannot discuss the findings in a job interview.

Questions about political affiliations or group memberships should not be asked during interviews, unless they are relevant to the role in question. Although you might want to find out if they are involved in any activities that may have an impact on their time commitments, it is better to simply ask if they are able to commit to the role.

Don’t ask: Do you belong to any clubs or organisations?

Do ask: Are you a member of any professional group that’s relevant to this role?

Don’t ask: Are you a member of the Territorial Army/Special Constabulary/Other Volunteer Force?

Do ask: Do you have any upcoming commitments that would require extensive time away from work?

  1. Height or Weight

Questions about a candidate’s weight or height are also best avoided unless there are certain minimum or maximum requirements required for the role.

Don’t ask: How tall are you?

Do ask: Are you able to reach items on a shelf that’s five feet tall?

Don’t ask: How much do you weigh?

Do ask: Are you able to lift boxes weighing up to 50 pounds?

This information is for guidance purposes only and not legal advice.

Performance Management – Tips to make these meetings beneficial

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Do you carry out performance review? Are you prepared to have these very beneficial meeting?  Here are some tips on how to get started: 

First thing I 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 couple of steps that Right Hand HR  would recommend to get your company ready for performance reviews and goal setting for the rest of the year.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. This seems like a tall order, however if review the goals regularly as part of your 121’s it will ensure everything is kept on track.
  4. Don’t just focus on under performers, your star players will need to be incentivised and motivated as much as an underperformer.
  5. If you have bonuses that are linked to targets, ensure that the bonus rating system clearly outlines the goals and targets that need to be achieved and also explains what proportion of the bonus will be paid depending on different levels of achievement.
  6. Lastly, having the performance meeting; be well prepared, give the individual ample opportunity to talk about how they feel they are getting on in their role, agree on action plans moving forward, agree on timelines and schedule a date for the next meeting there and then.

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 for further advice on managing performance Right Hand HR can provide a full suite of tools for you.  Many of our clients   have told us that they have been invaluable and as a result have found performance management easy to introduce to the workplace.

For more detail you can contact Mary on 086 822 5448.