Author: Margery McBain



Where has it all gone? Rapidly screeching towards the end of year 14 for Gravitate HR! I would never have thought that we would still be doing what we are doing in 2020! But we are not doing what we were doing in 2006 – by the end of 2006, there was me and one other employee, working out of a basement office, having a drink in Kay’s Bar on Xmas Eve, celebrating that we had work to come back to in January 2007 and I had to work out how to prepare a set of year end accounts.

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Cyber Security – A new world?

The words have a futuristic sense to them but the issues are real and alive today.  In our data storing and gigabyte gobbling world what does it mean to us and what should we do?

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Margery’s travels

I did it! Awesome trip with an amazing bunch of people who all had stories of bravery in the face of all types of adversity including breast cancer. It was an experience for all of us, physical and mental challenge, coping with practicalities outside our normal boundaries, and learning new cultures. Thank you for all your support. It has been a true life experience.
M xx


Endeavour and 3P’s

But not the marketing 3 P’s – these are my “life admin” three P’s. Planning, Preparing and Perseverance!

It is just days until I leave on the biggest Endeavour of my life to date – a trip to South America taking in Peru, Ecuador, Galapagos Islands and NYC (I know NYC is in the USA!). And as I put the final touches to my trip it seems to me that there have been 3P’s to get me thus far. Read more


What SHOULD The Invictus Games mean to Business Owners?

I was greatly touched by Prince Harry’s speech at the Opening Ceremony of The Invictus Games as he used this global stage to promote openness and acceptance of mental health issues. He encouraged people with “invisible” health issues to seek help, to come forward and be strong, as acceptance of a difficulty is the first step to recovery.

The athletes at the Games are a tremendous example of how physical training, support and encouragement, challenge and achievement can facilitate recovery from injury. From taking the first steps or the first push in a wheelchair, through the long hours of training to reaching a personal best or medal winning opportunity. An environment was created for these service men and women to face their adversity, to access support, coaching and care that would allow them on a journey that would make them stronger and be better able to embrace their life, as they now found themselves.

There is no doubt that mental health issues exist in our businesses and I think we are naive to think any differently. The impact of absence, below par productivity, toxic relationships, and the opportunity cost of losing competence and experience are real for all of us.

I am not an expert on mental health but my work requires me to advise and assist managers and owners to address scenarios in the workplace which are connected to employees who have experienced some form of mental health difficulty. What can we as business owners do to learn from Invictus?

Some suggestions from me:

  • Learn to spot the signs of mental health difficulties
  • Create a trust and confidence in order that employees with genuine problems can share with you in the way that they feel comfortable
  • Recognise you are not an expert – I am not advocating amateur psychology
  • Look to find appropriate support or professional advice
  • Give the employee space, time and privacy – you may need to make some reasonable adjustments
  • Encourage and recognise success
  • Build resilience into your business at a personal and professional level
  • Allow time for fun and offline activities

The families and friends of the Invictus athletes were invited to the Games as they are seen as an integral part of the support network and they were able to enjoy being part of the experience. It is a whole team effort!

I hope you enjoy Invictus and open yourself up to be inspired!

Running a business and running – what are the parallels?

Last year I set myself a goal to run The Edinburgh Winter 5K, the Edinburgh 10 mile, and The Glasgow Half (marathon). The tee shirt arrived and I set out a training plan, which has not quite gone to plan. It got me thinking about why I run and what I learn from running. It struck that there are many parallels to running a business and I thought I would share those with you.

You need a vision

You need a vision of what it might be like – in the case of the run, what it will feel like to run the final 1K to the finish line, with your legs like jelly, your lungs on fire and the anticipation of crossing the line and the emotional rush that consumes you when you realise that “you did it”. It is the vision that keeps you going, pushes you out to train in the cold and the wet and drives you forward.

It takes hard work

It might come easy for some, but they are in the minority. For most I think despite whatever level you are at, it takes consistency, commitment and getting out there doing the miles, the sprints, and the stretches and building up stamina and strength. Nobody else can run it for you. You won’t run it sitting on the coach watching running DVDs.

Obstacles and challenges will come along

It will not be plain sailing. You might get an injury, or an illness or life might just get in the way. Life is not going to stop happening just because you are training for a run. Don’t let that derail you, keep to the plan, focus on the vision and achieving the goal. Adapt your training to compensate for the challenges. I sprained my ankle in January and I have struggled with impact – so I have had to find other ways to train (my deadlift is pretty sharp as a result!).

Enjoy the journey

Every run is a journey, there is a start and a finish, there are milestones along the way and like every journey there will be people to meet, folk to follow and stories to hear. The landscape will change, the sun and the clouds will come and go and being close to nature you can embrace the joys of an unpredictable passage. Sometimes the views will inspire, people will entertain and you will know that you are alive.

Celebrate the success

If you have put in the hard work you can celebrate the success. The success will be defined by you – you have the opportunity to set the parameters of success. Getting to the start line, getting to the finish line, completing within a certain time. Then you can enjoy the sense of achievement and share your success with those that are close.

I am not a great runner – it is not really a pretty sight which is why you will rarely see a picture of me running! But I enjoy the independence of putting on my running shoes and just going out, or meeting up with folks for a challenge. Running a business (no matter what size or shape) has challenges. Equally it can deliver the same sense of achievement and life experience. That is why I do it!

Part Time Business Administrator Vacancy at Gravitate HR

Part time Business Administrator

We have an opportunity for an organised and efficient administrator to join the business to take responsibility for the bookkeeping, online accounting package, IT applications and office management. Full job description is available below. If you are interested email your CV to

Part Time Business Administrator [PDF – 379kB] Job Description

Absence from the workplace

Is this another consequence of the recession? Levels of employee absence have declined since the recession of 2008/09. The average number of days lost per employee is just under 5.3 days which is a downward trend since the last survey in 2010. Interestingly the number of days lost could be better – the best performing upper quartile of organisations show an average of 3.5 days. There are signs that progress has been made as a result of improved workplace management of absence and occupational health – not just a fear of job loss. Our experience would agree with this –effective absence management policies, procedures and practices will lead to a reduction in absence rates.

The average cost of absence is £975 per employee, while the median is lower at £622. The direct cost of absence across the economy in 2012 was a staggering £14bn.

Non work related illness or injury is the largest driver of absence; postoperative recovery time is the second most common cause which can be minimised by effective back to work management programmes; but personal problems, caring for family members and mental health issues rate highly. Stress, anxiety and depression are leading causes of long term absence. However there is evidence that organisations have taken interventions to support employees to overcome these difficulties and return to work. The majority of the organisations in the survey had policies or arrangements to support employees for stress and anxiety. Do you?

A final note on fit notes – despite optimism that fit notes would help it would appear that the fit note has not lived up to expectations. Only 17% of respondents indicated that fit notes have changed the culture around rehabilitation and return to work.

Source: CBI Fit for Purpose Absence and workplace health survey 2013

Board Appraisals – how good is your governance?

Do you measure? Do you know?

For a variety of reasons organisations are starting to actively hold discussions with board members about their contribution and commitment to the board. In some sectors this is a regulatory requirement to ensure that governing body members are subject to an annual performance review to assess contribution and effectiveness and as a result of this to ensure that the governing body and senior staff have the skills and knowledge to be effective. In other sectors it has become recommended by funders and stakeholder and for some organisations it is seen to be just good practice and the natural extension of performance management within the organisation.

Are there any tensions?

The voluntary nature of most board appointments and the legacy of these appointments would suggest that if not handled sensitively, there could be tensions. Volunteers give of their time and talents to the benefit of the organisation and for some this can amount to considerable number of hours, stress in some occasions and responsibility. To then be assessed may appear to be onerous and uncomfortable.
However there is also a tension in not addressing issues – the organisation needs a robust governing body to influence strategy, ensure fairness and consistency and to insist on compliance. If the entity or parts of the entity are not fit for purpose, they could represent a risk or an opportunity cost.

Is there a bigger picture?

The board is like a jigsaw, made up of a number of different pieces each with a unique set of skills, knowledge and competences. The trick is to establish what he jigsaw needs to look like to be effective for the organisation and then check if the pieces fit together, are there pieces missing, are there too many pieces that look the same. A board appraisal can look at individual contribution but to have further reaching relevance it should bring the individual parts together and set the scene for the bigger picture. In this way you can have a meaning full succession plan, identify training needs, establish induction programmes and truly demonstrate good governance of our governance.

If you would like to have a conversation about your board and the contribution they make to your organisation, call Margery on 0131 243 1374

Gravitate HR Healthcheck

It is seven years since I first drafted the HR Health check. At that time it was based on a due diligence perspective and although robust compliance is just as important now as it was then, there is an increasing importance to consider some of the softer elements of HR. Employee engagement is increasingly associated with competitive advantage in a business, as the ability to recruit, retain and create a working environment in which employees work their full potential and aligned to the business strategy, has become more important. Our refreshed approach to the health check takes all of this into account – so to find out more please take a look at Gravitate HR Health check [PDF – 577kB] Gravitate HR Healthcheck 2013