Category: Recent Blogs

13
Jan2021

Charting the waters in 2021

It would be normal in Q4 to firm up on budgets, business plans, goals and objectives for the year ahead.  After the experiences of 2020,it seems to me that is not necessarily a good use of valuable management time to go into detail.  If I learnt anything from last year it was that remaining agile and flexible to respond to the challenges and opportunities that arose was beneficial and served us well.  So on the cusp of 2021, how do we approach the year ahead?  I liken it to being in the harbour and preparing to set sail.  I know that my destination is across the ocean and I have a broad plan on co ordinates to reach my expected landing.  As I leave the harbour I will be subject to the vagaries of weather patterns, tides, wind, currents, and my ability to navigate!  It will not be a straight forward passage and I will have to make changes to my route, I will have to cope with disappointment and backward travel, I will need to dig deep, take advantage of the tide and wind when it is in my favour and I will have to have confidence in my ability to navigate and lead the team.

Here are 4 strategies to keep in mind as we head towards 2021:

  1. Keep positive  – have a positive mindset for yourself and your team.
  2. Be aware of your own mental threshold and be prepared to augment that with support from those around you.
  3. Listen, listen and then listen some more – listening will be the key skills to being an effective leader – listen to the market, listen to your staff, listen to advisors, listen to your instinct.
  4. Take people with you – we are in this together and we need to be supported by each other and the collective good will be stronger and more powerful than a lone voice.

Underpinning these strategies is the need for effective communication.  You will not communicate too much ever, be aware of digital fatigue and use the phone, go for a walk, go for a virtual walk, mix it up.  Be authentic in your communication, there is plenty of under delivered promises and misinformation in the external environment, so create a safe space for internal communication.

Planning for 2021 needs a fresh approach that allows us to be agile, creative, and accountable.

Next week we will update you on expected changes in employment law and trends which you can then build into your journey through 2021.

02
Dec2020

Racism and unconscious bias in the workplace – how to identify and prevent it

In the third of our equality and diversity focused webinars we discussed the impact of the Black Lives Matters movement.  This has undoubtedly raised awareness, emotion and a sense of empowerment to question the treatment of people of colour in our society today.  The issues of racial discrimination are not new but the level of perceived injustice and expressed emotion in society are heightened and palpable.  As we have commented before the boundaries of acceptability change over time and the impact of BLM has increased sensitivity and reduced acceptance of perceived racial discrimination.

The Equality Act 2010 sets out the measures that can be applied and provides a framework for tackling racial discrimination (and other forms of discrimination).  So employers and business owners need to know and understand the protections that are afforded to employees, job seekers and others through the legislation.  They need to go beyond just understanding their responsibilities, by training and educating their employees and managers; reviewing policies and procedures; carrying out an audit of where they are with their policies and practices within their organisation.

There are many recorded benefits of having a diverse workforce, it is good for business, it is good morally and ethically and it provides good protection for your business.  Therefore you may need to start to think about proactive steps you can take to grow and develop a diverse workforce.  Perhaps by starting to gather ethnicity data to build a baseline metric which over time can be assessed and evaluated. Reviewing recruitment processes to ensure that you are reaching a proportionate sample of your possible population. Training recruiters to avoid bias and discrimination and recruit in their own persona. Considering gathering ethnicity pay gap information to examine whether there is a bias in your pay and salary structure.

How can you be an ally to Black Lives Matters?  Supporting the cause with more than just words, taking action that will deliver training and education to challenge systemic societal views. By supporting initiatives like 100 Black Interns which actively seeks to address the underrepresentation of black people in fund management. By taking early action on potential allegations of racial discriminatory behaviour and sharing stories of how BLM and other debates have impacted those from an ethnic background. As well as creating the environment in which issues and concerns can be talked about, addressed and managed (not swept under the carpet) including providing mental health support for those who have been adversely affected.

The legislation can provide a level of protection but our actions as employers, managers, colleagues could make a big difference – if we became an ally of choice and self determination.

25
Nov2020

Sexual harassment in the workplace

Building on our examination of the impact of the Equality Act 2010, we took a more in depth look at sexual harassment in the workplace and where gender lies in the world of equality and diversity.  The legislation on sexual harassment and discrimination has been in place for some time before the Equality Act, it is not new and yet there are live and current examples of sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace.  The specifics and substance of these may have changed over the years and the boundaries of what is and is not considered to be acceptable and appropriate has shifted but the principle of the impact of harassment has not.  It is not acceptable for the harasser to claim that it was not intentional, it was just banter and just the way that we speak to each other.  That is not the issue, the issue is the impact that the action has on the victim and if the action is considered to be offensive, inappropriate, humiliating that is what is important.  The action may not be inappropriate groping in the photocopier cupboard as we are not in the office, but comments about someone’s personal space or belongings identified through an online digital call, could be considered to be harassment.

The Me Too movement has raised awareness of the practice of sexual harassment, had lowered the barriers for others to come forward and tell their story and has openly shifted perception and acceptance on this issue.

This could be happening in your workplace and it is not a defence to say that you didn’t know or didn’t think that it caused any offence.  Business owners and employers are advised to take steps in their business to create an inclusive culture in your business. Those steps include:

  • Educate employees and yourself
  • Have appropriate policies and procedures in place
  • Talk about the polices and the implications of the provisions
  • Train managers and employees on boundaries of acceptable behaviours and to set acceptable norms.

As this is an evolving and developing topic, it has to be revisited and worked through to create an environment in which employees feel safe to come forward to talk about issues, raise concerns and establish a healthy and informed workforce which values respect, inclusion and equality.

A first step could be to audit your business to establish what is happening, identify examples of inappropriate behaviour or gaps in training and education.  From this you could build a strategy to actively develop an equal and inclusive workplace.  If you wish to discuss this privately and confidentially please contact us on info@gravitatehr.co.uk or call 0131 2257458.

19
Nov2020

New HR Assistant – Paula Green

I started my new position with Gravitate on the 26 th October 2020. I think on most peoples first days there is a sense of nervousness and anxiety and mine was no different. I think in addition to these feelings there was also a sense of sadness because I was leaving my previous role in Tesco after 11 years with the organisation. It was safe to say that there was a rollercoaster of emotions as I headed into my first day with Gravitate.

In my previous role, I was inducted more than a decade ago and the drastic changes from then to now within recruitment in wake of the changes made due to the pandemic were also a key contender to why I felt anxious. Not being in the office and not actually going to a ‘place of work’ and instead working from home was like a whole other world and one that I was not accustomed too. It almost felt like it was not real. However, as the first day came to an end, I felt silly and asked myself, why I was worrying as much.

The team at Gravitate are the friendliest and most supportive group I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Even from the interview process, whereby everything was done virtually they made me feel at ease and comfortable with the process. As I am working from home the logistics are extremely different to what they would normally be, with no office chat, no asking questions out loud to your colleagues and no normal office chatter it was something of the unknown to me however, Neil and the team have been so supportive and went above and beyond making me feel welcome on the first day. The synergy and team working spirit radiates through Gravitate and I am very proud to work for this organisation.

Gravitate will be my first HR role and provides me with an exciting challenge due to the variety the role entails. Even speaking to the team about their clients and what they need from Gravitate it is evident that I will be exposed to much more than if I was working in internal HR. I am really looking forward to finding my feet, liaising with clients, getting to know them and their different HR practices. Already in my first week I have been involved in re-drafting contracts, furlough, preparing leaving letters, appropriate filing, HR software and HR enquiries. I feel like everyday at Gravitate is going to be like a school day, where learning is always at the forefront.

It is evident that everyone at Gravitate really enjoys what they are doing, and I am raring to go and learn as much as possible from such an experienced team. It seems like I have waited a long time for my chance to work in HR and I am ecstatic that my journey starts here and now with an incredible team of experts.

19
Nov2020

Inequality in the workplace – would you recognise it and know how to prevent it

Ten years on and the Equality Act 2010 celebrates an anniversary but are we celebrating additional protections and its impact on our society and workplace?  In the webinar we examine the cornerstones of the Equality Act and how it affords protection to those with protected characteristics.

Todays Covid world has exposed cracks and fractures in our society, workplaces and working practices and demonstrates the need for anti discrimination legislation as we have seen women and people from ethnic backgrounds more affected by employment measures, gaining access to health care and their role in the family than other sectors of the population.  It is a real and relevant issue for all employers who have a responsibility to educate themselves about the Equality Act 2010; to train and educate all employees by sharing policies and procedures and embedding it in management practices throughout the whole of the employees life cycle.

A discrimination claim can be brought before a potential employee even before they join a business as pre employment practices such as recruitment and selection are open to scrutiny.  All claims can be persued in through the tribunal system and the awards, if proven, can be very punitive towards employers.  In this scenario a defence of “I didn’t mean it” or I did know that this could cause discrimination or offense” means very little.  What can be offensive is defined by the view and opinion of the person to whom it is intended – it is not for a white, women of Scottish origin to comment or define what may or may not be offensive to a male, man of colour and Scottish decent.

The rewards of a diverse and inclusive workplace go beyond the management of risk.  A culture that welcomes employees from diverse back gound, ethnicity will enrich the skills and experiences that you can tap into; may allow you to connect with a broader audience and customer base and build in resilience to your workforce.  It starts from:

  • Understanding what you have got by employing a diversity audit
  • Review of your policy and procedures to make sure they are up to date and relevant to our contemporary expectations.
  • To train your managers and employees about what this means in practice.
  • Embed into your way of working and dealing with exceptions and departures from policy provisions.

Coming soon – new Equality, Diversity and Inclusion e-learning course!

We will soon be launching our brand new EDI e-learning course where you and your team can train in a variety of issues receiving a certificate at the end of the training. It’s a very practical action you can take as a business towards creating an equal, diverse, and inclusive business.

28
Oct2020

Working from home this winter?

How to protect your mental and physical health.

Looking after our own well being and that of the team could help us through the dark and cold months of autumn and winter!

Why is that important?  Exercise gives our mood and mental well being a lift due to the release of serotonin and this may well help all of us to cope with the pressures and strains that we are all feeling due to the current circumstances.  Movement will be a welcome change from the time spent sat in front of a screen and sedentary at a desk, to help move our joints, muscles and ligaments to help prevent injury, pain and stiffness.  It will also provide a shift away from performance to find time and space to active recovery and relaxation.  This is important for us all to be able to perform professionally and personally and to be better able to combat the symptoms of stress and anxiety.

How do we get started? Some of us may have a well established exercise routine and some may not.  It is about finding some activity that you enjoy and have fun – that could be dancing, Zumba, boot camp, running, walking, yoga – the first step is to find something that you enjoy, either on your own or taught.  A guided class can give encouragement, ensure good technique and support from others.  It will be different for all of us – more than ever classes are available online live and recorded, so that you can follow your chosen activity from the safety of your own home.  Even if you are a very active person the opportunity to relax and have the permission to slow down, stretch and experience some mindfulness can bring additional and different benefits.

Usually there is a trigger point, start of the new year, after a celebration or holiday when you are feeling the effects of over indulging or partying – that pushes you to make a change in your lifestyle to make you feel better and better about yourself.

How do we get others started?  It needs to be packaged and set out to be enticing and accessible to encourage people to get involved; it needs inspirational people or stories to get it off the ground and more impetus to keep it going.  Above all it is about selling the benefits of getting together to take part in a group activity; to move a little more, to take in fresh air and nature (outside event) and benefit from the daylight and melatonin which will help us to sleep better.  Find the features and sell the benefits!

Is it all about physical exercise?  There are other elements to the well being story.  Guided breathing and relaxation are great for instilling peace and stillness in as little as 60 seconds which can create a helpful break from the constant activity and business in our lives.  Improving our diet and eating habits can make a huge difference in our well being – our stomachs are like a second brain and the bacteria living there will send messages to our brain and influence our mood.  So we need to encourage good bacteria in our gut to improve our overall well being.

What can we learn from other cultures?  In countries where there are  long cold and dark winters, they celebrate the dark with festivals, light, winter sports – they embrace the weather and approach with a different mindset.  In Scandinavian countries they have shorted working hours, more flexibility and actively take the time to get out doors in the day light and there society is designed holistically to embrace these measures.

What might we need to change?  We might need to

  • stagger start and finish times to allow people to go outside at the start of the day to get a blast of fresh air, natural light and nature
  • allow more flexible working hours to allow people to gain access to chosen physical activity
  • ask, listen and act upon feedback – ask your teams what support they would benefit from
  • think about diversity and the range of needs in your team – how could you provide some thing that will be accessible for different levels of activity and fitness
  • keep it fresh – have a range of strategies that you can mix up with
  • Keep it inspirational – have a speaker to a lunch and learn to inspire with new ideas – new recipes – guided meditation sessions

As a business leader, it starts with us to make this priority for ourselves and others, to lead the way by example, to ask and listen and then put together some initiatives with appropriate messaging.  Seek some help from those who are expert in this – it is not just about exercise, mindfulness and diet are just as important.  Hope these helpful ideas will give you a  kick start to changing the way that we view winter and help to build some resilience and well being capacity.

30
Sep2020

The new job support scheme – what do we do now?

Following the announcement by the Government of the new job support scheme (JSS) it has given employers another option to consider with the goal of encouraging employers to retain jobs. You will no doubt have seen some of the details of the new scheme however some key points to note:

  • Government contributions are capped at £697.92 per month.
  • Starting the redundancy process or making someone redundant would preclude you entering that employee into the scheme.
  • You will have to calculate and pay wages based on the employee’s normal salary not their furloughed salary.
  • You will claim the government’s contribution (22% of non-worked hours) back monthly in arrears.
  • Employees must be working a minimum of 33% of their contracted hours.
  • You will have to get your employees to agree in writing that they are willing to be a part of the JSS should you go down this route.

The scheme will run until April 2021, giving us an indication of how long the Government believes COVID will continue to impact on business, jobs and the economy. 

 

What are the pros and cons?

We need to wait for further details to be announced however here are our initial thoughts:

The benefit to retaining more staff on reduced hours could be that should the company start to trade more securely in the future they will save time and money otherwise spent on recruiting new staff. Furthermore if you have been utilising the furlough scheme thus far, you’ll get £1k per head for everyone who remains on your books come January 2021.

That said, I expect a lot of employers will be hesitant to persevere with this scheme, rather than just let staff go. It requires a significantly higher contribution from the employer than the furlough scheme has, at a time when many businesses  are already struggling. There will be many businesses who will be unable to or struggle to pay 55% salary for 33% resource ‘use’. I think it will take quite a specific set of circumstances for a business to be positioned to benefit from this, i.e. they have to have some level of trade, but not the full amount, have sufficient cash flow to pay the portion of the wages they are responsible for and the governments before claiming back in arrears.

What advice would we give at present? 

We need to await further detail on the scheme and its practicalities. If you are a business mid-consultation on redundancies, then I wouldn’t suggest you fully fall back from that just yet. Better to communicate a pause and hold employee’s in their ‘at risk’ status, whilst determining as promptly as possible, whether or not this scheme can help reduce (or remove) the requirement to make redundancies at this time. Make it clear when pausing that the redundancy process may need to restart in the near future.

If you would like any advice or support in determining whether the JSS will benefit your business and how to implement it please get in touch by emailing info@gravitatehr.co.uk or call us on 0131 225 7458. 

25
Sep2020

How to avoid fines, penalties and legal action as furlough ends

In March of this year, Marianne McJannett and I started the series of webinars which Gravitate HR have continued for six months.  These have tracked the progress of furlough, working from home, supporting our teams and their mental wellbeing and have followed the journey of us all through the up and downs of living and working through a pandemic.  As the furlough scheme comes to an end in 5 weeks our focus on this webinar was the steps that business owners and employers should start to think about and to raise awareness of the various risks that are currently prevalent.

Redundancy follows a very structured path of communication, consultation and decision making.  Within that structure there are very many twists and turns and variables, it is not a one size fits all process and has to be adapted and planned to take into consideration of the size, shape and make up of the employee population and the number of roles which have to be lost.  And then there is the human element.  It is this additional dimension that has complicated the process during the pandemic.

The unique factors that have now to be considered include:

  • Are you employees still on furlough, flexi furlough, working from home, or working in the work place?  How might the decisions that you make be influenced and perceived by others by this?
  • Are employees fully appraised of the status of the business?  Are they aware of how the economic challenges have affected income and cost structures?
  • The external job market is overall not healthy with a huge number of people looking for work which makes it very competitive?  This influences the attitude of employees when facing possible redundancy and fighting to keep their jobs in selection processes.
  • The risk to the business of carrying out a flawed process, or making unfair decisions are very real, with employees (with more than 2 years’ service) having redress through the tribunal system.
  • There is also a risk of unwittingly making discriminatory decisions, decisions which are perceived to be based on protected characteristics rather than a fair and consistent process.
  • And all of this is carried out remotely through a screen, with the potential for the meeting to be recorded, and an extra layer of distance to be factored.

As the Job Retention Scheme ends on the 31st October 2020, employers will be required to pay 100% of contractual payment from the 1st November 2020.  If this is not affordable then the business needs to start to plan what alternatives it can put in place.  All alternatives will require some form of consultation and agreement with employees, they can not be imposed.  There are a number of alternatives available and a number of routes which can be followed.  It may be advisable to take some advice early in order to inform your decision making and avoid costly decisions that could have long term adverse effects on your business.  This webinar discusses the journey through furlough, the current trends in the employment law sphere and some of the very unique set of circumstances that we now find ourselves after working from home for six months; and now advised that should be our default position for some time to come for many businesses.  The end of October is a milestone in this journey and our advice is to be sure that you are prepared for the changes that will arrive with no more JRS payments from HMRC.

If you would like any further advice about an HR issue you are managing please get in touch with us on 0141 459 7558 or email info@gravitatehr.co.uk.

14
Sep2020

The 5 Things you need to know Managing your team remotely

Cameron Thomson of FootDown Scotland joined us for our most recent webinar on 1st September 2020. Cameron works across all industries and sectors as a professional coach and culture building specialist.

The session looked specifically at considerations for managing teams remotely, which we felt was a useful topic as we await further guidance from the Scottish government about possible return to non-essential office working from 14th Sept.

Even if the green light is given in the coming weeks, the overwhelming sense is that continued remote working will remain and may even replace the office altogether for many organisation.

Cameron gave an informative and practical presentation on some key areas he has been supporting clients in whilst they plan ahead for longer term remote working. Cameron encouraged attendees to think about how they could manage their employee’s energy and ensure they were not burning out; to deliberately build chemistry among the team to make up for the natural social interactions which are no longer happening due to remote working and gave practical guidance on how to ensure staff are prioritizing the important work over the work that they enjoy.

If you would like to discuss how Cameron might support you or your business, or to obtain a copy of the slides, please email cameron.thomson@footdown.com or call 07795598464.

A recording of the session can be found here.

21
Aug2020

My First Week At Gravitate

Rae, our new HR Account Manager, reflects on her first week at Gravitate and starting a new role remotely…

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