What a year 2020 has been. It’s put a strain on us all: mentally, physically, personally and professionally. So, as we come to our end of year reviews, how should we approach them?
We take a look at the importance of regular appraisals, emotional intelligence, setting targets for 2021 and how to assess personnel that may have been furloughed or missed a significant chunk of time due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Read on to discover more…
End of Year Reviews
End of year reviews are annual meetings held to evaluate performance and identify any causes of concern or improvement. They provide an important opportunity to:
- Identify areas of weakness and create a plan to address this
- Refine responsibilities – referencing priorities and workload
- Identify opportunities for development – with reference to training or next steps
- Agree measurable targets and next steps
However, as well as being an opportunity for examination and assessment, end of year reviews also act as a great time for employees to celebrate their achievements. By reflecting back on the year, both parties can recognise the progress made by the employee and explore exciting next steps.
Remember, the review process is the ideal opportunity for employees to share how you can help them perform better!
However, it’s fair to say that this year is a bit different. With many employees absent from the business, forced into new homeworking conditions and mass uncertainty about what the future holds, it’s important to adapt accordingly.
In the next section of this blog, we will advise how you can lead a suitable review in the current climate.
Acting with Empathy
Research shows that empathy is one of the key drivers of overall performance and that teams with more empathetic bosses produce better results. Therefore, with a difficult year under our belts, we urge you to actively act with empathy.
Whilst we’re not suggesting that you simply let employees off the hook for the year, now more than ever, managers must apply an appropriate dose of context with their judgements, rather than viewing performance as just black or white.
Employees are facing a multitude of toils and trouble – with fears of job loss, stress and concerns for health having a significant effect on the workforce as a whole. Therefore, having the emotional intelligence and sensitivity to navigate a successful appraisal in the current circumstances could prove more difficult than anticipated.
When assessing your employees, consider:
- How can I reassure and support the employee?
- Has the pandemic impacted results?
- Would I expect leniency if I missed my targets?
- How can I fairly judge performance?
Whilst analysing progress is key to a successful appraisal, ensure that this is well-balanced with time to check in with the employee, their wellbeing and their plans for the future. Remember, it wasn’t the choice of some to work from home and it could have uprooted feelings of great difficulty or isolation.
Discuss how you can better support them – considering how you can help nurture growth and development. Whilst it’s understandable that many employers wont’ be in a financial position to fund training, pay rises or even promise job security, it may be possible for personnel to utilise this quieter period to undertake free training to further their skills.
It may be useful to point your employees in the direction of The Skills Toolkit for free digital courses that can help teach new skills, recap fundamentals or further knowledge.
Looking to the Future
One aspect of reviews this year that will prove to be especially difficult is setting attainable targets for 2021. Whilst the economy is unstable and uncertain, it’s very difficult to predict how businesses will fare. Therefore, this needs to be reflected in targets and the usual increase in performance or productivity may need be reviewed.
It’s important to:
- Set SMART objectives
- Be realistic – recognise that targets may need to digress from previous years
- Focus on what is attainable in the current circumstances
- Set targets that asses the quality of work produced, not just quantity
- Consider reviewing targets quarterly
Finally, when making plans for the future and discussing next steps, consider how this will look in the coming weeks and months. Will home working be permanent? How will this affect how employees are measured? Do you need to increase the frequency of reviews or touch-base more? These are all questions that must be answered when putting plans in place for 2021.
How to Assess Furloughed Staff:
This year is like no other. Shocks to the economy have meant that much of the workforce have experienced reduced hours, furlough or been absent from the business for weeks or months at a time. So, how should you assess your furloughed staff?
An Employer’s Standpoint:
As an employer, there is no issue in carrying out appraisals whilst your employees are furloughed, since taking part in the appraisal would not count as work.
However, the person who is leading the appraisal (ie, the manager), could not be furloughed whilst appraisals are being conducted. This is because the appraisals are counted as work for the manager or company representative leading the meeting.
Just because an employee hasn’t been present for the whole year, it doesn’t mean that you should skip your end of year appraisal.
This meeting is greatly beneficial for both the employer and employee to check in, refocus and identify how to progress. Failure to do so may result in:
- Employee confusion, upset and anxiety
- Uncertainty for the future
- Outdated or inappropriate goals or targets
How do you measure new starters? Or those that have returned from maternity leave? Measuring employees on a part-time basis isn’t a new concept. As with most plans this year, it just needs a little adapting.
More Support – For Them and For You:
Feedback shouldn’t just be provided once a year in an annual review. In fact, most employees respond best to continual feedback from their managers. To discover more about continual feedback, read our blog here. It’s a great way to provide more support for your employees, especially as many businesses continue with remote working.
For more support and information on how to conduct your staff appraisals, contact us today! We’re experts in supporting you with even the most complicated people-management headaches, so that you can rest easy knowing that you’re doing best by your business and employees.
Setting targets for a business right now feels like an impossible task.
It’s been said before this year that forecasts are pointless because they are so soon out of date. As a result, people assume they don’t achieve anything. Even more so this year, people feel that setting targets when the world changes so much from week to week is a fruitless exercise.
It will not come as a surprise that I disagree.
Why set targets now?
From experience, it seems that forecasts are prepared and targets are set for two main reasons:
- To prepare for differing scenarios of business performance
- To drive a change in behaviour
In 2020 especially, preparing for differing scenarios is key to survival. It enables you to react quickly to changing conditions.
Preparation for changes in business performance
Even before the pandemic, clients looked to a forecast to help them prepare for the what-ifs. It helped them to understand the impact – both good and bad – ahead of time.
The most common priorities have been:
- Planning growth and the related costs – Think recruitment, management investment time, marketing strategy or increased overheads
- Funding – Understanding what funding might be required to grow the business or alternatively needed to fund any reduction in income
- Capacity – Do you have the right level of staffing, how can you manage ebbs and flows
- Scenarios – What would 10% more or less income mean for your profits and cashflow
Once the targets are set, vulnerabilities can be identified and plans to deal with them accordingly.
The next step is to set the detailed objectives required to deliver the targets set.
Driving Behavioural change
Our clients are self-motivated and know what they want from their business. They don’t look to a forecast to drive a change in their own behaviour. However, in cascading those targets to employees, they see it as driving behavioural change throughout the business. This goes far wider than the simplest example where sales targets are linked to remuneration.
Sharing the objectives of the business with staff results in:
- Greater staff retention – Staff are bought into the aims of the business for the year ahead and motivated to help achieve them.
- Reduced pressure – Sharing the objectives of what you want to achieve and the actions to achieve it with staff doesn’t leave all the tasks at your door.
- Quicker results – Shared objectives are achieved more quickly and not bottle-necked with you as the business owner
- Innovative ideas – Openness encourages ideas and staff will contribute new ways of thinking all working to achieve your targets
- Staff objectives – The sometimes-onerous task of writing staff objectives happens organically with the forecast aims cascaded down into the detailed requirements which can be more easily allocated across the workforce
So, with all this uncertainty around – the reason to forecast is to help businesses cope. It enables businesses to plan for the worst and the best and understand the impacts now. Setting detailed targets for you and your staff follows on from the high-level forecast and will help you to achieve your aims.
Get your finances on track with Helen Fleet:
Helen Fleet of HF Financial Strategy works as a finance director and guides companies to delivering their financial and business objectives which can include cash flow planning, pricing reviews and ways to improve profitability.
If you’d like to know more about Helen, visit her website here or follow her on LinkedIn.
Coronavirus has highlighted an issue that’s been present for years: employees are concerned about being negatively judged for needing working adjustments to accommodate their children. But what will the knock-on effects be and why do we need to act now to support working parents?
We take a look at the ongoing issues that working parents face, outline your legal standpoint and discuss what ‘reasonable’ adjustments can be made as society faces a modern-day childcare crisis.
UK Childcare Crisis
Childcare has been a hot topic since schools shut in March – exposing a lack of support for over 13 million working parents in the UK. That’s about 40% of the working population.
However, this is an ongoing issue. With entire year groups having to isolate and schools being forced to shut, this isn’t a problem that’s going out of the spotlight any time soon. So, why should employers get on board?
The UK is experiencing a childcare crisis – with a recent survey revealing that a lack of childcare played a role in almost half of female layoffs since the pandemic hit. Furthermore, even our keyworkers felt the strain with 67% forced to reduce their hours due to a lack of access to childcare.
It seems unlikely that any working parent will avoid childcare difficulties at some time over the coming months. So, let’s take a look at some of the issues contributing…
Issues of being a working parent
Lack of support for working parents
Have you ever felt concerned to admit to childcare issues or felt worried that you’d be met with a negative response? Well, you’re not the only one.
In fact, of those working mothers that did experience a lack of childcare during the pandemic, over half reported that they were met with negativity from their employer. Moreover, it’s likely that this fear will increase as we head into a recession and the peril of redundancy grows within society.
The lack of support goes beyond the employer, however. At current, accessing support is more difficult than ever. Whilst grandparents may be isolating or friends are unable to mix bubbles and pitch in together, many are looking to paid support in the form of nurseries or childminders.
Yet, they’ll be met with a nasty struggle – as many working parents may have found. Only 56% of local authorities have enough childcare for parents working full-time, meaning that childcare spaces are hard to come by, especially at such short notice.
Despite the need for childcare to be seen as economic infrastructure, the investment simply doesn’t match and prices for childcare are snowballing out of control, as one of the most highly-regulated sectors push prices up year-on-year.
However, parents are left to brunt the cost of this regulation. In 2020, parents are paying an average of £6,800 for a part-time nursery place. That’s 5% more than last year – well ahead of inflation which sits at 1.50%.
Therefore, with childcare costs becoming an increasing strain on the family unit, it’s concerning to see that families are opting to reduce their groceries in favour of childcare, or feel forced to cut their hours to access tax-free support.
A backstep for equality
The role of a mother has shifted from a stay at home mum to working a triple shift – looking after the home, the family and a job.
As the primary caregiver in the UK, it appears that working mothers are perhaps the worst-affected by the childcare crisis, with a recent study revealing that 72% have been forced to reduce their hours (capping their earning potential) due to a lack of childcare.
But what will be the long-term affects of a mother having to put her career second?
- Higher levels of female unemployment
- Less women in senior roles
- Reduced diversity
- Increased gender pay gap
With 46% of working mothers stating that childcare was a deciding factor in their redundancy since the pandemic broke, this issue cannot be ignored any longer.
Therefore, in order to avoid taking a step back into the 40s, we must act now to support working parents as a whole.
An employee is entitled to take reasonable time off as “dependants leave” but only in specified circumstances. There is no statutory obligation on employers to pay the employee for the time off and what is “reasonable” is not mandated.
An employee also has a separate entitlement to take unpaid parental leave of up to 18 weeks (per child), at any time until the child is 18; but advance notice must be given (whereas time off for dependants is designed to deal with emergency situations). One type of leave could transition into the other.
For more information about the rights surrounding work and childcare, download our detailed 9-page explainer in our Return to Work Toolkit.
In addition to dependants leave and unpaid parental leave, anyone who has worked for 26-weeks continuously has the statutory right to submit a formal flexible working request.
The request can include possible changes to work arrangements, such as:
- Reduction or variation of working hours
- Reduction or variation of the days worked
- Working from a different location, eg home.
Employer Support – Going The Extra Mile
With all that said, what can employers do above the legal minimum to make the lives of working parents better? Well, here are just a few things to consider:
Normalise Working Parents
Everyone knows THAT news segment where the toddler broke in during an interview on BBC. But, have you seen how they handled the more recent interview with Dr Clare Wenham and her toddler’s unicorn? Normalising parenting can go a long way to reducing anxiety around childcare.
As with all change, ensure your leadership get on board and lead by example – being a parent and being a professional should not be a paradox.
As the pandemic escalates the shift away from ‘traditional’ ways of working, it’s important to carefully consider your employee’s requests and try to be as accommodating as possible. Failure to do so will likely push them towards a decision of ‘work or home’ – meaning that you could lose out on quality talent.
Download our free flexible working request form and flexible working methods explainer here.
Simple and effective: showing compassion and understanding to working parents can reduce the fear surrounding this widespread issue.
In such stressful times, employers should be making it as easy as possible for working parents to follow the rules and government guidance. For example, if an employee is concerned that they will lose their job if required to care for children forced to isolate, they may be encouraged to illegally break the isolation period to hide issues from their employer. This will put your workforce as a whole in jeopardy.
To combat the negative experiences of many, we must establish a safer, more understanding environment where employees are able to be transparent about the issues they face – without fear of an adverse reaction.
Putting formal policies in place to protect both the employee and employer can help establish a more collaborative approach to problem-solving. For example, by having a homeworking policy in place, employers can feel in control of individuals who seek to work from home on a more permanent basis.
Download our free policies here, including:
- Homeworking policy
- Health and wellbeing policy
- Flexible working policy
Gender Pay Report
Whilst it isn’t legally required by all businesses, publishing an annual gender pay report can help employers to become conscious of inequalities within the business.
Consider checking in on the differences between genders in regards to pay, promotional opportunities and recruitment. The first step of righting a wrong is identifying it, after all!
Need more help?
During these testing times, the team at Crosse HR are trying to do their bit – supporting small businesses by providing free templates to help time and resources go further.
However, if you require further expert HR support and consultancy, please get in touch. Contact Crosse HR for shrewd, sensibly priced HR solutions you can rely on.
Settle Status: EU Workforce
Do you have employees from the EU working within your business? Changes to the law may mean that they have to reapply to secure their residency status with the new EU Settle Status.
To make this transition period easier, we’ll be stepping you through what you need to know as an employer to support the welfare of these employees in such indefinite times.
What is the EU Settle Status?
On 31 January 2020, the United Kingdom officially left the European Union. Although no official deal has been agreed upon yet, changes have started to slowly filter through – one of the largest being ‘Settled Status’.
But what is settled status and why does it matter?
Settled status is the term for being a resident in the UK without any immigration restrictions on the length of your stay. There are two types of status in the EU Settlement Scheme:
- Settled status
- Pre-settled status
EU citizens who are granted settled status are permitted to stay in the UK as long as they choose; they can also apply for a British citizenship if they are eligible.
Pre-settled status – which is usually granted to those who have not lived in the UK for five continuous years – allows inhabitants to stay in the UK for a further five years from the date they are granted pre-settled status. After this period, individuals can reapply for full settled status.
The deadline for applying is 30 June 2021.
It is free to apply to the scheme through the government website.
Before beginning the application process for settlement status, applicants should have ready proof of identity and residency. It may also be worth double-checking that applicants have not already received pre-agreed settle status here.
What does this mean for employees?
Citizens of the EU, EEA or Switzerland can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living in the UK after 30 June 2021. Without confirmed settlement status, these citizens will not have the assumed right to:
- Work in the UK
- Use the NHS for free
- Enrol in education (or continue studying)
- Access public funds, such as benefits (if eligible)
- Enter the UK without a visa
Employees that do not have settled status face the potential risk of having paperwork refused, being unable to work legally in the UK and even deportation – uprooting their family, career and life.
Therefore, it is important to support your EU workforce through their application to ensure there is no disruption to their legal right to work or live in the UK after this deadline.
How can employers help?
Importance of application:
As employers, there is no legal requirement to inform your workforce of the impending deadline but it’s a good idea to ensure there are no legal hiccups (and it also feels like the right thing to do).
Employers do not require proof that employees have applied but getting status through the scheme will protect their future rights, so it is very important that they apply if you want them to continue working for you.
There are a few practical steps you can take to encourage your employees to apply.
Why not start by sending a letter to all your EU employees? It doesn’t have to take much time with letter templates already drafted up and ready to go. You can also ensure visual cues help prompt their minds by displaying informative posters.
Remember: although you can encourage people to apply, as an employer, you cannot ask them whether they have or about the outcome.
Supporting the process itself:
The process itself was designed to be as seamless as possible. However, with the added complication of coronavirus, a few spanners have been thrown in the works.
Due to many businesses being shut for a number of months and international travel complications, employees may have struggled to renew expiring passports. Therefore, workers may require flexible hours or additional holiday days to address this before their application.
Further, it may be useful to make your facilities available for support. For example, at this time, many printing shops and internet cafes are shut due to the pandemic. Therefore, pre-granting access for your employees to use your scanner, printer or work phone for their application may aid their progress.
Finally, although it is not standard procedure, if the employee requires any documentation to support their application then provide this in a timely manner; holding this process up will cause additional stress for the employee, distracting them from their work and prolonging indecision.
The uncertainty formed in the last few months has had an impact on everyone. However, we must consider those who experience further doubt about their rights within the country compassionately.
Managing stress and keeping a close eye on employees is essential at all times. Look out for key indicators of deteriorating wellbeing, such as:
- Reduced engagement
- Missed deadlines
- Lower morale
- Increased tiredness
If you notice a significant shift in their wellbeing, it may be time to check in; look out for tell-tale signs of poor employee mental health and be ready to act.
Where possible, refer employees for additional support and be compassionate towards their situation. It may be worth considering ways you can support employees with stress outside of work with flexible working, duvet days or even a shift in the workplace culture.
The charity MIND has some great, free resources to help individuals manage stress – at work and home. Could sharing some of their best resources equip your taskforce with more resilience?
Considering your current employees is a great first step, but what about future employees?
If you are planning on recruiting before the settlement deadline, it’s important that you don’t sit on your hands.
Speeding up your recruitment process will allow your business to:
- Beat the deadline;
- Widen your search for talent;
- Allow the successful candidate (if from the EU) to apply for settlement status in time.
As an employer, you have a duty “not to discriminate against EU citizens in light of the UK’s decision to leave the EU as both a prospective and current employer”.
That means that you cannot make an offer of employment, or continued employment, dependent on an individual having made an application. However, consideration should not stop here; ensure you address workplace discrimination at all levels for a safe working environment for all.
- Checking your processes and procedures for bias
- Educating employees on how to report discrimination
- Including EU citizens in your diversity reports
- Reminding employees of the fine line between ‘banter’ and discriminatory harassment
- Ensuring you have the processes in place to address hostility appropriately
Right to work checks:
It has been confirmed that there will be no change to right to work checks until 1 January 2021. That means that job applicants can continue to prove their right to work using any of the following:
- their valid passport or national identity card if they’re an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen
- their valid biometric residence card if they’re a non-EU, EEA or Swiss citizen family member
- their status under the EU Settlement Scheme using the Home Office’s online right to work checking service.
You will not be required to undertake retrospective checks on existing EU employees. Therefore, changes will only apply to applications in the new year.
For more information, read the official right to work checklist here.
For official support on how employers should support the EU Settle Status scheme, GOV have created an ‘employer toolkit’ here.
However, if you require expert HR support and consultancy, please get in touch.
Clarity Beats Uncertainty
Remember that round: ‘What Happens Next’ from a Question of Sport?
At the moment, we are all asking that question constantly…
- What changes will there be to lockdown restrictions?
- Will any uptick in revenue stall?
- Will people be able to pay me for work done?
So, to combat all this uncertainty we can at least ensure that we have clarity of where we need to be and the impact of missing or achieving those targets. This way, we can act fast to address any issues – being proactive with cost-cutting, additional funding or growth planning, as required.
When meeting regularly with my clients we look at certain key targets to help them know where they need to be. Let’s take a little look at what these are.
Understanding breakeven will highlight a good from a bad month.
If you are making profits it will trigger a need to ring fence monies for future corporation tax. If you are making losses, then you need to understand the impact on retained earnings (i.e. the profits you have built up over the years).
This is particularly relevant if you take part of your income as dividends. Dividends can only be taken where there are sufficient retained earnings and repeated losses will erode this and so you will need to monitor your position.
Knowing your breakeven will ensure you don’t get to year end without either sufficient provision for corporation tax or having taken illegal dividends.
2. Cashflow Neutral
The income you require to be cash neutral each month may well be higher than your breakeven. This might be due to loan repayments or if you take some of your income through dividends.
Knowing this straight away will help you understand if your bank balance will start reducing and immediately by how much. Clients may not pay straight away but already you have the insight as to how much your cashflow will be impacted even after all invoices are paid.
We also look at the capacity that the current workforce can deliver in terms of income.
This helps in two ways.
Too much resource:
Firstly, we can understand if we have too much resource for current levels of income and assess how long we can support this.
Not enough resource:
Secondly, and on a more positive note, we can see as the business grows when we will need more resource. We can assess whether to employ or outsource and we can do this in advance of hitting capacity thus ensuring service levels are maintained.
4. Bank Balance
Many clients start off thinking just monitoring their bank balance is sufficient.
I can see why they think this way, but this just tells you the here and now and doesn’t help anticipate the impact of loss-making months now. With many businesses having recently taken out Bounce Back Loans their bank balances are currently quite healthy and can, in fact, be masking issues for later down the road.
So, in summary, to grasp back some of that certainty, ask yourself if you know these three figures. With our environment being so uncertain, you at least know where you need to be and the impact of falling short or exceeding it – because clarity beats uncertainty.
About Helen Fleet:
Helen Fleet of HF Financial Strategy works as a Finance Director and guides companies to deliver their financial and business objectives. This can include cashflow planning, pricing reviews and ways to improve profitability.
For more information about HF Financial Strategy, visit her website here or discover more of her guest blogs here.