With the (dare we say it?) unprecedented events of 2020 behind us, it’s time to look ahead to 2021. January is the ideal time to reflect on lessons learned in the previous year and prepare for a successful 12 months.
Now, more than ever, it’s vital to tackle the year head-on armed with as much information and foresight as possible.
Read on to see what we gleaned from the challenges of 2020, and how you can set your business up for a fruitful 2021.
How did we support you through 2020?
Hopefully, we were able to support you and your business during the trials of 2020, whether as a client or simply by reading our blogs for HR advice and suggestions on navigating the many issues the year threw at us.
In a rapidly changing landscape of furlough, redundancies and working from home, we sought to be your HR helpline and respond to your shifting needs. As well as providing plenty of free advice, we also created useful resources to address topical challenges happening in your business.
Finding the positives in 2020, we posted a guest blog full of insightful advice on maximising efficiency, income and budget, as well as encouraging you to recognise your strengths and congratulate yourself on surviving what was undoubtedly one of the most challenging years in business.
Appreciating your positive qualities is a fantastic way to grow, both personally and professionally.
In July, we created a free restructuring toolkit to help you work through the changes in your business from an HR perspective. The kit featured advice on redundancy, a business plan template, meeting record templates, at-risk employee communications and a redundancy notice period template.
Aimed at maximising your reduced budget and limited time, the kit is still available for free on our website – download it here.
Return to work toolkit
Bringing your employees back to work after lockdowns and furlough periods was another task to overcome in 2020. To ease the transition, we created a free HR return to work guide. This pack included risk assessments, Covid-safe workplace advice, office hours tips, flexible working support and wellbeing guidance.
Now we’re in our third lockdown, this pack will once again prove useful when your team returns to the office. Download yours here.
Why is HR important to your business in 2021?
With constant changes occurring in the world of work, HR is the cornerstone of your business and can enable you to support your teams through the pandemic’s everyday challenges.
As HR specialists, we understand your employees’ needs and can help you implement processes and procedures that will support your teams and safeguard your business.
Plus, we stay on top of HR trends, technology and challenges to communicate the critical takeaways to you in a simple, digestible format with clear advice on how you can keep your business protected and productive.
Why you need to start planning your year
Forget diets and detoxes: top of your list of new year’s resolutions should be business planning!
Plotting out your objectives and targets for the year may seem tricky at such a confusing time, but it will provide you with a roadmap through which to steer your business through the coming months.
Setting targets helps you prepare for all eventualities, meaning no nasty surprises. Plus, it can encourage positive changes in behaviour which spark higher retention rates, less pressure and increased productivity among your team.
What’s more, planning the year will enable you to react fast to industry or nationwide changes, understand your budget and funding options better and manage staffing levels successfully.
A crucial part of your planning for the year should include your appraisal schedule. As every business tries to perform to its potential during challenging circumstances, appraisals can help you assess what’s working and what’s not. In doing so, you can carve out a clear action plan to ensure your business maximises its resources to hit key targets.
Find out more about appraisals and download your free guide here.
HR changes post-Brexit
January 2021 sees a new points-based immigration system implemented in the UK, so employers who wish to recruit or retain non-UK citizens must follow specific processes to stay compliant. Plus, employees themselves may have the reapply for residency status.
If you’re unsure about these issues and how they might affect your team, check out our blog on the subject here.
Keep following our blog and social media channels to stay updated on all the latest post-Brexit HR news as it develops over this year.
Preparing for IR35
Originally scheduled to be introduced in April 2020, the IR35 tax legislation will now come into play this April.
For a full explanation of the changes due to be implemented – and how you can prepare for them – check out our blog on IR35 here.
Here to support you
As you take your business into 2021, we want to reassure you that we’ll be here with you every step of the way.
HR is a critical element in the smooth running of your business, especially during challenging periods. So, we will be providing advice, support and guidance at every turn.
Whether you’re a client or you use our free HR resources – like the restructuring toolkit, the return to work toolkit or the appraisals toolkit, for example – we will be working hard for you throughout 2021 and beyond.
Remember, we’re always available for a chat, advice or support – please contact us if we can help your business with any kind of HR guidance.
Recently, people have found people management particularly hard – with HR departments spread thin, furlough and just getting out of the routine. It’s been a hard year with priorities all over the place. But, as we head into 2021, we’re here to help you get back on with your appraisals and objective setting.
Download our free guide here.
Why should I bother?
You may be wondering what the point is. Since March, you’ve kept moving and your employees clearly know what they’re doing. But, with the distance between much of the workforce, appraisals are more important than ever – offering opportunities to touch base, ensure your employees are happy and they’re receiving all the support that they require to thrive.
Equally, in difficult times, it’s important to be lean. Appraisals can help you:
- Identify what’s working well
- Uncover what’s not working
- Create an action plan to address this
So, now is the time to set your objectives for the year – determining how you’ll drive forward; make your business more efficient and support your workforce with a full and proper appraisal process.
With that said, we’ve taken the time to collate everything you need to implement a thorough and efficient appraisals process – with plenty of support on how you can set SMART objectives.
A free guide to appraisals
Our free guide to appraisals is a handy download, including:
- Appraisal training workshops for employees and managers
- Formal appraisal policy
- Appraisal and PDP pro forma
- Monthly 1-2-1 progress tracking document
- Appraisals and you – employee support
- Appraiser’s checklist
- A guide to setting SMART objectives
- Setting objectives – a template
- Expert HR support
As we head into 2021, it’s essential to be sharp on appraisals. As well as offering a great opportunity to regularly check in with your employees – which is especially important for those who are remote working – it is crucial for businesses to operate in a lean and efficient manner.
- Identify what’s working well for you
- Uncover what’s not working so well
- Create an action plan to address this
Whether you have no official appraisal policy in place or you just need to refresh your old routine, our Appraisals Toolkit should provide you with everything you need to make a start.
We’ve included some templates to help you along – helping you make the most out of your limited time and budget at this difficult time. We sincerely hope that it helps you power forward with focus and determination.
2020 …WHAT….A ….YEAR!! It’s unlikely that anyone will walk away from this year without feeling bruised in some way. With positive news on the vaccine and the real hope of normality in 2021, it’s time to think about the positives we can take away from what was a year like no other.
What did our clients learn?
No denying those initial weeks back in March were hard but our clients shook themselves down and battled on. During those dark months, they learnt the following…
Some clients found they were too reliant on a small number of clients. They had always known this was a risk, but they believed good service in normal times would keep that work secure. The pandemic took this out of their control and one lost client had a significant impact on their business.
Lesson Learnt –
Build a wider client base and monitor reliance on larger clients.
With staff furloughed they found new and more efficient ways of working. For some clients that has meant making redundancies but, in the knowledge, they can build a stronger more efficient business as they grow again.
Lesson Learnt –
Regularly review how we deliver our service and if we could do it better.
It’s easy for overheads to build as you grow your business without checking if you still need them, what level is needed and if you are getting value for money. Of course, property costs are the most obvious with people moving from large offices to hybrid homeworking and smaller spaces. Our clients reviewed everything from marketing spend to IT support to ensure they were as lean as possible.
Lesson Learnt –
Set a regular timescale to review overheads and ensure we are getting value for money.
No-one foresaw the significant loss of business in such a short space of time that we did. Whilst some clients had reserves others did not. The various government initiatives helped several clients through this period, but it has focussed their mind on what they feel is a minimum cash balance.
Lesson Learnt –
Know your monthly income required to remain cash neutral. Build a plan to retain three (or your choice) months’ worth of overheads in cash.
Several our clients recognized new traits in themselves. Personally, I realized I was calm in a crisis and through all our updates had an ability to make the complex simple.
We can all take this new awareness and build on it to help us personally and professionally.
What are your positives?
Reflecting on this, think about the following questions. What can you do with the answers to make your business perform better in 2021?
- What do you know about your business that you didn’t before?
- Do you know what doesn’t work for your business?
- Have you seen any efficiency improvements?
- Do you need to expand your service offering?
- Do you need to build a broader client base?
- What positives can you take away from how you personally reacted to this year?
More about 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 cashflow 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.
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.