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People Matter December 2016

Are you a good manager?

We hope it goes without saying that you’re not a Mr. Burns character with a complete disdain for employees (and humans in general). Or like David Brent and his cringing yearning to be popular rather than take management responsibility. Or Sacha Baron Cohen’s Dictator: General Aladeen, whose HR process boiled down to ‘disappearing’ anyone who displeased him.

There are of course notorious examples of bad management styles in the real world too.

There’s many a story about J. Edgar Hoover, the first Director of the FBI. One that tickled us concerned his penchant for scribbling unintelligible notes on the sides of memos. One such memo had very thin margins – his scribbled rebuke: “Watch the borders!” was misunderstood by baffled staff, who were too afraid to ask for clarification.

At, no doubt, vast expense they set up extra border patrol checks with Canada and Mexico. It was later revealed that he was demanding bigger margins so he could scribble his darned notes! There’s probably more than one lesson in there.

Good management technique is a fine balance, and best practice changes over time. At one level, big set-piece events like a conference with a free bar and keynote speech have a place, but in doing things on that scale there’s a danger of being too generic to truly engage employees.

Simple things like taking a new joiner for lunch and asking how they have found the induction process. New joiners often spot things that can be improved but we take for granted because we have always done it like that. Getting staff involved by letting them know how the business is doing and the plans for the future. If decisions can involve their feedback and ideas so much the better particularly when solving the age old problems of parking and keeping the kitchen tidy!

Work – life balance at Christmas

This Christmas advert features a cartoon man, struggling to juggle work and family at Christmas. It has struck a nerve as it trumped the heavy-weight John Lewis marketing machine by racking up the most YouTube views.

Work related stress costs millions in lost days annually, not to mention the toll of individual suffering of stressed workers. The advert’s solution isn’t practical (creating toy versions of oneself to handle the ‘work’ bit, in case you haven’t seen it). So how can a proactive employer help staff (and themselves) with Yuletide work-life balance? Some businesses send staff home early on Christmas Eve, and whatever else you do it’s a good idea to have a fair system to manage holiday requests. More generally, an employee assistance programme (EAP) is an excellent employee benefit to offer.

2017 Resolutions

After all the mince pies and Christmas cheer it is a good time to reflect on your business’s progress during 2016 and decide where you want to take it in 2017.

If you have been working too hard making a few New Year Resolutions to change will be good.  Plan to build the skills of the team, setting realistic goals not pipe dreams and then monitor their performance along the way.

Make time for you and you’ll not only feel better but have more energy to put into your business and make it the success you deserve!

Is your pay freezing this winter?

Aer Lingus hit the headlines in December, with unions representing 3,000 workers demanding a significant pay increase.

First off, it’s not unusual to be considering pay rises now. Many companies traditionally award cost of living increases at this time of year. But for a while, pay in many sectors has been frozen or seen little growth. The impact of the 2008 financial crisis started that, and there have been numerous geo-political headwinds since that have damaged business sentiment.

For companies that have been feeling the pinch during these difficult times, there are some creative ways that you can show employees you care. Think of the other employee benefits you may be offering. Could these be promoted more to staff to help them understand what you are already offering? Or could you add a little something more that would be appreciated? An extra day’s holiday or a health cash plan are possible ideas here that could be cost effective.

If there is nothing that can be done, honesty is the best policy. Face to face meetings with individuals will let them know they are valued and respected enough to be kept apprised of things. A truthful assessment of when you foresee future pay rises kicking in, is bound to help too.

Such conversations are of course not at all appropriate if the company is in rude health. In the case of Aer Lingus, the Union’s demands are based upon a backdrop of long term suppressed pay contrasted with current executive bonuses and profitability.

Without getting drawn into the finer detail of this case, a disparity in remuneration growth between those at the top and bottom of organisations can cause all kinds of cultural problems for a business. These can include the full range of low morale, poor recruitment and retention, ill will and industrial action, and reputational damage. And when remuneration practices go really wrong, legislation such as that covering minimum wages or discrimination can be breached. This could lead to a whole other level of trouble.
For expert advice on remuneration, call The HR Dept.

Actor “ghost-busted” for fluffing lines

An Actor in Dublin who was fired for fluffing his lines on the Dublin Ghost Bus Tour has won an unfair dismissal case against the Tour Company. The Actor was hired to deliver a ‘journey of hair-raising frights’ which did not meet the expectations of the customers. The Founder of the organisation went to review the actor’s performance, concluding afterwards that improvements had to be made. However, the performance didn’t change, the actor was subsequently dismissed.

The decision came back to haunt them. No clear dismissal process was followed The Labour Court found that the Dublin Bus Tour followed no clear process when dismissing the actor. The Labour Court awarded the actor €7,500 in compensation.  This is a nightmare that would help put any SME owner into an early grave! Top tip then for small businesses, always follow a clear process, contact The HR Dept for advice and support, we deal with employment issues from Actors to Zombies.

Bah Humbug HR

At the HR Dept we do get increasingly frustrated by all those miserable so called politically correct practitioners and Councils who proclaim that you cannot say Merry Christmas, have a Christmas tree or a Secret Santa for fear of offending someone.

Apart from the fact that the last time I checked a tree is not a religious icon and Santa is just a fat old man with lots of toys, hum maybe he is worrying!

Of course at parties you do need to provide food and drink appropriate for all staff taking into account their religious views and Secret Santa presents must not be offensive so no jokes that could end up with a discrimination claim.

Parties are working time so a reminder that good behaviour is expected won’t go amiss but at the end of the night wish everyone a Merry Christmas. Then during the year wish people a Happy Hanukkah, Blessed `Eid  and a happy Diwali!

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