Making people a great business

Phone us on: 01536 215240
Email us on:

Blog (old)

Follow our blog for regular tips, news and advice updated by our expert HR consultants


Do you want to remain up-to-date with the latest news and advice from the HR sector? Have you ever wondered what’s going on behind the scenes at Gateway HR?

Make sure you follow our blog for all things HR and Gateway HR news. Our HR consultants will regularly update the blog and give you some fantastic information and handy tips.


Gender Pay Gap – whose fault is it anyway?

Posted by on Apr 26, 2017 in Blog page, HR Practices | 0 comments

Gender Pay Gap – whose fault is it anyway? As an office full of HR peeps and also (most days) all women, we often discuss the issues in relation to the equal pay gap and how it has come about. As we start to work on Gender Pay Gap reporting with our clients, and more importantly how to address any issues, this discussion has become more popular. It is fascinating though, the different opinions that are out there and the misunderstandings as to the gap and what is being said. One really common topic is when companies announce they are pledging or setting a target for the number of women in certain roles or levels in the organisation. One comment in our office was a very defiant: “It’s not right to place women in top jobs because they are women”. Of course this person was correct in that no one should be put in to a role due to their gender, but what does need addressing is why far fewer women get into those roles. What organisations need to do is look at how people progress within their organisation; is it transparent and fair, and are both genders given the chance to progress? However, it goes so much deeper than what happens in organisations. A lot of the issues sit within society and culture. There are still certain professions that are dominated by one gender and this is what needs to be looked at. Lots of big businesses are doing a lot of work in this area, for example, working in schools to encourage girls to get involved in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) careers. I always remember my son when he was very young being very surprised when he went to the Doctor when the Doctor was a woman. This was not a stereotype that came from me, but when I thought about it most Doctors he had read about in children’s books or on children’s television were male. When he then met a male nurse it blew his mind! So, what can you do in your business? Even if you are not covered by the need to report on the gender pay gap, take time to look at the ‘make-up’ of your workforce. Is it pretty even or is there a dominance of either men or women in senior roles? If you have this then start to look at how this has come about… if you need our help you know where we...

read more

Would you have a problem with a tattooed employee?

Posted by on Apr 19, 2017 in Blog page, Tricky Issues | 0 comments

Would you have a problem with a tattooed employee? It’s fair to say that body art and the workplace are two things that haven’t traditionally gone hand in hand. In recent years though, things have started to shift. Back in 2014, Starbucks famously lifted its tattoo ban for its staff in a move that was applauded and welcomed with open (and perhaps intricately adorned) arms. The coffee chain is known for being a creative brand, with a predominately young workforce and modern-minded customers, and it’s perhaps no surprise that the business decided to move with the times. New research from Acas though has suggested that employers as a whole may well be out of touch with the changing public perception of visible tattoos, piercings, and other modifications. The implications here can be fairly serious. If you have a policy, either formally or informally, that bans body art, then you could be missing out on a huge pool of talent. As well, you could be causing unrest and resentment amongst your existing workforce. So could it be time to rethink your stance? As a starting point here, let’s consider your legal position as an employer. Body art is not classed as a protected characteristic under the Equality Act, so there are no direct implications in the eyes of the law. Still though, there is a possibility that you could be challenged on the grounds of a breach of human rights. How you decide to approach the issue of tattoos comes down to you, though it could be worth giving some serious thought to whether your position is serving a purpose, or exists solely as a result of outdated workplace culture and practice. Ultimately, it’s essential that whatever you decide, your policies are clear and well communicated. It makes sense to consult with your staff before making any big changes to your approach, and ensure that there’s no ambiguity around what’s acceptable and what isn’t. Do you employ staff with visible body modifications? What impact has this had on your business? And what advice would you share with other employers? If you’d like any advice on amending your own business policies, give us a call on 01536 215240 and we can...

read more

How do I handle maternity leave?

Posted by on Apr 12, 2017 in Blog page, HR Practices, Tricky Issues | 0 comments

How do I handle maternity leave? For a small business, losing an employee for 12 months on maternity leave can cause problems in how they cope with that absence, especially if they are a key member of staff. I have heard on the radio a number of times, a well-known business woman says that she will not employ a woman who has the potential to have a child. She is at least open about it, despite the legal, moral, ethical and business issues (she is shrinking the talent pool to employ from) and it is a strategy I would not advocate. So how do you handle maternity leave? Legal stuff – Remember that any dismissal or action taken (e.g. denied training, promotion, bonus etc.) because a woman is pregnant is automatically unfair. So once you have been told that an employee is pregnant do not assume things like: she won’t want to do that training now, or I’m not going to consider her for that promotion/job because she’ll be away. If you do, it could prove very expensive, there is no cap on compensation for discrimination cases. It does not mean you cannot make redundancies if need be, but if you do you will need to be absolutely clear that any decision is not as a result of the pregnancy. Remember that there are no service criteria to make a discrimination claim. I have just advised a client through exactly that situation. Also, that she is allowed paid time off to attend antenatal and medical appointments (as is her partner for 2 antenatal visits) and any time off sick that is pregnancy related should not be used in any absence management or redundancy points system. 2. Health and Safety – As soon as you are notified that an employee is pregnant, carry out a risk assessment. This may be quite straight forward depending on the potential risks but there could be situations where she could be exposed to certain chemicals or substances which could be potentially harmful. In those situations, you will need to move her to a different job or modify her existing job to eliminate the risk. If this is not possible then she may be suspended on health and safety grounds which is paid. Communicate – Although the employee does not have to officially notify you until 15 weeks before the expected due date, most will tell you well before this date. Remember for most this is a happy time but also a nervous one. They will be concerned about your reaction so be pleased for them, congratulate them, maybe a card or something, be positive. This will open up the communication channels and she is more likely to be open and honest with you in a positive environment than one where she may feel her job is threatened or picks up on any negatives vibes or comments. Use this positive atmosphere to discuss her plans, does she intend to return, what support she is looking for etc. This will help you get the information you need to plan for the maternity leave. Use this time to make sure she has all the information she needs which should be in your company handbook. If you haven’t got one, get one this is where they are important....

read more

Are you stamping out sexual harassment?

Posted by on Apr 5, 2017 in Blog page, HR Practices, Tricky Issues | 0 comments

Are you stamping out sexual harassment? A recent report from TUC, in association with the Everyday Sexism Project, found that 52% of women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. The statistics are shocking, and they demonstrate that whilst we may have come a long way in recent years, there are still serious problems that are deeply engrained into workplace cultures. Reputable employers know that they have a responsibility to stamp out unacceptable behaviour, but what does this look like in practical terms? Here, we tell you what you really need to know. Don’t ignore ‘banter’ Most workplaces have their fair share of jokes and lighthearted jibes. It’s vital though that you recognise that it’s never okay to make flippant comments. Even if the person making the remarks doesn’t think that they’re offensive or serious, this is no defense. The research found that 32% of women have been on the receiving end of unwelcome jokes of a sexual nature, so it’s quite likely that this has happened within your business. The stance that you need to take here is clear. Tackle inappropriate behaviour head-on, regardless of the intention. Look beneath the surface Perhaps you’re thinking that you have no problems when it comes to sexual harassment in the workplace. After all, surely your employees would come to you if they were facing issues? Well, not necessarily. Shockingly, 4 out of 5 women who have experienced sexual harassment did not report it. The reasons why are somewhat obvious. Often, the perpetrator holds a higher position, and the victim worries about losing their job. So before you jump to the assumption that everything’s fine in your business, take a closer look at what might be happening. Reinforce your standards Of course, it’s easy to argue that grown adults in a civilised society shouldn’t have to be told that sexual harassment is wrong. As an employer though, you have a responsibility to make your standards absolutely crystal clear. Now could be a good time to roll out refresher training, and ensure that your staff have a strong understanding of their role in stamping out unacceptable behaviour. Be sure that your staff know exactly what constitutes as sexual harassment, communicate this in a robust policy, and outline how you will facilitate the process of dealing with problems. Dropping the ball when it comes to tackling sexual harassment in the workplace isn’t an option. Neglect your duties as an employer, and you could face employment tribunals, a fractured workforce, and a seriously damaged reputation. If you’re concerned about issues in your workforce, or you’re eager to ensure that you’re meeting the mark, then we may be able to help you. Give us a call on 01536 215240 for initial advice around your circumstances, and to find out what your next steps need to...

read more

Your performance management checklist

Posted by on Mar 29, 2017 in Blog page, Management, Tricky Issues | 0 comments

Your performance management checklist Most business leaders would be quick to say that they invest in thorough and robust performance management systems. After all, if you want to achieve your overarching goals, then you need to make sure that you’re getting the most out of your staff. The simple truth here though is that too many business owners are missing vital parts of the puzzle, and are a missing out on a wealth of opportunities to really get the most out of their staff. Help is at hand though. Make your way through this checklist to start the process of taking your performance management practices to the next level.   Create a policy that’s well communicated to staff, and regularly reviewed Creating HR policies and procedures isn’t just about ticking a few boxes. Your documentation should support the day-to-day running of your business, prevent any problems from occurring, and ensure that you have a clear route to follow if things go wrong. Done correctly, they can save you a load of time, money, and hassle. If you don’t have a performance management policy that your staff know about and understand, then this needs to be your first action point. It should be noted here that any HR policy needs to be regularly reviewed. Is it fulfilling its purpose? Is there room for improvement? Are there certain issues that keep arising, that need to be tackled? If you haven’t recently reviewed your documentation, then take this as a reminder to do so.   Design a framework to manage conversations There needs to be a degree of flexibility in your conversations, and each and every member of staff will be different. Still though, having a framework that allows you to structure the meetings and cover key points is essential. Exactly what you decide to include will depend on the nature of your business, though you’ll want to consider how you’ll include positive feedback, how you’ll introduce areas that need to be improved, and how you’ll set goals.   Upskill your line managers As your business grows, it’s unlikely that you will be able to manage all the performance discussions. The responsibility will be passed over to your line managers, and this of course makes sense if they are the ones who staff report to on a daily basis. What you need to think about here is how you’re ensuring that line managers have the appropriate skills and training. Are they confident with the task? Do they understand its importance? And are they operating within the policies and frameworks that you have created?   Ensure that you have a comfortable and private setting to hold discussions What you discuss in performance management meetings should be confidential, so make sure that you’re making your staff feel welcome, comfortable, and at ease. If necessary, book a slot in a meeting room, and make it clear that interruptions are unacceptable unless there’s an emergency. You definitely shouldn’t be holding meetings of this nature on the shop floor, or with other members of staff in earshot. This might seem like common sense, but it’s easier to overlook the details when you’re running a busy business and trying to fit everything into your schedule.   Always agree on any action points During the discussion, there’ll be action...

read more

What to do when your longstanding employee starts underperforming

Posted by on Mar 22, 2017 in Blog page, Management, Tricky Issues | 0 comments

What to do when your longstanding employee starts underperforming When most of us think about the problems that our businesses can face due to staff underperformance, we imagine that the issues in question are likely to be created when we recruit the wrong person. After all, the process of finding the right member of staff can be tricky, and there are many things that you need to do to ensure that you’re giving individuals everything they need to hit the ground running. But what if you have a member of staff who has been with you for quite a while, and has always made a solid contribution, but you suddenly start to notice that their performance is slipping? These circumstances present a unique set of challenges, and if you find yourself in this situation, it’s really important that you know exactly what to do to address the problems and get things back on the right track. It’s essential that you don’t panic. You’ll be pleased to hear that we’ve created this guide just for you, and we’re going to walk you through absolutely everything that you need to know. So without any further ado, let’s get started! Don’t pretend that it’s not happening If your member of staff has previously met their goals and made a strong contribution to the company, then you might think that the best approach is to just wait and see what happens. After all, doesn’t everyone go through patches when they’re feeling a little unmotivated? Take this approach, and you may well find that things fix themselves. This is absolutely NOT the thing to do though if you’re serious about growing a strong and engaged workforce. If you start treating staff differently, you’re going to run into problems sooner rather than later. As well, your other members of staff will quickly notice that something isn’t quite right. Perception is important, and you need to act with integrity, and in a timely manner. Nobody wants to have difficult conversations, especially when it’s with valued members of staff who have been with the business for a long time. As a leader though, it’s your duty. If you’re struggling to bite the bullet and take action on the situation, take a step back and think about things objectively. Emotions can overtake your common sense, and no one’s expecting you to be a machine. How is this person not meeting your standards? What impact is this having on productivity, profits, and relations within the team? Often, you’ll quickly realise that you have no other option.   Get together for an informal chat about the situation You don’t need to blow things out of proportion. The beauty of being proactive is that you can often nip problems in the bud and get things back on the right track without any hassle or fuss. As a first port of call, arrange an informal meeting with the individual in question, and raise your concerns about the problems that you’ve become aware of. Speak to them about what they feel is going wrong, and find out if there’s anything that you can do to support them. There’s a whole host of issues that could be at play, and pinpointing precisely what is going wrong is the first step in getting things back...

read more

Top tips for encouraging your line managers to improve performance

Posted by on Mar 15, 2017 in Blog page, Management, Tricky Issues | 0 comments

Top tips for encouraging your line managers to improve performance It doesn’t take a business guru to tell you that if you want your company to thrive, you need to make sure that your staff are firing on all cylinders. Of course though, as is often the case when it comes to the tricky business of managing people, this can be much easier said than done. If you want to achieve big things, you need clear and effective processes in place to help you to get there. Your line managers play a huge role in creating a productive and high-performing culture, and you need to ensure that you’re driving them in the right direction. Here, we share some of our tips for encouraging your line managers to step into their roles and play an active part in improving performance.   Create procedures that underpin your objectives Your line managers can often only operate within the constraints that you provide them with. If you want them to excel in particular areas, you need to create a framework that allows them to do so. For this reason, it’s important that you consider what you already have in place that helps staff to reach their full potential. Do you have a policy that outlines how often and in what format performance discussion should happen? Is there something in place that ensures the work is being carried out? Who ultimately chases things up to ensure that procedures are being followed? It’s not necessarily about ticking boxes, but you do need to create systems that encourage the day-to-day tasks to be carried out.   Give your managers the confidence and skills they need to have meaningful discussions Unfortunately, making sure that performance discussions are taking place is only the first hurdle. It’s not so much about frequency, as it is about the quality of the conversations that are happening. At the end of the day, talking about performance and addressing areas of concern can be daunting, even for the most experienced line managers. It’s important that you give them the opportunity to hone their skills, and to keep developing them on a regular basis. Consider how you can do this within your business. It may be the case that you need to roll out some training sessions, or perhaps you need to have your own one-to-one discussions with your management team so you can better understand how you can support them.   Encourage your managers to facilitate career development in their teams Performance management isn’t just about fixing problems and making sure that the work gets done within a specified frame of time. It’s about looking ahead towards the future and ensuring that your business has the right kind of talent to drive operations forward and achieve growth. The key takeaway here is that if your employees aren’t being given a chance to flourish, they’re likely to start looking elsewhere. Do you really want to lose your talented members of staff to your competitors? Be sure that your line managers are having open and honest conversations with their direct reports about where they see themselves in the next five years, and that information is taken seriously and considered when it comes to planning the direction of the business as a whole. If line management...

read more

It’s time to rethink your appraisals

Posted by on Mar 8, 2017 in Blog page, HR Practices | 0 comments

It’s time to rethink your appraisals Recent research from PwC revealed that two thirds of larger companies are thinking about revamping their appraisals processes. The 2015 Performance Management Research found that businesses are becoming increasingly eager to ditch the once-a-year approach and instead concentrate on developing practices that create a continuous feedback culture. It’s often suggested that it’s time for appraisals to be scrapped in favour of more business-focused solutions, but it’s unlikely that savvy leaders will be taking them completely off the agenda anytime soon. After all, if you want your staff to achieve great things, you’re going to have to ensure that you’re giving them the right kind of support. Appraisals still have a very important role to play. But it’s true that it may be time to update your approach, and consider how you can make your performance management systems really work for your business. Read on to find out more about the directions that you might want to take in the future.   How can you harness technology? Technology is changing the way that we work and the way that we carry out our everyday tasks, so it makes sense to think about how it could be used to provide a slicker solution to facilitate effective performance management. Some leaders will see this as a headache, but once you get past the teething issues, it could prove to be one of the best things that you ever do. A system that’s accessible on the go could be just what you need to make sure that assessing performance is something that happens on a regular basis, and not just at the end of the year as a last-minute activity. The beauty of turning to technology is that you can create a system that meets all of your needs. Want the ability to hold discussions remotely? Want staff to be able to quickly upload evidence of their achievements? Anything is possible. The prospect of having less paperwork will certainly appeal to many!   How can you provide value for your employees? One of the main reasons why appraisals are sometimes so passionately disliked by employees is because they fail to see the value that they can offer, not just to the business, but to them as individuals. Performance management mechanisms can be seen as a way of ‘checking up’ on them, and bringing to light the areas in which they aren’t hitting the mark. When you think about it like this, it’s no wonder you’re struggling to get your staff onboard. Consider what kind of changes you might be able to make to turn the tables. How can you ensure that the process helps employees to reach their own career goals and get to where they want to be in your business? And importantly, what happens after the discussions have taken place? Your workers are much more likely to feel that the process brings value if they can see that changes are being made accordingly, and that they’re being supported when they have areas in which they might be able to sharpen their skills. Keep your eye on the bigger picture, but also try delving deeper into the aspects where you can make a real change. Need a little help with getting off to a great start?...

read more

Three ways to rocket your team’s performance in 2017

Posted by on Mar 1, 2017 in Blog page, HR Practices, Management | 0 comments

Three ways to rocket your team’s performance in 2017 When you take a look back at how your business performed in 2016, are you satisfied with what was achieved? A little reflection is always useful, but now’s the time to start thinking about the future. You no doubt have big plans for the next 12 months. You’ve got targets to meet and goals to smash, and if you want to ensure that your plans become a reality, then you’re going to have to give some serious consideration to how you’ll make sure that you get the most out of your staff. Sometimes though, this can be much easier said than done. Every business owner knows that improving performance could be key to overall growth, but you’ll need some solid strategies to make this happen. You’ll be pleased to hear then that we can help. Let’s take a look at three ways to rocket your team’s performance this year.   Provide challenges that are stretching but achievable No one ever achieved great things by just coasting along without a challenge. Your staff should be stretched, but there’s a fine balance to strike. Give them too much to handle, and you’re not going to get the desired outcome. It might be time to assess your staff’s performance objectives, and consider whether they’re really fit for purpose. Your line managers will play a big part in making this a success. They’ll know their team members best, and so you need to make sure that they’re capable of helping them to set goals, and just as importantly, ensuring that they believe that they can achieve them.   Outline the value of the work outside the context of the business If you’ve done any reading or research into best practice when it comes to managing a team, then you’ll know that it makes sense to encourage everyone to realise how their work helps the business to grow and meet its objectives. In other words, your staff should understand how what they’re doing fits into the bigger picture. You can take things a step further than this though. Are your staff aware of how their work makes a worthwhile contribution, profits and growth aside? Most businesses have some kind of social impact, and this can often be a great motivator for staff. Does your organisation make a positive contribution to the community? Are you changing the lives of your customers and clients?   Recognise achievements as part of day-to-day business Most of us can take huge amounts of personal satisfaction away from simply knowing that we’ve done a good job. Often, this alone can encourage us to strive to be even better. But let’s be completely honest here. Most of us also enjoy being suitably rewarded for our efforts. It’s easy to think that this is all about financial incentives, but this isn’t necessarily the case. It’s about rewards that are proportionate to the achievement. It’s about applying the same principles across the board. It’s about considering your reward processes as a whole, rather than just worrying about budget restraints. And ultimately, it’s about getting to the stage where ‘end-of-year performance reviews’ aren’t a one-off activity, but part of an ongoing dialogue. Performance is important, and this is your chance to make sure that you’ve...

read more