Monday, 16 January 2017

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

First day back and only 4% of Senior Execs think HR is highly effective? WHAT?



Having worked in the HR software field for some time now, I was very disappointed to see the findings of a recent global survey sponsored by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu and the Economist Intelligence Unit.
The study found only 4% of the senior business executives surveyed thought their HR function was 'highly effective' in addressing the needs of the business. 
60% of respondents described HR’s capabilities as “adequate but needing improvement,” and another 30% said “significant improvement” is required.
I wonder how busy those senior executives will be today, on the first day back after a Christmas break.  Their HR colleagues will be flat out, trying to simultaneously compile last year’s End of Year Staff Holiday Report whilst already juggling the first holiday requests for 2017.
What the senior execs fail to appreciate, as they glance through the HR reports, is all the hassle that the HR team endured in order to deliver a seemingly smooth performance, and all the challenges HR dealt with that went unnoticed, not in the report because potential problems were averted.
Staff holiday planning is a good example.  If there has been no leave crisis in that senior exec's team that year, it's probably because someone in HR spent time treading a delicate balance to keep everyone happy, motivated and most importantly ensured adequate leave cover.   What seems insignificant took time and effort.
These battles are no better illustrated than on the first day back to work, as staff argue, race and cajole in order to secure the best holiday dates.  HR will be the judge, peace-keeper and will have to regulate the in-house arguments over who placed their request first, who deserves the best dates and why as the excuses mount up.  
The admin burden is just as tiresome - and it seems, wholly unappreciated.  According to data from top auditors, 80% of HR Managers have to use paper forms, spreadsheets or an office wall planner, even though leave planning software has existed for years now (Activ Absence is in its 10th year).  
Note to senior colleagues: HR cannot perform miracles on a shoestring without the tools to do the job.  
Paper is messy, important data is often lost and reporting is time consuming and disjointed. Spreadsheets often result in lost data due to human error, PC crashes and confusion.
Change is overdue and most HR practitioners are calling for it, indeed Activ Absence saw a huge rise of enquiries from HR Managers in December.  Our customers range from employing 5 staff to 5000, and we are used to working with HR professionals across all types of organisations, including charities, SME's, blue chips and start ups.  
We have the utmost respect for HR professionals because we see first hand the difference their contribution makes to the workplace.  In fact, we take pride in being able to help most of them - and if we can’t help or meet their needs, we’ll tell them that honestly. 
However, the main challenge for HR is not in finding a software provider like us, but in persuading senior execs that the profession makes a massive difference to the business, and is worthy of investment in software.  
It doesn't inspire confidence when HR reads their colleagues 'don’t think HR supports the business well enough’.   
Perhaps senior execs, in their technology rich specialities, could take a walk in HR shoes for a day and see exactly what it's like to be managing as best you can without the aid of technology and it seems without the support of your colleagues.
My New Year message to the unsung heroes of HR, is we’re among the 4% who appreciate the huge difference you make, and we will strive to keep supporting you.  
Have a fantastic 2017 everyone.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Could double ‘Black Fridays’ impact staff productivity in Welsh SMEs?



In Wales, Black Friday is the last Friday before Christmas, and the most popular night for office parties.

It’s thus called because historically, miners coming out of the pits covered in coal (and therefore black) would hit the town for a drink after work. As time has passed, the tradition is endemic in many Welsh industries, but spare a thought for the emergency services who find it incredibly hard.

This year is looking particularly challenging – with double the usual challenges.  That’s because many business owners are unwilling to hit the town on the Friday before Christmas Eve, so many of the parties have been booked the week before – however, most of the staff seem so far to be regarding this as an ‘extra night’ of partying and have made their own plans for the following week.

Trying to make plans for our own team meal was challenging – everywhere on both days was full, and that was before the end of October.  A friend who owns a bar in Cardiff is rubbing his hands with glee!

Whilst it’s indeed, great for hospitality, as an HR Software specialist, I see the other side of workplace Christmas parties.

On the day itself, HR sees increased holiday requests to get ready early, and hit the beer before the rest.  It’s easier if you have HR software with a built in leave planner, like Activ Absence, because you can restrict leave during busy periods using the system.  However, that’s not a common scenario in Wales.

Doing it over the phone or with a wall planner, faced with 10 leave requests all at once, lots of pleading faces, and 10 sob stories, managers can easily feel overwhelmed and just give in, leaving the office short staffed, or say no to some, leading to accusations of nepotism and a bad atmosphere when everyone is supposed to be socialising.

Then, after the party, there’s almost always fallout.  The faux pas, the post-party photos on social media, the well-intentioned teasing that got out of hand, incidents, allegations and alcohol fuelled arguments - the scenarios that mean HR rarely relax at staff parties.

Even if managers get through all that unscathed, Black Friday almost always heralds the start of a winding down at work that can escalate into further sickies, poor performance and a general lack of care among those who have to work up until Christmas Eve.

Normally, we are only talking a day or two, but with most Welsh businesses hitting the town a week earlier than normal, there’s a full week of potential low productivity followed by, in many cases, more partying at the end of it – I doubt there will be many minds focused on work in the week in between – and then, on the next party Friday, it starts all over again.

For managers, it doesn’t end there.

After the Christmas break, there’s more people-challenges because it’s a new Annual Leave Year.

Tech can really help here, but there are only a few SMEs who have invested in absence management software in Wales (it’s a different story over the border).

While all the other staff are chatting about what they had for Christmas, HR will therefore have the annual joy of merging spreadsheets and manually calculating the end of year leave report, deciding who can carry what over to the next year, who did and didn’t use all their holiday and what next year’s leave allowances are for every member of staff.  These annual leave calculations can be complex for part time workers, and it typically takes 4 or 5 days in organisations with 100 staff or more.

Of course, not everyone has an HR Manager – small business owners are often left to figure it out themselves.  They, too, would really benefit from a system like Activ Absence which takes some of the pressure off at this challenging time of year. A new appraisals system is also probably on their wish list, so that when appraisals meetings start, usually at the end of January, they aren’t passing bits of paper to and fro and are actually delivering performance reviews that deliver improved performance!

There are lots of new rules expected for 2017, especially about contractors, pay rates etc. expected over the next 12 months and a looming Brexit, so without an easy way of communicating staff policy handbooks using software, managers could also be facing a long wait at the Photocopier.

For those managers who don’t get Santa’s software wishlist, this December is  harder than most – so we hope that staff will not judge them too harshly if they aren’t celebrating quite so loudly as everyone else.

As for those who are reading this thinking “I will do better next year”, it is still possible to get cloud based HR software in place by 1st January – and it costs less than you may think.

Either way, I wish the people who keep welsh businesses running a very Merry Christmas, and hope you escape the double Black Friday unscathed.

Here’s to a prosperous 2017 (and a Six Nations win) for Wales!

Adrian Lewis

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Activ People HR expands Partner Network with Counselling, Legal Services & Occupational Health Services

HR software experts Activ People HR have today announced the addition of several new partners to their extremely successful HR Partner network.

New Partners to the programme include:


The new partners will compliment the range of services offered to organisations who use the Activ People HR suite of products, and the company's contribution to the wider HR community continues to be supported by the company's ongoing sponsorship of HR News.

Commercial Director Adrian Lewis explained:

"Our customer base has grown phenomenally over the last 18 months, but software can only go so far towards solving HR challenges.  The Partner Network enables us to join forces with like-minded professionals to give our customers access to a range of trusted, external HR professionals at reasonable rates as and when needed.
Lewis continued:

"It is great to have enthusiastic new partners on board and expand the range of services we can offer - with many partners offering exclusive rates for our customers.  This supports our ethos of continually adding value for our customers, and HR News helps us to add value to the HR community as a whole."

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Getting the best from Activ Absence in Winter

By Richard Hocking, Technical Director

While everyone else is planning Secret Santa, HR are balancing challenges,
not least avoiding staff shortages at busy times.  It’s a perfect time to use the built-in
functions in Activ Absence to their best advantage.  Here’s some ways HR can make best
use of the system in Winter:


Restricting leave on key dates

You may need all hands-on deck, for example in a busy run up to Christmas, during stock-taking or Just to ensure enough staff attend important meetings.   

Activ Absence can help by restricting leave on key dates. This means that if staff try to place a leave request on a restricted day, they are reminded why the day is restricted and asked to give a reason why they are asking for the day off. This information is then sent to the manager to allow them to make the decision.  Here’s how you set it up:


How to restrict leave during Key Dates using Activ Absence:
  1. The setup of restricted days is within the public holiday configurations. 
  2. Add a record for a new public holiday but change the type from Public holiday to the restricted day.
  3. Select the departments you wish to apply the restrictions to and click save. 
The restricted day will then appear on the calendar for all staff members in the departments you have selected.


Remind Employees to take leave
  1. Setup a Trigger Point Notification, select the rule Leave Remaining’ and the number of days e.g. anyone with more than 5 days remaining. 
  2. On the schedule tab select specific date and enter the date you wish the reminder email to be sent. 
  3. On the notifications tab select to send the email to the employee and enter your email reminder message under custom email. 
  4. Now all you need to do is enable the trigger point, click the Details tab and set Enabled to Yes and click save.

Avoid staff shortages due to stock-piled annual leave 

If you are running a January to December leave year you might find the office deserted during December as everyone tries to use up their remaining leave.   

You can help prevent this by using conflict groups & trigger points.


Define Cover Levels Using Conflict Groups

Conflict Groups allow you to define a minimum cover levels as either a number or percentage of employees in the department that must be working at all times.  


Tackling Absentees in Winter

The return to work process will help HR keep a close eye on any absenteeism that strays in during party season, but sending out policy reminders ahead of time can help set the tone early on!.

Users of Activ Handbooks can instantly send out policy updates to your employees, and record their acceptance.  

If you don’t have policies, or if they need updating, our HR Partner Law Firms and HR Consultants will be happy to help.

Overall, there is much HR can do to keep absence under control, even when the weather is cold and the season of sniffles gets underway - and above all else, the Activ Absence support team are here 
to help - call them on 01656 667009.