A conversation every employer seems to be having with their teams at the moment, home working is not only an opportunity for individuals but also a potential concern for businesses. With a lack of supervision, difficulty communicating, and an overall air of uncertainty – ensuring productivity can be a big worry.

So, how did home working get to be an ongoing solution for so many businesses and what should you consider when it comes to ensuring that your teams are as productive as possible when working from home?

How did this happen?

When it comes to the home working revolution, there is one clear and concrete culprit – Covid 19.

Since the virus became an issue in early January, companies have been forced to take increasingly extreme measures to protect their workers while still remaining viable. This has included significant restructuring across a range of businesses through furlough programs and allowing for professionals to carry out their jobs remotely.

Now, several months into quarantine, companies (and individuals) are seeing that it is a highly viable and flexible solution. Work is still being filed, teams are still able to collaborate, and certain sectors are even able to continue on with business as usual.

While it is still hard – if not impossible – to predict or understand all the changes brought about by Covid, pursuing productivity is a key concern for many businesses. This makes correctly testing and implementing systems essential for many employers, though it can be difficult to know exactly where and how to start.

Where are we? 

This change has led to the conversation shifting to whether home working is not only possible in the short-term but likely in the months if not years ahead. Technology has made communication, collaborative working, and completing projects possible if not more efficient.

Setting up document sharing, digital check-ins, and project management hierarchies have made clean and clear communication enforced through necessity. Data is captured through digital channels that would normally be discussed in person, leading to a more focused approach, and increased personal freedom for individuals in how they choose to complete their work.

However, this freedom does come with a few concerns.

What’s the problem?

Many company owners are worried that while the processes are working, long-term issues may become apparent.

Some key potential issues include-

Procrastination: While every employee should be trusted to complete their work to the fullest of their ability, there is a concern that procrastination could be a growing concern. Projects that should be completed in a day could quickly balloon and completion estimates run the risk of invoking Parkinson’s Law – namely, that work will expand to fill the time an employee has available to them. This would be tough, if not impossible to police – making it a significant worry for businesses with a tight bottom line.

Inefficiency: While best practice can help make remote communication quick, clean, and simple, inefficiencies are likely to creep in. What would be a simple question across a desk can turn into a significant game of email tennis, resulting in logjams and potential confusion. Technical issues can also easily derail a day’s work, and poor document sharing discipline can result in version control issues or create massive delays in the long run.

Bad Habits: Without regular guidance, poor working practice can run rampant. This can be as simple as bad phone etiquette, timekeeping, or a lack of diligence on projects. This carries a double-edged sword of being difficult to spot and even harder to course correct. This can hamper an employee’s professional development and cause numerous problems for a business in the long-term. 

How do I optimise productivity?

Thankfully, if productivity is a key concern for your business during lockdown, there are a number of steps that can be taken to improve your approach.

These include, but are not limited to-

’Chunking’ work: Procrastination is caused by employees having too much work to do, and no clear direction. Taking extra time to review materials placed in front of employees can help ensure that their workload is not only understood but digestible. Many employees will be working at home for the first time, with partners, housemates, or children. Ensuring that any assigned work is manageable can help prevent analysis paralysis or other similar issues.

Communicating clearly: Taking a moment to review your approach to in-person, written, and remote communication can bring a number of benefits throughout your business. This can help ensure that elements are not miscommunicated, clients are handled correctly with due care, and that members of staff feel supported and have channels to relay positive and negative feedback. Undertaking train the trainer training can allow one member of your team to relay this to the rest of the company and act as a powerful force multiplier while adding another valuable string to their bow.

Reviewing Your Infrastructure: If you are worried about your employee’s working practice, it is important to take a detailed and critical look at your internal infrastructure and remove any obstacles in their way that may exist. This includes the technical platforms that you choose to use, whether your internal software is fit-for-purpose, and if your teams are operating with the correct kit. Softer elements are those that are hard to quantify and directly apply to interpersonal engagement between managers and staff and are addressed further below.

Incentivising Employees: Remote working does run the risk of employees losing focus and feeling disincentivised to work as thoroughly as they would when on site. Taking the time to review and understand what broadly motivates key team members and using line managers to understand motivators for employees can help you incentivise them in even the most challenging of situations. This can be a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic rewards or providing additional structure and increased autonomy if required.

Embedding observance: Even if you make the changes you have identified, it can be hard – if not impossible – to track them correctly. Deploying a software system and light-touch in house reporting can help you capture stats about work and use analytics to understand how work is being completed and where potential issues or obstacles arise. The right software system can provide pathways to check-in and record employee progress and can be incredibly effective if implemented correctly.

What should you look out for?

While there are a variety of options available to help tackle issues around procrastination and communication, it is important to remember that there are a number of vital concerns or complaints that should always be addressed if you hear them reported by your employees or other professionals.

Some important examples include-

Excessive Oversight: While providing guidance can be incredibly helpful, being excessively vigilant can instantly have a negative effect. The disruption caused by Covid-19 may have a number of downsides, but many employees have enjoyed the freedom to carry out their assigned tasks as they like to and in the manner of their choosing. Actively instructing them in the specifics of how they work can quickly rub people up the wrong way, making careful communication key for the months ahead.

Project Updates: One of the most helpful ways to ensure that your employees avoid procrastination is through key updates at the end of the working week. These can be delivered directly to line managers so that they can track hours worked and handle any feedback. If required, these can be submitted on a daily basis and enable your estimates to be correct and motivate employees to manage their time effectively.

Mental Health: Given the nature of the risk and interruption posed by Covid-19, providing support for your teams when facing down challenges with their work is vital. Fatigue, pressure, and stress is cumulative and can often manifest through procrastination or an apparent unwillingness to finish out tasks to the standard normally expected. Reviewing government guidance and disseminating it among your employees can provide vital support when it is needed.

What next?

If you want to learn more about how to optimise your workforce and prepare for the future, our team at Practical Software is here to help. With many years’ experience providing software solutions for a range of clients, we can help you to bolster productivity when it truly matters most.

You can review our options and processes in full from here and you can take a look at our regularly updated list of client testimonials from here. If you have specific questions and queries, please do not hesitate to contact us directly and let a member of our teamwork with you to find a solution for your unique productivity needs.

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The affects of Covid 19 have made an unquestionable impact on every sector in the UK, EU, and across the globe. While it is vital to respond to this threat responsibly and safely, taking the time to understand the impact made by the virus can help ensure that your business is prepared for the years ahead.

So, how exactly has the real and potential threat posed by the virus changed things and what should you expect as the marketplace responds to the impact.

Covid-19 – a quick recap

The first official impact of the Covid 19 outbreak was felt on the 25th of January when foreign offices throughout the world began to advise against travel to China Hubei Province, the confirmed epicentre of the initial outbreak. This led to a broad suspension of flights and, despite the best efforts of all involved, the UK confirmed the first two cases of Covid 19 in the UK in the 31st of January.

This led to an immediate spread in a range of regions and a spate of deaths in affected countries throughout the world. The interconnected nature of travel meant that the only way to slow the advance was to shut down travel and impose quarantines in a range of cities and locations. This led to the development of furlough schemes, working from home initiatives, and mass disruption – leaving the market in a place of peak uncertainty.

As of September 2020, schools have reopened, workers have slowly drifted back to their places of work and financial analysts have confirmed that that UK economy has suffered a tremendous Impact. This has left many workers unable to carry out their daily tasks with the usual routine, resulting in a wide range of uncertainty about the future of many sectors and having to adapt to a daily way of working that simply does not fit their lifestyle choices.

How did it impact recruitment?

This period of mass uncertainty has had a significant negative impact on a range of sectors throughout the UK and further afield.

The nature of the virus means that, in addition to professional disruption, all elements of engagement and contact have been affected. This makes meetings, planning, and any in-person activities close to impossible or incredibly difficult to conduct successfully.

For many businesses, the end result is a blanket of uncertainty. As none are able to accurately predict what way the virus will continue to impact the sector, or how things will resolve, a range of industries have chosen to freeze in their tracks. This has resulted in significant layoffs in sectors such as hospitality, retail and entertainment.

In short, many businesses have found it necessary to put a hard and fast freeze on recruitment or have kicked start dates for new employees into the long grass. With recruitment lying at the heart of the issue for the current economy, the decisions made by the government will have far-reaching impacts across a range of industries. This makes it essential to take stock of the opportunities that exist but also put in place concrete plans that protect your clients and business in the months ahead in this highly volatile market.

How will things continue in the months ahead?

One of the greatest issues posed by the virus is an inability to predict what is going to happen in the weeks and months ahead. However, some clear issues have made themselves known, including-

Sectoral Disruption: This means that candidates will likely be thin on the ground and many businesses unlikely to commit to hiring. However, those industries that are able to work remotely – such as those that are software or tech adjacent – are set to be pressing ahead as usual. Assessing how your clients will be affected can allow you to take action to protect them, secure quality care, or ensure that you are placed to take advantage of any opportunities that may arise.

Furloughing: As the furlough scheme comes to an end, there is likely to be a greater and greater push for companies to evaluate their staffing requirements. This in turn carries the potential of businesses being compelled to bring individuals back into the workspace or look at redundancies. Further extensions to the furlough scheme are not on the table at the moment but any changes to the scheme will be felt by the recruitment sector almost immediately.

The Rise of Video Conferencing: The importance of video conferencing cannot be underestimated when it comes to operating in the sector in the weeks and months ahead. As meeting in person can be unadvisable, being able to quickly hold a cross-team video call is essential. This makes investing in a webcam and decent microphone essential – allowing you to take part in a call that is clear, effective, and removes any obstacles in your way when it comes to reaching out to clients.  

New Work: Whether employees are jumping before they are pushed, hiring freezes will make it difficult for certain professionals to justify sitting still – leading many to consider changing their jobs for better benefits and incentives. Keeping an eye out and tracking these can be complex and ensuring that you have quality in-house infrastructure and suite of tools can help you quickly catalogue and engage with clients – ensuring that your company is perfectly placed to provide the support that your clients need.

What next?

There are numerous challenges ahead but with the inevitable redundancies that will be taking place, more and more high-quality candidates will become available in the marketplace. This presents an opportunity to bolster your workforce with new talent.

If you want to deploy a software solution that helps improve your preparedness, our team at Practical Software is here to help. With many years’ experience, we understand the importance of providing the timely care that your business needs.

You can view our list of services in full from here and you can take a look at our regularly updated list of client reviews . If you have any specific questions or queries, please do not hesitate to directly and let our team know exactly what you need in order to get the results you need in the uncertain months ahead. 

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Whether you’re in charge of a busy team, dealing with your own workload, or helping troubleshoot long-standing issues within your company – effective stress management is essential. Taking the time to understand the issues that cause stress can help bring benefits throughout your business but being able to enact them successfully can be difficult.

So, how exactly can time management help with controlling stress and what simple actions can you and your teams take to keep things under control?

What is stress management?

A real and present threat to every employee, stress can cause significant harm throughout your business. Overworked employees can make mistakes, pursue time off work, or even end up causing themselves long-term damage.

While every business has a responsibility to watch its bottom line, it is essential that you take every opportunity to manage your worker’s stress. This can involve enacting steps and processes that help prevent problems before they start, allow employees avenues to talk, or take part in programs and activities to help cut back on stress throughout the working week.

Doing so can help with morale, ensure that your employees are healthy and happy, and ensure that your teams produce the best results possible in every given scenario.

How does managing your time help?

When it comes to actively tackling stress in the workplace, one of the most common complaints is lack of time to complete a task. This can result in rushed work, errors, or even failure to deliver – quickly resulting in a snowball effect that compounds the issue. Work can be taken home or result in the individual experiencing further stress and feeling that their job is at risk.

Taking the time to embed time management best-practice throughout your business will allow your employees the opportunity to prevent stress before it becomes an issue. This can be as simple as giving employees access to tools, formal training, or changing your business infrastructure to help ensure employees have somewhere to turn if they are struggling with their workload.

This can also act as a powerful force multiplier, allowing your teams to capture information about how stress and workloads are being shared throughout the business. Choosing the right time management solution, or combination of options, can help you draw benefits throughout your business.

What tips should I follow?

If you are considering changes to your approach to time management, some popular options include – 

Timeboxing: Teaching employees the fundamentals of timeboxing can help all aspects of their approach to work. This involves breaking their daily work into segments that are 25 minutes long and then, once complete, taking a break for two minutes then starting again. This can help team members retain focus even when working through demanding projects and help give them a sense of how long certain tasks take to complete. Doing so helps give a greater sense of control and allows for a greater capacity to plan their work correctly and raise the issue in advance if they think they are unable to complete it in time.

Teamwork: It is essential to remember that stress management is – at its core – a mental health issue. Embedded pathways for employees to discus their stress and what is causing it can be great for your team members and your business at large. This allows individuals to get the help they need and allow your company to identify pain points to tackle in the future – preventing similar problems from arising again.

Software: When it comes to managing time, software is continuously proving to be a popular and highly effective solution. A solid platform will allow you to help manage your team’s workload, budget time for projects, and check the day-to-day progress with ease. This also allows you to harvest key data and analytics for future projects and – in addition to keeping tabs on ongoing projects – ensure that your teams are able to work efficiently and correctly for the foreseeable future.

What next?

If you want to learn more about how software can help with your time management tasks, our team at Practical Software is here to help. With many years’ experience providing care for a range of clients, we work with you to supply a solution that cares for your team’s mental health and saves on stress without compromising efficiency. You can view our full list of software and services from here. Or if you have specific questions, queries, or requirements, please do not hesitate to get in touch directly and let our in-house team know exactly what you need to take the stress out of your daily working practice.

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Securing qualified candidates can be challenging at the best of times, but with the high degree of disruption the market is currently experiencing, it can feel close to impossible.

So, why exactly is it so difficult to find the right candidates in the current marketplace and what helpful options are available to ensure that you are able to acquire the talent you need?

Why is it a challenge?

Quite simply, Covid 19 has not helped things.

Since the early alarm bells in January, restrictions in the current marketplace have made it incredibly difficult to not only find but to contact individuals. Individuals have ben furloughed, hiring freezes are set to be the norm, and zoom and video calls lack the personal touch needed to meaningful engage with a potential client.

While this may be challenging, taking a moment to reflect and plan can help ensure that you not only tackle the problems immediately ahead of you, but help set in place solid business practice for the months ahead.

What can we do?

Though Covid is currently causing disruption throughout the modern marketplace, taking the time to review your ongoing processes and understand the opportunities and take positive action is paramount.

Some key options include, but are not limited to-

Playing the Numbers: While it may seem exhaustive, there’s arguably never been a better time to start the ball rolling on cold calling clients and taking the temperature of the market. Many professionals may find themselves in a position where they are evaluating their career and potentially considering pivoting to another sector. Researching LinkedIn is a tried and tested way of doing this and in the current market many individuals are making it known that they are looking for employment. Being able to facilitate that career transition can help you create a mutually beneficial relationship.

Sourcing Referrals: As with the above, finding inroads to individuals who may be struggling with their current position and hungry for alternatives or an escape is essential. Reaching out to former clients can help you reconnect, confirm if they are happy in their position, and ask if they know other professionals who may be interested in new roles and opportunities. Adding a finder’s fee can help you secure ‘boots on the ground’ help, and with the number of professional networking groups that currently exist, you can quickly find a  former client doing the groundwork for you.

Attend Meetups: While physical events may be a no-go, the market is currently full of video networking events for professionals looking to upskill or keep abreast of the sector. Paying the admission fee for these events can help you put your team’s face out there and get in front of any individuals that may be attending. While this can be time consuming, the fact that the majority of these events are online can work massively in your favour. And, for the cost of a second monitor, you can put talks or chatrooms on one screen and your daily work on the other – letting you truly multitask with ease.

Generate Your Content: Whether you choose to produce it in-house or hire an external advisor, creating interviews, blogs, and articles can help position you as a resource for many candidates that may be passively considering a change of career or new opportunities. This should ideally be done by looking at the sector you support, the client you are looking for, and finding a number of topics where the two overlap. Material can then be pushed through your usual channels and allow you to position yourselves as a source of professional excellence and make your material an efficient part of your engagement funnel. Building up a bank of scheduled articles can help keep your business providing guidance for professionals in the months ahead and help ensure that your company is seen as an authority well worth listening to.

Do your homework: No matter what sector you cover, it is essential that you stay up to date with the latest trends and developments that are drawing people’s attention. Whether it’s a flash-in-the pan development or an ongoing opportunity, developing a broad awareness of what employers are looking for can help you target the right clients during the months ahead. While it normally can be difficult to carry out the research necessary, the additional time on your hands caused by Covid can make it easier to justify the level of research required.

Change your infrastructure: Taking the time to review and understand your internal setup can quickly allow you to spot weaknesses and put plans in place to resolve them. This can range from client data management, outreach, analytics, or a range of other options. Carrying out a full review of your in-house infrastructure can quickly allow you to draw up a specification document that can be handed over to a provider. If completed correctly, this allows you to deploy a suitable bespoke solution or an end-to-end platform to drive efficiency throughout your business.

What next?

If you want to learn more about how digital solutions can help with your business, our team at Practical Software is here to help. With many years’ professional experience, we work with you to find a solution that is right for your business.

You can view our full list of services from here and you can take a look at our regularly updated list of client testimonials from here. If you have any other questions or queries, you can contact us directly and let a member of our in-house team do what we can to help provide the support you need to improve your client outreach today.

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An essential part of any organisation, creating and maintaining your company culture can bring massive benefits to your business. And when it comes to the front-facing world of recruitment, crafting a quality office environment comes with a wealth of advantages for employer and staff alike.  

So, what exactly makes a great office environment and what are some simple changes you can make to improve your space today?

What makes up an office environment?

A combination of inherent and man-made factors, your office environment is the sum total of what working at your company is like. This can create an environment that is supportive, clean, efficient, and enjoyable. Or it can be stressful, inefficient, or even intimidating. And the longer you go without taking the time to consider how your business is internally (and externally perceived) the longer you go without taking the opportunity to improve…or allow things to get even worse.

Some of these factors include-

Your Geographic Location: This can be unavoidable, but the office can be in a bustling urban centre, scenic area, or in a cramped back alley with little daylight – with other elements like transport and ease of access coming into play. Is it easy for clients to access or is it a trial to secure suitable candidates with ease?

Your Infrastructure: This includes your office setup. Are the systems and equipment up to date and easy to use or are your programs and software outdated or unintuitive? Does this allow for the cloud-based sharing of project data or do employees have to go the extra mile to retrieve recruitment information?

Your Training and Support System: How do you onboard new clients or staff and how streamlined is the process? Do you have an established system that is clear and easily deployed? Or are people left to fend for themselves and sift through outdated recruitment information or learn bad habits that are impossible to break?

Your Work: Are employees – and clients – rewarded for engaging with your company? Are the roles you are recruiting for readily defined and are clients easy to work with? Are employees properly motivated or are they just an afterthought?

Your Perks: Is there anything that sets your company out from other recruitment businesses in the same field? Is there a certain quality of service that clients enjoy, and how are staff intrinsically and extrinsically rewarded for their time?

And much more, with many businesses enjoying a reputation that precedes them, solid word of mouth, or a setup that is genuinely enjoyable for employees to be part of.

What can I do?

While it may be difficult to know where to start when it comes to improving your office environment, there are a number of simple actions you can carry out that can bring significant improvements to your setup.

These include-

Embedding Communication: One of the biggest challenges facing the world of recruitment is capturing candidate information and relating it to key members of staff. Paper notes and word of mouth is lost and, while the shortest pencil is longer than the most accurate memory, implementing a digital communications pipeline can ensure no information is lost. Setting up a dedicated Slack channel or telecoms system can help minimise interruptions and allow individuals and teams to communicate with ease.

Changing your Office Plan: Undertaking ‘intelligent’ workspace design can help improve productivity and ensure that your footage is maximised without resulting in crowding and cramping. This can help create a throughflow for your space, create dedicated areas for interviews and conference calls and give each location in your office a specific utility without being prescriptive. This can breathe new life into an old office and ensure that clients and customers are impressed from the moment they step into your reception.

Implementing Technical Solutions: Taking a detailed look at your office infrastructure can add a number of benefits. This can include the provision of fit-for-purpose laptops and smart devices to help unify comms and optimise your team’s work. Looking at cloud-based solutions can also allow you to quickly create a client database and cut back on the errors and guesswork that can come as part and parcel of a long-running business. Reviewing bespoke solutions can also allow you to deploy a new tailored platform that suits your need, retrofit new functionality to old systems, or be deployed as you see fit.

Sound and Light: One of the biggest quick wins for a space is maximising exposure to light during the day and dampening excessive noise to prevent distraction or annoyance. Remodelling your space with larger windows or suitable low-blue lighting can help make working or interviewing in your office more effective. And deploying artistic baffle can help quiet conference rooms or prevent cubicle chat from being too noisy.

Flexible Work Practice: Adding and following through on key perks can massively improve employee morale and add to your office environment. This can range from buying into a cycle-to-work scheme, offering a company pension scheme, or allowing flexitime or adding the option to work from home. Granting greater agency can help improve your employee’s perception of the business and have that enthusiasm filter through to the clients they work with.

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For many businesses, motivation is a key concern and an ongoing issue for their teams. Motivation is the panacea that can allow lean companies to punch above their weight, or, conversely, cause larger businesses to struggle to hit goals and targets that should otherwise be readily achievable.

So, what exactly is employee motivation and what are some key opportunities – and pitfalls – when it comes to encouraging your teams to go the extra mile when it comes to their work?

What is motivation?

Employee motivation represents your employees’ drive to carry out their jobs and carry out work adjacent actions. A motivated employee can work harder, smarter, or fulfil specific tasks with a high degree of diligence – spreading their desire to do well to other members of a team. But by the same token, demotivated employees can be a ‘fly in the ointment’ and make the work of other individuals harder to complete – resulting in a net drain on resources.

What types of motivation are there?

While there are many theories and approaches to motivating employees, the discipline breaks down into two distinct categories – intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation refers to an individual’s ‘drive’ or internal desire to carry out a task. These feed internal rewards for the individual and foster a sense of accomplishment and wellbeing. For example: A programmer on a software team can enjoy the challenge and mental effort of solving a particular programming issue or working with others to optimise code and finding purpose as a part of a team.

Extrinsic motivation comes from outside the employee’s sphere of influence and normally takes the form of a reward or element that intrinsic rewards cannot provide. For example: Hitting key KPI’s can allow an employee to advance within an organisation, or successfully bidding for projects or bringing them in under budget can result in a bonus or the delivery of other company privileges.

employees

Understanding these helps form the basis of many motivation theories, from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Locke’s goal theory, or any number of contemporary self-help books that address specific issues you may be encountering with your business.

How can it help…or hinder?

However, it is important not to focus too much on the principles of motivation and more on follow through. Failing to provide promised rewards can result in individuals becoming disillusioned and even open you up to formal complaints or lawsuits. As your workforce changes, your employee’s needs will shift and grow. For example: A younger individual on the team may be willing to work long hours to secure financial reward, but a more seasoned employee with a young family may be willing to carry out specific tasks for more flexible working hours or benefits.

Providing the right motivators for your business can help attract quality candidates, or those with specialised skillsets that may be able to pick and choose their fields of employment. This can help provide opportunities for smaller businesses to secure a highly motivated workforce that is ‘in it together’ and willing to weather periods of disruption.

This can also support a wider data-gathering and outreach program, allowing you to collect vital data on your teams and enjoy a reciprocal value-creating relationship. And in a world where employees hold more clout and the ability to work remotely opens up their options, it is vital to seize every opportunity you can to learn from and support the members of your in-house team.

How do you motive employees?

How long do you have? While it seems that everyone and their cat has an approach, there are some key themes. Any solution you provide should be optimised and based on evidential data, with key motivators that include-

Employee Empowerment: Giving employees the ability to tackle work the way they prefer can help give them a sense of agency and control. Even the smallest degree of autonomy can help an employee feel more invested in their role and allow them to operate with greater self-direction. This can also be combined with set goals and targets, enabling them to operate in a way that dovetails with your metrics and doesn’t cause issues. This can be as simple as reducing oversight, allowing them to source tools they are familiar with, or allowing them to choose how and where they approach each task.

Clear Communication: An absolutely vital tenet of modern business, maintaining lines of clear communication can allow employees to feel valued and raise issues before they become significant. Good communication is an essential tool for fostering trust and creating a pathway that allows employees to raise issues or suggestions that can help you take the temperature of your teams and capture insight that may otherwise be unavailable to you. This can also allow you to provide additional motivations if an employee’s priorities change and for line managers to deliver transparent, constructive criticism if the individual is falling behind on their work.

Provision of Perks: Different from financial benefits, perks are ‘nice to have’ extras that can make working at your business enjoyable. This can range from a new coffee machine, games in your rec-room, free food, and more. Companies like Google are the kings of this, laying on breakfast and lunch for employees and offering unlimited work from home days to employees – with ‘free’ items rarely being exploited through peer pressure. However, it is important that you do not deliver small perks in lieu of making significant, requested change. This can result in frustration and ongoing issues for employees who may feel their needs are not being met.

Professional Training: Self improvement is a powerful motivator for team members looking to expand their skillsets. This can allow you to provide skills training on tools and software or professional qualifications, allowing you to improve the quality of your staff and provide a key motivation for certain individuals. Be warned though – it is vital that you make any caveats about training clear to employees that undertake the practice. This can leave employees ‘locked in’ to the business after completing a course as they may be required to pay back the company for any courses they undertook. This can be massively frustrating and breed resentment among your teams.

Professional Benefits: Employee benefits are an essential part of motivating extrinsically motivated employees and – in some cases – intrinsically motivated individuals too. These can take the form of compensation packages, bonuses, additional holidays and more. While using the ‘carrot’ method can motivate individuals, it is important to be clear about what the perks include and have full follow-through on their implementation. Pulling the carpet out under a hard-working employee can be disastrous for motivation but fully compensating your employees can be extremely powerful when deployed correctly. However, it is important to choose options that are of interest to your workforce and using your communication channels can help you understand your team’s needs and make the right decision for them.

Organisation and Supportive Frameworks: Discussing an employee’s professional development with a business can leave individuals feeling supported and trusted. This builds loyalty while also setting specific goals and expectations about their time with your company, helping to streamline the onboarding process and helping you get a sense of their interest in the years ahead. This can help provide validation, recognition of accomplishments, and make your teams feel empowered and invested in their workload.

What demotivates employees?

While you can provide the opportunity to encourage employees, certain actions – or lack thereof – can have a net negative effect on employee engagement and morale. Some simple issues include-

Lack of Confidence: Some employees may simply feel they are unable to complete a role. This can be due to self-limiting beliefs or a genuine lack of training.

Lack of feedback: The definition of insanity is carrying out the same task time and time again and expecting a different result. Failing to secure the feedback they need to change their approach can be a net negative for your business.

Personal Issues: Mental health or physical issues can make jobs or tasks much more difficult to complete. Taking the time to understand your team’s needs can make a massive difference in their personal and professional lives,

They simply don’t care: Also known as a motivational mismatch, failing to understand the ‘levers’ that move them can result in disillusionment and increased ‘sickness’ levels.

What next?

If you want to learn more about the importance of employee motivation or how a technical solution can help your business, our team at Practical Software is here to help. With many years’ experience providing solutions to a range of clients, we work with you to understand your unique situation and deploy a software solution that suits your unique needs.

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A mainstay in the marketplace, recruitment has played – and continues to play – a vital role in bolstering UK business. But with recent changes and upheaval coming from the global pandemic and disruptive technology, it can be difficult to know where the industry currently stands.

So, how much is the recruitment sector currently worth and how has Covid-19 affected the sector over the last couple of months?

How much is the industry worth currently?

Now more valuable than ever before in its history, the UK recruitment sector is worth £38.9bn, enjoying a record turnover despite long standing global upheaval. While this is an on-the-books valuation, recent changes and issues facing the UK stand to significantly knock that value down in the years ahead.

For the time being, companies are finding themselves inundated with requests to find skilled workers who are able to work remotely – making digital innovation a must for businesses looking to thrive, or survive, in what is set to be a challenging marketplace.

How has the industry changed over time?

While the recruitment industry may have been relatively straightforward in the past, technical innovation has caused disruption for every business and sector.

Many companies are required to cultivate information about clients from online sources, engage in social media advertising, and develop scalable in-house software solutions to compete with their opposition. This has given rise to analysis and database cultivation, allowing practitioners to interact, convert, and allocate employees at a rate that was simply unheard of before.

While many may see the future as being dominated by platforms like AI and algorithms – the truth is that things will simply work in simpatico. Humans can carry out interviews and the intuitive work of sourcing and managing clients, with software taking care of spreadsheet management and number crunching – reducing human error and increasing the efficiency of employees across the board.

With these changes coming into play at the end of the 2010’s, the sector has enjoyed strong growth across the 2008-2018 period. This was accompanied by an significant leap in professionals using social media platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn to advertise their services. This helped provide additional resources for recruitment agencies to earmark, headhunt, and convert professionals – this led to an average turnover of £27bn per annum across the period, starting from a depressed position that reached a nadir in 09/10 before sharply rising the following year and continuing a strong upward trend.    

As we’ve seen, the rise of the tech industry has completely revolutionised the need for staff and the manner in which they are interviewed and employed.

How Has Covid-19 affected the industry?

Unfortunately, Covid-19 has had a significant negative impact on the sector. Governmental policies on lockdown and isolation have impacted the industry, resulting in disruption throughout the market and making it difficult for businesses to plan in the short and long-term.

This has resulted in a significant rise in unemployment and companies being reluctant to take on new hires – with many putting a hold on their recruitment actions in the months ahead.  

The key issue is the fact that Covid-19 has now instigated a recession – meaning that an inability to recruit due to lack of capital is doubly affected by the risk of infection and quarantine. This has proven to be massively disruptive as even the most-savvy companies are unable to plan for the future.

However, while sectors that require manual labour, front-facing, or in office roles may struggle – those businesses that allow for remote work have prospered. This includes the tech and finance industries, with many companies following suit as they prep for changes.

While many companies may require an in-house presence for their employees, the ability to work from home and to a high degree of efficiency will likely prove to be a genie that will not willingly return to its bottle.

What situation are we facing in 2020?

While financial forecasts are good for the previous years, the following months are set to be challenging in the extreme for many companies and employers.

However, recruitment companies do stand at an advantage if they follow protocol correctly. Many employers and employees are concerned about in-person interviews, embedding, and training – potentially positioning recruitment agencies as powerful vetting tools for clients.

A key challenge for recruitment companies is making do in a tech adjacent field. With money and time tight, many companies are looking at  technical solutions for recruiting – either creating their own pipeline or using an established or hybrid solution to their recruiting tasks to get the job done.

In this environment, businesses that can offer a hybrid approach will prove to be attractive. And it’s those companies that deploy innovative tech platforms to give more oversight to the process that will be able to benefit the most from streamlining the interview process and maximise on client acquisition.

This disruption also raises important questions about recruitment methods being fair, when to drop freezes on non-essential hiring, and putting in place staffing reductions. This means that businesses and recruitment agencies have to be opportunistic but cautious, and do everything they can to support individuals, companies, and the economy in innovative ways in the years ahead.

What next?

If you want to adapt to changes in the industry or learn more about how digital solutions can help your business, our team at Practical Software is here to help. With many years’ experience, we understand the importance of providing timely, up-to-date care that allows you to respond to change and pivot your teams to take advantage of opportunities in the sector.

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Finding the right person for the job is a constant headache for any business. No matter whether you’re trying to staff up to deal with an increasing workload or hunting out that specific someone to tackle a longstanding weakness – securing quality can feel close to impossible.

However, undertaking proactive recruiting actions can help reframe your approach and make sure that your business is perfectly set to find the right hire and optimise your actions when it truly matters most.

So, what exactly is proactive recruitment and how can you start?

What does proactive recruitment mean?

An essential part of the modern recruitment pipeline, proactive recruitment involves capturing information and approaching potential clients before positions open in your business. This is done in advance of a concrete role being created or – ideally – as part of ongoing recruitment practice, allowing you to earmark candidates long-before your company has need of them.

This can involve bracketing your search by desirable criteria such as geographic location, educational background, professional skill set and more. Once these parameters have been set, your business can actively reach out and build relationships with the professionals before you have need of them. This can range from building connections with universities, centres of professional excellence, or actively letting clients come to you through social media advertising.

While it is essential to follow the letter of the law when it comes to recruitment actions, earmarking professionals in advance can help refine your candidate selection process and allow you to develop a better understanding of their professional skillset, motivations, and how they would potentially fit within your company culture.

How does it help?

Taking the time to carry out proactive recruitment or adopt elements of the strategy in your approach can come with a range of benefits. Some of these positives include-

Accelerating Your Timeframe: Earmarking candidates in advance ensures that you can get running with your project or tackle an ongoing issue as quickly as possible. While this may be less of a concern for some businesses, this can be a critical value-add for time sensitive or competitive industries and help supply the winning edge you need.

Developing Loyalty: Contacting a candidate in advance will allow your business and the new member of staff to get the measure of each other. This can allow you to offer incentives that match their career goals and allow you to secure a long-term hire and reduce the risk of losing embodied skills and knowledge.

Advance Vetting: Skilled or high-value hires will often require extensive internal review and vetting. Getting approvals out of the way in advance can help minimise the onboarding process and get your new hire up and running quickly. This can be attractive for the candidate and allow you to make use of their skills quickly and with a high degree of efficiency. Out of all the benefits, this can provide the most significant long-term advantages as issues around screening, background checks, and logistics can be squared away in advance.

What do I need to do?

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to proactive recruitment, there are a number of approved strategies that work for a range of businesses. These include, but are not limited to-

Networking: If you’re looking to attract the best possible hires it’s important to take the time to understand the current marketplace and maintain place of prominence. This means attending regular trade events, networking meetings, and more. This can help you earmark groups, entities, or individuals that would be great to add to your conversion pipeline for employees.

Headhunting: Finding the right hire can be challenging when it comes to high demand roles – this means sourcing quality over quantity, which makes it helpful to make initial overtures to potential employees. This can involve asking professional partners or contacts for introductions and inviting individuals for coffee or lunch to discuss their current position and future goals. While this can be exacting, treating it as a rolling process can help you easily embed it in your work and quickly develop a roster of vetted professionals you have a pre-existing relationship with.

Online Prominence: If you want to attract the right candidates, your marketing materials and copy must be of the highest possible quality. This means taking the time to highlight the benefits of working with your business and creating an engagement funnel that potential employers can use to contact your company, which can then be used as part of an active approach. This can be supported by a sustained social media campaign, allowing you to use Twitter, Facebook, or platforms to improve your approach. This can also be bolstered by targeted engagement through Google AdWords or other SEO tools, letting you reach out and analyse your approach to help refine your work.

Pursuing Digital Innovation: One of the biggest advantages open to businesses is combining a qualitative engagement approach with the quantitative power of digital platforms and systems. This can quickly allow you to acquire and update a database of potential contacts – taking a great deal of effort out of the process and allow you to be more accurate and efficient with your regular engagement. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, any reliable provider will be able to work with you to deliver a package that supports your key business actions.

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An essential part of payroll and project management, timesheets can be a thorn in the side of many businesses. While there are a range of options available, failing to secure the fundamentals can leave you open to long-term issues or result in unnecessary complications that can cause significant problems for even the most organised of businesses.

So, what actions do your employees need to undertake when submitting their timesheets and what are the potential penalties if your business fails to comply?

Is approval required?

While it is advised, there is no legal obligation that states an employee is required to sign their timesheets before submission. Though this is normally enforced internally with a range of controls, there is no ‘default’ that requires them to sign their sheets before tendering them to your system.

In order to avoid this, best practice should involve asking employees to fully review their materials before submission. This can help spot errors and discrepancies and minimise the likelihood of ‘missed hours’ on timesheets.

If an employee fails to sign their sheet, it is strongly advised that you do not withhold their pay as the law dictates that it is primarily the employer’s right to observe and report on any hours worked.

And while approval is not explicitly required, the failure to manage timekeeping and validation is very real indeed.

What happens if they don’t sign?

In the short-term this can result in unnecessary resource expenditure as members of your team work to resolve the issue and ensure that your key figures tally.

In the long-term, this can result in disputes over pay, with culpability likely to be laid at the employer’s feet. This can produce issues over pay and problems managing relationships with key members of staff. If escalated, this can even result in legal action and the reputational damage that can accompany the negative publicity that surrounds such an event.

If employees fail to provide a signature, it is recommended to contact them and pursue the information. If no response is forthcoming, it is advised to estimate the hours worked and reimburse the individual based on the validated information available to you. If the payment is queried, you can then take timely action to resolve the issues as quickly as possible.

How can I resolve issues in the future?

In addition to businesses sharing the brunt of responsibility for timesheet management, the European Court of Justice recently made a ruling that businesses are required to have systems in place to help the management of timesheets – specifically asking employers to record every hour that their employees work.

This means that failing to keep and manage timesheets can not only result in fines but also the potential for a criminal conviction. And while individuals may think that Brexit may free them from blame, the fact that the ruling was made before Brexit means that it will likely remain a legally binding decision.

This makes it essential to not only track staff working hours but to ensure that record keeping captures when breaks are taken, all instances of overtime, and remain legally compliant at every possible turn.

If you are struggling with managing employee timesheets, deploying a digital timekeeping system is one sure-fire way to help deal with specific issues or address long standing problems affecting your business.

Deploying a reliable system enables you to streamline key administrative tasks and track actions taken with any timesheets. This allows for easy upload for employees and contractors and provide oversight on the position timesheets are in your processing workflows.

This also allows for the harvesting of ‘big data’ to help guide your work and ensure full control through dashboards and reporting – helping you to keep a grip on your timesheet management when it truly matters most.

What next?

If you want to learn more about timesheet approval or optimising your approach, our team at Practical Software is here to help. With many years’ experience delivering digital solutions for a range of clients, we work with you to understand your unique processes and deliver a solution that fits.

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With 2020 defined by a disrupted market and displaced professionals with exceptional expertise scattered across the marketplace, being able to contact and recruit the right employee for the right business is essential.

However, with so many options available, it can be difficult to understand the tools at your disposal and what options are right for your business.

So, what are the choices available to individuals seeking to recruit and which methodology is right your business?

What options are available?

When it comes to securing the right professional for your organisation or client, there are certain challenges to overcome. Cutting through the noise of social media and the ‘always on’ culture to secure the right hire can be difficult; but is far from impossible.

Here are some of our favourite options to use as part of your outreach, starting with-

Direct Advertising: This involves the placement of dedicated advertising on known job and recruitment sites. While this lacks finesse and is generally perceived to be a ‘shotgun’ approach, this can cost-effectively maximise your reach and quickly boost the number of applicants that will contact your business.

Contacting the right recruitment specialist team can help make your material more attractive to the right candidate. Specifically naming your business can also help market your brand and increase familiarity with what you are doing. Your chosen recruitment team should also aim to be as inclusive as possible and open your doors to engaging candidates who may otherwise be harder to attract in the sector.

However, remember that it is vital to properly target your advertising as taking a slapdash approach can result in being flooded with the wrong type of candidate. Weeding through these individuals can take significant time and energy and often make your approach more trouble than it was worth. As direct advertising can be expensive, it is crucial to make sure that you follow any guidance necessary to ensure you ‘get it right’ first time.

Existing Databases: Or ‘pools’ can be accessed for a subscription from many providers. This can help save days of employee time sifting through old details or trawling the web for relevant providers.

Despite their effectiveness, this only allows you to access individuals that the provider knows of or have made them aware of their availability. This can lock you out from attracting candidates with special expertise or ones that may be an ideal fit for the role. This makes them best used alongside more targeted approaches or optimising your engagement through automation.

It is also vitally important to keep your own internal contact databases updated. Building relationships with attractive employees can ensure they are ready to ‘make the jump’ when their current tenure expires.

SEO and Targeted Advertising: Moving up a step, any significant engagement should ideally involve an element of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) or Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising. These allow you to fine tune the specific kind of candidates you would like to attract by geographic area, experience, interests, and more.

These can also be combined with the deployment of ongoing campaigns to help ensure that you’re tapping the right candidates on the shoulder and pointing them toward your business or your client’s website. If deployed correctly, these can be incredibly powerful and refined engagement tools – allowing you to work with speed and efficiency. However, it is important to remember that many campaigns can take time to gain momentum and engaging with a quality provider will almost always come with a premium price tag.

Gathering this information can allow you to crunch the data about your work, track the number of candidates you attract, and ensure that your approach is working. And if it isn’t, it’s time to get back to the lab with hard evidence to help make the changes that you require.

Social Media: It may seem strange to some here that social media engagement is ‘an oldie but a goodie’, and contacting potential employees directly is one of the most reliable forms of modern engagement. Almost every modern professional has a Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Insta account that they can use to market their work. With close to 90% of modern, young professionals using a range of socials, it can be a low-effort reservoir of talent.

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Despite this, it is important to remember that not everything that you see online is true to life. Many individuals will exaggerate their expertise and aptitude. And when brought into interview, can take time away from candidates who may have otherwise been perfect for the role.

Using social media can involve taking an inventive approach and using alternate social accounts to build a picture of a potential candidate. Just remember to be professional and respectful when approaching individuals in an unorthodox manner and provide credentials to back up your identity.

Legacy Candidates: Though it may be hard to believe, there are candidates out there that don’t have a massive online presence or aren’t advertising themselves. And in many cases, these are the types of hires that businesses dream about.

Whether their skills allow them to work part time, or they have niche ability that makes hiring a breeze, these individuals can be perfect to fit niche or valued roles. Choosing a seasoned employee can help transfer some hard-earned skills to younger employees and administrate and manage projects with greater ease. They may even currently be in an undervalued position and reaching out at the right time can secure a hire that requires minimal babysitting and can easily upskill.

Despite this, it is important to check that the professional has full aptitude in their sector and has refreshed their skillset over the period. While they may be able to ‘get up to speed’ quickly and bring their experience to bear, keeping up with their professional development and understanding of changes in your sector is vital.

Software Platforms: While there are a wealth of ways to engage with candidates online, carrying out a sustained recruitment drive will be significantly difficult without a dedicated software platform. This can help you create your own centralised spreadsheet of clients and maintain records on all the individuals you are interested in and your history of engagement with them.

Doing so allows your business to scale more effectively, cherry-pick the right candidate for the job through specific queries, and ensure that your data is easily searchable when a hire needs to be made with urgency.

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While the systems are powerful and highly effective, it is vitally important to ensure that the system you use is not only fit-for-purpose but adaptable to meet future change. Taking some time to review your internal requirements can help you select a system that is right for you. This can help manage and report on your internal stable of potential employees and ensure that data entry errors and issues around information management are kept to an absolute minimum.

Which one is right for me?

The truth is – it depends.

One of the strengths of modern recruitment is the ability to take advantage of digital solutions, physical fixes, or a combination of both to address issues facing your work. Whether you are a dedicated provider or a client looking to make the most out of the opportunities available to them – taking time to review your specific problems can let you unlock a solution that suits your needs.

Taking an agile approach allows you to quickly road test a solution and quickly refine the output. This lets you create and test a hypothesis – allowing you to assemble a marketing and engagement plan to target your approach.

No matter your choice, working with an advisor with access to the right tools can act as a valuable force multiplier. This can quickly extend the reach of the smallest business, allow you to formulate a pitch that captures a dream-hire’s attention, and acquire the professional edge you need today.

What next?

If you want to learn more about the options and innovations available to improve your recruitment process, our team at Practical Software is here to help. With many years’ experience, our expert team work with your in-house systems to optimise your approach and tackle the unique issues facing your business.

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