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By partnersinhr, Feb 4 2016 02:52PM

We’ve all been there: that moment when the time comes to have an awkward conversation with an employee. Perhaps they’ve been under-performing, struggling with personal problems or have had a complaint made about them; whatever the issue, you need to deal with it swiftly and sensitively before it gets out of hand.

In these instances, it’s important to communicate in an honest and professional manner. By delaying the inevitable, problems may persist; potentially harming your business’ productivity and/or reputation. What’s more, you’re denying that individual the chance to put things right.

With the above in mind, here’s our handy checklist to nailing those difficult conversations – so take a deep breath, and read on:

Be prepared

As well as establishing the facts surrounding the matter, you should read up on company policies ahead of the meeting and reflect on your knowledge of that employee and your experiences with them. You shouldn’t let personal feelings get in the way, but reminding yourself of their character will help you prepare for their reactions.

Choose a suitable environment

Find a space where you can have a private, face-to-face conversation. Stay away from potential eavesdroppers so that both of you can be open and honest. Sitting opposite your employee will keep things formal, but if it’s something particularly delicate it may help to sit next to them. Allowing enough time for the meeting so that the conversation isn’t hurried is also important.

Refer to company policies

You need to know your organisation’s HR policies and communicate these effectively during your conversation. Whether it’s your dress code, social media policy or sickness policy, understanding the company’s official guidelines will back up your statements and clarify any potential grey areas. If company policy has been breached to a serious degree, you may wish to get further support from management staff.

Provide relevant details

Offering accurate and relevant details about the matter will reaffirm your case and ensure the message resonates with the employee in question. However, in sensitive situations this should be handled with caution; for example, if a complaint has been made about that individual by a member of their team, they need to know what has been said – but not necessarily who said it.

Try to remain objective

This is arguably the most difficult piece of advice, particularly in smaller businesses where teams and managers become close. It’s crucial to avoid potential accusations of bias or discrimination by remaining as neutral and objective as possible; put your personal opinions aside and deal with the facts. Along with this goes actively listening to the employee’s views, remembering that there are two sides to every story.

Stay in control

Above all, YOU need to be in charge of the conversation, not the employee. Open the conversation confidently and set the tone, ensuring you focus on the behaviour itself rather than the person – this will help you control your emotions and deal with the matter at hand. Ask clear questions and do not respond to attempts to break down your defences or manipulate your views.

Managing these difficult conversations is so important to get right. Partners in HR are happy to offer advice and support during these challenges; our personalised HR services can help businesses across a wide range of industries, so get in touch today to see how we can help you.

By partnersinhr, Dec 7 2015 01:15PM

Although it hasn’t been around for long, social media has become such an integral part of our lives that it’s almost impossible to remember life before it - how on earth did we used to manage not being able to show that person we met down the pub once what we’re about to have for lunch?!

Regardless of what they post and share in their personal time, the question of whether social media has a positive impact in the workplace tends to divide people into two camps: those who argue that it’s “got nothing to do with work, that’s why it’s called social media”; and those who realise that having an online social presence can be a powerful business tool.

For business leaders, it’s likely that your competitors already have accounts on the key social media platforms - such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest - which means you should certainly be on them, too. And there’s no escaping the fact that your employees are active on these channels (although hopefully not when they’re supposed to be working), not to mention the growing number of younger workers expecting to use it in their professional roles.

To help you decide whether social media is a friend or an enemy to your business, let’s take a look at what’s good about it, and possible areas for concern.

The benefits of social media

Arguably, the best thing about social media is the huge marketing opportunity that it represents. No other channel provides such an affordable and easy-to-use gateway to a global audience; get your content right, and there’s no limit to the brand awareness you can raise.

It’s also one of the most engaging marketing channels out there, sparking two-way conversations with your clients and customers in real time. From product launches to company news, competitions, and receiving feedback, social media allows you to create and maintain meaningful brand-consumer relationships.

From an HR perspective, social media can also be a useful tool when it comes to recruitment and engagement, particularly if you harness your employees to act as brand ambassadors on their own social pages. It can also be used within the company to boost communication and collaboration - for example, the new ‘Facebook at Work’, which acts as a separate professional network for co-workers’ eyes only.

Things to be aware of

The instantaneous, far-reaching nature of social media means that it can be a PR minefield, with corporate reputations being damaged in a matter of hours.

And we’re not just talking about what’s said on your corporate social pages; your staff could very well be talking about your company on their own pages, or perhaps sharing and posting content that goes against your company values. One misguided tweet from an employee’s personal Twitter account can cause untold damage. Not only that, but personal tweets about colleagues could be viewed as bullying, discrimination or harassment in the workplace (whether it’s happening at work or not) – something that opens up a whole new can of worms.

Unfortunately, even the businesses that embrace social media often fail to create a unified strategy that makes the rules, regulations and expectations clear to their employees.

They also have the delicate juggling act of respecting their employees and treating them fairly, while at the same time protecting their reputation. For example, just because a member of staff makes inappropriate comments about the company on their personal Facebook page, doesn’t mean you the right to dismiss them - it all depends on your social media policy, the privacy settings on their account and other mitigating factors, such as their previous history at the company and the extent of perceived damage to the company’s reputation.

Whether you like it or not, social media is no longer an issue that business leaders and managers can afford to ignore. The only real solution is to establish clear boundaries and guidelines with a well thought-out social media policy, so that if/when something does go wrong, you will know what action to take.

Luckily for you, that’s something that we can help with. By outsourcing your HR needs to the experts, you will receive a personalised, tailor-made service that suits your specific requirements and individual business needs. Contact us to talk more.

By partnersinhr, Nov 4 2015 12:27PM

Hooray! Recent studies have suggested that absenteeism is on the decline! But before you start celebrating just yet, you should know there is a flipside to this good news: a notion known as ‘presenteeism’.

The relatively new term ‘presenteeism’ is “the act of attending work whilst sick”. The opposite of absenteeism, it involves employees struggling their way into work when they’re poorly – often because they doubt the security of their jobs, because they can’t afford to not get a full day’s pay or because they feel there’s too much going on at work to stay away. Sometimes, it’s because the company has created a culture whereby it is seen as “the norm” to work through illness, and a ‘this-is-what-the-owner-does-so-I-should-do-it-too’ mentality.

A 2015 survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has revealed that presenteeism has risen to a staggering 31%. The report claimed that almost three in five employers noted an increase in presenteeism, but have done nothing to discourage it.

But presenteesim can lead to as many problems as absenteeism if not handled correctly. Firstly, when an employee comes into work sick, they won’t be working to the same productivity levels as they would be if they were in good health.

As well as this, they are also likely to infect others – either co-workers or visiting clients. When more of your team becomes unwell, more of them will either have to take leave or work with reduced productivity levels – a situation that is far from ideal.

So, what can be done about it?

Ideally, an employer needs to create a carefully-thought-out wellbeing strategy, fostering a culture of trust and strong communication. There are several ways this can be done:

•Promote more flexible working hours and give employees the option to work from home – this will help them create a healthy work-life balance.

•Look at the culture of the company, and conduct regular performance reviews to identify any issues early on.

•Management should lead by example and make sure they don’t advocate a culture of working through illness.

•Promote health and wellbeing in the workplace, and recognise the signs of stress or ill health.

•Review your sickness policies. They should be both flexible and fair; aggressive absence policies are one of the main causes of presenteeism.

•Establish and communicate these guidelines so that employees know when they should or shouldn’t stay at home.

•Keep the workplace clean and use posters to remind employees to prevent germs from spreading.

If you need help when it comes to advice on managing the balance between presenteeism and absenteeism, please contact Partners in HR today for a free HR Essentials Review.

By partnersinhr, Oct 13 2015 09:04AM

It’s a question that owners of all growing businesses will have to face at some stage: do I need to establish human resources policies and procedures? You may have got away with “winging it” for a while, but eventually you will have to face the question head on; after all, the longer you put it off, the more you might be digging yourself into a hole.

The standard reply to this question is often “when you reach 10 employees”. However; there really is no “magic number”. Often, it’s crucial for growing businesses to have some level of HR structure right from the very start. Certainly, when HR issues start to take up more than a small fraction of your time, having HR policies and processes in place will help you manage your staff more effectively.

But how can HR policies help your business?


Formalising policies gives structure, guidance and helps to shape both the business and its beliefs – acting like a framework to govern employee relations. HR policies help staff understand what is expected of them, which prevents misunderstandings of how the organisation expects things to be done. With clear and robust policies in place, employees will know exactly where they stand in various situations and it will ensure employers treat their staff in a fair and consistent manner

Cost savings

HR can certainly contribute to cost savings. A good HR strategy will be able to support business goals by making the organisation run more efficiently through the planned management of their staff. For the employer this would mean a reduction in absence associated costs, the avoidance of employment tribunal costs, improved productivity, retention of happy employees. All of which saves the company money.


HR policies shouldn’t be static – they should be revised and added to regularly to ensure they are addressing your business’ evolving goals, as well as being aware of the latest legislation and changing workforce trends.

Employment law can be a minefield for growing businesses, and it can be difficult to keep up with the ever-changing rules. It’s HR’s job to keep up-to-date in order to provide you with practical and credible advice – ensuring that these updates are well communicated to employees.


Bespoke HR policies have the ability to shape the culture of a growing company, and can be tailored to seamlessly fit with the preferred way of running your business. Additionally, HR policies will send a message to your employees that you are taking people management seriously, communicating the values and expectations for how things are done at your organisation, and promoting an open and honest approach in the workplace.

If you think your growing business might need HR policies (and if your business is growing, chances are you do!), please get in touch with Partners in HR today. We offer a free HR Essentials Review that takes just minutes to complete, so what are you waiting for? Also, make sure you subscribe to our monthly newsletter for the latest HR news and exclusive discounts on the purchase of bespoke HR policies.

By partnersinhr, Sep 7 2015 11:50AM

Human Resource Management. People say it’s evolved drastically in the last few decades, but it hasn’t changed all that much since Personnel in the 1970s, has it? Everyone says employees are the most valuable resources to any company – but investing in people? Is it really necessary? Surely they can look after themselves? Here are a few reasons why HR is a waste of businesses’ time and money.

Aren’t laws there to be broken?

Legal-schmegal, right? HR is said to keep a company compliant with laws regarding employees’ rights, salary, health & safety, insurance and so on. Are the laws and policies governing businesses really that strict and complex? And don’t these laws just stay the same over the years? So what if I have to pay a £20,000 fine if I fail to pay an employee the National Minimum Wage, it’s not like it would affect me that much!

Recruiting – can’t I do that myself?

Creating role profiles, writing job adverts, choosing the best places to advertise, organising the interview process, drawing up offer letters and contracts of employment – isn’t this something I can quickly and easily do myself? It wouldn’t take up that much of my time and energy, would it?

Team-building – what a waste of time.

What are these “culture” and “engagement” words people keep talking about? They don’t really exist in the workplace, do they? Apparently, bespoke HR strategies and HR policies aligned with a company’s business plan, culture and values foster better employee/employer relations. HR is also said to ensure a safe, structured and empowering environment in order for staff to thrive and be at their most productive. I’ve just invested in a new Nespresso machine for the office kitchen – isn’t that enough for them?!

Appraisals? Won’t a pat on the back do?

Surely a pat on the back and a Christmas card saying ‘thanks’ will motivate employees in the same way a bespoke performance management system would? Sure, HR may define employees’ roles and give suggestions on how to improve their performance, helping them understand the business’ goals and improving productivity – but I can also give my employees solid advice: “work faster!”

I reward my staff with the occasional pay rise – isn’t that enough?

I give my staff little pay rises from time to time when I feel they might be getting itchy feet. Why do I need HR to put an effective performance management system in place? What’s all this talk of non-financial rewards? Doesn’t money make the world go around? Yet people keep telling me about the benefits of non-money-related incentives and recognition schemes to keep employees’ focus – I’ll believe it when I see it…

Fight it out

Conflicts inevitably occur between the employer and their employees, but who needs an official mediator to resolve these issues in an effective manner, taking timely action to stop things getting out of hand? It’s claimed that HR often put strategies in place to prevent such disputes happening again. Let’s agree to disagree, I say. Of course it is annoying having a poor performer but it sorts itself out eventually and I don’t think it affects the other employees or the business.

As you can probably guess by now, this article is a little tongue in cheek – to say the least. In reality, businesses of all shapes and sizes can benefit hugely from HR expertise. After all, once your HR functions are in safe hands, you will be able to dedicate your time and energy into the overall day-to-day running of your business. If you would like a free snapshot review of your current HR status, together with advice on how HR management could help your business, get in touch with Partners in HR today.

By partnersinhr, Jul 31 2015 02:16PM

An employment contract has to be one of the most important documents between an employer and their employee. Essentially, it’s the only way to make sure you’re both singing from the same hymn sheet, so to speak; helping to avoid any potential miscommunications or ambiguity. An employment contract clearly outlines – without any unnecessary jargon – everything an employee needs to know about their role, duties, benefits, compensation and general terms and conditions , and so on, in order to meet the expectations of you, the employer. But what are the key factors that need to be considered when drawing up or reviewing a contract?

When do they need to be drawn up?

Try to ensure that your new employee signs the contract prior to starting at your business, although you are legally bound to produce a written employment contract within the first two months of their start date. However, a contract really ‘begins’ whenever your new worker says “yes” to the job; by accepting the role and starting work, they are agreeing to the terms and conditions provided by you.

Are they up-to-date?

Crucially, contracts must be legally compliant. Employment law seems to be changing every five minutes (even though the government stated that law changes are now made in April and October) so, as an employer, it’s vital that you keep a firm eye on any new rules that have come into effect. Failure to be aware of these changes could seriously cost your business, and you could be fined thousands of pounds as a result of an unfair dismissal, for example. If you want to avoid being caught out, you need to make sure you’re providing up-to-date, accurate contracts for each and every one of your staff.

Are they bespoke to your business?

Every business is different (and every employee, for that matter), so contracts will need to be tailored in order to give you and your employees maximum protection. Off-the-shelf contracts will require you to ‘fill the gaps’ whereas legally comprehensive bespoke contracts will ensure the contract meets your needs and that your business is protected as it grows.

Do they need to be rewritten?

If your business has expanded or roles have changed, it may be necessary for your contracts to be reviewed and updated. This doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be rewritten from scratch, but it’s important that – as an agreement has been reached – you follow the appropriate steps before amending employment contracts.

You may find that your ever-growing business’ working practices have changed; you could require more permanent staff or more flexibility (zero hours contracts, for example, where you are not obliged to provide any minimum working hours and the worker isn’t obliged to accept any offered work). It could be that new senior employees need new tighter contracts or official reward incentive schemes included within the contract.

When is best to review?

Whenever you’re looking to make changes and negotiate new terms, you may want to consider reviewing an employment contract. By reviewing the existing terms and conditions, these potential changes can be highlighted. But don’t think you can adapt the contract on a whim! All terms must be completely clear.

If you are looking to create employment contracts or get some advice on the current status of your contracts, why not get in touch with the friendly team here at Partners in HR? We are highly experienced in creating bespoke contracts that will protect your business, year after year.

Blog Index:


GDPR & the future of data protection compliance for HR teams.  Jan 18


Whats the difference between capability and conduct? Nov 17


Getting to grips with work place stress and pressure. Sept 17


Help! I have no idea what my boss is thinking!  June 17


Difficult conversations, encouraging staff to take pride in their appearance Apr 17


How to deal with an office relationship with professionalism.  Feb 17


Recruiting? Tops 3 reasons why you shouldn't do it all in house. Dec 16


How to deal with a 'problem' employee the right way Oct 16


Am I paying my employees enough? Aug 16


Why should you hire an intern, work experience student or apprentice? June 16


How do you ensure your employees work as hard for your business as you do?   March 16


How do you handle that difficult conversation with an employee?            Feb 16


Social Media & the workplace: friend or foe?  Dec 15


The problem with presenteeism. Nov 15


When does your growing business need HR Policies? Oct 15


Why HR is a waste of time and money!

Sept 15


Factors to consider when drawing up a contract

July 15


How much time is actually wasted in the office on Social Media?

July 15


Holiday Pay - Implications for Employers

June 15


Shared Parental Leave

June 15