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April 30, 2020

Happy Birthday - The First Year of a HR Consultant


Andrew Beaumont

I knew it was coming but strangely thought it was later in May.

Last week, people started congratulating me on my 'work anniversary' on my LinkedIn feed and I realised that it had been exactly a year since I set up my own business. It therefore seemed to be a sensible time to write a post about my key messages from the past year.

1. You can't always wait for the right time

I've used this analogy a number of times when I have done presentations to business leaders. You can sit and wait for the right time to implement change in your business but that time may never arrive. If you search hard enough, you can always find a reason not to do things. Sometimes you just have to go for it. My wife and I were both made redundant in 2019 and the easy thing for me to do would have been to go and find another HR role as an employee. We had both talked about setting our own businesses up separately and it would have been so easy not to take the plunge.

As I posted earlier today, and in my video yesterday (both on Linkedin), the world is changing so quickly at the moment with COVID-19. The organisations that adapt to the change and plan for when their industry goes back online are likely to flourish. If you are a business leader and don't have a plan yet then I would love to talk to you.

2. Your people are your biggest asset

I've said this so many times in posts and comments recently but is a crucial point. If you hire the right people and treat them properly they will make your business as success. It seems simplistic but its true. Are your staff working for you just because they need the money or are they genuinely engaged? Of course money is important but it absolutely isn't all that matters. Little things like providing more than statutory entitlements to holidays, maternity pay etc can go a long way (and needn't cost the earth). Do you want to be known as an employer that does 'the minimum they have to'?

3. Talk to your staff

This is such an obvious point but is often missed. How well do you actually know your staff? Many businesses that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic have either utilised home working or furloughed their staff. Everyone will deal with this differently. In my experience, employees can have busy and complex personal lives and use work as a constant. They may not have any support network outside of work and may only get face to face interaction with their colleagues. If that is suddenly taken away from them and they are no longer able to come into the office, how will that impact them?

Similarly, if you have a staff member who is usually the life and soul of the party and is suddenly very quiet, it is absolutely fine to ask them how they are. They may turn round and tell you that they are fine. They may also say they arent and could be very glad that you have taken the time to ask.

4. Not just there for the nasty things in life

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In the days before Google and the internet, if you wanted to find someone to do a job, chances are you would have used the Yellow Pages. It used to have an advertising slogan about 'not just being there for the nasty things in life' and that is also true for HR.

Whilst you can (and indeed should) use HR for grievances and disciplinaries etc, the earlier you involve HR in your business, the more value will be added. If HR is effective, your business is protected. You don't need a policy for everything but those that you do need should be straight forward and to the point.  If I don't think you require it, I won't write it.  It isn't just about keeping you out of tribunal and saving money. An engaged and productive workforce can make your business stand out amongst its competition. Who wouldn't want to be an employer of choice within their industry?

5. Reputation

Three very different 'bosses' and yes two of them are fictitious but the underlying message is real and important.

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Basil Fawlty was a hotel owner who had no idea how to manage his staff and wasn't particularly bothered whether they were engaged.

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David Brent genuinely tried his best but didn't know how to manage (and massively misjudged how he was perceived by staff).

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Many people (myself included) have viewed Richard Branson as an inspiring leader and its fair to say that he had a decent reputation. However, the public perception (that HR word again) of his behaviour during the current pandemic isn't great and there have even been campaigns around 'boycotting Virgin' on Social Media. Now of course, as consumers, the public can be notoriously fickle and if and when Virgin Atlantic start flying again, they discount their flights and become good value, business could start to improve for them.

As an organisation, a good reputation is hard to earn but can be easily lost.

6. Look after yourself

I came from a corporate background having done almost 20 years in financial services. Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) were common place but so was training for managers in mental health awareness.

When you run your own business, especially at the start, it can be easy to work all the hours you can to build your business up. I was typically working flat out during the week and then using the weekend to do my accounts and other admin. I've asked for help when I've needed it from my accountant and have used a VA to take care of my inbox and CRM. As a business owner, you have to look after yourself so that you can look after your staff.

If any of this resonates with you then please lets have a chat about your HR needs.

Happy Birthday.  The First Year of a HR Consultant

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