Banter, it’s just a bit of fun, or is it?

Banter. It’s a funny old word isn’t it? Oxford dictionary say this

The playful and friendly exchange of trading remarks.

We all love it don’t we? It’s just a bit of fun right? Everyone knows it’s just fun don’t they?There’s no harm in it, after all it builds great relationships and happy places to work doesn’t it?….all that may be true, but how do you know when the playful and friendly exchange of remarks are crossing a line? How do you know that what once was taken as banter is now actually being taken as bullying or harassment? How do you know that you’re not going to end up in the middle of an awkward investigation or potentially even worse, losing your job?

The truth is it’s very hard to be sure of any of that and that is why banter can be a hugely dangerous thing. I’m really not a fun sponge or a mood hoover, whatever you like to call it! I love a good giggle with the best of them and I don’t easily take offence but I’m extremely cautious of dishing out the banter to others at work. Just because my line might not be someone else’s. That is why I visibly cringe at times when I hear banter flying around that I know has the potential to go wrong! That said, banter is widely acknowledged as part of every day life and can support breaking the ice, reducing stress, building relationships and improving team spirit. It can be a really positive thing. I personally love being on the receiving end of banter it makes me feel part of a team and contributes for a positive day. Maybe I wouldn’t be saying that though if a line had ever been crossed?

I’ve recently read The 2018 report from the Institute of Leadership and Management about Banter. It has some really interesting facts in there. Some of them might surprise you. Did you know:

  • Twice as many women as men report loss of confidence due to banter
  • The most popular use of banter reported was to get to know colleagues.
  • 4% of people have left their employer due to being at the receiving end of negative banter
  • 73% of people do not think banter should be banned.
  • 1 in 5 people have been embarrassed by workplace banter
  • Topics viewed as unacceptable topics of banter: medical and mental health, religion/faith, sexual orientation and ethnicity.
  • Banter is universal. 98% of people experience it.

Makes you think doesn’t it?

I’m definitely not suggesting banter should be eradicated in the workplace. I’m simply suggesting that it’s important to acknowledge that it can go wrong and would encourage employers to think about what they have in place to help reduce the risk of things going wrong and if it does, make sure you’re prepared to deal with it the best you can.

I would suggest employers could consider:

  1. Reviewing your bullying and harassment policies and ensuring banter is addressed.
  2. Training for line managers to include inclusion and diversity.
  3. Identifying and dealing with bullying and harassment effectively.
  4. Role modelling positive behaviour and raising awareness with others when inappropriate behaviour is spotted.

It’s great to be yourself at work, to thrive and to be happy and we all have a responsibility to ensure those around us feel the same. Be thoughtful in your actions and kind in your words.

It is beneath human dignity to lose one’s individuality and become a mere cog in the machine – Mahatma Gandhi

Love Laura x

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Busy, it’s ok to be busy, just let the guilt go!

This is a quick blog. I feel the urge to write but also I have promised myself to get back to more regular blogging. So here we go. A mini victory goal ticked off on this Monday evening.

This week sees me already having travelled 600 miles and it’s only Monday evening. By the end of this week I will have travelled around 1300 miles. Worked with 3 clients, attended a tutorial day for my coaching diploma and attended a 2 day CIPD conference. Come Saturday evening I will be ready for a bubble bath and bed!

It’s 7 months since Sparkle HR was officially launched but about 15 months since the journey of setting it up began. The planning has absolutely been worth it. The first 7 months have been crazy busy. Hugely fulfilling and pretty enjoyable. When I say pretty enjoyable, I’m really happy. I wouldn’t really change much about it. However…..at times I feel like I have no time for anything or anyone in my life. That frustrates me. I dreamt of having a life that had more time for catching up with family and friends but at the moment I think that’s gone backwards not forwards. I’m constantly trying to manage my time better. To do things differently. To control my diary, to send birthday cards, to remember anniversaries, to grab a coffee to catch up with people but the fact is I’m busy and I do love work. So I keep pushing myself to do more. I feel guilty for not seeing people as much as I would like and sometimes the guilt stops me doing anything productive. So I’ve decided recently, guilt isn’t an emotion I’m willing to give headspace to. For now I’m accepting that busy is good, I’m making the decisions and I’m paying the bills. Both are important. Hugely important in fact. Both are good. In time though, I am striving to have more time for me. I’m just not willing to put a timeframe on when that will be! I love my friends and I know they understand. I’m letting it go. 🧘‍♀️

In the mean time it’s lots of early nights. Weekends recharging and being thankful for what I am building day by day. I’ve got a lot of inspirational people around me. You keep me motivated. Thank you 😊

My down time at the moment consists of my family and my very supportive partner. All of them deserve a medal for listening to me witter on. I’ve got some lovely things planned in as little treats. I’m looking forward to those when they arrive.

“Be kind to yourself – Anna Farrow”

Love Laurax

GDPR – are you ready?

It’s been a while since I found time to write. Things are crazy busy. Both in and out of work but today felt a great day to take the time to focus on a topic that is dominating much of my time right now. Get ready for it. It’s another sexy subject. GDPR.

I heard the groans from here. I seriously know how dull this topic sounds and to be really honest, it doesn’t just sound it. It is! There’s not much sexy about data protection regulations but believe me you don’t want to ignore this one. Now I say that like that is new news and I know to many many people reading this you will be thinking goodness me tell me something I don’t already know. But…..I have spoken to so many people recently that have not been aware of this or have thought it doesn’t apply to them so I did want to write a short piece.

News flash. GDPR affects anyone holding data on EU citizens and data is anything that is identifiable back to an individual and those individuals have the right to know what you are collecting about them and how you intend to use it. So…..you may not only have data about your customers to consider but if you employ people you absolutely have their data to consider. This extends to applicants, volunteers and ex employees too. My focus is on the data you hold about the latter group.

Regardless of how much you know though GDPR comes in to force on the 25 May 2018. Im not going to witter on at length about this but I did want to hopefully spark curiosity with those that currently know very little but may now want to know more.

Did you know that you can no longer rely on the data protection paragraph in your employment contracts for the consent to hold your employees data? The reason being, consent must be unambiguous and freely given. Unambiguous means an employee should be crystal clear about each piece of data that you hold about them. But you don’t need to panic about that as a few actions can rectify this no problem. Those few actions could take you longer the more employees you have and the best place to start is with a data audit.

You basically must have a valid lawful reason for processing personal data.

  1. Consent
  2. Legitimate interests of the data controller
  3. Necessity for the performance of a contract
  4. Compliance with a legal obligation
  5. In order to protect the vital interests of the data subject
  6. Necessity for the performance of a task

You should also have a privacy notice for applicants and employees and your data protection policy should be updated to reflect the GDPR changes. Your existing policies may need updating and your retention schedules could need to change or if you don’t have retention schedules then now is the time to put them in place.

There are numerous other things to put in place including being aware of how to report any breaches, dealing with subject access requests and you may want to consider how you will train your team on the new legislation.

I appreciate you’re busy, you’re trying to run your business. I’m here to help should you need it and I hope the blog helps you to take positive action today. Don’t let the dull sounding complex legislation scare you in to doing nothing!

Focus on where you want to go. Not on fear. Anthony Robbins

Love Laura x

People not process!

I’m writing this from the 06:44 to Lincoln. I know. The glam life that I lead! Anyway, regardless of when I post this blog I’m going to start by saying good morning! You’re the first people I’ve spoken to today! You don’t see many chatty people on a train platform so early so this virtual hey is as good as it gets right now!

I wanted to write about disciplinary and grievance procedures today. Oh, please don’t let that put you off. I’m not going to get heavy, that’s not my style as you know but I would like to share a few insights with you all. Things that have been going through my head.

When I describe my business and my “why” I talk about how people being treated as individuals and not seeing them as a cog in a process is important to me. So what do I mean and why do I care? Let me start with why I care. I care because at the end of the day we are all people who have feelings and values and lives outside of work and we all have basic needs. No two people are exactly the same so why should we treat them that way?! It simply doesn’t work. I care because regardless of the role you play in an organisation you play that role because one would assume there is a need for it. So without you the business would suffer in some way. If you’re playing your part then you should be listened to and heard and treated like you matter. Everybody deserves those basic points in my opinion. I know speaking from experience that if you try to follow policy or procedure rigidly regardless of taking into account personal circumstances it just doesn’t work and it doesn’t work for many reasons. People feel like they don’t matter, become disengaged, less likely to contribute fully and you can find yourself in hot water as you made a decision that doesn’t actually make sense.

Let’s move on to disciplinary and grievance procedures as the example. So many smaller organisations simply don’t have these in place and that really is a risk to your business. If you employ people then some basics around expectation setting and something clear to follow should you need it is important. It’s often very time consuming, messy and complicated if the ground rules have not been set before you need them. But let’s say you do have them. Fantastic. Try now not to see them as a set of rules to chastise people, to beat them over the head with or to follow when you see fit. That’s all equally unhelpful. Try to see them as part of your culture, as helping set expectations, clarity and transparency for all. Of course they’re there to help you should things go wrong but they also help employees feel supported and clear of what is expected and what will happen if those expectations are not met or it gives people a channel to follow should they need to raise something formally with you. They help set the culture of a well run business that cares about its people or at the very least that acknowledges it has people working in it!

I’ve had so many conversations with business owners and line managers over the years about how to apply a D&G policy or process to specific situations. The words I use and have done for years are, pragmatism, fair and reasonable. Take your policy in one hand, your individual in the other and ask yourself if you are making pragmatic decisions and then most importantly of all are you being fair and are you being reasonable. Listen to the individual, listen to the circumstances and apply your policy accordingly.

That’s not about bending the rules or treating people differently it’s about using what you have in place but doing it in a way that’s sensible.

So my final point in this blog is to encourage any business owners who don’t have a D&G policy in place or that maybe want to revamp what they do have to contact me to have a chat about how I can help you change that and also to encourage those of you that do to constantly challenge yourself….you’re dealing with humans, treat them as such. Keep in your mind the 3 little words. Pragmatism. Fair. Reasonable. They will serve you well.

You are what you do. Not what you say you’ll do.

Love Laura x

Here’s to a Sparkly filled 2018

I have had a little blog writing break over the festive period, but I feel like today is a great day to get some things down in writing.  I am sure that like me, you have all read a million social media posts of 2017 reviews, stories of personal highs and lows over the last year with optimism and hope for the start of a new year.  I know I have read a lot, and I am continuing to read them all as they pop up.  Repetitive posts on social media often bore me but reading this kind has really inspired me, I have loved seeing how people summarise their life for the last year. I have resisted the urge to join in though as I decided I would wrap my thoughts up in one place and the blog seemed right.

From the beginning of writing this blog I have been open: mixed business and personal information freely and I intend to continue with that.  A big part of me and how I work is hinged on me simply being me, I can not excel when I am trying to be something I am not. Learning this about myself through my career has been a game changer.  People work for people and people buy people……two phrases that are just so true. Some of my blog posts will be very much HR specific and relevant to Sparkle HR and the business and others will be about being a business owner, some will just be me wittering on about both and how I feel in general.  I suppose today’s blog is the latter.

If I can start by saying that 2017 has hands down been the most life changing year that I have ever had.  It has had me sobbing, anxious and stressed right through to feeling elated, motivated, fulfilled and inspired.  I have spoken of a rollercoaster and it really has been just that!  This Christmas though is the first one in 20 years where I haven’t had to work – I actually had time off, I enjoyed Christmas and I didn’t get stressed about anything, putting the tree up was enjoyable (not sure taking it down will be!), writing cards was actually lovely and I even had time to wrap presents before Christmas Eve.  Just reflecting on not HAVING to work is a major thing for me, I get to make decisions that work for me these days.  So whilst I did give myself a lovely amount of days off I also did CHOOSE to work when it suited me, it was a delish place to be and I am looking forward to more of this throughout 2018.  During the time I did work I reviewed Sparkle HR in 2017 and set myself goals and plans for 2018.

As I said at the start of this blog and have said many times in previous blogs, a lot has happened in 2017, I found out my role was being made redundant and I made the decision to set up my own business. It wasn’t until I sat down last week and listed what I had achieved during this time that I appreciated just what a mountain it has been to climb and I actually I now feel super proud of myself for:

  1. Having the balls to go for it
  2. Keeping going even on the days I doubted my decision and especially when things were feeling tough
  3. Learning so much new stuff!  New stuff about being a business owner and for opening my mind to thinking very differently about my life and the choices I am making

As I reviewed the year I realised there were things that I haven’t achieved that I had set out to do but all of them had a good reason, some I have scrapped and some I have carried over to my 2018 plan.  Somebody said to me that having your own business requires you to be 100% adaptable and flexible to changing demands and that is very true.  Some things I thought were super urgent actually turned out not to be at all and other stuff I realised was more important than I once thought.    By the end of 2017 I had secured my first few clients which I can not even begin to convey enough how utterly over the moon I am about this, I have also had a great couple of months working as an associate with Smart Resourcing Solutions which I utterly love, and am looking forward to more of in 2018.  I have been really busy and my work has been varied – just wonderful really!

On top of all of that I met a fabulous man this year who has blown me away with his honesty, love, support and belief in me and my dreams.  He is like my very own personal motivator and also tells me to get a grip on the days when I am a ball of worry and negativity!

I would hate anyone to read this and feel like I am being smug in any way, I am happy to admit I am still naturally anxious about the future because let’s be honest it is a huge thing being your own boss…you need to be responsible and stuff!  It takes a lot of dedication, self belief and guts to keep going with the dream when things don’t go entirely right.  The knocks can be hard to bounce back from but I intend to make 2018 as awesome as 2017 turned out to be.  This all comes with a healthy amount of realism and I know this path will not be straight forward or smooth but it is starting off as well as I could have dreamed it to and so I am going to love this one day at a time.  I have to keep reminding myself that it is ok to feel happy and proud of the current picture I have built, it’s ok to feel positive and excited about the future and it’s ok to celebrate your own success along the way, after all what’s the point of dancing if you don’t enjoy the dance!

Whatever your 2017 was like and however you would like your 2018 to be I hope that you are simply happy.  Thank you to all of you that have supported me so far, you have been a great bunch of cheerleaders and I hope you continue to be a part of this during 2018.

Success is not an accident, it’s something we have to create on purpose – Carrie Green

Love Laura x

Be the reason for your own success

The last 3 weeks have been brilliant. Tiring, stressful, hard work but brilliant. Nobody works you harder than yourself when you’re your own boss!

At the start of the year I knew what I wanted things to be like when I started Sparkle but back at the beginning I wasn’t sure if that was possible, if it was a dream that others had but that I couldn’t. Well, it seems it is possible. It’s out there for the taking.

I’ve been really clear in my mind about getting a good balance back in my life, doing things I love and working with clients that match my own values. All year I have been working to try and ensure that when I was ready to launch the business and start trading I could do so confidently with the structure already in place.

I’ve done lots to get to that place, boring admin type things, researching, planning, chatting to people more expert than I, doing things I find hard or scary, reading, networking, focussing on my own personal and professional development and stressing. Lots of stressing and worrying! However, I recently also started to meditate, I’m trying to master yoga (badly!), practice visualising my success and reading positive affirmations. I’m the first to say I was sceptical of some of the more recent things as I wasn’t sure if I could do them or if I even believed in them. Like anything though, I’ve committed to them 100% and my goodness I’ve enjoyed doing them. I’m still enjoying doing them.

So why has the last 3 weeks been so positive?

  • I’ve had a wonderful mix of catching up with friends, lovely lunches, coffee dates and I’ve not felt guilty for it once.
  • I have had time to find a routine that works for me, trying new things and focussing on my well being.
  • I have had a hugely rewarding week supporting graduate assessment simulations with Smart Resourcing Solutions.
  • I have started working with my first few coaching clients, really loving this.
  • I have secured a new client with an amazing charity who are outsourcing their HR. An organisation I believe in and an opportunity that makes me feel all kinds of excitement and passion. If I could have written my story at the start of the year. This would have been it.

It isn’t luck that is making this stuff happen, I can see that the hard work is paying off and for the first time in 11 months I feel truly content with the direction I’m going and can see that life outside your comfort zone can be pretty amazing. I’m still happy to say, it feels uncomfortable at times but nothing can replace the feeling of leaping the first few hurdles and hitting the floor with both feet firmly running.

I’m prepared for future challenges and I’m more motivated than ever before to believe in my business and my current choices in life.

To anybody thinking of making a similar leap of faith, you can do it! If you would like to have coaching with me, I’m currently offering 2 free 45 minute sessions. I would love to hear from you.

You did not wake up today to be mediocre

Love Laura x

How to avoid an employment tribunal

I went to a mock employment tribunal today at Irwin Mitchell Solicitors. It was a fantastic learning experience and a great refresh on lots of things.  Something that I think would be useful for so many line managers. 

It was actually really timely given the fact that in July this year tribunal fees were abolished. Some reports already show that claims in the last 2 months have doubled, other reports say claims are five times higher! Wow, those are alarming but not really surprising figures.

It got me thinking actually, there’s so much to know and do that can mitigate being in that situation. Inevitably though there will be occasions when a tribunal has not been able to be avoided. If that is the case everything you have done or not done that has lead to that point will be scrutinised. Put yourself in a strong position by following these pointers. 

Ensure you have the basics in place

  • Are your contracts fit for purpose? Do you have clear policies and procedures? Is your handbook up to date?  Equally as important, do your employees know these exist?  Have you any record that they have seen/had a copy of your handbook?  Can you be sure your employees know what is expected of them? All of these things may help tighten your case should you need to rely on them and most of them can help reduce risk in the first place. 

Are your policies and procedures followed consistently? 

  • It is so important that your own policies and procedures are followed consistently in the organisation.
  • Do you have clear processes to follow and simple ways to record facts? If not, you may want to consider how you make this as simple as possible for the people using them. Usually your line managers. 
  • Ensure your line managers are trained to effectively carry out disciplinaries and grievances and it does no harm to run refresher sessions to ensure skills are kept up to date, well used and relevant. 

Communicating 

  • Those confidential emails, those “off the record” conversations. Guess what? They are all disclosable. Don’t fall in to the trap of writing or saying things you don’t think will be used later. It could be and it can be really unhelpful at times.

Be the employer you say you are

  • It sounds simple but do the right thing, even when nobody is watching!  Be the kind of employer you say you are/want to be. If you treat people in a way that is fair and reasonable you are heading in the right direction. 

If you have any issues the most important thing I can advise is to deal with these swiftly and professionally. This can be daunting and we understand this can be complex. If you require any advice we will be willing to advise and support you with any of the points mentioned. 

You can call me on 07894435423 or email Lauramoughton@sparklehr.co.uk

It is always the right time to do the right thing – Martin Luther King JR

Love Laura x