Flexible working will become part of UK law. Here’s what to know

On Monday, Dec. 5, the U.K. government gifted an early Christmas present to millions of workers by proposing a new law that will grant the right to ask for part-time hours or home-working arrangements from the first day of a new job. 

Additionally, approximately 1.5 million low-paid workers — such as those operating in the gig economy, plus students and carers — would be free to supplement their incomes by taking on second jobs and be protected against restrictive “exclusivity clauses.”

Ministers said the plan was “to make flexible working the default.” But will U.K. employers be muttering “humbug” at the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill?

Reactions to the prospective bill have been mixed. Some groups — including trade unions — have applauded it as a critical evolution to ways of working. Others have complained it doesn’t go far enough or has too much wiggle room for employers.

The full version of this article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in December 2022 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

Why employee turnover is more contagious than ever

In the hybrid-working era, job departures are more contagious than ever.

When a teammate goes — whether pushed or pulled — it leaves colleagues reflecting on their positions while having to pick up the extra slack. And it means they are 9.1% more likely to head for the exit, too, according to a new report published in mid-November by global employee analytics and workforce platform Visier.

As the Great Resignation shows no sign of breaking stride, this statistic could become a thornier issue for business leaders and HR professionals.

A cluster of departures is also incredibly destabilizing for any organization and could lead to a recruitment scramble. This desperate-but-necessary tactic might plug the gaps before more employees leave, but the rush to hire could be a misstep if they turn out to be a bad fit for the company.

Piers Hudson, senior director of Gartner’s HR functional strategy and management research team, agreed with this insight. “Smaller teams have micro-cultures, so when someone goes, it is worse as a trigger point,” he said.

As such, Hudson was not shocked by the 9.1% figure. “If anything, I was surprised it wasn’t higher,” he said. “Any departure would lead you to reconsider your role. It might raise things like your compensation and whether the person who has left is being paid more elsewhere.”

The full version of this article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in November 2022 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

HR teams admit fault for why most new hires aren’t working out

Most human resource departments across the planet are feeling deep buyer’s remorse, according to new research.

Thomas International, a talent assessment platform provider, surveyed 900 HR professionals globally and found nearly two-thirds (60%) of new hires are not working out. And the majority of respondents blamed themselves for effectively taking shortcuts that turned out to be dead ends.

Nearly half (49%) of hiring managers said recruits were unsuccessful because of a “poor fit between the candidate and the role,” and 74% admitted to compromising candidate quality due to time pressures in response to the Great Resignation and a tight labor market.

It seems that this post-job-move remorse hasn’t just been a burden on HR teams, but the new hires themselves. “We see a higher level of regretted choices because things have not worked out the way the candidate had hoped,” said Piers Hudson, senior director of Gartner’s HR functional strategy and management research team, referencing trends his organization’s proprietary data has highlighted.

However, he added that overall, there has been an “elevation in expectations,” particularly among younger generations, that employers are finding it difficult to live up to.

The full version of this article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in November 2022 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

Cost-of-living worries prompt workers to seek higher-paid jobs

Sorry kids, Santa’s sack might not be so full this year. According to new research, an alarming 88% of U.K. workers are unsure whether their current role can sustain them financially during this economically uncertain period.

Further, productivity platform ClickUp’s study, published in late November, calculated that 26% of Britain-based employees are planning to switch jobs because of the cost-of-living crisis — inflation hit 11.1% in October, a 41-year high — and the desperate need to earn more money.

“With the highest inflation rate among the G7 countries [consisting of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K and the U.S.], there’s no doubt almost every working family in the U.K. is feeling the pinch,” said Alan Bradstock, a senior insolvency practitioner at Accura Accountants in London. “Many have no choice but to seek higher paid work.”

Citizens Advice, a U.K. charity, said the number of employed people seeking crisis support between July and September jumped 150% compared to the same three-month span two years ago. “Every day, our advisers hear stories of people skipping meals, going without essentials, and then coming to us when they simply can’t cut back anymore,” said Morgan Wild, the charity’s head of policy. “This cannot continue.”

The full version of this article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in November 2022 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

Amid economic turmoil, HR budgets are under threat

As the specter of a global financial crash looms, businesses are pruning budgets, and human resources departments are first in line for the chop, according to new research by HR software company Personio.

More than half (55%) of HR managers have either had their budgets slashed already, or expect them to be cut in the coming months, according to the report, which surveyed 500 HR professionals and 1,000 workers in the U.K. and Ireland. Fifty-two percent of the respondents said they’re used to their department’s budget being the first to get trimmed when businesses tighten their belts.

But this approach is wrongheaded and will have lasting ramifications, argued Ross Seychell, Personio’s chief people officer. “HR should be even more of a priority now, not less,” he said.

That’s because areas typically within the HR remit — like company culture and employee experience — are more important than ever, as organizations continue to battle to get people into the office and ensure the experience is worthwhile when they do. All at a time when talent retention is just as vital.

This article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in October 2022 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

How technology can help millions of seasonal affective disorder sufferers this winter

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affected 10 million people in the U.S. alone in 2019. And the knock-on effect on a person’s mental health and by extension – their job and productivity – can be substantial. But are organizations sensitive enough to their needs? And how can technology help?

Yvonne Eskenzi, the owner of London-based cybersecurity agency Eskenzi PR, has suffered from SAD since childhood and said the onset of SAD is unmistakable. “You can smell the air change and temperature,” she said. “Then you notice the days becoming shorter and darker at night, which triggers a deep sense of foreboding, sadness and anxiety.” 

Eskenzi added that she feels less creative, foggy-headed, and nowhere near as sociable as usual in a work setting. HR departments must be proactive about treating SAD in colder, darker regions. But is enough being done?

This article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in October 2022 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

Most HR professionals have got it wrong – longer hours do not mean better performance

The phrase “hard work pays off” (or subtle variations thereof) has to be one of the most popular nuggets of advice in the last century and beyond. This maxim, passed down from generation to generation, has conditioned us to believe that the more we do something, the more we will be rewarded. 

However, there is growing evidence that shows this attitude is counter-productive. Moreover, overworking is dangerous. And most worryingly, over two-thirds (68%) of European human resources professionals are peddling the idea that high-performing employees work longer hours than average employees, according to a study by Gartner.

How, then, can performance be improved in a world where people are exhausted (because they are working harder)?

This article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in October 2022 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

Rise in ’employee nomading’ leaves HR teams baffled about where their staff are

Ask any human resources professional what their biggest work headache is, and you’re unlikely to hear it’s that they can’t locate their staff.

It turns out, the shift to hybrid or fully remote working that’s occurred over the last few years has meant that now HR departments are often left in the dark about where all their employees are. And in many cases, employees who decide to travel somewhere to work for a week or month aren’t always informing HR.

Well over two-thirds of employees surveyed in the U.S. and U.K. said they do not report which days they work outside of their home state or country to HR, according to HR company Topia’s Adapt to Work Anywhere report.

A further 40% of HR professionals admitted they were shocked to discover certain employees had changed their working location without informing them, but also conceded that many more employees who have gone AWOL may have done so under the radar, according to the same report.

It’s a catch-22 for employers. Most (96%) employees interviewed in the Topia survey (and other surveys indicate similar findings) ranked flexibility in working arrangements as a key factor when seeking a new employer. And 94% agreed with the statement: “I should be able to work from anywhere I want as long as I get my work done.” 

This article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in September 2022 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

How to ask for a raise amid a cost-of-living crisis

Asking the boss for a raise can be awkward at the best of times.

As the cost-of-living crisis deepens in the U.K. and U.S. and company purse strings are pulled tight, it’s arguably even more difficult. However, given the perilous state of the economy, it’s critical to pluck up the courage to discuss a pay bump.

The temptation might be to blunder into an informal chat, but that could come across as desperate. Instead, a better strategy is to prepare well to effectively make your business case.

Below are some tried and tested expert tips to help those seeking a raise seal the deal.

This article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in July 2022 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

Which laws around the world are reshaping how we work?

Societal, political, and ethical forces are reshaping the world of work.

To get a handle on some of the changes, a slew of laws have been introduced. Some of them have been passed to tackle cultural trends that have arisen since – or been expedited by – the pandemic. Others are more freestanding.

When considering how the laws that have come into force – or are due to be passed soon – since the start of the pandemic will shape the future of work, a quotation attributed to American-Canadian writer William Gibson, father of the cyberpunk sub-genre of science-fiction, comes to mind. “The future is already here; it’s just not evenly distributed.”

Here are five new laws that will affect how work is done in the specific nations in which they have been inked:

This article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in July 2022 – to read the complete piece please click HERE.

How employees are urging HR chiefs to ‘take action’ on social and political issues

As Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine drags into a fourth week, and the rest of the world looks on while the level of horror ratchets up daily, the pressure for organizations to respond is increasing.

Human resources professionals are bearing the brunt of the load. It is their responsibility to support employees, ensure internal communications are aligned with external messaging, and much more.

They didn’t teach wartime situations at HR management school. Still, neither did they teach how to handle a pandemic, and many have excelled in displaying the human side of HR in the last two years. That greater emphasis on compassion, empathy, and staff well-being will be critical, once more, with Putin’s bloody “special operation” likely to last for many more weeks.

This article was first published on DigiDay’s WorkLife platform in March 2022 – to continue reading please click here.

‘My role changed drastically overnight’: Ukraine HR execs share what they’re doing on the front line

Human resources teams across the globe are working tirelessly, encouraging employers to take a firm stance on the Ukraine invasion, ensuring deeds match words and internal and external communication is pitch-perfect, supporting staff well-being, and more. And all on top of their typical duties. Granted, it’s incredibly stressful right now — but for HR professionals on the front line, it’s far worse.

Consider the experiences of Ksenia Prozhogina, vice president of people at 3DLOOK, a retail tech company headquartered in San Mateo, California, with a research-and-development arm in Ukraine. She grew up in Nizhny Novgorod, western Russia, and has many friends still there, but her focus has been relocating 3DLOOK’s 74 Ukraine-based employees and their families away from danger.

This article was first published on DigiDay’s WorkLife platform in March 2022 – to continue reading please click here.

How companies are tapping avatars, virtual spaces to introduce new hires to their colleagues and cultures

The digital world, where hybrid working is increasingly the norm, can be a lonely place — especially when joining an organization or learning a new skill for career development. To solve this challenge, companies are reaching for their virtual and augmented reality headsets and taking the plunge with immersive training.

One such organization is HubSpot. The customer relationship management company is trialing VR remote office tours and using it to present employees with an “immersive and unique look” into HubSpot’s remote community. “The VR platform allows employees to build an avatar, walk around the virtual space, and even hear other employee voices — connecting in real-time, as you would in an office setting,” said Hubspot’s Boston-based culture manager Meaghan Williams.

This article was first published on DigiDay’s WorkLife platform in December 2021 – to continue reading please click here.

‘There are now a lot more boxes a role needs to tick’: Recruiters share how post-pandemic job expectations have changed

The coronavirus crisis has triggered the so-called “great resignation,” with workers ditching and shifting their jobs in record numbers. But as the war for top talent rages on, spare a thought for the recruiters, and human resources professionals tasked with attracting and retaining the best in the business — all remotely.  

It’s been a transformative 20 months for everyone, and recruiters have had an arduous time matching employees’ newfound job expectations with the right employer, amid skills shortages.

In the U.K., recent research from HR tech firm Employment Hero revealed 77% of millennials are actively looking for fresh starts and predicts that 2.5 million executives and managers will quit within the next six months. Replacing them collectively cost businesses £34 billion ($47 billion), according to the same report.

Meanwhile, 63% of U.K. business leaders are struggling with recruitment as candidates lack specialist skills and experience, particularly in digital and tech, according to The Open University’s annual Business Barometer 2021 report, published in October. And 24% of employers said this skills shortage will be the biggest challenge facing businesses in the next five years.

“On the plus side, we are also seeing optimism around the potential for remote working to fill skills gaps and an appreciation of the role of apprenticeships to train tomorrow’s workers,” said Kitty Ussher, chief economist at the Institute of Directors, co-publishers of the study.

Dropbox’s director of international HR, Laura Ryan, also focuses on the positive changes sparked by the pandemic fallout. “A huge benefit of remote work is the ability to widen your talent pool by being able to recruit the right people regardless of their location,” she said. “The time delay of scheduling and completing our onsite interviews has reduced by 70% since running the processes virtually.” 

On the eve of the pandemic, in December 2019, customer relationship management company HubSpot was crowned Glassdoor’s Best Place to Work in the U.S. However, the organization has not lounged on its laurels. In 2020 it was one of the first businesses to overhaul its approach and go fully remote and has committed to a long-term plan to improve staff well-being. 

Benefits offered in the hope that employees stay happy, and avoid burnout, include three months working anywhere in the world HubSpot is based, unlimited vacation and financial contributions to continue education.

Becky McCullough, HubSpot’s vp of global recruiting, who lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, notes the shift to remote working has significantly diversified the talent pool and urges recruiters to dive in — particularly those in the tech space. 

“Candidate location played a huge part in the hiring process before the pandemic, with the technology industry being largely dominated by big cities globally,” she said, noting that just five urban areas accounted for 90% of all U.S. high-tech job growth between 2005 and 2017. “This not only contributed to income inequality, but it made opportunities for talent from smaller, more rural communities much harder to source.”

This insight chimes with Zoë Morris, president of Frank Recruitment Group, which operates in over 20 offices worldwide and snares talent for technology giants including Microsoft, Salesforce and Amazon Web Services. “The most prominent way that recruitment has changed is that recruiters now have to focus on a number of new priorities to match their clients with the perfect role,” she said. “This makes recruitment much trickier as there are now a lot more boxes a role needs to tick, particularly in relation to flexible working and perks being offered.”

Granted, the balance of power has swung away from the employer and towards the employee, but various studies —including from management consultancy McKinsey—indicate the highest bidder no longer triumphs, with increasingly more workers favoring purpose and aligned values over a bump in cold, hard cash.

Therefore, those in charge of businesses have a pivotal role. “Empathy and authenticity are now essential characteristics for leaders who want to create true community and a more inclusive culture — and in doing so attract and retain talent,” said Nazir Ul-Ghani, head of Workplace from Facebook in EMEA. He points to his company’s research that shows 58% of U.K. employees would consider walking away from their jobs if they felt unsupported.  

McCullough believes mobility alongside diversity, inclusion and belonging have become critical to attracting and retaining talent and enriching culture. The recruitment firms that can be adaptable and flexible will be the winners in this post-pandemic world, she believes.

“Whether it’s exploring hybrid work setups, sourcing into new talent pools, or overhauling the interview process, recruitment teams are truly challenging conventional thinking on what makes a great candidate experience and how to ensure the culture and the mission comes to life in the process,” she added.

This article was first published by Digiday as part of its Future of Work series in October 2021

Virtual onboarding: the new reality

Having to join a company virtually is likely to outlast the coronavirus pandemic as many companies shift to more permanent remote working. But this raises challenges over how to get new starters up to speed and feel part of a company

The deep trepidation felt by Jeevan Singh when she was appointed finance officer of influencer marketing platform Fanbytes in September is relatable for those who have endured a remote onboarding process in the past year, especially workers at the start of their career.

“Starting a new job in lockdown was terrifying,” says the 23 year old, who in 2019 graduated from Royal Holloway, University of London. “I thought I’d feel like an outsider and lack the essential team-working environment. Above all, I was worried that I’d miss out on training and be left to figure out how to do things.”

Fanbytes’ suite of online collaboration tools and a “fantastic culture” of frequent, virtual meetings and social events soon allayed her fears, though. “For anyone looking to start a new job remotely or for businesses wanting to create a more inclusive culture, regular face-to-face calls and chats should be at the top of the agenda,” recommends Singh. “While I haven’t met any of my colleagues in person yet – and they may all turn out to be catfishing [creating a fake identity] – I nevertheless feel like I know them well.”

Charlie Johnson, founder and chief executive of BrighterBox, a London-based recruitment firm that places graduates with startups, agrees that for younger talent beginning a full-time job virtually is particularly daunting. His organisation’s research reveals that more than a third (36 per cent) of respondents feel less confident about starting a role remotely, although 44 per cent say it would make no difference.

“Ultimately, what new starters are looking for in 2021 is plenty of contact time: one to ones with their direct managers as well as the wider team and virtual socials to get to know teammates on a more personal and less formal level,” says Johnson.

Managing a remote team by example

What about remote onboarding as a new manager? Having amassed 16 years’ experience working in financial services, Cedrick Parize was perhaps not as terrified as Singh when, last March, he joined MUFG as Europe, Middle East and Africa head of internal audit for the bank’s global markets. However, 12 months after he took up his position, Parize is yet to meet any of the eight-strong team, two of whom he hired, in the flesh.

“Initially, with it being the start of the first lockdown, it was a challenge to get a feel for the team,” he says. “So much human communication is performed through body language and experiencing a person’s energy.”

From the outset at MUFG, Parize was open minded and flexible, even agreeing to reschedule meetings so they didn’t clash with Joe Wicks’ workout sessions, and keen to display his human side. 

Ultimately, what new starters are looking for in 2021 is plenty of contact time.

“I encouraged video calls and switched my camera on, no matter how bad my outfit was,” he says. “There was no pressure for others to do the same, but I was happy to see that through leading by example, and slowly building up relationships, my team began to feel more comfortable, turning on their cameras. This change helped enormously to gain a sense of each individual.”

Clearly, the coronavirus crisis has transformed hiring practices and talent management. While organisations are struggling to keep pace with the change necessitated by government-enforced remote working, the direction of travel is evident. “Virtual recruitment and onboarding are undoubtedly here to stay,” says Jon Addison, vice president at professional social network LinkedIn. 

Indeed, 84 per cent of the 1,500 human resources and talent professionals surveyed from around the world for LinkedIn’s The Future of Recruiting report predict virtual recruiting will outlast COVID-19.

Winning the war for talent in 90 days

Addison argues that as the war for talent intensifies, organisations must sharpen their remote onboarding, career development and training capabilities. “The first few days in a job are extremely important in setting up new joiners well,” he says. “Remote onboarding can make that challenging, particularly for younger generations joining the workforce who may not know what to expect.”

The most progressive organisations will start the experience well in advance of the new hire’s first day. Addison says this is achieved by connecting them to their team, ensuring home office equipment arrives, if remote working is possible, and sending a welcome package that includes information about company culture and explaining what the coming days and weeks might entail.

As vice president of people and operations at ClassPass, the fitness and wellness network that hit a $1-billion valuation last year, and with almost 400 employees distributed across 30 countries, Hollen Spatz has had to ensure her organisation’s remote onboarding runs smoothly. 

All hires join a programme coined “the 90-day warm-up”. The onboarding process starts with “a few surprises in the mail, including some company swag” and a personalised note from the ClassPass leadership team. The programme consists of a series of sessions introducing new team members to various aspects of the organisation over a three-month period.

“Onboarding and staff retention go hand in hand,” says Spatz. “An employee’s experience in the first 90 days of their role will have a massive impact on their happiness, productivity and longevity with a company.”

To accelerate the assimilation, ClassPass has also created a series of virtual check-ins with managers so beginners are clear on their role expectations and have ample opportunity to raise questions.

Finally, Spatz acknowledges that the remote onboarding process requires continuous tweaking. “We used to send out gift cards for a welcome lunch over Zoom, but quickly realised people might not feel comfortable eating in front of new colleagues on camera,” she concedes. 

With remote onboarding and virtual training set to remain, there’s plenty for business leaders to chew over to improve the recipe for success.

Five tips to improve remote onboarding

1. Divide and conquer interview duties

Moneypenny, a global outsourced communications provider, has recruited more than 350 new staff members since March 2020, and group chief executive Joanna Swash believes the secret to a successful hire is to divide and conquer. “We have two people to carry out remote interviews,” she says. “This allows each person to ask different questions and enables them to watch body language while the other person is talking.”

2. Use technology solutions to ease the load

Alexander Nicolaus, chief people officer at Paysend, a UK-based international money transfer fintech, urges business leaders to embrace technology solutions to improve hiring and training efficiencies. “We built an onboarding intranet that acts as a self-service toolkit for new joiners,” he says. This facility relieves the pressure on the business and allows employees to access a wide range of information.

3. Build a remote culture

GitLab is a fully remote technology company that has 13,000 employees spread across 67 countries. Head of remote Darren Murph says the key to successful remote onboarding is instilling a company culture. “The three key aspects are our commitment to working handbook first, being outcomes focused and having intentional communication,” he says.

4. Buddy up new hires

Being assigned a work buddy is vital for remote hires, according to Nicole Alvino, co-founder and head of strategy at SocialChorus, a workforce communications platform. “We added ‘sidekicks’ early on in the pandemic to ensure every person would have a personal connection. The sidekick is a person who can help navigate the culture.”

5. Introduce the CEO

In many ways remote onboarding has improved efficiencies, not least when it comes to including the C-suite in the process. “It has offered an opportunity for our chief executive to join the new hire training sessions,” says Joan Burke, chief people officer at DocuSign. “Booking in time to lead a Zoom session is much easier than clearing his schedule for a face-to-face orientation session.”

This article was originally published in Raconteur’s Employee Engagement and Wellbeing report in March 2021