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Blog posts tagged staff

Four ways to guarantee fast and effective team meetings

August 19, 2014 by Guest contributor

Four ways to guarantee fast and effective team meetings{{}}Although they can sound like a waste of time, effective team meetings are essential for all new (and existing) businesses if they are to reach their potential. They can help you leverage the collective intelligence in your business, as well as move the team forward cohesively.

Ideally you should have more team meetings, not fewer. This is because effective meetings lead to:

  • Broader buy-in and consensus.
  • Better understanding of complex problems and issues.
  • Better understanding of individual contributions.
  • Greater positive social obligation.

But what should you avoid if you want to ensure effective team meetings?

  1. Lack of drama (conflict). Heated arguments and demonstrations of passion, as long as they remain constructive, can generate a deeper and broader understanding of the topic.
  2. Lack of context. The type of meeting and the organisation of the meeting must be tailored to the issues being addressed.

There are four important elements that need to be implemented if you want an effective team meeting:

1 Define the purpose

Be really clear. Are you strategising or discussing operations? What do you want to get out of this meeting?  Everything stems from the purpose.

2 Create an agenda

As the leader of the meeting, you should make your agenda sharp – and make sure you stick to it.

3 Set a time limit

Keep to the purpose and agenda. Otherwise you could spend half your day in team meetings without actually getting anything productive done.

4 Limit the number of attendees

If you want meetings that will move your business forward, the right people need to be present. This will come naturally if you move through the previous steps. Once you know the purpose and agenda for your meeting, it becomes clear who needs to be there – and who is only going to be wasting time if they attend.

Every meeting is different and will have unique requirements, so you need to be flexible with your structure. However, these elements are common to all effective and productive team meetings.

Above all, before every team meeting, ask yourself one simple question: "What do I want my team members to achieve after this meeting?" You will be amazed at the clarity that answering that one question will bring – and what a difference that will make to the meeting and its effectiveness.

Copyright © Shweta Jhajharia 2014. Shweta is a multi- award-winning business coach and founder of The London Coaching Group.

Further reading                                                             

Top tips for boosting staff morale this winter

January 14, 2014 by Guest contributor

Top tips for boosting staff morale this winter /snowman{{}}With little or no daylight outside of work, it’s perhaps easy to understand why people’s morale descends into the abyss during winter.

As some employees suffer a bout of the winter blues, small businesses can breathe a sigh of relief when they begin to realise that very little budget is needed to boost staff morale.

In fact, contrary to popular beliefs, money isn’t the best motivator. Praise and flexibility are far more influential than bonuses and pay.

Limited resources

A high proportion of small businesses will suffer a drop in staff numbers this winter, whether that’s caused by a spike in sickness-related absences or an influx of last-minute holiday requests. Combine the two, and your other employees could be facing a crippling workload.

A watertight sickness absence policy and holiday request policy offer the best preventative measures to manage the risk of a limited workforce.

It’s also crucial not to forget those who are left behind, with recognition for their achievements helping to reinforce morale.

Flexibility and communication

Adopting a flexible approach also helps to keep morale high. Take severe weather for example. Offering your employees the chance to work from home helps to reduce absences and prevent the business from grinding to a halt. In such an event, it’s crucial that you have a robust flexible working policy in place.

A dysfunctional team can have a devastating impact on productivity, which is why good communication within the workplace is vital.

Be sure to keep your employees up-to-date of any business news. However, do remember that this is a two-way street, as your employees should be able to approach you with any work-related issues.

Small gestures

A well-engaged workforce will ultimately deliver increased productivity and performance, therefore it’s crucial to recognise and meet the needs of your staff.

Remember that even the smallest gesture can make a big impact, such as enabling staff to leave early once targets have been met or even treating them to lunch.

At the end of the day, it’s up to you as the employer to motivate your workforce and prevent a dip in staff morale.

Blog supplied by Helen Pedder, head of HR for ClearSky HR.

Further reading

Posted in Employees | Tagged staff, HR | 0 comments

Why your business should hire an apprentice

May 01, 2012 by John Davis

apprentice{{}}My company BCSG recently conducted some research to understand the attitudes smaller companies have towards hiring apprentices. We thought the results might be interesting in light of the government’s appointment of entrepreneur Jason Holt to review the success of UK apprenticeship schemes.

Most businesses have never had an apprentice

I was surprised to uncover that 78% of the small business owners we surveyed have never hired apprentices to join their workforce. They don’t have any plans to start, either. When asked what was stopping them, 44% said the associated training costs were too high and 30% said the red tape was too complex.

This perhaps explains why the government has recently introduced a flurry of new measures to encourage small businesses to hire and train apprentices:

  • Jason Holt is working to improve how apprenticeships are marketed to businesses. He’s also exploring how to cut red tape to make it easier to take on and train apprentices.
  • Small companies are being offered a £1,500 incentive payment to take on their first apprentice aged 16 - 24. Around 20,000 small firms are expected to take advantage of the funding, which is being managed by the Skills Funding Agency.
  • From August 2012, small businesses taking on apprentices will be required to employ them for a minimum of 12 months in an effort to raise the bar on apprenticeship standards.

I hope these measures help to boost apprentice recruitment, because although hiring apprentices may seem an expensive and labour intensive process, these aspiring business stars can make valuable contributions to the small business market:

  • They’re enthusiastic. Apprentices are generally keen to get stuck in, prove themselves and learn as much as possible, bringing a fresh boost to the company.
  • They’re loyal. When you invest time and money training apprentices, they feel motivated, valued and grateful to join a skilled team. This increases the chance they’ll remain with the company for longer. 
  • They have new ideas. Trainees often bring fresh perspectives and innovative solutions to business challenges. This input can play a vital role in keeping a business flexible and relevant.  

Has your firm had any experience of employing apprentices? Has the red tape put you off? Leave a comment and let us know.

John Davis is managing director of Business Centric Services Group.

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Posted in Employees | Tagged training, staff, apprentice | 0 comments

It’s all about the Belly

March 30, 2010 by Emma Warren

I love my job and what I do and as a result I spend lots of my life seeing and hearing things and then being unable to stop myself relating them to being a good leader and what makes organisations work. I guess if I was a musician I’d always have songs in my head!

A few days ago we were doing a long journey in the car and we put story CDs on in the car for our young sons to listen to - and so, for the first time in ages, I heard Aesop’s Fables. Initially I wasn’t really tuned in and then I heard this one and BANG my mind was back in work mode again:

The Belly and the Members Fable - An Aesop’s Fable
One fine day it occurred to the Members of the Body that they were doing all the work and the Belly was having all the food. So they held a meeting, and after a long discussion, decided to strike work till the Belly consented to take its proper share of the work. So for a day or two, the Hands refused to take the food, the Mouth refused to receive it, and the Teeth had no work to do. But after a day or two the Members began to find that they themselves were not in a very active condition: the Hands could hardly move, and the Mouth was all parched and dry, while the Legs were unable to support the rest. So thus they found that even the Belly in its dull quiet way was doing necessary work for the Body, and that all must work together or the Body will go to pieces.

As I listened, it occurred to me that we so often feel that we are the ones who are doing all the work, whether it be at work or at home – and we forget that there are other people in the team who are doing their bit too, but in a quiet, often overlooked way.

I regularly facilitate in situations where someone is convinced that the other departments or individuals aren’t pulling their weight – and I get them to understand and/or work in each other’s departments and also encourage them to make sure their own house is in order before they start casting around to give criticism. These approaches get good results, but I think I’m going to add this fable into my toolkit as it underlines the point very succinctly and is a great model for good organisational design. I probably need to pin it on the fridge at home too!

Emma Warren, Portfolio Directors

This post originally appeared on Emma Warren's blog


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Marcela's story continues... Off to the bank

February 22, 2010 by

I had always thought that the word “entrepreneur” sounded so glamorous. The truth is that you are “it”, from key decision maker and strategist to garlic peeler. When people ask me what my position is in my company I laugh - I’m the CEO and the cleaner.

If you decide to start your own business without your finances completely sorted and you can’t afford staff, you are in for a difficult time trying to do everything. Even if you have a business plan that maps out incomings and outgoings, there is always that extra marketing opportunity that you don’t want to miss, or that packaging that you had to buy etc... spend, spend spend. I left my job early on in the planning of the business to throw myself fully into the project - maybe I should’ve been more patient and kept my salary for a bit longer.

Having said that, somebody said to me at the very beginning of my business journey that I should just go for it and borrow £100k from the bank. Thank goodness I didn’t do that. Yes, life would’ve been so much easier, I'd have a budget for machinery and packaging, maybe one or two part-time staff and a salary, but I wouldn’t have known how to spend it as well as I do now. Now, I have proved a concept, I understand which things worked or didn’t work and I know exactly what I need to do next. The only small detail missing is the cash itself.

So, this week has been about focusing on raising finances and boosting my sales. I'm looking after my key customers and revising my business plan so it reflects what I know now to allow me to get to the next stage. I’m off to the bank today and, hopefully, the bank manager will like it and believe that I can make it work. Hopefully I will be able to raise the finances and afford to pay a member of staff and the machinery I need. Feeling positive. I’m not superstitious.

You can find out more about Marcela on the new interactive business website


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