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  • Fast Track to Growth

Staff engagement crucial for growth

Ellie Hibberd, HRExpress at Stephens Scown

As your business grows you are likely to take on staff. Moving from running your business by yourself to becoming an employer can be daunting. However, successfully managing your workforce is one of the keys to productivity and growth so it’s worth getting this right from the outset. Unfortunately, it’s also a risk area, because if you get something wrong you could find yourself on the wrong side of a legal dispute or falling foul of a regulator.

The list of employment issues that businesses need to manage seems to get longer by the week. There has been a lot of focus on pay recently, with the rises in the National Minimum Wage and Living Wage adding to costs. Added to that there have been a number of significant court rulings around holiday pay and the extent to which commission and overtime need to be taken into account. Businesses have had to grapple with pensions auto-enrolment and shared parental leave, while bereavement leave for parents is likely to come into effect in 2020.

We have seen a significant rise in Employment Tribunal claims since fees were abolished in 2017. Meanwhile, the public glare on sexual harassment has only grown stronger through the #MeToo campaign, with employees more likely to speak out about unacceptable behavior at work.

Then there’s Brexit. Everybody hopes that EU workers’ rights will be preserved but it is hard to plan amid the ongoing uncertainty.

To this we can also add GDPR, which has raised the stakes for many businesses. No matter how many employees you have, you will hold data about them. It’s essential that you only hold data you actually need and that it is secure.

But managing your workforce is about much more than red tape and compliance. The most successful businesses find ways of really engaging with staff and creating a team dynamic where everyone knows the role they play in the success of the business. This can sometimes be easier when your business is still small but poses more challenges as it grows. This can range from simple measures such as having a reward and recognition programme or a suggestion scheme, to setting up employee focus groups where staff can contribute to discussions around certain issues or even an employee ownership scheme.

It’s about giving people a voice rather than your staff feeling they’re being dictated to all the time. Once this culture has been created, it’s much easier to deal with conduct or grievance issues than if there is a polarised management/employee divide. Better motivated staff are more productive too, helping the business perform more strongly.

We have found this ourselves at Stephens Scown and are proud to have been in the Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For list for four years in a row. Why don’t you start as you mean to go on and ensure that you are doing all you can to engage staff and bring them on your journey, which will ultimately reap benefits on all sides?

Ellie Hibberd is a partner and head of HRExpress at Stephens Scown. HRExpress offers commercial, practical support on HR and employment law issues that can be tailored to individual companies’ needs. For more information call 01392 210700, email employment@stephens-scown.co.uk or visit www.stephens-scown.co.uk.