Pay Day Loans and Your Staff

An interesting article in People Management about helping staff to avoid pay day loans and manage debt problems. Some big employers have come up with effective means of doing so, but there is no reason why smaller employers cannot do the same.

There is a fine line to tread, since staff may not be prepared to admit to a problem, particularly in a firm without a separate HR department. It is, however, possible to make generally available details af debt advice services, resources on budgeting and so on. For the firm itself to provide a loan can lead to all kinds of problems.

Financial worry can reduce the standard of work. One factor that the article does not mention is the danger that anyone with pressing financial problems may be more tempted by dishonesty (obviously most will not be). Particularly with a firm that holds client money (such as solicitors) it makes sense for the firm to minimise that risk.


50 Business Challenges: No. 25 – Check Your HR Policies

During the course managing firms and as a business coach, I have come across several problems caused by defective HR policies and records. With changes already in place on PAYE and compulsory pensions being introduced getting things right becomes even more important.

It is, of course, difficult for small businesses who cannot afford (and do not require) a specialist HR department. Yet the cost of defending a tribunal claim, even successfully, or consequent reputational damage can be significant.

Apart from legal implications, there is an additional issue of management information. So often I have been told that “X” always takes time off – but there is no clear record of time taken. Equally, it is useful to know if absence across the firm is changing. If so, what is the reason, and what does it imply? Do you need to take steps to improve morale?

The challenge for this week is to set up a review of your HR policies and procedures. This may need the help of a consultant – it is not my area of expertise, but I do know one or two people who could cover it. Even if you just identify the gaps and come up with a plan to fill them, it is a good start.

Advantages of Not Getting It Right

Business coaching starts from where a business actually is, and businesses do not always get things right. This can often be the case in product development.

I was fascinated by this post about the Avro Lancaster, and how only one of three 4-engined British bombers of WW2 were actually designed as such originally. Radical changes due to circumstances and results led to an iconic and very effective aircraft.

I also thought of the humble Post-It note, made possible because 3M had developed a glue so bad that anything stuck with it could simply be peeled off. The need for another employee to reliably but temporarily mark his place in a hymn book led to a highly successful product.

So if at first you don’t succeed, keep trying, and be prepared to look for creative solutions.


50 Business Challenges: No. 24 Balls on the Line

Sometime you have to put your balls on the line” said Warren Gatland, coach of the successful British and Irish Lions team in Australia. It follows the vitriolic reaction to his dropping Brian O’Driscoll, one of the world’s great players. Gatland was accused of giving the final game away, of being biased towards his own national team, and even of destroying the ethos of having a joint Lions team.

Gatland will be very relieved that his team selection delivered an emphatic series winning victory. He has been, however, honest enough to acknowledge that “if we had selected Brian we probably still would have won the game given the way we played”.

The moral? Leaders have to be prepared to take tough decisions, whether about people, products, or even the continued existence of the firm. They have to avoid the easy choices in favour of the right ones – even when it may never be clear which choice was right. And they have to be able to withstand pressure and criticism, which can derail an entire career if things go badly.

50 Business Challenges: No. 23 The To Do List

Many of us try to organise ourselves day by means of a to do list. Yet all too often we cram it with things to do, most of which will still be on the list at the end of the day. By the time these items have appeared for a few days, enthusiasm wanes, and we become used to their not being completed.

Making a list is a good idea: for one thing, it requires a review of what needs to be done, and putting items in order of priority. As always, remember the important, not just the urgent.

How you make the list (as I have learned from bitter experience, and training) makes a difference.

Recognise how little time is actually at your discretion. Meetings, colleague and customer demands need to be factored in. Do not try to do too much – it is better to complete one thing than part do many.

Introduce a Power Hour for those important long term projects, so that you devote 20 minutes or so to each, preferably at a regular time.

Group all those short items, such a chasing phone, calls together into half an hour or so (at least those that you cannot delegate to someone else).

Limit the rest of your list to 3 or 4 items where you can actually make progress. Add new items tomorrow as appropriate.

By ensuring that your list is not overloaded, you will become much more effective.