Preparing for the end of furlough

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The Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) comes to an end on 30 September 2021. This has provided a lifeline for many businesses and their employees over the last 18 months and furlough’s imminent finish will be a source of much trepidation and further uncertainty for anyone involved.

What happens now?

Businesses are now faced with the difficult process of ensuring their teams are aware of the situation and understand what happens next. While the scheme has ensured the continued employment for many people throughout the pandemic, its conclusion may mark the start of a different story.

We have had a look at the Government’s advice so far, and would like to share some of the advice provided by HMRC:

What should my business do when the scheme closes?

When furlough comes to an end, you will need to decide on one of three courses of action for employees that have not been working:

  • Bring your employees back to work on their agreed terms and conditions,
  • Agree any changes to their terms and conditions with them, or
  • Consider ending their employment.

However, it is very important to remember, that when making decisions about how and when to end furlough arrangements, equality and discrimination laws will apply in the usual way.

When is my businesses last claim for the CJRS?

The last day that your business will be able to claim for is 30th September. Final claims for September must be submitted by Thursday 14th October.

Can I claim CJRS for employees on notice periods?

No. Employers cannot claim CJRS grants for any days an employee is serving a contractual or statutory notice period, including notice of retirement, resignation or redundancy.

If you do need to make any roles redundant, you must remember that normal redundancy rules and protections apply to furloughed employees.

Restructuring and redundancy can be an extremely difficult time for both employees and employers.

At Career Evolution, we are keen to help make the transition as painless as possible for everyone. If you would like to find out how we can help, please contact us today.

Recognising success – beating imposter syndrome

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Having an external opinion in the world of business is invaluable and this is where career transition and specialist career success management can help. Over the years, I have encountered many clients who have suddenly been faced with job loss and given outplacement to support them in their transition. They have been unprepared to be in the situation and perhaps haven’t looked at themselves and their role with any real clarity for a long time – if ever.

In our initial meeting, my clients are often having a bit of a crisis of confidence. Their attitude is: “‘I’ll never get another job at this level” or at the other extreme, “How did I ever get a job at this level?” This is especially true of long-serving people, who have been in the same role or company for many years.

The full picture

We begin by looking both at the future – where they would like to see themselves – and the past. We’ll take an overview of their career, a retrospective of their achievements and use this to create a really strong CV and clear career path to embark on. By recognising their strengths and success, they can see the reasons why they held such a role and how their talents are ideally suited to what they want to achieve.

Making a transition

Another way imposter syndrome can strike is when people say “I’m just a…” or “I’m only a…” and degrade what they’ve achieved. If you are, for example, ‘only’ an accountant or copywriter, you can work in literally any sector. Transition to other sectors can be one of the most beneficial moves anyone can make in their careers. Of course, the key to unlocking such progressions is transferable skills. For example, an accountant can work within any large organisation that has a finance department, while a copywriter can provide writing on any subject they can carry out research on.  I get my clients to look at the skills that they use in their role every day and ask themselves the open question – “How many jobs does this role cover?” And then, “How many sectors can these talents be transferred to?” The answer for most roles will be dozens.

The key to success

That is the beginning of recognising that success and flair doesn’t restrict ambitions but enhances them. It’s important to remember that imposter syndrome operates only in an individual’s own mind. If you can acknowledge what you have achieved and define your best qualities, you’ll never say “I’m just a….” ever again.

Speak to our team if you are in need of our services.

New role? How to have it all!

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Imagine the scenario. You have been offered a new role – or perhaps you just want to renegotiate the terms of your current job. Many people find it difficult to broach the subject of what they really want from a job, and rarely do two parties have exactly the same concept of what is fair, acceptable or derisory. So, having broached the subject, do you know how to approach negotiating a good deal for yourself?

Clean slate

If you are new to the company and the role, it is probably easier to set out your stall from the outset. You’ll have a benchmark of your previous roles, but you will also have a blank slate when it comes to negotiating style and position. You’ll probably have had plenty of time in the last 12-to-18 months to think about work and life. If you have been working from home, you may have discovered this is something you’d like to continue. Or if you’ve missed coming into the office, this might be something you’d like to resume. These aspects need to be discussed with your employer, as part of your long-term career development and package. But you also need to know and understand how you would like to live your life.

Take a pragmatic approach

For realistic negotiations, you need to be pragmatic in your demands and expectations. Your lifestyle is important, especially from a mental health point of view. There’s no point is working for a company you loath, in a role you dislike. But your discussion with your employer should also be balanced against your business self. What do you bring to the table? What are your strengths and what makes you unique and invaluable to your company? And most of all, does your employer agree with your summation?

Presenting your business case

When you open a discussion about terms and conditions, including salary, you must be prepared to state a realistic business case. This needs to be primarily focused on business need, rather than personal preference. It might be beneficial to seek out some advice to do this, from someone such as a career Consultant, which can help you outline how you’d like to handle the situation and your attitude to it.

A fresh pair of eyes can look at your current position and identify where your strong points and positions of strength for negotiation lie. Discussing them openly with a career expert will also give you a chance to rehearse your approach – in this was there will more chance you will be successful in your bid. Being confident in what you’d like the outcome to be and having realistic expectations will make you better placed to discuss and negotiate. It will also give you a more compelling case going forward, to realise your ambitions within the company.

Speak to our team if you are in need of our services.

Your trusted colleague

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Company changes and restructuring can sometimes lead to senior executives being offered outplacement support to help them recognise what they want next out of their career. No matter how senior a person is, it’s important to remember that everyone needs someone to hold them to account. Outplacement is much more than just ensuring your CV and interview skills are up to scratch.  Outplacement specialists like Career Evolution actually take the time to match you with a Consultant that not only has the necessary skills and experience to help you, but also has the right chemistry to work with you and get the best out of you too.

Knowing me, knowing you

Our expert Consultants have many years’ experience of all kinds of outplacement support and are also able to look at things from a holistic viewpoint, tailoring the service they provide to meet your individual requirements. We can provide the ongoing support and challenge to senior people, who are going through outplacement. In fact, clients in the past have described us as their ‘trusted colleague.’ Someone that ‘gets it’ and isn’t wary of holding them to account – in a positive way of course.

The independent nature of using an outplacement Consultant not only provides a fresh perspective, but it also means you are working with someone that know about you and understands what you are trying to achieve.

An independent eye

There is a natural assumption that if you are operating successfully in a senior role, then it stands to reason that your CV and interview skills will be equally impressive. However, all too often, this really isn’t the case.  In all likelihood, if you have been in your role for some time, then your CV may be out-of-date in terms of content, layout and approach. Reorganising your CV to adequately highlight your achievements is imperative, and our Consultants can help you to create an up-to-date CV that will be attractive to prospective employers. Sharpening your interview skills is also time very well spent. Your Consultant will also ensure that you are leveraging your network – both in person and online – and will help you make the most of your LinkedIn profile too.

Managing the marketplace

If we assume that CV and interview skills are sorted, managers might still be out of touch of what the marketplace is actually looking for. Being able to identify opportunities and demonstrate how a person can fit the criteria to find their perfect job is one of the most important roles an outplacement advisor can fulfil. When it comes to periods of transition, having a Consultant that you trust is crucial to ensuring your next step is the right one.

Speak to our team if you are in need of our services.

Is working from home (WFH) working for you?

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Over the last 18 months the subject of working from home (WFH) has been discussed in detail.  Many companies are considering the future options of having a remote workforce or embracing a hybrid working model that gives people the flexibility to work remotely or in the office depending on personal and business pressures or preferences. However, this type of working does not suit everyone, and it is important to remember the needs of your workforce are as diverse as the people themselves.

Space to work

While many people have enjoyed the reduced commute, the flexibility and maybe even the novelty of WFH, others have struggled with this way of working for a myriad of reasons.  These range from the straightforward challenges of a home environment not suited to work – lack of space, too many people or too much noise – through to the more complex issues around loneliness, lack of motivation or missing the benefits of socialisation and collaboration that the office environment can offer.

Energy levels

Some extraverts have also found the potential isolation of WFH challenging.  In general terms, extroverts gain their energy from being around other people, and where this has not been possible – and not been replaced properly with virtual interaction – have missed being around colleagues and clients perhaps even more keenly than introverts, who recharge through time alone. That being said, introverts too still need social interaction.

Collaboration is key

Some roles rely on collaboration, and while the virtual platforms that have come to the fore during this period have admirably filled much of the gap being unable to meet in person has left, they don’t necessarily bridge the more informal collaboration that comes from being around people physically in the working day. Other roles, particularly some sales, business development or consultancy-type roles have had to change beyond recognition to work around social restrictions. Whereas before the pandemic, these people spent the majority of their time travelling and meeting people in person, the focus of the role has had to change to account for the restrictions in place.

Moving forward

Career Evolution has always been a very ‘in-person’ business, and I have talked previously about how the pandemic has changed the way we work and will continue to do so in the future. Our personal and professional relationships are still at the heart of everything we do, but we have discovered that we can develop these to a whole new level by combining our virtual and physical approach. However, as things reopen and some semblance of normality starts to return, we have a golden opportunity to change the landscape of the working environment for good. I think it’s vital that employees and employers use this opportunity to find the most productive way of working for them.

Speak to our team if you are in need of our services.

Screen savers: time online versus the commute

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Talking to colleagues and connections over the past few weeks about the lifting of restrictions and what that will mean to the way they ‘do’ business and meetings, and the answers have been as varied as the people I have been speaking to.

Prior to the pandemic, many of us used our cars as our occasional office, making calls and responding to emails – sometimes even working on documents and presentations – between meetings, out on the road. I haven’t met any of my clients face-to-face since March 2020 and I’m itching to do so, but the more I think about it, the more I am convinced that face-to-face meetings won’t be totally replacing online meeting in future.

Time to consider

Over the various lockdowns I have had time to think back and reflect on my career management career to date. What I find interesting is that, although I haven’t physically met any of my clients now in over 18 months, I am actually spending much more time with my corporate clients, and those individuals who had been referred to Career Evolution to support during their job search, than I would have done pre-pandemic. Not only that, but I have more time to see more people, and I have carried out job search programmes with many more clients than I ever did previously. I love it, and I have found a part of my role that I’ve been able to formalise into my own job description.

So, what’s changed?

I think that the biggest change is obviously the commuting time. While potentially previously, I could have seen more people, the big reason that I didn’t book in more meetings was that I needed to build in time to take into account the vagaries of potential traffic jams or trains running late. Ensuring that I could get to my meetings on time, meant I could book in a lot less of them, precluding this lovely part of my role.

Preventing Zoom-fatigue

Zoom-fatigue is a real thing, and I too can get ‘zoomed out’.  However, all it needs to make it work is a little bit of careful planning.  In reality, if organisations and individuals are able to plan their time, a simple 10 – 15-minute break between meetings can be really effective.  Meetings don’t have to start on the hour or half-hour, as they so often currently do.

You might think it’s one set of stresses ruling out the other, but compared to navigating off the M6 to find a quicker route when you are stuck at the back of a 10 mile tail back, looking at the clock and hoping that you make it just in time without speeding, then I for one think keeping the Zoom meeting, post-pandemic, is an easier fix!

Speak to our team if you are in need of our services.

Next steps: what the end of furlough means for HR

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After 30 September, the furlough scheme will cease. This is going to have an impact on both employers and employees, and will make them think about what their business will look like going forward. Some have argued that the scheme has artificially supported businesses that were already struggling, while others have pointed out that the economy as a whole has, and will continue, to benefit from the initiative in the long-term. Hopefully, companies can simply bring their staff back as normal and business will pick up again. But not all companies are in as good a shape financially as they were before the pandemic and bringing all their staff back might not be an option.

Unemployment spike predicted

Economists are predicting that there will be an inevitable spike in unemployment after the end of September – and HR professionals should be prepared for their companies to think long and hard about what resources are actually needed in the present economic climate. The winding-up of furlough will remove this false sense of security that is present in the economy at the moment. It’s impossible to accurately chart how the economy is doing, or indeed predict how it will recover – both post-Covid and post-furlough. And it’s also difficult to pinpoint with any accuracy the UK’s current unemployment figures or get an accurate snapshot of the jobs market. All these unknowns are creating uncertainty for economists and business managers alike.

The shape of things to come

As ‘normal’ returns and people return to work, HR professionals will need to start looking at the structures in their own organisations. The big question is: will they need to bring everybody back? There have been some significant changes to the way offices function during lockdown, with remote working being implemented for many people. HR will have to look both at the people required to carry out the work but also in relation to the office space the company has available. If you’re adopting a hybrid model of working – with flexible home and office placement – then you’re not going to need as much office space all the time.

The value of outplacement

At times like these, outplacement advice is extremely valuable, when people are already feeling vulnerable and wondering what the future holds for them post-furlough. So, talking to an experienced consultant can help allay fears and give employees focus on where their future direction may be.

With so many different predictions of the landscape of employment, it’s impossible to predict what happens next. But looking at the overview now and preparing various HR scenarios could give your company an advantage, when the inevitable happens and furlough ends.

Speak to our team if you are in need of our services.

Recovering with a smart career move

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Dr Charlie Orton started her career in clinical research in the NHS, at Liverpool Women’s Hospital, after completing her PhD.  Following an illustrious 15 years managing portfolios of paediatric research into illnesses which burden people’s lives, she had an opportunity for secondment to Liverpool Health Partners. This was to spearhead the formation of a new collaborative research service called SPARK. Launched in October 2019, LHP SPARK was set up to provide a centralised research governance and management team for all the hospitals in the Merseyside region.

The secondment broadened her horizons and Charlie realised there was the opportunity for future career progression outside of the NHS. She needed help to think creatively and work out her priorities for the next stage in her professional life.

Coaching support offered opportunity to re-evaluate

Charlie explains: “I wasn’t trained as a clinician, I had worked in a very narrow field of paediatric research for a long time. I did not want to manage NHS services, so my options for career progression within the NHS were very limited. This coupled with the realisation that the more senior my role became, the less I enjoyed it, led me to re-evaluate my future.  I was very fortunate that the Director of HR offered me fully-funded executive coaching support and I was introduced to Sue Thomas at Career Evolution.

The power of networking

“Kate Howsley, from Career Evolution became my Coach. We felt an instant connection and I benefited from one-to-one executive coaching with her, which was remarkable.  Kate helped me rebuild my self confidence, recognise my unique skills and identify the way forward.  She enabled me to have some difficult conversations and helped me turn them into positive opportunities. I also met the wider Career Evolution team through an immensely helpful LinkedIn training seminar. This showed me the importance of profiling myself properly and also the power of networking.”

One of the things that became apparent to Charlie through the sessions was the importance of having the right mind set to recognise status and promotion were not necessarily the ultimate goals. It was more imperative that the job ‘felt’ right. It also meant that when the right position came along – this time in the charity sector – Charlie was in the right place to accept it.

A new appointment

Charlie was appointed Chief Executive of UK Smart Recovery last Spring. The charity, which runs self-management and recovery training to support people overcome addiction of any type, provides its services free at the point of care. Smart Recovery has been running for 25 years. It is the prevailing alternative recovery programme in the UK, with 4500 people accessing over 500 meetings a week (www.smartrecovery.org.uk).

On her appointment, Charlie says: “I am so pleased to be working for UK Smart Recovery. As Chief Executive for a small organisation I can really make a difference to people’s lives on a daily basis. I find it hugely rewarding. The role aligns my leadership skills and knowledge with my personal values. Working with the Career Evolution team allowed me to embrace the opportunities the wider world presented and not be scared. It wasn’t just career development, the company’s support facilitated emotional and personal development too.”

Informally speaking

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Even in lockdown, job searches can still being carried out, fresh contacts made and new opportunities pursued. Often doors open in the most unusual circumstances, in the most unexpected ways. Sometimes it’s a call for an ‘informal chat’, but don’t be fooled. Go in with both eyes open. Even the most informal chat requires a degree of presentation and preparation.

Same rules apply

Over the last 12 months, many aspects of business have changed dramatically. With offices largely deserted and people working remotely, things like the daily commute have become consigned to the past for now. With that has come a degree of complacency on the part of some people, who have seen their ‘work’ and ‘home’ life blur into one.

However, for some companies this remote working has been business as usual. If operatives are working in a variety of countries already, they are used to working via Zoom and Teams (other conferencing platforms are available). People are already working for companies that are based around the globe, in different time zones, with meetings taking place at all hours of the day to accommodate all attendees. What shouldn’t be forgotten at this time, however, is a consistent level of professionalism that should be maintained, even in the most ‘informal’ business situations.

Don’t knock opportunity

Imagine that through an online networking event, or a business forum such as LinkedIn, you have had an invite for an ‘informal chat’ about potential opportunities for working together. This could be from a senior person in the company. But the chat is being conducted via Zoom, so the minimum effort on your part is required, right? There’s no getting smartened up, working out travel times to the office, arriving on time for the meeting or interview. No prep at all. All you have to do is show up at your own dining room table.

However, even if there isn’t a role currently available for you at the company, you could use this opportunity of being in front of a senior person at a company you’d like to work for, to make a good impression. Our advice to our clients at Career Evolution is that there’s no such thing as an informal chat. These are busy people, who don’t give up their time freely when they don’t have to. If they want to talk to you, it’s because they’re seeing value in you.

Keeping up appearances

This means you have to dress, act and prepare for a formal interview.  Don’t be caught unaware just for the sake of putting some smart/casual clothes on and doing some preparation. Research the company and its people. Look at how it presents itself online and in the media. Determine what they do and how you could have a positive impact at the company. Give it some thought beforehand.

That extra bit of effort on your part – visually and mentally – will combine to create the right impression of you as a potential work colleague, however informal the invitation to ‘chat’ may seem to be.

Top 10 tips for a successful interview

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You’ve been offered a job interview. Congratulations! Take a look at our top tips to make sure you really stand out from the crowd.

1. Research the company and interviewer thoroughly

Check out the website in detail, track down press releases, internet forums and social media to gain an in-depth understanding of the company’s culture and values.

2. Practise a mock interview as often as you can

This will help you prepare for likely questions and make you more relaxed as a consequence.

3. Take care with your appearance to make a great first impression

Keep it appropriate for the company you are interviewing with, and the role you are interviewing for.

4. Be punctual

Whether the interview is taking place online or in person, make sure you allow yourself plenty of extra time to ensure you are prepared. If you are actually attending a face-to-face interview, be sure of arriving around 15 minutes early. This will allow you time to relax as far as possible and also get the measure of the workplace.

5. Remember to smile and make eye contact

This is especially important if the interview is being conducted remotely. It will help to make you look confident, friendly and relaxed – even if you are far from feeling any of these!

6. Think about your body language

Walk tall, sit up straight and don’t fidget.

7. Take extra copies of your CV

And any examples of your work that are relevant or have them ready to share on screen or send by email either during or after the interview.

8. Plan the questions you want to ask in advance

Feel free to write them down beforehand for quick reference.

9. Prepare for the awkward questions

If you are asked about your weaknesses, you’re really being tested on your self-awareness.

10. Always end on a positive note

Ask what the next stage in the decision-making process is and say you’re looking forward to hearing from them.

Good luck!