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.

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.

Outplacement companies – finding the perfect match

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Outplacement companies, like any business, come in all shapes and sizes. Some specialise in certain sectors, while others are able to offer a broad service that can cater to most businesses’ needs. An established outplacement company will have built up a great deal of experience and knowledge of a wide spectrum of sectors and how to approach each one. But selecting the outplacement company that is right for your needs is one of the challenges facing HR professionals from the outset. You don’t want to find yourself wasting time and money on a Consultant and process that benefits no one, so choosing one that is a good match is absolutely crucial.

Planning ahead

Any outplacement company which is engaged to provide support for individuals within your business should be able to allow a Consultant to spend some time with them, so they can get to know each other and discuss a tailored approach.

If you find that the relationship will work, outplacement programmes have a variety of collateral benefits that are part of the discussion and coaching process. For example, if your outplacement candidate is looking at where they are currently with their career and where they would like to be, it goes without saying that they will be helped to assess their options and build and strengthen their CV and LinkedIn profile. They will also be given the opportunity to practice and hone their interview skills.  It’s also critical that the Consultant explores other avenues including self-employment, contracting, interim and perhaps Non-Executive Directorships. Strategy and review is a vital ongoing component to ensure the individual keeps on track and feels supported.

How to get on

What will become quickly apparent is how important that relationship with the Consultant is. Candidates must get on well with their Consultant on a personal level as well as a professional level to get the most out of it. As the HR professional, it’s also important that your point of contact at the outplacement company has spent time with you too, to ensure you not only know the full scope of the service, but also that your employees are engaging in the process.

At Career Evolution, we have always worked on a holistic basis, to help support clients, and ensure that our outplacement candidate not only get the right job, but also one that will suit their preferred lifestyle. Never has this been more important than in the past 15 months, with so much of our lives that have been out of our control. This uncertain period has changed many people’s expectations of work-life balance and also what they hope to fulfil in their career.

An extra mile

When asked about their experiences of the last year or so, and the positive or a negative impact that the pandemic has had, there is no ‘one’ answer to this question. The impact of the pandemic will continue to feed into candidates’ moods and also their sense of achievement and capability for some time to come. You need to choose a Consultant that has a considered, empathetic approach. Understanding and ‘reading’ people’s moods through their words and actions is an important part of guiding them on their career path. Going that extra mile is part of what we’ve always done at Career Evolution and the value of it has been magnified since March 2020. At no time has this greater care and attention, the personal touch, been more relevant and needed than during a pandemic.

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.

Home working and family life

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Even as the UK government begins to lift restrictions that affect all aspects of our lives, it seems that ‘work from home’ (WFH) is here to stay. Although the actual directive ‘work from home of you can’ is about to be revised, many firms have found that they have been able to work more efficiently during WFH. Such aspects as time saved for commuting and money saved on commuting and shopping during the working week have seen staff think differently about how they should be carrying out their jobs. They have also seen how much better their work-life balance can be, if a hybrid part-WFH, part-office-based model is adopted in the future.

But working from home is not a natural state of living for many people. For example, if you work in a house with other members of your family that may be home schooling or on school holidays, or if they are doing their own jobs from home, then it’s not always as easy to be as productive as in an office –  away from the myriad distractions and your ‘normal life’.

Positive family impacts

So how does your working at home affect your family? Often it can be in a very positive way. Some clients have mentioned to me that their working from home has made other people realise how difficult their job was, or how many meetings they had each day. As all this is taking place within four walls at home – no traveling to meetings, all calls taken at home – there’s no way of disguising the fact that if you’re busy, you’re busy. Because an office job formerly happened ‘behind closed doors’ to your family life, no amount of explaining could fully define what your working day was. Now they can see it for themselves.

Unconscious signals

Even working from home, you need to try and keep your work life and home life as completely separate entities where you can. We don’t always realise how family and partners absorb the unconscious signals and information we are putting out. I’ve found this can be especially noticeable with younger members of the family. I was thinking about this in relation to my youngest son, when he started asking me when he was about 10, “How many people have you helped to get a job today?” The fact that he even acknowledges what my job entails is interesting in itself, but also that he understands that I am helping people to find employment as part of my own day-to-day life.

I have also heard him comment: “You like your work. My friend’s parents moan a lot when they get home from work.” Again, this is very gratifying that he has taken on board what I am doing and that I am enjoying it. His comment also highlights another aspect of WFH of course – that for many people going to an office every day is actually a welcome distraction from home life and it’s not always seen as a an ideal. And that their children have noticed this too. That cut-off of leaving work every day for many is a vital part of their lives. However, I think I may have gone too far and my son has been listening to me too much when he said he’d applied to be a Junior Road Safety Officer at the age of seven – because he says it would look good on his CV…

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.

Under new management

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The new working landscape is bringing with it new challenges and working rules. Managers are having to adapt quickly to very different working conditions, both in the workplace and in the wider world at large. Some staff are still working from home, some are furloughed, some are back in the office. Teams are displaced and managers are left managing their staff across myriad platforms. With all these different ways of working, do you have the right processes in place to meet these demands and are your managers equipped to deal with the new normal?

Getting mixed messages

We are all trying to find the best way to approach this ‘new normal’. Some people are comfortable with masks and shopping, using public transport or going out for dinner, while others are taking things slowly and dipping their toes in the post-Covid water tentatively. Fearmongering in the press, which seems to be an electrocardiogram of emotions at the moment, isn’t helping. One day all is fine and freedom for all, the next day, the umpteenth new strain has emerged and the threat of lockdown looms again. How can business managers cope with this constantly changing news narrative?  We’re all back to work, we’re not. Work from home when you can, stay at home. Meet outdoors, go into the pub. These mixed messages are creating uncertainty for many people.

Plan ahead and build confidence

Every company is different. As an HR professional, you should be approaching your business with a view as to what is best for you and your staff. Keep a close eye on your employees. Monitoring their mental health is one of the most important things you should be doing, even working remotely. It’s sometimes difficult to ascertain if members of your team are struggling with working from home or are suffering anxieties about returning to the office. Not everyone wants to discuss it. And not all people working from home are doing so by choice. Some would gladly be back in the office, but the return process hasn’t been thought through and communicated, or there isn’t the capacity to safely bring everyone back in. Communicating with your team will help alleviate their fears and demonstrate that you have a long-term plan that they can have confidence in.

Out the other side

Staff need the security and guidance of good management. Some reply on it to get things done, while others can work well independently, and only need to check in from time to time. But having a roadmap out of this business crisis, a situation none of us could ever foresee and plan for, is imperative. It doesn’t look like the threat of this virus and its multiple variants is going to dispel anytime soon, so you need to look at your business model and see where improvements can be made.

The hybrid office model seems to be the way forward, with some staff in on certain days. In this way most office spaces can be mostly occupied, most of the time. Though work from home has had its critics, the world hasn’t ended. Office-based staff have been able to work from home, and all the essential services have continued to function. But the question remains that we all now need to see what the working world looks like, on the other side of this business crisis.

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

Brief encounters: Have face to face meetings had their day?

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For many years, discussions around environmental issues have highlighted a trend in modern business – the unnecessary journey. Was that meeting absolutely essential and did it have to be conducted face to face? But in the vast majority of cases, it was deemed essential, as that’s how business works and that’s how meetings work. But there’s been a massive change in emphasis in the last 12 months in where we work and how we work. With working from home and the rise of online conferencing platforms, have in-person meetings finally had their day?

Working apart

With some staff returning, albeit part-time, to the office space, it feels like things are getting back to some kind of normal. But certain work practices implemented for WFH have actually turned out to be advantageous to many people. A long commute for some has not been missed, for example. Nor the ‘getting ready for work’ routine in a morning, that involved actually getting dressed properly.

But other work formalities have changed too, such as in-person business meetings. The advent of online conferencing has enabled many people to carry on their office jobs much as normal. They have been able to have team meetings, to meet new clients and even generate new business. They have been able to see people ‘in the flesh’ (onscreen), rather than over a phone call, and they have even conducted interviews and hired personnel for new jobs.

The bigger picture

But think of the wider impact of that for a moment. These meetings can be achieved from your own home. There is no costly commute, there is no environmental impact from whatever mode of transport would have carried you to the meeting, and most of all, there’s no precious time wasted travelling to and from the meeting. Remember this can be a trip down a motorway in the UK, but just as easily be a flight to mainland Europe or in fact anywhere in the world. Of course, there’s still the same prep time needed before an online meeting and analysis of the outcomes afterwards. But if the same results can be achieved without having to do all those other things, what is the point of meeting face to face?

With purpose and outcomes

Well, there are also many people who believe in-person meetings remain an essential part of the business landscape. This is especially true if you are meeting new clients or employees. You can get a much better handle on a person’s true nature – confidence, ability, presence, personability – when you meet them in real life, than you would from through a screen or monitor. The fact is that meetings in the future need to be more purposeful. They need to have a defined agenda with an essential and necessary purpose.

What will actually happen, like the office/home working, is there will be a more flexible, hybrid model. If in-person meetings are to continue (and I’m a strong advocate for them to carry on in some form) then there needs to be a definite reason and business case for it to take place – a true justification of the impact it has on other areas of our working lives.

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