HR Management – are your company handbooks and employment contracts up to date?

HR Management – are your company handbooks and employment contracts up to date?

Company Handbook

When was the last time you reviewed and updated your company handbook and employment contracts?

The events of the past 2 years have given rise to many factors that have affected the workplace landscape and now is a good time to incorporate any new policies and procedures that reflect the company’s stance on many of these issues into your handbooks and contracts.

Covid has affected all of us, not least in terms of mental health and well-being. We are experiencing an increase in levels of stress and anxiety both at home and in the workplace. Redundancies, furlough, risk of infection, sickness, bereavement, self-isolation, job security and significant changes in the workplace and to our job roles have impacted heavily on our well-being and mental health.

According to a report published by the Health & Safety Executive, one in four people in the UK will have a mental health problem at some point, the most common being anxiety and depression and this can sometimes be caused by work-related issues.

Employers have a legal responsibility to help their employees and take steps to reduce or remove any risks identified.

In the past, this would have been covered by the company’s policy on health and safety. However, given the increase in anxiety and stress leading to depression, mental health and employee well-being now warrant a stage of their own.

Promoting a clear policy explaining what steps, resources and support the company will provide to help their people during difficult times, will reassure employees that the company has their best interests at heart .

Other policies that may also need to be readdressed post-Covid relate to the increase in requests for hybrid and /or flexible working and working from home.

Where hybrid working is not an option, for instance in customer facing roles in the hospitality and leisure industries, companies may need to rethink their flexible working policies in order to address the increasing number of people wanting flexible working options. In this scenario, businesses could consider providing more opportunities for job-sharing, part-time hours or condensed working hours. Flexible working is an attractive benefit that is also increasingly being sought by job hunters. Taking a positive stance on flexible working options would give businesses a competitive advantage when attracting new talent.

The hybrid working model is fast becoming the norm in many businesses and you may need additional policies that support, inform and protect both parties. For instance, who can and cannot adopt a hybrid working pattern, when and why. Consider whether your business will require employees to be available during certain core hours and how often the working arrangements should be reviewed.

Since more employees are now working from home, check that your risk assessment policy covers workstation risk assessments in the home. Poor work stations can lead to an increase in RSI and musculoskeletal problems which could eventually lead to longer term health problems and lengthy and costly sickness absence.

Other policies that may need reviewing include sick leave and pay and time off for dependants, particularly in relation to Covid-enforced self-isolation following trips abroad or exposure to infection or caring for sick family members. Whilst many companies will follow government guidelines, some may wish to consider whether or not to provide enhance their polices in order to more fully support their employees.

For instance, if employees are unable to carry out their normal duties from home, what can they expect in terms of company sick leave and pay?

Also consider the company’s stance on vaccination and how it can support and protect vaccinated and unvaccinated employees as well as individuals who are considered high risk such as pregnant workers or employees with underlying health conditions.

Other topical subjects that may also need re-addressing are Diversity & Inclusion and Sustainability.

Diversity and Inclusion should be at the heart of every business agenda, not just for moral reasons but also for the benefit of the business. Now more than ever, HR professionals need to demonstrate the ability to develop D&I strategies to attract, recruit and retain a diverse workforce. Existing equal opportunity policies may need an overhaul to reflect the company’s stance on diversity and inclusion.

With the green movement in full swing, many companies are putting in place a Sustainability Policy to show how they are reducing waste and focusing on making the company greener.

Brexit has impacted on the employment of EU nationals and businesses need to be aware of the Right to Work requirements for EU workers with non-settlement status. These requirements can be covered in the employment contract and/or offer letter where appropriate.

Where changes have been made to company policies and procedures, check what impact, if any, these changes may have on the employment contract and make adjustments where necessary.

Keep ahead of any forthcoming legislative changes to ensure your contracts and handbooks remain up-to-date and relevant.

Ultimately, while you need to ensure that your contracts comply with the relevant legislation, you need to also ensure that they work for your business. Any changes to an employee’s contract must be agreed by both parties or in some circumstances with a trade union or other employee representative. Changes should be handled with caution and the correct process followed.

Always inform and consult employees or their representatives on any proposed changes and fully address any queries or concerns before implementation.


How to write and post a job description

How to write and post a job description

How to write and post a job description

As the expression goes “First impressions count” and once made, it takes a long time to change. Experts say it takes between five and fifteen seconds for someone to form a first impression about a person. So it’s hardly surprising that a badly worded job description can turn off candidates in the first sentence. Why make the effort of reading about a role that doesn’t immediately interest, engage or inspire you? Let alone go through the process of applying.

All too often, we see job descriptions that are too lengthy, wordy and use unclear language. They tell us nothing about the company, its values, or the benefits of working there. Tempting though it may be to dig up and re-post an existing job description each time the same role becomes available, candidates do not want to read tired, re-hashed text. Failure to make the role and the business sound engaging and inspiring will undoubtedly reflect negatively on the company and the job. A well-worded job description can be an effective employer branding tool, allowing you to positively promote your organisation whilst attracting candidates who have the right skills and experience to do the job. If the candidate can also relate to your organisation’s culture and values, then you’re a good way towards ensuring a successful hire.

What makes a good job description? Here are some top tips to help you write job posts that stand out from the crowd.

  1. Keep the job title accurate and realistic. Avoid using buzz words that have no real meaning, as this can confuse candidates. For example, Marketing Guru sounds cool but what does it mean? Senior Marketing Manager immediately gives an accurate idea of the role and the level of experience required.
  2. Your Employer Value Proposition (EVP) defines how you’d like to be seen and experienced by employees and candidates. It describes what your organisation stands for, requires and offers as an employer and provides a promise of what candidates can experience working for your business. Invest time in telling candidates about the company, its history, success stories, products and services and what makes it unique. Ensure that the candidate’s recruitment journey is consistent with your EVP, so they know that you are not just paying lip-service.
  3. Like the candidate’s recruitment journey, the nature, tone and content of the post should be consistent with the company’s values and describe what it’s like to work there. For instance, if transparency is a company value, but there are no salary or compensation details in the job specification, then candidates will not be sold on the authenticity of your value statements.
  4. When describing the role, avoid using buzzwords and corporate jargon. For example, does your business truly adopt an agile working methodology (a term that is normally associated with software engineering), or does it just sound impressive?
  5. Avoid wording that is difficult to quantify (e.g. good organisational skills) and specify the true requirements of the role, keeping it realistic (e.g. able to perform tasks promptly and stick to deadlines).
  6. Avoid repeating the same words and requirements. Candidates don’t need reminding and will lose interest if they’re not learning anything new about the role.
  7. Stick to the key objectives and outcomes, ideally limit them to a maximum of 10. An endless list of requirements that sound like a ‘to-do list, can be off-putting and hints at micro-management.
  8. Don’t insist on a degree unless it is necessary, as this could be discriminatory and can also prevent other qualified and skilled candidates from applying. Consult with the hiring manager to determine the minimum qualifications and skills required and what could be learnt on the job.
  9. Avoid using non-job-related criteria that could discriminate against certain candidate categories such as their background, age or gender. Using language like ‘dynamic’, ‘energetic’, ‘youthful’ can be off-putting to older candidates or to those with disabilities who possess the right skills and experience.
  10. Some job posts ask candidates to apply to indicate current salary and benefits or other equally confidential information. Requiring this information at such an early stage can be alienating and it is best to postpone these types of questions until the candidate is at the interview stage.
  11. Address candidates directly, for example ‘As the Senior Marketing Manager, you will..’ which sounds more inclusive. Avoid using he/she pronouns.
  12. Always give salary details and provide an overview of your benefits and company perks. Not only does this support your EVP but it also provides the competitive edge your company needs to attract both active and passive job seekers. Perks such as flexible/remote working options paid sabbaticals, regular employee socials and events are always worth promoting.
  13. Learning and development opportunities should also be highlighted as it shows the candidate that the company invests in its people and promotes future development.
  14. Give candidates an idea of how the role may develop over time, given the future needs of the business. A realistic career plan is always an attractive feature and can also play a part in engaging passive candidates who may be stuck in a career rut.
  15. To attract a diverse applicant pool, always include your diversity and inclusion statement. This demonstrates your company’s commitment to building an inclusive and varied workplace, welcoming people of all backgrounds.
  16. Make the application process as straightforward as possible, for instance, allow candidates the option to apply via LinkedIn to avoid any time-consuming processes.
  17. Give candidates an outline of the timescale for application and interview. Inform candidates that you will be in touch within a certain timeframe if their application has been successful as this will help to manage expectations and avoid any disappointments.
  18. Job roles are never static and are constantly evolving. Therefore, remember to review roles regularly to ensure that they remain up-to-date, relevant and realistic.
  19. Hopefully, these guidelines will help you to create job posts that are engaging, inspiring and that will attract the best candidates for your organisation.

If you would like support in recruiting your next team member please don’t hesitate to contact Designated’s Recruitment and HR team for assistance.


Conducting a virtual interview, top tips for hiring managers & candidates

Conducting a virtual interview, top tips for hiring managers & candidates

Recruitment Virtual Interview

Article originally written by Graziella Verazzo. 

Let’s be honest, you can’t beat a face to face meeting. As the hiring manager or interviewer, you have the opportunity to see your potential new team member in what could be their new working environment and you can pick up any cues on engagement and interest, through complete body language. 

It is much easier to build rapport with somebody we’re physically close to, our natural human instincts encourage us to match and pace our opponent. These responses have evolved over thousands of years of humans living and working together. It represents a huge amount of communication that doesn’t always translate well virtually.

However since the Covid-19 pandemic changed our preferred ways of working, we have seen the rise of virtual meetings. Virtual job interviews have allowed hiring managers to continue the recruitment and hiring process throughout lockdown, which is a good thing. However, with it comes a whole new set of challenges that we have had to quickly learn to adapt to.

Having a good internet connection is key to ensuring a smooth conversation. There is nothing more frustrating than struggling to hear what the other person is saying or the screen freezing in the middle of a crucial question.

Installing and testing the platform beforehand, whether its Zoom, Skype, Google Meet or Teams, is also important. Some laptops work better with different platforms, so finding the most reliable platform for your laptop or pc is advisable.

It’s also important to have a backup plan in case technology fails you, for example, exchanging mobile numbers in advance should the worst come to the worst and you need to continue the interview by phone.

Sometimes, failing technology may cause a question to be unclear or garbled. Whatever happens, don’t guess the question. Ask the interviewer and candidate to repeat the question before answering it, so that you can prepare the right response.

If there is a time lag causing the conversation to become stilted, sometimes this can be resolved when either one or both parties agree to log off and then log back on.

Working from home means revealing your surroundings to a complete stranger. If you are fortunate enough to have a home office or be in your work office, then this shouldn’t pose too many problems. However, if you need to work from a corner of your living space, then find a spot that is free from distractions and is clean and tidy whilst ensuring that you have everything you need to hand.

Ensure there is good lighting and avoid screen glares. Check your screen from different positions at different times of the day and weather conditions to ensure optimal viewing.

We cannot control external distractions interrupting the interview, such as an Amazon delivery arrival or next door’s dog barking (I once had a builder turn up unannounced to carry out some long-awaited work during an important Zoom call). Whatever happens, keep calm and keep smiling. If necessary, you may need to agree to put the meeting briefly on hold by going on mute and turning off the video, whilst you deal with the disruption. Don’t forget what you were discussing before the interruption took place so that you can smoothly transition back to the interview.


Dress code
Being at home means we can be more relaxed about our attire. However, appearances still matter and even though it can be tempting to dress in comfortable clothing, sometimes this can give the interviewer or candidate the wrong impression. Making the same effort as if you were meeting face-to-face can give you more confidence and make a more positive and lasting impression.


Body Language
Hidden messages can be picked up during a video call and, since the meeting is focused mostly from the shoulders up, the emphasis on facial expressions is much stronger. Maintaining eye contact helps build a better connection and shows them that you are keen and interested. Not forgetting to smile is also a good way to break the ice.

I interviewed one candidate who seemed extremely nervous and, at the beginning of the interview, hardly smiled at all. This made her appear stern and somewhat disengaged. However, as she settled into the interview, her features relaxed and her personality started to shine through. In my feedback, I mentioned this to her and suggested she starts her interviews with a big smile as this reflects back and helps break the ice.

Interview preparation
For candidates – as with any interview, it is important to prepare yourself for any questions. Familiarise yourself with the job spec in advance, comparing your skills and experience to the requirements of the role. Prepare examples of where you have demonstrated some of the key competencies required in your previous jobs, so you can be specific about how your background and experience is a good match for the role. Research the latest news and trends relating to your professional sector and research the company, its values and mission. Think about why you want to work for them and what value you can bring to the role and to the business.

Prepare some questions that you can ask at the end of the interview if they haven’t already been addressed during the course of the meeting, as this shows your interest in the position.

For interviewers: In the same way that candidates are expected to prepare for an interview, hiring managers and interviewers should do the same. Things like preparing your interview questions in advance, basing some of them on the candidates own skills and experience will allow you to evaluate them properly. By knowing your candidate’s resume, you can save time during the interview process by having them go over the same details.

Remember, interviewers and candidates, are evaluating each other during interviews. On their part, candidates will try to determine whether the job can fulfil their aspirations and whether the company is a good place for them to work.

Make sure you know how to promote your organisation and be ready to answer questions on things like company culture, hierarchical structures as well as new products and developments that are on the horizon. (As long as they are not confidential of course!)

To recap

  • Check that your connection is strong and reliable.
  • Test the platform by doing a mock interview with a friend or two so that you are comfortable using the platform and all of its tools (for example, screen share if you are required to give a presentation or demo).
  • Log on at least 5-8 minutes before the scheduled interview time so you are up and running in good time and can address any last-minute connection hitches well in advance of the meeting.
  • Make sure you have a backup plan in case the connection fails for whatever reason. This will allow you to be more relaxed and confident in the knowledge that you’ve got things covered in case of an emergency.
  • Create a relaxed, clean and uncluttered background, free from distractions and with good lighting.
  • Look presentable, as though you were in the same room together, meeting face to face.
  • Check your body language, smile and hold eye contact.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask the interviewer or candidate to repeat anything that is unclear.
  • Prepare yourself for the interview questions, do your research, understand the business and its requirements.


And finally…

The more remote interviews you participate in, the more confident you will become. Testing different platforms will give you an idea of what works best for you and your laptop/pc so that you can become familiar and comfortable with the different technology that’s available.

Whatever happens in the future, virtual meetings are here to stay.

Should you need any support during your recruitment process, please don’t hesitate to contact our friendly HR and Recruitment team, who will be more than happy to assist you.