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How to master your next phone interview

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Being interviewed for a new post is nerve-wracking, especially if the job is really the one that you have dreamed of your whole career. 

The job market is an increasingly competitive place, more so in some industries and sectors than in others. You have applied for the top executive position you have always craved and aimed for throughout your career. The letter arrive, inviting you for a preliminary interview… on the phone.  

This one phrase fills you with dread and, if you have not partaken in a phone interview before, then it can make the idea of talking to future employers, a panel of executives more daunting than ever.  

Why are phone interviews increasing in popularity?

With more candidates applying for positions, employers are presented with an interesting dilemma: spend days interviewing them all or, whittle down the massing throng to a chosen few. And it is phone-interviewfor this last reason that many employers are now beginning to use the phone interview as a process of short listing the people they want for the post.  

Not an interview to be taken lightly

Phone interviews take practice and preparation is key and to help you out here are our top tips for getting it right when it comes to phone interviews… 

Take it seriously 

Commonly, many people don’t make it past the phone interview stage simply because they treated it as an informal chat, which it is not in any shape or form. This is not how it is. An interview carried out over the phone can seem a little detached and face-less, but you still have to shine through. Just as you would at a fact-to-face interview, you need to show you are top level material. 

Research, research and more research 

If this is your dream job, then the phone interview stage is clearly important. Picking up the phone and finding you can’t answer the first question they ask is an embarrassment that you want to avoid. Research the company, research the job, find out their history, what they do and don’t do and where you think you could fit in, and what you could offer etc… 

‘Intelligent’ questions 

Really tough, even in a face-to-face interview, is the asking of questions but at higher level interviews, the questions need to be ‘intelligent’. Asking when your tea break is not quite the question they would expect from a high end candidate. From your research, you should be able to create a short list of intelligent questions but also have a firm idea of what it is you would be looking for in the answers.  

A quiet room, with no distractions 

Being able to focus 100% on the phone interview is essential and thus, you need to be prepared. Clearly, if home is not the place, then you need to be able to find an alternative venue where you can be comfortable. The phone interview can sometimes take more preparation than a face-to-face interview, so be prepared to go that extra mile.  

Make sure your phone is charged 

Might sound obvious but, if you are using your mobile, it needs to be full of battery life. If you are using the landline, make sure if it is a cordless handset that it is fully charged too… 

Stand up and smile 

You can tell or read the emotion of a person over the phone so rather than slouching in the corner of the sofa, you need to be ‘suited and booted’ as the saying goes. Body language experts suggest that to create the right impression, you also need to stand and smile as you talk. It is more difficult to read a person’s body language over the phone and so you, as the candidate will need to work a lot harder to get over your personality and character.  

Vary your voice 

In a face-to-face situation, 90% of what people read about the interviewee is from body language and so this important element is missing. Not only do you want to convey your best qualities, but you also need to sound interesting and motivated. The way to do this is with your voice, so make sure you vary your tone and depth of voice. This does not mean breaking out in to impressions of well-known people, however… 

Stop rambling! 

Just like any other kind of interview, make sure you ‘rehearse’ answers and so on, watching out for rambling on when there really is no need. In a phone interview, it can be a death knell as over the phone it can come across even worse than in a face-to-face situation.  

Allow extra time 

Phone interviews, when they go with a swing, can be a great way interview potential employees and can go on for longer than the stipulated time. So, in your schedule allow for this as you really don’t want to cut it short.  

Take notes 

In some cases, the phone interview is the shortlist process that the company uses thus, it is important that you take notes. If you are shortlisted, it could be weeks before the final interviews and you will need notes to refresh your memory.  


Good luck! 

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How office design can actually improve productivity

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 Stressed staff. Work left incomplete. Things lost. Documents disappear. General unhappiness. 

 These are not factors or situations that any employer wants to find themselves in but, the sad fact is that work can be a stressful, unyielding place where people feel uncomfortable. When you consider we spend the majority of our week in work, it seems odd that we do not allow as many comforts and benefits to our working environment.

The office is the place where the wheels of business and commerce turn. With uncomfortable employees, many people will choose to seek alternative employment; if the feedback is such that the office is no conducive to high levels of productivity, then you really need to start taking action…

Comfort and productivity are related

Comfort is not about supplying a sofa and a foot massage, there is far more to it than that but, as if often the case, people tend to be allocated working space and furniture with not much thought to its suitability and appropriateness.

So, what can an employer do and do they really make a difference to productivity?

Ergonomic design

Ergonomic design is about creating items of furniture that fits people. We are all different shapes and sizes and thus, some of the items of furniture we use in the office needs to be different. For example, for one person the desk may need to be higher than their neighbour; some people benefit from ergonomic keyboards and so on.

Ergonomically designed furniture and offices minimise physical discomfort but, they also help in minimising distractions. Customising a workspace for that person is a great way of motivating them too. Imagine having a desk is created for you?

Improving layout

Just like some areas of the home, the layout of an office can be something that happens by chance. In other words, someone just put the desk there and that was it – it stayed. Someone put the printer there, and then the coat stand arrived…

This piece meal addition of items happens in offices across the country but just because something has always been there, does not mean it is in the right place.

Objectively view what needs to be frequently used and accessed, and what doesn’t and create the layout of your office accordingly.

Mobile, adjustable furniture

The range of office furniture, and the choice of items have increased immeasurably in recent years. There are now no excuses for not partaking in adjustable, space saving items that can easily reconfigured in to something else. Many open place office, for example, to help minimise distractions and noise, have cubicle booths in which people work. There may be times that these boards and dividers will need moving; remember, nothing need be set in stone! Your office layout needs to change as your business, and employees, changes too.

Noise levels

Productivity can be seriously dented if the noise levels in an office space are too high. It creates a frantic, almost chaotic feel to a space that some may thrive in, but others will struggle to deal with.

Anything from a phone conversation from someone across the way, to the fax whirring, the printing squeaking to people singing, sighing, sneezing and coughing can all create an atmosphere that many people find stressful.

There may be some industries in which this is more common place than others but, if you are serious about productivity levels then you simply must take a moment to consider how the office environment and noise is impact of these levels.

Create habit and routine

Although it is nice to break free from the shackles of routine from time to time, when it comes to office layouts, studies have shown that for some employees, having their own space, arranged in the way they want it is a habit that actually helps productivity.

Familiarity is key to helping people not be distracted by other conversations, the phone ringing in another space or the printer chewing the paper again. Some employers worry about employees being ‘too comfortable’ assuming that this means little work is being done. But, the opposite has shown to be true.

Time for a move round?

Before you start shifting desks and wheel filing cabinets back and forth, before you attempt any move, take a moment to objectively review your space and what it is that is missing, what needs improving and what are the measures that can be taken to improve it.

Include your staff team – what distracts them? What would help them?

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7 simple staff motivation tips that really work

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 Work makes up around a third of our lived; for many people, they spend more time with colleagues than they perhaps do with their families, especially when work is busy, or a demanding project is on hand. With deadlines looming, it can be easy to forget that in this heady mix of stress and more stress, there are people – your staff – who may be left slightly worse-the-wear from this latest stress-inducing project.  

It is important that staff feel cared for and motivated by the company for which they work. When staff feel listless, rudderless and put-upon they will quite often vote with their feet and move on; what can be somewhat worse is that a member of staff, bored and disgruntled, stays to tell everyone how bored and disgruntled they are… and do so over and over again.   

The time to motivate staff is NOW and ALWAYS

Motivating staff does not have to be a complicated equation or booking a paintballing session, followed by a pub crawl. Motivation is something that needs to start in work, and the first thing you need to ascertain is what could be draining staff so that they do feel disgruntled, put-upon, bored, tired, stressed and generally lacking any serious oomph to get things done.  

And so here are 7 simple, yet startlingly effective tips for motivating staff…

#1 ‘All work, no play makes jack a dull boy’…

…or so the saying goes however, falling back on the almost obligatory paint balling sessions, followed by ‘the pub’ is not the play of which we speak. Having an office night out every now and then is no bad thing, but you will find that all people want to socialise in this way.

What we are advocating here is far simpler, and yet overlooked. When work is busy, breaks and lunches are often not taken or halved. Eating at the desk is not something that should happen on a regular or daily basis.

One great way of motivating staff is ensuring that everyone has the break to which they are entitled to. Simply by having time to drink and eat reduces stress, burn out and, in the long run, stress-related absences.

So get the kettle on and take the weight off your feet for half an hour.

#2 Work on the atmosphere

It won’t happen overnight but in busy offices and sectors of work, it can be difficult to ask for help. In some cases, this is because people cannot make their voices heard or feel they cannot ask. In other cases, it is because they don’t realise they are struggling and need help.

A key motivating factor is when people feel they are important and cared about. A supervision process whereby people have regular, uninterrupted time with a senior figure within the organisation to discuss everything from workload to health & safety concerns.

Being listened to and concerns acted upon, without any backlash is key in creating an atmosphere on which people thrive and are motivated.

#3 Constructive criticism

There is a school of thought no criticism is constructive. Criticism, unlike a critique, is essentially negative; a person is being told that their way is not correct or wanted etc. and thus, by its very nature, to criticise someone is tough and receiving criticism is just as hard to swallow.

However, we don’t live in a perfect bubble; things go wrong, people go wrong and they need to be corrected. There is also another strand to constructive criticism and this is linked to motivation. In order for us to grow as people and employees, we need to know where and how we can improve.

Motivation is linked to performance too; feeding back to staff how well they are doing, as well as being trained or led in the right direction is just as important.

#4 Appreciation

Motivation – or lack of especially – is linked to appreciation. From a nod of thanks at the end of the day, to a wholehearted clap-a-thon when the deadline has been met, the project delivered and the client happy. Everyone needs to feel that what they do, regardless of how small, is appreciated.

Some firms operate an employee recognition scheme, but there can be downfalls and dips with this. Start by saying thank you and then look at a staff raffle every now and then… don’t hide being gadgets and giveaways as many people see these as false, and paying lip service rather than being genuine.

#5 Recognise low morale… and act!

Recognising when someone is ‘struggling’, or not able to ‘cope’ or may have other, far more pressing personal issues that work is only one half of the equation. Acting to help them is the second part.

Dealing with an employee who is de-motivated is a situation that requires tact and empathy. You need them at full speed, operating to the best of their ability with a high level of productivity; you are not going to get this is motivation is lacking. Find out why and act!

Motivating your workforce is not something that be done on a whim or paid scant attention to. Look at your work colleagues now – are they motivated?

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5 Productivity hacks to boost your performance

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 The ‘Time Management Chef’ Tor Refsland once said that the difference between successful and people and those that aren’t, is the way they spend their time. 

This prophetic saying is something that many people can relate to; from those who are running their own business – whether a sole trader or a small to medium enterprise – to those employed in fast paced industries and jobs.  

There is one enemy we all have when it comes to getting things done – procrastination, the art and skill of putting off important tasks to focus on the smaller, inconsequential things. The ‘rather do the hovering’, than make a start on that all-important report even though it needs completing by 9am tomorrow and it is now 4pm the night before.  

You know it will take at least 6 hours but until the panic button is pushed, there is nothing to be done.  

And yet, when you are sat at the laptop whilst the rest of the family sleeps, you curse yourself over and over again about your once-again lapsidaisical approach to getting things done.  

For many of us, this situation is something that happens again and again… and again. Each time we promise ourselves that we will never let it happen again, but somehow it does. You listen with envy as colleagues entertain the office with stories of their weekend jaunts and social events, but you wonder how on earth they found the time… 

If this sounds like you, then you really need to take note of these 5 productivity hacks to boost your performance and productivity… 

Tip 1 – Long term goal setting 

Living and working in the here and now is just great but, it is a blinkered approach. If you wonder how your colleague partied all weekend and did not a jot of work, the likelihood is they planned it.  

Work life balance is something we all strive for, and yet some people seem to fail miserably, burnt out before they are 30 and yet others go on to enjoy the fruits of their labour for years and years.  

Ask these people how they did it and they will undoubtedly reply they set long term goals, rather than opting for the here and now approach. Clarify where you are going and what it is you want to achieve.  

Tip 2 – Planning 

There is a saying that every minute you take to plan something, save you 10 minutes performing the task.  

Some people are not great planners; it does take skill and forethought, as well as a systematic approach. To be super productive tomorrow, think about what it is you need to do and how you will do this and when, the evening before. 

Some of the workers with the greatest productivity rates will spend the last few minutes of their day planning their work for tomorrow so that they sit down at their desk ‘hot’, rather than stone cold. 

Want results, fast? Plan the week in advance and review your day every evening, altering the plan for the next day accordingly.  

Tip 3 – 80/20 rule 

There are 24 hours in a day and not a moment more. There is a principle known as the Pareto Principle that says for everything on your ‘to so list’, 20% will account for 80% of how your time will be spent. 

So, with 10 things on your lists, 2 of them will take up the majority of your time. By identifying the bigger, more time consuming items on your list you will be able to prioritise what needs doing and when.  

Key in upping your productivity is ensuring that you identify key tasks… and prioritise them.  

Tip 4 – Focus 

Train yourself to focus on one thing, for 2 minutes because someone in the dim and distant past decreed that anyone who could do so, would accomplish anything they could lay their mind too, although focusing on Facebook for 20 minutes may not have been something they included in this equation.  

Having self-discipline to focus and plough on is something that is common to people who achieve things and have a high rate of productivity.  

Tip 5 – identify when you are most productive 

For those in a 9 to 5 career, you may find this a rather dud tip but, if you can work flexibly then more is the better for we all work better at different times during the day. Some are night owls, but other work best first thing in the morning. Identifying when you can focus and exert self-discipline is key in getting stuff done.  

Which of these tips will you try?

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Why communication skills are essential when hiring staff

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 Hiring staff takes a lot of time and energy, as well as putting pressure on budgets. It can also be a long process and this can lead to fatigue as well as frustration. 

 This emotional state can lead to a point where the decision made is subjective – based on emotion – rather than objective; in other words, all the aims and objectives that you started the recruitment process with are thrown by the wayside. What this ultimately can mean is that you do not get the person you need and want.

It is a huge investment of time for the candidate too - from the moment they start searching online job vacancy sites to the time spent writing letters, completing application forms and turning up for interviews, etc. Getting it wrong can hurt you both.

There can be one key element missing from the staff-hiring process – the art and skill of communication. Do you create an interviewing and hiring process that really communicates with people, or are you too busy trying to get through a busy schedule?


Communication is about people listening rather than someone trying to make themselves heard above everything else you have planned in the busy hiring process.

When people communicate, they are often saying much more than just the words that fall from their mouth; they can be saying a whole lot more. And this is where verbal and non-verbal communication come into play…

Non-verbal – what to look for…

The initial meeting – this is essentially the first impression that someone makes and it is essential that you listen to your gut reaction. As an interviewee, you want to give the impression of being confident, professional and in control. A firm handshake, a smiling face and eyes and being comfortable could give you the advantage over and above other candidates.

Physical care and clothing – although there is a saying, ‘never judge a book by its cover’, there are times when our outward appearance gives off important signals. Looking smart is important, as is making sure your clothing is appropriate for the job in question.

Confidence – our body language betrays so much about how we feel about something, thus it is important that you stride into the interview brimming with confidence! Don’t go too far, or it could be misconstrued as ‘cockiness’ but be sure to walk tall, make eye contact and look alert.

Personal space – not everyone has a natural sense of personal space. Standing too close to other people can make them feel uncomfortable. In this sense, standing within the one-metre circle around someone you don’t know is encroaching too much on their space. But watch your distance too; anything over three metres can make you appear remote or aloof.

Balance – everything is a balancing act, especially when it comes to your body language. In terms of communication at an interview, you need to be aware of what your body language could be saying about you. Slouching and looking bored are two dead giveaways that you are not really all that bothered. But don’t try too hard and go over the top either.

Verbal communication – what you are saying and how you are saying it

The hiring process is about a company or business finding the right person to not only fill the vacancy, but to fit into their current team too. You want and need to choose wisely; non-verbal communication and the body language that in many cases betrays inner emotions are only one half of the equation; the other half is the verbal communication that the interviewing panel will engage in with the candidates. But what are you looking for?

The voice – you are not judging the quality of voice (this isn’t The X Factor!) but rather listening to how the person is speaking. Again, our voice can betray a lot about our inner emotion, some of which can be important in some sectors and industries. A variation in the voice often makes the speaker more interesting, as well as clearer in how they express themselves. Lots of ‘ums’ and ‘ahhs’ may suggest that the person is disorganised in thought and not confident.

Positivity – just as body language can ooze positivity, so too will the verbal communication from prospective candidates. Pinpointing solutions, not just problems is a really important quality to listen out for.

Balance – just as in non-verbal communication, you are looking for a candidate that can balance their responses; not just gushing and ‘interview speak’, but honesty and integrity too.

Questions – always give candidates the chance to ask questions. Some interviewers offer ‘hooks’ at various points throughout the day in order to see if candidates pick up on them and ask questions. In many cases, candidates may not have questions and this is good too, but always give them the opportunity to ask.

The end – the ending of an interview can be just as important as the beginning. Look for how the candidate finishes the interview; do they thank you and shake hands? Or is it more of a ‘thank goodness that is over’?

Communication is important when hiring staff; what is a candidate really telling you?

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Top tips for getting new starters through probation

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‘Hitting the ground running’ may not always be the best approach…

Probation is an important time for both you as a company and for the new employee. It is a time in which new employees not only ‘settle in’ but really find their feet too. Different companies have different expectations of this probationary period, along with the length of probation – some businesses opt for three months, some for six months and some go for even longer periods.

However, it should be a positive period of time between the company and the employee. But as studies have shown, many new starters, having found their dream job online, for example, are having their probation period extended or employment terminated, with poor performance often being cited as the main reason.

Why is this happening and what are the best ways of getting new starters through the probationary period?

There are, of course, some employees who simply don’t make the grade and come up to scratch. However, there are many more excellent employees being ‘let go’ because the probationary arrangements are poor and actually let the new starter down rather than support them in their new job.

Tip 1: Motivate, not manage 

Invariably, a probationary period will involve tracking the new employee and this in itself can actually be a disaster waiting to happen. An administrative nightmare, full of paperwork and tick boxes, it is a process that actually demotivates rather motivates people. This comes from the fact that many businesses see the probationary period as a window of opportunity for ‘getting rid’ of people who they determine as not being suitable. BUT what this really indicates is a poor interviewing process. Probation is not about a get-out clause.

Probation should be about engaging with the employee on a regular basis; this should be more of a mentoring process, with paperwork and recording procedures only coming into play if there are genuine and serious concerns about the future performance of an employee.

Tip 2: Conversation 

A daily conversation is not difficult but conversations between a new employee and their mentor or line manager are not always a daily occurrence. During a probationary period, as well as at other times, making sure that managers connect with employees and have a daily conversation is important. Without this conversation, a line manger cannot be expected to make a fair and reasonable appraisal of a new starter’s probationary performance.

Regular informal chats are never to be underestimated.

Tip 3: Culture informs performance 

There is one factor that has a major impact and influence on how new starters see the company, as well as modelling their performance to match that of the company – and that is the behaviour of the immediate line manager, responsible for supervising the new employee.

In fact, this is such a major influence that in a recent study, the behaviour of the manager and the workplace climate were shown to shape the behaviour of the new starter by 70%. And it seems that it all comes back down to engaging the probationer on a regular basis.

This engagement is about working out what motivates the employee and what impacts positively and negatively on the person and their performance.

Different things motivate different people at different stages in their career, and this again is another variable that impacts on how people see and perform in your organisation. Just assuming that every new starter, regardless of their position, is motivated by the same thing is a sure-fire way to disaster; probationary managers also need to change their performance accordingly.

Is your probationary period failing your new starters and business?

A two- to three-month probationary period can be an excellent time for people to get to know your culture and organisation as well as their colleagues. However, if you are finding that at the end of it you are saying goodbye to more people than you are bringing in to the organisation on a permanent basis, it may be that the probationary period is not an organised time that is working as effectively as it should.

There could be one other issue, however, that is stopping the success of the probationary period in its tracks, and that is the recruitment process in the first place. It may be that in order to salvage the probationary period you need to take a step further back in the process and look at what objectives you are basing the recruitment process on.

How long should a probation period be?

This depends very much on how long you feel a new employee needs to become acquainted with the organisation and understand the basics of the job. But does your wider recruitment process need fixing?

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The best and worst cities in the UK to find a job

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 Norman Tebbit’s advice in the 1980s to ‘get on your bike’ and look for work is often misquoted. It is a phrase often used when discussing the state of the nation’s employment. But as the full quote shows, he was talking about his father who ‘got on his bike to look for work. And carried on looking until he found it’. 


Although glorified and lambasted at the same time, it seems that today, in the 21st century, this advice may still be pertinent. Finding work is difficult in some places but in other cities, depending on the type of work you are looking for, it can be an easier prospect. If you are able to move or be mobile and/or flexible when looking for work, agencies and job listing websites can be a great place to start your quest for a new position.

What do the statistics say?

After studying various jobs and applications per position, a survey has created a list of the top 10 cities for finding work and a list of 10 cities where competition for each job advertised is fiercest. It makes for interesting reading.

The top spot for the most difficult place to secure employment goes to Hull. It is just one of the cities based in the north of the country where getting a job is more difficult than elsewhere. An average of 51 people apply for each vacancy.

Sunderland comes in second with 42 people, on average, applying for each vacancy. The Wirral follows on 38 people per advertised post, followed by Wolverhampton and Bradford in the middle of the top 10 cities with the most people applying per vacancy, with 17 and 16 applicants, respectively.

Of those top 10 worst cities for securing a job, Liverpool completes the list with an estimated 8 people applying per post, a similar number to Glasgow.

What do these figures mean? They mean that for each post advertised there will be more people seeking that position than in other areas of the country. This could be that more people are transient in that area – in other words, more people are seeking work because they want a change in position – or it could be that the unemployment rate is higher and there are fewer jobs up for grabs.

The best places to find a job

On the flip side, there are cities across the UK where there are far fewer people chasing each position; in some cases, some vacancies remain unfilled even after an extensive recruitment drive. But again, the results may surprise you…

The top city for finding a job, where the least number of people are chasing each vacancy, is Aberdeen.

The city furthest north in the top 10 of best and worst places to find a job, Aberdeen has 0.40 people chasing each vacancy advertised. However, considering that this would represent less than a whole person, what exactly does this figure mean?

Essentially, it means that there are more jobs than people seeking them and in Aberdeen, as with many other cities, some of these vacancies remain empty. This brings mixed fortunes to the city, with an incredibly low unemployment rate of 2% but also a lower than average monthly rent on a city-based property. With average salaries £12,000 higher than the rest of the UK, it seems a win-win situation. However, with every winner there has to be a loser and not all Aberdeen residents enjoy the fruits of its success.

The remaining nine cities in the top 10 best places to find a job are all in the South of England, which some people may find a surprise. After all, there is a lot written about astronomical rents on the tiniest of spaces in London and the South East and yet it seems to be the place where the fewest number of people chase each and every job.

Guildford is not far behind Aberdeen, with 0.69 people chasing each vacancy, followed by Cambridge, Reading and Oxford in the middle of the top 10. London came 7th, with around 2 people chasing each job vacancy and Maidstone is in 10th position, but still with only 3 people chasing each job vacancy.

Different places, different jobs

Not all sectors are popular in all places, however, and this makes interesting reading too. The survey found that London was the top city for recruiting teachers and chefs, but was not so good with call centre jobs.

Engineering and computing are the two top-hiring sectors across the whole country. But the news isn’t all rosy.

It seems that salaries have taken a little bit of a nose dive. Since the summer of 2014, salaries in Wales have dropped by 9%, by 7% in the West Midlands and by 6% in East England. But those working in Nottingham, Preston and Stoke-on-Trent are not only enjoying buoyant wages, but a slight increase in their salary levels too.

Is it easier to get a job?

It seems that this survey is telling us that the UK economy is relatively buoyant, with many people enjoying good career prospects… but are you in the right place?

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10 tips to avoid creating a bad company culture

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6 signs your rockstar employee is looking for a new job

 Bad company culture can bring the emotional connection and ambience at a company to an all-time low. It can seem almost impossible to restore, with so many competing emotions and politics. There are many reasons why office politics turn bad but what are office politics, and can they be avoided? 


What are office politics?

Invariably, every company or business has a ‘feeling’ about it. Some places are welcoming, positive happy places to work, whilst others seem to carry an unfortunate reputation for having a working culture that is nasty, backbiting and unpleasant.

So, what are the factors that contribute to this unpleasantness?

When people are treated differently - not as a result of the work that they do, but from their perceived popularity – in other words, people getting away with being late/getting the best jobs, etc. over and above people who are seen as talented and so on…

People feeling insecure in their job or position

People being allocated work that they are not suited to in terms of their skills and abilities

Big projects where some leading people get the glory, but those doing the background work remain anonymous; this can lead to people feeling undervalued and not appreciated

Heavy emphasis placed on hierarchy and jobs titles…

These are just some of the more toxic elements that can combine to create an atmosphere that is competitive and unpleasant. Stress levels can increase and this bad company culture can also mean a high absenteeism rate, as well as high staff turnover as people go on to seek roles with other companies. 

Top 10 tips on avoiding this negative culture…

Underpinning all of this is a lack of trust, from management to worker and vice versa. It is time to make a change and if you feel that your business is sliding in this direction, stop it now with these hints and tips: 

Open allocation – in a nutshell, this is allowing people to work on what they want, as long as it benefits the company. This can seem like a massive step but some of the most successful companies do this! Give employees parameters within which they work, for example, if there is a financial or budget implication, they need to seek clarification from line management, etc. This way people work on things that interest them and it removes some of the politics of work allocation.

Profit sharing – many companies have introduced this as a way of helping to maintain profitability but have not applied the scheme in a uniform way. Finding out that your colleague who does the same job as you gets more in the profit-sharing scheme is going to do employee morale no favours at all. Reasonableness and fairness are two important factors, as are achievement, NOT position.

Tough decisions – toxic people will bring a toxic flavour to your company but sacking them will still need to be done in line with employment law. Make it known to everyone that bullying, nastiness and general maliciousness in the workplace is not acceptable.

Take continuing professional development seriously – many people sit in the same job day after day and are happy to do so. But when a company wishes to grow and thrive, then its people must also be growing and thriving in their skills and abilities. This takes commitment and investment in people. Asking Marjorie in accounts, who has been doing the books the same way for 10 years, to change overnight to another system will simply cause chaos…and Marjorie may feel slightly swamped and criticised.

Grow slowly, hire selectively and honestly – it can be tempting, when orders are flying in and you don’t have enough time, space or hours in the day to meet it all, to simply grab the first person who walks through the door for interview. It pays to have a plan and to stick to it. Take time and think over the whole process, but act swiftly. More haste, less speed, as the saying goes.

Money, money, money – when money is tight (and when isn’t it?!), some employees can feel that they take the brunt of cutbacks, etc. with reduced hours, less pay and so on. Management, when they take responsibility, are showing the way and will often be appreciated more.

Smaller projects – lumping many projects on one person can make them feel overloaded and under strain; smaller projects make for a more manageable workload but people also feel a sense of ownership when they work on something for longer. They become closer to it and are able to focus on a set of tighter outcomes.

Encourage friendships – some companies don’t like the idea of their employees ‘fraternising’, assuming that should things turn sour the company or business will have to handle the fallout. A company that works and plays together can have a great atmosphere so why not take a trip out together? Something as simple as a trip to the cinema can be a great way to start.

Avoid ‘managerial mystique’ – if you make a decision and decide something needs changing, then tell the employees why. Don’t just throw a major curve ball in their direction and assume they will just get on with it. Some people can see the darkest rumours in the most innocuous of decisions.

A good company culture does not just happen, it needs working on. Start now!