Saturday, October 11, 2014

Is Richard Branson's Limitless Holiday Entitlement Policy Really Such a Good Idea?

In Richard Branson's family offices, the employees are entitled to take as much holiday as they wish. Or so the headlines would have us believe.   Branson calls this a 'non-policy' and states that, “It is left to the employee alone to decide if and when he or she feels like taking a few hours a day, a week or a month off, the assumption being that they are only going to do it when they feel 100% comfortable that they and their team are up to date on every project and that their absence will not in any way damage the business – or, for that matter, their careers!”

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Impact of Minimum Wage Rise

As the National Minimum Wage rises to £6.50/hour & Ed Miliband pledges a £8 minimum wage if his party are voted in during the next election, the predictable debate about the possible impacts of these changes flares up yet again.

Miliband has made the case for raising the minimum wage by stating that one in five workers are classed as 'low paid' as they earn less than £7.71 an hour.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Flexible Working

With the introduction of the new flexible working laws on 30th June this year, it is important to consider what the implications will be for employees and businesses. The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills claims that flexible working will bring economic benefits of £475million in 10 years, a figure which sounds suspiciously arbitrary, due to increased productivity, lower staff turnover and less absenteeism. They also suggest that the improvement in employees' work/life balance would lead to better health in the long term. Clearly, the government department which introduced this scheme think it is a great idea, but is it?

A survey by Chess Media Group supports the claim that flexible working is a good idea. 85% of employees questioned stated that they felt their productivity had increased since they adopted flexible working; 77% reported feeling more satisfied with their work and 68% said they were happier. An article in Forbes magazine also points to this being a good development for employees as it states that 43% of employees would choose flexible working over a pay rise and that many have reported being very happy with just being allowed a few days a week of working at home or on reduced hours. The New Statesman magazine goes so far as to say that flexible working was a “key factor in employee recruitment and retention.” They stress the importance of the right technology to support these working arrangements and claim that even sales staff could work from home with the right software. Many of these publications have gone on to explain how this new law would be a good thing for small businesses as it would allow them to recruit and retain the best staff by offering these kinds of flexible arrangements.

As mentioned by the BBC though, there are some problems which could arise with this new law particularly for smaller businesses. They suggest that some employers could be faced with dealing with “multiple conflicting requests” and, when some of them have to be denied, they would be vulnerable to accusations of discrimination which could end up at an employment tribunal. Another concern, is that a negative atmosphere could occur when requests are refused. More day to day problems were anticipated by businesszone.co.uk who raised the point that some businesses might struggle to cover their opening times if staff are allowed to work flexible hours. They also suggested that some employees could struggle to work properly without supervision through either lack of personal motivation or initiative. Communication and team working were other areas they thought could suffer from this new regulation.

Any new regulations seem to come with its upsides and downsides but this one seems very dependent on the type of work a company do. Clearly, working from home or working flexible hours is a very good thing for many creative industries as well as a great deal of office based professions. It is not such a good idea, however, for firms that offer services to the public or do any kind of workshop based work. Common sense seems to be needed here as no one really expects a car mechanic to be able to work from home or a doctor to be able to go home when they wish. In addition, it has to be noted that the law gives employees the right to request flexible working but does not oblige the employer to give it to them.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Benefits of Soft Skills

Hiring new staff presents a whole host of challenges for a business these days. Deciding what sort of person to take on requires a great deal of thought and consideration especially when advertising for jobs that receive a large number of applications.

An article in the Huffington Post earlier this year stated that, in one part of the country, 1,700 people applied for just 8 jobs at a new branch of Costa Coffee and around 5,000 people applied for 350 jobs at a new Asda store. When sifting through this number of applications, you need to have a very clear idea of what you are looking for. Obviously, the first thing employers look at is if the candidate has the relevant skills, qualifications and experience required for the job but what other factors can employers look for to make these decisions?

Increasingly, employers are focusing on 'soft skills' when choosing perspective employees rather than looking solely at their 'hard skills'.

The term 'hard skills' refers to the practical skills required to complete a job, such as computer programming, plumbing, dentistry, etc. When people talk about 'soft skills', they mean the less obvious qualities such as interpersonal skills, attitude to work and time management.

A survey conducted by Harris Polls, on behalf of Careerbuilder, during April 2014 in the USA, asked employers if they valued 'soft skills' and which ones they valued the most. 77% of the employers they surveyed stated that they believed that 'soft skills' were as valuable as 'hard skills'. They also compiled a list of the 'soft skills' that employers value the most. These were (in this order):
  • Strong work ethic
  • Dependability 
  • Positive attitude
  • Self motivation
  • Being team oriented
  • Well organised
  • Ability to work under pressure
  • Effective communication
  • Flexibility
  • Confidence
Time Magazine published an article recently that emphasised how important these skills were to an employer and stated how important it was, when considering hiring a candidate, to get them to demonstrate that they really have them.

So, why are these skills so important?
An article by the Metropolitan New York Library Council illustrates the importance of these skills by suggesting how an employee might behave if they were lacking in them. They give examples such as, an employee who is not self-motivated would be constantly waiting for instructions and, thus, not maximising their productivity. It also suggests that someone who is not flexible might be resistant to change which could hinder their work and that someone who is not well organised may be habitually late to work and fail to complete tasks given to them within a reasonable time frame.

Therefore, it is important to consider a candidate's 'soft skills' when looking to a fill a position as it can make a big difference to the quality and quantity of their work.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Crowdfunding - Canny Investments or Risky Business?

The Financial Times tells us that the alternative finance market grew by 91% over the last 12 months and is expected to top £1.6bn this year.  So, what is crowdfunding and why has it suddenly become so popular?  More importantly, is it a good idea?

Crowdfunding is a new way to finance businesses where a large number of people can invest small amounts of money in the projects of their choice.  Online platforms are used to match potential investors to projects they might like to put their money into.  Recently, a large number of producers of alcoholic beverages have taken advantage of these schemes including micro-breweries and English wine producers.

A success story amongst the later, are Chapel Down, a wine producing company in Kent who have adverts on London Underground trains encouraging people to invest in their company.  They are now the largest winemaker in England and were tipped as a good investment by Midas Investment Management in 2013.

Julia Groves, chairwoman of the UK Crowdfunding Association, states that this type of investment is, “a real alternative for your savings” as low interest rates are making other forms of investment less attractive to savers.  There is also evidence that this form of funding is becoming popular due to the reluctance of banks to provide business loans so businesses are forced to look into other options.

While this seems like an interesting and potentially profitable venture to put your savings into, there are some definite downsides.  The biggest downside being that there is always a risk that the business you have invested in will simply not make it.  Many businesses started up through crowdfunding go bust within a few years.

Fortunately, there are higher and lower risk options for people wanting to invest through crowdfunding.  The lower risk strategy is to use debt crowdfunding where the business you have given money to are obliged to pay back the money regularly over time and paying back this debt would become a priority if the company were to go under.  A higher risk, but higher reward, strategy is to invest through equity crowdfunding.  This involves buying shares in the company and, essentially, become part of that company.  If the company were not to succeed in these circumstances then you would simply lose your money.

Although there are clearly benefits and risks involved in crowdfunding, this type of business finance and investment is part of a growing trend.  Good research is essential in deciding to invest in one of these schemes as well as full awareness of the risks involved.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Facebook to buy messaging app WhatsApp for £11.4Billion

Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook has agreed to acquire WhatsApp in order to add a secure social messaging component to their mobile application inventory. Zuckerberg went on to say that the entire WhatsApp team will be joining the group at Facebook.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

What Is Social Media Marketing and What Is It NOT?

Social media marketing is all about promoting a brand, product, website or person on social media networks. It is also about building up an online presence, an online brand, an online followers’ base & an online reputation, so that people start recognizing your brand.

This stage in the customers’ purchase journeys is called the ‘awareness stage’, when people are interested in learning the facts and features about new products, services and promotions). 

Friday, January 17, 2014

How to Promote Your Online Business to Rank High in Search Engines

If you are trying to get a new online business up and running, or you want more customers for your current online business, the best way to do that is by link building.

This is the process where you get web links for your business out to as many sites as you can.  This is not only going to get more people to see your links, but it will also get the search engines to notice you quicker.  In the end, you are killing two birds with one stone!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

UK retail sector sees fragile recovery

The UK retail sector is making a comeback with the rest of the economy.  A report from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) shows that the high street is growing faster than at any time since the beginning of the recovery last September.

Almost half of high-street retailers report that their sales have gone up since this time last year, while just over ten percent said their receipts are down.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Yahoo & Tumblr – Will it have the same success as Google did with YouTube?

In May 2013, Tumblr was bought by Yahoo for an impressive $1.1billion; but will the merge be a successful one?

Tumblr was created by one man and it was his close relationship with the development of the site that helped keep it personal and user friendly.

Will the buyout ensure that the original use and purpose of the site is maintained, or will there be big changes?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Should big companies be allowed to offer their own degrees?

Few bosses would deny that having an educated and well-trained workforce is good for business.  But some companies seem to be taking that logic into questionable territory.

By offering degree-level qualifications for training in the retail and catering sectors, companies such as McDonald’s, KFC and now Asda risk making a mockery of both education and themselves.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Bosses also reap the benefit of offering staff perks

Here’s a novel idea. If your staff are entitled to employee benefits, it might be a good idea to let them know.  Because offering employees benefits such as private health insurance – and crucially, letting your staff know they’re entitled to them – reduces staff turnover and sick leave, which ultimately saves your business time and money.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Sports Direct revolutionises staff share schemes with £100k windfall

The John Lewis model ought now to be renamed the Sports Direct model.  The budget retailer owned by Mike Ashley has revolutionised employee ownership schemes by handing its shopfloor staff close to £100,000 after the value of its shares soared.

The John Lewis mutual partnership was previously held up as a the zenith of progressive business models, where profits were shared among staff, albeit very unevenly.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Ticket booking app YPlan secures big investment

We’ve known for a while now that apps are big business. Angel investors and even venture capital firms have shown time and again that they’re willing to pump big money into fledgling mobile apps. 

The latest of these is YPlan, a last-minute ticket booking app created by a London start-up, which has just secured £8m in investments to expand to the US.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The UK's service sector recovers

The UK service sector is apparently growing so fast that firms are struggling to cope with demand.  The Markit services purchasing managers’ index says growth in the sector is at a two-year high with a score of 56.9, which exceeded the expectations of analysts.

Growth has been so fast that service sector firms are experiencing the biggest work backlogs since 2007.  But despite hiring more people, the inability to cope with demand most likely stems from a lack of confidence in the economy as a whole.