The cost of living crisis and what this means for employers.

The cost of living crisis and what this means for employers.

This article was written by Jane Braithwaite and originally posted on Independent Practitioner Today. 

For the last few months, one of the top news stories each day relates to the increasing cost of living in the UK. The headline this morning is that inflation has hit the highest rate in 40 years and reached 9% in April 2022. Energy prices are increasing drastically as well as the cost of food, clothing and many other household items. As a result of the increase in inflation, the Bank of England has recently raised the base rate of interest for the first time in many years, putting more pressure on homeowners with higher mortgage payments. With the additional increase in National insurance, this is all putting a significant number of people in the UK under financial pressure.

What does this mean for us as employers?
I think it is safe to assume that most employees would like a pay rise in their current job or they will start to look for a new role with a higher salary. As employers, there is a risk that we will lose staff if we do not take action to support our current employees.

Most employees will be demanding a pay increase at least in line with inflation so that they feel they are at least standing still in terms of their financial wellbeing. But for most employers, the prospect of giving every individual within their company an inflation-based increase is simply not a possibility.

Offering every employee, a pay rise in line with inflation is not only difficult for most employers to deliver, but economists would warn us against doing so for other reasons. I am no expert when it comes to economics, but my understanding is that economists caution us against increasing salaries across the board, which will allow spending to continue at current levels, which will cause inflation to continue to rise resulting in a vicious circle. I am happy for anyone to question this of course, as many readers of the IPT will have a far deeper understanding of the issue than I can claim to have.

Research shows us that one of the most common causes of stress for individuals is their financial well-being and this is going to become a major concern for many more in the coming months and potentially years. As employers, we also appreciate that if our teams are feeling stressed in their personal lives, they are not going to be able to perform to the best of their abilities in the workplace and extreme stress can also lead to a higher absence rate from work, due to ill health.

So, what do we do to support our employees through this difficult time?

If increasing salaries in line with inflation are not possible and not advisable, then what do we do as employers? Maybe the answer is to increase salaries where possible by a margin, not in keeping with inflation, but enough to try to alleviate the situation for individuals, especially for those on lower salaries.

There may be other ways in which employers can help by thinking beyond the immediate issue of salaries.

Several schemes may be relevant to our employees including season ticket loan schemes which aim to help employees where the cost of commuting is a major budget item. Research by the company Employee Benefits confirms that this is one of the most common benefits offered by employers, with 59% of employers doing so. The season ticket loan is an interest-free loan for employees to cover the cost of travelling to and from the workplace via modes such as tram, rail, bus, etc. Some schemes can also be used to cover parking costs too. The loan repayments are paid monthly through the employee’s net pay over a set period.

For keen cyclists, the cycle-to-work scheme could be an attractive possibility. It allows employees to save 26 to 40% on their bikes and accessories. The employee has no upfront payment, and the monthly payments are taken tax efficiently from the employee’s salary by their employer.

During the Covid pandemic, when we were all advised to work from home, if possible, the government introduced tax breaks to help alleviate higher energy bills. From April 2022 this tax break has been tightened and whilst some employees can claim, for many this is no longer possible. Without a doubt, heating costs are higher for those working from home and next Winter this will become more of an issue. If the government is not going to provide support for home workers, then employers may need to step up. For companies who have introduced a working from home strategy, there will be cost benefits associated with reducing the need for office space and a proportion of this saving could be passed on to employees to help with the increasing cost of energy.

A different type of approach would be to offer an Employee Discount Scheme to help employees save money on their purchases. These schemes offer employees discounts for products and services that they are likely to buy regularly. For example, one company called PerkBox offers discounts at Sainsbury’s and M& S.

The final suggestion is to help employees manage their finances more effectively by offering access to support services and financial training. There are lots of organisations and training providers offering such support and these could prove to be very helpful to some employees. This type of approach needs to be handled with extreme care to avoid any suggestion that employees are being judged or criticised. Over the last few days, we have seen numerous politicians slated for their comments regarding individuals being unable to budget and unable to cook. Yesterday it was suggested that individuals solve the issue by taking on extra hours or an extra job. All of these comments appear tone-deaf to individuals who are working hard just to keep their heads above water!

Again, I repeat that I am no economist, but everything I hear and read suggests that the cost-of-living crisis is going to be a long-term issue and so, as employers, we must do what we can to support our employees. One obvious solution for our employees will be to move to a better-paid job and so if we do not take action our biggest issue will be a recruitment crisis, which is time-consuming and expensive. Retaining our employees by supporting them will prove to be the best option for both employer and employee.

If you have any specific questions that you would like answered in coming editions, please do get in touch

Jane Braithwaite
MD of Designated Medical

At Designated Medical we believe that with the right professional team to support you, your possibilities are endless. That is why we offer flexible, experienced support for all your private practice needs. An integrated approach allows our carefully selected team members to embed into your practice, allowing you to concentrate on delivering exceptional service and care for your patients. Our experts offer bespoke support across Accountancy, Marketing, Medical PA, HR, and Recruitment and can work to suit your requirements – tailored to your practice, as and when we are needed.

Working with neurodiversity

Working with neurodiversity

Most people are described as neurotypical. This means their brain functions according to society norms. However, 15% of the UK population (or 1 in 7 of us) are estimated to have brain function classified as neurodivergent, meaning the brain functions differently and has diverse ways of processing information, thinking, learning and behaving.

Neurodivergent traits are present from birth and develop in childhood and adolescence. But conditions can also be acquired throughout one’s life as a result of stroke, tumour or other brain-altering experiences.

Neurodiverse conditions such as dyslexia, autism, dyspraxia and ADHD, to name a few, are more commonly recognised and understood in today’s society. However, our workplace is typically set up for neurotypical ways of thinking and doing, so neurodivergent employees often spend a lot of time trying to adjust their work environment to suit their needs. This can hinder their contribution and undermine their confidence as well as lose the business valuable productivity.

Data suggests that neurodivergent employees can increase the productivity of a company by nearly as much as 50%*, resulting in increased profits and customer satisfaction. Innovation increases and problems are solved quickly and more effectively.

By understanding the strengths of a neurodivergent workforce and accommodating their needs, companies can strengthen their workforce with out-of-the-box thinking, creative solutions, and more.

Here are some examples of how neurodivergent individuals can contribute to productivity and creativity.

Dyslexics are more likely to think in images and are skilled in visual processing so they can consider objects from numerous angles. They have the ability to see the big picture making it easier for them to spot patterns and data trends. Their ability to think outside the box allows them to excel at problem-solving as they can discover connections that others may miss. They can also be original thinkers and inventors, bringing together information and resources from different disciplines.

People with autism have the ability to focus intensely on a given task, especially if they have a special interest in the subject, demonstrating superb attention to detail. They excel in a structured environment and their love of routine means that they are extremely reliable and punctual. Their ability to approach problems differently and their logical, straightforward thinking can help improve processes and increase productivity.

So how can employers best accommodate neurodiversity in the workplace and enable neurodivergents to excel and perform to the best of their ability?

Provide the right tools for staff to do their job. Understand the needs of your employees, consider the range of support available and match them according to their needs. Ask what they reasonably feel they need to help them work more efficiently.

For example, noise-cancelling headphones for employees with autism or ADHD, to avoid distracting or confusing noises.

Assistive technology features such as screen filters can help employees who are sensitive to the intensity or frequency of light.

Text to speech tools can help dyslexics process information more effectively through audio.

Time-management software containing calendars, planners and alerts can help people with autism or ADHD to plan daily activities, manage their time more effectively, and support any memory challenges.

Instant messaging such as Google Hangouts may be a more motivating tool for communicating with colleagues.

Mind mapping software facilitates the understanding of concepts by breaking them down into their component parts. It enables the visual development and organisation of ideas and information making it easier to see how information fits together. This tool can help employees with dyslexia to more readily understand concepts and scenarios and contribute valuable ideas and suggestions.

The leadership team play a key role in championing and promoting diversity in the workplace by supporting an inclusive working environment and educating their teams. Win their support by preparing and presenting a clear business case, providing a clear statement of the business requirements and potential solution, the consequences resulting from specific actions and metrics for the proposed solution.

As well as support from the top, educate and train all staff on neurodiversity awareness. Accredited training can help line managers to spot any potential barriers to diverse ways of working, identify employees that may be experiencing challenges and provide neurotypical employees with the knowledge and confidence to offer support where necessary.

Educating employees about neurodiversity can also help to remove any preconceptions and encourage teams to adapt so that the specialist talents of neurodivergent employees can flourish.

Appoint DI&E Champions at all levels across the organisation. Champions are the visible role models for inclusion and take action to ensure that objectives are achieved. Their passion and knowledge on the strengths and benefits of neurodiversity can drive change and influence – sometimes helping with business cases by reporting successes and giving feedback on a regular basis. Provide them with the necessary training and support to equip them with the skills required to achieve an inclusive culture

Finally, create a more inclusive working environment with a few simple changes that can make the biggest impact for neurodivergent employees.

For example, provide flexible working hours that allow them to arrive earlier and leave earlier, avoiding large groups of people and making travelling and/or parking less stressful. An early start can also mean they benefit from quiet time to focus on tasks without the usual daily office distractions.

Working from home allows them to work in their own quiet and familiar space. This can be beneficial when completing tasks that could cause anxiety in a busy workplace, for example, preparing for and practicing delivering a presentation.

Provide ‘thinking spaces’ for quiet contemplation. Noise and distractions can be counterproductive for neurotypical employees at the best of times, and this can be significantly worse for neurodivergent individuals. Quiet areas provide a sanctuary from the busy open plan office, enabling them to concentrate and focus on getting the job done.

Desk location should also be considered. Some individuals may prefer to be located in a corner – away from visual and audio distractions.

Ultimately, what underpins the success of all these measures is a workplace culture that considers individual needs and has the capacity to meet them.

*Siemens

 

 

 

How to hang onto your employees

How to hang onto your employees

In this article, our Managing Director Jane Braithwaite turns troubleshooter to answer independent practitioners’ frequently asked questions on business matters. Today she is answering a question on employee retention. This article was originally written for Independent Practitioners Today. 

This month: ‘How do I improve staff retention and ensure my team is stable? Recently, I have lost two members of staff and it will take me a long time to recruit and train new team members.

Losing a member of staff is always painful and has a significant impact on team performance and the morale of the remaining team members. When an individual chooses to leave their role, it is natural for their colleagues to feel unsettled and to question their own position within the organisation.

They are also likely to be asked to pick up extra work while a replacement is found and then take responsibility for training and mentoring the new recruit. The whole episode puts immense pressure on the entire team and can have a damaging effect on service delivery. When the Covid pandemic first hit us, many of us suspected that one of the negative outcomes would be high unemployment. But we were wrong and the opposite appears to be true. The majority of jobs survived the end of the Government furlough scheme and the fear of a huge spike in unemployment has not materialised.

Record number of vacancies
Vacancies are now at a record high, with some newspapers reporting 1.2m vacancies and a shortage of skilled workers, which is having a drastic impact in many industry sectors, including the healthcare and care sectors. One recruitment specialist has reported ‘fierce competition for talent’ and there are reports of graduate lawyers being offered starting salaries of £150,000 and signing-on bonuses by employers desperate to compete in this shortage market. In general, though, average pay rises are not keeping up with the increase in the cost of living, and while wages are rising, they are not rising as fast as prices. This will lead to more people searching for a new role purely for better remuneration. Currently, it is so much harder to recruit due to a shortage of available candidates and so replacing staff is much harder and more time-consuming. Retention of key staff is vital to protect our organisations in the current climate.

How do we ensure we retain our employees?
Most managers assume that salary is the major motivator for their employees. While salary is important, especially with the rising cost of living, for many people there are other more significant factors. Many employees are more highly motivated by other factors such as flexibility, culture, career development opportunities, geographical location and their relationship with their direct manager.The pandemic has led to many people thinking about what they want from their working lives with a new perspective. They have been reminded that life is short, and they want to make the most of their time, both at work and in their social lives. Many are burnt out by the pandemic and desperately in need of a break to regroup and recover. Most have taken fewer holidays over the last couple of years and this has had a cumulative effect on exhaustion. The well-being of employees should be a major concern for all employers. The recruitment firm Randstad UK says that, in a typical year, 11% of workers would move roles, but its recent research in a survey of 6,000 workers found that 69% of those surveyed were feeling confident about moving to a new role in the next six months.

The Great Resignation
This trend is often referred to by the press as ‘The Great Resignation’ and is going to be hard for industries like healthcare, where the prediction is that some employees are looking to leave the sector completely, resulting in a reduced pool of available workers. If you have had resignations within your organisation, one valuable way to learn why your employees are unhappy is to hold exit interviews with employees before they leave. An exit interview should be hosted by an individual who is not directly working with the emp­loyee so that the meeting can be credibly viewed as confidential to encourage honesty and transparency. The interview offers an opportunity for the employee to express their reasons for leaving and to suggest ways in which the organisation can improve to retain valuable workers in the future. A similar approach should also be adopted with all employees to understand what motivates them most about their work, what they are happy about currently and where your organisation is able to improve. Asking questions like what additional support would benefit them will give you valuable insight into options to improve. An HR expert will wisely advise you to create the Employment Value Proposition (EVP) for your organisation, to help you with the retention of employees and the recruitment of new team members.

Employees’ perspective
As business owners, we spend much time thinking about patients and clients and how we want them to perceive our organisation, but, to create an EVP, we need to think about our organisation through the eyes of our employees. An EVP states what employees receive in return for the talent, enthusiasm, loyalty and contribution they deliver to our organisations. Your EVP will give you a competitive advantage in retaining your employees and attracting the best employees to join your organisation. This is especially relevant to organisations that do not have the budget to compete with the remuneration offered by larger competitors. You can promote other unique qualities that differentiate your business from your competitors, thus attracting the right talent.

Provide incentives
An EVP should provide incentives that reward hard work and create a supportive, inclusive working environment. Start by identifying all the benefits of working at your company and the unique strengths of the organisation versus its competitors in terms of remuneration, working environment, career progression, learning and development and culture. This could be done as a team exercise at a workshop-style meeting or through the use of a simple questionnaire sent to all employees. Covid has changed the face of the working environment and more companies are adopting a hybrid working solution. Where this is not possible – for example, in many healthcare settings – businesses are providing more flexible working solutions such as job sharing and condensed hours to attract target audiences who value flexibility and a healthier work-life balance. Opportunities for career progression are also an attractive proposition for high potential individuals who are looking for challenge and growth. Many employers like to showcase success stories of people who have risen through the ranks and who have been encouraged and supported throughout their career journey from entry-level positions to senior-level roles.

Company policies
Examining the company’s policies on training, performance development and promotions will give clarity on the company’s attitude towards career progression and growth and how the company supports this by providing opportunities for learning and development and rewarding good performance management and development practices. The culture reflects everything from human, social and even political issues. Identifying with the corporate culture can help candidates determine whether or not their values and beliefs are aligned with those of the company. If candidates share the same beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours as those identified by the company, this gives them some reassurance of a harmonious working environment which could lead to a longer-term working relationship. Other benefits can also cover aspects such as financial strength and constant growth, unique services and a strong commercial footing, and reassuring candidates in terms of security, stability and longevity. In each stage of the EVP definition process, consider how the company fares against its competitors in terms of remuneration, working environment, culture, and career progression. This will help to establish the company’s unique selling points against the competition and promote aspects that are more generous or attractive than your competitors. Creating your EVP will help you identify areas where you need to improve in your organisation and this will lead to increased emp­loyee retention. According to research from Gartner: ‘Organisations that effectively deliver on their EVP can decrease annual employee turnover by just under 70% and increase new hire commitment by nearly 30%.’

 

 

Applicant Tracking Systems – pros and cons

Applicant Tracking Systems – pros and cons

Applicant Tracking Systems – pros and cons

An applicant tracking system, or ATS, is a software application that helps manage your recruitment workflows.

It streamlines the entire recruitment cycle from posting jobs onto numerous websites to receiving, filtering and screening applications, sharing candidate details with multiple stakeholders, communicating with candidates, scheduling interviews and giving candidate feedback.

Some ATS can also integrate with other HRIS to generate new employee records, prepare employment letters and contracts, start online induction processes and add new starters to payroll, thus reducing the admin workload and ensuring that all the proper hiring steps are followed in a timely and accurate manner.

ATS have mostly been used for volume recruitment, but an increasing number of SMEs are now using them to facilitate their recruitment activities.

When all works well, an ATS can make life much easier for recruiters, saving time and reducing costs.

In recruitment, speed is of the essence, and a good ATS can help speed up the hiring process by reaching out to candidates more quickly, retaining their interest and motivation so you don’t lose out.

It can also produce a shortlist of candidates with screening tools that enable you to set out skills, education and skills requirements, allowing you to focus on candidates who meet the necessary criteria.

However, be aware that this process can also run the risk of missing out on good candidates who have a different accreditation that is equally valid but may not be recognised by the system.

Other faults may be caused by applications being rejected if the scanner is unable to fully read CVs or fails to recognise the format.

If the system malfunctions or times out when the candidate is completing their application, is incompatible with certain browsers, is difficult to access from mobile devices or is tedious to navigate, candidates may become frustrated and give up altogether.

On the plus side, interviews can be scheduled easily and more promptly, follow up emails sent in batch and reminders set, reducing the number of hours spent in labour-intensive and repetitive processes, freeing you up to focus on interviews.

If your hiring process involves multiple stakeholders, the ATS can facilitate communication and collaboration by allowing users to access candidate profiles, make notes, leave ratings or check where they’re at in the pipeline.

Crucially, an ATS allows to you to immediately contact those that have not been successful, helping you to follow best practice and promote your reputation as a good employer.

The metrics produced by the ATS can help you to measure and analyze your recruitment statistics such as time to hire, cost per hire, most successful job sites and acceptance rates. This will enable you to make continuous improvements in your search for talent.

It can act as a repository for storing all your recruitment-related information and retains candidate records for the future in the form of a talent database.

You can create a GDPR-compliant talent pool of good candidates who may have been unsuccessful first-time round, enabling you to reach out to them as soon as another suitable position becomes available.

However, be aware of your candidates’ rights in relation to their personal data and ensure that your team has the right processes in place to manage candidate requests effectively and in line with the GDPR requirements.

Under GDPR, recruiters need to respond to candidate requests, such as updating or erasing their details, within one month and be able to prove when or how they have actioned a request.

Provide candidates with your privacy notice explaining how you process personal data when collecting information. This also applies to all candidates, including those who apply indirectly via recruitment agencies or social media.

Under GDPR, candidates will have the following rights of access:

  • To obtain confirmation that their data is being processed
  • Access to their personal data
  • Access to any other information relating to their data.

Any requested information must be provided free of charge unless otherwise stipulated in the ICO guidance and within one month of the request being submitted.

If a candidate asks you to correct or update their personal data, you must do so within one month. If you have shared the personal data with other parties, you must also inform them of the update.

Candidates can also request the deletion of their data although you can refuse the request in accordance with ICO guidance.

Transparency is the key principle of the GDPR and an ATS can build an audit trail of when candidate requests have been met, providing a clear history of all communications.

Storage limitation is another core principle of the GDPR, and proper steps must be taken to ensure you don’t retain your candidates’ data for any longer than is necessary. An ATS can set up an alert system warning you when a candidate is approaching their data retention limit. Their details can either be archived (if appropriate) or completely removed from the system.

Should you ever be audited or receive a candidate complaint, you need to be able to access the associated data quickly and simply and an ATS can make this process fast, simple and reliable.

The right ATS will also provide confidence in where and how your data is hosted, ensuring you do not breach any significant data storage requirements.

If this all sounds too complicated, remember that the pros can easily outweigh the cons, and a reputable ATS will provide you with the necessary tools to manage your recruitment processes effectively, professionally and ethic

Top social media trends for your 2022 medical marketing strategy

Top social media trends for your 2022 medical marketing strategy

Top social media trends for your 2022 medical marketing strategy

Your patients are already searching, liking and sharing their favourite products, brands and services on social media—and they’re spending more time on these sites than ever before. But this activity doesn’t stop at consumer products, they are using social media in all aspects of their lives, including their health and wellbeing requirements.

Investing in social media marketing can help you grow your business thanks to its cost-effective advertising, smooth eCommerce capabilities, and ability to give your brand a way to engage with your patients with a more human touch.

If it’s not easy for your private practice patients to find you online, they can easily become frustrated and find another provider that better serves their needs. Particularly with private health, they will actively be looking for patient testimonials and experiences, if they can’t find anything, they are likely to wonder why and gravitate to providers who do publicise testimonials and feedback in an honest and authentic way.

Social media has become an essential part of the marketing mix, with more than three billion people worldwide spending over two hours a day socializing on social networks and messaging apps. Your business can tap into this pool of potential customers to increase user engagement and gain new leads—but you need to build a social media strategy that accurately reflects your business’s goals.

That’s why looking to the experts for their social media top tips and trends can be a great place to start as you begin to build your marketing and social media strategy.

Hubspot recently shared their top to trends to look out for in 2022 and beyond>

  1. TikTok will dominate the social media space.
  2. Reaching new audiences will become the number one social media goal for businesses.
  3. Companies will make more dedicated social media hires.
  4. Augmented Reality will become consumers’ preferred way to try-on products and interact with brands.
  5. Businesses in the B2B space will increase their investments in Instagram and Twitter.
  6. Influencer marketing will mature in 2022.
  7. Social advertising will become more sophisticated.
  8. Businesses will invest in more long-form and short-form content, as well as live audio chat rooms.
  9. Social selling demands will grow.
  10. Consumers will crave snackable content.

There are many social media trends reports circulating but they all seem to share the same ideas, this is interesting when many brands have written off platforms like TikTok, seeing them as a fast-growing pandemic fad or influencer marketing as low return on investment.

As marketers, it is interesting to be part of an industry that is constantly evolving, and with now people more than ever using social media to inform their purchasing decisions, it has never been more important to ensure you’re making the most of the tools and platforms available to you. When social media isn’t prioritized, organizations miss out on the

opportunity to optimize platforms and turn them into revenue generators.

If you’re looking to reach new audiences, trial new platforms, increase your paid social investments or create snackable content to share your story, then our marketing team which includes experts within the social media sphere can help guide you through the process.

January Stay Connected

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