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What SMEs can do to help employees’ flourish (ii)

  1. Flexible working

Currently the law allows anyone to ask for flexible working and some employees have a statutory right to request a flexible working pattern. For information on the statutory requirements see the Direct Gov website:

That’s the statutory right; to ask for flexible working.  It’s not a ground breaking right is it!

If you want your employees to flourish you should encourage an environment where people feel free to use their right to ask for flexible working.

Even better look at ways to allow workers to work flexibly including:

  • flexi time: for example have core hours say 10 am – 4 pm and outside of that staff work when it’s convenient for them between say 7 am – 7 pm
  • annualised hours: whereby hours are worked out over the year
  • compressed hours: where employees work full time but in fewer days
  • job sharing: sharing a job designed for one person with someone else
  • homeworking: working from home as and when convenient, or a certain number of days or hours per week
  • part time: working less than the normal hours, perhaps by working fewer days per week or fewer hours to fit in with school hours

A recent report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development entitled “Flexible Working provision and update” found that

“The vast majority of employers (96)% offer some form of flexible working. All large employers offer flexible working to some employees, as do 95% of medium sized organisations. There is also widespread provision of flexible working among small businesses (91%) and micro-sized companies (85%)….

Employers report that the provision of flexible working arrangements can have a positive impact on a number of areas of organisational performance. Nearly three quarters of employers feel that implementing flexible working practices has a positive impact on staff retention, with just 3% identifying a negative effect.  A further 73% report there is a positive impact on employee motivation, with 3% citing a negative effect. In all, 72% report that flexible working positively affects levels of employee engagement, with 4% saying there is a negative effect.”

  1. Training

Training doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming.  Every employee should have an annual training plan which could involve really simple things such as:


  • Every employee reading a set book and then getting together to discuss
  • Work shadowing; allowing employees to visit different parts of the business and gain understanding about how the whole business works
  • Utilising free courses such as those run by HMRC on tax and payroll for sole traders and SMEs
  • Online training which can be relatively cheap
  1. Coaching

Coaching is a one to one activity, usually conducted on-the-job, with the specific objective of improving the ability of a specific employee to perform a specific task.

It’s a great option in SMEs if the coach is keen to take on the role of coach and the coachee is keen to take on the role of coachee.  It’s a collaborative process and has to be conducted in an environment where both participants trust each other.

Employees can really benefit from the one on one input and coaches can improve their skills along the way too so everyone benefits.

  1. Mentoring

A mentor is someone who is more experienced than the mentee who agrees to confer wisdom on the mentee out of the goodness of their heart.  Having said that mentors usually benefit from the relationship too.

Again, it’s a great option for the SME as it’s a relatively inexpensive method of helping staff develop and of transferring knowledge across the organisation.

As with coaching, there has to be complete trust on both sides for it to really work.

To reiterate, very few of the ideas about how to help employees flourish require a significant financial investment.  Mostly it’s about time and having a strategic perspective on employees’ welfare.  Any investment of time in this area should be well rewarded with improved productivity and employee retention.

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