We love what we do and we love you too so here is a free gift from us to you

Ahhh, Valentines Day is just round the corner. I can already picture the collective panic of couples the world over, frantically panic buying cards, cuddly toys, and romantic M&S Dine In for two meals, (Emma’s top tip – optional bottle of fizz is a 1/3 off right now) for the big day!!

Here at Meraki, because we love what we do and do it with Meraki, we are going above and beyond this year and really spreading the love for our valentine’s.

So, no padded card or Tatty Teddy from us this year – instead we are giving the gift of Meraki HR. We are offering a half-day of our HR and people know how to a worthwhile cause and that could be you……

So just tell us why your business needs our Meraki love this February. Simples! We will pick the company we feel has best shown it needs our Meraki touch and we will present ourselves on your doorstep for half a day, free – yes, absolutely FREE. No strings. Just a gift of love from us to you.

Drop your pitch as a post onto my LinkedIn page here along with the hashtags #Valentines, #Meraki, or if you prefer, email me directly, emma@merakihr.com by Friday 22nd February and we will cogitate and announce our winner on 1st March. Good luck, lovers!

Now THAT’s love


What makes an inspiring leader? You need to stop bossing and start leading!

So, I hear you chorus, why do I need to be an inspiring leader? What’s wrong with just being a great boss??!!

It’s a fair question, with a simple answer; because inspired employees are more than twice as productive as satisfied employees, that’s why. As Simon Sinek said in his TED Talk, ‘no one follows a leader for the leader. They follow a leader for themselves. They don’t require motivation to act because they’ve been inspired.’

In reality, the title of “boss” only signifies power over others. To be called a leader, you must inspire your team through your actions and words to believe in a common vision. The mark of a true leader is the ability to encourage employee commitment and engagement.

Don’t just take mine and Simon’s word for it; listen to Richard Branson no less, who identifies the ability to inspire as the single most important leadership skill. And according to an international IBM survey of 1,700 CEOs, one of the top three most important leadership traits is the ability to inspire.

And if you really do want to take your leadership credentials that step further, get yourself along to my upcoming Inspiring Leadership masterclass in Oxford on 3rd March, and see if you can become an inspirational leader like Mr Branson!! It’s free to you and there are only a small number of spaces available so I would urge you to bagsie your spot now to ensure you don’t miss out!

Now I’m good, but I’m not a magician; I can’t promise to turn you into an inspirational leader in 400 words! But as a starter for 10 here are my top tips for switching your focus from ‘boss’ to ‘inspirational’ leader.

1. Have a clear vision, mission and values and always act with honesty and integrity
2. Set the bar high and create bold business and team goals
3. Demonstrate an admirable work ethic – set the standard for everyone
4. Be enthusiastic and positive – doom and gloom accomplishes nothing, so see the bright side of everything and remain a beacon of positivity in the face of challenges or failures
5. Be passionate – Your passion will remind your team often about the “why” of their work.
6. Work with your team – remember you are working together for a shared goal
7. Acknowledge and appreciate effort – it’s a hygiene factor; human beings need to feel and be acknowledged. Notice and appreciate.
8. Communicate and listen impeccably, and often – Truly inspiring leaders know that taking the right amount of time with each communication ensures that everyone is on board and moving forward
9. Positively encourage self development in your teams
10. Don’t ever tolerate mediocrity – it’s just not inspirational!


From Emma C Browning Ltd to MERAKI HR – the story

Changes are afoot!

Emma C Browning Ltd (ECB Ltd) is a well established and highly regarded HR Consultancy that helps small but ambitious SME’s succeed through its most precious asset; its people. The success of ECB Ltd has largely been driven by the determination, expertise and passion of its founding Director, Emma Browning, who has delivered an exceptional level of service to its clients.

Emma started her career over 30 years ago and became an HR Director in 2012. Emma knew all too well the common failings of hiring external consultants who are not personally vested in, or as passionate about the success of your business as you are. Emma decided it was time to make a change and left the corporate world in 2015 to set up her own HR consultancy, as she wanted to help and support SME’s with her passion and expertise for everything people related.

Put simply, Emma puts her heart and soul into everything that she does for her clients – and that shines through in the successful outcomes of their shared projects. Emma loves what she does, and she does everything with a little bit of ‘meraki’.

Meraki – (MEH-RAH -KEE) is a word, often used by modern Greeks to describe doing something that you do with soul, creativity, or an absolute passion — when you put “something of yourself” into what you’re doing.” Meraki is who Emma is and what she believes in. And her clients agree:

It’s been a delight to work with Emma – she’s highly knowledgeable, she does what she says she’ll do and all in a professional, yet friendly and approachable manner Jane Smith Financial Planning, Nicola Watts, Director

Emma is very engaging, very hands-on – she challenges, but is always professional when she does so. Chris Brown MD Appleton woods

…she understands how to blend HR compliance with commercial understanding; a rare skill that both I & my business are hugely grateful for. Jenn Fenton, Director Othala Property

Emma maintains her professionalism whilst bringing a levity to difficult circumstances allowing us all to breathe a little. Dr Sonya Wallbank, Director, The Arden Centre

Since its launch in 2015, demand for Emma’s special brand of ‘meraki’ has surpassed expectations, and after a great deal of thought and debate, Emma took the decision last year to grow. Throughout 2018, Emma has been carefully selecting a small but perfectly formed team of highly qualified HR and support professionals to work alongside her, who share Emma’s “meraki” approach to HR as well as the values that matter so much to her and her clients.

Emma and her team provide a full range of bespoke HR and recruitment services to its clients; all delivered with the trademark meraki soul and passion. And to celebrate these new beginnings, Emma C Browning Ltd has decided to embrace its key values and name itself after what it does best.

Ladies and gentlemen drum roll please, we give you MERAKI HR!

The team at MERAKI HR love working with similarly progressive and passionate businesses that share values and principles similar to our own. This means that you always get the HR service that suit your way of working, your business and your budget. And if you have the same values and principles as us, chances are you’ll probably enjoy working with us too!

Avoiding the Work Christmas Party headaches

As we snowball into the festive season, talk is inevitably turning to the work Christmas party.

You’ve been working hard for the whole year and now it’s time to slip into your most flattering Christmas jumper and have some festive fun!

But for many bosses, the prospect of the office Christmas party is enough to send them headfirst into the Eggnog. Novelty jumper-clad staff, fuelled by a mix of alcohol and the shedding of work stresses and relaxed inhibitions, can be a heady mix indeed – plus of course, the inevitable HR investigation into who photocopied their bum and posted it on the office noticeboard. Errr…. it wasn’t me Officer – honestly!
But before you all dash off to cancel the annual turkey and tinsel disco, let’s not forget that a Christmas party, isn’t just about getting everyone together for a jolly. Ultimately, it’s a thank you from management to the staff of all their hard work throughout the year. They’ve endured a year of emails, meetings and early starts, and now it’s time to have a bit of collective fun and let their hair down together. And it’s a great opportunity to really get to know each other – giving employees a chance to build a rapport with one another which can yield long-term results further down the line in a working environment.

And NOT to host a Christmas Party sends out a negative message, leaving employees feeling unappreciated. It also makes you look like a scrooge – so, pop your reindeer antlers on and get that credit card out… as there are some definite benefits to having a party………….

• Entertaining your staff at Christmas will see them return the favour in hard work, loyalty and motivation into 2019
• The event itself provides an excellent opportunity to reiterate and deliver key company messages, recognition awards and plans for the year ahead
• You can incorporate fun into your event with icebreakers and teambuilding activities to strengthen team dynamic and unite the workforce
• Believe it or not there are tax benefits to hosting an Office Christmas Party! Believe it or not ……………..HMRC wants you to let your hair down and have a good time!
• Encouraging management and staff to mingle outside of a work setting boosts morale

And here are my five top tips for keeping the Christmas party trouble-free?

1. Make sure your venue, theme or venue are inclusive and appealing to all
2. Consider your social media policy in advance – does your company have a social media policy?? If not, it may be an idea to draft one to protect your business. Drunken or inappropriate pictures on Facebook could have a damaging impact on your brand or your staff. Consider whether is appropriate and create guidelines around what is acceptable in relation to your business – and then tell your staff. They need to know.
3. It’s in everyone’s interests to have a fun but safe evening. One way to minimise risk is to control the alcohol you provide and lay on food – you could run a free bar for a limited period, then convert to a cash bar later on. Or take it a step further and hold the event during the day instead, which enables you to shift the focus away from alcohol and puts a natural cap on drinking
4. Organise end of evening transport home, with a fixed finish time – this is a quadruple win as it puts a cap on the evening, makes sure everyone is home safely and helps ensure that everyone in the office at a decent time and state the next day, whilst feeling thankful for your overwhelming generosity!
5. Be clear in advance about your expectations regarding absence the next day – this will ensure that there are no surprises and if expectations are breached, disciplinary action can be taken

Have fun guys!!

p.s. if you want me to take a glance at your social media, socialising policies or disciplinary policies give me a buzz now and we can pencil in to review them before your Christmas party. It shouldn’t take long and could help you manage any potential Christmas party headaches

When did you last review your employment contracts?

Chances are, if it wasn’t in the last 5 years then they are seriously out of date, legally out of date, uncompliant, out of sync with your company values and probably not worth the paper they are written on!
Ok, so I might be exaggerating slightly on that last point, but the sentiment is clear – you wouldn’t let your buildings insurance contract renew for 5 years on the trot without reviewing it would you? Your contracts of employment are absolutely a form of insurance for your business. In the event of any potential claim or employment tribunal, the contracts you have with your employees will be one of the first things asked for. An adequate, up to date and compliant contract can provide a solid basis in a number of different circumstances.

So, if you answer no to any of these 3 questions, then you probably need to book in a contract review with me. Here we go:

1. Have your contracts been reviewed for recent legislative changes and updates in the last 12 months?

2. Are your staff all on uniform contractual terms where possible? It may be that many of your employees were engaged on different contractual terms. While certain contractual terms may be different for each employee, such as hours of work, holiday entitlement and post-termination restrictions, general terms, such as expenses, sick pay and termination should be the same. Having employees on different contracts can cause administrative issues in the day to day running of your business because you will need to ensure that you are abiding by all the different terms in each contract. By updating and aligning the contracts, this removes the confusion of having certain members of your team on different contractual terms and will streamline the administrative processes.
3. Is the competitive landscape surrounding your business the same as when you hired your first employee? Highly likely that it isn’t. Your market position and competitors are likely to have differed since your original employment contract was put in place. For example, you may now need to implement post-termination restrictions to protect your business from the risk of employees moving onto your competitors and taking your clients, other employees or business processes with them.
Another reason you may choose to update your contracts is that a number of key terms are not working for your business anymore. For example, a common complaint often surrounds high levels of employee sickness absence when they are entitled to an enhanced rate.
Ultimately while you need to ensure that your contracts comply with the relevant legislation, you need also to ensure that they work for your business. If you are considering updating your employee contracts of employment, you should proceed with caution and ensure you get an expert in to help.

Never fear, we are here to help! If you think you could benefit from a review of your employee contracts, contact us now.

Would you ‘bank’ your Bank Holidays?

Is it just me, or is the idea of Bank Holidays a bit old hat? Yes, I know its historical origins, and yes, I also agree that a well-earned day off now and then is really quite smashing – in fact, I believe, they are essential to our general health and wellbeing. Oh yes, I am definitely pro the principle of Public Holidays!

It’s not the general idea of a Bank Holiday that’s grating with me though – it’s the unchanged application of an 18th century construct in the 21st century which I have a problem with. Things have moved on a smidge guys – it’s not just the Bankers that need a day off from the daily grind. And not everyone observes the same cultural or religious holidays anymore.

We are lucky to live in a beautifully diverse world, so we need to challenge the cultural norms that are traditionally projected onto each individual and consider these norms may not reflect each person’s observations, beliefs and lifestyle. And if we believe that people are our most important workplace resource, why shouldn’t everyone have the opportunity to celebrate what’s important to them and feel included in doing so, regardless of who they are, what they believe in and where they come from?, A day off to observe a religious holiday or celebrate the start of Spring might just not float your boat!

So here’s a radical idea for you – why not let your staff nominate their own bank holidays?
Public holidays need no longer be set days.
Now let that thought sink in. Not such a bad idea, huh?

Let your staff choose to work on a day that is a public holiday and swap it for another work day instead. If they don’t celebrate Easter, they are welcome to swap the day for another one that is important to them – St. Patricks Day, National Doughnut Day, (yes, I’m still obsessed with this), a special anniversary, or perhaps their birthday. It matters not, which day they choose. What really matters is that they have been given the flexibility and freedom to choose what matters most to them – and because of this they will be all the better engaged and loyal to you. And let’s face it, you could surely do without the headache of all your staff being out of the office on the same day in August, leaving you with zero telephone cover.

The other major benefit worth mentioning is the positive impact on your recruitment message – a progressive and flexible approach to staff benefits like this would really stand out from the crowd in what is an increasingly competitive recruitment marketplace. And all this upside for little or no cost. Bingo!

So what is stopping you from rolling out a new approach to holiday entitlement in 2019?

It really is as easy as 123. All you need to do is contact me and I will review your employment contracts for you – quick, easy, and a high return on investment. Simples.

Why I’m fed up with the gig economy bashers

Over the last decade the gig economy has transformed the way we work and do business.

Access to remote working has changed the definition of work and the workplace dramatically. Advances in technology continue to facilitate flexible and remote working, and austerity measures are a reality for us all. This has meant that employers have had to become super savvy about slashing costs by cutting back on fixed costs – one such option is replacing permanent staff with freelancers.

I would argue that the rise of the freelance nation has largely been a win-win from both sides of the desk. Employers experience financial savings with independent contractors, and lower their risk. Workers use freelancing to tide them over between jobs, to add to income, and some are in it for the flexibility and/or the professional challenge of being self-employed.

Like it or not, the gig economy is changing the landscape of work. Of course, hiring an independent contractor won’t always be the right call for all positions, but a freelancer or consultant, can be the perfect solution for short-term projects, tasks requiring specific or niche skills, one-off tasks, infrequent work or work that needn’t be performed 9 to 5 or onsite. Either way, as long as you categorise roles correctly, there are more ways than ever to find the right mix of in-house and freelance talent to grow your company.

So, why the constant media downer about gigging?

Lets face it – small businesses live or die on their hiring decisions, and a key strategic one is whether to hire on a permanent or freelance basis.
There are in essence two pretty compelling reasons for using freelancers or consultants as part of your people strategy:

1. Cost – You’re probably going to save yourself a chunk of cash
You have the ultimate control over exactly how much money you spend on each project. Even at a higher hourly or daily rate, you are only paying freelancers for the sole purpose of getting something done – so you can expect to save annually with a freelancer when you factor in not having to pay tax (and other ‘frivolous costs’ such as relocation and induction costs, staff benefits and training!!). If your freelancer is remote, you also reduce the need for office space and lower your office supply costs.
Let’s also not forget that the best freelance professionals are experts in their fields and understand their role in contributing to the bottom line of your business; playing a role in helping you to smash your strategic objectives.

2. Quality – You can seek out and hire only the best.

You can afford to seek out specialist consultants and freelancers who have gained complete mastery of their discipline over the years. If you want to hire a content marketer, then you’ll get someone who specialises in content marketing and nothing else. This is far better than having your sales associate make an attempt at content marketing because you simply can’t afford to hire another full-time employee.

And freelancers run their own business, which thrives on repeat work and repeat customers. They strive to turn in their best work, every time, to maintain the relationship. While staff members’ performance may have peaks and valleys, freelancers know the contract is always subject to renewal. You, the customer, are always king!

Ok, I own up. It’s not all entirely upside. There are a couple of contrary considerations that you will need to chew over:

1. Guarantee of availability – While hiring a freelancer is actually fairly quick, sometimes you need something done immediately. If situations like these are common, it would definitely be better to have someone on-site ready to go

2. Knowledge of your business – If you’re looking to develop clientele, a freelancer might not be the best choice. In-house employees are aware of everything that’s going on in the company, and can leverage that knowledge to your advantage when building relationships with clients. Freelancers don’t typically have that access.

3. Make sure they don’t become an employee – unless you want them to! With imminent changes afoot from HMRC in 2019, if you hire a freelancer who then becomes part of the furniture and in essence is an employee, then be warned – you need to be paying their NI to HMRC – or they will find you and possibly want all their NI owed backdated to when they first started and they may even want the tax owed by the freelancer to be paid back by you too!

However – there is a rather neat solution to this – if you work with a freelancer on a retained basis (a flat monthly fee for services when they are needed) you can largely manage out these two issues as you are in effect buying yourself a strategic partner. This way, you know your consultant, and they know you – you know how they do things, and you can trust in their availability, decisions and advice.

Did I mention that I was an HR consultant?! If you would like to chat with me about the pro’s and con’s of outsourcing in your business why not drop me a line or give me a call today for an initial chat about how we could work together.

Have you stress tested your workplace?

International Stress Awareness Week is coming up and it’s got me thinking. Stress is normal and healthy right? It’s what we feel when a situation is hard to handle, be it a good or bad situation. When people feel stressed by something going on around them, their bodies react by releasing chemicals into the blood. These chemicals give people more energy and strength, which can be a good thing if their stress is caused by physical danger. But it goes beyond the normal when it’s a regularly occurring thing, and that’s when it’s not healthy! It becomes a problem when the stress is in response to something emotional and there is no outlet for this extra energy and strength.

We know that too much stress can cause mental health problems, heart problems, high blood pressure and a myriad of other health problems that will ultimately cause sickness absence, reduced productivity and poor attrition in the workplace. It is a self-feeding problem.

And given that stress accounts for nearly 40% of all work-related illness (just wow), quite frankly regardless of the cause, you need to have a kit bag of tools to manage and deal with stress in your workplace.

First and foremost, you need to ensure you are managing and communicating with your people fairly and effectively. Here are my 5 ‘must do’s’ of management best practice to help you reduce stress in your workplace:

• Provide staff with clear and measurable work and task objectives
• Review objectives and task progress with regular 1:1’s
• Ensure staff have the skills and training they need in order to fulfil their job
• Support your staff with an open door policy that encourages them to talk to you about issues that are troubling them – be approachable
• Hold regular team communication meetings, and don’t just tell them what’s going on in your team, tell than what’s going on in the business as a whole.

You can implement some meaty pro-active stress busting measures into your workplace. Given that 35% of employees view support in this area as a staff benefit, there can be serious traction to stress management schemes. Companies are increasingly realising that stress is a thief of productivity and are putting creative measures in place to stamp it out. Luckily, most of them can be low cost and bring about a great deal of return in employee happiness and productivity. The result is a more harmonious, high-functioning, happier workplace.. I have to admit that my hands down favourites are two super simples cost free schemes I came across recently: One which encourages its staff to diary meetings as ‘walking meetings’ whenever possible – what a brilliantly simple, cost free way to encourage exercise, fresh air and a new perspective on thinking! Secondly, Etsy, who encourage staff to bring their pets to work – because doggy mums and dads who are able to bring their pet to work with them report greater job satisfaction and lower stress. I love it!

If you want to carry on the conversation, why not give me a call or drop me a line?

How am I going to get this people stuff delivered?

A recent study found that small business owners are on the brink of a burnout due to their heavy workload. SME leaders and managers are close to hitting boiling point because of the stress and pressure that comes from running a small business.

Just under a half (47%) of the business owners cited their lack of time as the main source of the work stress and pressure.

So, I always say a problem shared is a problem halved. You don’t need to struggle on, breaking your back. There are alternatives, and they needn’t break the bank. If you need dedicated and experienced support to deliver an HR project, you can outsource it.

I know what it’s like running a business. Competing demands on your time from staff, customers and suppliers. It’s brilliant fun and I love what I do, but it’s a constant juggling act! And sometimes you need a hand – and we can lend that hand!

For a fixed cost, you can access our tried and tested HR Project Service. So, if you don’t have the time, skills or the resources necessary to deliver an important people project for your business, then get in touch.

For example, our team can help you to:

• Design a bespoke recruitment or appraisal process
• Help you design a new organisational structure to deliver your business goals
• Manage a redundancy process from beginning to end
• Design and deliver an Employee Engagement Survey

We have:

• Collectively over 100 years HR experience at Director level
• Exceptional project management skills
• The flexibility to adapt quickly and effectively to any business, whatever the sector you work in

Call or email us today to book a meeting with us to talk about your HR project – and let’s see if we can lend you a hand.

Tel 01280 848415
Email emma@emmacbrowning.com