Is your business ready for the Euros?

Euro 2016 starts today, and with kick-off times for the month-long tournament between 2pm and 8pm, is it inevitable that UK's SMEs will face productivity issues this summer?

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Euro 2016 starts today, and with kick-off times for the month-long tournament between 2pm and 8pm, is it inevitable that UK’s SMEs will face productivity issues this summer?

The European Championship is expected to be the biggest cause of unauthorised leave in the UK during 2016, expected to cause more absenteeism than Wimbledon and the Rio Olympics, according to recent research from workforce management firm Kronos Incorporated

It may be the most anticipated football tournament of the year, but businesses are still not obliged to allow time off for employees to watch the Euros. With so many teams involved in this month-long event, are productivity problems guaranteed?

Getting the balance right between keeping employees happy and upsetting a valued workforce will be essential to good relationships long after the cup has been held aloft according to Maxine Park, a solicitor and co-founder ofServicesNowGroup

“With so many nations represented within the UK workforce, this might be an opportunity to improve employee engagement and productivity by allowing staff to watch or listen to matches and feel part of the action during working hours,” she advised.

Park expects an increase in last-minute holiday requests, and even a few “sick-days”, so this may be the best opportunity for businesses to strengthen company culture and employee loyalty by accommodating employee requests.  “Allow the holiday requests, even unpaid leave and maybe let those who love their football swap shifts with those that don’t, the answer is to be flexible,” she added.

Neil Pickering, industry and customer insight manager at Kronos echoed her sentiments, advising businesses to considering these employee requests. “Demonstrating willingness to accommodate employee needs, and allowing them to enjoy these sporting events and their leisure time goes a long way to improving employee engagement and ultimately results in higher levels of productivity and performance. With the appropriate advanced workforce scheduling tools, organisations can actually use these events to their advantage,” he said. ​​

ServicesNowGroup’s Park stressed while businesses should be flexible, SMEs cannot afford to accept a drop in quality of the service they deliver to their clients, whatever the sporting event. So if an organisation plans to allow early starts, early finishes and even late finishes, they should ensure they have sufficient temporary cover to maintain optimum service levels.

Outsourcing: a quick fix?

Outsourcing support can help these businesses extend office hours to make up for a little afternoon football.

“Outsourcing can address these issues, but preparation in advance of any likely disruption is the key. Every organisation should be constantly choosing and evaluating service providers that can immediately deliver the functions required to ensure it can maintain operational effectiveness,” ServicesNowGroup’s Park said, citing a comprehensive range of services to fill in any gaps in service, such as reception services, call-handing, appointment-making, and so on. 

A shortage of talent has been a major concern for British business for many years now, with sectors from engineering to hospitality struggling to fill key roles. Research by online freelance marketplace PeoplePerHour (PPH) revealed that the problem has reached its peak, with almost two thirds of small and medium sized business owners admitting that in the last three years they have abandoned the search for permanent staff members to fill certain roles, but not by choice but necessity.

PeoplePerHour founder and CEO Xenios Thrasyvoulou sees this as a way to propel smaller businesses firmly into the 21st century, with remote working and outsourcing being the future of innovative and collaborative work. “Our research showed that more than half of SMEs struggle to find the right talent locally for certain roles. If you’re prepared to work with a remote team you can spread your net so much wider, which allows you to access skilled professionals from all over the world, and it’s often more cost-effective because you’re freed from all of the overheads associated with full time employees,” he said.

“Hiring a freelance worker on a temporary basis is considered to be less of a risk than taking on someone permanently, so when time and local talent are both short, outsourcing seems like an obvious solution,” Thrasyvoulou added.  

Curb your absenteeism 

The same Kronos study of over 2,000 UK workers revealed that nearly three quarters of employees believe their fellow workers have “thrown a sickie” in the last 12 months and almost one in five believe their colleagues take up to six false sick days off every year. One third admitted to taking a sick day when they were not ill.

Joyce Maroney, director of The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated shared ten tips for an absence-free games, whether Euro 2016 or the Olympics.

  1. Implement an absence policy. If you do not have one already, an absence policy to balance employee and employer needs is the first step in addressing the potential problem.

  2. Communicate the policy. There’s little point in having an absence policy if you do not communicate it to employees. Highlight any specific rules around time-off requests during the World Cup.

  3. Proactive communications. Encourage proactive communications between managers and staff about requests to take time off, or to work a different schedule.  Unplanned absences are more expensive to manage than those you know are coming.

  4. Support flexibility. Consider early starts and early finishes for 5pm kick-offs and late starts/late finishes for staff who want to sleep in after a big game. But make sure that you have a system in place to cope with monitoring the flex hours.

  5. Consider unpaid leave. Planned absence is always easier for a business to manage, than unscheduled absence. Accept that staff will find a way to watch key matches – unplanned absence is expected to be high during the World Cup. Offer staff the opportunity to book unpaid leave up to a maximum number of days.

  6. Make controlling absenteeism a business priority. There’s no excuse not to be in control of absence. Business tools are available to control and monitor absence levels and trends – you can even set the parameters to alert you to all unscheduled absences on match days, or on the morning after a big game.

  7. Enforce the absence policy. Any absence policy needs to be monitored and enforced consistently and fairly throughout the organisation to curb unscheduled absences – more than half of employed adults believe that their work performance is negatively impacted when attendance policies are not fairly enforced.

  8. Provide incentives for excellent attendance. In large organisations, time and attendance systems are an invaluable tool for tracking and reporting on attendance levels. Many organisations effectively use perfect attendance bonuses as an incentive to reduce absenteeism.

  9. Be realistic. Rather than hindering staff enthusiasm over the World Cup, go with it – install a TV in the staff room; sit down and enjoy the matches with your staff – and with a bit of luck, you’ll improve staff morale for long after the ref blows the final whistle.

  10. Make absence management part of your long-term business plan. Managing absenteeism isn’t simply a tactical activity for the duration of the World Cup. Organisations can benefit from a well-designed, consistently monitored absence policy.

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