Working from home - is it used or abused?
Is working from home really more productive?
Last weekend my wife and I were round our friend's house for our thrice-yearly CDWM (Come Dine with Me) experience. As usual, I was asked about how my job was going and Apprentify in general. The topic of 'working from home' (or WFH) was raised and the floodgates opened...
Apprentify focuses on businesses across the North of the UK with primarily focus on proving digital marketing apprentices in Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and York. However, I live in Swindon. A little too far to commute on a daily basis! I spend most of my working time at home, travelling up to Apprentify HQ on average every other week for 2-3 days. Without this flexibility, and alongside my swimming and football coaching commitments, working for Apprentify would be near-on impossible.
My friend and I debated about the pro's and con's of WFH. His argument was mostly centred around his team and knowing that he has individuals within it that he couldn't trust to WFH. In his words, 'they would pretend they're working, but actually they'll be at Starbucks having a coffee!'
My response was, 'does it matter if they're doing a great job?'
I have had colleagues that openly admit that they 'can't do it' and that they just 'don't have the discipline.' I'm not naïve enough to think that working from home is for all businesses and/or individuals.
However, here are my top 10 benefits from WFH:
- I wake up and can be in my office within minutes. No frustrating commute or angry drivers to put me in a bad mood first thing
- Comfy clothes - No shirt, tie and trousers for me! Stick on my joggers and a hoody and I'm ready for work
- Refreshments and lunch on hand, saving me money not going to coffee shops or visiting a local supermarket for the £3.50 meal deal
- Company for our pets, particularly our 2 Jack Russell's that absolutely love our lunchtime walks when I need some time away from the laptop
- Peace and quiet - No office noise or interruptions. I even get to play my own music to match my mood or task at hand
- Contingencies - If a phone call from the school comes through because one of my children are ill, I'm there to collect and look after them
- Work space - I work from kitchen table. I have lots of natural light, ventilation and a comfy chair
- Change in scenery? No problem. I can walk up to our local high street and work from one of the coffee shops
- Productivity - Based on all the factors above, I get so much work done. I can focus and work at the times that suit me. I am also in touch with the entire Apprentify team by using effective communication tools such as Microsoft Teams and Adobe Connect. I'm on hand when they need me and visa versa. I'm hitting my targets and I strive to work harder and smarter for the great company I work for
- Personal Commitments - I coach swimming and football 3-4 evenings a week. I try and keep active myself by swimming, running and cycling. I enjoy cooking and I'm there for when my children return home from school and I get to eat dinner with my family round the table
All of these results in one happy, productive employee
Needless to say, I think I won the argument 🙂
Annual appraisals - impactful or just a tick box exercise?
All around the world, Performance Appraisals (or Performance Reviews) are recognised (amongst a number of performance management tools) as an annual event that aims to ensure individual performance is contributing to the overall department and/or business objectives. Little by little, businesses slide away from this rather archaic format of telling employees that 'Layla? She's electric,' 'Where did it all go wrong?' or even 'Hey now! Listen up, little James. You are one of The Quiet Ones but you're still my Rock 'n' Roll Star.' If your preference is this type of process, I acquiesce your decision. Imagine having to Soldier on during an Appraisal like this?
A Quick Peep at our CLIMB objectives
Round our way at Apprentify, we have developed a unique staff appraisal and monitoring process called our CLIMB programme. For each of our six business GROWTH objectives, we have five individual 'steps' for staff to CLIMB, increasing in challenge to achieve. Monthly, our staff will discuss their performance against their own individual objectives/targets/KPI's (Record of performance) and then given the opportunity to provide evidence against the 'steps.' Not only will this provide healthy competition between staff, there is also challenge and motivation for individuals to progress, all contributing to the development and success of the business!
D'You Know What I Mean?
I hope, I think, I know that the core function of the Appraisal is as important as ever, however conversations on performance should be an integral part of regular meetings with line managers. The masterplan should be if meaningful, open and purposeful conversations happen regularly, and they will won't let you down.
How many Oasis song titles did you find in the text? Leave a comment and I'll post the answer in due course.....
Safeguarding in Apprenticeships - Are you doing enough?
Last week I attended the NSPCC Designated Safeguarding Officer 2-day course held at their Education and Training Centre in Leicester. Having worked in a few very successful (and a couple 'not so') training providers, and having completed copious online Safeguarding courses in my time, I figured that we had quite a robust policy and process in place at Apprentify https://apprentify.com/ …?
Turns out, we have some work to do!
Has your provider got the following:
- Documented role and responsibilities for your Designated Safeguarding Officers / Leads?
- A Policy that considers Child and Adult Safeguarding disclosures?
- CPD for all staff that is embedded and tested on a regular basis?
- A strict Safer Recruitment process that is visible to potential applicants?
- Established links with the relevant local authorities and Safeguarding Boards?
- A Prevent/Safeguarding Risk Assessment that is reviewed regularly with evidence to support progression?
Taking the time to review your own practices by attending recognised courses/events can really 'open your eyes' to the potential improvements that can be implemented into your business, especially when they affect people's lives.
Nobody can afford to sit still and believe they're doing 'enough' #continuousimprovement
Invigorated by my new learning, I'm off to update our Quality Improvement Plan, that is aligned to our Business GROWTH objectives https://apprentify.com/why/, as part of my new CLIMB Development Programme #lovemyjob #alwaysroomforimprovement #qualityimprovement
Recruiting a new Digital Marketing Development Coach
Here at Apprentify, we are recruiting for a new (what we are calling...) Development Coach (or DC). Much has been said and written about how this role differs now that we are delivering Standards, compared to the old school Frameworks using QCF qualifications. Personally, I think the difference is minimal.
Does the role involve workplace visits, regular reviews of progress and elements of 1:1 coaching and mentoring? YES...
Does the role involve making assessment decisions against selected criteria? YES...
(we may not be allowed to officially document our decisions against portfolio evidence, because that's the EPA's job. But let's face it, ongoing assessment against the KSB's to ensure readiness for EPA is part of the job right?)
Does the role involve gathering evidence to show progression as well as effective caseload prioritisation and time management? YES...
Whichever side of the fence you lie on, one thing is for sure though, is how important these job roles are to the success of every Training Provider out there.
Finding that gem
The recruitment for this role cannot be taken lightly, or rushed. Operational Managers are often in a predicament when it comes to recruiting for this role. They're torn between the quality of the candidate and the desperation to get somebody into post, so that apprentices aren't left disengaged and start dropping behind.
The danger also lies in the performance of the candidate at interview. I liken this sometimes to conducting OTLA's. I've observed many Assessors (Sorry Tutors... Sorry Trainers... Sorry... oh you know what I mean!) that have been able to put 'on a show' at a formal observation. And yet, when you dig deeper, their usual performance in role is far from 'Outstanding.' How many times have you been duped into hiring a new Assessor and they ended up being far from what they made out to be at interview?
Luckily for us, our OTLA's consider far more than just the formal observation, but that's neither here nor there in regards to this blog. What I want to know is, to what lengths do you go to ensure you're hiring that 'Outstanding' Assessor? The one that doesn't let you down. Does what they say they will do, when they say they'll do it, and then more?
Perhaps the way to go is to ask them to provide evidence to prove their achievements against a list of internally defined criteria in order to make a decision? Or is that just 'Frameworks' Assessing?