Business person

July small business round up – latest SME news

This month’s SME news round up brings summertime economic cheer, calls for HR support to boost productivity, a look at automating the most hated work tasks which include tracking time spent on jobs, and the business benefits of paying attention to holiday entitlement and the ageing workforce.

The economy’s coming home

The UK summer heatwave and World Cup fever have resulted in a boost to the economy. Sales of food, alcohol, barbecues and garden furniture have helped lift otherwise sluggish sales and bolster the retail sector. Pubs and other small businesses have enjoyed increased consumer confidence as people got caught up in cheering on England through the tournament. The British Beer and Pub Association said that millions more pints were sold during crucial matches. England’s semi-final match was estimated to bring in £555 million of UK spending, according to the Centre for Retail Research. Many SME managers wanting to capitalise on the feel good factor also arranged for staff to work flexibly or be able to watch key matches on-site.

The ‘Productivity Puzzle’ continues – could better HR help?

The focus on UK business efficiency continues with latest government figures revealing a slow increase in productivity. July ONS figures showed that UK labour productivity grew by only 0.9% in Jan to March this year. However UK employment reached a record high between March and May with 32.4 million people in work and the unemployment rate remaining constant at 4.2%. The services sector grew by 0.4% during this quarter while the UK manufacturing sector contracted by 1.2%. The CIPD, the UK’s HR professional body, again called for the government to introduce better HR support for local businesses to address “a long tail of poorly-managed firms in this country”, further to the evidence it gave to a government productivity select committee last month.

Two-thirds of UK employees want to delegate work to robots

63% of UK employees would delegate work tasks to a robot if they had a chance.

Amongst the top jobs which workers want robots to do are tracking time (11%)* and electronic filing (12%), while attending meetings was rated as one of the most hated tasks (24%), according to research commissioned by ABBYY amongst 1,200 UK employees. The research found that one in seven (15%) employees try to avoid doing their disliked tasks at all unless they are reminded, not good news for business efficiency or productivity. The research suggests that managers could turn to technology for some of the most disliked tasks in order to retain staff.

UK’s workaholics failing to take their holiday entitlement

Two in five UK employees have reported taking only half of their annual leave entitlement last year while the average employee is taking just 62% of their leave allowance. Workers fear falling behind or out of favour if they don’t put in the hours at work but risk their own health if they don’t take their time off. The survey of over 2,000 employees by Glassdoor recruitment also revealed that those who do take their holiday do not manage to fully unwind but stay reachable by bosses and colleagues. HR professionals warn about the dangers posed by overworking, instead the aim should be to achieve work-life balance which leads to overall employee well-being. Managers should encourage staff to take their holidays and monitor their entitlements to make sure they are doing so (as well as taking holidays themselves).

Businesses fail to plan for ageing workforce

Only one in five employers are actively considering their ageing workforce strategically despite the over-50s now making up nearly a third (31%) of the UK workforce. Older workers are leaving the workforce prematurely and lack of support is thought to be a factor. The survey of 500 UK employers by the Centre for Ageing Better comes in the same month as a report published by the parliamentary Women and Equalities select committee on older workers – the report found that more needed to be done to enforce the law on age discrimination which makes prejudice, unconscious bias and casual ageism in the workplace all unlawful. Businesses are encouraged to adopt age-friendly practices including flexible working, age-positive recruitment and age-inclusive workplace culture.

*Tracking staff hours, and time spent working in different areas or on different tasks is a lot simpler with uAttend cloud-based software which automates tracking time, allowing staff to get on with more interesting tasks!

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