Bad Company Culture (And How To Fix It)

Welcome back for part 2 of our series on what company culture is, If you haven’t read part 1 yet, click here to catch up. Don’t worry, we’ll wait! In Part 2 we will talk about some of the most common warning signs you might see if you have a bad company culture, as well as some of the steps you can take to improve it.

The Warning Signs

One of the biggest issues faced by small businesses is being able to identify what their corporate culture is, and whether it’s contributing to the performance problems they are experiencing. After all, company culture isn’t always to blame for bad performance! So here are a few warning signs that you may be dealing with a negative company culture.

  • Unmotivated employees: If you suddenly find yourself constantly dealing with unmotivated employees, you should be taking a good look at the corporate culture of your business. Employees who are present but not engaged in their work, or who don’t see the point or benefit of their tasks is one of the clearest warning signs of bad corporate culture.


  • Workforce anxiety: Usually high-performing employees now delivering sub-par results, or asking a lot of questions and seeking reassurance can be a sign that something is amiss. Unclear vision, poor employee development programmes and miscommunication from management make this one of the factors in bad corporate culture, and results in unmotivated and uncertain employees.


  • High employee turnover: If you’re constantly losing employees and needing to hire replacements, this is the biggest red flag for negative company culture. While some larger corporations see high turnover as part of their business model, a smaller business is always having to hire for the same position then alarm bells should be ringing.


  • Being all things to all people: Having a few different types of tasks to do within your job role is perfectly normal. But having one person do the roles of several people can lead to a seriously bad feeling in your business. It causes burnout and frustration, and it shows you don’t recognise individual strengths, or know how to delegate.


  • Failing to meet deadlines: Every good business has goals, and good managers will set goals, tasks and deadlines for their team to meet. If your projects are always coming in late, then you have a serious problem. Often the root of the issue is poor communication and collaboration, both of which can be resolved by management taking a more accurate role in the process, and ensuring everyone is on the same page.

The signs of a bad company culture aren’t always complaining employees or KPIs not being met. As a business owner and manager, it’s your job to keep an eye out for the signs that something is wrong and address it before it has time to seep into your company culture and become a normal thing.

What to do About Company Culture Problems

Learn how to motivate your employees: Engaged and motivated employees are the lifeblood of any business, and the building blocks for your company culture. But it’s management’s job to motivate them effectively and create a positive environment, which often means more than just opening the company wallet. Here are 4 ways you can motivate your employees that have nothing to do with money.

Set SMART goals: Setting goals is a crucial part of any form of improvement or change. Setting SMART goals is a great way to stay on track and make sure you’re actually making progress. You can find out more about SMART goals and how to set them here.

Conduct effective performance reviews: It’s important to understand what the role of performance reviews actually is in your business to ensure management are conducting them effectively. This will make them a more productive experience for the managers and the employees, as well as provide realistic goals and feedback. For tips on how to improve your performance reviews, click here.

Be proactive: One of the main reasons so many businesses find themselves in HR trouble is that they wait until problems happen before they act. In this case, the focus is on maintaining the status quo, rather than making any meaningful improvements. A proactive HR approach means you can prioritise employee development and foster a positive company culture. To read more about that, click here.

And if you need support at any point during the process, we are here to help.

At Karen HRM, we help business owners and managers just like you to understand your unique company culture, as well as how to fix any underlying problems and create a positive, thriving company for the future. If you aren’t sure if your employees are happy, we’d love to help. Contact one of our team today, and book in your free consultation to help improve your company culture.


What Is Company Culture, And Why Does It Matter?

What separates the mediocre businesses from the great businesses? What makes a customer actively choose your business over competitors time and time again?

The answer is simple – it’s a combination of engaged employees and fantastic company culture. Out of everything you can do, those two things can truly define your business performance and commercial success – both good and bad.

But why is that? What does the culture of a company mean, and does it really make such a huge difference? As outsourced HR managers who help business owners with all of their HR needs, we wanted to share our thoughts on its importance.

What Is Company Culture?

Company Culture is essentially the way an organisation does things. But this isn’t about policies and procedures, or any of the technical know-how. It is more about the values, behaviours, attitudes, and approaches that make each workplace unique. It’s rooted in the organisational goals, strategies and structures, customers, and involvement in the greater community. So, while two companies could provide the same products or services, no two would ever have the same company culture.

It’s also how it feels to work in the business and can be the difference between a good job and a bad one for candidates in the recruitment process. Put simply, it’s the glue that pulls all employees in the organisation together in search of one common goal, and it can have a huge impact on employee retention and recruitment, as well as performance. Most businesses try to summarise their company culture in a few words. A few examples could be:

  • Transparent
  • Inclusive
  • Collaborative
  • Nurturing
  • Progressive
  • Connected

But of course, each company is different! What do you think your company culture could be summed up as? If you’re not sure, you can always contact us here to find out more on how we can help you improve your company culture.

How Does Company Culture Impact Performance?

Research has shown time and time again that employee engagement rates are very closely linked to the culture within a company. Beyond that, businesses with good company cultures tend to have more engaged and satisfied employees, which in turn means an improvement in overall performance.

This doesn’t just form overnight. It usually starts with the business founders, who impose their beliefs, values, and assumptions onto the fledgling business, and onto their employees. As the company grows, those cultural elements become shared, and form the continuing culture of the organisation. This is one of the reasons no two companies are the same, and why many candidates will cite ‘I just didn’t fit in’ when they leave a job – because the company’s culture and values don’t tally with their own.

Workplace culture very much sets the tone for employee engagement and retention within your business. Once they have become part of the business, good company culture is what encourages those ‘best of class’ employees to stay with the business, decreasing turnover and improving profitability. Your company culture also has an impact on your ability to innovate as a business, how efficiently you work and how productive your employees are. It also creates a better customer experience, with happy and productive employees providing better service and building that sense of community that both customers and employees enjoy.

The interesting thing is that larger companies may end up with multiple cultures. A study into the organisational culture of the NHS done by Russell Mannion (Professor of Health Systems) found that the culture was far from uniform or coherent. Instead, working groups looked for and developed commonalities, with some only being prominent in some areas of the organisation. This meant that subtly different cultures could emerge with different occupational or professional groups within the same organisation. Moving away from the NHS, we often see this with businesses that have one head office and regional satellite offices. Each office tends to develop its own unique way of operating, which may be slightly different to other offices in the same group. This isn’t a bad thing! In fact, it actually allows each office to be productive and enhance performance in its own way.

Need Some HR Support?

That’s all we have time for in this post, but stay tuned for part 2, where we examine the warning signs of a bad company culture, and what you can do to improve it. And if you need any support to understand and manage your own company culture, we’re here to help.

At Karen HRM, we help business owners and managers just like you to understand your unique company culture, as well as how to fix any underlying problems and create a positive, thriving company for the future. If you aren’t sure if your employees are happy, we’d love to help. Contact one of our team today, and book in your free consultation to help improve your company culture.


What To Include in Your Employee Handbook For 2024

What Is An Employee Handbook, And Why Is It Important?

As an employer, you have a lot of things to keep on top of. There are so many obligations to keep, and things to make your employees aware. That’s why your employee handbook is one of the most essential tools you have at your disposal. If it’s well put together, this little booklet can save you a lot of time answering the same questions over and over again and provide you with some protection should things start to go wrong. It’s your opportunity to put all your company policies, practices, procedures, and employee benefits in one place. This is the best way for you to effectively communicate what your employees should expect from you, and what you in turn should expect from them.

But if you’ve never done it, you might not know how to write an employee handbook. Or what to include in it. While it might be tempting to go to one of those free sites and download an employee handbook template, the reality is your handbook needs to be tailored to your business and your approach. So where do you start?

In this blog, we’re going to cover what to include in your employee handbook, and how to write one.

General Employment Information

This is the first section and it’s all about covering the basics. Remember that your employee handbook is generic- which means everyone will get one – so here you should include any of the policies that apply to all employees equally. Save specifics for the contracts. Make sure you lay out the basic policies around:

  • Employment eligibility
  • Job classifications
  • Employee referrals
  • Records
  • Job postings
  • Termination and resignation procedures
  • Transfers
  • Relocation
  • Union information (if you have one)
  • Grievance processes

If your policies are too long, you can write a detailed summary for the handbook with a link to where they can find the full policy.

Standards of Conduct

This is an incredibly important element to include, and it’s probably the one you will refer back to most often. It covers all aspects of how you expect employees to behave. At work, to their superiors, around colleagues, and even while wearing their uniform. Any situation in which your employees are representing your business. This should include:

  • Dress codes
  • Telephone and computer user rules
  • Remote working standards
  • Smoking policies (e.g. staff must cover all company logos whilst smoking)
  • General behavioural expectations

Working Schedules

This one confuses some people because each employee will have their own individual working schedule. But within this employee handbook section, you’re merely highlighting policies around those schedules. For example, details on how overtime works at your company, including how it’s allocated and paid. Any options you offer for flexible or remote working (more important now than ever), and what the policies around it are. You should also lay out your policies regarding attendance, punctuality, and reporting absences – along with any consequences there may be for going against those policies.

Leave Policies

Leave and leaving policies for your employees should be carefully documented. There are some types of leave you are required to provide by law, and you are required to give details of these here. On top of that, there are other leave policies you might want to implement, for example, extended maternity or paternity leave. So, make sure you include your policies on:

  • Statutory holiday
  • Bereavement leave
  • Emergency leave
  • Sick leave
  • Maternity and paternity leave
  • Jury duty
  • Military leave

Details should include timescales available, what pay is offered (if any), and any requirements that employees might need to meet for them. For example, to claim sick leave you might require a sick note from a doctor.

Termination Policies

Alongside temporary leave policies (above), you need to detail the process and policies around when employees wish to leave, or if you need to terminate them. Here you should let employees know how much notice they are required to give you if they want to leave the company, what format that notice should take and who it should be given to. It should also explain what the termination policies are for your company, and how much notice you need to give employees in each scenario. You may have touched on this in the general employment information section, but you can expand on it here.

Here’s a guide to help with ‘Dealing with Disciplinaries’.

Anti-Discrimination Policies

One of your legal obligations as an employer is to comply with anti-discrimination regulations. Here, explain what your obligations are, what they mean, and what you’re doing to meet them. You should also be explaining what you expect from your employees, and how they should behave while employed by your company. This is also the place you should explain what the consequences are of breaking these rules, and how employees can report something they see. It’s also a good place to talk about specific anti-discrimination policies, including:

  • Sexual harassment
  • Affirmative action
  • Diversity and inclusion

And any other policies you may wish to include.


If your business provides any company-wide benefits, this is also a great place to include them. For example, if you provide insurance, private medical care, pensions, commission-based bonuses, gym memberships or anything else, include details on what it is and how to access it here.

This can be particularly useful for companies who offer a ‘pick and choose’ style of benefits, which can be confusing to use, and this gives employees a reference point. If you have specific benefits that are only for certain employees, those should not be included here, but in their individual contracts.

How Can We Help?

Does all of that sound a bit overwhelming? Don’t worry – we understand that! At Karen HRM we specialise in helping employers understand their obligations and making it easy to get them right. We provide expert advice and support in creating employee resources, including employee handbooks, that protect your company, your reputation, and your employees.

If you have any questions or want to see some employee handbook examples, just get in touch with the team today.



Top Tips for Effective Employee Onboarding

Onboarding employees is an important part of the hiring process.  When you’re hiring a new employee for your business, you might think that finding the right person is the hardest part. But in reality, recruitment is half the battle. Once you’ve found that person and got them on board, your biggest challenge is going to be keeping them there.

According to researchers, half of all workers will leave a new job within the first 120 days, and half of all external senior position hires will leave within the first 18 months.

Hiring new employees is expensive, and the time and energy you spend training them is wasted if they leave after a few months. So, how do you make sure your new employees stay with you for the long term? The trick is an effective onboarding process.

What Is Employee Onboarding?

Onboarding is the process of bringing a new employee into the workplace. It covers getting them settled in on their first day, training them and integrating them into the daily routine of your business.

Many business owners look at this and think that employee onboarding can be done in a day – get them set up and started, job done. But that’s not the case. The onboarding process is more than just new hire orientation. It covers how you welcome your new hires, the support network you put in place for them, how you train them, management, and mentorship in those crucial 100 first days, how you communicate and measure performance, and how you engage them in the values of your business and their work.

In other words, effective employee onboarding is an ongoing process and something that needs your care and attention at every stage. The average onboarding process is between 3 and 6 months, and at the end, your new employee will be completely settled and working as part of the well-oiled machine of your business. At this point, you can transition them seamlessly into the performance management cycle.

Why Is New Starter Onboarding Important?

In a word? Retention. Employers who engage in onboarding and develop a process for not only bringing new employees into the business but supporting them as they settle in as well will see:

  • 53% of their new hires will stay with them for at least 3 years.
  • Significantly reducing employee turnover.
  • An effective onboarding process also results in happier employees who feel more secure in their role, understand what is expected of them quickly and perform better than those who aren’t onboarded properly.

So if you want better performing, happier employees who stay with you for longer, you need to be looking at your onboarding system, or creating it if you don’t have one.

Our Top Employee Onboarding Best Practices

Get The Basics Ready Before They Start. No one likes walking into a brand-new job and finding that nothing is ready for them. It gives a bad impression of the business and makes them feel like a spare part as people rush around to try and get things together, or worse just ignore them entirely.

Once you know you’ve hired someone, get everything they will need for their role ready for them. Have a workspace ready to use, emails and any other equipment they will need set up, and if you can, an employee packet with all the important information they will need (HR policies and procedures, an employee handbook, training schedule etc.). You can get creative with this if you want, but it’s important to make sure the basics are ready for their first day.

Assign A Mentor. Starting in a new company can be daunting. As a manager, you might not be able to dedicate 100% of your time to taking care of your new hire. This is where a buddy or mentor can help. This is someone on the same level or slightly senior to the new hire who can show them the ropes, answer questions and generally keep an eye on them to make sure they’re settling in okay. This buddy or mentor should actively support your new hire through the first 12 weeks of their employment as needed.

Have Regular Check-Ins. Don’t leave your new hire with no direction. Even if you’re busy, try and have regular check-ins to answer questions, address concerns and see how they are settling in. These might be as often as once a day at first, then move down to once a week and then eventually once a month, as your new hire’s confidence and skills increase.

Don’t Make Them Learn ‘The Hard Way’. We mean this in every sense of the phrase. Every workplace comes with its own set of rules and regulations, benefits, and bonuses, nuances, and traditions. Don’t make your new employees learn these new things the hard way. If your company observes a ‘casual Friday’ rule, make sure all new employees know about this before they turn up at the office on their first Friday in a pressed suit.

Have A Defined HR Approved Process.  Onboarding shouldn’t be something you cobble together as you go. Businesses who work with experienced HR professionals can develop a consistent onboarding plan and checklist for their business, that details each step, what needs to be done and who handles it.

That way, you can repeat it across all new hires. And if that isn’t enough reason, remember that with a structured onboarding process, employees are 58% more likely to remain with your business for over 3 years.

If you would like to find out more about how to onboard your new employees more effectively or want to chat about your own processes, we would be happy to help.

We even have a free onboarding checklist, which you can request by emailing us here. Or if you just have a question about how to improve the onboarding process, just drop us a line to book your free, no-obligation consultation.


5 Reasons Your Small Business Needs HR Support

Here at Karen HRM we help a lot of small and medium-sized businesses who, on a daily basis, realise the ever-increasing need for HR support and advice. We see so many settings having to spend far too much of their valuable time struggling with HR, especially with the ever-changing demands of employment law. HR support can prove invaluable and far-reaching within so many areas of your business which you may not automatically realise. Which is why we’ve put together this shortlist of ways HR support could help you.

Cost Savings

You might be thinking ‘hold on, isn’t outsourcing my HR going to cost me money, not save it?’. And while it makes perfect sense to think that, you’d be wrong. In fact, this is one of the most significant areas HR support can contribute to a small business. Businesses will quickly find that they become much more efficient by using HR properly (for example, developing and implementing a strategy to support your business goals and ensure they are met, developing your people or implementing meaningful performance reviews). Effective HR support can also help you put well-constructed management processes and control in place, to manage things like sickness absences, training, development, recruitment and more. By having clear policies (and following them), these costs can be reduced, having a significant impact on your bottom line.

Training And Development

We all understand that the development of skills is important for any company’s success and future growth. But without a proper plan and execution strategy, it can often fall by the wayside. HR support can help you identify what training is needed or wanted throughout the business, and then provide training plans, support and incentives to ensure it happens. They can even deliver training workshops, or bring in external trainers where appropriate. By working with management, HR can provide cost and time-effective training and development opportunities for your business. Reduce employee turnover, improve current employee skills and heighten employee morale – what’s not to like?

Managing Performance

HR can help manage employer and business performance in so many different ways. Business performance can be improved by ensuring an integrated performance management system is in place, which can also be utilised as an employee appraisal system. This can help all employees work towards a common goal of improving overall business performance through the fulfilment of their own personal objectives. It can also help you manage poor performance through a capability process, which means that any employees who aren’t fulfilling their objectives can be supported in the best ways and that no money is wasted on underperforming employees. HR can work with management to ensure a top-down approach for all processes is correctly implemented.

Employment Law Guidance

Employment law is constantly changing in big and little ways, always adjusting to keep up with new development, new situations and new technologies. As an employer, you are expected to keep up with these laws and make changes where necessary. But doing so is almost a full-time job, and you have other priorities in your business. HR support gives you the freedom you need to focus on your business, with the peace of mind that your business is fully compliant and up to date with employment law. We will update you on the things that are relevant to you, and help you make any changes needed. More than that, if you ever have any questions, or a situation arises that you aren’t sure how to handle, your HR experts are there to guide you through it.

Fair Dispute Management

If you are struggling with disputes, grievances or any other people-based issue in your business, HR support can be an invaluable asset. It can sometimes be difficult for a manager to ensure everyone in the situation is being treated fairly and getting the best out of the situation, especially if you know everyone involved and struggle to be impartial! By having HR support behind you, managers can ensure all processes and policies are being adhered to and turn a potentially difficult situation into a positive one.


Of course, it’s not just these 5 areas HR support can help you with. In reality, if your business employs people, you need an HR function to keep you on the straight and narrow, as well as provide the guidance and support you need to be successful. At Karen HRM, we provide a variety of HR support that can be tailored to your individual business needs. Whether you need some one-off consultancy or fully outsourced support, we can help. For more information, just get in touch with us today.


4 Tips For A Robust Recruitment Process

Recruitment is one of the most important parts of growing a business. It gives you more resources, frees up your time as the owner and helps build a strong, stable business. But it’s also one of the most intensive, complicated things you can do, and getting it wrong can cause all sorts of problems for your business. That’s why it’s important to have a robust recruitment process in place – before you start hiring anyone. Today, we have 4 tips to help you start building that process and take the next step towards hiring your new staff.

Understand What You Need

So you’ve decided you need a new employee. Great! But what do you need them to do? Many business owners will get to the point of realising they need another pair of hands in the business, and launch straight into hiring someone. The result is often that they are looking for a clone of themselves, someone who can do a bit of everything. But in reality, this almost never works. Instead, you need to sit down and work out which areas of your business you need most support with, and focus your recruitment on that area. So if you know your marketing is suffering because you’re so busy delivering, you should hire a marketing manager. If you’re struggling to deliver all the work that comes in, you need someone with the skills to deliver your product or service. Understanding what you need is the foundation for a robust recruitment process.

DIY Or Use An Expert?

This is a big question, and one a lot of business owners are a bit scared of. Do I try to recruit this role in-house, or do I hire an agency to do it for me? Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to this – it’s all down to how confident you are in your recruitment skills, and how much time you have to dedicate to it. Remember, you need to reach out and attract a pool of candidates to consider and interview, which can be an expensive and time-consuming process. But many business owners prefer this personal, hands-on approach. On the other hand, an external recruitment agency often has a pool of candidates they can draw from right away, as well as spreading the word further than you could, to new networks. If you’ve never recruited before, this is a good way to go to ensure you get the best results.

Hone Your Interview Skills

There are all sorts of horror stories out there about bad interviews, awful interview questions and interviewers who just don’t know what they’re doing. This is not only bad for your company image, but it could also impact your ability to hire the right talent. So if you’ve never interviewed anyone before (or even if you have), spend some time preparing your interview process. Plan out exactly how the interview will be structured, what areas you want to cover and any specific questions you want to ask. Then, practice it. Do mock interviews with friends, family members, even the bathroom mirror. Saying your questions out loud will give you an idea of how long the interview will run and the feel of the questions, as well as highlighting if you’ve asked something ridiculous (which is easier than you think). All of this means you’re prepared to interview candidates, and will get all the information you need.

Don’t Forget About Onboarding

The recruitment process doesn’t end at the offer. This is a common mistake a lot of business owners make – they secure a new hire, they start as planned, and then they leave them to it. But if you want to keep the talent you’ve worked so hard to hire, you need to invest in good onboarding and induction. This means providing everything they need on day 1, from pencils to their set-up computer, pairing the new hire up with a mentor, establishing expectations and supporting them through their first 100 days with your company. If you put some time and effort into your onboarding process, your hires are 80% more likely to stay with you for up to 3 years.

At Karen HRM, we offer business owners support and advice during all stages of the recruitment process, and we can manage this for them from beginning to end. We can help you understand what you need from a new hire, the best way to find them, and the best way to keep them afterwards. If you’d like to know more about building a robust recruitment process, just get in touch with us today.

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