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Why a happy workforce is at the centre of a successful business

Why a happy workforce is at the centre of a successful business

Expert VoiceIndustry ExpertWorkforce Management

While small businesses owners clearly recognise the value of HR, it can also be a department which is complex and difficult to manage. Alan Price, CEO of BrightHR, tells Intelligent SME.tech about how BrightHR set out to change that, discusses his own career journey and highlights how organisations can provide positive experiences for employees to ensure staff retention and recruit new talent.

Tell us about Bright HR and the clients and markets served?

BrightHR passionately believes in the power of small businesses but could see employers struggling with the responsibility of HR and the time it took to manage. So, we set out on a mission to change that and launched BrightHR.

Our software lets employers manage all their HR in one place, from their desktop and mobile app. From handling everyday HR tasks – like logging sickness, calculating holidays, creating rotas and much more – to creating complex contracts and policy documents, BrightHR gives employers HR technology that’s easy to use, and advice that’s clear, practical and jargon-free.

Our clients might manage shift workers at a shop or have hundreds of full-time staff at a large company. Either way, BrightHR saves them time, money and effort.

Using our software means employers don’t have to spend hours every day on their HR tasks. Their time is freed up, giving them opportunity to actually grow their business.

How has the business grown since it started and how have you ensured growth?

When we launched BrightHR in 2016 we had just 30 employees. Today, our workforce has grown to almost 200 staff and our people have proudly helped us become the leading digital HR software platform in the UK. We’ve gone global too, with over 600,000 users across the UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Now, we offer 24/7 employment law advice, expert health and safety support, a confidential employee well-being service and much more.

The team and I are passionate about ensuring that everyone has access to good employment and HR, so we’re very responsive to our clients’ needs. Whenever they are experiencing issues, we work together to find a solution – and if that’s extending our team to include health and safety experts to offer round-the-clock advice or working with award-winning employee assistance programmes to provide mental health support to staff and their families – then that’s something we’ll do.

By offering employers such innovative products, we’ve been able to retain clients and attract new business. In the financial year 20/21, BrightHR generated £13m in revenue, which is a 50% increase in revenue YoY.

We also took on almost 12,000 new UK companies in 2021 and global businesses jumped up from 54,336 to 69,914. Just recently, we ranked 18th out of the top 100 fastest growing tech companies at the Northern Tech Awards 2021.

In addition, we are proud to announce that UK Business Tech Awards recently crowned us ‘SAAS Company of the Year’, highlighting our determination and growth over the years.

We were also just named ‘HR Technology Provider of the Year’ at Personnel Today’s awards and ‘Leaders in rota and shift-scheduling software’ by Crozdesk, all in the same week.

Plus, our dedicated and proactive team are instrumental in coming up with new ideas to support our clients. Innovation is at the core of our business and we’re always looking to develop our suite of products and services – recent years have seen the launch of a number of new BrightHR products, like Blip, our modern time tracking app; PoP, our HMRC-recommended record-keeping software application, and most recently, VaccTrak, which monitors vaccination rates in your workplace – particularly useful with the recently announced mandates for certain sectors.

What has your own career looked like so far?

I have been at the forefront of championing good business practices for over 22 years, from supporting employees with the trade union movement at the start of my career, to now supporting over 110,000 SMEs covering three million employees worldwide, in my current position as CEO at BrightHR and Chief Operations Officer at the Peninsula Group.

My current project is overseeing the global roll out of our HR technology business BrightHR, supporting over 44,000 organisations and over 500,000 users worldwide.

The Peninsula Group provides people support, namely HR, employment law and health and safety transformation to over 75,000 businesses in the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. I am responsible for the leadership of the Group’s operations strategy, presiding over 125,000 client monthly service interactions and client experience engagements. I also hold a number of non-executive positions across the 11 group companies, while maintaining a group operational overview and group HR responsibilities.

I am proud to be a Chartered Fellow of the CIPD with 18 years’ experience in employee relations, a Chartered Manager and Fellow of the CMI, a certified practitioner and Fellow of the AHRI (Australian Human Resources Institute) and a professional member of SHRM, Canadian Human Resource Professional Association and British Columbia & Chartered Professionals in Human Resources.

Having demonstrated a significant contribution to business and society, I am also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (RSA).

In 2003, I was appointed to her Majesty’s Court and Tribunal Service in the UK and was one of the youngest judicial appointments to the Employment Tribunal Service, which I continue to hold.

I served for four years as a charity trustee and Non-Executive Director for the world’s second largest HR professional body, the CIPD, which represents over 140,000 HR professionals worldwide. I am an ambassador for the North West Air Ambulance and Honorary Fellow at the University of Salford.

What advice would you offer other executives within the C-suite to make sure each voice is heard?

Fellow CEOs must not forget the role that HR plays within their business and leverage this accordingly to drive growth.

At the end of the day, the HR department focuses solely on the people who work for you. Without reliable and efficient staff, businesses will flop.

By working collaboratively with your HR team, you can create an environment that people are proud to work for and in which they are supported and driven to succeed.

Ultimately this will make your business more successful and staff retention will be high.

What are some of the key challenges your customers have been experiencing over the last year?

When our customers’ needs changed overnight in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we knew we had to respond fast. We created a full suite of brand-new innovative software to help employers manage new government guidelines and workplace regulations.

Our furlough navigator helped employers plan wage claims, record staff details and comply with the JRS, whilst the back to work navigator supported employers with every element of bringing staff back to work safely, including a rota planner to easily set up staggered shifts in-line with government guidance and unlimited cloud-based storage for furlough documents.

And this year, we’ve continued to innovate to support business owners through their challenges. In January 2021, we launched VaccTrak – an online vaccine tracker that helps business owners record who’s had the COVID-19 vaccine in their business.

It also allows employers to issue their staff with an exclusive VaccTrak pass. Staff can then save these passes in their smartphone wallets for quick and easy access.

VaccTrak has helped to record over 120,000 vaccination statuses in the UK –meaning that 12,000 businesses have been able to open safely thanks to our vaccine tracker tool.

We’ve also launched the care navigator this year, to help care organisations get tailored health and safety support so they can keep up with the latest law changes.

This central online hub gives business owners access to compliant risk assessment templates, CPD-accredited and RoSPA assured e-learning courses, and essential care-sector resources.

And recently, we launched Bright Lightning – the UK’s first HR AI platform. This free online advice tool gives business owners lightning-fast HR answers, so they can resolve their HR dilemmas quickly. It’s powered by a team of 50+ HR experts, with over 30 years’ experience advising business owners. And it’s completely free.

Alongside Bright Lightning, we launched Bright Exchange – an online marketplace where customers can advertise their services and products for free.

Our aim is to create a community of like-minded business owners and to support employers in boosting their business post-COVID. Currently, there are 40,000 businesses and 450,000 customers that business owners can advertise to – and these figures are growing by the day. 

How can organisations provide positive experiences for employees to ensure staff retention and recruit new talent?

In my experience, a happy workforce is at the centre of a successful business.

Treat your staff right, give them opportunities to innovate and to grow, and let them know you appreciate them. Do all these things and you’ll have a dedicated workforce that love coming to work every day and take pride in the products and service they’re delivering.

Job adverts have now soared to record high. In fact, a whopping 2.2 million jobs are currently on offer – meaning applicants can afford to be pickier than ever and these days, competitive pay just isn’t going to cut it.

Job seekers are looking for companies with good values and flexibility.

Championing an inclusive workplace and being an ally; prioritising mental health and providing support; offering hybrid or flexible working to support a better work-life balance; and of course, good old financial renumeration in terms of good wages, pensions and in some cases, even bonuses; these are all things that people are looking for when they decide what sort of company they want to work for.

How can organisations with hybrid workforces foster collaboration and a company culture?

Hybrid working can be of great benefit to both employers and employees. A better work-life balance can actually boost productivity and staff retention. But it does pose its challenges.

Using a system as simple as Microsoft Teams can be a great way to facilitate instant conversation through its chat and video call functions.

Regular team catch-ups where everyone has the opportunity to share updates can be a great to make sure you’re all working to one common goal.

Facilitate a process whereby employees can nominate colleagues to be recognised for their hard work – this helps staff feel appreciated by their teams and managers.

If in a position to, regular social meet-ups, physical or virtual, can do wonders in creating camaraderie and team spirit.

What should HR leaders be prioritising as we move into 2022?

Given the difficulty that businesses up and down the UK are having in filling vacancies, it’s important that employers review their recruitment and retention strategies by offering workplace benefits that strength beyond wages; HR leaders may want to consider flexible or hybrid working,

Inclusion is obviously an incredibly important matter; we want our workplaces to reflect the diversity of our country. Every employee should feel that their ideas, presence and contributions are truly valued.

Businesses should look to embrace technological advancements wherever possible; in an age where data can be at your fingertips and information is needed round-the-clock and instantly, employers can’t afford to be left in the dust whilst their clients adapt.

As always, wellbeing should be a priority for every employer, regardless of industry. Providing an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) can go a long way in supporting your employees’ mental health through 24/7 phone counselling and face-to-face therapy. In fact, those businesses that provide an EAP can expect to reduce absenteeism by as much as 45%.

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