How to Manage Performance in Your Business: Tips and Strategies

Mel Stead, Managing Director of Optimal HR Services
15th August 2022

When it comes to business, performance is key. If your business isn’t running as efficiently as possible, you’re going to find yourself struggling to keep up with the competition. In this blog, we will discuss some tips and strategies for managing performance in your business. We’ll cover everything from goal setting to data analysis, and everything in between! So if you’re looking for ways to improve your business efficiency, read on!

One of the first things you need to do when it comes to managing performance in your business is to set goals. Without goals, you won’t be able to measure your progress or determine whether or not you’re on track. So take some time to sit down and figure out what it is that you want to achieve. The goals all need to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-Bound) as this will ensure that your team member understands exactly what they need to do to achieve the objective and exactly what is expected of them. Once you have your goals set, you can start to develop a plan for how to achieve them. Does the team member need training, peer support, a specific tool or system to use, or do they already have the skills and competence to achieve this already?

Next, you need to start tracking your data. This data can include everything from sales figures to customer satisfaction rates. By tracking this data, you’ll be able to see where your business is performing well and where there are areas that need improvement. Once you have this data, you can start to implement strategies to improve those areas.

Finally, you need to communicate with your team. Performance management isn’t something that you can do on your own – it takes a team effort! Make sure that everyone in your company is aware of your performance goals and is working towards them. This involves engaging with your team to explain the performance management framework, what’s expected of them, how you will support them, and what happens if performance isn’t achieved. Managers should meet regularly (monthly is recommended), and you should discuss performance against goals, providing advice and guidance when needed to support the employee to fulfil the goals. By communicating and working together, you’ll be able to achieve anything you set your mind to!

Frameworks don’t have to be labour intensive, performance management can be as simple as it needs to be.

So there you have it – some tips and strategies for managing performance in your business. By following these tips, you’ll be well on your way to making your business more efficient and successful. So what are you waiting for? Get started today!

If you need any assistance in implementing a performance management framework in your business then give us a call on 0330 0881857. We are more than happy to help.

Please also check out our website www.optimaloutsourcing.co.uk/hr/project-support/ for more information on how we can support your business.

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3 Ways To Better Manage Performance

It’s one of the key responsibilities of a people manager: assessing performance. And with many an employee’s success dependent on a performance measurement, it’s important to get it right.

Why bother? Put simply, without a robust system in place for assessing your staff, it’s unlikely your organisation will operate at its best. Remember, a salary alone is not enough to gain the most from your teams – sure, it helps individuals to settle the bills each month but what happens when it comes to promotions or a pay increase? If you’re not measuring staff performance, you’re not putting yourself in an optimum position to have meaningful conversations with your teams, or giving individuals an opportunity to improve and progress their career.

So, how do you best measure your employees’ performance? There are several ways to do so and today, we’re taking a look at three that have become commonplace for many organisations globally to give those of you lacking a performance measurement strategy some ideas on how to drive your teams forward.

Competency Frameworks

Competencies measure the behaviours and skills of an individual at work. A competency framework provides clarity about how an employee is expected to behave within the company and in their role, as well as the skills necessary to perform their position effectively.

Whether it’s a business owner, HR specialist or senior manager developing the framework, it is the employer’s responsibility to create one that works in practice. In other words, it needs to be extremely clear as to what each competency is and how it will be measured so that your employees know exactly what they are working toward or need to show you to meet the metric. For maximum impact, it’s a good idea to restrict the number of competencies on your framework to just a few – we would suggest ten at the most. You may wish to include a mix of competency type – for example, one or two core competencies that support the company vision, five job-specific competencies, and a handful of leadership competencies to assist with career progression and optimising talent.

If you’re creating a framework for the first time, check out the CIPD website for some useful tips on how to make yours a success.

360-degree review

As it might sound, this type of review system considers information from the wider area and provides a full 360-degree vision of an employee’s performance as seen by their peers and staff from other departments. It can be extremely beneficial, with the information provided helps you to form a picture of how your employee operates while they’re away from the activities you see as their manager.

Again, it is important to keep any questions included in a 360-degree survey to a minimum and also, to make it clear to the respondents exactly what it is you want to obtain from them. Stick to clear and measurable questioning techniques where you can – including grade scales, for example. While it might be tempting to throw in a few open questions, which are an effective means to retrieving broader feedback, try to link these to a measured question to avoid respondents straying from the point. For example, a 1-10 graded answer to the question ‘How well do you feel your colleague contributes ideas in team meetings?’ could be followed with ‘In a few words or sentences, please explain the reason for your grading’.


While management and HR have their objectives to meet, it’s important to remember your staff have their own needs to meet and many would say ‘feeling valued’ ranks much higher nowadays on their list of employment must-haves. Self-evaluation is a great way to give your employees a chance to have their say in terms of their performance, at the same time, providing each one with a sense of value.

Now, on its own, self-assessment might not be the most effective way to measure an employee’s performance although when used alongside a competency framework and 360-degree evaluation, it can be an extremely effective tool, often providing you with insights you would otherwise have missed. Once you know how your employee feels about their performance, it can be used alongside the information gathered from your other reviews to make a deeper assessment of their current ability, helping you to shape a plan to help them improve as required.

Whatever mechanism you choose to adopt for performance measurement, remember it is much more effective when done consistently and at regular intervals throughout the year. An annual appraisal is OK; quarterly catch-ups provide much more insight and in turn, success. Which ensures better outcomes for your employee and you, the manager.

In need of some HR advice? Wherever you are in the UK, you can arrange a chat with one of our friendly professional HR advisors at any time.

Call us on 0330 0881857 or email enquiries@optimal-hr.co.uk

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Is online training always the best for your employees?

At the start of 2019 in the world of Learning and Development, online training and E-learning were unavoidable, they were the new buzz words and everyone was talking about it. Everyone was championing how amazing new technology is and how that technology will enable your employees to learn at their convenience and save costs for the business. 

In reality, for a lot of organisations, Online Training and E-Learning platforms became a box ticking exercise for compliance and has affected the overall development within the business. Whilst this can be a great method for training, it is not always the best solution and takes the focus off other learning solutions. 

For example different software providers will have different capabilities. Some are modern, fun and engaging but sadly there are also some that are quite tired and dated and not as engaging. Some have the function for knowledge checking to ensure learning has taken place whilst others will just record that the training has been completed. I have also seen it happen in practice where employees all undertake the same generic learning module online at their desks whilst discussing it and sharing the answers at the end. Shared learning can be good however in these situations some individuals will not participate in the learning and will simply input the answers they have been given at the end. This is a risk to the business if they miss crucial information.

If we have an E-Learning system or online platform then it can be easy to overlook other learning and development opportunities. For some companies their full Training Budget went into the system which meant there was no face to face learning interventions. We need to remember that there are different learning styles and we should be catering to them all.

The written word can be very powerful. It is especially needed when we’re trying to communicate the full detail of a subject or theory. There are also many learners out there who prefer the written word. It’s usually the same people who like to read a good book, magazine or subscribe to a blog. When using text within your training, keep it relevant, clear and engaging. You can use your text to communicate the details, tell a story and keep your learners hooked to the very end. The important thing to remember is there’s a time and a place for text and there often needs to be more than just words.

A huge 65% of people are visual learners. This explains why infographics and video are the most popular form of content today. People are drawn to imagery, because it’s easier and faster to digest the facts when they’re surrounded by pictures. Image and video content communicate your training narrative quicker than text ever could. So, if you are solely using online training I would encourage you to review the content and add relevant images and videos where possible. If it already contains imagery than rate the quality. Nobody wants to view Clip Art anymore and there is nothing worse for me than watching poor quality videos, it’s completely distracting for me and sometimes feels write painful. 

30% are Auditory learners and these are the people who will most likely opt for an audio book over a physical copy. We have all seen how podcasts and TEDtalks have taken the internet by storm. Why does the power of the spoken word remain such as hit? Well remember that vital aspects of communication can never be fully replicated by text or image, such as tone of voice (It’s not what we say it’s how we say it!). If you include audio content, make sure it’s engaging! For example, include webinars or podcast-style assets to break up the text and support the narrative. Think more inspirational speaker and less monotonous teacher voice and you’ll be well on your way to success!

Some individuals prefer to learn in a social environment whilst others tend toward solitary study. Our learning style is not set in stone and our preference for social or solitary learning can shift depending on the setting or circumstances. Why not combine the two and create engagement activities that cover both learning and have a social aspect. 

To me, learning should be fun and engaging and I want businesses to re think their training solutions for 2020. I would ask you to reflect back over the past year and see what training activities have been implemented and what the result of each were. If there is a heavy bias on online training then really look to ensure this is the best solution possible. Ask yourself would you be able to compliment this with other methods for a better result? If online training is the best solution for you then make sure you are using it to it’s full potential and all employees are engaged with it. Don’t let training become a box ticking exercise in your organisation, harness it for it’s full potential and reap the benefits. 

To find out more about online learning, please contact our Learning and Development Consultant, Kimberley Fidler, on 07487 512 928.

How to grow your own future leaders

Why you should grow your own

I’m not talking about tomatoes here, I’m talking about future leaders. 

We have all seen it happen in the past were a new manager is recruited into the business based on their shiny CV and amazing skill set. Sometimes it’s a great fit and the transition is smooth and they are leading the team to success in no time. Other times they just don’t fit the company culture or are able to get on board with the Mission, Vision and Goals. When it goes wrong it can cause team conflicts, lower morale and affect outputs. You may even loose some members of the team. 

This is one of the reasons it can be beneficial to implement career development pathways and give internal employees the opportunity to work towards promotion. You might think this would be time consuming and costly to implement but, it can be done quite simply.

All organisations undertake employee reviews, and these are great opportunities to identify your future leaders. To me a leader needs two things, the will and the skill. Ok the skill will usually be a lot more than one thing but that’s where we work with them to develop their existing skill set and teach new skills. As long as they have the will, I believe we can help them with the rest.


In practice what does this look like?

Development opportunities

There are always tasks the manager can delegate and this is where I would start. What tasks does the manager currently perform that could be undertaken by someone else in the team? By delegating these tasks, the manager can work more closely with a team member to teach them how to perform new tasks and assess their capabilities. 


Implementing a Mentoring Programme or more simply a buddy system can be one of the best ways to share knowledge within the business. It is also a great way to encourage teamworking, strengthen relationships and boost morale. To do this you would start by identifying which individuals would make great mentors and then provide them with some initial training around the role of a mentor, what the requirements are how to achieve this. You can then start to identify who would benefit from a Mentor and start pairing them up. The Mentors overtime will start to identify those rising stars who have the potential to be future leaders within your business.

Formal Training

Once you have identified your talent pool you can start to implement formal training. There are lots of topics that would benefit all employees:

• Change Management

• Effective Communication

• Influencing and Negotiation

• Problem Solving and Decision Making

• Time and Self Management

• Mentoring

And more specifically for those in a Management role:

• Building Successful Teams

• Coaching Skills

• Performance Management

These are programmes that can be booked externally or why not offer these programmes in house? When individuals undertake training in a group setting it can be very valuable and also create an internal network who can speak to their peers about their own experiences, share ideas and challenges and ask each other for advice. 


If you would like to discuss how to implement this in your organisation or any of the programmes listed, please contact our Learning and Development Consultant, Kimberley Fidler, on 07487 512 928.

Five Values for Successful Leadership

Five Values for Successful Leadership

Forming a team and creating trust is quite difficult. Especially if you are a busy manager who is also expected to perform in a role whilst managing the team. It can be quite natural for people in a position of authority to feel they need to communicate that authority.

“If they fear me, they will listen and do as I say” 

Is that statement correct? Well in most circumstances yes but what we should be asking ourselves is what do we want from our teams. If we want individuals to sit and automate tasks, then great this method may work well. But if you want a forward-thinking team who are not just performing in their role but are also contributing to the team development, business growth, troubleshooting, adapting with change and raising ideas and concerns then this approach will not work.

In my view, whole teams need to work collaboratively, face up to challenges, tackle problems, find solutions and deliver results. Sounds good doesn’t it? So how do we achieve this?

Here’s my top five values I feel are required when leading high performing teams:

Honesty. Creating an open and honest environment is vital and should be one of the first priorities. Whilst working through the forming stage on a new team and getting to know each other you need to be able to have direct and honest conversations. You need to be able to say you are not sure how to do something and ask if anyone can help. You need to be able to say you made a mistake and notify the correct people. You need to be able to check in with each other and ask a colleague how they are. Getting this right will take you to the performing stage a lot quicker. People often feel more at ease and safer in an honest environment. When team members feel they are unable to be honest in this way they may hide mistakes or try rectifying them alone. This can be more damaging for the business.

Equality. From my personal experience teams work best when everyone is treated equally. Although there is a hierarchy on paper every individual should be treated with equal respect. Each role is critical to ensure whole processes are completed. If one was taken away the full service would not be provided. Therefore, every task should be seen as value add. The best ideas can sometimes come from the most junior team members who bring a fresh outlook and can see what others may overlook. These team members should feel empowered to contribute and share their ideas and not feel as their voice should not be heard.

Collaborative. Often roles interlink without employees linking. Ask yourself; Do all team members have good working relationships? Do we have effective communication within the team? Do we work as a team on shared goals or are we all operating independently? What will bring the most value to the business and its customers/clients?

When setting targets one thing to keep in mind is individual targets can lead to fierce competition and lone working, whilst this might bring short term results it can cause long term damage to the team environment. Group targets are a great way of allowing all individuals to utilise their key strengths, to plan set roles and tasks to achieve their mutual goal.

Supportive. When working collaboratively you will notice colleagues automatically become more supportive of one another. When you are all playing a role working towards the same goal you want to ensure your colleagues are ok and working well. You start to care about each other’s wellbeing more and I think this is possibly also because you notice more about each other when working more closely. In a supportive work environment, nobody experiences extreme pressure even with high targets and short deadlines. Feeling supported at work is proven to lower stress levels.

Regular Reviews. These are a great way to encourage two way discussions. The introverts in the team may not wish to approach you directly, establishing dedicated time provides the opportunity to share anything that is on their mind. This could be a new idea, a request for development opportunities or to confide about a problem outside of work. By building strong relationships and really understanding your team members you can learn how to achieve the best from them. Some will be incentivised by financial gain or flexibility, others will be looking for a challenge and sense of achievement. Do you know how best to motivate all your team members? If not start to get to know them better on an individual level and see what makes them tick.

Managing by fear will only provide limited results, we want to lead with authenticity. When people believe in you and the journey you are all on, you will find managing them easier. When you manage a team you spend a lot of time on the details of how you reach your goal. When the main goal is broken down into individual goals each team member is able to focus on their key responsibilities and the manager can operate at a higher level leaving the details to individuals in the team.

If you would like to discuss management and leadership within your business then contact me to discuss what options would be best for you. At Optimal PBS we have developed a full Leadership Development Programme with modules focused on all key areas of managing others. We also offer one-to-one coaching with your managers and can work with you to implement new Performance Management Procedures and Policies to best support your organisation and any future growth. With a free initial consultation, you have nothing to lose and potentially a lot to gain so please call me on 01422 897 673 or email kim@optimal-hr.co.uk to get started today.

Kim Fidler
Learning and Development Consultant
Optimal PBS

The Three Key Management Areas

The Three Key Management Areas

In the late 60’s, Dr John Adair developed a three circle model as a means of understanding leadership. This model is represented by three interconnecting circles, performing the task, maintaining the team and developing the individual. The model is still very relevant today however we often overlook what time we spend in each area so I thought it would be beneficial to explore the model in more detail.


Performing the Task

For every team there is a purpose, a task for the group to achieve.  Each person needs a role to fulfil with certain responsibilities relating to it.  Objectives need to be set and standards for performance laid down.  The task must be planned and organised correctly with team members being kept informed.  A monitoring process needs to be in place, ensuring that everything runs to plan, as well as reviewing and evaluating once the task is completed.


Maintaining the Team

Each team develops it’s own identity which may differ from that of individual members.  It is the leaders responsibility to gain the commitment of the team so that it’s power and energy is directed towards a common purpose.  The leader must set about developing the loyalty of members, their pride in belonging, their desire to work together as a team and in short their morale.  Any conflict which arises must be dealt with, so as not to cause disruption to the team or stifle any creativity.


Developing the Individual

Each member of a team will have their own individual needs.  They will need to know exactly what is expected of them, in order for them to feel valued for the contribution they make.  Feedback, both positive and negative will also enhance this.  The work they perform must be within their capabilities but a challenge enabling them to be stretched to grow and be developed.  They need to feel that they are part of the team, they belong, are valued and accepted.


Ideal Outcome

The leaders job is to see that all areas of need are satisfied.  However, circumstances will mean that it may not be possible for effort to be put into all three circles all the time.  This may lead to an imbalance for whatever reason.  There is nothing wrong with this provided the leader is aware that certain areas are being overlooked.  Energy can be put back into this at another time.

Some managers consistently ignore or pay little attention to a particular circle.  For example, if a leader is very task orientated, they may give clear instructions, think ahead, be highly efficient but at the possible cost of team morale and individual commitment. The ideal therefore is to ensure that all the circles are focussed on equally at the same time.

Basically, effectiveness as a leader depends on the ability to influence, and be influenced by, the team and its members in the implementation of a common task.

In practice this means a successful leader functions in all three areas, often simultaneously.

How do we do this as Managers?

Firstly we need to understand what each circle looks like in our own role and business. It might be useful to plot now how much time you currently dedicate to each area. Once you have established what you currently do it becomes easier to identify areas we can make changes.

There will be occasions when all our time is dedicated to one area for example if we have taken on new members of staff. If we have changed a procedure or implemented new software/ computer systems. As discussed above this is okay, so long as we are still aware of where we are spending our time and we move back into the other areas when possible.

If you are a manager who is also a top performer in the team it can be difficult to move away from performing the task for a great deal of time. If you fall into this category, then you may need to look at covering the other areas with different resources. Do you have performance management framework in place to assist with performance management and maintaining your team? If not introducing simple procedures can be a great way to oversee teams without as much time taken up from the manager.

Do you struggle developing the team? Were you the top performer who was promoted to manager with very little training of what it takes to develop others? Don’t worry if you are, many managers find themselves in this position. It’s ok to have a development area and ask for support in respect of this. Would you benefit from Leadership Development Training? If so, why not make a phone call today and chat through different options for your needs.

Do the team require training that would be more beneficial from an external resource? Often managers need to look outside of their team for development opportunities. Depending on the requirement there will be various solutions available, you just need to find what is best for you and your team.

If you would like to discuss anything raised in this blog our Learning and Development Consultant Kimberley Fidler offers a 30 minute consultation to discuss you and your teams requirements.

To arrange your free consultation call Optimal PBS on 01422 897 673 or email enquiries@optimal-hr.co.uk

Understanding Change Management

Understanding Change Management

Change is inevitable and we keep encountering it at many times during our lives.  Sometimes the change may be relatively small with quite limited and short-term consequences. At other times the change may be much greater with significant impact and consequences.


When we say Change Management what do we mean?

In the past, change management carried with it the connotation of being activities carried out by the HR department. However, over the last decade, change management has emerged as a structured discipline that business leaders are seeing as a ‘must have’ and not just a ‘nice to have’ when major projects or initiatives are launched.


Change management represents a large and rapidly growing discipline that is being increasingly deployed by all types of businesses. It refers to a structured approach that facilitates the adoption of change by groups and individuals within a business. The process of how businesses change draws on many disciplines from psychology and behavioural science to engineering and systems thinking. The underlying principle is that change does not happen in isolation. Change impacts the whole business and each individual associated with it.


It is important to note that ‘businesses’ are not the ones that change; it is the people within businesses that change. Therefore, the success of the project ultimately is measured by the difference in work done by each individual multiplied by the number of employees impacted by the change. Consequently, effective change management requires an understanding for, and appreciation of how one person makes a change successfully. Without an individual perspective, change management amounts to activities performed without goals or outcomes achieved.


ADKAR Model for change


Among the tools available to drive individual change, the ADKAR model developed by Prosci, known as a world leader in change management research and content creation, is commonly used. ADKAR is an acronym for Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement. The ADKAR Model for Managing organizational change starts with understanding how to manage change with a single person.


In principle, to make a change successfully an individual needs:


Awareness of the need for change

Desire to participate and support the change

Knowledge on how to change

Ability to implement required skills and behaviours

Reinforcement to sustain the change


ADKAR describes successful change at the individual level and outlines the goals or outcomes of successful change. It is an effective tool for planning change management activities, diagnosing gaps, developing corrective action, and supporting managers and supervisors.


What actions need to take place to support each stage:


Awareness of the need for change 

Sending a group email or posting on the Intranet won’t cut it I’m afraid. For people to buy into the change we need to explain it in full to them. All staff need to understand why we need to progress from the current way? What benefits there will be to the business and individual?


Desire to participate and support the change 

We really need to sell the benefits so that the individuals want to change and do not feel forced.


Knowledge on how to change 

Let’s make it easy for everyone. Do we need to offer awareness and information sessions, can we offer training and personal development? By fully equipping all individuals we make it easier for them to change.


Ability to implement required skills and behaviours 

Has the training been sufficient? Would some staff benefit from reminders and overviews? Do all employees have the correct software and applications installed and working?


Reinforcement to sustain the change 

Are we checking in and monitoring progress? Can we share good news stories and success factors to reinforce the new behaviours/processes etc? Have we celebrated the achievements made so far?


When we break it down and really consider the ADKAR model we can see how we can help individuals which in turn helps the business.


If you are thinking of implementing change but don’t know where to start then get in touch with us at Optimal PBS and we can help through every stage.

Why Is It Important To Manage Our Time?

Have you ever heard the saying “control your day before it controls you”? Well, there is a good reason for this. When you learn how you can choose to spend your time more wisely you have more chance of success. Events will occur throughout the day and it is how you chose to respond to these events that matters the most.

We offer a 3 Hour workshop that looks at the importance of Time Management. We teach the importance of using Time Management tools and share tried and tested methods to work smarter not harder!

For those unable to book or attend our sessions I thought I would share some tips and information here.

  1. Create a schedule and stick to it.

If you have lots of tasks with equal priority it can sometimes feel overwhelming. By making a to-do list you can easily refer to, it helps you to stay focused and can provide added momentum when you tick something off the list and feel a sense of achievement.

If you currently use a “to do list” why not take it to the next level and start adding timings to each task. You can do this simply by adding them to an outlook calendar and there are also lots of printable sheets to assist that can be found online. By adding timings to a to-do list it can help provide clear focus and help you stick to the task in hand. This really helps me as without a timed to do list I often jump from one task to another struggling to complete any!

  1. Dealing with distractions.

When working in a busy environment there can often be lots of distractions. If you are working to a timed schedule it can be easier to avoid distractions. For example, if other employees try to distract you to chat, you can advise them you are in the middle of a time critical task right now but can speak to them during your break. You will find they are accepting of this response and you can continue with your to-do list. Most of the time they may just want to chat about the weekend or the latest TV show so don’t feel bad about this, there’s always time to fit in social interactions.

Social Media sites use the same techniques as gambling firms to create psychological dependencies and ingrain their products in the lives of their users. This can be like an addiction and users may find it difficult not to get lost in Facebook every time they pick up their phone. You may find your mind wander so you pick up your phone and browse online. If this is the case for you, schedule in time for Social media and keep to these time slots only.

The only time I would advise you to break this is when you receive an email with the subject line “Treats in the kitchen”, when you receive that email you need to act fast as you know they won’t still be there in an hour’s time!

  1. Learn to say No

We can all be guilty of agreeing to things we don’t actually want to do. It could be as simple as unjamming the photocopier because you sit near it and nobody else seems to be able to manage it. If when asked to fix the copier next time, you said you were unable to as you were in the middle of something important, I’m sure your colleagues would be able to deal with it themselves if they had to. This not only leaves you to focus on the task in hand but you may also find, over time they stop asking you! Can you imagine never having to stick your hand in again with the fear of being burnt on the rollers!

  1. Don’t Decide, DO

Procrastination is the biggest killer of dreams! We can all waste time deliberating, but if we start straightaway we usually find the task is easier to take on and we reach the end goal quicker. Don’t allow your brain time to pick holes in your plans or find reasons not to go ahead. Just get stuck in and reap the rewards at the end.

  1. Decision fatigue

Researchers believe the human brain has a limited mental resource each day. Once it is used up we experience decision fatigue. Decision fatigue can have a mentally and physically draining impact rather like the lack of sleep. Decision fatigue can leave people struggling to make decisions and some may suffer with brain fog. Even a series of small decisions can cause a drop in quality decision making.

This seems quite surprising when as a society we are always demanding more choice. We want more TV shows, more clothing lines in stores, more variety in the supermarket, more choices on the menu when eating out, and so on. Have you ever been to a restaurant with a very limited menu? You have around 4 choices of main course and it seems really easy to choose. In contrast when arriving at a restaurant with pages of endless choices the decisions can be quite overwhelming and take a lot longer.

These days just ordering a coffee can be a daunting task with so many different blends before you even get started on the milk!

So how can we try and combat decision fatigue?

Focus on what really matters

Make sure the urgent and important items are prioritised and ticked off the list first. Schedule any important meetings or tasks that require decisions for mornings when you are most alert.

Start by defining daily decisions and see which ones you can streamline. One of the first decisions we make on a daily basis is what outfit to wear. Mark Zuckerberg along with Steve Jobs and Barack Obama decided to take this decision away. They all own a series of the same suit, jeans and T-shirts so each morning they can retrieve any from their wardrobe without having to make a choice.

I really want to clear my life to make it so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community” — Mark Zuckerberg

If you don’t want to wear the same outfit every day you could select this the night before and leave it out ready for the morning. That way you can wake and dress with one less decision, reserving that brain power for more important items. There are also other decisions we can make in advance.

Most people’s second decision is what to have or where to go for breakfast. Meal prepping is a good way to take away meal decisions, you could save yourself 3 decisions every day by doing this. When I have a demanding work schedule in the week ahead, I always spend my Sundays preparing. I make batches of food I can just pick up and eat or quickly reheat. I organise my outfits for every day and line them up in order, I even prepare any items I need to take with me. When I do this my week always goes smoothly and seems like there is less pressure. When I don’t prepare, I can sometimes feel unable to juggle everything and this can lead to me skipping meals which can have a big impact on my mood and energy levels. Eating a balanced diet with regular meal times and sufficient water, plays a big role in how much focus and energy we have so skipped meals can be very detrimental.

Once you get into a routine of doing these things continually, they become a habit.

“…Allow the extraordinary power of habit to take over. At that point, we’re free from the need to decide and the need to use willpower.” – Gretchen Rubin

My advice would be to start small, make little changes and notice the benefits. Look at it as managing your choices, rather than managing your time.

If you would like to look into this topic further and find out more of our tips why not book one of our Time Management Sessions. We currently deliver these in our Training Rooms in Halifax and can be booked to deliver in house workshops.

What You Need To Know About The Apprenticeship Levy Before Apr 2019

Launched in April 2017 the apprenticeship levy was introduced by the government with the aim to raise £3bn a year to fund better training.

All businesses with a paybill over 3million each year now automatically pay into the Levy through the PAYE process. The deductions are 0.5% of payroll and the government tops this up with a further 10%. That means for every £1 you pay, you have £1.10 to spend.

Although deducted like a tax these funds remain in your Levy Account which you can manage online and then spend. Although titled “apprenticeship” the funds can also be used for existing colleague upskilling through tailor-made higher apprenticeships. These Advanced apprenticeships now go as high as Level 7 which is the equivalent of a Masters Degree and cover topics such as strategic management.

Since the launch

In 2015, the government set a target to have 3 million new apprentices by 2020 and the introduction of the Levy was expected to assist with that goal. It appears upon initial reports that it may have had the opposite effect. There were 375,800 apprenticeship starts reported for the 2017/18 academic year, compared with 494,900 in 2016/17 and 509,400 in 2015/16, a decrease of 24.1 and 26.2 per cent respectively. One of the main reasons for the decline seems to be that employers are overwhelmed and sometimes confused by the new Levy process.

Benefits of utilising the Levy

Apprentices can be a great way to create new career pathways to ensure career progression within teams and staff retention.

The benefits of offering advanced apprenticeships to employees can be very beneficial to every business. If you have long-serving employees who have reached the highest level of pay for their role it can be difficult to think of new ways to incentivise them. If we use Hertzberg’s Theory, you will see we tend to look after the Hygiene Factors first and foremost and can often overlook the real motivators.

Employees who have access to training and development are shown to feel more valued and therefore more committed to the business. Current recruitment trends show that individuals are taking more control over their careers and if they see no progression internally, they will seek what is available elsewhere. A great way to stop this within your teams is to ensure there are clear career pathways and routes for progression within the business.


Businesses with a payroll of less than 3m will not pay into a Levy however they can still gain access if they wish to hire an apprentice and or enrol existing employees on an advanced apprenticeship programme. The government will fund 90% and therefore you will only need to pay 10% of the cost of the training. This is a very significant saving, and so far there is no indication of how long this offer will remain available. As an example, you could qualify a new manager and provide them with additional knowledge and guidance for a reduced cost of £500 rather than the usual £5,000. The payments are broken down over the full duration of the apprenticeship programme and can be as little as £20 per month.

For small businesses with under 50 employees, the government will fully fund all apprenticeship training for any 16-18 year-olds joining the business. That means you will pay nothing towards the cost of the training and qualification.

Employers who recruit 16-18 year-olds will also receive an added bonus payment of £1,000 per qualifying apprentice within the business.


All funds in the Levy account will expire within 24 months. That means everyone who started paying into the Levy at the beginning of April 2017 will only have until April this year to spend it before it expires.

What are your thoughts?

Have your say in the comments below …

Cognitive Distortions! What are they and do you have any?

I have recently been studying CBT which is short for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. CBT is used to treat Mental Health Conditions such as Anxiety and is proven to be as effective as Medication. Although I have been interested in CBT for a long time now I have never looked at Cognitive Distortions in depth until this year.

So what are Cognitive Distortions?

Cognitive Distortions are the mechanisms by which people with habitual negative thinking styles, depression and other Mental Health problems perpetuate their own problems. Most people will not even realise they are using these distortions! Even the most well-balanced individuals occasionally engage in these thinking styles from time to time.

I thought it would be useful to share some of the most common examples so that you can assess if you are unknowingly using any. I have added 5 that are quite common below;


  1. Always Being Right

Now I think we all know someone who uses this even if we don’t ourselves. People using this cognitive distortion believe that to make a mistake and admit you are wrong is to fail as a person. They must always be right! They will always try and convince others that their point of view is correct and will place being ‘right’ over being happy!

There are a few downfalls with this, not only will it damage your relationships with others, but it will also prevent you from learning and developing. If we always think we are right and know the answer we never open ourselves to new possibilities that enable us to learn and grow as a person.

  1. Heaven’s Reward Fallacy

This is the idea that if we make sacrifice’s now, we will be rewarded in the future. For example, that one colleague that arrives early and empties the dishwasher every morning. Hey, they even clean the kitchen after everyone has made a mess at lunch. They haven’t been asked to do it, they just assume they should and if they do, it will be beneficial because it will be noticed, and they will receive recognition or reward for this!

You might think it’s a good thing if that one person cleans up every day but it’s actually not with these beliefs attached, they may instead begin to feel wronged and bitter! My advice would be only do things because you want to do them (not for a reward). You will find more often than not the desired or expected reward/recognition never materialises and this can lead to upset and resentment.

  1. Fallacy of Fairness

This one really hit me when I read this as this is my biggest cognitive distortion and I hadn’t even realised it! I always believe everything in the world should be fair and everyone has the same agreement of what fair is! It seems very naïve now I write this but I was very stuck in this view and it has caused me a lot of upset over the years! If only I had known then, what I know now!

In reality, we all have different views on what is right and fair. It all depends on our upbringing, past experiences, personal beliefs and values.  Just because we feel something is unfair doesn’t mean that everyone else around us thinks this way too. We instead just need to focus on our values and what is right for us.

  1. Polarised Thinking

Also knows as ‘Black and White Thinking’ or ‘All or Nothing’ the inability to see the shades of grey in a situation. Someone engaged in polarised thinking will see things as one of two ways, good or bad. For example, they will see people as nasty or nice and will refuse to see them as a unique mix of personal qualities (i.e. a normal flawed human being).

It can be easy to demonise people based on one mistake or personality trait, but this only causes upset within ourselves. We should instead try to accept people as they are and choose to find the positives to focus on.

  1. Catastrophising

You may have experienced this in extreme situations. For example, when boarding a flight some people tend to think about the worst-case scenarios and focus on things that can go wrong! This leaves the person in a constant state of anticipation thinking disaster is about to strike!

It is more beneficial for us to focus on the positives rather than negatives. If disaster is going to happen, it will happen no matter how much we worry about it beforehand.


So what can you do if you do have any Cognitive Distortions?

Firstly, just being aware that these are quite common and affect more of us than we think can be a help in itself. It’s very easy to believe our thoughts to be reality all the time but by having the awareness that sometimes our minds can wander into negative territory can help us to gain more control over our thoughts and in-return feelings. We don’t have to believe everything we think.

Challenging Cognitive Distortions is often carried out with the help of a CBT Practitioner or therapist, however, we can try to help ourselves. The best way to tackle them is by questioning. Yes, questioning ourselves! Next time you become aware you are dealing with a cognitive distortion try to ask yourself these questions:

What kind of cognitive distortion are you using now?

Do you have any evidence to support this thought?

Do you have any evidence that goes against this thought?

What would you say to a friend in this situation?

Can you think of another way of looking at this situation?

Do you think this will matter in 6 months’ time?

If you could replace this thought with something more realistic what would it be?


Cognitive Distortions if left unchecked can go on to cause conflict in the workplace. If you would like to discuss this in more detail contact Optimal PBS at enquiries@optimal-hr.co.uk or call 01422 471271.