SME Agony Uncle


Each week broadcaster, entrepreneur and agony uncle Bobby Kerr joins The Hard Shoulder to answer all your employment-related questions.

Bobby kicked off this week by taking a swipe at a phenomenon that has become a standard in workplaces around the world - the open plan office.

Championed by the likes of Google and Facebook, the concept was originally designed to enhance collaboration, camaraderie and the exchange of ideas in the workplace.

In recent times however, the notion has taken a bit of a battering - and Bobby is one of those who remains unconvinced.

“First of all you can’t work quietly,” he says. “There are massive disturbances, there are huge distractions.”

He feels the concept actually discourages collaboration because there is often nowhere to have a private conversation and, “basically you are like a goldfish in a bowl.”

“They also say that personal space is the most important contribution to your job satisfaction,” he says.

“In other words your little piece of space, where you work and how comfortable you feel there - that is massively important in how satisfied you are in your job.”

Hi Bobby, I am coming to end of my contract with the defence forces after 21 years. I am really nervous when I leave. I work in supply chain and logistics. What advice can you give?

“The first thing I would do is I would try and get myself as organised as I could before the time came,” says Bobby.

“I would look for other jobs, I would research the market, I would do up my CV and I would look at the positives.”

It is time for this listener to look at what he has achieved during his time in the military - and work out where that experience might be put to the best use.

“I just think that psychologically you are at an advantage if you do that,” says Bobby.

“If there is a gap between leaving the defence forces and finding employment, it could be more tricky. Use the time now to get yourself organised, research the market and go and get yourself a job. No problem.”

Bobby, what is the best way to break the news that you have to let someone go? Our work experience student is just not working out in the office. Nothing to do with his personality but his work his work ethic is an issue.

While this can definitely be a difficult conversation to have, now is not the time to mince words - Bobby's advice is to be decisive, definitive and speak in black and white terms.

While any employee - especially someone on work experience - has a right to know what went wrong, Bobby’s advice is to be brief and stand firm in your decision.

“This is very simple,” he says. “It is about clarity.”

“You wait probably to the end of the day or the end of the week. You bring the chap in, you tell him it is not working out.

“You say, 'thanks very much, it hasn't work out' and you don’t go into too much detail.”

Our next listener is in a job that he enjoys to a point - however he feels he is stuck in a rut.

He has learnt all he can where he is and has come to the realisation that if he wants to progress with the company, he will have to move to the UK.

He spent 10 months and 13 months respectively in his previous two jobs and worries that if he moves again, it will reflect poorly on his CV.

"I am two years in the job now," he says "I don't know what to do. I don't want my CV to look like I am not committed. Should I stay or should I go?"

“In a nutshell, I think he should go because he is unhappy,” says Bobby.

“I don't think two years is too short a time. I think if he is finding himself bored, it is time to move on.”

Our listener is happy in Ireland, he has recently gotten engaged and received approval for a mortgage.

“You don’t want to go to the UK so don't go to the UK,” says Bobby. “Have a look around here."

"I just think you have been in the job two years, you have built up good experience, I would take a calculated risk and I would move on.

"I don't think this person is jumping around. I don't think there is a big gap in the CV [...] I don't see any badness in this."

Hi Bobby, can you give some advice on starting up a website for a small business? I own a craft shop here in Clare and I am looking to get online. Is setting up a website a very expensive undertaking? We are not looking at anything elaborate.

There are many different ways to go about getting yourself set-up online and Bobby’s advice is to look into all the supports that are available.

“The process of setting up a website is not difficult and it is not expensive,” he says.

There are a range of websites that offer website creation templates for people with all levels of technical skill - and there are government supports on offer as well.

“Believe it or not the local enterprise board have really good assistance around setting up a website,” says Bobby. “They bring you through the whole process.”

If you can prove your case and match-fund what is on offer, the board also provides financial assistance in the form of innovation vouchers.

You can listen back to all of Bobby’s employment advice from Tuesday’s The Hard Shoulder here:

If you have a business or SME related query you would like answered - you can get in touch with Bobby each week by simply sending a short mail to [email protected]

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