SME Agony Uncle: Bobby Kerr answers all your business and work-related questions

Join Bobby on The Hard Shoulder every Tuesday, with thanks to Energia

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

This week, Bobby and Ivan kicked things off by discussing a survey about making bad hires. Ivan says he thought that's what probationary periods would stop for employers because they could get rid of people they didn't like or think were a good fit after six months. 

The survey by says that 65% of Irish businesses have suffered from a bad hire in the last year and a third of companies surveyed spend €10K rectifying that. The main areas bad hires impact in businesses are reduction in productivity, workplace conflict and loss of revenue. 

One of the common mistakes cited by employers was taking a reference from a family member or friend of the prospective employee or indeed, hiring by word of mouth. Almost 30% of the companies surveyed said they had made the bad hire following word of mouth about the person.

Bobby says that while yes, probation is a layer of protection for employers, companies also need to make sure they have a robust hiring process in place. He adds that he is shocked how any employers don't check references these days. Bobby advises picking up the phone and calling previous employers or referees and asking the questions because people are often more open about these things over the phone.  

Now onto your questions... 

What do you think about putting the TV on in the office showing the live World Cup matches? We have a TV in the break room and I'm not into football myself but I see others using it now as a great excuse for a long tea break. 

Bobby says there's two schools of thought around the impact of the World Cup on businesses. A recent article in The Irish Independent by Maude Lavanchy and Willem Smit on whether or not the World Cup is costly for business says that yes, if you take the normal working hours of 9am-5pm that 50% of the workforce will be interested in watching the games. 

So what does that mean for business? Based on Lavanchy and Smit's calculations, this means a drop in productivity potentially putting a total of €12.5bn of gross domestic product worldwide at risk in the first two weeks of the tournament.

There's a catch - watching your team will boost happiness in the workplace but if they lose, the negative impact of watching that is twice as bad. 

So this person has three options then - ignore it and hope for the best, let workers adjust their schedules (which has been done in Brazil) or else bring the TV in and let them watch it while they work. Ivan suggests having the TV in the office but maybe turning the sound off as an alternative solution as well.  

What are your views on management consultants? I own a factory in the midwest and employ around 150 people - most of whom have worked for me for a long time. We are profitable but I run a very flat, tight structure so I am nervous about the prospects of getting in a management consultant who might cost a lot of money. What are the advantages or disadvantages?

Bobby says there are two ways to look at getting a consultant in. On the plus side, they generally have no baggage, can offer you an objective view of your company and provide you with a detached analysis.

On the other hand, however, they tend to have no skin in game, can sometimes work and create work to justify their own being there and they can be very expensive and may not always have your company's best or long term interests at heart. 

That being said, there are some very worthwhile consultants out there so Bobby says that this business owner should start by getting someone in and discussing with them how much their services would cost, how long would they be there and what are the deliverables. That way, they can nail it all down in advance and go into a deal with their eyes open. 

The traditional builders holidays are coming up and I'm a carpenter with a small construction company in Dublin. I have always taken the builders holidays as my time off to go away and we have booked a trip to Benidorm again for those weeks this year. However, the boss has just said that the company has decided not to close this year and he needs me to work. I am devastated, what can I do? 

Bobby says this is a real example of lousy communication in the company. He says this man has precedent if he has taken the same holiday time every year for the last twenty years and now the company has changed its mind very late in the day without informing staff first. 

If the company would like him to work instead of going on his holiday, Bobby suggests they offer to pay him the cost of the holiday lost or else book him another one. 

I have set working hours of 9:30am-5:30pm daily. I knew I was going to be late by four hours one day recently so I informed my boss in advance. On the day, I stayed late and worked the four hours after. However, when I got paid, my boss still only paid me for half a day. Is this correct? 

Bobby says he's not sympathetic towards this person's situation and essentially, they need to take it on the chin. While he might have told his boss he would be starting four hours later, he did not discuss staying later that day to make up the time. In this case, his employer was not spoken to in advance and therefore not in agreement to pay the full day's wage. changed shift without 

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