Friday, 31 July 2009

Would you exchange pay for holidays?


As the entire management and staff of HR Case Studies are about to take a well-earned all expenses paid holiday to a secret exotic location, it seems appropriate to look at the recent initiative in which the telecommunications company BT offered employees an up front sum of 25% of annual salary in return for taking the whole year off. Clearly this has been done in an attempt to reduce the organisation's wage bill while trying to avoid redundancies after being hit by the economic downturn. Comments posted on the BBC website (including the views of BT employees) indicate that the initiative has had a mixed response.

  • Look at the comments on the BBC website: Why is there such a wide spectrum of responses to this initiative?

  • A "flexible response from a forward thinking employer" or "utter nonsense"; where would you position yourself in this debate?

  • How well (or not!) does this seem to have been communicated within BT?

  • Which types of employees might find such an initiative attractive?

  • How would you respond if you were working for BT?

  • What other initiatives have been taken by companies in recent months to reduce costs without having to resort to redundancies?

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Reading between the lines of employee references

Many companies either do not give references for ex-employees, or give ones that are so bland that they are almost meaningless, stating only that the individual was employed for the period they claim and confirming the nature of the employment performed during that time. Also, to protect themselves from future legal action, many organisations now ensure that any reference is accompanied by a disclaimer, or "health warning" which says that the organisation providing the reference will not accept liability for any action taken by the former employee based on the reference provided.

  • Based on the information above, is there actually any benefit in a recruiting organisation taking up references for employees that they may be about to appoint?

  • What other checks may an organisation undertake in order to verify the suitability of an employee for a position?

  • Within the UK, many public sector organisations take up references before the interview. Why might applicants feel uncomfortable about this?

  • Consider this scenario: Before a reference has been received, an individual has been appointed to a position that urgently required filling, and is performing satisfactorily. The company then receives a less than glowing reference from the employee's former boss. What action should the company take? Should this action be any different if the employee's performance was proving to be unsatisfactory?

Dartford to benefit from government's Future Job Funding


The earlier posting today mentioned how the UK government was hoping to create up to 47,000 new jobs with a cash injection of £1bn. This report on the BBC website gives details of how £10m is being invested in Kent to create 1,800 jobs for young unemployed people.
  • What sort of industries are based in the Dartford area?
  • Why might the government be targeting Dartford for such job creation?
  • What do you believe is the likelihood that the jobs created from the Future Job Funding will last beyond the initial six month period?
  • One of the young people quoted on the BBC website mentions that most of his recent jobs have been of short term duration. What sort of jobs might these have been?
  • What are the practical challenges (and frustrations) of having a series of short-term roles?

New jobs for 47,000 young people?

Approximately £1bn of funding from the UK Government's Future Jobs Fund appears to have been targetted at young people, according to a report on this week's People Management website. Although the new jobs may also benefit the long-term unemployed, the majority of jobs which are in sport and education, as well as in the newly-emerging green and social care sectors are clearly more applicable to the nation's young people. Work and Pensions Secretary Yvette Cooper has also called on employers "to give every young person a job, training place, skills or work experience.”
  • What are the benefits to the UK as a whole in providing funding for the creation of jobs targetted primarily at young people?
  • Give examples of the sort of organisations who are likely to apply for this funding and create new roles
  • Is it reasonable for the government to give special consideration to young people (as opposed to the long-term unemployed?)
  • How much is it the responsibility of a government to attempt to create new jobs during a time of recession?

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

The Brits: the wimps of employee relations!

Stories of three separate cases of employee relations conflict have been unfolding in parallel this week, each of which sheds light on how national cultures can affect the employer/employee relationship.
The rather polite employees in Britain protested against the decision to close down a wind turbine facility by staging a sit-in at the Isle of Wight factory. As of today, management of the company has failed in its attempt to have the workers removed from the factory.
The slightly more passionate guys in France adopted a different approach when their demands for guaranteed redundancy payments were rejected by management: they kidnapped the managing director, and threatened to blow up three companies with gas cylinders.
But the heavyweights of the employee relations world are quite clearly the chaps in China. They brought discussions to merge two steel manufacturing companies (with the inevitable loss of jobs) to a dramatic conclusion by killing the boss of one of the two companies.
  • How are national cultures likely to influence the nature of employer/employee relations in different companies?
  • What are the challenges for multi-national organisations in attempting to implement a global and uniform HR strategy?

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Quarter of managerial posts to go at Shell?


A report in Management Today suggests that despite making a profit of $26bn last year, the Chief Executive of Shell Petroleum is expected to announce a delayering of the oil giant's senior management team, resulting in up to 600 managers being declared redundant. The old slogan of "You can be sure of Shell" may therefore sound rather empty for many of the employees.

  • Other than the obvious financial savings, what are the benefits to a large organisation such as Shell of taking out layers of management?

  • How would you expect Shell to communicate such a delayering programme to affected employees?

  • Shell has a reputation for looking after its employees. Is it possible for this reputation to continue after such a delayering and redundancy programme?

  • What particular skills will Shell be looking for in those managers who survive the downsizing activity?

  • What will be the likely effect on those employees whose managers are removed?

From boardroom to classroom: but for how long?


A combination of the recession and a campaign by the Training and Development Agency has led to a surge in applications to the teaching profession, though there is a suspicion that many may leave and return to their previous roles once the economy starts to improve.

  • How could the Training and Development Agency (the UK body responsible for the recruitment and professional development of teachers) check that candidates are serious in their applications?

  • What are the benefits to the teaching profession of recruiting individuals who have gained experience in industry?

  • What might be the attraction of entering the teaching profession for someone who has spent most of their career within industry or commerce?

  • What should a school be looking for in a candidate: ability to teach the subject or motivation to remain in the teaching profession?

  • Are there any particular manpower planning challenges that are faced by schools?

Monday, 27 July 2009

The Chinese Take "Bossnapping" To Another Level


Not to be outdone by the French (see yesterday's item) Chinese steel workers have shown who are the real tough guys in the world of employee relations. According to a report in this week's Management Today magazine, when irate workers in the state-owned Tunghua Iron and Steel company were unhappy about a proposed takeover by a private sector rival which could have resulted in the loss of as many of 25,000 of the 30,000 jobs at the plant, they took matters into their own hands. Reports emerging from China indicate that during a large scale riot not only were 100 workers injured, but the general manager of the steel company was beaten to death.

Unlike the French bossnappers, the Chinese seem to have got their way, as the merger has been called off at least for the near future.

  • What learning point does this incident offer concerning the importance of effective employee communication especially where negative news has to be conveyed?
  • How could the news have been relayed to affected workers in a more effective manner?

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Sacré Bleu! "Bossnapping?" C'est une Liberté Diabolique!


French employees have taken a rather novel approach to addressing employee relations issues. Last Thursday, when the demand of workers facing redundancy for guaranteed redundancy payments of at least €30,000 was rejected by air cargo firm Servisair, rather than politely balloting their members for industrial action (as the rational Brits would have done) the French employees kidnapped Managing Director Andy Cowie and Chief Executive Abderrahmane El-Aouffir and held them captive overnight in an attempt to force a change of mind.

The action seems to have had very limited success: four Servisair Cargo employees have been charged with kidnapping, obstruction, disturbing the peace and inflicting psychological violence.

Do you believe that such an approach is likely to achieve the objectives of the Trade Unions within Servisair Cargo?

What are the likely long-term consequences of such a dramatic negotiation technique?

Research question: where does the UK rank in terms of instances of industrial action? Help!

Research question: where does the UK rank in terms of Trade Union density (i.e the percent of the workforce who are members of Trade Unions)? Help!

An HR Challenge For The Church Of England


New employment legislation has given clergy within the Church of England certain employment rights for the first time. As a result, many of the Bishops within the Church of England have decided to appoint HR Managers and Advisers to assist them with the implementation of this legislation.

  • What particular challenges might be faced by the church in identifying and appointing suitable candidates for these positions?
  • Are there any special or unique characteristics in suitable candidates for such roles?
  • What would you expect to find in the person specification for roles such as these?
  • Would you expect the selection process for such positions to be any different to a secular position?

Saturday, 25 July 2009

The Retention Dilemma


Recent research published by the CIPD indicates that although 75% of employees are not planning to move jobs in the near future, difficulties in the current labour market is the major reason for such employees staying with their present employer. Even though they are not actually planning to move, 34% of employees surveyed would prefer to change jobs, and half of these would even consider working in a different sector. So the picture seems to be of a large proportion of the workforce that would like to change jobs, but doesn't feel that it can.

  • Why do companies make strenuous efforts to retain their employees?
  • What are the costs (both financial and otherwise) to the company of staff turnover?
  • How is labour turnover usually measured?
  • Why is labour turnover higher in some industries and functions than in others?
  • If a company had labour turnover of zero, is this automatically a good thing?
  • What practical measures could organisations take to monitor the reasons for their employees leaving?
  • The article states that employees in finance and construction are the ones who are most likely to want to change their jobs. Why might this be?
  • What are the popular areas into which employees are considering moving, and why might this be?
  • The article indicates that there is a possibility that once the current recession is over, the dam of employee dissatisfaction could break, with employees flooding out of companies. What might organisations do to prevent this?

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Anyone For The "Rivers and Trees" Management Course?

The use of The Great Outdoors remains popular for management development courses in many organisations

  • Are there any unique (and serious!) benefits of using outdoor development as a method of staff training?

  • What can be gained through the use of the outdoors that possibly couldn't be taught in the classroom?

  • Why do a number of organisations believe that development programmes led by succesful adventurers and explorers can teach certain skills, behaviours and attitude to their employees?

  • Most outdoor development programmes involve a degree of risk, and there have been well-publicised instances where fatalities have unfortunately resulted. Is such a degree of risk a reason for outdoor development programmes to be treated with caution?

Super! Smashing! Great! Look What You Could Have Won!


For those under threat of redundancy, the Times newspaper has produced a helpful calculator for statutory redundancy pay. Many people in managerial positions will have the protection of a higher level of redundancy pay, but this calculates the legal minimum to which an individual is entitled.

  • For an employee to be entitled to statutory redundancy pay, what's the minimum service requirement?
  • How many week's pay per year of service does a person who is under 22 receive?
  • Above what age does the entitlement reach its maximum level?
  • If an employee on £65,000 per year was only entitled to statutory redundancy pay, what's the maximum amount per week that they would receive?

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

How would you recruit 17,500 staff in less than a week?

If the figures are to be believed, the NHS may have to recruit up to 17,500 staff in less than a week to man the swine flu hotline
  • If you were in charge of recruitment for the NHS, what would be the challenges that this task will inevitably create?
  • What skills would you be looking for in those you were seeking to recruit?
  • What methods of recruitment would you consider?
  • What type of contracts would you be offering employees recruited?
  • What payment systems might you consider? (Think about basic salary, incentive schemes, retention bonuses)
  • You might be tempted to outsource or offshore this hotline service. What are the advantages and disadvantages of this approach?

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Testing Times


(Despite - or possibly because of - the market being flooded with candidates, companies are increasingly using psychometric tests in the selection process)

  • In what circumstances are psychometric tests now being used?
  • Why might organisations be prepared to pay up to £6000 for tests to help them in their selection decisions?
  • Why might organisations offer psychometric tests to employees who have been selected for redundancy?
  • Why, however, is the use of psychometric tests regarded as unacceptable in selecting candidates for redundancy?
  • Do you think that the questions highlighted would help an organisation make a correct recruitment decision?

Monday, 20 July 2009

New Career Map for HR Professionals


The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) is the professional body for those involved in the management and development of people. The organisation currently has 133,000 individual members.

The CIPD has just launched its new HR Profession Map, which is intended to illustrate the knowledge and skills required for the ten major areas in which an HR Manager will generally operate.

  • Give examples of specific activities that you would expect the HR Manager to undertake for each of the ten areas on the map.
  • Which of the areas describe "hard" HR strategy or activity, and which describe "soft" HR strategy or activity?
  • Are there some areas described on the map that are only likely to be undertaken by the HR Manager in a large organisation?

Friday, 17 July 2009

Performance Appraisals

(Many organisations use a concept called "forced ranking" in their annual employee appraisals.)
  • What are the benefits to a company, and what are the potential drawbacks of using such an approach?
  • Are there some organisations or jobs for which such a form of appraisal is simply not appropriate?

National Rail Enquiries Outsourcing To India


  • What are the reasons for companies outsourcing work?
  • What kind of work are companies likely to outsource?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of outsourcing, both to employees and customers?
  • According to the article, what is the current trend in outsourcing?
  • How are future trends in technological change likely to influence the decision to outsource or not?

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Disagreement Between Trade Unions at British Airways


  • Which Trade Unions are currently protesting against the cost-cutting plans of British Airways?
  • How many posts may be lost if the plans go ahead?
  • How much was the financial loss announced by the company in May?
  • What has been the response of the pilots to the company's predicament?
  • Why might the pilots and cabin crew have come to different conclusions over the plans of British Airways?
  • What would you do if you were one of the cabin crew?

Monday, 13 July 2009

An End To A Fixed Retirement Age


(A review of the default retirement age, which allows employers to compel staff to retire at 65, is to be brought forward by a year, the government says.)

  • How is this decision likely to affect how companies plan their manpower needs?
  • What strategies might companies need to adopt to cope with a workforce with an increasing number of older employees?
  • Explain the difference of views of the TUC and the CBI

Friday, 10 July 2009

Game, Set and Match!


  • What are the particular challenges faced by the management of the All England Lawn Tennis Club at Wimbledon in planning the resourcing and staffing of the annual tournament?
  • What strategies have the management used to address the sudden peak in manpower requirement each summer?

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Ten Coffee Republic Outlets Close


What percentage of the Coffee Republic chain has closed down following intervention by the administrators?

Who are KPMG?

What factors may have led to Coffee Republic calling in the administrators?

Another wave of job cuts in the steel industry


How many jobs have Corus cut since January 2009?

What was the response of the Trade Union to the most recent announcement?

What reasons did the site director give for the redundancies?

What is meant by the phrase "hard redundancies" in the statement by the Trade Union General Secretary?