Thursday, 31 December 2009

Discrimination Legislation: A Question of Balance

Let's face it, legislation outlawing discrimination in the UK is a complex mess! Even without the details of the numerous "statutory instruments" we've still got at least the following pieces of legislation to negotiate:
  • Equal Pay Act 1970
  • Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006
  • Equality Act 2006
  • Disability Discrimination Act 1995
  • Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003
  • Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003
  • Race Relations Act 1976 - as amended by the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000
  • Human Rights Act 1998
  • Sex Discrimination Act 1975
So it's probably a relief to most employers that the 2010 Equality Bill will soon be under consultation and discussion, prior to (intended) implementation in Autumn 2010.

Other than the fact that the Bill will simplify the existing situation, is there still a need for such legislation? Apparently so. In the government's own words, "despite considerable progress since 1997, inequality and discrimination still exist which is why the law needs to be strengthened." The following figures are certainly ones to raise the eyebrows:
women are paid on average 23 per cent less per hour than men
disabled people are twice as likely to be out of work
people from ethnic minority backgrounds are nearly a fifth less likely to find work
one in five older people are refused quotes for motor or travel insurance, or car hire
Just one provocative question though: does an environment in which anti-discrimination is tightly enforced automatically lead to one in which diversity can prevail and flourish?

Monday, 21 December 2009

Always tell the truth. That way, you don't have to remember what you said (Mark Twain)

"I've looked at your draft CV and letter of application. It doesn't say that you passed your exams in either English or Maths. Assuming that you did, then you need to add them to your qualifications. If you actually didn't, then I'd add them anyway, because, let's face it, everybody lies about their qualifications these days, and nobody in HR ever bothers to check up on you"

Some form of joke? Sadly not. These were the words spoken to a former colleague of mine a number of years ago by the HR Director of a division within a major and well-known UK organisation.

It would be nice to think that in the intervening period the situation had changed, but the recent six-month suspended prison sentence and order to pay £9,600 in compensation given to a senior NHS HR manager who lied on her CV indicates that the temptation to lie about one's qualifications is still very much with us.

As reported in this week's Personnel Today, Kerrie Devine of Lympstone, Devon, falsely claimed she held a degree in Human Resource Management and said she was part way through a Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development course when she applied for a promotion at Devon primary care trust in 2007.

Last week, following an investigation by the NHS Counter Fraud Service, Devine pleaded guilty to six counts of fraud by false representation at Exeter Crown Court. As well as the fine, she must also carry out 150 hours of unpaid community work.

NHS HR manager who lied on CV ordered to pay £9,600 in costs

  • Does the fact that this instance of fraud was perpetrated by an HR professional make the offence even more worthy of punishment?
UPDATE: HR manager sentenced for lying about qualifications

Friday, 18 December 2009

Nine (Business) Ladies Dancing

"Where are the influential women?" was a comment left in response to the HR Case Studies item on Management Thinkers earlier this week.

So, let's restore the balance a bit with a few female firsts (again courtesy of the excellent Economist publication, "The World of Business" - a snip at £9.99)

1809 Mary Kies - first woman to receive a US patent (for weaving straw in hatmaking)
1963 Katherine Graham - first woman CEO of a Fortune 500 company (The Washington Post Co.)
1997 Marjorie Scardino - first woman CEO of a FTSE 100 company (Pearson)
1999 Carly Fiorina - first woman CEO in the 30-company Dow Jones Industrial Average (Hewlett-Packard)
2001 Clara Furse - first woman to become CEO of the London Stock Exchange
2002 Baroness Sarah Hogg -  first chairwoman of a FTSE 100 company (3i)
2006 Bishop Katherine Jefferts Scori -first woman leader in the Anglican Church
2009 Helen Alexander - first woman to head the Confederation of British Industry (CBI)
2009 Ursula Burns - first African-American woman to head a Fortune 500 company in the first woman-to-woman CEO handover in a Fortune 500 company

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Most Wanted: Can you recognise any of these Bad Boys of the Business World?

If, when Alexandra Burke sings, "Yeah, the bad boys are always catching my eye" then she's spoiled for choice in the naughty, mischievous and downright evil world of business. But in today's devilishly difficult challenge on HR Case Studies, can you match the name to the description?

Robert Maxwell
Martha Stewart
Conrad Black
Allen Stanford
Alan Bond
Michael Milken
Martin Frankel
Bernie Madoff
Ivan Boesky
Nick Leeson

1. Expelled from school in the 1950's for selling exam papers to fellow students. Siphoned millions from his newspaper business groups to fund his celebrity lifestyle in the various homes he acquired around the world. Convicted of fraud in December 2007. Currently in prison.
Who is this?

2. Coined the phrase "greed in good". Made his cash betting on corporate takeovers with a bit of luck and judgement, but a large amount of , er... insider dealing. Fined $100m, grassed up his mates, but still ended up in the nick.
Who is this?

3. Became Australia's biggest corporate criminal after being convicted in 1997 for his part in defrauding a company of more than a thousand million dollars, and transferring the money into family business interests.
Who is this?

4. American Money manager, arrested in Germany in 1999 after international manhunt. Reportedly in possession of nine fake passports, 547 diamonds, an astrological chart drawn up to answer the question "Will I go to prison?" and a to-do list that included "launder money". Sentenced to 17 years in clink in 2004.
Who is this?

5. Single-handedly brought down Barings Bank back in 1995. Lost $1.4 billion in unauthorized trading and rendered Britain's oldest bank insolvent. It was eventually sold for one pound to ING, a Dutch Bank. Now lives in Ireland with his family and is CEO of Irish football club Galway United. Available for speaking engagements.
Who is this?

6. Appropriately named conman curently serving a prison sentence of 150 years for masterminding a massive fraud that robbed investors of $65bn (£40bn).
Who is this?

7. Born Jan Ludwik Hoch in Czechoslovakia in 1923. Fled the Nazis in 1939 and fought with the Brits during the second world war, calling himself du Maurier, after a brand of classy cigarettes. Body found floating near his luxury yacht in 1991. Buried on Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem. Oh, and he pinched £400m from Mirror Group's pension fund to prop up his other business interests. Did he jump, or was he pushed?
Who is this?

8. Junk bond king of Wall Street. Set up a web of deceitful transactions that eventually led to the disgrace of junk-bond financing and forced his company out of business. Faced 98 charges of racketeering, insider trading and securities fraud and, after plea-bargaining, pleaded guilty to six. He was jailed for 22 months in 1990.
Who is this?

9. Domestic diva who dumped her shares of a company the day before bad news caused the stock to nosedive. Found guilty of insider trading, spent five months at "Camp Cupcake" and another five on house arrest.
Who is this?
10. Aged 58, six kids, Net worth: £2.2bn, 205th on America's rich list. In June, he turned himself in to the Virginia office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to answer a criminal fraud indictment. Likes cricket.
Who is this?

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Do you recognise these companies? How organisations view themselves.

Think you know how some of the world's most influential organisations view themselves?

The statements below are all taken from the websites of some of the most well known commercial organisations in the world today. Let's see how well they have communicated with you, and also how well you speak the language of corporate branding.

Select your answer from the alternatives underneath each statement: get it right and you'll be taken to the relevant website. Get it wrong, and you'll be returned to the top of this blog.

OK, there's an easy way to cheat, but I'm trusting you all to be legal, decent, truthful and honest!

Good luck!

1. A dynamic, international provider of beer and beverage brands, bringing people together and adding to the enjoyment of life

2. Our mission is:
To refresh the world
To inspire moments of optimism
To create value and make a difference
Typhoo Tea

3. Our vision is to be the prime driver in an all-communicating world.

4. Our vision is to become the world's leading company for automotive products and services.

5. Our vision is to build total brand value by innovating to deliver consumer value by innovating to deliver consumer value and customer leadership faster, better and more completely than our competition.
Dulux Paints

6. Our mission is to organise the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.

7. Our vision, quite simply, is to be "the world's premier food company, offering nutritious, superior tasting foods to people everywhere"
Kraft Foods

8. We will clothe the world
Wrangler Jeans
Levi Strauss

9. We work to help people and businesses throughout the world realise their potential. This is our mission. Everything we do reflects this mission, and the values that make it possible.

10. Our mission: to inspire and nurture the human spirit: one person, one cup, and one neighbourhood at a time
Costa Coffee

11. We believe in making a difference. In our customers' eyes, we stand for value for money, quality, innovation, fun and a sense of competitive challenge
Marks and Spencer

12. Our culture is very much in evidence helping to attract and retain the best employees and clients. Our commitment to our clients, teamwork, integrity, professional excellence and entrepreneurial spirit has its beginnings in 1869 with our founder.
Goldman Sachs
Anheuser-Busch Beer
Levi Strauss

The 12 management thinkers of Christmas

Courtesy of the excellent and pocket sized "The World of Business" (published by The Economist), here's a list of 12 of the most influential management thinkers, together with a  link (carefully chosen by the HR Case Studies Editorial Team) to a website containing further information.

Warren Bennis
Laid-back silver-haired professor at the University of Southern California who has been an influential authority on leadership for decades.

Marvin Bower
For many years the management consulting business was dominated by one firm. It advised the world’s biggest corporations and some of its biggest countries about high-level strategy. That firm, McKinsey was the creation of one man: Marvin Bower.

Jim Collins
Former Stanford Business School professor who found himself with a publishing sensation when he expanded his Stanford research—about what it takes to make companies endure—into the book: “Built to Last”

W. Edwards Deming
A physicist/statistician with a PhD from Yale who applied the ideas of a little-known American mathematician, to business processes, with dramatic effect in terms of quality and productivity.

Peter Drucker
The most enduring guru of them all, Peter Drucker was the author of more than three dozen books, translated into almost as many languages.

Gary Hamel
Hamel started his working life as a hospital administrator before taking a PhD and becoming an academic, sharing his time between London and Chicago. He brought a new focus to the subject of corporate strategy, building his reputation with the idea of core competencies.

Michael Hammer
Professor of computer science at MIT who came up with the biggest business idea of the 1990's:  Business Process Re-engineering

Charles Handy
Son of an Irish Protestant vicar whose broad interests spread from religion and philosophy to the organisation of the workplace.

Henry Mintzberg
Consistently contrary Canadian academic who sometimes seems to be undermining the very industry that he works in. A professor at McGill University in Montreal for 40 years, he has been controversial at least since his 1975 Harvard Business Review article in which he examined what a number of managers in different industries actually did, day in, day out, and found that they were not the robotic paragons of efficiency that they were usually made out to be.

Tom Peters
Co-author of what was for over 20 years the best-selling business book of all time: “In Search of Excellence”, written with his fellow McKinsey consultant Robert Waterman.

Michael Porter
The doyen of living management gurus, a professor at Harvard Business School whose office is a whole on-campus house, home of his own Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness.

Sun Tzu
The ultimate military strategist whose "Art of War" is often quoted by contemporary management thinkers

Friday, 11 December 2009

Need a pay rise? Beat the bankers to Bucharest!

It seems a while since we had an “ a new report claims” article, so let’s remedy that before the weekend.

Apparently, in real terms, UK managers' salaries are amongst the lowest in the world, according to a report quoted in this week’s Management Today.

Even without this week’s announcement of an increase in National Insurance contributions, in a new study of global management salaries undertaken by the Hay Management Consultancy Group the UK has just been ranked 43rd of 56 countries once the higher cost of living has been factored in.

According to the Hay report, Britain ranks behind China, Mexico, Hungary, Slovakia and even Kenya in the disposable income stakes. At the top end of the scale, the oil-rich Gulf states dominate: managers in Qatar are the world’s best paid, followed by those in Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Oman.

If you’re planning an escape to somewhere in Europe that gives you more bang for your buck (or Pow! for your pound!) the place to head for is Romania (ranked 8th), followed by Turkey (9th). Ireland (16th), Greece (17th) and Portugal (20th)

Hay point out that most of the big developed economies are to be found in the lower half of the disposable income league; not just because of higher living costs, but also because they enjoy a greater supply of qualified managers. Hay explain the low ranking of Britain as “an indication of strength in depth: if you’re a rare commodity, you get paid a lot more.”

For those planning to beat the rush of the bankers who are threatening to leave the country as a result of their bonuses being capped, Aer Lingus offer one way flights from Gatwick to Bucharest starting at £49.99. But unless you’re attracted by a chaotic jumble of traffic-choked streets, ugly concrete apartment blocks and grandiose but unfinished Communist developments, you might want to splash out on a return ticket.

Management Today: Want a pay rise? Move to Romania or Kenya

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Next challenge for Sir Ranulph Fiennes: crossing the bus station

Earlier this week, while travelling by public transport, I encountered a festively attired (I jest not) Elf and Safety representative who was handing out garishly coloured candy cane confectionery items (presumably rather dangerous for those with dodgy fillings) plus a copy of the above information notice.

Traversing those few yards from one side of the bus station to the other has undoubtedly become a treacherous expedition in these days of personal injury litigation, so ice-axes and snowshoes may soon be distributed to intrepid explorers of the country's bus stations. Perhaps Sir Ranulph Fiennes may soon be engaged as a consultant to provide expert advice on negotiating sliding doors and avoiding old ladies in motability scooters.

Of course with the Christmas party season almost upon us, semi-inebriated travellers will be likely to forget the basics of road safety, so reminding them to look both ways when crossing the road, and not fall headlong on those devilishly slippery surfaces is a must, especially if the transport operating companies are to keep themselves out of the Claims Courts.

A few serious (and somewhat boring) questions for students:

  • What is the particular Act of Parliament which governs health and safety of employees?
  • Who enforces the Act referred to above?
  • What powers do workplace inspectors have?
  • What practical problems are encountered by large companies in, for example, the construction industry in complying with Health and Safety legislation?
  • Is a safe working environment likely to lead to a more motivated workforce?

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Why do 53% of small businesses fail? Because of poor people management.

The Financial Times has recently reported that the number of new businesses being registered in the UK is surprisingly on the increase. An average of 47,500 small businesses have set up new bank accounts each month of this year so far – compared to an average of 43,800 in 2008. Presumably these statistics are being fuelled by the recession, as more people create the jobs and work they want and need by starting up a business themselves.

Sadly, over half of these businesses (53%) will fail within five years.

An illuminating article in Management Today firmly attributes such failures to the oversight of small businesses in addressing the plethora of small and tricky people issues that are essential for the success of a commercial venture.

According to Management Today:

Obviously in one-man-bands and very small businesses you can resolve these issues easily through common sense conversations, and taking individual views into account when making key decisions. At the other end of the scale, larger businesses of anything more than 100 people require HR professionals who create policies by which decisions are made. It’s more impersonal and people grumble, but they usually accept that the policies were created for the common good of the business, even if they don’t always agree with the outcomes. It’s the small to medium-sized businesses that feel the crunch: they're torn between accommodating everyone’s views, and trying to reach decisions that are right for the business and the individuals - all of whom of course you know personally almost as friends.

The small, everyday issues that quickly become so difficult are things like policies for extended leave, sabbaticals, more flexible working arrangements, status needs (job titles!) and personal behaviour.

In managing the people stuff in medium-sized businesses, we have to walk a tightrope between impersonal policy and personal preferences, between consultation and leadership, and between the business and individual needs.

MT Expert - People: Most SMEs fail because of people stuff

  • In a small business where there is no specific individual responsible for HR issues, who should be accountable for people issues?
  • Does it make sense for small businesses to outsource certain aspects of HR to a third party? If so, which aspects?
  • Do even small family-owned businesses need formal HR policies?

Monday, 7 December 2009

Captain Pugwash takes on the lolloping landlubbers of HR

The mention of the children's TV cartoon Captain Pugwash to any British male over the age of 40 will almost inevitably be quickly followed by much tittering and guffawing.

Just how on earth did the cartoon's creators manage to get away with introducing characters with names like Master Bates, Roger the Cabin Boy and Seaman Stains?

The answer is possibly rather less risqué:

They didn't get away with it. The series never featured characters with any such names. It's simply another example of an urban myth.

But I will guarantee you this: when you pass on this demythologizing snippet of information to the next person who claims that the tale is true, they will vehemently claim that their uncle's friend's grandfather actually met someone in the doctor's surgery who has an old video of the pilot episode with all of these characters in it.

But ask for hard evidence and you will be disappointed.

"Kipper me capstans! What's all this leading up to?" I hear you cry!

How about the urban myths that we unquestioningly accept in the HR profession? Is there actually any hard, empirical evidence for any of the following commonly accepted "truths"?

Forced-ranking appraisal systems which reward those at the top, but fire those at the bottom lead to an improvement in an organisation's performance.

Outsourcing transactional activities has positively transformed Human Resource Management.

Organisations want Business Partners, not HR Managers.

The motivation theorists got it right: money doesn't motivate people.

The diversity and equal opportunities agenda has delivered demonstrable benefits to the target populations.
I'm sure that there are more too, but perhaps that's just me being cynical!

Oh, and if you don't leave a comment, the hairy-handed hitch-hiker will come to get you!

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Waitrose: 2,500 applications for 20 graduate posts. Need any help with the psychometrics madam?

The decision by supermarket chain Waitrose to commence using psychometric tests in its recruitment process is hardly a surprise bearing in mind that 2,500 applications were received for the 20 posts available as part of its store management programme.

The hurdles faced by aspiring store managers, as well as the challenges faced by the Waitrose recruitment team are plain to see: 2,500 applications filtered down to 150 candidates attending assessment centre still requires a significant investment in management time and effort.

Waitrose is understandably keen to make the process for selecting those candidates who attend assessment centre as effective as possible, so the company has introduced a “Graduate Dilemmas” selection tool to serve as a filter.

A&DC (who have designed the psychometric tool describe it as “a Situational Judgement Test used at the initial sifting stage of Graduate assessment. Candidates must rate several potential responses to common situations, through an online platform, where results are collated and scores automatically produced.”The particular competencies that the test is designed to identify are Planning and Organising, Analytical Thinking, Achieving Results and Relationship Building.

The head of the recruitment services team at Waitrose explained that they are looking in particular for people who are achievement oriented, coupled with an openness and positive regard for colleagues that is appropriate for their business.

A&DC Candidate Sifting Tools
  • Any thoughts on the use of such psychometric tests for filtering out candidates prior to interview?

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Don’t trust the boss? Don’t worry, the boss doesn’t trust you either!

Pic: a rather scrumptious looking porkie

According to recent research (mid week groan), two-thirds of managers believe that they can tell when their staff are lying, and 90% don’t believe reasons given for being late for work. But it also seems that these managers are usually kidding themselves.

Those managers who regard themselves as super-sleuths give lack of eye contact, avoiding people and body language as the signals they look for when trying to spot someone telling porkies. But these crude and unreliable indicators should actually brand just about every shy person as a liar.

Those in the know about such things (who presumably run courses in How To Lie Effectively) say that the best way of spotting lies involves careful questioning, looking for irregularities and then following up. Master practitioners (the Black Belts of Baloney Bashing) know how to spot micro-expressions such as a slight twitch, a swallow, an eye flutter.

But perhaps the most alarming statistic in all this is that the average manager only believes 10% of the reasons that are given for late arrival at work and other such lame excuses for under-performance.

There’s been a lot of debate recently about lack of trust of managers; it seems that they are getting their revenge by not trusting the lying little blighters that work for them.


  • Is mutual distrust between boss and subordinate an inevitable part of the working relationship?

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Have I Got (HR) News For You! Test your knowledge of recent HR news

The following 10 questions all relate to items of HR news that have been in the public eye over the last couple of weeks. The Answer link will take you either to an earlier item on HR Case Studies, or to a separate page on the internet. Use the Back button on your browser to return to this page. Good luck!

Which newspaper was fined £792,736 for bullying one of its former sports reporters?

How many temporary staff were to be recruited by Royal Mail to minimize the disruption caused by striking postal workers?

In which company have 25 staff committed suicide over the last 18 months in protest against an insensitively managed restructuring programme?

Which professional group has recently run a competition to identify its sexiest worker?

The average employee at 85 Broad Street earns $700,000 per annum. Which company do they work for?

The UK came 8th, France came bottom in a recently published league of managerial effectiveness. Who came top?

Which football manager was recently awarded £2 million in compensation for constructive dismissal by his former club?

When Alison Cooper was recently appointed as CEO of a FTSE 100 company, she became only the 5th woman in charge of one of the UK's top businesses. Who does she work for?

Two of Moira Cameron’s colleagues were recently suspended for bullying her. What is unique about the job she does?

In the annual survey of hours and earnings, which occupational group were ranked lowest in terms of annual pay with a pro-rata salary of £3143?

Half a million fewer workers earning overtime pay

According to a TUC analysis of official figures released yesterday, the number of people working paid overtime in the UK has fallen by nearly half a million in the last year to just under four million.

Here’s an overview of the TUC analysis:

In Summer 2009, 15.8 per cent of employees in the UK earned paid overtime, a fall of 1.5 percentage points since Summer 2008
Employees were working an average of six and a half hours paid overtime per week this year, a fall of 12 minutes on 2008
The average amount of weekly overtime works out at £2,888 a year per employee
The major reason that overtime has declined is simply because many jobs with overtime have disappeared due to redundancy during the recession
55 per cent of the decline in paid overtime is due to job losses, with the other 45 per cent due to employees having fewer opportunities for overtime
Those most affected are workers aged 20-24
15.9 per cent of young people earned overtime pay in 2009, compared to 20.1 per cent in 2008 - a fall of 474,000
The sectors most affected by the drop in overtime are manufacturing, transport and communication (broadcasting, TV and radio production, postal workers)
Paid overtime has actually fallen steadily since records began in 1998, when nearly one in four (24.8 per cent) workers earned paid overtime.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said:

These workers are the hidden victims of the recession. Job security remains the number one concern for workers across the country but the sharp drop in paid overtime shows that many people in work are also suffering financially. Even those that are still earning overtime are often no longer able to claim double pay.

Lots of people rely on overtime pay to earn a decent living. As Christmas approaches, a lack of extra income will put family budgets under even greater strain.

While many in the City look to their stocks and bonuses as a barometer of the health of the economy, having enough hours of work and overtime pay matter far more to millions of workers and their families
Half a million fewer workers earning overtime pay

  • Is overtime the most effective way of dealing with sudden and temporary surges in workload?

Friday, 27 November 2009

Chicken Madras, Special Rice and a good manager please.

It’s Friday; it’s been a long week; it’s an “according to a survey” item, so … all together now, after three 1,2,3… GROAN

Right. Down to business

According to a survey of 22,000 staff in 18 countries only 50% of UK employees rate their managers as effective

The results of the survey conducted by the Kenexa Research Institute (KRI) reveal something that simply no-one could possibly have expected. Ever. Apparently (so don’t faint when you read this) being a "good manager" has a significant impact on the engagement levels of staff and their overall perception of the company. Earth shattering.

It seems that employees in the UK define a good manager as someone who keeps his or her commitments, evaluates employees' performance fairly, makes use of employees ideas, quickly solves problems and practices open, two-way communication. We wouldn’t have expected any of that would we?

Based on the results of the survey, KRI said: "Effective managers are respectful, considerate and fair, as well as good organisers who can clearly communicate work expectations and provide feedback.” Astonished? Me too.

So, the only decision to me made is where to go for the best managers.

The scores on the doors reveal that employees in India (68%) reported the highest ratings of managerial effectiveness, followed by Brazil (61%), the United States (60%), Russia and the Gulf countries (57%), Canada (56%), China (53%), Germany (51%), the UK coming eighth with (50%).

Countries to avoid are France (41%) whose workers reported the lowest ratings, with Japan (43%), Italy (44%) and Spain (46%) only slightly ahead.
Chicken Madras anyone?

  • Any suggestions why India scores so well, and France so poorly?

Thursday, 26 November 2009

It's not been a particularly good week for the bullies!

Sadly the following anecdote is totally true, and I feel obliged to apologize in advance if it causes any offence.

In the early 1990's while working for a major UK company, I was telephoned by a regional sales manager, who asked me without any apparent embarrassment, "Are we allowed to recruit black people?" After picking myself up from the office floor, I asked him why we might not do so, and he in turn responded that as the national sales force was 100% white, he wondered if the company had an unofficial "whites only" policy. The issue being clarified, the discussion continued to that of him wanting to recruit a West Indian sales representative, which in time he duly did.

In 2009 it seems (I hope) unimagineable that our companies might be populated with managers who consider that any such discrimination is acceptable, doesn't it?

But change the scenario from discrimination to that of bullying behaviour, and it quickly becomes evident that we haven't evolved or developed as much as we might like to believe.

Take this week for example:

Headteacher Catherine Maltbaek seems likely to be struck off the GTC teaching register as a result of her bullying behaviour towards members of staff. An employment tribunal described the case as "the worst case of bullying ever seen in the workplace”

The News of the World was yesterday fined a jaw-dropping £792,736 for the excessive bullying and harrassment of one of the tabloid newspaper's former sports reporters.

Also yesterday, two of the Tower of London Beefeaters found themselves out of work when they were sacked for bullying Moira Cameron, the first female Beefeater. The 44-year-old became the first female yeoman warder in the institution's history after completing the required 22 years of service in the Army.
Comments that have been left on this blog clearly reveal that bullying (in a variety of disguises) is more prevalent than we care to admit, but at least it seems that there is a surge in public sentiment that such behaviour should no longer be tolerated.

HR Managers have a crucial role to play in the eradication of inappropriate workplace behaviour, and strong words may well have to be exchanged with established and otherwise successful managers. But unless HR is prepared to put itself in the firing line, it will be delinquent in discharging its duties.

By the way, Crabbe and Goyle: Dumbledore has passed his CIPD exams, and he wants to see you in his office after break!

  • Open question: are we doing enough to make workplace bullying unacceptable?

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

News of the World fined £792,736 for bullying. Where was HR?

It seems that the world is waking up to the problem of workplace bullying!

And this case will inevitably receive a good deal of media attention especially as the perpetrator of the bullying (in his former role as an editor with the News of the World) is now David Cameron's head of communications.

Matt Driscoll, a sports reporter sacked in April 2007 while on long-term sick leave for stress-related depression, was awarded £792,736 by the east London employment tribunal. It is believed to be the highest payout of its kind in the media, and legal costs could take News International's total bill well over the £1m mark.

Driscoll commented:

Andy Coulson was at the heart of all of this. He should look at himself and decide if his actions in the course of the way I was treated were correct. If I were him, I would find it very hard to look in the mirror. I was subjected to unprecedented bullying and he did nothing to stop it, if anything he accelerated it. I didn't do anything wrong. I was in the top 30 sports writers in the country. I then came up against the venom of Andy Coulson.

The tribunal found in December 2008 that Driscoll had fallen victim to "a consistent pattern of bullying behaviour". "The original source of the hostility towards Driscoll was Mr Coulson, the editor; although other senior managers either took their lead from Mr Coulson and continued with his motivation after Mr Coulson's departure; or shared his views themselves. Mr Coulson did not attend the tribunal to explain why he wanted the claimant dismissed.

The News of the World defended the case by claiming that the main reason for Driscoll's dismissal was his capability or qualifications for performing his work.

Driscoll, who joined the paper in 1997 and was promoted twice, was initially highly regarded, according to the tribunal ruling. That changed in August 2005 when Coulson turned against him for failing to follow up a rumour that Arsenal were planning to play in purple shirts, a story that later appeared in sister paper, the Sun.

According to the tribunal, the bullying continued after Driscoll went on sick leave. Senior management at the paper sent Driscoll a barrage of emails, phone calls and visited his home to demand that he see a company doctor, despite Driscoll's GP advising him to "distance" himself from the source of his stress.

Guardian: News of the World faces £800,000 payout in bullying case

  • Provocative question for HR Professionals: shouldn’t a half-decent HR Director have prevented this from happening?

Sadly another case of bullying hits the press

Perhaps it’s something to do with last week being anti-bullying week, but the number of cases in the media concerning inappropriate behaviour on the part of senior managers seems to have suddenly increased.

Indeed the Daily Mail is currently reporting how a headteacher at a Catholic school now faces sanction from the General Teaching Council for unacceptable professional conduct and could be struck from the teaching register.

It’s claimed that the headteacher berated staff in front of pupils, causing several to quit the school in fear of suffering mental breakdowns.

An earlier employment tribunal heard how the female head enacted a campaign of harassment described as "the worst case of bullying ever seen in the workplace”

She was found to have regularly humiliated teachers for eating at the desks and using the toilet too often, and repeatedly rang a bell in her deputy head's ear "like a town crier". The deputy head has already been awarded £56,000 for constructive dismissal after she was forced to quit her post at the Plymouth school in October 2005, stating that the headteacher had made her life "a total misery".

The head’s tirades were not confined to teaching staff either: the school’s administrator quit in 2004, claiming the headteacher would often "bellow at her with a red face and blistering eyes”

The report in the Daily Mail has attracted a significant number of readers’ comments which are well worth viewing.

Daily Mail: 'Bullying' headmistress 'reprimanded teachers for using the toilet too often'

  • One of the responses to the Daily Mail article states simply: "Bullies are only bullies because they can get away with it." Do you agree?

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Have you calculated your TCA (Total Cost of Assholes)?

Harvard Business Publications may be more well-known for academic and theoretical tomes, but the issue of workplace bullying has made its way to the inner sanctum of management strategy – clearly a sign that such a subject will be receiving increasing attention in coming months.

And, far from moderating its language on the issue, the article linked below correctly states that bullies, especially bullying bosses, are unaffordable. In an unforgettable phrase, the article quotes from Robert Sutton’s delicately titled book “The No Asshole Rule” :

The TCA (total cost of assholes), while difficult to calculate, is very expensive — in time, money, and workplace wellness

How about these eminently sensible tips on how to deal with a bullying boss:

Document and define the bullying. Is it actually bullying? Women who exert 'male' leadership styles are in danger of being perceived as bossy. Men who do the same thing are often praised as decisive. Look for patterns over time vs. isolated incidents, privately document the facts and specific actions. Finally, look at your company's culture. Is bullying or aggressive behaviour rewarded?

Consider your options and make a choice. If the culture supports or rewards bullying, seriously consider if this environment is for you.

Nip bullying in the bud — carefully. Privately derailing someone who is yelling at you by calmly repeating their name can be highly effective. Not so when your boss belittles you in a meeting. (Never out a bully in public; it will surely escalate things.)

Grow a support system. It's as important to get honest feedback about your experiences, perceptions, reactions, as it is to know that you are not alone

Is Your Boss a Bully? Stop Being the Target.

  • Is the fact that this difficult subject has been addressed by a normally academic publishing house a sign that the issue is not only a growing concern, but also one that is starting to be taken seriously?

Monday, 23 November 2009

Rogue agencies: the ticket touts of the recruitment world

We all know the scenario.

It's rock festival time, and the tickets are certain to sell like hot cakes. You want to make sure of getting your tickets for the must-see show of the year, so you find the glossy site on the internet, provide your credit card details, click submit and wait.

And wait.

And eventually it dawns on you that you've been had. You've fallen victim to a dodgy outfit who have sold you non-existent tickets that they were never authorised to sell.

Nothing like that would ever happen in HR would it?

Sadly, it's becoming common practice.

During the last week I have seen at least two online job adverts (by agencies of varying size and reputation) where they are advertising vacancies for hiring organisations, perhaps not without the permission of the organisation, but where it has been made perfectly clear to the agency that any CVs that are submitted will only be reviewed once the in-house campaign has run its course. If the in-house campaign is successful, no CVs will be requested from the agency.

So, any application submitted to the agency rather than the hiring organisation is likely to be merely seed cast onto stony ground.

In a job market where it's challenging enough already, to confuse, mislead (and possibly deceive) applicants in this way is far from helpful if not downright mischievous.

It wouldn't be difficult to stop either, would it!

  • Any suggestions?

Sunday, 22 November 2009

What's in a name?

Smile nicely at the screen and click the picture to enlarge

They started as Welfare Officers.

Then they were Personnel Officers.

Soon they became HR Managers (not Officers any longer, as they had generally been promoted)

At the moment most of them are HR Business Partners.

  • Where next?

Friday, 20 November 2009

The future of HR in just three words

OK, HR Professionals: (especially those of you powered up on your return from the CIPD Conference!) Here's your opportunity to address the youth of the nation!

Many of the readers of HR Case Studies are teachers of Advanced Level Business Studies who need a helping hand with that tricky little subject of Human Resources Management.

So, one simple task for you:

What three words would you use to describe the HR Manager of the future?

Thursday, 19 November 2009

The 7 habits of highly effective recruitment consultants

Personal involvement on both sides of the recruitment fence, combined with observation of an apparently increasing discontent with the level of service of many recruitment consultants, has provoked me to offer the following suggestions for improvement in this critical area. Your views are more than  welcome.

Once a candidate has applied for a position, ensure that you provide regular feedback on progress.

If you are not the only agency that is representing a client, this should be explained to the candidate.

Ensure that you provide the candidate with a written commitment of what can be expected from you in terms of service and support – and keep your word.

If you have invited a candidate to apply for a position that you are managing, do not subsequently mail them to advise them that they do not have the skills or experience that you were looking for: you should know this already.

If you have not been formally engaged by the client to fill a role (i.e. the client is independently seeking to fill the role, but has invited you to submit CVs which will be assessed only if the initial phase is unsuccessful), explain this to the candidate.

Use technology to draw you closer to the candidate: if the contact between you and the candidate is worse than it would have been in a paper-based world, you’ve lost the plot.

The words “If you have not been contacted within 28 days of the closing date, you should assume your application has not been successful” will never, ever be included in any correspondence that you issue.

Sorry seems to be the hardest word. Especially when it costs $500 million

Readers of HR Case Studies will be familiar with the strength of emotion that the mention of Goldman Sachs seems to evoke in the public on both sides of the Atlantic.

Comments about “doing God’s work” and hectoring the masses to "tolerate the inequality (of bankers’ bonuses) as a way to achieve greater prosperity for all” were inevitably destined to raise the temperature of the debate over salary and bonus levels in the investment bank.

However, displaying a surprising change of heart, the bank issued a long-overdue apology yesterday for its role in the global financial crisis and announced a $500 million (£299 million) pledge to small businesses.

Lloyd Blankfein, the chief executive of the bank, (and the guy who appears to have a divine mandate) said:
“We participated in things that were clearly wrong and have reason to regret ... We apologise.”
 He added that the bank was “very concerned” about the criticism it received for accepting a $10 billion bailout, only to return quickly to paying multimillion-dollar bonuses.

On Monday, members of US Trade Unions protested outside the bank’s Washington office, calling for the bank to donate its (wait for it . . . $23 billion!!) bonus pool to homeowners facing eviction.

The bank said yesterday that it would put aside $500 million for donations, loans and grants to community development organisations.

Times Online: Goldman boss says sorry and pledges cash

  • “Our reputation is very important to us,” said Lloyd Blankfein yesterday. In the light of his comment, do you see the apology as a praiseworthy altruistic gesture, or just good image management?

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

HR once more questions its future

The CIPD conference which starts today in Manchester is giving the HR profession yet another opportunity to question if not its existence, then at least its purpose.

Under the heading of Next Generation HR, the CIPD is publishing the findings of an extensive research project with the aim of prompting the profession to “start thinking about what it needs to look like in future”

The project focuses on testing three hypotheses. 
  • HR’s purpose needs to shift to being about sustainable organisational performance
  • It needs to focus on building a culture of authenticity, demonstrating a balanced approach to risk management and developing organisational agility.
  • It needs to define the type of HR leadership it will need in future 
Comments from senior HR professionals who have been involved in the research indicate that not all organisations have successfully managed the transition from seeing HR Managers as enforcers of policy to that of commercially-minded business partners.

CIPD unveils its Next Generation HR study 
  • Do other professions spend as much time as HR in a search for meaning?
  • Is such self-examination a feature of a mature and confident profession, or one that is in danger of losing its way?
  • Is the need to evolve something that is peculiar to UK HR, or is it a worldwide phenomenon?

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Transparency or Voyeurism? How much do I need to know?

It probably started with the Daily Telegraph’s exposure of the abuse of the UK parliamentary expense system, but we do seem to be in danger of indulging in an orgy of public striptease, slowly revealing the most intimate details of our wages and salaries.

Let’s look at a few examples:

MPs expenses

The Daily Telegraph's investigation into Cabinet Ministers' expenses led to the creation of an expenses dossier which contains electronic scans of every expense claim made by MPs since 2005.

The information is so detailed that it is public knowledge that, for example, Jacqui Smith bought a number of items from B&Q at 3.29 pm on 7 April 2008, including six bags of sand at £1.39 per bag.

Similarly, Gordon Brown paid (and claimed) for having his grass cut on 15th May 2008, costing him £35.

Office of National Statistics Salary Survey

Last week saw the publication of the Office of National Statistics annual survey of salaries.

This informs us that the highest-paid category of employee in the UK is Directors and CEOs of major organisations who earn on average £172716 per annum; the most poorly paid employees are in the category of school mid-day assistants who earn on average £3143 per annum.

Trade Union Pay

In August of this year, under the headline of “Trade union leaders receive huge pay rises despite redundancies and salary cuts among members” the Daily Telegraph (yes, it’s them again) published the salaries of many of the UK’s TU leaders, revealing that, for example, Tony Woodley, the joint general secretary of Unite, which with two million members is Britain's biggest trade union was said to have seen an increase in his pay and benefits package last year of 20 per cent, from £88,359 to £105,761.

Chief Executive Pay

Not to be outdone by the Daily Telegraph, in September the Guardian published its list of the salaries of the top FTSE 100 Chief Executives, revealing in the process that the most highly paid chief executive was Bart Becht of Reckitt Benckiser who received £36.8m in pay, bonuses, perks and share incentive schemes.

BBC Salaries

This week the BBC has published information on its senior management structure for those divisions of the BBC which report directly to the Director-General. The information also contains details of senior staff salaries and expenses. All that is required is a couple of clicks and it is there for anyone to see that, to choose a name at random, Tim Davie (Director of BBC Audio & Music and a member of the BBC's Executive Board) last year earned a salary of £325,000, with a total remuneration of £403,000. Oh, and by the way, he ran a team Away Day on 24th February which cost £750.


Not wanting to be left out of the game of “I’ll show you mine if you’ll show me yours”, even the CIPD felt obliged to hang its washing out to dry in September, and thereby caused quite a stir in the HR community when it announced that CIPD Chief Executive Jackie Orme received a bonus to top up her £300,000 per year salary at a time when other CIPD staff had had a pay freeze imposed on them.

  • There's clearly too much information to digest above, so you're all let off with one simple question today: Is it healthy for so much information to be in the public domain?

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Well, how much do you think you are worth, boy?

The latest annual survey of hours and earnings is out today and it provides an amazing insight into wages across the UK.

From the over 400 jobs surveyed by the Office of National Statistics, below are summarised the annual salaries of just the top and bottom ten.

Directors and CEOs of major organisations £172716
Brokers £133845
Corporate Managers And Senior Officials £122280
Financial managers and chartered secretaries £78926
Medical practitioners £73598
Aircraft pilots and flight engineers £70595
Senior officials in national government £67403
Managers in mining and energy £67153
Air traffic controllers £64045
Health Professionals £60814

Elementary Personal Services Occupations £8184
Retail cashiers and check-out operators £8167
Cleaners, domestics £8069
Waiters, waitresses £7639
Bar staff £7372
Travel and tour guides £7098
Playgroup leaders/assistants £6812
Leisure and theme park attendants £6062
School crossing patrol attendants £4354
School mid-day assistants £3143
Guardian: What do people get paid? The latest salary survey results

Well, how much do you think you are worth, boy?
Will anyone stand up and say?
Would you say that a man is worth nothing
Until someone is willing to pay?
Graham Kendrick
Copyright © 1974 Make Way Music

Bonus row hits Ministry of Defence

Today has seen mounting criticism of the £47m in bonuses that has been paid out to Ministry of Defence civil servants.

Although the payment of such bonuses had been agreed in earlier pay deals, and average out at less than £1,000 for each of the MoD’s 50,000 staff, families of serving soldiers have criticised the payment of such performance-related bonuses as "obscene” and “insensitive”.

An army private on the lowest salary earns £16,681 a year, with a six-month tax-free operational allowance of £2,380 if posted to Afghanistan.

The MoD employs 85,000 civil servants - one for every two active armed forces personnel.

£287,809,049 has been paid out in bonuses since 2003
Although the MoD has stated that such pay awards are met from within salary budget and have no impact on the operational or equipment budget, the UK Conservative opposition has claimed that, "Many in the armed forces will be aghast that bonuses are being paid on the basis of 'outstanding performance'"

BBC News: MoD bonuses attacked by families

  • Are there some organisations within which the payment of performance-related bonuses is inappropriate?

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Fag-Ash Lil appointed as FTSE 100 Chief Executive

A woman (not the new Chief Executive of a FTSE Company) smoking

Alison Cooper’s appointment as chief executive of Imperial Tobacco means that the number of women in charge of FTSE 100 companies leapt by 25% yesterday. She joins Dame Marjorie Scardino (Pearson Publishing), Angela Ahrendts (Burberry Fashion), Cynthia Carroll (Anglo American Mining) and Katherine Garrett-Cox (Alliance Trust Finance) in the select group of women at the helm of UK companies.

She is now likely to become one of Britain's best-paid women. Last year she earned £1.3m, but she will clearly be expecting to pick up more in pay, perks and other incentives if her objective of increasing worldwide sales of the Company’s brands is successful.

Her predecessor (40 cigarettes per day) has (bewilderingly!) consistently refused to accept the direct link between smoking and lung cancer.

Ms Cooper (Occasional smoker) has yet to make public her opinion on the subject.

Guardian: Imperial Tobacco appoints FTSE 100's fifth female chief

  • Does Alison Cooper’s appointment to this role further the cause of women in senior business positions?

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Would you take a pay cut for a better boss?

The Chartered Management Institute (CMI) has just published the results of a survey (all together now…..groan) of 3,000 UK adults which reveals that one in every two workers would be prepared to take a pay cut if that meant they could work with a better manager.

The report also claims that UK firms invest less in their managers than their competitors, and that this needs to be addressed by both the Government and employers if the skills gap is to be reduced.

Worryingly, a large proportion of UK bosses describe themselves as "accidental managers", with no training and no ambition to manage people at all.

The CMI is launching its Manifesto for a Better Managed Britain and demanding that urgent action is taken to transform management and leadership performance. The report poses the following challenge:

"In what other profession would it be acceptable for only a quarter of practitioners to hold a professional qualification? The sad truth is that UK managers are no longer regarded as professional, competent or accountable."

Daily Telegraph: Half of workers have resigned because of bad management

CMI: Better Managed Britain campaign launched to bring about skills transformation
  • Would you be prepared to work for less for a better boss?
  • If you're from outside the UK, what's your experience of leadership development in your country?
  • Is management something that can be taught?
  • Does it matter if managers don't actually hold a professional qualification?

Monday, 9 November 2009

"Doing God's work" at 85 Broad Street, New York

WARNING! If it’s been a difficult (or an expensive) weekend, you might need to sit down with a strong coffee before reading this.

An article in yesterday’s Times Online outlined the fortunes of the men and women who turn up for work each day at the relatively anonymous offices at Number 85 Broad Street, New York.

The select few who work here make more money than many small countries.

These are the Masters of the Universe of Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of The Vanities.

These are the financial megastars who, once they have become filthy rich by 40, frequently parachute into some of the most senior political posts in the US, understandably prompting accusations that they "rule the world."

Even in this time of global recession, Lady Fortune has smiled with favour on those who work behind the brass-trim glass doors of this prestigious establishment. Average pay this recessionary year for the 30,000 staff is expected to be a record $700,000. Top earners will get tens of millions, several hundred thousand times more than a cleaner at the firm.

Welcome, dear readers, to 85 Broad Street, the home of Goldman Sachs.

Times Online: I'm doing 'God's work'. Meet Mr Goldman Sachs

New Statesman: Goldmans boss says he does "God's work". Who does he think he's kidding?

  • Is this morally acceptable?

Friday, 6 November 2009

Now, remind me what Maslow and Herzberg said about money as a motivator….

Personnel Today magazine (who deserve an easier day from you after Wednesday’s “Sexy HR Manager” debate) have reported that there’s a marked decline in blue-chip companies seeing cash as the only reward mechanism for executive staff.

Using the results of a survey (mini-groan!) from Mercer Executive Reward, it’s reported that although most UK blue-chip Companies will offer pay rises in 2010, there would be "less emphasis on the cash element when rewarding staff and more on career development and elements of work/life balance".

According to Mercer, “cash, tarnished by the role of bonuses in the economic slump, is no longer king in the eyes of employers. It is being usurped by an emphasis on employee engagement and a focus on motivating specific, high-value employees.

Personnel Today: Blue-chip companies seek non-cash rewards

  • Where does the phrase “Blue-Chip” originate?
  • Where does money fit into Maslow and Herzberg’s theories of motivation?
  • Do you think that the trend reported above is likely to continue as the recession (hopefully) ends?
  • Do you believe that career development and an improved work/life balance appeal equally to high and low paid staff?
  • Loaded question: Is offering career development instead of cash as a reward a sign of an enlightened organisation or a con-trick to keep wage costs down?

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Stop! Thief! Someone’s stolen my ideas!

The UK National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence(NIHCE) has today published a set of guidelines for employers on promoting mental wellbeing through productive and healthy working conditions.

Although the guidance and supporting documentation is extremely comprehensive and robust, it does have to be said that most of the guidance is identical to the recommendations that HR professionals have been making for many years!

The guidance focuses on interventions to promote mental wellbeing through productive and healthy working conditions, and describes mental wellbeing at work as being determined by the interaction between the working environment, the nature of the work and the individual.

The five recommendations of NIHCE are:

Adopt an organisation-wide approach to promoting the mental wellbeing of all employees, working in partnership with them.

Adopt a structured approach to assessing opportunities for promoting employees’ mental wellbeing and managing risks.

Provide employees with opportunities for flexible working according to their needs and aspirations in both their personal and working lives.

Strengthen the role of line managers in promoting the mental wellbeing of employees through supportive leadership style and management practices.

Collaborate with micro, small and medium-sized businesses and offer advice and a range of support and services.

Promoting mental wellbeing at work
  • What might "an organisation-wide approach to promoting the mental wellbeing of all employees" look like?
  • Which opportunities for flexible working might organisations wish to make available for their employees?
  • The guidance speaks of "strengthening the role of line managers in promoting the mental wellbeing of employees." What might this involve in practice?
  • Will smaller organisations experience greater difficulties than larger ones in implementing such guidance?

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Phwoarr! Nice legs; shame about the policies

(Editor's Note: Picture removed in the interest of public decency)

Partly in response to the launch of the Farmers Weekly Britain’s Sexiest Farmer Competition, Personnel Today has invited members of the HR profession to unfasten a few buttons, slip into something seductive and nominate colleagues for the Sexiest HR Professional Award.

Do you work with someone in your HR team that is drop dead gorgeous? Is there a real fit lad or lass in your department that you think could be the best HR has to offer?

If so, then enter them into the nationwide search to find the best looking HR men and women. Email us with a pic attached and a panel of judges will vote on the sexiest male and female. The winners will be featured in a future issue of Personnel Today magazine.
Update!! Although the entries for HR Hunks and Top Totty were initially rather thin on the ground, there's been a sudden pre-Christmas rush and the 14 finalists are now up on the Personnel Today website for us all to drool over. So, dim the lights, load the Barry White album into the player and cast your eyes over this foxy bunch. And then, having cooled off, you can add to the comments below!
  • Further research activity. Visit the Farmers Weekly Site; do you agree that in Entry No. 38, Bertha is better looking than Nuffy? (Hint: Bertha is the tractor)
  • Serious (and loaded) question: Is the Personnel Today competition all harmless fun or does it risk portraying HR in an unprofessional light?

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Hard times for the UK's Graduates

It’s clearly tough being a graduate these days.

A study by the Higher Education Careers Services Unit has found that Graduate unemployment has grown by 44 per cent in the past 12 months and is likely to be even higher next year.

Of those students who graduated in 2008, 7.9 per cent were not in employment in January 2009. Not since 1995 (when it stood at 8.1 per cent) has graduate unemployment been so high.

The report paints a bleak picture for the immediate future too: “It’s likely that unemployment for 2009 graduates may be even higher than that reported here,” says the study.

The situation varies from sector to sector:

Graduates in the construction industry have been particularly hard hit, as unemployment more than doubled from 2.9 per cent in 2007 to 8.5 per cent for 2008 leavers.

Graduate hiring in the finance sector fell to 7.5 per cent in 2008, from 8.7 per cent in 2007.

IT roles also saw a year-on-year decrease as consultants, software professionals and computer programmers fell by 18 per cent.

But it’s not all bad news (phew!): Public sector graduate recruitment remained buoyant despite the recession, with a year-on-year increase in healthcare, teaching and social work roles, the largest increase being in social work roles, where graduate numbers had surprisingly risen by 55 per cent since 2007.

For a graduate who’s fortunate to be in a job, the average salary is reported to be £19,677, an increase of two per cent from 2007.

People Management: Graduate unemployment jumps by 44 per cent in a year

  • How, if at all, are these figures likely to affect the intentions of school leavers to go to University?
  • What might be the negative impact on businesses that choose to neglect recruiting graduates?
  • Further research: read the HR Case Studies article entitled BT hangs up on graduate recruitment. What might have been the factors that persuaded BT to do a U-turn on its decision to pull out of graduate recruitment?

Monday, 2 November 2009

The result of job-sharing: two miserable people

There’s an interesting opinion piece in the current edition of Management Today on whether or not Job-Sharing actually works.

On the upside, the writer somewhat hesitantly states that flexible working has helped a number of firms through the recession without the need for redundancies.

But on the down-side, the author is highly suspicious about whether such flexible working practices actually work:
The big fallacy of job-shares is that if two people do half a week each, you end up with a full-time equivalent. But you don’t really. Inevitably, things end up falling through the cracks between the two, or deadlines get pushed back, or service levels suffer. As a business, you only have half the amount of knowledge of the role present at any one time. So when random questions come up, as they invariably do, you’ve only got a 50-50 shot of being able to answer them.
Other potential pitfalls of job-sharing are stated as:

It gets even more complicated if the two people concerned don’t actually like each other.

Generally both people are miserable, because as far as their manager is concerned the best they can do is half a job.

It's bad for the business, because in this case a half plus a half doesn’t necessarily equal one.

Management Today: Does job-sharing ever work?
  • This all seems somewhat negative to me, so I’d be interested to hear your views, particularly from those who have had experience of job-sharing, or any other form of flexible working.

A bumpy ride ahead for HR recruiters (and candidates!)

Opinion about what the future of the job market might hold for HR professionals seems to be up and down like the proverbial roller-coaster.

Apparently HR recruiters feel worse about job prospects now than they did only a month ago, according to (get ready for another groan) a new poll from the independent campaign Keep Britain Working.

The HR Recruitment Job Prospect Index (which requires either a PhD in statistics or a familiarity with witchcraft to understand it) currently stands at minus 35. This is a 5 point drop against September, when the index figure was minus 30. This is the worst score since last May, when the Job Prospect Index began, where it stood at minus 29.

Basically, this seems to indicate that those involved in the recruitment of HR professionals don’t see a very positive future for either themselves or those they are hoping to place into new roles.

Despite the bleak future, nearly one in four people (24%) still feel positive about their employer in spite of worsening job prospects, demonstrating how successful many employers have been at working flexibly, in partnership with their staff, to respond to the recession.

So, the message is clear: hold on to your job if you’ve got one. Or to your seat on the roller-coaster!

Pessimism deepens over job prospects

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Now is (not) the winter of our discontent

Personally, I’d be happy to return to an era when the pop charts were filled with classics by The Police, Pink Floyd and The Boomtown Rats (though I’ll pass on Dr Hook, The Bee Gees and Lena Martell), but it seems that despite a rash of strikes involving Royal Mail, British Airways refuse collectors and the fire service, fears of a return to the UK-wide strikes of 1979 are overstated.

The CIPD’s employee relations adviser recently said that the UK was unlikely to face a repeat of the “winter of discontent”. He claimed that the disputes in Royal Mail and the transport sector were “anomalies in terms of industrial relations, because the government is still seen as the ultimate banker or guarantor of service continuing”

The adviser did add, however, that during the current recession, the private sector would “still have lower levels of industrial action because of changed staff attitudes and an increasing need to be competitive globally.” He also predicted there would be more strikes in the public sector, particularly after the likely spring general election. This prediction is based on the assumption that there would be a backlash against a new Conservative government proposing to introduce legislation to deal with industrial relations in essential services.

Sounds pretty much like 1979 to me.

By the way: best selling UK single of 1979? Bright Eyes by Art Garfunkel.


Friday, 30 October 2009

The cost of poor HR: €1 billion and 25 lives

Regular readers of HR Case Studies will be familiar with the shocking series of suicides at France Télécom which have taken place while the Company has been implementing a modernisation drive.

Since February 2008, there have been 25 suicides and a further series of attempted suicides.

The cost of a badly managed restructuring programme now stands at a 6.4 per cent drop in third quarter profits, 25 lives and (announced yesterday) a €1 billion stress-reduction programme intended to enable staff aged over 57 to work part time. The part-time jobs would be made available on a voluntary basis to employees who felt that full time work was endangering their health.

Company Chairman Didier Lombard is blamed by unions for disorientating staff through a massive change programme since the business was privatised in 2004. Unions blame performance targets, tough management and imposed workplace mobility measures for the series of suicides.

The former state monopoly has been forced into a wide-ranging review of working practices overseen by Stéphane Richard, a former French government adviser who took over as deputy chief executive this month.

Mr Richards has already admitted that the group has ''gone too far'' into its attempts to supervise staff through the introduction of ''control tools''.

Times Online: France Télécom to invest €1bn to prevent suicides
  • How could the engagement of a robust HR function have prevented this situation from developing?

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Royal Mail dispute: what's all that about then?

Is it just me, or are you also in the dark over what the Royal Mail strike is actually about? OK, it’s obvious that management of Royal Mail want to “introduce modern working practices” (whatever that actually means) and striking staff feel the need to protest against Royal Mail for “making efficiency cuts without modernising the service” but beyond that, the details of the dispute seem to have evaded me.

With that in mind, I’m therefore not sure whether my local postie is a workshy, lazy, trouble-maker (assuming that he’s one of those on strike) or a strike-breaking scab (if he’s not!)

Terminology like this is the subject of a brief article in this week’s Personnel Today, which also explores the inevitable polarisation of opinion that takes place during any dispute. The forced choice for Royal Mail staff to nail their colours to the mast of either “striker” or “scab” leads to the inevitable creation of stereotypes which in turn brings about “a self-fulfilling cycle that further divides the groups, as they consistently look for positive similarities with their own group while making negative comparisons with colleagues in the other group. Any small or insignificant differences are quickly blown into major points of disagreement, leading to emotional, long-lasting divisions between once friendly and supportive colleagues”

So, as the article suggests, although the Royal Mail dispute may have a short-term resolution, the rifts that form during strike action tend to be long-lasting and deep.

Strikes: the psychological impact on non-striking staff
  • One for teachers: research the background to the Royal Mail dispute to ensure that students are aware of the positions of both parties
  • One for HR professionals: if you were part of Royal Mail, how could you improve the public’s awareness of what this dispute is actually about?
  • One for the rest of you: where do your sympathies lie in this dispute?