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?