Thursday, 27 May 2010

Rage Against The Recruitment Machine: Episode 4

Recruitment consultants: imagine receiving the following letter from one of the candidates on your database:
Hi Dave! Long time. no speak.

I notice from your website that you’re currently handling eight vacancies for which I think I’m suitable. I’d like to apply for them. All of them.

If by any chance you don’t think I’m matched with any of the ones currently advertised, perhaps you could forward my CV to other agencies or recruiting organisations who are looking for someone like me. If any of them offer me a job, I’ll buy you a couple of bottles of wine.

Keep in touch!

How totally impertinent of a candidate to expect such service or treatment from a recruitment consultant!

But when then roles are reversed, it’s a scenario that takes place every day.

Today (like many other days) I have received an e-mail from a recruitment consultant asking me if I am interested in eight roles ranging from permanent to interim, from Learning and Development Manager to Employment Law Advisor, with locations as far apart as London and Newcastle, and where the salary of the most senior position is four times that of the most junior.

The mail also draws my attention to the consultancy’s candidate referral scheme. Apparently, if I recommend a friend or colleague who is subsequently placed in a role, I will receive a generous sum in gift vouchers.

The above consultancy have my details on their database, and therefore know if my preference is for permanent or interim roles; they know my areas of expertise; they are aware of any geographical limitations, and they also have been advised of my salary expectations.

So why does it appear to be one rule for the consultancy and another for the candidate?

If, dear recruitment consultant, I have taken a considerable period of time to provide you with detailed personal information concerning not only myself, but also the type or role I may be seeking, I do not expect you to completely disregard it and splatter me with information on totally irrelevant roles. Nor do I expect to be asked to do your dirty work for you by passing on your begging letter to friends and colleagues.

Recruitment Consultants: I expect to be targeted by the expert precision of a marksman, not be riddled with the buckshot fired by a crazed assassin with a blunderbuss.

By the way: you may have noticed that this is Episode 4 in the Rage Against The Recruitment Machine series. If you’re wondering where Episodes 1 – 3 have gone, highlighting failures in contemporary recruitment practice is a bit like Star Wars: it’s difficult to know quite where to start.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

BT unions reject 2% pay offer over £1.6m bonus for Chief Executive

It seems that BT may be joining BA in taking industrial action after the Telecoms giant publishes its annual report today. The report is expected to show increased bonuses for top staff.

The Independent: BT faces strike action over bosses bonuses

So, let’s have a look to see if the Communication Workers Union have any justification for their grievance. Here are the figures:
  • The group recently announced £1 billion in profits for the year to the end of March, which came as a marked improvement on the £134 million loss a year earlier.
  • The 60,000 CWU members at BT have recently rejected a pay offer. The offer was for a 2% pay rise.
  • Chief executive Ian Livingston is entitled to a bonus of up to £1.6 million - two times his £800,000 salary - if all financial targets are met.
  • The group's boss saw his pay frozen in 2009, although he received a £343,000 shares bonus last year despite the heavy losses.
Sadly BT are not unique in such inequalities. Here are a few facts to entertain and (I hope!) enrage you:
  • In 2007, chief executives of 365 of the largest US companies received well over 500 times the pay of their average employee.
  • In many of the top companies, the chief executive is paid more in each day that the average worker is in a year.
  • Among the US Fortune 500 companies, the pay gap in 2007 (between CEO and average employee) was ten times as big as it was in 1980.
  • It’s estimated that the average CEO in a large UK manufacturing organisation earns 31 times as much as the average production worker. In the USA, it's 44 times as much.
  • Boardroom pay in the FTSE 100 index has risen by 16% (2004), 13% (2005) 28% (2006) and 38% (2007). During this period of time, inflation was rarely more than 2%
  • The average pay (including bonuses) of CEOs in UK top companies stands at just under £3m.

I leave you with a thought to ponder:
After reviewing empirical research, the International Labour Organisation concluded that “there is little or no evidence of a relationship between executive pay and company performance. These excessive salaries are more likely a reflection of the dominant bargaining power of executives”
As ever, dear readers of HR Case Studies, your comments are invited!

Monday, 24 May 2010

British Airways: The Land That Maths Forgot

OK, I'll admit it. I was never a total maths wizard at school. My teachers did their best and they were as amazed as I was when I scraped a Grade 4 at Maths "O" Level back in the dark ages.

But even I think that there's something dodgy about the maths of the current situation in BA.

The equation seems to be as follows:

- 531,000,000 + 20 =  + 3,000,000

That's a record breaking annual loss of £531m, plus a bitter dispute with the Trade Unions involving a planned 20 days of passenger disruption through strike action, which still seems to add up to senior staff being awarded a total of £3m in share options.

Does my calculator need a new battery, or is this just plain bonkers?

Friday, 21 May 2010

Are you suffering from boreout?

Boreout is a term coined by Philippe Rothlin and Peter Werder to describe demotivation as a result of repetitive, uninteresting and unchallenging work, particularly among office workers. It’s estimated that 15 per cent of office workers are affected. Tell-tale signs are turning up for work lacking energy and enthusiasm, spending time surfing the internet, chatting to colleagues and generally trying to look busy when in reality you’re not.

Those with advanced boreout may find themselves resorting to tactics such as those adopted by Financial Times journalist Roger Boyes:
I remember while working for the Financial Times in the 1970s that colleagues developed an "Italian Jacket" syndrome. A spare jacket, kept in the office, would be spread over the back of your chair, a half-drunk cup of coffee would be placed next to the phone – and you could disappear for a couple of hours. The editor would assume that you were briefly somewhere else in the building.
If you’re starting to wonder if you’re possibly suffering from boreout, here’s a quick test to administer before you book an appointment with the doctor, occupational psychologist or (cough, cough) executive life-coach.
  1. Do you complete private tasks at work?
  2. Do you feel under-challenged or bored in your job?
  3. Do you sometimes pretend to be busy when you’re not?
  4. Does work leave you tired and listless even when the work itself wasn’t stressful?
  5. Does your work make you feel unhappy?
  6. Do you find your work meaningless?
  7. Be honest: you could do most of your work in less time that it currently takes, couldn’t you?
  8. Is the main reason that you stay in your current job because to move to a new one might require a drop in salary?
  9. Do you send private e-mails to colleagues during working hours?
  10. Are you reading this HR Case Studies blog item in work?

Answer “yes” to four or more questions and it seems you’ve got problems!

Now: leave a comment and let’s see how many of us are suffering from boreout

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Have you got what it takes to be an alpha male or alpha female?

Research seems to indicate that around 75% of the world's high-flying, testosterone fuelled, high achieving executives are "alpha males".

They take charge, dominate, conquer and generally make things happen. Although they are generally clever and effective they can also cause serious damage to themselves and those around them, as their persistence can become stubbornness.

So their strengths and weaknesses are simply opposite sides of the same coin.

Surprise, surprise, there are fewer alpha women, and their powers of usually empathy lead to them doing less damage than their male counterparts. They are also (allegedly!) less angry and impatient.

Let's see where the readers of HR Case Studies fit in on the alpha scale.

Score each of these items from "strongly disagree" (zero) to "strongly agree" (10)
  • No matter what, I don't give up until I reach my goal.
  • When I play a game, I like to keep score.
  • I sometimes rant and rave when I don't get my way.
  • My opinions and ideas are usually the best ones.
  • When others don't agree, I lose my temper.
  • I am accustomed to being the centre of attention.
  • People have described me as a natural born leader.
  • I believe the end usually justifies the means.
  • I only collaborate with peers when I have to.
  • There are a lot of people who are just plain stupid.
0-25:     Total and utter wimp; buy shares in Kleenex
26-50:    Bit of a pushover
51-75:    Ambitious, but not really prepared to stab others in the back
76-100:  You've got what it takes to be an Alpha. You haven't really got time to be reading this blog, have you?

(Adapted from the rather excellent new edition of Organisational Behaviour by Buchanan and Huczynski)

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

20 reasons why you didn't get the job

A survey of 153 American Human Resource Managers by Arthur Bedeian in 1986 identified the 20 most common errors made by applicants attending job interviews. With a slight element of artistic interpretation, here's the list (in order of importance) of reasons why you didn't get the last job you were interviewed for:
  1. You were poorly dressed
  2. You were overaggressive
  3. You were unable to express information clearly
  4. You lacked interest and enthusiasm
  5. You displayed no career planning
  6. You appeared nervous and lacking in confidence
  7. You overemphasised the importance of the pay for the job
  8. You were unwilling to start at the bottom
  9. You made excuses
  10. You were lacking in tact and courtesy
  11. You appeared immature
  12. You condemned your past employers
  13. You displayed no genuine in the company or the job
  14. You failed to look the interviewer in the eye
  15. Your application form was poorly completed
  16. You didn't seem to have a sense of humour
  17. You were late for the interview
  18. You failed to express appreciation for the interviewer's time
  19. You failed to ask questions about the company and the job
  20. Your responses to questions were vague

A few questions though:
  • The survey was undertaken in 1986: do you think the results would be the same if repeated today?
  • Would the results be the same if European HR Managers were asked to list their reasons for rejecting candidates?
  • Would the results be the same if it was line managers rather that HR Managers who were asked to rate their reasons for rejection?

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

How much talent are you overlooking?

At 7:51 a.m. on Friday, January 12, at the entrance to the tube station, a nondescript, youngish white man in jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a baseball cap removes a violin from a small case. Placing the open case at his feet, he throws in a few coins as “seed money”, swivels it to face pedestrian traffic, and begins to play.

In the next 43 minutes, the violinist performs six classical pieces. 1,097 people pass by. Almost all of them are on the way to work, mainly in government jobs.

Three minutes elapse before something happens. Sixty-three people have already passed when a middle-age man turns his head to notice that there seems to be some guy playing music. The man keeps on walking.

A half-minute later, the violinist gets his first donation. A woman throws a few coins into the open case and rushes off without stopping.

After six minutes one commuter actually stands against a wall, and listens.

Things don’t get much better for the violinist. In the three-quarters of an hour that the violinist plays
  • 7 people stop what they are doing to hang around and take in the performance, at least for a minute.
  • 27 give money, most of them on the run.
  • The violinist collects a total of $32.
  • 1,070 people hurry by, oblivious, many only three feet away, few even turning to look.
One of the passers by who didn’t even bother stopping was a high-ranking HR professional. "Yes, I saw the violinist," she says, "but nothing about him struck me as much of anything."

Let’s have a look at her judgement:
  • The violinist was 39 year old Joshua Bell, one of the finest classical musicians in the world, playing some of the most elegant music ever written on one of the most valuable violins ever made.
  • Three days earlier, Bell had filled the house at Boston's Symphony Hall, where the most basic of seats went for $100. He normally commands around $1,000 a minute for his performances.
  • He was playing the "Chaconne" from Johann Sebastian Bach's Partita No. 2 in D Minor. Bell describes it as it "not just one of the greatest pieces of music ever written, but one of the greatest achievements of any man in history.”
  • The violin was handcrafted in 1713 by Antonio Stradivari during the Italian master's "golden period," toward the end of his career, when he had access to the finest spruce, maple and willow, and when his technique had been refined to perfection. Bell had bought the violin a few years ago. He had to sell his own Stradivarius and borrow much of the rest to pay for it. He’s understandably a bit coy about how much he paid, but the price tag was reported to be about $3.5 million.
OK HR professionals: Only one question: how much talent are you overlooking in your organisations?

Washington Post: Pearls Before Breakfast (including video)

Friday, 14 May 2010

Two ways to reduce pay of UK Cabinet Ministers ...

UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg have (according to the rather informative website) made a clear commitment to cutting the cost of government, including urgent action to begin reducing the deficit this year.

As part of this process of cutting costs, yesterday it was announced that new Ministers will be paid five per cent less than Ministers received in the previous administration.

That involves a pay cut of £7,500 for the PM, leading to a new salary of £142,500; it's said that over the lifetime of the Parliament, the Ministerial salary cut and subsequent pay freeze will save approximately £3 million.

There are other ways of keeping salary costs down though ....... A new politics: cutting Ministerial pay

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Five days for change

The five days since Thursday's UK General Election have been taken up with negotiations between the three major political parties and have, or so it would appear this morning, led to a coalition agreement that will permanently alter the political landscape of the country.

Until Voting Day the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats were in totally opposing camps and hurling insults and criticisms at The Enemy.

A lot has changed in five days.

Already a coalition cabinet is being pulled together, and there are heads of agreement on issues as critical and divisive as budget deficit, fixed term parliaments, nuclear weapons and voting reform.

Meanwhile, in the tranquil world of HR .....

Management and Trade Union of British Airways continue to be locked in a long running and bitter dispute over the clearly unfathomable issue of a reduction in cabin crew on long haul flights from 15 to 14 (gasp!), and the introduction of  a two-year pay freeze from 2010 (faint!). Union members at British Airways are planning a fresh round of walkouts, including strike action on key holiday dates.

Four five-day strikes have been planned.

Four five-day strikes? How long did it take to form a coalition government? Hmmm! Perhaps it's time for Management and Trade Unions in dispute-hit organisations to learn a lesson from the politicians and figure out how to work together.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

What's the point of Equal Opportunities statements?

Does an organisation’s statement of commitment to Equal Opportunities actually mean anything any more?

Let’s use the current (rather thin, it has to be said …) issue of People Management magazine as a testbed for this question.

Recruiting for HR Professionals are:

Three Housing Associations
All three carry the Positive About Disabled People (“Two Ticks” logo)
One goes further and stresses that they are “committed to equality of opportunity … welcome applications from all sectors of the diverse community..”

A Public Sector Security Organisation
They “welcome applications from all parts of the Community”

A Further Education College and a Local Authority
Both carry the Positive About Disabled People logo and are “an equal opportunities employer”

A Public Sector Organisation
They carry the Positive About Disabled People logo, are “committed to Equal Opportunities … particularly welcome applications from members of minority ethnic groups and people with disabilities who are currently underrepresented in our workforce”

Three Private Sector Professional Services Organisations and one County Council
No statement of commitment to Equal Opportunities

A few deliberately provocative questions:
  • With the raft of equal opportunities legislation that is now enshrined in law in the UK, do statements of commitment to equality of employment actually carry any weight any more?
  • Is there any reason to believe that the three organisations who do not affirm any commitment to equal opportunities are any less serious about the issue than those that do?
  •  If you were either (for example) disabled or a member of an “underrepresented group” would you be more likely to apply for a role with an organisation that publicly states its commitment to equal opportunities than one that doesn’t? 
  • Hasn’t it actually got to the stage now that an expectation that an organisation is committed to equality of opportunity and diversity is as basic as one that they are committed to “ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all employees?”