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Kevin Dougall

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2010 – year of the better workforce?


Kevin Dougall, Managing Director of APHR Solutions, believes that there will be more causalities for HR in 2010 as we pull out of the recession, but is he only dreaming or is he right when he says HR could make 2010 the year of the better workforce?

It is probably fair to say, that 2009 is a year that most of us are keen to see the back of. For HR professionals it has been extremely challenging, as businesses have faced redundancies and the morale of those that have remained hits rock-bottom.

Will 2010 be any better or should we expect more of the same? There will, almost inevitably, be further casualties as we pull out of recession. History tells us that. For those HR professionals caught up in that, 2010 will be as challenging as 2009.

What, then, lies in store for the rest of us? Well, I think that the greatest challenge (and in every challenge there lies an opportunity) for HR professionals is to start to address, in a concerted and co-ordinated way, the lack of ‘work ready’ young people that are currently flooding the market. Sir Terry Leahy and Sir Stuart Rose have both gone on the record recently, lamenting the quality of young people joining the workforce.

When people like Sir Terry and Sir Stuart speak, the HR world should sit up and take notice. Why? Well, because HR can play a vital part in resolving this problem. It seems that the problem starts, and mainly lies with, under-performing schools and parents, but it is going to take a very long time to resolve that, and businesses cannot afford to wait.

So what can HR do about it?
Firstly, HR professionals are well placed to identify, and quantify, the cost to businesses of this problem. By gathering and collating that information, the true cost to British businesses can be ascertained. And let’s face it, money talks. When businesses realise what this problem is costing them, they will be galvanized in to action; and Government will have to do something about it, and fast.

Secondly, HR professionals are probably best placed to articulate the human cost in all of this. Difficult, if not impossible, to quantify in hard currency, but HR professionals will be able to get the message across, and influence the business community as well as Government.

Thirdly, HR professionals are more than capable of identifying, and implementing, measures that could provide a solution; that can more quickly address the problem, than waiting for schools to perform, and for some parents to take their responsibilities seriously.

What bright ideas does HR have to help?
Personally, I would form a partnership between local businesses and local higher education colleges with a view to delivering tutoring in the workplace. Clearly one would have to assess the specific need first, but that would be like falling off a log for most HR professionals.

This service would cost money, but when the HR team show the Finance Director how much it will cost the business if they don’t invest, I suspect that the FD will be won over quite quickly.

There will be spin-offs too. Any relationship is a good relationship, and knowledge and ideas will flow in both directions. The colleges will benefit and so will the local businesses.
In effect, you are taking the workplace to those who educate the workforce. Surely therefore there should be more dialogue and interaction between the two. And why stop there? Form partnerships with local schools. Tell them what you, as a business need, and you may be able to assist them with work experience and so on.

Perhaps, from an HR perspective, the best spin-off will be how your people feel about the business. If you care about your people, and demonstrate that by making them a better educated workforce, why would they want to go and work anywhere else?

A better educated, workplace ready and highly motivated workforce. Now that would be HR utopia.
Am I dreaming? No, I don’t think so, it really could be that easy.

Kevin Dougall is Managing Director of APHR Solutions


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