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Dear Santa: HR’s Christmas wish list


With gloomy economic predictions and the prospect of job losses for many in 2009, spreads some Christmas cheer and asks the experts what's on their HR wish list. Verity Gough reports.

What would you like to see change next year, to make your working life easier?

"I would like to see candidates being treated with respect when applying for a job. As a career coach, I work with many clients who feel angry about the offhand way they are dealt with by some employers and agencies. If they are job-searching they need all the confidence they can get – and thoughtlessness from an HR department or agency can really set them back."
Corinne Mills, HR adviser,

"I'd like to see a move to output-based working for all organisations, a focus only on what is being delivered at the end of the day/week/month/year rather than a focus on inputs. With more freedom to achieve anywhere rather than just from a desk in your office."
Nik Kellingley, head of telesales and training, Atheeb Telecommunication Consortium

"We need better targeted support from the government that really reaches the needs of business (especially owner-managed) rather than standard approaches."
Mike Shreeve, MD, Helix HR

"The reality of the economic environment is that no HR professional is likely to see their working life become easier next year. People managers need to focus on the daily performance improvement of their teams, as well as more effectively managing, workloads, skill gaps and internal promotions. This will ensure that they feel they can have the important and powerful conversations with team members themselves, using HR for guidance and support."
Jeff Welstead, global director of human resources, SpinVox

How can HR be more appreciated and valued next year?

"I'm tempted to say the biggest thing HR can do is stop running itself down. The more we run round asking why we're not valued and appreciated, the less we do for our own 'personal brand' as a profession. We do add value. In the current climate, we do it best by managing the day-to-day realities and the inevitable and essential pressure to minimise costs, while never losing sight of the need to plan for the longer term. Ensuring the business is investing sensibly in building the capability needed to emerge strongly when the recession recedes would be my top tip for adding more value in 2009."
Jackie Orme, chief executive, CIPD

"HR will need to be outward-looking in the way it communicates with its customers. In the current climate it will be essential to maintain open and honest channels of communication throughout the business and ensure that messaging is clear and consistent in all areas of business and people communication. HR departments mustn't risk alienating staff and losing trust by spinning internal communications about the business' performance or delivering mixed messages from other corporate communications."
Ruth Smyth, Global Head of HR at Alexander Mann Solutions

"Research from IES this year showed that HR teams need to make sure they listen to their customers about what they want from the function, and respond accordingly. Line managers are looking for effective and responsive 'people partners', who can help them solve strategic problems for the business. Users value HR's independence, but the function needs to be proactive and spot issues ahead of time, working closely with managers to solve them. Getting the basics right and actively talking to your customers will go a long way to improving the level of people happy with the service."
Wendy Hirsh, principal associate, Institute for Employment Studies (IES)

"Appreciation for HR teams can come from a number of areas: internal recognition and thanks from line managers/leaders and regular/personal thank yous to people who often go the extra mile, regular updates and communications to keep people in the loop and understanding what's going on in the market and the company as a whole."
Anna Cook, head of HR, Sage UK

What would you like to see happen with the flexible working proposals?

"I strongly believe in more flexible approaches to working and work/life balance and this is better championed through best practice and leadership in HR than legislation."
Mike Shreeve, Helix HR

"Extending the legislation will over-complicate what should be an agreed local arrangement. Fine – if both sides are happy. But if it doesn't work for the employer, then the employee has a choice whether to stay or look for another role. The legislation will get in the way, rather than assist the employer-employee relationship."
Corinne Mills, HR adviser,

"Flexible working should be extended as far as possible – and more men should take advantage of them so that the culture changes and people are valued for their output and not their hours."
Liz Bavidge, director, Fair Play Partnership

"The CIPD has been consistent in saying that the proposed extension to the right to request flexible working should go ahead as planned. There is a strong business case for flexible working, so long as business needs are taken into account. The right to request ensures this balance is struck. Any decision to delay due to short-term economic circumstances would have sent out entirely the wrong message. Flexible working is good for employers, good for employees, and good for hard-pressed working families."
Jackie Orme, CIPD

What one piece of legislation would you like to see brought in, if any?

"I'd like to see equality and discrimination legislation brought into line under one act with the focus on non-discrimination or harassment of anyone for any reason not connected to the workplace – going much further than the current legislation, to enable people to feel safe and secure in their personal lives, and to ensure that work stops when you go home."
Nik Kellingley, head of telesales and training, Atheeb Telecommunication Consortium

"I would like to outlaw the 'long hours' culture which is not good for people or productivity. It can lead to 'presenteeism' (the action of trying to be seen to be present at work but not necessarily doing anything) which disadvantages those with caring or other responsibilities and becomes a self-perpetuating vicious circle. We all know that there are times when more hours are needed but not every day."
Liz Bavage, director, Fair Play Partnership

"I think we probably have enough legislation. Perhaps, if pushed, something around workplace arbitration – so grievances arbitrated by a 'peer' group might be fun – optional but binding."
Lisette Howlett, HR Consultant and MD, Hire Scores

"I'd rather see less legislation so that we can all focus on intelligent hiring, focused performance management, moving staff around quickly to match their experience with business problems, for instance removing those team members who can't unfortunately seem to make the grade and accelerating the development of those that do."
Jeff Welstead, global director of Human Resources, SpinVox

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