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Annie Hayes



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HR Practitioner’s Diary: Investing in People?


Intrepid HR Practitioner Sue Kingston files her latest report from the HR field, with news on her client’s IIP reassessment, getting rid of unwanted staff, managing ill feeling at work and appearances that can be deceptive plus more on those vital wine, chocolate and boyfriend statistics.

Month: May/June 2006
Well, the longest day of the year has passed by and now we face the evening drawing in again, but hopefully we’ll be treated to an Indian summer. I’ve had a very varied few weeks:

Seven out of 10’s not bad
My client survived their Investors In People reassessment and bearing in mind we had two months to prepare against a new and more difficult standard, we managed to pass seven out of the 10 indicators. It was a good result and more than I’d expected.

We now have to prepare an Action Plan to outline how we are going to achieve the final three indicators in order to gain the full accreditation. The areas we need to action to return to the Standard include:

  • To define the knowledge, skills and behaviours required from managers/supervisors at all levels and review performance against these at the individual review.

  • Communicate these requirements to all staff so that people are aware of what they should expect from their line manager.

  • Formalise the inclusion of all employees in the business planning process so that they recognise their involvement.

  • Put in place plans for future management development activities in line with the defined criteria.

There are also areas for continued development to look at:

  • Consider documenting the evaluation method in the Training Plan.

  • Encourage all line managers to give spontaneous praise and feedback.

  • Encourage all supervisors to be more proactive in their encouragement to staff to become involved in decision making and putting forward ideas.

  • Consider the need for a more structured top level evaluation process to support future growth.

The assessor pointed out that all of the above are areas that IIP now place a very high degree of importance on under their new Standard. So for any of you coming up to either your assessment or re-assessment, check your processes comply closely with the above points as it is what they will be looking for.

The Action Plan needs to be submitted by the end of July which the assessor then puts to the IIP Recognition Panel for their approval and hopeful retention of the IIP accreditation. The Panel need to be satisfied that the company shows a genuine commitment and have a considered, realistic strategy to achieve the required Standard.

The assessor then revisits to re-assess and report to the Panel.

At least I now have a clear focus for the next month to produce the Action Plan and keep our fingers crossed from there that we finally achieve the remaining three Indicators. Watch this space.

Daniel on the loose!
Some of you may remember ‘Daniel’ – he of the sexual harassment issues. Well, you’ll be glad to hear that he has finally bitten the dust!

The Board of Directors decided that he was no longer a good fit for their company strategy and culture and offered him a Compromise Agreement (CA) as a way out.

Daniel contacted me for advice on the CA, which on the whole was fair, the only omissions initially were in respect of his benefits. Once he had renegotiated the inclusion of his life assurance, pension contributions and medical insurance, he was on his way.

He has decided to set up his own business as a Consultant to assist companies in their restructuring and change management, mainly in the insurance industry.

It will be interesting to see how he does as he does have the gift of the gab. My only concern is that the mixture of clients will give him potentially rich pickings in respect of women that he may attempt to pursue. By no longer being an employee, he will be somewhat safer from any claims of sexual harassment. It’s worrying!

The joke
A client sought my advice on one of their longer serving members of staff, Lorraine, otherwise known as ‘Quiche’ to her colleagues. She has been with them for three and a half years.

It would seem as though Lorraine was under-performing, negative and failing to fit in. Her colleagues treated her as a joke. The boss wanted her out!

With the help of her line manager, I explored what the current issues were and was able to identify a number of areas in which they were actually letting her down and could help rescue the situation, without the need to manoeuvre her out.

I recommended the first thing they do is to use her proper name and drop the ‘Quiche’ references. No-one else in the organisation has a nickname and this was the one thing which singled her out and contributed towards her being treated as a joke.

I also suggested they sit her at a different desk presenting the opportunity for more eye to eye contact with her line manager. Currently she sits with her back to everyone which again makes it very easy for colleagues to ignore her and not take her seriously.

Finally we identified a number of areas where she could be given greater responsibility and development which in turn would create a more positive attitude.

Having devised our strategy, we then sat with Lorraine and discussed our thoughts with her regarding how we may best develop her role in the organisation and also improve her colleagues’ perception of her. I’m glad to say we had Lorraine’s total buy into the strategy and it also turned out she was relieved that she would no longer be called ‘Quiche’ as she hated it! Bingo!

She is now studying for her stage one Financial Planning Certificate, her colleagues call her Lorraine, and she is happier in her new desk position and so far so good. I’ll be monitoring the progress with her line manager, but even the ‘boss’ is surprised at the positive change already.

It’s amazing what a little positive exploration can achieve and if they are all happier, then for me, that’s a great result.

Out of the pan and into the fire
There’s been one really sad case within the last month which has proved to be quite a harsh lesson for one lady. It’s not a totally HR issue, but it’s a clear demonstration of how your private life can detrimentally effect your professional one.

Cleo had been in a serious relationship with Tony, but it ran into difficulties. He was drinking heavily and had a serious amount of debt and baggage. Cleo ended the relationship four months ago and Tony moved out into a rented house. Cleo knew he didn’t have any money for advance rent and assumed he had borrowed it, but it was no longer her worry.

Over the next four months Tony continued to profess his love for Cleo and promised he would try to sort himself out, hoping that one day they would be together again. Cleo wanted to believe him and maintained a relationship with him whilst living some 34 miles apart.

Recently Cleo turned up at Tony’s unannounced to discover he had moved a new girlfriend in with him who Cleo obviously knew nothing about. There endeth Cleo and Tony’s relationship! However, the new lady, Marion, wanted to speak to Cleo to find out what had been going on.

It turned out that Tony had formed a relationship with Marion within one week of Cleo asking him to leave originally. He moved very quickly with Marion as he had no money to pay for his rent, bills or household goods etc.

He convinced Marion to take out a loan in her own name for £4000 to pay his advance rent for him, based on his promise that he would pay her back eventually. She hasn’t seen a penny. Marion also bought household goods and linen for his home and put the cost on her credit card again on the promise that he would pay her back.

Marion had been engaged to be married this October, but as she fell so head over heels in love with Tony and to her parents horror called off her wedding plans. The costs were up to £30K! Her fiancée was heartbroken.

Tony convinced Marion to resign from her job as a Marketing Executive, a position that earned a £50K salary per annum in order to help him set up his business venture. Marion resigned.

Within three weeks of being with Marion, Tony asked her to come off the Pill as he ‘wanted to make beautiful babies with her’. Marion came off the Pill and in the first month she fell pregnant. One month later she miscarried!

Given the discovery of Tony’s philandering, Cleo gladly walked away washing her hands of the whole situation. Marion, however, obviously hadn’t experienced enough and decided to remain friends with Tony as he wanted to ‘make her trust him again’ and she ‘wanted to believe him’. This was a big mistake.

One week later, they had an alcohol fuelled argument whereupon Tony pushed Marion down the stairs, kicked her on his way passed, then when at the bottom, he delivered seven heavy punches to her back leaving her badly winded, hysterical and frightened. Marion ran out into the street screaming.

The Police attended and Tony was arrested. Marion’s bruising and injuries have been photographed for evidence. The Police will be cautioning him as Marion does not want to prosecute, she just wants out!

Marion has since returned to her former home with her fiancée, but purely as a ‘bolt hole’, they haven’t got back together yet – maybe in time they will. She feels a fool and cannot believe how gullible she has been, the cost/loss to her, her fiancée and parents has accumulated to some £85K or more. Marion has also learnt a very hard lesson in how convincing someone can be when they say and do all the right things to push the right emotional buttons to get what they want.

She spoke to her old Director with a view of seeing if she could get her old job back, but they have awarded the position to another employee who is climbing the promotion ladder, so Marion now has to look for a totally new role in both her life and profession. All this for three and a half months of someone saying how much he loved her, wanted to make babies, get married and grow old and grey together!

The sad lesson here is that you cannot take everything at face value and never rush a decision. Marion had a terrific job, which she loved and now she has lost a lot of respect and credibility. Although she is in receipt of a lot of sympathy this will not help her to pay her bills and re-establish her self respect.

In the meantime, Cleo, has walked away, is enjoying her life, friends, job etc and has just chalked it up to another interesting experience to add to her book. Guess who Cleo is …?

Vital Stats:

  • Weight – 9st 0 lbs (target reached – reward = Champagne)!

  • Chocolate – still nil and I don’t miss it at all.

  • Wine – two glasses of Champagne – I could really get a taste for it!

  • Cider – Half a pint after giving a golfing buddy a real run for his money, he beat me by one point.

  • Boyfriends – one’s quite enough at the moment – Glenn (new toy boy) – yes I am brave! All I can say is “WOW”. I can appreciate how the likes of Demi Moore etc feel now. When I’m old and grey in my rocking chair I will certainly remember this encounter with delight. It’s true when they say age doesn’t matter. Although there is sixteen years difference between us it’s something that really doesn’t register as we just get on so well. I’m not expecting there to be any future in it but that really doesn’t matter, we are just having so much fun at the moment.

Deep thoughts – Know when to walk away with your head held high.

Keep it simple!


*Sue Kingston is a self-employed HR Consultant with 24 years HR experience. Sue can be contacted on T: 07966 216561 or at [email protected]

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Annie Hayes


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