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News in Brief: The week in HR – Brown commits to skills


Catch up on the week in HR with our at-a-glance news round up including the Chancellor’s commitment to skills, the homesick UK workers and why one in three major reorganisations fails.

W/C 12/09/05

Brown spells out commitment to skills
Chancellor Gordon Brown reiterated his vision for a high-skills Britain, this week.
Speaking at the TUC Conference in Brighton, Brown said that skills were essential to Britain remaining competitive on the global stage.

“It is because increasingly it is the skills of working people that gives companies value and gives nations comparative advantage, that new principles must guide education and training in ensuring good well paying jobs for the future, “ he said.

“Education should no longer be from five to 16 but on offer from three to 18, every teenager should have the right to further education, and every adult the guarantee of training in basic skills,” the Chancellor added.

Brown also announced that the new union academy is to receive £4.5m in funding in the next two years.

The academy is planned to offer guidance on training for employers and employees with courses ranging from basic skills to MBAs. It is also expected to serve as a think tank and a skills research centre.

Jobless count rise sparks fears of tough times ahead
Figures from the Office of National Statistics reveal that for the seventh month in succession the numbers claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance has risen, while the number of job vacancies has fallen.

Despite the gloomy news, the numbers in employment have swelled by 83,000 over the quarter and 315,000 over the year, to reach 28.73 million, the highest figure since comparable records began in 1971.

The unemployment rate, however, was 4.7%. Numbers out of work has increased by 12,000 over the quarter, and by 3,000 over the year to reach 1.42 million. The jobless count is the lowest it has been for 30 years.

Growth in average earnings excluding bonuses has fallen but growth in average earnings including bonuses has increased.

The number of job vacancies has fallen and now stands at 631,700, down 7,400 on the previous quarter and 15,500 over the year.

John Philpott, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s Chief Economist commented: “The labour market is now clearly off the boil. Despite a rise in the total number of people in employment – which might reflect employers’ greater use of migrant workers – the number of jobs is now falling in construction and consumer oriented services sectors as well as in manufacturing. And while redundancies are up slightly, most of the slowdown is being felt in recruitment where there are fewer job vacancies and slower underlying earnings growth as competition for staff eases. As a result, there are more unemployed jobseekers and more economically inactive people who say they want to work.

”Although any rise in unemployment is likely to be modest, most independent market surveys are now starting to detect the drop in employers’ recruitment intentions first picked up by the CIPD earlier this year. The task of finding a job will be that much harder in the coming months, which means tougher times ahead for jobseekers and a more difficult backdrop to welfare to work policy.”

There’s no place like home
Nearly half of British workers (45%) hanker for home and would ideally like a job in the public sector.

Home-sickness is driven by a desire to be closer to family and to escape rising property prices. One in five feel that living at home would give them a better quality of life.

But loyalty would be broken by just over half who would happily desert friendlier shores if the right job came up.

Management consultants are the most flexible with 76% saying they are happy to move for the sake of their careers. While secretaries and admin workers are adamant about staying put with over half of the respondents saying they would not be prepared to relocate for their ideal position.

The Capital is still a big pull, polling as the most popular destination for British workers, closely followed by the South East, North West and South West.

The most sought after organisations to work for are:

1. Council/Local Government
2. NHS
3. Virgin
4. BBC
5. Tesco

The survey also examined what makes a good employer and the key considerations that UK workers look for include development opportunities(24%), followed by pay/salary (20%), the company brand (15%) and location (11%).

Sophie Relf, head of marketing for, the report authors said; “This research shows that while home is where the heart is for many UK employees, some of us are more flexible than others when it comes to moving home for the sake of our careers.

“It’s also interesting to see how the public sector is now preferable to the private sector when it comes to that dream job.”

Employers commit to training as skills shortages bite
Nearly all employers feel that skills shortages are having a negative impact on their business, according to research from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

The survey, of 1,000 UK employers, found that 86% said that shortages had impacted on performance over the past 12 months. A third of employers described this negative impact as “serious”.

The CBI research also showed that employers are committed to training, with 98% giving job specific development to staff, compared to 90% last year.

According to the CBI report, this commitment to training is across the board with 94% of small firms providing training. “Despite more limited resources, small businesses recognise the importance of equipping employees with the skills to do their job and are prepared to back this up with training,” the report states.

And the signs are that this training is targeted, with almost three-quarters (72%) of firms having conducted a skills audit. This figure rises to 96% of firms with 5,000+ staff.

Over-all spend on training is more than £23bn a year, according to the CBI, with 94% of employers using external providers to deliver at least some of their training. Most employers used private training providers – 91% compared to just 42% who used Further Education colleges. Employers satisfaction with the training provided was also higher for private providers than colleges.

For more on this story see: TrainingZONE

Pensions review – a sneak preview
The speech by Adair Turner, chairman of the Pension Commission, at the TUC might not have provided the results of the Commission’s second report, due on November 30, but it gave a pretty good sneak preview.

Apart from the usual comments about our ageing society, the speech also took a look at compulsory saving. Evidence suggests many individuals do not want to be compelled to save, as they say there’s little enough cash available without losing some to a compulsory pension scheme.

Turner told delegates: “We know that resolving that conflict by saying, ‘well let’s just compel employers not employees’ – is not an answer, since there is a wealth of economic theory to suggest that in the long-term compulsory employer contributions will be at the expense of cash wages.

“Indeed, in the major developed country which has introduced compulsory pension savings in the last two decades – Australia – that trade-off – pension contributions instead of cash wage increases, was a deliberate aim of the policy, recognised by government, employers and unions alike.”

The Forum of Private Business (FPB) says compulsion would add massively to labour costs and believes it would deter firms from creating new jobs.

“This would cripple many small firms already suffering from high taxation and the cost of regulation. Even worse, it could mean more UK jobs going to China,” said Rex Garratt of the FPB. “Although employers recognise something needs to be done to address the short fall in pensions, expecting private firms to shoulder the cost will only deter business growth and slow down the economy.”

Instead the FPB say the government could start to help secure employees’ retirement by giving back billions of pounds in tax unfairly charged on pension funds. “Government interference has undermined confidence in pension schemes that were once a by-word for future security,” he added.

IT workers under pressure to pay for own training
The UK is heading for a critical skills shortage as IT professionals resist corporate pressure to spend their own money on training, according to a new study.

In a survey of 100 IT professionals, Thomson NETg found that, while 36% expect to have to pay for their own education, 50% cite cost as the biggest obstacle in expanding their knowledge through training.

Ever conscious of the spiralling costs associated with keeping technology training fresh, 30% of respondents stated that price was the most important factor when choosing a training provider. Forty per cent of IT professionals said they would welcome e-learning and blended learning as alternatives to traditional classroom-based courses.

The results come as recent research from Forrester showed that 90% of European businesses fear an IT skills shortage in 2006.

For more on this story see: TrainingZONE

Training needed for Britain’s “dreadful” bosses
Nearly a quarter of bosses are judged to be bad or dreadful according to a survey of employees.

And training is seen as the solution – almost half of workers said that their bosses had not had enough training to do their jobs.

The Good Boss Company consultancy group surveyed 1,000 workers, more than two-thirds said they had been bullied or publicly humiliated. Others said they were set unachievable deadlines and made to feel worthless and angry.

According to the survey:
* Six out of 10 people with a bad boss have looked for a new job, just to escape them.
* Almost 70% of workers regularly criticise their boss to their colleagues.
* Only 1% are made to feel proud and wanted.
* Bad bosses mean more absenteeism. More than a third of staff admitted to “sickies”.
* Staff have some sympathy with their tormentors; almost half believe their bad bosses haven’t had enough training to do their jobs, while a third concede they are overworked.

The report’s authors, Andrea Gregory and Lisa Smale, said that British workers are being failed by their managers. “A simple change in attitude that sees more bosses willing to listen, support and develop their teams will increase employees’ motivation to do a good job.”

The study also shows the 10 signs of a bad boss and those of a good manager.

The worst traits:

  • Leave things to the last minute.

  • Provide little or no direction.

  • Go for easy, quick-fix solutions.

  • Keep changing decisions.

  • Are stressed by a lack of organisational skills.

  • Disregard work-life balance.

  • Are poor at identifying problems.

  • Provide no career options.

  • Over-commit the team.

  • Delegate difficult and unpleasant tasks.

The best traits:

  • Defend team when necessary.

  • Do not let personal life affect work.

  • Give credit where it is due.

  • Support career development.

  • Always support team members.

  • Are cheerful and positive.

  • Are gently persuasive.

  • Challenge decisions with which they disagree.

  • Face up to difficulties.

  • Have reasonable expectations.

Bespoke e-learning pays dividends
E-learning must be designed to meet the needs of the organisation and staff if it is to deliver benefits, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

Recent research from the CIPD indicates that over half of organisations (54%) use e-learning.

The research shows that employers are concentrating on developing e-learning modules specific to their needs and embedding it firmly in the other business and human resource processes.

For more on this story see: TrainingZONE

Employers unite to beat domestic violence
A group of businesses, led by high-street retailer The Body Shop have joined forces to fight domestic violence.

The negative impact on the workplace is climbing and latest statistics reveal that the problem is costing the UK economy almost £3bn a year, while one woman dies every two days at the hands of a violent partner.

Joining the Body Shop are KPMG, the BBC, AOL/Time Warner and the NHS who unite under the umbrella group, Alliance against Domestic Violence.

According to the group the effects of domestic violence are associated with many direct and indirect costs, including:

  • decreased productivity

  • absenteeism

  • errors

  • employee turnover

  • time spent away from work to cope with problems

Domestic violence also affects co-workers who may:

  • Have to fill in for absent or non-productive workers

  • Try to “protect” victims from unwanted phone calls, visits

  • Be completely unaware of how to intervene, often feeling helpless and distracted from their own work

  • Fear for their own safety

The Alliance was formed in March 2005. The group will meet Home Secretary Charles Clarke, Domestic Violence Minister, Baroness Scotland and Cherie Booth QC at an event aimed at recruiting more of the UK’s biggest companies to the cause.

One in three major reorganisations fails
This is the claim of a study commissioned by professional body the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

According to the conclusions of their three year research study ‘Organising for Success’, one in three major reorganisations fail to achieve the efficiency or effectiveness objectives that lie behind them, while 40% are not completed on budget and 60% are not completed on time.

Over 800 CEOs, HR directors and other senior managers were quizzed. Organisations in which reorganisations were studied include Cadbury-Schweppes, Lever Fabergé, Ordnance Survey and Lewisham Borough Council.

The report presents a new model for successful change – The Seven Steps to Successful Organising:

1. Sustained top management support
2. Coherent change
3. Substantive involvement
4. Communications
5. HR involvement
6. Project management
7. Skilled teams

UK skills at risk from complacent bosses
Complacent employers are ignoring the training and skills needs of their staff and could pose a long-term threat to the UK’s economy, according to a major new study.

Three in five employers admit that problems are looming as the workforce ages while the level of training remains static, according to the report, commissioned by Skills for Business, which represents the employer-led Sector Skills Councils.

The study of 13,000 UK employers also revealed that:
* Two out of three employers admit that they have problems recruiting new employees with the skills they need
* Three in five employers do not provide yearly training plans for their employees
* Half of employers believed that the skills required by UK workers have remained unchanged, despite rapid technological advances and the increasing threat of international competition.

For more on this story see: TrainingZONE

Bullying record rockets
Latest statistics show that 39% of all managers have been bullied in the past three years.

Middle managers are the most bullied with half of them, 49% admitting to falling victim to a bully.

The problem also exists at both ends of the management scale with 29% of directors and 42% of junior managers reporting incidences of being bullied.

Women appear to be more frequent victims than men with over half (54% compared to 35%) having suffered from bullying in the past three years.

Reasons include:

  • lack of management skills (66%)

  • personality of colleagues/managers (57%)

  • authoritarian management style (55%)

The most common forms of bullying are misuse of power or position (70%), verbal insults (69%) and undermining by overloading or criticism (68%).

Just 5% of victims would report the problem to HR while for those with policies, training has found to be particularly effective with most (83%) of those managers whose policies include training rating their organisation as quite or very effective at deterring bullying.

Authors of the report, the Chartered Management Institute quizzed 512 executives.

Clock is ticking to enter training awards
Trainers have a week left to submit entries to this year’s World of Learning Awards.

The deadline for entering this year’s awards, which are run in conjunction with the World of Learning Conference and Exhibition, is 16 September.

Judged by an independent panel of industry experts, they recognise organisations, individuals and products from the training world that have made an outstanding contribution to skills development, productivity and performance within the workplace.

Categories cover suppliers, learning solutions, training managers and learners.

Last year’s winners included BBC Leadership Programme, Above & Beyond and Cimex Media/E-Skills UK, with Clive Shepherd gaining an award for outstanding contribution to the training industry.

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Annie Hayes


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