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News in Brief: The week in HR – HR fails to achieve its real vision


We bring you the latest HR news including an insight into why HR should strive for more, what the latest labour market figures mean and why HR is embracing the office party.

W/C 12/12/05
HR fails to achieve its real vision
According to a study by Hewitt Associates, HR departments are failing to achieve the ultimate vision of moving over to a more strategic role.

Hewitt analysed the HR functions of 50 companies based in Europe and North America and found that while many have been successful in starting to move towards a more business-focused role, most have yet to achieve their real vision.

Iain Slater, head of HR effectiveness at Hewitt Associates said: “There is evidence that HR is still not achieving the ultimate vision of being recognised as a strategic business partner even though it often does deliver improved administrative services to the business.

“In this study we observed that in many cases HR gets stuck in the middle, meaning it is often saddled with increasing investments in new technology and processes but is not yet able to gain the strategic and financial benefits of the 21st century HR delivery model.”

Based on this research, Hewitt has identified the five factors that make it difficult for HR to transform itself completely into a strategic business partner:

  • Unclear vision

  • Poor change management

  • Inefficient HR delivery

  • The right people doing the wrong work

  • Sub-optimal use of HR technology

Iain Slater continued: “The real innovators in HR know how to overcome these pitfalls – sustaining change to achieve transformation and selling that vision to the business and their own HR department. They are also ensuring that the resources and the plans are in place so that these changes can succeed.”

CIPD treat labour market figures with caution
Professional body, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development are treating latest labour market figures with caution.

While the trend in the employment rate is flat, the rate of unemployment is starting to rise. The number of people out of work in the UK rose by 72,000 in the three months to October to stand at 1.49 million.

Despite the gloomy news – the overall picture for the year has been fairly optimistic with remarkable growth witnessed in the labour market.

John Philpott, Chief Economist at the CIPD said: “Given a tough year for the UK economy, the labour market has performed remarkably well in 2005, with well over 300,000 more people in work and pay pressures subsiding.

“But there is a sting in the tail. A combination of continued strong employment growth in the public sector – where measured productivity is low – and labour hoarding in private sector services is likely to reduce the annual rate of productivity growth to a trough not seen since the economy entered recession in the early 1990s. Despite the Chancellor’s much stated policy aim to raise UK productivity, 2005 looks like ground zero.”

According to Philpott, the economic slowdown has impacted on the demand for labour in the form of reduced recruitment activity. Vacancies have been gradually falling since the spring.

Predicting a more subdued recruitment activity in 2006 Philpott said that migrant workers would continue to plug the skills gap:

“As CIPD surveys indicate, employers are turning to migrants from the EU accession states in preference to UK jobless benefit claimants. The large increase in the active labour pool caused by migrants is also helping to keep pay pressures in check although there is so far little evidence that increased employment of migrant workers is actually forcing down pay rates.”

HR turn their back on ‘bah humbug’
According to a survey by recruitment outfit, Robert Half Finance and Accounting, both HR and finance professionals across the world see the merit of office-based Christmas parties.

Sixty per cent of respondents put Christmas parties and dinners at the top of their list of successful office events.

The research also reveals interesting disparities between HR and finance professionals around the world when it comes to other ways of bonding with colleagues.

Interestingly those in the Netherlands and Czech Republic do not agree and prefer company away-days to the more traditional party, with 43% of respondents putting these days top of the list:

  • Team-building events are the second choice for those in Germany (25%) and the UK (17%)

  • A regular drink with colleagues comes second for those in New Zealand (24%), Ireland (15%) and Australia (15%)

  • Company away-days follow Christmas parties for those in Belgium (33%), Luxemburg (32%) and France (16%)

  • Apart from the Christmas party, the Italians do not see the merit of office events with 27% of respondents believing that no event is successful.

When it comes to the Christmas party itself, only one in five companies in the UK (21%) use the event as an opportunity for office announcements such as business results. This falls to only 13% of companies in Ireland but rises to 58% for those in the Czech Republic and 44% in Germany.

HR departments are typically in charge of organising corporate hospitality in the UK (22%).

… but boozy-fuelled punch ups the norm for half of bosses
Too much free alcohol is being blamed for fighting between colleagues at half of work Christmas bashes.

These are the findings according to employment law and health and safety experts, Croner.

In spite of this, 88% of bosses plan to hold an office bash this year with eight in ten determined to do the same next year.

Employees are also at significant risk of harassment or injury, with over a third of employers (34%) reporting incidents of sexual harassment, and 23% experiencing accidents involving employees at their festive celebration.

While only 1% surveyed said they would be holding the ‘traditional’ party on company premises, most of us can expect a disco and buffet (as voted by 60%), or meal in a restaurant(29%).

Richard Smith, employment services director at Croner said: “It’s not really surprising that fighting and sexual harassment have emerged as significant problems at parties, so employers would have little defence if they had failed to consider how to prevent them. There are some basic preparations they can make to minimise the risk of employee misconduct.

“However, what we find in practice is that, although very serious incidents do occur, most can be sorted out through standard grievance procedures before a formal complaint is made – which could in the worst case lead to a tribunal claim.”

Demand for ‘teamplayers’ soars
Interpersonal and teamworking skills are in short supply according to a report from Jobcentre Plus.

Forty-three per cent of the 3.4m vacancies successfully filled each year in the UK are in service roles – jobs including bar staff, packers and unskilled labourers and in sales and customer services occupations.

Other findings from the report include:

  • Over half a million (559,000) employers recruited or tried to recruit in 2004, representing around a quarter of all establishments in the UK.

  • A total of four million vacancies in 2004 were advertised, 86% of which were successfully filled.

  • The majority (60%) of vacancies advertised were with medium-sized employers with between ten and 250 employees, small employers accounted for over half (52%) of the organisations who were trying to recruit.

  • Large employers with over 250 employees accounted for 23% of vacancies advertised and small employers with 10 or fewer employees for only 17%.

Cay Stratton, Director, National Employment Panel commented; “Interpersonal and team-work skills and motivation and flexibility are considered critical for almost every occupation – these are skills which can be learned and often require a commitment from the employer to encourage a culture of teamwork which in turn will motivate employees.”

Apprenticeship figures rise
The number of young people successfully completing apprenticeships has risen by 29%, according to the Learning and Skills Council (LSC).

Latest figures from work-based learning providers and colleges for the academic year 2004/05 showed that 67,000 learners achieved their Apprenticeship Framework Certificate – 15,000 more than in the previous academic year.

There was also a record number – 176,900 – of young people aged 16-21 starting an apprenticeship in the same period. This figure meets the target of 28% of young people starting an Apprenticeship for the first time during 2004/05.

Stephen Gardner, Director of Work Based Learning at the LSC said: “The achievement of the starts target is not just great news for young people and employers, but also the wider UK economy, as apprenticeships are vital to combating existing skill shortages and ensuring we have a future workforce to match our global competitors.”

Acording to the LSC, 43,000 of those who completed an apprenticeship were also recruited. This included those over the age of 21 or those starting on an Advanced Apprenticeship. Forty per cent of learners who left the Apprenticeship programme achieved an Apprenticeship framework with an additional 20,000 achieving a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ).

Work-based learning comes of age – ALI
Work-based learning has “come of age” according to David Sherlock, Chief Inspector of the Adult Learning Inspectorate (ALI). But he warns that there is persistent under-achievement in key Government initiatives to get the most disadvantaged into employment.

In his annual report, Sherlock praised work-based learning, which he said had undergone “a dramatic improvement in quality” over the last four years.

The number of work-based learning providers offering training described as satisfactory or better has nearly doubled to 75%. For providers being inspected a second time, the success rate is even higher at 92%.

“I have no hesitation in saying that work-based learning has come of age,” Sherlock said. “Two thirds of the best 51 providers are private companies. The national skills strategy included statistics which showed that two-thirds of the enormous sums which employers spend training their own staff, are spent with private providers.”

However, despite nearly £2 billion- worth of funding the Government’s basic skills programme Skills for Life was described in the report as “disappointing”.

For more on this story see: TrainingZONE

ROI guru signs up for learning technologies conference
Dr Jack Phillips, Chairman of the ROI Institute and author of over 30 books on the value of learning, is set to address next month’s Learning Technologies Conference, in London.

A world-renowned expert on measurement and evaluation, Phillips’ background in training and HR led him to develop the ROI (return on investment) Process – a system that provides bottom-line figures and accountability for all types of training, performance improvement, human resources, and technology programmes.

Using data from hundreds of cases gathered from the ROI Institute’s work, Phillips will present some trends in measurement and evaluation, examine the key issues and challenges of implementation, dispel some myths about impact and ROI analysis, and identify the key steps involved in demonstrating the impact of learning and development.

Donald Taylor, Learning Technologies Conference Chair, said: “Dr Jack Phillips is the world’s most well-known expert on measuring the ROI of learning. His work spans a lifetime of advising businesses and the learning industry on measuring and analysing the value of learning programmes and he has possibly authored more material on the subject than anyone else.”

Learning Technologies 2006 Exhibition and Conference takes place at Olympia 2, London on January 25 and 26.

Event to help UK export training expertise
A free conference in February will aim to highlight the international opportunities available to the UK training market.

Held by the British Learning Association (BLA) the one-day event is supported by UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), which has identified the UK’s learning and development sector as a centre of international expertise worthy of promoting to international markets.

Brian Merison, General Manager of the BLA said: “The aim of the event is to encourage many types of providers in the learning and development sector to engage with international export opportunities, and to offer guidance in the support available from UKTI in the development of an overseas marketing strategy”.

Delegates will have the chance to review case studies of those already active in international markets with discussion on the support available to help them take up export opportunities and achieve success.

The event International opportunities for learning & development is aimed at learning providers across all media and markets, and takes place on Wednesday 22nd February 2006 at the DTI Conference Centre, London.

More details are available at the BLA website.

India faces IT skills shortfall
The trend for outsourcing means that demand is set to outstrip supply for IT professionals in India, according to a new report.

A report by business consultancy McKinsey and Nasscom warns that India faces a shortfall of 500,000 IT professionals by 2010.

The IT sector has expanded by around 30% in India over the past two years, however, the sector is predicted to increase by more than 125% over the next five years as the trend for off-shoring grows.

To support the predicted growth, the IT sector, which currently employs one million people, will need another 1.3 million workers.

The report said that a lack of office space in the main IT hubs, such as Bangalore and New Delhi, are also expected to be a problem.

Capital’s skills shortages hit by high housing costs – CBI
The shortage of affordable housing in the South-East is said to be exacerbating skills shortages in London.

A study by the CBI and KPMG found that three quarters of London businesses felt the shortage of affordable homes was impacting on their business.

The survey also showed that more than half (53%) of businesses surveyed feared skills shortages during the next six months. These concerns were most significant among professional services companies – 69% expect problems – followed by energy/manufacturing/construction firms 65%.

Almost half of businesses surveyed said skills shortages led to upward pressure on wages, whilst 36% felt it impacted on employee morale. Almost a third – 30% – have had to alter their working hours and methods of working, and 10% said productivity was suffering.

Sir Digby Jones, CBI Director-General, said that the survey showed clearly the housing shortfall in London and the South East was impacting not only on key public services, but on the private sector too.

For more on this story see:

No short-term let up in IT skills shortages
IT skills shortages increased over the past year and look set to continue in the short term, according to research by the National Computer Centre (NCC).

The Benchmark of Salaries and Employment Trends for 2006, from not-for-profit NCC, showed that more than a quarter – 26% – of respondents identified specific IT skills for which they had encountered recruitment or retention difficulties in the past 12 months, up from 20% last year.

A further 26% of respondents identified a requirement for specific skills over the next 12 months. These skills included .NET and Java development skills, Windows 2003 Server, VoIP, and business analysis skills.

The study also revealed that the rate of staff turnover over the past 12 months was 12%, a significant increase from 9.4% in 2004.

However while a quarter of respondents identified specific recruitment or retention problems over the last year – up 5% on 2004 – there was a slight decline in projected demand for IT workers generally.

For more on this story see: TrainingZONE

New quality mark for coaching courses
The European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC) is launching a new quality award in a bid to simplify the confusing array of coaching and mentoring qualifications.

The new Quality Standard Awards aim to act as assurance to both those taking the qualifications and those looking to hire them.

EMCC Standards committee chair Gil Schwenk said: “At the moment it’s not always easy to tell how well qualified a coach or mentor is unless you are an expert on the many different training courses available.

“This scheme is an independent quality award given to training providers to make the qualifications they offer widely and immediately recognisable. It’s great news for the industry because it will help raise standards and will also make choosing a coach or mentor easier for clients.”

The first pilot organisations are currently working their way through the assessment process, and the first set of awards will be announced in March.

For more on this story see: TrainingZONE

Is it time to park the company car?
Not according to Deloitte, which has just produced a report into the future of the company car.

In Goodbye Company Car? Deloitte argues that companies must balance cost and business efficiency together with employee aspirations – and that doesn’t necessarily mean abandoning the company car in favour of cash-based alternatives.

Alison Chapman, head of automotive tax at Deloitte, said: “In the future, the company car will not be confined to the scrap yard. The Government has made it clear that it wants the company car to remain a key part of the corporate landscape as it steers businesses and drivers towards choosing the most environmentally-friendly vehicles available.”

According to HMRC In 1999-2000 there were 1.61 million people paying benefit-in-kind tax on their company cars.

By 2003-04, the latest year for which data is available, the figure had dropped to 1.3 million.

But the report reveals new and future fiscal measures proposed by both the UK government and the EU which will have an impact on the industry.

Chapman said: “The future of the company car will be determined by a wide range of factors, including congestion charging, fuel prices (particularly a widening of the difference in petrol and diesel pump prices favouring the former), vehicle funding and vehicle taxation, as well as safety and environmental measures and a greater focus on work/life balances by employees.

“The issue is far from a straightforward ‘in’ or ‘out’ decision. Too many companies have tried to treat the choice as an either or option, and as a consequence have paid the price in terms of rocketing costs, administration overload and disgruntled employees.”

For more on this story see: AccountingWEB

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