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News in Brief: The week in HR – HR happy-ometer swings

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Briefcase
Catch up on the week in HR including HR happy with their lot, work gives life meaning for many and why there is no substitution for eye ball to eye ball communication.



W/C 31/10/05
HR are happy with their lot
Eighty-one per cent of HR respondents in a Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) survey said they enjoyed their jobs, and would work in HR if they had their time again.

Jessica Jarvis, CIPD Learning, Training and Development Adviser and the report’s author, said: “It sometimes seems that it is fashionable for the HR profession to indulge in doom, gloom and self-loathing. But this survey turns some of the myths on their heads. A profession where the vast majority would pick the same career path if they could start over again is a confident one that is happy with itself.”

The average length of service for an HR professional is 15 years revealing that on the whole they are not serial career changers.

Other myths and realities:

  • “Nobody applies for top jobs any more – it’s all done by head hunting” – not true according to the survey. Job applications are the most likely way in which Directors and Senior/Group Executives obtained their current positions.
  • “Consultants are too young to know much about HR” – the Independent Consultant group was the oldest in the sample – with an average age of 51. They have also, on average, been in HR for 22 years – longer than the average HR Director.
  • “People in HR don’t understand the business” – in fact, only 17% of respondents had no experience of working outside the HR function.

The survey is at odds with findings released by recruitment outfit, Kelly Services this summer. In their World at Work survey 39% of HR professionals claimed to be down in the dumps.

Over 1,800 HR professionals were quizzed by the CIPD.

Work gives life meaning for many
A new survey reveals that for many employees work gives them a sense of meaning in their life.

  • One in five workers (24%) says their job plays a vital role in who they are.

  • Work is the most important provider of community and a sense of belonging for 12% – above family and social life.

  • Nearly a quarter of MDs and Directors get more meaning from work than at home or with friends.

  • Most (83%) of employees are proud of where they work – but one in five (17%) workers is not proud of where they work at all.

The survey released by Penna, the human capital management consultancy reveals that organisations that devote resources towards creating meaning at work can anticipate increased motivation (55%) loyalty (42%), pride (32%) and productivity (20%).

Eye ball to eye ball works best
Despite a plethora of online communication systems, handbooks, newsletters and memos bosses still believe that team briefings (33.7%) and executive briefing sessions and road shows (28.3%) work best.

These are the latest findings from analysts, IRS who reveal that just a third of employers have a formal written communications policy.

And although two-thirds try to evaluate the success of their internal communications, less than a quarter of those who do, use any formal evaluation methods. But despite this over half of the organisations surveyed felt confident that their communications strategy is working.

Other key findings include:

  • Keeping staff informed about organisational changes (86.4%) is believed to be the most important goal followed by improving employee engagement (77.2%), improving staff performance (74.3%) and enabling them to do their job (71.6%).


  • Communications approaches are more effective in keeping employees informed than in improving engagement and performance.


  • The most popular methods to encourage employee involvement are team meetings (86.4%), attitude surveys (68.9%) and focus groups (63.5%). Forty-three organisations have a staff council and 42 recognise a trade union.


  • Over three-quarters (77%) have a staff feedback mechanism in place. Methods include: intranet forums, executive “time on the floor”, a confidential email address, an “open-door policy”, “pizza clinics” and “breakfast banter”.


  • Many people can contribute to the communications policy; in most organisations surveyed, this includes the HR department (67.5%) and directors or executives (59.4%). In just over a third (36.4%) of organisations, a communications team is involved at the planning stage, and 37.8% seek input from senior managers.


  • HR and communications practitioners say that their two main problems are keeping communications alive and interesting, and capturing the interest of employees.

Women spurn 9 to 5
Over half (54%) of female workers have turned their back on the traditional 9 to 5 working routine.

Women are opting to take control by setting up their own businesses, retraining, working flexibly or pursuing a ‘portfolio’ career.

Alarmingly for employers, almost three quarters (73%) of female professionals are disappointed with their career progress to date. And it’s not just working mums that are looking for more flexibility.

Lack of free time outside the daily working grind (65%) and poor future career prospects (53%) have contributed to a desire to break with traditional ways of working.

And according to the report authors, recruitment and human resources consultancy, Hudson employers are starting to wake up to the issue.

Nearly two thirds (64%) of employers admit that if more women left to pursue unconventional career paths, it would have a major impact on their business and their ability to recruit sufficient talent. But despite their awareness not much is being done.

Eighty-seven per cent of employers do not have a specific attraction and retention plan in place targeted at women and mindful of their demands. Whilst 85% of employers believe they are actively committed to providing flexible working opportunities, just 58% of employees believe it is an option in their company, highlighting a serious gap between perception and reality.

Green light for first skills academies
Four UK industries: manufacturing, construction, food and drink, and financial services have been given the go-ahead to set up the first National Skills Academies.

It’s hoped that the academies will train tens of thousands of people each year, helping to create jobs and tackle significant skills shortages in the four sectors.

All four industries currently have high vacancy rates, for example:

  • Manufacturing – this sector currently has around 48,000 vacancies, 13,000 of which are skill shortage vacancies.

  • Construction – the industry needs around 88,000 new entrants per year in craft, technical, professional and management roles and estimates it will need 250,000 people skilled to National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) level two (equivalent to five good GCSEs) by 2010.

  • Food and Drink manufacturing – over the next eight years 150,000 new recruits are needed to fill vacancies, especially technical operators and food scientists. Approximately one in 10 employers report skills shortages within their workforce.

  • Financial Services sector – employers report that they currently have around 25,000 vacancies of which 4,100 are skills shortage vacancies.

David Way, Director of Skills at the LSC, said that the new academies, due to open in September 2006, would be employer-led.

The four industries will share in up to £40 million of investment for the skills academies from both government and industry.

For more on this story see: TrainingZONE

USA leads way for strategic learning
The learning strategy of UK plc lags behind their counterparts on the other side of the Atlantic according to latest research.

In the UK only one of the top FTSE 100 companies employs a Chief Learning Officer (CLO) compared to around 50% of listed companies in the US.

The research, conducted by learning solutions provider Thomson NETg, found that in the US, the CLO position has gained in popularity over the last five years.

For more on this story see: TrainingZONE

More than a million boost their basic skills
Over a million adults have achieved basic standards in English and Maths after a government campaign to persuade people to tackle their learning “gremlins”.

Education Secretary Ruth Kelly said that 1,130,000 adults had achieved at least Level one since 2001. However, she said 5.2 million adults in England still had literacy levels below those expected of an 11-year-old.

Adults taking a Skills for Life qualification can take a Level one qualification, equivalent to a GCSE pass at grades D to G, or a Level two qualification, equivalent to a GCSE pass at grades A* to C.

According to government figures, an estimated 5.2 million adults could not achieve the standard of literacy expected of an 11-year-old. The figures show more than four million have taken up courses since 2001.

“Four years of hard work on, Skills for Life is really bearing fruit, and having a positive effect on the lives of learners,” Ms Kelly said. “The difference being made to people across the country is a real and enduring one.”

’Man flu’ gets official declaration
Men take more time off work to fight colds and flu than their female colleagues while women are more likely to declare sickness and stomach bugs are their cause for absence.

These are the findings according to research conducted by Benenden Healthcare. Colds and flu resulted in more than 3.6 million people or 12.5% of the working population taking time off in the past year – with over two million of them being men.

Comparatively 3.3 million women fell foul to bouts of sickness and stomach bugs. Geography also had a bearing on illness in addition to gender with workers in the East and West Midlands claiming flu-related illness the most. A total of 961,000 people took time off in the last year because of this.

This compares to 17% of those in Greater London and just 12% of workers in the North East and Yorkshire area.

However Scots and people in the North West were more prone to stomach bugs and sickness, notching up 894,000 absences among them.

As well as these common conditions, over 1.16 million people had to take time off to have or recover from an operation, whilst 8% or around one million people were off after being injured in an accident. While worryingly 225,000 people admitted to taking time off work due to the knock-on effects of alcohol from the night before.

Blunkett blues are no excuse for incapacity benefit and pension reform
Professional body the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) are urging the government to stick to their timetable for reforming incapacity benefits and taking action on pensions.

Concerned that a drift will be caused by the unexpected departure from office of David Blunkett, John Philpott the CIPD’s Chief Economist said:

“The green paper on reform of incapacity benefit must not be delayed any longer. Neither must the government allow itself to be distracted from the urgent need to tackle pensions deficits and to address issues surrounding retirement ages that do not reflect the demographics of Britain today.

“At a time when employers are finding it extremely difficult to recruit workers with the skills and experience they need, Britain still has over seven million people of working age neither working or looking for work. Of these, 2.7 million are claiming incapacity benefit.”

Meeting-itis costs out of control
The cost of travelling to meetings is spiralling out of control according to an independent study commissioned by BT Conferencing.

Of those quizzed, 53% said they travel abroad at least once a year to attend meetings while 15% leave the country more than six times.

To compound the problem, 38% of staff spend corporate cash on taxis every month; 15% of whom spend over £25 and 5% between £100 and £500.

BT Conferencing say that a company of 100 people could spend almost £40,000 annually on taxis and flights alone.

New President at CMI
David Varney, the executive chairman of HM Revenue and Customs, is the new President of the Chartered Management Institute.

He succeeds Sir Paul Judge, the chairman of the Royal Society of Arts. Varney’s career started as personnel assistant at the Shell Refining Company, where he moved through the ranks to become a director of Shell International Petroleum Company in 1995.

He has also served as chief executive of BG Group plc and chairman of mmo2.

Varney said of his appointment: “I have always believed that the education and development of leaders and managers is of paramount importance to all UK organisations. The challenge of raising awareness about what skills you need to be considered a good manager is emotive and exciting, so I am particularly delighted and honoured to serve as President of the Chartered Management Institute at this time.”

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