Comments are closed. LettersOn 18 Nov 2003 in Personnel Today This week’s lettersCall it a day on ‘teddy bear HR’I see that Personnel Today recently launched a section called HR StrategyForum (see page 16 of this week’s edition). I hope it has been earmarked byyour readers because today, there is a strong message for HR in this country:it is time to evolve and move on. Don’t hang on to the old for old-time’s sake.The UK perception of HR has often been seen as a ‘safe’ job. Careerscounsellors see it as ‘sensible’, parents see it as ‘responsible’ and everyoneelse views it as potentially boring. HR was the epitome of the ‘fur-lined rut’job – a one-track safe, warm and comfortable job with no challenges beyond itsnarrow confines. Exposure to new ways of working by candidates from more inclusive andcommunity-focused countries means that sweet, ineffectual ‘teddy bear HR’ inthe UK may soon be over. Competition is entering the UK from countries where HR has regular andsustained interaction with external stakeholders. Dealing with customers,suppliers, investors and the community is considered part of the jobdescription. There is, for example, the more holistic, creative and external approach inSouth Africa and the Scandinavian block. In South Africa, it is not unusual for HR at management level to have activeinvolvement in the community in which employees reside. “Ten years ago in South Africa, my role as HR manager with De BeersIndustrial Diamonds, and Pilkington Glass, involved active participation inlocal community, welfare and education bodies. Additional work asvice-president of the local chamber of commerce, and then as industrial labourrepresentative for the South Africa Chamber of Commerce, helped me to providepositive impact on behalf of employees,” reads one CV. Here is a new breed of HR: the people services director/executive who addsto the long-term strategic direction of the organisation. Back in the UK, it is clear that being responsible for an organisation’s peoplealso means helping to shape the culture of your organisation. In turn, HR needsto be aware of the external influences shaping the organisation. Take note too that HR will move beyond the collation of personnel data,benefits, etc. To make a strategic difference, the HR manager needs to speakthe same language as the other members of the board – finance, IT andmarketing/communications – and to understand and be responsive to influencessuch as balanced scorecards and SWOT factors (strengths, weaknesses,opportunities and threats) to the business and industry. Those kind of skillswill dramatically enhance your career prospects. At a strategic level, HR needs to concentrate on the things that make up thecore competencies of an organisation – the people. If the process of achievingthis change entails outsourcing and/or sharing services, then so be it. Wayne Carstensen Managing director, Arinso UK Not necessarily right statement of the lawOn 7 October, you published an article by Stephanie Pattersonin the legal section on the right to sue for the loss of the chance to claimunfair dismissal.Patterson referred to the case of Virgin Net, where theEmployment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) gave a different decision to that given inRaspin. She says that employers can now feel safe in that they do not have toworry about the principle of an action being brought for the loss of the rightto claim unfair dismissal.However, both Raspin and Virgin Net were heard at the EAT andalthough Virgin Net is much newer, it is not necessarily the right statement ofthe law as both cases are on equal level.It will need a decision by the Court of Appeal to sort out thequestion of whether a case can be brought when an employer in breach ofcontract terminates an employee’s contract of employment, thereby deprivingthem of the right to bring a case of unfair dismissal because they have notachieved one year of service.Barry MordsleyHead of employment department, SalansE-mail ban may help us talkface-to-faceYou recently reported that John Caudwell, chief executive ofmobile phone retailer Phones 4U, had banned internal e-mail among his 2,500staff to improve productivity. I would argue that he might find there is awelcome spin-off in improved motivation among his workforce. In many companies, e-mail has replaced face-to-face meetings orphone calls between colleagues. A comment made in an e-mail can be taken out ofcontext, resulting in either a protracted ‘e-mail conversation’ or ill feelingamong employees. It is also difficult to create emotion in an e-mail,especially when passing a compliment, saying thank you or delivering bad news. I accept that there will be some people who would see aninternale-mail ban as an infringement of their liberties. Perhaps the way forwardis to begin with a series ofe-mail-free Fridays to get people used to talkingto each other again.Graham Povey Managing directorCapital Incentives & MotivationHR must respond to review strategicallyn The Accounting for People Taskforce’s review of human capitalmanagement (HCM) reporting (News, 4 November) has put the value of peoplefirmly on the business agenda.However, HR professionals must respond in a strategic ratherthan knee-jerk fashion to demands for better reporting. Developing measures andreporting mechanisms outside of a strategic HCM process is likely to lead tothe collection of interesting, but ultimately meaningless data – such asfocusing on cost rather than investment – and potentially a lot of wasted time.Boards and investors must understand the changing value ofhuman capital and the actions being taken to increase this as key leadindicators of business success. To provide this insight, measurements,benchmarking, evaluation and reporting all need to focus on the key strategicdifferentiators that drive the business forward. John InghamPrincipal consultant, Penna ConsultingWhat about the right to run abusiness?I was astounded to read such a short-sighted and self-righteousreview from Carol Davis on the subject of parental benefits (Letters, 4November).Clearly she is not in a position where she has to act asmediator between unreasonable parents demanding their ‘rights’ and managers whohave a business to run.I wonder if Davis would take the same view if she was actuallyrunning her own business?How would she feel if it were her business being directlycompromised by frequent absences for non-critical reasons or unreasonabledemands?People choose to have children; their employers do not forcethem to do so. Why then should employees be able to shift their parentalresponsibilities onto their employers? If parents want to see all their children’s ‘first timeoccasions’, perhaps they shouldn’t be working in the first place. Like a lot ofthings in life ‘you make your bed and then you lie in it’. The sooner parentsrealise that they cannot ‘have it all’, the better.Thankfully, not all parents are so unreasonable and do theirbest to honour their work commitments as well as their families. They achievethis through compromise, not by making unreasonable or unrealistic demands.This is just as well, because if all parents jumped on thisbandwagon as Davis suggests, the wheels of UK industry would surely grind to ahalt and these parents might find themselves out of a job altogether. Then theyreally would have something to whinge about.Details suppliedGPs attitudes at root of sicknoteproblemHaving read Dr GC Moncrieff’s letter (Letters, 4 November), Iwould like to congratulate Personnel Today for its coverage of the sick/stressissues.As an HR manager, I have strong views on this matter. I mustsay that sicknotes are only pointless because of the attitude of GPs towardsthem.It strikes me that if GPs had been on top of the whole thing tostart with, and refused to sign a sicknote if they genuinely believed theindividual wasn’t really sick, then they wouldn’t be inundated with patientswho know the doctor is a soft touch.Let’s be honest: if a patient was ‘trying it on’ but refused asicknote, they wouldn’t be in such a hurry to return. And if a patient isgenuinely sick, then I would expect the GP to be qualified enough to make adiagnosis and sign them off appropriately.Also, if an employer is having to pay someone forbeing off sick and/or provide additional cover for that time, they should beentitled to know the exact nature of the illness without it being a breach ofconfidence.Countless companies in the UK are bearing the financial bruntof the sicknote and compensation culture, and many other organisations areunwittingly fuelling the flames.K HuntHR manager, IMGOH buy-ins are not practical forrural UKI refer to recent articles in Personnel Today regarding doctorsissuing sick-notes. I wish to express my concerns about the proposedalternative of buying specialist occupational health (OH) services, based on myown personal experience.I service a number of small businesses in Derbyshire, and Iworry about the cost, availability and effectiveness of the proposed solution.Apart from the major centres of Derby and Chesterfield, mostemployers in this area are based in small towns and villages. It is alreadydifficult for them to find doctors who are willing to do pre-employmentmedicals, and there are no obvious local sources providing cost-effectiveprivate medical or OH services. So where are the potential service providers?For any OH service to work, it is going to need a sufficientgroup of regular clients to be viable and this will not exist in most parts ofDerbyshire, so the service will probably only be available in Derby itself orin Chesterfield. Requiring sick staff to travel miles to be examined seemsunfair if they are so unwell that they cannot attend work.The proposed solution may well fit large companies and citieswhere the service will be readily available and at a per-head cost that isacceptable. In rural areas, the service is unlikely to be available except at aconsiderable distance and with only a small number of staff being referred, ata high premium. And, who would pay the transport costs?This proposal looks good on paper, but will be unworkableoutside the big cities.MJ BlakePersonnel consultant, Belper, Derbyshire Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos.