09/01/2012

Modernising the workplace

The coalition government has spent the past year consulting on its approach to employee relations. It has recently announced some forthcoming changes in UK employment legislation. Here is a summary of the changes coming this year:

  • Parental leave (8 March)
  • Changes to qualifying period for unfair dismissal (1 April)
  • Changes to tribunal procedures (6 April)
  • Automatic pensions enrolment (1 October)

Here is a little more detail on some of these changes:

Parental Leave Effective date:8 March 2012

The maximum parental leave following the birth or adoption of a child will increase from three months to four months unpaid leave. To promote equal opportunities and try to encourage a more equal take-up of leave by both parents at least one of the four months shall be provided on a non-transferable basis. For example, a mother can take three months but the remaining one month must be allocated to the father who can choose whether or not to take it.

Qualifying period for unfair dismissal Effective date:6 April 2012

The qualifying period for employees to bring a claim of unfair dismissal is increased from one year to two years.

Changes to tribunal procedures Effective date: 6 April 2012

  • Deposit Orders:The maximum amount which a tribunal can order a party to pay as a condition to continuing with tribunal proceedings is increased from £500 to £1,000.
  • Costs: The maximum amount which a tribunal may award in favour of a legally represented party is increased from £10,000 to £20,000.
  • Witness statements: These are no longer read aloud, and are instead taken “as read”, unless the tribunal directs otherwise.
  • Witness expenses: In addition tribunals have the power to direct that the parties in a dispute are responsible for paying witnesses’ expenses and that the party who loses the case should reimburse the successful party for any such costs already paid out.

However, the biggest change in employment tribunal set up is that employment judges will hear unfair dismissal cases alone in the employment tribunal, unless they direct otherwise, and judges will hear all cases alone in the Employment Appeal Tribunal, unless they direct otherwise.

Automatic pensions enrolment Effective date: 1 October 2012

The Pensions Act 2008 provides that employers must enrol automatically all eligible employees not already participating in a workplace pension scheme into the employer’s pension scheme or the National Employment Savings Trust (NEST) pension scheme. The threshold for automatic enrolment is aligned with the personal allowance for income tax. Employers are not required to enrol individuals employed less than 12 weeks automatically. Further details can be found on the Department for Work and Pensions website. http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/workplace-pension-reform-consult.pdf

From an employer’s perspective the forthcoming changes may seem welcome such as increasing the qualifying time for unfair dismissal. However, the move to abolish employment tribunal panels in favour of one presiding judge means that both the trade union and business representatives will no longer be present and the decision will rest with one person. These changes come when recent figures from the Ministry of Justice show that tribunal claims between July and September 2011 dropped by 30% compared to the same time in 2010.

The coalition government seems to be emphasizing the need to re–balance the relationship between people’s work and family lives while at the same time vociferously opposing the Working Time Directive which might, interestingly enough, support its work/life balance agenda.

Source: http://www.xperthr.co.uk/article/111612/agenda-2012–employment-law-key-dates.aspx

18/02/2012

Are you asking the right questions?

I recently re-read Nancy Kline’s book “Time to Think”. Her principal theme is that in order to create a “thinking environment” we need ten components; attention, incisive questions, equality, appreciation, ease, encouragement, feelings, information, place and diversity. This is a tall order but the one that resonated with me most was about asking incisive questions. So what is an incisive question? It’s one that allows you to lay aside prejudices or assumptions that prevent you taking action and frees your thinking so that you know what to say or do in a particular situation.

For example, you want to discuss an idea with your bosses, but you are afraid they may laugh at you or think that you haven’t thought it through sufficiently. Your assumption might be that they don’t think you’re bright or logical enough so you put off the opportunity to speak to them. An incisive question in this case might be “If you knew that your bosses thought you were intelligent and logical how would you present your idea to them?”

These types of questions are particularly useful for the “manager as coach”. By taking away assumptions it allows the person being coached to focus more clearly on the task in hand.

In my experience the question that organisations tend to consider most frequently in their strategic planning cycle is “What is our USP (unique selling point)?” when a better question might be “If we didn’t exist who would miss us – and why?” followed by “Would anyone invent us?” and, if the answer is “yes”, “What might they do differently?”

So if I were to ask you about your organisation and what incisive question you would ask to change a limiting belief about an area you are trying to change or a problem you are trying to solve what would it be . . .?

27/03/2012

Diversity: Putting women at the top

It seems appropriate in a month when we celebrated International Women’s Day (8 March) that Cranfield School of Management’s latest figures show that women directors in the UK FTSE 100 companies have risen from 12% to 15.6% within a year.  This is still well below the target recommended in the Davies’ report which called for at least 25% of women directors by 2015.

This month also saw McKinsey and Company release their research “Achieving the Promise for Women” which looks at women in leadership. They found that despite 90% of Europe’s leading companies having programmes in place to increase the number of women in top jobs only 8% of companies have more than 25% of women in senior management roles.

So does it matter whether or not organisations have women in top leadership positions?  Well, according to McKinsey’s research the short answer is “yes”.  Their research with over 300 companies carried out between 2006 and 2010 showed that those organisations which had women in senior management roles performed better against financial and operational criteria compared with those companies which had no women in senior management.  The research also showed that organisations which had at least three women in senior management roles scored higher against criteria relating to organisational health.

In order to promote organisational performance you need diverse leadership behaviours.  For, example research shows that men tend to take risks more readily and have an individual decision-making style whereas women tend to have better people skills and prefer a collaborative decision- making style.  McKinsey and Company argue that you need both.

Their research also showed that you need chief executive and senior management commitment, to know where the blockages are in your pipeline of women coming through the succession planning process and to tackle the resistant mind sets, which incidentally McKinsey found to be more common among middle managers.  Their beliefs included that, in their view, some roles were not suitable for women and that if a woman were to fail it would set back the agenda for promoting women into leadership in their organisation.

McKinsey and Company are optimistic that things will change but that what is required now is a step change to achieve a critical mass of women in leadership positions happens now so that subsequent generations of women are better equipped and developed to lead successfully in the future. In the words of one of McKinsey’s women directors   “It’s got to happen . . .”

So what are the blockages in your organisation to more women successfully leading as part of your senior management team . . . ?

Further Reading:

McKinsey and Company:  Achieving the Promise for Women – March 2012

http://www.mckinsey.com/Features/Women_Matter

The Davies’ Report:  Women on Boards – February 2011

http://www.bis.gov.uk/assets/biscore/business-law/docs/w/11-745-women-on-boards.pdf

26/04/2012

Interns: A fair trade?

There’s been much in the media about young people, particularly 18 to 24 year olds struggling to find work.  NEETs (Not in Education, Employment or Training) are a growing concern with the numbers in this group rising to a record high of £1.16m in November last year.

It’s good to give opportunities to young people seeking work, but few organisations have a clear approach to managing interns or set out what they expect and how they will reward them in return.  Sad to say, many businesses prefer to poach experienced employees rather than train their own. Yet young people are among the most disadvantaged in the labour market because they lack both the experience of the workplace and the job-specific skills that employers seek.   From an employers’ perspective internships provide an opportunity to introduce capable young people to the reality of working life and help the organisation develop pipeline of excellent talent and skills as well as become an employer of choice.

Whether interns should be paid or not has led to some strong public debate.  The government have issued guidance on the legal position of paying interns at least the national minimum wage and the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD) have published an Internship Charter which sets out a clear code of practice for employers to deliver high quality opportunities for young people.

http://www.cipd.co.uk/publicpolicy/_promoting-productive-internships-internship-charter.htm

Incidentally the CIPD have also produced some guidance on managing work experience – Work Experience Placements That Work:  A Guide for Employers – updated April 2012.  This can be found in the link below:

http://www.cipd.co.uk/hr-resources/guides/work-experience-placements-work.aspx

For charities, in particular, that rely on public funding and private donations there is a reputational risk.  They will be seen to be incompatible with their own mission if they are perceived to be exploiting their interns by not paying them at least the national minimum wage.   Anything less doesn’t seem a fair trade, does it?

29/05/2012

Is our CEO a psychopath?

psychopath . . .?  Psychologists describe a psychopath as someone who is incapable of empathising with others.  That’s a short answer and, on one level it makes sense that, people who are full of sympathy and deliberate over the fairness of each course of action would not be great when called to make decisions about who to fire and to whom to give a pay increase on a regular basis.

Even David McClelland, the psychologist and management guru, in his human motivation theory divided workers’ personalities into three categories: those who need power, those who need to achieve, and those who want to be liked.  McClelland devised his own test and found that those with a high need to achieve and a high need for affiliation—in other words, really great colleagues, contribute well to the organisation but don’t necessarily get to the top.  Conversely, those who thirst for power and don’t care about what people think of them end up being in charge.

Robert Hare, the Canadian forensic psychologist, has developed a comprehensive psychopath checklist in which he outlines some typical psychopathic traits; glib and charming manner, manipulative, grandiose sense of self-worth, callous and lack of empathy and failure to accept responsibility for their own actions.

The question is whether psychopathic traits in leaders can be a positive thing. Some psychologists would say “yes”, that there are certain attributes like coolness under pressure, which are good qualities.  Robert Hare would argue “no”, that in the absence of empathy you will always get malevolence.  Basically, high-scoring psychopaths can be brilliant bosses, but only ever in the short term.

Take the characters, Vito Corleone and his son, Michael, in the Godfather, both of whom are recognised as cruel and violent.  Well, a colleague came across an article drawing out lessons in leadership from the film.  I was quite surprised by the clear leadership shown by these anti-social characters.  You might like to have a read . . .  http://www.fastcompany.com/1826672/an-offer-you-cant-refuse-leadership-lessons-from-the-godfather?partner=gnews

On a more serious note Baliak and Hare have written a book called “Snakes in Suits:  When Psychopaths Go to Work”.  They have developed a test, B-Scan, which assesses the degree to which a person responds to challenges and organisational responsibility as expressed in his or her behaviours, attitudes, and judgments.   You might like to take a look at this as well.  http://www.b-scan.com/

So back to the psychopath test – do you dare try it out on your CEO?  Here’s one based on Hare’s checklist which you can try: http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/96/open_boss-quiz.html

And if you discover your CEO is a psychopath?  Well, you know where to find me.

26/07/2012

Are you ready for an older, wiser workplace?

The answer to that question is likely to be “no”.  It may be that you’ve had an influx of bright, young things as new recruits or interns (see Leadership for the future: April issue) which has reduced the average age of your workforce but according to a BBC report almost half of adults in the UK will be aged over 50 by 2020.

We are told that older workers are needed to help the UK remedy the challenges of a future employment gap, yet in this time of economic recession older workers tell us that they believe they are often turned down because of their age.   The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has published a new free guide that urges employers to act now to prepare for and attract older workers to safeguard their long-term economic success.  Organisations and businesses ignoring this issue now are likely to face skills shortages in the future when the economic climate (hopefully!) turns around.

The guide focuses on three steps to prepare your organisation for an ageing workforce; firstly building a business case, secondly, addressing issues of perception, and finally developing and/or refreshing your talent management strategy to include an approach to older workers.   For example, building a business case which takes into account the shape of your workforce profile and the skills and knowledge required in a changing business environment together with a cost analysis of retaining older workers as against recruiting and training post school or university entrants, will be a vital first step.   “Myth busting” will also be important – the stereotypical thinking, whether conscious or unconscious, about age and what people can and can’t do which influences the way managers in an organisation view older workers.   The guide includes practical tips and recommendations.   Here is the link below:-http://www.cipd.co.uk/binaries/5754ManagingageingworkforceWEB.pdf

Employers Forum on Age (EFA) also has a wealth of information to support employers in managing older workers.  They have a series of guides and information.  Again here is a link:-  http://www.efa.org.uk/publications.php?action=search&category=8

Looking at the demographics it is inevitable that the UK workforce is, and will continue to age, so planning for these changes now is going to put your organisation in the stronger position to have the skilled and experienced workforce you need.   If you want to talk through what that might look like, then please get in touch.

31/08/2012

Change the focus to Solutions

I recently attended a seminar on “solutions focussed coaching” led by Evan George from an organisation called Brief Coaching.  Brief Coaching believe that coaching and counselling should focus on solutions rather than the problem. You can learn more about them at:  www.brief.org.uk

A small shift in language can make a significant difference.  For example, a seemingly straightforward question like “How have things been . . . ?”  may be interpreted by the person being coached as “What’s gone wrong . . .? or “What are the problems you’ve had over the past weeks . . .?”  Changing the question to “What’s gone well since we last spoke . . .” or “What’s the best thing that’s happened since we last met . . .” encourages the person to focus first on the more positive aspects of their situation.

Another technique is using a 1-10 scale and asking the person being coached where they are on the scale and what small change they could make to take them to the next level.  Again on a scale where 1 is lowest and 10 the highest, even if things are really difficult for the person being coached getting them to think about even the smallest step which will bring about change for the better will help generate options which they can take forward.

As with all new approaches “the proof” of a subtle change lies in trying it out . . .

02/10/2012

HR business partners – are they working?

Firstly what is HR business partnering?  The HR business partnering model was developed by David Ulrich in the late nineties.  This changed the focus of HR professionals from a broadly administrative and transactional role to one working closely with leaders and line managers to achieve shared organisational objectives.  In particular Ulrich recommends that HR functions should focus on designing and implementing HR systems and processes that support strategic business aims.

Over the past decade a number of organisations, both large and small, have introduced some form of the HR business partner model to suit their needs. While there has been much debate about the model’s effectiveness, research has found that when line managers are asked to rate the HR business partner activities that have the most impact, their top responses are:

  • developing next-generation leaders
  • understanding the talent needs of the business
  • understanding how to support the business
  • identifying talent issues before they affect the business.

However, it’s not just the activities that are important. Two things that both the research and my own experience have shown is that:

  • support for and understanding of, the HR business partner model by senior leadership and line managers is a vital pre-requisite and
  • the chemistry between the HR business partner and the business leader needs to be positive.

Sadly, the statistics show that only 34% of the relationships between HR business partners and business leaders are effective.

Another aspect of a successful HR business partnering model is the five key attributes that HR business partners need to display to make an impact:

  • Analytical ability:   the HR business partner’s ability to analyse whether it makes more sense to recruit new talented staff or to build the talent within the organisation
  • Courage:  the HR business partners need to make tough judgmentsand concrete recommendations
  • Willingness to delegate:   the ability to identify the business unit’s needs as well as drawing on other HR resources as part of the solution.
  • Ability to see the big picture;  an effective business partner should be able to see things from all sides, using sound analytical skills and good judgment to cut through any bias and determine the real issue
  • Power and influence:   the ability to tell a compelling story backed up by robust data, which in turn delivers results

So what might be the most useful metrics to measure this impact?  The Shaping the Future programme which the CIPD have developed has identified three key areas:-

HR efficiency measures such as absence/attendance measures (causes, costs),recruitment measures (number of vacancies filled, number of internal/external hires)

HR effectiveness measures such strength of the employer brand, workforce agility and readiness for change. These measures are important as they reflect the outcomes of HR activities in developing organisational capability through, for example: talent management, performance management, and work environment.

HR impact measures such as ‘what matters’ to key stakeholders ensuring they are meaningful, aligned and compatible with other organisational and external measures.

The focus should then be on the HR initiatives and processes needed to make maximum impact in these areas.

So how does your HR function measure up? Get in touch if you’d like to know more.

Source: CIPD, Shaping the Future; Using HR Metrics for Maximum Effect

05/11/2012

Would your organisation stand up to Jimmy Savile?

Part of me feels reluctant to write about or refer to the Jimmy Savile affair because there has been so much written and said already.   However, it is a subject that we cannot ignore and while it is easy with hindsight for us to say “how did this happen?”, how can we be sure that, our organisation or social groups we are part of, are not complicit in this kind of criminal behaviour?

I learnt a very important lesson ten years’ ago working with a small international NGO.  A story broke in the Guardian about an ex-staff member who had left before I joined.  The man in question, who was British, had been arrested in Africa on charges of inappropriate behaviour with under age children while working for another NGO.  The Guardian were keen to know about his time in our organisation and whether we could give an assurance that similar inappropriate behaviour had not occurred whilst in our employment.   We were naïve.  We had thought that because we had no children-related programmes that we were off the hook.  We carried out an investigation and, once completed,  we developed a child protection policy, ran training for managers and staff and made sure our recruitment process covered child protection issues thoroughly.   It also led to the organisation signing up to achieving The People in Aid Code which is a code of good practice to improve effectiveness in the humanitarian and development sector.

More recently working for a large well-respected international NGO I was horrified to discover when I joined that the child protection process was confined to a one-sided A4 sheet of well-meaning statements.   Again, there were no checks during recruitment, no information nor briefing during induction and no written guidance for staff.   I am pleased to say that the organisation now has these processes in place.

We should never allow ourselves to be complacent.  Do staff members know exactly what to do if they have suspicions about a colleague?   Do we make sure staff, are made aware of their responsibilities for protecting children and vulnerable adults?   Does the organisation have a culture which supports the protection of children and vulnerable adults?   If you are in any doubt as to the answer to these questions please contact me for further information and advice.

08/01/2013

Listen and Learn

In this newsletter I return to Nancy Kline’s book “Time to Think”.  She claims that “everything we do depends on the thinking we do first” and “our thinking depends on our attention to each other”.

I believe she is right and this time I want to pick up her second point that “our thinking depends on our attention to each other”.  She says that “attention – the act of listening with palatable respect and fascination is key to the Thinking Environment”.  [1]

We think we listen, but we don’t.  We finish each other’s sentences; we interrupt each other, fill in the pauses with our own opinions, give advice and come in too soon with our own ideas.  In our haste to present our views and say what’s on our minds we sometimes miss what others might have contributed had we listened and asked questions to help our understanding.  These could be questions such as “What do you really think about this new idea?” “How might we make it a better one?”

I suspect that the more senior you are in an organisation the more important it is to listen.   Peers and staff are less likely to proffer their thoughts and ideas if they think their views will be disregarded by a more senior person in the organisation.

Kline claims that the times when she has just listened with no intervention at all have resulted in the best outcomes.  She cites the example of a woman trying to decide the next step in developing her herb garden project and opening it to the public.   Kline says that she said nothing apart from a few “hmms” and at the end of the conversation the woman thanked her enthusiastically because she’d been so helpful!

So the challenge this year, certainly for myself, is to become a more attentive listener, particularly for the more strategic and difficult issues, but also to listen to those who are prepared to question you with a “but what about . . .?” rather than “oh yes, what a good idea . ..”   What will be the challenge for you in this regard?

 


[1] Nancy Kline advocates ten components to creating a thinking environment;  attention, incisive questions, equality, appreciation, ease, encouragement, feelings, information, place and diversity (See Leadership for the Future – February 2012)