HR holds the solution for women to reach potential

Surprise, surprise, another report shows that women are failing to achieve
their potential because of management attitudes and unfavourable work
practices. The research by Catalyst and Conference Board (News, page 1) finds
that male executives are unconsciously stereotyping the genders.

The solutions lie with HR. First, HR must take a lead in tackling the long
hours culture. This is not just an issue for women, but talented staff of both
genders, whether or not they have a family. Organisations that encourage and
reward long-hours working are discouraging the many talented individuals who
want to have a life as well as a job.

The other key responsibility for HR is to develop a robust and credible
performance management process, as Helena Feltham, Marks & Spencer’s HR
director points out. This is how you ensure an objective approach to succession
planning and career development and maximise the number of people of both
genders who can achieve their potential. It’s not about equality – it’s about
organisational effectiveness.

Chicken outfits not always a good idea

In an effort to instill passion and fun into work, and boost the motivation
and performance of staff, companies have introduced all sorts of wacky ideas.
Dressing up as a chicken or having an ‘Elvis Day’ has probably helped achieve
these goals in particular companies. The problem is that corporate efforts to
get people to be more ‘creative’ or ‘individual’ can sometimes result in
half-baked social engineering.

Often the most talented individuals tend not to respond to forced spontaneity
and jolly japes organised from the top. As our feature on TV’s Inspector Morse
suggests, your next brilliant business innovation is as likely to come from the
grumbling trouble-maker in the corner as from the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed
star from the top business school.

By Noel O’Reilly

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