This week’s letters

How much further forward is industry?

In light of the DTI’s sponsorship of the Accounting for People Taskforce,
and its renewed investigation of human capital management (HCM) as a means to
measure organisations, I am reminded of a book published in the 1950s – The
Social Psychology of Industry.

In it, author JAC Brown says that figures produced by industrial
psychologists could prove "beyond all doubt that output and earnings could
be augmented, by the simplest of devices". Further, that men can be
scientifically trained to produce more while doing less.

To achieve these aims, Brown makes a clear case for managing people as
social animals, and not just units of output as Taylor (Off Message, 11
November) had suggested. Brown introduces us to the idea of the ‘team’ and
suggests that there is no point in selecting the ‘best man for the job’ if they
can’t get along with everyone else.

Since then, people management has certainly come a long way in terms of our
knowledge and understanding of group dynamics and organisational development.
But Taylorism still appears to be rampant in the minds of many senior managers.
This must change.

Brown borrows a quote from the 18th century politician Edmund Burke, who
said: "No men can act with effect who do not act in concert; no men can
act in concert who do not act with confidence; no men can act in confidence who
are not bound together with common opinions, common affections and common

In light of our recent success at the Rugby World Cup, where the best men
for the job were motivated to the extreme, the Government, in addition to
finding agreed measures for HCM, could do well to look at what motivates people
to perform, and to measure that too.

Alison Gill
Managing director, Getfeedback

There’s no substitute for ‘real’ experience

HR – spread the load. SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) do not need
a full-time HR professional.

How much HR time is spent on issues that are not ‘life threatening’ to
business? Most of the HR function is admin based. There are issues that require
professional and experienced input, but these are rare. If the company has its
policies and procedures documented properly, and follows them, it is a matter
of administration. When it comes to disciplinaries and tribunals, then the
professional and experienced HR manager can be called upon.

How much time does the HR professional spend on questions from employees,
such as: ‘How much holiday do I have left?’, ‘What is the sickness policy?’,
‘Do I get overtime for this?’, or ‘Am I entitled to time off as a school governor?’.
Again, these are admin tasks for which policies and procedures should be in

Why would you pay £35,000-plus for an HR person to do this for you?

Let’s have some common sense here. Good strategic planning is the business
of the board/management team and employment law regulations are common humanity
and common sense. Equality and discrimination are issues that no sensible or
serious company has a need to fudge or avoid.

Employers are not ‘out to get’ employees. They have a business to run, and
need to make it successful and profitable. This is not achieved by a continuous
and damaging high turnover of staff. Even the most inept executive management
team understands that.

HR professionals should stop protecting their jobs and get onto the shopfloor.
Understand what your organisations are about and what they need, do what you
know is right and just get on with it, whether you’re part-time, full-time or

Equally, organisations need to understand what they require from HR. Are
they going to be led by the fashion of ‘needing’ a graduate of the Chartered
Institute of Personnel and Development, as opposed to a ‘non-qualified’
individual who has maybe 20-plus years in the business and can put that
experience of people to invaluable use?

Formal qualifications have their place. So too does full-time dedication.
But neither are a substitute for proven expertise, ability and knowledge.

Lesley Parke
Personnel manager, IT Solutions

Technology is vital tool for recruitment

That "technology is becoming increasingly important to HR" (What
has IT done for HR, 25 November) is a massive understatement as far as graduate
recruitment is concerned, and I would venture that IT has in fact completely
revolutionised HR in this sector over the past few years.

Research undertaken by Graduate Prospects with Mori revealed that more than
three-quarters of all finalists use the internet to look at careers and job
vacancies. But job searching is just the tip of the iceberg. There has been a
paradigm shift away from the university ‘milkround’ and other traditional
graduate recruitment methods towards online communications, and not just
through the national sites such as prospects.ac.uk, but also through more
localised online initiatives often organised by higher education careers

Many leading graduate recruiters now host their own chatrooms on
prospects.ac.uk to establish a direct dialogue with students very early on in
their studies. Other recruiters establish direct e-mail communications with
potential future candidates studying particular subjects to ensure that their
companies are ‘on radar’ when the students start to job hunt in earnest.

The amount of careers information and guidance available online is vast and
becoming increasingly interactive, with services ranging from CV checking to an
‘e-mail-a-careers-adviser’ facility that allows students to put individual
queries to a qualified adviser and receive a personalised response.

Young people have historically been the early adopters of new technology but
nowhere is this more ably demonstrated than with the provision of careers
advice and guidance to students and graduates. Far from being ‘increasingly
important’, I would suggest technological services are now vital to graduate

Mike Hill
Chief executive, Graduate Prospects

Exporting HR duties is missing the point

HR departments are fundamental to personalising internal business

Businesses have been struggling for years to manage multinational organisations
while retaining a patriarchal flavour. This is an element that can only be
delivered by those whose sole purpose in their organisation is the care and
maintenance of their people. This cannot be done from afar by strangers who
don’t have an understanding of or passion for the business, or care for its
people on a one-to-one basis.

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