• Equal pay legislation would be more effective if it worked on incentives rather than penalties, nearly eight out of 10 delegates at the legal update session said. They agreed with Paul Nichols, partner at law firm DLA, that a reduction in national insurance contributions for companies with effective equal pay structures would do more to bring men’s and women’s pay in line than the current law. “The equal pay legislation has been a huge failure,” said Nichols, referring to the fact that a recent landmark case took 15 years to reach a decision. “Instead of equal pay penalties the law should be turned around to say employers who can show they have a fair system in place should get a quarter per cent off their NI contributions.” Using electronic voting devices, 77 per cent of the audience agreed. The case involved 350 speech therapists who won £12m between them. They argued that their pay structure, as a mainly female profession, breached equal pay legislation because they earned less than male-dominated professions in the NHS.
Benchmarking answered junior managers loss
• Taylor Woodrow Construction has dramatically reduced turnover of junior managers through benchmarking, HR director Duncan Littlefair told delegates. In 18 months the resignation rate of managers aged 25 to 30 has dropped from 4.9 per cent to 0.6 per cent. Littlefair said it was only when the company started working with Saratoga to benchmark its practices against other blue-chip companies that it realised it had a problem and could start looking for the causes and how to solve it. “We started doing exit interviews to find out why people were leaving and what we found was that people who joined us as graduates were staying five or six years until they became chartered then moving elsewhere. We had a big gap in the 35 to 40 age range which was going to cause major problems in the future,” he said. Knowing what the problem was allowed the company to work to remedy it. Continuing to benchmark allows it to identify and address new problems as they emerge, he said. They also benchmark HR performance and productivity of employees.
Gaining ‘hearts and minds’ of staff aids success
• Winning employee commitment boosts company performance, David Trafford of the Concours Group said. Giving staff a sense of ownership in business results in a workforce which is prepared to go the extra mile to improve performance. In a workshop headed “Hanging on to them”, Trafford described this as “winning the hearts and minds” of staff. He said it could be achieved by moving away from compliance-based practices to activities which engage individuals in giving more. Organisations that succeed are those with a strategy owned by everyone. Business information is widely shared and staff have broader scope to do what is right for the company. Trafford said UK employers did not compare favourably with their European counterparts in ensuring staff felt positive about their jobs. Research showed Denmark has the highest job satisfaction scores, followed by the Philippines and Netherlands. The UK ranked 17th, with Hungary bottom.
First impressions count, so watch what you wear
• When was the last time you took notice of the way you look, sound and behave? According to American image consultant Mary Spillane, too many businessmen and women sell themselves short by not paying attention to their own image and branding. In a humorous session, Spillane pulled two male delegates from the audience and launched into a blistering attack on their dress. Spillane asked everyone to complete a personal image audit, taking an honest view of their communication skills, body language and social skills. She imitated dodgy handshakes, Geordie accents and made digs at the colour coordination of clothes. For all the laughter, Spillane had a serious message: dress according to what suits your colouring and your build and project your personality through your clothes.