This week’s letters

HR needs to find the right balance

I don’t get it. On the one hand we’re shouting ‘work-life balance’, while on
the other, saying that we still need the option of ‘allowing’ employees to work
longer hours than everybody else in Europe (News, 26 November).

Different industries will have different reasons for wanting to keep the
opt-out, but is making our staff work harder really the answer?

Where are all those articles on work-related stress, long-term sickness absence
and divorce rates now?

Surely it would be a better idea to ask the rest of Europe how they manage
to keep their staff working reasonable hours, without the skills shortages the
UK seems to be experiencing.

I surprise myself by agreeing with the CIPD for once – I’d like the HR world
to find a different way of sorting the problem out.

Brenda Losekoot
HR manager, Groundwork Wirral

‘Military’ methods save many lives

As an ex-firefighter, I must take exception to your article on HR managers
against the Fire Brigade Union (News Analysis, 3 December).

Firefighters do not work ‘four days on and four days off’.

The shift patterns are two nine-hour days starting at 9am and ending at 6pm.

The night shift begins at 6pm and ends the following morning at 9am. This
makes a total of 48 hours over a five-day period, which equates to 42 hours a
week over one year once holiday is taken into consideration.

As far as doing away with the ‘militaristic’ methods of the Fire Service,
back in the 1950s and 1960s, ex-service men were preferred due to their
perceived ability to take orders.

I have attended many incidents where had that militaristic hierarchy not
been present, lives would undoubtedly have been lost. The last thing you need
when you’re deep inside a smoke-filled building, searching for people trapped
by the fire while the roof is threatening to cave in, is a ‘case conference’
where all attendees debate the best option.

Steve Attwood
LUL Management Development,

MBA is excellent value for money

There is no doubt that MBAs can be an expensive mistake – but not for the
reasons listed in your article (Careerwise, 10 December).

The biggest reason why they can be a mistaken choice is because the student
has not properly worked out why they were doing it. To criticise the MBA as
being too theoretical when it offers a theoretical underpinning to
understanding managing practice, is laughable.

Good managers or leaders cannot rely on experience and intuition. This is
far too haphazard a basis to develop their ability. In order to learn, managers
need theory as a guide and a reference point.

Of course, there is a responsibility for MBA directors to provide practical
opportunities to test theory, and in the better MBAs this comes about through
consultancy assignments and projects where students tackle real problem

Too expensive? Well if that really was the case, then demand would be low
and falling. However, the opposite is happening. Demand is high and that is because
the MBA is providing excellent value for money.

Dr John Mackness
MBA director, Lancaster University Management School

MBAs not seen as over-theoretical

If MBA programmes were as over-theoretical as was alleged in your article,
there would be significant market resistance to them.

In fact, the European model of MBA has explicitly sought to be practical,
applied and develop individuals from a personal and career perspective. This
includes nurturing leadership potential and creating a close connection between
the world of learning and organisational practice.

So on the Henley MBA, for example, most of the assessment is
organisationally focused.

On some of our programmes, such as the executive full-time MBA programme, we
take people around the world to experience the realities of managing in
different business environments first hand.

Many criticisms in this article are based on the supposition that MBAs teach
largely quantitative, analytical skills and neglect the soft skill areas.

But any respectable MBA programme in Europe – and certainly any accredited
under the AMBA scheme – must have adequate coverage both of HR, organisational
behaviour and personal development.

Ian Turner
Director of Graduate Business Studies, Henley Management College

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