This week’s letters

Avoiding the opt-out issue

I was involved in the ‘hurried panic’ of organising an opt-out process for a
large international aerospace company when the Working Time Directive (WTD) was
launched in 1998 (News, 26 November).

The company did, and still does, rely on heavy amounts of overtime being
worked to achieve its output targets. The opt-out was, in HR circles within
that company, referred to as the ‘get out’ clause.

Instead of trying to change its old-fashioned attitudes towards work-life
balance issues and basic employee welfare, the company continues to avoid the
issue and is at the forefront of trying to maintain the opt-out.

My present company gave the option to employees to sign an opt-out form
without any pressure at all. A small number did sign, but the company altered
shift patterns and generally tried (and still tries) to man the business with
working hours at the forefront of its planning.

This is what all UK companies should be striving to do instead of trying to
take the easy way out and resisting change.

I find it hypocritical of many HR managers who on the one hand decry and
resist the WTD, and on the other advocate the relocation of their businesses
abroad because of the UK’s reluctance to join the euro. This could only happen
in HR.

David Barry
Senior HR officer, Legrand Electric

Talented are bitter and disillusioned

The roundtable discussion titled ‘Talent Magnet’ (Features, 12 November)
seems to have missed the crux of the talent management problem.

Working in career consultancy, many of my clients are precisely those
talented people who large companies fail to retain. Most of them are totally
disillusioned, and some are bitter.

The underlying reason, almost inevitably, is that something has gone awry
with the psychological contract they thought they had with their employer. If
organisations wish to retain talent, they need to recognise that as the people
with talent grow and develop, their motivational needs change. Those changes
need to be factored into the psychological contract between employer and

Tying that need into business requirements is one of the biggest challenges
facing those concerned with the development of people.

Dorothy Wilson

Public sector pride of award-winning teams

As I held my Personnel Today Awards trophy aloft – Oscar-like – at the
Grosvenor Hotel in October, I wanted to say a few words. It was not to be – I
was chaperoned off the stage before I could give my Gwyneth Paltrow-esque

The Borough of Telford & Wrekin is extremely proud to receive the
RebusHR Award for Best HR Strategy in line with Business. I was delighted that
our local government colleagues at the City of York and Merseyside Fire Service
were also award winners.

HR professionals in local government have known for a long time that our
professionalism and the contribution we make to our organisations matches the
best in the private sector. Awards such as this provide us with an ideal
showcase for excellence, and we should make better use of them.

Professional bodies, such as local government HR body Socpo, have an
important role in gaining recognition for what we achieve and sharing best
practice – a role that they play increasingly well.

It is said by some that the public sector is a ‘soft option’, that not being
profit-driven, we have the luxury of being able to develop HR strategies and
policies more concerned with up holding ‘political correctness’ than with
delivering business objectives. This has never been an accurate portrayal.

There is, however, no place today for self-indulgence or navel gazing. If
what we are doing as HR professionals is not making a significant contribution
to our organisations’ key priorities then we should not be doing it.

The improvement agenda in the public sector, driven by comprehensive
performance assessment, puts effective people management centre stage, and our
profession must be positioned to seize that opportunity.

The success of local authority entries in the Personnel Today Awards against
impressive competition is reassuring evidence that HR in local government is
well-placed to meet that challenge.

Robert Cragg
Head of personnel & development, Borough of Telford & Wrekin

DIARY DATE – next year’s Personnel Today Awards will be held on 27 November

What do you think?

Send your letters to Jane King, editor, by e-mail personneltoday@rbi.co.uk or fax: 020
8652 8805 or by post to Personnel Today, Quadrant House, The Quadrant, Sutton,
Surrey, SM2 5AS

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