This week’s letters

EU’s 48-hour limit would give us a major headache

I was alarmed by your lead news story ‘EU moves to end UK’s 48-hour week
opt-out’ (News, 12 November).

My company operates within the construction industry and is heavily reliant
on overtime to meet our deadlines. With the scarcity of labour and skills these
days and ‘unsexy’ nature of construction to young school leavers, it is
increasingly hard to attract young blood.

We contributed to an EEF academic study recently, and it was surprised how
much the opt-out affects our industry. The EEF had only previously actively
surveyed retail, manufacturing and general engineering companies, which have
very different pressures and constraints to construction.

About 98 per cent of our current hourly-paid site labour voluntarily sign
opt-outs because they want the overtime. They often live away from home each
week while working, so want to maximise their hours to supplement their

If the opt-out is withdrawn, it will affect their lifestyle, give us
problems recruiting extra people (who are in short supply), and probably make
some people leave us to work nearer home.

Lynda Vaughan
Personnel and training manager, Bachy Soletanche

Update HR template to effect strategic change

How refreshing to have articles on strategic HR, human capital, and
measurement in Personnel Today.

While the Delivering HR Strategy series is offering an excellent overview,
some of the case studies are making me agree with Tom Peters – it will take
"demolition and salvage – big-time re-engineering to transform HR".

The challenge for HR professionals is clear – but is it possible for a
profession that has, for decades, prided itself on the quality of its
professional toolkit and created its own language, to reinvent itself?

It would appear that too often, the HR profession is using the old
professional paradigm to develop the new. This is a solution which will only
achieve limited success because it fails to address the real need – to change
mindset, skill and behaviour.

HR people are now talking about strategic business partnerships and are
creating new competency frameworks for themselves, which include consultancy,
change management, project management, coaching and counselling skills. But
this sidesteps the real need, which is to understand the market and business in
which they operate, to speak in a language the business understands and be able
to read corporate accounts.

If, as a profession, we do not make this paradigm shift, we are in danger of
moving from a ‘downstream function’, as John Purcell describes it, to an
extinct function.

Penny Davis
Head of HR, T-Mobile

Lack of foresight in training v technology

The Army’s purchase of a fleet of Apache helicopters, only to discover they
don’t have the skills to fly them, epitomises a dilemma currently faced by
British business.

Having invested heavily in IT, UK plc often now finds it has procured
systems it is unable to use to full capacity. This is the direct result of the
failure to align training and personnel development with strategic IT
investment. And when the economic climate demands an emphasis on business
efficiency, surely it is foolish to buy an IT kit but fail to train your staff
properly on how to use it? This is a case of putting the cart before the horse.

People are all too often the forgotten part of the equation – training is
carried out as a knee-jerk reaction, to meet an immediate need. Technology
developments have long been labelled disruptive, so surely preparing for their
arrival – and I mean in terms of preparing to use, rather than bracing for
impact – should be an integral part of any investment.

For the UK Government to show such a lack of foresight is shocking, but it
by no means stands alone. We readily talk of the ‘war for talent’, but how much
of this could be prevented if employee development were aligned with strategic

Rick Bacon
Managing director, Parity Group

I trust firefighters will be shown in best light

It was nice to see that nurses are no longer portrayed in a stereotypical
fashion (News, 12 November).

No doubt the photographer thought long and hard about which nurse to use and
how she should be posed to ensure the right impression was given. I’m sure some
readers will be interested to see what photographs you choose to publish to
cover the firefighters strike.

Paul Holland
Training manager, Royal West Sussex NHS Trust

Editor’s note: do we detect a hint of a sarcasm?

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