This week’s letters

HR essential for keeping ahead

The Sector Watch special on the supermarkets made for interesting reading
(Feature, 12 March) and reinforced the vital importance of the HR in a
company’s ability to retain the competitive edge in today’s market-place.

In the retail sector, where price differentials have reduced dramatically,
retailers are now competing fiercely on customer service. This obviously
impacts on the quality of staff which they seek to employ, the ongoing
development of that employee’s skills and the importance of the long-term
retention of quality people.

The current consumer boom has resulted in the announcement of aggressive
expansion programmes by all the top retail brands, creating the projected need
for an additional 100,000 new people. In a sector where there already exists an
acute skills shortage, this represents a candidate shortfall of epic

In order to fulfil these projected expansion plans, companies will have to
radically alter their thinking both in terms of their recruitment methodology
and their nurturing of the talent that they possess and, moreover, wish to

Forward thinking employers must be more flexible in their recruitment
parameters. The right attitude is more important than direct experience and
cross-industry fertilisation can be very fruitful. Age should not present a bar
and good quality training can achieve wonders.

Fundamental to delivering good customer service is the creation of a company
culture which values its employees as human beings and has the flexibility to
offer the working conditions and benefits which represent real value to the
individual. A company that wins the hearts and minds of its employees and
assists them with meaningful career development will create a strong corporate
loyalty. A workforce whose needs are well satisfied will in turn satisfy the
needs of the customer.

Kirsty Gilchrist
Senior consultant ISIS, The Berkeley Scott Group

Comments were too patronising

How does Paul Kearns manage so much press in your publication (Comment, 12

To suggest in his article, ‘Quick and dirty HR gets the job done’, that a
naive lack of pragmatism is an intrinsic trait within our profession is
extremely patronising.

No HR professional worth their salt is against finding quick, practical
solutions to problems in the workplace. However, advising managers that quick
fix expediency is not always the best route to long-term excellence is a fully
valid way in which we can and do add value within organisations.

Allan Price
Personnel manager, Mersey Docks & Harbour Company

Longer courses are helpful too

Octavius Black’s view that personal development is of more use than
corporate values will have many training professionals nodding their heads in
agreement (Opinion, 26 February).

He then argued the best way to do this is in short, sharp 90-minute sessions
and there probably are many organisations which will find this approach to
personal development seductive.

However, there is another way. Slightly longer workshops and courses of
half-a-day upwards allow delegates time to explicitly focus on their own
objectives and time to plan the implementation of whatever has been learnt at
the end of the course.

Both of these steps are important elements of effective learning and are
essential if behaviours are to be changed.

Clive Lewis
Managing director, Ilumine Training

An escape route

What made me laugh today? Guru’s story about business travel and its effects
on your family (Guru, 12 March).

The suggestion is that partners of business travellers are much more likely
to suffer from mental health problems. There may be a link but I doubt if cause
and effect have been proved.

From my experience, I’d say those with neurotic partners probably seek as
much business travel as possible to get away from them.

Charlotte Creasy
via e-mail

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