This week’s letters

Letter of the week
Feedback data can be skewed

We applaud the Pret à Manger initiative to manage its 360-degree feedback
system electronically (News, 11 September). Collection and analysis of feedback
is a painful part of the process.

Your article also states that the company has removed the cost of external
consultants to analyse the results. We wonder therefore who is administering
the feedback sessions – if anyone – or whether they are being delivered

Our experience, having fed back hundreds of such questionnaires, is that the
way in which feedback is delivered is a sensitive but critical area. Often the
hard data does not reveal the whole picture and if not carefully interpreted
can actually be misleading. Many times we have seen results skewed by the
responses of just one person, or by the scores against specific questions that
seem "out of sync" with other questions under the same

Our consultants use a two-stage process. After presenting the data and overall
trends at an initial one-to-one interview, our consultants encourage
individuals (after some coaching) to go back and seek face-to-face feedback
from a few contributors. Their focus when seeking verbal feedback in this way
is "how do you want me to be?" These responses are then shared at a
second meeting with our consultants two weeks later, at which time a very
focused personal development plan (populated with specific learning resources
and assignments) is drawn up.

It is no accident that our consultants are, at very least, occupational
psychologists and usually practising psychotherapists, as these sessions often
raise many issues relating to the individual’s psyche and their life in

While we accept that the process is necessarily time consuming and not
inexpensive, we ask clients, "What do you want? To take cost out of your
development processes or changed behaviour?"

Colin Newbold
Partner, The Learning Curve

A smoke screen over daily abuse

I laughed aloud reading about the Drink, Drugs and Work Don’t Mix survey
carried out by Personnel Today (7 August).

Isn’t it ironic that a third of firms are "considering testing their
staff for substance abuse" when by using their eyes and looking out of the
window, they can see the manifestation of dependence on the most addictive drug
in society. Yes, I’m talking about the ever-present huddle of smokers outside
the company’s main entrance!

It never ceases to amaze me, the millions of pounds that are spent massaging
a corporate public image, and when I turn up to see my clients, the first thing
I see is a huddle of smokers and a blue cloud of cigarette smoke that I have to
walk through to effect an entrance into the building. Nicotine addiction is so
widespread, we consider smoking as normal or even "natural".

My organisation, Allen Carr’s Easyway, has carried out studies that suggest
an organisation loses the equivalent of 15 days’ productivity each year, for
each member of staff who takes cigarette breaks away from their work area. And
that fails to take into account the well-documented higher absenteeism rates
among smokers.

Rob Groves
Managing director, Easyway Manchester

Disabled show great dedication

I was interested to read the recent article about staff turnover rates in
call centres. One company that has embraced this issue in a positive way is
Centrica (formally British Gas). At a recently opened call centre it set aside
50 jobs for disabled people and the carers of disabled people.

Adopting an approach called Project Lead Recruitment, it has successfully
achieved its objective. Also, after 18 months of operation, the levels of
sickness among disabled employees have been significantly less than their
colleagues and there is a noticeable reduction in staff turnover.

Not only this, but the company also reports an increased sense of motivation
and team spirit among other colleagues. It is simply a better place to work.

Some of those disabled people employed originally have now taken up
supervisory, team leader and management roles. One couple were taken on via an arrangement
where one, a severely disabled person, was employed alongside his partner. This
meant they could share their working hours and care assistance could be
provided to the disabled employee while at work.

They are highly unlikely to move to another employer.

If anybody is interested in the Project Lead Approach to recruiting disabled
people please contact Stephen Duckworth at www.disabilitymatters.com

Stephen Duckworth
Chief executive, Disability Matters

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