HR-driven change is way forward

I was interested to read your article concerning Marks & Spencer’s soul-searching – in their drive to turn around flagging sales – on the relative merits of HR (Personnel Today, 16 November). The debate over the extent to which HR contributes to a productive business environment is a lively and ongoing one.

In fact, a recent study commissioned by LogicaCMG, taking in views from a cross section of the UK’s top 500 companies, points to a distinct difference of opinion between HR directors (HRDs) and board-level decision-makers. While three-quarters of HRDs feel they currently make a strategic contribution to business, less than half of decision-makers agree. Indeed, 62 per cent of these decision-makers believe that there is room for improvement in this very area, citing strategic business contribution skills as a key future requirement for HR.

On top of this, Kearn’s emphasis on the importance of HR-driven change is reflected in LogicaCMG’s figures, with 60 per cent of decision-makers expressing the desire to take on the mantel of HR at board level and 48 per cent agreeing they need to take greater responsibility – and invest more – in people development.

As human capital management becomes an ever more important legislative issue – with a key role to play in building business and delivering growth – the most pressing HR-related concerns for boards include succession planning at senior level, poor exploitation and strategic vision when it comes to existing human capital, and a lack of talented people in-house.

Mike Madgwick
Director of HR outsourcing, LogicaCMG

Interim management is a lifestyle decision

In the last few years, we’ve seen a consistent increase in the demand for strategic interim HR executives within the public sector.

Interestingly, this trend mirrors the growing realisation that people management is a key factor in the success of businesses. It also adds further credibility to the abundance of research linking strategic HR with business performance.

With the Government’s public-sector modernisation programme in full force, the growth in strategic interim HR in this sector shouldn’t come as a surprise. The reform of HR has now been put squarely on the map and there’s a strong desire to introduce private sector expertise to public services. Not surprisingly, hard-nosed commercial experience, such as skills in change management, performance management, cost cutting and restructuring, are heavily in demand.

Interim executive management is no longer seen as a cover for emergencies. It has instead become a credible human solution to strategic business issues and is widely used when facing crucial business requirements.

For those thinking of moving into interim management, there are pros and cons to consider. Interim executive management is not a career path for people who are adverse to change and taking the occasional risk. Furthermore, becoming an interim manager is a lifestyle decision and a full-time profession, not a ‘between-jobs’ activity.

On the other hand, interim executive management can be an intensely gratifying career option and new market conditions have revealed new opportunities. Advantages include the chance to broaden horizons, achieve better work-life balance, having the flexibility to be your own boss, and being able to concentrate on what you do best.

Stuart Robertson
Divisional manager, Capita Resourcing

Policy to fight stigma of HIV is very timely

I read with interest the article on the TUC and the need for a workplace policy to combat stigma and discrimination around HIV (www.personnel today.com/26926.article).

The TUC’s announcement on HIV and AIDS policies is very timely. The recent announcement that new HIV infections increased again last year means there are now 53,000 people living with HIV in the UK.

Advances in drug treatments also mean that the majority of HIV-positive people can lead healthy working lives. However, the National AIDS Trust hears from many people who experience discrimination at work, or have difficulty getting a job.

The National AIDS Trust has therefore developed the [email protected] guidance for employers to help prevent work-related stigma and discrimination.
This pack helps employers understand HIV stigma and discrimination – what it means, why it is an issue in the workplace, what are its root causes – and develop strategies to challenge it. The pack contains information about employers’ obligations under the law (including the new Employment Regulations on Disability), as well as a wide range of fact files, case studies and practical tools on how to use the pack with employees. The pack also includes samples of workplace posters, leaflets and stickers. For further information, call 020 7814 6767.

Deborah Jack
Chief executive, National AIDS Trust

Blair’s retirement ‘goal’ is hypocrisy

In his letter (Personnel Today, 23 November), Spencer Jacobs points out that, “Tony Blair says he wants to change the culture that writes people off at 65, 60 or even 55.”

Perhaps Blair should start in his own backyard. I am a 60-year-old personnel manager in the Prison Service and have been told that I have to leave by 31 March 2005, as I am now over the ‘minimum’ retirement age. I have also learned of other staff in the same position.

No wonder the voting public doesn’t have any faith in politicians when their hypocrisy is so evident.

Gerry Willsmore
Personnel manager, HMP Winchester

New association is good news for HR

Thank you for your story about the Commercial Added Value HR Association (Personnel Today, 30 November). I am really surprised that someone hasn’t done this before, because in my experience, Neil Griffin’s comments are absolutely spot on.

I have been running my own HR consultancy for five years, however, my roots are in operations management. I achieved head of HR at a UK PLC of circa 700 sites/8,000 people and toyed with the idea of joining the then IPD several times. However, I was told that despite my career achievements and responsibilities, I could only join as an associate or a graduate.

Needless to say I didn’t bother, and non-membership hasn’t harmed my career. In the absence of inspiration from a professional body, I have always concentrated my efforts in trying to understand business and in being commercial, because that is the only way that HR can truly increase its influence on business.

It is very sad to see the CIPD doesn’t seem to engage with the most senior, and most influential people in the profession. It’s even sadder to see that the headlines in the personnel media are still full of features bemoaning that HR isn’t aligned to business goals.

I remember reading something very similar in the personnel press when I joined the profession 15 years ago. We should ask ourselves: why hasn’t the profession yet made enough impact on business under the sole stewardship of the CIPD after so long?

Jerry Hayter
Managing partner, Xecutive Search

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