Employees should be given the choice of when to retire

In your ageing workforce special issue (Personnel Today, 26 October), you asked: ‘Should the law tell you when to retire?’ In short, no.

I am in an office-based HR position. Many of my friends and relatives have either retired early, or are planning to. In fact, I know very few people who have worked to state retirement age.

Everyone’s case is different, and we are requested to look at the diversity of the workforce and utilise skills of each member of staff, but surely they have the right to enjoy their retirement with their families and friends? Or does the Government think we should all work until we drop?

Legislation gives us a minimum wage of 4.85 per hour for employees over 21 years of age. Should this not apply to our pensioners? If a pensioner received as pension the equivalent to the minimum wage, say 4.85 for a 37-hour week, then the pension would be about 180 a week – surely a far more realistic figure for people to live on, and to remove them from the poverty trap.

With the Pension’s Reform Bill being implemented in 2005, there are going to be a lot of 40-somethings, who may have been looking to retire at 50, having to work until 55 before they can claim their company pension. What right has the Government to dictate to companies when staff can retire?

If a poll was taken, I am sure you would find few people who want to work until they are 70 years old.

Jean Dugmore
Details supplied

For the last 14 years, I have worked as a professionally-qualified school librarian in an independent school. I was paid on the same salary scale as the teachers.

Last year – prior to my 60th birthday – I looked into my pension predictions. For the last four years, the school had provided a pension for non-teachers (‘support staff’), and this is predicted to produce the grand total of 255 a year plus a lump sum of about 1,650. This seems like an insult after all the work I have put in.
As I now needed to put a little more money in the bank before retirement, I asked whether, in common with other ‘support staff’, I could work for a further year. I was told a definite ‘No’, as I was on a teaching salary and a teaching contract (something I didn’t know). So, after a little thought, I asked: “Where is my teacher’s pension?’

During an interview with the school principal, she said that the Government’s White Paper on age discrimination may not become law for some time, and that she was not going to do anything about it until she absolutely had to!

So, having been refused the opportunity to continue work after 60 as a non-teacher, I am also refused the pension that goes with being a member of the elite teaching class, which allows retirement at 60 or earlier.
Needless to say, I am now pursuing a claim that will take the school to an employment tribunal for lack of pension rights, based on equal pay.

Details supplied

Customers need outsourcing options

Earlier this month, an IDS report predicted strong growth in the numbers of UK call centre jobs despite a perceived trend that firms are moving work to India (News, Personneltoday.com).

As a European outsourcing company, ClientLogic is experiencing this growth in Europe, going from 4,500 to more than 5,000 employees in 2004. We see this trend continuing, with plans to employ a further 400 people at the company’s UK contact centres by the end of this year, while continuing to grow our offshore proposition.

While it’s true that, for some businesses, moving contact centre operations overseas can offer significant cost savings, we’ve found that our clients appreciate a more bespoke approach to outsourcing. While some functions can be performed perfectly well from outside of the EU, there are many that are much more effective when both the customer and the operative are both in the same country. It’s a case of looking at each client and their customer’s requirements and picking the right outsourcing option, be it onshore, offshore, or a combination of both. We call this ‘right-shoring’, and have found this to be successful with clients across various industries.

From an HR point of view, giving staff comprehensive, in-depth and ongoing training from day one means contact centre workers can see their work as a step in their careers rather than just a job.

Dawn Ayres
HR officer, International Operations, ClientLogic

Criticism of methods is too generalised

I read with some disappointment and frustration an article on Person-neltoday.com entitled ‘Critics question value of leadership training’. The key issue I have with this piece is that the criticism levied is very generalised, which in a specialist arena can be wholly misleading.

Of course, you have to measure the effect of training. However, while return on investment is important, establishing the success criteria is critical and, in this instance, far more relevant.

Specifically, what success criteria does the article critique the BBC leadership programme against? We also need clarity about whether or not the subject in question is management training or leadership training. The two are separate activities not to be confused.

Management focuses on maintenance activities, keeping current systems running, and planning, implementing and monitoring behaviours. Appropriate training will help someone develop these skills. Leadership focuses on engaging a team or organisation in bringing about change. It is a less contextually specific skillset.

Whether we are talking about leadership or management skills – as with any skill development through training – three ingredients are essential: experience, feedback and practice. Robust leadership and management skills training are no different in approach, only the methodology changes. Leaders and managers need to practice their skills and get feedback as well.

Return on the training investment has to be taken seriously. Assessing changes in behaviour and attitude has been undertaken since the advent of training. The critical thing is for the training provider, in conjunction with their client, to identify at the outset what changes in behaviour/skills/attitudes are required against the needs of the organisation and its customers. They should also be identifying the success criteria for training in the very first conversation. This diagnostic stage is critical and requires a close working relationship between the client and the training provider. Measurement of training will seek to identify and work with data gathered over time from a wide source.

There must be clarity about the nature of the programme the client is engaged in and both parties need to embrace, and look forward to the feedback that follows a programme.

As well as ensuring that training addresses the skill development needs of the participants, fundamentally, this needs to be in alignment with the requirements of the organisation’s customers. A generalised educational approach will not do this.

Godfrey Owen
Deputy chief executive, Brathay

Business must learn from BBC’s mistake

The barrage of criticism faced by the BBC for the lack of evaluation of its leadership development pro-gramme (PersonnelToday.com, 12 October) may be unwelcome for the corporation, but it will do wonders for the business community.

Leadership development is now a widely accepted training need, but as a result of this, a vast array of training courses have been created. For the beleaguered HR practitioner, it means searching for a needle in a haystack. After all, quantity doesn’t equal quality and it can be hard to judge the relevance of any given programme.

Leadership development is most worthwhile if it is undertaken as part of a long-term strategy. And training programmes must also be matched against individual needs, within the context of the organisation’s business objectives. Only then is it possible to determine how to measure the success of the development activity.

The need for leadership may be clear but the publicity surrounding the BBC shows there is some uncertainty about how best to respond. At the very least, the debate should make people realise that the ability to lead has an impact on management performance and can, therefore, be assessed. It should also ensure organisations examine whether they have the right tools and frameworks in place to truly develop leadership potential.

Mary Chapman
Chief executive, Chartered Management Institute

Leadership training isn’t just about ROI

The issue of evaluating leadership training, as raised in Personnel Today (12 October), is not entirely new. Though today there may be a greater push for results-based evaluation, a few courses already have the drive for performance following training at their core.

As noted, leadership training is not for everyone. Leadership development is not a pill you can take for a ‘quick-fix’ to management issues. It is about understanding and regulating the behaviours that motivate and inspire people to perform in the pursuit of a common vision. An awareness of self and of others is vital – an understanding of what has got you where you are now and how to develop these behaviours to increase your impact on others in the future.

Measure leadership training by all means, but not solely on the basis of financial return. Ultimately, that may be the longer-term measure, but it is ‘behaviour that drives performance’, so measure behaviours.

Mark Reynolds
Managing director, Catalyst Management Consultants

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