This week’s letters

CIPD could learn from other bodies

I read with some interest the article “How can the CIPD boost its clout with the Government?” (News, 21 November). I cannot deny being surprised at the evident reluctance of the CIPD to become more involved in “political” issues. Surely new employment legislation is something the CIPD should and must be concerned with, and if influencing this means becoming more political, it needs to respond accordingly.

Maybe I show a certain na•vety, but why does the constitution of its governing council and whether it is elected or not make any difference? If it does, it must be time for a change, and change management is something its members should be well versed in!

I must confess I am not a member of the CIPD, but I am a regular reader of Personnel Today and have responsibilities for HR within the organisation for which I work. I am the company secretary and a member of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators. This organisation is active in its involvement in the development of new legislation and codes of practice, and is a highly regarded contributor to these processes; the CIPD would do well to look to the ICSA for some hints and tips.

Many company secretaries, particularly in smaller firms, have responsibility for HR, a fact that is recognised in our qualification process, and our monthly journal covers HR issues and relevant legal updates. These individuals have grown to expect more from their institute as this is what is being delivered. Maybe it’s time for the CIPD to recognise its wider responsibilities, before we are all suffocated by poorly drafted, hurried, reactive legislation which costs all industries vast amounts in human and financial resources to implement.

Rowena Bowman, Greenwich Group, London

Parental laws are killing industry

Having just read your article on the possible right of parents to return to work part time for as long as they wish after the birth of a child (News, 12 December), I wish to say the following.

I work in manufacturing. We have just had to shut down a factory and make 211 people redundant from another factory, halving our headcount. One of the reasons is because we cannot compete with countries that have lower overheads and labour costs than ours.

As an HR manager, I agree that employers need to treat their employees fairly and give them a life beyond work. But I also believe that to continue to exist the business needs to be able to specify what workers it requires and for what hours.

The Government is killing British industry, it offers us no support, and we are continually having legislation heaped upon us that is time-consuming to implement and gives people the right to do whatever they wish.

If the Government wants to keep introducing these policies than perhaps it should start paying for them. British industry is already in decline and will not exist at all if the Government continues in the same vein.

Karen Parker, HR manager, Via e-mail

Look to Europe on childcare issues

Once again the Government is putting the onus on employers to solve the problems of childcare and working parents. Why don’t they look to our European partners to see how they how solved this problem?

In France, for example, the school day is lengthened, with long supervised lunch breaks and the facility to look after children up to 6pm if necessary. For the under fives, they have classrooms with tiny beds for afternoon naps.

During the holidays there is the option to go on month-long summer camps, with highly-trained supervisors providing a variety of activities.

This may appear to leave little time for child-parent bonding, but it’s not the case, as with all childminding there are evenings and weekends, and the choice to stay at home or work part-time if you wish.

Susan Thomas, Personnel manager, Southampton

Frameworks get us all thinking

Paul Kearn’s article “Face it: competency theories don’t work” (Comment, 5 December) was provocative, but flawed.

I agree that the notion of perfection in managers – indeed in humans generally – is a nonsense. We all know outstanding chief executives whose management styles are, to say the least, idiosyncratic and which it would be foolish to publish as a blueprint for others to model themselves upon.

But competencies, and the behavioural statements that support them, can provide inspiration and motivation. I see these frameworks not as blueprints for perfection, but more as a way to start managers thinking in a practical way about the possibilities for trying different approaches and pushing themselves out of their “comfort zone”. If you position a framework in this way, it can be used to considerable advantage for management development.

While it is true that competencies such as “initiative” are more often than not innate, we shouldn’t give up on getting people to develop these skills. By describing what initiative looks like, ie the things you see people who show initiative doing, others are given the chance to try it for themselves.

Most importantly, by describing a competency at different levels, it gives those aspiring to a more senior role the chance to see what will make the difference. When they see the behavioural competencies expressed clearly, at their own level and at the levels above them, they begin to see the real stretch ahead. Suddenly the myths surrounding what makes one person promotable and another not are dispelled and reality kicks in.

When we talk about people owning their own development, it makes good sense to give them a clue about what good performance looks like. Let’s encourage individualism and flair, but that doesn’t stop us providing inspiration and guidance for managers who want to give thought to their performance and development. Good competency profiles can and do provide that opportunity.

Elaine Wolf, HR consultant, Via e-mail

Real-life leaders set best example

We were intrigued to read “Tough act to follow” about the leadership course run by Roffey Park that focuses on leaders from the silver screen (Features, 14 November).

Undoubtedly actors’ portrayals of famous leaders can be useful starting points for a general discussion and to provide a platform for a critical evaluation of one’s own leadership style.

Too much focus on screen leaders, however, can provide an unrealistic portrayal of true leadership. Leaders in films tend to come from the charismatic, heroic mould – such as Henry V and Lawrence of Arabia – rather than the successful, but perhaps less charismatic, leadership we see every day. Although not the stuff of action-packed cinema, there are many examples of great leadership in action, which could serve as more useful case studies than the leadership portrayed by screen idols.

We agree that “great stories do not bear much relation to modern management theory, which stresses the role of followers in creating leaders”. What films also don’t generally reflect is the balance between the emotional and intellectual sides of leadership – the head and heart. When you think of the ultimate objective of film-making – to make money through entertaining the public – perhaps this is not surprising. Today’s inclusive, emotionally intelligent leadership is not as exciting as the swashbuckling, heroic style portrayed in films.

The key is not to have an intellectual discussion, but to practise leadership, to review our performance and to learn from that process.

John Frost, Course director & director of design, The Leadership Trust (Training) Herefordshire

Let’s not lose the personal touch

I would like to respond to “HR has to learn the application of presentation”, by Alastair McFarlane (Opinion, 21 November).

What a patronising attitude! McFarlane seems to think he is the expert on what HR professionals look for in a CV. Some of his comments are very true, but not many.

Why assume that a handwritten letter is “not sophisticated”? I like to see a handwritten letter, not because I hire or fire on how neat it is, but because it shows me a personal side, something our “super-sophisticated society” is starting to lack.

And who says “omitting a date of birth displays gross na•vety”? Perhaps it just displays the belief that age is not important, only whether the applicant has the skills and experience for the job.

Then we have the “tried and tested CV format”. I work for a company that develops 3D interactive solutions and have seen some great CVs pass over my desk – creative, colourful, interesting. It’s refreshing to have something different – and maybe an HR professional for my company needs to be as creative as the staff she is looking after.

“Applicants who zoom in on personal objectives which are of no interest to the potential employer”. Really? My staff’s personal objectives certainly interest me.

Katie Bennett, Vice-president of HR, Superscape

Beer-drinking view is sexist

After reading Sharon Nolan’s letter which suggested offering a fridge full of beer as a prize in your competition to find the best place to work in IT, was sexist (Letters, 12 December), I felt I must respond. Not all beer drinkers are men and not all men are beer drinkers.

I suggest Ms Nolan reconsiders her stereotypical views – I know very few women who do not drink beer (or cider) when they go to a bar or pub.

Natasha Goggin, Training co-ordinator and real ale fan

Dilemma could be easily solved

A possible solution to Sharon Nolan’s dilemma – assuming she was successful – would be to distribute the prize among her team. Her male colleagues could drink the beer and Sharon could have the fridge. I am sure she would recognise the long-term value of such a practical appliance for a modern kitchen.

If Sharon and her colleagues still feel uncomfortable, I am prepared to sacrifice my own morals and receive the prize on their behalf.

Chris Sharpe, Via e-mail

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