The media should not make a mockery of the legal system

I was appalled by the recent depiction of an employment tribunal in the television soap Coronation Street (see above). It was portrayed as playing into the hands of the increasingly litigious society that is overpowering UK businesses today.

Small businesses are under enough pressure without tribunals being presented as quick, easy ‘in one minute, out the next’ processes that mean money in the pocket for the employee, and a slapped wrist for the employer. Likewise, the reality of an employment tribunal is a far cry from having one chairman present who gives little or no guidance or reference to where the employer had fallen foul of the law.

Tribunals have become increasingly formal. All present are expected to stand as the panel enters, and the chairman guides the order of events. The applicant or their representative makes an opening statement and introduces the case, producing the salient facts and any documentary evidence and witnesses.

With other pressures piling up for the directors of UK businesses today, it is time that the media understood and appreciated these challenges, instead of making a mockery of what can be a make-or-break procedure for a business, by presenting a tribunal as a farce.

Ian Davidson
Managing director, Vizual HR

Germany ignores EU employment rules

Does anybody take any notice of European employment law? I can most certainly say it is 100 per cent ignored in Germany.

Jobs are regularly advertised in government-run employment agencies for way over the 48-hour week that is supposedly the maximum in the EU.

The German Government does not even take any notice of its own employment law. I would say it is the most meaningless set of rules ever to have been contrived.

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Leadership requires more than training

Andrew Game is absolutely spot on in highlighting the effects of the scarcity of high-calibre management (‘Leadership training – the pitfalls’, Personnel Today, 12 October).

In pointing out that organisations are finding it increasingly difficult to find and attract managers with appropriate leadership skills, he draws attention to a growing problem. Companies searching for people with ‘the right stuff’, are being forced to look inwards.
However, there is another approach. Organisations should choose senior executives on the basis of how well they fit into the management team, rather than just their experience or qualifications.

Good management is the key to successfully taking a business forward. But the dilemma is that in many cases, the right individual for the role does not really exist – the real skill comes in finding the best individual to optimise a team.

The reason some companies stall, or even fail, cannot be attributed to just one factor. There can be a strong correlation between the rigour applied to the recruitment process, and the level of success those companies achieve.

Training may not be the answer, either. A company’s failure may be down to the failure of the relationship between management and the board, or of the failure of the relationship between particular board members.

Game offers the view: “There’s little point in imposing a set of leadership techniques on individuals who, in terms of their innate psychological make-up, will find it difficult to put these techniques into practice.”

With respect, perhaps companies should ask another fundamental question: How and where do they find the ‘right stuff’ to begin with?

Sheila Nori
Managing director, SNA Executive

Poor performers are usually disengaged

I was not surprised to read that staff in a quarter of all the organisations interviewed in the Chiumento/Personnel Today Get Engaged survey (News, 5 October) cite poor management as the biggest barrier to being engaged at work.

Research conducted recently by the Future Foundation for SHL, revealed that the UK loses about 12bn a year through managing poor performers – many of whom are disengaged from the organisation. However, I can’t help thinking that organisations that focus solely on internal communications to engage staff are missing a trick.

It’s not enough to implement and publicise corporate social responsibility and social programmes. Engagement begins at the start of the recruitment process.

The most successful organisations match their employees’ skills and abilities to the demands of their roles, not just at the recruitment stage, but also throughout their employees’ careers.

A sound basis for building a programme of staff engagement lies in getting the right person for the right job. Employees who are well-suited, confident and excited by their roles will perform at higher levels and be more committed to the enterprise. These are also the individuals likely to respond best to corporate social responsibility, social and internal communications activities.

Kevin Kerrigan
Managing director, SHL (UK)

Engaging workers is a multi-faceted task

At the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) we were very interested to read the article ‘Engagement equals productivity’ (Personnel Today, 5 October).

IES has been carrying out research into employee engagement over the past two years – specifically, how engagement can be defined and measured, and what drives it.

After consultation with the majority of our member companies, we arrived at the following definition: ‘Engagement is a positive attitude held by the employee towards the organisation and its values. An engaged employee is aware of business context, and works with colleagues to improve performance within the job for the benefit of the organisation. The organisation must work to nurture, maintain and grow engagement, which requires a two-way relationship between employer and employee.’

Engagement is, as your article stressed, two-way. The organisation decides the extent to which it wishes to try to engage the employee, while the employee can opt into being engaged, or opt out again, at different stages.

But how can we measure engagement?

IES has developed a series of attitude survey statements that fit together to make a single indicator of employee engagement. Our indicator was developed in the public sector (specifically, the NHS), where we found that its strongest driver was a sense of feeling valued by, and involved with, the organisation.

The second stage of our research is testing our findings in a variety of sectors. So far, the indicator is holding up well, although there are interesting differences in the driving factors, depending on the sector and employee group.

Dilys Robinson
Senior research fellow, Institute of Employment Studies

Government funding is best for training

A while back, you asked your readers whether the Government should fund all training for union representatives. The unions are certainly not keen on management paying some of the training costs.

It is felt that management would try to organise the contents of the training sessions if they were paying into them. The usefulness of any training sessions would therefore decrease, and eventually, management would prevent employees from attending the courses, because it was not having as much input as it wanted to, or because certain issues were not included.

The funding comes from central government, and always has done. This is to prevent management and the unions from having full say as to what is taught, and to ensure an impartial overall training session is provided, giving the views of both sides of an argument.

This is the best way of funding, and has been used by the TUC for a very long time.

Management’s input should only be to provide the time off to attend the courses, which in turn benefits the organisation because employees are furthering their education without it being too much of a drain on the company.

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Know your place on consultation laws

I read your ‘Lack of consultation’ news story (Personnel Today, 12 October), and feel that many of your readers may have been misled into believing the window of opportunity for reaching pre-existing agreements on information and consultation closes on the 6 April 2005. It doesn’t.

According to the DTI guidance, valid pre-existing agreements are those that meet the criteria in draft regulation 8(1), and were agreed before an employee request was made. An employer is only obliged to inform and consult following a valid request from employees, and so an employer could in fact choose to do nothing until a valid request is made.

Indeed, it is important to be aware that for the request to be valid, it has to be made by 10 per cent of employees – not their representatives – and must be made in writing.

John Boyd
Managing director, European Study Group

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