This week’s letters

Diversity held at bay by a lack of positive female role models

Does Personnel Today have a diversity strategy? I ask this because, as a diversity
adviser in local government, I am constantly promoting the part that positive
images and role models play in increasing the diversity of our staff and
service-user profiles.

I recently heard a BBC speaker explain its approach to increasing diversity
in its programming. Since then, I have looked out for the evidence and, sure
enough, I can see more positive roles for women, ethnic minority and disabled

The glass ceiling is a key challenge for local authorities, but I thought
that women in HR seemed to be breaking through, given the significant
proportion of women in the profession. However, I am becoming increasingly
frustrated when reading Personnel Today at the lack of positive female role
models, let alone ethnic minority or disabled professionals.

In the public sector edition (9 March), you featured feedback from some of
the ‘profession’s leading figures’. But only one of the six was a woman. And in
the NHS feature, just one of the six people interviewed was a woman. My
experience of working in the public sector is that there are many women in
senior management, so why wasn’t that reflected here?

Your publication is read by many, if not most, of the HR profession, and I
would strongly urge you to feature strong role models that reflect the
diversity of this country. There is a huge pool of untapped talent, and the
profession needs to show that we practice what we preach. The biggest challenge
in diversity management these days is to change the rhetoric into reality. A
policy is not enough. We need to show that we mean it, and show evidence of the

Jane Goodwin
Equality and diversity adviser, Hampshire County Council

Editor’s reply: Personnel Today works hard to ensure we reflect the
diversity within the profession at all levels. We try to practice what we
preach and rely on all sections of the profession to inform us and provide
comment on the issues covered.

However, being a deadline-driven magazine, we have to use the comments that
come back to us at the time of going to press. On this particular occasion in
the public sector issue, the majority of responses that came back to us in time
for publication were from male HR directors.

We haven’t cracked this issue yet, but we are working on it. And more input
and feedback from our women readers is very much welcomed.

CIPD qualification is simply a must-have

I have been surprised to read the debate about the benefits of the CIPD
qualification over the past few weeks. There is no question about it – anyone
considering a career in HR simply must have the CIPD qualification.

No-one would seriously consider a career as an accountant, architect or
asphalt spreader without first learning the basic principles and gaining a
‘benchmark’ qualification, and HR is no different.

Of course it is challenging and time-consuming to study and gain the
qualification, but the time when a career in HR was seen as an easy option has,
thankfully, long since passed, along with those who chose to work in HR because
they ‘like to work with people’.

It is right and proper that individuals wishing to enter the profession have
to learn the principles and theories that they can use to underpin the
experience they gain in the work environment.

Experience is valuable, but without a recognised qualification to
demonstrate a basic understanding of what HR is about, how can a person claim
to be a credible professional?

Adrian Fisher
HR manager, Details supplied

‘Firefatties’ tag gave wrong impression

Dear Guru, I feel I must respond to your article in this week’s Personnel
Today about the Dorset Fire and Rescue Service (Guru, 2 March).

The annual report to the Dorset Fire Authority on fitness issues highlights
areas where the service can give advice to staff on health and fitness matters.
While someone may be technically termed as overweight, this does not
necessarily mean they can be described as fat or unfit.

The report actually highlighted very good levels of fitness among staff and
merely indicated that, in line with trends in society, some weight levels were
rising. The fitness of our firefighters is generally much higher than that of
the general population.

While firefighters have not been ordered to attend daily exercise classes,
fitness training is part of their daily routine, along with operational training
and fire-safety work. This is when, of course, they are not attending emergency
incidents. This leaves little time for them to sit around.

I’d be grateful if you would correct the impression that was given about a group
of people who are always ready to respond to others’ disasters.

Jean Lucas
Personnel manager, Dorset Fire and Rescue Service

Get proactive about workplace health

In the past week, Britons have been accused of being a sickly bunch (News, 2
March). The Wanless report revealed that we are obese, drink too much and
suffer from stress, depression and anxiety. The message may seem like doom and
gloom, but this will only persist if organisations continue to take a reactive
approach to employee health.

With more than a million people claiming incapacity benefits due to mental
and behavioural disorders in the past five years, it’s clear that sickness
absence and increases in healthcare costs have become a huge burden to

Research by the Health and Safety Executive reveals that in 2002, more than
33 million days were lost at work, including 13.4 million to stress. This costs
the economy more than £12bn a year, not to mention the effects on performance
and the bottom line.

The traditional cup of tea is no longer an acceptable treatment in cases
where someone is depressed or suffering from stress and anxiety. This is even
more important in light of compensations awarded in stress-related cases.

Employers of all sizes need to recognise the cause of the problem and deal
with it through professional organisations that offer a modern day approach to
helping people overcome these issues.

They should not only be promoting healthy lifestyles by offering subsidised
gym membership and salad bars to their employees, but they should also offer
them support to tackle behavioural and mental issues through professional
counselling, information and advice.

In return, their businesses will benefit from improved productivity and
morale, and healthier, happier teams, creating a positive impact on the bottom

Nand Gouhari
Managing director, PPC Worldwide

Personality tests do benefit businesses

I read Stephen Overell’s piece on personality questionnaires in the 2 March
edition of Personnel Today with interest.

My first question is whether one would stop purchasing cars because of a bad
experience with one particular manufacturer? Probably not. However, this
experience might prompt you to consider an alternative vehicle selection
process. The purchase of personality questionnaires is comparable.

While I appreciate that this piece was intentionally contentious, there are
some serious issues raised that should be addressed in a professional and
responsible manner.

As chairman of the Business Test Publishers Association (BTPA) – and I note
that no-one contacted us when researching this piece – we believe governing
bodies and suppliers alike have a collective responsibility to recruiters to
offer best practice vis-à-vis the supply, delivery and application of personality
questionnaires. We also need to consider the facts, and not fall prey to
emotional ranting. Professional issues require professional solutions.

Personality questionnaires offer an impartial tool for assessing an
individual’s fit to any given role within the workplace. Fact. There is much
evidence to show personality questionnaires’ capacity to predict workplace
performance. Fact. Support and training are key factors that should be
considered when choosing a test supplier. Fact.

I am relieved that Mr Overell did not decide to choose a career in HR. There
are many potential candidates who might have been rejected because he was far
more interested in their body mass index than in their ability to do a job. In
the US, this type of selection would warrant a lawsuit. Fact.

Richard Alberg
Chairman, BTPA

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