This week’s letters

Performance management is the key to handling age crisis

I read your report ‘Confusion over performance management’ with interest
(News, 2 March).

It has become clear that performance management will be the key to ensuring
that employers stay on the right side of the new anti-discrimination laws. Your
article highlights how difficult this is, and just how few employers have
adequate systems in place.

In the extensive debates over future age discrimination laws, the biggest
fear for employers is the likely end of mandatory retirement. The most common
question we are asked at the Employers Forum on Age, is how employers will be
expected to manage the exit of older staff who are under-performing. And the
answer, from lawyers and equality experts alike, is performance management.

Also, if future age laws make length-of-service benefits unlawful, HR professionals
will have to redesign reward schemes, again based on effective performance

Introducing and maintaining a fair and effective performance management
programme has to be the number one priority for any HR manager in the run up to
age legislation in 2006. And as your article suggests, it seems UK employers
still have a long way to go.

Sam Mercer
Director, Employers Forum on Age

Software should be used to maximum

The HR industry is preoccupied with demonstrating its value and justifying
its existence to the board, yet, as Keith Rodgers pointed out in ‘Wanted:
faster, better metrics’ (2 March), HR does not always make full use of the
reporting capability offered by its existing software.

Technology will become increasingly important to HR professionals as they
seek to demonstrate to their boards that they are accountable and understand
the wider business context. But often, in our experience, HR departments use software
solely as an electronic version of their old paper processes, rather than
harnessing technology to provide the metrics that business leaders demand.

As Rodgers said, part of the blame for this must lie with the software
vendors themselves. It is all very well developing ‘bells and whistles’, but if
the client doesn’t know how to use them, it’s a waste of time and money on both
sides. As well as continuing to develop new technology for human capital
reporting, vendors need to take a more consultative approach, offering support
and guidance long after the contract is signed to make sure the software’s full
potential is exploited. Only then will HR be able to move from the backroom to
the boardroom with confidence.

Michael Richards
CEO, Snowdrop Systems

Parliament smoking bans are too weak

Having read your article ‘EU watchdog labels smoking ban as ‘weak’,’ (News,
10 February) I have written to you in support of the findings of the ombudsman,
Nikiforos Diamandouros, about the poorly-enforced smoking restrictions in the
European Parliament buildings.

Your magazine article concentrated on the Luxembourg buildings, where the
original complaint was made. However, the situations in both Brussels and
Strasbourg are equally lamentable.

As you mentioned in your article, rules were brought in nine years ago to
stop smoking in most common areas, such as corridors and lifts. However, just
last week someone was smoking outside my office in Brussels. I have seen very
little enforcement of the 1995 regulations.

This issue is one of particular importance to me as a sufferer of severe
asthma. I have made my feelings known to officials on several occasions and the
situation has got a little better – but it is still not ideal.

The watchdog’s findings must be swiftly implemented. Many MEPs have long
been vocal in their annoyance about the attitude of the Parliament with regard
to this issue. It is time that those in charge took their responsibilities to
employees working within the buildings seriously.

Liz Lynne
MEP for the West Midlands, Brussels

Mottram way out of touch with his staff

I noted that you printed Sir Richard Mottram’s one-sided take on the
Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) dispute (News, 2 March). I hope this had
nothing to do with the fact that Jobcentre Plus had a page of advertising in
Personnel Today, but then perhaps I am just too cynical.

Did you seek the views of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union? I
can’t believe Mottram thinks his staff are dupes taken in by ‘union propaganda’.
However, as a senior civil servant who has enjoyed larger rises than his staff
on his already considerable salary, perhaps he does misunderstand the life of
the lower grades in his department.

Many of his staff have to claim benefits to top-up the salaries his
department pays. That is why his poverty pay response is a giveaway – the DWP
will pay what it can get away with, and he does not concede that the Government
should pay a decent living wage.

Nick Ling
PCS representative, Department of Transport

Biggest hurdle to HR jobs is experience

At the risk of painting an even gloomier picture, being fully CIPD-qualified
(in addition to a BA degree) has yet to make any difference to my HR career

The biggest hurdle I have consistently faced is experience, or lack of it.
Although I have worked in a range of organisations during the past 12 years and
have demonstrable business awareness, the fact that I have worked specifically
in HR for three years is proving to be a disadvantage. Recruiters do not appear
to be very interested in transferable capabilities outside of the HR arena.
Which is a little ironic, considering we are constantly told to strive to be
business partners and to make a positive impact on the bottom line.

Clearly there is more than one route into HR, and once in, there is more
than one route by which to progress – albeit with difficulty, as readers have
illustrated in this ongoing debate.

So rather than focusing on a singular particular qualification, why not have
more than one form of professional accreditation that actually recognises the
diversity of the HR community? If that means another body other than the
Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, then so be it.

Julia Harsant
Details supplied

Is there really a case for calculating RoI?

I read with interest the model answer to the ‘test’ that Andrew Mayo set at
the end of his article on valuing HR activities (24 February).

A return on investment (RoI) of 816 per cent? Wow. I can imagine myself as a
board member thinking some or all of the following: I don’t believe it –
nothing gives an RoI like that’; ‘Interesting, but where’s the proof? Where’s
the evidence? What other factors may account for the turnaround in the
productivity, sales, costs etc of these people?’; ‘What was the case for
spending this time and money to take 150 senior people out of the business?
What was the impetus, the driver, the expectation? Were these expectations

I wonder if a lack of space to present a more credible case study on HR RoI
is hindering the acceptance in some key quarters of this important message? As
a keen advocate of fact-based decision-making, I have found it hard to accept
this particular test or case study as it stands.

I’ll be getting a copy of Mayo’s report mentioned in the article before I
can be sure. Either way, this is an important topic that can’t be fudged.

Martin Schmalenbach
Organisation development consultant, Hampshire County Council

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