This week’s letters

HR needs to offer solutions and stop pointing the finger

How refreshing to see the number of letters concerning sick leave are dying
down. Personnel Today can now return to the (by now familiar) topic of HR
needing to take a more strategic approach to gain credibility as a business

How does the profession expect to be taken seriously when the main issue of
the past few weeks in its leading publication was the age-old problem of
absence management?

The level of debate (and volume of column inches) this issue provoked, not
to mention a rather unsightly rush to point the finger at someone else – in
this case, GPs – appears to clearly illustrate why MDs and CEOs are reluctant
for HR practitioners to become involved in strategic matters.

Meanwhile, your last ‘HR Strategy Forum’ (23 September) featured answers to
a case study that comprehensively spelt out the basic steps required to ensure
the success of a change process within any business.

Your expert panel also gave very credible answers to two other fundamental
HR issues: union recognition and employee involvement. However, on the evidence
of the case study – a financial services business – did the panel really
address the issue from a business perspective and offer anything other than the
standard ’employer of choice’ and ‘engage your staff’ approaches?

The case study highlighted that the business in question had a call centre
(which shows it was not a core business) and high staff turnover in an area
where unemployment is low (meaning attractive salaries had to be offered and
extra costs were incurred through recruitment and retention).

None of your expert strategists’ answers mentioned the possibility of
looking at wider solutions to the business problem. For example, could the
company have relocated to a more favourable area, outsourced the call centre,
or even ‘off-shored’ the service?

Perhaps I was expecting too much, but your panel’s responses simply served
to further demonstrate how isolated HR professionals appear to be from the
wider business.

I realise that HR faces a chicken and egg situation. How can it become more
business-focused if the business itself doesn’t allow it to be involved? HR
needs to finally begin implementing solutions to the old personnel issues. It
needs to proactively offer HR solutions that actually fit the wider business

Until we address basic HR issues within a business, we should stop
complaining about not being taken seriously when we attempt to get involved in
strategic issues.

Paul Flavin
Resourcing director, The HR People

Internet recruitment firm begs to differ

Lucie Carrington’s article, ‘Slipping through the net’ (30 September), which
discussed the findings of the recent Recruitment Confidence Index (RCI), is

It claims the report makes "rough reading for internet job sites"
due to the number of companies "abandoning e-recruitment altogether".
However, it fails to put key data in context, and then simply leaves out other
data which might lead readers to the opposite conclusion.

It talks about the reduction in use of internet job sites, but neglects to
mention that the use of every recruitment method (with the exception of the
national press) has also decreased in the past quarter.

In fact, according to the RCI, the fall in the use of job sites is
relatively minor in comparison to larger decreases in the use of selection
consultants, employment agencies, executive searches, regional newspapers and
professional magazines.

The article also mentions some of the reasons why recruiters have reduced
their use of job sites. But it doesn’t point out that the RCI survey didn’t ask
why recruiters had reduced their use of other recruitment methods. This gives
the impression that there are particular problems with internet recruitment
alone. I think common sense suggests that this is unlikely, especially when –
as the article correctly states – the RCI study reports that recruiters’ use of
job boards and corporate sites is set to rise.

The article also omits the study’s most important finding of all: where HR
professionals are going to invest their recruitment pounds.

The RCI clearly shows that job sites will be the winners, and are set to see
the greatest increase in revenue of all recruitment methods.

Andy Baker
Chief executive, Workthing

Get real to enjoy the fruits of diversity

While we were delighted to read authors Rajan and Harris’s article on
different approaches to diversity (9 September, 2003), we disagree that
intelligent people think along similar lines, with perception being the only

The best leaders nurture divergent views, recognising their value in leading
change, generating energy and inspiring new ideas. Positive change is often
initiated by those who challenge the status quo, and who express opinions that
are not mainstream.

Corporate culture is necessary, and gives people a sense of belonging and
consistency. However, a culture that is too strong can overwhelm all that is
positive about diversity, and stifle creative thinking.

This type of ‘group-think’ will be the death knell of organisations in the
21st century.

In 15 years of running leadership development programmes, we have repeatedly
seen how fearful participants are when they encounter a highly diverse group.

However, by being encouraged to forge new networks in a safe, cross-sector,
real environment, they create their own understanding of how to deal with
diversity, and find it full of opportunity.

The UK’s leaders need more real experience with diversity, not the
theoretical or hypothetical kind.

Julia Middleton
Chief executive, Common Purpose

Pay more mind to getting the right fit

I completely understand Jane Robson’s letter about the war for talent (30
September 2003).

It drew my eye initially as I had worked for an investment bank that was
using the same slogan to train internal staff.

It is nice to see that someone is thinking more about the right ‘fit’ in a
public sector organisation.

I was thrilled to land an investment bank on my CV and thought it would be
my last move. But the organisation merged not long after I joined, and I found
I didn’t ‘fit’ anymore. I felt lost.

I was subsequently made redundant, and now I feel that people who don’t fit
are expendable. The powers that be wait, watch you flounder, tell you it isn’t
working out and let you go, leaving you feeling that it was all your fault.

I’m glad to see this problem is now being addressed, so others won’t have to
go through the same experience.

Details supplied

Directors must face up to responsibilities

I want to convey my personal feelings and probably those of thousands of HR
staff around the world.

Employees are often treated like robots with no personal lives or efficiency
limits. The fault lies neither with the employee, their GP, their line manger
or the HR department, but with the directors and boards that make the decision
to line their own pockets instead of investing in people and ensuring
sufficient staffing budgets.

Despite our best efforts, HR staff unfortunate enough to work in
organisations where human resources take second place to operations face a
constant battle against the top dogs, who often think they can close the purse
strings as tightly as they wish without any consequences. But the result is low
morale and high absenteeism – the responsibility for which is always assumed by
the HR department.

Suggestions of holistic remedies, referrals to occupational health
specialists and gradual integration back into the workplace after periods of
absence, are only possible if the HR function is given the adequate resources
(man, money and minutes) to facilitate such methods.

In my opinion, our directors and boards need to stop concentrating on which
yacht to buy this year, and start considering the thousands of individuals they
may be responsible for instead.

Details supplied

Variation is the key to stress reduction

I work as a personnel officer and deal with a fair number of factory
workers. I fully understand the comments of Mary Louise Brown (Letters, 16
September), and agree that a repetitive position can easily result in stress.

However, counting the sicknotes should be looked at more closely. If we did
not keep a record of the sickness levels within an organisation, we would not
be able to properly manage absenteeism or monitor workplace issues.

In my company, we used to have problems with sicknotes related to stress,
but when I started to look beyond them, I discovered that it is better to delve
into what makes a difference.

We introduced job rotation and enjoyable training days. The latter included
factory workers, office staff and management. Since then, we have hardly seen a
sicknote for stress in the past two years.

I may be wrong, but I was under the impression that only a clinical
psychologist could correctly diagnose stress?

Christopher Manson
Personnel officer, Shetland Catch

Strategic investment is needed in training

I read with interest your article on the skills managers are missing today
(23 September 2003).

It would seem that the majority of organisations still don’t have strategic
training programmes in place, resulting in vital skills gaps being ignored and
productivity and employee motivation levels dropping.

Our recent survey found that only one in five workers are actually trained
in the specific skills they need to carry out their current jobs effectively. A
worrying read.

If companies want to meet business goals and remain competitive, they must
start investing strategically in training – ensuring long-term business
success, and not just short-term satisfaction.

Laura Kelly
International marketing communications manager, NETg

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