This week’s letters

Let line managers turn spotlight on HR

Congratulations to Personnel Today for producing such a comprehensive and
professional survey of UK line managers’ skills and capabilities (News, 13
May). It is hugely encouraging that we can see so many opportunities for
development and improvement in an already strong economy.

Why not complete the loop and ask line managers what they think of the HR
profession? Where is it that we could improve? How good a job are HR managers
(and the CIPD) really doing for UK plc?

If you dare…

Jerry Hayter
Managing partner, Xecutive Search

HR strategy could wither on the vine

Your time bomb feature (13 May) on mediocre managers is more worrying than
some may realise.

Line managers will be one of the main springboards when the economy turns
around. If management mediocrity is endemic, there is no more challenging a
role for HR.

Forward-thinking organisations put real effort into developing the
capability of their management cadre, creating the right bench strength, and
getting rid of weak managers. They instinctively know this will help to release
the energy of the organisation. However, the majority are ignoring the
deafening wake-up calls – such as your survey.

The popular solution to problems caused by managerial ineffectiveness is to
change structures and roles. Not surprisingly, the problems resurface once the
noise of moving deckchairs has died down.

Calculating the real costs of these manoeuvres would cause deep stress in
any boardroom.

The issue is not one of budgets, in our experience – it is what the money is
spent on. So much of what goes under the ‘management development’ banner is
little more than surface-scratching the real development needs of line

The most carefully crafted HR strategy will wither on the vine of line
managers who do not have the skills and capabilities to engage with and
motivate their people.

Monitoring line manager performance formally, reviewing the spend on all
training and putting current and future leadership development on the boardroom
table are all good starting points for HR directors who plan to take this

Neil Paterson
Divisional general manager, Hay Group

Lack of manager skills is no surprise

I am not at all surprised by the results of your research, which shows line
managers lack crucial managerial skills (News, 13 May).

Too often, businesses promote individuals without providing them with
adequate training and development to help them adapt to their new position
quickly and easily.

In working their way up the corporate ladder, people with real potential may
find themselves moving into a managerial position for which their previous role
has not provided them with the relevant skills: leadership, communication and
people management, for example.

These skills scored disturbingly low on your survey. Without training in
such areas, businesses are at serious risk of losing out to other more
forward-thinking competitors.

Karina Ward
Marketing communications manager, NETg

The childless end up carrying the can

Yes, Yes, Yes to Stephen Overell’s article about discrimination against the
childless at work (13 May).

As an HR manager, I have felt the wrath of staff left carrying the can for
their absent pregnant/maternity-bound colleagues and for mothers and fathers
who take parental leave and demand flexibility because of their offspring.

As a parent in my 30s, I feel that children are the responsibility of the
parents, not the employer, the education system or social services. It is an
old-fashioned view, perhaps, but whatever happened to people taking
responsibility for their own lives? No wonder the childless are resentful.

Not only do they pay the price at work, they also subsidise the childbearing
activities of others through their taxes and National Insurance.

Only last week I had to take a lady through her entitlement to maternity
leave, but was astounded when I checked the regulations to discover I could not
compel her to tell us whether she wanted to take additional maternity leave.

How can employers (particularly small ones) run a business when they cannot
even ask when the person will be back for the purposes of covering their leave?

Ruth Gilmour
HR manager, Kingstown Furniture

EEF shows support for negligence penalty

I hate to disappoint the TUC (‘Employers must stop whingeing’, Letters, 13
May), but the Engineering Employers’ Federation (EEF) agrees that employers who
are found negligent on health and safety should be made to pay.

Where we seem to disagree is on the view that all employers should be
penalised for the actions of the worst.

This is exactly what the Government’s current proposals to recover NHS costs
in compensated workplace accidents will achieve. While it is proposed that the
insurance system foots the bill, the costs will simply be spread among the
insured. Employers who take positive action will be subsidising those that do
not, or are negligent.

The EEF’s motives in leading the campaign for reform of employers’ liability
insurance are far from ‘delivering instant savings’. All those involved in the
Government’s review of the system recognise that cost increases are inevitable.
What we are seeking is best value for all concerned under a reformed system –
one that delivers fair compensation, with rehabilitation at its core and where
premiums accurately reflect risk.

To add more cost to the failing employers’ liability system is simply a
demonstration of the Government’s failure to act in a joined-up way.

Employers who do face up to their health and safety responsibilities would
much prefer to pay the true cost of health and safety rather than continue
paying the penalty for the negligent few.

Martin Temple
Director General, EEF

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