Mental health - we all have it. So why don’t we talk about it?

Time to Talk Day on Thursday 5 February 2015 is a chance for everyone to break the silence by having a 5-minute conversation about mental health. Hundreds of individuals and organisations including Barclays, HSBC, Air France & KLM, BT, Post Office, Devon & Cornwall Police and Network Rail have signed up to take part in Time to Talk Day by organising activities in local communities and in their workplaces.

Achieving gender equality in the workplace

The arrival of 2015 marks a milestone for women in business. Back in 2011, The Women on Boards Report, led by Lord Davies, recommended that FTSE 100 boards should comprise at least 25% women. So how close are we to achieving that goal; and what are the key issues affecting the gender debate?

Top 10 tips to protect yourself from employees’ (mis)use of social media

The use of social media at work is common and is often encouraged within many organisations. Your employees’ use of social media can however seriously damage your business. A click of an employee’s mouse could result in your company facing claims for potential breaches of customer confidentiality or damage to its reputation. Cyber bullying claims from individual employees against the company are also becoming more common. 

Time to improve the financial literacy of your staff?

The overwhelming majority of employers (96%) think that the new pensions flexibility creates a need for more financial education in the workplace, according to our recent survey of employee benefits. Typically only a small percentage of employees have been educated in financial matters in the past, and yet they are expected to be knowledgeable about their benefits. In my experience, companies assume their employees are able to make decisions around their benefits, but it is a big assumption and all decisions impact upon their general financial wellbeing. 

Productively lazy?

You could be forgiven for thinking that we in the UK are a lazy bunch. The bank-run on Northern Rock in 2007 heralded the start of the ‘Great Recession’ and since then labour productivity in the UK has been remarkably weak. Whole economy output per hour stands some 16% below the pre-crisis trend and productivity is still some 4% below its pre-crisis peak, according to the Bank of England. For a trading nation we should be alarmed that output per hour worked is 30% higher in the US and 29% greater in Germany. Moreover, although there is a lot written about the challenging economic conditions in France, it is still 28% better than the UK.

How HR can raise its strategic voice

There’s never been a better time to be an HR leader. At most organisations, HR leaders have gained a strategic voice on what needs to be done from a talent perspective to drive business growth and success, and business leaders are eager to gain this insight. But HR’s strategic voice is heard, and impacts the business, only in fits and starts.

Is your performance management system supporting or undermining an ethical culture?

The sale of PPI is an example of how target setting can create perverse incentives so that staff focus only on achieving results and don’t stop to think whether what they are doing is right. According to the Financial Conduct Authority, sales staff at Lloyds Banking Group were put under pressure to hit targets in order to get bonuses or avoid being demoted. This led to PPI policies being sold inappropriately. ‘Financial incentive schemes are an important indicator of what management values and a key influence on the culture of the organisation’, the FCA commented. The ‘ends’ did not justify the ‘means’. So far, banks have earmarked over £22bn to compensate the people wrongly sold PPI. Many companies suffer from cultures that put so much emphasis on profit that employees feel obligated to put short-term gain ahead of other considerations, such as ethical behaviour. The result can be catastrophic, both in terms of reputation and financial risk. 

Managing cancer in the workplace

There are currently more than three-quarters of a million people of working age living with cancer and a further half a million caring for someone with the disease while also juggling work. As the number of people living with cancer is set to double from two to four million by 2030, cancer is no longer just a healthcare issue, but a significant concern in the workplace.

HR should be getting first dibs on NIC savings

With the government announcing that it would help employers and young people out by offering a National Insurance contributions (NIC) tax break to any firm employing under-21s, now is the time for HR departments to make the case for a budget increase. 

Top 10 things I’d do if I were an HR Director

I was a client and internal key L&D stakeholder for many years before becoming a supplier, so it’s an interesting exercise to pull this list together. I hope it offers you a fresh and different perspective.

Why bother with two-stage settlement agreements?

It’s become increasingly common for employers to use two-stage settlement agreements where there is a material gap between the employee signing up to severance terms and the eventual termination of the employee’s employment, e.g. after a period of garden leave or the employee dealing with handover of work for a significant period. 

Relentless curiosity - the business culture of the future

The CEO of the company stood on the stage in front of the senior leaders of the business. It was a lovely venue; the chairs were arranged in neat rows, coffee had just been served in the atrium and the agenda was on schedule. ‘We need to innovate’, the CEO said, ‘We need to do things differently. Things have to change. We need to embrace new ideas, new ways of working’. It’s hard to take such comments seriously when the environment in which they are being said is the same old conference environment. In the same way, if the structure of an organisation remains the same, then the chances are you will get the same old thinking. It would seem that people are struggling to find ways to deliver the increased number of innovations required to stay competitive.

Knowing the (people) score – top tips to make it ten out of ten

Now is the time for engagement surveys in many organisations and therefore that time when an extra push often goes into communicating what has happened across a business since the last time people were asked ‘what do you think and feel about working here’. Strong people managers will also reflect on what more they can be doing to keep engagement levels high and thus constantly ensure their people are bringing the best of themselves to work each day.

Do you have the right culture for effective decision-making?

If you ask someone whether such a culture exists in their workplace, many will say ‘Of course or how else would we get things done around here?’ The truth of the matter is that people may be making decisions but they could be the wrong ones or simply not effective and timely.

Caught on camera –top tips on monitoring staff

The award of £15,920 against Michele Mone’s lingerie firm MJM International for ‘bugging’ an employee raises questions about how far employers can go to check on their workforce using covert cameras and listening devices. 

Discretionary effort – insights from the business of cycling

The security team faced a choice, overtake the hapless cyclist at the back to get behind their man or watch as the gap between the two riders grew. Having an armed security team is not a requirement for many of us when out riding our bikes, but if you are a senior business leader in South America, it’s a way of life. Just a few weeks previous to this, they had extracted a 0.38 calibre bullet from a colleague’s car. The threat to life and limb was very real.

Brain-savvy HR – what’s that all about then?

If you’re reading this blog you must have a bit of interest in neuroscience. It may be no more than a thought that it’s one of those trendy, faddish things that’s caught the imagination of the media: there’s always plenty of coverage, especially in the US, of the latest neuroscience research, from the impact of an approaching spider to why we are dishonest.

Hiring trustworthy directors

We keep hearing in the news about directors whose standards fall below those which were expected of them in their role and what would be expected of them by society in general. How can an organisation minimise the risk of such people emerging?

What did Dave Ulrich ever do for us?

Our latest research on the first 18 years of the Ulrich model has certainly stirred a lot of interest, not least when Dave Ulrich himself waded into the debate. My interest in producing this study was driven by a passion to help HR deliver more commercial value from their people. Models and management theories can provide valuable context and direction to help HR. But when they are delivered blindly without reference to the context in which they operate, they can become dogma.

Employee activism: a HR imperative

Management, HR and communications departments of large companies today are rightfully laser-focused on employee satisfaction and engagement. While employee engagement is undoubtedly central to company success and is the underlying foundation for high-performing companies, we’ve found (see Employees Rising: Seizing the Opportunity in Employee Activism) that only three in 10 employees are deeply engaged with their employers. HR leaders may find this disturbing or unsurprising – or both. In any case, it should be a call to action to improve the employee experience.
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