Related posts:No related photos. Comments are closed. TheGovernment is failing to promote its code on age diversity and employers havenot got the message yet about introducing policies to recruit and retain anolder workforce. Karen Higginbottom reports on the wide-ranging calls forgreater effortsThecode of practice on age diversity is failing to have an impact on ageism in theUK workforce two years after its introduction.Twopieces of recent research, one by the Government itself, suggests that manylarge employers haven’t even heard of the code – the Government’s code ofpractice on Age Diversity in Employment. While some cannot see the urgency ofadopting the code – age discrimination legislation does not come into forceuntil 2006 – others simply do not know anything about the code.Areport by IRS Management Review and the Employers Forum on Age shows that onlyone in four employers has adopted the code.Italso claims that only half of the 105 large organisations which responded haveput in place, or are planning to implement, policies and practices specificallyaimed at recruiting and retaining older workers. These organisations employ1.25 million staff. Thereport claims that the Government has failed to communicate the businessimplications of demographic change.ManyHR professionals agree. As Juris Grinbergs, HR director of Littlewoods,commented, “I haven’t seen a massive amount of activity from theGovernment.”Thereis a strong business case for the Government to promote the code harder.RayBaker, employment and diversity controller for B&Q, who is also on themanagement board of the Employers Forum on Age, is unsurprised by theresearch’s findings. He said, “These results go to the heart of theguidelines for most companies. Unless employers start understanding the businessbenefits of older workers a lot of companies will continue as they are.”Bakerargues that while legislation won’t be in place until 2006, employers shouldact now because of skill shortages and an already ageing population. Thedemographics support his argument. There are 18.9 million people aged 50 andover in the UK, representing 40 per cent of the UK workforce.Eventhe Government’s own research is critical. A report by the employment selectcommittee claims that only 37 per cent of employers are aware of the code. Itsays the code has been insufficiently publicised and raised doubts as towhether it would prove effective in changing company policy. It also suggeststhere is a problem with HR managers effectively disseminating information aboutthe code within organisations.Employmentand equal opportunities minister Margaret Hodge admitted to the selectcommittee on education and employment that more work needed to be done to speedup employers’ rate of changing practices on age discrimination.Hodgeremains defiant over the Government’s commitment to combating discrimination,however. She said, “The demographic changes that will occur within thelabour market mean the economy will not survive without using the talents andexperience of older workers.” In its defence, the Government points to itsnew age-positive campaign which it launched two weeks ago, in partnership withthe CIPD.TheCIPD is sending out mail-shots to its members to highlight the benefits ofemploying a diverse age workforce. But few believe that it is enough. Bakerbelieves the Government hasn’t pushed hard enough to communicate the advantagesof a mixed age workforce. He recommends the Government gets chief executives onboard to raise awareness of the issues.Grinbergsargues that the Government has to go beyond piecemeal initiatives. “Agediversity policies have to become part of the mainstream employmentpolicy,” he said.Theeconomic benefits of an older workforce are clear. Research by the EmployersForum on Age shows that two- thirds of employers believe the most importantcharacteristic that older workers bring to their workplace is their experience,followed by commitment and customer handling skills.”Olderworkers are more financially secure and less likely to job hop. This often leadsto a more stable workforce,” said Grinbergs. Littlewoods employs asubstantial number of older workers among its 27,000 workforce, he claims.Theresearch also shows that while two-thirds of employers monitor the age profileof their workforce, few are examining recruitment and training decisions forage bias.Bakersaid, “Employers have to design their recruitment and training policies tocheck for age bias. Some employers have race, disability, age and gender builtinto their equal opportunities policy but whether they do anything about it isanother matter.”Theoverriding message from the two surveys of age diversity shows that thevoluntary code of practice has had a negligible impact on employers.Butemployers should be introducing age diversity policies well before 2006.Eversheds lawyer Martin Hopkins claimed at a recent conference, “Agediversity is a critical issue and on which employers must act on now. We areadvising them not to wait for the introduction of legislation.”ManyHR experts believe the Government must grasp this opportunity to highlight thebusiness case for employing older workers as the research indicates thismessage is not getting through to UK employers.SamMercer, campaign director of the Employers Forum on Age, urges the Governmentto learn from its mistakes. She said, “While we believe the code is avaluable document, its failure to make a significant impact reinforces the viewthat more must be done to convince employers of the business benefits of anage-diverse workforce. Anti-ageism code needs a promotional helping handOn 10 Apr 2001 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article
David Taylor offers guidance on putting in place a company e-mail policythat is fair to everybody If some IT leaders are to be believed, to succeed in e-business we have tounderstand the technology, be up to date with the latest acronyms, and scatterthem around like confetti at meetings and in e-mails. That’s absolute rubbish.The Industry Standard discovered that acronyms are not understood by half ofthe people who use them, let alone those who hear them. This is preventing manybusiness and HR leaders from taking the lead in e-initiatives because techiesintimidate them. Don’t let them. An HR director told me that he dare not venture into his IT departmentagain. On his first visit, he asked what Linux was. The explanation wasprovided – however, it was done so in such a jargon-ridden, patronising,”isn’t this all rather too obvious” way that he made a quick exit. Outside the IT department, who needs to know, or care, what Linux is? It isIT’s job to guide HR on the choice of technology. Organisations must focus onwhat the technology does, not what the technology is. As HR leaders, we can set simple principles for e-communications, often justby asking the right questions at the right time, such as: Does our organisation speak in English? A self-defence mechanism of many IT, marketing and finance people is tosuddenly start talking like Bill and Ben. Next time someone uses a strangeword, ask politely what it means. Are we focusing on the business issue here? What is the specific outcome from this e-project. If people focus on thetechnology, ring those warning bells. Ask people in the project team what theyare going to deliver, and don’t accept generalities such as “making surethis company gets to grips with e-business”. Are all e-projects owned by business people, and not techies? There is no such thing as an “IT project” – every project must beowned on behalf of the company, and ideally not by anyone in the IT department.By the way, progressive IT directors agree with this view. Are e-projects clear on bottom-line benefits? Forget the hype and promises. What is the increased revenue, or profit,resulting from each and every e-initiative? Ask the question, “what is thereal, specific and measurable benefit this project will deliver?” Which is more important in this project – technology or people? If it’s people, fine, and it has to be, every time. Every e-business project must be treated like any business project and HRprofessionals can take the lead in many of them to ensure certain goals areachieved. There is nothing unique about e-business projects. They must beapproached with the same focus as any other company project. They must beclearly aligned with goals, and strategy, and everyone involved must know therole they play, and the bigger picture. HR leaders can take on a powerful role, not of ownership and power, but asfacilitators, bringing together the key people, teams and departments. That isthe route to success, and don’t let anyone stop you. E-business, Internet technology and new sexy acronyms may be dominating ourstrategy plans and thoughts for the future, however those involved will stillbe judged on delivery, delivery and delivery. It is time to move above andbeyond technology, and ensure that all of our projects have people, outcomesand plain English at their very heart. After all, if you can’t understand what isgoing on, what chance your customers? Comments are closed. Don’t let IT blind you with scienceOn 9 May 2001 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos.
Comments are closed. “M”asks: When I go for interviews I’m always being told that I don’t have enoughexperience for the post despite the fact that I’ve reached the interview stageon the basis of my CV. How can I show future employers that I do have theknowledge they want? Peter Lewis, consultant at ChiumentoConsulting Group writes: There could be a number of reasons for encountering thisdilemma of getting to interview then being told that you do not have enoughexperience.As you imply,the objective of the CV is to obtain an interview and yours has been successfulin obtaining a fair number. It seems churlish of them to tell you that thisclearly (I hope) outlined experience is not sufficient for the job.Howeverthat is not the whole story. The CV also sets the agenda for the interview, andyours may be raising questions which dwell on negatives, so ensure that your CVis achievement-orientated, pointing out how you have delivered in areasspecific to the position for which you have applied. Conversely, you may be“overselling” yourself on your CV, so that, while it gets you the interview youare not matching the expectations it arouses. Ifthe CV is striking the right balance, and you are being interviewed for jobsfor which your skills and experience equip you, then it is most likely that youare not doing a good job of getting those same skills and experience across.Establish what particular areas of weakness you may have by getting somedetailed post interview feedback. This may require some persistence to getbeyond the accurate but meaningless “there was a strong candidate field and anumber of the other applicants met my client’s full specification more closelythan yourself.”Solidinterview preparation will normally identify the skills and qualities requiredin a role. Reframing your answers to demonstrate real achievements in theseareas will help. A fund of examples of actual situations will enable you todemonstrate insight into their problems and make you more confident in the waythat you answer their questions. You may also find that you have a new insightinto the kinds of problems they are already encountering, together with theirsolutionsRemembertoo that interviews are not just about the question “can you do the job”, theyare also about your willingness to do the job in the longer term and yourpersonality fit. Far too many people approach interviews as if they wereappearing on Mastermind, whereas in fact Blind Date is the moreappropriate TV analogy and a key quality to get over is rapport.MargaretMalpas, joint managing director of Malpas Flexible Learning writes:Itmay help to ask future interviewers for more extensive feedback. Fewemployers actually include applicants on the shortlist who do not match theirperson specification. Could they be giving you this feedback because theyare uncomfortable telling you exactly why you didn’t get the job? Maybeyou need some coaching in interview skills so that you present yourself in thebest possible light? Finally,try to use the interview to display your knowledge. Answer questions morefully – for example, “This is how I would go about ….”. Have you undertaken any training which hasbeen assessed? Taking the results of this along to an interview wouldhelp to prove that you had the relevant knowledge. Related posts:No related photos. My CV gets me an interview, but my experience lets me downOn 26 Jun 2001 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article
Home Office minister Jeff Rooker has responded to Personnel Today’s Refugeesin Employment campaign with a pledge to look again at the official letters torefugees which prove their right to work. The current wording of the letters is off-putting to many employers as itfails to make clear that the job applicant is legally allowed to work in theUK. “We have been working closely with a number of refugee groups and othervoluntary organisations, particularly the Employability Forum, to enhance theway these letters express that refugees have permission to work,” saidLord Rooker in his letter. “We believe this will help ensure that potential employers are clearthat people from this group have no barriers preventing them from takingemployment.” One aim of Personnel Today’s Refugees in Employment campaign is to press thegovernment to introduce a standard permission-to-work document for refugees andasylum-seekers who can work. Patrick Wintour, director of the Employability Forum, welcomed the letterfrom Lord Rooker. “It endorses Personnel Today’s important and highprofile campaign. It recognises the need to use the skills within the refugeecommunity,” he said. Previous Article Next Article Minister makes review pledge over campaignOn 2 Oct 2001 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. Related posts:No related photos.
Related posts:No related photos. Comments are closed. Shortcuts to good ideasOn 1 Mar 2002 in Personnel Today A report from the Industrial Society* claims that creativity – an essentialingredient for business success – is being stifled in the workplace. Thereport’s author Alex McKie says the economic slowdown makes the environment forcreativity even more hostile. Yet she argues that it is easy to nurturecreativity without spending a lot of money. Encouraging better conversations atwork is a good first step, she suggests. “Creative conversation is a simple approach to creativity,” saysMcKie. “It’s easy to do, everyone can do it, it’s cheap to implement, itleads to value, makes life more enjoyable, is flexible and it works with oldand new technology.” So what low-cost, creative ideas can training professionals contribute tohelp their businesses? And how can they fight for budgets and stand theirground in a tight economic climate? Chris GoscombHead of people and organisation development, EasyjetThere are two simple things we can contribute. One is helping peopleunderstand themselves, the company’s values and what’s going on around them sothey know their contributions and ideas are welcome. One of our key values is ‘everybody makes a difference’ and we promote thatfrom the time people join the organisation. The other thing is giving peopletime to think and encouraging them to think effectively, which gives them theopportunity to put ideas in to practice. Respect has to be the cheapest commodity that makes the biggest differencein the world. We use the methodology of a thinking environment, which meanspaying people respect, giving people time to think and paying attention whenpeople are actually thinking. It brings huge dividends. Alex MckieAuthor, Virtual value: Conversations, ideas and the creative economyMany companies organise conferences to encourage relationships. Often themajority of the time is planned but the most valuable time may be when peopleare sitting chatting over a beer or coffee or breakfast. It is the informalconversations where people discover common interests and experiences that aretruly valuable. So why not build in more time to chat? The benefits may be newrelationships and more ideas generated. Kim BirnieDirector of learning, TescoWe have a combined approach where we use in-house knowledge experts todesign and deliver training products. It’s good because then we have the rightline buying into training. Our role as trainers is to shape the training so ithas good methodology behind it. One of the keys to maintaining a budget is making sure that training isvalued in the business. Being able to prove a return on investment in terms ofincreased individual capability, team capability or business capability is agreat challenge to training and development professionals. Helen VandeveldeWriter on the future of workTraining professionals can generate a flow of creative flashpoints throughevents and learning programmes that stimulate debate and challenge acceptedorthodoxies. It doesn’t have to cost any more, just shake up the mix. Trash thetraditional business case study. If you take a case study from an unrelateddiscipline – such as examining how guerilla teams operate – you engage a deepervein of thinking. You end up with a pioneering culture, where your people are committed tocreativity because of the stimulation and enjoyment they derive from it. Janet ReadDynamic resources leader, PrismUsing the knowledge and talents of your own people can be a cost-effectiveway of training. Ask employees if there are topics they’d like to run aworkshop on. You may have to prompt and give categories but it’s surprisingwhat you’ll come up with. Employees are more likely to buy into training delivered by a colleague andat the same time you’re developing people’s presentation skills and boostingtheir confidence. If you have a sister company you can keep costs down byexchanging training expertise and resources. Paul RoddDirector, Barclays UniversityIn cost-cutting times it’s important that training departments are focusedin what they do, and what they do must be, as closely as possible, linked tothe business drivers. Training departments should be in identifying areaswhere, over the shorter term, they can cut costs. If the profit-generating parts of the organisation can see that sort ofgesture, they’re more likely to be receptive to the training department in goodtimes. Training departments shouldn’t wait until they’re asked to cut back onbudgets, they should anticipate opportunities to make cuts and target resourcesto income-generating areas, working side by side with the business. That level of proactivity would dramatically increase the credibility of thetraining function. To access Virtual value: Conversations, ideas and the creative economyvisit www.indsoc.co.uk/futures Previous Article Next Article
Employee recognition tops loyalty factor pollOn 4 Jun 2002 in Personnel Today The top three drivers of workplace loyalty in the UK are employeerecognition, open and honest communication and strong teamwork, according to aManpower international survey. The study also finds that only about half of the 347 UK HR managers polledbelieve their companies’ recruitment and retention strategies are effective increating loyalty. Manpower chairman and CEO Jeffrey Joerres unveiled the survey results lastweek in a keynote session at the WFPMA 9th World Congress in Mexico. The research reveals that almost a quarter of UK HR managers believeemployee loyalty has decreased over the last three years, while 23 per cent whobelieve it increased. Over the next three years, many HR managers take a more optimistic view: 42per cent expect employee loyalty to increase. Only 20 per cent of the 737 UKemployees surveyed expect their loyalty to rise. Joerres warned delegates against adopting a “one size fits all”approach to creating employee loyalty. He said: “You must change your programmes depending on your population.One challenge the HR director has is that they develop one programme and giveit to all employees. You can create ‘saboteurs’ and disloyalty even if you havea good programme for 80 percent of your population.” In discussion on the survey, John Steele, group personnel director for BTplc, said he believes effective line management is crucial to staff loyalty. “The challenge is that line management own these (loyalty) programmes.It’s very important that the line management experience, day to day, is a goodone. It is clear this is a major factor.” By DeeDee Doke Comments are closed. Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos.
Study weighs up value of exercise for knee painsOn 1 Oct 2002 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article Comments are closed. Academics in Nottingham are carrying out a study of up to 400 overweight andobese people to find out if losing weight and exercise will help reduce kneepain. University of Nottingham epidemiologist Dr Ken Muir, who is leading thestudy, has been awarded a grant of £430,000 by the charity Arthritis ResearchCampaign (Arc) to run the trial. The volunteers for the four-year study were recruited last month from GPsurgeries and, if it can be proved weight loss and exercise are beneficial inreducing knee pain, a substantial amount of NHS cash could be saved in kneereplacement surgery and drugs, said arc. Muir said he believed obesity was the main risk factor for developingosteoarthritis of the knee. Between a quarter and a half of all kneeosteoarthritis might be prevented by eliminating obesity, he added. One group will undergo a weight loss programme, with the other given advicefrom an Arc booklet. Half of both groups will be given an exercise programme to strengthen thequadricep muscles in their knees, which will involve stretching, walking up anddownstairs and walking outdoors. They will also be expected to reduce their snacking habits and portion sizesand cut down the fat in their diet. Related posts:No related photos.
Related posts:No related photos. What does Avaya think of this man?On 19 Nov 2002 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. Previous Article Next Article This week Personnel Today puts Mike Young, HR director of Avaya, in the hotseat and asks four fellow directors what they think of his function. Does HR play a strategic role in theboardroom at the global communications network provider? Or, does it justprovide back office, administrative support for its 21,000 staff? Young is confident of his team’scontribution to the bottom line. But Roisin Woolnough finds out if the leadingplayers at the company agreeTanya Steele marketing director for Western Europe What value does HR bring to business?HR understands the totality of business and what every department is doing. Youcan have a detached discussion with HR about your actions because there issomeone who understands the overview of the organisation and has a non-alignedview. What does it bring to your own department and you as a manager?I need HR to look for the bestpossible practical solution to problems – if there are issues around the calibreof your team, for example. People often see these as soft issues but I believethey are crucial. HR needs to be proactive in providing you with feedback as amanager and on how you are running your department. What is its role in the boardroom?It has a strategic role to play atAvaya and is not a back office function. HR people need to be as savvy withbusiness results as the finance director. They have to be involved in thebusiness and have an opinion on it – not just chipping in about employee attritionrates. Have you encountered any problems with HR?I’ve consistently seen issues insales around the commission payments going through on time, plus standardhygiene factors such as paying correctly or getting offer letters to candidateson time. When there are tremendous daily pressures on you as a manager and youhave to intervene on something you view as an HR issue, you can form a negativeimage of the profession. How has HR changed in the past five years?It has moved away from admin. I miss the old-fashioned HR function as thereis more form-filling now which we all hate – but I would not give up theincreased strategic support received as a result. How does it need to change now and in the future?HR needs to do more internalmarketing of the function. It needs to attract new recruits who understand howthe function has changed. If you look at graduate programmes, they work inspecific business functions. Is HR involved in that? If not, it should be. What do you think of outsourcing HR?You need to look at the function andsee which bits can be sensibly outsourced. I would only outsource ‘engineroom-type activities’. On a strategic level, HR must be a part of the business,day to day. Steve Weeks chief operations officer for UK and IrelandWhat value does HR bring tobusiness?I need Mike to help me decide what type of people we need, what talent resourceis available and if need be, where we can afford to take people out of the organisationor retrain them. Its value is in terms of understanding people and where theygo in an organisation, particularly when the economy is suffering.What does it bring to your own department and you as amanager?I need an HR person I can talk throughwork and personal issues, as a confidante. It is good to have open discussions,such as planning your own career – including moving away from the company. Youcan then work together to identify your potential successors.What is its role in the boardroom?HR has to have a view of the whole business to work well on the board. Thefunction needs to be fully in line with where the business is positioned in themarket and the essential drivers. Have you encountered any problemswith HR?Sometimes HR will react on only one source of information, without havingthe full facts. We had a case where it looked like several individuals weresharing confidential company information over the internet. Mike and I wentthrough the case, found out the real situation and issued a warning to just oneperson.How hasHR changed in the past five years?HR used to be very disconnected from what a business was about. As afunction it shuffled paper. HR brought you in and took you out, but it is notlike that anymore: it gives assistance more in tune with the business on aday-to-day basis.How does it need to change now and in the future?HR needs to be accountable to the business. To be really effective on theboard, I would look at having compensation based on business results.Whatdo you think of outsourcing HR?The processing-type activity can always be outsourced – data, recordkeeping, and so on. Other parts, such as internal training and developmentcan’t, because they need to be in line with your business culture.Kirk Locke-Scobiefinance directorfor UK and IrelandWhat value does HR bring tobusiness?The HR function needs to provide a balance between the company view and theemployee view. I would say that balancing the morale of an organisation lies inthe HR court. There are core activities around training and ensuring thebusiness has the right people in the right place at the right time.What does it bring to your own department and you as amanager?One thing is challenging some of thedirectives we’ve been given – such as ‘lose all contractors immediately and nopay rises’. In these situations, board directors, like HR, need to make toughdecisions, but they also need to be able to fight their corner. HR can helpprovide local independence in global companies.What is its role in the boardroom?HR has to work with other boarddirectors in pre-empting what’s around the corner. It is important not toreact, but to predict. It can then provide advice about what the realisticoptions are in the current situation.Have you encountered any problemswith HR?In my last position before Avaya, thecompany was shrinking and I was asked to take a combined role. I agreed, butfor a trial period. HR said no to that and I told them that was the law.Lawyers got involved and HR backed down, but I ended up leaving. I rejected therole partly because of how HR and the company were treating me. Some people,even at senior level HR, obviously didn’t know the law.How has HR changed in the past five years?There is more focus on its cost effectiveness. This comes with separatingout the transactional from the more strategic work. Also, things are becomingmore web-based – requiring smaller HR teams.How does it need to change now andin the future?I have seen situations where HR doesnot have much of a voice, for example when a company is shrinking and it losespeople one minute and has to recruit for the same roles again the next month atgreater cost to the business. That’s very short term and shouldn’t happen. HRpeople should be stronger than to let that happen.What do you think of outsourcing HR?I find the familiarity that key HR people have with the business and peopleimportant when you’re dealing with specific situations and a specific history.I think the transactional stuff can be outsourced because it’s just a process,but not core HR competencies.Clive Sawkins vice-president inthe UK and IrelandWhat value does HR bring tobusiness?It’s about convincing managers that they have to take requests for flexible workingseriously and to accommodate people’s individual needs. By doing this, we getgreater commitment from individuals.Whatdoes it bring to your own department and you as a manager?I have a close management team that knows no boundaries. One of the mostimportant things in my business is my people and Mike acts as an interface withthem.Whatis its role in the boardroom?Mike has done some good work inshaping the organisation for the future, especially in areas of new markets ofacquisition. I also expect him to keep me and the team up-to-date with thelegal issues.Have you encountered any problemswith HR?In previous organisations, HRdictated what you could and couldn’t do, but in Avaya, it is about helping usgrow our business. In other companies HR’s function is more like one ofgatekeeper of the rules, with very little strategy or understanding of thevalue of the investment.How hasHR changed in the past five years?It often had very little strategy. HR is far more proactive now in coming upwith new policies and new ways of attracting and developing new staff. How doesit need to change now and in the future?As the work culture changes, the HRculture has to change too. It needs to be more flexible in terms of contractsfor employees and will need to ensure there are polices in place such aspart-time working and sabbaticals.What doyou think of outsourcing HR?I will always look at ways in which we can improve efficiency and theemployers’ experience, and if by outsourcing HR we could achieve that, then Iwould consider it.About AvayaAvaya designs, builds and managescommunications networks for more than one million businesses around the world,including 90 per cent of the Fortune 500. A world leader in Internet Protocoltelephony systems, communications software applications and services, Avaya isdriving the convergence of voice and data applications across IT networks. The company was formerly the enterprise networks division ofLucent, and was spun off from there in October 2000. Now completely separatefrom Lucent and listed on the New York Stock Exchange, Avaya is a company with21,000 employees around the world – 900 of whom work in the UK and Ireland.The Avaya HR director’s perspectiveMike Young, HR director for the UK, Ireland and Nordic regions”There has been a move away fromadmin and I am not responsible for HR operations [transactional] in Avaya –that area of HR is often outsourced now. I have more of an HR consultancy role,with a focus on performance management and improvement. I drive performance byworking with the executive team and line managers, sitting with the managementteam in all meetings. I am involved in the overall decision-making and am quitecertain I am seen as part of the collective executive team that will deliversuccess.”You have to understand how to apply HR to the businessplanning cycle, what the pressures are and examine market changes andbenchmarking data to ensure we’re competitive. It makes what you say morerelevant.”You need to know what elements of HR are required indifferent parts of the organisation, based on what is planned. Like any otherboard discipline, I think I am increasingly a business person first andfunctional specialist second.”I am really into the mechanics of how people manageothers, pushing hard to get good management skills in place. There has to be abelief in a company that managing people well adds to the bottom line. The HRperson is there to provide some of the tools and techniques to deliver that goodpeople management, I would say I’m an arbiter of HR and employment polices.”
Previous Article Next Article The firefighters dispute over their union’s 40 per cent pay claim is nowentering its third month with little sign of a resolution. Paul Nelson talkedto employers and firefighters on both sides of the picket lineThe employer’s viewHR professionals in the fire service believe it is in desperate need ofmodernisation. They have criticised the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) for refusing to commit toreforms and support the Government for standing firm and linking anyinflation-busting pay rise of more than 4 per cent to modernisation. Anne Smith, HR manager at Warwickshire Fire & Rescue Service, backed thefindings of the independent inquiry into the fire service’s pay and workingpractices led by Sir George Bain. Bain recommends that HR should be mainstreamed to drag the service away fromits militaristic origins to one of a best practice organisation. He calls for shift patterns to be overhauled to incorporate flexible workingin a bid to improve the diversity of the workforce, for retained (part-time)firefighters to work alongside their full-time counterparts, and for theovertime ban to be lifted. Under the recommendations firefighters would also be trained in paramedicskills. Smith described the Bain review as “a fair conclusion of the fireservice today”. She believes it is the perfect opportunity for reform and cites her time asa HR professional in the Police service, when it transformed its work cultureto create a more family-friendly environment, as proof that change isachievable. The FBU has so far refused to co-operate with the Bain review and dismissedall recommendations, especially changes to shift patterns and lifting theunion’s ban on overtime. Smith believes that the union is wrong not to embrace the findings. “The FBU must realise that modernisation may mean changes to the shiftpatterns that it holds so dear,” she said. “Changes are the only wayto increase the diversity of the force. The fire service is still a white,male-dominated arena. To change we must change shift patterns and planresources to best suit the system.” Employers believe the reason the FBU is opposed to changing the‘four-days-on, four-days-off’ shift pattern is because a lot of its members usethe extensive time off to do second jobs. A report published last week claimed local authority employers estimate thatfour out of five of London’s 5,800 firefighters have second jobs, with morethan 500 earning around £150 a day as part-time taxi drivers. One HR professional in the fire service, who refused to be named, saidemployers were aware that a lot of staff have other jobs and that the reasonthe FBU is against changes to shift patterns was because it would make thispractice difficult to continue. David Willingham, personnel manager at Humberside Fire Brigade, agreed:”It is common knowledge that firefighters do have second jobs. The shiftpattern that gives staff four days off is very conducive to that. “If things were changed it would mean shorter shifts and theimplication is that it would encroach on that four-day block of freetime.” Shift pattern changes would introduce local flexibility to rostering andallow HR to use resources more efficiently. Greater Manchester County Fire Service’s personnel manager Peter Brook saidlifting the overtime ban would help to drive down costs. “We have the technology and knowledge to know what each station’s busyand quiet times are, but we do not have flexibility of staff to use that. Theshift pattern changes will introduce a flexibility to the service,” hesaid. www.lg-employers.gov.ukBain recommendations– HR to be mainstreamed– Shift pattern overhauled to include flexible working– Paramedic training for firefighters– Full- and part-time staff to work togetherwww.irfs.org.ukThe firefighters’ viewFirefighters’ worst fears were realised last week when the Governmentannounced that job cuts would be an inevitable part of the modernisationprocess.In a House of Commons speech last week, Deputy Prime MinisterJohn Prescott said the modernisation of the service was the perfect opportunityto trim the workforce.He proposed using ‘natural wastage’ – not replacing the 10,000firefighters due to retire over the next three years – to cut the size of the52,000 workforce by 20 per cent.Andrew Dodgson, firefighter and union representative at SuttonFire Station in Surrey, believes the job cuts would undermine the effectivenessof the service and plans for modernisation.”We are not afraid of modernisation – I have been in theservice for 20 years and it has continued to modernise – but the Governmentwants jobs cuts,” he said.”I am totally opposed to overtime as it will put a freezeon recruitment. The Government will run the service down to 70 per cent of itsworkforce and use overtime to make up the shortfall.” The announcement over possible job cuts appears to havehardened firefighters’ support for the dispute just as their commitment to theunion’s 40 per cent pay claim was wavering.But the 16 per cent offer negotiated between employers and theFBU – involving four pay increases over the next 12 months – that was blockedby John Prescott at the last minute, would be enough to end the dispute. Firefighter Rowan Saunders said he would accept the offer, butwants to see firefighters among the top earners in the public sector withinthree years. “I would say 99 per cent of the workforce thinks that 40per cent is unrealistic,” he said. “If we were offered 16 per cent wewould be straight back to work.”Dodgson agreed: “We would like 40 per cent, but we arerealistic. It is a bargaining tool that we have proved we are prepared to budgefrom.” The firefighters also claimed to support Sir George Bain’srecommendations on modernisation.Keith Perks, sub-officer at the Sutton station, would be happyto accept the report’s recommendations to introduce new shift patterns andovertime – as long as it was voluntary. He also backed paramedic training.”I would not object to changes in working patterns,”he said. “I have two kids – a boy of eight who I miss playing footballevery weekend and a girl who is in a lot of plays that I miss. I would ratherbe at home with the kids.””I would be happy to do paramedic training as long as itdid not replace paramedics as I trained as a firefighter. We would deal withmedical emergencies if we were first on the scene.”Hot off the press: more strikeslikelyAt the time Personnel Today went to press there was no sign of a resolutionto the dispute.The employers and the union had no concrete plans for new talksand neither side appeared optimistic of an early settlement.A spokesman for the Employers’ Organisation for LocalGovernment said: “We are meeting at joint secretarial level to exchangenotes on where we are. We have no proposals to put to the FBU at this stage. “We are working with the Government on the formulation ofa new proposal. We will be inviting the FBU to suspend the next strike to allowfor technical work to continue unimpeded by the dispute.”However, it appeared likely that the second of three plannedeight-day strikes starting tomorrow would go ahead.www.lg-employers.gov.uk No deal as firefighters hold outOn 3 Dec 2002 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. Related posts:No related photos.
Related posts:No related photos. Comments are closed. Blazing the trailOn 1 Jul 2003 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article The Occupational Health Unit of South Wales Fire Serviceinitiated a six-week course of psycho-education to raise awareness of stresstriggers in the course of firemen’s everyday work. It helped attendees identifynormal level of stress, by Lyndon Davies The management and prevention of occupational stress and caring for thepsychological well being of staff is a major challenge facing occupationalhealth professionals. Employers have a legal, economic and ethical responsibility to manage healthand safety in the workplace and relevant legislation includes the Health andSafety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at WorkRegulations 1999.1,2 Work stress in ageing police officers and A Study of stress and support inthe Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service are two studies that have identifiedthat the potential causes of stress in emergency services result from acombination of organisational, operational and external (personal)stressors.3,4 However, Stress in the Service: who does it affect? suggeststhere is evidence that firefighters do not suffer from occupational stress tothe extent one might think due to inbuilt factors that affect their resilience.5During the financial year 2001-2002, data collected at the OccupationalHealth Unit of South Wales Fire Service demonstrated that 21 per cent of allappointments were devoted to stress and psychological-related consultations. The Brigade introduced a series of innovative stress initiatives, whichincluded a partnership with a NHS Department of Liaison Psychiatry in order torespond to the psychological needs of staff. Through this partnership, the Brigade has been able to implement a stresscontrol course (Stresspac), developed by J White in 2000, Treating Anxiety andStress, following a series of studies.6 White provides eight years of follow-updata on Stresspac’s effectiveness in treating stress and anxiety disorders in aclinical psychology setting.7,8,9,10 The stress control course The six-week course, totalling 12 hours of psycho-education is based uponthe model explained by White, who states that, “Stresspac is a didactic,cognitive behavioural group therapy approach to anxiety disorders. It is arobust six-session ‘evening class’ designed for either small or large-groupformat.” The main aim of the course is to “turn individuals intotheir own therapist”. The course attempts to achieve a compromise between best practice and bestvalue in providing training to a large number of people. It relies heavily onthe written material accompanying the course and issues a comprehensive manual.It encourages students to recognise patterns of distorted thinking anddysfunctional behaviour that may contribute to a state of stress. It introducestechniques that will provide the student with a toolkit to achieve their ownstress control. See the course model shown below. The course is advertised throughout the organisation and students areencouraged to self-refer to develop their ability to manage stress now or inthe future. Students are discouraged from self-disclosure about their ownproblems. Brief outline of sessions Introduction and information aims to provide the framework for thesubsequent sessions. By offering easily understood, personally relevantinformation, employees can begin to understand their problems more readily,making them more open to change. Controlling your body aims to educate employees about the physical effectsof anxiety, to provide a rationale for the use of progressive muscularrelaxation, breathing retraining and aerobic exercise. Controlling your actions aims to educate employees about the effects ofanxiety on behaviour and behaviour on anxiety. It provides a rationale for theuse of exposure therapy where avoidance is a problem and other behaviouraltechniques within a cognitive behavioural framework. Controlling your panic and sleep problems aims to educate employees aboutthe nature of panic and insomnia and how to assess and control them. Thetreatment uses stimulus control techniques along with sleep hygiene advice andthe cognitive and relaxation approaches previously learned on the course. Controlling your depression and the future aims to educate about the natureof depression and how to assess and control it. It revisits key elements fromprevious weeks during this session, tying the whole course together.Participants should now feel they have the ability to continue assessing andcontrolling their own problems. However, it is recognised that in somesituations additional contact with a therapist will be required. The extent of stress as a problem in the sample group It emerged that 42 per cent of the group did not feel they were sufferingfrom the harmful effects of stress, whereas 58 per cent felt that stress wasnegatively affecting their health. Twenty-nine per cent believed their stress was purely work-related, 4 percent that their stress was purely non work-related (personal problems) and 25per cent felt their stress was caused through a combination of both work andnon-work related factors. Of students who returned the qualitative assessment questionnaire, 57 percent did not regard themselves as suffering from any of the psychologicalconditions listed – for example, depression, panic disorder, fear or phobia orother. Although 42.9 per cent of the sample perceived they were suffering fromdepression and/or panic disorder, only 17 per cent had been diagnosed and werebeing treated for their condition with medication under the supervision oftheir GP. This may support theories that an individual’s perception plays amajor role in stress.6,11,12,13 There is a perception among these individuals that they are depressed,although there is no evidence of clinical confirmation of this. Student opinions in relation to the course Students were asked to provide a series of opinions on a scale of 1-10 (1being no benefit and 10 being of most benefit). Students gave a favourable score of 7.6 that Stresspac had helped andbenefited them. Students provided similar opinions on the value and usefulnessof each session on a scale of 1-10. The general opinion seen in Table 1 demonstrates that students favour thecourse and believed it to be beneficial. It appears that the most usefulsessions were weeks 2 and 3, with all other sessions displaying a mean studentopinion score of 6.5. The author believes the likely explanation for this pattern is that weeks 2and 3 are probably the most applicable to the majority of individuals whorelate to stress. Students are taught relaxation and thought-challengingtechniques that are easily adaptable to general stress and anxiety. Subsequentsessions on controlling actions, panic, insomnia and depression may not beapplicable to all students at this stage. It was established that only 14.3 percent admitted to suffering from depression and panic attacks. Students were then asked three questions to provide the author with theiropinions on how applicable was the course in relation to their own personalstress. Examples of student comments include: – “I found it useful to address my reaction to stress. I now understandmuch more about stress/depression and how to help myself on any bad days”.– “I have a more confident feel to my life. I find it easier to cope. Istill slip back occasionally but I bounce back quicker”. – “I was suffering from crippling anxiety prior to the course and now Ifeel normal. Stresspac is a toolbox which helps sufferers to control thesituation – but it takes time and effort to learn how best to use thetools”. Similar comments were echoed in other responses, reinforcing the view thatthat the course is well received by students. They were then asked to givetheir opinion on a scale of 1-10 (1 = no stress, 10 = high stress) on theirstress level pre-Stresspac, compared to that on the three-month follow-up.Examples of comments include: – “I found Stresspac very beneficial. The techniques were easy tofollow as well as being easy to implement.” – “I thought challenging and breathing control has enabled me to facesituations previously I would have avoided. Most people suffer some degree ofstress in everyday life. Explaining what it is and how to cope, and thepitfalls could help someone avoid falling too far.” Many commented that they obtained comforting reassurance and peer supportfrom attending with other colleagues. It would appear that individuals realised ‘they are not alone’ in theirstress and many of the reactions experienced are ‘normal’ symptoms of stressthat can be controlled. Large mixed groups are advantageous in assisting individuals to normalisesymptoms and change their negative perceptions surrounding stress. Mixed groups will also contribute to the acceptance and understanding ofstress in a ‘macho cultured’ organisation such as the Fire Service. Manyexpressed views, for example: “It was a wonderful relief that I was notalone in my distress”, reinforcing this point. Individuals who attended complaining of insomnia prior to the course,reported improvements in their sleep patterns by the three-month follow-upstage. Those who did not particularly suffer from stress reactions commentedthey had found the problem-solving techniques and coping strategies useful inhelping them organise busy days, preventing potential stress reactions. Although not elaborated upon in this article, statistically significantevidence was obtained from clinical measures completed under the supervision ofthe nurse therapist pre–course and repeated post-course and on three monthsfollow-up. Highly significant improvements were seen in the Beck DepressionInventory II,14 A Users Guide to the General Health Questionnaire,15 and Lifeand Social Adjustments Scale.16 Conclusion These results support the view that the self-help cognitive-behaviouralpackage is significantly effective in assisting staff to manage and controltheir general stress and anxiety and that students continue to see benefits atthe three-month follow-up stage, suggesting that the course is beneficial inpreventing relapse. Implementation of Stresspac as an evening class allows many staff to attendfrom various disciplines within the Brigade. This has a normalising effect, asstress affects many individuals in many ways and at different times of theirlives. The social aspect of the course encourages effective peer support and networkingamong staff. Data obtained so far demonstrates the course has been helpful in reducinganxiety, depression and general health concerns in the majority of individuals.The qualitative data is favourable, producing many examples of positive commentsthat the course was relevant and useful. The course continues to run and it is hoped it will receive a highself-referral rate among staff. It has certainly proved itself to be anexciting, popular and innovative stress control/prevention initiative withinSouth Wales Fire Service. The author believes that as more data becomes available, the credibility ofthe course will be further reinforced and it will benefit greater numbers ofBrigade employees, increasing attendance, efficiency, psychological andphysical wellbeing, morale and ultimately reducing unhelpful stress andanxiety. Lyndon Davies, RGN, BSc (Hons), is the occupational health nurse for theSouth Wales Fire Service. References 1. Health and Safety Executive, A guide to the health and safety at work etcAct 1974: Guidance on the act, HMSO, London, 1990 2.Health and Safety Executive, Management of health and safety at workregulations 1999: Approved code of practice and guidance. HSE Books, Sudbury,2000 3. Gershon RRM, Lin S, Li X, Work stress in ageing police officers. TheJournal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine. 44(2): 160-167, 2002 4. McLeod J, Cooper D, A study of stress and support in the StaffordshireFire and Rescue Service. Staffordshire: Centre for Counselling Studies, 1992 5. Durkin J, Stress in the Service: Who does it affect? Fire. Sept: 52-53,2001 6. White, J, Treating Anxiety and Stress. Chichester: Wiley, 2000 7. White J, Stress Control large group therapy for generalized anxietydisorder: two year follow up. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy. 26:237-245, 1998 8. White J, Stresspac: A three-year follow up of a controlled trial of aself-help package for anxiety disorders. Behavioural and CognitivePsychotherapy. 26: 133-141, 1998 9. White J, Keenan M, Stress Control: A pilot study of large group therapyfor generalised anxiety disorder. Behavioural Psychotherapy. 18: 143-146, 1990 10. White J, Keenan M, Stress Control: A controlled comparativeinvestigation of large group therapy for generalised anxiety disorder.Behavioural Psychotherapy. 20: 97-114, 1992 11. Ellis, P, Surveying for Stress. The RoSPA Occupational Safety &Health Journal. Nov 31 (11): 38-42, 2001 12. Lazarus R S, The stress and coping paradigm. In Eisdorfer C, Cohen D,Kleinman A, Maxim P (Eds). Models for Clinical Psychopathology. New York:Spectrum, 1981 13. Fingret, A, Stress at Work, The Practitioner. 229: 547-55, 1985 14. Beck A T, Steer R A, Brown G K, Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II).The Psychological Corporation, US, 1996 15. Goldberg D, Williams P, A Users Guide to the General HealthQuestionnaire. NFER-Nelson, Windsor, UK, 1988 16. Marks I M, 1986, Behavioural Psychotherapy: Maudsley pocket book ofclinical management, Wright, Bristol