HR Information

Why payroll accuracy is vital for business success

Payroll inaccuracies can not only have a hugely negative impact on staff productivity, but they can also cause significant damage to a company's reputation.

A new report published by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills showed firms that fail to pay their workers the correct amount can see their trade plummet.

Although the study was centred around organisations that pay National Minimum Wage – which is not something that will affect skilled professionals looking for high-end pharmaceutical jobs – it still gave an interesting insight into the importance of reliable payroll processes.

HR departments have a lot of challenges to overcome at the moment.

Skills shortages have made it even more important that companies keep hold of their most talented professionals, so HR specialists need to ensure levels of employee engagement are high.

Workers are sure to be upset if their remuneration packages are not what they are expecting and the government report suggested it can be difficult to keep them focused and motivated in such cases.

In fact, eight out of ten workers admitted they would not work as hard if they felt their employer had been undercutting them. Additionally, the study revealed that 90 per cent of people would begin to resent their firm if they had not been paid what they thought to be a fair amount. 

Employment relations minister Jo Swinson insisted that employers cannot afford to bury their heads in the sand when it comes to payroll issues.

Commenting on the report, Ken Deary, managing director of national care home provider Right At Home UK, reiterated the point that HR departments cannot allow themselves to become complacent.

"If you run a business, there is a lot to get your head around. Payroll in particular can be confusing. Despite that, ensuring that your employees are being paid correctly should be at the top of your priority list," he remarked. 

"Employers who pay correctly enjoy better local and industry reputation and more motivated, hardworking staff."


Scientists investigate drinking water microbes

Scientists in the US have been conducting studies that they hope will help them find ways to target four potentially deadly pathogens that exist in drinking water.

The team – based at Virginia Tech – used new cutting-edge laboratory equipment to see how many dangerous microbes exist in the tap water used in houses and hospitals.

They were particularly keen to focus on Legionella – which causes Legionnaires' disease, Mycobacterium avium complex and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The latter is the leading cause of hospital infections and is a big concern for people with weaker immune systems.

Documenting their findings in the American Chemical Society journal, Environmental Science and Technology, the researchers stated their main intention was to discover if harmless microbes could be used to combat these pathogens.

Amy Pruden, a professor of civil and environmental engineering, explained the importance of these latest studies.

"We have new tools – the next generation DNA-sequencing tools, which have just come online in the last five years," she remarked. 

"They are providing unprecedented information about microbes in all sorts of environments, including 'clean' drinking water. These tools have really surprised us by showing us the numbers and diversity of microbes. There can be thousands of different species of bacteria in a household water supply."

Ms Pruden said these harmful bacteria are "opportunistic" and we need to improve our understanding of these microbes if we are to stand a chance of fighting water-borne diseases. 

She added that attempts to disinfect plumbing systems could be killing harmless, potentially helpful microbes.

Earlier this year, researchers at the University of Sheffield in the UK conducted similar experiments that showed high levels of "harmless" bacteria can also be problematic. 

Although these do not cause people to fall ill, they can sometimes provide an environment for other more dangerous microbes to develop.

Leader of the studies Professor Catherine Biggs said the DNA testing being developed in Sheffield could provide a faster and more advanced system for water companies looking to treat their supplies in the future.

HR Information

Talented professionals are becoming upwardly mobile

HR departments have been warned they must pull out all the stops if their companies are to keep hold of their top talent.

A new study led by the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD) showed many workers across all sectors are getting itchy feet in their current role. The number of people said to be looking for a new job has reached its highest point since spring 2011.

Around 24 per cent of private sector employees are actively seeking alternative employment, while 23 per cent of public sector workers are also looking to move elsewhere.

The recent improvement in the economy appears to have given people fresh impetus to move up the career ladder, as concerns over job security seem to have subsided. 

Research advisor at the CIPD Claire McCartney said: "Talent is on the move again. This should also signal a warning to employers to up their game when it comes to retaining key talent – if they aren't monitoring their employees' progression and providing opportunities to talk about career development, they may well risk losing some of their most talented workers."

Ms McCartney stressed how important it is for workers to feel valued, as 62 per cent of those who are looking for a new job said they are unhappy in their current position.

Around 45 per cent of jobseekers also believe they are put under too much pressure at the moment, while one in four people revealed they have never had a performance review. 

Job hunters appear to have a little more bargaining power than in previous years and companies that fail to provide flexible working arrangements and other perks will find it much tougher to attract and retain the very best employees. 

Last month, a study by the CIPD and Simplyhealth showed that more companies are starting to introduce remote working options for their staff. 

Approximately 70 per cent of those that have taken this approach in recent months confirmed it has already had a positive impact on employee engagement and motivation. 

Lab Technology

Can ‘good cholesterol’ be made in laboratories?

Scientists in the US believe that new technology could be used to develop "good cholesterol" in laboratories in the coming years.

The American Chemical Society said this could then potentially be used to deliver drugs around the body or for medical imaging purposes.

Published in the journal ACS Nano, the report focused on the high-density lipoprotein (HDL) mimic, which can be made in sizeable quantities.

It is a natural nanoparticle that carries cholesterol through the body, taking it to the liver to be broken down.

Rather than being a marker for cardiovascular disease, the scientists think it could instead become a therapeutic agent that can target conditions such as atherosclerosis – which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

The team utilised microfluidics technology – which was used in the creation of inkjet printers – to make µHDL. This, the researchers believe, acts like HDL, but in a far more efficient manner.

In a press statement, the American Chemical Society said: "HDL is complex and comes in many varieties. It takes several labour-intensive steps to get a uniform collection of these particles with current methods, which aren't easily scaled up for clinical applications.

"That's why [researchers] Zahi Fayad and Robert Langer's groups devised a new and improved method for making HDL-like particles."

Heart disease is still the UK's biggest killer, with the NHS estimating that 82,000 people die from coronary conditions every year. This underlines just how important it is for scientists to research and develop new treatments that could significantly reduce these figures.

Overall, around 2.7 million people in Britain are living with coronary heart disease (CHD) and two million are also affected by angina – the most common symptom of CHD. Approximately one in five men and one in eight women die from the disease.

It is not known at this stage if and when the cholesterol studies will lead to new treatments, but it is clear the demand for more targeted therapies is very high.