HR Information

White paper links engagement and wellbeing

A new white paper reveals the business benefits of linking wellbeing to employee engagement, potentially giving HR directors new means of boosting performance levels.

The Evidence: Wellbeing and Employee Engagement, compiled by Engage for Success, finds that engaged employees are more attached to their organisations than those with low levels of wellbeing and the best companies in this regard outperform their competitors.

According to this comprehensive survey of literature on the topic, wellbeing and engagement can form a virtuous circle, whereby increasing levels of one can increase levels of the other.

The evidence suggests that committed and engaged employees deliver higher levels of customer service, boosting outcomes and sales performance.

Engaged employees are likely to be agile and resilient, as well as having fewer health problems. Consequently, they are likely to have a significant effect on business performance, with savings in terms of staff costs, productivity and performance.

Vanessa King, board member at non-profit Action for Happiness and a member of the Engage for Success wellbeing subgroup, said businesses often consider engagement and wellbeing separately and this is why they are not taken seriously, HR Magazine reports.

"Combining them builds a stronger case as they are both really impactful on UK PLC," she said. "The focus [around wellbeing] has tended to be on compliance and cure, not prevention and investment to drive performance. Are we at a tipping point now?"

Engage for success has drawn up a 12-point plan for introducing an engagement and wellbeing programme that can be used by organisations looking to improve their performance in this area.

The organisation says gaining the support of the chief executive officer in order to ensure initiatives get off the ground is a vital first step.

Dedicated teams could be established to deal with the issue, and an action plan drawn up once data has been gathered on engagement and wellbeing.

An effective communications strategy is also recommended, while leaders can act as role models for other employees and may require coaching to ensure they effectively promote engagement and wellbeing. 

HR Information

Confidence in senior leaders ‘at two-year low’

The confidence of employees in senior leaders has reached a two-year low, with many staff believing performance management systems are unfair.

This is according to the latest Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) / Halogen Employee Outlook survey, which recorded the views of over 2,500 employees.

Confidence in senior managers fell by five net percentage points, while trust in senior leaders and perceptions of consultation have fallen by four net percentage points each. This bucks the trend of Employee Outlook surveys, which have previously showed improvements in perceptions of senior managers.

Employees in the public sector have the most negative attitudes towards their senior managers – particularly striking in this instance is the 14 net percentage point decrease in confidence in senior leaders.

Almost a third of those surveyed said they believe performance management systems are unfair, while the same proportion thinks career progression in their organisation is unachievable.
One in five claim managers do not effectively communicate objectives and expectations. 

The CIPD is warning that managers who fail to step up and talk to their employees about development could risk losing valuable talent.

Many employees are on the lookout for new jobs, particularly in the voluntary sector, where 27 per cent of staff are seeking new employment opportunities. This figure is 20 per cent for the public sector and 22 per cent for the private sector.

Donna Ronayne, vice president of marketing and business development at Halogen Software, said: "With employee perceptions of the job market improving organisations need to be proactive about their retention strategies if they want to prevent their best talent from jumping ship. 

"This means ensuring your performance management processes are clear and consistent and used to align employees to the vision of the organisation."

Ms Ronayne added that processes need to be used to improve the relationship between management and employees by enabling managers to identify learning and development needs which will open up opportunities for career progression.

There was some positive news for employers, with employee job satisfaction levels increasing slightly on the spring 2013 figure.

HR Information

Are HR staff ready for flexible working?

Flexible Working Regulations are set to be changed on June 30th 2014 and many HR departments may not be ready for the changes.

After 26 weeks' service, all employees will have the right to request flexible working, the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development reports. 

At present, this right only applies to parents with children under 17 years, or 18 in the case of a disabled child, and certain carers.

Legal experts have said that some of the terms of the new legislation have not yet been fully communicated. It is important that organisations and HR departments are fully up to speed with the details of the reforms.

For example, staff will be restricted to making only one application a year, and employers will still have the right to refuse requests on business grounds.

In addition, a successful application for flexible working will result in a permanent change to an employee's terms and conditions, with no right to revert to their original terms in the future.

Esther Smith, an employment partner at TLT Solicitors, said employers should ensure their internal policies and procedures comply with the new provisions and additional training may be required.

"Whilst employers may be reluctant to advertise the extension of the right to request to the wider workforce, it may also be an opportunity to ensure that the staff know the limitations of the right, and therefore manage their expectations should they submit requests," she added. 

Vinita Arora, employment partner at DLA Piper, said employers will be given more flexibility as a result of the removal of statutory procedures – although there may be some confusion over the process.

In addition, some organisations could face discrimination claims if some requests are not seen as having been treated as fairly as others.

ACAS has issued a guide, called 'Handling requests to work in a reasonable manner', which Ms Smith recommends employers familiarise themselves with in advance of the act's implementation.

HR Information

Skills shortage ‘a major concern for organisations’

A new survey of global organisations by PwC has revealed a skills gap continues to be the main concern of employers looking to boost headcounts.

As the economic upturn continues, many companies are planning to hire more staff over the next 12 months. However, nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) of those surveyed believe they will not be able to find the people with the skills they need to fill vacant positions.

An overwhelming number of business leaders (93 per cent) believe they need to alter their strategy for attracting and retaining the best talent but three in five have made no progress on this goal.

The number of chief executive officers (CEOs) citing skills shortages as the main threat to business growth has risen by five percentage points since 2013, to 63 per cent. The job sector likely to be most affected by the skills shortage is the technology industry.

Michael Rendell, global HR consulting leader at PwC, said life-time careers are now a thing of the past and many businesses are now looking for "chameleon-like employees who apply their skills whenever and wherever they're needed".

"Businesses need to get out of the mindset that new skills equals new people. The most successful organisations will combine recruitment with developing their own people to be more adaptable to its changing plans."

Many organisations are responding to the skills shortage by looking to emerging markets for new talent. Multinational companies have already exploited the graduates and skilled young workers emerging from China and India and are now looking to countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines for new employees.

Companies are also seeking help from governments in order to help address the skills shortage. Two in five CEOs believe creating a skilled workforce should be among the top three government priorities, while half think regulation is harming their ability to attract the best candidates.  

Mr Rendell said CEOs should take advantage of HR analytics to predict the skills they require and plan for changes in supply and demand.

HR Information

Investing in staff health ‘makes business sense’

Employers could access a range of business benefits if they were to increase investment in the wellbeing of their staff.

This is according to a new report from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and Medicash which has demonstrated how improving the health of employees can reduce absences, boost productivity and lead to better levels of engagement.

Recently, the CBI's absence survey found the average annual cost of a member of staff missing work is £975 each and this leads to an overall cost to the UK economy of more than £14 billion per year. 

In addition, the organisation said these figures could be estimated even higher if they were to include the loss of productivity resulting from presenteeism, which is where staff attend work even when they are feeling unwell and unable to perform to their regular standard.

Neil Carberry, the CBI's director for employment and skills, said: "Having healthy staff is an essential part of running a healthy business. Investing in the wellbeing of employees is not only the right thing to do, it has real business benefits.

"It’s time for businesses and government to work hand-in-hand to move from a reactive to proactive approach on health and wellbeing in the workplace. Encouraging investment that gets people back to work sooner, with less of a burden on the NHS, is in everybody’s interest."

The organisation's report into the issue outlines a series of steps employers can take to help improve the health of their employees.

One of the key elements is the development of joined-up health and wellbeing programmes – which are designed to take into account latest public health trends – as well as taking a proactive approach and attempting to influence employee behaviours.

Furthermore, it is recommended managers are provided with the training and support required to handle health conditions and a system is put in place to deal effectively with absences and the subsequent return to work.

As well as encouraging investment and change within businesses, the CBI has also called for the government to support these efforts through the promotion of the new Health and Work Service and the introduction of tax-relief incentives to ensure employers can intervene in health conditions.

HR Information

CIPD: Firms need to invest in skills to drive growth

While the UK labour market continues to experience accelerating growth, companies need to improve investment in skills if they are to boost productivity and secure future solid growth.

This is according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), which has commented on the official employment figures published by the Office for National Statistics yesterday (May 15th).

Although the organisation is encouraged that UK employers added 283,000 new jobs in the first three months of 2014, wages are failing to keep pace with this growth. 

Basic pay rises averaged 2.5 per cent prior to the global financial crisis of 2008 and subsequent recession, but this figure currently stands at just 1.3 per cent.

However, the CIPD warned this situation could well change as the country's economic recovery continues to strengthen and employment levels accelerate. 

The organisation's labour market adviser Gerwyn Davies said: "Skills shortages, currently concentrated in particular sectors and occupations in the domestic labour market, could soon begin to spread to other parts of the labour market putting upward pressure on pay.

"Employers need to be developing existing workers, as well as hiring new ones, if they’re to mitigate this risk and ensure they have the skills to grow."

Several national surveys have demonstrated expectations businesses will increase their investment levels over the course of the year and the CIPD believes employers should be looking to place training at the top of this list of priorities for this spending.

In addition to helping to ensure these companies are in a position to grow and prepared to deal with future demands, the organisation stated this will also be a key factor in boosting the UK's productivity levels and improving pay prospects for employees who have yet to feel the benefits of the economic recovery.

The CIPD warned that if action is not taken, certain sectors of the labour market may overheat, which would further damage production and cause the UK to fall behind in terms of competitiveness in international markets.

HR Information

Survey finds many workers feel under-utilised

A new survey reveals that many workers feel they are being under-utilised by their employers.

The study by Markit shows there is a widespread desire among part-time employees to work for longer periods. Some 40 per cent of the 1,000 households surveyed expressed a desire for more work.

Younger employees in particular have a strong desire for longer hours, with one in five expressing such a preference. This figure falls to 11 per cent in the over-55 age bracket.

Males and public sector workers tend to be more eager for extra work than women and those in the private sector.

One in four workers – particularly those in manufacturing, energy, transport and utilities sectors – believe they are overqualified for their current role.

Public sector workers are more likely to feel they are overqualified than their private sector counterparts, while females are more likely to have this opinion than males.

Some 36 per cent of workers believe their current employers could do more to make use of their abilities. Younger people in particular tend to feel that their skills are being under-utilised.

In addition, some 23 per cent of all employees feel they have too much work to do, compared with 18 per cent who feel they could do more without too much effort. Full-time employees are more likely to feel they are overworked than part-time staff.

Commenting on the survey, Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit, said: "The survey highlights a worrying waste of talent, with just over one-in-three employees feeling their employer could make more use of their skills and abilities. 

"This hits 47 per cent in the 18-24 age bracket, and tops out at 48 per cent in the North East. More than one in every four employees feels overqualified."

He went on to say there is evidence of a mismatch between the skills and abilities people have and those required by employers, as many companies are struggling to find staff to fill their vacant positions. 

HR Information

Research reveals negative perceptions of STEM subjects

New research has revealed young people are shunning careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects because they view them as "intimidating, boring and male-dominated".

The study highlights the reasons why many people are failing to pursue STEM careers even though 39 per cent of UK firms are struggling to recruit people with these skills. It was conducted by Mondelez International, which manufactures brands such as Cadbury, Oreo and Kenco.

Many people avoid STEM subjects when choosing courses at school and the main reason behind this is that they find them dull – 44 per cent consider them uninteresting. Some 53 per cent consider STEM subjects to be harder than the humanities, while 40 per cent believe they are less fun.

Over two thirds of those surveyed believe only those with the highest IQs are able to work in STEM-related jobs, while 60 per cent believe it is necessary to have a degree to pursue such a career.

The study found that girls are particularly likely to be deterred from taking STEM subjects and jobs – only 49 per cent even consider it. Engineering is particularly unlikely to be chosen by girls.

Many girls (62 per cent) believe STEM jobs are male-dominated due to gender stereotyping, while 43 per cent claim this is due to a lack of female role models in the sector. 

Diane Tomlinson, HR director at Mondelez International, said: "If we do not prioritise these subjects we face being left behind in the global innovation race.

"It's dispiriting to hear that young people are intimidated by STEM subjects as jobs in STEM can be hugely fun, creative and inspiring and companies nowadays offer great career opportunities with training provided in the more technical aspects."

The firm recommends that businesses make contact with schools to inform pupils of the fun and interesting nature of modern STEM careers. Practical workshops could be a key element in such a strategy.

In order to encourage more women into STEM vocations, Mondelez recommends providing support for high-achieving women to inspire young people and combat gender stereotypes.

HR Information

Females ‘looking for jobs in male-dominated sectors’

A new survey has revealed that female graduates are increasingly seeking work in careers that have traditionally been male-dominated.

Research conducted by shows that many women are now looking for work in sectors such as engineering, utilities, and manufacturing and production.

However, the reverse is not true: male graduates are showing no desire to enter careers in traditionally female-dominated sectors; indeed, the tendency for them to do so is decreasing.

The top three career sectors currently favoured by females are secretarial & business administration, charities and language.

As technology becomes more important in everyday life, the dominance of men in the digital media, information technology and computing sectors has fallen from 71.89 percentage points in 2003 to 65.78 percentage points in 2013.

Gerry Wyatt, operations director at, said, "Increasingly, female graduates are looking to work in traditionally male-dominated areas, showing that efforts to combat the gender career divide are working for women."

"Many employers are looking for career-driven women in sectors primarily populated by men, such as banking, engineering, telecoms, IT and sales," he added.

However, he said more should be done to encourage men to seek opportunities in traditionally female-dominated areas. This should include ensuring they have all the available information to hand when considering the range of career opportunities.

Recently, ScienceGrrl, a not-for profit organisation set up to celebrate and support women in science, blamed 'cultural straightjackets' for hampering women's access to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects.

A report produced by the organisation claimed the STEM sector must address the needs and realities of girls and young women. 

More collaboration between STEM stakeholders is needed to bring about change, it said, as there is currently no overarching plan to unify the different initiatives aimed at increasing women's access to STEM subjects.

ScienceGrrl's remarks followed the publication of a survey which revealed a lack of awareness of female STEM role models among the general public, with one in ten people naming male engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel when asked to identify a famous woman from the field.

HR Information

Hierarchies ‘are undermining leadership development’

Rigid organisational hierarchies are acting as a barrier to improving management and leadership skills at work.

This is according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), which has published a new report into the topic, entitled 'Leadership – easier said than done'.

HR staff have a key role to play in addressing this situation, the organisation claims. They can do so by taking steps such as training individual leaders and improving the leadership capacity of the organisation as a whole.

Many employees who do not have formal managerial experience are now expected to "own the organisation's agenda", the CIPD claims.

As part of an approach known as 'distributed leadership', they are expected to "lead from the front" and do the right thing.

Poorly targeted training and restrictive organisational structures are serving to prevent management improvement that would help business growth and productivity, however.

Ksenia Zhelthoukhova, research adviser at the CIPD, said: "The fast-moving pace of change in the world requires a more distributed approach to leadership.

"However, our concern is that rigid organisational systems, characterised by hierarchy, short-term focus, individualism and 'us' and 'them' mentality, stifle the productivity of employees, undermining their ability to lead on the organisational agenda from the front line."

Leadership development in some organisations relies too heavily on developing the capability of individual leaders and managers, the report claims.

Outdated organisational structures and cultures can prevent potential leaders from applying what they've learnt in the training room to their work.

HR personnel can help to improve the situation by exploring the kind of leaders their organisation requires and seeing whether they would be supported by its structure.

Once priority areas have been identified, leadership training and development can be aligned to the requirements of an organisation.

HR can also play a key role by identifying people with the leadership qualities that are necessary to change the status quo. This must go beyond implementing formal processes; it should also encompass understanding where individuals are demonstrating leadership behaviours and where changes can be made in the structure of the organisation.