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first_img Comments are closed. Related posts:No related photos. Previous Article Next Article WithDuncan Brown at the helm of the CIPD as the new assistant director general,what is it doing to help its members in these uncertain times? By Mike BroadA pile of ‘challenges’ is currently occupying HR’s in-tray, and staffdissatisfaction and the productivity gap sit at the very top. These are not new additions and, if you believe the research, HR will bewrestling with them for some time to come – unless there is dramatic change inthe prevailing psychological contract in the near future. In 2002 – in the midst of an economic downturn – educators and influencersare needed more than ever to support HR’s efforts to deliver change on theground, and the ‘new’ man at the CIPD says the representative body can grow tofulfil this role. Duncan Brown was recruited from Towers Perrin six months ago, to replaceWard Griffiths. He is assistant director general at the CIPD and part of thereason he has been brought in is to make the CIPD more vocal. He believes theorganisation has enormous potential to instigate workplace change. Solid HR practices are the key to reducing the productivity gap with otherWestern economies, says Brown, and it is the CIPD’s challenge to get membersand business to recognise this. Brown says: “HR services and practices have a significant impact onbusiness performance. We still have more work to do to convince senior managersof this. “While the message is not new, there are still a lot of people who havenot seen the evidence.” Brown points to the findings of David Guest and Michael West that havehelped prove linkages between profits and HR practices. He believes two piecesof CIPD research, released this month, take this to the next step and show HRhow to deliver these improvements in performance. A report, Evaluating Human Capital by Professor Harry Scarbrough and DrJuanita Elias, demonstrates how 10 organisations – including Shell and Tesco –are improving the way they manage staff through measuring how effectively theyuse them. The second study is by Bath University’s John Purcell, which examines HRpractices that produce improvements in employee attitudes, commitment andperformance in both public and private sector organisations. “The relationship between line manager and employee emerges as aparticularly important factor,” says Brown. “It emphasises that it ishow particular HR practices are interpreted and implemented that really makesthe difference,” he adds. “HR professionals need to pay more attention to these operatingprocesses rather than just focusing on supposed best practice schemedesigns.” Gaining acceptance that good HR will help improve the productivity gaprequires more than a top-down approach, says Brown – staff have to believe init. Both boardroom strategists and staff on the shopfloor will need convincing.”We need to understand the response to the research. If awareness islow in the boardroom, we have to address it,” he says. “But we also have to recognise that while statistics and correlationsare useful, what difference do they actually make on the ground? The researchwith Bath University is really helping us to understand and demonstrate thelinkages in the hospital ward, on the shopfloor and on the productionline.” Brown believes employers need to drive forward work-life balance practicesto address low morale and productivity. “Employers should be consulting on this area because it can have thebiggest effect on performance. “There is no magic level at which work and life are balanced: the keyis working out what is right for the organisation and the employee. Employersthat tailor this balance to different employee aims and wishes gain significantadvantages in performance and attracting talent.” He urges companies to adopt an approach that incorporates flexibility andchoice. “Organisations need to work out what makes their staff satisfiedwith work. Then you have to give them a choice – when, where and what sort ofhours do they want to work?” Brown is confident HR is driving work-life balance beyond office-based,white-collar staff working in the service sectors. While he acknowledges that some companies are “struggling with it”and that there can still be a split between HR practice and policy, moresectors are recognising the importance of work-life balance. He points to the more progressive call centre operators and manufacturers,which are making inroads in sectors that have traditionally neglected work andbenefits flexibility. “The model for call centres is changing,” says Brown.”Screwing the workforce has failed, and it is now about how we add highervalue. If you improve staff satisfaction, customers get better service.” Manufacturers have to be realistic about business demands and flexibleworking, he says, but there are examples of leading companies that haveconsulted staff and developed sympathetic shift patterns. Engaging staff in discussions on work practices has to be the first step foremployers wanting to improve performance. High stress levels, for example, area product of long hours, low-interest work, and lack of autonomy andinvolvement, says Brown. He warns that employers often rush to implement large-scale schemes, such ascomprehensive performance management systems, to tackle perceivedunderachievement and high absence rates without understanding what staff wantand need. But is Brown preaching (or providing guidance) to the converted? After all,most HR professionals understand the links between HR, satisfaction andproductivity, but they struggle to sell it to the decision-makers within theirorganisations. Brown believes that HR professionals, supported by the CIPD, have progressedtheir role considerably in recent years. He refers to David Ulrich’s model of becoming a strategic business partner,and suggests that, to earn respect, HR needs to be both tactical – to enhanceits standing – as well as delivering the basics. A combination of skills will be necessary going forward. While businessunderstanding and political nous will be essential to evolving HR’s role, saysBrown, the importance of soft skills should not be underestimated. “Justgetting an MBA is not enough,” he says. To support the changing role of HR, the CIPD has recently revised itsprofessional standards for membership. Brown explains that the aim is to getthe appropriate balance of specialist expertise in the various areas of HR, yetalso provide a broad strategic overview of the business environment. “The focus has been to create people management professionals who arethinking performers,” he says. On the softer skills side, the CIPD this year launched a certificate incoaching and mentoring, and a certified programme in the psychology ofmanagement. “Our training courses cover the full range of process andinterpersonal skills, technical specialisms and strategic HR.” Brown believes that the CIPD will be able to better equip the profession inthe future to make inroads into the significant challenges facing UK plc. “HR can act like a performance gene. We have to use the richness of theresearch and information available a tthe CIPD, helping members at all levelsand in all types of organisations to feel confident that they can really make adifference.” Duncan Brown’s CV2002 assistant director general ofCIPD 1985 joined Towers Perrin and performed various roles, risingto partner 1984 completed a full-time MBA at the London Business School 1981 personnel officer at Vauxhall Motors Brown on……the gender pay gapThere is a lot of fear about equal pay, but people have to takethe tiger by the tail rather than run from it.”Many companies will be asking themselves, where do westart? How do we do it? Firms need to break down bits and bite them off inchunks. Both the Equal Opportunities Commission and the CIPD provide practicalguidance for practitioners.”It is not just a moral issue, but is inefficient inlimiting organisations’ ability to recruit and retain half of the nationalworkforce, during a period of key skill shortages.”The issues involved are too complex for legislation. Butour message to the DTI is that there have to be minimum standards on equal payand we have to encourage best practice.”There are still significant challenges: new femalegraduates are starting on 15 per cent less pay than men.”HR should be pushing equal pay audits at the next payreview – the outlay will have a payback.”…corporate social responsibility(CSR)”CSR has clearly risen up the corporate agenda in recentmonths. HR professionals are well placed to contribute, particularly with theirresponsibilities to internal stakeholders. “In addressing issues such as recruitment, work-lifebalance, equal pay, diversity and training, HR is contributing both to thesuccess of the organisation and the well-being of the communities in which itoperates. “With more flexible forms of working, the boundary betweenwork and community has been blurring.”One recent survey found that HR is taking the lead on CSRin 20 per cent of organisations, up from 7 per cent in 1995. HR is clearlymaking progress in demonstrating the value to organisations of aligning theirgoals with the needs of their employees and the communities in which theyoperate.”But more needs to be done to equip people to contributefully in the CSR field.”We will be publishing our own guide to CSR for ourmembers in November, and are actively considering what else we can do to helpmembers in this area.”…final salary pensions”The media’s coverage has been sensationalist.”It is not necessarily an ‘either or?’ choice: definedbenefit (DB) versus defined contribution (DC).”DC pensions do not always mean lower contributions, so itnot a case of employers putting in a rubbish scheme to cut costs and rob theirstaff.”Pensions are a significant part of the employer offer forstaff, so you have to look at what staff want.”Employers might find that staff want something moreflexible. Maybe they want a mix of schemes – a scheme with a DB base and a DCtop-up that shares the risk with the employee.”HR has not been involved enough in the debate anddecisions that are taken purely on a cost basis will cause problems in thefuture, such as higher long-term turnover. HR needs to get more involved. Quick changeOn 22 Oct 2002 in Personnel Todaylast_img read more