Horses for courses – salary sytems

April 22, 2013

Working with a small animal welfare charity recently reminded me how difficult it can be, when managing pay structures, to strike the right balance between the systematic and the judgmental.

A highly-structured, rules-driven system that would work in a large organisation doesn’t provide the flexibility that small organisations, this one had just over 20 staff, need to manage recruitment, retention and costs in an effective way. The client had originally had a public sector-style system of scale points and bands that had fallen into disuse as more and more individual-based decisions had been superimposed.

I provided them with a set of salary and salary review principles that should provide a stable framework into which they could feed considerations of fairness, retention and performance within a cost-managed framework.

One factor that doesn’t just apply to small organisations was the need to manage costs, and careers, through sensible recruitment. By all means, recruit the best talent you can but do so at a stage in their careers when the bottom of your range represents a career step up.


Juste un mot – email tips for the modern world

April 22, 2013

This makes the third recent blog on the topic of English usage. But I thought it worth passing on a few points from a recent Richmond Group evening session on the topic “Making Words Pay”. Read the rest of this entry »


And another thing … – more linguistic pedantry

February 4, 2013

Following my last posting (hadn’t realised it was as long ago as November) I feel obliged to report spotting one of the few good guys.

One of my pet hates is the announcement on buses, tubes and trains that “the next station is xxxx where this bus/tube/train will terminate.” Well, I don’t think they do terminate. I think they use them again.

A visit to a new client in North London involved taking a London Overground train. To my delight the automatic announcement said “we are now approaching Highbury and Islington, which is our final stop.”

Not only literally correct but much clearer to all those on the train for whom English is not their first language.


Le mot juste – management-speak

November 21, 2012

Being a bit of an old pedant I can easily rant on about the use of proper language and grammar: fewer or less, impact and access being nouns not verbs, having issues instead of problems, etc, etc. What prompted me to blog on the topic of language was reading the minutes of a meeting the other day and realising that I didn’t easily understand what they were talking about.

This was not a scientific or technical committee where I might not expect to understand the specialist terms but a discussion between representatives of a networking group and of a company who might work with some of our members. Compared to the BBC gobbledygook regularly reported in Private Eye, this was mild stuff. Phraseology such as ‘engagement opportunity’ and ‘value proposition’ were just irritating and merely slowed down understanding. But I was stopped in my tracks by ‘placeholders’ – which I eventually worked out meant ‘hosts’ (as in: “XX to issue dates as placeholders for the meeting”).

There are very practical downsides to such unnecessary linguistic obfuscation. Clarity and precision are reduced and confusion increased. Particularly when messages delivered in management-speak then have to be relayed to third parties. It is also discriminatory. Not just against us old fogeys but also against those who learned English as a second language (plus some of those who learned it as a first language, but just not very well) and people of all ages who, finding themselves needing a career change, discover they don’t speak the potential employer’s language.


So that’s all right then – office gossip

August 16, 2012

HR Zone reports on a recent survey carried out by Mars Office Drinks Connections. Some 2000 workers were questioned about non-business communications at work.

It turns out that 33% happily disclose personal information to colleagues. This rose to 37% among HR practitioners (a very touchy-feely lot after all) who will also spend 30 minutes a day chatting about family, TV and celebrity gossip. A Mars marketing manager said “it’s encouraging to see that staff are taking the time to step away from their desks and engage with their colleagues in a more personal way (as long as it’s by a Mars supplied coffee machine, I assume).” She added that this could help people become more productive and create a happier office environment.

So there you are, it’s official: don’t work too hard and the country will be fine. What this does illustrate is how hard it is to set effective targets in many office environments; or possibly how few businesses actually try.

One of the most frightening findings of the survey, and it is not clear in the report whether this is all office workers or just HR staff, is that 55% felt it was fine to put kisses on the end of work-related emails and 75% thought that smiley faces and other emoticons are fine.

All I can say is “LOL”


We’re all doomed – emloyment’s up

August 16, 2012

This week’s employment figures showed encouraging news, even if only marginally so. Employment up; unemployment down. This dented our favourite national pastime of looking on the dark side of life (where is Eric Idle when you need him?). Even the CIPD, forced to admit that the figures were indeed positive, felt the need to pour cold water and suggest “the labour market might not hold up if the economy doesn’t improve in the near future”.

The press and radio all sought to seek out any aspect that might not be perfect. The favourite topic this time round was the fact that not everybody in employment was working full-time; some on part-time hours, some on zero-hours contracts. This latter, I assume, being what we used to call casual labour without which many businesses cannot operate.

But wasn’t everybody predicting doom, gloom and disaster about a recent international sporting event until sometime around early August?


Tell it like it is – communicating pay

May 16, 2012

A CIPD press release about their annual Reward Management Survey says that the majority of employers leave their staff in the dark about reward. Much of the press release focuses on the need to make sure staff understand the full range, and cost, of all elements of the reward package. Total reward statements.

While such statements are an important tool it is very easy to overlook the simple stuff. All too easy to assume that the purposes and motivational benefits of grading structures, salary ranges and progression through them and performance-related pay schemes are understood by staff. Or if those intentions are actually being realised. Read the rest of this entry »