News round-up

Human Resource Management International Digest

ISSN: 0967-0734

Article publication date: 9 March 2015



Writer, F. (2015), "News round-up", Human Resource Management International Digest, Vol. 23 No. 2.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

News round-up

Article Type: News round-up From: Human Resource Management International Digest, Volume 23, Issue 2

One in three careers falls short of expectations

One in three employees report that their career progression has failed to meet their expectations, and more than a quarter are either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the training and development offered by their employer.

A survey of more than 2,500 employees published by the CIPD, the UK professional body for HR and people development, in partnership with Halogen Software, reveals that job satisfaction is nevertheless up a little compared with a similar survey a year ago.

Only 12 per cent of those satisfied with the level of career training and development are looking for a new job with another organization, compared to almost a quarter of employees overall.

The CIPD recommends that employers who are concerned about retaining their talent should make sure they understand and manage their employees’ career expectations. This means ensuring that both employers and employees are clear about how an existing job fits into wider career development.

The survey explores a number of factors surrounding levels of career satisfaction among employees and reveals that:

  • More than a third of employees think it is unlikely or very unlikely that they will be able to fulfill their career aspirations in their current organization, compared to one in three who think it is likely or very likely that they will.

  • Only 6 per cent of employees who believe they are likely or very likely to meet their career aspirations in their current organization are looking for a new job, compared with almost half of those who think it is unlikely or very unlikely that their career ambition would be fulfilled by their current employer.

  • Just under half of employees report that their career progression to date has met or exceeded their expectations, most often because of their own hard work and talent.

  • The most commonly cited contributing factors by employees who have failed to meet their career expectations are poor-quality career advice and guidance in school and being unable to show strengths and potential because of being in the wrong job or career.

Jessica Cooper, CIPD research adviser, commented: “Although job-satisfaction levels are on the up, the data indicate that employers can be doing more to understand employees’ career expectations and help employees to understand how they can realize these aspirations.”

“Employers should be encouraged to think flexibly, ensuring they understand employees’ career expectations and how best these can be fulfilled by their organization, while recognizing and supporting where this might not be possible. This involves thinking less rigidly about job roles and instead developing a better understanding of the skills of the workforce and deploying them in more effective ways.”

“One way to do this is to make sure performance reviews are developmental rather than focused on looking back over the previous year. Employers can also ensure that, where possible, staff are given the opportunity to make lateral moves to broaden their skills and experience, and ensure that employees recognize that career development does not always have to involve progressing into more senior roles.”

Donna Ronayne, vice president of marketing and business development at Halogen Software, said: “Investing in career development is good business sense. We see first-hand how it helps organizations to retain key employees and provide a pipeline of great talent for corporate growth.”

“To do this well organizations should give managers the tools and training they need to ensure feedback and performance conversations are future-oriented and focused on developing the skills of employees. It also means ensuring that managers engage employees in regular discussions – at minimum once a year – about career development and progression.”

“Of course career-development plans should support the strategic goals of the organization, but it is worth noting that employee career progression is about helping employees to develop the knowledge, skills and experience they will need for their next job. This advice may sound odd but the reason this investment matters is because, one hopes, their next job will be with your organization. By recruiting and filling roles from within, organizations can increase employee retention and maintain valuable corporate knowledge, intellectual property and memory.”

More employees report career stagnation

UK employers risk losing their best employees to competitors by failing to provide adequate growth opportunities, as almost three quarters of employees say their career prospects have remained the same or worsened in the last 12 months.

Individuals questioned in a survey name the chance to advance as one of the top considerations when choosing to join a new organization, but also the second biggest reason to leave a job. This indicates a significant gap between pre-employment expectations and the actual experience of work for many people. Similarly, according to the research, recruiters’ promises that prospective employees will learn new skills often do not materialize.

Carole Hathaway, global leader of rewards at professional services company Towers Watson, which carried out the research, said: “Britain’s wage stagnation has been stealing the headlines for some time while the concurrent career paralysis has not got the attention it deserves from employers. The term dead-end job has been used in the past to refer largely to unskilled, low-paid roles but now applies to a high percentage of professional positions, where there are limited opportunities to progress and achieve greater financial success.”

“A crucial component of attracting and retaining the most talented staff is for employers to support employees in achieving their objectives and rising to new heights in their career. Without this, ambitious individuals can become disengaged and start looking around for a new role even when other aspects of the job – such as pay, benefits and company culture – are acceptable. Strong employee engagement equals high productivity so career-development discussions are time well invested and actually drive company performance.”

According to a simultaneous survey of employer opinions, the aptitude of managers in delivering career-development programs is a key part of the issue. Only 8 per cent of employers feel that their managers are effective in providing career-management support and only a quarter of employers believe they have the right career-management tools in place. Only around a third of employees say that their manager helps them with career planning and decisions and does a good job of explaining how they can advance.

The research points to a lack of resources, as less than half of managers say they have the time to support the development needs of their direct reports. Furthermore, only 45 per cent of employees describe the training programs at their organization as adequate.

Richard Veal, UK leader for reward, talent and communication at Towers Watson, explained: “The perceived lack of career-advancement opportunities could relate to poor internal communication about career-management programs. If any communication is done, it normally focuses on the processes and not the motivational and emotional content of why and how an employee can connect with an organization. Career management is one of the golden opportunities to strengthen an employee’s long-term commitment to a company.”

“Leaving the bulk of the responsibility with managers for ensuring strong progression for their team members will only ever have a limited impact because of time constraints and manager capability. However, increasingly employers can use technology to deliver a more compelling and targeted employee experience of learning and development. Managers can benefit from technology to help to raise awareness of what career-planning support is available and empower employee decision-making.”

HR should team up with marketing in recruitment effort

Human-resource specialists should work more closely with marketers to attract skilled staff, as a shortage of key people is among the biggest challenges businesses face today.

Research by a recruitment company reveals that organizations need to become the “employer of choice”. To do that, they have to get themselves noticed in a marketplace where skilled staff can be more selective about whom to work for.

Simon Conington, founder and managing director of BPS World, explained: “What the company offers in its brand has to be matched by HR. The two have to work together to ensure that potential employees hear about the company. Then HR has to prove that the benefits promised do exist. That is also an effective way of retaining good people at a time when they can be more picky about who they want to work for.”

The research finds that pay levels have to at least match the industry rate but after that company culture plays a major role in the ability of a company to recruit and retain the best people. People like to be proud of the company they work for; that may mean a well-known brand or one that does good work in the community. Recruits also look at things such as the working atmosphere and management style.

With social media, there are no secrets about what it is like to work for a company. Disgruntled staff will let their feelings be known. Companies which, for example, have been exposed for oppressive cultures are avoided by the best recruits who have many other options.

Simon Conington continued: “The role of internal culture and brand advocacy among employees becomes particularly important when it comes to social media. Staff now champion a company’s identity through blogging and tweeting as brand ambassadors. Switched-on recruitment specialists have embraced this phenomenon as part of broader efforts at digital innovation.”

“To be truly effective, many businesses have learned that what you are telling customers about yourself must be aligned with communication to your staff. Recruits need to have heard of you and what you represent. The internal culture has to reflect the company’s values, mindful of the fact that a company’s employees are likely to be its strongest brand advocates.”

Kevin Green, chief executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, which represents the recruitment industry, commented: “Joined-up thinking between HR and marketing makes perfect sense. The competition for talent is hotting up. Attracting and retaining talent is now much more about what you can offer staff in terms of lifestyle. Rather than create salary churn, which makes companies less competitive, they are instead competing on nicer work environments, flexible hours and, better benefit packages.”

“As a company your brand and reputation are crucial to ensuring that you are more appealing than your competitors to the staff you need to attract.”

Stressed-out staff feel unsupported at work

According to research for the mental health charity Mind, more than half of UK employees find their work very or fairly stressful, and this is affecting their physical and mental health and the quality of their relationships.

The survey of more than 1,250 people found that the most common reasons for stress in the workplace are excessive workload (cited by 52 per cent), frustration with poor management (54 per cent), not enough support from managers (47 per cent), threat of redundancy (27 per cent) and unrealistic targets (45 per cent).

In times of stress, many people resort to unhealthy coping strategies. Nearly one in five (18 per cent) had smoked cigarettes, over half (55 per cent) had drunk alcohol after work and 12 per cent had drunk alcohol during the working day to cope with workplace stress.

The research also reveals that mental health at work is still a taboo. Nearly a third (30 per cent) of respondents said they would not be able to talk openly with their line manager if they were stressed.

Of the 14 per cent of survey respondents who had a diagnosed mental health problem, fewer than half (45 per cent) had told their current employer. Mind is calling for employers to create an open culture where people feel able to discuss their well-being and tackle the causes of stress among their staff.

Of those who said they had taken time off sick with stress, only 5 per cent said that the main reason they gave their employer was that they were too stressed to work. The remaining 95 per cent cited another reason for their absence, such as an upset stomach (44 per cent) or a headache (7 per cent).

Emma Mamo, head of workplace well-being at Mind, said: “What is worrying is not just the prevalence of stress and mental-health problems at work, but that staff do not feel supported to help to cope with workplace stress.”

“We know employers are starting to take mental health at work more seriously, but clearly still have a long way to go in helping to tackle the causes of stress and poor mental health at work. People still do not feel comfortable talking about mental health at work or telling their employer if they have been off sick with stress. Yet many staff will be affected by these issues. That is why it is so important that organizations create a culture where employees are able to talk about well-being without fear of discrimination or being perceived as weak or incapable.”

“Employers do not necessarily need to put in place costly interventions; small, inexpensive measures can make a huge difference to staff well-being.”

Behavioral science can foster a happier and more successful workforce

Insights from behavioral science can make people happier and more successful at work, but business practices are lagging behind, says the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

The science of exploring how the brain works and what influences human behavior has significantly accelerated in the last decade, but the way organizations manage, motivate and develop their people has barely changed during this time, warns the CIPD.

The organization has launched Our Minds at Work: Developing the Behavioral Science of HR, which explores how people psychologically react and behaviorally respond to interventions, environments and stimuli at work. The publication describes how HR specialists and managers can apply techniques and policies to get the best out of their people, including:

  • Personal effectiveness and smarter working: Neuroscience shows that we are essentially ill-equipped to cope with an increasingly fast-paced and fragmented world of work. Increasing our mental capacity and recognizing the challenges of multi-tasking can help individuals to become more effective at work.

  • Selection and recruitment: Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of intuition in decision making can help HR and managers to avoid falling prey to unconscious bias.

  • Pay and reward: Behavioral science identifies that financial reward is not the straightforward motivator it is often thought to be. By understanding the power and potential pitfalls of incentives, HR can create more effective remuneration schemes.

  • Organizational-change programs: Behavioral science can provide practical insights into how we can foster a change-ready mind-set and how seemingly die-hard habits are malleable and can be replaced.

Jonny Gifford, CIPD research adviser, said: “Our understanding of the human brain has come on in leaps and bounds but the way we manage, motivate and develop people at work is not keeping pace with these exciting advances. There is clear evidence that behavioral science can be applied at work to achieve positive outcomes for both individuals and the organization. This is not about ‘Jedi mind tricks’ or duping; science can genuinely make us happier and more productive. It is about understanding what drives performance and human behavior, what makes us tick, how we respond to threat and reward and how existing HR processes and policies may actually undermine professional ethics and create unwanted outcomes.”

Our Minds at Work goes on to explore how HR can weigh up the evidence and create an integrated approach that blends behavioral science with other social science and practical HR knowledge.

Jonny Gifford concluded: “While behavioral science is no panacea it is an important, evidence-driven catalyst for change that can enhance employee well-being and boost productivity. There is a real opportunity here for HR to experiment with these insights and see how policies and behaviors can change for the better as a result. We have already witnessed real changes being made in government by applying behavioral science to policy-making; now leaders and managers in the workplace need to seize the opportunity.”

Ambiguity and confusion surround ethics and compliance

The role of ethics and compliance (E&C) specialists in promoting ethical conduct inside organizations is relatively new, and there remains some ambiguity and confusion surrounding it.

The Institute of Business Ethics has carried out interviews with 18 senior E&C specialists – predominantly based in the UK and Europe but with global responsibilities – to find out how they are able to affect corporate culture and improve ethical behavior.

The research reveals that E&C specialists have often operated without a clear remit and had to decide for themselves what the purpose of their role should be. While this has allowed for some creativity and freedom to shape their role, it has also carried the risk that senior management does not know or understand what the role is there to achieve. As a result, E&C specialists are not always offered the support and resources needed to make the function a success.

The research identifies three “domains of activity” around which all E&C roles constellate. An E&C role might focus primarily, though not exclusively, on one of these domains, requiring different skills, resources and focus. The report helps people to understand how a particular role may be formulated as well as how to identify its strengths and gaps and explain how it adds value.

  • Custodianship: This involves safeguarding and embedding current organization norms and standards, delivered through traditional E&C program activities. This domain will have a compliance focus and require high-level support with consistent values and standards. The role will be that of a police officer, requiring skills such as sensitivity in handling difficult cases and superior knowledge of the organization, its networks and relationships.

  • Advocacy: This covers challenging corporate values and standards in practice – surfacing and debating difficult issues and encouraging more open dialog around ethical issues at work. This domain will have an ethics focus and require high-level access to decision making. The role will be that of an advocate, with influencing and rhetorical skills and legal expertise.

  • Innovation: This embraces changing business processes that present an unacceptable risk of legal or ethical failure. This domain will have a risk-management focus, and needs a mandate for change. The role will be that of business partner, with change-management skills and the ability to deliver workable solutions.

Fiona Coffey, report author, said: “The current debate as to whether the E&C function should be recognized as a profession has focused primarily on the technical competence of practitioners and the need for formal qualifications. This research shows that personal skills and qualities are just as crucial. These, together with the quality of support from senior executives, shape the extent to which E&C practitioners can contribute to an agenda that goes beyond regulatory compliance and is focused on building and maintaining a culture of integrity.”

Philippa Foster Back, IBE director, said: “The report identifies three interpretations of the E&C role, which will help practitioners, executives and non-executive directors sitting on corporate-responsibility committees to push further in establishing a corporate culture of ethical business conduct. This work reinforces the IBE view that ethical business conduct in organizations is based on engagement from those at the top in setting values and shared principles, then empowering and supporting those assigned the role to bring these to life.”

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