Susan's Musings

Just Thinking Out Loud

Social Capital in The Workplace

On the soft side of things, talent management within the workplace is important because diverse, mutually respectful, happy teams with shared values perform best. ref: Carol Long, Three Triangles Performance Ltd. This is beneficial for organisations at an individual level, but there is also an economic imperative for effective talent management. I recently read that Brazil now claims to be the fifth largest economy in the world. France is also a threat to Britain’s position. This means that Britain is now moving backwards and is potential ‘just’ the seventh largest economy in the world. Even if Britain has still managed to maintain its position at the moment, where will Britain be positioned in 10 years time if we do not become more strategic in our actions and approach to the management and utilisation of talent?

I believe that we are still in a privileged position where people look up to us and want to work with us or do business with us. There is therefore a need for businesses to create and implement strategies that ensure the effective and efficient development and engagement of the local and global talent offered by all within communities.

At a basic level there is a need for a clear, strategic understanding of where British industry plans to go within the next 5, 10 and even 20 years. Individual businesses both large and small need to have an understanding of where they fit within that plan and what their subsequent strategy to deliver and achieve results is. When we talk about strategy, more often than not, we tend to focus on the operational and financial elements of the business but we tend to play little attention to the people side of things until there is a more immediate need.

I think the shape of the economy and global talent market that is developing means that this must now change and we must start thinking about people management – or to be more specific skills – from a more strategic perspective.

I always advocate for a skills or competency framework approach which highlights both the immediate and future resource requirements of an organisation from a skills basis.

It means that industry can broadcast skills requirements such that the education system is best positioned to prepare individuals with the flexibility to meet actual and potential needs and professions that currently don’t exist but which may exist in the not too distant future. It also enables government to have a more strategic, pragmatic view on immigration so that it is aligned to the country’s needs rather than simply pandering to those who are simply and plainly against immigration with a big full stop. It also enables better planning for jobs that may be best outsourced, with the enablement of processes to prepare and redeploy individuals who will otherwise be rendered redundant by such structural changes.

I believe a skills/competency framework also better enables open engagement with the wider community. Where it is clear to people what the competency requirements to work at different levels within an organisation are, it is more difficult for them to claim that they did not get a job because they were discriminated against for one reason or the other. It also better enables people from within the different British communities to mentor and support people from within their own communities to enable them to develop the skills required to obtain jobs at different levels. In fact, I was impressed to go into a McDonald’s store recently and pick up a little booklet with the basic framework of the different roles within the organisation and requirements to work at each level.

As we are now what is popularly described as a ‘global village’, I believe Britain, with its vast diversity has an advantage as it should be able to use that diversity to effectively interact with and understand different cultures around the world. I believe that British organisations should be mindful of this and look to use this to their advantage.

This, however, will only work if workers also do their part. I believe there are currently too many organisations, especially in retail, where the workforce is highly multicultural but highly segregated. I specifically remember doing some work in one such organisation. I went to their canteen at lunchtime and found that a large proportion of employees sat together with people from the same background as themselves, often speaking in their own language. As highlighted with a recent case involving McDonald’s, you can’t legislate against this, but I don’t believe it is very constructive and would venture to say that it is a poor reflection of multiculturalism where the gains are minimal.

Copyright 2012. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source.

Tackling HR's Image Problem



Does HR have an image problem? This is something of a frequently asked question (FAQ) as regards HR, which suggests that it is a concern that refuses to go away.

In a guest blog post today, Susan Popoola describes how she became aware of HR’s apparent image problem, and prescribes what she thinks the profession can do to tackle this problem.

Ref: XpertHR

The Bribery Act Does Affect You

I take it that by now you will have of the Bribery Act that came into force on the 1st July?  The Bribery Act 2010 makes it a criminal offence for an individual or commercial organisation to offer or receive a bribe to bring about or reward the improper performance of a function or activity

My concern is that if you work with or run a small organisation, most especially a charity, you may have the force sense of security that it does not apply to you.  Unfortunately, however this would not be true as the legislation applies to all organisations.

It would be easy to assume that the legislation targets the prevention of the cases of large scale corruption and bribery, involving large multinational organisations that occasionally appear in newspaper headlines and at times lead to custodian sentences for it’s top executives.  It does have a focus on this, but goes further as it also aims to stamp out facilitation payments that are often paid to low ranking officers (particularly in developing countries) to facilitate the smooth and expedient processing of a service.  This is something that most definitely has implications for any organisation that operates overseas – something that is becoming increasingly commonplace with the increased globalisation.

The challenged of this is enhanced by the fact that an organisation is now
liable for bribes paid by its agents and joint venture partners, even if made without the company’s knowledge, unless it can demonstrate that it has taken all reasonable steps to prevent such illicit payments.

The truth is even if your business is entirely focused within the UK you still need to be cautious. The legislation goes on to specify that  Corporate hospitably that is given with the intention of winning a financial advantage would become illegal.  This led to concerns that business lunches and days out with clients would become illegal.  It has, however, been clarified that Corporate hospitality is not affected by the Act as long as it is proportionate and reasonable.

It is however important to be aware of the Principals of the Act which are as follows:
*  Proportionality – their procedures are in proportion to the bribery risk the organisation faces)
* Top-level commitment from the organisation to a zero-tolerance on bribery –  and communication of this to staff, customers, suppliers etc. plus appointing a senior executive of the firm to have responsibility for bribery prevention.
* Regular risk-assessment of the nature and extent of exposure to potential external and internal bribery risks
* Due Diligence – a thorough examination of those 3rd parties acting on the organisations behalf and their trading partners
* Communication of these measures – including training so that bribery prevention policies and procedures are understood throughout the organisation, and the likelihood that all types of employment contracts will need amending to refer to bribery in the context of gross misconduct/termination.
* Monitoring and review all of the above principles regularly

In order to minimise the risk of falling foul of the Act, companies should put in place:

*  Whistle-blowing procedures (setting out how staff raise concerns about bribery and request advice and support)
* Prevention policies to cover financial and commercial controls (invoices, remuneration)
* Prevention policies to cover rules on gifts, hospitality (a reasonable amount of corporate hospitality is still permitted), promotional spend/sponsorship (including charitable donations)
* Procedures on recruitment (including work experience) and discipline/grievance that include anti-bribery measures
* Details of how anti-bribery measures will be enforced.

Top Tips to Avoid Bribery
How to Reduce the Probability
–    Have a clear framework for tenders and negotiations, ensuring these include anti-bribery clauses
–    Make sure your negotiation team has a clear mandate and the customer knows that the team won’t exceed it
–    Identify decision-makers in the procurement organisation to determine where a solicitation could come from.
–    Involve banks and export credit agencies in anti-bribery initiatives.
How to react if a demand is made
–    Inform your management and define an appropriate strategy (for example, changing the negotiation team)
–    Go back to the soliciting person with a witness and reaffirm your willing to proceed as normal, ignoring the solicitation.  If the solicitation is reiterated.
o    Inform the person that it is not acceptable
o    Threaten to back off from the bid and go public
o    Set a deadline for proceeding in a normal manner
–    Tell a senior person in the customer organisation that you believe that you have been asked for a bribe
–    If sufficient evidence is available, go to the national-anti-bribery body.

Source: Resisting extortion and solicitation in international transactions. October 2010

Copyright 2011. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated

Developing a Skilled Workforce for the Upturn

As we are now unfortunately in a recession, the current focus for most businesses is unlikely to be on recruiting staff, but now more than ever there is a need for organisations of whatever size to ensure that they are are as efficient and effective as possible.

A critical key to this is having staff with the right skills, in the right roles within your organisation. You may have noticed politicians talking about upskilling staff affected by redunancies to find the new jobs. This leads me to two inter-related questions. 1. Do prospective employees know what skills they require in order to work within your organisation? and 2)Beyond the knowledge that you need skilled staff do you know what specific skills you require, such that anyone could readily be able to identify individuals that would be suited to work within your organisation?

If the answer to either of these questions is no, then I believe you as an employer are missing something, asemployers are known to complain that young people coming into the workplace do not have the required skills. Now is the time for you to stand up and clearly articulate your requirements so that individuals going out for retraining and the people supporting them can make sure that they will be able to fulfil your business needs.

This is also important for your current workforce as through schemes such as Train to Gain there is currently a considerable amount of financial support is available to help you to develop your Staff.

I would recommend that you seize the opportunity and take a few steps as follows:

1. Review your business objectives/ plan for the next few years

2. Identify the skills and competencies you are going to need to meet your business objectives. If necessary get help in doing.

3. Develop this into a framework of roles which identifies not just the skills and qualifications, but also the wider abilities and attitudes that enable effectiveness such as communicatin skills and confidence to undertake different activities.

4. Assess the abilities of your current staff against both your immediate and future requirements in order to identify where you can develop current staff to fulfil roles and where you are likely to have gaps going forward that need to be filled external.

5. Make sure that the processes that you use to identify staff for development and promotion are open and fair taking into account the views and interests of your staff. This is important in order to prevent any legal claims of unfairness, but it’s of equal importance to ensure your staff remain engaged and positive about working with your organisation.

6. Begin to think about how you are going to fill the gaps (when the need arises) by recruiting employees, contractors or possibly outsourcing.

If you miss this opportunity and don’t begin to prepare now, when we come out of this recession in a year or two or whenever it may be, you may be caught of guard in a reenergised battle for skilled employees.

Susan Popoola

Conning Towers
HR Transformation & Talent Management
Leveraging the Power of People
Copyright 2008 This document is the specific intellectual property of the Conning Towers Consultancy. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated from content obtained from other sources and such content is referenced as appropriate.

About The Author

Susan Popoola

Susan is a Human Resources Capital Optimisation Specialist specialising in areas inclusive of Talent Management with additional interest in a number of other areas inclusive of Education, Community and Social Justice.

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