+44 (0) 1792 522 244|info@jane-systems.co.uk

Like Goldy or Silvery but Made of Iron

It’s almost 30 years since the final episode of “Blackadder” was broadcast but it remains one of Britain’s best-loved situation comedies. And the jokes are still funny. In one episode, when the title character asks his hapless sidekick Baldrick if he understands what irony is, Baldrick memorably replies “It’s like goldy or silvery, but made of iron”.

ACAS’s stated purpose, its reason for existence and indeed the derivation of its name is based on its commitment to conciliation and arbitration in workplace disputes. Employers and employees turn to ACAS to resolve their problems every day. If these guys can’t come to an amicable agreement then who can?

ACAS employees who are members of the Public and Commercial Services union walked out this week in protest over what they described as unmanageable workloads and generally poor working conditions. In their defence the union has contended that this action didn’t come out of nowhere. They say ACAS staff have flagged up their concerns repeatedly, but months of talks have produced an impasse. The Union argues that since last summer’s decision to abolish fees for taking a workplace grievance to an employment tribunal, the number of tribunals has soared by 90%. The strain is showing, on both the system and its officers. Industrial relations, ACAS’s specialty, appear to have broken down.

If there was an easy answer to this problem then employer and employee would surely have found it. Workplace relationships and staff motivation are complex issues, with variations from one organisation and one individual to the next.

Jane Systems offers you:

A HR system that encourages your staff to take responsibility for their future, take pride in their performance and have confidence in their career development.

A service that meets every current […]

The Avoidable Fights

In the ten months since the UK Supreme Court ruled that employment tribunal fees were unlawful, the number of tribunal cases has, not surprisingly, risen sharply. While we applaud the principle of justice being accessible to those who need it, not just those who can afford it, one of the practical upshots is an employment law tribunal system creaking under the weight of claims. The three years from 2014 to 2017 when fees were payable saw a 70% decline in case numbers, and the number is now rising again just as steeply.

Some advocate mediation as a useful problem-solving tool, and we’re certainly in favour of potential conflict being snuffed out before sparks turn to flames. The emotional and professional cost to an individual of nursing a grievance can be ruinous. Even when a tribunal gives them the opportunity to make themselves heard and gain compensation, restitution or closure, the road to that outcome can be hard and damaging. It’s difficult not to wonder what’s gone so badly wrong with HR procedure and practice that this is the long-drawn-out result. It’s difficult to accept that nothing could have been done to steer a different course.

Sometimes people and organisations just don’t fit, and the sooner they part ways the better it is for all concerned. But how often do relations between good employees and good employers reach breaking point for avoidable reasons?

Make your policies understandable and reasonable. Don’t just follow rules to the letter, honour their spirit. Let your people know they really are your people and see how that impacts on their loyalty and performance.

And have a system in place that smoothly converts your good intentions into good practice.

How much easier would it be […]

Take Care of Yourself – That’s an Order

Today’s news that the British Army is launching a £1.6m advertising campaign to demonstrate it can offer emotional support to recruits from all backgrounds has attracted scorn from some quarters on social media, but for those of us who understand the value of a positive working environment it represents very good news indeed.

This modernising step follows a positive trend which has also seen the army embrace language learning to improve communication. From 2018 on, no British officer will be promoted above the rank of Captain without being able to demonstrate proficiency in a suitable language. In prioritising cultural awareness and communication skills, the armed forces are acknowledging that, whatever the situation, the isolation of “Little Britain” has no value in a complex and dangerous modern world.

The isolation of individuals clearly has no value either, and the video central to the advertising campaign underlines that point. The voiceover tells us of a soldier’s fears that “it feels like, as a man, you can never express your emotions”. Joining the armed forces, though, is portrayed as a far more positive, inclusive experience:

“Once you’re in, you realise no one is a machine”

“There’s always someone there to talk to, or even just make you laugh”

How many of our workplace problems could be minimised or even solved altogether by better communication?

The Jane Workflow module transforms cumbersome, labour intensive HR record keeping into a fully automated system. It sets triggers for action and notification according to your needs, and it ensures that managers and their teams are kept 100% informed. By automating “calls to action” we deliver an increased employee response rate to important corporate messages.

Jane Self Service software increases communication between managers and staff, enabling decision makers to […]

The Apprentice

Watching Alan Sugar point the finger of destiny at a young protégé has become a beloved annual ritual for British TV audiences, and it’s been argued that Donald Trump would never have had the platform to run for President without the exposure he gained on the US Apprentice.

So when we use the word “apprentice” many people picture a brash young man or woman who spends twelve weeks singing their own praises before landing a lucrative job with a celebrity millionaire.

Kay Harriman, Hilton’s HR Director, and Kathryn Porter, the Director of Youth Strategy, have outlined ambitious and admirable plans to engage one million young people by the end of 2019, offering them an introduction to the hospitality workplace geared towards them becoming employable – and employed – in a thriving global operation. Hospitality is Britain’s sixth largest industry, and the chance to build a career with a supportive employer that has almost 600 properties in 85 countries around the world is something to shout about.

The Hilton apprenticeship puts the emphasis on personal development, and it’s not unusual for young people to progress quickly into team management. Hard and soft skills, technical ability and good personal qualities, are identified and maximised. People learn, grow and thrive.

Staff development is optimised with Jane software, with training needs flagged up from information gathered in appraisals, business plans, departmental reviews or by assigning an employee to an activity with a specific skill requirement. Employees can also log their own training requirement as a self-service request using the HR Portal, and scheduled training courses are monitored and updated to form an audited record of their progress. Jane also offers you a costing breakdown that gives you a clear picture of training […]

Going Through the Motions

Obviously we’d all prefer to avoid both scenarios, but there are few things more frustrating than seeing a capable person twiddling their thumbs instead of making the contribution they ought to make.

At a time when surveys warn us of a slump in employee engagement, apathy issues are business-critical. How do we spot them, and how do we turn apathy into commitment?

Passing the Buck?

If an employee fails to deliver to an acceptable standard and within an acceptable timescale, there might be a reasonable explanation. If it becomes a pattern, though, you have to ask why. Where people are genuinely over-burdened, we can act to give them support and relief. Where they are simply not prepared to make the effort to get things done, though, we need to take a different view. One of the biggest giveaways is eagerness to point the finger at others. We all know how it feels to be up against a stiff and immovable deadline. If our colleagues face the same challenges and meet them, that gives us nowhere to hide. Simple pride in performance should spur us to fulfil our part of the bargain. In a team of equally capable, equally busy professionals, the one who passes the buck is the one whose commitment is flagging.

It’s Good to Talk

Let’s start with the assumption that we all see the value of knowledge-sharing and general communication in the workplace. Teams that win together tend to win far more often, and it’s always good to see people from one department taking pleasure in the success of their colleagues in another. Encouraging people to see where they fit in and how they contribute to the “big picture” is a crucial element of team-building, and […]

These Kids Today

Has it?

As we work our way up the ladder to a position of workplace seniority, there are landmark moments we can all recognise. The day we realise we’re not the new kid any more and we actually know what we’re doing. The day other people start asking our advice. The first time we get promoted. The first time we recruit for new staff.

That last one is big. Bringing new people in, perhaps to do a job we once did ourselves, is a serious responsibility. We may wish to be seen as a mentor, a wise elder by this newcomer. How should we react when they not only reject our wisdom but set out their stall for a better offer than we were planning to make, and a far better offer than we ever got?

Some people react less equitably than others.

Doing this at all is questionable; it may encourage realism in future applicants but it’s hardly likely to spark enthusiasm. The real issue, though, was how personally the hiring manager was taking it and how subjectively he was judging the application.

He requested to be paid $40 an hour to which I replied, ‘The most I pay anyone initially is $20 until I can trust them

When I was 24, I worked 20-40 hours a week as an intern with no pay.

The applicant chose not to pursue things any further, and the recruiter was wounded. Perhaps he wanted to take this talented young person under his wing, show him the value of trust and experience and finally give him the career path and the money he sought. But he wanted to give it as his gift and the applicant believed their talent merited it as a […]

No Fairy Tale

Like many leaders in retail and distribution, Amazon rely on temporary, seasonal staff. People taken on to cover the busy Christmas period know very well that their employment comes with an expiry date. The disputes we’ve seen this week centred on how much human consideration, if any, is given when that date comes up.

Reports in national newspapers gave unpleasant examples of temp staff at Amazon distribution centres being sacked part of the way through night shifts and ordered off the premises at midnight. In addition to being given zero notice and no opportunity to line up alternative employment, some have told of being left to wait outside warehouses in the biting cold for up to six hours until public transport services were available again.

At the time of these people’s sackings their seasonal employment contracts, via an intermediary recruitment agency, still had a month still to run. The agency has attracted as much criticism as Amazon, who stated in their defence that when staff are let go outside public transport hours, they are prepared to offer bus and taxi transport to get them home.

When a major employer sets up shop at a new site, optimism and expectation among the local workforce is often very high. Sometimes it’s difficult to maintain those levels of positivity, but there are steps we can all take to maintain goodwill. Firstly and obviously, we can communicate.

If contracts are about to come to an end a month early, then surely employers and agencies can communicate with each other and with staff in a way that gives notice and softens the blow. If transport is available to get people safely home instead of literally leaving them out in the cold, then surely […]

Through The Keyhole

With many of us spending as much time at work as at home, is the office now a place for creature comforts?

We personalize desks.

We arrange furniture for comfort and familiarity.

Some of us even bring our pets to work.

When we look through the keyhole into the modern British workplace, what do we learn about individuals and the organisations they serve?

Commercial property specialists LondonOffices.com have researched 2018 trends and the results give us plenty of clues.

We’re prioritising adaptability and collaboration, with flexible office set-ups that encourage colleagues to interact, share ideas and create a motivation culture.

We’re not only aware of the need to be tech-savvy, we’re eager to keep our organisations on the cutting edge of sector-specific developments

The concern for employee well-being is real, and it’s being actioned in measurable ways.

For those of us whose working lives have included spells in miserable, claustrophobic cubicles this is a welcome development. As a graduate I worked at the Head Office of a major retail plc and saw both sides of corporate life. When I had to deliver a report to directors, I took the elevator to a higher floor with plush carpets I was not permitted to walk on and penthouse-like offices where I was not permitted to sit. Descending back to my own floor, I would contort myself into a cubicle the size of a large dog kennel and settle down for a day’s work that might feature little or no human contact.

According to LondonOffices.com the fashionable 2018 office will free us from any sense of confinement by bathing us in sunlight, it will encourage interaction with open plan seating and support remote working to accommodate our lifestyle choices.

At Jane Systems we have high hopes […]

Knowing Me, Knowing You

There are many things a recruiter looks for in a job applicant, and one thing that consistently impresses interviewers is evidence that the person in front of them has done their homework. Not just on the specifics of a job role but also on the wider organisation.

And, frankly, it’s negligent when they don’t.

In a sense, every job is a customer service job and every employee is an ambassador for the organisation that pays their wages. It’s a lot easier to positively represent your employer when you understand what they do, where they are heading and how they plan to get there.

It’s also a lot easier to motivate and engage a workforce when you understand what makes them tick. A thorough recruitment process will paint a useful picture of the person you’re hiring, not just the skillset they bring. Following through with smooth onboarding and tailored training and development brings your people closer to the heart of your business. It brings them closer not just to understanding your core values but embodying them.

Jane Systems take pride in knowing our clients and our markets. Last month we carried out a survey of target clients in the public and private sectors; organisations we don’t currently work with but hope to be supporting in 2018.

73% of employees didn’t know what was in their employer’s mission statement, or if they had one

55% of employees weren’t able to name three of their employer’s core values

42% of employees didn’t know if their organisation had offices in other countries

68% of managers didn’t know for sure what motivated the people in their teams, either personally or professionally

61% of managers didn’t consider reviewing the skills of internal candidates before placing a vacancy with a […]

Everything Costs Something

When a fee-paying scheme was introduced for UK employment tribunals in 2013, it led to an estimated 70% cut in the number of cases. If that statistic was predictable, then it’s hardly a surprise that the recent decision to abolish those fees is set to open the floodgates.

What’s the emotional and professional cost to an individual of nursing a grievance? Even when a tribunal gives someone the opportunity to make themselves heard and gain compensation, restitution or closure, the road to that outcome can be hard and damaging. It’s difficult not to wonder what’s gone so badly wrong with HR procedure and practice that this is the long-drawn-out result.

Sometimes people and organisations just don’t fit, and the sooner they part ways the better it is for all concerned. But how often do relations between good employees and good employers reach breaking point for avoidable reasons?

In HR, as in all things, good practice is good business. When line managers are well versed in your company policies and procedures and follow them because they believe in them, results will follow.

Make those policies understandable and transparently fair. Not just following the letter of employment law but the spirit. Let your people know they really are your people, and see how that impacts on their loyalty and performance.

And have a system in place that smoothly converts your good intentions into good practice.

How much easier would it be for you to build on your people’s skills and motivation if their training needs could be logged via appraisals, business plans, project workflows or direct requests, and the training itself could be monitored at every stage, enabling you to audit and evaluate its […]