Why don’t people remember…?

Last week a Company Director phoned Assimilating-Talent and was talking to me about his frustration with communicating change to his employees. He told me that “People don’t read stuff”.
Actually his frustration was that his employees seemed not to remember information.

I pointed out that this shouldn’t be a surprise when you look at how information is available and the way people retrieve it. Wikipedia doubling each year, over 200 million searches on “Tax advice” from Google, staff handbooks that run to 100 pages or more, 200 emails a day into their inbox and so on. People don’t need to remember information any more, they just need to know how to retrieve it.

Another result of all this information is that people are reading information differently. They scan for keywords as they hunt for specific topics, they read horizontally dipping in and out of text and store information, without reading it, for later reading.

This has huge implications for how organisations communicate with their people. The frequency of that communication and what people are being asked to look at. Possibly, instead of large memos, a shorter one line asking people to read: ‘“Section 2.4” of the change programme as this has changed‘.

Someone who I follow and talks huge sense on the topic of communication with people and businesses is Chris Street, The Bristol Editor and I would recommend a discussion with him if you want to improve your internal communication

Stephen Harvard Davis

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A revolution in the making

I was interested to read that two leading academics have predicted a revolution at work over the next ten years. Alison
Maitland and Peter Thomson, visiting fellows at Cass Business School and
Henley Business School respectively, are predicting that employees will soon be deciding when, where and how they do their jobs and that in future workers will be paid by results and not by the hours worked.

Revolution will help boost output
Reported in People Management, the pair maintain that such a
radical change in working practices will help businesses boost output,
cut costs, speed access to new markets and afford employees greater

They highlight the Clothing
retailer Gap that is said to have halved the turnover rate of employees
when it introduced a ‘Results-Only Work Environment’ in the production
and design department of their outlet division in California.

A flawed prediction.

I see there being a flaw in their argument. Can you imagine shops, banks, and other places where staffing is needed during opening hours, allowing complete flexibility in how, when and where the job is done?

Then there’s their proposal of paying for results. Now that sounds like a great idea and would have much support from people all over Europe that would love to propose that we start by paying Bankers, politicians, Estate agents (Realtors) and civil servants purely on their quantifiable results. I can see there being thousands of applications to be “Productivity assessors”
Now there’s a revolution! 

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Unproductive workers rights

What a storm the report proposing change the rules regarding unfair dismissal has had. This is despite the fact that any changes, in the current climate, are unlikely.

Unproductive workers should lose rights
As reported by the BBC The report, commissioned by the prime minister, argues that unproductive workers should lose their right to claim unfair dismissal”. The Daily Telegraph
quotes the report as saying that under the current rules workers are
allowed to “coast along” with some proving impossible to sack.

Sarah Veale head of the equality and employment rights department at the TUC said that there were less than a million unfair dismissal claims last
year which was “absolutely nothing” out of a large workforce. TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “The clue is in
the name. Employers already have plenty of powers to make fair
dismissals”. I find myself agreeing with Mr Barber! The only problem is that almost 40% of applicants withdraw their cases, but employers still have to pay legal fees in preparing a defence.

Informal discussions
I believe that employers should have the right to informally discuss with their staff issues surrounding employment, such as retirement plans, production and productivity without the fear of having to face an industrial tribunal. To do so would allows the employer to plan staffing needs, recruitment and other issues that make a business profitable.

In fact, if done properly, can’t an employer have these discussions already?

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The Evil Twin

I was at a meeting today at the IOD (Institute of Directors) and the discussion included a reference to the “Evil Twin Syndrome” which is the fact that one sees the best in a person at the interview. As my old boss used to say “They will always be at their smartest at the interview”

During the probationary period they will be perfect. Work hard and even do overtime. Then the day after a satisfactory probationary period there arrives “The Evil Twin”. The individual who is argumentative, difficult to manage and screams “unfair” at every opportunity.

However, having identified that most managers have suffered from the syndrome it’s also  true to say that at some time in one’s career one has probably also been “the evil twin” and caused some manager to go prematurely grey!

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Which is more important experience or qualification?

A number of friends are having a debate over the different emphasis that employers should place on qualifications and experience when looking for top talent employees.

Some place greater emphasis on a paper qualification such as an MBA and Degree and suggest that they prove capability and a level of knowledge to do a job. This group acknowledges the importance of experience but would automatically disqualify a job applicant without a qualification.

Those that support experience suggest that paper qualifications, whilst necessary, don’t demonstrate essential entrepreneurial skills such as imagination and drive. These can only be demonstrated by “past success in previous positions” and “related experience”. In addition, they point out, a twenty-year old degree is of little value in the current workplace!

The questions I have are these:

  • When would it be appropriate or sensible to hire a person without a qualification?
  • At what point do qualifications become less relevant than experience?
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Job insecurity still the biggest concern

With the UK Government saying that the public sector cuts are likely to “affect the way people live in the UK for years to come” it’s not surprising that job security has risen to the the top of people’s concerns.

The problem is that too often people feel helpless about the situation. After all, it’s the boss and company performance that dictate job security and too often an employee feels unable to affect either.

The advice that I am giving to friends is to develop their network. It is after all, through a network of contacts that most people find their next job. Having a strong network is essential if you are to get the help yopu need when things go “pear shaped”.

However, a network is not just a list of names in one’s address book. It’s the engagement and trust that’s built up that is important.

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Maria holds her first disciplinary

An employee with a worsening attendance record has been seen by Maria. From what I have heard the investigation was professional and correctly done. Though the employee feels that Maria was unsympathetic to her particular transport problems and taking children to school.

Her team have noted, with some amusement, that she stands by her office window at lunchtime and as soon as she sees the MD or the Sales Director walking to the Canteen for lunch will quickly grab her coat and will rush to join them.

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Meeting with employees

During these uncertain times it’s inevitable that at some point we will need to meet with employees to carry out a hearing whether it’s a warning of dismissal or an appeal against redundancy.

How these meetings are approached is important when a Tribunal might consider whether you have acted reasonably or not. The main points to consider are:

a) Don’t prejudge the situation or alleged breach of discipline.

b) The employer needs to listen to what is being said.

c) The employer accepts that there is an issue that requires consideration but that no decision has been taken before all the evidence has been considered.

d) That it’s an opportunity for the employee to state their case and be heard by an employee with an open mind and with fairness.

It is crucial that handwritten minutes of the meeting are taken and that these match the typed record. Minutes should not be adapted but should be an accurate reflection of what happened at the meeting. (retain the handwritten notes as these may be required later).

Any issue raised by the employee must be examined and that all issues for consideration must be open for review and investigation. It is important to remember that one of the decisions that can be made is to agree with the employee.

If, having held the hearing, you decide to issue a warning or reject the employees grievance then there must be reasoned justification and you may need to state why you were satisfied with your conclusion on that point.

When holding such meetings it’s best to take advice so that they are conducted correctly and to ensure that you abide by the staff handbook covering such events.

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