LettersOn 9 Sep 2003 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article This week’s lettersInvolving middle managers can raise the strategic gameCheer up HR. There is an obvious antidote for the depressive HR profession(Off Message, 6 July), which can add meaning, prove the worth of your existenceand add value to your organisation in business transformation. It’s called‘being more strategic’ and has proven highly effective for middle managers inHR – and for their counterparts elsewhere in the organisation. Traditionally, HR has targeted the middle management layer as an easy optionwhen downsizing. However, there is high risk in taking out a pool of talent andexperience that in reality could be leveraged for moving the organisationforward. Why should senior managers and executives be expected to come up withall the answers when they yearn for more information to be fed upwards to makebetter, higher quality strategic decisions? The wake-up call to the profession – and the key finding of PersonnelToday’s UK Line Managers Survey – is that line managers do not have thenecessary skills to drive their organisations forward. At Roffey Park, our ownManagement Agenda Survey 2003 echoes these results, highlighting that middlemanagers are not providing a clear direction to their team – and that this isholding organisations back from high performance. So how does HR look outward and be less operational, more strategic? Wewould suggest that middle managers in HR can help themselves and ultimately theorganisation by seizing more opportunities. External and internal scanning ispart of this, but they should also engage in the language of strategy andcommunicate in a way that ensures alignment to business goals. The language of strategy used in organisations can be confusing. Forexample, take the word ‘strategy’. Ask for a definition and several answerswill be forthcoming. This will be the same for ‘vision’, ‘goal’, ‘purpose’,‘objective’, and so on. HR can play a meaningful role by ensuring that thesedefinitions are discussed and agreed. A number of HR activities can be defined as strategic, such as successionplanning. However, middle managers should also be assessing and communicatingthe business implications of new information to senior managers. They should besearching for new opportunities and bringing these to the attention of seniormanagers, easing policies and procedures to get new projects started andmonitoring activities to ensure they support top-level management objectives. HR middle managers must understand the link between strategy and change.Their role should not just be to implement policy; they should understand theneed for change, help prepare for it, stimulate it and manage it. This hasimplications in terms of updating role descriptions, performance measurementand ultimately pay. However, it’s a real opportunity to add value and beinstrumental in achieving business goals. HR can take a lead role in encouraging its own middle managers to seek anenhanced role for themselves in addition to encouraging middle management intheir organisation. Yes, this will make it more challenging for HR to identifyin tough times where downsizing needs to occur. But it is far better to createa management force that will ultimately be able to get the organisation whereit needs to go. There are obviously strong business benefits in getting a wider group ofpeople thinking and acting strategically and able to contribute to thestrategic development of the organisation. By supporting the involvement of middlemanagers, HR can help organisations create a higher sense of purpose, improvethe quality of strategic decision-making and increase, through more ideas,strategic options. Middle managers themselves will be able to add further value to theorganisation and will have a greater sense of ownership of the resultingstrategy. So HR middle managers, take heart. Being more strategic could be your answerto looking outwards instead of inwards and thus finding more meaning in whatyou do. Claire McCartney, Researcher Linda Holbeche, Director of Research Roffey Park Editor’s reply: Look out next week for our continuing new series onHR Strategy, which offers our readers a unique chance to solve strategicdilemmas. Count to 10 to keep stress levels down For industry, the signing off of employees as sick can create a considerableburden, both financial and in terms of day-to-day production. And employees aretoo often being signed off with no consideration given to whether they are fitor not to do their jobs (news, 19 July). The system as it stands needs to be radically changed so that those doctorssigning people off sick are held more accountable for their actions. Onesolution could be that the hospital, practice or clinic foots the statutorysick pay bill for the duration that the person is ill, unless the illness isdirectly attributable to the ‘sick’ person’s work environment – ie, a workplaceaccident. We currently employ staff in a manual capacity that involves the repetitivestacking of product. The basic requirement is that they can count to 10. Whereis the stress in that? It would appear, however, that our local GPs feel that this is aparticularly stressful line of work judging by the sick notes received forstress, depression and so on. Stressed out personnel manager Details supplied Heal thyself: get an on-site physician I could not agree more with your front page article (News, 19 August). GPs should be held more accountable for their inability to diagnoseproblems. And it is not simply a question of signing someone back to work ornot. The reasons provided are at times insulting to the employer. For instance,diagnosis comments such as ‘sore knee’ or ‘bruised hand’ are surelyobservations more than anything else. But who are we to argue as their word ison its own unquestionable. Therefore, the only effective route is for companies to use either in-houseor contracted occupational physicians. But lets not tarnish all GPs with the same brush. It is a few, and theretends to be a pattern especially with localised surgeries and particular GPs. Jonathan Moffat HR manager, OCS Security Services High-stress culture is often embedded The reaction of the Institute of Directors (IoD) and the CBI to the healthand Safety Executive’s (HSE) landmark enforcement notice against West DorsetHospitals NHS Trust – requiring it to assess stress levels among its doctorsand nurses, and introduce a programme to reduce these or face prosecution if itfails – is at the best misguided and at the worst misleading (News, 19 August).Not all managers are as caring for their employees as the IoD and CBI wouldlike them to be, and there are organisations in which a stress-inducing workculture is as ‘institutionalised’ as racism or sexism were until similarlegislation was introduced to stop them. Some managers are even proud of thisfact, believing that unrealistic deadlines and work pressures are the best wayof getting their employees to perform. This is not the way forward for UK plc. To create an environment thatfosters old-fashioned tenets such as loyalty and commitment, employers andemployees need to work together for the overall benefit of the business. Thoseorganisations that fail in this regard should rightly face prosecution, as theHSE is proposing. The HSE’s actions have been interpreted in some quarters as supporting therights of employees against those of employers. Yet the fact is that bullied,overworked and mismanaged employees will not be as productive as those who workin an environment that encourages health, well-being and resilience. By forcingorganisations to take positive action to ensure this, the HSE is acting in thebest interests of employees and employers alike, and should be applauded fordoing so. Carole Spiers Business Stress Consultant, Carole Spiers Group Long hours do not cause extra stress The Government is suggesting longer holidays. The EU wants a shorter workingweek. The courts have ruled workers can sue for stress. These stories are saidto be symptomatic of an overworked Britain. In fact, the latest survey shows that 41 per cent of Britons are ‘verysatisfied’ at work, compared with only 25 per cent of the French, whose workingweek is capped at 35 hours. In our experience in the recruitment industry, long hours and responsibilitydon’t cause stress by themselves. When work is enjoyable and rewarding, hoursfly by. Problems occur when people are placed in the wrong positions. Afterall, one person’s stressful situation is another’s exciting challenge. We have a responsibility to help more people find fulfilling roles. Thatway, we will create a more prosperous economy and a happier country. Julia Fraser Managing director, Recruitment Solutions Group Top-level stagnation holds back UK plc I was not at all taken aback to see that research released this month foundthat just one in five senior managers throughout FTSE100 companies have atechnical background, whereas 90 per cent of chief executives are degreeeducated. At a time when boardroom diversity is under the spotlight, particularlyfollowing the publication of the Higgs Report, this survey highlights the greatextent of the skills divide at the top. And this should come as no surprise to HR practitioners, who for decadeshave been considered secondary to other disciplines when it comes to board promotion.While the situation has improved to a great extent in recent years, the valuethat a strategically focused HR practitioner can add to a business has yet tobe realised by many senior management teams. Given that technology and people form the backbone of almost everyorganisation, it does confound that such little emphasis is placed upon theirmanagement at the highest level. It appears shortsighted and stagnant thatBritish business has failed to transform the make-up of management inaccordance with changing business processes. Some may argue that technically-minded professionals and HR practitioners donot have the skills necessary to ascend to the board. However, while there is aneed for an understanding of the intricacies of the corporate world, of equalimportance is the sheer wealth of knowledge and ability to manage complexprocesses and issues that they bring. Certainly, I wouldn’t suggest that all management professionals besuperceded by IT and HR specialists, but in light of the present imbalancechange does need to occur. Balance sheets, profit and loss and financial reporting are essential to thecontinuation of a business, but equally important are the people that make ithappen. Ian Sharland Managing director, LogicaCMG Enterprise Services Related posts:No related photos. Comments are closed.