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Employees HR, Redundancy & Trade Unions

There are good reasons to employ older workers

It has been calculated that there are around 300,000 fewer people in the workforce than there were before the pandemic.

At the same time as employers complain about recruitment difficulties, research carried out in the autumn of 2022 by CMI (Chartered Management Institute) found that there was considerable reluctance to consider taking on older workers.

In a survey of more than 1,000 managers working in UK businesses just four out of 10 (42%) were open “to a large extent” to hiring people aged between 50 and 64 while just 18% of managers said they were open to a large extent to hiring people aged over 65.

Ann Francke, chief executive of the CMI, said the findings pointed to cultural and leadership failings in businesses of all sizes.

Yet there are many benefits to employing older workers.

Older workers are likely to be more settled as well as having better problem-solving, productivity and output, and smarter decision-making skills.

They are usually able and willing to learn new skills and, thanks to their accumulated life skills, are often better at dealing with customers. This often also makes them positive role models for younger employees as well as potential mentors.

Ideally, a business will benefit from a mix of older and younger employees combining both the steadying influence and wisdom of the former with the innovative skills of the latter.

Can your business afford to miss out on any of this?

Categories
Employees Sustainability

How can business sustainability help with recruitment?

The Harvard Business School definition of business sustainability is twofold.

It says there are two things that should be measured for business sustainability. They are the effect a business has on the environment, and the effect a business has on society, with the goal of sustainable practice being to have a positive impact on at least one of those areas.

At the moment businesses are reporting difficulty in recruiting suitable candidates so anything that can help to increase applications is important.

This is where sustainability comes in.

Adobe recently surveyed its US workforce and found that almost a third of people said they would only work for an employer that prioritised sustainability

About a third of employees thought it would boost productivity rates (35 percent), position their company as a leader (31 percent), and open more opportunities for innovation (37 percent). 

Forty-three percent thought it would improve workplace culture.

Albeit this is just a snapshot of employee attitudes in one business in the US, there is no reason to suppose that they do not apply to candidates elsewhere.

But it is not enough to just talk the talk. A business must be able to demonstrate its commitment to and active initiatives to make itself sustainable.

Categories
Employees General HR, Redundancy & Trade Unions

A disconnect in perceptions of productivity?

The results of a recent survey of more than 20,000 people in 11 different countries has identified two completely opposite views about productivity in relation to working from home.

While four out of five bosses surveyed felt their staff were less productive when working remotely, the majority of employees, around 87%, felt they were more productive.

There could be a number of explanations for this.

At a time when, according to the latest Begbies Traynor Red Flag report, more than 600,000 UK companies are in critical financial distress it is possible that anxious bosses are desperate to increase their firms’ productivity and this is distorting their perceptions.

There can be little doubt that less commuting and a better work/life balance as well as enabling employees to work for longer periods. Perhaps there is a little distortion of perception going on here too? 

However, for the findings to be a more accurate reflection of the reality, there are a number of questions that should be asked.

  1. How well have the bosses communicated their expectations to remote workers and do they give feedback on performance?
  2. Do employees have measurable goals?
  3. Do employees have the right tools and technology to allow them to get things done?
  4. Are their devices suitable for the job they are doing?

In assessing, and hopefully improving, productivity there needs to be an established baseline from which to measure.

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Employees

It is still important for businesses to protect their employees from Covid

Infections have been climbing again thanks to new variants and reportedly cases have risen by 29% in the UK in the last week.

The NHS is also struggling with large caseloads at a time of year when it usually has a respite.

Yet reportedly one in four people who have Covid are going to work.

While it is understandable that businesses facing a perfect storm of rising costs, supply chain issues and recruitment difficulties may be reluctant to let people take time off work, there is still much they can do to protect people.

Firstly, after two years of survival during lockdowns by using remote working, businesses can still allow people with Covid to return to remote working.

While regulations regarding Covid may have been removed, businesses should still be ensuring their workplaces are as safe as possible.

This means ensuring there is plenty of fresh air circulating, providing hand sanitisation stations and asking people to wear masks to protect themselves and others, especially in customer-facing roles.

Given the current difficulties in recruiting staff it makes sense for a business to demonstrate that it has employees’ wellbeing at heart.

Our Board Briefing is still worth a read.

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Employees

Keep your valued employees by giving them a stake in the business

The numbers of employee-owned businesses have more than doubled in a year, according to the Employee Ownership Association (EOA).

There are now more than 1,000 Employee Owned businesses in the UK, it says, compared with 500 in 2020.

As trading conditions become increasingly difficult thanks to a combination of factors, including the war in Ukraine, post-Covid supply chain disruption and the difficulty in recruiting skilled people, employers have turned to EOTs (Employee Owned Trusts) as a way of both spreading the risks in business and in keeping and rewarding staff for loyalty during the pandemic.

There are also tax benefits from turning a business into an EOT.

But there are a number of things to consider in structuring and formalising an EOT and it is important to understand exactly what a business is getting into.

The questions, according to accountants Price Bailey include:

  • What is the commercial purpose of an EOT?
  • Is it suitable for my business?
  • Who will be the controlling party?
  • Who will manage the EOT?
  • What is the market value of the company and what are the value of shares to be sold?
  • How will the share purchase be funded? And if the company is going to fund it, over how many years?

Businesses that have successfully converted to EOTs reportedly say that it improves social responsibility and keeps staff informed and engaged. It can also improve productivity.

If you are struggling with managing your business might an EOT be the way forward?

Categories
Employees General

Are there situations where process automation produces a worse result?

A shortage of candidates amid a high demand for staff has for some time been a complaint made by businesses.

The competition for suitable people has led to their offering higher starting salaries for new staff.

But the question has to be asked: how are they going about the recruitment process?

For several years now, candidates have been assessed using AI (Artificial Intelligence).

This method has become increasingly sophisticated as candidates are now being asked to answer standard interview questions in front of a camera while the software behind it notes thousands of barely perceptible changes to posture, facial expression, vocal tone and word choice.

Some companies selling AI recruitment tools even offer a reactive, AI-powered chatbot that will conduct the entire interview process.

But there have been examples of eminently qualified people being rejected at the first hurdle by these methods and in one recently-reported case and employee with a long track record of work with various high profile publications dis covered his application had been rejected because he had not reached the required score in a test that seemed to bear no relation to the skills needed for the position.

He queried it unsuccessfully and after filing a claim with the Information Commissioner’s Office in the UK was awarded £8000 in compensation. In his view the fault was in the software that was “weeding out good candidates”.

There have been reports of candidates who scored highly on most tests but found themselves excluded perhaps because of age, or an employment gap of longer than six months or because they were missing just a couple of skills from a very long list.

It must be remembered that software is written by human beings and human beings have inherent biases of which they may be unaware, not to mention that they can make mistakes.

At the moment there are no standards for checking whether an AI-based selection process is fair and unbiased although there are reportedly plans in both the UK and USA for bringing in national standards.

In the meantime, while the use of AI tools in the recruitment process may be useful at some stages potential employers should think carefully before applying them too widely.

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Employees

Taking the longer view

Could taking on apprentices be a better business solution to the staffing crisis during the current economic uncertainty?

It is understandable that following the easing of all the Covid pandemic restrictions businesses should be keen to go all-out for growth and therefore recruiting qualified staff.

But recruitment itself is currently a problem and in the face of all the other pressures including supply chain issues, rising energy prices and of course the Ukraine war, perhaps a slower, steadier approach would be more sensible.

Consolidating the current business and planning ahead would ease some of the pressure and this is where taking on apprentices may be a better way forward.

For businesses that are below the threshold of a £3 million payroll there is no apprenticeship levy and there is financial help for both taking on and training apprentices. There is a £1000 incentive payment for taking on an apprentice.

Then, depending on the size of your business, you pay just 5% towards the cost of training and assessing an apprentice and the government will pay the rest up to the funding band maximum.

If you employ fewer than 50 employees, the government will pay 100% of the apprenticeship training costs up to the funding band maximum for apprentices aged 16 to 18 or 19 to 24 with an education, health and care plan provided by their local authority or has been in the care of their local authority.

You must pay them the national minimum wage for their age group but if they are under 25 and on an approved Government apprenticeship scheme you don’t pay NI.

The FSB has a lot of useful information on its website to help smaller employer considering the apprenticeship route.

Thinking longer term could be a good way of protecting your business and preparing it for future growth.

Categories
Employees

The post-Covid restriction dilemma for bosses and employees

Restrictions may have been lifted but Covid levels in the community are still high and this can cause problems for both employer and their employees.

If someone contracts Covid the advice still is to self-isolate for at least five days.

However, this could result in employees losing three days of the statutory sick pay available from the Government, leaving them with just two days sick pay if they abide by the rules. SSP in the UK is just £96.35 per week.

To make matters worse, lateral flow tests are no longer free, so there is also a risk that someone with mild symptoms that are similar to a cold may not test themselves at all, carrying on working and risking spread of the illness to other colleagues.

In a previous post we advised employers to complete a health and safety risk assessment that includes the risk from COVID-19, provide adequate ventilation, clean more often and to ask people with COVID-19 or any of the main COVID-19 symptoms to stay away and enable them to work remotely.

But is there more employers can do to protect their businesses and their workforce in this situation?

Here are a couple of suggestions:

Firstly, employers can protect their workforce and help individuals to isolate if necessary by buying stocks of Lateral Flow Tests and making them available to employees.

Secondly, if they have a workplace sickness scheme, it may be worth introducing sickness pay from day one in the specific case of a Covid infection.

The benefits are obvious albeit you may have to pay a little to reap them.  

It will encourage employees to do the right thing while protecting their income.

It will protect the rest of the workforce and ensure minimal disruption to production and at the same time will send out a message to employees that you do value them and care about their welfare.

Given the difficulties businesses are having in recruiting and retaining staff, it will help you to keep loyal employees.