Gimme Some Respect

It’s a word we have been hearing a lot about lately but is it in short supply?. CNN journalist Jim Acosta was accused of disrespecting the office of the president at president elect Donald Trump’s first press conference after winning the election race.

Although at same press conference many commentators said Trump had brought the office of president into disrepute because of his barracking style. Trump supporters and detractors, Brexit leavers and remainders, student unions and MP’s to name a few have all been accused of being disrespectful.

Lets examine what the dictionary meaning of the word respect is it’s :

“An admiration felt or shown for someone or something that you believe has good ideas or qualities”. Also:

“I have respect for his ideas, although I do not agree with them although many others do”.

There’s not much respect going on on either side of the debate in my previous examples

Many who accuse others of disrespect are being disrespectful themselves but refuse to accept this fact. It’s a mad world but of course it always has been and their will always be those who think that their opinion is right and everyone else is wrong. So it’s OK for them to be disrespectful in their minds.

In business relationships we need people to be respectful but questioning and on occasion challenging both are very important life skills. If we can’t debate and sometimes agree to disagree but still work together on other projects and issues then we will fail to learn and grow.

What has dismayed me over the past year is that people on either side of many debates I thought were level headed, reflective thinkers who used reason, logic and debate. Have shown a side of themselves I have never seen and its not a nice side. They have become argumentative, sulky, bullying, disrespectful and worse. Maybe it’s time we all looked in the mirror and found our self respect and respect for others. Hopefully then we can have useful discussion and argument that engages and is productive.

I do hope that 2017 ends up creative, energetic and productive and not more divisive and disrespectful. I live in hope. Well that’s a rap and I’ll leave it to the kids to teach the adults.

The Respect Rap

Trump Berates CNN Reporter

Meaning of the word respect

Academies – is the future of the nations education safe in their hands?

According to the government yes and educationalists mostly no. Should we be worried about it? In my view yes we should it’s as big an issue for Britain and it’s future as Brexit, Immigration and terrorism.

That’s a bold statement but government’s have always struggled with education policy and it’s successful implementation. The more changes that have been made to make it more effective and successful the further we have slid down the international education league tables.

Academies have have had some great successes and some spectacular failures. Given that up to now they have had more resources and autonomy than state schools the explanations on the failures is quite poor and virtually non existent. That would not be acceptable for state schools.

The government is quick to tell us that one size doesn’t fit all and various solutions are needed to modern issues and problems that face business, government and society. So why when education has always been a huge problem for governments does this government think one size fits all for our schools?

I am an optimist and I hope for our children, businesses and the country that they are right and academies deliver what ministers say they will. However I am a realist and judging on past performance I suspect it will be an experiment that will fail. By the time we realise that academies are not working for many a generation or more of children will have lost out.

The education minister Nicky Morgan said that if we vote to leave the EU it will have a devastating effect on our young people’s life chances. If the academies experiment goes wrong it will have that effect whether we vote to remain or leave the EU.

10-nicky-morgan-afpget

The way the government is going about this smacks of a communist state, little or no consultation, only one option and parents having less say with no parent governors. Not what one would expect of a conservative government. There are already two petitions with more than a 100,000 signatures against the proposals and planned demonstrations in the pipeline.

Some of the governments comments make sense but many are already being implemented. Schools are grouping together and sharing knowledge and expertise as well as sharing problems within their areas.

Yes schools still need to be teaching real world skills so that young people are “employment” ready when they leave. Businesses can help in this as partners in a structured way. But running schools? Is big business really interested in giving our children a rounded education that will give them better life chances? Or is it a way of big firms making money reducing choice and transparency and ultimately responsibility and accountability whilst milking the taxpayer?

Everyone should read Liverpool Echo reporter Tom Belger’s report on Halewood Academy. No communication, no one is responsible and going to the local authority and even the government does not work. They are not responsible for academies, this is the possible frightening future.

I will conclude by saying I am against all schools being forced to become academies. Those that wish to should be supported as well as those that don’t. I don’t believe one size fits all.

Sources

New Education system and Acadamisation White Paper – Department of Education

Nicky Morgan under fire over Mumsnet post on academisationThe Guardian

Leaving EU ‘devastating for young’, says Nicky Morgan – BBC

A Tale of trying to hold an acadamy to account – The Liverpool Echo

Minister Backs Swindon Academy – Swindon Advertiser

PISA tests UK Stagnates – BBC

What are the Worst Paid Jobs in the UK?

HR Grapevine recently had a feature article “The 10 worst paid jobs in the UK” the statistics came from the ONS and reproduced by the TUC. The list featured jobs that that you would probably expect and revealed that one in five UK workers earned less than the living wage.

The top 10 worst paid jobs in the UK (average wage p.a.) were as follows:

  • Waiters and Waitresses – £12,507
  • Bar staff – £12,948
  • Hairdressers and Barbers – £13,373
  • Kitchen and catering assistants – £13,396
  • Launderers,dry cleaners and pressers – £13,767
  • Retail cashiers and check-out operators – £13,911
  • Playworkers – £14,023
  • Cleaners and Domestics – £14,164
  • Nursery nurses and assistants – £14,305
  • Other elementary services occupations – £14,575

But that’s not the whole story as their are a lot more people not covered by this survey who are in the same position or even worse earn less than the minimum wage. This survey only covers those in employment and low paid self employment is on the increase as is the number of carers.

I am not just talking about those who have had full employment, taken redundancy and used this to become self employed. Many replies to this article bore out what had become apparent to me through many conversations with budding musicians, poet’s, artists and author’s. That is that this group often earn less than those in the TUC survey. Anyone who has decided to be a carer will know how little you get to survive on.

Not included in the survey:

  • Musician, Artist, Poet, Writer – £11.875
  • Newly Self Employed – £14.350
  • Carer – £10.400

This survey is a useful indicator but like many surveys what it leaves out gives a whole other story and picture. How many other groups are their to add to this list? And those working part time who can’t find full time work are a whole other question.

If you add them all together it’s hard to see where the promised good life by politicians of all persuasions will come from for people in these groups should you vote for them at the general election.

One thing I will add is that the majority of people in these groups I have met seem to be happier than people I meet in relatively well paid jobs. Go figure, maybe it’s because they are doing what they want to?

Links

The Ten Worst paid jobs in the UK

Rising Inequalities not Inevitable

Who is the economic sunshine shining on?

It’s an election year and the politicians are promising us all the earth again, whoever you are whatever you want they will deliver it. Old allegiances are coming out and those well worn sayings like “You have to vote labour if you want to save the NHS” and “You can only vote conservative if you want to reduce the deficit and improve our  economic outlook”.

It may come as a shock to many that governments don’t actually have control of the economy. They would like us to think they have but global economics eats governments and spits them out as Greece has found to it’s cost.

As with all economies we have some good some bad and some conflicting and even confusing economic indicators. Will these change significantly if there’s a change of government? For Britain as a whole we have “the best of times and the worst of times”

I worry that a conservative government on it’s present course if its re elected would continue some of it’s harsher policies against groups in society in should support more. However I worry if labour get in they will revert to tax and spend. Neither of these are good for the country and cohesion in the long-term. Of course if we end up with another coalition that may give more uncertainty for business and individuals.

We have fractured groups in society there are many at the top like Malcolm Rifkind who think they deserve everything because they have worked hard. There’s another group at the bottom who believe they should be able to do what they want when they want to and the rest of us should pay for it. Both groups sense of entitlement is unjustified and a little disgusting.

Some want an economic model that relies on the free market without minimum wages where the majority of us scramble for what we are thrown. Some want salaries and benefits that they are not skilled to attain. We have debacles over zero hours contracts and charities paying below the living wage. Many in work on reasonably good salaries struggle with debt whilst small business owners struggle with mountains of bureaucracy.

Whoever gets into power they need to be mindful of the squeezed middle they are educated and starting to realise the current system is actually working against many of them. The next five years will be interesting politically and economically. Will wealth continue to trickle upward or will trickle down finally begin to happen and make society a little more equal? Government can have put vehicles in place to support this but will they?

The great divergence identified by economists and academics has been talked about by President Obama. This divergence is gaining in momentum here and even some of the super rich see that business as usual cannot continue if people do not have the disposable income to buy goods and services. Long term I believe this will ultimately drive economies downward. As super rich Nick Hanauer says he may earn 200 times more per hour than the average employee but he doesn’t go on two hundred holidays, buy 200 houses or pairs of jeans. So he is not spreading or trickling down his wealth.

Is their a different way?

According to the Billionaire governor of Minnesota there is and he isn’t just saying it he has proved it. The previous governor didn’t raise taxes as he said businesses and people would leave and the state would become bankrupt. Exactly the opposite has happened it has attracted more businesses and has substantially increased the numbers of rich and super rich living there. For those on average incomes they have gone up around 10% and employers in the state pay above the minimum wage.

Whoever ends up in government here for the next term maybe they should give Minnesota governor Mark Dayton a call. They might just learn something useful.

Whilst you ponder here’s a happy ditty about money and one about the economy courtesy of Peter Cook at The Academy of Rock

Fiscal Cliff  –  A Hard Rock song about Hard Times and the Hard Road to Revovery

Real Performance Management how do you perform?

In a recent interview with Personnel Today the Pensions Minister Steve Webb told employers that Age should not be an excuse for “inevitable or excusable” under performance.

You can read the full interview and make your own mind up on this issue.  I am more interested in performance by all which means able bodied, disabled and everyone else in the workforce. More specifically how that performance is managed and how those “hard” conversations are approached and carried out by managers.

It seems that no matter how much training is given a significant majority of managers do not like having those “hard” conversations.  This is bourne out by many studies and reports from the Chartered Management Institute the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and the Institute of Leadership and Management.

Instinctively many people do not like conflict and will avoid it like the plague and this includes managers. Many other issues also come into play here including lack of knowledge or skill, fear of getting it wrong, familiarity and favoritism to name a few.

Is it the fault of HR or the learning and development section in an organisation; was the wrong training procured or the delivery poor? In most cases it was the right training delivered well but here’s the rub. It’s OK going through role play based scenarios in a training room but it is totally different carrying out a performance review in practice. Especially if that review has lots of negatives in it.

The first question is why are there so many negatives if performance is supposedly managed well and regular 1-2-1’s are carried out along with timely return to work interviews? Surely everything’s been discussed along the way and relevant training and development opportunities put into place or help and support?

There are more management books on the subject than ever and an expanding number of management training organisations. Yet survey after survey shows a lack of confidence by employees in managers. Part of a manager’s job is to have “hard” conversations but many struggle with them for various reasons. Some reasons I have mentioned previously but the real skills needed to carry out those conversations need spelling out. They are listening and hearing what the person is telling you, empathizing and understanding their situation and supporting them in whatever way you can.  This shows you care about them as a person and not just as someone you have to move through the corporate process.

Of course at some point that “hard” conversation may mean you have exhausted every option and the options that remain may mean a reduction in salary as the person needs to reduce their hours it may mean termination of their employment because even with extensive training and support they cannot perform to the required level.  It is at this point that guilt kicks in for managers and indeed some employees will blame you personally.  Because they are now going to lose their house or cannot pay for a child’s wedding or support them though university.

Those circumstances are tragic and if you fail to be moved by them then in my personal opinion you should not be managing people. But you have a responsibility to the rest of the team, the organization, customers and shareholders in the private sector or taxpayers in the public sector. Performance management needs to be effective no matter what the person’s physical or mental ability or their age.  It should be relevant and individualistic to them.

So what do you do?

Can Government learn anything from Branson’s Employer Brand?

In the recent article “Branson’s employer brand Jessica Collingwood

Group People Director at Virgin explained why the organisation was an employer of choice. It’s down to the company ethos which is take care of your staff and they will take care of your customers this is embedded in the company culture. It delivers profits and higher shareholder value and everyone is relevantly happy company is described as a “funky” and “young” place to work.

Along with this effective ethos being human when dealing with staff, stakeholders, suppliers and customers is key.  As is allowing staff some flexibility and independence to work outside the script and understanding that one size does not fit all.  Whether that’s with staff or customer groups another factor is a relatively stable management team over a long period. Virgin does have problems like any other company and the average age of it’s workforce is higher than the funky young label might make you believe.  Collingwood describes it as a young at heart company.

So how does this relate to branding and employee engagement in local government? Many surveys from government and professional bodies have highlighted that very few councils are good at getting across the benefits of working for them.  It’s not rocket science so why is it so? First most HR&OD departments have been dealing with legislative implementations, various reviews leading to higher numbers of appeals and grievances.  This at a time when the workload is increasing and the staffing and budgets decreasing. In short they are wanting to get around to it, understand its importance to the business but there is just to much other really really important stuff to do.

Second and more importantly the minute you start to talk about the benefits of working for local government the unions and some disgruntled staff will immediately point out what has and is going to be taken off them. Which is a disincentive that does need addressing so let’s do that now.

In the last three years large numbers of local government staff have seen the following:

Reductions in pay due to restructures or job evaluation

No pay rise for a third year running

Increases in pension contributions, and having to work longer before getting a lot less than they thought they would on retirement

Loss of holiday entitlement  – up to 5 days by 2014

Loss of other benefits such as free parking

Reduction in training and development

No clear career path or promotional prospects

What is going to happen in the future?

The chancellor has signalled 1% max pay rises in the next two years

Significant budget reductions after 2015 meaning further job losses, pay cuts and loss of more benefits

Local pay which many believe is a means of reducing pay further

One other thing I must mention as I am sure someone else will if I don’t is that redundancy pay is not usually as generous in local government as it is in the private sector.

So why would anyone want to work for local government?

 

The pay is comparable or above local rates for some types of work

The pension although being reduced is still better than many private companies offer

Even though holiday entitlement is being reduced it is still better than many private sector companies

There are some good jobs and great careers in local government

The work life balance and flexibility is generally better than the private sector

There is a sense of doing something that matters for society and the community

There is often a good team spirit

Some of the problems local government face are similar to the private sector but others mean that it is not possible to stay as stable for such a long period like Virgin.

Private companies generally have a number of products they sell and a board responsible for funding strategy and direction.  Local government has a plethora of funding streams which are often conditional, the number of products and services they are responsible for is also wider than those of private companies. There are also many more political considerations and obstacles for local government Chief executives and their management teams.

These things do make it a challenging and often frustrating environment to work in.  Lack of funding means creative and innovate methods have to be found to deliver services.  It would be helpful to local and central government employees if our political masters would refrain from making it sound as though all the country’s ill’s are public servants fault. Like most other working people local government employees are trying to cope with the recession the best they can.  When was the last time you heard Richard Branson or Bill Gates denigrate their employees?

We keep hearing of a crisis of leadership and that management in this country is failing. Maybe it’s time our political classes learned how to motivate and enthuse instead of playing the blame game. Positive dialogue will increase the brand image of local government  and make it an employer of choice.

Statistics are they useful, meaningless or are they there to be manipulated for your own ends?

Not a week goes by without another government department , union, institute or consultancy releasing a plethora of statistics about almost anything you care to think about.  The economy, manufacturing, the service sector and employment; the number of jobless is one area where a government minister will tell us it’s great news the total number of jobless has fallen.  Sounds great doesn’t it we can all take a sigh of relief can’t we?

On the surface that is fantastic but then we get the statistics from the Office for National Statistics which confirms what the minister said. You are dumbstruck at this point aren’t you a government minister actually told us the truth. Yes he did but a version of the truth that suited at the time for that televised soundbite. The real truth is a mixed bag that paints a slightly different picture.  Let’s look at the figures in more detail;

On the Plus side

  • The number of jobseekers dropped by 13,700 to 1.59 m in April
  • The number of people with jobs rose by 105,000 to 29.23m
  • The number of self employed rose by 89,000 to 4.1m
  • Exports rose to a 36 year high

The Government is also putting incentives forward for firms to take on apprentices and the long term unemployed.

On the minus side

  • The number in part time jobs who want a full time job rose by 73,000 to 1.4m.  The highest total since records began in 1992
  • The number unemployed for more than a year rose by 27,000 to 887,000
  • Youth unemployment is very high and a concern
  • The number of self employed rose by 89,000 to 4.1m

 The IMF is telling the chancellor that Britain is not out of the woods and interest rates need to be cut along with the severity of austerity measures There are still significant job cuts to come in 2102/13 in the public sector Another cohort of School, College and University graduates will join the job market in July. The Euro zone crisis will more than likely have a further negative impact on Britain

The picture doesn’t look quite as rosy after reading those statistics as the initial soundbite would make you believe. The figures for the next quarter should prove to be interesting and I wonder what they will show if the above exercise is repeated?  We have all ignored statistics that don’t fit our view so how do you use statistics?