Are You Ready For The 4G workplace?

multi-generational-workplace-300x199The recent UKCES (UK Commission for Employment and Skills) report ‘The Future of Work’ takes a look at the workplace of the future and whether the emerging multi-generational workplace will be a good or a bad thing for employers and employees and the CIPD’s study of nearly 3000 employees and over 900 employers points strongly to the latter. It also highlights the fact that few employers are actually planning for this phenomenon.

  •          31% of employers say that they react to issues relating to the ageing population as they arise rather than having a strategy in place.
  •          34% of employers say their organisation does nothing to ensure it has access to enough skilled and diverse people of all ages.
  •          22% of employers say their organisation has no provisions in place to ensure employees of all ages develop and keep their skills up to date.
  •          46% of employers said that line managers are not trained in managing teams of different generations and that their organisation has no plans to change this.

Almost a third of employees saw no challenges whatsoever in working with colleagues from different generations, with employers and employees in agreement that knowledge sharing and greater innovation are by far the leading benefit which is very reassuring to know but, as can be seen from the statistics above, if employers aren’t ready to meet the differing needs of all their employees the benefits of the 4G workplace may not be gained.

With this huge increase in 4 Generation (4G) workers, the workplace of the future has to be more flexible about where, when and the number of hours people will be working. So how are employers going to manage this greater need for flexibility and ensure that workloads are spread appropriately according to skills and capabilities? One thing seems clear to me – without the workforce management technology in place to support this flexibility – employers will struggle.

CIPD Report

UKCES Report


Zero Hours Contracts – Are We One Step Closer To A Truly Agile Workforce?

imagesCAHIW1UVI believe it can only be  good for UK business that zero hours contracts are being taken seriously and that the pressure on the Government to provide guidelines for employees and employers is growing. The CIPD report following a public consultation has concluded that change is required to ensure the flexibility that can be offered by zero hour contracts benefits both employers and employees.

Flexible working contracts have become increasingly important for many businesses; allowing them to become more agile and competitive and improving employee engagement by giving employees the total flexibility they may need to balance complex home and working lives. At the risk of sounding repetitive, I believe a major issue that needs to be addressed by many organisations is that of making zero hours and other flexible contract employees easier for managers to manage. The way to do this easily is by using workforce management technology that can automate some of the processes needed to track employee attendance and schedule employees according to both business requirements and employee preferences.

Below are the four main recommendations made by the CIPD:

  • The use of exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts preventing workers from working for another employer should be banned, with a narrow exemption for employers that can demonstrate a compelling business reason, for example, confidentiality or the protection of trade secrets.
  • CIPD recommends that staff on zero hours contracts should, after a minimum period of 12 months service with an employer, have the legal right to request a minimum number of hours per week.  Employers would have to respond positively to the request unless they had a business reason for turning it down.
  • The CIPD believes all workers should be legally entitled to a written copy of their terms and conditions not later than two months in employment (currently under the Employment Rights Act 1996 only employees are entitled to this). This would help provide greater clarity on behalf of both parties on the issue of employment status and the associated employment rights.
  • The CIPD would support the creation of a code of practice setting out for employers and zero hours workers some key principles and guidance on the responsible management of these types of working arrangements.

The full consultation can be downloaded here:

The full report, ‘Zero hours contracts: Myths and reality’ is available to download here:

The Global ‘Sickie’ Culture – Is There A Solution?

Sickie CultureThe staff sickness rate in the UK is historically ‘half that of Germany’ according to analysis of more than 2,600 companies in three countries by Dr Wen Wang and Professor Roger Seifert of the Wolverhampton Business School (WBS). Workplace absence costs British business £32bn a year, and Germany and France suffer even bigger losses according to the research. The CIPD 2013 Annual Absence Management Survey reveals that absence in the UK private sector is 7.6 days on average for every employee in the workforce, equating to a cost of £595 per year per person. The results of the analysis carried out by the WBS, reported in an article in the suggests the difference in employment protection and sick pay is one reason given for the higher rates within mainland Europe. “The Local”, an English language newspaper in Germany refers to research carried out by the GfK Research Institute that indicates just under half of German workers have actually taken a sick day when they were not sick. It would seem that no nation is free of this costly problem.

That this is a world-wide issue was also highlighted  in the  Global Absence Survey, we carried out here at Kronos last year. It was really interesting to see the similarities and differences between different countries. According to the Survey, significant numbers of employees across the world admitted to calling in sick when they were not ill at all. China led the regions surveyed, with 71 percent of employees admitting to calling in sick when they were not actually sick.  One of the contributory factors for the differences appeared to be the amount of paid leave allowed. France, for example has the most generous paid leave allowance of the countries surveyed with 25 days, and had fewer instances of employees ‘pulling a sickie’ whereas China has only 7 days paid leave allowance in the first year of employment and capped at 14 days in subsequent years. These findings seem to support the analysis by Dr Wang and Professor Seifert that better employment policies and sick pay influence unscheduled absence rates.

Organisations shoulder an enormous cost as a result of employee absence and it should be a key concern for all industry sectors across Europe and the rest of the world. The direct cost of absence is often recorded and reported in annual surveys such as the CIPD survey referred to above, but the indirect cost, such as overtime and temporary staff is rarely considered, yet can exceed the direct cost by as much as 200%. On top of this is the negative affect unscheduled and badly managed absence has on employee engagement which can lead to lower productivity and talented employees leaving the business.

So why would an employee call in sick when not actually ill? In the Kronos survey, the most significant reason given in every region was that employees felt stressed and therefore needed a day off. When asked what would prevent this behaviour the main solution given in every region, except France, was that organisations should allow more flexible working. In France the most popular solution was being allowed to take ‘Summer Fridays’ off and make up the time during the week. Other popular solutions included unpaid leave and working from home.

Totally eradicating all forms of unscheduled absence is not possible, but creating an environment where absence can be managed more effectively is achievable. Given visibility and accurate, up-to-date information on employee attendance, organisations can tackle unscheduled and scheduled absence, its costs, and its effects on business performance more easily across the globe.

Throughout my career in Workforce Management I regularly see dramatic drops of unscheduled absence between 20 to 40% in most organisations as they deploy an automated solution, quite a surprise when the initial conversation often starts with “We are sure there is no issue here, we don’t have a culture of people pulling sickies”.

Find out more and download a copy of the Kronos Global Absence Survey here or Watch our Global Absence video


Zero hours & temporary contracts – A ‘quick fix’ or will they become the norm?

There has been much debate recently, following the CIPD’s revelation that the figures for zero-hours contracts are much higher than expected and are growing more popular with employers across many areas of the public and private sectors.  A consequence of the tough economic conditions – it looks like they may be here to stay – despite widespread criticism.

Zero Hours ContractsThe findings have prompted investigations from a number of organisations. In June The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) started a ‘fact-finding’ mission into the benefits and disadvantages for both employees and employers of zero hours contracts. The Office of Rail Regulation said that the use of zero hours contracts had a negative effect on the attitudes and behaviour of those involved and “was not conducive to a safe railway.” And most recently the Government hosted parliamentary debate into zero hours contracts to explore the issues further.

The future for zero hours contracts is far from certain. The widespread press attention and interest from Government, unions, employment bodies and other organisations means that tighter legislation can only be a matter of time.

Another contentious development that has arisen on the back of the economic downturn has been the increase in the numbers of temporary contracts. An analysis of government statistics reveals that between December 2010 and December 2012 the number of temporary workers increased by 89,000 to 1,650,000 – that’s nearly half (46%) of the total jobs increase. This has given rise to warnings from the TUC that unless steps are taken to encourage better working practices and the creation of quality, permanent jobs; workers will suffer.

Whatever your views on these developments, it looks like these kinds of contracts, which can help give employees and employers flexibility; and have been born out of the necessity to meet the demands of tough economic conditions , are already here and look to become a common feature for the UK workforce.

Despite the pressures on organisations to increase temporary and zero hours contracts, I feel it is important for employers to get the balance right to ensure they keep their employees engaged and productive, as well as meet the fluctuating demands of their business. Managers should think about reviewing the technology they use to manage an effectively balanced workforce of full, part-time and temporary employees to create flexibility and a real competitive advantage to enable them to make the right decisions for long-term success.

I would welcome your views on these developments – has your organisation embraced zero-hours contracts? Have temporary contracts become the norm? What effect do you think these changes will have on the UK workforce?


How Do You Cure Compliance Headaches?

HeadacheShared Parental Leave, Flexible Working and Fit Notes are all examples of recent Government legislation that makes managing a workforce more complex. It can make compliance and avoiding accusations of discrimination a real headache.

I recently read a press release from the CIPD that discussed the challenges the administration of the proposed legislation on shared parental leave will bring. One of issues is that parents will be allowed the flexibility to take the leave when they feel they need it.  This makes it difficult for employers to plan recruitment requirements and cover for the leave and has led to a proposal that parents should give 8 weeks’ notice prior to taking leave – which would alleviate some of the pressure on the employer and that was seen as a fair request by the CIPD.

Another issue is that that there are different notice periods for paternity pay and leave that inevitably causes confusion to both employer and employee.  To address this confusion another proposal has been made that parental leave is aligned with the notice period for paternity leave and pay at the end of the 15th week before the expected week of child birth, which the CIPD also support.

From 2014, the statutory procedure for considering flexible working requests will be replaced by a requirement on employers to deal with all requests “in a reasonable manner” and in a recent article in Personnel Today I read how ACAS  have issued a draft code around dealing with these flexible working requests. The draft code is designed to be easy to understand and simple to use. It comprises 13 principles that will be taken into account by employment tribunals when considering cases arising out of the flexible working legislation. Managing a flexible workforce can be tricky for employers and the system must still be seen as fair for it to work. If you want to find out more you can find a copy of the draft ACAS proposal here.

The Fit Note legislation which was brought in two years ago to help manage employees back to work following sickness leave, has already run into difficulties because doctors felt they  were too busy to manage the ‘fit-note’ process and, also felt they didn’t know enough about the employee’s work or workplace to be able to make the call on what arrangements or changes should be made for someone returning to work.

These compliance headaches can be reduced. With the right workforce management tools, employers can have the automation, information, and visibility to foresee when their organisation could be at risk of litigation or the subsequent financial challenges. Automated tools can help them keep pace with Central Government and industry regulations so you can apply appropriate policies and rules easily, and correctly, to facilitate compliance. Employers will also have a reliable record of all employee information to document that these policies are being applied consistently and fairly throughout their organisation.


CIPD say employers are ‘missing a trick’ if they don’t offer older workers flexible working

Simon MacphersonAlthough I am currently enjoying a great holiday I wanted to take the opportunity to wish everyone in my Staff Central blog world a very Happy New Year! With the old year being ushered out with the end of the Mayan calendar (not an apocalyptic ending  it would seem but the beginning of a new era) – I thought it would be good to look at some of the popular topics around workforce management and see if there’s more news and ideas I can share with you before I turn my thoughts back to rest and relaxation.

One of the topics I covered last year around workforce management was flexible working and the ageing workforce. By 2020 it is estimated that 36% of the working population will be over 50. Following on from the recent discussions about the ageing workforce and employment in the House of Lords, the CIPD have again reminded employers that they are ‘missing a trick’ if they don’t offer flexible working to a workforce of which over half plan to work beyond the state retirement age. According to research findings employers who do not make allowances and offer some flexibility will be losing out on ‘better customer service, enhanced knowledge retention and a workforce that can help to address talent and skills shortage’, however, at this time it has been reported that over three quarters (76%) of employers have made no allowances in their workplace for an older workforce.

Making adjustments to working hours, workload and even working environments can enable older workers to remain productive or even become more productive. There is plenty of guidance out there for employers who want to take advantage of this opportunity and Kronos have produced a whitepaper ‘The ageing workforce a challenge or an opportunity?’ that makes interesting reading.

Perhaps one of this year’s resolutions for employers should be to think about flexible working, how they will manage and monitor it and what adjustments they could make in order to ‘Reap the rewards of flexible working’ , again you can read more in the informative white paper.


Always look on the Bright Side of Life

Well, it’s all over and the general feeling seems to be that GB put on a memorable Olympics that we should all be proud of – the closing ceremony was quirky and a continuation of the celebration of everything British and those that participated in the events or helped to make the Olympics such a success have been praised and thanked. Looks like quite a number of my colleagues have a dose of post-Olympic depression and are suffering withdrawal symptoms.

Apparently, this is the first Olympic Games whose organisers have promised a legacy for the nation.  But will it really galvanise a whole generation of children to take part in sport and reduce our high levels of childhood obesity and deliver a new generation of Olympians? Will the East End, my roots, really be renewed and invigorated with thriving local communities and affordable housing? Will British businesses be buzzing with confidence and investment in Great Britain increase so that we see some positive economic growth? I do hope so…Perhaps one of the many positive things about the past couple of weeks is that we have had a brief break from the perpetual doom and gloom of economic news: ‘retail sales down’, ‘manufacturing productivity down’ and ‘UK economy flat-lining’. I did notice a tiny glimmer of positive news this week; the CIPD reported that the private sector is doing a great job holding onto its skilled workers but then, there it was again – the gloomy proviso that unless the UK economy begins to show signs of recovery this quarter, businesses may have no choice but to start laying people off again! So let’s hope that David Cameron is right and the ‘Great’ is once again back in Great Britain and that the pride and engagement that was evident in abundance during the Games will carry us through as a nation to better and more positive times.  Let’s also hope that British businesses have learnt that engaged and inspired people can achieve extraordinary things.

I thought I would also share an interesting blog about engagement and the Olympic volunteers in the Harvard Business Review. It discusses why the Olympic volunteers were so key to the success of the games and how they showed us that organisations that create enthusiasm in their workforce do deliver extraordinary things.