Is Technophobia Preventing Your Business From Reaching Its Full Potential?

technophobiaDefinition of Technophobia from Wikipedia: ‘Technophobia is the fear or dislike of advanced technology or complex devices, especially computers. Although there are numerous interpretations of technophobia, they seem to become more complex as technology continues to evolve. The term is generally used in the sense of an irrational fear, but others contend fears are justified.’

Now, some of you will be sitting and nodding in agreement – ‘Yes, technology is a mystery to me and I don’t need it anyway! Whilst others are probably thinking ‘What on earth is the problem? Technology is fantastic! Where would we be without it? Bring it on!’  But, generally, people tend to sit somewhere between these two extremes… ‘I will use it at work because I have to or, I love it, can’t get enough of it, what is the next gadget I can get’

At work technology is commonplace – it could be an email solution, a solution for presenting financial information or documentation, or even a manufacturing process solution. At home you could be using your computer, phone or iPad for online shopping or banking. But if your organisation is resistant to technology – it could be wasting time, money and lagging behind more agile competitors.

Manual processes that, when automated, can improve productivity, ensure compliance and reduce labour costs could be something that your technophobic organisation may be avoiding, fearing it will be too complex and costly to implement; yet it could have the single most positive impact on your organisation’s bottom line and bring real competitive advantage. After all, when the right people are in the right place at the right time and productivity is being tracked and measured, the visibility and control it gives can only lead to better business decisions and improve profitability allowing you to free up capital to support other areas of your business strategy.

If you don’t wish to invest capital in a solution that will help you manage your people more effectively, you should consider a SaaS solution. Software as a Service enables organisations to invest in technology on a per employee per month basis – you use only what you need, you will achieve significant business benefits without upfront capital outlay and without waiting on your over-stretched IT resource to set up any required infrastructure as it is managed and hosted by the supplier. It will give you a technological advantage and agility that will allow you to compete with larger organisations by streamlining your workforce management operations. If, like many, you are concerned that your organisation is suffering from a little technophobia take a look at this useful guide: ‘Unlocking Your Workforce Potential’.

Judgment Day: To be Present or Absent?

Working SickI just loved the article earlier this week by Tom Utley, the well-known Daily Mail columnist. In his article Tom muses about sick leave and how he would fare on the ‘day of reckoning’ at the ‘Heavenly Audit Office’. He’s had a mere 3 days sick leave in 38 years of employment and is particularly scathing about the high sickness rates in the Public Sector. He believes there’s no harm in bringing bugs into the office and that it should definitely get him some plus points at the pearly gates. His views are completely the opposite to those of the Chancellors’ wife, Frances Osborne, she believes people should stay at home and keep the bugs to themselves when they are ill. It made me stop and consider what the costs of each of these opposing views would be to an organisation and whether one has a higher cost than the other.

Arguably, it can be said that coming in sick to work will keep absence statistics low, but whether a sick individual is going to be particularly productive, or how their colleagues will cope if a virus is passed around the office is debatable.  Also, for the majority of co-workers a cold is a minor discomfort but, for some, for example asthma sufferers or those with a compromised immune system, the consequences could be much more serious. And for some manual workers it may actually be dangerous to work when ill. Do most employees believe, as Mrs Osborne clearly does, that co-workers bringing bugs into the workplace unacceptable?

By encouraging ‘presenteeism’ do organisations run the risk of incurring higher costs of absence? The cost of one employee who is off sick for a couple of days is one thing, but viruses can affect the attendance and productivity of dozens of workers. It is clear to me that there needs to be a balance.

I believe it is really important that organisations have the tools to monitor absence accurately and that managers are trained to deal with it fairly, sympathetically uncover the reason for the “sickie” and address it. By having a clear absence policy, introducing back to work interviews if this isn’t already done, and offering flexible working where possible so that sick workers can have the choice of working from home to prevent the spread of germs can help achieve this balance.

Tom’s article did raise another contentious issue – does working in the public sector really present more exposure to bugs and viruses that cause sickness than in the private sector, or is ‘pulling a sickie’ more common practice? I think I will leave that debate for another time.

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.

Elf and Safety! A Cautionary Word…

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It’s that time of year again, the season of good will to all and we all want our staff to have a happy and enjoyable festive season. Still there are a few things that can cause headaches for managers and co-workers at this time of year that you should think about before you relax and enjoy the Christmas and New Year festivities. So here’s a cautionary word from me.

With people taking holidays and working odd days – are you and your managers able to quickly review schedules to see who’s in and who’s out and sort out replacements with the right skills and certifications? And can you ensure that your staff are working the hours they should, taking adequate breaks and have taken adequate holidays? If you can’t – you may be putting your staff, customers and organisation at  risk. In the New Year I look forward to sharing more tips on workforce management to help ensure that you minimise the risks to your organisation, your staff, productivity and customer service.

Meanwhile I would like to thank everyone who takes time out to read my blog and wish you all the very best for a very merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and successful New Year.

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