BBC embraces ‘blind’ recruitment

The BBC’s new diversity strategy includes removing candidates’ names and university details from CVs

The BBC will be anonymising job applications for core roles in order to increase diversity.

The plans were announced after the broadcaster faced pressure from ministers to increase the number of staff from under-represented backgrounds.

The new diversity strategy includes removing candidates’ names and the universities they went to from CVs, making sure at least 10% of apprenticeship places are taken by people with disabilities, and providing pre-application training to potential staff from under-represented groups, including guidance on preparing CVs and interview techniques.

There will also be new rules ensuring interview panels are diverse, and candidates will be asked whether they went to a state or private school, and if they are the first in their family to attend university.

A BBC spokesperson said on BBC News that the proportion of the workforce who are black, Asian or from another ethnic minority is at an “all-time high”. “We’ll continue doing what works but also develop new and innovative ideas to do even better, and we’ll set this out in our new diversity strategy today,” they added.

BBC director-general Tony Hall said he wants “to work ever more closely with others, using our influence to bring about real change”. “We’ve been collaborating with all the broadcasters to introduce a new monitoring system that will allow us, for the first time, to measure how we’re performing when it comes to diverse talent on and off screen,” he said.

“The BBC belongs to everyone and because of that we have a particular responsibility to represent as many voices and views as possible.”

The news follows a pledge by the BBC that by 2020 women will make up half of the workforce on screen, on air and in leadership roles. The strategy calls for a workforce at least as diverse, if not more so, than any other in the industry.

The BBC reports that at present 48.4% of its employees are women, with women in 41.3% of leadership roles.

CBI calls on government to ‘radically rethink’ apprenticeship levy

The CBI said the government must work to ensure the levy is suitable for everyone

The government must collaborate with business to ‘radically rethink’ the design of the apprenticeship levy, according to Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the CBI.

Speaking to an audience of business leaders, Fairbairn warned that the government must “take the time to draw on business’ vast experience to make sure that the levy works for everyone, rather than rushing out a poorly thought-through plan”. “This isn’t what businesses want, and we don’t believe it is what the government wants either,” she added.

The apprenticeship levy, which comes into force in April 2017, will require all employers operating in the UK with a pay bill over £3 million each year to make an investment in apprenticeships.

The CBI is calling for:

  • A stronger role for the new Institute for Apprenticeships, including measuring and managing the system around the levy.
  • More flexibility in how firms can spend the levy, including on existing training and high-quality support for apprentices.
  • The digital system that manages levy spend to be ready and able to support the delivery of apprenticeship training in full and from the start.

Fairbairn said the the Institute risks being viewed as an afterthought. “Instead of this, we think the Institute should be a ‘standard-bearer’ with the authority to shape big decisions on design,” she explained. “These would include measuring and managing the system around the levy, and establishing success criteria that measure how it supports careers and closes the skills gap.”

She also expressed concern over how apprenticeships are being defined for the levy, warning that some employers are being forced to change their graduate or training schemes – which currently work well for them – to fit what the government categorises as an apprenticeship.

“The levy misunderstands training only as apprenticeships, and the current design encourages firms to re-badge their existing programmes,” Fairbairn warned. “When it comes to training business knows best. They should have the flexibility to choose the kind of training that is right for them, whether it’s labelled an ‘apprenticeship’ or not.”

A third of companies lack gender pay gap data

Just under two-thirds (63%) have already taken action to prepare for the new reporting legislation

Only a third (35%) of organisations currently have all the data they will need to produce a gender pay gap report, according to a survey from Willis Towers Watson.

However, most companies (91%) said they were prepared for the new gender pay gap reporting regulations, due to come into force in 2017. The majority (81%) of respondents felt they have the tools required to calculate their gender pay gap, and 63% have already taken action to prepare for the new legislation.

Emma Codd, managing partner for talent at Deloitte UK, said that while it is good to see that a majority of companies have already taken action, there is still work to be done.

“For us the issue was less about the logistics of calculating and reporting our gap and more about ensuring that the work we were doing on gender diversity would have a lasting impact on closing this gap and was understood by our stakeholders,” she told HR magazine.

“We see this as a mix of specific actions and cultural change – we have clearly documented actions agreed at the executive level and have been working hard on also ensuring that our culture enables women to have a successful career within our firm and reach their full potential.

“To us, reporting our gap was one step in a long journey,” she said.

Tom Hellier, GB practice lead for reward at Willis Towers Watson, said that the survey shows the first challenge for many employers will be accessing the data. “For most companies base pay figures are easy to access and analyse, but to comply with the legislation the same will need to be true of total pay data, the various components of which are often scattered across multiple systems,” he said.

“Total pay includes bonuses, sales commissions, maternity pay, and car allowances to name just a few, so for some organisations gathering this information will be quite a challenge.”

BIS releases apprenticeship levy information

The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) has clarified some aspects of the apprenticeship levy

UK employers, in any sector, with a pay bill of more than £3 million each year will need to pay the levy(due to be introduced April 2017). They will be charged at a rate of 0.5% of their annual pay bill, and will have a levy allowance of £15,000 per year to offset against the rate that must be paid.

Businesses will pay the levy to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) through the Pay as You Earn (PAYE) process.

The new information also defined exactly what will count as an apprentice. The main criteria are:

  • The apprentice must be employed in a real job; they may be an existing employee or a new hire
  • The apprentice must work towards achieving an approved apprenticeship standard or apprenticeship framework
  • The apprenticeship training must last at least 12 months
  • The apprentice must spend at least 20% of their time on off-the-job training

In the English Apprenticeships: Our 2020 Vision report the government states that by 2020 it hopes that the design and delivery of high-quality apprenticeships will be overseen by a new, independent and respected quality body – the Institute for Apprenticeships. Further information on the levy is scheduled to be released in June.

Petra Wilton, the Chartered Management Institute (CMI)’s director of strategy and external affairs, said that as employers have less than 12 months to put their plans in place this concise guide to levy announcements to date is welcome.

“The guide sets out a clear timetable, and employers need to act now to take full advantage of available skills funding,” she said. “Apprenticeships are a highly cost-effective route for workforce training but will require new relationships and a fresh approach.

“Degree apprenticeships have only just arrived but have already established themselves as a key tool for improving management capability and maximising workforce potential. Smart business leaders that recognise the power of a professionally trained workforce are already setting up programmes to benefit from the current funding regime.”

Change culture, not women, for equality

The BITC Workplace Gender Equality Awards 2016 winners have been revealed

In order to achieve true gender equality in the workplace society must be challenged, according to Kathryn Nawrockyi, gender equality director at Business in the Community (BITC).

Speaking at the BITC Workplace Gender Equality Awards 2016, Nawrockyi described how those who strive for equality should seek to fix the culture, not the women. “We should celebrate those who speak up for women’s equal share of power and influence, not just in the workplace but in society at large.”

Nawrockyi discussed her personal experiences with cultural expectations. “Sometimes people ask me if my husband is eastern European, because of my surname,” she explained. “Actually, my grandfather was. And I’m not married. And I’m gay.”

Helena Morrissey, CEO of Newton Investment Management and chair of BITC’s leadership team on gender equality, said that over the course of her career she has seen terrific progress for women at work. “For the first 15 or 20 years not much changed,” she stated. “But in the past five, six or seven years organisations have made a huge commitment. This has all happened since the financial crisis, so maybe that’s the silver lining!”

She hopes workplace equality will continue to improve for women. “In all honesty I don’t want to celebrate our golden jubilee,” she said.

The 2016 award winners are:

  • Engaging Women Award – Southbank Centre
  • Female FTSE 100 Award – Unilever UK
  • Female FTSE Executive Women Award – Kingfisher
  • Game Changer Award – Southbank Centre
  • Inclusive Leader Award: Gender Champion – Geraldine Huse, Procter & Gamble
  • Inclusive Leader Award: People Manager – Philip Goodstone, EY
  • Progression Award – Goldman Sachs International
  • Talent Pipeline Award – Royal Mail Group
  • Transforming Cultures Award – Herbert Smith Freehills
  • Transparency Award – Deloitte

The evening also saw the launch of BITC’s Same But Different campaign; a photographic project that celebrates the diversity of women in the workplace. “We really need to rethink how we imagine women at work,” Nawrockyi said. “Pictures often show a group of white female professionals, or juggling a baby and a laptop. Some pictures have a weird fixation with shoes! These are not representative, and these are not our stories.”

41% of workers expect a pay rise this year

There was a divide in expectations along gender lines, with men more confident of a raise than women

Four out of 10 (41%) UK workers are expecting a pay rise within the next 12 months, according to workplace transparency website Glassdoor.

The Glassdoor UK Employment Confidence Survey found that 40% of UK employees expect the outlook for their company to improve in the next six months – a new high since the survey began in 2014. Less than one in 10 (13%) workers believe things will get worse at their company in the next six months.

However, just over a quarter of employees (26%) said they were concerned they will be made redundant over the next six months, up from 21% when the survey started.

Approximately one in three (34%) believe that if they were made redundant they would be able to find a new jobthat matches their skills and experience within the next six months, up two percentage points on the previous quarter. Of those currently unemployed, 38% think they will find a job over the next six months, up eight percentage points on the previous quarter.

The research found that confidence differed by gender: only 35% of female employees, compared with 46% of male employees, were confident of a pay rise. More men (42%) anticipated their company outlook to improve than women (37%).

Jon Ingham, Glassdoor’s jobs and workplace expert, said that while it is encouraging that women are feeling more positive about both their prospects and their company’s outlook, organisations must not forget that female staff are lagging behind when it comes to expectations of a pay rise. “With the gender pay gap high on the agenda for so many people confidence among women is a key factor, which might mean they won’t push for a better compensation package,” he said.

“This is a wake-up call for employees and employers to act for a fairer workplace. Greater transparency around pay and sharing salaries internally will help all workers benchmark their pay and understand their market value.”

The enemies of agility

There are several barriers to being an agile business. Here’s what to avoid


Hierarchical structures

“[Non-agile organsiations] still have this hierarchical and functional model,” says Siemens HRD, UK and north west Europe Toby Peyton-Jones. “There is a sense that you need this model in order to be legally compliant. So we have a competing pressure there. But the organisational chart today says less and less about how an organisation actually functions day to day.”

Organisational politics

“I would like to think IMI has minimal politics,” says its group HRD Geoff Tranfield. “I think organisational politics are the enemy of agility because if people are thinking ‘I need to do this because it makes me look good or leverages my position’, then that is the enemy of being externally-focused. And I would always define agility as something that helps you compete in the external market.”

Change as the sole preserve of management

“Of those organisations with a central PMO [programme management office], the more successful ones take a different approach… They are less concerned with taking the lead in driving change on behalf of the organisation, and more concerned to equip individuals and teams to deliver change within the line organisation,” the CRF’sOrganisation Agility report states.

Treating change as a destination

One of the many dangers of treating change as anything but an ongoing, never ending project is that people become disillusioned, says Mind Gym’s CEO Octavius Black. “The greatest danger is ‘we’ve heard it so many times before, and the promise we were offered never came true therefore we don’t believe it this time.’ The framing suggests there’s some stage in the future that’s easier than now. That’s just a nonsense. Claiming it loses you all credibility.”

Lack of clear purpose

If purpose rather than procedure is to be the organising principle then it’s important this overarching purpose is crystal clear to all. Unipart group HR director John Greatrex says such a clear sense of purpose will also ward against the demands of agility compromising employee wellbeing. “With wellbeing, the thing that’s important to understand is, yes occupational health is important, yes the piece on mental health is critically important. But actually one of the things that drives resilience fundamentally is good quality, purposeful work,” he says.

Overly lean budgets

“Agile organisations have sufficient capable resources… to deploy readily to experiment with new ideas and exploit opportunities as they arise. However, the investments they have to make in testing, failing, implementing and learning mean they can’t be ‘lean and mean’,” the CRF report states. But a low fixed cost base, and constant re-evaluation of budgets, is also critical to the reallocation of resources, it states.

Fixed, or overly prescriptive job descriptions

“We don’t have job descriptions,” reports Objectivity’s head of HR Paulina Roszczak-Sliwa, adding: “Of course we write adverts… but we don’t base this on the competency model because we’d have to change the competency model every 12 months for this to be in line with the organisation’s objectives.”

Sub-standard management practices

Vital to agility, the CRF report states, are many HR practices most would identify as good practice just generally. This includes best practice in recruitment, training and development of managers. “…making management practices fit for purpose is an absolute prerequisite for agility…” it explains, with the report’s co-author Gillian Pillans adding: “You have to get the basics right. You can’t try and run the 100 metres if you don’t know how to walk.”

Slow moving acquisitions

“We’ve grown mostly through acquisition,” says Mastercard’s David Walsh, SVP of global human resources. “Your agility around integration has to be spot on… We’ve learnt that fast integration is what’s needed”. Citing the example of distribution and outsourcing company Bunzl, the CRF report identifies a non-bureaucratic approach to acquisitions as key: “While the centre sets clear objectives and targets, it doesn’t dictate how those should be achieved.”

Physical environments which encourage silos

“There were a few areas we bumped into as we went,” says the DVLA’s head of HR Louise White. “One was accommodation. The environment people were in wasn’t lending itself to having groups of people standing around and talking, so our estates team changed things. Just simple things like putting up white boards have really helped.”

Read more: HR’s role in organisational agility

HR’s role in organisational agility

No sector can afford to rest on its laurels when it comes to change. Here’s HR’s role in organisational agility

It’s 1995, and the Encarta team at Microsoft has good reason to feel pretty smug. Spotting the opportunity to provide an easy to use and searchable CD-rom encyclopaedia early on, the company has built a repository boasting 62,000 articles, pictures, illustrations, music clips, videos, timelines and maps – and sales of $800 million. The team had created a program so popular as to be the bane of school teachers setting research assignments everywhere.

And yet only 15 years later it was no more. Its usurper? A larger, richer competitor with more sophisticated technology? No: an organisation simply savvy enough to harness a growing appetite to create educational content among normal folk.

Despite having moved online by 2009, Encarta’s slow-moving content creation and verification processes just couldn’t compete. At this point Wikipedia boasted 2.7 million entries (five million today). Encarta still had Joseph Stalin’s birth date wrong.

It’s a cautionary tale about spotting new business opportunities first, but perhaps more crucially about how successful an entity can be where all contributors are passionate about taking ownership and responsibility for their contributions.

Wikipedia doesn’t have to wait for someone high up to confirm information has gone through the requisite verification processes (for better or for worse, depending on your view). It just does it. Wikipedia could be seen as the ultimate in organisational agility.

The agility agenda

And it is not the only entity to emerge triumphant in this way. Kodak and FujiFilm, Blockbuster and Netflix, black cabs and Uber… recent history is littered with similarly stark reminders of the need to keep up.

No surprise then that the term ‘organisational agility’ finds itself steadily rising up the business agenda. In an ever faster moving, more globalised, technology-driven and VUCA world, the need to move, and perhaps most importantly change direction, at speed is clear to see.

No sector can afford to rest on its laurels, confirms Geoff Tranfield, group HR director at engineering firm IMI: “If you look at what’s happening with disruptive technology, and the internet of things, and 3D printers you’re seeing technology inevitably changing all sectors… There’s very little in the world standing still.”

Barry Pirie, director of people and business services at Wiltshire Council and president of the Public Service People Managers’ Association (PPMA), confirms this to be the case within public sector organisations too: “Contrary to perceptions, I don’t think the public sector has ever had the luxury of standing still. However, what we are seeing now in the sector is a pace of change that is quicker than I have witnessed.

“The public sector finds itself in a unique position of having a burning platform – decreasing revenues and increasing demand for services – which means that doing anything other than moving quickly to deliver organisational change and reconfigure services will only store up greater problems for further down the line.”

And yet according to Corporate Research Forum (CRF) research director Gillian Pillans and her recent co-authored report Organisation Agility, this urgent need isn’t always translated into action. According to the report (co-authored by Chris Worley) only 17% of CRF member organisations meet the financial standard of agility. This chimes with US 2014 research, which found that 13% of businesses display a ‘chronic underperformer’ pattern here.

“If the question is how many organisations are aiming to be more agile, it’s a lot; agility has become fashionable,” reports Pillans. “But there’s only a very small minority achieving that.

“There’s a greater awareness now that you can’t just run business as usual, stop the clock, change everything and then move to a new business as usual,” she adds. “I think organisations are much more aware that change isn’t a one-off event; that it needs to be continual. But that doesn’t make it any easier in practice.”

In Pillans’ last comments lies an indication of the biggest factor standing in the way of many – namely, and perhaps conversely, their preponderance for one-off change, or ‘transformation’, projects.

Octavius Black, CEO of consultancy Mind Gym, describes the dangerous “false utopia” created by the implication that businesses are either in the process of change, or in a state of having reached exactly where they need to be. “There’s something about how we’re approaching change with a kind of programmatic approach,” he says. “It creates a forced relationship with change. It imagines there’s change versus business as usual, which frankly there isn’t. A child growing up for example: is that change or growth as usual? Which bit’s the change and which bit is the growth as usual? You tie yourself in knots.”

Perhaps another reason many have so far failed to embrace agility to the extent needed, is confusion around what this even means. The term ‘agile’ started life to describe a set of principles for software development in which requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration between self-organising, cross-functional teams – a much less holistic description than the CRF-cited definition of agility as “a dynamic capability that allows an organisation to make timely, effective, and sustained responses to environmental change”.

So what should organisations be aiming for? What are the key hallmarks of agility they should be striving to emulate, and what should HR – the custodian, typically, of the transformation project – be doing to support this?

Popular culture

There appears to be agreement on at least one of the most important contributing factors. In all conversations HRmagazine conducted on the topic, three words cropped up again and again with particular emphasis: ‘culture’, ‘ownership’ and ‘autonomy’.

“For me the thing that really stood out was the concept of having a trust culture where employees are treated like adults,” confirms Pillans, when asked to identify the most important hallmark of agility. “To me that’s absolutely critical. It leads to other things. If you have that you’re more likely to have a strong sense of accountability, better communication, you’re more likely to be closer to the customer…”

Toby Peyton-Jones, UK and north west Europe HR director at Siemens, explains the danger of relying on a shiny new organisational structure in delivering true agility, instead of embedding a culture of trust and empowerment. “I don’t think people are looking at this holistically enough,” he says. “I don’t think people pay enough attention to the cultural as well as the organisational aspects of what needs to change, and the kind of mindset that needs to go along with a different way of doing things.

“It’s very easy to get fixated on the technology or processes, on management philosophies or changing certain organisational structures. This is the big thing we like to do. But a new structure won’t fundamentally change everything.”

What will ‘change everything’ – and has done for Siemens – is a culture of ownership. “That means: ‘what would you be doing now, if it was your own organisation, to do the right thing?’” explains Peyton-Jones. “How we operate needs to be a judgement that comes down to what’s the right thing to do in the situation. When you’re in front of a customer and they’re asking for something very reasonable, in the past we might have needed to say ‘I need to check this and that’ but we can be much quicker now.”

Also crucial, he adds, is a culture of collaboration and an external focus. “The permeability of the edge of your organisation is critical. We might have had huge R&D departments but now we can crowdsource ideas; put an engineering problem up and recognise that not all the capability we need to harness will be inside the organisation,” he says. “Contact with the community and economy isn’t window dressing any more.”

Tranfield reports a culture like this to be similarly vital at IMI. “We revamped our company values a few years ago and one of the key things we built in was collaboration,” he says. “We’re an organisation of 13,000 people. If you can draw on the knowledge of not just the colleagues around you but the touch points of 13,000 people, into different geographies for example, that makes you more agile. It’s having a deep interest in the world; what are the big trends out there? What is the competition up to (in a strictly ethical way)?”

Communication is king

‘Profit for purpose’ housing association Orbit Housing provides insight into the importance of a culture of agility in a very different context. “It’s creating a form of ownership within people. It’s really trying to get staff to take accountability and innovate, and give them the licence to do that,” reports Tony Williams, former executive director of people at the organisation and now a consultant working with the association.

He explains the importance of communicating this change in ethos the right way: “We didn’t use the word ‘agile’ as I think sometimes these kind of buzzy words can turn people off. What we were talking about was the fact that we need to be able to respond to change. We have 1,500 eyes and ears and voices and we need to make sure we use them all. The words used were: ‘light on our feet’ and ‘flexibility’.” Roadshows run by chief executive Paul Tennant have also been vital.

Senior-level visibility in the communications process has been similarly important at MasterCard, reports SVP of global HR David Walsh. He explains that CEO Ajaypal Singh Banga “wrote agile” when he took the helm in 2000, and speaks in these terms in all staff communication forums.

Important too has been recruiting people with the right mindset. “With the people we’re now bringing in there will be an inherent agility because the organisations we’re hiring from have had some kind of agile programme,” says Walsh. “The global perspective has got to always be there. We need people who think and act globally.”

Walsh adds that hiring people with diverse skillsets is also key. “Previously 70% of employees came from banking,” he explains. “We don’t look like that anymore… We have people who have worked in technology, people who have merchant experience…”

Balancing act

It might seem that achieving true organisational agility is simply a matter of recruiting the right self-starting, enterprising types, telling them they have free reign in determining how best to do their jobs, and simply letting them do it. But this is not quite the case.

IMI’s Tranfield points out the need for balance and not throwing the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to OD for agility. “You could take it to the other [extreme] and say to be agile we have no processes and we just do what works, but I would argue it’s more nuanced than that,” he says. “Having a clear organisational structure doesn’t do anyone any harm. I think, as long as you have the right culture and positivity around the organisation there’s little danger of limiting people by them saying ‘I won’t do anything outside the box.’”

For IT and software development outsourcing company HCL Technologies its culture of ‘ideapreneurship’ is very much about having a flatter structure, but structure nonetheless. “We recently did some benchmarking and found the number of layers between our business heads and employees facing the customer is one of the lowest in the industry,” says chief HR officer Prithvi Shergill, adding though that training for line managers to support employees in developing their ideas, and technologies that allow less experienced staff to access more experienced people, are crucial. There are clearly still layers, based on experience and capability, for a reason.

“We have various digital platforms around accessing knowledge from someone. Our expert database for example; you can write a question and an expert will respond with what you need to do in that particular situation,” explains Shergill, adding that this can be done on the go through a newly-developed app.

On the importance of training to equip people to embrace agility, Shergill says: “It’s vital to build skills on how to use autonomy so it’s for the benefit of the firm – so understanding what is doable or not and where to go for resources.”

Orbit’s Williams is similarly convinced of the need for robust training and development programmes to support agility. “You’ve got to have managers at every level of the business able to encourage people and act as enablers of change,” he says. “It’s about equipping your managers first, so we’re introducing a Future Leaders programme based on transformational leadership.”

Also important at Orbit has been training and development around ensuring employees are resilient enough to handle such a significant change in ethos, and the ongoing demands of agility. Hilary Scarlett, a neuroscience and change specialist working with the association on this, offers the following advice: “It’s important to get people into a reward state so they’re in a positive place. If they feel threatened and in uncertainty they’re not open to change.

“There are all sorts of things at play. One is about a need for central connection; so a good relationship at work and a manager who empathises. If we’re in the presence of an empathetic person we’ll thrive and stick at a task for longer.”

Structure for collaboration

Another key supporting activity is providing the structure through which employees can communicate and collaborate. For HCL technology is often the key. Frequent and inclusive employee gatherings (or ‘stand-ups’) are similarly vital for many organisations.

This has certainly been the case at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), where bringing IT processes in-house and adopting an agile mindset more widely has enabled it to move with the times, allowing it to roll out online viewing of driver and vehicle records, for example. “It has to be a very inclusive approach, so things like daily stand-ups where anyone can turn up and find out exactly what’s happening are very important,” says head of HR Louise White.

“As an organisation, like many, we’ve had problems with silos and perhaps the IT side and operations side not working well enough together. This throws people into one pot and they have to get on with it. That’s been really good,” she adds.

But this approach hasn’t been without its practical challenges. “One has been the team concept, so constantly standing up and standing down teams and bringing new groups of people together and building relationships,” White explains. “We’ve issued some guidance about what you can do at the beginning to fast track that a bit. That’s around spending some time at the start doing team building and getting-to-know-each-other activities.”

Sprightly support

So HR has a clear role to play. And not just in stripping back the autonomy-stifling bureaucracies of old. Instead it seems to be a case of arriving at just the right level of organisational structure, and the best training, digital, and communications activities to really support an agility ethos. But the all-important word here is still ‘balance’.

Software solutions provider Objectivity’s head of HR Paulina Roszczak-Sliwa says organisations must realise the importance of making sure all systems and processes are geared around agility, not just those that will most obviously support a culture of agility at the frontline.

“The most important thing is you cannot have agility in only one part of the organisation. It’s not possible to have agility only in the projects and products we deliver to our clients,” she says, explaining that an agile mindset must therefore extend to back office, supportive functions too.

An important element identified by the CRF report, and on a more anecdotal level by those HR magazine spoke to, was all supporting functions working to ‘agile timescales.’

Budget-setting is one area where more short-term timescales will often be needed, explains HCL’s Shergill. “More communication is required. Budgets and resources are agreed at the beginning of the year, but if you leave things like that [and don’t evolve], in today’s world that’s not viable,” he says. “You really need to remember that planning today is almost quarter-to-quarter rather than year-to-year.”

HR departments will similarly need to match the fast-moving nature of the businesses they now serve. “We talk about HR having the characteristics of flexibility and speed; but speed doesn’t necessarily mean doing everything really quickly,” explains Pillans. “It’s about the cycle time of the business and how HR needs to fit in with that. If you’re a fast-moving business maybe doing annual performance appraisals is not the way to go.”

Roszczak-Sliwa raises the example of engagement surveys: “The standard action is to check engagement once a year with a huge survey. But in an agile company where everything is changing very frequently, you can’t ask people to summarise the whole year to tell you how satisfied they were, it doesn’t work at all.”

An agile company also needs HR to be not only matching the timescales of its activities to the business, but planning much further ahead, adds Shergill. “HR can’t be sitting waiting for demand to be raised for talent, for example,” he says. “We have an analytics team that works on data we see in the sales pipeline. That enables us to say ‘this is what we’re seeing, these are the kinds of skills we’re seeing discussed with clients’ even before the contract is signed. And you start sourcing for talent before the demand is raised.”

Most important for all supporting, back office functions – most pertinently HR – is ensuring business processes aren’t slowing people down. “The truth is the world is becoming more and more complex,” says Tranfield. “The sheer amount of data is considerably greater than when most people started their educational journeys. It’s very hard for everyone to take all that in. You have to make sure the complexity they deal with in the workplace is reduced to a point where they’re helped to do that.”

“We find in a lot of organisations there are quite complicated processes and procedures in place,” says Pillans, adding that “those firms that keep things under review are more agile”.

Those more agile organisations are not “happy to settle on ‘we’ve got 60 HR processes and we’ve spent a lot of time developing them’,” she explains. “They’re prepared to take a step back and ask ‘is this delivering exactly what we need? Are there ways of improving efficiency, reducing the burden on the business, being more flexible?’”

No quick fix

Despite such helpful practical steps an awareness must always be maintained, however, that there is no silver bullet solution to becoming more agile. Otherwise the risk is the business falling back into the very mindset that dispensing with distinct change management projects was meant to escape.

“There are no quick fixes in the transformation to agility,” CRF’s Organisation Agility report states. “In every organisation we interviewed, even those that are highly agile, the story was the same: ‘There’s still so much we need to learn.’ Becoming agile requires patience and committed leadership. It is a journey that never ends.”

Objectivity’s Roszczak-Sliwa agrees that patience, and understanding of the short-term costs needed for long-term gain, are paramount. “Everyone wants to be agile but there are some costs,” she says. “For example, the cost of the time you spend in meetings… There are some things that are obviously time consuming, like retrospectives, lessons learned, daily stand-ups… You can’t take just the advantages from agility; you also need to accept the short-term costs.”

So while organisations are desperate to keep moving, the journey to acheiving true agility is not a quick one, and requires continual hard work and scrutiny. In creating the right conditions for agility HR needs to be on its toes. After all, if you stand still the only way to go is backwards.

Young women less likely to get job interview feedback

When feedback was given, only 37% of young women said it was good, compared to 45% of young men

Nearly a third (30%) of young women do not get feedback after a job interview, compared to less than a fifth (18%) of male applicants, according to research from the City & Guilds Group and Business in the Community (BITC).

The survey of 4,000 18- to 24-year-olds found that young women generally found the experience ofapplying for a job more difficult, with a third (34%) saying it was difficult versus just a quarter of men (26%). Of those who found the application process difficult, young women were more likely to say it knocked their confidence (49% vs 37% of men). Nearly three-quarters (73%) said it affected them generally.

When feedback was given, only 37% of young women said it was good, compared to 45% of young men. NEETS (people not in education, employment or training) were also found to be further disadvantaged in the recruitment process, with 40% not getting any feedback, compared to 29% of all young people.

Mikki Draggoo, corporate relations director of the City & Guilds Group, said the research shows that the gender gap exists even at the start of women’s careers. “And that isn’t just harming young women – it affects businesses too,” she said. “Employers could be missing out on talented women without even realising it, which is why they need to examine their recruitment practices and make sure they are inclusive. That kind of transparency will yield better talent for businesses – essential in our climate of slow growth and stagnant productivity. Employers can’t afford to lose talented employees before they even start their careers.”

Amy King, head of consulting at the Chemistry Group, said that despite awareness and progress over the past few decades the research indicates recruitment is still biased. “It’s shocking and disappointing to hear of statistics in 2016 that present a bleak reality of women lacking equality in the workplace, especially so early on in their careers,” she said. “Organisations that look past gender by objectively defining ‘what great looks like’ specific to their roles, and build processes to recruit and nurture talent against this are best placed to combat this issue. All of a sudden gender becomes irrelevant.”

Grace Mehanna, director of talent and skills at BITC, offered advice to firms. “We recognise that it’s hard for employers with a high volume of applicants to provide individual feedback, but we would urge them to take a staged approach,” she said. “For candidates who aren’t shortlisted you can offer collective general feedback such as ‘top tips for applying’, alongside more tailored feedback for those who make it to interview.”

Nick Boles: “Employers will look back on levy as sea change”

The skills minister said the levy would be “painful” but promised to give employers more control

Skills minister Nick Boles has promised employers will “look back [on the apprenticeship levy] and say ‘we didn’t want the levy and we didn’t agree entirely with it, but we have to agree it’s created a sea change’”.

Boles made his comments at the launch of an Automotive Apprenticeship Matching Service designed to divert candidates from oversubscribed programmes to companies less able to access good quality talent.

Boles detailed the way the government would be “putting [employees] in control of every stage of the process.” He said: “We’ll continue to put you in control of the development of standards for apprentices… So if you have a new occupation not currently covered it’s up to you to get together with others in the same industry to propose a standard and go out and develop it.”

The levy is designed to tackle “the number of free riders in the system,” said Boles, defining this as “the number of your competitors who think ‘we are not going to bother with that, we’re just going to poach people that come out of the system.’”

Boles added: “I know it’s going to be painful and there will be some of you who will be dissatisfied with some of the final details”. He assured though that the government is “spending dramatically more on apprenticeships”.

Also speaking at the matching service launch was Elle Hart, HR dircetor at fuel efficiency technology developer Torotrak. She described how the new matching service complements the introduction of the levy by helping businesses benefit from the money they now have to put aside.

“We’ve toyed with the idea of apprenticeships in the past,” she reported. “But there’s always the question of how much time is it going to take, are we going to be able to give these guys and girls the input they require?” She added that difficulty attracting good quality candidates with a less well-known brand was also a factor, but that the matching services’ partnership approach combated this.

The launch of the scheme came as new research carried out by Semta, on behalf of the Automotive Industrial Partnership (AIP), was published, finding that up to 5,000 jobs in the sector could be vacant because of skills shortages. “This [the matching service] will ensure a pipeline of talent in the years ahead,” explained Stephen Spencer, chair of the Automotive Apprenticeship Matching Service.

Jose Lopes, chair of the AIP and head of technical excellence at Jaguar Land Rover, said he expected to see this kind of matching service taken up outside of the automotive sector. “We have an agnostic platform I’d like to see other sectors benefiting from,” he said.

The matching service has been developed and funded through the AIP and facilitated by apprenticeship matching platform GetMyFirstJob. It is designed to help up to 10,000 candidates per year secure an automotive apprenticeship.