Line managers key to building workplace trust


Line managers have a critical role to play in building trust in the workplace, according to a report from Westminster Business School, in collaboration with Top Banana and the Institute of Internal Communication.

The report, Leadership, Trust and Communication: Building trust in companies through effective leadership communication, looks at the connection between internal communication, leadership and trust in organisations.

It suggests that line managers could hold the key to rebuilding trust in organisations, which has declined significantly since the financial crisis. It says middle management have a “central role”.

Top Banana managing director Nick Terry told HR magazine the line manager is “critical”. “If the line manager doesn’t trust the leader then the workers under the line manager won’t be engaged,” he said.

He added: “Trust is transitive. If your middle manager believes a message then the people who work for them are going to be more inclined to believe it.”

Katalin Illes, principal lecturer in leadership and development at Westminster Business School and co-author of the report, said that because trust tends to be context-based, “trust in a business leader is largely based on trust in line managers and the company itself, which is based on its values, behaviours, procedures and perceived fairness.”

She added that declining levels of trust show “we are not relating to each other in the right way”. “Humans are social creatures and past and present findings confirm that strong, supportive communities have higher survival rates and prosper more. This is also true of business communities,” she said.

Terry also advised organisations “get their leaders out there”. “It is the strongest, quickest and most powerful way of starting that trust journey,” he said. “You need to understand if your leaders are credible and trusted because if they aren’t you need to put in place tactics to build or replace that trust.”


The report offers 10 recommendations for business leaders. They are:

1. Listen to the organisation and its people, and create opportunities for listening to take place

2. Articulate a clear set of values supported by genuine management commitment

3. Create and support a culture of transparency

4. Make trust a corporate governance issue

5. Ensure you have a professional ‘communication counsel’

6. Be seen via face-to-face communications

7. Communicate with and work collaboratively with your line managers to address trust

8. Be authentic

9. Be clear on the changing and developing skills expectations of business leaders

10. Remember the “phenomenology” of leadership; leadership is not static but a series of moments

Zero-hours contracts ‘here to stay’


Almost 700,000 people are on zero-hours contracts in the UK, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), with analysts predicting that the controversial contracts are “here to stay”.

Separate ONS data shows that 1.8 million zero-hours contracts were used by businesses during the height of summer 2014.

Conor D’Arcy, policy analyst at think tank the Resolution Foundation, said the continued growth of the contracts during economic recovery “suggests that they are more than just a recession-related phenomenon”.

He added: “While many employers may have started to use zero-hours contracts during the downturn, it looks like most are sticking with them. Growing awareness of zero-hours contracts among survey respondents may explain part of the increase but the longer these figures continue rising, the stronger the argument looks that they are here to stay.”

However, CBI director for employment and skills Neil Carberry said flexible zero-hours contracts offer “an important source of job creation that supports business growth and employees who need to manage different responsibilities”.

He also pointed out that while the number of these contracts has increased, they are still only used by just over 2% of the labour market.

“The important thing is to ensure that action taken to avoid any abuses doesn’t restrict the use of flexible contracts – figures show that almost two-thirds of people are satisfied with the number of hours they work, and being in work gives people more opportunities to increase their hours,” he added.

Last summer, the government announced stricter legislation around zero-hours contracts. It will ban ‘exclusivity clauses‘ that prevent employees working for additional employers.

Pinsent Masons employment partner Stuart Neilson said while increasing regulation around zero-hours contracts to protect employees was “laudable”, any legislation needs to be “very targeted and specific”.

“Legislators need to make sure…it will achieve the aims the politicians want it to without causing greater drawbacks for both employers and employees by damaging choice and flexibility,” he said.


Businesses not monitoring gender diversity, CIPD finds

Women's career development is neglected by many European companies

More than a quarter (28%) of businesses do not monitor the gender profile of their workforce, according to research from the CIPD.

The report, Gender Diversity in the Boardroom, also found that 44% of businesses have not even heard of Lord Davies’ target for 25% female representation on company boards by 2015.

Most businesses are also unaware of the government’s Think, Act, Report initiative – a step-by-step framework for improving gender equality in the workplace. Only 17% of businesses said they had heard of it.

CIPD public policy adviser on diversity Dianah Worman said: “Organisations need to be aware of initiatives such as ‘Think, Act, Report’ in order to encourage more women to progress to [senior] positions.”

She added: “Boardroom diversity is not a numbers game and not just about women. It is also not just about the boardroom, but rather understanding and monitoring the entire workforce in order to create clear talent pipelines which allow women to reach the top.”

The CIPD has called for the government to introduce a separate voluntary target of at least 20% female executive directors on FTSE 100 boards by 2020. While women now represent more than 20% of FTSE 100 board members, the biggest gains have been in the non-executive space, with the percentage of women in executive board positions still low.

Worman said: “The gains in the main have been made in non-executive positions whereas the numbers for women in the top spot executive positions and visible to the wider organisation still only accounts for 8.4%.”

Minister for women & equalities Jo Swinson urged businesses to “keep up the momentum” and “continue championing talented women to deliver lasting change”.

She said: “The potential threat of EU mandatory targets should be at the forefront of companies’ minds, if they are unable to show that they are doing their part to improve gender diversity.”

The CIPD research found 60% of respondents are against mandatory quotas but that 53% agreed the government should set a more ambitious voluntary target to improve gender diversity in boardrooms post-2015.


Career progression ‘barriers’ forcing women out of STEM

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One in three (35%) women working in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) jobs have said they have considered leaving the sector, with 51% blaming barriers to career progression.

The report by the Adecco Group UK & Ireland – The Gender Agenda: STEMing the gap – surveyed 3,000 school children, university students and employees about careers in STEM.

It found that seven in 10 girls are interested in working in STEM but that there is some confusion over how to develop a career in the field. Nine in 10 schoolchildren didn’t know that an apprenticeship can lead to a STEM career, and 19% of female university students who hadn’t pursued a job in the sector said it was because they simply didn’t know how.

Chief executive of the British Science Association Imran Khan said the UK “desperately” needs more girls studying STEM. “We want to create a society where everyone feels able to have their say on science and its direction,” he added.

Siemens Rail Systems UK MD Steve Scrimshaw said the report revealed “a real opportunity” to get more women and girls studying STEM subjects and pursuing related careers.

He said: “It’s crucial that when women do pursue jobs in STEM fields, they have the support of their employers. Any bias, be it conscious or unconscious, has to be stamped out.”

Adecco group sales director Greet Brosens said the gender divide in STEM “still poses a real threat”.

She added that many women who are interested in STEM careers don’t know how to make it because of the lack of support and “outright gender bias”.

Brosens said: “As it stands, we are failing girls and women in these fields. The persistent level of inequality in the STEM workplace is also a cause for concern.”

She called on the government to work together with businesses to create opportunities for girls in STEM. “Parents, educators and employers have to talk more openly about the range of careers out there and the different routes into them, and make sure that girls and women feel supported to stay on this track,” she added.


Older workers locked out of development opportunities


Employees over 50 are less likely to be offered learning and development opportunities than their younger colleagues, research by AXA PPP has found.

The healthcare provider found that while 14% of workers under 50 say they haven’t been given the opportunity to learn new things and develop in the past year, this proportion rises to 27% among the over 50s.

The study of 2,000 employees and 250 employers also found that in the past six months, only 25% of workers over 50 had been on a training course. Just over a quarter (27%) had had a meeting with their manager to set or review their objectives, and 28% had had a conversation with their line manager about their career.

Some employers blame the workers themselves for this, with 46% claiming older workers are reluctant to take part in development training. The same proportion (46%) of employers think an employee’s performance declines with age.

However, 59% of employers say older workers are critical to their business.

AXA PPP healthcare marketing director, James Freeston said it is “no longer acceptable” to “switch off” development for older workers.

“Employers need to adapt their resources now to engage both younger and older workers through training and development programmes, and maximise the business benefit of their ageing population,” he said.

“Employers can help to bridge the age divide in their organisations by introducing structured mentoring programmes – such as flip mentoring – so that younger and older workers can both develop their skills and knowledge and, in turn, help to create a positive, collaborative culture and improve performance.”


Data collection may cause legal ‘hurdles’ for HR, warns law firm


Updated EU data protection regulation may cause trouble for businesses collecting and mining employee data, law firm Allen & Overy has warned.

In its report, The Big Data Think: Data with Destiny, the firm explains that there is presently no specific EU legislation on employee data. However, an EU draft regulation is being drawn up, which includes specific rules around employee data across the EU member states.

The report said: “Employers ready to embrace more sophisticated use of data face some clear hurdles, and, with the regulation still under development, many questions remain unanswered, making it hard to understand what hazards might come with greater innovation.”

At an event launching the report, Allen & Overy partner Sarah Henchoz said under the new regulation employers must have explicit, informed consent to use employee data.

She said organisations would have to create a separate data protection agreement with employees that will “clearly set out what they will be collecting, what they will be using it for, and how long they will keep the data”.

Allen & Overy partner Tobias Neufeld said employers “need to be ready”, as the regulation includes fines and sanctions for the misuse of data – up to €100 million or 5% of annual turnover.

Henchoz suggested employers should think about implementing a re-sign of data protection contracts as part of annual compliance checks. “The re-sign could state [employers] are collecting different data or using it for a slightly different reason, and you are still complying with the new regulations,” she said.

Neufeld agreed that employers should get consent from employees every year on data usage, as it needs to be “tailored with what you want to do with the data”.

He added: “If you want to use all the opportunities HR big data brings, you need to provide another opportunity for employees to give consent. Then staff can also monetise the data, not just the employer.”

Despite the challenges, both Henchoz and Neufeld agree using data with the consent of employees could bring many opportunities to HR, especially in the areas of talent management and retention.

Neufeld said: “[Few] employers have collected the data with that purpose. It has been normal health data or credit scoring. Repurposing the whole thing makes sense for analytics.”

They also suggested health data and awareness of workforce demographics could be used to customise employee benefits offerings.


Most UK businesses support strike law reform


The majority of UK businesses support reform to strike law, law firm Eversheds has found.

Eversheds surveyed 400 UK businesses about the main political parties’ HR-related policy commitments. The results have been seen exclusively by HR magazine.

It found 62% of respondents would like strike laws to be reformed to better support employers and the public.

Of those keen for reform, 83% said they supported a change in the ballot process in essential services that ensures at least 40% of union members balloted vote in favour, rather than just those who vote.

More than 70% want unions to have to give longer notice of and more details about strike action.

The Conservative party recently pledged to introduce measures that require 40% of union members to back industrial action, if they win the May election.

Eversheds partner and head of HR Martin Warren said strike laws haven’t changed for years and that employers are “frustrated” about the disruption industrial action can cause, often with little notice.

Other areas of interest for employers include strong support for changes to zero-hours contracts, with 64% of respondents supporting the payment of compensation if shifts are cancelled at short notice.

However, 55% opposed the introduction of an automatic right for zero-hours contract workers to be given a fixed hours contract after 12 months.

On the subject of pay, more than 50% support proposals to enhance pay transparency and fairness.

Almost all (96%) said they wanted to see improved enforcement of the national minimum wage. But less than half (45%) want companies to be required to disclose the pay gap between top earners and average employees.

Eight in 10 (81%) are against extending employment rights to a broader range of workers, and 54% are in favour of increasing the two-week paternity leave period.

Warren said pay fairness, strike law reform and zero-hour contract changes came out as the most important areas for employers.

“More than ever, good employers are currently at risk of being undercut by the bad,” he said. “Trafficking, dodging the minimum wage, bogus self-employment and more are not only exploitative, they harm UK Plc.”


How should companies respond to the Francis report?


Last week saw the release of Sir Robert Francis’s report, Freedom to Speak Up, which addressed concerns over whistleblowing in the NHS. The report confirmed that there was a “serious issue regarding the poor treatment of whistleblowing in the NHS, requiring urgent attention to protect staff and to safeguard patient health”.

Among the recommendations, Francis suggests a “freedom to speak up guardian” in every NHS trust. He also wants the government to review employment legislation to extend protection to include discrimination of whistleblowers when they seek new employment in the NHS – a change that the government has indicated it will back by amending current legislation this year.

Francis speaks of a much-needed cultural change to encourage workers to speak out, and for the employer to put in place safeguards for those employees who do “blow the whistle” on unsafe practices.

Of course the NHS is not alone in the secrecy stakes. There’s education, the military, the prison service, City bullying and many more sectors where whistleblowing is prevalent. It is too soon to know whether the report will have any tangible and helpful repercussions for whistleblowers in the private sector, but it has put employers firmly in the spotlight and highlighted the need to treat whistleblowers fairly and to protect them from suffering a detriment as a result of blowing the whistle.

So what should employers do next? NHS Trusts should review the report in full, with a view to implementing the recommendations that have been suggested.

Private sector employers should also review existing reporting and whistleblowing procedures; for example are they clear, and do they offer protection and reassurance for workers who want to raise a concern? Importantly, organisations should have internal procedures in place to ensure that concerns are investigated and dealt with without delay, so that the worker knows that their concerns are being listened to.

Training of team leaders and managers in the law and workplace policies will also be key in protecting both the business from employment claims, and promoting the integrity of the whistleblowing policy itself.

It was often the case that whistleblowing claims were brought in the employment tribunal for tactical reasons, either to lift the cap on compensation or to circumvent the qualifying period of employment (two years) needed to bring ordinary unfair dismissal claims. However, the Francis report certainly highlights a category of whistleblower who is deserving of protection, and it is these individuals that employment laws and HR policies should rightfully be seeking to protect.

This article is published courtesy of HR magazine and was written by Emma Hamnett (pictured), an employment partner with national law firm Clarke Willmott.

CIPD warns of pay polarisation in labour market


The UK labour market is increasingly polarised when it comes to pay, according to the CIPD’s latest Labour Market Outlook.

The report warns UK companies are split between those that can afford to increase wages by 2% or more, and those stuck in a pay freeze.

It found 39% of the UK workforce either experienced a pay freeze or a pay cut in 2014.

In contrast, 40% received a pay increase of 2% or more and 18% got a pay rise of between 0.1% and 1.99%.

Private sector companies were more likely to have increased pay last year, with 48% reporting they gave a pay rise of at least 2%. More than half (54%) of public sector employers and nearly half (45%) of SMEs reported a pay freeze in 2014.

In terms of sectors, 54% of manufacturing firms increased wages while 35% froze pay. In the services sector, 47% of companies raised wages and 35% froze them.

The CIPD’s labour market analyst Gerwyn Davies said there is a correlation between pay rises and good leadership.

He said: “Evidence shows a clear correlation between employers that say they have adopted a high value business strategy (as opposed to a low cost strategy), and those that were able to afford a pay increase of 2% or more.

“Our report implies that the difference within sectors between companies that can afford to give a decent pay rise and those that are continuing to freeze pay lies partly in the quality of leadership and management and level of workforce investment.

“There is evidence that organisations that have more sophisticated product market strategies are more likely to have adopted more advanced human resource management strategies, characterised by progressive people practices and greater workforce investment.”

He added that he hoped the government would focus on encouraging businesses to improve productivity over pay. “This includes supporting businesses to improve management practices, and encouraging greater investment in skills and the effective utilisation of skills,” he said.

Forecasting for 2015, the CIPD predicts the basic median pay award will be 2% in the private sector, 1% in the public sector and 1.5% in the voluntary sector.


Labour would extend bankers’ bonus clawback to 10 years

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The Labour party would extend the clawback period of banker’s bonuses to 10 years, shadow chancellor Ed Balls has said.

Under the current rules, bankers who are guilty of misconduct can be forced to pay back their bonuses up to seven years after they’ve been received. But Balls said he thinks seven years is “too weak”, and that extending the period would ensure bankers behaving inappropriately “pay the price”.

“The current proposals to claw back bonuses are too weak and do not cover a long enough period of time,” he said. “We will ensure people involved in misbehaviour and misconduct would have to give back their bonuses for at least a decade after they have been paid out.”

The plans were proposed ahead of the publication of Labour’s banking reform paper, which is released next week.

The Bank of England extended the clawback period last year to tackle misconduct such as rigging interest rates and reckless risk-taking, which can take years to emerge.

Ed Balls used the recent allegations around HSBC’s Swiss banking arm as an example that “wrongdoing can take years to uncover”.

“After so many scandals we need major reforms and long-term cultural change to restore trust and ensure our banks start working for consumers and businesses again,” he added.

The party also announced that it would require banks to publish the number of employees earning more than £1 million, if it wins the general election.