Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Bunkhouse Snuggle Up To Award

July 7, 2009

AN OUTDOOR centre and accommodation provider in Grantown was one of the main winners at the second Highland Diversity Awards held at the Drumossie Hotel on the outskirts of Inverness.

Ardenbeg Bunkhouse claimed the category for ‘Best practice in staff retention or development’ at the ceremony on Thursday For the past 15 months, Ardenbeg staff have been working with Jamie Sinclair, a local 19-year-old with learning disabilities.

Having left Drummond School in Inverness, Jamie’s future was not certain.

Ardenbeg operator Rebecca Bird said: “Regularly employment at Ardenbeg, along with attendance at Cantraybridge College in Nairn, ensures that Jamie is recognised as a valuable member of staff and contributor to the local economy.

“Jamie’s tasks are fully integrated with the day-to-day work of Ardenbeg Bunkhouse and with the help of various local agencies, the staff have developed a full programme of tasks for him.”

She added: “Our staff are thrilled to have received this award. We are delighted with Jamie’s progress and regard his integration into this workforce as a great team effort.”

The purpose of the awards is to promote the many good examples of success in the Highlands for people who have experienced barriers to employment or in returning to the world of work.

A spokesman for the awards said: “The awards continue to raise awareness of what can and is being done in Highland to open up opportunities and of the success that can follow.”

Four award categories were identified for companies – best practice in recruitment; best practice in staff development or retention; overall best employer (commercial business) and overall best employer (social enterprise).


Richard Reid is the founder of Pinnacle Proactive, Specialising in the Employee Assistance ProgramStress ManagementStaff Retention & Absenteeism. Take a Proactive Approach to Growing Your Organisation & its People. For more info visit


UnionLearn Director Says Britain’s Got Talent…

July 2, 2009

But it’s not necessarily to be found on stage, in a TV studio or on the pages of the media.

No, Britain’s got a wealth of talent undiscovered in the workplace and in turbulent times, such as a recession, then organisations which recognise the turbulent times we live in make it all the more important to tighten our focus on developing the skills of the workforce.

Investing in learning and training now not only means staff will become more productive and better able to deliver a high quality service or product today but also enable companies, enterprises and organisations to prepare themselves for when the market picks up again. After all, the blunt truth is that companies which turn their back on training now are two and a half times more likely to fail than companies which invest in the development of their workforce.

That’s why it really pays off when employers, unions and union learning reps get together to build a thriving workplace learning culture. Having worked with many businesses to help them develop the talent, on their payroll, we know that the 22,000 fully-trained union learning reps now active right across the country have a vital role to play in successful learning partnerships.

And as many of those partnerships have discovered, learning isn’t simply about doing something to help staff feel valued (although it does do that): it can also make a tangible contribution to the bottom line by improving staff retention, reducing sickness absence, enhancing customer care, boosting productivity, and saving money from the agency/contractor budgets.

Learning is one of those genuine common causes between employers and unions. It doesn’t mean that our interests are always identical: for instance, we’re concerned that workers get training for life and not just for the task because if people do have to change jobs, when they have qualifications they’ve got proof of what they can do. Sometimes employers don’t always see it in the same way, but even if there are occasional differences, without doubt learning should be, and can be, a common cause, where the union can and does add value. And where we do work together, we know that these are the firms that are most likely to succeed.

How can a workplace learning partnership help companies plan for the upturn?

All our experience over the past ten years has shown that learning can thrive despite the tensions between companies and unions on other issues – and obviously there’s going to be more tension during a recession with all the pressure on budgets and so on. So learning can help keep the doors of communication open between employers and unions in the short term. But in the medium and longer term it can also help reduce absenteeism, improve customer care, enhance health and safety – all those business case benefits we know about.

For example, GMB members at JCB have played their part in helping the company survive the recession. Last year, staff voted for a shorter working week and thereby reduced redundancies by two-thirds.

“This is very positive because it means we retain the skills of a wider workforce who have contributed to the success this company has enjoyed over many years,” commented JCB chief executive officer Matthew Taylor at the time.


Richard Reid is the founder of Pinnacle Proactive, Specialising in the Employee Assistance ProgramStress ManagementStaff Retention & Absenteeism. Take a Proactive Approach to Growing Your Organisation & its People. For more info visit

U.S. and Australia Disagree On How To Handle Overweight Employees

June 19, 2009

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd may seem wantonly unsympathetic or justifiably pragmatic, depending on how you feel about the government’s role in managing obesity. Last month, Rudd objected to the use of tax money to fund weight loss courses for pudgy government officials. Documents released that week revealed that almost $23,000 (U.S.) would go toward providing the classes to upper-tier workers from Centrelink, an employment agency, as explained in a article.

“It would be odd and unusual in the extreme for that sort of expenditure to be justifiable,” Rudd said.

The same day, released news that President Obama had met with leaders from Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union, the Ohio Department of Health and others to discuss ways to promote employee health, citing wellness programs as a way to ramp up savings in the future.

In businesses around the country, the White House said in a statement, “productivity is increasing, absenteeism is dropping, and employers are passing some of their health care savings to their workers,” thanks to the programs. Obama has also directed the Office of Personnel Management to find a way to implement the same efforts in federal workplaces, and the White House’s new Health Workforce Act is receiving overwhelming bipartisan support.

The Australian Prime Minister may think Obama is barking, but the President actually does have reason to believe that the health program will have its rewards. Coors Brewing Co., for example, set up its wellness program in the 1980s; since then, the article reported, the Colorado-based company has seen a $5.50 return for every $1 spent on employee health. IBM has recently boasted of similar success.

Various governmental agencies, including the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management, the Veterans Affairs Department (which runs a MOVEmployees campaign) and the state of Ohio (with its Take Charge! Live Well program), already participate in health programs of their own.

Richard Harvey, program manager for health promotion at the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, is enthusiastic about the movement.

“Healthy employees are more engaged, they take better care of their patients,” Harvey said of the Veterans Health Administration, who is currently setting up a health appraisal for both employees and clients. “There’s a lot of support at the highest levels to be doing this, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but for economic and patient care reasons.”

Harvey explained that the sheer size of the federal workforce meant that savings in the Fed’s contributions to health insurance could equal big cost cuts in the future.

Still, he said, results won’t be immediate. “It takes a while to change things in the government.”

Some government agencies, like the Alabama State Employees Board, are even providing disincentives for employees who have or are considering gaining extra baggage; the board announced last year that it would be charging a $25 monthly fee for obese workers, which they could avoid by enrolling in a wellness program, reported.

In contrast, Australia (which, as the Australia-based Baker Heart Institute suggested in 2008, faces a “fat bomb” overshadowing even that of the United States) is taking a more accommodating  approach. Australian emergency services in New South Whales have introduced special “mega-lift” ambulances for patients weighing more than 400 pounds, undertakers are stocking massive coffins and consumer authorities are considering changing the standards on products such as toilets and child car seats to accommodate heftier loads.

This contrast in policy may provoke a greater level of serious debate over the questions of what, if anything, is really problematic with being fat and what role, if any, the government has in avoiding the public health ramifications of widespread obesity.


Richard Reid is the founder of Pinnacle Proactive, Specialising in the Employee Assistance ProgramStress ManagementStaff Retention & Absenteeism. Take a Proactive Approach to Growing Your Organisation & its People. For more info visit

Bristol wins Outstanding Human Resource Initiative Award

June 11, 2009

The University of Bristol has won the Outstanding Human Resource Initiative Award at the Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Awards 2009 ceremony held on 9 June at the London Hilton, Park Lane. Bristol was one of six universities shortlisted for the award but pipped the rest to the post thanks to its outstanding work in the field.

The first Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Awards, sponsored by the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education and the Joint Information Systems Committee, celebrated the sector’s management and financial acumen by recognising and rewarding those running universities. Categories included Outstanding Human Resources Team, Outstanding Fundraising Team and Outstanding Leadership and Management Team.

Ann Mroz, editor of Times Higher Education, said of the winning entry, which focused on developing a Positive Working Environment at Bristol: “This holistic approach to human resources management has produced brilliant results. The fact that other institutions have enlisted the services of the University of Bristol’s HR consultancy proves that this is an initiative that could have far-reaching effects.”

Professor Len Hall, Pro Vice-Chancellor at the University, commented: “We are delighted to have won this award. Bristol’s PWE agenda has seen a dramatic improvement in how the University cares for its staff leading to decreased absenteeism and sick leave, better recruitment and retention of staff and increased institutional loyalty, as well as a marked increase in well-being through staff counselling, career advice and healthy living opportunities. ”

Over 800 people from all parts of higher education gathered to celebrate the sector’s achievements at the ceremony. To view the full list of winners, pick up a copy of Times Higher Education, available in newsagents from 11 June.


Richard Reid is the founder of Pinnacle Proactive, Specialising in the Employee Assistance ProgramStress ManagementStaff Retention & Absenteeism. Take a Proactive Approach to Growing Your Organisation & its People. For more info visit

Employee Benefits Summit: Rising stress will damage company productivity

June 7, 2009

Rising employee stress caused by the effects of the recession will damage company productivity.

Speaking at the Employee Benefits Summit 2009 in Monte Carlo, Will Cavendish, director of health and wellbeing at the Department of Health, warned that the impact of the recession including a fear of redundancy is leading to a rise in the number of destructive behaviours among some staff. These can include poor sleeping habits, over-emotional reactions, and a greater reliance on alcohol.

“This will be coming through to [employers] in droves in [their] own companies,” he said.

So it is crucial that employers continue to invest in health and wellbeing programmes. “Focusing on health and wellbeing is as important in a recession as at other times [because] organisations are less able to sustain unnecessary costs such as high sickness absence.”

Cavendish pointed out that employers which invest in staff development save money by increasing motivation and retention.

“I think it is important at board level that there is a pounds and pence calculation of the cost of ill health to the business,” said Cavendish.

He added the Business Healthcheck Tool that has been developed by PricewaterhouseCoopers and Business in the Community will be re-launched later this year, having been improved from its first version.


Richard Reid is the founder of Pinnacle Proactive, Specialising in the Employee Assistance ProgramStress ManagementStaff Retention & Absenteeism. Take a Proactive Approach to Growing Your Organisation & its People. For more info visit

Asda Credits Share Scheme For Low Staff Turnover

June 6, 2009

Asda’s people director has boasted the company’s low turnover rate is thanks in part to its share scheme, which last week paid out £43m to 16,500 employees.

Shareholders who have saved a maximum of £250 per month for the past three years will pocket around £13,800, which was over £4,500 more than their original £9,000 investment, or a 150% return.

It is the largest payout at the retailer since it was taken over by Wal-Mart in 1999.

Sarah Dickins, retail people director, said the share scheme had played a large part in reducing turnover to less than 20%, which is 10% below the industry average.

“We have industry-leading retention because of the way we run our business and reward our staff,” she told Personnel Today.

“In the current economic climate, for those who can’t afford a holiday or to replace the car, this definitely is a retention tool, and an effective one at that.”

Last month, Tesco announced a £98m payout for 207,000 staff, although it would be kept in a trust until 2014.

“Five years is a long time to wait for a payout,” Dickins said. “Our staff have said they want the payout immediately, and when 95% choose to cash their shares immediately, we believe there would be no benefit in delaying it.”


Richard Reid is the founder of Pinnacle Proactive, Specialising in the Employee Assistance ProgramStress ManagementStaff Retention & Absenteeism. Take a Proactive Approach to Growing Your Organisation & its People. For more info visit

How to Increase Employee Retention

June 4, 2009

Training employees for a new job position is costly and time consuming for a company, no matter the size or industry of the employer. The key to making the investment on new employees worthwhile is retaining the skilled employee once they are competent. Here are some ways to increase company profit by retaining employees, avoiding the expenses it takes to train a new hire.

  1. Step 1

    Many new hire employees leave the job position before the point that the company is making money off of them. In other words, the expense of training outweighs the time that they spend working the position as a competent, contributing employee. This means that the issue of employee retention usually arises in the first few months. Creating good communication venues with new hires in the first 6 months about expectations, concerns and professional development can counteract that statistic, helping increase employee retention rates.

  2. Step 2

    Ensure employee integration to increase new hire retention. Encourage staff bonding and a friendly work atmosphere. Working to create a feeling of being a “team” can help strengthen staff retention.

  3. Step 3

    Be clear in your expectations of a new employee from the beginning. Transparency will allow the new employee to make an informed decision about whether or not the job is appropriate for them; decreasing the chances that they quit after one month due to failed job expectations.

  4. Step 4

    Communicate with your new hires; follow up with their progress in the workplace and provide them with constructive feedback about their job performance.

  5. Step 5

    Utilize your more established employees to ensure retention of newer employees. Connecting the new hires to key coworkers will provide a chance for positive camaraderie to develop and give the new employee additional resources to turn to for guidance and questions.


Richard Reid is the founder of Pinnacle Proactive, Specialising in the Employee Assistance ProgramStress ManagementStaff Retention & Absenteeism. Take a Proactive Approach to Growing Your Organisation & its People. For more info visit

Amazon HR Chief Focused On Staff Retention

June 3, 2009

Amazon’s HR chief is focusing more than ever on retaining staff so that when the economic upturn comes employees are less likely to leave to join rival businesses.

Wendy Mansell, HR director for UK & Ireland, said it was crucial the firm focused on retention strategies now to help employees remain engaged and loyal to the business in the long-term.

Mansell said she had introduced a clear development agenda for employees and a reward and recognition scheme since joining the firm in mid-2007, and was making sure managers continued to engage staff in both.

Amazon was also planning on introducing a graduate recruitment scheme in the retail business division by the end of the year to attract and grow internal talent, she added.

She told Personnel Today: “We have not changed the HR strategy but we are focused even more on retaining talent. We need to ensure when the market improves people still want to stay with us.

“We need to help people understand what their career paths are at the firm, by holding career workshops and guiding them through [their] development in the appraisal process”.

In a speech at an HR forum organised by recruitment consultancy ResourceBank, Mansell said staff being poached by rivals was a constant threat. “Our staff are headhunted constantly. We need to constantly invest in how people can stay in the organisation”.


Richard Reid is the founder of Pinnacle Proactive, Specialising in the Employee Assistance ProgramStress ManagementStaff Retention & Absenteeism. Take a Proactive Approach to Growing Your Organisation & its People. For more info visit

63% of firms ‘offer flexible working’

June 2, 2009

More than six in ten companies across the UK, including those with staff doing marketing jobs, offer flexible working to their employees, new research has revealed.

The study commissioned by Orange found that boosting company morale was the top reason for offering such opportunities, followed by improved productivity and better staff retention.

In addition, the survey found that Sheffield-based organisations were the most likely to allow their workers to put in flexible hours and those in Brighton and Liverpool were the least likely to do so.

Paul Tollet, vice-president of business for Orange UK, said: “It’s great that over half the UK working population is able to take advantage of flexible working.”

He added: “Flexible working doesn’t have to involve significant financial investment from business – just a clear policy to ensure it is offered fairly and a willingness to provide employees with the tools they need to get the job done.”

Recent changes to legislation mean that workers with children under the age of 16 can now request their employers for flexible working arrangements.


Richard Reid is the founder of Pinnacle Proactive, Specialising in the Employee Assistance ProgramStress ManagementStaff Retention & Absenteeism. Take a Proactive Approach to Growing Your Organisation & its People. For more info visit

Workforce: The Role of Agency Staff in Struggling Councils

May 29, 2009

Exclusive Community Care research shows that struggling councils also often have the highest use of agency staff. Andrew Mickel investigates the relationship between performance and staffing arrangements

Which comes first: poor performance in a struggling council or a high use of agency staff? If poor performance comes first, the argument goes, then the conditions which create those low standards – poor management, large and difficult caseloads – will make permanent staff leave, causing higher vacancy rates and a greater need for agency workers to be parachuted in to plug the holes left behind. But an alternative view says that a council which is reliant on agency staff who won’t stay for long will be unable to provide a quality service.

Andrew Thorne, chair of trade organisation the Association of Social Work Employment Businesses (Asweb), says that agency workers have a lot to offer struggling departments. “Historically, whenever there’s a horrible death, people always look for the scapegoat,” he says. “It’s easy to say that it’s the agency staff – they may be a symptom of it, but if a department doesn’t have people who want to work there permanently then there’s a reason for it.

“The reality is that if you have high staff turnover it’s not good for anyone, but those are vacancies that need to be filled. Agency staff come in with good ideas, they are very target driven and you get a lot of energy from them.”

Team morale

However, one former team manager for adults services is wary of using expensive agency workers for fear of what it can do to team morale. “The most negative side is the destabilising effect it has on the team,” she says. “What if you spend a lot of time inducting someone into the service, explaining how the team works, and then that person finds somewhere else to go?”

She says that continuity is essential for some service users and agency workers often won’t provide that. “With learning disabilities you are talking about someone with complex history and needs,” she says.

Whichever comes first, the use of agency staff often goes hand-in-hand with lower performance levels. Exclusive Community Care research shows that on 31 January, 26% of Doncaster Council’s children’s social worker posts were held by agency or temporary workers, as were 30% of those at Haringey Council. Children’s services at both have been severely – and very publicly – criticised in recent months.

But then there is Lambeth Council. Like many London boroughs, Lambeth has high vacancy rates (34%) and use of agency and temporary staff (33%) – but has a good rating. (article continues below case study)

Staff turnover

Jo Cleary, head of adults and community services at Lambeth, argues that rate of staff turnover is more important than what kind of staff she employs: “We use agency staff, but many have been with us a long time. They have chosen to remain with us. They are doing an excellent job in some of the hospital discharge teams, which is similar to child protection – high volume and high pace work.”

Greater use of agency staff can be a pointer of high churn in a team. That churn itself can become a vicious circle: without enough experienced long-term staff, it is difficult for complex cases to be tackled or offer adequate supervision to take place within a team. Bill McKitterick, former social services director and now a children’s services social work adviser, says: “If you have got a team with lots of agency staff you might not have an experienced colleague to be a mentor.”

Such a situation can become so bad that a department may eventually be unable to take on and adequately support new staff. Helga Pile, national officer for social care at Unison, says that there is anecdotal evidence that newly qualified social workers are having difficulty finding placements, which she says could be because of a reliance on agency workers which can block the natural take-up of fresh staff.

That is an extreme example of how the normal recruitment and retention processes can break down. When things are really bad, the reputation of a council can stop staff – both permanent and agency – from taking up jobs there. And at that stage, it will only be changes to management, culture and workloads that will cultivate long-term change, says Cleary.

“You have to have leadership at every level of your department,” she says. “Culture takes years to turn around. One of the things I say in my department is that I’m there to support them, but that the work is a high-risk environment. I don’t want them to hide things. I want them to talk to their line manager.”

Good advice?

That is good advice for those in charge of turning around a struggling department, but is of little help to an agency worker going into one now. For people in that position, it is going to be nigh-on impossible for them to challenge engrained bad practice.

Pile says that it is not surprising that agency staff will walk out on difficult cases when there is a risk of being scapegoated with no redress: “The individuals are responsible for their decisions in line with their professional code in a way that the employer isn’t. It’s not right to blame agency workers [who haven’t had] any induction, and if it’s a stretched department no one can show them how to do that.”

This is something that should be resolved soon: Lord Laming last month recommended that the employers’ code of practice be reviewed and then made statutory, which the government has accepted. Pile also flags Laming’s recommendation to the Social Work Taskforce that there should be maximum case load limits and mixed loads as a way for local authorities to tempt agency staff back into permanent employment.

That could help to tackle not just the high use of agency staff, but the high vacancy rates to boot. “The Local Government Association has looked at bringing back retired social workers,” says Pile. “Why not start with the agency workers?”


Richard Reid is the founder of Pinnacle Proactive, Specialising in the Employee Assistance ProgramStress ManagementStaff Retention & Absenteeism. Take a Proactive Approach to Growing Your Organisation & its People. For more info visit