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Lost the plot or an old fogie?

Well this takes the biscuit! My last blog 'Duvet Days and Frippery' commented on some pretty desperate perks being offered by employers, mainly schools, to attract staff. Just when I thought it couldn't get any sillier I see reports that a well known jobs site have undertaken a study of benefits being used to attract and retain staff. Some of what they found was understandable, e.g. paid lunches, cash bonuses and perhaps even financing foreign trips, but they also found free ice cream, hangover days, time off to look after a new puppy, and time off to feed the ducks in a local pond!

Do these superficial treats really beat satisfying job design, employment security, a proper occupational pension and career prospects? Am just an old fogie?

Then I reflect that core reasons HR management exits is to ensure organisations are appropriately staffed, deliver effective workforce planning, and facilitate change management. If public sector roles are becoming increasingly difficult to fill, have we genuinely asked the uncomfortable questions to understand the reasons why? What is it that makes certain roles unattractive, particular organisations unattractive and particular professions unattractive, and can we look ourselves in the eye and say we really do routinely undertake and understand workforce trend analysis?

Do we need to turn the mirror on our own profession and ask ourselves some difficult questions?

Were the trends which have resulted in the need for 'duvet days' predictable? If we had been listening and engaging effectively could we have seen the storm coming, and responded in a way which protected our organisations? Have these current workforce challenges emerged, in part, because HR management is not meeting the needs of organisations? Has our own profession not developed and grown to be fit for 21st century demands?

As HR professionals do we really know and understand what the views and challenges within our workforce are? Key to understanding our current intergenerational workforce is to accept that each generation is different, and see that as positive. We need to create a workplace where all can collaborate and contribute, and by all, I mean true diversity in valuing all. Is it not time shake things up a bit and break the mould of the traditional decision making hierarchies, especially in the public sector, and genuinely start to understand what is ailing within traditional sectors. To achieve this we have to engage and listen, only then can we genuinely start to respond and create attractive jobs and careers which all generations are attracted to. By doing so we can start to reverse the current trends, and put the fripperies down to a bad day at the office!

HR professionals have a big job to do in securing our organisations future workforce, but first we need look closely at ourselves, and ask do we have the skills and competence to support our organisations through times of change and challenge? Does the fact that we don't generally challenge ourselves let alone the organisation, contribute to the reason that Chief Finance Officers's not HRD's tend to be the next in line to the CEO in many organisations? How often do we analyse, and sometimes even have ideas on how to avert staffing problems, but do nothing when we are ignored? For some it's easier to retreat into familiar territory - terms and conditions, recruitment, managing absence, and generally giving advice on employment matters etc. However if we are to make a real contribution in the Boardroom do we need to take a leaf, (or should that be a spreadsheet), from our finance colleagues, act strategically and with conviction having tested our thinking in advance?

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