With the news that Katharine Viner has been appointed as editor-in-chief of The Guardian and Observer newspapers and will take up the paper’s reins in the autumn, there are many reasons to celebrate. Not only is she The Guardian’s first female editor, she was also educated at a state school AND she’s from Yorkshire. (I hear that she’s also vegetarian but we’ll let that slide for now).
But there’s an even more interesting fact: in the vote among The Guardian’s staff to establish which of the candidates that workers on the paper would prefer, Viner won 53 per cent of the vote, ahead of her nearest rival by a large margin.
Yes, you read that correctly – The Guardian asks its employees to vote for who, of the shortlist for the job of editor, they’d like to lead them. Though the vote isn’t binding to the newspaper’s board that ultimately appoints the editor, the board has never not appointed the candidate that has won the popular vote.
All of which made me wonder: is such ‘democracy’ in the workplace a good thing? Would all workplaces benefit from a practise like that used by The Guardian? Would anything ever get done if big decisions were put out to referendum, as it were? And, perhaps most pertinently for those in work and maybe considering a move, what model of government in place at your current – and potential – workplace?
Strong leadership in any business can only be a good thing but leadership which doesn’t tolerate differences in opinion or challenges to the way it works, uses fear to control its employees, and benefits only those at the very top? Sadly, this isn’t an unpopular model in the business world – who hasn’t a bullying, arrogant and domineering boss at some point? – but like dictatorships in the real world, it’s a style of leadership that makes everyone but for those wielding the most power utterly miserable. And as I believe that a happy workforce is a productive workforce, it’s ultimately bad for business.
Perhaps no business except for the smallest co-operatives that sell yoghurt, lentils and handmade denim is truly socialist but on the high street, the likes of John Lewis comes closest. A co-operative in which all employees (or ‘partners’) have a say in the running of the company – and get a share of its profits – John Lewis and the model it follows have a lot to recommend them. John Lewis is famed for its customer service and its ‘never knowingly undersold’ philosophy and it strikes the balance between a management that manages and a workforce that has an investment in the company. These two facts are, I believe, indivisible from each other and if you’re sceptical of that, consider the difference in experience you shop at John Lewis and when you shop in a store in which the employees don’t have a stake and clearly couldn’t give a monkeys if you can’t find what you’re looking for.
THE CONSTITUTIONAL MONARCHY
Loving our dear queen as I do and believing in democracy – even when idiot politicians seem to do their damnedest to undermine my belief – this model holds a lot of appeal for me personally. A robust democratic process means everyone feels as if they have an investment in what happens in the country but the buck stops somewhere and there are clear processes in place that guarantee fairness. (As Winston Churchill famously noted: “democracy is the worst form of government – except for all the others”). Now if only I could persuade The Works to install a golden throne for me and have legions of admirers outside waving flags every time I turn up…
These are, of course, just a few of the variety of ‘models of government’ that operate in workplaces. And though I’ve been a bit cheeky in my descriptions, hopefully I’ll have got you thinking about what kind of workplace you work in – and what kind you’d like to work in. Because everyone is different, different governments have different appeals. For all I know, you may actually enjoy a dictatorship – even if you’re not the dictator. But what I do know is that the way your workplace operates needs to work for you, to capitalise on your strengths and inspire you to grow and prosper as an employee. And you never know – one day, you might be king or queen of your own empire.
I keep being asked about what I think regarding smoking at work, I’m a dangerous “Reformed Smoker” of four years and it was only when my partner reminded me that stopping for a month or a year, wasn’t “actually” stopping. Apart from seeing people killing themselves and stood shivering and huddled outside buildings, I was reminded that there is not one good reasion to smoke.. I stopped… then and there.
Smoke-free legislation was introduced in England in 2007, banning smoking in nearly all enclosed workplaces and public spaces, following similar bans in Scotland and Wales, hence the onset of the street dwellers and door huggers which we have all become accustomed to in our workplaces.
Every company must have a smoking policy, which outlines various considerations to those non-smokers who do not wish to inhale tobacco and an appointed area for smokers.
Smoking has always been a taboo subject with smokers being fiercely protective of their right to smoke at work and most non-smokers being completely against this during the working day.
So what really is fair?
According to a study for the British Heart Foundation, smoking breaks cost British businesses £8.4bn a year in lost productivity, as smokers disappear for 10 minutes at a time, four times a day on average.
Smokers insist they use these break to catch up on work related topics, discuss points from a meeting and make decisions about work. This can also be an opportunity for employees to socialise and discuss work topics and what they’ve been doing. This is seen as acceptable by smokers because they have an opportunity to catch up whilst on their smoking break, so they are less likely to wonder around the office like other employees to socialise in work time.
Can having a smoking break be classed as being productive?
Smokers insist without these breaks they would not of found the time to discuss any these actions with the relevant person. When smokers are allowed to smoke they assume they are more productive by having their nicotine fix which gives them better concentration levels. They promote the fact that by having a smoking break it is better for them as it eases work related stress and makes them feel calmer, which is a contradiction in itself about the health implications of smoking against the stress relieving factor.
Legally, employers are not obligated to allow employees to take any smoking breaks at all, although employees working a shift of six hours or more are entitled to a 20-minute uninterrupted rest break.
Don’t get in a puff?
Non-smokers often feel they have the raw deal, as they are the ones left sat at their desk continuing to work while their smoking co-workers take additional breaks. They feel excluded from conversations and yearn to be part of the discussions, which take place in the smoking gang. Decisions can often be made without consultation with other employees who feel they should have been involved but weren’t as they were not outside in that moment. This can lead to employees feeling compelled to be part of this group especially if senior members of the company are joining these breaks.
Many non-smoking employees have the assumption that they are picking up the slack of their co-workers whilst they are on the smoking breaks and feel this is unfair. They believe that they should be awarded extra break time to account for the time co-workers take in addition to their normal break times.
This is no Smoke!
So how can employers manage this to create a good balance in the workplace? Consultation with employees is the best route, asking both parties what they feel would be fair. Alternatively, you may ask that those who take time during the day for a smoking break to make the time up later in the day. Or to fully even out the entitlement, allowing all staff a five-minute break whether they smoke or not. It’s commonly thought that stepping away from your workstation for a short time can be very productive for employees.
Can you honestly say you haven’t checked your Facebook profile, had a quick read of the latest news on the web, composed a Tweet? Whilst the smokers were out on their break?
As humans we all have our own choices. It’s human nature to want to feel a sense of belonging, which is why businesses must ensure smokers and non-smokers are engaged with company decisions and the policy reflects a fair approach to both parties.
Every employee has the right to smoke or not to smoke and both parties must be respectful of those choices.
by Craig Burton
Virtue, it’s often said, is its own reward. But who coined that particular – and, if you ask me, infuriating – phrase? Step forward 19th century clergyman John Henry Newman. Now, given how olden times were tough, we mustn’t be too hard on Johnny but chances are that he wasn’t overly familiar with working 12-hour shifts in a factory or turning up to an office every day to ensure its efficient running or indeed visiting websites like this one to find a job. Because when you are working or looking for work, it’s not really virtue that you’re after as a reward – it’s wages. As that great philosopher Madonna once noted: we are living in a material world.
It’s true that wages are the most obvious reward for working. Salaries should rise with length of service as testament to skills and wisdom acquired. Bonuses are paid to those who have made an exemplary contribution to their company (unless you’re a high-flying banker, in which case they’re reward for being, at best, idiotic, and, at worst, venal). And perhaps the most recognisable version of this transaction between employee and employer is overtime. Workers go above and beyond the call of duty and employers duly reward with double-time.
But – and it’s a big but, because I like big buts and I cannot lie – financial recompense isn’t the only way to be rewarded in the workplace. It pays to ask yourself before you accept a job if maximising your wages your holy grail.
If it is, there’s nothing wrong with that if it’s important to you. But I believe that pay is only half the story when it comes to being rewarded for doing good work. Of course we’d all like a bit of extra cash coming in – even with inflation down at an historic low of 0.3 per cent and wages going further, too many households struggle to make ends meet. But then so do some businesses who simply can’t afford to raise wages in these austere times. Unless both parties are willing to compromise, ill-will will ensure.
So the wages you want aren’t on the table, suggest alternatives that work for you – solutions rather than problems. Any employer worth their salt should, if you’re diligent and committed to your job, take you seriously and do their best to accommodate your aspirations. And if they don’t, I’d encourage you think about finding another employer who isn’t afraid of modern ways of working and modern methods of reward.
So I ask you this: what to you constitutes reward for working hard? Flexible hours? In-work benefits such as subsided childcare? A stake in the company in lieu of the salary you wanted? Or how about heartfelt praise from the boss?
You may scoff at this last suggestion but a brain no less than BBC Economics Editor Robert Peston (@peston on Twitter) discussed rewards at work recently in his excellent two-part series for Radio 4, The Price of Inequality (which you can listen to here:http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b051s0fc). In it, Peston relayed research done at an Intel factory in the US. As part of that research, shiftworkers were, on one day, rewarded with either money, pizza vouchers or a note of congratulations from the boss. The research found that everyone worked equally hard for whatever incentive was on offer to them and didn’t differentiate between money, pizza and praise. But on the day after the rewards were given, the workers awarded money became less productive than their colleagues rewarded in other ways.
So the headline we could take from this research? Money can be the least effective way to reward workers while feeling genuinely valued by your boss can boosts your determination to do well and so your self-esteem. And what’s not to like about that?
For too long – and it’s likely Thatcher’s fault – I believe that we’ve been brainwashed into believing our self-worth derives solely from our monetary worth in the marketplace. A cold, cash transaction. But all of us are worth more than that – and I will bet my back teeth than even those with the heftiest paycheques will never think on their death bed, “I am so pleased that I held out for an extra £2000 a year, even if it did mean that I barely saw my family.”
Unless, of course, they really hated their family.
I was inspired by some Facebook activity last week and a news item on the BBC Breakfast this morning into whether the correct use of apostrophes really matters anymore. Now I’m mildly dyslexic or (bone idle) my father would have argued. I loved English at school, but terrible at it, I really struggled and had to go to the special outside classroom with Mrs Nurerka for remedial English classes. They never diagnosed the dyslexia. Yet on leaving school, English was my best “O” level grade.
In business we’re constantly judged by our written communication, competitors and critics love to trip each other up over silly avoidable mistakes, call it word snobbery, but writing any kind of communication, especially something as important as a CV or a letter for job application or presenting a candidate to a client, it will be probably be read, and re-read and even maybe ask a colleague to sense check it too. You see the issue I have, isn’t whether you “Know” this stuff or not, it’s whether you’re bothered enough, detailed enough, care enough WANT THE JOB ENOUGH to ensure the grammar and spelling and punctuation in a piece of communication is remarkable, lets face it, that could be the turning point or golden opportunity of your life.
Dismissing applications that, on paper are the perfect fit, yet their CV or application are grammatical shambles isn’t about whether they know this stuff or not. Its about whether they have demonstrated their genuine desire to be considered for a that particular role. A foolish recruiter would correct the mistakes and forward the edited version to a client just to see the candidate turn down the role later in the process.
I’d make a terrible journalist
In the week that the bonkbuster Fifty Shades of Grey is released (or possibly unchained) at British cinemas, politicians of all shades have been prostrating themselves in front of the British Chamber of Commerce. They say that there’s no such thing as coincidence and lo, there was the Prime Minister perfecting his come-hither eyes to persuade business leaders that, come the election, a Conservative government would make them the best bedfellow. More considerate of their needs. More attuned to their desires. And certainly not out to shaft them like those Labour brutes Miliband and Balls.
Not that David Cameron was being easy with his affections. This was no ‘No Strings’ offer. Actually, Cameron had a request of his own: might business leaders see their way to raise wages for their workers? Workers who, despite the government’s talk of growth just aren’t feeling a bulge in their pockets. Workers who also happen to be voters at the forthcoming, election. Workers who, if they’re not impressed with Cameron’s performance and don’t feel the benefit of their relationship with Dave, might turf him out of Downing Street. A regrettable one-term-stand.
While you might be wondering which politician wouldn’t benefit from being bound and gagged – especially gagged – I got to thinking about the relationship between business and, ahem, pleasure. Specifically – is a pay rise better than sex?
It depends, of course. On the sex, and on the pay rise. But I remember reading somewhere that the feeling of the elation that you get when you get a pay rise – would it be too strong to call it euphoria? – lasts 40 minutes. Now, I don’t want to cast aspersions on anyone’s lovemaking but it would take quite the orgasm to compete with a 40-minute high. And regardless of how good you are in the sack, who among you will deny that the feeling of getting a pay rise, of your good work being recognised and rewarded, puts a spring in your step? Because, let’s face it, an awful lot of us, rightly or wrongly, derive at least some of our self-esteem from our work. Just as an awful lot of us, rightly or wrongly, derive at least some of our self-esteem from our relationships.
And here, I think, is the nub of the matter. Being in a good job, a job that suits you, that makes you feel good about yourself, that fulfils your needs as well as those of your “partner” (ie, your employer) is as important as being in a good personal relationship. And if you don’t believe me, look at it this way: being in the wrong job can make you as miserable as being in the wrong relationship. The chip-chip-chipping away at your self-esteem. The reluctance to spend time and make an effort that turns into simmering resentment. The bitter and painful wrench of making a break. If you say you haven’t experienced any of these either awful circumstances personally or professionally, then you’re either extremely lucky or a liar. As in love, so in work: if it’s not working for you despite your best efforts, it’s not meant to be. Get out – before you hate them and yourself.
Now, if I wanted to make a cynical – nay, cack-handed – sales pitch, here’s where I’d say that a recruitment agency is like a dating agency – we try to match up potential partners to the happiness and benefit of both. I’d say that The Works is a veritable Cupid, a Fairy Godmother intent on producing as many Happy Ever Afters as we can. But I’m not the cynical sort. (Besides, I look terrible in a teeny toga and even worse in taffeta).
Instead, I’m going to ask you, dear readers, to take the time to think about whether, and how much, you love or like your job, and indeed your work. (Because your job and your work are different. You may be doing the right work but in the wrong place). I’m not entirely convinced by the adage that “if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life” but your work and/or your job shouldn’t make you unhappy. And you absolutely, definitely shouldn’t hate what you do. Not only will your lack of love be self-evident, you’re a long-time dead to be spending the majority of your waking hours being miserable. As Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell, women who knew a thing or two about heartbreak, sang in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes – when love goes wrong, nothing goes right.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
Improvements in a variety of key indicators appears to show that this year has been a good one for Yorkshire’s top companies.
35 of the top 50 companies have increased their turnover year-by-year compared to only 26 in the previous year’s study. Although there was no previous data for three companies and two others maintained their turnover, only 11 actually shrank. The net increase for the top 10 was £695m and for the top 20 £1.1bn
Of the top 50, 27 reported an increase in turnover of five per cent and 23 of more than 10 per cent.
Looking at pre-tax profits, 40 reported them, however only 25 grew them compared with 29 in 2013.
Looking at specific examples of success, Marshall has turned a £11.2m loss into a £13.2m profit and Polypipe, Henry Boot and Renew Holdings have all grown in turnover and profitability. The reason for this has been linked to a steady recovery in property and associated markets.
Finally, Persimmon overtook Morrisons to become the second largest company in the region by market capitalization and increased its turnover by £365m.
The number of people unemployed in the UK has fallen by 58,000 to 1.9 million, its lowest for six years, according to figures by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Figures taken from the three months to November show the unemployment rate now stands at 5.8% of the adult working population, with a total of 30.8 million people in work.
The figures also show that the number claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance in December fell to 867,000, the 26th consecutive monthly reduction.
However, the number of jobless 16 to 24-year-olds has increased to 764,000.
If you are seeking work, please contact Cathie Reuben for more information on how we can help.
Research by Bupa has shown that 64 per cent of British workers are too busy to take the 20 minute break which is required by law when working six hours or more.
The survey which involved 2,000 people showed that 29 per cent were not taking a lunch break, 28 per cent were not taking any break at all, and nearly half said that they had too much to do to even stop for a few minutes.
Of those that were taking breaks, many were continuing to work answering calls and replying to emails with 45 per cent of those taking lunch rarely leaving their place of work.
Patrick Watt, Corporate Director at Bupa said that the fact that employers were not encouraging breaks was “worrying.”
He said, “not only does this affect productivity levels, but it can have far wider implications on business performance.”
“Taking a proper break helps employees to stay alert, focused, and performing at their peak.”
In a survey of 323 business by the CBI/Accenture, it has been revealed that half of firms plan to hire more workers next year.
Growth is expected in every region of the UK with Scotland leading the way, with prospects for young people improving as companies look to increase their graduate in-take and the number of apprenticeships available. Permanent jobs will also outstrip temporary jobs and pay will also rise, although at a “cautious rate” after six years of decline.
However, despite the survey’s results proving a welcome sign of the UK’s recovery, there is concern that a massive skills gap in the UK is representing a serious threat to the health and recovery of the economy. As a result, companies and the Government will need to work together to help develop skills and help employees.
Ask anyone in your office what is on their New Year’s Resolutions list and you will almost certainly find something pertaining to work. Get A Promotion, Get A Pay Rise, LEAVE! Retrain, and have a better work/life balance are among the favourites.
But as many of these will impact on you as the employer at some point, it would be advantageous for you to find out what your staff would like to see from 2015. Posting your own New Years Resolutions, and asking for those of your staff is a relatively simple way of finding out what you could do to reduce staff turnover and increase motivation amongst your workforce.
Read on for Nine Resolutions from employees – next week we’ll have the Top Nine from employers for you to enjoy!
Top Nine Resolutions for Employees