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People Matter April 2016

Employable me 

World Autism Awareness Week has just taken place – a time to raise awareness around the struggles of people on the autistic spectrum. Shortly before that, a programme aired on the BBC that moved many people to tears. Employable Me charted the experience of Brett Davies, an autistic man. Verbal communication had presented such a challenge during interview that he had not found a job in eight years.

The programme showcased a hiring process based upon a technique known as neurodiversity, which finally saw Brett land a dream job based upon his talents for visual tasks. Go Brett!

During his two-week trial he solved a computer-based problem that no-one else had been able to master. In a moving speech, Brett shared his difficulty with verbal communication and also what the experience meant to him. He impressed his new employers and was given a permanent job as computer design technician. Although he is not able to communicate his feelings in normal ways, he has nevertheless fitted in well and demonstrated learning and development skills exceptionally quickly.

This story highlights the benefits of thinking outside the box when it comes to recruitment. Going down a different path and hiring on the basis of neurodiversity rather than more standard metrics clearly paid dividends for the featured company.  They unearthed a gem of an employee who just needed to be given a chance. If you are having trouble filling a specialist role, perhaps more unconventional methods may work for you too. Talk to us to find out alternative recruitment tactics you could consider, and how to avoid inadvertently discriminating whilst you use them.

What do you have to do to earn a Bank Holiday?

Apparently slaying a dragon isn’t sufficient, so the English don’t get time off on St George’s Day: 23 April. This contrasts to the Irish and Scots who do get that lie-in and time to celebrate on their respective patron saint days: St Patrick’s and St Andrew’s. Like the English, the Welsh have to do without: no time off for St David’s Day.

Unfair? Perhaps, but it should be observed that each Bank Holiday costs the UK economy an eye-watering £2.4 billion. So it’s understandable the government isn’t rushing to add more. That shouldn’t stop people celebrating though, as long as they turn up to work on time the next day! Have fun, and if you suffer any unauthorised absences during such times of celebration, call The HR Dept.

Schools out for safety

More than 7000 school students and parents have been left in limbo this past couple of weeks, as local schools shut their doors on the back of serious safety concerns. Storm Gertrude, claims responsibility for unearthing the potential safety flaws on school grounds, prompting investigation after its lashing winds ripped bricks from the wall of a Primary School.

Further investigations into the structure, the Edinburgh Schools Partnership failed to assure the buildings safety of this and subsequently, a host of other schools. This left local city councils with no other option but to shut their doors until further checks are carried out.

Since then, some have already re-opened, but still others haven’t. In the meantime, employers should be flexible to the needs of staff that’re having to arrange alternative childcare for the duration.

Not much sharing going on! 

2015’s introduction of shared parental leave was big news at the time. Seen as a progressive social move, there were fears for employers that it would be difficult to administer.

Well, a year on and neither the hope nor the fear has been realised: parents just aren’t sharing! In one survey only 1% of male workers had taken it up.

The financial hit of statutory pay, stereotypes of the father being the main bread-winner, and fears over career prospects are cited as reasons. Also, 55% of mothers said they didn’t want to share maternity leave. The policy will be evaluated by 2018.

See the potential

We’ve seen how one company found a star employee through recruitment based upon neurodiversity (see Employable Me). There are plenty of other ways to broaden the pool of talent from which you recruit.

In fact, a campaign called See Potential has been launched that asks employers to look through someone’s past, and to identify specific skills or an attitude that could mark them out as future outstanding employees.

The disadvantaged groups that may normally be overlooked in the hiring process include long-term unemployed, ex-offenders, rehabilitating drug or alcohol addicts, and homeless people. Among these, if you can identify them, will be individuals ready to grasp any opportunity given to them to get their lives back on track. It’s a powerful motivation for an employee to succeed, and one that could reward a business willing to think differently.

Other benefits for a business may include enhancing its reputation in the community and for the business owner, perhaps an extra feel-good factor because they have made a real difference to someone’s life. One café owner in Minneapolis, USA made headlines when she gave a homeless man a job. He had entered the café begging for spare change, but she was short staffed and asked him if he wanted to work. She is now hoping to hire him full-time when her business has grown sufficiently. In the café owner’s words “His smile made my day!”

Back to the UK, and businesses to have benefited cited by See Potential include Marriot and the Blue Sea Food Company.  Business in the Community research found that of businesses that supported people from disadvantaged backgrounds, almost half saw a direct positive financial impact, 90% witnessed better staff engagement and capability and 92% reported increased brand value.

So, get the hiring process right for people from disadvantaged background and the benefits really can be two-way. It may not be straightforward, however. So if you want expert support in doing this get in touch with The HR Dept. We can help with everything from wording and placing job adverts to conducting interviews to make sure you choose the best candidates for your business.

Sweet sweet stress

According to a 2016 survey by Mintel, 70% of workers admitted to problems with stress at work. Is chocolate the answer? As many as a third of workers surveyed said they turned to it, and other sugary snacks, in a bid to cope.

As if any further encouragement were needed, one PR company has actually written a chocolate clause into their contracts. Starting off as a perk (regular chocolate deliveries) to attract one talented employee, they quickly rolled it out to their whole workforce. They had identified a benefit to the business in the form of improved recruitment and staff retention.

But hang on a minute! What about a good old fruit bowl or other healthier alternatives – particularly in the month that the European Union is pushing a ‘Healthy Workplaces for All Ages’ campaign.

Whatever you think the answer is, helping to facilitate the well-being of your staff can reap real rewards. Speak to The HR Dept for advice and policies.

For Pet’s sake

Employers have a pretty loose leash when it comes to pet policies: from strictly two legs only to Larry, Chief Mouser at the Cabinet Office. You would, of course, be sent to the dog house if you kept animals in a food preparation business or hazardous environment! But in many businesses you can decide yourself how pet friendly you want to be.

It is not just animals in the workplace to consider. ‘Peternity leave’ is a term coined in reference to employees who require time off to care for a pet. It’s a mark of a pedigree employer to be accommodating where reasonable, but where do you draw the line? Dogs yes, cats yes, goldfish no? It’s up to you. But treat each case on its merits and have a written policy in place to help with employee house training. That’s our advice. Get in touch for assistance.

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