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People Matter April 2019

Surviving a skills shortage

While headlines containing the words “full employment” may leave politicians beaming, it is not necessarily such good news for people running SMEs, like you. Where are you going to find your next hire to take your business forward?

Yet that’s the situation we find ourselves in, as the Irish economy has created 385,000 jobs since 2013. And it is not just new jobs, but changing jobs: with 40% fewer people working in construction, 10% fewer retail workers and 25% more people working in education.

If full employment is causing you a skills shortage and you’ve hit a dead end with your recruitment, here are our tips to get the right people in your business.

Looking close to home. The people already in your business might not yet have the skills to fill a new role. But with more investment in training and development you can transform them into the people you are looking for.

As well as not having to spend as much on recruitment, there are other benefits to adopting this approach. You’ll know that the people you upskill already fit into the culture of your business, understand your processes, and will likely have a greater sense of loyalty to you as you have helped them develop. We run a range of training and development workshops on topics such as Leadership and People Management; and Supervisory Skills. Ask us for more details.

Targeted recruitment process. If it’s something very specific you are looking for, make sure your recruitment efforts are targeted to attracting that skillset. This may mean looking abroad for the right talent or paying a premium for skills in demand.

Updating your perks package. When was the last time you reviewed your employee benefits package? Social and technological changes have transformed many people’s motivations and expectations, and also what it’s possible for you to provide cost effectively. For example, flexible working is a big draw for many people and is far easier to offer and manage effectively with the advent of cloud computing. It may be the deciding factor in someone choosing to work for you rather than a competitor. Or vice versa!

Managing an employee with a disability

A workplace relations commission (WRC) has awarded €31,000 to a farmer living with multiple sclerosis who was unfairly dismissed. The case highlights the consequences of an employer not meeting their obligations in relation to managing an employee with a disability.

Under the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2015, disability is one of nine grounds on which it’s illegal to discriminate. So what should, and shouldn’t, you be doing?

First of all, recognise when disability is a factor. Sometimes it may be quite obvious –like someone with an obvious physical impairment. But there are many hidden disabilities such as hearing loss or mental health. If in doubt, get expert advice.

You can’t arbitrarily treat someone less favourably because of their disability. The correct approach is to make reasonable accommodations to help them fulfil their role, or an equivalent one. Things like supplying specialist equipment, offering retraining, or altering working hours.

The caveat to this is it must be reasonable in terms of costs and the impact on the workforce. But this shouldn’t be invoked lightly. You’ll need to document your reasoning, having considered financial costs, your resources and the availability of public funding or other support. If you are declining a reasonable accommodation on these grounds, we’d advise speaking to us first.

In the case of the farmer, he was effectively dismissed after being told there was an insurance issue regarding his need to drive for the job. Despite providing a letter from his neurologist saying he was fit to drive, and having worked with the condition for about 15 years, he never worked for the company again. The WRC found that the employer met none of the key requirements for dismissing a worker due to incapacity.


Stress awareness

Figures from the Economic and Social Research Institute suggest that workplace stress is on the rise in Ireland, in fact that it doubled between 2010 and 2015 to 17%.

Long working hours, bullying, time pressure and having to deal with angry customers are major causes of stress. If present, these should be warning signs to you that employees might be struggling. Techno-stress has emerged as a problem too, with devices like smartphones making it harder than ever to switch-off.

As a minimum, it would be good practice for you to be informed of the issues and receptive to employees who need a safe place to discuss concerns. And employee well-being should be considered when designing workflows and procedures.

If you would like to go further, you can consider cost-effective frameworks for support, like an employee assistance programme or training up mental health first aiders in your business. Talk to us to find out more.


Is unlimited paid holiday leave
as crazy as it sounds?

Not necessarily! An Australian company has offered this policy for three years and it’s been a roaring success. Observing that her staff were frazzled from demanding workloads, the CEO introduced unlimited paid holiday under the guise of rebalancing leave.

She correctly judged that the business culture was strong enough that the policy wouldn’t be abused. Staff self-managed whether their leave should be paid as they were rebalancing their lives, or if it was for another purpose and should go unpaid.

She was also aware, from reading about American cases, that some staff take less holiday – trying to please management. So she led by example, settling on taking five and a half weeks’ leave. This encouraged her team to do likewise.

While extra holiday costs were incurred, she considers she’s saved money overall through better retention and fewer sick days.

It won’t work for every business, but it’s food for thought.


Pranks at work

Were there any shenanigans amongst your team this April Fool’s Day? Pranking may start out as harmless but can quickly become more serious than anybody wants.

On the Richter Scale of pranks a level one or two may contribute to a fun workplace. We heard of one employee who left a random penny on her colleague’s desk every day to make him question himself.

But, higher-stakes pranks which show poor taste or judgement could have grave consequences for staff or your business.

There have been incidents in America of false claims that schools and shops are under armed assault which led to police being called and arrests made. And vicarious liability may be a factor too, meaning a company can be held accountable for the actions of its employees. In the UK, Carphone Warehouse was found liable in court for the prank of two employees falsely outing their manager. If you need help setting the right expectations of behaviour in your business, call us.



Money talks. But not as much as a pizza and pat on the back, according to a study into employee motivation at an Intel manufacturing plant in Israel.

Given the choice of a $30 cash bonus, free pizza or a complimentary text message, after a week of the experiment new employees preferred being told they’d done a good job to the more tangible rewards.

The thinking is that praise connects with staff on an emotional level, which is a more powerful motivator for engendering long-term commitment.

Would some out-of-the-box (or box-of-pizza) thinking help you recruit, retain and motivate a winning team? Talk to us for creative employee benefit ideas or management training courses.


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