IR sky is not falling

by 07 Aug 2007

It seems it is fashionable to blame current industrial relations legislation for just about everything negative that happens in the workplace. The recent article, “WorkChoices killing loyalty” (issue 131, 26 June 2007, p1) is one example.

The research confirms that the majority of Australians (91 per cent) are highly motivated to do whatever is necessary to get their jobs done; 26 per cent of respondents claimed they were not emotionally involved with the problems or strategic choices of their company and 23 per cent said the company has no personal meaning for them.

From this research can we therefore conclude that we have a highly motivated workforce (91 per cent), 74 per cent of employees are emotionally involved with the business decisions of their company and for 77 cent of employees, their company does have personal meaning for them? The figures could be indicators of positive workplace cultures, maybe because today many more employees are experiencing positive involvement, and companies are recognising and valuing them.

Sure, our IR system isn’t perfect and that is why there have been formal processes in place for many years to deal with rogue employers and the occasional scallywag employee.

Don’t use the behaviours of these few to discredit the current IR system. I take exception to Colin Walter’s general assertion that “senior and HR management” have contributed to the decline in organisational trust, fairness and wellbeing in the pursuit of profitability. We don’t sit about all day trying to strip away employee entitlements and I’m sure the vast majority of senior and HR managers would regard his assertion as nonsense and unhelpful.

– Michael Blake, Adelaide

Dealing with outsourced discrimination

Craig Dandeaux (issue 133, 24 July 2007, p3) has written a masterful account of the discriminatory culture and practices of recruitment firms.

However, to be fair, agencies deal in ‘outsourced discrimination’. For example, the public sector bypasses merit selection principles and policies by engaging agencies to screen applicants. The corporate sector briefs agencies to send them a good ‘cultural fit’– that is, “find us people like us”.

This is not to say that the recruitment industry should not shoulder some of the blame for discriminatory recruitment practices.

But agencies are there to make a quid. That particular imperative dictates compromising behaviour. Sometimes this is at the behest of clients, but more so by the limited life and work experiences of the “bright young things in recruitment agencies who filter candidates”, as Craig describes.

One of the consequences of these self-perpetuating sources of discrimination is that the systems developed by these firms and their staff are systemically discriminatory.

HR land is equally full of discriminatory attitudes. Indeed, one has to go no further than the paper The War for Talent, which assumed that the majority of people who apply for jobs through job advertisements are unemployed or those who have been made redundant. The implication is that there is something fundamentally wrong with them just because they are unemployed. The most desirable candidates, the article implies, are already in a job.

It’s a sad fact that many good HR practitioners are unemployed, simply because they were discriminated against in the job market – not just because of their age, but because of a myriad of other reasons.

Nor does Human Resources magazine escape ageist sentiment. The editorial, “Get with the flexibility program”, (issue 133, 24 July 2007, p3) contains an assertion that flexibility in working hours in the workplace has somehow been thwarted by a legion of “baby boomer managers (who) insist that their staff are not working unless they are at their desk for a minimum of eight hours a day”. Gee Craig! Care to reassess the underlying assumptions behind that sweeping generalisation?

If these are general attitudes in HR land, then heaven help anyone over 45 looking for a job. I have to agree with Craig Dandeaux. Do your own recruiting!

– Terry Preeo, change manager, United Group, Sydney

Ed note: The editorial did make an obvious generalisation about baby boomer managers, and as such, doesn't apply to every single baby boomer manager. But flexibility is becoming increasingly important to employees and we cant escape the converging forces of the ageing population and generational issues, so it will be interesting to see how these change the face of work in the next 510 years.

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