Category: Employee Engagement

February 20th, 2017 by Michael Millward

Well, it has arrived the day on which I arrived in the world! There have been quite a few days like this, not quite too many to mention but too many for me to consider it anything other than a number any more.

It’s supposed to be a special day, your birthday, but somehow just like other celebrations Christmas, Easter, and despite my resolve to do something different I end up doing the same thing by way of celebration as I do every year.

If my birthday falls on a working-day, there will be the ritual trip to the local bakers and purchase of a range of cakes so that everyone in the office and any friendly visitors can fill their face. At lunch-time there will also be the walk to the pub for the team and a slap-up carvery lunch.

Well perhaps not this year?

Being generous on days like today, in the name of celebrations, could be according to the Faculty of Dental Surgery be contributing to the health problems my colleagues have.

Cake and biscuits at work, on celebration days and on those days when someone somewhere in the world is having a birthday are fuelling obesity and poor oral health.

The problem that I am contributing to is caused by the consumption of sugary snacks in-between meals.

Prof Nigel Hunt, dean of the faculty at the Royal College of Surgeons, suggests that in order, to cut back on sugar intake eating should be restricted to meal times. Which would mean no afternoon cake break.

The reason for this is that when we eat sugary and starchy food and drinks, particularly between meals, the bacteria in plaque feed on these carbohydrates and produce acid which causes tooth decay.

So, no cakes this afternoon.

However, I just want to have some fun on my special day and as 2016 Great British Bake Off runner-up Jane Beedle said on BBC Radio 2 cake does “bring joy to the office”.

But the Professor wants to see a cultural change in offices and other workplaces that encourages healthy eating and helps workers avoid caving in to sweet temptations such as cakes, sweets and biscuits.”

Whilst as Beedle says ‘a little bit of homemade cake is going to kill anybody, people are inclined to eat it if it’s there.’ The mantra of all things in moderation seems to go out of the window.

We all, I suppose, need to start to see food as fuel and not consume the calories that are just not worth it.

The Faculty of Dental Surgery suggests keeping a “sugar schedule” to track your intake.
I am inclined to agree, but another former Bake Off contestant, Christine Wallace, from the 2013 series, said: “I think this is yet another example of the ‘nanny’ state trying to shape our lives when it really isn’t really necessary.

So, there will be no cakes in the office this afternoon.

The 2014 series winner Nancy Birtwhistle said banning cake was “not the solution” adding: that she firmly believed that snacking between meals, sugary drinks and junk food are at the root of our obesity and dental caries problem – not the occasional slice of celebratory cake.

So, the cakes are back on. But we will be following the advice of the Faculty of Dental Surgery which has released tips on how to cut down sugar consumption in the workplace:

  • Consider low-sugar alternatives
  • Reduce portion sizes
  • Avoid snacking and keep sugar as a lunchtime treat
  • Keep a “sugar schedule” to limit sugar intake
  • Think about where sweet treats are positioned – if they are nearby and visible, people may eat more.

So, alright cakes, albeit small cakes are on this afternoon.

Posted in Abeceder, Diet and Nutrition, Employee Engagement, Fit For My Age

February 1st, 2017 by Michael Millward

It seems like a strange thing to celebrate; a record number of people so unhappy about their work that they resort to the tribunal system as the only way to find a solution, but that is what the Departmant of Justice has done.

In a report published yesterday, 31 January 2017 the Department says that more than 92,000 people bought forward workplace disputes to the tribunal system in 2016 – the highest number since employment tribunal fees were introduced.

It is the bit about the figure being a record since the intoduction of fees that it seems is worth celebrating. Fees for taking a case to a Tribubal were introduced in 2013, just three years ago, as an attempt to reduce the number of ‘have a go’ claims so that employers could be saved the costs of dealing with the claim and Tribunals could focus on genuine cases, .

The Department has not compared the 2016 figure to the number of cases brought before the introduction of fees.

There is always going to be a question about the number of workplace injustices that go unchallenged because the workers affected can not afford to stand-up for their rights, but the Government claims that the introduction of tribunal fees has dramatically changed how workplace disputes are resolved.

The Government are claiming that the introduction of tribunal fees, alongside free mediation services, has dramatically changed how workplace disputes are resolved. It also claims that thousands more people will be able to access work place justice with the introduction of an extended scheme to waive fees for lowest paid workers.

That means that the monthly income threshold for full fee remission will increase from £1,085 to £1,250 – broadly the equivalent of someone earning the National Living Wage. There are additional allowances for people living as couples and those with children.

The big challenge for the Government in this area as in so many is how does it help not just those on the National Living Wage, but those people who earn just a bit more but do not have access to the financial resources to fund a claim. The people that Prime Minister Theresa May described as the ‘Just About Managing’

Justice Minister Sir Oliver Heald said:

It is right that those who can afford to should contribute to the cost of Employment Tribunals, but under the extended Help with Fees scheme, more people would not pay a fee and others will contribute less than under current arrangements.

The extended scheme would benefit the disabled, women, Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic (BAME) individuals, and the young, who all feature disproportionately among low income groups.

The Government has also decided to exempt from fees a small number of proceedings related to payments made from the National Insurance Fund, as in most cases the applicant is unable to conciliate or recover fees.

While many have chosen not to bring employment tribunal claims, the review found nothing to suggest they have been prevented from doing so, and that higher numbers turning to ACAS is a “positive outcome”.

It also found:

  • in 2015/16 there were more than 92,000 workplace disputes notified to Acas – the highest number since Employment Tribunal fees were introduced
  • tribunal users are contributing up to £9 million a year in fee income, in line with expectations
  • evidence that some have found fees off-putting – even if affordable or if they may have qualified for fee waivers.

Alongside the Review the Government is also launching a consultation, which seeks to raise awareness of the Help with Fees scheme, and highlight how thousands more would qualify for help.

Ministers will bring forward further plans to improve legal support in a Green Paper by early 2018, while the Prison and Courts Bill, due to be published shortly, will make it simpler to access justice and enable thousands more people to bring cases online.

Help with making access to justice available to everyone, equally is important, but prevention is better than cure and the Government might do better to acknowledge that many employment disputes could be avoided if managers and employees understood how to make their relationship work properly. The UK still has too many unqualified managers and too many workers who have been tutored in the ‘them and us’ culture of industrial relations.


Posted in Employee Engagement, Employment Law, Employment Tribunal

January 20th, 2017 by Michael Millward

The rise in internet shopping has created a huge increase in the number of deliveries being made by an equally increasing number of delivery companies and independent couriers.

These deliveries are not always made to the customers home address. The problem of having to wait in for a delivery has been eliminated by the increasing number of employers that allow employees to receive their shopping at work.

In some areas of central London as many as 78% of employers have given employees the opportunity to take deliveries at work.

It all adds up to a lot of vehicles on the roads and probably worse parked half on the pavement and half on the road.

Add to that the health issues of the extra pollution that extra vehicles create especially when they are left unattended with their engine running, and you have a convenience for shoppers that results in a lot of inconvenience for every one else.

The problems are not limited to road users and from an employers perspective it also creates extra workload for reception and security teams as they sign for the deliveries.

The solution may be at hand with the launch of a new service in London that allows companies to consolidate all their numerous deliveries into one delivery a day.

It is a similar concept to the centralised distribution centres that are used by the major retailers and which I was involved in introducing when I worked at ASDA.

The supermarkets wanted to reduce the number of lorries arriving at their stores, because each delivery cost money. So they got suppliers to deliver to a central warehouse. In the warehouse the deliveries from different suppliers where consolidated into one lorry load that would be delivered to the store.

It is such a simple solution I wonder why it has taken so long for it to be applied to other types of deliveries.

Perhaps it is the fact that the new service in London, Bee London is supported by both Transport for London and the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan that has created the change.

Now if you work in one of 320 businesses in the area around Bloomsbury, Holborn and St Giles Daily you can receive both business and by the end of February 2017 your staff will be able to receive personal deliveries via the new service.

It works in exactly the same way as the supermarket model. You arrange for your deliveries to be sent to a central address and then they all arrive at your premises at one time.

You essentially take control of deliveries to your premises.

No more deliveries when important clients are arriving, no more meetings interrupted by someone being called to sign for a parcel, it’s cheaper, it’s greener so the benefits seem multiple.

I am hoping that Bee London Chief Executive Tass Mavrogordato, will expand the service to other parts of the congested cities, but at the moment the mission is to find practical solutions to the everyday problems our businesses face in this midtown area of London.

Looking at the big picture  David McNeill, Director of Public Affairs and Stakeholder Engagement of TfL, says that BeeLondon and TfL have worked together to support businesses in Bloomsbury, Holborn and St Giles to receive deliveries in a green and efficient way that works for them. This helps business to reduce costs and improve their trading environment – both important factors in maintaining this growing district’s competitiveness, improve air quality and a reduction in congestion. ”

I think it’s great!

Posted in Employee Engagement, Environment

June 25th, 2012 by Michael Millward

Michael Millward joined the BBC Radio York Drive Time show this afternoon to tell them about the Northern CIPD conference that he had attended in York over the weekend.

The Conference theme was positive people so many of the key note speakers and those in the individual seminars had chosen to discuss how the levels of positive attitudes amongst employees often depends on how engaged they are with their employer.

Mr Millward explained that employee engagement might sound like just another HR buzz word, but essentially it can be defined as how interested an employee is in their work and indeed how much they care about doing a good job.

Many studies have identified that highly engaged employees are more productive and take less time off as the result of sickness than employees who can be described as less engaged.

The conference was held at York racecourse, which gave the organisers the opportunity to have Sarah Kreutzer from Learning to Listen, do a presentation on how the techniques that some people describe as horse whispering can be used to demonstrate employee engagement and leadership.

Obviously Michael just had to have a go!

The horse was a former show-jumper and eventing horse called Paco.

Sarah had demonstrated two different leadership techniques using Paco, the first leading from the front showed how Paco would simply follow wherever Sarah walked. The second was leading from behind in which Sarah encouraged Paco to move forward and even to change pace from just behind him.

It all looked so easy said Mr Millward who was set the challenge of getting Paco to jump over a small pole in the centre of the parade ring, by leading him from behind.

But he had not taken account of Paco having a mind of his own and more interest in eating grass than being led from behind.

The more Paco resisted and found that walking around the pole was much easier the more frustrated Mr Millward later admitted he was getting and also the closer he was getting to Paco.

This proximity was the problem; horses are herd animals and gather closer together at times of danger.

Once more round the parade ring said Mr Millward to Sarah, but this time keeping a bit more distance between him and Paco.

Wow! Paco went exactly where he was supposed to and jumped over the low pole.

The lesson explained Mr Millward was that as managers we often delegate a task to an employee and then instead of letting them get on with it we over monitor them. Although what we want to do is be there if something goes wrong, the message that we give our employees is that we do not trust them. They start to feel nervous and resort to the activities that appear to be the easy route and techniques that they are most familiar with.

Let go! Give your employees some freedom and just like Paco they do exactly what you wanted them to do.

It just takes a bit of trust, to create an engaged employee.

Posted in BBC Radio York, Employee Engagement

May 14th, 2012 by Michael Millward

Michael Millward joined Elly Fiorentini on the BBC Radio York Drive Show this evening to discuss what it means to work harder.

The discussion was prompted by comments made by Foreign Secretary William Hague M.P. in an interview with the Daily Telegraph, in which he told British business people to stop complaining and start working harder.

Mr Hague’s comments were themselves made in response to criticism from the business community of new government strategies announced last week in the Queen’s Speech.
In a carefully chosen statement which has been compared to Lord Tebbit’s call during the 1980s for the unemployed to get on their bike and look for work Mr Hague said that the Government had done all that it could do to help and that it was now time for businesses to get out there, start exporting and creating orders and jobs.

Mr Millward who spent last week in Brussels, Belgium launching an exclusive European partnership between Abeceder and US media giant Bloomberg LP which makes the Abeceder learning resources website Work Place Learning Centre the exclusive marketing partner of Bloomberg Businessweek EDGE said that Mr Hague’s comments were too simplistic.

It is too easy to say that businesses need to work harder. There is little point in working harder, if that way of working is inefficient, or ineffective. The real business success stories have come from businesses that have learnt how to work smarter.

The problem is that many managers and business owners find harder working much easier to manage than smarter working.

In terms of carrot and stick getting people to work harder involves using the stick, but getting them to work smarter requires using the carrot and that is something that many managers find extremely difficult because it requires two way communication with their employees.

It has to start with making sure that your employees understand what the objectives of the business are, and how their jobs and daily activities contribute to the achievement of those objectives.

There is said Mr Millward significant evidence that employees who understand how their job fits into an organisation and how their activities contribute to the success of that organisation have a positive impact across many areas of that organisation:

  • Employees are likely to be 20% more efficient, and 87% less likely to leave, (Corporate Leadership Council)
  • Gallup research has also found that organisations that involve their employees in this way enjoy better relationships with their customers, have 18% higher productivity and 12% higher profitability. 
  • ISR research suggests that companies where employees view their employers positively are likely to enjoy 2.1% higher sales than their competitors. 
  • Shareholders are also happy, positive employee involvement can create 2.2% extra shareholder value according to Watson Wyatt.

So once an organisation has communicated its objectives to their employees each employee then needs to have their own set of objectives that are linked to the overall objectives.

The best way to structure an objective is to use the S.M.A.R.T. approach

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Timed

Objectives work best when the job role involves reaching a target or achieving a change.

For many jobs this is not appropriate so managers should clearly document and communicate the performance standards that the employee must achieve and maintain in order for both the organisation and them as individuals to be successful.

Just understanding why you are doing something can have an extremely positive impact on someone’s attitude to doing an activity and deliver clear productivity improvements. It also said Mr Millward makes it easier for people to identify not just the tasks that they should be doing but also those that they should not be doing. If an employee cannot see how completing a specific task is going to help them achieve their objectives or their performance standards then they need to ask whether they should be doing that task in the first place, does it need to be done or should it be done by someone else?

Setting objectives or performance standards helps to give people ownership of the activities they do during their working day and results in them being able to work both smarter and harder.


Posted in BBC Radio York, Employee Engagement, Performance Management