If older workers need to work longer to supplement inadequate pension provisions, we may end up with three or four generations in one workplace, with three genders (according to Europe, there are three genders) and dozens of ethnicities, nationalities and colours, with varying religions and creeds to take into account.

If the world of work is no longer about “master and servant”, with workers turning up routinely to an identifiable location to undertake specific tasks, how is the modern organisation to attract, retain, supervise and reward the workforce of the future, and to what end?

The death knell of capitalism has sounded more than once, but capitalism is unlikely to be a spent force in the foreseeable future. Making a profit is still going to be the number one reason for going into business, but how organisations are to achieve that is an increasing concern.

Younger workers’ motivations are often about belonging to their groups. Increasingly, social entrepreneurs are giving opportunities to individuals who are not motivated by maximising their bonus this quarter. Still, everyone needs some measures of attainment to know how they are doing.

Where does this leave the organisation’s supervisory skills, performance management and equal opportunity policies?

HR have been very much focussed on process in the last few decades. Recently some attempts have been made to arrive at ways of measuring HR’s performance, and at its best HR is a vibrant business partner supporting and developing the people side of the business.

In many organisations HR has been ‘process focussed’ to the point where they are felt to impede the efficacy of the business. Some workplaces seem almost designed to exclude the ordinary manager with complex procedures and processes that only the few in HR and the Union can understand.

Let’s look at the company staff handbook – these days found mostly on the intranet. Often this consists of a collection of policies and prohibitions based on historic problems in the organisation. Occasionally parts have been re-engineered to provide a more accessible tone, but these documents show their origin in the written word. They are often wordy and hard to understand, as the language of ‘equality’ works its way through the lexicon of HR. The modern workforce does not generally read Dickens in its spare time, yet the language of many staff handbooks seems to suggest an expectation of high levels of literacy.

Handbooks and procedures are often now to be found on the intranet and internet. But many workers have no IT access at work. Others don’t read English that well (and that applies to many native-born English people, as well as foreign workers)

Would a twitter handbook be more useful for the modern world? What would HR say?. Using the twitter 140 character limit, what would you come up with?

  • If it’s not yours, don’t touch it, talk about it, or try to take it home. [The multi-purpose equal opportunity and security policy?]
  • Give respect to receive respect – and don’t bad mouth [Dignity at work and harassment policy?]
  • Do it, do it right, and do it on time? [Quality management?]

What would your absolute minimum text include? Let us know your 140 character or less handbook entries suggestions. We offer a bottle of champagne to the entry, in the opinion of Irenicon’s directors that is the funniest and most apt (and publishable!). Deadline 30th June 2009. Entries by email to headed twitter handbook.

Annabel Kaye is Managing Director of Irenicon Ltd, a specialist employment law consultancy. Tel: 08452 303050 Fax: 08452 303060 twitter/annabelkaye


Filed under contract, employment law, free stuff

2 responses to “RU OK?

  1. This is a very interesting and insightful article. In particular, I strongly agree with your comments about company handbooks being written at a much higher level. I will think about a 140 character handbook entry. Would you consider sending the bottle of champagne across the pond?

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