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Back to the future

first_img Previous Article Next Article Back to the futureOn 1 Jul 2001 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. Many e-learning courses are designed in a style that was contemporary over adecade ago, bemoans Steven price of Xebec McGraw-Hill.  Now it’s time to demand more, he saysWhen I first became involved in e-learning 12 years ago, it was calledcomputer-based training. For technical reasons, most CBT courses were textonly, contained minimal (monochrome or four-colour) graphics and generally ranfrom a single floppy disk. The companies that produced good CBT courseware were the ones that realisedthat delivering training via a computer is only engaging and effective when theunique opportunities of the medium are exploited. They understood thatinteraction has to be integral to the process, not just a “Mary had alittle lamb, what did Mary have?” means of confirming that learning hastaken place. Over the years, the acronyms have changed – from CBT, to TBT, CBL and WBT –but essentially the same fundamental design principles have been recognised andvalued. That’s until e-learning and the online bandwagon rolled into town.E-learning, we’re told, is a revolution in the way we deliver learning becauseit breaks down the old paradigms. Sorry, but could someone tell me how runninga training course across a wire from a CD-Rom is fundamentally different fromrunning it across a wire from a Web server? OK, the wire from the Web servermay be longer and narrower, but from a learner’s perspective, what’s different?One thing is clearly different. Gone are the media-rich, interactive,visually engaging multimedia CD-Roms and in are the “micromedia” textcourses I thought we’d waved goodbye to nearly 10 years ago. Is this progress? At a recent e-learning exhibition and, with a few notable exceptions, muchof the “state-of-the-art” and “groundbreaking” coursewarebeing proffered was merely a sequence of basic text screens, punctuated withtick box assessment questions (what did I say Mary had?). It’s no wonder thedrop-out rate from online courses is reported to be so high – learners must bejumping out of windows! Delivering learning to the desktop does have implications for how coursesare structured and it means rethinking aspects of delivery to take account ofthe dreaded “b” word, bandwidth. But this isn’t an excuse forbypassing all the hard-won design principles that have been developed over thepast decade. Online delivery offers better accessibility, centralised administration,synchronous and asynchronous learner support, all of which undoubtedly offer usnew and exciting ways of enhancing the learning experience. But please, let’s wake up from the collective amnesia that seems to havedescended over the entire training industry and start building on what wealready know. Steven Price is manager of Xebec McGraw-Hill’s bespoke and customisationarm. Related posts:No related photos.last_img read more

Refugees ease binmen shortages crisis

first_imgRefugees ease binmen shortages crisisOn 19 Mar 2002 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. Previous Article Next Article Refugees living in Birmingham and Coventry are being employed by BedfordBorough Council to overcome recruitment difficulties. The council pays an agency to employ about 160 refugees, from other parts ofthe Midlands, to work as bin men, groundsmen, and car park and toiletattendants. The agency provides transport to take the workers, who mainly live in theCoventry and Birmingham areas, to and from work. Roland Simmonds, head of personnel for Bedford Borough Council, said thepolicy was introduced because of the difficulties recruiting people locallyinto these types of roles due to low unemployment in the area. Simmonds said: “We have problems recruiting staff in low-paid manualroles. The area is traditionally quite affluent and has a diverse range ofemployers including large and small businesses. It is a former engineering areathat is now IT and small production based. It is also only 50 minutes away fromLondon on the train.” A lot of the refugees do not have good English skills so the the councilemploys a translator on all shifts. Agency staff are also put through a rigorous health and safety trainingprogramme with an interpreter present to make sure the course is fullyunderstood. Simmonds said: “Agency staff go through a very complete health andsafety training programme and have translators to make sure that everything isunderstood. “The initiative started in 1991 with a couple of staff and has carriedon growing since then. We see no reason why it shall not continue in thefuture.” Related posts:No related photos.last_img read more

We’re up for the cup, but women miss out

first_imgWe’re up for the cup, but women miss outOn 28 May 2002 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article I’m looking forward to the World Cup, and so are millions of others. Someemployers are gearing up, partly recognising the reality that with the timingof some matches in the early morning, they had better accept the certainty thatmany in their workforce will be late for work. Two organisations at least –Rover and Prudential – are allowing staff to work flexibly to watch, in theinterests of work-life balance, motivation and productivity. Others haveconfirmed similar intentions. And where time off is not on the cards,television screens, specially arranged for the occasion, will make sure thatthousands of other football enthusiasts won’t miss out. It’s good that employers are exploring creative solutions to managing WorldCup-induced absence and sickness rates. Britain is moving on, and it’s awelcome and encouraging sign. But there’s a catch. Most of this progressive flexibility is aimed at men,because football remains an overwhelmingly male spectator sport. And if theclouds surrounding flexibility are breaking over the World Cup, the generalevidence is that employers remain highly controlling over our working time, andwithin a very conventional industrial nine-to-five framework. Only a tenth ofthe UK workforce have any influence over how they distribute their working timeover the working week. And crucially, although flexible working is on the increase, it is stilldenied to many female workers with caring responsibilities who could otherwisebenefit from it – allowing them to stay in the labour market and develop theirskills. It’s a measure of the acceptance of the male culture of our workplaces,that organisations and individuals – uncomfortable with the concept offlexibility for the array of family responsibilities that women readily assume– are able to find the voice to suggest time off and TV screens for the WorldCup. Equal opportunities for women have improved since sex discrimination wasoutlawed 25 years ago, but there is still not just an alarming gap between maleand female pay, but the prevalence of a stubbornly male workplace culture. Yetby 2006, women will make up more than half of the UK workforce, and by 2011nearly 80 per cent of workforce growth will be accounted for by women. Thiswill be the last World Cup in which employers can construct flexibility fortheir male workforce against a background of being grudging about it for women– and not receive vocal backlash. I’m afraid I share the same enthusiasm of most of my sex for the footballfestival over the next month – but as we men hunker down enjoying our employers’indulgence we should be more aware of the way the culture favours us. Andinsist that it changes for our women colleagues. By Will Hutton, chief executive, the Work Foundation Related posts:No related photos. Comments are closed. last_img read more

Making your mark in meetings

first_img Comments are closed. Making your mark in meetingsOn 1 Nov 2002 in Personnel Today Related posts:No related photos. Readers try out the latest products and coursesJan Golding reviews: Going to a Meeting From: Video Arts Format: VHS videos with ice-breaker. Package contains disks of: thecourse leader’s guide, delegate worksheets, PowerPoint slides, OHPS andself-study workbook. There are two separate titles: Messing up a meetinglasting 20 minutes and Meeting Menaces lasting 21 minutes Price: £995 per video with 20 per cent discount when bought together. Rentalper title £185 plus VAT and delivery for two days Tel: 0207 400 4800 E-mail: [email protected] must be a lucky manager who survives a day without attending a meeting ofsome description, so most organisations will have a ready audience for thisprogramme.It is spread over two similarly-styled video tapes providing ahigh level of flexibility to the trainer. Both use the somewhat ubiquitous JohnCleese as narrator, interacting with meeting attendee Jeremy. In each case,actors at a meeting react plausibly to the behaviour of one another. After eachscene Jeremy’s contribution or reaction is analysed and corrected, with are-run highlighting techniques for increased productivity.Messing up a Meeting is an introduction to the basics ofmeeting contribution, covering preparation, making a point and constructivelyadding to the debate. It would be ideal for new supervisors or managers withlimited experience of meetings, but die-hard meeting-goers will wryly extractpertinent points too. I particularly liked the helpful narrator breakdown,reinforcing the points around the concept of adding to the debate, which formost learners will be the most challenging aspect of this tape.Meeting Menaces identifies five typical types of characterencountered in meetings and provides techniques for resolving potentiallyblocking or unproductive situations. More experienced meeting-goers willrecognise and relate to the behaviours outlined, although I would anticipatesome credibility issues with the format of this tape among senior managers. The video works at an awareness level, bringing home genericpoints such as keeping your cool and resolving conflict. However, trainers willneed to provide further exercises to ensure the techniques outlined aremastered by their delegates.As this programme points out, good practice in meetings nevergoes out of date, but the same lessons need to be learned by each newgeneration of managers and supervisors. The content is topical but nottime-bound, the dress of the actors modern but not high fashion. While thestyle is solid, almost predictable, the recycling factor makes this programme agood investment for refreshing the managers of today and training those of thefuture.Jan Golding is training anddevelopment manager at Hilton Birmingham Metropole Previous Article Next Articlelast_img read more

Private medical insurance in need of radical surgery

first_imgRelated posts:No related photos. Previous Article Next Article Private medical insurance in need of radical surgeryOn 28 Jan 2003 in Personnel Today Private healthcare could cost UK businesses £1.1bn over thenext five years, but rather than stopping its provision, sensible planning byemployers can lead to lower costs and more effective insurance policiesOur research made headlines earlier this month by predicting that UKbusinesses could face an additional £1.1bn bill for Private Medical Insurance(PMI) over the next five years – a 70 per cent increase for employers. HR budgets are under significant pressure in the current economic climate,and a rise in PMI costs will be a difficult pill for most companies to swallow.Just as final salary pension schemes have become a victim of spirallingliabilities, there is a very real danger that PMI may go the same way. Providing a company pension, car and PMI has become the norm. However, formost companies, the latter has tended to remain a ‘perk’ benefit for seniorstaff. HR managers have always considered PMI to be a vital part of the employmentpackage and crucial to the recruitment and retention strategy. Financedirectors are also beginning to recognise the importance of getting people backto work quickly and reducing sickness absence. But it is becoming a jugglingact for HR to provide attractive employment packages without committingresources to unsustainable levels. The cost of providing PMI has caused significant strain at one time oranother on the benefits budgets of almost every company. The problem is thatcost inflation for PMI plans has consistently outstripped both RPI and averageearnings. There has not been a time in my 15 years in the industry when medicalinsurers’ actuaries and pricing departments have not factored in increases ofaround 10 per cent for underlying risk costs. The major contributor to PMI inflation is the steady increase of claims asdemand for medical services continues to grow. PMI providers’ response to thishas been the introduction of cost containment strategies – such as restrictedhospital networks, agreements with consultant specialists and using nurses toprovide managed care services. These have placed some downward pressure on costs as have competitivepressures in the market place. But during the past five years, consolidation among insurers and a swingfrom not-for-profit to commercial insurers, has reduced the opportunities forcutting costs by switching providers. HR clearly recognises the importance of PMI, but it is also very highlyvalued by the individuals and families who are fortunate enough to have coverprovided by the employer. Anyone who has used their PMI to access privatetreatment will appreciate the convenience and speed it offers compared with theNHS alternative. But there is a price to pay. If costs continue to escalate at historical levels while insurers can onlytinker at the margins of reducing them, the sustainability of providing thebenefit in its traditional form must be in question. To avoid a knee-jerk response to rising costs, employers must considerstrategies for limiting their liability to future PMI risk costs. There are anumber of potential solutions, and HR directors need to sit down with seniormanagers and thrash out what is best for their company and staff. Options mayinvolve employees playing a greater part in selecting and contributing to theirPMI benefit through flexible benefit arrangements, or even offering moreflexible choices within the PMI plan. Others may involve more traditional methods of introducing excesses, andchanging insurers or funding methodologies to maximise reductions in cost andtaxation. Direct funding of ‘return-to-work’ programmes could be introduced,and integrating occupational health assessment into the process of paying fortreatment could also be a cost and tax-effective method for some employers. Whichever strategy is decided upon, the planning needs to be done now, sothat in five years time this benefit will still be available and affordable. By Paul Ashcroft, Senior healthcare consultant,Buck & Willis Healthcare            Comments are closed. last_img read more

Firms tackle skills and diversity crisis online

first_imgFirms tackle skills and diversity crisis onlineOn 1 Jul 2003 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos. Almost half of employers plan to increase the amount they spend on onlinerecruitment over the next year to combat ongoing problems finding people withthe right skills. A survey by Workthing of 250 employers and 2,000 jobseekers’ attitudes toonline recruitment reveals that 47 per cent of recruiters plan to increaseinvestment in online recruitment and 85 per cent still have problems fillingcertain positions. Matthew Mee, group recruitment manager at the Tussauds Group, agrees onlinerecruitment can provide significant advantages in terms of speed and reach. “Simply having an online recruitment system does not answer yourrecruitment problems, but it does give you another tool to access people morequickly and those you might not be able to reach using conventional recruitmentapproaches,” he said. The study also finds that although most recruiters believe they are spendingtoo much time on application processing, 85 per cent are still sorting CVs byhand. The study shows that many employers don’t provide the information jobseekerswant on their company websites. The top three criteria for looking for a new employer are: a securefinancial footing, good career prospects and competitive packages. However, only 37 per cent of company websites refer to company performance,29 per cent discuss career progression and less than half cover benefits. Andy Baker, managing director of Workthing, said: Companies need tounderstand how their online design, content usability and response handlingprocesses play a critical role in forming candidates’ opinions of theirbusiness as a place to work.” By Ben Willmott Comments are closed. last_img read more

Pay for performance is the only way forward

Comments are closed. Related posts:No related photos. Asummer of shareholder revolt has made life distinctly uncomfortable forso-called fat cats. Strengthened by government regulatory changes that have openedup access to information on executive remuneration and provided new rights tovote on reward packages, shareholders have been keen to hold company boards toaccount to ensure executive pay reflects performance.  A particular source of unrest has been big payoffs to executivesdeparting failing companies, so much so that the DTI has launched a consultationon whether and how corporate governance might be further strengthened to tackle‘reward for failure’.Itwould be wrong, however, to presume shareholders are the only corporatestakeholders expressing concern on this matter. Not only are the trade unionsup in arms – as might be expected – but so too are HR professionals. Lastyear’s personnel rewards survey, published jointly by the CIPD and the RewardGroup, points to considerable discontent within HR over perceived unfairness inthe setting of executive pay. Unease stems both from the large gap in rewardbetween the top cadre and other ranks within organisations, and the factexecutive pay has been accelerating away from the pack. In 2002, for example,executive pay rose three times faster than average earnings. Morethan a quarter of HR and training professionals feel their director or chiefexecutive is overpaid, while one in 10 reckon their employers do not care aboutthe fairness of pay decisions. These negative perceptions may be associated withthe findings of CIPD reward management surveys which say that communication ofreward programmes is often minimal, does not encourage transparency, andlargely excludes employee involvement in changes to the design of rewardpractices. But of particular significance is the fact that a majority of HRprofessionals believe that unfairness in executive pay setting has a negativeeffect on recruitment (59 per cent), retention (73 per cent) and employeecommitment (78 per cent). TheHR perspective on executive pay thus suggests that ensuring a clear linkbetween executive pay and performance would itself help boost performance, andimplies the need for a closer association between the way organisationsapproach executive reward and reward strategy as applied to the rest of theworkforce. Even the best remuneration committees are typically fixated on theexternal market – stressing the need to match executive reward packages incomparable companies – often with little regard to reward structures inside anorganisation. Yet it is precisely this disjunction between the setting of toppay within an organisation and that of its rank and file that underlies theconcerns about fairness and performance expressed by HR professionals. Themessage from HR is therefore clear: organisations that want to avoid fat catcontroversy must consider both the ‘ins and outs’ when it comes to executivepay.ByJohn Philpott, Chief economist, Chartered Institute of Personnel andDevelopment Pay for performance is the only way forwardOn 8 Jul 2003 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article read more

The Hamptons housing market is sitting pretty

first_img(iStock/Illustration by Kevin Rebong for The Real Deal)The Hamptons property continues to tighten in the post-coronavirus era. Homes are hitting the market, but even more are selling, according to Behind the Hedges.New listings in the first week of March were 72 percent higher than the same time a year ago, but contracts still outpaced what was hitting the market. Some agents are seeing properties selling above asking price.The shrinking inventory is also affecting the rental market. Gross booking value increased 69 percent in the 2020-2021 offseason compared to the prior offseason. Renters are booking stays for longer and revenue per property is up 156 percent year-over-year. [BTH] — Dennis Lynch  Tags Share via Shortlink Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on LinkedinShare via Email Share via Shortlink hamptons-weeklylast_img read more

Myogenic cell cycle duration in Harpagifer species with sub-Antarctic and Antarctic distributions: evidence for cold compensation

first_imgIn teleosts, the proliferation of myogenic progenitor cells is required for muscle growth and nuclear turnover. We measured the cell cycle and S-phase duration of myogenic cells in the fast myotomal muscle of two closely related Harpagifer species by cumulative S-phase labelling with 5-bromo-2′-deoxyuridine (BrdU). Harpagifer antarcticus is a stenothermal species from the Antarctic peninsula (experiencing temperatures of -2degreesC to +1degreesC) and Harpagifer bispinis is a eurythermal species from the Beagle Channel, Tierra del Fuego (living at +4degreesC in winter and up to 11degreesC in summer). Specific growth rates in the adult stages studied were not significantly different from zero. Myogenic progenitor cells were identified using an antibody against c-met. Seventy-five percent of the c-met(+ve) cells were in a proliferative state in both species. Cell cycle time was 150h at 5degreesC and 81.3h at 10degreesC in H. bispinis (Q(10)=3.4). Cell cycle duration was 35% shorter in H. antarcticus at 0degreesC (111h) than in H. bispinis at 5degreesC. The predicted cell cycle time for H. bispinis at 0degreesC (based on the Q(10) relationship) was 277h, which was more than double that measured for the Antarctic species at this temperature. The results obtained are compatible with an evolutionary adjustment of cell cycle time for function at low temperature in the Antarctic specieslast_img read more

Summertime water masses off the northern Larsen C Ice Shelf, Antarctica

first_imgWe report on oceanographic observations made at the northern end of Larsen C Ice Shelf in the western Weddell Sea. It appears that the Larsen C continental shelf is flushed not by High Salinity Shelf Water from the southern continental shelf, but by Modified Weddell Deep Water (MWDW) flowing across the shelf break. MWDW is observed at the ice front, having tracked west along the northward facing slopes of depressions that reach to the shelf break. Ice Shelf Water observed near the ice front is not, however, derived from MWDW directly, but from MWDW pre-conditioned by winter cooling and by salinification from sea ice production. If the ice shelf base generally is being melted only by pre-conditioned MWDW, then, contrary to recent suggestions, changes in the temperature of the deep Weddell Sea are unlikely to have a major impact on melt rates at the base of Larsen C Ice Shelf.last_img read more