Magazine article Management Today

Lend Me Your Ears

Magazine article Management Today

Lend Me Your Ears

Article excerpt

LEND ME YOUR EARS

Changes in the population profile mean that by 1995 there will be 1.2 million fewer 16 to 24-year-olds in the workforce. A year ago the National Economic Development Office (NEDO) warned that serious recruitment problems would arise and reported that only one employer in seven was well informed about the trends.

One of the imperatives highlighted in the NEDO report was the need for employers to turn their attention to groups traditionally overlooked in the labour market - older and long-term unemployed people, and married women `returners'. Since then key organisations have taken well-publicised steps to devise imaginative staff recruitment, training and retention packages.

The Civil Service has introduced its care-parent scheme, the Midland Bank has announced plans for 300 workplace nurseries. job sharing arrangements have begun to take off in the NHS and most City firms now have very attractive returners' programmes in operation.

Another group which is traditionally overlooked, and which was passed over again in the NEDO report, is disabled people. A similar vision that challenges popular perceptions and conventional wisdom is needed before this group is also seen as a potentially valuable labour group. Intensifying demographic pressures may, however, now be kindling that kind of imagination.

There is no reason why good personnel management systems should not be able to identify and take account of any special employment needs. Practical solutions can be surprisingly straightforward and financial assistance may often be available too. But it is productive - not sheltered - employement opportunities that are required.

Take deafness, for instance. Not an insignificant issue, as one in eleven adults has a hearing loss that is likely to result in trouble following conversations in background noise or in groups. Many develop individual strategies to cope, but deafness is manifest in degrees relevant to employment from the slightly hard-of-hearing employee who may not be following and contributing effectively in meetings, to the profoundly deaf employee whose first language is sign language and who may need an interpreter, particularly at key transition points in his or her career.

A detailed study conducted recently by the Royal National Institute for the Deaf highlighted some of the common difficulties that deaf employees and their managers experience. Employees are sometimes isolated socially; they miss out on overtime, which is often organised by word of mouth, find promotion blocked by assumptions that they can't use a telephone or deal with the public and feel their confidence eroded when they can't follow fully at meetings. …

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