Reduce the age of your workforce to get more fresh ideas, NCVO conference told

10 May 2016 News

Charities “can and should” make efforts to reduce the average age of the workforce, and should also be willing to risk breaching the law to sack underperforming staff, NCVO's HR conference heard yesterday.

William Garnett, partner and head of employment for Bates Wells Braithwaite (pictured) also urged charities to be less afraid of being taken to employment tribunals when dismissing underperforming staff.

“There is this idea, particularly in this sector, that following the law is good and breaking the law is bad,” he said. “That is wrong. That is absolutely wrong.

“There are some rules you shouldn’t break – particularly when you are working with minority groups – but when it comes to dealing with someone who is a complete pain and won’t engage and is really taking the mickey, sometimes it is about saying we need to take a risk.

“If you are treating people fairly and transparently you are very unlikely to end up in a tribunal and even more unlikely to lose one.”

Garnett said it was important to have “protected conversations” with staff – to say you are worried about whether they are performing to the best of their ability.

“You need to be careful about how you introduce [the conversation]. But you are unilaterally as an employer entitled to have it… So please don’t put the law on a pedestal,” he said.

'Too many people not bringing new ideas'

Garnett said the sector “can and should” make efforts to reduce the average age of its workforce.

“We’ve got too many people who have remained all their lives in the not-for-profit sector, and they are not necessarily bringing new ideas or new energy,” he said.

He told the conference yesterday that there are “huge generational opportunities” for the sector to make use of a younger workforce.

“Millennials are a fantastic new opportunity for us and they should be right at the forefront of our organisations,” he said.

“It’s interesting that there aren’t more young people working in management positions in this sector,” he said. “There absolutely should be – for two reasons. Firstly, millennials are desperate to do something worthy. That’s part and parcel of their lives. Much more, in general terms, than older people ever were.

“Secondly, we can provide opportunities for millennials to take up positions of responsibility in management which the commercial sector probably won’t allow them to do. We can promote people faster.

“There is an amazing talent within our organisations. Absolutely amazing talent. And I don’t think we are getting to use it anything like as much as we should be.”

Garnett called for the sector to “create greater opportunities for younger people”, making it clear to them that although the sector can’t always pay as much as the commercial sector, the opportunities are greater.

  • The headline and introduction of this article have been amended to make it clearer that William Garnett's comments about reducing the age of the workforce were separate from his comments that charities should be more willing to remove underperforming staff.

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