Mercer: UK has 2nd lowest number of public holidays

15 September 2014

For employees looking for much time off, the UK is probably one of the least attractive  places to work. A new research shows that UK employees receive the second lowest number of public holidays, trailing only Mexican employees. With more than 15 public holidays a year, employees in India, Colombia, Lebanon, South Korea and Thailand are dubbed the ‘luckiest’.

Every year consulting firm Mercer conducts research on employee benefit policies across 64 major economies, including on public holiday entitlement*. The results reveal that the number of public holidays differs strongly per country, due to for instance country-specific heritage and one-off holidays for cultural or religious events. Employees in India and Colombia have the highest public holiday provision worldwide (18), while at the other end of the spectrum the Mexicans and nationals of three European countries (UK, The Netherlands, Hungary) have to live with the lowest public holiday allowance.

Mercer: UK has 2nd lowest number of public holidays

Looking specifically at Europe, Finland has the most generous provision of public holidays (15), followed by Spain (14) and Austria (12). Germany typically celebrates nine public holidays but this varies between states (BundeslÓ“nder) so some employees can receive up to 13. Sweden, Italy, France and Denmark all provide employees with 11 public holidays while Belgium, Luxembourg, Norway and Portugal all have 10. In Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), the Turkish Government mandates the greatest number of public holidays (14.5) followed by Russia (14) and Slovakia (13). The Czech Republic and Lithuania both have 12 public holidays followed by Croatia (11), Poland and Ukraine (10) and Serbia and Romania (9).

In North America, Canada provides the greatest number of public holidays (11), although this varies by province. The U.S Government provides 10 federal public holidays however private employers are not obligated to allow their employees to take these days off.

Latin America is home to the highest and lowest public holiday provision of any of the countries surveyed, although the continent also demonstrates the largest inequality (Colombia vs Mexico). Argentina and Chile have 15 public holidays with Brazil offering 12.

Within the Middle East and Africa (MEA), Lebanon is the most generous country with 16 public holidays, while conversely United Arab Emirates is the least generous country with nine public holidays.

* Public holiday figures exclude Saturdays and Sundays. The researchers add that public holiday practices may be interpreted differently based on local practice.


Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

17 April 2019

Soft skills matter in the workplace just as much as technical expertise, writes Samantha Caine, Managing Director of Business Linked Teams.

For too long technical expertise has been seen as the marker of a strong candidate for development into a sales or leadership position. Sales and leadership candidates are tasked with demonstrating a diverse and wide-ranging set of technical skills, yet their aptitude in these technical skills or ‘hard skills’ cannot signify great leadership potential. This is why a healthy balance of soft skills and technical ability is required. 

So what exactly is the difference between technical skills and soft skills? In engineering, it’s crucial to demonstrate knowledge of physics as well as a strong grasp on mathematical equations. Yet, in any industry, it’s important for leaders to be able to interact with other people effectively with soft skills like communication, empathy and adaptability. 

Business Linked Team’s 2018 study into internal leadership development revealed that 69% of large organisations are prioritising the identification and development of future leaders from within the workforce. As more and more organisations begin to invest in sales or leadership development within their existing workforces, more focus needs to be placed on ensuring the right soft skills are in place. 

With those soft skills in place throughout the workforce, the business will benefit from a wider pool of potential leaders developing under their noses, and it should be the same where sales candidates are concerned. 

It’s not just about easier access to ideal candidates for these positions without the rigmarole of recruiting from outside of the organisation. The leadership development study also found that 89% of HR decision makers say succession planning has become a top priority. Those currently serving in leadership positions can’t lead forever and the same goes for those generating sales for the business.

Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

From people leaving for new opportunities or retirement, to people simply stepping aside to focus on other areas of the business, successful leaders and salespeople require experienced and capable successors that will be ready and able to confidently step into their shoes and pick up the mantle without the business experiencing any lapse in performance.

Soft skills make stronger candidates

When it comes to the soft skills required, a strong leader must be able to manage through clear communication and effective time management, coaching and goal setting. They must be able to demonstrate empathy and empower their teams to be successful, productive and fully engaged. And beyond simply giving direction, they must also be able to take direction from those above them and cascade the business strategy down through their teams. 

A strong sales candidate must possess the ability to communicate value to the customer, negotiate well and protect margin or the ability to increase the scope of a particular sales opportunity. 

With the relevant soft skills in place, the business will benefit from increased productivity, greater agility against changing market conditions and greater transparency. In turn, this will provide visibility on issues and inefficiencies while removing opportunity for miscommunication. All of this can transform the culture of a department, improving employee satisfaction and reducing staff turnover. 

Ultimately, developing leadership or sales candidates will require the business to strike the right balance between technical skills and soft skills, and this requires an effective and sustained learning journey.

A balanced learning journey

Facilitating and supporting the development of leadership and sales is best achieved by establishing training groups. By cultivating training groups, businesses are creating talent pools that will inspire and support each other on the learning journey. However, personal goals and learning objectives must be defined for each individual based on their own existing skillsets and the skills that each individual needs to develop. 

With the emergence of e-learning, businesses recognise the value of online-based learning activities, yet many make the mistake of opting for one-size-fits-all solutions which are solely focused on self-study. A development solution will only deliver true return on investment if it combines e-learning activities with group learning activities that provide opportunity for shared experiences and support.

A blended learning solution that combines self-study and face-to-face group learning activities will aid strong development of the talent pool through shared experiences. Through these shared experiences, those undergoing the training will organically develop a support network that supports the development of the group as much as it supports the development of each individual. 

The blended learning approach is supported by one of the seven principles of human learning that socially supported interactions aid the individual development of expertise, metacognitive skills, and formation of the learner’s sense of self. The strongest opportunities for development can be unlocked by blending workshops with online activities such as virtual sessions, peer coaching, self-study, online games and business simulations. But it’s crucial to provide a blend of one-to-one and group sessions too.

Beyond delivering a better learning outcome for the employee, the blended learning approach allows organisations to adapt their training quickly and easily to shifting business demands in an ever-changing landscape.