Thursday, 16 February 2017

Going Live!

Recently I've noticed a number of incidents in my personal, professional and sporting lives linked to live video. In all the cases it was Facebook Live but the principle applies across all social media. In this blog I'll discuss my observations and the implications I see for the workplace. 

The only one of the events to get national media coverage was the Antonio Brown incident HERE. Brown went Live at a half time team talk and got into trouble for it. He apologised and said he let his emotions get the better of him and didn't think, and was trying to share a moment with fans. In this case he was sharing a video of what was his own workplace, an American Football team, and so breached all kinds of privacy rules. 

The other incidents are closer to home for me. Two are sport related. Both of these involved drunken groups of players and fans celebrating well earned victories but in both cases someone on the live video, not the person filming and whose account it was broadcast from, said some very offensive and discriminatory remarks. Both live streams were stopped and the post deleted, and the account holder apologised in both cases. In one case, the person who made the remark was banned by the sports governing body. In the other case both the person who made the remark AND the account holder / filmer were both banned by the governing body. The account holder is particularly aggrieved because they had nothing to do with the remark, deleted the post and apologised immediately, but they've been banned for bringing the sport into disrepute by even going Live in the first place because of the potential risks. 

The third case is a more personal one where a friend got into trouble for repeatedly going live on nights out and getting some of his other friends into trouble with their respective partners, having caught them chatting away to other women. In this case there is very much a blurred line and I think all parties are in the wrong but it opens up a can of worms about the use of Live video in the workplace.  

I've only ever gone live twice, both times at conferences where I was blogging but couldn't capture the intensity of the speech I was listening to. The first time a man fainted as I pressed Live so I stopped, not wanting to be live for such an event. The second time passed without incident but I felt guilty that I was broadcasting, for free, something the organisers had rightly wanted people to pay to attend. So I stopped. Although I don't mind anyone live streaming any talk I do, it hasn't happened yet as far as I know. 

This has major implications for the workplace though. What would you do if an employee went Live during a meeting? It could potentially breach all kinds of privacy rules and confidential information so you can rely upon that, but what if no confidential information is being broadcast? What if it's something like an away day or a whole company briefing by the Chief Executive like a rallying cry? 

The employee may be sharing it for those other employees not present and to give an insight into the company they work for. It may even help the employer brand that they do so. But it might not. Would the people speaking behave differently if they thought they were being broadcast? I'd hope not as authenticity is very important no matter what the context. And you shouldn't say or do anything to any group that you wouldn't be comfortable being broadcast to a wider audience, so most leaders will be OK in that regard. 

But what if the broadcast reveals something unsightly about the workplace, it's culture and its leaders? I can imagine it could just do that. 

What if a site like Glassdoor suddenly offers the ability for employees at a company to go live anonymously? 

I think they should. 

Live video offers no hiding place for anyone. But if you've got something to hide, that says more about you than it does live video. 

I can see usage becoming widespread in sport both from fans and players. I can also see it becoming more common, if not quite widespread, in employment. 

Consider a Live broadcast by an employee secretly filming a manager bullying a colleague.  Who is in the wrong here?  The filmer by breaching workplace rules and privacy?  The manager for bullying?  Or the organisation for allowing this to take place?  Who gets disciplined?  Who suffers?

Of course, some things HAVE to be confidential but if no statement has been made about that then is the subsequent discussion fair game? I think it probably is. 

It means the lines between what happens in the workplace and what is seen by the outside world will become very blurred indeed. 

Is that a good thing? If you're a great employer with fantastic leaders in an amazing workplace, yes it is. If you're not, be prepared for more people to find out about that. 

What issues do you see? Do you see it as a good thing or not? And can we do anything about it, even if we wanted to? 

Till next time… 


PS in other news, my son (15) has his first girlfriend and bought his first valentines present this week. I suddenly felt very old and am not quite sure what, if anything, to do.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

#hrdsummit17 blog 6

And so I've done my own talk now. It seemed to go down very well indeed and I had a blast doing it. There were a LOT of people there and everyone said such lovely things. 

My energy levels have seriously dipped now. 

To those who are interested though, there is a Pinned Tweet on my page @Gary_Cookson with a link to a 10 minute version of today's talk. Today I added 5 minutes of new material and haven't (yet) recorded this but watch this space. 

But enough of me. 

I'm back in another session now, this time by Jeff Birk from OC Tanner on building a culture of recognition and appreciation. This is something all workplaces should strive to have. 

Recognition, says Jeff, is partly about encouraging effort. This can be done by communicating that someone is on track and in good standing, but has the impact of improving manager/employee relationships and improves employee confidence in their own skills. 

He asked when the last time anyone had this at work. Pleasingly, lots said within the last week but for many it was a year or more. 

Recognition is also about rewarding results. This encourages improvement, customer satisfaction and helps employees feel they are making a difference. Jeff made a comment that we need to have this continually, like the crowd during a football match, and not save our recognition or feedback until the end result or end of the match. 

Jeff's style of delivery was really engaging and I enjoyed listening to him. 

He said recognition is also about celebrating careers. He gave some good examples of how we can appreciate career choices by individuals, choices of coming to work for our organisations and choices to stay, particularly those who stay a long long time. This is about showing that the company cares and that the employee fits in (something I blogged about last week) and improves relationships amongst co workers. 

His advice about recognition was that it should be:
- in the moment
- inclusive
- performance based
- conscious of cultural differences between countries

Really good advice here and strikingly simple but sadly not always followed in many organisations. 

He challenged us not only about when we last received recognition, but when we last gave it. 

When did you?

Off to another session now on creating a coaching and mentoring culture with Claire Vaughan and James Moore from the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust. 

Claire talked about the poor culture at WAST 3-4 years ago and it's clear they were in a bad place both from an employee and customer perspective, and outlined some of the improvements that had been made. 

She pointed out that their new CEO has an HR background and therefore "gets" engagement. I'm sure this must help. 

Interestingly, the service began focusing on relationships and behaviours, not actions and outcomes. This appears to be a running theme both in this conference and in my own personal development recently. It is neatly summarised by the photo below. 

James mentioned that they are trying to break the Drama Triangle in the interventions they are doing, and got us to try this out via some paired coaching conversations which proved surprisingly effective at creating a sense of dignity and engagement. 

Well done WAST. 

Lunchtime beckons. 

Till next time...


#hrdsummit17 blog 7 (final one)

I'm in a session by Rob Jones from Crossrail. I missed the afternoon opening keynote as I was having a late lunch, having missed lunch because of arranging to meet people at that time. 

Robs session is about transitioning from operational to strategic HR and the key building blocks of doing so. His style was brilliant, and he was an engaging and funny speaker. 

He talked at first about what he had noticed in his career that are operational. Lots of things may appear operational, but they can also be strategic. He refreshingly talked a lot about the mistakes he had made, but also how some of these had helped him to learn more about how people operate and how they improve. 

His point was that you can only learn certain things from a report, but you learn much more from getting out and about and talking to people - not in a staged way, but when they relax and open up to you. 

He also talked about his time at Mothercare, where he figured out that the leaders viewed anything that put cash in the till as strategic, and anything that didn't as operational. 

His experience of being at Crossrail was a true initiation into the world of Organisational Effectiveness. His role was to examine barriers and blockages in the organisation, help to remove them and then get out of the way. That often involved HR work but was about understanding people, systems and processes just as much. 

He realised that he was better at his job, and could win, was by doing problem solving and getting into the detail of it. Not by delivering an HR service although that does need to happen too. But also try to be three or four moves ahead of the rest of the organisation and plan for different eventualities. 

This was a tour de force talk on how HR can reimagine itself as organisational effectiveness professionals and Rob made a passionate and entertaining case for that happening. Well done. 

And that, I think, is me done for today. It's been a long and tiring two days and I'm glad to be headed home but I've enjoyed this event more than in previous years. Next year I can see that it's going back to three days which I am concerned may be a mistake but we shall see. 

I hope to be here again anyway. 

Till next time...


#hrdsummit17 blog 5

So I'm back at #hrdsummit17 for the second day, and the crowd is noticeably smaller despite the later start. Possibly this is because many delegates are nursing hangovers from a late night at the awards ceremony last night, and it will be interesting to see how many people sneak in throughout the morning. 

We are starting off with a talk from Cisco's Jill Larsen, on reimagining and transforming HR. 

She began by sharing many of the contextual statistics that other speakers had shared that highlight how work is changing. The relevance here is that Cisco had been thinking about this earlier than many organisations and decided to transform their HR offer and service to prepare for this future. 

She talked about their People Deal. It helped engage all employees by talking not so much about HR stuff and focusing on the employee and customer experience. This started out small and cost very little as it was mainly about conversations and ideas. 

This then began to involve rethinking what HR needed to be based on what employees felt they and customers wanted to experience. This is a novel approach and one I'll be thinking about a lot in the coming weeks. 

They also then began to individualise the employee experience, starting with pay and rewards, allowing each employee to completely customise their total reward package. They then began to rethink their talent brand and began to make it more human, recognising their employees are their best ambassadors. This latter project is something I'm very keen on in my current organisation and have started to work on, so it will be interesting to see the outcomes. 

The way Cisco measure their talent brand impact was startling in that I don't think many organisations will even be considering the things Cisco are doing, let alone aim to compete with Cisco. And yet that says more about them than it does Cisco. 

She went on to talk about their Talent Cloud, which looked fairly complicated but also quite effective, and I suppose for an organisation whose HR team alone numbers 900 then they need something of this level of complexity to manage their talent and workforce planning.

She left us with a few challenges that she feels would help HR to transform. Determine your value proposition. Rotate talent. Focus on the experience. Go digital / vertical. And find champions. To be honest though these could be considered good change management practice in general. 

This was an interesting talk and whilst a lot would be more relevant to multinational organisations, the principles were helpful for anyone thinking about HR transformation. 

The next slot was a panel discussion on digital HR transformation, moderated by Richard Doherty from Workday, with contributions from HR leaders in Rolls Royce and AstraZeneca. 

Both organisations faced considerable challenges in terms of transforming their HR services. One point that stood out at the start was how both organisations had lots of disparate systems in place to manage aspects of their HR service, and there was an overall lack of integration and joined up thinking.

Clearly both organisations had chosen Workday as their preferred solution in terms of integrating their different HR services, and it's a product I'm not familiar with although I have, in my time, implemented two different full HR systems in two different organisations so I know how important it is to get the right system. 

One thought that occurred to me was that these two HR leaders were very pleased with Workday but what if we asked front line staff and line managers, what would they say about it? I just wonder if the viewpoint of HR leaders (including myself) is perhaps too blinkered to see whether technological changes in HR have a positive effect across the entire business, not just in HR. 

And now it's break time. 

At least until I do my own talk at 10:55. 15 minutes, 30 slides auto advancing every 30 seconds, on the concept of the Amazing Workplace. 

Let's see how that goes. 

See you on the other side. 

Till next time...


Tuesday, 31 January 2017

#hrdsummit17 blog 4

I took myself a longer break after the Connecting HR Africa session to process what I'd heard, get myself a sugar boost and generally reflect. So far this has been a very good conference and quite different to previous years. Last year at three days felt too much and too spread about. This year has been back at two days, and more seems to have taken place on the Exhibition floor in the mini theatres, which has meant much less walking about. 

The next session was introduced by Mark Martin, CEO of Foundation Stones, talking about how we can get HR to the top table and keep it there. He outlined his perspective on how the world of work is changing and how that makes it more critical for organisations to win the hearts and minds of their employees. 

The next speaker from PwC highlighted some of the changes he is seeing, for example a move to cloud based technology for HR systems, and the challenge was whether HR teams are ready for this. A lot of this is how HR is seen by the business, which is an issue I've experienced both extremes of in my career. 

Amanda Williams from Quorn Foods took over at this point. She reiterated these points. The HR team need to understand the people in the business, and whether they are motivated for the future or any future change. She isn't sure that most HR teams do, and she feels they need to do this in order to be taken seriously by the business. 

Mark followed this up by asking about other people's perceptions of HR and asserted there were three things we could do to make change happen so that we are at the top table:

This was an interesting and important topic but none of the three speakers really had enough time to cover it in the depth it justified. All had useful thoughts to share but not enough opportunity to do so. 

I've then moved over to another session about building the digital employee Fiona Mullan from Facebook. This talk was packed out and promised quite a lot as it's a brand almost everyone is familiar with. 

Facebook are obviously a mobile first and digital first organisation, and Fiona said lots of people are surprised to learn they are even an employer of staff, such is the power of their customer facing brand. 

Fiona qualified a lot of what she said by pointing out that Facebook is still a very young company, only 13 years old, and are growing and evolving all the time. As a result though of being staffed mainly by Millenials, it has been digital since the outset, and comfortable with little or no rules and policies, and with viral change and news spreading informally. 

She also mentoined how frequent hackathons take place, and how idea implementation is encouraged without permission being sought. This is a very unique culture but a hint at what many organisations can expect as demographic change works its way through society and into most organisations. 

I recognise this works for Facebook and some other organisations. But how easy is it to change existing organisations to work digitally and informally like this, without simply letting the organisation evolve through demographic change? That could take a decade or more, but can organisations change faster without employee turnover?

What do you think?

Fiona made another good point that people's Facebook profiles are used almost like a kind of company intranet, and therefore everyone brings their whole self to work with no secrets and it helps build better relationships. I can see this working but a lot of companies would shy away from it. I myself would have shied away from it just 3-4 years ago. 

As Facebook grows though Fiona outlined some of the challenges they face in terms of taking on more staff and having to introduce things like career structures, so there are some tensions coming into the organisation. She encourages people to be honest, be themselves and be open to seeking and also receiving feedback. It's the concept of the Authentic Self. 

This was an interesting talk also and, whilst very company specific, it contained many lessons for all organisations to think about. 

And that's me almost done for today. I'm missing the keynote closing speeches for today because they are starting too late - a bugbear on this event annually - my train home is 5 minutes past every hour and Clive Woodward finishes at 6pm. I'd never make the 6.05 train at New Street so would have to get the 7.05 train and get home after 8pm and miss my youngest daughter go to bed. Can this event finish earlier in future years?

But I'll be back tomorrow. 

Till next time...


#hrdsummit17 blog 3

Resisting the temptation to grab the available lunch before my allotted lunch slot in half an hour, I'm now listening to the talk Being at our Best by Susan Yell, HRD at Warburtons. 

Susan was the first speaker I've seen for a long while work entirely from a detailed script. It had the feel of a presentation at a job interview. 

The slides she had were colourful but detailed and the font on some of them was way too small to be read from my position in the middle row. It did make following what she was presenting very difficult. From what I could see though, she had put in place a well structured people strategy and the Warburtons Wheel helps people to see their place in it and contribution to the business. 

The Warburtons culture comes across as very inclusive and they seem to have a focus on employee engagement and their employer brand. But the presentation was hard to follow because of its pace, the level of detail being imparted and the small font size used. 

It's a real shame as Warburtons does come across as a great place to work and there were some important messages being delivered, but this talk seemed like one that originally been designed as a 45-50 minute talk for a small audience, and was now being delivered in 25 minutes to a larger audience without any alteration to the slides or delivery, hence being very very fast. 

I would like to hear more about the Warburtons approach and Susan comes across as a very knowledgeable person, but I think needs a different format to get her best ideas across (and she had lots of ideas that look to have worked very well from the brief detail I heard). 

Now it's lunchtime. Although that in itself was tricky as I had ten minutes to eat it before the next session started, one I dare not miss or be late for. 

It's #connectinghrafrica time

Ian Pettigrew, Kate Griffiths-Lambeth and Lisa Leighton presented their talk about what made them go to Africa along with several others, and what they achieved along with what else needs to be done. 

This story isn't really something you can blog about as it would be doing an injustice to the power of the words and stories they were using. Suffice to say, though, that they shared in a powerful experience and felt as if they made a major contribution to the welfare of children in Africa. 

I wanted to go live on Periscope for these stories but the acoustics wouldn't have helped. I had the headphones in so I could hear, but I couldn't have recorded it easily. Sorry. 

To hell with that. After I wrote that last paragraph I thought I'd go live on Periscope anyway as even if I could share some if it that was better than none. So there's a 7 minute Periscope video stream you can watch on my Twitter feed. 

Great session. Humbling to listen to and a good insight into how HR professionals can REALLY make a difference. 

Till next time...


#hrdsummit17 blog 2

After the break I'm in one of the little offshoot theatres from the main exhibition hall listening to David Done, CEO at RHP Innovation, talking about Putting people at the heart of your business strategy. 

I had wondered how the acoustics might work with such a level of background noise from the Exhibition, and was pleasantly surprised to find that they were giving out headphones that streamed the mic feed and cut out a lot of the background noise. As my talk tomorrow is in a similar location this removes one worry for me. 

RHP are a housing association in London who seem particularly successful. I spent 12 years in housing and am interested in their journey around transformational change. 

The transformation at RHP highlighted just how far they had come. And yet I don't think they are unique in housing, as the outcomes he was quoting I personally contributed to at another place and we knew we weren't unique either. 

But RHP have won so many awards, more than my previous organisation did. What's different about their journey?

David said it's about people. Many housing associations were lucky in the early 2000s in that they got to start again, as a brand new organisation. They had a clear mandate for change and improvement, and the platform (and funding) to do so. 

He also said they chose how to define their organisation carefully. They chose, consciously, to be a service provider, and not a landlord. They also wanted to be innovative and the very best, not just in the housing sector but wider. They focused initially, though, on going back to basics and getting these right as a basis for the later improvements, and spent 4-5 years working on this. 

Then they focused on their Red Lines. Things they would always do. Things they would never do. Their values. 

These are interesting concepts and I'd encourage people to think about their own Red Lines. It might surprise you. How often do you share and discuss them?

He then talked about bringing people in from outside the sector, something I tried very hard to do when working in housing. I find it very frustrating when anyone in an organisation asks a new starter "which (similar company in same sector) have you come from?" - why does that matter?

Here's the RHP key points about transforming an organisation through its people:

I can't argue with that at all and well done to RHP for their success, but I am still uncertain that they are unique in the housing sector for this type of approach. However there are many organisations outside the housing sector who need to look hard at this type of approach. 

I've then wandered across to another mini theatre to listen to Bridging the Digital Skills Gap with Mark O'Donoghue from Avado. His opening remarks talked about how hopeless we have traditionally been at predicting the pace of change of future developments. He gave us a run through of how technology is developing, both in terms of real things and some imagined things that you didn't really have to stretch your mind too far to imagine as real already. 

He then moved into the implications for business decision making and it was mainly around having someone in charge of technology management deciding which new technology to switch to and implement and knowing when the right time is to do so. He showed an infographic that showed that many sectors aren't fully prepared for digital disruption. 


The obvious implication for skills is that the UK economy (and world economy) needs a massive influx of digital skills and he listed some of the roles you need to have in your organisation to facilitate digital transformation. Of these, I'd heard of maybe half. 

And I've actually seen none in any organisation I've worked with. 

Does that suggest those organisations need to change? Probably. It also suggests I need to broaden my digital horizons. 

He mentioned that to succeed digitally you need to be comfortable working with various iterations. Planning, learning, implementing, and repeating. So your product or service, digitally, will be version 3.0 or higher. Do your staff have the skills to wait for v3.0?

He summarised by saying digital disruption is coming and organisations need the leaders in place to assist this and who recognise that everyone and everything need to be digital and change the culture accordingly. 

Does this describe your organisation and its leaders and culture?

This has made me think quite a bit and I enjoyed the talk. 

Till next time...