Thursday, 26 May 2016

The Spark

A few days ago I came across this picture on LinkedIn, and shared it along with a comment that it holds true in my opinion and is equally, if not more, true on social media also.

It had a lot of Likes and Shares and a few comments, far more so than any other photo or link I've shared, so I thought I'd reflect and comment more on this.

It strikes me that often, but not always, passionate people can be both seen and heard. That doesn't mean they're extroverts, it just means you can easily identify them. They get their job done but, more than that, they're engaged with the organisation and you can hear and see it.

There is plenty of published work on employee engagement and how and why employees become engaged, and how you can spot it. To me, it's the same as love. If someone is in love with another person, you can tell. If they've fallen out of love with someone else, you can usually tell too.

And whilst I've promised I will blog more on the subject of falling out of love with an organisation, and I intend to, I'll touch on some themes here particularly as they relate to social media activity.

Passionate, engaged people can be seen all over social media. Often they're engaged with their subject matter, or with connecting to other people. Often, too, they are engaged with their employer - and if they are, you'll see a combination of these things:

- The company name in their username / handle
- The company name and/or their position in their bio / description
- Regular mentions and tagging of the company by them in their posts, and often vice versa
- Regular promotion of the company's activities by them, even as passively as liking or retweeting the official company Twitter account (and the same on other SoMe channels)

And then sometimes it can all stop, as the photo alludes to. These passionate, engaged people overnight stop doing some of the things they have been doing and don't start actively trashing the company or being openly negative about stuff, but their silence speaks volumes and the absence of positive brand promotion is noticeable.

Something, somewhere, has gone badly wrong in the psychological contract between employee and employer.

And what really surprises me is how few employers and leaders in those organisations seem to spot the engaged people going quiet.

How it takes them leaving to really get it to sink in that there's a problem in the organisation.

How frequently those employees are explained away as sulking or trouble, and no attempts made to work with them to recapture the passion and engagement they once had.

There are plenty of employees who are ALWAYS quiet. There's nothing wrong with that although if it's all the organisation that can be problematic. But when people who've previously been fantastic brand ambassadors suddenly begin distancing themselves from the organisation and its brand, not noticeably at first but soon noticeable by the lack of activity, its a sign of wider issues.

I can relate to all of this and I'm sure you can too.

How employees relate to the organisation in public, and nowadays this mainly means via social media, is important, and managing the employee experience and engagement via social media can be as important as the customer experience and engagement, and just as damaging to brand image and reputation if ignored or poorly handled.

What causes these previously passionate people to go quiet? To disappear into the organisational shuffle and blend into the background?

It can be many things. A change in job duties or job role, a perception of unfair treatment that goes unresolved, a new manager, a change in senior leadership or Chief Exec with a different style , an office move, a new policy they have fallen foul of, or anything else.

And then you'll see them change. They've fallen out of love with the organisation and they just don't feel like retweeting the corporate account, or sharing and liking the company Facebook and LinkedIn posts. You might find it difficult to spot any mention of the organisation in their profile. You won't really know they work for that organisation any more.

Yes, they'll turn up. But their fire has gone out.

Sooner or later, they'll leave. But in their hearts, they left some time ago.

A question for you is do you care enough to do something about it?

Is trying to reignite the spark in the relationship worth the effort, or is it better to cut your losses and move on?

But here's the thing. If you can do it with one person, they'll do it with others. They'll pass it on. Though it sounds cheesy, the love will spread virally, and all of a sudden, those people who lost their passion for the organisation have once again become the on-brand ambassadors they used to be.

What better way to spend your marketing budget?

Till next time…


Ps in other news, the wedding is now all paid for and is just three months away. Everything is finalised and there's very little for us to do now, except turn up… I'd best get writing my speech…

Friday, 20 May 2016


Today I attended the CIPD Manchester Branch AGM and unConference, #socialhrmcr - it was my first time at an unConference and I was interested to find out how they work and whether I could adapt for use in my own work. 

The venue was hard to find but once inside was a good space. There were students doing exams in the building which made it feel different. 

The session kicked off with some Ignite presentations, good for me to listen to as I am making my Ignite debut next month at #CIPDNAP16

The Ignite presentations were delivered by George Whalley, Gemma Reucroft, Tim Scott and Ian Pettigrew, all of whom did very well. There wasn't much of an overarching theme to the presentations although all were excellent, and I am thinking this was as much about throwing out some ideas that might help shape the unConference themes later - and if this was the intention, it was a useful one. 

This also gave me a lot of insight into what makes a good Ignite speech and gave me a bit more confidence that my own Ignite speech next month is going to be a good one as I can build on what I've seen. 

I'm looking forward to it. 

Ian Pettigrew then explained the concept and format of an unConference. Despite lots of coverage of such things on social media, I was surprised that very few people had been to one before (it was my debut too) and hardly anyone knew what one was. This had led to some interesting conversations on my table. 

I like the idea of an unConference and can see how I can use this in my current organisation. 

The conversation on my table took some time to get going, and I wonder how we can encourage the development and sharing of ideas at unConferences to make this a little less forced? But gradually we got there and the agenda began to take shape. 

I liked the ability to vote with my feet and attend whichever sessions I wanted, and even to change horses mid race. I liked the ability to be a bumblebee and cross pollinate between groups too. As a naturally high introvert the ability to choose the level at which I wanted to interact, and with whom, was good. 

I started in the session looking at what is a modern HR function. This appeared at first glance to be something that someone was doing an assignment on, but I wondered whether it probably needed a bit more structure than its initial question provided. However it's a question that I've been asking myself in my new role and wondering about in terms of what role I want my new HR team to play in the organisation. 

The conversation went off in various different directions and highlighted how different HR functions are in organisations currently, and of course whilst there is no one size fits all approach, the myriad approaches to HR make it difficult for the profession to reach a shared understanding of what HR could be in the modern world. 

It was interesting to hear just HOW different HR functions are though, and the different levels of maturity in some organisations. A provocative thought was put forward by one attendee that the modern HR function should not exist at all, and should manage organisational maturity to a level where HR is not required, being wholly devolved to and managed by the line - leaving just a rump OD function to support senior managers. 

I can see how this would work, but doubt many organisations are as mature as they would need to be to achieve it. 

A nice thing happened during this. I was scanning Twitter and noticed a question posed by another group, and answered their question via Twitter. I heard them mention it and it obviously helped them to discuss the point further, so I wandered over to see whether I could help. 

That's the beauty of an unConference and one I could immediately appreciate. 

After a carb loading lunch I went to the next session on how to make flexible working work. I've blogged on this topic more than once, and it was of interest to me as I regularly champion flexible working. 

This was another good session, mainly because the differing views even amongst HR professionals about what constitutes flexible working, and it became clear that organisational culture is the barrier and that even HR staff are subject to the restrictions that culture in some places exert. 

The discussion then went off at a bit of a tangent to focus on HR policies and the role they have in shaping organisational culture. It's clear that there are still big challenges here in most organisations, but improving the flexibility and the brevity of the policy can have a great impact on organisational culture and employee engagement. 

My third and final session was on using technology to deliver and aid learning, something that is highly relevant to my current work as my organisation seeks to increase the amount of learning delivered via a blended approach. 

Some great and very relevant examples were given of just in time learning using technology and how that is used to great effect in different scenarios - delivering learning at the point of need. We also got on to the subject of using technology in conferences, with all the social media usage that comes with that. 

We also covered the accuracy of the 70:20:10 model, something I may cover in a separate blog in the future. I do believe in the accuracy of the model and have a few examples from my own CPD that back this up, and this seemed to be the prevailing view of the group also. 

Like all the other sessions though this one went off at a tangent. I am unsure how to prevent this. Could we reduce the amount of time per session from 60 to 45 minutes to avoid that last 15 minutes of "what shall we discuss now?" - or do we ask for the idea originator to spend the first five minutes of each session really exploring the angles the group could take in discussing it, or posing some questions that need answering per session?

We followed this with some one minute summaries of each session. Whilst this as a concept was definitely useful, it might have been helpful to do that at the end of each group of sessions rather than the end of the day. 

As a concept I really like the unConference and it worked well today. I can see lots of application in the workplace and I think I will plan one. 

Till next time. 


PS in other news, the wedding and honeymoon are all now paid for and we have made all the decisions regarding flowers, decorations, colours, favours and all associated stuff. Less than 100 days now!

Friday, 6 May 2016

Gimme some credit

I have a concept in my head of imaginary credit accounts that regulate the employment relationship.  Initially I thought that each employee had an account with their employer, which they could draw on when required - but the more I think about it it goes two ways, and the employer has an account with each employee which they too can draw upon.

Let's explore this.

Today it has been Flexible Working Awareness Day.  I blogged HERE on this subject last month and started thinking why FW needed an awareness day, realising that there were still barriers to it being widespread.

And then I noticed THIS ARTICLE in the Independent quoting a CIPD survey on job satisfaction - and there were lots of statistics quoted in the article and survey that suggest job satisfaction is falling, as is employee engagement.  This was interesting to note on FW Awareness Day.

So I thought about the links between the two ideas and returned to an old concept I've had and have explained to leaders in several organisations along with HR staff - mental credit accounts.

Here's how they work.

I'm Joe Bloggs, and I work for Company X.  I've been troublesome for a while - minor performance issues, sickness absence now and again, and some behavioural issues as well.  My credit account with my employer is in fact NOT in credit, its in debit.  I have taken far more from the employment relationship account than my employer initially deposited into the account.

And the converse...

I'm Jane Smith, and I work for Company X too.  I've been a happy employee for a while - no performance issues, no notable sickness absence (or none at all), and no behavioural issues.  My credit account with my employer IS in credit, and I have deposited more into the account than my employer initially put in.

So imagine how it works in practice:

- Joe and Jane both have to take time off to recuperate from a planned operation.  They are likely to be off 8 - 10 weeks.  Given Joe's history you'll likely see this as a continuation of his bad behaviour (rightly or wrongly, because he's in debit), whereas for Jane you'll likely wish to support her as much as possible - because she's in credit.
- Joe and Jane both have caring responsibilities, and both tell you they need to take occasional time off with a sickly child, often at short notice.  Again, you'll view Joe's notification in a different light than Jane's
- Joe and Jane put in a request to do an MA in Feng Shui, fully funded by you (and Feng Shui is nothing to do with your business).  You'd likely laugh Joe's out of court, but you might give serious consideration to Jane's.

And it works in reverse too.

I'm John Smith and I work for Company G.  The company has always treated me fairly, given me flexibility, empowerment, involved me, supported me and developed me - I'm going to run through a minefield for this employer if they need me to, as they're in credit with me.

And the flipside.

I'm still John Smith and my Company G merges with Company H to form a new entity.  The leadership changes and in essence its a new company.  I don't think I'm being treated fairly, I'm not empowered any more and I don't feel supported or involved in the new organisation.  I'd just as soon see the company go into liquidation than help it out, as they're in debit with me.

Its a similar concept to falling in and out of love with someone, and the idea of falling out of love with an organisation is something I'm going to blog on separately in the future.

Why is this of relevance today?

Well, the reason why FW has an Awareness Day and the low levels of job satisfaction is because there is too much debit out there.  Employers are in debit with employees so job satisfaction is low, and employees are in debit with employers so the ability to work flexibly isn't as prevalent as it could be.

So seeing both things publicised reminded me of my oft-used concept.  I've mentioned it to leaders in a few different organisations to help them deal with tricky people issues.  I've mentioned it to HR teams I've led to help them understand why consistency is important, but not always achievable or desirable, and its because of the different amounts people hold in their accounts with the employer.

One of the best examples I can give of drawing on one's credit balance is my own.  

I had worked for a particular organisation for 4 years, working hard, being there and not off sick, helping the organisation to develop and driving it forward with new ideas.  I made mistakes, lots of them, but I owned up to them and learnt from them and developed good relationships with the Chief Executive and Directors who knew that I was developing and enthusiastic, and was committed to the success of the organisation.

And then my (first) marriage fell apart and I went through a very painful split and divorce process.

I turned up at work one day and decided to tell the Chief Executive.  I had made up my mind that this organisation was in credit with me and I owed it to them to keep turning up for work and not go off sick with stress (plus, home was the last place I wanted to be).  I needed to tell the Chief what was going on though as I knew my performance was already suffering, and my behaviour was unpredictable.

He was fine with it.  In fact, more than fine.  He told me to just keep turning up and he would support me and cover for me, and no matter how long my "dip" lasted he didn't mind.

I had told him years before of my concept of credit accounts and to my surprise, he quoted it back at me.

He told me I had built up considerable credit in my account and it was time I drew on that.  He didn't even mind if I went into debit as he told me he was confident I would recover in time and put my account back into credit.

In short, he had total and utter confidence in me.

In that one conversation, he earned my loyalty for life and the organisation went into perpetual credit with me.

And I did draw on the credit in my account, and probably went overdrawn, but I repaid the organisation considerably once I'd recovered, just as he knew I would.

And yet I wonder how he would have reacted had a "debit" employee come to talk to him.  I wonder if the "debit" employee would even have been in work, as the employer would probably have been in debit with them too and they would have gone off sick already.

So this is why I think its a powerful concept.

It can help to explain why flexible working isn't working for everyone.

It can help to explain why job satisfaction might not be as high as expected.

And I still offer the concept to people I work with as evidence of why employee engagement matters, right down to individual level.

Its about credit.

Are you in credit?

Is your organisation in credit with you?

Till next time...


PS my wedding outfit is purchased and, having tried it on, I think I look absolutely sensational