Saturday, 29 October 2016

Bazuka that VUCA...part 1 of 2

A couple of weeks ago I was a speaker on a webinar discussing the future of HR along with Neil Morrison and Alan Moratelli from Core HR. The webinar was perfectly moderated by Georganna Simpson from and on behalf of People Management and you can listen to it HERE

In this blog I thought I might expand on some of the things I talked about, especially because it's #cipdace16 next week and several of the speakers are discussing this very topic, not least Margaret Heffernan as keynote speaker, whose interview in People Management was the prompt for the webinar in the first place. 

It was my first webinar and I really enjoyed it, despite a technical hitch that meant my slides kept going backwards after I moved them forwards! I'd definitely do it again and it taught me the impact of tone of voice when that's all you really have to distinguish yourself with. For me that means even more practicing. 

Anyway the webinar was inspired by Heffernans interview discussing the future of work, which she will expand upon at #cipdace16. I originally signed up as an attendee but got upgraded a few days earlier and decided I wanted to look at the future of HR primarily in SMEs (although this focus was eventually lost and it became more generic), drawing on my experiences of working in a few different places and what I've learnt from both conference speaking, blog and article writing and tutoring on CIPD qualifications. 

I detest the acronym VUCA. It's often bandied around by those wishing to appear trendy or cool but there's some validity in the concept. However if we are to cope with VUCA, and survive and deliver meaningful HR in this world there's a few things we need to note. Hence the title of this blog and my webinar talk. 

The Heffernan interview said that HR need to fuse technology, innovation and people. To me, this conjured up a picture of Inspector Gadget, but she's right and I think four main HR roles emerge that do this: 

  1. Data analysts. We need HR professionals who can select and use the right data. Who can throw data sets together, correlate them, analyse them and predict trends. At the moment few can. 
  2. Wellness advocates. Not just in an individual sense, but also in an organisational sense. We need HR staff who can be the guardians of organisational wellness, looking at systems of engagement and motivation and performance and how these all link together and complement each other. 
  3. Engagement champions. Plenty of large firms like Netflix, and Virgin Group, are already ditching bureaucracy and encouraging HR to let go of policy and focus on the individual. We will need more of that, of social engagement in the workplace and looking at how people are treated and how they feel about work. 
  4. Performance coach. An old role but a growing one for HR. Helping people to identify what performance actually is, and the best conditions under which to produce it. Clive Woodward spoke at last years CIPD Conference on this, and how he got players/employees to visualise being under pressure and practice performing under such conditions. He used the available technology to capture performance data and made sure players had the skills to analyse, share and discuss it. 
Heffernan also talked about the need to give people flexibility and develop adult-adult relationships. I agree, and there's a number of factors driving this that HR need to take account of (and many are, pleasingly): 

  1. One size doesn't fit all. Many organisations are gearing up to deliver 24/7 services to customers who want that. This requires the ultimate flexibility and HR have to be able to lead organisations towards that by individualising the employment experience. And if you do that, the employees are likely to do the same for customers. I read that one organisation brought in a dating coach to train its staff how to flirt with each other and customers. I laughed, but then realised that's about making people feel special, wanted, unique. So I'm all for it, and here we are back at my oft-referred to analogy of HR being pimps for the employment relationship. 
  2. The gig economy. Many employees will be spending a lower proportion of their working week with one employer, and may have multiple employers. This changes what HR teams have to do in terms of employee engagement and means we have to be more flexible. 
  3. Demographics. Plenty of available data here about an older workforce and multiple generations at work but this does prompt us to think about how employees needs will change in what can now be a 65 year working life. An organisation I was in a senior HR role for built and maintained houses, and worked on component lifespans. So a house might last 100 years and in that time it may have 4 kitchens and 5 bathrooms. That helped with workforce planning, but if we are in human RESOURCES then maybe we have to look at employees in terms of their working lifespan. I look back at myself at age 16 and I was a completely different person with no interest in HR. I'm 41 now, and who's to predict what I will want to do age 66? I may have realised my dream of being a professional wrestler! But for certain, my learning needs and reward needs will have changed. How many HR teams segment their workforce in this way?
  4. Localism. Devolution is gathering pace, and many organisations are now expected to collaborate at a local level on many things - employing more local people, delivering joined up services and addressing local skills needs. This requires a different set of HR practices. 
And in part two, coming later this week, I'll explore what kinds of HR practices and responses I think are appropriate in this future world of work. 

Till next time… 


PS In other news, Florida looks a no go now, as eldest child is against the idea and we don't want to spend all that money to spend a fortnight with a surly teenager who may ruin it for everyone. Back to the drawing board…

Monday, 17 October 2016

Don't count people - make people count

I recently gave a talk at an event called Inclusive Workplaces, focusing on how SMEs can embed E&D into their business. I was a late substitute for a speaker who is an E&D specialist, and my talk built on what she was going to cover whilst looking at E&D from an HR perspective. The talk was well received and I've put the main points down here.

I worked in an organisation that really "got" E&D and inclusivity (I'll use the phrase E&D to refer to a broad spectrum of terms like inclusion etc) and on reflecting on this experience for the recent talk, I looked at what worked in that organisation and what I'd recommend if you are looking at how to embed E&D in your organisation.

In general though my view is that E&D is about having an amazing workplace - the two go hand in hand - and if you focus the right way on engagement then you'll get E&D, and vice versa.  But here's my building blocks:
  • Commitment from the very top - we had a CEO and a Board who understood and were passionate about E&D, and kept it at the forefront of organisational thinking
  • Someone to co-ordinate and pull everything together - we had one person to centrally manage E&D and keep all the various plates spinning (though this could be a double-edged sword later on)
  • Involving the local community - there were lots of groups related to protected characteristics who were keen to help us develop services and employment
  • External scrutiny and recognition - a plethora of organisations came to inspect us, grade us and recognise our practice, and this made us up our game
  • Collecting and using data - going beyond compliance, we were able to explain regularly why we were collecting data and show examples of how we used it to drive service improvement and staff engagement
  • Managing the supply chain - involving Procurement in creating guidance for our potential and actual suppliers, giving them a step by step approach to adopt our E&D principles, offering free training for their staff if they signed up to our commitments
  • Comms team on board - we had a strong comms team who were bought into the vision and reality of an inclusive workplace, who helped us to promote events, campaigns and could highlight any successes we had
  • Reviewing the employer brand - we did videos promoting inclusive employment practices on the recruitment microsite, case studies promoting positive action initiatives and more - we also made the whole website all singing and all dancing with information available in lots of different ways, media and formats
  • Embedding into performance management - we broke E&D down down by service area with headline objectives for each area and individual objectives for staff that could be measured in appraisals, with a simple list of tasks that any member of staff could do to evidence getting involved in E&D activity
  • Taking on public duties - we became a Hate Crime reporting centre (when we didn't need to) and this helped our public image aswell as bringing this important area to the fore
  • Leading the community - we organised community events to celebrate diversity - this helped us set up support groups for both customers and staff linked to protected characteristics
Ultimately we made E&D about helping our customers, and not about looking at protected characteristics - it was our ethos, our culture and our values - and it wasn't something separate or different.

But there were drawbacks, as I noted in my talk:
  • Relying too much on one person - we had an excellent person to co-ordinate it with a great deal of knowledge and enthusiasm aswell as a strong network of contacts - but when this person left, we found we couldn't get anyone to replicate this and the momentum was lost
  • Allowing one PC to dominate to the exclusion of others - the strength of some community groups focused on the BME community compared to some other groups linked to other protected characteristics allowed them to dominate the agenda somewhat, out of proportion
  • Pressuring staff to get involved just because they have a particular PC - we tried setting up a staff LGB group that contained the 3 LGB staff that we knew about - and not all of these were keen to be involved.  Sometimes we'd ask their opinion just because they were LGB, and that wasn't helpful
  • Taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut - we ran some Trans awareness campaigns that were really powerful and illuminating, but we had no Trans staff or applicants and only a tiny % of Trans customers, so the vast majority of staff didn't get a chance to utilise their new knowledge
  • Other organisations don't always share your enthusiasm - be careful if you work closely with another organisation in that this organisation may not have the same approach to E&D as you do, and if you end up merging with an organisation there may be real differences to explore and one of the organisations will need to radically change its approach, which may be painful
So we had an Inclusive Workplace, with lots of things that worked, and some lessons that I learnt along the way.  I'd sum up my thinking on inclusivity as follows:
  • Have targets but don't let these get in the way of doing the right thing.  Use your E&D targets to evidence improvement and traction, rather than a stick to beat yourself with.
  • Let staff get involved in decision-making and tailoring the organisational approach to E&D - celebrate any successes and make E&D as fun and informal as possible
  • Dare to be different in your training - do drama-based workshops, and workshops on unconscious bias to help people understand the way they think
  • Break down your available data on both staff and customers by protected characteristic and look for any trends - work to redress negative ones
  • Allow people to voice any concerns they may have and have adult-adult conversations about E&D.  But if there are any instances of inappropriate behaviour - act upon and challenge these straight away.

I also think its true that you reap what you sow at work, in every sense.  If you're willing to put in the effort and energy to make your workplace amazing and inclusive, you'll achieve it.  If you're not, well, you won't, and it won't be as happy a place.

If you're going to have an inclusive workplace, focus on enriching the employee experience and make it an amazing place to work...

...So don't count people - make people count.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Carpool Karaoke

I've recently had a few conversations about mental resilience and wellbeing in the workplace.  I've reflected on what I do when I have a difficult day or set of circumstances to deal with at work.

We all have bad days.  In HR we probably have more than our fair share because at least part of what we do is helping others to deal with the bad days they are having, and some of that is bound to rub off emotionally.

Some people will deal with this better than others.  In wellbeing and HR circles this is often referred to as resilience, or mental toughness.

I'm not sure it is that, but what I do think happens is that those people have found outlets for their emotion and ways of processing it.  If that's resilience then OK, but to me resilience is something internal around personality, whereas I think what I'm describing is more outward facing around behaviour.

I've written a lot about my approach to personal fitness and how that has helped me in the past, and that's the kind of stuff I mean - just having some way of processing what you've been dealing with.  It doesn't have to be physical activity, as long as it works.

I also think having something of a support network matters too, not just at home where one would expect to have it, but at and in the workplace amongst your peers.

What do I mean?

Well, if you're without friends and people you can talk openly and honestly to in the workplace, you will struggle to process some of the emotion you are faced with there.  Everyone, no matter what their role, needs someone to whom they can talk and have a bit of a rant or moan to now and again, someone who will keep these discussions private and who will both support and challenge.

I noticed this when I moved jobs earlier this year - all of a sudden my support network at work was gone, that I'd spent 12 years building up, and I had to start all over again.  I found this very difficult, and it took 4 - 5 months before I had even the beginnings of a support network again and had that outlet.  But once I did, I immediately noticed a difference in how engaged I felt and how motivated I was.

Perhaps the best example of a support network I've ever had was a fellow senior leader at my last place of work, who car shared with me for over 10 years.  Spending 1.5 - 2 hours a day together in a confined space, 4/5 days a week for 10 years - you become close, you end up telling each other almost everything and you come to rely very much on that person as a source of support and guidance.

Most journeys home from work were each of us telling the other what we'd done that day and, on the occasions where we'd interacted in the workplace, discussing how those things had gone - discussing our views on other people's behaviour, our own behaviours, our view of the organisation and its direction, and almost everything to do with what was causing us to feel emotion at work.  We coached each other, challenged each other, argued occasionally but always felt much better at the end of the journey.  This helped me to download my emotion and get home able to focus on what was important there, without having to bore people at home with it all or being distracted by thoughts of home.

Nowadays I drive solo to work, but I still, almost a year since the car sharing ended, find myself talking out loud in the car to my no-longer-there car sharer friend and imagining his responses.  I have, once or twice, been on autopilot on my commute and realised I was headed to his house to collect him, before remembering we work in different towns now.

I watch James Corden's Carpool Karaoke videos and think these are an excellent example of people going to/from work having fun and sharing emotions, and usually arriving at work in a better state.

In my own carpool, we never did karaoke - neither of us could sing at all - but we gave each other a boost by just being there.  We were confidants for each other, and that's something that's hard to replace but if you can get it in the workplace, will be enormously helpful.

Until I find it again, I've still got my physical exercise regime.

What's your Carpool Karaoke?  How do you deal with a set of difficult circumstances at work and process the emotion so that you're able to focus on home life when you get back?

Till next time...


PS we think our next family holiday may be our last as a 5-piece family, as eldest son may be too old and too cool to come with us after next year. So we are thinking of stretching ourselves and doing a fortnight in Florida...

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Back to school

So I'm studying to become a qualified Personal Trainer. This blog post will explain why, what's involved and how I see links with fitness training and other areas of my work.

I've long had an interest in fitness, but particularly in the last 7 or 8 years or so. My interests started on a very personal level as a quest for fitness and a changed image (both physically and mentally) of myself became part of how I reinvented myself after a difficult divorce, giving me motivation and fuel to become someone different, and better. I developed this into doing random endurance challenges to give focus to my fitness training, and learnt more about what fitness was and how to train. I've then developed this into racing in triathlons and from there fitness training has become a valued and indispensable part of my life.

I also have a professional interest in it. As a senior HR figure in several organisations I have had overall responsibility for health and wellbeing, and on occasion full blown health and safety too. I understand the links between physical and mental wellbeing, employee engagement, productivity and performance, and know that there is significant evidence to suggest that a fit and healthy employee (in every sense) will out perform one who is unfit and unhealthy. So I push these things at work too.

And I'm doing the qualifications to further my own knowledge and seek recognition or accreditation for the knowledge I already have. They are likely to help me improve my own training, and help me improve the health and wellbeing programmes I oversee in work.

I'm lucky enough to work for a qualifications provider so I can get easy access to the qualifications, and feel fortunate in this regard as access hasn't been easy in previous roles despite my enquiring!

I've blogged on the HRDirector magazine site HERE about employee wellbeing and how organisations need to be more proactive in promoting it. So I'm following my own advice. .

I've blogged also on Gem Dale's fitness blog HERE about my own approach to wellbeing and the backstory to why I'm interested in fitness. So here's the next chapter. 

There are actually two qualifications I'm completing, one after the other. The first is a Fitness Instructor qualification that in theory would allow me to run exercise classes in a gym. I'm mad keen to run my own spin class for anyone who will turn up and that looms large as a possibility now. The second is the conversion to Personal Trainer status and that would allow me to work individually with anyone wishing to improve their fitness. I'm looking forward to doing that too.

Professionally the qualifications will help me with my understanding of approaches to wellbeing in the workplace and particularly how individuals may benefit from a more tailored approach to wellbeing. They should help me to analyse organisational data on wellbeing and absence (etc) and suggest more appropriate and effective solutions.

They also should help me to coach leaders, something I do regularly anyway, but enabling me to offer a different dimension to looking at performance issues and their resilience etc. This is something Sukh Pabial blogged about very well HERE too. 

Of course, my blog is called The Power of Three and in the About Me page I talk a little bit about this holistic approach to individual development and performance coaching. So in essence all I'm doing is putting this into practice.

Speaking of practice, I'll need people to practice on when I'm doing the Personal Trainer part of it, so if you're interested in being a case study / guinea pig, let me know.

I promise I'll be as mean as you need me to be.

Which is only a little bit meaner than you want me to be.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not looking to change professions and become a full time personal trainer. But I wouldn't mind helping friends, family and colleagues in my spare time to become even better at health and fitness.

I'm hoping I'll be rather good at it.

I'll keep you posted on my studies.

Till next time.


PS in other news, we are already looking at 2017 holidays and it may be our final one as a whole family before at least one child gets too old (and too cool) to come with us. Now that makes me feel old…