Wednesday, 21 December 2016

HR lessons from...The Tiger Who Came To Tea

Recently I've been reading The Tiger Who Came To Tea every evening before bed to my youngest daughter. It strikes me that this tome may masquerade as a childrens book but, beneath the childish facade, there lies many serious messages for HR and our role in making organisations better places to work.

Here's my analysis.

This book is a searing commentary on cultural deficiencies, process inefficiencies and gender inequality in the workplace, and also the dangers on getting the wrong person into your organisation via a recruitment process gone awry.

It starts with Sophie and her Mummy receiving an unexpected guest at their house, and wondering who it could be.  This is teaching us to be ready for the unexpected and basically the importance of business continuity planning, as you never know what challenges your business might face, especially when Daddy isn't at home.
It then describes how they invite this random stranger into their house with little regard for their own personal safety, or hygiene in the workplace - its telling us how organisations often onboard people without really doing background checks and assessing suitability, so its a lesson to get these things right first.
 Then, to Sophie and her Mummy's horror, the tiger proceeds to eat them out of house and home, basically taking the piss out of their whole approach to inducting new staff and running roughshod over their attempts to slowly integrate this new starter into their culture.
Here, then, is an important lesson on assessing cultural fit during the selection process and making sure expectations and behaviours are made clear during the important induction process.
Its also a lesson on how to handle addictions in the workplace, because the tiger is seen to be addicted to alcohol and other drinks, and this behaviour is encouraged by Sophie stroking him when he does this - does your organisation subtly encourage and reinforce drinking alcohol in the workplace at Xmas time?  Is this considered gross misconduct?  Do you help people to manage any addictive behaviour they display?
 And then the tiger leaves, effectively resigning his position in the workplace, and leaves without serving his notice period and leaving a trail of disruption and destruction in his wake. When YOUR employees leave, how is that exit process managed?  Its important to get it right.
Finally, the boss returns (and the boss here is male, wrongly reinforcing gender stereotypes in the workplace, as it is assumed the females are incapable of resolving the situation and require the male to give them instructions on how to problem solve) and helpfully suggests that the answer to their problem is to outsource food production to a local cafe.  Have you explored outsourcing as a way of managing your flexible workforce?
The book ends by showing Sophie and her Mummy learning their lesson about not planning ahead, and beginning to work on their business continuity plan and have things in place for if the tiger should come to tea again.  This is very good advice.
But he never did.

And there ends the lesson.

Basically, get the basics of HR right and you can't go wrong.

Till next time...


PS Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year!

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Independence Day

I've been reflecting on a decent number of my connections leaving the corporate world and setting up as self employed, and I've been wondering whether there's some pattern emerging.

So this blog is me trying to make sense of this, and "thinking/working out loud".

I've noticed a good number of my connections going independent. Very recently, at least three or four have all made this leap, for their own different and very valid reasons. Earlier this year one or two did the same, and so did a couple of colleagues who left my last employer around the same time I did.

I wish the very very best to all who do this, and part of me is slightly jealous as I almost went self employed this time last year, getting as far as setting up my own business and beginning to build my portfolio of activities over a long lead in period before reversing course when I got an unexpected job offer. But I was within a couple of months of doing it. I don't know if I will in the future, at the moment I'm still happily employed and with things I want to achieve in employment too. 

I've mentioned a few Twitter-based connections who have gone self employed, but it's not a new phenomenon. In fact I belong to a networking group of L&D practitioners who have met informally for at least 15 years (how long I've been in the group, but it probably started much earlier than that) - and I remember how back in 2001/2002 most, almost all in fact, of the group were in employed positions but now, as we enter 2017, I'll be one of only two who are in employed positions. The rest have, one by one, gone self employed. Maybe that was an influence on me. 

Of course, I've had a little bit of self employment for over ten years, working occasional/regular evenings delivering CIPD (and other) qualifications for a variety of providers, but now and again fitting in freelance work on a range of HR issues or training on behalf of organisations. But this is only part time work although I do get a lot of enjoyment from it.

I do wonder though whether these things could be enough to sustain a full time equivalent income, and this was part of my reasoning for doing my 180 last year, although I was doing well in building up these income streams and adding more.

I also had an insightful but brief chat with one self employed person who really challenged me about whether I was ready to go self employed last year. They said that there are plenty of people who seem like they're having really successful self employed careers and really promote themselves well, but in reality they're struggling and it was a crowded market.

And this does seem to ring true with some people I've seen now winding up their self employed businesses and going back into employment. I've seen three or maybe four people do this in the last year, almost as many as I've seen go the other way.

But I wondered as well whether there's something about life stage and career stage that prompts some of this. For example I'd just turned 40 when I had my self employed vision clearly, and many years ago I remember two well known L&D consultants telling me they had a similar view at that age and went self employed. And many of the networking group I mentioned were of a similar age when they went self employed.

I'm not sure. But maybe it is career experience related. I've heard some people say they've had enough corporate experience (some called this corporate BS) and want to work for themselves. 

I think this says a few things. One, that there comes a point when your employed experience is optimised enough to get enough momentum behind your "run" that you can "fly". Two, that there also comes a point where one tires of being in an organisation - in HR, we often know instinctively what makes a great workplace and, if we can't work as an employee in one and shape it, we may get frustrated and go and set up our own. And Three, there comes a point where you realise what you're really great at, and want to do more of that and less of other things, and going self employed is the best way to achieve it.

And maybe Four, when you're around the age of 40, your financial situation makes it an easier thing to contemplate. Although in my case when I was contemplating it I had just moved house and took out a new mortgage, got engaged and had a third child so I was perhaps stacking the deck against myself there.

So it's no wonder I'm not contemplating self employment any more. Based on those four things, I'm not there. On one, I've got a lot more to offer my current and any potential future employer and there's things I want to achieve whilst employed there yet. On two, I was definitely there last year, frustrated at not having a voice or influence any more and needing to shape things again, but I've got those back now at my current place so it's different again. On three, I'm halfway there maybe, as I know I'd STILL make a really awesome WWE wrestler just as much and maybe more than anything else I could do, but I'm also pretty good at my HR stuff too and getting better so if it ain't broke, why fix it? And on four, nothing's changed for me.

So what does this mean for the people who have gone self employed, either this year or previously?  Well, they've been able to satisfy themselves with answers to each point and they're making a go of it. And all power to them. I hope they all make it work.

And maybe those who've gone back the other way found not that they'd failed in any way, but that their answers to the points had changed and they needed to return to employment to achieve something different. And again, all power to them and I hope they make it work too.

I say find something you're awesome at, and do it. If that's self employment, or employment, it doesn't matter. Only the awesomeness matters. 

Till next time.


PS in other news, our holiday saga is over. We gave in and compromised on a regular family holiday, again possibly our last one as a complete family. We've booked a week in Turkey in August but hope to supplement this with a couple of short breaks here and there. My favourite place to look at for a short break at the moment is Switzerland or Austria, can anyone recommend either place?