The HR Juggler

Archive for the ‘Careers’ Category

How much do you invest in the leadership capability of the younger employees in your company? Those individuals who are at the very start of their careers and who will undoubtedly be the senior managers of the future?

Today was hugely special, as we held the first Young Leaders Conference for our division, attended by 50 staff under the age of 30, as well as some of the current (invariably older!) senior managers and directors. Inspired by our employees who attended One Young World, the intention for our internal event was to enable people to network, to learn about leadership, to share experiences and to enthuse and engage individuals who have huge amounts to offer, if we take the time to listen. It is a two-day event held at the conference facility of London Zoo with a dinner this evening, attended by Informa‘s CEO and Group HR Director, as well as our divisional directors. It’s worth noting that we ran an application process open to everyone under the ago of 30, rather than doing any form of preselection.

And honestly, today was brilliant. The energy in the room was fantastic, there was a real freshness of perspective and thirst for learning demonstrated in all the delegates, and best of all there was an ongoing buzz of conversation: people getting to know each other, forging connections and making friends. Some inspirational speakers, practical tools, open dialogue about how senior managers had built their careers and made the most of internal and external opportunities, collaboration and interactive and engaging exercises, culminating in a memorable whole team exercise involving a drumming and percussion workshop at the end of the day.

It was a great day and I’m sure tomorrow will be too. Time will tell of course, what the long-term impact of this type of event will be…but I definitely have high hopes of a very bright future indeed 🙂

 

So, last week Cranfield published their latest report on women in UK boardrooms and confirmed that women now make up 15.6% of the boards in FTSE 100 companies, compared to 12.5% last March and a government target of 25% of female directors by 2015. In addition, the number of all-male FTSE 100 boards dropped to 13 from 2010’s figure of 21, and, for the first time, a minority of FTSE 250 companies now have all-male boards. Perhaps interestingly, or inevitably, the report found that a high proportion of female appointments to FTSE boards have been made despite those women having no prior FTSE board experience and that 72% of new FTSE 250 female directors had no prior FTSE experience.

Coverage of this topic has ranged from praising it as a record high in business, a general consensus that more needs to be done to achieve the targets set and speculation on the reasons that we have still have so comparatively few women at this level in business, including the old chestnuts of cost of childcare, speed of return from maternity leave and availability of flexible working…all of which are valid points, but I am not wholly convinced that they represent the full picture. Further unpicking of the report also questions whether the rise is as dramatic as it seems, or whether in fact the real situation is plateauing, given that once you break the figures into Executive and Non-Executive Directors, only 5,5% of Executive Director roles are women. That matters, as the Exec Directors are internal, have far more involvement with day-to-day running of the business and generally a much stronger operational influence.

It is also worth mentioning that there is a similar proliferation of female Non-Execs in Norway, whose government introduced legislation requiring companies to have 40% of female Directors and gave them five years to comply. This should in no way detract from the achievement that they have made; but given that an individual can hold several Non-Exec Director roles concurrently for many different organisations, I am not wholly convinced that the gender balance in the boardroom is quite as equal as it might appear at first glance. 

Much as I find the attention given to these stats faintly depressing, the reality is that they also make me uneasy. It becomes so simple to make assumptions and generalisations on figures alone, targets that are devoid of context. I can’t help wondering where the value is in a pure statistic of the number of women on boards, without any sense of what types of role they are doing, what the experience of working in that environment is like, whether they believe that they are perceived as equal to their male colleagues, whether gender equality is an issue for them. Also, what about the next level down? If we are serious about increasing the number of women in board level roles, then should there not be some form of measurement of senior managers within organisations? Or indeed how people progress through the business, how much investment is given to their development, how valued they are, financially or otherwise. Some human element to the numbers, a meaningful and long-term investment and commitment to equality of opportunity.

My perspective on this cannot help but be influenced by the fact that I work in an organisation where there is an even gender split at the most senior level of the business. Diversity matters hugely, but it’s not just about making sure that there is a strong representation of women at senior levels, it is about enabling people who are from all types of background to thrive and succeed. Giving individuals the chance to shine and then appointing the best person for the job. In my view, if only certain types of individuals are able to succeed and be promoted in an organisation, it is not so much a gender issue as a cultural one…and there isn’t any amount of statistics and external measurement that will improve that culture, if the current leadership is not bought into effecting change.

So, once the headlines have receded, we are left with just numbers, which may be getting better, or may be staying mostly the same. I would absolutely like to see more women on boards, companies reflecting more accurately the diversity of customers they serve and a truly level playing field for all individuals to develop and progress. But let’s not fool ourselves into believing that the numbers show this yet or that the issue lies merely in having senior bums on seats. We have a long way to go and some organisations and sectors need to do a lot of figuring out how to get there…and in some cases, whether they even want to.

I would love to hear from you…what do you think?

 

Does it matter who your role reports to in the organisation? Just how important is it that an HR Director reports into the CEO? Lloyds Banking Group is a recent example of a company that has removed the direct report link between the Group HR Director and Chief Executive and, in their particular case, created a new Group Corporate Functions Director, which will manage HR, Legal and Audit amongst others. Clearly there are issues to be resolved within Lloyds Banking management team and banking generally, yet there are other examples too, such as Marks and Spencer.

So, does it really matter where HR reports to in an organisation? Well, no…and yes.

On the one hand, it seems incredibly outdated to look at thing in purely hierarchical terms; to derive status and importance from the reporting line of one’s function. Just because you report to the CEO does not necessarily mean that are good at your job, listened to, have any more influence or budget than anyone else in the organisation…far from it. For the most part, organisational changes are simply that; a way of reducing the sometimes huge numbers of direct reports that a CEO may have. One’s influence within a Company and ability to drive through change and excel at one’s job should in no way be determined or limited by one’s reporting line and there are lots of examples of people who do this brilliantly and apparently effortlessly, across a wide range of roles and functions.

And yet, whilst all the above is undoubtedly true, I retain a nagging element of scepticism about the value a CEO places on the role of HR, on how committed they are to truly working in partnership and involving HR in their organisational strategy, if they don’t have HR as part of their management team and as their direct report. About what kind of HR role that would be in reality, the emphasis that would be places on different aspects of the HR spectrum. I worry about the dilution of messages, of strategy, of priorities, the ability to effectively challenge and question…and I’m not convinced I would personally wish to work in that environment. 

What do you think? Have you had a different experience that proves me wrong? I’d love to know.

 

Today’s guest post in this Advent Calendar of blogging is brought to you by Joseph Kennedy(@josephpkennedy), an HR  pro who is both engaging and insightful and who has certainly had an eventful and thought-provoking 2011, as you’ll see from his post below.

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At this time of year we are often niggled by the question “what is the real meaning of Christmas”? For me this question is always somewhat loaded because I have a degree in theology, live over 200 miles from my parents and like many, struggle to balance the need to truly spoil my wife and children with the realities of the household budget and my embarrassing inability to decide on what to give to anyone!

I am also just completing my PG Diploma in Human Resource Management – which marks the end of a 5 year long career-change journey – and have applied for the soon-to-be-vacant HR Manager post at Retail Trust (where I am currently HR Assistant).  The course has thrown up a number of challenges for me.  Some have been practical (finding the time and energy), some have been academic (it’s been a while since I did any serious study) and some technological (I use the internet a lot but it was still in its infancy when I was doing my degree!).

One unexpected challenge was highlighted by a conversation with one of my course tutors: the need for meaning.  That was one of those conversations which you think will be a two-second thing and an hour later you feel as if someone has shaken you vigorously about the head.  I had merely commented that this tutor’s explanation of how to interpret Myers-Briggs results was really helpful, as someone had once commented that my own result (INFP) probably meant HR was not the job for me.  From there we talked about my childhood, my family, my work and my now glaringly obvious lack of any sense that I need time to mentally process and truly understand both my work and home life.  Seeing those things from the perspective of my ‘MBTI box’ was electrifying and has really challenged me to develop not only strategies to be a more authentic human being and HR practitioner, but also to see my time as an important resource in giving meaning to my life and work and in keeping stress levels down and creativity up.

As 2011 ends and I complete my course and hopefully take the next step in my HR career I will write that phrase at the top of my personal development plan for 2012.

Keeping stress levels down and creativity up… now if only Christmas could be like that!

So, I’ve never written a blog post quite like this one before…but I’m quickly learning that experimentation is a good thing… 😉

I’m hiring for a couple of roles in my HR team and I would love to be able to make my first social media hire. And clearly I’m biased, but I genuinely think they are great opportunities to work in a fantastic and friendly HR team and be part of a great business. All roles are London-based in our Farringdon office and I’d love to hear from you if you like the sound of one of them, or if you know someone who may be interested.

Interim Senior HR Manager (12 months) – £45k

This is a generalist role, working closely with the sales team and managing an HR Advisor and HR Assistant. ER issues, change management, influencing at a senior level, setting and driving the HR  agenda for this area will be dynamic and exciting and will require someone with strong experience of generalist HR roles, potentially also with a sales organisation.

HR Assistant – £20k 

This is a great starter HR role for someone who ideally has at least a little work experience already and wants to develop their career in HR. The role will cover all of the payroll and benefits administration, as well as providing a great introduction to all aspects of HR. We have a great track record of really developing our HR Assistants and many of them stay with us and progress to HR Advisor or Manager level, or often beyond.

PA – £22k

I’m a little shy about this role as it’s for me and I definitely need some organising! Diary management, travel, administration, projects and all round life-enhancing organisation skills…oh yes and a fabulous boss, obviously 😉

So, that’s it. A very different blog post and quite an experiment to see if I get any good CVs. I would truly love to recruit someone via a recommendation of one of you lovely blog readers or via Twitter or LinkedIn…and I will of course keep you posted!

You can connect with me on here or on Twitter (@AlisonChisnell) or on LinkedIn…I’d love to hear from you!

The title of this blog post comes from Neil Morrison, an HR professional with a gift for provoking debate and discussion and blogger extraordinaire. If you need further proof of either of these points, you should really check out his change-effect blog.

Compatibility or capability…which do organisations really value most highly? And, as HR, how effective are we in challenging the reasons behind certain individuals being promoted and others being overlooked? Do we ourselves become quite institutionalised in the organisations we work in, the decisions we validate, the values that we share and the behaviours we  encourage? At what price the continuation of the status quo?

Last week a close friend was talking to me about his career and his reasons for looking for roles outside his current organisation. This is a huge deal for him as he has worked for his current employer for 15 years and is immensely loyal and hard-working, as well as talented and capable. His recent projects have involved his team saving his company over a million pounds, so you would imagine that he would feel valued and optimistic about his future there. However, in reality, the most senior manager in his team was thanked, celebrated and recognised, but none of the employees actually involved in the work of the project received a single word of thanks. My friend’s perception was that the popular people get promoted, whilst those that are not in the ‘in-crowd’ are forgotten, overlooked and systematically neglected. Compatibility to the organisation rather than capability.

But does any organisation really want capability at the expense of compatibility and can that ever truly work? At least some of that question must boil down to what we understand by compatibility.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines compatible as follows –

  • (of two things) able to exist or occur together without problems or conflict
  • (of two people) able to have a harmonious relationship

In my view, organisations and senior management teams don’t have to be harmonious or devoid of conflict and issues to be effective. In order to successfully bring change to an organisation and for it to continuously improve its effectiveness and commercial success, employees must robustly challenge themselves and others at the most senior level; an activity and mindset that HR professionals must absolutely be part of, in order to be valuable to the organisation they work in and their own profession. Otherwise, what is the point of us?

There has to be a balance here though and capability at the expense of any degree of organisational compatibility can fail spectacularly.  If  individuals are so at odds with the culture of an organisation, which is not ready or willing to ever change, then those individuals will find it near impossible to succeed.

In truth, it is probably too simplistic to view promotion on a simple either/or basis and that the correct balance of compatibility and capability depends upon where an organisation is and what it is aiming to achieve. However, all organisations and all HR professionals would do well to guard against promoting candidates who are high on compatibility and low on capability, as this will surely be a far greater risk than the reverse.

I’ve enjoyed blogging on this topic…plenty of food for thought and lots more questions than answers. I’d love to know your views.

 

The fifth and final post of my blogging experiment draws inspiration from the lovely @JulesJ85 and her similarly titled, excellent post.

 

When I was 2 I wanted to be called Gillian….Gillian, Gillian, girl in a million…!

When I was 10 I wanted to be a pop star. And yes, I do cringe writing that 😉

When I was in my early teens I wanted to be a primary school teacher, a nurse and a social worker. Careers advice at school pointed me towards being a translator or interpreter, although I was never convinced

When I was in my late teens I had no idea what I wanted to be. I chose University subjects that I thought sounded interesting…and studied German and Theology

When I was 21 I had a very ambitious and career-minded boyfriend who helped me realise that I wanted to be in HR and I started my job hunt in earnest

When I was 23 and in my first HR role I wanted to be like my HR Director boss and was determined to make the most of every opportunity I was given

When I was 24 I fell in love and wanted to be married

When I was in my mid-twenties I wanted to be the best HR person in my organisation, take on projects, manage people, be recognised, get promoted, work as hard as I could and learn everything about every aspect of HR

When I was in my late twenties I wanted to be a Mum and sincerely believed I would give up work to bring up my baby twin daughters. Fast-forward a year and I wanted to be a working Mum for at least one day a week to keep my options open and my brain stimulated

When I was in my early thirties I wanted to be back in a senior HR role that challenged me and enabled me to deliver value to the organisation and fulfill my ambition. The senior role emerged, but before I was fully able to balance my work and home life in the way that I needed to…and before too long I had to take a sideways/backwards move to avoid complete disaster on work and home fronts

When I was 34 I wanted to be back in a senior HR role again…and this time my children were older, I was wiser and I have been able to achieve the balance that eluded me previously

Now that I am 35, what do I want to be? I want to be there for my husband and for my children as they grow, to be the best I can be at work and at home and to continue learning and stretching myself, personally and professionally. And on a good day, when everything goes as it should, I am fortunate enough to be able to say….I want to be exactly where I am now. That’s the luckiest thing of all.

What did you want to be when you grew up? I’d love to know

 

 


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