The HR Juggler

Archive for the ‘Engagement’ Category

Back in December, I tweeted this photo of my empty filing cabinet…

filing2

Much the same as any other filing cabinet, you might think….and of course you’d be right! The difference is though, that this empty filing cabinet symbolised a bold move to a wholly different way of working and the start of a genuinely exciting journey for my workplace, the creation of a truly digital hub to coincide with our office move. I am belatedly making good on my promise to blog about it.

The premise was simple. A small number of functions were designated as ‘fixed desk’ workers, for example the telesales teams, who clearly benefit from being office based in a competitive, encouraging environment and enjoy doing so and they moved ‘as is’ with no issues. Other than these functions, anyone could become a homeworker if they wished to and we had around 80 individuals opting to take this choice. All other staff, became by default flexible workers, meaning that they could work from home, from the new office or another alternative location, whenever they chose to, with no requirement of management approval or agreeing working patterns. We very deliberately chose to trust people and treat them as the adults they are.

Let me tell you first what there wasn’t: there were no weighty policies, there was simply a principles document, outlining what I have described above. There was no requirement for management and HR approval or consent, for either homeworking or flexible working: there were simply some basic technical requirements to become a homeworker, for example a minimum broadband speed and health and safety assessment and a clear message that all staff were able to work flexibly. There were no designated offices for anyone at all in the new building, there were no specific desks for individuals, there were no pedestals at the desks, no vast storage capabilities available on site.

But there was investment: investment in laptops, so that staff could work flexibly in the way that we had promised them and investment in digital archiving and online tools to help people communicate more effectively and share documents as needed. There was a system put in place so that people could book desks online, up to a week in advance and plenty of meeting rooms that could be booked and informal meeting spaces, for more ad hoc conversations. There were lockers made available for personal belongings and broad ‘neighbourhoods’ created so that teams could choose to sit with others in their division if they wished to. There was a simple process to access a net payment for those individuals setting themselves up as homeworkers. There was lots of training for managers and for staff on why we were implementing these changes, what the new environment would be like, how to manage in periods of change and uncertainty, what the new parameters were. There was a huge amount of hard work, commitment, enthusiasm and willingness to change, to give something different a try, to trust, to empower.

There have been bumps along the way on this journey, of course there have. But actually, those bumps have been surprisingly few and far between. We have been in our new digital hub and operating our new way of working for over six months now, and the feedback from staff has been overwhelmingly positive. The open plan environment has energised people, the opportunity to work in a truly flexible way and to be trusted is highly prized and valued. The hard and fast metrics will become clearer over time but so far turnover is down, productivity remains good and people are far happier. For us, it is the first step, but undoubtedly a hugely significant one, which is likely to change how we perceive the working environment and our approach to flexible working for good.

Businesses talk a lot about making changes to how people work, to empowering and trusting staff. It has been an absolute pleasure and a privilege to be part of the team that has led the transformation to a completely different way of working and challenged the existing norms. Why is it that we assume people are working harder if we can see them sitting at a desk? That if they are empowered to manage their own time, they will skive off? Do we really need to resort to command and control to get the best out of people? And if we can change how people work and interact with each other, what else can we do and let go of to make work even better? Now that really is food for thought!

Questions? Comments? I’d love to know what you think :).

The first time I heard of ConnectingHR was as a hashtag on Twitter. At that point, I didn’t even know what a hashtag was, far less how to use one or what ConnectingHR involved. What did become clear though, over the next few days and weeks, was that this is a collection of HR  (and some non-HR!) people who engage with each other on Twitter and other social sites, meet up regularly in person, reach out to and welcome newcomers and are not only adept at understanding the power and possibilities of social media, but incredibly generous in sharing their knowledge and expertise.

The first time I met anyone from ConnectingHR was at the first unconference. Faces became familiar, friendships were formed, my concept of networking and HR conferences was transformed and a journey began which led to me starting this blog the very next day. In the 18 months since then, the community of ConnectingHR has grown and evolved and the unconferences and tweet-ups continue to be a brilliant way of getting to know people and starting to understand a little more about how social media can impact and influence HR and business as a whole. It’s also worth noting that most mainstream conferences which talk about social media in HR invariably include individuals from ConnectingHR as speakers, panelists and presenters…and most are rather more pricey than the actual ConnectingHR unconferences ;).

The next ConnectingHR unconference takes place on 16th May 2012 and you can buy a ticket here. Even better, if you are new to all this and haven’t been to an unconference before, I have a free ticket to give away on my blog. Just leave a comment at the end of this post, and I will choose a winner at random on Friday 27th April. Yep, it really is that easy…I’m nice like that.

For those that like a little more detail, the theme for the unconference is: The Power of a Socially Engaged Organisation and there are some fantastic and knowledgeable conversation leaders attending, addressing topics such as –

  • How can organisations embrace social media/strategies internally to increase engagement?
  • What are the positive benefits and opportunities of embracing social and community strategies in organisations?
  • What tools are there to help increase collaboration and conversation in organisations?
  • Can a more social business create commercial value and increase engagement?
  • What alternatives are there to the traditional employee survey?

If you are looking for an event where you can met some great people, interact, engage, challenge, debate and learn, then look no further…book your ticket for ConnectingHR today or see if you can win a free one on here.

Really…what are you waiting for?!

 

How do you communicate? What do you rely on to get the best from people? The choice of words, turn of phrase and language we use can be hugely emotive and powerful, either to good or negative effect. Yet when we can’t rely on our spoken words and a shared language to articulate what we want to say, we become so much more aware of the non-verbal signals we use.

I pride myself on being pretty good at languages and loved learning both German and French at university and school respectively.  Whilst by no means perfectly fluent, I’m good at making myself understood and conversing adeptly in both these languages. My Spanish, however is limited and does not extend much beyond the realms of Dora the Explorer, so our recent holiday in northern Spain was an interesting linguistic challenge.

Two incidents really stick in my mind as memorable conversations and inspired communication. The first was when we were on the hunt for swimming hats, having been refused entry to the swimming pool without them. I successfully followed directions to the first sportswear shop (grumpy kids and bemused Mr C trailing behind me in the steady rain) where the shop assistant spoke no English. Cue me performing a mime of swimming breast stroke, patting my head three times and giving a big engaging smile and a questioning gesture. Success that the shopkeeper understood what I meant, sadly only to confirm he didn’t sell them. He directed me to a similar shop up the road where a similar ritual was performed, with an identical outcome. We were not destined to go swimming that day, but I admit to being childishly thrilled at the interaction – the limited Spanish that we had exchanged and the shared understanding we had created.

The second occurrence was in a restaurant towards the end of our stay, where we were choosing from an English menu, but ordering from the Spanish one, which didn’t seem to entirely match up. Mr C wanted pork (a “suckling pig” no less!) and hesitated on the Spanish pronunciation. On repeating his order, the waitress gave us a mischievous look and unexpectedly oinked like a pig to illustrate her point and confirm that he had indeed ordered correctly. This became a brilliantly funny joke and we built a great rapport with her (with much further oinking!) throughout the rest of our meal, speaking and understanding more Spanish than we had done before.

Somehow, in both these examples, the communication, the interaction was enhanced by a willingness to take a risk and look a little foolish, by humour and humility, by eye-contact, by smiling and establishing a genuine human connection. And for me, they have a power and a charm that not only makes me smile and feel good at the memory, but reinforces that sometimes it is the unexpected and unspoken methods of communication that are the most effective and engaging of all.

How have you communicated differently? Have you had any memorable conversations lately? I’d love to know.

Advent: Waiting with Expectation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, believe it or not, we are now in Advent. Now, I’m not going to start getting all Christmassy on you…yet!…but I would like to share a challenge with you and invite some guest posts on this blog.

I heard a lovely thought for the day on the radio this morning, about how Advent is traditionally the time of waiting, of starting to think and prepare for Christmas and of reflecting on the year that has been. The speaker likened the openinng of each window on an Advent calendar to letting light in…whether that is the light of hope of better things to come, the light of love of spending time with those closest to us, or simply the light at the end of the tunnel to what, to many, may well have seemed like a tough year.

What I would like to do during December is to share some guest posts on this blog about some of the great things that have happened in 2011, some of the learnings that you can share from your year and perhaps some hopes for 2012. They don’t have to be HR related, they can be about anything at all. And they don’t have to be melodramatic horrors…although equally, feel free if you want to share!

I’ll be sharing my highlights and horrors of 2011 and writing some of my usual blogs too during this time, but I’d love to have as many guest bloggers as possible during December sharing their throughts and learnings. Experienced bloggers, novices or simply someone who has always thought about writing a blog post and never got round to it. Believe me, it really isn’t as hard as it looks… 😉

I’d love to hear from you.



 

 
On Friday evening I watched a short documentary on Sir Jimmy Saville. I learnt much about him from watching it and a couple of things have really stuck with me and made me think. Firstly, that during his lifetime, he raised an amazing £45m for charity. Secondly, that during the height of his fame he worked for five years as an unpaid hospital porter in Leeds Hospital and gave  his time voluntarily and regularly to help others. Towards the end of his life, he reflected that his philosophy was one of having fun, “to live every day as if it were Christmas Day and every night as if it were New Year’s Eve.” A complex and multi-faceted man undoubtedly, but an irrefutably generous one, with his time as well as his money.

It made me stop and reflect, not only about personal aspirations, but also on the wider topic of corporate social responsibility. The shift of society’s expectations and companies’ efforts towards corporate social responsibility is a positive one; yet it is so much more powerful when it involves not only companies donating money, but enables individuals to engage with good causes. When companies can strike the balance right to provide opportunities for their staff to donate their time, expertise and skills for charity and fully support them in doing so, it is a powerful developmental and retention tool, which can be hugely motivating.

Our corporate social responsibility actions have had a powerful and at times life-changing effect on some of our staff this year: from the exec team who raised money by climbing Kilimanjaro, the two volunteer programmes we have run to Costa Rica and Thailand, the team who trekked across the Himalayas to raise funds for Japan and the delegation we sent to the One Young World conference. That the volunteer programmes have been open to all staff to apply and that the individuals who were selected by the staff board have ranged from one of the receptionists to senior managers, has been a powerful force for strengthened working relationships, staff engagement and culture change. Giving money is sometimes the easy part; providing a forum for individuals to demonstrate how truly extraordinary they are and how prepared they are to live generously and contribute is by far the most powerful and humbling.

So, here’s to living generously as individuals…and working with our companies to provide opportunities to bring some of that fantastic positive and life-affirming energy to work.

I’d love to hear what you think. 

 

So, my Twitter training has taken a bit of a different form than anticipated, as the planned board meeting was rescheduled. However, the result of this has been that I have spent more time doing impromptu sessions to small groups and one-to-one coaching of my exec colleagues. It’s been an interesting experience and one that I’ve learnt a lot from so far already.

My main learnings are as follows –

  • Having a co-sponsor for training sessions is brilliant: someone who is not from the same background as you, who ‘gets’ Twitter but uses it differently. This was enormously helpful when coaching two of the exec team who were particularly cynical about its value
  • Think carefully about the language you use to convey the potential gain for those that you are coaching. They clearly won’t be interested in building an HR network, but they will take note of the fact that they can access opinion pieces and be ahead of the news
  • Show them how to use it on whichever medium they are most likely to regularly use…for most of my coachees on their blackberry or Iphone
  • Think about how to show individuals what is meaningful to them – hashtags that will be of interest for them to check out, how the business you work in or its competitors is already using Twitter, how it can build engagement between key groups
  • Tweet questions to your followers so that you can demonstrate the interactive nature of Twitter
  • Don’t over-hype or over-sell its value – it’s the quickest way to lose credibility
  • Accept that it isn’t everyone’s chosen method of communicating, but that most people will find some gain from using it…or at least from understanding it better
  • Expect unexpected questions – I was surprised that some of the questions centred more around how number of followers build up, rather than the mechanics of how Twitter works
  • Remember that Twitter can be overwhelming, noisy and confusing at first for new users
  • Follow up to find out if there is anything more they would like to know
  • Even when individuals appear to be quite proficient at using Twitter, they are often keen to find out more and learn by asking questions

I’m going to be rolling out more training soon: to the rest of the exec team, to the global HR team and then to the rest of the business. The great thing is that I’m learning more each time I do it and am really enjoying it ;).

 What have I forgotten? I’d love to hear about your experience of teaching Twitter to others too.

 
 
This weekend marks my first ‘blogday’, the anniversary of my first post, written as a direct result of the first ConnectingHR Unconference.  I’m amazed that it has already been a year and I can honestly say that although I embarked on blogging with little thought to where it would lead me, I have really enjoyed writing regularly and found it a real source of personal development and support.

Why Do I Blog?

  • I like articulating my thoughts and experiences and find it makes me reflect on them more deeply than I otherwise might have done
  • It’s a great way of engaging with like-minded people
  • I enjoy the creative process
  • Getting feedback and comments on posts helps me to explore my thoughts around a topic and often adds many dimensions that I have not even considered
  • It’s fun and enjoyable…and possibly a little addictive once you’ve started 😉

Some Facts and Figures

I originally started my blog on Posterous and moved to this WordPress platform at the end of November 2010. Since this time I have had 11,285 individual hits on this site, with the highest daily traffic peaking at 260 views and the busiest month of September 2011 bringing in 1,694 hits. I have written a total of 73 posts and have an amazing 570 comments, although that includes my own responses. All of this is obviously small-fry in comparison to many other blogs out there, but I’m really proud of the way this site has developed and hugely grateful to all of you who take the time to read and comment.

The most popular posts are not always the ones I would have expected, but for those interested in having a browse through some of the archives or just plain curious, the most-read ones are as follows –

Title   Views
Home page More stats 2,983
LinkedIn: 5 Reasons Why I Won’t Connect More stats 505
My First Year on Twitter: Lessons Learned And Questions Asked More stats 410
Four New HR Blogs to Brighten Your January! More stats 251
Breaking The Ice More stats 238
The Art of Conversation More stats 237
Why Are HR The Worst People Managers Of All? More stats 234
To TheHRD With Love and Thanks More stats 225
ConnectingHR: The Best Kept Secret in HR Networking More stats 223
Back to School More stats 217

So, all that remains is to say thank you. For reading, for commenting, for making suggestions, for challenging and most of all for encouraging…I appreciate it enormously.

Let’s see if I can make it to my second blogday 🙂

 

 
 

 

So, last week was my blog experiment, where I wrote each day on topics with the highest votes, suggested by others. The original motivation for the experiment was to cure a temporary sense of writer’s  block, but I found that I experienced and learnt much more besides.

On a pure measurement level, it was interesting to see what changed and what didn’t. The traffic to my blog increased substantially – but given that I usually post once or twice a week, that was no surprise. When I look at the overall page views for last week though, what is striking is that most posts get around the same number of views, with two exceptions, which were retweeted and then viewed by people outside of my usual network.  In the interest of transparency, you can see the posts which received the most views below –

Whilst it is probably true that titles of blogs make a difference, there was also a huge increase to blog traffic in some ‘power’ RTs – it was notable with the ‘Why Are HR The Worst People Managers Of All?’ post that once the CIPD retweeted it, it led to a spike in page views and further RTs. Similarly ‘The Only Person Who Really Looks After Your Career Is Yourself’ was retweeted by @Jobsitejobs, leading to increased readership.

What else changed? I gained around 30 new followers, certainly more than an average week and my Klout score increased by 5 (I’m sure it will drop back soon enough ;)). I was fortunate to have some great comments on all of the posts that I wrote, but the numbers of comments are broadly in line with what I am lucky enough to usually expect. Perhaps interesting to note, there were no new subscribers to my blog during the experiment.

So these may be the ‘tangibles’ in terms of what can be measured, but of course the real story and learning for me goes much deeper than that. My main reflections are as follows –

  • Rather than writer’s block, what I was really experiencing was a dip in creativity and lack of inspiration of topics to blog about. Whilst I worried that I was being lazy asking others for ideas, what I discovered was that people were keen to contribute ideas and thoughts
  • Through blogging on topics that were not originally mine, I stretched myself out of my comfort zone, which felt at times nerve-wracking, but ultimately rewarding
  • The topics that were suggested were almost all completely different to anything that I had previously considered writing about
  • I loved the interactive process of asking for ideas and getting people to vote on them
  • I have huge respect for individuals who blog on a daily basis in addition to busy, demanding day jobs…doing it for one week was just about fine, but it hasn’t tempted me to make it a permanent commitment!
  • I missed the reflection time between blogs
  • I am not by nature an experimenter…but found I enjoyed it and learned from it
  • My readership may be small compared to many others, but I’m truly appreciative of the support and level of engagement I receive. Small but perfectly formed, perhaps?!

So, all in all, I enjoyed last week very much and will continue to reflect on the experience and learning I gained from it. I’d love to hear your thoughts as well.

 

Blogging energises me. For me, there is a definite correlation between my general sense of personal and professional well-being and how inclined I feel to write on my blog.

Lately I have a minor case of blogger’s block, so in true Twitter style I asked for inspiration from the good people of #connectinghr. And as usual they rose to the occasion and unleashed a wave of ideas. Thanks to @MattWarrener, @SpeccyWoo, @BettyBBlonde and @ChangeContinuum, they provided the following eclectic inspirations –

– Why is HR the brake and not the accelerator and how does it need to change?

– Training has absolutely no ROI other than as a placebo

– HR is a band-aid to imperfect organisations and they are minded to keep them that way

– Why are HR the worst people managers of all?

– If you had to axe one function in your business which one would it be?

– Why don’t more execs blog?

– The morals of being forced to interview someone because of the colour of their skin

– Which members of Take That were better looking in 2004 and in 2011?

All of these got me thinking: about the topics themselves, the creativity of those individuals providing them and more than anything else about the power of collaboration to inspire and lift you out of a temporary rut.

So, as of next week I am going to undertake a blogging experiment and tackle one of these each day to write about. Please also feel free to contribute any other suggested topics in the comments below, however frivolous or intellectually challenging (!!) and they will also go into the mix. Once I work out the wordpress voting widget, I will also ask for your collaboration in helping to choose the top 5 blogging topics for next week ;).

A lazy way of generating topic ideas? Possibly. A fun way of getting me back into the blogging habit? Absolutely!

I await your suggestions with anticipation…thank you!

 
 
 
Last week was all about presentations for me. On Wednesday, I delivered a presentation to 100 of our division’s most senior managers, on the requested topic of HR: Our Philosophy, Our Strategy and Our Expectations. On Friday I went into my daughter’s reception class and talked to a class of 5-year-olds about my job and introduced them to the concept of HR.

Two very different audiences, two very different presentations. Yet some of the learning was the same –

  • People love pictures. In both presentations I included a lot of pictures, with minimal bullet points. This made a huge difference with how the audiences engaged with the presentations and helped prompt me with the points I wanted to make
  • Meet your audience where they are. In both of these instances I thought quite carefully about what the audience’s prior knowledge of the subject was and what their preconceptions might be. In the case of my colleagues at the senior managers conference, I was also honest with myself about what their current frustrations were likely to be and worked to address them
  • Simplicity is fine. HR isn’t complicated, it is only us as HR professionals who sometimes contrive to make it seem so. If I can’t explain what my team do simply and clearly, without jargon, then shame on me
  • Be credible and honest. Don’t over-promise, over-egg your strategy or exaggerate your achievements…nothing loses your audience more quickly
  • Engage with your audience. Unsurprisingly the children were far more vocal than the adults. It was so sweet watching them stretch their arms in the air, desperate to ask a question, or more often, make a statement to contribute.
  • Choose the key messages you want to emphasise and accept that people won’t remember more than a few key points. Shorter and more succinct  is often sweeter, particularly if you are speaking towards the end of the day, as I was on both occasions 😉
  • Prepare well and practise, so that you feel as confident as you can be
  • Smile
  • Breathe
  • Slow down
  • Be positive!
  • Enjoy your moment, even if like me, presenting is not your most natural mode of communication 🙂

I really enjoyed both experiences and felt like I learned a lot through delivering both presentations. I’d love to hear what you think and what your learning has been from any similar situations.


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