The HR Juggler

Archive for the ‘Management’ Category

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.

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.

 

Learning with 'e's: The ripple effect | Skills4Growing | Scoop.it
 
Learning and development can be a powerful force, never more so when you can see the effects in your own team. My HR team has very much been in integration and formation mode this year; we have jointly undergone a huge amount of change and are still very much learning each other’s working styles, strengths, development areas and motivations. Having operated as separate, devolved HR teams, reporting directly into the business heads and each seated in their own offices, it is an adjustment for the whole team to be based together, sitting open plan and working collaboratively. Ironically communication can be just as much of an issue when a team is co-located…more of an issue in some ways, as you expect it less.

In advance of the management training for HR that will be delivered over the next couple of months, the team have completed 360 feedback questionnaires and the effect is already transformational. The conversations that it has opened, the reflection and self-awareness that it has brought, the willingness to accept feedback, adapt behaviours and to allow others the space to change and move forward have all been fantastic. It’s very early days, but the seeds have been sown for this to be a very powerful intervention indeed.

It’s easy to overlook the effectiveness of 360 feedback – in many ways, we ought to be able to provide feedback in a more regular way without requiring the formal framework. The fact is that sometimes we all need a bit of a nudge to articulate what we think is fantastic and less endearing about our colleagues…and that experiencing it together as a group seems to have created a huge amount of positive energy and goodwill. The timing of any 360 feedback exercise is undoubtedly critical to its success and it seems we have embarked on this at the right moment, where things are starting to come together and behaviours have not yet become ingrained. Fingers crossed!

I’d love to know what your experience of team 360s is and how you have energised your team…let me know 😉

I am quite happy to be delegated to. I rarely, if ever, mind taking on extra chunks of work or projects, have always enjoyed the autonomy that they bring and am keen to deliver and report back on the progress that I have made. For some reason though, taking on projects and tasks often comes more naturally to me than the art of delegation does. Am I alone here? I somehow doubt it!

So, why do we find delegation hard to do and what myths are we kidding ourselves with that prevent us from doing it properly? Some that immediately spring to mind are below –

  • It’s just easier to do it myself.
  • I don’t have time to delegate
  • I have no-one I can delegate to
  • No-one else will do it as well as me

The truth is that until we take control of our workloads, stop running around like headless chickens and start properly planning what tasks we are able to ask others to do, we will always struggle to delegate effectively. The above myths are exactly that – we know logically that delegating tasks and projects makes our lives easier, but it does require personal organisation and regular follow-up, as well as support to the individual you have delegated it to, who may well be developing their skills through the experience of taking it on. 

Some other realities? Sometimes we resist delegating tasks, because they are actually easier and more comfortable than the ones that we really should be focussing on. Sometimes by doing things ourselves, we feel the false glow of supposed indispensability. Sometimes, by not delegating, we deprive others of development opportunities that could help them grow. And all of these can become vicious circles of our own and others ineffectiveness, before we know where we are. 

I, for one, am going to try to take back control of my ballooning inbox, start afresh tomorrow as I mean to go on….and get back to some serious delegating!

Is it just me…………….? Now that I would love to know 😉

 
 
 

Ouch. Is it just me that recognises some element of truth in the above question? I have had the pleasure of working with some great HR line managers over the years, but I have also at times experienced a considerable gap between what we say to line managers as HR advisors and what we do ourselves as people managers. And I am also sufficiently self-aware to recognise that whilst I excel at some aspects of people management, such as providing individuals with development, mentoring, encouragement and regular feedback;  there are plenty of other areas where I definitely “could do better”.

Rather than HR being the function that attracts and retains the worst people managers…lets face it, there are plenty of other functions in most businesses that have their share of these too…it is perhaps the gap between the people management values that we advise and espouse to others and those that we at times struggle to attain within our own chains of command that contributes to the view that HR are the shoddiest line managers of all. 

In my view, some of the reasons that HR doesn’t always reach the high standards we articulate to others are as follows –

  • “Too Nice”?

I doubt I’m alone amongst my peers in preferring the motivational and developmental part of being a manager, than the relentless driving up of standards, systematic performance management and delivering of unpleasant messages. The truth is that to be better people managers HR has to excel at both sides of the coin

  • Suspicious minds

HR people can be quite suspicious by nature – we are often looking for the catch when things seem to good to be true. This trait can at times be useful….but who wants to work for someone who is anything less than trustful of them? I have seen it many times that trust between HR colleagues can be a fragile concept and it takes time to grow and develop…perhaps we need to get over this a little and give people the benefit of the doubt rather more than we do.

  • Control freakery

HR managers with control freak tendencies? Yes, I bet you know a few too…. 😉  Combine this with line management and it can become the ugly step-sister to the mistrust mentioned above. An unwillingness to delegate, the belief that things will only be done correctly if you do it yourself, a tendency to micro-manage…incredibly corrosive to the confidence and development of the individual that works for you and definitely not a good example of great people management skills.  

  • Fight fire with fire

Oh, the fire-fighting in HR. We’re just always so busy dashing here and there and fixing everyone elses issues, we are often overwhelmed by the sheer number and scale of the tasks ahead. And when it comes to prioritising, there can be a temptation to allow the tenets and discipline of good people management to slip for our own teams. Needless to say a slippery slope and one that can turn us all into poor people managers if we don’t guard against it.

  •  Do as I say, not as I do

Excellent at giving other managers advice on dealing with issues, HR is often rather less good at following its advice for its own staff. Perhaps also a factor in this is that the internal function of “HR for HR” rarely, if ever, works as effectively as it should. It’s all a bit too uncomfortable, a bit too close to home, a lower priority than working with managers elsewhere in the business.

So if HR aren’t perceived as great people managers, what do we need to do to get better? In four words: take our own advice. Let’s face it, we know how to do this stuff, we advise managers on it all the time and we do it well…let’s take some time to honestly appraise where we’re doing well and where we could do better. And how about being really revolutionary and asking the people who work for us for their feedback? Now that could be a great starting point.

What do you think?

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This post is the first of my blogging experiment, where all of the post topics have been generated by others and there has been voting taking place on which topic I should blog on each day. If you haven’t voted for a topic yet, please do – I will be tackling the topic with the most votes every day for the next five days. In the event of tie-break votes (and there is one for tomorrow’s post as it currently stands!), I will make the final choice between the two most popular myself 😉 


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