The HR Juggler

Archive for the ‘Motivation’ Category

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


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 :).


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. 


Learning with 'e's: The ripple effect | Skills4Growing |
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 😉

Are  you a leader? Do you feel like one? Do you always feel like being one? Does anyone?
It’s my suspicion that many of the people that we consider to be leaders don’t necessarily perceive themselves the same way. Seeing ourselves as others see us is perhaps the biggest challenge of all, whether at work, at home or amongst friends…we all have the power to influence, to inspire and to initiate action. We are all leaders in some capacity or context.
In the workplace, I see many reluctant leaders…people who have been promoted on the strength of their technical and operational abilities, who at times struggle to be the leader that they believe their team or colleagues expect…to be the expert communicator, the approachable manager with the open door who can coach, motivate and guide individuals to where they need to be. Perhaps in truth, there is a little of the reluctant leader in all of us.
Being a reluctant leader is fine…chances are you are just as good a leader (if not a better one!) as the individual next to you who exalts in their authority and status. Having the self-awareness to understand the shadows we cast as leaders is vital to become the best that we can be.
What do you think?

This morning I have moved into a new office, as part of my new role. This type of changes forces a good spring clean of my workspace, a thorough review of the piles of paperwork that I have managed to accumulate over the last few months and a good deal of shredding and chucking out. The amazing thing was that it didn’t even take that long – not a fraction of the time that I had anticipated, nor anywhere near as long as I had spent thinking about it in advance. And it feels good!

So, I am now in my lovely clean, tidy, new office and I am resolving like mad to keep it that way – to stay on top of the piles of paper, to file things as I go and to be far neater, tidier and better organised in future. And who knows, I may even manage it ;).

Having a spring clean and regaining the environment you value is definitely good for the soul and an excellent reason to be cheerful. There are plenty of other things making me cheerful today too

  • Spring sunshine, however chilly
  • Lighter mornings – I thought I had overslept when I woke up today
  • Best of all…’s pancake day!

Today is definitely a good day for sharing…so tell me, what are your reasons to be cheerful?

How many ways do you make things hard on yourself? What pushes your buttons to make you feel that the responsibility for certain things is yours and yours alone?

So, this may be the most blindingly obvious post I’ve ever written, but I’m not sure I mind much ;). Since writing about my ‘bloggers rut’ on Thursday, I have received so many supportive and genuinely helpful comments, that my heart feels about ten times lighter and creative inspiration is flowing once again. All of the comments have been hugely helpful and the ones that have resonated with me most deeply are the advice that I write for me alone and that I should not feel compelled to blog without inspiration or set myself ‘rules’ to stick to. Without realising it, I had been making things very hard on myself!

I have had a number of other realisations over this weekend about the fact that I tend to insist on taking sole responsibility for things, thereby making myself rather hard to help when I am under pressure. Both at home and work this can be equally true.

So this afternoon, when Mr C offered to help with the housework, instead of saying no, I accepted (I would love to say gracefully but it wasn’t really!). And we tried something different – he and our girls tidied, I cleaned. I am now the sum total of 40p poorer, as small bribes have a transformational effect on a 5 year olds efforts, but wow! – what a difference! So much quicker, more fun and much more achievable – a clean and tidy house, ready to start the new week.  It won’t stay that way for long, but that really isn’t the point.

Also our daughters are starting swimming lessons next week and Mr C will be regularly taking them…the little things make a huge difference to creating more time.

I am my own worst enemy as I know I can be hard to help and thereby put extra pressure on myself. But I am quite inspired to explore this more in a work context and accept help and support when offered there too…and push that ‘stop’ button, when I need to!

What do you make hard on yourself? What buttons do you need to push to change things for the better?  I’d love to know!

Every year Informa holds a Christmas party for the children and grandchildren of its employees.  I went for the first time last weekend with Mr C and our twin girls who are almost 5 and was genuinely amazed at the scale and success of the event.  A few things struck me about the experience, which I wanted to share.

Firstly, what a fantastically nice thing for a company to organise and put on for its employees. No cost for tickets, no charge for anything inside the venue and a fabulous afternoon aimed at entertaining children of all ages: face painting, balloon modelling, clowns, professional entertainers, Father Christmas, bouncy castles, scaletrix…it was really impressive and great fun.  I didn’t realise until later that Informa’s CEO was dressed up as one of the clowns!

Secondly, although it was a little strange seeing work colleagues on a Sunday, the fact that everyone had their children and partners with them made it a totally different experience.  Children are a great leveller and there was no ‘hierarchy’ of roles which you would often experience at a work social gathering, and certainly no work-related conversations that I overheard.  Just people, chatting and laughing and getting to know each other better.

My children loved it and were singing all the way home about how fantastic it was and how much they loved Informa.  And I loved it and felt valued and appreciated as an employee.  I have written an email to the Informa Group CEO to say thank you…which in itself is a first and perhaps a sign that this type of event really does increase employee engagement and make organisations more social.

Does your company do anything similar?  I’d love to hear about it if so

This week, our Facilities team has been creating some new posters with motivational quotes on them to brighten up the office. I am not usually a fan of such things, often cynically suspecting that they will be “cheesy” or uninspiring; however the end result and how they have gone about creating it, is quite simply brilliant.

Rather than buying meaningless corporate posters and placing them randomly throughout the office, our lovely Facilities Manager has gone to the trouble of researching quotations that she feels will resonate with staff, asking employees for feedback and selecting the most popular to go with fresh and interesting images.

Some of my favourites are below –

  • “You must do the one thing you think you cannot do”  Eleanor Roosevelt
  • “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands, but in having new eyes”  Marcel Proust
  • “Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand”  Chinese Proverb
  • “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm”  Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • “Tell me, what is it that you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”  Mary Oliver
  • “There is no point in playing small – in settling for a life that is less than what you are capable of living” Nelson Mandela
  • “There is no failure except in no longer trying” Elbert Hubbard

The most fantastic thing in all of this, which has made it a motivating experience for me and many others, is also the simplest: I was asked to choose which quote I liked best and would like to have in my line of sight.  Employee engagement in action!

I, of course, chose the first quote about doing the one thing that I think I cannot…which has stood me in pretty good stead over the last couple of months and which I hope will continue to inspire me to do more things outside of my comfort zone.

Which quote would you choose??!


I’ve had a first-hand lesson this week in the power of social community…and it’s been an incredible experience.  I wrote my first blog post on the back of the Connecting HR Unconference last Friday and it was surprisingly easy and straightforward.  What I was completely unprepared for though, was the pretty much instant reaction from all of you lovely HR folk out there, some of whom I know, but many of whom I don’t, wishing me well, cheering me on, encouraging and engaging with me, commenting and retweeting.  What a fantastic advert for social media!

It has felt like a huge step forward in my own personal development and the sense of achievement I gained from doing it was, and is, enormous.  Not through the content of my blog (it is not and is never likely to be rocket science, let’s set expectations now!) and certainly not through the process of posting, which was ridiculously easy.  Rather, that writing and putting yourself ‘out there’ is powerful and empowering, as well as being exciting and mildly terrifying.  In considering what topics to write about, I reflect more on what knowledge I’ve got, what would be useful to share, where the value-add is…what on earth I’ve been doing!…plus it brings a sense of confidence and sharpened focus to things at work, which can only be good.

It has also brought home the realisation that through Twitter and the Connecting HR initiative I am part of a really strong and supportive external HR network, which just feels fantastic.  Perhaps it’s really only when you start to express yourself and share your own views (and therefore part of yourself) through social media that you feel truly part of this.

I’d like to extend an invitation to any HR non-bloggers out there who have ever felt mildly tempted, to give it a go, write a guest post on this site and find out for yourself how powerful it can be.  Any topic, your choice, just get in touch and I’d be delighted to post for you…I’d love to get more beginners on board!


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