The HR Juggler

Posts Tagged ‘Human resources

 

Today was the fourth ConnectingHR Unconference. I have attended two of the previous three unconferences and enjoyed them immensely, and today was no exception…in fact, it was particularly special and quite possibly the best one yet.

From the moment I arrived at the spruced-up Spring in Vauxhall, I was struck by the number of people who I didn’t recognise or previously know: of the 60 or so unconference attendees, at least half hadn’t attended anything similar before and many were new to ConnectingHR. The buzz of energy in the room was tangible as people focussed on getting to know each other, making connections and putting faces to names. From the start, it was clear that it was going to be a good day.

In a change to the usual unconference format, there was some structure to start the day (shock horror!) and we kicked off with a series of thought-provoking pecha kucha presentations on the theme of the power of a socially engaged organisation. From authentic personal perspectives on social media from Doug Shaw and Flora Marriott, to Phil Clothier’s insight into organisational values; from Jamie Priestly’s thoughts on HR metrics and the dangers of measuring everything possible without understanding the commercial and human reality, to real examples of how ThomsonReuters social platform is enabling conversation and community in the workplace…there was much to absorb, consider and debate. A particular highlight for me was Martin Couzins’s brilliantly inspired story of a socially engaged organisation, crowdsourced from Twitter. If I had one critique it would be that there were a few too many presentations to start the day, although the content was consistently excellent and the speakers engaging and succinct.

There then followed a world cafe brainstorming session, after which the ‘grid’ was populated with topics for discussion, which would form the basis of the afternoon’s agenda. Many of these topics were inspired by the content that was presented in the morning session, exploring and expanding the debate further. Whilst  it is accepted and encouraged for people to move between groups if they wish to during the breakout discussions, both of the ones I attended in the afternoon were so interesting that I stayed in the same group for the whole session…quite unusual for me and a sign of the quality of discussion and debate that took place. Interesting too, that the topics being discussed no longer revolve purely around social media, but have moved on to include a wide range of HR and business related issues. That is most definitely a good thing!

The day was wrapped up by a review of the artwork, a fantastic song by artist in residence, Tim Casswell and a demonstration by Darius from the Spring of how you can use your physical strength to dissipate and deflect conflict. And then, of course, the conversations continued over a glass (or in my case a mug – thanks Charlie!) of wine.

Lots to think about and I have been extremely fortunate to have enjoyed two such stimulating and enjoyable conferences over the last two days. For me, ConnectingHR remains a great way to meet interesting people, enjoy stimulating debate, become enthused and energised, learn from others, share knowledge and make friends. That, most certainly, makes for a great day.

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?!

 

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 😉

A terrible pun of a title, which I couldn’t resist. This week I attended the Human Resources Summit in Lisbon. I was filled with some trepidation before the event, particularly because of the dynamics of the set-up: suppliers pay to attend, which funds the flights and hotel accommodation of the delegates, who therefore attend for free. Not only that, but there were a series of half hour one-to-one meetings between practitioners and suppliers that were  tightly scheduled and mandatory. I approached the event with an open mind, but I really wasn’t sure it would be for me.

To my surprise, I really enjoyed it and got a lot out of it. I met some fantastic people and have come back with my head full of ideas, thoughts and plans.

What I enjoyed most was the networking, both with other senior HR people (there were around 50 in all from a wide variety of organisations) and with suppliers, who were (almost!) without fail engaging, interesting, thought-provoking and likeable. I didn’t manage to speak to everyone over the two days, but had stimulating and useful discussions with those that I did.

The key-note speaker on the first night was rather underwhelming, however the quality of conversation with other participants mostly compensated for this. I selected two strategy sessions in advance of the conference, which were both excellent. It was an extremely well organised summit, a beautiful and fortuitously sunny location and a genuinely engaging and enjoyable event.

And the dreaded one-to-one meetings with suppliers? Mostly fine. I rarely felt as if I was being sold to, was often very interested to hear what types of services they offered and got to know them as people in a reasonably relaxed environment. Whilst it wouldn’t be everyone’s choice to do that type of event, the suppliers were evenly split between those that were regulars at such summits and those who were trying it for the first time. The regulars felt that it was a good investment and that building relationships in this way with senior HR people was effective and bore commercial fruit over time.  Many of the ‘newbie’ suppliers were as anxious as the delegates about the ‘speed dating’ concept of selecting who to talk to in advance and were keen to interact and get to know others on an individual basis.

All in all, it was a good opportunity and one that I enjoyed. I even got to meet a couple of Twitter buddies for the first time, which was a highlight.  Something to think about further, for sure :).

 
 
 

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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