Walking for women

This one is a personal blog post. Not something that I do all that often. I hope you won’t mind too much.

Last year, I agreed to take part in the 2017 Moonwalk with some awesome women.

Two things were different in my life when I signed up.

First of all, I was pretty fit. I worked out every day, sometimes twice.  But some pretty big life stuff has got in the way during this last six months or so, and I’m nowhere near as fit as I was this time last year when I was busy doing triathlons and mud runs and the like.  So truthfully, I’m worried about being able to complete it.

The second thing that I didn’t know when I signed up for the walk was that my mum was about to get diagnosed with breast cancer. The very disease for which I had agreed to walk over 26 miles through the night.  Not knowing how close it was going to come to home.

My strong and powerful mum has not let this diagnosis stop her. She’s faced tough times before and she has been an inspiration throughout her treatment.  I would have taken it from if her I could.  Instead, I can do this.  Try and raise some money so that one day no other woman will have to go through what my mum, and too many other women, has gone through.

So if you fancy sponsoring me and the rest of #TeamUnicorn to walk through the night for all women, here is the link.

https://moonwalklondon2017.everydayhero.com/uk/teamunicorn

Thank you in advance.

Employer brand. It’s a crowd thing.

I saw a post over on LinkedIn recently, in which a recruiter criticised a candidate who dropped out of an interview process after reading negative reviews about the company on Glassdoor. The post suggested that this was a ridiculous reason to decline an interview.  It had generated a whole range of responses, some agreeing and some not.

My thoughts are these. If that candidate made a ridiculous decision, then I am guilty too.  Because I once did exactly the same thing.

Recruitment today is in many ways no different to other types of consumer behaviour. When we are on shopping sites we read the reviews from other people who have already purchased the product.  If we want to go on holiday, we head over to TripAdvisor or the like, and read what previous guests had to say about their experience.

Guess what? We don’t know these people.  We are willing to put our trust in the crowd.

So why should recruitment be any different?

It’s the world we live in. I’ve decided against buying certain things over on Amazon because there were too many reviews making the same criticisms about quality.  I’ve also decided against applying for a job at an organisation where a few too many people talked about the terrible culture and management style.  I take note on how many reviews there are in total.  I look at the average star ratings before getting the credit card out.

We live in a world in which what people think about you can be shared easily.  You can’t control your employer brand, no matter how hard you try.  The stuff that used to be said in the pub to a handful of mates can now be shared and seen on a massive scale.

From a trust perspective, many folk will take the views of the many, even if they are strangers, over the corporate brand message.

Here’s the thing.  You can either embrace it, or ignore it.  But isn’t going away.

Better to do the former.

I’ve heard of organisations unwilling to set up a company Facebook page or Twitter account ‘because people might say something negative’.

Stating the obvious klaxon perhaps, but there’s probably a bigger elephant in the room if that is your reason for avoiding social media.  For the most part, people will only say yours is a bad place to work, if it’s a bad place to work.  Maybe that should be the starting point instead.

If you have bad reviews about your company find out why. Just as importantly, acknowledge them, where they are.  If people have had a bad experience working or interviewing with you, acknowledge it.  Offer space to take it off line for a proper discussion.  Apologise if you need to.  It is better to be part of the conversation, than unaware of it.

But either way be assured people are making their mind up about whether or not they are interested in working for you based on the opinions of the anonymous crowd.  This is the social world.

Hang back or get ahead.

 

Disrupting disruption

The word ‘disruption’ has reached saturation point. The bandwagon effect is in full flow.  But we do like a new idea in HR to run with, whether there is evidence to support it or not.

I just don’t think it is a helpful dialogue.

Personally, I don’t want to disrupt stuff.

I want to do stuff better. Wherever I work, I want to make it better for the people that work there.  Whatever that looks like.

Just what does disruption in this context even mean anyway? It isn’t disruptive to say ‘performance management doesn’t work’ or ‘get rid of your employee handbook’, or to argue that the way most organisations recruit is broken. It isn’t disruptive to say that we need to think differently about leadership, about people policy, about reward… about all of this people stuff that we do.

Being open to new approaches, changing what doesn’t work, continuous improvement, rejecting the stuff that is no longer fit for purpose, making what you work for your own context. Challenging the same old……

Yes to all of these things.

Few people are truly disrupting work or Human Resources at their place, nor I would argue do they need to.

Consider for a moment the synonyms for the word ‘disruption’: disturbance, disordering, disarrangement, interference, upset, upsetting, unsettling, confusion, confusing, division, turmoil.

Who needs more of any of this at work?

I don’t want disruption. I want Better.  I want Human.

We can do more. But we can also choose to do it gently, calmly, constructively.

How does this make people feel?

On the wall in my last office there was a whiteboard.

On it, our projects and priorities.

To the side, questions.  Reminders, challenges to self.

Question number one: How does this make people feel?

‘This’ could be anything.  The new policy in draft.  The project in planning.  The development programme.  The status update on our internal social network.  The letter to an employee.  The new shiny thing.

This people stuff that we do.  Recruitment, reward, learning and development, induction, performance management.  It cannot be separated from how people feel.

When we talk about engagement and motivation and meaning and performance, scratch the surface, see through the theory, and what is underneath is simply feelings.

Maya Angelou is often quoted on this subject.  She said that we forget what people do and what they say but they never forget how we make them feel.

Apply this to people stuff.  Your employees won’t remember much of their induction.  They won’t retain all that much of the PowerPoint from the training course.  They certainly won’t be likely to quote text from your employment policy or handbook.

We have built theory around simplicity…. in concept at least.

Because feelings are messy.  Changeable. Inconsistent.

Something that can’t be turned into a percentage on an engagement survey.  Cannot be represented in a project plan.   But as people practitioners, something that should be at the forefront of what we do all the same.  Even the difficult stuff, the not so nice part of the job, can be done with empathy and decency and with thought to the way people feel.

There has been an increasing call of late for work to become more human.  The starting point for me is to keep the question in mind and in sight…… how does this make people feel?

Eight Hours

The Zero Hours Contract debate rumbles on.

Are these contracts about flexibility and choice, or are they a race to the bottom? Are they about coffee shops and MacBooks, or exploitative and a symbol of a two-tier workforce?  Are they the dark side of the gig economy?

You can find arguments and opinion to support both frames of reference.

The answer is that they are probably both, depending on your personal circumstances and experiences.  For some, they equal freedom and flexibility.  For others, the best that they can get.

But Zero Hours Contracts are only part of the story.  The rest of the narrative is about low paid, low hours work – whatever the contractual status.

Now anyone who has every used a job alert service via a job board will know that their algorithms are…. interesting.  As a result of a request to receive notifications for new HR roles, I’ve recently been sent information on roles for financial accountants, software developers and chefs.  Some of which were in France.  Someone in my timeline recently commented that the criteria for receiving a notification from some job boards amounted to nothing more than ‘do you have an email address and are you alive?’

One such recent notification caught my eye….for all the wrong reasons.

It was for a leading retailer.  Paying the national minimum wage.  For eight hours each week.

Now you might think that there is nothing wrong with an eight hour per week contract.  It’s better than a Zero Hours one perhaps.  There are plenty of people who might value eight hours of paid employment.  A student looking to work whilst studying.  Someone seeking a second job to top up their income.  The only problem that I could see was exactly when the eight hours were taking place.  Because it could be anytime at all.  The shop was open 12 hours each day, seven days per week.  And the role required total flexibility – actual shifts notified on a weekly basis.  Applying for, and accepting, a position meant agreeing to working those hours whenever.

What would this mean in practice for the successful applicant?  Less than £60 per week, before deductions.  A limited ability to secure other work around that contact. An inability to plan, arrange childcare, make any advance arrangements.  Waiting on a whim.

This isn’t flexibility and choice.  This is barely a weekly food shop for most families.

There are no good reasons that I can think of that a major retailer could not, with some planning and foresight, make this a fixed set of hours or days, or at least offer reasonable parameters or some certainly.  It smacks of lazy management.  There is something just a little arrogant about it too.

I can’t think what it would be like to be employed in this way.  Wondering if there will be any overtime this week.  Wondering if this is the week that your boss will give you a shift that you just can’t get childcare for.  When exactly your hours will fall, if there is any other way to increase your income.

While we debate concepts like meaningful work, workplace democracy, employee engagement and all of that people stuff, let us also look in our own back yards.

Do the jobs, and their design, where you work, allow your employees the basic dignity of both living and working? Or does the way that the work is organised cause stress and uncertainty for the people that undertake it?   Do those jobs and their design enable both parties…. or just the organisation?

When we have a resourcing requirement, when we start drafting that job description and advert, we need to think not only about the needs of the organisation, but the needs of the individual who will be doing the work.

Contracts have many implied terms, amongst all the express ones.  Maybe it is about time that humanity become one of them.

 

 

 

Be you, dive in, share stuff

Today, I am speaking at an International Women’s Day event at Launch 22 in Liverpool.  My talk, somewhat unsurprisingly for anyone who knows me, is about social media.  About what it can do for your career, your business, you personally.  Later this week I’m working with 50 or so folks who want to know how to use social media to build their corporate brand and attract talent.

Different venues, different needs, but similar advice.

I talk a lot about social media.  About how to recruit with it.  About how to manage the legal risks.  How to blog for your business.  About addressing the myths.  About how to practically do social stuff.

This is what I know, the core of what I have to offer.  When it comes to all things social, whether you want to use it to make connections, learn, recruit or build your business, it starts with you and it starts with skills.

You have to know how.  You to pick your platforms and learn the lingo and create the content.

But first, these three things, familiar to anyone who has read our books:

Be you.

Dive in.

Share stuff.

Social media is a place to be yourself.  Mostly. You can keep any dubious political views to yourself. But for the most part, it is a place to show up, as a person.  To be authentic.  It’s not about broadcasting your awesomeness.  It’s about telling your story.

As for diving in….it is the best way to learn.  Don’t worry too much about it. Instead, JFDI.  There isn’t all that much you can mess up.  Yes, you can find some trolls and some people that have some very strange views on social media, but mostly you will find the benefits massively outweigh the negatives.

Sharing is a fundamental part of being social. Through sharing, your own stuff and that of others, you contribute to the community.  You become a useful human.  It is also a great way to build early those connections, to help you find your tribe.

There is much to learn about social.  But if you start with these simple rules, your social journey will begin.  Good luck!

black-and-white, dive, header

 

What time do you call this?

There are some jobs where timekeeping really matters.  If a shop has to open, call handlers need to answer the phone, a train needs to leave on time…. then those who do that work need to be there when they need to be there.

But this doesn’t apply to all jobs. It doesn’t apply to many of those that are doing the 9-5.  For many, those working hours are simply a tradition of working lives.

I’ve worked at places where managers are obsessed with what time people walk in the door.  They monitor it to the minute and the second.  They even hold disciplinary hearings for breaches of these rules  Only all too often, the time being managed is that of people and jobs where it just doesn’t matter all that much.  For many roles, it isn’t the hours that you work that should matter but the results that you deliver and the impact you make.  A little harder to monitor though, perhaps.

When those workers need to be there each hour and minute, I see the need for this sort of time management.  Although like with any type of performance management, it’s all about how you do it.

There are two main approaches to managing people.  One is to treat employees like adults, and the other is to treat them like children.  Treating people like children includes getting employees to clock in and clock out when there’s no real need for them to do so.  Treating them like children means monitoring activity over achievement. It means worrying about someone walking through the door at 9.04 instead of 8.58.

Fundamentally, what we are talking about, is trust.

I once had to talk a manager out of a system of financial penalties for lateness.  I told him what he had planned was an unlawful deduction from wages.  That ended the debate.  But it was more than that of course.  The work was of a nature that demanded emotional labour.  Empathy and personal care.  Financial deductions from wages would have changed the game.  Led to unintended consequences.  For those who were there simply for the money rather than the meaning, it just becomes part of the financial calculation.  For the employee who was genuinely late for no fault of their own, damaging to engagement and their sense of meaning in what they do.

When I see managers who monitor the minutes, I often wonder whether, if they are so concerned about contractual hours, they are chasing those same employees out of the door at 5pm.  This isn’t usually the case of course.  It’s all about presenteeism in these sort of places and with those sort of managers.

I sit at my desk therefore I am.  Hours equals dedication, in these sort of organisations.

If you have good people, trust them to do a good job.

If you don’t have good people, then do something about it.

If the minutes don’t matter, don’t monitor them.

If your employees aren’t children, don’t treat them like they are.

What time is it?

2017.

Stainless Steel Digital Clock Showing 12:20 Am