From resources to human beings #cipdace

John Amaechi believes that HR is increasingly becoming the moral compass of an organisation, with a responsibility to preserve organisational integrity.  I really don’t know how I feel about this. On one hand there have been times during my carer that I’ve been the person in the room arguing from feeling, arguing for the right thing to do.  But should we need a moral compass? What does it say about our organisations if we do?  Should integrity be the role of a department – or everyone’s responsibility?

This talk is about how we humanise our workforce to develop healthy and ethical organisations.  I’ve never liked the ‘resources’ part of HR. It’s not how I think of people, it’s not how I want people to think about me. So I’m listening.

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This is what John has to say.

We are custodians of culture.  Senior colleagues often think that our job is to create compliance, procedure, policy, legal frameworks.  We know that stress is everywhere.  People are constantly talking about AI and robotics. These conversations seem to be about making robots who look and behave like humans.  Think about what we already have – Alexa and Siri.  We have gendered AI right from the beginning.  We aren’t asking Alexa to tackle the big problems, just to turn the lights on and off.

We are turning our people into things in our workplace.  We are allowing it to happen.  It is being caused by our environments and our leaders.

All too often we treat our people like vending machines.  Like job descriptions.  We make them feel invisible.  We don’t see them or hear them unless we need something from them.  Do this, do that. We don’t see them as individuals, but we so need to do so.

Go on any company website.  They will all say the same sort of thing about their values. About how they are diverse and inclusive.  That want people to feel engaged. They want innovative thinking.  We have a great working environment at our place.

These are supposed to illustrate what it is like to be in our organisations.  As people who work with people, we have to maintain some congruence between the rhetoric of our statements and the reality.  How many people believe their company values – research suggests about 27%.  For many, the promise and the experience are disparate.

If we are in a relationship with someone and the lie to us, we leave.  If we promise values, experience, but then do not deliver, people will move on.

We have values, but then allow people to behave like jerks and not live them. We allow people to poison these values. If managers allow or create toxic environments, we will remember, we will not forgive them.

HR must be the custodian. We have organisations that are saying the right things, now it is time to make sure we live up to them.

Right now, disruption roars around us.  Leaders that roar should be resisted. It is tempting at times of disruption to look to autocrats, people who a strong, give orders. There are still too many people like this in senior positions.

You are more powerful in HR than you think. People may want to put you in your place. We may think that our actions are inconsequential.  This isn’t so. People will look to us to set the tone and live the values in our organisation.  We have a dual responsibility to not only do our jobs but deliver the promised experience.

Because no one will work for someone that lies to them.  This is how we reverse the trend of low productivity, low engagement.  We have to do this all the time.

We cannot predict and prepare for the important moments.  We cannot always see them coming, we do not even always know when they happen until after they have gone. We must always be vigilant and mindful.

We must always make time to connect with people.  Give them moments of our time.  Human connection is what will make us thrive, not policy and procedure.  Whether we see each other as real people.  We must demand it of ourselves and our colleagues, all the time.

I loved this session.  It was delivered with humour and style, and personal reflection. There were no slides (I love this).  There is nothing to disagree with.

In HR we have a unique position. We can create the culture.  We might not always think that we can, but we do have influence – perhaps in ways we do not always appreciate.  Whatever our context and situation, whatever our organisational power, there is something else that we can do – we can role model.  I know it is a cliché, but we can truly be the change that we want to see – at work if not in the whole world.  Even if the people around us don’t live the values, we can. Even if the people around us don’t uphold an ethical approach, we can.   Whether we realise it or not, people will look to us, will see our shadow.

If I didn’t believe these things, then I wouldn’t do the work that I do.

It is also a cliché to talk about putting the human into human resources.  But after listening to this talk, it doesn’t suddenly feel quite so stale.

This is a live blog post. Please ignore any typos!

 

Back to Human #CIPDACE

I’m at the CIPD conference listening to author Dan Schawbel. He’s talking about how technology has created the illusion that we are connected at work, but, while useful, virtual communication has contributed to a greater sense of isolation than ever before.

Now as a social media enthusiast I instinctively dislike this suggestion.  Social media is where I met my partner and some of my very favourite people.  It is where I found my tribe, my community of practice, my PLN.  I passionately believe in the power of technology to connect us at work and beyond, regardless of geography, access, timezones.

So…. will I like when he has to say?

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Dan argues:

The illusion of connection is that we are forming strong bonds but they are weak ties. Voice is gone, you have to send a text message.  We look at our phones every 12 minutes (Note from me- nah, more than that). Technology and apps and devices are designed to get us addicted. The more we use them, the more we tap our phones, the more money organisations make.

Half of Americans would rather break a bone than their phone. Technology is a double edged sword. We need to know when, where and how to use it.  We need to ensure we aren’t overusing it.  If you are in a meeting or a social event and looking at your phone, you are not present.  You are physically there but not in any other way.  So why did you bother showing up? Do you panic if you have no mobile signal? We miss moments as we are so busy posting pictures on Instagram or Facebook, looking for likes from people who aren’t there, that we might not even like.

Not having your phone is the new vacation.  We are lacking human connection.

Remote working is something that is increasing.  We talk about benefits of it, but not the dark side.  We can save on commuting costs and time.  It is the most desired benefit – but at the same time this privilege to work wherever we want has come with its inbuilt issues.  Remote working can impact team commitment and connection.

We are addicted to email. We would rather send an email than talk to people. (Note from me – yes, I would. Don’t ring me).

You can have a lot of Facebook friends, but are they real friends, or are we lonely?

Work is impacting our life.  We need to recognise people as people and not workers – and this is going to become even more important as the technology in our work and lives increases.

We need to integrate our lives with our work.

Social integration is important, but we are removing it from our society.  Consider self service checkouts.  We don’t have to engage with another human being.

With all the talk about technology taking over jobs, what matters is our humanity – what makes you, you.  Use technology where it appropriate, but stick to being human.

There are four key employee engagement factors that relate to each other.  The first one is trust.  The second is belonging – people want to feel that they belong at work.  Third is purpose – people need a reason to go to work every day.  Finally, happiness.  Without these factors this is not a healthy environment.

People want to bring their full selves into the workplace, and we have to meet them where we are.  We need to get back to human.

 

I just don’t know how I feel about this whole session……..  I get that we need breaks from work.  I get that technology can be as problematic as it is freeing and positive.  But I have genuinely never felt the need for a digital detox.  My phone is where my friends are, where I connect, learn and engage with people I wish I could see more but can’t.  It is the place where I see my beautiful god-daughter every day, even though she is geographically far away.

For me, it isn’t the technology but how we use it.  We do have agency and choice.  Remote working doesn’t have to mean working from home everyday, not connecting with others.  It can be part of a mix.  Technology doesn’t have to prevent communication and discussion, but facilitate it.  Being in the office can also be isolating, depending on where and how you work.

So much of this is contextual.  What works for one person, doesn’t work for everyone.  not everyone needs or wants work friendships.  Not everyone has a lot of transactional Facebook friends.

For some of us (e.g. me) chatting to my friends in my social spaces, through my phone, makes me happy.

Using technology doesn’t mean we aren’t empathic.  It doesn’t mean we can’t bring our whole self to work.

This stuff is undoubtedly complex.  Late night and weekend emailing can be pressuring, damaging to health, indicative of problematic organisational culture.  It could be that someone is working flexibly at a time that works for them, when they feel most energised.  What we need to do is empower people.  To turn off the tech when they need to.  To work when and how they need to, but at the same time tell others that this doesn’t mean that they need to do the same.  If your phone and the technology isn’t serving you well, put it down.  You have choice.  I don’t want me emails to be automatically deleted because I am on holiday, or my colleagues to be banned from emailing me out of hours – I am an adult.  And that just perpetuates the idea that there are ‘normal’ working hours rather than recognising that a healthy, balanced approach might mean I can work when it works for me.

Connect in person. Connect virtually.  Both, for me, are human.

Reflect.

Put down your phone if you need to. And if you don’t feel that you have a problem, then proceed as you were.

This is a live blog.  Please ignore any typos!

 

CPD and HR #CIPDACE

I’ve attended a focus group this afternoon, looking at CPD support for the profession. The focus group asked us what support we would like the CIPD to provide to members.  We talked too about whether any learning should be mandated, what are the barriers to CPD, whether CPD should be recognised and what, if any, consequences should be if people just don’t bother.  All good questions – but one that is being asked to an already engaged audience.

This is a soapbox moment for me.  I get hugely frustrated with HR professionals who don’t seek to develop themselves. Our work, our context, our understanding about people, is constantly evolving.  And so should we be.  This isn’t the sort of profession where you can learn something on a course and it will still be working for you a decade later.

CPD should not be an optional extra. I still meet HR people (I deliberately didn’t use the word ‘professional’) who don’t do any learning.  They almost take pride in the pile of unread magazines on their office table.  To refuse to learn, is a form of arrogance.

I don’t buy ‘I don’t have time’.  We all find time for the things we really want to do.  That is why there are more people in the gym than the pub.

Whilst I am writing this from a conference, you don’t have to do that thing if it’s not your thing. Read books, blogs, journals, articles.  Get on Twitter and follow some thought leaders, join a Twitter chat, lurk and learn.  Listen to a podcast.  Go to an employment law update, a local CIPD event, or just watch a Ted Talk.  Just do something.

We have a responsibility to our profession and our organisations to continually learn, in order to be the best HR professional that we can be.

Opinionated?  Me?

I’m not even sorry.

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The Currency of Trust

I’m at the CIPD conference, listening to Rachel Botsman talking about the new era of trust, and why it is key for success.

She argues that the way we engage with each other, they way we do business, has radically changed over the last decade.  Aided by digital platforms we rely on others, often strangers, to help us make decisions.

Do you read product reviews? Check out the star ratings? Visit restaurant or hotel review sites?  Check out employers on Glassdoor?

We don’t know these people.  But we follow the comments of the crowd.

Botsman tells us that this new era of trust means more accountability for businesses- and we need to embed trust in our organisational DNA.

Here are her key points about why trust is any organisation’s most valuable asset.

Trust has become one of those words, like innovation and disruption, that people are using a lot. But what does it mean? How can we think about trust?

Who do you trust? What companies? Which people?

Trust is highly contextual. Trust people to do what? When we think about whether we trust someone or something, what do we really mean?

When we think about trust in companies, trust means different things.  Do we trust that they will deliver a product on time, or that they treat their employees well?

We all use trust signals.  Signs or symbols that help us decide whether someone is trustworthy.  Of course some signals are louder than others.  The trust gap – when we think we have enough information to make a decision, we have an illusion of information.  This can be dangerous.  We make decisions on poor information.  Can technology help us solve this problem, or does it magnify it?

How can we make smarter trust decisions?  Trust is a health issue. If you have experienced a breach of trust, it can be very damaging.  We see this in organisations too – low trust organisations that are also low performing.

Trust is a continuous process.  Organisations say that they have trust as a value.  Can trust ever be a value?  Trust is a human feeling.  A continuous process that happens between people.  It’s not a question of having it and always having it.

Organisations say that they want to build trust.  You can’t.  You have to earn it by continuously demonstrating that you are worthy of it.

We make allsorts of mistakes when it comes to trust.  We live in a culture in which there is trust on speed. We swipe to accept connections, order an Uber, arrange a date.  This is now being baked into the design of services.

In some many parts of our lives we are automating trust.  We give away our trust to technology.  But trust cannot be automated; it is a human process.  Efficiency can be the enemy of trust.  We can mistake convenience for trust.  Trust is the currency of interactions.

A trust leap is a mental model. What are we doing when we ask people to try a new service or product – taking a leap in trust. Leaps are a conduit for new ideas to travel.  When we see that enough people have benefited from a trust leap, others quickly follow.  They pull people from an unknown place to a known one.  We have been taking trust leaps since the beginning of time.  In our jobs and our lives, we are being asked to take leaps all the time.  This can mean we feel exhausted or even anxious.  We are leaping at a speed we have never known before.  We ask people to take trust leaps at work – use a new system, believe a new leader, try a new way of working.  How does this make people feel? Change programme can fail because we fail to recognise that we are asking them to make a trust leap – it is a genuinely scary place to be.

When we ask people to trust us, we assume that other people are in the same trust place that we are.  When we ask people to trust there are two variables.  There is known, and unknown.  The line in between is risk. Risk is exposure to uncertainty with a possibility of loss that matters.

Trust is a confident relationship with the unknown.  When we see it through this lens we can see why it is so important when it comes to change in particular.  To trust we are also vulnerable.  It is a mixture of our highest hopes and deepest fears.  This is why it hurts so much when it breaks down.

Often, people want to build trust through grand gestures.  But it is built in the smallest of moments, every day.  It is not an enormous Christmas present but our on-going actions.

Can you measure trust in an organisations? It’s difficult.  We all have a trust batter – it can be charged or drained.  It is said that you can build trust through transparency.  It is a common narrative – but is it really a common cure?  If we see trust as a confident relationship with the unknown, this isn’t necessarily true.  Trust and transparency are not mutually dependant.  If you need everything to be transparent – you have to some extent given up on trust.  Disclosure and openness are good things – but if everything has to be transparent then you are reducing the need for trust.  We need to think more about this relationship.  More transparency does not create more trust.  (Note from Gem- it sounds a bit like making your OH take a lie detector test on the Jeremy Kyle show to see if you can trust them – you can always rely on me for a highbrow reference). 

So if transparency isn’t the thing, how do we increase trustworthiness.  There are four traits; competence, reliability, integrity, benevolence.  The first two are ‘how’.  The second two are about the why.

When we are in a culture of growth and efficiency, when technology is moving at pace – how do we then achieve integrity at scale. We can all play a critical role. It isn’t about the grand gestures that we make, but our everyday actions.  This is how we will build trust.  Each time we play this role, we are acting to preserve the most precious and valuable asset: trust.

 

This is a live blog from the CIPD annual conference.  Please excuse any typos! 

 

 

The Guide on the Side #CIPDACE

I remember the days before social media. Yes, I am that old.

Back in the day, networking and CPD mostly meant attending an evening or breakfast event, with people who lived not too far away from the venue. Tea and coffee on arrival (a bacon buttie if you were lucky), and then a presentation, an update, a case study.  A space for some Q&A, and then a little mingling.  There are still plenty of these such events, and very good some of them are too.

But they can be limited and limiting. Fixed timings, geographical constraints, speaker and slide driven.  If we apply the 70:20:10 model, this sort of event is firmly in the 10%. Social media has changed how we connect and how we learn.  It has changed events conferences too.  Conferences have the same elements of those traditional methods of imparting learning and information, following the model we know from schools and universities.  Someone, with a particular knowledge or skill set, stands at the front of the room holding the authority.  They share what they know or what they have done.  They are often described as the ‘sage on the stage’.

This is problematic in a number of ways. Setting aside issues such as access, we know this isn’t really how we learn – and nor do we have to.  Technology and digital communication have changed the game.  It’s said that the sage on the stage is giving way to the ‘guide on the side’.  In a classroom environment this is a facilitation style where the guide helps students or delegates discover knowledge, signposts and supports exploration and discussion, steering people to content.  Encouraging independent thought and analysis.

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When it comes to conferences and events, this is a role often fulfilled by a blog squad. A team of guides on the side, commenting, sharing, provoking, signposting.  Generating discussion outside of the formal structures.  Creating the back channel, an alternative space for learning.  Not constrained by geography.  Few barriers to entry.  Helping others to learn as we learn in life – on the move, on our devices, in the 70%.

This week, I’ll be a guide on the side for the CIPD annual conference and event.  The hashtag is #CIPDACE.  I’ll be joined in creating and curating by a lovely lot of tweeters and bloggers.  Let’s get together in this virtual place and share.  See you there?

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#CIPDNAP17 – it’s all about the experience

This week I am volunteering at the CIPD Northern Area Partnership conference. It’s my favourite event of the year, and it is privilege to be part of the organising committee.

Why do I think the NAP conference is so special?

A few reasons.  First of all, the conference is run entirely by volunteers, for other HR professionals.  The aim behind the very small organising committee is simple: create a great couple of days at a reasonable price.  It isn’t about making a profit, it’s about learning and connecting and sharing.

I love NAP because the delegates love it. Every year people tell us that it’s the best conference they go to.  And that is why we do it.  It is why the speakers give their time, for free.

Of course it also gives me the opportunity to go back to beautiful Yorkshire. And, if I am honest, there is wine and dancing and laughing and friends.

So very early Friday morning you will find me putting up signs and helping exhibitors and handing out name badges and tweeting and running a fringe session and sorting out slide decks and making sure that the sweet stand is full (it’s a tough job but someone has to do it) and any of the other many, many things that need doing before the delegates arrive and the learning begins.

The subject of the conference this year is employee experience. There’s a reason that we picked this subject over employee engagement.  Everyone wants engaged employees. It’s a given.  A look through the theory will tell you the stuff that drives it.  Allegedly, it’s all about having organisational integrity, inspiring leaders, an organisational narrative, strong employee voice.

So far, so good.

There is other stuff too. It’s in the day to day. Engagement can be about big programmes, projects and initiatives.  But it’s all the little things too.  The individual employee experience.

The emails sent to the candidate in the application process.

The welcome on day one.

The food in the canteen.

The thought put into induction.

The office environment people are expected to work in.

The policies and procedures that must be adhered to.

The tools provided to do the job.

The quality of the conversation with the manager.

The training courses.

The internal communications issued.

Every interaction. Every day.

Real stuff.  Stuff that can be worked on.  Every day.

 

This blog is a thank you to every that is coming this year to speak, to facilitate, to volunteer. To talk about employee experience from a whole range of perspectives. Thank you to everyone that is giving their time to help others learn.

If you can’t make it, follow the hashtag on Twitter for all the commentary and blogs > #cipdnap17 

And if you are coming…. I’ll see you on the dancefloor!

 

Reflections on #cipdACE16

I’ve spent the last two days at the CIPD annual conference as part of the blogsquad.  The theme this year was ‘Shaping the Future of Work’.

Future was the word of the event.  The future of learning, of technology, of jobs and skills.  The future of work.  Of leadership. The responses and the preparations we need to make.  Making meaning of the trends and the possibilities.

My reflections from the event……

As I’ve already said in an earlier post, and indeed was echoed by some of the speakers, the future isn’t all that easy to predict.  We can try, but as Margaret Heffernan noted in the opening keynote, the lifetime of a business plan now is around two years now.  There is stuff that can be said to be known, and far too much that is unknown to make planning any further out unreliable.

Predictions we can make? There will be more technology.  Much more.  Still increased computing power.  AI.  Automation. Robots. More self employment / gig economy type stuff. Social media will continue to rise and rise.  The consumer experience, the working experience, the way we live our daily lives will continue to change.

And stay the same.

For the technology will be adopted at different paces, for both individuals and organisations alike. You know the curve.  And even with all the technology that we will have available to us, for all the changes we may see in the labour market, work is essentially, and will remain, a human endeavour.  It is people stuff.  It is also, as noted by the closing keynote speaker Gianpiero Petriglieri, it is how we define ourselves.

During the event I was asked by the folks at DPG what HR can do to help shape the future of work.

My answer? Whilst we can and should embrace the technology that is both available right now and will come along in due course, we must remember that first and foremost we are about people. A key role for HR, today and tomorrow, is helping our organisations and people navigate the future, whatever it looks like.  Learn the skills, adapt and respond.  Because we all know what happens to those that cannot.

It is important for us as HR professionals to think about and prepare for the future of work.  This is how we make ourselves and our organisations capable of surviving and thriving, today and tomorrow. But it goes without saying we need to pay attention to the now too.  Because there is much that needs to be done today in the world of work.

One of the sessions I attended during the conference was around the principles that the CIPD are developing for our profession.  During the session we talked about how work should be a force for good – but often it is not.

Our challenge in HR is the future, but it is also the now.

Better work, better working lives.  Today and tomorrow.