A year in (book) review

At the beginning of 2018, I set myself a target to read 100 books. I can’t for the life of me remember why.  I didn’t make the number.  I did read 65 (and 1/3) though, which isn’t too bad.  For completeness, I also read 52 editions of Take a Break magazine, quite a lot about learning theory for my post graduate course, and a large amount of children’s books (aloud as bedtime stories, I’m not weird).


The books have been, as ever, a real mix. Some serious stuff, some HR related stuff, some fitness stuff and some utter beachside romantic trash.  But I thought maybe someone out there (hi Mum) might be interested in a few recommendations.  So out of everything I read this year, these were my favourites.

Eve Was Shamed, Helena Kennedy

I read Eve Was Framed whilst at University, at the age of 20. It had a significant impact on me, and how I viewed the world.  It made me a feminist.  I was then thrilled to find that Helena Kennedy had written a follow up book.  This is the story about how British justice is failing women. It is brilliant, depressing and frightening.  I cannot recommend it more highly.

Deeds Not Words – the story of women’s rights then and now, Helen Pankhurst

The title says it all. A journey from the suffragettes to #metoo. A historical perspective as well as a call to action.  Statistics, quotes, facts.  Another great read (I may be saying this a lot).

The Elemental Workplace, Neil Usher.

I am a fan of everything Neil Usher writes, so this was always going to be a favourite. The impact of the physical space and place in which people work, in my humble opinion, is all too often overlooked by HR professionals.  It shouldn’t be.  This book is a must read for anyone who works in HR.

The Angry Chef, Anthony Warner

When I am not doing HR or social media stuff, I am also a Personal Trainer and Wellbeing Coach. I have a keen interest in diet and fitness BS, of which there is plenty.  This is a brilliant take down of much of it.  Never go on a diet regime or start an eating plan without reading this.

The Wonder Stuff Diaries (Vol 1), Miles Hunt

I love the Wonder Stuff. Their music is wrapped around my life.  So I thoroughly enjoyed this insight into the early years of the band based on the diaries of lead singer Miles.  I’m already onto Volume 2 which is just as good, and taking me on a trip down memory lane.

In Your Defence – Stories of Life and Law, Sarah Langford

A criminal law barrister, Sarah Langford describes some of her real life cases and the real people behind the legal processes. Beautifully written with both humour and compassion for the people involved in the stories.

Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken, the Secret Barrister.

I guess if you haven’t heard of this you have been living under a rock. This should be read by pretty much everyone.

Born to Run, Christopher McDougall

I do love a fitness book. To read the stories of others who have achieved amazing things with their bodies is inspirational.  This one is about the ultra runners.  Those folks that run unbelievable distances, putting their bodies under extreme pressure.  I’m never going to be one of those people, but I can marvel at them from the sofa.

Hired – Six Months in Low Wage Britain, James Bloodworth

This is another of those books that HR professionals ought to read, but that also should make each of us reflect as consumers. What does it mean, for the person at the other end of the process, when we click ‘buy’ on our Amazon order?  What is it really like to try and make a living driving an Uber?  And what is it like to not know where the next pay cheque or gig is coming from?  A sobering read.

Feminist Fight Club, Jessica Bennett

A survival manual for a sexist workplace (and world). Funny, thought provoking and practical.  If you work and you are a woman there is something in here for you.

Columbo – Seasons Greetings

This is a late addition, the final book I completed this year. Columbo is my guilty pleasure.  My wonderful OH tracked this down in a rare book store.  Written in 1972 and being very much of its time, this provided an amusing Boxing Day afternoon – but let’s just say the author could have benefit from a little bit more of the feminist reading I’ve covered…..

This is the first time I have kept a list of the books that I’ve read over a time period.  It has been interesting to go back – some of them I can’t recall at all, others have taught me new things, others have moved me.  There is already a 2019 stack by the side of my bed.  See you next year……

Working from Work

As a result of recent inclement weather, we have a number of questions in relation to Working from Work, and would like to take the opportunity to clarify our position.

The Company recognises that employees may find it beneficial to work from a range of locations including (but not limited to) their home, with customers or clients or at co-working spaces. From time to time they may also wish to Work from Work.  We recognise that some managers are concerned about staff working from work on a regular basis.  This FAQs may assist you.

Will staff who work from work spend their time chatting in the kitchen or around the water cooler?

Most staff can be trusted to responsibly work from work. Where issues arise relating to performance or productivity, these should be raised as quickly as possible, providing specific examples.

Isn’t working from work just for people without children or caring responsibilities?

Anyone may want to work from work. Although working from work may suit some groups as a result of their personal situation, our Working from Work Policy applies to all staff.

If I allow staff to work from work, won’t I have to say yes to other people that also want to work from work?

Allowing staff to work from work does not automatically mean that you will have to allow other staff to work from work. You should use your discretion based on operational requirements.

Will productivity reduce if too many staff work from work, as a result of all the meetings?

Unnecessary, boring and overlong meetings can be a consequence of working from work. As a manager, it is your responsibility to ensure that working from work does not amount to a distraction from actual work.

Isn’t all the unnecessary commuting detrimental to staff who work from work?

Yes, it can be. However we have an excellent corporate wellbeing progamme involving free fruit that will help off-set this.

How do I know if staff who are working from work are really working if I sit in a different office?

You can’t monitor every individual in the office all the time. Set clear objectives for working from work staff and monitor them as you would anyone else who works for you.

How should I manage work from work staff?

Recognise that working from work staff are just like everyone else, only they don’t get to watch Homes Under the Hammer.

Isn’t work something that you do, rather than a place that you go?



PS – I totally stole the idea for this blog post from a spoof email that I saw yesterday but can’t attribute.  If anyone things I have plagiarised I will remove it.





The Alternative Policy Guide

Today, my friends at the HR Magazine held an event where you could pitch to put something in HR Room 101.  Policies featured heavily.  So, just for fun, is my alternative HR policy guide, entitled…..

Don’t be an arse at work. 

Disciplinary Policy – Don’t behave like an arse.

Social Media Policy – Don’t tweet like an arse.

Equality Policy – Don’t treat people like an arse based on who they are.

Car Policy – Don’t drive like an arse.

Data Protection Policy – Don’t behave like an arse with personal data.

Dress Code – Don’t dress like an arse at work.

Homeworking Policy – Don’t be an arse when you should be working. (Includes watching ‘Homes Under the Hammer’.)

Recruitment Policy – Don’t treat candidates like an arse.

Harassment Policy – Don’t be a total arse.

Internet Policy – Don’t go on sites that show arses.



I think it could catch on. 

Please add to the list as you see fit……..

Be More Awesome

be awesome.png

I am partial to the word awesome. There is even a warning in my Twitter bio to this effect.  Yesterday I saw a postcard that said; be awesome or don’t bother. I’m not entirely sure about the don’t bother part, but I did get to thinking…… what is the people stuff version of this little statement?

Be awesome…. Be more HR awesome.

Some ideas from me on that……

Promise to never again use the phrase ‘it might set a precedent’.

Promise also never to introduce something because Google did.  Or some place very similar.

Review all those standard letters that you send people with the eyes of a recipient. How would they make you feel and what do they say about your department?  Change as appropriate.

Delete probation periods from your contracts of employments. You know they are kind of pointless so why bother?

Put the coffee machine on free vend for a while. What would it cost you anyway?

Apply for a job at your own company. Think about how the process made you feel. Change as appropriate.

Smile at people. (Try not to scare them).

Do a random act of kindness. Anything that takes your fancy.

Hold a Fika. Invite other teams to join you. It is, erm, awesome.

Let your team go home early.

Send a thank you card. Make thank you cards available for anyone to come and take and send.

Buy Crunchies on a Friday. Because, you know.

Go out and buy a load of plants for the office. Green it up.

Find out what websites you block on the corporate network for no good reason and go and talk to IT and see if they will change their minds.

Celebrate National Donut Week. Yes this is really a thing.  And it is next week.

Find an employment policy that states the bleeding obvious and delete it. See if anyone notices.

Have your next meeting outside, or go for a walk while you are talking.

Talk to all of the people who have joined your organisation in the last six months. Ask them what it was like and what would have made it better for them.  Amend as appropriate.

Go onto your internal social media network and share something useful or interesting that other people might learn from.

Do some wellbeing stuff. Anything. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Let your people know that you give a damn about them outside of whether or not they hit their KPI.

Little things add up to big awesome. Over to you……

What is the most awesome thing you can do today, at your place?


In other news, on Sunday I am running Leeds Half Marathon in aid of Retrak Charity – their mission is a world where no child has to live on the streets.  If you fancy it, you can sponsor me here.

HR Lessons from A Christmas Carol.

A review of the seasonal classic, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, has many parallels with, and lessons for, HR work and HR professionals.  In fact, had he lived today, it is highly likely that Dickens would have been a member of the CIPD. Let us now turn to the text, to see what it teaches us.

First of all, it is clear that Scrooge was not a Living Wage employer.  It is also evident that he lacked even a basic understanding of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, in that he failed to address the key hygiene issues of his direct reports by failing to provide adequate heat or light in the office environment.  Although we have no evidence either way, it could be assumed based on the provision of only one candle, that the workplace failed to meet minimum temperature requirements or that Scrooge was contributing to the Workplace Pension.

From a reward perspective, Scrooge appears to be paying at best, lower quartile wages.  He is also only offering one day of paid annual leave per annum (Christmas Day), and even that reluctantly, referring in the text to his ‘pocket being picked’ every 25th December.  Clearly, under current legislation, this would be a breach of the Working Time Regulations.

Despite these factors, Scrooge has yet to see any real impact on employee retention; it could be inferred however that this is a result of a depressed labour market rather than indicative of high levels of employee engagement or sense of meaning and purpose from the work undertaken.

It is unclear whether or not Bob Cratchit ever attempted to improve his working conditions in any way.  However, even if he had, it is unlikely that Scrooge would have recognised a trade union for the purposes of negotiation.  For Bob, a wage of 15 shillings week, bringing action in the Employment Tribunal would be cost prohibitive on account of the fees payable to do so.  Bob’s position therefore is weak, and is indicative of the power imbalance that exists within the typical employment relationship.

During the course of the story, Scrooge is visited by three ghosts.  There are clear workplace lessons from each.

The ghost of Christmas past could be taken to symbolise the shadow of the leader, and the extent to which past events within an organisational culture can shape current beliefs and behaviours.

The ghost of Christmas present reflects the importance of being in the here and now, highlighted by the current trend towards mindfulness practice in the workplace.

When Dickens references the ghost of Christmas yet to come, it is clear he has the future of work in mind.  Like those organisations that have been unable to adapt to changing circumstances, Scrooge is shown his own future death, as some famous organisations and brands have too died in recent years.  This demonstrates the extent to which true change and disruption is necessary for survival for us all, even money lenders.  Indeed, money lending itself now is being disrupted, with the Uberification of the market through the use of Apps to borrow short term cash.   The later images of Scrooge’s own tombstone is also likely to be a reference by Dickens to the War for Talent.

If I was advising Scrooge on his people strategy and HR matters, I would suggest the following:

  • Following his conversion, Scrooge cancelled the debts of those to whom he had lent money. In the future, he could consider developing this into a formal CSR strategy.
  • To further support Scrooge’s increased levels of personal happiness following his meetings with the ghosts, he may wish to peruse further the field of positive psychology. In particular, he may benefit from keeping a gratitude journal, or developing the habit of recording three good things each day.
  • We know that Scrooge gave Bob Cratchit a considerable pay increment on Boxing Day. The impact of a pay review wears of quickly, so Scrooge should consider formalising a reward and recognition strategy to ensure continued high employment engagement. After this is implemented, regular checks should be conducted through an annual employee engagement survey.
  • In terms of Scrooge himself, he is now demonstrating traits of authentic leadership and taking this real self to work. To continue his own leadership journey, he may find it valuable to build on this through undertaking a 360 degree survey.

Just for seasonal silliness….Thanks for reading my blog this year, see you in 2016!


Christmas Party Policy

It is nearly that time of year again. When we in HR have to start worrying about whether our employees will be able to behave themselves, once the Christmas spirit takes hold (or is consumed). So I thought I would help out my fellow HR folks, and share an example of a best practice policy you can use at your place, with my very best seasonal greetings.  That will save you having to read all the usual rubbish and clickbait that gets published in December.


Christmas Party Policy.

Policy Aims and Objectives

The aim of a Christmas party is to foster a greater sense of team spirit within the company, giving everyone the chance to meet and socialise in a relaxed, informal and enjoyable environment, and for the company to shows its appreciation to employees for their commitment and effort during the previous calendar year.

It is recognised however, that such events present a potential risk to employees and the organisation, and should be managed carefully. The aim of this policy is to provide guidance and support to both employees and managers attending the party in either capacity.

Separate guidance will be issued concerning other seasonal matters, namely, office decorations, suitable Secret Santa gifts and appropriate clothing for Christmas Jumper day.

Responsibilities and Behavioural Guidance

This section sets out the responsibilities of the respective parties.

The Company

  • Shall appoint an event co-ordinator to manage the party and oversee the behaviour of attendees at the event.
  • Will undertake a full risk assessment of the venue no later than one week in advance of the event. Any serious potential risks should be flagged to the Board for discussion.
  • Does not condone the excessive consumption of alcohol by any employee, up to and including the HR Director.
  • Respects the needs of employees that do not celebrate Christmas. Any reference to Christmas in this policy should therefore also be assumed to include any seasonal celebrations (hereby after referred to as ‘Winterval’) that might also take place during the month of December.
  • Shall issue formal guidelines to employees to ensure that everyone has an enjoyable time whilst exercising restrain in their behaviour towards colleagues and others.


Employees are hereby advised that when attending a Christmas celebration that they do so in the course of their employment, and as such all rules, including but not limited to, those set out in the employee handbook, company policies as displayed on the company intranet, and the contract of employment, remain in force at all times.

Furthermore, employees;

  • Must at all times behave in a friendly, respectful, civil and sensible manner towards their work colleagues. For avoidance of doubt, this includes the ones that they don’t like or who never take a turn to make the tea.
  • Must not flirt with other work colleagues unless it is clear that such conduct is welcomed. Employees may wish to gain written confirmation of the same before proceeding.  The HR department can provide a sample flirtation pro forma.
  • Will not photocopy any part of their anatomy using company equipment under any circumstances.
  • Should not under any circumstances vomit as a result of consuming excess alcohol. In the event this occurs, the company reserves the right to deduct monies from future salary payments to pay for any resulting dry cleaning requirements.   Attendance at the party will be taken to amount to agreeing deductions under the Wages Act for this purpose.
  • Should not be involved in brawling or fighting, attempted or otherwise, towards other colleagues, taxi drivers or staff of the venue in which the party takes place.
  • Should consume alcohol responsibly and for the avoidance of doubt should not get completely and utterly pissed / have to be carried out of the venue.
  • Will not use the Christmas party to address matters of pay and benefits with the CEO or any member of the HR Department.
  • Are hereby advised that if they agree to attend the company funded Christmas party but fail to attend, a sum of money equivalent to the cost of one turkey dinner and one mince pie (with brandy butter) will be deducted from their January salary payment.  The Company will not seek reimbursement for the cost of any sprouts provided, which it recognises are a fundamental Christmas requirement even if they are truly hideous.

Employees will be expected to sign the Christmas Party Attendance Agreement (see Appendix One) confirming that they understand what is required of them at the event in terms of appropriate behaviour and agreeing to act in accordance with all relevant HR policies at all times, including but not limited to, the Equality Policy, the Bullying and Harassment Policy, and the recently updated ‘No-Fun at Work Required’ Arrangements.


Employees are further advised that a serious breach of any company rules during the course of any Christmas celebrations may lead to disciplinary action in accordance with company policy, up to and including dismissal, following a reasonable investigation (as defined by BHS Ltd v Burchell). The company commits to following the ACAS code of practice at all times should such an eventuality arise.

All employees are hereby wished a very merry Christmas (or equivalent celebration) from the HR department.


Reasons to go to #CIPD15

It’s going to be awesome.

I’m going.

So are this lovely lot.

15 blog squad

There will probably be cupcakes. There had better be cupcakes. It isn’t a HR conference without a cupcake.

Speakers include top folks like Tim Scott, Sukh Pabial and Inji Duducu. And some other people too probably, in addition to my friends from Twitter.  More of that here.

There is a drinks reception at the end of day one. With wine. (Behind me in the queue everyone. Please note exhibitors – will tweet for fizz).

There will be conference swag. Stock up your stationery cupboard for free!

Quality Street and Celebrations will so prevalent in the exhibition, a world shortage could ensue.

You can try and get a selfie with Peter Cheese.

There will be some jolly good learning.  Actually, thinking about it, I probably should have put this higher up the list…..

See you there HR chums!