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.

compass

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?

robot

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.

learn.jpg

Bullying and Harassment – what would you do? #CIPDACE

Dealing with bullying and harassment has always been part of the not so nice side of working in HR.  We all know this stuff happens.  But we are hearing more and more stories, more and more people coming forward and saying…. this happened to me.

me too

There isn’t always a clear cut way to deal with any particular situation – and the HR role isn’t always an easy one. How should we approach issues that are raised?  How best to investigate? Should we show zero tolerance or be more lenient?  How can we balance the needs of individuals and organisations?

In this conference session we are exploring a scenario to ‘flex our ethical muscles’.  We are being led by Kate Griffiths-Lambeth, Inji Duducu and Julie Denis.

We discuss and debate a fictional case study.

How do we approach situations where there are no witnesses?  Because there so often aren’t.  How do we best support both the individual raising concerns and the individual to whom the allegations are addressed? Both have needs whilst a process is on-going.  How do we preserve the reputation or the organisation – is radical transparency the way forward – or should we be in protection mode?  How do we identify cultures where bullying and harassment are the norm – are they obvious, hiding in plain sight where many people know what is going on and keep the silence, or are they under the radar?  Where is the line between robust performance management and bullying? And just what is the role of HR in all of this?

The issue of the NDA comes up, something that has been in the press of late.  Should we use them, or are they just a tool that a serial harasser can hide behind?

Inji makes an important point.  So many cases are essentially one version of events is positioned against another.  This is where detailed, specific training is of benefit.  To help you be as thorough as possible, to look for that important, nuanced detail.

Julie Dennis tells us that what happens in one specific investigation is just part of the story.  It is also what you do afterwards, and the extent to which you publically state your intentions, set your organisational standards and address inappropriate behaviour when it is identified.

For what they are worth, here are my thoughts.

There are no easy answers to this stuff.  Cases are rarely clear cut.

We are fundamentally talking about culture, and power.  Hard to change, hard to challenge.

Coming forward is hard. Bringing a complaint, going through the formal process, harder still.  For this reason, it isn’t just the accused that can sometimes welcome a settlement agreement.

In HR, we can come under pressure to make this stuff go away.  To clear it up. Prioritise the business.  The easy option is to comply – it’s not just those who are on the receiving end of inappropriate behaviour that are fearful about standing up – HR can be too.  In those cases that have hit the headlines, behind the high profile, accused individual is probably a HR person sorting out the detail – and lots of other people who know what is really going on.

At the same time, we are often the people that know when there is a problem in this space.  We see the attrition and sickness data, we hear the rumours.  People ask if they can talk to us ‘in confidence’.

As HR professionals, we have a duty of care when we do what we do.  As Inji says, it is our job to get to the truth – even though this can sometimes be easier said than done.

Our job is to be fair, reasonable, impartial.  Our job is to advise and guide the organisation, and make sure that process stuff gets done properly.  I also believe it is our job to stand up.  Stand up and speak up. Zero tolerance.  Call out the inappropriate behaviour, the banter, the person that think’s it is okay to misuse their power. For that is how we affect real change.  How we make a real difference.

This is how we move from Me Too to No More.

This is a live blog from the CIPD Conference.  Please ignore any typos.

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! 

 

 

Don’t be like Dave

During one of my interim contracts a little while back, I was introduced to a HR Partner. Let’s call him Dave.

Before I met Dave for myself, I was firmly told Dave was great at his job. He was a well thought of HR Partner, valued by the management teams he supported.  He was always at his desk by 7am and his phone was ringing straight away.  His management team knew that they could rely on him to be there. Dave was in the office until late every day, putting himself out for his client group.

Dave was great.

clock

Sooooo…… lets unpick that a little.

First of all, let’s look at that definition of great. Sometimes, HR people are valued because they are innovative, bring good challenge, are highly knowledgeable, credible and professional – they work as true partners. Sometimes they are well liked because they, let’s face it, do other people’s jobs for them.  Very early in my career I received a complaint about my attitude – because I refused to tell an employee that they had a body odour problem and told the manager it was his job to do it.  So great might mean great….. or it might mean you need to answer your phone at 7am because the managers re over reliant on you.

When I hear about someone working very long hours on a regular basis, I want to know why. There are a few possible reasons, in my experience.  There might be a workload or resourcing issue – they simply have too much to do.  They might be struggling or have a learning or development need.  Maybe they are finding it difficult to manage their time.  They might be, as in one situation I have known, avoiding going home.  It could be cultural – this is what gets recognised, valued and rewarded, and hence this is how you climb the corporate ladder.  As one cynical FD I used to work with commented, they might also be covering something up.  In the case of HR in particular, it could be that the managers within the organisation aren’t enabled to make decisions – or aren’t sufficiently capable.  Instead they are deferring to HR, avoiding their responsibilities, or they simply don’t know how to do them.

There are many reasons that contribute to individuals working long hours. ‘Great’ is rarely one of them.  It’s our skewed perceptions of work and commitment that contribute to this belief.

We need to decouple work from being in an office, working well from working long hours.  These are organisational beliefs, not truths.

 

It’s that time again…. #cipdace

It’s nearly that time of year again. That time when the great and good of the HR world descend on Manchester to attend the annual CIPD shindig.  There will be learning, networking and probably, cupcakes.

To be honest, if there aren’t cupcakes then I’ll be making a formal complaint to Peter Cheese.

cake

I’ve taken the opportunity to do a roundup of the best free and fringe bits over the two days.

Free events:

Tuesday pre event networking evening: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/culture-club-pre-cipd-networking-event-manchester-tickets-50168092114?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

Tuesday evening – LGBT event – how to make your workforce more inclusive. https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/creating-an-lgbt-inclusive-organisation-cipd-lgbt-social-2018-registration-48834560485?aff=efbevent This one includes nibbles and drinks (no specific mention of cupcakes, please check with the event organiser if this is as critical to you as it is to me).

Wednesday evening – event on race at work https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/embraceace-drinks-reception-tickets-49288822194?ref=eios&aff=eios with a promise of canapes.

Thursday morning – Fringe event on flexible working   https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/making-flexibility-a-reality-for-all-breakfast-camp-cipd-ace-2018-tickets-50684184761?aff=ebdssbdestsearch Note – this one includes breakfast and is being delivered by yours truly and the super awesome Rachel Burnham.

Exhibition

Anyone can just go and walk round the exhibition and go to the free learning sessions.  Register here. 

There’s some great stuff on the free learning programme – day one and day two alike.

I hope to see you there in November.  And if you see any cupcakes as you make your way around….. make sure you let me know.