#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!

 

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.

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.

Dress like yourself

Thanks to the priorities of the leader of the Free World, dress codes are big news today.  According to reports there is a new dress code in force in the White House.  Men are supposed to be smart – that means ties.  Women are supposed to, well, dress like a woman.

I am guessing that means heels, dresses and the like.  I’m not sure why that’s essential for their jobs.  Maybe it’s to ensure that parts of them are easier to grab.

Dress codes have been news in the UK recently too, following a case where a female was sent home from work for refusing to wear high heels, as specified in her employer’s dress policy.

Dress codes bother me.

I get that if you are in a customer-facing role, where uniform and image are important, then you will want to issue some guidance.  But almost everyone has one.  Most companies have such a document, even for employees where it doesn’t matter a jot what they wear.

At my last company, I deleted our policy without telling anybody to see if anyone noticed.  They didn’t.  I suspect someone will, the next time an employee turns up for the 9-5 wearing someone else’s definition of non-acceptable clothing and rather than have a conversation with them adult to adult, they will want to wave a piece of paper instead.

I dislike dress codes for lots of reasons.

I dislike the very idea that you need to tell someone old enough to hold down a job and pay taxes what they can and cannot put on when they get out of bed in the morning.

Maybe I just dislike them because I am not very good at following them.  I don’t really get on very well with formal clothing.  I find suits and the like stifling.  I’m at my best self when I am pacing around, walking outside, sitting on my sofa and talking out loud.  None of these things work all that well with a pair of heels, or other “womanly” clothing.

But the thing I dislike most of all about dress codes is that they have, in most jobs, absolutely nothing at all to do with how someone performs at work.

Don’t judge people on what they wear, judge them on what they do. This is what we should care about – not the height of someones heels.

Out of Office?

This article gained some traction over the bank holiday weekend.  From 1st January, workers in France will have a so-called ‘right to disconnect’.  Companies with more than 50 employees will be obliged to draw up a code of conduct, expressly stating when employees are not required to answer their emails.

Now I am all for life work balance.  Equally too I believe in the importance of organisations taking wellbeing at work seriously.  But I am a little less convinced we should  legislate for it.

Legislation and employment policy have something in common.  If you need to write them, sometimes it means you have failed.

Here’s an example.  I heard of a manager who had spent thousands of pounds of his budget introducing a corporate uniform for a back office team that never came face to face with customers of visitors.  When I asked why, I was told that some of the employees in the team weren’t dressing appropriately for work.  So instead of talking to those few people and quickly sorting a problem, a dress code was written and communicated and expensive uniforms purchased and enforced.

Going back to the French example – if people are working late into the night, if people are checking their emails excessively, if people don’t have a healthy work life balance, then this isn’t about formal documents, it’s about your organisation culture.  Someone, somewhere, somehow, has said that this is expected.  Or at the very least tolerated.  Maybe there isn’t enough dialogue about wellbeing and balance in the organisation.  Maybe there aren’t enough resources to do the job properly.  But something is wrong and the starting point for addressing issues like these is rarely more policy, documents or legislation.  Instead these should only ever be a last resort.

We have all worked with one of those email people.  Who sends messages late at night, or at a silly time in the morning, or at the weekends.  Leading to everyone else jumping onto their emails to respond.  And so on.

This stuff spreads and it only takes one person to start it.  The more senior they are, the bigger the problem.

I often used to work in the evenings.  It suited my lifestyle, and I often found that if I went home at 5pm and let the day settle in my mind I’d have ideas or new insights whilst at home.  Sometimes they came in the shower or whilst in bed waiting for sleep.  Let’s face it, no one has their best ideas sitting at a desk in an open plan office.  But I made a conscious choice; I would write emails and leave them in my drafts file, ready to send in the morning, when no one in my team would be disturbed.

What we need isn’t even more written documents or employment policy.  Most companies have already got more than they need of that.

Legislation can help to change attitudes and beliefs.  But it is not a quick route to tackling bigger issues.  The Equal Pay Act tells you so.  More than 40 years on from the legislation, we are still waiting to see enough change is this space.

What we really need in the workplace in simple.

Less policy. More talking.

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What a candidate wants

It’s that time of year again, when organisations and people start to think about recruitment and job hunting.  A few years ago, after securing my last permanent position, I wrote about the candidate experience.  About how often, it leaves much to be desired.

On returning to the job market a few years on….  nothing much has changed.  More companies are doing good social stuff.  You can get an insight, to some extent, into an organisation’s culture through sites like Glassdoor, but that’s about all that is new.   Much of the bad stuff I experienced still seems to be hard wired into the system.

Applications that take hours to complete, pointlessly requiring you to type in information that is already available on a CV.  Systems that are supposed to upload the information from your CV into their database but which never work properly.  Poor communication.  Lack of any sort of real feedback.  Clunky Applicant Tracking Systems.  Entirely automated processes lacking any sort of human touch.

If you haven’t heard from us in 14 days……..

A black hole of applications and expectations.

The candidate experience is an opportunity.  It is your employer brand.  It is your opportunity to engage with someone who may come and work for you….  or certainly talk about you.  A consumer of your products or services perhaps.   It is the start of that thing we call the employment life cycle.  So why do so many get it so wrong?

Perhaps, in 2017, we could do better.  So here is what I think the candidate really wants.

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Candidates don’t want to have to create an account for your ATS.  Most likely, they want to apply for one job and only one job.

If you have a system candidates want it to be easy to use.

Candidates would like the ability to engage with the recruiter.  Just for question or two. A live chat, an email address or even a Twitter handle.

Candidates would really like their time not to be wasted by advertising jobs that don’t really exist, or haven’t yet been fully thought through.

Candidates very much want an email (or something) to tell us that they aren’t being considered.  An email at the start of the process saying that they will hear in so many days if they have been successful simply isn’t good enough.  If people take the time to fill out what are often lengthy applications, the very least a company do is automate another “thank you but no thank you” email.  It’s just one more button to press after all.

Candidates don’t want to have to give you loads of personal information at the first stage.  Of late, I have been asked for my National Insurance number, sexual orientation and marital status as part of an initial application. There did not appear to be a ‘actually that is none of your business’ option on the drop down menu.

A question I have always asked recruiters is this: when did you last apply for a job at your place?  When did you last go onto your careers site or ATS from the outside, and experience it as a candidate does.  When did you last review your careers site to see if it is interesting, useful or easy to navigate?

If the answer is either ‘never’ or ‘not lately’ then just go do it. Challenge every part of the process.  Is it necessary? How will it make people feel?  Is it adding value – and to whom?  Is it more about the candidate, or you?  Too many recruitment processes are designed with the recruiter and the organisation in mind – not the candidate.  In my last HRD role, we launched a new recruitment system.  Applying for jobs with candidate eyes was how we refined it; how we made it work for both us and the people who were interested in working with us.

Applying for jobs doesn’t need to be a dispiriting experience.

What candidates want is really quite simple.  A straight forward, user friendly application process.  A little bit of timely communication.  The opportunity for some personal interaction.  Just because you can automate every single bit of the process doesn’t mean you should (nod to David D’Souza). Finally, some useful feedback.

That’s all folks.

 

Human Up

Automation.  Robots. Artificial intelligence.  Digital and social.

The future of work is [fill in the blanks].

We can’t accurately predict the future.  But we do know that it will involve all of this technology stuff.  More and more.  Faster and faster.

A few years ago talk of cognitive assistants meant asking Siri what the weather was going to be like.  Now we are seeing them in use in our own homes.

Last night I was at an event at Liverpool John Moores University, where we were talking about work, technology and HR.  For me, several ideas coming together at once.

There is much in HR work that can be automated.  The routine stuff in particular – and so much of what we do is just that.  This is both good… and bad.  Good in that we can get rid of the non-value add work and focus on what can really make a difference to work and working lives.

But it can lead to a dehumanized experience.  Take recruitment.  When you apply for a job, get all the way to interview, but never actually engage with a person, only an ATS.  It might be time efficient, but it certainly ain’t human.  It is cold.

Can more HR work be undertaken by robots?  Probably. Definitely.

It is all too easy to reject the notion.  Our perception is constrained by what we know and do now. Arthur Danto said that the future is a mirror in which we can only see ourselves.

But even within a future with more and more automated people stuff, or even a first line HR advice robot, this is when our most human side of human resources can come to the forefront.

The World Economic Forum said that in the machine age, only the human organization will survive.

There are some things that only a human can do.  Show real empathy.  Have emotional intelligence.  Listen, completely – not with the intention to respond with a programmed response but simply to be there for someone.  To live, work and act with values that we have determined for ourselves.

It has become something of a cliché to talk about putting the human back into human resources.  But in clichés there is often truth.  Perhaps it is time to embrace it.

The future of work will be more automated. More digital. Filled with more and more tech. More work will be lost to robots and algorithms.  This is inevitable.

But the future of work can also be more human.  If we let it.