Go home on time… or whenever

Today, it came to my attention via Twitter that the 21st June, the longest day of the year, is ‘Go Home on Time’ Day, organised by Working Families.  They say: We want to start a national discussion that puts work life balance and employee wellbeing at the forefront and stresses that going home on time should be the norm, not the exception.

I’m torn.

I like anything that raises awareness of the need for life work balance and integration. That challenges thinking about the way that work is usually done.  But at the same time, I find it sad that we need such a day.  That we need to raise awareness, give permission, remind people, to leave their work at their normal finish time.

Here is what I know.

Time spent at a desk does not necessarily mean high productivity.

Time spent in the office does not necessarily amount to good work.

Time spent working after the end of the normal working day does not equal hero status.

Time spent working does not necessarily equal business performance, an increase in the financials, innovation or creativity or any of the other things that businesses need to survive and thrive.

A culture of long hours can be damaging. But all the same, it is hard wired into many places – and leadership styles.

If your people are regularly working excessive hours it should tell you something.

At best, you have a cultural problem.

It may also mean that there is a resource issue, unrealistic expectations set, excessive pressure or demands, or simply, a time management issue.

But something is wrong. The wrong stuff is being valued.

Here’s the thing. People value flexibility.  Research suggests many will take it over a pay rise.

I love the work that I do. I also need balance.  If I go home at 5pm, I am no less committed or engaged.  And I am not the only one.

It’2 2017. It is long past time to judge people on the hours that they work, or the time they clock out.   Judge them instead on what they bring, deliver and contribute.  The value that they add – all the time.

Not just after 5pm.

Are your employees really your greatest asset?

simon heathThe first tweet I saw this morning was from Simon Heath. He was calling out that old staple ‘your employees are your greatest asset’.

It is a statement that has become a cliché.

It’s also a cliché to say that actions speak louder than words. In the case of employees, it is most definitely true.

Anyone can say that employees are their greatest asset. In much the same way that anyone can come up with a generic list of values and put them on a website and into the corporate induction.

When it comes to leading people, words are just words.

Whether you really mean them is shown up in your actions, in the every day.

Putting aside the idea of employees as assets (something that I instinctively dislike), this is something you shouldn’t get to say unless you mean it.

If people are your greatest asset, don’t say it, prove it.

It should be evident in your recruitment practices, your people policies, the reward that you offer, the learning opportunities in place, in the actions of your leaders.

To anyone organisation that says people are their greatest asset, I would pose these questions:

  • Do you pay the living wage?
  • Do you offer flexible working?
  • Do you go out of your way to create a great candidate experience?
  • Do you have an induction that supports this statement?
  • Do you invest heavily in your leaders so that they can bring this to life when it comes to leading their teams?
  • Do you have a way to give people regular feedback on their performance – and I don’t mean a once a year appraisal.
  • Do you have awesome internal communications?
  • Do you offer people the freedom to do their best work?
  • Do your people polices treat people and speak to them like they are adults?
  • Do you invest in people’s development even when budgets are tight?
  • Do you offer a range of rewards that are flexible and meet the individual needs of your employees?
  • Do you treat your employees as well as you treat your customers?

As a minimum, if you can’t answer yes to these questions, then your actions don’t match your words. You are not treating people like they are your greatest asset.

So stop saying it.

Image by Simon Heath.

 

#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.

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?