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.

guide

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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Why HR is like childbirth

I’m currently working with a group of final year HR students at Liverpool John Moores University. Our module for this term is strategic HRM.  Last night we were looking at organisationl culture.

I always find culture a fascinating subject. There is plenty of theory and research available.  There too are many models to help us think about the types of culture that exist.  It is a highly relatable subject, as we have our own experiences of it.  It is something that we instinctively understand because we have lived it.  Everyone who has had a job can tell you something about organisational culture, even if they don’t use the official terminology.

Most of us have had our own experiences of a good culture or a bad one – whatever that really means. We know about people who fit in to the prevailing culture, and people who do not.  We understand instinctively the impact that culture can have upon us at work.

After we had talked about the proper, academic theories, we turned to discussing our own experiences. We talked about organisations that we know, either through working there or because they have a brand profile.  We discussed the extent to which we believe culture impacts behaviour and behaviour impacts culture and whether any of those models are ever really 100% accurate.  Our conclusions were that they were not or could not be.  Nothing is ever as clear cut, as simple as a theory might suggest.  They are just frameworks for understanding.  The context, the reality is always more complex.

This particular group of students are all working whilst studying. One student noted how much this helps put discussions like this in context and wondered how much harder it might be for those studying full time, straight from A Levels, with much less work experience.

And then the analogy of the night. One student reflected on her experience of ante natal classes.  The narrative she experienced there was linear, neat.  It will be like this.

Our conclusion? Practicing HR is like childbirth. It’s messier in real life.

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. 

The 6th Element

Last week I shared my 5 Elements of a Flexible Organisation presentation at the CIPD / ACAS Flexibility for All conference. I blogged about it in advance, hereDavid D’Souza from the CIPD tweeted me to say that he believed there was a sixth element; technology.

I reflected on what he had to say, and my own use of technology as a flexible worker.

When I’m working from home, or just generally working on the move, I use the following technology:

Email

Phone / conference calls (old school)

Wifi (obvs)

Lync (mostly just the instant message facility)

Skype

Laptop / iPhone / iPad.

 

Nothing exciting or radical in that list.

I also use Slack, for communicating with project teams, and Yammer for communicating with, well, anyone that is listening. But most of these tools are used equally in the office too.

When it comes to the technology needed to work flexibly, most of it is already there. If it isn’t on the corporate network, it’s free to use or download.  On the hardware side, many of us already own it – whether it’s the organisations or our own.

So the issue isn’t so much one of availability or needing new stuff, but capability and default ways of working.

I’m currently doing work in an organisation where meeting face to face is the default – even though many of those people meeting face to face are located across multiple buildings. Many meetings therefore involve a ten minute walk there and back for more than half of attendees – multiply that over the many individuals and many meetings and many working days of the year, and that is a whole heap of ineffective time.  There are of course times where meeting face to face is best, but there are just as many occasions where a quick phone call or a discussion in a Slack group would achieve just the same.

Capability is another important issue. It  might be 2018, but I still come across plenty of people who tell me that they ‘aren’t very good with technology’ like anything other than an email is some sort of devil’s work.  I’ve asked to Skype into meetings to save me a four hour journey to be met with surprise and outright refusal.  I know plenty of people who simply refuse to use tools like Slack because it is ‘too hard’ or they ‘don’t have time’.

I don’t have time is my favourite excuse. Because it rarely means someone doesn’t have time.  It means, for varying reasons, that they just don’t want to.  Maybe then I’m not even talking about capability, but desire.

The technology acceptance model tells us that there two primary factors that influence decisions about whether technology is used (when and how) – perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use.  The good old diffusion of technology model highlights the time that new technology takes to go mainstream – part of which is attributed to individual motivation.

My takeaways from these models (and that is all they are, they aren’t perfect) is that, scratch the surface, and attitude is a key factor at play.

And so, in conclusion, yes, technology is an element of a flexible workplace. But sometimes it’s not about new kit or fancy applications – just choice in using it and working a little differently.

Just like flexible working itself.

technology

 

5 Elements of a Flexible Workplace

Today I’m speaking at the CIPD / ACAS flexible working conference. I’m going to be sharing what I believe are the five, key elements of a flexible workplace.

Together, these elements will lead to a culture where flexibility is truly embraced for the benefit of employees and the organisation alike.

1              Flexibility for all (or as many as possible)

When I say flexibility for all, I recognise that there are some jobs where introducing more flexibility is easy – in theory at least. There are of course some jobs where it is more challenging if not impossible, such as those where a physical presence is required at set times.  But with creativity and open minds, flexibility is often much more feasible than it first might seem – or some believe.  Too often, the stereotype of someone wanting flexible working is a mum returning from maternity leave, or a new parent.  This stereotype is extremely limiting.

Flexibility is about inclusion at its widest sense. It is about tackling the gender pay gap.  Despite what I have said about us challenging the stereotype, we also know that many parents want flexible working – and this includes senior roles. Less than 10% of quality  jobs are advertised as flexible.  If we want true representation throughout our organisations, then we need flexibility throughout the hierarchy.

Because employees want flexibility and that demand is not matched with supply, this makes flexibility a talent issue both in terms of acquiring it and retaining it. A survey by HR Magazine in 2013 showed that a third of people would take more flexibility over a 3% pay rise.  If you offer people the flexibility to work how they want and when they need, this is a clear retention strategy.

Flexibility is also a wellbeing issue – the stress of long, difficult commutes takes a toll on work life balance.  This isn’t about parents, this is about everyone. Flexible working can also open up our workplaces to staff with disabilities.

2              Acceptance of flexibility in all its forms

Flexibility doesn’t just mean working part time or working from home one day a week. It isn’t a family friend benefit.

Work can be flexible in time and place. Where and when the work is done.

There can also be flexibility in the how.

We don’t have to work in an office, we can work wherever we are inspired.  The park, the library, a co-working space, a coffee shop.  Where the role permits, we can organise our own work.  Use different technologies to complete it.

3              High Trust

For flexibility to really work, you need trust.

There is no place for the belief that if you can’t see someone doing their stuff then you can’t manage their work. If you have to have someone in your eye line to make sure they do their work, you’ve got bigger cultural issues to address.

You have to trust the people you work with, unless you have a very good reason not to.

But many organisations are riddled with blame, arse covering, and presenteeism. All too often we reward the latter.  It is seen as commitment and graft.

Whenever I have introduced flexible working the issue of trust has come up in a roundabout way. Usually through the questions about how people will be managed and measured.  My answer is often flippant.  Manage them on output, not time at the coalface.  Desk time and productivity do not go hand in hand.

enabler 2

4              Enabling and supportive managers and leaders

Managers who understand the benefits – and that they exist for both parties.

Managers who get that flexibility is a talent issue, an engagement issue, a wellbeing issue.

Managers who recognise that flexibility will help them keep good people.

Managers who don’t see flexibility as a pain in the ass to be managed and seek reasons to say no, but see it as an opportunity.

A senior leadership team that does the same.

Managers who are open minded to try stuff.

Managers who work flexibly themselves.

Managers who don’t search for barriers that don’t exist, or bring their personal opinions to the table.

Managers that are trained.

5              Good Policy

A good flexible working policy is one where there’s no gap between the rhetoric and the reality.

Good policy isn’t a document that explains how to say no, but encourages innovation, working together to find solutions, experimentation.

Good policy goes beyond the statutory minimum.

There is stuff around the policy like guidance and good advice on how to implement and trial new ways of working.

A good policy is one that easy to read and understand, and there’s a place or a person for more questions.

A good policy has an encouraging, welcoming tone.

Together, these elements will create a culture in which flexible working and flexibility can thrive for the good of both people and organisations alike.

Together, our challenge is to create them.  And there has never been a greater need for us to do it.