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?

Eight Hours

The Zero Hours Contract debate rumbles on.

Are these contracts about flexibility and choice, or are they a race to the bottom? Are they about coffee shops and MacBooks, or exploitative and a symbol of a two-tier workforce?  Are they the dark side of the gig economy?

You can find arguments and opinion to support both frames of reference.

The answer is that they are probably both, depending on your personal circumstances and experiences.  For some, they equal freedom and flexibility.  For others, the best that they can get.

But Zero Hours Contracts are only part of the story.  The rest of the narrative is about low paid, low hours work – whatever the contractual status.

Now anyone who has every used a job alert service via a job board will know that their algorithms are…. interesting.  As a result of a request to receive notifications for new HR roles, I’ve recently been sent information on roles for financial accountants, software developers and chefs.  Some of which were in France.  Someone in my timeline recently commented that the criteria for receiving a notification from some job boards amounted to nothing more than ‘do you have an email address and are you alive?’

One such recent notification caught my eye….for all the wrong reasons.

It was for a leading retailer.  Paying the national minimum wage.  For eight hours each week.

Now you might think that there is nothing wrong with an eight hour per week contract.  It’s better than a Zero Hours one perhaps.  There are plenty of people who might value eight hours of paid employment.  A student looking to work whilst studying.  Someone seeking a second job to top up their income.  The only problem that I could see was exactly when the eight hours were taking place.  Because it could be anytime at all.  The shop was open 12 hours each day, seven days per week.  And the role required total flexibility – actual shifts notified on a weekly basis.  Applying for, and accepting, a position meant agreeing to working those hours whenever.

What would this mean in practice for the successful applicant?  Less than £60 per week, before deductions.  A limited ability to secure other work around that contact. An inability to plan, arrange childcare, make any advance arrangements.  Waiting on a whim.

This isn’t flexibility and choice.  This is barely a weekly food shop for most families.

There are no good reasons that I can think of that a major retailer could not, with some planning and foresight, make this a fixed set of hours or days, or at least offer reasonable parameters or some certainly.  It smacks of lazy management.  There is something just a little arrogant about it too.

I can’t think what it would be like to be employed in this way.  Wondering if there will be any overtime this week.  Wondering if this is the week that your boss will give you a shift that you just can’t get childcare for.  When exactly your hours will fall, if there is any other way to increase your income.

While we debate concepts like meaningful work, workplace democracy, employee engagement and all of that people stuff, let us also look in our own back yards.

Do the jobs, and their design, where you work, allow your employees the basic dignity of both living and working? Or does the way that the work is organised cause stress and uncertainty for the people that undertake it?   Do those jobs and their design enable both parties…. or just the organisation?

When we have a resourcing requirement, when we start drafting that job description and advert, we need to think not only about the needs of the organisation, but the needs of the individual who will be doing the work.

Contracts have many implied terms, amongst all the express ones.  Maybe it is about time that humanity become one of them.

 

 

 

Be you, dive in, share stuff

Today, I am speaking at an International Women’s Day event at Launch 22 in Liverpool.  My talk, somewhat unsurprisingly for anyone who knows me, is about social media.  About what it can do for your career, your business, you personally.  Later this week I’m working with 50 or so folks who want to know how to use social media to build their corporate brand and attract talent.

Different venues, different needs, but similar advice.

I talk a lot about social media.  About how to recruit with it.  About how to manage the legal risks.  How to blog for your business.  About addressing the myths.  About how to practically do social stuff.

This is what I know, the core of what I have to offer.  When it comes to all things social, whether you want to use it to make connections, learn, recruit or build your business, it starts with you and it starts with skills.

You have to know how.  You to pick your platforms and learn the lingo and create the content.

But first, these three things, familiar to anyone who has read our books:

Be you.

Dive in.

Share stuff.

Social media is a place to be yourself.  Mostly. You can keep any dubious political views to yourself. But for the most part, it is a place to show up, as a person.  To be authentic.  It’s not about broadcasting your awesomeness.  It’s about telling your story.

As for diving in….it is the best way to learn.  Don’t worry too much about it. Instead, JFDI.  There isn’t all that much you can mess up.  Yes, you can find some trolls and some people that have some very strange views on social media, but mostly you will find the benefits massively outweigh the negatives.

Sharing is a fundamental part of being social. Through sharing, your own stuff and that of others, you contribute to the community.  You become a useful human.  It is also a great way to build early those connections, to help you find your tribe.

There is much to learn about social.  But if you start with these simple rules, your social journey will begin.  Good luck!

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What time do you call this?

There are some jobs where timekeeping really matters.  If a shop has to open, call handlers need to answer the phone, a train needs to leave on time…. then those who do that work need to be there when they need to be there.

But this doesn’t apply to all jobs. It doesn’t apply to many of those that are doing the 9-5.  For many, those working hours are simply a tradition of working lives.

I’ve worked at places where managers are obsessed with what time people walk in the door.  They monitor it to the minute and the second.  They even hold disciplinary hearings for breaches of these rules  Only all too often, the time being managed is that of people and jobs where it just doesn’t matter all that much.  For many roles, it isn’t the hours that you work that should matter but the results that you deliver and the impact you make.  A little harder to monitor though, perhaps.

When those workers need to be there each hour and minute, I see the need for this sort of time management.  Although like with any type of performance management, it’s all about how you do it.

There are two main approaches to managing people.  One is to treat employees like adults, and the other is to treat them like children.  Treating people like children includes getting employees to clock in and clock out when there’s no real need for them to do so.  Treating them like children means monitoring activity over achievement. It means worrying about someone walking through the door at 9.04 instead of 8.58.

Fundamentally, what we are talking about, is trust.

I once had to talk a manager out of a system of financial penalties for lateness.  I told him what he had planned was an unlawful deduction from wages.  That ended the debate.  But it was more than that of course.  The work was of a nature that demanded emotional labour.  Empathy and personal care.  Financial deductions from wages would have changed the game.  Led to unintended consequences.  For those who were there simply for the money rather than the meaning, it just becomes part of the financial calculation.  For the employee who was genuinely late for no fault of their own, damaging to engagement and their sense of meaning in what they do.

When I see managers who monitor the minutes, I often wonder whether, if they are so concerned about contractual hours, they are chasing those same employees out of the door at 5pm.  This isn’t usually the case of course.  It’s all about presenteeism in these sort of places and with those sort of managers.

I sit at my desk therefore I am.  Hours equals dedication, in these sort of organisations.

If you have good people, trust them to do a good job.

If you don’t have good people, then do something about it.

If the minutes don’t matter, don’t monitor them.

If your employees aren’t children, don’t treat them like they are.

What time is it?

2017.

Stainless Steel Digital Clock Showing 12:20 Am

Social Leaders Series – the summary

Tim Scott and I have spent the last few months talking to leaders from a range of sectors and industries about how and why they use social media in their roles.  For some, it is about sales and marketing.  For others, it is about understanding trends and key issues.  For others still, it is about being present for customers, members or service users.

You can find all of the interviews from the series here.

When it comes to social media, Tim and I typically offer a three-step piece of straightforward advice: Be you, dive in, share stuff.

We believe that you get the most out of social media when you get involved with the conversation. It is a place to be authentic – showing up as yourself, not an auto-generated post. It’s about sharing your ideas and knowledge, about adding to the dialogue, and also disseminating information with the people that follow you for the greater good.

When it comes to the leaders we talked too, there are some common themes.  Here’s a summary of what they told us.

First of all, social leaders show their personality.   As Simon Blake said, using social media makes you human.  It’s not just about professional posts or corporate messages, but sharing a bit of family and personal too.  Social leaders understand that you don’t have to always have to wear that leadership face.

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Social leaders understand how to fit it in – and they do it.  When we talk to people about using social media, time is often one of the biggest barriers they put up.  People think it’s going to take up too much of it. But it just doesn’t have to.  Social media is about filling in the minutes.  G and I are breakfast tweeters, often found on social media alongside tea and toast. Peter Cheese checks Twitter in taxis or train journeys. It’s about making the time – and those leaders who see the benefits do just that.  And, as Asif Choudry said…. JFDI.

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Social leaders value the direct connections.  Whether it is connecting with customers, members or constituents, they listen, engage and respond.  Tom Riordan, Chief Executive of Leeds City Council said that Twitter gives him a direct communication route to the outside world.  They recognise the benefits of the immediacy and speed of information.

Social leaders pick their platforms.  They understand that different social spaces provide different results and opportunities.  They know that you can’t do them all.  So they find the one that works for them best.  As Rebecca Jeffery said – pick the platform that suits your personality!

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Social leaders don’t worry too much about the potential negatives.  There can be downsides to social media use. You will find the occasional troll. You will always find someone who disagrees with you and isn’t afraid to say so.  There can be harassment or bullying, or even people stealing examples of your work.  But our leaders recognised that the good stuff of social media outweighs the bad.

Social leaders use social media as learning for themselves.  Social media can be a valuable learning tool.  The concept of the personal learning network has gained interest of late. The idea that your social connections can be a valuable source of information and knowledge. It can also be a way of keeping up to date with trends, technology and opportunities. As Phil Jones , MD of Brother said… it puts you at the epicentre of understanding.

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Interestingly, Twitter is the most used platform. All of our leaders are using it, one way or another. We love Jo Swinson’s description of why she loves Twitter: ‘its immediacy, for the brevity… and also the curation of randomness that you can put together in your stream’.

Social leaders do it for themselves.  None of the people we spoke to outsources their own voice to anyone one else.  As Asif said… if you can’t be bothered posting your own content, don’t do it at all.

We’d like to say a huge thanks to all of the leaders who took the time to share their thoughts, views and insights on how they use social media. We really hope this has been and will continue to be a useful resource for aspiring social leaders in every sector.


Before we began this series we believed one thing: that social media presents an opportunity for leaders.  An opportunity to engage with customers and employees alike, to create a personal brand, to lead authentically and openly. To share and collaborate in a different way.  To role model the digital skills that all organisations need now and tomorrow.

It is still a rare thing to see leaders using social media really well.  There are some excellent examples but they are few and far between.  Previous research into Fortune 500 CEO’s found that whilst most of them could be found on LinkedIn, they weren’t exactly active.  Those that had managed to find their way to other platforms like Twitter still weren’t really all that social.   This is why we wrote our practical guide for social media for leaders.  To encourage them to get more social for the benefit of them, and their organisations.

The time for social leadership is now. 

Reflections on culture

I’ve been working somewhere new these last couple of weeks. Helping an organisation with their people stuff. It is always fascinating going somewhere new. Learning about the product and the customers and the people. When it comes to the HR stuff, from one place to another, it is both exactly the same and completely different. You can pretty much guarantee that there will be a handbook and a suite of policies. Organisation charts. Processes and procedures. Recruitment and induction and training and internal communications and payroll. All the people stuff, in their own particular way.

The key is the context. Not what the documents says, but the how.

When it comes to learning the culture at someplace new, what is okay and not okay, there is all the express stuff. What people say, and their silences too. It’s about watching for signs and listening closely.

How people talk to each other.

What is celebrated.

Where time is spent.

What gets focus.

What is encouraged and discouraged.

The tone of voice used, written and verbal.

What the money is spent on.

The welcome given.

The work place itself.

The care taken.

Where managers are, physically and psychologically.

What is done, and left undone.

These are the things, the signs and the signals, that tell you the true organisational narrative beyond the branded corporate induction material. It’s the how we do things around here.

The traditional people stuff operates within and around these variables. Only when you understand the context and the culture can you assess what people stuff needs to be done. My biggest challenge….. drawing too much on the past, other ideas and other places.

There isn’t any one size fits all perfect people solution. Only what will work, here, at this place, in this context. Today.

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.