Thursday, 10 October 2013
The entire editorial team of HR Case Studies furrowed its collective brow this week when it read that Management Guru Tom "In Search of Excellence" Peters had given his opinion that, "Big Data will re-imagine HR"
"Such poetry," as none of the team was heard to say
"I couldn't have put it clearer myself" said no-one at all in the team.
"What the bloody hell is that supposed to mean" as everyone chanted in unison.
But fear not, dear reader. All is not lost.
To ease you into the weekend, we bring you the HR Case Studies guide to speaking meaningless HR jargon. To instantly sound like someone who can add "Thought Leader" to your LinkedIn profile, all you need is contained in the section below.
Simply choose any phrase from Group A, randomly select a link from Group B, and then add a further utterly meaningless group of words from Group C, and before you can say "Human Capital Management" you'll be talking like someone at an international HR conference!
No surgery required!
360 degree appraisal
An innovative social media policy
Our sophisticated talent management pipeline
The cloud-based HRIS
This year's Employee Voice Initiative
Our outcome-based reward system
The enterprise wellness programme
This year's employee recognition scheme
Our Web 2.0 open-source participation platform
The learning and development mechanism
Improved IT functionality
The company self-service HR portal
Has a potential to
Offers an opportunity to
Minimise avoidable attrition
Facilitate peer-to-peer feedback
Maximise People Performance
Unlock hidden talent
Leverage human capital
Equip managers in evidence based decision making
Lock in below-the-line financial savings
Push the envelope of staff motivation
Generate maximum stakeholder participation
Seamlessly network critical staff
Achieve collaborative alignment
Optimise peak performance
Monday, 30 September 2013
To be honest, I'm not really convinced that there are management lessons to be learned from rock music, or indeed from any form of music. (Other, of course, than from cool contemporary jazz which is simply awash with ideas about creativity, improvisation, cooperation, empathy etc. etc. !)
But having recently had the opportunity to observe at close quarters some of the world's top conductors masterfully directing the juggernaut of a 100 strong orchestra, there are at least a couple of leadership insights to be shared.
Let's take Esa-Pekka Salonen's guidance of the Royal Festival Hall based Philharmonia Orchestra to give us some tips.
His conducting of Edgar Varese's Ameriques led one reviewer to say, "the numerous climaxes at the end of the work kept growing louder and louder, Salonen forcing his orchestra to the edge of what is possible in a concert hall". Admittedly it's a pretty obscure piece that is rarely performed, but all you need to know about the piece is that it builds to a crescendo of ear-splitting magnitude. A bit like Stairway to Heaven on steroids. As the final chord rang out, Salonen was literally on his tiptoes, arms aloft, waving his fist into the air, pleading with the orchestra to blow, bow, or hit their instruments for a few moments longer. Like Communist Party officials not wanting to be the first one to cease applauding the Soviet leader after his two-hour speech, the musicians were latched onto the conductor's gestures, not daring to let the conductor out of their field of vision or to be the first one to expire. When Salonen at last brought down his arms the audience went ape, as much out of relief as in appreciation.
Interestingly, it turns out that in the afternoon's rehearsal, the conductor had refused to allow the orchestra to practice the final crescendo. Clearly he wanted the orchestra not to take for granted how the piece would end, but have to rely on him to guide them through the final few bars, and to totally commit themselves to his vision for how the piece would conclude.
Leadership Lesson No. 1: Sometimes you need to surprise your team by taking them (metaphorically!) somewhere they are not expecting to go.
Next: Same conductor, same orchestra, different piece.
This time EPS is waggling his stick to direct the orchestra in Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique.
Sometimes he does the to-be-expected thing of waving his arms about like a man plugged into the national grid. Sometimes he bends over and almost pleads with the front row of the violins to play with more expression. Sometimes he points to the french horns inviting them to tone it down a bit. The orchestra responds to his bidding.
But there are occasions when the orchestra is chugging along very nicely thank you very much, when he just stands there, arms at his side. No facial gestures. No arm waggling. Just stands there.
It's as if he's saying, "That's it. You're doing fine, playing what you're supposed to be, so you don't need me to intervene in any way. Just keep going."
Leadership Lesson No. 2: If your team are doing what they are paid to do, why not just leave them to get on with it? Save your grand gestures and arm waving for when its really needed.
(Cue wild applause from appreciative audience, bow, exit stage left)
Sunday, 29 September 2013
The editorial team of HR Case Studies decided it was time to top up on culture on Saturday evening, so we all sauntered along for a performance of Benjamin Britten's Peter Grimes at the Royal Festival Hall on London's South Bank.
(OK. I know that I will have lost some of you already, but stick with it. After all, Punk Rock HR and Acoustic HR shouldn't have a monopoly on the blogosphere, should they!)
The performance was good. Conductor Vladimir Jurowski waved his stick at the orchestra and they responded to his bidding. The solo singers and large choir gave it loads. The audience were impressed and gave the entire cast a rapturous ovation. We all thought that we'd had a decent night out.
But apparently we'd only experienced a fraction of what The Experts had experienced.
Writing in The Arts Desk, David Nice (Mmm .. lovely name...) opined that "Jurowski blinded us with magnesium-flare projections of Britten’s sparest sounds, London Philharmonic strings lean and hungry" ("Presumably something that came out of the reviewers arse since he's so far up it" as one of my recently acquired twitterchums put it so succinctly)
And similarly, Edward Seckerson waxed lyrical and observed that, "Interestingly enough, the other storm – the one in Grimes’ soul which vents during the act two Passacaglia – was Jurowski’s other physical and emotional climacteric."
Clearly the HR Case Studies Team is made up of a bunch of Philistines, as the magnesium-flare projections went completely unobserved, and we didn't even get a whiff of the emotional climacteric.
OK, I'm sure you get the point. Both these reviews are full of utterly pretentious nonsense that alienates a large section of the population. Far from encouraging the uninitiated to participate in (actually, the most appropriate word is "enjoy") such performances, they portray (in this case) classical music as something that can only be REALLY understood by the inner circle of the cognoscenti with access to The Hidden Knowledge.
Of course, in the down-to-earth world of HR, we're never guilty of such obscure, exclusive terminology, are we?
We never talk of "leveraging Web 2.0 technology in enhancing our internal human capital" do we? (I think that one is "online training courses")
The words "ensuring effective on-boarding of employees through a cross-functional welcome programme to achieve rapid alignment with organisational values" are never on our lips, are they? (In the Good Old Days, that was what we used to call "Induction")
We never send a promotional e-mail to prospective clients talking of our "bar-raising performance management methodology which integrates with our international employee participation and engagement portal" do we? (No bloody idea what that one was about, but I've still got the mail if it's your sort of thing)
It's sad to say that within HR we are prone to talk the same sort of bollocks that is spoken by those we criticise, aren't we? ("Why can't the guys in IT just say what they mean" as we often refrain.)
But using such obscure terminology doesn't help demystify the HR profession one little bit.
Nor does it make you appear clever. It makes you look pretentious.
And we wouldn't want that, would we?
Keep it simple, boys and girls.
Sunday, 22 September 2013
It's amazing where you can discover linkages to the wonderful world of HR if only you know where to look!
For instance, a recent edition of Radio 4's Start The Week (Monday morning work-out for the grey cells) concerned the rather esoteric subject of "Fairytale Physics" and explored how much of what modern science (especially Physics) claims to describe reality but in fact doesn't!
One of the contributors stated:
"There are a lot of geneticists going out looking out for the obesity gene. When I was a kid, growing up in the village, there was one man who had a known metabolic problem, and he was the only fat man in the village. Now just walk down any street and it’s full of incredibly obese people, and this is a major problem. Reducing our very nature to our genetic make-up absolves us of responsibility for our own lives in some way"
The implication was that now there is supposedly a gene for just about anything and everything (including obesity) you seem to see lots more such people who (presumably) explain their physical condition simply by saying, "I know I'm overweight, but it's genetic.
Oddly enough this doesn’t seem a million miles away from the current trend in popular psychometrics, where certain individuals use their basic level of understanding of the subject to explain their unacceptable behaviour, does it?
How many times have you heard individuals say things such as "Well I'm a Myers-Briggs ENTJ, so I'm bound to jump to conclusions and come across as a bit dictatorial aren't I?" Or "You need to understand that when I did the Transactional Analysis Self Assessment, it showed me that I've got a really strong Hurry Up driver, so that's why I often get impatient with my team"
It is perhaps even more worrying that those who take refuge behind the MBTI psychometric profile, are doing so behind a psychometric profile that is being increasingly questioned with respect to its validity. At times the "OK it may not be scientifically proven, but you've got to admit that it fairly accurately describes the character of a lot of people" sounds remarkably like the view of those who say, "I know that astrology is a load of cobblers, but actually I am a fairly typical Libran you know."
It is as if some people use their psychometric profile to justify their inappropriate behaviour, rather than use it as a way of throwing light on an aspect of their personality that they may wish to modify or eliminate.
All a personality profile can do (however valid and reputable) is to paint a picture of a person's character, style, and likely behaviour in given circumstances. What it can never do is justify that behaviour, especially when it is inappropriate. We behave the way that we do largely because we choose to do so, not because of our Myers Briggs profile, or the fact that Mercury was in the ascendant when we were born.
As ever, Shakespeare has something to say on the issue. As Cassius reminds Brutus shortly before the assassination of Julius Caesar:
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings."
(And if this blog seems slightly diplomatic and idealistic, yet at the same time flirtatious and self indulgent, I guess that is what is to be expected from a typical Libran. Possibly!)
Wednesday, 18 September 2013
It's that time of year again when the HR profession put on its best suit and black tie or cocktail dress and celebrates its amazing achievements at various awards ceremonies for the Best This and Most Impressive That. Drink is (allegedly) taken. Cameras are clicked. Tweets are tweeted.
The rest of the HR world looks on not quite sure whether to feel inadequate, jealous or cynical of those who have navigated their way (in uncomfortable bow-ties or toe-crunching high heels) to the awards ceremony.
But let's admit it, the amazing achievements of the award winners will not be analysed in great detail by anyone other than the judging panel. Perhaps we should be keen to learn if the success of others could be applied to or emulated within our own organisations. But our enthusiasm is sadly limited.
It's time for change.
It's time for honesty.
Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, I bring you The Most Spectacular Failure in Implementing an HR Initiative Award.
To qualify for this prestigious new award, all you need to do is document how you failed to plan properly or forgot to take into consideration the views of key stakeholders, communicated the reasons for the initiative badly, allocated insufficient budget, bought the wrong IT system to support the initiative, or simply misjudged the readiness of the organisation for your amazing strategic intervention.
The benefits to the rest of the HR community would be immense. We'd gratefully learn from your mistakes, put a last minute halt to our own organisations' plans to fall into the same trap and reconsider what initiatives we are committed to over the next year.
We'd certainly carefully read of your blunder with a sense of "Phew! There but for the grace of God ..." when the supporting article appeared on the pages of People Management.
And, most importantly, we would all have a good laugh! Only one question to be answered: Who would be brave enough to sponsor such an award?
Sunday, 17 March 2013
Let's face it, the constant stream of information that flows into your life from the various social media services that you subscribe to makes you feel an abject failure, doesn't it?
You're left cold by the tweets from some of those that you follow urging you to realise that today is going to be simply EPIC, and that by harnessing all your inner energy you can single-handedly begin to change the world.
Unlike some of those with whom you network, you didn't start your day with a 4.98 km run with a pace of 6'04"/km in your expensive Nike running shoes.
You don't have the perfect skin, coiffeured hair and ultra-white teeth that radiate back at you from the social media profiles of most of your contacts.
You feel guilty that you don't have time to read any (never mind all ten!) of the "must-read" articles in this morning's press that your twitter stream tells you are critical for your continued existence.
Your twitter profile doesn't read like many of those you follow: you're not wife/husband to the WONDERFUL (insert androgynous name here), mum/dad to three AMAZING kids, livin' life to the max, one FANTASTIC day at a time.
Nor are you an internationally renowned speaker, strategist and best-selling author (insert link to book ranked 1,786, 493 in Amazon business books here) working with senior executives to transform their businesses (usually by helping them "leverage social media technology to maximise employee engagement").
You are unmoved by the messages in your inbox advising you how to CRUSH your next interview, ROCK your forthcoming performance review and NAIL that salary increase that you know that you deserve.
You never appear on any Most Influential Communicators listings for your chosen profession. Your most profound and carefully constructed utterances create not the slightest ripple in the social media world, while the announcement of one of your contacts that he has burned the toast goes viral. Unlike some of those around you, AWESOME is a word that is rarely applied to you.
You don't even know what Klout is, never mind what your Klout score is. But you suspect that the scruffy IT geek on the train next to you this morning has a better score than you.
The only people who look at your Linked In profile live on the opposite side of the globe, and are clearly still hoping that you can help them get a job; no-one ever approaches you about exciting career opportunities.
Your Linked In profile makes you look like at best a normal person and at worst a washed-up specimen of humanity in comparison to the supreme beings who appear in the "People You May Know" section.
You may not have 2,000 followers on twitter, nor be networked with 500+ contacts on Linked In, but one pseudo-inspirational, marathon running, keynote speaker with a bestselling book and a clutch of AMAZING kids is pretty much like the next one!
What you DO have is a close circle of friends, acquaintances, colleagues and family members; people who are more significant to you than an @ symbol in a contact list; people who you can trust and rely on both personally and professionally, and who in turn can trust and rely on you.
For your sanity's sake, make this week one where you spend some time with those close to you, and give them some of the attention and appreciation that you yourself crave and thrive on.
After all, that's the only way that you'll make this week truly EPIC!
Wednesday, 13 March 2013
The headline was just a cheap stunt to attract your attention, but while you're here. please listen to what I have to say and partipate in the debate by voting in the poll over on the right hand side.
I guess that, like me, you will regularly get tweets and Linked In alerts offering you helpful advice on how to secure your long overdue pay increase.
They will be full of tips such as "know your value", "choose your moment", "rehearse what you want to say and practise how you will handle your boss's likely responses." Oh, and also "don't take it personally if your boss says no."
It has to be said that most of the advice originates from the USA, rather than from the UK where we seem to be much more reticent about asking for more. Perhaps Oliver Twist isn't the best role model in that respect.
What I'm puzzled about and interested in is this: how many of us (particularly in the UK) who are in regular paid employment are actually in positions where we can influence our pay progression? I'm not talking about those whose performance may lead to an annual bonus, nor those whose pay will rise incrementally each year, either just as a result of having completed another year's service, or as a result of having met the year's objectives.
I'm assuming (and this is where I may be wrong, so please help me out!) that the majority of employees in the UK are either on a fixed rate for their particular job, or are sat in a grading and salary structure with predetermined increments which can be reached at set times in the year.
So, how many of you (dear readers) are in positions where the request of "Please Sir, can I have some more?" would be met with anything other than a blank stare and a response of something other than "I'd love to, but my hands are tied" ?
Or (perish the thought!) a blow around the head with a ladle.