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.
Monday, 4 March 2013
Vienna by Ultravox, together with American Pie, We Are The Champions, All Right Now, Let It Be, My Generation and Wonderwall all have one factor in common:
They never quite made it to the coveted Number One slot in the BBC singles chart.
Perhaps there is some justice to American Pie being nudged off the Number One slot by Harry Nilsson's Without You (and also that memorable pop classic Son of My Father by Chicory Tip).
Possibly Abba's The Name of The Game and Mull of Kintyre by Wings are of equal artistic merit to We Are The Champions by Queen. Abba and Wings made it to Number One in 1977, Queen didn't.
But novelty track Shaddup You Face by Joe Dolce occupying the Number One slot instead of Vienna by Ultravox does seem a miscarriage of justice of epic proportions. "One of the biggest chart injustices of all time" is how the Official Charts Company's Managing Director describes Ultravox being denied the top slot.
So what's all this got to do with HR and business management?
Read and learn!
It's quite clear that Joe Dolce nudged his way into pole position by some utter fluke of circumstances. There won't be many readers of this blog who will recall any of his follow-on singles like "Pizza Pizza," Reggae Matilda," or "You Toucha My Car I Breaka You Face."
Yet all of our focus is on Vienna as The One That Should Have Made It But For Some Obscure Reason Didn't.
But go into any High Street book store (and especially into the book store in the departure lounge of an airport) and you'll notice that although the shelves of the Business and Management section are crammed with the biographies of the rich, famous and successful (Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Richard Branson to name but three), books in the "The One That Should Have Made It But For Some Obscure Reason Didn't" genre are decidedly thin on the ground.
Yet in many cases the likes of Jobs, Gates and Branson would themselves admit that they owe a massive amount of their success to the intervention of Lady Luck. "You need lucky breaks to be successful," says Richard Branson; "Luck played an immense role. I was born at the right place and time," Bill Gates has said.
So why do we seem to hold up the mega-successful in the business world as role models to be envied and emulated, when chance played so much of factor in them getting to where they are?
Sometimes it's Those Who Didn't Quite Make It that we should be learning from as much as Those That Did.
After all, wouldn't you rather be Midge Ure than Joe Dolce?
Oh Vienna ....
Friday, 1 March 2013
Although I had no idea that such places existed, I recently stumbled across an online discussion forum for Air Traffic Controllers. I guess like most of us they need a place to debate what is on their minds in what is without doubt a stressful and critical job.
But I was actually very alarmed at what I read there.
Rather than debate about pilot safety issues, and how emerging technology can be harnessed to improve performance within their roles (which was what I was expecting, to be honest) the most lively debate seemed to be about whether it was acceptable for Air Traffic Controllers to use over-familiar terminology such as "love" and "darling" when speaking to pilots as they descended into busy airports with their aircraft filled to capacity with passengers.
I'll have to admit that I found such a debate a bit of a worry. These are the people into whose hands I entrust my personal safety every time I set foot in an aircraft, and I was disappointed that such an important group of people were using a public forum to discuss something that is, in my view, trivial and inconsequential. I guess that I was expecting something a bit more serious and significant from such a critical profession.
OK. There's only one further thing that I need to say about what you've just read: not one word of it is true.
If there is a discussion forum for Air Traffic Controllers (as I'm sure there is), I have no idea where to find it, and I'm sure that any issue that they discuss will have a lot more (deliberate pun alter) gravity than the use of over-familiar terminology with their pilots.
But what sadly is true is the fact that there are numerous HR discussion forums (some within the broad confines of the CIPD's website) where one of the most active debates over the last few weeks has been whether it is acceptable to put kisses (xxx) at the end of a business e-mail.
The debate has attracted more comments than all the discussions on performance management, finding mentors for top talent in large organisations, and the application of recent thinking in neuroscience to employee learning put together.
I'm not saying for one moment that there isn't a place for such trivial questions as whether a sign-off snog is acceptable in some circumstances, but surely it's not in an open forum such as the ones described above.
As an HR profession we are judged as much by the questions we raise as the answers that we give to them. If we wish those around us (many of whom are already sceptical of the contribution that we bring to the workplace) to believe that the most pressing issue of the day for HR is e-mail sign-off etiquette, then fine.
But if, as I hope we do, we'd actually like to be thought of as a profession that is raising some serious and significant issues that are worthy of public debate, we need to be careful of how we portray ourselves in public.
Ask a trivial question, and people will regard you as trivial. Ask a serious question and people will be more likely to take you seriously.
Sunday, 27 January 2013
A couple of days ago I participated in an online debate addressing some of the issues faced by the recruitment profession. Most of those taking part in the debate were either independent consultants, or involved in recruitment agencies, so some of the comments which follow may not apply equally to in-house recruiters.
To say that the debate raised some worrying questions is something of an understatement.
Much of the discussion was centred around "the myth of candidate experience" and in particular whether it was necessary to treat all job applicants with the same degree of respect, including the simple courtesy of acknowledging every job application.
At least one participant in the debate was happy to divide applicants into "good" and "bad" candidates: a "good" candidate being (and I quote) "a credible applicant who will make you money."
Put simply, good candidates were deemed worthy of attention, bad candidates could be ignored.
The same participant was (one hopes) frivolous enough to suggest that (and again I quote) "Dear John, I've checked out your LinkedIn waffle and Facebook pics and, sorry to say, you're not right for the position" would be a suitable response to one of those unfortunate enough to meet his "good candidate" selection criteria.
My view (along with a number of other participants in this debate) is that all candidates for a job (whether for an assignment managed by a recruitment consultant, or an in-house campaign) deserve to be treated with a similar degree of courtesy and respect, especially that of keeping them updated as to their status within the recruitment process. The evolution of applicant tracking systems means that there is no excuse for failing to maintain contact with every candidate for every position.
Fast forward to summer of 2013
Black ties and evening dresses will once more be donned by those attending the CIPD Recruitment Marketing Awards. Prizes will be awarded for Best Art Direction, Campaign of the Year, Best Employer Brand, Recruitment Effectiveness, and a number of other categories.
I have a suggestion. Actually it's a challenge, because this is surely one area where the CIPD (celebrating its centenary this year) could be seen to influence the direction in which the recruitment profession is moving.
How about introducing an entrance requirement for those campaigns being nominated for awards of the ability to demonstrate adherence to a number of minimum standards of candidate care throughout those campaigns?
There is, after all, no cause for celebrating innovation in recruitment advertising, if the candidates who were drawn to it were not treated with the same respect regardless of whether they were appointed or rejected.
Friday, 25 January 2013
A recent post on this blog pointed an accusing and suspicious finger at female recruitment consultants whose profile images on LinkedIn revealed far more flesh than was considered to be appropriate.
It's interesting that since reading the initial blog, one of my fellow bloggers in the USA has undertaken some parallel research and seems to have discovered that the tendency to display expanses of flesh appears to be a UK phenomenon that is not mirrored across the Atlantic.
But debate with a couple of fellow bloggers and commentators has caused the editorial team of HR Case Studies to reflect that there is a worrying parallel to this phenomenon among the members of the recruitment profession: where females display their cleavage, males display their cars!
OK, perhaps we're only talking about one specific individual (and again, the names and details have been changed to avoid further embarrassment) but what does the use of a shiny blue Lamborghini as a profile picture say to the watching world?
What it says to me is that the person is motivated by material gain, by the acquisition of expensive luxury items that are beyond the reach of the majority of the population, that I, as either a client or a candidate of that particular recruitment consultant are nothing more than a means to him acquiring (or perhaps funding) his lifestyle.
The use of such an image tells me that that particular individual is concerned with things rather than people, cares little for the environment, and (most importantly) considers himself to be a member of a group that will never include me.
The use of such an image also makes me wonder whether, were I to engage this particular individual in my capacity of purchaser of recruitment services, I would be screwed financially in order to assist him to maintain his expensive luxury lifestyle.
Significantly, it makes me reflect on whether this individual is an isolated case, or whether it's the entire recruitment profession that thinks and feels like that.
So, before you upload your profile picture onto any social media site, question the effect it will have on your audience.
Incidentally, someone asked your humble editor what car he would use as a LinkedIn profile picture, and why. You'll see my choice above. A Morris Traveller: solid, dependable, built to last, easy to maintain, a turner of heads for all the right reasons, a reminder of a bygone age when quality mattered. And, probably above all: delightfully quirky!
Sunday, 20 January 2013
Long ago, in a far and distant land, I trained as worked as a teacher, and had the (Warning: Sarcasm Alert!) joy and privilege of teaching for a time in what was branded as The School From Hell.
Back in those days of yore, with respect to the management of classroom behaviour, the advice and guidance to would-be teachers was essentially limited to the old adage of, "Don't smile until Christmas."
But the resources and guidance now available to those in the teaching profession are now far superior to those from a couple of decades ago.
A rather excellent text book on the teaching of children in the 14 - 19 age range (currently being passed around the HR Case Studies office) contains a wealth of very practical advice on the successful management of the classroom environment and, more importantly, those within it.
The thing that is striking is how the guidance given is easily transferable to the work or office environment. For example, have a look what is outlined below, and consider how much would not be out of place on a development program for new line managers:
- Get to know the members of your team (by name) as quickly as possible.
- If certain team members cause problems when working together, move them.
- Keep your instructions short and simple, and never more than one instruction at a time.
- Issue instructions with a specific target completion time.
- Give instructions positively, for example, "I want you to ...", rather than "Don't...".
- Use questioning strategies to make sure that your team members understand what is expected of them.
- Make sure that you are aware of the codes of conduct for your organisation and also the sanctions that you can take against those who do not abide by the accepted rules.
- Praise those who are trying to perform, but don't over-praise as this will ultimately devalue its usage.
- Be consistent.
- Sell the importance of any activity with urgency and enthusiasm, and link it to the benefits that will follow once it is achieved.
- Don't tick off your entire team: identify any poor performers and address their issues separately.
- Start each new day as a fresh page: don't carry over grudges or give the impression that what individuals did before colours how you see them now.
So the advice seems to be pretty straightforward: If you want to be a successful manager, just treat your team like children!
Unless, of course you are a teacher. In which case treat your students like responsible members of your work team!