Thursday, 23 December 2010

First Century HR Officer asks "What's the role of HR today?"

As revealed last week, previously ignored fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls have been found to contain the diary entries of Malachi Barnabas, a 1st Century HR Officer working in the Bethlehem area of Israel.

World Exclusive! The Secret Diary of a First Century HR Officer.

Today, HR Case Studies publishes a final extract from his diaries.
Well, dear readers, it’s about time to put the diary away for a while.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a Holy Roman Business Partner (HRBP) these days. There’s been a lot of talk about just what purpose us guys serve, and whether we’re there just to support The Empire, or whether we occasionally have to stand up to an Emperor or a Governor who’s clearly losing his marbles.

I was in a seminar organised by the Central Israel Pharisees Department (CIPD) last week, and they’d actually managed to get some Seriously Big Cheeses along to talk to us. The keynote speaker was actually King Herod. Bet he cost the CIPD a few shekels in speaking fees.

One of his comments intrigued me:

“I can’t bear being told ‘you can’t do it that way’,” he said. “Do not put barriers in the way. Sometimes you have to take a step back from the policy, from the law, and say ‘what do we need to do right now, and how are we going to get there?’ Don’t hide behind the policies.”

I’ve been reflecting on what that means recently.

I spoke to Herod after the conference. He seems a reasonable guy overall. A bit self important and driven perhaps, but I like a man with a clear vision.

Anyway, I must have impressed him, as he’s asked me to do a bit of work for him. He wants me to draw up a Corporate Manslaughter Policy specifically for the Bethlehem area. Not sure what he’s got in mind, but who am I to question someone in authority?
 Look out for Malachi Barnabas's new book "Power, Innovation and Problem Solving: The Challenge of HR in the First Century". Available soon from all good scroll-sellers.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

First Century HR Officer gives helpful advice to three blokes with gifts.

As revealed last week, previously ignored fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls have been found to contain the diary entries of Malachi Barnabas, a 1st Century HR Officer working in the Bethlehem area of Israel.

World Exclusive! The Secret Diary of a First Century HR Officer.

Today, HR Case Studies publishes a further extract from his diaries.

Blimey! It’s all go again this week.

Odd, though, isn’t it ,the way you get a message from the government that you assume is nothing to do with you, and then the next minute, you’re in the thick of it!

One of Herod’s envoys jumped off his donkey this morning and proudly announced that as I was a Tier 2 Sponsor (I didn’t even know that I was, to be honest!), I needed to be aware that the Government has (and I quote!) “laid a Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules relating to Tiers 1 and 2 of the Points Based System” Top and bottom of it is Bethlehem HR Services needs to keep a close eye on how many foreign types we employ.

So far, so good.

But then these three distinctly odd blokes walk into the office claiming to be from Melchior Caspar Balthazar Headhunters. I’d never heard the phrase myself, and they seemed to be talking in code. They waffled on about spotting a particular chap’s profile on LinkedIn (nope, means nothing to me either) But evidently this chap must be worth investigating as he had a star next to his name on his “LinkedIn profile”

I had to ask these guys where they’d come from, and it definitely wasn’t from round here judging from their clothes, so I told them about the new immigration rules, and advised them that unless they had proof of residence permits in Israel, they wouldn’t be able to work round here.

But apparently they weren’t looking for work. They’d actually got some Corporate Hospitality Gifts (nope, another new one for me, that one!) to give out to this chap they were looking for. One each: Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh (I think the last one was some form of soap)

Played right into my hands, they did!

Having only just come back from a Central Israel Pharisees Department (CIPD) update on Employment Law, I was in my element! Quick as a flash I told them that giving someone gold could well be construed as a specific offence of trying to influence a foreign public official with the intention of obtaining or retaining business in a situation where the public official was not permitted or required by law to be influenced.

As far as I understand, the Frankincense is burned and gives off some form of perfumed smoke. I’ve no problem with them using the stuff, as long as they take action to reduce the risk to the health and safety of the peaceful people of Bethlehem from second hand Frankincense smoke to as low a level as is reasonably practicable. In fact I even suspect that the Frankincense could be classed as “Noxious Effluvia” and therefore infringe Caesar’s new Health and Safety at Work Act.

And as myrrh also contains one or two dodgy ingredients I also pointed out that as the Control of Stuff Harmful to Herod (COSHH) regulations extended to chemicals, products containing chemicals, fumes, dusts, vapours, mists and gases, the chances were that the myrrh would have to be put through Risk Assessment.

So, after telling them all that, off they went.

Who says that HR aren’t helpful. Mince Pie anyone?

Monday, 20 December 2010

First Century HR Officer reveals his reading list for next year.

Dear Diary: It’s been a busy weekend, especially as the New Year is fast approaching.

Not had time to do much other than put in an order for a few scrolls to read over the coming year. I heard from a friend that there’s a new supplier that’s gaining in popularity. The business is calling itself Jordan. Seems odd to me to name yourself after a river. Can’t see it catching on to be honest, but who am I to question these things?

Anyway, here’s my list of ten books to read over the next month or so:
  • Who Moved My Unleavened Bread by Stephen (son of Jonah) and Kenneth of Bethany
  • Essentials of Roman Employment Law By Claudius Lewis and Malcolm the Centurion.
  • Teach your Child Integrity by Simon Iscariot
  • The Holy Roman Business Partner (HRBP) model by Darius Elrich
  • The Caesar Delusion by Ricardus Dawkinus
  • The Very Rough Guide to Social Media: Using Parchment to Extend your Brand
  • Maximising your Camel Fleet: An Employer’s Guide to the new P11D by Matthew of Nazareth
  • Increasing Employee Engagement through Health and Wellness by Doctor Luke.
  • From Tragedy to Triumph: the Story of the Cana of Galilee vineyards
  • Visualising Business Success by Habakkuk, Zechariah and Hosea 
Have I missed any obvious ones that I need to read, I wonder?

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Another legal minefield for First Century HR Officer.

As revealed earlier this week, previously ignored fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls have been found to contain the diary entries of Malachi Barnabas, a 1st Century HR Officer working in the Bethlehem area of Israel.

World Exclusive! The Secret Diary of a First Century HR Officer.

Today, HR Case Studies publishes the fourth extract from his diaries.
Heavens above! Who dreams this stuff up? As if it wasn't difficult enough already providing an HR service to a nation under Roman occupation! But now we've got some new legislation to deal with!

Next month sees the introduction of the Equality For Sufferers of Leprosy and Leprosy-Related Diseases Act. As usual it's all written in impenetrable legalese, presumably drawn up by those helpful guys in the Sanhedrin. Just cast your eyes over this:

An employer shalt not (verily it is said) discriminate against a man or woman who, though he (or she) hath previously been inflected with leprosy (or a leprosy-like infection) provided that the employee can produce an LC1 Certificate (Proof of Cleansing from leprosy (or a leprosy-like infection)

Neither shalt an employer (verily it is said) discriminate against a man or woman who, though he (or she) hath previously been inflected with leprosy (or a leprosy-like infection) can prove that he (or she) hath complied with the regulation of Leviticus Chapter 14 to shave off all his (or her) hair, beard (certain women are exempt from this - see subsection 3.2) and eyebrows, bathe in water, and stay outside the camp for seven days until given the thumbs-up by the Priest.

Neither shalt an employer (verily it is said) discriminate against a man or woman who, though he (or she) hath previously been inflected with leprosy (or a leprosy-like infection) can produce a PS2 (Proof of Sacrifice) Certificate detailing the sacrifice of (i) two male lambs, (ii) one ewe, (iii) three-tenths of an ephah of fine flour, and (iv) one measure of oil.

An employer shalt also make reasonable adjustments during the recruitment of employees who hath previously been inflected with leprosy (or leprosy-like infections); and such reasonable adjustments shalt also be extended to the training and development of employees.

And on it goes. So much detail you can hardly believe it. You should read the section on allowing reasonable time-off for previous sufferers of leprosy (or leprosy-like infections) to cleanse their house from mildew! It makes me itch just reading the stuff!

Doesn't exactly make it easy to employ people either does it? I feel particularly sorry for my mate Ephraim who has a business just next door to the leper colony. He's just put up an advert for a new position: a Handyman! Ha! You can imagine the fun he'll have at shortlisting stage.

What we really need is some form of regional doctor who can cure this sort of problem.

But that's not going to happen in my lifetime, is it?
Check out HR Case Studies tomorrow for a further instalment.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Employment Law nightmare for First Century HR Officer!

As revealed earlier this week, previously ignored fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls have been found to contain the diary entries of Malachi Barnabas, a 1st Century HR Officer working in the Bethlehem area of Israel.

World Exclusive! The Secret Diary of a First Century HR Officer.

Today, HR Case Studies publishes the third extract from his diaries.
My stars! I've no idea what's going on in Bethlehem this week, but it's causing more that its fair share of HR problems.

I went looking for the shepherds - sorry, Nocturnal Pasture Operatives - who had headed down from the hills to gatecrash some sort of party in the stable round the back of The Emperor's Arms. (Something unusual going on there too, I can tell you. All sorts of odd types wandering in and out. Quite a few dressed up in foreign garb and wearing tea-towels on their heads which makes them look pretty amusing!)

But enough of them. The pub landlord of the Emperor's Arms is a friend of mine, and he wanted a bit of advice. Seems that his boss wants to take him through disciplinary procedure for poor performance. Apparently his boss is blaming him for overbooking the hotel during the exercise to get everyone onto Caesar's Holy Roman Information System (HRIS). But he didn't know that it was also the annual Central Israel Pharisees Department (CIPD) conference at the same time. He reckons his boss made that booking, but didn't let him know about it.

The thing is, I'm not sure which country's employment legislation applies to my mate Benjamin. The Emperor's Arms is actually part of an Israeli chain of taverns, but they in turn are actually just a subsidiary of an Egyptian company (Apparently, their flagship hotel near the pyramids is meant to be superb: it's even got beds in the executive suites!) Benjamin himself is on secondment from Assyria, he gets paid in Talents, but that's done through a third party who gives the money to Ben's twin brother in Ephesus, and when he travels here, the company that organise the camel train are based in Ethiopia.

I think I'll have a word with my mate Ephraim Croner who works in the employment section of the Sanhedrin, to see if he's got any light that can be shed on this one. It's always worth checking to see if there's been any parchments sent round on this sort of thing.

Talking of light: I think someone's forgotten to turn the lantern out in the stable round the back of the tavern. Looks like the place is ablaze! Better nip out and see what's going on. I'll have a quiet word about the stable's carbon footprint while I'm at it!
Check out HR Case Studies tomorrow for a further instalment.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Exclusive! Bethlehem shepherds demand Personal Protective Equipment!

As revealed earlier this week, previously ignored fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls have been found to contain the diary entries of Malachi Barnabas, a 1st Century HR Officer working in the Bethlehem area of Israel.

World Exclusive! The Secret Diary of a First Century HR Officer.

Today, HR Case Studies publishes a further extract from his diaries.
Flipping typical, isn't it? HR gets a phone call to come and sort a problem out, and then by the time you arrive, suddenly there's not a problem anymore!

Yesterday morning I got a message from a local Trade Union representative telling me that some of his members were raising a collective grievance over lack of personal protective equipment. Seems there was a bunch of shepherds up in the fields above Bethlehem who were having a number of problems. It makes me laugh though: this bunch are so pretentious that they don't even call themselves shepherds any more - they reckon they are (wait for it) Nocturnal Pasture Operatives!

And there's me just expecting the normal request for blankets and animal skin jackets. If only! This delicate bunch were asking for some form of eye cover to protect themselves against some bright lights that have apparently been keeping them awake at night. Wouldn't be so bad if that was the end of it, but they were all asking for ear plugs as well. The feeble bunch have been losing beauty sleep because of loud singing in the area. Personally I suspect it will have been the end of conference knees up at the CIPD (Central Israel Pharisees Department (CIPD) get-together in Bethlehem, but they weren't so sure. I might need to have a word with the boss of the shepherds, because I'm not sure how seriously he's implemented the alcohol at work policy in his region.

But - and this is what really irritates me - I spend half the evening trecking up the hillside to meet this lot, practising my negotiation techniques on the way, and when I get there, far from a bunch of seething shepherds waiting for me, there's just one straggler.

According to him, one of his sheep had strayed off, and while he was chasing after it, the light and the noise that they'd been talking about got brighter and louder, but when he returned, all of his colleagues had cleared off.

At least they'd left him a note, though:

Sorry to leave without you. Party in stable round the back of The Emperor's Arms in Bethlehem. Hope to see you later.

I'd have nipped there myself if I hadn't been so busy. Got lots of problems with the migrant workforce in this area.
Check out HR Case Studies tomorrow for a further instalment.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Emperor Caesar Augustus launches "Bring the Future into the Present" Strategy

As revealed yesterday,  previously ignored fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls have been found to contain the diary entries of Malachi Barnabas, a 1st Century HR Officer working in the Bethlehem area of Israel.

World Exclusive! The Secret Diary of a First Century HR Officer.

Today, HR Case Studies publishes the first extract from his diaries.

My stars! I've no idea what Caesar Augustus has been smoking these days, but he's quite clearly flipped. Apparently one of his soothsayers made some form of prophecy about the future in which information about workers will be stored on what Caesar refers to as a "Holy Roman Information System" (or HRIS as he insists on calling it)

So he's decided to launch a "Bring the Future into the Present" strategy (where he comes up with these names, I haven't the faintest idea) and get everyone in the entire Roman world to provide personal details which he can record on scratty pieces of parchment. No idea what he plans to do with this information, though he keeps muttering something about "diversity monitoring" and "talent management" under his breath. No, it doesn't mean anything to me either.

The twerp has decided that the best way to get this information is for everyone to trek to their ancestral home where a crack team of HR officers can apply quill to parchment and register the information.

So, yours truly has been given the dubious task of sorting out the situation in the Bethlehem area.

I don't think Augustus has any idea how much trouble this has caused! I've already had people asking questions about whether time taken to get to Bethlehem will have to come off their annual holiday entitlement, or whether they can take it as flexitime. A guy from the transport department has told me that every donkey in the area has been booked for weeks to come.

A bloke from Nazareth even asked me if we had a policy on paternity leave for carpenters! Cheeky blighter! He reckons his wife is pregnant and about to give birth. "Just you get yourself down to Bethlehem, Joseph," I told him. "If your wife gives birth while you're down there, I'll have a word with the local authority to see if they have any creche facilities."

Not quite sure where he's planning to stay when he gets there though. I hadn't the heart to tell him that the Central Israel Pharisees Department (CIPD) are having their annual conference in Bethlehem, so there's not a room to be had for love nor money.

Anyway, that's all from me for today. Need to be up early tomorrow to sort out some issues about night shift allowances for a group of shepherds.
Check out HR Case Studies tomorrow for a further instalment.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

World Exclusive! The Secret Diary of a First Century HR Officer.

In a dramatic scoop, HR Case Studies can exclusively reveal that previously ignored fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls contain the diary entries of Malachi Barnabas, a 1st Century HR Officer working in the Bethlehem area of Israel.

The 972 documents discovered between 1946 and 1956 in and around the ruins of the ancient settlement of Qumran on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea were previously thought to have been written by the Essenes, or perhaps by another Jewish sectarian group.

But part of a scroll discovered in Cave 5 (normally referred to as the Apocryphon of Joshua) has only recently been fully translated by a team of scholars at the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute.

Far from being concerned just with the religious life of the Qumran community, this scroll has been found to contain an account written by a local official responsible for day to day administration of people related issues. A careful reading of the recently translated text gives a fascinating insight into the life of a 1st Century HR Officer working in the Middle East at a period of immense cultural and historical significance.

Keep tuned into HR Case Studies for further updates.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Five steps to business success. (And you are all really wonderful readers . . .)

A former colleague of mine was once given the advice:
If you want to get on in this company, find a department that's full of no-hopers. That way, even if you're mediocre, you'll appear outstanding.
It seems that there might be a degree of truth in what he said, if an article in The Economist is to be trusted.

The Economist: The will to power

Jeffrey Pfeffer of Stanford Business School has been teaching a popular course on “paths to power” for a number of years. He condensed many of his findings into a book that is part academic analysis and part how-to guide, “Power: Why Some People Have It—and Others Don’t”.

Because you're all such wonderful people (of which, more later...) you probably won't have time to read the book, so here's a quick summary. (Oh, nice shirt by the way. You have the most impeccable taste)

Step One: Find a department that's on the way up.
Put simply, as the  most powerful departments are the ones that have produced the current big-wigs, get yourself in there!

Step Two: Manage upwards.
Turning yourself into a supplicant. Follow the example of  Barack Obama who asked about a third of his fellow senators for help when he first took his place in Senate.

Step Three: Become a "node".
Develop the art of forging links between separate parts of your company, and network like crazy.

Step Four: Be loyal. 
It's estimated that four out of every five CEO appointments go to insiders, and those insiders last almost two years longer in their jobs than outsiders.

Step Five: Flatter everyone in sight!
Pfeffer quotes research by Jennifer Chatman, of the University of California, Berkeley, who conducted experiments in which she tried to find a point at which flattery became ineffective. Interesting news, O beautiful and intelligent readers: there's no limit! People just can't get enough of it!

If you're somewhat sceptical about lavishing praise and attention on your peers and subordinates in an organisation, check out Lucy Kellaway's fascinating article for BBC News Magazine to see how there's just no end to the flattery that can be dispensed!

BBC: Should you strike a powerful pose?

In the meantime, where did you get your hair done? It really looks superb! It makes you look so young and vibrant. No wonder you're so good in your job. You must give me your tips for success sometime!

Have a nice day, gorgeous readers!

Thursday, 25 November 2010

An Inspector Calls

It's strange how things sometimes work out isn't it?

A colleague today asked me if I'd write something on here about the 16 days of activism to end violence against women. I'll have to admit that my initial reaction was to think that such an item would appear rather out of place on a blog that's focused on HR issues and case studies from the world of work.

16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign

But a relaxing evening a home gave me the opportunity to put my feet up and read through J.B. Priestley's excellent and thought-provoking stage-play, "An Inspector Calls."

Without wanting to spoil it for those who may be unfamiliar with the play, an evening's entertainment is interrupted by a mysterious character who proceeds to question - and implicate - all the guests about the tragic suicide of Eva Smith, a young girl whose descent into despair was triggered by something very familiar to the readers of this blog: a rejected request for higher wages, followed by a dismissal by an employer.

In one of the most powerful speeches that you'll hear on stage, the Inspector speaks the following lines:
Just remember this. One Eva Smith has gone -  but there are millions and millions and millions of Eva Smiths still left with us, with their lives, their hopes and fears, their suffering and chance of happiness, all intertwined with our lives, with what we think, say, and do. We don't live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other. And I tell you that the time will soon come when, if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish. Good Night.
Priestley's play is clearly fictional, but the facts are that over two women per week are killed by current or ex-partners, and that one in four women in the UK will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.

Whether or not we work in HR, as J.B Priestley says, we are responsible for each other, so don't brush this issue under the carpet. There's plenty of resources available on the issue: I've included a link to just one below. Check it out.

Restored: Ending Violence Against Women

[The editor of HR Case Studies walks straight out, leaving them staring, subdued and wondering. As they stare guiltily and dumbfounded, the curtain falls]

End of Play

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Social Media will not get you into heaven.

Sorry everyone, but my background in Theology and former life as a teacher of Religious Education requires me to point out to you a simple truth:
Your use of social media is not the factor that will determine whether or not you go to heaven
On the Day of Judgement, when the Book of Life is opened, the test of whether or not you are granted access to the heavenly realm will not be how acquainted with social media you were while on Planet Earth. The Recording Angel will not be checking up on how many followers you had on Twitter, how many friends you had on Facebook, or how many contacts you had on LinkedIn.

Why, dear reader, am I pointing this out?

It's this: there's a breed of individuals evolving at the moment for whom the test of whether you're In or Out, Saved or Damned, appears to be how committed you are to the cause of Social Media.

How about this from the pages of the (I'm afraid to say it) increasingly dubious Harvard Business Review:
As a social media geek, I rarely go a day without convincing a friend that even a 42-year-old can enjoy Facebook, or hectoring a colleague about how much time and effort they could save with social media communications, or coaxing a communications pro into embracing social media as a core part of their professional practice. I bat aside the protests about age, time commitment and personal preference.
HBR: Countering the Excuses for Avoiding Social Media (and Video Games)

Convincing: OK. Coaxing: perhaps a bit patronising. But Hectoring? Batting aside protests? Aren't we going a bit over the top here? (And, incidentally, as a person who is significantly on the far side of the category described, I find the "even a 42-year-old" comment deeply offensive.)

Here's a bit more of what I'm talking about. A couple of weeks ago, I participated in an online discussion which addressed such issue as "Why HR are afraid of social media." To me the debate (to continue with the theological terminology) appeared to demonise those unconverted to the use of social media, and almost suggest that to deny the benefits of social media was tantamount to an Unforgivable Sin. I was eventually provoked into remarking that those who do not use social media are not Bad People!

As recently as this morning I observed a conversation between two guys in my network (sorry, Bill and Gareth - it's not personal!) where the health of attendees at a local CIPD branch meeting was judged largely on the number of Twitter (3) and LinkedIn (2) accounts represented by those present. 

So. Let me put out a challenge to those of you who are avid users of social media:
Where on the scale from Evangelist to Extremist are you? Are you a Missionary or a Zealot? A Fan or a Fanatic? What scope is there for someone in your circle to say "I just don't find this sort of stuff particularly relevant or helpful in my social or professional life" without you looking around for the thumbscrews?
And before sending the inquisition round to the offices of HR Case Studies, I trust that you'll note that I haven't actually stated my position on this one! The point I'm making is that if we're not careful , the message will get in the way of the (social) media.

And on that note, I will run for cover!

Monday, 15 November 2010

What the CEO wants, the CEO gets. (Even if it's illegal)

I seriously hope that I'm quoting someone out of context here, but I suspect not.

People Management online reports the results of a debate involving the leaders of three of the UK's businesses which took place at last week's CIPD annual conference in Manchester.

CEOs frustrated by HR's policy-based mindset

Responding to the question of what were their biggest frustrations in dealing with HR, the business leaders stuck to the well worn path of criticising HR for a lack of business understanding and an over-reliance on policies. 

So far, so good.

But David Robinson, chairman of Richer Sounds, seems to be heading into dangerous waters with his view. Here's what he said:
I can’t bear being told ‘you can’t do it that way'. Do not put barriers in the way. Sometimes you have to take a step back from the policy, from the law, and say ‘what do we need to do right now, and how are we going to get there?’
I'm as happy as the next man to criticise HR for a strict adherance to policies if they get in the way of helping the business achieve its onjectives. But "take a step back from ... the law"? Really?

I wonder which particular law is Robinson suggesting that we take a step back from? The law that demands that we don't discriminate? The law that requires companies to comply with minimum wage legislation? The law that requires companies to handle discipline and grievance in a reasonable manner? 

The influence and acceptance that HR craves will not be found by simply acting as the lapdog to senior managers. There are times when HR professionals need to be just that - professional - and convince those that they partner with that there are parameters within which business can operate and that to go beyond that may be inappropriate, unadviseable or plain illegal! 

The HR professional might like always saying "yes", but even the Man from Del Monte occasionally had to say "No"!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Most of what you read about HR isn't true.

Right, dear readers. You have the chance to participate in a social experiment to either establish or disprove the truth of a much-quoted item of HR-related gossip.

In a racey (which is code for "low on evidence") little article entitled "10 Things the HR Department Won’t Tell You", it's claimed that, as a matter of routine, HR departments regularly perform unofficial background checks by trawling through the internet to look for warning signs relating to potential employees.

10 Things the HR Department Won’t Tell You

After apparently "checking in with human resources experts to see what your current employer is keeping tabs on—and how your next employer could be judging you based on a whole lot more than the résumé you submitted," the author claims:
Before calling in applicants for a job interview, HR will snoop around online to make sure there are no virtual red flags. “Social media ‘stalking’ has become the norm—especially at larger companies. Beyond typing names into a search engine, companies will also employ sophisticated online monitoring platforms that dig even deeper. If there’s something on the internet you wouldn’t want your boss to see, it’s probably in your best interest to take it down.
Personally, I suspect that this is utter nonsense (at least in the UK) particularly as many HR departments are stretched to breaking point in even arranging interviews and issuing offer letters. The idea that they have time to act as cyber-sleuths looking for evidence of online dodginess is simply a fantasy.

Or is it?

Well, here's your chance to establish the truth once and for all.

I'd like to hear from any organisation (anonymity guaranteed!) that is prepared to admit to using such methods as a formal part of their selection process. I don't mean the occasional googling of an applicant, or a swift glance at Facebook to check up on the candidate's drunken antics in Ibiza. I mean a deliberate and regular investigation using "sophisticated online monitoring platforms" to delve into the background of individuals that the organisation is considering employing.

I'm also interested in hearing from any company that markets any form of "sophisticated online monitoring platform" so that the HR community can learn of what technology is available to assist in the challenge to sort out the wheat from the chaff in the search for talent

My theory is that this belief  is about as reliable as an urban myth. I would love to be proved wrong, but I doubt that I will be.

Over to you, super-sleuths!

Monday, 8 November 2010

Employee Relations: the Ugly Sister of HR

Research just undertaken reveals that more than half (54%) of UK senior HR professionals are working in teams in which no one has experience of dealing with trade union action.

HR Sector in Danger of Strikeout by Trade Union Action

And is that lack of capability in HR departments likely to pose a threat to those organisations? You bet! The research also reveals one in five senior HR professionals believe that trade union action is likely to affect their organisation in the next six months.

Of these, 20% say that this activity is likely to have a "huge impact" on the organisation.

Recent industrial action within Transport for London, the BBC and the Fire Service would add weight to this concern. There is also an increasing fear that government spending cuts could be the signal for mass strikes in the UK.

The terrifying fact is that almost two-thirds (63%) of the survey respondents say they know little or nothing about the current laws on trade unions, and 40% say they do not feel confident about dealing with union action.

So what are UK HR professionals doing to ensure that this situation is remedied? Precious little it seems, if the content of the seminars at the CIPD annual conference which starts today is anything to go by! With the exception of the Service Delivery and Information seminar stream, Employee Relations is the category of seminars and workshops at the annual conference with the fewest number of activities within it.

If you wish to be seduced by Strategy Insights and Solutions (“Overcoming the Paradoxes of Global Leadership”, “The Next Stage of HR Evolution: insight-driven HR” or “Do Leaders Really Need to be Tired? A study of resourcefulness, leadership and the power of true human vitality” for example) you’ve a choice of 14 seminars to tempt you. Employee Engagement- the HR fad of the moment –has 12 seminars with slinky titles such as “Creating your own Happiness: the science of luck” or “Why Happiness Makes Business Sense” to lead you astray.

But Employee Relations - today’s Ugly Sister of the HR world - has a mere four seminars aimed at increasing the knowledge and skills of the profession’s self-confessed dunces, and of those four seminars, only one is specifically focused on managing the relationship with Trade Unions.

As the publicity material for the one directly relevant seminar states:
Industrial relations are very much back on the HR agenda. How can you work with trade unions to deliver a more productive workforce and even become a beneficial ally during periods of change? What does a good employer– union relationship look like?
By no means is this an easy question to answer, but at some point HR will need to block its ears to the siren calls of strategy, organisational design and talent management, and realise that there’s a difficult job to be done. The job that used to be called Industrial Relations. The name might have changed, but the activity is still there to be done.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Let's keep the Man in Management shall we?

As the current edition of Management Today correctly points out, Tuesday of this week was ‘equal pay day’.
If the average woman was paid the same annual salary as she gets now, but at the same rate the average man is paid, she'd effectively have stopped earning money on Tuesday, despite the fact there’s nearly a sixth of the year still to go
To mark the occasion, women’s pressure group the Fawcett Society has produced a report calling on the Government to do more to encourage equal pay.

And how does Management Today respond? With the decisive and courageous verdict of :
But as ever, the issue is far from straightforward…
Let's remind ourselves of some of the facts on equality of pay between men and women.
  • Men earn an average of £16.07 per hour, women earn merely £13.43 – a difference of 16.4%.
  • In some sectors, notably air transport, financial services and textile manufacturing, the pay gap between men and women is even wider.
  • Despite the passing of the 1970 UK Equal Pay Act, which was intended to bring the pay of men and women into line at the current rate of progress it will take until 2067 before the gap between men and women managers is eliminated.
  • The average UK salary for a male manager is currently £10,031 more than that of a female manager.
  • At senior level male, pay outstrips female pay by as much as 24%.
  • Even at junior level the gap is significant, with male junior executives receiving £1,065 more than their female counterparts.
So in view of all this, what's Management Today's response to the evident inequality? Here are a selection of words used:
  • But it’s not necessarily that easy.
  • Figures are invariably skewed by women who choose to take time out to have children
  • Women may earn less than their male contemporaries because they have less experience.
  • ... even if the figures are correct ...
  • Many businesses simply don’t have the funds at the moment to up pay rates.
Most worrying of all is Management Today’s comment on the recent CIPD report which has predicted that Government cuts will be responsible for 650,000 job losses in the private sector:
If businesses started raising wages for women, the likelihood is that more jobs would be lost.
That's OK then. No argument. We'll just carry on with the inequality. We've done it for so long it would be a shame to change, wouldn't it?

Saturday, 30 October 2010

The Perfect Blog. So perfect that you're not going to read it.

If you're reading this it means I have failed.

The reason why you're not going to read this blog is because it breaks a significant number of the golden rules of blogging.

It doesn't have a number in the title - it's not called Seven Tips To Guarantee Interview Success, or The Six Secrets of Effective Leadership, for example. So the fact that it hasn't got such a snappy title means that you're unlikely to be reading this right now. Or perhaps you're not the run-of-the-mill blog reader and are not therefore drawn in by such simplistic techniques of attracting attention. You may even be quite sophisticated.

It also has more than 60 characters in the title. And more than 10 words. So it breaks all the rules. That's why you're not reading it.

Even those readers that found their way here by accident will be slowly drifting away. In fact 25% of them will have given up by the time that they got to the word "attracting" (highlighted in yellow above) because apparently that's the number of people that call it a day if the article has more than 100 words. So you may have read the first few lines, but you're certainly not reading this, are you? Even if you are, you'll probably be one of the 40% who will have given up by the time that they get to the 300th word in the article (it's the word "perfect", highlighted in green below)

More significantly, the reason why you're not reading this is because you can't be bothered to persevere, and check out the truth of what I'm saying. I could have made all these facts up.

Just like I made up all of the facts of the previous article entitled New research highlights the perfect CV! That's the article that was Facebooked, forwarded, and tweeted by a significant number of people over the course of this weekend, but hardly anyone at all bothered to check out the link in the item which revealed the article to be a fraud.

Which only goes to show that although the fact that you're reading this now demonstrates this experiment in contrariness to be a failure, it also demonstrates that in the vast majority of cases people foolishly take much of what they read on the web at face value, and don't bother to examine the evidence behind it.

Unlike you of course.

But then you're not reading this, are you?

Friday, 29 October 2010

New research highlights the perfect CV!

It’s official!

If you want your CV to be successful, you need to keep it to two pages, use (and avoid!) specific fonts, and work on your golf handicap!

A recent article in the snappily titled Journal of Sociological Trends in Assessment Practice reveals the results of a year long study into the CVs of successful candidates applying for management positions in UK FTSE organisations. If you wish to trawl through the rather turgid tables in the article, follow the link below, but here’s a brief summary of the major findings.

The ideal CV is 2.46 pages long.
OK this is difficult to adhere to, but the study revealed that although there is some validity in the much-quoted advice of keeping your CV to a maximum of two pages in length, CVs of greater length do not actually penalise you.

Avoid Comic Sans Font!
If you wish to impress with the look of your CV, stick to trusted favourites like Arial, preferably in 11 font. There was a slight correlation between successful CVs of candidates applying for roles in Finance and the use of Times New Roman (perhaps it’s something to do with the slightly old-fashioned and risk averse nature of that particular typeface!) but the only really clear message from the survey is the familiar one of avoiding Comic Sans Typeface. Of over 3200 CVs studies, only one using this particular typeface led to an appointment and that was for a position in the Media and Communications department of a major advertising agency (where presumably being a maverick is to be encouraged!)

Take up golf
The single most important factor in progressing from application to interview is to describe your prowess in golf. No other sport has such a positive correlation between appearing on a candidates CV and being appointed into the post. Particularly within roles in the finance sector, a decent golf handicap seems to have more power to impress than even an MBA. And for roles at Finance Director level, it’s not only the fact that you play golf that’s important – it’s how good your handicap is!

Don’t play team sports
Slightly linked to the point above, it’s clear that individualism is what companies are looking for. If anything, there’s a negative correlation between team sports (especially, for some reason, five-a-side football) and appointment into senior roles. The advice here is clear: only mention your dribbling skills if your applying for roles at middle management level. Beyond that, preferably mention how good you are on the golf course or, if you’re applying for roles in IT or Procurement, it will help you if you have completed the occasional marathon.

Drink more wine
Only one leisure interest (other than golf) has a positive correlation between inclusion on CV and appointment to position: mentioning that you are a connoisseur of fine wines. The phrases “Entertaining” or Dining Out” have no bearing whatsoever on progressing from CV to interview, but there is a marked correlation (0.582 for the statistically minded!) between simply mentioning “Fine Wines” and being appointed to position. The correlation is even higher for posts at MD level, and those with salaries of above £75K

So, to summarise, keep your CV to two pages, avoid Comic Sans Font, play golf (alone!) and drop into conversation (should you get to interview) that you knocked back a bottle of Chateau Gruaud Larose 1986 at the weekend (£288 a bottle)

Good luck!

Journal of Sociological Trends in Assessment Practice

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Recruiters beware: this man is dangerous!

The man above is Trevor. Trevor works for a financial services organisation in Bristol in the South West of England.

He may look innocent, but in fact he's the most dishonest man in the world. If you are in any way involved in the recruitment sector, you need to be very, very wary of him.

Let me tell you why.

A number of separate research projects have revealed some disturbing facts about the truthfulness of candidates' CV. Here are the chilling results of these surveys:
  • In a recent study of 3700 CVs by the Risk Advisory Group, 20% were found to contain significant untruths concerning matters such as experience and academic qualifications.
  • The same study revealed over 50% of CVs included one or more accuracy, such as the real reason for leaving the most recent job.
  • A separate survey (by Powerchex) found that UK job applicants were three times more likely to lie on their CVs than those from the rest of the world.
  • This survey also found that 22% of British applicants' CVs contained either falsehoods or embellishments
  • In contrast only 4% of CVs from Asian candidates contained dodgy information.
  • The worst discrepancy rate was in the financial services sector in the South West of England where 25% of CVs were found to have at least one discrepancy.
  • The most honest applicants came from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
  • A further study by Experian revealed that 12% of men, but only 7% of women admit to lying on their CVs
  • According to the CIPD, 20% of British workers are prepared to get a parent or friend to pose as a referee.
So you can see why Trevor is to be feared. He's male. He's From the UK. He's from the South West. He works in financial services.

The public are warned. Do not approach this man. He is thought to be armed with a deadly weapon.

His CV.

Further frightening reading from the dungeons of HR Case Studies: Always tell the truth. That way, you don't have to remember what you said (Mark Twain)

Monday, 25 October 2010

The excesses of US executive pay: That's just the way it is.

I'm sure that by now most readers of this humble little blog will have spotted the occasional rant against the inequalities of executive pay in the UK.

If you haven't been following the theme, here's a bit of background reading:

A fair day's wages for a fair day's work?
£36.8m. Not bad for a year's work.
But today, the editor is the bearer of good tidings! Things are not as bleak as they may have seemed. But the bad news is that this is only the case because the situation across the Atlantic makes our inequalities pale into insignificance.

Once again, dear reader, you are challenged. See if you can read the following facts and remain unmoved.

One out of every 34 Americans who earned wages in 2008 earned absolutely nothing in 2009.

Average wages, median wages, and total wages have all declined, except at the very top, where they leaped dramatically, increasing five-fold.

The number of Americans earning more than $50 million fell from 131 in 2008 to 74 in 2009

Those at the very top of the scale increased their income from an average of $91.2 million in 2008 to almost $519 million. (And you thought that Wayne Rooney's reported £180,000 per week was on the rather high side! : These guys earn nearly $10 million per week!)

This next little snippet of information needs a section all of its own, because it's so astonishing. Read these words slowly and consider them:
The 74 highest earning people in the USA made as much as all of the 19 million lowest-paid people in America combined
So, how did you get on? Did you gasp? Did your eyes pop out on stalks? Or did you just shrug your shoulders and hum the words of the great American songwriter Bruce Hornsby: "That's just the way it is, some things will never change?"

Hopefully you'll recall that there's another line:
But don't you believe them.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Performance Management: It's as simple as ABC. Isn't it?

Let me take you on a trip down memory lane.

Long before your faithful editor of HR Case Studies became a world-famous blogger, weaver of HR strategy and generally all-round good egg, he was a teacher of Religious Studies in a couple of secondary schools in the North of England (including the one which was dubbed The School From Hell by the sensation seeking media). Those of you that reside in the UK will be aware that Religious Studies tends to be dispensed in single lessons to the unconvinced and largely unenthusiastic pupils. That means a lot of teaching. And a lot of pupils.

A merger between two local schools meant that I (for 'tis me of whom we are speaking) had the pleasure of teaching 515 different pupils per week. I also had the very dubious pleasure of writing end-of-term reports on each of the (frequently anonymous) 515 pupils who had graced my classes during the year.

We're talking of the days before the bland computer generated reports that are the saviour of many a 21st century teacher. We're talking biro, carbon paper, liquid paper and copious amounts of midnight oil and strong coffee to meet the report distribution deadline.

We're talking of resisting the temptation to be witty and sarcastic to write comments such as "Jason attended all the lessons and made occasional movements to prove that he was still conscious."

But 515 reports is a lot to complete, especially if you're trying to be meaningful.

Confession time: I longed to put into practice the philosophy of one of my colleagues who was firmly of the opinion that "when all is said and done, everything you write about a pupil basically boils down to one of three things: they are either Good, Average or Bad. All the rest is padding."

And doesn't the same apply to Performance Management?

Strip away the: "David has achieved all this year's objectives and demonstrated that he is developing all the corporate competencies" and you've got: David is Good. Remove the padding from "Christine has struggled to complete some of the key priorities for the year, and needs to focus on growing in some of the crucial behavioural areas" and you have: Christine is Bad.

Here's a question: aren't we over-complicating things by developing sophisticated and often confusing performance management systems which are time-consuming to complete, calibrate and report on?

What would we actually lose if we simply rated each employee on a scale of A=Good, B=Average, C=Bad ?

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Missing, presumed dead: the eighth most stupid management fad

A recent post on BNET (The CBS Interactive Business Network) listed what the author (and he's written for Computer Gaming World and Men's Health magazine, so he's clearly a managerial heavyweight) names as the eight most heinous, stupid, painful and useless management fads that you'll ever encounter.

BNET: The 8 Stupidest Management Fads of All Time
He'd evidently got bored or run out of steam by the time that he got to number eight, but here are the other seven manifestations of managerial madness:

1. Six Sigma
Improve the quality of your processes by identifying and removing the causes of defects. You assign various people different colored “belts” (like a karate class) based upon their expertise in the Six Sigma methodology.

2. Business Process Re-engineering
Analyze the workflows and processes within your organization and rework them to achieve a defined business outcome.

3. Matrix Management
Temporarily pool people with similar skills for discrete work assignments. For example, all engineers may be in one engineering department and report to an engineering manager, but these same engineers may be assigned to different projects and report to a project manager while working on that project. Therefore, each engineer may have to work under several managers to get their job done.

4. Management by Consensus
Make important decisions with the agreement of everybody in the group. Proposals should be collaboratively developed, and full agreement is a primary objective. Consensus management is usually seen as an alternative to “top-down” decision making common inside hierarchical organizations.

5. Core Competency
Focus on the one thing that your firm does better than anyone else.  That will make your strategy difficult for competitors to imitate and keep your organization from wasting time doing things that they’re not very good at.

6. Management by Objectives
Define objectives within an organization so that management and employees agree to what is required of them and understand where they are placed in the organization. Then compare the employee’s actual performance with the standards set and agreed upon.

7. The Search for Excellence
Solve business problems with as little business process overhead as possible, and empower decision-makers at multiple levels of a company.

I suspect that most of the highly intelligent readers of HR Case Studies will be aware that the author's descriptions are so much of a caricature that they are either misleading or in some instances plain wrong, but hey it's the end of the week so we need a bit of light entertainment, don't we!

More importantly, we need to find a replacement for the eighth management fad that we've cast overboard.

So dear readers: what's the daftest management fad that we still cling to but we really need to consign to the dustbin of history?

You may turn over and begin . . .

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

HBS: Harvard Business School or Half-Baked Silliness?

For a reputable institution that has as its motto "We educate leaders who make a difference in the world", Harvard Business School doesn't half spout some nonsense!

Let's first allow Harvard Business School to talk for itself:
For more than a century, our faculty have drawn on their passion for teaching, their experience in working with organizations worldwide, and the insights gained from their research to educate generations of leaders who have shaped the practice of business in every industry and in every country around the world
Now let's go on to look at the content of HBR's The Daily Stat: ("Facts and figures to stimulate thought - and action") - a daily e-mail distributed to a serious number of subscribers in search of business insight and wisdom:
Break Out of a Slump By Visualizing Success

How do you get out of a slump at work? Atlanta Braves ace pitcher John Smoltz had won just 2 games and lost 11 in the middle of the 1991 baseball season, but after seeking help from a psychologist, he went 12-2 the rest of the season, according to the Wall Street Journal. The problem: He had been over-analyzing every bad pitch. The solution: He watched a video of his best pitches, then recalled those images when he got to the mound, mentally evoking the feeling of throwing well.
The article, which admittedly originated in that other lightweight business periodical, the Wall Street Journal,(read it here if you can wade your way through the transatlantic terminology) then goes on to demonstrate that merely by visualising yourself performing well in the future, all will be well.

All you need to do is follow the simple advice of the author to "Stop overworking and allow yourself to relax" and before you know it, sales will have doubled, new clients will be landed, and confidence will be restored.

I know that we all want a quick route to success, but honestly, to sign up to some of this mumbo-jumbo outside of the sports field (where it undoubtedly can have its benefits) is tantamount to embracing new-age nonsense.  

You'd expect more from an academic institution that prides itself on producing some of the most influential characters in American business, wouldn't you?

A fair day's wages for a fair day's work?

The issue of the excesses of executive pay has featured many times in the pages of this humble little blog. But an article in today’s Guardian once again turns the spotlight on this crazy situation.

I defy you to read some of these facts and not feel some sense of injustice!
  • The average income of a FTSE 100 chief executive is over £3m per year, including bonuses and pension contributions. This is more than 100 times median household income.
  • It is not uncommon for CEOs to earn 200 or 300 times as much as the average pay of their employees.
  • In Terry Leahy's final years CEO at Tesco, he was paid 500 times the average take-home pay of his colleagues.
  • In the year to September 2009, the FTSE LOST a third of its value. During the same period of time, executive pay ROSE 10%  
  • In 1980, the average pay of a UK CEO was ten times that of average UK earnings. By 2006, the average pay of a UK CEO was 75 (say it out loud and think about it ... seventy-five!) times that of average UK earnings

So what can be done about such evident and surely unsupportable imbalances between those at the top of UK organisations, and those who work within them? Today's Guardian article offers at least one good suggestion:
One thing that government could do to shake things up would be to change the composition of remuneration committees, adding some broader and more critical voices to the mix and disrupting the complacent back-slapping. Ed Miliband's proposal for worker representation on remuneration committees would be a promising way forward. It would inject a dose of realism into the determination of corporate pay, as the presence of even a single dissenting voice could puncture group-think, and lead to pay policies that were broadly justifiable to all sections of an organisation, rather than only serving the interests of a self-perpetuating elite 
Further reading from HR Case Studies
Trade Unions add their voice to the chorus demanding an end to the bonus culture

Your thoughts and comments are, as ever, most welcome.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Recruitment and Employee Relations conflict to increase in 2011

Stand by for a statistics attack!

Employers are "gearing up for the recovery by targeting recruitment in areas that will maximise growth" according to a survey by the CBI and Harvey Nash out today

(And I thought Harvey Nash were an international luxury lifestyle stores specialising in brand name merchandise with stores in London, Leeds and Riyadh. Perhaps I'm confusing them with the manufacturer of a brand of Spanish sherry that has been imported into and bottled in Bristol since 1796. Focus, editor, focus!!)

But all in the garden is not entirely rosy, as many firms are concerned about maintaining morale, as employees face another year of pay restraint.

Here's a useful bundle of statistics to keep you entertained as the morning progresses.
  • The number of businesses operating a recruitment freeze has fallen from 61% in Spring 2009 to 7% this Autumn.
  • 23% of businesses are planning targeted recruitment in areas including management, technical and sales, while 21% plan to add staff in some parts of the business and reduce numbers elsewhere.
  • Pay freezes have reduced, from 55% of employers in Spring 2009 to 14% in Autumn 2010.
  • 22% of firms are planning targeted pay rises for key staff, while 42% are planning a below-inflation award for all employees.
  • Although most firms (67%) describe the current employee relations climate as co-operative or better, many businesses are concerned that relationships will become more difficult next year.
  • In the next six months, 21% of public sector employers are planning a recruitment freeze, and 58% a pay freeze.
  • Firms are finding it harder to maintain engagement and morale. Nearly a third (32%) report high levels of engagement, while morale is not getting better, with just a third (38%) reporting high levels.
  • The majority of employers recognise they need to work harder on employee engagement, with 63% naming achieving high levels of engagement as one of their top priorities for the year ahead.
  • According to the Tribunals Service. the number of employment tribunals rose 56% to 236,100 claims in 2008/09.
  • Nearly half of employers (48%) are worried about an increase in age-related tribunal claims after the removal of the national default retirement age (DRA) of 65 in April.
  • Two thirds of employers (69%) are concerned that removing the DRA will lead to greater uncertainty around workforce planning.
  • Nearly all employers (97%) offer at least one form of flexible working, including part-time; flexi-time; term-time hours; job sharing and working from home. 
Source: Gearing up for Growth, the CBI/Harvey Nash Employment Trends Survey

The Four Cs of the HR Profession

It's Monday, so we'll keep it simple!

Last week we had the Three Cs in A divinely simple approach to talent management. We'll make it slightly more complex this week by talking of The Four Cs of the HR Profession: Competent, Curious, Courageous and Caring.

An article in a rather ancient (2005) edition of Human Resource Management Journal, summarises research to determine how the HR profession is perceived by other, non-HR executives. What will the successful professionals of the future look like? Successful HR professionals today, and in the future, have to be (according to the article) competent, curious, courageous, and caring about people.

Earn your seat at the table by demonstrating individual competency in delivering value. In particular, prove yourself by operating in the domains of:
  • Strategic contribution
  • Business knowledge
  • HR delivery
  • Personal credibility
  • HR Technology
"HR professionals should ask CEOs what keeps them awake at night. If the HR function isn’t focused on the same issues, we won’t be adding as much value as we could"

HR professionals must have the courage to do the right thing when they are under great pressure to do something else.

Caring about people
Valuing people and the contribution people can make to an organization is a key characteristic of good HR professionals and always will be. And we shouldn’t apologize for it or try to minimize it in an effort to be viewed as “strategic.” HR professionals who care about people will automatically make strategic decisions and recommendations that are based on a full understanding of how they will impact people.
Just one question, dear readers: perhaps it's an old fashioned concept, but is it still part of the role of the HR profession to care for people, or is this rather old hat in the hard-edged, bottom line driven 21st Century?

Human Resource Management: The four Cs of the HR Profession: being competent, curious, courageous and caring about people (Summer 2005)

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Nobody Needs A Mentor

Those readers of HR Case Studies who are familiar with the work of David Clutterbuck will inevitably be aware of his highly successful book Everyone Needs a Mentor. If it does what it say on the tin:
Mentoring is the most cost efficient and sustainable method of fostering and developing talent within your organisation. Talented employees can be stretched to perform even better by exposure to high performing colleagues. Experience can be passed on more effectively one-to-one. Mentoring works. This book tells you how.
As it's a Sunday, let's look at an alternative approach, once more culled from the management wisdom of Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago.
I've been asked literally thousands of times to be a mentor to someone. On occasions the request came from people who flew from another continent for the sole purpose of waiting by my car to get the opportunity to ask me personally to mentor them.

What concerned me more than their temerity was the expectation behind the question - "Would you be willing to listen to and counsel me, mold me and shape me, direct me and instruct me and hold me accountable? Would you, O Great Mentor-to-Be, please serve as my all-knowing, all sufficient, all powerful, omnipresent confidant and master, teacher and exhorter, friend and guide?

Truth be told, they didn't really want me. They wanted Obi-Wan Kenobi. One basic problem: He isn't for hire.
Hybels gives some sound advice which is well worth thinking about by all those involved in any form of mentoring:
  • There are hundreds of mentors that are available to any individual. Don't see one person as the fount of all knowledge, It may take several different mentors to find what you're looking for, so think creatively about enlisting mentorship aid.
  • You don't need to have met someone to be mentored by them. Listen to great leaders speak. Go to hear them at conferences and on TV.
  • Get mentored by dead people. Find the writings of people who cover the areas you need mentoring in. As Hybels puts it, "The men themselves are long gone, but their mentoring influence lives on. How cool is that?"
In short, follow the advice of Hybels:
There's no quicker way to repel an accomplished leader than to beg him or her to be your own personal wizard. Ditch the Obi-Wan dream and instead seize creative opportunities to learn from a distance from thousands of mentors who have a wealth of wisdom to share.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Pole Vaulters, Boy Racers, Plodders and Flatliners: Tips on employee engagement

(This article isn't just a gratuitous excuse to include a picture of Russian Pole Vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva. Honestly.)

In an entertaining and enlightening article in a recent issue of Harvard Business Review, Katie Truss (former Director of the Centre for Research in Employment, Skills, and Society at Kingston Business School) and her fellow researchers suggest a novel approach for tailoring engagement programmes to meet the needs of different types of workers.

The article first looks at the five basic principles for increasing employee engagement:
  • Keep people informed
  • Listen
  • Set clear objectives
  • Match the person with the job
  • Create meaningful work 
Nothing particularly earth-shattering there.

But the article then goes on to demonstrate that the one-size-fits-all approach to engagement is inevitably destined for failure, and classifies workers into four distinct categories. It’s argued that if you know which type of people you’re dealing with, you’ll be able to produce more engaged employees, who in turn perform better, are more loyal, take less sick leave, are less likely to quit, and enjoy better health and personal well-being.

See if you recognise either yourself or your colleagues in the list below

Grand Prix Drivers
Generally strongly engaged with their work, they’re ideal employees much of the time, but also at risk of burning out.
The Challenge: Preventing them from carrying too much of the load, especially in projects which they’ve initiated themselves

Pole Vaulters
They’re strongly engaged, but their moments of engagement are less frequent than those of Grand Prix Drivers. Pole Vaulters tend to be energized only by certain aspects of their work rather than the whole range of required activities.
The Challenge: Getting the most out of their on/off enthusiasm.

Long-Distance Runners
On the upside, they’re reliable and consistent, but they’re also significantly less engaged than Grand Prix Drivers and Pole Vaulters (assuming the Pole Vaulters are actually engaged)!
The Challenge: Keeping them involved, and increasing their levels of engagement.

Oh dear. These guys are rarely engaged and even when they are, it doesn't actually amount to much.They can easily become actively disengagde (i.e. become negative and hostile) and have a demotivating effect on colleagues.
The Challenge: Reversing their negative feelings and fostering engagement.

Confession time? Which category do you consider yourself to be in?

Harvard Business Review (March 2010) Engaging the “Pole Vaulters” on Your Staff

The secret of happiness

Time for a little test!

Here's a simple question: what makes people in Britain happy?

Your task is to rank the following items in order of importance as voted for by those adults asked to identify what makes them happy.
  • Helping others in the UK
  • Living in a world where the environment is protected and where poverty does not exist
  • Having a job with a high income
  • Helping those abroad
  • Having an interesting job
  • Spending time with friends and family 
The poll was conducted to coincide with the launch today of Wholly Living, a report by Catholic aid agency CAFOD, Christian relief and development agency Tearfund and the public theology think-tank Theos. Examining human wellbeing in the context of both the UK and international development, the report invites the UK government, as well as people of all faiths and none, to enter the debate on how best to create an environment in which to engender human flourishing.

Tearfund Chief Executive Matthew Frost said:
It's interesting that in this time of economic uncertainty, when we might have expected people to prioritise income over all else, we have instead found that people look outwards to the state of the environment, world poverty and personal relationships with others as their measures of happiness
So HR Professionals who believe that you need to finely craft your reward and recognition frameworks in order to effectively motivate your employees, you might be interested to see the scores on the doors.

The keys to happiness according to those polled are:
  • Spending time with friends and family (97%)
  • Having an interesting job (92%)
  • Living in a world where the environment is protected and where poverty does not exist (90%)
  • Helping others in the UK (75%)
  • Having a job with a high income (64%)
  • Helping those abroad (54%)  

And other sections of the report give HR professionals some pointers about what matters to people within their working environments:
It's hugely important to people to enjoy interesting and productive work, and to have healthy relationships and friendships – people measure happiness by what they give to others and what they gain in return. Of course a level of financial security is essential, but it’s clear that British people recognise that the people in our lives come first.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Britain: It's just not fair!

Let's be provocative!

Every three years the Equality and Human Rights Commission is required to report to Parliament on the progress that society is making in relation to equality, human rights and good relations.The first such review was laid before parliament yesterday.

The headline on the BBC website accompanying the publication depressingly announces: "Gender pay gap progress grinding to a halt" and goes on to explain that:
Attempts to close the pay gap between men and women appears to be "grinding to a halt", the Equality and Human Rights Commission has said. Its wide-ranging 700-page report said women on average earned 16% less than men, widening to 27% for women aged 40.
But the EHRC report focuses on much more than just pay differences between men and women.

If you're already feeing a bit down today, then I suggest that you skip the rest of this article. Here are some of the other findings of the EHRC report:

  • Black Caribbean and Pakistani babies are twice as likely to die in their first year as Bangladeshi and white British babies.
  • The highest performing group at 16 are Chinese girls, with those on free school meals outranking every other group except better-off Chinese girls.
  • White British boys on free school meals are the lowest performers at school, apart from Gypsy and traveller children.
  • Women with degrees face a 4% loss in lifetime earnings as a result of motherhood, while mothers with no qualifications face a 58% loss.
  • 50% of disabled adults are in work compared to 79% of non-disabled adults.
  • The number of women prisoners has nearly doubled since 1995 in England and Wales, and in Scotland since 2000.
  • One in eight people in England provide unpaid care to adults.
  • Disabled men earn 11% less than other male workers, while the gap is 22% for women.
  • Black graduates earn up to 24% less than their white counterparts.
  • Total household wealth of the top 10% in society is almost 100 times higher than for the poorest 10%
  • Men and women from the highest social class can expect to live for up to seven years longer than those from lower socio-economic groups.

It's perhaps all too easy to turn the spotlight on the pay gap between men and women, but that's far from the full picture.

As the EHRC reports states:
21st Century Britain faces the danger of a society divided by the barriers of inequality and injustice. For some, the gateways to opportunity appear permanently closed, no matter how hard they try; whilst others seem to have been issued with an 'access all areas' pass at birth.
So, my fellow HR professionals, what are you going to do about it?

A divinely simple approach to talent management!

There's an intentional theme running through the HR Case Studies posts this week!

Bill Hybels is the founding and senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois, which is one of the most-attended churches in North America. We've already mentioned that those who have accepted the invitation to speak at Willow Creek's Annual Leadership Summit include Gary Hamel, Jack Welch, Tony Blair and Bono.

The size of the leadership and management team at Willow Creek is such that it resembles that of a major commercial organisation, and the importance of getting the right person in each key position is no different to that faced by a secular business.

The approach of Bill Hybels to executive selection is one which is worthy of exploration regardless of whether you're a priest or a pagan, a believer or a sceptic:

It took me nearly thirty years to figure out a plan for how to build a dream team. II tried all sorts of mental grids for prioritising people-qualities along the way, but the only one that stuck was made up of three simple Cs: Character, Competence and Chemistry

Hybels goes on to say:

Good character is touch to discern in an interview but you have to do your due diligence to make sure that the person you're about to invite onto the team has got it.

Only after a person passes the character test to I check for competence. I make no apologies for looking for maximum competence in my teammates: gifts, talents and capabilities that will take the team performance to the next level.

But before I recruit anyone, I take them through the chemistry screen. I used to be a doubter when it came to emphasizing "fit" in a new recruit, but I've learned the hard way to trust my instincts: if I get negative vibes the first two or three times I'm in someone's presence, it's likely I'm not going to enjoy working with that person day in and day out.

OK. Question: The approach of Bill Hybels may be pretty simple and unsophisticated, but can you fault his technique for identifying talent?

Sunday, 10 October 2010

A Stereotype for Sunday!

While it's still Sunday, let's pick up a theme from last week.

In an item on the fatal errors of the interview process, one of the clangers that we highlighted was:
The stereotyping effect: Assuming that particular characteristics are typical of members of a particular group. In the case of sex, race, disability, etc. decisions made on this basis are often illegal 
The problem for all of us - not just the interviewer - is that much of our stereotyping is so ingrained in us that we're not even aware when it kicks in.

Here's an example that's been exercising the editor of this esteemed blog over the last week or so:

What sort of person do you think of when you think of the phrase American Evangelical Christian?

Something along the lines of a happy-clappy, mindless, anti-feminist and prejudiced right wing member of the moral majority who sees natural disasters as a manifestation of divine judgement upon those who don't adhere to their particular creed?

I suspect that you wouldn't expect a book written by someone who would describe himself as an American Evangelical Christian to contain an in-depth and non-judgemental coverage of philosophers, writers and artists such as Camus, Derrida, Kant, Kierkegaard, Bernstein, Nietzsche, Pascal, Weber and Marx (Karl not Groucho!)

But that's the sort of content that Tim Keller, founder minister of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan (six thousand attendees spread over five services each weekend) seamlessly weaves into his writing.

Does that say anything to you about your stereotyping and prejudices?

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Homework on Coaching

Right, dear readers of HR Case Studies. It’s almost the weekend, so I’m setting you some homework, and in the process undertaking a sophisticated social experiment with you select band.

An article in the current edition of Management Today, written by Jamil Qureshi who describes himself as a “Mind coach and strategic consultant” argues that you can “shape your mind for success” and offers ten top tips for doing just that.

MT Expert's Ten Top Tips: Shape your mind for success

Your homework is to read the Management Today article, and then answer this simple question:
Is mind coaching a scientifically proven effective means of improving performance, or an unfounded and somewhat empty fad in personal development?
You need to post your answers in the comments box and indicate what your current role is.

For the slackers amongst you, the tips are summarised below:
  1. Be motivated by what you want to achieve, never motivated by what you wish to avoid.  
  2. Put your own house in order, before complaining about the state of the street. 
  3. Be a winner who creates other winners. 
  4. Treat everybody like they are the most important person on earth. 
  5. Lose the ‘ I, Me, and Mine.’ 
  6. How to be successful? Double your rate of failure...  
  7. Seek to understand, before being understood.  
  8. Cashflow is not the lifeblood of business. 
  9. Remember: there is no such thing as neutral. 
  10. Have purpose. 
Right. Get commenting