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

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

The 13 fatal errors of interviewing

Interviews: they're so popular, but so much can go wrong!

There is plenty of apparently authoritative research in support of the claim that traditional selection interviewers are poor predictors of future job performance. Anderson and Shackleton 1993 drew on a wide range of academic studies from several countries and effectively summarized the reasons why in particular unstructured interviews have been criticized for the poor predictive validity.

So, dear readers of HR Case Studies, here's a handy summary of the myriad of pitfalls that can be encountered when interviewing. Please feel free to add a few favourites of your own!

The expectancy effect: Giving undue influence to positive or negative expectations of a candidate formed from the CV or application form.
The self-fulfilling prophecy effect: Asking questions designed to confirm initial impressions of candidates gained either before the interview or in its early stages.
The primacy effect: Putting too much emphasis on impressions gained and information assimilated early in the interview.
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 prototyping effect: Looking for a particular type of personality regardless of job-related factors.
The halo and horns effect: Interviewers sometimes rate candidates as “good” or “bad” across the board and this reach unbalanced conclusions.
The contrast effect: Allowing the experience of interviewing one candidate to affect the way others who are seen later in the selection process are interviewed.
Negative information bias effects: Giving more weight to perceived negative points about candidates than to those that are most positive.
The similar-to-me effect: Giving preference to candidates perceived as having a similar background, career history, personality or attitudes to the interviewer.
The personal liking effect: Making decisions on the basis of whether they personally like or dislike the candidate.
The information overload effect: Forming judgements on the basis of only a fraction of the data available on each individual candidate.
The fundamental attribution error effect: Incorrectly assuming that some action on the part of the candidate is or was caused by an aspect of his or her personality rather than by a simple response to events.
The temporal extension effect: Assuming that a candidate’s behaviour at interview (e.g. nervousness) is typical of his or her general disposition.
Source: Anderson and Shackleton: Successful Selection Interviewing (1993)

So the Big Question: Is it actually the case that the traditional interview is faulty, or does the fault actually lie at the door of the dodgy and untrained interviewer?

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

CBI campaigns for modernisation of strike legislation

Timed to perfection, coinciding with the Conservative Party Conference and the London Tube Strike, the CBI this week called for changes in the law to raise the threshold for industrial action, and to ensure that if strikes occur disruption is minimised.

CBI unveils package of measures to avoid strikes

The CBI argues that their recommendations for modernisation of the UK employment relations legislation are essential if the current recovery is to be kept on track.

The CBI believes the law needs updating to reflect the fact that 85% of private sector employees are not members of a union, and that most employers engage directly with staff or their representatives to bring about changes in the workplace.

Their recommendations include:
  • Employers should be able to use agency temps to cover for striking workers.
  • The notice period for industrial action should increase from seven to 14 days after the ballot takes place to give the public and businesses more time to prepare for strikes.  
  • People should have the right to decide whether they want to be represented by a union. Ballots should always be held on union recognition – it should never be automatic.  
  • Strikes should be the result of a clear, positive decision by the workforce concerned. The test for a legitimate strike should be that 40% of balloted members support it as well as a simple majority of those voting.  
  • Only paid-up union members should be able to vote – there should be a single legal definition of a union member.  
  • Unions should keep records up to date. They should conduct an annual audit of their membership and make all reasonable endeavours to keep records accurate throughout the year.  
  • Union members should be required to hear both sides of the argument before voting in a strike ballot. Employers and unions should each be allowed to send concise statements with the ballot papers, setting out the scope, nature and reason for the dispute.  
  • Union members should be advised on the implications of striking for them personally. Ballot papers should include a notice warning that pay and non-contractual benefits can be withdrawn if an employee goes on strike.
These recommendations are likely to polarise the population into those that think that Trade Unions are an anachronism, led by a band number of militant Marxists intent on holding a company to ransom, and those who think that the CBI’s recommendations are an attempt to totally remove the last weapon in the Trade Unions’ arsenal – that of the removal of labour.

So, dear readers of HR Case Studies: What do you think? Comments welcome.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Pick a number. Any number. Somewhere between 10.4 and 59 . . .

OK recruiters and (above all) futurologists: read this and then consider its impact.

According to research undertaken by PricewaterhouseCoopers, despite unemployment still being at record levels, UK workers still have itchy feet. Employees in the UK are far more likely to move jobs than either their transatlantic or European counterparts.

Management Today: Employee resignations cost £42bn a year

Apparently, the number of people resigning from their jobs has grown, from 7.7% last year, to 10.4% in 2010.

In France the figure is 4.9%; in Germany it’s 4.7%, and in the USA it’s just below the UK level at 7%.

That means good news for recruitment consultancies, but bad news for businesses who, as PricewaterhouseCoopers point out, are spending ‘up to twice as much’ on recruitment as foreign companies.

PricewaterhouseCoopers estimate that the UK economy could save itself £42bn if it could improve employee retention.

And how about these alarming facts:
  • Whereas in 2009, 54% of businesses said they placed a special focus on retaining talent, this year, that’s dropped down to 36%.
  • While just under half said last year that they had invested more time than usual in hiring the best staff, that number slipped to just 30% this year.
  • 67% of businesses say that the reason they have recruitment difficulties is not because they can’t afford to pay wages, but because applicants don’t have the right skills for the job.
  • 15% of companies even said they haven’t had any applicants.
Quite where PricewaterhouseCoopers get the figure from is unclear, but they estimate that the average cost of replacing an employee, including all the training and recruitment costs, is £25,000.

Scary stuff.

But let’s use this to get one issue straight: the weekly scaremongerings that say that 33% or (please try not to laugh!) 59% of employees are thinking of moving onto a different role will inevitably come to nothing.

Or at least not more than about 10.4%

There is a time for all things . . .

Vision Statement. Corporate Mission. IT Evangelists. The business world has been stealing religious terminology with glee for many years now. Perhaps it’s time to learn a few deeper lessons from those in religious leadership too.

The entire editorial team of HR Case Studies team has recently been watching a series of DVDs from last year’s Leadership Summit at Willow Creek Church in Chicago. Willow Creek is one of the most attended churches in North America. Each year Willow Creek’s Leadership Summit endeavours to:
Transform Christian Leaders around the world with an injection of vision, skill development and inspiration for the sake of the local church
And the speakers are slightly better known than you might expect from a church gathering! It’s not Doris from the Mothers Union or Akela from the Brownies that accepts the invitation to speak at Willow Creek: it’s Jack Welch, Gary Hamel, Tony Blair and Bono!

That in itself is worthy of thought. How can a church attract such eminent leaders to speak at its annual leadership conference?

But Bill Hybels (founder of Willow Creek Community Church) seems to be one of those individuals whose wisdom and insight into leadership extends far beyond the pews.

Try his “What season are you in?” question for starters. Although his question is primarily intended to be answered by church leaders, his categorisation of the various phases of an enterprise into Growth, Consolidation, Transition, Malaise or Reinvention is one which can equally be applied to businesses.

Or to us as individuals.

What season are you in?

Friday, 1 October 2010

Harvard Business Review (October 1957 edition!): what today's manager needs to know

October 1957 was an interesting time!

In pulling together information for a recent blog entry, I looked up the October 1957 issue of Harvard Business Review.

Here's what the leading business managers of the day were reading:

Thinking Ahead
How serious is "creeping inflation?"

Search for a Managerial Philosophy
Exploration of trends on the USA that affect business values and managerial philosophy.

Marketing Costs and Mathematical Programming
An explanation of distribution cost analysis.

How to Choose and Use a Lawyer
The selection of corporate lawyers.

Can the Businessman Apply Christianity?
How Christian doctrine relates to business in the United States

Never Overestimate the Power of a Computer
Why computers are over-rated and will never really catch on.

Listening to People
A study reveals that people only remember about half of the information they hear.

New Dimensions in Top Executive Reading
What the Big Boys are reading.

Strategies for Diversification
Discussion of a method for evaluating profit potential in alternative product-market strategies.

Annual Report on Executive Compensation.
Survey reveals pay increase for 48% of top executives, but no details given of individual salaries!

From the Thoughtful Businessman
Letters to the editor, including ones on performance appraisal and how to identify promotable executives.

Looking Around
All you need to know about new marketing concepts!

How things change and how things stay the same!

The current edition of HBR includes articles entitled How To Measure Your Life, Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers, Misfit Entrepreneurs, Fire Your Marketing Manager and Hire a Community Manager, Can You Open Source Your Strategy, Commercials Make Us Like TV More, Strategic Humour, Why Succession Shouldn't Be A Horse Race and How French Innovators are Putting the "Social" Back In Social Networking.

I'll have to admit that the article in the current edition that most caught my eye is one entitled, "What 17th-Century Pirates Can Teach Us About Job Design"

Right, Scurvy Seadogs: Back to work, or the Cap'n will have you walking the plank!