Tuesday, 15 March 2011

How to spot an HR Fad (or any fad to be honest!)

It's amazing what you find tucked away in the depths of a dry academic text book!

Lurking away in Chapter 3 of Dave Ulrich's Human Resource Champions is the following handy checklist to allow you to decide if the current trend is likely add any long-term value:

  1. It's simple and easy to use and claims to solve complex problems
  2. It claims to apply to and help everyone
  3. It's not anchored or related to any known and generally accepted theory
  4. Proponents hesitate to present it in academic settings or write about it in refereed journals
  5. Proponents can't tell you exactly how it works
  6. It's a seminar session at 75% of the conferences you attend
  7. Its proponents claim it's changed their lives and that it can change yours, too
  8. Its greatest proponents are those with the least experience in the field
  9. Proponents claim that the only way to really understand it is to try it personally; it can't be explained or demonstrated
  10. It's just too good to be true

Odd thing is, how would the HR Business Partnership model score on this one?

Sunday, 6 March 2011

HR: The Invisible Men

Upon being told that President Calvin Coolidge had just died, Dorothy Parker (American poet, wit and satirist) responded, “How can they tell?”

Sadly, I fear that the same words could be applied to the HR Profession unless something changes pretty soon.

Over recent months, the pages of the national press have been filled with the debate and moral outrage over the excesses of the bonuses paid within the UK banking system. Yet the contribution from the HR community has been practically non-existent.

Comment on the situation from either individual HR Directors within the banking sector (and here’s a challenge: name one!) or the CIPD has been less than negligible. The profession seems to be increasingly populated by Invisible (and Inaudible) Men.

Call me old-fashioned, but I thought that reward and recognition was part of HR’s remit?

Or perhaps the HR function is simply aiming to outsource any activity beginning with the letter R. Recruitment: pass it to a third party; Redundancy: we’ll get an outplacement consultancy to manage that; Reward and Recognition: that’s something for the Remuneration Committee.

At this rate, HR will resemble the Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland:

This time it vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone.

“Well! I’ve often seen a cat without a grin,” thought Alice; “but a grin without a cat! It’s the most curious thing I ever saw in my life!” 

Dear HR colleagues: there one thing beginning with R that can’t be outsourced: Responsibility. It’s time to take it and make the profession’s views heard. Failure to do so is to risk allegations of irrelevance.

And we don’t want that, do we?

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Just Do It. Well.

Consider this number: 64,268

If you're looking for a book on "personal growth" that's how many you have to choose from on Amazon.

It seems that as a culture, we're obsessed with adding new skills and abilities to our repertoire, or generally just improving ourselves.

As an HR profession, we're no different, with the Personal Development Planning section of the annual appraisal cycle being given increased attention and status.

But why not take a different approach and focus on what you already do well? Here are two illustrations to make the point.

In J.B. Priestley's English Journey, he recounts arriving at the Wedgwood factory in Staffordshire, and being given the opportunity to create something on the potter's wheel.
For more than thirty years I have never tried to do anything new without cherishing this wild hope, that God would let me play tennis or billiards or the violin wonderfully at first sight, allow me to display myself suddenly as a heaven-born orator or singer. No such miracle has ever happened. Nobody yet has been startled by my exhibition of unsuspected skill. Yet I know I shall go on hoping in this same foolish fashion right to the very end, when, the silliest old man in England, I shall be hoping to die in some neat clever new way.
As Priestley is demonstrating his ineptitude at the potter's wheel, I  imagine a kindly observer placing his hand on his shoulder and saying, "Mr Priestley, can I suggest that you don't give up the day job. Your writing is really good, so why don't you just stick to that?"

J.B. Priestley: An Inspector Calls

Or consider the scene in Chariots of Fire when the future 400 metres Olympic champion's sister is disappointed that he's not taking his missionary work seriously enough, and Eric Liddell memorably responds:
I believe God made me for a purpose - China. But he also made me fast.

In both cases the message is the same: do what you do, and do it well. Do it to the best of your ability. So, dear readers, my challenge to you this weekend is to leave the personal development books on the shelf, and reflect on what natural abilities, strengths, gifts or talents you have. And use them.

Have a good weekend

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Missing, Presumed Dead.

Scotland Yard have today announced that they have called off the investigation into the apparent disappearance of eight UK Business Executives, many supposedly drawn from the HR community, who have been reported as missing over recent months. A spokesman for Scotland Yard said that an evaluation of the evidence had led to the conclusion that none of these individuals had actually ever existed in the first place, and that they appeared to be some form of Urban Myth. Scotland Yard have, however, released details of the “missing” persons, and stated that in the unlikely event that any of the following individuals are sighted by members of the public, they should contact their local police station.

The Eight Mythological Executives are:

A banker who has left the UK to work overseas as a result of the pressure on the financial community to control remuneration.

An HR Director who argued that Executive bonuses unfairly rewarded those at the top of organisations while penalising those lower down.

An HR professional who believed that their company’s performance management system was actually a little bit too simple.

A Learning and Development Manager who could state with absolute certainty how much money his company had spent on training last year.

An HR professional who can point to an incontrovertible link between training activities and an increase in company profit.

An HR Director possessing empirical evidence that there is a direct link between large bonus payments for senior managers and financial performance.

An HR Director who yearns for the day when his function will be rebranded as “Human Capital.”

An HR Director who believes that she has better control over her function now that all transactional activities have been outsourced.

Readers of HR Case Studies have been asked to assist Scotland Yard with their enquiries. If any of you believe that you have ever seen any of the above individuals, please leave a comment below.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Six Steps to Transformational Leadership

How to simply motivate a group of employees is one thing. But how to be the sort of leader that influences the financial performance and survival of an organisation is another.

It’s been said before within the pages of this humble blog that digging deep into the depths of dry academic journals occasionally unearths a gem of an article that contains something of great value and wider applicability.

Such a gem is to be found in the pages of Gary Yukl’s Leadership in Organisations, where the concept of Transformational Leadership is explored in detail.

So, if you wish to be the sort of leader who can inspire followers and enhance their self-confidence and commitment to the mission, here are the six factors which evidence indicates are most likely to deliver results.

Articulate a clear and appealing vision
Give a clear vision of what the organisation could achieve or become, communicating it well, often, and using a variety of ways to do so. Use colourful, emotional language that includes vivid imagery, metaphors, anecdotes and stories.

Explain how the vision can be attained
Articulating the vision is not enough: the leader also needs to convince followers that it is feasible and can be achieved. Make a link between the vision and the credible strategy for turning it into reality.

Act with confidence and optimism
Your followers will not have faith in any vision unless you can demonstrate your self confidence and conviction. Remain optimistic about success, even in the face of temporary setbacks. Emphasize what has been accomplished rather than how much more is yet to be done.

Express confidence in your followers
Often described as the Pygmalion Effect, research has found that people perform better when a leader has high expectations for them and has confidence in them. It’s particularly important that you foster confidence and optimism when the task is difficult. So remind your team of how they overcame obstacles and triumphed on earlier occasions. Tell them that the are at least as good as an earlier team that was successful in performing the same type of activity.

Use dramatic symbolic actions to emphasize key values.
As Yukl states, “a vision is reinforced by leadership behaviour that is consistent with it.” He quotes an example of a new CEO who personally destroyed some low-quality versions of the company’s product that had been sold previously as seconds. So the message is clear: if necessary be dramatic to emphasize your key values.

Lead by example
Quite simply: your actions speak louder than your words, so set an example of exemplary behaviour in day-to-day interactions with subordinates. If you ask your team to observe a standard, keep it yourself. If you need your team to make sacrifices, do the same. To paraphrase Yukl: the values you wish to convey need to be demonstrated in your daily behaviour, and consistently, not just when it’s convenient.

So dear readers: what do you think?