Monday, 16 December 2013

The year ahead in HR: Your month by month guide to 2014

Yes, it's that time of year when the blogosphere is alive with predictions of what is going to happen in the year ahead.

But here, to save you valuable time which otherwise might be wasted in wading your way through the plethora of predictions for the HR profession for 2014, courtesy of the prophetic skills of the HR Case Studies editorial team, are the only predictions that you will need for the year ahead.

Money back if not entirely satisfied!
While every prediction of what will happen in HR in 2014 fades faster than a festive hangover as soon as the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, this month also sees the publication of the 2014 "HR Professionals Who Have Been Very Influential and Achieved Far More Than Those Who Appear on Completely Subjective and Unverifiable Lists" list. It is long.
This month kicks off with the earliest appearance yet of the ubiquitous and perennial “How to Avoid Embarrassment at the Christmas Party” articles in various HR journals and websites.
A journalist with little or no knowledge of the profession announces its imminent demise. HR professionals work themselves up into a frenzy about the inaccuracy of the article, shortly before realising that no-one else is either reading the article, or in the slightest bit interested anyway.
There is despair in the UK coaching profession when a scientific study proves conclusively that motivational tweets have no effect whatsoever on personal performance. "Never mind" says Sharon (NLP Master Practitioner, Yoga Black Belt, and author of "Discover Your Inner Lioness") “The answers can be as clear as day, but if you keep looking for dark storm clouds, you will never see the sun of truth”
Rumours surface of a candidate actually being satisfied with the service received from a recruitment consultancy. Despite a lengthy investigation, ultimately no evidence of the existence of the candidate is found.  
"The seven secrets of how to achieve mega-stardom by including a number in the title of your book, while at the same time appearing awesome at interview,  redefining your personal brand and achieving fame as a thought leader" becomes the longest title to be listed on Amazon while simultaneously failing to sell a single copy. 
England crash ignominiously out of the World Cup, provoking cries of “How can this load of muppets justify the amount of money they are paid?” and “Don’t they realise that Alf Ramsey only earned £7,200 per year when he guided England to glory in 1966?”
A user of LinkedIn claims that it actually helped him find a job. This is later shown to be a marketing gimmick devised by LinkedIn.
IKEA announces its new Ulrich range of furniture. It features a stool with an interchangeable number of legs.
A case reaches the European Court of Human Rights in which the plaintiff alleges that they were discriminated against by being the only person in the organisation who couldn’t bring a claim for discrimination on any grounds. They claim that this is a fundamental breach of their human rights.
During the 2014 CIPD conference in Manchester, police are called to intervene following violence between opposing factions in a debate on the role social media can pay in promoting employee engagement and participation
The entire HR profession shouts as one, “Please, JUST FOR ONCE, can we have a year that ends without the interminable and meaningless predictions for next year?”

Thursday, 10 October 2013

How to speak like a Thought Leader in one easy lesson without even trying

The entire editorial team of HR Case Studies furrowed its collective brow this week when it read that Management Guru Tom "In Search of Excellence" Peters had given his opinion that, "Big Data will re-imagine HR"

"Such poetry," as none of the team was heard to say

"I couldn't have put it clearer myself" said no-one at all in the team.

"What the bloody hell is that supposed to mean" as everyone chanted in unison.

But fear not, dear reader. All is not lost.

To ease you into the weekend, we bring you the HR Case Studies guide to speaking meaningless HR jargon. To instantly sound like someone who can add "Thought Leader" to your LinkedIn profile, all you need is contained in the section below.

Simply choose any phrase from Group A, randomly select a link from Group B, and then add a further utterly meaningless group of words from Group C, and before you can say "Human Capital Management" you'll be talking like someone at an international HR conference!

No surgery required!

Group A
Big data
Employee Engagement
360 degree appraisal
An innovative social media policy
Our sophisticated talent management pipeline
The cloud-based HRIS
This year's Employee Voice Initiative
Our outcome-based reward system
The enterprise wellness programme
This year's employee recognition scheme
Our Web 2.0 open-source participation platform
The learning and development mechanism
Improved IT functionality
The company self-service HR portal

Group B
Has a potential to
Promises to
Offers an opportunity to
Will undoubtedly

Group C
Re-imagine HR
Minimise avoidable attrition
Facilitate peer-to-peer feedback
Maximise People Performance
Unlock hidden talent
Leverage human capital
Equip managers in evidence based decision making
Lock in below-the-line financial savings
Push the envelope of staff motivation
Generate maximum stakeholder participation
Seamlessly network critical staff
Achieve collaborative alignment
Optimise peak performance

Monday, 30 September 2013

You can lead an HR Professional to culture ...

To be honest, I'm not really convinced that there are management lessons to be learned from rock music, or indeed from any form of music. (Other, of course, than from cool contemporary jazz which is simply awash with ideas about creativity, improvisation, cooperation, empathy etc. etc. !)
But having recently had the opportunity to observe at close quarters some of the world's top conductors masterfully directing the juggernaut of a 100 strong orchestra, there are at least a couple of leadership insights to be shared.
Let's take Esa-Pekka Salonen's guidance of the Royal Festival Hall based Philharmonia Orchestra to give us some tips. 
His conducting of Edgar Varese's Ameriques led one reviewer to say, "the numerous climaxes at the end of the work kept growing louder and louder, Salonen forcing his orchestra to the edge of what is possible in a concert hall". Admittedly it's a pretty obscure piece that is rarely performed, but all you need to know about the piece is that it builds to a crescendo of ear-splitting magnitude. A bit like Stairway to Heaven on steroids. As the final chord rang out, Salonen was literally on his tiptoes, arms aloft,  waving his fist into the air, pleading with the orchestra to blow, bow, or hit their instruments for a few moments longer. Like Communist Party officials not wanting to be the first one to cease applauding the Soviet leader after his two-hour speech, the musicians were latched onto the conductor's gestures, not daring to let the conductor out of their field of vision or to be the first one to expire.  When Salonen at last brought down his arms the audience went ape, as much out of relief as in appreciation.  
Interestingly, it turns out that in the afternoon's rehearsal, the conductor had refused to allow the orchestra to practice the final crescendo. Clearly he wanted the orchestra not to take for granted how the piece would end, but have to rely on him to guide them through the final few bars, and to totally commit themselves to his vision for how the piece would conclude. 
Leadership Lesson No. 1: Sometimes you need to surprise your team by taking them (metaphorically!) somewhere they are not expecting to go.
Next: Same conductor, same orchestra, different piece. 
This time EPS is waggling his stick to direct the orchestra in Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique. 
Sometimes he does the to-be-expected thing of waving his arms about like a man plugged into the national grid. Sometimes he bends over and almost pleads with the front row of the violins to play with more expression. Sometimes he points to the french horns inviting them to tone it down a bit. The orchestra responds to his bidding. 
But there are occasions when the orchestra is chugging along very nicely thank you very much, when he just stands there, arms at his side. No facial gestures. No arm waggling. Just stands there.
It's as if he's saying, "That's it. You're doing fine, playing what you're supposed to be, so you don't need me to intervene in any way. Just keep going."
Leadership Lesson No. 2: If your team are doing what they are paid to do, why not just leave them to get on with it? Save your grand gestures and arm waving for when its really needed. 
(Cue wild applause from appreciative audience, bow, exit stage left)

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Pretentious? Moi?

The editorial team of HR Case Studies decided it was time to top up on culture on Saturday evening, so we all sauntered along for a performance of Benjamin Britten's Peter Grimes at the Royal Festival Hall on London's South Bank. 
(OK. I know that I will have lost some of you already, but stick with it. After all, Punk Rock HR and Acoustic HR shouldn't have a monopoly on the blogosphere, should they!)
The performance was good. Conductor Vladimir Jurowski waved his stick at the orchestra and they responded to his bidding. The solo singers and large choir gave it loads. The audience were impressed and gave the entire cast a rapturous ovation.  We all thought that we'd had a decent night out. 
But apparently we'd only experienced a fraction of what The Experts had experienced. 
Writing in The Arts Desk, David Nice (Mmm .. lovely name...) opined that "Jurowski blinded us with magnesium-flare projections of Britten’s sparest sounds, London Philharmonic strings lean and hungry"  ("Presumably something that came out of the reviewers arse since he's so far up it" as one of my recently acquired twitterchums put it so succinctly)
And similarly, Edward Seckerson waxed lyrical and observed that, "Interestingly enough, the other storm – the one in Grimes’ soul which vents during the act two Passacaglia – was Jurowski’s other physical and emotional climacteric."
Clearly the HR Case Studies Team is made up of a bunch of Philistines, as the magnesium-flare projections went completely unobserved, and we didn't even get a whiff of the emotional climacteric.
OK, I'm sure you get the point. Both these reviews are full of utterly pretentious nonsense that alienates a large section of the population. Far from encouraging the uninitiated to participate in (actually, the most appropriate word is "enjoy") such performances, they portray (in this case) classical music as something that can only be REALLY understood by the inner circle of the cognoscenti with access to The Hidden Knowledge. 
Of course, in the down-to-earth world of HR, we're never guilty of such obscure, exclusive terminology, are we?
We never talk of "leveraging Web 2.0 technology in enhancing our internal human capital" do we? (I think that one is "online training courses")
The words "ensuring effective on-boarding of employees through a cross-functional welcome programme to achieve rapid alignment with organisational values" are never on our lips, are they? (In the Good Old Days, that was what we used to call "Induction")
We never send a promotional e-mail to prospective clients talking of our "bar-raising performance management methodology which integrates with our international employee participation and engagement portal" do we? (No bloody idea what that one was about, but I've still got the mail if it's your sort of thing)
It's sad to say that within HR we are prone to talk the same sort of bollocks that is spoken by those we criticise, aren't we? ("Why can't the guys in IT just say what they mean" as we often refrain.)
But using such obscure terminology doesn't help demystify the HR profession one little bit. 
Nor does it make you appear clever. It makes you look pretentious. 
And we wouldn't want that, would we?
Keep it simple, boys and girls.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

It's not my fault I'm a rubbish manager - it's genetic (and I'm a Libran)

It's amazing where you can discover linkages to the wonderful world of HR if only you know where to look!

For instance, a recent edition of Radio 4's Start The Week (Monday morning work-out for the grey cells) concerned the rather esoteric subject of "Fairytale Physics" and explored how much of what modern science (especially Physics) claims to describe reality but in fact doesn't!

One of the contributors stated:

"There are a lot of geneticists going out looking out for the obesity gene. When I was a kid, growing up in the village, there was one man who had a known metabolic problem, and he was the only fat man in the village. Now just walk down any street and it’s full of incredibly obese people, and this is a major problem. Reducing our very nature to our genetic make-up absolves us of responsibility for our own lives in some way"

The implication was that now there is supposedly a gene for just about anything and everything (including obesity) you seem to see lots more such people who (presumably) explain their physical condition simply by saying, "I know I'm overweight, but it's genetic.

Oddly enough this doesn’t seem a million miles away from the current trend in popular psychometrics, where certain individuals use their basic level of understanding of the subject to explain their unacceptable behaviour, does it?

How many times have you heard individuals say things such as "Well I'm a Myers-Briggs ENTJ, so I'm bound to jump to conclusions and come across as a bit dictatorial aren't I?" Or "You need to understand that when I did the Transactional Analysis Self Assessment, it showed me that I've got a really strong Hurry Up driver, so that's why I often get impatient with my team"

It is perhaps even more worrying that those who take refuge behind the MBTI psychometric profile, are doing so behind a psychometric profile that is being increasingly questioned with respect to its validity. At times the "OK it may not be scientifically proven, but you've got to admit that it fairly accurately describes the character of a lot of people" sounds remarkably like the view of those who say, "I know that astrology is a load of cobblers, but actually I am a fairly typical Libran you know."

It is as if some people use their psychometric profile to justify their inappropriate behaviour, rather than use it as a way of throwing light on an aspect of their personality that they may wish to modify or eliminate.

All a personality profile can do (however valid and reputable) is to paint a picture of a person's character, style, and likely behaviour in given circumstances. What it can never do is justify that behaviour, especially when it is inappropriate. We behave the way that we do largely because we choose to do so, not because of our Myers Briggs profile, or the fact that Mercury was in the ascendant when we were born.

As ever, Shakespeare has something to say on the issue. As Cassius reminds Brutus shortly before the assassination of Julius Caesar: 

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings."

(And if this blog seems slightly diplomatic and idealistic, yet at the same time flirtatious and self indulgent, I guess that is what is to be expected from a typical Libran. Possibly!)

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

It's time to celebrate our failures as well as our successes!

It's that time of year again when the HR profession put on its best suit and black tie or cocktail dress and celebrates its amazing achievements at various awards ceremonies for the Best This and Most Impressive That. Drink is (allegedly) taken. Cameras are clicked. Tweets are tweeted.

The rest of the HR world looks on not quite sure whether to feel inadequate, jealous or cynical of those who have navigated their way (in uncomfortable bow-ties or toe-crunching high heels) to the awards ceremony.

But let's admit it, the amazing achievements of the award winners will not be analysed in great detail by anyone other than the judging panel. Perhaps we should be keen to learn if the success of others could be applied to or emulated within our own organisations. But our enthusiasm is sadly limited.

It's time for change.

It's time for honesty.

Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, I bring you The Most Spectacular Failure in Implementing an HR Initiative Award.

To qualify for this prestigious new award, all you need to do is document how you failed to plan properly or forgot to take into consideration the views of key stakeholders, communicated the reasons for the initiative badly, allocated insufficient budget, bought the wrong IT system to support the initiative, or simply misjudged the readiness of the organisation for your amazing strategic intervention.

The benefits to the rest of the HR community would be immense. We'd gratefully learn from your mistakes, put a last minute halt to our own organisations' plans to fall into the same trap and reconsider what initiatives we are committed to over the next year.

We'd certainly carefully read of your blunder with a sense of "Phew! There but for the grace of God ..." when the supporting article appeared on the pages of People Management.

And, most importantly, we would all have a good laugh! Only one question to be answered: Who would be brave enough to sponsor such an award?

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Government Health Warning: Social Media Can Seriously Damage Your Self-Esteem

Let's face it, the constant stream of information that flows into your life from the various social media services that you subscribe to makes you feel an abject failure, doesn't it?

You're left cold by the tweets from some of those that you follow urging you to realise that today is going to be simply EPIC, and that by harnessing all your inner energy you can single-handedly begin to change the world.

Unlike some of those with whom you network, you didn't start your day with a 4.98 km run with a pace of 6'04"/km in your expensive Nike running shoes.

You don't have the perfect skin, coiffeured hair and ultra-white teeth that radiate back at you from the social media profiles of most of your contacts.

You feel guilty that you don't have time to read any (never mind all ten!) of the "must-read" articles in this morning's press that your twitter stream tells you are critical for your continued existence.

Your twitter profile doesn't read like many of those you follow: you're not wife/husband to the WONDERFUL (insert androgynous name here), mum/dad to three AMAZING kids, livin' life to the max, one FANTASTIC day at a time.

Nor are you an internationally renowned speaker, strategist and best-selling author (insert link to book ranked 1,786, 493 in Amazon business books here) working with senior executives to transform their businesses (usually by helping them "leverage social media technology to maximise employee engagement").

You are unmoved by the messages in your inbox advising you how to CRUSH your next interview, ROCK your forthcoming performance review and NAIL that salary increase that you know that you deserve.

You never appear on any Most Influential Communicators listings for your chosen profession. Your most profound and carefully constructed utterances create not the slightest ripple in the social media world, while the announcement of one of your contacts that he has burned the toast goes viral. Unlike some of those around you, AWESOME is a word that is rarely applied to you.

You don't even know what Klout is, never mind what your Klout score is. But you suspect that the scruffy IT geek on the train next to you this morning has a better score than you.

The only people who look at your Linked In profile live on the opposite side of the globe, and are clearly still hoping that you can help them get a job; no-one ever approaches you about exciting career opportunities.

Your Linked In profile makes you look like at best a normal person and at worst a washed-up specimen of humanity in comparison to the supreme beings who appear in the "People You May Know" section.

However ...

You may not have 2,000 followers on twitter, nor be networked with 500+ contacts on Linked In, but one pseudo-inspirational, marathon running, keynote speaker with a bestselling book and a clutch of AMAZING kids is pretty much like the next one!

What you DO have is a close circle of friends, acquaintances, colleagues and family members; people who are more significant to you than an @ symbol in a contact list; people who you can trust and rely on both personally and professionally, and who in turn can trust and rely on you.

For your sanity's sake, make this week one where you spend some time with those close to you, and give them some of the attention and appreciation that you yourself crave and thrive on.

After all, that's the only way that you'll make this week truly EPIC!

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Three proven techniques for getting you the pay increase you deserve

OK. I'll admit it. I lied.

The headline was just a cheap stunt to attract your attention, but while you're here. please listen to what I have to say and partipate in the debate by voting in the poll over on the right hand side.

I guess that, like me, you will regularly get tweets and Linked In alerts offering you helpful advice on how to secure your long overdue pay increase.

They will be full of tips such as "know your value", "choose your moment", "rehearse what you want to say and practise how you will handle your boss's likely responses." Oh, and also "don't take it personally if your boss says no."

It has to be said that most of the advice originates from the USA, rather than from the UK where we seem to be much more reticent about asking for more. Perhaps Oliver Twist isn't the best role model in that respect.

What I'm puzzled about and interested in is this: how many of us (particularly in the UK) who are in regular paid employment are actually in positions where we can influence our pay progression? I'm not talking about those whose performance may lead to an annual bonus, nor those whose pay will rise incrementally each year, either just as a result of having completed another year's service, or as a result of having met the year's objectives.

I'm assuming (and this is where I may be wrong, so please help me out!) that the majority of employees in the UK are either on a fixed rate for their particular job, or are sat in a grading and salary structure with predetermined increments which can be reached at set times in the year.

So, how many of you (dear readers) are in positions where the request of "Please Sir, can I have some more?" would be met with anything other than a blank stare and a response of something other than "I'd love to, but my hands are tied" ?

Or (perish the thought!) a blow around the head with a ladle.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Aim to be One Of Those Who Didn't Quite Make It

Vienna by Ultravox, together with American Pie, We Are The Champions, All Right Now, Let It Be, My Generation and Wonderwall all have one factor in common:

They never quite made it to the coveted Number One slot in the BBC singles chart.

Perhaps there is some justice to American Pie being nudged off the Number One slot by Harry Nilsson's Without You (and also that memorable pop classic Son of My Father by Chicory Tip).

Possibly Abba's The Name of The Game and Mull of Kintyre by Wings are of equal artistic merit to We Are The Champions by Queen. Abba and Wings made it to Number One in 1977, Queen didn't.

But novelty track Shaddup You Face by Joe Dolce occupying the Number One slot instead of Vienna by Ultravox does seem a miscarriage of justice of epic proportions. "One of the biggest chart injustices of all time" is how the Official Charts Company's Managing Director describes Ultravox being denied the top slot.

So what's all this got to do with HR and business management?

Read and learn!

It's quite clear that Joe Dolce nudged his way into pole position by some utter fluke of circumstances. There won't be many readers of this blog who will recall any of his follow-on singles like "Pizza Pizza," Reggae Matilda," or "You Toucha My Car I Breaka You Face."

Yet all of our focus is on Vienna as The One That Should Have Made It But For Some Obscure Reason Didn't.

But go into any High Street book store (and especially into the book store in the departure lounge of an airport) and you'll notice that although the shelves of the Business and Management section are crammed with the biographies of the rich, famous and successful (Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Richard Branson to name but three), books in the "The One That Should Have Made It But For Some Obscure Reason Didn't" genre are decidedly thin on the ground.

Yet in many cases the likes of Jobs, Gates and Branson would themselves admit that they owe a massive amount of their success to the intervention of Lady Luck. "You need lucky breaks to be successful," says Richard Branson; "Luck played an immense role. I was born at the right place and time," Bill Gates has said.

So why do we seem to hold up the mega-successful in the business world as role models to be envied and emulated, when chance played so much of  factor in them getting to where they are?

Sometimes it's Those Who Didn't Quite Make It that we should be learning from as much as Those That Did.

After all, wouldn't you rather be Midge Ure than Joe Dolce?

Oh Vienna ....

Friday, 1 March 2013

Make sure you ask the right questions!

Although I had no idea that such places existed, I recently stumbled across an online discussion forum for Air Traffic Controllers. I guess like most of us they need a place to debate what is on their minds in what is without doubt a stressful and critical job.

But I was actually very alarmed at what I read there.

Rather than debate about pilot safety issues, and how emerging technology can be harnessed to improve performance within their roles (which was what I was expecting, to be honest) the most lively debate seemed to be about whether it was acceptable for Air Traffic Controllers to use over-familiar terminology such as "love" and "darling" when speaking to pilots as they descended into busy airports with their aircraft filled to capacity with passengers.

I'll have to admit that I found such a debate a bit of a worry. These are the people into whose hands I entrust my personal safety every time I set foot in an aircraft, and I was disappointed that such an important group of people were using a public forum to discuss something that is, in my view, trivial and inconsequential. I guess that I was expecting something a bit more serious and significant from such a critical profession.

OK. There's only one further thing that I need to say about what you've just read: not one word of it is true.

If there is a discussion forum for Air Traffic Controllers (as I'm sure there is), I have no idea where to find it, and I'm sure that any issue that they discuss will have a lot more (deliberate pun alter) gravity than the use of over-familiar terminology with their pilots.

But what sadly is true is the fact that there are numerous HR discussion forums (some within the broad confines of the CIPD's website) where one of the most active debates over the last few weeks has been whether it is acceptable to put kisses (xxx) at the end of a business e-mail.

The debate has attracted more comments than all the discussions on performance management, finding mentors for top talent in large organisations, and the application of recent thinking in neuroscience to employee learning put together.

I'm not saying for one moment that there isn't a place for such trivial questions as whether a sign-off snog is acceptable in some circumstances, but surely it's not in an open forum such as the ones described above.

As an HR profession we are judged as much by the questions we raise as the answers that we give to them. If we wish those around us (many of whom are already sceptical of the contribution that we bring to the workplace) to believe that the most pressing issue of the day for HR is e-mail sign-off etiquette, then fine.

But if, as I hope we do, we'd actually like to be thought of as a profession that is raising some serious and significant issues that are worthy of public debate, we need to be careful of how we portray ourselves in public.

Ask a trivial question, and people will regard you as trivial. Ask a serious question and people will be more likely to take you seriously.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Recruitment: Time to introduce some standards

A couple of days ago I participated in an online debate addressing some of the issues faced by the recruitment profession. Most of those taking part in the debate were either independent consultants, or involved in recruitment agencies, so some of the comments which follow may not apply equally to in-house recruiters.

To say that the debate raised some worrying questions is something of an understatement.

Here's why:

Much of the discussion was centred around "the myth of candidate experience" and in particular whether it was necessary to treat all job applicants with the same degree of respect, including the simple courtesy of acknowledging every job application.

At least one participant in the debate was happy to divide applicants into "good" and "bad" candidates: a "good" candidate being (and I quote) "a credible applicant who will make you money."

Put simply, good candidates were deemed worthy of attention, bad candidates could be ignored.

The same participant was (one hopes) frivolous enough to suggest that (and again I quote) "Dear John, I've checked out your LinkedIn waffle and Facebook pics and, sorry to say, you're not right for the position" would be a suitable response to one of those unfortunate enough to meet his "good candidate" selection criteria.

My view (along with a number of other participants in this debate) is that all candidates for a job (whether for an assignment managed by a recruitment consultant, or an in-house campaign) deserve to be treated with a similar degree of courtesy and respect, especially that of keeping them updated as to their status within the recruitment process. The evolution of applicant tracking systems means that there is no excuse for failing to maintain contact with every candidate for every position.

Fast forward to summer of 2013

Black ties and evening dresses will once more be donned by those attending the CIPD Recruitment Marketing Awards. Prizes will be awarded for Best Art Direction, Campaign of the Year, Best Employer Brand, Recruitment Effectiveness, and a number of other categories.

I have a suggestion. Actually it's a challenge, because this is surely one area where the CIPD (celebrating its centenary this year) could be seen to influence the direction in which the recruitment profession is moving.

How about introducing an entrance requirement for those campaigns being nominated for awards of the ability to demonstrate adherence to a number of minimum standards of candidate care throughout those campaigns?

There is, after all, no cause for celebrating innovation in recruitment advertising, if the candidates who were drawn to it were not treated with the same respect regardless of whether they were appointed or rejected.

Friday, 25 January 2013

A (profile) picture speaks a thousand words, so choose yours carefully!

A recent post on this blog pointed an accusing and suspicious finger at female recruitment consultants whose profile images on LinkedIn revealed far more flesh than was considered to be appropriate.

It's interesting that since reading the initial blog, one of my fellow bloggers in the USA has undertaken some parallel research and seems to have discovered that the tendency to display expanses of flesh appears to be a UK phenomenon that is not mirrored across the Atlantic.

But debate with a couple of fellow bloggers and commentators has caused the editorial team of HR Case Studies to reflect that there is a worrying  parallel to this phenomenon among the members of the recruitment profession: where females display their cleavage, males display their cars!

OK, perhaps we're only talking about one specific individual (and again, the names and details have been changed to avoid further embarrassment) but what does the use of a shiny blue Lamborghini as a profile picture say to the watching world?

What it says to me is that the person is motivated by material gain, by the acquisition of expensive luxury items that are beyond the reach of the majority of the population, that I, as either a client or a candidate of that particular recruitment consultant are nothing more than a means to him acquiring (or perhaps funding) his lifestyle.

The use of such an image tells me that that particular individual is concerned with things rather than people, cares little for the environment, and (most importantly) considers himself to be a member of a group that will never include me.

The use of such an image also makes me wonder whether, were I to engage this particular individual in my capacity of purchaser of recruitment services, I would be screwed financially in order to assist him to maintain his expensive luxury lifestyle.

Significantly, it makes me reflect on whether this individual is an isolated case, or whether it's the entire recruitment  profession that thinks and feels like that.

So, before you upload your profile picture onto any social media site, question the effect it will have on your audience.

Incidentally, someone asked your humble editor what car he would use as a LinkedIn profile picture, and why. You'll see my choice above.  A Morris Traveller: solid, dependable, built to last, easy to maintain, a turner of heads for all the right reasons, a reminder of a bygone age when quality mattered. And, probably above all: delightfully quirky!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Team: Treat Them Like Children

Long ago, in a far and distant land, I trained as worked as a teacher, and had the (Warning: Sarcasm Alert!) joy and privilege of teaching for a time in what was branded as The School From Hell.

Back in those days of yore, with respect to the management of classroom behaviour, the advice and guidance to would-be teachers was essentially limited to the old adage of, "Don't smile until Christmas."

But the resources and guidance now available to those in the teaching profession are now far superior to those from a couple of decades ago.

A rather excellent text book on the teaching of children in the 14 - 19 age range (currently being passed around the HR Case Studies office) contains a wealth of very practical advice on the successful management of the classroom environment and, more importantly, those within it.

The thing that is striking is how the guidance given is easily transferable to the work or office environment. For example, have a look what is outlined below, and consider how much would not be out of place on a development program for new line managers:

  • Get to know the members of your team (by name) as quickly as possible.
  • If certain team members cause problems when working together, move them.
  • Keep your instructions short and simple, and never more than one instruction at a time.
  • Issue instructions with a specific target completion time.
  • Give instructions positively, for example, "I want you to ...", rather than "Don't...".
  • Use questioning strategies to make sure that your team members understand what is expected of them.
  • Make sure that you are aware of the codes of conduct for your organisation and also the sanctions that you can take against those who do not abide by the accepted rules.
  • Praise those who are trying to perform, but don't over-praise as this will ultimately devalue its usage.
  • Be consistent.
  • Sell the importance of any activity with urgency and enthusiasm, and link it to the benefits that will follow once it is achieved.
  • Don't tick off your entire team: identify any poor performers and address their issues separately.
  • Start each new day as a fresh page: don't carry over grudges or give the impression that what individuals did before colours how you see them now.

So the advice seems to be pretty straightforward: If you want to be a successful manager, just treat your team like children!

Unless, of course you are a teacher. In which case treat your students like responsible members of your work team!

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

The (almost) Naked Truth About the Recruitment Profession

Warning: this article contains numerous references to female breasts, so, if easily offended, look away now!

Let me describe a couple of images that I have got opened up on my laptop as I'm writing this. They are ones which I don't feel very comfortable in having on public display, so if anyone looks over my shoulder as I'm writing, I'll be mouse-clicking onto the BBC Home Page.

(Incidentally the names and some of the details have been changed to avoid further embarrassment.)

The first is a picture of Lisa. There's no doubt about it, she's an attractive girl, and she knows it too. In her (I guess) mid 20's, her hair cascades over her shoulders displaying her matching earrings and necklace. She's also got an amazing pair of breasts. I know this, because most of her picture has been cropped to show them off to good effect. Her plunging neckline means that a large proportion of her breasts are uncovered, and the area that is beyond view is very tightly constrained in her party dress. Yes, Lisa is a stunning young lady.

The second is of Jade. She's a mother of three and motherhood appears to be treating her well. She clearly knows how to apply make up, and how to respond to a camera. Her head is leaning to one side, her hair falling down over her shoulders and upper arm. Her simple necklace is resting at the top of her cleavage, a great deal of which is there to be seen. The thin straps and plunging neckline of her simple blue t-shirt mean that probably less that 25% of her lightly-tanned upper body is covered. Like Lisa, Jade is a beauty.

The images described above are the sort of photographs of either a wife or a girlfriend that I'd expect a man to have in his wallet rather than on display in the office, so I hope that by now  you're wondering exactly how these pictures have found their way onto my laptop.

The answer is surprisingly simple, and somewhat concerning: they are both public profile pictures of professional recruitment consultants on LinkedIn.

Those readers who know me will be aware that I may be many things, but a prude is not one of them, but I'm genuinely concerned on a professional level at the way that some individuals appear content to display themselves on social media sites such as LinkedIn. I'm not alone in this either: colleagues (both male and female) who have seen the profile pictures referenced above have responded with comments such as "Speechless" and "Blimey, looks like an escapee from a Barbie-Doll convention."

If I was being generous, perhaps I should assume that Lisa and Jade have simply mixed up their LinkedIn and Hot or Not accounts. But I doubt that this is the case.

Let's put this in context: as a senior HR professional, I regularly have responsibility for selecting recruitment providers, and I would not contemplate for one moment engaging either an individual who regarded it as acceptable to display such a profile picture, or indeed a recruitment consultancy whose control over its employees was so lax as to allow them to post such inappropriate pictures in a public and professional forum.

Such public profiles show off the recruitment sector in an extremely poor light, and portray its members as shallow, unprofessional, concerned with surface image and (I am sorry to have to put it like this) somewhat smutty.

Recruiters: if you wish people to take you seriously, you need to smarten up and cover up a bit too.

And, just to make sure that the finger is not pointed just at those at one end of the recruitment spectrum, if you are a candidate "seeking a new position" don't post a picture of yourself in what looks like a baby-doll nightie. Yes. Honestly.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Top Tips on Starting a Blog from HR Case Studies

It seems that Start Writing a Blog features as a New Years Resolution for quite a few people this year, so the editorial team of HR Case Studies offer the following tips and hints for getting your blog off the ground and noticed. Some of the content below is adapted (that's code for "stolen") from the rather excellent "Killer Web Content" by Gerry McGovern.

Keep it concise:
By 100 words you will have lost 25% of your readers
By 300 words you will have lost 40% of your readers
By 500 words you will have lost 60% of your readers
By 1000 words you will have lost 80% of your readers

Follow other blogs, and make it easy for others to follow you.

Give your blog a title that reflects what the blog is about! Pig Farming in Patagonia as a title for your blog on Strategic HR may appeal to your sense of the absurd, but it won't attract the readership you are seeking!

Before you make the plunge, decide on which blogging platform to use. Find out what those blogs that you read are based on, and choose one which you think reflects your aims.

Get what McGovern calls "Care Words" into your blog titles (i.e Top Tips on Starting a Blog from HR Case Studies)

Don't use more than 60 characters in your blog titles. That's about eight to ten words with spaces.

Avoid placing links (especially to other sources) inside the body of your blog: if you do that, people will click on them, leave your blog and fail to return. And you don't want that, do you! Better to put any links to external sources after your content, not within.

Use the various tracking mechanisms to work out what people were looking for when they found your blog. For example, early in the life of this blog, a lot of individuals stumbled across HR Case Studies when looking for an HR case study on Performance Management. There wasn't one, so I wrote one! And yes, I've just ignored the rule I mentioned above, although that link is to a page within this blog!

Invite feedback from other followers, both as to how they rate your content and if there's anything that they would like you to write about.

Invite traffic to your blog from twitter and other social media sites. But don't overdo it! If all your twitter stream contains is an endless series of links to your blog, you'll eventually lose followers on twitter!

Make it visually attractive, so use pictures and images within the blog. But be careful with copyright!

Fellow bloggers: feel free to add any suggestions to those above!

Thursday, 3 January 2013

An HR Case Studies Manifesto for 2013

After a few months of sitting in the wings of the HR blogosphere, and throwing in the occasional heckle-grenade (like Waldorf and Statler of The Muppets), the entire editorial team of HR Case Studies has decided to transform itself into a force of unstoppable social medial positivity in 2013, and has therefore drawn up this New Year Resolution Manifesto, and is pleased to release it to you, dear and adoring public.
  • We will not leave the house each day until we have all read every one of the "Must Read" articles brought to our attention in our social media feeds. And that included all 10 of those in The Economist. Every Day. Honestly.
  • We will no longer cast ridicule on those on Twitter whose entire output consists of mindless, inane, pseudo-psychological motivational and inspirational utterances. (But who exactly was Zig Ziglar? And did he actually say anything that was non-inspirational?)
  • We will genuinely believe that a tweet sent at 03.30 a.m. linking to an article on Presentation Skills/Outsourcing Best Practice/The War for Talent in Kazakhstan was posted at that particular time, and not by someone with an autotweet addiction.
  • We will no longer regard a person who describes themselves as being "Passionate about HR Systems" as being a bit of a basket case. (Editor's note: Passion is fine, HR Systems are fine. But not together. That's kinky)
  • We will cease regarding it as plain bonkers that on LinkedIn there are 22074 Keynote Speakers, 23959 Thought Leaders, 44757 Evangelists (of whom only 4024 are in Religious Insititutions), 152752 Gurus.
  • Connected to the item above, but deserving a resolution all of its own: we will no longer roll on the floor laughing that on LinkedIn 14,406 people describe themselves as a Ninja. (The number has increased by 42 since yesterday)
  • We will stop regarding it as a source of mirth and merriment that the "People Also Viewed" sidebar to certain members of LinkedIn appears to consist entirely of females auditioning for the next Wonderbra catalogue.
  • We will no longer dread the arrival (or dare we say advent?) of December with it's glut of "The Best of the Blogs" and "Predictions for Next Year".
  • We will try to stop crying when the editorial team of HR Case Studies doesn't feature in the plethora of "Ten Most Influential" Tweeters or Bloggers. Even when the list includes the person who compiled the list.
  • Above all, we will no longer be sarcastic.
Happy New Year!