Recently, I ‘shared’ a jokingly scathing opinion about hipsters online. (If you are thinking about 50s jazz musician slang or trousers with a lower than average waistband at this point, click here for clarification.) Thankfully, I had serendipity on my side and managed to restrict my outburst to a closed Facebook group. After what might be called ‘debate’, the collective conclusion was that simplistic summaries are rarely accurate and, indeed, are more likely to mislead than guide or describe. (A secondary conclusion was that the initial impression we create in others might not always be the most conducive to achieving their buy-in to whatever we think of as being our ‘proposition’.)
There is little, however, that someone somewhere won’t take seriously enough to measure, monitor and develop a thesis about. Public Policy Polling, a US organisation that proudly asserts on its website that the Wall Street Journal ranked it “as one of the top swing state pollsters in the country during the last Presidential election”, considered the continuing proliferation of hirsute organic finger-painting beekeepers (ok, I’m paraphrasing) on the rooftops of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY, as sufficiently worthy of its attention that it published this (earning themselves Guardian coverage in the process).
I caught myself wondering why they didn’t ask people questions about their sense of proportion. (I also caught myself remembering how much I laughed at a recent News Quiz episode where ‘middle-class’ was defined in terms of being overheard in Waitrose asking of your Significant Other the deathless question “Darling, do we need parmesan for both houses”. Funny, but hardly the foundation of a working understanding of the dynamics of class structure in early 21st century Britain. But hey, shorthand is quicker, right?)
For something that the majority of us would, I very much hope, see as a Good Thing, it’s surprising how often education is a butt of jokes or derisory remarks. One of the most familiar is probably ‘The Ivory Tower’ – originally a Biblical phrase suggesting noble purity, but for the last few centuries used as a criticism of academics to indicate a wilful lack of worldliness or of ‘real world’ applications. (If you work in a discipline or function that a University would position as a Humanities or Social Science area, they mean you.)
Those of us involving in workplace learning and professional development should be more than aware that ‘our’ kind of education has left the Ivory Tower. The classroom is no longer some kind of ‘holy’ place where employees congregate – no pun intended – to have learning bestowed upon them. The future of organisational learning will be WISE – Workplace, Informal, Social and Experiential – even if it might take a while for the actual individuals to merit the adjective.
The following is an opinion on British Management. “Short Sighted, Short-Termists, or Long-Term, Growth Visionaries”. If the first couple of words hadn’t given an indication that further language with a hint of ‘step into the executive car park and say that again, would you?’ might be about to follow, here are more words from the same source:
THE FATAL BIAS
The prevailing managerial bias towards cost efficiency is seriously harmful to corporate performance.”
It’s the actual source that’s possibly surprising: step forward the Chartered Management Institute, who are currently working with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Management (APPG) to report on the state of British Management. If provocative thinking is to your taste, I’d suggest you download the three currently available PDF documents from the CMI website:
I always appreciate getting updates from Mervyn Dinnen’s blog, not least as the most recent – In Praise of Experience During a Time of Social Media Crisis – pointed me at a fascinating brouhaha I’d not previously been aware of: the case of Cathryn Sloane and a Nextgen Journal article – Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25 – that inflamed rather a lot of passions.
We’ll note the title of the original Journal before we move on, as it illustrates a larger point: the web is an open medium – while we can use titles and names and brands to position ourselves as appealing to particular demographics, the rest of the world is only a click away from stumbling on us. The article title was, of course, the real ‘flamebait’ here, although the article’s tone didn’t help the writer’s case for anyone outside the magical demographic that she sought to ordain and claim. If you must diss everyone over 25, at least do it somewhere where they won’t find it: just realise that the social media you are trumpeting make that harder than ever to achieve.
Clothes maketh a man, perhaps, but it’s more probable that behaviour and manners maketh his – or her – reputation. It was interesting in a week where the ‘looks like everybody hates HR’ trope reared its head again – the latest response comes from Melvyn Dinnen, speaking mostly for the defence but pointing out along the way that journalism doesn’t have the most glittering behavioural résumé – that I should read a recent post from New Republic.
The title alone, Popular Culture Has Soured on Silicon Valley’s Hotshots, made the argument clear enough, although I might have been tempted – on a hypothetical re-edit – to put Umair Haque’s cited Tweet a little nearer the headline:
Tech is something like the new Wall St. Mostly white mostly dudes getting rich by making stuff of limited social purpose and impact.”
… it is, as journalists never tire of telling us, time to go. Farewell then, Lucy Adams, who will leave the BBC as (according to her LinkedIn profile) Director of People and Director of Business Operations in March 2014. After bruising (for her) appearances before the Commons Public Accounts Committee, she was – when I logged in to check my email this morning – the subject of the flagged news item at the Yahoo! UK portal. What was really striking, however – and this is only a week after I sat at this same desk writing a post about whether we do or should really still hate HR – was the headline of the chosen article, which appeared in today’s Telegraph:
It’s official: Lucy Adams has killed off the HR profession once and for all”
The Telegraph journalist, Louisa Peacock cannot be accused of holding back:
Finally, Adams has managed to confirm our suspicions about HR all along: it is a pointless department that does little for the bottom line of a business. In the case of unnecessarily huge pay offs at the BBC, HR has actually helped to take away from the bottom line. As well as, let’s not forget, failing miserably to uphold the kind of integrity, respect and transparency we could be forgiven to expect from the self-declared “people people”. Nice one.”
No, not the next general election: the year. And yes, HR: we’re talking about you again. The steady drip of ‘anti-HR’ articles and the negative press is no doubt extremely tiresome, but to tackle this sensation, organisational needs must trump feelings of victimisation. And if there’s the perception of a dark grey cloud, there is also a silver lining. As Marc Coleman, founder and Managing Director of the Pan European HR Network, blogged in 2011 in a piece titled Most Important Function of the Future = HR:
The importance of talent management helps bring HR closer to the CEO. CFO asks his CEO, “What happens if we invest in developing our people and then they leave the company?” CEO answers, ‘What happens if we don’t, and they stay?”
But as the Boston Consulting Group report, The Future of HR in Europe: Key Challenges Through 2015, pointed out back in 2007, the five key challenges that it identified:
Aren’t just the capabilities that executives expect to be the most important in managing human capital during the period 2010-2015. They are also the capabilities that executives told us that their companies were currently weakest in – and this needed to focus their efforts on improving. In short, European companies stand to gain the most if they can master these five HR challenges; they also have the most ground to cover in these capabilities.”
No, hating HR isn’t news. It might even count as nostalgia, except that’s usually for things past. Despite ChristopherinHR’s spirited and attention-grabbing opening paragraph in the discipline’s defence, I suspect the tide may be against him. And few articles about a profession – despite Human Resource Executive Online’s assertion that “Fast Company‘s “Why We Hate HR” article failed to provoke much of a widespread reaction” – attract so much attention as Keith Hammonds’ August 2005 article that The Society for Human Resource Management prepares a downloadable Discussion Guide to Debrief the Fortune magazine article, or that the Harvard Business Review blog publishes an article that includes the phrase “As this provocative essay approaches its fifth anniversary …” I can understand that many people may not have liked the music, but Mr Hammonds certainly struck a chord. And some of its notes are still ringing.
You noticed that I dismayed the idea of nostalgia? Keith Hammonds’ article is still being referenced in 2013: The Hindu Business Line did so in May, and DTS Sydney recently published Why (Some) People Hate HR – The Top 10 Criticisms. As we’re dealing in sweeping generalisations here, let’s just say those Australians don’t hold back. Here are just a few quotes: Continue reading
Neil Morrison’s Change-Effect.com is usually one of our favourites, but his most recent post – Social #HR will eat itself – seems to have triggered an outbreak of pigeon-impersonating in response to a perceived cat. I’d recommend you read it before you read on, but he makes a good point or two even if he is a skilled enough writer and practitioner to be making them knowingly: the validity of the sentence “The certainty gained from unthinking consensus is the cloak that camouflages lazy ignorance” is, for example, allowed to come after the more pointed version – “The thing is, that the whole concept has been bastardised by the well meaning, but intellectually stunted.” I’m guessing Neil is after a reaction …
… and truth be told, I’m more tempted to agree with the pointed version. Neil’s point about edginess vs acceptance aside, surely there is more potential in a medium for discussion and debate than finding a list of things to agree with? Perhaps it’s the ASK value of asking the right questions and looking for the answers to ‘Why?’, but I do think anyone whose Twitter feed consists entirely of retweets and 140 character verbal back-pats might consider sitting back from the keyboard for a moment and asking themselves what they are contributing? If your default post is to tell the world that you “couldn’t agree more”, might you not move everyone’s thinking and reflection – including your own – a little bit further forward if you considered the possibility of agreeing slightly less?
The expression “Mum’s the word” has nothing to do with maternity, nor even with preserving familial values. It comes from the older English meaning of ‘mum’ as silence: ‘keeping Mum’ is about keeping your lips together, not your nuclear family. But not speaking out – despite the apparent wisdom of another familiar adage about it being better to be thought stupid than to open your mouth and prove it – is not necessarily synonymous with wisdom. Sometimes ‘it’ – whatever it might be – actually does need saying.
Indeed, this was one of the themes that emerged during the questions to presenters and the table conversations at our recent BAFTA Breakfast Meeting, where a reluctance to speak out or to ask questions was seen as often being a symptom of a dysfunctional organisational culture. And a symptom, moreover, that can express itself in more than one way: Continue reading