Here we go again. Over swelling musical motifs, slo-mo footage of meaningfully fondled cufflinks. As voiceover man tells us about the original 16 potential business partners, the screen shows someone in bio-hazard gear and rubber gloves, grimacing as they agitate something that is possibly edible. Or was once. Will the girls finally show us what they’re made of – other than claws, paranoia and eyeliner? Can they think outside the box, rather than just thinking “A box? Right you, outside …”. Not one but two broadsheets (The Telegraph and The Independent) have just published articles that boil down to ‘why are people still watching this?’ without really coming up with answers. It’s a not a question I feel like taking on at 9am on a Thursday. But I already have watched, and I’m none the wiser.
The title, given that this post is written in response to an external blog post (Ian Gee’s very thought-provoking “Sentiment isn’t just for Sympathy Cards!”), is somewhat cheeky, but I hope that I can go on to demonstrate that an IT-based response to the ‘softness’ of HR issues can – and perhaps inevitably will – trigger an HR-related reaction that can’t help but wonder about the ‘hardness’ of IT solutions.
Ian, on the basis of his profile, has a long and successful track record in the corporate sphere, focusing largely on OD: he knows, we can safely assume, whereof he speaks. As he acknowledges, there are really two issues at play in the area he is currently addressing. The superficial problem – to use the wrong adjective, I admit, but to call it ‘the presenting problem’ would be to potentially confuse management speak with psychologists’ jargon – is how to gauge opinion, feeling and atmosphere amongst the human resources (or ‘people’, as we refer to them outside the office). But there is an underlying problem: the opinions and thoughts that most need to be swayed are those of the occupants of the C Suite, for whom measurement is a matter of firmness, definitiveness and bottom lines. They are not a group of individuals much moved by ‘data’ such as “We have had some informal feedback to the effect that …”
In Olden Days A Glimpse of Stocking …
Let me start with an illustration. No need to be alarmed – it will be purely verbal – though it would be fascinating to know how many find the idea shocking. But the illustrative point: all the members of the Royal Family use toilets. Not earth-shattering news, is it? Just a recognition of adult normality. (I could have said other things that would be entirely normal too.)
My point? How well we are handling the impact of social media. It’s a point that Mervyn Dinnen touches on in a blog post, Social Media, Judging Others and The 5 Year Rule. Social media, as people have pointed out, redraw the line between public and private. Not all of the impacts of this are instant headlines grabbers. In one way, this social change is forcing us to abandon a pretence or two: online, we can see all too clearly that accountants have social lives, mathematicians occasionally dance on tables, that a large number of people – many of them with names or even faces – really do fancy George Clooney. In short, the people around us – in offices, on commuter trains, buttoned into their office-wear in the neighbouring car in the stationary traffic cue – are adults, just like we are, and that they are complex and fallible and messy just like we know that we are (but try to not show too much in our own Facebook timelines).
But will the types of netiquette faux pas that Mervyn writes about cease to be a talking point in five years time because it’s just not ‘news’ any more, or because those kind of stories have stopped happening? Will we adjust to our lives being potentially open to far more people than has previously been the norm, and if so by behaving ‘better’ or by averting our eyes to different things? Will aspects of human behaviour we’ve tended to indulge in but keep quiet stop carrying their current social taboos? Or will we negotiate some medium path, where we arrive at new norms: some behaviours become public, some become almost more private than before. (Pause for thought: watching, monitoring and judging the escapades of others are also human behaviours. And often as habitual as the behaviours they are observing.)
As part of the ASK Newsletter, Q2, we are starting a series of interviews with key voices from the worlds of organisational effectiveness, HR and L&D. (If you’re not a subscriber, visit the Newsletter page at our website to access all the articles from Issue 1, or to be added to our mailing list.)
As part of the first issue, we’re delighted to host a Q&A session with Sharlyn Lauby, author and editor of the HR Bartender blog.
In her own words, “an HR pro turned consultant”, Sharlyn created the blog so that “people would have a friendly place to discuss workplace issues”. We’re privileged to have the opportunity to pull up a bar-stool and seek the HR Bartender’s counsel.
Q1 In your recent blog posting, Knowing When To Retire a Theory, you talk about the need to remain open to updating or replacing conventional wisdom. How open do you think most organisations are to this issue, and how might more of them be helped to become so?
I believe organizations are very open to it. Over the past few years, companies have been forced to re-evaluate their status quo whether it was driven by the global economy or business competition. But this can’t be a forced activity. Questioning conventional wisdom needs to be a business standard. And people who can raise the question in a thoughtful way will be very valuable. Challenging the status quo cannot mean turning the building upside down every time.
It really comes down to permitting a culture where the conversation will be embraced. And giving individuals the tools to have the conversation in a productive way. I think companies are open to it. I don’t necessarily think that companies are open to the destruction that can occur at the same time.
…oh, and research reports. And HR. Would you Adam and Eve it? Gor blimey, guv, strike a light … People Management have commissioned a survey into lying at work. Shockingly, this really actually happens. (No, me neither. Never. Wouldn’t dream of it. Cross my heart and all that.) Worse than that, it seems people are lying to HR professionals on an increasingly frequent basis. And they have (wait for it, wait for it …) statistics to back up their argument. Pot? Kettle?
It is, as you can see, easy to be cynical. The biggest surprise in the article’s quoted figures for me was that the peak age for lying is 25-39. As Samuel Butler once quipped, “I do not mind lying, but I hate inaccuracy.” I would have thought that the ability of familiarity to breed contempt might have made some of our more experienced workers more tempted to just … you know, bend the truth a little.
Leadership is much more an art, a belief, a condition of the heart, than a set of things to do. The visible signs of artful leadership are expressed, ultimately, in its practice.
In the heart of London’s West End, right on Charing Cross Road, The Gallery Soho was the ideal venue for ASK’s second Ideas Exchange event (see details of last year’s event here): where better to invite people to discuss the fine arts of leadership and organisational change.
As before, we set out some broad themes for exploration – organisational development, executive coaching, leadership development and talent management – but we also made sure that the event was as much about the participants as it was about the hosts.
It’s one of the classic HR/interview questions, isn’t it? Where you see yourself in some hypothetical future state, having mysteriously gained awesome prophetic powers that enable you to accurately foresee not just your own career trajectory, but the future health of the interviewing company, the economy in general, your personal life circumstances – and presumably that bus you step out of the way of just in time sometime in 2017. The biggest mystery is not that interviewers assume we have gained these powers simply by combing our hair and ironing our best formal wear, but that we show the humility and social grace to attempt an answer.
It’s a point well made by Neil Morrison at his Change-Effect blog, in the context of affording the candidate a sense of their on-going humanity and hopefully not too severely damaged dignity. From my own experience, it’s a point that many an interviewer – despite their years of experience – could do with taking on board. I can still recall a job interview with a highly respected University where I arrived in the state of combined optimism and agitation that tells you that this is a position that you feel genuinely excited about. By the five-minute mark, the questions and the atmosphere they were creating had firmly persuaded me otherwise. By the ten-minute mark, I was deliberately giving answers that I hoped would be judged as disastrously as possible. (Three days later, I had to find a way to politely turn down their written offer. I can only assume that the other candidates fared even worse against their inexplicable criteria.)
The editors of People Management know a good pull quote when they see one. In a sector of trade publishing more prone than most to ‘attention grabbers’ that leave the reader with a sense that someone nearby will shortly be waving their Buzzword Bingo card aloft and shouting ‘House!’, the following certainly attracted our eyeballs:
Hiding behind your desk in a suit isn’t the answer anymore.”
The speaker is Ricardo Semler, CEO of Brazilian company Semco. People Management describe him as ‘the forgotten business guru’, which seems an odd appellation for a man whose organisation continues to thrive and grow. And the attention that he does receive has tended to focus far more heavily on his divergence from ‘conventional wisdom’ than the success that he has achieved. There’s a ‘why?’ begging to be asked.
Yes, a film about baseball. Actually, a film about baseball and statistics. For those of you about to click away, it has Brad Pitt in it. (Statistically, there’s a fair chance approx. 95% of women and anywhere between 2 and 10% of men may have perked up at that idea. Factor in linking a film aimed at a mostly US audience with one of the country’s national sports and making a mostly accurate record of a true story, and you possibly have a recipe for a hit film. Reuters certainly agreed:
According to research firm NRG, 45 percent of men say they have definite interest in seeing “Moneyball,” while 15 percent describe it as their “first choice” to see next time they’re in a theater — pretty solid tracking.
If the figures at IMDB are accurate, the film was also profitable within about 6 weeks of release (as well as clocking up 6 OSCAR nominations, 19 film awards and 42 nominations). And you may, at this point, have noticed that I’m not actually talking about baseball much … And all those stats and figures might be a clue?
A wise man once said – as they are prone to do – that
Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom.
The wise man in question was Martin Luther King. While his prowess on the football field is perhaps not as legendary as that of Albert Camus, he was undoubtedly a man who inspired and brought about change, and we suspect that he might well have joined in the applause of over 450 L&D professionals and experts at the Training Journal Awards 2012 last night.
The football reference should, I hope, become clear when we congratulate the winners of the Award for Change Management, sponsored by ASK:
1st Brighton & Hove Albion FC/American Express Community Stadium/360 Degree Vision™
2nd Bidwells LLP
3rd Luton Borough Council
The winning learning partnership scored a victorious hatrick on the night, as they also won the Awards for Leadership and Learning Partnership, impressing the judges with an approach that was so well aligned with the culture of the organisation that it achieved rapid growth and increased turnover five-fold.
Our warm congratulations to a fantastic team who can add a new word to their trainer’s lexicon of ‘Aim’ and ‘Objective’: Goooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaallllll!