Posts in: line management

Wherever they lay their hats – making people feel at home

Home – in the sense of somewhere (geographic or otherwise) with which we feel a emotional connection - is also a place that even a workaholic might like to linger. Places that depend on attracting those that are most likely to enjoy their particular culture, style, values – call it what you will – are those most likely to make at least some effort making them immediately obvious. Hence the value of the employer brand. Just like the pub that sends the right messages before we cross the threshold, we know that we are staying for the second pint from choice but realise that we’re more likely to in a place that we feel in tune with.

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Warm beer, village greens and matron

There are some classic clichés of British (and I think I really mean English) life. A lot of it involves a wistful nostalgia for a life that historians might - spoilsports that they are - point out wasn’t like that when we were allegedly living it. Among the tricks memory plays is the vanquishing of rickets, chilblains and rural poverty. The would-be evocative speechmaker that looms largest in recent memory was John Major, whose 1993 speech to the Conservative Group for Europe included a sentence since widely quoted: Fifty years from now Britain will still be the country of long shadows on county grounds, warm beer, invincible green suburbs, dog lovers and pools fillers and - as George Orwell said - “old maids bicycling to holy communion through the morning mist” and if we get our way - Shakespeare still read even in school." It wasn’t until I searched for the original source of the quote that I noticed its original audience - a political party divided over European issues – or the sentence that followed: “Britain will survive unamendable in all essentials.” I can’t trace details of the venue for the speech, but if it had a gallery the speaker was certainly playing to it. But there was one thing missing from the gallery of nostalgic charms that I thought was conspicuously absent – until it popped up on the news a few days ago. Yes: matron.

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The multiple faces of employee engagement

We can be a perennially puzzling species. While the majority of us almost certainly head to work intending to do our best, it would interesting to know how many of us are that generous in our assumptions and assessments about those around us – and how far any gap is accounted for by the generosity we tend to extend when we are invited to assess ourselves. But I strongly suspect that the start of any new job – something we’ve (usually) chosen to apply for, polished our cvs and interview skills, cleared the hurdles of interview and assessment centre – is a time when all of us are at our most positively intentioned. There’s a lot of hoping as well as striving in the journey from hoping to induction, and the moment of arrival is a time when we are looking to invest that hope.

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Book review: Dave and Wendy Ulrich – The Why of Work

Dave Ulrich is, without question, an HR guru: as with any guru, it’s difficult to know whether to approach them on bended knee or with a degree of trepidation. Having read “The Why of Work”, the best approach is with an open mind, a small pinch of salt – and with sufficient time to take on board what Ulrich (writing with his wife, Wendy, a psychologist) has to say. There is much of immense value here, and much that has the potential to enable leaders and organisations to generate immense value in more than one sense for themselves (and, importantly, both their customers and their shareholders). Like many of the best books in the ‘how to manage business better’ arena, my biggest qualm is that those who stand to gain most from reading it are those least likely to read it.

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Promises, promises – and the importance of keeping them

Working life is full of phrases like ‘walking the talk’ and expressions like ‘delivering on potential’. With our suits on, we exist in a world where promises are meant to be kept, and reputations can rise and fall on our ability to maintain this code of honour. A little remarkable, given that we’re all at least old enough to dress ourselves and navigate our way from duvet to desktop: as far as the reliability of promises goes, that’s surely old enough to know better – whether that comes to making the promises, or believing wholeheartedly that they will be delivered upon. But whether we are being naïve or not, our working expectations, hopes and aspirations often start with the promises that are held out or presented to us. And turn a little bitter when the delivery doesn’t follow.

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Twinkle, twinkle, little star

Britain’s Got Talent would make a nifty patriotic slogan, for what is – in ‘reality’ (quotes intentional) – the name of a competitive game show that pitches individual ‘talents’ against each other. “England’s Got Talent” might have made a good tabloid headline about a month ago, but would now have the appeal – at least to the footie minded – of stale lager. Which illustrates one central conundrum of modern culture: the ‘star system’. Evolved in Hollywood, it might be perfectly adapted to the entertainment industry, but most occupations are not actually about the luminous performance of individuals. Organisational development is no less a team game than football, and in neither case is the display of either striking talent or overbearing celebrity the real point: the real point is to achieve goals.

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The loneliness of the long-distance manager

It is, they say, lonely at the top. But there are many of us who have yet to have the opportunity to weigh up how much the view comes as compensation: in the meantime, many people still busily scaling the workplace ladder are finding it pretty damned lonely on the second or third rung down too. The working space immediately above a local workforce and just below a remote or virtual boss with whom there is precious little time or opportunity for direct contact comes not just with great responsibility, but a high incidence of personal isolation that it all too often falls to the isolated manager to tackle.

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Whistle-blowers and flag bearers: watching the World Cup

Though their governments and economies may rise and fall, countries have one lasting trump card: national pride is a potent force. A force strong enough to effectively close much of England yesterday afternoon, remove traffic from motorways and leave every checkout in my local Sainsbury’s completely queueless. Which is one reason – probably the reason – the French Minister of Sport was tasked by President Sarkozy to have what was presumably neither a quiet nor a soothing word with the national football team during a World Cup campaign marred by in-fighting and threats to ‘strike’ in a sense totally unconnected with goal scoring. ‘Sporting behaviour’ embraces more than a strictly athletic meaning: it also invokes respect, team play and a bit of basic decency.

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They can’t take that away from me – the one thing missing from the workplace?

In challenging times, retreat is a natural human response. Rightly or not (and sadly usually not), we tend to perceive some earlier time when things where ‘right’ and – at some level, conscious or otherwise – look for ways of returning to this blissful state.

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How many HR professional does it take to change a light bulb?

A joke recently cracked at the HR Case Studies Blog for your entertainment. And the answer (no sniggering at the back: the Internet is interactive – we can hear you): “None. But they would like to be represented at the meeting!" Which, metaphorically, is where the ‘next generation HR’ theme – much discussed after the recent CIPD report of the same name – is coming from. And the response is varied. It seems to range from “Hang on, I think I’ve seen that light bulb before …” to a less sceptical response that’s something along the lines of “The light bulb’s not the issue. What they need is a stepladder, so they’re in a position to reach high enough to change it”.

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