HR lessons from…The Tiger Who Came To Tea

Recently I’ve been reading The Tiger Who Came To Tea every evening before bed to my youngest daughter. It strikes me that this tome may masquerade as a childrens book but, beneath the childish facade, there lies many serious messages for HR and our role in making organisations better places to work.

Here’s my analysis.

This book is a searing commentary on cultural deficiencies, process inefficiencies and gender inequality in the workplace, and also the dangers on getting the wrong person into your organisation via a recruitment process gone awry.

It starts with Sophie and her Mummy receiving an unexpected guest at their house, and wondering who it could be.  This is teaching us to be ready for the unexpected and basically the importance of business continuity planning, as you never know what challenges your business might face, especially when Daddy isn’t at home.

It then describes how they invite this random stranger into their house with little regard for their own personal safety, or hygiene in the workplace – its telling us how organisations often onboard people without really doing background checks and assessing suitability, so its a lesson to get these things right first.

 Then, to Sophie and her Mummy’s horror, the tiger proceeds to eat them out of house and home, basically taking the piss out of their whole approach to inducting new staff and running roughshod over their attempts to slowly integrate this new starter into their culture.

Here, then, is an important lesson on assessing cultural fit during the selection process and making sure expectations and behaviours are made clear during the important induction process.

Its also a lesson on how to handle addictions in the workplace, because the tiger is seen to be addicted to alcohol and other drinks, and this behaviour is encouraged by Sophie stroking him when he does this – does your organisation subtly encourage and reinforce drinking alcohol in the workplace at Xmas time?  Is this considered gross misconduct?  Do you help people to manage any addictive behaviour they display?

 And then the tiger leaves, effectively resigning his position in the workplace, and leaves without serving his notice period and leaving a trail of disruption and destruction in his wake. When YOUR employees leave, how is that exit process managed?  Its important to get it right.

Finally, the boss returns (and the boss here is male, wrongly reinforcing gender stereotypes in the workplace, as it is assumed the females are incapable of resolving the situation and require the male to give them instructions on how to problem solve) and helpfully suggests that the answer to their problem is to outsource food production to a local cafe.  Have you explored outsourcing as a way of managing your flexible workforce?

The book ends by showing Sophie and her Mummy learning their lesson about not planning ahead, and beginning to work on their business continuity plan and have things in place for if the tiger should come to tea again.  This is very good advice.

But he never did.

And there ends the lesson.

Basically, get the basics of HR right and you can’t go wrong.

Till next time…


PS Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year!

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