HR lessons from…The Paper Dolls

Its now time for my usual silly season blog post where I aim to show the HR lessons that can be gleaned from a well known children’s story. This year, it’s the Paper Dolls, by Julia Donaldson.

Are you ready? Then let’s begin.

The story touches on many pertinent HR and leadership lessons and I’ll draw out some of them here. Firstly, the story sets a context of an organisation that encourages creativity, innovation and collaboration, and the importance of a helpful manager…

The story then turns to diversity and inclusion, showing how, in the right culture, every employee can thrive and grow….

Sadly though the book then explains how success and happiness within an organisation often attracts jealousy and resentment, and shows how internal discord can create a sense of bullying and harassment. Tellingly, though, the culture of the organisation encourages the victims to run away rather than confront issues…

Pleasingly, the employees get away from their bully and remain happy in a different environment, but encounter bullying again, almost as if the bully is stalking their every move…

Until they finally believe they’re safe from harm in their organisation, enjoying life in their gardens and enjoying their home lives, but the reach of the bully extends to strike fear into them even outside work…

And this time the bully appears to win, causing lasting harm to the employees. However what the bully doesn’t realise is that the employees have a lasting connection to both each other and the concept of the amazing workplace, and reconnect beyond the bully’s reaches…

In this scene the book explains how relationships can survive even the most toxic of organisations, and that the employees will forever remember the good aspects of working there but come to forget the bullies…

And in the final scene the book hints strongly at how being treated badly by an organisation or bully can sometimes help to reinforce the good things in life, and provide fuel, motivation and a platform for creating and shaping even more amazing workplaces…

And so we end. A stirring story which covers the positives of innovation and creativity but also highlights the unintended and unwanted impact that a diverse and inclusive culture can have, whilst ending on a positive note in that this can, in itself, lead to the creation of better leaders.

The End

Till next time…

Gary

Ps in other news, and with tongue now firmly OUT of cheek, I’ve had a tough week in my personal life. Something I published has created trouble for someone else, despite there being no connection between them and my material, and led to a difficult relationship between us. On top of that my last surviving cat died suddenly at the age of 18 and, having had her since she was 5 weeks old, this was a blow I could have done without.

#cipdACE summary blog

A couple of weeks ago I attended #cipdACE and was part of the Blogsquad again. Here’s my reflective summary of the entire experience.

I enjoyed it immensely. It’s always one of the highlights of my professional year and this year was no exception.

The conference itself had a great programme with a wide variety of sessions as usual, but I felt it was of higher quality this year. I found it hard to choose which sessions to go to and the only solution I can think of for this is to get some sessions repeated, even if this means going back to three days.

I blogged and tweeted from many sessions and the links to those are below. However my main takeaways were from the sessions by Rachel Botsman, John Amaechi and Lenny Henry, unsurprisingly as these were the big hitters on the programme.

From Rachel’s session I have been reflecting on trust quite a lot and in particular how being more open and transparent doesn’t necessarily build more trust. On reflection I now agree with this and can see lots of examples of this in my personal and professional life. It will have an impact on how I coach in particular.

I’ve learnt more about trust in my first year running a business than in the previous 42 years of my life. It’s strange how individuals behave towards third party suppliers in a way they wouldn’t dream of doing to a fellow employee, and how that behaviour has shaped the way I now deal with companies.

From John’s session I particularly liked his points about the influence we have in HR or in business. Never doubt that we can change things. As someone once said, you can change the world, one conversation at a time. I like that idea.

And Lenny’s session was awesome, highlighting the role of HR in holding our organisations to account for their inclusivity and diversity, with some intensely personal examples.

The Exhibition was about the same quality as last year but did seem larger, and that’s a good thing. The suppliers were varied and whilst the free gifts are nowhere near the standard of previous years, and seem to be dwindling further year on year, there were sufficient variety of interesting suppliers to talk to.

I’ll repeat what I say every year though. Most suppliers are not plugged into the back channel on social media and this loses them valuable publicity. Many did not know their Twitter handle and lots mistook BLOGSQUAD on my badge to be my company name and claimed to have met others who worked for this company.

A good example of this was @HR_Gem at the Perkbox stand. She asked for one of their unicorns and they refused as they weren’t free gifts. She said if she could get 100 retweets would they give her one and they said yes, no doubt thinking she was mad. About an hour later she had them and collected her unicorn. I tried the same tactic the following day and was told at first that I was making it up about Gem and her unicorn as no one on the stand knew about it. Eventually one person said that someone on the stand had mentioned this yesterday and they thought they’d now get into trouble for it, and so were now not repeating it or grasping the very obvious publicity that should have come from it.

Engage with social media, suppliers. We can bring people to your stand and get you free publicity.

I can think of a dozen ways I’d have been exploiting that if I were Perkbox.

Sadly there were other examples too.

As usual, the fringe and social activities provided as much value if not more, and this is again because the conference programme is so packed with good stuff it leaves little time for networking and catching up with people. My solution here is to consider a three day conference again and spread things out more in the programme but it would also allow fringe activities to spread over an extra day. At one point in the Wednesday evening there were four things I wanted to get to, all at the same time, and I managed two.

But the conversations you have inbetween the conference sessions and at the coffee stands in the exhibition, and in the bar in the evening, are often what makes the whole experience worthwhile. The more of that that can be fitted in, the better it is.

My own social media coverage was enjoyable and I put out a good output- six blogs at the event plus this one makes seven, hundreds of tweets, plus a dozen or so LinkedIn and Instagram posts. And not to mention the pre event promo videos I did on YouTube, which many seemed to have liked. I really enjoyed being part of the Blogsquad for the fourth year running.

Overall, this was a better event than the previous year but there’s still ways to make it even better.

And one day, I might get on the main stage myself, who knows?

Till next time…

Gary

Ps in other news, eldest son has passed his driving theory test and youngest son is now sitting up unaided. I have it all going on as a father…

#cipdACE blog 6 – Andy Burnham and Lenny Henry closing keynote

I’ve took some time to wander around the Exhibition for a few hours and also chat to as many people as I can. I’ve been into a couple of the free sessions for a short while and also a final conference session on employee engagement, but my final blog from the conference is covering Andy Burnham’s short slot and Lenny Henry’s closing keynote.

Andy Burnham took to the stage to question whether we are making enough progress around fairness in the workplace. He sees progress, but not enough.

Is work good enough for people?

A good question. There are still examples of poor practice, such as CEOs getting millions of pounds of bonuses whilst we still have a homeless problem.

Andy also highlighted how much may have stayed the same, citing what the trades union movement were asking for 150 years ago which seem to have resonance in 2018 too.

Unsurprisingly, he talked about how devolution can help shape the future of work and referenced the Good Employment Charter that he is leading on within Greater Manchester. This has to be a good thing, and of course you have to start somewhere but will it be enough to focus on Greater Manchester?

There are elements that are being pushed in Greater Manchester, such as basic rights, security, flexible working and more. And it is good to see this potentially being linked to public procurement to help drive compliance with it.

And aswell as this, we need to further the skills agenda and he outlined the initiatives he is setting in motion around this. There are big things afoot in Greater Manchester which, if seen through, will create a fairer society and working life, but I’d question whether it is going far enough by limiting it to GM.

And then we had Lenny Henry.

Lenny is here to talk about the challenges we all face around diversity, and began with a powerful video that shows it is still a very live issue.

He talked about his upbringing and facing issues around discrimination via his family, at school and because of the way society functioned.

Lenny’s talk was hard to blog because it was stand up comedy but actually telling some very serious messages, but I was too busy being entertained to write most of it down.

It was interesting to hear the barriers, tangible and intangible, that Lenny faced in building his career, through both covert and overt racism, and shared how his experiences had led to him beginning to campaign for greater representation from BAME communities in the media, something which has met with success after a lot of hard work.

Although he realises there is still a long way to go.

And in HR, we are uniquely placed to influence this in organisations.

Lenny gave examples of how individuals can kick start movements, and how one individual can influence the wider world, citing famous abolitionists and Suffragettes as examples.

If they can do it, imagine what we in HR can do…

Lenny then walked about Comic Relief but at this point I needed to run for my train.

It has been a GREAT two day conference, and I’ll reflect on this and do a summary blog next week.

Till next time…

Gary

#cipdACE blog 3 – the new Profession Map

This afternoon has been one long conversation with almost everyone I know in the HR profession. I’ve managed to miss two conference sessions because I got wrapped up in some great conversations with awesome people.

I’ve also had a decent wander round the Exhibition and a chat to a few exhibitors. The quality of the Exhibition is better this year.

There are also various options for evening drinks which I need to choose from, and therefore almost everyone who wants to, can get some much needed winding down over a glass of wine or bottle of beer.

I’ve finished the day by going along to a Q&A session with David D’Souza and Victoria Winkler about the new CIPD Profession Map, labelled a special press briefing but it turned out only I was there and so there was little structure to it.

I’ve got a brochure about the new map and wanted to comment on a few things that jump out to me. It is of interest to me as I’ve contributed to this along its development path for the last two years, and a lot of what I do is linked to this map.

Here it is.

What do you think? I like it.

Why?

There is obviously lots that is new or refreshed so my views here are just commenting on the things that jump out to me, rather than a full blown review, so you will want to look at it in your own time and do that.

Here’s my two pennorth.

– A greater focus on culture and behaviour, business acumen, analytics, change and digital working in the Core Knowledge section. These are welcome from my perspective as I think not enough current HR practitioners display these elements and they can only help us to become more effective within organisations

– More emphasis on ethics, courage, inclusivity and passion within the Core Behaviours. Some of these overlap with existing behaviours but the fact they are more explicit in the new map reflects the changing world of work and the role played, or to be played, by HR in this. I’ll be interested to see how these make it into the new qualifications though but they’re definitely valuable.

– Within Specialist Knowledge, a section on the Employee Experience, a particular specialism of mine. More sections with an L&D/OD focus, reflecting my view that HR needs to have a greater emphasis on OD skill sets to help organisations improve, and a new section on People Analytics, reflecting the growing specialisms in these areas. All of these are welcomed too.

I’ve not spent a great deal of time studying this, and there’s clearly more work to do to roll this out and develop them fully, but the work to date has been positive and it’s good to see it at last.

There are more briefings on the CIPD stand, on Thursday at 11am, and a more formal launch is imminent.

What are your views on how this represents our profession?

And that’s the end of my day at the Conference although there are plenty of fringe events later. I’ll possibly see you at some of these.

Till next time…

Gary

#cipdACE blog 1 – opening keynotes

I’m here at #cipdACE for the umpteenth year running. It’s the highlight of my professional year and has been since about 2003 when I first went to Harrogate.

Whilst I retain a fond memory of the Harrogate days, the conference these days in Manchester has really come into its own, and what tends to make that happen is the fringe that takes place before and after each day, which adds to the social event feel. Harrogate had that in spades, and now so does Manchester.

I’m in the Blogsquad for the 4th year running and I’m also representing my 4th different organisation in that time, although this year I’m working for myself and loving it. I love being in the Blogsquad too, it’s great to be able to share the content that I see and hear and get involved with so much that’s going on.

My journey today was not too bad, aside from cramped trains meaning I had to stand all the way.

The opening address was by Peter Cheese as usual.

The real Peter Cheese this time and not that imposter who appeared in the promo video.

Anyway. In his opening keynote, Peter touched on various topical events and happenings that are having an effect on the world of work, starting with Brexit and the Gender Pay Reporting legislation, highlighting how the world of work is changing as a result of these and other forces.

The picture above was Peter’s views on how we in HR are shaping the future of work. He gave a quick run through on how we contribute in each of these areas, but then moved onto building professionalism itself, referring to the recently completed review of the Profession Map which is having a soft launch today. If you’re interested in finding out more, the CIPD stand has talks about it at 11am on both days.

The opening keynote was from Rachel Botsman, talking about the currency of trust.

Trust is a term that is bandied about a lot, she said. But we don’t spend enough time focusing on it.

She started with an exercise to gauge levels of trust in various public figures. But trust is contextual and based on what people say or do to us, and as such it is highly subjective.

She gave a great anecdote about how trust is based on signals that people give out, using her childhood nanny as an example. There was high trust there until an incident happened. How did her parents get the decision to trust someone with their children so drastically wrong?

The reason is that people can project an illusion of information that can often convince people to trust them. When trust breaks down, we see elements of bad character that the illusion has covered up.

She then talked about how to build trust. There are obviously two parties to the trust exchange, the trustor and the trustee. She described the way in which signals pass between both parties to ensure that trust is built up, or not as the case may be. Her point was that, just as money is the currency of transactions, trust is the currency of interactions.

This is an interesting point and one I need to reflect on in more detail, but has tremendous implications for coaching and mentoring work I do.

When you meet someone new or do something new, you are making a trust leap. But the more people that do this, the more the next people making this leap will trust automatically without question.

She did a great exercise to demonstrate a trust leap by asking us to give our phones to the person next to us. Sometimes a trust leap is what is needed. But in making that trust leap, you immediately look for signals and other elements that help to build that trust.

Why do we have to make a trust leap in order to build that trust? The signals are there without the trust leap taking place.

She then moved onto the concept of the Trust Battery. This is a concept that I have blogged about before, but which I call Credit. I recognise this well. It’s about how people often start within organisations with their Trust Batteries at half full, and it is the things they say and do that make it higher or lower.

It’s a great tool to have constructive conversations about people’s behaviour and the relationships you have with them. BUT the more transparency in the relationship, the less you need to have and believe in trust…

That’s a mind blowing concept. As I, and many others in the audience, felt it was the opposite.

But it makes sense.

If you know everything about someone, if you know how they are thinking and behaving, you don’t need to trust them.

But if someone doesn’t share everything you DO need to trust them.

That could change a lot of my interpersonal relationships.

And yours too.

What a great opening keynote speech with lots of personal takeaways.

Now it’s time for coffee…

Till next time…

Gary

A Modern Learning Professional

Last week I was pleased to be able to speak at #cipdLDshow on the subject of being a modern learning professional, and this blog expands upon some of the things I spoke about.

I had a great time at the event – it was my first time attending, with the London venue being offputting in terms of the out of proportion cost and time of travel making it not as easy to get to – but I’m glad I went this time.

I caught a few of the exhibition’s free sessions, all of which were well attended, and enjoyed my lengthy browse around the exhibition itself.

My own session was at the very end of Day Two, which initially made me worry that it would be affected by people nipping off early, but of the 90 or so who were booked to attend, I’d say over two thirds made it, which was great.

The format for the session I was in was based on the Ignite format – there were 3 speakers, each delivering a 10 minute Ignite Max presentation, with slides auto advancing every 30 seconds. After that we moved into facilitated discussions around the key themes that emerged from each talk.

I had the difficult task of following the excellent Fiona McBride and Julian Stodd, both of whom did great talks.

My own talk was on the subject of being A Modern Learning Professional, and intended to give a light-hearted look at how the world of L&D has evolved since I joined it back in the mid to late 1990s.

As is becoming usual for me, I delivered the Ignite Max talk in full rhyme.  You can see a recording of this, courtesy of the amazing Ady Howes:

Although it was a light hearted look at things, I was intending to observe a few happenings and I’ll summarise them here – I’d love to know your views on these or even chat to you about them – give me a shout if so.

Here’s the main points:

  • The L&D world I joined back in the mid to late 1990s is almost unrecognisable from the one we inhabit today.  That said, there are still a few self styled great trainers around who cling to how things used to be, one of which I pastiche in the video.
  • When I delivered just training, no matter how good I or it was, it wasn’t integrated into the business
  • The skills that attracted me to and got me into L&D are no longer the skills I find I rely upon in modern L&D
  • I’ve become very much an all rounder, and have developed some skills I didn’t think were part of the L&D skillset – like using technology more and more, being an integrated part of and knowing all about HR, and curating information and resources – they’re all helpful now, but they don’t come natural to me
  • To be effective in my role, I need to view organisations as systems and see learning and skills as one part of that system – but focus as much on improving the other parts as improving learning and skills

And the talk seemed to go down very well indeed.  The facilitated discussion I led afterwards confirmed that lots of other people were wrestling with and debating the same issues, and we attempted to brainstorm some ideas about how we can cope with the continued evolution of our skillset, and where that might take us.

Overall, a very enjoyable day!

Till next time…

Gary

PS in other news, its open water swimming season now, but for me its still too damned cold to get into my wetsuit and start swimming – it seems like spring has only just started, I’ll wait a few weeks!

 

EPIC

I’m proud to announce the launch of my business, EPIC. It’s been a while in the making but I’m really excited for what it means.

I’ve blogged before, HERE, about my journey to being self employed. I’ve obviously done little bits of self employed work for a long time as a sole trader, and so when I left employment on 1 December I carried on as a sole trader.

However I have the advantage of being married to a Chartered Accountant and am able to access a lot of advice easily, and the advice was clear to set up a limited company as soon as practical.

It took me almost two months though and part of that was taking some time to figure out what I wanted the company to do, how it would market itself and what kind of company it would be.

In this period I spoke to lots of people in my network to help me with my thinking. Whilst I’m grateful to each and every one of them for their help, a few people really did some in depth support for me and I ought to name check them.

My wife obviously played a huge role in keeping me grounded, giving me support and encouragement, and providing instant feedback on a range of things. On Twitter and occasionally in person, I’m grateful to Ian Pettigrew, Mark Gilroy and Mark Hendy for giving up some of their time and helping me think through things like purpose, goals, clarity of direction and much more. And finally Simon Heath did a sterling piece of work with branding and visuals, much of which you can see here – thankyou.

Left to my own devices, the company name might have been something different, but each in their own way encouraged my thinking until I found EPIC.

And EPIC is here.

It stands for Evolve, Perform, Improve and Compete. And it neatly encapsulates the four strands of what I want to do and have been doing already.

I’ll not cover what EPIC will do here as there’s enough elsewhere on the website that does that, and at one level it can be viewed as simply a new name or brand for what I’ve been doing for a while anyway.

But somehow, as all good names should, it fits. It resonates with who I want to be and the difference I want to make to people and organisations.

And none of the other names I considered did, even if I thought some of them were quite clever, they were a little cold and not quite as EPIC…

So the business is launched. Business cards have arrived. Website is done (but continues to develop). Branding is done.

But I’ve been doing what EPIC stands for for a long long time now, both in house and externally – I’ve just never had a brand to showcase it or bring it all together the way I now have.

I’ll be working directly with people and organisations but also in association with other people and existing organisations to do great things. The partnerships and collaborations I’ve got in place now or ready to start are something I’m really pleased about.

I’m always seeking feedback though and if you have a view on how I can make EPIC even better, whether that’s something to do with the website or the brand or anything, then I’d love to chat.

But in terms of how I present myself on social media or in person – there’ll be no difference – EPIC just describes what has been my offer for a long time.

If you’d like to know more, or learn how to be more EPIC, you know where to find me…

Till next time…

Gary

Ps work is finally starting on the garage conversion in the next week and thereafter on a new bathroom. And about time too!