My job – come and get it

For the last (almost two years) I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to head up the CIPD’s relationship with our branch network and with our Council. Our branch network is one of the world’s biggest communities of HR and people development practitioners. It’s a remarkable thing. It runs over 1000 events each year and supports everything from policy development to mentoring. It’s our biggest face to face channel and like anything else we do is constantly evolving to improve its support for the profession. People give their time for free and they deserve our support and recognition.

My job is up for grabs.

I have a wonderful team (please note: if you are in this team and reading this blog I’d like you to get back to work and don’t get cocky) and we have ambitious plans to further improve support for the community we serve. We have built up some real momentum over the past couple of years and Council (which represents each branch and is part of our governance structure) is supportive and ready for change. There is a great job here for someone to take on and make my time here a grubby footnote in history, which I’d love to see.

In this role you’d also be supporting the London branches (we have 7) which represent well over 20000 of our membership. Again, we’ve made progress together, but your job would be to come in and be much better than me.

There are challenges – we have over 50 branches and supporting that geographical distribution is tricky and we have over 900 volunteers and that’s complex in terms of relationships and expectations. I’m busy and I make lots of compromises and lots of decisions I make will be received differently by very different groups. We need to make it a truly modern network, supported by technology but with people at its heart.

If you are interested you can find the official overview on this link. It’s been an honour to work with such an inspiring group of people. It would be good to find someone who would like to support and inspire them in turn. If I can help with any insight then please get in touch, otherwise please share (or apply).

PS.

Why did I take the job? Because it’s a massive part of the train set. It’s the biggest face to face channel for my own profession and everything we make better there makes it better for the profession. That was too attractive not to spend some time influencing. And I got to influence some other things at the CIPD too. We don’t need another me, the job could be done in a host of ways. We just need someone better than me – because our volunteers and the profession deserve constant improvement from their professional body.

PPS when moving on from a role I always think of my favourite Dilbert.

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L&D, specialism and accessibility

I love the L&D profession. I know great people doing great work in enabling organisations and people to flourish. I also lament, at times, the profession’s ability to progress its own thinking and activity and a reliance on outmoded methodologies or thinking.

I say ‘lament’ because I don’t think in the time I’ve been involved in the sector I’ve met anyone that I didn’t want to do a good job, but there are things that set apart some of the best folk I’ve come across

Openness to challenge – they are willing to be proved wrong and change their approach and thinking when they get new information. They learn

Critical thinking – it is linked to the above but they poke and prod at ideas and information from different angles. They seek out new information to challenge their thinking and they use logic, rather than just emotion. Importantly they balance their own experiences and external research/evidence.

Breadth of ambition – they want people and organisations to do well. They understand what the organisation they support needs to do to succeed at a level beyond what happens in traditional chalk and talk

A feel for people – they normally can relate to people and get them to open up. They want to help and they find ways to do so – either at an individual or organisational level

They make the complex simple – they don’t use technical or new funky terms to create an aura of credibility. They want to be accessible and relatable to create credibility through results. There’s a depth of knowledge, but it surfaces in accessible forms.

They aren’t all on Twitter/social media – I love Twitter, I learn from people on there the whole time, there is a really good community there. But I know people delivering great results who either hate it or have only a passing interest in it. To anyone saying that you can’t do a good job in this line of work unless you are active on social media I simply say ‘bunkum’

Bravery – they are brave enough to explore, to challenge and to be wrong. Often they aren’t wrong. I’m all for this narrative about failure being occasionally acceptable, but it is still supposed to lead to success (last time I checked)

They love lists – if you have reached this far you might just be brilliant.

What else would need to change…

I’m on a flight to Aberdeen to chat to some folk about the future of work. I’ve just read a piece by Tim Harford in the on board magazine about how we ignore less glamorous inventions in favour of exciting and more obviously revolutionary technology. Barbed wire and shopping containers. We undervalue the change those things have allowed. It’s very inconvenient to read this as I’m off to talk about technology driven change.

One of his final points is that we need to ask of any new invention ‘what else would need to change to enable this to have impact?’. There is no doubt that some of the things I’ll be talking about today not only will drive change, but need change to take place for them to be a success. All too often we think of technology as the solution to problems – without thinking about how it works for us and how best to work with it.

Sometimes what needs to change is the way we work. Sometimes what needs to change is a process. Sometimes it is thinking.

As a thought experiment imagine you thought of people as technology (I promise not to call them human capital). If you were introducing people into work for the first time them what would we need to change to enable them to be a success?

If we focused on people as the source of competitive advantage rather than waiting for technology then how would we support them?

It’s probably a false choice. It is the two together. But our greatest creation is arguably the next generation of shapers of work and technology – what are we doing to get the best out of them?

They need to #learn… Or maybe… 

There is a framing issue with thinking about organisational capability (and individual capability) that has been troubling me. And that’s the posing of organisational issues as learning needs –  rather than learning needs AND/OR required systemic changes. 

It’s an evolution of the problem of L&D just thinking about their offering in terms of a classroom or online experience. It’s the assumption that the problem associated with a lack of delivery of an action (or behaviour) is a lack of capability or knowledge. 

I don’t have stats. 

I’m just going to say confidently that more times than not – unless the skill is technical – issues are systemic or a combination of required learning and organisational adjustment.  
For example… Our leaders aren’t compassionate. Our leaders aren’t emotionally intelligent. Our leaders don’t care about their people. 

I bet if you found them in the middle of a family crisis most of them are. Because most of them are human. They just don’t feel required or expected to be that in the office. In fact they may feel the opposite. 

So better questions, before we design learning support or interventions, might be 

  • What is getting in the way? 
  • Why aren’t people feeling acting in a different way is legitimate? 
  • Why are they choosing to be different? 
  • And how could we influence that choice?

Because it could be 

  • Process signposts the wrong things 
  • Leaders role model the wrong things 
  • Incentives align to the wrong things
  • Stories abound in the organisation of what happened last time

Attempting to get someone to change their behaviour in a sustained way when the environmental pointers are pushing them away is a frustrating and sometimes impossible journey. 

Asking them what’s getting them in the way often may be a cheaper, faster, better way of getting to the heart of the issue. If you want learning to stick it’s the organisation’s responsibility to make sure it is supported by the organisational systems. 

L&D + supportive culture = sustained change. 

And finally… Would you quantify the below as a success? 

That bridge in happier times

When the Olympics were in London in 2012 I took my daughter up to see the marathon. We arrived at London Bridge station and walked across the sealed off bridge. Sealed off for better reasons. 

Whilst we were crossing it we came across a group of French athletes who had won medals. They were letting people try them on and have their photos taken with them. They were dancing on the bridge and there wasn’t one person who wasn’t smiling or enjoying the moment. I remember thinking how amazing it was to share a moment like that, but also to be able to walk down the middle of London Bridge. 

For those of us too young to really remember life in London in the 70s/80s there is a sobering list of attacks and their impact 

here https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_terrorist_incidents_in_London

  • Harrods
  • Canary Wharf
  • House of Commons
  • The Royal Parks
  • The City 
  • Hotels
  • Shopping centres
  • The Tower of London
  • All the major stations

Almost every symbolic place you can think of suffered at some point. They were closed or damaged. 

The city will recover. It is built upon smiles and scars. Friends and families may never recover. Some things will have changed forever.

I think it’s OK to be scared. I’m scared. I think it’s OK to not know what to do or where to go. I see a lot of messages saying people’s thoughts are with London. London will be fine. 

It’s each other we need to look out for and challenge to stay strong. And stay smart and vigilant. And remember that whilst action is needed, division can only result in more conflict. 

London Bridge in 2012

How I Became a Success in HR 

I’m often asked how I became successful in HR. 

I’ve never viewed myself as such – I know some great people who I consider in a different league to me – but in the spirit of the type of list you’ll find in Inc or on LinkedIn I thought I’d give you my key lessons…

These are all things that are hallmarks of my career. I assume they are the secret to my unfathomable success 

  • Sometimes just forget to have lunch and then announce to colleagues at about 4pm that you can’t believe the canteen is shut 
  • Go through periods of insisting to your team that discipline is key and then blatantly ignore some rules due to expediency. Try to explain why it’s different for you
  • Have a beard. I’m not being sexist, I’m just observing that I’m more experienced than ever and currently have a beard. It seems likely it’s causal
  • Be of combined Welsh and Indian extraction. Or as close to that as you can get. If that seems tricky for you to achieve then adopt more of a ‘growth’ mindset
  • Accept every mistake you make is a learning opportunity. Every mistake someone else makes is proof that some people never learn
  • Hire people smarter than you whenever you can. Then tell them about how the last people you had working for you were even smarter to keep them in their place 
  • Talk about big data when you know it’s not and robots when you know people mean AI just because explaining the difference has got a bit tiresome now
  • Meet lots of people for coffee 
  • Recognise that success is a complex amalgam of opportunity, luck, readiness, work, aptitude, environment and timing and the recipe to it can rarely be replicated and is unlikely to be found in a list
  • Be able to poke fun at yourself

Best of luck

What have you done for me lately? 

I just picked up on this quote here 

I spent Saturday with some of our volunteers talking about how we might evolve our local networks and communities. We’ve made real progress in our relationships with our volunteers in this area – and I know this because people keep on stopping me to tell me that we have. 

So I’m sitting on a table with people talking about potential next steps and somebody said to me ‘I don’t know why you just didn’t do this when you started. It obviously needs to change’. 

My answer was in two parts. The first got a nod. The second part got a nod and a laugh. 

i) I wouldn’t have listened long or hard enough at that point to be confident I was doing what was right, rather than what I felt to be right. My decisions wouldn’t have been informed by enough data points

ii) You would have probably told me to bog off as you wouldn’t have trusted me 

There is truth in both of those statements. 

Change takes time, restraint and trust. Before I could ask a group of people to consider change I had to show that we (the organisation, my team and I) were committed to supporting them in the now and understood what they already did and what we wouldn’t want to lose. Then I had to give them confidence that the change would be better (we are still talking…) and that it wouldn’t break what we already had. 

There is debate over what percentage of change programmes fail. Whatever that percentage is my bitter experience tells me that without investing in understanding the now and the pains of transition any attempts to change will, more often than not, struggle. 

The challenge isn’t setting the vision, that’s the easy bit. It’s getting people to want to build a sturdy bridge to it and helping them understand you will get your hands dirty with too. If it is your vision then that’s the least you need to commit if you want it to be other people’s vision too.