Friday, 31 December 2010

Does HR need to re-invent itself?

A recent article by Dean Shoesmith, President of the Public Sector People Managers Association (PPMA) declares:

"The public service reform agenda provides both an opportunity and a challenge. HR can build and establish its reputation as a key strategic function if it is at the heart of managing change, helping to facilitate service delivery redesign and building the necessary leadership and management skills for sustained public service transformation. However, if HR is preoccupied by its traditional activities, such as hand-holding line managers, then it will be left behind and its reputation as a transactional function will be reinforced."

Brave talk by Mr Shoesmith which, from our observations, is broadly accurate and true of many private sector HR departments as well as the public sector departments he refers to.

We have worked with a small handful of HR departments in 2010 who are effectively managing change and a couple of those who are the driving force behind organisational change. What is common among those who are truly working as strategic partners is an attitude of commerciality, of assessing likely risks, making informed decisions based on probabilities and swiftly implementing those decisions. Qualities more commonly found in entrepreneurs rather than traditional HR managers!

It seems HR does need to re-invent itself and be at the forefront of driving change in order to take up the available challenges and opportunities in the public sector referred to by Dean Shoesmith.
What skills, qualities and attributes do you see as essential for them to have?

Friday, 10 December 2010

A warm leader

Like much of the country I was snowed in at home for a few days last week. With food stocks running very low, children being hungrier than usual because of all the outdoor activity and shelves in the local shops becoming bare, the inevitable trek to the supermarket had to be done. It felt much like Christmas Eve with the crowds, the queues and fellow customer temperaments switching easily between joyful and grumpy.

When I was next in line for my turn at the till I watched a gentleman approach each till. While he was still some distance away I asked the young man at the till who he was. He replied that they had been told that one of the senior directors of the company was at the store today as he lived close-by and no trains were running, so he hadn’t been able to make it to London. The assumption was made that this was the senior exec.

Once the gentleman was closer I overheard his discussions with the till staff. He thanked each of them for making it into work and enquired about their journey, how they would be getting home, the shifts they were working, and finished each conversation by thanking them again. I observed a customer who appeared to be wanting to use the opportunity to complain about something to this exec; who listened and acknowledged what the customer was saying and then turned the conversation around by asking the customer how wonderful he thought the staff were for managing to make it into work to keep the store open in such awful weather conditions.

The whole scenario made me think......
• How many other leaders have expressed their gratitude to their staff who have made huge efforts in recent days?
• How often those very senior people hit the shop floor and speak to the “ordinary” staff and the “ordinary” customer?
• What impact that exec’s gratitude will have on the engagement and loyalty of the staff?

As an “ordinary” customer I was impressed with what I observed that day as I expect were many others. Will it increase my loyalty and commitment as a customer? Yes, probably it will.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Is there ever a more relevant time to coach?

Work related stress is reported to be on the increase, as evidenced by the July 2010 CIPD Employee Outlook survey where 49% of staff have noticed an increase in stress at work as a result of the economic downturn.

The HSE, the regulatory body who oversee workplace health and safety, have recently reported cases where employers have faced significant compensation payouts for failing to identify and prevent stress adequately.

Dame Carol Black, the first National Director for Health and Work at the DoH recently commented "It is in employers' interests to manage stress at work proactively and not just assume all staff are coping, particularly in a tough economic environment where many employees are under pressure to do more with less."

The message from these bodies is loud and clear: organisations need to take action or pay the price of not doing so.

Effective person-centred coaching can make a significant difference to the health and well-being of individuals. Ensuring people have robust coping strategies to face the demands continuously placed upon them, and enabling those with line management responsibility to be aware of and manage the impact of those demands.

However, many managers, and dare we say it - poor coaches, focus on task-centred behaviour which may result in a short-term increase in productivity but does little to change the underlying thinking process that turns work pressure into stress.

Based on what the surveys are telling us, organisations may well need to set aside substantial funds to cover future compensation claims. An alternative is to develop leaders to recognise the signs where pressure turns into stress and build a coaching culture where line managers pro-actively support their people to develop the required coping strategies. This requires an understanding of the true value that can be gained from investing in person-centred coaching. Surely we have a duty of care to raise that understanding so that organisations can avoid paying compensation unnecessarily?

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

CIPD Learning and Development Survey 2010

This week saw the launch of the CIPD press release regarding their 2010 Learning and Development Survey. This annual barometer on the Learning and Development industry has some interesting features, showing how departments are managing to rise to the challenge of delivering more value for their business customers with less budget.

The findings show employers are seeking more focus on leadership and people management skills, in order to enable leader to think more strategically be more future focused.

We would love to hear if this survey matched what you are seeing in your business and in the companies you work with.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Hands-on leadership – a good thing?

In times of continued economic turbulence where many organisations are cutting costs, down-sizing and demanding more for less the pressure on leaders has increased exponentially. Many leaders find themselves taking on additional tasks – the activities which were previously done by members of the team who are no longer there. It is often a natural reaction, especially where the leader has been promoted from within the team or from within the department and has the required skills or knowledge. Short-term this helps and may even boost the overall team productivity as others see the leader mucking-in.

But the long term impacts of leaders ‘doing’ rather than ‘leading’ may be stored up in both companies and the economy, leading to skills shortages through under developed people. You may have a different view and we’d love to hear it.

Monday, 22 February 2010

A lesson in leadership from the teenagers!

The pressure is mounting on those fast approaching GCSEs, with almost daily revision classes and schools running catch up sessions filling every available evening and even weekends. The expectation of many adults is to want their offspring to excel, achieve their very best, exceed their expected results and generally do better than others - understandably. Applications for tertiary education have been submitted, bearing likely grades, and the wheels on the selection machine are already turning. Yet against this backdrop of busyness many are struggling with motivation and desire to achieve. What is missing for these soon to be adults, who really shouldn’t have too much to be concerned about? Asking the question of a small group of Year 11 boys, and managing to get beyond the typically grunted response of “whatever”, was a lesson in leadership.

Asking the boys what would help encourage them to put in the effort now to get better results in the summer was enlightening. The consensus opinion was simple – it’s cash! If teachers and parents were prepared to pay a substantial hourly rate for study time, paid in cash and paid at the end of each hour then they would happily put in the time. When challenged about the quality of the output that would be generated by this payment the counter-challenge was that parents could pay extra for quality! How amusing to think that many businesses invest in management development, up-skilling them to negotiate and yet it’s an innate skill for these boys when the output is meaningful for them.

Thinking it can’t be all about money inspired further questions to try to discover what is missing for these boys, who incidentally are all of above average ability. What is missing is an understanding of the purpose for the incremental busyness they are experiencing. Yes, they know the exams are now only a few months away. Yes, they know they are expected to achieve their very best. And, yes, they are astute enough to know that the school league table of results for next year is depending on their efforts! But still the piece that is missing for them is a purpose that they can relate to. Even those with determination and a clear ambition for a future career are questioning why they have to memorise facts and learn knowledge now, that they can see no application of in their own futures. The piece that these boys want to understand is how what they are learning now will be of use to them in the future. They are lacking a vision and a purpose to align to, which means something now and longer term. So it’s not just about incentives but it’s also being able to see the value of what they are being asked to do.

How many employees are in the same position? They are driven by targets set by their business leaders, they are given resources and training and the tools to be more effective. Some are even encouraged and praised and rewarded for achievement by their leaders. But just like the GCSE students if they cannot see a purpose or a reason for the busyness that is meaningful to them, will they truly be motivated and give their best to the company or are they just thinking “whatever”?!

Monday, 25 January 2010

Exceeding Expectation: the principles of outstanding leadership

This month saw The Work Foundation publish the results of a two-year qualitative study of outstanding leadership. The researchers conducted over 250 interviews with leaders, their managers and their direct reports in six UK organisations. The research has uncovered clear differences between good and outstanding leadership resulting in the presentation of evidence to support a systemic, people centred approach to high performance leadership. Emerging from the analysis are nine themes and three principles which characterise outstanding leaders:

1. They think and act systemically
2. They see people as the route to performance
3. They are self-confident without being arrogant

So, can these nine themes and three principles be learnt? Yes, undoubtedly they can – the 77 leaders interviewed were not cloned, neither did they have equal measures of skill or ability. One of the common factors for the 77 is their individual recognition that they continue to learn, develop and evolve as leaders.

One of the most thought provoking points in the report executive summary is the implication in this sentence: “Some of the outstanding leaders featured in the research did not originally have a people-focused approach, but realised the impact they were having on people and therefore adjusted their style accordingly.”

Think about your own leadership approach and think about your organisation and its policies and procedures, especially performance management linked processes. Do they allow for up and coming leaders to examine their own impact, realise implications (either individually or supported by coaching) and make adjustments and re-invent themselves as outstanding future leaders?

Or in the current economic environment is this just not possible and is the zero tolerance approach to mistakes adopted by many organisations the way forward?

We are interested in your experiences and your views.....