Wednesday, 22 July 2020

Creating Value Through Workspace Design




My latest article for Workspace Connect focuses on the opportunities for Creating Value. I've written about this extensively for Human Resources / OD but this is one of the first times I have extended this perspective to Property / FM, and Digital / IT.

The article gave me a chance to re-pitch my creating value suggestions on the return to the office too.



Friday, 10 July 2020

HR Gazette HRchat



I've been interviewed by Bill Banham for HR Gazette's #HRchat interview, and share the why and how of developing strategic, innovative approaches to people management in the #newnormal:





Thursday, 2 July 2020

A new Asynchronous normal



It's been 13 years since I last posted on asynchronous communication (I was obviously wrong about Twitter!).

However, I've been writing about the return to the office at WorkSpace Connect, and my latest article suggests we pivot (I think that's the new in word) to this mode of sharing as the default, unless there's a clear need for synchronous technology, or for meeting physically back in the office. After all, this is what most existing fully remote firms already do.


I was listening to Jason Fried from BaseCamp talk about this at RemoteCon today.

He was saying too many companies try to recreate the office remotely. You can’t do that, they’re different platforms with different rules and benefits. The problem is we don’t see the challenges involved in the old ways of doing things - we don’t realise they may not be optimal.

The rules of remote working are the total opposite of existing rules. You can’t just digitise office processes to make them work in an office setting. So you have to revisit rules and previous ideas and challenge them - are they good for us?

Eg Jason isn’t a fan of meetings. But he’s less of a fan of remote meetings as they’re exhausting. The key therefore is asynchronous communication. Basecamp as a company do hardly anything real-time and nearly everything asynchronously. Basecamp as a product includes chat but they hardly ever use it - instead they write on a message board and put comments on todo’s and content, etc.

This means everyone has their own time and their own day to themselves. The more real-time stuff you do, the less tie people have for their own work as they’re being pulled off it. So let people control their own day and their own time and get back to you when they want to. Slack and chat are terrible - using them just causes anxiety and stress and people don’t have time to work.

If you write something down, you have it for ever. If it’s a meeting and you’ve discussed it, it’s rare that you’ll have it recorded. Writing is great to new employees too. If the history is verbal it’s difficult to get up to speed. When you can read it quickly you can understand how things work. yes, you can document the meeting but then this is a separate step. If you communicate by writing then the writing is the document, so it’s a time saver.


Jason’s fundamental principles for remote work are respecting people, trusting them, and communicating more slowly. In terms of trust, we need to look at the work, not the person. And use clear communication, be thorough and don’t rush. And value small teams.

Someone asked about speed of decision making when working remote. Why is it important? Who says you have to make all decisions super fast? Yes, there will be times for that, like in an emergency. But most situations are not like that. It’s better to sleep on most decisions - ‘letting it marinate’ - as you get more clarity. Why does everything seem to urgent? - is it right? Am I paying attention to the right things? And leaders don’t have to make rapid decisions for everyone else.

Remote leaders need more empathy and trust - we’ve got good people and they’ll figure it out - give people more space vs looking over their shoulders. A bit more of a hands off approach. But mainly the same as face-to-face. We’re building things with people so need to treat them right. You can’t say I don’t trust people when I can’t see them - no, you didn’t trust them in the first place.


There are downsides of remote working. People can feel isolated and disconnected. It’s difficult in many companies now as people have been thrust into home working. But in future, during hiring, we need to make sure people are comfortable with it. And we all need to pay attention to social situations. When we’re together, we can laugh together to take a walk together which are difficult remotely. We need to bridge over these gaps. Eg, Basecamp 3.0 includes auto-checkins which includes questions to ask on a regular basis - what people did the last weekend, what books they’ve read, if they’ve seen a movie recently. These can replace some of the social cues of face-to-face working. If we don’t do that, it’s easy to forget. So we need to help people understand they’re working with other human beings, and create these moments, not just hope they’ll happen.

I asked Jason about his views on whether you can create and maintain relationships just over asynchronous tools, or whether you need to use social technologies, or still have face-to-face meetings, too? He noted that we don’t even have the choice to sit down with people now. So it’s an opportunity to explore what we can do, to see what’s possible. The crisis is making employees and companies more resilient. Having office space can be helpful, but there are downsides too. Eg working remote, you can have people all over the place.

Sitting down with people is wonderful, we’re social beings, but there are other people in our lives too. We don’t have to get this benefit from our colleagues.

So how do we develop these relationships together? Asynchronous tools can play a role. But it can be through synchonous tools - they often jump on on video or a phone call - phone is a  better tool. On video, you need to look at the green dot of webcam vs someone else. And he thinks better when he’s moving around but you can’t do that in video chat. And meeting face-to-face helps occasionally but you have to do with what you have.

Eg someone else asked about trying to replicate the physical in the virtual, a colleague of theirs set up a virtual kitchen and they spend at least 5 mins in chit chat every meeting - which drains them - what would Jason say to colleagues stop this effort of porting environments? Doing something artificial, forcing it, doesn’t work. Again, you just need to be honest with each other, just say this isn’t working for me, can we not do it anymore?, or it just build up resentment.




However, the key insight that led me to my article about the return to the office is that we shouldn't just think about individuals working in the office or from home, we also need to consider the need for people to work together in groups and networks.

And the key conclusion form this is that just switching people in and out of the office every couple of weeks isn't going to be terribly effective. Instead of this:
  • Individuals working in functions can do most of their work using asyncronous technologies - they don't need to spend all their working lives stuck in meetings (even truer during the pandemic than it was before).
  • Communities can do a lot of their relationship cultivating on social networking systems but do need access to small meeting rooms to meet other community members, and some use of larger rooms for the whole community to get together.
  • Networks can also use enterprise social networks, and where possible, can be supported by access to large spaces for the whole network to meet up physically too.
  • True (horizontal / cross-functional) teams can use asyncronous and social technologies but really need to focus on synchronous communications, through technology and by getting the whole team together into a large meeting room. This is the one group that it may make sense to swap in and out of office in rotational cycles.

So, we might get to something like this perhaps?



By the way, there's nothing here for individual offices / cubes / workstations as they don't support anything that technology doesn't provide. Instead, this space is converted into new, larger meeting rooms for horizontal teams, and open spaces for distributed networks.


All of this may change in future - not necessarily because of a vaccine - I think most of the above logic still makes a lot of sense in any situation, but down to expected advances in technology, including holograms, AR and VR systems, and as I suggest in the article, even maybe a return to Second Life?

(This was me and my wife, Sandra, back in 2007:


Jon Ingham

Monday, 22 June 2020

BAME equality in the workplace




Last week I ‘attended’ Westminster Employment Forum’s conference BAME equality in the workplace. As the chair noted, given all the focus on Black Lives Matter currently, and also the new UK government commission, this is a particularly topical and relevant agenda.

Speakers referred to the McGregor Smith report last year suggesting that BAME equality would generate £24bn per year to the economy. Businesses need to invest in it as it’s the right thing to do, particularly given big business’ growing role in wider society, but also to get the best possible talent.

At 3.8% in the UK, the ethnicity pay gap is lower than that for gender, at 8.9%. However, some ethnic groups are much more affected, especially those with Bangladesh, Pakistan or Caribbean backgrounds with gaps at 20, 27 and 9%. And the gap for BAME women is much more significant.

There are multiple and complex barriers behind this, including social class, and lack of social mobility. For people coming to the UK, a lot of it is down to language and cultural barriers, and lack of recognition of qualifications. And bias and racism are clearly and important parts too. But the current focus provides a once in a generation opportunity to resolve these issues. Businesses need to take control and work towards understanding the barriers within their organisations.

A lot of the focus was on reporting, on ethnicity recruitment, progression and pay gaps. I agree that whilst a crude tool, this can be very effective in shining a light on the issue. EHRC research shows enthusiasm for reporting, but only 44% of organisations currently collect data on disability and just 36% for ethnicity. Only 3% use their data analyse to identify issues in pay and progression, which is just bizarre.



Firstly, it’s by using it constructively that employees will become more willing to provide the data. And if organisations don’t get data on more than say 40% of the employee population then they won’t be able to use it effectively - especially if it’s people from diverse populations who are not providing it. We heard about NatWest using a multi-faceted approach to get 83% of their staff providing ethnic background, and up to 87% in some areas.

And secondly, if organisations are going to be compelled to report externally, we should be doing this internally first. In fact, building on a recent post, I think a strategic narrative about what and how a company is doing can be much more valuable than a set of statistics.

A couple of speakers called for more use of blind application processes and diverse panels etc. Pinsent Masons talked about their contextual recruitment tool which I’d not come across before and pays attention to how well a candidate has done, given the difficulties they may have faced.

Other speakers promoted mentoring and support schemes, which is perhaps made harder because there are very few black people at top of organisations - but there’s no justification for only 33% of companies having an executive sponsor for D&I. There’s also a role for reverse mentoring. (Incidentally, I was very impressed by Cisco’s Multiplier Effect which I heard about a a Harvard Business Review event last year.)

We also talked about the role of broader employee networks to help people connect and which can help senior leaders understand the talent they have and be more aware of micro agressions etc. Eg there’s a cross government shadowing scheme in the UK which pairs people up and helps them broaden their senior leadership network, amplifying their success and letting people know the impact they are having, leading to better opportunities. But employee networks are more effective when a broader diversity of people want to be part of them, so their voice is not just those from ethnic minority backgrounds but allies as well (see my recent Linkedin article on ERGs, which I also spoke about at Symposium’s Diversity and Inclusion conference recently). And networks benefit from dedicated, and not just volunteer resourcing.

But too many organisation’s talent schemes focus on numbers of ethnic staff but don’t always make sure these people get the opportunity to be stretched, focusing on ticking the box rather than career watching.

Friday, 19 June 2020

HackingHR Remote Work and Distributed Organisations



Presentation as part of workshop series following on from my panel at HackingHR's first HR Innovation and Future of Work global conference.

This looks at the opportunity to extend / build on remote work into more distributed organisations supporting innovation and development beyond the covid-19 pandemic.


Tuesday, 16 June 2020

HRDConnect: Social Leadership in the Pandemic



My latest article in HRD Connect builds on some previous posts on social leadership, and my CoLab at the HRDSummit back in February:

"As the working world changes, so too does the nature of working itself. HRD Thought Leader Jon Ingham explores this further, supposing that organisations now have an opportunity to shift their approach to leadership and explore more project-based, distributed methods of working."

Friday, 12 June 2020

theHRDIRECTOR: Data & Analytics


I'm included in this article, 'Operating Below the Mean' in May's theHRDIRECTOR section on data and analytics.

I don't often post on analytics, largely because I think the topic has become very specialised, and it's not my specialism. There are now a lot of people who know a lot more about it than me.

But that increased specialisation is the reason I've now written about it. I think the HR world is increasingly bifurcated between a smaller group of very knowledgeable and experienced professionals and organisations, and a larger group of people and businesses who don't see analytics as a priority.

The first group shout ever louder at the second group to catch up, but it's just not happening.

Whilst many in the first group may think the second set are just scared or ignorant, I think the latter group are often just making reasoned decisions that analytics still aren't the priority right now.

I'd point to two main reasons why not. Firstly, most examples of analytics in the first group are very operational, and the second group are actually quite smart - they know all this activity is going to be automated fairly soon, so it's really not what they want to spend much time on.

Secondly, operational analytics support operational insights, and that's not what we need to focus on. The second group want to be more strategic, and they realise that just moving from operational HR to operational HR insights isn't going to take them where they need or want to go.

Becoming more strategic does benefit from analytics, but it requires a different approach. There are two main aspects to this as well.

Firstly, strategy doesn't generally emerge from analytics, it develops from a deep, human understanding of the opportunities inherent in people and their organisation. From synthesis not analysis, and art not science. We need to identify measures and analytics to test, validate and improve these strategies, but they're not how they originate.

Secondly, strategy is about doing something new, and that means we generally won't have relevant data, especially as most strategic issues tend to lend themselves to more qualitative and subjective approaches. If you have relevant data, it's not going to be in your HR system.

The second group therefore needs to develop their own approach. This is about smart strategic planning; linking measures to these plans; collecting and then analysing data (often through very basic or simple analytics); and then reporting on the insights gained from this.

It's the complete opposite of the first group which, whist now understanding the value of a good question, still tend to approach analytics from the perspective of the data they have available.

You can read more about these suggestions here: https://www.thehrdirector.com/download-free-issue/

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

The return to the office



As people slowly return to the office, we need to think carefully about who works there and what they do. Just having half the workforce there at one time makes little sense.

We need to understand what the office can do, and what it can't, and what digital technologies can do, and what they can't too.

In 'The Social Organization', I suggested offices were mainly about communication, collaboration and co-operation, but can these benefits still be achieved when working 2m apart?

And although everyone complains about Zoom calls, there's a lot we can do online, including developing trust and psychological safety.

To get the balance, or combination of physical and digital workspaces right, we need to consider what people need to do - and importantly (and missing from most other suggestions on this area), what organisational groups and networks need to do too.

I write about all this at Workspace Connect:




Jon Ingham
 


Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Top 100 Global HR Tech Influencer 2020




It's great to be recognised as a Top 100 Global HR Tech Influencer by Human Resource Executive and HR Technology Conference again this year.

"Now more than ever, leaders are needed. Whether it’s CHROs creating innovative benefits packages for struggling workers, product developers pioneering solutions to target the new challenges facing our workforces or industry analysts providing needed guidance and insights to guide this new world of work, strong leadership will be essential to workforces across the world not only as they recover from the global pandemic, but eventually begin thriving again."


The list recognises the leaders whose work will be critical to this new age of HR.

It's great to be included in it.


See:





Jon Ingham
 

Thursday, 21 May 2020

Remote Work and Distributed Organisations




I’ve been speaking at a few online conferences recently about building on remote work to create distributed organisations.

You can find out about what I mean by this in this article on Linkedin.

And you can see my presentations on Slideshare:


As I note in the Linkedin article, HR and OD need to be on top of this. We’ve potentially missed the opportunity of building distributed organisations during the full lockdown, but remote working isn’t going to disappear. So we can still recapture the opportunity for the reset, if we're willing to do so.


Jon Ingham