Sunday 27 July 2008

HR Carnival 24 July 2008


  The latest HR Carnival is up at Kris Dunn's excellent 'the HR Capitalist' blog.

As usual, there are some really great contributions.

I particularly liked Stacy Chapman's post on China Talent Challenges and the Wrong Side of Segmentation at Aruspex's Strategic Workforce Planning blog.  Reviewing McKinsey's recent article on China, I think Stacy makes a great point about segmentation:

"Top marketing departments segment based on what the market aspires to, wants, or needs (supply), and then they construct offerings to appeal to these segments.  What McKinsey is advocating is segmenting on attributes of what the organization wants from the market (organizational demand).  Not the same thing by any stretch!"

I'd agree, although I also think segmentation needs to focus on employee's own needs ie their engagement drivers as well.  It's why I'm really pleased to see a trend in engagement surveys to use this data to identify coherent groups of employees with similar drivers who can then be engaged in particular ways.

And the second post, which I had already commented on is William Tincup's call for a Anti-Humanity Manifesto on

"I believe strongly that we must create a manifesto to reform HR.  We need to band together.  We need to kill off the humanity that is holding HR back.  Let’s just let it go and start moving down the measurement trail together."

I think William's call for a manifesto is spot-on but that his hypothesis that "humanity must die for HR to totally evolve" is dead wrong.

My own suggestion for a manifesto will be coming here during the next 3 weeks (sign-up now so you get the scoop when it does).


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Wednesday 23 July 2008

HR crunch: Gulf banking sector


   I'm seeing more and more about the talent crunch, at the same time as the economic one seems to be biting deeper.

Particularly in the usual places - China and the UAE.  This is from Monday's FT:

"While US and European banks are shedding tens of thousands to shore up earnings, Gulf banks face a crisis of a different sort - an acute lack of human resources.

Stories abound of entire trading desks in Dubai being lured away by competitors offering two-year guaranteed bonuses. According to one asset manager, the average time spent at a financial institution in the emirate is less than a year. "

I'm back in Dubai and Abu Dhabi towards the end of August, anyone who wants to meet me there, please do get in touch at:  info [at] strategic [dash] hcm [dot] com - or call me on +44 7904 185 134 / skype strategic-hcm.


Leadership pulse findings on Engagement


Energy Pulse


Theresa Welbourne at eepulse (see also Energize Engage) reports finding that business leaders' energy has fallen again and is now "1.08 points below the zone where they report being most productive".  Serious stuff given that:

"Being below the zone by one or more points has been shown to predict negative outcomes (eg turnover, lower productivity, lower sales etc)."

In addition, whilst leaders' confidence in HR's tactical work and its overall performance has increased slightly, confidence in HR's strategic competence went down (2004 - 61% leaders being confident, 2206 - 46% confident, 2008 - 44% confident).

Welbourne has noticed that leaders in higher performing firms are closer to being in the zone and that they are also the most confident that their HR teams are delivering on being a strategic HR function.  She concludes:

"Leaders are not doing well themselves, and in order for them to do better (be in their own energy zones), they need HR to step up into the strategic role."

OK, so nothing that new here.  But some useful evidence to suggest that HR needs to be effective strategically if leaders are going to have the energy to lead effectively and therefore to deliver stronger business performance.


Wednesday 16 July 2008

The competitiveness of workers in today's rich countries

Economist debate

My comments on the latest Economist debate focusing on the changing competitiveness and employment between developed and developing countries:


"I think Jacob Kirkegaard makes some good points. The world’s human capital is becoming more evenly distributed – as developing economies catch up in terms of skills and productivity – and as temporary and permanent movements between countries increase. And technology will continue to obliterate some jobs in developed economies – although in the main I think technology tends to change rather than eliminate the demand for human activity.

In opposition, Lynda Gratton makes some very good points too, although I think these are unfortunately largely irrelevant to the central argument. I would agree that competitiveness rests largely within sectors and communities, but this doesn’t impact the partly well-founded fears and anxieties felt by the middle classes in developed countries as some jobs continue to move abroad.

Countries need to do more than simply create an environment in which multinationals can thrive as this isn’t necessarily going to significantly influence the level of employment. And even if a country’s culture is going to impact its competitiveness, there is little it can do to influence these national characteristics in the short-term.

To me, the debate emphasises the need for developed countries to focus on the ‘high road’ path to further development – clarifying the areas in which they’re able to remain competitiveness, and ensuring they are developing the human capital that will enable them to sustain this advantage.

And this is why I only partly oppose Jacob Kirkegaard’s proposition. Educational stagnation in the West is a problem, and further / better education, linked to a country’s competitive advantage, remains the best way to keep the spectre of fear at bay."


Join the debate!



Thursday 10 July 2008

FT: Business is slow in taking up social networks

  I was quoted by Richard Donkin in today's Financial Times, talking about the disruptive nature of social networking:

"Jon Ingham, executive consultant at human resources consultancy, Strategic Dynamics, and author of Strategic Human Capital Management: Creating Value Through People , has become an extensive user of networking technology.

"I get a lot of work through existing relationships but I also find it comes through Web 2.0 technology, particularly the LinkedIn network that has proved useful for staying in touch with people overseas".

He shares my surprise that executives in the HR profession have been relatively slow to explore networking innovations outside the information technology sector.

A US online shoe retailer,, he says, has been using the Twitter network - sometimes described as a micro-blog - for staff collaboration and customer relations.

A US-based tax advisory company, H&R Block is similarly using Twitter to engage with customers - a refreshing change from the kind of sterile responses you often get in online customer communications."


I'll be posting on this over the next couple of days on the new Social Business.



Wednesday 9 July 2008

CSR & Social Justice / HR Carnival #38

Continuing the green theme, check out Natalie Cooper (Changeboard)'s latest HR Carnival - a special devoted to CSR.

Well done for putting so many great contributions together Natalie.


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Tuesday 8 July 2008

The Search for Greening

In my last post (The Search for Meaning), I wrote about the first approach to developing mojo: the development of a compelling strategy based upon a key purpose that is internally rather than externally generated.

I think the second approach is to develop a complementary theme to the main focus - one that is not directly related to achieving the organisation's mission (like leadership, innovation etc), but can act alongside this to provide meaning and focus.

An obvious opportunity is to develop a focus on CSR and in particular on green business / HR.  But for this to serve as mojo, this complementary focus needs to be really high profile and to perculate through everything that the organisation does.

The term, green HR, is often used to simply to make existing HR services and approaches sound more strategic or innovative, or to very small changes in policy. But I think it can be a lot more too.

The issue is that for a lot of organisations, their main environmental footprint is caused by the action of their employees, rather than in manufacturing, transportation or other activities with a more recognised environmental impact.  And even in manufacturing and other industries, employee behaviours will still have a significant impact.

So the fact that many employees who have high green standards for themselves at home don't apply the same requirements to themselves at work (only 40% of employees think that it's our responsibility to protect the environment during office hours) is a problem.

Green HR to me is about how employees can be encouraged to change their behaviour, supporting and potentially leading the wider environmental management changes within organisational.

I attended a Deloitte dbrief webinar,  'Going Green', recently.  This identified a dual role for HR in promoting sustainability.

First, there is the role HR plays in driving results through its own activities:

  • "How do we compete for talent?
  • Gen Y? OMG!?!
  • What do employees care about?
  • How can green engage employees?
  • Is green helping deliver on my employer brand promise to employees?"

I think this role relates to often fairly simple changes in policy, most often associated with recruitment and reward, and also often geared to taking advantage of national / European or other legislation.  An example would be B&Q stores offers discounted rates for home energy monitors (as an employee benefit).

And second, HR also supports green business by acting as a strategic partner to the business in this area:

  • "What does sustainability mean to the business?
  • Are people aware of our sustainability vision / results?
  • Are our sustainability efforts enhancing our reputation?
  • How do we reward people who 'go green'?"

I think this relates to organisations engaging their people to support broader changes to have less impact on the environment across the business (eg reducing waste, energy etc through manufacturing).  An example would be Ford's energy awareness campaign for employees ‘Energy is everyone’s job!’

This is a useful distinction, but I think there's a third role as well, which is about HR leading the business to develop a focus on green behaviour as something that will help the company's sustainable competitive position by engaging employees, and by acting as a source of meaning and motivation, ie as organisational mojo.

Employees are increasingly searching for meaning, and also increasingly require that this basis for meaning comes from the operations of the organisation rather than its competitive / financial success.  A focus on green issues is one possible way of providing this meaning.  HR can take a lead by raising this opportunity and aligning management and HR processes around these green issues.

My favourite example of this is BSkyB which I posted on last year.  Green-ness has become a core part of what BSkyB is about (rather than just delivering broadcasting), and HR has played a fundamental role in making this happen: raising the issues, supporting employee behaviour change and adding a green tint to all HR processes.

Now that really is green HR.


(I'll also be talking about these issues at Personalvetardagarna in Malmo, Sweden on 15th October.  Let me know if you'd like to meet me there, want a copy of my presentation etc...)


The Search for Meaning

I've previously posted about the increasing importance of organisational capability, and how this needs to be developed around a core theme, purpose, differentiator or mojo which is internally rather than externally generated (as is generally the case in BHAGs for example).

I explained that the first type of mojo is something that is absolutely central to organisational strategy and which is going to make this strategy real and achievable.

Mojo does this by providing meaning for people working in the organisation, in the way that an externally focused goal (eg 'beat the competition') often struggles to do in the longer term.

A good example is GE's leadership brand.  This is absolutely key to the company's success (and my bet is on it recovering) and also provides a focus for its staff (at least its managerial employees).  It provides a major reason why you might apply to join, and helps clarify what's important to the company when you're there.

Mojo provides a basis for developing best fit rather than simply best practice processes (as in Zappos' WOW! customer service, Toyota's collaborative nerve system, Yahoo!'s life engine, Reckitt Benckiser's innovation, AXA's financial planning and BP's peer assists.  Some of these examples look a bit tarnished now, but I think that's fine.  All mojo can do is to stack the odds in your favour, but there are still a whole load of other factors which are going to influence the success of your business too.

And mojo provides the basis for your employee value proposition - outlining what's important to you and therefore what you think you can offer or what sort of meaning you can provide, and increasingly attracting employees who will value this offer.

Lucy Kellaway noted recently that lack of meaning is the most popular problem submitted to her agony aunt column in the FT:

"I am used to people telling me that their jobs are meaningless. In fact this, is the most popular problem that readers submit. Lawyers, bankers, fund managers and all sorts of people with grand jobs write in with the same complaint: the money may be good but where is the meaning? How can I make a difference, they wail.

There are two things that give work meaning. First is the satisfaction that comes from the work itself. I am lucky in this way: I (mostly) enjoy putting one word in front of another, and that is meaning enough for me. Yet this sort of simple pleasure in the job is not open to most people: the majority of jobs are either boring or beastly or both. The second strand is the more dangerous one. That meaningful work must be somehow worthwhile; that in doing it we must feel that we are making a difference. This way of thinking can only lead to despair. If you start asking if your job is worthwhile, you have to conclude it isn’t. Viewed this way, all work is pretty meaningless, whether you are journalist, banker, busker or government minister."

She refers to a Work Foundation report and summarises its conclusions as:

"Meaning is a subjective thing: what counts as meaningful work to one person won’t to another. This means that companies, for all their insistence on 'employee engagement programmes', can’t create meaning and should not try."

This can't be the right answer!  Yes, different people seek different types of meaning, but this doesn't mean organisations can't and shouldn't provide an environment where individuals are able to create meaning.

And I think that it is increasingly by focusing on what a company sees as important (on its mojo) that is the way to do this.

Sunday 6 July 2008

For my blog's anniversary, I bought...

Blogger Lee Jordan's book Blogger.  Up to now, I've been experimenting with my blog and other social media myself, but I've decided it's time to get a bit of help.  So look out for some formatting improvements coming soon.  And if you have any problems accessing the blog, my apologies!  I am taking a backup of my HTML code, so any problems should only be temporary.

Wednesday 2 July 2008

Happy Blanniversary

Today is this blog’s first anniversary - 255 posts, 18,835 visits (heavily weighted towards the last few months) and 231 subscribers.

It’s been a lot of work, but I’ve enjoyed the experience and have experienced a few direct / more indirect benefits:

  • Reinforcing my personal brand and establishing a sizeable footprint on the internet
  • Helping me develop my network with lots of interesting people including quite a few partners and several potential clients
  • Leading to speaking opportunities (directly) and consulting projects (indirectly).

But a more important reason I've been making this investment is that I love doing it.  And that's largely because it helps me get my own thinking straight (and have these thoughts challenged and validated by readers through your comments).

Interestingly, these were some of the main benefts raised at this year's Enterprise 2.0 conference:

  • "A blog is a personal knowledge management system. That’s your initial audience. From that it grows to people who share your interest.
  • Blogging disciplines you to collect thoughts and write them down.
  • It develops an initial level of trust before you actually meet a person. Because you’re judged first on the words you write.
  • A blog lets you prove your expertise. Claiming expertise without it today can be difficult."

Or as Chris Anderson notes: "Blogging is a way to make yourself smarter".

Then, there is the buzz of helping readers develop greater own understanding of HCM, and maybe having an impact on a personal basis too (I've had a couple of really motivating off-line emails noting changes a couple of readers have made partly as a result of this blog).

So I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my posts, and also last month, guest posts from Josh Bersin, Erik Samdahl / Jay Jamrog and Nick Jefferson - there should be a few more of these (all provided by other people operating in HCM or aligned spheres and who / whose work I admire) coming up this month too.

Do stay in touch with this blog / subscribe to my feed.  And do comment too – agree with me or not, it’s always very good to hear from you.

And please check out my other blog, The New Social Business (I’ve just posted there on a very interesting event I spoke at this morning).