Monday 28 February 2011

HR Challenges 2011 – Survey Results


  As may know, I’ve been running a short survey over the last few months.  This is now closed and I’ve been through the results.

A lot of my questions for qualitative, making it difficult to communicate the results in a short summary but I’ll come back to individual questions from this over the next couple of months.

Anyway, I started with key business challenges.  Your (my readers’) most popular responses included:

  • Dealing with recession
  • Revenue growth
  • Profitability
  • Understanding customer needs
  • Ensuring performance
  • Dealing with the uncertain economy
  • Dealing with market turmoil
  • Dealing with political interference
  • Globalisation.


I then asked what HR’s own challenges would be to respond to the above business challenges.  Your responses included:

  • Job design
  • Strategic recruitment
  • Retaining talent
  • Employee capability and engagement
  • Performance pay
  • Leadership development
  • Social networking
  • HR measurement and analysis
  • Automating HR processes
  • Integration of HR applications
  • Being creative
  • Managing change.


(Some of these also appeared in the business challenges section which I thought was a very positive sign.)


And I asked about how difficult HR teams would find it to respond to these challenges, and what the major issues would be.  Here are the results:



HR’s values and perspectives seem the most suited to dealing with its own and its businesses’ challenges – with a quarter of the sample rating its values as very well suited.  I’m surprised how well this aspect has scored as I often feel HR has a lot of beliefs or an ideology which limit its own effectiveness (acceptance of its support role, lack of interest in new insights, too much focus on measurement etc).

The capabilities of HR professionals is also rated quite strongly, with two-thirds of you suggesting that current capabilities are well or very well suited to the challenges.  Again, this seems more positive than my experience!  Some of you mentioned ongoing transformation of the HR function and the need to reskill HR professionals in newer areas like measurement and analytics and in areas supporting interventions to deliver business strategies (requiring better understanding of business models and cultures etc).

The quality of HR management process is much less well scored with two-thirds of respondents suggesting that process quality is either poorly or very poorly suited to dealing with HR’s challenges.  This is less of a surprise to me, and agree that a lot can be done to improve processes.

HR operating models are also rated less strongly than values and perspectives, but not as low as processes, but still with a majority suggesting that these models are poorly or very poorly suited to HR’s challenges.  Again, I suggest that’s about right.


I also provided a ‘other’ category and here you suggested it is the way HR is perceived which is the major issue, as a generally poor perception means that when competing on budgets for projects, HR usually looses to other ‘core’ business projects.  There was also a view that the poor perception is based mainly on ongoing needs to meet new customer requirements and implement more effective technology meaning that HR is never able to change quickly enough to meet the demands being placed on it.


I also went on to ask more about the effectiveness of your HR strategies.


Strategic HCM?

I didn’t ask specifically whether you were doing ‘HCM’ ie managing your people in a way that would accumulate human capital as 1. this isn’t the definition everyone uses and the question would have been interested differently by different people, and 2. I know the positive responses would have been very low!  But I did ask whether your HR strategy is tailored to your particular organisation (ie is it purposefully and significantly different to that of your competitors / other similar organisations) which is a key aspect of an HCM strategy.

And once again, I was surprised by the high proportion of positive responses.  About half of you suggested that you do have somewhat tailored HR strategies with a further 15% suggesting these are well tailored to your particular organisation.  One third of you suggested that your HR strategy is not really tailored but only a handful suggested there was no tailoring at all.


Social capital?

I did ask whether your organisation has a strategy to improve collaboration / to develop relationships between employees (eg through Enterprise 2.0 / use of social media tools, organisation design, facilitation of communities etc) – which I deal with in my other blog, Social Advantage.

Again, I thought responses were very positive, and only slightly lower than my question related to HCM above.  So two-thirds of you suggested that your organisation had something of a strategy (about the same as the number who responded that your organisation has a well tailored, or something of a tailored strategy in my question above).  And about 15% said you didn’t really have a strategy in this area with a similar number saying you didn’t have a strategy like this at all (about the same as the number as suggested that you do not really have a tailored HR strategy).  So similar positive and negative responses to my earlier question, but with more of the yeses responding with ‘somewhat’, and more of the ‘not really’s responding with ‘no’, to the second question.


HR’s role

I also asked about HR’s role within these strategies, and here responses were quite low, perhaps because I’d just mentioned things like enterprise 2.0.  But about 20% of you still said that HR has a leading role and another 20% suggested you have a joint or equal role with the rest of the business in HR strategy.  But although nobody said HR was not involved in strategy, nearly two-thirds of you suggested HR only has a supporting role.  That’s not great, is it?


HR measurement

I also asked whether you have an effective approach for measuring progress against your HR strategies.  Over 80% of you suggested that you do have a somewhat effective approach with nearly all of the rest of you suggesting that your approach is fully effective.

Again, another surprising result for me, and although I agree HR has been increasing its capability here (a point also made in I4CP’s recent research that I reviewed recently), from what I see I still think there is a long way to go to make these approaches really effective.



So what’s behind these surprises you’ve been giving me?  Well, you’re the people who are doing the real work (most respondents were internal practitioners not suppliers), and I only work with a relatively small number of clients each year, so in many ways you are closer to this than me, and your aggregated feedback is very powerful.

Still, I’m not totally convinced.  I just think there are huge opportunities for improvements within HR.  Most of you see some of this.  I think my perspective a little further away from the coal face allows me to see more of these, or at least see them differently.

It’s why I think close partnership between HR Directors and insight based HR consultants like me is so powerful.  I’ve got the understanding of how things could be really different, and you’ve got a handle of how things work now in your own organisation.  You put these two things together and I think you’ve got a really good basis for dealing with your particular business and HR challenges, whatever these are.


Look out for more from the survey over the next month.  I’m also getting in touch with the lucky winner of my ticket for the Economist Group’s Talent Management Summit, and hope to report more on a conversation with them about their perspectives on HR’s challenges too.



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Sunday 27 February 2011

Getting to Grips with HR Business Partnering (Symposium Events)


  I’ll also be running this training session on 31st March (again, repeated through the year):


Getting to Grips with HR Business Partnering

“Nearly 15 years on from Dave Ulrich’s “HR Champions”, business partnering is still the aspect of HR transformation which organisations find most difficult to implement.  In many cases, the intended behaviours and impacts of this role never materialise.  But there are organisations which are implementing business partnering well – it can be done.

Attend this seminar to catch-up with the latest thinking on HR business partnering and to fully understand what the role can look like, the skills and behaviours involved, and how existing HR generalists can be transformed into effective business partners.  With the support of the trainer and other attendees, reflect on how the role can be tailored to, and then developed in, your own organisation

Also review how you can build the credibility of your HR function to lead the creation or renewal of embedded HR teams.”


Book at the Symposium Events site.



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Saturday 26 February 2011

Increasing Impact through Strategic HR (Symposium Events)


  So it’s already nearly March – I don’t where this year is going!  But I will at least be posting my recent survey results later on today – do look out for this.

I also wanted to note some of the things I’m going to be up to in March, starting with explaining that this year, I’m going to be delivering more open training in the UK, mainly for Symposium Events’ new programme of trainings.

This kicks off with this session on 25th March (also repeated later in the year):

Increasing Impact through Strategic HR


“The concept of strategic HR tends to draw quite a bit of criticism, often by people who do not understand what it means.  Performed effectively, a strategic approach to HR can have a profound impact on the function’s impact in an organisation, and looks very different to a more operational approach too.

Strategic HR demands new tools and skills but above all else it requires a new perspective.  This involves understanding that there is choice – HR can be performed in very different ways.  Therefore, although there will always be a role for best practice, the key processes that will make the difference to your business are those you tailor for your business strategy, your type of organisation, your desired organisational capabilities and so on.

Attend this seminar to develop a more strategic approach to your own, and your department’s HR activities.  Learn about the different options that exist within HR strategy and reflect on which of these options best suit your particular organisation.”


See more information at book at Symposium Events site.



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Tuesday 22 February 2011

Hay Group: Engagement Matters


  I’m pleased to introduce an additional new sponsor for my blog: Hay Group.


I’ve been looking through some of the firm’s recent research and wanted to comment on one study in particular: Engagement Matters.

This is based on research conducted in Europe and the Middle East with the Economist Intelligence Unit (Re-engaging with Engagement) which assessed attitudes to engagement of 300 C-suite executives, supplemented by Hay Group questioning 3000 mid and junior managers about how engaged they are.

The UK research finds that 29% of employees are disengaged – defined as unwilling to ‘go the extra mile’ for their firms – compared to 18% in France, 14% in Germany, 12% in Spain and just 11% in the Netherlands.

However Hay Group points out that engagement isn’t all that matters. People need to be enabled, ie to feel that they have everything in the way of resources, processes and procedures that they need to do their jobs properly (see my earlier post on this). 44% of UK employees feel they’re not being enabled to translate their enthusiasm into productive action. This was second in the survey only to France, where 48% of employees say they are not enabled.

Putting these two dimensions together shows that only 49% of UK employees are ‘effective’, ie are both engaged and enabled.

This is a serious issue - Hay Group suggests that organisations which perform best in terms of both engagement and enablement achieve 4.5 times as much revenue growth as their industry peers.

The good news is that the importance of the issue seems to be recognised with 82% of UK executives saying that disengaged employees are one of the three greatest threats they face. And 52% of C-suites in the UK are discussing employee engagement, much more than elsewhere in Europe.


Bad news re the C-suite

But there’s plenty of bad news too. For example, Hay Group makes the same point as Roffey (which I reported recently), that the C-suite is just too out of touch to influence engagement effectively.

Part of this is down to not hearing their employee’s voice. Although 47% of C-suite executives believe that they themselves have determined levels of employee engagement only 16% of senior directors outside the C-suite agree. And 23% of junior and mid-managers across Europe don’t believe that their organisations measure employee engagement at all. And in companies where they do measure engagement, 40% do not believe that this gives senior management a true picture of how engaged staff really are.

No surprise then that there are some interesting differences in perspective between the C-suite and those even just one level below. For example 21% of the C-level think engagement in their company is much higher than elsewhere but only 7% of senior directors agree. Similarly, 16% of C-suite believe their organisation’s engagement levels are much higher than they were two years ago but only 6% of their directors agree.

There are also some interestingly different perspectives about what causes engagement. So for example, 50% of C-suite executives believe that being regularly seen on the shopfloor is important whilst only 26% of senior directors believe this to be the case.


Who’s responsible for Engagement?

More broadly, Hay Group’s report also suggests confusion about who’s responsible for improving engagement. 63% of C-suite executives think that engagement is their responsibility, with few seeing line managers having a significant role. But only 38% of other senior directors believe that the C-suite has prime responsibility and few junior managers look to the C-suite for guidance: they expect line managers to take a lead.

One reading of this would be that the C-suite see themselves as responsible for identifying, selecting and deploying those that have direct influence with employees. However the EIU suggests this view is misplaced. Why for instance would 69% of the C-suite rate their own impact on overall staff engagement as at least seven out of ten while only 38% of senior directors give them the same score?

Well, there are some alternatives perspectives I think are equally credible. My own interpretation is that the C-suite is heavily responsible for engagement, but that it isn’t performing very well against this responsibility.

Also interestingly, not a single C-suite respondent of Hay Group’s survey suggested HR as being chiefly responsible for engagement. The EIU report suggests this means that the function is held in low regard by many in the top echelons. I put a slightly different spin on it. I think it just means that HR’s been successful in abnegating what should be part of its responsibility!


There are many more findings in the survey which should help stimulate your own thinking about the causes of engagement. Take a look here, or join in the conversation in the Engagement Matters Linkedin discussion group.


More from Hay Group:

View more thought pieces and case studies around the issue of engagement

- Employee engagement thought leadership

Take part in the firm’s Engagement Matters webinar

- Register now


This post is sponsored by Hay Group.

Hay Group is a global management consulting firm that works with leaders to transform strategy into reality. The firm develops talent, organises people to be more effective and motivates them to perform at their best. Its focus is on making change happen and helping people and organisations realise their potential.

Hay Group has over 2,600 employees working in 85 offices in 49 countries. Its clients come from the private, public and not-for-profit sectors, across every major industry and represent diverse business challenges.

See more on Hay Group's blog and follow the firm on Twitter. Contact +44 (0) 20 7856 7000.


Monday 21 February 2011

Unconferencing at Conferences


   I hope you enjoyed my notes on TRU London last week.  If you did, you really should think about joining us at our second Connecting HR unconference in London on 5th May.

The only limitation of these events to me is that we’re largely focusing on people using social media.  Not that the agendas are overly social in focus, but our promotion tends to be mainly (not totally) through the use of blogs and twitter etc.

There’s some logic – as well as efficiency – in this.  The people who appreciate the social learning context of an unconference will generally appreciate the same thing from social media.  So there is some degree of overlap between the people who use social media and those who will most naturally appreciate an unconference.

But at the current stage of adoption, the use of social media as our main promotional tool means most HR and Recruiting people simply don’t get to hear about what we’re doing.  Many of whom would, I’m sure, value the unconference experience.

So I’m really pleased that after our hugely successful tweet-up this year, next year’s HR Directors Business Summit is going to include an unconference stream.  Take a look at the developing programme, and I’ll provide more details towards the end of this year.



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Saturday 19 February 2011

The Learning Organisation webinar


  I’m also doing this webinar for Citrix on the 1st March: Developing the Learning Organisation through Online Learning.

You can register here.



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Friday 18 February 2011

Social HR (HR 2.0) webinar


  If you liked my session, or my reporting of my session, at TRU, or the previous session at the HR Directors Business Summit, you may be interested in this webinar I’ll be delivering on 15th March:

“HR 2.0 has been growing in both interest and implementation over the last year.  However most instances of its use are limited to particular applications - social communication, social recruiting, social learning etc.  But potentially the biggest opportunities lie in moving the whole HR architecture over to a social platform / social way of thinking.  In this webinar, Jon Ingham will examine the full scope of opportunities for social HR / HR 2.0 and will provide some pointers for how you might want to start to use it.”


You can register for the webinar here.


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TRU London – be Social to compete


  My other, off the top of my head, tweet at TRU London was this one based on Kevin Wheeler’s presentation.

Yes, these disruptive business models based largely on crowd sourcing and contingent workforces that Kevin was discussing are an increasingly important source of competition for most established businesses.  But no, these traditional businesses aren’t going to suddenly start to look like their start-up rivals.

In my view, they shouldn’t try to either – it’s unlikely they’d be successful in doing this.  But they do have to compete effectively with these new very flexible businesses.

I think the way they compete is to optimise their own unique advantages.  And to me, this is about social.

This is the one thing crown sourced businesses can’t do, and even contingent workforces can do less easily.

But then it’s not something traditional businesses do that well either.

One more reason for organisations (that can) to get social…



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TRU London: Why I told Kevin Wheeler he was talking rubbish


  I was obviously still a bit irritated moving on from these previous sessions to Kevin Wheeler’s on the future of work.

Let me be very clear – I agree completely with most of what Kevin has to say.  I agree that work is becoming more flexible – being done by contingent workers, crowd sourcing, and new entrepreneurial organisations etc.  I agree that workers are changing – with more of them being based at home or working from their local Starbucks, using ‘scatter cushion’ technologies, and sometimes having more than one job.  And I agree that we’re seeing some interesting changes in organisations too.

But I also think we can overdo the case for new, fluid, network organisations.  Most companies in the UK are SMEs that’s true.  But the predominant paradigm of business is still the big, formal bureaucracy and I can’t see that organisation form going away.

So when Kevin referred to the end of hierarchy I’d had enough.  “I think that’s rubbish”, I said.

As I wrote above, it’s not that I disagree with the trends Kevin was describing.  And I do think big business needs to and will change.  But I think it will do that through adaptation rather than complete reinvention, and I think that’s probably right.

I talked about GSK and a blog post I’d read recently (it was actually this one from Anne Marie McEwan) discussing the company’s move towards smaller Dunbar number sized groups (I’d also posted on this previously).  This is the sort of change I see happening.  But it doesn’t spell the end of hierarchy.

It’s why in my previous sessions on Social HR, I’d emphasised the need to focus on clear outcomes (the strategic ones I discussed in my last post as well) rather than lists of attributes.  I don’t believe all organisations need to operate the same way, and I suspect not many of them will look like Zappos, Semcos and similar maverick organisations.

And I don’t think that matters much.  What I advise organisations to do is be clear about what outcomes they’re trying to create, and then identify the processes and ways of working that will be right for them – based upon their individual situation and context, and what they see happening in the world.  This is why we DO need to understand Kevin’s trends, but simply extrapolating what’s happening now is poor futurology and isn’t a good guide to how organisations should change now.


Also see these two posts on hierarchy:



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Thursday 17 February 2011

TRU London: How HR and Recruiting can be Strategic


  Oh good grief.  I’m feeling a bit frustrated at conversations at TRU London about why HR and Recruiting aren’t strategic, and why they should be outsourced.  Here’s why this is hogwash (sorry that it’s repeating stuff I’ve already posted on – obviously not everybody’s read it as yet!).

You’ve got two value chains in business.  One is the business value chain which is the one we know best.  It’s the last three perspectives in Kaplan and Norton’s business strategy map / scorecard.  But it’s NOT where HR and Recruiting can be strategic.  More proactive yes, closer to the business yes.  But not a driver of strategic advantage.

It’s the second value chain – the organisation or people management one we need to focus on.  This is about creating organisational outcomes – the human capital I tend to focus on in this bog, and the social capital I’ve been talking about at TRU.  And anything we do here, that’s focused on human / social capital IS strategic.

Anything we’re doing to support the business value chain can be outsourced.  The stuff we’re doing to create and effective organisation can’t and shouldn’t be.

Enough said?


Update – The HRD clearly didn’t agree with me (that’s OK, I didn’t agree with him) – but what do you think?



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TRU London: Why does 95% of what we do in HR focus on individuals (when what’s most important is teams)?


  I had a good session at the end of the TRU London Masterclasses yesterday (based on the fact most participants suggested at the end of the session that they agreed Social HR is a, if not the, major new challenge for HR.

You can review some of the points I discussed in yesterday’s post.

Today, I’m leading a linked track on HR and Teams during the main unconference.  And this supports a key message from my session yesterday, and one of my points which generated most controversy:

“If the point of performance in most organisations is the team, why is it that 95% of what we do in HR focuses on the individual?”


I was challenged on this statement, but I still think it’s correct.  Certainly the point of performance piece is true.

Organisations succeed or fail because of the way individuals work with each other, particularly in teams and also increasingly in networks and communities – NOT because of the way any particular individual, or the sum of all these individuals, perform.

And there’s very little relationships between the absolute quality of individuals who are assembled to be part of a team and the performance of a team that results.  I talked about England’s performance last year but the best sports example is Real Madrid in the Galacticos era.  And I think we can all think of business teams that have suffered the same fate.

And we do tend to focus on individuals in HR.  We treat each person as an individual human resource and we don’t think of how these resources work together as a collective:

  • We measure and attempt to manage the performance of individuals
  • We reward people in the main for their own individual performance
  • We attempt to develop the capabilities of individuals, not those of whole teams (eg their shared mental models, shared understandings etc).


Why?  Well for one thing, managing Team Resources is a lot more challenging than managing the individual HR.  We just about understand how to influence individual performance (although there’s still a big disconnect between the way we manage and reward people and what really turns people on – as per Dan Pink and others).  But the truth is we don’t really know what makes teams succeed or fail.  So it’s either not thought about, or it’s parked in the ‘too difficult’ box.

But if it’s as important I suggest, surely doing this can’t be the right response?

This is what I’ll be talking about today.


Also see my other posts on TRU.



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Wednesday 16 February 2011

TRU London Masterclass: Social HR


  Today, I’m delivering a masterclass, or a un-masterclass, at the initial day of TRU London, before the proper unconference tomorrow.

It’s an un-masterclass as we’re just being given 15 minutes to speak, and then a panel will ask questions and hopefully contribute their own perspectives during the remainder of the time.

And I’m going to be speaking, and answering questions, about social HR (then I’ll be leading a track looking at HR and teams tomorrow).

Here are the areas I’m hoping to cover:

  1. Social HR is about a lot more than just the use of social media / web 2.0 in HR
  2. A better starting point is probably reinventing management (including HR) - eg Gary Hamel’s future of management which looks like web 2.0
  3. But this just leads to a list of attributes and a better focus is one on outcomes
  4. The commonality between web, enterprise, management and HR 2.0 is about creating and outcome of social connection (hence the alternative terms social media, social HR etc)
  5. So social HR is about creating social connection as an outcome – about investing in the accumulation of valuable connections, relationships and the quality of conversations within an organisation
  6. But 2.0 (vs 1.1) tag is valid too – this really is a new way of doing HR
  7. It’s important, in the same way that investing in human capital is important – but social capital is probably even MORE important, and there is currently LESS action in most organisations to develop it – the result: social connection is heavily under-developed as a resource
  8. It can be developed in lots of ways, including direct action in teams and communities, the design and development of organisation networks, a focus on community oriented leadership, tailored HR actions eg in reward, and yes: through social media
  9. And since this is a recruiting unconference, I’d better remember to mention some of the ways that recruiting, and particularly social recruiting, can develop social connection too (for example, Goldman’s interview process which results in a new joiner being networked with 20 senior colleagues when they join the firm – nothing to do with social media, but a great way to ensure new joiners are effectively networked and can therefore be productive from day one).


Actually, the topic has already come up in a couple of sessions here.  So for example China Gorman referred to Zappos’ expectation that employees spend 20% of their non-work time socialising with their colleagues (I also like the way they randomly display employee photos on their computer log-ins for people to name and I think there’s some form of prize for the person who is able the place the highest proportion of their colleagues).  It’s all part of building those social bonds between employees.


And why do I think this way of doing HR’s so different?  Firstly because social leads to some different HR actions.  Secondly – the HR actions which remain are also changed.  Thirdly, because once you’ve got your people connected like this, you don’t need so much bureaucracy to do HR.  Instead, HR is just what happens while teams and communities are doing their work (eg recruiting taking place through employee referrals).


If you’re interested in this and you’re not at the unconference, I’ll be talking more about this area, and also how HR can support broader social connection in other organisational work, in this webinar on 15th March.  Why not join me?


Or contact me to chat.



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Tuesday 15 February 2011

HR Evolution through HCM Technology


technology  I’ve had, and have made, a couple of comments on my recent post about Westminster Council relating to the value of technology and the need to focus on behaviours – and I also commented on a very similar point at last week’s social business jam. So I thought it might be a good time to discuss my perspectives on the role technology can play in supporting HR to create value.

Actually, you’ll already find these perspectives in a couple of places, including this podcast and this webinar, but I’ve probably never posted on them in detail before.

The perspectives rest on the value triangle, as a lot of my thinking and consulting does. As you’ll probably know, at least if you’re a regular reader of this blog, this suggests HR can create value in three ways: value for money or efficiency, added value or effectiveness, and created value – new value.


At the base of the triangle, HR provides value for money by improving the quality of HR processes (reducing cost or time taken, or improving customer satisfaction).  Technology has a key role in providing opportunities for this level of value.  As an example, a performance management system will allow you to enter and capture performance reviews.  Doing this doesn’t change the quality of the reviews but it does mean they can be compared with those of other staff, and with reviews from different time periods, more easily.  This can therefore improve the quality of calibration.

You can identify opportunities for increasing value through money from technology by thinking about your HR processes and how technology can best support them, or by looking at new technologies, and thinking about how these can be incorporated within your HR architecture.


The next level is adding value. This is about helping the business achieve its strategies by supporting these requirements through people management activities, again often supported by technology.  For example, a business may want to enter into a new market.  A performance management system may be able to enable this if it can help identify who are the high performers in the organisation who also have certain capabilities linked to the new requirement.  The value available from technology has been increasingly rapidly at this area.  Integrated systems and tools being developed in new areas are providing HR teams with new opportunities that can provide significant amounts of extra (added) value.

You can identify opportunities for adding value from technology by focusing on the needs of your organisation and thinking about what functionality would enable you to meet particular objectives.  Would new systems allow you or your talent managers to make better decisions or take more appropriate actions?


In creating value, value comes from the organisation’s employees, rather than how these people can be managed to meet existing business needs.  Technology can create value by pointing to particular potentially valuable capabilities, but it is more likely to have this impact by helping employees to increase the value they can provide.

This is why I’m so interested in social and mobile technologies – they get beyond HR’s system of record and the line manager focused talent management system to actually increase employee contribution.  So for example, a social performance management system can help employees get feedback from the people they work with, to share the reviews with these people and to participate in a review of a whole team.  It helps them take ownership of their own review and hence is likely to have more impact on their performance.  Of course, social technologies aren’t the only way of doing this – for example, I was involved in a self rostering system for train operating company staff a good ten year ago which had much of the same effect. 

You can identify opportunities for creating value from technology by focusing on the people in the organisation – their engagement, capabilities and other aspects of their human and social capital – and thinking about how these capabilities can be extended.

This is why I’ve been commenting on the need to focus on people and behaviours, not on technologies or tools.

Of course, it’s also possible to see technology creating value through itself, rather than by how it leverages human capital. This is what was behind my comment on the jam – that web 1.0 often did create new value through new business models and commercial opportunities, but I don’t think there is a similar opportunity for web 2.0. Social applications lead to value creation by leveraging human – and more importantly, social – capital which is what then creates value. It doesn’t create this value by itself.


So – what’s the overall impact of this analysis?  Well, the main thing is to emphasise that value does occur at three levels, and each of these types of value are useful to have.  But secondly, note that the source of value changes at each level.  To maximise the value that an organisation achieves, it needs to be looking at activities, business impacts and human / social capital outcomes – and how each of these three levels in the organisation’s value chain can be supported by technology most effectively.

However, this post is written with an eye on HRevolution, and there is an evolution from the base to the apex of the triangle.  Fully evolved HR teams will want to ensure that focus on making direct improvements to the contributions of their employees through the provision and support for social, mobile and other tools, not just that they themselves have adequate HR MIS and in addition to ensuring that their business colleagues the information they need to support decision making.


This is Jon Ingham's entry into the 2011 Nobscot HR Evolution Scholarship Competition. Nobscot Corporation is an HR technology company specializing in key areas of employee retention including exit interviews, onboarding surveys, and corporate mentoring programs.



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Friday 11 February 2011

Roffey: Management Agenda


    My favourite report on HR’s, or really management’s challenges in 2011 (so far) is Roffey’s Mangement Agenda 2011.  This has also been out a few weeks, but is a very comprehensive report, so I think I’ve got a good excuse for delay in my reporting.

The major finding of the research is that UK mangers are “still not yet sure whether to be cautiously optimistic” about the future, which is about as equivocal as you could get.  I still think there are signs of more optimism, but the report certainly provides good reasons to ignore Vance Kearney’s call to ignore the recession.  Roffey finds that 77% of organisations will be negatively affected by the recession this year.  The majority of these have been making redundancies but handling these well means operating in accordance with the organisation’s values, attending to fairness and consistency, and communicating openly (see my post on Westminster re this).

Roffey suggests addressing the impact of this climate on managers should be an organisational priority.  Many are feeling they are getting less backing for new initiatives and job security is down.

One of the report’s conclusions that I find surprising is that despite the above, there’s been no fall in levels of employee engagement.  Of course this is supported by other recent surveys too but I still think the CIPD’s got a point in its description of the ‘fixed grin’.  It depends how you define and measure engagement, but just because staff are pleased to have a job doesn’t mean that they’re passionate about doing their jobs or supporting your organisation.  Plus of course, when engagement’s already on the floor, it can’t fall much more.

There’s clearly a problem in the public sector anyway.  Employees values are increasingly out of alignment with their organisations.  Roffey note:

“One interpretation is that the financial pressures on the public sector have resulted in a sense of disillusion such that public sector employees have come to feel much less identification with the values enacted by their organisations.  Another explanation could be that the political nature of the public sector means that managers will have to implement government policies that may conflict with their own values.”


Which ever it is, it’s not a very positive situation.

A group that comes in for particular criticism is people at the top of organisations who seem quite out of touch with the organisations they run (Vance included, perhaps?).

In terms of HR, nearly two-thirds of managers believe that HR adds value to the business, experiencing HR as credible, influential and in touch – but this proportion has fallen nearly 10% since the previous year.  (The picture is also less rosy if HR manager responses are excluded).  Roffey suggests one thing HR should do is concentrate more on its employee champion role – to be more human basically.

The most surprising finding for me was that nearly half of managers suggest their organisation’s talent management schemes are secretive / non-transparent, though this has fallen slightly.  I’ve never believed that closed schemes can work, and in the wikileaks era am truly shocked that so many organisations still seem to think they can keep this sort of thing a secret.


Look out for the results from my own survey next week.


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Thursday 10 February 2011

i4cp: Critical Human Capital Issues 2011


  A lot of other summaries about HR’s issues and challenges have already been published over the last few months – obviously mainly associated with the turn of the year.

So of course was my survey initially, but with work and illness, I’ve not been able to analyse the results until now.  But I’ve now had a look through the initial results (the survey actually only closes at the weekend) and I think you’ll find them interesting.  And I’ve also been comparing the results to some of the other pieces of research published recently.

One of my favourites is i4cp’s list of critical human capital issues in 2011.  These are those where there is the greatest discrepancy between what organisations consider important an what they say they are able to manage. 

Apologies if you’ve already seen these results as they’ve been out for nearly a month, but I thought they were still worth commenting on.  Among the most interesting findings are:

  • The changes from 2010 to 2011 – with ‘measuring and rewarding results’ having the greatest decline in criticality, and ‘innovation and creativity’ increasing the most.  I link this to the increase in optimism I’ve posted on previously (especially since the survey sample will be largely US based).
  • In the first category of leadership issues, the most critical issue is leadership development.  This supports what I see but I think many organisations focus this development on the wrong things.  What I think is becoming important is developing leaders at all levels, and leading from the middle of the organisation, not just from the top.  I don’t think enough organisations have got this focus yet.
  • Under cultural issues, it’s managing corporate culture.  I agree with this – it is the main issue for HR (as well as E2.0), although what I really think we’re talking about are two or three different things – and organisation’s big idea / mojo, and its people relationships and conversations supporting this.


So, some interesting results although my main criticism of the research would be that these are all best practices, not next practices.  My own survey, being more open ended, is designed to capture some of these.

I really am closing this research up at the weekend this time.  So please do complete it for me if you can.

If you’re an internal HR person in the UK, you’ve still got a really good chance of winning a ticket the Economist’s Talent Management Summit (see here for details on the draw and here for the conference).



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Wednesday 9 February 2011

Last call for your HR challenges


   I’m finally going to have some spare time for a few days so will (finally) close my HR challenges survey this weekend and do the analysis early next week, with a blog post next week too.

So there’s still time to complete this for me.  It’s only 17 questions, so won’t take you that long.

Internal HR practitioners who are in or can get to the UK this Summer have the opportunity to win a free ticket to the Economist’s Talent Management Summit in London on 9th June.  (The winner will, however, need to be wiling to engage in a short discussion about their responses which I will publish here along with the overall summary.)

If you can’t get to London for the Summit then you’ll still have my gratitude for completing the survey for me!


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Tuesday 8 February 2011

Social Media in Public Sector HR (talking to Graham White, Westminster Council)


  Today’s big event in the Social Media Week London programme is: How is the public sector transforming communication using social media with a broad range of audiences and what's next?


One very good example of how public sector bodies are doing, or at least can do, this is Westminster City Council.  I recently talked about the experience there with their HR Director, Graham White.  These are my notes on the conversation (not necessarily his exact words):


Early adoption

We started by discussing the initial introduction of social media at Westminster, using a Sharepoint based platform to support engagement of staff around a cross-Council pay review (see this article from People Management last year).

I asked what had made Westminster’s experience a success, when many organisations have actually struggled to develop much in the way of community or conversation. Graham said that for him, take-up is to do with the organisational culture, and whether people are openly engaged. People are naturally avid readers, hence the power of the medium - although you do need to build confidence of people who have never gone to print before. He also suggested not worrying about the number of comments but focusing on the numbers of people looking at the sites.

It helped Westminster that had a new CEO who was enthusiastic about getting the workforce on side, believing that the way they treated customers, and treated each other, was critical to the Council’s success, and therefore wanted to know what they were thinking. People have a right to have their say and provide different opinions. So Westminster developed a programme called ‘You Said – We Did’ which was very powerful. Staff started to understand that if they said something it would be accepted and that the organisation would do something about it.


Ongoing approach

I also asked about the combination of ‘bottom up’ with ‘top down’ approaches that was described in the CIPD’s case study. Graham confirmed that this was still Westminster’s strategy but that out of these, it’s the inputs from, and conversation between, staff that’s been most useful. Social media has given Westminster the ability to never have ‘empty space’ – conversation is always taking place. Even the predefined topics are really just prompts to help get people thinking. And the prompters ask – if this isn’t the real issue, tell us what is.

They also allow an unfettered debate. In the early days, the conversation was governed by editors. But doing this didn’t help – individuals are used to expressing themselves freely in their personal lives so they didn’t feel the managed approach was that useful. So Westminster has unregulated much of what they do with social media – and the level of communication is now much more real. It’s helped developed trust, and confidence in the message, and this grows all the time.

Doing this has required their managers and staff to get out of the box. They now have video blogs just about every week from different senior managers who would have never considered being video’d talking about their business and what their plans are.


Latest developments

I asked how the use of social media had developed at Westminster over the last year. Graham explained that the use of social media had accelerated. It’s like a volcano, he said – once you start using it you see more benefits on an almost weekly basis.

The UK’s public sector is going through the most austere period for the last 50 years. Westminster has taken out 300 jobs and is about to remove another 200. Staff are feeling afraid, nervous and uncertain. So social media has been a critical tool – one of a small number of critical tools – that has helped the Council hold onto its staff, and helped them feel as secure as possible and be well informed. And Westminster is now integrating all of their communications with 2.0 media tools, forums etc so that staff can be better engaged.

And life goes on – not every debate is about the difficult future in the public sector. People post on things which are important to them – asking what to name their dog or who stole their milk. And the Council doesn’t interfere with this.

Westminster can see the impact of their use of social media in the fact that most people leaving the Council feel they have been fairly treated, and where there have been appeals and litigation the evidence has also suggested that they have been more than fair. Plus the unions are working alongside the Council’s management to help reduce the number of people who need to leave and how this is managed, as well as helping to pass on information to members, rather than screaming for strikes.

Westminster is now using social media for attracting future employees as well. They’ve introduced social media pre and post the induction programme too so that applicants can view warts and all interviews with staff and get a feel about what it’s like to work for the Council before they actually start. And social media has been used to support other activities, for example Council wide recognition programmes.

They’re also using the tools to support the current borough mergers – implementing a tri borough forum site for staff from across the three Councils to use any technology to see what the views of other staff are, what’s topical, what people are commenting on.


Culture change

Although Westminster’s initial objective for using social media was simply to get people engaged (initially around the pay review) they have seen other benefits since then. One has been a change in Westminster’s culture - Graham noted that 5 years ago no-one would have thought the Council would have allowed its staff to say anything other than how great things are at Westminster.

I asked about whether the use of social media had helped develop better relationships between employees too, helping to bring the diverse parts of the Council together as one organisation. Graham confirmed that, in his view, it had (although again this wasn’t the original objective) and that this was becoming increasingly important now. Previously, Councils have operated with some major silos and little integration within one organisation. But the Big Society and the importance of community involvement is removing the idea of silos. So for example, Westminster is creating new central support teams bringing together different functions into one place.


Lessons for other organisations

Graham has concerns about organisations that try to control these sites very tightly as it shows they have a level of mistrust in their workforces. In his view, you don’t need to control it if you’ve got values and these are integrated into everything that you do.

We also discussed the relevance of Westminster’s experience for other Councils. Graham comes from the private sector but he’s not one of those who advocate that everything in the private sector is great and everything in the public sector is awful. He’s seen to many great private sector people fail spectacularly in the public sector for that. But there is a problem in the speed of change and aptitude for change. So the standard responses of absorb and neutralise every new opportunity – and to confirm why you can’t do something new – has got to change. The recession isn’t helping – people are using this as the next excuse to delay change. The Public Sector needs to change if the general population isn’t going to continue seeing managers in the sector as boring old farts!

I finished the conversation by asking whether, if Westminster weren’t already using social media, would they start now? Graham confirmed that they absolutely would.


Thanks very much to Graham for speaking to me about this.


Public sector / other organisations that want to gain some of the same benefits of Westminster may want to check out:

  • Employee Voice, the social ideas system provided by Organised Feedback, the sponsor of this blog, which is already busy working on a range of Council and other projects.
  • My posts on Enterprise 2.0 on this and my other blog.  Also note my webinar on HR 2.0 on 15th March.  Or contact me to discuss how I can support you to develop the sort of culture Graham describes.



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Monday 7 February 2011

Social Media Week London


  This week is Social Media Week in many cities around the world, including London.

It’s great to see lots of participation from Connecting HR folk on this:


Who have I missed?

If you still want to know more about social media in HR, read this series of posts from Personnel Today’s social media week last year, or register for this webinar on 15th March.



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Sunday 6 February 2011

Symposium Events: Employee Engagement Summit


  On Thursday 3rd March I’ll also be attending Symposium Events’ next conference – the Employee Engagement Summit.

Speakers include:

  • Nampak Plastics, Eric Collins, Managing Director
  • Kent University, Professor Katie Truss, Head of Kent Business School at Medway
  • Unilever, Michael Silverman, Former Head of Employee Research
  • IPA, Nita Clarke, Director
  • London Borough of Lewisham, Elizabeth Theobald, Employee Engagement Project Manager
  • London Borough of Lewisham, Mandy Shackleton, Senior Management Development Advisor
  • IES, Dilys Robinson, Principal Research Fellow
  • Centrica, Lindsey Oliver, Senior Employee Engagement Manager
  • The Co-operativeLiz Bramley, Head of Employee Engagement and Diversity.


Again, do let me know if you’re a reader of this blog, and you’re going to attend - you can book for the event here.



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Saturday 5 February 2011

Symposium Events: Performance Management Forum


  The other event I’ll be attending (as a blogger) the same week as TRU is Symposium Event’s Performance Management Forum.

Speakers include:

  • Chartered Management Institute – Ruth Spellman OBE, Chief Executive
  • Polycom – Marc Weedon, EMEA HR Director
  • Home Group – Peter Stott, Executive Director, People & Performance
  • Santander – Caroline Curtis, Head of Talent, Development and Performance
  • Threshold Initiative – Les Venus, Chief Executive
  • Lloyds Banking Group – Richard Wade, Head of Organisation Effectiveness, Group Operations
  • Northern Rock – Bernadette Bruton, Head of Strategy & Organisational Development
  • eBay Inc. – Peter Vogt, Senior Director, European Employee Communication and Engagement
  • Birmingham City Council – Richard Billingham, Head of Organisation Development & Learning Human Resources
  • Sony UK & Ireland a Division of Sony Europe Ltd – Christoph Williams, Senior Manager-Talent & Performance


Let me know if you’re going to be there – it would be good to say hi.

You can book here.



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Friday 4 February 2011

TRU London 3


  So I blogged yesterday about HR 2.0, or Social HR, and why I didn’t think it got enough focus at the recent HR Directors Business Summit.

Let me be clear – I’m not just talking about social media. Yes, this has got a place, and is probably the sharpest, and certainly newest, tool we’ve got to bring in more social ways of doing HR. But there are other tools as well – including a lot of things that HR knows well – though applied in a rather different way.

But of course, the main difference between 1.0 and 2.0 HR isn’t anything to do with tools, processes or activities at all. It’s a difference of focus. About moving from one aimed at developing people and their human capital, as well as sometimes the organisation they work within - to one that includes an emphasis on relationships between people, as well as the individuals, and the various groups of individuals, themselves, ie the organisation’s social capital too.

(And social media supports other benefits than this, including empowered customer service, social CRM, enterprise 2.0, employee engagement, knowledge management – it’s just that I think social capital is the greatest benefit it provides.)

My next opportunity to talk about this will be in the TRU London masterclasses taking place on 16th February, just before TRU London 3 on the 17-18th (you can read some of my previous posts on TRU London 2 here).

In this session, I’ll have ten minutes to provide an overview of Social HR: what it is, why it’s important, and what HR can do to put it into practice.

But the main focus in this, and the other masterclasses, will be on responding to three questions put to me by some of the unconference attendees (which is why these are sort of un-masterclasses I suppose).  I’m hoping we can make at least two of these nothing to do with social media!

So if you want to know more about Social HR / HR 2.0, come along on the 16th, and ask me some questions. There’ll be some other great people speaking and answering questions too.

I’ll also be at the TRU unconference itself on the 17th.


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Thursday 3 February 2011

Top Leadership Influencer


  Well I was going for 10 posts today which I’m not quite going to be able to manage!, but I thought this would be a good one to finish on.

I was chuffed as usual to be recognised last week as a top global online influencer in leadership (at #16).  One more gong for the cupboard.

Thanks to John and the HRexaminer team.



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