Thursday 30 June 2011

Branchout, BeKnown and the Bubble


  I was fascinated by this debate taking place at the Economist recently – are we in a new tech (social media) bubble?

There were some highly engaging exchanges, and a thought provoking result – over two thirds of the participants voted yes!


At the time, I didn’t agree, but then, it’s been a particularly enthralling week in social media land!  So, there’s the new, funky google+, and in the HR world, there’s Monster’s new Facebook based, Linkedin-like, BranchOut-bashing app, BeKnown.

This has been getting a lot of attention, but probably not as much as BranchOut’s carpy response (see HRZone, Fistful of Talent – reporting from SHRM’s annual conference, or your favourite HR / Recruiting blog).  [I think one key lesson from this experience concerns the power of social media – BranchOut’s not done itself any favours by its response to BeKnown, but Monster’s prior engagement of the social media / social recruiting crowd has paid off in ensuring a positive reaction too*.]

So I was fascinated to see that David Henry from Monster would be reporting on BeKnown at SRConf this afternoon:


According to David, 62% of workers in the UK are concerned about mixing friend and professional contacts on social networks.  But people want to have their contacts within these separate groups in one place.

This is difficult as there are 2100 job boards in the UK – it’s a hugely fragmented pictures.  So there’s a huge demand to be able to find these audiences.

BeKnown mashes up Facebook and mashes up Linkedin.   Linkedin is great, but there are many more people on Facebook.  The app enables both companies and candidates to own their profiles.  Gamification (ie badge earning) is built in to make the app experience fun.

Social recruiting is about being there for big events in peoples’ lives, not just advertising jobs.  BeKnown helps recruiters do this… (there’ll shortly be an opportunity for everyone to earn a referral fee as well).

Lastly it’s different to ‘a lot of the other apps that sit out there’ (who might that be?) because it’s being introduced simultaneously in lots of countries and languages etc.




Very funky!

Overall, I think Monster’s app is a cool move, and could be useful, so I will be trying it out.   But I have changed my mind about the bubble.  Not all of these sites are going to survive – network effects will ensure that people move to the most popular sites (remember Twitter’s competitors in the early days of micro blogging – no, I can’t either: that’s my point).  So someone’s investors are going to be disappointed!

That’s one thing.  For the rest of us (the users) the added competition can only be a good thing.  Will the professional network of the future be Linkedin, BranchOut, BeKnown or something else?  Who knows?… Who cares?  The important thing is that the opportunities for connecting and building relationships are only increasing.

Social media may be a bubble, social as a strategy is still in its very early days.


* Disclosure: I’ve got two of Monster’s big Monsters and two little Monsters back at home.


Also see this post where I first reflected on the social media bubble – rather prematurely back in 2008!



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#SRConf: PepsiCoMo


  This post is really just an opportunity for some nice pictures of PepsiCo’s / TopBananas mobile recruiting app.

Presenting with TB’s Dave Martin, PepsiCo’s Katie McNab explained that the company invests in social recruiting to support its social brand and to help explain what it’s like to work for them.  And given the already high and rapidly increasing proportion of people who access social media via mobile devices, this has to include ipads, iphones, Androids etc too.


The app includes videos (which they hope will be searchable in vs) and blogs (Pepsico is building an army of bloggers around the world) etc.  Opportunities are searchable, powered by the company’s ATS.  You still can’t apply for a job online (again, scheduled for v2) but this is down to Pepsi’s change in ATZ provider), also research suggests people don’t want to apply online – they want to take time to think about it, craft their CV etc).

In addition, the ‘Learn’ app provides local recruiters opportunities to profile local employees / their own process etc.


More nice!



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#SRConf: Matt Jeffery on Recruitment 4.0


  Just before lunch we had a panel featuring Matt Jeffery, head of EMEA Talent Acquisition at Autodesk; Lisa Scales at Tribepad and others.  Matt and Lisa had a good debate about the future of recruiting agencies (not good! – why would you pay a huge fee to an agency when you can use Linkedin etc yourself).

But the thing which really caught my attention was Matt’s thoughts on ‘recruitment 4.0’, an update on his piece about recruitment 3.0 a couple of weeks ago (how quickly things change in this space!).

Actually I think the number thing’s a nonsense, but I agree completely with Matt’s thoughts:

Recruiting needs to move from a cost centre to profit centre.  The focus of recruiting is now on communities and target audiences.  There are opportunities to use these communities outside recruitment eg we should be cross charging our marketing teams to use in promoting to our communities, and looking for other organisations to market to our communities too.  Eg mobile is key, and gamification too – we should be making content so rich that people will pay for a download.

And OK, we know internal referrals are important, but we should be looking to develop our external communities for external referrals too.


Actually, it’s the leveraging of communities that I’m interested in – I’m less fussed about cross-charging.  For one thing, the opportunities should span both ways, eg one of the attendees at my recruiting workshop in Barcelona two weeks ago talked about the opportunity to build on a company’s focus on open innovation to use it’s external network for idea generation as a primary source for recruitment as well.  It really doesn’t matter which way round the cross charging works, but I think Matt is absolutely right to highlight the importance of ‘community’ - ie managing relationships with people outside the company, who in some way provide some of a company’s ‘human resource’.


Also see my posts on Matt’s last SRConf presentation (while at Electronic Arts), and my other social recruiting posts (including more on SRConf this and last year) here.




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#SRConf–Unilever: building teamwork – social – social recruiting


DSCN3257  We’ve started today’s social recruiting conference with a presentation from Paul Maxin, Global Resourcing Director at Unilever.

Unilever’s ambition is to double in size, whilst halving its environmental footprint and social recruiting is key to this.  The key for Unilever though is recognising that all candidates are consumers.  The company’s candidates / targets are consumers of its corporate brand before, joining and after any employment  So instead of an EVP, Unilever think about a People Value proposition (PVP).

Their social media strategy is all about building relationships with people in Unilever’s ‘talent community’ (vs the bigger ‘talent world’), so it’s not actually a social media strategy, it’s a relationship management strategy.  So Unilever’s use of Facebook is all about developing relationship (meaning that there’s no point appointing an agency to do this).


Also, there’s no point tweeting jobs – Unilever’s tweets link to a ‘day in a life'’ graduate blog etc (though Unilever_Jobs doesn’t seem to).

And social recruiting also involves more than just use of one particular technology – social recruiting also helps develop teamwork (‘teamwork is social – social – social recruiting’).

Other insights included: Developing / emerging markets count for 52% of Unilever’s sales and 80% of growth so social recruiting needs to focus on the BRIC and other countries.


See these other Unilever & social media posts:


And these recent posts on social recruiting:



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Wednesday 29 June 2011

Summer HCM newsletter


  This is the text of my third e-newsletter if you didn’t receive it.

As we finally enter into Summer, I continue to focus on three things:

  • Human capital / talent management
  • Social capital / collaboration
  • Strategic HR innovation.


Human Capital / Talent Management

Some of my most recent insights into talent management have developed from attending the Economist Group’s Talent Management Summit as an official media partner.

You can read my updates on the conference at:


As you can see from these post titles, one of the common themes across many of the sessions was the need for long-term thinking when it comes to talent.  Peter Cappelli's 'on-demand' approach may work for jobs on the periphery of an organisation, but for core talent we need to plan further ahead.

I was also pleased to see a good combination of different elements of talent management, including workforce planning, leadership development, employee engagement and culture change, all of which I think are vital to an effective talent management strategy.

You may also like to know that I have recently written about this myself, contributing a chapter on the integration of learning and compensation to a new book - called ‘The Executive Guide to Integrated Talent Management’ and which also features chapters from Dave Ulrich, Ed Lawer and Marshall Goldsmith - and Peter Cappelli too.


Social Capital / Collaboration

I was also pleased, though somewhat surprised, to see social capital (the value of employees' connections, relationships and conversations) and collaboration being referred to at the Economist's event.  See these posts for my review of this:


I have also recently presented at the Social Business Forum in Milan and have posted on the additional insights on social capital that I gained at this conference as well.

In my presentation, I talked about the need to focus beyond the management of individual talent to look at ways of building capability and engagement across teams, networks and communities.  I also referred to some of the tensions between these approaches, for example in managing the balance between competition and collaboration and what this means for inclusive / exclusive approaches to talent management.

I also talked about the use of web 2.0 / social media tools to support the integration of collaboration and talent management activities. This will also be the focus of my sessions at the HR Technology conference in Las Vegas as well as the new European event in Amsterdam later on this year.


Strategic HR Innovation

One of the other areas I am currently focusing on is innovation within HR.  I think we often tend to be too focused on best practices and do not spend enough time or energy thinking about best fit, ie how we can adapt an organisation’s HR strategy and architecture to the needs of its particular business, context and philosophy about how people contribute to business results.

If you also agree with this perspective, you may be interested in attending a webinar on HR Innovation that I am running on 8th September. You can book for this webinar here.


Conference and Open Training Dates





Do let me know if you would like me to deliver any of these or similar sessions in-house in your organisation.

You can subscribe to my newsletter here, and don’t forget you can also subscribe to the RSS feed from this blog, or receive updates by email.



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Tuesday 28 June 2011

Social media and Soiled underwear


  I presented on the opportunities of using social media (and in focusing on social outcomes) at the SAP HR Summit at the end of last week.

SAP HR social media


The session went well and got lots of interest, though only in the room as nobody, other than SAP themselves, were using Twitter.

So this reinforced the point I made last week too, that despite the talk, there’s still very little walk going on in this area.  But the day also reinforced that there is a LOT of talk.  In fact social media, and the associated need for conversation and connectedness, came out as a strong theme, if not the main theme, in, I think, every session during the day.

For example, in one panel, David Ludlow, VP HR On-Demand Solutions for SAP described how the company is looking carefully at how social media is going to be used.  This is involving talking to end users, identifying the problems and the solutions they are trying to achieve in order to better understand how social software can help get them from A to B.  SAP is clear that in the future a lot more business applications are going to offer the same type of user experience and incorporate the concepts of gaming, Linkedin and Facebook etc.  Then after the panel, Olivier Dubuisson, UK SAP Technology Delivery Unit Manager for NorthgateArinso noted that people shouldn’t see social media as the future as it’s already here today.

And in my panel on Cultivating Creative Leaders, Eric Brunelle, Chief HR Solutions Architect for SAPKim Fischer, Director People Solutions and Technology for EPI-USE and I all talked extensively about social recruiting.  Meanwhile,  Jim Davis, Director of HR Business Processes at Firmenich talked about the benefits of a community focus there.  I’ve listed all of this to emphasise how much focus and positivity there had been on the use of social media.  This made the jump to the next session but one, delivered by Christopher Middleton, Employment Partner in Kemp Little’s HR Practice appear particularly stark.


Middleton kicked off by noting (as above) that social media has introduced a significant shift into the employer / employee relationship.  The issue for him is that employers, and courts, haven’t yet caught up.  So 54% of employers are restraining use of the internet, but the proportion should probably be higher than this...


The main issues in the (UK) legislation are:

Liability for what employees say / do

Issues include discrimination and harassment – eg if someone makes inappropriate comments on Facebook – if done in the workplace, or about a relationships which only exists because of work, an employer is likely to be liable.  A complete ban is unlikely to be enforceable as social media is how many people live their lives, and they can always just turn to their smart phones anyway.  A partial ban may be possible.  The key is to have clear guidelines which keep limitations in proportion.


Taking action against employees for inappropriate use of social media

Actions based on excessive or inappropriate use of the internet, or which cause damage to an employer’s reputation also need to be proportionate.  For example, dismissals for small offences when someone has had 30 years service, or for posting a video which has only received 8 hits is likely to be perceived as unfair.  Privacy is also important – something that an employee has ben doing in private, and depending on their privacy settings in any social media site they’ve been using for this, may not provide a fair basis for dismissal either.

Monitoring employees’ use of the internet etc

Monitoring also needs to be proportionate eg videoing someone at home is likely to strengthen constructive dismissal cases.  Good point but none of Middleton’s examples were actually about social media – I’d have preferred examples relating to organisation’s use of the various monitoring tools to track their employees’ use of social media sites – perhaps out of work as well.  Perhaps it’s too early days for these?


Use of on-line information for recruitment

Middleton presented research conducted by Microsoft in 2009 (a century ago in social media land) to conclude that there is a strong case against collecting information in a recruitment context.


Keeping social data out of recruitment seems to be the main viewpoint in HR, eg in the CIPD’s guidelines, though it isn’t in workshops I do on social media with HR practitioners, and doesn’t seem to be actual practice (or at least it wasn’t back in 2009) either.

I’m still not convinced personally.  OK, turning someone down for photos of them drinking heavily which turn out to be 5 years old (Middleton’s example) is pretty dumb.  But this is about use of the tool, not the features of the tool.  My mind goes back to a Russian Sales Director I employed who we should never have recruited.  I’m sure that a quick check of the social media (if it had been available then) would have avoided an expensive hiring mistake (mind you, so would have just a few visits to NightFlight!).  My advice is to check people out on social media, and then to take sensible decisions about using the information you find out.  And if you can’t trust your line managers, then just do this in HR / Recruitment (but also think about why you don’t trust your managers!).  You may also want to think about whether you want to recruit someone who isn’t using social media, and what this means for their relationship capital!

In fact that’s sort of my reaction to this whole session too.  Yes, social media can raise problems in employment and recruiting.  Yes, we need to manage use of these tools.  But to then infer this means that organisations should limit use to these tools is just a jump too far.


And the soiled underwear?

Well, I so was concerned about how all this doom and gloom at the end of day would counter the positive messages in all the other sessions that I felt I had to do something to rebalance it.

So my final comment of the day was a quick appeal not to put social media in the same category as soiled underwear (I was probably thinking about Donna Miller’s quote about the bedroom drawers again).

I reminded people about the Polite – Police – Partner – Player model that Eric Brunelle had referred to.  Policing is important, but this isn’t what we want to be known for!  Restricting access to social media isn’t what we want to be doing either.


Photo credit: Anthony Hesketh (thanks!)


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Monday 27 June 2011

HR Transformation at SAP


  My favourite presentation at last week’s SAP HR Transformation summit focused on SAP itself.  Roger Bellis, their European SVP for Talent, Leadership and Organisation Development (and a former client from Barclays) explained that SAP is now a mega company, and its people management challenges are a bit like a teenager moving into adulthood.

For example, the average age of employees in its head office is 41 and turnover is just 1% (so the average age will be about 50 in ten years time if nothing changes).  But of course in China it’s completely different.  Averages tell you nothing – you need to look at the detail.

And with over 50,000 people it’s difficult just to keep some control, particularly as SAP wants to maintain the same freedom and entrepreneurial spirit it had when it was a young company. 

Innovation is key and the networked nature of SAP is an asset.  They want to maintain and develop this connectedness, through technology, and through their culture, and reduce the way this is inhibited through some of their control systems.

To balance these requirements, SAP needs to motivate people, but within a frame.  The paradigm is still to specify what they need to do, but give people responsibility for how they do it.

But some things need to change and Roger is working with SAP’s co-CEOs to help leaders lead differently.  Managers often have 20+ reports, often working at home, so supervising them tightly is impossible.    Instead they need to focus on continuing to win employees hearts and minds.

To do this, SAP have five main change drivers:


In organisation design, the challenge is to support people as they move from project to project. SAP has had 300 reorganisations in the last five years! and many people have had 5 managers in the last two years. Again there’s a balance – SAP needs to be mobile / flexible and adaptive in terms of its organisation whilst still being stable.

There’s also a process, Ignite (a small p process) to develop people in a different way, through leadership and engagement.

Not surprisingly, SAP use SAP to support these practices. They’re able to provide feedback to their developers through this too. For example. they're using an updated performance management tool that better reflects the very different way managers need to lead today.

All of this is measured through a series of metrics including bench strength and turnover etc.  Where it makes sense, these metrics are combined into indices.  For example, they use the wisdom of the crowd to provide an ongoing pulse check, and a people management index comprising pride (up) and engagement (down due to the organisational change).  But Roger is most interested in the chats over coffee – chewing the fat and getting feedback.  It’s really the the conversations you have that tell you how you’re doing.



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Friday 24 June 2011

SAP HR Summit



A great event with SAP today.  My own session was on HR and social media, and my contributions in a panel focused on the role of social media too.  In fact the whole conference had a heavy focus on social media which I will explain in my next post (I’m separating these out so as not to contaminate this one with the title of that!).

A couple of the other highlights for me were:


Rob MacLachlan, Editor of the CIPD’s People Management magazine presenting their (well, largely the CIPD’s / Bridge’s) views about where HR’s come from and where it’s going.  I can’t say I particularly agreed with Rob on either of these points, but I liked the the clarity of his positioning.

So firstly, Rob’s review of the past focused on the recession, suggesting that any attempt to pin responsibility for the crash on HR is too simplistic.  HR has to be pragmatic and do what it’s told.

Rob read out a short statement from a City HR Director noting some of the hugely dysfunctional behaviour they’d allowed, on the basis that if they hadn’t, they’d have ben sacked.  (Is that sufficient an excuse?  For me, HR needs to do what’s right, or what’s the point frankly?  That may be simple, but better simple than spineless?)

We had another example of what I think is dysfunctional behaviour from another speaker later on.  Under a slide which started with Warren Bennis’ maxim that you should ‘recruit for integrity, intelligence and energy – and that if you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you’!, we later learnt about a company which supposedly couldn’t afford to get rid of some low performers.  So instead of doing this, it actively promoted these people, putting their names on white papers that other people had written and so on – and by the end of the first year, all these people had been head hunted away.  Clever, but definitely not a great example of integrity! (which I’m not sure had occurred to the speaker).


Rob’s view of the future is based on Lynda Gratton’s new book, Shift, including her findings about the  crucial role of connectivity, and also the CIPD’s Next Generation HR stuff, including Bridge’s triangle which I don’t quite agree with either.  But I liked the way Rob used the triangle to support a survey of HR technology that People Management’s been running for SAP.  In summary:

  • 54% of of HR professionals surveyed agreed that core HR and payroll systems (at the bottom level of the triangle) support their needs well
  • Just 18% suggest that more strategic functions, for example talent management, are covered well
  • Only 46% say they have a good understanding of the software available on the market (and the respondents were probably quite systems oriented).


Wow!, that last figure isn’t good.  As I noted in the update to my last post, we really need to develop more knowledgeable HR IT professionals on this side of the pond.  And I think if we did, they’d find that HCM technologies (at least those on the market if not those they’re currently using) actually do support most strategic functions very well.


I found the session from Anthony Hesketh at Lancaster University Management School resonated more with me.

Anthony questioned how talented our talent really is.  For example, he referenced Boris Groysberg’s research findings that the highest performing investment analysts don’t often turn out to be as highly performing when they change firms.

And then there’s Rob Goffee’s book, Clever, which contrasts clever people against the merely talented.  Truly clever people will add value no matter what.  But cleverness is largely social in nature – like the Peter Mandelson factor, using relationships to open doors.

Or you can think about it as arête, Aristotle’s concept of a deep skills, as opposed to telos – just the ability to do the things we need to do.  It’s arête that allows you to do the things most people don’t see – eg understanding a contrapuntal fugue (have I got that right?).

By the way, that’s how HR adds value too – we can see the fugal form of people processes in a different way from our CEOs and other business executives – though they might not see this difference themselves which is why you get CEOs saying they already know about people and just want their HR people to do the hiring and firing stuff.

The key relationships for HR are those with the CEO and CFO – and those between these two, ie the golden triangle.  The shape of that triangle sets the tone for HR’s impact in their business.


Of course, I didn’t agree with everything covered in the session.  Anthony has a very different beliefs about measurement to me (though I do like his ROIT).  For example, I’d suggest that the CEO’s challenge that they want HR to talk in Excel not Powerpoint needs a bit of that same willingness to challenge that I’d have liked to have seen from Rob’s City HRD.  Many of HR’s most important outcomes are intangible and, as Anthony said, intangibles are things that can’t be measured – so sometimes it makes sense not to try and measure them.


And I also disagree with one thing which is more fundamental that both Rob, and I think Anthony said.  And that’s about the role / POV of HR.  Rob noted that the people the CIPD had been speaking to supporting their Next Generation research were HR people who see themselves working in an applied business discipline with an HR focus, not the other way around – as if that’s clearly the only stance that is appropriate for HR to take.

And Anthony mentioned something similar in his comment about HRDs who don’t want to stay in HR but are scanning the rest of the organisation looking to move into a new role.  If that’s a pragmatic response to HR’s lack of credibility then I fully understand.  But I suspect it’s part of this mindset that HR needs to be a business person first.

I don’t think this stance or mindset is the single right one for HR to take.  In fact I think we can do much better with a rather different one – that of course we’re business people but that our defining characteristic is our fugal understanding of people, our arête in strategic HCM, which allows us to significantly improve the (value delivered to our people and therefore the) contribution of the people within our businesses.  You may have seen my post linking this stance and employee engagement earlier on this week.


As always, I’d be interested in your views – particularly if you attended the summit, but if you didn’t too.



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Thursday 23 June 2011

The Growth of Digital HR


  I’m missing the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston this year.

Last year, I found it such a key event that as well as the Boston conference (see my posts), I went back again to present on E2.0 and Culture in the follow-up event in Santa Clara (and these posts too).

But things are changing quickly.  This year, there’s so much taking place on HR 2.0 in the UK that it’s much harder for me to justify the transatlantic flight to myself.

Take today for instance.

One event I would have loved to have been at is this one organised by Consult HR and hosted by Sarah Vardey at American Express, focusing on Digital HR:

“Digital is an evolving approach to business practice, customer interactions and employee behaviours.  It is present throughout any business and in the everyday lives and interactions of employees.  The impact of the rapid growth in digital has meant that organisations have had to adapt to new market expectations.  Business functions, where communication and customer dialogue is crucial, have been early adopters of digital technology such as marketing, communications and customer service.  Slower to come to the table have been support functions such as risk, procurement and HR.

Given that HR had lagged in this revolution, how then can we step up and simultaneously transform ourselves, whilst transforming our business partners and organisations?”

Good point!


Anyway, instead of this, I’ll be attending SAP’s HR Transformation Summit, where I’ll be speaking on much of the same thing: Social Media in the Modern HR.

“Social media is playing an increasingly important role in business and can give employees a voice beyond that of existing corporate portals.  In this session, Jon explores how social media technologies are providing new opportunities to influence the connections and relationships between employees, revolutionising collaboration and innovation.  This type of transformation provides a new strategic agenda for HR and emphasises the need to adopt social technologies within HR’s own processes (social recruiting, social learning etc).


You might also be interested in my panel discussion yesterday, which also included the HR 2.0 agenda – focusing on social media for employee engagement.

And I’ve got more events coming up on this topic over the rest of the year and beyond.

One of the best of these is definitely going to be Europe’s new HR Technology conference which I’ll be the MC at.  With a great agenda, and with one day focusing on the role of social media in HR, it looks like this event will quickly become an equal of of longstanding US conference in terms of its prime role within the HR Technology agenda.

The conference is taking place on 2-3 November in Amsterdam and details can be found at – including the agenda and list of speakers.

You can even get a 10% discount by entering ‘Jon Ingham’ in the promo code box when you book!


Update, 11.00pm Thursday 23rd.  I posted this early this morning before heading off to the SAP Summit, and one thing occurred to me while on the way to the conference venue – and this is that ‘growth’ may be the wrong word for the increase in conversation I’m seeing.  To be clear, I’m still not seeing much actually happening in digital HR.  The summit made it even clearer that there’s still a big gap between talk and action.  I’ll blog on this later on.

Secondly, I just wish to point out that there’s still going to be a sizeable gap between HRTechEurope and the HRTechnConference (US).  For one thing, that event has already been going on 14 years.  However, HRTechEurope is clearly in a different league to existing HR tech shows in the UK and Europe, eg Softworld and the CIPD’s Software show.  It’s a conference we’ve been badly lacking for a long time and should contributing to the development of HR IT as a (sub-) profession, in the same way that I think it’s seen in the US.



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Wednesday 22 June 2011

My presentation with the Employee Engagement Taskforce


    I hadn’t received any suggestions for my presentation so I decided to simply focus on the opening preamble to the Westminster Briefing event.

The first part of this focused on the role of the taskforce.  I suggested this was a useful initiative but that the key people who need to spearhead engagement are the HR people in the room (more so than David and Nita, and also more than is often thought the case, the line manager):



I also used the value change slide I’ve used in quite a few of my posts and pops up in many of my presentations too, to suggest that engagement could be seen as an activity but it’s really the individual who motivates (or engages) themself, so it’s better to see it as an outcome.

Emphasising the importance of HR’s role that I talked about earlier, I noted my belief that HR can take accountability (not responsibility which does need to be taken by line managers) for this outcome too.  (I clearly didn’t convince all attendees about this however as I put a question on it into the later polling.  In response to the question ‘Should HR be seen as accountable for engagement levels across an organisation?’, only 36% of people voted yes and 64% put no.)



Referring to the second part of the preamble about the definition of engagement, I suggested the above outcome is a part of human capital, ie the important qualities that employees loan to their organisation.  But engagement doesn’t mean anything in itself – being usually defined (at least by survey providers) as a mix of a number of different things eg satisfaction, pride and advocacy etc. (Gallup even go so far as to avoid defining it, simply seeing it as something that is developed by do the things referred to in their twelve questions and which lead to business impacts.)  I’m not that keen on the word (see below), but it doesn’t matter that much how you define engagement, as long as you understand that it’s important.  Let’s get over the lack of consistent definition.


I also talked about the opportunity to use engagement for creating rather than adding value (or as Henry Mintzberg explains, quoted in McLeod’s original report), as the ‘wellspring of success’ rather than a factor or production).

True engagement comes from creating value – from putting people first rather than the business.  However this requires a different way of managing – one which is more right brained and people oriented, and emphasises understanding people (psychology, sociology etc) rather than understanding the business (metrics, analytics, financials etc), and talking the language of people too.

I referred to Gary Hamel’s focus on changing the language (though didn’t have time to talk about the love hack) and noted the dissonance I find in the fact that HR’s primarily focused on becoming more business-like (adding value) at a time when the rest of the business is finally becoming more people centred (creating value).

This thing about being a ‘business person first, an HR person second’ is fine as far as it goes, and definitely plays a role in building HR’s credibility in the business.  But it’s a loser as far as engagement is concerned.  And it’s important when, as I’ve described above, HR has the most important role as far as engagement is concerned.

So we’d be better focused on making the rest of the business more like HR (in which everyone is a people person first) than worrying about our own business skills.

That’s my main point about how we can best increase engagement.


(See Vineet Nayar’s ‘Employees First, Customers Second’ if you want to understand more about what it means to be a people person first.)


Picture credit: Raffaela Goodby


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Live blogging on the Employee Engagement Taskforce part 2


  I’ll come back and post on my own presentation later, but to continue with the programme:


More Presentations

Firstly, David Macleod and Nita Clarke talked about what the taskforce will be doing next.  The intent is not to repeat ‘Macleod 1’ but to update it (because things have moved on, eg there’s more evidence of the benefits of engagement), and more importantly, to try to create a movement, through their practitioner and guru groups, and other things.  They think there is a bit of zeitgeist developing around engagement and they want to catch and lead and this.  One of the key actions will be developing a free, open access and interactive (social?) website.

Following on from my presentation, Denise Fairhurst from Ipsos Mori has been talking about engagement during and since recession. Supported by some vox pops, she suggests there has been an evolution in what our employees want, and therefore a need to review the employer deal.

One of Denise’s inputs I found interesting was that disengaged people (low alignment, involvement and loyalty) are almost totally dissatisfied in the balance between what they put out and how much they take out – the complete opposite of engaged people are almost totally satisfied with this balance.


Our Panel

-   Measures

Then we moved onto a panel.  David and Nita talked for a while, answering questions on how people could best participate in their movement.  (If you want to get involved, the current website is

One of the questions was focused on how the taskforce is going to measure its success.  Their answer was that some of the group members will come up with these over the two years of the taskforce (so they shouldn’t be too hard to achieve then!).  But some of the things they are looking at are:

  • Rising levels of engagement across the board
  • CEOs taking engagement more seriously
  • Becoming the natural way we do things
  • More companies getting it
  • More people feeling it (one of Nita’s interviewees measured the change in her organisation as ‘my husband thinking I’m an easier person to live with).


I liked the way most of these measures were so people centred (the focus of my presentation) – which was also why Denise’s vox pops went down so well.


-   Compelling Purpose

Anyway, I was beginning to wonder if I’d get a chance to say anything on the panel, but then an attendee from the voluntary sector asked David and Nita a point about their sector, stressing the importance of compelling purpose in organisations within these sectors.  That was my chance to talk about one of the things I’ve been seeing, which is private (and public) sector organisations focusing much more on this, as traditional sources of mission (like shareholder value) have become less resonant for people.  So companies have been investing more in things like corporate responsibility if they’ve not seen their core focus as sufficiently compelling.  (See my post on mojos vs BHAGs.)

David gave a good example too which was a group of bus drivers who because of the noise and chewing gum etc, didn’t like doing kids’ buses.  They got the kids drawing pictures of their bus journey and found these all focused on the driver who was clearly seen a bit like a parent for the span of the journey.  They showed these to the bus drivers which helped them understand how important they were to the kids.  As a result, the situation is completely turned around, with the drivers prioritising the kids’ buses.  Never underestimate the value of deeply connecting with a company’s purpose!  (A rather different take on Jim Collin’s get the people on the bus!)


-   Social Media / Engagement

Raffaela Godby from Birmingham Council then set me up nicely with a question on social media.  So I talked about how people find using social media an engaging experience, and suggested they un-ban access to Facebook in their organisations!  See for example this post on a longer presentation on this.)

Then I talked more broadly about the importance of social connection to drive engagement (for example, Nitin Nohria’s bonding drive from his book, Driven).



After this, we had a couple of audience polls, including the following (* shows my questions):

  • In my organisation, ‘employee engagement’ is a term understood by all.  81% no.
  • * Do engagement surveys help or hinder the improvement of
    engagement?  72% help, 9% hinder (I voted hinder, though it depends on the way that it’s done).
  • In your view, which single factor from those below is the
    strongest driver in creating an engaged employee:
    • Involvement in decision making
    • Able to voice ideas and have these contributions recognised by managers
    • Opportunities for developing their jobs
    • The extent to which an organisation is concerned for
      an health and wellbeing

64% of attendees voted for ability to voice ideas though Denise suggested the true finding is a focus on health and wellbeing.


      Presentations – Practical Benefits

      After the panel, and lunch, we moved onto some case studies.

      Helen Giles from Broadway noted that they employ for engageability eg they don’t promote people to be managers unless they’re motivated to manage people.  And in recruitment, they look for staff who see the world in a half-full sort of way and filter out the rest.  For example, they ask interviewees to tell them about time you have adapted to changing working to test for adaptability as they believe adaptable people tend to be more highly engaged.

      Nigel Carruthers from the Local Government Group talked about a mini survey they’ve been promoting which is designed to be built on a video, Thank Goodness it’s Monday.

      Elizabeth Theobald from Lewisham talked about involving people through change (the Council has to cut one third of its budget) in a programme branded Change and Save.  They need people to be more flexible and work outside of their job descriptions.  For example, alumni of their Future Leaders programme have formed a consultancy to support needs within the Council and provide opportunities for people to work collaboratively. They’re implementing Sharepoint 2010 and they’ve also been using Yammer for over a year – people share reports, information and collaborate and don’t use it for personal purposes (not sure why this should be seen negatively).  They’re going to be running their engagement survey over Yammer too (nice).  They also run change health-checks for managers after each change exercise to draw out learnings (they’ve got another four years of this to go).

      And Raffaela Goodby at Birmingham talked about her experience in Birmingham Best.  They’re four years into their change journey supporting the Council’s values.  It’s a top level sponsored but fundamentally bottom-up approach led by local champions or Change Leaders.  The most pivotal factor for these has been how engaged they’ve made the people around them.

      Core to the programme is a mandatory once-a-year workshop led in teams by trained Best Leaders reviewing progress against the values and delivery requirements etc.

      They also run a Dragons Den type thing where people and teams can bid for funding.  I liked Raffaela’s example of a social worker team who asked for a £643 for a hot water urn rather than boiling.  Their business case included the advantages for employee engagement as well as supporting the disadvantaged client groups etc.  You’d never find £643 for a hot water urn in an engagement strategy – it has to be the people you’re asking what’s going to make the biggest difference to you.


      So, good event! – I’ll post on my presentation and perhaps some final reflections tonight.



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      Live blogging on the Employee Engagement Taskforce part 1


        I’m presenting later at a Westminster Briefing event on employee engagement chaired by Katie Truss, but first David Macleod and Nita Clarke (the Simon and Garfunkel, or Morcambe and Wise of empoyee engagement?) have been speaking about the taskforce.

      The taskforce received 56 different definitions of engagement but David prefers a 57th: if you manage people one way you get one thing, if you manage them another, you get something else – more capability and potential.  It’s about performance, less so happiness.

      We started with a reprise of the four things good performing organisations.

      • Strong visible empowering leadership providing a strategic narrative about the organisation
      • Managers do a few things competently:
        • Focus their people and offer scope / autonomy
        • Treat people as individuals, not human resources or human capital (please note, this isn’t what my version of HCM is recommending!)
        • Coach and stretch people, and not put up with dysfunctional behaviour
      • Listening to people – focus on the employee voice
      • Organisational integrity – the espoused values are lived in practice.


      We’re just moving on to where the Taskforce is focusing now but I’m on next , so will update this later on.  Wish me luck!



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      Monday 20 June 2011

      Employee Engagement Taskforce: Policy & Practice Briefing


        On Wednesday I’m delivering a session with David Macleod, Chair of the Employment Engagement Task Force and Nita Clarke who along with David, co-authored the government’s ‘Engaging for Success’ report.

      We’ll be speaking on the government’s current and future policy to put employee engagement in focus:

      • How will the Taskforce work, its priorities and what can organisations expect?
      • Identifying and overcoming barriers to the wider adoption of engagement
      • Raising awareness and changing organisational structures: what are the benefits?
      • Are managers being equipped with the right tools to implement employee engagement?
      • How to harness engagement for innovative workplace practices
      • Maintaining morale through corporate restructuring
      • What can public and private sector organisations learn from each other?
      • Employment engagement: where next?


      It’s an interesting brief as I can’t talk specifically about the taskforce, but I don’t want my inputs to be completely independent of it either.  (I think I’ve got some great ideas – backed up with experience – on engagement but I don’t want to promote these particular insights separately from what David and Nita are going to be talking about.  After all, the taskforce has been set-up to ensure all organisations can access information and support about the benefits and best practice examples of engagement in order to reduce the barriers to the broad adoption of engagement principles.  I want to support that convergence of approach, not release yet another separate train of thinking, no matter how insightful I think that might be.)

      Any ideas about what you think I should be covering in the session?


      The event will also include an interactive voting session which will allow delegates to directly influence the day's proceedings and in turn the wider consultation process as the results will then be fed back to relevant policy makers including government departments, select committees and the LGA and will also be made available on the Westminster Briefing website.

      And questions you think delegates should be asked?


      Also see:



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      Symposium Training: Employee Engagement


         Just before my short series of recruitment-oriented posts (see at the bottom of #SRConf: Social Recruiting conference), I’d started posting on employee engagement (Using technology and social media for engaging relationships).

      One of the other things I wanted to note was that I’m also running a series of training sessions on engagement this year:

      The importance of ensuring an engaged workforce is rapidly increasing as more work becomes virtual, as well as team and knowledge-based.  However, in most organisations, particularly in the UK, engagement has been falling for some years.  (Where surveys show engagement increasing recently, this is largely a result of people being worried about losing their jobs and should not necessarily be taken to indicate an increase in their desire to do their jobs or a passion to help their organisations succeed!)

      Businesses, governments and academics are now getting worried about this.  Gary Hamel, for example, refers to the fact that organisations are more likely to ‘douse the flames of employee enthusiasm than fan them’ as management’s dirty little secret.  This secret is now increasingly being openly discussed and this is therefore the right time for HR to offer some alternative solutions to other business leaders.

      Attend this seminar to learn and reflect on what does inspire people at work and how some successful, maverick organisations are generating true passion from their employees.  Then plan how to adapt these experiences to your own organisation.



      13 July 2011 – London
      30 September 2011 – Manchester


      If you wish to attend, you can book here, or let me know if you’d like to do something similar in your own organisation.



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