Tuesday 16 December 2014

Why Men Won't Ask for Shared Parental Leave

Last month also saw the introduction of new regulations for Shared Parental Leave which will apply to children expected or adopted after 5th April.

Also subject to some criticism from the usual places, eg the IOD call it a nightmare, this is clearly a great move forward.  Firstly because it doesn't mandate the change which is required (at least in terms of enhanced pay) but simply encourages a more progressive response, much more effectively than additional paternity pay managed to do.

And secondly because if we're ever going to achieve equal pay, we've got to have more equal treatment in businesses and in the home as well.  So policies for things like parental leave obviously need to be more equal too.

I talk about all of this in the Sky Sunrise interview embedded above.

But the other thing we discuss is Glassdoor's recent research suggesting only 23% of men agree that both parents should share leave with 40% expecting that the mother should take the bulk of the leave and 20% suggesting that the leave would be taken by the lowest earner, which means the mum in the majority of cases.

Just 10% of the men would want to take the bulk of the leave themselves and 15% would want to share it between the partners.

This means that there are still some entrenched attitudes in place.

My worry is that whilst men are generally the best paid they'll tend to opt out of childcare, and the continuing split in childcare responsibilities will act to keep pay differences as they are (I know time off for childcare isn't the only factor behind this, but it certainly is a contributor.)  So despite the new regulations we end up in a repeating cycle which keeps things pretty much as they already are.

The survey findings also only leaves about 15% of mean who would want to have a proactive conversation with their partner about what they want to do - reflecting not only on their salaries and career prospects but also on what they want to do - their life ambitions and what sort of role they want in the upbringing of their child.  And ideally of course what would be in the child's best interest too.

Having a child is bound to result in big life changes and has got to be worth more in-depth conversation than the research suggests is likely.

We're going to need employers to put some proactive support and promotion behind the new regulations if we're going to break through these difficulties.

In particular I point back to some other Glassdoor research which suggested that women are nervous about asking for information on maternity benefits.  If women are nervous about this then men are very unlikely to want to ask about something they don't feel particularly comfortable about anyway.

Employers need to promote the policy and ensure that organisational cultures are supportive to men, as well as women, asking for, and taking off, shared parental leave.

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Monday 15 December 2014

HR Business Partnering with Symposium Events

There was one other great HR conference last month - Symposium's Successful HR Business Partnering.

This was the second year of the conference and I had high hopes for a great session after a really excellent first year.  I didn't get to blog on that as I was chairing, but I particularly remember some provocative comments from Graham White at Brighton NHS Trust and Irene Stark at ATS Euromaster.

Graham had shared some comments from a manager blog:

"I've never had a positive interaction with Human Resources... it starts with annoyance and ends with infuriation...  HR are empathetic strangers.  HR rings false and no bond is created."

Irene noted what can be achieved - "In my business, HR is not a support function. It's central to business planning and strategy."  She also shared a brave challenge to her MD basically suggesting he hadn't been doing his job adequately.

I thought it was brilliant.

So in opening up this year's conference I referred briefly to this being a sequel, mashing up Jaws and Star Wars to label this conference as the return of the shark (and next year's as the severed limb fights back.)

You can read more on the conference sessions in this post from Chloe Green: Successful HR business partnering: Return of the shark.

Rather than repeat any of this, I just wanted to refer to the comments I tweeted and have shown in the picture above.  Especially as, to me, this short input was more meaningful, more powerful than any of the other things which were said during the day, or at the event last year.  It was very actually very similar in many respects to the conversation we'd been having at Art of HR.

Where ever it's done, we need more of this.  More challenge.  More discomfort.  More pushing back on our businesses rather than worrying about fitting HR into a model of business which clearly doesn't work.

We'll have more impact if we do this, though like Irene we do have have to be willing to be fired!  But I bet it would deal with many of our managers' negative perceptions of our support.

Bravo HR!

Also see:

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Friday 12 December 2014

Still a Top 50 HR Blog

I'll be down to something just over 50 posts for 2014 by the time we get to the end of this year.  That compares to nearly 250 posts in 2009.  Sorry about this - I've been busy and there are so many other things to do on social media these days.  But I do have plans to do better in 2015.

Anyway, it's great to know that even whilst I'm blogging less than previously that my blog posts are still valued.

So thanks very much to HR Software Insight for including Strategic HCM as the 3rd of their top 50 HR blogs, and Realising Potential for including this as one of 11 UK-based Human Resource blogs that you'll love.

You still love me!!!  Well, I still love HR too!

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Friday 21 November 2014

Art of HR, Dubrovnik, Croatia - conference summary

Here are the tweets from the Art of HR conference last week which I helped organise and chaired.

Do take a look - it was awesome!:

We'll hopefully be doing it again next year - see you there!

And in the meanwhile, join in the discussion in our LInkedin group: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/Art-HR-7493331/about.

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Monday 10 November 2014

The Art of Social Recognition


On Thursday and Friday I will be in Dubrovnik, Croatia for the Art of HR conference.  We’ve got some great speakers on HR artistry and are also discussing the findings of our Art of HR survey which have been profiled in HR Magazine, and you can find out more about at our Linkedin group.

The survey reviewed a breadth of artful activities in order to establish an artistry index and review this against the enablers and benefits of artistry.  And I’ve also provided some detailed results about one of the most artful HR processes we reviewed, social recognition, in this post which is up atWorkstars’ blog.

Workstars is a new sponsor of my Strategic HCM blog and so you’ll be reading more about them here over the next year.  But in brief, ….

Workstars' mission is to make your business a better place to work, and crucially, get your business working better.

Workstars are innovating beyond the very tired, self serving $47 billion reward industry. We are focussed on the future, and the future of employee recognition is social.

A true cloud based business that wraps people services around the market leading employee recognition application, where every line of code is shared by every client, very large or very small.

The first global SME and Enterprise provider to master a free to launch model. Our significant application investment continues to expand our business. We work with HR and when it comes to employee recognition, we are a plug and play innovator.

Workstars bring enterprise level infrastructure and thinking, designed to make managers great and boost engagement across any business.

Friday 31 October 2014

#SEHRBP Successful HR Business Partnering conference

On 18th November I'll be chairing Symposium's Successful HR Business Partnering conference for the second year.  Last year's event was excellent and this year's looks like it could be just as good.

Speakers include:
  • Graham Salisbury, Head of HR, ActionAid UK
  • Caroline Mellor, European HR Director, Axcess Financial Group
  • Marcus Lee, Director for HR Business Partnering, Santander
  • Craig de Sousa, Deputy Director of HR, Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • Peter Reilly, Associate, Institute for Employment Studies
  • Sarah Clark, Deputy HR Director, St Mungo’s Broadway
  • Jenn Batey, Lead Senior Business Partner, Grant Thornton UK
  • Daryl Maitland, HR Manager, Cafcass

If you're interested in business partnering, you may be interested in these recent posts I've written on Symposium's site too:

And of course there's my training courses I deliver for Symposium which provide a lot more insight on all of this.

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So how do you know if you’re a Business Partner?

I’m once again looking forward to chairing Symposium’s Successful Business Partnering Conference on 18th November this year.

We’ve got a good mix of speakers with some presenting on the role of the HR function partnering with and having impact in a business, and others focusing more on the job of the embedded HR profession – also often called a business partner – as it’s the person in this job who is mainly concerned with making a success of the broader role.

I cover both aspects of business partnering in the training sessions I deliver for Symposium Training as well and one of the things I often pick up from these courses is how much confusion still exists over the approach, the role and the job, what they are, and the differences and commonalities between them.

So how do you know if you’re working as a Business Partner?

1.   Business partnering as an approach

To me there are two critical things which make up business partnering as an approach. These are firstly, that HR focuses on the business (or other employing organisation) and secondly, that it focuses on partnering.  This makes business partnering, despite some challenges, a perfect name for what we're talking about.
The business piece is about focusing on the business/organisation – understanding the business and making a significant supporting and possibly leading contribution to the business.  A lot of people would suggest the approach is about a commercial focus too and it certainly does need to include a financial and commercial understanding and clarity about and alignment with HR’s contribution to the business’ financial results.

However, I prefer to talk about a business focus as I think we do need to see our organisations in holistic, rounded terms – paying attention to the business operations and financials but without forgetting the people who are behind these things.  And despite the need to be more business focussed, most business partners still deliver most value by identifying opportunities to add and create value through the people within a business and the way that these people are managed, developed and enabled.

The partnering piece is about aligning the people and the rest of the business – understanding what the business needs and ideally contributing to these objectives based upon what people can do for the business, and then aligning HR activities with these needs so that everything HR does contributes to the success of the business.  Partnering is mainly about relationships and it’s therefore relationship management which forms a major focus for my training sessions with Symposium Training.  By the way, the major challenge to the term business parter is that partnering is not enough and that something like business player would be a more suitable term.

I certainly agree with the need for more ambition in what partnering can provide and that a partner needs to be on the field not just supporting from the sidelines but I still think partnering is a more accurate description of what the approach involves (come to one of the training sessions for more explanation of that.)

All HR professionals and the whole HR function can and should act as business partners in terms of this approach.

2.   Business partnering as a role

I think this second question is a more difficult one to answer, mainly because there are so many types and varieties of business partner (a good thing! – see my post written for last year’s conference.)  However, in addition to demonstrating that you are working in a business partnering approach (as defined above) I think there are three key criteria, or enablers, which make it more likely that you are a true business partner and not just a HR generalist with a business focus and a partnering approach.  These are:

i.   You’re focusing on a business division rather than a location within a business.

This to me is the key distinguishing feature between an HR generalist and a business partner.  A generalist will typically be focused on all of the divisions of a business at a particular location.  This doesn’t stop them from understanding the overall business, or indeed the different business needs of each division, but it does mean it’s harder to understand all of that.  It also means that it’s more difficult to act strategically to contribute to the overall business or a particular division because they’ll need to act together with other HR generalists in other locations to do this.  The easier and potentially bigger opportunities to focus on are the common needs within the area of the business that they focus on which are the needs of the employees working at their location.  So this structural arrangement is going to tend to pull them down, away from focusing on strategic business needs and towards focusing on more people oriented, operational ones.  That doesn’t need to happen but it does make it more likely.

The difference if you are focused on a division is that you can really, really get to understand your division’s business needs and concentrate on aligning HR activities with these more specific needs.  You also probably cover multiple locations so it’s less likely that you’ll get dragged down into operational issues at these different locations.  Again this structural arrangement doesn’t guarantee that you will do this but it does make things easier for you to do so.

ii.   You're also aligned with a divisional director.

Another benefit of a divisional focus is that you have one clear business client - the director of this division. You can really focus on them, their agenda, and them as a person, developing the practices they need and developing the type of relationship they also require.

iii.   It’s not just that you are aligned to a director but that this director is aligned towards you.

Partnering takes place in two directions.  Even if you’re aligned with only one director if that director is aligned with more than one business partner they’re not going to see either or any of you in the same way.  They need to see you as the individual person they will turn to in order to get strategic advice on HR.

3.   Business partnering as a job

It also makes it easier to partner if you have centres of excellence and/or a service centre and/or additional legs of the business partnering ‘stool’ (which most often has three legs – business partners, centres of excellence and a service centres – but can have many more) so that you can focus more on the business and your partnering rather than doing or developing HR activities.  

HR then becomes the context for what you do but your professional responsibilities revolve around the business and being a partner (ie: ensuring your relationships with your business clients is effective and that you are aligning everything the other legs of the HR model provide with what your business needs).  Note also that one of the most interesting changes in partnering at the moment is the development of the business partnering context to include other areas that are not traditionally part of HR (eg: IT and facilities management – so that you’re not just partnering into HR but into other functions as well).
Where you do have responsibilities for HR activities, and most HR business partners do, it also helps if these are strategic, business related activities such as organisation design and/or development, rather than HR oriented and operational ones (eg: dealing with employee relations cases).

If you’re supported by all three of these things, I’d suggest it’s pretty definite that you’re acting in a business partnering job.  If you’re not doing any of them it doesn’t mean that you’re not a business partner but you’ve got things stacked against you so it’s going to be less likely that you’ll be successful.

Which ever of these apply – whether you’re operating in a business partner’s job or just trying to act in the broader role, and if you’re in the job how ever many of the enablers I’ve listed apply to you, I am sure you will find topics of interest and of value, being discussed in Symposium’s Successful Business Partnering Conference, so I hope that I’ll see you there.

The above post has been updated from an original version posted on Symposium.co.uk.

Friday 24 October 2014

Of course HR is the Most Important Function

I thought it was interesting that the 'people are our most important asset' came up at both of the conferences I was trying to follow virtually, in between other things, yesterday - at HR Tech Europe and Symposium's Talent Management and Leadership Development summit.

The question at Symposium was how do make this real in our organisations (ie how do we act in a way which demonstrates people are the most important asset).  And the point at HR Tech was that although people might be the most valuable asset, this doesn't necessarily make HR the most important department.

Why not?

Actually I think both points need the same response - HR needs to understand how to leverage this most important asset in order to create competitive advantage.  One we've got this understanding, 'it' becomes real, and HR does become the most important department.

The understanding starts with human capital.  This came up at HR Tech Europe too with Matt Buckland asking ' "Human Capital", "Resources"... what are the other words HR uses to avoid saying "People"?' and David D'Souza suggesting this includes 'colleagues, talent, FTE, staff, employees, workforce, hires, payroll.'

I completely agree that human capital sounds a dreadful term when we actually mean people. But human capital is the main outcome of what we do.  We can't avoid the term and be strategic.

Social capital too, and although the term didn't come up, that's also what Yves Morieux was talking about and Bosch were describing at HR Tech:
Bertrand Duperrin: 'The more people collaborate the more they sacrifice their own performance to the benefit of overall performance'
Marcus Fischer: 'Community Manager will be a leadership function in the future'
Ea Ryberg Due: 'Principles such as self-organisation and transparency by default might sound like start-up, but it's Bosch +250K employees.'

I haven't yet got onto social capital, of the prime importance of HR, but I've provided a summary of why human capital is so useful and how it helps make 'it' real in our organisations over on my new advice column at joningham.com.  After a period of posting every day I've been taking a breather from that but I will be kicking off again with more input on human capital from Monday.  Anyway, these are the current posts:


There you go.  But if you've not got time to look at all these posts, just review the accountability one as I think that's probably the most important, at least in explaining why HR is the most important function.

And actually even if you don't believe this logic, I still think it's useful to believe HR is the most important department.  I like the NLP concept of self limiting beliefs and I think our tendency to see HR as a distinctly unimportant function is definitely self limiting.  I often encourage HR to have more confidence, even a bit of a swagger, as we undertake our role.

I don't think a swagger would actually be helpful, but sometimes we do need to over-compensate and I think it'd still be better than rather apologetic way we tend to carry ourselves today.

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Wednesday 22 October 2014

Technology, Analytics and Workforce Liberation

I'm not at HR Tech Europe this year - after chairing the event the last three years and seeing attendees increase from, I think, about 300 to 600 to 1200 to hopefully over 2000 this year it's time to focus on other things for a while.  However I am still very interested in HR technology and look forward to following the tweets.

If I was chairing I'd be commenting about how HR's perfect storm of social, mobile, cloud and analytics has been progressing with more new technologies starting to take hold the role of the four most important starting to shift, with social becoming more about culture (about time too); and mobile developing into a much greater focus on apps; cloud becoming a less important issue (actually I never considered it on the same level as the others being mainly a delivery vehicle rather than changing the nature of what is being delivered).

The one of the four which seemed to have grown in emphasis, becoming a bit of a prima donna at the HR Technology (US) conference, is analytics and it'll be interesting to see whether we have the same take on its growing importance over here.

Despite my articles during HR Technology I personally think analytics will be a big part of the future world of HR (I just don't think it can ever be the major part of that - so a part of the future rather than being THE future.)  I also think analytics is at an interesting junction, where its use could develop into something really useful, or remain in the background.  And to me, this depends on the use we put it towards.

I mentioned in my perfect storm article that an additional tidal surge was developing out of an increasing focus on usability.  This is about making HR technology something which benefits members of our workforce, not just HR or line managers (see my post from the first HR Tech Europe for more on this.)   That same agenda is now coming to analytics too.

In fact we saw some of this at the US conference where several of the tweets and posts addressed the potential for analytics to further reduce the H (human focus or humanity) in HR.

Analytics will always be something we can use to help manage our workforce but the most interesting data on the workforce is now being generated by our employees themselves - from their tweets, their survey responses, their wearable devices etc.  And we can use some of this data too but the more of it we use, particularly if we do that in the normal rather crass way we tend to do these things, our people are going to rebel.  The more we use their data, the less we're going to get.

The only way to resolve this paradox is to think about using this data and our analytical capabilities differently.  We need to focus on giving our interpretation of our employees' data back to our employees so that they can use it to improve their performance.

Take Sociometrics' analysis at Bank of America as a good example - I"m not sure how they went about this but most employers' attempt to give their employees RFID or other devices is going to be met with some friction, and that's likely to be an understatement.

But as wearables become more popular, led most probably by the Apple Watch, people are going become more used to the idea of the Quantified Self and they're going to understand the rationale for the Quantified Organisation.  But they're only going to comfortable being quantified if they're the ones who get to use the quantification.

In fact I think this is the way we're already seeing things developing outside of HR and outside of business, eg I liked this case study of Disney's MagicBands in this week's Computer Weekly:
The MagicBands allow visitors to choose whether they share their personal data. For example, they can connect their card payment details, so they don’t have to carry a wallet around the park.

Parents can also share details such as their child’s name and birthday to make the experience more “magical”. If a child tapped their MagicBand on a reader when queuing to meet a Disney character, the character would then have information on that child, which could be used to personalise the experience.

“Perhaps she’s meeting Alice from Alice in Wonderland, who can then wish her a ‘happy birthday’ and call her by her first name,”

The article makes it clear that Disney is getting benefits from the devices themselves but the system only works because guests are getting the biggest return.

If we remember this then I do think analytics could be the biggest of the four forces on HR.  Of course it still won't be the future of HR and I still have other concerns which I'll come back and address over the next few days.

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Monday 20 October 2014

Britain Needs a Pay Rise - or at least fair Pay Differentials!

Saturday saw the TUC's 'Britain Needs a Pay Rise' march in London and other UK cities.

I think we saw the effect of pressure on reward after years of low or no or negative pay rises (the Bank of England suggests that average weekly wages adjusted for inflation have fallen 5% since 2010).

Low expectations of pay increases was of course one of the issues identified in my discussion on Glassdoor's Q3 2014 Employee Confidence survey which I reviewed last week and is shown in the graph above.

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Friday 17 October 2014

Glassdoor UK survey shows redundancy fears receding

It's great to see UK unemployment falling below two million (for the first time since 2008) in the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures.

It's also great to see employees’ expectations about the future improving quite dramatically in Glassdoor’s Q3 2014 UK Employment Confidence Survey.  The 10% fall in fear of redundancy is a big change from last quarter and would seem to be due, at least in part, to a reduced level of organisational belt tightening with employees reporting less restructuring, redundancies and hiring freezes.

Whilst it is disappointing that we have not yet seen advances in all of the indicators provided by the survey, the large jump in job security should mean that there are a lot of happier people about, and that businesses are set for improved financial performance.

We can therefore hope that job security is a lead indicator of further recovery in the job market and that we will see further gains in business outlook and job market optimism as well as increased salary expectations during the next quarter.

This is a critical change point for employers.  Whilst employees have been afraid of losing their jobs, or even just been worried about their colleagues’ prospects (as we saw in Glassdoor’s survey for Q1 2013) it will have been much harder for them to really focus on their employers’ and customers’ requirements, rather than on what they themselves have needed from their jobs and careers.

With increasing confidence there is now a much greater opportunity to connect employees with the aims and aspirations of their employers.  Organisations therefore need to find and create more opportunities to help their people engage, for example by involving them in business planning or work-based communities, or just by increasing opportunities to socialise with one another.

Leveraging increasing confidence will be an important means of lifting employee profitability - which as well as being an important business requirement will be vital in dealing with what is likely to be the next big change in the job market - expanding expectations of salary increases.  (Whilst salary expectations are largely a result of firm success and salary payments, there is so much pent up demand for higher salaries at the moment, that expectations are likely to increase at a faster rate that companies’ ability to pay.)

Employers should therefore expect and prepare for rapidly increasing pressure on reward - particularly in those sectors and organisations where there has been little in the way of increases over the last seven years.  The public sector is an obvious example and continuing austerity is likely to make this an increasingly challenging environment over the next few quarters and beyond.

Preparing for this new environment may require better identification of who is really important in an organisation, and in particular who will drive new growth opportunities, or maybe better and more agile succession planning.

However it is still early days and the economic recovery is still fragile so the gains in confidence seen during this quarter could still easily be reversed.

Companies will therefore benefit from continuing to communicate openly with their staff, helping employees commit time to new opportunities but also to be aware of risks and their potential consequences.  Doing this could help businesses address any challenges they experience but should also avoid major surprises for employees if business confidence does reduce again, or if it simply continues to bump along, showing small shifts up and down, for a few more quarters to come.

By the way, I'm acting as Glassdoor UK's HR expert, helping to promote the findings of this research so look out for more comments from me in the press!

This was my report from Q2.
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