Thursday 31 July 2014

Art of HR survey

I'd like to invite you to take part in a survey on the Art of HR.

The survey focuses on HR artistry - an important role complementing HR science and which is focused on provoking, inspiring, and helping create new meaning. HR artistry will also be examined during the global Art of HR conference this November in Dubrovnik, with Dave Ulrich as key speaker.

The survey is based on three sections, so that we can identify which personal and organisational attributes and which activities lead to positive people and business results:

  • Contextual, personal and organisational factors
  • Demonstrating artistry
  • Delivering results

The survey will serve as basis for further research exploring this relatively rare perspective on HR. Our aim is to present the key findings from the survey at the Art of HR conference and use this event to enhance our insights about HR artistry.  We will then publish the conclusions of the full research study, together with other inputs on HR artistry, in an Art of HR book which we would like to bestow on all of you who share our passion for leading and developing people in organisations worldwide.

Thank you for sharing your insights with us and we look forward to communicating our conclusions back to you!
-   Jon Ingham, Strategic HCM together with COTRUGLI Business School - organisers of the Art of HR global conference, and in partnership with HR Magazine.

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Thursday 24 July 2014

Love - for and from HR

I've just published this post on Linkedin - why I love HR people (who love people).

If you liked my previous post about Venus vs Mars, you'll hopefully understand.

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Monday 21 July 2014

Finance are from Mars, HR are from Venus

At the end of last week I was following the tweets from Eversheds HR Summer School which I spoke at last year and spotted this tweet, relating, I think to a presentation from the CIPD's Peter Cheese: "Finance are from Mars, HR are from Venus."

Despite the fact that the tweeter also suggested this doesn't apply to her - she loves her FD - and Peter Cheese's response with #HRlovesFDs (a hashtag which - you might be surprised - hasn't quite managed to go viral) I do think there was something in the phrase.

In fact it was something I was thinking about anyway as I'd been reading a few other things about CFOs including Management Today's suggestion that CFOs are developing into change agents.

Then there was this - a fairly offensive rant from Ram Charan suggesting we split HR in half because the function is so completely rubbish and that in future we should continue just doing administration.  The strategic part of what we do would then be led by high potentials from Finance.  That really annoyed me...

Firstly, although we're all used to 'I hate HR' articles, writers normally make a point of acknowledging the lots of good people who work within the function - few such allowances from Charan (only really where they're Finance people already running HR).

I thought this was particularly cutting as we've always given a lot of respect to Charan.  Even when he turned up clearly worse for wear to present at Singapore's Human Capital Summit in 2011 we muttered quietly to each other but didn't challenge him about it.  (You might not be surprised that attendees in SE Asia responded so politely but I also chose not to tweet or blog on the session.)  Well no such respect was shown to us from him.  Perhaps if we'd challenged him then he'd have respected us more - so I'm trying to make up for the earlier omission with a robust challenge now.

Secondly, I think Charan's reading of the situation is absolutely and completely wrong.  He suggests HR (the strategic bit) needs to be led by the business, which is why he wants Finance to run it.  I think that business needs to led by HR.  Business is about people and needs to be a lot more people shaped than it is now.  HR understands how we can do this.

Charan wants HR to be able to deal with real business challenges, being more like the rest of the business.  I see little point in being more like the rest of the business whilst business is in such a mess.  Business needs new thinking and new ways of operating which HR people with a different - not the same - perspective to CFOs can bring to it

This may mean that HR can be seen as a little bit different to other functions - and that's a good thing.  Let's celebrate our difference, not obscure it.  And let's not worry about criticism from people like Charan who clearly represents the past rather than the future.  Because if there's one function which is going to be split in half in the future it'll be Finance not HR (or as I recently suggested we could just outsource it.*)

* = I know some great Finance people, though I've worked with some nasty examples of inhumanity from within that function too.   But this article isn't written to disrespect them, Charan-style, but simply to argue that their function isn't as important or as strategic as our own (or if it is now, that this is just a hang over from the past, and the situation is already changing.

In fact the above changes are already taking place - many HR Directors are already acting as 'the consiglieri of the C-suite' (this article by Saatchi & Saatchi's Richard Hytner is much more sensible then Charan's diatribe.)

Therefore I do think Peter Cheese has lost the plot a bit when he suggests that HR needs to use data, engage with other departments (Finance) and get fluent in finance speak in order to be taken more seriously.  We do, but prioritising this is just a recipe for continued irrelevancy.

So I'm not suggesting we shouldn't engage Finance - of course we should.  But let's do so from a position of strength.  It's HR which interfaces with the people in the business and despite MT's suggestion, has the best ideas and experience around engagement, performance and change agency.  So let's talk to Finance, but change the agenda that Peter has suggested to how we can help them become more talent centred, using emotions and developing fluency in people speak.

We need to change other peoples' attitudes to people, not our own to business.  And to do so withought needing to get them all to run HR! (like Infosys' Mohan Pai for example.)

And if we do need to get together on one planet, let's help Finance to come to Venus rather than having us moving off to Mars.  This isn't intransigence - it's just that it's Venus, not Mars, which today provides the best environment for the future of our businesses.

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Thursday 17 July 2014

Keynoting on Datafication at Employee Benefits Live

I've got quite a few conferences coming up after the Summer, and in particular will be giving this keynote at Employee Benefits Live in London in September:

The Datafication of HR - What Next?

  • How is data-driven HR displaying results for early adopters?
  • What are the new roles and skill sets HR needs for a top-notch analytics team?
  • What impact will HR analytics have on talent management?

I don't like the term datafication (Josh Bersin's fault!) but there's no doubt that the quantitative analysis of information relating to HR and especially reward and benefits is providing a growing challenge and opportunity to practitioners.  So it'll be an interesting session.

Hope to see you there.

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Wednesday 16 July 2014

Glassdoor UK Employment Confidence Survey Q2 2014

Along with all of the data on Glassdoor's own jobs and careers community, the firm runs a quarterly survey of employee confidence, conducted by Harris Interactive.  The second quarter UK results are out today and contain some important messages for all businesses employing people here.

In particular, a lot of the general commentary about the UK’s economy and the high cost of living at the moment suggests that many people are not yet seeing the benefits of an improving economy.  The findings from this research supports those general conclusions:

  • One in three (32%) employees believe their company’s business outlook will improve in the next six months, although this has dropped two percentage points
  • 37% of employees expect to receive a pay rise in the next 12 months, up from 34% in Q1
  • More than a quarter of employees (29%) are concerned that they may be made redundant, up significantly from 21% in Q1 this year
  • People looking for a job are more confident – almost one in three (30%) of those unemployed but looking for work report optimism that they could find a job matched to their experience and current compensation levels in the next six months. This is an increase of five percentage points.

It is certainly good news that more employed people are finally expecting pay increases however it’s a big worry that so many employees feel so uncertain about keeping their existing jobs, particularly as most also still feel uncertain about their ability to find another position if they do get laid off.

This is particularly important since if people are worrying about their jobs it’s going to make it harder for them to do their best work.  Indeed it may move them into a ‘threat state’ in which peoples’ concern about their jobs can close down their ability to think clearly and behave optimally, particularly in displaying the sort of discretionary behaviours which are so critical in many jobs today, for example in providing great customer service and developing new ideas to improve work activities.  This may be one reason why UK productivity is remaining so low as well.

The findings also reinforce what we already know about the impact of pay being quite limited.  So although employees are seeing positive developments in their salaries, incentives and monetary benefits and their confidence about future pay rises is increasing too, at the same time they are feeling less secure about retaining their current employment.  Future salary increases are unlikely to have much impact on job security either and so in addition to whatever they can do to increase pay levels, employers need to confront job insecurity head on.

The main reason that people are worrying about their jobs may well be the increasing amount of restructuring that employees are seeing together with a continuing high level of redundancies taking place.  Employers may therefore want to look at ways in which restructuring can be conducted without large scale redundancies - perhaps trading off a certain amount of potential efficiency savings later on in order to provide greater effectiveness and higher productivity today.

In addition, I suspect the general tone of the debate about the UK’s economy is leading employees to feel less secure, and employers will benefit from communicating openly about the specific circumstances of their own businesses, involving employees where there are issues and problems, and communicating confidently where there are already positive changes underway or there are signs of new opportunities for the future.

Finally, it’s also good news that we’re starting to see the confidence of those who are currently unemployed increase.  This might suggest that the job market is actually improving and it is just the commentary about employment and the economy which has not yet caught up.  As the commentary becomes more positive, this could help to reduce employees’ current uncertainty as well.

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!

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Friday 11 July 2014

Walter Mitty and HR Transformation

I've recently had this post published on the ASTD / ATD's gloabl HRD blog - HR Artistry on a Global Canvas - again supporting this November's Art of HR Conference.

As well as describing the 'canvas' which enables HR to be more artful, consisting of ambition, bravery and creativity, I take Walter Mitty's similar A, B, C and suggest that I often like to think of the creation of a new, artful HR as a bit like the transformation from Walter, the office worker, into Walter, the adventurous, brave, and creative skateboarding global traveler / astronaut!

This isn't about being more strategic or having a seat at the table etc, it's just about grabbing opportunity with both hands and not letting go.

And if you want to Walterise your HR function, come along to the Art of HR taking place in Dubrovnik in November.  Or you can join in the conversation about artistry in our Linkedin group.

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Thursday 10 July 2014

Anthony Hilton as HR's Most Influential?

I met up yesterday with Arvind Hickman, Editor of HR Magazine, to talk about the Art of HR conference I’m organising, and will be chairing, and at which he’ll be  speaking at as well.  Arvind mentioned he was keen for further promotion of this year’s HR Most Influential (HRMI) programme which sets out to identify influential thinkers and I’m happy to support!

In fact I’ve already made my suggestion for Anthony Hilton’s City Column at the Evening Standard.

I should explain that this year Arvind is looking for suggestions of written work which supports a thinker’s thought leadership.  Now I often challenge the magazine’s methodology and will do so again now - most HR people aren’t influenced via written work but by face to face, small group and one-on-one conversation.  (That’s why I’m not blogging here so heavily anymore but am putting much more time into running training sessions and getting in front of people at small group events.)

You may disagree with me, and of course, you are reading this here.  But you’re the exception.  Certainly in my experience most senior HR people don’t read books, magazines or blogs (perhaps just mine), don’t go to conferences (perhaps just Art of HR hopefully!) and in fact vastly underinvest in their own capability development.  I shared this view with a group of suppliers in a panel for the Learning and Performance Institute (LPI)'s Learning Directors Network meeting yesterday afternoon and most people there seemed to have had similar experience of practitioners in Learning & Development at least.

I think it’s a problem.  As was suggested yesterday afternoon, we’ve got to a situation where many in the workforce - business leaders and line managers in particular - are putting more effort into their own learning than HR people whereas it ought to be the other way around.  But for as long as this remains a situation, influential HR thinkers need to find different ways to communicate their ideas.  (Of course this isn’t going to stop places like Ashridge writing books assuming that HRDs will read them, or even from developing research on influence, like the HMRI survey, around written thought leadership, even if this isn’t really how influence takes place.)

However this year’s methodology is what it is and that’s why I’ve nominated Anthony Hilton.  This is down to two or perhaps three things.  First up is that although Hilton isn't an HR journalist, he writes what I think is some great work on HR topics, amongst other things (and which I tend to agree with.)

My second reason for suggesting Hilton is about the place where he publishes his writing.  If HRDs don’t read blogs or HR publications (I would have written ‘HR Magazine excepted’ but actually even they didn’t come off that well in the LPI research we looked at in the afternoon) then we need to take HR thought leadership to HRDs, and the Standard is about the best place you’re going to find many of them.  I suspect that because of this Hilton has more influence than just about anyone else I could think of (Lucy Kellaway came to mind briefly but most I don't think most HRDs read the FT either.)
Then finally is that, although I do like to read the Standard, I'm not a fan of the paper’s London-centric, Boris Johnsonite agenda as I think this panders too much to residents of the city and forgets about the views of those of us who are regular but temporary visitors (and who probably get to spend longer reading the newspaper.)  So I’m particularly impressed that even within this editorial context, Hilton makes such well articulated, highly appropriate and important challenges to poorly designed elements of reward and other aspects of employment which are generally found most commonly within the City (excessive bankers’ bonuses and CEOs’ pay awards etc.)

In conclusion, I hope I've influenced you to read of some of Hilton’s posts.  And if you don’t get a chance to pick up a copy of the Standard, or if you worry like me about the environmental damage all of these freebie newspapers are having, then you can read them here as well.

And I do hope you will have a think about who you personally find influential.  What book, article or piece of academic work has influenced you this year?  And once you’ve thought of something, do let HR Magazine know.
Finally, if you didn’t find it easy to think of several influential thought leaders then you’re not opening yourself to enough new ideas.  I suggest you need to change this right now.  HR is racing along into a completely new way of operating (S curve) and we need to question ourselves and learn new things faster than we’ve ever done before.  We all need to be identifying the influential thought leaders and then following their work - which is why, despite my reservations, I do think HRMI is a useful piece of research.
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Tuesday 8 July 2014

New strategic HR website / blog

As some of you will know, I've been blogging here for seven years this month, and am firmly committed to continuing to do so, if not quite to the same rate I did in the past.

However, I also recognise that although I think there is some great content on here, not all of it is easily accessible, for example a lot of it is hidden in blog posts connected to an event or something else which was going on that appeared interesting at the time, but isn't that relevant for today.

I'm therefore starting up a new site, at, and am republishing, slightly edited, some of what I think is my best blogging work, in a more ordered sequence, and without all of the other extraneous information.

You can see this blog / 'advice column' at and can subscribe to the feed at

I'll be posting daily for at least the next six months and then we'll see where that, and this blog, go.

PS I know the site still needs a bit of tidying up and that'll be done soon too.

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Thursday 3 July 2014

Google Glass / Augmented Employment

Yesterday I got to try on Google Glass at their new London Basecamp.  It was an interesting experience but I escaped with my £1000 unspent.

On a personal basis I don't think I was ever likely to buy a Glass at the moment.  I'm not a geek and generally don't buy-in to new technology until it's fairly well established, the bugs have been ironed out and the functionality enhanced.  It's pretty clear that although Glass is a transformational piece of technology, it's still at a very early point in it's development.  I'll probably wait until I can get full augmented reality rather than the tiny little rectangle above my field of vision, more apps ('Glassware' apparently) eg the ability to identify people through Google + as I'm walking down the street, and higher quality sound and pictures.  Or at least until I can get something like the current functionality at say a tenth of the current Explorer price.  As a glasses wearer there's also the additional costs of prescription frames and John Sumser's experience hasn't helped motivate me to go down this route.

On a broader basis I'm still very interested in what this type of technology may be able to do for business and potentially for HR.  I don't think it will have much of a role in recruitment and certainly not in selection interviewing, though if a recruiter wanted to use one, particularly in a technology oriented sector / role, allowing them to scan through a CV or take a video of the interview, I wouldn't see this as a particular problem as long as they explain this is what they're doing too.  Sourcing may provide a much greater opportunity, but only once the functionality has been quite a bit enhanced.

Learning probably provides a more significant opportunity.  Informal learning has taken great strides forward with the development of Google and other search engines, and with the ability to use these tools via mobile devices.  Google Glass is going to take this to another level yet again.  I increasingly see learning as not just putting stuff into my own head but ensuring I can get the information that I need, whether through the right connections and relationships or my 'external brains' (Evernote and this blog.)  The capability Google Glass will provide us to find and store or reference information is going to be profound - remember Neo learning to fly a helicopter? - well that scenario is coming one step closer today.  It's also going to require a major cultural and behavioural challenge to ensure that people are focusing their learning and not just tiring themselves out through massive cognitive overload.  (There are also the difficult policy issues like do you still ban Glass wearers from accessing Facebook! - no, not really, though I'm sure some companies will try.)

Performance management or at least performance support is probably going to be a bigger opportunity again.  Knowledge workers, and others, should be able to do better knowledge work and this includes HR too.  To some extent the ability to get easier access to HR data and analytics is going to continue the development of HR to become more data and evidence based.  More importantly, to me, might be the opportunity to improve relationships with and between other people.  Picture for example a team meeting where all team members are glassed up and can see the agenda and action notes appearing before their ideas.  That might keep things on track and everyone much more focused on what they need to do as well as their own roles in supporting the team in doing it.

I'm sure there'll be more opportunities we'll discover as we progress with using Glass too.  So although I didn't make a purchase yesterday I'm now even more convinced that this as the future of personal technology.  Walking along looking down towards my iphone, whilst still an amazing step forward from what we used to be able to do even ten years ago, is clearly not an optimal was of receiving and exchanging information.  To be able to get the same details whilst looking at what I'm looking at whilst I'm walking, driving or whatever else I'm doing is clearly the way to go.  I can't see putting all of this on my wrist is going to be a massive improvement from carrying a phone around so I don't think the iwatch and its kind is going to be much of a step change development.  Google Glass is, even if this is bound to be superseded by contact lenses or something at some point.

Our employees are going to be using this.  Maybe not this year but certainly within the next five years everyone is going to be wearing Glass or something like it.  Human augmentation is here.  This is the big issue for HR, not what we can use it for within our own function and activities.  If everyone is wearing Glass what does this mean for our organisations and the way they work?

Currently, I'm still not sure I have much of an answer to this question.  But I do know it's an important question to ask.  HR needs to get on top of this technology and start thinking about how things are going to change.  So you might not want to bother checking your bank balance, but if you're in HR, and in the UK, you need to get yourself down to the London Basecamp and try Glass out.  And I'd be interested in how you get on.

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