Tuesday, 31 May 2011

A free book about the talent game

While I was looking at Lumesse's website for the last post, I came across a free e-book titled 'Who Moved My Talent?', a quirky little story about how the changing world impacts on businesses, and how they need to adapt to survive. It's written from an HR perspective, and takes a light-hearted look at how businesses approaches to talent management need to keep up if they want to stay on top.

The book, written by Peter Gold of Hire Strategies, is based on the motivational book 'Who Moved My Cheese?: An amazing way to deal with change in your work and in your life' by Dr. Spencer Johnson, which was first published in 1998. 'Who Moved My Talent?' is the story of four friends: Mark, Marie, Henry and Harriett, who all join NormCo PLC in what they think is a job for life. Of course, the world changes, jobs for life become rarer than hen's teeth, and they have to adapt to stay in work...

There are lots of interesting threads within it, but a couple stood out to me:

The first is that people respond to change in different ways. That's not ground-breaking, but it got me thinking. Of course, most businesses want to be flexible, pro-active, able to take advantage of opportunities. It stands to reason that they therefore want to employ people who embrace change rather than people who fear it. But people who find change difficult must have their uses, surely? Would any company do well to employ people who don't embrace change?

The second is the way that companies can be less adaptable to change than the people within them. In other words, you could have a company full of flexible change-embracers, but the company itself would still need a bit of impetus to get it to change. I suppose that in large companies, processes and procedures create an ecosystem, which needs a concerted effort to evolve. Or can evolution happen naturally in large organisations?

I never had an expectation of a job for life, but I can see that if I'd been born a bit earlier, I would have had. The problem with this new way is that, once you get over a certain age (late 40s? early 50s? what is that 'certain age'?) you are perceived as 'old school' and it can become difficult to find a new job, so you're left with staying in the same place. A friend of mine, who's only a little older than me, said to me the other day that he thought he only had two more job moves in him. I was shocked - I didn't see my career as time-limited in that way (possibly naively - I've always thought of myself as younger than I actually am!). We seem to be in a middle place - no jobs for life, but reduced opportunities for those over a certain age. I'll let you know what it feels like to be in the middle of that squeeze when I get there!

Monday, 30 May 2011

HR: Feminine or masculine?

I was reading about the rebranding of StepStone Solutions, which has become Lumesse. They provide software products to help HR departments manage the HR process - finding and maintaining the right people.

As part of the rebranding process they looked at their competitors in the HR technology sector. And they found that many of the brands were very masculine, very corporate, very traditional. Lots of greys, blues and greens. Lots of 'professional' images. Lots of boring typefaces.Companies that project an image of technology and business. But isn't HR about people??

In response to this, the new Lumesse brand is different. It's designed to be more feminine - the colours are vibrant: purple and yellow, the font is fluid and curvy, the shapes are circles and stars. They are trying to express that they are about people and potential, about intuition and insight - about the heart and soul of an organisation.

I was really surprised that most of the companies in the HR industry are branded in such a masculine way. Partly because I have always thought of HR as a very female world, mostly populated by women. And I would have supposed that the brands would reflect that. Or at least have reflected the sorts of skills that I think HR champions - nurturing talent, listening, negotiating, being people oriented. Most of which I think are considered to be feminine skills.

I'll be keeping my eye out as I learn more about the industry - is it really female dominated? And do the big brands in the industry reflect that?

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

The OTHER super-injunction and relationships at work

I know that this week all anybody can think of when I mention the word 'super-injunction' is Ryan Giggs, but last week I think a more interesting case was revealed in the House of Commons.

John Hemming, the MP who revealed Ryan Giggs' identity, a week prior revealed that Sir Fred Goodwin had taken out a super-injunction to conceal the fact that he had had an affair with a colleague. Now, in Sir Fred's case, it's likely that the newspapers would have claimed that the affair took Sir Fred's mind off the job, resulting in the downfall of the bank, which the taxpayer spent however many billions propping up. Now, I personally doubt if the downfall of RBS is entirely due to one or two people having an affair. If it is, there are serious problems with the bank's regulatory processes.

But it does highlight why some companies forbid relationships at work. Too much scope for conflict of interest, cover-up, nepotism, or at the very least for others to perceive that they are being disadvantaged (or that somebody else is being advantaged) by the relationship.

Plus of course there's the disastrous potential for two people having to work together once the relationship has broken down. Oooh, uncomfortable.

Has anyone ever known a relationship that's started at work to work long-term? And did it work only because those involved stopped working directly with each other?

Monday, 23 May 2011

Jump or be pushed?

Ken Clarke had an interesting week last week. I don't want to talk about the ins and outs of the things that were said, or not said. I'm more interested in the situation he found himself in: when you find yourself up against it, and people are calling for your resignation or your sacking, do you stay and fight (and risk the sack) or do you bow to the public outcry and hand in your notice?

Certainly being sacked is pretty hard to come back from.Whereas stepping down does seem honorable, and if your faux pas wasn't too bad, it does leave the way clear for a come-back in the future.

On the other hand, if you decide to tough it out, apologise, and appear chastised and as if you have learnt from your mistakes, the calls for your sacking might die down and you will be left in your current position - perhaps slightly weaker, perhaps with a blotted copybook but if you keep your head down for a while it might all blow over and people will forget all about it.

I wonder if any research has been done that shows whether stepping down or being sacked has a more positive outcome in the long run. And I wonder if the outcome is different depending on your chosen industry.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

The importance of a job description

Some of the companies I've worked for have approached the whole process of finding the right new employee with a certain lack of rigour, often treating it as 'I'll know it when I see it'. But this week's experiences over at the RFU have brought home to me just how important it is for a company to approach the search with at least some of the basics in place.

A quick precis: the RFU were looking for an 'elite performance director', and issued a job description for the post. A number of people were linked to the post, including ex-England coach Sir Clive Woodward, who appeared interested. However, job description was then changed by the Chief Executive John Steele so that it didn't include formal responsibility for the senior England team: potentially to block Woodward by making the job much less attractive to him, or potentially protecting the job of the newly appointed coach Martin Johnson. But within a week the Board had voted to revert to the original job description, hopefully to bring Woodward back into the frame. He, however, has now ruled himself out, and the RFU has come in for serious criticism for their lack of consistency and U-turns.

So is a job description a flexible thing? Or should it be set in stone? On the one hand I can see that a job description is a clear outline of the role, and should help to define the qualities of the person who would fill it well. But on the other hand I can see that it's just a starting point - different applicants bring different approaches and more than one of them could fill the role well.

One thing I do know - the process of thinking about a role hard before advertising it is a good one. The act of writing a job description makes you think about what and who you are looking for. You may wish to change it slightly later in response to the candidates you see, but you do at least need a clear place to start the process. And a job description is a pretty good one.

Monday, 16 May 2011


Every field has its own jargon, and HR is no different. Being an old-fashioned kind of gal, I think of the field as HR. But I've come across some new terms since I started working in the industry.

'Talent management' is one. To me, this makes me think that I should be managing public appearances and submitting a long rider while dealing with a diva-sized ego, wearing a pinky ring and a shiny suit.

Then there's 'onboarding'. This reminds me of water-boarding - that questionable interrogation technique that might be a form of torture - never mind the fact that it's a word that's been verbified (something that I hate).

So I'm guessing that these terms are jargon - terms that make absolute sense to people within the industry, but don't mean quite as much to us 'outsiders'. I'm sure that in a few month's time I'll be bandying them about quite happily, and I'll have forgotten the strange associations they once had for me. But until then, I'm doing an aural double-take every time I hear them.

Any other terms I should be on the lookout for?

The start of the journey

So, this is me, a newbie to the world of HR. And I'm blogging. Why?

Because I think it will be interesting for me to write about the things that I learn, or that strike me as strange, in order to help me to understand this new world. It's kind of like writing notes to help myself remember facts as part of the revision process (except that as far as I know, there's not going to be an exam at the end of this!). But I'm also hoping that others will comment and help me to figure things out along the way.

So, here I am at the start of my journey. And I have to tell you it's strange, standing here, looking out at these unchartered waters and trying to understand what might lie ahead. I mean, I reckon that most of the concepts that I'm going to come across in HR won't be totally unfamiliar to me (yup, I'm possibly being naive) after more than ten years working in a variety of organisations, and being on the 'receiving end' (so to speak) of HR. But I reckon that there's a whole load of jargon to learn, a whole bunch of processes that I've never really thought about before, lots of interesting and influential people to meet (virtually or in person) and lots of viewpoints that I've never considered before.

I want to pick things up as quickly as possible, so I'll be doing a lot of reading, and letting you know about interesting and note-worthy things I find along the way.

If there are any other newbies to the HR world out there, please join me on the journey and let me know your thoughts - and of course I'd love to hear from experienced HR-ers too!

Thanks for reading, do let me know what you think!