Happiness at work

Why do you do?

Shaking hands 878566_s 123RF“How do you do?” That statement was an integral part of my upbringing.  My parents taught us to say that whenever we met someone new.  And it is so ingrained that even today it is what I say when I meet someone for the first time.

I realise now that it is possibly peculiar to my British upbringing. Certainly it does not appear to be universal. I remember being rather taken aback by the response when living in Canada. There people took it much more literally and almost invariably responded, “ I am good, thank you.”  Yet despite this the habit remains!  

Now, you are no doubt wondering what brought this up, and why I am writing about this here and what relevance it could possibly have, so let me explain.

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It’s about people management – not talent management!

Can you spot the talent in this photograph?

  Round table meeting

Of course you can’t! It just portrays a group of people. Yet doesn't talent management fundamentally try to do the same thing? That is why the pervasive focus on talent management is such a potentially dangerous fad.  

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You can only wonder!

Life is an enigma. Nevertheless there are certain things that one ought to be able to take for granted. Without question one of those should be that leaders are people who should inspire. After all, a pre-requisite for a leader is to have followers and to have followers you would think a leader must surely have:-

  • A clear vision and sense of purpose; and
  • The ability to inspire others to also pursue that vision and purpose.   

Certainly, these are qualities you would expect executives leading large organisations to have. After all, how can you execute a strategy if you cannot get people to follow you and implement it? Yet, it seems that that these qualities are less prevalent than you would think.

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Ban the Rule Books and Performance Management

One of our great joys in life at present is watching the development of our nearly two year old granddaughter. I am fast learning that being a grandparent is almost better than being a parent. And it’s not just because you don’t have the downside of the 24/7 care or the corny cliché, “You can give them back!” In any case that hardly applies for us, living in the UK as we do, with our granddaughter living in Texas. No, it runs deeper than that, even for us Skype families.

So what is it that primes this pump of emotion?

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HR: The New Frontier

Young explorer iStock_000010208873SmallIt’s been 10 years since I set out on a new career path with the mantra “HR is the new IT.” For me it was as plain as the nose on my face. The returns on investment were shrinking.

For decades business had been pursuing the benefits of new technology and optimising that technology through what came to be called Business Process Re-engineering (BPR) – and with unprecedented success. It delivered enormous change and radical new ways of doing things that are now so much a part of everyday life we take them for granted. Inevitably, however, the pace has to slow. When the new becomes the norm and is no longer new, then the returns have to diminish too. Increased or extraordinary profits only result from doing the extraordinary; when the extraordinary becomes ordinary the profits do too. It’s economics 101!

But for me there is more to it than that.

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Realising Resolutions: How to Avoid Resolutions Becoming Regrets

It’s that time of the year when you are likely rising to the challenge of keeping your New Year resolutions. And as you do, you may be realising that the hope, expectation and enthusiasm with which you embraced them has diminished, dissolved or disappeared. Alas, we have probably all suffered the ignominy of failed New Year resolutions. Why do you think that is?

Beyond desire_000031711528XSmallWe all start off with best of intentions. We are totally serious and certainly wouldn’t make them if we didn’t feel the need. Yet somehow they nearly all end in regrets. There is nothing like a failed resolution to send you on a guilt trip and perhaps start a cycle of despair: not the ideal way to start a new year!

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How to break the cycle of poor industrial relations

The centuries-old struggle of employers versus employees shows little or no sign of abating.  There were two clears signs of that this week. The first was the strike by firemen against changes it says will force firefighters to work longer, pay more into their pensions and receive less in retirement. The second was a call by the NHS Employers organisation calling for a freeze in pay scales in 2014/5. On the face of it the two extremes of the struggle – workers acting because they feel exploited, and employers sending messages that employee costs cannot continue to rise.

Breaking the cycle_000009679014XSmallSuch standpoints, however, only perpetuate the struggle. To resolve the underlying problem you have to think differently or, as Einstein put it, “You cannot solve a problem from the same level of consciousness that created it.”  So how can we break free of such entrenched thinking?

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The Case for Employee Engagement

Sometimes it is easier to define something by describing its opposite. Perhaps that applies to Employee Engagement too. Maybe it is easier to depict employee disengagement.

And of course, when describing anything, the old adage is true; "a picture is worth a thousand words." I was reminded of that this week when I had reason to look at one of the cartoons from my book, “Lean Organisations Need FAT People.”   

Employee Disengagement

Ironically, although the picture does a wonderful job of portraying employee disengagement and its consequences, it is far from fiction. It portrays something that I was told once really happened!

This is the kind of situation that can actually happen when people are over-regulated or not valued enough to be allowed to use their own discretion. And that, I am convinced, is the root cause of the lack of employee engagement, and even the active employee disengagement, that is so rife today. You might not have a production line like this, but I am sure that, if you opened your eyes, you could identify any number of examples of employee disengagement that are costing you or your organisation a bundle.   

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KISS and end the War for Talent!

Do you ever sense that things are too complicated? I do. And two things make the feeling even worse:-

  • The increasing frequency with  which it occurs; and
  • The conviction that we are the ones who make things over-complicated.  

Abc_000005448371XSmallThat is why I so enjoyed Steve Roesler’s recent blog “Employee Retention: How About “Thanks!”?  As always he makes things so simple. Here he quotes research that nearly 20% of us are never thanked at work, and over a third of us only hear the words once or twice a year. In other words more than half of us do not get adequate thanks for our efforts at work. Thus Steve does not find it a coincidence that roughly the same percentage has no loyalty towards their employer!

By juxtaposing this with the fact that a Google search of “The War for Talent” results in 138,000,000 hits, he suggests that optimising people is clearly a massive concern and that we are looking in the wrong places.

If you think that is a misinterpretation of the Google results, a similar search of “Employee Engagement” returns 40,400,000 hits.  So it would definitely seem that we are over-complicating the issue. And, possibly even worse, we may be misrepresenting the problem.

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When Policy Plays Principle!

You have to hand it to the government for trying. On the face of it trying to improve productivity by enhancing employee engagement through employee ownership is a good idea; even an exceptionally good idea. (Certainly it is the fulcrum of my own endeavours!)  Yet points for trying is about all this "camel-as-a-horse-designed-by-a-committee" effort scores.

Such is the empty promise behind Chancellor George Osborne’s scheme that – in an earlier era – it would likely have the acerbic satirists of the day penning rhymes along the lines of “Georgie-Porgy kissed the girls and made them cry!” Perhaps it is all you could expect from a chancellor who has little or no commercial work experience and whose career prior to office was spent mainly as a political party policy advisor. Nevertheless, one would have hoped he was surrounded by more experienced and astute advisors and thus expected more.

Let’s try to envisage how the scheme came into being.

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