Author Archives: Dorothy Dalton

HRTech World – Managing the messages

Fresh back from HRtechWorld in Paris, I am trying to work out the best way of managing the messages for HR which were at times complex and conflicting. The over-riding theme of any tech conference is clearly the tech. The conference/expo central area literally hums with the vibe of complete confidence in our futures. They have it covered. No question. The pace of change is palpable as new apps, games and processes being designed by the brightest and best in tech companies are shared with an enthusiasm which is hard to beat.

In the Disrupt HR section newcomers and hopefuls pitch for the €15,000 cheque under Faye Hollands watchful eye. Read her blog posts on that process.

In the Influencers stream where I spent most of my time, Jean-François Manzoni, President of IMD, put the current pace of change into perspective on the Influencers stage. “Change in 30 linear steps is 30 metres. 30 exponential steps is a billion metres, which translates into more than 20 times around the world. “  Leighanne Levensaler, SVP Products at work day confirmed that “change was coming whether we liked it or were even ready for it” in her session.  Costas Markides on the main stage showed us exactly how unprepared for change most organisations are.

Mixed and sombre

Here, on the main stages the messages were more than slightly mixed and definitely more sombre. The recurring rallying call was the usual “putting the human back into HR” with employee engagement still way down in  the doldrums. To Gary Hamel’s exuberant point, we need to unclog our organisational arteries of bureaucracy to empower employees and increase engagement.

Bureacracy free zone

Photo Annemie Marien

He goes onto say that “people turn up to work physically, but leave their humanity at home”  which is always a problem when you want to put the human back into the workplace. He suggests that organisations are suffering from ambition deficit disorder which he calls #bureausclerosis.

His call was for all to become organisational intrapreneurs and to rail against bureaucracy; He illustrated his point with a story of crowd sourced grass-roots initiative within the NHS, to improve patient care, without a sign off form in sight. Within 3 years the movement had reached 800,000 people. He also talked about the cost effectiveness of getting rid of the bureaucratic infrastructures which are sapping our organisations of their energy.

“Eradicating that bureaucratic overhead would save the OECD $9 trillion and more than double productivity within a decade”

Future of work

network of teams

Photo Robin Erickson

Josh Bersin developed this line of thinking further. 92% of organisations are not structured efficiently and he believes we need a  shift from linear organisations to systems where individuals have an opportunity to become more entrepreneurial to move forward. An ideal model is an environment where people thrive as part of a network of interlocking teams with shared values and culture, transparency and rewards based on skills rather than position. Although hedging his bets about future trends, he felt the next generation of software would be focused on health and wellness.

It’s not them – it’s us

I’m loving all of this, until I attend the sessions of Jean-Francois Manzoni and Costas Markides.  Here the conflicting signals were strong and unequivocal to make managing the messages even more complicated.The greatest challenge to effecting real change is not the tech. It’s people and their behaviour. It’s us.

In an interview with Thinkers 50  Costas said:

Business today must deal not only with marketplace competition but also with a severe economic downturn and companies failing due to excessive greed and corruption. I would like to see a change of orientation about the role of business in society and more emphasis on underlying values.

Set against this background, it is hardly surprising that we struggle to change our behaviour and then sustain that change.  All evidence suggests that not only are we resistant to change in the first place, but according to Costas, 90% of us back slide within 6 months to our default learned and biased settings.  If that wasn’t enough, we all over-estimate our own capabilities and sense of integrity. So managing the messages in HR and the doing something about them, is never going to be easy, especially as Jean-François suggests:

Reshaping behaviour for enough people, for long enough, requires triggering enough levers to send a coherent and powerful signal to reshape the culture of an organisation. This is a top down process. Problems are further compounded by organisations only responding to change when they are in crisis says Costas, with everyone assuming “someone else” is dealing with any response to external shifts. Given that cultural change can take as long as 20 years, many organisations are predestined to lurch from one short-term crisis to the next.

Read: A big danger for big data  – the human element

Gender Balance in Tech

Women in Tech image

This has been apparent to me for some time. Nowhere is it more evident than in the case for gender balance in organisations. Kim Wylie Change and Transformation Lead at Google, facilitating the Women in Tech panel segment, gave some disturbing statistics. Empirical data overwhelmingly supports the value of diverse teams. Yet we’re still not effecting those changes that makes this possible, culturally or organizationally. It seems crazy to ignore that data. But we do. Costas says this is because we need emotional rather than rational imperatives to push us to adapt. The business case is simply not working.

Many of these points were neatly and soberingly brought together by Daniel Thorniley, an authority on global emerging markets. Served with a side dish of black humour, his projection was that the present recession,  which he described as chronic and the worst since 1933, will persist for another 5 years or even longer. Austerity has debased the value of wages in real terms to all time historical lows. This is one stat I tweeted. 

The polarisation of rewards to favour a tiny minority and resistance to globalisation, is producing a populist backlash. As people struggle to maintain a decent standard of living they are becoming protectionist and inward looking, reacting negatively to immigration.  Agile organisations and platform companies are creating the gig economy which favours employers, are met with scepticism by both Jean-François Manzoni and Daniel Thorniley. Increasing swathes of the population struggle with economic insecurity and instability.

Daniel’s final point and the conference footnote, and also the final conflicting message, was that moving forward out of these difficult times will require steadfast input from HR practitioners. How HR will sustain that, will be the real challenge going forward. Managing the messages for HR is not going to be a breeze.  But the result is that process innovation on the technology side will not be as effective if the people running and using them don’t change and advance too.

This tweet which went through my stream from @HRCurator resonated:

RT @kevincharef: @Atlassian “a fool with a tool is still a fool” #hrtechworld pic.twitter.com/mNrcQniio8

So what’s the solution?

mindfulness in recruitment

The Value of Mindfulness in Recruitment

As someone who is notoriously mind-less (I am the person who opens the refrigerator door and has forgotten why,) it has taken a lot of work for me to become attuned to my own biases. In that process I have become especially aware of the value of the process of mindfulness in recruitment. It was heartening to hear Katrien Goossens, Global Head of Diversity and Wellness at Euroclear recently advocate the same. Getting individuals to understand that bias isn’t only found in others, is not easy.  We all have unconscious biases. It’s about all of us.

These biases are so deeply embedded in who we are, our values and belief systems that we barely notice they are there. Unconscious bias is there to protect us and to enable us to sort through the millions of thoughts that go through our heads every day and make sense of them. It is exactly the same as a Twitter hashtag system. A filing system to sort out the things that are important to us and effectively blocks out content that we don’t agree with, is dangerous, offensive or upsetting. In social anthropological terms life threatening people and situations.

3 types of workplace bias

The workplace is no different to our wider cultures. We all make decisions under pressure in the workplace and especially in the recruitment process. This is not efficient and at times illegal and especially frequently not rational. These biases relate to a number of assumptions around gender, age, race, disabilities, sexuality, appearance, BMI, height, social class, accent, nationality, schools and universities attended, political affiliation, postal codes or body art. The list is endless.

  1. Affinity bias   where we ignore negative traits of people we like and focus on the faults of those we don’t
  2. Social bias  –   exhibiting preference to P.L.U. – People Like Us  – our own social group
  3. Confirmation bias  – where we justify our existing perceptions

Even within the organisation, biases play an ongoing role in career advancement. Employees can be offered different levels of career opportunities based on any of these biases.

Backlash 

For many years, employers have used diversity training as a way to overcome biases and make their organisations less homogenous.  Millions are spent. Increasingly those involved in bias awareness training report resistance and even hostility from their programmes and workshops.  Harvard Business Review suggests that  traditional strategies are not only ineffective, they can have a negative impact and even reduce diversity. Even pioneering companies like Google have barely moved the needle in terms of the composition of their workforce.

Some companies are trying to change procedures and practises to deal with these challenges and produce better results. These include:

  • Blind CVs
  • Skill based adverts and job descriptions
  • Structured and behavioural interviews
  • A bias facilitator at interviews
  • Wide range and background of interviewers
  • Interview by text (saw that this week)

My own unconscious bias

However, unwittingly we can continue to disadvantage others, even when at a conscious level we reject those biases. These biases interfere with our rational decision-making, which impact our organisations. It was never more apparent than when I was recently trying to arrange to interview candidates on a Wednesday afternoon. In Belgium the schools are closed. One male candidate was unable to meet because he had to pick up his kids. Another female candidate also had the same commitment. I noted my own reactions to both.

In emoji terms one earned

smiling_face_emoji_with_blushed_cheeks

The other was: Unconscious Bias

My immediate reaction was for the guy “too cute.” The daddy factor. For the woman “she could miss an opportunity. What a shame.” It was very fleeting, but there nevertheless. Using mindfulness in recruitment allowed me to catch and manage that one. I caught myself watching Conchita a few years ago at the Eurovision song contest and caught a definite bias then.

Read: Conchita – Overcoming unconscious Bias  

But how many have I missed? How many do we all miss?

Creating awarenessmindfulness in recruitment

The fact that we have these biases does not mean we need fixing.  When I took the Harvard-designed IAT, or implicit association test I discovered I had gender bias.

A contact discovered that she associated sciences as a male activity, which as a school counsellor she needed to be very aware of.

Another described a man with natural ethnic hair as “sloppy.”

I heard young HR woman reference an older male candidate as a “past his prime.”  Whatever that is.

Our cultures are embedded in gender expectations. This really great video from Kristen Pressner Global Head Human Resources Diagnostics Division Roche covers this point perfectly. Here she acknowledged her own gender biases. It’s a game changer for HR, heavily populated with women and one of the most important HR videos in a long time.

Mindfulness in Recruitment

The practise of Mindfulness can help make us aware of our hidden assumptions. It is about being present, paying attention with intention and not judging. It helps us focus on the experience we are in at that moment in time and creating an awareness of our reactions and making the unconscious conscious.

Becoming aware of my underlying assumptions has allowed me to observe and monitor my reactions and then to change my response if required. This is supported by research from Social Psychological and Personality Science, which suggests that mindfulness can reduce implicit bias and the subsequent negative behaviors follows.  Do I succeed every time? No. Yesterday I was called out by  a colleague for a slip. The most important thing is to be open and accepting of feedback. A senior recruiter became defensive with me when I suggested his language choice was sexist.

Essentially you can’t take the bias out of recruitment until the people involved in the recruitment process become bias conscious. If we all started to note and to become aware of why and how we react to people and ultimately judge them, then we might start to see better results.

The process starts with self. It’s just about getting started.

If you are struggling with unconscious bias in recruitment, contact me.

6 sand traps that cause onboarding fails

“Start as you mean to go on” is one of those timeless great quotes and one that resonates over and over again. Working with executives in transition, I have pulled together a list of 6 major sand traps causing onboarding fails. They are the main stumbling blocks which new hires or newly promoted or transferred individuals regularly fall into. These situations are not irredeemable, but a poor start doesn’t support a successful transition and can plague the person for months or even years. Effective ramp-up time is significantly reduced when these sand taps are avoided.

Often times it’s about the company’s failure to follow through which leads to onboarding fails. But some times it can be about you.

Read: Why onboarding is vital 

6 personal sand traps that cause onboarding fails

  1. Lack of humility

Arrogance is consistently identified as the number one self-sabotaging transitioning traps that  a high number of new hires fall into when joining a new organizations. Many onboarding fails are rooted in arrogance. You don’t have all the answers and if you think you do, it means you have neglected the listening and collaborative part of the process, which is vital to onboarding success. Listening and observing is critical in the early days.

  1. Failure to understand the new culture

Your new organisation is not your old one. Referencing “this is what we did in x” with the implication it was better, will not win you friends and help you build those strategic alliances.

onboarding success

Bull in a china shop

Not paying attention to what is different about your new environment will lead to poor understanding, which impacts business decisions and relationship building.

If you come into a new organisation like a bull in a china shop and try to fix everything that you think is broken, that attitude will only serve to alienate those around you.

The phrase “my old company” should leave your vocabulary. This is one of the major onboarding fails.

  1. Lack of authenticity

It’s very unusual for a new hire not to feel overwhelmed. Most organizations bombard the new recruit with information on people, processes, systems and protocols. But if there is any feeling that you are not who you say you are, then that is the sand trap that is the most difficult dig yourself out of,  because it is based on trust. It is likely to dog you throughout. A certain amount of “fake it until you make it”  will work, but if there is a real lack of confidence, ask for a mentor or look for a coach.

  1. Lack of openness

Very often executives who want to make a great first impression throw themselves into their work, shut themselves off from outside input. This means they are cut off from shared insights and opportunities that will contribute to their success. Being open to conversations, ideas and communication is essential in the early days.

  1. Failure to make decisions

This is the onboarding fail counter point to the arrogant new hire who rides rough shod over everyone. It is the new recruit who fails to launch. They might be so concerned with making a mistake, of getting Executive-Presence-Rulessomething wrong, or feeling a need to collaborate and consult the whole world, they prevaricate and fail to take any decisions at all. This damages confidence and trust. That’s why it’s a good idea to go for the low-level, low-risk early fixes. How do you know what they are? By listening to the people around you.

  1. Not looking after yourself

Many new hires immerse themselves in their new roles so deeply that they forget to take care of themselves.  Striving to make that great first impression, they adopt work practises that exclude exercise and poor eating habits.  Perhaps they start becoming available 24/7. This sets a precedent which is difficult to back-track on and sets a poor example for reports. It can lead to the creation of a damaging and resentful work culture.

woman and clockIt also means that other relationships are being neglected. A common sand trap for an onboarding fail is not seeing that family members are also going through their own transition, especially if the process involves relocation. This can mean a change of school for kids and new schedules for partners too. Don’t make the mistake of leaving them out of the equation.

If you take work home it means that you are “absent while present” which has a negative impact on your whole life.  Stress in one area of life almost always impacts another.  At this point you should make sure you have re-evaluated your personal and professional goals.

Also Read:  10 steps to Onboarding success

If you need any support making the first 90 days a success for your new hires – contact me!

 

 

10 Steps to Onboarding Success

New hires perform best when they feel integrated into a company and are relaxed, stimulated and having fun.  Onboarding success occurs when new arrivals are in a supportive but structured background. All research indicates that employees who are successfully onboarded are likely to be more highly engaged and stay with an organization for longer periods. Effective onboarding saves companies as much as 3 x the annual employee salary as well as hiring costs.

Read “Why onboarding is vital”

The first 90 days are critical to your success in a new role. Here are some exercise to complete to help you or your employees succeed.

1. Attentive listening

The number one tip from any HR professional or coach for the first 90 days is to listen and observe and ask the right questions.

2. Create solid relationships

Building new relationships is also key to success in a new organization. While there are various relationships that are important to build, the priority focus should be on:

  • Bosses
  • PeersAttentive listening
  • Direct Reports
  • Colleagues

These relationships are critical to anchoring the foundations for success especially for anyone joining a new organisation in a leadership role.  It is particularly important to establish the preferred communication style of the people around you in today’s working environment of complex and multiple communication channels. Do they like F2F, text, intranet, IM, phone, weekly report?

3.Learn about the existing culture 

You might have been hired as a disruptor but before you can make any changes you have to understand the existing culture. Showing respect for existing systems will be important to getting everyone on side. Talk to people to see what they think works and what they would tweak and what they would throw away all together. Lose the words “in my old company….” from your vocabulary. Use the traffic light exercise to structure your questions. traffic lights

4. Be open and approachable

It’s important to be open and accessible from the outset. In the early days introductions communicate how excited you are to be joining the company and suggest meeting people for coffee. If you inherit a team you will want to meet them individually as well as together as a group. Prepare your introduction in advance so you keep it short and to the point.

5. Manage expectations

From the beginning it’s important to set and receive clear ideas, both for your team and your boss. See the previous questions so you know what questions to ask.

  • What is your day-to-day role?
  • What are your objectives short, medium and long-term.
  • How will they measure success? Who will do that and when?signpost

This is especially important if it is linked to your compensation.

7. Be relaxed and yourself

Starting a new job is always stressful and you can be nervous. It’s always best to be your best confident self. If you don’t feel that and can’t fake it ‘til you make it (within reason) invest in a coach. There is a difference between feeling the fear and doing it anyway and coming over as false and inauthentic. Creating an atmosphere of trust is important and being true to yourself will play a key role.

8. Create alliances

Creating strategic alliances is key to any onboarding process. Finding your way around the sub text of any new organisational culture is important. Very often there are back door ways of doing things that as a newbie you won’t know. So whether it’s how to get a jump on office supplies,  IT issues solved quickly, or key decisions made, then forming alliances with others will be useful. This can be from knowing who the janitor is to accepting help and support from Businessman-introducing-t-007reports and colleagues.

Additionally cultivate a mentor either officially or unofficially, someone who can show you the ropes. Maybe invest in a coach which can be privately supported or by your company. This will depend on your seniority. Some new hires have strong support networks in their sector or general friendship groups or networks. Others rely on family members.

8. Go for small early wins

In the movies new hires come up with dramatic solutions early on.  My experience suggests that this rarely happens in the real world. When you are in onboarding mode the listening element is vital. If you can address some minor but highly visible niggles to give you some early wins, that would be a good place to start.  At this stage building trust is more important than dramatic show boating which may carry risk.

9. Build or strengthen your team

Building your team or strengthening it will be important. Here are some questions you can ask your reports to cement those relationships.

  • What does success look like to them?
  • What do they expect from a manager?
  • What do they expect from team members?
  • What do they want their colleagues to think about them? Name 3 qualities or characteristics.
  • What are their key 5 strengths with a story to illustrate and an object that show cases each team leaderone?
  • Who is their Chief Doubting Officer – the little voice in your head that holds them back? Who does he or she look like? When is he or she present?
  • What do they need to work on for their personal development?
  • What value do people get from working with them?
  • What are the top 5 experiences they feel when working with them?
  • What makes them special?
  • How do they prefer to handle conflict?

10. Create a mission statement

Many new hires they need to arrive at a company with a vision already in mind or compelled to make a big announcement quickly following their arrival. Generally new hires who indicate their first role will be to listen make the greatest progress. You can’t always promise to implement what the people around you want, but you can guarantee to give thoughtful consideration to their input. At that point you can make a collaborative mission statement in line with departmental objectives against which you will all be measured.

To produce a mission statement that truly motivates and excites all stakeholders take time to get full buy-in.

 

 

Inclusion initiatives

Diversity and inclusion initiatives under threat

What can HR do to protect diversity and inclusion initiatives?

Diversity and Inclusion initiatives struggle to succeed under any circumstances. But with recent dramatic shifts in the current social, economic and political cilimates in many areas, there is a strong possibility that any progress will be stalled. These swings signal a potential backlash to any corporate inclusion initiatives and even a reversal in our wider cultures. In a wider context, the growing mood seems to be dig in, keep people out, protect ourselves and make things “great” again. Whatever that means. It’s always unspecified of course. To specify would mean there is a vision, supported by goals and a plan. Across the board it’s clear there are no goals or plans. Anywhere. Just reactions.

The impact these new cultural developments will have on company diversity and inclusion initiatives needs to be factored in as the anti-diversity noise is getting louder by the day. News pours in from Denmark, Germany, U.K. France as well as other European countries. Of course not forgetting the rise in tension in the US.

When Inclusion is threatened 

Inclusion isn’t about creating a superficially correct business culture, where token minorities and the odd woman are included in low impact initiatives to tick C-suite KPIs and release Boards of their obligations. It’s about creating high quality work teams which will excel at meeting their ascribed objectives and organisational goals. People are needed to lead those initiatives.  There are any number of studies which show that diverse organisations have a higher return on shareholder value and hands down outperform non diverse companies.

Mckinsey business case

Mckinsey business case for diversity and inclusion

Changing climate

Yet they are not working as they should, even in cultural climates reflecting a positive outlook and so we are failing to see a lasting impact. A rational approach supposedly to appeal to the data driven business mind is simply not gaining ground.  Organisational cultural change can take many years. What is holding us back is the unconscious, irrational mind which is clearly overriding factually based D & I programmes.  Today, that irrational mindset seems to be getting stronger.

Somehow hiring managers regardless of their political mind-set and persuasion, need to be committed to doing the best possible for their organisations in terms of attracting, sourcing, retaining and developing top talent. Already on the weak side, these flawed processes will struggle against this changing sociopolitical background.

The level of unconscious bias in the recruitment and promotion process is already high. The tendency to copy paste “mini-mes” so companies create cohorts of corporate clones which tend to be white and male, will become even stronger.  The chances of creating a corporate culture based on diversity and inclusion set against that prevailing viewpoint will be weakened. The use of the hackneyed cop-out term as the right  “cultural fit” will only grow. One hiring manager in a strongly Brexit region told me he had already been instructed to cut certain ethnic groups from the selection process of his organisation.

Challenges for HR

At a time when employee engagement is at an all-time low and insecurity and uncertainty are clouds over- shadowing a majority, HR practitioners face challenges dealing with these key issues. How do companies expect to find a way forward through this morass if they are located in geographies where the beast of xenophobia has been unleashed in a way that many did not anticipate. I’m not sure how many hiring managers will prioritize inclusion initiatives in these areas.

What can HR they do to implement diverse hiring policies if political wranglings over visas and work permits are going to make international hires increasingly difficult? How will they deal with outright discrimination?

Read: Post Brexit uncertainty starts talent drain

The inclusion challenge today for HR is to have the skills and credibility as well as the tenacity and resilience to cut through the crap and call things for what they are. They may need to stand up to poor leaders.

How many are willing and able to do that?

Check out unconscious bias training here

 

Career advice needs context

Why career advice is meaningless without context

There is no shortage of career advice, with any number of people giving tips on what and not what to do. There is even advice on what career advice to ignore. Everyone has careers, so we all believe we know what everyone else should do. But as with anything, these bumper sticker type homilies are much more nuanced than we ever imagined. Times and workplaces change. Circumstances change. Heaven forbid – you change. These golden tips and nuggets of wisdom need to be revisited and always put into context. Context is everything when it comes to career advice. Without that – any career advice is meaningless.

4 common pieces of career advice without context

#1 You have to follow your passion

This is the most regularly doled out of all career tips. If it was a movie or a song it would get an award. Of course you should all be advised to do something you love and which satisfies you. Otherwise you will be condemned to a life of frustration and misery. But there are some caveats. The first is to be strategic. Do you have the skills or can you acquire them? The next question is will that passion pay the bills? At the age of 14, I was passionate about tennis, but there was no way I could make a living at it. Or had the skills. That is something that very often people misunderstand. I know one woman who was an excellent home cook and passionate about food. But she was unable to turn that passion into something that paid her bills. Some things like my tennis, are best kept as hobbies.

The other thing is that your passion can change over the years. So something that you might be passionate about in your 20s,  can be the source of unremitting boredom in later life.

You can also develop new passions. It’s not inconceivable that you might find two or even more passions in a working life which is extending all the time.

Core advice: maintain a path of life-long learning. Be open to possibilities and be sure to do your inner work regularly. Assess and prioritize your goals.  In our careers we will be passionate about many things at various times. At different stages of our lives we have a range of commitments and constraints. There is nothing wrong with having to defer to those in the short-term. As life goes on compromises are made as we factor other people’s needs into our planning. The question is do you feel compromised? If you do, then it’s time for a re-evaulation. The pace of change is also so great in our workplaces, that we have no idea what jobs will exist in 10 years that we may become passionate about.

Passion isn’t static for most people. It’s misleading to suggest it might be.

Read: Knowing yourself in the beginning of all wisdom 

#2. You should have a dream

Martin Luther King had a dream.  Some athletes, movie-stars, musicians have dreams. Other more regular people also have them. But unless that vision is backed up by a strategy, goals and a plan then it is worthless.  Relate this to your passion. The same criteria apply.

Core advice: See above

#3. There is no substitute for hard work

Actually there is. I prefer the advice to work smart. In an era of 24/7 availability the pressure to work incredibly long hours is high. In some sectors it’s a badge of honour and status symbol, particularly for men.  Burnout, breakdowns and depression are now normal. There are times when hard work is necessary. But it’s not just about the hours clocked  – it’s about the quality of those hours and their strategic value.

A bedfellow to this piece of advice is that you are judged by your work, so you should allow that work “to speak for itself.” That isn’t necessarily true. People tend to be judged by their results and they need to be able to develop a message that people are aware of. Find a mentor or a sponsor to help you share that message. This is a very female trap to wait for recognition. It frequently doesn’t call. We all have poor, lazy colleagues who still manage to do well.

Core advice: work smart and strategically, have a plan. Network effectively, work with a sponsor who will act as your door opener and find balance. Don’t be afraid to communicate your achievements. Done properly, with some humility, it is not bragging.

Read; Overwhelmed by a culture of overwork

#4. Get as many qualifications as you can 

Today with the cost of education sky rocketing and many graduates leaving university to depressed job markets with huge debts, the further education argument is now under discussion. It is no longer the golden conveyor to career success. So the career advice in this area should be tempered. Clearly there are certain professions which require higher education. In medicine, engineering, architecture and so on, minimum academic professional standards are not optional. But a number of organisations are starting to drop the focus on degree qualifications and look at other skills. The accounting firm Ernst and Young says that there is

‘No evidence’ that success at university is linked to achievement in professional assessments”

The World Economic Forum list the following as vital skills in the future of work:  literacy,  numeracy,  financial knowledge, technology, soft skills (see list below)

wef -skills

 Core advice: The workplace is changing at a terrific pace and currently there is a massive disconnect with our education systems. There is no doubt that the value of traditional educational paths is coming under question. I would definitely think long and hard before taking a liberal arts or soft degree and relate that carefully to longer term career projections. This brings us back again to life long learning. No one can afford not to update their skills on an ongoing basis. Failure to do so will be a problem. So you can have as many qualifications as you like, but if they are out of date, or redundant – they are of no value

Success means different things to each of us. The important element is to be clear what it means to you and to check regularly if those factors are consistent and constant. Career advice is not a one of one size fits all. The advice we need, will evolve as we and our circumstances do.

For career advice, context is not just critical, it’s everything.

Make sure you contact me for any career advice and coaching!

talent drain

Post Brexit uncertainty starts talent drain

The business world is trying to make sense of the implications of Brexit in a world now characterized by uncertainty. It was clear that this shock result, from which we are still reeling, was so unexpected that almost no one had a post Brexit plan. Against many unknown factors, businesses are trying to create strategies for changes which will significnatly impact the workplace. Practises related to E.U. rather than U.K. legislation, will be examined as new agreements are set up. Some experts are saying this could take up to 5 years.  One of the major elements will be the rights of E.U. workers in the U.K. and U.K. workers in the E.U. But what had not been anticipated is an immediate talent drain as skilled workers seek early voluntary repatriation or relocation to other parts of the E.U.

Yep. That’s right – some people actually want to leave now! Can you believe that?

Overall picture

The highly emotional and divisive referendum campaign and brexit shockthe subsequent leadership debacle, dealt a savage and damaging blow to Brand Britain on the global market. We now live in a new age of uncertainty. The CIPD reports that in general, 44% of working adults say they feel pessimistic about the future as a result of the UK’s vote to leave the EU, while one in five say they feel their job is less secure. Unfortunately, in the wake of this, we have witnessed an astonishing and aggressive xenophobic backlash against non-UK nationals studying, living and working in the U.K. Many European nationals are now reporting “feeling unwelcome” in a country which they have made their home, some for many years.

The U.K. government has made some half-hearted attempts to allay the fears of E.U. residents in the U.K. With a lack of definitive statements, many are unconvinced. Head hunters and recruiters are reporting increased numbers of spontaneous CVs and applications from individuals looking to leave the U.K, – now, or as soon as possible. This is also my experience.

The Talent Drain

What seems surprising is that no one factored in a potential talent drain before the referendum.  It should have been evident that if politicians run divisive campaigns based on hate, specifically targeting non-U.K. residents, the U.K. will be perceived as (and even become) a less attractive place to seek employment for workers who have choice. By this I mean those with strong transferable or difficult to find and attract skills.

The UK Commission for Employment and Skills’ (UKCES) Employer Skills Survey 2015 of 91,000 employers has already reported a chronic skill shortage even before the referendum.  The people who are reconsidering their positions are people who can go anywhere. In the mean time the talent drain has started.  Other E.U. nationals who might have had their eye on a U.K posting particularly London, are now re-thinking their career strategies.

What is behind this talent drain?  

These are just the comments I’ve had to indicate a potential talent drain.

  • Uncertainty: a Commodities Analyst with a Spanish based London bank suggested that “the U.K. is showing a post Brexit slow down. Uncertainty and a lack of confidence are damaging for everyone in the short-term. For my career, it would be better to move to another European financial services centre. I speak German and French so could move to Paris or Frankfurt. Dublin would also be a possibility. It’s anticipated that some Banks will move their whole operations so I may wait a while and see what happens , but I have sent my CV out. The current atmosphere is depressing and gloomy.”
  • Xenophobia:  a French strategy manager with a global logistics company said “there is definite backlash against foreigners now, which was whipped up hysterically before the vote and is being fuelled even now by a partisan press. I can handle it fine, but the kids are being targeted in school for their French accents and that’s not O.K. It’s not just against low paid Poles.”  A German account manager also reported abusive comments and being told to “go home.”   This is apparently rife. 
  • Fear of housing market collapse: others who have bought property in the U.K. particularly the South East at premium prices are concerned about a possible fall in house prices leaving them in a negative equity situation, especially as the pound has fallen to the lowest it’s been in years. They see an early departure as vital.
  • Concern about new requirements:  many would rather leave now voluntarily, than be made to go in two  or five years’ time. This would be dependent on the type of trade deals that are  negotiated and there are concerns.
  • More openings now:  there is a feeling that there would be more international openings in other E.U. centres now, rather than later. There might also be less competition for those jobs.
  • Concern about reduced conditions: a Marketing Director from Stockholm indicated concerns about employment conditions deteriorating “The only way the U.K can offer advantages to international organisations is to offer greater tax breaks (already happening) and greater flexibility with employment conditions. This will work in favour of the employer. I anticipate a loss of employment protection similar to the type of systems in place in the U.S. which would be negotiated with a T.T.I.P. deal. We could see a shift to very exploitive employment practises I fear.”           
  • Citizenship: with the question of  the right to work under investigation, perhaps requiring British citizenship, the uncertainty around this issue is a concern for some. They would want to maintain dual citizenship so they could work in the U.K. and Europe.

What did they expect?

A Belgian research scientist told me “There is no doubt that a hostile environment has been created by the politicians and press during the referendum campaign against multiculturalism. Beneath the British veneer of outward civility, it’s obvious now there is a seething layer of resentment towards foreigners which has become clear to non-Brits in the last month.  Although I am not a direct target-(yet) the U.K. is just not an easy place to be at the moment for overseas workers or students.” 

Over the next months we will find out how things play out. Currently everyone seems to be carefully treading water. A more cynical H.R. analyst suggested that those E.U. nationals with strong skills will eventually be able to command premium salaries in the U.K.. “Most politicians have no idea of the true level of skill set shortage in the U.K. Brexit was not expected and almost no one had a plan.  Individuals should just bide their time. By 2020 if anyone leaves the U.K., they will probably be able to return at even higher salaries. And for anyone currently paid in Euros or dollars – they are already ahead.”

Interesting thought. What do you think?

Time poverty

Time poverty the latest corporate epidemic

Poor timekeeping and time poverty

Richard Branson wrote on LinkedIn telling us that if we wanted to be more productive, we should be more punctual. Yet poor time keeping seems to be a current and growing trend, as everyone claims to be overloaded and time poor.

Time poverty has become a corporate and cultural epidemic. Busy or stressed has become today’s standard response to a routine enquiry asking someone how they are. We ae constantly complaining about time poverty.

Time scarcity seems to have become a badge of success and an indicator of professional status.

Opportunity cost  

I confess to having been guilty of some erratic time keeping myself. I was very much “a one more thing before I go”  type of girl and a great subscriber to the phrase “fashionably late.” But, fortunately in my early career, I worked for a manager who monetized the communally wasted time whenever any of his team was late for a meeting. It was actually quite shocking. If we had all been held financially accountable, our pay cheques would have been significantly lighter.

When I transitioned into sales I had to replace  “better late than never ” with  “never late is better.”   Arriving late isn’t actually a recognised commercially winning strategy.

Running late

I have become acutely aware in recent times how erratic general timekeeping seems to have become and how easily  the phrase “running late”,  has slid into our daily business and social vernacular, including my own. Very often people apologise, (sometimes they don’t), explaining that either they, someone, or something else was “running late“, as though they were a bus service, entirely passive and had nothing to do with it at all. Clearly there are always unforeseen circumstances but these tend to be less common than imagined.

I ran a training session a few weeks ago when 50% of attendees were late. I was told this was quite usual. A contact mentioned that two of that same organisation’s account managers were late for a sales meeting with a senior director in his company. They went on to lose the account. A lack of respect for time, their own and others, has become embedded into their corporate culture.

Why are we all becoming more tolerant of  poor time keeping? Whatever happened to William Shakespeare’s “Better three hours too soon, than one minute too late?”

Consequences

Julie Morgenstern, author of Time Management From the Inside Out,  tells us that the first step is to make promptness a conscious priority, but also we need to  gain an understanding into why we’re always late. Poor timekeeping can be very costly, both directly  but also via damage to our reputations suggesting we are unreliable,  untrustworthy and/or disorganised. The reasons she maintains tend to fall into two categories: technical or psychological.

1. Technical Difficulties

If we are always late but at different time then, the likelihood is that it is the result of  bad planning and under estimating how long things will take. Morgenstern advises establishing patterns by keeping a time log of all tasks and finding out exact how much time each task takes. Then factor in a margin for some unforeseen contingency.

2. Psychological

 – Inability to say no

Linda Sapadin, PhD, author of Master Your Fears believes there are deeper underlying implications of poor timekeeping,  which are linked to procrastination. Very often many of the difficulties come from lack of confidence and an inability to say no,  or even to tell another person we have another appointment in our diaries.

– Do you choose to be late?

If we are always late by the same amount of time, there could be a number of reasons – but no doubt, it’s about us!  We might be:

  • Rebellious   – not doing what’s expected
  • A crisis maker   – need an adrenalin rush to get going
  • Attention seeker  – which comes with being last through the door and going through the apology ritual.
  • Power playing  – I’m more important than you are,  sending a message of disrespect
  • Avoider – you don’t want to meet the person, or attend the meeting, so leave it until the very last-minute.

So next time instead of saying something  “ran late”, perhaps we should all just be honest and admit to being bad planners, power players, attention seekers or avoiders.

More importantly if we manage our own time, we will automatically respect the time of others. We should also stop thinking poor time management is worth emulating and follow Richard Branson’s lead.

“It means being an effective delegator, organiser and communicator.”

If you need support with your time management and planning which could impact your career – check out these coaching programmes.

Big Data

A big danger for Big Data – the human element

The  trend for Big Data is one of the current buzz movements with HR being encouraged to embrace every element of big data analytics. A Towers Watson survey of more than 1,000 organizations last year found HR data and analytics to be among the top three areas for HR technology spending.

Benefits of Big Data to HR 

In theory, Big Data allows HR management and executives to make more effective and informed decisions.  Identifying, analyzing and responding to employee activities and performances allows organisations to gain greater insight into employee practices, motivation and overall engagement. This will lead to better hiring decisions, higher retention levels, a greater ability to assess training needs, support succession planning, identify areas of potential attrition, and finally measure the effectiveness of training initiatives.

This mass of strategic data can help employers and hiring managers identify future employment and employee trends within their organisations, to better manage the workforce. The bottom line is big data is a fantastic opportunity to accumulate information on which to base strategic management decisions related to the talent pipeline.

Then what?

At a recent HR Influencers Workshop hosted by Andy Campbell, HCM Strategy Director, Oracle, the discussion centred around the overall effectiveness of big data. I confess to being sceptical. The reason for this is that big data is subject to human implementation. And in the whole process, different interest groups will have a different “why?”  Whose interests are being served?  What are the business objectives? Very often commercial imperatives will not be the same as those of the employees, communities, national or sector interests. We see this with AirBnB and Uber.

Big data also takes no account of the human inclination to a cherry pick and choose the bits that suit them best. As an employment lawyer reviewing a contract I submitted recently said  “Whose interests do you want me to protect?” 

Big Data and Gender Balance 

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the area of my special interest, that is of gender balance and diversity. Despite the overwhelming business case for diversity in organisations, not only are the statistics remaining static, but there is growing evidence that there is even something of a backlash against these initiatives.

Mckinse business case

Research from JUMP and Axiom Consulting would suggest that far fewer men are open to supporting gender balance initiatives than was hoped for.

” Executives and senior managers are generally more supportive and active, whereas middle managers are not. Active engagement from those who favour gender equality comes mainly from the top of the organisation (39%) rather than the employees (12%). The men who are the most resistant to more gender equality are employees (43%) and middle managers (33-36%), in particular men who are between 30 and 40 years old (40%)”

David D’Souza  Head of London & Head of Engagement, CIPD, commented in the HR Influencers  workshop, that this age group is the very one where men “settle down, start families and take-on mortgages. They become more conservative at this point in their lives.”    Read: The angry white male is not who you think  Further research from HBR carried out amongst millennials the US suggests:

“..  aserious concern that unless something is done soon to change Millennial men’s attitudes toward women, these men ascending to the C-suite may hinder — rather than advance — current efforts to reduce the discriminatory effects of gender bias.”

Unconscious bias training 

brain change

You would think that this would be an education issue then?  Unfortunately, it seems there is also a negative reaction towards diversity or unconscious bias training. Research cited in the Harvard Business Review, Why Diversity Programs Fail  by sociologists from Harvard University and Tel Aviv University, indicates that mandatory diversity training is not only ineffective but can actually produce negative results.

I have certainly encountered this personally. Even with diversity and gender balance training sponsored by a company President, the resistance within the group, came from the exact demographic referenced in the JUMP/Axiom Report. Factor in reduced engagement and interest from younger and more junior age groups, the picture is quite bleak.  I have also participated in initiatives to encourage the involvement of men. When these projects are voluntary, the engagement is sadly luke warm.

The HBR researchers also found that talent management strategies such as skill and strength tests, even led to declines in the number of women and minorities in the companies’ workforces over time. “Managers don’t like being told who they want to hire, so they often distribute tests selectively,”

Rock and hard placesRock1

So it looks like we’re caught between a rock and a hard place. Big data points to the overwhelming business value of gender balance and diversity programmes. But there are very strong indications that the big data recommendations are being ignored by the very layers of organisations tasked with every day implementation of these initiatives. Recognising that this is rooted in unconscious bias, attempts to create awareness, is sabotaged or ignored.

When my son was a toddler he was resistant to wearing new clothes, so we had to leave new outfits on his bed until he finally got used to the smell and feel of them. Until they felt familiar and safe. Is this what organic change is about, a century long process to overcome resistance to change? It looks as if we are going to have to devise small group coaching programmes to literally coax multiple generations of the value of this big data!

With big data, the big danger is that everyone interpreting it has a different “why.”  It’s all down to whose interests get priority and the human element.

Managing your career in times of uncertainty

How to manage your career in times of uncertainty

My email box has been flooded over the weekend with enquiries from clients asking how “Brexshit” as I call it, will impact them. The answer is noone knows at this point, but eventually some type of calm and compromise will emerge as it always does. Official statements will be made about any impact this will have on the free movement of labour and employee rights. There are unlikely to be any significant changes in the short term. Already some players have made statements to project calm. But there is always collateral damage and it’s important in times of uncertainty to be prepared and in the best position to face whatever may hit us. There can also be opportunity.

Collateral damage 

It is clear that uncertainty and panic damages business confidence which impacts stability. Those two elements feed off each other. This situation may cause hiring and investment freezes, as companies wait for guidance from government departments head offices and even lawyers.

in 2012 I wrote a post called  “Are you ready for a professional emergency landing“. The main criteria are still valid today. It’s all about being prepared and setting up some best practises to cope with any potential emergencies.

Unwelcome change is a hall-mark of our workplaces, whatever the circumstances. We have all seen many excellent people blindsided and ill-equipped to make an emergency landing which causes us to flail around in search of life-vests and oxygen masks.  Under normal circumstances,  this can be because of redundancy, a merger, a take- over or any other unforeseen business circumstance. The fallout from Brexshit had been predicted by most main economic and business experts, but sadly not taken seriously.

So now will be a good time to make sure you are prepared for that emergency professional landing because these times of uncertainty are going to be around for a while. They can be corrosiveand damaging

Here are tips that you can apply immediately while the dust settles:  

  1. Update your online presence and CV: if you do not do this routinely, and keep a copy ready to send off immediately, now is a good time to do that. Start straight away.
  2. Audit your professional skills – it’s important to be current in this area. Many people take their feet off the pedal in terms of professional development , quite often in mid-career and find themselves lacking particularly in relation to newer (read cheaper) employees. It’s important not to become complacent and to view education as an ongoing exercise.  Book a  career audit  Check that you can deliver your elevator soundbites and you have your A game at your finger tips.
  3.  Work on your network – many job seekers tap into their networks only when they have a need, by which time it’s too late.  Strategic networking should be an ongoing effort. Make sure you are doing this now. If you are in a job and don’t think you need to network  – re-examine that thought. Read: Do you have a Go-To Top 10
  4. Pay it forward – the more you can do for other people when you are in a position to do so makes it easier to ask for reciprocation at a critical time.
  5. Monitor your budget –  the last thing Economists want to hear is people being advised not to spend, as this boosts the economy. It’s hard to define in precise terms how long it could take to find another job. You could be lucky – but generally executive searches take about 3-6 months. Today the suggestion is that it can be as much as 9 months. So although it is hard in today’s economic climate, sound advice would be for all of us to have a reserve  “disaster fund“ of a minimum of 6 months to cover critical expenses. One of the most terrifying aspects of job loss is the gnawing anxiety of how to meet fixed overheads.  It’s a good idea to make sure that key financial contact details are in your address book.  How well do you know your bank manager?
  6. Invest in professional support – many individuals seek career support when they are desperate: it might be when they have already lost their jobs or are facing any other sort of career blip. It is important to treat a career with the same strategic analysis as one might any other housekeeping exercise. In the words of John  F. Kennedy “ The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining”. 
  7. Look after you –  It’s normal to worry about your family and your ability to support your nearest and dearest.  But just as a cabin attendant will exhort  passengers to put on their own life jackets and oxygen masks first and then look after their dependents, the same is true for you. Putting your own needs first, will ultimately be in the best interests of the people who rely on you.
  8. Leave your luggage behind  – this is always one I imagine I might struggle with if tested,  but the logic resonates nevertheless. Sometimes our baggage gets in the way and we have to let it go and take that step into the unknown to protect ourselves. This is another area where professional help can be a good idea. Make sure you understand fully what is holding you back.

If you need support to protect your career in times of uncertainty – contact me.