Your corporate culture is dead

Do you feel like you belong at work? Do you want to feel like you belong?

What is the role of organisations in creating a sense of purpose and belonging? Is there one, or is it all a waste of time?

When employment was for life, or as near as, there was a sense of belonging and identity. Families worked for the same employer generation after generation, towns and communities were built around industries and employers.

But that time is past and now we move as freely between organisations as we do between pretty much every other aspect of our lives. And with the increase in those that work for more than one employer, can we really expect them to feel any sense of identity with multiple paymasters?

When people no longer come to the same workplace, from the same background or even the same country, can we really expect people to feel a sense of commitment and identity beyond the payslip?

Whats clear is that the way i which we view organisational culture needs to change. No longer can we tell people what our culture is and expect them to adhere. Like the condescending finger wagging of authority that we saw in the wake of this weekend’s rugby result, we can no more tell people how they should or shouldn’t react in defeat than we can tell them who we are as an organisation and how they need to behave. The management of corporate culture is dead.

Yet at the same time, people can feel identity and belonging without being present or managed into doing so. Beatlemania showed that you didn’t have to have ever visited Liverpool or even have seen the band to find some depth of association and belonging, Manchester United have fans that buy their shirts across the world without ever having set foot in Old Trafford. And of course, people are travelling across from across the world to fight and support ISIS without ever having any connection with Syria or the fighters that are there.

What does this mean? I don’t know. More questions than answers once again. But it suggests that the way in which we think about organisational culture needs to change. It is no longer a static managed product that is delivered top down, no matter how many bottom up exercises and listening groups you hold.

It is fluid, transient and needs to appeal more than it needs to dictate. It exists because people say it does and it lives because people want it to. It’s a sum of the parts of the hopes and dreams of every single person that wishes to exist within it is. And it is entirely voluntary, for better or for worse.

5 simple ways to make recruitment better

I’m a supporter of the Good Recruitment Campaign and will often help out my friends at the Recruitment & Employment Confederation by going and speaking on the value of good recruitment. I do it simply because I believe it matters.

I wouldn’t mind betting that all of us have been through a recruitment process that completely sucks. And yet, we don’t do enough as professionals to strive to improve the overall quality of the recruitment experience.

When I call this out, the pushback I hear is, “I don’t have the time” or “I don’t have the resource”. Which frankly is just a pitiful excuse for inaction.

Here’s five things you can do tomorrow that don’t take any time or resource but make a hell of a difference;

  1. Commit to a timeline – tell candidates how the process will work, when you’ll communicate to them and stick to your commitments.
  2. Set the standards – be clear what you’re looking for, how candidates will be assessed and what success looks like.
  3. Get personal – refer to candidates by name, not “candidate” or “sir/madam”. Remember they’re a human being with human emotions too!
  4. Give and receive – depending on how much effort you’re asking the candidate put in, give the same back when it comes to feedback. And don’t forget to ask what you could have done better too.
  5. Be realistic – about your requirements and what you can expect from candidates both in terms of their skills and experience and how much time they can put in to the process. After all, you’re not the only recruiter in town.

I know it sounds simple, but that’s because it is. Ask candidates and you’ll hear that time and time again these simple steps don’t happen. It wouldn’t take much for us to improve our overall performance, so why don’t we even try?

Nobody needs an HR strategy

Call it an HR strategy, a people plan, a road map. Call it whatever you like, but one thing is certain it will mostly be a waste of your time and energy.

Because being more strategic, doesn’t mean writing about it on paper. It doesn’t mean going on an away day and it certainly doesn’t mean focussing on your HR brand.

There is only one strategy that really matters and that’s your business.

Yet my experience of HR professionals is that they spend more time working on their own strategy than that of the business.


Well firstly because most businesses don’t build the people implications into their strategy in any fundamental sense (I’m not talking about the nominal “Talent” column which the board include to show that people are their greatest asset…).

Secondly, because HR Directors then try to demonstrate their commercial acumen and business value, by taking their team away to focus on the people strategy.

But the problem with doing this is that you automatically create the first degree of separation between the two. And that can then only get worse.

Instead of wasting everyone’s time and money, invest it in understanding your organisational strategy, reflect on the people requirements now and in the future and then realign your HR activities to support it.

It may not sound as big and clever, it may not be something you can have designed and put on the wall and it may not get you a day out a venue where you can indulge in your favourite ice breaker or personality profiling tool.

But it will make your business more successful, it will create meaning in what you do and it will, most likely, get you noticed by the people who really matter as they start to see you genuinely add value.

We’re a little bit funny…

I work in HR.

I don’t save lives, cure diseases or run the risk of being maimed on a daily basis. Nobody dies as a result of my actions.

And in most cases, this is the same for all of us.

So why on earth do we come across as such an over earnest, serious and downright unengaging profession?

A few weeks back I wrote a post that was just for a bit of a laugh. In fact, if you read to the bottom of the post it is tagged as “humour”. No you may think that my humour sucks, I get that a lot, especially when I tell my joke about the nuns in the bath. But to accuse me of knocking the HR profession on the back of a lighthearted, playful throwaway piece of writing is just……well silly.

But this isn’t so much about that, but about our inability to laugh at some of the things that we do. Because, let’s face it….we do a lot of dumb stuff.

And just because we do a lot of important and meaningful work, shouldn’t mean that we can’t have a bit of humour and lighthearted observation around the things that……aren’t.

Our ability to be a profession that can cope with the light hearted as well as the earnest seems to me to be one of the missing links. I’m not talking about organised fun, or the icebreakers we impose on people to test their willpower and commitment. I’m talking about being able to just have a laugh.

Imagine a workplace where people say, “the HR are team are really cool, they’re great fun….you should hang out with them at the Christmas party”. Imagine a world where people valued us for our personalities as well as our professional capabilities.

Imagine a world where we could laugh at ourselves. And take a moment to consider whether our inability to be human, to laugh and be just a little bit frivolous and light hearted, might just be one of the things that is holding us back.