It is not ok

Would you think it acceptable if someone at work shouted at you, called you names, told you to do your f***ing job? Or if they reminded you how important they were and that they could have you sacked? How about if they were drunk, high, abusive or sexually inappropriate?

Yet everyday people at work endure this treatment, from their customers.

It is not ok.

When “normal” people behave inappropriately when they’re placed in a nominal position of power in a retail, hospitality or leisure environment. When they talk to service staff, cleaners, security guards and transport staff as if they are dirt. When they lose all sense of humanity.

It is not ok.

Working in organisations, they’ll value “teamwork, “collaboration” and “partnership”. They’ll abide to corporate value sets about caring for one another and being the best that they can. Yet once outside, the good intent drops away and they enter into a different relationship with our world.

It is not ok.

It’s not ok to treat people around you any differently because of a perceived commercial superiority. It doesn’t matter whether that’s buying something in a shop, or a restaurant, or on a train. It doesn’t matter what your excuse is.

It is not ok.

Everybody is a doing a job. Some people have choices about the work they do, other people have less. Everyone comes to work to earn money for the things that they care about. Some people earn more, others less.

Everybody has a right to dignity and respect. Everyone has the right to be treated like a human being, to be treated with politeness, with understanding and tolerance.

It is not ok to lose perspective of the way that we work with our colleagues, talk to our friends and behave with our family. To treat people doing an honest day’s work with contempt.

It is not ok to belittle, demean or berate someone because we believe that our social value is somehow greater than their’s.

It is not ok to dehumanise anyone.

It is not ok.

In praise of spin

I’ve worked in HR long enough to know that it has an image problem. One that is generally unfair, but probably the result of our own endeavours.

Our knee jerk reaction, like anyone in this scenario, is to tell everyone they’re wrong. That actually they’re missing this whole bunch of important information that they’ve never consider before.

It’s all……a bit whiny.

We whinge and bitch and moan about how we are misunderstood. And all it does is make us look like a whiny, moaning, bitching bunch of people. Let’s face it, would you want to hang around with someone coming across like that?

We don’t work enough on presentation, on delivery, on PR and, yes, on spin. I don’t care what you think, if you believe in the product that you have enough, you should be willing to take any measures necessary to get it delivered.

Rather than being the organisational equivalent of the parent telling their unenthused kids to, “eat their greens” and reminding them they won’t grow or be healthy otherwise, we need to learn to plate up something equally nourishing but more palatable and exciting.

We need to think about the hooks, the positioning, the language, the packaging and the delivery. We need to create excitement and interest in the topics that people have become weary, wary and immune too.

Time and time again I hear of people telling me that their business, their CEO, their leadership team aren’t interested in HR. That’s a total crock. If you speak to any CEO or leader, they will talk about all the things that we are trying to achieve. They just aren’t interested in us or the way that we talk about it.

We all know the famous quote about insanity being the act of doing the same thing and expecting different results.  Sometime we border on the insane as a profession.

We’re full of creative, thoughtful, innovative people. We’re full of people that want to make a difference, that want to help organisations be better, perform better and grow. We’re full of people who care.

So instead of shying away from the dark arts, let’s embrace them. We can reinvent ourselves and our work, but in order to do that we need to think as much about position, delivery and narrative as we do about content, process and structure.

People consume a package, they don’t always want to consume a principle.

We need to talk about failure

There is one thing I excel at, it’s failure. I’ve singularly failed at well over half the things I’ve ever attempted to do. And even those of you that are poor at statistics will be able to work out those aren’t good odds.

Learn to play the guitar? Fail
Learn to speak German? Fail
Learn to code? 404

Significant parts of my working life have also included spectacular fails – its hard sometimes to not bring your whole self to work…..

Let me tell you about someone else that failed, my friend Steve. Last week he tried to swim across the English Channel to France. Now that’s not easy, in the same week someone tragically lost their life whilst trying to complete the same challenge. Steve stopped seven and a half hours in to his attempt. In a Facebook post he said this,

“Yesterday was not my day. I’m really disappointed, as can be expected. I trained hard for this for 18 months, and thought I had it covered. Battles were lost in the lumpy sea with wind against tide as we progressed into the open water (albeit that my pilot Simon described them as good for the channel), vomiting everything in my stomach and more after 2.5 hours, and struggling to take on more fuel quickly enough, but the war was undoubtedly lost in my mind, and that’s what I’m most disappointed about.”

Steve failed. And in my book, that makes him great.

In the world of work, we struggle to fail. We invest so much time, effort and energy in making things happen that we become unable to accept that they’re not a success. We make up reasons for the situation, the environment, the market, the opportunity. When you’ve been through twenty-six board meetings, fourteen rounds of business cases and eventually got the go ahead, it is pretty hard to accept that anything isn’t right.

And when we cannot accept that we’ve failed, we pass up the opportunity to learn. We take nothing away, because we create a narrative that explains events through untrue circumstances.

Read that comment from Steve again. Did he blame the waves? The wind? The flotsam and jetsam of our muddied waters? Or did he analyse and own his own performance.

All of us will fail this week in small and inconsequential ways. We won’t all be swimming the channel, or starting new businesses. We won’t be running marathons or climbing mountains. But nonetheless we can learn from our failures all the same.

I love failure, you should love failure. We should embrace failure as our biggest opportunity to grow, not as the biggest threat to our self-worth. At the end of the day, those who don’t try, can’t fail. And the brave will try, fail, learn, grow and try again. That’s what makes them stand out as exceptional.

So as you go about your business this week, remember we can all be successful at not doing a lot, or we can shoot high and run the risk that we miss.

Maybe it’s me, but I can’t help thinking, things could be a whole lot more interesting if we were all just a little bit more Steve.

The missed opportunity in resourcing

Recruitment and resourcing fascinates and perturbs me in equal measure. Of all the areas of the HR lifecycle it is the one that tends to have the highest volume of opinions per capita and the lowest proportion of data. Which is peculiar, because it probably contains the richest opportunity of all to really hone the science of Human Resource Management.

At the recent TREC conference I was talking to Matthew Syed the author of Bounce and Black Box Thinking. He made a point which I found compelling and scarily obvious at the same time.

Consider a key hire:

We go through our recruitment process, we measure our KPIs, we long list, short list, assess and finally appoint. Three month later, six months later, the manager is happy with the hire.

That’s good right? We’ve made a brilliant appointment?

But compared to what?

What about the person you didn’t appoint? Surely that is the best comparator? Where are they now, what are they doing and how will their career progress? Do you measure the lost opportunity and what is the vested interest in measuring the “successful” candidate, successfully?

I also see this closed mindset in relation to technology, candidate experience, candidate management and pretty much every single aspect of resourcing. We are quick to make opinions, quick to justify opinions and slow to challenge our own preconceptions about successful or unsuccessful interventions.

I witnessed a debate on Facebook about using interview on demand technology (video interviewing). Left and right there were opinions being launched, most of them damning. The thing that struck me was that no-one there was offering any experience or data about usage, just their own opinions. Which is fine, but in a world where we are trying to show the relevance of our profession, shouldn’t we do better than, “I think”?

Measurement and data in the field of HR is notoriously difficult, we are awash with the bad and the dodgy. That will only change if we are willing to be open minded, curious and willing to challenge ourselves and our own preconceptions – nowhere more than in the field of recruitment and resourcing.

In order to get better, we need to listen and learn as much as show and tell. That requires a specific mindset and approach – one that we need to be checking for when we hire people to recruit in our name.