Deal or No Deal?

When I started work, I don’t remember thinking I was due anything other than a pay cheque at the end of the month. I’d received my contract and terms and conditions and I accepted the deal  – the amount of holiday, the level of pension and the protection for sickness. That is about all there was in those days.

I figured that if I worked hard, put in the hours, managed to show a bit of intelligence and initiative that it would help me. Not to get a promotion, but to get experience and ultimately a good reference. Because when I started the job, my director had been very clear – I wasn’t going to stay.

It wasn’t that he was a hire and fire them character – far from it – but he had taken a policy to hire young, eager, recently qualified professionals and to give them a chance in the world of work. In return he realised that he got good quality people, but one’s that would want to move on pretty quickly – and he was ok with that. That was the deal.

Throughout my career, I’ve heard reference to “entitlement” more and more. It really wasn’t a term I was familiar with back in the mid 90s. And whilst I’ve worked with some people who truly believe they were the most entitled on the planet, “we’re unicorns, Neil, that’s what you need to do if you want to hire unicorns”, I’ve met more who’ve been disappointed that a promise they were led to believe, hasn’t materialised.

The thing about a deal is that it has to work for both sides, and yet as organisations too often we want to pretend we have something greater than the reality, in the belief that what we actually have wouldn’t be appetising. The implication of this is we don’t believe that job applicants and employees are capable of making an assessment based on facts and acting in accordance with their best judgment.

So instead we talk about nebulous concepts such as career enhancement, progression, development opportunities and stretch, which are easily misinterpreted and can be unintentionally disingenuous. Frustrations normally kick in at about two years into the employee journey, when people start to realise that their interpretation of the phrase wasn’t the same as the organisation’s.

There’s nothing wrong about a straightforward deal at work, in fact I’d argue there is something pretty refreshing. “If you come here, you’ll be working with good people to do your job, we will look after your health, safety and wellbeing, we will pay you x and give you y on top. You’ll learn and hopefully enjoy yourself and in the future, who knows, you might find something else here you like or you might choose to move on. And we understand and respect that”.

Deal, or no deal?

Seek first to understand

Whilst mooching through social media this weekend I came across a fascinating thread. Someone within my network had posted a rather generic request for help on a pretty generic topic. It was one of those moments that we’ve all had where we ask, “does anyone know anyone who can xxx”.

What fascinated me was that despite the very generic nature, the thread was filled with responses, “I can” or “I recommend x”. It was only after about forty or so responses that someone answered, “I think I might be able to help, but I need a little bit more detail. What specifically are you looking for, who are the people you’re looking for this for and where and when would you need it?”

It reminded me of many of the conversations that we have at work. A problem is generically stated and immediately we all pile in with attempts to fix it. Suggestion after suggestion is made in the attempt to solve a problem that we haven’t even fully understood. From the limited data that’s presented we all form our own individual interpretation and yet we rarely take time to check that our understanding is the same.

The impact on the original requestor can be overwhelming as they are inundated with solutions that can often be contradictory to one another meanwhile the other participants can get frustrated as their “obvious” answer to the problem goes unheard. But what if instead of being at the end of the thread, those questions had been at the beginning? Would that have led to a better quality of response?

It would be easy to say that the originator of the question should have thought it through, but I disagree. The nature of collaboration is that we work together to try to find a solution and that is particularly true in the workplace. If we all take responsibility to ask questions and seek to understand all the aspects of a problem, rather than making assumptions, we not only help to achieve better answers, we save everyone time and effort in the process.

 

The silent workforce

As I write the last post before the Christmas break, I’m drawn to reflect on the future of work. A debate that seems to have warranted more airtime than probably it was due. I say that, not as a denier of progress, not as someone blind to the opportunities, but more as someone equally as interested in the here and now.

Over the next week, many of us will down tools, put on the out of office, lock the door and travel to be with friends, family and loved ones. We will eat, drink, laugh, argue and share moments together safe in the knowledge that others are looking after the things that matter. Because at the same time as we relax and unwind, an army of workers are carrying on as if nothing has changed.

Out critical infrastructure will still run, so when we turn on the light, ignite the hob, run a shower or even connect to the wi-fi we do so in the knowledge there will be service. Should misfortune befall us, we rest assured that our medical staff, police and fire services will be ready to step in and help us recover. When we switch on the television or the radio to listen to the Queen’s speech or watch our favourite Christmas film we know they will be there. And should we choose not to cook for ourselves or maybe cannot do so, the chefs, waiting staff or care workers that will attend to our every need.

Over 1 million people will be working this Christmas in the UK alone and whilst not everyone in this wonderful multicultural country that we live in will place the same importance on the specific holiday, they’re providing a service so that others can take time off in peace. I can’t list the entirety of the professions that work and an omission is not meant to signal a lack of importance at all.

The future of work may see opportunities for some of these areas, but for many there will always be a need for humans to take time for the sake of others. So in our proclamations about the future, let’s not forget the now. My ask of you is simple, as you rightfully enjoy time off in the next few weeks, take time to think of these people and raise a glass and toast in thanks. They may not be seen, but they’re working so that we don’t have to.

Have a good Christmas.

 

 

Read less, talk more

Everyone I know has written a book. My social media feeds and email inbox are all full of friends, colleagues and contacts exalting their new publications. Whether it is recruitment and resourcing, learning or the latest stream – HR Disruption/Transformation/Reinvention – they’ve all got the answer to the questions you never knew you had.

And I can tell you right now, you don’t need to read them.

I’m not suggesting that reading per se is bad and I’m certainly not saying that there aren’t brilliant leadership, management and business books out there. I’m suggesting that there are a disproportionate number of titles to the needs of leaders, managers and businesses.  And I’m suggesting you’d be better off talking to your employees and colleagues, rather than reading the latest HR trope.

There are a couple of key questions you need to ask yourself based on whether the author is a practitioner or academic:

When did you do this? What were the results you experienced?

When did you research this? How was this been evidenced and peer reviewed?

Look at the vast majority of the profiles of these “authors” and you’ll see a list of the times they’ve spoken about the topic and the articles they’ve written, they’ll rarely talk about actually having done anything.

Compare this with your employees who spend all day doing the work that you’re trying to change/improve/increase. They’re in your organisation every day experiencing the environment and the culture that you are the guardian of. They’re able to give you better quality feedback on pretty much every single aspect of your organisation than a faceless hack.

So next time you’re tempted to put your hand in your pocket for the latest “must read” from some obscure publishing house, ask yourself whether your curiosity and desire to learn couldn’t be better directed towards the people all around you. They’ll certainly have better qualified answers, and you’ll save yourself money at the same time.