Are you ready for the end?

I’m not the sharpest tool in the box. I’m ok with that. The reality finally struck me that in a matter of weeks our world might be on the verge of substantial change. There is a very real chance that we could be collectively making the decision to leave the european union.

It doesn’t matter what I think, or what you think, the implications will be ours to deal with – both good and bad. In many ways, it is hard to think of a profession or an industry that will be more directly involved in unpicking the implications of that decision than the HR profession.

Nothing will happen too quickly, we won’t wake up and be faced with a series of challenges – other than uncertainty – but we would need to start thinking through the type of employment framework that we believe is right for the country and how we want our world of work to be designed.

Those for an exit will tell you that it will give unrivalled freedom to do what we want. Those against will tell you that nothing much will actually change. The reality is probably somewhere in the middle, away from the rhetoric and fear mongering.

But we do need to think through the type of economy we want and how we would go about building the arguments for creating it. The arguments of freedom come with the significant risks of exploitation and loose practice. Yet what is clear is that the “one size fits all” approach of central legislation does not fit the difference in the economic models of the UK and other countries.

What would you keep, what would you change? Have you thought it through?

Our entire landscape would be subject to debate and consideration. From immigration and skills, through discrimination, compensation and employment protection and litigation. We would be at the centre of some of the most contentious discussions and debates and we need to understand and find our voice.

Many think it will happen, I’m clear it could happen. In the event that it does, the HR profession will have a responsibility to lead business, to make its collective voice heard and to stand for something. We will have an opportunity to shape. And if we fail to take it, rest assured someone else sure as hell will.

The future of work is human

If I had to list four things that bring out my inner geek, they’d be:

Work
Technology
Psychology
Education

I can’t remember the dates of any historical events, my knowledge of sports and sporting prowess is limited and if you want to know what stocks and shares to invest in…..buy the ones I’ve just sold. But give me any of these four topics and I’ll talk, ignorantly but passionately, for hours.

Each in its own right is a things that stirs the proverbial loins, but what about the point where all four intersect? Is there a relationship between them?

We know that technology is changing the way in which our children interact with the world. It is also starting to change the way in which they learn and work at school. So what is going to be the impact on the world of work when these young people get to employable age? Is technology changing the way our brains work and function and what do we need to think about in how we design work, teams and organisations?

Are we already starting to see the impact of the way that we use technology on our behaviour in the workplace? Our choices, decision-making, attention, concentration, speed of communication?

Late last year the CIPD started a piece of work to explore the future of work from a variety of different angles. The aim being to move the debate on from the normal, often predictable themes and to take a different approach. There are a number of work streams and groups exploring all sorts of angles, you can read more about it here.

As part of this, I want to look at these questions. To go beyond the “robotisation” arguments and look at the relationship between human performance and technology from a psychological and behavioural perspective, the good, bad and indifferent.

And this is where I need your help.

If you’d like to be part of this work, or if you know someone who you think might be, then I’d love to hear from you. Ideally I’d like to pull together a group of people from a range of backgrounds to exchange ideas, thoughts and theories with the view to presenting the findings at a “Big Tent” event in October.

There is no specified time commitment, geography is unimportant and I haven’t even worked out the process (yet). I just want to bring together curious, passionate, thoughtful people to help explore the themes and ideas. So if that sounds like you, if this piques your interest, then get in contact and lets see where the conversation takes us.

The power of five

Five years ago, I posted my first blog post on this site. One of the worst kept secrets in HR blogging is that I used to run a different site with a little more “artistic freedom”..…but enough about that for now. Five years is a pretty long time in this modern world, things change and move on. So what’s changed in that time and what has (maybe unsurprisingly) stayed the same?

The mystery of performance management – ironically, the first post I wrote here was about the need to take a more human approach in performance management. So is the fact that corporate after corporate is rushing to deliver the headline grabbing news that they’re ditching their annual appraisals evidence that this is happening? Absolutely not. It’s all a load of bull and they’ll be silently reintroducing some sort of system in the next two years. The point isn’t that you don’t need any system, it’s that you need a human system. Two very different points with two very different outcomes. VERDICT: NO CHANGE

The death of Human Capital Management – Not long after my first post, I wrote an attack on Human Capital Management. It was probably the first post that I wrote that caught the attention. It’s a phrase and a term that is only beaten into second place in the hall of shame by Employee Engagement (more of that later). HCM and human capital metrics are as 1980s as my fashion sense….and neither needs to be subjected to the masses. Fortunately, big data has replaced HCM as the numptiness of choice. VERDICT: DEAD AND BURIED

Ethical business, trust and authenticity – A theme over the last five years has been around ethics, trust and authentic business management. Don’t get me wrong, I”m an unashamed capitalist…BUT that doesn’t mean I think we need to rip a second a**e in each of our employees. For too long big, corporate FTSE100 businesses have lied and lied and lied some more. The string of corporate failures over this time have shown us that this is’t rhetoric, but simple truth. And in return we’ve seen and increasingly humble and apologetic approach. A new dawn? Don’t you believe it. Just a pause, the vultures are circling higher than before, but don’t believe they won’t be back. VERDICT: CEASEFIRE

The engaged employee – I said I’d be back to it, so why the surprise? Engagement is simply the most poisonous and frankly dangerous management concept of the last ten years. It makes the Ulrich Model look like a warm, soapy cuddle in the bath. Put simply, in the time that we have been talking about employee engagement, the happiness of employees has decreased. That’s not me talking, that’s a fact. And yet we persist. That’s either stupidity, or insanity. VERDICT: STILL BREATHING, BUT FIRST UP AGAINST THE WALL

Our profession and our professional body – Ok, so I know this one is going to be thrown back in my face *assumes the position*, but I have more confidence in both the HR professional and the CIPD than I’ve had since I graduated back in 1864. We’re generally talking about the right things, we’re willing to have an open debate and discussion and we are hearing voices from outside of the small select group of organisations that previously dictated the agenda. It’s promising, really promising. But not time to pop the champagne just yet. VERDICT: ON THE UP

I’m not going to dwell on HR, social technology and the like. You can read that in countless free “books”, but five more years? I doubt it. By then I’ll be transmitting direct in to your brains. So enjoy the freedom whilst you have it my friends…

I’m saving the good stuff for then.

Is HR the moral compass?

Like a librarian at a swingers party, one of the biggest criticisms of HR is our propensity to say no. I too have been critical in the past of the fact that we tend to use negative language and over rely on legislation and policy to substitute for clear thinking and rational argument. But sometimes, no means no.

I believe everyone has their own moral compass. And I don’t believe that as a profession we should be the first to occupy the moral high ground (I, as many others have made some shocking management decisions in our time). But I do think we have a role to make organisations and work better. That’s one of the reasons why I do what I do.

It is easy to defer responsibility to the CEO, the leadership team, the rest of the organisation and say that you were only following orders, but ultimately we as HR professionals have a duty to challenge cultural underperformance before anyone else. That’s part of our job, it goes with the territory.

That’s why I want to draw your attention to the CIPD’s Profession for the Future programme. This isn’t just about ethics and compliance, it’s about practice. And most importantly, it is about creating better work and working lives for everyone. And I can’t think of a better reason to get out of bed in the morning.

Work made better is good for the economy, it’s good for society, it’s good for employees and employers. There’s a real need to get our collective voices heard as proponents of positive action, rather than defenders of the status quo. And whilst our professional body can take the lead, it also means that each and every one of us, as individual practitioners, needs to be held accountable to a moral code.

At the end of the day, intent is important, but only action matters. So let’s take the first collective steps.