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.

You don’t need a degree to work in HR

If you went to University, let me ask you a question:

How much of the taught subject matter are you using in your work?

I asked myself the same question and the answer is “very little”.

I am sure that there are certain professions, certain vocations where the content matter of a university degree is a necessity. And yet, in the majority of roles, I’m not so sure.

The CIPD released a brilliant piece of research last week highlighting the expansion of Higher Education in the UK and the resultant increase in graduates working in historically “non-graduate” roles.

There are several hypotheses to explain this, some with positive outcomes, some without.

Two things immediately strike me as being highly culpable in this trend,

  • the homogenisation of higher education post the 1992 reforms
  • the insistence of businesses to require degrees for non-degree roles

I’ll leave the first for people better placed to comment on the education sector (although you can check out this brilliant assessment from Peter Scott as a start).

I want to talk about the second point.

Why do I think we ask for degrees?

  • We’re lazy. We ask for a degree when no degree is necessary because simply it makes life easier.
  • We lack creativity and fall foul of unconscious bias. We have degrees and therefore it must be a requirement.

Don’t believe me? I ran a search on Changeboard of the HR jobs that specifically called out a degree as a requirement in the ad and there were over 170, (I don’t mean to pick on Changeboard, I did the same search on HR Magazine and got a similar return).

With over 20 years working in the profession, I’m yet to come across a role where a degree is of critical value. And of course, the irony is that in the case of HR, the degree will often be in a subject matter that probably isn’t relevant to the role.

We’re stuck in the past and assuming that a degree in some way differentiates the ability of the candidate, but more importantly we are sending out a message that you have to have a degree to work in HR. A pattern that is replicated across numerous other roles and professions.

There are certain life skills, there are certain intellectual processes that do come from study, I complete get that. But can they be obtained in other ways? Of course.

Our duty as a profession is to challenge the preconceptions of requirements, to throw our doors open more widely and to make our assessment and selection processes based on genuine capability, talent and potential. Not on meaningless qualifications.

But if we can’t do that within our own recruitment, what chance have we got in other areas of the business? We need to get our own house in order and be ruthless with our own professional approach.

Let me put it simply,

You don’t need a degree to work in HR.

So let’s stop saying you do.

Why I work in HR

I don’t believe that anyone should hate what they do. I don’t think anyone should come home from work at the end of the day and, just like the day before and the day before that, feel dejected, desperate or despondent about their working life.

I don’t believe that anyone should feel afraid or intimidated, should fear their work, their colleagues or their boss. I don’t believe anyone’s health, welfare or security should be placed in jeopardy by their need to earn money.

I believe work should be a place where people can come and be themselves, whatever their religion, gender, sexuality or any other “defining characteristic”. I believe work should be a place where you are judged on what you contribute, not who you are.

I believe work should be meaningful, even when it’s repetitive. That everyone can find their own purpose in what they do. I believe in empowerment, trust and shared responsibility. I believe that work should be rewarding, for everyone.

I believe in fairness and equity. That differences in compensation and reward should be justified and that everyone should have the chance to progress if they have the desire, capability and opportunity. I believe that the success of the enterprise should be enjoyed by all.

I believe work can and should be better. And simply, despite the distractions, the snide comments and the jokes. That’s why I get up in the morning. That’s why I work in HR.

Why do you do your job?