Delivery is everything

If I had one single wish, something that I could change about the world that we live in, it would be to ensure that people delivered on their commitments.

The amount of time that is wasted chasing others to follow through, courier companies, our public services, utility companies and of course colleagues at work. The time is totally unproductive – in and of itself, it moves nothing, adds no value, creates no meaning.

And think about those services that pretty much always deliver, the restaurant where the service is faultless, the retailer who always hits their delivery slot, the bank that can always help. The delight that is created through the consistent and regular fulfilment of its stated obligations.

In a world where the consumer is king, delivery is divine.

My advice to anyone entering in to a career in HR, that wants to change the perception of the function and profession, is to focus on delivery as a critical tenet of your strategy, both personally and as a function as a whole.

When dates are set, keep to them. When promises made, fulfil them. When actions agreed, complete them. If you want to create the promised delight, then the delivery of the solution is as important as product. And that repeats every day.

There’s a phrase in restaurant kitchens, “you’re only as good as your last service”. If you want to make a real step change in your organisational perception, take this to heart and realise that consistent delivery is key.

In fact, it’s (almost) everything.

The consumerisation of #HR

We’ve made the world of work far too complicated. We’ve over engineered, over intervened and created a myriad of artificial constructs that add neither value nor protection. Over the years I’ve written time and time again about the need to declutter, to reduce the number of processes and procedures to make it simple.

The brilliant Josh Bersin summarises the arguments better than I can here, making the very important point that simple is actually harder to do than complex. This isn’t about being basic, it is about being sophisticated.

I’d take it one step further, it is about the consumerisation of HR management.

When I speak at conferences and talk about these themes, how we are doing far too much and confusing employees, I regularly get people come up to me afterwards and thank me. Not for enlightening them or teaching them something that blows their socks off, but for reminding them why they came in to the profession and giving them reassurance that they’re not mad.

Reminding them that it is OK to be focussed on the end-user.

You see, too often we praise the complex. We hold it up as an example of the development of the profession to heights before unknown. We litter the pages of our publications, the stages of our conferences with examples of HR interventions that most employees don’t understand, don’t want to be part of and don’t see the point of. And we hold them to high acclaim. Then we talk about how we need to demonstrate the value that HR adds.

We have become the coders of the management world, praising beautiful code over user experience.

But what if we were to focus our efforts on making the end-user, the employee, the primary driver of our interventions, of our services. What if we designed for them, rather than for us? What if we created value by providing products and services that people wanted, rather than they were told they needed.

What if we excited, entertained and enthralled?

I can tell you that any manager, any employee, any human would ask for simple people management processes and practices they could understand, communicate and apply. They’d ask for speed, transparency and accuracy. Like we would too.

If we want to really add value and demonstrate our worth within the organisational framework, we need to work harder on being simpler, not more complex. And focus on delivering what employees really want, not what we think will impress our peers.

Then, maybe then, we’d be seen in a whole different light.

Light touch HR

I was interviewing  for HR business partners not so long ago, when I realised that throughout the interviews I’d used the phrase “light touch” on numerous occasions.  I wasn’t making a point of returning to this phrase nor using it in the same context each time, but I kept on coming back to the same sentiment.

What is light touch HR? Let me use a metaphor.

Anyone who has ever been to a really good restaurant and experienced really good service will understand.  The waiters are present, they anticipate your needs, they provide you with the things that you want but they also delight you. However, they do it without ever being over bearing or conspicuous. There are no steadfast “rules” but there is an attention to individual need.   Everything is controlled, organised, well thought through and impeccably delivered.

At the other end of the scale, you have fast food. And actually the offer here is no bad thing either, delivering basics in a quick, efficient and timely manner.  What you see is what you get.  There are HR departments working on these lines across the country and they are hugely successful within their businesses in providing the level of service and support that people need.

Somewhere in the middle, you have a glut of offerings that range in their quality,

  • Those that try to be in the top-tier but over-engineer their service delivery and become intrusive, inflexible and unwelcoming
  • Those that promise exquisite treasures but cannot provide the basic infrastructure to support it
  • Those are both mediocre in terms of service and product

I don’t know of many, if any, HR teams that are delivering a level of “light touch” perfection on a regular basis, I’m sure they exist.  But it is achievable, as long as we get the right focus, the right skill sets and the right approach to our customers then we can make sure that we delight each and every one.