You are as you act

Every day is full of a myriad of choices,  the majority of these are small and seemingly meaningless. Whether you hold open the door for someone that’s coming toward you, or put your hand in your pocket for the person sat on the pavement on your way into work. But in cumulation, these actions, these micro choices are the things that define who you are and how you present.

Our choices and our actions define us.

And likewise in organisations, the myriad of small things also define who we are. We can make statements about what we want to be, or what we think we are. We can create vision and values models that provide us with a semblance of reassurance, but ultimately how we act is how we are, not what we believe.

As a simple case in point, I was looking at the Sunday Times, Best Companies the other day and to my surprise towards the top is a company that I know a little about. If I were to share with you some of the practices that have taken place, the way in which employees have been treated, you would – like me – question how they managed to remain operational never mind receiving accolades. But the badge must mean that they’re great…

Our responsibility as leaders of organisations, as leaders of people is to bring the highest ethical standards into our work. We have a responsibility that should weigh heavily on our shoulders beyond the desire for acclaim. We need to act with the highest levels of honesty and integrity, because it is the right thing to do, not because it will be recognised.

Ultimately we are all responsible for our own choices and actions, there is no mitigation, no explanation. We are, not how we think, but how we act.



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.

Ethical choices define us. Who are you?

A little while ago, not long after the banking crisis, I was asked what I thought the role of HR was (or should have been) in preventing or avoiding the institutional failures that led to the meltdown. When I mentioned that I thought HR had a role to play as the organisational conscience there were very mixed views in the room.  My view was and remains that you cannot claim that HR is adding value to a business and then in the same breath deny any responsibility for organisational failure. It is a quid pro quo.

As a profession, we have a Code of Conduct and today the CIPD is launching a consultation on that code. What is ethical? What is unethical? And what are the grey areas…the ones that we really REALLY need to discuss?

  • Who does HR work for and where is the balance of power?
  • Can you operate processes and procedures that are knowingly discriminatory because they are too complicated, too expensive to change?
  • Is it fair game to use any source to get information on an employee, or a future recruit?
  • If you felt the future security of employment, the shareholder investment was at risk through malpractice, would you speak out? And to whom?
  • Would you manage out an employee who you believed was a victim of sexual harassment  at the behest of the senior manager who you felt had harassed them?
  • Would you provide personal details of an employee to the CEO if you were uncomfortable with their reason for wanting them?

I guess what I’m asking is,

“Do you know what is expected of you as a professional?”

Regardless of whether you are a CIPD member or not. If you work in recruitment, the law or PR; what standards do you hold dear? And for my American friends, what can we learn from your side of the pond?

I’d really like to hear as wide a debate as possible on this one, a range of opinions.  We have the chance to make our voices heard and steer the agenda….please don’t overlook this opportunity. Comment here, comment on the Linkedin discussion group, comment on the CIPD website, Tweet about it, blog about it…….

Make your views known and encourage others to do the same.

Going back to the original discussion that started this post. Talking personally ……..I needed to be able to look myself in the mirror every morning.  I need to work, that is an undeniable truth.  But I also need to like myself.  And in this world there is no gig good enough to trade the latter off for the former. A line needs to be drawn, but where I draw that line will be very different to where you draw yours. And that is the value of having a professional code.

Ethical choices define us. Who are you?