The four HR essentials

You can read as many competency models as you like, but from my perspective there are four characteristics that really separate a high potential HR practitioner from the rest of the field.

Credibility, Commerciality, Context and Creativity.

Credibility is about your ability to build meaningful relationships, it is about interpersonal skills, stakeholder management, follow through and influence developed through action. It is about being able to place yourself in the position of the other person.

Commerciality is more than being able to read a P&L, it is about understanding the economic context, understanding demographic pressures, it is about understanding the levers of your individual business’ performance.

Context is about your complete understanding of the employee cycle, it is about your knowledge of how things fit together within the field of people management  and your ability to think systemically about these elements. It is about being able to explain, “why”.

Creativity is not about post it notes and marker pens, but your ability to create new and meaningful interventions, it is about being open minded about solutions and being relentless to discover better. It is about the constant desire to be more than average.

It really is that simple, these four things will set you apart, they’re the thing that every leader tells me they’re looking for and they’re built on the your personal development and intellectual capability. And whilst it is simple to explain, in the heat of the moment, in the muck and the bullets it can be hard to remember.

So if you want, feel free to borrow this.

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7 steps to interview success

I shudder to think of the amount of time I’ve spent interviewing over the last twenty years, every role from the C suite, through Managing Director and profit centre heads to technical specialisms and seasonal workers. Every interview is different, but there are some things I universally see in good interview candidates. Here’s what they do:

1 ) Answer the question you’re asked – I want to start with this, because whilst I know it sounds a little obvious, you’d be surprised how many people fail to do so and talk about something completely different. Most recruiters won’t be fooled and we will be wondering whether you didn’t understand or couldn’t answer. If you’re not sure what to say then…..

2) Don’t be afraid to pause – Some of the most impressive interviewees I’ve seen are willing to take their time. They have the confidence to hold the room for a moment whilst they think of a good answer. I don’t have any problem with people using a couple of stock phrases to buy time, “that’s an interesting question” or “there are a couple of ways I could answer that”, but a pause is always better than a babble – every single time.

3) Seek to understand – If you don’t understand what is being asked for, say so. If a question could be interpreted in a couple of different ways, ask for clarity. You’re probably only going to have one shot at a specific interview (although I have asked people to go away and come back again in the past when I’ve felt they’ve been unprepared) so don’t be afraid to make sure you have the very best chance of succeeding. Good employees ask for clarity and clarification, so why shouldn’t candidates too?

4) Think through scenarios in advance – In most interviews you’ll be asked a variant of the, “can you give me an example of….” or “tell me about a time when…”. In advance of any interview think through a few scenarios that could represent one or two different things – leadership, persuasion, decision making, influence etc. By thinking it through in advance you can make sure you’ve got a variety of different options on using them and you don’t use your most obvious one first up and then keep on referring back to it.

5) Be positive with your language  – People want to work with people who are positive – its as simple as that. That doesn’t mean you need to bounce around the room and high five the recruiters, but choose your language carefully. Think about examples that show you acting in a positive light and especially think about this if you’re asked about scenarios where you’ve faced difficult situations or people. Don’t get dragged back in to the emotion of the moment, but rise above it and prevail!

6) Remember who you are – If you’re not right for a job, you don’t want it. We have all had moments when we’ve had to take on work that we didn’t want for financial or personal reasons. But in general the rule of thumb should always be that that interview is two ways. So don’t be afraid to be yourself, express yourself and avoid trying to be the person you think the company wants to recruit. Not only will you probably get it wrong, you’ll only be happy if you’re right and it isn’t who you really are.

7) Ace the beginning and end – Whether people like it or not we all have biases. Many of these you can’t do anything about, that’s down to the recruiter. But you can impact the primary and recency bias. Everyone will tell you to get to an interview on time and compose yourself, but this is really important – make sure you have a couple of lines planned for when you’re introduced. And similarly, close the interview well, thank people for their time, wish them a good day, whatever. It isn’t really the content that matters, just the impression. Don’t, as I once did, stand up and fall straight over – you’ll literally be taking a dive….

After the storm…

Last week I wrote a post that became a bit of a beast. It happens every now and then and once it is done, all you can do is sit back and accept the repercussions of your actions.

A number of things were said to me, a number of accusations made and a number of incorrect assertions levelled against me. Now that the temperature has hopefully gone out of the subject, let’s take a chance to look at the facts.

Over 2,500 people accessed the page that the article was on, others read it on Linkedin, via email subscription and in feeds. The post was covered by the Bookseller in a news article on the fall out of the referendum.

Some people hated it. I was called “immature” and “ignorant”, told I should be “ashamed” and the post was described as “awful” amongst other things (thank you all for the feedback).  At the same time, many people contacted me in private to thank me for writing and sharing my views and expressing their personal anger, frustration and despair – but hesitation to express this publicly for fear of a similar response.

So what were the allegations against me?

The post was written in anger
The observant will have read the footnote and looked at the publication date. I wrote the post on the Friday, I published on the Monday. I wrote something else on the Sunday evening taking a measured response, but it just felt inauthentic. I accept that some people will think this worse, that I mindfully posted something that I knew was written in anger – but it felt the only way to be true to myself and I believe people need to understand the strength of feeling.

The post is about the referendum
Not really. It is actually about a topic that is much talked about, much reported and much debated. The provocation was the referendum result, but the issues of education fees, an inaccessible property market, the slow privatisation of the NHS, removal of pension schemes, social exclusion and alienation of the young are not referendum topics. They are economic and social issues that we should all be very worried about. The point wasn’t the leave/remain debate, it was a point about generational difference.

My role as a HR Director should be called in to question
First, my blog has and always will be a personal site, expressing my personal views. That said, it isn’t hard to find my career details. To those working in HR I would say this, if you spent more time discussing issues like this and less time talking about policies, processes and procedures – we’d have a better profession. That’s what we should be paid for. To those not in HR, I’d ask what they would prefer their employers were focused on – society and equity, or profit and personal gain?

I was stereotyping
The quotes at the beginning of the post, “They don’t care about the impression they make on other people, they think everything evolves around them, they don’t care about their reputation and yet they want constant acclaim”, were all taken from articles in the mainstream press written instead about millennials. Not only that, there are a thousand more statements made about young people that you could find that were be as bad if not worse. And I’m the one that is stereotyping?

The blog is discriminatory
Only in the HR profession could I be accused of discrimination and then people have a fight about what specific type of discrimination it was. Regardless, this is pretty stupid and ill thought through argument. I am not the first person to make these arguments, boomers are making the same comments themselves,

“I am part of the most selfish generation in history and we should be ashamed of our legacy” – Jeremy Paxman

“A young person could be forgiven for believing that the way in which economic and social policy is now conducted is little less than a conspiracy by the middle-aged against the young” – David Willetts

The point is to draw out trends and be clear on causes. If I state that men have consistently committed crimes of sexual violence against women, I am not saying that every man has committed such an atrocity, nor am I being sexist. When we say that the Hutus were responsible for Rwandan genocide, do we mean all Hutus? Are we being racist? And how about when we talk about “the problem with young people today”….?

It really beggars belief.

So let’s get things straight. I’m sorry if people were individually upset by the post – I genuinely am. I’m not sorry that I said the things that I said. If anything, my single regret is that the call to action that I intended to come across clearly got lost in the rhetoric.

Because that is what this is about, this is about a message to my peers to do better. A message to my generation to try harder and solve the issues that we are left with. As we move in to the positions of power, in government, in business, in the economy, we have a choice. We can choose to better our situation, to profit, to benefit and to turn a blind eye. We can repeat the mistakes of our parents. Or, we can choose to make decisions that are not about us, we can listen to the angry voices of the next generation and design the world that they want to inherit.

We can create a legacy to be proud of.

When people get angry, when people point the finger, the establishment tell them to be calm, to not place blame. They tell them, “calm down dear”. In itself, the attempts to stifle opinion are as bad as the acts of repression that cause the anger in the first place.

If we want to better, if we want to go further, if we want to change, we need to call out the problems with a clear and simple voice, we need to call out the reasons with a clarity of purpose. Only that way will we be sure to never do the same again.

And if that makes you angry, if you think that somehow I’m wrong then make the arguments for a different reality. And if that doesn’t work for you and you want to get personal, maybe you should get off social media, take a walk around any small town in the Midlands, North East, North West, South West, in fact anywhere outside of London and the Home counties and see the reality of young people there.

If that still isn’t working, then there is always this.

The most entitled generation

They don’t care about the impression they make on other people.
They think everything evolves around them.
They don’t care about their reputation.
Yet they want constant acclaim.

Are they the most entitled generation that has ever existed?

The baby boomers.

Yes. The generation that has single handily robbed future generations of financial prosperity, of social equity, of political stability. I’m talking about my parents, their friends and the people they never will have met but they let commit these crimes against future generations.

I’m talking about the people that ripped the wealth out of businesses, that increased inequality. That were responsible for the financial crisis, the political and social unrest. The people that sold off our state treasures and bought reduced price shares for personal profit. That robbed us of our natural resources for financial gain.

I’m talking about the generation that has single handedly made sure that it benefitted from the best health service, but then made it unaffordable. That benefitted from a buoyant housing market, but then made it unaffordable. They benefited from free and subsidised higher education, but then made it unaffordable.

And I’m talking about the generation that has led the charge to isolation and exile. That wiped millions, if not billions off the pension funds of the next generation so they could live in a whimsical bubble of post war tea and spam sandwiches. That will remove the opportunity for the next generation and the one after that to enjoy the privileges that they have had, because of the fabricated fear of different faces – and the notional concept of “gaining control”.

The generation that doesn’t see the irony in the fact that most of them will be dead before the real ramifications of the decision are ever felt. Which in all this sorry mess, is the only upside.

You should all be ashamed. You did not do enough.

But then I say this. This is not your country, this is ours. This is not your future, this is ours. This will not be your vision, it will be ours. I tell you this,

We will make this right.

As your hips start to go and the catheters slip in. As the memory fades and the eyesight dims. As we push you quietly in to the corner to await your final moments.

We will sort this out. We will make this better. We will build a world and a society that will put you to shame. We will confine you to the history books as the most selfish, most entitled and most negligent generation ever. We will remember what you’ve done and always strive to be better than you.

We will undo what you’ve done and we will build anew.

And we will never, ever let this happen again.

 

NOTE: This was written on Friday, when emotion was high. But I’ve decided to post in full – realising that in places it may stray into vitriol. It was also before I saw this earlier post from my friend at Flipchart Fairytales. Which deals with issue much more sensibly.