HR – where it stops and starts

A few weeks ago the kind folks at NZlead invited me to publish a post on collaborative HR. That post can be found here. As part of the post I invited people to contribute to a list of things that HR should start and stop doing in order to keep getting better.

This post is where we ended up… No claims of it being deep or being a fully thought through model – it’s a collection of thoughts and I’d just like to thank those that contributed to it. Please put your thoughts in the comments below.

The original thought to do something this broad came from a debate at Worktech about whether HR had a future. In the picture below you’ll see I’ve made everyone else on the panel either grumpy or despondent. That’s Charles Handy‘s head by the way.


 I think it does have a future and that future looks like some of the things on the right hand side of the list below. I’m delighted that the folks at Worktech have asked me to do the keynote at their first event in Berlin where I’ll be talking about the growing inability of change management programmes to cope with…change. If you are an HR professional and you like the right hand side of this list then there are some things you can start doing today to help others change – just lead and be the change you want to see. 



Complaining about the business and that they ‘just don’t get it’

Taking accountability for bringing the business together to drive results more effectively – and understanding poor decisions made by others are often rooted in you not understanding their problems

Worrying about where your Business Partners should hand over to your Shared Service Centre etc etc

Working with the business to understand what helps the business constantly improve and focusing as much resource as you can there – irrespective of job titles

Worrying about the risks of technology

Planning to ensure your business isn’t left behind – and then crippled by the investment required to catch up

Obsessing about what people will do without you there to guide them

Observing what people do when given space, time and trust and making the most of that

Writing policies in the hope that sheets of paper will magically influence people determined to do bad things

Agreeing the core principles of how you do business and recruiting people who believe in the spirit of what you are trying to do

Worrying about who gets the credit for performance

Creating successes for people to share

Creating stats to show how commercial you are

Doing things to improve the commercial capability of your business – this will involve figures but the intent is fundamentally different

Cleaning up the mess

Helping people understand how to clean up their own mess –and to make the most of the mess. There will always be mess, but great companies  turn mistakes into progress

Viewing your role as risk minimisation

Viewing your role as one of enabling performance – and thereby minimising risk of your business being competed out of the market

Worrying about what HR do

(with the exception of this blog)

Worrying about what the business needs to do and recognising that as soon as HR stands apart from ‘the business’ it can’t be at the heart of the business

Being the keeper of secrets

Being the most open department (within legal limits…). Asking for help instead of hiding problems.

Talking about collaboration

Involving more people in decisions and only laying down the law where you really need to. People being  100% committed and with an 80% correct decision  nearly always beats 100% right but with 20% of people working against you

Reading articles on how HR should work in some imaginary world where things work smoothly

Opening the question of how HR should work at your organisation up to people all across your organisation. If the above doesn’t work for your organisation that’s ok.

Blaming Operational Managers for not executing your initiatives.

Understanding their problems and selling the importance of the initiatives. If you cannot, they are probably not as important as you think.

Attempting to put HR at the centre of the relationship between the company and its employees.

Create the right tools.  Advise, guide, coach, support, train.  Then get out of the way.

With the whole slave to Ulrich thing unless your organisation is either a) pretty darn big, or b) global.

establishing what is the right approach for your particular organisation.

HR and Britpop

Before Christmas I wrote a blog specifically on The Wonderstuff that turned out to be quite popular. That was unexpected.

I’m a lover of good lyrics and still have that slightly ‘teenage’ habit of listening for ‘meaning’ in lyrics. Sofor this blog I’ve run a Genius Playlist on my iPod and picked out some lyrics applicable to HR/OD and organisations.

Your challenge? Put down your guesses as to which songs they come from in the comments below….The prize for the first person to name them all without resorting to Google? A Mars bar.

I’ve had enough of lining pockets I’ve never met  – a lovely reminder on the importance of visible leadership and meaningful work. Who and what are people working for each day? The answer is almost always a little bit money, but then what…Dodgy – Staying out for the Summer

Everybody hates a tourist – if you are going to work with people then make sure you really work with people. It is never a thought experiment – it is real for them and real for their families and real for their careers – even when you move on. It is never a game (even if it is gamified).Pulp – Common People

All I ever wanted was the chance to learn from my mistakes, funny how you never learn but know them when they come around again – we all make bold statements about ‘ never making the same mistake twice’ but I guarantee every person reading this has made lots of mistakes that, on reflection, are very familiar. We like to think we learn – in truth our weaknesses tend to pop up as often as our strengths. Make peace with that or deal with that – just don’t pretend it doesn’t happen. Echobelly – Great Things

You don’t have to have the solution, you’ve got to understand the problem and don’t go hoping for a miracle – a timely reminder that if you don’t understand the problem fully you haven’t even achieved the first step of resolving it. Also that we work in a practical profession – dream big about the future by all means, but act in ways that have an impact on the here and now. The best theory is the one that actually works. The Bluetones – Slight Return

I spend so much time wondering why I’ve got an opinion… – the ability to create ideas is key to being able to create competitive advantage. Make sure you listen – make sure you value the opinions of people around you. Yours only ever counts once. Supergrass -Richard III

Don’t you think that life would be a little drab if we had the same thoughts – it’s easy to drift through your working day thinking that your role is to influence people to get them to understand your point of view. It’s more productive to blend that with understanding theirs – who knows, maybe you aren’t right 100% of the time? Cast – Finetime

No challenge should be faced without a little charm and a lot of style – it’s your choice how you approach work. I quite like the above phrase as a suggestion of how to face the working day. If anybody asks you ‘would you rather be liked or respected?’ then just explain to them it is a false choice. Explain they shouldn’t assume that their inability to be able to be both means that you face the same choice. I’m guessing they don’t feel very liked – it is only people who are disliked who ever pose this question. The Bluetones – Bluetonic

Just what is it that you want to do? We wanna be free. We wanna be free to do what we want to do – which leads me neatly onto this video…Primal Scream – Free (but all credit to Broc – see his reference to the original source in the comments)

1/2 metre Bratwursts and a Santa Dog

I went to the Christmas Markets in Berlin last month. We got caught in a blizzard (which is actually pretty standard for our family holidays) and generally had great fun.


Here are some observations.

  • They offer hot dogs in Berlin that are half a metre long. As a direct consequence result I ate a hot dog that was half a metre long. There is something about dramatic numbers and challenges that is inherently attractive – also there is something about Bratwurst that is inherently attractive.
  • The Christmas Markets start in late November and it really doesn’t feel too early – that means that 6 weeks a year in Berlin are full of festive cheer. Over 10% of the year. So whilst (seemingly) half of the UK is moaning about the merits of Christmas jumpers the Germans are already holding a nationwide festival of hot dog eating and beer drinking that takes up almost every street. It doesn’t feel ‘less special’ for starting early, it feels wonderful because of the consistency of positivity and the community feel. The best solution to cynicism is enjoying yourself.
  • When you get a mug of hot chocolate with rum (as I may have done once or lots)or mulled wine you rent the glass it comes in as well. You pay a deposit of more than the manufacturing cost of the glass and then elect whether to take it back or not. It’s a glass or a memento. Nobody loses either way. The English may be a nation of shopkeepers, but the Germans have invented a deliberate win/win situation where every time I steal from a shopkeeper they are delighted at the profit. I don’t know an organisational parallel, but I’d love to find one (perhaps ‘I’ve hijacked this meeting so we can spend the time taking work off you’?)
  • The underground in Berlin works by you being required to have a valid ticket. End of story. If you don’t have a ticket and you get caught then you are in trouble. For most people this means that you don’t have to bundle your way through the bottlenecks caused by the hateful TFL barriers, you don’t have the kerfuffle of the Oyster card not working for the person in front of you. They assume you have a valid ticket and therefore wouldn’t want to inconvenience you by putting up barriers. I know plenty of organisational equivalents for this. Trust people, remove barriers, everything flows better – doesn’t mean you can’t punish noncompliance or you are weak – it means you are confident you recruited adults.
  • The coming together of cultures was wonderful. It was very confusing knowing how to speak to the waiters when they know you are English – but you are ordering in an Italian restaurant in Germany. Generally, people find a way to communicate. Often this involves grinning and stupid hand gestures. I have no idea why I thought I could mime ‘pepperoni’ or why I thought I needed to – but what you do in the moment doesn’t always tally with what you know to be sensible. I feel smaller every time I travel for understanding how much I don’t know – feeling smaller is often a spur to growth.
  • You forget, when working in London, just how little space there is. You get used to it. The wider streets in Berlin made everything more relaxing. Every trip out of the hotel felt at a different pace. That lack of intensity is a holiday in itself. I resolved when I was back in London to go for a walk around the parks and squares at lunch. I haven’t managed it once – I’m trying to work out if that is because of London or me. I probably know the answer.
  • The zoo was grim and would fail the ‘beermat test’ – please check out my slightly more downbeat post here

We’ll be going next year…I’d encourage you to as well

Also, does anybody not think this dog should be shared….

Important notes – Humane Resourced 2

here it comes again
here it comes again

Really important points (RIP)

  • If you ask me to review your post, unfortunately, it will take me a while to get back to you. It might take so long that you’d be better off asking someone else. I promise I will do it, I really care, but I have a large number of requests and I’ll need to allocate a day to it at some point.
  • It would be superbly helpful if you could upload your own posts when you are done. This reduces the pressure on me and also means we don’t get the formatting issues that appear when transferring text through documents and email. When your piece is finished just email me for a log in and it is a simple process from there
  • Following comments on the last post (please comment on this too) we are looking at a pricepoint of about £4.99 this time. This means we can balance the book being popular and raising funds for charity
  • We are almost at 80 bloggers. Part of me is tempted to stop there – another part of me is casting appreciative glances at the number 100…If you know anyone else who might want to contribute – particularly in the US – then please put them in touch
  • There was a suggestion we should do a video promo. I like the idea and so I’ll update you on that next time. If anyone has any ideas on going viral then let me know
  • The deadline for submission remains February 5th. It may be extended, but please work to that if you definitely want to be included


I was chatting to some people last week about how much harder for me the project seems this time. I expected it to be easier. I think people are taking it more seriously and expecting it to be less ‘homespun’ and that means they are expecting more central support. For context, last time out of the entire book I was asked to review 3-4 blogs at the point of submission. I obviously read all blogs submitted at some point, but I only had 3-4 ‘can you look this over before I submit’ requests.

This time we have had less than 25% of the expected number of authors submit blogs, but I’ve already had over 10 requests to review work. The book is on track to be 50% bigger – but it is shaping up to be 5 times more work for me. I hadn’t factored that it in (it’s interesting as someone curious about the way people work and think) and that probably means adjustments to timelines and the way I work. To everyone that has offered to help with the behind the scenes (and not particularly sexy stuff) – thank you.

Previous FAQ and updates

You might also want to check out my recent post on collaborative HR and join in creating a blueprint for HR here

Have a great week,


Collaborative HR – a chance for you to build

I was recently asked to write a piece on collaborative HR for the folks at NZlead. It struck me that writing a piece on the benefits of involving larger groups of people in tackling issues – but only involving myself – would be hypocritical and/or stupid.

As part of the piece I’ve written a vague blueprint/list of principles of ways HR could operate more effectively and collaboratively to make a difference. I realise some of you will already be reacting strongly to that sentence and have objections, but I’m inviting you to help solve a problem rather than just grumble. It’s easier to destroy than build, so I’m challenging you to build.

Head over to this document and add your thoughts. If you have comments on the approach (or believe the profession to be just ‘spiffing’ the way it is) then just drop your thoughts in the comments on this blog. It’s that short and simple. We’ll see what happens.

To anybody doubtful of the approach, please remember just how smart the author of this blog is and watch this video of taken of him recently

It’s your career – why do you want to leave?

I wrote this in response to the coverage of Massive Monday. The busiest day of the year for people starting to look for a new role. Except I’ve now delayed this blog – as there is a great blog from Mervyn Dinnen telling everyone to to calm down. So I did.

For whatever reason over the past few months I’ve been besieged by people wanting a catch up to talk about leaving their current role. It’s the best kind of besieging – it’s the kind that makes you feel trusted and worthwhile. I’m not complaining.

Here is what I’ve told most of them – and most have said it is helpful.

If you are asking the question ‘should I leave?’ it’s normally because you already know the answer. You already think you should leave, but if I say it too you’ll feel it is validated. You are more than probably about to tell me that you like the people you work with, but that the role leaves you ‘unfulfilled’ or your boss ‘just doesn’t get’ the way you work. The answer is the grass isn’t always greener, but unless you think the current situation will improve then it certainly makes sense to look elsewhere. Not storm into the a meeting with your boss and resign, but check out other options.

I’m going to level with you – I have no idea how good you are at your role. So I’m not going to agree with you when you say your talents are wasted or your boss is evil. But I do know that’s how you feel and that counts. Your happiness isn’t something I can reason out. If you are unhappy (or you think your boss is a muppet) I’m unlikely to change that over a coffee and you are unlikely to change it without changing role.I know you’ve worked so hard to build up a reputation with your current employer, but that is only of use to you if it can get you into a position you enjoy. Otherwise what you are telling me is just a distraction. This is about you, not how others perceive you.

And I know the people are great… Nearly everyone always says that when they leave. You’ll feel the same when you leave your next place. You’ll find people you thought you shared a deep relationship with were only colleagues and not friends. It is the way of the world. There are even more cool people just waiting to be met in the next place. You rarely lose great relationships, you add to them.

If you are worried about being able to afford to change jobs or that you’ll have to take a step down in seniority. It’s your choice, I’m not going to insist you drop your income. You came to me. It’s a tough economy and these are your gambles and choices. Everything has a risk. Your current risk is that you get up each morning for the foreseeable future and don’t enjoy a large chunk of your day. Only you can decide if that is a tolerable trade off for what you see on your payslip. I’d just challenge you to imagine a different future (a real one, not one where you just suddenly become Mark Zuckerberg) and make an informed choice.

If you aren’t qualified to do whatever it is you want to do then you have three options

stay put OR get qualified OR try and find a role without being qualified.

I can’t help with the first couple of options, the third is tricky, but it is possible.Why don’t you start researching that rather than worrying about that?

If you don’t know where to start then you start by accepting you are going to leave and then I guarantee that will unclutter your brain enough for you to be able to start planning for the future. You are currently overwhelming yourself with the enormity of choices you are trying to make – just break it into smaller steps.

  • Decide to leave
  • Decide what that means for you
  • Work out what you want to do
  • Work out what you have to do to get that
  • Start moving towards it.

Then you get to go into work each day knowing that you are making progress towards something better and I can tell you that everyone I speak to who ’emotionally resigns’ finds everything just that little bit more tolerable.

So you are telling me to leave? I’m telling you that you are asking that question for a reason and the person best placed to answer it…isn’t me

Thanks to Merv for the music choice too

This time it’s personnel – for all HR authors

This time it’s personnel – for all HR authors

Happy New Year and I hope you all had a great Christmas. I deliberately left you alone and went quiet for a bit – but the relentless, trundling communication will now return in earnest.

This post is an update for any authors – or potential authors – wishing to contribute to the follow up to Humane Resourced. If you’d like to join in then fill in your details here – if you know anyone who you think might then please share this link. Key points

  • all for charity
  • no experience needed
  • don’t be scared

We have over 60 authors signed up now so we are well positioned to create a book that is longer than the first and even better. The first chapters have been created (very exciting) and more people are contacting me for passwords or contact details to submit their chapter. I’d like to get to over 70 authors – so please think about how you might know who could add something to the book. Remember we are working towards early Feb for having chapters completed.

I could do with your help on the following things

  • we STILL need more US authors. If you know any people who’d like to contribute then please share and encourage. Remember, we are going for the #1 spot in the US charts and so the more US contributors we have the better – both in terms of reach and quality. Special thanks to Steve Browne for all his help so far and happy birthday to him too
  • Tim Scott and Perry would like a little of your time for their piece here
  • Last time we charged the minimum price we could for the book – under £2. It would be great if people could give their thoughts in the comments below as to how much we should charge this time and why

Please share this – Google+, tweet, LinkedIn, email and word of mouth. We have a Google+ page here by the way – feel free to post, share or +1.

Any questions – please get in touch