A Skribt request on Scott McArthur‘s blog throws an interesting challenge: let’s talk about the basics of HR.
I gave that a bit of thought in a wander around the block. And I thought of three things.
Big and small firms
1. The basics of HR in big and small firms seem, on first glance, to be quite different.
Paper work and consulting
2. If the owner of a small-enterprise, asks us for help, say in appointing their first employee, our minds probably leap to ideas about writing the employment contract, for example. I think the leap to paperwork underpins the essential credibility problem of HR.
Yes, the business person is probably in a hurry. And yes, the paperwork and government regulations appear to be the most important issue. We are failing our client, though, to deliver what is after all for us a form-filling exercise.
The issue facing the small business is not paperwork, though it is good to get that right. The issue facing the business person is change. Yesterday, the business accommodated the aspirations of one person. Tomorrow, the business will accommodate a second person’s hope and dreams, expectations and life chances. The minute a second person walks in the door, that business is changed irrevocably.
Are the interests and motivation of the second person a nuisance? Should we try to contain their energies and motivations with contracts and rules and processes, or whatever else?
OR, should we treat the second person as an asset? Should we engage the business person in a discussion that reveals opportunities the business person had not previously thought of? We may need consulting skills to have this conversation, but have it we should.
Admin and managing many conversations
3. Is the HR task any different in a large firm? I don’t think so. Not when I think of HR as leading change.
It is just that in a large firm, we have the aspirations of so many people to consider and formal procedures are useful. That is all recruitment, selection, job evaluation, etc. do for us: manage conversations in a way that our diverse aspirations add surprising business value.
The challenge though is to engage a business manager in a hurry.
Thanks to the anonymous person on Scott’s blog. Does this help anyone else?
UPDATE: I can confirm. The difference between HRM in small firms and big firms is that in small firms you have to work as fast as everyone else. In big firms, we learn to be slow and unwieldly.
Mmm, that sounds like asking me to cook a souffle.
Today, two things happened today. First, someone on LinkedIn asked why policy and procedures are important in HR. As he had asked twice before, I took him to be a student who was trying to figure out how to structure an essay and decided to help him out on what is after all an not well articulated topic.
Then, I had dealings with an HR Department, and I despaire. I had to put my CV through them on their form. This form is well over 10 pages long and with all the additional information they want, it could well stretch to 20 pages. It was in Word, not a wiki, so very difficult to manage, and eventually, approaching exhaustion, I printed it out. I have an HP printer (another sad story) and the pages tend to shoot up all over the office. Guess what, they weren’t numbered!! Deary me – what is it with HR?
So, what did I say to the ‘student’? I suggested his question is what policy and procedures do we need?
Documents I expect to see in a well-run HR office
1. Strategy (a detailed file with a short synopsis for circulation)
The nature of our industry
How demand for labor arises in the firm and what moderates demand – technology, short term volatility, etc.
The supply of labor in our industry (occupational structures & training)
Our firm’s competitive position
Current and desired
Our firm’s strategy for reaching its desired position
Desired internal labor market strategy and corresponding relationship with the external labor market
Specific features that result: training, supervision style, etc.
Include leadership and consultation style that we need and why (see 4)
2. The soft behaviors essential to be competitive in our business (detailed trail of the research and analysis and short engaging persuasive summary for distribution)
Talk to all stakeholders about their tacit knowledge
Drill down to the link between the behavior they espouse and the link to competitiveness in this industry
Tell people what behaviors are required in what situations and why
3. The policy and procedures manual
The purpose of a policy and procedures manual is to reduce administration.
Is it clear to anyone at a glance what they have to do?
Test all p&p with the most impatient and the most analytical.
Anything debatable does not belong here.
Some people have a gift for simplicity and elegance. Ask them to review the P&P.
4. Methods of adjudication
An organization is an arena of conflict and bargaining. Ultimately the test of HR is the quality of its refereeing.
Define the decision making processes in the organization and processes of consultation required for each decision.
Ensure that everyone is able to argue a position vigorously and robustly without recrimination, and that everyone affected by a decision has an equal opportunity to do so.
Ultimately the added margin that our people bring to the firm comes from these moments. Because they can be contentious, we need to manage them well.
5. Review of HR Strategy, Policy and Procedures (a schedule and last year’s file)
When is HR Strategy reviewed and in conjunction with what other review processes?
When is HR implementation reviewed and how?
How can any member of the organization prompt a review?
Keep it thorough but simple
Forms that are over 10 pages long without page numbers just don’t meet the simplicity principle. Sorry!
I have worked in a place which had a standard contract for all employees (couple of blanks to fill in). We had one form to fill in each year (it did require 6 copies oddly). Our annual report went via the department/division/organization report.
As a general rule the organization ran on five principles:
a) Put your proposal in writing before we discuss it.
b) Confine yourself to one side including the routing (we ask A to make a decision for onward submission to B to . . .).
c) Brief everyone prior to the meeting. At the meeting we will discuss the proposal together and decide whether to back you or not.
d) If you cannot speak succinctly to your paper at the meeting and answer questions crisply, we will ask to withdraw your proposal. By all means, come back when you have your thoughts together.
e) No decision is ever, ever made retrospectively.
What a simple life. Other organizations may need another list of principles to match their organization. But they can be simple. Indeed they should be simple and they will be simple if you have done the background work on what you do and why!
Paul Imre has thrown out the challenge: what is Tribal IQ?
Metrics gurus will ultimately want a set of numbers. This is a take influenced by corporate anthropology. I have lifted it almost entirely from a one-pager written by Dr Phil Baird, Vice President of United Tribes Technical College in North Dakota. With slight modifications, Phil Baird’s vision for his college fits almost exactly what we have been talking about:
What does it mean to provide communication infrastructure for a community, which is, in its barebones, exactly what social media does?
Mirror who we are
#1 Tribal IQ defines who we are: our past, our present and our future. We define our IQ ourselves and we recreate it everyday in what do, with each other, and people around us.
Support the everyday re-creation of our community
#2 A community manager is keenly aware of the way we recreate our culture on a daily basis. Our mission is to support our members as they regenerate our group through everyday activities
Recognize the competing definitions and internal dynamism of the community
#3 Sometimes our groups are complicated. Within one community, we may have multiple groups who have competing demands and between them add an invigorating tension.
Range of our challenge
Our groups might have a narrow or broad focus, be superficial or deep, and be short or long-lasting. The issues defining the group might be concrete and specific, such as supporting Obama for President, or they might be helping diffuse and long-standing such as communicating with local government through FixMyStreet.
Expansion of the role of IT & Geeks
In this year of 2008, the question many of us are asking is how we are using social media to support the needs of our community. IT experts are being drawn directly into the discussion of who is our community and what are its needs. We are drawn into the discussion about how our community functions, how it expresses itself, and how it recreates itself on a daily basis. And not least, how we facilitate our community’s activities, how we affect its internal functioning, and how we make it easier to fulfill its needs, including, the need to reflect on its needs and change the way members interact with each other and the outside world.
Moral challenges of community managers
As resources are always limited, we have to prioritize and help our members prioritize. We have to map out clearly what we will do and align our map with the wider map of the community’s needs. In this way we are drawn into the debates on management and governance within our community, our tribe.
Strategic work of community managers
We also need to address the challenges appearing on the 10, 5, 3 and 1 year horizons. One of the challenges of community regeneration is the arrival of ‘digital natives’. Every generation brings with it the challenge of incorporating new members and new ways. The generation joining the adult ranks of voters, workers and managers are digitally savvy and bring with them new skills, different attitudes and higher expectations. They will refresh our communities and highlight they way we interact, on-line and off-line, and the way construct our past, create our present and co-create our future. As Dr Phil Baird said in 2007, “What will their Tribal IQ bring to our Tribal College?”
The challenge is no longer for the community to understand IT. It is for IT to understand community
Social media is here, and IT has become communal. The challenge is no longer for the community to understand IT. It is for IT to understand community. I believe we will see joint careers in managing IT and sociology, anthropology, political science and psychology.
I like the 21st century! Comments?
Next social media camp is on July 5 2008 in London – follow the link for immediate registration, presentations, details, and so on.
Hat-tip for the picture of Kariba Dam wall: acidwashtofu on Flickr
Metrics, marriages & dams
We had a good session on metrics at Bucks08 Social Media Camp at the weekend, and no sooner than we had got home, Dan Thornton, a community marketing manager with Bauer, and Paul Imre, a web specialist from High Wycombe, had translated our discussions into models.
Dan used the parallel of a marriage, to ask how well our social media functions. Paul asked about how much we should invest in social media. He followed up Toby Moores of Sleepy Dog, who had commented that social media was essential infrastructure, much as electricity in our office – essential and not debatable.
Does social media increase our collective potential to act?
Can we estimate in advance how much we will increase in our capacity to act collectively?
And, consequently, can we judge how much to invest in social media?
He used the metaphor of a dam to capture these ideas.
Collective potential and the amplification factor
As luck would have it, there was a lull in the American elections this week, and several articles on how the Barack Obama campaign used social media.
Look at this profile. One of the factors prompting Barack Obama to run for President was that supporters, not his official campaign, his supporters set up a campaign in My Space with 160K members.
Obama expects ultimately to raise USD1bn online. As online donations tend to be around 10 dollars a pop, there is, by my calculations, an amplification factor of 650.
I like this example because it provides a working example for Paul’s metaphor of a dam. The My Space campaign captures and concentrated the energy of 160K supporters. That reservoir helped provide the energy or impetus for a ‘real-life’ action – Obama throws his hat into the ring.
Obama’s campaign is using social media formally. He has a media strategy and staff. Certainly, his use of social media has helped his campaign. It is nice to go to You Tube and pick up his latest speech when I want to.
But I doubt that social media has had a large impact on his campaign. His campaign is still led by ideas, policy, rallies, phone calls, etc. etc. What social media has allowed, are additional forms of communication and additional forms of donation. If it is easy to donate USD10 or 5 pounds, you are more likely to do it.
The amplification effect is reciprocal. The social media concentrates loyalty. Loyalty affects the leader. The leader amplifies loyalty. And we see the effect in the social media.
When it comes to investment, these figures illustrate the size of things. If I suspect I can swell my audience from 160K to 100 million, with the corresponding increase in revenue (4 times I believe the last record), then investing in the infrastructure is worth it. It would be nice to know the cents spent on social media per vote. I suspect the money spent on social media is trivial compared to the money spent on conventional advertising, air travel, etc.
A quiver full of questions
I like any idea with heuristic value and the dam metaphor prompts several questions and rules-of-thumb.
1 Community first
We don’t locate a dam anywhere. We need a catchment area where rain falls, dribbles into rivers which flow into a wider river which flows onwards to the sea where we can no longer use it for drinking, etc.
In social media, we need to understand our community and where they hang out in the social media – Facebook, LinkedIn, and so on.
2. We add a new marker for our community
We don’t build the dam wall anywhere. We must capture the water. With a dam, we build the wall in a narrow place with a natural basin behind it to store the water.
The same principle applies in social media. in LinkedIn, asking a question temporarily captures interest. I understand Second Life works around events. We need to understand the topography of the medium to know how to cocoon our community.
3. Engineer in context
We don’t build the dam wall anyhow. The wall must be an effective piece of engineering and it must work in situ.
Most writing about social media is about the engineering. Less is written about engineering in context. We need to know about the context too.
4 Be very, very responsive
We need to maintain the wall. I know that Kariba, the second highest dam in the wall, is constantly maintained by divers who swim with giant crocodiles (trolls?)
We know that we must be very responsive and very honest in our dealings with online communities. We are likely to learn more.
5 Why are we getting together online?
And we need a reason for the dam. We build dam walls to provide us with hydroelectric power, water and irrigation.
We need to know why we are building the ‘container’ of interest in the media space. What is it that many of us can do together that we cannot do alone? Do we understand the power of community in the context of our business? I would begin by asking business clients about their community and how they relate to it.
6. Where does our business stop and where does our community begin?
We need to understand that we are changing the patterns of interaction. With real dams, water upstream and downstream is owned and used. When we build a dam we have to negotiate water rights far afield and it is very likely that our interaction shifts a level from the individual to the collective. We might even shift from the private to the public domain.
I ‘hear’ this as being the biggest mental shift for business people. In ‘dirt-space’, usually a strong community leader emerges who talks about the possibilities of things like dams and mobilizes people to imagine the possibilities.
7 Lest we forget
Some people lose out altogether. When we build a dam, we flood peoples land.
Who will lose out and what do we intend to do about it?
Dams also change the pattern of use. If you search for Kariba on Flickr, most pictures are about recreation and tourism. There are very few pictures about hydroelectric power or the people who live alongside the lake.
Every action has a reaction, and a heap of side effects!
9 What is the multiplier effect?
And ultimately, can we imagine the impact of our dam? When we understand electricity, we can imagine the benefit of a national grid – or can we? Massive amounts of reliable electricity transform the potential of the economy. We aren’t talking about more of the same. We are talking about infrastructure that liberates us from drudgery, from limiting our work to daylight hours, from winding up our USD100 laptop, from lugging paraffin to power the fridge for our medicines. If your business is based upon that drudgery, you may not be happy to see electricity on tap, or on switch, rather.
This appears to be the second place where we stumble. I would look for the opportunity precisely at the point we say “I’m alright Jack”.
And is I suspect that ultimately, we are going to have to walk-the-talk. Like Obama, we are going to have to throw our hat into the ring and prove the point. And to do that takes confidence in yourself, your community and a critical mass of believers (or hopefuls – sorry!).
Next social media unconference
If you are interested in social media, the next unconference is in London on July 5.
Sign up social media style on the wiki. It’s free. And present if you would like to.
Are we thinking about viral campaigns back-to-front?
At Bucks08, Toby Moores made the point, as did others, that social media amplifies what is already there.
Perhaps another important point is that social media allows us to measure what is already there.
Here is a report on the US Presidential candidates. What is noticeable is that our use of social media changes after a significant event.
Widget-capture goes up when a candidate has just won a major primary, and falls when they have consolidated their position – meaning, I think, that social media is not a result, but an action we take to make something happen. We are a sensible lot, so if McCain has won, there is no need to capture widgets! If we want to push our candidate on and they are winning, we join in.
Also note that 80-90% of Obama’s widgets are not captured from official sites. Hence my deduction that social media acts as a trace that allows us to understand our community better.
The value to someone investing in social media is increased clarity, rather than increased sales. They still need to get out there and do their thing – write good policy, give good speeches, recover from errors, build alliances, court super-delegates etc.
And if this theory is correct
Widget-capture should fall, when one of the Democratic candidates concedes, and widget-capture should fall for both of them unless at that point the competition with McCain hots up.
Just so I don’t lose it: after I posted this I commented on an HR blog on the Ron Paul effect – whatever that is!
“I think the return is like any group conversation. You have to be in it to influence it and you have to be willing to be influenced in turn. People trying to ‘use it’, ‘lose it’ at this juncture.
I don’t think the web is an echo chamber as much as a “broken telephone”. News goes out, it is picked up days later, it is repeated without checking, etc. etc. The onus is on the individual to verify information. The danger is in treating it like an authoritative source – we become the journalist – we have to check and double check.
So what do we get? We observe what people are willing to repeat?? That in itself is instructive and tells us a lot about a source. So we can tell three things a) competence b) popularity/fashion and c) network.”
In the social professions that are my milieu – psychology, HR, workplaces – fractal means “walking the talk”. It means using the working procedures you would like to see in an organization to bring those working practices about.
It means delivering democracy through democratic means.
It means having the same pattern of organization throughout the organization.
It was an unconference. It is free, and registration is simple on an open wiki. Any one who wants to present, signs up in the room and time slot of their choice. It is gently organized with people changing rooms on the hour as they wish.
Around 60 people converged from as far afield as Brighton, Leicester, Nottingham and Sweden (yes, it was international with people from at least 7 countries there). Personally, I went to sessions on
running fashion shows in 2nd life from Julia Gaimster and Andy Savery
my own on personal journeys into 2.0.
How was this fractal?
Social media capitalizes on self-organization. We provide a framework where people can “read and write”. Social media is a framework in which the audience has a voice.
An unconference is minimally structured and, far from being disorganized, captures the energy of people with a purpose. So it is fractal in the subject matter is participation and the method of organizing is participative.
And then it becomes fractal again, because participants leave and blog about the conference on their own initiative and using their own resources. Before I had got home, a High Wycombe website designer, Paul Imre, had written up the session on metrics. Dan Thornton wrote up his take on social metrics with a parallel on reflecting on your marriage. Michael Clarke provided a running blog on the same session with comments on the whole day.
And it becomes fractal again, in that Dan & Paul summarized the discussion with the metaphors of marriages and “investing in a dam” to build and release potential. Dan’s metaphor was about managing social media. Paul was talking about deciding how much to invest in social media. In so doing, they effectively advanced the discussion and took it to another level. Within the afternoon, several people had replied, continuing the engagement, which I suspect will continue in other forums too.
Bucks New University must be very proud. They would have been happy, I am sure, with a smoothly organized event. This was so much more: it illustrated the power of social media, it supported a community of practice, it engaged new people, it generated new material.
To use Paul’s metaphor, investment that increases potential and to use Dan’s, when we enjoy ourselves, we come back for more!
Apparently, the closest English expression is ‘dog in the manger’. I cannot eat the hay, but I will not let you have it either!
Apart from the fun of learning a little about Singapore culture and humor, this reminded me of Steve Roesler‘s post on over-managing our children. I thought you might appreciate it.
I wonder what the opposite is? Certainly the word ‘savor’ comes to mind. It being the weekend, it is nice to think of judging the shopping so finely that we have a few really delectable meals . . . and a bare fridge by next Thursday.