7 steps to network yourself into business opportunity

Network our way through the recession?

There is a funny video about Linkedin going the rounds that I found from @jackiecameron1.

Unemployed people sign up to Linkedin in a desert of jobs. Everyone is networked, but to each other, to no one has a job.

What use is networking if there are no employers in the group?

Networking is not hitching a ride!

What is very apparent in the rather delightful (and accurate) spoof  is that no one is doing anything.  Everyone is trying to hitch ride on everyone else!

Who in that network is trying to make anything happen? Who is inviting other people to help, even for free?

Networking out of a desert of jobs

To take the metaphor of the desert further, if anyone got the group organized to look for water, they might find some!

Why doesn’t anyone start some useful activity?

The simple answer is that no one there trusts anyone else. If they did, they would invite them to do something!

How do we begin to organize that group?

Here are 7 steps for organizing a group who seem to be out of ideas, out of resources and who don’t know each other well.

A  Show Confidence in Your People

#1 Begin!

#2 Be active.

Do something! Sit down and make a sandcastle! See who helps.

B Help Your People Gain Confidence in Each Other

#3 Change the sandcastle so that people are helping each other.

Move your position so that you are handing sand to the person building. When another person joins in, move to the the end of the line.

#4 Move the line slowly in the direction that seems most promising.

At the same time, get people to sing so that they become more aware that they are a group.

Keep your attention on the sandcastle by-the-way!  People are only going to be bothered with the sand castle if you are!

C Work with People Who Trust the Group

#5 Position a reliable person at the end of the line while you start a new line.

Make sure the person at the end of a line knows to sing out if they see anything unusual on the horizon.

D Bring Information About Opportunities Into the Group

#6 When someone sees something unusual on the horizon, don’t create a stampede.

Move the whole bicycle wheel, by changing the direction that the sand moves. Move the sandcastle builder to the other end and reverse the direction of sand. In an orderly way, move the other spokes. Keep it playful!

E We Are All In This Together

#7 Continue and continue!

You might decide to abandon your group and go it alone.  Yes, it might be slow moving the group along and it might feel as if the group is slowing you up.  But aren’t your chances of finding water higher in an organized group looking out for each other?

It is easier to think straight when things are really bad

It sometimes feel that deserts are too much to cope with.  I am also going to tell you that deserts are better than abandoned farm land. You are lucky. Yes, you are!

Let’s imagine, you simply find yourself in a abandoned but essentially sound farm.  You don’t start building a useless sandcastle. You do something useful.  You start to plough the land and plant seeds.  The difficulty is that you have now fixed your group to that field.  You will be unable to move slowly across the horizon to a better place.  In modern parlance, your solution is not scalable!

That’s why I like the idea of deserts.  We are willing to abandon sandcastles and rebuild them elsewhere.

When you chose your seed project, build something, anything, where we can see results and where we can all help! Keep the projects short and sweet so that people can see results and move them as we spot other things on the horizon.

Experiments in extreme living

What I want you to do is to build something with the resources under your feet.  And invite someone else to join in.

When the person joins in, give them a prime spot and support them.  Invite another person.  Keep building.

That’s is the challenge. That is the task!

Don’t let the recession take over your life! Live anyway.

Nile Crocodile
Image via Wikipedia

Overwhelmed by the threat of the ongoing recession?

In Africa, we have a lovely though terrifying expression.

When we up to our armpits in crocodiles, it’s hard to remember that our goal is to get to the other side

What do we do when we are surrounded by crocodiles?  Ignore them ~ they’ll have you for lunch.  Scream – a stress reliever that accomplishes nothing?

Read on!

Threat captures 100% of our attention

The threats of job loss, business failure,  mortgage default etc and boring etc have become very real.  For everyone.  These are the crocodiles.  They grab our attention and we can think of little else.  At best, we hope they will go away.

Well they won’t.  Like crocodiles, they have found us.  We didn’t find them!  They are not going away unless we make them!  And right now they are taking over our entire lives.

Reclaim your attention by labeling threats as threats (not goals)

The trouble with crocodiles, and recession-type threats,  is that they are so scary, we completely forget our goals, and indeed that we ever had any at all.

The mental trick to claiming back our attention and capacity to think straight,  is to label a threat as a threat.  Neutralizing a threat is not my objective.  Fighting crocodiles isn’t the goal (for most of us).  Getting to the other side is our goal.  We need only to neutralize the threat to getting to the other side ~ not neutralize the threat itself.

Go it?  This is how it works.  When we label a threat as an annoying distraction, we focus all our knowledge, knowhow and strength on sorting it out, and sorting it out quickly.  When a crocodile threatens us, we get over our initial panic and we poke  our fingers in the crocodile’s eyes .  The crocodile is neutralized sufficiently and get on our way to the other side!

Pick our battle ground and have the battle it promises

It’s still a battle, of course. We could lose. We will get hurt.  We are still frightened.  So it is heaps smarter not to play in crocodile infested waters in the first place!

If we am going to, and sometimes we have to, sometimes we find ourselves there by mistake, then we’d be very wise to keep a sharp look out for predators and to be ready to paddle into the deep water they don’t like.  The battle goes not to the swift or the strong, but ye who thought ahead and pays attention?

We must also be prepared to have a fight, win quickly, and not worry to much about it when it is over.   There is no point in ranting and raving about crocodiles when they are a part of the very life that we have chosen.

They are there.  Deal with them.  On their own terms, not in terms of some fantasy.

Deal with them as threats to be neutralized sufficiently to be on our way.

On our way!

Which is   .   .   .  which way?  We have been so busy fighting crocodiles that we have forgotten!

Do an elementary SWOT on the back of an envelope!

  • T = Threats.  You know those.  That’s all you’ve been thinking about lately.  The crocodiles that threaten to eat us up.
  • W= Weaknesses.  You know those. All the little things you’ve been angsting about.  All our worries about crocodiles are bigger than us!  The things that are out of our personal control.
  • S=Strengths.  You have a canoe and you know the crocodile hates deep water. You read books and it doesn’t!  What have you got going for you?  List every small thing at our disposal.
  • O=Opportunity  Where is the opportunity?  Have you forgotten?  Where is the opportunity in a crocodile infested river?  Look around and spot it.  Get there!  Now!

And poke out the crocodiles eyes.  You are bored with crocodiles now.  They are just at threat.  They are not our purpose.

Don’t forget your goal is to get to other side!

A long recession

This recession is going to go on for a long time.  Live your life anyway.  Get on with it!  Pay the recession as much attention as it needs just as you pay the crocodile as much attention it needs.  Then go on your way!

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If your organization could do one thing with enthusiasm?

Popular subject, this recession!

I love it when someone visits my blog and I love it even more when someone leaves a comment.  Sadly, though, on a blog, originally taglined beautiful work, I get more traffic about the role or HR and the recession than for topics like poetry.

So you want to know about HR and the recession?

These are my qualifications to talk on the subject:

1. I am a WORK psychologist.

I pay attention as much attention to the work we do, and the context that we do it in, as I do to the techniques of HR and the psychology of the work.

Here is an important point I have noticed:  Writers on HR are not exploring the recession itself. 

My observations are this:  this is not a recession.  It is not a depression either.  The financial system is too central to the economy and too large, with one quarter of our livelihoods in UK, for this to be regarded as a cold, or a serious bout of flu.  Indeed, I don’t think metaphors of illness or failure will take us far and it is best to think of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly: the one goes and another emerges.

Where will we be in five year’s time?  What industries will be surgent?  What will jobs look like?

I spoke to someone in Johannesburg today.  He had just been into Zimbabwe and I told him of the Forbes’ prediction that Africa will supplant China as the supplier of low cost labour in five years.  Look at Africa with that filter and notice the scenarios you now consider.  Look at the processes you now perceive to be the ones we should protect, cherish and nurture.

We are not in a position of more-or-less.  We are in a position of radical change.  We need, I think, to be discussing the nature of work in the UK and how work will change by the time we are out of this crisis.

2.  My second qualification is that I have lived through a serous recession before, sadly.

We go through phases in these situations much like the phases of bereavement.  We deny, we get angry, we barter, we accept.

At the moment, we are in the early phases, with many people believing that somehow this will all go away while a few others expressing a little anger – about fat cats, particularly.

Few of us are exploring our options in any depth.  And, even fewer of us are taking a leadership position in which we help other people understand what is happening and how they can work together towards a better future.

My experience of these situations is that the presence or absence of that leadership, workplace by workplace, will make a difference to the final outcome.  The last thing we need is to develop a pattern of each man for himself, women and children look after yourselves.

Leadership matters.  And leadership means believing in our followers, and showing it.

3.  I am a psychologist.

In any stressful situation, we are faced with the easy choice: be defensive and protect what’s ours.  Or, we can step up and be proactive and generative.  Which is often very hard.

Let’s take Obama’s inauguration as an example.

Obama’s inauguration will be one of the largest in history – people want to be there.  Obama is doing some predictable things.  He is looking for ways to include as many people as possible.  And he is capping donations at USD50K.  Both laudable.

This quotation struck my eye:

This inauguration is more than just a celebration of an election,” she said. “This is an event that can be used to inspire and galvanize the public to act. That is what we’re aiming for.”

To spend all that effort (and money) on a celebration of past successess is not enough – not now, not after such a campaign.   The collective party in Washington and across the country, if not the world. lays the foundation for the next round of effort.

Rahm Emmanuel, incoming White House Chief of Staff is quoted as saying:  Don’t let a good crisis go to waste.

Indeed, a good crisis allows us to think through what is important to us and how we will work together in the future.  I desperately want to read stories in the HR blogs on what we are doing together to meet the challenges of the future, together.

Before we launch into micro-actions of making people redundant or whatever else (there’s been lots of traffic on psychometric tests of all things), how do we want people to act?

What collective action are we hoping to inspire and galvanize?  What is the good use to which we will put this crisis?

Make more money by promoting a sense of belonging in your firm: A manifesto for HR

I don’t do pain, even in my imagination

In my last post I described an exercise for testing the depth of our positive attitude: write a novel about myself and make myself feel pain.  I tried it.  It was hard!  I’m glad to know that I am not a masochist.

But I learned a little.  I learned that we hate to lose our ‘role’ and that I hate to be around people who are just pretending to have a ‘role’.  From there, I found myself listing the HR procedures for increasing belonging and the metrics to show how much value these procedures add to a company.

A manifesto for HR!

My worst nightmare

My worst nightmare is being in zombie-land.  I hate being in places where people have become cynical and at best are just “deteriorating as slowly as possible“.

Of course, I don’t really hate it ~ I am terrified by it.  We are terrified by anything which assaults our personalities.  I’m an INTFJ or a shaper/completer-finisher/resource-investigator.  I don’t do incoherent, lazy, out-of-it.   I may be misguided.  I may be slothful about many things.  But I will always have a purpose.  If I am going to be rudderless, I do it on purpose!

Our nightmare is not to have a role

This was my insight from the novel-writing exercise.   We are all terrified by the prospect of not having a role, or not belonging to our communities and workplaces.  We are very sensitive to rejection.  Even the nuances of rejection send us into a flat spin.

Many things that can lead us to feel that we don’t belong

A lot of things can lead to a sudden feeling that we are out of place.

  • Our general confidence
  • Policies of the firm which signal who is in and who is out
  • Cliques and favoritism
  • Mismatches with our own hopes and dreams
  • And storming – good old crises of confidence

Recraft your way to belonging

  • Heaps has been written in the last few years about recrafting jobs to meet our personal needs.  A waitress tenderly sweeping the floor of the cafe with good music playing in the background is recrafting her job just as the young guy who also works there recrafts his job by trying to sweep as fast and vigorously as possible.  Both put their personal stamp and sense of meaning on the job.
  • Poet David Whyte gives the same advice.  Begin with the ground, the hallowed ground on which you start.  Find meaning and belonging in what you already have and build from them.
  • Positive psychologist,  Christopher Petersen calls expanding from what we have “building a bridge while we walk on it”.
  • And for a good speech showing this is not just for me and you, but for the smartest and the brightest, listen to Dr Rao on Googletalk (YouTube).

Recrafting when we feel rejected

It is tough to recraft when we feel rejected though ~ for this reason.  We hate being rejected and we are loathe to admit that we have been excluded.

  • One, it hurts.
  • Two, we catastrophize and think that if this person rejects us, then everyone else will too.
  • Three, we worry that if we dismiss rejection, we may dismiss feedback that will help us manage future relationships.
  • Four, we catastrophize and think that if this relationship is not worthwhile, none will be worthwhile.
  • Five, we worry that the information that we have been rejected will be used against us!

Rejection put us in an emotional spin and bullies know it!  They’ll use rejection to keep you off balance.

That said, how do you work on finding the good in situation when you are feeling lousy?

Recrafting when we we are afraid

I would say we should do three things.

  • Make an objective assessment of the situation, as clinically as any staff officer in front of a paper map miles from the front line.
  • As you are not sitting behind the lines and you are actually in the thick of things, do as you would in battle. Move yourself, everyone else and everything you need out of the firing line.
  • Consider all the options including the options for negotiation and resumption of pleasantries.

This is really hard to do.  Believe me ~ being rejected by people like employers and teachers, on whom you depend, will frighten you almost as much as getting shot at.  In many ways it is worse.  You can allow yourself to be frightened by bullets as long as you act responsibly.  But to admit you are being “dissed” by your own side rips the guts out of you.

So you do the three steps: you take defensive actions, you try to be pleasant, you take time to make an objective assessment.  And guess what 90% of your energy is going into defending yourself from your own team!

Time spent on mending relationships in a firm

You are now being defensive and so is the next person and so is the next.  Guess what?  Anyone who wants to overrun this outfit, or take on this company, is going to win!

The firm is now in peril

This is my biggest nightmare.  It is quite clear once the spiral of defensive starts, the only thing allowing this firm to survive, is the incompetence of the opposition.  Anyone wanting to ‘take’ them would only have to distract the staff more for the whole ‘shooting match’ to fall apart.

What is the alternative to a firm where we are all watching our backs?

Inevitably, things do wrong in companies.  People do bump against each other quite unwittingly.  Feelings are hurt.  If we want to be successful (survive),we need to establish is a working culture where people are able to deal with shock and surprise without passing it down the line.

How do we stop defensiveness spreading?

Good HR departments, generally in larger firms work hard to keep a positive atmosphere  (I did say good.)

  • Good firms develop strong systems to minimize the management by whim. The reason they do that is to remove the objective threat to one’s employment that accompanies disagreements.  When there is no objective threat, then people can attend to mending their fences.  Good firms don’t allow people who are party to any “dissing”, in either direction, to take part in decisions about each others employment contract.
  • Good firms go to great lengths to manage the assimilation process ~ known as on-boarding or induction. They work with people through the forming, storming and norming stages and then take a watching brief during the performing stage coming back in when there are changes in a team or when someone leaves.
  • Good firms take some trouble to build diverse teams and to educate people why they need the very people who seem very different from themselves.  HR also takes some trouble to make sure that a team is not made of people who are too similar too each other and that the important bridging roles of team player and chairperson (the lazy roles!) are also present.
  • Good firms insist that everyone has an active career plan which is reviewed with you openly by committees chaired by senior members of the firm.
  • Good firms monitor diversity assiduously and keep a watchful eye on the formation of cliques.  HR is quick to intervene to minimize behavior that is rejecting and removes people’s attention from their own job.
  • Good firms design jobs carefully making sure that is is easy to get down to work (autonomy), that growth is possible in the job visible (competence) and that jobs allow us express ourselves meaningfully (relationships).  Work has goals, feedback built into the task itself, adequate resources, dignity, respect, physical safety, contractual safety, mentors and coaches.  We don’t want people so confused about how their jobs fit into the wider whole that they cannot think straight.

This is what I do for a living

My job is to make a system so that we are able to work together even when we are rubbing up against people.  I will see the effects of my systems in several ways:

  • People attempt to resolve difficulties without fear of their contracts.  People take the initiative; people don’t use the employment contract as a threat; negotiation of the employment contract is kept separate from other decisions; there is no fear in the organization or cynicism.
  • The output of people does not vary significantly when they move from group to group.   Nor does the output vary between people with different demographic characteristics.
  • The time taken for people to settle into the organization is known and the process is monitored and taken as seriously as quality on a Toyota assembly line.
  • Everyone has an active career path, we are mindful of who should be seriously thinking about progressing onto other firms, and we treat their onward progression as part of our competitive edge.
  • Deployment of individuals is not only done for and to individuals.  Teams are deployed so that they are balanced.  They are given time to bed down and their boundaries are respected.  Team work is not disrupted without investments being made in the time it takes to reestablish a team.
  • We have designed each job so that it has clear goals measurable by the incumbent, they can see how well they are doing and they can step-into the job in an orderly way sharing their successes publicly with others.

HR Metrics

To monitor my system, I have metrics on each process.  I also monitor HR Costs/Sales in each business unit and over time.  When people have the time to attend to their jobs, I would see small improvements in the ratio.

Take for example, the HR Costs/Sales ratio in manufacturing which is usually around 10%.  If people are able to do their job only 10% better, then the ratio will increase from 10/100 to 9/100 or done the other way from 10/100 to 10/110 or a 1% in Gross Profit.  That is generally going to be “pure” profit ~ that is, it is money that comes available for new equipment, training and even medical insurance and holidays.

When we are making more money because we aren’t worrying, then that is good profit indeed!

We do what concerns us and we are terrified by its loss

So it seems making a role for everyone comes from greatest concern -that we are going to have to sit around faking it.  That  led me to think that everyone wants a meaningful role.  Not everyone wants to sit around making meaningful roles. Who would make the money if we did?  While other people are off making things and selling things, it is my job to create an organization where we can get along without needless friction.

An emotionally healthy company requires good systems.  We must be able to work without fear.  Problems must be refereed as they arise and early.  And we must trawl our systems looking for emotional bruising that is getting buried.  If we continue to hide the casual rejection of people “because we can”, it will eventually cost us our livelihood. While we are all protecting ourselves from each other, our opposition will be taking over our business.

Simply, I am doing my job when you are able to do yours and I do this job because I cannot imagine what it is like to live defensively all day long!

PS I still don’t think I did the exercise properly.  It is very hard to imagine pain ~ even on a make-believe character that looks, moves and talks just like us!

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Management is developing people through work

Management in the 21st century

He died under a cloud but Agha Hasan Abedi said something sensible:

The conventional definition of management is getting work done through people, but real management is developing people through work.

Do you agree?

Real management is understanding how people will grow through our work so that our collective value grows and we all benefit.

 


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This is how succession planning will change in the next 5 years

Succession planning ensures we have someone ready to do a job tomorrow

In business, we use succession planning to ease short term supply problems ~ or in plain terms ~ to make sure that we have people available quickly, to do a job and to do it our way.

We have 3 basic methods of succession planning

#1  Do nothing or leave everything to chance

This is obviously the cheapest to do.   It also sets the base line.  Whatever else we do should work better than this, or we will stop doing it!

#2  Job cover for every position 5 years ahead

We make a database listing every job in the organization and every person in the organization. This massive  ‘spreadsheet’ is repeated 6 times: now, next year, 2 years from now, etc.  Every year, the plan is reworked to make sure that there is someone to cover every job 5 years ahead.  That way someone’s training and work exposure is started well before they are likely to take on the whole role.  And if someone resigns, there is already somebody in-house, trained and ready to take over.

This is the most expensive system and it works best when an organization is very stable.

#3  Evaluate the depth and potential of every team

This method looks at the potential of “critical” teams.

The depth of each team is assessed by rating each member on a 3×3 grid.  On the vertical is their current performance (better than adequate, adequate, not adequate).  On the horizontal is their potential (unlikely to go higher, will go up another level, will go up 2 or more levels).

This is a relatively cheap method because most of the data is already available from performance appraisals or it can be gathered intuitively from a panel of managers.

Succession planning in the information age

The key to #3 is an assessment of how much higher a person will go in the organization.  The Economist today makes a good point.  The level that a person will reach is no longer very relevant.

What is relevant is a person’s ability to

  • gather information
  • analyze information
  • make sense of it
  • present it so other people can make sense of it and know what to do with it

I can imagine some people thinking these skills mean research skills.  That’s not quite what we mean.  We mean skills linked to the internet.

  • Make a website in minutes to make data available
  • Use Google Alerts, Twitter and Search to keep abreast of events and to rapidly deduce what is relevant
  • Mashup data so that other people can see what is happening
  • Ask questions that are relevant to people around them
  • Present data so that people understand the underlying processes and quickly understand what decisions they should make
  • Track the effects of action

This sounds geeky.  It is a little.  To do any of this well, though, we need to understand people and their context.

What do they need to know and what will they do once they know?

Succession planning will ask then

  • Is the person aware of what is going on around them?  Do they gather and analyze the right information?  Do they ask the right questions?  Do they lay out information well?  Do people understand them and people find it easier to act quickly and effectively?
  • Is the person developing his or her information talents?
  • Are they able to take on larger leadership roles with more complex & dynamic information environments than they currently enjoy?

It would be good to write up the types of information contexts that people work in currently and the demands on their attention.

 

HRM – drop the shopping list and give me the information I need!

The psychology and HRM that we are teaching is not good enough

We, psychologists and HR Managers do ourselves a disservice. We train our students in technicalities. Psychologists learn to run laboratories and do stats. Future HR Managers are taught the steps of recruiting, selecting, and paying people who work as employees.

We produce drones, who have enormous difficulty communicating with other people in an organization.

Even our blogs tend to drone on-and-on as shopping lists of what to do when. People hate us – for good reason. We concentrate on forms and procedures. We know the price but not the value. We know the answers and not the questions.

I want my HR Manager to know

  • Who I am
  • Where I come from
  • What is important to me
  • Where I am going
  • Why I am here
  • What specific things I bring to the party
  • The things I want on and off-the-job
  • And not least, where I can find people elsewhere (outside the organization) who can meet my needs – including ex-employees!

As a manager, I want to hear from HR

  • How many people are interested in the work I am doing
  • Where they come from and where they are going to
  • Whether interest in our work in the ascendancy or in decline
  • New interests that are emerging
  • How people in the field relate to each other and how their inter-relationships are changing
  • And some ideas of how I can build my interests on the interests of others as they come and go, morph and change.

HRM in fast moving industries

In fast moving industries, our interests and motives are continuously changing and quite fast.

HR has a large challenge to come up with a report structure or dashboard which keeps abreast of changes and opportunities in the labour supply.

  • As a player inside the organization, I have needs that come up very quickly. Is the organization able to meet my demands in time to create value?  What does the organization need to do in the background to have that readiness?
  • Equally, the people who work in my field and who could create exceptional value if we worked together have needs which come and go. How do we detect that it would be a good time to approach them and can we negotiate a deal before they move on to other opportunities?
  • Can we get ahead of the game by making a place where people come together to discuss their ongoing and ever developing needs? How do we invite them to join in, how do we help them to influence discussions, how can we show them how to extract what they want, and how do we help them to decide when they should move on?

Should we decide to work together in for a longer period and should we need a formal contract, what structures will facilitate the mutual journey?

Our role is to facilitate the interests and motivation of people who are moving very fast. That is what we must understand and that is what we must shape.

  • Do we hold up a mirror so they can see themselves change?
  • Can they see patterns in how every one else is changing?
  • Can they see ahead and position themselves to take part in the most lucrative join ventures that are emerging?
  • Can we keep the information up-to-date in near-real-time because the opportunities change as people react to each other?

Please drop the shopping list approach to HR! Organizations will not exist to amuse us.

We must make organizations that allow value to emerge in specific industries. Anything else is just clerking.  It is close to worthless and utterly dull.

Get a strategic stake for HR with social media

My social Network on Flickr, Facebook, Twitter...
Image by luc legay via Flickr

Jon Ingham is on to something good.

How can we leap-frog ahead of our competition by using social media?

How can the easy interaction between staff members, whether on the intranet or on Facebook and Twitter, build a stronger team?

How does our combined strength on Facebook and Twitter build more loyal links between us and our customers?

New IT has always give competitive edge

IT boffins have always been brilliant at looking at how a new technology allows us to put old working practices in the trash, leap-frog over our competitors, leaving them in a mad scramble to catch up.

The social nature of the two-way web gives us the opportunity to jettison old norms about social structure and leap ahead with tighter relations.

Who will win the social media race?

One of the interesting features of these revolutions is that it is usurpers who tend to use new technologies.

Barack Obama used my.barackobama.com to mobilise door-to-door canvassers and to raise money $ by $ because he was coming from behind. The Conservatives have been quicker to jump on the social media band wagon because they are trying to wrest the lead from Labour.

In business, we see Best Buy coming in to challenge big box companies with their ‘pull’ HR – work any time like a university lecturer – just get it done.

We see students playing David and successfully challenging the Goliath HSBC.

HR is taking its place with leading IT

Jon is chairing a session at the Social Media in Business conference on October 23rd. He will be surrounded by geeks who will tell you the ins-and-outs of being found on Google and managing your blogging policy.

HR is taking up the chance to be strategic

Jon is doing what I’ve always liked doing: asking how can we change the rules to give us permanent competitive edge?

How do the people, and the way we arrange them, give us and edge on our competitors? How can we take our competitors by surprise and make them chase us?

Oh what fun business is when we treat it as a race!

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Succession Planning: Goodbye Baby Boomers, Hello Gen Y

Weak succession planning has led to weakness in the management chain

I was sitting in the office of a thirties-something – a young, dynamic and intelligent man.

We noted that in many firms there is a horrible gap between the Baby Boomers and the next level. Sometimes there is a gap of 20 to 30 years.  Do you see that gap in your company? Grey hair – a long gap – slightly inexperienced manager?

If there is any succession planning, it is certainly not evident.

Generational demographics

The breaks in the chain are largely a function of demographics – the number of babies who were born.

Baby Boomers, as the name suggests, are many. They are also used to dominating politics with their votes, and dictating taste with their purchasing power.

Gen X are few. Generally, while Boomers had 3 siblings, they had none. They are outnumbered by Boomers at least 2:1. Known as the latch-key kids, they are used to cleaning up the world after the Boomers have swanned-through. They are the unseen generation.

Gen Y are more numerous and are having more children than themselves.

Can we mend the breaks in the chain?

The gap between those in charge now, and those in charge tomorrow, is horrible. It even became an issue in the American Presidential election. “Obama is too young (47!) and has too little experience”, people cried. The gulf is much bigger in business.

How will the mantle of leadership be handed on from Boomers to Gen X or Gen Y?

I wanted to know how my young friend thought change would come about.

He smiled and said: “One day, one of them will go out to play golf. And his friends will follow.”

All over in day?

How will the mantle of leadership be passed from one generation to another in your industry? And what will be the consequences?

Chaos from lack of skill and exposure? A breath of fresh air?

What are the elements of succession planning with these unusual demographics before us?

How will the generation shift affect you?  Good or bad?  And if it is sudden, will it be in your favor, or not?

UPDATE:  Perhaps we can begin by not slagging off Gen Y, be reopening management training schools and having explicit policies to pass on the mantle of leadership?

3 prongs of HR in our Networked World

The HUMAN Resource album cover
Image via Wikipedia

10 Sun Tzu rules for the networked world

I am currently writing about 10 Sun Tzu rules for the networked world and I stopped to consider the specific issues faced by startups – defining their fans & customers.

For HR too

HR are another group who face special problems. HR are last to the party and we often feel that there is little we can do about the structure and climate we inherit.

Well there is.

HR in the Recession Stressed World of 2009

First, promote positive psychology.

Full press. Positive psychology is the biggest favor we can do for our organization.

And to develop an infectiously positive outlook, we personally will take more vacations, play more golf, laugh more, and have fun! It begins with us.

Second, read the 10 Sun Tzu rules for the networked world

Originally written by Umair Haque to defend networks under attack, the rules provide a framework for an organizational structure that will work in today’s fast moving world.

Our structures will be a little different to the ones we have now.

The job of corporate HR in a networked world

Why do we need an organization anyway?

In the ‘corporate’ office, our task is to develop the collective properties of an organization that the people out in the field need to compete effectively.

We, for example, work on discounts that make it easier to get good rents in the shopping malls. But we don’t sign exclusive deals that block the initiative of the people in the front line.

We conceptualize the meaning of the collective.  But ot in terms of return on our funder’s capital.  Interest on capital is incidental to our business. So are we, actually.

We conceptualize why the field units are better off working under one umbrella and we work out which aspects of the organization must be coordinated and which do not have to be.

That’s what we went to university to learn and that’s how we contribute significant, inimicable value that exceeds the cost of our salaries.

Just how lightweight can the organization be?

And then we execute those aspects of coordination in as light weight form as we can.

If capital is needed, so be it. But we don’t become prats and hand-over the business lock-stock-and-barrel.  We let the funders have their % return.  That is all.

Take the initiative to lead us into the networked world

And we step-up! This is the age of sweat equity. We are in the age of organizing ourselves around our talent and around our relationships with customers.

This is our task as HR managers of the 21st century

1.  Conceptualize the organizational structures that add value to the business.

2.  Organize the corporate office to add that value.

3.  Help talent make the transition from solo operator to team player and from talented employee to customer-oriented professional.

That’s what we do now. We are the entrepreneurs of the 21st century!

And if you are not in corporate HR?

Start learning.

You can activate positive psychology in the workplace without anyone’s permission.

Indeed, if they are inclined to say no, that is all the more reason why you must activate positive psychology, for the sake of your own mental health.

If you don’t understand that argument, contact me, and I will explain.

And activate social media for the functions you do control.

All works parties, sports teams and fund raising can be managed with social media.

Begin, so your skills are up-to-speed when you need them.

To recap: HR in the Networked World

1.  Positive psychology

2.  Social media

Why?

1.  We want to find the organizational structure that brings value to business.

2.  We want to organize the corporate office to execute the structure to add that value.

3.  We want to help each and every person in the organization go from being solo-performer with talent to a customer-oriented professional who is supported by a team and supports a team in turn.

I have my mission. I hope I have helped you find yours.

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