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Tag: SHRM

BHAG for Britain!

Do you still dream?

What is your BHAG for the UK? What is the Big Hairy Audacious Goal for your industry?

What is the one thing that could take your industry from stagnation to contributing to the 2.5 million new jobs or the equivalent that we need here in the UK?

Big Hairy Audacious Goal

Last night, my heart soared when Roland Harwood welcomed the ‘Network of Networks’ at Amplified08 with this BHAG:

to be the most networked nation in the world.

Getting down and dirty

Toby Moores, founder of Sleepy Dog and Visiting Professor at De Montfort University brought this goal alive.archive-since-nz-0571

Leicester, cotton city of the English Midlands has been transformed from 5% design:95% manufacturing . . . to . . . 50% design:50% import/export.

Networking via Creative Coffee Club and other social media configurations, using technologies like blogs, Twitter and Facebook, provides designers with the hyper-competitive domestic environment, or space, that an industry needs to be competitive in the international world.

Breaking the British reserve?

One of the epiphany moments in my life was visiting Roman ruins at Coimbra in Portugal and imagining running water several centuries before Christ. Superimposed on the ruins I was looking at were mental images of the dams that Italians have built all around the world. Civil engineers, then; civil engineers now.

Leicester is also taking their core competencies and the best of their past into the future.

Something tells me the British may be very good at networking. Something verbal, something witty, . . . .?

A highly networked country also offers advantage that is not here now. Youngsters can find mentoring more easily. New ideas transfuse in that mysterious way they do between two people who have never met yet share a common acquaintance.

As a goal, to be the most networked country in the world, is sufficiently concrete for us to monitor it. It is sufficiently open for us all to agree. It is sufficiently enjoyable for us all to get started.

It is inclusive. It is generative.

Some of the new 2.5 million jobs will be directly in the networking industry.  Most will be because our knowledge workers are finding it easy to access to information, make decisions, and provide services that are valued throughout the world.

Good input NESTA.  Thankyou.  And thanks to @DT, @sleepdog, @loudmouthman and @joannejacobs who did much of the organizing.

*********************************************************************

P.S.  2.5 million jobs are Obama’s target for America.  About 30m people work in the UK and 3-4 people may be unemployed before the economic downturn is done.  What is our target?

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10 steps for making beautiful Moo cards efficiently

Do you use Moo cards?

I have some typical corporate cards, but in truth, I am not sure what I am trying to convey.  That I am a relic of the Emily Bronte era?  But are Moo cards, half the size of a business card, with pictures on one side and minimal contact info on the reverse, too frivolous?

Whatever’s the right choice, Moo cards require quite a lot of conscious decision making.  Which pictures should I use?  What do they say about our products and services?  And what should I say about myself in exactly 6 lines?

Moo cards also require a modicum of administrative efficiency.  I need to load up photos, or find some on Flickr, edit them using an online service like Picnik, and then place them on the Moo interface, pay Moo online and wait – for about 10 days for them to arrive through my letterbox.

Starting from scratch, it took me about 3 days (!) to make a set of 10 cards which will be printed 10 times each.  The magic of Moo is that the customization is done at no extra cost.   I could do 100 unique cards, if I wished, or 100 of a single card.  Anyway, three days is way too much time, so I paid attention to what I was doing and this is the routine that I will use in future.

Routine for designing Moo cards

  1. I’ve set up a directory called Business Cards, and a subdirectory for each month: November, December, etc.  In free moments while I am hanging on to a call centre, for example, I will search Flickr for pictures and download them into the upcoming month’s directory.  I also did one more thing: I went into the Tools of my browser and set it to ask me where to download (or it dumps everything on me desktop/screen).
  2. I explore rather than search Flickr.  Under explore I go to Creative Commons and search pictures that are listed as “By and Share-alike”.  This means the owner is happy for me both to use them and to change them, provided I indicate who took them and provided I allow anyone else the same right to use the picture I come up with.
  3. I am continuously thinking of tags that might represent my business.  Being a psychologist, so far I have searched for words like “horizon”, “dream”, “steps”.   When I find a promising picture, I download it carefully saving it with filename like “Name of the Picture by Photographer via Flickr”.  Normally the picture will save as a .jpg file.
  4. In the future, when I have some free time, I will go into the online editor, Piknic. It’s free and there is nothing to download.  Here is where I hope to save a lot of time that I spent last time around.
    • Use Edit to resize the picture so the width is 330.  The length doesn’t matter so long as it is 900 or so or less.  An alternative is to resize the picture to something bigger and crop to the right width.
    • Go to Create and add frames.  I’ve found the trick is to set the inner and outer frames to full and change the colour to suit the picture.  I’ve also found it simplest to make both frames the same colour.  At a picture width of 330 and both frames on full, the final picture printed by Moo will have no frame along the long sides and a thick frame at both top and bottom where I can add text.
    • Use Text to add a heading at one end or the other. So far I’ve mostly used a variation of the picture’s name, such as “horizons”.  Then I vary the font and colour to suit the picture.  I also found, after much trial and error that the title must fit within the picture width. As a guide, the circle placeholders must be within the picuture, not overlapping its ends.
    • Use Text to add the copyright information “Picture name By author via Flickr” and use Shapes to find the BY and Share-a-like pictures.  These shapes look like a man and a broken c (not full c) respectively.  Occasionally, I put the copyright information on the picture itself.  Whatever looks good.
    • Save the picture with a new file name.  I extend the original filename with the word “pikniked”.
  5. When I need to order some more cards, I will go go to Moo and select mini-cards.  Using upload, I can pick out the images I have already edited and saved onto my harddrive, position them, and preview them.  In the past,  I have done this even if I am not going to proceed with an order, just to make sure I have edited the picture correctly.  As in this run,  if I want say 20 of one card and 10 for 8 others,  then I just upload the first image twice!  Lastly, I whip out my credit card and pay online.   The going price as of the end of November 2008 is 9.99 pounds and 3.68 postage.  Print out the confirmation and wait 10 days!

I am looking forward to the cards I have made especially for Christmas.  Two geese, looking quite fat and prosperous are waddling through the snow.  That’s my metaphor for the recession!  A fun, happy and prosperous 2009!

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Light at the end of the tunnel!

Forget the recession for a moment

and look at this up-and-coming recruitment specialist in our midst! Funny, stylish, and on the nail.  If this is what Gen Y will be bringing our industry, we are in good hands!

HOW NOT TO WRITE A BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT LETTER – DESPITE MY TEMPTATION!

Dear Client,

I’ve written to you today to talk to you about recruitment and I have chosen a letter in which to do this. I have opted for this pre-dated method of communication for a few reasons.

1) All of the carrier pigeons were out.

2) I can’t talk to your secretary anymore. Shy of knowing her bra size and favourite day of the week, I’ve come to know more about her than my own mother and whilst I enjoy hearing the words ‘If you’d like to send me an email, I’ll ensure your details are passed on to the right person who will be in contact soon’ more times than Michael Jackson say’s ‘chimone’, I feel my relationship with her is becoming one of those relationships that cause people to bungee-jump – minus cord. I know she’s lovely but her telephone sign off can only be heard by near-by dolphins and my ear-drums can’t take it anymore.

. . . for more, I’ll pass you over to Ian’s blog, Branded Jeanes.

Ian is a specialist recruiter in new media – the read-write web and everything that entails: SOE, coding, community management, etc.

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5 years’ time: where will we be?

Skate to where the puck will be

“She’ll be alright”. “Manyana, manyana”. We may not wear this attitude on our sleeves but we English are notorious short-term thinkers.  Not for us, saving for a rainy day or a stitch in time.

Is it healthy though, to plan ahead? Isn’t planning ahead exactly the opposite of what is recommended by positive psychologists: be mindful and attentive to what is going on around us?

The difficulty with living in the present seems to me that we can be living in the past. Just as the ice hockey player skates to where the puck will be, we have to interpret the present in terms of the energy and dynamism that it represents. One of the beautiful phrases asked by positive organizational scholars emerging in the business schools in the US is: what is trying to emerge here?

What will the UK look like in 5 years’ time?

In some respects, I am sure the UK will not have changed muchin 5 years’ time. An endearing quality of the UK is that it piles layer over layer. A scratch below the surface is always interesting.

Demographic change

There will also be some trends that will stretch out linearly. For the most part, those people who already here will still be here. 5 year olds will be 10. 40 year olds will be 45. 75 year olds will be 80. Some people will be off exploring the world, but we will mostly be here. Even in Zimbabwe, most people are still there!

Structural changes

But some things will change qualitatively, fundamentally, or definitively.

I have just read a prediction that IN FIVE YEARS, Africa will overtake China as the supplier of low cost labor.

On line virtual laboratory

Being linked to universities, another prediction that caught my eye is that new ideas will no longer come out of US business schools. Nor will they come out of Chinese or Indian business schools. They will come out of ‘on line virtual laboratories’. There are obvious implications for universities who carry on treating the value chain as the long 7 year process of thinking up ideas, testing them, and publishing them.

Journalism collapsing

Similar changes are being predicted in journalism. Jeff Jarvis predicts changes even deeper than those predicted for academia. Editors will no longer drive news policy. They will encourage the creation of better news.

So what is my time line?

From time-to-time, I play with Curriculum Illusione in which you input what you think will happen between now and the year you die (chosen by yourself). It is interesting how hard it is, particularly when you have to back up your ideas with photos.

So where are we exactly?

Or maybe, the question for today is what do we need to know?

Is it sufficient to get up and go to work and just hope for the best?

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HR doubles your money?

Supermarket in São Paulo

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State of Retail 2008

On Monday, The Times published a summary of OC&C’s report State of Retail 2008.  As a typical Gen Xer, I love numbers and numbers abound in this article.

Rates of return are slim

They report the EBIT (earnings before interest and taxation) as a profit margin. None of the figures surprised me.  They are quite constant with figures achieved in other countries.  After all, the nature of an industry does define what we do and how we do it.

Grocery stores achieve 2.5-3.5%.  Books & stationery, Electricals and Music, video & gaming achieve similar margins.

Opticians, pharmacies and health & beauty achieve twice that rate at 7%, and clothing, footwear and accessories achieve slightly better at 9%.

What this tells us about work is this:  if we own a business, even a successful one, we have to sell a lot of stuff to make 1 pound profit!  The local convenience store or bookshop must sell 40 pounds to leave 1 pound profit in the hands of the owner.   The local clothes shop must sell about 12 pounds to keep 1 pound in the pocket of the owner.

Some do so much better than others

The article also gave a good comparison of the margins achieved by the top two retailers and the rest.  In almost every case, the top two retailers achieved TWICE the margins of the field.

What the report didn’t tell us were the “HR Costs/Revenue” ratios: how much of the sales dollar do large companies like TESCOs spend on HR?

It is clearly obvious that industries like consultancy where 20-35% of each sales dollar is paid in salaries, more money is spent on training, etc.  When the return on 1 pound on HR is 3 pounds in sales, we pay more attention to HR than when we spend 1 pound on salaries to make 30 pounds such as might happen in a supermarket.  Simply, in a supermarket other factors have a bigger impact on sales.

But when the margins are DOUBLE in one firm than another, then the question arises, WHY?

  • Does the firm have an advantage of size?
  • Does the firm operate in a more lucrative niche?
  • Are the management somehow superior to management in the other firm?
  • Are the management practices better?
  • And how does HR contribute to a better HR costs/Revenue ratio?  (Profit=Sales-Costs-HR Costs)

I do wish OC&C had give us the HR figures too!

UPDATE: For an HR Managers perspective on the Recession, I have written a summary on a new post.

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5 tips from the recession guru!

Self-appointed recession guru

Do I dare call myself a recession guru?  Why not?  I spent most of life working in a regional centre given to trouble and strife!  If we weren’t rapidly readjusting to major political turmoil, we were adjusting to the effects of drought on agriculture which was our primary economy.  In a good year, the economy expanded 3%.  When the rains didn’t come, we went back 3%.

  • We got very good at scenario planning and not over-reacting.  We were brought up on the phrase: anyone can make money when the markets are going up.  A business person plans for the up and the down.
  • We stopped blaming people.  If weather is the problem, then plan for it!
  • We learned about the economy.  As an HR consultant, my business wasn’t hit in the year the economy went down.  It would feel the pain 2-3 cycles later.  Simply, psychologists don’t work with farmers very  much.  We work with people who supply the farmers and people who supply the suppliers.  It takes a little time for the effects to work through the levels.
  • We learned what the numbers meant.  For the record, a downturn of 7% will have accountants hyperventilating.  Quite often their firms are technically bankrupt and they should cease trading – but if every one is in the same boat, you breath fast and trade through!  Equally I can tell you with confidence that you can survive 100% inflation quite well. At 300% expect people to get seriously ill.  Relax.  We aren’t there yet!
  • And above all we learned to focus.  We learned to sack customers who didn’t pay on time!  It is disconcerting to shrink your revenue, grow your profit and play more golf.  But that is how it works!

Time management

BNET published a good article today on time management.  The centre piece of the article is the busy, busy person who is racing around being busy being busy.

Since I have come to live in the UK, I have been stunned by poor time management.  I am amazed by someone who delegates his time management to a subordinate (usually blokes delegating to gals?).   Beyond a junior levels of management, our tasks aren’t serial, they are interrelated.

Let me give you an example:  I email you asking to discuss something.  You email back to say yes and speak to your secretary.  I write to her (usually).  She consults you (or doesn’t).  She writes back with some questions about time.  I write back.  She confirms.

7 emails to do something you had the power to do in your first reply.  When I confirmed, that would be 3 emails.

The pre-email rule is that any piece of paper should come across your desk once and once only.  You should have been sufficiently clear about your priorities to make a decision whether or not the meeting with me was important to you and how our meeting would move your major project forward.

All else is dross.

HR and the recession

As HR practitioners, we have a major role in a recession:

  • Make sure we are calm ourselves.  Get the HR team taking exercise, working reasonable hours and secure about their own prospects.
  • Back up the people like accountants who are on the front line.  Spend time with them to make sure they are taking exercise, working reasonable hours and calm about their own prospects!
  • Get the conversations about the economy and the company humming.  Make sure managers understand the economy and talk to staff (I’ve heard of Royal Bank of Scotland managers unable to discuss credit derivatives with their staff – don’t be like that please!).  Resource the conversation and support it with social media.
  • Make sure people understand what factors the business must focus on to succeed and keep them focused!

Above all of course, we should be focused.

“Know your Number 1 priority. If you achieved nothing else in the next 12 months, what single achievement would most contribute to the success of your organisation?”

Can we answer this question ourselves?  How many people in the organization could state the No 1 priority for

  • the organization
  • their unit
  • their boss
  • themselves
  • each of their colleagues
  • their subordinates

Remember, any one can do business in good times.  It is the bad times that test our credentials.

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Work psychology: 2008 AD

Do you know what work psychologists do?

Thirty-one years ago, I decided to study psychology.  And for 28 years, I have practiced as a work psychologist.  Can you imagine my surprise when some readers said this blog was their first encounter with my esteemed trade?  So what do we do?

What do we do all day?

I love being a work psychologist and I think it is important for you to know I go to my ‘office’ every day with a spring in my step, looking forward to the people I will meet during the course of the day.   Most of our lives are spent ‘on the road’.  We usually work at our clients’ factories and offices, and we need strong arms to carry around briefcases laden with confidential papers.  When you see us, we are likely to be taking part in some HR exercise – recruitment, selection, or team-building, say.  When you don’t see us, we will be reconciling paperwork, doing computer work, or talking to senior managers about the direction of the company, and ways to organize, lead, up skill, confront challenges, and look after each other.

Why do clients hire us?

We deal with the pulse of the organization.  Ideally, we want everyone to enjoy their work as much as we do.  There is fascination in what we do, but little mystery.  Our understanding of how organizations work has grown in leaps and bounds over the last 100 years.  The last ten years have been particularly interesting as the limits of old ‘mechanical’ organizations have been reached and we’ve begun to embrace the fluidity and flexibility of the internet.

The psychologist’s role is to bring to the party up-to-date information about the way work practices are changing around the world, hands-on experience of changes in other companies, and deep commitment to supporting you as you think through changes in the immediate and foreseeable future.

What is special about what we do?

Just looking at us work is not sufficient to see the value we add.  You can see us talking to people – lots of people do that!  You see the briefcases – a prop?

The key to what psychologists do is deep training and ongoing exposure to work situations around the world.  When we talk with you, we are not asking whether we like you.  Nor, are we are asking about things we want.

Our interest is in accurately understanding your motivation and your circumstances, reflecting them against the changing world of business and work, and helping you work through the mix of emotions you feel as you cast your story in terms of today’s economic conditions – globalization, credit crunch, and new technologies.

This is a complicated process.  Even in the simplest business, we have on the one hand the things we want, and one the other, ‘what’s out there’.  And that gap in knowledge is not all we cope with.  When we really want something, we feel fear and trepidation.  Our job is to stay with you while you work through your anxiety and take the first step towards what will ultimately be success and very deep satisfaction.

Psychologists understand this process, see it is normal, and are there to help steer you through all three questions: you, your opportunities, your emotions.

When we work in most modern businesses, 5, 10, 15, 10 000, 100 000 of us are going through the same process.  When I decide, for example, to pursue my story in certain ways, my actions change your circumstances.   The key to good organization is that the give-and-take between us as we follow our own dreams strengthens us individuals and as a group.  Therein, the discussions we hold with senior managers.

Some case studies next?  Do let me know if I have made it any clearer what we do for a living!

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HRM: Can we meet the pace set by the Obama team?

The bar has raised

Here is how times have changed.  In the early hours of Wednesday morning (British time), Barack Obama got the ‘verbal offer’ for the job as CEO of USA plc.

Friday lunchtime, and I picked up the link to Obama’s presidential-elect website, complete with easy to understand jobs page.

The challenge

How many of us could support a CEO in this way?  Have a CEO website page up and running withing 48 hours giving the vision, the opportunties, the press links, the opportunities and the discussion page for people to reply?

How many employees would dare to reply (a sign of their confidence in us)?

Anyone want to get together to have this skillbase ready for our CEO’s?

I would like to say that by Jan 1, any company who wants a similar service

  • to articulate the vision
  • to embed it on a readwrite website
  • to be able to launch within 48 hours of an appointment
  • to manage the website
  • to be trusted by their employees who are happy to add their visions

could get it from say, three, suppliers.

Who would those suppliers be?

UPDATE: For an HR Managers perspective on the Recession, I have written a summary on a new post.

PS Update October 31 2009 (11 months later).  I’ve had no takers.  I still believe that being able to launch a website in 48 hours to show employees what they can trust is a measure of an HR department.

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3 conflicting views of management and the recession

RECESS RECORDS

 

Image via Wikipedia

1

Hmm, my little survey of our reactions to the credit crunch show surprising optimism.  Briefly we haven’t been hit yet, we are doing little planning and we expect to use the recession to leap ahead.

2

Management gurus such as Henry Mintzberg believe that we have less of an economic crisis and a massive management crisis – our structures don’t allow good decision making.  Very much in the lap of HR?

3

And Watson Wyatt report HR responses to the crunch/recession.  Cut back on costs including training.

Is that all that is necessary, and possible?  Tidy up a little and slow the economy by spending less?

UPDATE: For an HR Managers perspective on the Recession, I have written a summary on a new post.

UPDATE:  Best to carry on living, but with verve and vigor!  Step into your dream and make it happen in spite of the recession!

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HR leaders: stepping up in the recession

UPDATE: For an HR Managers perspective on the Recession, I have written a summary on a new post.

In recent days, there has been a lot more traffic looking for advice on Human Resources Management (HR) in a recession.  Scott MacArthur posted a good practical list of issues and I weighed in on his post with two catch-all suggestions for opportunities presented by a recession:  Declutter and Build Relationships.

Strategic approach to HR in the recession

The recession is an opportunity for HR professionals to step and contribute strategically.  In the classical strategy paradigm,

  • we begin by looking at the macro economic environment.
  • Then we look at the micro-environment – what affects us and our competitors.
  • Next, we establish which strategic factors HR influences directly.
  • Finally, we drop down to our tactics.

Reach out beyond HR – think economics

HR Managers in large firms in today’s business climate have to start at the very top of the strategic process.   We are on the cusp of the most dramatic shakeup in business conditions in 70 or 80 years.  And, unfortunately, we will be lucky if it is only a recession.

I picked up a very good video this morning explaining how the credit crunch came about.  It uses the example of a pyramid of champagne glasses.  One of the first practical things you can do, is keep this link to help people in your company understand why the credit crunch happened, and why it is so serious.

Think beyond defence.  Lead.

As I write, I feel like one of the gloom-and-doom merchants we are hearing in the media.  I don’t feel the gloom-and-doom, as my previous posts on positive psychology and the best of Britain in this blog will show.

It does seem that business, and not just the banks, may have been dealing in classical pyramid schemes, and that major institutions, like the rating agencies, were utterly out of their depth.

The best of UK

But, we have another foundation to our society which is far more important than they.

I look to the creativity, the wit, the curiosity, and the plain initiative of the ordinary people of our country, and I look particularly to the spectactularly self-driven and honest Gen Y who are just coming into junior management positions.

Boomers and older Gen Xers need to step up and lead!

Boomers and older Gen Xers should be showing clear leadership but I am not seeing a phalanx of senior executives coming together and providing a united front.  I am not hearing a clear cut strategy from politicians.  What I am seeing, or perhaps hearing as someone put it on the BBC, is a loud raspberry being blown at the bailout. The Icelandic prime minister talked of “each man for himself”.

I think our role, as HR managers, is to reverse this attitude, and facilitate clear leadership in each and every one of our organizations.

So how do we support leadership in this climate?

This is what I would be doing.

Facilitate the conversation

#1 Be in on the strategic meetings and facilitate full discussion.  Our job is to stop groupthink, and to keep the conversations grounded and positive.  Negative thought leads to tunnel vision.  Postive thought about collective action generates creativity and sustains morale.

Broker commitments and loyalty to employees

#2 Ask for clear commitments of what the company can guarantee employees in the worst case scenario.  People need a firm bedrock to push off against.

Engage employees in independent scenario planning

#3 With or without these commitments, ask employees to engage in scenario planning on their own account.

~ I can hear the panic – employees think and talk?  Yes, this is the right time for employees to think and talk.

~ I would set up a closed social network on a platform like Ning, and open it up for employees to post videos and discuss ideas directly with each other.

~ By using a social media platform, the discussion is out in the open, and executives are able to monitor morale, and pick up ideas from the very smart Gen Yers who will use the network most.

Our role, as ever, is to facilitate:

  • Get Gen Y to teach Gen X and Boomers networking skills.
  • Moderate any uncouth language.
  • Net etiquette is pretty strong and some diplomatic coaching will smooth away any rough talk very quickly.

Is this too pink when we need strong task leadership?

Why will these actions help fill the leadership gap?  In a phrase, collective efficacySelf-efficacy predicts the staying power of individuals.  Collective efficacy predicts the capacity of a group to overcome adversity.

Collective efficacy is simply our belief in each other’s competence.  Social networks reveal the strengths of individuals across the organization.  We get to know each other, beyond our immediate workgroup, and we begin to appreciate the depth of talent around us.  Experts begin to explain complex ideas.  Non-experts listen, and display talents in their own areas.  Dumbing up, I like to call it.

Above all, we tend to get that jaw-dropping experience of “I didn’t know we are this good”.  Such insight generates the energy for the extra mile, the extra idea, the extra five minutes of patience, and ultimately the thriving that we hadn’t thought possible.

So how do we set up Ning?

It is easy (and free).  If you are unsure, or have never facilitated an online community before, there are experienced social media users the length and breadth of the UK.  For starters, contact SocialMediaMafia and ask them to direct you to a social media expert near you.  They will be happy to help.  This is the age and medium of the generous, the helpful, the connected.

And P.S.

If you are worried about talking about the economy and HR’s role, please do feel free to talk to me too.  This is the worst economic crisis in UK in the last 70, years but other countries have been through this depth of shake-up on a local basis.  I’ve been here before.

Collective efficacy is possible, and we in HR, are the people to fill the leadership vacuum, both online and offline.

UPDATE: For an HR Managers perspective on the Recession, I have written a summary on a new post.

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