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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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Better CV’s please!

I’m waiting for my client to approve the first case study of Work Psychology 2008 AD and I thought I would ask this question.

Why in this fast moving world do we stress where people have come from?

Does it matter?  Isn’t it likely to be discriminatory anyway?

What I want to know is what they are going to do for me and how we will interact!

Compare our baby boomer world

Mike xxxxxx, CEO and founder of I……… Alliances, has joined ….. as category leader for Business Training. He is the most experienced LinkedIn classroom trainer in the world with over 200 deliveries resulting in over 3,000 people trained. Mike’s LinkedIn profile is in the global top 50.

Neil xxxxx is a leader in the specialist marketplace of supply chain management software. His 17-year success story includes four years as CTO of supply chain and logistics provider . . . . . as it grew from zero to $350 million in revenue.

etc. etc.

with Gen Y in UK

And it’s not for the money.  Ian Jeanes enjoyed being in recruitment despite the trials and tribulations that come with being in recruitment.

“HR HATE you, Managers despise you, receptionists would rather stick pins in their eyes than endure another ‘introductory sales call’ and Financial Controllers see us as an unnecessary cost.

CORRECT?

Well, there are always PROS and CONS in using a recruitment consultant, but what about the PROs and CONS of hiring a new person. Trawling through endless CVs from people who haven’t read the specification, or are looking to change direction and give the job a go but have done nothing to their CV to suggest this. What about those people who apply, then call, then email,, then follow up, then keep calling… and they’re not even that good? Well I CAN TELL YOU that having somebody take all that away from you is an amazing opportunity. It’s like pouring raw meat into shark infested waters and jumping in yourself…. however, this time, you’ve got recruitment consultant chainmail to protect you.

Recently for one role I scanned under 900 CVs . . .

Check out Branded Jeanes for upcoming HR talent!

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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 as

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 as 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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5 businesses encountered this week (and it is only Tuesday)

I love being a work psychologist

I became a work psychologist because I love learning about organizations and what people do. What makes a business tick?

It’s only Monday and here are five picks of whom I have encountered this week (and it is only Tuesday!)

Geographer who locates supermarkets (location, location, location)

Valuer of cars in Russia (great when it freezes and plenty of work until the insurance market matures)

Broker of Nepalese art (deep relationships with artists = supply chain management)

Furniture retailer in Sudan (steady as she goes – continuity and cost leadership)

Retail banker in Sri Lanka (get that customer served – be reliable and dependable)

What I do (my core competence, if you like)

HR always seems so obvious to people in the business.  If it works well, it becomes part of the “taken for granted” set of value assumptions in the underwater part of the cultural iceberg.

Non-formally trained business people take for granted what they do, twice over.  What they seems natural, it also seems childish not to know.

The fun of being a work psychologist is drawing out the assumptions business people have held for so long that they haven’t mentioned them or talked about them to anyone for a long time.

What is it like to have a conversation with a work psychologist?

I am having fun. What do business people gain from talking to me?

  • My interest is a mirror where they can see how their business runs.  They enjoy the experience and are reassured and steadied as they work in other areas that may be shaky.
  • Talking aloud to an appreciative listener allows them to put into words what they have been acting on, but not thinking or saying.  Often we don’t realize what we think until we say it aloud in the presence of someone else.
  • The principles of what they are doing are now out in the open where they can inspect them, consider them, and consider how relevant they will be in the future.  The valuer in Russia, for example, has trained valuers in distant city so he can take advantage of the current boom in valuing assets.  He also knows the boom will peak in a few years.  He is perfectly aware of both facts but may allow the situation to drift if he does not say what he knows aloud in front of someone else.

Why a psychologist and not someone else?

A business person talks to many people – their banker or their associates at the pub.  Why and how are we different?

  • We draw out the assumptions about HR.
  • We are trained to challenge gently, and reveal those long taken for granted assumptions that operate like the underwater part of an iceberg – essential to the visible business but deadly if forgotten.  A friend or banker is concentrating on what they need to hear, not on what the business person needs to hear themselves say.
  • We deliberately restate assumptions clearly so they are on the table for discussion and sharing with other people – new employees, bankers, and people we are talking to during times of change.  A business person talking to a psychologist in any setting, say a conference, a training room, an interview, should come away feeling invigorated.  They should feel clearer about what is important to them and confident that the important things are being attended to.

And it is only Tuesday!  This is a great job.  People are endlessly fascinating when they are talking about a job they love and do well.

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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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Wooo! social media does work!

Image representing Upcoming as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

Abrupt change, relocation and HR/OD/Psychologists

Those of us in the HR/OD/Psych trades know absolutely, for sure, that in the next year, we will be helping many people regain their bearings after abrupt changes brought about by house losses, job losses and relocation.  I’ve had some practice at abrupt change because political issues at home have led to relocation first to another country, then to another city, and then again to a third country.

Thank heaven for social media

I arrived in UK 1 year and 5 months ago.  You can always spot a migrant.  We can tell you how long we have been somewhere in months.  This is my third major move and yes, as with all things, we improve with practice.

My last moves were to relatively small places where to all intents and purposes it should have been easy to meet people.  You know, walk down the street and shake hands with each one of them. It didn’t work though.

Coming to the UK was quite different.  There are 60 million people here.  Brits work long hours (50-60 hour weeks) and compute long distances.  I commute  5 hours a day.  One neighbour makes a 100 mile round trip each day in one direction and another goes the same distance in the other direction.  Who has time or energy to say hello?  The commute trains are eerily silent as people sag on well worn seats reading their horoscope in freebe newspapers, playing with their ipod, or just sliding into a fatigue induced sleep.

Yet, is has been easier to meet people here.  And this is why: social media.

What is social media?

Social media is the read-write, two-way web, like Facebook and Twitter.  Social Media is the web we are a little frightened of because we can sit at home and talk to a stranger in a way we might not on that train of exhausted commuters.

So how does it work?  In the ordinary world, to meet people I go along to some semi-public event – like the Christmas party hosted by the gym.  I have nothing in common with anyone else at the party except that we use the same gym.  I hope the gym makes a profit from a party but it is after all a slightly forced and odd social occasion.

Social media has many more applications than Facebook.  A very important one for people who are relocated is Yahoo! Events Upcoming.  By scanning for events within 100 miles of your home  (Brits travel long distances very routinely), you can find events that you are genuinely interested in.  You indicate you will be going and you can look down the attendance list and see not only who else is going but where else they are going.  In that way, you are able to converge very quickly into groups of people who share your interests.

Moreover, the people who use social media understand networking and are more likely to talk to you and introduce you to people at the event.

My experience

I found the inimitable Chris Hambly, guitarist, rugby player, media camp organizer, online education guru and general connector via Yahoo! Events Upcoming.  He kindly referred a journalist to me for an opinion on the media camp he organised, and though my name is spelt wrong, here I am, 17 months after arriving in a new country, quoted in a leading daily!  Thanks Chris.  Thanks, the Guardian.

Social media and HR/OD/Psychology/Coaching

And remember coaches, of all descriptions, when helping people cope with radical transitions, think social media.

And any one interested in the psychology and sociology of social media, please do contact me.  I am also interested in other rapid community building applications which will be important as we deal with the pressures and stresses of the next year to year-and-a-half.

PS The Guardian Link works erratically and often redirects readers to a jobs page.  To get to the article follow [Careers Advice] [Life & Work] [and look for the story on Media Camps]

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A casestudy of good HRM from Africa; and now from UK please

Giraffe Manor, Nairobi, Kenya

 

Image by Danny McL via Flickr

To keep our heads when those around us are losing theirs

We are living in calamitous times and it is not surprising that people are using strong words.  The essence of the credit crisis seems, for now, while we wait for a thorough post mortem, a bad case of “emperor’s clothes’.   What irony then that we act with scant regard for the technique of our respective professions, or the decorum we expect from people who wield influence.

Using African ‘names in vain’

Yesterday, I was shocked at the language used on Twitter to describe the detention of Corsi in Kenya.  I am not closely acquainted with the case but it seems Corsi arrived in Kenya to promote a book highly critical of Obama, who as you know was born in the USA of a Kenyan father.  Though I am not closely acquainted with the facts of the Corsi case, the accounts seem odd.  A) Would the profit on sales of a book in Kenya even cover the cost of the visit (are any books even on sale there?)  B) Kenya has just recovered from massive and murderous unrest and someone visits to provoke controversy? C) A US citizen arrives on business in a country he does not know well and he hasn’t requested prior assistance from his embassy (or has had his request declined)?

I have no idea which of these is true, if any.  What shocked me was the alacrity with which Tweeters referred to Kenyans as Obama zombies (@SmoothStone) and to the place where Corsi was being questioned as Torture House (@susan_s_smith).  Looking at their home pages, the first tweeter is Republican and the second Democrat.  I suggested to both that they apologise to African tweeters and only @susan_s_smith replied, unless I missed the other.  She was bemused at what might be offensive.

Emperor’s clothes

Returning to the times we live in, there are huge question marks about the way we are managing large powerful companies.  The Economist today summarized an article in Harvard Business Review suggesting managers should be held accountable for the effects of their management, in the same way we hold doctors, lawyers, architects and others to account for their professional competence.  It is time we lifted our game. Not to do so will lead to the equivalent of the credit crunch in other sectors too.

What we can we do

We are all guilty to some extent.  In HRM and related professions, we persist in muddling through and disregarding what we know to be the acceptable standards of our profession.  To link back to the Kenyan theme, follow this link to a newspaper article on HRM happenings in Nairobi.

Note the willingness of the newspaper to call the incompetence.

Note the ability of the newspaper to tutor its readership on what should be done.

Note the coherence and depth of the recommendations.

And above all note the temperate and professional language.

To those that way inclined, please desist from using cheap racist tactics of ‘dis’ing’ someone by invoking stereotypes of African incompetence.

To those of us who care about the professionalism of HRM, let’s move on to use the sound research done by our universities, and run our organizations in ways which we would make us all proud.   The Kenyan newspaper article sets a standard we can meet, should meet, and have no reason not to meet.  It is an excellent example for a university classroom and I have put it into my intranet.

I would like to add British case studies of equal professionalism that model for students

the HRM that we should be

HRM that adds value

and HRM that offers leadership in these distressing times.

If you have a case and you are not a blogger, I’d be most happy to host your article here, and even to write it with you.  If you are a blogger and you have a case, let me know and I will deep link back to you!

Have a winning day!

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HRM: do you show your bottom-line impact?

I am back in the traces teaching HRM at under-graduate level and Strategic HRM at post-graduate level.

The undergraduates have been well prepared and readily match HRM ideas to ideas they have already learned in Management.  I mention “hard & soft”; they counter with McKinsey‘s 7 S’s.  I talk about strategy; they counter with contingency theory and scenario planning.

The HRM book that we are using is not quite up-to-speed, I think.  We are always lamenting that line managers don’t take us seriously.  Yet, we readily regress to operational HR.  No where in this book do we make a direct case for impacting on the bottom-line.

My post-grad class includes an owner of a bus company.  His business provides a ready example of bottom-line impact.

  • If I have 5 buses and 4 drivers, I am losing the opportunity to make money out of the 5th bus.
  • If I have 5 buses and 6 drivers, then I am paying wages for someone to do nothing.
  • If I have 5 buses and 5 drivers, what do I do when someone is ill or on holiday?

This looks like “hard HRM”, and so it is.  But “soft HRM” provides solutions to the same dilemma.  I might have a ‘culture’ in which a bus driver happily takes on other tasks when s/he is not driving; just as I might have a culture in which I readily reschedule work to allow drivers to attend to personal business.  I might have a culture where bus drivers cooperate so buses don’t “all come together”.  They informally resolve scheduling problems that would otherwise be the province of expensive management scientists.

Good HRM delivers economy.  The ratio of HR costs to Sales Dollars should be optimal.  As a rule-of-thumb, in manufacturing 10 cents of every sales dollar is spent on HR.   Without the “soft”, I will never achieve this goal.  Without the “hard”, I may achieve my goal but I would never know!

I wish HRM textbooks would show the “vertical integration” they talk about and show the link to the bottom line!  And on that note, I must ask the bus company owner to ask his accountants what is their ratio of HR costs to Sales. And we can call up a few other companies to compare!

Teaching is perpetually fascinating!

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

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The essence of leadership is follow me

Even if it is only out of curiosity

Now who said that? Colin Powell, I believe, speaking to HR managers in the UK.

Culture, attitudes, behavior

My friend Steve Roesler at AllThingsWorkplace posted today on workplace culture, and how hard it is to change behavior. This is a central topic in social and organizational psychology. Can we change an attitude without changing behavior? Can we change behavior without changing culture? What sustains culture?

Earlier today I read a similar article in TimesOnLine on whether politicians can change British drinking culture by decree.

David Aaronvitch used a neat phrase:

“Fashion, popular culture, whatever you call it, found a way round authority, because it didn’t depend upon authority, or even upon establishment approval.”

This is the same phenomenon that Steve is talking about: informal culture and power. Should we despair as the TimesOnLine suggests? Brits are drunks – live with it and laugh at politicians nannying us again? Can cultures be modified?

How do we change patterns?

My social media friends will phrase this differently: can we organize viral campaigns?

I think we often put the cart before the horse.

Change effects tend to be spiral, or recursive. In other words, the change creates the change. And a forward change can cause a backward effect, necessary for the forward change.

So why the cart before the horse? We want the cart to be moving along with the horse following.

To get change, we have to join in. We have to be there in other words. We have put ourselves out there and be changed in the process. We have to believe that cart is worth pulling. We have to notice when it starts to roll back and judge whether to roll with it or dig our heels in.  We have to believe in it enough to feel the harness rubbing . . .

It is the linkage that is critical.

Being a player

In organizations, it is the willingness to be a player: to really put our money on the table. Willingness to win and to lose with everyone else.

  • Are we willing to sit at the table and make tough choices? And be accountable for the consequences?
  • Do we believe in our people enough to be accountable on the bad days?
  • Can we have the courageous conversations about what is truly rotten?
  • Can we accept the challenge about how we have treated people?
  • Can we do all of this will only one end in mind – keeping the group there for its members?

We don’t want to be talked at.  We want to talk with people who are also vulnerable in that their pride, future, pleasure, is also at stake.  We want to talk seriously with people about why we are doing this, whatever this is, and authentically discuss what is at stake for everyone.

Can we link our our futures to that cart?

Leading from within

This is the competency that HR Managers struggle with.

This is the competency that I hope social media managers will learn early ~ to be a player.

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