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Monday, 29 June 2009

The moment when self worth explodes

I was jumped on when least prepared and at my most vulnerable.

”What do you do in HR?” she asked.

I readied my defences against the, “provide tissues, bake cakes and go home early” attack (the last bit being of course true, but then who’s going to discipline me?)

But there was unnerving sincerity. “I mean I know you guys are scary” she said, “but what do you do?”

Now I’m not scary, nor am I evil. In fact I’m the sort of guy you could take home to meet your mum and I wouldn’t kick the dog, worry the cat or pull the heads off your baby sister’s dolls. Indeed I am perfectly housetrained and an all round good chap….honest…..I’ve even been told I can be charming with a good following wind and a running start.

But what do I do………………………….?

Frantically, I reached for the Blueberry, scrolling through the week’s events, emails and meetings.

“You see I………I do…..things like……things like….well there’s some stuff here that I did…..and some stuff I’m going to do. Then there are the other things……..things that need doing ………when I’ve worked out how I’m going to do them……….for when the other stuff is done......simple........really”

Crap….what do I do?

And double crap.......how come it takes up so much time and energy?

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Wishing the days away

Every day I commute to work. It’s a relatively long commute. I leave home at 6.25am and if I am lucky I get into work at 7.45am. In the evening if I leave at 5.15pm I can be home at 7.00pm.


3 hours and 5 minutes a day.
15 hours and 25 minutes a week
801 hours a year or 33 days


over a month each year just trying to get to and from my place of work.

And sure there are some upsides. I get to listen to music, read a book, think about my life, the universe and everything.
But there are also the downsides. Big steaming piles of downside.

1) Super sized people – if you can’t fit on one seat of the train and therefore take half of mine, pay for two. If not, squeeze yourself. This is your problem and not mine. Sorry, if its harsh, but its true.

2) Man trolleys - You know those bags on a stick that you drag behind you? They are wrong in so many ways. You are a human caravan. You are not allowed to overtake. Put yourself in the slow lane and get the fuck out of my way.

3) Backpacks - When you have one of these on, you take up more space…just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t pressed into my face. Think of yourself like Quasimodo…..get the picture?

4) Stupid ring tones - You are the only person in the world who would have “Pinball Wizard” as your ring tone, so why the hell have you not realised that and answered your phone. Are you really thinking “oh someone with the same taste as me?” Because there is no-one.

5) Smelly food – Wrong, wrong, wrong for so many reasons. You eat at a table. You wouldn’t do this in the theatre. You wouldn’t do this in the Doctor’s surgery. Don’t do this in a confined tubular human carrier.

6) Super sized headphones - It’s not cool, it’s stupid. These are portable devices. The clue is in the name. You need a separate man trolley for your headphones....that makes you an idiot on two counts.

I could go on, but I fear that I may alienate the remaining two non-American readers who survived the previous humour reference.

Maybe I need a holiday.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

It's the smallest things......

As I have grown older (and hopefully wiser), I have become more attuned to the impact that the small things have on morale and motivation. No longer do I knee jerk to the “HR has to be commercial, lets slash and burn the fuck out of the organisation” mantra. Instead I try to understand what is important to others as well as myself.

This is never more in focus than in recessionary times when the pressure is on to target these marginal elements for cost saving, to see them as “low hanging fruit” (pause to vomit).

Reducing the quality of the coffee
Removing the subsidised canteen
Cancelling the Christmas party
Changing the expenses policy

In one organisation I worked in they altered the frequency that the bins were emptied. Instead of the bins being emptied everyday they emptied them every other day. Most colleagues ate at their desks whilst working and not taking a proper lunch break. Their commitment was rewarded by stinking bins. Their response? To ban employees from eating at their desks. Go figure….

And this highlights the second issue. In my experience, there exists a colossal reality gap between the decision makers and the people that are impacted by their decisions. I give you two scenarios from a recent “recession planning” board session,

The Sales Director proposing the removal of the canteen subsidy saying, “No-one will notice the extra couple of quid on a sandwich”. Not when you are earning a good six figure salary no. But then.....most people aren't.

The IT Director that proposed making savings “by restricting access to social networking sites”. And totally pissing off a large proportion of the workforce who is under 35, work excessively long hours and like to check into Facebook during the working day.

These are the sorts of decisions and conversations that are going on all over the corporate world. I believe it is incumbent on any decent HR professional to stop and challenge and make sure that we realise the extent of the decisions we are making and are not jumping head first into short-termism that ultimately rips the heart and soul from our organisation. To stand up for the people who maybe don’t have a voice at the big table and to represent a fair and balanced view of what is important to employees.

Because, like it or not, if we don’t do it, it’s unlikely that anybody else will and ultimately our organisations will suffer….as will our people.

And for the record,

We still heavily subsidise the canteen
We have open access to social networking sites
We didn’t pay any exec bonuses

Now that’s what I call real savings……….

Friday, 19 June 2009

Total applause

I provide work, you provide pay. That’s the basis of the contract of employment.

I stop working, you don’t have to pay.

You stop paying, I don’t have to work.

Simple really….no?

Then consider this story.

As I repeatedly say, I am not a union basher (and in this case it looks like the unions are keeping this at arms length!), but I applaud Total and Jacobs.

My reasons for this are,

1) 51 jobs were lost. That requires statutory consultation. THAT is where you make your points as a collective workforce. If consultation wasn’t properly carried out you get an injunction and make them start again.

2) Wildcat strikes are illegal. You may agree with this, you may not. But that is the law. The workers here have a history of doing this. It is simply unacceptable.

3) Having illegally withdrawn labour the strikers are in breach of their contracts. There are legal and legitimate ways to organise industrial action. This is not one of them.

I’m sorry, but I have no sympathy for the workers, although I do for their families who will suffer as a result of this stupid macho dick-swinging behaviour (you can guarantee the vast majority will be blokes).

These workers have tried to run the business through mob rule. They threw their toys out of the pram, and guess what, no-one wanted to give them, them back…….

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Le cochon qui vole........

** ring, ring**
HRD: Your dameliness……..
CEO: I’m just catching up on these email things…..
HRD: Mmhmm….
CEO: This one on the Union people. Talk.
HRD: Umm. So as I said. We negotiated, we failed to agree. Bit of an impasse. Not entirely sure I see a way through. They are adamant they are not shifting, I have nothing to offer them. So kind of stuck. I think we keep our heads down and hold tight.
CEO: Interesting……
HRD: So I thought I better let you know…..in case
CEO: HRD? I was thinking…..
HRD: Ohhh (falls head first into the pit of doom)
CEO: Have you considered….whisper whisper whisper
HRD: ……………………………………………………..
CEO: Hello? Are you there?
HRD: ……………………………………………………..
CEO: HRD????
HRD: …..yes…..CEO?
CEO: Yes?
HRD: That’s……that’s……a REALLY good idea…….
CEO: It is? Really? Oh! Right!...........So…anything else you need any help with?

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Keep Calm and Carry on

Its time to add some humour to the situation.  

Americans...humour has a U because guess what?  We all laugh at U!  Geddit?

(watches as both of his regular readers leave).......

Ok, I'm not going to get into cultural debates on spelling that would be wrong.  It would be wrong because.......well lets just say what is the name of the language? English?  There you go.  Debate over.

Shit, that wasn't the point of this entry.  I am not anti American in anyway.  In the slightest.  I'm going to stop digging now.

I am dealing with a sexual harassment case.  Its bad.....its really bad.  In fact its criminal.  The Police are coming tomorrow.  It involves written correspondence which I have been reviewing this evening with a glass of wine.  Thats not being flippant, its necessary to get through it.

I've dealt with a lot of shit in this arena over the years.  More than anyone should have to.

I have been through three cases of alleged paedophelia.
I have dealt with four alleged rapes
I have dealt with numerous internet porn issues (including the first dismissal in the UK...I believe) and violent porn images
I can't count the number of sexual harassment cases I have dealt with.  From innuendo to physical intimidation

And laughter is the coping strategy for dealing with this.  Its not a funny subject don't get me wrong.  I am not taking any of this lightly or suggesting that it is humourous in any shape or form.

But tonight I am going to laugh and make merry......tomorrow I'll deal with other people's nasty reality and I won't let it touch my beautiful dream.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Know this

There are times in your career when you are on the crest of a wave.  When everything that you do is easy and lucid and structured.

There are other times when the reverse Midas touch prevails and everything you touch turns to s**t, crumples in your hand and the pieces blow into the wind.

There are times when your life is full of NNS. 

Its what we do, its what we signed up for. No?

Every conversation this week has been tough.  Every decision has been difficult.  We are in the attritional hard yards.

The trick is chin up, focus on the horizon.  Know that every inch you gain today is taking you closer to your goal.

Know that no-one is going to say thank you, but everyone will be grateful.  

Know that you are right and the steps you are taking are solid and assured.

Know that there will be an end.............

Friday, 12 June 2009

It's over......

I'm sorry to break it to you, but unfortunately I have been having some relationship issues.

It all came to a head yesterday in a pretty difficult conversation. And, I guess it turns out that maybe we are just incompatible after all.

Over time we’ve tried, we really have. Well, I’ve tried - I’m not being bitter it’s the truth!

But there are too many things that get in the way:

I believe in support and doing the right thing. She just niggles at the detail and picks at inaccuracies.

I believe rules are there to be broken. She thinks I am wayward and uncontrollable.

I make decisions and act on them. She thinks she should be consulted on everything.

I want to plan for the future. She just takes a day at a time.

So yesterday we sat down and poured out our hearts. She told me how she felt I told her how I felt. It was emotional but I think it’s for the best. I think we will still stay in touch, but friends? That’s a step too far.

Payroll and I? We were never going to make it.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

It's naughty time....

The naughty boy is back, oh yes he is.

You may remember that we had a naughty situation that I wrote about before, which led to disciplinary action after a long and tortuous conversation with the CEO. Last week it was roosting time at the turkey ranch.

I get a call from the naughty boy he wants to see me “off the record”. Now one - my door is always open, but two - there is no such thing as off the record. Not with naughty boys.

He comes and sits and tells me that his position has become untenable, that he can’t see anyway back and…..that he wants to come to an amicable arrangement. He continues to make his case. At the end I ask him, “are you saying that you are going to resign and claim constructive dismissal?” he answers that he wants to part amicably.

Now the issue here is that we don’t really want the old duffer to go. He has value, he has a contribution to make. He has just been a very naughty boy. And we certainly don’t want to pay him to go….that’s just counter intuitive.

I go back and tell him we want to work with him to rectify his behaviours, to facilitate a good working relationship.

The email I receive over the weekend is something to behold. The demand is we agree to …..remove the warning and pay him £100k to leave, by midday……OR……he is going to make a few calls and look for a new job.

Pause. Read that again. Look for the flaw in the negotiation strategy……Find it?

Oh Buddha……..he copied in CEO…….

Thursday, 4 June 2009

URGENT Recruitment breakthrough!

There have been a number of posts on HR blogs recently about recruitment techniques, recruitment technology and poor quality CVs.

Then I read this.

It appears we are all being duped and have no successful way of attracting, measuring or selecting.

So I am calling on all my fellow HR and business colleagues to stop what you are doing today and introduce sumo suit wrestling as the only reliable and flawless way of selecting….winner stays on!


Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Wading through treacle

Let me be clear upfront. I hate recruitment. I hate people. Therefore I hate recruiting people. Actually that’s not entirely true, I love interviewing great people and bouncing around ideas when there is a spark, intelligence and a passion. I hate the crap that you have to go through to get there in the first place.

At the moment we are recruiting for my team. We have a mid-range HR Manager role, managing a small team and paying £50k (c.$83k) it’s a good company with good benefits, healthcare, pension, discounts, 25 days holiday, profit share. We should be recruiting good people. We put this on a well known HR recruitment website.

Foolishly I asked my PA to print me the CVs so that I can “test the calibre and see who’s out there”. My team have just come to check that I am ok as the laughter has been spilling out of my office. There are a number of observations to be made,

1) HR people are no better at CVs than the rest of the world, in fact they’re worse
2) There’s a lot of dross out there desperately trying to get a job
3) There’s a lot of financial services people out there desperately trying to get a job

Now on this last point, we are not an FS company, we are totally different. But ranting about your successes in HR at Lehman Bros that made a commercial difference……..You are the Weakest Link….Goodbye!

So despite the complete lack of professionalism, here are some of my favourites.

“With a strong track record of leveraging people and the organisation through making use of such tools as lean thinking/six sigma, change management, project management and building and maintaining relationships.” – And the ability to speak without breathing by the sounds of it

“A HR professional with a record of bringing a strong business focus and analytical thinking style to conceptualise and lead business-linked HR initiatives” – I was with you for the first half and then……

And then listed under key skills,

Typing speed 45wpm. Microsoft Office skills – This is an HR Manager role ffs
First HR nominee to receive 2 nominations for a staff star award – But did you get a Blue Peter badge?
Ability to work as part of an interview panel – Uhhhhhhhh yeah……

And finally my favourite,

“I play drums and sing backing vocals on a regular basis with a covers band – weddings, PTA parties and charity fund raising events” Words fail me…..

So does anyone out there need a job?