Monday, July 30, 2012

SHRM De-brief - Re-imagine the workplace

Here is my final debrief from the Society for Human Resources Management Conference in Atlanta this year and there was so much talk about the future of HR and our role as HR practitioners in re-imagining the workplace.  Given that we are living through so many dramatic and unforeseen changes, it is more critically important than ever that HR demonstrates that we are the leading profession in the business.
"As HR Professionals, we own our seat at the table.  Now we must take our seat at the head of the table!"  says SHRM President Hank Jackson.  And I could not agree with him more!
The rules around the workplace are changing so rapidly and these can make or break an organisation's success.  We do not have a "Google Map" to guide us over the next few years but we do need to keep our eyes open for the mega-trends and these are:
1. The growth in the population and the disparity between rich and poor.
2. The explosion of information fueled by social networks
3. The skills gap - how to train and recruit a workforce with the right skills for where we are right now
4. The global and flexible workforce
5. Disruptive innovation which involves products and processes that are so fundamentally different that they can overwhelm even profitable organisations.  What sounds like science fiction today could put you out of business tomorrow if you are not adaptable.
As Hank put it:
"Our success will not be measured simply by how well we connect HR departments to new ideas and new innovation.  But rather, our success will be measured by how well HR professionals lead their organisations into the future!"

Friday, July 13, 2012

Patrick Lencioni rocks the conference

MCI is a great fan of the practical materials developed by Patrick Lencioni and so it was a real privilege to see him in action!  For those who have not yet made use of the superb Lencioni material, please attend the MCI Diploma of Management program or ask us to conduct a session specifically based on this material.
What did Lencioni have to say, given his many years of experience in management development?  His advice was practical and easy to implement:
He asked us to rate just how healthy our organisations are.
While this might be usual for some of us, Lencioni believes that this is the most important question that we can in fact ask.
"I don't think it can be over-stated.  Organisational health is the single greatest competitive advantage for an organisation."  He said that it is just about free and it is accessible to any leader who really wants to utilise its force - but not many do.
Sometimes business leaders place way too much focus on the so-called Smart side of the business - this includes strategy, marketing and finance.  But not enough time is spent on the healthy side of the business - which is measured through minimal politics, minimal confusion, high productivity and low turnover.
Lencioni was consulting to top airline and one of the most profitable companies of the past 32 years, South West airlines and asked them why they thought that other companies did not follow this strong emphasis on organisational health.  The response was that perhaps other companies think that this all beneath them.  They consider these things inconsequential or too soft.
Lencioni emphasised that it is not about doing things that build great egos in the business.  It is about doing the things that need to be done to ensure organisational health.
- Always over-communicate with all team members.  When they mock you about what you are saying over and over again, you know you have done a good job...
- Allow conflict to emerge so that it is fine to debate and argue and talk things through
- Create clarity in the company about what everyone does and where the business is headed

As this was a massive American event, they even brought in the marching band!  Enjoy an extract of just how you can create energy in a room!

Friday, July 6, 2012

SHRM Part 2 - Learning from Malcolm Gladwell

Another exciting keynote speaker at the SHRM conference was best-selling author and thinker - Malcolm Gladwell.  He is just so clever, insightful and forward-thinking.  He is able to extract principles from situations so that we all benefit from seeing things in a different light.

He made the very clear point that the Millenials are different.  HR needs to appreciate this and know how to build on their strengths - and help them deal with their weaknesses.

He pointed out that the civil rights movement in the USA has many similarities with the Occupy movement and the way in which these movements operate gives us a clear indication as to the differences between the baby boomers and the millenials.

The civil rights movement had a strong hierarchy and leadership.  It was also a highly disciplined organisation that had a guiding ideology.  This contrasts with the Occupy movements of the past year where there was no clear leader, where the ideology was no clear and where the organisation lacked discipline.  These 2 movements are very different in these ways.
The Occupy movement, as is favoured by this current generation, was highly social and very networked.  "Hierarchies are not Millenials' default notion, " says Gladwell.  "They have gone as far from the hierarchy as imaginable."
  • Millenials prefer not to learn from expert sources - they learn from their peers on Wikipedia.  The days of the large encycolpedias are over.
  • Millenials learn chess - they don't take lessons.  They go on-line and find players from all over the world with whom they can play
  • They have a "profoundly different attitide towards authority and towards expertise."
When comparing the hierarchy and the network, one form is not necessarily better than the other.  They are simply different and when the hierarchy or the network is best, is based on the situation.

For example:
Many students are dropping out of engineering, sciene and maths.  The courses are difficult and to master them you need to learn from expert instructors and practice discipline by learning on your own.  This however is not suited to the paradigm that the Millenials have and it is not the paradigm that they are bringing in to the workplace!

At other times the social network plays an important role.  Think about the role that the social network played in organising the Arab Spring.  However, this political revolution led to political uncertainty because there was no time to build the kinds of systems and structures that were needed.

"The current generation has stumbled on an incredibly powerful and important model for changing the world and dealing with the workplace - All of us can learn from this generation when it comes to the network.  But networks can start revolutions, they cannot finish them!  It is up to us to remind the Millenials about the importance of the hierarchy."

 That certainly gives us some food for thought when it comes to dealing with the different generations in the workplace.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Society for Human Resource Management Conference 2012

I know I always sound enthusiastic - but truly this was a conference to beat all conferences!  I will do a few blogs over the next month to share some of our key insights and learnings.  When you have listened to amazing keynote speakers and also participated in over 10 concurrent sessions, there is so much to share....

Jim Collins - what can I say!!  He is such a strong speaker and he has the research to back up what he says.   I loved this quote from his presentation: "The single most important strategic pillar of any enterprise is people."  He said that he has spent the past nine years studying why certain companies thrive in times of chaos and uncertainty whilst others do not.  His conclusion - "It all begins with people".
He emphasised just how important it is to pick the right people and to ensure that all the key seats are filled by the right people.  He admitted that this is sometimes up to luck and you might not really know if it is the right person until you give it a try.
The successful companies that he studied that he compared to others who were not great, made conscious decisions and had good discipline.  They also had a high amount of Level 5 leaders as well as highly capable individuals and competent managers.
The X factor that Collins says differentiates Level 5 Leaders from the rest is that they have humility.  There is nothing wrong with having a good dose of what he called "very healthy confidence" - examples being Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.  But their ego and ambition is channeled in to a cause or a purpose.  "No single leader by him or herself can make a great company."
He went on to say that leaders also need to have the following key behaviours:

  • Fanatic discipline.  By this he did not mean bureaucracy.  He said that bureaucracy is for undisciplined people.  He referred to the story of Roald Amundson's successful 1910 - 12 South Pole expedition and how this was so different from Robert F Scott's unsuccessful, fatal mission.  "It is all about the twenty mile march" - a metaphor for having the discipline to pursue results and not go too far.
  • Empirical creativity.  He said that creativity is a natural human state but discipline is not.  How can we find this rare combination so that we amplify creativity and not destroy it?
  • Productive paranoia.  He warned us to  prepare for bad stuff before it happens.  The ultimate hedge against uncertainty is who you have on the other end of the rope....
Collins advised us to have a to-list that features the following:
  • Banish the word 'job' and replace it with 'responsibilities'
  • Start a 'stop doing' list and have three top priorities at most
  • Commit to challenging all leaders to become level 5 leaders - we need a level 5 leader generation!