Aitch Are Gives You...
After a few weeks pondering the world of work in the face of the continuing pandemic, the International HR Forum switched gears to how companies can advance their approaches to diversity, equality and inclusion from "just talking about it" to practical frameworks and initiatives that can lead to tangible results.
It was great to welcome Toby Mildon to facilitate the conversation, given the depth of experience he has had in many organisations in advancing the DEI agenda.
First up was a conversation on the challenges participants on the call have been facing. These included the following:
- How to accommodate significant differences that exist from one country to another.
- The breadth of what it can encompass.
- Being able to attract diverse candidates for specialist roles from limited labour pools.
- Lack of data to help with decision-making.
- Measuring the effectiveness of any initiative.
- Lip-service from leadership teams.
- Seen as a compliance or tick-in-the-box exercise.
- Low, or no, budget.
- More of a marketing/PR exercise.
- Short-term knee-jerk reaction to an issue or incident (e.g. George Floyd).
- Lack of shared ownership, it typically falls into HR's remit.
Toby said that quite often, taking all these challenges into account, the biggest challenge of all is where to start!
He recommended a simple framework to help build a plan:
- Establish: clarity, culture.
- Evolve: change, colleague experience, cyber.
- Enhance: collaboration, celebration.
The business benefits of genuine DEI are well documented: better results, improved engagement and productivity, enhanced ability to attract and retain, etc... So find your "why", and build your business case together around the following "C's":
We then talked around the key issues that will arise as you create and drive a program:
- How to engage with senior leaders. Understand the audience, think about their style, balance logic (have data to hand) with emotion (paint a picture of what life could be), be ready to have challenging conversations.
- Data is key. Qualitative and quantitative. And there are various ways of getting this e.g. self declaration, focus groups, questionnaires,
- Respect, empowerment,
- Culture. What are the key behaviours to support DEI? Six signature traits of effective leaders. Awareness of biases and blindspots, curious, collaborative, courage, commitment, cultural intelligence.
- Having an approach to managing change that works for your business e.g. John Kotter's 8-step change model which focuses on creating the right climate, engaging and enabling the business, and then implementing and sustaining change.
- Take a human-centred approach. Look at all people management practices through the lens of the target audiences.
- Have DEI champions at all levels.
- Lead from the top.
- Be clear on your employee experience.
- Understand the business benefits of any DEI program.
- Develop a personalised plan for your company.
For more info around the above, then Toby's book "Inclusive Growth: Future Proof Your Business by Creating a Diverse Workplace" dives into the nitty-gritty, and is a must-read. Available from all good retailers :)
A huge thanks for Toby for giving up his valuable time, and for leading such a thought-provoking session.
Connect with him: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tobymildon/
Access his free resources: https://mildon.co.uk/media/
Book a free consultation with him: https://calendly.com/tobymildon/meeting-with-toby-mildon
My summer holiday in Gozo beckons...perhaps. I took a risk a few months ago in booking it, and thankfully Malta was added to the green list last week. The Maltese authorities however won't allow people to enter unless they have proof of double vaccination, which we all have, apart from my daughter who has just the one. Yikes... Complicated, isn't it?
Wishing you all a good summer too, whether you are able to get away or are staying closer to home.
Until August then - be good, and stay safe.
I've been following Chris Herd, CEO of Firstbase HQ, on Twitter for some time now. Not in a creepy, stalker-ish kind of way, I hasten to add, but more as a result of the challenge he has thrown out to employers around the remote-first response they should be adopting at this time. And beyond.
Chris is in the business of helping companies set up, scale and support remote workforces and has been one of the more vocal proponents of tapping into the shift away from office-based workforces, a shift that has been accelerated by Covid.
So it was great to have him along at our last weekly International HR Forum meeting to discuss his thoughts in this area. As an "HRD collective" much of our time these past few months has been comparing notes about how to support businesses and employees with the future world of work as we learn to live with Covid, and hopefully steer a course out of the pandemic.
What does Chris view as the benefits of a "remote-first" approach?
- It's a bridge to a higher quality of life. Less commuting, more time with family, etc.
- It is increasingly being seen as additional leverage to attract talent, given access to talent no longer needs to be constrained by location.
- Companies can save on real estate costs. Chris highlighted a recent survey that showed most orgs are looking to cut between 50 and 70% of their office footprint over the coming years.
- It promotes choice, and empowers people to have flexibility of where to work from e.g. home, office, coffee shop, on the go, or from a co-working space.
Chris did acknowledge that a remote-first approach does come with its challenges. Planned remote working in "normal" times would be very different from forced remote working during a pandemic, so to truly succeed in being a remote employer, companies will need to review their approach to:
- Thinking in terms of community as well as culture.
- Fully embracing remote working.
- Managing a distributed workforce.
- Addressing potential issues around burnout.
- Planning work such that it can be done from anywhere.
- Maximising the quality of any in-person time together.
- Ensuring equality of opportunity and participation (e.g. dialing in from where you're sitting rather than having some in a meeting room and others virtual).
- Async working.
- Knowledge sharing.
- Recalibrating what productivity means e.g. project work and stuff that requires deep thinking at home, in-person collaboration and relationship building at the office. It's all about what you do, not where you do it.
- Managing health and safety obligations in remote locations as well as offices.
- Leading through any "them and us" issues e.g. where head-office based staff can be remote, whilst others have no choice where they can work (e.g. in a factory, shop, hospital, etc).
Any transition will not be easy, as we haven't been here before. But plan, test, and try. See what works. Chris highlighted Spotify as a great case-study:
- We know what we think we should do.
- But we are going to ask our people.
- And we are going to listen to our people.
- And then we will give everyone want they feel they need to succeed.
- But give us time to get there.
- And be patient whilst we review how it's going.
Chris's parting comments were compelling:
- Ignoring remote working ignores the reality of what has happened to "office life" over the past 10 years - longer commutes, longer office hours, superficial relationships.
- Survey data is suggesting anything between 70-90% of people never want to work full-time from an office again, with the preference for being 1 or 2 days a week.
- Embrace remote. Or get left behind to those companies that do.
A huge thanks to Chris for a lively session! If you are grappling with issues in this area, or just want to see what's going on, then:
- Follow Chris on Twitter (@chris_herd)
- Connect with Chris on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/chrisherd/)
- Read Chris's summary following discussions he had had with over 1,000 companies (https://twitter.com/chris_herd/status/1402621502902738944)
Thanks for reading! Comments welcome. In the meantime, stay safe, and be good.
Thanks to all of those who attended the International HR Forum's working session last week to discuss approaches to take with any transition to a hybrid model of work!
What do you call a sad fruit and veg hybrid? Meloncauli.
OK, rubbish joke, and a poor introduction to an important topic, but "hybrid" is one of those terms that has sprung from nowhere to the forefront of business-speak in a relatively short space of time. Some like it, some don't. Some prefer "agile" to "hybrid". But let's not get hung up on the terminology. Let's look instead at how to make it all a reality.
What does "hybrid" actually mean?
- The ability for an employee to have more choice over where and when they work - the home, an office, on the move, etc.
- "What" employees do is more important than "where" and "when" they work.
- Org-wide, applicable to all.
- A considered re-evaluation of where people spend their time.
- "Where someone works is not the issue. The way you run your business is".
What sort of things do you need to work through to get there?
- Understand what your employees think about it, and what their preferences are.
- Reflect employee sentiment in what you do.
- Provide flexibility and choice. One size doesn't fit all...
- Trust your people. Resist the temptation to build heavy process around it as this may be a dis-incentive to return to an office.
- Manage expectations. Some roles may well be predominantly more office-based than others.
- The need to be more intentional around collaboration.
- Make sure inclusion in built into your arrangements.
- Give people the tools to be productive.
- Ensure managers have the ability to inspire dispersed teams.
- Rethink the role of an office. Less of a place where people work at a fixed place, more a space to collaborate, have customer experience centres, etc.
- Make sure people management practices are geared up to a hybrid world.
- Consider the impact of hybrid working on your culture.
- The contractual and tax implications of any change in location (home v. office v. dual).
- Providing some form of "freedom within a framework" to drive consistency.
- An opportunity to review working patterns e.g. compressed hours.
Potential areas of contention
- The degree to which any return to an office is mandated v. encouraged.
- How much do you allow people to move location/countries? And what is the process around this?
- The balance between employee-led v. manager-controlled when it comes to degrees of flex between home and office working. There was a feeling that execs were keener to see a broad return to office working, whereas employees wanted more freedom/flexibility.
- What the level playing field to ensure people are treated consistently and inclusively may look like.
- Real estate strategy. Maintain, downsize, close?
- Maintaining certain measures (social distancing, mask-wearing, etc) even if these restrictions are lifted.
That's all folks! Hope this is of use. Be good, stay safe, and see you soon.
Being "of a certain age", (full disclosure: yes, it may come as a surprise to some of you, but I am 21 and a bit!) I was looking forward to hearing from Lucy Standing from Brave Starts, a career transition not-for-profit aimed at helping those over 50 in the workplace, at our latest International HR Forum gathering.
Lucy's starting point was that although the proportion of over-50s is the fastest growing part of the workforce (it has doubled in size to 10.7m workers over the last 25 years, and this trend is accelerating), it was also one of the most neglected and under-funded.
So what are the issues?
- The over 50s have less opportunity in the job market, so current recruitment models are not cutting it in terms of attracting a broad, diverse skills-set.
- Job descriptions not reflecting the jobs that are being done.
- The career guidance market is crowded, with a lot of variable quality in there.
And what is the business case for supporting employees who are over 50?
- Anticipate and prepare for the increasing proportion of the workforce being over 50.
- It makes financial sense, as employers can defer the need to attract, ramp up, etc.
- This part of the workforce have a lot of built-in knowledge.
- They can act as role models for the younger demographics.
- It enables employers to demonstrate that they care for all employees.
- Jobs for life may have been a thing of the past, but engagement and retention is still key.
- Gain competitive advantage by doing something innovative with the fastest growing demographic.
- It is socially responsible, and combats ageism.
- Encourages people to continually evolve their skills-set.
- Tap into the high drive over 50s have re retaining a sense of purpose, and a desire to learn new things (per a survey of 4,100 over 50s).
- Covid is acting as an accelerator when it comes to accepting more flexible working patterns.
What factors prevent people from making a change?
- They may not be sure what to do next.
- They have experienced ageism, or think that they may do so.
- Financially trapped.
There is recognition that there may be some pressure from an employer perspective:
- There is a section of this demographic that will be wanting to plan for retirement over a period of time.
- This demographic may be higher paid than younger people who may be able to do similar things at a reduced cost.
Strategies to retain, or aid the transition, of the over 50s:
- Give time (paid, or unpaid) for people to explore and develop skills. For example, Monzo provide 30 days of unpaid leave.
- Provide opportunities for people to shadow other jobs (internally or externally) that may be of interest.
- Support building confidence into a new role.
- Enable access to online courses around career change.
- Facilitate introductions to other companies.
- Encourage mid-life financial MOTs.
Finally - check out and connect with Brave Starts:
- You can signal your support as an employer who supports ageing better simply by directing your employees to get membership with Brave Starts. There are two tiers: free and a £25 (excl VAT) per employee per year level. As a not for profit, all fees support the community. Brave Starts accepts no advertising and doesn’t sell data, so do please consider reading more here: https://www.bravestarts.com/corporate
- Might your employees be interested in becoming volunteers and raising money for charity in the process? You can email Lucy to discuss (there is no cost in doing this at all).
- Read more: https://www.bravestarts.com/
- Connect with Lucy: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lucystanding/ and @Brave_Starts
Thanks all - stay safe, be good and see you soon.
It's been quite the year, hasn't it?
And we still don't know whether Fulham will be relegated, but even I have got to admit it's not looking good.
But I digress...
As parts of the world have emerged from, or are starting to emerge from, the worst of Covid, one of the key areas companies have had to grapple with is the potential transition from an environment where people used to work predominantly from an office before the pandemic, to one where there will be more say over where and when they work. Most surveys that have been ran in this area consistently throw up a figure of anything between 65% and 80% of employees wanting to shift to a scenario where they will spend the majority of the working week from home, and using the office a couple of times a week.
The so-called "hybrid" model.
It was a pleasure to welcome James Carrier and Jane Stewart from the World of Work Project to our latest International HR Forum gathering to share what they are seeing as companies start to make this difficult transition.
The session covered the following:
Looking at the current state
- Leading remote teams differ from in-person teams. Trust matters more, and the role of the manager is more critical.
- What's changed since the pandemic? Increased disruption and uncertainty, more short-term outlook, societal shifts, individuals having different (negative and positive) experiences, etc.
- Diversity of aspirations about the future state of work.
Reviewing the importance of the role of the manager
- An intermediary... Connecting the org (strategy objectives, goals) and their people (thoughts, feelings, needs, performance).
- Forming and maintaining psychological contracts, managing expectations, etc.
Aligning on future ways of working
- There's been many positive and negative changes that have emerged during the pandemic.
- Much of this has been as a result of "drifting" into new or changed practices.
- Need to be more intentional around how we structure things moving forward.
- Co-create future ways of working (through 121s, team meetings, focus groups, surveys, etc).
- Equip managers with the tools and skills to manage remote teams (comms, engagement, difficult conversations, listening, creating "psychological safety", presenting a sense of purpose).
- Biggest issue is the "personalisation" of work, i.e. tailoring to individual needs and wants.
- Apply common-sense as we look to apply balance and equity.
And all too soon our hour was up! So much food for thought, and a large thanks to James and Jane for all the energy they brought to a complex issue.
Do connect with / follow James and Jane, and read/share their stuff:
- James Carrier: email@example.com, https://www.linkedin.com/in/james-carrier-74b0a115/, @jgcarrier
- Jane Stewart: firstname.lastname@example.org, https://www.linkedin.com/in/jane-stewart-87a63b2/, @Janie_S
- Podcasts: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Others
Have a good weekend! I will be looking forward to the Mighty Whites picking up 3 points from the Bridge tomorrow :)
As the days lengthen and warm up, and the Covid restrictions start to ease here in the UK, it's hard not to feel a sense of optimism once more.
There's much to do however, particularly with regard to the lurking wellbeing crisis that will need addressing after a difficult 12 months.
During this time, the world of work has been under the spotlight like never before. And now, as companies grapple with what life after Covid may look like, one area of particular interest is what future the role of the office will have, given the likelihood that an increased proportion of people are likely to adopt a more "hybrid" approach to working.
Mark Catchlove (https://www.linkedin.com/in/markcatchlove/, @markcatchlove) knows a thing or two about offices, given he is Director of the Insights team at Herman Miller, so who better to pop along to our last week's International HR Forum session to facilitate a discussion about this?
Anecdotally, taking members of the International HR Forum as a yardstick, we are seeing a range of approaches. Some companies are closing offices. Some are reducing their footprint. Others are repurposing what they use their offices for.
On a more scientific basis, the recent Leesman Index showed that 85% of people intend to either work from an office for only up to 1 day a week (37%), or 2-3 days a week (48%). On the face of it, this shift will have a profound impact on how companies operate.
However, Mark did highlight that in reality Covid has accelerated what was happening already. For example:
- The increased emphasis on collaboration in different ways in different settings.
- Moving away from a few large meeting rooms to an increased number of smaller spaces.
- Assigned desks moving way to shared work areas.
- Privacy (not being disturbed) on-demand (through quiet areas) rather than as a luxury.
- Creating "hubs" or "plazas" as a hub for the work community.
- The increased importance of collaboration zones and circulation spaces.
For all the positives that have emerged with increased working from home, Mark's view is that there will always be a role for an office, and that companies should take care in doing anything as a knee-jerk reaction to the employee experience during Covid. Research is key to look at how things were before Covid and during the pandemic before looking at any changes after Covid. Particularly in the light of the fundamental needs that any employee needs, such as:
- Physical and mental security.
- A sense of belonging, and connections with colleagues.
- Having a sense of purpose, and of achievement.
- Autonomy, freedom to choose.
Any shift in office strategy should therefore be careful and planned, with a purposeful approach to:
- Change management.
- Sorting out the IT to ensure the ability to participate on an equal footing.
- Employee welfare.
- Equipping managers to lead remote teams.
- Making sure the office environment is one that people will want to experience.
Mark's parting comment was that "the office is not dead, it is just becoming more fluid".
A large thanks to Mark for sharing his insights. This is very much top-of-mind for most companies, so it was a very timely session.
Here are the links to some of the info referenced by Mark during the session:
Fundamental human needs:
Leesman homeworking research:
Psychology of collaboration space:
Upcoming workplace webinars:
Herman Miller Insight YouTube channel:
And finally, an article recommended by IHRF member Cliff Taylor following the session:
Thanks all! Stay well, be good, and see you soon :)
Blimey, it's been 3 months or so since my last blog!
Sorry about that.
What better way to remedy this than dive into the issue of wellbeing? Very much top-of-mind for most of us, I suspect.
Over the past few years, there has been an increasing recognition amongst employers of the benefits that arise from supporting the wellbeing of their employees. Covid has acted as an accelerator to this trend as employers have had to make a rapid transition to remote working.
It is against this backdrop that Gethin Nadin (https://www.linkedin.com/in/gethinnadin/ - best-selling author of "A World of Good", a qualified psychologist, a recognized global influencer in the HR world and someone I have been following on Twitter - @WorldofGoodBook) dropped in on the International HR Forum's weekly gathering to facilitate a conversation about the impact of Covid on wellbeing.
The opening question was a humdinger - why has wellbeing become so important to organisations? In the ensuing conversation there was recognition that the pivot to remote working has been a trigger and an accelerator for wellbeing. There was also broad consensus on the changing attitudes amongst employers towards mental health, although some companies may be more genuine in this area than those who perhaps saw it as a bandwagon to jump on. From a commercial perspective there is a growing body of evidence linking wellbeing to productivity and performance, and it is also clear that there is a growing demand from investors to understand how businesses are addressing wellbeing. At its broadest, the focus on wellbeing is a move to focus on positive employee experience and putting people at the centre of decision-making.
Gethin also made the point that even before the pandemic, at a socio-political level, wellness was starting to enter the mainstream as governments sought to reassess what a successful country looks like, with one measure increasingly being seen as the happiness and wellbeing of its inhabitants.
Having established the importance of wellbeing, we took a step back to discuss what we actually mean by wellbeing? Ultimately, what makes people happy is personal, but would typically include factors such as social bonds, lifestyle, spiritual and cultural pursuits, good mental health, altruism, the ability to take time off work and financial control.
Looking at how the pandemic has changed attitudes to employee wellbeing, the feeling was that there is increased empathy, a "reset" on how to make things work on a virtual basis, an ability for companies to "put our money where our mouth is" in terms of wellbeing, and a recognition of the importance of the role of managers at this time.
Given that the mental health impact of Covid will outlast the pandemic itself, employers have to prepare for dealing with the implications of this. In a recent Willis Towers Watson survey, 60% of employers believe there will be a serious ongoing impact on wellbeing. And the World Economic Forum survey showed that 50% of the workforce feel more stressed, struggle to find a work/life balance that works for them, feel isolated and also have other additional stresses outside of work.
This has been accompanied by a shift in employee expectations. Surveys show that more than half of employees believe they have not been supported during Covid, and a higher proportion would choose an employer with a reputation for looking after their people during uncertain times, including the provision of benefits to help manage health and wellbeing. The "employer brand" has come to the fore.
So how should employers go about creating an impactful wellbeing strategy? Gethin outlined 5 focus areas:
1. Financial wellbeing. A sense of control over ones finances.
2. Emotional wellbeing. A positive sense of wellbeing and happiness.
3. Physical wellbeing. Healthy behaviours and habits.
4. Community wellbeing. Connections with colleagues, friends and family.
5. Leisure wellbeing. Individual pursuits that improve subjective wellbeing.
Time caught up with us, and our hour was over in a flash. A huge thanks to Gethin for kindly taking time out to share his thoughts.
Be good, stay well.
It can only get better...
Yes, it's that time of year again to make predictions for the world of work over the coming months.
This time around, given the year we have just been through as an HR profession, there is more at stake. For employers, for HR, for employees. It's been a helter-skelter 2020, so amidst the madness, what can 2021 possibly have in store for us HR types?
Here’s my Top 5 Trends (well, thoughts, really) for 2021. And if you finish your left-over sprouts and behave yourself, I may throw in another one for free...
At the root of my thoughts are "take charge". Don't let events wash past you. Don't be a spectator. Grab the initiative. We're not out of the woods yet, so there is still a real opportunity for HR to continue providing the leadership during the next year that we saw plenty of examples of over the past year.
So, without further ado, here's my 5 (or 6?) thoughts for 2021.
HR AT THE TOP TABLE
Make the most of the central role HR have been playing of late in helping businesses through the pandemic.
Make sure you have an opinion on, suggestions about, and even plans for, the following:
- The ongoing "value proposition" for the business, including vision, mission, values, culture, strategies, actions, capabilities, etc...
- What businesses need to do to make a transition to a more remote, dispersed workforce. More on this below.
- Re-purposing offices from places where employees turn up for most of the week to in-person collaboration spaces where employees occasionally meet up with their colleagues.
- Nurture and bring along the culture of the organisation. Covid led to rapid change in many businesses, so what impact has this had, and will it continue to have, on the way your company "gets stuff done"?
- What can you do to make sure that the values, ethics and integrity of your business continue to adapt in the face of a continually changing environment?
Many businesses continue to encounter unchartered waters, so make sure you are adept at navigation...
Build on the crisis of 2020 to make organisations more resilient, adaptable to change, and prepared to face future uncertainties.
What does this mean in practice?
- Keeping planning horizons sensible.
- Possibly having more than one plan, to cater for different scenarios.
- Keeping business continuity plans "live".
- Providing managers with the ability to champion and lead positive change.
- Being that critical partner to our leaders. Critical in terms of ensuring you question assumptions and encourage broad thinking, as well as supporting any natural inclination to act.
Embrace distributed workforces and set them up for success.
- An office-based 9 to 5 is dead. Long live flexible and virtual working! Take time to understand the changed rules of engagement. Where do employees want to work from? And when? How can you lead and inspire them?
- Equip managers with the tools to lead and motivate remote teams.
- Make sure all aspects of your HR "lifecycle" are able to cope with a virtual world. Hiring, onboarding, learning and development, comms, engagement, leadership - everything!
- Provide employees at an individual and a team level with the ability to be productive, regardless of where they are working from.
- Recognize the need for a balanced approach to work/life flexibility.
Put people front and centre...
- For every policy we change, process we create and system we implement, particularly in the current environment when many businesses are still transforming given Covid, ask yourself how will it improve the employee experience. If it has no impact at all, why do it?
- As companies become increasingly distributed, we will need to work harder to stay connected. Make sure you invest time in building and nurturing relationships. Take in interest in what people are doing, how they are feeling about things, what's going on in their lives.
- Covid shone a spotlight on occupational mental health and wellbeing. Keep that spotlight shining.
- Think about new and novel ways to bring fun back into the working day. A lot of virtual goodness came out of lockdown. What can be maintained, and what additional initiatives can be introduced?
- Empathy goes a long way. It doesn't take a lot of time to recognise someone for a job well done, or to show appreciation for the changes people have had to make, or for random, small acts of kindness. But the impact of these last a long time. Care for each other in 2021.
As the graphic on the landing page for my blog says, "it's all about the people".
EMPLOYERS EMBRACING ALLYSHIP
Actually do something about diversity and inclusion!! The events of the last 12 months have built considerable momentum in this area but HR needs to ensure that employers move from talking the talk, to delivering real change.
- Don't try and suppress conversations about what has traditionally been seen as something that should be kept out of the workplace. Create that safe space for conversations to flourish.
- Encourage employees to educate themselves, recognize that problems exist, to be OK with the fact that they may feel uncomfortable about it, and that we can all make a difference.
- Don't sit on the sidelines. Be active, call out injustices.
- Look at all aspects of HR's operations, and challenge the business to find, hire, develop and retain diverse talent.
Here's something I wrote about this back in June 2020 which goes into more detail:
Now, more than ever, HR need to be able to:
- Balance an increasingly strategic people agenda with the operational and transactional requirements of the function.
- Embed themselves in the business beyond the HR stuff. What's going on in R&D? Production? Sales? Technical Support? Marketing? Finance? And so on. What are the key business challenges, plans and deliverables? What can HR do to provide effective support?
- Influence leaders. Even the best CEOs need coaching, or someone to be that sounding board.
- Be a true change agent. Build on the transformations that had to happen in response to Covid to ask questions that lead to outcomes around what worked well, what still needs to happen, what other areas need looking at, etc. Make sure you build in org design and change management capability to your future steps.
- Lead with data to ensure an evidence-based, impactful approach to your discussions at the top table.
- Network. You may not have all the answers. But the answers are out there. So make sure you are part of a thriving HR network.
- Don't forget to look after yourself, as well as your business, your leaders, your employees and their families.
This time last year, we couldn't have imagined what lay ahead in 2020. The turmoil will continue well into 2021, but I am optimistic that we are better equipped as an HR profession to guide employers through this uncertain world. It's a huge opportunity for us all - let's not let this opportunity pass us by!
That's all for now. Wishing you and your loved ones a peaceful and safe new year!it.
As we approach the end of the year, I am going to do something that I rarely do, which is put my introspection hat on, and do some...well, introspecting. Good word that, even if it's not in the dictionary.
The year got off to an inauspicious start. A 10-day sojourn in hospital with pneumonia and sepsis. 3 of those days I lost, somewhat out of it in intensive care, and sufficiently near pearly gates for my wife to get that dreaded 3-in-the-morning call to be by my bedside as it looked like I would not pull through. I had to let St Peter down however, and under the tender ministrations of the amazing team at Kingston Hospital I clawed my way back to the land of the living.
- If a consultant says that a catheter is a good idea, it generally is.
- And yes, it bloody hurt getting it in there. And out, once I no longer had need for it.
- I fell in love with Ed, who put up with a lot of shit (quite literally) from me in intensive care. I wouldn't be here typing now were it not for his first-rate care.
- Hospital food gets an unfairly bad reputation, in my view. The jelly was particularly scrum.
- I am an impatient patient. But psychologically I had to set challenging milestones to feel good about my recovery. Staggering to the en-suite loo, then walking to the end of the corridor, then going up and down a flight of stairs - just pushing out my horizons one step at a time was incredibly important to protect my mental health, in the face of my poor physical state.
- The NHS is a crown jewel more worthy than, erm, the actual crown jewels, actually. I cannot sing the praises of the staff at Kingston Hospital enough, from the cheery guy who cleaned my isolation room daily, the catering staff with their gentle piss-taking, the nursing staff (even if they did wake me up all the time to take my obs, bloods etc), the consultants, etc. And the aforementioned Ed, of course. "It takes a village", as they say.
- A near-death experience brings into sharp focus what truly matters. Capture these, although don't do anything rash. Important decisions should only be made when you have all your faculties fully restored.
PANDEMIC AND THE WORLD OF WORK
Just as I was gearing myself up to return to the office on a part-time basis as part of my recovery, we ended up shutting it down...
Not because of me, I hasten to add, but because of Covid-19. Some of you may have heard of it?
- "Never let a crisis go to waste", as Our Winston said.
- Covid accelerated trends that were already happening, albeit at a snail's pace. Trends such as the increasing prominence of mental health and wellbeing, kindness, and flexible working.
- The pandemic provided a unique opportunity to revisit and improve things that hadn't been reviewed because they worked just fine in the pre-Covid years. Yes - it is possible to transform a 3-day management development program into a virtual 3x 90-minute program, zero in on what the key learning objectives are, and strip out the fluff.
- Put the employee experience at the centre of all the changes that need to be made to ensure all parts of the HR lifecycle are fit for a remote world.
- The "work from home genie" is out of the bottle now, and won't ever fully go back in again. What does this mean? We will need to work smarter to ensure people remain engaged and connected to the business even though they won't be in the office as much.
PANDEMIC AND SOCIETY
Covid has bought out the best in people. There were countless examples of communities pulling together, concern for others, the role of kindness and appreciation, fighting to support local businesses and charities, etc.
Covid also bought out the worst in people. Stockpiling, unscrupulous employers, the politicisation of simple, easy precautionary measures like wearing face-coverings, etc.
- Resist the herd, think for yourself.
- Whilst it's inevitable your focus will narrow during times of crises, don't lose sight of what could be.
- Small acts of kindness don't require much investment in time, and go a hell of a long way.
- Nurture your network. I have found lots of help and support from my HR network, connections on LinkedIn and followers on Twitter. It may feel like it at times, but you're never alone.
- Be kind to yourself too. Eat well, keep fit and don't forget the power of laughter.
"TIME" MAGAZINE'S PEOPLE OF THE YEAR...
...should not have been Jo Biden and Kamala Harris, they have yet to truly make any impact on the world stage.
I would have gone with Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. What happened to them did more to bring discrimination to the fore than any politician.
Sad, but true.
- HR's job is not to keep potentially contentious views out of the workplace, it is to provide a safe environment for people to listen to, and respect, different viewpoints.
- "Allyship" must have been one of the "words of the year". But what does it mean to be an ally? It means educating yourself, recognizing there is a problem, talking about it, be prepared to be uncomfortable, don't worry if you don't have the answers, but do recognize that you can make a difference - for example, by calling out injustices rather than remaining silent.
- Think bigger picture. It's not just about race and BLM, as this will not resonate in many countries. But any country where we have employees has their own sections of society which have been marginalised over generations. Champion equality and justice wherever the light needs to shine.
STAYING WITH POLITICS... WTF, USA!
The US presidential election, and the state of US politics generally, has become farcical. How a so-called first world country can't come up with a system that provides a clear result within 24 hours of voting closing is a mystery to other functioning democracies.
- The US has lost any right to preach about democracy to other countries.
- During his time in power, and as he transitions out of office (eventually), Trump normalised traits that you should not value in leaders, or role model with our kids. No, it's not OK to casually lie so regularly at the drop of a hat. No, it's not OK to remain silent on injustices within society. No, it's not OK to ignore the advice of others, particularly if you have zero knowledge in that particular field. No, it's not OK to constantly belittle your opponents. No, it's not OK to be a misogynistic egomaniac. No, it's not OK to be in it for yourself, at the expense of the country you were elected to serve. Good riddance, Mr. "President". I am hoping history won't treat you favourably, else the world has taken a turn for the worse. Rant over :)
2020 has been a tough one. In my network alone there have been so many personal stories of loneliness, despair, illness, bereavement, divorce, unemployment, financial worries, and so on. But there have also been, quite often from the same people who have been suffering hardship, examples of discovery, re-discovery, growth, reconciliation, joy, kindness and resilience.
So, as we enter what will hopefully be a quieter period, I encourage you to take a step back, consider the past year, and ask yourself the following:
- What is something new that I learned about myself?
- What new skill(s) did I develop during the year?
- What positives could I take from living through this pandemic?
- What could I perhaps have done differently to cope with the situation even better?
- Have my priorities and perspectives on what actually matter changed?
- What will I take forward, if and when the pandemic has passed on?
Alternatively, save this exercise for a rainy day and put your feet up, turn the TV on and get your snacks out.
Wishing you and your loved ones a peaceful festive season.
Roll on 2021 - it can't be any worse than 2020.
The International HR Forum had a working session earlier this month, facilitated by Maddie Fox, with regard to creating new, or refreshing existing, policies around flexible working, of particular value as much of the world is encountering a “second wave” of Covid and many companies are still grappling with what a post-Covid world of work may actually look like.
What is certain is that the “old world” has changed for good, as the pandemic has accelerated slow-burning approaches to where and when people choose to work. If my employer’s surveys are anything to go by, 70% of employees want the flexibility to blend occasional visits to the office with the ability to work from home on a more regular basis.
Here’s a summary of what we covered off.
What are the key design considerations:
And what are the challenges?
How do companies ensure that any arrangements have a positive impact at a business and employee level?
What training is needed?
Huge thanks again to Maddie Fox for facilitating such a thoughtful, timely session.
Before I go, where is your business on this particular journey? Read this excellent article from Steve Glaveski...