Thursday, 19 October 2017

Branded

In recent weeks I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about employer brand, prompted by a few different things including speaking (last minute) on a PM Jobs webinar on the subject. In this blog I’ll explore a few of my thoughts. 

It struck me how few organisations have a really well defined employer brand. Many, or most, will have an excellent customer brand but often the employer brand is indistinguishable from that. 

We hear about the rise of Trip Advisor style reviews for companies on sites like Glassdoor and Indeed, and these are indeed (pun intentional) very helpful to a potential job seeker, as well as giving the employer a chance to see how they are perceived and try to influence that. 

I recently spoke at an event where I lightheartedly asked what, if anyone was going on a date with someone for the first time, they would do before they met that person. Almost unanimously, they said they would attempt to stalk them on social media. We laughed about this but honestly I believe it to be true and a valid action too - it’s research, or due diligence, before you make any kind of commitment. 

And I further developed this point by saying potential job applicants would do the same thing about potential future employers, and in doing so would usually go well beyond the jobs/careers pages on the organisational website. This seemed to be a surprise to many, and yet it’s just as valid, possibly more so, than stalking a potential date on social media. 

In my time I’ve done both. 

But what do you do as a potential applicant if you can’t find anything? What if the organisation is, for all intents and purposes, invisible for the purpose of research beyond their own website? What if the organisation is so unconcerned by its employer brand that it relies wholly on its own website?

In most cases, people would try to speak to someone they know works there, or has worked there in the past. And there we have the best, but also hidden, bit of employer branding possible. 

Your own employees. And past employees. 

How you treat your own employees, how the employee experience is for them, will have a direct impact on your employer brand, like it or not. They are all ambassadors and they will talk regularly to a small group of family and friends about your organisation. You have to hope they say good things but sadly that probably isn’t true. And that small group of people are each individually connected to another small group and may share your employees view with that group if asked. 

So my advice is focus on the employee experience. Make it as good as you can for each individual as it increases the chances they will say good things about you when asked. They are, consciously or not, branded by you as an employer and they WILL share your employer brand whether they choose to or not. 

Past employees too are a source of employer branding information. Exceptionally few companies keep in touch with ex employees but they’re often a good source of data for a potential applicant. More than once in the past I’ve spoken to an ex employee of a company I was considering applying for, and their responses have put me off. Obviously you have to bear in mind the circumstances of their exit, and how much you trust their opinion, but even if you don’t trust them they are still out there sharing these views to others. 

So I think we should actively manage this group of ex employees, by keeping in touch and sharing information from time to time. Very much like Universities do with their alumni. 

Of particular note is how they feel they were treated during their exit. I know of one person, my friend Zeus (not his real name) who was neutral towards his employer during employment, but at the point he resigned he began to be treated very badly and was hurried out of the exit (albeit paid up in full). That treatment has affected how he views that employer now and he will happily share that experience with anyone who asks. 

Interestingly, Zeus had another interesting experience when joining said company a couple of years previously. The person who rang up to offer him the job, and would later be his line manager, tried to talk him out of accepting the position during that conversation, and then again in another conversation a week or so later. They felt that Zeus would not be a good fit and would be unhappy - which begs the question why offer the job in the first place, but that aside, it’s an interesting dynamic - a current employee trying to talk a potential employee out of coming to work there. 

Who knows how many other managers, when making job offers, let slip their views about what it is like to work there and, consciously or not, influence the potential employees view about the employer brand? Is that something we could or should actively manage?

Zeus being Zeus, he ignored this discussion as he felt he had no reason to trust the person giving the information and was determined to prove them wrong in any event, so took the offer. In hindsight though he admits that they were probably right and he should have listened to them. 

How much employee turnover and lack of engagement could be avoided if we were more explicit about such things?

I know of another friend - let’s call her Hera - who had a similar experience during the Onboarding phase when a member of the HR team (yes, really) was really explicit with her about how bad the employer was. Again, Hera proceeded anyway but again now she suspects the person was right. 

And that was from HR!

But it reinforces the point that your employees, current and past, are constantly spreading your employer brand around. Free marketing in a way. 

But is that a good or a bad thing?

That depends very much on you as an employer. 

What will you do to manage this?

Till next time. 

Gary

Ps in other news, home life has been packed with events both good and bad in recent weeks, and there are barely enough hours in the week to deal with them all, and it’s been a difficult and stressful time. Some of this I’ll share in an upcoming blog.  

Saturday, 7 October 2017

This means nothing to me...

This is the seventh and final post in a series of blogs discussing the concept of motivation and what its sources might be. Its prompted by a conversation I had with Bee Heller, from The Pioneers. Bee asserts that there are seven different sources of motivation, and is writing about each of them on The Pioneers website. 

We decided I'd write a commentary piece about each one on my own blog, and look at what's happened in organisations I've worked in and with - whether the source of motivation Bee's blog discussed has been used to good effect or been neglected; what's worked well in terms of creating an environment that enhances that motivation; and what's not worked so well or undermined that motivation for people? 

Here's Bee's blog on meaning. In it, she suggests that employee retention becomes much easier when organisations provide a sense of meaning for their work, and contrasts two differing ways of doing this - one overarching purpose, which she says has good short term effects but potentially damaging long term effects; and a pluralistic approach where lots of different ways of doing meaningful work are encouraged, which she suggests is a better long term approach. 

I agree in part with Bees thoughts. I certainly agree meaningful work is a source of motivation and can therefore help with employee retention. But I’m less certain that having one overarching purpose in an organisation is only a short term fix, and that a pluralistic approach is therefore the best way.

I have usually been able to find meaning in what I do. I’ve often recounted the story of telling my 3 year old daughter that my job was to help people be happy at work, and I guess that’s what my meaning and overarching purpose is. When I’ve worked in places where I’ve felt a connection it’s usually because the organisation has a similar ethos and let’s me do my thing.

It’s also why I often dislike doing operational HR activities as, although they’re needed, they aren’t necessarily linked to my purpose, although may well have a contributory hygiene factor.

I was in my favourite job for 11 years. This was an organisation that had a purpose to improve the lives of its customers, and that resonated so much with me that we just understood each other and could see common ground. I did my thing there for 11 years before the organisational purpose changed and I felt I no longer had that connection, and left. 

I have been in other jobs where the organisation and I had a complete disconnect about what they saw me doing and what I felt was right to do, where my role was expected to be about compliance and regulation, and no focus given to helping people feel happy at work. I have never lasted long in such places. 

I have had various bits of freelance work over the years too, and the beauty of that is that I could pick and choose work that matched my purpose. It’s no surprise that I got a lot of energy out of those bits of work and consider them some of my best work too. 

So when I get meaning from an organisation, I stay. In that sense I agree with Bee.  The search for meaning is a motivating factor, and has been a motivating factor in my leaving some roles. 

I don’t necessarily agree that the overarching unitary purpose is only a short term thing though. Uber, cited as an example, are perhaps the exception rather than the rule and I know many organisations who have maintained their unitary purpose successfully - I would suggest that the growth of Uber brought with it people whose purposes didn’t match the original meaning, and this contributed to what has happened. Had they got their recruitment right, and found people whose meaning matched their own, what did happen might never have. 

A pluralistic approach can have many benefits, as Bee does suggest, and I’ve seen this work also. But an organisation needs to have sufficient size and maturity to cope with and make the best of this. It’s no better or worse than the unitary approach, just different. 

Ultimately though, my own sense of meaning comes from helping people to be happy, whether that be through my HR work, my PT stuff, and any voluntary or freelance work I do also. It can be a motivating factor in getting me to stay at places, and getting me to leave places. 

It is possibly also why my ideal jobs are (or would have been) a professional wrestler or a Man Utd footballer, as both have immense potential to create happiness for people. 

Somehow I ended up in HR instead. But I still hope. 

Till next time…

Gary

Ps in other news, I now have a 16 year old son who is technically and in some regards legally an adult. This makes me feel very old. 

Friday, 22 September 2017

Embrace at CIPD ACE

I’m thrilled to have been asked to be part of the CIPD Annual Conference and Exhibition Blogsquad for the third year running, and am really looking forward to attending it in November. Here’s why.

The annual conference and exhibition, this year known simply as #cipdACE17, has for a long while been the highlight of my professional year. I make every effort to get there and haven’t missed one since 2003. For me, no other event comes close in terms of the potential learning opportunities for an HR professional, nor the networking and connecting activities.

Once again it’s being held in Manchester, and the city and the event have really grown into each other in recent years. The event now makes much more use of Manchester as a venue than it ever did, as witnessed by the growing number of fringe events and social activities on the mornings and evenings around the event itself. This is a good thing and makes it feel quite special.

For the third year running I’ll be part of the Blogsquad, which is great, along with other more talented bloggers. I’d be going anyway and I’d also be blogging anyway as that’s a key way for me to learn and get my thoughts together, so for CIPD to recognise this and ask me to do it from within the tent is awesome.

I’ll be sharing content from the conference and exhibition on social media, and capturing my thoughts in more detail in my blog. Both of these I’d do anyway, and many many people do and will here too. Social media is a great way to engage with an event and really feel a part of it, so I encourage you to follow and use the hashtag #cipdACE17

The days, for blogsquadders, tend to be quite long and, to many peoples surprise, tiring but it is an effort to try to manage ones own learning as well as sharing relevant content for others and trying to be in several places at once. It’s a great opportunity for me, and almost every attendee, to catch up with people we’ve not seen for ages, connect with potential new suppliers and customers, make new contacts, and hear from the very pinnacle of the profession about what they are doing.

And this year is no exception. The theme this year is Embracing the New World of Work, and I fully expect to hear Peter Cheese tell us when he opens the event that there really is no better time to work in HR. The conference had a similar theme last year, only last year it was future focused and the implication this year is that what was once tomorrow’s world, is now here.

Last year I talked a lot about the need to personalise the world of work, and the rise in technology and AI is helping us to think this through and look at new possibilities but I don’t think we’ve done more than scratch the surface so far, so it will be interesting to hear from practitioners and academics who have done more.

A running theme in my writing is about asking employees how we can structure work, and structure contracts, to get the best from them. I know how employers can get the best from me, but how often do we in HR ask others? I’m hoping to hear from some who have at the conference.

The conference and exhibition normally get the balance about right with practitioners who’ve pioneered something new, academics who are researching what’s coming, and exhibitors who are offering a new solution, sometimes to a problem you didn’t know you had.

I’m expecting more of the same.

Check out the full programme HERE, and I’d be interested to hear what you are particularly interested in or any specific thing you’d like me to try to find out and share.

If you’re an exhibitor, then I’d repeat my advice from last year and encourage you to engage with the Blogsquad on the various media and in person, and use the platform that social media at conferences gives you to reach out to delegates.

If you’re an attendee at the event, please hunt me down and say hello, there’s plenty of breaks and networking opportunities and it would be great to chat.

Above all though, enjoy yourselves!

Till next time…

Gary

PS a difficult time recently as one of my two 17 year old cats, Gizmo, became ill quite quickly and passed away. Having been with me since a 5 week old kitten I have found this hard to deal with. She had been with me through a lot and I miss her loads. 17 years is a good age for a cat and she had had a good life, but you kind of never think this final day will come and it’s a shock when it does. Her sister is lonely now and it’s weird just to have the one cat and not both. RIP.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Turkish Delight

I’ve just returned from a holiday in Turkey and have been mulling over one of the main cultural differences between there and the UK, namely that of tipping for service received. In this blog I’ll explore this and in particular some themes relating to recognition and feedback.

I’ve just had a wonderful family holiday in Turkey. I’d not been before but it was my wife’s fifth trip and she had alerted me to the “tips expected” culture we would encounter. This was reinforced by the rep on the coach transfer from Dalaman airport to our resort and so it proved.

In Turkey, when you receive service of any kind, it seems to be an expectation that you will give a monetary tip to the provider. This isn’t only if you receive exceptional service that you are really pleased with, it appears to be service that could be by and large ordinary, ie people just doing their jobs and not necessarily going the extra mile that might justify a tip.

I’m always reluctant to tip, and in fact I’m notoriously tight with my money, so the idea of being free and easy with my tipping was a little alarming. Service normally has to be outstanding for me to even begin to think about it. I certainly wouldn’t normally consider tipping a waiter for simply bringing me a meal, the waiter would need to do something exceptional to get a tip.

Maybe I’m the one in the wrong. I should add, in my defence, that I'm reluctant to part with money, and not necessarily reluctant to recognise good service - it’s the financial element I dislike that's all.

But in Turkey tips are so much a way of life that if you don’t leave a tip, it is the equivalent of actually making a complaint about poor service. The provider feels they have done something wrong or to upset you and that their service had been substandard.

This is obviously different to the prevailing culture in the UK and of course neither is right or wrong, just different. Other countries will have their own versions of this too but I’m focusing on Turkey as that’s my most recent experience.

And of course I might be in the minority here and be the unusual one. My wife certainly thinks so.

But this got me thinking about how this could work in organisations.

The culture in Turkey is one where feedback (in the form of a monetary reward) is both expected and required for anyone providing a service. The absence of this feedback is considered to be negative feedback in and of itself. Feedback doesn’t have to be earned, and is a reward for simply doing ones job.

Feedback in organisations in the UK is not as easy to come by. Some organisations claim they have an open and honest culture and good luck to them if that’s the case, but perhaps we can learn something from the Turkish culture.

I once worked in a job for 15 months and in that whole time I counted only one piece of positive feedback received from my line manager.

One.

And I did plenty of things well. The one occasion I got positive feedback it looked and felt like the manager felt uncomfortable delivering it, and it was only because I’d done something outstanding that couldn’t be ignored that they felt they had to say something. The other stuff I did, the things that I did well but got no feedback for, they were “just doing my job” and the culture was that I didn’t require or need any feedback about those.

But I also made a couple of mistakes and I am honest enough to admit them. And did I get negative feedback for these?

Absolutely.

Lots.

And regularly revisited even when in the past too.

That said a lot about the culture, that a couple of mistakes seemed to far outweigh competent delivery of almost everything and a few outstanding contributions. You’d think this would balance out at least, and possibly tip the other way, but no.

Still though, I made sure, and continue to make sure, that I give feedback to my direct reports whenever I can, even if it is just for “doing their job”. It may not be monetary feedback, but we all deserve to know when our efforts are being noticed and recognised. People shouldn’t have to go the extra mile to get some positive feedback.

And I think this is where a lot of managers, and organisations, fall down.

Its too easy to ignore decent work done well. You don't have to save your feedback for exceptional work.  I like getting feedback and even though I *KNOW* that sometimes people give me positive feedback just to make me feel good, it still works nonetheless.

People work hard every day. Occasionally they may produce wondrous work, and at that point yes that should be recognised appropriately - but recognise the daily efforts they make - the little things.

Say thankyou.

Say well done.


Show appreciation that they are doing a decent job.

Tip people verbally, and see what difference it makes.

Till next time…

Gary

PS in other news, we're already looking at next years' potential holiday destinations, but lots of potential complications to overcome first…

Friday, 28 July 2017

Above Average

I've recently completed two linked qualifications - Level 2 Gym Instructing and Level 3 Personal Training.  In this blog I'll discuss how I found them and what I learnt.

I discussed my reasons for starting the qualifications back in October in this blog post.  Since then its been a long, hard slog completing both qualifications back to back and managing them in and around a full time job, other bits of self employed work and being with my family.

But I've enjoyed it.

The Level 2 Gym Instructing course covered the basics of nutrition, anatomy, and planning/instructing gym sessions.  And then I did the much longer and more in-depth Level 3 Personal Training qualification, which covered more.  It did nutrition again but looking specifically at the links between that and fitness and wellbeing / energy levels.  It did anatomy and physiology again but in far more detail and looking at how different parts of the body work together and react under pressure.  It covered different ways of delivering personal training too.

I learnt a great deal and am indebted to the teaching staff at Trafford College for helping me through this qualification, aswell as to Donna Hewitson, Damiana Casile and Alison Morton for being willing test subjects and case studies at various points.

I've developed my skills in a range of areas and of particular note I've really honed my coaching techniques as essentially that's what PT is.  I've added huge rafts of knowledge around nutrition and anatomy that have proved useful in both my personal and working life.

And I've discovered that not only do I *really* enjoy PT work, but I'm actually pretty good at it too.  Its a damn shame there's not loads of money in it otherwise it could be bye-bye HR.

And yet I think there's space in my life for both HR and PT, and think the two are complementary.  Without my existing HR (and L&D/coaching) knowledge I'd not have been able to grasp some of the basics of PT and instruction and knowing how to motivate people. And without my PT knowledge I wouldn't be able to coach in business as holistically as I can do, or to look at employee wellbeing in a new light.

So there's definitely room for both and I'll be using my HR skills in any PT work I do, and my PT skills in my HR work too.

But how much PT work will I do?  Very little.  Its something I may fit in around any full time work I do, and pleasingly is something that can easily be done in evenings and weekends.  But I have given my philosophy some thought and know how I’d do it. 


Above average in physical fitness is achievable for most people. Olympic standard isn’t. I would want to work with people who aren’t happy with who they are and want to change. Those who recognise they could be better and want to learn all the various things that need to happen to be better, from nutrition, to focused training and objectives, to understanding physical limits and work life balance issues, to understand the rules and the need for support, the need to make lasting lifestyle changes. Those who want to be “above average” and harness the Power of Three.

I would want to work with people who are interested in becoming Above Average, without the pressure of trying to be the best - who want to be a bit better than others, without the commitment needed to go out and win races and competitions - who want to feel good about themselves but don't think they have time and energy to completely transform themselves.

I think I can use this philosophy in my main HR work too, and look forward to doing it.

Right now I've finished with formal learning though, but I don't think I'm finished forever. I do enjoy learning and have a few other qualifications and accreditations in my sights.

For now though I'm really looking forward to putting what I've learnt recently into practice, both in PT and in HR.

Till next time...

Gary

PS in other news, its almost holiday time...

Monday, 17 July 2017

On the move

As many will know by now, I’m due to start a new role soon. Here’s my thoughts on what’s happening. 

I’m taking up the role of Associate HR Director at the Disclosure and Barring Service in Liverpool and I start on 1 August. I’m excited by the challenges ahead and it promises to be great for my own development and is a really good opportunity to make a noticeable difference to an organisation that wants to transform itself and sees HR as critical to that transformation and overall journey. 

I joined Trafford College as HR Director since February 2016 and learnt an awful lot in my time there. I shall miss the HR team, who I really enjoyed working with and who are a talented and enthusiastic team who anyone would feel lucky to lead. They are partway through their own transformation and are well placed to see it through. I shall also miss several of the Leadership Team with whom I’d forged good, strong relationships, and I hope to keep in touch. 

That was also where I was lucky to undertake my Personal Trainer qualification, which will be the subject of a separate blog, and I can highly recommend that particular course and the staff involved in teaching it. My PT qualification is 99% complete with just one assessment left and that’s to be done next week. It’s been a great learning experience.

But there comes a time in any role when it’s time to move on, and it has been an interesting time leading HR within Further Education, a sector which has its own share of challenges and many from an HR perspective. 

Just as when I left my role before this one, I thought long and hard about going self employed / freelance, something I have blogged my thoughts on before HERE. I had the same debates with myself again and reached pretty much the same conclusions, although confess I got closer this time than previously. 

I still want to work within an organisation, with a team around me, and help to change and improve people, processes and organisations from the inside. I still feel I’ve got a major contribution to make to organisations as an employee and as a senior HR leader. I know I can make things better. 

And that’s what I’m doing from 1 August. 

Let’s get started. 

Till next time. 

Gary

Ps in other news, I turned 42 today. I remember my Dad turning 42 and he finished work at that age through ill health, so me getting to this age and about to start a new role has made me quite reflective on where I’m going and so on. I wouldn’t mind retiring at age 42 though…

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Baby its cold outside

Some musings on change management, prompted by a story told to me by a close friend, who we will call Zeus in order to protect their identity and that of their organisation.  It concerns how organisations can overlook group needs at the expense of satisfying individual or organisational needs.  And how too much effort is put into Refreezing a new state of affairs and not enough into Unfreezing in the first place (to use Lewin's model):



Zeus worked for one particular organisation as a senior HR leader for a long time and says it felt like being part of a family. A big change happened to that family that upset Zeus and which affected a large group of people within it, and he left when he felt he couldn’t influence what was happening any more. Zeus says he had a lot of conversations at the time that were supposed to help him deal with his feelings, and that he thought were helpful at the time - but developments since have made him realise they didn’t fully resolve those issues. He feels the organisation missed a trick in its change management programme by not allowing him to talk with others with similar feelings in the hope of resolving them for their entire group.

In short, there was a larger group of possibly up to 100 people who needed therapy, and no amount of re-positioning by the organisation and focusing on new values or new directions was going to make an impact on how that group was feeling, as it ignored the elephant in the room.

So Zeus left, and one by one lots of others have left too. When each person since has left, Zeus says there’s been a social gathering. Always in the same place at the same time, and he says these have felt a bit funereal, in that they were all there mourning the loss of something they all shared, but at the same time celebrating that life goes on.

He says that the social gatherings are nice events, very informal and very easy to be at, and the family feel they all had when working at that place carries on into the social setting. At times it’s easy to imagine they all still work together, or so he says.

But they don’t. And Zeus says they often spend some time discussing why that is and how they feel about it.  Lots of people, lots of conversations.

To him, and to me, it’s clear that as a group they haven’t let go of their feelings about what happened, about why their family had to change and what that change was. Zeus says there were good business reasons for the change, but it’s clear that there’s still feelings of resentment and hurt about a lot of things, and that no individual has successfully managed to deal fully with them.

When we talk about models of change management we often recognise the change curve in individuals, and create strategies to manage that curve for those individuals. As organisations we look to models like Kotters Eight Steps or Lewin's Unfreeze-Change-Refreeze to help us move forward with change at a strategic level, often successfully.

But I wonder whether in these models of change we focus too much on the individual and the organisation, and ignore the groups and collective social sets.   And if we focus too much on the Change-Refreeze and not enough on the Unfreeze, in helping people get ready for change.

The social gatherings Zeus attends are lovely (he says), and are always helpful because he get to talk to others who feel the same way. Who understand. It helps them all to move on.

But I wonder whether, if they had done this whilst they all still worked together, whether they would in fact STILL be working together and actively helping the organisation grow and change

When they did still work together, although some individuals like Zeus did get to talk about their feelings, they never did so together - only, he says, to "outsiders", and only post-change, never pre-change, and when they were together they ignored the elephant in the room and ignored how they were all feeling without tackling that head on.

Organisations provide EAP schemes for individuals, and have well crafted change management programmes, but we may be missing out the middle here - we might be missing a trick around group therapy.

So in managing change in organisations, yes - consider the organisation as a whole and it’s culture and structure. Yes - consider the individual and their approach to the change curve. But also consider the group or team, and how they may have a collective change curve to go through and a real need to talk to each other, not to people who they don’t know very well, about how the collective feels.

And when trying to change a culture, spend time Unfreezing people and groups from their current mindset before making any change and before trying to Refreeze in the new culture and mindset.

As Lewins model asserts, Unfreezing is as important as Refreezing, as individuals and groups need to be ready for change, and I’d argue that it’s even more important. Without doing the Unfreezing, any subsequent Change and Refreezing won’t entirely work.

Unfreeze for individuals, for teams and groups, and for the organisation. 


In Zeus' case, there was a clear change happening and a lot of effort went into executing that change and Refreezing - but hardly any went into Unfreezing in the first place.

Small wonder the change left Zeus and his peers feeling cold, and on the outside of what was going on.

Baby, its cold outside.

Till next time.

Gary

Ps in other news…

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Who is the fairest of them all?

This is the sixth in a series of blogs discussing the concept of motivation and what its sources might be. Its prompted by a conversation I had with Bee Heller, from The Pioneers. Bee asserts that there are seven different sources of motivation, and is writing about each of them on The Pioneers website.

We decided I'd write a commentary piece about each one on my own blog, and look at what's happened in organisations I've worked in and with - whether the source of motivation Bee's blog discussed has been used to good effect or been neglected; what's worked well in terms of creating an environment that enhances that motivation; and what's not worked so well or undermined that motivation for people?

Here's Bee's blog on Fairness. In it, she focuses on the introduction of flexible working practices to illustrate how some HR policies can be implemented unfairly, and makes the point that HR policies shouldn’t necessarily be about equality and treating everyone equally, but should create a culture of fairness, allowing for individual differences in the workplace but equality of opportunity. She also makes the point that fairness in the workplace isn’t a motivator in itself, but can be a significant demotivator. In this sense, it’s one of Herzbergs hygiene factors.

I agree with a lot of what Bee is saying here.

In my career I’ve often outlined new or revised HR practices or policies and been met with comments from senior leaders or union representatives that they were concerned about the potential for a lack of consistency in its application.

I recall debating the introduction of a small scale recognition scheme with trades unions where managers had discretion to award recognition gifts to the value of £25/person. The unions were not in favour of the scheme because of its potential to treat people differently.

I also recall debating a new approach to flexible working with senior leaders and many of them not being fully supportive because they were concerned that across the organisation people would be treated differently.

For many years in my career, it seemed all people wanted from HR was to ensure employees were treated the same.

Then, and now, I can’t think of anything more demotivating at work as to be treated the same as everyone else.

Who would want that?

My standard response in the face of such concerns was to say it isn’t about treating everyone the same, and it isn’t necessarily about equality either. It’s about having a set of values that underpin your policies and in fact are the main bit of your policies, and behaving in line with them.

One of my values is fairness.

I believe that in life, and in work, one should be fair to people.

Of course people’s circumstances are different. This means we can’t operate policies entirely in standard format.

But is that such a problem?

No I don’t think so. As long as we are fair to each individual based on the circumstances they present at the time, we are treating people as people and behaving in line with what I believe should be a core value for all organisations.

And this does mean that there will be different approaches to reward, and to flexible working. It’s inevitable. It’s part of employing humans and treating them as humans.

So do we need standard practices and total consistency? No. Only consistently fair practices perhaps. Not the same.

Bee also says that fairness isn’t a motivator. And she’s right, it isn’t. I’m not motivated to join an organisation that markets itself as fair. It’s often just spin, as I’ve found out - I’ve seen promises to let people use the full extent of their skills and knowledge, and to operate without being micromanaged be broken for one person but fully granted to another without any rationale whatsoever and with what seemed to me as gross unfairness. I’ve seen people leave organisations because they feel they are being treated unfairly, and I can’t blame them for doing so.

So organisational culture can get in the way and it is up to us in HR to ensure that the need for equal treatment doesn’t outweigh the need for fairness in organisations.

A lack of fairness can be a significant demotivator as Bee rightly points out.

My advice - talk to people. Treat them as individuals. Ask them what motivates them, what drives them. If they don’t seem happy, ask what is making them unhappy and do your utmost to help them with it.

Above all, don’t ignore someone if they say they are being treated unfairly.

We are in the business of managing human resources. Let’s treat our resources like humans.

Till next time…

Gary

Ps in other news, a big career announcement due from me shortly which I’ll discuss more in my next blog. Also, youngest daughter has chicken pox…

Thursday, 22 June 2017

What are you up to on the evening of 13 July?

This blog is about the ongoing review by the CIPD of its Professional Standards Framework, and your opportunity to contribute to this and the future shape of the profession.  Here's a link to the event details on 13 July.


I've blogged twice about professionalism, here on my own blog and on the CIPD site also. I've got strong views on it and had been looking forward to this event taking place so I could contribute in person.

But Sod's law is in full effect and I can't go to it. Any other day or evening that week would be fine, and even during the day would be fine that day but not evening, where I've a prior commitment.

This really frustrates me given the amount of noise I've made about professionalism and the role of HR in this.

I feel like a bit of a hypocrite telling you that you need to go, and having made so much fuss about it all, only to not turn up myself.

The good news is that there are other opportunities to contribute and if you want to do so by emailing psf@cipd.co.uk to register your interest in other events and via non face to face means if necessary.  I've done that.

But I desperately want to contribute, and want as many people to contribute as can too.

Its important. There's plenty of us in the HR game, and plenty more who need us to get it right for everyone.  We're all workers, employees or in the gig economy - and if we can't rely on HR to be professional and focus on enhancing the employee (etc) experience and creating amazing workplaces, then we may as well all give up and go home.

The importance of understanding what HR is as a profession and how we influence the wider workplace and indeed society through our behaviour, ethics, skills and knowledge cannot be understated.

We're important.  You might not think so, but we are.

So here's a chance to shape what our profession looks like in the future.

For those who say that the current professional qualification isn't fit for purpose - you're right - so come along and help reshape it.

For those who say that the current CIPD is too HR based and doesn't recognise or give equal importance to some of the existing and developing specialisms - you're right - so come along and help sort that out.

For those who say that the CIPD is too London-focused and doesn't do enough around the rest of the country - you're right - so come along and show them that us in the North West have a massive voice and role to play too.

For those who say that there are many hugely talented individuals who operate in the HR sphere who've never felt the need to become CIPD qualified or members - you're right - so come along and help make CIPD attractive and beneficial to those people too.

You're important.  Your views, your opinions, your thoughts and your lovely face.

I'd normally finish by saying See You There, but as I can't make it and am slightly hypocritical I'll finish by asking you to be as open and honest as you can, and to report back to me afterwards.  I'll be contributing in other ways but I'd like to hear your views to help me develop mine.

Till next time...

Gary

PS in other news, I've started work dismantling my current shed and that'll be finished in a day or so, so the next job is building the bigger new one.  I've never seen so many woodlice and slugs, but not one spider, not even a dead one.

PPS in other news, far FAR more people have mentioned the shed to me after it appeared in PS in my last blog than have commented on the blog itself. This may say more about what appeals to people than anything else.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

A Perfect Day

Last week I did an Ignite talk at #cipdnap17 on the subject of Work Life Balance and how I go about creating A Perfect Day. Given that it is, by coincidence, Go Home On Time Day on 21 June, the timing seems apt to expand on this. 

I'm grateful to Gemma Dale for publishing her own excellent blog on this subject which made me think about writing this one. 

Read hers, then come straight back here. I'll wait. 

Done? Good. 

My Ignite talk was again delivered as a rhyme, and I really enjoyed doing it. I drew some inspiration not just for the talk but for my whole approach to work life balance from Nigel Marsh's excellent TED talk on the subject some years ago.

My talk was filmed and you can watch it here if you like. 

In it, I'm making, in a fairly haphazard way, a few key points which I'll expand on here. 

1. That there is something that approximates a perfect day for everyone, but it is a rare and unusual thing. Too often we don't make efforts to create it, as we are too busy or (worse) don't realise what we need or (even worse) do realise but do nothing about it. My point was that by making some very small adjustments to your day, and helping others to do the same, our organisations and our families can reap huge rewards. 

2. In HR we could take a leading role in educating managers and employees on the benefits of flexibility. However this doesn't often seem to happen, and even when leading by example I've encountered suspicion and mistrust. But our ability to influence is there and should be used. 

3. The demands of modern family life are often largely incompatible with the demands of the traditional working day and traditional organisation. So one of these sets of demands has to change, and the only one we in HR can realistically influence on behalf of others is the latter. But again by leading by example we can show people how to manage the demands of both. 

4. Organisations who tell their staff how to work, how to dress, when to take lunch and for how long, what hours to work etc are going about it all in the wrong way. They can't unlock the engagement and discretionary effort they want from their staff unless they change. Too many organisations judge people by how many hours they are sat at their desk, and not by the quality of output they deliver. If someone wants to take an hour or so off to do the school run and help their kids with their homework, and then will log on late at night and catch up, does it really matter as long as their work is done?

5. Working in the evening or at weekends is a personal choice and not one that should be encouraged or expected by organisations. Too many see emails sent late at night or at weekends as a sign of being some kind of workplace hero, as working harder or more than someone else. If you want to do it, fine - but set your emails to send first thing in the morning so you don't impose your lifestyle and working patterns on others. 

6. You are never too busy to spend time building working and family relationships and a coffee catch-up with someone is time well spent no matter what else you need to be doing. Telling someone you're too busy to grab a coffee says less about your workload and more about you as a human being.

So if it's Go Home On Time Day, I suppose this will mean different things to different people. 

And that's ok, because everyone's perfect day is different. Everyone's perception of work life balance is also different. 

But in organisations, as HR professionals, we need to be encouraging people to explore what it means for them. To adopt a trial and error approach and, as I've mentioned before, present successive drafts of themselves. 

We shouldn't judge anyone for trying to get themselves balanced. 

Till next time. 

Gary 

PS in other news, I've recently built a large climbing frame. I am reminded why I hate DIY and also how poor I am at it. I would happily outsource all of this if I could. And I have a new shed to build next…

Friday, 2 June 2017

If you're happy and you know it...

This is the fifth in a series of blogs discussing the concept of motivation and what its sources might be. Its prompted by a conversation I had with Bee Heller, from The Pioneers. Bee asserts that there are seven different sources of motivation, and is writing about each of them on The Pioneers website.

We decided I'd write a commentary piece about each one on my own blog, and look at what's happened in organisations I've worked in and with - whether the source of motivation Bee's blog discussed has been used to good effect or been neglected; what's worked well in terms of creating an environment that enhances that motivation; and what's not worked so well or undermined that motivation for people?

Here's Bee's blog on Happiness. In it, she quotes research that suggest that happy people can be lazy thinkers, too trusting and less persuasive.  She concludes by saying that there is such a thing as being "too happy" in a workplace, and that organisations shouldn't continually seek ways of making people happier, and instead look into a broader range of motivational techniques and tools.

Well.

Bee's blog reminded me of this quote from John Lennon.


I have to say I'm more in agreement with Lennon's quote than the quoted research, although I'm no academic and can't quote any contradictory research.  Lennon's quote just feels right.

So what is happiness at work?  How do you know if you are happy, and what happens when you are?

I've been very happy in a number of different organisations and roles.  I can usually tell I'm happy because of a few things.  I'm productive, I find enjoyment in what I am doing, I make jokes and wisecracks, I challenge others to be even better, and more than anything else I find my thoughts drifting to work issues when I'm not at work.  I'd go so far as to say that when I'm happy my performance is sharper than ever.

I do my best work when I'm happy.  And I know many others who do too.  And in fact I'd say that a group of happy workers make for a good team, and can collaborate with each other much better than a group of grumpy workers.

However...

In my Amazing Workplaces talk I say that we don't want a company full of Tiggers, or a company full of Victor Meldrews, we want a happy medium.  And I do hold to that.

So in a sense I do agree that there may be such a thing as being "too happy".  Its acceptable to have and display a wide range of emotions, and I'm conscious that many people will be able to use unhappiness as a motivator too.  Putting such people together with the overbearingly happy is a recipe for disaster.

I've also worked in places and roles where I'm been unhappy, in some cases desperately so.  In a strange way these experiences of being very unhappy both motivate and demotivate me.  In work when unhappy I have definitely been disengaged and not produced my best work, but I've also been able to use my general sense of dissatisfaction to fire me up to do even greater things - even if this is a very limited fuel source.

And unhappy people can be contagious.  Often they will search for someone else to share their unhappiness with, someone they can have a good old moan with about how bad things are.  Neither of these people are too productive when that happens, unless you count moaning as productivity.

But despite all of this I still don't agree with Bee's quoted research that happy people can be less effective in the workplace, or that organisations shouldn't try to make their employees happier.

I often quote the story of when my middle child was aged 3 and she asked me what I do at work.  Its hard to define HR to an adult, let alone a child, so I struggled for a while before settling on this description:

"My job is to make people happy at work"

She went off, satisfied with this, only to come back with her paints and brushes - she told me that painting is what made her happy (and thus, could we do some right now) and she thought - and still thinks to this day - that my job involves getting people to paint in some way.

And I think its still a pretty neat definition of what HR is, and what organisations should aim to be doing.

Make people happy.

From my own experience I know I'm close to giving 100% when I'm happy, but I know that mostly when I'm unhappy I struggle to give even 50%.

By coincidence, on 14 June I'm speaking at the Happy Workplaces Conference in London.  The conference is pretty much what it says on the tin.  I'll be talking about what organisations can do to make their workplace a happy one, whilst still respecting the balance of emotions necessary for an effective workplace.

It will be interesting to hear other attendees views on happiness in the workplace.

Till next time...

Gary

PS in other news, I've been clearing out the garage and garden in recent weeks, and am simply amazed at how much stuff I've been able to get rid of. How did we end up with so much stuff?

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

The Winning Mindset

I've recently completed The Winning Mindset, a digital coaching programme from Jeremy Snape, ex England cricketer and now sports psychologist. Here's my reflections on the programme.

Jeremy contacted me out of the blue and asked me to participate in the programme and give him some feedback on it, given my interest in all things performance and motivation, and the links between doing so in both sports and business. I jumped at the chance and have really enjoyed the whole 30 day programme.

The programme itself is easy to follow and take part in. Its a 5 minute video clip each day from a famous world-class sportsperson, followed by some analysis from Jeremy, and some links to related material and more videos along with worksheets to complete if you want to embed the learning.

The allure of learning from world-class sports people is obviously what sells the programme, and I have to say the insights are worth it - at least from my perspective given my aforementioned interests.

So what did I get from it?

A lot of the early days were standard coaching stuff about goal-setting. That doesn't make them any less valuable, and for many people they'd have been exceptionally useful, but for me it was going over old ground to a degree. Interesting stuff, but not new. There were insights about envisioning your "World Cup moment" and how you can break down this vision into short and long term goals before fully defining what it is you want to achieve.

This process was quite helpful as at that time I was reflecting quite a lot about what I wanted from my life and career and being prompted to go through this thought process did help me get a lot of clarity about what I wanted in the future and some of the steps I needed to take to get there.

It was also useful to get a reminder of some simple concepts like finding three things you do each day that move you towards your goal, and making sure you do those things first whilst you have more energy, and don't waste the day doing things that don't move you towards those goals.

Something new AND interesting was the idea of process goals, which I found a great concept to explore - however I found I could apply it far more easily to my triathlon training and other sports than I could my work in business.

There were several insights looking at the concept of Mental Toughness. The speakers had a firm belief that it isn't something innate to us that we are born with, but it is something that is shaped by experience and is therefore a skillset that can be developed. I've found this to be true with my own experiences, and I know that some of the things I've experienced in recent times would have broken me in the past, but I've somehow become tougher.

A few speakers talked about making mistakes and learning from them, something I covered briefly in my last blog. Those with Mental Toughness need to be able to start again, rebuild and acknowledge the factors that made them less successful first time round. They also need to be able to make sacrifices in order to achieve their goals, and this really did make me think. Over my career I've made sacrifices in order to be successful, but they haven't always worked out - and this made me think that some of the choices I've made in the past weren't the right ones, and made me resolve to make better ones next time, and to rebuild accordingly.

A speaker said that true Mental Toughness is about being comfortable with who you are, being humble but also being agile, being brave and knowing when to change direction. Hearing this really made me think.

As I mentioned in the last blog, I really loved the idea of presenting successive drafts of one's own performance and its something I've really taken to heart. I'm 41 now, and although I'm much better at everything than I was aged 21 or 31, I also fully expect to be even better by age 51 and 61. Just watch me. Likewise, I talked briefly about isolating any setbacks in their true context, and that's also something that's really helped me.

The programme encouraged me to think about what I'm proud of - and I came up with a decent sized list. It encouraged me to have confidence in my own ability, something that has been lacking sometimes.

We then looked at what champions do that is different from those who are simply good. One factor was being accountable for your own performance, whether that's good or bad. I reckon I'm good at that in sport, and am improving at that in business too. But a key factor was champions accepting a penalty for not achieving their targets, and that's something I've never considered - but am doing now...

Champions also surround themselves with high performing individuals who can give them feedback and hold them to account. This is really similar to Ian Pettigrew's concept of a Personal Board of Directors which I've shared previously, and is something I've tinkered with on occasion but never really put into practice - but I need to...I just need to decide who my Top 5 are. I tried getting some feedback from people as the programme suggested, but most of those I asked really struggled to give me any.

Another couple of speakers looked at the concept of wellbeing - something I've blogged about a few times. They spoke about being able to switch off and disconnect from work in order to focus on something else important, and vice versa - and these are things I've done well in the past. Its important to schedule downtime into my life and to schedule other things like exercise, family time and of course work. This programme also made me realise that I rarely seem to get a good nights sleep BUT that doesn't seem to be affecting my performance - so how good could I be if I did get a good nights sleep regularly?

Some other useful simple insights were about the importance of preparation. I used to remember something in my teaching days that if you were short of time and had a choice of doing lesson preparation or marking students work, you should always choose preparation every time. There was more to it than that but I've carried that forward into every aspect of my life and work - I always prepare well, it builds confidence and puts deposits into my confidence bank account, and leads to greater results. Similarly, the importance of positive self-talk is not new but the insights gave me some ideas how to use that to structure preparation for important meetings and events, and how to use fear as a motivator.

There were a few speakers talking about the power of visualisation and pre-match preparation, something I do on occasion and it does produce better results, but I only tend to do in sporting situations and it then baffled me why I've never done it in a business situation. So, I promptly did so - and got an amazing result which I'll talk about in due course.

The programme finished by asking us to network and connect with those who we consider the very best in our field, and to talk to them about the secrets of their success. I'm encouraged by this and will seek these people out. If all of a sudden I start asking you questions, you know I consider you one of the very best in your field...

The final insight from the programme asked me to reflect on what are the two or three things I'm currently doing that are delivering the greatest success for me - a version of the Pareto Principle I suppose. I know what these things are now. I know when and where I get a chance to do them, and I know when and where I don't. Its up to me what happens about that though.

So the programme is finished and I've come away from it with a mass of thoughts, ideas and practical tips, many of which I've already begun to put into practice and have begun to generate some interesting and really positive results.

There's more insights now available to me for a period of time and I'll be accessing these as soon as I'm able. I will be able to use all of them in my day to day work with other people, and to help me become even more effective at the various things I do.

I'd like to thank Jeremy for inviting me onto this programme and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in applying the principles of world-class sporting performance into the business world.

Till next time...

Gary

PS in other news, my wife, my son and I did a Relay Triathlon on Sunday - obviously I do 7/8 individual triathlons every year but it was their first, aswell as my first relay, and we did amazingly well - we'd all done our own individual preparation effectively, and worked well as a team on the day. It was one of the most enjoyable experiences I've ever had and made me really proud of my whole family, not just those two but my two daughters who came along to support us too. A real family moment. And we want to do more...

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Mental

It's been Mental Health Awareness Week  this past week and it's been hard to escape the mass amounts of publicity raising awareness. I've found it really interesting to read so many examples from both famous people and people I respect in my PLN about their struggles with mental health issues. 

It's made me reflect on my own experiences. I don't think I've ever had any long term mental health issues, although I've certainly had some very short term adverse reactions to events, but I tend to be able to spot when these happen and take steps to deal with it. 

I think I'm more fortunate than others in that respect, but I admire anyone who has the courage to talk about their issues. 

My one episode of any kind of mental health issue came when my first marriage broke down unexpectedly and in very public and extremely difficult circumstances. I know for certain I suffered a depressive episode and struggled with lots of things. I've talked before about how my employer at the time and particularly the Chief Executive supported me wholeheartedly. My judgement was very much impaired, I made lots of bad decisions, my mood was all over the place and I didn't think there was a way to recover. 

But time heals. 

Slowly. 

Nowadays I can tell when I'm feeling stressed or coming close to anything like a depressive episode. There are headaches, a feeling of blood rushing round my head, and heart palpitations in extreme cases. I'd have trouble sleeping, or staying asleep and would wake very early with my brain very active. If any two or more of these or other symptoms show themselves, I know I'm getting stressed and I know if I do nothing about it then it would make me ill. 

So I tend to do something about it.

Sometimes it's about doing something physical to expend some energy. I'm lucky enough to be fit and active and I use that to help me in times of stress. It gives me time to think as well, which helps too. 

Sometimes it's about talking or writing. I find both incredibly useful to manage my emotional state. I'm a big believer in the power of counselling and other similar techniques, although I was brought up to think that men shouldn't show emotion as it was a sign of weakness, and I should hide it all away. 

This means I do struggle to show emotion, and do keep it all internal, so talking and writing gives me an outlet. 

Whilst I have times of difficulty nothing has come close to the depressive episode around my divorce, although I know that if I didn't have coping mechanisms I'd be in greater difficulty. 

I also am more aware now of situations that can cause me stress. It's usually when people think something about me that is untrue, or argue with me from a position I can't understand, or when I feel a very strong sense of injustice. These situations create some of the symptoms I've described so I have to try my coping mechanisms. 

An alternative is to avoid these situations altogether but that's not always possible, and another technique is to not let them stress me, but that's easier said than done as well. 

I read an interview in HR Magazine this week with Alastair Campbell  talking about his own mental health issues. He mentally rates each day at its outset according to how he feels it is going to go from what he knows he is doing that day, on a scale of 0-10. He says he is comfortable if his days are no lower than 2 and no higher than 7 but he struggles if he knows days are going either side of those scores. 

I quite like this approach. He's planning ahead, and if he knows he's in for a 2 day, he knows he has to plan out his coping strategies and to be honest on reflection I can see that's what I have been doing, albeit without any scoring mechanism to quantify it. I'll always schedule a run after an event I know may cause me some difficulty, and it does help. Or I'll make sure I make contact with someone I can talk to during the day. 

I've also read about some places, e.g. in France, where companies can't send emails after a certain time and employees can't read emails whilst on holiday. When I first heard about this I didn't think it was workable, but over time I've come to appreciate what a good move it is in terms of mental health and work life balance. 

I blogged here about my experiments with it and I've continued them. When I'm off work for anything more than 24 hours I deactivate my email from my phone and tablet so I'm not disturbed. And I try my best each evening to switch off my work communications and focus on other things like family, and I'm mostly successful in doing so. 

There was once a regional union official who used to send me very abusive emails late at night. He would never send these during the day and in person he was not as nasty either. But he seemed to get a kick out of sending these because he knew the effect it would have on me (a very negative emotional reaction because it hit all the triggers I mention above and I had no available coping mechanisms due to the time of night, and he knew that), and he would also cc in the Chief Executive and as many other union officials as he could, which would further exacerbate my stress reaction and is a part of the reasons why I'm so anti cc. 

These experiences taught me the downsides of using email late at night, and I often encourage managers who do need to complete work and send email themselves late at night to set them to send at 8am. They get their bit done but without the negative impact or intrusion into someone's home life. 

I'm halfway through The Winning Mindset digital coaching programme via ex England cricketer and noted sports psychologist Jeremy Snape and it's really good. Highly recommended. I'll do a longer blog on it when it's finished but a few of the daily coaching episodes have focused on mental health and in particular how to develop mental toughness or resilience. 

It's been interesting to hear from world class athletes and their coaches about how they manage work life balance, how they manage their mental state and how they cope with setbacks or criticism. 

One thing I particularly liked was a top athlete suggesting that you shouldn't view mistakes or bad experiences as something to dwell on, but instead view them as successive drafts of your ever increasing performance. 

Another was to put setbacks and such things in context. Rarely do setbacks affect your entire life, usually just one portion of it and often they're no reflection on your whole self or your direction or anything, they're just one isolated bad incident that is already in the past and therefore it shouldn't affect your sense of self worth. 

Really good stuff and I'm enjoying the coaching programme and have got a lot from it. Watch out for another blog on this soon. 

But I still can't shake the feeling that I'm not supposed to be anything less than strong and focused all the time. That as a man I should never have emotions and certainly shouldn't ever feel like crying. I'm a senior manager too and I still often think that's not what we do. 

Those kinds of views are wrong but they are what I was brought up believing and what many people still do believe. It's only through campaigns like Mental Health Awareness Week and the stories shared by those a bit braver than me and those who have gone through tougher times than me that I can even begin to feel it's ok to talk about feeling stressed and being less than my best from time to time. 

In this blog I've tried to explain how I cope with difficult times and how it's been helpful to read others stories and to learn from external sources too. 

I hope that I'm able to help others in doing so. 

Till next time…

Gary

Ps in other news, I've had the wetsuit out today and have been open water swimming for the first time since last August when I caught a nasty bug doing so. I felt great except for the first few minutes when I had brain freeze. Glad I'm back in the open water. 

Mental Health Awareness Week

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

100 not out

I've now done 100 blog posts.  This is a reflective piece on how the blog has developed since it started.

Technically its 101 posts - this one being 101st - but as I only realised after I'd published the 100th, tough.  Noticing I'd passed my century made me look back at the start of the blog and reflect on how far it has come since those early days.

I started it for a few reasons.  I'd had it in mind for a long time, and had actually started work on a blog site a couple of years earlier but got nowhere with it.  What prompted me to get it up and running was a big change in my ex-organisation, and me moving jobs within it.  I realised I didn't want to be in that place (on many levels) any more, and a blog could help raise my visibility and profile within the profession and help me determine my next steps.  I also had loads of (what I thought) were great ideas about HR that my ex-organisation didn't seem to want, so I wanted to share these with a wider audience and help to develop my own thinking and see what happened.

I kept it going for other reasons.  I discovered that people read, and interacted with my thoughts. It helped me to develop them further but helped me make new contacts, new friends, and through all of this become a more rounded professional and human being (or so I hope).

It has attracted some negative feedback at times.  There haven't been many online debates about the content of the blog, but a few times people have come to me offline and in person and asked questions about it.  When I first started it, someone in my ex organisation who was on maternity leave read it and got in touch with her own manager to ask a question about my blog.  At that point it was a new thing, and no-one else in that organisation had come across it.  Suddenly, news of my blog spread like wildfire across the organisation and I was duly hauled in to explain myself.  And yet I'd done nothing wrong, other than perhaps not let the organisation know I was starting a blog and what it would contain.  So I got into trouble and to be honest that helped me move on in lots of ways.

But there's been overwhelming positive feedback, both on and offline, to things I write.  Some very kind and talented people have said some really kind and honest things about what I have written, that has made me realise I might be doing some good and might actually be a reasonable writer too.  Its for those people and others like them that I keep going.  I learn a lot from all the comments I get and enjoy entering into debate with people about my thoughts, as its only through debate that I learn and develop.

Blogging has led onto lots of other things, which I have listed HERE.  These are all great things and I'm really proud of all of them, and there's a bit of a snowball effect as one thing tends to lead onto another.  I'm immensely excited when a conference organiser gets in touch and wants me to speak on a topic because they've read a blog post I've done - or when a journalist gets in touch for a comment because they've done likewise.  I've a massive ego as many know, but it is nice to know people are reading it.

It also surprises me when people I don't expect to say that they read it.  Lots of people in my ex-organisation who I bump into from time to time tell me that they read every post, which amuses and pleases me, even people I didn't expect to bother.  I have found close friends who have admitted to reading it and I also know that my mum reads it (hello, mum).  Quite why, I'll never know - it is aimed squarely at HR professionals and yet it does seem to appeal beyond that.

Here's the posts that have proved the most popular in terms of numbers of reads:
  1. #connectinghrmcr - published October 2015, this detailed my first foray into the #connectinghrmcr world and how I, as an introvert, coped with networking
  2. Tail wagging the dog - published July 2016, this looked at how performance management was changing and what I was thinking at the time about it
  3. The Professionals - published January 2017, this shared my thoughts on the development of the CIPD's new principles
  4. Ignite! - published June 2016, this was a lead in to a talk I was giving at #CIPDNAP16 and hinted at what was to come...
  5. Let's get flexible - published April 2016, this was my views on flexible working and why some organisations struggle with it
  6. The Spark - published May 2016, this covered my developing thoughts on employee engagement and what happens when it is lost
  7. Rhyme Time - published June 2016, this covered the reaction to my rhyming Ignite at #CIPDNAP16 and shared the backstory of it
  8. Moving on - published January 2016, this shared why I was leaving one organisation to join another, and what that felt like
  9. Wedding bells - published August 2016, this was a personal post talking about my imminent wedding to Katie in Cyprus
  10. Bazuka that VUCA...part 1 of 2 - published October 2016, this was an expansion of thoughts I'd shared in a CIPD webinar on the future of HR

I enjoy blogging.  There's no grand plan about when or how I blog, or on what subjects.  I enjoy writing - it helps me organise my thoughts and provides me with a record of them and how they've developed. It enables me to interact with my Personal Learning Network (PLN) and to generate debate and learning via them.  I've learnt loads about HR and leadership by blogging, as it forces me to research and to expose myself to new ideas, and I'm definitely a better HR professional for having started this blog over two years ago.

Of course I'm not new to blogging per se, having had a wildly popular anonymous blog detailing my single man dating exploits 5-6 years ago, and that one really did have a life of its own, but in this blog I'm me - nothing more, nothing less - and its all that's needed.

I'm not sure where the blog is going, other than it will keep going - as long as it keeps getting read and responded to, as it needs that kind of fuel to survive.  Right now I'm enjoying it.

And I hope you are too.

Thanks for sticking with me for 100 posts, and a really big well done if you have read even a third of them over that time.  Thanks for all the shares, retweets, comments, and debates.  Thanks to you for being part of my PLN and helping me more than you know.

Till next time...

Gary

PS in other news, I'm taking part in the Winning Mindset online coaching programme delivered by Jeremy Snape (The Sporting Edge). Its a nice complement to my personal training journey and also how I see HR operating within businesses in terms of organisational effectiveness, so watch out for some blogs sharing some of this content and reflecting on its use.