Book Review: THE HUMAN WORKPLACE; People, Community, Technology. Amanda Sterling.

The culmination of a weekly tweet chat into a tangible resource for future learning is a credit to Amanda, her dedication and hard work in pulling it together  is exceptional and that’s not to mention the incredible breadth and depth of the international community she’s built up in the process. But back to the book. When Amanda first mentioned she was curating, compiling, writing and researching to pull together two years’ worth of the #NZLead chats into a book, I have to admit part of me thought she was mad (afterall she was originally planning to write as part of NaNoWriMo, which just seemed too huge), but another, larger part of me respected and admired her for it.

These tweet chats are real. They’re on-going, they get messy and way off track at times. There are some incredible lightbulb moments, a massive amount of learning, sharing of ideas and likeminded attitudes. But there are also challenges, at times debate and through all of this courtesy, camaraderie in many ways and a common desire to see a better world of work. Amanda has sewn all of this into her book. Using the real language of the tweet chats, and explaining the jargon, new concepts and the like in a manner that will ensure those inside and outside of people related roles will have no problem in following through the themes of the book. It’s as real as being in the conversation, yet structured in such a way as to lead the reader on a journey.

Overarching themes for me in the book are Culture, Collaboration, Leadership, Authenticity and Technology; all being at the essence of any “humane workplace”. And here are some quotes from the book that particularly resonated with me on these constructs:

“Leadership is not a one off event, a package or a methodology”

“Keeping people involves good old challenging, meaningful work, and a positive culture”

“Organisational Culture can become the most powerful piece in your recruitment arsenal”

“The kinds of organisations we need to create have to reflect the technology itself: open, collaborative, inclusive and connected”.

This book is a must read for anyone in the people professions; HR, OD, L&D, Recruitment and the like. In particular, those looking to develop and grow these roles into the future. You may be challenged, you may be nodding your head in agreement, you may encounter new ideas and concepts. And best of all if you’re not already involved you may feel encouraged to contribute to the #NZLead community now and into the future, for here is an on-going, evolving conversation for the better of future workplaces. And I use the term conversation loosely – as it’s my hope it’s more than that, not just a conversation but an action.

If there’s one takeaway I could possibly give you from the book and everything #NZLead has taught me it’s “Get Social”. For professional development, networking, conversations, collaboration, support, practices and learning, be brave, get out there – if you haven’t already you’ll be amazed at what’s waiting for you. If you’ve dipped in and skirted the edges, get involved; you won’t regret it. Search. Sort. Share.

To quote the book again “Information is no longer power: now it’s about networked intelligence” think on this for a moment in terms of my takeaway themes in the book: Culture, Collaboration, Authenticity, Leadership and Technology, then keeping these in mind, I leave you with this final thought “ The new workforce is a community, not a corporation”.

The Humane Workplace can be purchased here.

#HRLeadersSummit

I was lucky enough to be invited along to the HR Leaders Summit in Auckland this week, by the wonderful team at Drake NZ. Described as a high impact day addressing the changing face of HR, there were four speakers who were highlights on the day from me.

 Steve Tinghe, Business Futurist, opened with three key concepts for working back from the future – reimaging business and HR.

  1. Awareness of the emerging change.
  2. A broad and flexible sense of strategic identity. Senior Leaders need to take care to have a broader than internal sense of corporate identity, don’t become too introspective.
  3. A process for strategic design. In the information age we’re acquiring more data to make sense of the changing environment for competitive advantage; firms don’t need more information, just help applying and optimsing what they already have

He further discussed the need for strategy to be seen as a resource that needs time and energy and encompassing five key elements: Future, Creativity, Collaboration, Learning and Process.

The three words left with me after Diane Edwards, Ports of Auckland’s, address were Challenge, Culture and Courage. Entitled Change management and using HR to promote sustainable values, her session described the changes at PoA that enabled them to achieve a five year plan in only three years with some incredible profit and people results. Key strategies included:

  • Leadership courage; large scale restructuring, taking on the unions and chaining the culture.
  • Working together, reinventing relationships through communication, alignment, centralisation and integration. Show consideration and create partnerships.
  • Address poor behaviour head on; including the likes of zero tolerance on bullying and a focus on health and safety.
  • Breaking down hierarchies; such as getting exec’s out working on the wharf monthly.
  • Doing things better; competency frameworks challenging improvements and innovation, weekly WIps in place of annual PDRs and a customer focus on diversity of thinking.
  • Diversity and Progression; focus on moving women up, on progression through merit and job fit, aptitude testing and increasing flexible contracts.

Their results spoke for themselves, in turns of productivity and dividends returned to rate payers.

Kate Nuttal, Air NZ, though from a completely different perspective and starting point also told a pretty impressive story of the transformation Air NZ has been through in the past two years. Her five key takeaways were:

  1. Give people a sense of purpose, and connect to the vision. Small actions can make a big difference to the bottom line.
  2. Measure performance in a meaningful way and clearly differentiate high from low. Stop, start, continue mentality coupled with real conversations and staff development.
  3. Build great leaders and a robust talent framework. Leadership builds culture, creates engagement, promotes performance. Talent matrix hugely important.
  4. Truly collaborative with people (high performance engagement), connect with your people.
  5. Building employee capability in those areas that are a priority for the company. EG: sales capability – reward & recognition, sales cycle, capability model and collaboration.

The points Kate claimed made all of this work for Air NZ were: leadership by example, transparency, having difficult feedback conversations and coaching.

The final speaker also resonated strongly with me; Kylie Holton of Woods Bagot Australia on redesigning the workspace – a creative vision for the future. Kylie described building architecture and interior design in HR terms:

The main trends discussed were:

  • Culture & Brand; be original based on drivers of the business. Be authentic, show who you are and what you do.
  • Flexibility & Agility; re configuring spaces for project based work through furniture & infrastructure. Creating choices over when, where and how you work.
  • Model Shift; hierarchical to project based. Flexible furniture and walls (spaces that move and change).
  • Connection & Collaboration; people come into buildings for different reasons, and want to connect with the building differently, so creating scenarios for people to bump into each other. More break out spaces and virtual tools for engagement. Formal and informal work zones.
  • Innovation; spaces supporting productivity & innovation through freedom of choice and customisation.
  • Health & Wellbeing; natural light, planting and more sit/stand workstations.

It was interesting and incredibly positive to see so much alignment between our future working spaces, and evolving ways of working.

Something else interesting about this conference was that despite the references for leaders, HR and employees to all be more involved with social media, there was extremely little engagement with this during the conference. Chris South, Prominence, even encouraged it at the end of his session on Attracting the very best talent: The latest tips and tricks (which by the way was excellent and I got more tidbits that I missed from seeing him at IT18NZ), but to no avail. Hopefully attendees will take this on board, and hopefully those in Amanda Sterling, NZLeads’, session on HR in the Cloud – Changes and benefits of collaboration were encouraged also, so that next year we might see more sharing, conversations and networking as a result.

Performance Reviews as Coaching Conversations?

On the 11th of June I hosted a twitter chat for #NZLead, as part of a month long focus on performance. You can read the preview and background for that chat here. This post is a recap of that chat:

As discussed in the preview for this twitter chat I see value in giving feedback. And I see value in discussing progress, development and future career paths. So the proposition was implementing an on-going, regular coaching conversation between employees and managers encompassing feedback on performance, discussions on progress, clear expectations of the role requirements, future development plans and initiatives. No surprises, real time conversations that are simple, straightforward and achieved with far less blood, sweat and tears.

The general consensus was undoubtedly that the PDR process needs to change. Some had tried similar methods to suggested coaching conversations in the form of simplifying the process, retraining managers in implementation and others agreed coaching conversations worked well with a lot of staff, but it maybe wasn’t a one size fits all problem / solution. By equipping managers with the skills to conduct coaching conversations some had seen great success, though an education piece was needed for staff and management to get meaningful buy in. There was also the feeling that there are managers who prefer tick boxes and straightforward forms to the perceived ambiguity of the coaching conversation, but also that’s it’s the role of HR to change these situations and expectations.

A substantial communication and education (why and WIIFM) piece would be required in the roll out of any new process within an organisation to achieve success. A transition state or ‘baby steps’ approach to any significant change may make the adjustment more easily accepted by employees. And it’s a cliché, but true – role modelling from the top down, ensuring senior leaders in the organisation walk the walk and showcase the new framework with their direct reports.

Whilst no pitfalls of making this change were identified, it is acknowledged again that managers need the skillset to lead meaningful conversations, ask questions and provide honest, constructive feedback. There was also the recognition that if not done well the conversations would be about as useful as poorly executed PDR’s.

To remain relevant and grow with the changing world of work it seems inevitable that traditional PDR processes as we know them need to change. Laborious and cumbersome in today’s ever evolving VUCA world where the likes of agile methodology are becoming more and more prominent, they simply no longer fit in a modern and developing workplace. Coaching conversations seem like a good alternative moving forward, provided the proper ground work is done with both employees and management alike to equip them for the transformation. Once achieved the potential for coaching to provide framework for more meaningful work conversations in relation to providing constructive feedback to employees and a forum for on-going development is immense.

If you’re interested in joining in on the #NZLead chats you can do so using the twitter hashtag on Thursday’s at 7pm NZ, 8am UK, 5pm Melbourne Sydney. Or you can check out more about what #NZLead is all about on the website.

Tales of Inspiration

inspiration

[in-spuhrey-shuh n]

noun

  1. an inspiring or animating action or influence
  2. something inspired, as an idea
  3. a result of inspired activity
  4. a thing or person that inspires

Inspiration comes in many shapes and forms, from a variety of sources, often striking when you least expect it. You may or may not have sought it, but either way it found you and propelled you to take action or consider thought. It may have been as simple as the encouragement needed to make small changes in an aspect of your life or as major as a monumental shift in direction.

I believe we have all experienced pivotal moments in time where inspiration has struck to such a degree as to have had an effect on the future shape of our lives. Be it an individual, a community or a piece of writing. In writing this piece I realised there were countless forms of inspiration in my life, and far too many to discuss here, so following are two stories encompassing various forms of inspiration, each one vastly different from the other, but each with considerable impact around people, community and the world of work.

The first is one of inspiration through help, dedication and giving back – and I admit there are literally hundreds of similar stories, all with equal merit. I know an incredible individual who gives up countless hours of her time to help others, so much so that if I were to list the areas in which she freely gives her time, resources and beautiful smile to enriching and enlivening the lives of others I’d surely miss something out. But to give you an idea, this is one millennial thoroughly practising mindfulness through the likes of soup kitchens, gardening, caring for the elderly and volunteering in orphanages, all outside of her 9am – 5pm role. And this week I encountered Tinaya Johnston via this NZ Herald article – proving one incredibly inspiring woman has the ability to impact and change so many lives on a daily basis through one simple idea and her time. Both of these people have inspired work and community – one through motivating the people in her workplace to do more in their local communities as a result of her efforts and the other giving back to her community and in turn moving others to behave in a similar way.

The second is more professional in its inspirational nature. Beginning with an Executive Leader who spotted potential in an employee and enabled a situation whereby it was possible to take action. Followed through with the employee who accepted the challenge, stepped up and continued the professional development through mentoring and accredited education.  This individual has turned their life around in a phenomenal way and whilst that mentoring relationship and formal education is long past, they have continued to mentor with others, complete further education and seek alternative forms of development through the inspirational relationships and people they have met along the way and accepting personal responsibility for their own future path. This person has unwittingly become an inspiration in their own right; having faced numerous hurdles and adversity along the way and still coming up trumps and is now so recognised for their expertise in their field they too are being asked to speak, mentor, train and develop others.

This is a somewhat philosophical post, a reflection in many ways and a nod to all those who have inspired me. However it’s also very forward looking as I know there will be many more stories of inspiration to come; with the world both personal and professional becoming a much smaller space through the development of technology ensuring we have the opportunity to be inspired every day in thousands of ways from thousands of directions and sources. And so I ask you this, what inspires you, where will it lead and how will you use it? And secondly – do your inspirational sources know the affect they have on you? If not – maybe it’s time to give back, feedback and recognise?