Missing Our Intern

Today I missed our intern. A lot. She began with us twelve weeks ago after a friend of hers put us in touch and she seriously made an impression during her time with myself and the team. The experience made me realise more than ever that the benefits of interns are absolutely mutual.

For years now I have organised, aided, supervised and guided internship programmes in my organisation across all areas of the business, except my own. I have ensured there was goal setting, training, mentoring, coaching and robust outcomes for the intern, working with multiple tertiary training providers depending on the nature of the internship and role or project on offer. I have been working lately on pulling together a nationwide internship programme across all of our departments to set minimum standards for expectations in relation to bringing interns into the business. So it’s been hugely valuable to me to experience the full programme first hand before rolling it out for implementation.

The benefits for the interns are well documented from networking opportunities, learning and development, insights to specific industries, building personal brand from CV through LinkedIn and social platforms, but so to there are the soft skill benefits of communication, organisational behaviour, norms & expectations. It’s important that when students take internships that they know what their goals are, what the expectations of the role are and what the outcomes will be.

Here are a couple of quotes from recent interns in our business:

“Doing an internship does not only allow you to gain more skills and knowledge, but also presents you with a new group of people that are already in the business and are happy to help you in the future.”

“Throughout my internship I was able to gain a good understanding of the 80+ brands under NZME and got a taste of each department’s responsibilities. I also learnt key skills that my current job requires. This allowed me to hit the ground running when I started working fulltime.”

Many of the benefits for employers have also been discussed before such as creating talent pools and being able to attract talented graduates. Gone are the days where the intern did the photocopying, filing and coffee runs. Interns need to have solid and measured goals and outcomes in place during their time in an organisation. Employers should keep in mind that interns will have desires that they hope will be met during the course of their programme ranging from client exposure through inspiring colleagues, mentors and competitive compensation.

On the note of competitive compensation, I’m a huge advocate of paid internships. I realise not all organisations are able to offer this, and that the experience itself is incredibly valuable to the students. But I wager that to keep bias out of the internship equation you need to offer compensation as some students may simply not be able to afford to not be paid, and therefore you miss out on them as potentials for your organisation.

This is something of a brain dump for me given my intern has just left and that she taught me many valuable lessons. We’ve changed a couple of processes as she had a better way of doing them. Her critical thinking and research into a project she was running has potentially changed the way we use some technology in recruitment going forward. Her open, frank and confident composure combined with her knowledge of her subject has left more of our managers open to interns, now they realise the value of them and that it’s not a ‘baby-sitting’ exercise. It’s also timely as I’ve been keenly following the #summerofbiz initiative and I’m keen to explore how that can be expanded in Auckland in conjunction with my journey on our in-house intern programme.

So yes, I’m missing our intern, for her vibrant personality, her ability to take a task and completely nail it, for the way she asks questions and the questions she asks and for the difference she made to our team and workspace.

I’d love to hear the thoughts, experiences and advice of others also working in this space!

(And yes, the pic is some of our team dressed as Where’s Wally :-))

Here’s where you can find out more about the #summerofbiz: https://hrmannz.com/2017/09/24/starting-out-part-2-all-kinds-of-awesomeness/

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SOCIAL FOR HR – L&D

SOCIAL MEDIA FOR HR – BLOG SERIES

#3: LEARNING & DEVELOPMENT

Networking is super easy across many social media platforms. The trick is to get in there and get involved! Many people social “watch” for a while before feeling comfortable enough to join in. I’m a classic example of this, initially joining twitter to follow the America’s Cup because the feeds were better than any others I could find, it was a full year later before I started to watch and then engage from an HR perspective – but following hashtags, joining in group charts and niche interest groups are all a great way to extend your networks and therefore your L&D opportunities.

Self-directed learning via social networking is a great way to upskill and increase your own knowledge, be it through chats with others, interest groups getting together online or in real life and / or enrolment in MOOC’s (Massive open online Courses) or in fact via blogs…

I think we all know what blogs are by now – but the hardest thing I found was keeping them all straight – without a million extra email alerts ending up in my inbox every day. There are some great blog readers out there that collect and collate your chosen blogs into categories, by date for later reading – I use Feedly, but Google Reader is another great option. This essentially creates your own specifically selected content feed.

With the number of blogs now days I would recommend taking a little extra time to research the background of new bloggers you follow to qualify their expertise.

Mentoring is made all the more accessible via social…my last mentor I met via a twitter chat and despite the fact that he was the Head of OD for a university in Scotland, we worked together for over a year utilising social for our communication and other tools such as facetime and google docs to share work, challenges and get feedback and direction. And just recently a former mentor of mine who had relocated to another country has been back in touch via social, is back in NZ and we’re due to meet up!

This all leads to pointing out how social gives us access to thought leaders – Dr Harold Hillman, an award winning author and expert in the People Professions and I connected over social and have connected to where I recently invited him to speak on authentic leadership through change to a group of HR and Recruitment professionals at a breakfast event. And it’s been fantastic for me to meet and work with someone I’ve long admired and looked up to “in real life!” (Hashtag #IRL!)

SOCIAL MEDIA FOR HR – BLOG SERIES

I was recently asked by the wonderful team at Elephant Training & HR to speak at their HR Advisors Conference on the use of Social Media in and for HR. I have now turned this into a series of four blogs that will be posted over the coming weeks.

The areas I see social media best benefitting and working with HR are as follows: Talent Attraction, Communication, Learning & Development and Social Employees and these will be the blog topics coming up.

But first….a look at the stats to keep in mind as you read the series…

SOCIAL MEDIA – THE STATS

It’s important to note that these staggering figures below are monthly users! And to give context, as of January 2016, the total worldwide population was 7.4 billion

  • Facebook: 1.55 billion
  • Youtube: 1 billion
  • Google+: 400 million
  • Instagram: 400 million
  • LinkedIn: 450 million
  • Pinterest: 100 million
  • Snapchat: 100 million
  • Twitter: 320 million
  • Vine: 100 million

I’m actively involved with 8 of these platforms, currently learning my 9th and still have one on my bucket list to master!

I think there are a lot of people out there at the moment particularly in the “People Professions” that are sceptical of social, who don’t engage with it from a professional standpoint, and even on a personal basis in some cases, as they’re nervous of the repercussions, not sure of how to use it – or indeed why they would use it.

But my argument would be how can you afford not to – you can see the numbers here……and I figure if I can teach my Mum how to use Facebook, albeit it’s taken a lot of time and patience to get her understanding that she doesn’t have to friend people, comment or like if she doesn’t want to and isn’t obliged to respond to every interaction, but she’s doing it and finally loving it.

Another example is my partner; a senior sales executive he will never “do that Facebook thing” (even though I’ve caught him checking out pics on mine on multiple occasions!) But he has fully embraced LinkedIn and is one of the most active users I know – he encourages it in his staff as well and as a result they’ve booked multimillion dollar media campaigns as a direct result of LinkedIn connections.

I ran a session on LinkedIn with another sales team and following that session one of the team made 32 targeted new connections with CEO’s specifically in their industry and has since followed those up to make 19 face to face meetings with those people.

So like I say – how can you afford not to tap into and utilise such an amazing resource? First blog coming up!

On Leadership…

Picture this; average day, school pick up, Miss Six in the back chattering away in her usual way. Endless questions, comments on who she’d played with that day, what she’d observed whether she ate the carrots in her lunch box, and then wham! One of those moments of pure wisdom that children bring, cutting through to the crux of something that adults the world over struggle with, study, research and theorise over. Now my child does appear to be beyond her years, regularly surprising me throughout her short existence with her knowledge, depth of questioning and grasp of language…..though I’m probably biased!

On this occasion the topic in question, Leadership. Word for word it went like this:

Miss Six: “No, I didn’t eat my carrots Mama. I know about Leadership”

Me: “Oh yes honey, (choosing to ignore carrot comment) – what do you know about Leadership?”

Miss Six: “I know that a Leader is someone who helps other people. They are patient and kind and show other people ways to do things they might not have thought of before”

Me: “That’s exactly right my darling, is there anything else you know about leadership?”

Miss Six: “Yes a leader should look after people and care about whether they feel happy or sad and make sure they’re included. They need to be good at listening.”

Me: “Have you been learning about this at Kura (school – Miss 6 is in a bilingual class)?”

Miss Six: “No. I just know. Mum, if I eat my carrots can I get an ice cream at the mall?”

In a matter of minutes she’d nailed it. Leadership doesn’t need to be as complex as many of us seem to want to make. Break it back down to the basics. The best leaders I know and the top leaders in history (by and large – there are exceptions to every rule!) share the characteristics Miss Six identified:

  • They help; they are genuinely interested in and care about others
  • They take the time to give direction, and step back to let people find their own way
  • They ask questions to encourage thinking outside the square
  • They listen

Now, I could categorise all this with words like communication, integrity, authenticity, influence and write screeds about all of these things and what they mean, how they’re displayed and how to achieve them, and in turn greatness in leadership through them. But why not leave it at that. In the words of a six year old that can be understood the world over, plain and simple?

#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.

Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace?!

No this post isn’t about weddings or marriage, but nobody’s perfect right? Least of all me. There have been moments in the past, and I’m thinking workplace here as outside of that could achieve a seriously long list where I’ve both put things off and done things wrong. Prime example of both would be aged 18, when the New Zealand legal alcohol consumption age limit was reduced from 21 to 18 on a Wednesday night and I was in my first job. Over excited by being able to legally drink in pubs and clubs my friends and I took to town. So over excited we were that we put off heading home until 5:30am, at which point my best friend and I who happened to work together at the time, concluded the best option was to get changed and head straight to work under the illusion that a blue Powerade would be all we needed to see ourselves right for the day. Not the best decision we’ve ever made.

The owner of the company found the whole thing hilarious and had a ball laughing at the pair of us; our direct manager however didn’t quite see things that way and even called my mother in to the office to discuss the situation, the working relationship was understandably strained and soured from that point on. Neither of these are model examples of how the situation should or could have been dealt with.

My point in divulging this misspent story of my past is that time and again I see managers who either chose not to deal with performance issues with staff or are ill-equipped to appropriately deal with the situation. The early addressing of staffing issues whether performance or behaviour based can ensure a much more satisfactory outcome for all parties.

Regular WIPs (Work In Progress) and/or coaching sessions with staff are essential for managers to keep on the pulse of their staff, gauging how staff are progressing and identifying where they may not be meeting performance and development expectations. They are also the perfect opportunity to give feedback to staff on where they may not be achieving key result areas. Similarly these sessions are also ideal for addressing behavioural issues such as repeated lateness or attitude problems. Catching issues early usually enables both parties to make amendments and adjustments for a swift resolution.

The flip side, leaving poor performance or behavioural issues with staff and allowing them to continue to a point where many managers want to terminate the employee’s employment reflects badly on all parties. Employees are often unaware of the problem at this point as this is the way they have always done things and are entrenched in bad habits, managers are at the end of their tether and want a fast resolution to the situation, other staff members are dismayed as they are often picking up the slack from said employee and there are bad precedents set and inequalities among employees affecting engagement and culture in the organisation. At this point situations become long winded and process needs to be adhered to to properly address the situation, meaning it sometimes takes months to get a resolution and they are rarely satisfactory to all parties.

As HR we need to encourage open communication between ourselves and people managers within the organisation and ensure either that they are equipped to deal with staffing situation or that if not, they consult with us on them. Have regular catch ups with them about their staff and their teams, make yourself available and keep abreast of staffing situations. Better still get out of HR and onto the shop floor where possible. We need to ensure people performance and behaviours are addressed early and that managers feel able to come to us for help and advice.

I probably should have entitled this post “The Sooner the Better” as it’s a more accurate description as something can always be done and it is possible in many instances to get a positive result, however much easier if done straight away. Though, whilst dramatic “Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace” probably creates more urgency!

Get On Your Bike!

I’ve never been one for cycling, more of a walker / runner type myself. Even as a kid – I learnt to ride and even obtained a badge for it from school aged 11, but growing up where I did on Auckland’s North Shore there’s very few if any even mildly flat areas anywhere near where our house was. Not living far from there now I still have a serious uphill battle to get anywhere.

But these summer holidays I decided it was time to take the training wheels off Miss Four’s bike. And in doing so bought bikes for the other half and I to ride along with her. My reasoning for this was threefold; a fun form of exercise for the three of us as Miss Four can ride a lot further than she can walk, a way for us to spend more time together as a family unit and thirdly so Miss Four could watch and learn from us once the training wheels came off.

It struck me as we were riding around Auckland’s waterfront together recently the analogy between this and running a team. Teams run best when they are in alignment, working together cohesively, pushing each other to go harder, faster, further than ever before.   Teams with a culture of collaboration and innovation, riding in sync will achieve much greater productivity through increased intrinsic motivation.

Putting time and effort into relationships within teams, working to build trust and open forums for communication where individuals are working towards a common goal are essential elements for success in teams.  Much like us on our bike rides, taking stock now and then and checking to ensure all are on the same path – or at least that their paths are in alignment, and that all are free to express their thoughts.

Creating a coaching culture within teams whereby members feel empowered to remove their training wheels, watching and learning – developing themselves through growth in others will further develop trust among group members. This in turn ensures individuals carry their own weight as well as supporting that of others when required.

Working as a team also ensures you can support each other when the likes of Miss Four has a spill, or the other half gets speed wobbles, and doing it together keeps it light hearted, relaxed and fun.

I can’t wait for my next ride. Get on your bike!

HR blonde on Rugby Tour?

Yep you read it right, this extrovert HR blonde went on tour, rugby tour. This took the form of removing me from my natural habitat in Auckland’s North Shore and my local haunts of the central city, from shoe stores and gossips with the girls over bubbles and dropping me in windy Wellington for a bloke’s weekend of footy.

The All Blacks played South Africa; anticipation built for this game from the other half since he bought the tickets in January. Customised AB’s jerseys, TV and priceless collector’s items; attendance of more than half of the Rugby World Cup matches whilst here in NZ, and reporting on it for the nation’s largest newspaper, season tickets at Eden Park going back three generations…to say he’s fanatical is an understatement. To be fair I’m to be regularly seen by his side at Eden Park and Miss Four has already attended her first All Blacks test – albeit dressed head to toe in pink! It’s not really my thing, but there’s something quite amazing about watching a nation come together to support their team, the atmosphere at the games is incredible.

And how does a nation come together?
·         With a vision so strong it’s become a passion,
·         With backing and advocacy from the top down over years and generations of followers,
·         With a continuously honed and refined strategy
·         And near flawless execution from the team in the spotlight

The players, current, future and past are legends; aspirational characters, icons we all look up to and believe in. The coaches and management team are revered the world over for their skill, knowledge and ability to continually deliver outstanding results.

Now scale this back, scale it down if you like. If organisations’ took a leaf out of the All Black’s book and created a workplace with a unified vision, a clear strategy and the tools to execute that smoothly under leadership providing direction, coaching and development where would they be? Top of their game? None of this is new and none of it is rocket science, simply another metaphor, another reminder of getting the basics right.  

Crouch, pause, set, engage!