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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Family Violence; a Workplace Obligation?

Last week I was lucky enough to be invited along to The Warehouse Group’s (TWG) talk on the inroads and steps they have made within their doors in terms of addressing family violence. It was shocking, thought provoking, inspiring, shameful and heart-warming all at the same time.

It’s the stats I found the most disturbing, a few I’ll share with you here;

  • Every 5 mins in NZ there is a domestic violence related call out (Police call out)
  • It’s estimated that only 20% of incidences are reported
  • 1 in 3 NZ woman will be affected
  • At 85% of all cases reported, a child is present

And if those aren’t confronting enough, I’m sure a lot of people out there will be surprised to discover that in Anna Campbell from TWG’s words “violence doesn’t discriminate”. Age, religion, sexual orientation, socio economic factors and the like are all beside the point when it comes to family violence.

Dr Ang Jury from Woman’s Refuge spoke also, and reiterated their support for ALL people, all victims of violence, not just woman & children. Her and her team are on hand to help workplaces and people in workplaces to deal with situations of violence.

Anna, Julie Simpson and Pejman Okhovat from TWG and their team are inspirational in the work they’ve done to date and continue to do into the future. Their critical points for workplaces looking to make similar inroads into the topic in their workplaces are to ensure the strictest of confidentiality at all stages of the process, to ensure staff payments go into bank accounts with their name on it only, to provide training and support for their staff (endorsed from the top down and ensuring they take the conversation wider.

All speakers repeated the need to ensure all victims receive the right response the first time as they may not be brave enough to come forward again, this includes everything from the language used to the resources they receive being accurate. They need the confidence that everything will be confidential, that they have ongoing support and realistic timeframes going forward. There is no one size fits all approach, but recognising the issue, responding appropriately then referring victims and users to trained professionals for ongoing help and assistance is essential.

The heart-warming part was discovering some of the unexpected positive outcomes TWG have noted as a result of their efforts including staff taking more ownership of issues, having pride in the programme and greater loyalty to the organisation as a result. Issues such as bullying in the workplace have reduced and people are more willing to have brave conversations with each other.

My key takeaway is that we all have a responsibility to do what we can to change these statistics. To change the reality for so many of our society – your friends, family and co-workers are all affected. To start with we can all make this something people are able to talk about. We can all be mindful, understanding and provide support for both victims and their supporters…and the users of violence when they recognise they need help to change.

Given this is happening all around us, and that we spend more time at work and with our colleagues than anywhere else, I think there’s no better place to start than in the workplace. There are the obvious effects on the likes of absenteeism, productivity, engagement and staff retention but also the lesser known or calculable costs to business of employees who are living under these circumstances. And given it’s these people we’re all with day in day out, we’re more likely to notice changes in a person’s demeanour, potentially indicating an issue than with anyone else.

I am now at the beginning of my part in that journey; I am 100% committed to ensuring my organisation joins the movement going forward to change the horrific family violence stats in NZ. I have had conversations both inside and outside my organisation post the event and have meetings in place to discuss with our Culture & Performance and Health & Safety teams on how we take it forward. I’m exceptionally grateful to the team at The Warehouse Group for highlighting the issue and sharing their work, knowledge experiences and findings so far. #StoptheCycle #ItsnotOK

 

Contacts / Resources:

http://areyouok.org.nz/family-violence/

https://womensrefuge.org.nz/

https://whiteribbon.org.nz/  (White Ribbon)

 

 

SOCIAL FOR HR – SOCIAL EMPLOYEES

SOCIAL MEDIA FOR HR – BLOG SERIES

#4: SOCIAL EMPLOYEES

Social Media Polices can be quite daunting for some – but they needn’t be. Depending on your organisation and the nature of it you may be open to a very generic social media policy, whereas others may need to be more stringent. Either way you go – it’s best to have a policy to safe guard both the organisation and the employee.

And that’s what brings me to the Good versus the Down Right Dumb! In my experience 90% of all employee social posting will be positive, with employees wanting to showcase outstanding work they’ve done, the awesome people they work with or cool things their organisation is doing. However there’s the exception to every rule right?! Every now and then you’ll strike one that posts photos of them snowboarding while on sick leave for a “back operation”, or claiming to be distraught over a death in the family to the point of needing extended bereavement leave and instead going on holiday to Thailand and posting photo’s on the beach and doing shots in bars….both true stories, and not surprisingly those people no longer work in those organisations. There were a series of other incidences in both cases, however having a social policy allowed for clear action to be taken.

I think when it comes to social employees, it’s like anything with employees – treat them like adults. Trust them to do the right thing, and on the odd occasion where they don’t ensure you have clear policy to deal with it.

 

GET SOCIAL

I hope you’ve enjoyed the series, and more importantly I hope if you weren’t already using Social for HR that you’re now encouraged to! And if you are using it, I hope you’re encouraged to go further. My advice from here is to quite simply, get social! Start small and comfortable and as you master one platform expand and grow your use from there. Get in touch via social – I’m not hard to find!

SOCIAL FOR HR – COMMUNICATION

SOCIAL MEDIA FOR HR – BLOG SERIES

#2: COMMUNICATION

How many engagement surveys show communication as poor or needing improvement in organisations? The answer is most! A few do it amazingly well, but many leave a lot to be desired. Using social channels for communication with employees’ works especially well when you use platforms they’re already used to engaging with – and we saw the numbers on the first blog, most people are getting social. Facebook groups are a great option given the 1.55B users every month. There are also specialised chat platforms you can utilise for employees such as slack.

It also gives employees, customers and audiences an opportunity to give you feedback or ask questions on anything and everything from products and services to special offers.

Collaboration is increased with employees – particularly those working from remote or regional locations or when coordinating larger groups. I know of a Brand Engagement team who are a classic example, they utilise slack to communicate and collaborate with their team working and activating for various radio stations all over new Zealand – from Invercargill to Kaitaia they all get the same messages, opportunities to make suggestions, compare notes, give feedback on promotions and ideas, and importantly in real time.

The best advertising for your products, services, employer brand comes via referrals and advocates, so positive user generated content is gold!!! This is content of your social pages linked back to or directly posted on your social platforms by employees and customers alike. It could be anything from an employee posting about an amazing team day out, reward and recognition celebration or a client recommending your brand, product or service.

Referrals are almost always the best source of quality candidates when hiring, so I would really encourage all staff in your organisation to get posting about the awesome work coming out of your company, the culture you’ve built and the way you do things, thereby utilising their content to build your employer brand and talent pools.

 

 

Youth Employment and the Future of Work, Part 2 – Collective Mentality

In my last blog Youth, Employment and the Future of Work, I discussed youth today, millennials, their outlook and their readiness for work now and into the future, and what companies, organisations and training institutes can do to steer and better prepare these groups for the workplace and future careers.

In this post I want to explore another phenomenon I came across in my increased and intensive time with youth of late, their collective mentality. On the whole I’ve found they think in terms of we and us instead of the me, I and my that I largely hear in in the Gen X bracket. It’s not just youth and millennials however; there are many indigenous communities the world over who live their lives collectively, communally from a social and work perspective. Here in New Zealand the indigenous Maori people are a prime example. They care about the wellbeing of the group as opposed to the individual and identify more with cooperation over competition, interdependence over independence. I note too, the massive rise and fall of labour unions, from the peak between 1940 – 1960 and the steady decline ever since. So is collective mentality and thinking in the workplace cyclical like so many other things in life or are we about to see a massive shift in the world of work?

In my HR career to date countless times I’ve had individuals (Gen X!) complaining of workloads, managers (also Gen X!) who say to collaborate and share the load – but has this ever really eventuated? In some cases yes, but in most it’s paying lip service to a problem and quietly ignoring it and the individuals struggle on regardless. Certainly more of a collective mentality in the workplace, more we and us, would improve workloads for many individuals especially as these seem to be increasing at an alarming pace of late. So is this a solution? Real collaboration? Caring about the wellbeing of all? A more tribal attitude when it comes to workplaces?

I note that conscious capitalism is on the rise, I wonder if this is being driven by the increased number of millennials and youth in employment. This was a hot topic at the Festival for the Future I attended recently; over 100 youth/millennials whose voice was loud and clear about wanting to make a difference, wanting more equality for all, shifting wealth and changing political policies to benefit the wider community.

I’m wondering what effect this is going to have on the future of work – especially given there are ever increasing examples of collective thinking being demonstrated in organisations and many of these are or have been start up organisations run by millennials, our future leaders and the future of work. I predict more collective working examples of individuals coming together and working across platforms, disciplines and geographical distances on projects and pieces of work. I predict more collaborative working spaces, where individuals and organisations share not only workspaces, but ideas, clients and development opportunities. I predict organisational structures changing as people work more within large corporates, but without the restrictions of specific job descriptions, in areas where they can specialise and utilise their expertise. I predict hearing the terms holocracy and meritocracy with much higher frequency. I predict more contracting and less permanent employment, ever more start-ups and small to medium sized organisations as technology changes and continues to evolve and develop. I predict more mergers of larger corporates as they compete on a global scale and not just in local markets.

I could go on and on with my predictions, but I’d love to hear what you think. Both about collective mentality in organisations, youth employment and the future of work.

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?

What price {cost} a smile?

How far does a smile go? Ever walked past someone at work, on the street, in a queue who’s absolutely beamed at you…and found yourself genuinely smiling back? Or caught someone’s eye across the room and shared a grin? And have you ever had one of those moments where you’ve been feeling down or similar and had received a smile, a real smile from someone you knew or otherwise that actually made you feel a little better?

So what price a smile? It costs nothing, yet are you distributing them enough? Are you taking those couple of seconds to look people in the eye, acknowledge them and smile? Appropriately! For there are a hundred different types of smiles of course! But really, it’s such a small simple act, but can change a day, a mood, an outlook. And truly make a difference to another person.

I’m not sure there’s enough happiness in the work place anymore. People are heads down, bum up working harder, faster, smarter and more to innovate, challenge, create and service. And in doing so we’re achieving amazing things. But are we happy? And are we taking the odd moment to stop and notice, reflect and connect with those around us?

A smile doesn’t cost a thing; but is there a cost in a lack of smiles? Would people be more productive if they were happier at work? And would they be happier with more smiles – given and received? There are multiple types of people in workplaces, but have a think who are the ones who stand out? For the right reasons? I’d hazard a guess it’s the person quick with a smile, who’s head held high catching peoples eye and acknowledging them be it in the lift, walking the floor or coming into the building.

We should all be caretakers of morale at work as we all have the ability to directly affect it, in how we interact with those around us. Happiness is catchy and so are real and genuine smiles. Throw a few around the place a bit more often and see what comes back to you. It won’t cost a thing and you might even find you feel better in yourself for it. Smile!

I like to Move It, Move It

I came across a fantastic infographic on exercise and improved productivity in the workplace developed for Wellness Week. It includes some very interesting stats, such as physically inactive people having a 50% higher chance of developing a coronary heart disease as regularly active people. Given my partners father passed away last week after a long history of minor heart attacks and his brother in law was rushed to hospital two days ago with such high blood pressure Doctor’s couldn’t believe he wasn’t having a heart attack – this struck a chord!

We all know that exercise releases endorphins and serotonin that eases the mind and creates feelings of positivity – helping to increase productivity and decrease the mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Exercise also increases mental alertness and energy levels, and, regular exercise has been proven to increase your overall wellness and boost the immune system, resulting in fewer sick days and therefore greater productivity.

I’ve been a runner, I’m currently a walker (hope to get running again!) and fitting my walk into my day be it at 10:30am, 12noon or 3pm dependant on work demands, meetings etc is a priority for me. On particularly busy or stressful days I find the time out to move away from what I’m doing and clear my head often ends in improved results. I’d go along with the infographic stats and be a part of the 60% that claim greater mental performance post lunch time exercise.

In our organisation we have a gym onsite, admittedly it’s not the flashiest gym in the world, but it has one of everything and costs next to nothing at $3 a week (which includes social club membership). We offer onsite Yoga and Pilates classes (at the expense of the attendees), we have fruit baskets on some floors (company provided) – and these are the obvious things I can find. But digging a little deeper I discovered company touch teams, inter-organisation cricket matches, walking and running groups and weight loss support groups. There were also groups supporting each other in marathons, stair climbs and tough-mudder competitions. But I had to ask around to find them.

So does exercise and improved productivity in the workplace also come down to communication? Are we not showcasing, promoting and advocating the importance of exercise enough?

Secondly, I wonder if workplaces are supportive enough of exercise? Or is it treated somewhat like the companies where if you’re not seen in the office you’re deemed not to be working? Do we allow staff the time in their days, lunch breaks etc to make time for exercise and to fit that into their own daily schedules?

It’s in companies’ interests to ensure staff have every opportunity to be heathy and fit and participating regularly in exercise. So why aren’t more of us putting more effort into this? Not only will exercise increase productivity, but culture and engagement would increase along with it. There’s some really simple ways companies could instigate more exercise in their employees’ days and here’s some ideas to get you started:

  • Communicate! Let staff know what your company currently has on offer
  • Advocate; make sure staff know you’re supportive of their physical and mental wellbeing
  • Walking meetings
  • Encourage staff to take the stairs (create a stair challenge!)
  • Support company sports teams
  • Provide showers and space for staff to keep fitness gear at work
  • Standing desks (standing burns more calories than sitting!)
  • Organise lunch time walking groups; the easiest way to exercise and will have the added benefits of staff keeping each other accountable and building camaraderie amongst employees

And here are some great ideas for at your desk / in the office exercise (some you can do discreetly at your desk, other you may want to find a meeting room for!):

http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifehack/29-exercises-you-can-do-at-or-near-your-desk.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/health/workout-at-work/

Get moving!

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.