Saturday, October 27, 2012

Paranoid delusions about culture

We all have our views and opinions on what an organization's culture is and should be. And then there are those who care about it and those who think culture and all it's buzz is %#^*. Then there exists an industry to service the fears, inhibitions, conditioning and in some cases, real noble intent of culture believers. This industry provides tools and processes and frameworks for culture. To build, measure or transform culture. Ok, so what?

Here's a take. The only real, sustainable, tangible, meaningful culture for any organization is founded on the premise that people come together with a single purpose of doing things to solve others problems. That culture is driven intrinsically by a motive of creating value - that solves a problem, makes lives better, enables and empowers people to do better.

And this can be achieved by living that sense of purpose. By ensuring everything about an organization from its vision, strategy, business model, operating model, KPIs and job descriptions and the endless list of need to have stuff are all continually viewed in light of what and whose problem is this going to solve?

Everything else is inconsequential, good to have but not essential. Paranoid delusions about grandeur, through all the noise about culture, but nothing real - nothing that solves problems.

Friday, July 20, 2012

New thinking needed


Recent commentary in the media allows us to draw  various threads together to weave a picture about the state of business management in Australia.

Two articles in today’s Australian Financial Review, by Jennifer Hewett on skills, and by Jason Murphy on under-performing Australian companies, add to a picture that shows undue caution and conservatism in Australian companies and their managements. (Sorry I can't direct you to these individual articles. The AFR has a firewall in front of each.)

Elsewhere in the same edition of the paper, Malcolm Turnbull also espouses the need to invest and grow businesses with an eye on global markets.

At the centre of these various threads sit the most valuable assets of all: experience, expertise, inventiveness, wisdom, depth, open-mindedness, vision, flexibility.

All of these are embodied in the older, senior, seasoned employee. All are being increasingly ignored in the quest to cut costs under the misconception that younger employees can be developed less expensively than retaining older colleagues.

But it strikes me that if companies wish to improve their financial performance for shareholders by producing goods and services that provide long-term returns and that are attractive to worldwide markets...
if they want to develop the next generation of workers...
if they want to develop new products rapidly, knowing when to take the right risks and when to discard prototypes that won't work...
if they want to train employees and transfer skills...
if they want change agents who have actually experience and then managed organizational change and upheaval...
then tapping 30-40 years of real-life experience embodied in senior managers, scientists, technologists, accountants, marketers and sales executives seems a wise business choice.

(This post also appears on talkingcobblers.wordpress.com.)



Friday, June 22, 2012

'DIS' Engagement - where communications come in

Anand's blog post this week on 'DIS' Engagement reminds us that communication is the glue that binds the HR policies, the organization and the people together.

He touches on communications in his section on "D" - disconnection. Here's a bit more about how communications will add to removing the "DIS".

First, consider your employees as your ambassadors and advocates, not just as recipients of updates and bulletins. Those unaffected directly by any particular policy should still be briefed on what's going on. They can help explain the changes to others, including those outside.

Next, today's communications environment moves too quickly to manage as we used to. Lids can't be kept on things. People will Tweet, post and share information the second they've left the office or the briefing room. It's naive to expect them not to. So the trick is to consider, plan for and understand how these news channels will work and then package your communications to take advantage of that momentum. It's a bit like communications judo: use the momentum of their communications to carry your message.

Next, set context, a never forget the positive business objectives. There always is a bigger picture, and survival and growth are equally legitimate alternative objectives.

Next, be clear, concise and cogent. Often. "Often" means different channels, as well as more than once. People absorb information differently, from short bursts of information to more reflective reading, and from listening to someone to reading words.

Next, don't forget the emotional component of communications. Effective communications means facts plus emotion. We all know that a data sheet or a PowerPoint presentation never quite do the trick. The authenticity, passion, and personal elements all play their parts.

Finally, create value, then help people find it. If you have great news to impart, a new project for example, create a new section of your web site devoted to this project, so that employees can readily find the updates. The same tactic applies for bad news too. Consider having a crisis web site in readiness (and firmly under cyber lock and key) so that you're ready to go should the need arise. This preparedness also helps you think through the pre-crisis comms that can help carry the day.

You can overwhelm employees with communication. But done effectively, you can never over-inform them.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

'DIS' Engagement

Employee engagement (EE) is a critical lever that has direct and significant impact on business outcomes. Productivity, customer retention and satisfaction, cost and process efficiencies are just a few of such critical aspects of business impacted by employee engagement. And a DIS-engaged workforce can weigh heavy on a business and if not managed or addressed swiftly, can bring the business down.

OK! So that's common knowledge. Is there a non-rocket science model to ensure EE is on track? In fact that answer lies in the "DIS" of disengagement.

"D": Disconnection from the purpose is a fundamental reason why some organizations despite investing in talent, are unable to achieve outstanding results(read more about this in an earlier Post titled Outstanding HR in volatile times (http://evilhrdirectors.blogspot.com.au/2012/05/outstanding-hr-in-volatile-times.html?m=0)

And an organization can ensure this connection takes place through communication. As many types, methods and tools of communication you have at your disposal - use them, deploy them and consistently do so. From the purpose behind why the organization exists to the purpose behind strategic choices and tactical decisions - if it can be communicated, then communicate it.

"I": is about not feeling involved. Democracy is a great concept however not every move an organization makes can go through a ubiquitous democratic process of decision making. Having said that, things such as soliciting opinions and forming focused groups that involve employees in various aspects of business, can improve engagement.

"S": is about straying away from simplicity. The world of employees does not have to be a complex one, though in reality, in many organizations, the processes make it so. HR has played to that complexity in many ways, and I guess one of the reasons why it earned the "evil" title !!! Reminds me of a verse from a song by Eagles - "... we make it harder than it has to be ... and baby I can't tell you why"

Our (HR) job is and should be about removing barriers, defusing conflicts, resolving issues and simplifying processes for employees - so that they can focus on their Prime Directive - which is to do their job and do it really well.

Removing the DIS out of disengagement is not a complex science nor does it have to be.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Customer Retention in tough times

Tough business environment poses the risk of losing customers. Most businesses across the world recognized customer retention as a priority, focus, risk and or challenge during, and also post GFC era. And one of the most powerful levers impacting customer retention is engaged employees.

Employees impact customer service levels, customer relationships, satisfaction indices and in fact almost every aspect of a business' relationship to customer. In fact there is direct correlation between employee engagement/satisfaction and customer retention.

 It pays to have happy and engaged employees as they create happy and engaged customer relationships. And when risks are high, specially with economic volatility, bring employee engagement and satisfaction to the top of your business agenda! Nothing new about this, yet overlooked by so many.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Workplace lessons from the healthy gut

There's a lot of attention these days about keeping healthy & staying fit. Lots of remedies to keep the gut free from toxins and humming like a well oiled machine. After all, there is a lot going into it, so if some does not come out at the other end, problems start to crop up. OK, so where am I going with these gross gut cleansing therapies? Well, workplace can benefit much from these principles. Across industries, economies and work cultures, there is so much emphasis on doing more and more and more.

That's cool, however if something somewhere does not stop, drop off or move out, toxicity builds up leading to stress, lowered productivity, performance and the list of symptoms is endless. To do more, to do better, learn first to take out something.

If you add 5 new things to work, balance it out with stuff that can you can stop doing, move elsewhere etc. Concepts such as work life balance don't often work because it's one way - add more work without balancing out what goes out. Create a healthier, more productive, richer work life around you - keep the guts of work well balanced.

 So, what would you take way or out of your work tomorrow when you add something new?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Innovation pill

How many times have organizations looked outward to learn about and imbibe what it takes to be innovative. Or other flavours such as skills or competencies to promote innovation in an organization. Creativity and innovation do not have pills and potions. However they don't mandate rocket science either. It is a conscious state of mind that, when practiced, becomes a way of life. Best way is to experimenit with it and see for yourself if it works.

If you are in HR or a line manager, try this tomorrow - what is the one thing you would do that would have a positive impact on your employees? Do it. Then repeat the feat next day, with something different. Just this one experiment would show the impact you can have on different aspects of business. If Innovation is a way of life, imagine the positive impact each of us could have and, collectively it could be even more powerful. 

Give it a go.