Under New Management

This weekend sees the start of the new Premier League football season and I, for one, can’t wait. Regular readers will know that I’m an Arsenal fan, who’s been following them home and away since my early teens. But this weekend is a little more unique. For only the 4th time in all my years of watching Arsenal they will be starting the season with a brand new manager. A couple of times they have changed manager during a season, but I have to say that during my years of support they haven’t had that many managers.

I’m not usually one for waxing lyrical about what business/HR/recruitment can learn from sport, but having done some writing and research around leadership and management recently I’m interested in the rituals and actions by which new managers establish their style and vision, and differentiate themselves from their predecessors.

Most people want to work for leaders who are accountable and honest. In the UK we also like them to be decisive. Football managers will always be accountable – to the fans and the Board who hired them. Our new manager seems like an honest guy, and has a decent record of winning at other clubs, so what’s he done so far to make an impression?

He has a plan and strategy.

He knew what had been going wrong. The new managers that I’ve seen have all come in at a time of stagnation. The team hadn’t evolved or developed over the previous few seasons. Earlier glories had not been matched. Outgoing managers hadn’t refreshed the squad, or been coaching existing players to improve performance. Individuals have been allowed to make mistakes, and abandon their responsibilities to others in their team. This summer was no exception.

For the new guy though, it seems he had already done his homework. At his interview he showed a deep knowledge of not just the more senior and experienced players, but also the younger up and coming ones. He had a plan to help experienced players improve their performance and a strategy for developing the less experienced ones. He’s let the group know what he expects from them and how he wants them to achieve it.

Previous new managers haven’t always done this. Maybe this time was a more rigorous approach to interviewing – previous newcomers had their own ideas and style, and maybe there was little focus on how they were going to improve what was already there.

He believes he can coach them and make training fun. Lots of pictures have been shared by the club of training sessions. Players are laughing. The other coaches are joining in. Everyone looks like they’re enjoying themselves. Can’t say that’s been seen in pictures from training sessions over the last few years.

Expectations are raised but not heightened to something that’s unachievable. There haven’t been any ‘statement signings’. A couple of previous new managers have gone out and broken the club’s transfer record before they’ve even managed their first game. If you take over a team, and immediately make a high profile hire – a bigger name than anyone else in the team – then you are setting expectations very high.

And it might not be you that reaps the benefit. Over a ten year period one of those statement hires (Denis Bergkamp) went on to be come one of club’s greatest ever players – but the manager who signed him only lasted a year and barely gets a mention when previous managers are discussed.

In the case of this new manager, expectations are sensible and no supporters are expecting immediate miracles. They know it may well take a couple of years or more to begin to properly move forward. They would be very mistrustful if he had came in and promised immediate results and success. Few managers are able to achieve that.

He acts like he knows what he’s doing. Actions speak louder than words. As I wrote earlier, he looks like he has a plan, and he seems confident. Often with a new manager you hear a lot about what they are going to do – this time around he seems to be just getting on with it. Individuals in the team are making the right noises about how positive they feel.

Of course in the world of football, unlike business, these things can also be short lived, and fans can be fickle. A few poor results – not uncommon with a new manager who wants his team to play differently to how they have before – coupled with some underwhelming individual performances, and I might by holding up my own #EmeryOut banner!

10 Emerging HR Trends

A lot of the HR and Recruitment commentary I see focuses on skills shortages and hiring difficulties, with concerns over attraction, retention and development. This often overlooks some of the many nuanced changes and developments in a number of HR processes that impact the day-to-day employment experience, all encouraging a shift in mindset and behaviours. Technology is often at the heart of these, either enabling and facilitating, or encouraging much of the evolution.

During the last twelve months or so I’ve written about many new recruitment and HR trends in reports and on other sites. These are 10 in particular that I think important:

  • Performance Management becoming a richer, more agile process focusing on continual development and coaching rather than annual reviews and school report style grades and assessments; moving from measurement to improvement
  • Leadership Development not restricted to early identified high potentials or specific job titles but becoming open to all employees with aspiration who can display influence and performance; individuals take responsibility for their own development
  • Talent Management less about linear progression and job titles and more about lateral moves and the gaining of a diverse range of skills, experiences and knowledge; progression isn’t only an upwards trajectory
  • Rewards becoming less about legacy entitlements and more about offering a varied and holistic package of initiatives and offerings that suit a range of employee preferences
  • Engagement at last being seen not as an initiative that a company does but an outcome of treating people right; commitment and loyalty earned
  • Retention becoming an ongoing process of continuous attraction with organisations using many channels to try and differentiate the way they are perceived externally and the way their purpose and values are defined internally
  • Most organisations now recognising that they are digital businesses that need employees and collaborators with digital skills and a digital mindset
  • Reactive recruitment now identified as a problem; skills are short and people have more options – the hiring process can’t wait until someone resigns, or worse leaves, before starting; there is a need for an ‘always be recruiting’ mindset
  • Leaders beginning to talk more about hiring for attitude and culture and not purely on past performance or against a checklist of perceived duties and achievements
  • Your workforce is no longer only the people on your permanent payroll; there is a rich mix of temps, freelancers, consultants, interims and collaborators that contribute to business processes and outputs, and their needs and expectations also have to be satisfied; they are potential advocates or detractors, same as everyone else connected with the business

There is much going on around the organisation that is both shaping these trends and creating new expectations. Employees don’t want to be overwhelmed and overburdened. They want technology that works, and makes their life easier not harder, and communication that is clear and concise, not filled with buzzwords and jargon.

Our businesses are now more transparent than they’ve ever been. Information is available freely and publicly on what we do and say, what our employees, alumni, collaborators and customers say. Internal processes are often laid bare without us realising. Our people are looking for an organisational soul, something that can encourage a sense of belonging and identification. And pride.

Speed is the new normal and leaders need to be change agents. Top down, autocratic, individualistic managers are losing their key staff. Employees want inclusion and collaboration, transparency and authenticity. The emerging trends that I’ve already mentioned, plus many more that are still evolving, require leaders who are agile and collaborative, able to offer constructive and insightful feedback…and take it too. Their goals are becoming visible to everyone in their team and they need to develop and mentor their people. Talent management is fluid so managers can no longer expect to always hold on to best performers looking for development elsewhere in the organisation. They need to be talent producers not talent hoarders.

Recruitment is becoming more driven by connectivity, reputation and culture. Information on individual experiences of your recruitment process – from the length of time to acknowledge an application through the interview questions you ask to the packages you offer – is publicly available on sites like Glassdoor. Companies need to embrace it and own it.

Your next hire could be a customer or someone in their personal networks, or from the networks of employees, alumni, collaborators and partners. People who leave are a great source of referrals, and may have gained new skills elsewhere so could return. We need to get better at exiting people from the business. Too often they are poorly managed out. Performance discussions become about the person and not the performance.

Whilst a number of businesses, particularly in the SME market, will not have embraced many of these changes as yet, the chances are they will. The transparency I mentioned earlier, coupled with the availability of information and insight on all of these topics, means that workers in all companies have access to what other businesses are doing. And if they like what they see elsewhere, then the chances are they’ll expect it where they are…or else may go out and find it for themselves.

What We’ve Been Talking About at #HRVision14

During the afternoon sessions on Day 1 at HRVision I mainly went to presentations on talent management and engagement. There were some case studies and one or two supplier tracks. I don’t mind those as long as they share some insight rather than pitch – the ones I attended thankfully did the former.

Here are some of the things I heard:


‘If you think someone’s worth talking to then they must be worth listening to

This came from Emmajane Varley of HSBC during a presentation on their employee comms, the team that she runs.. It was an interesting session as she co-presented with her sister Jenny who runs the video channel HSBC Now TV (here’s a review from Rachel Miller a few months ago). She opened with “our leaders had done 148 years and we had had enough. There were too many people with their fingers on the talk button of the walkie talkie“. We had examples of employee involvement and talk of how leaders had embraced the shift from talking to openness and listening. Employee feedback showed an increase in being valued and many felt they had a say in management decisions – probably more the ear of leadership than a seat at the table.


‘Leaders need to be enablers’

During Ralf Larsson’s run through of the Electrolux employee engagement overhaul we heard of how managers had embraced blogging as a way of communication through the social intranet and also how having a mobile interface had driven more use. He talked of the positive impact of moving leadership away from being directive to being inclusive and from taking the role of enablers:

  • explains what employees need to do to support each other
  • encourage exchange of ideas and knowledge among employees
  • explain reasonoing behind decisions
  • trust employees to make decisions



‘You can also find out where to get a coffee’

One of the most impressive tech applications was from Accenture and their Candidate Interview Preparation App. There’s also one for the interviewer to help make sure that they are prepared too. Watch this video explaining more about the candidate app…they even let you know where the nearest coffee shops are…


‘Don’t just focus on your perm workers, understand your contingent workforce too, their passion and value for the organisation’

One of the supplier presentations was from Sally Hunter of Kelly OCG. She looked at various aspects of strategic workforce planning and also talked of the candidate experience, raising the difference between the way we treat consumers and job applicants even though the latter may also be the former. It’s a message we often discuss, but with different audiences at each event it’s one that needs to be repeated.

The main part for me though was about the expectations and needs of contingent workers. In my event preview I raised the point about engaging people who work for you, and represent you, but may not be employed by you. Many presentations around talent and recruitment feature examples from businesses that outsourcer some of their workforce – maybe we need to hear more about the worker/collaborator experience as well as the employee experience.


‘Diversity means nothing without inclusion’

The topic of diversity has been raised a few times. The point being strongly made is that without Inclusion it means nothing.

During the HSBC session we saw videos from employes talking about issues that they behave had with weight and mental health and support that they received. They also shared this video from Antonio Simoes, Head of HSBC UK, on diversity and inclusion…



Leadership and Legacy Under The Spotlight at #HRVision14

Three hours in to HRVison14 and we’ve been hearing a lot about leadership. In amongst the presentations on culture change and learning, and during the almost complete silence as people listened, spellbound to Tim Macartney, the underlying theme is leadership.

Tim said:

Leadership is a choice.
An invitation to become truly courageous.
Explore what would make a beautiful life.

He captivated the 200+ delegates with a passionate plea to create a greater purpose, to challenge the notions of wealth accumulation, competition and streamlining by having business purpose & values centred around being proud of what have achieved in this lifetime.

He channeled the native American Indians “no product or service, no manner in the way we do business, should be allowed to impact the children for seven generations to come“. In their eyes he believed that today’s core leadership focuses of competition, market share and being top in their field may ultimately seem like hollow victories.

Before Tim we had heard from Frans van Houten, Global CEO of Phillips, on their global culture transformation. Bringing about change within a traditional, established global business, with embedded organisational structures and inevitable silo mentalities, takes time and a fresh approach – “it’s easy for established businesses to work in silos that create a survivor mentality, inevitably leading to people ducking decision rather than taking risk

A few of his messages that I noted were:

  • Focus on innovation and entrepreneurship, bringing value to customers that makes them smile and makes them happy
  • Always act with integrity
  • It’s not about working harder but about working differently
  • Equip people with new tools, it will help them solve different problems
  • You need to make sure that change doesn’t just happen on the surface
  • Courageous conversations break the cycle of victim mentality and complaining mindset
  • Make the purpose your ‘north star’, the guiding principle that everyone wants to follow

Clearly all this requires a huge shift of mindset from leadership, particularly those used to meeting challenges by shuffling the org structures. Frans was particularly scathing of those who change structures expecting an uplift in performance; his preference was for agile teams created around a problem or project operating across functions.

The session after Phillips was from GE who spoke of strong leaders having a confident humility and learning agility. Their philosophy – Together, we all rise.

Starwood Hotels later spoke of leaders needing to embrace individualism, identity and inclusion within their teams (diversity is nothing without inclusion) whilst at the same time supporting them in making emotional intelligence, continuous feedback and management by objectives core leadership skills to meet developing workforce expectations.

Leaders usually take the plaudits when business performance is strong, when share price and profits are unceasing, so it’s probably right that they are under the spotlight when things need to change.

The words vision, value and opportunity have been heard quite a lot this morning but it was the concepts of legacy and sustainability – most notably from Tim Macartney’s session – that have probably really got most of the HR professionals here talking and thinking.


What Type of Leaders do we Really Want?

‘You choose your leaders and place your trust/As their lies wash you down and their promises rust’ (Paul Weller)

What do we expect from our managers and leaders? Judgement and insight, or conviction and ideology?

It’s a question raised in Jonathan Freedland’s weekend piece Chris Huhne, David Cameron and the RBS boss don’t have it, but Al Gore did – asking whether we prefer jaw-jutting certainty to thoughtful judgement in our business and political leaders.

A weighty question. I guess most of us want decisive leaders and managers, the kind of people who know how to sort things out and get things done. And people who can read the signs and adapt. Yet is that what we get? Continue reading “What Type of Leaders do we Really Want?”

The Wisdom of Herbert : Management Insights 80 Years On

‘The anxiety which is felt in some cases when teams are threatened with the loss of their status must be almost beyond bearing. I know of one club who in their plight insisted on their star players being in their homes every Friday night at nine o’clock, and officials visited them to see that the rule is observed. Recently I have heard of the complaints of players who declare that every Friday night they are spied on, and that they are threatened with all sorts of penalties if they do not observe the club curfew. I have no patience with such supervision. If I were unable to trust a player I would not retain him. In my experience I have found that the man who is treated fairly, and in whom confidence is placed, will not let you down.’

Wise words.

If you changed the word ‘club’ to ‘company’ and ‘players’ to ‘employees’ and said that at a conference or unconference in relation to employer brand and social media you’d be a guru. It would be tweeted and re-tweeted, blogged about and quoted.

And it’s true. If you can’t trust your employees then you shouldn’t have them working for you…likewise if you treat them fairly, and with respect, you will get the best out of them.

But this quote isn’t recent. It’s not from this week, this year or this century. It was written in 1932!

It was written by Herbert Chapman, a man who was named Greatest British Football Manager of all time in a Sunday Times poll in 2004 and is widely regarded as the father of modern football. His revolutionary and pioneering legacy is long and impressive: Continue reading “The Wisdom of Herbert : Management Insights 80 Years On”

Calling For The Voice of Reason

I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what it is I need
Call up to listen to the voice of reason
And got his answering machine
I left my message but did he f*** get back to me
And now I’m stuck still wondering
How it’s meant to be”

That’s a lyric from the new Arctic Monkeys album. The song’s called ‘Reckless Serenade’ and deals with the uncontrollable emotions you feel when you’re with the most beautiful girl in the world.

Feelings of passion and attempts at understanding love.

You don’t notice distractions (Those twinkling vixens/With the shining spiral eyes/Their hypnosis goes unnoticed/When she’s walking by) you’re just consumed by what you have (The type of kisses/Where teeth collide/When she laughs the Heavens hum/A stun-gun lullaby).

He needs help, needs the voice of reason…but the voice of reason goes to voicemail and never returns the call. Continue reading “Calling For The Voice of Reason”

The Carnival of HR – Digging the New Breed and Learning from Old Friends

It’s time for the Carnival of HR and I’m really honoured to have my first go at hosting!

The Carnival doesn’t often pitch its big top on this side of the pond, so I’ve taken to opportunity to introduce you to a whole host of UK HR Bloggers who may or may not be known to you. There’s some really great talent developing here  a real New Breed.

But I’m not biased! My buddies and old friends from the US and Australia have also come up trumps with some really strong and varied posts too. So read on…

Digging the New Breed….

Leading off  is Michael Carty (XpertHR) not least because he is also known as the politest man on Twitter so it would be rude not to! His economic commentaries are a must read for many of us and this March 2011 Edition is no exception

Emma P aka @onatrainagain has only been blogging a short while and has already built a big following with her very personal and honest style. This post is called What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger

Alison Chisnell is our very own HR Juggler! How she also finds time to blog is beyond me, but she does! Always interesting, here she talks about New Experiences, Pyjama Parties and Comfort Zones

Katie Davis is the HR Hopeful and writes a newer blog called They’re Only Humans. ..here she’s musing on the Pull of Community

Doug Shaw is the Johnny Cash of the #ConnectingHR community, with a guitar and a song at every tweetup and unconference! And he writes a blog called Stop Doing Dumb Things To Customers – how cool is that? In this post he even gives us a poem! Phantom HR

What can I tell you about Flip Chart Fairy Tales? Well, its written by an affable and knowledgeable beer expert called Rick and he writes an informative, well researched and extremely readable blog about politics and business. This post is about Confident Leadership in an Uncertain World

Ailsa Suttie is an HR Director who I’m sure only embraced Twitter and blogging to stop me nagging her to do so! She is about to move in to a CEO role in a new business venture, which may be why she’s called her blog HR Metamorphosis. She raises an interesting point in A Monopoly Does Not an Expert Make…

Some of you may already know Felix Wetzel. He’s charming, intelligent, insightful…OK, he hired me recently…what else am I going to say?! He does write a really interesting and thoughtful blog about people, brands, creativity and growth. In this post he writes about The Future of Work

Janet Parkinson has a background in social media, recruitment and personal branding. She brings a really fresh approach to her technology oriented blog Technotropolis, as you can read here in her post on Digital Nomads – The Rise of the Independent Worker Continue reading “The Carnival of HR – Digging the New Breed and Learning from Old Friends”

Good Leadership Starts Before Your People Do…Is it a Question of Respect?

I’ve been thinking about Leadership quite a bit over the last week or so, since the Leadership track at TruLondon 2, which provided some thought provoking, controversial and animated debate.

The discussions arising from this track, and in particular from one person discussing their own leadership style, have already started developing on 2 excellent blogs by Jon Ingham (a vlog, actually) and Bill Boorman – I recommend that you read them!

I often interview candidates who cite a lack of clear leadership as reasons for dissatisfaction with their jobs, and quite often that dissatisfaction seems to set in soon after starting their roles. What strikes me is that many leaders seem to get it wrong from the very beginning.

If you’re going to hire someone in to your team or company, then I believe you owe it to that person to give them every opportunity to succeed.

Five areas where leaders often come up short for new employees are:

Managing Expectations – do they really understand what job you are hiring them to do? Have you made it plain what will be expected of them? What their deliverables are? What resources will be at their disposal?

Onboarding – what happens from the moment they accept the offer? Do they feel part of the team? Is anything done to include them before they start? What induction programme have you in place? How will they be integrated into your team or your culture?

Clear vision and strategy – do your people know where the business is going? And how you want to get there? Do they know what their team has to achieve, and how they are going to achieve it?

Consistency – once there is a vision and strategy is it consistent? Nothing is more confusing than leaders who don’t think and contemplate, but who have a tendency to draw quick conclusions, act and move on.

Recognise your people as human beings with emotions, feelings and a life outside work – self explanatory, but decisions that you make that affect your new employees will also inevitably affect their families and friends. For me, one of the saddest things I heard at the TruLondon Leadership track was when a guy who seemed to run a hire and fire culture seemed almost proud that he had fired someone after 5 days as he didn’t think the guy would make it, even though this person had resigned from another job to join him…well that person had to go home and face other people (possibly a partner, maybe even children) and tell them he’d lost his job…and why.

For me it’s a question of Respect…Respect your people and they will Respect you.

What do you think? In what other areas do leaders sometimes not come up to scratch?