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!

Myths and Learnings at #HRTechEurope

Euan slide

Latest stop on my Autumn Tour of Discovery (previous stop Vegas, next stop Manchester) was Amsterdam for HRTech Europe, a two day HR Technology exhibition plus conference with content stretching from talent management, data analytics and technology to building social businesses and the future of work and learning. The event attracted upward of 1500 delegates across the two days and logistically was focused around a central exhibition hall with auditorium attached and breakout rooms upstairs. The networking sessions and coffee breaks also took place around the central hall which created a lot of buzz and energy, rippling through the whole event.

There were some top notch speakers from the US as well as a few from Europe – I have some sympathy with those who feel that we could have done with stronger representation from Europe on the main platform, but the important thing for me is that the speakers have something to say that makes me think and can back that up with research, case study or some clear rationale.

Here are four of the main talking points that got me thinking…

Organisational Nakedness

I’ve used the expression before but, just as in Don Tapscott’s opening at HRTech in Vegas, this was a noticeable thread running through many of the main sessions dealing with collaboration, sharing, connectivity and the new social openness, particularly those from Prof Costas Markides (London Business School) and Euan Semple. The talk was very much about people not processes. However much a business may try to resist the urge to embrace social collaborative platforms, their employees, customers and partners – their advocates – are almost certainly using it…and will expect to communicate openly. This exposes the organisation, its structure and values, to wider scrutiny – are they ready for it?

We’re all Technologists, Sales Professionals, Marketers and Recruiters Now!

Jason Averbook said that we’re all technologists. Daniel Pink said that we’re all sales people with everyone having persuasion somewhere in their role. And we’ve known for some time that every employee is potential marketer, recruiter and source of referrals – they represent the company, its internal culture and proposition, to everyone who knows them. In the new world of work we’re all ambassadors for our business, role, skills, products and services – having said that we probably always have been, but now we’re much more visible. There is also an expectation of multi-skills, adaptability and resourcefulness that will drive the future workforce.

The Importance of Mobile is UNDER Hyped

For possibly the first time our customers/clients and our current and future employees have better technology than the business…and this leads to greater expectations. ‘The importance of mobile is UNDER hyped‘ said Dan Pink at the start of his masterclass. Most people keep their smartphone within 3 feet all day and night and expect to communicate through variety of channels at all times. If you lose their luggage they’ll write a song and/or make a video. If you treat them badly they’ll resign in a spectacular way.

When they interact with technology they expect it to do what they want it to do in the easiest, simplest and quickest way – ‘solve my problem and make me feel good‘ as my old boss Felix Wetzel used to say – and they have little time for a process that is difficult, obtrusive or leaves them in the dark about what’s happening.

Customer and employee expectations are heightened. Whether they are using it to apply for a job, or book leave, or to buy your latest product, the technology we use in our businesses needs to deliver an experience to the end user that matches theses greater expectations.

The Manager of the Future

I had two really interesting and insightful conversations with Dr Katherine Jones from Bersin by Deloitte about management, the future of work and the future of HR. I’ll write more about them in a different post, but one thing that really intrigued me was when she talked about the opportunity for managers to take over many of HRs responsibilities.

Currently we tend to promote people who do a good job to manager level, but what if employees are empowered and responsible for their own workloads and careers? Then we would be looking for people who could develop, counsel and manage – different competencies requiring different promotion criteria. I remember Daniel Pink saying ‘human beings don’t engage by being managed or controlled but by self-direction‘ and also how ‘control leads to compliance whilst autonomy leads to engagement‘ implying that a different approach to management was required. I could also sense this need for a shift in emphasis when he spoke of how cognitive skills were becoming increasingly important – ‘Analytical skills are necessary but not sufficient. Artistry, empathy, imagination and conceptual now more important‘.

Costas Markides also spoke of the need to embed your values in the hearts of your workers, much like a family. Tomorrow’s managers will need to inspire as well as develop.

Many of the conversations that I had around the event indicated a clear shift for job seekers from looking for jobs to looking for work. People who may be joining your team or business may not be doing so for long term prospects but to help you complete a task or project. This will require a different kind of management and engagement.

So what about the HR myths?

Well, they came from Josh Bersin, during his session on the datafication of HR. During the section ‘Applying Science to People Decisions‘ he debunked 5 Workplace myths. Each one solid gold!

  1. People from top universities with good grades are high performers
  2. Training and education reduces loss and fraud
  3. Customer service will increase client retention
  4. People will leave their jobs if we don’t pay them enough
  5. Our leadership development process will work around the world

I was blogging from the event on behalf of RC Euro – check out the posts that I wrote for them…

Once again I noticed an increasingly important role at the event for bloggers – there were more than 20 – encompassing vendors and speakers in an attempt to reflect the full range of content and solutions available and give some insight behind both. With 61% of HR professionals seemingly looking to change their technology within the next 18 months practitioners, vendors and bloggers are very much part of the same conversation.

There is an appetite for a richer and more in-depth level of online event coverage – will be interesting to see how this develops at other events over the coming months, and how it translates to UK conferences. The HRTech Europe event moves on to London in March 2014 and will be back in Amsterdam for October 2014 – I’m looking forward to seeing how the conversations develop.

(Image from Euan Semple presentation)

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”