Archive | August, 2014

The Biggest New Age Challenge for Learning and Development!

24 Aug

We are looking at a new world, so they say, where there will be increasingly less permanent, full time jobs and the extensive use, in most organizations, of freelance workers and temporary and contract assignments.   It may not seem to make sense in organizations that “talk the good talk”. They may say that they value employee engagement and may talk about employees as the company’s best asset, but they will increasingly welcome strangers with whom they will have no long-term relationship. Nevertheless, that is what they say. There may be some pretence involved, arguing that underemployed people in the future may be even happier hustling for contract assignments and having more spare time, even though less money to enjoy it as fully as possible.

If that is the way it is going, then “Learning and Development”, in conjunction with other HR specialties are facing a major challenge. How can we ensure that our business operations continue to operate smoothly with so many changing faces, many with no long-term vested interest?

Our learning and orientation processes will be critical, together with a pre-screened pool of available workers – to the extent possible. L & D (Learning and Development) will need to coordinate, source or develop, the selection assessment tools (involved in recruiting) and initial training for temporary/contract workers as they enter our workforce. The new person may already have completed an initial familiarization (L & D in conjunction with recruiting) and the self-learning, after starting with the organization, could cover the following areas:

  • Familiarity with the business, working conditions, applicable policies and reporting requirements and pay for work processes
  • Compliance and legally required “training” online e.g. health and safety, diversity and harassment related, company values
  • Generic job training (by work classification) including its link with business goals
  • Specific job function training at which point the new employee’s supervisor will become involved and formally welcome the person and cover all the specific details

I anticipate that L & D will maintain the master records for all the freelance, temporary and assignment workers. This is necessary for legal and communications reasons and to ensure that performance records (rehire status) are consolidated centrally as the person could be assigned to or have worked for various departments within the company. There would be considerable overlap with the HR hiring function, but requisitions would be passed to L & D to initiate contact with a desired individual. The main benefits are:

  • A pre-qualified pool of temporary/contract employees would be ready to call at any time and with centralized control (L & D) assignment of candidates would be handled in a fair manner based on departmental demands
  • Validation of the suitability of a candidate may be based on centralized performance reports from previous assignments, kept centrally
  • To keep the best coming back, there may even be incentives based on total cumulative time worked for the organization, including consideration for permanent jobs when they become available

What do you think? The challenge is major and based on the need for temporary/contract employees to be as productive as possible as quickly as possible, it seems an appropriate challenge for L & D to spearhead the program in conjunction with recruiting. This would not replace other L & D responsibilities, particularly management/supervisor training, but should enable the many aspects of contract hiring to be efficiently centralized and temporary staffing needs to be met with the minimum delay and with the best available people.

If the way we are to staff our organizations will change as predicted, is it an appropriate and major challenge for L & D, for recruiting, for HR in general? I look forward to any thoughts and comments you may have on this subject. Is it the way we should go? Is the way I described one way it could be handled?

Thank you for your interest.





How to Lead Culture Change by Management Example!

22 Aug

Most of us are probably familiar with management moaning about regular employees and how they contribute so little, show little initiative and rarely speak up with any good ideas. Often, the implication is that employee quality and attitude is the problem. Management can be very good at deflecting responsibility and blaming employees is easy. The management response may be that employees are at fault and that we should be tougher on them and hire better people in the future – HR may also be blamed! The chances are that if management jump to these types of conclusions, they will not succeed in implementing positive change, either with existing employees or with new hires, no matter how enthusiastic they seemed when interviewed.

The work culture is not set by words, by lofty ideals, but by action. Corporate values may say one thing, but if management actions are significantly different, they will prevail. If you are seeking a culture with greater employee commitment and contribution, the environment has to be right. Some consistent problems, management related, are:

  • Treating employee like children that cannot be trusted e.g. too many rules, restrictive policies, little tolerance and expecting management direction to be followed without question
  • Excessive focus on time management including attendance, punctuality, not overstaying breaks and always appearing to be busy (not socializing) – more emphasis on being there and looking right , than on the quality of work
  • Too controlling including the need for management approval on practically everything and the manager taking credit for anything positive, including putting his/her name on employee ideas and achievements

An organization with claustrophobic practices (examples above) may still expect employee innovation and “value added” contribution. There may be management campaigns to solicit employee suggestions and greater engagement. There may be generous awards and executive presentations to deserving employees, but the culture may not have advanced. It may be closer to management by exception – the same old ways but introducing a few brighter interludes.

To change to a more modern style and open culture, the executives have to take the lead. They will have to be very clear what they want to achieve and why. The reasons will have to be very specific as any significant cultural change will require considerable investment in money, time and include their recognition that they must also change if they are to spearhead the new direction.   Almost certainly, they will require ongoing professional help, including HR, to track progress and to help them plan and understand what they must do and how their roles must change. Collectively the executive must commit to the change and accept their accountability for making it happen. If change does not happen, they must take responsibility – as with any other business initiative!

How difficult will it be if current employees and line management seem somewhat lacklustre? In my experience, if the environment changes, the attitude of regular employees will change also. They will change not based on management declarations and gimmicky programs, but on demonstrable action affecting day-to-day relationships – actions that are welcomed and reinforce greater trust and confidence in employees. As an example, implementing some aspects of flexible time is normally received very positively.

Line and other management will be the first to change. The changes will probably start from the time management become involved in the early parts of the study (where we are and where we want to be) and study of policies and practices to adjust appropriately to the new/desired culture. Management are equally products of their environment, and with executive new direction leadership and appropriate training, the majority may be very flexible in adapting to a better way of doing things.

Employees also may gradually accept that the changes are real and permanent and as mutual trust develops, previously submerged employee talent and allegiance may come to the surface and significant improvements should result.   The new culture should improve business results, should increase morale and at the same time make the organization a desirable place to be which may greatly help in hiring new talent with the best skills.

Thank you for your interest. Do you have experience of cultural change that has worked well for you? What do you think is most important? How well do you think employees adapt to authentic management led cultural change? I look forward to any thoughts and comments you may have.




How Can You Link Corporate Culture to Candidate Fit?

15 Aug

If corporate culture is used as the justification for hiring job candidates who do not meet job requirements and rejecting candidates that do, then it is important to understand what corporate culture means.  Is corporate culture reality or a myth?  Is corporate culture primarily (not always) an excuse for a manager to hire candidates he/she likes the look of, rather than those who best meet job requirements?

Corporate culture may be reality in some large organizations, and affect the ethical way the company operates. It may include some commitments to its employees and to the community, but is unlikely to set hiring standards (personal characteristics) that candidates for most jobs have to meet.  If corporate culture is well understood and impacts directly on day-to-day operations, then the driving force of the culture will be the organization.  The culture will embrace all new employees and regardless of their backgrounds, all employees will be assimilated into the culture and become part of it – each in his or her own way.   Most employees accept and understand that they must adapt to the way the organization operates – as employees paid to perform work in a prescribed manner.

It is ludicrous to imagine that a corporate culture would be so fragile or at risk that hiring a few people who are withdrawn or awkward in some ways, but otherwise great workers, would threaten the organization.  If the culture is reality and reinforced by competent management, they are likely to adapt and flourish.  Culture and values leadership is driven primarily by the organization, not by the regular employees, particularly new hires. The diversity of employees, however, can strengthen and enrich the corporate culture.

Small companies, particularly owner operated, may have a stronger corporate culture although they may not give it that name.  A small organization with a high level of functional overlap and interaction has to operate as a cohesive team and “fit”, particularly flexibility, has to be understood and explored with candidates.  Possibly that is the purest form of corporate culture, defined by the way the business actually operates.

Probably most discriminatory hiring is by local management who may claim that hiring the type of people they like (e.g. with the right attitude) is the same as hiring based on corporate culture.  At the same time, an involved recruiter (external or internal) may interpret the manager’s preferences as corporate culture. That, however, would not make sense, unless all the managers in the organization express the same preferences.  It is difficult to reconcile conflicting “corporate culture” in the same or different functional areas as legitimate components of the one true corporate culture.

Corporate culture must be company-wide and reflect the interests of the total organization in an ethically and socially responsible way.  An employee who fits well in one area should fit well (similar function) in any other area.  If hiring is significantly influenced by local biases, including the biases of individual managers, then managers may indeed strive to hire people they like and probably similar to the group already in place.  Does that make sense?  Is that perpetuating sameness and probably limiting flexibility of the function and readiness to adapt to change? 

Should competent managers be able to build teams including individuals with many different styles and backgrounds and by harnessing that diversity achieve great things? Corporate culture is not simply what the organization claims or publishes as its culture.  Corporate culture has to describe the way the company actually operates, not simply PR make believe.

Thank you very much for your interest.  What is true corporate culture?  To what extent can corporate culture affect hiring practices?  I look forward to any thoughts and comments you may have.


How Can We Best Manage the Magnificent Millennials!

9 Aug

Why do we (some of us) refer to millennials as magnificent? Actually, every new generation is magnificent as we place our confidence in them to propel civilization to the next stage. We will count on them as the dominance of our own generation takes the back seat and we rely on those we formerly led for our continuing wellbeing. In some ways, when we say “magnificent”, it is viewing an earlier generation in our own image – as younger, budding versions of ourselves. To want them to grow up to be people like ourselves is natural and gives value to what we represent and have achieved. But, is it realistic, particularly with the millennials? How should we manage them, in the workplace?

One obvious (not so novel) way to manage millennials is to tell them what to do and remind them that you have far more experience than they have (possibly can ever hope to have). This works quite well if your main interest is to keep everything the way it is, the way that has worked so well for you for many years. You can also subtly remind them that new people are expected to “pay their dues” before they are taken seriously. At the same time, you can add a few nice things to promote engagement!

There is a serious problem with such an approach. Millennials, when appropriate, are likely to recognize that their boss is smart, but not a role model and in many cases part of an outdated business style. The boss may have been great in his/her own time, but the way of thinking is outdated. Millennials are part of an evolving world irrevocably affected by internationalism and technical change. It has influenced their beliefs and at the same time limited their expectations for the future. For example:

  • Millennials are likely to be thinkers that are more independent and less dependent on parents and bosses as thought leaders. They have access to instant, very current online views on any subject – quite different from outdated encyclopaedias (at best) available to earlier generations
  • Millennials can be better business visionaries than many older managers and although the potential technological advances of business are exciting, they can also be demoralizing
  • Millennials are likely to recognize that under the present social system there are already less jobs and likely to be even fewer in the future. Some will find steady, permanent work, but most will not
  • Diminished confidence in employment can open the minds of many millennials to other ways, to achieve personal fulfillment in life – through family and friends, through recreational activity, to non-material enjoyment. Buying a house may be difficult, but living for today can be fun!

What is the best way to manage millennials if they have so little vested interest in the average (often fleeting) job and so little confidence in the current economic/social system? For the elite millennials, that employers compete to have on board, it is not so complicated. For most millennials who are not particularly engaged, but need to work, if and when work is available, here are some thoughts:

  • Develop adult working relationships which combined with effective onboarding and training (online when appropriate) allow the new person to be productive and self-motivated as much as possible
  • Establish clear work expectations and a precise feedback process (not traditional performance management) including, if a contract assignment, a final review that could make the person eligible for future work assignments
  • If the millennial has specific skills and assists the boss with a specific project, recognize the contribution of the employee including temporary job upgrading if appropriate
  • The millennial may, when accepting a job, have pre-existing personal commitments or even have a second job (of necessity). Accommodating by allowing a form of flexible time is likely to offset any slight inconvenience and contribute more through employee commitment.

What do you think? Is special treatment necessary because millennial people are really different? Has the technology that they have been immersed in since childhood changed their perspectives and allegiances? Has lack of confidence in our current economic/social system created a gulf and initiated change that millennials will steer in the coming years? Could it be a better world?

Thank you for your interest. I look forward to any thoughts and comments you may have.




%d bloggers like this: