Tag Archives: Diversity

How Can We Be Prepared? The Smart Way!

24 Jun

I think most people would agree that we have to be prepared for whatever may happen, but that is easier said than done! The way we balance our preparedness makes a major difference in balancing between day-to-day life quality and future consideration. At work it is similar. We prepare by following appropriate studies of our subject, e.g. Human Resources, and ensuring that we understand key principles and how various aspects should be handled and why. We have prepared by learning the theory of our subject, but how ready are we to convince others to follow what we are able to do and be impressed by our interactive demeanor? We have to understand the environment we are working within and people we are working with to be truly effective.

One example of attempting to be prepared, that I remember very well, is when I set-off on my first extended travel journey many years ago. When I look back it is unbelievable how much stuff I decided to take with me. I bought a very large backpack and filled it and had items attached to it including the following:

  • A small tent I bought at the railway lost-property office
  • A suit (Burton’s) in case I found a job in Paris (the official purpose of the trip was to take CII Insurance exams at the Paris centre – more an excuse than true objective!)
  • Foreign language dictionaries, some “Teach Yourself” language books and writing materials
  • A plastic bowl and cleaner in case I had to wash clothes
  • More routine travel stuff and shoes etc.

As you can see, I was well prepared for some specific things, but not really for travel. For example:

  • Apart from some Youth Hostel information I had no travel guides and although there were cities I wanted to visit, I had no idea what I would do when I got there (anywhere!)
  • I had a shortage of day-to-day comfortable clothes, particularly for walking
  • My backpack was so heavy I was bowed over as I walked – I had not considered (sensibly) that I may have to carry my luggage with me while sightseeing

Travel was so different in those days (pre-EU) with no cell phones, electronic devices or internet. Most information I obtained from information booths at train stations or from other travelers. There were also currency restrictions and a maximum of £40 could be taken out of the UK at that time – not that I had much more available!

So, I was very well prepared for things that were unlikely – finding (or wanting) an office job so early in my travels and imagining I would have time to spend learning languages. In contrast, a key pastime became visiting breweries and enjoying free beer and just enjoying the company of other hitchhikers!

My “portability” issue was quickly resolved. I stayed at a Youth Hostel in Suresne (Paris) for a week or so and left most of my luggage there as I set-off towards Yugoslavia. I was certainly more trusting in those days, but when I returned a few months later everything was still there – and I hadn’t needed any of it! On subsequent similar trips I took only a small bag and that was perfect. I had flexibility and comfort and was able to concentrate on what was most important – becoming familiar with other countries and other people some of whom I am still in contact with and influenced my ultimate (so far) move to Canada.

How important do you think it is to plan and thoroughly prepare? Looking back and considering the twists and turns in life – and changed interests – I think it may be more important to became very skilled at recognizing and knowing how to respond to opportunity and sometimes enjoying going in totally different and unanticipated directions. What do you think?

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



How Can We Make HR Better for 2015 and Beyond?

11 Jan

What can I do – what can we do – to make HR better as we move into the future and face challenges distinct to this point in history? Depending on how we see life, everything may seem about the same, but in reality, the way we acknowledge and with an open mind handle the differences will define HR and its relevance as we move ahead. Here are a few thoughts:

  • HR must have a distinct identity. We cannot just be followers trying to keep everyone happy. We must be clear in setting our allegiances. We must be integral in meeting the goals and needs of the organization, but at the same time be clear about HR, business and society principles that govern our actions and also the actions of the organization – often legally. We cannot simply compromise (or cave-in) to keep people happy. If our actions are questionable, in making one person (e.g. the big boss) happy, the “equal and opposite reaction” is likely to be making a number of other people very unhappy while our HR reputation (and business) may be tarnished.
  • If HR is prepared to take a strong stand on certain matters (e.g. ethics and corporate values), we must also develop our negotiating and diplomatic skills. To be effective in the future (as in the past) we must be able to present our positions while taking into account the sensitivities and specific interests of those we are addressing. Whenever possible, we would not just say what we believe is right, but why it is right (giving context) for our specific business and our diverse colleagues and employee population. We cannot just be stubborn people in an HR world of our own, but straight-talking business-sensitive leaders able to gain the respect of those we deal with.
  • We must question all our HR beliefs, particular those of us who have been in HR for a significant time. It is very difficult not to develop a bias and our bias may have matched perfectly the conventional way of doing things in the past, but be outdated with the technological capability now available. Staking our reputation on standard, generic HR programs based on a specific point in time (e.g. performance management) no longer makes sense when customized ongoing programs (individual specific) are the way of the future. We must grasp the capabilities and be leaders in redesigning how we do many things.
  • We must recognize the strengths of others. Older very experienced employees and younger employees with a “new age” skill set can complement one another in a superb way. We must learn how best to share strengths within our diverse workplace community rather than stand apart and criticize. The young should not count the days until the old people are gone, and the “mature” people should not discount the young and expect them to come around to the old way of thinking – the wisdom of the past! The reality is that the young are developing into the future leaders and we must support them and any style differences more appropriate to our changing world.
  • The success of HR in the future may depend very much on the ability of HR to attract the right talent and be able to meet staffing needs with the minimum of delay. HR can be big winners if the process (including for contingent workers) is simplified and streamlined as much as possible, possibly using central registries for most regular positions. The key to success would be HR’s contribution to effective organizational design (supported by environmental technology) to ensure that the culture of the organization will assimilate most employees, regardless of different styles, rather than seeking to hire a specific type of person. HR future success will also depend on recognizing our limitations e.g. in defining the psychological make-up of a candidate through a conventional recruiting process.

These are just a few thoughts on this very complicated subject. We have to be realistic and recognize that we can make HR better by being very honest in acknowledging evolving business and people differences/expectations and balancing them in the most appropriate way. Success of HR depends on us knowing who we are, what we are and developing a confident and holistically balanced approach in meeting the needs of the business and our internal clients. Many of the differences are already in place and a major challenge, to make HR better, is to update and adapt much of what is already in place to reflect the present as it is and move confidently into the future.

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



Do the BEST ACTORS get the JOB?

18 Sep

Do the best actors (who look right) get the job? At work, are the best actors (playing the right role of course) most successful?  Are the most impressive employees usually acting or are they simply reacting in a style they believe will be most effective in the circumstances?  Another possibility, of course, is that the person is responding to whatever it is in a natural and sincere fashion.  What do you think?  Is there also room for the rebel who may be somewhat obnoxious, but exudes brilliance in his/her field?

Does it really matter?  Is sincerity so important in a captive environment?   It does make sense to develop an adaptive style within an organization and sometimes it is necessary for survival.   It can also help in developing tolerance and showing compliance in ways that may not make sense but are necessary.  There are reasons, of course, why employees should be appealing to others, but is it an integral part of the job, measurable and as important as getting the work done, or is it simply personal marketing?

Are managers (including executives) compromising the success of the organization by insisting on working with people they like the look of and who say the right things?  Are managers putting ego and “nice” (in their opinion) employees ahead of BEST WORK RESULTS!  I believe that is often the case.  Consistent with the “personality cult”, is the focus of managers on short-term success they will get credit for, rather than long term sustainability that will benefit others in the future? Is the focus often more on personal short-term security than corporate long-term success?

It seems that many managers have been allowed to hire in their own image and for their own comfort and companionship (?) rather than bona-fide job related reasons.  The frequent excuse is that the manager must commit to the employee he/she personally selects! The prevalent subjectivity in selection is widely known to job applicants, and preparation for an interview can be more focused on presentation and likeability factors than focus on the job.  The best actors will learn and play the part best and get the job.  Their selection over better-qualified and more capable candidates can be not only discriminatory but in conflict with the best business interests of the organization.  What do you think?

All the world is a stage and that can particularly apply in the workplace.  A workplace that superficially may seem the greatest, but often places more emphasis on looking right than actually doing what is best. All the right policies may be in place, all the right social commitments, but is it reality or only words? Focusing on what we are comfortable with and keeping it that way by hiring in our own image, rather than hiring people who may be a little different, but, nevertheless, have the best skills and ability to get results in any environment.

I believe the obligation to an organization, is have employees most capable of performing the work (including the interactive requirements) rather than hiring and promoting people we like the look of and we believe will fit in with our style.  To be competitive, we need to focus on hiring people with the best skills and results capability and selecting managers who are able to inspire and provide leadership to smart, innovative and high potential new age employees. Much more difficult to supervise the best than “direct” the good actors who know the game and foster their own wellbeing by making the boss feel good.

What do you think?  Are the best actors most successful?  Is role-playing within an organization often more important than results? If there is such an emphasis on looking right, is that likely to inhibit individuality and, particularly, innovation and progressive thinking? What do you think?

Thank you for your interest.  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.


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