Human Resources

The interview spark

I had to select a new member of the team recently. It’s a tough one when you yourself are new and you don’t fully know he organisation. I read the psychometric in advance and remembered my mentors advice – pick someone who has strengths in your area of weakness.

I’m sensible enough to understand the danger of deciding based on paper so I let the rest of the panel take charge. I knew as soon as she sat down she was the right one. And she proved it.

A very short point to make – sometimes you can’t really compete in an interview. That energy and fit just belongs to a particular person. 

Human Resources

Don’t say sorry

I’ve had an interesting discussion with a peer this week. They revealed that they actively avoid saying sorry. They rely on semantics or avoid conceding on issues.  It’s an interesting strategy and at first I was quite dismissive. It’s important we own our mistakes and take responsibility. But I’ve thought about it some more and can see some value.

The word “sorry” loses its value if you rely on it all the time. Maybe if you are making a series of errors try some new language so it shows you’ve really thought about matters.

Secondly, in HR we do often have to explain the law or policy which managers may not like and it becomes very easy to apologise for these things.  This doesn’t really help matters and adds to the perception you spend your life apologising for things. I’m actually not sorry the law protects disabled people so why should I preface a response to a stupid request from a manager dealing with a disabled staff member with “I’m sorry to say the law doesn’t support that action”. I’ve said things like that to try to placate people and reading it back I’m embarrassed.

Finally, HR isn’t really a science so you may make a perfectly sensible decision, which ends up turning out badly. So why are you apologising for what you did?  We all have to hold our hands up and say sorry sometimes but maybe there is something in the philosophy of avoiding it.


The Empty Desk

I read an interesting article which suggested people don’t leave organisations, they leave leaders. That is so very true and as a group we aim to encourage good leaders; we also need to aim for that ourselves.

The woman who gave me the job at my current employer has left recently. We said goodbye at the time and did the usual ceremonies and pleasantries. I managed with that. But this week I visited the site she worked out of. The desk where she used to sit was empty and it stopped me in my tracks. Luckily no one caught me with damp eyes but it was one of those moments you know you’ll always remember.

I am not sure why the empty desk was more powerful than physically saying goodbye. But it reminded me that a true leader will inspire you long after they have left. You may not agree with every aspect of their style or want to follow their every step but they do something so important, they believe in you. Maybe that belief manifested itself in their old desk which set me off. And I need to start thinking about how I can inspire and energise my own staff so they have the embarrassment of welling up over a piece of office furniture when I leave.


Recruitment media concepts

As I begin to plan a large scale recruitment for 2015 I am starting to consider how blogging and other social media platforms can help attract and inspire candidates.

Can you offer advice or direction? I’ll blog again once we have something robust planned but I wanted to get a feel for things. Using advertising agencies are fine but true innovation always starts within the organisation.


Divorce and dignity in HR

We need to thing of ourselves as divorce lawyers more often. When managing the exit of an employee we are trying to strike the balance between what is legal, what feels fair to the individual and what is in the best interests of the organisation. For some  that process feels like a divorce.

There is a case I was aware of, which struck me as particularly sad.  The individual had built their entire career around his one employer.  I knew him towards the end of his career and had never had to deal with him on anything other than normal HR issues.  He was in my view a very competent employee and one which disproved my long held belief that people become ineffective if they stay in one place for two long.

A decision was reached that he needed to leave.  I wasn’t involved in that decision and luckily I didn’t have to make it happen.  Setting aside my views on whether he needed to leave it was his exit which disappointed.  The redundancy process was reengineered very quietly, I won’t go into detail but fellow HR professionals will know all the methods for achieving the desired outcome.  But the reengineering was not subtle to the employee.  Everyone treated him as too stupid to realise or too polite to be difficult.  For whatever reason he continued with the consultation professionally as he was demeaned by process.

As he was about to exit, with the final indignation that his own manager shirked the responsibility of delivering the news his final attempt at redeployment had failed, we talked.  He’d just celebrated his wedding anniversary and I noted it  was 5 years less than his employment with us.  If he had made the connection he didn’t share it with me.

Removing someone like that from the organisation is a divorce.  He was coming to terms with the fact that his employer didn’t want him any more.  It’s a case where the organisation failed to give someone the credit they deserved and treat them with the respect they needed.  No one wants to be made forcibly redundant, so why make it even more uncomfortable?  If we cannot influence a decision then we must work hard to make sure the implementation of that decision is managed in such a way that those affected retain their dignity and our respect.


People using your career ladder

Never forget where you started. It’s a lesson we should be reminded of every time someone more senior makes us feel inadequate.

I had a member of the team who said she felt stupid every time she asked me a question. She asked a lot of questions so I could see why she started to worry.

I always replied with “You are not stupid. It’s just no one has ever explained it to you before”. I’d then point out she never asked the same question twice so clearly she was learning and her work was definitely improving.

I asked my manager a question recently and they didn’t bother to answer me, then expressed disappointment that I got something wrong. Have confidence in yourself in these situations, you are not stupid, sometimes those above you don’t give you the ability to understand.


The Cutting Edge of Recruitment

It does all HR professionals good to be a service user from time to time. You can become complacent with process and you forget how much of an impact our function has on external reputation.

In terms of recruitment, bringing the right people into the organisation is key. But what is often forgotten is how you manage everyone who isn’t appointed. Over the years I have blacklisted companies who treated me badly during their recruitment process. If you do a selection process professionally you’ll impact positively on the bottom line through those you don’t even appoint.

I’ve thought about what advice to offer on making recruitment more customer focussed and actually it’s all really obvious – it’s just basic manners! Replying to people’s applications in a timely manner, being discrete and always offering strong feedback are the bare minimum. I’m afraid to say as a profession many of us still don’t get that right. I had a member of staff approach me with concerns on a university she applied to work for. They’d taken 8 weeks to process her application, failed to communicate the outcome of the shortlisting and had to be asked three times for feedback. The employee wanted to know if she’d done something wrong in terms of how she’d handled the process. She hadn’t done anything wrong and not only does that mean she would never apply to them again, neither will I and I’ve told others the story too.

Word gets around when you don’t do something right so we all need to step our game up, for those that do there are immediate positive results.