It takes courage to do things differently. So often it's just so much easier to follow what everyone else does, even when we know that what everyone else does is not quite right.
We've written before about how HR is broken, and how the recruitment process sucks, so there are many reasons to try to do things differently to better manage people.
Many leaders talk about best practice, yet when we look at the people management practices in their businesses, including the recruitment process, we just see the same old way of doing things as everyone else. Huh?
So, it just happens that what everyone else is doing is the best practice for your unique organisation. Hmm. Does that pass the smell test?
Most business owners tell us how their business is unique. So it's a heck of a coincidence that what Google found to work in their office environment (15 years ago) happens to work just as well in your firm. It would be equally surprising if the performance appraisal, originally invented around the time of World War 1, just happens to be best practice for your business today.
We hear your "yeah, but ...". We raise it with, "so what else have you tried?"
Think about the process of recruiting new people for a moment.
A commonly used online recruiting platform allows people to upload their CV, then go and search for a whole bunch of jobs that meet their criteria, and send that exact same CV to every employer who happened to advertise a job with those attributes. With just a few clicks they've applied for 20 jobs today. Do they sound like the best candidates for you? Hmm. Yet that platform is the most popular recruiting platform, used almost by default by thousands of businesses. Now consider that many of those people didn't even write their own CV.
When do you ask candidates how they will achieve the outcomes of the job? How do you really assess how a candidate will fit into your your unique business? Only when you interview them? It's so lucky that you're an amazingly talented interviewer despite probably having never been specifically trained to do it.
So how on earth do you decide who to interview? Oh of course, the ones that had the best CV.
Best practice? Only by accident.
The recruitment process is only one example of the gap between common practice and best practice. There are many other examples in managing people where common practice and best practice are miles apart.
How many organisations genuinely do things differently?
Part of the challenge with best practice, is that it has to be invented. It needs people to step back, ask the bigger questions, and map out a different process tailored specifically for your objectives. In small businesses, finding the time for that is hard.
That's what we do at The H Factor. For example, the recruitment process in The H Factor system has no place for candidates to send their CV. Instead it asks candidates to answer questions about how they will achieve the outcomes of the business and the advertised position. It asks them to think about how they will actually use their qualifications and experience to benefit your business, so that you can decide who to interview. This process replaces assumptions about performance with the opportunity for candidates to demonstrate the value of their contribution. It provides the tool for you to make a more informed decision.
Best practice is not about being on trend, funky, or just standing out. It's about being more effective. In many cases it might look radically different to common practice.
When we created The H Factor, our approach was to identify the best approach for managing people, and instil it into a workable system that business owners can easily plug in to their businesses. We've applied that approach to managing recruitment, engagement, performance, and teams.
One of our values is to challenge the status quo and drive change. That value matters to us because we actually want to explore best practice, not just copy common practice. You're invited to join us.
Predictions of the future rarely turn out to be accurate. Many of the predictions about the future of work will be no different. It seems clear, however, that we are at the beginning of a substantial change in the way we work. For many people, the most visible change is the growing pace of technological change, but there are many factors driving us towards different types of work, and equally, different ways of working.
Many people may feel threatened by the reports of technological change, particularly in the area of automation. We believe that it is very important to be extremely careful of simplistic predictions. In fact, the World Economic Forum anticipates that artificial intelligence may actually deliver up to 58 million new jobs globally, which is perhaps contrary to the popular view that automation is going to take people's jobs away.
In any event, technology is only one of the catalysts for workplace change. There are a number of other drivers, including:
It is the combination of these that is leading to changes in the needs of employers, and at the same time changing the desires and expectations of employees.
Nobody can ignore the impact of technological development on the future of work. The impacts fall into 3 critical areas:
Technology is no doubt changing the types of work that we do. For businesses to fully access the opportunities that arise from technological change, they must have access to people with the appropriate skills to develop, deploy, use, and maintain it.
Many of the new jobs being created by technological change require different skills. Creative thinking, technological competency, and learning agility are all skills that are now valued more highly by employers.
As businesses themselves strive for greater agility and adaptability, they look for those same skills in their workforce. Perhaps a myth to be busted is that these attributes are about attitude; to a very large extent they are learned skills.
The future workplace will almost certainly require greater collaboration. A job in the future will more likely require you to use your head more than your hands. The jobs that require creativity, interpersonal skills, organisation, and decision making will be the hardest to automate. This means that what have previously been called soft skills will become more important. These include the skills of communication, empathy and relating to others, collaboration, conflict resolution, and planning. Effective leadership will therefore be especially important.
When we created The H Factor system, our entire approach is based on nurturing these skills. In particular, having outcomes based position descriptions and instilling an effective conversation about achieving the outcomes is especially important in the transition from measuring performance based on pre-conceived assessment criteria, to inspiring and monitoring performance through a natural conversation based on a shared understanding of the desired result.
THE FEAR OF DISRUPTION
As technology has become more accessible, the expectations of customers has changed. For example, in the past many of us caught a taxi without the need for a mobile phone app, but now Uber has shown a different and better customer experience by ordering on demand to where we are, rather than us having to hail a passing taxi by chance, or go to a defined taxi rank. Similarly, we rarely need to go into a bank for day-to-day transactions, and many of us may not even know what a cheque is.
For businesses, this has created the need to have greater flexibility in how they can manage their workforce and in their working arrangements for their teams. It impacts not just the types of work that people do, but it also impacts how they go about that work.
The bigger changes in customer expectations are based on technologies that have improved the human experience. This is why we believe that the biggest risk for employers is not that their industry will be superseded, it is that their competitors will find a better human experience for their customers. This is not merely a technical risk, although it is likely that some form of technology will be the enabler.
Therefore to minimise the risk of disruption, employers again need to tap into skills that may not have applied in their industry in the past. These will include technical skills such as coding, user experience design, and data anlaytics.
Those business leaders who have clarity about the problem their business exists to solve, and who can communicate why that matters, will reduce their risk of disruption by building organisations that are focused on the human experience. They are more likely to be the disruptors than the disrupted.
This is why The H Factor system home page is your business story - why your business exists at all. It enables your team to engage with the problem, and contribute their ideas and effort to your business being at the forefront of the solution for your customers.
OUTSOURCING AND OFFSHORING
For some tasks that can't be automated, employers have found outsourcing or offshoring those tasks to be an effective method for reducing costs. In some cases this approach also provides those organisations with access to specialist skillsets.
The use of subcontractors - whether they be in Australia or overseas - has been a growing trend for some time. One of the challenges in transitioning to these arrangements is effectively engaging the external team to work effectively with the workplace culture, deliver the appropriate quality of work, and managing the procedures for transferring work between internal and external parties.
An increasing number of people are employed on a contractual basis. They may even be full-time employees for the period of the contract. This is especially impacting traditional white collar workers, with particular technical skills, where employers see a need for those skills for specific projects. Again, the challenge is how to engage those contractors effectively with the workplace culture and ensuring that their work is consistent with the desired result.
In The H Factor system the type of work is separate from the type of employment contract. Every position exists to achieve an outcome. How a person is employed in that position is then a separate matter, and the outcomes conversation process for managing their performance still applies whether the person is employed permanently, or on a contract, or is located internally, locally, or offshore. Equally, the system enables access to policies, procedures, and training wherever or whenever they're needed - that have been created for the business by the people who actually do it.
CHANGING EXPECTATIONS OF EMPLOYMENT
Workplaces are more diverse than they have ever been. There are a number of factors driving this:
Immigration has had a dominant impact on social change in Australia over the last 20 years. For employers this has enabled access to a larger talent pool for many skills.
Once in the workplace, people from different backgrounds bring with them their different cultural values around work ethic, the need for perceived status from their employment, and different expectations of the work environment itself.
At the same time, the participation of women in the workforce has also substantially increased. Employers therefore have developed more flexible approaches to work, including actions such as specific policies around acceptance and inclusion, and organisational structures and working arrangements that accomodate such a diversity of needs and expectations.
Every generation brings with it different expectations about the role work will play in their lives. Some people started their working life in an era when their parents had one employer, or even one job, over their whole career, while others are starting their career with a desire to avoid investing in skills that may ultimately be automated.
There is a common perception that full-time permanent employment opportunities will become fewer as technological change becomes more rapid. So far, the statistics don't support that perception, but that possibly won't matter. If people don't believe that they will have a secure full-time job in the future then they will naturally seek greater fulfilment from the job they have right now - or they will seek to find a job that does provide such fulfilment. We hear this in many conversations we have with business leaders around the challenges of managing employees who are Millennials and Gen-Xers for example.
The H Factor system was designed to help leaders manage diverse workplaces by building the positions in their business around the "stuff that needs doing". This enables people to engage with the needs of the business, and self identify their own approach to fulfilling those needs. This enables a greater potential of fulfilment for people as it enables them to 'grow into' their position, and take genuine ownership of it. For managers it provides confidence that the people in their team see the business priorities the same way that they do.
Research has shown that the desire to be engaged in their work is a common aspiration for people across all generations. It enables people to achieve a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction from what they do. In an era where we have the greatest diversity of generations working together at the same time, it has never been more important.
We are optimistic about the future of work. It is our belief that, ultimately, all of these changes are leading to more interesting jobs, an increased capacity for businesses to make a positive difference to their customers and in the societies in which they operate, and an increased appreciation for and value on humanity itself.
Mercer Global Talent Trends 2019 Report; #7 Building The Lucky County, Deloitte Insights 2019; and OECD Library - Editorial: A transition agenda for a Future that Works for all.
"Culture is one of the most precious things a company has. So you must work harder on it than anything else".
- Herb Kelleher, Founder, South West Airlines.
It's difficult not to read about Herb Kelleher and not feel inspired. He was a free spirit, and he not only surrounded himself with other free spirits, but he actively encouraged their freedom and nurtured their will to succeed.
Herb was onto something, and the record of South West Airlines demonstrates just what is possible through nurturing a culture of entrepreneurship and free spirit. In 2018 it recorded its 46th consecutive year of profitability, which is a unique achievement in any business, but especially in the airline industry.
South West attribute their success to their unique business culture which nurtures, encourages, and protects the free spirit of their people. The business leadership recognises that everyone is an entrepreneur, and they encourage autonomy, ownership, and accountability to their peers.
South West has become a guiding light for entrepreneurs around the world that want to emulate their stunning business performance - not just for their financial results, but also for their customer satisfaction and employee engagement.
We've said before that business is a uniquely human endeavour. Data, systems, and processes are secondary, and they either support your desired entrepreneurial culture, or they inhibit it (here's looking at you Telstra). A lesson from South West is to put people first, most notably employees, and then build your 'way of doing things' around their needs so that they can best serve each other, and then the customer.
Many business leaders balk at the idea of putting their employees first. They see their employees as inputs, in the same way as raw materials and utilities. Take a look at the financial performance of these businesses though. Most often, their performance just tracks the performance of the market. They run at the whim of the economy, not through the inspired will of their people.
South West is courageous in the way of people with a cause.
The organisations that inspire contribution, engagement, and loyalty are those that stand for something. The business itself has a passion, as though it were a person. They are fighting for something. People should care because they stand up for the little guy, they fight for fairness and equity, they represent freedom, or they enable us to imagine wonderful things. Whatever it is, the cause binds 'their people' and they stand shoulder to shoulder whether they be employees, customers, suppliers, or investors. They are driven by it.
We call this this clarity of purpose. It's the reason why the business exists at all, and it's why others should care about its success.
So Change Agents, what is your purpose? This isn't about marketing, or self promotion. It's about how you want to spend your discretionary effort, and how you want others to contribute. It's how you want to embrace your free spirit, and recognise, nurture, and protect that spirit in others.
As H Agents, we love to see workplaces where managers believe in, nurture, and build upon the capabilities of their people. These workplaces thrive because the people in them are:
In too many organisations, managers tend not to focus on people's strengths, instead focusing on setting tasks, making targets, and telling people what to do. This often comes from the top of the organisation, driven by the fear of failure, or missing targets and bonuses.
Today we learnt that the former CEO of French telecom company Orange, Didier Lombard, has gone on trial in Paris. Prosecutors will argue that he devised and implemented a strategy of psychological abuse through creating an anxiety inducing work environment.
The accusation is that Lombard implemented a major restructuring of the telco that aimed to reduce its workforce by 22,000 people over three years. It is argued that the company implemented a deliberate strategy of harassment to intimidate employees into leaving. This would reduce restructuring costs by saving redundancy related payments.
Prosecutors allege that managers had been trained to demoralise their teams, and their bonuses were dependent on it.
Between 2007 and 2010, 19 workers committed suicide, another 12 attempted suicide, and 8 suffered acute depression and were signed off as sick as a result of it. When asked to explain the high rate of suicide of company employees, Lombard dismissed it as a "fad", and was eventually forced to step down as a result of community outrage.
It's easy for many of us to imagine how such a terrible workplace scenario could be created. We've seen managers that have a tendency to place excessive focus on the things that go wrong. As their reports, we then inherit their fear, which can then be played upon as we begin to doubt our own competence, contribution, or even loyalty.
Thankfully the Orange case is not typical. There is, however, little surprise that such a situation could actually have occurred. Many of us can relate to a workplace culture where:
When these are the cultural norms in a workplace, then people put themselves first, politics and gossip thrive, and the quest for power (or avoiding being the victim of it) becomes the driving force of decisions, actions, and interactions. For most people, that means "cover your butt"!
When we are focused on covering our butts then we are typically not thinking about teamwork, innovation, or creativity. Yet these are all important aspects of the human condition, and our organisations need them in order to grow and develop genuine competitive advantage.
So, we care about building valuable enterprises through enhancing the human condition, and we think there is an urgent need to start conversations about how that can be achieved.
Change Agents, perhaps you can start by asking some challenging questions in your own workplaces:
Business is a uniquely human endeavour. It is a product of human inspiration, creativity, determination, and perseverance. Without these human elements, there is no business. At all. Ever.
Too often, we hear business managers tell their people that "without the business then we would have no livelihood". Actually, it is the other way around.
Without people, then the business would have no life. It is the people that enable the business, bring it to life, sustain it, and give it the energy it needs to prosper.
The way we account for people in the business, though, does not reflect this. Our accounting processes are broken. In our accounts, people are only recorded as a cost and a liability. Managers might talk of 'people being their best asset', but when their annual accounts come out, the balance sheet is bereft of any people assets. They are only wages and salary costs, and leave and pension liabilities.
Where do we show the asset of people's energy, inspiration, creativity, and potential? These are too hard to measure, and even harder to value, so the accounting scorekeepers ignore them. Yet, these are the beauty of humanity, and we all know they are insanely valuable.
If we value humanity, then as business leaders, we should not be merely focussed on the people costs and liabilities. If we don't value humanity, then we don't value business. When we lose the focus on humanity then we stop building our businesses. We merely sustain them. Without the potential of people, then the business itself has no potential.
The best business leaders focus on the potential of people. They focus on the energy, drive, ambition, and aspiration of people and tap into that to nurture their business growth. They don't see 'sales' as supporting their employees, they see their employees as enabling their 'sales'. They grow their business by growing their people. These are the leaders we remember, and these are the leaders that build impactful brands.
These leaders know that the true cost of people is not their wages, salaries, and leave entitlements. The true cost of people is the lost business potential if they fail to nurture, enable, or facilitate the creativity, innovation, determination, persistence, and resilience of their team.
The H Factor System Home Page
The H Factor system is designed for business leaders to nurture the contribution of their team members to their business objectives. The Home page is your business story about why your business exists, the brand you want to create, the things you need to build on your success, and your values.
It enables your people to see the bigger picture behind their work, and identify their contribution to it.
H Agents write about the joys and challenges of entrepreneurship and managing people.