Difficult Conversations, Ethics, Leadership, Reflective practice, Thinking differently

Your Organisation is Drifting. And You’ve Got No Idea.

New year new you!

Or something similar.

It’s natural to strive for better. You look at the previous year, note your accomplishments (high engagement score ranking – tick!) and want to build on that momentum.

What you often don’t see when you’re constantly engaging with the people within your organisation that are high performers and those that are close to you, is the organisational drift happening under the surface. You’re focusing on big changes, becoming bigger and better than the year before, all the while not realising that something insidious is eating away at the fabric of your organisation.

People may have brought individual issues up before. Some big. Some not so much. Isolated they don’t look like a pattern. Because you’re surrounded with those who are super engaged and likely are very focused on their own areas of expertise they also don’t see the cumulative nature of what’s happening.

But I guarantee your employees do.

They notice the few instances of people ‘moving on’ under cloudy circumstances with unclear communications.

They notice the difference between decisions made by management and the values of your organisation.

They notice their friends and high performers choosing to opt out after having realised that this isn’t the place with the great culture/opportunity/leadership it once was.

They see people being appointed to roles who don’t care about their teams.

They see snarky emails/veiled threats being thrown about with no consequence.

Do they bring it to you?

Probably not.

They’ve probably already made their decision. They’re out. They’re still smiling and saying the right things when you ask them, but they’re scouring LinkedIn and job boards looking for their next opportunity. They’re responding honestly when someone asks what it’s like to work for you. They’re moving to your competitors.

All of a sudden it happens. You realise that you’re no longer ahead of the game. You ignored too many warning signs. Conveniently chose to listen to those who told you what you wanted to hear, not those who would challenge you and tell you what you needed to hear.

Many organisations go down this path. Some parts of it are beyond your control. Some are well within it.

So instead of thinking of the new year as one to build on the previous – maybe take some time to reflect, engage in continuous learning practices and ‘get under the hood’. You may not like what you find, but at least you have an opportunity to fix it if you do come across something.

Difficult Conversations, Human Resources

Getting Uncomfortable in HR: Adapting to our Changing World

This article was first published at Blogging4Jobs.com

We hear it a lot: the world of work is changing. Often we hear it at the beginning of a big sweeping statement about how we need to become more ‘responsive’, more ‘agile’ and that because Google, Facebook and Snapchat are doing something new with their approach to employment then you should be too.

At first I thought this was another one of those ‘Death of HR’ things (google that phrase – you’ll have fun for hours) – but then after a bit more research, reading and interviews I realised that I’d been looking at it all wrong.

We shouldn’t just throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater because everyone else is ditching their performance reviews (or whatever everyone’s talking about at the moment) – we at least need to look into what they’re replacing it with, how they’re supporting their people in the change and does throwing the baby out work for us in our context? But when the research stacks up we do have to start thinking differently about how HR happens and what value we add as the people-people of the organisation.

I recently spoke to Michael Haywood, co-founder of LiveHire, about the changing world of work and how HR needs to adapt. It was really satisfying to speak to someone who, instead of waxing lyrical about an inevitable need to change (really? Of course we need to change and evolve, calling it out as a new trend is decidedly old) he focused on what has already changed, what changes are probable, and what the world of work, and HR, needs to think about to respond.

Michael and the team at LiveHire are part of a new wave of antipodeans taking on the world through innovative solutions to changes in the world of work, joining HROnboard, Atlassian and Culture Amp in global domination. Much like the globalisation of the workforce, HR solutions are going international too, proving that geographic location is in no way a barrier to the world of globalising HR.  As a New Zealander, it’s great to see colleagues in the USA be able to access some of our best and brightest (well… some of Australia’s best and brightest, but we’ll take some of the credit due to proximity,) as we’ve enjoyed HR solutions from the USA for years.

Globally our issues are similar – managers are worried about the next generation and how they ‘just don’t get it’ #socratessaiditfirst, we have increasingly diverse and contract-based workforces, and we’re all transitioning from wanting to do HR differently to needing to do it differently.

Social media & the internet are great playing field levellers: knowledge-based workers can now be in far more control of their destiny through identifying potential employers, being able to find the good, the bad and the ugly out about them online, before using user-centred platforms to register their interest and put the ball in the employer’s court.

HR practitioners in knowledge-based workplaces need to respond accordingly. It’s not just a matter of using a few new buzzwords, it’s getting comfortable with changing some of our fundamental assumptions born from the way we have operated in the past. And then, advocating for, and leading change within those organisations that are slower to adapt to make sure they don’t get left behind.

 

Difficult Conversations

Difficult Conversations in the L&D Universe

Everyone’s an Expert

L&D has a slightly co-dependent relationship with HR. If we’re in-house often we’re a part of a wider P&C team – and many of our colleagues have started their careers in more HR focused roles. HR often writes the book on ‘having difficult conversations’ – but sometimes it’s really hard to have them in HR/L&D spaces due to the heavy emotional investment our stakeholders have in the solutions proposed.

Because everyone’s an expert on training/learning when we’re developing a solution we are often put in situations where we have to have what can seem like incredibly difficult conversations with our stakeholders.

Those Sticky Situations

Situations where, depending on the stakeholder, we have to have these difficult conversations include;

  • A course isn’t the solution to everything dammit! While our understanding of how adult learning works has changed considerably over the past couple of decades, many stakeholders still have a training-centric view of how we can meet their needs. This isn’t always a recipe for success – if you never deliver on what they’re expecting (even when they haven’t declared what this is) then the relationship can suffer.
  • Sometimes a stakeholder’s own learning preferences can overshadow the learning solution for the target audience. If the decision maker is, for example, an avid reader, then their expectations of how much pre-reading is reasonable may not be a match for the learning group.
  • The cost of learning solutions can also be a bone of contention: e-learning systems and modules can cost significant money, while longer term they work out cheaper they still can’t be used as the whole solution.

The most important step for getting this right? Find out what they want – what they really want – at the beginning. Often they won’t know, but it’s your expertise that will help draw out the real drivers, which I’ve found are rarely the ‘objectives’ listed in your initial discussion.

Mitigating ‘Difficult Conversations’ During the Project

When your stakeholders are coming to you with pre-conceptions about your area of expertise and passion:

Do

  • Take every opportunity to educate
    • Invite them to relevant events
    • Demonstrate the level of your expertise
    • Learn with them
  • Recognise their area of expertise
  • Offer possible solutions rather than just stating problems
  • Don’t be afraid of saying “I don’t know” and then finding out
  • Include them on the journey

Don’t

  • Explain to them just how wrong they are (however tempting)
  • Push a solution they don’t want at them
  • Give them a solution where they don’t understand how you’re meeting their needs.

Like any potentially difficult conversations in business, it becomes easier if you know what the other party is wanting and how they expect this to happen. Often in L&D we have to persuade people that their ‘how to get there’ isn’t the right/only way… but it’s easier to do that if you really understand what their expectations and needs are at the beginning.