Leadership, personal

The whole world turned upside down: brain cancer & awesome workplaces

In June this year my life took an unexpected turn. I had my parents (John & Jenny) visit from New Zealand, they said it was to visit Sam and I (but I knew the truth, my 2-year-old was the main attraction).

After an action-packed week of Aquarium and Zoo visits, and tramming their way all over Melbourne they were ready to go home.

One day before they were due to leave, Mum and I took John, my wonderful, kind, generous Stepdad, to the hospital after some headaches and confusion.

The outcome of that long ED visit was a Stage 4 GBM (brain cancer), brain surgery, chemo and radiation. Their short stay, arranged during school holidays, was then extended indefinitely as we fought this. They ended up staying with us an additional 9 weeks.

I cannot help but look at the past couple of months and see some of the best lessons of my life playing out.

The biggest part of that lesson for me was a personal one. Despite his diagnosis, despite the uncertainty and surgery and tears from us all, John has been unashamedly positive.

* Positive because of the incredible care he received at the Royal Melbourne.

* Positive because of the doctors, nurses and staff who took the time to care for him.

* Positive because, despite the circumstances, we had unexpected bonus-time as a family together, with my brothers and sister visiting from NZ and America.

* Positive because of the outpouring of love from family, friends, colleagues, strangers, and ex-students of my parents who sent messages of aroha and support from near and far.

* Positive in continually repeating that he’s lucky, he’s got a great life, and wife(!) and wonderful kids, it could all be so much worse.

John manages to find good in everything, and everyone. (after you meet his Mum, Nana Jean, you know where this comes from). The one nurse who during his time in hospital was a little short, hungover and on her phone? He refused to complain, because “you don’t know what’s going on in someone’s life, she might be having a really hard time”. John is the definition of positivity and love. I’m so fortunate that he came into our lives when I was a kid.

The second biggest lesson was what I experienced, along with each member of my family during a really tough time. My parent’s employers (Devon Intermediate, and Frankley School in NZ) were both amazing. They made organising time off easy and they sent messages full of love and hope. They sent tins of tea and flowers and fruit. They contacted us and asked what would help and listened.

My work (bloom hearing specialists), and, in particular my direct manager, have been nothing but incredible. While I’ve been on the HR-end of many crises, that’s not the same of the overwhelming sense of thankfulness you get when your manager makes it clear that there’s nothing that matters more than being there with your family. When your colleagues forgive your absentmindedness and don’t mention your horrendous eyebags/unkempt hair after another sleepless night. When you are encouraged to do what is right for you and your family, knowing it really is OK.

This post is part thanks, and part encouragement. Encouragement to do what you know is right, and treat others with empathy and love. At the time you might not consider it something monumental, especially when you know someone is going through *big* things. But every message, every small gesture meant an incredible amount to us as we grappled with all we had to deal with during this time, and it won’t be forgotten.

* John & Jenny have now returned to New Zealand, leaving our two-bedroom house very quiet.

Leadership, Working in People & Culture

A Conversation With #SHRM16 Speaker Craig Briscoe

HR’s ‘seat at the table’ is something that is often waxed lyrical about, again, and again, and again. We’re given 10,000 reasons why we should already be there, why we’ll never get there, what you’re doing wrong, what your CEO is doing wrong and why we need a HR revolution to get there.

Quietly though, some organisations are evolving towards the Holy Grail of HR bloggers: a genuine seat at the table. If you’re heading to #SHRM16 you’ll be lucky enough to hear from one organisation where HR can confidently say that they’re ahead of the curve. They wouldn’t though, the lovely Craig Briscoe (VP, Human Resources – Commercial Sales and Enterprise Solutions at Dell) is delightfully humble when discussing the Dell HR team’s critical role in strategic partnership at the 110,000 strong company, emphasizing that the journey to real strategic partner is always evolving.

Craig is speaking with David Cabrera (Regional HR Director and HR Business partner at the ‘Role of HR in Dell’s Multiple Business Transformations’ session at the annual SHRM conference.

Craig describes himself as “more of a business leader with an HR bent” which I believe is exactly why he has been in a position to play such a key role in the multiple business transformations at Dell over the past 15 years. Dell itself has undergone a huge amount of change during that time – from a US centric company of around 25,000, through an IPO, privatisation and now through the biggest tech merger in history (changing its name to Dell Technologies) with the acquisition of EMC.

The process of going through multiple acquisitions, considering cultural change, determining what is important (ethics, says Craig) and what isn’t (you can keep the BBQ in your staff room) has meant that Dell is continuously learning from their experiences. These acquisitions have also meant that the HR team has fine-tuned their ability to accurately assess talent as it walks in the door. Craig says there’s been “no shortage of learning opportunities” from these experiences and the team has been able to constantly improve their approach.

Perhaps the thing that resonated with me most when hearing Craig speak about his experiences at Dell, is the fact that he doesn’t see ‘having a seat at the table’ being a choice we have to make in sacrificing great traditional HR. Rather it’s something that the HR team gets to add on top of fantastic HR consulting, generalist and specialist support. Craig describes with real respect an excellent HR leader that he works with who can strategize with the best of them, but is as equally comfortable working in the detail when required. This ability to balance between specialist/traditional HR and strategic insight results in well-rounded HR experts who have the respect of their peers and stakeholders. Craig emphasises the value of giving HR Generalists opportunities to develop in the strategic space, he says that many of our best and brightest excel in this space but are never given the opportunity to because they’re swamped with administration and the policy/procedure aspects of the role.

It is because of this that Dell have placed huge value on getting the HR structure right, being one of the first to implement a BP model with specialist centres of excellence. Craig is quick to emphasise that this is about the liberation of talented people from the transactional and it has resulted in real dividends for the business in allowing Business Partners to focus on value adds. Business Partners are often the first in the room when big decisions are being discussed, well prior to when the people implications are being sorted through. Craig takes time to keep coming back to the fact that there is no position on the HR team where it’s just thinking and being brilliant – it’s not an either or. He and other senior HR team members are in and out of spreadsheets every day, it’s a key part of their role to know the business inside out and it’s important for the team to never get too far from their roots.

Dell’s emphasis on being a great business partner to their clients has influenced its ability to harness the strategic potential of HR. In transitioning to becoming a business partner (rather than the company you just buy your server from) emphasis has been focused on the transition being in their people – because 90% of this change is in hiring and developing the right ones. This change has resulted in Dell changing how it screens for leaders differently – and Craig emphasises that HR is continually learning and evolving in this space. This has been particularly felt in high level recruitment in their worldwide operations – Dell has moved towards hiring and developing experts in the market rather than relying on expats with the technical skill set having to acclimatise to the market.

I’m so excited to hear Craig speak about these (and more) lessons he’s learned in his time at Dell. The lessons of a team who are successfully rationalizing their ‘seat at the table’ fills me with confidence that we don’t have to choose between ‘new’ and ‘old’ HR, we just have to keep learning, growing and evolving so we can make sure that we offer the best service we possibly can to the organisations we work with.

 

Originally published at the 2016 SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition site: http://blog.shrm.org/blog/a-conversation-with-shrm16-speaker-craig-briscoe

Career, Thinking differently, Working in People & Culture

How I Got My Dream Job

This is going to come across as a complete humblebrag but bear with me (interestingly this is spelled ‘bear’ rather than ‘bare’ – Google it – makes for a good read)…

How many of you genuinely work somewhere (or for those of you that consult, with clients) that really align to your values?

Not just corporate speak “oh honesty and excellence, well yeah I totally agree with those in theory” – but, right in your bones, you get to work somewhere that you’re genuinely proud of?

I get to. It wasn’t an accident. I’ve worked a few places where that wasn’t true (and one where is was the polar opposite of true). I purposefully sought somewhere where I could hand-on-heart say that I believe in what we do, why we do it and how we do it. It was a bit scary at first.

The role I began at my current organisation (OK – YMCA Victoria – it’s all over my LinkedIn and Twitter anyway :)) could have been seen as a ‘step down’ career wise. I took a role with less pay and a less impressive sounding job title – but it felt 100% right.

Why?

  • When I met with the manager of the team where I’d work I genuinely felt like he was there for the right reasons and I’d be able to learn from him.
  • When I looked into the work that YMCA Victoria do, I realised they are an organisation of action (impressively so and across a huge range of areas).
  • When I interviewed the team interviewing me where really passionate about their work. It came across really clearly and I also had a sense from both my key stakeholders (that were involved in all stages of the interview process) that they loved what they do.
  • I felt that there was potential with this organisation for future opportunities and growth.

I was hugely nervous about this decision. Actually ‘hugely nervous’ doesn’t even begin to convey just how terrified I was about the decision to leave a great job. But the payoff was worth it.

Very quickly I had confirmation that I’d made the right decision. The team I worked with was great, I was mentored by some really talented people and my primary operational stakeholder group consistently gave me extra time (while never making me feel like I was imposing) to really help me understand their world.

When I attend events or talk with my peers at other organisations I regularly feel out of place for loving what I do and where I work so much. But I shouldn’t.

I realise the economic realities and the hugely privileged position I was in to take my time in finding the right role – and being educated and skilled in an area where I can find my dream job. In saying that, I did take my time. My husband and I moved to Australia with 3 suitcases and I’ve had some shocking work experiences along the way, in both Australia and New Zealand. But being purposeful and taking a long term view has meant that I now work with people that I genuinely hope I continue to work with for 5 (or, gasp, even 10,) years.

Can everyone work in their dream job? Probably not. The way the world works means for many that holding on to a job, any job, that puts food on the table may be the driving objective.

But if you can, if there’s any way you can chase your dream job, or dream company. Do it. I cannot tell you how much my life has changed since taking a role somewhere where I’m proud to work.

 

Training

Don’t Think Induction is Worth the Cash?

Everyone has to learn when they start with a new organisation or in a new role. There are policies and procedures, learning new systems, navigating new co-workers, managers and employees. There are the unwritten norms (yeah, the policy says you have to do a written request, but actually you need to speak nicely to the Admin Manager…) and don’t even get me started on the huge amount of compliance boxes that need to be ticked!

I’ve worked with organisations that have fantastic, well thought through programs, and ones that didn’t have ANYTHING (one guess as to which ones I’d refer colleagues to work for…). Its just not that hard. New hires are enthusiastic, they’re excited and they’re drinking the Kool Aid. Take advantage of it!

So with the huge amount that new hires need to learn when joining your organisation, and the knowledge that a poorly planned on-boarding/induction program dramatically increases the chances of your new hire moving on within the first 6 months, how much are you investing in your induction program?

Considering how costly it is to make a new hire, and the amount of time it takes for that new hire to get up to speed in a job, you lose considerable cash when replacing staff. So why is it that once the contract is signed and the employee turns up to their first day in the office so many organisations feel like their job is done? Sure they might get the hapless hire (let’s call him Harry) doing his new job in a muddling capacity… but how engaged is Harry going to be? How productive can we ever hope him to be? And if he’s not that well trained then are we even going to want him around in 12 months (and let’s face it, that’s if he stays).

For the vast majority of organisations, their people are their #1 expense. If you are already spending a high percentage of your turnover on your people, there are a couple of things that are important to remember;

  • Well trained people = productive people
  • Well trained people = loyal people
  • Productive + loyal people = higher outputs

A good induction program and ongoing learning and development for your people don’t need to cost the earth, what you do need is commitment from the top.

And the best time to start developing your people? Right at the get-go. Set them up to succeed. They will thank you for it (and so will your balance sheet).

Ethics

Ethics in the Workplace & Unintended Consequences

Recently I read a really powerful article by HRTC founder Vanessa Wiltshire about difficulties she has had in her career, particularly in regard to ethical practices in the workplace and the huge emotional toll that can take on staff.

We can all generally agree that;
Ethical behaviour = good
Making profit = good
Ethical behaviour + making profit = better.

But when one has to be sacrificed in times of trouble (of which there are a lot, in the private, public and NFP sector) it is so often the ethical behaviour that goes. It doesn’t happen like a switch, usually a series of decisions are made that cumulatively end up with people doing things in the workplace where their personal moral and ethical judgement is compromised.

And so often, the result of this is the creation of workplaces where borderline practices become commonplace, bullying becomes the norm, and the bottom line is championed above all else.

Don’t get me wrong, the bottom line (or if you’re progressive, the triple bottom line) is crucial. But the culture that you instil in the workplace through the unintended consequences of series of decisions can be mammoth.

For an organisation to engage its people, learn and build for the future, a great culture is a requirement. As a business leader said to me the other day, some businesses have an excellent money-making model, but if the people aren’t happy and the culture is a bit *^#$ then future growth and success are finite. Because the good people will leave. And its those people who are your greatest asset, no matter your business.