Archive for June, 2012

Oh I don’t know about you but I am making so much of #PunkHR I am making links to anything and referring to it as Punk. But is that because I am making the patterns or they are definitely there and I am merely making the connections? Anyway whatever that is forgive me if you’re getting tired of #PunkHR but I’m definitely feeling anarchic at times so I can’t help but pogo on. Now this is something that came to me when I was asked to guest-blog for someone else but this was too (in my mind) too Punk for that hence it’s here.

Inspiration – a lovely word. A thing or person that inspires…a divine quality or the writings or words of a person so influenced. I’ve been more inspired by people since coming into the HR profession than anywhere previously. I can’t think of a single superhuman being who could inspire me about PRINCE2 project methodology.

So, in HR we’re surrounded by thought leaders, gurus and inspirational speakers. It would seem that way and so it is in Leadership more generally. I have adored the words of a speaker at a conference as I do some of Paul Weller’s lyrics. I have felt good about my views on society after reading a socio-anthropological book as I did when listening to the Specials first album. I’ve felt as fired up by a YouTube/TED talk as I did when I first heard “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.

So I guess I am inspired by these legendary people.

There are Daves and Dans; there are Michaels and Lindas, there are Toms and Malcolms and there are Simons and Sarahs. Now I have spotted some archetypes with these folks.

Not bad things, but archetypes.

As I see them.

• They are all successful people, often good looking but not always and I suspect very wealthy.

• They have academic links which gives credibility to what they say and how they research it to then share it with us all.

• They have best-selling books – that perhaps make them a stack of cash. The books then lead onto the speaking circuit. And they perhaps make more money from the speaking circuit about their book than the book itself..!

• They have academic links which gives credibility to what they say and how they research it to then share it with us all.

• They are often fit-looking so-and-sos. Despite their (probably) free dining from others, they are in good shape.

Yet now, I’m going off of some of them. I don’t drool over their every word. I doubt some of their viewpoints. I’m over them a bit I guess.

When did this happen and have I discovered a degree of arrogance dangerous to my own professional well-being. No.

– It’s when I started thinking beyond their very polished productions.

– It’s when I went to a conference 3 years apart and the almost EXACT SAME delivery followed from one discernable person.

– It’s when a much awaited piece of work landed that I was so disappointed in its blandness and its predictability.

AND I have warmed to and discovered a range of other people – largely in HR, some in economics, some in entrepreneurial positions, some journalists – who absolutely rock. They talk about that matter now. That matter tomorrow. In a way I can barely describe how much it hits me.

It’s like I’ve discovered a seam of talented and inspirational people right under my nose who won’t charge me or my company £500 to hear them speak or £8.99 to read their pearls of wisdom.

I’ve gone PUNK. OK you all know that BUT I’ve gone PUNK about where I get my inspiration from.

I wonder whether some of those gurus, thought-leaders and speakers have therefore lost it – they’re not hungry for controversy because they are so fit, wealthy and revered..? It feels like they have lost it – and that’s not something I’ve consciously made my mind up to do be anti-guru/thoughtleader/speaker. Far from it – I’d LOVE to do what they do for a living…so

Have they lost it because they

– are simply, like the politicians argument, now out of touch with reality?

– now believe their own hype?

– aren’t as fuelled, focused or fired up about things?

– Or have they not lost it but other people around me have found better “its” to be focusing on.

It’s probably a bit of the other 3, but it’s also more likely the latter.

I’ve found some amazing bloggers, tweeters, speakers and writers who AREN’T like the ones I (used to) idolise. Many of them are people with everyday jobs; not glamorous or wealthy and not academic. Which is why I think I’ve gone Punk on this aspect.

They’re the wannabes but they’re so clever they don’t ACTUALLY want to “crossover” and become like the gurus. Cos if that happens, they know, they’ve lost it. Me going anti-establishment is perhaps a tad too strong, but certainly the once great gurus/thought leaders now make me feel like my earlier blog musical comparison – traditional HR and PunkHR to a “…a 12 minute prog rock symphony to NOWHERE compared to a loud and energetic 3-minute garage punk song to SOMEWHERE” somewhere different indeed..!

So to those slick, wealthy, esteemed speakers/authors/consultants, I’m a bit over some of you.

You’re a Rock Star sure – maybe a has-been? Maybe. You might have tribute acts even. Great.

I don’t want to be all gloomy about it because others won’t be a bit over you – and you’ll still be fit, full of it and feigned over. I’m being inspired by people you’ll never compete with; you’ll never catch them up; you’ll never realise how disruptively brilliant they are.

#PunkHR is not something you want to be a part I suspect and you’ll laugh it off as some amateur concept never likely to interfere with your progressive thinking. I guess I wouldn’t want you to be in it anyway – because rebellion is a thing to suppress not enable for positive change.

Well I’m a rebel with a cause. So you can keep your cabaret suppers, I’m off to pogo down the (youthfully-minded) club..!


The blogs coming out of the #connectingHR community are hotting up. The level of insight, conclusive thought and inspiration is staggering. It makes me think how lucky we are to have a thriving community of Punks, B-Boys/Fly-Girls, Casuals, Rude Boys/Girls, Mods and Rockers that the musical genre-HR linkage has gone from a novelty element to something defining our attitude and tribalisms.

All joking aside, the labels we’re creating here seem to define something quite significant – that we in HR are not content to be the butt of jokes, the maligned fluffy ones and the overlooked part of the workplace equation. We are being rebellious. We’re not having it, we’re on a mission and we’re creating a movement. I feel incredibly blessed to feel a part of that movement.

I’ll keep calling it Punk and @academyofrock Peter Cook will hopefully thank me for that – as the recent 12p increase in his book might have him rolling around in cash for his anarchic views on People Management – its all Punk Rock eh Peter? Go on, spend 12p more and get Punk Rock People Management from all good online retailers of books.

So what pearls of PunkHR wisdom (or that should really be safety-pins of wisdom) would I like to kick around this time?

Well I’m just down right narked that somehow we’re not valuing people. I don’t mean “gosh I really value what you do/support you provide”. Proper though that is, I’m talking balance sheet value; asset valuation; commodity costing; fiscal representation – monetary if you will.

Now I’m not at all economics savvy. Far from it. That bit in Trading Places where the Frozen Orange thing happens at the end – never really understood totally what they did. The stock market is a mystery and quite frankly is a bit vulgar to me. I’m not a capitalist – I’m more socialist – so the money markets always baffled me, as I thought the Stocks and Shares market was like roulette for the filthy rich. Gordon Gekko figures, panic buying selling and acting like a bear or a bull. And that it keeps crashing and lately is a bit, well, busted.

But I tell what I know is/are valuable. People. Their efforts; their generosity; their diligence. Can I please also state here that I ABHORE the term Human Capital…I can barely bring myself to say it. Absolutely ugly term IMHO. So I won’t be advocating that language. It’s about as PunkHR as Jedward..!

I do though want to see something more metric and recognised, accountancy ratified and CFO-friendly about people.

We have lots of measures around people though don’t we? Yes, the payroll system shows what a huge “cost” to every organisation people are. Hang on – COST? What the heck is that all about..? Cost? These people ARE your organisation. Not the brand, the suppliers, the legal bill, the premises. Those things are a flipping cost.

We have performance management figures, we have talent 9-box grids, we have hours worked each day; time on and off line, units per hour produced, sales figures showing closures per person, customer satisfaction results; employee survey data.

To quote the Pistols – never mind that bollocks. None of these REALLY convinces a sceptical CFO or really creates anything that describes the TRUE value of our people. Now don’t get me wrong it’s not JUST about appeasing or enticing the CFO into something. It’s because at times like these, with cuts and so on, CFOs rub their hands with glee and become all-powerful. So the CEO listens and is seduced by tales of costs cutting. In any event, there’s a challenge to better MEASURE the impact of people.

For example, we have LEANED the crap out of processes and production lines. To the point where there is no more shaving to be done. So where 200 people did a process, now there’s 50 people doing it. But those 50 are also doing a lot more then this leaned-out process and as a result are feeling the heat. The busy exec no longer has a PA and does all her own diary management etc. which she has to do over the weekend and it interrupts her family time. That kind of thing.

Where was the measure of that in the lean impact analysis? It wasn’t there because it assumed people are process robots and they can cope with stripped down processes and less people around. NOT EVERYTHING can be stripped out though. Everything is a process but not everything can be a LEAN one.

– Where is the cost of the meltdown of a perfectly good individual who has his admin support leaned and stripped out?
– Where is the true cost in lost time through sick; lost productivity through having to sick absence manage him; the cost of the loss of faith by his accounts/contacts?
– The loss of confidence in his team who now have to lead themselves or another, less regarded interim is parachuted in?
– Where is the cost of the lost potential future Director we’ve now burned out before his time..?
– Where is the lost cost of all the investment made in him with L&D up to now?

I’m trying to paint a picture of what Umair Haque calls “Thick Value” For a further definition do read his New Capitalist Manifesto book – a truly great read at a time when a new approach is needed for the capitalist model.

The THICK VALUE we need to be able to use in HR is really the TOTAL human cost of the systems we introduce, the morale we sap or create, the lack of engagement we engender through inauthentic, insincere leadership and so on.

I have described this scenario and I’d be interested if you have any thoughts on this:

An Angel Investor rocks up at your 70-strong enterprise which has been going for 3 years and is posting good figures. They offer you £200m. They don’t want to see your balance sheets; your asset registers; your brand proposition value (estimated or otherwise); your factories/offices. They just want to know the following:-
(1) how great are the people who work here? How do we value their attitudes and how do we measure/rate their contributions to overall successes achieved and plan to achieve more of?
(2) how do you know you attract and select the right people?;
(3) how much stronger could your people be with more support / a programme of development?
(4) how valuable is your leadership team at varying levels?;
(5) what are the real costs of over-work / under resourcing and capability/performance management out
(6) what are the true value creators by the workforce around ideas; service propositions and collaborative working?;
(7) what is your well being value; and finally for me
(8) what is the investment you make in people to future-proof your organisation?

An example very recently in the press gave me the belief that people have an explicit value on an organisation that can be metricised or monetised. The CEO of Esprit announced he was moving on for personal reasons. Stock plummeted. Their products, suppliers, bank balances were the same, yet because a person was leaving and the value of the enterprise was reduced. This shows PEOPLE HAVE A MONETARY VALUE which is NOT Human Capital. Where I think Human Capital failed is it tried to apply a value to people’s contributions to the product line and NOT their Social Capital; Innovation Capital; their Advocacy Capital; Generosity Capital; their Sharing Capital and of course the most significant of all their Knowledge Capital – what they have in their head.

These to me are all part of the sticky value proposition and no-one I know of is focusing and measuring on things like this. If people are, brilliant – I’d love to hear about it and share the successes.

So I am not just saying
– let’s get fiscally savvy;
– business-minded or
– data analytical.
I think it’s all of these and more. For me, it’s setting out to measure what some people say you can’t. I believe you can convert the efforts, the ingenuity, the stamina of people into something that makes a strong business case to secure that Angel Investor’s £200m.

People ARE the organisation so please let’s value that accordingly; convincingly

When Punk hit the music scene, I doubt we valued it truly then and only on looking back did we realise it put a seismic shock to the industry and created a whole new way of looking at music and fashion culture. Let’s grab the arc that is thick value around our people and get some powerful, meaningful and valuable measurements going on about our people. #connectingHR knows, believes and does some of this – let’s pool our resources and give our people the credit rating they deserve – AAA+

Pogo on!