Archive for January, 2014

As I scan through social media feeds, read articles in journals, books and have conversations with people it is striking how much the 21st Century is still blighted by one thing.

A lack of meaning.

It is even that meaning itself, that is derided when fundamentals commit acts of terror because of their calling, their meaning.

Instead I see petty squabbles, dire attitudes and daft posing and just wonder, “shall I dive in?” “Is it worth it..?”.

Mostly no. It occasionally angers the shite out of me but anger is a dark emotion best controlled. So I leave it.

Then I saw Gemma Reucroft post here and Meg Peppin’s response and there it is.

If it’s not about the meaning in work I am NOT going to bother. 

Work I do as an independent practitioner, work my contacts do in their jobs, work researchers do, and various institutes and bodies it HAS to be about the meaning.

So please
– keep your ego in its box;
– dial up your tolerance on other people’s posts;
– create more courage and less fear;
– encourage others to find their meaning at work;
– allow sociability and fun – we are – social beings on social platforms and we need energy

This is not a hashtag, a Blog thread, a Pinterest board.

This about the meaning in work.  Please let’s focus the debate,  our best moments, our keenest thoughts and our sharpest ideas for meaning at work.

And have a laugh with each other along the way.


Stopped singing the song from the Wizard of Oz yet?  Blame my guest blogger Tamasin Sutton.  It’s seriously a pleasure to turn over my blog site to someone else so please join me in welcoming Tamasin’s first ever blog.

I really enjoy seeing people’s social media connections pay off and so meeting Tamasin at CIPD Annual Conference in November 2013 and keeping in touch has proven how the real world and digital world of connecting with people is often what gives us courage, belief, insight whatever.  SOMETHING that spurs us on.

Just proves that it is the power in people; the social fabric of online + real world and generally feeling fired up that can lead to great things.    You can connect to Tamasin at LinkedIn and on Twitter @TamasinS.  I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before there’s a Tamasin shaped WordPress/Tumblr site to find.


Follow the Yellow Brick Road…

Human Resources / HR / Personnel / Hire and Fire! After 10 years in the HR field, I still get people asking why I do it, but most importantly, what is it that I do? Both questions have been a little challenging over the last few years. It was a little like I’d fallen out of love with the profession I was so passionate about and worked hard to progress in. That is of course, until I went to the CIPD 2013 conference in Manchester in November 2013.

In the last 10 years I’d been to one HR conference, and that was a housing sector specific one. I enjoyed it, but the sector specific element felt a little restrictive and dare I say it, a little stale. It added a lot of value but I wanted the type of stretch that the CIPD conference offered. November was a revelation in more ways than one. I came away feeling reinvigorated, inspired, and most significantly, fuelled with a reignited passion for the profession that I felt previously so connected to. Sound a little over the top? Well it isn’t. You only need to take a look at the wealth of fantastic HR bloggers out there who raved about the conference, the connections and the inspiration. I came away feeling relieved that the things I believed in, thought important and wanted to do, were all the things the wider profession were talking about. Phew! Maybe I knew something after all!

One of the best things I did was attend a round table discussion on the morning of day 2 – #hrunscrambled. This was all down to a tweet – me tweeting I’d booked my conference tickets and @OD_optimist tweeting back! I’d dabbled in twitter and started following some HR folk, but this opened my eyes to the wealth of opportunities out there, just by engaging with the community! It was an hour and a half fuelled by coffee and bacon/veggie butties and some short interactive round table discussions, with like-minded people engaging on the topics they were really interested in and felt were important for the future of HR. I walked out of there completely inspired by the forward thinking and passion in the room. More importantly the CIPD were part of this – it actually makes a difference, and I was part of that.

So what’s happened since? My social media interactions have definitely increased! I was actively tweeting during sessions, and getting a little excited when my tweets scrolled on the boards before the conference sessions. I’m reading blogs and articles and connecting with interesting people who I’d seen on twitter, but are now becoming friends. Lucky breaks in my book! A world that I thought was a little beyond reach is opening itself up and I’m taking it with both hands and shouting out ‘I’m coming to get you!’

So back to those original questions…. Why do I do it? Because I believe in what HR does and the value that it can provide in an organisation. As long as it’s done right! Building the capability, making the connections at the core business level and spotting those trends through data and bottom line finances, and most importantly, being innovative in the ways we can help a business to change things for the better!

What do I do? Well that’s still a tough one for me, and probably part of a journey I’m fully aware that I’m on. I try and build capability in my team and inspire them to think ‘what else, what’s the value and how can I make things better?’ I try and help people in the business to understand how great people can be if they’re given an opportunity, time to grow and have the right attitude. But for now I think I’m on a road to understanding what I want to do. The right environment and type of work is the key to making me a better HR professional.

Yellow brick road it is then!


A little about Tamasin from her LinkedIn profile – MA in HRM from Bournemouth University, a Chartered Member of CIPD; HR Manager in Housing with experience as a Generalist, Advisor, Project Manager and Service Centre Manager.  Projects and Retail experience, traveller of the world and clearly now a re-enthusiast about HR and its role in changing work for the better.

Tamasin Sutton

When asked to contribute something for a draft article for People Management on Networking for HR professionals (via the ultra cool and nice Grace Lewis), I went to town a bit.  

I am a bit renowned for networking and certainly not one to hide my light under a bushel (a bushel is incidentally a UK measure of 8 gallons used for food and drink) I thought I’d draft out something.  Well that something became a rather long thing.  Grace used a few quotes but here’s my entire piece which I hope helps those out there wanting to improve their networking.  Grace’s punchy article is here

People Management Magazine feature:  the Perry guide to networking for HR Professionals

Networking. It appears to have always been the case of “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. From pre-industrial nobles and royals networking across borders and clans to keep their interests, trade routes and marriage lines healthy; to post-industrial building up of contacts and clients to help with sales, commissions and more. Networking has never been more important or as easy as it is now surely? The world is a smaller place thanks to digital technology connecting us.

In many respects yes, and in other respects no. Being more connected doesn’t always mean better connected.

Surely Marketers are best and Financiers worst? No, not that stereotypical either yet it is true that some industries and specialisms thrive on networking – the acting and fashion/design worlds – I’d wager a huge bet success here are largely about who you know.

And what about specifically for HR professionals? Isn’t networking hard-wired into HR with it being the “people profession”? Not as much as you’d might think.

Isn’t it an extroverts kingdom where introverts just don’t get a look in? Not necessarily as cliched as that either. Networking can be done clumsily, over-eagerly and just downright noisily and that isn’t effective. Considered, genuine, gentle networking is probably the best way.

This piece looks at WHY you should be good (or better) at networking as an HR professional; WHERE you can put your networking skills to good use and HOW you can make the most of networking.


So why should HR professionals be good/better at networking? Sure it IS the people profession so relationships are a key part of the success factors for HR practitioners inside and outside of organisations.

Why part 1 – think recruitment.

If you’re looking to hire THAT specialist for a role, you often think back to the last time you worked with someone who did that role. Or you tap up someone who you know is supremely networked to share their views on who the industry experts are to look out for. Whilst it’s not about some kind of nepotism or blinkered thinking, having people in your network to either find you the right person or be the right person can take a whole lot of effort and risk out of the situation of a critical hire. Of course there are downsides in that you might not spot that raw talent you don’t know about but if people are good, someone, somewhere will know about them and the more networked you are the more you’re likely to be just a couple of degrees away from that next superstar.

Why part 2 – think innovation & ideas.

The more connected you are, the more people in your network you have, the more you can rely on someone within that band being a breakthrough thinker; a true ideas generator and likely to stimulate you into new ways of thinking about problems to solve and products/services to create. The more diverse your network (in terms of demographics and experiences) the more likely you are to be connected to an innovation architect/creator.

Why part 3 – think help, support and assistance.

Not necessarily innovation or breakthrough thinking but capacity/capability to plug and people you know can help you do that. You’re good – sure. But you’re better with other people around and behind you. The bigger your network, the more tightly constructed the network the chances are you’re going to fall over the help you need and not have a tiring and fruitless pursuit for help and support. Technical, psychological, physical, spiritual – whatever format it takes. Your network can be your biggest source of generosity and willingness. You do have to put in to get out, but if you do “put in” and help/support others, the benefits are huge.

Why part 4 – think learning and professional development.

More and more of the learning you do is not from formal avenues like courses, academic qualification programmes or even in-house learning, it’s from your network. They know TONS of information; have a massive array of skills and a wide range of approaches and experiences. They can and should become your Personal Learning Network and none of it is manipulative, disingenuous or undeserved. If you get a lot of learning from your network, it’s probably because you deserve it, have generated lots for others and so it’s a payback thing.

So that’s why – WHERE do I start/continue/enhance my network?

In HR there are probably as many if not more than other professional bodies – many HR events are learning-specific events for HR professionals and others. Networking from courses, workshops, briefings and events is possibly the most natural source of networking there is. On top of this, conferences and roundtables are almost built AROUND networking. People go to these events expecting networking and so it’s hardly like you’d have to force yourself on people.

Of course being a CIPD member helps as the local branch structure is – again – built around networking as a key component of all the 4 “why” elements mentioned above. Local branch meetings, events, joint branch meetings/events and online groups provide instant access to local practitioners who may just be the key person in your network to help you and you help them.

Online is the other where – and no more than on social networking platforms – of course! Not everyone’s cup of tea BUT a great place to expand and enhance the network through LinkedIn and LinkedIn groups; Twitter followers and twitter hashtag chats; reading, sharing and commenting on blogs and wiki threads are the modern digital equivalent of “working a room” or “being on the circuit”. It’s clearly not the ONLY place to network but it’s certainly enhanced the “real” world especially for HR professionals with specialist sub-groups and the overarching ConnectingHR network having hundreds of HR professionals connected from across the world together with the CIPD’s 24,000 LinkedIn and 40,000+ twitter followers means this is a very connected place to be.


OK, we get why, and we get where but HOW do you network well?

Probably the most asked question. Some people just don’t feel like they’ve got the right approach, banter or levels of interest to become a better networker.

How is of course linked to how you operate as a human being as well as a professional working in HR. My own tips come from years of going to events, having to work in national and cross-border roles and working in sectors where the more people you knew from across different agencies and organisations, the better equipped you were to get good consultative inputs to new proposals for business models to legislative changes.

Tip 1 – be yourself; natural and comfortable. No need to have rehearsed lines to butt into a conversation or make your mark, just be yourself – introvert or extrovert matters not. The least natural you are, the more likely people are likely to be lukewarm towards you. Think David Brent – then be nothing like him.

Tip 2 – be curious and interested in what others are about/saying and they’ll be the same with you. You may not think you’re interesting but let others be the judge of that. Start from the point that what you do, who you do it for and where you do it from are facts and start the curiosity trail off – if someone says they are an “information architect” be honest and say “sounds interesting but I really don’t know much about that role, please tell me more…” Repeating back a few key words shows you’ve listened and helps the person feel you’ve understood and appreciated what they do. They are FAR more likely to do the same back to you – and who knows, you may just find yourselves experiencing similar issues (tight budgets and low skill levels in your teams) which you share – then bingo you never know how you might be able to help each other out!

Tip 3 – If you need to, be tactical in your networking . You may love to find someone who knows payroll modelling between US and European roles, then scan the guest list at a Comp & Ben conference and see people who work for US/EU corporations or who have the role HR Payroll Analyst in their role title and seek them out. Nothing wrong with focused networking – it’s not insincere or inhuman, just focused and very purposeful. Being honest about it shouldn’t do you any harm and remember the tip 1 to be yourself and honest/sincere.

Tip 4 – Even if you dread approaching people, anchor your thoughts on positive networking experiences you’ve had either as the recipient of a networking conversation or the instigator of one. Enjoying networking and having fun meeting and talking to new and interesting people tends to take the edge of things and creates a naturally comfortable atmosphere. Serendipitous networking often generates way more than you’d expect. Queuing for coffee, reading the pre-conference handout around a tall coffee table, popping the coat in the cloakroom, needing the wifi password – all opportunities to strike up the conversation and move from smalltalk to professional interchange.

Most of all I think HR Professionals NEED EACH OTHER. Yes, we may network within our own organisations yet we all know, there’s a lot of HR practitioners who feel their organisation tolerates them, doesn’t appreciate the function and views it as a policing and compliance only part of the business. So we need to take comfort from other professionals who have experienced this but come out “the other side”; to share spoils and successes so we may model and repeat great practice methods; stretch our thinking (don’t benchmark – stretchmark) to create a truly great company to work for and also feel the solid support of others in our profession who are in it for all the right reasons.

Building alliances, creating innovation hubs and generating collective wisdom ONLY comes from networking. Your best hire, your next role, your next success probably will come from networking more than you give it credit for.

So it’s not what you know, it’s that PLUS who you know and what and who THEY know that really makes the difference.

The clue is in the name netWORKING so if you’re in HR, my advice is get working on networking!