Talking to Ourselves

As should be clear from my previous posts (like this), I’m not only a fan of social media and the benefits it can bring, but believe it has informed and improved my own HR practice. And there’s a great group of HR professionals – specifically but not exclusively on Twitter – who are not only challenging and stimulating thinking but in many cases successfully implementing these new ideas. (They’re a fun bunch of people too!)

But (and you knew there was a ‘but’ coming, didn’t you?) there is an element of preaching to the converted. I don’t need to convince them that there’s a better way to do HR, nor they me. Where we are still not engaging effectively enough is with the CEOs and Finance Directors, let alone the people who fund and invest in companies. There are too few entrepreneurs like Daniel Tenner or voluntary sector leaders like Pamela Ball who “get” the importance of doing good people stuff.

That’s why I was disappointed at the negative reaction on social media to the report published today by the CIPD and various partners on Valuing Your Talent (and I was guilty of some of the initial negativity). Yes, it does include the appalling phrase “Human Capital Metrics” – which I hope disappears without trace in the immediate future – but it was a chance to influence the broader debate and push people issues to the forefront of business.

And its proposals were hardly radical – the key recommendations were that companies should:

  • Quantify their labour and turnover costs
  • Analyse their recruitment costs
  • Analyse their training and development investment
  • Measure Employee Engagement

The first three are what HR departments should be doing anyway and while the fourth is contentious (in that no-one can agree what “employee engagement” is and if/how you can measure it) it’s not illogical. In fact it reflects more on our broader business management in the UK if this isn’t be done currently.

There’s a time for numbers and there’s a time when they aren’t appropriate in HR. Dismissing metrics out of hand isn’t a way forward.

My main point though is that the HR professionals who understand the need to do good stuff need to be out there engaging with the wider business community – on social media and elsewhere. The debates we have about how to make things better should be with the likes of TV’s Dragons, the MDs of bigger companies and other business leaders, not just among ourselves.

Rome, Death or Umbrage

Humorous novelist Barbara Pym, a High Anglican Christian, once remarked that most people left her church for one of three reasons: Rome, death or umbrage. Her comment’s also true for the reasons most people leave a business.

Rome (i.e. the Catholic church) was in many respects the “competition”. If your staff are leaving to go to a competitor, what is it that they offer that you don’t? Is it more money; better working conditions; more career opportunities? Or is it that they operate in a way that is more in tune with the individual’s values? Whatever it is that makes your competitors a more attractive proposition than you is something that you need to understand and address if you can.

Although death is still thankfully a fairly rare occurrence in work, the abolition of the default retirement age means that you don’t necessarily know when an employee might decide to leave. But although you may not know the day or the  hour, you can be certain that they won’t be with you for ever. Are you planning what you will do when loyal staff retire? I recently worked with a company who had recognised that 3 long-serving senior managers were intending to retire in the next 2 years. When they assessed the consequences of this, they realised that it had “knock on” implications for employees all the way down to shop floor level.

And finally umbrage – a falling out with a boss or colleagues. Barbara Pym thought this the most common reason, and it’s one of the HR cliches that “people join organisations but leave managers”.  Like most cliches however it probably contains a element of truth. Work is a relationship and if we don’t get on with the people we work with, then we’ll generally look elsewhere for a pleasanter atmosphere.  If your staff are leaving, it may be for reasons that seem trivial to you but are important to them (for example when a football manager banned chips from the canteen) Minor gripes and moans can – if left unchecked – become toxic and employees will vote with their feet, so creating a positive culture isn’t some “airy fairy” HR idea but sound business sense.

Do you know why staff leave your business? And what are you going to do about it?