Alison Denton joins our team!

We are delighted to announce that Alison Denton has joined The Ghost Partnership as a Commercial Partner.

Alison will head up our Coaching practice and be actively involved in our Organisation Development, Leadership and M&A offerings.

Alison says, “I am delighted to be working with the Ghost Partnership at such an exciting time and look forward to developing its already strong coaching offer further."

John Nicholson commented, “Alison brings a wealth of knowledge and experience as well as her positive energy and results focus. We look forward to the continued growth in our Coaching offer with Alison’s expert guidance”

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From Fragile to Agile

I attended a Human Resources conference recently, the main theme of which was Employee Engagement, and was struck by the number of speakers who spoke of a desire to create resilience in their workforce. The second thing that struck me was the use of the word ‘resilience’ in that context. That made me stop and think. And I thought about the impact of a focus on resilience in an employee population, as opposed to the way the emergency or security services use the term.

If some workforces, and therefore organisations are not resilient at the moment, and that is a desired state, then one has to assume that they are currently less than resilient. This means then that they may be a bit fragile or delicate; maybe vulnerable to market changes, competitive activity, and new technology – business as usual. If that is the case they are susceptible to stresses that will impact the organisation negatively and that could mean a big downside.

If they were resilient, they would be robust, strong, and able to resist the shocks and stresses that the world could throw at them. The downside would be much less and they could protect the status quo. But there’s no upside.

In today’s competitive landscape protecting the status quo is not an option. Surely we should be striving for agility rather than resilience. Organisations need to be able to adapt, experiment, be innovative. Of course they will experience unintended outcomes from their ‘experiments’  but if they make them survivable by taking small steps rather than making big bets, and foster a culture where learning is an outcome, things get better. They adapt to market forces and competitive activity. There may be a small downside, but there is a huge upside. (Talent retention, increased innovation, customer focus, sustainable competitive advantage.)

And so I think the focus should be on agility, if that means resilience becomes a stepping stone from fragility that’s fine, but let’s not make it the objective.

Of course if we desire an agile workforce, an employee engagement philosophy is an imperative.

 

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Suarez: Talent vs Values

Luis Suarez the Liverpool striker bit an opponent on the arm in Sunday’s encounter with Chelsea. He apologized immediately afterwards, Liverpool FC has fined him and the FA has banned him for ten games.

On Monday the Club’s Managing Director, Ian Ayre stated that he wanted Suarez to stay at Liverpool because he has a four-year contract and he’s a good striker/goal scorer blah blah…

By Tuesday radio phone-in programmes were busy handling calls from Liverpool fans saying that Suarez should go, he was bringing the good name of Liverpool FC into disrepute.

But this situation isn’t so unusual. A few years ago I was counselled by an HR Director who was wrestling with the problem of a senior executive who produced excellent financial results but who had the highest staff attrition rate in the company. The bottom line was that he simply wasn’t living the espoused company values and people had difficulty working with him.

I suggested, and the HR Director agreed that they should negotiate a compromise agreement to let him go. When that went to the Board, the non-executives voted it down. They wanted the financial performance but couldn’t or didn’t want to see the greater damage done in the invisible cost of attrition and low morale.

Companies often wrestle with this type of issue but it’s not difficult. Values have to have real meaning and influence behavior. That feeds alignment and commitment from their stakeholders and ultimately reputation. The cost of not acting appropriately is too high.

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Human capital number 1 in the top 10

CEO Challenge 2013, a survey of CEOs globally by The Conference Board identifies what Chief executives see as their top challenges this year. At number 1, up from 2 last year is Human Capital (hopefully used in the correct context). At number 2 in from nowhere last year is Operational Excellence. Innovation is at 3 down from 1 last year.

They go on to identify five priorities within Human Capital:

-          growing internal talent

-          providing training and development

-          raising employee engagement

-          improving performance management processes

-          increasing efforts to retain critical talent

We feel that there are two critical imperatives missing from their priorities that could improve all five: Communication and Leadership. The way the organisation communicates on its business, process and policies; coupled with leadership role-modelling the desired   behaviours in line with focused, congruent policies are the biggest determinants of employee engagement. Someone should let them know…

 

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WARNING: Some employee engagement rhetoric may contain horse-sh*t

I guess it was inevitable. As the employee engagement movement gathers momentum and more jump on the band-wagon without fully appreciating the implications, we start to see all kinds of nonsense in the name of engagement. Games, events, fun activities of varying absurdity are all suggested as ways of improving engagement. If people are already engaged, these things might just put the icing on the cake; but if not, they are more likely to feed cynicism rather than alignment and commitment. There will be no increase in performance and engagement will be dismissed as a fad.

There is no silver bullet; there is no box to tick. The fundamentals of the employer: employee relationship have to be properly aligned with business strategy: focused, congruent, and mutually supportive. This is a systemic issue. Here are some tips:*

1. Be clear about what you mean by engagement.

2. Ensure senior executives are fully invested in it.

3. Clarify how you will measure engagement and identify the contributing factors.

4. Ensure that everything you do supports your core purpose and values.

5. Where action is required, acknowledge that a single intervention is unlikely to be successful. It will have to be supported elsewhere in the system.

6. Keep the lines of communication and consultation open.

7. Wherever you sit in the organisation, collaborate with your colleagues. They may have more useful levers to pull than you do (see No. 5).

8. Engagement is not an event; it is an ongoing journey.

9. Look for and measure the impact of engagement in your business results and link them to objectives.

10. Recognise, reward, celebrate and reinforce what you are doing well—and keep doing it.

*From ‘The Engagement Manifesto – a systemic approach to organisational success’

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Engagement in the news

HR Network Magazine this month features an interview with Alan Crozier talking about employee engagement.

In it he describes ‘engagement’ as a philosophy rather than a strategy; and significantly that it is a systemic issue rather than a tactical intervention.

You can access the full article here (from page 15):

http://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/Launch.aspx?EID=1fc55036-9b4e-4963-86f6-a1b47c185b11

Alan has been working with the Government’s Task Force on Employee Engagement as part of their Guru Group and published his book, ‘The Engagement Manifesto’ just over a year ago.

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Why would employees buy in to this Mr Osborne?

Is the Chancellor really that far out of touch?

The Government has opened a consultation on its proposed "employee-owner" status, designed to "give businesses greater choice about the contracts they can offer individuals", while ensuring that "appropriate levels of protection" are maintained. 

Under the proposals, the Employment Rights Act 1996 would be amended to create a third tier of employment status: employee owners, who would receive shares of between £2,000 and £50,000, exempt from capital gains tax, in return for giving up specified employment rights. It is unclear how the share issue is to be funded.

Employee owners would not have the "ordinary" unfair dismissal protection after two years' continuous service. However, they would be protected from being dismissed for nearly all of the automatically unfair reasons, such as making a protected disclosure. Employee owners would also retain protection against discrimination, including in relation to dismissal. 

Employee owners would be unable to make statutory requests to work flexibly or in relation to study or training, and would not be protected against dismissal for making either of these statutory requests, except in relation to a flexible working request on return from parental leave, in accordance with the minimum EU requirement. The relevant EU Directive is silent on how long parents should have after returning from parental leave to make a flexible working request, and the Government proposes to restrict this to four weeks. 

Employee owners would not be eligible for statutory redundancy pay, and would also have to give 16 weeks' notice to return early from maternity or adoption leave, as compared with eight weeks for employees. 

This is all too real…

Imagine a situation where employees take advantage of this scheme next year and receive shares in their company. All goes well for a time but then the company hits a sticky patch caused by increased price competition from Eastern Europe. The company executives have to make the tough decision on redundancies.

How do they select for redundancy? Do they protect ‘employee-owners’ and dismiss ordinary employees?

What happens if they have to let go some ‘employee-owners’ who are no longer entitled to redundancy payments and whose shares are no doubt under water? It is financially disastrous for these people. And can you imagine the wrangling over share value?

It is sometimes hard to continue to motivate employees who participate in existing share schemes when their shares are worth less than they paid for them, but at least they have some employment protection and if the worst happens, a redundancy payment.

And of course there are better, more practical and pragmatic ways to ensure your workforce is properly aligned with business objectives and committed to making things happen.

Somehow I don’t think this is going to fly, George.

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5 ways to improve performance management – Part 5

Over the last week or so, I’ve highlighted some key ways in which companies can improve performance management. I hope they’ve made you pause and think about how effective or otherwise your own arrangements are.

My final tip in my 5 ways to improve performance management is…………..  

Performance manage all year long

Engage with your employees all year round. Managing the performance of your people should be a continuous process not something that takes place annually just to complete an appraisal form.

Discuss with people how their contribution supports company objectives. Take time to give regular feedback and support to help people deliver their contribution. Talk to them about their development and how you can support them, both in the short-term to deliver their objectives and in the longer-term to help their career development.

In the majority of cases, not only will this help improve performance, it will also help improve levels of engagement. And an increase in engagement will lead to a positive impact on business results which, at the end of the day, is what performance management should be all about J

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5 ways to improve performance management – Part 4

Over recent posts I’ve summarised ways to help improve performance management, including aligning your outcomes to business performance, checking your results are consistent and rewarding performance.  Here is number 4 of my 5 ways to improve performance management.

Deal with underperformance

There will be occasions when you need to move an employee on (either internally or externally) in order for them to find a role where they can make a positive contribution. That’s life, just deal with it.

However for the vast majority of those who may be underperforming, the solution is not likely to involve moving them on. There may be a hundred and one reasons why someone is underperforming and some of those reasons may be personal rather than business related. Take the time to find out. Most people want to do a good job so invest the time to find out what’s going on with the aim of creating an improvement plan that will help individuals focus on the right things for success.

Give people a clear understanding of what is required and how it supports company objectives. Provide regular feedback. Encourage the right development and support in order to help people achieve their objectives. Engage with people. Most will respond positively and will help deliver the outcomes you need for a successful business.

I’ll post my final way to improve performance management in the next few days.

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5 ways to improve performance management – Part 3

Last week I provided a couple of ways to improve performance management that are not widely used by companies. My third way to improve performance management is much more common.

Reward performance

This isn’t new. Many organisations (particularly those in the private sector) already use their performance management outcomes to distribute salary and/or bonus awards. However, many companies fail to reward performance effectively.  

As a starting point, make sure no performance related reward is paid to those who underperform! It may be stating the obvious but even small amounts will send some curious messages to your employees about how serious you are when it comes to paying for performance.

If your reward strategy is to pay for performance, then be bold! By allocating a large proportion of available monies to high performers, you’ll send some powerful messages about how you value high performance and you should also be able to offer real differentiation in your reward payments. If you have the right level of consistency in your rating allocation and checking process, what are you worried about?

In my next post, I’ll talk about underperformance and how addressing this effectively can help improve performance management.

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