Twitter in the classroom to assist not distract?

Happy Monday everybody!

I’m actually preparing to fly to Melbourne this afternoon for a group HR planning day tomorrow. I’m pretty excited because I have managed to snag 30 mins on the agenda to talk about opportunities for HR in Social Media.

It is a rapidly growing area- and one that can’t be ignored.

Once I’ve finalised the presentation I’m happy to share it so stay tuned.

In the meantime though, I came across this video this morning and thought it may be worth sharing.

I studied my Masters by distance and whilst I really enjoyed it- I just wonder how much better it could have been had they embraced some social media tools. Have a look and see what you think.


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Filed under Social Media/Technology

Personality: yours for life or can it be changed?

Recently I was involved in a discussion where we were talking about behaviours at work, and the issue of personality arose. Some would argue that you can’t change your personality, and the way you behave (for instance, in the workplace) is down to your personality and also perhaps to do with the chemical make-up of your brain.

Obviously being in HR, I would protest this- arguing that we are all in control of our own behaviours and that this is something that we can change. For example, cognitive behavioural therapy is a form of psychotherapy (treatment for emotional and psychological problems where a person talks with a mental health professional) that helps a person to change unhelpful or unhealthy thinking habits, feelings and behaviours (Source: Better Health Channel).

The core philosophy of CBT is that thoughts, feelings and behaviours combine to influence a person’s quality of life.


It is said that your thoughts influence how you feel and those feelings then impact on how you behave or react. For example, a situation at work (stimulus) occurs where someone criticises something you have done. You could potentially be thinking:

I’m so angry!!!
She’s always picking on me!
She has no idea what she is talking about!
He was really harsh in the way he said that
Perhaps he’s right; maybe I could improve on XX…
I’m glad that I got that feedback

Depending on the way that you think, this can impact on how you feel about the whole situation and this will dictate your response.

Recently however some have argued to me that if your personality is to react in a certain way, then this is beyond your control and just a part of who you are.

So I went looking for some research on this and found a great article: Sherin, J. and Caiger, L. 2004, ‘Rational-Emotive Behaviour Therapy: A Behavioural Change Model for Executive Coaching’, Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, Vol. 56, No. 4, pp. 225-233.

Here is a key excerpt:

REBT resulted from Ellis’s objective to better understand which specific features of personality caused people to maintain dysfunctional behavioural patterns (Ellis, 1994). Drawing on both Stoic and Adlerian philosophy, he argued that personality was best defined by how people interpret and respond to their environment. He contended that an individual’s emotional and behavioural reactions are determined solely by his or her interpretations of events, not by the events themselves (Neenan & Dryden, 2000).

So the research suggests again that change in behaviour is possible and that personality is not a get-out-of-gaol-free pass for people who react to situations in a certain way. Now the task is to convince them that…

Ellis, A. (1994). Reason and emotion in psychotherapy. New York: Birch Lane.
Neenan, M., & Dryden, W. (2000). Essential rational emotive behaviour therapy. London: Whurr.

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Filed under Change Management, Diversity/Bullying and Harassment, Performance Management, Values

HR departments: I’ve never really understood the point of them

Oh my goodness. I’m sitting there yesterday, on the NSW public holiday watching Dr Phil (episode on obsession and yes I’m a huge Dr Phil fan lol!) when I see this article on twitter (care of @aarondodd).

Yep- it’s called ‘Human resources departments: I’ve never understood the point of them’ and it’s written by Sathnam Sanghera from The Times.

First he says that he knows what HR people do and describes HR as people “who ensure that companies adhere to minimum wage requirements, rules relating to diversity, gender, sexual orientation and so on and generally try to prevent businesses being sued to death”.

Er… so making sure people get paid what they are entitled to, and that they get to work in a safe environment which is free from discrimination is pointless? And trying to protect the company from massive financial loss and damage to brand and reputation isn’t worthwhile?

Sathnam- you are right. By your own admissions you haven’t actually dealt with HR so I guess that’s why you have no idea what you are talking about. Whilst the basic provisions you mentioned above, are some of the things that HR does, much of the strategic work HR undertakes is behind closed doors or not privy to all employees. I’m unsure as to why you would make these comments about what HR does, if you don’t actually know.

head in sand

The reason why we need to track business metrics to prove our value in a similar way to finance, sales and marketing is because we have to work with numb skulls like yourself who are too self-righteous to make the connection that people are people at work- and if you don’t manage them in an effective way and ensure maximum employee engagement- then this will most certainly have an impact on your bottom line. There are truckloads of research which connect the strategic initiatives of Human Resources to improvements in overall business effectiveness and profits. Perhaps you should read some?

With regards to the various names for HR that you mentioned- it’s clear you don’t understand what these terms mean or refer to. Many of the terms you mentioned would be specialist teams that fall under the broader divisional name of human resources. For instance you may have a team/section that just looks after organisational development. HR is a multi-faceted field of work that requires both generalists and specialists in particular fields to make a great organisation what it is. Again, this is HR being strategic for the good of the organisation as a whole. Yep- that’s our way of looking at the bigger picture and planning ahead.

It’s funny you mention the amount of flack that HR attracts. I know this to be true from my own personal experience and a good friend said to me the other day; “Jess, what does HR actually do strategically? And I promise I’m not being smart”.

I explained that in my role as an advisor, I work on strategic projects for example that help to ensure that we attract and retain talented women in an industry which is dominated by men, and that we plan for successors in our business critical roles in the instance that someone leaves us or retires. Obviously there is a lot more than this but its one of the first things I think when someone asks me that question.

The conversation we then had continued on as to why HR has a bad name as Sathnam suggests. I think that HR at times has a bad name, because admittedly there are some horror HR stories getting around. At the same time I don’t think our clients know what we are there to do and the expectation levels are wrong.

Recently I was told by a client that I was incompetent because I didn’t know that his manager was away sick. He then proceeded to tell me that as a personnel manager- I looked after everything to do with people. Now this is a perspective held by very few of my clients but at the same time, it made me realise he had no idea what I actually did.

So with the idea of working with things within our control and not stressing about things that aren’t- could HR be promoting what it does in a more effective manner? Or are we trying to promote ourselves or our value too much and that’s why we are being met with negative attitudes?

Keen to hear your thoughts on this.


Filed under General HR

Employee Enragement: Why people HATE working for you

By now some of you may or may not have realised, I’m working on some cultural change in my workplace at the moment- and it isn’t easy. No one expects it to be, but then I guess you never realise how hard it is when you have people in a particular industry that aren’t quite like those in the private sector.

In terms of the LSI, the primary styles of the people that I work with are:


• A strong tendency to deny responsibility for one’s own behaviour
• Feelings of guilt over real or imagined mistakes
• Fear of failure
• A pre-occupation with one’s own concerns
• Lack of self-disclosure that eventually leads to emotional isolation


• Low self-esteem
• Pre-occupation with opinions of others
• A tendency to be too agreeable, “wishy-washy” and compliant
• Difficulties with conflict, negotiation and confrontation


• The ability to ask tough- probing questions
• A tendency to seem aloof and detached from people
• A need to look for flaws in everything
• A tendency to make others feel uncomfortable
• A negative, cynical attitude
• A sarcastic sense of humour

Sounds fun hey…

I was reading “Employee Enragement; Why people hate working for you” by James Adonis and I thought I might share a few key things that I have personally experienced in my working life so far that you may find humourous/appaulling/entertaining (or not!).

Just to give you some background, the book outlines 50 of the top reasons for employee disengagement and while some are quite funny- it is something that our people managers are doing every single day.

#49- Care and compassion: In one of my jobs there was a problem with the air conditioning. You know the story; some people near the glass are sweating while the people in the middle are freezing. Well they did do some testing, and I was sitting in a section of the office that was 14 degrees. I tried to stay warm but I ended up being really ill with a virus after no one would do anything to help me. Despite working really hard for 10 and sometimes 12 hours a day, when I took two days off sick the Senior HR person demanded to know why I wasn’t there and a colleague explained the situation. When I came back she said ‘had a bit of hay fever did we?’. What a cow.

#45- Empowerment: One HR director had to approve everything. And we’re talking down to invitations to induction. If you can’t empower your senior specialist then why are they there?

#41- Office psychopaths: haha so many examples coming to me right now. One I will share that happened to me this week. My workplace has hard floors and long corridors. I am female and I wear heels. This is what was put on my door this week. It is kinda funny, but at the same time- very, very weird. Passive Aggressive much?

quiet shoes

#27- Overworked: Nothing is more important then a person’s health and wellbeing. Sure deadlines will pass, but we are talking about people here. A manager once told me I couldn’t go home after 12 hours and I felt like I might be sick from exhaustion. Please managers- watch your employees and put them first.

#5- Negativity: Everyone must have worked with a Negative Nancy or Debbie Downer at some stage. They are draining, exhausting and may or may not be labelled an ‘oxygen thief’ in the team. I’ve encountered many of these and even been one myself at various times. One teammate I worked with threw a tantrum because we were presenting to the management team and I had printed some slides to explain my section and hadn’t told her. It was a last minute thing on my behalf, but I didn’t think it warranted her screaming, throwing things and swearing at me. Not acceptable. For any reason. Ever.

And the number one reason is lazy and underperforming co-workers according to James Adonis. He says that in a lot of companies many people just get paid for turning up rather than on how they perform, and this is very disengaging for the ones who work really hard. This is particularly true for government organisations whose remuneration scales are generally very transparent.

Out of necessity sometimes, managers end up spending more time on the bad employees when they should be dedicating time with the good performers. So what do you do then?

James suggests that you:

1) Train them
2) Motivate them
3) Nuture them
4) And if that doesn’t work sack them!

What do you think??


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Filed under Change Management, Recommended Readings

Learning from epic fails and making things better next time

Last year at my work we had a handful of students join us for a summer vacation scholarship program here in Sydney and also in Melbourne. Although the students seemed to have a good time, I’ll be the first to admit that there were a number of…. let’s call them key learnings.

To start with, despite advertising 6 projects on various university websites in Sydney and Melbourne we actually only managed to fill 5 of them. 1205 people looked at the positions, but only 40 people applied.

Many of the applications were unsuitable, and one of the candidates was appointed and terminated less than two weeks later for unsatisfactory conduct. The responsibility of the recruitment and supervision of this position was handed from the supervisor to a young person who had only just arrived in Australia a few weeks before.

So what did we learn? In a nutshell:

• Our advertising strategy wasn’t very effective. The project descriptions were full of jargon and possibly intimidated applicants. As a result we didn’t receive a good amount of quality applications
• Supervisors didn’t conduct proper interviews with the students and poor selection choices were made
• We didn’t promote the program while it was happening or engage students that we hope to recruit in the future
• We didn’t have any information on the experience of the students to use as advertising material for the next year i.e. no photos, videos or accounts of what happened or why others should participate
• We didn’t promote the company as a great place to work for young Australian uni students

Sounds pretty hideous and like a bit of an epic fail. So this year, I put together a plan and my management team actually gave me a workable budget to get it going.


So here’s a bit of my plan:

PHASE ONE: Awareness

The purpose of this initial phase is raise general awareness around the Program. We would achieve this by utilising low cost channels such as contacting lecturers and university staff (we would create a flyer for them to circulate), and updating the web site to announce the upcoming program.

In addition we can set-up a Facebook fan page to enable students to post enquiries and ask questions in real time to gain insights into what they can expect during the Student Scholarship Program.

Getting last year’s participants to upload photos and their experiences from the previous year and join the group would be a great way to ensure engaging content is available to entice students into applying.

Setting up an email account and ask people to register their interest would allow us to create a database of people interested in the program who we could email with information as it becomes available.

PHASE TWO: Advertising

Phase two will focus on driving registrations for the Program. There will of course be advertising posted on the Careers site, but in addition we will utilise University Career hubs and specialised graduate recruitment sites such as GradConnection to advertise our projects.

PHASE THREE: Sharing the experience

Phase three will focus on promoting the student experience while also allowing us to engage other students interested in working in the industry. This additionally creates a supply of content that can readily be utilised in next year’s efforts to promote the Program.

Students taking part in the program will be invited to contribute to a blog about their experiences and upload video/photos through this system. These can then be viewed and commented upon (comments will be moderated) by families, friends and other students.

The introduction of a blog allows the opportunity to create additional content such as Podcasts from scientists explaining what it is like to work here and why they are passionate about their jobs. All content can be promoted through the communication channels established in phase one.

PHASE FOUR: Promoting Big Day In (presentations of projects by students).

Phase four will focus on promoting awareness of the Big Day In. A Media release will announce the event publically while the Blog can push information to the existing user base. It would be great to have a live online stream from the day’s event allowing outsiders which may not be able to make it to take advantage of the presentations. In addition users could vote for their favourite presentations online. All presentations can be filmed and posted to the blog after the event (or kept as content to advertise next year’s event). Not sure how much of this is possible, but you have to dream big sometimes 🙂

Whilst this approach hasn’t been completely smooth sailing because I’m not as tech savvy as I’d like to be and there are some restrictions and processes that need to be followed when working in government, I am very excited about what’s to come.

After just one week we have already had 502 views and 17 great applications. I hope they keep coming in because it’s a fantastic opportunity to gain real work experience. I’ll keep you posted with how we go. Fingers crossed!


Filed under Recruitment, Social Media/Technology

Lessons from Mike Shove- CEO CSC Australia

On Wednesday of this week, I was fortunate enough to go along to the 11th Australian Conference on Culture and Leadership presented by Human Synergistics, in Sydney. Having recently used the LSI at my workplace, I was keen for a refresher and also hoped to get some inspiration on how to change behaviour in my workplace when it seems like an impossible task.

Once again, the best way for me to learn is from experience, and that was why it was fantastic listening to Mike Shove (former Managing Director and CEO of CSC Australia).

Mike was a highly engaging speaker and began by explaining his somewhat typical CEO response to a bad start in his role as MD and CEO at CSC. He said that things weren’t going well with his leadership group and business results were poor. He said he responded with some executive coaching and a ‘retreat’ where they you know “hugged some trees”, did some orienteering and had fun.

Not surprisingly, this didn’t work and things continued to worsen. CSC obviously had standards around behaviour, but they were essentially a number based organisation that also needed to achieve its targets.

Mike credits his HR Manager at the time for suggesting that he try the Human Synergistics circumplex; and more specifically the Leadership Impact tool. Mike was happy to give it a go because he thought he was relatively well liked and that he was an effective leader.

Now I’ve seen some bad results but this-hands down- is the worst I have ever seen and by Mike’s own admissions, he holds the world record for worst circumplex. This just makes his success even more incredible.

Mike LI

Where do you even go from there?

Well one of the most important learnings from this process is that it doesn’t happen overnight. Like any personal change, it does take time and like Miley says, it’s all about the climb.

Mike stuck at it, engaged his leadership team and then looked to the organisational culture. It was a long journey but one that derived huge amounts of learning. The results are nothing short of amazing in terms of the impact that it had on the leadership team, organisational culture and also the bottom line.

If this is something that interests you, I would recommend you check out Mike’s presentation on the Human Synergistics site. I know I’ll be sending it around to my staff that have recently completed the process.

One more thing that was truly impressive was a story Mike shared with us about a senior member of staff. Now this guy was a sales type who was achieving amazing results. However, as Mike described there was a trail of blood left by these results, and this was fitting as the circumplex indicated loads of red in terms of competitive, power and oppositional traits. Now many leaders would argue that these traits are what it takes to be that successful sales guy or that as long as he was achieving the targets- it was worth it.

In being committed to what they set out to achieve in terms of culture, Mike spoke with this sales guy and they ended up parting ways. This move is of huge significance to the organisation in terms of behavioural expectations. It sends the message- “it doesn’t matter how good you are at your job, you still need to contribute to a positive organisational culture”. This is an action I’m not sure many CEO’s would be willing to take, but sales results kept increasing and CSC never skipped a beat.

What a great example and so many learnings. I hope I’m able to facilitate this kind of change in my workplace because I know the results would be amazing.

Do you have any other stories like this you’d be willing to share?

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Filed under Change Management, Employee Engagement, Events

Employee engagement- can you do it on your own or should you get help?

Happy Monday everybody! I can hear the groans already. Mondays are a bit of a pain but then again, you have to start somewhere.

Aside from being a morning person, I opened my mail this morning to find this little gem inside!


A few months ago at the Twitter Beach Meet, I met Elinor Green and Lucie Snape from ‘the face’. We chatted about twitter, its uses in organisations and spoke about why we were there. I was so interested in what they did, we swapped cards. Again, disclosure- I haven’t been paid for these comments and I’ve only spoken with Lucie and Elinor on twitter since we met. I just wanted to share a great idea with the rest of you.

So I open up the card and inside it reads:

Dear Boss,

This is your star employee speaking. I don’t mind working for you, but I don’t love it either, When you talk about the future, all I hear are just words. And my colleagues feel the same. Wouldn’t you want us totally engaged and working at peak efficiency?

Of course you would. So, here’s a tip. If you want to get inside our hearts and minds, check out They really know their chit (and chat).

Now obviously it’s a clever ploy to get you to check out their website listing their services (which might I add is very cool), but it stopped me dead this morning and again I wondered what I could do in my workplace to improve both internal communication and employee engagement.

We know given the current environment that people are less likely to leave their current jobs, and given everything that is happening- they aren’t happy either.

Corporate Leadership Council Research (2008) tells us that disengaged employees are staying and they were 24% less likely to quit their jobs in 2008 than in 2006.

So given that we know that many employees are not engaged (some disengaged)- is it possible to turn this around internally or is it always necessary to engage an external provider to get things started?

Lots of companies use various tools like the Hewitt Engagement Survey, an organisational LSI or a company like ‘the face’ to turn things around. So if you’ve identified a problem in your organisation is it possible to go it alone or must we engage an expert? What are your experiences?

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Filed under Communication, Employee Engagement