Some ideas from the Change Blog

Recently, HR Daily featured an article on workplace harassment where claimant Christina Rich received an undisclosed multi-million dollar settlement from Pricewaterhouse Coopers. This was as a result of sexual harassment and victimisation in PwC’s ‘boys club’ environment.

I myself have heard my fair share of poor behaviour in the workplace, from my own experiences to those of friends, colleagues and family members. When I was younger and working at a supermarket I had a manager who used to throw things, yell and swear at staff. When we approached the Store Manager she said that we should be understanding because that’s the way his manager treated him and he didn’t know any better.

Whilst working at another retail store, some team members were involved in an altercation with my brother that resulted in him being hospitalised, a fractured eye socket and having a metal plate put in his face. When I requested not to work with the alleged person as the case was going to court, I was told to get over it by the Store Manager and staff in Head Office. More recently, a friend was told by her employer that they could not afford to pay her anymore due to the GFC. She is currently being underpaid quite a few dollars per hour according to the award wage.

Change

Perhaps these experiences are what led me to work in HR. To look after people, but also to make things more effective.

If we think about cultural change in an organisation, it relates back to what I was talking about yesterday- it starts with changing the way an individual thinks. Now we’ve established that this is a difficult task and one which comes down to the old story about leading a horse to water. Sometimes you get to the point where you’d rather drown the horse than trying to get it to drink water!

Then this morning I came across the Change Blog and felt a little inspired reading a few of the articles. I’m hoping it might give me a few ideas and encourage others along to make personal change.

Here is an excerpt from the blog if you are interested:
Can we change? Yes we can.
Hi, my name is Peter and welcome to my corner of cyberspace.
I started blogging in 2007 to share my personal story of change. To cut a long story short, I know what it is like to be depressed and drifting through life without purpose. My wake up call came in 2006 when I received the unexpected news I was to be a father. This news was the catalyst for me getting my life in order, and these days I am happy to report that life is great.

He doesn’t profess to know all the answers, but it is refreshing to hear someone speak of their personal experiences and he has some pretty good guest posts as well. He talks about why self-awareness is so important to personal growth, health and fitness, career and life- so it’s a holistic approach. If you have some spare time, check it out or subscribe to the RSS feed.

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Filed under Change Management, Diversity/Bullying and Harassment

Helping people change by changing the way they think

Although the blog has been quiet for a few days, I can assure you that there has been a lot of movement for me behind the scenes in my personal life and in the world of work.

I’ve spoken about change quite a bit before, but I’ve somewhat hit a wall in being able to influence personal change on others. Even when I write that down, I know it doesn’t make sense.

You can’t make someone else change, but what if you just want to help them out of a dark place they are in that doesn’t make any sense.

Do you persist or let them go?

homer-brain

We see this in our workplaces all the time. These are people who believe:

* It’s okay to behave badly because that’s the way their boss treated them
* That the environment/company makes them so stressed that their reaction (no matter how poor) is natural, and therefore ok
* That if someone else provokes them or attacks them first- this gives them the right to attack back. It’s all justified if someone else starts it.

We also see it in our personal lives.

With depression and other mental illnesses becoming more publicized, we all know someone who isn’t seeing things as they really are, or are seeing things in a much more negative light.

In thinking about all of this, I often try to remember some basic cognitive behavioural therapy in that there is the event, our thoughts and then our reaction.

There are some things we can control, and other things we can’t. We can’t control the event or the situation but we can control the way we think about it and that impacts on our behaviour and how we choose to respond or react.

What I’m really struggling with is how to convince people of this idea. Have you ever needed to convince people that they can change their behaviour by changing the way they think?

If you have I would love to hear your story- feel free to change individual or organizational names. I think these sorts of stories will be inspiring to others so please share your success story.

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Filed under Change Management, Performance Management

Smarter Workforce; Government Leadership Forum

This week I was fortunate enough to be asked to attend the Smarter Workforce Government Leadership Forum hosted by IBM in Canberra. I was invited by my Executive Director for HR because he needed to take along a Gen Y’er, and seeing as I was familiar with the technology being discussed it was a good opportunity for me to talk about this stuff and its application specifically to the public sector.

The idea of the forum was to talk about how social networking technologies and Web 2.0 can help the public sector work in more efficient ways.

Public sector and efficiency? I can hear some sniggers already but I’ll persist. Although there are those jokes floating around like:

Q. Why don’t public servants look out the window first thing in the morning?
A. Because they’d have nothing to do in the afternoon

I would like to say that there are loads of public sector employees that are really passionate about what they do and work really hard.

IBM Forum

Time to get off the soap box now and tell you about the forum. Stephen Collins of Acidlabs (@trib) was opening speaker and you can catch his speech here.

One of the best things about this opening speech is the definition of Government 2.0.

Government 2.0 is not specifically about social networking or technology based approaches to anything. It represents a fundamental shift in the implementation of government — toward an open, collaborative, cooperative arrangement where there is (wherever possible) open consultation, open data, shared knowledge, mutual acknowledgment of expertise, mutual respect for shared values and an understanding of how to agree to disagree. Technology and social tools are an important part of this change but are essentially an enabler in this process.

It’s not just talking about using things like twitter or facebook, but it’s about being more collaborative and knocking downs the barriers to creativity and efficiency that often plagues government workplaces.

This kinda set the scene for the day with some attendees at the forum arguing that the government needs to be more transparent with the public (but that first they would need to be transparent internally with employees) and that fear is actually stopping governments from embracing these changes which could improve efficiency.

Others were maintaining that communication needed to be properly checked before it was released and this takes time. Consequences include being answerable to the minister etc. It isn’t a risk many are willing to take.

Essentially, in using some of these technologies we are asking the government agencies to let go of the control of their brand which is not something Comms staff are ready to do at this point. What if someone says something offensive? What if staff say bad things about our agency? Can we trust our staff with this technology?

For starters, if people are saying bad things about your workplace they are already saying it. To their friends, in meetings, in the corridors, via email etc. These new technologies just gives the agency an opportunity to respond to the comments. Acknowledge mistakes where necessary or offer to take the issue offline to be discussed in greater detail if required.

Secondly, there are still laws in place. People can’t just go around and say whatever they want online and not suffer the consequences.

For instance in Western Australia, an academic was charged for defamatory statements which were published in an online science bulletin board (Rindos v Hardwick). Harwick made a statement which imputed that Rindos had engaged in sexual activity with a minor and that his entire career has been built not on field research at all, but on his ability to berate and bully. Whilst gossiping is rife within most workplaces, these statements were published online where approximately 23,000 academics and students have access internationally and subsequently Hardwick was ordered to pay $40,000 in damages to Rindos as he couldn’t justify the comments. People will need to be accountable for the things they say online, and having the right guidelines and policies in place will help you with this.

Finally, I actually reminded the group that people first thought the internet was scary and that we couldn’t trust people with having an email account. Sounds silly now, but at the time people were concerned. These days almost everyone has a work email address and often personal accounts as well.

I wonder if we will look back on web 2.0 technologies and think the same thing?

*More posts and information to come about this forum

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Filed under Events, Social Media/Technology, Uncategorized

Open Feedback Culture is important- what’s yours like?

When we consider athletes, dancers or other sportspeople today we know that they set goals, they train and they work hard to achieve optimum performance. After they perform, they often critique the performance and receive feedback from others. For instance a baseball pitcher might review video footage, they might seek out feedback from their coach or sports specialists. If they didn’t seek feedback, or weren’t provided with this feedback they would not be able to achieve or maintain the desired performance.

ballerina_gallery_1

It’s no secret here that the culture at many organisations is one that shy’s away from having tough or difficult conversations with people. This includes peer-to-peer dialogue, upwards and downwards feedback or communication.

The best feedback for learning occurs in the moment, but I think it would be safe to say that many staff aren’t even receiving accurate feedback during appraisal time. It’s much easier for managers to tick the box and write a general comment about an employee than have an honest conversation about someone’s behaviour and performance. Sometimes it’s the threat of a grievance or investigation that put’s managers off.

We know feedback is crucial to improving performance so this is a culture we need to change.

The reason why people get scared and threatened by feedback is often because they aren’t used to receiving it. Often managers tippy toe around what they really need to say, whilst others blurt out loud and clear what’s on their mind in an inappropriate manner. Neither approaches are effective methods of providing feedback to employees, nor will they evoke a change in the individual’s behaviours. Balance is key.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not suggesting you use the old hamburger approach (or shit sandwich as some people call it!) but it is about delivering a firm message in an appropriate way to other people in the workplace. We talk a lot about communication (yeah yeah we all know the model of giving and receiving a message)- so why don’t we think about this when giving feedback?

Some further thoughts: here’s a three-pronged approach I like (HT Evan Carmichael)

1. From an individual perspective, it is critical that people don’t take feedback personally. Take it as a means of learning.
2. From the team perspective, managers need to provide coaching in the spirit of improving performance, not naming flaws or faults or trying to change what makes someone who he/she is. Use it as a means of instruction.
3. From an organizational perspective, companies need to recognize and reward people who have the courage to remain open to giving and receiving constructive performance feedback. Exploit it as a way to develop talent and manage performance.

What is the feedback like in your workplace and how can we as HR professionals encourage it?

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Filed under Communication, Performance Management

What are you ALLOWED to view at work? The grey area of social media in the workplace

Last week when I was chairing the Australian Employment and Workplace Relations Summit, the very last panel featured Pete Williams from Deloitte Digital and so the conversation skewed towards social media and what companies allow employees to access.

I mentioned that in my workplace, I have access to everything. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Youtube- the lot- and I know it may sound silly, but I honestly don’t think I could work somewhere that didn’t allow me access to these sites. One of my friends can’t even look at this blog. Why am I so passionate about it? Because it helps me do my job.

Twitter- is awesome. It has allowed me to meet so many fantastic people (in HR and other industries) located in Sydney, greater Australia and across the world. Some of these people I’ve met in person, others just online- and others have become really good friends.

If I have a question about something, it’s a great pool of resources to draw upon. Invaluable to my work and mental sanity as the rest of my team is located in Melbourne. I also get access to so many fantastic articles and blog entries this way.

twitter-lego

Facebook– I don’t use facebook as much for work, but in saying that I don’t spend very long on there each day. I have it as an app on my iPhone so I do the check-ins on facebook when I’m bored.

LinkedIn– another fantastic way to meet people that share the same interests as you, and share articles, information and personal experiences.

Youtube– an excellent resource for training, learning and creating entertaining presentations. We all know its important mix up the media you use (in order to escape death by PowerPoint), and it gets people engaged and sometimes excited about what they are seeing. Video has the power to invoke an emotional response- which is great for HR.

And as Laurel Papworth (Australia’s foremost social media expert) said recently in HR Monthly, “Anyone who would waste a huge amount of time on Facebook at work would only switch to email, internet surfing or playing solitaire online. Timewasters waste time. Don’t blame the tool!”

So what is your stance on this, or what does your organisation allow you to access at work? I know I’m Gen Y, and that is my perspective because it how I work- but I’m keen to hear a range of other perspectives.

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Filed under Social Media/Technology

Thinking about development theories- why do we still make people sit through standard “inductions” or “training programs?”

From an adult educator’s standpoint, one of the first theorist’s who grabbed my attention was Vygotsky, with his ‘Social Development Theory’. Vygotsky believed that development is a lifelong process and that it is dependent on social interaction, as this directly leads to an individual’s cognitive development (Riddle and Dabbagh. 1999 [Online]).

He proposed that learning occurs in the ‘Zone of Proximal Development’ and described it as ‘the distance between the actual development level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers’ (Vygotsky. 1978).

So what does that all mean? In terms of learning and change as development, this means an individual is able to best develop with the guidance, encouragement and/or collaboration of others in a socially interactive setting.

What? So this means a new starter won’t develop by sitting in a room being read information by someone else? Who would have thought!

Vygotsky’s theory says that learning and development needs to be a collaborative experience as opposed to the more traditional learning methods. For example, rather than a facilitator lecturing information to the group, the learner and facilitator should work in partnership in order to create meaning in ways that students can make their own (Hausfather. 1996).

Meaning making is an important part of the learning process

Meaning making is an important part of the learning process

In thinking about this in the context of my own workplace, I recalled a conversation I had with an adult learner in my previous job who said that she found her initial induction training experience to be ‘dry, boring and almost transactional’ as each speaker came in, spoke to the group about a designated topic and then left without inviting any interaction or stimulation of ones thinking about the presentation. It became monotonous and she found it was hard to recall the information presented because it was hard to remain focussed and engaged for long periods of time.

In contrast, she found the customer service training to be highly engaging due to its interactive nature. It involved group brainstorming and presentation of their ideas, role plays and quizzes. Moreover, learners were from a range of backgrounds and experiences so she also learned from listening to their customer service stories and how they dealt with particular situations. She felt that she learned much more and was able to demonstrate more key skills in this form of interactive training than when she was lectured to.

Now this isn’t rocket science, so why are we still using the same old techniques in our in-house programs?

More pertinent to my workplace, is this change in learning delivery a result of generational change i.e. Gen Y expect training to be interactive and engaging where as the boomers are happy with more traditional classroom style ‘listen and learn’ sessions? Keen to hear your thoughts.

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Filed under Learning and Development

Your impact on HR

A few weeks ago I was explaining to a colleague, why I started HR Club Sydney. I was saying that it was basically about sharing information, learning form others and meeting people who have the same passion for HR that you do. I reasoned that while some things within an organisation may need to be kept confidential for a certain period, if we were all sharing all our best HR initiatives with each other there would be a huge flow on affect for the profession.

Think about it.
• We’d be more aware of the latest things, trends and technology
• We would have a better understanding of how something has worked/hasn’t worked in real companies (with an Australian flavour)
• We would start achieving better results for the business, resulting in a greater appreciation of the HR profession; meaning a great position at the table (for those who don’t already have it)

Just imagine… great HR activities happening all over the place… just because we started sharing more with our colleagues.

buddha3

I’m a bit of a believer in the more positive energy that you put out there, the more you’ll receive and in saying that, giving (or dana) is one of the essential preliminary steps of the Buddhist practice. They say that sharing, giving and good deeds will bring happiness in the future, so perhaps remember this next time a peer asks you for help on something.

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