Tag Archives: HR

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 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 www.stoptalkingatme.com.au 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

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

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.


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

Chairing the Australian Employment and Workplace Relations Summit: A huge learning experience

A few weeks ago I was asked by Jo Knox of HR Daily if I would be interested in chairing the summit. My first instinct was, ‘wow that would be a great development opportunity’ and I said ‘sure put my name forward’.

I got an email from the organisers and asked my boss what he thought. Just like he always does, he reminds me of all the things I’ve not thought of.

• Given I have a background in Learning and Development/OD would I have enough knowledge about all of the areas covered in the summit?
• How confident am I speaking in front of a group of my peers (and possibly very experienced peers?)
• Have I ever done anything like this before?
• Have I ever facilitated a panel of experts before?
• Had I gotten from the higher powers at my workplace?


Although I was a bit disappointed by the reaction, he was right. I hadn’t really thought it through. That week I got shingles, I had my first HR Club Sydney event coming up, I was busy as hell at work, and working long hours.

I left it a few days, because work took over, I was sick and I really didn’t want to make a decision. I wanted to take the opportunity, but was it a risk I was willing to take?

A good friend of mine always says to me “the only way to get over scary things is to do them”.

Yep, I'd rather jump out of a plane than speak in public

Yep, I'd rather jump out of a plane than speak in public

In not really thinking about it too much and not wanting to pass up the opportunity, I spoke to my boss about it and in promising to study up on the topics he allowed me to do it.

So the week went on, I buried myself in work and found myself on my way to Melbourne for the summit. I kept thinking positive and reminded myself that I had done the research.

I woke up in the morning had some breakfast, and although I was feeling a bit nervous I was also excited about doing the job. The crowd took a little while to warm up but after the first speakers, and a few lame jokes on my part, I was happy every time I got up there, even when my boss came to watch!

I had a great time, I met some wonderful people from the audience, the speakers were engaging and I learned a lot.

I was however feeling a little ill all day. My stomach was cramping and I felt nauseous. My boss bought me some buscopan and I thought I’d be ok. I keep pushing through but with about ten minutes to go, I just couldn’t keep going and I rushed off to the bathroom just making it to be sick.

Ah well. These things happen and as another friend said ‘everyone gets sick’.

Anyway the moral of the story? Try your gut instinct and go for it. The only way to get over scary things is indeed, just to do them.


Filed under Events, Learning and Development

HR Club Sydney Event- Monday 24th August- More reasons to be there

I’m sure I don’t need to bribe any of you to come along Monday, because we have three amazing speakers who’ll be talking about “Improving Customer Service and Performance with Motivational Development at Qantas”. We have had huge interest in this event with over 50 HR professionals in Sydney indicating that they will be there Monday.

However, the additional purpose of the event is to get HR professionals to mingle, share experiences and make some contacts in Sydney in a casual environment. So keep this in mind and come along with your drinking shoes (for a glass of wine etc) and your conversation hat (cheeky!).


So why should you be there?

* You’ll get to hear a real-life experience from Senior Australian HR professionals on how they tackled a major problem in their organisation
* You will get to meet a number of Sydney based Human Resources professionals (perhaps make great contacts)
* Each attendee will receive a complimentary copy of Michael Specht’s21st Century Recruiting e-book” (worth AUD$15)
* There will be a business card draw at the end of the evening which you can enter to win one of three great prizes.

The other thing I would like to mention is that Forrester’s Hotel has agreed to waive the room booking fee for the night, so in return I hope that we are able to support them buy buying food and/or drinks on the evening.

I can’t wait to meet everyone in person so see you there Monday!

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Filed under Events

Top ten effective habits of a highly successful networker

With our very first HR Club Sydney networking event coming up (get tickets here), I thought it was only fitting that I blog about networking because let’s face it- sometimes it isn’t something we do that well in HR. We think we probably should be good at it, but we aren’t always willing to invest the time in having an actual conversation with people about their experiences because we are ‘too busy’. If I can liken it to the way that I think about my own work, I know that being strategic is where I’m going to get the most bang for my buck from my clients (although the transactional can you help me with my pay seems to be the most pressing issue at the time for the client).

And I think about networking in the same way. I value it as a strategic tool which assists my personal development- and that’s why I invest time in social networking, blogging and attending events.

I’m lucky enough to have a guest post today from Anne Marie Cross who is a Career Coach & Personal Branding Strategist, Consultant, Speaker, and Author of ’10 key steps to Ace that Interview!’ She is also the founder/principal of Advanced Employment Concepts – Career Management and Personal Branding Strategists offering powerful programs for people striving for career success and fulfillment, as well as savvy companies committed to building and retaining their most important asset – their staff.

Alongside Keith Keller, Anne Marie co-hosts Career Communique Radio which is a community page committed to providing inspiring career-related topics to support individuals in accelerating their level of success in the job market and the workplace. Check out the website for podcasts of the radio show, articles, forums and event details.


With a tightening job market numerous job seekers have increased their networking endeavours with the hope of tapping into the hidden job market, where 70-80% of unadvertised opportunities are located.

While networking should be an integral part of your search (and overall career management) efforts there are some secrets which can make a significant difference between not really generating much success and the potential for networking burnout in comparison to building influential and productive relationships that open the doors to potential job opportunities.

To avoid networking burnout, ensure you’re adopting the top ten effective habits of highly successful networkers.

A highly successful networker:

1. Is clear on their job/industry target and can clearly articulate this when seeking support or communicating with members of their network.

2. Has a clear understanding of their personal brand, their unique selling proposition and can professionally communicate their brand both in person and in online networking opportunities.

3. Has up-to-date personal marketing material, (which can include professional resume, bio, leadership addendum, web portfolio, personal blog, and profiles on multiple social networking platforms) that highlights achievements and value offered to a potential employer.

4. Is able to speak confidently (not arrogantly) about their strengths and successes so that potential hirers are able to grasp the WIIFM (what’s in it for me – the company) should they be lucky enough to have you on their team.

5. Has a powerful and memorable ‘marketing pitch’ that can be utilised as an introduction to networking events and that question ‘So what is it that you do?’

6. Has a written strategic networking plan that encompasses regular attendance of both online and offline networking activities that allows them to continually expand and leverage a diverse personal network.

7. Utilises a network management system to effectively track their networking endeavours and important information about each member of their network.

8. Adopts an approach of regularly sharing relevant information with people in their network with a mindset of no expectations in return. They continually nurture their network as part of their long-term career management plan and not just when seeking new job opportunities, so that when they need to seek help from their network, people are far more open to supporting them.

9. Knows how to frame and deliver the right questions to whom they are speaking to enable ongoing expansion of their network or an opportunity to speak to a key decision maker.

10. Surrounds themselves with positive and supportive people who continue to strengthen and enhance the enthusiasm they portray during their job search activities. This is in complete contrast to being surrounded with nay-sayers who can seriously undermine your enthusiasm and ultimately your job search outcomes.

If you’ve ticked all ten areas, then congratulations – you’re a highly successful networker and are communicating your brand professionally and prominently in readiness for when that ideal job opportunity presents itself.

If, on the other hand you haven’t ticked all ten areas, then my suggestion would be to select, work on and integrate one new area each week into your networking plan so that you too can become a ‘star’ networker.

© Annemarie Cross 2009

So how did your networking skills rate against these ten points?

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Filed under Events, Uncategorized