What Does Authenticity Really Mean?


I’m captivated by authenticity.

In a world of “fake it til you make it”, “facebook lives versus real lives”, ‘FAKE NEWS!’ and polished performers, I have become to value authenticity now more than ever.

Being authentic is genuine. It’s real. It’s brave. It’s about being the person you really are, being comfortable with this, and not trying to be something that you are not. But it doesn’t have to be about letting the world see every aspect of you all the time. It’s human and authentic to keep things to ourselves and to adjust our behaviour depending on circumstance.

Dylan Thomas had this great line “I hold a beast, an angel, and a mad man in me” something those who have an awareness of the life Dylan Thomas lived would probably believe to be true in his case. How much of the angel did the world see? More to the point, how much of the angel did Dylan Thomas allow the world to see?

So here’s a variation on the theme. What is it about authenticity that we really admire?

Im not captivated by every authentic person or persons, but by people who I believe are portraying themselves fairly accurately (as much as I believe that to be the case of course). I am captivated by those whose character and personality and values and beliefs I can respect and appreciate. I am captivated by those with flaws and with needs, but with good heart and a genuineness. After all, i’m unlikely to be positively captivated by someone who is being an authentically horrible person, so the formula needs to have some ‘if’ considerations.

For me, authenticity is about being honest and human. Authentic leadership is about the same. I have infinitely more respect for a leader who is honest, without agenda, on their flaws and strengths, and on their opinion of mine, and are human in their approach; by being empathetic, caring and professional. 

If that’s not the mark of a true, modern and inspirational leader, then I don’t know what is.

Blog Number 50 – Diolch!


This is blog post number 50 and what better way of celebrating that fact than talking about my blogging and social media experience?

In March 2016, whilst heading home from London on the train, I decided I had things to say and experiences to share about the world of HR. I read an article which focused on being an introvert in the world of HR which resonated with me so I wanted to talk about it too.

Little did I know that what started with a desire to air a view, would become quite life-changing, certainly in relation to my work-life, career, and aspirations.

When I posted my first blog post, I shared it across Social Media, namely Twitter. My Twitter account at the time was pretty empty and basic. I used Twitter mainly in the Summer and in January to keep track of any rumours of football players who might be joining my beloved Swansea City Football Club. To say it was under utilised is an understatement.

Twitter wasn’t a place for “work”. Of course it wasn’t. 

How wrong I was.

A very kind gentleman, Mr Michael Carty (@MJCarty) also from the HR space, had picked up my post and discussed it with me. He shared with me his blog posts and he retweeted mine around. Before I knew it I was connected with maybe a dozen or so HR professionals from around the world. I discovered there was a HR community, on Twitter, all sharing interesting articles and in some cases, blogging themselves. 

I caught the bug and wanted to blog more. The different topics led me to discover other HR pro’s who connected with new articles in ways some of my previous posts might not have done, in essence realising that a different topic, connected me with a different HR pro. My network was growing. I discovered others whose work fascinated me. 

I remember reading the amount of thoughtful detail and clarification that was included in a post made by David Goddin (@ChangeContinuum) that really challenged my thinking. There were so many others too, way too many to mention without forgetting and offending someone. But in short, this was (is) a real genuine community, with a great spirit that i’d stumbled across.

What I realised by this point was that Social Media was playing a huge part in my own development too. 

I realised that despite starting on this ‘journey’ of blogging to share my thoughts outwardly, I realised that I could combine that whilst learning; whilst having great dialogue and being exposed to new ideas. 

This was both a send and return process, a two way street of sharing, educating, learning, challenging. I was developing personally and felt like I was influencing others and hopefully, the profession.

I discovered Evidence-Based Management which really struck a chord, and I started #HRHour to get the HR community discussing HR topics together, having been inspired by #LDInsight from the @LnDConnect group. 

I realised how powerful this process was and how blogging, combined with Social Media had changed my style and outlook as a HR professional. I started thinking about my career and even changed jobs. 

Of course Social Media is for “work”, any place where intelligent, competent and enthusiastic individuals congregate to selflessly share ideas was going to benefit my knowledge and increase my skill base. 

So my 50th blog is a post to say thank you. Thank you for reading my work, for engaging in great dialogue with me, for supporting #HRHour, for helping me outside of Twitter, for giving me this awesome #PLN that has allowed me to be a more effective HR professional.

Lastly, when I first started, the online HR community encouraged and supported me, allowed me to transition from ‘onlooker’ to ‘active participant’ and showed the way for how Social Media and blogging can help others. So in return, it is my aim to always do the same. 

I have been lucky enough to be invited to talk at various events on this subject and of the power of Social Media for personal learning and i’ll continue to do that wherever I can to spread the word. I’ll continue to welcome those new to the concept and bring them along as other good folk did with me, encouraging and connecting people, whilst improving and enhancing my knowledge at the same time. 

And simply by being kind. If you are connected to good people, you’ll see lots of kindness, which is always welcome especially in these troubled times across the world.

After 50 posts – what the hell do I write about next!

Thank you / diolch!

Mark

5 Tips On Dealing With A Disciplinary Issue


Disciplinary issues are part and parcel of the world of work. People do stuff wrong. Managers sometimes think people do things wrong, when they haven’t. People don’t follow procedures, make a gross mistake, take their workplace for granted, or just become embroiled in an issue they didn’t intend to that later has consequences.

This is the real world of work.

I’ve been a generalist HR professional now for around 15 years and have lost track of the number of cases i’ve been involved in, from low-level misconduct matters to complex dismissal issues that have ended up at employment tribunal, i’ve been exposed to the lot. 

So here are my five tips on how to professionally deal with a disciplinary process.

1. Be clear on who is doing what.I always map disciplinary cases out considering the worst case scenario, even for the most insignificant low-level matter that might not even proceed beyond an investigation. By that I mean I plan out who could be the investigator, who could chair the disciplinary, who could hear the appeal and so forth and then I validate that with whomever necessary in line with policy. By coordinating this in advance, you have the ability to avoid scheduling issues and delays, you can avoid the age-old dilemma of ensuring someone suitably senior in the organisation can hear an appeal and so forth. 

The next part of that process involves ensuring that each person knows what their role in the process is (or could be), and how to carry out the duties assigned to that role. For example, ensuring that an investigator is trained on how to carry out an investigation, or ensuring a disciplinary chair knows the plan they should follow for chairing that meeting. Simple stuff, not rocket-science, but where this is neglected, problems arise. It’s an important process, people should really know what they are doing. Many people make mistakes the first time they are involved in a disciplinary case, simply because they did not really know what they were doing, or it was taken for granted that they could carry out the task without guidance – which is not fair on them, and not fair on the employee concerned.

2. Stick to the policy

In my experience employment tribunal chairs are more forgiving of companies that don’t have a disciplinary policy and procedure, than those who have a procedure and choose not to follow it.

A disciplinary policy and procedure can be long-winded and detailed or basic and concise, but either way, I strongly advise that whatever you say you are going to do (by that I mean whatever your policy says you should do) you make sure you do it. Failure to do so, opens a line of questioning at tribunal which can untangle the whole case and is simply unfair on the employee concerned and will paint the organisation in a poor light, unless the process was not followed for a valid reason.

3. Keep adequate documentation

If a disciplinary matter ultimately reaches an employment tribunal, more often than not, better quality documentation should allow for a more informed tribunal decision. When policies are missing, or notes have gone astray, or witness statements are illegible or disciplinary outcome letters don’t correspond with the allegations outlined on disciplinary invite letters etc, this will depict two impressions of your organisation – firstly, shoddy paperwork will likely mean a shoddy process, and secondly, is a shoddy process indicative of a poor employer. I’m not saying that these are fair assumptions to make, but they are assumptions that could be made and are always avoidable.

During disciplinary matters I advise participants to live by the golden rule, that every document could one day be scrutinised by a legal professional, so take care, keep documentation accurate and relevant, and ensure the standard of the documentation gives a good indication of the professionalism of the company.

4. Keep the process professional, reasonable and fair

A disciplinary process is a professional, business process. Granted, it needs more emotional intelligence than most but if the process is dealt with professionally then it has less opportunity to stray into personal biases. Be reasonable in applying the policy, in dealing with timeframes and managing ‘face’ at work and be fair in how the employee subjected to the process is feeling. This is not personal, regardless of the allegations against them, which might ultimately end up to be incorrect and unfounded, the employee absolutely deserves and has a right to fairness. Think about how you would like to be treated if you were in this position. 

5. Maintain the barrier

HR folk have come under fire in recent times for becoming too involved in disciplinary cases. A recent example is in this case here where the HR professional gave advice that appeared to signigicantly influence the decision maker and that was perceived as therefore altering the decision of the case. 

HR should professionally offer advice and support, offer a ‘guardianship’ over how the policy is being applied and what employment legal issues may need to be considered, but unless specifically assigned in a managerial role to partake in the process in any capacity other than to support, then we should ensure that barrier is maintained at all times.

I hope this is helpful to you.

Small Changes, Big Value

There comes a point when enlightenment can become confusion. When seeking out new ideas, thoughts and viewpoints can make one become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information that is now readily available.

I’ve written before about my personal ambition to become more continuously aware of emerging HR and to seek out alternative views and during that process it’s not always been easy.

Sure, there is always new content. The HR community, especially on Twitter write lots of new and interesting blogs and share lots of articles, and whilst it’s not possible (neither do I desire) to read everything, its easy to glance over a few new pieces per day, leaving the more detailed stuff for when time permits.I don’t mean to sound ungrateful for this, as i’m not. Its a priveliged position to be in and I’m glad that I now have these connections and am exposed to this content, but my point is that, personally, it can all become quite confusing too.

For every point of view, there is an alternative. For every person who supports appraisals/competency-based interviews/MBTI there will be someone who will give a counter-view. This is healthy but it can make you wonder what you should and shouldn’t believe, what is both good advice and what is not.

I’ve recently reflected on my own continuous professional development to remind myself of why I changed things up two years ago, on why I started reading more, networking more and why I started engaging with the HR community on the level that I now do, and it made me realise that my aim, simply, was to improve. To know more stuff, to be better at what I do, to aid my career, to be exposed to new ideas to increase my knowledge and to be able to do more valuable work.

What i’ve realised is that much of what i’ve read is about the big changes. It’s about the radical improvements, the revolutionary ‘disruption’ and the impact on future changes. This is all important stuff, but, to be better at what I do, to achieve what I set out to achieve, i’ve also realised that it’s not only important for HR pro’s to focus on the big stuff, but its equally as important to look at doing the day-to-day work better too.

Taking the time to review every word that we draft on a job advert, avoiding cliches and investing in accuracy over spin is a small change that can have a big impact.

Spending time to genuinely think of the problem that i’m trying to resolve, before jumping to a solution, can take a relatively short time and will avoid a false economy. Being more evidence-based can help us make a small change that can have a big impact.

Making slight changes to how we greet candidates for an interview, design the icebreaker of a training course, draft letters, support an employee suffering with ill-health are all examples of how we can make small changes and yet be substantially more effective in our roles.

Sometimes it’s not just about the big stuff, the everyday tasks are just as important too.

#EBHR: Evidence – To Respectfully Challenge

Discussion

My foray into evidence-based management/HR has made me realise that a stumbling block to making decisions based on evidence, is the quality and volume of evidence readily available.

Good work is being done around this and there’s recognition that instead of studies based on academic’s area’s of interest or desire, the focus needs to change to be in line with what the business and the HR community needs, which are not necessarily the same. But important to stress this isn’t an ‘academia-only’ matter.

Despite this, many studies and sources of information are already available and are sufficient for this world to grow organically over time.

But with some areas of HR practice not having scientific research-based evidence available at this stage to underpin decision-making, there will be much dependence on the three other sources (organisational evidence, experiential evidence and stakeholder evidence).

With this in mind, i’ve determined that there are 2 scenarios that I personally could support on my quest to becoming an evidence-based HR practitioner.

The first is where substantial evidence is available. I could use this evidence, appropriately weighted based on its accuracy and validity, to help underpin my decision-making. This is the ideal world for me. An obvious place to start.

The second scenario is where substantial evidence is not available. In this instance I could make measured decisions based on the information that is available, ensuring I learn from the process, help it to refine my own experience-based opinions, ensure I identify appropriate measurements for success and where possible partner with others to help form scientific evidence for the wider HR community in the future.

I’m ok with these two scenarios. I get that sometimes, what we often call a ‘stab in the dark’ is actually based on instinct, which I would guess is probably based on more than that, probably experiential evidence. So being more analytical about this, will help me too.

However there’s a third scenario which concerns me.

This scenario is where evidence exists to refute the validity or effectiveness of a particular process or task, but practitioners continue to use these tools/processes regardless. Where practitioners are provided with evidence which prove their processes are unlikely to work, but use those processes anyway.

I think this is something that needs wider debate. I have already heard cynical comments (such as the ‘evidence-brigade’ when describing proponents of EBP) when masking or downplaying the legitimate concerns being raised when challenging this third type of scenario.

To be better, we must challenge one another’s thinking when this occurs. We must respectfully challenge these views and encourage replacement processes/practices that have foundations based on good evidence, where its available.

  • When mechanics diagnose cars and identify a recurring fault due to a poorly designed part, they would stop using that part.
  • If a chef realises it’s meal doesn’t taste nice because they are using an inappropriate ingredient, they would replace or remove that ingredient.
  • If an architect identifies that the structural integrity of a building is at risk because of a design flaw, they would alter that design.

So why would we accept processes in HR that are no longer fit for purpose, according to available evidence?

We shouldn’t.

Hendy’s HR Mixtape

It’s 2017, you are a HR professional at whatever stage in your HR career. Lots of awesome work is being produced, shared, analysed and developed. Collaboration amongst other things is high up on the agenda, and an overarching theme of discernment through the active promotion of evidence-based practice is helping create sustainable work.

Technology has developed immeasurably and affordable systems means the optimal use of data is in site. However, despite advancements in modern technology you are sat in your 1997 Ford Fiesta, parked up at a beach, looking at the sea, taking some personal CPD time and you open a package from me. 

Inside the package is a cassette. You remember cassettes, small plastic things that you can rewind with a pencil and have a glorious, comforting hissing noise that digital recording has discarded, taking the viewpoint that removing imperfection is progress (that’s not always the case by the way).

Luckily your 1997 Ford Fiesta has a tape deck. You push the eject button and out comes something probably akin to Oasis ‘Be Here Now’, Stereophonics ‘Word Gets Around’ or maybe even ‘Steam’ by East 17. Written on the cassette is ‘Hendy’s HR Mixtape’. Also out of the package is a small note;-


Here are the songs, along with my advice;-

1) The Beatles – We Can Work It Out

Working in HR can be tough. When conflicting agendas result in you having to make a decision that cannot satisfy both employer or employee, it can be difficult. When you are potentially in a difficult employee relations consultation issue with your Trade Union partners, or you are agonising over a really difficult decision, it’s easy to see light fade, and take the pressure on your shoulders. But remember this. ‘We’ can work it out. Your colleagues, your line manager, operational managers, union partners, fundamentally want to reach amicable conclusions. Nothing is ever, really insurmountable. 

2) Oasis – Don’t Look Back In Anger

The key to being a good HR professional is not taking things personally, dusting oneself off, and constantly moving forward. A failed reorganisation, a dodgy disciplinary decision, a grievance raised against you simply for doing your job. Try not to worry about these. Don’t get angry about them. Absolutely learn from them, but focus on turning that energy into self-improvement and move on. You’ll be better for it. Plus anger just sucks energy that would be better used elsewhere.

3) Black Rebel Motorcycle club – Ain’t No Easy Way

Okay so there probably is always an easy way of doing things, but by taking the shiny ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach without spending time looking for the best solutions, you are probably creating rework by implementing unsustainable pieces of work. Don’t always take the easy way. Spend time, effort and energy into implementing good practice into your work, not necessarily ‘best’ practice. Sometimes the real successes come from the work that you’ve slogged your guts out to achieve, which makes that success even sweeter.

4) Simon & Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water

You can build this bridge. You can support managers and employees to help get through some real issues. You are the skilled person that others are counting on to help get through troubled periods. You are valued for doing this. Just think about that skill you have. You make a difference.

5) The Beatles – Money (That’s What I Want)

A real basic rule and will always be a critical piece of advice. Are you ready? I’ll quote it verbatim from how my first HR Manager said it to me. It’s really complicated (not really). Here goes…. “Don’t piss about with people’s money”. It’s their livelihood. Its Maslow. It’s common sense. Always be cautious when making a decision that affects remuneration.

6) The Who – The Seeker

Constantly seek out new practice, new ideas, new concepts but always look for supporting evidence. Keep on top of emerging HR thinking and spend time understanding how it can affect you, your business, your employees, your clients. HR is changing at a rapid pace. Don’t get left behind.

And lastly;-

7) Bloc Party – So Here We Are

Stop and reflect. Look at where you’ve come from, evaluate where you want to get to, don’t take your successes for granted and don’t forget to learn. Always learn. It’s fine to pause life and take stock. So much goes on that we can easily get sucked in and get dragged along. You are no use to anyone if you lose your path. Stand still for a moment.

The tape comes to an end.

What would be on your HR mixtape?

The HR Dilemma


HR has always wrestled with an identity dilemma. 

Time has been spent focusing on who we are, what we do and, rather tediously, where we sit within the overall structure of the business environment.

We are, arguably, the only function, or profession if you’d rather, that continually does this by the way. Sure there will always be some sub-departments in other areas of business arguing about where they feel they should report and how they should be perceived, but on a grand scale, worldwide, I don’t see many other functions debating the subject as much as us. 

And we in-fight too. Should learning and development be part of HR (yawn) and is payroll a finance function (so what) and ‘i’m not HR, i’m OD’ and what about health and safety and….. 

They don’t feel like the right questions to me.

I get the irony, after all i’m blogging about the subject and fuelling the debate now too.

We’ve wrestled with this issue because we’ve evolved and maybe more than many of our counterparts. We have grown and we have matured. We have modified our focus, refined our purpose, relinquished ill-fitting counter-productive tasks that should not have been ‘owned’ by us in the first place and yet are entirely aware that our work is far from done and that further work is necessary. 

However, I fear business is growing tired of this discussion. As the old saying goes “actions speak louder than words”.

We must forget this tired debate and move to demonstrating our strategic contribution by making a strategic contribution where we aren’t already. 

We are, undoubtedly, an intrinsic organisational function and we have a significant value that we can add to business, but we aren’t entitled to expect business leaders to perceive us as this way without demonstrating our worth. 

If we are to be architects of organisational development, the experts of people at work and the champions of better work and working lives, then we need to just do it, and then do it more, and then do it better. 

And share our ideas about how we are doing it.

And support each other to do it.

And promote within our businesses what we are doing.

It is only then that the perception of HR as a function will start to change, or continue to change where the process has already started (which it has done, in many businesses, all over the world).

HR for me, has always been about supporting and contributing, and that means different things to different HR practitioners in different organisations. One size doesn’t fit all, and in the real world, in some businesses and industries, we might never change our perception. 

But it starts with us individually looking in the mirror, evaluating our contribution, and getting good work done. Good, value-add, vital work. 

The recognition should follow.