No Hamilton, Misogyny is not a demonstration of your sense of humour

In 1975, the Sex Discrimination Act was introduced which made it unlawful to discriminate against men or women in the workplace on the grounds of their gender or marital status, and in one of the greatest examples of progressive employment legislation, the Equality Act which incorporated the Sex Discrimination Act was introduced in 2010.

Impressive strides have been made to ensure the workplace is a fair environment, where employees are protected from discrimination as best as possible. However, it’s also well accepted that the work is far from done. There is a woeful volume of female representation on boards for example, but this has been recognised at least, and bodies such as the CIPD and Women On Boards UK are doing fantastic work to put this right.

And so to my gripe.

Newly appointed UKIP group leader in Wales, Neil Hamilton used, what Presiding Officer Elin Jones has described as, “unacceptable sexist language and innuendo” in an Assembly plenary session which she stated “insulted the integrity” of Assembly Members.

The remarks that Hamilton made that caused him to be reprimanded included him describing Leanne Wood who is the leader of Plaid Cymru and Kirsty Williams who is the Liberal Democrat Cabinet Secretary for Education as “Political Concubines” in the First Ministers ‘Harem’.

Let’s just remind ourselves that its 2016, and that he is an elected representative of the Welsh Government.

It gets worse.

Following what appears to be a puny telling off from the brand new Presiding Officer, Hamilton attempted to play down his actions by claiming that he was attempting to be funny in order to make a significant point.

If it wasn’t bad enough that Hamilton finds misogynistic comments acceptable, or that the Presiding Officer’s reprimand was so disproportionate to what was said that it is almost offensive in its own right, Hamilton now believes it is acceptable to speak in such a way on the basis that it can be justified by covering it up as ‘humour’.

This is my first blog post regarding such a matter, and certainly one that has made any connection with the political arena that Wales operates but as someone who is passionate about equality in the workplace, remembering that the plenary session is an environment in which Leanne Wood and Kirsty Williams are ‘at work’, I feel duty bound to remark on how unacceptable I feel Hamilton’s comments are.

Our elected politicians in the Welsh Government are and should be held to a higher standard. The credibility of all politicians has been severely eroded in recent times following the expenses scandal, and the current tactics being used by both ‘in’ and ‘out’ parts of the Brexit referendum debate are doing very little to help matters, and so when a ‘high profile’ politician makes a remark such as this, it sends a dangerous message to others that it’s acceptable. That as long as we use humour when being sexist, then its acceptable and a lesser issue. Well it isn’t acceptable. It is completely unacceptable.

From a HR point of view, Kirsty Williams and Leanne Wood were subjected to this, at their place of work. No excuse. It’s utterly deplorable.

Could Evidence-Based Management Be The Answer to HR Credibility?

evidence

In the last 6 months my use of social media and blogging, including the launch of this website has seen an awakening in me that shows no signs of letting up. I’ve embraced technology and the ability to access instant information about leadership, management and general HR and I feel all the better for it.

I’ve read many articles, blogs, websites, reports and I’ve made many new acquaintances whose work I look forward to receiving, reading and engaging with. One of those new acquaintances who I was delighted to stumble upon is Professor Rob Briner from the Centre for Evidence-Based Management, who I referred to in an earlier blog (Whose Loyalty Is It Anyway, April 25th 2016).

You can read more about what Evidence-Based Management is by reading the Centre for Evidence-Based Management’s website which is www.cebma.org but in summary, it is what it says on the tin. It is about “making decisions through the conscientious, explicit and judicious use of the best available evidence from multiple sources” to extract part of a quote from that very website.

My little dabble in this area to understand what evidence-based management is has got me thinking – could this be the answer to the credibility question in HR?

So firstly, I’d better define what I mean about the credibility question. Many HR thinkers and commentators have talked about the Holy Grail for HR being ‘a seat at the top table’ and believe me there are enough articles on that subject to last me a lifetime but some people suggest that the reason HR professionals are not represented at board level in some organisations is due to credibility and value to board-level decision making. I’m remaining non-committal on this. This could be one of the reasons, I’m sure it is to some organisations, and I’m sure it’s not to others. There are also other factors which affect the make-up of boards, with some favouring a much smaller group and so this is in relation to just one element of this broader subject.

However, IF our profession’s credibility is questioned in some organisations and that is why we are not represented at board-level in those organisations, the question has to be; why?

It is my opinion that some of the factors that call our credibility into question relate to the occasional inability of some HR professionals to demonstrate factually how our work and strategic aims are as vital to the business as, for example, the Finance departments who work mainly in factual terms.

To put this in context, other departments generally have methods of working that are structured and based on accepted practices. Us in HR, we do too to a certain extent for example where we draft and implement policies and procedures that are aligned to employment law. However we are also guilty of implementing what are perceived as ‘initiatives’ or practices that are less black and white, and more grey, and let’s be honest some don’t stick around for too long as we move on to the next idea. Not good. As I was regularly told before I dropped a couple of stone of weight this year “it’s not a diet, it’s about a lifestyle change, there’s no quick fix”, so the same could be said for some of the sequence of initiatives we have perhaps been guilty of presiding over in the past.

Hands up if you’ve implemented an annual performance appraisal process or your recruitment campaigns still include asking for employment references?

Hands up if you’ve implemented an annual performance appraisal process or your recruitment campaigns still include asking for employment references? My hands are both in the air (yet still managing to type with my fingers so you can gauge my poetic licence). However, are we not all being informed that annual performance appraisals are an outdated practice and don’t add value to our organisations and that references these days are usually one-line letters confirming start and end-dates, and so are fairly pointless exercises? So why do we do it?

If we could quantify the work we do and support it with a reasonable depth of evidence, would that not enhance our credibility and help achieve the holy grail? There is evidence out there which both supports and refutes some of the HR headlines we see every day, for example evidence both supporting and refuting the true success of employee engagement programmes and effectiveness of interview techniques and I get that we largely operate in many different shades of grey, but evidence-based management supporting our tasks, projects and decision-making can only enhance our profession.

Some of the strategic plans we put in place focus on primarily treating people fairly and that is, after all, what we love about this profession as well as enrichment, development and enhancing people’s lives. These strategic plans come from a good place that we believe will add significant value and contribute successfully to our businesses achieving their aims, but we need that belief to be based on something more than what is often ambiguously defined as best-practice. Evidence-based management, from what I understand of it, is not saying everything we know is wrong. It is saying there is metadata to suggest some of the things we believe to be true are not quite true but the whole ethos is ensuring that our management activities are underpinned by sufficient information backing it up. To me, this is not about finding nothing but positive evidence reinforcing what we already know, as there will always be evidence of the alternative, but it is about making decisions based on a strong depth of data and purposely not doing what we “think” is right or effective although the evidence contradicts that it is in fact “wrong” or ineffective in simple terms.

If we embrace this, which is after all, a fairly basic principle that is the accepted norm in many other professions around the world, then this absolutely could enhance our reputation and help the profession transcend where it needs to be transcended

HR Time Machine – 5 Things I’d Tell My Younger Me

timemachine

Its 2016, my 2 year old has just gone to bed and i’m thinking about how to take forward the HR community group I put together last year called the South Wales HR Forum. You can view that website by going to http://www.southwaleshrforum.co.uk.

Upon thinking about the Forum that I have so graciously and unashamedly plugged, my mind trails into what i’ve learned and the experiences i’ve gained in the 15 years i’ve worked in HR.

Its a nice evening and so I walk into the garden where over my garden fence I can see my neighbour unpacking a rather large box. Intrigued I make a strategic cough so he is aware that i’m in my back garden.

“Shw mae Mark” he says “Shw Mae Colin” i reply quickly following up with a cheeky question “what have you got there if you don’t mind me asking?”.

“Can’t say” he chuckles “ok, i’ll tell you” he says “but you can’t tell anyone, its a secret”. I’m intrigued. “Come on then Colin, spill the beans”. I walk towards the end of my path and go through the gate into his garden. Now I can see that whatever he has, clearly has been put into way too much packaging, and so I quickly deduced that it must have been ordered from Amazon.

‘Well you know how I love gadgets and gizmos?” he says. “Yes” I slowly retort. “Well i’ve got one of those time machine things”. I’d heard about these things but didn’t know they were for real, a bit like Manchester United fans who live in Manchester.

“Do you want a go?” Colin asks me. The glass of wine has given me a confidence a rational person would not have and so I stupidly agree. “What year do you want to go back to?” he asks. Without hesitation I tell Colin to take me back to 2001, not believing its going to work. 2001 was a great year for me, and it was the year I embarked upon this HR journey, and I wanted to tell a 16 year old me a few things. So Colin opened the app on his iPhone that was connected to the time machine by Bluetooth, types in the year 2001 and hits ‘send’. ZAP

I opened my eyes and i’m sat at a chair opposite my first desk, at my first HR job. Looking across from me, is me.  16 year old me. Fat, dreadful attempt at a beard, and highlighted hair. Highlighted hair! What was I thinking? Anyway, after calming me down, I decide to impart on me (this is getting confusing) five things that I hope will help me on my career path ahead.

OK, i’m stopping this right now. Here are the five things i wish I could tell a younger me, and I guess, any person about to embark on a career in HR.

1) Learn from everyone, all the time.

When I think back on the past 15 years my knowledge, style and skill-base has largely come from the people i’ve worked with. My managers, my colleagues, my customers, my team members, and even my friends. I have watched the good things they’ve done, the bad things they’ve done, the successful approaches they’ve used, the difficult conversations they’ve messed up, the excellent pieces of work they’ve produced and the dreadful decisions they’ve made and I have let that shape me.

If you are lucky enough to work with extremely bright, inspiring people then gain as much from them as you possibly can, and if you strike up a good friendship, keep in contact with them even when you no longer work with them.

2) Don’t shy away from the stuff that makes you feel uncomfortable

HR can be a complex minefield that expects a lot of us practitioners and we can sometimes be required to be involved in situations that might make us feel uncomfortable. A sensitive disciplinary case, be a witness at an employment tribunal or deal with an extremely sick employee for example. But if you shy away from the stuff that makes you feel uncomfortable and only do the activities that make you comfortable, then you will miss out on so many experiences and could not possibly gain a full breadth of skills required to be fully effective.

So do the uncomfortable stuff too, you’ll be glad of it in the long run.

3) Always try to keep up to date with emerging HR practice

HR practice is constantly changing as is the HR profession generally and so it is a good idea to keep informed of emerging HR practice. Read blogs (like this one!), attend events, watch YouTube videos, follow a wide range of HR thinkers on social media, read books (especially Dave Ulrich books) and take it all in.

But here’s the thing – embrace it all, and don’t be afraid to be sceptical of anything that doesn’t sit quite right with you. Always look for an alternative opinion too – if there’s one thing i’ve noticed recently, is not to take the motivational HR quotes as fact. There are plenty of people who disagree and will offer an alternative view.

4) Accept that you’ll never know everything, and you’ll never stop learning

You will never know everything, and if you think you do, you are wrong. There’s too much to know to know it all. Be better than that – know that you don’t know it all, you aren’t afraid to know it but you know where to find answers.

Always thirst to learn more, it can only improve you.

5) No one is more responsible for your development, than you

The most important stakeholder in your development, is you. Plain and simple.

All of this stuff, only really dawned on me around 2 years ago upon a moment of reevaluating where I was in my career. It is my view on my experience and the help that I thought I would like to give and to have received.

If you’ve read to this point, I hope this helps you too.

Now, how do i get Colin to bring me back to 2016 – i’m ready for another vino…