Earth 2.0 – The World Seeks An Alternative

EU Flag

OK so it’s done now, democracy has spoken and the UK will be exiting the EU. Marginally more than half of the UK is seeking an alternative, but we knew this didn’t we? There were signs.

My basic view of the UK political environment is that far right and far left are becoming prominent once more – centre ground is appearing to be a less attractive proposition that it used to be.

I sit in the middle by the way, just for the avoidance of doubt. I like to think i’m pretty much slap bang in the centre and balanced on most things. I’ve voted for different parties at different times in my lifetime so I like to think that I have no political bias, at least while I write this post!

The UK political scene has sought an alternative. The election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour party, and the fact that almost 17.5 million people have supported a campaign that Nigel Farage was instrumental in, demonstrates this to us.

We also have the fact that Donald Trump could soon be the next Leader of the Free World.

Go further back in time, there were other signs. The Arab Spring, the Coalition government, and that Nick Griffin appearance on Question Time.

The world seeks an alternative – and so we must be ready for the effect this will have on the world of work.

I read a great article this evening on HR Zone (Read Here) which ends with the line

‘It’s not business-as-usual. So please don’t pretend it is’. This is absolutely right.

The CIPD’s Peter Cheese wrote today that;-

“For most businesses, the immediate impact of this historic decision will be limited as major changes won’t be able to occur for a while” but i’m not sure I agree.

Literally exiting the EU is one thing, but the journey until that point is undoubtedly going to cause some immediate issues.

As business professionals, we must now be ready, more than ever to support our staff in the workplace.

  • We must be ready for an increase in political activism which might spill into the work environment.
  • We must be ready for any potential financial difficulties employees might face should there be as big an economic impact that some spectators are suggesting.
  • We must be ready for an alternative talent pool due to possible changes to those who can live and work in Britain (I’m hesitant to use the term ‘UK’).
  • We must be ready for it being difficult to coordinate staff who work in several countries due to potential issues with free movement of people within Europe.
  • The world is going to be different, and you never know it might just be ok, possibly even better in the long run – we simply don’t know yet.

But people want an alternative in various areas of their lives – and we’d be naive to think that will stop when they step into work.

Let’s be ready. Let’s do what we do best and support people in the workplace at this very uncertain time.

Is HR divorced from reality?

Following todays furore that erupted as a result of the disclosure of details into the working practices and conditions in Sports Direct, CIPD’s former Chief Economist Dr John Philpott wrote on Twitter;-

Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 22.05.22

I engaged with Dr Philpott on this tweet  where I explained that I was more shocked by the findings than the widespread reaction to those findings. Dr Philpott’s response to me included this;-

Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 22.02.44

This is an interesting point and I respect him massively for making it. Largely because, for the most part, I agree with him.

Very often in HR we have aspirational vision to change the world directing us to start at ‘the top’. But because our head is turned in that direction, are we guilty of not spending a proportionate amount of time recognising the here and now challenges that are existing in reality?

Exploitation in the workplace exists. Discrimination in the workplace exists. Systematic failures to treat people with respect and to treat employees lawfully exists. I’m sure you believe me, but if you don’t, spend a couple of days in your nearest Employment Tribunal or just watch the news today. We know this is the case, it’s widespread in the press and media.

In reality, leadership is not taught out of a textbook and company policy applications are not identically applied as have been written in the ACAS code mirrored policies that have been put in place. Thats because we talk about an environment where we don’t spend enough time contextualising our point alongside things such as pressure, ideological conflict, and limited ability to transfer ideas into action. There are more boundaries, obviously.

Not everyone of course does this, but then not all HR gurus portray an idealised view of the world divorced from reality – just that many/some do.

Every company is different, every industry is different and every MD is different.

As a result, the challenges and the agenda for HR within each business will always be different however perhaps we should spend more time talking about the vitally important employee relations/welfare ‘essentials’.

I agree with Dr Philpott in so far as we don’t spend enough time talking about these successes or operating in the reality of different environments. Maybe we don’t spend enough time talking about incredibly positive life changing initiatives that might be very basic to prominent HR guru’s who might be operating at a much more senior level.

For example, I’m always impressed when organisations implement successful apprenticeship programmes, reduce employee turnover and volume of disciplinary cases and when businesses accredit key core skills – but I don’t get to read much about this unless its as a side note in a greater discussion thats focussing on the broader subject of culture or engagement. I don’t know, maybe i’m just looking in the wrong places.

So maybe we need to enhance the culture of what we deem as success in HR and start celebrating the basics again and be a little more honest about the environments in which HR operate. Maybe this will even help with the attitude towards HR where this needs improving, and reinforce that we are there for ALL.