Why I Joined The Social Media HR Revolution

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In a Twitter exchange today with David Goddin, he asked me “…What/who prompted you to write & share what you’d written”.

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So here goes.

In October 2015, I decided that I wanted to help influence the direction of the HR profession in Wales as I felt that more needed to be done to raise the profile of what we do in this country. I love Wales, I am a proud Welshman and it is my view that our economy is built upon a fascinating history of incredible industries employing passionate people.

We also have an important time ahead with businesses like Tata and Airbus in the private sector, and vital public sector organisations such as the DVLA and so its really important our profession here keeps up and even leads the way in some areas of the future world of work.

With this new found passion and objective in mind, I created the South Wales HR Forum, initially as a ‘toe-dipping’ exercise to see if others were as interested in this as me. They were, we now have 400 members. 399 actually, but you’ll let me have that one.

I set-up a group for the Forum on LinkedIn and people were looking at my profile. A lot. But of course they were, they were naturally interested as to who I was and why I decided to do what I did. The problem was, I hadn’t really considered my online presence in any coordinated way.

In a recent talk I did, I likened this experience to when you were a child and you invited your friends around to play computer games at your home. It’s great that they want to, and you feel like Mr Popular, but then you realise you’ve left your Mickey Mouse quilt cover on your bed and now all your friends are going to see it.

In summary, I realised i’m trying to encourage the profession forward but my own SoMe footprint wasn’t setting an example, and was probably a little embarrassing.

As a result of this, I updated my LinkedIn profile and didn’t stop there. I realised I wanted to use SoMe to promote the South Wales HR Forum from what was my Twitter account. This was a big change for me. The decision to use Twitter for the ‘HR’ part of my life wasn’t something I’d done before. Previously I had unwittingly conformed to the view that this was my ‘personal’ account and should only be used to whinge about Swansea City losing, praise a new boxing champion or share funny videos from LadBible.

So there’s the first point I guess – I decided using SoMe to engage about my work interests as well as my personal interests would be a good thing and so far, I was right. I recently described this as part of a conscious ‘open-book’ policy. I wasn’t encouraged to use SoMe by any HR professional for this purposes, it just dawned on me one day that it was what I wanted to do.

Secondly, I initially followed a few select accounts from the world of HR. HR Zone, HR Grapevine, CIPD and People Management I believe.

Then one day in London whilst flicking through Twitter at Paddington station waiting for my train back to Neath, I stumbled across a post on HR Zone called ‘An Introverts Attempt At Networking Showman’ written by a HR pro called Paul Carter. I could relate entirely to the article and I wanted to share my own experience so I set-up a blog so I could post my view.

I actually wrote two separate blog posts on that same journey home from London (here and here – it’s a 3hr journey and I was particularly enthusiastic). I posted links on Twitter with the hashtags ‘HR’ and ‘Introvert’ (at least I think I did, this was 6 months ago after all) and my post was retweeted by a few people until it was responded to by Michael Carty and Siobhan Sheridan who outlined that they blogged on similar topics. I read through their blogs and loved what I read. I continue to love what I read from these 2 bloggers.

I guess naively I didn’t even contemplate that there was a HR blogging community but when I realised what was out there I just wanted to read more. I was a lurker, which means I didn’t contribute much I just watched on and read what I could, however, I then wanted to contribute more. Then I wanted to respond to others. Then I wanted to gain the response from others to my viewpoint. Before I knew it I had organically learned the absolute best thing about Social Media – the power of sharing. I had moved from ‘lurking’ to contributing.

I wrote a few blogs on a few different topics and then stumbled across Professor Rob Briner and his work on Evidence-Based Management something I took to immediately. I wrote a blog on how I believed EBM could support HR credibility and it had an incredible response. For weeks afterwards I had to disable my notifications because it was being read and re-tweeted a lot. This response definitely incentivised me to want to write more.

My mission to raise Social Media use in the HR community in Wales took a step further recently when I presented on this subject at a HR networking event in Cardiff. 6 months on from my HR blogging journey, i’m passionately encouraging others to do the same. After the event several attendees had dusted off their accounts and started to follow me, some even told me they were starting blogs of their own and this made me feel really proud.

The amount of blogs I write has decreased now that the initial novelty has worn off, but I am a firm believer that blog writing should be natural and shouldn’t be forced for the sake of it, so i’m ok with my blogging volume activity.

I don’t think I would have continued to embrace SoMe in the way I have if it wasn’t for a few different factors, and in no particular order;-

  1. People seemed to read most of what I write, and I like gaining new followers, readers, connections and having my posts retweeted and favourited. This is not because i’m a narcissist but because I want to engage with more people, I want people to read my opinions and I am genuinely interested in hearing their thoughts and having my thinking challenged. It means I also get to discover their work too.
  2. I feel like I am benefiting from learning from the HR community in my PLN (as I now know it’s called). I’ve learned things from Social Media about the future of the HR profession that I might not have stumbled across otherwise. I genuinely believe that our SoMe use as a group will directly influence how this profession develops.
  3. It helped reignite my interest in this field. I love what I do but now I love it even more
  4. I believe it is helping my reputation which in turn is helping my career
  5. Not a week goes by where I don’t stumble across another HR SoMe user whose work I find interesting.
  6. I was supported, encouraged and embraced, and continue to be so, by an exceptionally kind, inclusive, engaging and occasionally humorous (*regularly humorous) online HR community. The people in my PLN who I won’t name because I will inevitably leave someone out and upset them, actively pursue my opinion and support my work, treating me as an equal. If they hadn’t done that my involvement might have been limited, which would have stunted how much further I wanted to go down this road. This level of inclusion has been beyond encouraging, it’s fair to say.

So there you go. Thats why I started, that’s why I still do it, that’s what I get out of it and that’s why I’ll keep doing it. To those that have helped me along the way so far, a huge thank you.

My Recent Speaking Experience In 20 Words

Here’s 20 words to describe my recent talk on Social Media that I delivered at the Yolk Recruitment Insights Session in Cardiff City Stadium. It’s in some kind of order too;-
1. Exciting

2. Humbling

3. Committing 

4. Worrying

5. Calming

6. Researching

7. Preparing

8. Drafting

9. Completing

10. Redrafting

11. Restarting

12. Reassuring

13. Communicating

14. Sharing

15. Encouraging 

16. Responding

17. Pleasing

18. Relaxing

19. Retreating

20. Reinforcing 

50 Answers For 50 Questions

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David D’Souza at the CIPD posed 50 questions to ponder regarding the future of the world of work in his blog post here. Here’s my 50 answers. I thought about some questions more than others, and some answers are a tad facetious but, you know, there were 50 questions to answer!

1.       What roles can’t be automated?

We don’t know what can’t be automated as it is likely Technology will surpass any current perceived limitations.

2.       What roles shouldn’t be automated?

Those that can’t be done so safely.

3.       Financial markets, left to their own devices, aren’t good at accommodating a greater social purpose – do we need to take more of an interventionist stance to ensure greater societal benefit?

Yes

4.       At what point do we stop running out of corporate scandals? How can we get more proactive at asking difficult questions of organisations as employees and consumers?

Our society has an interesting way of not really being shocked at some of the things we describe as shocking to us. There will always be a scandal of some sort, it is just that the things that are acceptable to us now, might not be acceptable to us in the future.

5.       Does an organisation with a social purpose have an advantage or a limitation?

Both. Its ability to positively influence society (or prevent negative influences on society) has the advantage of having clarity of purpose. Yet it is limited as the scope for purpose being societal prevents pressure for success from other forms of purpose. I’m not sure I even understand what I just wrote.

6.       What work might be most impacted by changes in international border policy or digitisation making borders redundant?

Those that enforce border control.

7.       Who is accountable for my wellbeing?

You along with those that can affect your wellbeing. It is a basic human virtue to look after one another.

8.       If my employer is responsible for making sure I’m not under undue stress – then am I responsible for managing my diet to ensure I’m delivering peak performance?

Yes. The simply answer is that you/we are each responsible for managing our diet, regardless of how that affects anything else.

9.       Can you automate creativity – and if so will we still only feel something is creative if it is produced by a human?

No. No. No. No. No. No. No.

There’s no science to my answer. I write songs. I can’t be forced at any time to write a song automatically, it has to feel right.

10.   How do we balance the concepts of diversity with the drive for cultural fit?

By making cultural fit as broad and varied as possible.

11.   Is the Gen X,Y,Z & millennial terminology helpful for understanding or lazy stereotyping?

Lazy stereotyping. Next.

12.   What’s the point of work? To get happiness? Make a difference? Recognition? Will the point of work change and how might it do so?

There is no one single point to work but the proportion of each of the reasons is likely to vary in accordance with the society in which the work is carried out. The point of work will change because society changes.

13.   How do we step away from a 9-5 working week construct together?

By more vividly demonstrating to employers that work is more effective outside of the standard 9-5 construct. CIPD need to invest more substantially in a PR campaign to raise the awareness of success stories where 9-5 is not operated and the government should incentivise businesses in some way to move outside of 9-5.

14.   How much longer will income and wage inequality be tolerated by those on the wrong side of the stats?

Probably until those on the wrong side of the stats end up on the right side of the stats.

15.   How many more years of casual sexism in workplaces do we have before that dies a death?

We don’t know the answer to this but we can but hope it is not that many, if any at all.

16.   If whole chunks of your life are viewable on the internet will we become more tolerating of mistakes at work?

I think we already are becoming more tolerant of mistakes at work than we used to.

17.   The image of everyone working on the beach is an attractive one – but what does this mean for introverts or people with mobility issues?

It risks excluding them and creating exclusive ideologies that aren’t shared by all.

18.   Do I own my data or am I just a data point?

Don’t know, pass.

19.   You can already automate ‘congratulations’ messages on Linkedin. How much effort can you remove from a gesture before it becomes meaningless?

The amount of effort it takes to consciously think about wanting to make that gesture or not. It doesn’t matter if I used an automated congratulations button, what matters is whether i thought about it and actually wanted to press that button.

20.   If I can outsource work cheaply to another country is that simply the free market in action (and an easy decision) or should I care more about the wellbeing of people I already employ?

I dont think the options are mutually exclusive. An organisation can use the free market in the way its intended and yet be careful of the wellbeing of those already employed.

21.   If work is to become more transient (the gig economy) then who takes responsibility for long term capability building of people? If I’m only with an organisation for 6 months then why would they invest in me?

Organisations and the employee themselves will still be responsible for the long term capability development. Organisations will still invest in those working in the gig economy, it will remain proportionate to the cost and time of the engagement.

22.   The more we understand about the mind the easier it is to manipulate it. How do we build in ethical safeguards within organisations?

By canvassing the government to legislate ethics. Controversial and difficult, yes, but why not?

23.   How much do we really know about the organisations that curate the world’s information and present it back to you and how much do you need to know?

We don’t know enough and we need to know more.

24.   Is happiness a legitimate business and economic outcome?

Yes, but not in isolation.

25.   What is the best way for groups to create influence and make a difference in a digital age?

By demonstrating success with evidence. Evidence-based success should create influence in any age.

26.   Why do organisational IT solutions still tend to be more expensive yet less useful than consumer solutions?

Because the value of the talent creating the IT solutions pushes up the price of the product.

27.   Does the age of automation mean that a universal basic payment to all is required?

To pay for what?

28.   When we do save time where does it go? For all the automation and efficiency I don’t hear many people saying they have more time to relax

It is spent on other stuff we haven’t been able to spend time on before.

29.   What aspects of our behaviour is it appropriate to legislate for? Is restricting access to company communications after hours unnecessarily interfering or saving us from ourselves?

Dangerous aspects of our behaviour we should continue to legislate for as we do now. For the second part of the question, there is no right or wrong, it will work for some and not for others.

30.   Will you ever want a consoling hug from a robot?

Now you’ve mentioned it, I will.

31.   Why are so many organisations already designed and led as though the workers are robots?

Because we still archaically define people in our organisations as ‘human resources’.

32.   What does not having to leave your home to work, socialise or shop do to fitness levels over time?

In my view it will have a negative impact on mental fitness, but due to the extra time it will allow, it could create for more time for actual physical fitness and thus increase physical fitness levels.

33.   What are the chances the world left by this generation will be better than the one left to us?

Slim – the world left by the previous generation will affect our generation and probably the next one too.

34.   Do children entering school need to read or write – or will those be surplus skills by the team they leave school?

Thats a scary and yet fascinating question. I know thats not an answer, because I don’t know, but the questions going to fester.

35.   What are the issues that we are sleepwalking towards now that we will regret not taking action on sooner? (thanks to Siobhan Sheridan at the NSPCC for this)

The ageing population and healthcare requirements for this generation that our government are criminally ignoring and underfunding.

36.   What are the opportunities that we will regret taking?

Brexit.

37.   How much of our enhanced technical capability will be channeled into solving societal problems and how much into increasing profits?

There will be a greater proportion towards increasing profit than solving societal problems. It should be the other way around, but a capitalist culture means this wont happen.

38.   How do you get a mortgage in the ‘Gig Economy’?

Self-employed people have been able to get a mortgage for many years. It’s difficult but not impossible. This will likely continue to be the case.

39.   Does the Sharing Economy really share – or does it just collect a smaller margin from a larger volume of workers that are dependent? If we called it the Snaring Economy would it be such a popular concept?

I think it does, I think it does, and no it wouldn’t.

40.   When Prof Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and others describe AI as a potentially extinction level threat why do people think they are overstating it? When did we start thinking we had a better grasp on big issues than Stephen Hawking?

Not enough people (including me) have seen enough success with AI in mainstream media, as such we don’t believe it is sufficiently possible, let alone be a sufficient threat.

41.   How confident are you really that the Financial Services industry is now running as it should – and what are the knock on risks given the fragility of the world economy?

About as confident as before. I believe regulators have adapted safeguards to deal with the issues in a more transparent matter now which gives me some confidence.

42.   How can we help design roles and organisations that make the most of people?

By understanding people better – through embracing and developing Neuroscience.

43.   What are the implications of the current level of gender imbalance within the tech sector over the next decade?

Why is the tech industry gender imbalance any more problematic than the gender imbalance in any other industry? An uninformed guess would be that technology would be gender bias but that might be a gender-biased answer!

44.   Much of the technology we utilise on a day to day basis would struggle to meet most people’s definition of an ethical supply chain. When do we start making different purchasing decisions?

When more ethical suppliers become more mainstream and legitimate competition.

45.   What are the best sources of information on the changing world of work and how can we ensure the independent voices are heard when organisations with the biggest budgets will be looking to exploit this space?

The best sources of information will belong with those that study the organisations themselves and I believe there is insufficient work done in this area. We can ensure independent voices are heard by ensuring a fair representation of workplaces, regardless of budgets, are reviewed.

46.   People frequently talk about wanting more equality and higher living standards for others – yet how many people would give up, for instance, 25% of their salary in order to improve the living standards of others?

MP’s stated they would take refugees into their homes but didn’t. Sadly, not many would give up 25% of their salary for others.

47.   How will we filter content effectively in the future and how open to abuse is that filtering process?

We’ll use popular tools and we’ll blindly trust that the developers of those tools have done so ethically.

48.   How do the business role models of the future act?

Same as business role models have always act, but influenced by the culture of the time.

49.   People cry when their pets die. What will be the first piece of technology that you cry over the loss of?

My Macbook Pro. Genuinely.

50.   If you had one contribution to make to making things just a little better over the next decade what would it be?  

To teach my son how to be a decent, caring, kind, compassionate, selfless, person.

Social Media & Me

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Tomorrow I have the pleasure of speaking to a room of HR professionals in Cardiff about embracing Social Media. I’ve talked at similar events in the past about certain areas of HR but this is the first time on this subject. I’m quite excited. I’m also quite nervous. My introverted tendencies mean this isn’t uncommon for me.

I’ve been working on formulating what I want to say for a number of weeks and last night I redrafted my slide pack completely, stripping it back to a small handful of slides. I did this consciously because I was helpfully provoked to do so on Twitter by one of my friends, Alistair (@acockroft). I also decided to avoid death by powerpoint and so used a different type of software called HaikuDeck. Three guesses where I heard about Haikudeck. That’s right, Twitter, from another friend, David (@DDS180).

I guess that defines in a neat summary what I have got out of broadening my Social Media presence and what I value about it the most. I now have a great online network that I have HR (and associated accoutrement) in common with who help me, challenge me, encourage me, correct me, debate with me, inform me, and support me.

Tomorrow, I will tell those i’m lucky to be speaking with, that Social Media has opened up a whole new world for me and made me realise that it’s definitely like Garlic Bread, i.e. the future. There is an overwhelming amount of information being shared that is infinitely more than just useful. Its the place to be to learn about emerging HR, for the norm to be challenged respectfully, to join the debate and to help inform the outcome. But what i’ve realised is that the world of work is most definitely changing at a rapid pace. HR is absolutely changing and I believe Social Media is one of the key arenas where the conversations are taking place to influence the direction of our profession.

I’m going to come clean as well though. Sometimes, some of the discussions that are taking place make me feel vulnerable, because its of a level of debate where I can feel out of my depth however even by following these conversations I am at least becoming better informed.

I am reminded here that when President Bartlett in my favourite programme, The West Wing was challenged that he didn’t know something he would say that it “wasn’t that he didn’t know about it, it’s just that he hadn’t learned it yet”. I’m learning so much.

In October 2015, when I created the South Wales HR Forum, I started on my mission to raise the profile of HR in Wales, and to help influence the direction of what I have chosen as a career. Hopefully i’ve started to do that and I would not have been able to make any ground that I have if it wasn’t for the way I use Social Media.

I look forward to telling the attendees tomorrow about my new Personal Learning Network, about how LinkedIn should be used and Twitter embraced, and about how this valuable resource should be maximised to help HR professionals. I’ll be encouraging attendees to look after their digital footprint along with their personal brand and to contribute to the discussion instead of watching on the sidelines.

I look forward to telling the attendees that Social Media for HR Pro’s is awesome, and that my experience, has so far been incredibly positive.

I’ll let you know how I get on.

The Epic Fail is not asking for help

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Today, fellow HR blogger Neil Morrison (https://change-effect.com) wrote a great piece entitled ‘We Need To Talk About Failure’. You can read it here. An exceptionally well written piece as i’ve realised is the norm from Mr Morrison, its left a lingering thought in my mind about not only accepting failure as an outcome that we can learn from, but about recognising and accepting failure as it occurs, and asking for help.

This resonated so strongly, i’ve decided to blog about it while the thoughts are still raw in my mind.

In Neil’s blog he explained about how we find it hard to accept failure, and how we spin failure into success and I suppose we’ve all been guilty of that at one time or another.

It had me thinking about specific times where i’ve been failing at a task and have refused to accept that failure is what is actually happening. In the circumstances I can recall, I remember having tunnel vision, knowing what needed to be done, creating a plan and strategy that I have convinced myself would work, ignoring the signs that deep-down I knew were bigger than they actually were but dealt with them as trivialities, and overcompensated on the positive outcomes without going back and addressing the areas that had failed.

So Neil, here’s me accepting failure. I’m human. I will fail many, many times in the future. But why did I convince myself that I wasn’t failing?

Was I being stubborn? Did I think I knew best? Was I too proud to ask for help? Was I out to prove a point? Was I petrified of failure?

Probably yes, to all of those things to a certain degree.

In the last half of my career i’ve managed staff in a range of companies and i’ve never minded failure. You know, unless its likely to be catastrophic, which it usually never is. Primarily i’ve encouraged members of my team to come to me if they need support when they recognise that they are failing, although i’ve never called it that. I’ve encouraged my colleagues to use me as a sounding board and sense-check because in my view, from learning from earlier experiences, this will help to recognise failure as it happens, in real-time.

The reason I do this, is because its easier to take corrective action and get tasks back on track, or abandoned earlier in some cases, than to invest time and effort in something that might be a waste of time, or in some cases damaging. You can often re-engineer a failing task if recognised early enough, however, it’s human nature to plough through to a false conclusion and tell ourselves that we succeeded, when really, we didn’t.

“All of us will fail this week in small and inconsequential ways”. Neil Morrison.

What disappoints me most about failure isn’t the act of failing itself. As Neil eloquently put in his post, “All of us will fail this week in small and inconsequential ways”. It’s Monday as I write this and i’ve already gone over on my calorie allowance, day one into my new diet – i’ve failed already!

No, what disappoints and saddens me, is when we are failing and don’t ask for help.

When this happens, with my colleagues, friends and even managers, I feel as if i’ve failed too, because I become concerned that the reason that person hasn’t come to me for help, isn’t because they have tunnel vision, or are being stubborn, or that they were out to prove a point, which are all perfectly plausible explanations, it’s that they might have felt they couldn’t ask me for help. I’m an approachable person though, so I do ponder on it and don’t take it personally as I recognise it might be one of the several other reasons that I have outlined.

It’s so important to be able to stop and evaluate the task in hand, but especially if there are some tell-tale signs that we should listen to. Might even be intuition.

We should all take some time and speak to people and ask for help if its needed. Support from each other, from colleagues, mentors, your PLN, is what we need to do more of.

So I fully agree with Neil and his excellent blog post. We must talk more about failure. We must recognise its normal, it can be helpful and it shouldn’t be anything we are afraid of. But also we must not be afraid to ask for help. After all, needing help is normal too.