Knowledge Transfer In Succession Planning

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I’ve recently joined a new organisation and I was amazed to be told that two members of staff were soon to be retiring with 100 years service between them. Just let that sink in, a century of work between 2 people.

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In an age when the rise of the gig economy is being communicated frequently, as is the assertion (rightly or wrongly) that ‘millenials’ move jobs more often than previous generations have, this amount of service made me feel really proud and passionate, about the organisation I had joined. In a way, it made me feel more determined to do my job as best I can, because I, like everyone else who works there, have a responsibility to keep up that level of contribution to the organisation. I wrote a little on loyalty in one of my earlier blog posts (Whose Loyalty Is It Anyway).

But this also had me thinking.

How do you capture 100 years of knowledge?

OK so the simple answer is, you can’t and don’t need to. In their respective 50 year careers they would have learned new skills, new technology, learned to make new products, out of new materials and during that time some of their knowledge would have become obsolete. But a lot of the knowledge they have is relevant, essential and needs to be transferred.

I thought further on this and delved into the area of succession planning and more to the point, knowledge transfer management specifically.

I realised that a lot of assumptions are made about knowledge transfer. My perception and experience is, for example;-

  • We usually assume that one persons role can be replaced by a ‘like-for-like’ employee in future.
  • We often assume that we CAN capture all of the relevant knowledge somehow.
  • We assume that the departing employee has the capability to convey their knowledge, the skills to train their replacement, and the self-awareness to understand the importance of the subtle nuances they may take for granted and therefore not be mindful to impart.
  • We often take for granted that the leaver and the new starter are compatible to create a teacher/learner, mentor/mentee, trainer/trainee relationship
  • We seldom apportion appropriate discernment to the additional elements that are transferred, such as attitudinal judgement and organisational cultural considerations, and whether this needs to be managed differently.

I don’t have answers here, and i’m sure others have considered much of this, but it’s not been my experience and is worthy of more dialogue and discussion.

I find the rise of Artificial Intelligence fascinating and with more and more technological advancements leading to more automation, it’s nice to hear CIPD promoting their opinion that ‘The Future of Work is Human’. With that being the case, more creative ways of managing knowledge transfer, putting what we learn about neuroscience into action, is worthy of further debate.

My 3 Pieces Of Advice For HR Graduates

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Starting a career in HR is a very exciting prospect. A daunting one too, but definitely exciting. The stock answer many HR graduates have given me when I ask them why they want to work in HR is that “I want to work with people”.

Okay. That’s absolutely fine, and you will work with people. People who need your help, people who need your support, people who need your advice, people who need a critical friend and people who need to be told when they need your advice, when they should have taken your advice, and people who need to be told about the consequences of their actions. You are going to get the spectrum.

I’ve recruited, worked alongside and employed various HR graduates over the years and often like to help them along by giving them these 3 important pieces of advice.

1) Practice, is very, very different to theory

If I’m completely honest, I did much of my learning ‘on the job’ and from the people around me. I grew up and literally completed my apprenticeship in the steel industry as you would have known from my previous posts. My Higher Education studies could not and did not prepare me for understanding employee relations, disciplinary and grievance case management and paying people correctly (forget strategy, get this wrong and it’s all over).

I am definitely not saying my academic studies weren’t important they just weren’t as relevant to me for a while. It was in later life in more senior roles that I started realising how important some of the earlier modules I learned were.

I see many eager and enthusiastic graduates looking forward to applying all they have learned, very quickly, into their first HR job. Now don’t let me beat the enthusiasm out of you, or put a dampener on things, but you’ve a whole lot more to learn in the world of practical HR that academic HR simply could not have taught you.

Its going to be different – not better or worse, but different and HR graduates need to be prepared for that.

2) Don‘t underestimate the importance of learning the basics, and take time to learn them properly.

The basics are crucial. I preach this to everyone. The best HR practitioners I’ve ever met are those that took the appropriate amount of time to learn the basics and therefore built their HR credibility on strong foundations. Also, there’s no kidding these people.

Understand what the core duties of the most common role in the organisation are, for example, in healthcare find out what a carer actually does – shadow them for a shift and put everything you are ever involved in into context.

Learn how the wage structures work, why the policies reflect whatever they reflect and how the shift pattern fully works for example. Believe me, knowing this information is going to be invaluable to you.

A side note, not a swipe to all HR graduates and please don’t take it that way, but unfortunately some have had this view in my experience. The essential, fundamental, ‘support function’ type activities are not beneath you. Don‘t ever think that. It’s incredibly important work.

3) The HR career path is often unpredictable so learn to enjoy the ride and say yes to every new learning experience you are offered

I have always admired people who had an idea of a structured career path that they wanted to follow and a plan in place to help guide that path. I strongly encourage everyone to think about how they want their career to pan out. However, I’ve realised that many career paths in HR are unpredictable.

At 21, I wasn’t expecting to be asked to spend 3 months at a plant I’d never been to before to manage a redundancy programme and despite this not being a particularly pleasant task, I was definitely not turning this opportunity down.

I encourage all HR employees not just HR graduates to learn to enjoy the ride, to take the rough with the smooth and to embrace new learning experiences that arise – they may never come about again.

Ignore the haters – HR is an exciting profession. Make the most of it.

There’s Something Awesome Happening in HR in Wales

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Just over a year ago I formed the South Wales HR Forum and I talked a bit about why I did this in an earlier blog post which you can read here.

Whilst South Wales had our fair share of HR events and opportunities to discuss and recognise the future of our profession, I felt that there was a gap for a group that was going to do things a little differently.

I guess in hindsight, whilst I am and aways have been passionate about influencing the direction of the profession in this country, I was a little disengaged at that time.

A year on and we are doing some excellent work at the South Wales HR Forum to make the most of the gap we identified and to provide a different offering to the South Wales HR community, which compliments the work of others. Hopefully 2017 is going to be an awesome year for us but we are ending 2016 with an important evening discussing Brexit and how it might impact the workplace in Wales. Want to come along? Sure – the ticket link is here 😉

However, in all honesty and on reflection, I think it’s fair to say that I didn’t appreciate what else actually was going on in Wales at the time of my disengagement, as I didn’t network very much and wasn’t quite as avid a Social Media user as I am now.

I’m writing this post in the week of the CIPD Wales Conference which is taking place in Cardiff on Friday 14th October. The programme for the event is fascinating and brings to Wales some of the vital topics we need to discuss more of to continue to influence the future world of work. There’s a lot of excitement in the air about Fridays event and the fact that the following day CIPD Wales are hosting a student conference positively reinforces the passion to support those who will be influencing the profession in the future. This conference follows CIPD Wales recently publishing their programme of events for the next 12 months where Neuroscience, a vitally important subject, is placed front and centre.

On top of this, the South Wales HR Network has recently rebranded as the Wales HR Network and have kicked things off in style by announcing a fantastic new Awards Ceremony recognising the achievements of the HR community in Wales. You can read up on these awards by visiting the website, with varied categories recognising all different fields within the profession.

Yolk Recruitment’s Insights sessions also continue to go from strength to strength with presentations on key topics happening regularly. I had the pleasure of speaking at an Insights event in September where I experienced first hand the energy and passion from those in the room.

In Wales we also have HR News, a weekly newsletter for the HR profession that I look forward to receiving every Thursday and of course we wouldn’t have HR News if it wasn’t sponsored by Welsh HR Software firm Activ Absence, who have designed various cutting-edge HR systems to support businesses right throughout the UK.

All of these things and much, much more have created a fantastic buzz in the HR community in Wales, a positive atmosphere that I firmly believe will get  stronger and stronger.

So a huge credit to all concerned, keep it up, excellent work is being done and the community is benefitting hugely because of it.

As you can tell, i’m no longer disengaged!

I look forward to seeing lots of familiar faces on Friday!

Dealing With A Disengaged Interviewer

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I’m not the best interviewer when it comes to the straight-forward ‘pre-set questions’ competency-based type stuff. I much prefer free-flowing almost casual discussions that involve almost zero discussion around what I can find on their CV.

I can interview effectively in structured interviews, its just that it’s one of the elements of my line of work I don’t enjoy and so as a result, in an interview environment, I am quite prone to getting bored occasionally. I’m still working on it and to tell the truth, in recent years as my career has progressed, I have very rarely conducted these types of interview preferring the latter stages or trusting those who report to me to identify talent accordingly.

I thought i’d write this blog post to turn my negative trait into a positive, by developing it into advice for interviewees who come across people like me, as I can’t possibly be the only person like this, can I?

So here’s 4 things to get us started which I hope will help you if you come across people who are a little bit like me.

1) See the signs and adapt

There are a few signs that the interviewer might be disengaged and it doesn’t take a rocket-scientist to work them out. It could be any one, or a number of the following;-

  • Their body language
  • The pace at which they move on to the next question
  • Their lack of response when you expect one
  • The fact they are checking their watch/phone frequently
  • They are cutting your answers short or skipping questions.

The more disengaged the person, the more of the signs they’ll likely display although a very rude interviewer would do all five, and with gusto.

If you identify any of these signs then it’s best to change tact. The first step to turn a disengaged interviewer into an engaged one starts by recognising the fact that they are actually disengaged. You can turn the tides by asking questions to reaffirm what you have just provided in an effort to increasing the interviewers contribution to the process as after all, this should be two-way communication.

2) If you’ve said something that appears to have sparked an interested response from the interviewer, capitalise on it.

Maybe the interview hasn’t been great up until this point but you’ve just said something that has struck a chord with the interviewer. If you latch on to this and keep the interviewer engaged by letting this dialogue flow it’s possible you’ll have changed the interviewers perception of you and it will positively influence their engagement for the remainder of the process. Don’t worry about going off script and spending too much time on one topic in this type of scenario, your reinvigorated conversation might be ticking boxes previously crossed as you divulge information that might have been lacking when you responded to earlier questions.

3) Get to your most impressive skill or achievement as quickly as possible.

If you don’t think the interview is going to plan and the interviewer isn’t interested, find a way of introducing your most impressive skill or achievement as early on as possible. It’s usually feasible to navigate most questions to an answer that you want to give and I would suggest that if you can articulate your answer to professionally maximise quite how great a skill or achievement it is, along with how relevant it is to the role you are being assessed for, then its likely the disengaged interviewer will become more interested and may have a refreshed approach to the remainder of your interview.

4) Maybe, just maybe, call your interviewer out on it, as diplomatically as possible.

I’m not saying it’s fine to ask “am I boring you?” but it might be entirely reasonable for you to enquire “I’m not sure you are getting what you need from me, would you like me to approach my answers in a different way?”. This can go one of two ways. One, the interviewer might be annoyed and this could negatively affect their perception of you, but if the interview is not going great then what have you got to lose?

Two, it might make the interviewer recognise their behaviour and ‘nudge’ them into getting more involved. It might be that their lack of interest is nothing to do with you but something else thats going on around this time, and so this nudge might be helpful. There’s no hard and fast rule around this and depending on many variables, using this approach could seal your fate in this interview with this particular interviewer or could get things back on track.

There are other tips and i’m sure i’ll develop this further on time, but in the meantime, i do hope this helps.

My Response To Amber Rudd

Today at the Tory Party Conference, the Home Secretary Amber Rudd outlined proposals where businesses could be forced to disclose the number of foreign workers they employ in an effort to encourage these companies to hire more British workers.

I am staggered at this proposal and quite frankly disgusted that this idea has even made it as far as being a proposal outlined at a party conference.

The word universally used to condemn this harebrained idea is ‘divisive’.

Every day I become more fearful for the tensions that political decisions are causing or aggravating in the UK and todays announcement will not have helped matters.

Businesses should in no way be discouraged from employing migrant workers. As Peter Cheese, CEO of the CIPD stated in his press release today, the government should be sending “positive messages that migrant workers make to the UK economy”, they shouldn’t be irresponsibly promoting damaging ideas such as this. I strongly encourage everyone to read Peter’s statement (here), and I applaud the CIPD in coming out as quickly and strongly as they have.

We celebrate diversity in this country. We recognise that our multi-cultural society has been built and bettered by having a range of ideas from a range of people from a range of backgrounds and our businesses have benefited from filling skills gaps by recruiting from outside of the UK to fill roles that the UK talent pool has simply not been able to service.

Businesses have been strengthened, enhanced and enriched by having a diverse workforce and the future world of work ought to be built upon the same freedom without fear of being negatively tarnished by such a farcical idea as the one proposed today.

I have this evening started a petition on the government petitions website to immediately retract the idea put forward by Amber Rudd and I will add a link once the petition goes live, should I meet the criteria required for the petition to go live on the website.

My Idols Growing Up

A completely random blog post, but following a Twitter exchange (as has become the norm for inspiring my blogs), I read David D’Souza’s list of who he wanted to be like when he grew up and wanted to do the same. Not to be taken seriously at all, but these are the unlikely characters I wanted to be like as a kid.

So in no particular order:-

  • Treguard (from Knightmare)
  • Brian Harvey from East 17 
  • The Ultimate Warrior
  • Coach Bombay (Mighty Ducks)
  • Flat Stanley
  • Danny Zuko
  • Mouth from The Goonies
  • Batman (the Val Kilmer version)
  • Tom Delonge from Blink 182

But these days however, I just want to be like Fred from Dinner Dates, or maybe Ryan Reynolds…