Witness Marks

Vintage compass lies on an ancient world map.

I recently listened to the S-Town podcast which is a brilliant, investigative look into the real-life goings on of an eccentric genius from Alabama. It’s really fantastic and I urge you to listen to it. Intriguing and heartbreaking in equal measures, magnificently edited with completely unexpected plot twists.

At the very start of the first episode, the host, Brian Reed, talks about Witness Marks in the context of antique timepiece repair.

Brian explains that when someone attempts to fix an antique timepiece they are unlikely to be the first person who has had the pleasure to look inside and fix that particular item. It is possible that many people before them have attempted to work on it, dating back many, many years, in some case, centuries.

Those people might have moved stuff around, taken stuff out, put stuff back in, replaced old cogs with new sizes, styles and shapes and so the inside of that timepiece may not resemble anything like when it was first made. All with an aim to repair whatever was broken at the time.

Most of these antique timepieces don’t come with manuals, and there probably isn’t any information on the internet about what it should look like, or a service book of what work has been carried out. So the person repairing the item has to use Witness Marks amongst other things to make assumptions on what work might have been carried out.

Witness Marks might be grooves, scuff’s, spots, lines and the like, that are inside the timepiece and that may give an indication of what might once have been in place to create those marks. For example, a scuff against a rim or a wearing-down of a cog tooth that might have been significant in some way, maybe to determine an earlier flaw, a repair that didn’t work, or an initial part that has been subsequently replaced with something else.

This had me thinking.

In HR, unless we join a start-up and get onboard at the time the company is first established, then we’ll likely be following in someone’s footsteps; other HR people will probably have come before us. And if the business has longevity, then someone will inevitably follow in our footsteps too. That’s life, right?

If we’re lucky, we’ll get a handover from the outgoing HR person who’ll explain some stuff, as much as you can in maybe a week or a month, but then we’ve got to figure the rest out on our own, unless that person stays in the business in a different role or is happy to remain in touch, but even then, they’ve got new jobs to focus on so the help may be impractical.

We obtain the basic stuff right away; how difficult is it to recruit, whats the absence rate like, whats the turnover like and for what reasons do people leave, what kind of HR work am I going to be involved in, what sort of training takes place.

That’s the basics. You get this stuff quite early on.

But then, most people newly appointed into HR roles start to delve a little deeper. Once they have found out what happens in that business, they start to focus on why things happen that way, and they start to discover some Witness Marks.

Then the HR professional comes up with some solutions and whilst mapping it out, or are actually in the throws of implementing that solution, they come across a few challenges and well, what do you know, more witness marks. You get to understand (or at the very least you start to assume) what the challenges are or have been.

We are learning this stuff from those who have come before us, and those who come after us will likely learn that way too.

I guess, the message i’m trying to get across in this post is that we often don’t know what our workplaces looked like before our predecessors were in place, what challenges they really faced or conditions they worked under, and our successors are likely to be in the same position when they take over from us too.

We don’t know what the watch was like inside when those who came before us were in place, and those who take over from us will look inside at a (probably) different watch too. They’ll discover the Witness Marks that we’ll leave behind.

We can only deal with the timepiece/workplace for which we are the custodian of, for the period of time that we are in place. Unless good reason, we really should respect what’s gone on before us, and we are obligated to leave our workplaces in a better position ready for the next person.

Otherwise, what value did we really add during our time? We can and should, do our best, all the time.

Now, go listen to S-Town. It really is great.

Time


We used to be a little more patient. We could wait for things, take our time, pay our dues. We don’t seem to be able to do that anymore. I’m referring to the royal ‘we’ of course.

Not to sound like Uncle Albert, but I remember some of those valuable lessons taught to me when I was younger. If you want something, you’ve got to save for it. You can’t just walk into a big job, you’ve got to earn it. You want to do that job well? Then take your time and do it properly.

Allowance of time appears to have decreased. Everything is urgent.

Information is immediately available, social media, the internet, smart phones, all played an important part in removing barriers to time but not without consequences.

We live in a selfie generation, the “fake it til you make it” world and the need to have everything now, now, now and regardless of cost. 

But development takes time. Learning and embedding new skills takes time.  

To be hasty, often results in cutting corners and the corners cut are normally things we regard as unimportant, only later we will almost always discover, that they were actually very important.

This brings me on to my point.

In 15 years training and coaching HR professionals, I have seen a trend. There is a desire for the “quickest way to the top” for many. By top, most are aiming for a HR Manager level role, as if any role not at that level is not good enough. Every role has an important part to play.

And you can see how this trend is affecting the credibility of the HR function, when HR Manager positions upon further examination are actually operating at a level lower than the title would suggest. You can see HR Director level roles similarly being affected in the same way.

My advice is the old adage, “don’t run before you can walk”.

Learning the core skills in HR is vitally important. Learn how the payroll works, what the context of the culture is, why the terms and conditions are the way they are. Take your time to really understand this stuff – it’s not trivial. 

Speak to people and treat the allocation of your time as an investment. Enjoy lengthy, unscheduled conversations where you’ll learn stuff you might never have thought you needed.

Build time in to your plan, and in to your career aspirations, for time spent wisely will undoubtedly help you progress.

Resisting the desire to reach the ‘top’ overnight doesn’t mean you lack ambition, but it does mean that you want to be the best HR professional you can be. 

Take time, thoroughly learn the skills, enjoy the ride, and take the right opportunities at the right time – you’ll be glad that you did.

10 More Questions To Ponder About The Future World Of Work

Human-Evolution

So i’ve been watching Westworld recently and it is brilliant. If you like cowboys, robots and rebellion, then this is the programme for you!

Whilst watching, I started thinking about how the future world of work could be impacted by some of these ‘pie in the sky’ ideas such as artificial intelligence, automation, using evidence to form the basis of decision-making and the like. Because, you see, they aren’t such pie in the sky ideas. The rate of advancement is impressive. The future might be here sooner than you expect. Exciting and frightening in equal measures.

So what do we need to start thinking about? Well, lots of things.

Back last year, David D’Souza wrote a great article for the CIPD with 50 questions about the future world of work which I suggest you read.

I’ve written ten more questions. Some silly, some serious. Most of which i’ve pondered myself. If you want to answer, great, send me a link or email them to me, i’d be really interested in hearing what you think. Or alternatively, maybe they will just make you think.

David’s had a go at answering them too, and his answers are below, so here goes…

1) If you could teach a robot how to do your job and do it better than you, would you, really?

David : I would resist it if I thought it was the end of my employment – and do it if I felt it would free me up for better work. I think it’s highly improbable that a robot could do my job because I’m special and everybody else’s job can be replaced but surely not mine.

2) If automation meant less people were needed and so redundancies were required, and you would receive a big bonus for managing the redundancy process (as well as keep your job at the end of it), what would you do?

David: Yes, if I felt it were a necessary step for the organisation to take I would want to be involved to ensure the process was carried out well, fairly and with dignity. I wouldn’t take a bonus (that would be my job) and I wouldn’t allow anyone else to pick up a bonus for their work either. Redundancies are, at times, a necessary evil. They aren’t to be celebrated.

3) Should robots be able to join a union? (I think I’ve stolen this one from somewhere, if so, sorry!)

David: At the point they are intelligent enough for that to be a question then whether they can join a union will be low down their list of priorities (and ours)

4) Could a Chief Executive be employed as a ‘dependent contractor’ one day?

David: If we reach that point I think the Chief Exec role would have fundamentally changed from what we currently recognise.

5) Will/Do we really need to share the same organisational values with our colleagues?

David: You need a shared purpose and people need to act in a way that is broadly congruent to that purpose and to the norms of the organisation. We aren’t clones so it will never be an exact overlay – but the more people pulling in the same direction the better.

6) Would the Premier League Transfer Window system (spot talent, negotiate transfer fee with current company, negotiate contract with employee, transfer takes place) work in the world of business?

David: I’ve written a post on this…What if employees ACTUALLY were an asset? Deadline Day

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140903071621-27306632-it-s-company-transfer-deadline-day-who-will-you-sell

7) If we run out of avocado, will workplaces resemble a scene from the Walking Dead?

David: I hate avocado. I have no idea what consequence this would have

8) Do we have enough wires for all the AI?

David: An off switch might be more important

9) Will evidence-based hr/management be considered just another fad?

10) At what point will we accept the future has become the present?

David: I have no idea what this means. I’ll have to rewatch Kung Fu Panda

#Hendys10HRQuestions

I’m With You.

I’ve been thinking of writing this piece for some time. I initially wanted to publish this as part of Mental Health Awareness Week back in May, but it didn’t happen and so it sat dormant in my drafts since then, and until now. 

You probably know the facts. 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem in any given year. 1 in 10 young people will experience a mental health problem. 9 out of 10 people with mental health problems experience stigma and discrimination. 

We know more than ever about the various mental health conditions and how they affect people and at the same time, there’s still so much to learn. Great campaigns exist like the #endthestigma campaign, and more dialogue is taking place to raise awareness. Mental health issues are not new, but people do seem to be able to talk about them more. Thank goodness and about time.

People are being open, honest and so unbelievably brave. Each time I read or hear about people’s experiences, I continue to be in awe.

In business, whilst we could always do more, this post is not about that. Lots of really positive work is being done and it should be applauded. But if you are reading this and would like to know what more you could do, please email me at mark.hendy@southwaleshrforum.co.uk and i’ll be happy to point you in the direction of some resources/people who could help.

So this blog post is simply to say ‘i’m with you‘.

When you are feeling upset, down and confused and you don’t know why or are unable to articulate why. I’m with you.

When you are petrified about getting back to work after a period of mental-health related absence. I’m with you.

When the people around you have absolutely no idea how difficult it was for you to get out of bed that day, to run a brush through your hair and to get out of the house. I’m with you.

For when you attend that conference and the anxiety about talking to people you don’t know kicks in. I’m with you.

And for when you are feeling like a complete failure, and you could not be any more the complete opposite. You bet, i’m with you.

I’m with you and so are many other people. 

Please keep talking, please keep being brave, and please keep the faith. 

You are changing the face of mental health by doing so, and probably saving lives too.

I obtained the facts for this blog from ‘Time to change’ who are doing fantastic work to help end the stigma and to end mental health discrimination. Please visit their website www.time-to-change.org.uk. If you are experiencing any mental health issues and want someone to talk to, please remember the Samaritans are always at the end of the phone on 116 123. 

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.