Category Archives: Communication

The Writer and The Archivist

The Writer

This is my 801st blog post. Eight hundred and firrrrrrrrrrssssssssttttt. That’s a lot of words, pictures, songs, and even the odd verse. There are times when the writing feels good, and times when putting fingers to keyboard feels like choking on sand. I once wrote every weekday for a month, and more recently, I see bigger gaps, longer spaces appearing between the writing. I worried a while about these gaps, not any more. There are times when I feel useful ideas, thoughts, and feelings stacking up in joyful abundance, and times when I feel it’s all been said. As Neil Usher puts it so wonderfully here in his penultimate post, that feeling is the Elemental Block.

Maybe it has all been said, Maybe the song remains the same, maybe the tune is different. And maybe not. I wrote a lot about death when my Dad died. That song, those verses, they’d not been written, spoken, sung before. I recently discovered a copy of the eulogy I wrote and read for Dad at his funeral. I’ve previously shared what Keira wrote and spoke at that time, and my words are currently not published. Maybe they should be…

The Archivist

…put out there, into the online archive. This simple opportunity that we have to write, publish and be damned, feels useful. I spotted a tweet from Gary Cookson a few days ago, marking the one year anniversary of his blog. Milestones matter. His tweet drew me to my own situation, 800 down, how many more to go? It struck me that I very rarely look back at this work. In rectifying this today (an experience i have largely enjoyed), two things in particular are dawning on me.

A lot of the writing itself is clunky, poor even. In the spirit of working out loud that’s fine – and I’m conscious too that writing is an art form, and is therefore subjective. Spelling and grammar aside, it isn’t right or wrong, it is right and wrong. Scratch that, it just…is.

There are threads, single strands from long ago, now woven into something stronger. There are seeds, planted way back when, which now stand as plants – more fully formed ideas. I’m thinking a lot about legacy at the moment, and I hadn’t previously appreciated the extent to which those things which currently matter to me, have probably always done so.

Update: I received some kind feedback from Broc Edwards, via Twitter. He tried to post this comment directly but couldn’t due to ongoing tech problems I’m experiencing on this site. Thanks Broc – I really appreciate you being in touch.

Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 13.46.49

Not All Who Wander Are Lost – CoCreated Conversations On The Future of HR

For the third year running, the CIPD has kindly invited Meg Peppin and me to their annual conference in Manchester. One of the main reasons we go is to facilitate some cocreated conversations about work, under the banner of HR Unscrambled. Everyone’s invited and our guests are asked to suggest the questions they want to discuss together, over breakfast. Our experience shows this is a welcome opportunity to reflect on and synthesise some of the learning people are absorbing at the conference.

This year – the questions offered up for discussion were:

How can we influence wellness?
How can we drive analytics?
Is employee engagement just about doing the right thing?
If we started again, would we invent HR?

The essence of the conversations were transcribed by Meg and we have now shared them on Slideshare. If the questions interest you, please take a look at the conversation summaries.

In addition to some suggested answers to the questions, further questions emerged too. That’s a benefit of giving people the time and space to talk, and ultimately, action is what really matters. By way of illustrating that, I overheard this snippet as people were in discussion: ‘After this conversation, we need to act. Cary Cooper’s been talking about wellbeing for the last 20 years, and nothing has changed’. You may or may not agree with the detail of this observation – but I’m sure you can relate to this frustration to some extent.

Here are a few more signals and snippets that wafted past my brain as I listened.

On wellness:

We should pursue wellness for its own sake, and if we need to link it to £ in order to release budget, so be it.

Use ‘stealth mode’ – this brings to mind Proceed Until Apprehended and Trojan Mice.

Part time fully present beats full time not there (physically and/or mentally).

Ban internal email two days a week. I’m not a huge fan of banning stuff but if this stick can be used to stir the pot of conversation then maybe it’s worth a go?

On the inclusion of women at work:

What is the gender make up of your future employer? How is that make up represented at senior level – do the two match up? If your work force is diverse and your senior management is stale, male and pale, is this a place you want to invest yourself in?

Consciously target and recruit – make it easier for those women who want to return to work. Truly flexible working – attitude shift away from presenteeism. Job share.

Meg subsequently wrote a powerful piece on diversity and inclusion. Here’s a short extract from it, the whole thing is well worth a read.

Meg Peppin Blog Post Extract

Thank you to the CIPD for their ongoing support and sponsorship and to everyone who came and participated in these cocreated conversations. Without people, you’re nothing.

HR Unscrambled Cartoon

Thanks to Simon Heath for the HR Unscrambled cartoon.

Putting The Confer Into Conferences

Confer : verb : have discussions, exchange opinions.

People go to conferences to interact and learn. When I sit in a long conference session in a big room, I often get bored. This is not so much a reflection on the speaker, as much as it is a reflection on my limited attention span, and the feeling you get when your bum bone goes to sleep after sitting on one of those conference chairs for too long. The risk of boredom is often raised because rarely do speakers make the time and space for any interaction in these sessions – I feel they assume everyone has come along simply and solely to listen to them. Sure – that’s part of the equation – but I wish speakers would try harder to engage the audience using tools other than their ability to talk about themselves at length, and their brain busting slides*. For further thoughts on the subject of how to give good conference, read this, by Ian Pettigrew.

In smaller conference sessions – it’s much more acceptable to get some cocreation going. I’ve been at the CIPD conference in Manchester this week and enjoyed watching a few sessions taking place on the Future of HR arena. It’s less of an arena, more like a small, low stage and about a hundred seats, and what I’m experiencing here is much more dialogue. Yes – there is some output coming  from various speakers, but they are often conferring with each other and interaction and inquiry with the audience is designed into the experience.

I don’t agree with the general assumption that a big session = being talked at all the time. Conferences could and should be even more interesting and enjoyable, through enhancing opportunities for invitational sharing and exchange.

I’ve been fortunate to be at the CIPD conference and exhibition for each of the last five years. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve taken and what I’ve given on each and every occasion, and the conference team somehow manage to steadily raise their already high game. Finding more ways to intentionally link speakers and audiences and participants is part of what will make future events even better, I’m sure of it.

Thank you to the CIPD for the opportunity to participate in their event again, it’s much appreciated.

*It may be just me, but I find the dissonance caused when trying to simultaneously follow someone’s spoken words and interpret a ton of tiny text crammed onto a slide incredibly off-putting. I believe the speaker when they say they’ve done all the research – I’m not convinced we need it sprayed all over the screen in unreadably small type. Pick your key findings – highlight as you go along, and share the detail for those who want it via your preferred social channels.