Monthly Archives: December 2013

The one with the cracked crystal ball

With many people, including the Queen, advocating looking back at 2013, I am yet again jumping on the bandwagon of looking forward and having a tongue in cheek crack at a few predictions for 2014. Caveat emptor!

1. Confidence will continue to increase

In 2013 the 5 or so years of austerity and the watering of green shoots finally seemed to start to have some impact and the data finally started to swing in the favour of growth (and George Osbourne). Whatever the reality of the situation, confidence in the economy will continue to grow and people will start to feel better about it. The banks will ignore this and continue to charge exorbitant lending rates for mortgages relative to the base rate.

2. The Chinese will be to blame

With George and the bankers seemingly being let off for the last 5 years we will of course need someone new to blame for the things that aren’t working. Increasingly this will become the Chinese. The blame will take many forms – the impending spectre of their economic supremacy (latest predictions are 2028), their over-investment overseas (China apparently now owns most of Africa), their interpretation of international trade and copyright law or maybe just their overuse of MSG.

3. We will be told our lot is better

With a general election due at the latest in the UK in 2015 and a certain Mr Obama becoming a term limited lame duck President with only 2 years on the clock electioneering will begin in earnest in 2014 (does it ever end?) In service of this we will be told what we have is better and who is responsible for that (they won’t be) and what we don’t like is the other guys fault. Very little will actually change but the manifesto promises will be corkers.

4. Vince Cable will further distance himself

With said election looming Mr Cable will bid to further distance himself from Mr Cameron (and Mr Clegg) anticipating an Ides of March moment and the inevitable “Et tu, Dave?”. This will take the form of lobbing, smearing and general malcontentedness. Mr Clegg will wake up to the fact he’s got a marginal constituency and that a TV debate ain’t gonna help

5. The job market will flip

With confidence increasing companies will become marginally less risk adverse and start hiring more people. More importantly confidence will mean more people are comfortable to change job. The job market will flip from being driven by companies and vacancies to being driven by candidates. McKinsey will dub this with some title. Recruiters will use this to try and negotiate better rates. Very little will actually change and companies will still want the best people to hire.

6. We will continue to worship false idols

Whether Beliebers will still be Beliebers at end of 2014 remains to be seen but whether it’s Justin, the CEO of Snapchat or someone else enjoying their 15 minutes we will continue to be overly impressed with those who enjoy short term large scale success and have lots of Twitter followers.

7. Big sporting events will compare unfavourably with London 2012

2014 will bring the Winter Olympics, the Football World Cup and the Commonwealth games. Coke will spend a fortune, McDonalds will have specially printed cups, some people will win, others will lose. Whatever happens nothing will be as good as the Olympics in London and no cauldrons will feature in opening ceremonies. Danny Boyle will make a new film

8. The next big thing will arrive

Facebook will continue to flog it’s dying horse, Google will continue to innovate more broadly (personally I like driving my own car), people will continue to post too many selfies (shame on you Barack) and I’m sure there’s a start up somewhere for an app that will only post pictures for 6 seconds. Whatever the next big thing is, it will arrive in 2014 (or has already arrived and will now come to the fore). Whether it has any impact is quite another thing…

9. Social will continue to be over hyped

Since Cain defriended Abel and man came out of his cave and ask his friend Terry if he had a light, people have been social. Recent technology has of course evolved how people have socialised but didn’t introduce the concept. Social will continue to be bandied around as if it is was something invented in Silicon Valley or a in brainstorm at PWC. People will continue to go to pubs.

10. I will conclude the most complex recruitment assignment of them all

The assignment began in the late 1980s and I confess the spec has evolved and been revised a great deal in the ensuing time. There have been some promising candidates along the way – some didn’t apply for the role and others were rejected during the interview phase. I can’t discuss the assessment centre but in Spring of this year I will finally appoint Mrs. Jones. Herself will be issued with a permanent contract and I think I will be told where to stick my ideas for personal development planning.

Whatever 2014 holds for you and yours, I trust it will be everything you wish for and more.

Happy New Year!

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The one with the golden skirts

One of my early posts on this blog was about women and it was reflecting on how through the courses of researching an essay I was writing had found some information that influenced my thinking on the gender debate. I said at the time I worked in an organisation that was 80% women which is now untrue (infrastructure and engineering are still largely male dominated) but also said I knew some fabulous women who had been very successful in breaking the glass ceiling. That is still very true and in fact this post follows conversations with two of them who I am fortunate enough to work with on an almost daily basis.

The organisation I work in is what’s known as a meta-organisation in that it’s an organisation made up of several different partner organisations. One of those partners is currently striving to formulate new strategy on how they will approach improving their diversity and inclusivity. In the course of formulating they have taken some meetings with various management consultants who have shared research and statistics on the current state of play and efforts that other organisations are making to address the same challenge. It’s not new news but lets term it current affairs – the stats were up to date.

The comment that one of my colleagues made which has been bouncing around my head ever since made a very interesting observation. The point she made was (and I’m paraphrasing) that the organisations that have naturally arrived at having a gender balanced board don’t perform better because of the women on the board but because they have cultures that are open and inclusive so the best people are appointed to the board irrespective of gender. They are successful not because of a difference of thinking around the board table (or at least not JUST because of that) but because their cultures are open and meritocratic.

Fast forward 24 hours and I am discussing this comment with my boss and talking about its impact on my thinking with relation to what could be termed the positive discriminatory efforts of some (most notably the Norwegians) and she introduced me to the phrase ‘golden skirts’. Women who are imported into senior roles to ensure a particular business are ‘meeting their quota’ and are seen to have gender balanced boards. Does their presence make a difference to the organisation? Who knows? But in re-reading my earlier post I can’t say my reluctance to jump into positive discrimination will truly solve the problem or truly empower women to take a more leading roles in some of our largest corporations.

I was fortunate enough to attend the recent CIPD Annual Conference and the opening keynote was delivered by Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones (they of “Why should anyone by lead by you?” fame) and their topic was ‘Creating the best workplace on Earth’ and referred to an article they had published recently in the Harvard Business Review. Reactions to the session were mixed (someone described it as a marmite session) but it landed well for me with one point they made creating the most resonance – a point of difference you may call it!!

They had created an acronym for their best workplace DREAMS (you can read more about it in the article) and a little shoehorning aside it worked. The D in their case stood for Difference and in their best workplace check list they offered these statements:

  • I’m the same person at home as I am at work.
  • I feel comfortable being myself.
  • We’re all encouraged to express our differences.
  • People who think differently from most do well here.
  • Passion is encouraged, even when it leads to conflict.
  • More than one type of person fits in here.

I can’t help but think that Diversity has become something of a 4 letter word consigned to ‘also ran’ status on the HR agenda and does seem, at times, to focus on one element of diversity over another (and in doing so self-defeating its desire to be inclusive). It does seem that a discussion about difference would be far more empowering for organisations – let me be me and rather than alienating those who don’t fit into one of the boxes; it could create an opportunity for everyone to feel included in a discussion that could build a better culture and workplace (and of deliver better results). It would challenge the way we (the HR profession) work as it would challenge some of the norms of recruitment and development to name two.

Rather than writing policies that create opportunity for resentment or make people afraid to act  it seems to me the best opportunity organisations have is to examine their cultures for what excludes and turn that into a force for inclusion not for creating labels or clubs. Let’s celebrate difference and let positively intended people explore it – they may make mistakes but in a great culture they’ll learn, not be punished.

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