Tag Archives: Random House

The one with the best of times and the worst of times

It’s easy to start a post by quoting Charles Dickens but if you ever wanted to experience the best of times and the worst of times all in one handy situation then find two organisations that are going through integration.

I was fortunate enough to experience it first hand a few years ago and was hired almost immediately post acquisition (this was not a merger) and what you quickly come to realise is that it’s a difficult situation from every perspective. The need to satisfy the conditions of the change (whether that be financial or performance) are complicated by the myriad of definitions that exist for various parties.

Not to mention the plans that are concrete on Monday and ancient history on Thursday meaning that even those closest to being the ‘enacters’ of the change being confused and fraught trying to manage what at times feels like a bucking bronco that’s just been kicked in the knackers.

Whilst not on the scale of pre-revolutionary Paris that Dickens describes there are definitely camps involved in integration and whether that be the enacters and the recievers, those staying and those going, those from one organisation or the other – the opportunities to take two high performing organisations and bring them to their knees exist everywhere.

The role of HR (in it’s various forms) during an integration is equally challenging. In the core operations you’ve got big decisions and big change to make around policy, payroll, terms, teams and budgets and once those decisions are made you’ve got to actually deliver the changes whilst not breaking the fragile organisation. From a broader cultural perspective you’ve got an entity that is rife with uncertainty, rumour and agendas and if there were ever a breeding ground for political behaviour and self preservation this is it in spades.

Trying to support and preserve performance whilst you are systematically reviewing the organisation is a test of even the most loyal, committed, high performing individual and the need to shape decisions and enact them whilst preserving both the organisation’s and your own integrity is a test for every practioner.

The hardest part of all? You can’t talk about any of it! Publically no details can be revealed and privately there are very few people either a) who know everything and b) will not take you to a place which is about them so maintaining your individual resilience becomes a greater challenge.

So apart from me reliving the angst of integration does this post have a purpose? Yes in fact it does!

Last week HR Magazine announced their shortlist for HR Director of the Year and it’s a cross industry group of the great and good and a few of the usual suspects have yet again been shortlisted. One of the Unusual Suspects to receive a nod is HR Blogger and general Agent Provocateur Neil Morrison, Group HRD at Random House the publisher currently integrating with Penguin to form a power house global publisher.

Neil like all good integrating HRD’s is tight lipped about the plans for the new organisation and it’s partly for that reason that I believe he is deserving of recognition for what must be a hurculean effort. Another reason is that he doesn’t lead a behemoth of an HR team packed to the rafters with big hitters but rather a small team (12) of people at varying stages of developing their careers in HR who clearly run a tight (if informal) ship.

A further reason is that Neil is one of us – he’s a blogger and a tweeter and from the submission on the site you can see his impact on social media within the organisation but more widely within the HR profession I think Neil has had significant impact on the profession’s engagement with all things social.

To spell out the final reason I will quote Richard Curtis articulated with aplomb by Simon Callow in ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ when at yet another wedding he encourages his friends to “go forth and conjugate” as for once he would like to go to the wedding of someone he truly loves for a change. Please relax this is not some long hidden bromance finally coming to light, but once, just once I would like someone I know (and although I’d never tell him – respect) to win one of these awards if nothing more than an excuse for a big night out.

So in short VOTE NEil MOrrison (NeMo) and if you’re on Twitter #voteNeMo

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The one where the contrast is lost

Barack Obama travels in style – whether it be Airforce One, Marine One or ‘The Beast’; the President of the United States is well catered for when it comes to transportation. However, if I had a question about transport infrastructure, I wouldn’t ask the person who manages it for the White House. I wouldn’t have the same requirement, resources or infrastructure to make what I’m sure would be excellent advice relevant to me or the organisation I was working for. That may seem a strange thing to open a post about people with but I promise I’ll return to it.

Yesterday I attended a session at #cipd11 which was all about HR & Social Media. To be honest I wasn’t going to write a post about it, the main reason being that Doug Shaw wrote two great posts (here & here) which didn’t seem to need adding to….but things moved on and here we are.

The session had 2 speakers – Neil Morrison, Group HRD at Random House and Matthew Hanwell, HR Director, Community & Social Media for Nokia. Neil’s half of the session concerned how Random House have approached their employees usage of social media and how they use it as part of engaging their teams but also for engaging with authors and readers. It was an interesting session and the thing that struck me was it was very portable – to do what Random House have done you only need buy in not capex.

Then came Matthew whose session was likewise very interesting and concerned how social media is now part of the way Nokia operates. How transparent communication and collaboration has developed their organisation and shared some great stuff about what they do and how they do it. However (and there had to be a however) what Matthew and Nokia have done requires significant investment both in terms of technology and resource. It requires a reengineering of internal communication and is only likely to feasible and valuable in an organisation that like Nokia is big and global.

I enjoyed the session and came away with plenty to think about and have already shared some of the content with people I know who were not in attendance.

Where it got interesting was in the write up published in People Management Daily (a version of People Management produced at the conference). If you were to read this article you would not know that Neil was there. There was absolutely no mention of him or his content. The article focussed purely on Matthew’s content.

Given the number of big global companies and the rest I was surprised at the exclusion of ‘the first half’ because for my thinking it would be as relevant if not more so to 95% of HR Practitioners who may be trying to move their organisations towards embracing social media. Even for the big global players, trying to start the journey what Neil discussed in terms of behaviour would be incredibly relevant.

Is this indicative of HR’s obsession with “shiny” when actually what delivers real organisational value for most of us is good stuff done well? To return to the original analogy what we ended up reading about was a fascinating insight into Barack Obama’s transport infrastructure when what we could have read about was the contrast between that and people who deliver results with a Toyota Avensis and a Premium Economy seat on Virgin….

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