Monday, 14 July 2014

Tech Free Sunday

We've been experimenting at home with the idea of taking a day off from technology for one day a week - how hard can it be?

Very hard.

Some context - I have four children aged fifteen, twelve, ten & four (boy, boy, girl, boy). My eldest and I take it in turns to be 'most addicted to technology' - but recently he started to edge past me on the league table.

So we decided six weeks ago that Sundays were to be internet, computer, tablet, phone and game console free. We still have the radio, and we still have TV - but that's as far as it goes.

Week 1 - definite withdrawal symptoms, increased levels of grumpiness, especially from my eldest and youngest son (and myself to be honest) for at least two hours - which then resulted in them all pitching a tent in the garden and then sleeping in it for most of the following week. iPhone withdrawal hardest for me.

Week 2 - arguments the night before about whether to try it again ended with my Wife and I pointing out that the reason we were banning technology was precisely because of this level of addiction. On the day - much excitement at having a Nerf war which lasted three hours in a nearby park. Still missing my iPhone.

Week 3 - slight improvement, although new tactic from two children insisting that computers were needed for homework. Internet opened up with a warning that next week they better get their work done on Saturday. 

Week 4 - Acceptance that the rules were not about to change - homework done ahead of time. Much walking with dog, and then National Trust visiting for early evening picnic. Well picnic is too grand a word - more like loads of scones with jam and cream :-)

Week 5 - Day spent cycling. All day. With breaks for the pub.

Week 6 - Yesterday spent predominantly with Frisbee and radio, before settling down for the world cup final, and yes, we let the eldest three stay up and watch it because we're bad parents. Expecting lots of yawning at school today.

So we're carrying on with it. We have a better day for the break, together as a family for the most part. Everyone is less selfish about what they do - rather than retreating into their own world, we all find things to do together - and the world does not stop turning because we cannot use email, or look at the BBC news site, or send texts, or play Minecraft......

The corporate part of this blog, the part that ties this to engagement and culture? We keep doing new things. If you take some time away from the tech and let your brain work properly, you may find some more innovation creeping into your workplace. Live in the moment, connect, look up.......

But why not give it a go at home too? It's not easy, but for us it was certainly worth the initial pain.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

HR vs IT - The Battle Of The Sexes?

I've noticed that HR and IT teams don't get along too well (to say the least), which is odd, because experience shows me that they have a lot more in common than most seem to recognise. For example:
  • They are both overheads to the company
  • They are both blamed for nearly every bad thing that happens
  • They are both held responsible for decisions which were made by other parts of the business
  • Everyone else in the company thinks they can do their job better
  • They both have wildly unbalanced gender distribution in their teams

    I spent the first fifteen years of my career in IT, before switching (sort of) to the HR space - and I'm still confused about this. I only have to mention IT to a HR group and they roll their eyes and growl - the same is true within IT.

    At the start of every project, I explain to the program team that HR are the custodians of the most powerful culture and engagement data in the company - I'm usually greeted by confused looks, but if you stop and think about this, it makes perfect sense.

    I'm not going to get too geeky with this, but everyone needs a base line of engagement to work with, and either you pay an external agency to do a survey, or you try and manage it yourself - but if you're really smart you tap into the data you already have before making those decisions.

    Here's one example of how you do that. Let's say I want to know who the most engaged managers are in the company, HR can look at the moment during the performance management window they completed their staff assessments, and how much work they put into them. 

    The data is already there. 

    Here's a clue - if the process was completed on the last day of the window, and very little text is present in the summary or development plan, that manager is not too engaged in the process, the company, or the staff they manage. 

    A simple report from the IT folks will let you crunch those numbers quickly and easily.

    Typically you can find a dozen or so 'markers' in company data that build into an employee engagement profile - from time spent learning on the intranet to employee recognition and wellbeing program data. This gives you a 'real' level of active engagement, rather than a 'passive' level of requested opinion (both are valid if used correctly).

    The fly in that particular ointment is the friction that exists between HR and IT. There's no common language, so typically the IT 'guy' sees a "I want ALL this stuff" request from the HR 'girl' - and so begins a negotiation in awkwardness that chews up months of time and effort.

    Rarely do I see an IT team brought into the wider conversation or requirements, or the HR team attempting to understand the complexities.

    It's easier for me - I speak both dialects quite well, so I can ask for report from the performance management system with a few columns - <manager name>, <employee name>, <date manager started>, <date manager finished>, <date employee started>, <date employee finished>,<date employee signed off>, <length of text in summary>, <length of text in development plan> - and I know that the IT folks can grab this kind of thing quickly and easily (OK, I apologise, that was a bit of a geeky paragraph).

    DO not ask the IT guy to do the analysis - this is something that you can (and should) do yourself, Excel is really good at this kind of stuff - and someone, somewhere in the HR team should be able to help.

    If you're really lucky you have an HR Operations team that is more than just 'the people that are better with Excel than the rest of us' and they'll already be doing this for you.

    If not, start building bridges with the IT team - you're going to need to add salary and promotion data at some point, mixed up with some gender and racial diversity statistics and blended in with the sales and profitability data. Culture and engagement (as I say so often) is about building better business results, not fluffy bunnies - and only HR has access to ALL of the information needed.

    Do I think that gender has any bearing on this? No. Although I personally know more geeky men than women and humanistic women than men, I suspect it's more to do with the difference in the two disciplines than any underlying sexism.

    What I know for sure is that effort needs to be made on both sides to bridge the communications gap, preconceptions need to be put to one side, and by working more closely together, everyone will benefit.