Home Improvement

Frustrated at the lack of promotion opportunities? Worried about how cut backs might limit the chance to develop in your role? Just generally fed up or stuck in something of a career standstill?

Everyone experiences this from time to time but there is something positive to take from the fact that you feel this way in the first instance – you are looking for the means with which to grow in what you do and how best to facilitate your learning.

So here are some suggestions of ways you might be able to find learning and development opportunities both in and out of the workplace:

1) Become an active part of your professional community

Its like Facebook. But if Facebook gave you homework and other stuff

The immediate thought when reading that might be to view this from a position of networking opportunities. There is no problem with this, however do not underestimate the fresh perspectives meeting peers from across industries and sectors. Not finding a CIPD branch event that covers a subject in HR you are passionate about? Why not look or set up forums for advice on places like their website or Linkedin – what, you did not think that social media was created just to throw sheep at people on Facebook?

Involvement in acts of citizenship outside of the standard needs of your job shows that you are passionate about what you do and are looking for new solutions to help improve it. Also you never know what new ideas or perspectives which might present themselves to you.

2) Examine where a service or policy can be improved upon

Everyone is looking for ways to achieve more with less. Is there an area in which you think your employer could either become more efficient or better at servicing their client groups? An easy way to start such an analysis would be to look at areas you are passionate about – for example, want to get more involved with L & D? Could you show that perhaps there is a need to improve upon the induction and probation training for managers? Using an argument of the need to improve rates of retention, lower costs in recruitment, people being more quickly integrated and hitting the ground running and so on, could you suggest this might be something that the organisation considers?

If you are able to show means of providing quantative improvements you have the start of a case to promote you being the one who gets to work on this – and suddenly you have exposure to a project in the area you are interested in/have a skills gap for.

Even if you are not, at the least is shows you are concerned with improving service and engaged with the need of the business.

3) Be a go-giver, not a go-getter

Napoleon Hill coined this phrase in his book ‘Think and Grow Rich’ and I think it still has relevance today.

Plenty of people are enthusiastic with excellent skills and in return expect certain rewards. This is fine but if you do not think your rewards are matching what your expectancies or skill set you need to take a look at yourself in the first instance.

Steve’s perception of the results of his appraisal were different of those of his line manager

It is easy to point the finger at a third party and the way they have mistreated you or how you have been dealt a bad hand. However, and I hope this is a clear underlying them to the first two points you have read, although circumstances and your environment are out of your control (and at times turbulent) what changes you implement by yourself for yourself are your choices to manage.

What is the alternative? Well maybe you could complain and do nothing – but as David Schwartz once put it “no one promotes a problem”. If you feel dissatisfied with your circumstances keep that in mind and see if you can find solutions to try and beat the malaise.

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"A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable,

but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.” (George Bernard Shaw)

I really like this quote because for me it sums up one of the quandaries of working in HR – we have to be by the book in terms of employment law and the advice we give, nevertheless are encouraged to look for means of providing a more innovative support to our organisation, if not leading and creating means for this innovation to occur.

A recent piece by Vineet Nayar in the Harvard Business Review I felt outlined this really well. He used the term ‘ristakes’ for when we might be looking for a means of improvement which although might allow for improvement in efficiency/service, yet leaves your vulnerable to problems if they initially do not work out.

We can all recount examples from our own professional life of instances where we have come across parties resistant to change and the difficulties this has caused – some might argue it is an every day occurrence working in HR!

Nevertheless, I think there is something to be said for the spirit of looking for means to improve upon what is in place and encouraging a mindset engaged with change.

If you are looking for some everyday examples for inspiration, perhaps the Next Generation HR research recently undertaken by the CIPD might be of use? I found the sections referring to how HR can be both partner and provocateur of interest.

In the meantime don’t be afraid to take some ristakes and keep making mistakes – remember, like Edison said, you are not failing but finding ways that do not work!

And if it were not for his mistakes we might all still be in the dark…

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The emerging work life balance: emancipation or exploitation?

Employers of choice are able to offer a good work life balance, coupled with the means with which their staff can aid their own self development and progress in their career. In return employers expect flexibility from them to react to what is more and more a rapidly changing and 24 hour work environment – hell I am writing about work subjects even on my downtime if that is any indication of the 24/7 culture!

Nevertheless employees have in recent times become more uneasy about the work-life balance coming under threat, with the economic climate being used as a means with which to justify demands of more flexibility and productivity from them in these times of austerity.

In recent posts I have discussed about the dangers this is posing to the psychological contract – given some of the information coming out of the Department of Justice at the moment one could imagine that many staff their feel it is a busted flush.

On the one hand I understand these fears, especially for those in the not for profit sector where things seem to be grinding to a halt more so than their private sector counterparts in terms of the good news. However I think there might be some real opportunities here that I feel cautiously optimistic about.

By having to get more productivity from fewer resources, there will be less demarcation of seniority between positions than has previously occurred – or rather if you are willing and able, you will have the chance to try your hands at new tasks. In such circumstances there is a chance for staff to be exposed to much wider briefs than perhaps initially set out in when they arrived in an organisation.

Some might view this as a slightly naïve viewpoint – perhaps a reflection of the stage I am in my career in that there are more opportunities for learning and progression than, for example, a Senior Manager or Director.

However what is the alternative? Why not up-skill as much as you can in the down time and then if it gets so demanding that you feel that you are being taken advantage of transfer those skills elsewhere? Though difficult, at least you have done the most you can in the interim to improve your chances at landing the next role.

There again, maybe there is a third way to try and make the best of what is happening….

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You say it best when you say nothing at all

Miscommunication can occur in so many different ways, with so much of our communication being non verbal. Go to any casino in Vegas and you will see whole tables of people keeping a grip on their ‘tells’ and what they might give away. If you need an example of how it can go wrong on a day to day professional level, ask Jackie Orme how she feels after being quango’d.

Going back to the non verbal means of communication and looking at this from an L and D perspective, how is this addressed in webinars?

I say this as someone who has yet to experience one, so apologies in advance if it is just my ignorance shining through! My understanding is that it is delivered via a link online to multiple users, with the trainer /module leader providing instructions and feeding back as the webinar develops.

There was a recent article in HR Zone suggesting this might be the wave of the future – but how does it function in a way that works and allows for free flowing communication?

My understanding of delivering a training session was that elements of the session would require you to ‘think on your feet’, reacting to how the session develops in order to facilitate the learning of the group – and yourself in doing so.

Is this perhaps a naïve vision and how does your experience of webinars fit in with the perceptions mentioned above? Is it the case that moves in L and D towards more remote learning are inevitable, especially in light of these lean economic times?

Or perhaps, in the words of the Springsteen, we need a little more of that human touch?

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