The only true asset

People are the only true asset in any organisation. This blog is dedicated to recording and commenting on the great, stupid, wonderful and wacky things that people do to each other when they enter the world of work.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Deep in the bowels...

I find this comment very typical of the reality of what happens in companies, rather than the desired state. Philip Su a Microsoft employee and Windows developer wrote in his blog; "deep in the bowels of Windows (the business), there remains a whiff of a bygone culture of belittlement and aggression. Windows can be a scary place to tell the truth. When a vice-president in Windows asks you whether your team will ship on time, they might as well have asked you whether they look fat in their new Armani suit. Its certainly true in some sense that they genuinely want to know. But in a very important other sense, there's really only one answer you can give"

Welcome to an organisation that is prepared to face its demons. Congratulations Microsoft in being prepared to open your cultural challenges to the rest of the world.

Why did you really leave your last employer?

Yet more signs that UK organisations are failing to get to grips with staff turnover. The latest survey from the Chartered Management Institute and remuneration Economics states;

"The 2006 National Management Salary Survey, published by the Chartered Management Institute and Remuneration Economics reveals a labour turnover rate of 11.9%, compared to 7.6% for the previous year. Resignations stand at 4.6% for managers, compared to 3% in the 2005 survey and requests for internal moves have climbed to 4.9%, from a low of 1.4% twelve months ago.

This comes despite employers offering an average increase in earnings of 5.7% - the highest annual increase since 2002."

I wonder why people aren't staying despite the opportunity to earn more? Anybody want to share their reasons. The real ones that is, not the pretend ones you gave to the nice person from HR at your exit interview!

Starting off with mine - It took me a while to realise that my boss was a very clever bully who made me feel like shit, most of the time, despite me putting in hours and hours of work and achieving some great results. I was his serf rather than a real person. The sad thing is I took this as normal and felt that I was in the wrong most of the time. It had an impact on my family life and it took my wife to point out to me that my sense of values and business ethics were being badly compromised. That I was becoming a nasty person! And I was.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Do people perform best when they are measured?

Came across this comment promoting a White Paper from Hyperion in an Information Age email alert; "At our recent Business Intelligence 2006 conference, the keynote speakers, leadership specialist Professor John Potter and Hyperion VP of strategy Frank Buytendijk, both explained that this deep business problem (Why do some businesses appear to be focused, performing organisations, consistently meeting and often exceeding expectations, while similar or competing businesses appear to be disorganised and directionless?) has, at its heart, a simple solution: businesses are made up of individuals, and individuals perform best when they are measured, and have clear, meaningful objectives."

Really - is that it? All we need do is measure people and they'll perform? There is presumably more to this, because at face value, its no more than McGregor's Theory X (that people are inherently lazy and need controlling), with added spice because you can now use technology to really really measure exactly how people perform.

I'm not without self-interest in this issue - I do after all spend my time helping employees develop their self-motivation and commitment - and so would argue that the difference between high performing organisations and the rest is more about how people work effectively with others and not merely about measurement. It goes further than that - whilst I agree that businesses are made up of individuals - its how they work together that counts, how they communicate, connect and establish powerful relationships that make the difference in all except the very short term.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

A practical approach to better leadership

Last Friday I attended a masterclass given by Doc Hersey founder of the Center for Leadership Studies on Situational Leadership. I needed reminding just how useful and powerful an approach it can be in providing a practical guide to appropriate leadership behaviour depending on the readiness state of the individual follower(s).

And so it proved. Doc Hersey is a great presenter and makes his subject come alive. I learnt a lot and recommend it to all others who want to find some practical, simple and robust ways to improve the way they lead others.

Key learning point for me - that you need to review someone's ability and willingness to do a task, assignment, project etc and provide the appropriate style of management depending on your analysis.

I'm happy to discuss further.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Law firm deletes staff

I noticed an article on covering news that Clifford Chance has axed 300 support staff over the past year. I particularly appreciated the comments from one of the partners who said "We didn't notice any of them had gone, really." Ouch!

There's a lesson here for all of us - work to make sure your bosses would notice if you left. Work to ensure your impact is as high as you can possibly make it. Work to reach that 'almost indispensable' stage of contribution.

And good luck to all of those who have been pushed out of Clifford Chance. I certainly hope you have gone on to better things, rather than working for an organisation that was so poor at managing itself that it recruited you into a dead-end unnecessary role in the first place.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

What's a 'good' level of staff turnover?

Steve Ballmer's recent speech at the IOD conference got me thinking. Ballmer apparently said that he aims to remove around 6.5% of his workforce each year. Is this a good thing or not? Initally I thought that it was a typically robust and perhaps off-the-cuff statement and that it was not such a good idea. Especially when he went on to recommend that all companies should do this.

Probably not, because it is always a danger to generalise. However, if you look at it within the context of Microsoft, it actually makes sense. First the average level of staff turnover across the company is probably quite low, lower than other companies. Second all companies do need a level of staff turnover to prevent them stagnating and losing access to fresh ideas, enthusiasms and commitment.

Second if you run the numbers through a financial model and measure the financial impact of 6.5% staff turnover at Microsoft it comes out at approximately 5% of operating profit. I see that as a pretty good result. And it fits with my 'rule of thumb' which is that staff turnover of between 5% to 8% is healthy. And if you need to sack underachievers to reach it, then so be it.

Who would want to work at the Home Office?

The Home Office must be a miserable place to work in nowdays. When your top boss goes live and basically says I can't trust anyone who works here, you would have to be a pretty strange beast to feel good, motivated or engaged. Gulp - John Reid has a huge problem on his hands.

How can he sort it? He surely needs a great team of people from the top to the bottom, all committed to making it a more effective operation. The only way I can envisage it is with the help of dedicated motivated committed people - and by slagging them off in public he's just made his task and that of his top team even more difficult than it was.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Staff retention continues to be a big issue

Seems like Australian companies face the same problems as the rest of us - how to hang on to your people. Voluntary staff turnover reached 11.5% in 2005 and continues to increase.

But why are employers so poor at trying to do something about it? Does anyone have a view? Or examples of employers who are doing it right?


My first posting on my new blog - about people at work. Its called 'The only true asset' because that's what people are - at least in my view. My aim is to use this to post ideas, comments and information about the wonderful world of work and the good, bad, excellent and stupid things that people do to each other when they enter that nine to five, Monday to Friday realm.