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New kid on the block



When I started blogging a couple of years ago, one of the things that really frustrated me was the ability to find new blogs and bloggers.  Getting onto Twitter was a help and led to me finding a number of other blogs. But then the other problem was keeping up to date.  There are times when I see a post being promoted on Twitter and I’m grateful that I was there at the right time to read it, but I’m sure for each one I catch, there are a hundred that I miss.  I tried Google Reader for a while but then the posts piled up and I didn’t have time and so I started to do mass deletes…..which kind of defeated the point.

So a little while ago I started working on a project to try to rectify this. I’m not technically minded at all and so it was always going to be a struggle. Fortunately I had some help and support. And today, I’m pleased to say that I can unveil the results of that project….

British business bloggers, or Bbb as it has become affectionately known. A site aimed to bring together those people blogging about business in Britain…”simples” as a certain rodent would say!  The site works through RSS feed, meaning that the content remains on the blogger’s own site and that the only way to read the full post or to comment is by visiting the site.  All that we ask in return is that people display a logo on their blog (that looks a bit like the one above).

Why bother? Well a couple of reasons really.  Firstly, to try to deal with the situation I explained above….to help readers find new blogs on topics that they are interested in. Secondly, to help bloggers grow their audience through sharing readers… read a blog that is part of the community, click on the logo and find other blogs that you might also like….etc.  Blogging shouldn’t be a competitive sport and if you are writing good content, then readers will always come back, the insecurity that being part of a community might somehow dilute your own impact or importance is, in my mind, short-sighted and counter productive.

It is a work in progress, it isn’t totally where I hope it will end up…but I’m proud of the work. I hope you like it too.  If you are a blogger and you fancy helping me with this project, then you can join here.  If you are a reader, then please go and check out the other fantastic blogs on there. And PLEASE, tell people. Talk about it, like it or hate it. If you have feedback then let me know, this isn’t all about me, this is a completely different project and one that I would love to be embraced and supported by others.

You can find the site here:

You can register here:

And you can follow us on Twitter here:

Note: If you see that I have already included your blog on the site as part of testing and you don’t want to participate then please let me know and I will take you off immediately. I’ve tried to contact everyone individually, but some may have fallen through or got lost or misdirected.

Last word



Just a short one from me today…I’ve been away all week on business and I’m running out of things to say to people having been shaking hands and kissing babies for what feels like forever.

The observant amongst you will have worked out that I don’t normally post on a Friday, so this is the last post of the week. And I wanted to tell you that on Monday I am going to make an announcement about something that I am really excited about.  Will you be? Well who the hell knows?

But I can tell you, that you won’t know unless you check back in on Monday to find out….

So see you then? I hope so.

Tru Blue



Those of you that have been hanging around here for any period of time will know that, the start of my relationship with @billboorman wasn’t the smoothest of beginnings.  I wouldn’t have included him the category of one of those people who I was supposed to meet.  But since that point I’ve met Bill on a couple of occasions and we get on pretty well I think.  We hail from the same part of the country and can both be stubborn intransigent arseholes when we put our mind to it.  And I admire that in Bill.

For those of you that don’t know, Bill is also the co-founder of the #tru events, the next of which is #truLondon which takes place over 16th, 17th and 18th of February.  I’ve never been to one, but I’m told by people who know about this sort of shit, that they are good, informative and interesting events.  That said, the previous ones will pale into insignificance compared to this one.


Because I’m going to be there.  And what’s more…..I’m doing what I’m told is called a track.  And whats more…..are you wetting yourselves with excitement yet? I’m doing it with Laurie Ruettimann.

What are we talking about? Well you’ll have to come along to find out (or read Bill’s blog where he has already spilled the beans).  But lets put it this way, if you are in recruitment, we may not be on your Christmas card list post event. But lets face it, if you are in recruitment you weren’t on our Christmas card list before the event. So quid pro quo.

I’ve never been to an unConference before and I’ve never run a track.  I’m told it involves me standing around talking shit and being provocative.  You couldn’t find a candidate more perfectly qualified.

So if you are attending, then I look forward to seeing you there. I’ll be the one hiding in the shadows.  If you’re not attending, I think there are still a very small number of tickets left.  One of them has your name on it.  Go on, you know you want to…..

Fate mate



So how about this….what if, and indulge me for a moment, what if there are people out there, people in the world that you are absolutely supposed to meet?

Have you ever had that feeling when you meet someone and with a matter of minutes it feels like you have known them for a whole load longer?  You get their humour, you have shared points of reference, shared interests.

Now that could be luck right? I mean when you think about all the people that you meet in life.  Or could it be something other than that?

And if you think about it doesn’t it make it much more interesting to get up in the morning knowing that today might be the day when you meet another?

One of those people you were supposed to meet.

Your flexible fiend



So I know that sometimes I have the tendency to be a little provocative.  Sometimes it takes an extreme position to tease out a proper exchange of views.  Sometimes you need to agitate, to provoke.  But sometimes, sometimes I actually write what I believe.  Today is one of those moments.

Two experiences of recent weeks have set my mind running and I know that what I am going to say may not be popular or PC.  But hell when has that ever stopped me.

This flexible working madness has to stop.  This political correctness gone mad is starting to damage our economy and someone needs to stand up and say this.  Now I’m not against it in the Daily Mail “little woman back into the kitchen” way, I’m against it in the, “this is an insidious disease that is eating away at the competitiveness of British business” way.

Take a look at the rising economic super powers.  Look to India, Russia, China…..look to Brazil.  Are these economies riddled with working practices that are so employee centric that they damage the effective operation of the organisations?

And these are the economies that we will increasingly need to compete against.  Whether we like it or not. And in order to do that we need to radically rebalance the power from employee to employer.

Work is just that.  It is work. We need to stop this mindless drive to have everything, to be everything to everyone and understand that there are trade offs that need to be made.  I’m not misogynist by any standard.  I’m not anti family or anti women.  I’m pro work life balance and I am pro family.  But flexible working isn’t the answer.

What is? I just don’t know. But I do know that ploughing down this path isn’t.  Have we come to far to go back? Probably.  But then when you’re in a hole the sensible thing is to stop digging. Isn’t it?

If you don’t eat yer meat, you can’t have any pudding



So today I have my annual performance review. Yup really. I get to be told how well or how badly I’ve done over the last year. And I get to talk about how I have found things and the support that I need.

Being a grown up, this is of course a pointless waste of time……

Which reminds me of the old school reports they used to give you, “Theo has a tendency to get carried away with the sound of his own voice” or “If effort were ability, Theo would still be bottom of the class”.

So here is my thought….I reckon you lot are better are appraising than anyone in my real life….so I want you to close your eyes, imagine you’re there in the mortar board and gown….chalk on your fingers and the smell of the staffroom clinging to your clothes…

And then write me my school report!

Go on… know you want to!

Is HR failing the public sector?



Yesterday People Management ran an article by a senior HR professional in the public sector regarding the skills and abilities of public sector HR teams. In a somewhat verbose and turgid rant, Graham White argues that the HR departments will “revolutionise the delivery of public sector working”. Despite the fact that I struggle to understand what is actually meant by that phrase (it has a sense of foreboding in my opinion) the sentiment is at odds with my experience.

Coincidentally, I spent the morning with a number of senior HR professionals from across the Public Sector looking at a specific element of working and proposals to make changes in that area.  The single thing that struck me coming out of the meeting was the disconnect between the thinking from this group of people and the actual experience of workers and users of their services. 

In short they were living in a bubble.

If you asked any healthcare professional what they wanted most from their employer, my guess is that they would say the ability to provide better and greater levels of care.  Funnily enough, if you asked any patient what they wanted from the NHS my guess is that they would say the same.  Likewise you could carry out the same process with Teachers and students, the Police and Joe Public and I would argue any single part of the machinery that forms our Local and Central government.

When I suggested that people should understand what their “die in a ditch” purpose was, I was met with blank looks.  I’m sure if the room had been full of people actually working to deliver, they would have told me off the top of their head without any reflection. Sadly that is, in my experience the disconnect between senior management and the battalions of doers.

And this is where I come to HR. The function should be the organisational conscience, it should be the function that has the ability to stand back and challenge as a critical friend. Instead what I see is a lot of minions marching out and “doing” to people without any sense of leadership role.

Badly changing terms and conditions as part of single spine agreements.

Handling redundancies without a modicum of respect or understanding.

Restructuring and structuring without considering the actual people implications.

Failing to address the core concerns of frontline staff.

I’m sure there are good people out there doing good jobs.  I don’t want to tar everyone with the same brush.  But if we want to get the public sector and services that we rightly deserve, the public sector and public services needs to get the leadership that it deserves. And from my experience, when it comes to HR, they are falling woefully short.

How to achieve shit…..



So at the weekend I finally put the last few pieces in place on a project that has occupied the last five months of my life almost 24/7.  I wont bore you with the details, but to put it simply, this was retirement planning born of a conversation with my consultant two years ago who basically said, “You don’t want to be doing this for the rest of your life…when you’re 50 do you really want to be slugging your arse into London every day? Getting grayer and sicker and closer to death?” Well clearly there is only one answer to that and the result of which was that at the weekend we flew out to buy a new home in the south of France.  We won’t be going there straight away but there are plans afoot.

Anyway, five months ago this seemed like a pipe dream.  Today it is reality.  There are loads of people who will tell you how to get stuff done and how to be productive and achieving and whatever, for what its worth though, here is my take on the things that turned a dream into a reality.

1) Get the right people involved. Some may say that pulling in help is a weakness, I’m telling you it is a strength. You can’t know everything, you can’t do everything. Be clear up front that the right expertise and the right support is vital.

2) Fear failure. You have to fear what you want to avoid, you have to despise failure, loathe the thought of underachievement. If you don’t then you need to ask yourself whether you really want to achieve it.

3) Embrace failure. Accept that although stage 1, 2 and 3 may be a fuck up beyond your wildest fears, that does not mean that 4, 5 and 6 won’t be huge fucking successes.

4) Be the recalcitrant bastard that  you would never hope to meet. You are making this happen. No one else. This is YOUR dream, this is YOUR goal. The is NOT a fucking popularity contest….you need to be the agitator, the instigator, the right royal pain in the arse that makes people get up and do….

5) Smile. Always smile. A smile opens a thousand doors. Say please, say thank you and mean it. Mean it from the bottom of your heart as these people, these others are there helping you….they are on your side, even when it seems like they aren’t.

6) Manage the milestones. Set timescales and manage the fuckers to within an inch of their lives. If it isn’t completed on time, why the fuck not? Boss the game, they tell you two weeks, make it one week….say it with confidence, say it with bollocks…..say it with aplomb.

7) The devil is in the detail. Yeah I know….cliché city right? Yeah well the reason it is a cliche is because it is true. Detail, detail, detail. You don’t need the answers, but you need the questions more than you need a gant chart. Ask them, ask them again, get answers….force answers.

8). Put your money where your mouth is. So this one is a little rum eh? I mean…we all want something for nothing right? But that is not the way the world works. So if you really want it then cough up, either directly or indirectly. Pay the money and take your chance.

9) Communicate your arse off. Talk is cheap. That means you can do a fuck lot of it without costing the earth. Ask questions, build relationships, check on progress. But talk, talk baby. Talk, talk.

10) Remember your dream. Things can get long and messy. Time and toil means that the path will meander and that is ok. Just remember why? Remember why…have it emblazoned on your heart. Have it written across your soul. Remember what it is all about.

He who is without HR sin



Something slightly different today. Below is a post by Gareth Jones (@garelaos) following on from a post I wrote last week on “strategic” HR.  In return you can see my response to Gareth here.


They say that Companies get the HR function they deserve and I’d be inclined to agree with them.  That’s not meant not meant to be an attack on the HR professionals at all.  If a company fails to take the people agenda seriously, and embed solid, progressive people practices in the organisation, at a strategic level, it will be outperformed.  It will also fail to attract the people who can make a difference, including good HR people, and/or will fail to leverage the talent they already have, again, including the HR professionals on board.

Of course, not every HR professional is a gold plated star.  After 8 years of interviewing and assessing HR folk, I can speak with some authority when I say the profession has its share of jobsworths, procedure peckers, nauseating wannabe’s, over-promoted pompous autocrats and all round ‘non dooers’.  However. it also has its fair share of competent, commercial, engaging, ambitious and strategic minded – yes even strategic – people.

But so does every other function in the business.  Unfortunately we are so obsessed with our ‘worth’ that we behave like no other function.  I see so many people graduating towards the commercial/strategic end of the spectrum (Whether they are qualified to belong their or not) and once there, instead of building constructively on that position, they start criticising and bemoaning everyone else – “I’m strategic and yoouuurr noooot. Na na na na na!” Cue lots of childlike playground behaviour.

And a good chunk of this rock throwing is aimed at the apparent habit of ‘talking tactics and non important stuff’ when we should really be (or even when we think we are) talking about real ‘strategic issues’.  Personally, I’m getting a little fed up with this trend for a number of reasons:

Not every conversation has to be strategic – Despite our mission (Obsession) with being strategic, HR is a contact sport.  At times its very hands on and rightly so.  If as an organisation, you are growing by 1000 people this year, that might not be keeping the CEO awake at night, but I wouldexpect issues with the resourcing process to be keeping the Head of Resourcing awake and rightly so.  If an HR professional wants to talk through the issues of embedding a new performance management framework into their organisation with their peers, swapping insights and picking up ideas, why shouldn’t they?  Its a solid, tactical and value adding conversation.  And, I should point out, one that the participants themselves would not label strategic – ironically its the rock throwers, not the participants, that are making this claim.

Not everyone is a strategist – Some people are only in the early stages of their career and yet to develop a more strategic outlook, others are more practical hands on types, happier to roll up their sleeves and deliver, leaving the architecture to others.  Should we belittle these folk for the content of their conversations?

Skills erosion –  As an assessor of HR professionals, one trend that concerns me is the lack of people coming through with solid and proven, hands on, experience of the basics.  The Ulrich model, an erosion of the environments that knocked the rough edges of the HR apprentices and this obsession with ‘Strategic HR’ have combined to produce a swathe of people who lack real demonstrable skills.  Far too many HR professionals are making it to the senior ranks on the back of very lightweight experience, only to start kicking others when they get there.

It’s negative – Negativity and self analysis are the cancer of our profession, from Linkedin groups to twitter, from the CIPD forums to the local branch meetings – its pervasive and destructive and very wrong.  Negativity closes down conversation, discourages participation and stifles debate.  The social media environment has been largely positive with some great HR folk participating, learning and contributing.  I for one would like to keep it that way.

Leading by example – I would expect more from senior participants in the whole strategic debate.  Too many simply criticise when their responsibility is to lead, challenge, encourage and generally move the conversation forward.  The beauty of social media is that you can step in and take part at any stage yet it seems that some prefer to sit on the sidelines and complain rather than get involved and guide the conversation through positive, supportive and constructive contribution.

Yes, our profession needs to up its game, I’m not denying that.  And by all means challenge someone if they put them selves out there as a strategist, but spend all their time talking about pension plans, performance appraisal processes and recruitment dilemmas.  But don’t knock the average, hard working HR professional who is trying to improve an organisations approach to people at a grass roots level. They get enough crap and lack of buy in from their functional peers as it is without their senior industry peers wading in with nothing but criticism.

Finally, as someone who has actually run a business for a significant number of years, I can say with absolute clarity that there is only one strategy that matters – the business strategy.  However, whenever I did have sleepless nights, it wasn’t margin pressure that kept me awake.  It was the people issues in the business.  Simply because I recognised that without a committed, self motivated and focussed team, there would be no business anyway.

He that makes himself dirt is trod on by the swine



It was about 3am this morning, I’d been asleep for hours when I woke with a start. My heart beating fast, sweat pouring down my face and an extreme sense of panic that I’d never felt before. My hands gripped the sheets, the knuckles white, as I slowly slipped out of bed trying not to wake my wife sleeping peacefully beside me. 

Downstairs,  I switched on a low light, poured a glass of water and tried to concentrate on slowing down my heart.  I took a piece of paper and a pencil from the side where the kids do their home work.  It was all becoming apparent to me now. A clarity that I had sought for years. On the paper were four lines of writing, four simple points that I knew were going to set me apart from the rest.  The answer we all search……..

  • Optimise our use of social media
  • Implement the removal of the default retirement age
  • Develop line manager capability
  • Improve our recruitment systems

It was mine…….the key to being strategic…..

Was it fuck!

People, these are not strategic issues. Nor are they the things that keep me awake at night.  We hear the relentless banging on about being a strategic function about raising the bar, about getting a seat at the top table and then we go digging around and wallowing in the dirt.  Well of course, you get what you deserve.

If HR is a brand we are sullying it day by day with our total inability to raise our heads and look anywhere above the pointless inevitability of our own tactical existence.  I’m not thinking about social media a whole lot, not because (as some would tell me) I’m backward looking, but because it means diddly squat in the grand scheme of things.  The removal of the DRA? Change a few documents and see how it pans out. Line manager capability isn’t the problem it is HR capability that is. And as for recruitment….recruitment is a process, pure and simple. 

These are not the things that are keeping me awake and I bet you they are not the things that are keeping your CEO awake at night. Maintaining margins  in an environment where inflationary pressures need to be balanced against a squeeze on consumer spending? Now we’re talking.

I’m not saying these things aren’t important, but every time you allow yourselves to be drawn into thinking that they are the REAL issue, every time that you spend disproportionate time focussing on and debating tactical interventions and process, every time you take your eye off the issues that really DO need talking about……

Every time you do that, you belittle yourself, you belittle your organisation and you belittle your profession.

Being strategic means exactly that. It doesn’t just happen because you close your eyes and hope.