Monthly Archives: February 2015

Cultural Capital: The new HR

Debate has raged for years about the value of the Human Resources department. Is it deserving of a seat on the Executive or just an administrative function that provides staff with the warm and fuzzies? Often maligned as the go-to place when things go wrong, both organisations and the people working in them could benefit from readjusting their view of HR to the place to go to get things right.

Recent discussions about Behavioural Capital highlight that the way you relate to and act with different markets, such as B2B and B2C, will impact your bottom line. There are a plethora of articles and writings that highlight the importance of behavioural capital, but few that actually quantify it. Have a look at A Cognitive Theory of the Firm: Learning, Governance and Dynamic Capabilities by Bart Nooteboom or read Praxis Towards Sustainable Empowering Learning Environments in South Africa edited by Dennis Francis, Sechaba Mahlomaholo, Milton Nkoan for example.

What if we were to extrapolate the concept to include how you act internally with colleagues? Interestingly, the experts also point out that while many organisations believe they understand their culture, when questioned, they are likely to describe their aspired culture.

So let’s imagine a motivated and aligned workforce who were all working towards the same goal… Let me introduce Cultural Capital. A better title for a new relationship with Human Resources.

In Cultural Capital, HR is a key driver. It partners with the Executive, develops a culture map, then works across the organisation to embed it throughout the employee lifecycle. Imagine the savings:  improved productivity, less sick leave and fewer disciplinary issues. Not to mention the value added to your brand when your business becomes a true employer of choice. Prospective candidates will be beating a path to your door. What a difference a word can make!

Posted in The world @work

Pyjamas today? No way!

I don’t know about you, but growing up I watched my parents follow the same routine, day in and day out. They dropped us kids off at school, picked us up again, made dinner, reflected with us on our respective days, let us watch a bit of TV and then it was bedtime. Next day, an alarm and repeat. The notion of consistency, of having somewhere to be in the morning, was always there.

I can hardly imagine what would have happened if I didn’t need to get out of my pyjamas in the morning… our routine would have been shattered. This brings me to the topic of the agile work environment, uber trendy at the moment, but can I really call people from my couch?

Slade Group is one of a growing number of Australian business who has implemented the agile workplace as the way of the future. Personally, I love getting up and coming into work every day. The ritual of it all, picking an outfit – perhaps a matching lipstick – sitting on the bus with my fellow commuters – what will the traffic on the Anzac Bridge be like today? The city is abuzz with suits, casually dressed creative types, backpackers promoting gyms – a real melting pot.

Arriving in the office there’s the morning banter with my team, “How was everybody’s evening?” “Did you watch The Block last night?” “…it was the best Italian I’ve EVER had!”

My desk is a perfectly organised chaos of paperwork, to do lists, and inspirational quotes, which is home base for the next eight hours or so. People can find me, plans are made and strategies brought to fruition.

Would I prefer to be working from home today? Frankly… no. Maybe it’s those school days returning, but I like my work routine. A recent article, Bosses Prefer Staff in Office as Old Work Habits Die Hard, by the Sydney Morning Herald’s Workplace Editor, Anna Patty, also suggests that whilst working from home is considered a step in our ongoing quest to attain work life balance, employees are actually working longer hours than what they would in a day in the office.

“Barbara Pocock, an adjunct professor at the University of South Australia School of business, said an increasing proportion of people are working from home. But her research for the university’s Centre for Work and Life shows most people are working a few extra hours from home,” writes Patty.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for progressive, high-trust flexible work environments, but I am also for collaboration amongst colleagues, face to face interaction and a little extra time away from the laptop wouldn’t go astray. Sometimes the best way to achieve productivity is by being in each other’s presence and having a space to share.

Posted in Professional Support, The world @work

Four secrets to motivated, high performers: Target, Stick, Get, Protect.

It’s no secret that motivated employees are better for business. A motivated employee will put in blood, sweat and tears to produce the outcomes needed. They will take ownership for the work they do with an organisation as if it is their own business and they will continually strive for success over the long-term. Money alone does not motivate people to strive for success. You’re only buying high performance for a short time if you take this approach.

According to recent research conducted by the Harvard Business School (HBS), the key to motivating employees is to create an environment that meets four basic emotional needs. To truly motivate their teams, organisations and managers must promote all four areas and not just focus on one.

The needs identified were:

Acquire – The drive to obtain or work towards something, either tangible or intangible

Bond – The drive to form relationships and connections with people and groups

Comprehend – The drive to learn, satisfy curiosity and accomplish goals

Defend – The drive to protect ourselves and others against threats and to promote justice

When the HBS researchers conducted employee surveys in over 300 companies, they found that on average organisations were only meeting 60% of these employee needs. And organisations which were focusing only on driving one need had lower levels of employee engagement and motivation.

Also, an interesting learning from the research is that individual line managers have an equal amount of sway in influencing these four factors as the organisational culture.

So what strategies can line managers and executives adopt to impact these four areas?

Acquire – Develop a fair and achievable reward program, which celebrates individual and group successes.

Bond – Drive an organisational culture which promotes team work and collaboration; together we are greater than the sum of our parts.

Comprehend – Provide stimulating jobs, appropriate challenge, variety and the opportunity for continuous learning.

Defend – Create an environment where people management systems are transparent and just. It is important employees understand the reasoning behind decisions, even if they don’t agree with them.

What motivates you at work? What strategies has your employer implemented to achieve greater employee engagement?

Posted in Professional Support, The world @work

We rate hotels, restaurants and airlines. Why not our office towers?

Would it strike fear into the heart of developers and employers if we publicly rated the work spaces in which we spend so many waking hours? Rate My Office comes up with an architect’s survey form, but it doesn’t ask you to name your floor, your building or your city. Why not?

We’re not insisting on working in some Architectural Digest-worthy cool as Corbusier office, but let’s make a stand for a little more respect and improvement in work environments. Imagine a rating standard for the commercial building industry that’s more than energy efficiency related. What would you rate and how would you rate your office experience?

I’ve heard that a scathing restaurant review can bring down a chef, an entrepreneur and a charlatan in a single post. How would you rate your office building?

My rating systems would start off with something like this:

Are you able to access the fire stairs if you want to exercise, rather than take the lifts? Are the lifts smart lifts so you don’t have to waste time stopping at all floors?

Are you proud to meet guests in the lobby?

Is there plenty of natural light and can you open a window?

En Plein Air
Is there a balcony/terrace/outdoor/green space you can easily access?

Is there good sound insulation for ambient noise inside and outside?

Easy access to public transport, ample car parking and disability access? Can you get out of hours access?

Green Space
Is there any green space in, above, surrounding, in view or nearby?

Is the power generated by green energy or is it coal fired? Can different offices separate out their power usage? For example as I sit at my desk in my office on a Saturday, I notice the whole building’s air-conditioning is on. I certainly didn’t turn it on and I haven’t seen anyone else come or go. Can you open a window? Can you sit at your desk with natural light or do you have to turn on the power?

Do you have concierge services such as dry cleaning, parcel drops offs, postage, food and beverage.

Are they clean, well maintained, well lit and safe?

Are the external windows regularly cleaned? Are the cleaning contractors paid award wages, are they the best providers? Are the common areas polished and well maintained?

How would you rate the landlord or agent?

I’ll make a start.

Level 7, 15 William St Melbourne
On the tick side: good lobby, good access to services, disability access, reasonably green, clean lavatories, close by public transport, and good light. On the down-side: can’t use the fire stairs for everyday access, can’t open a window, there’s no green terrace or outdoor sunny spot.

Score out of 10? Probably 8.

If this worked, the army of Davids could outfox the Goliaths. The pressure placed on developers and building owners to meet the demands of tenants and employees, employers and office buyers would make for a better working environment.

Featured image: HOK/Vanderweil Process Zero Concept Building

Posted in The world @work