Listen and Learn

In this newsletter I return to Nancy Kline’s book “Time to Think”.  She claims that “everything we do depends on the thinking we do first” and “our thinking depends on our attention to each other”.

I believe she is right and this time I want to pick up her second point that “our thinking depends on our attention to each other”.  She says that “attention – the act of listening with palatable respect and fascination is key to the Thinking Environment”.  [1]

We think we listen, but we don’t.  We finish each other’s sentences; we interrupt each other, fill in the pauses with our own opinions, give advice and come in too soon with our own ideas.  In our haste to present our views and say what’s on our minds we sometimes miss what others might have contributed had we listened and asked questions to help our understanding.  These could be questions such as “What do you really think about this new idea?” “How might we make it a better one?”

I suspect that the more senior you are in an organisation the more important it is to listen.   Peers and staff are less likely to proffer their thoughts and ideas if they think their views will be disregarded by a more senior person in the organisation.

Kline claims that the times when she has just listened with no intervention at all have resulted in the best outcomes.  She cites the example of a woman trying to decide the next step in developing her herb garden project and opening it to the public.   Kline says that she said nothing apart from a few “hmms” and at the end of the conversation the woman thanked her enthusiastically because she’d been so helpful!

So the challenge this year, certainly for myself, is to become a more attentive listener, particularly for the more strategic and difficult issues, but also to listen to those who are prepared to question you with a “but what about . . .?” rather than “oh yes, what a good idea . ..”   What will be the challenge for you in this regard?


[1] Nancy Kline advocates ten components to creating a thinking environment;  attention, incisive questions, equality, appreciation, ease, encouragement, feelings, information, place and diversity (See Leadership for the Future – February 2012)


Coaching – does it work?

There has been much said and written about the virtues of coaching and whether it adds value to an individual’s performance and, indeed, an organisation’s performance.  As part of re-launching the executive coaching offered by Hafton Consultancy I am giving three clients two sessions for the price of one (£100 including VAT).  This will be on a first come first served basis.

Research carried out by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) showed that, when asked about effectiveness, 67% regard coaching by line managers as ‘effective’ or ‘very effective’ and  91% judge coaching by external practitioners to be ‘effective’ or ‘very effective’ showing that coaching by external coaches is considered to be more effective as a means of learning.   For senior managers and Chief Executives, external coaching may be the answer, particularly where line manager coaching is not really an option.

The research carried out by CIPD went on to ask the participating organisations if they were measuring and assessing the impact of their coaching interventions. Rather than solely relying on participants’ perceptions, the feedback showed that organisations were making considerable efforts to assess the impact of coaching including :-

  • feedback from participants’ line managers,
  • assessing changes in individual performance or career progress,
  • measuring achievement of goals set at the beginning of the coaching and
  • assessing changes in the culture of the organisation.

By taking the trouble to look at these measures organisations can at least have some idea of whether coaching is making a difference to their managers’ learning, confidence and performance.

Clients I have coached say they have greatly benefitted from the space to talk and think through a range of conflicting issues, and to clarify how they can plan and make major changes.  This is particularly the case when under a burgeoning workload.  The coaching, they said, gave them the vision and clarity they needed to make the change happen.  Coaching, in my experience, whether I am being coached myself or am coaching others, needs to be outcome focussed.   To that end having some specific actions with measures of what success will look like helps the person being coached to know when they’re headed in the right direction.

So does coaching make a difference?  Why not give it a try?  As I said at the beginning I am offering three clients two sessions for the price of one (£100).  These sessions will be for up to one hour each and can be done via telephone or face-to-face at a London venue.  There is no catch but you will be asked to agree to give feedback at the end.


How engaged are your staff?

Many businesses and charities now are interested in “employee engagement” and maybe it’s simply down to the fact that employers want “engaged employees” because they deliver improved business performance. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) research has repeatedly demonstrated the strong link between the way people are managed and overall business performance.

Employers want employees who will do their best work or ‘go the extra mile’. The quid pro quo is that employees want jobs and careers that are worthwhile and that inspire them. Organisations are looking for a win-win solution that meets their needs and those of their employees.

So what is employee engagement? It can be seen as a combination of commitment to the organisation and its values and a willingness to help out colleagues, sometimes referred to as organisational citizenship. It goes beyond job satisfaction and is not simply motivation. Engagement is something the employee has to offer: it cannot be ‘required’ as part of the employment contract.

The CIPD recently launched its Engage for Success programme and have published a report called Creating an Engaged Workforce which looks at the organisation-wide issues that contribute to or detract from employee engagement in different settings. Some of the factors which employees valued as part of their engagement and commitment to the organisation included:-

having opportunities to feed their views upwards
feeling well-informed about what is happening in the organisation
believing that their manager is committed to the organisation
involvement in decision-making
freedom to voice ideas, to which managers listen
feeling enabled to perform well
having opportunities to develop the job
feeling the organisation is concerned for employees’ health and well-being.
So how can you build an engaged workforce? Well, you first need to be sure that you want “engaged employees”. It may seem a ridiculous question but if you raise expectations that you want employees ideas, their commitment and additional contributions but have no way of recognising their extra effort, any initiative is likely to backfire.

Once you are committed to improving employee engagement the first step is to measure employee attitudes. Many large employers, both private and public, now conduct regular employee attitude surveys. The results typically show what employees feel about their work on a range of dimensions including, for example, pay and benefits, communications, learning and development, line management and work-life balance. Attitude survey data can be used to identify areas for improvement. In smaller organisations it may be more obvious where there is strong employee engagement and easier to identify what may need to change, but some strong objective analysis is recommended.

The drive for an engaged workforce needs to build on good people management strategies and policies which are aligned with the wider business and with the active support of line managers. There is no short-cut to building and maintaining employee engagement but the time, effort and resource required will be amply repaid by the performance benefits.

Please contact me if you would like to know more about the report and what its implications are for your organisation.


Motivating your staff without the carrot

At a time when pay rises are lagging behind inflation how do you keep your staff motivated to give their best performance when there are no pay rises on offer?

Pay is considered a “hygiene factor” along with job security and fringe benefits. This means if you get it right there is no positive satisfaction, but if you get it wrong then it can lead to dissatisfaction and disengagement from staff.

As mentioned in my last newsletter focusing on staff engagement has come to the fore for senior managers. Many senior HR professionals have recognised that making sure staff understand the value of their “total package”, which is extrinsic to the work itself, such as pension, work conditions and work environment as well as career development and progression, has been a key focus.

This is particularly prevalent with top performers. How do you keep your top performers from straying to the competition? They are unlikely to move for a small increase in pay but they might believe that the competition has a more supportive and positive organisational culture and decide that it would be worth the risk. Some organisations have tried introducing enhanced training opportunities and benefits for their star performers in order to keep them sweet.

Recent articles have also highlighted the importance of clearly communicating the rationale for pay decisions, particularly when employees see that the organisation is making reasonable profits, but hoarding these gains rather than giving a cost of living increase which matches inflation. Compare this practice with organisations, such the John Lewis Partnership where staff received a 17% bonus this year. Sir Stuart Hampson, a former chair of the John Lewis Partnership tells the story of the rushed opening of their out-of-town store in High Wycombe earlier this year. Hearing of problems, staff from other shops travelled to the new store on the Sunday before it opened to help clean and prepare it. “They said, it’s our shop, our customers, our reputation, we’re not going to have it anything other than ready to open”.

The light at the end of the economic tunnel still seems far off and we may not be able to replicate the John Lewis Partnership model but there are still plenty of creative ways to keep staff engaged in this cold climate!

Please contact Hafton Consultancy if you want to talk through your organisation’s approach and ideas: annastobart@haftonconsultancy.com


Trust drives high performance

A recent report published by Working Families, an organisation which campaigns for better work-life balance, looked at the link between long-term sustainable performance within businesses and individual performance.  The report found a clear link between individual performance, their level of trust and the overall level of productivity.

Trust: the key to building well-being and performance in the workplace found that trust between staff and their employer is “critical” for driving high levels of performance and motivation and went on to identify eight drivers for building trust.  These included:-  

Belong and connect The feeling that the   employee feels part of and connected to their team and the business 
Voice and recognition The individual’s   ability to speak up in a way that allows them to influence decision-making 
Significance and position The employees’ sense   that they have a clear and important role in their team 
Fairness The understanding that   individuals are evenly treated within their team and the business 
Learn and challenge The opportunity to   learn and master new skills and achieve tangible results 
Choice and autonomy The sense of control   over workplace delivery and their own role 
Security and certainty The sense of   predictability and confidence in the workplace environment 
Purpose The understanding of   how an individual’s role contributes and is aligned to the team and business’   success

Employers need to consider all eight of these trust drivers to move towards optimal performance.  However, “truly understanding how individuals are motivated at work provides not just the gateway to optimal performance, something sought by every organisation, but also an environment where every person can flourish,” their lead researcher and consultant said.

How do you think your organisation compares alongside these drivers?  Does your organisation have an environment where staff thrive and flourish or is there more you need to do to cultivate a culture of trust?

How can People & Culture shape and deliver your ESG agenda?

Are you missing out on hidden talent?

Digital Transformation? It’s people that make it happen!


Zero hours contracts – are they ever justified?

There has been much talk this last week about zero hour contracts.  While the Office of National Statistics suggested about 250,000 people are on these types of contract, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) suggests the figure is nearer one million.   They report that the  average hours worked by employees on zero hour contracts is 19.5 per week, and of the 62% who are working part time, about a third (38%) would like to work more hours.

But is it all bad news?

Certainly for the employer the advantage is greater ability to manage peaks and troughs with a flexible workforce with limited risk and liability on their part.  From an employee perspective these types of contract may suit people who want to work hours that suit them because of other outside commitments and interests.

However, on the whole these types of contracts tend to have no guaranteed hours, employees have to sign to say they will only work exclusively for one employer who can choose when and where the employee works.  Moreover, zero hour contracts are likely to affect women more than men and we already know that the 18 to 24 years old age group and those aged over 55 years are more likely to be in these types of contract.  All of which points to potential gender and age discrimination.

The recent debate has highlighted the need for more scrutiny among employers who use them to ensure they are upholding their responsibilities as fair and good employers.  However, the fundamental question is how can employers build a skilled and flexible workforce where staff are engaged and committed? Furthermore , if your organisation is using zero hour contracts in one of their many different forms, do you have clear guidance about what good practice you should be following?

How can People & Culture shape and deliver your ESG agenda?

Are you missing out on hidden talent?

Digital Transformation? It’s people that make it happen!


Who are our ethical leaders of today?

I attended an International NGO Learning Forum recently on Leadership & Ethics hosted by Islamic Relief which, although it was planned a while ago, seemed apt as it followed the media coverage over the leadership crisis at Cooperative Bank. A bank, indeed, which prided itself on its integrity and its ethical stance.

Transparency International whose aim is to promote transparency, accountability and integrity at all levels and across all sectors of society published their 2013 results of their Corruption Perception Index. It is interesting to note that countries like the UK rank only 14 (up three places from last year) and the USA are ranked in 19th place. The top ranking countries are Denmark, New Zealand, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Singapore, and countries like Afghanistan, North Korea, and Somalia ranked lowest at 175. We, in the UK, may think we are nearer the top of this list but we should not be complacent.

Turning to eminent people in recent times, who we might describe as “ethical”, then leaders like Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Desmond Tutu and, of course, Nelson Mandela would probably come to mind. The definition given of ethical leader given at the Forum was “one who leads with the highest levels of honesty and integrity, builds trust, and is immensely cognisant of his/her need to role model, and act based on worthy values and ethics”. I think it would be fair to say they fulfil these criteria, but it begs the question “who are the emerging ethical leaders”? Pope Francis? Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury?

How can People & Culture shape and deliver your ESG agenda?

Are you missing out on hidden talent?

Digital Transformation? It’s people that make it happen!


Inspiring the next generation of women?

Recently I came across a TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) talk about a young engineer.  TED, since their inception in 1984, have produced hundreds of events and short videos under the strap line “ideas worth spreading”.

I was particularly intrigued by the young woman’s tenacity and patience in following through her idea to inspire the next generation of young girls to become engineers – a professional that has traditionally been male-dominated.

Despite setbacks and being told there was no market for a toy targeted at girls to teach spatial awareness and engineering skills, she has achieved it and has set up a company called GoldieBlox.  Just a pity the toys are mostly in pink!

Take a look at her story here.


How can People & Culture shape and deliver your ESG agenda?

Are you missing out on hidden talent?

Digital Transformation? It’s people that make it happen!


Are you on board with employment law changes in 2014?

Each year particularly around April the Government brings in a few changes and 2014 is no exception.  Here is a summary of some of the changes that may be relevant to you.  Please email or call Hafton Consultancy if you’d like to know more

Recent Changes:-

  • Employers who do not pay the minimum wage can expect to be fined up to £20,000 (effective 7 March).
  • The period during which certain convictions need to be disclosed to potential employers was reduced (effective 10 March).  Further guidance is available.
  • ACAS is offering early conciliation from 6 April. Claimants must now send details of their dispute to ACAS who will attempt conciliation and settlement, before the claimant can initiate an employment tribunal claim.  Further guidance is available.
  • The maximum civil penalty for illegally employing an immigrant rose to £20,000 (effective 6 April).
  • The rates of statutory sick pay (SPP) increased from £86.70 to £87.55 from 6 April.
  • The basic rates of maternity allowance and statutory maternity pay (SMP), statutory paternity pay (SPP) and statutory adoption pay (SAP) all increased from £136.78 to £138.18 –from 6 April.
  • Increased limits on employment tribunal awards – came into force on 6 April:
    • the maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal rose from £74,200 to £76,574
    • the limit on a ‘weeks’ pay’ rose from £450 to £464.

Changes to come:-

  • From 30 June the right to request flexible working will be extended to all employees with 26 weeks’ service.  ACAS are producing a new Code of Practice and non-statutory guidance for employers.
  • National Minimum Wage rates– will increase from 1 October: the standard adult rate to £6.50, the development rate for those aged 18-20 to£5.13, the young workers rate for those aged 16-17 to £3.79, and the apprentice rate to £2.73.
  • Employment tribunals will be able to order an employer to carry out an equal pay audit in circumstances where it is clear they have breached the equal pay provisions in the Equality Act 2010 – in October.

Government Consultations

The consultation on zero hour contracts which focused on the particular issues of the use of exclusivity clauses and transparency, has now closed.  Guidance is expected soon.

The Government has published three draft Regulations for consultation on shared parental leave and pay and is intending that shared parental leave will come into effect for babies due on or after 5 April 2015 or children matched or placed for adoption on or after that date.

Caste discrimination – a consultation is expected in 2014 on introducing caste as an aspect of race under Equality Act 2010.

How can People & Culture shape and deliver your ESG agenda?

Are you missing out on hidden talent?

Digital Transformation? It’s people that make it happen!


Why excellent implementation of change is so important

One of the problems with change is that so often it doesn’t last.  It may be that the concept and the ideas behind the change and innovation were good and well planned, but the implementation itself and the skills and capacity of the line managers implementing the change diluted, or worse still, scuppered the intended outcome of the change.   McKinsey in a recent survey competed on-line earlier this year asked about seven core competencies associated with managers who are strong implementers of change.

In their research McKinsey found that companies that had good implementers sustained twice the value from the changes made two years after the implementation efforts had ended, compared with those companies where the implementation was poorly introduced.  After all, every company “leaks” value at various stages of the implementation process. Some opportunities that are prioritised will not be implemented, others will be implemented but will not achieve full impact, and a final set may achieve full impact, but it will not be sustained. Yet good implementers retain more value at every stage of the process than poor implementers do, and the impact is significant.

So what are these seven core competencies they surveyed?  They are:-

  • Clear ownership and commitment to the change across all levels of the organization
  • Ability to focus organization on a prioritised set of changes
  • Clear accountability for specific actions during implementation
  • Effective programme/project management and use of standard change processes
  • Continuous improvements during implementation and rapid action to adapt to an alternative plan, if needed
  • Planning from the start for the long-term sustainable change
  • Sufficient resources and capabilities to make the change happen

As an example here are some of the behaviours demonstrated by good implementer according to McKinsey

Ownership and commitment:   Leaders who are good implementers devote appropriate time and energy to support major change, often clearing their diaries to drive efforts in a hands-on manner and inspire their colleagues. They also role model the right behaviours to support the change, commonly by demonstrating the difficult act of making personal behavioural changes.

Prioritisation and planning:  Good implementers ensure their team members spend the majority of their time on the organization’s priorities. They communicate at all levels about which actions and outcomes are most important to the organisation’s stakeholders, and they have set intervals to review individual efforts toward the organisation’s priorities.

Accountability:  Good implementers eliminate performance variability through tight monitoring and quick responses. This includes effectively using key performance indicators that the organization tracks at the right frequency, conducting regular performance discussions with teams, and regularly assessing staff members against individual goals and targets.

Has your organisation identified those senior and team leaders who have these traits so you can be confident in that the vision for the change is being well implemented?

How can People & Culture shape and deliver your ESG agenda?

Are you missing out on hidden talent?

Digital Transformation? It’s people that make it happen!