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    Entries in culture (75)


    Mind the Gap

    Mind the Gap!

    If I heard that once, I heard it a hundred times this week and weekend in London at the trulondon Unconference. Flickr- Marcin Wichary

    The event was, I think, a tremendous success, and I could review the same list of usual reasons for that success (making real-world connections with online friends, exchanging ideas with about 100 experts and thought leaders, and the good feeling you get when surrounded with what are for the most part like-minded people). But I am sure by now many posts have been done covering that territory and I likely can't do much to add to them, save agree whole-heartedly.

    Those reasons for success were certainly all present, and I expect to some extent they will continue to be present for the next batch of similar events, (truUSA, RecruitCamp, HRevolution2, etc.).  I do think at some point, probably later this year, that these events will have to move past this 'Boy it was so great to meet so-and-so' stage, as pretty soon everyone will have met so-and-so already.

    But perhaps that is a point for another post.

    I thought that trulondon, coming from my American perspective was really valuable for learning about and trying to understand what could be gained from thinking about differences and disagreements.  Some of these differences are more historical and process based, like how in the UK a typical organization will still utilize a third-party recruiter (or 'agency') when a vacancy needs to be filled, while their equivalent in the USA might likely turn to a national job board like Monster or Careerbuilder. Keith Robinson shared a great scenario he uses to describe this process in the UK, ask him to share it with you sometime.

    But for me, some of the most interesting conversations at trulondon touched more around why the US and UK cultures and approaches to some of these workforce management and recruitment issues are divergent.  With few exceptions, the UK contingent felt that their US counterparts were much more advanced in many of the technical skills of sourcing and in the implementation and utilization of 'social recruiting' in the enterprise.  And many of us from the US, (well at least me) appreciated the way the UK experts seemed to present a series of excellent and detailed arguments, positions, and ideas. 

    In some ways the UK felt the US was for lack of a better word 'smarter' while simultaneously the US folks felt the same about the UK people (admittedly for different reasons).

    And I think they are both right.  And I think the fact that with an event like trulondon, that was able to some extent to be truly global, that some really significant and meaningful learning can happen.  With events that are local, regional, or even national there is going to be quite a bit of self-congratulation, perhaps less meaningful discourse, and the re-iteration of many of the same themes that many of us are perhaps tired of hearing and guilty of continually talking about.

    Where we are different, where we are coming to the table with alternative perspectives is where we can learn and benefit the most.  I suppose, where there is a 'gap' in our experience and worldview there is much opportunity.

    Mind the gap indeed.  And try to learn from it.


    The Organization's Self-Image

    A few days ago I stumbled across a very old post on a blog called Kung Fu Monkey titled 'Farm Fetish'. 

    I know an odd title for a blog and sort of a strange post headline, in a sort of unsettling, not-safe-for-work kind of way. The main idea of the post is that changing demographics and dramatic shifts in agricultural production had rendered the idea of 'finding' the real America out on a family farm really was not just a quaint or nostalgic concept, but one actually inaccurate and misleading. Flickr - Dia

    Since more and more Americans were living and working in cities, and less and less people were actually making a living as farmers, that our collective notion of ourselves as Americans and our collective self-image needed to adapt.  'Middle America' is no longer a farmer in Nebraska, but rather a web designer in Brooklyn, or an accountant in Chicago.

    This notion is best summed up by this question in the article:

    The honest question is, what in the American character keeps us returning to this completely false self-image?

    I think that the post makes an interesting point, one that still holds up and additionally might be applied to many organizations as well, to their understanding of their markets, and potentially their workforces.

    How much or little have organizations adapted their thinking of 'what it means to be us' and really took the time to understand the changes and re-composition of the people that make up the organization?

    Have many enterprises started asking questions like:

    What percentage of the workforce are managing significant challenges in caring for children or for older relatives? 

    How many are not native English speakers?

    How many are avid video gamers? 

    How many blog or have large followings on Twitter?

    We are seeing each week on prime time TV, courtesy of Undercover Boss, examples of CEO's and leadership in general not truly being in tune with the people in their organizations.  Is it enough for organizations to try and 'know' their customers and their markets?  Should they also strive to know themselves?

    And if the organization did know these things would it be able to exploit that knowledge? 

    And then would the knowledge get shared, such that the organization's self-image would change?

    Ok enough.  I broke the record for open questions in a post. 

    Anyone know some of the anwsers?


    Possibly the coolest job ever

    Last week on the HR Happy Hour show, our guest Grant McCracken author of Chief Culture Officer shared his thoughts about why corporations need to have mechanisms to better understand external culture, methods to leverage that understanding to make better strategic decisions, and to position themselves to anticipate where culture and markets are leading, instead of having to react always to changing consumer tastes and trends.

    Grant's idea, and the thrust of his book, advocates for the creation of the Chief Culture Officer for the corporation. This is a C-suite level executive responsible for keeping the corporation attuned to external cultural trends, finding ways to assimilate this cultural awareness into business strategy, and allow the corporation to 'see' important changes in consumers and their markets before they occur.

    Sounds like a hard job.

    Since the audience for the show is almost completely Human Resources and Recruiting professionals, I asked Grant what were some of the essential attributes to look for in someone that might make an effective Chief Culture Office (CCO), as a way for HR and Recruiting folks to get a better understanding of what they would be looking for. 

    Deep and Wide Knowledge - Unlike the CFO, who has to know a lot about a little, or the CMO that knows a little about a lot, the CCO must know a lot about a lot.  Pop culture, music, TV, movies, home design, fashion, technology, economics, etc.  are just a handful of the fields of study that the CCO must assess. And critical as well is understanding and appreciating the difference between 'fast' culture, (music, TV, movies, etc.) and 'slow' culture like the ideas around how people deisgn their homes, and how they interact with objects and space.

    Interested in Everything - How can the CCO possibly keep abreast of all these influences on culture?  They have to possess a natural curiosity about culture, in all its different forms.  They have to be interested in everything.  They have to feel comfortable in museums, movie theaters, seminars, and city streets. People that possess a wide range of work experiences across industries and geographies often possess this trait.

    Humility - The CCO is not the 'coolest' or 'hippest' person in the room.  They are not someone that claims to have all the answers, or have it all figured out. More importantly, they do not attempt to look down on the market or the consumers.  Many important components of culture, ones that likely influence the market for your organization's products and services are decidedly not 'cool'. The CCO can't be the person that looks down on Nascar fans or gardeners.  They can't feel superior to soccer moms.

    Instincts of an Entrepreneur - The CCO has to think like an entrepreneur.  That means assessing and evaluating cultural trends and finding ways to leverage them into opportunity and actionable strategy (and measurable outcomes) for the organization. This can even be from inside the organization, Grant told the story of one CCO that leveraged several internal cost centers and turned them into profit centers aided by the application of cultural knowledge.  The key point is that the CCO is not a 'soft' position, rather the CCO has to deliver results to the corporation.

    The discussion on the show of these important attributes for someone likely to succeed in the CCO position led me to think that for the most part they are pretty similar to the qualities you want in a Chief Human Resources Officer.

    The CHRO has to find and attract the best talent (consumers all, in this case of the opportunity the corporation offers), develop and implement strategies to leverage this talent and their abilities, understand and empathize with the workforce, and finally demonstrate a deep understanding of the business and how through the organization's talent strategies the financial goals of the enterprise can best be reached. Seeing beyond 'traditional' HR may be an incredibly important attribute for future HR leaders in a rapidly changing world.

    And maybe, just maybe the roles are similar enough that the road to the CHRO office could also be paved with monitoring MTV, movies, fashion, and the Pro Bowler's Tour?

    One can hope.


    Culture and the Workplace

    This week on the HR Happy Hour show Grant McCracken the author of 'Chief Culture Officer' will be our guest to talk about the importance of understanding cultural trends to the corporation.

    As Chief Culture Office so persuasively presents, culture strongly influences what products resonate with the public, the brands that endure and thrive, and in some ways participate in the formation of culture, and even the design and makeup of our living spaces. 

    While it may seem like the observation and analysis of cultural trends is more of a concern for marketers, product designers, advertising agencies and such, I think there are several important implications for those in the HR and Workforce space as well.

    Just as culture and cultural trends influence consumer behavior for products and services, it is reasonable to think that they influence the market for talent. After all, the talent acquisition and retention functions have many similarities to the consumer market, and employees have been described as 'consumers' of work.  Corporations 'sell' their distinctive bundles of value, (compensation, training, prestige, etc.) that hopefully attract the desired mix of employees that 'pay' with their time, effort, and expertise. 

    So if we buy the idea of people 'consuming' work, and so many signs point to a marked increased in temporary and contract work, more career shifting, shorter tenure with organizations, and more flexible and fluid definitions of the very idea of work, then thinking about talent through this consumer prism is not that much of a stretch.

    Here are a few quick ideas on how consumer oriented cultural trends could influence talent management.

    Customization of Careers

    A day or two ago as I was checking e-mail and scanning Twitter I noticed someone I follow asking for recommendations for some new musical bands to check out.  Within a few minutes about a half dozen suggestions were tweeted her way.  She replied with thanks and indicated she'd set up a custom Pandora station with those bands in the rotation. 

    More and more products and services can be personalized and customized, is it fair to say that current and potential employees will come to expect similar levels of customization in their jobs? If an organization offers the same, cookie-cutter package to everyone will they be able to effectively compete for talent that demand and more and more receive personalization and customization in many other areas of their lives?

    Feeding the network

    Chief Culture Officer makes a compelling argument that products and services that offer the consumer the opportunity to 'feed their networks', that is share experiences, help to co-create, and ultimately add value to their friends and connections will have the best chance for enduring success. Could the same be said for organizations?  Those organizations that openly advocate for  their employees, support their participation in social networks, and otherwise demonstrated added value to the employee beyond the comp and ben equation may have an edge in the never-ending competition to attract and retain their best talent.

    Work spaces

    As discussed in Chief Culture Officer, one of the important approaches to understanding culture and anticipating trends is to study consumers in their homes, to see how they live and interact with and consume products and services.  Even the very design of homes and neighborhoods is essential data for the Chief Culture Officer. Homes are not designed the same way today that they were even 20 years ago.  Tastes, changing activities, and increased preferences for more open spaces tend to alter how homes get designed and used. Shouldn't office or work spaces also try to reflect changes in attitudes toward space? 

    One of the trends in design the McCracken notes is the relatively recent increase of 'great rooms' in American homes.  These are large, central, and open spaces designed for congregating, interacting, and living.  If these more open, collegial type spaces are desired at home, is it possible that workplaces should also adapt to reflect this cultural trend?  Should designers of work spaces consider how people's changing attitudes can be leveraged to create more meaningful and ultimately more productive work spaces?

    These are just a few observations, perhaps you can think of some other examples of how an understanding of culture can help the HR and Talent professional.

    Let me know what you think.


    One discusson, three platforms, twenty peeps

    Ok, so that was a bad title, this is really just a little story of how some social media tools facilitated some fantastic dialog and ongoing discussion on real business and Human Resources issues.

    Last Friday night Shauna and I did a HR Happy Hour Show about Tattoos, Piercings, and Diversity in the workplace. The show was really a discussion on company culture, and how culture is developed and perpetuated in the workplace.  It was a really fun show, and I encourage you to listen to the archive here:

     Also since there is no live show tonight, this should give you your HR Happy Hour fix until next week.

    The next morning, Saturday, the culture discussion continued on Twitter among myself, The HR Maven, and Tammi Colson. We kicked around the idea of culture being a top-down, leadership driven construct versus the notion of company culture really begin driven and enforced so to speak by employees themselves. It was a pretty interesting exchange to have early on a Saturday morning, but definitely very interesting and informative

    On Tuesday I blogged here about Technology and Company Culture, mostly riffing the conversation from the show and form the impromptu Twitter chat on Saturday morning. The basic question I asked was can the application of collaboration technology actually drive a change in company culture.  There was some excellent comments and discussion on the post.

    And of course the debate carried over to Twitter on Tuesday night, where Beth Carvin, Kevin Grossman, Robin Schooling and I debated the whole Technology and culture issue some more.

    So by my count the final tally was one radio show with about ten active participants, one blog post with about eight commenters, and two separate twitter chats involving five more people.

    All great discussions, all happening in 'off hours' (heck on Tuesday night I was grilling ribeyes and having a beer during the chat), and all enabled by various social media tools.

    And by the way, just some of the 'titles' represented in the various discussions - CEO, VP of HR, HR Director, and VP of Marketing among others. Look the titles don't really mean all that much to me, but I mention them to underscore the point that social media in general and Twitter in particular is not all about inane blather about what people had for lunch.

    I probably learned more about company culture in the last few days, from this diverse group of people that I had in the last five years.

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