Tag Archives: economic crisis

Creating A New Workplace Paradigm

I really like John Philpott!   Who is he?  The Chief Economist at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in the UK.  I had found myself nodding in agreement as I read his blogs on the CIPD website, but I definitely came to this conclusion listening to the talk he gave last night at the CIPD Chiltern branch meeting.  http://www.cipd.co.uk/branch/chiltern

Dr. Philpott was talking about the challenges of HR in the current economic climate.  Unusually for an economist, he refrained from making predictions about the duration and type of recovery we are facing, but he suggested that the difficult times ahead could be an opportunity for rethinking the whole workplace culture and concept of employee engagement.  ‘Creating a new paradigm’ has become a bit of a  cliché lately, but as you will know if you have ready some of my previous blog entries, I really agree with him on this subject.  This is not only an opportunity, but a necessity!

Particularly in the private sector, employers have taken away security in the form of lifelong employment, solid pensions, training and career development opportunities from their employees.  This has been accepted virtually without protest for fear that the alternative would be severe job losses.  And in many respects I admire employers’ creativity in this recession, that they haven’t automatically reached out for the hacksaw to reduce costs.  But in many ways this has profoundly damaged the trust between employers and their employees, so going back to the old patterns and relationships does not seem to me a viable option.

The good news is that it’s not only up to employers to design and implement the newly enlightened, highly productive organisation.  It is up to all of us.  Let’s communicate in all directions, not just top-down.  Let’s put employees at the heart of the organisation for real, not just for lip service.  Employees need to show how they can be engaged rather than bought, management practices need to be reviewed, the gap between the ostensible organisational culture and the way-we-really-do-things-round-here needs to be closed.  As Tom Peters (another person I really like!) says, ‘I love the idea that the employee is a client!’

What do you think the productive workplace of the future will look like?  Can you think of any existing models for it?  What actions or words would help most to rebuild the employer/employee trust?

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Ignorance is bliss

After the economic crisis erupted, many people asked: ‘Why did no one see it coming?’   Of course, it now emerges that some individual voices did raise some concerns (and, with the benefit of hindsight, their sometimes bland general comments seem almost uncanny).   But on the whole, the response was a deliberate wallowing in a collective pool of blissful ignorance.

Because it is easier to bury your head in the sand than face uncomfortable truths.  Because it is easier to say it’s not your fault if you don’t know too much about certain matters.  Because if you don’t know for sure, you can still fool yourself into believing things will work out fine.

We all know that pleading ignorance will get you nowhere in a court case, but I started wondering just how valid an excuse it is in other situations…  Here’s what I mean, some examples are more morally sticky than others and I’d love to hear your thoughts on them.

If you set really aggressive sales targets for your team, but don’t really want to know the details of how they achieve those targets, can you be held responsible if some of them don’t adhere to the official company policy?

If you are worried about your child’s behaviour but resist taking him to the doctor or psychologist for fear that he may be labelled for the rest of his life, are you responsible if he then hurts another child?

If you suspect your boss may be fiddling expenses, but you would rather not investigate it too thoroughly for fear of the negative effect it could have on your career, can you honestlysay you were unaware of this when the shortfall comes to light?

Thomas Jefferson said ‘Ignorance is preferable to error…’ and all too often we would rather say we don’t know enough about a situation rather than take sides.  And then be proved wrong.  

I am one of those born facilitators and mediators who wants to hear all sides of a story, who refuses to commit categorically to a position before looking at it from all angles… and yet I wonder if sometimes that is not just another way of using ignorance as an excuse for lack of action.  If I don’t know everything about a situation, that doesn’t mean I am ignorant and therefore not to be blamed.   Sitting on a fence can be a downright pain at times…

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