Beyond the Ulrich model – HR in the people-centric organisation

This second part of a two-part series explores how HR models are finally beginning to develop beyond Ulrich

The Ulrich model has provided a best-practice template for HR organisation design for more than 20 years. During this time there have been numerous suggestions for alternative models, which still all look largely similar to the original Ulrich model. However, given increased focus on innovative business models, it’s possible to see how HR models are also starting to change. The emerging new model incorporates teams, communities and networks, and looks distinctly different to Ulrich’s three-legged stool.

What’s new

Many HR transformations over the past 20 years have been informed by the archetypal Ulrich model, consisting of centres of expertise, service centres and embedded business partners. Although there have been quite a few attempts to develop a model more appropriate to the knowledge era, most are still based on the same basic three- legged stool, with perhaps a few more legs.

This lack of innovation is a consequence of the way businesses are organised also not having changed much. The design of HR needs to follow the design of the rest of the organisation so if these models have not changed then HR won’t do so either.

However, as I suggested in The Social Organization (Ingham, 2017) and summarised in last month’s Different Slant, we are now seeing moves to build on the traditional, functional, hierarchical design that most businesses have been based on to also incorporate horizontal (process/project/agile) teams, communities and networks.

Key findings

So what can we expect from the future design of our HR models? As I suggested in an article I co- authored with Dave Ulrich (Ingham and Ulrich, 2016), we expect more use of projects, communities and networks in HR too.

This leads to a new HR network model, shown in the diagram below, with the various groups and networks superimposed on the two-by-two matrix introduced in part one of this piece. The outer ring contains all of the different groups within an organisation and the inner ring contains the associated groups within HR. The hashed shading shows particular roles and business groups supported by HR that may also form part of the broader HR network.

As can be seen, an HR network organisation will be much more complex than the archetypal three-legged stool. The boundary separating HR from the rest of the business will become much more blurred.

Functional centres

Even as HR and the rest of the business increasingly use other types of organisation, it will still be relevant to use functional centres for some aspects of HR.

In particular, given the growing importance of people, it makes sense to have a functional centre focused on people strategy. It is also likely that responsibility for maintaining the organisation model be formalised within another functional group to maintain tight control of this important asset.

These two centres could be linked to broader business groups leading the overall business strategy, and other business assets such as financial investments, property, knowledge and technology.

Much of the work of existing service centres will be taken on by automation, AI, chatbots, apps, and by employees and managers themselves, often with the help of support communities or networks. There may still be a need for service advisors and perhaps local employee relations advisors too.

However, it is no longer necessary to bring all these activities and people together in a physical service centre. It is therefore more likely that activities will be co-ordinated and enabled using digital platforms, supported by greater use of analytics and a focus on employee experience. A new HR platform group will focus on the management of these platforms, often providing tailored approaches to different parts of a business through the use of varied service levels and linked internal charge rates. Increasingly the centre will also be integrated with other central services (finance, procurement, IT, etc.) across the business.

HR project teams

Many HR organisations are bringing together people with different specialisms to act on often complex and cross-disciplinary challenges. The increasing projectisation of HR has already been noted by Dave Ulrich and it is likely that more HR work will be undertaken through projects in future.

These projects can take place within HR for people and organisation work, although they may involve staff from outside HR. Alternatively, they can sit in the rest of the business, with HR contributing to a broader agenda that includes a focus on people.

This shift is likely to mean that HR will need to develop specialist project manager and consultant roles and a separate project management pool, rather than just pulling on staff from functional centres or the other legs of the HR model. Examples of HR organisations using this approach include BBVA (2018) and Vistaprint (Denning, 2018).

HR communities of expertise

HR still needs specialist expertise. But with the rise of gig working much of this can be brought in when necessary rather than being owned by HR. In addition, there is often no need for either these varied contributors or the remaining smaller group of permanent specialists to be pulled together into centres.

Centres are therefore being reborn as communities and these already feature in recommended HR models from both Deloitte and EY (although these are still based largely on the three-legged stool).

Communities help gather people with common interests in less formal ways than centres, harnessing people’s intrinsic motivation. They should include important strategic areas such as organisation design, organisation development, diversity and inclusion, engagement, people analytics and HR technology. They may also be smaller than the centres they replace. For example, there could be a community focusing on employee benefits rather than the broader category of reward. Communities may also extend across broader areas, meeting a growing need to deal with key business topics such as productivity, innovation and customer centricity. (Sparrow, 2014).

Communities can also act as ‘homes’ for project staff when they are not active on projects, and provide a longer-term sense of belonging. This is the type of flexible resource pool arrangement traditionally used by professional services firms, but it replaces bureaucratic functional groups with looser more people-focused communities.

HR networks of change and engagement

Certain things HR does can often be delivered and supported best through networks. For example, lots of change programmes involve change champion networks that promote the change across the organisation. Networks can also be used to maintain existing programmes, often supporting a particular community of expertise. For instance, a recruitment community may set up a hiring manager network or an employee advocate network to link more closely with these broader groups.

One example of an organisation doing this is Vistaprint, which uses an agile champions network to facilitate retrospective reviews and a feedback champions network to train teams on giving and receiving feedback (Denning, 2018).

Most HR networks will consist of more people from the rest of the business than from HR. People from HR may also participate in broader business (non-HR) networks, for example working with IT to help build adoption of a new digital system.

Other roles and responsibilities in the HR network

Most HR practitioners will work in these centres or communities, with most being pulled out to work on projects (though there may be some full-time specialists too). However, HR may also take on new roles and responsibilities relating to the new organisation groups in the rest of the business. People working in these people-oriented roles may all sit within HR.

HR may also add overall oversight of communities and networks to its existing focus on the people working across the organisation.

HR network brokers

A particularly important type of network broker as far as HR is concerned will be the one connecting HR with the rest of the business. It is this new role that really distinguishes the HR network model from other attempts to update the Ulrich model.

Given the increasing need for people centricity, HR business partnering is becoming more important. However, business partner as a job largely disappears. Partnering with the business is still an important activity; but who are we going to partner with? Often there will be too many teams and communities, and they will be too small, self- managing and changeable to partner with.

So business partners will largely be replaced by similar staff working through the organisation’s various networks, connecting people to provide the appropriate support as well as providing some of this themselves.

From research to reality

In the late 1990s the Ulrich model offered a new HR solution to an existing organisational arrangement (functional organisations). It could apply to any organisation of more than a few hundred people trying to balance centralisation with decentralisation.

But this does not mean any organisation meeting these conditions could just copy the model. The Ulrich model was never intended to be a standardised solution and neither the business nor HR should copy a standardised solution (whether this is holacracy, the Ulrich model, the HR network model…) Instead HR should identify a best fit response to its own objectives.

The key drivers for organisational transformation should always be the required people and organisational outcomes, organisation principles, and employee expectations (Ingham, 2019). The key drivers for HR transformation should be HR’s own organisational outcomes (e.g. its effectiveness as a strategic partner) required to support and inform the business; its own principles, cascaded from those of the organisation; and the expectations of HR practitioners and others working within the HR network. Therefore, it is generally only when a company becomes a network organisation that HR needs to become networked too.

But it will still be useful to keep this model in mind when undertaking HR transformation. Doing this will help ensure HR groups are designed for the future rather than just the needs of today. And while it may not be appropriate to implement the full network model, there may still be opportunities for using project teams and communities rather than centres. This will ensure that HR moves in a direction potentially most relevant in future.

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Can HR quantify culture?

New reporting requirements have been introduced around monitoring culture more closely. Will this improve corporate governance or be just another box to tick?

“Rob is the miserable one of the partnership,” jokes visiting professor and executive in residence at IE Business School Gareth Jones, referring to his book- and article-writing partner Emeritus professor of organisational behaviour at London Business School Rob Goffee (who, poor man, is not on the phone call to defend himself).

But despite Jones’ opening quip it is he who is foretelling doom. “Here’s a miserable prediction: in light of the new corporate governance reporting guidelines boards will be saying to their HR departments ‘WE NEED SOME MEASURES!’” the former BBC director of HR and internal communications says, shouting this last part down the phone so loudly that those nearby in HR magazine’s office look round in surprise.

Jones is referring to the Financial Reporting Council (FRC)’s Corporate Governance Code, published in July 2018 and containing new provisions requiring boards to ‘assess and monitor culture’, and ‘seek assurance that management has taken corrective action’ in cases where it is ‘not satisfied that policy practices or behaviour throughout the business are aligned with the company’s purpose, values and strategy’ – with the board’s activities and any action taken in this area explained in the annual report.

The fact that this is a new code rather than a revision (as has been more typical) is significant in terms of how much more central culture and other related concepts such as values and engagement now are.

“Culture I think got one reference in the old code; it might even have been in the preface,” muses Simon Lowe, a consultant at Grant Thornton and chairman of its Governance Institute. “Now it’s in the first section and then the provisions… so now rather than it being an ephemeral concept it’s seen as at the heart of business.”

This means the concept is making its way much more solidly into the boardroom – something that hasn’t historically been the case, reports chair of Advanced Boardroom Excellence Helen Pitcher. “There are certain boards that when I’ve said to them: ‘what’s your cultural oversight?’ they say: ‘we don’t get involved in that, we leave that to the subsidiary company’,” she reports.

“I say: ‘how do you know that’s happening in your subsidiary?’ They say: ‘we get an occasional map from HR’. I say: ‘and how much time does that get on the agenda?’ They say: ‘20 minutes towards the end’, so you know damn well it won’t get even 20 minutes…”

The FRC code is not the only new guidance aimed at tackling this. Culture has now been included in the Chartered Institute of Internal Auditors’ guidelines. And at the end of last year new guidance was released from GC100 on the section 172(1)(a) to (f) duty within its Companies Act 2006, explaining the link between good stakeholder engagement and a healthy corporate culture.

The end of 2018 also saw the release of the Wates Principles, which largely mirror the Corporate Governance Code but widen its reach to all large private companies (the FRC code applies to premium listed firms).

“You’ve also got the Financial Conduct Authority… culture has been its number one thing for the past three years,” reports Sue Jex, a director at Grant Thornton as well as its people, culture and organisation lead. “So you’ve not only got a new corporate governance code, you’ve got this recognition across the various touch points into organisations that ‘actually you really need to look at your culture’.

“And none of them are saying ‘this is a good culture and this is a bad culture’. They’re talking about alignment to business goals, alignment to strategy – which is as it should be,” she adds, regarding the more nuanced and value-adding way boards are now being encouraged to approach the area.

Measuring to death

Which all sounds marvellous. So why Jones’ doom-mongering? The answer: because boards and investors like to quickly grasp governance issues and are used to doing so on other fronts – finance and risk for example. And because the FRC’s requirement to ‘assess and monitor’ culture could do untold damage, according to Jones.

“NEDs get bombarded with paper before meetings and they’re [now] meant to get a feel for the culture. Well they’re not going to are they?” he says. “They say ‘I need something I can look at before the meeting so give me a dashboard or a measure’. But ‘the culture is 57%’ is going to be an illusion.”

Jones is certainly not alone in his concerns. “I’m sceptical about the measuring culture industry,” agrees Inji Duducu, people director, reward and employee services at Morrisons. “People are looking for quick fixes and simplicity in something that is inherently complex. Increasingly, driven by corporate governance, they’re looking to be able to demonstrate that. But that’s like trying to measure love.”

Like Duducu, Jones worries about suppliers and consultants leading HRand boards astray: “HR will run off to a bunch of shyster consultants who will produce dashboards that purport to measure culture. And three years down the line we’ll discover they don’t measure what we thought they did.

“I see so many people who try to do HR sitting in front of their computers, looking at data,” he adds. “I fully accept that the revolution in data analytics will profoundly change the way HR is practised… [But] human relationships are complex and it won’t always be easy to diagnose your culture.”

“Measurement of culture is now being taken over by consultancies,” agrees Andrew Kakabadse, professor of governance and leadership at Henley Business School, University of Reading. “That’s a problem because they’re trying to push their particular brief and scale it across a number of organisations, so there isn’t that personal touch. And by going excessively into measurement I have seen management losing all touch with common sense.”

Particularly dangerous would be any attempt to benchmark companies against each other culturally, feels Jon Ingham, founder of Strategic Dynamics Consultancy Services and former HRD at EY. “The FRC stuff is not the first attempt to look at this. There was Denise Kingsmill’s Accounting for People Taskforce in 2004, and the CIPD’s work on Valuing Your Talent, and equivalent work in the US where a group of HRDs tried to put in place mandatory standards for reporting,” he says.

“But they’ve all come to pretty much the same conclusion – that if you try to standardise metrics you end up reporting on fairly meaningless things because no metric will be meaningful for all organisations.”

Many of the past few years’ governance scandals (think Weinstein, Oxfam, Volkswagen diesel emissions) were essentially the result of people’s inability to report wrongdoing, Kakabadse points out. So the key thing many should be – and indeed are – seeking to improve about their cultures is people’s ability to speak truth to power. But straightforward surveying and measurement will struggle to capture this.

“Senior management may be trying to get the most open communication but the one thing people fear is challenging the CEO. Even when you put that on a questionnaire… you can imagine the paranoia going on,” says Kakabadse.

“What’s impossible to audit are the mixed messages that are there. Because there’s no way any consulting body or HRD can create a questionnaire complex enough to capture that.”

A red herring?

And concerns don’t end at the difficulty of reporting on culture, or at warnings about consultants. Ask a range of experts and HR professionals about culture and it’s akin to opening Pandora’s Box. You get a variety of definitions and approaches, with some unconvinced the construct has much value at all.

A good time perhaps to bring in professor of organisational psychology at Queen Mary University of London and HR fad critic Rob Briner: “Culture is one of those things that after five minutes of thinking about it seems to make a lot of sense. But after 10 minutes it’s a bit more ambiguous. Think about it for half an hour and you think ‘actually I’m not sure it’s worth pursuing’.”

He adds: “Similarly to engagement, people draw on it when they don’t want to think too hard about something.”

For Briner the difficulty of measuring culture is the clue. If you can’t describe it without resorting to other terminology and concepts therein lies the rub: “When I say ‘what do you mean by culture?’ People start talking about behaviour. I say ‘so you’re trying to change the way people behave?’ They say ‘yes’. So why do we need to talk about culture?”

“Culture is not necessarily the right way to express it,” agrees Philippa Foster Back, director of the Institute of Business Ethics (IBE). “Because you can have many different cultures in an organisation, and quite rightly so. Hopefully the same values will be embedded but the way it plays out will be slightly different. I think it’s much better to talk about behaviours because those are individual and it’s the combination that gives you the culture.

“It’s a subject you need to be granular about,” she continues. “So you need to know: what are people actually doing? And what example are they setting?”

Edward Houghton, head of research at the CIPD, concedes that the literature on culture can be quite confusing and contradictory, with a dearth of evidence around what works. “In the development of our Profession Map we spent a lot of time trying to navigate what are some quite complex and fraught areas of academic thinking about organisational culture,” he says.

“Quality research conducted within live organisations is lacking because it’s sometimes hard to get into businesses to do this type of research; you have to get into every corner because it has to be comprehensive.”

But that’s not to say the concept has no value. Far from it. “Behaviour is a fundamental part of what we mean by culture, but it’s not the only part. That’s why I think culture has gained a lot of traction within the governance space because it’s not just about behaviours but values and systems that govern organisations,” Houghton says, describing culture as “the glue that sticks it all together”.

The fact that everyone – from the person on the street to those in the boardroom – knows what is meant by ‘organisational culture’, and exactly what different cultures feel like, is no small signifier of the concept’s value, he adds.

“If you say to someone on the street ‘describe what you think the culture of financial services is’ they will have a view,” he says, adding: “To an external stakeholder or investor or regulator it’s so important an organisation can articulate what it values about its workforce. Culture is a really nice way – it’s almost a theme – in which we can talk about the important people issues that occur in organisations.”

Though he is deeply suspicious of attempts to measure it in purely black and white quantifiable terms, Jones is similarly convinced of the importance of culture to organisational success. “Culture is not a new concern; it’s come back again,” he says, asserting that this is with good reason and pointing to that old adage ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’.

“We started to think we could solve all the fundamental problems with improving HR systems… Then the solution was to get a new strategy… Well we soon discovered that a new strategy doesn’t mean it’ll be executed.”

Ultimately culture is important because it’s “anthropological”, or rather a uniquely human “species concept”, says Jones – so something humans will create between themselves anyway whether organisations are intentional about it or not.

“As far as we know even our nearest neighbours chimpanzees don’t have cultures,” he says. “But because human beings are gifted with elaborate language systems and consciousness we developed symbolic edifices that are profoundly cultural. That’s why it matters, because organisations are all about social relationships.”

Assessing and monitoring

This “anthropological dimension” means, however, that when boards and shareholders inevitably turn to HR asking (hopefully not shouting) for a measure around culture HR needs to push back. While this is an opportunity for HR to bring a potentially organisation-critical area to the (board) table, it must be gone about the right way.

“I think we have to educate shareholders and boards. If they’re serious about this they have to understand it’s a bit of a nebulous subject… we have to be prepared to push back a bit. I think it would be disingenuous and ineffective if we tried to come up with a number,” says Rosemary McGinness, chief people officer at The Weir Group. “I don’t think with culture you ever get there, it’s a journey.”

So what should HR present instead? And how should it go about collecting this intelligence, if it isn’t already doing so?

The key is to combine many different data sets, and make sure they’re meaningful in your specific context, says Lowe.

“You have to spend some time saying ‘what’s the combination of metrics that will give us a feel? And then can we, when we’re actually out in the company, continually be testing it?’” he says.

“So employee surveys sure, but I worry the majority of companies will repurpose that and say ‘it tells us about the culture’.”

“It’s probably an amalgam of lots of things we already measure and maybe a couple of things we don’t and should,” muses Natalie Bickford, group HR director at Merlin Entertainments. “Certainly things like employee engagement, retention rates, internal promotion rates, diversity data, sickness absence, grievances raised, whistleblowing… adherence to policy and policy itself.

“So if for example you say ‘we want our culture to be about getting the best people,’ do you have the flexibility in your organisation that would enable that?”

She adds: “I think of culture as the output, and value statements and behaviours as input. The demand will come from the board, but it’s the HR director’s opportunity to make this a really worthwhile exercise.”

“It depends on your performance management schemes but they often have quite a lot of good data – you might have observations around how individuals are living the values of your organisation,” says Janet King, director of HR and corporate services and deputy chief executive at Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust.

She explains that auditing culture is rising up the agenda in the public sector too: “There’s always been governance but that’s definitely gone up a notch in my world. We did a piece on cultural maturity and actually it was the internal auditors that did it. Normally they’re looking at your books and numbers. This was the first time they looked at people and culture.”

“We’re right to focus on culture, but in my opinion it’s so important that we need to get beyond the word,” says Ingham. “It’s become so central now that the term is a distraction. We need to start focusing on what’s behind the culture, what’s creating the culture… It is everything and if that’s the case let’s focus on the collective nature of all those elements, but let’s try to be cellular about what we’re talking about.”

There are some organisations out there that are potentially helpful to partner with to help turn culture into a more granular endeavour, says Foster Back. But HR will need to be highly discerning about which ones to enlist, she reiterates: “There are some providers who will be opportunist around this… There are others like us who have been around a while. Our survey [see below] has existed since 2005 so it has a track record.”

An anthropological approach

But for Jones there’s no substitute for HR getting out into the organisation to observe in a more qualitative way what’s occurring on the ground and communicating that back: “How do anthropologists study culture?

Through what we call participatory observation. They go and live with the Trobriand islanders and try and figure out what’s going on. It should be the same in organisations.”

“With culture you know it, you feel it, you can describe it. But you can’t measure it from reading a report. It’s like reading a guidebook about Italy and saying you’ve been there. You have to go,” agrees Morrisons’ Duducu.

It’s critical that organisations first carefully define the kind of culture they’re after, reiterates Grant Thornton’s Jex: “We say start with understanding the organisation’s purpose and goals. Then the organisation should align what it wants its culture to be with these.”

Crucially none of this activity should be the sole purview of HR, feels Pitcher: “If the board isn’t involved in setting and agreeing the culture, and more importantly agreeing how it will be measured in a meaningful way, it’s like trying to grab hold of a bar of soap. Because you don’t know what you’re trying to get your arms around.”

This is particularly important given that culture at board level is a critical area in its own right – and has been a significant contributing factor in several of the past few years’ governance failings, says Henley Business School’s Kakabadse.

“It’s the board that should be held responsible for raising sensitive issues – on bribery and corruption for example, which is massive at the moment… But the moment you raise that as a board director you’re put on a non gratum and the reality is you’ll never work again; your name is black. So you need to create a very robust and resilient culture at board level.”

“Boardroom culture isn’t talked about enough yet,” muses Foster Back. “So are boards correctly informed? Are they shouting up when they see something amiss?”

“One of the things I’d be saying as an HRD is that one of the key elements is your CEO and senior management,” agrees Celia Baxter, former group HRD at Bunzl and NED at Bekaert, DS Smith, RHIMagnesita, and Senior.

Employees should also be involved in setting and reporting on culture, feels Tim Scott, director of people at Fletchers Solicitors.

“We’re just at the start of trying something different,” he says. “In the past we’ve relied quite heavily on external measures, so The Sunday Times’ Best Companies to Work For lists and Best Companies. What we’ve realised is it only gives you a snapshot on one day… and my sense with external analysis is you don’t own that.

“So in putting the questions together for the survey for example we now have a working group of staff to design that. And we as an HR team are having conversations with lots of people across the business all the time. We try and check in with each other and say ‘are you also finding this is an issue?’”

Different functions beyond HR should also be involved, adds Debbie Ramsay, a director at GoodCorporation. “We ran a session in the Summer on measuring ethical culture and we had good take-up from across the organisation. So it wasn’t just HR; it was company secretaries who are going to have to be reporting on this. It was general counsel… What [the Code] is doing is broadening interest across the organisation.”

Game-changing regs?

Which for Ramsay is where the Code’s focus on ‘assessing and monitoring culture’ will really shift the dial. It will make HR matters in general much more prominent within organisation-wide and board-driven activities around governance, she says.

Scarlett Brown, director of research and policy at think tank Tomorrow’s Company, agrees that ‘culture’ is a helpful wrapper for all of the new people-related elements making their way into various governance codes and guidance over the past year or so – signposting boards towards specific elements such as stakeholder engagement and employee representation on boards.

“What’s interesting is you could replace the word ‘culture’ with ‘people’, or ‘people management’ or ‘HR’ quite easily… So anything that’s encouraging us to talk about people and behaviour at board level is a good thing,” she says. “I think it connects with other aspects of corporate governance, which are really driving home that you as a board need to understand your people… so holding more town halls with staff, having executive responsibility for engagement…”

The question becomes, then, whether such elements’ inclusion in various governance codes will make boards take responsible governance more seriously. And will this prevent the kinds of high-profile corporate governance failures – from the financial crisis in 2008 to the collapse of Thomas Cook in September – we’ve seen over the past few years?

When it comes to the latter question, there are plenty who would say probably not. “The regulators need more teeth to tackle cultural issues when they arise and to be more effective in maintaining standards,” feels the CIPD’s Houghton. “This is where the updated Code could be very powerful in that it’s a much clearer declaration of culture’s importance. But it will all depend on the FRC’s enforcement.”

And unfortunately there will always be those who just pay lip service to reporting regulations, muses Duducu. More helpful, she says, might be if the FRC or similar had the power and resources to audit organisations themselves.

“I don’t think it’s fair to say regulation won’t help but it’s heavy and expensive. Having to tick boxes in an annual report will change things only slightly. If there were people on the ground watching what was going on eventually someone would sidle up and say ‘you might want to look at x’. There might be something to learn from ethical supply chain auditing, which is well established.”

Duducu is skeptical the Code could have prevented the Oxfam scandal or Carillion’s collapse. As is Baxter. “Whatever you do, whatever rules you have within society or governance within companies, you’re dealing with people and occasionally you get people who will always do the wrong thing,” she says, adding: “The UK has already got some of the best corporate governance regulations in the world.”

Brown is inclined to agree: “Corporate governance and corporate governance regulations quite often get held up as being the panacea of all evils; any time a big failing happens we ask ‘where were the board?’

“The way that corporate governance reform was used politically by Theresa May off the back of BHS was interesting… But there’s still something in the back of my mind that says I’m not sure a corporate governance code would have prevented Philip Green from doing what he did.”

Jex has a slightly more optimistic take. “The interesting thing is to think about the two components of strategy and culture,” she says. “At least if you’ve got the wrong strategy and the right culture you’re more likely to have feedback from senior managers so you can make corrections. So in some ways you’re more likely to stop a Carillon because you can catch things much earlier.”

But to see this as the overriding purpose of the new Code misses the point, says Brown. The Philip Greens and Carillon directors of this world were perhaps never likely to have paid much heed, beyond ticking a box, to people-focused corporate governance regulations anyway. But the average well-meaning company, interested not just in avoiding risk but creating value, is.

“The change that’s been flagged this year is really important because – now that it’s moved away from just being about financial services – it’s not just about culture as risk but culture as value creation,” says Brown. “The most negative view you could have of HR is that it’s there to protect the company from its people, and the culture piece has gone on the same journey.”

And there are encouraging signs that including culture and other people matters in the new regulations is having an impact, says Lowe. He points to Grant Thornton’s 2019 Corporate Governance Review of FTSE 350 annual reports, seen exclusively by HR magazine for this piece.

The annual research is conducted in a way designed to ensure superficial detail is clearly differentiated from that expressive of a genuine strategy, he says. Culture is a good example of the significant impact regulatory emphasis has on what people put sustained effort into, he says.

“In 2015 across the FTSE 350 19% gave a good detailed description of their culture. That leapt up to 38% in 2017 after the FRC had issued its report on culture because that raised the bar and profile,” he explains. “But then the pressure went off in the following year and detailed disclosures dropped again to 33%. It’s only this year it’s risen to 45% – because now it’s in the Code.”

It’s a similar cautiously positive story on other people-related fronts. But “there’s still a long way to go”, Lowe concedes, explaining that overnight change was always going to be unlikely, with success confined to “the early adopters”.

Investor awareness

A critical part of the shift now will be shareholders. Corporate governance will only become more people- and culture-focused when these vital components of the corporate ecosystem change the way they approach business and are open to more nuanced and sophisticated ways of understanding corporate culture, many feel.

Again there’s a long way to go, believes Pitcher. “If the company’s performing well the AGM is a pretty easy ride. If it’s performing badly shareholders normally go for the obvious things like cutting the remuneration of the CEO, rather than asking ‘what is this telling us about your culture?’ But it would be helpful if they were asking those questions.”

Foster Back is slightly more optimistic. “We used to talk about the usual suspects,” she says. “Now the level of awareness among investors is much higher… The light is now being shone on this area and people are recognising that it’s not all about profit but also how you make it.

“Where we still have a slight disconnect, however, is that the expectation of returns and margins is too challenging for companies,” she adds, highlighting the damagingly short-term cultures and behaviours this creates.

Pitcher is hopeful that recent instances of high-profile governance failures have brought the career-destroying effects of being associated with them into sharper focus for boards and investors. “The people on [Carillion’s] board will struggle to get another board role,” she comments.

On the more positive side, organisations are hopefully starting to see firsthand the value created by a strong ethical culture aligned to business purpose and strategy, says The Weir Group’s McGinness: “Companies will have to get more serious about culture if they want to attract the workforce of the future. I don’t think regulation will change things necessarily, but demand from the workforce will.

“And it takes quite a bit of time to tick a box, so if you can get something back from it why wouldn’t you?” she adds.

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5 stories to help HR pros get social media right

HR professionals are very much online, but that doesn’t mean the two always play nice.

HR professionals are very much online, but that doesn’t mean the two always play nice. Sure, it’s clear HR pros love to encourage one another on Twitter and follow each other’s careers on LinkedIn. What happens, though, when a recruiter’s feed is interrupted by an employee’s shockingly inappropriate tirade? What’s HR to do when they stumble upon (or unearth) some not-so-flattering photos of an applicant’s most recent vacation?

These are questions HR has to answer regularly. To understand how to best approach social media, HR Dive looked into the most noteworthy instances of work-related social media uproar from 2019 and asked a few attorneys and professionals about the boundaries of life online.

Ryan Golden: Years after the popularization of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, social media platforms continue to bug employers and HR teams.

At times the platforms that grace our screens offer some benefits. They’re convenient, for one. They can help us keep tabs on family and maintain friendships separated by distance. They allow this Baltimore Ravens fan to watch quarterback Lamar Jackson’s 47-yard touchdown run on an endless loop for the rest of sweet eternity.

But in the workplace context, those same platforms can be absolutely disastrous given the wrong set of circumstances. And in 2019, social media offered us a stern reminder: What folks do and say on it can have consequences well beyond what they intended.

Kathryn Moody: If your immediate reaction is “obviously, I don’t need to read a whole column to know that,” humor us. Because there were some real wild examples that made this year stand out.

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You might have seen the Elmo poop meme story by now but if not, a refresher: A worker in Michigan claimed he was fired over a meme that he posted on Facebook while off the clock. The meme reads: “Boss makes a dollar, I make a dime. That’s why I poop, on company time.”

The worker’s boss didn’t find it very funny and texted the employee, telling him he was fired. The worker posted the boss’ response and sparked internet wildfire — the kind that strikes fear in the hearts of talent pros. Cue the Facebook and Google review bombing and tweets dragging the company’s response (though it appears said Google reviews, at least, have been scrubbed as of this writing).

While the company was legally within its rights, as explained by FisherBroyles partner Eric Meyer, and we don’t know the worker’s background with the company, the reputation damage has already been done. And while bosses have likely had to contemplate firing employees over poorly timed jokes before the age of social media, it’s only in our modern era where something like this (posted outside of work hours, no less) can blow up overnight. Everyone has a platform — employers and workers alike.

Ryan Golden: Sharing silly pictures is one thing, but newer features also carry risks. Social media platforms like Facebook give users extensive ways to broadcast themselves to anyone who cares to watch through the use of live video.

A live broadcast can effectively create a record to be used in unintended contexts — like a lawsuit — down the line. In June, a California federal court granted summary judgment to an employer that fired a worker after he took a Facebook live video of himself on a fishing trip while he was ostensibly on Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave. “I’m not out here,” the worker said in the clip. The court determined the employer had a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for firing the employee: misusing FMLA leave.

Kathryn Moody: But employees aren’t just tempting fate online. Increasingly, social media has served as the avenue for activism for employees seeking change at their workplaces. The Google Walkout at the end of 2018 was publicized by employees through a Twitter hashtag; employees all over the world shared photos of their participation as well as their solidarity with the walkout’s cause. And at Amazon, a group of the company’s Chicago-area workers used a Facebook page to forward allegations that they hadn’t been paid overtime during 2019’s Prime Week event.

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The Trending Appeal Of Part-Time Work

The economy is strong, or at least so the various reports on Google News tell us. Unemployment rates have held steady, and there are now more job openings than people to fill them. However, low unemployment doesn’t equate to a healthier economy. The jobs available also have to be paying well, providing essential benefits, and helping to elevate and maintain a financially stable population. Historically, those jobs tend to be full-time positions that require an average of about 40 hours per week.

However, a 2019 analysis of hours and overtime worked revealed some interesting industry trends. Among other findings, workers in several industries clocked far less than 40 hours per week. On average, they’re working part-time hours—defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) as 1-34 hours worked per week.

• Restaurants: 27.5 average hours per week
• Creative services: 29.4 average hours per week
• Events management: 29.3 average hours per week
• Landscaping and facilities management: 30.2 hours per week
• Retail: 30.9 average hours per week

The survey findings can’t help but raise more questions: Are part-time jobs becoming more popular? And if they are, what is the appeal for workers seeking out part-time jobs instead of a more full-time schedule? Let’s dive in and piece together what’s been happening in the realm of part-time jobs across the U.S.
Are Part-Time Jobs More Popular Than Full-Time Jobs?
Luckily, this question is rather easy to answer: No. The most illuminating source comes from 2018 labor force data released by the BLS. Over 128.5 million people are over the age of 16 and currently employed in full-time positions. Only 27.1 million people are over the age of 16 and currently employed in part-time positions.

Although part-time working hours are more common in some industries (as the TSheets data suggests), part-time jobs don’t make up the majority of positions occupied or sought out. Amongst the population that is unemployed and currently looking for work, 5 million are actively looking for full-time positions, compared to 1.2 million actively looking for part-time positions.

However, this doesn’t negate the fact that many big businesses are trading more traditional full-time positions for more part-time workers. As Fortune contributor, Anne Fisher, noted on the rising trend of part-time jobs: “Among the top 50 [companies that posted the most part-time listings in the first quarter of 2019] are well-known outfits like Apple, CVS Health, TD Ameritrade, the American Red Cross, and the U.S. Department of Commerce.”

As the data from the BLS shows, part-time jobs aren’t more popular than full-time jobs. And although some larger companies are creating more part-time positions, there is still a higher demand among job seekers for full-time positions. However, the appeal of part-time jobs—and the reasons why workers take on these gigs—is changing.
Why Are People Choosing Part-Time Work?
As the BLS puts it, there are both economic (or “involuntary”) and noneconomic (or “voluntary”) reasons behind a person’s decision to pursue a part-time job. An involuntary, economic reason, for example, could be that a person relies on the income they make from their job. Voluntary, noneconomic reasons might mean they need shorter workweeks to accommodate more personal tasks, such as caring for children or loved ones.

Of the 27.1 million people who work part-time, 3.5 million do so involuntarily. Meanwhile, 22 million of them work part-time voluntarily for noneconomic reasons. In other words, the majority of people working part-time do so voluntarily, which is a fairly recent shift within the U.S. job market.

In the past, the majority of people reported working part-time involuntarily because they were unable to find full-time jobs. Now, the opposite is true, which could be because people are choosing flexibility (and more free time) over the stability and rigidity of a full-time job.
The BLS shed further light on this, outlining reasons why voluntary part-time workers choose this option:

• Childcare problems
• Personal obligations or family leave
• Health or medical limitations
• Schooling or training
• Retired or living off of Social Security earnings
• Working less than 35 hours a week at a current employer (even if the job is classified as “full time”)
• Unavailable for full-time work (but would otherwise be classified as “economic reasons” if they could)

“Although some people may indeed want to work part time, some might argue that ‘choosing’ to work part time when confronted with other time constraints, such as elder- or childcare responsibilities, may not be quite what some people think of as voluntarily working part time,” the BLS clarifies.
Part-Time Workers, Part-Time Caretakers
As suggested, part-time jobs are becoming more popular for those seeking out flexible schedules. Although these jobs are far behind full-time positions in terms of overall popularity, there is a significant portion of the population that prefers working less than 35 hours per week, on average. Instead, part-time workers favor jobs that provide them more time to support themselves or their families in other ways.

Overall, the data illustrates that part-time jobs are remaining desirable for both employees and employers for various reasons. Many workers may find themselves choosing part-time work because they’re needed elsewhere—spending free time raising kids, pursuing other passions, or caring for ailing family members. Flexibility is certainly a benefit of working part time, but for many part-time workers having a flexible schedule is more of a necessity than an added perk.


How To Create An Introvert-Friendly Workplace

“People are all […] talking on machines and twittering and twottering. All that.
I’m here looking for peace and quiet.” – Maurice Sendak, author of Where the Wild Things Are

Our level of introversion or extroversion fundamentally influences the way we learn, work, and interact. Introverts gain energy from solitude or 1-1 interaction and get depleted from group time or overly-stimulating environments, while extroverts gain energy from engaging with others and get depleted from time alone. Ambiverts fall somewhere in the middle.

Most workplaces create opportunities for extroverts to capitalize on their strengths. Meetings often encourage quick sharing that benefits extroverts, as they process information externally and jump in to contribute the first ideas, anchoring the direction of the conversation. Open floor plans enable frequent interaction and the stimulating sensory environment in which extroverts thrive.

However, despite the popularity of the Myer-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality test and Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, a tome on the undervalued strengths of introverts, many workplaces still under-serve introverts and do not implement sufficient practices to help them do their best work. This significant oversight presents an opportunity for organizations to create a competitive advantage, as more introverted people represent roughly 50 percent of the general population and tend to be skilled listeners, leaders, and decision-makers.
So, How Can You Create an Introvert-Friendly Workplace?
Here are our top 7 recommendations:
1. Develop personality intelligence and flex skills
Hold trainings to help workers gain personality intelligence, an understanding of their own extroversion or introversion and how these traits show up in others. Apart from self-awareness, employees are especially hungry to develop personality flexing skills – knowing how to adjust one’s style when working with others who have different personalities.

For example, extroverts learn to make space for others and to seek out introverts when they want a problem-solving partner or a good listener. Introverts learn to create workspaces and systems that help them focus and to seek out extroverts to champion an idea in a public forum.

Helping people understand, value, and support each other’s temperaments can be a powerful practice that tips over into other dimensions of difference, as well.
2. Invite employees to start resource groups
Create opportunities for employees to self-organize into groups that help them build relationships and learn with other introverts and/or extroverts. For example, at Thomson Reuters, an employee created a monthly book club focused on Susan Cain’s Quiet. To support your resource groups, provide meeting space, a budget, and/or just a Slack channel.
3. Establish company-wide meeting norms
Normalize meeting agendas so introverts can prepare ahead of time. One team we worked with at Etsy went so far as to create a “no agenda, no attenda” rule.

During meetings, mix up how people can contribute. When asking questions, give people writing time so introverts can collect their thoughts, while extroverts still have something to do. Use timed round robins, giving everyone the opportunity to share their thoughts (or pass). Equal, shorter turn-taking during group conversations correlates with successful team performance. Providing everyone with room to talk can also help overcome other possible power and social dynamics at play that may be contributing to an unequal distribution of airtime.

Invite employees to follow up with meeting leaders with more thoughts after the meeting ends in 1-1 meetings, during office hours, or even via a Questions and Ideas Box (or email inbox).
4. Create low-sensory spaces
Designate quiet spaces, like cozy nooks, rooms, or phone booths. One of our clients, Warby Parker, built an entire library. If space is limited, let people indicate they are unavailable by wearing headphones or putting a visual timer on their desk that shows when they will be free.

Set meeting-free periods each day or week, and allow and encourage employees to choose when they’d like to work remotely. A remote work option enables both introverts and extroverts to choose environments with the optimal level of stimulation to maximize their productivity and energy.
5. Switch up how you help people connect
Companies tend to default to loud, overwhelming, alcohol-infused happy hour as a team-building ritual. Mix up your activities so introverts (and non-drinkers) can have fun while building connections. Introvert-friendly social activities can be anything that doesn’t require unstructured group conversations, e.g., trivia, board games, and group fitness. For longer events and offsites, make sure the agenda includes free time and optional activities.

Create opportunities for employees to bond 1-1 or in small groups. Although introverts can work well on their own, they still crave authentic connections.

And when in doubt, normalize saying “no” to social events with unstructured conversation so introverts don’t feel bad choosing to conserve their energy, and so other team members don’t mis-read introverts as disengaged.
6. Check for bias in your job descriptions and career paths
Make sure your hiring and career growth options don’t have implicit expectations that only extroverts can comfortably meet. Are charisma and small talk skills truly a requirement for your sales managers or might organization and strategic thinking skills be just as valuable? Is speaking in front of large audiences necessary for all leaders or can some leaders excel through written communication?

Share job descriptions and promotion criteria with a wide range of people to get feedback. Encourage managers to ask employees about their career goals and help craft their roles, where possible, to align with their strengths and interests. Employees who feel they use their strengths on a regular basis at work are significantly more likely to report feeling engaged.
7. Launch a brain-friendliness task force
Not sure where to start? Gather a cross-functional and personality-diverse group to interview and survey coworkers. Then, have them recommend ideas for your organization to be more brain-friendly for introverts and extroverts. Encourage them to lead with questions like:
When are you most/least productive at work?
When do you feel most/least connected to your team?
Last but not least, take a moment and consider your own needs. How might you make your own immediate work environment more brain-friendly in order to exert less energy and capitalize on your strengths?