Chocolate Biscuits, The Pool and other Ironman Hazards


Last week you may have heard me perhaps complaining about my committment issues (not romantically) although my partners’ maybe be sorely tested when it comes to cravings regarding chocolate. More of which later…

February has brought a couple of challenges, earlier in the month, the stabilisers came off the bike but another stabiliser, the turbo trainer has become a mild obsession. For those not familiar a static bike stand so that you can ride indoors in the winter. Advantages are that you can avoid dangerous icy roads, avoiding crazy drivers. Disadvantages, anyone living in the house or visiting while you are training, leave the room convinced that this middle aged man in Lycra has completely lost his marbles.

I have no idea what my children think, but thank god they haven’t yet told me. As for my girlfriend, very supportive yet probably pondering the merits of going out with someone obsessed with staring at the wall on a stationary bike quoting motivational mantras. I feel a bit like Gareth Cheeseman for any of those familiar with Steve Coogan.

This weeks major challenge has been the diet. I have been relatively good since Xmas. Alcohol intake reduced hugely, being very good wit a nutritional diet (clearly obsessed I have made a food diary and had it analysed) and hydration. I have managed to avoid the nuttier end of the spectrum, I have no truck with crazy foods or fads or supplements. I am a realist and whilst the merits of a healthy  lifestyle are obvious, I m not going to suffer the opprobrium of friends and family who are desiring a burger and chips whilst I munch on quinoa or alfalfa hoots.

So the challenge….Chocolate biscuits… It seems I am a crazed man when faced with this temptation. Trainspotting  lime addiction is being sorely tested. Like a junkie I am driven to nearly any means to procure them.  Bingeing is not even adequate. Boredom ennui..  And starvation may well be a normal response to this increased level of training.However, as mentioned earlier I am testing my partner’s love and resolve because being the purchaser of said biscuits, she isn’t really getting a fair share. For this I am truly sorry. However, she can be consoled there is no way I could ever be cheating on her. I am too obsessed with Heart Rate zones and wondering what my VO2 max can be ….With Valentine’s Day looming she is in for a treat….

So the title suggests I have something to say about the pool….. I don’t …..125 lengths this week and not even half way through the week…Next week I might be able to get the damned armbands off. Is the sense of mania, boredom and fear coming through ? I hope so…
Until next time.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Jon-Hull5

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Winter nights/Mornings are they worth it?


A rainy Sunday evening in late January, 5 degrees. Today has already seen 90 mins on the turbo trainer and it’s double up day….what sane human being would venture out? All procrastination tactics have been deployed, tax return done, laundry done, shirts ironed, even prepared dinner ( healthy of course). Yet….a dogged 30 mins awaits.

It’s times like this that you read so called ‘ inspirational quotes’ do it for the charity blah, blah blah… I don’t wish to appear dismissive, but this type of event is ultimately self centred. I am a big supporter of the charity Kids Out, that I am raising money for but…this is really about the individual. Do I have the dedication, perseverance ( stupidity if you ask my kids) to take this on? So I venture out…

Having done a few marathons in the past, training for an Ironman teaches you something different. Patience – this really isn’t about beating the body and try not to squeeze a minute here or there. This is really about listening to your body and focus sing on the process. The aim is to ensure we arrive at the start line, healthy and fit so that you can finish in that condition. After all sweating about a few minutes over half a day or so seems pure madness. Also, the training can teach you humility. We all have one weaker discipline. This means we have to work carefully and learn new skills and change mindsets

I am now descending into new age hippy reflection. The training is potentially different for everyone but focus, discipline and humility are incredibly important. So I did make it out for that run. The initial positive was that I lost my frustration with HRMC, it meant my partner didn’t have a grumpy boyfriend on Sunday night. Equilibrium was restored.

If you think my blog was descending into sanctimoniousness  – sorry….However, just to put your mind at rest – I did have a glass of wine or two as reward….

Please comment or share and if you want to donate to a great charity , any donation is welcome

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Jon-Hull5

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My Ironman Journey begin….


Whatever it is that has inspired our small group to do this, I don’t know but the hard work begins here….

Ironman Journey has begun so  rather thinking about buying a sports car or other such extravagance the hard yards start here. August 20th Copenhagen. Over the years I have completed a few marathons – but and Ironman……

So since New Year, instead of looking to sample the local ales on business trips, you find me scouring the local area for swimming pools and or running routes. So far averaging 6 hours of focussed training per week and Pilates. In equal measure excited and daunted. I am an ok runner and Swimmer but cycling…Well at least I don’t need stabilisers. This is a whole new world.

I am motivated by the economist – Tim Harford ( you listen to a lot of podcasts in indoor winter training sessions on the bike) that this type of disruptive nudge (messy he calls it) prompts us to change behaviour and improve. Since entering the event in August – I have become a bit more focussed, a bit better organised and certainly healthier. I sleep better and I do think a bit differently. My daughter is not convinced that a man of my age should be entering these events. (Thanks Izzi) but in for a penny in for a pound….

So to help me keep my eye on the prize I have decided to raise money for Kids Out. A great charity helping disadvantaged youngsters throughout the UK.

So rather than rattling a tin… would you be able to spare a few quid?

https://www.justgiving.com/account/your-pages/Jon-Hull5

 

 

 

 

 

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INTERNAL RESOURCING FUNCTIONS – AN ENABLER OF ORGNISATIONAL COLLABORATION – USE THE POWER


War for Talent, Strategic Resourcing, should HR have a seat at the table? (I guess it depends on the table). Article after article seems to peddle the same myths about talent shortages, perhaps the same people that keep repeating myths about Generation Y and Z having vastly different needs to previous Generations, mainly because of Facebook and Snapchat… (The idea of the ‘GIG’ economy for them is frightening for very rational economic reasons). I will try to make the case here that by having a great Internal Resourcing function, we can dispel some of these myths and show how Resourcing really is an enabler of collaboration within organisations and can deliver the talent needs sustainably without having to rely on outdated myths and poo research from self-styled consultants.

Many of the papers and articles from whatever angle seem to undermine or snipe at the great work that In House Resourcing teams have done since their evolution in the last 15-20 years. The critics seem to be either afraid that organisations are taking control of their Talent and Resourcing needs, finally taking control of their supply. This ultimately threatens the plethora of consultants looking to sell the next set of ‘Emperors New Clothes’.

So it is finally time to mount a defence of our place the world and I aim to demonstrate the real power of an Internal Resourcing function, I hope to demonstrate, is the ability to break organisational silos and enable collaboration across the divisions.

It goes without saying that Resourcing must fulfil the orders… Get the basics right, through good process – yes this important. Without standardisation and technology, there can be no improvement or metrics. Most Resourcing functions aim to do this and the output just depends on their stage of evolution. Often, for an HR function this is first cab off the rank in terms of centralisation, standardisation and this level of change. This cannot be underestimated and is a fundamental building block of creating such an offer. This change is always painful, not least for the multitude of suppliers (Agencies, consultants etc) whose ways of working are disrupted for the long term.

Once the foundations are solid, this enables Resourcing to become a change agent and enabler. When I was first at Deloitte, (many years ago), thorough some market research we realised that the supply of newly qualified accountants in the UK for their roles would never match the true supply. So far nothing ground breaking here, however we suggested joint scouting trips across South East Asia and India to fulfil this need. Knowing there to be equivalent qualifications and standards and good language skills. So far, so normal…

However, the blocker to progress here was challenging the organisational silos. Several regions feared the big cities might get an over supply, leaving the smaller regional offices with no candidates. This view is understandable, but with market and candidate knowledge, their fears were allayed. But the major prize here was fostering collaboration between these teams in order to improve the organisation. Through presentation of the data and stakeholder engagement this happened. Resourcing was the only department with this insight of the market and, crucially of how the business behaved. We had sight from above the organisation and the market to see what was really happening.

We see this now in Carillion. The competitive landscape for certain skills is seen to be a business limiter. Money spent on external searches, wasted hiring efforts and almost distressed hiring was the norm. However, by analysing the market and internal data, we influence a different way of approaching the behaviours of hiring Managers both within and cross functions. This has some interesting effects – outcomes change, cost is driven down, time is reduced but more importantly a proper discussion and sharing of ideas and talent begins to happen. Because the leadership isn’t fighting fires any longer there is a more considered view of what the needs really are; the focus becomes quality and timing.

In addition, Hiring Manager across functions are able to take a view in ‘what is good for the business’ Where skill sets might fit and think about internal talent or even future talent needs, rather than fighting the next recruiting crisis. One reality of modern business, the biggest headache is finding relevant talent in the right timescales.

Insight the Resourcing world can also spot organisational design flaws… Failed hires in certain areas, with the right questioning can expose structural flaws. Often the candidates have the right skills but the organisation is poorly designed not allowing great candidates to operate to their potential.

Whatever the slick consultants say, there is no other way of doing this sustainably and efficiently unless the organisation takes control of hiring centrally and crucially feeds this back to the business.

The snipers can criticise technology, process, and criticise the brand blah blah…Without a sound organisation, trying to implement anything is just a pipe dream. My consultant friends until you understand the organisational landscape, you are thinking in silos of your own product or service, exactly the sort of behaviours our beloved function is trying to mitigate in our businesses.

In environments where more is expected with less, where insight is king, Resourcing has the data and insight to influence the business, we just need the confidence to take it.

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Is Education Really Failing Business?


Our graduates aren’t fit for work and if we don’t resolve these problems UK plc will lose competitiveness with the emerging economies’ Many of our graduates aren’t ready for the world of work… You may think this sentiment is a recent phenomenon… In reality, business was saying the same thing 20 years ago when I graduated.
In a business landscape that is increasingly difficult to navigate for business and the new entrant – what is the answer? Over the last 20 years successive UK governments have tinkered with our education system with the aim of making it more ‘rigorous’. For politicians this has meant a greater focus on exam results which of course means more success right? The result. A generation of students who know how to pass exams, stick to formulas and making their schools climb ever higher (or not) in the league tables. They want to get right answers.
Whilst our politicians reach for ever simpler answers to complex problems it seems businesses (and educators of all types) have to wrestle with real problems whose solutions may exist in shades of grey. Although our schools like to teach people the ‘answers’, in our dynamic world there is always ambiguity and decisions that call for calm judgement. Sometimes the boss might need to be challenged and disrupted. However, we continue to tinker with an education system designed in the 19th century that is not set up to deal with 21st century problems.
Our research at Carillion suggests that degree class or grade is not the best predictor of success in the roles offered in our business. In reality a whole host of other factors are much better predictors of a successful graduate. These are behavioural as well intellectual (soft skills). They include the ability to build networks across different teams and departments, the intrinsic drive to achieve, and the ability to find solutions to problems (this is not the same as knowing the answer to a problem). In fact knowing how to find the answer might well be more important than actually knowing when navigating your way through large organisations and different roles.
If this is true in the graduate roles, it is equally true in more senior positions. The skill to make judgements based on limited information, managing people in changing environment can’t be taught…..or can they?
I recently attended the launch of new company, MACAT. They believe (backed by some research) that ‘Critical Thinking’ is the missing link for most of our workforce, not just graduates. Simply defined Critical Thinking is an approach to problem solving, analysis, self awareness and ability maintain curiosity and have the confidence to ask great questions leading to better decisions. The early research suggests that it can be taught or learnt, and when people engage with it, the benefits for business and the individual are valuable.
This is not some new ‘tech’ company that is selling a platform, a host of great minds from the Academic world are arguing the case. Tony McEnery (Dean of Lancaster University) and an expert on Critical Thinking suggests that allowing room for making mistakes and experimentation is the key to innovation, creativity which is good for business and society, yet our education system stifles this.
Whilst it is without doubt the UK needs students to have some rigour in education and improve our uptake of the sciences, this does not mean we discredit or undermine a broad based education in the Humanities.(Sociology, History, Philosophy). These subjects are concerned with inquiry questioning and ambiguity and as suggested earlier we need people to operate in environments that are less predictable, more volatile and more uncertain. In certain jobs technical skill is important – but without the creativity, challenge and bravery business never innovates. Think of James Dyson and Richard Branson (he left school at 16).
It might be easy for business to say that that our education system is failing our students. Maybe we might turn the question around. Is businesses failing our new workers? Do we really know what we are looking for when we recruit graduates or do we rely on tried and tested ways of selection or do we actually measure what we know will be successful in our specific business. If we put a bit more thought into this, we may get great people suited to our environments and we will set people up to succeed. In addition, do we foster environments for them where they can explore, make mistakes and therefore challenge themselves and ultimately our businesses to be truly innovative and cutting edge.
Will future governments be brave and create a rounded education that might be fit for the 21st century? Our children may know how to pass exams in order to keep the schools in their place in the league tables, but are we equipping them with the skills and the desire to continue learning for their whole lives?
Will companies such as MACAT challenge and change the way enterprises, governments and educators approach learning and helping economies become more productive? I guess we have to wait and see…

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Diversity – Why I am Part of the Problem and Solution


A recent Business in the Community survey suggests that 52% of women are victims of bullying or harassment in the workplace. Whilst there are undoubtedly more women in positions of power and influence than there were 30 years ago, whilst women are suffering this type of behaviour, gender discrimmination is still alive and kicking.

As a white middle aged man, I am clearly part of the problem, as this behaviour is often perpetrated by my contemporaries. As we can see we may be part of the problem but I would argue that we are part of the solution as well.

As Carol Hanisch….argued in the 1960s the personal is the political. Any major transformation only occurs when individuals decide that there is personal motivation to make a positive change. Her feminism, defined a generation of thinking and never has it been truer. So what relevance does this have to workplace discrimination and my premise that I can be part of the solution?

I have two children a girl and a boy. We have raised them both to be ambitious and work hard at school in order to progress. One thing I have never brought her up to expect, is the potential for to be harassed or excluded or the target of ‘banter’… As she asked me few weeks ago ‘isn’t banter just a way to put others down?’ In addition, my son has always been encouraged to treat women as equals and with respect.

I am sure there are many men in my position, who have teenage daughters close to entering the world of work and I would suggest will want them to be the best they can be…and not want them to be subjected to unwanted comments, banter or worse. Equally, their sons, they will want to become respectful and collaborative. So why do we continue to let banter go unchallenged?

I suggest that we can be part of the solution even in the smallest way that takes no massive organisational backing, no money. It requires some change of mind set and just the smallest of actions….We can resist from the banter, we can challenge any of this behaviour when we see it. By doing this, we might just make a small dent in those shocking statistics, and be able to look our kids in the eye and say we really did leave the workplace a slightly more enjoyable place for everyone.

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I’ve got technology get me out of here


Corporate life is filled with complaints about how the technology we use is making life difficult and creates more work and enslaves us all. How many enraged colleagues are nearly ready to smash their laptop screens after the 19th call to a centralised help desk that just can’t help?

Whether the technology is for Recruitment, HR, or Finance, no one ever seems to understand why or how in the first place the product was ever implemented and bemoaning the clear lack of any transformation that these systems bring. If this technology rage was converted to rad rage our roads would be littered with deaths on a scale unimaginable.

Corporate technology companies sell the dream of business transformation and a nirvana, where everyone’s work in radically changed into meaningful, value adding work. Additionally, promise of being able reinvent the business with ‘Big Data’ is never far from the lips of those super smart technology salesmen who as the ink is drying on the contract disappear faster than a politicians promise.

A member of my team recently declared that she thought the search function in our Application Tracking System was ‘ Fantastic and this would be really good for everyone to use’… Pure genius you may think. The system has been implemented for over 7 years….. If the vision for using any technology product is to create nirvana, then we must question whether we are prepared to change ourselves and processes to make this happen?

Having been responsible for implementing systems and being on the receiving end of poor implementations, I have several views that are worth discussing and by no means does the fault always sit with one party and I think there valuable issues to debate and learn from.

I’ll begin with the client organisation. It is imperative that the scope/brief is clearly articulated and defined before any selection begins. SO many projects fail this hurdle. It might sound, to quote Basil Fawlty, as ‘ the bleedin’ obvious’ but it is critical.

Leadership has a role in this as well to inspire the end users of the case for change or disruption. How many projects fail because the decision to transform has been made at the top of the organisation with little or no consultation for the actual users. I am sure we have all been guilty at some point. Why not allow some of the users to be involved in the selection process? After all it is they who will have to manage and run processes on a day to day basis.

Change management is an element that is often overlooked or misunderstood. Successful technology implementations I have been a part of, have invested time, effort and money in understanding this essential element. Being mindful that not everyone will like, accept or be capable to deal with the change. It is essential these people are treated with dignity and either redeployed or exited. Harsh as this may sound, changed processes may means new ways of working that not everyone can accept.

When it comes to technology companies, the focus, it seems is always on the product and not the change required. Super slick salespeople are more interested in ‘Wowing’ us with the technology than helping us clients understand the true implications of the change we are embarking on. I encourage these organisation to think differently about how salespeople are rewarded. Might paying bonuses when the project is implemented to the satisfaction of the customer, instill some ownership and responsibility to develop a trusted partnership rather than throw the problem over the fence?

Maybe this change in approach from both sides of the game, might help us to truly inhabit the nirvana of where technology really does transform our world of work, rather than consign us to being constant grumblers?

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