The rhetoric and the reality

first_img Comments are closed. HR is frequently chastised for spouting rhetoric. And it’s fair to say thatover the past few years a host of buzz words and key phrases have entered HR’svernacular that seem nothing more than euphemisms for bad practices. But evensome of the worst examples of rhetoric are spoken with the best of intentions.Here, we portray five examples of HR rhetoric and the employees’ take on it,and offer advice on how it could be given new meaning People AS assetsThe five words below were once described by Michael Hammer, whoco-wrote Re-engineering the Corporation, as “the biggest lie incontemporary business”, and by Lynda Gratton as a “truism not aclich‚”. In Ceridian Centrefile’s recent survey, The Demanding Society,Managing Work in 2010, three out of five senior HR people questioned admit thatemployers only pay lip service to the idea. The reality, according to thestudy, is that they are only talking about an elite few – the rest of theiremployees are expendable. If people are truly the only differentiator in acompetitive market though, then the mission for HR is to be appointed to boardpositions to ensure this piece of rhetoric becomes a reality. EmpowermentAll organisations like to think they have empowered theirworkforce and that creativity and initiative is flowing free, with the upshotof improved levels of service and productivity and a happier, motivatedworkforce. But it is not enough to merely tell people they are empowered. AsGuy Browning points out in his latest book Grass Roots Management, all toooften the movement has been driven by consultants and delivered by high-cost,low-impact, top-down initiatives. True empowerment, he believes, is all abouttrust. “If you really want them to take responsibility for growing theirpart of the business, then you need to trust them with something important…It’s about giving them the plans, the tools, the permission”, saysBrowning. But he adds it is also more about money. “When people know theyare being paid more for improving the business and managing their budgetsbetter, you’ll have the best of all possible worlds.”Corporate familiesFamilies trust each other, are nice to each other and lookafter one another. How many companies can claim to have engendered such an environment?The recent survey The Demanding Society, Managing Work in 2010 sadly highlightsthe basic mistrust that still exists between employer and employee. Nearly halfof all employees (45.2 per cent) say they can’t fully trust their employer andalmost the same amount again (44.3 per cent) say they never feel fullyappreciated at work. Yet many employees still say they would be attracted to anemployer that offered a job for life. This is increasingly hard to guaranteethat in today’s climate but there are a raft of benefits that the corporatefamily could extend to employees to earn loyalty and instil a sense of pride.These include giving them control over their working week to facilitate abetter work-life balance and ensure their job is meaningful.Risk takingThe famed Jack Welch once lost GE $1.2bn in a deal (havingbought 80 per cent of Kidder Peabody for $600m). In his leadership classes hebestows the merits of rewarding people for ‘taking a swing’ and says that ifthe chairman can buy Kidder Peabody, mess it up and still survive, you can doanything. If you’re Jack Welch you probably can, but for the rest of us, when abold initiative backfires it can mean a sudden halt on the career ladder (or atleast a few sideways shifts). The entire dotcom revolution was based on takinga risk, but it needed to happen and be experienced in order to lay thefoundations for a stronger e-business economy in the long run. Yes, there aremore casualties than survivors, but those who have hung on in there are muchstronger for their experience,’s Martha Lane Fox and BrentHoberman being the best cases in point.Embracing changeChange is scary because in business it is generally associatedwith activities such as downsizing and streamlining, with their inevitable jobcuts. The progress of technology has made us all more insecure about ’embracingchange’ and the desktop publishing revolution in the mid-1980s, which wiped outan entire industry over-night (typesetting), was technological change at itsmost brutal. But organisational change needn’t always be for the worse and inalmost all cases would benefit simply from better handling. So finds Robert Taylor in Britain’s World of Work – Myths andRealities, a report based on research by the Economic and Social ResearchCouncil, which says that the way employees are supported at work, especiallythrough change processes, needs to improve. Taylor points out the implicationsare clear. “If employees are going to co-operate in a positive and activemanner with the management of workplace change, they are going to need agreater sense of wellbeing, status and control over the work they perform.” The rhetoric and the realityOn 22 Oct 2002 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos.last_img read more