(184) HR

On this week’s show we are joined by David D’Souza to talk about the Human Resources profession, multi-skilled business enabling teams, and how he might have rumbled the whole world of the CIO.

The week’s automatically generated transcript…


Matt: Once again we find ourselves recording at least I think that’s what we’re doing. Hopefully it’s it has been known for some weeks for me to not manage, to press the record button. So that was embarrassing. And we are into the month of March. That is spring has sprung. Well, they’ve got pictured again tonight.

Chris, how are you?

Chris: I’m very well, thank you, Mike. His house got very chilling, but today I was out this morning quite early and it was cold. It was a bit of a shock because it was quite pleasant to the weekend then. And one gets a sense that everything’s going to be fine and we can all emerge blinking into the sunshine and coronavirus will be a long forgotten artifact of the past.

But now it’s called again today. So so here I am wrapped up in my, in my, in my daily job, but trying to maintain some sort of decorum and and. Maybe think that that temperatures will rise and I’ll start to start to feel a bit better. But so we, we are, we’ve got a funny week and as much as it was, it was, it was a full stop at the end, the week of this lovely two days weather.

But last week was really, really busy. I had so much going on so many people had to call and my diary was falling then this week as well, you know, I. This isn’t really my normal preferred style of working. I prefer lots of contemplating time in between doing things. You know, I like to work in short bursts of, you know, once every six months or something, but this is no, this is, this is, this has been a very busy, busy week.

Matt: Good. I’m glad to hear it. Busy is good. I’d say. And I just imagined now you sitting in Western tasks contemplating like the border, which actually know, I don’t want to think about that image for too long. And joining us this week is Teva. D’Souza David. It’s an absolute pleasure to have you with us.

How’s your last seven days been.

David: I can’t remember. I’m tired. I think it does feel as though that there’s some kind of break and I’m curious as to how people would listen to this podcast in two to three years time. And it must seem like a very, you know, a snapshot of a moment in time where all we’ve got going on is a pandemic.

And I’m now kind of chatting to family members and there’s nothing left to say. So how’s your week been opening lockdown. How about you? Very similar. Yeah. It it’s, it’s been yeah quite Pacey, same as Chris. Probably not enough thinking time, but it’s nice to have the weather turned is to be able to get outside.

May not be too brisk at the same time.

Matt: Yeah, it makes a big difference. Those those moments of being able to just get out and not have to have 17 layers on and feel that your bits are going to drop off. You know, but

Chris: but you know, to what you said, the David bat about having no time and then people looking back and all we had was the pandemic.

I didn’t think it, I don’t think anybody realized how much time upon them. It would take up, you know, it’s, it’s like it’s, it’s. So it’s in the way, frankly, it’s, you know, I just don’t didn’t do anything. Anybody we’d realized how much effort it would be, or it would have taken more, more preventative measures.

David: More preventative measures. Yeah. It’s a really interesting one. I think, pick your tide and they don’t know why that’s an interesting kind of psychological quirk. But I also think she pointed, it fills the senses as much as it feels. The time even just trying to keep abreast of the good news, the bad news, indifferent news, all the different views on what the stats are doing.

Maybe, maybe it is just, you know, the new national pastime is arguing about what exactly is happening with the pandemic when it might stop and how we got here. But yeah, it’s, it’s quite busy. I know. Maybe it’s replaced cricket

Chris: just as well. I think. But but the fact is I tried just listening to people talk about the different vaccines you can happen and expressing an opinion as if they know of any clue about what’s in the vaccine.

It’s all as if you know, there’s millions of people in this country will go to a vape shop and buy it, buy some things or put in a vape and smoke it without, you know, if they don’t know it’s in it, it could be. It could be anything as far as they’re concerned, but I’ll know we’re interested in what’s in a pandemic.

If thought you’re going to go in a building and say, what mixer do you use in the concrete, in this building? I’m not sure I want to go in this building until I know. Did you use, did you use two parts and then one done? What sorts of men did you get

Matt: to be fair? Chris? I do work with people who are exactly like that because they work in the building.

David: I quite like it there’s a sense of national boards and where like, The old conversations can only have the framing of the pandemic. So, you know, what’s the weather like has been replaced by, you know, how, how are you doing in lockdown, all that kind of stuff. And to your point, you know, you’ve got people expressing a view on things that they’ve got no inclination of, but it almost feels like the old Patrick compensation in this.

Oh yeah. I got the Pfizer one. Yeah, I’ve heard it. Yeah. That’s it. You know, like in the same, in the same way you might prefer to, I don’t know. Like getting a new phone or something like

Chris: that. Oh, Continentals are mine. Oh really? Yeah,

David: yeah, yeah, no, it was transom the last week and they said the Pfizer one’s definitely better. So if you do have the option go for that, it’s just like the old pattern, but on a situation that we’d never have envisioned actually being in it, it’s strange. It’s a bizarre way to deal with it.

Matt: We do have to have these topics.

They don’t mean, I also say that though, for your point, Chris, about all the time that it takes up, that I think the the CEO of Goldman Sachs and also the CEO of the Canary Wharf estate have both come out and said that, no, this is what we need to be able to free up time is to spend more time commuting again.

That’s where we’re all going wrong. As you get these remarkable vested interests. Now starting to talk. But how everybody’s going to go back and that the prime minister no less, a couple of days ago, talking about how he didn’t really believe that anybody would change from working in the office. This is a man who has his office paid for, to be at home at number 10 Downing street and is unable to see any of the irony, anything that he says.

But yes, that’s quite interesting

David: though, isn’t it? I hadn’t realized how. Productive the commute allegedly was until some of these people came out and said, this is the critical bit. So I wonder if you can cut out the office in the middle and just have people doing extremely long commutes and then turning around and going back again, maybe grabbing something at the other side.

Cause apparently that’s essential team, but essentially just having an extended day of traveling, just,

Chris: just build a massive circular train line and just, just get on, get on it, you know, go Rand once or twice and get off and go home.

Matt: I D I did have a friend once who in the days in the circle, I was a true circle rather than the sort of a bridge to you shape it is these days actually managed to get so drunk.

She managed to go three times round before she managed to get off again. I’m not entirely sure how she knows that three times.


David: she made use of that for collaboration. You know, there’s random moments where she met someone and innovation really kicked it off. So, yeah, exactly. So, you know, it wasn’t wasted time in any way.

It was essential to keeping the company moving like company on the country. No, absolutely.

Matt: In other news this week as well the the, the procurement exercise has reached a new level of excitement where we’ve spent. So, well, we spent a good two hours taking us from 17 down to five, which is very exciting.

We’ve we’ve let the, the 12 who weren’t successful to get through to the next stage. And within minutes Afro-Cuban had had people very angry saying no, but we do meet your basic requirements and you think there’s nothing quite like immediately getting shirty to be able to prove that the the potential client has made the right decision in taking him off the supplier list.

I, I never fail to understand salespeople. It’s quite busy. And it’s also been school placement announcement day to day. So up and down the length of the country people including myself and I believe it was David had been finding out that maybe we’re not going to get the school that we first wanted.

Which is somehow going to be quite annoying for quite a lot of people. But yeah. So how, how have you been finding the, the pressure of the school choices?

David: It’s been it’s, it’s quite odd doing it actually at a time when the children can’t attend school because mentally I’ve got a clock to, it’s just another place that she can go, but obviously that won’t be the case for her entire life and it’s quite a bit cold.

So didn’t get the school that she wanted to buy. Two or three towns which has got an issue but there’s, you then go into the appeals process and all that kind of stuff. And so hopefully she will end up at a school that’s, you know, slight nearest to where she lives rather than just randomly picked at some point in the country.

Matt: Yeah. It’s I suppose it was quite weird. We were S I say we were separate because my wife was super organized and insisted. We did a lot of the School tours last year, rather than this year which turned out really quite useful because obviously there were no tours going around other than virtual things, but saying what schools were able to do with virtual tours was interesting in its own.

Right. And I don’t want to say that one of the schools that we saw obviously did a lot of work with drones to be able to get just that right level of whizzing through the air, kind of look about what their school was going to be like to be at.

David: Well now they’ve just got abnormally tall children for the video.

I mean, there’s two options and I think you’ve, you’ve gone for one, probably say too readily there.

Matt: Well it’s yeah. It’s the technologist in where you say I’m immediately going for solutions? Not. Yeah. Anyway, we are going to talk about the world of people and human resources this week because David joins us from, well, not from the CIPD, but a rep representing the CIPD worked for the CIPD.

However you wanna.

David: Let’s go for a wet for the CRPD and I’m having a conversation with UT.

Matt: Excellent. That’s a good way to know how these things were. Christine will

David: be far less nervous about that.

Matt: Excellent. Well, let’s get on with it and see what we can find out about the contemporary world of HR.

main interview

Chris: So Mr. D’Souza your w worked for CIPD and some people might not know what CIPD does. I mean, we, maybe in the past, we’ve seen those little tables at events that say, Oh yeah, get your C IPD points for attending this event here. And then, and then you might to do something with them, but maybe, maybe that’s not widely understood.

What on earth is a CIPD date?

David: Yeah, that is all the Western parties. Chris, I just always had the sausage rolls and yeah, there, they are frequently a qualification. So yeah, with the professor, somebody for HR and people development within that, you’d have a broad umbrella of, you know, everything from paying people, to recruiting people, to training people, to making sure that organizations stay legal, but also making sure that.

Organizations have the culture that they need to achieve what they want to do. So we’ve got over 155,000 members. We have a host of students at one point in time, we offer a qualifications membership, which kind of recognizes people’s professionalism. And then we also do giant conferences and to have a perspective on the world of work.

So we talk about championing, better work and working lives. So genuinely attempting to drive the change in behavior and policy that ends up with the word wellbeing better because it’s important to many people. It’s a determinant of the quality of their working day and at times of their lives. So it’s an important thing to have a voice on and to make better.

Chris: Well, it’s perfect thing to be talking about right now. Okay. Because everybody, you know, we, we talked to a guy called we took time to the assemblers last week. Wasn’t it, Matt? And that was a really interesting conversation because he was, he’s more involved in property with the state, but also what, you know, kind of future of work stuff and how people will work and where their work.

And it’s a conversation, which is never ending at the moment. Isn’t it in the business world, because we’re all thinking about what’s remote work going to be like, you know, is everybody going to be shooed back onto trains and press gang to back into back into misery and offices? Or, or will it all be it?

The completely different future where we all existed as virtual avatars and and have all this time to ourselves. And that is not, there’s not going to be either of those, but it’s it’s a great conversation to be having. So no doubt, it’s something that’s exercises, your team and members and people generally at the moment.

David: Yeah. And so people have been talking about the feature work forever. And also disruption, that was always the thing, wasn’t it? You know, the world of where it’s going to be disruptive now it’s probably been disruptive and no one’s really enjoying it. Disruption was never sexy as suggested. And we’d got a banker people aren’t you can’t just working normally.

On site throughout this thing, cause I haven’t had a chance to do it and there’s probably not enough time and attention spent on that. And then you’ve got another group of people who’ve come through. One of the biggest changes that we see in the world of work at pace, which is previously having been office based and now working from home in an enforced manner.

And we’ve got data that’s probably unreliable in sense of what’s going to happen next. Cause you’ve got a number of forces at work from real estate and messaging that you have there to governmental influence through to actually just the power of our kind of behavioral norms as human beings. So, you know, I think some of the surveys at the moment when you’re asking people, how, how will things be in a year’s time?

It’s very difficult to answer that because of a pandemic, you know, that that’s not a good way of getting a reliable, but what is clear is that things are going to be very different to your point, how different. Very hard to tell will it be Dilek utopian, probably not given the economic status. So we’ve got a layer of realism that we need to factor in, but yeah, it’s exacting our members, you know they lead organizations, support senior teams and organizations, and lots of organizations are having to either make proactive choices, alternatively, or being forced into choices about how they’re going to spend their money and how they can keep surviving.

So challenging time, but an interesting

Chris: one. And challenging time for HR teams, HR departments, and everybody is trying to keep the organization on the right side of legal and make sure that the people are doing are prospering or whatever. So interesting to see this week we were talking about this recently met the chap from octopus energy, who was, who said we don’t have an HR department.

And, but I think Matt, when, when we looked into it, some of the people in our little community, they find they were HR people at octopus energy. What was going on there?

David: So I have a look into that because I’ve seen this come up over the years. It’s quite a bold statement, isn’t it? You know, don’t like HR, we don’t have them. And invariably, what you find is they still have a need for the things they jump provides. So they still need to recruit people. They still need to train them.

They still need to pay them at a very minimum. And quite often HR has got a broader impact than that. So. What appeared to come out over time? Possibly, you know, the headlines were misleading is that they don’t have an HR department because they don’t have an HR director, but they do have lots of people doing HR jobs.

And I think when people say we don’t have an HR department possibly you would assume that men, you don’t have anyone doing HR. And I believe the same claim was made about it. We don’t have an it department but it turned out Archie. Very similar about a group of people who, if you collected them together in a room, you’d probably go that’s the it department and there.

So I think it’s important. It’s always important to be here. What are they trying to solve for? And it appears to be, they’re trying to solve for more frontline and managerial accountability and people be more adults and not kind of pushing decisions elsewhere, which in fairness, most HR departments would be in favor of as well.

One of the biggest challenges is managerial capability. But it’s one of those areas where no matter how much you might want to hope that people could be adult stuff happens, right. Either mistakes happen or there’s a degree of expertise that’s needed to understand the situation and what can and can’t be done.

So it was a really interesting story. It provokes a lot of conversation but as is often the case, it wasn’t quite what it claimed to be. As soon as you scratch the surface.

Matt: It does feel to me, it, it does start to tap into maybe some of the the brand positioning challenges that HR having it actually indeed it does.

And finance do, and you know, most support functions within organizations do. And a lot of that stems, I guess, from there’s a transactional role. Doing stuff. So running recruitment exercises, or, you know, that, that things you’ve got a maybe transformational role, which is about being able to help an organization to do things better and differently.

And that’s always a challenge. And then you’ve got a regulatory role, which is to be the people saying, don’t do that. And I guess the. I mean from my experience of working in many different organizations over the years, it seems that one of the HR biggest the HR team’s biggest challenges is dealing with incompetent managers.

And one could argue, well, that’s a lack of the transformational part of HR going on. This led to lots of incompetent managers, but it’s not really, it’s just under-resourced and all the rest But when you get those kinds of stories coming out, it does feel that there’s this. Oh, what? I had to do this one too.

And I didn’t like it. So therefore I’m going to make a lot of noise about the fact that I did something I didn’t understand. And didn’t like, Yeah, constant balancing, I

David: guess. Well, my view is organizations should always be reviewing their structure and their ways of working to look at the context that they’re trying to work in and what they’re trying to achieve.

So the kind of blanket, I always do things this way, or always do things that way never strikes me as a sensible way of approaching things. And in this particular story, I think it was. I had a chat with someone on the front desk, 10 years before and had an epiphany. And now there’s something really positive to say about my intent to, to empower people and support them.

But as you say, there’s, there’s a tension in terms of what organizations provide and actually, you know, whether it’s facilities and workplace management, only being known as the people that keep the toilets clean, whether it’s it to, you know, switch off and switch it back on again, or whether it’s, you know, HR just that said to hire and fire.

The best organizations find a way to actually think about those as genuine strategic assets. Far more broadly in terms of how do we shape our culture? You know, what’s the importance of the work environment for people and how can we ensure that that’s developing productivity and from a digital point of view, rather than just a pure it point of view, you know, customer and user experience and a far richer way.

So yeah, there’s a challenge for HR in sense of capacity and in terms of branding. But actually when I speak to CEOs and their HR teams working brilliantly. They wouldn’t swap them out ever. You know, it’s, it’s an absolute bit, the business that, that are alone. So as with any profession, there’ll be some people lacking behind the pace.

But that’s no reason to kind of, you know, make decisions about whether you have a functional goal. Then we’ve got to be a bit more enlightened than,

Matt: but what’d you think of the things that would Mark out a, a really good well-regarded HR team at the moment?

David: So I think at the moment there’s a few things.

So one is a, a richer view around wellbeing and productivity. So actually for lots of HR teams, they’ve had a real chance to prove their worth over the last year, really difficult and tragic circumstances to do it in, but it’s gone from our you’re the, you’re the person that gets me, someone to actually you’re understanding some quite complex change management and helping see us through.

But the second one, and I think the most important one for me and for them. Just results. So there are still too many actual teams that will have a series of initiatives and series of pledges, things that like to impact. And three years later, you’re in the same place. And that’s true of lots of different functions of the business, but the ones that can genuinely, you know, a board or a senior team can identify a problem.

And the HR team can think really creatively out of the box about what’s the best way of, you know, genuinely solving that. They’re the ones that actually properly move on culture or performance in a different way. And that’s how you change your brand. It’s not, you know, whether you call the HR team, the people team it’s about actually the substance of that job and what people can expect from.

Matt: Yeah. Are you seeing things like design thinking, coming in as part of that within the way image? The HR groups are approaching these challenges.

David: They can come in primarily, I think most often kind of under the umbrella of employee experience. So broadening out the employee engagement piece and looking at slightly wider end to end the experiential piece, and then design thinking, being the way that you think about the different elements of that.

It’s a bit of an odd one. There are some techniques that you can actually take from it that would add value. But actually I think the whole thing goes back to slightly more user centric approach that would have been useful in design no matter what, no matter how you brand it, that’s always been the challenge.

And I know there are lots of different Lots of different ways of describing work. But 30 years ago, the challenge probably was understand the problem at a complex level, not just a superficial level, understand the evidence and try and find out the best way to solve it. Focusing on the impact that you wanted to have.

I’m not entirely sure how much that’s shifted even though probably some of the philosophies or approaches are laid on top of that. So if you look at no, it’s not a design thing, just pluck it. Yeah. Business model, canvas. Useful to up signal, but you know, obviously not knocking it. But before the business model, canvas businesses still had the same challenge, but still what we attended today.

So definitely say more design thinking, definitely seeing some more user centric thinking holistic joined up systemic thinking is what organizations need more of. And you see that particularly around some of the more complex areas. So if we think about wellbeing or if we think about inclusion and diversity, they’re not things that you’re going to solve with.

You know, a substitutionary or, you know, we’ll put in an app and that will solve it. It doesn’t work if for complex problems in the middle of a pandemic, you know, paying for some online yoga sessions, isn’t going to be the thing that’s going to solve the problem at the heart of that actually reevaluating the way that you do work.

Fundamentally, the ways of working within the organization, the balance of resource. It’s harder, but it’s more necessary. Equally inclusion and diversity. The one day training courses are going to solve that. You’ve got to go deeper and harder and our range of different spaces. And that’s where the really good HR professionals and dope, which is designing.

Not for this might make a difference, but actually, if we do all these things well, we can’t help but succeed. And I think that’s where that kind of focus and drive comes into it.

Chris: Isn’t isn’t that always, I mean, I’m thinking about what you say in relation to a HR teams, it teams, finance teams, whoever it might be.

And generally speaking, if you try to do something as cheaply as humanly possible, then you’ll get only get a certain amount of,

You only get a certain outcome. And that will mainly be a kind of, this is what this is. This is what you can do. And this is what you can’t do. And then you, you, HR, as long with, along with it has been called the business prevention department to companies, you know, for, for many years.

And what you’re already talking about is HR people just like that. It counterparts people who. Actually can articulate the value of what they do to the, to the organization and therefore get more money to do it because they can show the more they do it. Yeah. The better the outcomes are generally. And overall, rather than just keep you out of jail, you know, stop, stop.

You’re getting dragged under, by, you know, horrible tribunals where people, you know, might want more to suggest that you might have treated them badly on all of those things. So two things that actually, as you say, if you can do all of those things, if you can change the culture in a business or change the way people act or change the way that that people see how the, how they see their roles and they end up working in a more effective way and producing better outcomes, then you’re doing a much bigger job than.

What are the rules? Let’s make sure we don’t, we don’t break them.

David: Yeah. And I think it’s, for me, it’s solving business problems rather than solving the things that you see necessarily in HR publications. There’s a massive difference. But one of my favorite stories of the last few years was chatting to someone from, from a European postal service.

And they’d been trying to get the organization excited about employee engagement and the organization just wasn’t having any of it. So they went to the organization and said, look, what problems are you trying to solve? And I said, well, actually it’s absence because if someone is not able to do a postal route, cause they’re off, we have to get somebody in who hasn’t done that before.

And it’s quite complex to cover. And, and all of those things quite challenging. So they said, well, if we can help you with the absence problem, would that be good for you? And they went, hold on, I’ll be up so amazing. And all they did was everything they would have done under engagement. It’s, it’s a really.

W we can talk about and lose focus on the problems with John. So I was at a conference couple of years back, and someone asked me, they said, how do I get my senior team to focus on wellbeing? And I said, well, what else is on their mind? And they said all that cheap as he focused on that, what happens if their people burn out.

Oh, so you’re just trying to call it, you know, what you think the HR world thinks it should be. And I think sometimes we are too prescriptive, you know, we know here are the solutions that need, rather than working back from the problems that organizations have.

Matt: Yeah. W also noted a couple of weeks ago, a.

A technology company who they’re taking their wellbeing program. So seriously that they’d gamified it, split everybody into teams and made them compete on how much wellbeing they were each doing. And I was thinking you might have missed the point within this whole world, but yeah, it’s it’s an interesting set of challenges.

One of the things that I was attracted to actually to my current job by was that rather than having HR and it and finance and the other services, health and safety communications, and so on other services that support the business, having each of their individual silos and then it reporting into different.

Strands up at a board level, actually, with the exception of finance, all of our business support services report into the same exact director and that idea of having a multidisciplinary team that is delivering all of the services, the platforms that are needed for an organization to operate is something I’ve been.

Talking about and writing about for ages is the first time I’ve actually had the opportunity to work in it. Now, the reality is it’s quite challenging because it people and HR people and FM people and. Comms people and health and safety people all talking completely different languages. So they don’t understand a bloody word each other saying waste of time.

So you’ve got some structural issues there. And especially because we’re quite small, we don’t have them that the overhead to enable that collaboration to work necessarily particularly well. But in principle, it sounds like a really good idea. Is that, is that something you’re seeing happening? Organizations or is this an outlier?

David: It’s all done a podcast, isn’t it? Cause I feel under pressure to say it’s something I’m saying just in case of missed, you know, missed it. Not, not terribly. I think you’ve seen some more functions coming together, but not actually that often with that breadth of. Tolerant and that stretch coming together.

I think it’s a fantastic model. I just think it requires time and mature. And it’s probably one of those things. That’s less, it’s more normal in the market. It’s always going to be problematic for someone joining as well, because, you know, even if you do get a group of people who are comfortable working in that multidisciplinary way, Do start having a more common language and breaking down some of those barriers.

You’re still gonna have people coming from specialisms to join that team. But it, it actually makes sense. I mean, you used the word kind of support functions. I tend to talk about enabling. So without those functions, the business. Simply can’t function in the way that it needs to in can’t perform it in the way that it wants to.

Because I think sometimes there’s that kind of split between frontline. This is really important. And then we have some people clearing up behind us. Whereas actually I think organizations genuinely need to understand the strategic value of having brilliant similarly spaces actually in really competing for talent there rather than just competing for time.

What puts you at the sharp end, but I’m really glad you, are you enjoying it? Yes,

Matt: it’s. It’s been a lot of learning for me. It’s a new sector for me. It’s also the first time I’ve been in paid employment for conventional paid employment for about seven years. So getting back into working as a part of the team, as opposed to being a freelance gun for hire,

David: because you were an assassin for a while.

Yeah, exactly.

Matt: I was, I was like Mr. And Mrs. Smith her, but I think that the, as I say, I think that the challenges that naturally, because we’re relatively small, being able to get, to get those functions to not just be working on the transactional across any of those functions is the hard bit, because also establishing a new way of working that involves bringing people from different disciplines together.

You have to do work on, on that. And if you’re stretched for time and everything is reactive, it’s really hard to be, to carve that out. But I’ve I started to see this when I was working in the civil service and or do work in the civil service and that there was, there were so many cases where people were talking about, you know, the future of how we do things and user centered design.

And then I was like, why do we have these separate functions that report up through totally different reasons all the way at the top of the organization? Cause that’s reinforcing a lot of the problems that you’re trying to address. And quite often,

David: You know, historically has been that seat at the table conversation, which I think is one of the most tired conversations.

They can kind of have in that space. But I imagine actually it very much depends on who’s leading that function and actually their bias and their background so that everyone actually feels they’re being appreciated and contributing rather than I’m an adjunct to what this function really is. Because I can see that being particularly challenging if it doesn’t have great leadership, but with great leadership.

Well, I think that’s how you’ve got to look at things, you know, if we do it well, rather than one of the pitfalls, I can see that being a really strong model. And it harks back to that piece of octopus that we spoke about at the start, which is you have to be open to. Is there a better way of solving this with

Matt: the models of professional membership?

The other thing I find curious if you compare the HR world to a great extent, the marketing world as well, where there’s been a real drive for accredited professionalism, as opposed to winging it. Professionalism. That seems to be the thing that reign Supreme in the world of, of it. I guess the first thing I find interesting is why have HR and marketing being able to establish a culture where it’s expected that people have qualifications in the CMI or from the CIPD and the.

You know, the, the fish compared to society’s floating around at the edges with nobody. Quite sure why I want to be a member. Can do, do you think there is it just the nature of the people who work in those professions that needs one to one to organize in that way and others to

David: not. I think it’s quite interesting.

So professional bodies kind of come in three-ish tiers, so you’ve got licensed to practice. So I couldn’t really do it without it. Then you’d go you know, used us as an example of an organization where you’d probably be expected to happen. So you’d have, you know, a dominant position. And. It would be, you know, a normal job advert.

And then you’ve got some organizations that never quite Breton that critical mass. And I think, you know, one of the advantages we have, we’re 107 years old, so there’s a legacy in history and kind of status, but that’s been built up over time. But I think some of it is affinity community. Some of it is some of the it jobs can be relatively.

Technically siloed. So Hal’s a naturally kind of, you can’t do it without people. You can code pretty effectively is a solitary procedure. I wouldn’t suggest that people do that the whole time, but it can be quite heads down. And I, I just think that’s a different maturing of the professions and the recognition, and it can often be quite a course or qualification or platform driven.

In terms of, you know, learning and acquiring skills whereas for some of the others, it’s, you know, entry points and then working through in a more structured way. It’s, it’s a professional body. It’s a fascinating well actually if you work in them, they’re probably fascinating. I imagine they’re really boring if you look at something, so we’ve talking for too long on it.

But there’s something about having a critical mass in the marketplace that actually a bit like if the comparison of makers, if you were trying to start an online group we’ve all seen them starting to flounder and that’s because you just don’t have enough people to get the conversation going.

There comes a point where you reach critical mass and people can expect to go in and get value from it. And at that point, that’s where they started to kind of flourish and nourish themselves. And I think for some professions, you’ve, you’ve got that base. Where actually you can go in and everyone else has got it.

So therefore that’s what I need to break into that status. Really difficult thing for an organization do. And because why D why do people think you need it because of the market share, how do you get the market share where they need, if people need it? So it’s really difficult. The barriers to entry, I guess, to that tier are really high,

Matt: I guess, as well.

There’s something about how. You have got to serve two constituencies. You’ve got to serve the needs of members, but you’ve also got to serve the needs of the people who employed the members. And you’re acting as an assurance service for employers, as well as the, you know, the professional body for the, the, the HR professionals themselves.

David: Yeah. Completely. And we fulfill that role. But I mean, he is the amplified T if you think about it, if you think about the amount of cost and investment in that space, You would have thought actually, you know if you’re a CEO and you’re hiring for that, you want something probably more than track record, if there was, you know, external validation of that.

But I’m not sure that it’s seen in quite the same way, which is a really interesting one, considering that the criticality to almost all bits of the employee experience and customer experience.

Chris: No, maybe it’s maybe it’s just Dan, does you talk about maturity, but I think maturity not just of.

Organizations, but, but of the market, generally, the things that you wanted out of a an it person 10 years ago, aren’t the same that you want today. Probably. And, and the, the things that changing in the people world are, you know, people pretty much stay the same regulation changes, but regulation changes slowly by accretion.

It’s not, it’s not the rapid pace of change that we see in it. So it’s just, maybe it’s just not that it’s not suited to these kind of. Bodies as, as you say, 107 year old organization can fit into you know, you know, 2000 year old, probably if, if not 5,000, you hear a whole process of managing people.

David: It’s quite interesting. It’s a really. That’s a really interesting point. And what it spoke to me is if you think about, if you think about tech entrepreneurs, no, no one thinks about the qualifications that sit behind that you think about. Individual excellence. And you think about, you know, understanding something that to an outsider was completely impenetrable.

Now HR is quite often the opposite of that, which is that everyone thinks they can do it. Everyone thinks that I have to train people. Everyone thinks they’ve got an eye for talent. Everyone thinks they can lead people effectively, all of those things, whereas. If I were to think if, if I were to think of almost the whole year with would stereotype of someone who’s great at it, it would be that kind of, you know, it would be a hacker, wouldn’t it flying through some kind of computer generated landscape that’s supposed to simulate how hacking really works, but even, you know, likes of his, of books, you know, Google any of the tech startups, it’s different ethos.

And maybe you don’t know for sure. So associated with the steadiness that months in some of the other professions.

Matt: Although there’s that kind of mythology about the the founder genius entrepreneur type, but actually SBR missed most of it’s very RP systems. It’s really dull. And if you w w when I was working at Microsoft shortly before I started there, they’d done some demographics surveying of the UK it population.

And they actually found that it professionals, this is about 12 years ago now, but on that. We’re significantly more change averse than the general population. So this mythology about how it sort of the cutting edge is, is a very thin sliver. I guess the other part, though, if you think about the accreditation part of this, there have been lots of other routes.

So software companies particularly have made a big old monetized. Set of products out of accrediting people to be certified engineers or whatever. So Microsoft and articles and, and all the rest make a, a good solid revenue out of being able to credit people, which would be the sorts of things that maybe an HR would be done by the CIPD.

And similarly, we’ve got things like quality standards. The much more suited to being able to, you know give a standard set of accreditation for information security or coding or service delivery. And, and, and, and so it’s probably been achieved in different ways. Cause

David: it’s really interesting.

So there’s a thing about there. Isn’t a certain level of is indecipherable from magic. It departments do things that. Your average person in the business doesn’t even begin to understand. So I mean that in a really basic level, right? If my laptop doesn’t stop by give it to someone and they give it back to me in a couple of days speaks, and I don’t know what’s happened there.

I don’t have any insight into that with finance. I can sit down, I can kind of understand the P and L with most bits of a business. I can get talked through. What they’re doing and why maybe have a view on it, even down to you, the legal team, this is the guidance. Well, is it really, you know, how does it look?

It is like magic. And so there’s something really odd about the fact that something so fundamental to our lives that we all use. We don’t have a clue about how it actually works, you know, th th the level of dependence and that, you know, we’ve seen that this year with zoom calls and things like that, you know, just people, but literally, like, how does this witchcraft work?

Cause I’ve never had to use it before. The intimidation that comes with technology as well. So you say otherwise, you know, completely in control individuals when faced with not being able to work out how to connect their printer, just falling apart and being wholly reliant on another human being. I think maybe there’s something in that you get, you get away with being far more magical than any other department, if you work in it.

Matt: Yeah. I wonder if there’s a short lifetime on that now, now, because if you think about how I imagined that things like cars were like that. When Carlos was still more user serviceable. If you go onto the bonnet of a car these days, there’s a bloody great plastic sheet that is basically telling you, get out.

You’re not coming in here, take it to the garage and they’ll plug it into a machine. It will diagnose it for us. And similarly, actually, we’ve got to a point now with probably with mobile technology that actually the ability to fix it is just not the same with mobile. Because you don’t need to in the same way as you do with the PC.

And that’s just because it’s legacy technology in many ways, still that it does go wrong. And most of the stuff that goes wrong, if truth be told is cause the it department have been buggering around to make things better. When they’re trying to second, guess what it is that Microsoft or Apple or whoever else do.

And I don’t know that being able to be great because you’re fixing stuff that you broke in the first place is not necessarily. A longterm strategy. Yeah, no, it’s just blending, uploading that blend a little fit.

Chris: I mean, if you think about it a few years ago, sorry. A few years ago when I was, when I was a wee boy.

Right. And you were to have a TV in the corner of the room, if you were, you know, if you’re lucky. And every now and again, some who go wrong and then a man would come round in a Brown coat in the tool bag and tap the bow. But the dock back off it and fiddle around with it. And maybe there’d be a smell of soldier or something.

And the CV would be repaired. And the TV repairman was doing the same magic that Dave was talking about earlier. Nobody else knew how the TV repairman, but he was really important. He got it fixed, right? Because it was the TV. And now that doesn’t no, we don’t need that because it’s, it’s become essentially a non serviceable anyway, but they don’t break as often as it used to.

And maybe it is still going through that phase of, of. Getting to the point where nobody needs to touch it and we’re getting there, right. Nobody’s going to serve as an iPad. If you’ve used an iPad or a tablet, all the tablets are available pretty much. It’s going to work whenever you turn it on until the day it doesn’t.

And, and then you’re going to get another one and maybe that’s, we’re getting to that point where those magical moments go away.

Matt: Although there is the irony that we’re now discussing how technology fails, because it’s the technology. When most of the time we spend our time saying to the thing that fails about technology, isn’t the technology, it’s the way in which we get people to try to use it.

And to what extent is that a people issue, which has been left in the hands of, of a part of the organization that thinks that the people are the stuff that breaks stuff.

David: Was him ubiquitous to NRG, look at XL. And to what extent, that could be useful to organizations and isn’t utilized fully. You look at something like three 65.

You look at teams, you look at all of these kinds of things, and we know we don’t maximize use of it, but some of those people are just scared, you know, that I’m sure that training elements, all those kind of elements, but it just feels like magic. I mean the millennium bug, could’ve been a giant hoax for all learning.

No people were telling me that, theoretically, there’s something going wrong. You need to pay some consultants or consultants could have just clumped together and then got around. Oh yeah, we fixed it. That’s why it didn’t go wrong. Because we’ve never known it, whereas that it’s not true of any other bit of the organization.

You can sniff stuff, you can see it. It’s obviously going wrong. It’s not working in some ways. Whereas to your point it teams don’t go. We made a change that didn’t work. They just go and fix that for you. I’m a wizard is as the kind of narrative. So, so yeah, I, I don’t know if there’s a mystique to it and a distance that I think is really interesting.

Now, to what extent that plays into the whole professionalism piece. I don’t know, but actually when I have interviewed people who work in it during my career, And I’ve ended up in positions where you, but there’s no other role and it don’t come. It’s just, for me, I think it’s a slightly more universal experience, no other role where I know what I’m talking about.

I’m basically sitting there going. So what I’d really like to know is, are you good with computers and for the stuff that we need computers to do? Have you done that kind of stuff before? Because there, there isn’t, that was that your con pretty much I can interview, you know, for an FD role. That’s not a problem.

I can do that. Same for HR CEOs. I can tell you, you know, what a good stirrups of legal and governance that’s like it. No, we’re so out of our depth, there was ordinary mortals. I’m basically going, I’m trusting you to be good. It’s really strange, really strange. Your magical mystical is, is it’s. It’s like interviewing Pokemon, but not being able to know how their special politics come up.

All you’re going to be good when you evolve. I don’t know how this works. It’s pretty much that,

Chris: but isn’t that crazy? Is that isn’t that absolutely crazy. That, that, that such a fundamental thing now is down to people. Who’ve. You don’t really know who they’re taking on a Y. And I, you know, God knows I’m not the best CIO or CTO or whatever that ever Strode the earth.

And I’m, I’m quite capable of making mistakes, but I look at some of the people who ended up in some of these jobs and I think, Oh my God, you know how, and it’s, you know, because they’ve managed to say the right things at the right time and they, you know, they’re, they wear the right suit and they’ve got the right names on their CV, but.

But under no circumstances, are they going to make a positive contribution to the business? They’ve just joined, but it’s, as you say, it’s, it’s a bit maybe because it’s, it’s just a bit

David: magic. So do you remember that TV series faking it? Sort of thing. So for anyone, I guess listening, we didn’t let’s take a member of the public and they would teach, teach that I think I had like 48 hours to try and get them to a possible professional level.

So they could go into an environment and people wouldn’t recognize that they were a fake and I’ve always, I’ve always been tempted to put myself in fake a CV and go in for like a CIO job. Or like ahead of OT and just, you know, talk to, you know, that’ll be your firewall, you know, or yeah, no, it’s all about agile methodology going forward.

You know, that’s how I need to get the team working and migrate everything to the cloud. I think that’s going to be a challenge. I mean, it’s sold, it’s the same line. You could get away with three or four sentences and you’ve probably seen. Relatively credible. Well, it’s, I’m not entirely sure how that would work and maybe, and it’s not actually for anyone listening.

It’s not, cause I’m flipping it and don’t rate the capability in it. It’s because it’s just really hard as an outsider to discern whatever

Matt: side. And so how do you assess the skills that you don’t have particularly at senior leadership level to be able to bring them in. And I think that’s it. Yeah, I think there’s, there’s a real challenge there for organizations, particularly if they need to change direction when it comes to technology.

Yes, they a couple of roles I’ve had now where I’ve inherited from somebody who was a very long serving head of technology. And that means they weren’t able to be able to get the influence from outside into the organization. And if you’ve had somebody long serving for a long while in the same role, then actually.

Bringing somebody to replace them. And all of your expertise internally has been based around that person. Who’s been there forever. That’s a real challenge.

David: Well, I think what we need to do is review the legacy architecture, ensure that we’re digital first, culturally, as well as from a systems point of view.

And then once we’ve done that over time, you’re going to have a roadmap that we can develop together that gets you to that level of user experience that you really need. That, that is kind of, I kind of figured I could turn up and I have a show. Chris Christian is looking at me in a very skeptical way.


Chris: just thinking we need to stop this interview before you blow the whole gap, frankly.


Matt: Well, having blown our cover. Thanks, David. We bring the show to something of a judging Holters. Many of us, particularly those of you out there who are in senior it role. So I’ve been realized we’ve all been rumbled. Pleasure talking to you, David, have you got any idea what’s happening in the the week ahead?

David: Schools were going back. I believe that that’s, that’s a thing that’s happening within a week. Some will be shining. The starts are going to continue going in the right way and probably piers Morgan, also something outrageous the nation. Core,

Matt: you’ve got crystal ball. It’s amazing skills. And Chris was, it’s just, it’s just now into the regular bit of the show every week where it asks you if next week’s going to be the same as this week

Chris: and you go, yep.

I say I died. I can’t even remember what I say. I think I’d probably yes, I suppose. It’s it’s, it’s very busy at the moment. So I’m a bit like last weekend I went to the start of the show and I was like, Oh, it was busy last week. It’s going to be busy this week. And, but not nothing unusual is going on really in my work life, I guess.

I guess one of the things that’s happening is now I’m starting to have those conversations about, I had a conversation this week or this week, then the end of last week about. Oh, right. I October we might do this thing and you might be able to come to that and I’m starting to contemplate the travel. I’m starting to contemplate the bits in the diary that say you’re going to be in a different place then.

And it’s all a bit unreal at the moment because it’s kind of, Oh yeah. You know, maybe if, if, if, if, but we all know that at some point. Things are going to change. We, you know, we can cross our fingers and hoping the person I was talking to actually was from Serbia where they’ve, they’ve, they’ve vaccinated a third of their population and they, you know, they are really cracking through them.

And he said, well, actually, where, you know, if all this happens a bit, we’ll get vaccinated numbers go down. We could well be we could probably be in a position where we’re, where we’re traveling around in October. So that’s only six months away. Right. And. It’s starting to go in little circles and the diarrhea and that that’s a bit, it’s a bit weird and I’m looking forward to him anyway.

He’s but not necessarily without that, a level of maybe I’m like a dog, cause it’s been locked in a cage for, you know, a year, you open the door and it doesn’t necessarily want to come out. And maybe, maybe that’s the way I’m reacting to it.

Matt: Yeah, I can, I can kind of relate to that. I think there is a bit of Hermitude in my psyche that has been brought out in the last 18 months that is going to make it quite hard, to be able to make decisions of flight, leaving the house.

And especially, I think the I don’t know, at the moment, the idea of going into an office, I just find so alien. I,

David: I get scared might be too strong, a word, but occasionally you’ll see like sporting events or post events on TV with large crowds. And my instant gut reaction is what are you all doing, man, standing so close together.

And, but I’m curious as to how that’s going to translate actually to going back into. Like say a commute in a city where you don’t know people and you don’t know how well they’ve been looking after themselves or any, any of those things going on. And you imagine that the media will flare up any virus anywhere.

And that will throw people into perpetual panic as well. So now I I’m I’m. I’m happy to confess that I am feeling the same way as Chris, which is quite unsettled about quite settled about all the stuff I’m supposed to

Chris: look forward to. I remember, I mean, this didn’t happen to me for a long time, cause I’m now old and decrepit, but imagine being in a nightclub or somewhere where you were at the bar and across your people trying to get served and the sweatshirts trickling down your back, and you’re not entirely sure whether it’s yours or somebody else’s and you know that, that see the mud cross of people and the idea of doing that now, it seems.

Just the balmy.

David: Yeah. So being in someone’s own pit for a train journey. Yeah. I achieved all that, all that kind of stuff, you know, queuing up to go into a football stadium know even, I guess, you know, for people, you know, different backgrounds, you know, going to religious places of worship and that kind of, you know, funding in and funneling out together.

It just seems like a lot of the things that we spent an entire year conditioning ourselves to being inherently dangerous, that the things that we’re supposed to. Well, my former snap back into looking forward to, and I find this degree of cognitive dissonance in that way, I’m both excited and scared, but scared and

Chris: excited.

Matt: Yeah, no, that makes sense. But let’s keep in mind schools go back on Monday. So that’d be good. Anyway. Thank you very much for joining us, David. It’s been fantastic, Chris, as ever see you. Next week we having had no people with a name begin with duh. We have two in the course of two weeks, and next week we’re going to be joined by the journalist writer Matt D’Ancona, who is going to be talking about the book he’s got coming out a little later in March.

So that should be fun. It’s been fun this week and we’ll look forward to seeing you again next week.

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