Another Piece of the Puzzle: Human Resources [en]

[fr] Réflexions sur le travail, sur mon travail, et pile de liens intéressants.

I was reading this, this morning: Screw Finding Your Passion. I read it because I was pretty sure I’d agree with it, and I was pretty sure I knew what it would say. I was right.

Every now and again I have a relapse and lose time and energy wondering what my “true calling” is. But largely, I’m very much aware that:


In the little “in-between” space I’m in right now, I get these relapses. I wonder if I can continue doing what I’ve been doing up to now (hi there, imposter syndrome). I wonder what it is that I’m really good at, or that I really enjoy doing (as work). I try to think of new “products” or “services” and remember that in the past, this has never been a successful way to do things for me. I remember how much energy I put into Going Solo, for an event that was indeed a success for those who took part, but that didn’t earn me any income. And how the year before that, I’d been dreaming up new wonderful things I wanted to do with clients but for which there was no market. (Sorry for all the Markdown in these old posts, by the way, Jetpack’s Markdown is on strike here.)

If I try to think about what I’m already doing with my time, let’s see:

  • reading (fiction and online stuff)
  • tinkering with computers (misbehaving, or improving, or helping their humans get along with them)
  • meeting people and having long conversations on a variety of topics (some personal, some professional)
  • just “living” (gosh, it takes so much time, specially when you’re alone to do it all: cooking, eating, shopping, dealing with admin, thinking about putting new kitchen in, bills, plants and cats to take care of, car broken down, organising stay at the chalet, walking dogs with neighbours, digital maintenance…)
  • blogging
  • trying to figure things out (me, others, the world, the meaning of life, reluctant computers…)
  • not doing my 2015 accounting, getting my business site back online and updating it, preparing feedback emails for my students (coming, I promise)

One of these long conversations, last week, helped me make another step forwards in understanding where some stuff I was thinking of doing fitted in the global business ecosystem. I mentioned these digital workshops already, didn’t I? Well, I was struggling with their business model. As they are not proper training led by business needs, I couldn’t imagine who would pay for them.

And now the answer is obvious: Human Ressources. More precisely, Compensation & Benefits. Yes, HR’s job is also to keep employees happy to be working for the company, provide attractive benefits, and offer opportunities for development. (If you’re working in HR and cringing, my apologies, as you can see I’m only just discovering this area of business.) It’s falling into place. I can offer packages of 5 or 10 workshops for a set fee, for example. These workshops could also come and complement preexisting workshops in other areas which would benefit from the inclusion of digital topics.

Another area I was thinking of developing a couple of years back was some kind of “digital/productivity mentoring” for managers. It never really took shape, mainly because I was rather quickly too busy to put energy into this idea — but thinking about it again now, I realise it’s probably also a “Human Resources = client” offering.

(If you’re in HR I would love to talk to you and see if these ideas hold water or not. Do get in touch.)

Another interesting idea that came up during this discussion was that what I’ve been calling my “mediation” or “bridge” skills, for lack of better word, could in fact be called “coordination”. It’s close, in any case. I am good at absorbing information, I understand and learn fast, and once that is done, I am good at putting it in words that “external” people can understand. I keep together people with different backgrounds, languages, cultures, in a way. I’m still thinking what this can be useful for, apart from the obvious “coordination” of multi-disciplinary teams and the like. Where is the entrance for this?

Promenade lac chiens 38 2015-12-13 17h36

So, all these lunches seem to be getting me somewhere. Not quite sure where, though. Six months from now it will look painfully obvious with 20/20 hindsight.

In other news:

Heck. It’s already tomorrow.

The Shadow IT Department (and Shadow HR) [en]

[fr] Un article qui montre du doigt un nécessaire changement de mentalité dans les départements IT: nombre des outils que les employés utilisent pour améliorer leur productivité ont en fait été introduits de façon "sauvage". Vouloir tout contrôler à tout prix n'est pas la meilleure solution.

Here’s a very interesting piece I picked up in Bruno’s links: Users Who Know Too Much (And the CIOs Who Fear Them). It talks about the chasm between what technology IT departments make available, and what tools employees install and use behind the IT department’s back to be more productive at work.

And that disconnect is fundamental. Users want IT to be responsive to their individual needs and to make them more productive. CIOs want IT to be reliable, secure, scalable and compliant with an ever increasing number of government regulations. Consequently, when corporate IT designs and provides an IT system, manageability usually comes first, the user’s experience second. But the shadow IT department doesn’t give a hoot about manageability and provides its users with ways to end-run corporate IT when the interests of the two groups do not coincide.

“Employees are looking to enhance their efficiency,” says André Gold, director of information security at Continental Airlines. “People are saying, ‘I need this to do my job.’” But for all the reasons listed above, he says, corporate IT usually ends up saying no to what they want or, at best, promising to get to it…eventually. In the interim, users turn to the shadow IT department.

I remember that when I used to work at Orange, many of my most useful tools were things I “wasn’t allowed” to have on my computer. I also remember that when I got really bad RSI and using dictation software was the only way to get me back to work, the IT department flat-out refused our request for Dragon. (Somebody actually said that if I couldn’t type anymore, they should just get rid of me.) My boss had to have a chat with somebody else’s boss to finally have the program installed on my computer.

The bit that actually prompted me to write this post is the comparison with the way HR organises the company:

For example, a similar dynamic has long played out in HR. A company’s employees have titles and reporting relationships that give their work a formal structure. But at the same time every company has an informal structure determined by expertise, interpersonal relationships, work ethic, overall effectiveness and so on. Companies suffer when HR is out of phase with the informal structure. Employees are demoralized when the formal architecture elevates someone at the bottom of the informal architecture, and people who occupy the top spots in the informal architecture leave when they aren’t recognized by the formal one. Good HR departments know where employees stand in both the formal and informal architectures and balance the two.

A few months ago, I was giving a talk on blogs (etc.) to a bunch of Internal Communications people, and one of my points was that there is an informal structure inside the company (the value of which is in fact recognized by the companies, who will invest in “teambuilding” or “recreation” activities to encourage transversal communication), and that use of tools like blogs can help make this structure more visible and efficient. (Think Cluetrain, these 50.)