The (not far) Away Day (part 5)

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by @paulcarder

If you have been following the story so far, several managers are congregated in their corporate training facility, “to discuss what successful Workplace Management means to the Group Companies, who should lead it forward, and how”. It is the evening before the Away Day, and they have met variously in the bar, or passing through to their rooms. We have met Frankie (HR), Sam (FM), Jules (CRE), and Charlie (IT Strategy). As is often the case in large organisations, FM reports into CRE; Sam reports to Jules. But, nobody really knows how the plot is unfolding. Mostly because the HR Director, unusually, has called this Away Day, “so we actually talk to each other, and share information and experiences”. Why HR?

Frankie is meeting the HR Director, Rosh, in a nearby restaurant.

“I bumped into some colleagues from Real Estate in the bar” says Frankie, as they take their table. “There is some…well, intrigue, I guess you could say. They kinda think Workplace Management is their bag…wondering why HR is heading this Away Day”.

Rosh comes back quickly, with a slight air of excitement, “Yes, I’m sure there is! Intrigue, indeed. What do you think?” Rosh is a great mentor – teacher, even. To Frankie, it feels less a ‘manager-subordinate’ relationship than one of a post-grad and professor.

Frankie replies, “Well, I know that collaboration is the goal. Not just out there with our business partners and suppliers, but here, across the support functions. I know that the boss wants to get rid of ‘stove-pipes’, and to get all of the functions facing one direction…and I guess that means all fully aligned with each of the business units”.

Rosh smiles, looking up from the menu, “Yeah, pretty much. The new CEO wants us to give staff every tool they need to perform at their best achievable level. Think sports analogies. Firstly, we want people fit and well, in body and mind….as far as practicable, of course! So, ‘wellness’ will be mentioned a lot. Secondly, we will ensure that everyone in the organisation goes through a review of their skills, and is offered training, or sponsorship on courses where required. We do a lot of that anyway, but it will be pushed harder. And thirdly, the ‘places’ we want people to work from will support them fully”.  

“We have made a good start on the first two”, said Frankie, “but, what is our role, as HR, in ‘places’? That’s Corporate Real Estate, and FM. Are you saying….”

“Yes, I’m saying that will be part of my new remit” smiled Rosh, “We will all be on a steep learning curve.”

Frankie looked a little surprised, “I could ask a lot of questions…why? how?” she smiled. A confused smile.

“Don’t worry. We’re not actually going to be ‘doing’ the CRE stuff”, Rosh replied, “But, this is going to be an organizational transformation. It will not be comfortable, for many of the support functions. Selling it to staff in the right way is going to be critical. Hence, our experience of large change management projects will be what is needed right now.”

Frankie was not convinced, yet at least, “I get that…but how are we going to effectively lead a function like CRE, that we have little knowledge of?” 

“Ah, you under-estimate what you know!” replied Rosh, laying the menu down, “think about it. One of our key goals is employee attraction…and retention. We’re in a competitive market. Unemployment in our sector is virtually zero. Everyone is offering similar…good…salaries and benefits. What can we do to differentiate ourselves, as an employer of choice?”

Frankie grinned, “Well you’ve kinda given that away …its ‘Places’, obviously …but I still can’t quite see how?”

“OK”, Rosh continued, “well, the CEO’s view is that the ‘places’ we ask people to work from are one of the last areas of effective ’employee benefit’…if, as we think is true…people decide to join us…or stay with us…because the experience of working in our places is better than they would get elsewhere. And we should know, as we measure this. But we need to do more, to understand why, and how we can continuously improve. And that is what we manage, and how we brief and guide the Workplace Managers.”

“I get it…I like it” said Frankie, “it is more the strategy and targets that we lead from. We don’t do the technical stuff…CRE does that…but we make sure that what they do is fully aligned with our ‘people’ strategies”.

“Exactly. And you are now part of the new People & Place function”, Rosh smiled, “HR is no more. The CEO hates the term…People!!…we employ people!! ..not Human Resources.”

“What do you think of the menu?” Rosh asked.

Frankie wasn’t sure how to answer. The dinner menu? Or the menu for tomorrow’s Away Day. Dinner was going to go down far better, she thought.   

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