The August HR Carnival!

ROLL UP! ROLL UP! Thats right people the Carnival is in town – Carnival of HR that is!

For those not in the know, the HR Carnival is all about bringing together the best posts from the HR blogging community to share ideas, information and candy floss. Well maybe not the last one, but any carnival I think of has got to have candy floss in there somewhere, so there you go!

One problem with any carnival is you never know who is going to be around when it rolls in to town – sometimes you might get a bumper turn out, with lots of visitors.  Other times people might be out of town hitting the beach (if you think you know what the HR equivalent of hitting the beach is please share your answers in the comments below).

With it being August, this months carnival is a bit lighter on posts – everyone is on that beach without me! – but we still have some great stuff to share with you.

So without further ado lets get down to business – and down to our two submissions!

Every employee policy you need to put in place ASAP

Alex Bea has been working on some great stuff over at the Allay Blog, including this post on every policy employer needs before they start the employer branding process – a must read, check it out here.

Women in Tech, ‘Firing Line’, and Naomi’s World

Naomi did a video interview recently about the barriers women face in getting to the very top roles in technology, both the history of such barriers and what we must do to remove them. Still (sadly) an issue in our world of work so hit pause on whatever it is you are watching on Netflix (House of Cards can wait!) and check out her blog and video here..

Then, just like that the carnival, much like summer goes in to Autumn (or ‘Fall’ depending on where you are reading this from), rolls on to another blog and another month. Want to find out where and when? Then check out the full listing here.

In the meantime thanks for your time and see you soon!



L&D lessons from Laura Linney

“…You’ve done so much work, you are so well prepared that no matter what you do is going to be within the bounds of what that person should be”

This is a quote from Laura Linney in her interview for ‘Inside the Actor’s Studio’ (check your local listings!) talking about the craft of acting, getting in to character to understand their motivation, their fears, their dreams – essentially how you ‘become’ them.

Linney getting excited about her craft

Although it is within the context of the dramatic arts, I think the same applies to L&D professionals, especially within the context of delivering learning interventions – whether online or face to face.

In order to be really effective when delivering learning, to be able to show spontaneity and be credible, we need to be engaged in our topics in such a way that even in instances when we go off course we are still delivering on the learning so our audience/groups/peers in the learning experience. It gives us an authenticity that cannot be beat – we need to ‘become’ the learning so to speak!

Coming back to Linney’s thoughts what she thought as critical was being thoroughly prepared and familiar with your content, audience and materials. She comes out with another killer quote on this topic, saying:

“It is like dropping a blob of pain on a canvas and then moving the brush across it – if you have done all of the prep leading up to it, it will land where it is supposed to land’

In some ways there is an element of ‘what will be, will be’ to this statement – however, without that preparation and engagement in the craft of delivering the learning we become a hostage to fortune. Something that we as individuals, along with our stakeholders and organisations cannot afford.

So next time you are thinking about your delivery – whether in person, digitally, whatever – identify how you can ‘become’ the learning you are delivering. How can you can you be as prepared and engaged in your craft to deliver an exceptional and authenti learning experience? How can you make sure the pain lands well, wherever this is?

In short: how can you live like Linney?

The August HR Carnival!

ROLL UP! ROLL UP! That right people the Carnival is in town -Carnival of HR that is!

For those not in the know, the HR Carnival is all about bringing together the best posts from the HR blogging community to share ideas, information and candy floss. Well maybe not the last one, but any carnival I think of has got to have candy floss in there somewhere, so there you go!

So without further ado lets get down to business – and down to some blogs!

Trish McFarlane – HR Ring Leader

What use is having an important message if you cannot get the attention of the people that matter in your business? What about if you think they dont want to listen in the first place?

Often the C-suite are the hardest to move forward – check out Trish’s post to see here three techniques on how to give direct feedback so this is no longer a problem for you!

Ian Welsh – Civilisation Simply Said

Change: Inevitable and yet so unpredictable – and HR and L&D are no less subject to it than the rest of the business! So what can HR and L&D teams do to plan and react to this and – more to the point – what will be a necessity for functions in the highest performing businesses to do?

Well wonder no more people! Ian Welsh paints a picture of the future of what the roles and responsibilities of the function will be – think L&D does 1984 but in a good way! Check out his post here.

Ben Eubanks – Upstart HR

Risk vs. Best Practice. Leading vs. Following. Superman vs. Batman!

Ok, that last one had no relevant to the other two but you have to expect some surprise acts in a carnival now and again! But back to what Ben Eubanks wants us to really talk about: namely differentiation.

How can we differentiate our HR/L&D practices to better meet the needs of the business? How and why should we be thinking about this as functions? What are the benefits of doing so? Ben discusses this and more not just in a post but in video/vlog on his site too – thats right you lucky, lucky people! You get to see one of the carnival’s bloggers as well as read their thoughts!

I toyed with the idea of doing the same with my blog but then I remembered that people came here for a carnival not a freak show! Anyways, go check out all the good stuff that Ben has to say here.

Sandrine Bardot – Compensation Insider

Mo money, mo problems – simple right?

WRONG! So much of our work in the HR function can be stressful, especially those touch points on ER, disiplinaries, investigations and so on, meaning we often view Reward/Compensation/Benefits as being a more softer area because it often has positive connotations attached to it.

However that is often not the case, as Sanrdine Bardot brings to life in her post where she takes us on a journey to the UAE and the unique challenges that are faced in this region in relation to reward and its consequences on motivation, retention and so on. Having worked on the region I would say this post is well worth a read – it is a not often spoken about topic but one which  we could all benefit from learning a little more on. Check out what Sanrdine’s take is on it here.

So there you go guys – your Carnival of HR for August! If these posts have whetted your appetite, why not subscribe to them as well? Hell, if you are feeling really enthusiastic, check out the listing for future events here!

Either way thanks again and see you soon for more posts/carnivals in the future!

L&D Design Rules: Want your audience to have clarity? Show them contrast

Late nights. Strong booze. An iconic American brand. This is what we should be striving to emulate in our L&D design. Don’t believe me? Read on…

Standing at the platform at Tower Hill station recently I was struck by an advert for Jack Daniel’s that, for me, is a great example of using contrast in your use of images and text to draw in your audience – see below:

Jack Daniels JPEG

On the one hand you have this rusty, old safe that would seem to be at odds with the young, vibrant branding that many drinks companies (alcoholic or otherwise) try to push on to us. In fact when you contrast it with some other rival offerings, the contrast could not be more stark in terms of chic youthfulness and – dare I say it – ‘being cool’ (kind of hate myself for typing that but it seemed the best way to put it!).

But observe a little closer and you realise that there is more to this advert than first meets the eyes. So you have this old, rusty image, but then the following slogan to go along with it:

“Mr Jack passed away due to an injury he sustained when kicking his safe early one morning at work.

Moral of the story: Never go to work early.”

Well, well – turns out the brand is quite hip after all. More importantly a great deal of self-awareness is show in this advert: a rich, long history as a product with a strong sense of its own values – e.g. a dry sense of humour which it uses in a very self-deprecating way. Not only that but that original image has actually achieved it aims of acting as a hook to reel you in to the tag line of the advert. In doing so, perhaps it also makes you more curious about the product, the story of Jack Daniel’s safe, or possibly how you might go about avoiding having to come in to the office early next time your manager wants you too.

So how is this relevant to instructional designers or L&D professionals in general? It is a subtle reminder of the value of contrast in our content in order to draw our audience in – a Trojan horse approach to designing and delivering content.

“Contrast? Surely that is 1) A button on a TV remote control, or 2) Confusing for our audience?” – Well, 1) Yes, and 2) No. Not when it is done well. Effective use in contrast in terms of images, text or general juxtaposition between the two will act as a means to revitalise your audience and, if nothing else, make them want to pay attention so they stay on top of what is coming next. It can also act as an energiser for your session, getting attendees who might be tired or exhausted after a long stretch of delivery think ‘Oh hang on – where did that come from? Does that make sense? How does that fit in to the scheme of what we have discussed so far? Exactly how hard did he kick that safe?!’

Although the context is different (one setting is about helping an individual grow on a professional or personal level, the other is about promoting a product) the underlying principle is the same: you need to find ways to attract, engage and sustain interest from your audience and make the value of the message you are delivering to them resonate on a personal level, whether through your history, humour, values or otherwise.

However you do it contrast can aid your cause – and if you have experience of this in the past, I would love to hear about how you used this effectively, when it worked better, when it did not and so on. In the meantime I have a strange urge to have a drink – and not turn up to work early tomorrow….

UPDATE: Not sure if it is a Tower Hill station advert pre-requisite, but if you are interested to see a previous example of this in the same station from Tescos then check out my blog post here. If nothing else it might make think differently about the next design project you have to work on – and when it comes to that, every little helps…


What is your Lasso of Truth?

Did you know that Wonder Woman had a lasso of truth? Which came in very handy when having to deal with the evil villains dotted throughout the DC universe.

But what you might not know is that the same people who invented Wonder Woman’s character and lasso of truth also invented had a hand in inventing the lie detector test. So, in some ways, without this comic book idea we would never have developed this analysis tool. So what does this tell us about creativity and innovation within the context of our working lives?

‘WONDEEEERR WOMAAAANNNNN!’ Yep, it is hard not to hear the TV theme tune when you see the image or name of one of DC comic books key characters. Sadly just concentrating on the TV show overshadows all the trailblazing this female super hero has been doing since 1942.

Wonder Woman Covers
The new ‘Would I Lie to You’ team captain had a distinct advantage (Wonder Woman Covers. Photo credit: jooleeah_stahkey)

However, it was only when I came across this interview with Grant Morrison that I realised what a part the character had played in the field of psychological testing. You see William Molton Mourston who, along with his wife Elizabeth, invented the character also invented the polygraph or ‘lie-detector’ test – honest! If you don’t believe me check out this excellent video history from – with a bit more information on William, Wonder Woman, the test and development of both. 

Aside from being a fun mix of cult fact/science fiction to impress your friends with, why might this be of interest? Well it is a gentle reminder that you can never discount a notion or idea, despite how outlandish it might appear on first sight, in your daily creative processes.

‘A whip or lasso that can help examine whether people are telling the truth or not? That will never catch on!’ So far that has been proven correct – but, in some ways, it does not matter.  The lasso was just the first draft in the creative process for the Molton Mourston’s. There was no guarantee that as a consequence of inventing this tool for the character that William was going to come up with the lie detector test, but the idea had to start in some form. It would have only after this that he would be able to come up with revisions and iterations to the tool that led him to helping him develop the modern-day polygraph.

So think about this within the context of your own working day – what one problem or issue would you like to resolve that would make your life easier and you more effective in your role? What crazy solution would work to help solve it? Spidey sense alarm to know when the milk was about to run out in the office fridge? X-ray vision to see when the printer was running out of paper?!

In some ways the more crazy the idea, the better. This is because you can never underestimate the value of thinking about looking for answers, becoming solution focused rather than accepting the current conventions of your situation.

Look at William and Elizabeth – they set out to create a new kind of super hero and look where it took them. Ideas need to start off with a spark somewhere – where will yours take you today?

The Carnival of HR!

Roll up, roll up ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls – carnival time is upon us once again! Not just any carnival but a Carnival of HR!

Welcome one and all to another Carnival of HR. Like any good carnival you are dependent on having fun and exciting acts – and I am pleased to report that this month does not disappoint, with a wide variety of posts from the US, UK and beyond.

With every Carnival of HR there is a theme and this month was no different (for details have a look here). However, we always welcome interesting and fun information that is of use to HR and L&D professionals alike, even if it goes slightly off topic. At the end of the day, if the jugglers want to do a spot of trapeze work or lion tamers want to walk the high wire and it still makes the carnival a worthwhile event, why turn it away?

So with this in mind I present to you a mix of posts about development, learning, professional advice and everything in between. I have also added my thoughts (last post at the bottom – seemed a bit unfair to put me top of the list!) and hope you enjoy those too. But without further ado, let the carnival commence! – Paul Smith

“I met Mister X in a bar in South Philadelphia…” and so begins a tale of Drama Queens Anonymous! A story of intrigue, pain and learning all in one place from Paul Smith – be sure to have a read here. – Julie Winkle Giulioni

Sick of worn out turns of phrase and standard pieces of career advice? Well so is Julie over at and she wants to do something about it! Check out her post with some suggestions of specific actions you can take instead. – Doug Shaw

A musical-HR type, Doug Shaw is talking about “failing” – well, it starts out as a story about a perceived failure but ends up actually being something of a personal triumph with some key points raised about facing our fears in order to move forward. He also has a very cool website title, so go check out what he has to say! – Ben Martinez

Who enjoys getting feedback? Be honest – if we know it is good feedback that is one thing but critical feedback is a different matter, though all the more crucial in terms of our development.

Ben Martinez talks about this in the context of his own blog, its audience and what he is going to do about it moving forward. Find out what he has in mind here – Ian Welsh

Ian has come at us with a post titled ‘Best Career Advice for the HR Professional!’ Yep you read that right, it’s the BEST advice for all HR peeps out there and do you know what? It is rather good! It talks about the value of being decisive and customising best practice – have I hooked you enough to read on? If so check it out here! Amit Bhagria

Amit has posed an interesting question for us to ponder in terms of all HR professional’s development: “What it takes for a HR head to become a top executive in an organisation”.

Wowzer. That is right – this could be a carnival in its own right! Amit has very kindly collected some thoughts to ponder which you can find here. – Andreea Hbab

HR is like many a good carnival act in some ways – for example, you might not be hired for being a juggler alone, but a juggler on a high wire? Now that might work!

Likewise in HR we need to talk not just with the heart, but with the head – which is a lot of what Andreea talks about over at Want to read about how to let the numbers do the talking, listening to smart people and giving effective consideration to what your business partners want to hear? Me too – let’s have a closer look here. – Mike Haberman

Ever wonder how and why bad habits are passed down through the business? Mike thinks supervisory training is crucial to avoid them becoming engrained in an organisation, with three key reasons why – check them out here.

Canadian HR Law – Stuart Rudner

Ever wanted to work in recruitment in Canada? Of course you have! Whether hiring or firing in this amazing country (shout out to ‘Beautiful British Columbia!), this is the blog for you – more info here! – Kevin Grossman

Ever wondered about how we can get nearer towards leadership development that benefits both the employer and wider employee group as a whole? That is what Kevin is talking about over at the Peoplefluent blog – so do yourself (and your organisation) a favour and have a look! – Patrick Mullarkey

And finally my good self – and what taking some advice for interview and having an accident with a jug of water taught me in the context of my professional development. It can be found right… here!

So there you have it – July 17th’s HR Carnival. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did putting it together, which was quite a lot! Be sure to share what you have learned and enjoyed via the tools of social media (twitter, linkedin etc) and I look forward to seeing you in whatever blog the next carnival rolls in to.

Interview advice to avoid. Unless you enjoy swimming against the tide

It started as a friend trying to be helpful during a particularly difficult period in one of my (many!) employment searches. What happened after that was a lesson in being yourself. And how to re-hydrate appropriately.

Some years ago I was really struggling with my performance at interviews – it seemed as though recruiters loved my CV and details, but once I got in front of panels I was not performing as effectively as both parties had hoped.

Discussing this one evening with a friend, he suggested it sounded like I need to be a bit more forward in terms of making a positive first impression – which, in fairness, seemed a valid development point to raise as I could sometimes be too meek when trying to sell myself (my elevator pitch you say? Get me out of here!).

His suggestion was when I first entered the interview room was to take control by offering the panel/interviewer a glass of water (assuming that there was a jug on the table, as there often is). Psychologically this would mean that I was taking some control back of the meeting, showing that I was not shy and retiring when it came to dealing with senior people within a business, etc.

“I am not entirely comfortable with trying to take control of a meeting full of strangers, but offering and pouring a glass of water you say? How difficult could that be?” Well…

My first (and last attempt) was undermined by my arrival to the interview – it was a really hot day, I was very parched so was definitely in need of water and slightly hoarse as a result of being stuck on the Underground for 35 minutes or so. So when I arrived at the interview, I was not only keen to offer everyone a drink but I wanted to raid Pow-Wow’s offices for all of their good stuff!

So before I sit down in front of the panel of three people, I ask “Would any of you like a glass of water?” However, due to a combination of nerves and a parched throat they could not really hear me. So when one of the panel said “Sorry, what was that? You want water?” I thought it best to speak up a little – what came out was: “WOULD ANY OF YOU LIKE A GLASS OF WATER? I AM JUST GOING TO POUR ONE FOR MYSELF”

Though not quite the Fergie hair-dryer treatment (for non UK/football fans see here for more details), it  came across really poorly and I felt on the back foot immediately. Sensing my nerves one of the panel (smiling broadly, willing me to perform) said “Why yes, I would love to – it looks like you have had quite a journey here…” An olive branch in a storm of interview nerves – salvation for this weary candidate? Not quite…

It was then that I went for her glass without keeping my eye on my own that I managed to over fill it. Panicking, I tried to reach for said glass, whilst also trying to sort the out the panel members glass – with the jug suddenly not one of my top priorities, I had suddenly made a very simple task a very complicated one. I am sure you get the picture of what happened next.

Crashing Wave
This is not the kind of splash you want to make in an interview…

Lessons to be learned

Needless to say I do not consider this to be the most effective interview advice I received but there were some lessons to be learnt and things I did differently afterwards. Aside from taking a bottle of water on the train, it taught me the following:

  • Own the advice you are given – do not implement it for the sake of it

Although my friend meant well with his advice, I was clearly not comfortable from the off with implementing it – but trying to be too much of a people pleaser, gave it a crack. If you are not entirely comfortable with trying something new, do not attempt it in a high-risk situation such as interview. Make your mistakes in the dark (where no one can see them) before you bring everything out in to the light.

  • You need to believe your own hype before others will follow

I realised after I would only be comfortable with presenting myself as a credible recruit if I thought I was exactly that; no amount of Jedi water-glass tricks could convince a panel of anything else if I did not truly believe it myself. That was part of the reason why I was so nervous in the first instance, which was then probably exacerbated by my journey and first interaction with the panel – something of a perfect storm of how not to perform in an interview.

Believe in what your skills and expertise are bringing to not just a recruitment process but every working day you are in a role – you have earned the right for that role/interview/promotion, so start buying in to some of that hype!

  • There is more than one way to skin a cat. Or dazzle an interview panel.

The overriding lesson I learnt was that although I could not work the room through a glass of water trick, I had other aspects of my personality and career history that could grab an interview panel’s attention. Once I realised this the whole process became a lot easier – and I became a lot more employable.

There are no hard and fast rules on this because you have a unique set of skills, competencies and experiences that are informing your behaviour – for better or worse. It is good to be self-aware but not to the point of self sabotage by trying to be something you are not.

So there you go – my least effectively implemented advice. Fingers crossed my suggestions do not lead to a drought of employment offers…