For a long time, I have believed that the comfort zone is a good thing and why shouldn’t it be? It is a safe space, while you’re in there nothing can hurt you, you feel reassured and sheltered, but maybe leaving it every now and then wouldn’t be such a bad idea. Maybe the comfort we feel within that zone isn’t as beneficial as we like to make ourselves believe.
By staying within the comfort zone you allow yourself to forget about trying something new and facing your fears, such as talking in front of a large crowd or when you didn’t go on that trip when you were 11 because you didn’t want to leave home for too long. The comfort zone is easily one of the major faults of human development, but also something most of us think quite highly of, even if we don’t care to admit it. It allows you to willingly limit yourself by sticking to things that make you feel comfortable. As you find more things that give you that feeling of comfort they are added to your comfort zone - however if you never leave the comfort zone how are you meant to widen it?
Leaving your comfort zone is very easy on paper, but not so easy to put into action. The simplest way to start is to keep reminding yourself of the multiple benefits that you can receive when you force yourself to leave that comfort zone you love so much. Take the example of being able to talk in front of a group, be it peers, colleagues or strangers. You may have an exceptional idea you want to share and pursue, but you can’t do it on your own, you need the help of other people, for example your colleagues. The easiest way to convey your idea would be to gather them together and wow them with your idea - but you don’t because you won’t leave the comfort zone and your idea is left forgotten. If you had left your comfort zone and conquered your fears that idea may have been acted upon and you may have gained that promotion you so wanted or even just gained the satisfaction of hearing feedback on your idea.
I have found that these four tips helped me to start edging out of my comfort zone:
- Try publicising any idea that you have somewhere where you can receive criticism and feedback that isn’t necessarily personal, such as in a blog post, this will teach you to take criticism and thicken your skin so you aren’t as sensitive to feedback, it may also help you improve your idea.
- Try setting yourself a significant goal that would require weeks or maybe even months to achieve, this will allow you to set and reach smaller goals in order to get to the end goal. For example, when designing a game, there are a lot of smaller goals that have to be achieved before reaching the finished product, such as finalising the concept, creating the design and coding the game.
- Put yourself in a new environment. Small changes such as eating with someone new at lunch, or not sitting at your usual desk allow you to interact with new people and surroundings which could open up new opportunities.
- Finally, you can try choosing one of your biggest fears and facing it head-on. If you are afraid of heights, challenge yourself to try skydiving or going for a hike up a mountain or even just the highest diving board, anything to test your fears is a good way of getting yourself out there.
Getting ahead of the limitations that are set by the comfort zone will allow you to broaden your horizons and allow you to find future successes.
Call me crazy but I want the planet to be kept healthy, for possibly the selfish reason of it’s the one I live on. Of course the planet doesn’t mind, if humans decide to make it uninhabitable to the human race the world will keep spinning without a care. Often people that insist how Earth is doomed go on and on and can get lost in the noise because they’re not relatable to day to day life. Why should a 14 year old that deliverer newspapers care whether their paper gets recycled at the end of use?
This is where I think the issue is, the best agreement is when it’s win-win for everyone so why not try and make the case for this issue? Some people like to drag their feet on this or even feel that the investment isn’t worth it. To terminate that argument take Former Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who makes the case that by having green policies it has actually improved the economy of the state dramatically. When you consider that in 2013 California alone was considered to have the 8th largest economy when compared to countries of the world it’s hard to argue that green policies aren’t worth investing in. This is something that is starting to go hand in hand as the UK Government has disbanded the Department of Energy and Climate Change, giving its responsibilities to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. The world is starting to see the significant relationship shared by business and the planet.
So the question is how we get the interest of the HR world, and I think the answer is with technology and the innovations that come from it. The key to this is becoming Paperless. Administration of any kind will always have difficulty in getting people to cooperate, by becoming as paperless as possible the list of difficulties start reducing and people start engaging with the process. In the past there has been great steps with this with e-mail and conference calls and now comes the Cloud technologies.
Not only is Cloud technology digital based to save on resources but it is also mobile. An online assessment could be sent from here to Australia within a minute and if I were waiting at an airport I can check up by just logging in through my tablet. This adds to the idea of being economical with resources, an alternative to driving to a meeting now with reports is to simply share it in a Dropbox. By investing in policies that use minimal resources means that the organisation is saving time and money while also helping to save the planet.
Every investment into greener policies will benefit an organisation because what it translates to is becoming more economic with the resources used. Having reports being displayed on a tablet is saving the paper and the printing costs involved as just a minimalist example. Particularly in HR is can take a step away from the “paper-pushing” stereotype that administrators receive. Making an engaging process that is quick and convenient to the employee’s life means they’re more likely to get involved. Once everyone is seeing the benefit then progress can be made for everyone and the planet. Win-Win.
People take sick days, which is kind of a brilliant thing really. The concept of a sick day is a testament to civilised society, common sense and our sense of humanity. It means we understand people aren’t invulnerable and sometimes rest is the best option for them, even if the organisation takes a bit of a hit for the day. It’s a wise move for the organisation as well, for one you don’t want the rest of the workforce getting sick but on top of that how long are you going to stick with a job that literally cares more about their work output than your health? But what is sick? Sometimes a raspy cough justifies it (or heaven forbid a hangover) while some solider on with missing limbs. This hasn’t been ignored by psychologists and they are very interested in investigating what it is that people perceive about themselves and the work they’re in that makes them call in sick.
Resent research produced has found that how the individual identifies themselves within the team is key to whether they feel they can call in sick. Starting with the individual they will assess how they fit in within the team they operate in, whether they see themselves as an integral piece to the puzzle that is the project they’re working on. Furthermore if they are they will be considering whether they actually care enough about the people in the team that will suffer without their presence, this comes down to a commitment they have to the job and the role they have within the team. Other factors will be things like whether they feel like they fit into the culture of the company and whether they feel like they deserve the holiday. If everyone else has been having their days off an individual can feel like maybe it’s their ‘turn’.
This isn’t to say that a valid sick day shouldn’t be used, but in cases where it’s a 50/50 on whether they can go in or call in sick these factors will start to take hold to edge that scale one way or the other. Of course there are always two sides to a story, while focusing on the individual calling in sick, is the deterring factor the work or the people at the office?
When working at a bar if I was finishing at 1 AM I would know for certain that the manager would ask me to do close up that would take it to 4 AM because “what else do you have to do at that time?”. Effectively trying to pressure me while in the situation that would make it difficult to say no. If I were feeling a bit funny, or even too tired, you’re too right I’d phone in sick because that exact kind of behaviour. With the US losing $200 Billion in their economy per year and other developed countries following similar trends it seems like time to take action to stop any cause of unnecessary absence.
So really it comes down to the team, the individual needs to feel like they’re a key part as well as a valued team member if they want to go that extra mile. Even the most eager of us won’t be able to last if they’re met with constant resistance and will eventually buckle. If you want the flowers to grow strong the first thing you need to do is get the soil conditions in right. In the same way a team culture and the work environment must be welcoming and a right fit to allow the employees to develop to their potential.
Do you leave work at the office door as you lock up at 5 P.M or are you the type to keep an eye on the e-mails through dinner at 8 o’clock? Well if we get really down to it it’s definitely a balance, there is no way if you just had a baby that you’d forget about it at work or alternatively if you were potentially getting a promotion you wouldn’t be a little nervous the night before. This has been backed up a million and one times by the research to show the balance is there for employees but what I want to ask is where do you fit on the scale?
For one it seems obvious to me that a work life balance would differ depending on the occupation and the career an individual wants to have. Some people see a job as their identify and clearly that would take up a lot of their time, alternatively some may just want that pay cheque to see them out the rest of their month and so they can get on with their life. Furthermore, this is a well-established concept in the 21st Century life how many examples can be thought up that addresses the work life balance? The main examples would be the great steps that were made for a work life balance in maternity and paternity leave/pay, however there are some developed countries such as the USA that still doesn’t offer pay. It seems that it is still very much an uphill battle when it comes to discussing how work truly fits in with a happy healthy life.
Of course it is unfair to simply leave it down to government policy to make the change, it’s not like there are legal barriers in place to stop a healthy work life balance being put in place. Last week I talked about how a company had put in place a policy to encourage their employees to get their 8 hours of sleep a night. It got me thinking, what responsibility does an organisation have to the wellbeing of its employees outside of the organisation? There is clear that when a company invests in its employees that they invest right back in several different ways, but what that is simply an organisational model and based on goals and preferences of the company. I would be interested in what is accountable to the organisation (non-legally) that a future employee would expect from the organisation, if anything at all. Should an organisation be accountable for how content their employees are with their work life balance? How much of it is down to the employee themselves? And finally at what point would an organisation’s involvement in an employee’s life become intrusive?
Once these questions start being debated and brought to the forefront of the HR discussion then the framework of the 21st Century workforce can be realised with all its potential.
I’ve always loved my sleep. It used to be the hardest challenge of my day to get out of bed, still is sometimes to be honest. What’s not to love, it’s relaxing, it’s pressure free and it’s cosy. On top of all that everybody agrees a good night’s rest is needed in life to function.
The fact is, from a psychological perspective, a lot is still unknown about sleep itself, this even goes as far as to say we’re not exactly sure why we do sleep at all. However, in the pursuit of finding out we have become experts on what happens when you don’t get enough sleep. Each individual is different in their sleeping needs and we are different types of sleepers but what is important is that we get that required amount, whatever that is for the person.
That’s all well and good but what you’re saying is the same things I was told as a child, what are the facts? Well for a start there isn’t a fixed amount of time that people should be sleeping, it changes as you get older. The University of California San Francisco found that people that slept less than 6 hours were 4 times more vulnerable to catching a virus and The American Academy of Sleep Medicine in 2011 found that in the US the average worker was losing 11.3 days of productivity due to fatigue.
That last point is of a lot of interest to me and if you have anyone working for you it should be a lot of interest to you too. That 11.3 days of lost productivity resulted in an estimated loss of $63.2 billion in the US economy. That’s a lot, especially when you consider all that’s needed to correct it is encouraging people to do the most natural thing in the world. Can you think of a day you’ve just written off because you didn’t get enough shut eye? I bet you can and you’re not alone. If you don’t get to recharge your batteries you’re not going to be performing your best, it’s as simple as that.
But as hopeless optimised I am I ask what’s being done about it and what’s the steps being taken to fix it? Well the US insurance group Aetna is literally paying its employees to get a minimum of 7 hours sleep. $25 is being awarded for every 20 nights of 7 hours achieved by the employee, this is monitored through a bracelet that is linked to the organisation’s system or done on an honour system. Something I think is very commendable is the trust it has given to the employee, giving the opportunity for the employee to realise it’s because the organisation actually cares and isn’t just trying to get that extra half an hour of energy out of them. This organisation is taking great leaps in taking care of its workforce even when they aren’t working, that kind of investment is bound to benefit everyone involved in ways that might not even be realised yet.
The X-men are brilliant. While they do stem from a comic book stories they do have significant themes and makes comments on society, one key theme in it is the leadership styles and how they clash between Professor Xavier and Magneto, who were influenced by Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X respectively. In a summary the mutant kind in the stories are a minority and Xavier believes they can cooperate with mankind while Magneto believes they are the superior to mankind. The reason I bring this up is that in one of the X-men movies Magneto goes to fight with his army and stops the significant characters and says “In chess the pawns go first”. This very much shows his leadership style as a command from behind and let the ‘unimportant’ members of the team take the risks.
Leadership styles have changed throughout history as environments have changed. Monarchies ruled for centuries, now Democracy is the norm in the Western world and who knows what could come next. Of course, business is not exempt from these changes and leadership has always been a hot topic. What is generally started to be realised in both the world of business and the psychological research is that the ‘lead from the back’ method is outdated to the modern world and could even be counterproductive.
Furthermore there is the double-edged challenge of leadership that you have to initiate the idea and then maintain progress on that change, creating the spark and then fanning the flames as it were. Many times innovative individuals will get that spark and be overwhelmingly excited by it but then don’t commit to it for whatever reason. Often as well there shall be individuals fuelled with energy with vast resources at their disposal but they lack direction. Both of these examples would make poor leaders as it is the combination that is required, while different leadership techniques can be taken into account these two factors need to be accommodated for.
Can you say your organisation has these kind of people? It’s not an easy thing to figure out or to measure, while you can discover personality traits such as diligence and innovation that won’t necessarily mean they have the ability to combine that into leadership material on their own. But given the right support they could have that potential. Many people would possess the individual traits but it’s that combination that makes someone a leader, but could your organisation be a leader of leaders? The right understanding of your workforce and the people coming into your organisation could allow them to be developed into strong, confident leaders that go on to help your business succeed.
“We are too young to realise certain things are impossible, so we do them anyway”
William Wilberforce, an astounding man that was key in the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. In a time when slavery was the norm and where a great deal of the establishment and economy relied on it Wilberforce resisted it all and achieved his goal for the pure reason that it was his motivation to do so. He shared this kind of attitude with his friend William Pitt who is famous for becoming Britain’s youngest Prime Minister at 24. Considering it was the late 18th Century where traditions were law of the land it is inspirational that these two had the determination to defy what is expected of them. By this time it might be a bit obvious I have been watching the film “Amazing Grace” and that I’m a bit of a history nerd but bear with me I do have a point!
A career is a job that you’ve made a part of your life, its part of your identity and this is true more now in the 21st Century than it ever has been in the past. While people are now expected to go through several jobs in their life time they’ll still be defined by their career, it’s something that follows a person throughout their life. Of course you only will accept something as a career if you’re happy with it, a child who has to take over his parent’s business may not have the passion in them to make it their career which means they’ll be in it for all the wrong reasons. The best way to motivate someone is to engage with them as the person, money and fear will only get short lived results but if you make the goal apart of who the individual is that person shall put their entire willpower behind that. That’s what identification of career motivation is, the harnessing of willpower.
Now for the fun cheat code to life, you don’t have to give people passion, they will have found it themselves! Everybody has some form of passion, borderline obsession or fascination in an area that can be turned into a career. There was a time when parents would hold back tears as their child “wasted” their time on YouTube, but now that child with the right support could be paying off their mortgage. If you put an individual in their element and give them the support and guidance they need they can do amazing things because their efforts are powered by the limitless resource of willpower.
This breaking of expectation is giving people the liberty to do whatever they want to do. Any group that had previously been limited because of their gender, age or anything else have a chance now to do exactly what they want to do. #WomenInTech are showing for example that technology development is welcoming to everybody regardless of their gender. A career doesn’t have a gender or age limit so people shouldn’t have to worry about these kind of things when they want to take up what they love.
Once again it’s also about how are you, or your organisation, helping to support this career motivation in people. Are you using blind CV’s for example? These are plenty of options such as career development plans with employees and career guidance in schools. People may not know the options available to them or even what their own passion is, this is where experienced individuals can offer their support by giving them the career guidance and support they need. Just think what an individual could do if from the start of their career they are passionate about what they do. While progression of a career is a self-discovery pathway there is no reason you can’t put signposts on that pathway. Then once started you as a mentor can sit back and watch them do things you thought were impossible.
The key to science is measurement, science aims to make measurements of everything. In medicine you measure the dosage for a patient and in astronomy you measure distance (not time, Han) in parsecs. Without measurement then the outcome can’t be relied upon, if only 10 mg of a medicine will cure a patient why give them 20 mg? It would be a waste of resources and dangerous for the patient’s health, making the action counterproductive. Measurement allows success to be observed and also highlights what needs to be improved effectively.
The job of a scientist is to start by making elements of the world and quantifying them into a measurable component. This isn’t always easy, there has been evidence in the past of a body getting lighter as it dies which some have claimed to be the weight of the soul; this isn’t clear evidence but it does raise the issues involved with measuring abstract variables of life as we know it. In psychology it can be especially tricky as it is the field of science where the subject is studying the subject, an analysis of behaviour & perception is always clouded by our own behaviours and perceptions making such things as cultural customs a challenge to overcome in such measurements. For example what is happiness? It could be satisfaction with life, it could be a euphoric state or it could just be a balanced life. Such massive concepts needs a deep analysis and tests and retests to make sure the measurements are doing the right job. Might seem a daunting task but science isn’t for the faint hearted.
I love science though, I love it so much I’ve dedicated hours and hours of my time to conduct research into something that produced no significant results and then carried on researching. I love it because it’s amazing when applied in the right way. Every research article I read I’m looking for its application to the real world and, with my new career, the world of business. The difficulties facing the scientific method in business is people like “trusting their gut” and don’t necessarily want to put in so much effort as science requires. Furthermore, when science is conducted properly it doesn’t have an agenda, the objective outcomes aren’t always sugar-coated in a way that people like; as I said science isn’t for the faint hearted. These challenges are what face companies but it is clear coming into the 21st Century that these kind of measurements are becoming the norm. Success needs to be measured in order to be improved, Usain Bolt wins most races he wins but now he is trying to beat his own time, he only knows if he succeeds because of the time being measured.
In business particularly different measurements such as fiscal success have been common but now the science of HR is beginning to take hold. In particular areas such as psychometrics or career motivation questions have been on the rise aided by the technology revolution of cloud platforms. These eAssessments can measure a remarkable amount of features of an individual within an organisation, such as leadership, body clock, personality, cognition, career motivation, employee engagement, integrity and emotional intelligence just to name a “few” off the top of my head. This means that eAssessments aren’t just a measure of skill or something to pass at, they’re something that measures the 3-Dimensional Employee.
Understanding employees in such an in-depth way as the scientific method that takes out bias and stereotypes that far too often stand in the way of success. Selecting the right forms of assessments and using it to measure the qualities that make up an organisation and its people gives hard evidence for strategy to be developed off. When assessments are used correctly there is no such thing as a failure, the assessment is simply a measure of the individual it’s up to the organisation to use that data then in order to make it a success. This can be through development planning or finding the role to suit an individual’s talents, by having this data to inform progress and the state of the organisation it can lead to strategies and campaigns that are only limited by the imagination. Using eAssessments gives HR and organisations the data and tools to go on to succeed it is then down to the ambition of the company to see how far they can take it.
I’m pretty alright at maths. I’m not brilliant, I’m not terrible, overall I’d say I’m pretty average at it. When I was taking my Maths at secondary school I managed to achieve a B and that was probably the last time I was assessed on my maths skill, I remember while studying for that I spent a good 2-3 months learning trigonometry. While trigonometry is a very important aspect of maths I don’t recall using it since then. This isn’t to say it isn’t useful in everyday life I know it can be, what I’m saying is I’d definitely need to look it up to understand it again but according to my qualifications I am qualified to some level in trigonometry.
How familiar does this sound? Did you maybe get trained in something 3 years ago through work and now couldn’t tell me anything about it? This seems to be inconsistent throughout careers. Lawyers are expected to practice and display they’re ability until they’re qualified. Pilots have to register a certain amount of flight hours under supervision until they can fly solo. Doctors not only have to practice within a medical setting for several years until they become a doctor and even then they have to keep up to date with the most modern medical practice. I think you’d find it disturbing if your doctor was still using an out-dated surgery practice. But within more office based careers it appears once you’ve been trained in it that’s that and you’ve learnt it. Maybe it’s because the outcome wouldn’t be as fatal that more importance is placed on the former examples but really maintaining learning practices in any career would promote good practice.
Keeping up to date with learning means that an individual is constantly aware of what gaps are in their knowledge and what they are succeeding at. This clearly aids they’re development and engages with the task at hand, whether this is their career, education or even sport. For an organisation this is important as a lot of data can be gathered on the hundreds, or thousands, or employees they have and without a system in place alienation of employees can happen resulting in a drop in performance. Anybody that cares about their career wants to improve themselves and an organisation needs to facilitate that else that person may move there career somewhere else. By analysing the gaps in someone’s learning means plans can be tailored towards them to keep themselves up to date as well as the organisation. The organisation may also benefit from monitoring trends of the training needs in their workforce.
Nobody has asked me about trigonometry since I was 16 and as a result I’ve near enough forgotten about it. An organisation’s Learning Management System (LMS) would keep track of important information, whether secondary school maths is included there depends on your organisation I guess. A LMS can notify, can monitor progress and can then offer training needs. It’s important to highlight that simply sitting in a talk for 3 hours doesn’t mean you’re trained in that subject, employees need constant engagement if they are to be motivated in their development. A LMS is a great connector of data, it can work at all levels of an organisation and will operate continuously. Very much like a social network it will interact with the behaviour that an employee is displaying and adapt, if training is being done in that area that LMS will pick up on it. This is a great improvement from ticking a form and filing it away, this can be constantly interacted with and acted upon. This connection can even start from before an employee even works for the organisation, using an Applicant Tracking System you can gather all the essential data on a candidate and once they’re successful this can be directly transferred to the LMS. Think about that, it means from day one that employee has development needs and the organisation would be able to address them straight away. An employee can only succeed so far without support from their organisation, now imagine there being the exact right support from day one.
In the world of HR data now if you’re not moving forward you’re moving backwards. Keeping updated with demand and what is required of an organisation is critical if you want to succeed and reach the potential of your organisation. This is even becoming true for some Learning Management Systems, the Blackboard system I only know too well from my university days is always starting to be replaced at some American colleges because it’s become unsatisfactory. Paying attention and developing people within an organisation has always been important but now the technology is here to take that development to a whole new level.
I’m a psychologist. To some that is just a statement about my profession but to a lot of people that can sometimes be an invitation to share their opinion, psychology after all is at its very least an interesting topic. At university when I said I studied psychology I would receive responses that varied from “are you reading my mind” to “well that’s not a real subject though”. It seems that psychology is always a spark that sets off people’s opinions that vary to a surprising degree and that as a psychologist is what interests me. It’s the perception held by people that makes me love psychology so much, there are 7 billion people on this planet and 7 billion views of the world.
Take for example the humble chochy biscuit, which side is the top? Is it the chocolate side or the biscuit side? I always maintained that it was the chocolate side but then someone pointed out to me after 22 years of living that the writing (on the biscuit) would be on the top and that means you taste the chocolate on your tongue first. My mind was blown, I had never seen it from that point of view before and while I might not agree I welcomed the alternative viewpoint. This is what makes people people, how is it possible that someone’s favourite movie is Titanic and someone else thinks it’s terrible? It’s the perception and the development of that perception throughout life that forms this.
Now understanding this can lead to something brilliant, primarily in innovation. At one point someone came along and saw everyone rewinding the video and went why don’t you just use a DVD instead? These kind of innovations kick start amazing revolutions in behaviour and perception that benefit every aspect of our lives today with clear examples like the iPhone and digital music.
The problem with trying to achieve a perception change is that ignorance is bliss. This is a challenge for two reasons; first being that it is very difficult to target and change something you’re not aware of and the other being that changing perception shatters a world perception someone has and that can lead to fear and resistance. These challenges happen to be some of the most difficult obstacles in the HR world when coordinating employees.
Employees come into organisations with something set in their mind but almost all of them will say their perception of their role changes after a few months. This is an example of this perception change that can cause fear and resistance for an employee if not handled correctly. Furthermore if an employee doesn’t realise they have an issue, or doesn’t believe the people that tell them then there is next to no chance they’ll make a behaviour change. Luckily there are several HR solutions to accommodate for these transitions. An example of this is McDonald’s recognising the negative stereotype their employees had and targeting it with the McJobs campaign.
HR Technology can also offer these solutions and can target the issues accompanied with perception change very effectively. Psychometrics can analyse a person’s behaviour, motivations and thinking to a highly specific detail; when this is done right it uses rigorous scientific methods that produces robust results. This makes information clearer to an individual that may be unaware of these aspects, psychometrics take away the subjectivity of perception and can ground people by giving them a perception of themselves that isn’t filtered through the subjectivity of someone else. The other benefit of using this HR technology is that is has no agenda except to develop the individual, used correctly by a HR team these technologies will only seek to help the individual. Helping this individual might mean that it identifies they’re in a career they’re not motivated for or that they require training needs and that individual knows that it isn’t someone being bitter about their performance. By making the employee development as objective as possible it can open the eyes of employees and see their world from another angle. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean or require change sometimes simply having a different angle on the world is enough. Incidentally I still eat the biscuit with the chocolate on top.