Trade Union Heritage

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Whilst we’re fretting about how engaged our employees are it’s easy to forget how far we’ve come. A few decades ago personnel, as we tended to be called, had much less direct contact with individuals. There were sides. There were intermediaries. We had Industrial Relations, they had Trade Unions. It’s no coincidence that the term employee engagement was coined in 1990, following a decade of successful political efforts to curb union power. Membership has continued to decline ever since, along with the traditional unionised industries like manufacturing and mining. The final nail in the coffin has been the parallel exponential growth of service industries, which have the lowest levels of union membership of all sectors.

And despite this, the unions aren’t taking it lying down. At least a few times a year the threat of a strike, and even actual strikes, means that travel chaos is threatened or our kids get a day off school. If you want a real flavour of trade union zeal come to my part of the world.

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Party Pooper

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I have to admit, I’m a bit partial to the odd inspirational quote or management soundbite. I know they get on some people’s nerves, but something succinct that’s still thought provoking definitely appeals to my sensibilities. And of course twitter is the perfect medium for this.

One that caught my eye recently said “treat everyone like it’s their birthday”. On the face of it I thought this seemed like a nice idea.

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Nostalgia

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This morning I found myself being nostalgic. These days I only have the little one to follow around playgroups on my days off. Back in the day, I had my oldest two close together and obviously had both of them in tow everywhere I went. “Wasn’t it great” I started to think “when I had two at home and used to make macaroni cheese for dinner”. That’s when I stopped myself in my tracks. Wait a minute! I don’t like cooking! And neither do the kids like macaroni cheese. Those days were not easy. In fact they were bloody hard. Perhaps the hormones are to blame after seeing too many cute little babies at the playgroup, but they were days I would certainly not wish to return to if I thought twice about it. So why the nostalgia?

To be nostalgic is to feel sentimental about the past, harking back to the “good old days”, particularly in times of change. I’m not a big Woody Allen fan, but the dangers of nostalgia are perfectly summed up by his 2011 film, “Midnight in Paris”. In case you haven’t had the joy of seeing it, a basic plot summary is as follows.

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Don’t judge a book by it’s cover

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As humans we love classifying things. Our brains are immensely sophisticated organs, but even they have not evolved sufficiently enough to allow us to take in and process the extreme complexity and chaos of the World around us.

Imagine walking into the British library in London. As one of the two largest libraries in the World it has over 14 million books alone, as well as over 100 million manuscripts, drawings, recordings and other artifacts. As you walk in you might take in the majesty of the building, the colour of the wood, the hushed quiet, and that’s before you’ve even looked at any books.

Of course it would be impossible to read every book. So instead we pick and choose what we want to read. Our decision might be based on something we like the look of, or something that’s been recommended to us by someone else. And that is a bit how we deal with all the information being constantly hurled at our senses.

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How to inspire others

Think of an inspirational person. No doubt the person you’re thinking of is someone who really stands out from the crowd. They’re different and they’re making a difference. Not only that, they’re a nice person who everyone wants to be around. They know where they’re going and what they want to achieve, and others are inspired by that. Inspirational people have followers in the true sense.

We’re all looking for inspiration. Its often portrayed as a lightbulb moment or a lightening bolt – a sudden illumination. Inspiration is the spark that ignites a fire of creativity and innovation. It’s a powerful force that moves us to act.

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Why employee happiness matters

Type “define happiness” into Google and it explains that to be happy is “feeling or showing pleasure or contentment”. Sounds like a bit of a dry and one dimensional description, doesn’t it? Perhaps how one would try to explain happiness to a robot, or an alien. It’s commonly described as an emotion, or a mood, although some think that’s too simplistic. Happiness means different things to different people and, consequently, each of us derives happiness differently. No surprise then that it’s difficult to convey the enormity and complexity of happiness within a few succinct words.

While it may be difficult to define happiness satisfactorily, it’s something we are all familiar with. Sure we might not feel happy right now, but all of us have felt it at some point.

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5 things my kids taught me about work (and life)

Last year, the House of Commons released data indicating that pregnancy and maternity discrimination may be a significant problem in the UK. More disturbing was the realisation that the level of discrimination appears to have grown in the last 10 years, despite improvements to pregnancy and maternity rights over the same period.

It’s astounding that employers are still failing to recognise that being pregnant or having children doesn’t affect a woman’s skills or abilities, and that stereotypes of pregnant workers and working mothers appear to be alive and well.

In contrast having children can build on existing skills, and help to gain new ones.

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