I was recently describing the way I approach what I do and how I blend my legal background with my HR experience and my coaching skills.
Businesses aren’t one dimensional, they are multi-faceted, with many layers, like a precious gemstone. If you look at them from different angles, you get a different perspective and different areas sparkle.
The things that give organisations their sparkle, is without doubt their people and the energy those people bring to what they do. This is the stuff that lights me up and brings joy to my work.
Like the organisations I work with, my approach is multi-faceted. One of the layers I look at is the foundational stuff, the processes and procedures – this gives me an idea of the ‘rules’ of the business. I then consider the structure of the business, how does it organise itself? Which departments do what? Who is who and what do they do?
Layered on top of this, like the fascia in our bodies, is the web of culture, engagement and motivation. What’s working? What isn’t? What feels right and what feels like really hard work? The final piece of the puzzle (although by no means the last) is the Leadership of the organisation. Who is in charge? How do they communicate their vision? How do they inspire and who is following them?
When I described this, I imagined building these layers up, and then stepping back to see the whole shape of the business, turning it on its axis and spinning it on the palm of my hand, so that I could see it from all angles, and with the light shining through it on all levels. This is how the concept of considering an organisation in 4D came to life for me.
The 4D HR approach
Without getting too science-y (we’re talking HR here, not quantum physics!), I talked about an organisation being like an onion with the nucleus consisting of the one-dimensional linear aspects of the employment relationship – those Operational Essentials such as the contract, the Employee Handbook, policies and procedures. These foundations need to be sound, consistent and congruent with the rest of the business ethos. If there is any fragmentation at this level employees may feel insecure, business processes may be inefficient or duplicated and engagement will be low.
Many organisations, particularly those where resource (and by that, I mean time and money) are limited – for example businesses who are starting up or without an in-house HR team – will fall into the trap of believing that these essentials constitute a tick in the HR box, which they do to a point, but it’s not the whole picture.
The next layer of the onion is what I call Employee Relations, the layer at which the management of people and teams becomes all important. This is where managers need to have the tools to deliver value added performance management interventions, to support grievance and disciplinary processes and to stay one step ahead of this transactional element of managing people and teams, as well as deliver on their own objectives. Training and development opportunities give rise to increased confidence and skill sets here.
The third layer represents the connective aspects of culture, engagement and motivation that are the crucial, yet invisible and intangible, elements that go to making an organisation highly effective and high performing, or not. This is what governs how people describe what it is like to work somewhere, how it ‘feels’, and forms the unique life blood and rhythm of each individual business.
Our fourth layer is the Leadership layer, where the strategic and inspiring visions define the goals and direction of the business. For business owners this can be a heady and lonely place to be, or if part of a leadership team, it can have overt challenges or, more subtle ones, as personalities jostle for position….and dare I suggest, in some cases, power. This part of the model is where leaders need to be able to rotate their business ‘in space’, seeing it from all angles and identifying areas of weakness and areas of growth and opportunity as well as recognising how their own limiting beliefs may be inhibiting progress.
Within each of these layers exist the many variables of human behaviour, choices, beliefs, wants and needs, as well as each individual’s background, previous experience and current position in life. All of these, despite which layer you find yourself in, impact on one’s own experience at work.
Surrounding this ‘onion’, both on the outside, but within and between the layers, is the coaching offer. This holds individuals and teams accountable, whilst supporting their growth and development goals and at the same time meeting the growth and development goals of the business. Coaching develops and encourages a culture of trust, honesty and feedback with added value. It seeks to develop a coaching culture of ongoing continuous improvement and challenge.
Engaging with coaching is challenging and requires the individual and business to be open to ‘another way’. It will challenge perceptions, illuminate faulty thinking and question the ‘stories’ that have been ingrained but that are not necessarily a reflection of reality. The LMHR lens views the ‘onion’ and all its layers as a whole entity. Simply put, if the other layers are not stable and functioning well, the whole thing lacks strength, versatility and adaptability.
In my experience, and having worked with businesses of all shapes and sizes, there is no other way than to view an organisation, as with a person, holistically, taking into account all the different influences and layers at play.