WHO IS GRAHAM SALISBURY?
Graham Salisbury is Head of Human Resources for ActionAid, a leading international charity which supports women and children in extreme poverty and fights for their rights and for lasting change. Graham has enjoyed a successful career within major organizations in both the private and not-for-profit sector. He is regularly approached by the media for guidance on making a career transition into the charity sector, and his work in raising the profile of human resources in the not-for-profit sector has been featured in People Management, HR Magazine and the Guardian.
You can connect with Graham here:
IN TOR 081 YOU’LL LEARN ABOUT:
- Features of the development HR subsector and its “turnover crisis.”
- What Graham and other HR offices do to keep people inside the organization.
- What makes an organization worthy of committment to long term employment in the first place.
- The importance of democracy and empowerment, but also of a clear and veritable vision.
- Graham’s experiences in public education, private aerospace and his ‘role downgrade’ as a necessity in terms of a ‘career narrative.’
- Graham’s expert opinion on the application and recruiting process in development.
- The measurement challenges in top talent and how Graham tries to address them.
- Graham’s motivations and view of his role in the larger scheme of international development.
OUR CONVERSATION INCLUDES THE FOLLOWING:
- Human Resources
- Career building in international development
- Organization’s people lifecycle
- Turnover, churning and retention tactics
- Sector and organizational empowerment and career paths
- Private manufacturing, aerospace and defense sectors
- Application and recruitment
- Performance and measurement
EPISODE CRIB NOTES
ActionAid UK’s HR (Global HQ’s is someone else)
If we want to influence people, we need to pay attention to the people lifecycle.
This involves verifying people’s capabilities and skill sets, motivating them, providing them the right tools, retaining them.
Development’s exit epidemic
Trying to understand why people leave.
Turnover is 30% a year. A 5,000 person organization would need to recruit 150 annually, this poses all kinds of problems for projects, resulting in lots of delays.
A lot of contracts are short term (less than 2 years).
About 200 people under his oversight.
The sector has a churning problem.
There are some who don’t move abroad, and some who move all over the world.
Recruiting 30% of the organization every year is troubling.
But people don’t leave the sector, they move around. The sector keeps the capabilities.
There are also borders with policy, many people move into more positions of power and influence (and remain friends).
Others want to complement their experiences with contrasting roles, still in development. “There are a lot of ladders but they have only one rung.” If people want to move up, often it’s only possible by leaving.
Organizations are learning to empower along the ladder.
Decision making and strategy implications
Democracy is crucial. People must have a say in how an organization works.
People should feel free to propose, experiment, review how things are done.
Personal initiatives have improved communication.
It’s all about involvement, giving voice.
Hierarchy against the modern world
Layers of authority must not delay decision-making, people can be accountable at any level.
People often have straight connections to people and can sort things faster, this is a huge asset for any organization.
Could a Steve Jobs succeed in development? Yes, because despite their centralism, they have a strong and clear vision and they carry it forward. This is something not always present in development organizations.
But development can be very passionate: women and children’s rights.
Started as a teacher, but the public school was shut down for low performance.
Experience does not qualify for everything, as Graham found out the hard way.
Went into the private sector: manufacturing, aerospace and defense.
Gained a lot of experience and broadened his vision massively.
Recruited thousands of engineers, decided was enough, took a leap of faith, jumped ship.
Stumbled across a development HR opening. Huge step back in salary, reputation.
It was necessary in terms of his “career narrative.”
What development HR departments look for
People must get into the radar.
A straightforward opening can get 300-500 applications, it’s not feasible for executives to read through them all carefully. Requirements in applications are fundamental.
“You must get noticed any way you can.” Today it is not difficult to reach out directly to people, showcase yourself. Make sure you know the organization’s vision and that it is a fit with yours.
“Be keen, not desperate.“
Culture fit may not be a deal-breaker, but aligned passion is.
Development HR’s measures of success
Not everything is clearly measurable.
At last getting into succession planning for senior roles. Talent metrics are important but still complex, as is HR performance.
Cost is a factor, it influences the length and scope of a recruiting process.
Development HR offices across organizations should keep in communications.
Graham thinks he should focus more into identifying internal talent, there is a lot of work to do in this sense.
HR should be able to answer “how many rockstars do they have.” It’s harder to recognize them.
High performing individuals invest their careers into organizations.
On supporting in-field positions
“A janitor at NASA is asked what he is doing: ‘I’m helping put a man on the moon.’” Conviction.
Keep clear: “why HR exists.” HR helps people do things better, it involves understanding the challenges, and helps simplify them.
HR is “chipping out all the bits that keep away from doing a good job.“
On a culture of business in the development sector
The only thing that should delay results and make work longer are the critical issues of development itself. HR should eradicate everything that is non-critical.
Crisis response is a good example and benchmark.
Graham’s account of failure
Back on aerospace, during a massive recruitment campaign of high skilled jobs, the tasks were too large for the HR department. He “unloaded” the problem to internal engineering instead of recognizing he had a problem in a process that they, high-level process engineers could have easily helped him sort out.
Now in development, the organization needed to change the grading structure, and HR did not consult operational people. What was implemented before and after internal consulting was not different except that it was supported by all the people involved.
You can apply for everything “with a machine gun,” or be more of a “sniper,” and aim at just what you want. As an applicant, you must find a balance, learn to stand rejection.
Be really honest with yourself. Usually focused targeting is a better answer.
Please share, participate and leave feedback below!
If you have any feedback you’d like to share for me or Graham, please leave your thoughts in the comment section below! I read all of them and will definitely take part in the conversation.
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