Inspiration for HR in strengthening its position at the leadership table can come from many directions – but none more timely than the leadership lessons that can be learnt from Game of Thrones.
According to Bruce Craven, director of Columbia Business School’s Advanced Management Program: “The leadership decisions made by the characters in Game of Thrones sometimes result in devastating consequences, but the characters who survive learn how to improve their decisions and navigate risks more effectively.”
Craven, who runs an MBA “leadership through fiction” course at Columbia Business School, explains the narrative in Game of Thrones is a combination of mythology (dragons, sorcery, and the living dead are all elements of the story) and is drawn, in part, from actual history.
“It draws on and amplifies many past chronicles of leadership dilemmas and reversals. What looks like a reasonable decision at first can result in trusting the wrong person and being publicly executed. In our own world, we may not face literal execution, but we often must make decisions with similarly wrenching tensions and unpredictable results,” he says.
Ned Stark, Jon Snow and dragon tamer Daenerys Targaryen, as any viewer of the popular series is aware, are just three of the enormous cast of Game of Thrones characters who battle with the demands of leadership.
“The leaders in Game of Thrones are compelling examples because they are imperfect, under enormous stress, and dedicated to delivering results beyond their own individual betterment,” Craven explains.
In many ways, it’s a similar leadership conundrum faced by senior HR practitioners. No one is perfect and making important decisions based on complex information in a timely manner that can have a crucial impact on the company’s employees and bottom line is no easy task.
According to Craven: “Those of us who aspire to be better leaders tend to reach a moment when we understand our presence more completely. We have felt regret and remorse.”
But any fan of Game of Thrones may well recall the moment when Tyrion Lannister laments that the awful murders he has committed should disqualify him as a compassionate leader. He is somewhat redeemed when Lord Varys sums it up by saying: “I never said you were perfect.”
Similarly, HR professionals cannot expect to always get it right with their decision-making.
“We can’t expect perfection, but we can expect adventure … in a form that meets and matches our commitment,” Craven concludes.
Note: Parts of this are extracts from the article published on the strategy+business website. The full version can be found here.
Push for recruitment of overseas doctors to Hong Kong gains traction
The urgent need to address Hong Kong’s shortage of doctors is gathering momentum. Health Secretary Sophia Chan Siu-chee has called for a “rational discussion”.
This follows the Medical Council’s rejection of a proposal this month to make it easier for overseas doctors to work in Hong Kong. Some quarters of the medical sector are calling for a dilution of the medical watchdog’s power to smooth the way for the recruitment of foreign doctors.
“Under the circumstances, we’ve allocated more resources to the Hospital Authority so it can hire more overseas doctors through limited registration,” she told The Standard, adding “we need to unite and work together to bring in more doctors regardless of whether they were trained locally or overseas.”
According to Mary Ma in her open-ed column in the same newspaper: “To some extent, the hurdle created by the Medical Council is responsible for the exorbitant costs involved in seeing private doctors here. (Hong Kong) has not been producing enough doctors to meet rising local demand.”
Chan added that another possible solution to address the shortfall would be to allow doctors with less experience – such as fresh medical graduates – to receive extra training to enable them to become specialists.
China tech workers rack up long hours, at risk of burnout
China has made great strides in the area of technology. Its IT firms have made significant advances in areas such as facial recognition, artificial intelligence and the use of big data.
But this could all be coming at a cost to its tech workers.
According to the South China Morning Post, the average tenure for tech workers in Silicon Valley is 3.65 years, whereas in Chinese tech firms, state telecoms operators aside, that figure is less than 2.6 years.
One way of looking at this is it could be a case of job-hopping in China’s booming tech sector. But in reality it’s much more likely to be burnout – with many of these workers not even having reached the age of 30.
Many Chinese tech workers work on what is commonly known as a “996” schedule. That is, working from 9am to 9pm, six days a week – comprising a working week 72 hours long. This can leave them little time to have any sort of life outside of work.
One major IT firm, ByteDance, reportedly has what is called a “big/small week” policy, with its 6000-strong workforce required to work every second Sunday.
Like its counterparts in the US such as Google and Facebook, many of China’s tech firms also offer enticing perks such as free meals, shuttle buses and on-site gyms.
But some tech workers in China are leaving the potentially lucrative IT sector in search of a better work/life balance, despite the benefits.
How to bring your introverted employees out of their shells
Introverts are easily misunderstood as shy or are often neglected due to their non-attention seeking nature, as opposed to extroverts who strive to be the centre of attention. In the following article, we will take a look at what being an introvert means and how human resources practitioners can create an environment and culture that allow them be their best selves.
Renowned Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung described introverts as the ones who prefer minimally stimulating environments and need time alone to recharge, while extroverts refuel from others’ presence.
Therefore, it is not surprising that introverted employees prefer working alone and demand a higher quality of emotional support, and they tend to be highly focused mavericks who are independent, introspective and empathetic to people’s needs.
Introvert archetypes proposed by US professor Jonathan Cheek:
Social Introverts prefer to socialise with just a few people at a time. They are not shy nor do they feel anxious in social situations. They just prefer to be alone.
Thinking Introverts are capable of handling most social events. They are thoughtful and introspective. They like to self-reflect and use their imaginations.
Anxious Introvertsfeel painfully shy, awkward and anxious around other people. They want to be alone and worry a lot about past or future events.
Inhibited Introvertsthink a lot before speaking or taking action. They might take longer than normal people to move forward on things.
Keep in mind that introversion and extroversion is just one of the ways to differentiate people. Based on the conceptual theory proposed by Jung, the Mental Muscle Diagram Indicator (MBTI) sorts people into 16 personality types according to four dichotomies— extraversion and introversion; sensing and intuition; thinking and feeling; and judgment and perception.
Find out your MBTI personality type through this quiz.
What you can do as HR
Glassdoor shares four ways human resources practitioners can create an introvert-friendly work culture:
Many introverts respond better to planners, and they like to be able to grasp an idea of what they’re going to be working on the next day, the next week, and so on. Be a manager who can help them visualise their tasks so they can determine how they will tackle each one early on.
Group meetings may be intimidating to some introverts. Promote platforms such as group chat and email that allow introverts to work independently and communicate in writing.
Be upfront with all newcomers of their job responsibilities and work routine. So they will assess whether they are comfortable to go to networking events on a frequent basis.
Regarding facilities, if possible, offer them an office with a door or an environment that allows them to have their own space. Smart companies will also offer multiple workspace options such as work from home or a co-working space.
Anyone involved in HR or runs their own business has, at some time, encountered a disgruntled employee. But what are the signs that they are not engaging? And how do you nip it in the bud before it becomes a problem and affects the company’s productivity?
Here are some of the danger signs to look out for.
The employee is burned out
Burnout can be caused by a variety of reasons, but one of the most common reasons is an excessive workload. It is not possible for any employee to sustain a heavy workload indefinitely. Are there employees on your team who frequently work long hours and seem to be busy all the time and often appear tired? If so, they are at high risk of becoming disengaged.
Stops participating in meetings
When employees who were active contributors before become silent, it is important for HR managers to take note. This is especially the case if it’s part of a trend you’ve noticed elsewhere.
Arrives late and leaves early
This is one of the biggest indicators of employee disengagement. Ordinarily, HR shouldn’t rigidly police an employee’s start and finishing times unless it is a part of the company’s culture, or the employee has a long-term history of shortening their hours.
Frequent breaks that disrupt work are another danger sign. If you find the employee frequently on their phone or absent from their desk for long periods or even if you notice them idling away elsewhere, this could mean they are feeling disengaged from work.
Failure to meet deadlines
A constant inability to meet deadlines indicates that an employee is either unable to cope with the workload, is distracted or has issues with time management.
Resistant to change
In an organisation, the bigger it gets, the more there is a need for employees to adapt and grow as well. However, disengaged employees will not be motivated to learn new skills. When new initiatives are rolled out, disengaged employees will either fail to adopt them, complain or even flatly refuse to adopt them.
Rude and abrupt to colleagues
When someone is stressed, it is normal for them to be grumpy or curt. However, persistent rudeness or abruptness to polite overtures or requests from colleagues or managers suggests a more significant problem. Constant rudeness is a sign of discontentment.
Some employees are naturally quiet and reserved and that’s OK. However, when a typically cheerful and amiable employee stops socialising, there’s something amiss.
Does the bare minimum
When an employee who used to be an exemplary performer begins to do the bare minimum, HR managers should take notice. If the employee is scaling back their efforts at work, then it may be a sign they feel under appreciated.
Spends a lot of time doing other stuff at work
Occasionally, employees don’t need to be away from their desks to demonstrate they are not working. Idling away on social media, indulging in online shopping or other non-work-related activities can be a sign of dissatisfaction.
Upon realising that an employee is disengaged, it is important to sit down and have a chat with them. This can help you find out why they are struggling, or what is affecting them and preventing them from engaging fully.
Approach this conversation from a non-judgmental viewpoint – because it’s essential to understand why an employee is feeling dissatisfied and how it is impacting their work, or in some cases, their entire team’s work.
Communication is key. In some cases, it is also worth looking inward to see if there’s some way you could have failed your employee. It’s only when you get to the root of the overall problem that employee disengagement can be overcome.