The perfect 10

It’s not very often HR can learn something from popular television shows. Is Tupe really like a Bush Tucker Trial? Are the Personnel Today Awards our X-Factor equivalent? 

But occasionally something appears on our screens that resonates. Employer/employee relations, especially where trade unions are involved, usually hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons. This is often because the choreography between the two parties is out of synch. 

Take the BBC reality TV show Strictly Come Dancing. Pitching highly-skilled professional dancers into partnerships with non-dancing celebrities who are often clumsy and unco-ordinated has proved to be compulsive Saturday night viewing for many. I can’t say I am an avid fan, but I am intrigued about the lessons we in HR can learn. 

The crux of the programme is that two mismatched people can, by practice, honest endeavour and the will of both partners to work together, surprise even themselves. It is astonishing how elegant and successful the fledgling partnerships can be. By getting their choreography right, by acknowledging their respective differences and playing to both their individual strengths the duos dance away in something approaching harmony. Why can’t we do this in the world of work?

Too often both unions and management are not prepared to face each other across the negotiating table with any intention of seeking a settlement, particularly, for example, over the question of outsourcing. Indeed, both parties seem bent on not engaging but would rather perpetuate what is increasingly an artificial divide. Clearly we all feel we have too much to lose. 

Wouldn’t it be a practical start to the New Year if we all agreed to take a spin around the issues without there being any specific discussions; that we take time to learn and understand each other’s steps and then see if we could somehow match or replicate them? And to do all of this in a spirit of doing what is right for the one group of people that are common to us all – the employees?

It is odd that although there is this common denominator, both ‘sides’ claim to represent them quite differently.

Too often we only talk to each other when we have a problem or when we want something, we never seem to have the time to just talk, to listen, to understand. This has been and will continue to be very damaging. 

So come on, don’t be put off that you might step on each other’s toes – learn the steps together and you will both score the perfect 10.
Rory Murphy is HR director at Morgan Chambers

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