Case Study Porn

Case Study Porn

Business population and their associated employment and turnover

At the start of 2012, there were an estimated 4.8 million UK private sector businesses, employing an estimated 23.9 million people and with an estimated combined annual turnover of £3,100 billion.

Almost all of these businesses (99.2 per cent) were small (0 to 49 employees). Only 30,000 (0.6 per cent) were medium-sized (50 to 249 employees) and 6,000 (0.1 per cent) were large (250 or more employees). These percentages have remained fairly stable since 2000 (the earliest point for which comparable data exists).

There were an estimated 4.8 million UK private sector SMEs at the start of 2012, employing an estimated 14.1 million people, and with an estimated combined annual turnover of £1,500 billion. 

99.2% of all private sector businesses in the UK employ fewer than 50 people.

In his talk at the CIPD HR Dvelopment Conference this week, Andy Lancaster used this fact to help illustrate an all too common dilemma, ‘how do you develop talent in smaller, flatter organisations?’ Based on the numbers in the BIS research – this challenge matters to an awful lot of us. Even if you take the large numbers of micro businesses out of the equation – the SME marketplace is huge.

So why is it that when we go to conferences, the main ‘attractions’ are often mega brands? Come and listen to sexy companies like Google, Mercedes Benz, BBC, Marks and Spencer etc. I should state I’m not against these companies, I use three of the four I just mentioned on a regular basis. I just don’t particularly want to be like them, and I think that there is a danger that these companies are positioned as the way ahead, with little consideration given to the distorting effect of trying to compare a business employing 25,000 people, to one that employs 250.

At the risk of contradicting myself (I’m sometimes wrong, sometimes right, I rarely know which is which and I reserve the right to change my mind), I do think there are possibilities to learn from bigger companies, and based on what I’ve experienced directly this week, and heard from other sources I trust, those possibilities are being hampered. Hampered by the ‘Case Study Porn’ (CSP) effect.

I’m unsure whether the CSP effect starts when Sexy Mega Brand Incorporated puts themselves on a pedestal (or should that be a pole), or when we do. Either way, my Bullshit Detector (copyright Joe Strummer) went off the scale several times in a direct response to Sexy Mega Brand Incorporated this week.

This week I found I learned much more from smaller organisations, and ones that get useful stuff done (or at least try) in a fussless, humble kind of way, than from organisations like the BBC, Google and Chelsea Football Club, all of whom came across to me as a bit guarded, a bit arrogant, and too assumptive.

Maybe it’s just that Sexy Mega Brand Incorporated can afford better fluffers – but I think conference organisers need to think more carefully about their audience and what their needs and wants are, and less about Case Study Porn. How about you? What influences your decision to attend a conference? And what would encourage you to come back again next year?

Google Mania

I spent Tuesday at the HRTech Europe Spring warm up event in London. In the time I had at the event I heard four people talk, here’s a brief summary.

I enjoyed listening to Mark Martin, Group HRD for Direct Line, anyone who prefaces his talk with ‘I could be mad, I could be right.’ is usually worth a listen. Mark went on to talk about how the transparency being driven by technology highlights the gap between what people say and do like never before. He also talked about how the user adoption of (HR) technology is much more important than its capability, yet a lot of vendors still sell on that capability, wise up HR!

Jason Averbook, Chief Business Innovation Officer from Appirio followed on and delivered his piece with humour, despite a somewhat reluctant crowd. He talked about self reliance being the new self service, the importance of being able to visualise (big) data and another thumbs up for user adoption, and how important it is for the user to feel they’re getting something useful back.

Next up was Caitlin Hogan, People Analyst from Google. This is where things started to get a little weird for me, as after telling us that Google has People Operations – that’s what other companies call HR, a lot of what followed was prefaced with little Google Badges (my choice of term), as if somehow putting the word Google on the front of stuff makes it like, waaaay cool. So we learned that people who work at Google are in fact called Googlers. If they are older, they are called Greyglers, and the gay community at Google call themselves, yep, you guessed it, Gayglers.

We learned that Google has an annual employee, sorry, Googler survey, in order to learn what is ‘top of mind’ for Googlers (actually, Caitlin had reverted to using the term employees by now but hey, I’m living the Google dream so don’t try and stop me). They call this survey the GoogleGeist. Pretty much every company I know has an employee survey (yawn), but stick a cool name on it and kaboom – it becomes double interesting. And pardon me – but if Google is so cool, can’t they find a way to check what is ‘top of mind’ among the Googulation (OK now I’m making these up myself) more than once a year?

Google does all kinds of cool stuff using Googalgorithms and the like in order to mine the data in the kajillion CVS they get from aspiring Googlers each year. They sift through all this stuff trying to find people with the right cultural fit. Now – I could be wrong here, but I reckon if you preface all the longer words in your CV with Google – you’ll sail right on in. In addition – they use the same maths and technology to search externally available CVs too. They do this to try and seek out aspiring Googlers who don’t even know that’s what they aspire too. Joking apart – I think that is quite an interesting thing to do, although how effective this is in increasing diversity as Caitlin suggested, I’m not sure.

We then moved on through what effective managerial behaviour in Google looks like. It’s basically the same as everywhere else (caring, coaching, productive, communicative, good at making up Googlewords etc), as is what makes a crap manager. For example, at Google, managers struggle when they demand authority and respect rather than earn it. Hold the front page.

I wonder if GoogleThink is becoming the new Kool Aid? This was one of the oddest, and for the most part, unrevealing talks I’ve heard in a long while, yet because it was Google – boy did it seem to go down well. I’m guessing that by now their global CV harvesting machine has rejected me, I’ll live with that.

Lunch was yummy and after that John Sumser took to the stage and blew me away. I’m still processing the crazy stuff he shared with us and I will write a piece about his talk, titled ‘Where do Ideas Come From?’ soon.

There are two streams on Wednesday’s agenda, which sadly I can’t make. Based on John’s talk today and based on a great TEDx talk I’ve seen by by Felix Wetzel, I’d go to the one they are both in. Whichever you choose to attend, have fun.