Three H’s for Engagement

Engagement is a key focus for many companies, but they disagree on how to achieve it. Some measure anonymous surveys, others run expensive initiatives, and many link it with other buzz words. Generally, it is about trust. People are with you if they believe you. You can build that trust with the right approach, which I’ll call the three H’s. Hard work, Honesty and Helping Others.

You expect those around you to work hard but why should they if they see you slacking? You don’t have to put in extra shifts, but you do need to ensure that everyone sees your role and effort adding value. Honesty is about answering questions without being indiscreet or betraying confidences. Always keep to the facts, unless you’re asked for a personal opinion. If that opinion is likely to upset someone then no comment is an acceptable response. Never lie or pretend and don’t make assumptions about anyone.

Helping others isn’t necessary about work.  It involves offering the little things that make people feel better. A word of gratitude, a coffee, listening to concerns, an extended deadline. This should be consistent, and available to all, without being routine or patronizing.

Make the three H’s part of your working life and you’ll soon enjoy an improved level of employee engagement.


The Obese Organisation

Mr Company ran along the corporate path. His brain relayed directions to his legs and they kept him ahead of the competitors. One day Mr Company had a vision that inspired him to glide so he took half the money earned by the legs and hired worms to help him develop. The worms employed more worms and created management layers inside Mr Company’s heart, delaying delivery of the directions. The legs changed course and stumbled under the extra weight. Mr Company looked down and couldn’t see his legs because he was too fat.

Mr Company decided to be lean. The worms advised him to trim the legs. Mr Company realised that he wouldn’t be agile without the legs so decided to cull some of the worms. To persuade him of their value the worms took the rest of the money earned by the legs and spent it on engagement projects and initiatives. When Mr Company saw no tangible benefits the worms collaborated to isolate the brain and feed it false information.

Confused and unable to give directions the brain resigned. The legs collapsed, and Mr Company died. Competitors raced past, stamping on the maggots that crawled from Mr Company’s heart.

Rediscovering the Doctor

Today is the 55th anniversary of Doctor Who. Since the first episode was broadcast on 23 November 1963  there have been 847 episodes telling 283 stories, plus novels, audios and countless pieces of merchandise. It is an unique part of British popular culture that has motivated me for most of my life and continues to inspire millions.

In January this year I made a resolution to watch every episode in chronological order at the rate of one per week. It will take seventeen years to get through the current material plus another four if the show keeps adding ten new episodes each year. I could binge watch but  rarely have more than an hour spare each week. Instead this allows me to make a regular commitment and enables me to identify with the original audience. I want to see the stories as they were meant to be seen, accepting that I may not fully appreciate references to contemporary culture. It is an opportunity to watch history unfold, against the background of whatever changes lie ahead in my own life.

I will be documenting my thoughts during the process and look forward to sharing them with you.



No fans for Academies

This week’s EFL trophy game between Walsall and Port Vale attracted less than a thousand spectators. Two thousand less than the last time they met in the same competition. This is partly due to supporter unease about the presence of academy teams from bigger clubs in a competition designed for the lower leagues. One of those academies belongs to Walsall’s  neighbors, Wolves. As a fourth division club in 1988, a level lower than Walsall’s current status, Wolves attracted eighty thousand for the final of the EFL’s predecessor.

The lure of Wembley is waning. Although Walsall played there for the only time in the 2015 EFL final, other clubs have returned within weeks to contest the play-offs. No Academy team has made the final yet. When they do, it is certain that both teams will struggle to sell tickets. Nobody wants to watch their side compete against a youth team.

Walsall are of the few clubs to make a profit. Others, heavily in debt, cannot afford to keep playing games that don’t attract supporters. The wider unspoken fear is of B teams and academies creeping into the lower leagues as they have in other parts of Europe. Reserves cast loose in the professional game, bringing real clubs closer to extinction.

Who was Mary Jane?

130 years ago, today a woman who called herself Mary Jane Kelly was murdered by Jack the Ripper. Her true identity, like that of her killer, is unknown. All genealogists have to work with is a story given by her ex-boyfriend, Joseph Barnett, at the inquest. Extensive searches have failed to trace her with that information. There are four possibilities.

  1. Barnett told the truth.
  2. Barnett invented all or part of the story.
  3. Barnett misremembered some of the details.
  4. Mary invented all or part of the story.

Independent sources confirm parts of Barnett’s story about Mary’s life in London before she met him. She must have given him those details. This makes it less likely that he got the information about her earlier life wrong but none of the usual records have been found to support it. We can speculate that she altered facts, such as her name, or omitted a key piece of information but cannot say why.

The bigger question is why none of her friends or family responded to the contemporary publicity. One can only hope that they are now reunited and rest in peace.




The Old Problem of Truancy

The book I am most looking forward to in 2019 is a study of Jack the Ripper and the Thames Torso murders by Drew Gray and Andrew Wise. Gray currently runs the police magistrate blog, covering cases from the 19th century courts. As the subject of my next book, William Onion, was a frequent visitor to the courts I have been following the blog with interest. This week a piece on truancy stood out.

The 1880 education act made schooling compulsory for students under the age of ten and parents were hauled into court if their child was absent. Usually they were fined, even if they had a good reason such as the child being employed. Today about 20,000 parents are prosecuted each year. Some are fined, and others sent to jail. Despite this the rate of unauthorised absence from schools is 1.3%, the highest since records began.

As the policy of prosecution is not reducing truancy, we should be asking if it is the right method and, indeed, if schooling should be compulsory. With fewer qualified teachers and higher class sizes is it really sensible to force more students to attend school when their parents don’t want them there?



Inspired by Invictus

Anyone looking for inspiration this week should have found it in the fourth Invictus Games, taking place in Sydney. Athletes from eighteen countries participated, all being wounded, sick or veterans from the armed forces. Each has their own personal story of overcoming, and defying, adversity to compete in sports that many able-bodied people find difficult.

The event was created by Prince Harry four years ago with two intentions. The first was to demonstrate the power of sport to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and demonstrate life beyond disability. The second was to ensure that injured troops were not forgotten.

On the evidence so far both aims have been achieved. Congratulations to all those involved.