Thanks to Paul Summers for alerting me to The Best Employee Handbook Ever.

The succinct Nordstrom statement of what the American company expected from its employees puts to shame all those long-winded, turgid piles of guff shoveled in the direction of indifferent workers. I highlighted a British example recently – the UK Civil Service Competency Framework.

Job descriptions are much the same – expanding in length and incomprehensibility over the course of the years I was in gainful employment. And of course, no ‘JD’ is now complete without a matching and interminable ‘person spec.’

It all reminds me of the old Flanders and Swann song The Gas Man Cometh:

Oh, it all makes work for the working man to do! [for ‘working man’ substitute ‘HR professional of either gender’]

So how refreshing on a post-retirement ramble around the National Trust’s Flatford Mill property to come across their combined job description and recruitment advert:


Oh, and their cakes are delicious too.

Bonus point – thanks to the superb technical skill of the photographer you should also be able to see a ghostly image of the HelpGov guy lurking in the reflection behind this wonderful job ad

A Tweet brought me a link today to the HR Zone web site and an article called Does management by metrics work?  It begins

On the frame of my kitchen door are marks of the heights of my children, and now grandchildren, with names and dates written down over the course of years…

Unfortunately I can’t tell you how it goes on.  It’s described as a blog post.  But the web site concerned only lets you read its blogs if you register (without cost, to be fair) and I don’t like that principle.

So I don’t know what author John Pope thinks.

But since the HR Zone is about, er HR, and since I know what I think, I’ll finish his article for him.  And you don’t have to register to have the benefit of my views.

On the frame of John Pope’s kitchen door are marks of the heights of his children, and now grandchildren, with names and dates written down over the course of years.

How he uses this information I don’t know.  But like I guess most families we did the same.

  • It was fun for our three girls
  • We all shared a sense of pride in seeing how fast they were growing up
  • It was very visible – we could all see it all the time
  • It was an economical use of resources – no computer or software needed, not even a book to record the data in, just a pencil and a wall (and a tape measure if you wanted to make checking the height into a pain-free arithmetic lesson).

What we didn’t do was

  • Use the information as a measure of each daughter’s performance in growing, which at least we as parents knew was due to a whole range of factors entirely outside their control
  • Punish them if they didn’t grow between measurements – “You’ve only grown 2 cm in the last quarter Sophie.  No pet guinea pig until you do much better”
  • Set up a database on our home computer to analyse progress
  • Set them growth targets
  • Make the exercise competitive – “Your sister’s grown 4cm in the last six months when you’ve only grown 2.  If you don’t catch up she’ll get your sweeties”
  • Even less did we dispose of any daughter who wasn’t growing for a while by ‘letting them go’, offering them for fostering or adoption.

Yet these are the things, in effect, that many organisations do who’ve adopted the performance management approach to their staff.

You know it won’t work with your children, why would it work with your employees?

[Since I don’t like blogs that want you to register before you can read them I’m – exceptionally – not including a link to the HR Zone.  But you can doubtless find it if you want.]