November 12, 2012

Best Practice Blog

Whilst enjoying a drink with some of you in the University Arms on Friday evening to celebrate our first anniversary in the Arts Tower, I was clearly told that the frequency of my blogs was insufficient and that I must try harder. I was also criticised (entirely fairly) for the lack of variety in the content of my tweets. With regards to the latter, my true test will be the week commencing 17 December 2012 when I take over control of the @shefunilife twitter account. This new twitter account features a different member of the University community weekly. This blog is my attempt to remedy the former, and is my "best practice" blog.

Whilst traveling down to London early on Wednesday morning to present to a UCEA conference, I listened in to the US President's victory speech given from his election campaign headquarters in Chicago. Many commentators described the speech as possessing the spirit of JFK with the cadence normally associated with Martin Luther King. Personally I found the 21 minute speech to be persuasive, poignant and powerful. Regardless of your own political persuasion, it was undoubtedly an oratory performance we rarely witness in the UK.

As HR practitioners, we also understand the power of the written word. Language is particularly important to a University. As many of you know, we have after a number of years of vigilance, managed to remove colloquial terms such as "non-academic". Neither you nor I should be described by what we are not, but what we are, hence the new professional services nomenclature. However, there is one ubiquitous term used within HR and beyond that I still struggle with - "best practice".

There are two problems here. First, it assumes that a 'practice' developed by someone else should be applied to you, your team or organisation. That 'practice' may well be the best thing for the author's own organisation, but let's not assume that it's necessarily right for us. Teams, departments and organisations are as different as the people within them. Perhaps 'best fit' is more useful? However, the second problem with the term 'best practice' is that it simply implies complacency - it's already the 'best', there is nothing better, we can't ever improve further.

After all, in his victory speech Obama didn't espouse to be a best practice president, but rather "the best is yet to come". Surely a sound notion and one I trust will be the case, certainly at least with regards to the frequency and content of my blogs and tweets.