Tag: transparency

My User Manual 2021

As we leave lockdown and hopefully begin to put the pandemic behind us; I’ve realised that my job isn’t the only thing that’s changed; my working preferences have too. As we move forward into a more hybrid working world updating my user manual seems like a smart idea.

Here’s a link to the one I wrote back in 2019; if you’re curious about user manuals in general and want some tips on how to write one yourself, Christina Lai has a really good talk she does on this with accompanying slides she’s always happy to share.

This is 2021 me, with my new grey hair post lockdown.

Contacting me:

  • My hours: I predominantly work from home; as such my core hours are generally between 9 – 5:30pm; but I’m generally available and responding to messages between 8am to 7pm (GMT).
  • Best three means for contacting me: Text/WhatsApp; Teams/Slack; Email.
  • My response times: I respond best too quick and easy requests that I can deal with straight away. If it needs proper consideration it will probably have to wait until I have time set aside to be at my desk where I’m not in meetings. I try to set aside some time each day to respond to anything that needs more consideration. If I haven’t got back to you within a day, and you need a response; please send me a message to remind me.
  • If I don’t respond it’s best to: Text me or ring me.

My Preferred work approach:

  • Preferred type of work: I love coming up with ideas and solving problems; I love working with a team or one or two others to bounce ideas around; I love making a difference, and improving things for people; I love getting to know people, what their interests are, what makes them tick. I LOVE a good workshop!
  • Things that might affect my work: Constant interruptions or inability to approach tasks in a way the suits me. I don’t do well when I’m feeling stifled.
  • Open to colleagues approaching me with work questions: Always!
  • Preferred learning style: Interactive. I learn best by doing.
  • Specific skills: Problem solving. Delivering Products and Services that meet users needs, designing for vulnerable users and ensuring Products are accessible. Using data to drive improvements in performance deliverables to deliver the right outcomes. Developing innovative strategies and visions based on user needs. Mentoring, coaching, working in the open to show good leadership, sharing best practices and developing capability.
  • Work habits that assist me: Flexibility and collaboration. I work best when working with others.
  • People can assist me by: Helping me understand priorities so I can balance my work in order to get the right things done at the right time.
  • Preferred work environment: I have a high tolerance for background noise, but I don’t like harsh or unexpected noise; similarly with lighting, harsh lighting can give me migraines.
  • Travel: I’m happy to travel, and do over nights for work; but I prefer not to travel on Mondays and Fridays as my son goes to boarding school and I want to be able to do school drop offs and pick ups.

How to give me feedback:

  • Public praise: I admit this still makes me feel awkward, but I’m getting better at accepting it.
  • Timing for critical feedback: Ideally at the end of the day so I can reflect on it.
  • Delivery of critical feedback: Privately.
  • Framing of critical feedback: Constructive; help me understand what I can do better.

My Strengths:

  • Problem solving. Spotting gaps and reviewing processes to identify opportunities. I want to make things better.
  • I am adaptable and resilient, I will always try to keep going and be flexible in my approach in order to deliver the right thing. I’m good in challenging situations. I get things done. I’m best when I have a problem to fix.
  • I enjoy working in fast paced environments, I’m best when I’m busy and getting things done.
  • Developing relationships with teams, stakeholders and internal/external users; I’m a people person and I’m at my best when working with others.
  • Mentoring, coaching and up-skilling others; I actively enjoy helping others too succeed.
  • I am incredibly loyal, if we are friends/colleagues I will always have your back, if you need help I will always do my best for you.

My Weaknesses:

  • I’ve worked hard to improve my written and organisational skills, but I know they are not my greatest strengths. When asked for written briefs etc I do better when I’ve got the chance to run it past someone else before submitting. When it comes to organising things, I tend to surround myself with those who are better at it than me. I write EVERYTHING down to help me remember.
  • Linked to above; my memory isn’t great, and I’m usually balancing a lot of things, so if I forget something, do remind me; I won’t mind, it’ll help me.
  • I’m not always great with connecting names to faces, even of people I know, so please don’t be offended if I need a reminder.
  • Eye contact, it’s not you, it’s me. I am listening and I do care. The same with fiddling or doodling. It’s how my brain works, please don’t take it as a sign I’m not paying attention because I am.

Other things to know about me:

  • I am neurodivergent, I have ADHD, Dyspraxia and Sensory Processing Disorder; things like eye contact, doodling, memory etc are all part of this. But I’m good at thinking outside of the box and approaching things from a fresh angle.
  • I’m a mum to a neurodivergent child, I work hard to balance my work and home life, and talk openly about the challenges of that in order to support and encourage others to do the same.
  • I’m a ridiculous extravert and a massive geek, I recharge by spending time with my tribe.
  • People don’t always think I’m taking things seriously, but I’m very committed and passionate about what I do, I will take on the toughest situations, but I’ll do it with a smile.
  • I’m queer and I live in Manchester with my fiancée, my child and our two dogs.

Interesting fact:

In my down time I LARP; Live Action Role Play; it helps me unwind by going and being someone else for a day or a weekend; and solving fantastical problems in a fantasy world for a while.

Me at Empire LARP, with thanks to Oliver Facey for the photo.

We need to talk about salary

A massive pet peeve of mine is when I see roles that don’t advertise their salary clearly; and I’m aware they are plenty of others out there who share my annoyance. So why aren’t we as employers better about being open about pay?

I think ‘growing up’ in the civil service spoiled me when it comes to salaries, I always knew what grade a job was and what pay-scale that grade came with. When looking for new roles I could easily find out whether the pay-scale in a different department was higher or lower than my current home department, and there was never a need to have any awkward salary conversations as it was all out in the open.

While their were still some awkward gender pay disparity in parts of the civil service, for the most part it didn’t seem like much of an issue (*to me) as everyone working within the same role was generally on the same pay scale, and the slight differences in pay was usually about their length of time in role etc.

Interestingly when I became a Deputy Director and was involved more in recruitment and job offers I saw how complex the issue of salaries could be. While it was relatively easy to benchmark salaries against other departments; and competing with the private sector was never really going to happen; one thing I did spot was the difference in how we treated external vs. internal hires.

While internal promotions went automatically to the bottom of the pay band, external hires could negotiate higher salaries, this was based on the historic view that the private sector paid more so we had to be willing to offer them more money to join the civil service. This obviously did not give parity to people and suggested we prioritised external experience over internal experience. Given that government was forging the path of user centric design and product management; and being recognised around the world as the expert in digital innovation (at least in terms of service design and UCD etc.); it felt ridiculous to me that we weren’t being seen to value that internal expertise when it came to salary.

Thankfully I was able to get HR to agree to trial equal pay flexibility to internal and external hires; so that I could negotiate pay equally with all candidates no much what industry they came from, and base pay decisions solely on their experience and performance during recruitment. This seemed to work really well; our staff satisfaction went up when it came to the staff survey questions about pay and remuneration (almost unheard of) and it decreased the trend of civil servants constantly leaving for the private sector.

I did however notice quickly that male presenting candidates were far more comfortable negotiating than female presenting ones. To combat this when I prepared to offer anyone a role I had a small table that I’d prepared and agreed with HR that showed the candidates score and where that put them in terms of the salary scale we had for the role. This meant if the candidate wasn’t comfortable talking about salary, I could pitch them at the level I thought fair to ensure we were still giving parity to all hires.

Moving to the ‘private’ sector I now try to keep an eye one competitors salaries etc. to ensure I’m still offering a fair salary when hiring; but it’s actually really hard. It’s nigh on impossible to see salaries for other organisations without spending a lot of time doing detective work. Glassdoor and linkedIn both try to show average salaries for job roles via role titles; but there’s so much variety in job roles/ titles and responsibilities that it’s almost impossible to ensure parity.

Lots of companies don’t publicise the salary on their job adverts, and instead want candidates to apply and then discuss salary expectations as part of the early recruitment process. There’s lots of conversations out there on /AskAManager, LinkedIn etc. with people asking for advice on how and when they should bring up salary in the recruitment process. We shouldn’t be making it this hard for people to get a fair wage. There was a thread on twitter last week that highlighted how hard many women find it to know what salary they should be asking for when negotiating pay. This cloud of secrecy is shown to make wage parity/ discrimination higher. Women of colour in particular are shown to be hardest hit by the pay gap.

Theres plenty of studies out there that show that by not talking about salaries openly we are widening the pay gap, and it’s not just hurting our drive for equality, it’s hitting productivity too. Elena Belogolovsky stated in a study for Journal of Business and Psychology: “If I don’t know my co-worker’s pay, I assume that I might not be getting paid as much, and I decrease my performance. When people don’t know each other’s pay, they assume they are underpaid.”

So as an employer what can we do to improve pay transparency and parity?

  • Publicise the salary on all your job adverts. Ideally publicise a pay band to show the scale available to all candidates. Hell if you want a gold star, publicise your pay scales on your company website, whether you’re hiring or not; and publicise it again on all your job adverts.
  • When you’re offering a candidate a role, don’t wait for the candidate to bring up salary, and don’t only negotiate if the candidate asks to; proactively discuss with them what salary you believe is fair and why.
  • If you’re hiring multiple roles, keep track of what salary you have offered to each candidate and ensure all offers are fair and in line with people’s experience. I have previously gone back to a candidate who had accepted a role to offer them a slightly higher salary once I completed a recruitment campaign when I reviewed all the offers and felt based on experience they deserved more than initially agreed. The candidate was astonished as she’d never had anyone feedback to her before that she was worth more than the minimum.

We all need to do better to ensure pay parity. We need to be open about pay and be willing to talk about salaries and what ‘good’ and ‘equal’ looks like.