Book Review – People not Paperclips
Putting the human back into Human Resources
Review by: Su Askew
Author: Kath Howard
Kath Howard begins this book with a really human preface and introduction. It felt like we were sharing a coffee as she told me about the journey of this book and its purpose. I have to admit that the title appealed to me initially and as I began to read it quickly became apparent that I was going to feel warm and comfortable about the direction this book would take me. I am not an Organisational Design (OD) expert and, as I read, I certainly learnt more about the origin of OD than I thought I would.
Organisations, should be focussing on connections with employees, psychological safety, yet, whilst most of us know that, we also know there is still a huge gap between what most forward-thinking HR leaders are striving for, verses what they are able to do.
The other interesting angle in this book is the focus on the call centre, factory warehouse and the shop floor. HR as a function extends to these areas too and they are often the hardest working environments to capture true engagement and employee satisfaction. Office fruit and Pizza Fridays don’t really tackle the issues facing people who work in a procedure and policy-controlled environments. Places where they are not really permitted to innovate or be part of the direction of a company. So, this was very key for me in terms of what Kath has been focusing on. The structure of the book is logical and practical; she also gives a toolkit to use at the end of each chapter. It would be easy for you to read this one and then dip in and refocus on what you need to do for your own organisation. It’s also strengthened by how easily it is applied by an internal or external OD consultant.
OD is hugely difficult when organisations struggle to change or resit a different approach; Kath Howard is adept in giving tips on how to link the change to the business issues, which is key to securing executive buy-in. Also, she ensures you are connecting KPIs to the OD process, to have even more impact and influence when you consult and share vision. This all helps ease some of those tougher moments in any organisation when you need that edge. She coaches the reader to do their homework, gather research and test case studies which will absolutely add credibility and competency for all who read it.