Sunday, April 17, 2016

I've released a discussion paper, Free Will and Compatibilism, on the age old question of whether human beings can possess free will if we live in a deterministic universe. The scientific view of the universe is increasingly painting a picture of human beings as being subject to the same causal laws as all other entities in the universe. It appears all of our thoughts, desires and actions are predetermined by the same blind forces of nature. If this is true, then in what sense can we act other than what we actually did at the time? How can we be held morally responsible if we could not have acted otherwise? In this discussion paper, I attempt to draw together the various strands of thought that show that we sometimes can and do act freely in spite of living in a deterministic world. Even more than this, I conclude that determinism and predictability is a necessary requirement for moral praise and blame. Please read my discussion paper, Free Will and Compatibilism, and share your thoughts.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015 is now live

The Rational Realm web site is now live.
Please drop by and Like and Share. In the coming weeks, I'll be uploading
essays, book reviews and opinion pieces on a variety of subjects in both
philosophy and science. Visit often to see what's new.

Monday, August 5, 2013

New Upgrade to Popular Project Management Tool

Project Master Gantt Chart

I'm pleased to report that the new version of our project management tool is out. Project Master is a Microsoft Excel-based workbook that manages project schedules, costs, issues, risks and project changes. It does much of the heavy lifting that the big corporate tools do, but all in a tiny, inexpensive package.

The new version includes a multitude of enhancements, like the click 'n' go reports, costs shown in your local currency, improved navigation and the helpful wizards. We've also improved the color-coding on the auto-generated Gantt Chart and Task Status indicators. My recent blog post on the Project Master upgrade highlights other great new features. Grab the PDF press release and tell your friends and colleagues.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Turning Employee Engagement into a Manager's Deliverable

In my previous post, I explored some of the key findings from CIPD's latest survey on employee engagement. I shared the report's identification of three core practices that can help managers lift the bar on employee motivation. The study identified three major deficiencies in the practices of UK managers. Firstly, 61% of employees are missing out on career development discussions. Secondly, 70% of employees receive no on-the-job coaching and, lastly, 54% get little to no feedback on their performance.

These systemic deficiencies are a true indictment of the state of management in the UK. I hence applaud the UK Government's initiative to lift the level of engagement throughout the UK with their special employee engagement taskforce set up last year.

Clearly, management can and should do a lot to have the right systems and processes in place to raise the level of employee motivation and job satisfaction. However, as the latest CIPD report points out, it is a two-way street. Employees are not passive, empty vessels just waiting to be filled with the employee engagement magic elixir.

It can be difficult for a manager to support someone's career aspirations when they make little or no effort to support themselves. Similarly, it can also be a real challenge to inspire an employee to rise to the next level in their performance when they are perfectly contented where they are. This situation illustrates well the crucial importance of your recruitment practices. If you want highly-talented, self-driven people in your organization, you'd better make sure that your recruitment methods can find and attract them.

There are some employees in every workplace who want nothing more than to be left in peace and aren't interested in improving themselves or the way they do their job. I have worked with many such employees in my career and being "neutrally engaged" is a safe place for them. Such employee attitudes may be rooted in factors beyond management's control or influence. However, we have enough tools at our disposal and with the right understanding, commitment and focus we can shrink the size of this "neutral" group down to a less debilitating size.

Once an organization sets itself the objective of lifting employee engagement levels, how should it go about this task? I think we can take some lessons from line management. Throughout industry and the services sector, line managers are practiced at setting standards for "deliverables"; the standards that must be met for the product or service to be credible in the marketplace. When their standards aren't met, they take corrective action because the marketplace is competitive and intolerant.

However, when it comes to the so-called "softer" side of managing people, such as holding career development discussions, coaching and performance feedback, many managers lack the will and competence to do so. This reluctance is no great wonder. The "soft" stuff is really hard.

Add to this mix the fact that some managers remain unconvinced about the importance of soft skills and the human dimension of business. Some managers still don't understand well enough, or believe, the validity of the relationship between the factors influencing employee engagement and actual employee productivity and retention.

No doubt, however, in making employee engagement a core focus of the business, it becomes a core goal in the average manager's life too. The actions that build engagement will be treated as a "deliverable". Organizations will find managers measuring, analyzing and constantly working on engagement practices to improve the employee engagement metrics. I have even seen some managers seek out training in these areas voluntarily.

The measurement of people-management processes is a daunting task for many. Do you have some insights based on your own experience that would contribute to this discussion? Please let us hear from you.

For help with lifting employee engagement levels and setting measurable targets, check out our consulting services at

CIPD Employee Outlook, Summer Edition 2012

Saturday, September 15, 2012

CIPD Study: Job Satisfaction and Employee Engagement at Odds, Oddly

Managers may think they are motivating employees. However, employee engagement in most organizations is still rather limited. My previous report on BlessingWhite's 2011 employee engagement study shows that we still have a long way to go. Many organizations and managers simply do not do enough of the right stuff, and there are as many employees who simply aren't interested in being anything but neutrally engaged.

Even when the most obviously right things are done, such as involving employees in goal setting and providing the social lubricant for employees to get on well with each other, there are three things that continue not to be working well enough in our organizations. This is according to the recent 2012 study by CIPD - The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. Most managers aren't talking to employees about their personal development (only 39% do); too few are giving feedback on a regular basis (only 46% do); and coaching on the job is in short supply (only 30% do). And, some employees will do what they can to avoid the attention.

Let's look a bit more closely at the CIPD report on employee engagement. The research covered more than 285,000 employees and managers, randomly selected within the profile of the workforce in the UK, and who are employed across the major sectors of the economy. What makes it interesting is that this replicates a study done approximately six months earlier, so it is possible to identify some patterns and trends (June 2012 and Dec 2011).

The "employee engagement" talked about in this study isn't just about whether people like the boss or the job. It is also about how the job fits with their personal lives and whether they have friendships at work. Other aspects of "engagement" are factors such as the person's attitude to the company itself, whether the employer's goals are of meaning to the employee and whether there is a sense of belonging and future for the employee.

According to the CIPD survey, a surprising 58% of employees are "neutrally engaged". Although this is a positive shift of 2% (up from 60%) from the results of the winter 2011 survey, it is not a good sign when more than half of the working population goes about their job in a half-hearted manner. Interestingly, the proportion of employees who are completely "disengaged" remains constant at 3%. Progress is shown, though, in the overall index of "engagement". The number here has crept up from 36% to 39%. Managers should not be resting on the laurels, though. There is much room for improvement.

The predominant group of "neutrally engaged" employees is, curiously, pretty satisfied with both the boss and the job. Although, it turns out, 22% of them are job hunting. In their state of "neutral engagement", they won't be exerting much discretionary effort to help the employer. They are also unlikely to rock the boat to cause trouble (or attract attention?) The good news is that it is possible to find out what would engage them and to put in management practices to raise the engagement needle.

"Cherchez le manager" (loosely translated as "seek out the manager") is common wisdom by now when it comes to understanding employees' levels of engagement, productivity and general satisfaction with the job. However, the CIPD study reports that the group of "neutrally engaged" employees don't have many complaints about their relationships with their immediate managers. Nearly three-quarters (72%) of them feel they are being treated fairly. However, according to the study, the three practices I mentioned above (PD discussions/feedback/coaching) are in the way of moving them to showing signs of true engagement. Some 61% of employees don't have the personal career discussions they would like to have with their immediate managers. A full 70% report that they're not getting the coaching they need. More than half (54%) carry on working without knowing how they're doing as they're not getting regular performance feedback from their manager.

These three management activities are a great place to start in focusing our attention on lifting engagement levels. What other practices do you consider will also help here? Please share. In my next post, I will consider some other ramifications for how we manage employees resulting from this important CIPD survey.

Find out more about keeping your employees motivated and working to peak performance. Check out our guide, 2 Way Feedback, at


CIPD Employee Outlook, Summer Edition 2012

Friday, August 17, 2012

Web Content Management Systems - What's the Best?

Whether you are new to conducting business online or already have a satisfactory web-based business and you are considering using a Content Management System (CMS), I suggest you consider Wordpress for your next web site. It is open-source, i.e., the code exists in the public domain - and it is free. Wordpress is the easiest and the most widely used of the three most popular open-source CMSs (the other two being Drupal and Joomla).

The Wordpress code is regularly updated, providing you with a greater degree of protection against hackers. There is also a constant array of new and improved free plugins and templates available, developed by other users. The plugins offer a range of wonderful resources, such as shopping carts and social media buttons, to meet the needs of today's online shopper and browser, and hence, making your web site more attractive and capable of generating business for you. Some templates are also for sale, broadening the range of options available to you.

Unlike using a desktop web design tool, you design your site in the cloud; meaning on your web host's server. Because the design tools are part of the package, you avoid the frustration and expense of commercially developed software. You don't have to learn a complex interface before you can do your design. And, willing help is easily available from numerous experienced users, should you need it.

Originally developed as a blogging platform, Wordpress is frequently used by web publishers to develop sites containing all of the features one would expect to find in a site that looks and performs like a professionally designed web site. However, you'll have less control than you would expect from a full desktop design program.

The hard-coding available in a desktop program provides scope that you won't get with Wordpress, but for someone who is new to web site design, or not a professional developer, Wordpress probably does all you would need. (There is always the option to bring in a web developer to do some of the behind-the-scenes work, if needed.)

In addition to the choices to make regarding your CMS, you also have to decide where to publish your site. Although it is possible to publish on the Wordpress domain at, it won't create the professional image you probably want if you are going to use the site for commercial purposes. Consider publishing your web site on your own domain, which should reflect the essence of your business or product line.

A great source of useful information would be someone who is already a Wordpress user, who may be able to advise you about the pitfalls. Plan and set up your site structure correctly, before all else. It is also advisable to get professional help in locking down your site when you are done, to protect it from hackers.

Please avail yourself of the information available in my articles on online marketing: it is essential to know how to make your web site visible, to ensure that you have that much-desired online presence. When your new website is up, please send us your URL so we can admire your creation. We wish you the best in this new venture!

Find out more about promoting your web site and getting maximum return on your investment. Check out my informative articles at

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Gallup-Healthways Study Reveals Work Well-Being Remains Low

American workplaces are unhappy and unhealthy environments. The latest news from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index is that improvements seen in job creation and economic growth are not reflected in the work environment.

Despite a slight improvement since the lowest point in 2011, the work environment indicator is still three points below its position in the first report of 2008. Of all the indices, it has dropped the deepest and recovered the least. The current overall well-being score is 66.8, whereas the work environment index is a mere 48.5.

The study, conducted jointly by the Gallup organization and Healthways, a consulting company, took four years to complete and is based on the data of 1.4 million people across America. The index comprises six core elements: life evaluation, emotional health, work environment, physical health, healthy behaviors and access to basic necessities.

The work environment index further contains the four sub-indices of job satisfaction, ability to use one’s strengths at work, supervisor treatment and working in an open and trusting environment. The supervisor treatment sub-index considers styles ranging from authoritative to inclusive.

The findings should come as no great surprise if we consider that economic growth continues to be uneven and uncertain. The massive lay-offs and resultant work intensification of recent years hardly bode well either for improvement in job satisfaction; and there is little time for relationship-building.

I believe this is an opportunity to look at things differently. There is leverage in this grim picture for someone willing to try something different. By creating the kind of workplace that attracts and retains high-fliers and by adopting a strategy that builds trust and supports job satisfaction, you could outpace your competitors.

As a starting point, do three things to transform the culture of your work environment. Ask and answer these questions:

1. What do employees need to be successful in their jobs? 2. What does job satisfaction look like in the eyes of your own employees? 3. What changes should be made to the level and nature of supervisory support?

Supervisors and managers need a new way of managing. Instead of the command-control ethos, the adoption of a strength-based approach, which builds trust at all levels, is the new competitive advantage. Building skills through training is a critical lever in creating such behavior and culture change.

Do you have corporate goals ensuring performance growth and a positive workplace culture? In the spirit of shared learning, please let me know what you’re doing and how it is working for you.

Find out more about keeping your employees motivated and working to peak performance. Check out our guide, 2 Way Feedback, at

Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index

State of Well-Being 2011