Thoughts about hr and management in the real world – extra information I couldn't fit in my books!.

Is your workplace and HR this clever?

Fraser and I recently spent a week in Copenhagen, Denmark. Every day we were constantly seeing things that were just really clever!

Things like:

  • Towels had a loop to hang them up with.
  • Cycle lanes were inside a parking lane for cars so people were safe biking.
  • Every bus and train had bike stands inside with a flip down seat so you could sit near your bike & it saved space.
  • The dishwasher in the apartment had a fitted door so you couldn’t see it. To know if it was on or not, there was a light underneath it that shone on the floor while it was going.
  • Beds in Denmark are all two single beds put together as a double with two single duvets. Though this was strange to start with it was actually quite clever because women are men have different body temperatures overnight and this way no-one gets blamed in the morning for stealing the duvet!!
  • Apartment blocks all have the ground floor half a story up so no one on the street can see into your windows and the basement below becomes the storage area. And all the low rise apartments had communal lawns and bin areas which again was really clever.
  • Even the stairs down to the train station had a metal rail at the side that you could wheel your bike down.

Overall we were both really impressed that things had been thought through. That the consequences and outputs had been considered. How often does that happen with our HR or workplace policies? How often do managers or employees read policies or walk around the workplace and think “That’s really clever. They’ve really thought that through”.

More often than not we look at our HR or workplace policies and are frustrated with them.

Imagine if we could flip that and impress managers and employees with clever thought through policies and practices.

Having been involved with the HR Game Changer movement over the last few years I heard about some clever things but these are few and far between.

I think we should take a leaf out of Denmark’s book and actually start thinking things through properly rather than following fads. We should stand back and ask “is that actually a clever solution? Are people going to say that’s really well thought out and it works really well”.

If not, we should go back to the drawing board. Because walking round Copenhagen and constantly seeing clever things really was an experience that stands out in a great way.

If you need some inspiration for those clever things that I’ve heard about here are a few that I’ll share:

  • At Google, when employees complained that promotion wasn’t being applied fairly the HR team actually analysed how many people being promoted, what level in the company they were, what riled they were in – and put the stats out quarterly so that everybody could actually see. After that people rated promotion far more fairly. Clever!
  • At Valve, people work on projects so their desks are on wheels and each morning they move their desk to whoever they’re working with that day. So that everyone knows where they are there is an app with a map so you can find people! Very clever!
  • Atlassian in Australia do a number of clever things. Employees can ask HR questions on the intranet and anybody can answer those questions – it’s not owned by HR. Employees do blogs about their experiences working for Atlassian and videos about what the values mean to them. They have ship It days where they work on a solution. They sent a bus around Europe to find programmers when they couldn’t find any in Australia. They developed the mood app. I could go on but you get the idea there are clever things going on!
  • Google also ask team members to rate their manager and then the ratings are provided to the manager. The HR team realised if there was any punishment for low ratings then managers might bribe their teams to rate them well or it would drive the wrong behaviours so cleverly they made it a development tool and managers now share the ratings and use them to develop and improve themselves. Thats clever!
  • Horowhenua District Council HR team won the HR Game Changer Award for 2015 with their initiative of providing HR advice and support to the Levin Community of small businesses! Again – very clever.

If you want further inspiration I’d recommend reading Work Rules by Laszlo Boch (about Google) or checking out the HR Game Changer website ( and I will be writing a book to capture some of these ideas which I’m hoping to finish at the end of this year.

So go and get Danish and make your HR and workplaces clever!


Angela Atkins is a best-selling author and business entrepreneur who has been working to transform the HR profession. She is the People & Learning Director for Elephant – who run HR training, conferences and management development in both New Zealand and the UK. For more visit or 


2 comments on “Is your workplace and HR this clever?

  1. Keri
    September 26, 2016

    Dejlig oversigt Angela 🙂 Time to change the Kiwi workplace mantra of ‘She’ll be right’ to ‘She’ll be great’ I think. Look forward to reading your book.

    • angelaatkins
      September 26, 2016

      Hej Keri – I like it. That would be a great new mantra!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on September 22, 2016 by in culture, human resources and tagged , , .
%d bloggers like this: