Confessions of a benefits manager: Candid gets in training

It is not often that the organisation development (OD) team do something I admire. Most of the time it suggests pointless activities rather than helpful training, making us categorise the workforce by competency or by ‘high potential’.

OD programmes are all so depressing. I mean, if you are not categorised as high potential does that mean you are low potential? That said, being high potential doesn’t guarantee much. I once checked a redundancy list against the last year’s high potential list and found that a good third of the people considered expendable had been rated as superstars the year before. And what happens if you don’t have the right competencies? I don’t want to be labelled as incompetent.

Although ‘development’ is in the department name, the OD team rarely does any development as such, and if it does it is outsourced to expensive consultants. I have budget envy. This time they’ve secured a new training platform. It’s expensive I’m sure, but I have to say I rather like it. It allows staff to enrol in so many vocational classes per year and even some classes to help our wellbeing. Basically, it is like a spa you can do on work time.

So not interested

Of course, the problem is finding any spare time with back-to-back meetings and deadlines. I manage to find half an hour at the end of the day to peruse the prospectus. I run a cursory eye over the business courses which I know I should do, but I’m so not interested. I tick one on digital developments just so that it looks like I am keen to keep up to date. The wellbeing courses are so much more attractive. There are various mediation courses, but I decide to save those for when I can better control interruptions. Instead, I click on mental health resilience. Just the thing I need right now.

The class is a series of videos you can watch on demand and there is a short quiz at the end of each section, so you must stay awake and pay attention. The trainer has been involved in an emergency taskforce that gets deployed to clean up the mess when there is a disaster such an earthquake or a flood. That certainly puts my idea of work stress into perspective. Even at his worst, Big Bad Boss isn’t that destructive. The training starts by talking about authenticity. To be resilient we need to know our values and to develop our strengths. Hmmn. I know my values and I also know they do not sit with the values of the Higher Beings. It doesn’t stop me doing a good job, but it does stop me enjoying it sometimes. Identifying strengths is subject of a whole other course and I add that to my wish-list.

Funny look

The second session is about calling: doing work that really matters. Sigh. Other people have jobs that really matter. Working out how to get cheaper benefits so the Higher Beings can look good doesn’t really cut it as a calling. I am reminded of the funny look you get when you try to explain a reward job to someone who works in the real world, like a plumber or a gardener. If you say you specialise in pay and benefits, they think you work for the dole office. One guy, a builder, was so mystified by my explanation, he kept saying ‘yes, but what do you actually do?’ I put numbers into spreadsheets, I explained. He got it then. It is so humiliating. Why am I not a brain surgeon or a postman? It would be so much easier to explain and to feel it matters. This course is not helping my mental wellbeing at all.

Next, we get to the meat of the training course: managing stress. The trainer tells me to find balance between work and life and to take time to relax. Really? I hadn’t thought of that. The course suggests that I keep a journal of work stress and find ways to mitigate any stressors. Easier said than done, mate. I do like his suggestion of blocking out wellbeing time in my calendar every day. I suspect multiple meetings will get booked over the top of my wellbeing hour, but it’s certainly worth a try.

Nice people

Colleagues are meant to be my next armoury against stress. Frankly, that is just ridiculous. Colleagues are my stress. Take Lazy Susan, she is meant to be sharing my workload in global benefits, but in fact she spends all her time on social media. I can’t leave her in charge of anything important because she will mess it up and it will take hours to correct her mistakes. I’m expected to work with our HR business partners to roll things out to local teams. Although they are all nice people – nice people are drawn to generalist HR jobs, unlike the specialist roles which attract sociopaths – they are called generalist because they are generally ineffective. They forget deadlines and miss emails and fail to follow through. They do it so nicely it is hard to complain, but it is still a source of great frustration. No, I think I can rule out colleagues to help with my resilience.

Finally, the course recommends building networks both inside and outside the organisation. Yes, that makes sense. It is always a good idea to network when you are not actually looking for a job. It is a good idea too, to talk to recruiters when there is no real sense of urgency that might come across as desperation.

Just like after any classroom-based training, I need to complete a course assessment. Do I feel more resilient after taking this class? No, I don’t. On the more positive side, I get to sit and think about things which made a nice change from filling in spreadsheets. What’s even better is I got paid for it.

Next time… Candid reviews company cars.