Feeling Boxed In?
by Deanna Hartley | Diversity Executive
She was born in Cuba; she must speak Spanish fluently. He’s a millennial; he must be tech savvy.
These types of statements float around offices so often leaders frequently assume certain individuals possess expertise in certain areas simply because they are affiliated with a particular group.
She’s just back from maternity leave; she must not be ready to take on this project. He has a visual impairment; how could he possibly perform this job?
Perhaps worse, leaders may unconsciously discount certain employees based on unfounded perceptions or stereotypes. Even if this behavior is unintentional, it has the potential to impede successful execution of business objectives.
Patterns of Pigeonholing
Stereotypes are pervasive in North America and in Europe. Catalyst, a consulting company focused on women and leadership, has conducted numerous studies examining different cultural perceptions, and the stereotypes that result from them, around the world. “People tend to perceive that women are more effective than men at what we call ‘take care’ behaviors, things like supporting and rewarding their subordinates. Men tend to be seen as much more effective than women at ‘take charge’ leadership behaviors, things like influencing superiors, delegating and problem solving,” said Jeanine Prime, senior director of research at Catalyst.
Public perception tends to favors men as default leaders because people think they possess qualities that embody effective leadership, which naturally places women at a disadvantage. As a result, women are more underrepresented the higher one travels up the corporate ladder.
“If they do ascend to leadership positions, we often find that it’s in support roles - in HR, in administrative-type roles, which gets back to the stereotype of women being sense as caretakers,” Prime said. “Stereotypes create these patterns that we see when we look at both the level of the position that men and women are occupying and the types of roles.” One specific instance where stereotypical misconceptions can hinder women’s opportunities for advancement occurs when they want to start a family yet also want to progress in their careers, said Wanda Brackins, head of global diversity for RBC Wealth Management.
“When an employee returns to work after having a child, many times the person may be overlooked for large special assignments because the idea is, they now have little to no flexibility given child care constraints and the need to adhere to stricter work hours,” she said. “This perception may stifle employees who would otherwise be relatively assertive or who would be top performers. Neither the company nor the employee benefits because the employee is not motivated to give 100 percent.”
Another example of this type of workplace stereotyping - intentional or inadvertent - can occur with employees who have disabilities.
“For example, an individual with a visual impairment might be interviewing for a position in the IT field, perhaps as a programmer. Immediately the interviewer draws the conclusion that the person would not be good for the role,” Brackins said. “How is this person going to program when they can’t see? Or, if they have some type of functional impairment, how are the going to perform a role that requires motor skills?
“Oftentimes people are hung up on the fact that they don’t know how they would accomplish certain tasks under similar circumstances. These conclusions are drawn without ever asking the person with the disability to explain their process and what accommodations they would require.”
What leaders should do in this type of situation is provide the candidate with the job requirements and have the individual explain how he or she would get the job done. Marci Paino, director of learning services for S2 Learning Ltd., is a member of one of the most talked-about generations in today’s workforce: Gen Y. She said she often has experienced stereotypical behavior - even from senior leaders.
“One stereotypical I experienced quite a bit with a previous boss was being treated like a child,” Paino said. “When I was given a project or activity or task to do, and I asked for some reason behind it or some explanation around it, the response I got often was, ‘Just do it because I told you so.’”
This type of response likely is more appropriate for a parent-child relationship than a working one between colleagues where a mature, reciprocal discussion with respect for each other’s points of view is necessary.
“That’s where the stereotype about Gen Y always questioning everything and feeling entitlement comes from,” she said. “We just want to know the reason behind things, to understand things thoroughly, and that sometimes comes across as threatening because other generations have more of a ‘do what you’re told’ mentality.”
The potential business implications of assuming employees possess a skill set they do or don’t have based on their affiliation with a certain group are far from trivial.
“Let’s say somebody assumes that I speak Spanish fluently just because I’m Latina and I was born in Cuba,” said Graciela Meibar, vice president, global diversity at Mattel, Inc. “They ask me to take care of the translation of an important document for the company, and I’d rather not do it; my professional Spanish is not that great, but my boss insists. “I speak Spanish, but am I the person qualified to translate that document? I do it, and it’s full of errors and mistakes. We waste time; we waste energy, and I’m like, ‘Why am I doing this?’” she said.
This type of scenario directly impacts business goals. Not only have resources, time and productivity been wasted, but employees also may become disengaged.
“If you make assumptions about any group without really getting to know the individual at a personal level, you’re not maximizing the capabilities of the individual or the group,” Meibar said.
Further, organizations can risk arriving at the wrong conclusions if its employees make sweeping generalizations about groups of individuals.
“Organizations that allow their talent management processes to be biased by stereotyping risk not being able to assess and evaluate the talent that they have,” Prime said.
“That can create huge inefficiencies and cause the organization to be ineffective because if you can’t evaluate, you don’t know how to deploy, so the wrong people get promoted, the people who need to be promoted aren’t, they become demotivated and you can’t train the correct groups of people. Organizations need to try to avoid stereotyping and prevent bias from creeping into talent management processes because if they do, they can’t fully avail themselves of the best talent in the marketplace.”
What’s tricky is that stereotyping often occurs under the radar, so many organizations are under the false impression that their performance management processes are gender neutral.
“The intention is not to discriminate in application of those processes, but discrimination does occur, and that really speaks to why companies have to be proactive, putting in checks and balances to make sure that women and men have equal chances of succeeding, and that the organization really leverages the best of those women and men,” Prime said.
Whether it’s intentional or not, stereotyping has the potential to adversely affect employee morale and performance.
“A team’s productivity is impacted, especially if it’s one person stereotyping another person with that same team,” Prime said. “It also drives workplace cliques. All of that impacts a person’s emotions, which directly links to them being able to perform. They’re thinking about the drama going on around them; it’s hard to focus on what they have to get done for their jobs.”
Paino said some of her previous employers hosted generational awareness meetings or training sessions during which they presented sweeping generalities of each generation’s characteristics - a format that only served to reinforce stereotypes.
Instead, she said companies that focus on team building activities to showcase how generations are similar might have greater success at helping different generations bond. Tactics to thwart typecasting are essential to move diversity - and the business - forward.
“At the end of the day, what you want to do through diversity and inclusion is truly improve processes, engagement and employee involvement, and you do that by getting to know them on a personal level, getting to know their skills without making assumptions,” Meibar said.
“It’s about developing the soft skills in individuals, especially the leaders because it’s a benefit for the company that you have the right people doing the right jobs, and they’re engaged in doing them.”
That’s why a significant aspect of Mattel’s internal leadership training is on honing soft skills.
“It’s all about maximizing the team, making sure that you, as a leader, are taking into consideration not only the objectives and goals of the team, but also the individuals,” Meibar said. “It’s all about making sure that you’re never making judgments based on your biases or based on your own beliefs.”
One technique leaders can leverage to ensure they judge each employee on his or her individual skills and merit is to encourage dialogue among teams. For instance, before a team of 10 begins work on a project, members can take a handful of minutes to get to know each other.
“I might speak Swahili, but people will not know unless they ask me about who I am,” Meibar said. “Every time we do training, we do little games - and at times people might think we’re being a little silly, but we ask, ‘What’s the first record you ever bought?’ or ‘What do you like to do on the weekend?’ Make sure you’re always maintaining a dialogue that’s beyond the project itself because that’s where the richness of contributions will come through.”
To reduce or prevent potential bias of stereotyping, some companies also put checks and balances in their performance management systems, Prime said.
“One company calls them talent challenge sessions, where people have to defend why they’re recommending John but not Sue for a promotion,” she said. “Research shows that when you have to explain and argue your choices, subjective factors and stereotyping are less likely to occur, so part of it is really encouraging people to think about their talent decisions and why they make recommendations for promotions.”
The Danger of Making Assumptions
Pigeonholing employees based on blanket assumptions because of their affiliation with a group - such as assuming all millennial employees are tech savvy - can have far-reaching consequences that include legal liability and adverse business impacts.
First, leaders may not just be starting with a false premise, they may be setting this employees up for failure, explained Kathleen McLeod Caminiti, partner with Fisher & Phillips LLP.
“It may adversely affect them because they may not have the level of skill you believe they have, which could lead to a skills gap that could affect their performance and ultimately business goals,” she said.
Conversely, when leaders make erroneous assumptions they may inadvertently underutilize segments of the workforce. For example, Caminiti said leaders may underestimate older workers’ skills by assuming that because someone is in their 40s or 50s, they are not tech savvy. “You may be leaving a lot of talent untapped because those people may have an interest or experience that you’re not taking advantage of as an employer,” she explained.
Underestimating workers’ skills or not evaluating exactly what those skills are also could lead to leaders making wrong decisions when setting up teams or establishing expectations on how employees should meet business goals.
“Evaluate all your employees based on their actual talent, actual experience, actual training,” she said. “If you don’t do that, it can lead to frustration in the workplace and morale problems, and it could also lead to missed business opportunities or unrealized business goals.”
If leaders rid themselves of stereotypes, it can enable organizations to reach their full potential. That’s why it’s important for diversity leaders to remain proactive in guarding against antiquated or limited thinking.
“Older worker stereotypes include not having stamina, assuming somebody is going to retire because they’re of a certain age, or assuming they might not want to work longer hours or might not want to travel,” Caminiti said. “All of those assumptions may be false, and in those circumstances you are holding back people to the extent that you’re denying them opportunities for advancement.”
In the same vein, if leaders base other business decisions - such as which individuals to let go in the event of a workforce reduction - on stereotypes as opposed to legitimate reasons, it could provide grounds for employees to take legal action.
Gender discrimination is another area where a leader’s stereotypes might expose a company to legal risk.
“Women of childbearing age, or who are married or have children - sometimes the stereotype is they won’t want to travel,” Caminiti said. “Leaders who find themselves saying or thinking, ‘Well, we can’t give women this promotion because they’ll need to take [time] off because of their kids; they don’t have the level of commitment that their male counterparts have’ may have a problem.”
This could lead to discrimination suits in addition to other potentially expensive legal missteps.
“Not only are there lawsuits that arise where managers are making employment decisions based upon stereotypes or preconceived notions as opposed to actual skills and performance, you have the potential for suits for hostile work environment and discrimination, pay disparity. Those types of lawsuits certainly lend themselves to situations where employees are not treated based upon objective performance data, but rather on stereotypes,” Caminiti said.
[About the Author: Deanna Hartley is an Associate Editor for Diversity Executive magazine.]
Four Steps to Manage Workplace Arguments
by Travis Bradberry | Talent Management
Arguments, disagreements and differences of opinion are unavoidable facts of working life. Our inability to see eye-to-eye is so central to the human condition that some clashes stem from our physiology more than our free will.
A recent study published in Current Biology that was conducted by the University College London Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience found significant anatomical differences in the brains of liberals and conservatives that contributed to their opposing political beliefs. It appears the human race is built for conflict. So, what’s a talent manager to do?
When your opinions don’t mesh well with those of the person sitting across from you, the mark you leave on the situation comes from how well you understand and manage your emotions - not from what you say to prove your point. When emotions are allowed to run haywire during a disagreement, things discombobulate very quickly and the discussion goes nowhere.
From the boardroom to the break room, arguments will inevitably surface, and the key to enabling employees to handle these situations well is emotional intelligence, or EQ. Employees who are trained to argue with emotional intelligence will accomplish two things:
1. The argument itself will be far more rational and productive.
Removing their strong emotions from the equation by following the steps outlined below will keep them from fanning the flames of discord. Regardless of how agitated the other party is, when someone remains calm, people are forced to lean further in this direction than they would have otherwise.
2. The argument will do less damage to the working relationship.
Disagreements are fine, as long as they are conducted with consideration and respect. When someone explodes with emotion and says things that are better left unsaid, it has a lasting, negative impact on the relationship. However, if the person approached a disagreement with emotional intelligence, it has the opposite effect: It strengthens the relationship by showing the other person respect even when there’s disagreement with his or her opinion.
Talent managers can lead by example: When they find themselves in the middle of a disagreement, they can take the emotional high road for the greater good of the relationship. It’s crucial to avoid being defensive, remain open and practice the following strategies.
a) Ask good questions.
People want to be heard; if they don’t feel heard, frustration rises. Managers can beat frustration to the punch and ask the other party to elaborate on his or her point of view. Even if the other person has already gone on and on about his or her opinions, it’s critical to ask good questions about what he or she thinks and why he or she has reached these conclusions. Managers must control their own feelings as needed and focus on understanding where the other person is coming from. By asking for input, they will show that they care about the other person’s opinions and have an interest in learning more about his or her beliefs. This act establishes respect as the foundation for the discussion.
b) Resist the urge to plan comebacks and rebuttals.
A person’s brain cannot listen well and prepare to speak at the same time. Managers must use their self-management skills to silence their inner voice and direct their attention to the person while he or she is speaking. The key is to focus their energy on what’s required to engage in an emotionally intelligent discussion or argument. When they do the opposite - by focusing on winning the argument, or at least sneaking a barb in - they are engaging in an unproductive habit.
c) Help the other person understand your side of things.
Now it is the manager’s turn to help the other person understand his or her perspective. This is an important step because people are usually happy to voice their opinions, but they do nothing to bridge the gap between their perspective and how the other party sees things. Managers can describe their discomfort, thoughts, ideas and the reasons behind their thought process. They must communicate clearly and simply, and avoid speaking in circles or in rhetorical code. This ability to explain their thoughts may not win the other party over, but it will certainly garner their respect.
d) Keep in touch.
Any resolution to an argument is not going to come in the heat of the moment. Managers can demonstrate a high degree of emotional intelligence by checking in with the other person once the dust has settled. The idea here is to see if the other party is satisfied with how things are being handled and to determine if there are any new avenues both parties can explore to reach common ground.
[About the Author: Travis Bradberry is president and co-founder of TalentSmart, a provider of emotional intelligence tests and training products, and author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0.]
Perfecting Performance Management
by Marc Effron | Talent Management
Few talent processes are as powerful or as widely despised as performance management. The steps to align employees with corporate goals, coach them to higher performance and assess their accomplishments often elicit an unending stream of complaints from managers and employees alike. Talent managers should ignore the siren’s calls to eliminate the performance review, and instead create a process that’s guided by science, easy to use and features clear accountability.
Thanks to 60 years of psychology research, we have information to set goals that create higher motivation and drive performance. Science tells us that:
1. More difficult goals produce higher performance:
We increase our effort as a goal becomes more challenging. The old performance management maxim of “three regular goals and a stretch goal” doesn’t cut it. Today it should be four stretch goals.
2. Goals motivate better when they coincide with self-interest:
When we believe a goal can help us earn, learn or realize other personal objectives, we’ll be more motivated to complete it. This doesn’t mean employees should set their own goals. In fact, allowing them to do so can easily reduce the power of the first point.
3. Fewer goals are better than many:
The more goals we have, the less effort we can give to each. Science doesn’t tell us the right number of goals, but my experience is few of us have more than five truly important goals in any given year.
Many parts of the typical performance management system add complexity to the manager’s life without adding value. You can eliminate many traditional bells and whistles to make your process easier and more efficient for your managers.
4. Encourage a one-page goal setting and review form:
We can all agree it’s not about the form, but a complex, difficult-to-use form can poison the process for both managers and employees. The only form elements supported by science are a goal statement, metrics and a section to evaluate results. Anything else you want to include should be considered guilty until you prove it innocent.
5. Kill the labels:
Fancy classifications such as “valued contributor” or “star performer” complicate the message you’re trying to send to employees. Simply tell them they exceeded, met or partially met their goals last year.
6. Precision does not equal accuracy:
Especially popular in scientific and engineering cultures, the precise, formulaic calculation of a performance score gives managers comfort but adds absolutely no value. It is impossible for a manager to accurately measure the difference between a 3.7 and a 3.8 performer. Eliminate the calculation, and force managers to consider the totality of accomplishments and assign a rating.
Even the most well-intentioned manager might not always complete performance management in the time and fashion you require. Two powerful levers can help.
a) Time-bomb communication:
We can help managers do the right thing by making our expectations visible. At key points in your process - goal setting, coaching, reviews - have your CEO or HR leader send a message to every employee covered by performance management detailing the process and expectation.
The message should describe the process, timing, what employees should expect from their manager and what managers should expect from employees. You’ve handed the manager a ticking time bomb and given him or her easy instructions to defuse it.
b) Forcing/guiding/managing a distribution:
Highly controversial but increasingly popular, providing strong guidance for performance distribution is a response to the chronic inflation of ratings seen in most companies. If properly challenging goals are set, a reasonable distribution should be achieved. But until managers are fully competent at this activity, the training wheels provided by managed distributions are a helpful tool.
Spend one hour today thinking about how you could decrease complexity, increase transparency or drive more accountability in your performance management process. You don’t need to redesign the entire process; simply chip away factors that are causing the most pain. It’s the most powerful thing you can do to improve your company’s performance.
[About the Author: Marc Effron is president of The Talent Strategy Group and author of One Page Talent Management.]
Setting the Strategy Is Just the Beginning
by Ladan Nikravan | Chief Learning Officer
The execution of strategy is dependent upon executives and team members on the front line being clear about the organization’s priorities and how they must act to achieve the stated objectives. To be successful leaders, executives need to be as diligent in guiding strategy execution as they are at setting and communicating strategic direction.
“The classic pitfall in executing any kind of strategy is not properly engaging your leadership and broader employee population on what it is that you want them to do,” said Rommin Adl, executive vice president at BTS, a strategy implementation consultancy. “Lack of alignment, mindset and capability are leading barriers to effective execution. It is very straightforward: If your organization doesn’t get what you want them to do, [is] not passionate about doing it, and [does] not have the proper skills to execute, chances are your strategy is dead in the water.”
Despite the great amount of time and energy that goes into such strategy development, many companies have little to show for their efforts. Research by consultancy Marakon Associates has found that on average organizations only deliver 63 percent of the financial performance their strategies promise.
A 2007 study by OnPoint Consulting on the gap between strategy and execution reported that 49 percent of leaders surveyed perceived a gap between their strategies and execution. Of this group, 64 percent did not have full confidence that their company would be able to close the gap.
“A good strategy includes proximate objectives whose accomplishment lie within the organization’s capabilities,” said Richard Rumelt, author of Good Strategy/Bad Strategy. “That by itself is a huge step toward execution. When executives define strategy in terms of financial or other performance measures, the gap between these goals and their accomplishments is really a failure of strategy. However, it’s often blamed on execution.” Successfully achieving execution takes more than clarifying and communicating the organization’s strategic direction. A good business strategy also addresses problems and challenges.
“Too many so-called strategies are all hope and forward-looking projections,” Rumelt said. “A strategy acknowledges the frictions and difficulties. It is those difficulties [that] shape it.”
He added that a good strategy sets priorities as well. “A good strategy addresses the issue of focus or choice,” he said. “Many organizations try to ring many bells at once and consequently do not coordinate enough energy on any one bell to actually get a good, solid ring. Good strategy focuses energy on what is critical.”
In May, a survey by consultancy Aon Hewitt of 1,328 employers nationwide reported 56 percent of respondents indicating leaders play a vital role in meeting business goals and profitability targets and delivering service. Forty-four percent said they play a vital role in retaining talent. However, only 12 percent of respondents said their leaders are extremely effective at meeting business goals. Further, the survey discovered that almost half of the leaders surveyed do perceive a gap between their organizations’ ability to develop and communicate sound strategies and their ability to implement those strategies.
The leader’s job is to create the vision for the enterprise in a way that will engage its people’s imagination and energies. This gap is a hindrance to business performance, and the solution is additional learning.
Seventy one percent of respondents in a recent survey conducted by BTS and business association The Conference Board considered the biggest threats to strategy execution to be lack of understanding, commitment and skills.
According to BTS’ Adl, the way to build these skills is through learning initiatives that allow leaders to test the strategy implementation via hands-on experience.
“Through immersion in a risk-free environment, leaders can practice executing the company’s new strategy, make mistakes and gain firsthand experience in what superior execution looks and feels like,” Adl said. “The outcome is powerful alignment, ownership, motivation and confidence to make the strategy happen back on the job. Traditional event-based learning programs do not provide the opportunity to practice strategy execution, especially compared with applied experiential learning programs, but there may be an opportunity among learning and development practitioners to improve their business acumen and become better partners to senior executives in the strategy execution process.”
[About the Author: Ladan Nikravan is an associate editor of Chief Learning Officer magazine.]
Doing Competencies Right
by Marc Effron | Talent Management
The field of talent management faces an interesting challenge. We should be fully equipped to solve any talent issue.
Yet, when corporate executives are surveyed about the state of their company’s talent, they’re decidedly unhappy. McKinsey, Deloitte and Boston Consulting Group each have found executives disappointed with the quality and depth of their company’s talent and its processes to build more. There seems to be a gap between our potential to deliver results and our actual impact.
Bridging that gap is the key to our long-term success, and we have a potentially powerful tool at hand to drive organization success - the behavioral competency model. If well-constructed, it should tell employees which behaviors are essential for corporate success in a simple and emotionally compelling way. Unfortunately, that’s an infrequent result. What’s not working?
The science behind competencies is extremely thin. Talent practices such as performance management rely on a strong foundation of academic research; competencies do not. Before we start development, we should define what we’re trying to accomplish. The purpose of competencies is to ensure employees’ behaviors support the business strategy. With that as the objective, we should identify the simplest possible way to achieve it.
Value must outweigh complexity. Managers are willing to use an HR process only if it adds more value to their life than it does complexity. That’s why the 12-competency, four-level, five-descriptors-per-level competency model is dead on arrival at most companies. That type of model might add some value, but it completely overwhelms managers, so they ignore it or do the minimum necessary to comply. Maintaining the value/complexity balance is your secret to designing a competency model that really works.
Create an effective competency model. Remember your business goal to ensure that employees’ behaviors support the business strategy. Then, do the following:
1. Listen to your senior team.
Interview your top team members using one simple question: Which three behaviors are most critical for our success in the next three to five years?
2. Identify the vital themes.
Review interview data to identify the four or five themes that emerge. Don’t frame those themes in HR speak, just capture sentiments as they were expressed. You’ll find two or three themes everyone agrees on and two or three more with some group support.
3. Write a short sentence that describes each theme.
Each sentence should capture the behaviors in the theme and also should use the language you use in your company; be intuitive and easily understood; cause an emotional connection to the company; and be applicable across all people practices.
Here is an example: “Hate bureaucracy and the nonsense that goes with it.” You read that and instantly you know what that behavior would look like. It causes a positive emotional connection to the company, as long as you hate bureaucracy. It uses the language of your organization. If your goal is to have employees’ behaviors support the strategy, sentences like that will provide 90 percent of what you need.
What to Do Next
Integrate into every HR process. Use the power of HR processes to reinforce the new behaviors. They should be part of selection, performance management, training, talent reviews and 360s.
Answer the question “Why should I?” You can hold employees accountable for these behaviors through performance management, talent reviews or 360s. But pick one area and build in consequences for not aligning with the model.
Revise them when the strategy changes. You’re trying to align behaviors with the strategy. When the strategy changes, so should the behaviors. The less structure you’ve built around them, the easier this will be.
What Not to Do Next
Define them by level. These behaviors should apply to employees throughout the organization. Measure the frequency with which someone demonstrates them.
Pay for them. Pay for results, not behaviors that enable results. “Some of the time” might be appropriate for managers and “all of the time” for SVPs.
If you can create this simple, compelling and business-driving competency model, you’ll lay a strong foundation for your talent processes and remind your executives of the true value of great talent management.
[About the Author: Marc Effron is president of The Talent Strategy Group and author of One Page Talent Management.]
The Four Ps of High Performance
by Carol Morrison | Human Resource Executive Online
Just as marketers use four Ps for business-marketing strategies — price, product, place and promotion — employers can, and should, adopt a different list of Ps to become high-performing organizations.
Is there a business-school graduate who can’t recite the four Ps of the marketing mix in their sleep? Price, product, place and promotion remain as relevant today as they’ve always been, providing the framework that underlies organizational marketing strategies and programming.
But move over, marketing mix. A new survey reveals another set of four Ps — a “performance mix” that turns up among the winning practices of standout business organizations.
The Seattle-based Institute for Corporate Productivity brings together a fast-growing network of high-performance organizations (defined by their five-year achievements in revenue growth, market share, profitability and customer satisfaction).
Focusing its cutting-edge research on identifying the traits that differentiate those consistently high market performers from their less-successful counterparts, i4cp identified domains that it calls the hallmarks of high-performing companies: strategies, leadership, talent, culture and market focus.
In its 2011 High-Performance Organizations Survey, completed by 914 business leaders from organizations representing companies of varied industries and sizes, i4cp took a deep dive into the domains that characterize high performers.
Responses to questions within each of those defining core elements led to greater insight into top companies and how they function. In fact, the survey, which was conducted in conjunction with Human Resource Executive, revealed interactions among the domains that can be described by four Ps — a performance mix that high-performing organizations apply:
a) They take a proactive approach.
b) They strive to be predictive.
c) Their cultures are pervasive.
d) They reward performance.
Know Your Customers
Establishing a mutually rewarding and lasting relationship lies at the heart of good customer service and drives satisfaction and retention of those customers. Organizations that consistently perform well take a more assertive approach when it comes to getting to know the consumers of their good and services.
A number of survey inquiries underscore the differences in the ways high-performing organizations regard their customers and examine their needs. When compared with lower performers’ responses, significant gaps revealed that the high performers are much more likely to say that they:
a) Organize their internal processes to best meet customer needs,
b) Organize their functions and departments to maximize value to customers,
c) Aspire to be the best providers of value for their customers,
d) Use highly developed strategies to determine customer’s expectations, and
e) Communicate customer information internally so that employees can work more effectively.
Demonstrating that they take customer insight to the uppermost reaches of their firms, high performers also differ markedly from lower performers in describing their leaders as having in-depth knowledge of customers. Further, the top companies confirm that customer insights factor into their development of business strategy.
Look to the Future
High-performing organizations look ahead more than lower performers do, and they use predictive data to drive long-term orientations in multiple areas. They inform product and service design with predictive insights in order to meet customer needs over long time periods, and they identify and address future customer needs.
In fact, the survey respondents representing high performers told i4cp that they do a good job of assessing those future needs, and that their firms are committed to innovation and ready to meet new challenges.
The sense of organizations with workforces that are perpetually facing forward and determined to meet the future head-on is almost palpable in the survey results that separate the higher and lower performers. Top companies are far more likely to say they respond well to changes — those that directly affect the market, as well as the business environment in general.
Further, they see their cultures as being adaptive to market changes, a key trait of a company that is able to look ahead and navigate the volatility of our risk-laden marketplace, making the kind of rapid shifts that turn potential perils into profits.
High-performing companies carry through that penchant for the predictive when it comes to process design, too. They are far more likely to say they craft organizational processes for flexibility, along with efficiency and effectiveness.
Certainly, designing for process flexibility requires prediction and anticipation of changes in technology, customer preferences, supply chains, talent capabilities, market circumstances and the many other factors that shape the business environment.
One Culture for All
What, exactly, is a pervasive culture? As they reviewed the survey data, researchers at i4cp discovered that high market performers differ from less-successful organizations in their answers to questions that, collectively, paint a clear picture: The top firms present the same face internally that they present externally. Their culture is porous. Their values permeate the organization.
Together, these are empowering characteristics because they mean that the brand identity the world sees is consistent with the employee value proposition and the strategies that define and achieve business objectives.
How do we know that high-performing organizations have such pervasive cultures? In the area of market focus, the trait is underscored by high performers’ affirmation that their brand “accurately reflects how we operate as an organization.” When the topic shifts to strategy, gaps in the responses of higher and lower performers offer even stronger signals. “Our organization’s publicly stated philosophy is consistent with its strategy,” say the top firms. They are also more likely to describe their strategies as “clear and well thought out.”
They rest assured that their employees understand the strategy because it’s clearly communicated to all levels of the organization. Further, workers have line-of-sight understanding of the ways strategy affects their individual roles. In a pervasive culture, everyone is on the same page. They know who they are, what they’re about and where they’re going.
A key facilitator of pervasive cultures is communication, and high performers’ responses demonstrate that they get this. Leaders in the top companies deliver specific feedback to their employees, and they make sure it’s done in a timely manner. They clearly communicate what the organization’s goals are and encourage workers to maximize their productivity.
For their part, employees in high-performing organizations enjoy open communication with the managers and leaders who have decision-making authority. Workers feel free to talk about company policies, spending and strategies. High-performing companies make sure their employees get information they need about customers so that they can do their jobs better.
The top firms also are more likely to keep up with advances in technology, enabling faster and more flexible communication across their organizations and more efficient knowledge management. The powerful result is higher levels of employee engagement, a recognized component of individual and organizational performance.
Reward the Performers
In companies that make their strategies transparent and topics for open and ongoing discussion across all organizational levels, expectations and objectives become clear. Because workers in such high-performing organizations understand the connection between their jobs and business strategies, the behaviors needed to accomplish company objectives are more readily apparent, too. That makes it easier to ensure that workers are rewarded for their positive actions that contribute to organizational performance.
High-performing companies outstrip lower performers in their approaches to performance management, the survey results confirm. Top organizations have good systems in place for gauging workers’ performance, and their appraisals are based on objective data instead of managers’ judgments. Performance-management processes are consistent across the organization, too. Perhaps most importantly, high market performers go the extra mile and evaluate the quality of their performance appraisals to ensure that the system functions fairly and effectively.
Responses to the survey statement that “our compensation and rewards system supports employee performance” reflected one of the larger gaps noted between high- and low- performing organizations. The top firms understand that reinforcing desired behaviors in both monetary and non-monetary ways can generate powerful results, and they act on that knowledge.
High-performing organizations recognize that employees’ capabilities drive performance. Those companies make sure that performance appraisals include plans for workers’ development during the near term. They give employees specific goals for learning and skill-building, incorporating their progress toward those objectives into the next appraisal period. The short-term focus keeps development front of mind and ties it to performance.
Not only do the high-performing organizations have strong mechanisms in place to track and improve individual performance, but they also confirm that they track and assess overall organizational performance. That devotion to measurement and dedication to continuous improvement ultimately produce tangible results in revenue generation, profitability, customer satisfaction and market share.
Blending the Elements
The four Ps of the performance mix are not independent elements. Rather, they interact closely. For instance, it’s easy to see that developing proficiencies in using predictive data combines effectively with high-performing organizations’ keen interest in uncovering and anticipating customers’ needs and preferences. The energy and synergy created by each feeding and driving the other makes for a powerful fusion of strategic actions that lead to strong outcomes for companies and customers, alike.
Obviously, some organizations will be better at rewarding performance, while others have more finely honed capabilities in gathering, analyzing and applying predictive data or in aligning rewards with performance. Within and across organizations, there will be fluctuations and differences in what constitutes the “best” blend of the four elements. Organizational values, business objectives, missions, leadership and other factors can shape the degree to which any of the four Ps is emphasized and leveraged at any given time.
But overall, top companies that achieve consistent success in the quest to reach the pinnacle of their industries demonstrate that high performance is driven, in part, by four potent ingredients: a proactive approach to understanding customers, an intense desire to predict and plan for future conditions, a pervasive culture that signals consistent values, and rewards systems that directly support and reinforce performance. Taking command of the four Ps and balancing them to achieve optimal organizational success across the high-performance domains — of strategy, leadership, talent, culture and market focus — becomes the challenge that tops leaders’ agendas.
[About the Author: Carol Morrison is a senior research analyst with the Seattle-based Institute for Corporate Productivity, specializing in organizational leadership, change, strategy and talent management.]
The Science of 360s
by Marc Effron | Talent Management
As talent professionals, we faithfully believe that 360 feedback will help managers change their behaviors or at least increase their motivation to change. Unfortunately, those expectations are completely unrealistic. To actually get great results from 360s, we need to focus on what science says works and forget most of what we believe is true, including:
Feedback does not lead to change. Many HR professionals believe that simply receiving feedback causes sustained behavior change, but there is no science that supports it. Research says feedback often creates negative emotional reactions that inhibit change and, in one-third of cases, actually worsens performance.
Gaps between self-perceptions and others’ perceptions do not motivate change. Many of us believe that when confronted with a gap between how we see ourselves and how others see us, we will try to close that gap. While this is an intuitive model of human behavior, it’s not supported by science.
Research says that when confronted with that perception gap, we will diligently try to excuse it or explain its cause. We aren’t resisting feedback; we’re experiencing what’s called cognitive dissonance. Our mind works hard to preserve our carefully developed self-image. When feedback conflicts with that image or could cast us in a negative light, the natural reaction is to reject it.
Most of us chronically overrate our capabilities, which means cognitive dissonance only increases when we see our self-ratings compared to others’.
Comparison to norms isn’t helpful. Data comparing you to other 360 participants don’t provide guidance or motivation for change. If you score below others, cognitive dissonance inhibits action. When our ratings compare favorably to norms, we don’t experience any positive emotions; we simply don’t experience any negative ones. The science is clear: We respond best when given information about only our behaviors, not when those behaviors are compared to others.
More information is not more helpful. Typical 360 reports have more than 50 pages filled with charts, graphs, norms, bars, icons and comments. It’s nearly impossible for someone to tell what they should do and how they should do it.
Research says that how we experience feedback predicts how much we’ll change. A 360 that challenges us with negative feedback or overwhelms us with information creates a barrier to change.
To make 360s work, we need to find the simplest science-based way to help managers change their behaviors. And because processes alone don’t ensure successful outcomes, we need to establish clear accountability for results and make the process transparent.
1. Focus on the vital few:
Help managers quickly understand their two or three priorities for change by clearly stating these in the report’s first few pages.
2. Don’t rate them; tell them how to change:
Telling a manager they scored 3.5 out of 5 on strategic thinking leaves them clueless about how to improve. Instead, include direct statements of exactly how to change that behavior.
3. Don’t include normative data or self-ratings:
It sounds like heresy, but the science described above is clear. Don’t let your curiosity about how you compare to others get in the way of actually changing your behaviors.
4. Use transparency to drive accountability:
A misguided orthodoxy in some HR circles says that we shouldn’t consider 360 behavioral data when making personnel decisions, including promotions and assignments. But using that data is actually the most powerful way to drive accountability for change. While managers may ignore HR’s requests to behave differently, knowing that their next promotion depends on it creates an entirely different level of commitment.
In those situations, the organizations have known how those managers have behaved for many years. They’ve been talked about behind closed doors, around the water cooler and have likely already affected organization decisions, but now that they’ve been recorded on a few sheets of paper, they’ll be part of a more fact-based discussion.
Realizing the true potential of 360 feedback requires doing less, not more. If we focus on the core science and make the process easy for managers to use, we’ll finally get the return on investment that we know is possible.
[About the Author: Marc Effron is president of The Talent Strategy Group and author of One Page Talent Management.]
Lies About Learning
by Edward Trolley | Chief Learning Officer
In 2006, I joined a group of esteemed industry experts who collaborated with the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) to publish a book about corporate learning. In it, we explained common lies regarding learning and focused specifically on lies around managing the learning function.
In that regard, have any substantial changes happened in the last five years? Not enough, in my opinion. The latest research from NIIT reveals only 12 percent of companies have learning programs driven by business goals and can demonstrate quantifiable business value. It seems the more things change in business, the more things stay the same in the training and learning department.
This brings us to three common lies about corporate learning:
1. Everything is under control.
The investment value equation for most learning programs is broken. Money - as much as $1,000 per employee per year - is going out the door to hire dedicated learning teams and put people in classes. Yet businesses are not seeing the value from these investments. Many seem to think that just because learning is happening, everything is under control, but it’s not. Organizations don’t have answers to a key set of questions about corporate learning:
a) How much is our organization spending on learning enterprise-wide?
b) Are our learning programs making a difference? If so, how do we know that?
c) What expectations do our customers have of our learning programs?
d) Are our learning programs adequately leveraging our people, processes and technologies?
e) Is our learning portfolio sufficiently addressing how to run the business and advance the strategy?
f) Are we maximizing the amount of time our people spend on activities which add value?
g) Are we as efficient and effective as possible?
h) What are the quantifiable results and outcomes of the work we do?
It is problematic if even one of these questions cannot be answered with certainty, but a majority of organizations have trouble with some or all of them. In the absence of clear, valid answers to these questions, the learning function cannot successfully help business owners create business value and deliver business results.
2. Outsourcing learning is not a good business strategy.
It’s common for leaders to think an outsourcing vendor cannot know their business as well as internal employees do. This is a smoke screen thrown up by those who simply don’t want to consider outsourcing. I thought the same thing 18 years ago when I faced my first outsourcing project at DuPont, but I learned that my vendor partner was a quick study, and that I really didn’t know my business very well.
People also think they will lose control if they outsource. On the contrary, most organizations experience a single point of accountability, improved control and final approval.
3. It’s all about learning.
Here’s the truth - it’s not at all about learning - it’s really about results. Good learning that doesn’t deliver any business value is pretty much irrelevant. Business executives expect it, but they aren’t actually getting that business value, as evidenced by a 2009 research study from the ROI Institute: “96 percent of executives want to see the business impact of learning, yet only 8 percent receive it now; 74 percent of executives want to see ROI data, but only 4 percent have it now.”
So, why aren’t more learning programs structured to prove the ROI of what they do? It is clear that the practices involved in running a learning program like a business are directly linked to delivering value to an enterprise; it doesn’t exist for its own sake. In the latest research NIIT sponsored with Corporate University Xchange (CorpU), five must-dos for learning programs were identified:
1. Run at the speed of business.
2. Be lean and agile.
3. Ensure a laser focus on the business to drive business value.
4. Provide data-driven analytics to prove business value.
5. Drive innovation.
Do these five things and banish the other lies, and you can develop an advantage in the industry by creating some truth for your business.
Here’s the truth - it’s not at all about learning - it’s really about results.
[About the Author: Ed Trolley is the vice president of managed training services for NIIT and co-author of Running Training Like a Business: Delivering Unmistakable Value.]
Building an Ownership Culture
by Mike Prokopeak | Talent Management
Companies whose managers have more ownership of talent management processes are more effective. And talent managers who focus on acting as stewards rather than owners of their people processes can reap the benefits.
In April, advisory and consulting firm The Hackett Group released an analysis of 200 companies for its annual HR Book of Numbers. The data from top performing companies showed that HR partners with business line managers on change management, organizational effectiveness and cultural alignment activities 69 percent of the time, compared to 32 percent at their lower-performing peers.
In performance management, that rate is even higher. At high-performing companies, HR partners with line managers 73 percent of the time versus 38 percent at other companies. That partnership, and the greater ownership of key talent management processes such as employee development and performance management that goes with it, benefits the business and the individual employee, said Brian Hults, vice president of global organization and people development at Newell Rubbermaid.
“There’s a hard benefit in terms of ensuring alignment of the organization’s objectives, [ensuring] resources [are] allocated properly and that type of thing, and then there’s a soft benefit in terms of substantially improving employee engagement in the organization,” Hults said.
In principle, having line managers take greater ownership of talent management makes sense to boost individual and organizational performance. In practice, it is necessary to deliver results in a time of tightened HR budgets and lean talent management departments.
“The truth is there just aren’t enough of us in the organization to effectively manage performance and development of all these people,” Hults said. “In our organization our ratio of HR professionals to operating managers is over 100 to 1. No HR person can manage performance and development for a hundred people. The operating manager has to do that.”
Having line managers step up also ensures that managers don’t abdicate their responsibility for people management to an often-distant HR organization and are therefore more effectively leading business operations.
Centralizing Process, Decentralizing Ownership
At Newell Rubbermaid, a $5.8 billion producer of consumer and commercial products including brands such as Rubbermaid, Sharpie, Levolor, Paper Mate and Goody with more than 22,000 employees, Hults and the central talent management team work with HR generalists embedded within the company’s three core product groups to implement processes.
“Our human resource philosophy or approach to these things is we develop them centrally, then decentralize them to the extreme,” Hults said. “The generalists take the lead role in educating our operating partners on execution, and they’re executed via the operating partners.”
For this approach to be successful business unit leaders need to take ownership of management processes for their employees.
“That means everything from managing their performance, managing their development, helping them with their career aspirations - all of that stuff put together is critical in terms of engaging people and developing them to their fullest potential so they can be successful in their current roles and in their future,” Hults said.
The level of ownership can vary depending on the capabilities and proclivities of any leader. To counteract this variance, Hults said the most effective HR generalists at Newell Rubbermaid embed performance management and development into the “operating rhythms” of a business. In one business unit, the HR generalist meets monthly with the division president and senior staff to review employee performance and development.
“It’s reinforcing the message that the onus is on them to execute the processes she’s helping them learn and manage and also quality checking to be sure they’re being executed effectively,” he said.
Hults said successful execution of the basics, such as reviewing objectives, evaluating employee reviews and preparing leaders for objective-setting and performance management meetings is about 90 percent of what’s needed, but those processes are often ignored in the hectic pace of day-to-day management.
Regular meetings are a reminder and useful quality check on talent management. They give HR managers the opportunity to offer critical feedback and advice, such as ensuring employee performance objectives and required behaviors are clearly set and defined. Effective business ownership of talent management is more than just regular meetings and reminders, however. Busy operating managers focused on growth and revenue need help to manage their people in the form of easily executable processes and procedures.
“One of the things my department does … is we give people really streamlined tools [and] templates,” Hults said. “We do a tremendous amount of training around all these processes - the idea being to enable our operating partners to execute these processes in as efficient and effective a manner as possible.”
That means stripping out clutter, removing complicated issues such as compensation from succession planning and focusing on key roles, such as identifying the strengths and weaknesses of incumbents, determining successors and what needs to be done to get them ready.
“That has tremendous face validity for our operating partners because they can directly see how this process helps them in terms of filling their key roles over time as they come open with quality candidates,” Hults said.
Boston-based IT storage company EMC takes it a step further. Employee learning and development is structured as a partnership between development experts and business leaders.
“They view us as a trusted adviser, and they view the education function at EMC as theirs,” said Tom Clancy, vice president of education services and productivity for the company. “We’re not some training organization that’s over in the corner taking orders. We are fully engaged, fully immersed into the business.”
EMC ensures alignment by having business leaders like Clancy, a veteran of the company’s sales department, run employee development. This approach creates a two-way partnership where learning and development experts teach business leaders to effectively manage employee development and business people keep development focused on the organization’s needs.
“The business people taught the learning people how to be better aligned and how to meet audience requirements,” Clancy said. “It was really a teamwork approach.”
That close alignment of employee learning and development ensures talent management produces results and raises its profile within the organization.
“We’ve built it in such a way that it’s really their education organization,” Clancy said. “They’re making the investments, and they expect to have a huge ROI on education.”
The Benefits of Greater Ownership
In addition to better alignment with corporate objectives, business manager ownership of critical talent management processes brings additional benefits, such as more effective performance management.
“When you think about performance management in its purest sense, it’s really an organization development activity to ensure that resources and people are effectively aligned to the strategic plan of the business,” Hults said. “By having your operating leaders own the cascading of objectives through the organization, you optimize that alignment.” Business managers have a far deeper understanding of each employee’s performance relative to objectives than an HR person who is not engaged directly in the work. That closer connection results in better feedback.
“It’s really a problem-solving system and a performance improvement system so the operating managers and the employees can talk about, ‘What are my objectives, what am I doing today, how’s it going, and how can we as a team, the leader and the associate, be more effective in the execution of these objectives,’” Hults said.
Greater manager ownership also enhances the organization’s ability to respond to rapid change.
“The only way you can do that is to have strong alignment with the business,” Clancy said. “We knew that right from the start, so we made sure we put the right people in place that were interfacing with the business units so we could truly understand what their requirements are.”
At EMC, that alignment and focus resulted in higher customer service scores. EMC’s education organization ranks at the top of customer ratings for loyalty and impacts the company’s Net Promoter Score, a measure of how likely customers are to recommend EMC to others. According to Clancy, customers who receive training from EMC are seven times more likely to recommend the company than those who don’t use its education services.
While talent managers should work to build ownership of strategic HR processes among business managers, that doesn’t mean they forfeit responsibility. There’s still a pivotal role to be played.
Assessment and evaluation in particular require the kind of special expertise only experienced talent managers can provide. “It’s one of the more difficult and technically complex areas of human resources and one where some gaps are pretty evident,” Hults said.
While the gaps are relatively easy to work through, it’s important to have expertise to determine the development required to turn a person into a general manager or group president, for example.
“That’s one area where in certain situations you may want to bring in experts within the organization or outside the organization to help the operating leaders,” Hults said.
In addition to providing clear benefits for employee engagement and organizational and individual performance, greater business ownership of talent management processes positions HR as a talent consultant that can help business leaders focus on critical imperatives.
“The big criticism of HR - and in a lot of instances it’s warranted - [is] it’s HR for HR’s sake,” Hults said. “We’re more concerned with the functioning of our internal processes and policies to serve our own needs versus putting in place processes and systems and then working to support the success of our operating leaders.”
Decentralizing processes and building ownership among managers raises a talent manager’s profile and casts him or her in a new, positive light with business managers. “They can see the HR person as a supporter of them in terms of the effective execution of these processes, supporting their personal success and the success of their operating unit,” Hults said. “That’s a powerful combination.”
[About the Author: Mike Prokopeak is vice president and editorial director at Talent Management magazine.]
Your Brain on Vacation
by Natalie Morera | Chief Learning Officer
Put on those sunglasses and go explore the new sights and sounds of an unknown territory during vacation - because it’s going to help the learning process.
The brain is interested in reconstructing environments and is always looking for the surprising, unusual or different, explained Michael M. Merzenich, chief scientific officer of Posit Science, a brain fitness programs company.
“You can say that taking a holiday is a little bit like going back to childhood, when the world was full of wonder and everything you saw was full things that you hadn’t expected or seen before, you had to calibrate it in your brain,” Merzenich said.
As people age, less and less attention is paid to details in the world. Therefore, keeping a childlike attitude is important - it’s one of the reasons children learn so much, he explained.
“It’s really important that we be challenged about that every so often, that we’re reminded to pay attention, that we’re really engaged again,” he said.
The brain is constructed to be alert and to go into a “special epoch” when what is seen is really interesting or surprising.
“One of the things that happens in your everyday life is that things can become so predictable, so controlled, and you can live a little bit of a dream-like life,” Merzenich said. “Our environments after all are constructed so that we are relatively rarely surprised by what’s happening in them.”
Routines that people develop can bring down their states of alertness, but every time a person takes a vacation to a place away from their immediate environment, it’s healthy. “The more distant, the more different they are, the more full of surprises they are, the more wonderful that is, the more positive that is for our brain,” Merzenich said.
The brain controls learning while controlling how bright, alert and engaged a person feels. It tends to become activated the more it’s stimulated and exercised.
“Part of maintaining your basic vitality is contributing in a very fundamental way to sustaining learning rates,” Merzenich said. “In a sense, the more you engage your brain in ways that stimulate it, the more you’re doing to maintain your capacity to learn and to improve. It’s actually right at the heart of maintaining yourself in a fundamental sense.”
Though a vacation may feel like a break, it’s actually a time when the brain is most active. In terms of how often a person needs a break, it really depends on the nature of the tasks they perform. Repetitive and dull tasks typically prompt the need to take breaks, Merzenich explained.
“If you look at some elemental learning exercises, the strongest learning actually happens in the first minute - after five or six or seven minutes, you’re actually waning,” he said. Every seven minutes or so, the learning efficiency actually decreases.
Ideally, individuals shouldn’t have to deal with the same type of tasks over and over again. “If you really had enough variation in the kind of problems you’re trying to deal with or solve throughout the day, then you’re energized all day long,” he said.
Take, for instance, a February 2011 study, which found judges were more lenient to prisoners who appeared before them earlier in the day. As the day proceeded and lunch time neared, the leniency of sentences dropped until the judge took a break. Once the judge took a break, leniency went back up.
It doesn’t matter if the break involves eating lunch or jet-setting 1,200 miles away, the brain needs it.
“You could think also to encourage people to travel in their own environment by opening up their eyes and brains to the wonders that are actually out there all around them,” Merzenich said.
He recommends trying to reconstruct one’s neighborhood by memory and then venturing to see how much was detailed correctly.
“Most people are pretty surprised by what they didn’t remember or what they could not reconstruct mentally even literally in their own front yard,” Merzenich said.
Adults may not have enough moments to stimulate and engage themselves, but there’s a need to seek those opportunities out. It’s important for individuals not to sleepwalk through life, but instead to pay attention to the world around them - even if it’s not in a vacation setting.
“A lot of people can’t afford to travel as much as would be good for them to do, but they don’t really have to do that,” Merzenich said. “They can look around and live life again in the actual physical environment in which they live.”
[About the Author: Natalie Morera is an associate editor at Chief Learning Officer magazine.]
The Sum of Many Talented Parts
by Kellye Whitney | Talent Management
Holding company Marsh & McLennan Cos. has roughly 50,000 employees globally and is composed of four different operating organizations: Marsh, an insurance broker, Guy Carpenter, a risk reinsurance specialist, Mercer, an HR consulting firm, and Oliver Wyman, a management consulting firm.
As vice president and global head of talent management, Arturo Poire runs talent strategy for the entire enterprise. He said the systemic use of development and performance management practices, workforce analytics and a new focus on social media tools are helping to create coherence between the companies and expand communication between all of its leaders.
TM: Describe your company’s approach to talent management.
Poire: We are basically four companies in one, and our strategy has to account for that. There is a good level of decentralization that goes on, so each operating company has its own model when it comes to talent management. At the same time we have a large umbrella because we are an intellectual capital company, so there are certain processes and programs that run across the company.
Our company focuses on performance management and talent to a very big extent. We have a very strong performance management process that cuts across all the different operating companies. We make sure that we have consistency in terms of language, we share the same systems and platforms for that process, and in the past few years we’ve been working very hard on talent reviews, succession management and leadership development. We have meetings with the enterprise CEO once a year to review the top talent across the organization. We also have meetings with top functional leaders, CFO, head of HR, head of legal, head of technology, to look at the functional talent across all of the operating companies. That’s what I’m building now, programs that cut across the enterprise in terms of leadership development and managerial skills with a common language and approach for talent management. Much of what I do is leverage what we have internally, learn from each
other’s best practices and try to reuse things that have been developed in other companies. You have measurement processes - performance management, talent review - then you apply the action - leadership development and learning strategy.
TM: How are those different performance measures linked to strategic objectives?
Poire: We have a common set of competencies, which have been designed with the strategic objectives in mind. What we’re building heavily now is workforce analytics, the tools and instruments to measure the impact of all the actions we are taking, the evolution of our workforce effectiveness and efficiency, and we’re trying to create consistencies in how data is produced, analyzed, and how we gather information through different processes such as our colleague survey, internal labor market analysis or our talent reviews. We try to analyze and combine all of those to make sure we link the behaviors we ask our colleagues to exhibit to the actual results.
If you take a 10-year cut of our history, you’ll see this is a company that was extremely successful. [We went] through a period of crisis around 2004 with some regulatory problems and then into a little bit of a tailspin. If you look at the past three years, which coincides with the tenure of Brian Duperreault, our CEO, you see a steady improvement in every single measure, and that coincides with a strong focus on our main asset, our human capital. When you put our financial performance side by side with the investments we’ve made in talent management strategy, you’ll see those two lines coincide.
TM: What other challenges impact talent at Marsh & McLennan?
Poire: Our structure is a big challenge - that we are four different companies - and that’s a very important part of our culture. I am driving for coherence, for common language, but I have to be careful to respect the individual businesses’ strategic objectives and the company landscape that they face. I have to allow them to do what they have to do to achieve goals. Of course, the fact that we’re a global company with more than 100 countries also creates its own dynamic. Probably for the first time in history you have the emerging markets being very healthy, growing very fast, enjoying the benefits of progress, and then you see the more developed world struggling with financial problems. How you structure your colleague-value proposition, how you design your compensation strategy needs to adjust for that new world.
The other challenge we’re facing that I see as one of the hot topics is engagement. We’re putting a lot of effort, focus and money there. We’ve started doing colleague surveys on a more regular basis. When the other companies are at the top and then go through a crisis, it impacts the morale of your colleagues. Making them feel that they belong to something bigger, something positive, it’s worth making sacrifices. The benefits will come, but it’s tough. What’s happening now for many companies, ours included, is the economic slowdown in the world has made it more challenging for companies to reward colleagues the way they want. Typically you end up asking your colleagues to do a lot more with less. I’m spending a lot of my time trying to [figure out], what is it you can do to motivate your colleagues in the right way? The fact that you have multiple generations of workers sharing the workspace makes it a little bit more difficult because what motivates
Generation X is not the same thing that engages baby boomers, and it’s definitely not the same thing that will engage your Generation Y or millennials.
TM: How does the company promote workforce performance?
Poire: Learning and development is a key aspect, but it’s not the only one. For example, in the insurance services side our business is very, very regulated. You need to have a robust learning strategy and structure because you need to satisfy regulators because of licenses and all of that. Then you have technical learning. When it comes to leadership development, our companies are at different areas of evolution. Some, like Mercer, have done amazing work to create a strong curriculum that goes from first stage manager to becoming a leader, and I’m trying to leverage that for some of the other companies. Oliver Wyman also has a very strong focus on leadership and management behavior. The other companies are following suit.
Our learning strategy is tied to our objectives, but we’re also trying to find other ways that you develop leaders. It’s not just by participating in a classroom. That’s why the talent review process is key. We’ve launched 360-degree feedback, multi-rater reviews for all of our leaders across the different operating companies where they can actually get feedback on their leadership style, and we’re looking at that to create common trends and then to see what kinds of tools and solutions we can create. In addition, we’re creating a program that will allow colleagues to have more on-the-job-type development through assignments and working on cross-company projects with colleagues and leaders from other parts of the organization. They can not only make connections and learn about other parts of the company but also learn new behaviors by looking at how others behave.
I recently did a survey of our talent management philosophy with leaders of my organization and one of the things they said loud and clear was one of the strongest ways to develop leaders is by having them have experience through special projects or assignments and giving them the opportunity to receive feedback. Our talent management strategy is moving to make sure we are aligned to that, that the solutions we design are more about real application of learning versus the more theoretical approach you see in other places. Lastly, we are using social media to communicate with each other, share ideas and teach each other in a more effective way. Through that we expect to get more real-time information on issues, concerns and feedback for the leaders of our organization. We’re trying to attack this from multiple points.
TM: What does your social media use consist of? How does it play out exactly?
Poire: We are investing in a new platform. One of the operating companies, Marsh, is leading the way on this. That platform, which is up and running right now, is a lot more than a LinkedIn. Imagine a virtual university where you enroll your leaders to become teachers, create online classes, colleagues can attend those classes, share feedback and have real dialogue with those teachers. We’re expanding that technology to the different operating companies.
We have also revamped our intranet to enable more real-time conversations with our colleagues. We want companies to be engaged in advancing the company’s strategy not only by doing their jobs and doing them very well but also by leading in something that goes beyond day-to-day work. We’re going to create message boards, which we’ve done in the past, where we ask colleagues for cross-company goals, ideas to advance the company strategy, and based on the recommendations we’re going to bring them back to our colleagues so they can incorporate the goals into the annual planning process. It’s all about leveraging technology, but also changing the mind-set in terms of how you communicate with colleagues in a more fluid and active way.
TM: What’s the next for Marsh & McLennan’s talent efforts?
Poire: The focus for this year goes back to this emergence of different types of conversations with colleagues. We’re going to invest more in that as well as in social media tools. My focus will be to continue building organizational coherence and making sure we have processes that are aligned to talent across the enterprise. The other big one is workforce analytics. We’ve done a lot of work in the last two years to improve the quality of data and the depth of analysis, and we are working more on that. Our company’s growing. We’re turning to new markets, new segments, so things look very bright. To be successful our talent strategy has to be at the center of it.
[About the Author: Kellye Whitney is managing editor for Talent Management magazine.]
The New Learning Composition
by Cushing Anderson | Chief Learning Officer
Staff sizes are expanding for learning organizations, as is the impact of the learning function on business strategy. More importantly, the latest research from Chief Learning Officer magazine’s Business Intelligence Board (BIB) indicates the function will have a critical role to play in organizational efforts to bounce back post-economic crisis.
Every other month, IDC surveys Chief Learning Officer’s BIB on a variety of topics to gauge the issues, opportunities and attitudes that are important to senior learning executives. In March, L&D staffing data revealed enterprise learning staffs are adjusting well now that the recession is over, sales are increasing and companies are refocusing on growth. However, despite a strong belief that learning is critical to organizational success, there is a disconnect between learning’s perceived impact and its actual position as a business solution provider amidst key stakeholders.
A Critical Role to Play
IDC’s “Impact of the Downturn” research from October 2009 revealed some 80 percent of organizations polled thought learning and development plays a moderate to significant role in helping organizations achieve their strategic plans. Chief Learning Officer’s BIB research in 2009 and 2010 echoed that sentiment, revealing that while learning organizations were busy tightening their own belts, they also redoubled their efforts to ensure the workforce was prepared to execute on strategic imperatives. Strategies varied among hunkering down, repositioning or taking advantage of the downturn to push the learning/business agenda.
Depending on the strategy, learning leaders believe their organizations have a greater or lesser ability to influence strategic outcomes. When the enterprise hunkers down, more than a third of CLOs in the 2011 BIB L&D staffing study think they will have no role in helping the organization weather the crisis aside from their ability to tighten their own belts and shift from more classroom formats to more online or self-paced learning.
When the enterprise is positioning for future growth, 65 percent of CLOs believe they will have a significant role to play and only 10 percent believe they will have no role. In forward-thinking strategies those roles include helping communicate the repositioning strategy and to not only prep key job roles with development options to enhance their skill sets, but also helping front-line employees to maximize their capabilities and perhaps develop those needed to ascend to higher ranks.
When organizations attempt to aggressively grow, 60 percent of learning organizations believe they will have a moderate role and the remaining 40 percent believe they will have a significant role to play in helping to achieve the stated strategy. Overall, learning organizations can play a large role in facilitating a winning organizational strategy if development options are completely aligned with growth objectives. Further, it appears the more dramatic the organizational change, the greater role the learning and development organization has to play.
Going forward, a key imperative for learning leaders must be to ensure their ability to play a significant role in helping the enterprise meet its objectives. Otherwise, the CLO will preside over an organization ripe for trimming at the first sign of organizational stress.
New Players on the Stage
Since 2006 the learning and development staff mix has changed. As a result of increased focus on learning strategy, organizational development and performance, learning-related positions have become an increasingly meaningful component in many organizations. That is a benefit to the L&D profession and to the organizations they serve.
In the last four years, there has been a significant shift away from content development and use of instructional designers. That’s likely because technology and tools have helped improve the efficiency of learning teams. Other trends, such as shorter course lengths and more rapid course development approaches, have reduced the need for content developers by half since 2006.
The trend toward online learning hasn’t had the impact some observers expected, however. CLOs report the percentage of their staff members who are instructors actually has increased slightly since 2006.
Also somewhat contradictory is that while technology is playing an increasing role in learning - for instructor-led training, self-paced instruction, content development and facilitation of social learning experiences - the percentage of technology specialists has declined in most learning organizations. This may signal a shift in responsibility for both technology management and learning administration, both of which saw a comparable percentage increase since 2006.
Regardless of the economic recovery or the ability of the learning organization to help achieve strategic initiatives, the overall size of learning and development organization has remained relatively unchanged.
From November 2008 to mid-2010, learning organizations lost about 10 percent of their staff. The ratio of L&D staff of the broader enterprise is highly variable. Before 2008, the percentage of employees in large organizations who were L&D staff could be close to 0.5 percent - with a small number of L&D professionals serving a large employee base - or in smaller organizations it could have been as high as 3 percent.
In late 2010, those ratios were slightly lower. Learning organizations’ staff may become slightly smaller in 2011 and beyond because any operational shift the L&D organization instituted during the crisis - in delivery or development efficiency or organization consulting staffing - is unlikely to be undone.
Despite slight changes, organizations that do not think they have an appropriate level of staffing were measured at 2006 levels. About 60 percent of CLOs believe they don’t have enough staff. This is down from a high of 66 percent in 2007. In 2009, fewer than 55 percent of CLOs reported not having enough staff.
Staffing expectations for 2011 closely resemble those from 2008. Significantly more companies are expecting to add learning and development staff in 2011 compared with 2010, and fewer firms expect to cut L&D staff. This change reflects optimism that the importance of learning is increasing, along with budgets. In the BIB research on training outlook published in January, researchers found 60 percent of companies were more optimistic about employee development in 2011 compared to 2010. CLOs have passed through the difficult period that has resulted in “a greater appreciation of internal knowledge to support informal training.” This is resulting in hiring opportunities for L&D staff.
Learning Professional Talent Shortage Easing
A little less than 50 percent of companies expect to hire learning and development staff in the coming 12 months either as a replacement for transitioning staff or to increase the size of the L&D organization. When companies do hire, more L&D professionals appear to be available at a level comparable with 2008. And CLOs expect to spend between three and four months looking for the right candidate, which is comparable to 2008 data and much less time than 2006 data revealed.
Even though the mix of L&D skills has shifted away from content developers, individuals with those skills are the most likely to be hired and are likely to be the most difficult roles to fill, according to CLOs. Instructors and technology specialists are the next most sought-after roles.
Some 45 percent of organizations think their learning organization will play a role in the changing strategy their companies will adopt as the recovery builds. Still, more than half of learning organizations must find a way to have more impact or influence on the achievement of strategic objectives.
This may be a case of better application of existing resources, or it may require changing the role learning plays to become a more significant business adviser and change consultant. Either suggests CLOs must critically evaluate their ability to help their enterprise rebound during the recovery, and ensure their learning staff is both ready and able to lend all appropriate assistance.
[About the Author: Cushing Anderson is the program director of learning services at IDC.]
Overqualified and Bitter
by Dirk Verburg | Human Resource Executive Online
In the current economic crisis, employees are taking whatever job they can find — but not necessarily a job that will make them happy or engaged in the work. In fact, dysfunctional behavior in the workplace by bitter employees may be increasing. HR leaders need to help their line managers deal with the issue.
As a result of the economic crisis, a number of people took a step back in their careers and accepted smaller roles than they were used to or hoping for. These people face a choice between accepting this new reality with a positive mind-set or rejecting it and becoming bitter.
Strange as it may sound, acceptance can bring joy and fulfillment.
It can put a stop to the personal ‘Peters Principle’ a number of people cope with (assuming they were promoted beyond their level of competence), take them out of a rat race, give them a chance to reload their batteries and build up new energy to invest in valuable things outside the work place (such as their family or hobbies).
These people can be a joy to have around: They are at ease, relaxed and thankful in the workplace.
Unfortunately there are also people who become bitter and resentful. These resentments are usually directed at their previous company (in case they had to switch) and their line managers. Sometimes, they even resent their parents (“I never wanted to study X”) or even significant others (“If it were not for my partner I would have switched to another employer years ago”).
They prefer to ignore their own contribution (if there was one) to their new situation and prefer to view themselves as innocent victims of their environment.
So what does it matter if certain people are bitter at the workplace? Why should this affect their work and the work of their fellow employees? Why can’t we simply ignore them?
It matters because these resentments usually have an influence on their new company, colleagues and line managers.
Although one would expect they would be thankful to have a new working environment, quite often their anger and frustration will also be directed at their new company and line manager (“In my previous company I was empowered to decide about X, Y and Z. Why can’t I do that here?”).
Other targets of this resentment will be colleagues who happen to be grateful and happy (“Why don’t they support me when I am complaining?”).
This attitude will definitively have a negative impact on their working environment and the job satisfaction of line managers and co-workers, but it can also result in “subtle sabotage.” One of the most effective ways bitter employees do this is by playing everything completely and utterly by the book, thereby violating the purpose of policies and processing and frustrating not only fellow employees, but sometimes even customers. Since ignoring does not work, bitter employees need to be confronted with the negative effects their attitude has on others. In these kinds of situations, the following steps can be taken:
1. Gather data on the negative attitude of the individual and the effect this has had on his/her subordinates, colleagues, leaders, other people in the organization and customers.
2. Confront them about their behavior and the effect this has on others inside and outside (in case they have external clients) the organization.
3. Ask them if they understand these comments, and if they can provide the background to their behavior.
4. Offer them help and/or coaching to change their attitude.
In this discussion, it will be important to differentiate between two categories of frustration. The first category consists of extrinsic factors that have disappeared or are significantly reduced (e.g., status, income, number of direct reports, geographic scope, etc.).
In this category the keyword is acceptance. The individuals need to learn to accept their losses and focus on possible gains. This is not easy and might require professional help. HR leaders may want to coach these individuals or suggest a referral to the company’s employee-assistance provider.
The second category of frustration could be intrinsic and related to the underutilization of their skills and capabilities.
They may feel they lack respect from their co-workers for the insights and best practices they may have gained in the past. Here, the key word should be “recognition.” Smart line managers and peers could and should do themselves and the employee in question a favor by listening to him or her and take their insights into account when it makes sense.
In case this does not help, line managers should point these bitter employees another way: to the exit. Personal frustration should never be a reason to make the work experience of co-workers less satisfying, the already heavy job of line managers even heavier and hurt the interests of customers and shareholders.
[About the Author: Dirk Verburg is HR director at Covidien in Zurich, Switzerland. He has worked in the area of individual and organizational renewal for a number of international blue chip companies, including AT&T, PA Consulting Group, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Philips Electronics, Shell and Swiss Re. He studied Sociology at the University of Amsterdam and Business Administration at the University of Sheffield.]
Learning How to Handle a Crisis
by Daniel Margolis | Chief Learning Officer
Any organization that remains in business for a while will likely face a crisis of some sort. These can be difficult to train for, as crises often emerge quickly, with little or no warning.
But crises are not necessarily unpredictable. Davia Temin, founder and CEO of consultancy Temin & Co., defines a crisis as any set of circumstances that throws a company into disarray, whether it’s predictable or not. “If you sit down and do a crisis preparedness plan, you can come up with a whole list of predictable crises,” Temin said. She cited market crashes, product contamination, criminal behavior and natural disasters as examples of predictable crises.
“Then there’s the black swan, out-of-the-blue stuff,” she said. “[These are] harder for people to predict [and] harder for corporate people to predict, by the way, because they’re generally thinking a little bit more linearly.”
To assist people and companies in preparing for such circumstances, Temin has created the “Crisis Game” case methodology. Crisis Games are hosted as events in locations ranging from auditoriums to board rooms to television studios. They generally run for 90 minutes and may be attended by a few dozen or as many as 250 people. Attendees are generally executives, though Temin has presented a Crisis Game to a group of journalists. She’s done roughly 35 of these events to date.
Prior to any Crisis Game, Temin meets with previously selected participants who will act out the fictional crisis they’re presented with. They’re given envelopes assigning them specific job roles - not necessarily their own.
“I meet with them a little bit before [the event] and hand them their envelope,” she said. “Of course they always want to know long before, ‘Well, what am I going to do and what’s the situation? I want to prepare.’ And I won’t let them.”
Temin also fleshes out personalities for the participants. “I give them a lot of color, like real people,” she said. “And so then they respond both from their role and the personality I have suggested.”
As the actual Crisis Game starts, the participants are seated in front of the audience and Temin describes the case. She was reluctant to say what these cases are exactly, as that ruins the element of surprise that is a key element. But she cited as potential examples situations such as a pharmaceutical company facing a drug recall; a company facing a hostile takeover; a company being investigated for money laundering; or a company experiencing a sudden, serious supply chain disruption.
“Then I set it up a little bit more and turn to one person and say ‘OK what would you do in this particular case? Well, what do you think about that?’” she said. “I start them talking with one another and what happens is they warm to their roles. They get very involved [and] engaged.”
This engagement is central to the effectiveness of the games. Often, executives don’t know how they’ll react to a crisis until they’re faced with one. “People don’t know how to do it because most of this stuff, unless you’ve been there you can’t figure it out, and you know what? By the time all that hits it’s too late,” Temin said. “Your intuition that you have learned throughout your career, that has been non-crisis related, is not always correct within a crisis, so you have to develop a different muscle.” The hands-on nature of the game facilitates this development.
David Haynes, CEO and chairman of Opinionology, a market research and surveying firm, attended a Crisis Game in November. He said his core take-away from the event is that crisis management requires fast and clear judgment. In particular, he learned some important points about dealing with the media during a crisis.
“Ignoring the press does not work,” Haynes said. Instead, companies in crisis need to “communicate early and often; designate a single point of contact for media communication; keep public messages anchored in supportable facts; [and] retain a capable media consultant before a crisis strikes. Don’t expect the press or government officials to always be fair or seek justice.” Haynes also learned the inherent dangers in panicking in response to a crisis. “Strong emotions diminish intellectual capacity,” he said. “Stay balanced.”
One of the most important things to learn about crisis management is how to recognize a crisis, something the gradually unfolding nature of Temin’s Crisis Games helps participants and attendees develop.
“The trick is of course to determine when it’s a crisis and when it’s just a little blip that’s going to be self-correcting,” she said. “The hardest thing that I find in working with clients is when they cut and say this is a crisis, because otherwise it’s business as usual and they don’t start to put in solutions. It’s human nature, but it is especially corporate nature to go into denial mode. In these Crisis Game, one of the very important points is to say ‘OK, is this a crisis yet? Are you worried now? Are you not worried? Is this just business as usual?’”
Haynes said companies should realize that the missteps that lead to a crisis are often just a natural part of doing business. “Every company makes errors,” he said. “Errors become mistakes when they are not corrected. Admit real problems, implement an authentic solution and communicate the action taken.”
[About the Author: Daniel Margolis is managing editor at Chief Learning Officer magazine.]
Boost Talent Energy
by Heike Bruch and Bernd Vogel | Talent Management
Individuals experience the ebb and flow of different states of energy in an organization. This energy can be the fuel to make a company work, as it is a cornerstone to people’s effectiveness. Further, organizational energy is measurable and manageable.
To actively influence their organization’s energy, leaders need to understand or assess it. Second, they should boost and sustain the energy in their organization, unit or team so people are fully charged to execute business goals. To master this challenge, talent managers should provide process support for leaders.
What Is Organizational Energy?
A company’s energy reflects the extent to which an organization, division or team has mobilized its emotional, cognitive and behavioral potential to pursue shared goals. To tap into the full scope and possibilities, talent leaders need to understand three crucial attributes of organizational energy:
1. Organizational energy is collective.
It comprises a company’s activated human potential. It considers the dynamics and interactions amongst people.
2. There are three components.
Organizational energy comprises the activated emotional, cognitive and behavioral potential exemplified by shared enthusiasm, cognitive alertness in the company or collective effort in shared initiatives, or the lack thereof.
3. Energy is malleable.
Organizational energy reflects the current state of energy activation in a company, and it’s fluid, not stable. This means it ebbs and flows more readily than the organization’s culture, and leaders actively can alter it.
Companies experience different types of organizational energy along two dimensions: Intensity, which reflects the degree to which a company has activated its potential, and quality, which describes to what extent human forces are or are not aligned with shared company goals.
Combining these two dimensions results in four different energy states, and companies typically experience, to varying extents, all four simultaneously. They are:
1. Productivity energy:
Characterized by high emotional involvement, mental alertness, high activity levels, speed and stamina.
2. Comfortable energy:
Characterized by high shared satisfaction and identification coupled with low activity levels, reduced mental alertness and organizational complacency.
3. Resigned inertia:
Characterized by high levels of frustration, mental withdrawal and cynicism and low collective engagement.
4. Corrosive energy:
Characterized by collective aggression and destructive behavior. For example, it may manifest in internal politics, resistance to change or focused efforts to maximize individual benefits.
How to Assess and Manipulate Organizational Energy
A talent leader’s gut feeling about a company’s energy state could be accurate, but there are ways to measure it. Talent leaders can help teams analyze their profiles across the four energy states, and choose leadership strategies and instruments to improve or maintain the organization’s energy.
One tool is the organizational energy questionnaire (OEQ), a standardized survey instrument to measure and analyze companies’ energy profiles for business units, departments and teams. It is advisable to assess major energy drivers such as leadership quality simultaneously.
Talent managers can work with the OEQ in three ways. It can be a periodic employee survey, an organizational energy pulse-check - to monitor change processes - and an instant energy check in workshops with management teams. In 2005, Alstom Power Service made the OEQ part of its global employee opinion survey to detect company energy overall and in various business units and departments engaged in global and local leadership activities. Alstom nominated identity champions to facilitate workshops in divisions, business units and country organizations to work with survey results. Every unit derived managerial issues from its energy state and defined action plans around engagement and alignment. These kinds of activities allow talent leaders and line managers to identify and nurture leadership talent based on data and tackle issues based on energy profiles.
In organizations that face the complacency trap, languishing in a state of comfortable energy, or are experiencing resigned inertia, talent managers need to help leaders activate human forces. To charge the company, they can support the leadership capability to perceive either a major threat - the Slaying the Dragon strategy - or a promising opportunity - the Winning the Princess strategy.
Slaying the Dragon focuses the company’s shared emotion, mental agility and effort on overcoming an existential external threat, ultimately generating productive energy. The strategy includes three tasks and underlying leadership instruments:
Task 1: Identifying, interpreting and defining a threat.
Task 2: Mobilizing communication to create awareness of a common problem.
Task 3: Strengthening collective confidence that the company can deal with the threat.
The Winning the Princess strategy is based on the observation that productive energy can be particularly high if companies are pursuing a special opportunity. An innovation, a developing market or a new organizational vision can release a desire for action and the positive forces in a company. The strategy works with three steps and underlying leadership tools:
Task 1: Identifying, interpreting and defining an opportunity.
Task 2: Passionately communicating the opportunity.
Task 3: Strengthening people’s confidence to achieve the opportunity.
For example, Tata Steel focused on its employees in three ways during a restatement of the company’s vision. First, it engaged employees in creation of the vision. Then it launched a comprehensive communications campaign. Finally, the company followed up with a full-blown initiative to increase employees’ commitment to the vision. As a first step, Tata Steel’s 40 top executives developed basic ideas during a two-day discussion. But CEO B. Muthuraman encouraged the entire workforce to participate. Via the corporate intranet, employees could comment on the first ideas for the vision, express their opinions, or submit their own ideas, and more than 8,000 did so. After collecting all ideas, an internal group worked with external specialists to define two main goals.
Once the vision was defined, the next step was to realize the vision and communicate it throughout the company. The Vision 2007 project was launched in May 2002, and various communication channels from posters to mouse pads were used to spread the vision among employees. Further, the vision was a key topic of regular large-group meetings like the Senior Dialogue, which involved 500 senior executives. Muthuraman also used the company newsletter to internalize the concept.
The motto Lakshya 2007: Ek Chunauti (Vision 2007: One Challenge) was created. More than 1,500 workshops in small groups of 20 to 25 people were held to help employees identify individual and team goals. Employees also were asked to write down what they were doing during their work day in diaries so people could start to connect the vision to their daily work.
How to Overcome the Corrosion Trap
In companies experiencing the corrosion trap, people’s energy is invested largely in negative forces such as anger, fury and destructive in-fighting. Corrosive energy is infectious; it quickly eats away at human potential and has significant consequences for talent management.
Individuals cannot thrive working in a corrosive environment or for corrosive management teams. When destructive energy starts at the top, there is a lack of positive role models to emulate. In organizations with high levels of corrosion succession, career decisions are not based on individual capabilities but on politics or power interest. This causes risk. Either individuals will not perform to their greatest potential, or they will leave the company.
Executives may neglect or consciously deny negative forces. They deliberately distance themselves from negative events that affect lower-level employees - often because they are one of the reasons behind destructive energy - and may not be able to fix the problem. When organizations master this first hurdle they can engage a set of clear, effective leadership tasks to fix the problem:
1. Task 1: Detect corrosive forces.
Organizations need to accept corrosion, deal with it head-on, and assess negative energy early. Companies can use the OEQ to identify corrosive energy and determine whether negative energy has been addressed or sugarcoated within the workplace. Talent leaders should facilitate discussions in the management team around questions such as: Are managers and employees working toward the company goals or maximizing their own benefits? Is silo thinking prevalent in many of the organization’s units? Are conflicts a dominant feature of work in top management?
2. Task 2: Clean up corrosive energy.
Destructive energy cannot be transferred directly into productive energy. Talent leaders have to help managers engage in a phasing down step by facilitating release valves to let off steam. These may include hotlines or workshop forums where tensions can surface in a structured way.
3. Task 3: Re-charge the organization with a strong identity.
Only when corrosion calms down can executives think about charging up and re-igniting the organization by developing a strong identity and purpose. To instill pride and perspective talent leaders can facilitate discussions with management teams to answer questions such as: Are managers and employees aware of company strengths and competencies? Are employees proud of the company? Is there a shared understanding of a focused, ambitious strategy and company vision?
How to Escape the Acceleration Trap
In highly energetic companies, leaders often start too many activities simultaneously, devoting too little time to individual activities and overwhelming employees by pushing them past their limits. Similarly, talent leaders often inherit implementation of these initiatives and add more of their own. What begins as a positive aspiration to attain a goal can end in an uncontrolled flood of activities. The result is often burnout, resignation or fatigue for an entire company, or worse, acceleration becomes a facet of the organizational culture.
Talent managers can crack patterns of acceleration where executives do not have the stamina or sensitivity to do so. For instance, they can orchestrate the rhythm between high-energy and regeneration phases. Within the standard business cycle an organization needs to define episodes with a clear beginning and endpoint, deliberately alternating between high- and lower-energy periods. People are more willing to be stretched to their limits if they know a phase of lower pace and less pressure awaits them at the end. Talent leaders also can initiate stop-the-action initiatives or spring cleaning, regularly analyzing what is and is not of central strategic importance to enable the organization to stop doing certain things.
Talent management organizations need to develop “the philosophy of the No. 1.” Talent leaders need to regularly and openly ask: Are the talent managers individually and as a department a role model for a love of peak performance? That can propel their energy and standing in business units.
Second, talent managers must have the courage to stand up to senior executives. Despite executives’ love of the limelight, talent leaders must convince them to step back and help their people and the talent they have identified to lead and create organizational success.
Rising Beyond Energy Traps
Sustaining energy is the final challenge in dealing with an organization’s collective forces. Some questions that companies, their leaders and talent managers regularly face include: How can organizations destined to get to the top of their industries stay there, remain agile and keep growing? How can companies prevent falling back into comfortable energy, resigned inertia or corrosive energy? Sustaining energy refers to leadership and talent activities that help organizations sustain high levels of activity, alertness and emotional involvement.
The solution may call for a drastic change of the executive role. Talent leaders can coach senior leaders how to make this shift in mindset. Executives need to accept that the top team or an individual executive cannot be the only source of energy, innovation or growth. Sustaining energy asks for a network of batteries throughout to charge the organization. That means many if not all managers and employees have to be sources of high-productive energy.
How do successful executives create an organization full of batteries with a proactive sense of urgency? Talent leaders support their efforts to develop and align three components of a vitalizing management system - strategy processes, leadership and culture.
Talent leaders can help systematically identify weak signals in the market by involving numerous employees in the strategy process. For example, companies such as Liechtenstein-based Hilti, a construction manufacturer, with its competition radar process, ask the sales force to systematically report back from customers about competitor and product information, integrating weak or hard signals with other intelligence into the strategy process.
Talent leaders help to establish strong leadership capability among managers at all levels for an energizing leadership climate. ABB’s leadership challenge program addresses everyone in the company, working on each employee’s leadership behavior and talent. By 2010 more than 40,000 people has taken part.
To create a vitalizing culture, talent leaders have to identify specific vitalizing values relevant for the organization’s context and purpose, and become the guardians of culture development.
A vitalizing management system encourages all managers and employees to be sources of productive energy and establishes a sense of urgency in the entire organization, which is key for a company to sustain energy for long-term high performance.
[About the Authors: Heike Bruch is professor of leadership at the Institute for Leadership and Human Resource Management at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland, and the founder and research director of the Organizational Energy Program. Bernd Vogel is associate professor of leadership and organizational behavior at the Henley Business School, University of Reading, U.K.]
Risk in the Real World
by Orlando D. Ashford | Human Resource Executive Online
Marsh & McLennan Cos.’ CHRO tells how a keen focus on the varieties of human capital risk — employee engagement, talent management and an aging workforce — are necessary for the success and survival of today’s HR executives, but especially important is the risk of CEO succession.
For many human resource executives, the shift to a global, knowledge-based economy has changed the game when it comes to identifying the real drivers of corporate success. We no longer view workers as interchangeable cogs in a matrix of assets, defined by the fixed capital of property, machines and their tangible products.
Instead, we recognize human capital as our primary asset, and we require a clear picture of how our workforces’ capabilities, performance and culture correlate to the bottom line. By now, we know that managing human capital risk — or any risk, for that matter — means identifying what is predictable and being able to respond quickly and effectively to what is unpredictable.
It’s a matter of having nimble structures and strategic vision, so we can cope with the threat or probability that an action or event will affect our organization’s ability to achieve our objectives. For HR leaders, that’s anything that threatens a firm’s ability to attract, develop and retain the key talent that drives business value.
Human capital, of course, is crucially different from structural capital in that it is owned by the individual — that is, individuals who can walk out the door and take their unique capital with them, unless their competencies, knowledge and skills are either tangibly recorded or somehow incorporated into an organization’s procedures and structures.
That’s a primary example of human capital risk — loss of key talent — but consider some others that often fly under the radar of human resource executive thinking:
1. Employee engagement.
The risk of insufficiently or poorly engaged employees can yield a direct hit to the bottom lines of organizations, taking a toll in terms of turnover, productivity and the company’s internal and external brands. Companies that fail to survey their human capital regularly, respond to substantial issues revealed by survey research and communicate effectively to the workforce are playing Russian roulette with their long-term success.
2. Hiring practices and talent management.
The risk of ineffective hiring practices, in which the right talent may be overlooked while the wrong talent takes its place, can be a major drain on corporate success. It can also have complicated sources — from outmoded or insufficient job descriptions to less-than-rigorous interviewing and background-screening processes.
Beyond hiring, talent-management failures — ranging from weak onboarding practices to poor training, limited development opportunities, stale performance management and a lack of mentoring — can compound the risk.
3. An aging workforce.
The risk of an aging workforce has become a global issue, as demographic realities in some of the most dynamic societies of the east and west — including those of the United States, Europe, China and India — point to an increasing dearth of younger workers to take the place of retiring employees whose experience and skill levels may be a key factor in driving business results.
As challenging and as variable as these risks can be, let’s also focus on a key human capital risk factor faced by virtually every organization: CEO succession.
Indeed, from personal experience as a human resource executive and in light of some recent research on the subject, I feel strongly that mitigating the risk posed by CEO-succession issues is a key component of sound HR strategy.
Inside CEO Succession
For example, the 2010 Survey on CEO Succession Planning, conducted by Stanford University, notes that the boards of most of the surveyed organizations agree that their single-most-important task is choosing the next CEO — but, on average, they spend only two hours per year on succession planning.
Furthermore, 69 percent of the 140 survey respondents think that a CEO successor needs to be “ready now,” but only 54 percent of them are grooming an executive for the position, while 39 percent say they have “zero” viable internal candidates.
And, not surprisingly, statistics tell us that only 50 percent of CEO successions are planned at all.
If we agree that CEO selection can have a profound impact on shareholder value, it’s clear that this is one of the most important — and least managed — of human capital risks.
Writing in a December 2008 Chief Executive magazine article entitled “The Cost of CEO Failures,” Nat Stoddard, chairman of Crenshaw Associates, a New York-based consulting firm specializing in career and transition management for senior executives, and Claire Wyckoff, a writer and editor who has held executive positions in both the corporate and nonprofit sectors, estimate the total cost of such failures — in terms of cash, inefficiencies and opportunities lost — is approximately $14 billion annually.
They write: “Leadership failure at the CEO level plays out in many directions: There are direct costs related to the individual’s compensation … [and] indirect costs, which result from errors in judgment, bad strategies, poor execution, opportunities foregone and the disruption to the organization caused by inconsistencies, lack of direction and, worst of all, loss of trust.”
Indeed, CEO succession has become a vital aspect of corporate governance — and thus a key focus of my role as chief human resource executive — at my organization, which is itself largely focused on both risk and human capital.
Marsh & McLennan Cos. Inc. is a global professional-services firm, the parent company of a number of the world’s leading risk experts and specialty consultants: risk and insurance services provider Marsh; risk and reinsurance intermediary Guy Carpenter; Mercer, the provider of HR consulting, investments and outsourcing services; and management consultancy Oliver Wyman. Together, we employ some 51,000 people worldwide, with annual revenues in excess of $10 billion.
As Marsh & McLennan has evolved over the decades, so has its commitment to a robust CEO succession plan, especially in the face of the inevitable challenges and changes that large, global companies must face.
As we began to understand the true costs of CEO turnover — in terms of hard costs, and the less quantifiable but very real impact “CEO churn” has on corporate culture and employee engagement — it became clear that we needed to take a more active approach to mitigating this key element of our human capital risk (indeed, through our work with clients, we had witnessed firsthand the negative impact of CEO and C-suite churn).
Since I joined the organization in 2008, one of our priorities has been to work closely with President and CEO Brian Duperreault and the board of directors to codify our approach to CEO succession.
From our perspective, nothing less than proactive management of CEO-succession risk would do, and so, through regular consultations with our CEO and board, the new Guidelines of Corporate Governance were adopted in September of 2010, spelling out the board’s belief that planning for CEO succession is one of its most important responsibilities.
The board is now required to approve and maintain a succession plan for the CEO, taking into account the recommendations of the directors and governance committee. This means that, at least annually, the CEO meets with the non-executive directors to discuss his or her potential successors and related issues. Afterward, the board may update its CEO succession plan as appropriate.
In addition, the CEO keeps in place, at all times, a confidential procedure for the timely and efficient transfer of his or her responsibilities in the event of an emergency or his or her sudden incapacitation or departure.
The CEO also periodically reviews with the non-executive directors the performance of other key members of the firm’s senior management, as well as any succession issues relating to those individuals. The board is responsible for determining that a satisfactory system is in place with regard to the education, development and orderly succession of senior management throughout the organization.
Risk Factors and HR’s Role
Given the direct and indirect correlation of CEO succession to shareholder value and costs, succession planning should be at the top of the enterprise-risk agenda. The role of the senior HR executive in this process is threefold, requiring:
1. A thorough, objective understanding of the company’s current CEO-succession plan; the CHRO should be analyzing and discussing the process with the CEO and, directly or indirectly, with the board of directors.
2. A clearly defined set of core CEO competencies against which to measure potential CEO candidates, and a one-, three- and five-year plan for developing internal talent. This is, of course, a basic tenet of talent management; however, the skills and accountabilities required of a CEO are vastly different than any other senior-leadership position at the firm.
3. HR’s championing of the notion of human capital risk — and CEO-succession planning, in particular — as fundamental to the overall enterprise-risk-management strategy of the firm.
The stakes are simply too high to treat CEO-succession planning as anything less than a strategic imperative.
As Marsh & McLennan Vice Chairman David Nadler, an expert on CEO succession and board planning, says, “A constant, collaborative process is crucial to ensuring a successful transition — and it must begin the first day a new CEO takes the helm.”
These prescriptions make such sense that we might expect them to exist within every large organization, yet it’s apparent that many companies do not face the risk of CEO succession with a proactive management approach.
And while managing CEO succession is something that must be driven from the top of any organization — there’s a distinct line of sight from the board to the C-suite, after all — not all examples of human capital risk management are as clearly defined.
Let’s consider another example of human capital risk, that of a technology manufacturing organization, a client of ours, that faced dramatic changes in its business environment.
In this case, the risk factors involved burgeoning competition from Asia and the seismic shift from the analog basis of the company’s products to digital technology.
Senior management recognized the need to change its organizational structure, so it created new units to sell new products and be more competitive with Asia and the world in general.
But management was slower to consider the workforce aspects of these changes — i.e., that a different business strategy required a different human capital strategy, especially considering that the future of its business was going to be digital, yet thousands of its workers still possessed only “analog” skills.
The company’s human capital risk was compounded by a compensation structure that tended to reward low performers in the older, analog lines of business.
And, not surprisingly, the company’s stock price had declined some 90 percent over a two-year period, as the market recognized the competitive disadvantage the company was at. Restoring the company to competitive health, therefore, required a keen focus on its human capital aspects.
The solution included an emphasis on compensation — analyzing reward practices, restructuring the compensation system to pay for performance and shifting the bulk of reward compensation to employees with proven positive impact on the company’s bottom line.
In hand with that, performance evaluations and metrics were changed to reflect the firm’s new business goals. This meant that, in addition to having to meet team goals, even low performers on high-performing teams had to meet individual goals as well. Finally, new training programs were instituted to migrate, wherever possible, employees with older, analog skills into digital skill sets.
The larger point of all this is that quantifying human capital risk and its business impact remains a challenge for many organizations, especially in an age of global business and increasing complexity.
It calls for a new mind-set, in which companies not only recognize the singular importance of human capital to business performance, but aggressively incorporate human capital risk as part of enterprise-risk management, correlating workforce performance with the bottom line through more rigorous data, analytics and metrics — such as internal-labor-market statistics and HR dashboards that enable management in new ways.
And, in the case of CEO succession, it’s vital that such a primary risk-management function be embedded in the corporate-governance structure itself.
For HR, the challenge is to make these correlations between human capital performance and business impact through education, effectiveness and evidence. It’s vital for HR leaders to carry the message that, in a global knowledge economy, human capital risk has emerged as one of the biggest potential threats to the value of the enterprise.
Just as the “war for talent” characterized previous decades of HR action, HR’s critical capability and value creator for the next decade will be managing the risks of global talent.
[About the Author: Orlando D. Ashford is senior vice president and chief HR and communications officer of New York-based Marsh and McLennan Cos. Inc. He serves as the lead employee advocate for 50,000 employees in more than 100 countries.]
Learn How to Keep It Simple
by Brian Klapper | Chief Learning Officer
Complexity gets a bad rap, but should not be viewed as an absolute measure, as its impact can vary dramatically based on an observer’s perspective. Common complaints about complexity include that it drives unnecessary cost, causes waste and creates confusion.
Judging by those complaints, it is apparent there is not only a strong bias against complexity, but there appears to be a consensus that it is an evil that permeates organizations and must be rooted out and eliminated. There is a simple solution: reduce a company’s product line to one SKU, serve one customer segment, through one distribution channel, and size an organization accordingly.
This simple, illustrative solution is a gross exaggeration, and wildly impractical. Most of today’s global organizations must have an array of offerings to successfully compete. This array brings, of course, more complexity, but it can create competitive advantages that can be difficult to replicate. Further, it is not the complexity itself, but rather an organization’s inability to effectively manage it that causes problems.
An effective CLO can play an important role in helping an organization reduce complexity by determining which activities create organizational impact, eliminating the non-value-added activities, and effectively managing complexity to create significant value for the enterprise.
The Eye of the Beholder
Complexity is rather difficult to define. The many definitions in the popular press seem lacking, either classifying something as complex that we intuitively would see as simple, or failing to characterize an obviously complex situation as it is. Still, there is a common, objective core in complexity’s different concepts. The word’s origin, from the Latin word complexus, signifies something entwined or twisted together. Similarly, the Oxford Dictionary defines something as complex if it is made up of usually several closely connected parts.
Organizational complexity is an interesting concept because its level depends on the observer’s perspective. What may appear complex or unruly from one point of view may seem quite simple from a different angle. For example, those who have braved the streets of midtown Manhattan at rush hour can certainly attest to the overwhelming chaos. However, when viewed from the observation deck in the Empire State Building, the complexity below appears ordered and almost balletic. Organizational complexity can be viewed much the same way. That’s why it’s important to weigh the issue from many angles, from multiple stakeholders’ perspectives.
For instance, when senior leadership teams are asked about organizational complexity they generally refer to the systemic manifestations of the business complexity they experience. They cite product proliferation, expanding geographical scope, increasing spans of control and conflicting organizational silos. By contrast, relatively few executives consider the forms of individual complexity the vast majority of their employees face - and the impact they have - including a lack of transparency regarding roles and responsibilities, ineffective business processes, loss of empowerment and overwhelming amounts of rework.
Senior executives’ ability to leverage an intuitive focus on systemic complexity is critical to effectively manage it on an organizational and employee level. A focus on systemic complexity without regard to individual complexity can lead to low productivity, high turnover and an inability to eliminate complexity from the organization.
A critical first step for senior executives is to understand that their view of complexity differs considerably from that of the rank and file. Only then can management determine where systemic complexity is an issue, where complexity is caused by factors such as unclear roles and responsibilities or ineffective processes, and what can be done to relieve it in each area. Organizations can then improve performance by eliminating complexity derived from non-value-added activities and funneling the remaining value-added complexity back into the organization where thoughtful operational improvements can allow different stakeholders to handle and benefit from it.
Knowing Where to Cut
Consider the following scenario. The CLO of a global consumer products company is offered a difficult challenge after the new CEO decides to dramatically reduce systemic complexity by reorganizing the company into silos based on product lines such as health-related products and beauty, and eliminating the regional silos that focus on all areas of business in a given region.
Although the reorganization succeeds in reducing senior management’s level of systemic complexity, the newly formed business units have difficulty offering the integrated global solutions their customers demand.
In response to the fragmented structure, the human resources group creates several new positions - business unit coordinators (BUC) - whose sole function is to tie together activities across the business units as well as with key corporate functions. In response to the new positions, the CLO launches a skill-building program to enhance the BUC’s collaboration and team-building skills to help them more effectively bridge gaps among the business units. The training helps the BUCs learn to identify and accept the increased complexity, rather than allow it to fester uselessly.
CLOs are often uniquely positioned to ask the right questions to engage their staff and business partners in a dialogue about simplification opportunities. Here are some of the questions they can ask in common areas of concern:
1. When the problem is inefficient organizational design, consider:
a) Are there opportunities to consolidate similar functions or departments physically, virtually or managerially?
b) How many managerial layers are there between the department managers and front-level associates? Can layers be reduced and spans of control increased?
2. If the source of the complexity is product and service proliferation:
a) Does the company have a robust process that regularly reviews the current product/service portfolio’s performance so the organization’s resources could potentially be redeployed to new or more successful products and services?
b) How well does the organization test the internal rate of return for new products and services to make sure they do not cannibalize current offerings?
3. If unmanaged process evolution has caused organizational strain:
a) Has the organization identified critical business processes - those processes that need to run smoothly and efficiently for the enterprise to be successful?
b) Does the organization have metrics and a simple dashboard that transparently tells managers and staff how various processes are performing? Specifically, can leaders effectively quantify rework and non-value-added activities across the organization?
4. If unintentional managerial behaviors are a source of organizational complexity:
a) To what extent have leaders clearly conveyed the strategic vision and goals throughout the organization? How well can front-line people articulate their contributions to overall strategic objectives?
b) How much time do managers spend in meetings? Are they well-planned and well-run with clear goals and outcomes?
c) How much time do managers spend coaching employees and demonstrating and rewarding expected behaviors?
Armed with the answers to some of these questions, the CLO can design learning programs to hone specific skills that will enable the organization’s key players to identify and eliminate the non-value-added activities often caused by complexity. Learning leaders can build programs that thoughtfully target reductions in individual complexity by role, critical business operation or strategy, educating employees and leaders to think about how they might engage in their day-to-day activities differently and empowering them to offer suggestions for development options or organizational changes that will improve their ability to contribute.
For instance, employees can be taught how to quantify the amount of rework, handoffs and non-value-added activities in a given business process where they operate. They could then use this data to generate heat charts that indicate where and why complexity is causing organizational pain and how effectively employees are able to cope with it.
For example, to reduce systemic complexity, learning leaders could augment managers’ networking skills and develop programs to enhance their ability to work in teams, with business partners across the organizations, to mitigate the complexity brought about from multiple silos.
Again, complexity should not be viewed as an absolute measure as its impact can vary dramatically based on the observer’s perspective. It is therefore essential that CLOs and the senior executive teams they support recognize different forms of complexity and learn what’s causing them. By doing so, companies can retain the kinds that add value, remove those that don’t, and funnel the rest to departments that can be trained to manage them. CLOs can then make complexity reduction an ongoing part of their strategy in a way that not only reduces costs, but helps the rest of the enterprise to thrive.
[About the Author: Brian Klapper is president of The Klapper Institute.]
Improving Retention Among High Potentials
by Natalie Morera | Talent Management
Keeping high potentials is becoming a risky business and can hit a company’s bottom line.
One in four top employees plans to change jobs in the next 12 months alone, according to a recent study by the Corporate Executive Board, a research and advisory services company. Losing a high-potential employee can cost an employer up to 3 1/2 times that employee’s annual compensation, when considering expenses, such as replacement costs, and contributive costs, such as business relationships and financial contributions.
“Organizations really need to stop the bleeding of their top talent loss to help with their competitive advantage,” said George Penn, senior director of the Corporate Leadership Council at the Corporate Executive Board. “We saw some disturbing trends in the intent of high potentials to leave their current employer.”
This 25 percent statistic is a “significant leap” considering that number was just 10 percent in 2008. The increase could be at least in part attributed to the state of the economy, Penn said. High potentials have been impacted more significantly than other employees, especially with companies restructuring, rounds of layoffs, and the departure of peers and managers.
“High-potential employees have gone through a disproportionate amount of disruptions within their jobs and within their workplace,” Penn said.
Michael K. Burroughs, president of executive integration and coaching services at DHR International, an executive search firm, connects the numbers with manager and executive failure.
“It’s a costly problem - there are costs to bringing leaders on board especially if they’ve been recruited from the outside to the executive level,” Burroughs said. “If you lose somebody it doesn’t happen typically overnight.”
Burroughs said in his experience, high potentials leave after not receiving the attention they wanted or thought they should get. According to the same Corporate Executive Board survey, 64 percent of high potentials said they were unhappy with their development activities.
Talent mapping is one way companies can retain top talent, as this will create a gap analysis, Burroughs said.
It can allow an organization to see who is prepared for future advancement and which positions they will need to obtain from outside. The result will be a development plan, but a one-size-fits-all development plan isn’t motivating to high potentials, he said. High potentials tend to want tailored development efforts, and organizations can show them they are valued by involving them in development plans.
“People need to know that the culture of the company is to advance high-potential people from within,” Burroughs said. “That’s a very key factor in employee loyalty and management loyalty. There is an upward path in this organization and management doesn’t always go outside to bring in people when there’s a vacancy.”
Another key tactic to help retain high potentials is coaching. Having a coach assigned to a particular employee for a specified amount of time is a good investment.
“Having a coach dedicated to their development is really helpful,” Burroughs said. “That coach is the go-between [for] the organization’s management and the high-potential person.”
The coaches would put development plans together, communicate with managers, have meetings and keep in constant contact with high potentials.
Experiential learning, network-oriented learning, action learning and mentoring drive the emotional commitment of a high potential, Penn said.
“You’re going to get a higher impact on their engagement levels,” he said.
Besides putting these programs in place, there’s still the question of effectiveness. “Through our research, [we have found] only 8 percent effectively measure the impact of their high-potential programs, which includes those development experiences,” Penn said. “There’s a lack of insight, a lack of awareness, and a lack of connectivity between the development activities their spending dollars are on and the ultimate impact those activities have on critical workforce outcomes, such as retention, engagement, productivity.”
Only 6 to 9 percent of the employee population falls into the high-potential space, so the chances of being able to replace a high potential with another is unlikely, Penn explained. “Statistically speaking, you have a lower chance and that’s why it’s even more important to retain these individuals,” he said.
[About the Author: Natalie Morera is an associate editor at Talent Management magazine.]
Rallies are everywhere once again. The prices of commodities are rising, and it would be next to impossible to tell people to not work for money. The militant activists, who are denouncing capitalism at every turn, are asking for more money. They think that every employee deserves to get more because of the fair hikes. I am yet to hear militant activists encourage workers everywhere to become more productive and to support the companies that provide them work.
Money is one of the best inventions of man. And people work for money for various reasons. Because of money man can purchase his basic needs. Many men think that they only need to eat three times a day and be able to buy some toys in order for them to survive.
There are those who think that money is the measure of their worth. A billionaire is definitely rich and people look up to him because he has the money. I accept, I met people every day who measure my worth according to my net worth. They look at me and calculate the amount of money I have based on what they can see. I do not wear expensive suits. I do not drive my own car. I do not go to fine dining, etc. I can see it in their eyes. And may be, for some of you, you have also seen it in their eyes. Very few people can see your brain, or feel the goodness of your soul, so they ask themselves how much money you make in a day.
But I have learned and experienced the best part of life. I work only for the best. I now do the work which I love. And I earn good money as a bonus. This is why I am encouraged not work for money.
You have to work passionately at something you love to do. Money may buy you things that bring you happiness, but working on something you love brings joy. Spread this secret: there is always an opportunity to enjoy the workplace. Start with the people who are with you.
Work to solve people’s problems. You do not become rich by demanding more money from people. Rich people are rich because they solve difficult problems. Make it a habit to help people solve their problems. Find opportunities to create products and services which will help solve people’s problems. Be a winner at work. People will share with you their money because they will love to.
You must work for something which makes your dream a reality. It is possible that you do not like the work you are in now. Stop complaining. Stop demanding from people. Start working on your dreams. There is always something you can learn from your present work which can be of big use later on.
You must work to express yourself. Let your work be the canvass of the artist within you. Helping people gain confidence in leadership is my expression of faith. I know that people are capable of changing their lives and the lives of others.
Money is the greatest invention of man. But do not forget that you are the inventor. You are more than your invention, you are the master and not the slave.
Work for your passion. Solve people’s problems. Work on your dreams. And Express yourself.
About the author: Jef Menguin is a Filipino inspirational and leadership speaker, team building facilitator, corporate trainer, social entrepreneur, and personal development blogger in Metro Manila, Philippines.Filipinos are the most productive employees elsewhere in the world, but many Philippine companies have problems with uninspired overworked underachievers. Through speaking, training, and coaching Jef Menguin helps organizations bring out the best in Filipinos.
Who Do People Think You Are?
by Marshall Goldsmith, Ph.D. | Talent Management
Reputation is one element in establishing your mojo, that positive spirit that starts inside and radiates outside. It’s where you add up who you are - your identity - and what you’ve done - your achievement - and toss the combined sum out into the world to see how people respond.
Your reputation is people’s recognition - or rejection - of your identity and achievement. Sometimes you’ll agree with the world’s opinion. Sometimes you won’t. But many times you may not even be aware of it. You cannot create your reputation by yourself. The rest of the world, by definition, always has something to say about it. But you can influence it, and as is usually the case, I have a few thoughts on how you can do that and how it affects your mojo.
We often want to believe that we have character, but that is different than reputation. We define our character as who we really are and our reputation as who other people think we really are. In situations where their assessment is different than our own, we generally define their assessment as wrong. It takes courage to realize that, in some cases, other people’s view of us may be just as accurate - or even more so - than our own view of ourselves.
We often do not know what our reputation is. We’re fairly clear-eyed about what we think of other people. But when it comes to what they think of us, we can live in the dark. We may have no clue about what other people are saying about us behind our backs, and therefore no opportunity to correct falsehoods, if they are inaccurate, or to mend our ways, if they are correct. This is one reason, in my experience, that reputation is such a neglected component in our mojo makeup: We don’t have enough information to do much about it. So we ignore it.
I know this is true from my one-on-one coaching work with executives who want to change their behavior. The first thing I do is conduct a 360-degree feedback assessment of the executive’s behavior on the job. In some cases, this is the first time the executive has ever been reviewed by people below rather than above him or her. I interview 15 to 20 colleagues and direct reports. I tally up the comments and report what I’ve found. In a few cases, much of what I uncover is breaking news to the executive. He or she will express complete surprise and then utter some variation of: “Really, people think I’m (fill in the blank)?”
These are smart, successful, motivated individuals. They’ve reached their incredible positions in life by being attuned to what other people think of them - and thoughtfully adjusting their behavior accordingly.
And yet my polling results on their reputation are often an eye-opener for them. If these hyper-successful professionals are sometimes in the dark about their reputations, it’s not surprising that the rest of us can be clueless.
Quick question: Amid all your list making, organizing and planning your next move, when was the last time you sat down and thought about your reputation? The likely truth is that unless you’re a celebrity, politician or other kind of public figure - people whose reputations are constantly being assessed, elevated and diminished in the media - you’ve never codified your reputation at work. Never written down what you thought it might be or what you want it to be. You likely have never asked your colleagues for feedback about it. Never even thought about what you must do to establish it. At best, you may harbor a vague notion that you have a reputation for being a nice person or being good at your job or being willing to help out. But that’s about it. You’ve never dug deeper into the specific personality traits, skills, behaviors and accomplishments that help form a reputation.
It’s taken me a while to figure out why so many of us neglect our reputations. It’s not that we don’t care. We care a lot. It’s that we confuse our need to consider ourselves to be smart with our need to be considered effective by the world. The two are not the same thing, and one often overwhelms the other.
[About the Author: Dr. Marshall Goldsmith is a world authority in helping successful leaders achieve positive, lasting change in behavior. He is the author or co-editor of 27 books, including Mojo.]
Getting What You Want
by Jac Fitz-enz | Talent Management
Some people complain about their inability to obtain the support or resources to do their jobs effectively. Others don’t seem to have that problem. What’s the difference between these two groups?
In the movie “Harvey,” Jimmy Stewart played Elwood P. Doud, who entertained an illusion that he had a six-foot tall rabbit for a friend. When his psychiatrist suggested that he face reality, he said something like, “I’ve tried reality and didn’t much care for it.”
Have you known people who just won’t accept the facts of their situation? They live in a fantasy world of their making and ignore the parts they don’t like. On the one hand, they want something, such as recognition or power, but on the other hand, they can’t come to grips with the requisites of their position. One might say they are unwilling to pay the price for success.
There are some fundamentals underlying success in any endeavor. When it comes to delivering professional services, the traits include:
You don’t have to be a Mensa member, but you do have to understand the rules of the game you are playing.
Successful people are insightful. They see beyond the obvious when it comes to people, circumstances and future needs.
3. Skills and knowledge:
If you are a manager, you have to know the basics of management. If you are a professional, you need to know how to use the tools of the trade.
You can’t be afraid to talk to people, even those who are blunt, insensitive and driven to perform.
You have to want success badly. Whatever you aspire to, be it resources, position or achievement, you can’t take no for an answer. Perseverance is essential.
Call it persuasion if you like, but you must be able to present a value proposition in a manner that can be understood and accepted.
Then there’s your presentation. How do you sell your idea? Sales models abound, but they can all be reduced to four steps: getting the buyer’s attention, developing an interest, generating desire and taking the order. They work like this:
a) There is a plethora of competing messages in everyone’s mental inbox these days. Getting through the maze is the essential first step. Years ago, my organization hired a publicity manager. The morning Larry was introduced, he came into the room from the back, walked through the assemblage to the front without saying a word and stuck a $100 bill on the whiteboard. He turned and looked at us for a minute in silence. Then he asked, “Do I have your attention?” You may not do something as dramatic as Larry did, but until you get attention, you can’t explain your proposition.
b) Why should your audience be interested in your proposal? They have their own interests and needs. Often the mention of something they don’t know will peak interest. For example, a statistic or a case related to your topic can stimulate thought. The caveat is that it must be of interest to them as well.
c) Desire is the critical element. Desire is a matter of matching the audience with the product. How do you link their hearts and heads to your topic of planning, software, training or retention? Why should they care about it? How does it affect them? You have two themes to try, the positive or the negative. What good will accrue if they support your idea? What danger or loss will result if they don’t?
d) Close the deal with a KISS - keep it simple, stupid. Once the audience shows real interest and keeps nodding their heads as you present the material, you can try for a quick close by simply asking, “OK, you obviously see the value. Shall we go?” If they are not ready to sign on, check again for any of the key points they are not committed to. Then, go for another close.
At the end of the day, getting what you want is a function of personal traits and presentation skills. It is not magic, but it does require dedicated effort. Some people are natural salespeople. Most of us are not. But if we work at it, we can get what we want most of the time.
[About the Author: Jac Fitz-enz is founder and CEO of the Human Capital Source and Workforce Intelligence Institute.]
Obsessed With the ‘After’
by Bob Mosher | Chief Learning Officer
As long as I’ve been involved in learning and development, the talk, design, implementation, measurement and overall buzz has always been about the event. As an industry, we do a stunning job of creating engaging and purposeful learning experiences. We have done just about everything imaginable to these learning events to achieve this outcome. We’ve digitized them, streamed them, filmed them, recorded them, animated them, simulated them, lectured them - you get the point. I think we can comfortably say that we have that area covered. Our learners are well served when it comes to gaining knowledge. Here’s my concern:
I was recently attending a conference and was discussing the effectiveness of training with another attendee. By his own admission, he was not from the learning industry. He had been dragged kicking and screaming into training from one of his company’s lines of business. He didn’t understand our acronyms and couldn’t recite the ADDIE model. What he wanted was results.
Although he appreciated our knowledge about instruction, he was amazed at how little we seemed to talk about actual results. When I pushed him a bit more about this, he said, “When I was a manager, I didn’t care about anything my people learned in class. All I cared about was what they could do better, or differently, after they returned.” This led me to consider just how obsessed we are with the “after.”
I recently joined ranks with two of my colleagues, Conrad Gottfredson and Frank Nguyen, to do some work in this very area. For the learner, it’s always been about the after. All that prepares learners for this critical moment is fine, but if they can’t perform on the job, why should they engage with us in the first place? My colleagues proposed a design model they called LEaP, or Learning Experience and Performance design. The model is built on the premise that our efforts should be first and foremost about enabling learners to perform on the job when they’re not participating in formal programs.
The model is a simple yet powerful one. It breaks up the learning journey into three stages: before, during and after a learning event occurs. The model suggests that instead of designing for the event and then surrounding that event with whatever learning assets are appropriate, we should start looking at the after stage as the primary learning event and work backward from there.
Imagine what the impact would be if our learning departments started designing as if the after stage was all the learner had available, as we have often designed for learning events in the past. Would this dramatically change your approach, the learning tools and platforms you created and the way you were viewed within the lines of business you support?
Once the design for the after stage is completed, my colleagues recommend that you move to the before stage. Once the before assets are created, it’s finally time to consider the during stage. The beauty of this methodology is that, when done well, there are many instances where you may not need a learning event at all. For years we have pursued blended learning, which more often than not ends up being a mixture of learning assets traditionally taught in class. The LEaP method challenges us to invert that approach by placing more emphasis on what occurs outside of class and supplementing with training when and where needed.
The times we live in challenge each of our learning organizations to constantly prove our value to the enterprises that we serve. All too often we aren’t viewed as intentionally impacting the after stage of our learners’ work context. Shifting our attention to first serve learners’ daily work can dramatically impact our value.
[About the Author: Bob Mosher is global chief learning and strategy evangelist for LearningGuide Solutions and has been an influential leader in the IT training space for more than 15 years.]
Managing All Employees Alike Can Be a Recipe for Disaster
by Mark Powers and Andy Kanefield | Talent Management
It has been said that good people don’t leave good companies - they leave poor managers. No one wants to lose their best people, but in the midst of time pressures to produce better results, managers often cut corners - one of which is acknowledging the importance of managing according to the strengths of their people.
Many parents understand that their children are unique individuals and know when to treat one child differently than the others. Managing employees needs to be a similar journey of better understanding their unique strengths and learning how to maximize those strengths within the context of the shared goals of teams within the organization.
Consider the following broad categories of people within an organization and the accompanying guidelines on how to manage them.
1. Futurist employees:
These are employees who need to know what’s next. They have a directional focus; they’re looking at the horizon. While there are different types of futurists, there are certain principles that are important to manage any futurist.
a) Respecting their strengths means giving them an opportunity to help shape the future. Managers can give them roles that allow them to co-create what comes next for the team.
b) Understanding their limitations means recognizing that some may need help implementing their ideas. Place them on teams with people who are good at execution.
c) Helping them develop may mean reminding them that not everyone can see the same things they can and that they need to paint tangible pictures of what the future could look like.
These are employees who excel at execution because they can see the steps needed to get things done. They’re the ones people depend on to get things done. How does one manage analysts?
a) Respecting their strengths means giving them clear instructions of what your desired endpoint is and then giving them the opportunity to create the steps to get there.
b) Understanding their limitations means recognizing that managers may need to check in with them occasionally to ensure the steps being executed are still leading toward the desired end result.
c) Helping them develop may mean reminding them of the necessity to change at times and that the tried-and-true approaches of yesterday were at one time the new approaches.
These are employees who view organizations as a network of people with a common cause, who see the need for a common rally cry or mantra that provides focus and energy. They are the cheerleaders of the organization.
a) Respecting their strengths means making sure that the team has a clearly articulated shared purpose and that they have a role in reinforcing it and helping keep people focused on it.
b) Understanding their limitations means avoiding overly conceptual and theoretical discussions that don’t directly relate to improving organizational or individual performance.
c) Helping them develop means reminding them that other members of the team can still be team players by contributing strengths in isolation that contribute toward team success.
These are employees who think first about the needs of customers or clients. If the organization is anticipating or going through a change, the first question an interpreter will ask is, “How will this affect our clients?”
a) Respecting their strengths means ensuring that the team listens to their customer insights. They may not have organized, empirical data for each conclusion, but don’t dismiss their conclusions due to lack of numbers.
b) Understanding their limitations means making sure that project priorities are clear. Interpreters want to help, and as such, they will overcommit. They need to understand the highest priorities and have timelines based in reality.
c) Helping them develop means reminding them that great ideas are truly great when you put them into practice.
[About the Authors: Mark Powers is a consultant at Dialect Inc. Andy Kanefield is Dialect’s founder and owner.]
2011: A Virtual, Mobile Year
by Caroline Avey | Chief Learning Officer
Extraordinary times call for extraordinary skills as CLOs creatively balance the demand for knowledge and information against the realities of rapidly changing content and instructional design, rapidly disappearing content expertise, disruptive technologies, heightened demand for on-the-job proficiency and an increasingly dispersed workforce with less tolerance for formal learning.
Evolution of the Virtual Classroom
The need to reach learners in remote locations continues. Learning professionals need to find solutions that minimize workflow disruption, yet enable connections with experts and fellow learners with more powerful virtual classrooms. Tools such as Adobe Connect Pro and e/pop bring streaming video and social networking functionality to webcasting solutions. Telepresence offers another option. Telepresence sites are equipped with displays that stream video to remote locations, with options ranging from immersive environments such as Cisco’s telepresence rooms to homegrown locations with webcams and flat-screen displays.
Virtual worlds are evolving from resource-intensive software downloads to programs that run in a Web browser. These tools minimize download requirements, ease access issues and minimize desktop computing requirements. VenueGen offers virtual space for meetings and training sessions in a prebuilt environment for a fraction of the cost of building a proprietary environment. Other programs, such as Nexus and Unity Jibe, offer whiteboards and document sharing. Virtual environments can be used for a variety of purposes, from online role-playing of consultative skills for a finance firm to on-boarding associates for a consulting firm, with the use of discussion sessions, treasure hunts and teamwork sessions.
Technical training will move from live learning and Web-based courseware to include distance learning labs where the user interacts with software and hardware through a program or immersive environment launched from a personal computer. An example is the configuration of servers through the use of the virtual world Teleplace, in which virtual lab developer MTS links virtual objects with computers and servers in the real world.
Mobile Access to Learning
Most organizations have fairly robust formal learning programs to address competency, performance readiness and mastery. Given the rapid pace of change, more companies are focusing on performance proficiency by ensuring on-the-job access to knowledge objects, experts or peers to enhance knowledge acquired in a classroom or online. For example, an online course explaining the impact of a recent merger can be coupled with a few short, time-sensitive briefing modules provided to executives via their mobile devices.
Mobile learning also can be used for learners who don’t have access to computers, such as retail clerks, pilots, customer service representatives and anyone working on the move. A more sophisticated use of podcasting in blended learning can rapidly deploy messaging that can be heard via iPods, smart phones or other mobile devices.
Vendors such as OnPoint, Intuition, Hot Lava, Chalk and Vistacast are carving out niches in mobile deployment. Technical issues, such as learning object file size, will be mitigated as companies convert to larger mobile enterprise servers. The use of HTML 5 for development and design will allow learning objects to be viewed the same way across devices and operating systems. Mobile URLs are becoming more prevalent, meeting the demand for solutions that can be designed once and deployed on any device, including smart phones and other Internet-accessible devices such as scanner tools that an airlines uses for ticket scanning or warehouse personnel use for inventory.
Aside from learning objects, organizations are also rethinking access to knowledge databases and reconfiguring database access and content to HTML 5 to make it accessible via mobile device. E-book readers such as the Kindle and the iPad are prompting even the most traditional organizations to think about replacing a wall of books with online, interactive and searchable manuals for policies and procedures. Access to traditional learning through a mobile LMS is just breaking ground with Blackboard’s mobile LMS.
One tool gaining traction in the marketing world that can be applied to learning is mobile tagging using tagging software such as Microsoft’s free Tag Reader. Learners download the software and use a mobile device’s camera to take a picture of an image or barcode; software recognizes the image and downloads related information. Tags can be used on anything from equipment panels to product boxes and link to in-depth information about the item. Mobile tagging can be used to on-board new hires to an office location. Tags orient the new hire to common rooms as well as introduce the different work groups in various locations. Tags can also serve as downloadable job aids, providing product information to retail workers.
[About the Author: Caroline Avey is learning strategist and director of innovative learning solutions for ACS Learning Services, a Xerox company.]
Bridging the Credibility Gap
by Sarita Bhakuni and Michelle Johnston | Human Resource Executive Online
To retain top talent, organizations need to start talking to their employees. When left in the dark, people draw conclusions which tend to be worse than reality. HR leaders should also be aware of uncharacteristic behavior by their managers, which often indicates high levels of stress.
As the economy begins to show signs of life, companies across the board report a new challenge: Top talent is becoming slippery.
Top-tier employees are suddenly finding notes in their in-boxes and LinkedIn profiles from headhunters. For many companies, this problem of a rebounding job market is compounded by a lack of revenue, leaving few financial incentives available to induce these employees to stay put.
So if you’re sweating over the possibility of losing the very employees that top management made a point not to let go during workforce cuts, you’re not alone.
While there’s no doubt that lack of financial incentive plays a role in the willingness of employees to jump ship, there are deeper issues that companies must address. Stress, burnout, disengagement and a host of other problems are symptomatic of one core issue that needs to be addressed above all: Trust.
The Credibility Gap
Trust issues are often elusive because they largely go unspoken. However, keep in mind that, over the past two years, valued employees have seen co-workers let go right and left, saw unfulfilled promises, observed inconsistent behavior and been forced to deal with the effects of short-sighted decision-making.
It should come as no surprise that many no longer trust leadership. Employers who want to hang on to these workers must address this credibility gap.
Numerous studies have shown a correlation between trust and a host of performance indicators, including retention.
In a 2008 study, Work Engagement and its Relationship with State and Trait Trust: A Conceptual Analysis, Aamir Ali Chughtai and Finian Buckley suggested that trust positively correlates with workplace engagement and cited evidence for the notion that trust positively affects turnover intentions.
And if, as is suggested, lack of engagement is an indicator of a breakdown in trust, the problem may be widespread, as a 2010 study by Right Management entitled Employee Engagement: Maximizing Organizational Performance found that 50 percent of employees in organizations with 50 plus workers identify themselves as completely disengaged.
Rebuilding Trust with Candid Communication
The studies by both Chughtai and Buckley and Right Management assert that, among other factors, forthright communication is key to building trust.
Put simply, organizations need to start talking to their employees. When left in the dark, people draw conclusions that tend to be worse than reality. Leaders, therefore, need to candidly explain the current state of affairs and the strategy for weathering the next few years.
Recently we’ve seen companies achieve success by holding “summits” to explain to every level of talent strategic plans, realistic expectations, goals and reasons behind actions. However, as talking is only a portion of the communication spectrum, it’s equally important to behave in ways that open the lines of communication and therefore build trust. Surprisingly, we’ve found that many behaviors commonly exhibited by leaders tend to break down trust.
Utilizing constructs based on the Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation model, which identifies fundamental interpersonal needs that drive behavior, we’ve found that it’s not uncommon for senior managers to possess high “expressed” needs for inclusion, but low “wanted” needs.
According to the theory, the extent to which a person will initiate certain behaviors is termed as expressed, while the extent to which they prefer to be a recipient of those behaviors is wanted. For example, if someone craves affection, yet is fairly unaffectionate themselves, they could be termed as having a low expressed and high wanted need for affection.
So managers may, for example, very actively invite their employees to meetings or social gatherings. However, when asked by their employees to attend such gatherings, they often don’t show up. Even worse, sometimes they don’t show up for their own events. Such behavior strongly tends to break down trust — particularly in this economy. As simple as it may sound, just showing up to meetings and company parties goes a long way toward building trust because it shows that you care.
Additionally, managers possessing a low expressed and high wanted need for “affection” often prompt employees to open up about personal or work-related things, but fail to reciprocate. Getting someone to open up and then failing to demonstrate openness in return tends to break down trust, ironically making it less likely that they’ll open up again. While there are boundaries when it comes to managers opening up to employees, expressing openness on a personal level — and therefore willingness toward a degree of mutual vulnerability — is a highly effective way to build trust.
Also, consider a manager with high expressed and low wanted needs for “control,” which may be exhibited in a tendency to hoard work. Failure to delegate often sends a message to employees that you don’t trust them. Delegation, on the other hand, is, in and of itself, an expression of trust — a necessary step in building mutual trust.
Building Trust by Showing Appreciation
Both studies also identified employee appreciation as key to building trust. Beyond praise, however, find out what actually motivates your employees and let them work on the kinds of things they enjoy. Additionally, we’ve found that small, yet meaningful, perks such as paying for dinner and cab rides for employees who work late, half days, summer Fridays, professional-development opportunities and time off for personal development go a long way.
A perhaps even more meaningful way to show appreciation involves identifying your employees’ core needs/issues and figuring out ways to meet those needs.
In very few areas is this more impactful than stress management. Identify employee stressors and, on an individual basis, do what you can to relieve them, and your employees will begin to see reason to trust you.
Using what is known as “Grip” theory — a construct for addressing stress responses based on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator instrument — we’ve learned that both signs of stress and stressors vary greatly by personality type, and aren’t always obvious.
When we’re “in the grip” of stress — a phrase coined by clinical psychologist Naomi L. Quenk to describe the feeling of being “beside ourselves” — we’re not operating from the aspects of our personality that are most practiced and familiar to us.
As such, our behavior can be clumsy and unpredictable. Furthermore, grip-level stress can lead to sub-par performance, as we tend to work harder and work longer hours but are less effective because we’re using preferences and functions where we are less fluent.
For example, someone with a preference for “extroversion” and “thinking” might deal with the stress of company upheaval with what may be perceived as cool detachment and efficient determination.
Such unusual calmness in the midst of the storm, however, may be the sign of tremendous inner turmoil, and an employee close to their breaking point. For such an individual, stressors may include lack of control over time and tasks, a disorganized environment and frequent interruptions.
Alternatively, someone with a preference for”introversion” and “thinking” may react to criticism or hostility with paranoia. An otherwise self-assured employee may begin to believe that no one likes them, and even express these feelings to co-workers.
However — particularly if this is not usual behavior for this person — it may once again be a sign that he or she is stressed to their breaking point. For such an individual, typical stressors may include working under strict regulations, being dependent on others for work results, and too little time alone.
By taking care to identify these stressors and offering workplace concessions that relieve them, leaders may demonstrate true appreciation for the employee’s contribution and make great strides toward building trust.
By the same token, leaders need to be aware of how the “grip” phenomenon may affect their own behavior in ways that break down their teams’ trust in them.
For example, an executive normally heralded for an open communication style may become withdrawn; a manager who is consistently reasonable may seem irrational or overly emotional; or an executive who provides autonomy for employees may become a micromanager.
When this happens, the team becomes confused by this uncharacteristic behavior and trust breaks down. By addressing their own stress reactions, leaders can offer a more consistent presentation, increasing their teams’ trust in their judgment.
These varied tactics have one thing in common: they demonstrate that the employer is dedicated to the well-being of the employee — an indispensable component in rebuilding trust.
Barring extraordinary circumstances, it’s safe to assume that your company can’t take for granted that its employees believe their best interests are a top concern for management. If you want to retain these valued workers, you need to show them why they should believe it.
For many organizations, this will only be accomplished when leaders quit worrying about whether time and money spent on employees yields direct ROI — at this point, the ROI is that top-tier employees don’t quit.
[About the Authors: Dr. Sarita Bhakuni, a psychologist, trainer, senior organizational development consultant and assessment expert for CCP Inc., holds master’s and doctorate degrees in clinical psychology. Michelle Johnston, consultant for CCP, is an experienced industrial and organizational consultant. She holds a master’s degree in clinical psychology and is currently completing her PhD in industrial and organizational psychology.]
How Could Our Not-for-Profit Accurately Predict Future Skills Needs?
[Workforce Management | January 20, 2011]
There are three categories to emphasize in the future: people skills, technology skills and developmental skills. You will need good leaders who are conversant in gaming and simulation. Strive also to hire people with the potential for professional development.
Q: We run a not-for-profit association that provides recreational services to military service members and their families. We are thinking long term about the types of skills requirements that our business will need during the next five to 10 years. How can we know which skill areas might be most important? Is there a clear-cut way to make an educated guess? We aren’t in the predicting business, but we want to invest in the right skills.
- Peering Into the Future, assistant manager, not-for-profit, Singapore
A: I applaud your inquiry. Rarely do human resources professionals take time to understand the importance of recruiting future skills. For a not-for-profit in the recreational field, there are three main categories of skills you will want your people to have as you move into the future: people skills, technology skills and developmental skills.
Because you will probably continue to rely on sponsorship, you will want your development people to have excellent powers of persuasion. This skill will also be helpful in recruiting new members as well as new employees. Hint: Have your internal and your external marketing people work together so that your employer brand and your organizational brand are aligned. (Sometimes not-for-profits forget this important step.)
Also in the area of people skills: You will need good leaders as well as good followers. As you grow, you will need people who are good at working in teams to accomplish projects. When you are ready to expand to a second club, you will need people who are good at establishing systems and procedures in new environments. You can recruit for these particular skills by using behavioral interviewing.
Second, as we all know, technology is becoming more and more important in recreation and fitness. You will want to hire some people who are familiar with the “latest and greatest” in gaming and simulations. Today, it’s the PlayStation, Wii and the Xbox. Who knows what tomorrow’s technology will bring? Hire people who pride themselves in staying on the leading edge. They will probably be members of the millennial generation - sometimes called Generation Y.
To repair these systems and your increasingly sophisticated machines in the club, you will also need people who are good (and fast) technicians. Machine downtime discourages people from visiting your club, so you will want to have any broken machines up and running as soon as possible. Be sure to include a practical test in your pre-employment candidate assessment. (One of the worst hires I ever made was when I believed a young woman whose resume said that she was able to program in HTML; I didn’t find out until after I hired her that she thought being able to use Dreamweaver was the same as being able to program from scratch.)
Finally, you will want to hire people who have the ability to develop and grow, so that they may grow with your organization. Many of the jobs that will exist in 10 years do not exist now. Hire people who are adaptable and who not only can learn new things, but also enjoy learning them as well. And although in your area of recreation you will hire many young people, do not dismiss your candidates from other generations. What is most important is that the candidates want to keep developing themselves.
[Source: Joyce Gioia, strategic business futurist, The Herman Group, Austin, Texas.]
New Year, New Rules
by Jac Fitz-enz | Talent Management
As if we have not had enough change and challenge thrown at us in the past three years, 2011 arrives with some new rules. One is from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which came out with a ruling making the boards of directors of publicly traded corporations accountable for risk management in their firms. Specifically, the ruling states that the board now is obligated to oversee a company’s risk management processes and controls, and it offers new regulations describing the board’s role in monitoring risk.
Management, which includes HR, is charged with day-to-day organizational risk management. Risks are defined as issues that are reasonably likely to have materially adverse effect on a company.
The reason for this ruling is obvious. Historically, when business does not police itself, Uncle Sam takes on the task. Given the number of management scandals in the past decade, the government has stepped in to protect investors. It happened in the past century with labor legislation designed to protect worker rights and safety. More recently, regulations regarding the treatment of stock options came out because some executives tried to enrich themselves or certain employees by backdating options. There is an HR person currently serving time for her part in such a scheme. In a free market, some people will always attempt to take unfair advantage, and eventually government will be forced to play its protective role.
What does this mean for the human resources function? Well, HR, along with other functions, collects data. Now it must collect operational data. We often talk about HR’s role as steward of human capital. To fulfill stewardship, we must monitor activity and results. In the course of that, it should become obvious when an organization is at risk. This is not new. What is new is that now we have to recognize the risk and report to the board. HR has always sought a seat at the table. Uncle Sam just provided the chair.
Suppose you work in a hospital chain. Among your services is a full-service psychiatric complex. This means you must staff the wards with certified nurses and attendants. These people have to pass tests and gain experience in order to hold their jobs. One hospital manager told me recently that there is a big problem finding certified psychiatric nurses. This is nothing new. The job is high-stress, potentially dangerous and heart-rending. But when HR can’t keep the wards properly staffed, the hospital may be in violation of health care regulations. This risk must be reported to the board. As the HR executive charged with recruiting and retaining these professional personnel, you can’t just dump the problem on the board. You have to have a solution. This is the seat at the table that you asked for.
Suppose you work for a mining company or at a refinery. Here also you have to have certified technicians to operate and maintain the equipment. Research from one such refinery proved there is a tolerance level of overtime for these people. But when you work them past a certain point, they become fatigued and prone to make errors. In addition, technicians have to maintain their certification through training, study and practice. There is a famous case from about five years ago wherein the refinery management did not keep up certifications and worked people in excessive overtime to meet shipment targets. HR pointed out the risk to management and was ignored. Today, you would be obligated to report that to the C-level, and the board would have to respond. If you didn’t report it, you could be a party to the problem. In this case, the refinery blew up, putting 27 people in the hospital, and it cost several billion dollars to rebuild the facility.
Maybe you don’t work in a hazardous industry. Still, there are other risks. Some are financial, production or marketing related and can affect stock price. With those areas there are many personnel-based risks. They have to do with published operating objectives and financial targets that won’t be met because you don’t have the people, your supervisors are untrained, or the staff can’t provide a service due to lack of commitment or skills. According to the new rule, you have to collect data, organize it, report it and recommend solutions.Claiming to be too busy won’t cut it. Data is no longer a luxury. It is an imperative, or you put your job at risk.
[About the Author: Jac Fitz-enz is founder and CEO of the Human Capital Source and Workforce Intelligence Institute.]
My favorite inanimate object right now is my Playstation 3.
Sending Employees Overseas? What to Know Before Bidding Them Adieu
by Bettina Chang | Talent Management
Despite the economic downturn, many companies have shown they are committed to sending employees on international assignments. But the manner in which they determine candidate suitability and structure international assignments could spell the difference between success and failure.
Organizations are finding ways to cut costs in policy provisions, assignment types and program administration, and talent management is crucial to many aspects of international assignments, according to the results of a 2010 study by KPMG, an audit, tax and advisory firm.
The survey of about 500 organizations showed various reasons for sending employees abroad, explained Achim Mossmann, managing director of global mobility advisory services at KPMG.
“Specifically during the ongoing recession, companies broaden their overseas market because they lost business in the United States or western Europe,” Mossmann said. “They want to broaden their client base and also take advantage of the resources.”
The most important factor for talent managers is that global assignments are useful recruitment tools. Generation Y continues to view the opportunity for international assignments as a driving force behind employer choice, he explained.
However, because international assignments can be so expensive, talent managers must make a detailed assessment of who is qualified and well-suited to going abroad. Mossmann recommends using suitability assessment tools from service providers that specialize in these cases.
“Based on a set of criteria and questions, it can determine the intercultural suitability, not only in general, but they can compare specifically to the country that the employee potentially will go to,” Mossmann said. “Most successful companies [use the service providers], but not all. Less than 20 percent use them. That’s an area where companies could do better and be more successful.”
For companies that conduct their own interviews, Mossmann recommend they take place in the home country and the host country. An assignee needs to have a level of curiosity and ability to deal with ambiguity in addition to the technical qualifications for the assignment.
Cultural differences are an essential factor, and a talent manager should assess how the assignee responds to cultural features specific to the host country. An example of cultural perceptions would be time and punctuality. In some countries, being late is an insult to colleagues and being on time is a virtue. In other countries, time is more fluid and punctuality is not emphasized. An assignee should be made aware of these cultural norms and assessed for suitability and adaptability to them.
Because the size and scope of global assignment programs is increasing at many companies, the administration of these programs has become more difficult. Forty-five percent of respondents to the KPMG survey report that they outsource parts of their international assignment programs. Outsourcing could be the answer for some companies, but not all.
Organizations with intricate global assignment programs that are idiosyncratic may find that administration needs to be in-house, Mossmann explained. On the other hand, when an organization has moved HR toward a strategic business partner role, it may find it is helpful to outsource the transactional work of administering program assignees to a service provider.
“[Using a service provider] allows us to focus on aspects like talent management, assessment, repatriation, finding the right position for somebody who will be returning,” Mossmann said. “There is nothing worse than investing $1 million in somebody [to go overseas], then they come back home, are disappointed with the relocation, and six months later they start with your competition. Then your competition benefits from the experience that the international assignee gained overseas.”
Other ways to cut costs while maximizing the return on investment of global assignments include using technology to improve communication and providing localized coaching and mentoring.
Organizations are increasingly incorporating global mobility departments with the talent management department to facilitate communication and improve the administration of international assignees.
“If you send people on international assignments because of personnel development, then you want to make sure there’s a connection [between the two departments],” Mossmann said. “The combination between talent management and global mobility is on top of a lot of people’s minds in the industry.”
[About the Author: Bettina Chang is an editorial intern at Talent Management magazine.]