• November 25, 2012, 12:10 PM GMT

Ways to Be Happy and Productive at Work

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The Source has teamed up with the iOpener Institute for People and Performance to find out how happy and fulfilled readers of the Wall Street Journal are at work. The institute has designed a survey to help you establish how happy you are at work, and along with the article below, you can figure out how you can increase your happiness and be more productive. Complete the questionnaire now.

What in the world is happening in the workplace? Economic data over the last couple of years shows a confusing picture of productivity. The U.S. reported a modest increase due to downwards wage pressure, while the U.K., outperformed by France and Germany, has reported more employment but less output.

South African productivity has hit a 46-year low, while even China and India which have been fueling their economies with cheap labor are seeing costs rise as investors eye up cheaper countries or territories in which it’s easier to do business.

Productivity is a combination of many things: traditionally it includes investment, innovation, skills, enterprise and competition. But there’s one key ingredient missing here.

The happiness of employees.

Employees who are the most productive are also the happiest at work.

We know this because the institute has gathered data since 2005, tells us that when you are unhappy or insecure at work you withhold your best effort. You are simply less productive when you’re looking to balance the psychological contract between you and your employer. Which is the reason it matters for both bosses and employees.

So where are you? If you want to assess what’s affecting your performance,complete our questionnaire to get a personalized mini report.

And what do we know about employees who are happiest at work? Our research tells us that they are:

  • Twice as productive
  • Stay five times longer in their jobs
  • Six times more energized
  • Take 10 times less sick leave

And we’ve found other benefits.

Happier workers help their colleagues 33% more than their least happy colleagues; raise issues that affect performance 46% more; achieve their goals 31% more and are 36% more motivated.

If there’s a positive effect, they demonstrate it. Every organization needs happy employees because they are the ones who effectively tackle the tough stuff and turn ideas into actions.

So what should organizations, bosses and individuals do? Our research show that everyone needs to focus on the five drivers of individual productivity because they propel performance and ensure that employees are happy in their work too.

Driver 1: Effort

This is about what you do. You’ll never be productive without clear goals or precise and well-articulated objectives that lead to those goals and without addressing problems that arise on the way. That means the ability to raise issues and have others help you solve them too. That’s what leaders need to make happen and what employees need to push for.

Constructive feedback helps you contribute even more while personal appreciation goes a long way to boosting productivity. Interestingly, negative feedback which is poorly given doubles sick leave, according to our data, and increased sick leave of course affects productivity levels. So one practical thing organizations can do is teach their managers how to give great feedback.

Driver 2: Short-Term Motivation

This is about staying resilient and motivated enough to maintain productivity levels. Our data shows that resilience hasn’t taken a knock over the past few years, but motivation has. It dropped by 23% during 2010 and climbed back by 17% during 2011 but there has been no improvement in 2012.

Of course reduced motivation means it’s harder to maintain high performance and maximize output.

Good organizations encourage motivation by helping employees own issues and take responsibility. And they do that at a level that fits with an individual’s skills, strengths and expertise levels. Those employees are encouraged to work on what they are good at, to prioritize what they do and to build efficiencies into their work.

Driver 3: How Well You Fit Into a Firm

Performance and happiness at work are both boosted when employees feel they fit within their organizational culture. Believing that you’re in the wrong job, feeling disconnected from the values of your workplace or disliking your colleagues is dispiriting and de-energizing and all of that feels much worse if decisions in your workplace feel unfair.

Our investigation of fairness at work doesn’t tell a good story. It tumbled 19% in 2010, rose 9% during 2011 and has been flat-lining during 2012. According to the U.K.’s Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development, fairness is connected with discretionary effort: if decisions feel fair, work gets done. If they don’t, employees look for other ways of getting what’s missing, which is when equipment gets broken, work gets sabotaged and things go missing.

Good firms can address this by being as transparent as possible about why decisions are made, explaining why resources are allocated in the way they are and making sure that their approach is as equitable as possible.

Driver 4: Long-Term Engagement

This is about commitment and the long-term engagement you have with what you do and your organization. Having to work hard in a job you feel stuck in is energy draining at best and, as we’ve found, associated with higher illness at worst.

Our data reveals that one of the key items that creates commitment is a belief that you’re doing something worthwhile. And this is particularly important to Generation Y — those born in the early 1980s. If your digital natives, those familiar with digital media and technology, don’t feel they are doing something worthwhile, they’ll be eying the exit and intending to leave within two years; and our numbers clearly tell us that money won’t solve this problem.

In fact more than other generation, Generation Y need to believe in the strategic direction that their employer is pursuing. The more Generation Yers believe in the leadership’s corporate strategy, the less likely they are to leave.

This tells employers that they need to regularly and convincingly communicate the corporate strategy, along with tangible proof of how that strategy is being implemented and the contribution it is making not just to the bottom line.

Driver 5: Self-Belief

If you’re not confident you won’t make decisions, take risks, or spend cash. Confidence is the gateway to productivity and our data shows that a primary indicator of confidence is that things get done. We also found that things get done better, faster or cheaper because people are confident of the outcome.

Right now confidence has a significantly lower average than the other four drivers and that’s a problem because you can’t have confident organizations without confident individuals.

And productivity works in the exactly the same way.

When we collect data, we ask employees how much time they spend “on task” or engaged with their work. This ranges from 78% for those who are most on task, to 41% for the least.

Just to be clear, the people who are most on task also have the highest levels of all the five drivers as well as being the happiest employees at work. In real terms, that 78% is equivalent to about four days a week while 41% is just two days a week. This represents a huge productivity cost to any organization.

In effect an organization is losing about 100 days of work a year for every “unhappy” employee.

If leaders, organizations and industries want to manage productivity and move it in the right direction, it’s time to understand these five drivers, investigate the numbers and to recognize the serious outcomes that happiness at work can bring.

For the second year running, The Wall Street Journal (Europe) is running a global happiness at work index in conjunction with the iOpener Institute to see who’s happiest at work. If you want to take part, click here to get a self-assessment in Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, English, French, Hebrew, German, Korean, Malay, Portuguese, Russian or Spanish. The iOpener Institute will be reporting back on the results of readers clicking through in six weeks’ time.

The iOpener Institute for People and Performance is an international consultancy which conducts research to find practical solutions to workforce issues.




5 Myths of Human Resources Management – Forbes

11/21/2012 @ 8:05AM |1,791 views

5 Myths Of Human Resources Management

SAP GuestSAP Guest, SAP

By Ray Rivera, Director, Solutions Management, Workforce Planning and Analytics, SAP

One of the more popular features in theWashington Post is its “5 Myths” opinions column, where commonly held misapprehensions about politics, society, and even science are weighed against evidence. Often, the evidence is obtained from top-tier academic journals, large-scale government studies, or national databases, and addresses topics characterized by vigorous, though misinformed debate.

HR is one of those fields where numerous myths endure. Part of the reason is HR tends to be more professional practice than rigorous academic discipline, so there is no foundation of basic science that informs both practitioners and researchers. Indeed many have lamented about the chasm between the two, and have called for a closer partnership. Nevertheless, several myths pervade human capital management (HCM). We’ll explore five of them.

1. All training is beneficial

A multibillion dollar business in its own right, training is universally recognized as a necessary component for remaining competitive. Ample, high quality training is no longer considered a perk, but rather a fundamental component of high performance work systems, and a key differentiator in developing an employer brand. It is so highly regarded by employees that it can be seen as a substitute for wage increases, particularly in the public sector.

But sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. Research has demonstrated there are optimal levels of spend and hours beyond which there is a decreasing rate of return on investment[i]. Furthermore, not all types of training content yields a positive return. For example, hours of sales training are just as likely to be associated with decreased sales revenue in the following year as increased sales revenue, or not associated at all.

Nor do all employees benefit equally. Effective onboarding training may help early career stage employees achieve quicker time to proficiency, thereby increasing business performance. But it may be of little effect to a mid-career manager, who would more likely achieve business benefits with executive development or interpersonal skills, and only after a few years of tenure.

For analytics, training represents a huge opportunity to increase both its effectiveness and efficiency. Return on training investment can be maximized by gaining precise understanding of which employees (or groups of employees) should be offered training, along with how much, when, what content, and at what stage of their tenure.

2. GPA is a good predictor of high performance

If HR leaders in a lot of knowledge industry companies were to be frank, they would admit they have no idea if candidates for hire have the potential to become high performers. This is no big surprise, particularly since little of what would indicate superior talent is observable either during interviews or in most job situations. So we assume that past success predicts future success, and one of the most ready metrics is GPA.

And why not? Many of the skills needed to achieve a high GPA are also those needed to succeed at work: diligence, intellectual insight, ability to learn abstract concepts and apply them to real situations, and the discipline to complete tasks.

The fact is GPA may occasionally predict short-term performance for some roles requiring little or no prior experience. What little validity GPA might have applies to persons straight out of school, in roles requiring mastery of classroom training content before becoming fully proficient. In other words, success in school situations predicts success in future school situations, not on the job.

Analytics can help us discover invalid predictors so that we can eliminate them from employee selection procedures. Conversely, analytics can help us locate accurate predictors of workforce performance from across larger data sets, and develop competency models and job descriptions that better capture true requirements. Better information leads to better matches, in contrast to the fishing expeditions that characterize most companies’ employee selection.

3. Financial incentives are the best way to drive performance

One of the worst ideas to come out of academia in the last 50 years is the so-called principal-agent problemIt states that executives cannot be trusted to act in anyone’s interest but their own, and need to be threatened or bribed by shareholders in order to behave. Over the past few decades, this cynical notion has infected the entire job hierarchy. As a result, managers and HR professionals often believe the most effective way to get employees and reports to perform is to offer fast money. This is at best a half-truth.

Money does indeed motivate, but not always in the way we want. Because most organizations have only a partial understanding of what behaviors drive performance, they cannot always be sure what they are paying for. Dysfunctional incentive systems will get dysfunctional and sometimes prosecutable results, whether by employees gaming the system or by perverse controls that unwittingly incentivize the wrong behaviors.

In most cases, financial incentives intended to drive performance are effective only in roles where the performance criteria are completely unambiguous and easily measurable, individual performance does not depend on the contributions of coworkers, and necessary job tasks have a clear beginning and end. Those ever popular short-term performance incentives such as spot bonuses tend to be just that, short-term, and do little to increase engagement or long-term performance.

Compensation and performance management represent major opportunities for analytics, by crafting highly specific programs that provide just the right kind and amount of incentives, monetary and non-monetary, short-term and long term, private and public. Analytics can also provide guidelines for developing control systems that reward legal, ethical, and prudent risk taking among managers.

4. Consulting experience predicts manager talent

Few myths are dearer to “War for Talent” combatants than the idea that experience as a strategy consultant, particularly at a Big Three firm, is a signal of exceptional senior management talent. Even Google, whose founders used to proclaim sophomorically on their job board that, “We are not a conventional company. Nor do we intend to become one.”, demands significant consulting or investment banking experience in most roles involving strategy. Like a lot of organizations, Google thinks it can differentiate itself by hiring people from the same talent pool who have been trained and reinforced by practice to think alike.

So why do we see a lot of successful managers who are former management consultants? The answer is selection bias. It is the same reason a lot of successful naval officers are Naval Academy graduates. It also distorts the view of what experiences actually predict success in senior management.

The fact is there is very little scientific evidence to support consulting experience as being a sure bet for adding to senior management bench strength. Consulting talent may in fact be the opposite of what is needed to be a senior manager, as consultants tend to be more entrepreneurial and autonomous workers, less inclined to socialize into the organization. Frequently, they have little patience in dealing with numerous administrative tasks, particularly those detailed and recurrent ones necessary for successful implementation of would-be brilliant consulting advice. Former consultants often falter in people management skills, and accepting constructive feedback.

Analytics can help organizations determine precisely what work experiences, prior knowledge, and activities truly indicate superior management talent, instead of relying on a process whose only justification is that companies with a reputation for being smart are also doing it.

5. HCM is the same thing as HRM

HCM and human resource management (HRM) concern two different parts of the business: the former, processes and communication; the latter, assets and investments.

HRM oversees a critical administrative function that has evolved from a time when the personnel department was the steward of the labor/management relationship. Its duties are centered on extensive recordkeeping, compliance verification, and payroll management.

HRM involves significant hands-on care of a delicate balance of power, keeping channels of communication working between the layers of the organization. HRM’s development from the 1940’s to the present has been driven almost entirely by changes in government regulations and policies, and therefore tends to react to changes rather than being a change agent. HRM is highly labor intensive, and automation can drive HRM effectiveness only partially.

Human capital is an economic force that drives the accumulation of national wealth. Human capital can appreciate and depreciate, and is both a private and public good. Yet human capital does not have property rights, and therefore remains absent from most financial statements unless a transaction takes place under narrowly defined conditions.

How human capital becomes transformed into business value is still a black box, as human capital asset dynamics are only partially understood. HCM analytics seeks to turn the black box of human capital investment into a glass box, using both deep subject matter expertise, and skillful manipulation of data. Yet learning one thing often requires unlearning another. Extinguishing other HR myths may be a necessary first step in bringing transparency to the black box.

[i]See for example, Sugrue, B., & Rivera, R. J. (2005). State of the industry: ASTD’s annual review of trends in workplace learning and performance. Alexandria, VA: American Society for Training & Development.

This story originally appeared on SAP Business Trends.

Guided by Data: 4 Big Talent Management Lessons From the Election

Guided by Data: 4 Big Talent Management Lessons From the Election

by   on Nov 20, 2012, 9:14 AM  |  0 Comments
Illustration by istockphoto.com

Whether you follow politics or not, there are many important lessons that leaders in talent management and HR can learn from the recent presidential election.

Before you dismiss the relevance of this learning opportunity out of hand, spend a few minutes to consider the following lessons from the election that may be valuable to leaders in HR and talent management.

I have categorized the lessons that talent management can learn from the election into four major categories. They include:

1. Big data should be used to support decision-making

Nearly every analysis after the election showed that the use of what is known as “big data” had a tremendous impact on the outcome of the election. In addition, relying on data-based decision-makers like The New York Times’ Nate Silver resulted in numerous dramatic wins.

In direct contrast, relying on hunches, feelings, or the so-called experienced experts and pundits often resulted in embarrassing losses. One of the traits of these pundits was optimism, but the results showed that letting optimism drive your decision-making caused many to self-select and rely on data and polls that favored their cause. The winners instead focused on the data that indicated the possibility of the worst-case scenario and they acted to minimize the chances that it would actually occur.

  • Talent management big data lessons – Almost all talent management decisions in the typical HR function rely on limited (small) HR data. It is extremely rare to find a recruiting function, for example, that uses the big data and the data-gathering approaches that were used by election teams to fully understand their targets (i.e. census data, consumer data, demographic data, focus groups, and market research).

Some leaders in HR are beginning to talk about big data, but the reality is there is no big data use within most HR functions. Big data can help you identify productivity problems, predict where turnover problems will occur, help you increase innovation, and make your leaders more effective. Big data sets within a business that talent management should use might include employee profiles, output data, error rates, production and delivery delays, staffing levels, absenteeism rates, training data, Six Sigma data, performance appraisals, reward data, performance management data, and revenue-per-employee calculations.

2. Algorithms should guide all decisions

Once again, post-election analysis showed that the winning side almost always developed algorithms (i.e. data-based formulas) as a basis for their important decisions on what tools to use and where to place the resources. Relying on algorithms resulted in a consistent and effective approach to common problems and opportunities.

  • Talent management lessons on algorithms – My research shows that out of the entire list of Fortune 500 firms, there is only one algorithm-driven HR function, and that firm is Google. Not only is Google the leader in algorithm-driven people management decision-making, but is literally the only function where, “All people decisions … are based on data and analytics.” Those algorithm-driven decisions include hiring, retention, leadership, diversity, compensation, talent management, and collaboration. Google’s “math camp” approach is driven by its unique but powerful “people analytics team” and their data-obsessed HR leader, Laszlo Bock.

For example, the HR function measures the length of the wait line in its cafés to ensure that they are long enough to provide time for employees in line to collaborate with each other. Google algorithm-driven approach to effective leadership, improving diversity by increasing the number of women engineers, and predicting possible turnover are each simply amazing. Not only does this algorithm-driven approach make HR more effective and admired, but it also directly and measurably impacts business success.

3. Relying on historical data & practices can be damaging

Post-election assessment showed that the analysts that relied on historical election patterns to drive their actions simply got it wrong (from the 2004 and 2008 elections). Assuming that past patterns would repeat resulted in the use of many “dated” campaign approaches. Failing to understand the changing electorate and the evolving demographic patterns and their influence on voting resulted in many embarrassing losses.

The most accurate decision-makers instead relied on real-time data in order to modify their resource allocation and to cause them to switch to updated tools in order to meet the constantly changing environment.

  • Talent management lessons on historical data – At most HR functions, every bit of the data that is available is historical. For example the most common HR data, turnover data, recruiting data, workforce productivity data, and even headcount reports all tell decision-makers “what happened last year” (or last month at best). Relying on historical data is fine if the world doesn’t continually change, but unfortunately the world of talent management is highly volatile.

If HR leaders and business managers are going to make excellent people management decisions, at the very least they need real-time data. However, the very best go a step further and produce and use “predictive analytics,” which forecast and tell you what is likely to happen over the next few months.

Predictive metrics provide decision-makers with sufficient lead time so that they can take advantage of opportunities and prevent or at least mitigate upcoming people-management problems. Unfortunately once again, the availability and the use of predictive metrics are only in their infancy in HR and talent management (although once again Google has an algorithm for predicting upcoming employee turnover).

In a similar light, relying on a corporate culture and “past practices” that might’ve worked extremely well in the past can lead to major problems when the underlying assumptions behind those practices have shifted (like the unemployment rate, the business growth rate, product changes, and employee expectations). A superior approach is to be forward-looking and to develop “next practices” that are designed for the current and upcoming environment that HR operates in.

4. Prioritize to maximize your impact

Both sides in the election realized early on that they needed to concentrate and focus their resources and efforts in geographic areas and on segments of the population that would have the most impact on the final results.

As a result, staff and resources were focused on important “swing states,” high-priority ZIP codes, and key demographic groups that would have the highest impact on the overall election results. Political tools like focus groups, robo calls, home visits, and get-out-the-vote efforts were also prioritized and used, based on the level of the results that they produced.

  • Talent management prioritization lessons – Most HR functions practice the principle of equal treatment in everything they do in order to be perceived as “fair.” That means that every employee, job opening, manager, and business unit are treated exactly the same.

This equal treatment approach is certainly not used by other business functions, where using a “prioritization schema” is standard practice. Supply chain, customer service, production and sales rely heavily on prioritization. Even customers are prioritized based on their profitability, volume, and growth rates. A handful of firms like Google are the exception to the rule because they clearly prioritize important areas like engineering positions, revenue-generating functions, and top-performing and innovative employees.

Prioritization in talent management should start with a focus on the business units that are growing and that contribute the most to corporate revenue and profit. Recruiting efforts should focus on mission-critical and high-impact jobs. Retention efforts should focus on top performers and high-impact employees.

HR tools and programs should also be prioritized. A recent study by the Boston Consulting Group demonstrated that not every HR process makes an equal contribution to major business goals like profit growth and profit margins (recruiting, onboarding, and retention had the highest impact). As a result, HR services, tools, and programs should be funded, staffed, and used based on their effectiveness and their business impact.

HR staff and budget resources should also be allocated to ensure that the most money and the best HR talent are allocated to areas where they can maximize their impact. Finally, in order to increase HR funding, HR leaders must work with the CFO’s office to quantify in dollars and to more clearly demonstrate the direct impact that great talent management has on business results.

Final thoughts

For years I have advocated that HR and talent management can learn a lot from other business functions like quality control, finance, CRM, and supply chain. Talent managers can learn a lot from other industries like entertainment and sports that rely heavily on people but that are more results driven.

Today, I am adding election management as another area where HR leaders can learn many lessons and adapt their successful approaches. If you think that this “parallel benchmarking” approach is a stretch, not only are you mistaken but that narrow view will limit your learning and as a result, it will damage your firm and the HR team that you work with.

Dr. John Sullivan is a well-known teacher, author, and HR thought leader. He is a frequent speaker and advisor to Fortune 500 and Silicon Valley firms. Formerly the chief talent officer for Agilent Technologies (the 43,000-employee HP spin-off), he is now a professor of management at San Francisco State University. An expert on recruiting and staffing, he was dubbed the “Michael Jordan of Hiring” by Fast Company magazine. Contact him at johns@sfsu.edu.

Employer Health Care Costs Only Rise by 4%, Smallest Hike in 15 Years


Employer Health Care Costs Only Rise by 4%, Smallest Hike in 15 Years

123RF Stock Photo

Furnishing new evidence of slower growth in health costs, a new survey by consulting firm Mercer said Wednesday that employers spent 4.1 percent more on health benefits this year than in 2011. It was the smallest increase in 15 years.

One reason, but probably not the only one: Employers shifted costs to workers through higher deductibles.

Nearly 60 percent of very large employers (more than 20,000 workers) offer high-deductible, “consumer-directed” health plans, according to Mercer’s National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans. The portion of all employers offering consumer-directed plans rose from 17 percent last year to 22 percent in 2012, Mercer said.

Deductibles of thousands of dollars for consumer plans decrease premium costs for employers and workers but raise out-of-pocket expenses. High-deductible coverage is supposed to prompt patients to seek less-expensive care, but critics say consumers don’t have the knowledge or tools to shop for surgery the way they buy cantaloupes and shampoo. A growing number of companies offer such plans as their only coverage.

Consumer-directed plans showing steady growth

Total enrollment in consumer plans rose from 13 percent to 16 percent of covered employees. If the industry hasn’t already reached the tipping point for such coverage, “at this rate of growth it’s coming soon,” said Sharon Cunninghis, Mercer’s U.S. business leader for health and benefits.

The survey was conducted from July into September and included government and private employers, of whom 2,809 supplied data.

The portion of employers offering health plans rose for the first time in several years, Mercer said, perhaps because cost increases have moderated. Employer plan expenses averaged $10,558 per employee this year. The 4.1 percent increase for 2012 was substantially smaller than 2011′s rise of 6.1 percent and way down from the double-digit growth of the early 2000s.

Economists continue to debate the reasons behind slower medical inflation, which has roughly coincided with poor economic performance beginning in 2008. One factor is that tight budgets and high unemployment have kept consumers from getting care they otherwise would seek, many believe.

More employers say they are “likely” to cancel health coverage

There has also been a proliferation of accountable care organizations and similar arrangements that reward caregivers for efficiency and quality. But high-deductible plans, which induce even people with insurance to think twice about seeing a doctor, are also seen as playing a role.

In another Mercer finding, which could dismay supporters of the Affordable Care Act, the portion of small employers reporting they are “likely” or “very likely” to cancel health plans in the next five years rose from 19 percent to 22 percent.

Of all employers, small companies are seen as most likely to terminate coverage and leave workers to find insurance on state health exchanges once they open in 2014. The slice of employers with more than 5,000 workers reporting they would probably shut down plans rose from 4 percent to 5 percent. Among all large employers (those with 500 or more workers), however, the portion likely to drop plans fell from 9 to 7 percent.

This article is from kaiserhealthnews.org and published with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

Jay Hancock is a senior correspondent for jhancock.


The Trick of the Presenter’s Paradox in Tracking Employee Performance

Very interesting article…

Rise Performance Group

By Sally Ann Moyer

Sometimes it feels like we live in a world of bigger is better. It’s tempting to want to bolster your company or yourself by naming off as many accomplishments as possible. The desire to highlight your success naturally leads you to think about it in concrete terms of how much and how many, but performance management rests on more than a numbers game. Tracking employee performance can be a test of quality, not quantity.

More actually means less when it comes to employee evaluations and performance reviews. A recent series of studies reported in the Harvard Business Review called this the Presenter’s Paradox. The studies discovered that “more is not actually better, if what you are adding is of lesser quality than the rest of your offerings.” The Presenter’s Paradox accounts for this disconnect between presenter and consumer perceptions.

In the study, buyers were willing…

View original post 483 more words

9 Ways HR & Recruiting Technology Will Evolve in Next 4 Years

9 Ways HR & Recruiting Technology Will Evolve in Next 4 Years

123RF Stock Photo

Soon enough, we’ll have an idea of what the next four years at the White House will look like.

But technology is a bit harder to predict — and four years can have a dramatic difference in the products and services available for recruiters, HR professionals, and employers.

How will HR and recruiting technology evolve over the next four years?

1. Millennials will dictate evolution in HR Tech

Most of the 10 million Millennials entering the job market during the next three years will expect a far better candidate experience than today’s. This more-demanding “customer” of human resources dictates that HR technology be upgraded to initiate timely candidate interaction and utilize social media as a communication tool. Essentially, rather than the cold shoulder being given candidates now, evolving HR tools will deliver a digital handshake and a virtual smile.

Mark Babbitt, YouTern

2. Embrace social media, digital technology, online video hiring

With more and more applicants spending increasing amounts of their online time using social media, HR technology will find new ways to use the social space to find great candidates. Social media will be used to find a larger and more connected talent pool of candidates for companies looking for particular skill sets. While online video will be embraced as a better way to get to know these tech-savvy candidates faster and more personally than the traditional phone screens.

Josh Tolan, Spark Hire

3. Video & crowdsourcing will impact HR technologies

Because HR is always looking to lower hiring costs, HR technology trends will shift toward techniques that not only work, but also save money. Two dirt cheap techniques that are kicking up the recruitment space are the use of video and crowdsourcing in the recruitment sphere. Video allows employers to explain a lot of information to job seekers in a more engaging format that can also promote their brand. Crowdsourcing is basically a ton of free help in creating and promoting a job. Stay tuned.

Rob Kelly, Ongig

4. A shift toward social performance

The talent management industry isn’t currently keeping up with the demands of employees who want user-friendly performance management platforms. Social Performance is slowly seeing adoption across the workforce, and this will continue in the next three years since it’s easy to use and deploy–not only HR, but for every leader and manager–in order to drive autonomy and results. It’s also ideal in meeting the need for HR processes to be continuous, and allows for more informal feedback in real-time.

Morgan Norman, WorkSimple

5. Force HR to grow to a highly strategic organization

HR Technology is making our lives as HR practitioners much more efficient — even in spite of the huge learning curve that most professionals face in adapting to new technology. As HR Tech continues to collect and display metrics, more and more businesses will be able to make strategic business decisions as a result of these findings — not just from C-Level conversations that leave HR out.

Joey Price, Jumpstart:HR

6. Social capabilities integrated into the platforms

When a candidate applies for a position, a HR manager or hiring manager will see the application and their social profiles as an integrated aspect of their application. For example, it will show what company the candidate worked at, the recommendations they received while at that position from his or her LinkedIn profile, recent tweets, and Facebook wall posts.

Sudy Bharadwaj, Jackalope Jobs

7. More advancements in technology, but focus on people will prevail

Technology has an important place in recruiting, but it cannot entirely replace human interaction. Technology will continue to enable quick and cost-effective recruiting through applicant tracking, screening, evaluating, and communicating. Smart hiring managers will use technology to their benefit, but recognize the need for in-person meetings and phone calls to discover who the candidate behind the computer is.

Michele St. Laurent, Insight Performance

8. Technology determining fit will Be critical

The ubiquity of a professional persona and the amount of structured and unstructured data surrounding it has created a massive problem determining signal from noise. The ability to create intelligent applications that leverage these data to quickly determine intent and fit will be critical to the success of any new recruiting technologies, otherwise there can only be incremental improvement to legacy systems.

Michael A. Morell, Riviera Partners

9. Employer value proposition, branding will be real recruiting difference

It will become much more like CRM and less tailored to the application of active job seekers. Employer value proposition and branding will be the real difference makers and the technology will evolve to support this. It will enable talent acquisition leaders to engage with a community of talent via multiple channels.

Larry Jacobson, Vistaprint

New Study: The Top 10 Best Practices of High-Impact HR Organizations

New Study: The Top 10 Best Practices of High-Impact HR Organizations


Few magazine articles have had such a monumental impact on an entire profession the way that Fast Company’s Why We Hate HR” did on the world of Human Resources after it was published back in 2005.

Not only was it discussed, debated, and argued about about ad infinitum(and still is, some would say), but it articulated the notion that strategic, high-value HR executives should have a “seat at the table” with an organization’s other high level leaders, but, that this was simply a pipe dream for many in HR.

Many think that the “seat at the table” debate has been debated to death, but it is back in a new research study by Bersin & Associates of The Top Best Practices for the High-Impact HR Organization. In the Executive Summary (and you can get a copy here), Bersin principal analyst Stacey Harris references the article and writes:

Though controversial and full of assertions that were hard to face, the article summed up important frustrations that were common among HR professionals at the time. Many were forced to acknowledge its validity, to pause and to wonder, “Okay. But where does HR go from here?”

In the years since, HR leaders have fought an uphill battle to change the profession. Today, smart companies do have a place at the table for HR. The challenge for HR now is in living up to the high expectations that come with the seat – expectations of high impact. It is not easy…

With this new report, we tie together past research in the areas of talent and learning, and brand new research on the strategic elements of HR we have found that hold the greatest challenges for the function today.”

HR organizations lack the skills to succeed

The bottom line to the new Bersin research is pretty simple: it shows that many HR organizations still lack the skills they need to succeed in 2011. The study, which included surveys and interviews with more than 720 global organizations, found that overall spending levels, organization structure, and team size have far less impact on business performance than the skills of the HR professionals themselves.

“This research clearly shows that the days of bloated HR organizations focused on administrative tasks are over,” said Josh Bersin, chief executive officer and president of Bersin & Associates. “Lean, technology-enabled, well-trained HR teams are able to take advantage of modern talent practices and partner with business leaders to drive impact.”

The research also makes the case that the decades-old “HR generalist” model is no longer effective unless the HR generalists are highly trained and connected to senior business leaders. That sounds like a contradiction to me, but the study also points out that the key HR competencies that drive results today are familiarity with integrated talent management, understanding of workforce planning, and comfort with social networking and HR technology.

Top 10 HR Best Practices

What I found most compelling in the survey was the list of the Top 10 HR Best Practices that produced the highest impact ratings out of all of the 140 HR practices and features that Bersin evaluated. See if you agree that this is a list that makes a lot of sense:

  1. Structured governance and business case development (HR impact opportunity — 39%). From Bersin:“Building a business case requires a clear understanding of the business or businesses that HR serves, as well as working relationships with all business leaders. HR can achieve both by involving business leaders in the planning processes and governance. This involvement also helps to ensure business alignment and, as a result of that alignment, business buy-in and support.”
  2. Developing advanced workforce planning capabilities (HR impact opportunity — 28%). From Bersin: “High-impact HR organizations incorporate sophisticated forecasting and workforce analytics into their processes. This enables them to translate company-wide talent, business data and external workforce segment data into workable insights that they can use and share with business leaders.”
  3. Implementing the “right” HR philosophies (HR impact opportunity — 27%). From Bersin: “High-impact HR organizations tend to commit themselves to creating work environments that enable employees to thrive both as individuals and as contributors to business success. They strive to create positive employee environments, and clearly communicate these expectations in the HR philosophy and mission. The most effective philosophies focus on fostering innovation and collaboration, or creating the best place to work, while the least effective philosophies focus narrowly on efficiency or cost-cutting efforts.”
  4. Reducing administrative work for HR business partners (HR impact opportunity — 25%). From Bersin: “Many HR functions have a role that is a liaison between the HR function and business leaders. The specifics of this role vary widely. High-impact HR organizations use it to advise senior business leaders, focusing on decision support, workforce planning, leadership development and executive coaching. By enlisting the right person, HR can improve its credibility across the enterprise, improve working relationships with business leaders, cultivate mutual understanding and gain influence. When this role is implemented poorly, with more focus on administrative duties and taking orders, our research found that it can actually reduce an HR function’s ability to work effectively and efficiently.”
  5. Implementing flexible HR organization design (HR impact opportunity — 20%). From Bersin: “High-impact HR organizations are flexible and agile. Like earthquake- proof buildings, they are structured to allow adaptive movement if the ground shifts. No overall HR structural model (centralized, decentralized or a combination of the two) in itself emerged as a predictor of HR success. But certain structural features do lend themselves to areas of excellence. One feature that we found to be universally valuable was flexibility. Fancy organization charts and designs are fine – provided that you also have a culture which recognizes the need to adapt structurally when business needs and challenges change, as well as an HR staff that is capable of making those changes.”
  6. Improving employee-facing HR systems (HR impact opportunity — 19%). From Bersin: “The most significant contributions to the overall effectiveness of an HR function come from community-building and self-service elements. Knowledge-sharing portals, web-based recruitment tools and management dashboards let various HR stakeholders and clients find what they need when they need it. HR functions with user-friendly client systems are regarded as twice as effective and efficient as functions that do not invest in this advantage.”
  7. Measuring both HR operational and business metrics (HR impact opportunity — 19%). From Bersin: “Measurement strategies in high-impact HR organizations have evolved to ensure efficiency, effectiveness and business alignment. Such strategies incorporate both operational measures by which to manage the HR function and strategic people measures to support crucial business decisions.”
  8. Developing internal HR skills (HR impact opportunity — 13%). From Bersin: “As they focus on programs to develop employees company-wide, HR organizations often neglect the development of their own team members. This is a mistake. The world of HR solutions is constantly changing. High-impact HR organizations must invest the time and money needed to ensure team members’ competence grows in such disciplines as change management and relationship management. Efforts must also focus on developing team members’ business acumen, industry knowledge and command of current best practices in all areas of talent management, as well as the use of social networking tools and other HR technology.”
  9. Improving line manager capabilities (HR impact opportunity — 10%). From Bersin: “A common pitfall for many HR functions is the attempt to meet the needs of every stakeholder directly, thereby spreading limited HR resources very thinly. High-impact HR functions have prioritized the focus of their HR resources on building the capabilities of their line managers. This decision allows them to work in partnership with their line managers, versus trying to work around line managers who may be incompetent or ill-prepared.
  10. Outsourcing HR services strategically (HR impact opportunity — 10%). From Bersin: “High-impact HR organizations use outsourcing to enable their internal teams to focus on things that cannot be outsourced, such as building business relationships and developing custom solutions for business managers. These organizations outsource areas that can be improved through economies of scale, or which require global coordination and expertise. What an organization outsources often depends on its level of maturity.”

Seat at the table = high expectations

The research study comes out of Bersin & Associates’ new HR Practice, which was recently launched, the company says, to “address long-standing requests from HR professionals to help them build their skills, and prioritize and align their HR strategies with the business to deliver the greatest return.”

“The challenge for HR professionals today is living up to the high expectations that come with a seat at the table — expectations to drive business results through people and culture,” said Bersin’s Harris. “Our new HR Practice and this particular body of research reveal the keys to driving impact. We are also addressing long-standing requests by our Bersin & Associates members to help them prioritize and align their HR strategies with the business to deliver the greatest return.”

I’m not sure how the HR Practice will go for Bersin, but if it performs like other parts of the Bersin organization, it should give all the other HR consultants a good run for their money.

In fact, just this list of the Top 10 best HR Practices is a great start because it clearly gets to the heart of what HR needs to be doing to add value to an organization. And if you have spent much time around HR, you know that just about everyone needs to focus a lot more on that.

John Hollon is Vice President for Editorial of john, and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/johnhollon


Senior Execs Expect Revolution in HR Metrics within Three Years

KPMG logoIn its report, , professional services company KPMG found that more than 50 percent of polled senior executives said metrics that define HR success will be fundamentally altered within the next three years. The finding comes as HR has shown signs of difficulty in adapting to the challenges of flexible and global workforces. The report recommended finding ways to best approach these challenges by appropriately engaging with employees.

KPMG management consulting partner, Robert Bolton, said, “HR should be the critical value driving function in an organization, large or small. It can be more important than any other function, including sales and marketing. There are many qualitative and quantitative measures that will define HR’s success in the coming years.” He continued. “These include capacity, where there needs to be a clean and clear definition between chief executives and the front-line employees. Some executives of global companies would be horrified to find how their organizational culture has changed and grown over the years. “There will be a change in capability – the retention of people in critical roles. Compliance will change, as it now needs to be integrated with the organization’s overall business strategy.”

The report went on to state that HR would remain a boardroom “poor relation” until it embraced new technology and ceased its reliance on the reporting of historical data as opposed to future-looking analytics. About 75 percent of surveyed executives said their workforces are globalizing and gaining more flexibility through virtualization. But only 25 percent said their HR teams excelled at sourcing and retaining international talent. Another quarter believed that their HR teams were incapable of supporting their company’s globalization strategy.

“This survey shows that, at the very least, HR has a perception problem, though in some cases it may have actually failed to deliver real value. Given the high unemployment rates in many countries, you would be forgiven for thinking that retention is an easy task for HR, but with employee engagement levels an increasing concern more effort must be put into understanding staff needs before today’s employees become tomorrow’s alumni,” Bolton said.

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Want to Be More Strategic? Here Are Obstacles That HR Must Overcome

Want to Be More Strategic? Here Are Obstacles That HR Must Overcome

I don’t know about your organization, but regardless of whether it reports to the CEO or not, HR is generally considered an overhead department.

It processes paperwork, manages benefits, attempts to train the un-trainable, places ads, pre-screens employees, administers programs, and generally serves as a dumping-ground for programs and projects unworthy of line management. As Rodney Dangerfield might say, “It don’t get no respect.”

And, you can probably guess why: earning management respect means delivering a valuable (read “dollars”) service. If HR wants to play a strategic role in managing human capital, there are a series of obstacles it must overcome.

Obstacle #1 — Victim Mentality

When I start workshops, I ask for reasons why employees succeed or fail in the organization. HR people cite reasons like no training, no help, and lack of management direction. However, when I ask the same question of line managers, they cite poor planning skills, learning deficiencies, bad decisions, and so forth.

Do you see the difference? Where line managers see unskilled employees, HR sees only victims. HR’s victimization opinion serves as a HUGE mental roadblock to progress.

As long as HR cannot, or will not, recognize the importance of their front-end role in screening employee and manager skills, they can never be strategic.

Obstacle #2: Not Quantifying Poor Performance

When the list of reasons is exhausted, I ask how much bad employees cost. Few people in either group know the answer, so the numbers usually range all over the ball park.

Consider this: we already know about 20 percent of the people do about 80 percent of the work. Other studies have shown low employee performance costs between 10-50 pecent of annual payroll.

But these are generic numbers and you need specific ones. Why not get with a friendly line manager and work out the hard-dollar costs of the bottom performers?

If HR wants to claim human expertise, it must be able to put hard numbers on performance.

Obstacle #3: Clinging to Old Ways

Finally, I ask what the company is doing to screen-out these low performing candidates. Usually the room goes very quiet as eyes dart left and right.

Yep. They don’t know what to do. But they suspect if they draw attention to an employee problem, someone in the C-suite will probably expect them to fix it …then what?

Forget about job-outcomes. You already have considerable experience making hiring and promotion decisions based on candidate accomplishment stories. Do I have to ask how that is working for you?

Still got your 20/80 performance mix, right? Hiring and promotion competencies must person-related, not job-related. Controlling human performance requires defining and clarifying specific human skills, and not what the job is supposed to produce at the end of the day.

For example, suppose a manager needs someone who can conduct weekly employee meetings to ensure compliance with safety rules. HR needs skills to identify the specific human skills required, and find someone who has them. In other words “job safety objective” = learning (safety rules) + planning (activities) + interpersonal skill (delivering workshops). Now, you have something to measure.

Focusing on employee skills is a critical concept, it tells you what to measure; otherwise, you won’t be able to control employee quality.

Note: it’s not necessary to do this for every job. Professionals can usually classify virtually all jobs into one of 12-15 “families” (e.g., a group of jobs that require similar KSA’s — knowledge, skills, ability — to perform). Families help simplify the job immensely. Now it’s time to discuss measurement tools.

Obstacle #4: Every Tool Looks Like an Interview

Unstructured interviews are known for having virtually zero predictive validity. As you might imagine, different KSA’s lend themselves to different measurement tools.

Choices include structured behavioral interviews, realistic job simulations, “smart” application blanks, work samples, web-tests, pencil and paper tests, case studies, analysis exercises, in-baskets, job previews, planning exercises, smart application blanks, technical knowledge and skills tests, and so forth. They all do something different.

There is one notable exception: hiring tools do not include workshop surveys! Workshop surveys are intended to measure differences between people — not predict job performance.

After you have done studies showing scores predict job performance (e.g., using construct, content, or criterion validation) you are ready to proceed. Then you can administer pre-screen tests as follows: more tests for complex positions and fewer tests for simple positions; cheap tests early in the process, expensive or time consuming tests later; and, requiring candidates to clear one set of test hurdles before taking the next.

Throughout the process, scores are validated based on job construct, content, or criteria; adverse impact is monitored at every stage; action is taken to minimize adverse impact without compromising quality; and, single test scores are never be used to eliminate a candidate.

Obstacle #5: Resistance to Change

Your staff does not think they need any help or training? Either get them to recognize their role in early-skills measurement, or get new staff.

In my experience, career HR staff are often the most resistant to change. They think they have learned all there is about selection, adamantly cling to old technology, and resist new ideas.

You don’t have the budget? That will probably not be problem once you calculate the costs of doing nothing. Line managers are quick to fund programs that help them produce more.

You want to do the work yourself? There are only a few thousand people in the U.S. who are qualified to implement this kind of project — and they probably don’t work in your HR department.

Are you (or your legal staff) wary of tests? You might want to know anything used to screen applicants is a test, even interview questions. And don’t forget, bad tests and interviews are what led to the 80/20 employee problem in the first place.

That’s too much work? Well, you could always explain to management why they should continue paying expenses associated with poor employee performance. Try implementing the project one small bite at a time.

What’s the cost? Usually less than one employee’s semi-annual salary, and recaptured within 3-4 months.

Can I use web-based tests? Maybe later. Assuming you know how to identify the good ones, web-based tests usually are band-aid fixes, like building one plank at a time. Taking control over your employee workforce requires both a blueprint and strategic plan.

You can’t get management’s attention? You might want to try the financial analysis thingy, starting with a cooperative line manager.

How quickly can it be done? Like I said earlier, organizations have a lot of people-inertia. Depending on your turnover and growth, you will probably see changes with the first few hires; however, it will take a few years for you to stabilize the workforce. Take comfort in knowing the amount of work to maintain a professional system usually declines with time while the quality of your employees improve.

What if I reorganize? Once you have control over people skills and job requirements, you can intelligently move people into jobs which they are able to perform.

What about performance appraisals? You can use data from your job families to build employee-specific PA forms (instead of generic ones).

How will it affect the succession planning pool? You will have a deeper and more qualified pool than you have now.

What about diversity? Do you want diversity of people or diversity of skills? A professional process will ensure highly skilled people come from all demographic backgrounds.

Will I interview fewer people? That depends on how your system is constructed. Look at it this way, instead of hiring candidates and waiting to see if they perform, you will control employee quality by screening out weak employees before they get on the payroll.

Is every employee a guaranteed success? No, hiring will always be an odds game, only you will have significantly fewer failures.

Will managers resist? Sometimes when someone they like is rejected, but mostly they will appreciate having less of their time wasted interviewing weak candidates.

Finally, how will this help me earn a seat at the management roundtable?

Easy — management will recognize your critical role in managing employees to reduce costs and bring performance under their control. Now that’s worth something!

R. Wendell Williams, Ph.D., is Managing Director of rww.

The Four Opportunities HR Must Seize Today to Succeed Tomorrow

The Four Opportunities HR Must Seize Today to Succeed Tomorrow

A lot of time is spent fretting over the role of human resources, both what it does today and what HR will be tomorrow.

I’ve always thought the role of HR was pretty simple — find great talent, hire great talent, nurture and grow great talent — but too many people (even a lot in HR themselves) don’t necessarily see HR as the go-to place when it comes to an organization’s talent.

That’s why this new study from The Conference Board and McKinsey & Company, titled the State of Human Capital 2012, is so important, because it lays out four (4) specific opportunities that human capital (HR) executives must seize if they are to effectively manage the global talent pool in an unpredictable business environment. They include:

  1. Look ahead: anticipate and plan for the human capital of tomorrow – “From the increased presence of the highly connected Millennial generation to the proliferation of the virtual office, tomorrow’s workplace will look very different from today’s.”
  2. Secure a steady, reliable pipeline for today’s skilled workers, and tomorrow’s leaders – “The war for talent continues, spurred by relatively high growth in emerging markets and the mismatch between worker skills and jobs in most regions of the world.”
  3. Develop strategies to re-energize your employees about what they do, and about what the organization stands for – “An engaged workforce can drive financial performance. Studies have shown that employees who are truly engaged are more likely to stay and contribute to the organization.”
  4. Ensure that the HR/HC function becomes more agile than the organization as a whole – “Organizational agility is an essential response to the volatility of today’s business environment. An MIT study shows that agile organizations grow revenue 37 percent faster and generate 30 percent higher profits than non-agile organizations.”

Why HR has struggled

“In today’s global marketplace, particularly in such a hostile and unpredictable business environment, it is imperative that human capital executives and departments place themselves at the heart of strategy development conversations,” said Rebecca L. Ray, Ph.D., Senior Vice President of Human Capital at The Conference Board, in a press release about the report. “Human Capital functions need to break out of their comfort zones, take risks and become a true business partner.”

Although I found the four opportunities that HR must seize interesting, the most intriguing part of the study to me were the listing of reasons why HR has had such limited progress in achieving the tangible results that it needs to deliver. See if you find any of these reasons oddly familiar:

  • A lack of capability. From the report: “Human capital professionals are still unable to confidently and assertively solve business issues with line leaders and define the subsequent HC (human capital) implications.”
  • A support function mindset. From the report: “Human capital staff continues to have a support-function mindset, a low tolerance for risk, and a limited sense of strategic ‘authorship.’ These attributes often result in relatively low status among executive peers, no budget for innovation, and a ‘zero defects’ mentality that means they rarely takes chances.
  • An inability to relate the ROI or business impact of their function. From the report: “The difficulty many human capital professionals experience in talking the business language of ROI prevents them from gaining buy-in for innovation, no matter how much it is needed.”

“A real struggle to make a strategic difference”

“Right now, human capital departments are struggling to deal with a global talent shortage, adapt to a changing workforce, and develop new, flexible working models to meet the needs of tomorrow’s workers,” said Bryan Hancock, a Partner in McKinsey & Company’s Atlanta office, in the press release about the study.

He added: “Human capital departments and executives are also facing a real struggle to make a strategic difference in their organizations. Only by partnering with other parts of the organization will they be able to address critical business issues with long-term, systemic impact on human capital.”

Members of The Conference Board can download a copy of the report here, and if nothing else, it is a sobering reminder of what you probably already know: HR needs to be a more business-oriented partner that is willing to take prudent risks and tackle the human capital needs that are going to be the key to driving our organizations ahead tomorrow.

But if you manage to get your hands on a copy of this report, be forewarned; it is a pointed and unvarnished detailing of the why HR doesn’t function right in most organizations, and what needs to be done to fix that and get things on the right track.

Don’t dig into it unless you want to be confronted by these uncomfortable truths — and, if you are finally ready to do something about them.

John Hollon is Vice President for Editorial of john, and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/johnhollon