Nov 26, 2012

Distill Your Message to as Few Words as Possible

Your customers are constantly being bombarded with new information. Simplicity has never been more powerful.

It’s amazing how complex our lives have become.  Nothing’s simple anymore.  Think about it.  Even your Facebook page has a million things going on.  The increase in complexity has led to a decrease in focus.  It’s hard to know what even matters anymore.

Well the same is true for your customers.  The noise is so deafening sometimes that your most important message can easily get lost in the shuffle.  What are you trying to tell me?  What do I need to know about you and your products?  What is it you want me to remember about you, your company?

Everybody’s talking at once, saying so much, that customers can no longer remember what we started talking about in the first place.  Tweets are flying through the atmosphere as thick as a flock of birds, filling minds with an endless stream of useless information, and crowding out the few things that were really worth knowing.

Why is this so important?  Because the world is noisier now than it’s ever been, the competition is tougher and more global, and your customer is being bombarded around the clock with a massive stream of messaging that makes it ever more difficult to remember you and your company.

What can you do about it?  Focus on simplicity.  To be truly memorable, to be the one product or service that people remember when the dust settles, you need to narrow down your message, streamline your sentences, cut out all the fluff, and deliver one–yes, just one–strong, simple message, and deliver it clearly and concisely.

One of the most valuable skills in the world is the ability to explain complex concepts in simple, easy-to-understand terms.  Writing lots of words is easy.  Making your point with an absolute minimum number of words is really hard.  Yet it is so much more effective.  Mark Twain once said: “I would have written that shorter, but I didn’t have the time.”  Find the time.

Imagine you had a quick minute to tell a potential customer why he should do business with you.  Because in today’s world, that’s all you have anyway.  Write down what you want to say.  Now cross out as many words as you can, each time reading the sentence again to see if it still delivers the point you want to make.  Keep crossing out words until you have created the shortest sentence you possibly can.

Next, go to one person and deliver your simplified pitch.  As soon as you are done, have that person tell a person who wasn’t in the room what you just said.  The goal is this: if a person who hears your simple message can repeat it pretty accurately to the next person who asks what your company does, you’ve got it right.  If they don’t say exactly the words you want repeated–to build your brand and establish your company’s unique value–go back to the drawing board and simplify it some more.  Keep it brief, straightforward, and clear.  Eliminate any industry-specific jargon.  Avoid the noise and clutter.

There is an elegance in simplicity.  Simplicity does not mean removing features, benefits, or services from your product.  It means distilling what’s most importantabout those features, and explaining them in the fewest words possible.  Go ahead, write yours down, and get busy crossing things out.

(Admittedly, I probably could have written this column in only two paragraphs.)

Jeff Hoffman, co-founder of ColorJar, is a serial entrepreneur who was on the founding teams of Priceline.com and uBid.com. He is also a frequent public speaker on the topics of innovation, entrepreneurship, and leadership. @colorjar


GREAT HR METRICS …from the HR Capitalist

November 26, 2012

GREAT HR METRICS: Innovation Spend/Effectiveness at Your Company…

I’m on the record as liking Revenue Per Employee as the best macro metric on HR effectiveness.

But that’s macro, let’s get micro. Training $$ per employee? Turnover percentage? Does that include involuntary?


Let’s roll out something cool, like evaluating innovation spend vs peers. Check out this chart from Business Insider today that shows R&D spend as a % of revenue (email subscribers, display images or click through for the post)


As they say… daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamn.

So, you can measure your spend on innovation as a percentage of revenue. And when you do that, it tells you some things you would expect – namely, that your competitors are doing what you thought they were doing. Microsoft, Cisco and Google – all leading the pack at over 10% of revenue spent on R&D.

But that of course, tells you nothing about effectiveness. Apple? <insert evil laugh>. Spends about as much Dell – YES DELL – on R&D.


Things that make you go “hmmm”

On to the next one.

Signed – in search of metrics that provide clarity on talent issues.

Posted by Kris Dunn on November 26, 2012 at 12:57 PM in Innovation, Talent | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

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.

5 Things That Really Smart People Do

Nov 14, 2012

5 Things That Really Smart People Do

Don’t get in the way of your own learning. Here are five ways to step aside and continue to increase your smarts.


Most people don’t really think much about how they learn. Generally you assume learning comes naturally. You listen to someone speak either in conversation or in a lecture and you simply absorb what they are saying, right? Not really. In fact, I find as I get older that real learning takes more work. The more I fill my brain with facts, figures, and experience, the less room I have for new ideas and new thoughts. Plus, now I have all sorts of opinions that may refute the ideas being pushed at me. Like many people I consider myself a lifelong learner, but more and more I have to work hard to stay open minded.

But the need for learning never ends, so your desire to do so should always outweigh your desire to be right. The world is changing and new ideas pop up everyday; incorporating them into your life will keep you engaged and relevant. The following are the methods I use to stay open and impressionable. They’ll work for you too. No matter how old you get.

1. Quiet Your Inner Voice

You know the one I am talking about. It’s the little voice that offers a running commentary when you are listening to someone. It’s the voice that brings up your own opinion about the information being provided. It is too easy to pay more attention to the inner voice than the actual speaker. That voice often keeps you from listening openly for good information and can often make you shut down before you have heard the entire premise. Focus less on what your brain has to say and more on the speaker. You may be surprised at what you hear.

2. Argue With Yourself

If you can’t quiet the inner voice, then at least use it to your advantage. Every time you hear yourself contradicting the speaker, stop and take the other point of view. Suggest to your brain all the reasons why the speaker may be correct and you may be wrong. In the best case you may open yourself to the information being provided. Failing that, you will at least strengthen your own argument.

3. Act Like You Are Curious

Some people are naturally curious and others are not. No matter which category you are in you can benefit from behaving like a curious person. Next time you are listening to information, make up and write down three to five relevant questions. If you are in a lecture, Google them after for answers. If you are in a conversation you can ask the other person. Either way you’ll likely learn more, and the action of thinking up questions will help encode the concepts in your brain. As long as you’re not a cat you should benefit from these actions of curiosity.

4. Find the Kernel of Truth

No concept or theory comes out of thin air. Somewhere in the elaborate concept that sounds like complete malarkey there is some aspect that is based upon fact. Even if you don’t buy into the idea, you should at least identify the little bit of truth from whence it came. Play like a detective and build your own extrapolation. You’ll enhance your skills of deduction and may even improve the concept beyond the speaker’s original idea.

5. Focus on the Message Not the Messenger

Often people shut out learning due to the person delivering the material. Whether it’s a boring lecturer, someone physically unappealing, or a member of the opposite political party, the communicator can impact your learning. Even friends can disrupt the learning process since there may be too much history and familiarity to see them as an authority on a topic. Separate the material from the provider. Pretend you don’t know the person or their beliefs so you can hear the information objectively. As for the boring person, focus on tip two, three, or four as if it were a game, thereby creating your own entertainment.

An Inc. 500 entrepreneur with a more than $1 billion sales and marketing track record, Kevin Daum is the best-selling author of Video Marketing for Dummies@awesomeroar

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.

The Question That Will Change Your Organization – Polly LaBarre – Harvard Business Review

HBR Blog Network

Some fifteen years ago, in the early days of starting up Fast Company magazine, co-founder Alan Webber shared one of his rules of thumb with me: “A good question beats a good answer.” That pithy wisdom sunk in and took hold immediately.

The first thing you notice when you have your ears pricked for questions is that most people (especially businesspeople) are more interested in presenting solutions, making assertions, and sharing their vision. This isn’t surprising. School programs us to focus on producing the right answer, and the job description of a leader for the last century has basically been “the person with all the answers.”

That’s why it’s so refreshing (and instructive) to spend time with people who lead with questions rather than answers. Why? Why does inquiry beat certainty every time? Here are just three reasons:

1. Questions are a powerful antidote to hubris, which inevitably arises in a culture that celebrates mastery, values decisiveness, and reveres the top guy (or gal). Genuine questions unleash humility, curiosity, even vulnerability. That turns out to be a powerful approach to leadership in a world of expanding complexity, immense challenges and intense change. No single individual can possibly have all of the answers. But an open and curious one can attract more perspectives, surface more possibilities, and enlist more help than one closed off by certitude.

As Vineet Nayar, CEO of the $3.5 billion global IT services firm, HCL Technologies, puts it: “The CEO should be the Chief Question Asker, not the final provider of answers.” He keeps a list of twenty questions and makes time to think about them on a regular (almost daily) basis. He’s asking for trouble when he wonders:

  • Should people who create value be governed by people who control it?
  • What things do I control that I should not control?
  • Could we throw out the entire company rulebook?
  • Would my children (or my employees’ children) want to work in a company like mine?
  • What would happen if there was no CEO at my company (or at any company in the world)?

He professes not to have the answers, but one thing is certain: the more disruptive the questions, the greater the chance his organization will create the future — rather than be conquered by it.

2. The best questions are the bedrock of all change and creativity.
Those classics — Why? Why not? What if? — invite possibility rather than doubt. They are fundamentally subversive, disruptive, and playful — and they switch people into the mode required to invent anything new. Even better, anyone can ask these questions (anyone who has ever spent time in the company of a three-year-old understands this). You don’t have to hold a position of authority to ask a powerful question, and the people with the most powerful questions stand to make the most impact.

That was certainly true for Jane Harper, who spent a nearly 30-year career at IBM asking the kinds of questions most people don’t want to touch. In 1999, she dared to ask: “Why would really great people — the best technical and managerial talent in the world — want to come work at IBM?” In an era when every young, gifted programmer, engineer, or entrepreneur’s first instinct was to write their own business plan or head to a fast-growing startup, life as a foot soldier in Big Blue’s global army was a pretty hard sell. Harper understood that great people want to work on exciting, high-impact projects, with a small team, in a dynamic setting. So she created exactly that in a Cambridge, Massachusetts lab and launched a wholly original and powerfully effective internship program called Extreme Blue, which has since grown into a thriving platform for innovation and talent development.

3. Asking good questions trades control for contribution. A question asked and explored as a group (whether that group is a team, a company, or a community) generates more solidarity, engagement, and progress than a proclamation from on high. Spend any amount of time with Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, whose organization is celebrated for exuding a powerful sense of purpose and passion from every corner, and you’ll hear him repeatedly refer to “the questions we ask ourselves.”

Questions create conversations — and those conversations are how thriving groups think up their future together and stay true to their core. One enduring and powerful question at the heart of Zappos is: “How do we sustain this culture as we grow? How do we stay true to the core and inspire ever more creativity and energy to tackle the future?” That question is actively explored across the organization and even results in a book — the annual Culture Book — which features the “true feelings, thoughts, and opinions of the employees,” who view themselves as vital custodians of that culture.

Of course, there is no one right question, but one of the most productive questions when it comes to engendering a deeply-felt sense of purpose and inspiring the kind of passion that fuels organizations to do extraordinary things is: “What ideas are we fighting for? What do we stand for (and what are we against)? Why does what we do matter?”

The inevitable corollary to that question is: “Are you really who you say you are?” Unless you’re willing to hold a brutally honest and transparent conversation (both inside the organization and beyond) about where you’re living up to your ideas and ideals and where you’re falling down, those values will become meaningless words on the wall.

What’s your question? Share it here and join the Beyond Bureaucracy Challenge to share your stories, ideas, and practices about what it takes to make our organizations more inspiring, open and free.

Polly LaBarre is editorial director of the Management Innovation Exchange

The 3 Most Universal Tells in an Interview | SmartRecruiting


The 3 Most Universal Tells in an Interview

by Jessica Miller-Merrell

Aside from the actual job offer itself, interviewing a candidate is the single most important part of the recruitment. While sourcing and posting your online job ad is never easy, the interview process can be long, intense, and complicated. The interview relies on two people, typically the hiring manager and the job seeker to meet, engage, share, and develop a relationship with one another. Not every job seeker that meshes well with the interviewer is the ideal candidate for the position. Sometimes personal preferences, interests, and commonalities get in the way of a great hire.

Candidates are also becoming increasingly aware of how to game the hiring and recruitment process being coached with the right things to say and keyword stuffing their resume. Unfortunately, job seekers are being coaxed and encouraged to lie and fake their way to a promotion or new job opportunity. In my experience, job seekers most often exhibit tells like a poker play does with an interview. Here are three universal interview tells recruiters can use as part of their interview evaluation process to sniff out the best and most qualified candidates for the job:

  • Shifting. Shifty eyes, shifting feet, or just nervous twitch can be a tell that something is not right with the prospective employee. They are uncomfortable or nervous with the new job’s responsibilities, requirements, hours, or their previous job history. Interview TellShifting or fidgeting happens because the job seeker wants or needs the job but their body responds differently. They may not be giving you the whole story. Move on or probe for more information.
  • Nose Touching. Scientists believe that lies or untruths said are often accompanied by a touching of the nose with the person’s fingers or hands commonly referred to as the Pinocchio Effect. Depending on the time of year you are conducting the interview, you could write off the nose touching to allergies, but as a hiring manager you have to ask yourself if this hire is worth the risk.
  • Possessive Phrases. When it comes down to it, we’re all selling something either a product or service or ourselves for the job. Job seekers don’t often think of themselves as in the sales business even though they should. The job market is competitive and as recruiters we don’t want to loose our best candidate option. Qualified job seekers have choices too. Recruiters can gauge a top prospects interest by their tells if they speak using possessive phrases like, “my desk” or “my sales team.” Using possessive phrases means they are more likely to accept the job offer when you present.

Every aspect of the interview and selection process is a negotiation. Job seekers want to learn about the job openings and organization while also marketing themselves for the job. Companies are doing the very same thing. It’s the dance we do to learn, evaluate, and understand if the job or job seeker is right for you or you are right for them. It’s the subtle and often non-verbal cues and patterns that really give away our true intentions and/or facts about who we really are. Recruiting and hiring managers can look for these interview tells during the candidate selection process and throughout their career as they interact with team members, peers, employees, bosses, clients, and more.

@blogging4jobs blogsJessica Miller-Merrell
, SPHR is a workplace and technology strategist specializing in social media. She’s an author who writes at Blogging4Jobs. When she talks, people listen. Photo Credit

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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

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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.