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Is HR Ready for Blockchain Technology?

Is HR Ready for Blockchain Technology?

Recruiters would likely be thrilled by the arrival of a faster, more efficient way to verify the credentials of job candidates, a system that could save precious time and dollars in confirming the education, certifications, work experience or skills of applicants, particularly those in the gig economy.

Payroll managers would undoubtedly welcome a new technology that makes international payroll less complex and costly, allowing for more timely and efficient cross-border payments to global employees.

Those are two applications of blockchain technology likely to impact human resources soon, industry experts say. Blockchain is best known as the backbone technology for the digital currency bitcoin; it is an encrypted, digital ledger of public records organized into groups of data called blocks and distributed over networks, said Kevin Wheeler, founder and president of Global Learning Resources, a talent strategy consulting firm in Fremont, Calif. Blockchain is a type of decentralized database that allows everyone in a “chain” to see and verify the details of every record.

How Blockchain Works

“Blockchain is a way to store personal information about candidates or employees in a secure, confidential manner and make it available to anyone with permission from those individuals,” Wheeler said. Such a system could automate and speed the process of verifying job candidates’ credentials, saving recruiters from having to contact multiple sources to confirm historical information; could reduce resume fraud; and could improve time-to-hire, experts believe. Blockchain also could one day transform global payroll by cutting out the banks—the “middle men”—that add time and costs to the process.

Experts at Human Resource Executive’s 20th Annual HR Technology Conference & Exposition in Las Vegas in October said they expect blockchain to come to HR within the next 18-24 months.

More than 40 top financial institutions and a growing number of companies across industries are already using blockchain, according to The Wall Street Journal, and companies like Microsoft and IBM have made huge investments in the technology. Organizations are using blockchain for financial transactions, for supply chain management and to create “smart” legal contracts.

The data in a blockchain cannot be deleted or changed, only added to, Wheeler said, and it is required that everyone connected to each block must agree before new information can be added into a chain. Job candidates or companies are assigned a digital ID and can add specific types of data to the chain, such as college grades or degrees, Wheeler said.

​”Blockchain has the potential of helping recruiters verify candidate credentials in a highly secure way and reducing chances of credentials being altered or faked,” said Stacey Harris, vice president of research and analytics at IT consulting firm Sierra-Cedar, which conducts the annual HR Systems Survey. “It takes a lot of time and resources to do that kind of background checking on candidates today, particularly in areas that go beyond regulatory or legal matters.”

Harris said blockchain may have value when applied to the gig economy, where verifying the skills, knowledge and past assignments of contingent workers can be challenging. “I’ve seen some movement and discussion about using blockchain to validate vendor credentials, and I think we could one day see that expand within HR to the full contingent workforce,” Harris said.

Self-Sovereign Digital IDs

Daniel Roddy is a senior manager with Deloitte Consulting, headquartered in New York. Roddy specializes in human capital products and innovation, and he sees “significant opportunities” for blockchain technology in HR. “It is early days for the technology, both in terms of its maturity and the creation of the kind of large consortiums needed to gain alignment on how blockchain systems will work,” Roddy said. “But there is considerable potential for human resources.”

For example, blockchain may make the concept of a “self-sovereign identity” for employees a reality, Roddy said. “It’s the idea of individuals being able to fully control data about themselves,” he said. Blockchain systems would reduce the chances of third-party companies providing inaccurate historical data about a candidate or existing employee, since those individuals would have greater input and control over data that’s already been verified by multiple parties.

For example, if a recruiter used blockchain to verify a job candidate’s claim of achieving a certification, the candidate would first have to release access to a blockchain entry cross-signed by the certifying body, Roddy said. Once the certification is confirmed within the blockchain, the candidate controls who can access it with a digital “key.”

Similarly, job candidates would hold the power to release a blockchain entry cross-signed by universities to verify degrees they earned or specific classes taken. “That also eliminates the need for the potential employer to have to contact the school to verify the degree and classes taken, saving considerable time,” Roddy said. “That potential employer also wouldn’t need to see personally identifiable information around that entry, it would just be ‘green’ or ‘red’ in terms of the candidate’s decision to release the information, making it more secure.”

​The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is piloting a diploma system that can be accessed by such a digital key. The system allows MIT students to access and “own” a secure and certifiable digital file of their MIT diploma; the digital diploma is provided in addition to a standard physical diploma.

Some start-up blockchain companies also have begun operating in the recruiting space. Last year Recruit Technologies and Ascribe announced a partnership to develop a prototype blockchain resume authentication service for job hunters. The service would enable the digital verification of official certificates and resumes, previously done on paper. The two partner companies claim the effort of collecting multiple official certificates would be reduced for job hunters, and recruiters could handle confidential official certificates safely and without worry of fraud.

Payroll Applications

Experts believe blockchain also could have advantages for payroll, particularly for payments made internationally. Global payroll can be costly and often delayed because of the many intermediary banks and third parties involved in the process. Blockchain’s ability to simplify and standardize payments by eliminating the middle man may make it attractive to payroll managers.

“As a practical matter blockchain for payroll is not that difficult,” Roddy said. “Money today can be moved around the world instantly to bitcoin wallets for reasonable costs. What’s holding up use are the many statutory requirements and legal entities that govern how pay can be delivered, what currencies it can happen in and related regulatory issues.”

One company already operating a blockchain-based payroll system is Bitwage, a San Francisco-based organization that uses the technology to facilitate cross-border payments through use of bitcoin. Bitwage allows employees or contractors around the world to be paid by organizations in their preferred currency, handling the conversion of bitcoin to local funds.Workers can use 25 different currencies to receive wages, and Bitwage promises to pay out within 48 hours regardless of where workers are located.

Australian company Chronobank also uses blockchain-type technology to allow employers to pay contract workers without going through banks.

Other Potential HR Uses

There eventually may be other valuable uses for blockchain within HR beyond recruiting and payroll, experts say. “Blockchain has the potential to keep employees’ health records and make them available to anyone with permission, while keeping that data secure,” Wheeler said.

Blockchain also could be used for employee learning records or other information kept in HR databases, since it promises a higher level of security than many existing technologies. Harris said some vendors in the learning and development space are exploring the potential of blockchain to verify skill sets and capabilities.

“There are some current challenges but, once the network effect kicks in, the growth of blockchain technology could be exponential,” said Jeff Mike, vice president and HR research leader for New York City-based consulting firm Bersin by Deloitte. “That makes now a good time for HR leaders to become familiar with blockchain. They should be thinking about how processes could change in their worlds with the existence of a secure, validated digital identity ‘owned’ by candidates or employees, not by third parties.” 

Dave Zielinski is a freelance business writer in Minneapolis.

This article was first published on SHRM.

Improving Company Culture Starts With Wellness

Improving Company Culture Starts With Wellness

An increasing number of employers have connected the dots between employee wellness and improved workplace productivity. That’s why it makes so much sense for businesses to emphasize wellness as part of their company culture.

In fact, 72 percent of companies in the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2016 Employee Benefits survey said they currently offer some form of wellness program, .

The digital connection

If improvement in your employees’ wellness is your goal, digital technology can play a significant role in improving their health and consequently, their productivity. Research has explicitly linked the use of wearables, apps and other technology to increased employee productivity, as well as reduced absenteeism, lower stress levels and decreased employer healthcare costs.

A survey from Health IT Outcomes reported that 90 percent of employees surveyed said they wanted their company to provide a wearable device for tracking as an incentive. Companies are responding: Nearly half of the employers surveyed by the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) offered or sponsored a tracker device as part of their wellness program.

By investing in digital technology, employers can boost participation in corporate wellness programs. These devices are a constant reminder to employees of their health status, allowing them to monitor their physical fitness activities, heart rates, body temperatures and even sleep patterns.

A competitive advantage

Businesses that promote a culture of wellness have a competitive edge. Those adoptive businesses can build stronger employee engagement with the company’s goals, according to a study sponsored by Humana and The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

The study found that employees in wellness programs are 12 percent less likely to experience health issues caused by work-related stress and nearly 10 percent less likely to find professional obligations interfering with their ability to make healthy choices regarding nutrition and exercise.

The Humana/EIU study also confirmed that stress remains a severe health problem in the workplace. More than 70 percent of the employees surveyed concurred that company wellness programs can have at least a moderate impact in reducing stress. According to other key findings, approximately nine in 10 employees surveyed said they find participating in employee wellness programs improves their fitness as well as their overall happiness and well-being.

Keys to increasing participation

So, what’s thwarting increased participation? One key contributor is a lack of time. Approximately half of the employees in the Humana/EIU study said they were too busy to participate as fully as they would like in their company’s wellness program. One way companies can compensate is to increase the motivation for participation.

Healthcare Trends Institute recommends developing a “sticky strategy” to incentivize participation, to help companies, for example, recoup an investment in wearables. In a 2016 PwC study, The Wearable Life 2.0, more than 50 percent of respondents said that features such as monetary rewards would motivate increased use; and 45 percent said a gamification component would foster healthy competition.

Gamification also promotes a sense of team camaraderie — the idea that “we’re all in this together,” pulling for, and supporting, one other — which ultimately will boost morale, workplace engagement and productivity.

A company win-win

Clearly, there are multiple benefits — for businesses and their employees — in implementing an effective company wellness program:

  • Increased productivity
  • Decreased absenteeism
  • Reduced healthcare costs
  • Less work-related stress
  • More motivated employees
  • Better employee engagement
  • Renewed sense of team camaraderie
  • Improved health, well-being and happiness
  • Expanded alignment with company goals and company culture

The tie between corporate success and improved employee health and well-being is evident, and that’s a win-win that will take your company culture to a whole new level.

This article was first published on Entrepreneur.

The Three C’s of Building a Connected Workspace

The Three C’s of Building a Connected Workspace

Office culture is dependent on the people, but it’s dependent on the physical, too. Office workspaces provide more than just a place to work. They can help organizational health by providing an environment that fosters collaboration and productivity. And, they aid in recruiting top talent whose first impressions are in part shaped by the office space. No matter the industry or the size, corporations can reap the benefits of a thoughtfully designed workspace.

As companies strive to enable stronger relationships, more attention is being placed on workplace design and construction. But, building office connectedness is not simple. It requires a team of experts to creatively and cost-effectively design and build a workspace that unites people across departments and experiences.

At Skender Construction, one of the nation’s largest building contractors, we have helped many organizations build out inviting workplace interiors. As the person responsible for our own company culture, I’ve seen firsthand how the physical space influences personal interactions.

Through our work on our headquarters and for our clients, we find that these “three Cs” tend to contribute most to promoting collaboration and well-being.

First C: Communal spaces

Forget the cold marble lobbies and imposing reception desks of yore. Inviting lobbies or entrance areas set the tone for employees, guests and prospective employees. They can also be a space for spontaneous conversations to occur – especially when they incorporate varied, casual seating areas and Wi-Fi lounges.

At Skender’s headquarters, we implemented an open reception environment, or “hub” space, that features a reception desk, café/kitchen, transparent meeting rooms and the “Lodge,” which offers a leather sectional sofa, comfortable seating, flat panel television and record player. Employees from any department can walk through the common area, view meetings in progress and engage in casual conversion or work in a non-traditional environment.

Second C: Conference rooms

Conference rooms don’t typically elicit warm thoughts from employees, but they’re certainly critical to business success. Consider what elements would flip the old perspective on conference rooms.

Modern, centrally located, glass conference rooms welcome more natural light and foster productive teams. They also help reinforce a culture of transparency and trust.

Technology is key, too. Smart meeting rooms outfitted with the latest videoconferencing technology and fast network connections enable stronger inter-office relationships.

As more companies adopt open-plan environments, it’s important to provide ample conference rooms of varied sizes to give employees options for privacy, such as call rooms and wellness rooms, and quiet places to work when necessary.

Third C: Central gathering places

Beyond communal spaces, adding flexible rooms and zones intended for non-traditional gatherings can enhance employee relations and encourage innovation. Kitchens, cafés and game rooms are a major draw and help the office feel more home-like. They also bring together employees from across departments who may not otherwise have work-related interaction.

Take into account the message you send employees when you devote more space to communal gathering areas than you do private, executive offices. It’s a big signal that an inclusive culture is important to your mission.

Don’t be afraid to let creativity rein free here. These spaces also are a good place to showcase your company’s personality – through commissioned artwork and branded, interactive message boards for communicating to employees.

Three Cs Build One Big C: Connectivity

With a focus on well-designed, interconnected communal spaces, conference rooms and central gathering places, your company can create a workspace that enables collaboration and supports its culture. Think about how your employees interact now – and how it can be improved by the physical space in which they work.

Photo Credit: blurMEDIA Stock Flickr via Compfight cc

Driving Employee Engagement Will Drive Your Client Engagement

Driving Employee Engagement Will Drive Your Client Engagement

Happy employees lead to happy clients. Knowing that, why do so few companies focus on employee engagement?

At my company, we prioritize employee engagement for two reasons: First, disengaged employees are less productive at work, lowering the quality of deliverables and harming the company’s culture and reputation; and second, disengaged employees present themselves poorly to clients, creating negative impressions and reducing conversions.

To avoid a destructive company culture and disappointed clients, leaders should focus more on engaging their employees. Not only will this lead to greater efficacy and efficiency in the workplace, but it will also bolster client engagement and, by default, company success.

The Perks of an Engaged Workforce

A company that wants to foster employee engagement — and benefit from it — must engage all its people, not just the client-facing ones.

Engaged employees bring energy and innovation to the office — working harder, thinking differently, and investing more in their jobs as result of this stimulation. As a result, they’re able to solve complex problems with creative solutions, producing more revenue and outpacing their disengaged competitors.

Simply put, an engaged workforce renders a more successful company. There’s a direct correlation between employee satisfaction and client satisfaction. When employees are more positive and helpful in their interactions, this positivity translates to clients, driving stronger service and building better relationships. And clients reward this good service with repeat business and by spreading brand awareness — through either word-of-mouth advertising or posting online reviews.

What Leaders Should Know About Engagement

Though compensation is a primary way to create engagement, money isn’t everything. According to Gallup, while 54 percent of disengaged employees would leave their jobs for a raise of less than 20 percent, only 37 percent of engaged employees would do the same.

By treating each employee as an individual rather than as a cog in a machine and listening to what they value, leaders can better understand their employees and their individual needs and preferences, creating engagement outside of compensation. Mangers can then customize ways to engage employees within the company or provide the resources that can bolster an employee’s own engagement practices.

My company, for instance, encourages employees to hone in on and maximize what makes them most happy and most productive. While for me that may be flexibility, for others that might be the ability to work in different locations around the world. Others value the ownership they have on specific projects, the educational support or wellness perks they receive, or the time off our company offers. It’s all about preference.

More than salary, leaders should focus on company culture as an effective engagement strategy, and they can do this by following these three strategies:

  1. Schedule Frequent, Transparent, and Direct Conversations with Employees

Transparent leaders discover and solve employee problems more quickly, with 70 percent of employees being more engaged when their leaders regularly update them on changes in company strategy or goals. What’s more, effective communication can also reduce the impact or pervasiveness of individual problems.

While many employees may be afraid to approach their managers and talk things through spontaneously, leaders who arrange opportunities to sit down with employees one-on-one often find these opportunities are a great way to understand and address any issues or needs. Don’t beat around the bush during these meetings, though. Get the answers you need by asking the right questions: What keeps your employees engaged? What do they love about their jobs? What would make them love their job more?

It all boils down to frequent and direct communication, because the more you talk openly with your people, the better you understand what’s going on with them.

  1. Remove Barriers That Make Life Harder

While communication is the first step to understanding employee engagement, realize engagement largely hinges on giving people the tools and structures they need in order to flourish.

The larger an organization becomes, for example, the more convoluted workflows get, which can lead to worker frustration. To assess these workflows and how exactly your employees are affected, you can take inventory of the most necessary processes, break down unnecessary silos, or automate what can be automated. Making life easier for employees is a quick way to engage them.

If some employees don’t like a specific workflow or feel overworked given the way their roles operate, you should first discuss these barriers with them, then explore options that can make everyone work smarter and, finally, budget to accommodate that change.

  1. Acknowledge and Support Personal Goals

A company culture of engagement should account for both today and tomorrow, as few employees want to stay in the same role forever. Many of today’s workers aren’t wedded to a particular company, with only 13 percent of Millennials believing that they should stay at a job for at least five years before leaving. Acknowledging personal development goals and providing educational opportunities to help employees grow is essential to not only engagement, but also retention.

You must recognize that turnover is inevitable, but employees who feel valued and respected, achieve good work-life balances, and are more engaged in their jobs are more likely to stay. Not to mention that at an average hiring cost of $4,000 for a new employee, it’s far more expensive to hire than it is to retain top talent.

Employees want to perform at high levels, but companies don’t always make it easy for them to stay engaged. Opening up communication, building stronger interpersonal relationships, giving workers the tools they need to succeed, and creating opportunities for satisfaction inside and outside the office are great ways for leaders to promote engagement. Your devoted workforce will reward your efforts with higher client satisfaction, stronger revenue, and a happier culture. Who wouldn’t want to work at a place like that?

Photo Credit: Dr Carr at ISU Flickr via Compfight cc

How Strategic HR Drives Digital Transformation

How Strategic HR Drives Digital Transformation

Done right, digital transformation can positively touch every part of your business—from improving the customer experience to the ability to attract and retain top talent, to enabling employees to perform to streamlining operations. How do you get those sought-after results, though? My partners and I write and speak on the topic of digital transformation all the time and, more importantly, we’re right there in the trenches with our clients, working with them on a daily basis helping navigate the digital transformation process. The most important element of successful digital transformation is understanding that it’s not at all about technology. Success with digital transformation, for any company of any size, is all about just two things—people and culture.

Recent research from IDC agrees, and we all agree that the role Human Resources plays in successful digital transformation is a very large one. The IDC report HR Must Deliver on Transformation shows two of the top four barriers to success are people and culture, illustrating the point that Human Resource teams are critical to the success of digital transformation. Let’s explore some ways embracing a mindset of “Strategic HR” can drive digital transformation.

Read more: Helping Your Employees Adapt to Digital Transformation

HR’s Role in Digital Transformation

The IDC data found some 85 percent of companies have started digital transformation processes, and of course that percentage will continue to rise. Human Resources, however, isn’t always the first to be included in digital transformation initiatives, especially if companies stick to the same strategies to recruit, hire, engage, manage, and retain employees they’ve used in the past. The conundrum can leave HR in a repetitive cycle of dealing with and delivering underwhelming results that can lead to subpar business outcomes (see Figure 1).

How Strategic HR Drives Digital Transformation

Figure 1. Source: IDC

What’s the Fix? The Answer is EmbracingStrategic HR

Strategic HR is the new breed of HR practice, and a part of the business focused not solely on administrative tasks but also on business processes throughout the organization. Digital transformation is about people, and culture, not technology, and since HR is in the people business more squarely than any other department within an organization, it is critical to involve HR pros in every part of the digital transformation process. Attracting top talent, hiring and onboarding practices, ongoing education, training, and career advancement, fostering a culture of collaboration, fostering engaged, committed employees, committing to initiatives designed to create a best places to work environment that focuses on the retention of top talent—all these things are in the realm of the HR team—in every organization. And these things, much more than any technological advances or software implementation will lead to a company’s success in navigating the process of digital transformation.

How Do HR Teams Become Strategic HR Partners?

It makes sense, doesn’t it? So how do you make that happen, especially if your HR team is viewed largely as administrative at this point in time? Here are some things to think about and five ways HR teams can embrace being legitimately “Strategic HR partners” within an organization:

  1. Keep the workforce engaged. An engaged workforce is a more productive workforce, but how do you keep employees focused and invested in an age of short attention spans and constant change? For starters, you can change how you approach reviews. Employees are no longer interested in waiting around for the annual performance review business, and much prefer casual check-ins, feedback and more frequent interaction with their managers. The IDC data supports that, although change is happening at a slow pace. A whopping six percent of Fortune 500 companies report having ditched the annual performance review and employee rankings and instead opting for interaction with employees that focuses more on personal development, feedback, course-corrections where necessary, and improved opportunities for learning. IDC also recommends offering “social learning,” utilizing database and communication software to make sure each employee is continually engaged as both a teacher and a student. 
  2. Build an agile, flexible, collaborative workforce. Workforce agility is critical, especially as tech makes it easier than ever to collaborate from anywhere. With more companies leveraging remote and freelance employees, making flexibility and collaboration the foundation upon which business is built is imperative. It’s not unusual for the enterprise HR budget to allocate 30 percent for freelance contractors and consultants, so if you’re not yet focused on collaboration initiatives, now is a good time to start. Luckily, that won’t be difficult, as the enterprise collaboration market is booming and is on track to hit $49.5 billion by 2021. (For more on this topic, I covered collaboration and the role Enterprise Social Networks can play in this post over on our Futurum Research blogThe Operating Model for the Digitally Transformed Enterprise. HR teams are having great success leveraging ESNs to engage teams, encourage collaborate, and foster innovation that drives the businesses forward.)
  3. Develop, attract, and retain the right talent. There are lots of wrong ways to approach hiring and retention. My friend Meghan Biro has written about them extensively. Read: How to Stop Your Bad Hiring Decisions. To make it more difficult, good candidates can be increasingly hard to find, and they are increasingly selective about the opportunities they pursue. One way to get off on the right foot is by showcasing your corporate culture during recruitment, as that’s a key piece of information employees look for these days. What you say a company is and a job role is, and what they see with their own eyes and how they feel when they are meeting, interviewing, and getting to know your recruitment team can sometimes be different things. If that is the case in your organization, fix it. Be who you say you are and lead with great culture above all else. That is the honey that attracts the best and the brightest.
  4. Leverage Data. Today’s best-in-class, most innovative companies and their HR teams are also looking to data as part of the talent recruitment and talent management equation. Today it’s possible to leverage technology like predictive analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), sentiment analysis and others to help identify and vet candidates who have the professional skills and personal characteristics that best fit your company. Once hired, similar technology can be used to monitor performance, job satisfaction, and even predict if or how long a candidate will stay with a company and a role. The integration of data into the HR strategy allows companies to keep their finger on the pulse of the collective happiness of a workforce and make changes that are intended to keep people happy, motivated, challenged, and well, most importantly, People don’t stay at jobs they don’t like, they look for ones they do. If HR teams want to retain top talent, they’re going to have to work harder than ever before, and use data in ways that can help them do that.
  5. Demand a seat at the table—and be ready to talk numbers—and tech. In their report, the IDC found HR leaders led the digital effort a mere five percent of the time, likely because their departments are often seen as policy-driven or administrative in function and not as key drivers of the business and business success. That perspective could not be more wrong. To buck this trend, HR leaders must do more, and that includes demanding a seat at the table. Once you’ve got the seat at the table, be prepared to present on the value a strategic HR team can deliver to the organization as a whole. That includes data on things like:
  • What improved motivation and performance can deliver in dollars and cents
  • What improved employee retention means to the bottom line of the company
  • How integrating automation into the business operations can reduce operating costs
  • How better employee relations leads to happier, more satisfied customers, and the impact that has on the business;
  • How technology can help match employee skills to tasks;
  • How technology can lead to a better inflow of new talent, keeping the pipeline full and the company operating at full speed;
  • How the standardization of HR processes, driven by the adoption of technology, can have a big impact on culture, making onboarding, talent management, and talent retention all more effective within the organization. Are you seeing a trend here? Technology plays a huge role in the transition to a Strategic HR practice. Automating standard HR tasks—and using the technology to help employees better connect and form teams—frees up HR to focus on building culture and retaining the best and brightest. There’s more, too—HR automation can lead to a whopping 65 percent increase in employee motivation and performance (see Figure 2).

How Strategic HR Drives Digital Transformation

Figure 2. Source: IDC

Read more: The Talent Recruitment Reality: A Good Candidate is Hard to Find

What’s Next?

Embracing digital transformation is table stakes in today’s competitive business world. Regardless of your industry or the size of your company, your culture and your people will lead the way to successful digital initiatives and overall business adaptability. If you want both—and you do—there’s a clear case for HR to be leading that charge.

Has your company invested in digital transformation initiatives? What role does HR play today? Do you see that changing in the future? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Additional Resources on This Topic

What is Digital Transformation?
Digital Transformation is workforce transformation: Why HR must assume a leadership role
The Heart of Digital Transformation: The Customer

Photo Credit: alpconsult Flickr via Compfight cc

This article was first published on FOW Media.

How to Get More People to Use Your Employee Referral Program

How to Get More People to Use Your Employee Referral Program

Recruiters can get more recommendations for candidates by making employee referral programs easy to use, keeping employees in the loop and providing them with the rewards they really want, experts say.

Research shows that referral programs are many times more effective than relying on job boards to find and hire applicants. Employee referral programs have proved to lower overall recruiting costs and improve the recruiting function’s return on investment because referred individuals typically get up to speed faster, require less onboarding, are more satisfied in their roles and stay longer at the company. Referrals have also proved to be a cost-effective way to tap into a large, qualified labor pool of passive job seekers. But studies also show that while many employers know the value of employee referral programs, they don’t always run the programs well.

“Our research shows that about 71 percent of companies have a referral program, but of those that have programs, 75 percent say they are not meeting referral program goals,” said Kara Yarnot, an executive consultant and strategy practice leader at HireClix, a recruitment advertising and consulting firm based in the Boston area.

“The No. 1 reason people don’t use a company’s referral program is that employees get frustrated with the lack of communication and engagement from the company,” she added. Employees also don’t make referrals because they don’t know how, the process is difficult to navigate and time-consuming, and they aren’t recognized for their efforts.

Keep Employees, Candidates Informed

Don’t let referrals fall into the black hole of your hiring process. The likelihood of an employee making another referral if an initial suggestion just disappears into the ether is very low, Yarnot said.

She recommended investing in an automated referral platform to ensure that every referral and referrer is contacted and given updates throughout the process. “Just setting their expectations up front can make a big difference,” she said.

Smaller employers can flag each referral for a personalized message, but for mega-companies, engaging in any way other than through automated messages is not possible. Dell, one of the largest technology firms in the world, receives 40,000-50,000 referrals each year. The company utilizes automated messaging but does offer a “white-glove service” for certain referrals, such as those from executives, said Jennifer Newbill, Dell’s director of global employment brand.

Shooting updates to employees and referrals at key stages of the process is what companies should aim for. Anything more, like allowing employees access to track their referrals through the hiring process, can present a privacy challenge, Newbill said. “We take privacy very seriously,” she continued. “The referral needs to be able to opt in and say, ‘Yes, my friend can see this information,’ and then there needs to be caution about what information is shared. The worst scenario is that the employee finds out before their buddy that he or she didn’t get the job. Would you want your friend to know this information about you—that you’ve been rejected and the reasons why?”

Empower Your Employees with Know-How

Another fundamental reason behind the lack of referral program use is that employees may not even know about it, how to use it or what positions are open.

“Companies do a good job with sharing positions externally but have a really hard time sharing jobs internally,” Newbill said. “You’ve got to talk about the referral program and remind people about it constantly. People don’t come to work every day thinking, ‘How many jobs can I refer my friends to today?’ ”

Critical, hard-to-fill positions are featured weekly on the social media feed at Geisinger, a health care system serving 3 million residents in northeastern and central Pennsylvania, said Julene Campion, SHRM-SCP, Geisinger’s vice president of HR for talent.

Newbill uses Dell’s internal social media site to remind people that certain jobs are open for referrals and provides links for the job descriptions. The information is also included in company newsletters.

Yarnot recommended inviting recruiters to division staff meetings when there are openings in the division to talk about who they are looking for and to encourage referrals.

“Another low-tech option is to invite people interested in making referrals to lunch-and-learn sessions and show them how to search through their contacts on LinkedIn to generate a list of relevant referrals,” she said. “High-tech options include using upgraded talent acquisition systems like Jobvite and iCIMS, which have referral functionalities that make the process easy, and implementing third-party referral platforms.” These tools auto-post jobs to employees’ social networks, match open positions to individuals within those networks based on skills and experience, and recommend those leads.

Simplify Your Referral Process

Make sure your referral process is mobile-friendly. Requiring employees to upload a candidate’s resume when making a referral will discourage them from doing so, as will requiring endorsements.

“Asking for information that isn’t used, like a cover letter outlining how great the referral is, is just wasting everybody’s time,” Newbill said. “The reality is that recruiters will not read a manifesto about your friend. They barely have enough time to go through the thousands of resumes they receive every week.”

Geisinger recently revised its referral process to make it less cumbersome and remove some of the program’s eligibility rules. “Previously, we required each referring physician to be engaged in the recruitment process, meaning they actually had to be involved in the interview process,” Campion said. “This created an unrealistic expectation and caused some frustration, so we removed it.”

The process confirming who should receive credit for the referral has also been simplified, Campion explained. “We now simply verify from the referral who the employee was who referred them, and that’s it. In other words, we will trust those involved in the process.”

Keep any process under three clicks, if possible, Yarnot said. “Only requiring candidate contact information such as name, e-mail and a phone number to get the process started makes it as simple as possible for the employee and puts the onus on the candidate to provide their resume.”

Offer Rewards People Want

Yarnot explained that about 60 percent of organizations with referral programs pay out bonuses for making referrals, but employees often don’t feel appreciated for submitting referrals, whether they get a bonus or not. “You can have a successful referral program, even without paying bonuses, by increasing public recognition for those who refer new hires,” she said. “Recognition from the CEO or team leaders in public goes a long way.”

Employers can run contests for most referrals submitted, the most that make it to interviews and the most hired, across locations and business units. “Using a leaderboard incentivizes competition,” Yarnot said. “Make a party out of it.”

Items branded with the company’s logo and other noncash rewards can be provided for referral hires. It’s most important to understand what works best for your workforce. “Each employer needs to figure out how much is enough to make it attractive for all parties,” said Jay Meschke, president of CBIZ Talent and Compensation Solutions, an executive recruiting and consulting firm based in Kansas City, Mo.

“Where companies screw up is when they pay out cash bonuses and then decide they’re not going to do that anymore as a cost-cutting measure,” Newbill said. “That will go over very badly.”

Many companies pay part of the referral bonus on the referral’s hire date and the remainder after a probationary period, often three or six months. “We call it ‘seasoning,’ ” Meschke said.”If you pay it all up front and it doesn’t work out three months later, you’ve got bad will directed across all ways.”

Splitting bonuses or delaying payouts in any way is a pet peeve for Yarnot, who implores companies “to stop making workers wait for bonuses. It’s hard on HR and payroll. The amount of effort that goes into this is ridiculous. And delaying the payment is basically saying, ‘We don’t trust you.’ ”

Outside of industries with high turnover jobs, paying the bonus in the first paycheck after a referral starts work sends the right message that your employees’ efforts are valued, she said.

This article was first published on SHRM.

Recruiting By Chatbot: 4 Ways HR Tech Can Take Us Higher

Recruiting By Chatbot: 4 Ways HR Tech Can Take Us Higher

The Tipping Point

We’ve become accustomed to data-driven, rapid scaling up: climbing likes, unfurling comments, increasing dollars. It’s much the same as the way a cell phone feels like part of our hands. This is the tipping point from hyper-aware to part of our mindset: We don’t need to think about where the phone ends and we begin. We don’t need to question that green bar filling its frame on or that rising dollar amount. We know the program is reacting to data that, in turn, is reacting to us. At this point, we accept that we’re learning from each other.

The boundaries are tumbling down between people and tech. The implications for HR make this year’s conference a must. Whether you’re going or not, here are four strategies to ride the wave:

  1. Don’t Think Big Data

Reality check: For most organizations, HR is not going to be working with Big Data. You’re going to be working with smaller data. The challenge is not gleaning massive amounts of recruiting, hiring, engagement, performance and retention data from millions of employees. The challenge is making the data unified so you can utilize it and create metrics that mean something. Look for powerful tools that do just that, using the principles behind Big Data but on a far smaller scale, shrinking down tools so the same effectiveness applies to smaller enterprise. As we become far more used to working digitally that means being able to scale down as well as up — the same camera, with a different lens.

  1. We Need Chatbots

Yes, there was hoopla surrounding the unfortunate blunders of Microsoft’s chatbot, Tay. But Tay has been rehabilitated and there are far more instances where chatbots are working and will benefit HR. Chatbots on company websites and social media channels will be a boon for attracting far more talent and then helping turn that talent from passive into active candidates. In terms of talent management, the possibilities are endless, from onboarding to management. If you don’t have it, you’re going to get left behind. The IBM Institute for Business Value found that a full 65% of CEOs are expecting cognitive computing to drive significant value in HR. I don’t think AI and cognitive computing are options anymore, they’re a must: If the U.S. Army has a chatbot, SGT STAR, to answer potential enlistees’ queries, and we are making all sorts of noise about how candidates are consumers of employer brand, do we really have to wonder anymore?

  1. The End Of Machines?

Tipping point or not, we aren’t done: AI may not always be bound by the constraints of a machine and its power. There’s a kind of nature versus nurture debate happening not over people, but over deep learning. This may feel like the equivalent to a star glimmering from a far away galaxy, but think again: things happen fast in tech. It’s possible that just as we’re comfortable installing the latest software, we’re going to learn that we don’t even really need it: the chip itself is enough. I’ll leave cognitive scientists to debate this. But it shows that there is no such thing as complacency anymore. That’s another side to this transformation.

  1. Get Over Bias

I’ve argued before that tech is going to help us be better human beings. To me, this is the whole point and why I continue to champion innovation as well as keeping the human in HR. Tech can help, so long as we agree to agree on the criteria. A more diverse workforce is a more productive workforce, but it’s also time to catch up on this in terms of humans before the next wave overtakes us. We can learn to overcome bias, unconscious or otherwise, by using technology and analytics to teach us what we’re doing right and what we can do better. And then we can apply those lessons to the next generation of employees, which may well be partly generation Bot. (Wink, wink.) Once that happens, the very definition of HR is going to take on a whole new meaning. We’d best be ready. I know I for one am very excited about it.

A version of this post was first published on Forbes.

Four Transformative Benefits Of AI In Hiring

Four Transformative Benefits Of AI In Hiring

Industry heavyweight Andrew Ng calls AI the new electricity that will transform every industry.

In recruiting, companies like Indigo and Hot Topic are already using AI for their high-volume hiring.

Looking to learn more about AI? Watch our video below:

So what are the transformative benefits of AI in hiring? I list the top 4 benefits below.

  1. Reducing time to hire

A recent survey of talent acquisition professionals by Talent Tech Labs found 62% consider time to hire as the top recruiting success metric.

Four Transformative Benefits Of AI In Hiring

Source: Talent Tech Labs

If speeding up your hiring process is important, AI in hiring makes a lot of sense.

An AI algorithm can take a large quantity of data, for example, hundreds of resumes, and quickly screen and find the best 10% of applicants based on your own historical hiring decisions.

Human recruiters screening 200 resumes to 20 resumes would take several days of productivity. AI can do it quickly, freeing up recruiters for more value-add tasks like interviews, relationship-building, or building business cases for HR initiatives.

This is also where AI in hiring has an advantage over just using an applicant tracking system (ATS).

A typical ATS is good at organizing a large volume of applications, but it still generally requires humans to sift through that information. AI does the same work within your ATS in a fraction of the time.

  1. Increasing the quality of your candidates

AI is sometimes used synonymously with machine learning, which hints how it can increase candidate quality.

Once AI learns which factors make someone a successful or unsuccessful employee in a role, it can continuously tweak what it searches for and shortlist the highest quality candidates for you.

While AI may never be able to say, “This is the exact person you should hire” (this is where humans come in), it can be extremely effective at weeding out unqualified resumes and putting only quality candidates in front of you.

  1. Mining your ATS to rediscover candidates

The ability to mine your ATS is an often overlooked cost-saving benefit of AI in hiring.

To illustrate, we’ll use some simple math. Let’s say you have a job open and receive 100 applications. If we assume 80% are unqualified, that means 20 of those applicants are a good fit.

One person gets the job, and 19 receive the “We’ll keep your resume on file” email. Those resumes are kept on file but essentially disappear into the candidate black hole.

Three months later, you have another similar role open up. Rather than launching into a new time-consuming search process, why not rediscover those 19 prior applicants within your ATS who met the qualifications?

AI can mine your ATS to find those resumes again for you. This helps you source quality hires while reducing hiring time and improving your candidate experience.

  1. Sourcing passive candidates

Lever’s data shows sourced candidates are the second biggest group of hires after direct applies.

Four Transformative Benefits Of AI In Hiring
Source: Lever

Sourcing passive candidates is an important strategy for meeting headcount because according to LinkedIn, only 36% of candidates actively search for a new job.

AI can find passive candidates for you by learning what the job requirements are and then searching through job boards and candidate databases such as CareerBuilder that meet the qualifications.

This article was first published on

Four Ways to Get Your Workforce Ready for AI

Four Ways to Get Your Workforce Ready for AI

We are heading toward a workforce that integrates artificial intelligence (AI), cognitive computing, machine learning and virtual and immersive reality with people; a new kind of workforce diversity. And how we define the term work itself is going to shift as well.

This should be the year we all truly comprehend the way our workforce and work processes are changing. If we don’t, we’ll be behind the curve and dealing with the consequences, which is a disengaged and frustrated workforce, workplace anxiety, and a lack of clarity over who’s in charge of what, and more. With big data, the cloud, mobile and social, we still have the certain luxury of just dealing with people. We are adapting to massively expanded functions across multiple channels, while getting used to remote and virtual, and coming to respect the power of social and the opportunities in data. We have learned new best practices and embraced change, and for that we can pat ourselves on the back. But let’s not get complacent: that was child’s play compared to what’s coming.

As AI, cognitive and virtual joins our workforce, here’s the question: how we can best leverage this new reality for the benefit of people? The onus is on leaders and managers to anticipate changes and get ahead of them. So, put down your copy of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and let’s get real. Here’s what we need to do:

  1. Stop dreaming. We once believed eclipses were caused by dragons. We still love dragons. But no more indulging in fantasy. Instead of considering the future, think of the now. Given the rapid change work is undergoing, it makes a lot more sense. So, as you head out to work after Alexa locks the house, Siri locates the morning’s meeting, and the GPS tells you the quickest route in a soothing Brit accent, accept that the future is now.
  2. Create support systems. To get in front of the transformation to a mixed workforce to better mitigate its affect on our people, we need to build some solid scaffolding. Don’t be so concerned with perception versus reality: we’ll all have our opinions. Concentrate on communicating. In terms of recruiting, that means anticipating confusion and setting better expectations. We may start to see job postings where there’s a human side — such as innovating or adding knowledge — and a machine side — such as repetitive administrative tasks. And managers can use mobile apps to take employees’ pulse can keep lines of communication open without interrupting the workday. Teams can create surveys to compile key data on workforce readiness or reservations. On the leading edge there are often more people who feel than people who know. That will change, but not as fast as we’d like.
  3. Resolve to stay human. We don’t really know if robots dream, but AI knows if we do. MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory recently announced they developed an AI algorithm that monitors our sleep with radio waves, and translate those signals to detect if we’re in REM sleep or not. There’s also a wearable AI system that can detect social anxiety in its wearer, predicting if a conversation is happy, sad or neutral based on the wearer’s vital signs and speech patterns. This could be a huge benefit for helping Asperger’s patients and could transform the field of social coaching. But do we need to frame the ethics of this in terms of the workforce? Potentially employers could detect engagement or productivity by using wearables as well. Each organization needs to consider the parameters of its own policy. Not everyone is going to want to implant microchips in their workers.
  4. Ramp up learning. One of the classic challenges HR often faces is executive buy-in. In this case, the workforce is likely changing due to C-Suite course changes, not HR; this is a massive and holistic transformation. Now the challenge is going to be making sure there is enough training in place. One instance: Microsoft recently announced AI for Earth, dedicated to AI-based projects that focus on climate change, agriculture, water, and biodiversity. The firm is committed to its development, and committed to training as one of the key elements. Not surprising, given that L&D is part of that company’s DNA. But even for an entirely different kind of business — such as a retail organization bringing in new customer learning technology — it’s one thing to have it. It’s far better to make sure your people know how to use it well enough to trust it.

We may not always agree with progress. It can get in the way of a good day’s work. And AI, designed to learn more the longer it exists, may well wind up disagreeing with us. In fact, one researcher says we can count on that: based on how it learns and what it learns, AI will definitely have opinions. It’s up to us to have the confidence and familiarity to either agree with them or not — and possibly to mediate between our people and our machines in a way that capitalizes on the best qualities both sides have to offer. Then again, let’s not think of us and them. That’s so 20th century.

A version of this post was first published on FOW Media.

Improving Workplace in 2018 with Quarterly Objectives

Improving Workplace in 2018 with Quarterly Objectives

The last quarter of the year is a particularly stressful time for me. Not only do you have to worry about the end of the year results coming in, there is a question about how to get more done with your team the next year. How to improve your office culture, work performance and communications? How to make sure I keep getting even better at my job?

Objectives and Key Results and quarterly goal setting.

It is well known that most people don’t like the annual performance review and for a good reason. It’s a time-consuming stressor for both employees and managers and it does very little to keep employees focused for the entire year. That is why I’ve been implementing quarterly Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) in both my team and in our company for the last 2 years.

Putting it very simply, OKRs is an easy process of setting company, team, and personal quarterly goals and then connecting each goal with 3-4 measurable key results. We started by setting goals for the whole company, then made sure each team has a goal that that connects to our general vision. After that team leaders talked with their employees and made sure everyone had personal goals that help them achieve the team goals. That way, everything an employee did, helped to push forward the company’s long term strategy. We measure the progress weekly to see how much has been done. If a week has passed without any progress, there is a problem that is quickly addressed and solved.

Benefits of OKRs.

The benefits of this system are many:

  • Continuous performance management – using OKRs helps me get feedback on my employee’s work fast and give them the positive enforcement they need. It also lets me know if any of them are falling behind and lets me solve problems before they escalate.
  • Clear communication between employees and managers – knowing how your goal is connected to the goals of others gives everyone a sense of impact, connection and meaning. We measured the employee job satisfaction 6 months after adopting the system and the job satisfaction was up more than 20%.
  • Engaged workforce – employees who understand their role in the grand scheme of things and know their work impacts the work of others are more generally more engaged than others. OKRs also offer the one thing younger generations want more than anything else: honest and constant feedback.

Megan M. Biro has written about the need to “go digital” and for OKRs it’s also best to use a specific digital OKR tool. While spreadsheets work well for getting started with personal OKRs but in order to get people engaged with their goals you need a more user friendly and simple solution.

Combining OKRs with HR tools.

It’s important to understand that OKRs are not a magic tool that solves all my problems. Rather I’d say, it is a system to enhances and revitalize standard reporting and employee management systems. When you look at the work trends for 2018, it’s clear that the focus has to be on employees and their wellbeing. OKRs help with that but you need all involved to believe in it and participate.  If it’s hard to convince your entire company to try something like that (and it usually is), start with a small team and soon enough others will follow. Employees are the greatest resource of any team or company. They are the ones who create, innovate and achieve business results. It’s our job as leaders and managers to help them become the best at what they do.

#WorkTrends Recap: Live a Life of Real Intention

#WorkTrends Recap: Live a Life of Real Intention

This #WorkTrends chat with Paul Cummings, founder of woople and author of It All Matters, was the perfect way to end the year.

Paul talked about how we can reframe failure and reprogram ourselves to embrace dreams. “I think every person that I’ve ever met, seems to have some kind of a dream, deep down inside of them, that they ultimately want to fulfill and achieve,” Paul says, and we discussed the journey toward fulfilling those dreams.

“What matters most when you think about chasing down a dream”, Paul says, “is the commitment to finish.” When he built his e-learning platform, he had to make a commitment and motivate others to join him on the way to realizing that dream.

In this #WorkTrends chat, we talked about how people can overcome their fear of failure and make plans to fulfill their dreams. We also discussed specific steps on the route to meeting the commitments we make to ourselves.

It really stood out to me that Paul recommended journaling as a way to let things go, as well as document the future. He recommends a consistent morning routine as a route to success.

With that in mind, I encourage you to make a plan for the last couple of mornings of 2017, grab a journal and jot down those goals!

Here are a few key points Paul shared:

  • Fear is one of the most positive emotions on earth — it’s a catalyst for positive change
  • Outlook has a lot to do with input
  • You can’t imprison yourself in negative circumstances
  • A goal is a commitment with a deadline you need to be able to see in your mind’s eye
  • Every loss in your life is a lesson — use it as an accelerant to do more, not as baggage to weigh you down

Did you miss the show? You can listen to the #WorkTrends podcast on our BlogTalk Radio channel here:

You can also check out the highlights of the conversation from our Storify here:

Didn’t make it to this week’s #WorkTrends show? Don’t worry, you can tune in and participate in the podcast and chat with us every Wednesday from 1-2pm ET (10-11am PT).

Remember, the TalentCulture #WorkTrends conversation continues every day across several social media channels. Stay up-to-date by following our #WorkTrends Twitter stream; pop into our LinkedIn group to interact with other members. Engage with us any time on our social networks, or stay current with trending World of Work topics on our website or through our weekly email newsletter.

Note: #WorkTrends will resume 1/3/18. We hope all our friends in the #WorkTrends community enjoy their time off over the holidays and we look forward to an exciting 2018.

Photo Credit: mikbanerjee Flickr via Compfight cc

Helping Your Employees Adapt to Digital Transformation

Helping Your Employees Adapt to Digital Transformation

Change is hard in any aspect of life. When it comes to changing how a company functions every day, both leaders and employees are bound to face challenges. However, in the wake of digital transformation, change is necessary. If employees don’t keep up, they will be left behind and chances are digital transformation will fail. As I’ve written about previously, CMOs, CIOs, CTOs, and CEOs all have a role in leading the digital transformation. It is their responsibility to sell the transformation to employees. So, what can leadership do to ensure their employees are able to keep up? Let’s discuss:

Create a Dialogue

No transformation can be successful without communication. Employees tend to be resistant to change when it is forced upon them. With this in mind, it is key to create a dialogue with employees and keep the floor open to discussion. Leaders should actively ask employees what they’d like to see in terms of digital improvements.

Several executive members need to be champions of digital change to foster company-wide adaptation. After all, change is a team game. The open dialogue should start from the top and involve every level of employee. As I’ve discussed in the past, the CIO should take a major leadership role in forging digital-based alliances across the entire enterprise. The CIO needs to effectively bridge the gap between the actual implementation of technology and the workplace culture and demands. Even after the transformation process is underway, c-suite executives must keep lines of communication open, constantly asking employees for feedback. All the while showing employees that they’re also committed to offering their own feedback and showing employees that they are also adapting to the implemented digital changes. In the initial stages of change, company-wide communication is of utmost importance.

Invest in Training

Employees first and foremost need to understand the “why” behind digital change. “Let people understand the reasons for the change, and make sure they have a clear picture of what will improve when they get there,” says Dr. Daniel Cable, professor and chair of organizational behavior, at London Business School. Still, just an understanding and a bold vision isn’t enough to thrive as a digital organization. On the contrary, organizations that are winning the digital transformation race put a lot of effort into fostering a culture of change. This involves viewing setbacks and obstacles as integral to success, and quickly dealing with failure to improve.

Further, these companies invest in new capabilities and make sure employees develop the skills to keep up with a fast paced and dynamic environment. It is critical to implement a thorough training program for employees, to learn about the direct and indirect changes digital transformation will bring. This leads to a mastery of relevant skills and reduces frustrations during times of trouble. All employees, no matter which level they’re at or department they’re from should be required and encouraged to go through the immersive training program to drive adoption.

Allow Experimentation

For many employees, digital transformation involves moving out of the comfort zone. A culture where experimentation is allowed and even encouraged is comforting to those who are new to the digital game. Employees can then freely experiment without fearing the consequences of mistakes. Secondly, employees that can experiment often discover new and faster ways of doing everyday tasks, increasing efficiency and likely productivity.

Encourage Collaboration

Online and offline communication can easily be unified keeping employees connected through their own devices. This truly creates the “anywhere, anytime” access to company documents and tools that has become so commonplace in our daily lives. Further, digital connections often help break down generational gaps and bring employees of different ages together. New digital communication fosters collaboration in departments and across the organization. Ultimately, the digital transformation should feel less like “technology” and more like intuitive ways to complete tasks at hand.

Improve Employee Involvement

Embracing digital transformation is more easily achieved through increased employee engagement. With digital advances, employees can reach consumers easily and directly, while most likely staying ahead of the competition. Consider the example of company Connected Home, a unit set up by British utility company Centrica to build “smart home” appliances. Their team was built to work like a startup, with a focus on user research, feedback and a commitment to lean operations. This approach helped Connected Home’s Hive “smart thermostat” device become a market leader in just a few years. Gaining these sorts of insights that would push a company to the top required a major shift in organizational norms, allowing for employees to be brought closer to consumers.

Often, older employees struggle with digital transformations, but their insight and experience are invaluable. By improving internal employee engagement too, employees can feel more valued and fulfilled, making them more open to change. Engagement drives adoption, but digital transformation too can drive engagement. In fact, 72 percent of respondents to a recent survey reported that flexible work schedules positively affect levels of employee engagement. And, in the digital age, flexibility is easier than ever to implement. Employees can work remotely, use their own devices, and utilize digital tools to interact impactfully with consumers and each other. They are more likely to appreciate the tangible benefits of digital transformations and adapt to the same.

Ultimately, digital transformation isn’t just about technology. The way a company structures itself, encourages and fulfills its employees, invests in training and fosters a workplace culture that is amenable to quick change all play an important role in successful transformation.

Photo Credit: martinlouis2212 Flickr via Compfight cc

This article was first published on FOW Media.

We CAN Talk About Race, Religion, and Other Polarizing Topics: A Leader’s Guide to Bold Inclusive Conversations

We CAN Talk About Race, Religion, and Other Polarizing Topics: A Leader’s Guide to Bold Inclusive Conversations

Don’t talk about politics or religion at work! This old adage is one that we have mostly adhered to for centuries. I would also add race, sexual orientation, harassment, and disabilities to the list of topics that we don’t easily talk about. We’ve been socialized to believe that it is best not to talk about topics for which we know there are vastly different world views.

I would contend that our current sociopolitical climate, coupled with our immediate access and consumption of news via social media, has made this widely held tenet null and void. The polarization is so deep that it is almost impossible not to talk about politics which also means we are talking about race, ethnicity, religion, class and gender because they are all so intertwined.

The growing body of research around psychological safety, engagement, and inclusion has shifted the dialogue from whether we should be having these conversations at work to how can we begin to arm ourselves with the competencies to have these conversations at work. 

I was conducting a “healing” session for a client just after the election with employees of color who represented various employee identity groups (e.g. Black, Asian, Latino).  One of the participants said that as a gay Muslim man he would not stand close to the edge of the subway waiting area any more for fear of being pushed in. A white male leader in attendance as an inclusion advocate was shocked to hear that anyone would have to have such a fear. Another one of our clients, a major public-school district, is dealing with children coming to school afraid that their parents will be deported, leaving them here in the US as orphans.

Employees are bringing such fears to work. Children are bringing these fears to school. As leaders, we need to not only talk about these issues, but we also need the requisite skills to do so effectively.  We need to recognize that there are a different set of skills needed to have Bold, Inclusive Conversations across difference.

The Model for Bold, Inclusive Conversations supports leaders in fostering those skills and meeting people where they are when engaging in dialogue:

Foster Self- and Other Understanding

Investing time to understand oneself and the perspectives of one’s cultural ‘others,’ is requisite to engaging in these, often time difficult, conversations. As a matter of fact, this phase of self and other understanding can be difficult, in and of itself. Our identity is core to who we are. Whether it is our race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, veteran status, or even roles as parents, these aspects of our identity shape our worldview. They influence how we view and respond to current events, what we interpret as right or wrong, and what we stand for or against. It is important for us to understand why we believe what we believe, and why we disagree with those things we disagree with if we are to be effective in having bold, inclusive conversations.

Assessing Readiness

Sometimes our teams and organizations just aren’t ready to have these conversations. Sometimes we aren’t either. Perhaps it is because we do not know enough about the topic, or have not had exposure to people from a specific identity group. Assessing individual and team readiness is key to engaging in these conversations. What might one consider when assessing their individual readiness?

  • Exposure: Ask yourself: Who is in my world? The less exposure you have with people who are different than you, the less likely you will be ready to engage in bold, inclusive conversations.
  • Experience: This takes ‘exposure’ a step further. Experience is about engaging with those who are different from you in ways that are cross-culturally enriching.
  • Education: Experience and exposure should be complemented with formal education. This may include workplace trainings, continuing education, research, visiting museums, reading books, etc.
  • Empathy: Having the capacity to understand the perspective of one’s ‘other,’ is also necessary to be effective in engaging in bold, inclusive conversations.

Preparing for the Conversation

It is important to differentiate preparation and readiness. Readiness refers to the ongoing learning involved in fostering self- and other-understanding. Preparation involves the tactical elements required to plan the conversation. Given the sensitive nature of bold, inclusive conversation, planning is critical. That said, spontaneous meetings to engage in these conversations should be avoided. When planning to engage in a bold, inclusive conversation, consider the following series of questions:

  • Why are we having the conversation?
  • Who should be part of the dialogue, and why?
  • What is the desired outcome?
  • How should the conversation be conducted?
  • Where should the conversation be held?
  • When will the conversation take place?

Creating Shared Meaning and Finding Common Ground

When it comes to issues tied to our identity, we are more likely to be passionate, and unmoving in our beliefs. Social psychologists have suggested that we retreat to separatist thinking when our core belief systems are threatened. Reasoning and evidence simply do not matter.

That’s why convincing someone to “change what they believe” is difficult, and shouldn’t be the goal of engaging in these conversations; however, reaching a point of mutual understanding should. Creating shared meaning is a stepping stone to getting there. Ask yourself and each other, what can we agree on? Creating shared meaning and finding common ground includes statements like:

  • “These types of stresses can impact engagement and productivity.”
  • “We don’t know what we don’t know, and we all have a lot to learn about each other to have effective dialogue.”
  • “We all want to be safe.”

Delving into Differences

While understanding similarities is certainly a critical middle ground for bold conversations, understanding differences that make a difference is critical to getting to a place of reciprocal understanding. Consider the following when moving into dialogue around differences:

  • Acknowledge the ‘elephant’ in the room. Polarization exists and acknowledging that is part of the dialogue.
  • Distinguish interpretations and clarify definitions. Even “universal” terms and values can be interpreted differently across cultures. What do terms like fairness, safety, and trust mean to those involved in the dialogue? Discuss those differences. Write them down.
  • Uncover your different perspectives and listen with an open mind. Tell your story.
  • Know when to ‘press pause.’ Set aside time to reflect. Be okay with non-closure.
  • Strive for reciprocal empathy. There is no official ‘end game’ in engaging in these conversations. But …

If we can get to the point of reciprocal empathy (i.e., the ability to know what it is like to be the “other”), we increase the likelihood of generating new ways to engage with each other.

Photo Credit: Pelangi Keluarga Flickr via Compfight cc

Pay Equity: A New Requirement for HR

Pay Equity: A New Requirement for HR

The laws regarding pay equity are changing. In seven jurisdictions, there are new laws on the books regarding pay equity, including California, New York City, Oregon, Puerto Rico, and Massachusetts. Each has new laws prohibiting employers from asking a candidate’s salary history. There are more than a dozen other pay equity laws under consideration, and it’s going to be a very key focus for lawmakers — and therefore HR and the world of work — in 2018.

Navigating change

Employers are going to have to address this issue, starting now — regardless of your company’s position, or whether you’ve created a policy to deal with pay equity or not. The winds of change are upon us and it’s critical to start revising your hiring practices now. Or you may wind up breaking the law.

It’s not just laws that factor in, however. You’ll also want to be on the forefront of this transformation as an employer. In terms of attracting the best talent, it’s no surprise that it’s a best practice to demonstrate a progressive, well-thought out approach to pay equity. To not be clear about supporting pay equity is to possibly convey a retrogressive stance on fair and equitable hiring. At a time when pay equity is on the radar and in the news, to not have a policy towards pay equity, law or not, could be the key factor in whether a superbly qualified candidate applies to your organization, or goes elsewhere.

But there are also statistics showing that pay equity drives more profitability — tied into the fact that a well and fairly compensated workforce is a more engaged and productive one, and a more diverse workforce is a more innovative and creative one. A study of nearly a thousand companies on their pay equity positions found that the 51 companies officially committed to gender pay equity as of this past spring generated a 12.5% return to investors. That’s opposed to the rest — who generated a return of only 10.2%. Is it possible that paying women fairly is good business? I dare say it is.

Jumping on the bandwagon

According to the U.S. Census of September 2017, U.S. women still make only 80.5 cents for every dollar that men make. Glassdoor’s salary study in the Spring of last year found that men earn 24.1% higher base pay than women on average. But many organizations are taking the initiative. Among those known for their leading stances on pay equity are Starbucks — whose own study of its male and female employees found they are paid within 99.7% of each other for doing similar work. Gap has been officially paying male and female employees equal pay for equal work since 2014, and was the first Fortune 500 company to do so. Costco and Nike are among companies who are stepping up to do internal studies of their workforce. Tech companies are trying to repair their reputations as part of Silicon-Valley-esque bro-culture by conducting pay equity studies of their own. Will they play a role in changing the tech workplace? Probably.

We’ll see more and more organizations taking long, hard looks at their own compensation structures — and trying to remedy equity within existing employees as well as new ones. The Glassdoor study found that one key remedy for the gender pay gap are employer policies that embrace salary transparency. Albany County just announced it’s giving some employees salary “bumps” to address pay equity — days after passing its own salary history ban. We may see companies evaluating retroactive rebalancing, adding additional work/life balance components to their benefits packages, and setting key targets for increasing diversity and inclusion — as they drive towards better and more equitable pay among all of them. But they can’t do it alone.

Outsourcing Equity

That’s where recruiting and hiring firms come in. When companies outsource their recruiting and hiring to other companies, those companies are also responsible for compliance under the law, if not more so. An outsourcing firm that doesn’t guide its client on issues of compliance may be held liable for that client’s breaking the law. So, it’s incumbent upon firms to really understand the legalities involved in these new pay equity laws. And the firms leading the way with this issue are already setting their own policies. HireRight, for instance, recently announced it was building capabilities into its own hiring and screening tools that enabled its clients to remove salary verification from its screening process. Here at TalentCulture, we just featured a #WorkTrends podcast with HireRight on this topic — and we’re going to dive even deeper with them in a webinar coming up.

The bottom line is that if we’re going to improve the workplace, it can’t be left to legislation. But if there is a wave of legislation happening — and far more to come — it’s vital to understand the laws and compliance. When we combine solid internal policy making on the part of well-meaning companies with legislation, and then we increase the effectiveness by having hiring and screening firms create effective tools for observing best practices, then we’re getting somewhere with pay equity. It’s good news, and it’s about time.

This article was sponsored by HireRight. All opinions are that of TalentCulture and Meghan M. Biro.

Interested in learning more about pay equity?  Join us for “Pay Equity Legislation: 5 Ways to Tackle the Year’s HR Must-Do” lead by Meghan M. Biro.


The Practicality of Purchasing an ATS Part 2

The Practicality of Purchasing an ATS Part 2

Cost, true value and company culture

(Part two of a three-part series)

In part one of this series, I discussed how to go about conducting a gap analysis to fully understand the current state of your ATS and if shopping around for a new vendor is really what’s needed. Having a good grasp on your current business needs in addition to future needs is one of the first considerations.

Further, I shared some pitfalls to avoid when conducting your business analysis and described some areas where people can misinterpret what resources are needed, and why considering the functionality and options of a new ATS must align with your unique business plans.

How do You Determine True Value?

Current and future value for your business, value for the money paid and value for the end-users should be paramount in the decision-making process.

What to consider as the value will vary from organization to organization. It’s important to ask lots of good questions to understand how the software will mesh with your unique business demands. Ask questions specific to your company’s needs, but general questions about the cost, frequency of software updates, extent of resources needed by your organization to maintain a fully functioning application, how data storage is handled and protected, along with length and terms of the contract should, also, be asked. Additionally, you should know what training is included for the initial rollout, as well as for future updates, product refreshers, new features and training for new users, as well as software changes that address future business objectives. It’s, also, important to understand any configuration or customization you may require, to meet your initial and ongoing business processes, and their associated costs.

No software is of value if the end-users cannot use it in meaningful and productive ways. Technology should enhance the user experience not be an encumbrance, so the human engineering must be in-line with how you need the software to perform. Don’t let the vendor define your needs; it’s okay to compare product feature sets to each other, but it’s most important to compare the product functionality to your requirements to ensure you’re getting the best value for the money. If you analyzed your business at the beginning of the process, you know best as to what your business needs are.

People often over-focus on the appearance of the software. Beneficial functionality and speed are not easy to design but are the backbones of what makes for good, reliable systems. What appears flashy and sparkly in a demo doesn’t always translate into a productive real-world experience for the end-user. Flashy should not be the focus, but consider availability, functionality, and responsiveness as being what’s vital. It’s important that the end-users can use the software, sometimes all day long, without fatigue.

If, at all, possible implement the software you’re considering into production. If you have more than one location, install and use it at one of the sites. If not possible, at least take the time to talk to references – both power users and the managers who do the software purchasing for their business. Questions may vary, but ask the managers if they conducted a business needs analysis at the onset of the process. Ask to know if there were any hidden costs. Knowing how satisfied the end-users are with the software is valuable information. Software review sites such as TrustRadius and Capterra are also great sources of getting crowd-sourced opinions about a product, company, and its people.

It’s, also, important to ask for references from customers that are achieving success. These may be power users who will give you a fair representation of how they use the product, and with that may be able to answer questions relative to your organization.

Company Culture Matters

When evaluating vendors, assess how closely they listen, understand and respond to information about your unique business demands. If the vendor always answers, “yes,” to your questions about functionality, you should be suspicious… no off-the-shelf software will do all you want.

If the vendor is listening and advising on what’s in your company’s best interest, they are taking a customer-centric approach and not just working to meet their own sales goals. Further, ask the vendor to whom they report, is the company privately held or owned and financed by outside investors? Who does management serve, customers or shareholders/investors? What drives their innovation? Customer-driven innovation is, generally, the best because it’s like crowdsourcing. Their responses will alert you to their company structure and indicate where customers fall on the list of priorities and importance. Also, find out what the turnover is on their client roster, as well as turnover with the software vendor’s employees. See what employees are writing about them on sites like Glassdoor.

It goes without saying but understanding how the vendor defines on-going service and support is important. This will help you understand both the advantages, as well as the limitations of their solution – and their customer focus speaks volumes about their own company culture and how well they work with clients.

You need to develop a business partnership with your ATS provider, and any vendor for that matter. A compatible relationship must be built on trust, honest communication, and mutual respect.

Understanding the overall performance and service factors of the potential software system, and its compatibility with your company needs and culture are the keys to successful product selection. Ultimately, the functionality of the vendor’s software should be in-line with your expectations of success for the present and future of your business.

This article is part two in a three-part series. In the next article, I’ll address best practices for implementing your ATS and what’s needed for the care and maintenance of the new software.

#WorkTrends Preview: Live a Life of Real Intention

#WorkTrends Preview: Live a Life of Real Intention

It’s that time of year when we lay out our goals, wishes, dreams, and resolutions for the New Year. Can you believe that 2018 is almost here? I don’t know about you, but I’ve decided that 2018 is going to be my year, when I will tackle all my dreams and goals. Let’s talk about how to live a life of real intention on #WorkTrends this week as we enter into the New Year.

It’s so easy to lose sight of the optimism we had when we were younger. Do you remember that feeling? The confidence that you could do whatever you set your mind to? Let’s explore how to get that back with our guest this week.

Paul Cummings, found of woople and author of It All Matters, knows the devastation of broken dreams. Fortunately, he also knows the thrill of discovering a way back to wonder and confidence.

Paul will be talking with us this week about how we can reframe failure and reprogram ourselves to embrace dreams. He will also touch on the commitment to fulfilling our dreams that we want to chase. “I think every person that I’ve ever met, seems to have some kind of a dream, deep down inside of them, that they ultimately want to fulfill and achieve,” Paul says.

This #WorkTrends chat will talk about how people can overcome their fear of failure and create a plan to fulfill their dreams. We’ll talk about specific steps on the route to meeting the commitments we make to ourselves.

Join #WorkTrends host Meghan M. Biro and her guest Paul Cummings, found of woople and author of It All Matters, on Wednesday, December 20, 2017, at 1 pm ET as they discuss how to create the proper mindset to make positive changes, reignite life passions, and find the strength to live with real intention.

Live a Life of Real Intention

#WorkTrends Preview: Live a Life of Real IntentionJoin Meghan and Paul on our LIVE online podcast Wednesday, December 20, 2017 at 1 pm ET | 10 am PT.

Immediately following the podcast, the team invites the TalentCulture community over to the #WorkTrends Twitter stream to continue the discussion. We encourage everyone with a Twitter account to participate as we gather for a live chat, focused on these related questions:

Q1: What simple steps can we take to live a life of real intention? #WorkTrends (Tweet this question)

Q2: What factors keep us from exploring outside our comfort zone? #WorkTrends (Tweet this question)

Q3: How can we leave negative perceptions behind when planning our future? #WorkTrends (Tweet this question)

Don’t want to wait until next Wednesday to join the conversation? You don’t have to. I invite you to check out the #WorkTrends Twitter feed and our TalentCulture World of Work Community LinkedIn group. Share your questions, ideas and opinions with our awesome community.

Photo Credit: wuestenigel Flickr via Compfight cc

Why a Relentlessly Curious Culture Disrupts, Engages and Innovates

Why a Relentlessly Curious Culture Disrupts, Engages and Innovates

Just what does it take to architect a relentlessly curious workforce development strategy for your organization?

Well, the first step just may be up to you. Ask yourself these three leadership questions:

  1. Am I, myself, curious by nature?
  2. Then, am I curious about how a relentlessly curious culture might impact employee/client engagement, productivity and profitability?
  3. Alternatively, am I most comfortable playing small and staying safe within the confines of my current role?

Creating a relentlessly curious culture is fueled by an organization’s response to perceived uncertainty.

Most certainly, today’s globally competitive business environments are impacted by the disruptive pace and cadence of information and data flow and tech advances. In spite of the best efforts at stabilization and control, in digitally transforming corporate cultures, uncertainty is continuously introduced into work environments.

As the expression goes: Curiosity kills the Cat. In risk-averse corporate cultures, curiosity gets neutralized.

In business cultures valuing innovators, instead of order-takers, being curious is a desirable trait. When these organizations think they know all the answers, they wonder whether they are asking the right questions. They continuously disrupt themselves.

When leading a human capital development initiative focused on cross-functional collaboration and innovation, curiosity is continuously in play. Even in the midst of stabilizing control systems and processes.

Why? A proactive, relentlessly curious culture keeps everyone on their toes. The focus becomes “what’s next?” instead of reacting to “what just happened?”

Your relentlessly curious culture really is child’s play.

Let’s take a page from the P21 playbook, when it comes to curiosity. P21 , or The Partnership for 21st Century Learning, is a “coalition of business, education, and government leadership focused on ensuring that all children have access to a high quality, relevant education.” The P21 framework focuses on the important teacher-student partnership needed to foster students’ learning and innovation skills.

These learning and innovation skills involve the 4 Cs: creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration.

In addition, a fifth C – curiosity and question formulation – plays a major role in learning and innovation skills. Curiosity plays big in terms of how individuals improve their memory for retaining, combining and deploying acquired information.  “Stimulating curiosity ahead of knowledge acquisition could enhance learning success.”

How successful are you in fostering a corporate culture in which all the children play well together? Are you overlooking the power of curiosity?

Developing a learning culture leverages a relentlessly curious culture.

When leading a human capital development strategy, what happens when curiosity training is injected into (or even before) skills training? You just might level the employee playing field in the process of creating a more innovative workforce.

Consider that, across the organization, employees have diverse educational backgrounds. These differences create inequities in employee ability to utilize the 4Cs in problem-solving: creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration. In addition, unconscious bias regarding these perceived differences between employees often becomes a 4C killer.

Now, ponder starting with the 5th C: curiosity. Creating a curiosity sandbox, while teaching employees how to ask inquisitive questions, opens the door to innovation on so many levels.

When employees from all sorts of backgrounds start asking questions founded in curiosity, all sorts of barriers are breached. Instead, co-workers start communicating more collaboratively with colleagues. Co-workers exercise their brains differently when problem-solving.

Then, curiosity subtly – and then palpably – replaces a formerly complacent culture of “No way.” In its place is a more innovative culture, one which creatively ponders “Why not?”

Eventually, a relentlessly curious culture morphs into an innovation culture.

Regardless of intellectual pedigree or job description, fostering relentless curiosity engages employees to continuously validate information used in job-related decision-making. Executing a relentlessly curious learning culture strategy organically, if not formally, teaches employees how to formulate hypotheses. Next, they must network with co-workers to uncover information supporting, or rejecting, that hypothesis. No more working in a vacuum.

As a result, they bring healthy skepticism into the workplace each day, making solutions increasingly better and better over the duration of the customer lifecycle.

As a result of leveraging curiosity, the workforce becomes more cross-functionally engaged. Then, the workforce starts, literally, to connect cross-functional resource dots. At that point, the workforce “Aha!” happens. Employees always think out of their box, or cubicle, because they comprehend how everyone’s job functionality is interconnected when creating remarkable client outcomes.

The power of that 5th C, curiosity, potentially catalyzes the power of the other 4 C’s.

In relentlessly curious cultures, a collaborative workforce keeps pace with technology advances.

Why remain in order-taker mode, when the workforce can become innovators?

When employees are motivated and engaged in value creation, courtesy of bringing curiosity into the workplace, they “see” their job with new eyes. They “think” beyond the confines of their department or job description. In addition, when asking how existing processes can be improved, they collaborate across the organization to find the answers.

Consider the impact of creating a relentlessly curious culture on current and future employee churn. Ponder the types of employees who might be attracted to an organizational culture known for nurturing employee curiosity, creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration.

Then, go back to the top of this post. Ask yourself those three leadership questions once again. Now, are you more curious – and less risk averse – about leveraging a culture of relentless curiosity?

Performance Management: It’s Not a Product, It’s a Partnership  

Performance Management: It’s Not a Product, It’s a Partnership  

For winter, here’s a cold-weather metaphor any homeowner can relate to. But it’s a model that, as you’ll see, has to do with any major shift in a big system. Imagine you’ve finally made the plunge and opted to spend a whole lot to invest in a brand new heating system for your house. It’s super high tech: state of the art, energy efficient, entirely customized to your needs, with digital thermostats and a cognitive design that will not only remember your heating needs but anticipate them. You can control it from your smartphone and, theoretically, coach family and guests on how to use it. The installer walks you through it all, and it seems incredibly simple. And then the installer leaves.

And you realize you haven’t a clue how to use it.

What do you do?

You call the installer. Come back and show me again. Or my family will be furious with me, because I made them give up the old furnace that may have clunked and roared, but it worked.

Workforces are not heating systems. But as with any other essential part of the infrastructure, you can’t make a massive, systemic change to how you manage the workforce and then let it run itself. What we’ve also found is that in terms of performance management, 88% of companies want to rethink how they do it, according to a 2015 study by Deloitte. But of those, only 8–12% stopped relying on performance reviews.

Here’s one simple reason: they don’t get enough help. To revise one of the very foundations of an organization — one that blends culture with process and strategy with system, and has an impact on the single most valuable asset, people —  there should be a partnership guiding the change. Just as we set expectations for our employees, it’s time to set them for our consultants as well. What do we need to drive successful change? Here are five key behaviors companies can ask for:

  1. Don’t just hold our hand. Inspire us. This is one instance where handholding is not just appropriate, it’s necessary. No matter how sophisticated an organization’s knowledge of the software, or how savvy the HR team is, there are going to be gaps in that intelligence. It’s not just about software and tech issues, either. It’s about the very role performance management can take as a driver of organizational success. You want a consultant who sees the role of performance management as a catalyst, not a punishment, to enable employers to grow and thrive. It’s part technician, part coach.
  2. Don’t make it too complicated.  There are too many instances of plug and play applications that are not fully utilized due to poor support and overcomplicated mechanics — yes, and that can adversely affect both successful ROI and next steps. A badly conceived change could cancel out the value of future initiatives. Innovation only drives innovation when it works. Not only do we need dedicated human beings as well as chatbots to help troubleshoot, there should also be a point when a complicated problem is handled back on the consulting end, freeing HR to go back to its other tasks.
  3. Craft alignment with the customer. I recently wrote about the need to revise the foundational culture underpinning how companies manage performance: “Without the engagement and alignment of our workforce, all the big plans in the world won’t amount to much.”  The same can be said of a support system. If a company has committed to changing its performance management, it’s made the cultural shift. But without the engagement and alignment of the provider / consultant from which it’s sourcing its new performance management system, that cultural shift won’t amount to much. The new system may not function smoothly or seam into the existing organizational culture, and may drive disengagement and resentment among the workforce.
  4. Partner, don’t just provide. The tremendous shifts transforming the world of work point back to the same need again and again for teamwork not just within organizations, but outside of them. Success depends on positive collaboration — working together to facilitate the change, initiate the change, train the change, and then maintain the change. Innovative companies will not only customize the software and elements like the dashboard or the portal, they also tailor the entire process, managing not just the moment of change, but the continuum from initial adoption to fully integrated use.
  5. Act a bit like a startup. There’s a recent, compelling article on organizational change by friend and colleague Josh Levine. He breaks organizational culture into 5 Ps: package, potential, people, purpose, and perception. It’s also an apt way to look at how an organization handles a profound change such as a new performance management system. Just how the system works — what’s in the package has to be clear: its platforms, check-ins, surveys, self-assessments, and more — so employees know what to expect. But they also should see the merits and potential — for instance, if management is going to be based on motivation instead of separation (as happens in stack rankings and badly designed peer reviews), or performance reviews are going to happen more often and with less stress involved and more flexibility.

Presenting the potential is up to the people involved, and may be more effective when it’s conveyed by those who created the system. They don’t need to sell it anymore, whereas the organization may feel compelled to pitch it to the workforce to facilitate a smoother adoption. And is the workforce given the chance to really see the purpose of this new model from their own point of view? It’s as critical to manage perceptions as it is to carefully manage change — but to do that transparently and authentically. That needs to come from both provider and purchaser.

We talk a whole lot about the need to change our performance management systems, and how they’re already changing for the better. We focus on how best to engage rather than evaluate, how to use feedback to empower, how to stop treating employees like numbers whose performance simply checks off desired boxes. The specifics of a system can vary widely. But the bottom line should be a sustained, agile, responsive and scalable partnership.

This article was sponsored by Reflektive.  All opinions are that of TalentCulture and Meghan M. Biro.

HR Technology: Three Routes on the Roadmap to Automation

HR Technology: Three Routes on the Roadmap to Automation

HR and talent technology is evolving at a breakneck pace. Financial and resource investment in this area is also growing, as technology has created the real opportunity for HR to drive impactful business growth. While HR technology once centered around the applicant tracking system (ATS) and human resource information system (HRIS), we’ve seen it mature to include various innovative solutions that can be implemented to enhance the entire employee journey; making certain each touchpoint has technology intertwined can significantly improve both cost and time efficiencies.

In short, smart use of technology brings with it the opportunity for HR and talent leaders to gain their “seat” at the executive table.

Key Insights from Industry Leaders

This opportunity, however, demands a precise balance between traditional technologies, innovative and disruptive technologies, then relying on your most savvy people to leverage them in a way that inspires greater human interaction (i.e., relationship building, learning, listening and empowering careers) and ultimately business-impacting results. Finding this balance is indeed a challenge, but not an unconquerable one!

To shed light on solutions to the above challenges, at WilsonHCG we have performed extensive research on the area of HR technology, spoke with industry leaders and created a checklist around where to begin − encapsulating these findings in our brand-new technology-focused report, HR and Talent Technology: The Journey to Automation. Highlighting a few key takeaways from the report, we delve into the following:

  1. Cognitive, Smart Technologies. One of the biggest trends that has emerged, and one that could be the most promising for talent acquisition, is cognitive and robotic technologies − such as machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA). In fact, at WilsonHCG we believe cognitive recruiting will soon be the norm within innovative talent strategies. Within the whitepaper, we shed light on how these technologies can enhance your talent strategy, as well as when and where automation may be optimal to integrate.In fact, at one recent industry-leading event (explored within the whitepaper), talent leaders saw that AI might just have asserted its dominance in sourcing available and best-fit candidates.
  2. Talent Analytics (the Why and How).We also discuss talent analytics, as many organizations are currently redesigning their people analytics teams in order to conduct real-time measuring that drives both talent and business outcomes, as well as decision making. In fact, according to Mercer’s Global Talent Trends Study 201793 percent of 400+ executives plan to make a design change in their company within the next two years to stay ahead and keep the focus on their workforces. Further, according to Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends Report71 percent of companies see people analytics as a top priority for their organizations moving forward into 2018.
  3. Technology Cannot Replace Strategy.No technology, no matter how sophisticated it may seem (or actually be), should ever replace talent strategies or processes; rather, they need to supplement your process. Technologies help drive efficiencies, but your people need to be at the forefront of all candidate experience, employee engagement, and workforce planning initiatives. Within the whitepaper, for example, we reveal whether industry leaders believe AI and RPA will create or replace more jobs (you might be surprised by the results).Technology will never recreate or replace your personal efforts around candidate experience; it can aid in the satisfaction of the application process, or assist internally with the efficiency for sourcers/recruiters to complete a task. But candidate experience demands a personal relationship and rapport building between your candidate and recruiters. In the report, we reveal how to seamlessly align the two.

What Steps Can You Take Today?

Of note, we spoke with a noteworthy talent leader at the executive level, paving the way for innovative use of technology within the talent market. According to this leader, improving the candidate experience should be companies’ “No. 1 priority” right now as it pertains to integrating and optimizing the use of technology within front-end talent strategy; the cost efficiencies, not to mention the strategic benefits such as talent quality, are simply too readily achievable to be ignored. This starts with having transparent, challenging conversations.

#WorkTrends Recap: Servant Leadership in the Modern Workplace

#WorkTrends Recap: Servant Leadership in the Modern Workplace

Art Barter, who founded the Servant Leadership Institute and is the CEO of Datron World Communications, began his journey when he wanted to infuse Datron with servant leadership principles but couldn’t find adequate materials. Today, everyone at Datron gets trained on servant leadership principles.

During this #WorkTrends, we discussed the core of servant leadership and how it is all about motives. What Art told us is that Datron’s servant leadership definition is “to inspire and equip those we influence. To inspire people”, Art says, “you have to care about them.” Art pointed out that even power is different in servant leadership because it is shared.

“As CEO, I know I need to serve everyone in the organization, and I imagine inverting the orginational chart to remind myself of that.”

Another great piece of wisdom that Art told us was that the most important thing you can do is give your employees a vehicle to live your organization’s purpose. We discussed the qualities Art looks for in new talent. He said he’s learned not to look for competence first, but for character.

“We spend more time looking at the character of a  leader,” he said. “If a leader comes in talking about themselves rather than the people who will be working for them, that’s a sign.”

We think that makes for a pretty great organization. Thanks, Art, for this perspective on servant leadership.

Here are a few key points Art shared:

  • People are looking for purpose in their lives
  • Confidence level in our businesses and government is historically low, according to Gallup
  • Change doesn’t happen through words; it happens through leadership actions
  • When you turn an organizational chart upside down, the CEO sees all the people he or she has to serve
  • Hire for character first, competence second

Did you miss the show? You can listen to the #WorkTrends podcast on our BlogTalk Radio channel here:

You can also check out the highlights of the conversation from our Storify here:

Didn’t make it to this week’s #WorkTrends show? Don’t worry, you can tune in and participate in the podcast and chat with us every Wednesday from 1-2pm ET (10-11am PT).

Remember, the TalentCulture #WorkTrends conversation continues every day across several social media channels. Stay up-to-date by following our #WorkTrends Twitter stream; pop into our LinkedIn group to interact with other members. Engage with us any time on our social networks, or stay current with trending World of Work topics on our website or through our weekly email newsletter.

The Key to Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace

The Key to Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace

Transparency within an organization has always been of huge importance, but thanks to a radical restructuring of the work environment, due in large part to the emergence and subsequent dominance of tech companies, the nature of the modern workplace has been transformed. Companies where employees praise the high levels of trust and transparency in their workplace are most likely to have highest performers. An environment where people trust each other enables greater collaboration and innovation, as walls are broken down and barriers are removed. This facilitates better working relationships, as team efforts, an ‘in-it-together’ mentality, transparency and reciprocity are all encouraged. These combined efforts build accountability, competence and confidence among employees.

Most of the responsibility for fostering an environment of openness and transparency lies with management. A strong leadership is essential for sustained improvement, growth and transparency, as internal processes must be continuously aligned with team and organizational goals. These changes – and ultimately organizational transparency then peter down through all employees on all layers of the organization resulting in a process known as cascading change.

Align your people to your vision and goals

It is the job of leadership to create a vision for companies, and align it to your people. This is of vital importance, as no one will blindly follow a leader – they must be in-line with their own strategic and career goals. Leaders are charged with thinking strategically and must bring the company vision to life, but that’s not all – they must also inspire their people to join them on the journey. They must imagine all of the possibilities; take stock on what has happened the past, lead in the present and drive the desired future. They must drive this future through leading by example and by being the leader they themselves would follow. This is important advice, as one of the jobs of any good leader is to be a positive role model for their reports. Values should be organized by leadership so that it can be effectively organized and translated into common goals and objectives. These company goals and objectives can be set as key performance indicators or KPIs which are open to all people within the company. This level of transparency ensures that all employees are kept appraised of the projects their co-workers are on but also, makes sure that each employee is held accountable for his or her project contributions.

Expect the best and give credit when it’s due

It might be a cliché, but, if your standards are high, your team will aim to rise up and meet them. Expect the best from your team, and they will most likely deliver. Most of the job of ‘enabling employees’ falls on management. Transparency and clarity of purpose are crucial here as expected outcomes from a project must be clarified and expressed to all involved. Showing belief in team members that the goals are attainable for them. As a manager it’s important to give frequent recognition and feedback, but don’t rely on standard feedback, personalized feedback grounded in a trusting and transparent relationship is far more valuable than generic feedback. A simple ‘thank you’ goes a long way. This is of Particular importance for millennials (who now make up 40% of workforce) as personal relationships and a vibrant work culture matter to them: they affect engagement rates, turnover rates and ultimately the bottom line.

Create a safe space

While expecting the most from your team is certainly advantageous for productivity levels, importantly, it should also result in the formation of realistic KPIs for your team members. In other words, if a team member cannot complete a task or are unknowledgeable about a certain part of a task, they must feel comfortable enough to share their gaps in knowledge with the rest of the team and feel comfortable seeking help, even if it means missing a deadline. This will only happen in an organization with a high level of transparency, where employees feel comfortable enough, and crucially, not made to feel bad by not knowing something, or seeking help. This results in the creation of what is known as a psychologically safe space, where team members feel accepted and respected.

Create a free flow of information

Transparency within an organization ultimately means that employees are kept appraised of developments within the organization and that they can access all information pertinent to them, to enable them to complete their duties to the best of their abilities. There’s a reason they say ‘knowledge is power’. In order for people to predict and be ready for change in the market when it occurs, they must be provided with all the necessary tools and information in order to make necessary calls, and predict volatility in the market. Successful organizations have a very free flow of information, when compared to traditional organizations, instead of the flow of information being restricted to senior management and managers, High Performing Organizations tend to share and report everything that might impact an organization’s performance. This transparency ensures all employees are aware how the business is performing, as both financial and non-financial information is reported. This also increases accountability as individual KPIs are also linked to change, as the environment and business priorities change. High levels of engagement, empowerment and organizational transparency foster increased psychological safety, as a safe environment to give input is generated.

Photo Credit: rajpal14 Flickr via Compfight cc

A previous version of this piece was published on CMSWire.

Five Tips on Identifying and Hiring Creative Thinkers

Five Tips on Identifying and Hiring Creative Thinkers

Hiring creatives is not an easy job. There is no shortage of talented graphic designers, illustrators, video makers, writers, you name it. But, how do you know who the real creative thinkers are? And where can you find the most appropriate creative candidates to join your team? If you are not in the industry, or you are not an artistic person yourself, identifying these individuals can be particularly difficult and expensive for your company. However, following some simple steps can help to make the process much smoother and more successful.

First of all, when looking for creative people for your business, it is essential to understand the characteristics of creative personalities. According to an article published in Psychology Today, “they contain contradictory extremes; instead of being an ‘individual,’ each of them is a ‘multitude.’” Creative people are often energetic but quiet, smart yet naïve, playful yet responsible, alternate between fantasy and reality, they are both extroverted and introverted, humble and proud, rebellious and conservative, passionate about their work yet extremely objective about it.

After understanding the character of authentically creative people and knowing exactly what to look for, there are some tactics that hiring managers can follow. The best way to get to know any candidate is in a well-planned and thought through interview. Here are five tips with specific interview questions to help identify talented creative thinkers:

  1. Dig into their portfolio

A designer’s work collection is critical to making an excellent first impression. But how can you recognize the best portfolios? The greatest portfolios prioritize quality over quantity. A precise selection of diverse work is a hundred times better than a never-ending portfolio that does not highlight the designer’s top skills. The best creatives will have both digital and physical portfolios. But do not assume that a candidate is creative, just because their portfolio or CV is!

During the interview, ask them to select one of their projects and describe to you the creative process they followed, the goals of that specific project and the thought process behind the solution. The answer to this question will give you essential information about what the designer thinks are the most important steps in the process (e.g. idea generation, research, brainstorming ideas, interviews, development work, prototyping, testing, redesign, etc).

  1. Uncover their real personality

The best designers for your company will not only have the professional capabilities to deliver good work, but also interpersonal and communication skills. They will need to be able to work with other designers, internal teams and clients, so it will be crucial to find someone who fits in well with the company culture. In this sense, you should bear in mind that top creatives may value their time more than exorbitant amounts of money. If you are looking to create a company culture that attracts talented creative people, you may want to communicate flexibility and transparency and let creative thinkers be the ones who chose to work with you.

To identify if a candidate is the right fit, you can ask them when the last time they received negative feedback was and how they dealt with the criticism. You want to make sure you are hiring someone who can solve problems, not create them. Mature creatives can accept and incorporate constructive feedback.

  1. Break down their personal identity

Generally speaking, creative people tend to take care of their personal brand. Their image more often than not transmits creativity and strong personality. The ‘wow factor’ is handy to make a good first impression, but standing out from the crowd is not enough in such a competitive marketplace.

Our personal identity is related to our values and our strengths. Although it may seem challenging to detect the authenticity of somebody’s personal brand, these questions will help out: What do you do better than anyone else? If you were to receive an award, what would it be for?

  1. Up-to-date with the design trends

Top designers are in love with their profession. What is more, designing is not just their career. In most cases, it takes an indispensable role in their personal lives too.

A good approach to find out if you are in front of the best creative person for your company is to ask these simple questions: What are you currently reading? Who inspires you and why? What is your favourite brand and why? The answer to these questions will give you some hints about their influences and whether or not they keep up with current design trends.

  1. The interview setup can make a difference

Putting interviewees at ease in a more relaxed atmosphere may help you get more out of the interview. Take them out for lunch, dinner, or a drink, to set a more casual tone, so their creative juices flow.

A good question you can ask at the end of an informal meeting is where they want to be in 5 years time. The answer to this question will help you foresee if the candidate will have room to grow within your company and if the expectations for both parties will be met.

A face-to-face interview is still the best way to unearth new talent. Use the interview to ask the right questions and reveal the hidden gems that a PDF portfolio cannot quite do justice. When trying to find top creatives, look for people who are not only ‘thinking outside the box’, but who are creating ‘new boxes’, or structures to organize their ideas and developing paths to grow lateral thinking.

Other resources on  the topic:

Lading creative teams
The personality of creative people
10 design portfolio tips that shouldn’t be ignored

Photo Credit: kjonespr Flickr via Compfight cc

How Salespeople Can Adapt and Thrive in a Rapidly Changing Sales Profession

How Salespeople Can Adapt and Thrive in a Rapidly Changing Sales Profession

The workplace is changing, and technology is the catalyst. The shifts are widespread, impacting everyone from those in the C-suite to the sales team. The sales process is so different today than it was a decade ago. Not only is there an entirely new set of rules, it’s almost an entirely new ballgame. Why? Customers are in control, they know how to find the information they seek and they are super far along in the buying process before they are ever interested in sitting through your online demo. Add to that the fact that social selling wins over cold-calling almost any day of the week, and now there’s even more to complicate the mix. AI and automation loom on the horizon in a profession already so steeped in change, can salespeople adapt and thrive? Yes—and here’s how.

A Changing Profession

According to Harvard Business Review, by 2020, customers will manage their interactions with a business without interacting with an actual human a staggering 85 percent of the time. By analyzing data from McKinsey, HBR also found 40 percent of time spent on sales activities could be automated by technologies currently available—which, of course, get smarter every day. Naturally, these projections aren’t exactly good news for salespeople who focus heavily on the traditional method of sales—i.e., personally nurture leads and move prospects through the funnel, preferably to close.

At the core of this digital shift is the tech dream team: AI, machine learning, and automation. They’re all part of a suite of technologies meant to simplify and streamline processes, saving companies time and money while bringing extra value to consumers. And they can. In fact, AI already takes the sting out of schedulingfuels B2B lead generation efforts, and answers customer questions through the likes of chatbots.

There’s clearly a lot these technologies can do in the world of sales. Smart sales pros (read that: sales pros who want to still be around in five years) will embrace change at every turn. More importantly, they’ll adopt the mindset that their jobs will be replaced within the next several years and adapt their sales strategies (and their career paths) accordingly. Don’t fret, though—it’s far from the end of salespeople as we know them! In fact, focusing on what technology can’t do (and getting really good at it) is a solid starting place to staying relevant. Let’s think about that a little ….

How Salespeople Can Stay Relevant (Even When Sales Go Digital)

The importance of the human touch isn’t decreased by the advancement of technology. If anything, it’s heightened. In a world powered by technology, reputation, personal relationships (and a strong network) are the most valuable currencies of all. For many salespeople, having a reputation as a credible subject matter expert (and problem solver), forming solid relationships—especially those with high-level decision makers—will be the keys to thriving as the profession shifts. In fact, for salespeople looking to increase their income even as traditional jobs inevitably dwindle, those networks will increase the speed-to-market and speed-of-sale, making them an invaluable part of the sales process rather than a dispensable one.

What’s a sales pro to do? Sell less, and listen more. Instead of focusing exclusively on pushing products and meeting sales quotas (both of which are still important), make time every day to work to build a personal brand and expand a personal network. Focus on finding a point of professional expertise and building knowledge, and a reputation around it. Think like your customers, understand the challenges they face. Write about those things, talk about those things in video or on social channels, present on those topics at industry events—make a name for yourself in the industry you’re immersed in. It’s really not all that difficult, you’ve just got to want to do it. I know, I know. I can hear the objections as to how much time that will take already. You bet it will take time. But investing that time could mean the difference between having a viable sales career in a short few years, or opting for Plan B in that career path.

Finally, it’s important to distinguish between technology replacing the role of a salesperson versus technology enhancing the ability of an indispensable (see above) salesperson to skyrocket their performance. As I discussed as part of expert panel about AI and the future of the sales industry, How AI Will Impact the Sale Industry in the Future, much of the value consumers want from brands today comes after the sale is closed. You read that right: Customers want personalized and customized experiences before, during, and after they make a purchase. If salespeople can learn how to leverage the power of big data and AI to help them deliver on all fronts while never losing sight of the importance of the human touch, they’ll not only adapt in the digital age—they’ll thrive.

What’s Next?

Are you in sales? What impact is technology having on the sales team in your organization? What do you predict will happen to the role of the salesperson in the future? What are the biggest challenges you think sales pros face? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Additional Resources on This Topic

Artificial Intelligence and Automation: Predictions for the Future
How Traditional Salespeople Can Stay Relevant in the Age of Automation

Photo Credit: Alan O’Rourke Flickr via Compfight cc

This article was originally published on FOW Media.