How to Unlock The Full Potential of 360-Degree Feedback

With the increased need for upskilling employees, research shows that alignment between managers and employees is essential for igniting employee development. Most importantly, 360-degree-feedback, when paired with the right learning tools, enables organizations to significantly improve their talent development planning process at the individual, team, and organization levels. Moreover, these tools uniquely enable leadership teams to identify specific behavioral patterns and skill trends needed for success and some habits that may need redirection. After all, these patterns in leadership behavior accelerate business performance on an ongoing basis and are crucial for combating disruption, inspiring teams, and serving customers.

What Can We Learn from Multi-rater Data? How Do We Unlock its Potential?

The tool itself has not changed much, but the process and profound insights that can be architected to inform talent development strategies have changed. For instance, knowing ahead of time which questions to ask participants and how to act on the data allows leaders to use the tool more intentionally. As a matter of fact, Peggy Parskey, co-author of Learning Analytics: Using Talent Data to Improve Business Outcomes says that valuable answers can be obtained from 360 data when you ask the following questions:

  1. Is organizational competency changing? Is it getting stronger or weaker?
  2. What is the growth of different employee cohorts? Are employees growing their capabilities? By how much?
  3. What level of talent is the organization losing? How does that compare to the new hires?
  4. Does the data uncover high-potential employees? Does it help us with succession planning?
  5. How does training (e.g. onboarding, skill development) affect ratings? Does it close the competency gap?

360-degree feedback

Holistic 360 Process (Source: Explorance)

To obtain maximum benefits, we recommend these five best practices for implementing a 360 feedback process (see diagram above):

Set a clear purpose aligned with the organizational direction

360-degree feedback assessments work best when the purpose directly serves the goal of the business. For example, they are most valuable when used for development planning. However, administrators should invest extra thought when adding performance appraisal aspects to the process, as it may taint the data and the process with user bias.

Use the feedback process as a continuous development tool

It’s important to realize that 360 isn’t an ad hoc tool. It’s the process of understanding expectations, identifying key players, and tailoring the information into meaningful data upfront on an ongoing basis. In the long run, this ensures a cycle where everyone remains on target for continued development, including regular reviews and alignment on multiple levels.

Leverage automation and integration

Ensure data integration into talent reviews, succession planning, and leadership development needs. In essence, the new and improved 360-degree assessment tools that contain text analytics and machine learning ensure the data is collected and analyzed in a timely, user-friendly manner. Ultimately, this significantly improves objectivity and accelerates deployment times.

Develop a holistic strategy

By and large, the 360-degree assessment creates a shift from a siloed approach to one that seeks unified consistency across similar roles in the organization. On the whole, 360-degree assessments are useful when seen as a data source to illuminate strengths and offer individualized advice for leaders. Generally speaking, at an organizational level, 360 data can inform an overall leadership development strategy to nurture leadership strengths.

Integrate ongoing coaching support

All in all, a 360-degree process that encompasses action planning will help ensure concrete paths for addressing gaps. Additionally, it will help to build on strengths through ongoing coaching and support, which is crucial for sustained development. Thus, this approach also prevents employee demoralization as they step through the process.

How Can We Make 360-Degree Feedback Assessments a Success?

From the start, leadership support is essential to the ongoing journey. In short, they must develop a clearly defined purpose that is agile enough to adapt to business needs. Also, they need to enable targeted improvement initiatives that allow tracking results over time.

With this in mind, the 360-degree assessment platform needs to be integrated with the existing HR ecosystem. Additionally, it needs to be backed by scientifically proven methodology and coaching capabilities. This will enable identifying behavioral strengths mapped through competencies. This is imperative now when organizations want confirmation that their investments will make a positive difference in business results and instill confidence in their employees moving forward.

In summary, the table below further summarizes the differences between today’s successful 360-degree approach versus the past use of 360-degree assessments:

360-Degree Feedback
Past Approach Today’s Approach
Focus on individual performance A clear purpose to develop defined competencies aligned with organizational and individual goals
A one-off measurement tool Continuous employee development
Complex and time-consuming process Automation and integration
Inconsistencies, user bias, and skewed data Objectivity and holistic strategy
Lack of action in response to data Coaching approach

Moving forward, organizations that will benefit the most from 360-degree assessments are those that genuinely want to boost leadership team and employee development. These organizations strive to have a clear picture of the competencies needed to achieve business success. They are committed to developing their workforce (build vs. “buy”). Just as important, they are willing to invest time, energy, and resources into the process and its sustainment.

Basically, when leaders and managers allow 360-degree assessments to help them understand the individual strengths of their people and have clear plans for the future, they successfully navigate the various challenges thrown at them. Likewise, they’ll soon benefit from the newest rise of 360-degree feedback tools.

A note on the authors:

This piece was co-written by Ben Wigert, Director of Research and Strategy, Workplace Management at Gallup, and Jennifer Balcom, Director of Consulting at Explorance.

And That’s Why The Guys (And Gals) That Work Make Cultures That Rock

“Now that ain’t workin’ that’s the way you do it
Lemme tell ya them guys ain’t dumb
Maybe get a blister on your little finger
Maybe get a blister on your thumb…”

—Dire Straits, “Money for Nothing”

The Guys That WorkFor nearly 40 years we’ve been the guys that work. Childhood friends who in adulthood continue making an annual trek to “hangout.” Men of a certain age who continue to invest in a friendship that’s seen many ups and downs, ins and outs, and others who have come and gone over the years. Men who have had varying careers, varying relationships, some with children and some without, who have experienced hardship and loss as well as success and enduring love. Men who have created an inclusive culture from a shared collective of unique behaviors and experiences that extend well beyond the bounds of their own inner drum circle, affecting many others in their lives – family, friends, colleagues and today even passerby on social networks.

The guys that work. But it’s not all unconditional bromance love-fest because there’s a valuable return for us all – the catch phrases, the sounding boards, the support networks, the referrals and all the memories that keep us motivated, working hard to keep working together and reinvesting in our personal culture.

Just like the “guys at work” reference that Geddy Lee makes about his bandmates and long-time friends in Rush, a progressive rock band that’s been playing together for over 40 years. But the “guys at work” include everyone who works for, in and around Rush, and their extended families and friends. It’s been their inclusive culture for decades (and that includes guys and gals).

Because for those cultures that rock, we’ll not only salute you, men and women alike, we’ll work for you and evangelize for you. Of course that’s a reference to a classic rock song by AC/DC called “For those about to rock,” but it’s a mantra that continues to ring true when it comes to workplace culture today. Great “bands” and brands focus on culture first and foremost so it will drive engagement, business outcomes and ultimately success.

Jim Knight, a leading training and development expert who wrote Culture That Rocks and worked with Hard Rock International for 20 years where he led the renowned School Of Hard Rocks, put it this way on the TalentCulture #TChat Show: Culture is only as strong or weak as the employees that collectively make up the heart and soul of the organization. Company culture should be hard to copy, but not hard to understand.

Right on. Both Jim and I have our culture brand-crushes – one of his is Southwest Airlines and one of mine is Apple (outside of my own mothership PeopleFluent, and TalentCulture, of course). But we both agree that culture is unique in lesser known brands and entities much closer to home as referenced above. What’s interesting is that although company culture is “personal” and we’re familiar with the phrase “home is where the heart is,” but we never hear “work is where the heart is” for cultures that do rock.

And it’s both. Company culture again is that collective set of shared experiences – good and bad and all in between – where we love what we do first. Then we’re loyal to those that we do it within and around and for, and then ultimately the company itself. It has to go from the inside out no matter the inspirational and motivational leadership up top.

Marcus Buckingham concurs. The renowned speaker, author, 20-year veteran of Gallup, and founder and chairman of The Marcus Buckingham Company told me that his research data actually clarifies my above points. But how long people stay and how productive they are while they’re there depends massively on what they end up doing within the job, the actual work that you’re doing actually fits the best of who they are.

The reality is that no matter much the culture rocks and the work loved, the players still come and go due to continuous economic fluctuations and job transience. But there will be more coming and even returning than going when the culture works and keeps us motivated and invested in the high-performance and rewarding shared experience.

And that’s why the guys (and gals) that work make cultures that rock.

#TChat Preview: Build A Remarkable Workplace In Six Steps

The TalentCulture #TChat Show is back live on Wednesday, March 4, 2015, from 7-8 pm ET (4-5 pm PT). The #TChat radio portion runs the first 30 minutes from 7-7:30 pm ET, followed by the #TChat Twitter chat from 7:30-8 pm ET.

Last week we talked about the three elements of a clear and compelling business vision.

This week we’re going to talk about the six steps to building a remarkable workplace.

Nice segue, don’t you think? It’s the people that guide and propel the workplace, right?

If it were only so easy. From this week’s guest’s experience opening a shop a month as part of her organization’s UK start-up, she found that 20% of strategies lead to 80% of retention and profit and none of them are vague platitudes like “be nice to your people.”

No, they are all practical, immediately applicable, step-by-step processes, and we’ll tackle all six on the show.

Join TalentCulture #TChat Show co-creators and hosts Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman as we learn about about the six steps to building a remarkable workplace with this week’s guest Mandy Johnson, best-selling business author, active speaker, advisor and executive educator.

Sneak Peek:

We hope you’ll join the #TChat conversation this week and share your questions, opinions and ideas with our guests and the TalentCulture Community.

#TChat Events: Build A Remarkable Workplace In Six Steps

TChatRadio_logo_020813#TChat Radio — Wed, March 4th — 7 pm ET / 4 pm PT Tune in to the #TChat Radio show with our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman, as they talk with our guest: Mandy Johnson.

Tune in LIVE online Wednesday, March 4th!

#TChat Twitter Chat — Wed, March 4th — 7:30 pm ET / 4:30 pm PT Immediately following the radio show, Meghan, Kevin and Mandy will move to the #TChat Twitter stream, where we’ll continue the discussion with the entire TalentCulture community. Everyone with a Twitter account is invited to participate, as we gather for a dynamic live chat, focused on these related questions:

Q1: What actions build a remarkable workplace? #TChat (Tweet this Question)

Q2: As the softer side of business, how are people at the center of the workplace? #TChat (Tweet this Question)

Q3: What are the best ways to control workplace-change costs? #TChat (Tweet this Question)

Until the show, we’ll keep the discussion going on the #TChat Twitter feed, our TalentCulture World of Work Community LinkedIn group, and in our new TalentCulture G+ community. So feel free to drop by anytime and share your questions, ideas and opinions. See you there!!

photo credit: Best brick forward via photopin (license)

A Wave-Making Christmas Miracle

I still couldn’t believe our car wasn’t back yet. The local auto shop owner shrugged and shook his head.

“Sorry Kevin, but I’m going to have to lock up. I don’t want you to have to wait in the rain either, so I’m happy to give you a ride home. You don’t live far, right?”

I stood right in the front of the garage watching the rain come down and the street beyond for our car to magically appear.

“Can’t you call him? I mean, he is driving my car around to test the heater, right? Doesn’t he have a cell phone?”

I turned back to look at the owner; his tired old face betrayed both annoyance and helplessness.

“No, he doesn’t. One of the last people in the county who doesn’t have one actually.”

Wait, what? He’s driving around in our car without a frickin’ cell phone?

“Wow. I’ve got to have our car back tomorrow. We’re going over to San Jose and that’s the car we want to drive.”

“I promise you’ll get it tomorrow. He always over-diagnoses, but I’ll leave him a note and he’ll call you tomorrow. I promise. I’m really sorry.”

I went back to watching the rain and the street, every pair of headlights passing like an unfulfilled Christmas wish.

“All right. You can give me a ride home. I hope he finds what’s wrong with the heater. But you still didn’t find any leaks where the rainwater might be getting in the car, right?”

“No, I didn’t find any leaks. Again, sorry.”

As the owner dropped me off, I couldn’t get the over-diagnosing out of my head.

The next morning I discovered that the other mechanic, the one who over-diagnoses and who was checking our heater by driving our car around, had called and left me a message about actually fixing our heater, and that we could get our car back if we were available for the next hour – the previous night, of course.

Which we weren’t. But there was no indication that he’d read the note that the owner had left him either. That frustrated me further. After I checked my voice mail, I left the shop my own message insisting that we’d come get the car no matter what and deal with the repair later.

Which we did. And then the mechanic called me late that morning and I finally got to talk with him live. He had gone to the shop after all to wait for us. What he told me changed everything I had assumed from the moment of dropping off our car the day before, and even what I thought I believed before and after the TalentCulture #TChat Show with Patti Johnson discussing making waves for positive organizational change that drive stellar customer service and better business outcomes, however incremental or monumental.

Yes, he took our car out to test the heater and didn’t bring it back until hours after they closed, but he decided to take it to his house to hook up his own laptop, log in to the manufacturer’s site and run his own diagnostic tests. Why he couldn’t do that at the shop, I didn’t ask, but it doesn’t matter now anyway. Not only did he fix the heater without needing any new parts or tearing our dash apart, he also discovered where the leak was and how to fix it, something the owner said couldn’t be done.

It was a wave-making Christmas miracle, this over-diagnosing, to make a difference for one customer, one that will end up saving us hundreds if not thousands of dollars fixing two problems instead of just one, one that will keep us bringing our cars back to our little local auto mechanic shop down the street, rain or shine.

Not the big-business dramatics that we’ve come to expect and read about, but it’s still wave-making that I’m sure keeps their customers coming back year round.

Happy Holidays, TalentCulture #TChat Show Land!

About the Author: Kevin W. Grossman co-founded and co-hosts the highly popular weekly TalentCulture #TChat Show with Meghan M. Biro. He’s also currently the Product Marketing Director for Total Talent Acquisition products at PeopleFluent.

photo credit: tsbl2000 via photopin cc

The Bravery Of Being Fearlessly Authentic

“We play the game
With the bravery of being out of range
We zap and maim
With the bravery of being out of range…”

—Roger Waters (musician and writer)

Small craters pocked the desk around her laptop dock. Tiny tendrils of sulfurous smoke rose from each one, like poisonous snakes entranced by music only they could hear. Pens lay strewn like bodies left behind on a war-ravaged beach.

Jodi rubbed her eyes with shrapnel scarred hands and gazed again into her laptop screen. She thought, Where did it go?

The email — it was right there with all the others earlier that morning. Her boss, a small, overly verbose man who still wore knit ties from the 1980s, had sent yet another loaded negative critique of her work to her, even accusing her of throwing team members under the proverbial world-of-work bus for her own benefit so she could get in the new leadership development program.

She sat on the message all morning, not knowing how to respond at all this time; she hadn’t done anything to her colleagues to better herself, and yet again, he had convinced her that maybe, just maybe, she had. She wanted to get into the program badly, but had followed the rules and submitted the application just like everyone else, only having a brief conversation with the head of HR because of their relationship.

But when she returned to her desk to respond to him, to attempt to again defend her honor, the email was gone. Vanished. A fresh crater smoked near the framed quote on the back of her cubicle, one that her father had shared with her a long time ago.

Be fearlessly authentic.

She trembled. I am, Dad. I am. But he’s not and now he’s deleting emails from the server. And I don’t know what to do about it, except to get the fuck out of here.

Maybe you’ve experienced something like this, or maybe you know someone who has. Sadly, there are a million related stories out there.

Because this isn’t the war for talent we’re dealing with; this is a war on talent. Relentless. Unforgiving. Destructive. Ineffectual leaders not leading the way with the bravery of being out of range, which doesn’t mean literally mean virtual workers dealing with crappy managers “out of range.” It means employees dealing with crappy managers who are inflexible and inaccessible, who attack out of range because they can, because of their authority and the highly misused communications medium known as email, sent from the comfort of a closed-door office less than 10 feet away.

You’ve heard it before — those who can leave, will. And they leave crappy leaders and managers every day (if again they truly can). Billions and billions of dollars each year are spent on learning, leadership development and employee engagement programs, and yet, Deloitte just released new research that shows a huge gap between what business executives say and what they do, and one of the biggest issues highlighted is a lack of focus on leadership development.

And so the war on talent continues, and the authenticity of knowing who we are, what our values are, and being clear on our purpose as leader of self and others continue to float like barrage balloons on D-Day.

According to a new global study of more than 5,500 executives and employees across 27 countries, conducted by Oxford Economics, barely half of the executives surveyed said their companies possess the skills to effectively manage talent, and only 44% have faith that their leaders are capable of driving and effectively managing change.

Plus, only about one-third of the respondents said their firms are prepared to lead a diverse workforce and have the ability to drive global growth.

None of this bodes well for the world of work’s future. This is why it’s imperative that companies devote the required resources to address the leadership gaps that threaten to derail their businesses today and tomorrow.

The good news is that some companies are doing something about developing future leaders, working hard to make them multi-faceted, multi-functional and multi-conversational by giving them cross-functional training and experience. By developing the talent and skills they need, while emphasizing mindful presence and authenticity, companies doing this can position themselves to thrive in the near- and long-term futures.

After attending Elliot Masie’s 2014 Learning Conference for the second consecutive year, where again I spoke (and PeopleFluent has sponsored), I find there’s hope.

For example, listening to the leadership development team from the Universal Orlando Resort talk about the great success of the progressive program they launched in 2010 to develop a pipeline of competent and confident leaders elevated me.

So far, at least 82% of the participants have made it to leadership roles each year, and the participants are promoted six months sooner than non-participants. They also saw an 11% increase in promoting internally, which in turn is giving the program more and more credibility.

And when it came to learning, leadership development and employee engagement, I kept hearing success stories from the likes of Lockheed Martin, Michelin, Shell, GlaxoSmithKline and many other companies. They all seem to understand the business impact of driving deeper levels of learning and employee engagement is dramatic. Deeper engagement from continuous learning drives better talent outcomes and better business outcomes. For companies that have high engagement scores, the results on the business are dramatic.

What’s clear is that when it comes to developing employees and future leaders, too many organizations are simply going through the motions, or worse yet, doing nothing at all. The bravest of companies are reaping a host of benefits, including:

  1. Better business planning—Learning and leadership development leads to better succession planning, which then leads to developing and then putting the right people in the right leadership roles at the right times. When organizations know they have the right people in the queue for key positions, they can proactively plan for the future of the business far more effectively.
  2. Improved retention and lower turnover—Sound learning and leadership development helps to ensure that employees know they’re being groomed for a particular position, which gives them a strong sense of having a clearly defined future within the company. This is a strong retention tool and keeps people from leaving their companies for greener pastures. The resulting cost savings can be substantial but it takes a long-term investment.
  3. Improved employee engagement—Obviously, showing employees a learning plan and defined future with an upward career trajectory is a powerful booster of employee engagement and emotional commitment. And, as employee engagement analysis after analysis has showed the past few years, companies with highly engaged employees experience financial growth rates nearly four times higher than those of companies with lower engagement.
  4. More accurate recruiting—Sound learning and leadership development also helps improve recruiting as well: when employers have a clear understanding of their organizations’ gaps in skills and leadership qualities, they can sharpen their focus on recruiting for specific future roles (even those not yet defined by succession plans), shortening the recruiting process and increasing sourcing accuracy.

Nobody wants a world of work wasteland. Today’s learners are tomorrow’s leaders, so let’s stop waging war on one other and invest in the bravery of being fearlessly authentic and making a learning and leadership development difference.

photo credit: BombDog via photopin cc

The Amplified Moments of Every Single Pitch and At Bat

He threw heat like a wild man, his bulging arms and legs flailing from wind up to release. Every third pitch winged my at-bat teammates causing them to duck, or swing their midsection backward or forward. And every time he threw his mad-hatter ball, he smiled a mouthful of perfect pearly whites.

Sometimes we hit his fastball, and sometimes it hit us. Four and a half innings into six of our Little League playoff baseball game, our team, the Indians, trailed the Yankees by one run with only one out.

The Yankee parents hurled insults at ours; the Yankee players hurled insults at us. They were known for being poor winners and every losing team felt their wrath. We, the reserved underdog Indians, cheered each other on, and our coaches and parents echoed the positive affirmations…

KWG Indians Baseball

…I had been on deck, and after yet another wild pitch and a walk, the bases were now loaded. I remember how palatable my fear was walking up to home plate; I was thin and not the strongest hitter on our team. My throat cramped gritty and dry and it felt like a baseline chalk on hard-packed dirt in the hot sun. The Yankee catcher laughed at me as I approached.This memory came to me recently when a co-worker’s son played on a team that made it to the Little League world series. Every day there was an update on our internal social network of who his son’s team played, and whether they won or not – and win they did. Over and over again. While this winning buzz only excited a small group of us following along online, I imagined the electric thrill his son felt and all his teammates, the coaches and the parents, the local crowds, game after game after game while…

“This ain’t no hitter,” he called out to the wild man on the mound. “Easy out, easy out.

I looked up at our coach who gave me an intricate string of baseball signs, all of which translated into one action…

…and that’s when my co-worker posted the fact that they were in the final world series game against South Korea, which was always a tough opponent because…

…he wanted me to bunt. Bunt?!? I thought. If I turn into that fireball I’m a dead man. But step into the batter’s box I did. Wild man wound up, released the ball and then…

…two days later the news that they won the whole kit and kaboodle was posted, which was huge, and I kicked myself for not watching it on TV, the electric thrill of elevated Little League play and amplified moments of every single pitch and at bat…

…when I squared into the baseball hurling toward me, the Cheshire Cat smile ear to ear on wild man’s face, I realized instinctively that the ball was nowhere near my bat – it was headed at my chest – but instead of rolling out of the box away from the pitch, I put my hand up to stop it…

In the end, we lost that playoff game, and thankfully I kept my hand intact without it breaking. It was sore, yes, but my teammates and I left that game happy with our performance because we had played together with supportive coaching and parenting around us, abuzz with that playoff feeling that lifted our heart and soul.

Patrick Antrim, former professional baseball player with the New York Yankees and founder of leadership & coaching firm, told us on the TalentCulture #TChat Show that leaders and employees alike should aspire to that championship game feeling every single day in the workplace.

Even if once and a while you get hit with the ball, which will happen kids. No doubt.

But if we can replicate just a smidge of that playoff feeling, focusing heavily on the employee-customer relationship first and foremost, performance always fares better in driving the amplifier effect of winning outcomes. This means the business impact of driving deeper levels of employee engagement is dramatic.

For example:

The data don’t lie, which is why the amplified moments of:

  1. Every single pitch. It’s a bitch to sustain pitching accuracy inning after inning, but in the near- and long-term, it’s the collective strikes and outs that make all the difference between your players and your competitors. We all want to win, we really do, and we all want to string that feeling together as much as we can year round. Just as long as your “team” understands what the strike zone is and gets guidance and practice to throw heat like a mad man and woman.
  2. And At Bat. Deeper engagement from amplified “at-bats” drives better talent outcomes and better business outcomes. When your “players” make the hits, and when they ultimately have individual and group wins, even when they’re the incremental wins during the regular season, they feel more capable and confident, and that translates into happy major leaguers who are then more likely to be candid in communicating and advancing the business and driving innovation.

This is the stuff of legendary teams. And the best companies – the winners – that aspire to that championship game feeling every single day in the workplace perform nearly two times better than the rest of the world. That’s a world of work sports fact.

“Put me in coach, I’m ready to play, today…”

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The Authentricity of Mr. Pixie



“If I could wave my magic wand, I’d set everybody free.”         —Neil Peart

Call me Mr. Pixie.

That image, now delightedly (or unfortunately) burned into the memory of nearly every one of my colleagues and cohorts, is a special one for me. It was another Fun Friday team theme recently at work where I got to pick the theme.

And that was “Fairy Friday.” Seriously. In honor of my two little girls, who love all things Disney and fairy related (think Tinker Bell). The parameters were that our team, if so inclined, should dress up fairy-like, to symbolize the marketing magic we created for our recent PeopleFluent Mirror Suite™ launch.

I’m comfortable going all in when I commit to something – work, fun and all in between. It’s taken time to get there, but here I am, pixie dust and all, and anyone who knows me knows all this all too well. Pulling off any product and/or solution launch in global scope is incredibly stressful and painful at times whatever the industry is no easy trick, especially on time, fairly error free and within budget. Our entire team was totally all in making this a highly successful launch.

During high-pressure collaborative world of work activities, you can’t (and shouldn’t) help but to put your entire self out there, on the line, for all to see, with laughter, tears, face breakouts, sweat, belly aches, IBS, hairballs and all. Notice the first ingredient is laughter, though.

If you’re like me (and the PeopleFluent team I work with and my TalentCulture family) you want nothing less that true authenticity of those around you during stressful times and mellow times, including leadership, co-workers, direct reports, and volunteers if you have them.

Yes, authenticity. To be comfortable being yourself and to be celebrated bringing yourself to work (responsibly of course). Authenticity empowers diversity and diversity encourages authenticity – and both drive innovation and positive business outcomes. According to recent diversity research featured on HBR, six behaviors unlock innovation across the board:

  • Ensuring that everyone is heard
  • Making it safe to propose novel ideas
  • Giving team members decision-making authority
  • Sharing credit for success
  • Giving actionable feedback
  • Implementing feedback from the team

The research went on to say that leaders who give diverse voices equal airtime are nearly twice as likely as others to unleash value-driving insights, and employees in a “speak up” culture are 3.5 times as likely to contribute their full innovative potential.

Mercy me, doesn’t that just get you jazzed? It does me. This kind of electricity is palatable and powers inspirational and aspirational productivity, to be the best you can be. That’s the feeling I get when I’m around my girls, Bea and Bryce, the Bhive as they’re known around our house.


Authenticity truly is more than a buzzword today and has powerful significance to both employee and employer. Authenticity is hard work and usually involves some risk, but the payoff potential is huge. It’s an inside job – you have to start with yourself – something we learned recently from Jason Lauritsen and Joe Gerstandt on #TChat.

“Fly your freak flags,” say Jason and Joe.

But it’s not that simple either. It’s not neat and orderly, it’s not always safe, it takes time and patience and tolerance, and it’s certainly not as common as we’d like to see, especially in the workplace, which is why:

  • Fairies Rule. Business leaders who allow their employees to bring their whole selves to work, to find solutions to workplace problems together, magical things can happen. That’s because when we’re all encouraged to advance our skills, strengths and passions, we learn to create, seize and transform business opportunities into business outcomes – Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo (think the “magic song” from Cinderella). In authentic diverse environments, people usually have stronger social relationships that again produce greater results.
  • And Fairies School. Again, employees want ongoing growth opportunities, workplace flexibility, tools and systems that encourage collaboration. They also want a commitment to a reciprocal climate of support and encouragement, all of which lead to payoffs in employee retention, satisfaction, and overall business performance. Leaders that plug into while enabling these power sources know it’s ultimately the key to success of HR and to the business.

If I could wave my magic want, I’d make everything all right. Anything is possible with the power of authenticity. Some might call this the eccentricity of Mr. Pixie, but I prefer authentricity.

Photo Credit: Βethan via Compfight cc

Knee Deep in the Hoopla of Workplace Culture and Health

“Don’t stop me now, I’m having such a good time, I’m having a ball…” – Queen

Every single time it’s a big production, an inspiring or fun song and a dance number, all played out in an endless video loop in my head.

No, not a Broadway production per se, but a world of work real-time video where the camera moves fluidly through the semi-choreographed flash mobbed “office spaces” that make up my life here, there and everywhere; where everyone around me sings along and moves with the music unfettered as if no one were watching, except of course my camera eye.

For me, this is the very DNA of a company, the very genetic essence and cultural musicality that morphs for better worse (then back to better again we hope) and binds us together through that overplayed but still number one on the business charts hit called employee engagement – the 21st barometer of organizational health.

And when engagement is high, when companies actually do win over the hearts and minds of their workforce, and vice-versa, or most of them at least in the real world, when emotional connection is high among peers as well as leadership, then that’s when we’re “knee deep in the hoopla” (if you recognize the tune, hum along and dance a little 1980’s pop rock jig) with unprecedented discretionary effort and many other positive business outcomes.

Maybe I’m a daydreamer who likes to work through his life via words and music and who also grew up first-generation MTV – which I am and do and did – but the fact is the genetic and cultural musicality in every organization is key. Hopefully in key.

A strong and productive workplace culture is the foundation for organizational health, but there’s no one recipe on how to get there and keep it. That would be too easy and not the way the real world of work works at all.

Over the past decade, McKinsey has measured and tracked organizational health in hundreds of companies around the world. In fact, according to their research, they asked over 1.5 million employees to date about their perceptions of their organizations’ health and management practices. From that a single health score (or index) based on relative “greatness” in organizational health was established.

What they discovered were four combinations of practices, or “recipes,” that were associated with sustained success.

  1. The hallmark of the first, or leader-driven, recipe is the presence, at all of an organization’s levels, of talented, high-potential leaders who are set free to figure out how to deliver results and are held accountable for doing so.
  2. Organizations following the second, or market-focused, recipe tend to have a strong external orientation toward not only customers but also competitors, business partners, regulators, and the community.
  3. The third recipe, which we call execution edge, includes companies that stress continuous improvement on the front line, allowing them to raise quality and productivity constantly while eliminating waste and inefficiency.
  4. The fourth and final recipe, talent and knowledge core, is found frequently among successful professional-services firms, professional sports teams, and entertainment businesses. Such organizations emphasize building competitive advantage by assembling and managing a high-quality talent and knowledge base.

Whatever the combination, it’s clear that these are all cultural compositions that can produce hit after hit after hit.

So with all of this research in mind, what we really need is a little continuous (gimme a one and a two):

  1. Song. Everybody contributes to the cultural theme song, on key or not. This is why is so important to embrace the aspirational along with the business strategy and KPIs, to have engagement processes and technology systems in place where continuous knowledge sharing and impromptu collaborative a capella sessions are encouraged and even amplified, so as to inspire your peers, colleagues, new employees and old, as well as executive leadership to not just sing along, but to drive the orchestration, the soundtrack of success. If you’re singing in shower silos, no one’s going hum along.
  2. And Dance. We gotta move, people. Doesn’t matter whether you have two left feet or you can swing like Mary Murphy and Nigel Lythgoe from So You Think You Can Dance. We gotta move and keeping moving; we’ve got to figure out how to dance with one another in order to launch new ideas and bring innovative products and services to market. That means the music never stops and neither do our legs and feet. And for those of you who flail while dancing, your arms, hands and head, too. The point is, the constant agility dance with one another is what will keep us and our teams competitive. And in shape.

“Oh, the movie never ends, it goes on and on and on and on…”

Again, this is our world of work DNA, the genetic essence and cultural musicality that keeps us emotionally committed to our work, to our peers and yes, even to the bottom line. It not only includes those on the inside, but those partners and customers on the outside are just as important to this melody. It’s what truly separates those who succeed aspirational and those who ban singing and dancing all together.

Tim Kuppler, a performance culture specialist and co-founder of The Culture Advantage and states that “culture will be widely accepted as the ultimate differentiator in organizations within the next 20 years. The focus will over-shadow strategy, talent, technology, and all other areas.”

Right on. C’mon now, let’s dance!

“Now I gotta cut loose, footloose, kick off the Sunday shoes…”

photo credit: snaps via photopin cc

Why Aspirational HR Drives Business

Experience outcomes.

We laughed as we said it, sitting together in the mothership executive conference room at Peoplefluent planning our global domination strategy.

We’d been meeting all week, meeting after meeting, a gaggle of senior leadership and marketing team leads, workshopping and brainstorming and collaborating over all that we’ve been, where we are and where we need to be.

We know we have to create aspirational experiences with our products for our customers, because today’s companies big and small are trying desperately to improve employee success, productivity, retention and loyalty. They want to move from today’s way – the talent management experience of one size that fits all – and move to the “next way,” a more engaging and perpetually positive talent experience for one that affects all. This perpetual positivity creates a culture of optimism and lights bonfires of celebratory growth.


Well, CHRO’s (Chief Human Resource Officers) and HR pros across the board are now evolving and they understand that the workplace should be talent-centric, not process-centric, and that is fundamentally changing the way they’re doing business. CEO’s love this, because they want the HR business to fundamentally change the way it rolls (as the kids say, or use to).

So what’s wrong with the aspirational?

Is the goal of creating an optimistic workplace culture simply too much marshmallow fluff? Or is it the yummy stuff that serves up long-term growth and success?

Of course it’s too easy to talk about all the bad workplace stuff today and poke fun at the happy workplace, so we should focus on what we can all do to make the workplace better.

Again, right?

According to the 17th Annual PwC Global CEO survey, only “32% of US CEOs agree that the level of trust with employees has improved in their industry over the last five years. That’s not encouraging at a time when business leaders need employees excited about the strategy and willing to take necessary risks to get there.”

Employee engagement is nice if you can get it, but the PwC CEO survey does validate that our captains of industry do want to make a difference by:

  • Getting people excited and connected to the strategy matters when CEOs make changes in their business model. Being transparent about what it will take to be successful and where the company is headed is important.
  • Equally, being clear about expectations about employee behavior, for example, in how to interact with customers or collaborate together with other people helps change the corporate culture. Leaders need to create the environment and back their employees as they go through the changes to improve employee engagement and raise the levels of trust.

Meghan Kevin 3-13-14So then I got to hang out with my dear friend and TalentCulture #TChat community co-founder, Meghan M. Biro, and her very nice husband while I was in Boston. We met at a great local pizza place / candlepin bowling alley called Sacco’s (something new for me). Everyone single employee I met was upbeat and positive when it came to every aspect of service. It showed all around us as the place filled to capacity with family and friends who were upbeat and positive.

One sign on the wall near the wood-fired ovens read: think good thoughts.

Right on. It pays off, which is the pay-off in outcomes, business outcomes that is. The positive experiences must drive business outcomes, which is the pay-off of the two things I want you all to take away today:

  1. Experience. It’s okay to be aspirational, to find more positive purpose and meaning in the world of work. Workplace optimism builds stronger relationships and empowers a culture that is positive for employees and management. Senior leadership must be involved of course, but managers and employees can also really help drive the optimistic culture that drives success that drives the right business outcomes. We can all help improve morale close to where all the work gets done.
  2. Outcomes. Managers and employees can create actionable ideas that create workplace optimism and meaningful work. And meaningful work drives productivity, growth and the many other business outcomes that keep us all in business. It motivates us to not just do more, but to do better. We’re more open to collaborative ideas, to being more efficient and productive, to continuously develop and invest in ourselves just as the best companies to work for do in kind, to generating more profitable revenue while reducing costs.

Experience outcomes. Sigh. Think good thoughts indeed.

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