#WorkTrends Recap: Unleashing the Power of Your People

What’s going on in HR tech around the world? What are global leaders doing to unleash the full potential of their people?

When I’m thinking about big-picture questions affecting senior leaders, I know who to turn to: my friend China Gorman. You probably know her as the former COO and interim CEO at SHRM, or as the former CEO of Great Places to Work. These days, China’s spending her days helping smaller companies liberate their power. One of those companies is UNLEASH. UNLEASH puts on the event formerly known as HR Tech World. This year is their second year in Vegas, and as managing director of UNLEASH America, China and the team are in preparations to bring some of the most innovative business leaders in the world together at the Aria on May 15 and 16.

I talked to China and Bri Vellis, chief marketing officer of UNLEASH, about what people-management trends they’re seeing across the world, and how they’re bringing those themes to UNLEASH America in Vegas.

What You Learn from Working at a Global Company

Bri has an up-close view of how people work differently around the world. She recently moved from San Francisco to Budapest, where UNLEASH is based. Plus, when she was in the U.S., she worked for a German company where she could immerse herself in different cultures and conversations about HR tech.

“People get into their geography bubbles,” she says. But everyone can really learn from other cultures — Americans could learn from Brits, Brits could learn from Germans, and so on.

“I always hear how Americans don’t want to work so many hours. Especially in the tech industry. They wish they worked more like Europeans,” she says. “Europeans are just more cognizant of their time. Americans can learn from that.”

China has run global organizations, and she says she’s always struck more by different cultures’ similarities than their differences. “I am always astonished by how alike we are, and how, at the end of the day, people are people. People in organizations have similar wants and needs, and are motivated by similar kinds of things. I am always reassured, I am always motivated, and always reminded that our similarities are always far more than our differences. No matter where you go around the world.”

What’s Happening in HR Tech Around the World

So, what new developments are happening in HR technology, and where are the current centers of innovation in the industry? China is excited by the startups that are popping up to help leaders manage emerging challenges.

“People in HR, and leaders in particular, have lots of challenges in terms of managing different generations in the workplace. In being more global. Having different laws, different customs, different languages.”

The HR tech community is responding with solutions, she says. “The creativity, the focus, and frankly the amount of investment going into the HR tech startup world is astonishing.” She points to regional hotspots like Toronto, Tel Aviv, Budapest and Berlin.

China is encouraged by what she sees. “What I take from this is that, as we head into an organizational world of artificial intelligence and robotics, the focus on people is actually growing, not diminishing.”

While some jobs might be done by robots in the future, China sees organizational leaders who want to get a handle on people talent: How do we get it? Where are the best people? How do we deploy talent? How do we engage and develop them? How do we make sure we have the kinds of people and skills where we need them, when we need them?

The answer, she says, is technology. “Technology becomes sort of the great liberator and educator, and profit enhancer. I really believe this in my heart, that leaders are not making decisions to replace people with technology just because it is cheaper, just because it is new. I talk to leaders not about the price of people, but … how do we use people? How do we unleash the people part of our workforce so that we keep moving forward to a better world?

“I really think leaders and technology are trying to do the same thing. They are trying to make the world a better place, for the greater good.”

Because there’s so much startup activity in HR tech, UNLEASH has added a startup and innovation group as a core element of their upcoming event.

What to Expect from UNLEASH America

“The name change from HR Tech World to UNLEASH is really about expanding the focus from being an HR tech conference — the best one in the world — to really unleashing the power of people and the future of work through technology,” China says. “We are expanding our remit. We are really getting into the heart of the matter, which is, ‘How do we use technology in an HR application to really unleash the potential of our people in an organization?’

“It’s not going to be like any HR tech conference you’ve ever been to,” she says. UNLEASH will bring together not just HR leaders, but leaders of every stripe. China says attendees can expect “real-world stories from real-world leaders, from organizations we all know. This is going to be the event to be at.”

During our conversation, Bri and China announced a major keynote: Mo Gawdat, chief business officer at Google X, will be doing his first public address outside the world of Google X. Other speakers include leaders from Johnson & Johnson, Cisco, GE Digital and Microsoft.

I can’t wait to be a part of all of these interesting conversations! You can find out more about UNLEASH America and how to join us in Vegas by visiting or following the #UNLEASH18 conversation on Twitter.

Workplace Greatness: No Guarantees #TChat Recap

There we were — discussing the factors that make “great” employers so special.

I couldn’t resist asking how organizations on Fortune Magazine’s list of “100 Best Companies to Work For” compare with those featured in Jim Collins‘ best-selling books, Built to Last and From Good to Great.

Similarities? Differences?

Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For

Learn more about the 2014 list

That’s a tough question to answer in a single 30-minute radio show. But this week’s #TChat guest came well prepared. China Gorman, CEO of Great Place to Work Institute, has been crunching numbers to create the 2014 best employers list — and her perspective reflects a lifetime of leadership and HR expertise.

She made a compelling business case

The 100 Best consistently perform 2x better financially than the stock market average
The 100 Best experience up to 65% less voluntary turnover than competitors
Companies returning to this year’s list saw unprecedented growth in 2013.

But even as China shared these facts, back-to-back tweets appeared on the Twitter stream. The first from #TChat regular, Donna Rogers:


The second came from a fresh voice — another Jim Collins (unrelated to the author):


These comments inspired me to dig deeper.

In a follow-up book, How the Mighty Fall, Jim Collins (the author) revisited 11 of the 60 companies he had previously profiled as winners. These once “great companies” had stumbled for multiple reasons — from hubris, to overreach, to denial.

The sobering conclusion? Unless fallen companies return to the fundamentals that made them great, death is inevitable.

Two Implications for “Great” Employers Everywhere

1) Greatness can fade fast. Poor decision-making, heavy-handed micro-management, bad expansion bets, products that fail, fluctuating global economics, government regulation (or lack thereof) — many factors conspire to “kill” even the best companies. But the quickest road to ruin comes when organizations lose talent to competitors because employees lose “love” for what they do, who they do it with, and why they’re doing it.

2) Perpetual salvation requires rigorous work. The work that makes companies shine — a focused, flexible business model, a compelling value proposition, a workforce that feels fairly recognized and rewarded – is the same work that keeps them moving forward through peaks and valleys. Business is a non-stop gauntlet of no guarantees — and it never gets any easier.

So, what have we learned? Great is good, if you can get it. But good can also be great, if that’s where longevity lives.

#TChat Week-In-Review: Lessons From Great Workplaces

SAT 1/18:

Watch the Preview hangout now

#TChat Preview: TalentCulture Community Manager, Tim McDonald, framed the week’s topic in a post featuring a “sneak peek” hangout with guest, China Gorman. See the #TChat Preview now: “Best Employers: What Makes Them Work?

SUN 1/19: Post: TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro explored the connection between employee engagement and business performance in her weekly column. Read “Happy Employees = Hefty Profits.”


How Great Companies Attract Top Talent” — by China Gorman
Your Corporate Culture: What’s Inside?” — by Dr. Nancy Rubin


Listen to the #TChat Radio replay!

WED 1/22:
#TChat Radio: Hosts Meghan M. Biro and I talked with China Gorman about what makes “Best Companies to Work For” so special. Listen to the #TChat Radio replay now

#TChat Twitter: Immediately following the radio show, Meghan, China and I joined the TalentCulture community on the #TChat Twitter stream for a dynamic open conversation, centered on 5 related questions. See highlights in the Storify slideshow below:

#TChat Insights: “Best” Employers: What Makes Them Work?

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Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

GRATITUDE: Thanks again to China Gorman for sharing your perspectives of effective workplace environments. We value your time, your expertise and your commitment to the TalentCulture community!

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about workplace culture issues? We welcome your thoughts. Post a link on Twitter (include #TChat or @TalentCulture), or insert a comment below, and we’ll pass it along.

WHAT’S AHEAD: Our month of forward-thinking #TChat Events continues on Wednesday, January 29, when we explore the impact of pervasive technology on modern recruiting. We’ll be joined by top executives from Dice, the career hub for tech, so save the date, and prepare to share your questions and opinions!

Meanwhile, the TalentCulture conversation continues daily on the #TChat Twitter stream, our LinkedIn discussion group, and elsewhere on social media.

We’ll see you on the stream!

Image Credit: WIkipedia

How Great Companies Attract Top Talent

Written by China Gorman, CEO, Great Place To Work

The start of a new year is an ideal time to reflect upon recent accomplishments and look to the future with optimism. But this year is starting on a particularly high note.

On Thursday Jan 16, our organization reveals the 2014 100 Best Companies to Work For list, in conjunction with our media partner, Fortune Magazine.

And next week, I’ll be discussing the results with the TalentCulture community on #TChat Radio and Twitter.

While there are certainly more “best workplace” lists now than when we started nearly 20 years ago, this list remains the gold standard — largely due to the rigor of our evaluation process. Based on extensive employee surveys and detailed investigation into corporate cultural practices, our data provides a unique look inside stellar organizations, and reveals what sets them apart.

Learning From The Best

Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For

Learn more about the list

This year’s list features some exciting stories. Several companies are included for first time — and their identities may surprise you. Also, some veterans on the list are experiencing extraordinary growth, and we’ll talk about characteristics that support those changes. We’ll also look at employment perks that are gaining popularity.

All of this provides a framework for companies who aim to develop more productive, profitable cultures that attract and retain top talent. For those who want a head start, here’s a preview of several best-practice takeaways that can inspire other employers:

Employee Development and Leadership Engagement

In 2014, top organizations are focusing on several high-profile business challenges. For example, last year, some studies exposed disturbingly low employee engagement rates. Best companies are figuring how to engage top performers by helping them map their career paths and develop desired knowledge and skills. They do this through professional development classes, executive coaching and training for managers who need to understand how they can spot potential talent and support employee growth.

At the best small and medium companies, there is a strong sense of inclusion and camaraderie — keys for trust-based cultures. CEOs and senior-level executives make an effort to know employees personally, and they often participate in onboarding, training, recognition and company celebrations. Moreover, leaders seek regular input and feedback from employees about the workplace environment and related decisions. Because their opinions and ideas matter, employees tend to feel deeply invested in their employer and its success.

Enhancing Company Culture

Another pattern among top companies — organizational culture is not just a priority, but a strategic imperative. Employers understand that a strong culture attracts the right kind employees. We see this with both large and small companies, from Google (last year’s top pick among large companies) to much smaller Badger Mining Corp.

When employee and employer values and visions align, we see companies succeeding in retention, profitability and innovation. Best practices in achieving a cultural fit include interview questions that assess a candidate’s alignment with company values, multiple interview rounds, and simulated work experiences to get a sense of candidates’ abilities and interpersonal style before they’re hired.

Also on the culture front, top employers are serious about creating a fun, celebratory environment that’s meaningful to employees. A variety of engaging practices and events are often integrated into daily work life, punctuated by big celebrations once or twice a year. From simple “Random Acts of Fun” to all-hands offsite trips to Maui, the best companies constantly push themselves to find new ways to foster lighthearted bonding and workplace joy.

Generational Factors

Another emerging trend — employers are positioning themselves for long-term leadership success by integrating demographic changes into their talent strategy. Succession planning is essential, as boomers retire and younger employees rise through the ranks. Tying into company culture and engagement, employers are looking at ways to involve younger employees and keep them committed and loyal. We see this manifested in new cultural norms and development practices, and in recruiting efforts that emphasize cultural fit.

This is just a taste of what employers everywhere can learn from the 100 Best Places to Work. I hope you’ll join me as I share more details, and discuss this with the TalentCulture community next week at #TChat Events!

China-HR_low res(About the Author: China Gorman is CEO of Great Place to Work, a global human resources consulting, research and training firm, specializing in organizational trust. An experienced leader and sought-after thought leader in the human resources domain, China has served as COO of the Society of Human Resource Management, CEO of CMG Group, and President of DBM North America and Lee Hecht Harrison.)

(Editor’s Note: This post was adapted with permission from an article written for, and republished by the Great Place to Work blog.)

(Also Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events each Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter conversation anytime. Learn more…)

Image Credit: Pixabay