Diversity and Inclusion Drive the Road to Remarkable

“Half the world is
Half the world was
Half the world thinks
While the other half does…”

–Neil Peart (writer and musician, “Half the World”)

The nightlight burned brighter. It didn’t make any sense at the time because it was the same nightlight we always used in the hallway for our girls, and it was never usually that bright.

As usual I tossed and turned earlier in the night, with the weight of my world raining down like meteors in the night sky, cratering my sleep with burning questions.

I woke at 3:45 am, 45 minutes before I really had to, the nightlight lighting up our white bedroom door. It seemed to pulse slowly like a sleeping heart rate, calming and warm. I knew it was really 4:45, because of daylight savings time – Spring forward and all. What a day to be heading East when time heads West, I thought.

When I deleted the alarm time I had set the night before, I noticed the text. I rubbed my eyes to ensure I read it correctly.

Kevin, it’s Kevin – call me.

I went downstairs and texted back: Who is this?

I’m you. In the future. Please call me. It’s important.

I set the phone down on my desk. Then, another text.

Please, call me at…

The number texted to me, from whoever it was on the other end, was my cell phone number.

What the hell?

I didn’t have to leave for the airport for another hour, so I called it. This is crazy; it’s just going to give me a busy signal.

But it didn’t. The ring sounded warped, slowing down, then speeding up. A somewhat familiar voice answered.

“Hello?” the man said, again slightly distorted. I also heard what sounded like the ocean, the ebb and flow of surf crashing on the beach.

“Hello,” I answered. “Who’s this?”

“Listen, Kevin, I don’t know how much time I have, but I have a gift for you.”

I didn’t answer.

“Really, it’s not a joke. You’re calling the future and I have great news.”

“Who is this?” I asked.

More ocean sounds, moving in and out of tinny monotone and digital clarity.

“I’m you. Trust me. I can’t give you many details, but know that your girls are happy and have grown into strong and empathic women who are leaders in their fields. In fact, there are more women from various cultural backgrounds in leadership roles worldwide than ever before. And men are more supportive peers and colleagues who shoot themselves in the feet much less often.”

“How did you know I worry about that for them?” I asked.

“Because I’m you,” came the answer. “Your world today is still very male dominated, but that will change. Trust me.”

“Right on,” I instinctively replied. “Wait, I can’t believe I’m listening to this, I’m hanging up now.” Time inched closer to my airport departure. I readied myself to disconnect the call.

“You and your wife did a remarkable job, Kevin. You’re…I mean…we’re the better halves of doing and making things whole,” the familiar voice on the other end added, as clear as if it were in my own head. “Be grateful for girl power.”

I found myself compelled to respond. “Nothing’s that easy. There’s still too much to do and we can’t do it alone.”

“You’re right, it wasn’t easy, but the world figured it out and we finally evolved socially and economically. A little here, a little there. Spring forward and all that, you know.”

I shook my head and closed my eyes. I must be dreaming.

“Oh, and also in the future there’s free Wi-Fi and power everywhere in the air, letting us work from anywhere at anytime, all from sustainable clean energy and pretty sweet wireless quantum physics technology.”

“That’s great. The future’s so bright we gotta wear shades, right?”

No response to my Timbuk 3 1980’s song forever lost in time, but it was time for me to head out. Or wake up.

“Are you still there?”

Nothing. He was no longer there, whoever he was, or wasn’t. Nothing left but ocean sounds. I left for the airport.

Of course this was all a self-fulfilling prophecy; a forward-thinking daydream fantasy of what I hope the world and the workplace become someday for my children, and how they might help transform it.

Something much more remarkable than today. Yes, it has been something that weighs on me, but the good news is that diversity and inclusion are hot topics today and rightly so. Hopefully this all becomes the road to remarkable.

Bersin by Deloitte research shows that 71% of companies “aspire to be fully inclusive.” However, when you look at what actually is practiced, only 11% truly demonstrate an inclusive culture, of embracing being yourself and really bring your “authentic self” to work every single day, wherever and whatever that work is.

And that means for men and women alike. Unfortunately gender equality for women has a ways to go, and implementing a diversity and inclusion strategy to improve the landscape is still in the early days. Having two girls has given my wife and I front row seats to this disparity show and how pervasive bias is, but change is in play, however painful and slow.

According to “What Is the Impact of Gender Diversity on Technology Business Performance?” report from the National Center for Women & Information Technology, a teams’ collective intelligence rose with the number of women in the group, possibly because of the women’s higher performance on tasks that required social sensitivity. Plus, Gallup research shows that women leaders tend to have significantly happier, more highly engaged teams.

PwC’s 2015 CEO Survey revealed that overall talent diversity and inclusiveness are not just the softer issues only given lip service, but instead are now considered crucial to being competitive. Of the CEOs whose companies have a formal diversity and inclusiveness strategy, 85% think it’s improved their bottom line. They also see such strategies as benefiting innovation, collaboration, customer satisfaction, emerging customer needs and the ability to benefit technology.

I’ll be at our PeopleFluent WISDOM 2015 customer conference this week and am proud of the fact that helping customers leverage diversity and inclusion programs is a top priority of ours. This and facilitating equal employment practices and compliance at every stage of the talent management lifecycle that create and sustain high-performing workforces.

Among many other powerful speakers and sessions, Dr. David Rock, the director of the NeuroLeadership Institute, will keynote our conference and speak about “Breaking Bias: Why Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives Are Good Business.” Companies everywhere are struggling to significantly move the needle on the diversity and inclusion challenge, and Dr. Rock’s research suggests how exploring the biology of bias will help us ultimately and authentically mitigate it at a whole new level.

Lastly, I did actually talk with the future recently on the TalentCulture #TChat Show, about 18 hours into the future to be exact (from one time zone to another across the Pacific). It was with Mandy Johnson, best-selling business author of Family Village Tribe and Winning the War For Talent, and an active speaker, advisor and executive educator. Mandy lives in Australia and discussed with us her “Six Steps To Building A Remarkable Workplace,” the first of which includes having CEO buy-in and HR champions prioritizing and supporting people-centric initiatives.

These initiatives, which include diversity and inclusion programs, not only drive our better halves when it comes to organizational change and positive business outcomes through intelligent and transparent HR practices, they also drive the road to remarkable for both genders and generations to come.

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 courtesy of Kevin W. Grossman

The Six Steps To Build A Remarkable Workplace

According to a 2013 CEO Institute survey, the number one issue keeping chief executives awake at night was “sourcing and retaining skilled staff.” Yet when PricewaterhouseCoopers asked 1,300 global CEOs about their operational priorities that same year, talent strategies didn’t make the top five. So while CEOs claimed to be suffering from insomnia, it seemed they were doing very little to create remarkable workplaces to alleviate the problem.

This discrepancy intrigued me and I started researching why it was (and is) still happening. I found that some CEOs simply don’t rate people practices as a core profit driver. Others throw perks at employees like lollies to children, hoping to magically improve their staggeringly high staff turnover rates. The rest? They simply don’t know where to start.

What Are The 6 Steps To Build A Remarkable Workplace?

In practice, the 80/20 rule applies — 20% of strategies have greater impact than the other 80% put together. Here are my top six steps that have led to remarkable workplaces around the globe:

1. CEO Buy-In and a “People Practice” Champion at the Top Table

“Best employer” companies are characterized by CEOs who passionately believe the bottom line is driven by human endeavor and who embrace people practices as a profit-generating strategy on the same platform as Sales, Marketing and IT. By prioritizing people-centric initiatives, their companies achieve on average at least four times the profit growth (Aon Hewitt People Practices Inventory 2011) and three times the share market returns (Russell Investment Group 2011) compared to average companies.

In addition to having CEO buy-in, these businesses all have a high-achiever at executive level responsible for driving organizational change through intelligent people practices. They might amend internet security rules so employees can work from home; introduce commuter-friendly shift times; procure high-impact training programs; or implement initiatives for increased communication, transparency and egalitarianism.

Standard corporate leadership consists of CEOs, CIOs, COOs and CFOs, but unfortunately there are still very few “people” leaders. Without an effective champion with direct influence at executive level, the modifications required at all levels of the business to build a remarkable workplace simply never happen.

2. Monthly One-On-Ones

Of all the talent management strategies I’ve seen or used to build a remarkable workplace, the monthly one-on-one system, during which a manager takes time to have a productive reflective discussion with each employee and create an individual action plan, is a standout. Not only does it nurture the vital bond between an employee and his immediate supervisor, but, as a study by Bersin and Associates found, a monthly action plan alone results in twice the revenue per employee and a 27% lower staff turnover rate.

Despite research like this, annual or biannual performance appraisals are still standard for many organizations. Yet imagine a coach who only met with his professional athletes once or twice a year and reeled off a long list of everything the athlete was doing wrong. Irregular check-ins are simply devastating to high performance.

Tech company Atlassian makes a great case study. When executives discovered that their twice yearly staff appraisals led to disruptions, anxiety and a drop in both manager and team morale, they implemented these monthly check-ins. The result: extraordinarily high engagement scores of 87% and several Best Employer awards to boot.

 3. Families, Villages and Tribes — Create Small, Flexible Teams In Every Area of the Business

Neurological experiments show that decision-making performance falls off rapidly as the group size grows beyond seven. You see this at dinner parties when as soon as a group gets beyond this number, people split off and start to talk in separate groups. This is also what happens in teams. In my first book, Family Village Tribe, I explained how travel retailer Flight Centre split its entire company into seven-person business teams (families), because profits were found to drop almost by half as they increased in size. The company believes that this is because they emulate hunter-gatherer community size, a structure in which people inherently prefer to work. Gore, Virgin, Semco, Spotify, and Atlassian are other companies that have adopted the small-team strategy.

Flight Centre also groups its teams into local villages (max 7 teams) and tribes (max 20 teams or 150 people), each with their own leaders and support staff. Based on economies of scale this seems counterintuitive; however, the increase in productivity far exceeds the extra costs. The company doubled its profit in one year when it split its single Australian operation into 6 stand-alone teams. The same strategy proved so successful for GORE-TEX that founder Bill Gore only ever put 150 parking spots at each of his businesses. As he told an interviewer, “When people start parking on the grass we know it’s time to build a new plant.”

4. Improve Actual Job Roles

Frederick Herzberg’s famous large-scale study of workers showed unequivocally that achievement in the actual job itself was the greatest motivator at work. This included such aspects as doing creative, challenging and varied work; the opportunity to do a job from beginning to end; working without supervision; and being responsible for one’s own efforts. Salary, interpersonal relationships, company policy and working conditions were all inferior to these factors.

Even if an organization is dynamic and inspiring, people will quit if their tangible job role isn’t engaging enough. It’s amazing what can be done. Sometimes it’s as simple as removing unnecessary paperwork, or axing overly bureaucratic systems. Australia’s Holden Hill police station had constant staff turnover of administrators because they hated typing up transcript tapes – a minor but monotonous part of the role. By transferring this duty to a casual staff member, they solved the problem and saved significant staff turnover costs.

5. Team-Based Planning

Baseball great Babe Ruth once said, “You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.” The conventional approach to business planning is that a manager attends an executive planning day and then tries to get the team to run with his company-devised strategies. The staff have no buy-in because they’ve had no access to the rationale behind the plan so implementation is patchy at best. It’s akin to dragging dead horses across a desert.

In contrast, the individuals who make up a team are like an incubator of ideas. Tapping into them creates energy and excitement. Rather than one leader driving all the change, you then have the whole team driving improvements. The plan has to align with the company’s overall goals, but this still gives individual teams a lot of scope.

The improvement is remarkable. One corporation I consulted with had business units that achieved over 50% profit increases within three months of implementing this more collaborative strategy. Multi-billion-dollar online sales company Zappos and 43,000-employee Da Vita Healthcare are other examples of companies that have used this kind of democratic approach and shown that giving front-line staff more say in their own business really does pay off.

6. Reward and Recognize Genuine Achievement

In a 2012 Globoforce survey, 47% of workers gave “not being recognised for their efforts” as the main reason for leaving their last job. Turn this around and there’s a serious prize on offer for those companies who get this right.

My old company used to stage an overseas awards night every year, flying high-achievers to sumptuous locations, feting winners like superstars on stage, and entertaining the crowd with celebrities like Bob Geldof and The Village People. It cost the business several million dollars, yet even at the height of the global financial crisis, this was one expense they refused to cut, because it was people’s single greatest motivator. Virgin is also renowned for its staff recognition events and Steve Jobs of Apple fame used to hold a “Top 100 retreat” in which he took the 100 smartest employees to an undisclosed location every year.

To underpin this kind of event, an organization needs to be able to objectively compare its people performance and the best way to do this is to create intelligent KPIs for each role. Yet many employers use subjective measurements that stoke employee resentment, or they make KPIs so complicated that employees can’t track and improve their own performance.

It’s a matter of what gets measured gets managed. Delta Airlines reported a 564% ROI on its rewards and recognition program; the Avis Budget group an $11.4 million profit bounce; and Sutherland Global Services says the money put into recognition earns a 20-times return and is their best investment. Senior Vice President Tom Steuwe’s only grievance: “I am kicking myself for not having done this 5 or 6 years earlier.”

The Proof Is in the Profits

With all of the above strategies the proof is in the profits. Even during the global financial crisis, the Parnassus Workplace Fund — a group that only invests in organizations with a solid reputation for having outstanding workplaces — had an annual average return of investment of 10.81%, compared to the S&P index’s 3.97%. This shows that there’s an enormous upside for CEOs who embrace people practices and realize that building a remarkable workplace is no longer a business diversion. It’s now the main game.

Mandy Johnson will be a guest on the March 4 edition of the TalentCulture #TChat Show.

About the Author: As a start-up director of a UK retail business opening a new shop every month, Mandy Johnson was forced to learn new strategies to recruit, retain and develop people to reach high performance at break-neck speed. She’s written about her experiences in her best-selling book Family, Village Tribe, which made Kobo’s 2014 top five list for Business-Entrepreneurship and is a set text in many Australian MBA courses. Her second book Winning The War for Talent has just been released and has also garnered excellent reviews in the business media.

photo credit: 35.Logan.Q14.WDC.4oct05 via photopin (license)

#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)