Are You Cultivating a “Culture-Add” Talent Strategy?

In recent years, I’ve been encouraged by a groundswell of employers that are choosing to embrace “culture-add” people practices. In fact, several months ago, I wrote about it in a Sage Masterclass article.

Because this concept is central to the future of work, I’ve continued to ponder, read and discuss culture-add issues with others. Now I’m convinced this topic deserves much more than just one blog post. So let’s explore it further here. I hope this underscores the need for a shift to a culture-add recruitment and retention mindset. But more importantly, I hope it inspires constructive change.

What Does “Culture-Add” Mean?

The term “culture-add” speaks to a paradigm shift beyond traditional “culture-fit” talent strategies. On the surface, the culture-fit approach seems appealing. However, it ultimately leads to one-dimensional groups, teams, and organizations. And history tells us homogeneity can have dangerous consequences:  blind spots, groupthink, and poor decision-making.

In contrast, a “culture-add” approach actively seeks people with diverse perspectives that enhance teams and organizations. As we learn more about the significant benefits of a diverse workforce, culture-add hiring is emerging as an important way to strive for differences that make a positive impact.

As I noted in my previous article:

Most of us know that employees who align with a company’s values and fit into the culture generally have higher job satisfaction, improved job performance, and frankly, stick around longer. However, we are resting on our laurels if we use this as our rationale for continuing to use the culture-fit model.”

Embracing Organizational Change

We all know humans tend to resist change. In fact, the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” was suitable for a long time. It still holds some merit, so let’s not dismiss it completely. Tried-and-true processes can potentially save us from all kinds of turmoil — emotional, logistical, financial, and more.

However, if we want to innovate and grow, we must also be able to adapt. No doubt, changing an organization’s cultural fabric can be daunting. But it is necessary for long-term viability.

As Stephanie Burns says in a 2021 Forbes column, Why Evolving Your Business Right Now Is Critical:

Anyone who has wanted to cling to how things were will be in for a surprise this year, as COVID-19 entirely shifted the original paradigm. However, it’s also presented an opportunity for businesses and individuals to evolve into new ways of being.

COVID hasn’t just turned the world on its head, it’s accelerated trends that were already happening, such as the shift to remote work and the collective desire for more convenience…

Still, some founders don’t want much change. This could be due to fear of the unknown or fear that leaving their old business model, which had worked so well for so long, could be catastrophic. However, we’re reaching a critical impasse where businesses that don’t evolve may very well fade out of the picture. Evolution is a natural part of all of our lives, and our businesses are no exception.”

Leaders would be wise to heed this important advice, even if it seems overwhelming. It’s time to change. Our work cultures are constantly shifting. We, too, should remain prepared to embrace new ideas, processes, and people who can make us better.

Culture-add hiring can support this process by inviting more diverse minds and voices to the table as we dream up fresh ideas and orchestrate change. This reminds me of a related term — new blood. We need new blood to thrive.

Connecting Culture-Add and Diversity

This conversation leads us directly to the benefits of diversity. There’s an excellent article on the NeuroLeadership Institute blog, Your Brain at Work: Why Diverse Teams Outperform Homogeneous Teams. The entire piece is worth reading, but here’s a noteworthy excerpt:

Diverse teams are particularly good at exposing and correcting faulty thinking, generating fresh and novel ideas, and accounting for a wider array of variables in planning.

Part of the reason this happens is due to what scientists call cognitive elaboration — the process of sharing, challenging, and expanding our thinking. In essence, diverse teams compel each other to think more deeply about their reasoning and interrogate the facts more objectively.

They share counterfactuals as they go, they don’t take things for granted, and there is minimal ‘social loafing’ — or just accepting things at face value. In short, diverse teams tend to come to better conclusions because those conclusions have been road-tested more thoroughly.”

The science of diversity in teams is truly fascinating. It tells us that recruiting and hiring leaders can help by feeding teams with talented people who can accentuate the benefits of diversity.

Of course, diversity and inclusion don’t end with hiring. The next step is fostering a workplace that makes a wide variety of people feel valued. This is not an easy task. However, it is essential. So let’s look closer at what to consider…

Tips For Building a Culture-Add Mentality

1. Actively weave a sense of belonging into your workforce

As you build a more diverse organization through culture-add hiring, don’t be surprised if cliques and segmentation develop based on geographical, cultural, and other distinctions. That’s natural! But challenge your people to also learn and share what they have in common with others. Allow space for these common interests and goals to surface.

The Why Diverse Teams Outperform Homogeneous Teams article offers a compelling reason to make this a priority:

The benefits of diversity aren’t likely to accrue if we simply put together a team of diverse individuals and assign them a task. The environment in which they’re working should be inclusive — one in which all members feel valued and as if they have a voice.

In that inclusive environment, the benefits of diversity are far more likely to materialize. If not, employees will leave the organization, or worse, stay but not contribute. Diversity without inclusion only creates a revolving door of talent.”

Vigorously work on building a sense of belonging so people of different ages, backgrounds, and lifestyles feel celebrated for their differences. After all, you’ve brought them in to add to your culture, so allow them to shine.

2. Prepare to fully retrain your recruiting and hiring staff

This tip could stand alone as an article, white paper, or college thesis. But to be brief, let’s use an example to illustrate how deeply culture-add hiring upends the traditional approach:

Previously, when Bob hired someone at XYZ insurance company, he considered a candidate like Stan an excellent fit. That’s because Stan lived in a similar neighborhood, was married to a well-liked woman, and had kids who were high achievers. If Stan also golfed on the weekends and enjoyed a steak dinner, even better! He’d fit right into XYZ Insurance and would have a fulfilling career.

As mentioned previously, this model once made a lot of sense. Cultural similarities and a genuine “he’s one of us” mentality created a comfortable atmosphere where longevity was often the result. Unfortunately, homogeneous organizations were also the result.

Today’s businesses face new challenges that require a different approach. Your talent acquisition team can start by taking the initiative to reassess the criteria they use to find people (where, how). Then you can reframe the recruitment conversation from end to end.

Instead of looking for people to fit a standard outdated profile, allow questions and conversations to emphasize and embrace differences in candidates. What can they add versus how do they fit?

Begin by asking yourself and others in your organization to talk openly about how hiring is being handled, and what kind of outcomes this approach is creating — for better or worse.

If a culture-fit model still drives your talent decisions, don’t be ashamed to admit it. But if that’s the case, you’ll want to start making changes soon. Because I assure you, your competitors are already moving toward culture-add for the win.

Top 5 Reasons HR Is On The Move

Once upon a time, most HR departments provided one-stop shopping for employees with questions or concerns about benefits, hiring, training, complaints, colleagues, etc. For leaders, HR was the place to go for recruitment, retention and terminations. HR is a critical function and most companies handled it in-house. That’s all changing very rapidly. Today an estimated 58 percent of large companies outsource all or part of their HR needs.

Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Neither. Like everything else in business and talent management, a one size culture fits no one. The key is to develop a strategy and solution that works for your organization.

Here are the 5 top reasons so many companies are turning HR over to outsourced experts:

1)  It frees them to concentrate on core competencies. HR does not produce a product, yet it can eat up a lot of an organization’s time and energy. A great HR department demands resources and continual oversight and innovation. Many organizations would rather focus on their core strengths and/or moneymakers by outsourcing HR.

2)  It saves money. Running an effective HR department costs bucks, sometimes big bucks. Many organizations do the math and just decide it’s not worth it. It also allows organizations to hire world-class specialists they could never afford to bring on-board permanently. This kind of virtual workforce will continue to find momentum.

3) It improves compliance. There are a whole lot of regulations out there these days. There is the constant threat of lawsuits for sexual harassment, wrongful termination, safety violations, etc. When you hire a compliance specialist, these headaches become theirs.

4) It improves recruitment. Recruiting top talent is an art (and a science) and a lot of HR departments are the equivalent of weekend painters. Many organizations would rather turn this critical function over a company that does nothing but recruit talent.

5)  It provides access to the latest tools and technology. The most innovative HR-services supplier will be up on the very latest technology, including big-data mining, analytics, virtual workforce leadership, cloud technology and social media, and will know how to exploit them to meet an organization’s specific needs.

Those are some of the advantages to outsourcing. But it carries some very real risks. First of all, you’re turning an integral part of your organization’s success over to outsiders. They have a different – and at times even conflicting – agenda than you do. Service providers have their own bottom lines, and sometimes the service they provide can be shoddy. I’ve seen more than one organization get saddled (at least for the length of the contact) with outsourced talent that is a bad fit. Finding the right partners is absolutely critical. Do your due diligence here – and then repeat it! Never be penny-wise and pound-foolish – you get what you pay for. And watch out for too many bells and whistles in any sales presentation. Know what you need and don’t buy anything more. I recommend that every organization retain a healthy HR department, even if it’s small and many of its functions are outsourced. Some consultants will not always care about your people as passionately as you do so it’s important to find talent who cares about your unique culture. In addition, when tough decisions on hiring and firing are being made, you want in-house expertise to help handle things. It’s still often the case that core strategy should be kept in house unless you have the right expertise and best fit.

Outsourcing has the potential to make your organization leaner, more adaptive, smarter and more profitable. However, it must be done with foresight, savvy and a secure understanding of what it will mean. Take your time and really think it through. And only hire the best fit for outsourced talent.

A version of this was first posted on Forbes.

photo credit: POTD via photopin (license)

The First Steps to Transforming Work Culture

Changing workplace culture is never a revolution—at least, not if you want change that lasts. So if you’re focused on transforming your work culture as we move into the coming year, it’s important to know that it’s a process, not an overnight transformation. That’s an idea that makes many leaders uncomfortable; we like to think of ourselves as disruptive and courageous, able to flip a switch and inspire change. The reality is, particularly in a large organization, sudden changes often do more damage than good. It’s exceedingly difficult, and often a mistake, to aim for wholesale culture shifts overnight.

The benefits of a positive workplace culture are significant: greater productivity, lower turnover, good communication, and employees who are satisfied and happy. In a climate where many organizations aim to dominate their particular market and good talent can be scarce, leading a team that’s dedicated and energized is a powerful lure. If transforming your work culture is on your radar, here’s a look at first steps you can take to get started.

Turn to Customers and Front-Line Workers First

In larger companies, goals are generally set by the C-suite; someone with industry experience and access to analyst trends often sees an opportunity and the executives decide it’s time to grab it.

That top-down approach is sometimes successful, but it’s often more of a gamble than it needs to be. At worst, it creates blinders that can lead to failures: See Blockbuster, Nokia, and Borders.

The high-level perspective is important, but often misses early indications of problems, solutions, and trends. Instead, it’s the people at the front of the organization—your customers and the people who connect with them daily—who are best positioned to give the kind of feedback the business needs to stay healthy. Listening to your customers, front-line sales team and customer service representatives can provide valuable information that can lead to new ideas and potential revenue opportunities, help identify mistaken assumptions in your business model, or even change your understanding of market segments.

Make sure you get customer and front-line input before setting your goals, and then keep that group involved as you make and implement plans; and don’t forget to keep asking for their feedback along the way. All of this will help lower the risk of making bad decisions and go a long way toward not only keeping customers happy, but your team feeling like an integral part of the business building process.

Identify People Who Get Things Done

Effective leaders find people who make things happen; they recognize that there are change agents in every organization. While it’s often middle managers who lead cultural shifts, it isn’t always the people with “manager” in their titles.

Change agents prioritize curiosity, learning, and relationships. They empower others, embody the company’s values, and can interpret change at a human level. These are the people with the power to truly disrupt a company from the inside. Fgure out who they are and find out what you can do to help them.

Develop a Continuous Feedback Loop

One of the strongest ways to transform work culture is to simply pay attention. Instead of waiting for quarterly reports or annual reviews, create a continuous feedback loop that allows for constant testing, tuning, and re-tuning organizational vibe.

Instead of waiting for people to come to you with criticisms or kudos, go to them. Prove you are listening and find ways to create small victories that will provide information you need for big wins.

This approach also has the advantage of giving you early warning signs when work culture takes a downturn. Are people working long hours but productivity is suffering? Find out what’s at the root of the problem. This may mean finding small, smart practices to encourage creativity, revisit milestones, or talk to a manager about resetting expectations. Don’t let middle managers—and the people below them—feel that the status quo is unchangeable. Show them that they count, and that their voices and opinions matter. Take input seriously, then use it.

Making incremental change starts a wave of work culture transformation across an organization. It isn’t an abrupt flip, but a signal that positive changes are in the works. Leaders must monitor these steps and make sure the organization keeps moving forward. By doing so, you’ll build momentum that will eventually transform how your organization exists.

What do you think? Have you experienced leading or working in an organization focused on transforming work culture? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic, and any suggestions you have based on your experiences that I might have missed.

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The Future of Work is Here: Are Your Managers Prepared?

We often talk about the “future of work” as if it’s a destination; but the reality is that the future of work is already here. Technology’s impact on the remote and part-time workforce is transforming work culture right now. Are your managers prepared and ready to embrace this new work world?

The “future of work” is an umbrella term that encompasses everything from technology’s impact on work environment to changes in organizational structure, marketable skills, and government policy. Today, let’s focus on the five aspects that most impact your bottom line:

  • Productivity
  • Technology
  • Big Data
  • Organizational Structure
  • Leadership

Leadership in a competitive organization requires keeping track of all five.

The Positive Impacts of Remote Work

Global Analytics did a deep dive into the 2005-2014 American Community Survey (executed by the US Census Bureau) and found that 80 to 90 percent of the US workforce says they would like to work remotely at least part of the time. Currently 3.7 million people (2.5 percent of the American workforce) work from home at least part time—a number that’s sure to grow.

This attractive workplace benefit isn’t just the draw of working in PJs. Workers want flexibility to balance work and personal commitments, and prioritize it as much (if not more than) salary and benefits. Because of this, enabling staff to shift schedules and telecommute has a significant impact on retention and recruitment.

Remote work has also been shown to improve productivity and cut office expenses. Harvard Business Review studied Ctrip, a Chinese travel website, testing remote work by designating half of its employees as remote workers over a 12-month period. Not only did it save money, Ctrip reported that workers who stayed home showed 13.5 percent higher productivity.

The global market for talent has also been a significant incentive to allow remote emplpoyees. With valuable skills often in short supply locally, many businesses have turned to overseas professionals— and often at a more budget-friendly rate.

These shifts have transformed what it takes to be a successful manager, both in terms of communication and management skills, but also in how to set expectations. “They’re at their desk” isn’t a valid measurement of productivity anymore, especially when employees don’t share office space. Instead, expectations need to focus on goals and outcomes, and workers need to be equipped with a suite of tools that make communication and collaboration simple, whatever the distance.

Technologys Impact on Productivity

Email is still cited as one of the top forms of communication by Americans. As much as we complain about our inboxes, we still use them—and for remote workers, they’re vital. But in a modern workplace, email isn’t enough.

With workers inside and outside office walls, companies must use technology that holds their teams together: real-time communication across devices, easy tools for collaboration and data sharing, and shared resources.

There are plenty of free and affordable tools that can keep a team connected on a level that’s nearly as good as face-to-face. There are plenty of free tools available, Google Hangouts and Skype being just two examples. By investing in paid videoconferencing tools such as Zoom or GotoMeeting, businesses can keep team members connected on a more reliable and secure level.

Another challenge is to manage projects and tasks in a way that enables remote and in-office personnel to work together seamlessly without a lot of extra email or admin time. Tools like Asana and BaseCamp help keep complex projects on track and organized. Evernote is another great tool, and for ongoing communications that save your inbox from overload, and it’s hard to beat the incredibly popular Slack.

No matter what technology you choose to handle workplace communications, it’s essential that you have a plan and that staff is comfortable using the tools and staying compliant.

Are You Using Big Data Yet?

Back in May, my friend Daniel Newman wrote a piece for Entrepreneur where he covered the use of big data outside of customer experience and sales. He was spot on when he said, “Many businesses, however, forget that our number one customer is our workforce.”

Businesses have the data on hand to better understand employees’ behavior, motivations, successes, and concerns. The challenge is to learn how to interpret the data that’s collected.

Instead of relying on HR personnel to report on employee triggers, data scientists or analytics professionals who understand how to interpret data can take the guesswork out of workforce management. If you know what you want to measure, and how to interpret the data, big data is your friend. Otherwise it’s useless, time consuming, and counterproductive. Hint: befriend big data.

Organizational Structure: The Change is Here

With the hype around the large Millennial generation, there’s a lot of talk about flat organizations with little or no hierarchy, where collaboration and “managing up” are part of everyday work life. Companies like Zappos are experimenting with a nearly flat work structure, dubbed “Holacracy.” Whether Holacracy works for them is yet to be determined, but it’s clear that the organizational hierarchy is becoming less defined.

There are no hard and fast rules for exactly how to structure an organization or department—each is unique with its own characteristics. It is clear that large, slow moving, siloed organizations are susceptible to disruption—and they may never see it coming. Companies that embrace a more streamlined, fast-moving culture are already reaping the benefits.

Leadership Today

Developing and grooming leadership within an organization has long been a topic for managers, and it too has evolved with the changing workplace. Those with a Millennial mindset want different things from their leaders, and they want a seat at the table when it comes to decision making and strategy.

This new way of working means leaders no longer lead by directive—they lead by being inclusive, and by embracing technology and a more transparent work environment.

Business leaders have to be on their toes in this new world of work. Progressive companies are ahead of the wave and understand that you can’t wait around for the future of work—it’s already here. Preparing your leadership team for these changes can help you be one of the companies that excels in the new business world order.

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This article was originally seen on Millennial CEO.

Want to Create Organizational Change: Look to Middle Managers

Companies focused on leadership and creating organization change often overlook the fact that true organizational change comes not from senior leadership but rather from the company’s corps of middle managers. While rock star CEOs like Tony Hsieh, Richard Branson, and Jack Welch receive a lot of attention for their leadership philosophies (and rightfully so), deep and meaningful change—the kind that affects a company’s bottom line over time–must start in the middle, supported by the managers who translate the CEO’s vision into day-to-day practices.

How does this actually work? Let’s dig into the case for leadership and organizational change from the middle, and talk about some actionable steps that middle managers can take to impact their teams and begin to move the larger organization as a whole and work to create a collaborative enterprise.

Understanding the Power of Thoughtful Leadership

If you’ve worked in the middle of a very large organization, you know all too well that from time to time feeling powerless to change work culture is common, and that leaders of small teams and departments also experience this. In spite of the difficulties associated with effecting change, it’s important that middle managers not fall into complacency, especially if their own direct leader is a less than dynamic or supportive one.

Strong leadership of any sort is both thoughtful and deliberate, and middle managers would do well to be conscious of the language they use and how they guide their direct reports as they work to drive change. Focusing a team on a commitment to excellence and delivering great value to the organization and its customers, rather than spending energy on resistance can deliver big dividends. With this as a strategy, managers can make change happen by consistently delivering great results and setting an example that others want to follow. The proof, however, is always in the pudding, and the commitment in the end must be to the team’s performance. Because like it or not, that’s how both a manager and the team they lead will be measured.

Leadership is Fraught With Emotion

Dynamic leaders are as much about the emotion they are able to channel and inspire in others as they are about their actual accomplishments. Even as a leader at a middle management level, you can put this knowledge to work for you. Great leaders are empathic, they never stop learning, are generally up for a challenge, they treat others with respect, and they know that the best leaders aren’t focused on control, instead, they get out of the way, provide guidance and support, and let their team make things happen.

Your Team Must Align with the Organizations Goals

A frequent challenge for many leaders is to suppress their ego; we all instinctively want to advocate for our ideas and collect the praise and credit when things go well. Much of today’s work culture focuses on celebrating the individual, and we are collectively drawn to and celebrate stories of the lone hero changing the world…it’s a very unnatural thing for us to do to put the goals of the greater good first.

However, the reality of hierarchical structure is that most large organizations are based on an intrinsic idea that someone’s individual drive to accomplish their goals might be threatening to those who hold the power. It is essential that a manager’s goals are aligned with those of both his superiors and senior executives. And it is a manager’s job to find out what they are and make them her own.

Michael Useem, a professor at the Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania, describes what can happen when a middle manager decides to step in to support a senior manager:

“An unexplored but critical side of leadership is “upward leadership,” getting results by guiding your boss. Rather than undermining authority or seizing power from superiors, upward leadership means stepping in when senior managers need support in a way that benefits everyone.”

Useem suggests that the first step is to win the support of superiors, and the second to carefully communicate the reason for your course of action.

Amazing things happen when you help leaders achieve their goals. Know going in that it is not uncommon for top executives to position themselves in front of your cause; again, this is where suppression of an ego is critical. A great manager lets the team’s success be the company’s success. This may seem like a tremendous amount of effort and dedication to have your success go unnoticed, but that the reality is that people will know and understand your contribution. Over the long haul, as you continue to lead a high-performing team with consistently excellent results, your ability to impact the organization’s goals will increase.

Celebrate Incremental Change

The desire to have a big, bold impact on an organization is a strong one, but one of the truisms in business is that real change is always incremental. A salesperson doesn’t move his or her numbers overnight; it takes putting a shoulder to the grindstone over a long haul to build a territory. Sales leaders don’t impact their teams overnight either. Long-term planning and keeping the sales teams’ eyes on the prize, as well as ensuring they take the steps daily, monthly, and quarterly to push their numbers higher is the real job of a sales leader.

Other departments are no different. Lofty goals are good for inspiration, but laying out realistic goals and taking small steps to move your team towards them is what creates change over months and years.

Language is Powerful

I’ve talked about the suppression of the ego, aligning with the organizations goals, and what thoughtful leadership means. All of these are merely theoretical until they’re verbalized to a team. In business as in life, language is powerful. The words you choose to communicate your thoughts are incredibly important.

In his 2001 book, The Language of Leadership, Roger Soder, a Research Professor in Education in the College of Education at the University of Washington in Seattle, talks about using language to create a “climate of credibility and legitimacy.” Consider as an example the difference between approaching a superior with a question like “how can I make sure that I understand your goals and how you’d like us to get there?” versus walking into their office and saying “I have a great idea that will transform the way we approach this project.”

The same approach is also useful when communicating with team members; thoughtful language that clarifies that the group is a team that is interconnected and committed to excellence will get them to buy into your goals in a way that recognizing individual accomplishments won’t.

Change needs to happen, change can happen, change does happen. But in many cases, it takes patience, a strategy to effect change, and understanding how to motivate and leverage your position in the middle. Are you a mid-level manager in a mid-size to enterprise level organization? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and the unique challenges you might have faced, as well as any tips you have to others walking this path.

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HR: You CAN Get There From Here

R.E.M sang the words and they are sometimes, jokingly, attributed to people from Maine – “you can’t get there from here.”

For those in HR, it’s not an uncommon thought – there are so many changes to workflows that seem straightforward and so logical to implement, but getting buy-in sometimes seems impossible or not worth the fight. Or just as frustrating, you may not know where to begin to make changes to help improve HR’s contribution to the business.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Furthermore, you can be the instrument of organizational change that improves the bottom line for your company.

What’s the key?

Take it slowly – one step at a time – and follow the data.

Small Steps, Big Improvements

You just might be amazed at the improvements you can realize with seemingly minor adjustments. The key is implementing change incrementally, in small chunks that can be readily embraced by the people you’re serving.

Here’s a 4-step process for implementing real, beneficial change that improves the value HR contributes to your business. Note also that it is an ongoing, iterative process that never really ends.

  1. Target One Area For Change

You might have a long list of processes that are ripe for change, either due to a company directive or an area where you feel you can make an influential change. This might be reducing the time to hire for open positions, improving employee engagement or improving succession planning. It could even be as simple as automating some procedures. These are high-level goals that might seem unattainable or unrealistic to accomplish without a major company initiative and major resource investment.

  1. Review the data

Data presents a window to the opportunities before you. By looking at data such as current time to hire, level of engagement, skill gaps, characteristics of high performers, employees at risk of leaving and more, you’ll be able to isolate bottlenecks as well as opportunities for improvement. This will allow you to modify your processes and workflows where necessary. Simple changes can often yield enormous benefits.

For example, the data might show one simple operation (or single person or team) might be the only element preventing a significant improvement in your company’s time to hire. Maybe the approval process is bogged down at a particular place in the workflow. Change that one piece of your operation and the results can be monumental.

Or, data might highlight a particular team’s lack of engagement. With this knowledge, you can readily spot the root cause, whether it’s the manager, the employees or something else. Whatever the case, the organization will be better for spotting this information sooner than later.

  1. Re-Engineer HR Processes

With automation and data analysis embedded into your processes, you’ll now be in a position to make better decisions and improve the workflow of your talent acquisition and performance management operations. You’ll be able to handle exceptions faster and quickly adapt to external forces such as regulatory compliance changes. You’ll have insight to make better organizational decisions, such as who is best suited to fill new leadership positions.

Next, you can continue to review the data, confirm improvements have been made and continue to refine. Or, you may need to look at other potential areas of improvement. Then, keep going, continuing to improve processes and workflow. By continuing to look at the data to rationalize current procedures or change your workflows in an agile manner, you’ll be in a cycle of continuous improvement as you enhance your ability to contribute to your organization’s goals.

4. Transform Your Organization

Having achieved significant wins and real change for your company, the final phase of this data-driven journey is true organizational transformation. The data might reveal what actions to take in order to ensure certain top employees stay with your company. It can shed light on which managers and teams are doing the best job – and why. It will show you which people in your organization are most (and least) engaged.

With this data in hand, you can begin to make changes within your workforce to address the underlying causes of problems while better capitalizing on efficiencies and successes. This is an ongoing, never-ending process.

Bypass Obstacles One Improvement At A time

There are typically many roadblocks, real or imagined, when implementing change within HR or related functions. Taking small, achievable steps rather than attempting seismic transformation can lead to quick, huge benefits that have the added fortune of high organizational buy-in, due to the low-impact nature of the changes. The insight gleaned from data can lead to incremental changes in how you conduct business, which can result in faster time to hire, better hires, improved retention rates, improved engagement and much more.

Small steps, big results – you can get there from here.

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#TChat Recap: Creating Positive Organizational Change That Matters

Creating Positive Organizational Change That Matters

In our final #TChat Topic of the year, we had a really awesome discussion about the importance of creating positive organizational change that matters. Change is something we all need to get used to in these social times, if we haven’t already. When it comes to the World of Work, organizational change is something that take a lot of persistence to learn how to embrace and make it a part of your business and culture goals. But to do so, you have to accept change so we can begin building a culture that’s constantly being impacted positively by its decisions. This is much easier said than it is done. This week, our community was joined by: Patti Johnson, CEO of PeopleResults, a change and human capital consulting firm. Patti understands all too well what it takes to make positive changes that matter, based on her research and her real world experience.

It’s important to realize that creating organizational change doesn’t happen overnight. It takes understanding that there are some important variables at play. It starts by understanding there is no room for ego and it also:

Sure, sometimes “me” is a good thing. In the World of Work, too much of the brand “me” can be toxic. Great company culture is built around collaboration, because trust exists amongst the people who make it work. Thinking more with a “What’s in it for us?” mindset creates a greater possibility of accomplishing great things together. Work should be about social collaboration and embracing creativity, so that innovation can take place. But the truth is:

Creating change is a team effort. Leave the nonsense behind that can crush organizational change before it even begins. Employees have to know that change is taking place for the greater good of everyone, not just a few beneficiaries that get to reap all the rewards. It’s about making a better workplace for employees through collaboration and trust. And we must learn how to keep change from falling apart by discovering how to measure what works and what doesn’t.

Learn to measure organizational change by going straight to the source, which is employees. Who else better than employees to explain what’s working and what isn’t? To keep the fire going, we have to monitor it and keep it going ourselves. When it comes to work, it means holding each other accountable for creating and keeping positive change burning.

Creating positive change at work goes beyond any bottom-line, it’s about creating a place where people are excited to be a part of it. A happy worker makes for a more productive one, which means employee engagement is alive and well. Some folks measure success through happiness. Shouldn’t the same idea apply in the World of Work? It’s worth taking the risk to change something that’s broken or needs fine-tuning. Being quick on our feet is what we must all become accustomed to in the ever-changing business world. Not being able to change with it leaves us susceptible to being left behind. Creating positive organizational change that matters starts with baby steps and forward thinking. It’s worth the effort!

What #TChat-ters Had To Say About Organizational Change

What’s Up Next? #TChat Comes Back Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015!

TChatRadio_logo_020813-300x300#TChat Radio Kicks Off at 7pm ET / 4pm PT — Our weekly live broadcast runs 30 minutes. Usually, #TChat-ters listen in and engage with our Twitter community.

#TChat Twitter Kicks Off at 7:30pm ET/ 4:30pm PT — Our Social Hour midpoint begins and ends with our highly engaging 30 minute chat. We’ll take a deep social dive into our weekly topic by asking 3 questions. So join in on the fun and share your brain power with us during #TChat.

Become A Part Of Our Social Community & Check Out Our Updates! 

The TalentCulture conversation continues daily on Twitter, in our LinkedIn group, and on our Google+ community. Engage with us anytime on our social networks or stay current with trending World of Work topics through our weekly email newsletter. Signing up is just a click away!


Photo credit: Stephen Boisvert via Flickr cc

#TChat Recap: How Megatrends Revamp Employee Engagement Strategies

How Megatrends Revamp Employee Engagement Strategies

If there’s one thing certain about trends, it’s that they happen and they usually pop up on everyone’s radar. But it’s megatrends that create impactful circumstances that affect everyone on a personal, cultural, and societal level. Megatrends are hard to miss now because of all the social connectivity that leads us to hard-to-miss news. Megatrends also affect how organizations organize and lead their efforts. This causes organizations to adjust how they approach employee engagement to stay current. This week’s guest: Mark Royal, Senior Principal at Hay Group, who helps organizations design and implement employee engagement strategies, shared his insight on how organizations can revamp their employee engagement strategies.

When it comes to meeting the challenges of developing and maintaining employee engagement we must understand what it is that’s causing the demand and urgency to change.

Each one of these trends help shape how employee engagement is viewed and treated within the organization from top to bottom. People, location, technology, and behavior affect our understanding of how employee engagement should be handled. Creating sustainable employee engagement has to come from a revamped leadership that’s current with what employees want. It starts with:

It’s all about building an employee engagement strategy that sets the tone for your positive business outcomes. We don’t find change by throwing innovation out the window. We learn to adapt with change, and combat megatrends that affect work through flexibility and rolling with the punches. Even though the focus should be on employee engagement, that’s not always the case. We know that:

But it’s learning how to create room for both parties to see eye-to-eye that begins making a difference when it comes to combating megatrends. This doesn’t have to be scary. It’s about aligning organizational goals with employee goals that help keep things in order and positive. Planning for employee engagement does not only rely on understanding megatrends, but understanding how to connect with your employees through effective leadership engagement. Remember:

People want to find meaning in their work and be a part of a common goal that everyone is working towards. This doesn’t happen unless we understand how employees think. Organizations have to align their organizational goals with employees goals. That’s how modern-day employee engagement strategies work now. Employees have a big part to play because they directly affect business outcomes. This has to create a light bulb effect that causes organizations to rethink how leaders lead and how to train them to understand modern-day employees through better engagement. Start with creating better employee engagement and follow that up with better leadership training to sustain the engagement.

What #TChat Had To Say About Employee Engagement Strategies!

What’s Up Next? #TChat Events Kicks Off On Wednesday, Nov. 19th!


We’ll be discussing The Challenges of Enabling a Talent Management Strategy with Technology during our Social Hour on #TChat with our guest hosts:  Margaret Wood, HR Generalist at Kay Flo; and Tom McKeown, Head of Sales and Marketing at HRsmart.

#TChat Radio Kicks Off at 7pm ET / 4pm PT — Our weekly live broadcast runs 30 minutes. Usually, #TChat-ters listen in and engage with our Twitter community. View this week’s BlogTalkRadio preview: The Challenges of Enabling a Talent Management Strategy with Technology.

#TChat Twitter Kicks Off at 7:30pm ET/ 4pm PT — Our Social Hour midpoint begins and ends with our highly engaging 30 minute Twitter discussion. We enjoy taking a deep social dive about our weekly topic by asking 3 thought adrenalizing questions. So join in on the fun during #TChat and share some of your brain power with us (or tweet us @TalentCulture).

Become A Part Of Our Social Community & Checkout Our Updates! 

The TalentCulture conversation continues daily on Twitter, in our LinkedIn group, and on our Google+ community. Engage with us anytime on our social networks or stay current with trending World of Work topics through our weekly email newsletter. Signing up is just a click away!


Photo credit: Sebastiaan ter Burg via IM Free cc

5 Social Skills Business Leaders Must Master

(Editor’s Note: This week, TalentCulture founder, Meghan M. Biro is speaking at the Peoplefluent WISDOM2013 Conference about a topic that is central to the world of work: “Leadership, Workplace Culture and Brand Influence.” In the spirit of her presentation, we’re sharing one of many articles Meghan has written about this topic. We hope it’s the next-best thing to being there!)

Recently, I consulted with a software company as it navigated through a treacherous sea change — the upheaval of its organizational culture. This shift was triggered when my client hired a Chief Technology Officer from another company – not exactly a competitor, but a company in an adjacent market space. However, technology market spaces aren’t entirely independent — and in this case, the overlap only added fuel to an already volatile clash of personalities. Needless to say, the change wasn’t graceful or happy. In fact, it was a nasty, stressful process. And for those of us who mopped up the mess, it was a sobering wake-up call.

Faceoff: Old Workplace Culture Meets New

The previous workplace culture was cut-throat and intensely political. However, the workforce knew and accepted those rules. The organization had been socialized.

When the new CTO arrived, he imposed his own culture – one that obscured motives and withheld explicit information from employees. Suddenly without warning, people were receiving email messages saying that their jobs had changed and their staffs had been reassigned. Plans and strategies were were not discussed. Details were not communicated. Nothing was socialized.

The company quickly began hemorrhaging top talent, much to the dismay of its puzzled CEO. This exodus was good news for industry recruiters (fresh job vacancies to fill), but it was clearly a bad scene for the company and its employer brand. Even worse, a few former employees started blogging about the drama. The message wasn’t pretty, and in today’s socially hyper-connected world, word traveled fast. That made recruiting high-caliber talent a far more challenging task. Even today, recovery remains a long, rough road.

Social Connection: The Missing Link

Of course, none of this had to happen. What could have prevented the chaos? In my opinion, if the organization’s senior executives had been socially adept, I would be telling an entirely different story. Perhaps to some people it sounds insignificant, but social leadership can make all the difference.

Socially savvy, engaged leaders share a set of skills that help protect their organizations from the havoc of sudden, devastating change. Don’t get me wrong. I recognize that change can be healthy — and often it’s necessary. But successful large-scale cultural change requires finesse and an understanding of the “human side” of business.

In this case, the company hired an outsider to change its technical direction. That part is normal and appropriate. But the CEO didn’t anticipate the painful change in culture that would follow, or the subsequent loss of valued employees. It’s not because the CEO is weak, but because he lacked critical social skills.

In my practice, I work with lots of leaders seeking to expand their teams and make their workplace culture attractive for both potential new employees and current ones. Some clients are very socially aware and engaged. Some are socially tone-deaf and isolated from what’s happening both within the walls of their own companies, and across the broader business landscape. Both types of leaders can be successful to a point – the point where trust, loyalty, values and expectations affect financial performance and company growth.

Being a socially engaged leader is not an innate skill. However, it’s increasingly necessary in today’s networked business environment, as today’s multi-generational workforce puts more strain on corporate cultures to “open up” communication, and social media creates direct channels that reveal what it’s really like to work at various companies.

No doubt about it — today’s brave new connected world of work requires brave new social leadership. Here are 5 must-have social skills that every business leader should develop:

5 Skills To Master As A Social Leader

1) Recognize non-verbal cues. A skilled social leader does not rely on only one form of communication, but is informed by all – verbal, written, non-verbal, viral and so on. Being sensitive to non-verbal cues is difficult because much of today’s communication is digital. However, to effectively interpret non-verbal cues in face-to-face interactions, you must be able to recognize how your personal perception filters input. You don’t have to be a paragon of mental health, but you do need to shut-off the noise in your head long enough to read other people and understand what’s going on with them.

2) Interact regularly. You don’t have to know everyone’s name or how many kids they have. However, you do need to be aware of how employees, peers, partners and customers are thinking, feeling and reacting. This means you must engage others proactively — even through digital forms of communication. How can you expect your organization to be cohesive internally, or build a coherent brand externally, unless everyone shows up to “represent”? You don’t need to tweet or send email round-the-clock, but you must be comfortable connecting in person and on social channels. By reaching out early and often, you’ll learn valuable insights that you’d never anticipate otherwise.

3) Openly discuss your values and purpose. People join companies for many reasons, but what’s more interesting is why they stay. They stay because they feel a sense of shared values, purpose, mission and vision. If you’re a leader and you don’t regularly reinforce the company’s value and purpose, be prepared to do a lot of remedial recruiting when you lose more talent than you’d like.

4) Encourage a community presence. Like it or not, social media is vital in the world of work. Paternalistic managers and top-down leaders sometimes have trouble with this skill, but it’s no longer an option. Companies don’t function in a bubble. They move in a social sphere, where business reputation and results can be shaped by online communities – even when they’re not your customers. Are you blogging on behalf of your company brand? Is anyone in your organization tweeting, blogging or developing a virtual community? Is that even encouraged?

5) Demonstrate authentic interest in your employees and others. You can learn some skills and fake others, but it’s tough to fake sincerity. Some might argue that this is a personality attribute, not a skill. But for me, sincerity makes the difference between a leader and a task manager. If you’re not sincere, you’ll do things that might make business sense, but eventually they’ll backfire. Think of the company snapshot at the start of this post. The CEO thought it made sense to hire new senior technology talent. But because neither he nor the CTO valued sincerity or honest communication, the company is paying a heavy price.

Social engagement is not a management overlay on a toxic culture. It’s not a Band-Aid, a work-around or a cure-all. It’s a way of thinking about business, and doing business. It’s about operating with awareness and engagement — using the power of social networks to demonstrate your brand promise in today’s dynamic marketplace. It’s how the world works. It’s how you need to work. So make your move. Your company’s future depends on it.

(Editor’s Note: Meghan M. Biro is an active contributor to This article is adapted from Meghan’s blog, with permission.)

(Image Credit: Pixabay)