What to do--The direct approach
Clarity of purpose
An organizations success to a larger extent depends on its human capital. The human resources industry is transforming itself, as today’s HR pros are being asked to think and act strategically in support of the business. This blog is an attempt to deal with the complexity of human resource management in context of business globalization.
Work-life balance is not as much about the “balance” as it is about the “imbalance”. Corporate burnout rate is rising at an alarming rate with employees feeling the pain more than ever before. Organisations are turning increasingly to wellness programmes and other such work-life balancing strategies, but are left wanting for more. Corporate psychologists believe that while organisations are putting in a great deal of effort to establish a fair balance between work and life, it is not enough. Analysing the issue of work-life balance and identifying the problems and possible solutions requires one to first search in the right place. While most believe that majority work-life issues can be sorted out focusing on the individual, experts believe that in reality it is the organisation and its approach to work-life balance that needs fine- tuning. Statistics indicating the plight of employees caught in an imbalanced work-life equation reveal some eye-popping facts. These include:
The aforementioned findings reveal that work-life balance is as much about the role of the organisation as it is about the individual. Hence, to attain the right balance organisations need to focus both on the individual and the approach the organisation takes to tackle issues of work-life balance.
In addition, study on the subject has revealed that for best results there has to be coordination between three pillars of work-life balance. These include: organisational initiatives and programmes, corporate culture to support the initiatives and the role of the individual. These three factors play a critical role in determining the success of corporate work-life initiatives.
Programmes and initiatives To begin with every work-life initiative should be screened first at the programmatic level. Organisations that pursue seriously the cause of work-life balance ideally have a series of programmes and initiatives catering to employee needs. These programmes help organisations channelise their energies in the right way, thereby lowering work-related stress and discomfort. The following is a programme menu that depicts the type of programmes that should be included in the work -life effort of every organisation:
Experts believe that programmes such as these work better as they are more precise and user-friendly. Interventions that discourage employees from working overtime in the name of work-life balance do not work well. For, employees finally end up taking extra work home without really getting rewarded for it.
Cut, Yet Keep!Convincing employees to stay despite a bonus cut… ..
With recession spreading to more and more countries, even the most stable of organisations will have to start taking anticipatory counter-measures. Of course, most of these measures will be in the form of monetary cuts since cost-cutting is taken as a synonym for survival! But if employees see that things are still OK with their company, and that recession will not hit their industry badly, the one thing that they will not graciously accept is being asked to forgo monetary rewards. In other words, they will still expect the annual or festival bonus.
During an economic downturn, smart organisations would rather not pay bonuses than cut training and recruiting budgets. “Once the economy gets back on track, the bonuses can be dished out. But reviving the functions of recruiting and training after a slump is not easy. Therefore, it is in the interest of every organisation to keep these functions going,” says an expert.
This stand may appear logical to business heads, but unfortunately employees suffer from a short-term vision. So how can organisations, which haven’t been hit hard by recession, convince employees that some counter-measures are imperative regardless of how they are doing during a downturn? This week’s mailer attempts to suggest a strategy on that.
Not receiving the annual is the first sign of eventual doom, especially in small enterprises. This assumption, even in the worst of economic times can prompt employees to start looking out. One way to curb this is to form a nexus with top performers and employees with large influence circles, and share with them the real reason for holding back on bonus. Convincing this lot that the bonus cut is a temporary and preventive measure should help convey the message to the bottom-line in a more persuasive manner. Employees are likely to say, “So if they can go without the bonus for all they have done, so can we.” They may also think that if top performers are taking a bonus cut and not leaving, then things outside maybe pretty bad!
Being taken into confidence by the management makes the selected few feel special and they do a good job as spokespersons.
Do not compare
The typical approach to sharing the bad news is informing employees how badly the other industries have been hit, while they are still managing to sail. Then employees will ask, “If we are still posting profits then why penalise us for what others are experiencing?” From an employee’s perspective, if the annual bonus is a promised part of his package, then he should be receiving it whenever the organisation records profits.
Rhetorical speeches on how what is happening to others can also happen to us fall on deaf ears. It is not because the employees are unconcerned, only that they fail to appreciate the long-term measures. Therefore, an effective way to get them to see a bonus-cut as a preventive and temporary measure is to communicate the doom side of recession regularly and subtlety.
Newsletters that carry case studies of enterprises being hit by recession, managers referring to how a friend’s company had to layoff employees, C-level executives commenting on the recession in blogs and fewer organisation-sponsored social events should convey the message that all may not be well below the surface. While these efforts should prepare employees not to be shocked when a bonus cut is announced, the green balance sheet should keep them indoors!
The current volatility of the economy should serve as a warning to organisations structuring their bonus packages. In addition to promising realistic bonuses, a prudent move is to share bonuses on a biannual or quarterly basis. Employees who do not receive their Diwali bonus will still look forward to the quarter. Waiting an entire year in the hope of bonus is too long a wait for an employee, especially when the bonus is skipped.
Denying employees their bonus while the going is good is not easy. But with the economy ‘misbehaving’, even the best of businesses have to tread cautiously, and cutting bonuses is a step in that direction.
Virtual workplace is an answer to the unreasonable demands of time and space. While organisations cannot help but take the load that comes with the pressures of competition, employees find it difficult to accommodate it in the given time span. Hence, to make things easier at both ends, the concept of virtual workplace emerged. However, alongside the benefits, it brings with it sizeable challenges. The challenges are largely embedded in the fabric of staff management and planning. HR leaders have a host of issues to combat before they set the virtual workplace to a rhythm. Of the many issues, the need to stay bonded with a feeling of belongingness for employees who are connected through nothing more than an intricate wiring is the most challenging.
Accenture, the software-solutions giant,that employs more than 170,000, empes an interesting example of how leaders, managers and employees can stay connected despite working in a virtual set up.
Dissecting the virtual wiring
Accenture may be a virtually-run organisation, but it puts in immense effort to maintain the esprit de corps among its employees. According to Jill Smart, chief human resources officer, the company’s virtual model helps keep employees in one loop and enables them to work effectively with the luxury of their own pace.
Like Accenture, there are many organisations that are increasingly opting for virtual workspaces, primarily because good talent is becoming a scarce resource and fuel is becoming an expensive commodity. People have started viewing commuting as a waste of time and therefore are opting for options like flexi-time and telecommuting. But this trend has also led to some serious staff management problems. Virtual organisations really have to work hard to develop a management model that gives a ‘community’ feeling to people working for it. In the absence of such a model the virtual set up can break away. Thus, it is important that organisations make a deliberate attempt to develop the community feeling among its employees.
At Accenture the effort to build an ‘Accenture community’ has been widely evident. The company recruits close to 60,000 people every year, and for it to ensure connectivity among employees scattered around the globe is a task that is at best complex. Nevertheless, the company has instituted a host of initiatives and programmes to create a sense of community among its employees. Of the many initiatives, use of web conferencing tools, quarterly community events, counsellor services and extensive employee orientation programmes are popular.
In addition to these, companies like Accenture also have to battle out the issue of talent drain at the client site. It is a very serious concern of consulting organisations as employees get to spend a significant amount of their work time at the client site. The employee turnover data at Accenture shows that the main reason for turnover is the stability that the client job offers To counter client lure Accenture has made some attractive changes in tts approach to wtaff management
At Accenture employees work to meet client needs. To do so, they have to work on the client site, and therefore tend to get a little cosy with them. This closeness with the client works well most of the time, but can lead to talent drain if the clients manage to lure consultants with benefits which they think are not available to them. This, experts believe, stems largely from lack of information. Many times consultants had been known to leave Accenture for benefits that were already available to them because they were unaware of the privileges. This led the management team at Accenture to launch a series of initiatives aimed at educating employees about the various career progression opportunities available to them. Most Accenture consultants left the company for the need of stability, hence providing them with options that give them stability was important. The company, therefore, introduced manager training that could help employees access options within the organisation by using web-based tools.
The options include cross-functional shifts within the company with minimal need to shift base. Employees can bank on stability with these new options. For instance, in an HR outsourcing project, consultants work at the client site for periods as long as 10 years. Hence, shifting consultants who have been hopping around to projects like these can give them the stability they need. The company’s efforts seem to be working well. Till May 2008, 30 percent of the open positions were filled internally. Employees at Accenture have begun to look inside for the benefits and comforts they seek with the clients. This is a good trend for Accenture as losing talent can threaten not only growth but also its very survival, especially in times like these.
In addition, Accenture also provides training on how counsellors can be more sensitive to issues pertaining to a virtual workplace, particularly differences arising out of different time zones and cultures. Every employee goes through an employee joiner programme which is basically an orientation programme that educates employees about the ‘Accenture way’. The company then trains the new employees on its standardised delivery methods. All this is done under the supervision of counsellors assigned to employee. These counsellors are senior managers responsible for creating a sense of belonging among the scattered Accenture staff.
Accenture’s attempt to develop a sense of community among its staff is paying off well. Organisations working on a similar model need to learn a thing or two from the consulting giant. For those, who are still contemplating about adopting the virtual staff management model, the advice is that they should first weigh the challenges of a virtual model, and only if they have the resources to counter these challenges should they consider implementing it.
Managing Human Resources successfully is the toughest challenge organisations encounter. HR encompasses a sum total of human intelligence, skills, talents and knowledge. Organisations rely on these resources of employees for their prosperity and success.
Out of the door
Organisations often perceive employees as cost investments rather than a knowledge investment. However, employees invest their intelligence and skills in the organisation and if any of their expectations are not fulfilled, they decide to leave for a better place. The reasons for an exit could be low compensation, domestic problems or change in goals.
Research reveals that knowledge workers generally quit because of the organisation's inability to leverage employees' talents.
The exit of the traits and skills of employees is a major concern of organisations. It creates a work gap. To fill-in this gap, organisations need employees with the same skill sets. 'Knowledge Management' comes to organisations' rescue here.
"Knowledge Management embodies organisational processes that seek synergistic combination of data and information processing capacity of information technologies, and the creative and innovative capacity of human beings ," said Yogesh Malhotra, CKO, Brint institute for Knowledge Management.
Hewlett Packard Laboratories has developed an employee directory of internal experts called Connex. It helps in locating subject experts.
Knowledge Management enables organisations to impart the required knowledge to the new recruits or the successors of the exiting employees. It facilitates the enhancement of capabilities and creativity of employees.
Fusion -New perspective
Exit interviews and Knowledge Management
Conventionally, HR used exit interviews as tools to strategise employee retention, ascertain job satisfaction and design reward strategies. Questionnaires reveal the reasons for leaving, comments on the work culture, job responsibilities and remarks of the employee. The information extracted is only about the organisation. But exit interviews may be used for 'determining the knowledge necessary for performing various tasks'.
The municipal authority of the city of Toronto for instance, employed an intern to develop its database. He developed it for forwarding invoices to all domestic animal owners of the city. The intern left on completion of his job.
The governing body faced problems. The permanent employees did not know the access and execution of the programme. The capital used to develop the database became a dead investment. The loss can be attributed to the absence of an exit interview. An exit interview would have enabled sharing of the information essential for the execution of the programme.
Knowledge management and knowledge sharing avert information gaps that result from employees exiting along with their expertise and ensure continuity of work.
Knowledge capture - the essence
Exit interviews must be designed to capture work knowledge. To encapsulate employees' work knowledge, the interview must be employee and organisational specific. It must satisfy the employee and the organisation. To capture knowledge organisations require:
The organisation should first determine the objective of interview. Its primary objective should be to enhance the employees' performance. Essentially, an exit interview should concentrate and highlight, 'what, how and why' of employees' work.
"The exit interview should focus on the achievements and performance of the employee. And we try to get insights about his learning, growth, reasons for leaving etc in the interview," said Joydeep Bose, then GM, (Corporate HR), Wipro.
MphasiS, the company that designs and builds IT architecture, applications and services, is one of the few companies where exit interviews are knowledge focussed. "It helps in identifying various training needs, opportunities for supervisory skill development and improving competitiveness. Besides, they identify legal issues and provide an excellent documentation process." said Vivek Dayal, Global head, Corporate Communications.
Issues related to compensation, communication, job satisfaction, employee morale, overall work environment and comfort level with technology provided form an important part of the interview. Employees' accomplishments, approach to work and working relationship with seniors and organisation are crucial to enhancing performance.
Exit interviews ought to be planned right from the inception of the organisation. It helps in handing over responsibilities and identifies the right employee to be entrusted with the job responsibilities of the departing employee. Consequently, an efficient employee replaces the exiting employee.
Employees' inputs at handing over stage before leaving the organisations are the most significant. Organisations and concerned authorities must let them concentrate on dispensing and gathering their knowledge. This is the most productive period for the organisation as the knowledge is passed on to the successors. Exiting employees must not be coerced to finish pending works.
2-D of knowledge
Working knowledge can be segregated into-explicit and implicit knowledge. Explicit knowledge is the relevant material or content that employees use for routine work. Implicit knowledge is that which is hidden in the working pattern of the employee.
The interview should elicit the employee's explicit knowledge related to work.
The material or content used during routine work may be manually written or compiled in folders in the employee's personal computer. These folders or files should be carefully transferred to the library or some secure destination of the organisation.
Helpful notes or educational tips may be appended to this information. This imparts better understanding and eases the new employee's workload.
For implicit knowledge, organisations need to depute successors to the exiting employees prior to their departure. Capturing such knowledge needs regular interaction between the exiting employee and his successors.
Reviewing the important jobs performed by the employee is the first step. This reflects in their work plans or job descriptions. Discussing the working style and approach towards work of exiting employee is necessary. This may reveal the additional support required for perfect execution of the job.
Employees' work circuits are crucial information pools. Employees derive work knowledge from their peers and superiors. The interview should reveal these sources and their contribution. An organisation must maintain these learning relationships.
Model: questionnaire or e-mail?
Exit interviews are most effective when conducted face to face. Pre-formatted questionnaires are impersonal, exasperating and unproductive. In-person interviews help in understanding the mental, emotional and social concerns of the exiting employees better.
For effective and efficient interviews organisations need:
Interviewer: He is the soul of the interview. His skills determine the accomplishment of the interview's objectives. Outsourcing an interviewer is a viable option. Outsourced interviewers are trained and more objective and can understand and interpret the discussion with employees. Employees are more at ease to interact and part with their knowledge with an outsider.
Timing: For desired results interviews must be properly timed. The collection of information also should be timed. If the separation of the employee is not voluntary or employee is emotionally charged up at separation, the interview can be delayed. Postponement helps the employee settle down and brings out honest information. In regular cases exit interviews must be scheduled close to the separation date.
Atmosphere: An exit interview must be conducted in a congenial atmosphere. It must facilitate healthy interaction. This affects the employee's comfort levels and gives desired results.
Rapport: Organisations need to establish a 'parting relationship' with exiting employees. This is necessary as these employees might return, or the organisation might consider them for reemployment. Also the organisation may require the employees' services. Continuing relationships could help locate prospective recruits.
Follow-up: Follow-up has two tasks, documentation and analysis. Documentation is as important as the process. It aids and routes through the actual process of follow-up action. Analysis of the information gathered during the exit interview determines the necessary action to be taken. It gives a clear picture of on-the-job issues.
Employee input is in fact necessary at all stages of work. It ought not to be restricted to exit interviews only. Exit of employees cannot be anticipated. Thus, HR must encourage knowledge sharing and incorporate knowledge based exit interviews in the organisational culture and practices.
Effective exit interviews not only disclose employee related issues but also solve many business problems. They facilitate communication of employees' contributions to the organisation. Consequently, both employees and the organisation feel satisfied.
Organisations must realise the worth of their investment and the precautionary measures to be employed to retain invaluable knowledge workers and ensure profitability
The story that made headlines this past summer of the San Francisco IT administrator who locked top administrators out of the city's network for several days should spark some serious discussion among HR professionals. The incident was a classic example of what a disgruntled employee with elevated privileges can do to take down the enterprise, such as encrypting data or changing passwords to restrict access to business functions.
IT professionals perform invaluable functions – without their services, organizations could not function. On the flip side, disgruntled IT employees are generally recognized as the highest risk an organization has, as they can do irreparable damage by stealing, corrupting or restricting access to data. A recent study indicated that an incredible 88 percent of IT workers would take company secrets and remote access credentials with them if they were fired. To mitigate this staggering statistic and avoid situations similar to the one in the San Francisco lockout, HR needs to develop a close relationship with their information security staff.
Once a disgruntled IT employee gets into a position where there are red flags that he or she might be a risk to the organization, steps need to be taken to restrict that person's access to the network. Having regular contact between the HR and information security departments will help management stay informed of potential "problem" employees, which is key to approaching the entire issue of insider threats.
Keeping your organization's data secure requires the cooperation of every employee – but HR in particular should play a critical role, especially with IT professionals, starting with the hiring process. When putting together a job description for a position that will have access to the organization's information assets, such as a network or system administrator, HR needs to clearly understand the duties and responsibilities of that position. For example, how much authority is vested in a particular job? What sort of access control will be in place for this position? Effectively communicating job responsibilities requires a close relationship between HR and the information security department, yet security professionals are often left out of the process.
The organization must also place a relative value of importance upon the information in the database that is being protected. Until an organization classifies what the data is worth, it will never know how valuable it is. What would be the impact of the damage to the organization if certain data was lost? For instance, what if the company's intellectual property fell into a competitor's hands? It could put your company out of business.
Another important factor to consider in the IT hiring process is to know more about the type of person you're putting in charge of your information assets. Thorough background checks should be performed before any hiring decision is made. That means more than a simple credit check and 15-second phone call, which is all that transpires in many cases. You need to look into the past of those employees requiring elevated clearance levels to determine if there's a history of disruption or any sign of previous instability. In many instances, this type of information is not discovered until after the person has already been hired; you may then have to alter their job or even terminate them.
Once employees have been hired and put in place, the next point of consideration for HR should involve separation of duties. Giving any one position too much power is rarely a good idea. For the IT professional, there should be a clear separation of duties, whereby one person doesn't have complete network control or authority. It is advisable to divide network responsibilities between at least two people to prevent significant changes within the IT infrastructure. Even if the two positions are totally independent of one another, the position descriptions should be linked to communicate that no one person will have sole responsibility for a particular function, such as access to changing passwords across the entire network.
Companies need to be especially aware of employee behaviour during difficult times. Actions such as layoffs, lack of bonuses or pay increases, or turning an employee down for a promotion can prompt some people to want to 'make themselves more important' – escalating their privileges to give themselves additional responsibilities and control. Companies need to be aware of suspicious behaviour within their network. Therefore, an independent, knowledgeable party such as an information security professional should consistently review network logs to check who has accessed various portions of the database and network. Your company's network(s) and databases must also be segmented with access control best practices in place.
If bad company news, or even the rumour of bad news, is on the horizon, HR should alert the security person to be on the lookout for suspicious behaviour. For example, if there is a massive change of passwords by one individual, or someone suddenly has more authority than they had before, that individual needs to be closely monitored or even isolated until a sufficient investigation can occur. Enforced vacations and job rotations are sometimes necessary for those holding highly sensitive positions.
Any time an organization tries to cut corners with their security and doesn't have enough people in place to provide a separation of duties, the organization runs the risk of putting all their eggs in one basket. The days when it was satisfactory to perform a 'minimum' level of security are gone. Having a second person in place that can understand the technology and undo any damage – or prevent the damage from happening in the first place – is crucial to any organization's well-being.
"The fact that satisfaction with leadership is declining says that organizations are not keeping up with the demand," said Ann Howard, chief scientist at DDI. "Part of that might be because leadership is hard, things are changing and it's hard to keep up, but our research said that's probably a minor part of the problem.
"Howard said organizations can do a lot better in employees' confidence in leadership, but it requires effort. There are several major issues. First, many organizations have a leadership development program, but that programming may not offer the right kinds of learning opportunities.
"When we asked leaders what are the most effective ways that you learn and enhance your skills, they pointed to on-the-job types of experiences, and organizations just aren't as forthcoming with that kind of thing: special projects either inside or outside your job, or moving to a different position specifically to enhance your skills," Howard explained.
"For multinational leaders, that's often an international assignment. Organizations will do online programs that teach you about various skills of leadership, they have a lot of workshops, coaching and so on, but that is really just an introduction to the subject.
"Real leadership development likely has to take place, at least in some form, in the actual workplace. Further, the greater the number of methods organizations use to develop leaders, the more effective their development will be. Howard said it's often not a matter of switching from one type of learning to another. It's about including those on-the-job elements to make the development real and offer leaders opportunities to practice their new skills.
Another issue impeding leaders' development is a lack of follow-up after a development program. Howard said the program in question might be a good one, but its potential impact is wasted if learning stops when leaders get back to the workplace and there is no real-time application or feedback.
"Senior management isn't held accountable in a great number of cases, and [development] may not be aligned with other systems in the organization," Howard said. "If you want a leader to be innovative; then you have to reward innovation. It needs to be in your performance management system, for example. Those kinds of things aren't done. Very often a leader will come back from a development experience, and the manager doesn't have the skills to reinforce that.
"But Howard said one of the biggest holes the DDI survey revealed was a lack of measurement."There's not very much monitoring of what's going on or calling on the carpet because this or that didn't get done," she said. "HR can put together a very nice development program, but it dies in the workplace if it doesn't get consistently reinforced. For example, 44 percent of leaders said they don't have an individual development plan.
"The companies that do have plans in place often lack specific objectives, undermining their usefulness, Howard said. Also, succession management often isn't systematic, and companies "don't identify high potentials early. They don't have programs to develop them, and they're not filling up a pipeline of qualified leaders."
"There's a lot of difficult challenges as you work your way up the leadership ladder. We asked leaders, for example, how difficult was it to make a transition from first-level to mid-level or from mid-level to a higher-level position, and it's very difficult. The higher you get the more difficult it is, and yet a lot of organizations don't have any program to help people through those transition periods.
"One group of leaders that is particularly neglected is those in multinational assignments, the survey revealed. These leaders might be expats going to work in another country, but also could include leaders advancing up the career ladder who supervise and coordinate global work efforts.
Howard said even if a leader will not live and work abroad, he or she still needs to understand different cultures and how people operate in those environments.
"You're dealing with ambiguous environments. It's more complex, and you may have to adapt your behavior if it's not acceptable somewhere else. These are tough jobs; yet, when we asked leaders who had those kinds of jobs what they thought of their preparation, over 60 percent said it was fair or poor. That's really bad.
"As the world gets smaller and more and more companies work internationally, this is becoming a bigger and bigger need, but organizations don't seem to be taking it seriously enough."
Ref: Kellye Whitney
Creating a culture of learning begins with emphasizing the value of workforce development. Sustaining it entails collaboration among learners, as well as alignment of programs to key organizational goals.
Learning cultures thrive in organizations that consistently reinforce the value of learning. These organizations encourage information- seekers, facilitate educational experiences and consistently demonstrate a commitment to learning by defining the culture in actions, not words.
Learning is not a one-time event. Effective and meaningful corporate cultures understand learning is an essential part of the fabric of the company, woven into all roles, functions, divisions and regions of the organization. Placing value on learning and creating an open environment creates an enduring organization and provides the ultimate source of sustainability.
Too often, education on corporate values and principles is addressed in silos. Corporate attitudes and behaviors are heavily influenced by an organization's culture, and the culture is shaped by the organization mission, core values and traditions. In a healthy learning culture, education is visible in all aspects of the business - so learning penetrates the entire organization to foster a culture of interactivity and engagement. In the case of a company's ethics and compliance education, a company's values come to life in actions that provide competitive advantage to the organization.
This holistic approach to learning - including the company's values, ethical decision making and business risks - is necessary in creating a learning culture. Yet, too often, education is applied to meet compliance standards or the minimums of the law and not necessarily designed to foster a values-based culture.
Evolving Into a Values-Based Learning Culture
Global businesses are faced with a number of new and more complex challenges than ever before regarding how people connect, collaborate and work cohesively and productively. Trend data from LRN's "2008 Ethics and Compliance Risk Management Practices Report," which surveyed more than 420 global companies, shows that one-quarter of organizations have a desire to engage employees in learning, but are challenged to put their corporate values and integrity into action.
When an organization seeks to transform its corporate culture through values-based learning, it is best to initiate the tone from the top and ask executives to define the overall culture to determine whether they consider it to be a learning culture. This assessment should touch a representative sample of organizational stakeholders, in addition to the leadership team - which may include customers, shareholders, suppliers, as well as employees.
Next, a thorough assessment of current programs assists in evaluating the attitudes and perceptions of the organization's learning culture. This assessment should reach employees across roles, functions and geographies to gather a balanced perspective of their educational experiences. The results should be compared to highlight any key commonalities that are important to maintain. However, it also is important to identify any discrepancies in perceptions of the overall culture, as well as the educational programs, to create an action plan that moves the company toward a truly aligned learning culture.
Shifting attitudes and transforming behavior do not happen overnight, but leveraging multiple learning channels within an organization is an excellent avenue to engage the workforce through awareness building and activities that can slowly shift the tide. The focus of any initiative cannot begin and end with awareness, but should repeat consistent bits of information, facilitate forums for informal learning and create a sandbox for learners to test and socialize information, shift attitudes and, ultimately, increase knowledge retention. This type of collaborative learning takes education from the individual development approach and creates a connected environment that builds the foundation of a learning culture.
The work of Judith Harris, author of The Nurture Assumption, challenges the whole way we look at teaching. Her work showed that, historically, the perspective on teaching overestimates the influence of parents and teachers, and underestimates the role of peer pressure. There are some real and practical steps to enhance learning by working with peers in team environments.
As companies work to create a more engaging educational program, they should not lose sight of how best to educate their workforces on mission-critical information in meaningful and sustainable ways. Organizations need to avoid implementing learning initiatives as a one-way communication, risking information overload. Pushing out content onto a corporate intranet, in the hopes that learners read and absorb the information, satisfies a "check the box" approach to education but does not represent a culture of learning.
For example, if an organization is launching a new environmental, health and safety policy, posting a set of compliance rules communicates to the enterprise that leadership is taking a passive approach to education, whereas some organizations take an additional step, requiring their workforces to electronically certify that they have read, understand and agree to abide by the policy. This sends a message that leadership deems these policies critical to the business.
Yet, posting a policy and successfully obtaining certification is only the first step to raise awareness. Where most organizations assume their work is done, a true learning culture believes the education has just begun. The next step is to ensure the workforce understands how to apply the policy in real-life situations it faces in daily work life. We know that recall is enhanced by learning in the context in which one is expected to perform. Yet, most teaching is done in alien environments such as classrooms, training centers or in bland online formats. So create an ideal blended approach that incorporates awareness building, knowledge building and skill building through peer interactions.
Enabling the workforce to translate rules into actions empower the business, mitigates risk and builds a cohesive corporate culture that ideally becomes a self-governing one. Once the awareness around a topic is achieved, it is important to foster a rich learning culture in order to educate, not just inform. This can be achieved by designing a suite of learning experiences that trigger the learner's personal relevance in the equation of the compliance topic.
Learning experiences can take on many shapes and forms, such as interactive modules that enhance the learning experience - to help the learner connect the dots from policy awareness to application. As noted by the Peer Research Laboratory at the Graduate School of the City University of New York, adults retain 10 percent of what is read, 20 percent of what is heard and 80 percent of what is experienced, so it is important to consider experiential learning, which can be facilitated through a variety of learning tools such as live workshops, virtual worlds or interactive gaming. These are all extremely effective ways to turn awareness into knowledge. In a global environment, these learning experiences should be localized to align with regional guidelines.
After awareness building, a guided application of the policies can empower learners to see their ownership in the experience and facilitate greater understanding and relevance. This results in a more compelling and meaningful learning experience and sends a message about the value the organization places on knowledge building. From William James and John Dewey through to David Kolb and Roger Schank, there has been a torrent of theory showing that we learn more by doing; yet, much teaching and training is locked into theoretical knowledge and not a skills-based model. There is hardly a training subject that would not benefit from a boost in experiential learning.
Learner Expertise and Knowledge Sharing
Global audiences today thrive in forums of personalized learning and creative expression. They are self-authoring content and emerging as amateur filmmakers and photographers. Innovations to connect and build knowledge have arrived through collaborative tools such as blogs, wikis, photo streams and machinima clips (animated movies created with gaming technology).
High-impact learning cultures recognize the value in user-generated content and embrace this next generation of tools. Perhaps the easiest and simplest piece of learning theory to put into practice is chunking, which means being sensitive to the limitation of working memory.
Less is more in learning, and it is important to distill information for the adult learner, rather than enhancing, elaborating and creating distracting noise. Additionally, a lack of understanding about how memory works leads to a lack of preparation of material in terms of size of content, order and engagement, which leads to weak encoding, a lack of deep processing and, ultimately, poor retention and recall. In creating a learning culture, it is essential to engage and educate the workforce often with small interactions and incorporate peer and direct manager discussions into the program.
As the workforce continues to grow through globalization, we must remember the value of relationships and the connection between people as an essential element to consider throughout the enterprise. The fabric of any organization's culture is built upon relationships that evolve over time through communication and connections. In a global culture, the core is strengthened by fostering a learning environment that supports relationship building through activities, such as peer collaboration, or particular platforms that allow colleagues to have a dialogue around successes and failures.
Preserving a learning culture requires keeping the learner population at the forefront of the company's strategy. When there are marketplace changes or competitive challenges, it is critical that an organization's learning environment is flexible and prepared to augment its program to support the business.
Today, organizations are challenged to maximize operational performance while increasing retention and driving workforce productivity. Sustained learning cultures build strategies and processes that give them visibility into how talent allocation best aligns with organizational goals and needs. This includes alignment on the cultures, values and mission of organizations. Mature learning organizations recognize this and focus on talent-driven initiatives through performance management processes that integrate values into career development and succession planning.
Taking a strategic approach to succession planning is a powerful catalyst for organizational transformation, growth and development, and ultimately drives cultural sustainability. Developing the skills and talents of the next generation of leaders and transferring institutional knowledge into practical business applications will contribute to ongoing business success and a sustainable advantage.
Ref: Marsha Ershaghi
Technology may have made things easier for recruiting managers, but it s beginning to show its evil side as managers go overboard with it... .....
Technology has indeed been a blessing. The reaction time to any problem has been slashed over a hundred times and leaders, managers and the worker fraternity in general is more connected now than ever before. However , like all good things, the positive streak of technology too can fade if it's taken too far. Critics who play down the role of technology, have always condemned the way technology has eroded the personal touch among people. In addition, they blame it for the way managers use it for the sake of speed and not quality. Amidst the brickbats, technology has emerged as a force to reckon with and has undoubtedly redefined the way business is done.
Technology is secular. It has touched every aspect of business however little it may be. And the human resources function is no exception. In fact the role of technology in the arena of staff management has been incredible and today the function has become completely technology-driven. The function right from the recruiring stage to the exit interview and everything that comes in between is largely driven by technology. While this may be seen as a revolution of sorts by some, for many such aggressive takeover is beginning to take its toll on the efficiency with which the function is meant to be executed. And according to analysts the first casualty is the recruiting function.
A recent forum on "Technology and Its Application in the Human Resources Function", conducted at the Town's hall , at Vancouver , presented a rather scary picture of what awaits us in the near future . A few speakers at the forum unintentionally spelt horror for the recruiting function. They were rather candid about the way they recruit and the role of technology in their recruiting process. One of the speakers went to the extent of saying that thanks to technology there is no real need of meeting the candidate or even speaking to him. Recruiting managers can make their decision by simply exchanging mails !
The trend is indeed horrifying. How can one replace personal relationships that we by virtue of being humans share with everything that we come in contact with? Reducing the potency of a relationship to a mere click of a button can be damaging to the very basis on which an organisation is built . If every recruiting manager were to select recruits on the basis of the mails exchanged then the concept of a "competitive edge" or a "differentiating factor" will not be there at all since everybody would be doing exactly the same thing. Moreover in such a technologically- intensive scenario , the need for any other staff management initiative too would seem redundant as people would barely interact personally and even if they did it would only happen in case of a system crash.
The scenario can be nerve- wrecking and therefore it's time recruiting managers wake up and understand that technology is only a tool and it can by no standards be used to replace relationships.
Do not stray. When recruiting managers lose perspective of the core issue , the entire exercise fails. In this case, recruiting managers must understand that recruitment is like sales, and they are the salesmen. Their main job therefore is to sell the job And sales is a process that needs human interaction. Hence handing over this process to technology can sabotage the defining purpose of the activity and therefore may not give the desired outcome. Understanding that technology is a mere tool to accomplish the objectives of the sales activity, which is recruiting in this case would help recruiting managers keep technology in its right place.
A typical sales activity needs four basic pre-requisites for its success. These include:
Each of these factors is relevant even as we see recruiting as a sales strategy. Hence recruiting managers must use technology in the third stage where difficulties hampering the activity need to be overcome by use of means that are both time and cost-effective.
Understanding how technology can aid the process of recruiting will help recruiting managers maximise their efficiencies. However, if they let technology drive the process then the intended benefit may fizzle out and the process efficiency would be affected adversely. The best solution therefore would be to integrate the benefits of technology with the recruiting process in a way that helps maximise its efficiency.
Q: What are the steps in developing an effective executive selection process?-
A: Finding superior performers is a challenge for any organization, especially at the executive level. There are many factors to consider, so we have highlighted some key steps to take when engaging in an executive-level candidate search:
Once all of these steps have been completed, you can feel confident that you have found the most qualified, best-suited candidate for the position and the organization. However, your process shouldn't end there. Be sure you have a concrete onboarding and development plan to build employee engagement to secure retention.
Organisations often find it difficult to shelve projects that aren't viable. The initial enthusiasm that keeps the interest of the project team members doesn't allow them to kill the project, thereby crippling organisational success. Is it loyalty or obsession?
Faith and belief
Well, whatever the reason, it is definitely not because of poor management or bossy lethargy! According to Isabelle Royer, University of Paris, it is the undaunting faith and belief in the likely success of the project.
Belief and faith...at the cost of the organisation? A million dollar question! Logically speaking, the answer would be negative. So, does reason take over blind faith?
True, and quite contrarily, beliefs could be collective! A collective belief is a strong conviction based on the affective component of the mind not on the cognitive. Implying thereby that feelings, rather than evidence that a project can actually succeed, support collective beliefs. The belief originates basically from a project manager who champions the cause of defending the project, and it percolates throughout the organisation.
A collective belief system could lead an otherwise rational organisation into an irrational one. While the strongly held conviction peps up employees' enthusiasm, it obviously has a darker side to it. This overshadows the negative feedback received from vendors and customers. Negative feedback could, in the long run, be disastrous to the organisation.
Essilor, the world's largest maker of corrective lenses for eyeglasses, abandoned its innovative product after shelling out millions of dollars in initial investment. The initial demand for the new lens that Essilor had created was lukewarm. However, managers ruled out the consequences of the problem as the 'soon-to-be-solved' technical problem, unmindful that the market was unaware of the problem.
Collective belief of the managers at Essilor diluted the normal organisation procedures and safeguards. Managers at Essilor resorted to a go-error, quite an unviable option in times of calamity. Essilor substituted the two-year durability tests with that of the shorter, less reliable ones of just six months to adhere to the aggressive development schedule. Though the lens company had clear procedures for testing the lens during development these were never followed. The other tests produced negative results and were ignored. As one Essilor manager averred: "The decision to launch was implicit. It was just a question of when".
Lafarge, the largest producer of building materials, had plans to build a plant for an industrial additive. The test results for the product were unfavourable and the decision to build the plant premature. However, the manager anticipated success in carrying forward the project. He did so only to realise that his faith in the project took his company into the doldrums.
Cost of conviction
When the belief in a task is strong, the situation is the gravest. Collective belief inhibits project members from identifying problems. Even though acknowledged, those problems cannot be identified as symptoms of failure. Collective belief overshadows regular organisational policies in safeguarding the interests of the organisation.
A common reason for collective belief is the inherent initial enthusiasm that could lead to unrealistic goal setting. Widespread enthusiasm might also lead to the formation of a cognitively diverse project team. Fulfilling team goals therefore becomes hard. Many a time, the decision makers' faith in the project results in lack of clear decision criteria. Unclear decisions lead to ambiguous information, in turn resulting in a stronger belief in the project's success.
Ideally, two types of safeguards could be built before pushing forward a project. These, along with the dynamic role of the project champions and the exit champions, will help kill the unviable project.
Project teams have members who share the initial enthusiasm. Since the members volunteer to work, they could be considered self-selected teams. The expertise of the team members helps them develop the intelligence system to anticipate others' moves. However, warning signals are invariably ignored owing to the deep-rooted belief in the success of the project. Therefore, it would be ideal to include dissenters of the project along with a group of believers in forming a project team.
Avoiding the go-error requires the companies to impose strict control procedures to evaluate the project viability in the initial stages. Essilor and Lafarge have effective internal controls called "stage gates" that act as entry barriers to impracticable projects.
Killers aboard- the exit champions
Championing the cause of killing doomed projects are the "Exit Champions". They stop the failing projects from being carried further. They look into lenient procedures and shatter the blind faith and belief of the project members in the interest of the organisation. Exit champions initialise the cause of defending the exit from an unviable project. They convince the believers that it is better to shelve a dead project. The process however involves a thorough evaluation.
The first and foremost job of any exit champion is to rectify the collective belief of the team members.
Project champions vs. exit champions?
Unlike a project champion who sustains the collective belief, an exit champion takes the initiative to support the exit from a doomed project. While project champions are believers, exit champions are dissenters. Believers credit the dissenters with lack of competence. Exit champions remove the ambiguity in which the project champions work, in a foolproof manner. The former restores procedures that the latter overrides.
However, both have the unassuming quality to take up unassigned critical roles and have the determination to overcome obstacles. Therefore, a blend of both is essential in a project team to back up the initial enthusiasm with logic and reason.
Out of the maze
To avoid collective belief from strengthening its roots, it would do well if the top management formed the project team with a diverse section of employees who are sceptical about the potential problems. Exit champions need to be viewed as 'supporters of the organisation ' and 'not as dissenters of the project '. Differentiating exit champions from the naysayers, who always voice negative opinions is like rewarding them for their credibility. Encouraging sceptics in a team would lead to constructive conflict, which helps in better evaluations and decisions. And not to forget, challenges to the popular project must be rewarded.
Therefore, matching personal expectations with those of the organisation to accumulate success must be the prime objective of the team members. Employees must however practice the principle that is ritualistically followed by an exit champion of a company: " When I work, I need to believe in what I do. I don't want to waste time on something that is worthless."
Whenever there is a downturn in economic conditions, one of the first knee-jerk reactions that many CFOs and senior managers take is placing a freeze on all hiring, pay raises, budgets, and promotions.
The effect of long-term hiring freezes is particularly damaging to the recruiting function, because "no hiring" generally means that a majority of recruiters will be laid off. Historically, budgets for recruiting have been cut so low that the function is literally decimated, making it rather difficult for companies to resurrect a decent function when the economy swings up.
Many executives think that the decision to institute some sort of resource freeze is one that helps the organization because it contains costs; however, the opposite is more often the case.
Poorly thought-out freezes that impact talent acquisition and other talent-management activities may actually harm the organization by:
Rather than waiting for the inevitable announcement of a freeze, recruiters need to be proactive and preempt any such silliness long before it occurs by making the business case for leveraging this time to re-architect the talent acquisition function, upgrade its strategic programs, and trade up the talent population while salaries and vendor costs can be negotiated down significantly.
(Incidentally, you can tell when a hiring freeze is imminent because they are almost always preceded by the infamous "paper clip memo" from the CFO, which limits the purchase of office supplies, magazine subscriptions, and travel).
Because every organization is unique, there is no one magic way to structure the business case, but I have put together a list of arguments that you can select from:
A) Negative impacts on revenue and costs
Obviously, not expanding your staff or keeping open positions vacant can save payroll dollars in the short term. However, such savings may actually present a false reality because freezes have many other unintended consequences that CFOs often fail to account for:
B) Retention impacts
C) Missing out on talent opportunities
D) Reduced innovation and technological capability
E) Additional negative impacts of freezes
Rather than instituting across-the-board freezes, educate managers about the different options they have for cutting costs and increasing revenues:
Any review of history will reveal that the majority of wealth in modern civilizations is more often than not created during times of significant economic crisis.
Opportunities abound for those organizations that are truly strategic, but as we all know, lots of people talk about being strategic but few really are. Now is the time for talent management to step up and proactively re-engineer antiquated practices and programs, and to embed talent management activities throughout core business processes while the organization can accommodate change.
If you wait until things are moving fast once again, you won't have time to be strategic; you'll be too busy catching up!
Ref: John Sullivan