Friday, July 30, 2010

Make the connection

Senior leaders should take the lead on employee engagement - for the sake of the organization

With vast cutbacks and recruitment freezes on the horizon the delivery of services and meeting the high expectations of the public makes these challenges times for the civil service.

To deal with these challenges leaders need to tap into employee engagement. Employee engagement is a state of mind, a positive attitude where individuals are happy to channel their energies into the application of work.

Senior leaders play a vital role in cultivating this attitude and are in a primary position to set the culture and values of the workplace and provide the some of the conditions that foster engagement.

Be a role model and connect with your people

Take an active interest in your people. A few minutes building a relationship is time well spent. Involve people and give them the responsibility to provide input on the decisions that affect them. Be honest and straight forward with people and demonstrate the moral courage to deal with difficult decisions.

Wen things do not work out make sure you take full responsibility. Make use of all formal and informal opportunities to communicate with your people and keep them fully informed with what is going on in the organisation.

It is also important to lead by example and model the attitudes and behaviours you could like to see in others. It is easy to overlook how often people look to their leaders and pick up on their behaviours and actions.

Culture and climate

Provide the opportunities for feedback and consider and act on that feedback. Staff surveys are only a small part of this. Actively encourage people to voice their views and opinions and demonstrate an appreciation for this, and if employees suggestions are not feasible take the time to fully explain why.

Acknowledge people's contributions and reward people for their effort. Recognition can have an immense effect on a person. Highlight where mistakes have been made but do not chastise individuals for this. Focus on the learning that can result from mistakes. These actions help to create a workplace where people feel secure and valued.


People are often concerned with their own development. Committing to staff development shows that the organisation is prepared to invest in their people and values their people. You cannot rely on development budgets and training courses alone for this. You must provide the opportunity for people to apply and demonstrate new skills and knowledge. Development can be achieved by placing people in situations where they address new challenges, and can learn from others, as well as teaching others what they know.


Remind people of what the organisation, the department and the team are trying to achieve and where they fit into this. Create a line of sight from individuals' roles to the future achievements of the organisation and highlight the benefits for the public in meeting these goals. Make the effort to know what values your people hold and align these with what the organisation is trying to achieve and how the organisation is planning to do this. This can create a sense of purpose and pride in what people are doing.

This is about people, connecting with people, valuing people, supporting people and developing people. Employee engagement is related to many positive outcomes; productivity, employee wellbeing, and job satisfaction, just to name a few, and leaders cannot let this be undervalued in the current climate. Click here to read the full article.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Serious games and learning

Check out this report from Eludamos: Journal for Computer Game Culture, regarding the relationship between serious games and learning. The study takes a look at gaming technology and how industry advances may seriously affect, and enhance the learning process. Click here to download the report.

Infogroup announces findings of employee engagement study

Infogroup, a leading provider of global market and business research, announced yesterday the findings of its 2010 employee research study, which examined comparative levels of employee engagement across the globe. A key finding from the study offered insight into the degree to which US employees are interested in striving for and staying with their current employer.

“However, less attention has been given to the impact of high engagement from an employee perspective. We now measure sustainable engagement through our Healthy Workplace Index, and this helps ensure that high levels of engagement can be maintained without leading to burn-out.”

Compared to other countries, the USA performed strongly on certain aspects of engagement, ranking 6th out of the 17 countries included in the survey, with India ranking #1. The findings also indicated that US employees tend to be more positive about striving for their organization and are motivated by their organization to contribute more than is normally required in their work (54% positive, 5 percentage points above the global norm). They are also more likely to recommend their organization as a place to work compared to the global norm (57% positive, 6 percentage points above the global norm). However, intentions to stay with their organization for the next 12 months are below the global norm by six percentage points. “As employees’ motivation is high and commitment is in line with the global norm, this may suggest that portfolio careers are a more prominent feature of US culture,” said Lisa Wojtkowiak of ORC’s Employee Research practice. “To increase the length of stay for employees, it is not only important to measure employee engagement, but to ensure engagement will be sustainable by creating a healthy workplace.”

On the issue of healthy workplaces, the US ranked joint third with Australia and Switzerland, with a Healthy Workplace Index score of 57% or 5 points above the global norm. US employees were more likely to say that health and safety issues are taken seriously in their organization, and that there are policies in place to support employees who experience stress or pressure. “Employee Engagement has long been regarded as important for an organization’s success,” Wojtkowiak said. “However, less attention has been given to the impact of high engagement from an employee perspective. We now measure sustainable engagement through our Healthy Workplace Index, and this helps ensure that high levels of engagement can be maintained without leading to burn-out.” Click here to read the full report.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Ethics, corporate responsibility, and digital media

The issue of ethics in the business world is a hot topic at present, as confirmed by the Institute of Directors and other similar organizations. Reputations are built and destroyed in the commercial world by personal and corporate ethics, and they are a key part to our individual careers, our relationships and commercial success. Yet, there is little public discussion about them and the enormous role they play.

Every person, in both their professional and personal lives, experience situations that test their own personal value systems and moral frameworks. These situations may come to define our successes, failures and reputations. The globalized world of business and culture is changing ever more quickly, and many of these changes will have their effect felt, not just in our private lives, but also in the commercial worlds we inhabit.

Every major industrialized economy in the world is in a situation that is unprecedented (Jones Lang LaSalle 2009) and so the wider changes that are occurring will need careful consideration to how our ethical frameworks will fit with them.

How do we make the most of these new economic circumstances and play a positive personal and corporate role, in the wider socio-economic world we inhabit? What role do ethics have to play in mission statements? How do we navigate differences in values and resolve tensions between revenue and customer satisfaction? Click here to read some tips and advice!

Corporate responsibility a must in retaining talent

It is by now an article of faith that employees who are skilled, creative and driven to satisfy customers are essential for differentiating a company from its competitors. Increasingly, success comes from being able to attract, motivate and retain a talented pool of workers. However, with a finite number of extraordinary employees to go around, the competition for them is fierce.

There is growing evidence that a company's corporate social responsibility activities comprise a legitimate, compelling and increasingly important way to attract and retain good employees. For example, in a bid to burnish their images as socially responsible companies and thereby attract and retain talent, CEOs of high-profile companies such as Home Depot, Delta Air Lines and SAP recently pledged to deploy millions of employee volunteers to work on various community projects. Their efforts appear to make sense: Jim Copeland, Jr., former CEO of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, puts it this way: “The best professionals in the world want to work in organizations in which they can thrive, and they want to work for companies that exhibit good corporate corporate culture..." Click here to read the full article.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Entrepreneurs get an edge playing videogames

In the early 2000s Silicon Valley-based business guru John Hagel III was involved in a high-tech startup and hired Stephen Gillett, a young man right out of college. Less than a half-dozen years later, Gillett was named a senior vice president and chief information officer for Starbucks--the youngest CIO of a Fortune 500 company at that time.

And Hagel thinks he knows a primary reason for his one-time employee's meteoric rise. Everything that Gillett needed to know, Hagel said, he learned while becoming a guild leader in the popular online game World of Warcraft.
The co-chairman of a tech-oriented strategy center for Deloitte LLP, Hagel told the annual Wharton Leadership Conference that Gillett--just like other top players on the massive online multi-player game, with an estimated 8 million participants--reached out independently to build a large team of allies that solved complex problems and developed winning strategies.

Guild leaders in World of Warcraft "require a high degree of influence," noted Hagel, a successful author and longtime consultant. "You have to be able to influence and persuade people--not order them to do things. Ordering people in most of these guilds doesn't get you far."

The look inside World of Warcraft and its relevance for today's complicated business environment was part of a recent research project and book by Hagel and two co-authors--John Seely Brown and Lang Davison--that examines how companies re-invent and revive themselves by moving away from secretive, proprietary shops and toward a more open, collaborative business model. Their findings resulted in the recent publication of The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion.

The bottom line, they found, is that American companies will continue to fall behind their counterparts in emerging markets such as China or India unless they move toward what Hagel called "the edge," which is where passionate, change-driven employees collaborate with others on the kind of innovations that prevent a company from seeing its core business model slowly erode. "The only thing that succeeds," Hagel said, "is to take those initiatives on the edge and pull more and more of the core out to those edges--rather than trying to pull them back in." He asserted that chief executives who stick to the conventional wisdom and cling to secretive proprietary business systems are doomed to fail. Click here to read the full article.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Knowledge management strategies that create value

There is no one-size-fits-all way to effectively tap a firm's intellectual capital. To create value, companies must focus on how knowledge is used to build critical capabilities.

A firm that had invested millions of dollars in a state-of-the-art intranet intended to improve knowledge sharing got some bad news: Employees were using it most often to retrieve the daily menu from the company cafeteria. The system was barely used in day-to-day business activities.

Few executives would argue with the premise that knowledge management is critical—but few know precisely what to do about it. There are numerous examples of knowledge-management programs intended to improve innovation, responsiveness and adaptability that fall short of expectations. Researchers at the Accenture Institute for Strategic Change have been exploring the roots of the problem and have developed a method to help executives make effective knowledge management a reality in their organizations.

Knowledge management is still a relatively young field, with new concepts emerging constantly. Often, it is portrayed simplistically; discussions typically revolve around blanket principles that are intended to work across the organization. For example, companies are urged to emulate knowledge-management leaders such as British Petroleum and Skandia. And most knowledge-management initiatives have focused almost entirely on changes in tools and technologies, such as intranets and Lotus Notes.

These approaches have little relevance for executives contending with the day-to-day reality of running a company. Knowledge management is complex and multifaceted; it encompasses everything the organization does to make knowledge available to the business, such as embedding key information in systems and processes, applying incentives to motivate employees and forging alliances to infuse the business with new knowledge. Effective knowledge management requires a combination of many organizational elements—technology, human resource practices, organizational structure and culture—in order to ensure that the right knowledge is brought to bear at the right time.

Many companies have implemented sophisticated intranets, common repositories and other systems, largely ignoring the complex cultural issues that influence the way people behave around knowledge. By and large, those companies have seen little improvement in their ability to manage knowledge. Too often, companies implement state-of-the-art technology and then discover that culture and behavior are slow to change.

In short, simplistic solutions and "one-size-fits-all" approaches leave executives with little in the way of practical advice about how to transform the entire knowledge-management system. What's more, this fuzziness makes it difficult for executives to see a clear link between their knowledge-management investments and business value. Click here to read the full article.

Do serious games work? See the results of 3 studies

"Military recruits and entry-level civilians of today not only understand technology in everyday use; they expect it," says Mark Oehlert, the Department of Defense's director of Game and Simulation department at the Defense Aquisition University.

These young workers are digital natives, raised in an environment where they were surrounded by inexpensive, yet highly interactive systems. Today's college generation grew up with video games from infancy. With games and technology at their fingertips, they process more information faster, and in a much different way, than most older people do.

See the study. Read the report. Click here.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A new strategy for employee engagement

The weakness of the economic recovery has real implications for the workforce -- and for HR executives charged with maximizing worker engagement and productivity. Do the typical initiatives to increase employee engagement work in this environment?

Aggressive head count reductions have interrupted talent strategies at many top companies. As smart employers strengthen the value proposition and focus on engagement (anything to increase engagement is a good thing), others are losing valuable contributors and dropping the ball on important training and staff-development programs.

There is a better way:

Beware the scourge of overwork. The average "job footprint" has increased by 1/3 in the recession, with the reward being frozen pay and shrinking perks. While so far workers have felt lucky to keep their jobs, workers who claim to be "disengaged" has doubled to 20% -- "engagement" as a vital source of innovation and creativity is evaporating.

Address emotional as well as economic needs. In The Why of Work: How Great Leaders Build Abundant Organizations that Win, Dave and Wendy Ulrich focus on a notion of "abundance" and suggest a list of seven questions for leaders to ask:

Who am I?
Where am I going?
Whom do I travel with?
How do I build a positive work environment?
What challenges interest me?
How do I change, learn and grow?
What delights me?

While these questions seem unrelated to the bottom line, the answers can provide a powerful catalyst to engagement - and customer satisfaction and profitability.

Broad-based employment gains from entry-level positions to senior management are coming… are you ready?

Read the full story from HRE Online.

Human capital management predicts stock prices

Human capital management is fast emerging as an essential core competency (possibly the essential core competency) for organizations.

Firms that invest significantly in training and developing their employees generally outperform the market. Investment managers would be well-served to pay attention to broad measures of human capital management as a factor in portfolio selection. Engagement = Revenue.

With very few exceptions, an organization's greatest assets do indeed "walk out the door" at the end of each business day. For those who are eager to measure human capital more accurately, who then wish to create a much greater return on investments in human resources for their organization, The ROI of Human Capital is a must read on this subject. This book is an absolutely indispensable resource for helping to achieve these objectives.

For most human resource professionals, measurement remains a critical area of weakness. To allow their organizations to tap the full potential of human capital as a source of competitive advantage, HR strategists need to engage the emerging field of human capital analytics. This would make it possible for organizations to develop and execute human capital strategies that are grounded in actionable business intelligence - rather than relying on the old standbys (intuition, one-size-fits all benchmarking, or accepted measurement myths within the HR profession).

Only then will organizations truly reap the benefits of unleashing their employees’ full capabilities.

For more see the White Paper.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Does employee engagement really drive productivity?

The subject of employee engagement as a measure of productivity and management strategies to increase engagement have been hot topics since the original Gallup organization research was published.

The Gallup organization defined employee engagement as "an employee's involvement with, commitment to, and satisfaction with work." Research conducted in the past decade has shown that employee engagement has declined significantly in most industries, with some research citing as few as 29% of employees being actively engaged in their jobs. The Hay Group found in its research that in among office workers who were actively engaged, they were 43% more productive. Various research studies have shown that the following factors influence employee engagement: Employers' commitment to and concern for employee welfare; employee perceptions of job importance; clarity of job expectations; career advancement opportunities; regular dialogue with superiors; quality of working relationships with co-workers and superiors; perceptions of the ethos and values of the organization; and employee rewards and recognition. Click here to read the full article.

Social media and employee communications

AON Consulting published a study which looks at the relationship between social media and employee communications. It's fascinating... and it's free... so check it out!

Click here to download the full report for free

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Employee well-being: more serious than you may think!

Your well-being is a serious business matter. And so is your employees'. It affects profits and productivity, for better and for worse.

The pressure to undo the damage of the past few years may tempt the leaders of many businesses to focus only on the balance sheet and ignore what turns out to be a quantifiable and manageable lever that is proven to affect the bottom line: the well-being of workers. You might assume that well-being is a "soft" issue and not a management problem to solve. That would be a mistake.

It turns out that well-being, like many other management matters, is both quantifiable and manageable. After extensive research, in partnership with leading economists, psychologists, sociologists, physicians and other scientists, and various in-depth analyses, including random samples from more than 150 countries spanning 98% of the world population, the Gallup Organization have identified five universal, interconnected elements that represent what people across nationalities, faiths and cultures look for in life and what causes them to thrive. They are:

Career well-being, meaning how you occupy your time and simply liking what you do each day.

Social well-being, having strong relationships and love in your life.

Financial well-being, effectively managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase your feeling of financial security.

Physical well-being, having good health and enough energy to get things done throughout the day.

Community well-being, your sense of engagement and involvement with the area in which you live.

People with high levels of well-being in all five of these categories thrive, and those with low levels of well-being in even one category suffer. And as individuals go, so go their workplaces. When organizations invest in their employees' well-being they reap significant reductions in costs and increases in value over time.

Employees with thriving well-being are also much more likely to be engaged in their workplaces, and thus are more productive and cost-effective. Additionally, they help improve their communities and the brands of the organizations that employ them. It's clear that what's best for the employee is best for the organization. Increasing employee well-being means a more efficient and higher-performing organization. Click here to read the full article.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Teach for America as competitive as being accepted to an Ivy League

Alneada Biggers, Harvard class of 2010, was amazed this past year when she discovered that getting into the nation’s top law schools and grad programs could be easier than being accepted for a starting teaching job with Teach for America.

Ms. Biggers says that of 15 to 20 Harvard friends who applied to Teach for America, only three or four got in. “This wasn’t last minute — a lot applied in August 2009, they’d been student leaders and volunteered,” Ms. Biggers said. She says one of her closest friends wanted to do Teach for America, but was rejected and had to “settle” for University of Virginia Law School.

Will Cullen, Villanova ’10, had a friend who was rejected and instead will be a Fulbright scholar. Julianne Carlson, a new graduate of Yale — where a record 18 percent of seniors applied to Teach for America — says she knows a half dozen “amazing” classmates who were rejected, although the number is probably higher. “People are reluctant to tell you because of the stigma of not getting in,” Ms. Carlson said.

When Robert Rosen graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2009, he did not apply, fearing he would be turned down. Instead, he volunteered in a friend’s classroom weekly for the next year, to see if he liked teaching, but also to build a credential that would impress Teach for America. Asked how hard getting in is, James Goldberg, Duke ’10 said, “I’d compare it with being accepted to an Ivy League grad school.”

Mr. Goldberg, Mr. Rosen, Ms. Carlson, Mr. Cullen and Ms. Biggers count themselves lucky to be among the 4,500 selected by the nonprofit to work at high-poverty public schools from a record 46,359 applicants (up 32 percent over 2009). There’s little doubt the numbers are fueled by a bad economy, which has limited job options even for graduates from top campuses. In 2007, during the economic boom, 18,172 people applied.

This year, on its 20th anniversary, Teach for America hired more seniors than any other employer at numerous colleges, including Yale, Dartmouth, Duke, Georgetown and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At Harvard, 293 seniors, or 18 percent of the class, applied, compared with 100 seniors in 2007. “So many job options in finance, P.R. and consulting have been cut back,” said Ms. Carlson, the Yale grad.

In interviews, two dozen soon-to-be-teachers here in Houston, one of eight national Teach for America centers that provide a five-week crash summer course in classroom practices, mentioned the chance to help poor children and close the achievement gap as major reasons for applying. Victor Alquicira (Yale), who is Mexican-born, and Kousha Navidar (Duke), who is Iranian-born, said it was a chance to give back to a country that had given them much. Click here to read the full article.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Technology is critical to 21st century learning

A national survey presented last month at a Congressional briefing highlights administrators' concerns and districts' barriers to providing 21st century learning environment. A common thread documented in the study is the need to have an effective technology infrastructure. The 2009 Speak Up Survey was conducted by Project Tomorrow and sponsored by Schoolwires.

In the national survey of more than 368,000 K-12 students, parents, teachers and administrators, students shared their vision for 21st century learning that includes:

--Social-based learning - students want to leverage emerging communications and collaboration tools to create and personalize networks of experts to inform their education process.

--Un-tethered learning - students envision technology-enabled learning experiences that transcend the classroom walls and are not limited by resource constraints, traditional funding streams, geography, community assets or even teacher knowledge or skills.

--Digitally-rich learning - students see the use of relevancy-based digital tools, content and resources as a key to driving learning productivity, not just about engaging students in learning. Click here to read the full article.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Emerging need: cultivating leaders

Rapid, unpredictable changes in market conditions, boundless opportunities, fierce competition—that's what emerging markets are like. Unfortunately they're also short on executives with the leadership skills needed to succeed in this kind of environment.

As a result, many companies in these markets don't come close to fulfilling their potential, or they fail outright. So, how can companies in emerging markets develop the leaders they so urgently need?

To study the problem, the China Europe International Business School's Leadership Behavioral Laboratory, in collaboration with the Center for Creative Leadership, interviewed 100 successful midlevel and senior executives from various industries in China. We asked each of the executives recount three critical events in their careers that contributed to their development as managers.

Their answers revealed several keys to leadership development in emerging markets:

SET AN EXAMPLE. Senior managers' words, deeds, temperament, charisma and standards are powerful role models for their subordinates. In a market where companies are struggling to assert themselves amid rapidly changing conditions, it is doubly important that managers have stable leadership to look to for guidance and inspiration. More than one-third of the managers we interviewed mentioned the great influence that executives they admired had exerted on their careers. Senior executives can't just issue orders; they need to exemplify the company's values in everything they do.

NEVER STOP TEACHING. Many executives stressed the importance of continuously learning about their business and about business in general throughout their careers. In emerging markets, where companies and entire industries are growing and evolving at an accelerated pace, open-ended learning is crucial.

For many companies, learning typically involves sending potential leaders to classes at business schools, where they learn management theory and practices. Such training is, no doubt valuable. But it shouldn't be the only form of management training, or even the focus. Rather than spending huge amounts on external leadership consultants, companies should focus on strengthening their own coaching practices.

What would that look like? For one thing, fellow managers who have experience and expertise and are well versed in a company's corporate culture can help junior managers find practical, effective solutions for the challenges they are facing at work. This shouldn't be left to chance—a mentoring program should be set up to ensure that all junior managers are receiving proper guidance.

Companies should also systematically rotate talented employees among various jobs and divisions of the company to broaden their knowledge of the business.
Junior managers also should be included in critical task forces so they garner firsthand experience in the process of managing big issues. The managers we interviewed repeatedly mentioned the importance of their involvement in projects like developing new products, opening up new markets, implementing new business plans and setting up new branches. Restructurings, mergers, share offerings and public-relations crises are also excellent learning opportunities. Experiences like these teach managers not just to adapt to change but rather to embrace it.

MAKE SURE THEY LEARN FROM THEIR FAILURES—AND SUCCESSES. When things do go wrong, make sure there are mentors or coaches ready to help junior managers confront and draw lessons from their mistakes. That can be the difference between talented employees becoming discouraged or feeling that they have grown from the experience.

Successful leaders, of course, learn from every experience. But the introspection that allows for such continuous learning doesn't come naturally to everyone. Companies should include in their training programs sessions designed to help managers develop systematic habits of introspection. Managers should have regular group meetings where they not only reflect on the lessons of their own experiences but also learn from the experiences of others. Click here to read the full article.

The Latest Career Training Tools: Thin Mints, Samoas, Tagalongs

Girl Scout cookies have been blamed for many things–unethical behavior by parents pushing cookies on co-workers, mindless munching that packs on pounds at the office, fundraising overload among parents.

But in this tough economy, more attention is being paid to such fundraisers as a career-training tool–that is, as a way for budding saleswomen and managers to learn business skills. In a recent New York Times interview, Barbara Krumsiek, chief executive of Calvert Group, credited her youthful experience selling Girl Scout cookies with some of her early success in management. Ms. Krumsiek says she enjoyed vying for cookie-sales awards and working in a positive way with a group of peers. This helped her a lot, she says, when at age 30, she was promoted from working as a solo contributor to managing 200 people.

A growing number of girls today are making the cookie-career connection and setting some tough sales goals for themselves. Praised as “marketing mavens in the making” three school-age girls were recently sent to a Coral Gables, Fla., spa for selling more than 1,000 boxes each in 23 days. Some Scouts sell as many as 2,400 boxes apiece.

They are also plying some savvy sales tactics. Two Florida eighth-graders recently turned a mom’s Chevy Tahoe into a mobile cookie booth by covering it with messages, such as “Don’t Just Tagalong – Buy Thin Mints Too.” They also donned Thin Mint and Samoa costumes to hawk cookies in front of local stores. Each was intent on selling 2,000 boxes of cookies to help finance a Girl Scout trip.

Cookie sales served as a career lesson years ago for my daughter, with the opposite takeaway – they showed her what she did not want to do. We always required her to sell the cookies herself, which meant accompanying her on a lot of door-to-door visits and supermarket parking-lot shifts. If my daughter had ever thought of a career in sales, I’m sure the experience of selling cookies quashed the idea. As hard as she tried, she never chalked up more than a few dozens boxes sold – usually less than one-fourth as many as those who took the top sales awards. That was a valuable lesson in itself.

Readers, do you see fundraisers as skill-building exercises for your kids? Or are they just another task to get out of the way? Are kids just too busy these days for intense fundraisers like this. Click here to read the full article.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Culture Club

The ability to consistently marry compelling corporate leadership opportunities with the right executive is what distinguishes the best headhunters and employers. An individual's fit—or misalignment—with the organization's mission, culture, and workforce will quickly dictate how both the company and the executive perform.

Yet a well-documented decline in executive tenure, and the damage done by misfit leaders, suggest cultural compatibility remains a low priority when it comes to corporate management succession. That's especially unfortunate given the degree to which an organization's future depends on its selection of executive leaders today.

Cultural Matchmaking

One reason for a poor fit is that too often executives are hired based on where they're coming from without enough thought given to where they are going. A candidate who impresses the board or the boss with his or her credentials might get the nod because on paper he or she appears to have the right range of experience from a respected, market-leading company. Yet an impressive résumé doesn't guarantee an individual will be able to elevate a company's performance in a new environment and/or a new role.

The ability to effect real change in a new position or company hinges not just on the candidate's assets but also on institutional assets such as employee engagement, customer brand awareness, and talent magnetism. Any of these may or may not have been building blocks of organizational culture and higher financial returns in the executive's prior job.

"Cultural awareness is one of the most neglected and yet most powerful predictors of executive success and it's also one of the things executives know the least about," says Kenneth Siegel, a managerial psychologist with Beverly Hills-based Impact Group, who works with boards and executive teams to improve performance.

Just because someone worked with a high-performance organization in the past doesn't automatically mean they are the right person for an important management role elsewhere, Siegel points out. He suggests board members and others engaged in hiring senior management ask themselves a simple question before hiring their next executive: "Will this person enhance the culture we have here or be devoured by it?"

A Uniform Vision

One way to improve the likelihood of achieving a true cultural fit between an organization and a new executive leader is to understand that individual leaders aren't always the human personification of the market-leading brands for which they've worked in the past. That's not to say previous leadership experience is inconsequential. But it's critical to know that if executives don't fit from a cultural perspective with a new employer, they've never going to have the opportunity to demonstrate the value of their experience with their former employer.

A classic type of mismatch, according to Siegel, is when an executive's view of how customers should be treated differs from the organization's expressed mission for meeting customers' needs. Another reveals itself when a new executive begins to recruit other new management leaders who are more closely aligned with his or her distinct leadership style, even though they may conflict with the organization's screening criteria.

Those involved in the most senior executive selection decisions need to be confident the new leader brings cultural compatibility to his or her new role and isn't just a charismatic communicator who will attempt to convince customers, employees, and shareholders that his or her vision—however untested and perhaps lacking true organizational buy-in—should prevail.

Looking Within

Finding a way to build bridges and earn respect from constituent groups is the foundation from which change, momentum, trust, and higher performance emanate. That again points to why culture fit is so important a consideration when it comes to issues of management succession. Click here to read the full article.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Benefits of diversity: more than what's on the surface

America is at a new frontier when it comes to diversity. The nation has its first African-American president, and more and more women hold positions of corporate power. With the click of a mouse, we can connect and collaborate with practically anyone anywhere, thanks to the Internet. We are more likely to come into contact with people unlike ourselves than ever before, and in every aspect of our lives.

Ask someone what's good about diversity, and you'll likely be told that it's beneficial because different people bring different perspectives to discussions. Today's executives may wonder: Is there really something of value to get from all this diversity?

We often bring outsiders, socially distinct newcomers, into our organizational groups in hopes of introducing new perspectives. We tolerate these outsiders because we understand that people with different cultural, gender and national backgrounds will, with contrasting experiences behind them, offer differing perspectives and opinions about any given problem. We're likely to assume that a black manager and a white manager working together on a problem will come up with divergent ways to solve the problem.

Such assumptions have implications that we tend not to think deeply about. The first is that when individuals work together in a group, any unexpected perspectives will come from the people who are different. The black person in a group of whites, or the marketing person in a group of engineers, will bring forward a different point of view that the group can benefit from. A second and even more important implication is that people who appear to be similar to each other, such as two middle-aged white men, will share the same views. But is it really sensible to assume that all superficially alike people think alike?

Of course not all people who look alike think alike, and not all people who look different disagree. And the benefit of diversity does not principally come from people who are "different" offering "different" perspectives. Katherine Phillips recently published research with co-authors Katie Liljenquist of Brigham Young University's Marriott School of Management and Margaret Neale of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, that found that members of a social majority are more likely to voice unique perspectives and critically review task-relevant information when there is more social diversity present than when there is not. Moreover, this is true even when the people who are "different" don't express any unique perspectives themselves. Our research suggests that the mere presence of social diversity makes people with independent points of view more willing to voice those points of view, and others more willing to listen.

When anyone in a group has perspectives, opinions or information that vary from the consensus, our research suggests, the mere presence of social diversity will make them express, and others consider, those perspectives in a way that benefits the group.

Whether trying to solve murder mysteries, develop new products, enter new markets or overhaul work processes, employees in organizations work harder when diversity is present, and a little bit more hard work is exactly what we need in corporate America. So as you think about diversity and its effects in organizations during this tough economic time, recognize that the most robust practical value of diversity is that it challenges everyone in an organization. We are more thoughtful, and we recognize and utilize more of the information that we have at our disposal, when diversity is present. That is diversity's true value. Click here to read the full article.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A few tips for high employee retention

It’s been an employer’s world for awhile now. Employee retention, especially of key talent, has not been a strong focus for the last two years because most employees held tight to their jobs due to economic uncertainty. However, the numbers are beginning to improve and employment experts expect that larger numbers of employees will start seeking new opportunities. Employee retention saves money and protects the morale of the entire company. What can you do to retain your key players?

Understand employee motivation. I’ve talked about it at length here and here, but know this one thing: keeping employees satisfied is not all about money and fringe benefits.

Maintain an open door policy. A significant number of employees cite their direct supervisor as the reason they are leaving their positions. Employees need to have the freedom to discuss supervisory issues without repercussions.

Be careful that you don’t inadvertently punish employees for loyalty. Pay inequity tends to punish the most senior employees because raises haven’t kept up with the external market. New hires often make more, particularly in larger companies, than their loyal, well-trained counterparts. And despite confidentiality agreements, employees DO talk. Review salaries frequently and keep your most valuable employees fairly rewarded.

Watch the micromanagement. One of the key motivators for employees is autonomy. Once well-trained, give them the leeway to perform on their own and to sometimes fail. Often more is learned from failure than training. Employee retention improves the more employees are left to manage their own performance.

Grow a solutions-oriented culture. If employees come to you with complaints about people or processes, always ask them how they would handle the situation. This does three things: it empowers the employee to take a more positive, solutions-based approach, it acknowledges the importance of the employee’s opinion AND it can give you real tools with which to work. A culture where employees are made to feel like they have a role in improving the workplace also improves employee retention.