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Design Thinking for HR – from “Process Design Developer” to “Experience Architect”

Posted By Carmen Panzar, Wednesday, June 7, 2017
Updated: Thursday, July 20, 2017

Comments following the NYHRPS Forum, April 25, 2017

Deloitte research1) shows that “people collectively check their phones more than 8 billion times each day, yet productivity is barely rising”. Employees are overwhelmed and HR could help by creating simple employee experiences when navigating organizational processes.

On April 25, members of an NYHRPS Forum discussed with Claudio Garcia – EVP Strategy and Corporate Development at Lee Hecht Harrison – how HR professionals can leverage Design Thinking2) to focus beyond building programs and processes by creating simple solutions for people processes where employees can enjoy productive and meaningful experiences.

Design thinking is the methodology that makes it possible for HR to shift from process monitor to designer of worker experience that drives business results2). The two principles we worked on are: when solving a problem, make sure it is a business problem (and not an HR one); and start understanding the  employee current reality  first before you design a solution.

As uncertainty drives businesses to look for more possibilities how are management practices evolving?

In response to the economic environment becoming ever more complex and unpredictable the business community shifted from singular business models to a mix of possible models to help cope with uncertainty: investments shifted to portfolio of assets, and corporations include now portfolio of businesses.

Management practices facilitate the implementation of viable business models by bringing together skilled people and relevant technologies. HR can help make  management practices respond better to uncertainty  by using  design thinking to develop and try new possibilities to people processes.

Design thinking requires empathy to study people at work and identify ‘employee profiles’ – or ‘personas’, to understand experiences based on employee demographics and work environment, and define their challenges. It relies on creating solution ideas that allow for rapid prototype testing, decision making  and implementation. Iterative enhancements enable tuning-up the experiences for best fit to each persona’s reality.



Why is Design Thinking Important?

As an innovation tool for tackling complex systemic challenges, design thinking reduces the risks associated with launching new ideas by accelerating organization’s learning about what works and what doesn’t, generating ideas that are innovative and elegant, not just incremental.

Applying design thinking to people processes design compels HR to understand what a great employee experience looks like end-to-end, and provide employees a few easy-to-understand choices facilitated by technology, so they can make decisions faster.

Several top companies already took advantage of design thinking3) to streamline their processes, including benefits, recruiting , engagement and more.

How can HR become more effective in implementing design thinking?

As HR professionals, we take responsibility of providing employees and managers turn-key solutions to their challenges that would be perfectly tackling all situations, and will work for decades, or at least several years. But is this point of view still viable in a fast-changing business environment, new emerging technology, and diverse people behaviors? Should accountability reside with just HR, or should it be shared across the organization? Should the solutions deal with the entirety of complex work challenges, or could they be broken down and prioritized to accelerate the time to implementation?

By combining Design Thinking with Agile Methodology – as perfected by IT professionals, HR could deliver faster – better – more nimble solutions to the organization.

First, HR would identify what are most critical issues to address, and narrow the scope of the design by taking a sequential approach. Each issue would then be tackled with a design thinking approach to generate simple and fast solutions.

Agile Methodology

HR professionals would also share accountability by partnering across the organization and engaging a cross-functional team to design  and implement – the solution is then the team’s shared accountability and will more closely reflect the diversity of the employee experiences, while also contributing to enhanced team and organizational effectiveness.



HR could follow McKinsey “braided” design model4) to ensure alignment with strategy, leverage advanced technology, and design with employee experience in mind for greatest impact. HR could leverage behavioral sciences5) findings to get empirical insights into how people interact with their environment and each other under different conditions, to implement solutions that work and yield competitive advantages.

Where do we go from here?

The NYHRPS Forums aim to deliver industry knowledge and thoughtful business considerations to be taken back for debate within our employer and client circles of influence. In closing, we walked away from the Forum committed to a Part II, that we envision as a hands-on workshop where we would apply the designed thinking methodology to one or more critical processes where organizations are still experiencing challenges: career development, leadership development, engagement. To create momentum for the exercise we want to invite all interested NYHRPS members to participate. We will communicate soon the details for participating in the workshop.

Our aspiration is to use design thinking to transform employee experiences in organizations, and ultimately to evolve HR as a function.

Meanwhile, we invite you to keep the conversation going by responding to this post and telling us what you have done with your Forum insights.

Carmen Panzar is an independent consultant specializing in leadership & organizational development and serves on the Forum Committee of NYHRPS.

References

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Building Successful-Cross Functional Teams

Posted By Deb Seidman, Tuesday, April 4, 2017
Updated: Thursday, July 20, 2017

Annual research on trends in human capital management from Bersin by Deloitte listed “the rise of teams” as the top trend for 2016. Teams continue to be at the forefront of how work gets done in 2017.  Bersin predicts: “To thrive in the digital age organizations should focus on breaking functional groups into smaller teams, customer-centric learning, experimentation and time-to-market. Organizations should examine the way work gets done and then provide support mechanisms to facilitate cross-functional success”.[1]

According to Fast Company’s top five trends for 2017 the teams are becoming more complex, blending employee and contingent workers, on-site and virtual team members.  “One trend we’re already seeing is the spread of cross-functional, ad hoc, and steering teams—which in many cases replace or supplement the work of a traditional, full-time team of people all working onsite together in the same department”.[2]

More and more, work gets done by cross-functional teams that come together on specific projects.  Advances in technology has facilitated working in this way. However, only 21% of the companies polled by Deloitte believe they know how to build cross-functional teams and only 12% understand how people work together in networks.

Teams are not defined on an organization chart.  Rather, they consist of members of different organizational units, and increasingly, include members from outside the organization.  Reporting lines on an organization chart are clear, as are the organizational boundaries between units.  Roles, responsibilities, priorities, processes for working together in a unit are well-defined.  However, cross-functional teams operate in what is referred to as “the white space” – the areas between organizational units. The roles, responsibilities, boundaries, and processes for working together are often not clearly understood in the way they are within the formal organization.

Rather than setting teams up for success, most companies only address breakdowns across cross-functional teams when the dysfunction generates negative outcomes – when important deadlines are not met, when quality suffers, when sales don’t get made.

Teams are often brought together and expected to “just get on with it”.  But, as Bersin’s research shows, organizations do not pay sufficient attention to setting up teams for success. When forming teams, ideally, leaders should include individuals known for “spanning boundaries”.  These are people who have relationships that cross organizational units and can bring a broader perspective to cross-functional efforts and build trust. However, while putting boundary spanners (if you know who they are) on teams can help, it’s not sufficient.

In all cases where teams go awry, there is generally a lack of a full, shared picture of how they are operating.  Team members work within their own silos without an appreciation for how their work and their partners’ work interface and are in service to collective goals.  There is often a lack of recognition of other priorities team members must address (in other aspects of their jobs) and how that impacts their participation in the team. Assumptions are made about each other and experienced as “truth” by those making the inferences.  Working under time pressures, with a great deal of ambiguity and complexity in the environment, team members don’t take the time to talk and understand the other’s perspective.  Rather, problems devolve into a blame game.

There is little wonder, then, that companies try to address these issues by training their employees to be accountable and to own the collective work. Changing employees’ mindsets about accountability won’t solve the problem, however.  The work of the team is, first and foremost, to establish a foundation for working together effectively. Sure, the team needs to understand the goal of the team’s work – what it must produce.  But teams often focus on the “what” of their work and not on the “how” of their work together.

There are several instances where I’ve observed cross-functional teams that have come undone.  Sometimes the teams are temporary, project teams – working to build a new product or service.  Other times the teams are cross-functional partners who regularly work together to deliver services to customers and manage risks for the business.

Turning a Team Around

One example was within the US commercial bank of a global financial services firm.  There was a significant breakdown in coordination between loan officers and risk managers.  While there is a natural check and balance that needs to be in place between these groups so that sales are generated without taking on too much risk of loss, those checks and balances can become a source of great conflict.

In this case, there was considerable back-and-forth between the loan officers and the risk managers such that the loan originators were unable to meet client needs and sales goals.  The loan officers and the risk managers thought that their goals were in conflict.  Rather than work together to write loans that met both interests – and, therefore the overall interests of the bank — (i.e., the sale of the loan at an acceptable level of risk), an adversarial relationship developed.

The senior leadership could not afford to allow such a dysfunctional situation to persist. An organizational assessment was conducted to uncover the unique perspectives of each unit. That assessment revealed that the heads of each group had worked together to come up with shared goals but, on the ground, their people experienced these as separate and conflicting goals.  In addition, there were other variables getting in the way of effective teamwork.  To address these issues, key people from each function came together for a facilitated discussion to review findings from the assessment, develop a shared view of how they were operating and what was getting in the way, and then to devise simple solutions that they could put in place to function effectively.  As a result, team members had their false assumptions debunked and, instead, they removed the bottle necks that were threatening the profitability of the business.  They developed mutual respect and shared accountability which was instrumental in sustaining effective teamwork as new business challenges arose.

About the Author

Deb Seidman is the Founder and President of Green Silk Associates, LLC, a consulting firm specializing in organization effectiveness.  Deb is also a member of the Board of NYHRPS and passionate about enabling effective teamwork.

Footnotes:

[1] http://www.bersin.com/News/Content.aspx?id=20464

[2] The Top Five Trends for 2017, Fastcompany.com

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What can HR do to prepare leaders for a rapidly globalizing world?

Posted By Sharon Lewis, Tuesday, February 7, 2017
Updated: Monday, July 17, 2017

Comments following the NYHRPS Global Leadership Forum, March 24, 2015

NYHRPS hosted a membership group of some 15 executives on March 24 to discuss best practices and viewpoints around global leadership development. Citing recent articles in the Wall Street Journal, facilitator Patrick Wilkinson framed the conversation with references to the significant leadership changes taking place at organizations like Prudential, Credit Suisse  and other Fortune 500 firms. Participants commented on the importance of such pivotal management placements not only at the helm, but on the Board level and within the middle-management ranks. Other participants expressed concern with the development of global leaders when attitudes around diversity and inclusion at the local level remain a challenge for many.

What capabilities will our future leaders need to be successful in tomorrow’s global environment?

While many at the table have held global positions and lived abroad, there was concurrence  regarding  the difference between leading globally through an internalized  understanding of the local area cultures vs. leading a global organization though the lens of one’s own home country. Ex-pat assignments are often short-term and executives live in ex-pat compounds vs. living within the communities of their staff or customers. Not only do they miss the enculturation needed to broaden their perspectives, but they also fail to learn how to make decisions based on the political, economic, and social factors that affect business in these foreign markets.

This being the case, how does one identify and develop those who can truly lead in unfamiliar environments where subtleties in one’s backgrounds are not always obvious –and can bring enormous implications to management style and perspective?

Does living abroad make one a global leader? Can global leadership be learned?

Here our participants had mixed opinions:

  • There are many ways to promote a global mindset, even while in the U.S. (For example: Be part of a cross functional or global virtual team, read world news, read world history to understand the culture, visit ethnic communities.)
  • Short term assignments, affectionately coined “professional management tourism” do not guarantee agile global leadership ability.
  • Some around the table felt that “global mobility” was a mandatory requirement for senior leadership opportunities.

In the development of agile, global leaders, what role can Human Capital Leadership play in ensuring that those who “get it” or have the ability to develop “a global mindset” are identified, coached and placed in situations where they can indeed thrive?

A pre-read article from Accenture Strategy titled “Leadership Imperatives for an Agile Business” outlined the three dominant themes that define effective leaders who are creating and enabling agile business environments. These themes were:

  • Vision and strategy: Defining short term needs and long term perspectives in a manner that accommodates being reactive to immediate events while being thoughtful to emerging trends. This is best accomplished by inviting those “outside of the mainstream “to the management meetings.
  • The relationship between leaders and followers: To manage through uncertainty, leadership traits must be developed across all levels of the organization – not just within the senior most management ranks.
  • Driving results: A flexible operating model requires ongoing clarification and reinforcement of expectations, roles and responsibilities.
  • What is the appropriate definition of “Fit”?

    This research study, like the other articles that we read in preparation for the Forum defines logical, measureable actions that are being used to build the nimbleness demonstrated in today’s most agile organizations. However, it is here, that our group paused to acknowledge a viable reason why these programs are finding inconsistent success. Specifically, the reason is Human Behavior.

    As the pace of change continues to accelerate, the requirements needed in the talent pool change — often being defined in real time.
  • The infamous theory that you hire talent based on “fit” needs to be critically re-assessed. “Fit is the enemy of innovation”; Fit implies status quo by today’s definition. Transformation comes from radical thinkers who thrive on “smart” change. Innovation and fit should be viewed as one’s ability to change the thinking of others through smart, data-grounded ideas for improvements.
  • Hiring managers need to look at how best to bring talent into the organization that will bring provocative thinking to the table and be rewarded for doing so. In some circles, “failing fast” is the norm and sequential learning takes place exponentially as leaders build upon test and lean scenarios.
  • Herein lays the core of the conundrum: People often hire people that remind them of themselves (consciously or unconsciously). Companies frequently exit-out employees (purposely or subtly) who do not fit the culture.

As a result of this, companies ensure that the drive for fit—the survival of the out of the box thinkers — does not take place. One could say that some companies are weeding out their very best talent; the very opposite of the original intention.

To change this, we need to develop a tolerance and objectivity in seeing the value that non-conformists bring to the corporate future.

  • Organizations like Google, Apple and Amazon seem to know how to do this. While these companies were developed in a ‘new age based on new rules”…….is that really an excuse for the older, established enterprises that are struggling to transform their agility. Really now: Is legacy an excuse for stagnancy? Blockbuster Video. Eastman Kodak. General Motors. See a trend?
  • One participant asked: Do some companies have cultures that are so insular and idiosyncratic that they won’t develop a global mindset? Another person asked if a political change is required first?

Is agility a learned process or a culture?

Agile leadership is a priority for companies of all sizes and industries. Our Forum included commentary on mid-sized markets, as well as the non-profit sector.

As I wrote this post-event article for NYHRPS, I found this article from Marketing Profs, a leading resource for marketing executives. Four Steps to Creating an Agile Marketing Culture, does not address global issues however it certainly resonates with the conversation around our table.

……” companies often put in place a process, or a set of processes, to address agility instead of taking the time to work on building the culture required to achieve agility and sustain it—What does an agile culture look like?

  • People work across functions and silos to collaborate in self-organizing teams.
  • Decision-making is empowered, and it happens as close to the work as possible.
  • Teams are trusted to experiment, to take initiative, and to even fail as long as they learn.
  • Work is done in short, active cycles of prioritize-test-learn, prioritize-test-learn, and so on.
  • The customer is at the center of decision-making.” Within this context, we refer to the customer of the corporation (Pepsi drinkers, car buyers, and consumer checking accountholders) vs. the (internal) customer to the HR functions (the Business team or the C-suite).

Agile leadership. Global leadership development. None of it matters if it is not directly linked to the business strategy of the organization. And, if the business strategy of the organization includes a global presence, then agility, nimbleness and “the embracement of different becomes expected”.

Are you giving fair consideration to individuals who do not present a traditional fit? Are you creating a tolerant environment for those who represent a diverse profile to the situation? The global organizations that succeed will; and, they are getting ahead of the game by doing these things right now.

Congratulations and appreciation to all who participate in this Forum.

About Sharon Lewis

Sharon Lewis is an independent consultant specializing in branding and communications strategies. Sharon sits on the Marketing Committee of NYHRPS and has an appointment on the Executive Council of AARPNY. Follow her @sharonlewisnyc.

The NYHRPS Global Leadership Development Forum Team includes: Sharon Lewis, Laura Mindek, Laura Petersen, Bruce Segall and Patrick Wilkinson.

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Generational Diversity in the Workplace: Myths and Realities

Posted By Sharon Lewis, Tuesday, February 7, 2017
Updated: Monday, July 17, 2017

Time Flies

Did I Act that way at the age of 22?  —– YES, you did!

Human tendency looks at each new generation and sees radically different behaviors than those which they themselves expressed. Wharton Business School Professor Peter Cappelli says that “many managers overemphasize the generational differences, in part, because they forget what it was like to be young themselves.” Is this a true or cynical comment?”

A multi-generational workplace is not a new phenomenon. So what, if anything, is different today?

NYHRPS Forum participants gathered to explore this question on the morning of July 14, 2015, when they gathered, under the facilitation of Bo Young Lee, Global Diversity & Inclusion Leader for Marsh LLC.

Across the generations, we hold many common human values and goals. Yet, we view others through a lens that says “what experiences have we shared” and in turn, we apply judgements that are often broad brushed and untrue when we see behaviors that appear unfamiliar to us. As a group, the NYHRPS participants agreed that regardless of the common values and goals shared by the five generations living in the 21st Century, the digital natives, born after 1980, is behaviorally different. Technology has allowed them to connect in ways never before experienced and to work fluidly across borders and boundaries to gain access to information in real time to make decisions. Rather than focusing on the wonderful impacts of technology into their/our lives, we focus on the behavioral differences that this younger generation exhibits. Perhaps, we need to take a breath and say “Enough!"

 

What should HR leaders be doing to create a workplace that supports open communications and understanding across all ages, and builds on the unique values and strengths of each generation?

Bringing diverse groups of people together is not the same as making the individuals feel included. Forum members were asked to consider the way traditional Diversity programs address, or fail to address, the multi-dimensional backgrounds of the individual. Progressive teams are using an intersectional approach which demands that we shift the conversation away from distinct labels and categories to a broader view of the person.

Impact: Workforce estimates by 2020 show millennials comprising over 50% of the population, with a profile that includes nearly 40 percent non-white race or ethnicity. Traditional labels no longer apply, and many millennials frown on labeling anyway. (Pew Research in the Deloitte University Press)

Radical Transparency, a concept where there are zero hidden agendas and information is made available to everyone, has become a norm for Millennials

Impact: With unprecedented access to information, and growing up in a networked world where you can establish a relationship without ever meeting someone, millennials take an approach to trust that differs from previous generations.

Millennials are radically transparent because they want to create a level playing field and trust people intrinsically. They embrace an egalitarian approach to work. Likewise, with this plethora of information available to them, they want to be heard and they want their opinions to be considered — in spite of the years of experience they have yet to live.

Command and Control Organizational Structure vs. Collaborative Structure: Today’s hierarchical pyramid structures are less likely to work for the senior leaders of 2030. How should HR leaders be redefining the way we develop tomorrows’ leaders, given the increasingly diverse global environment?

Impact: Millennials have been brought up in a structured world with hyper scheduled programming. However, within that construct of scheduling and structure, the millennials’ schedule was based on their individual dreams and aspirations. Contrast this with boomers who were raised with a pre-determined structure. (Think daily print newspapers vs real time, self-defined news feeds)

Does one structure have more accountability? Yes and No. Understanding the specific business line is important as highly regulated industries must include a series of imposed operational requirements to remain in business. That being said, many of today’s most successful initiatives have been exponentially enhanced through collaborative environments where intrinsic motivations, as compared to imposed motivations, lead the business process.

O tempora o mores (Oh the times! Oh the customs!)”, an age-old colloquialism from Cicero criticizes present day attitudes and trends. As leaders, we will do ourselves and those from other generations justice with an attitude that displays more flexibility toward those we work with. Let patience and learning prevail.

___________________________

About Sharon Lewis

Sharon Lewis is an independent consultant specializing in branding and communications strategies. Sharon sits on the Marketing Committee of NYHRPS and has an appointment on the Executive Council of AARPNY. Follow her @sharonlewisnyc.

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Generational Diversity in the Workplace: Myths and Realities Part II

Posted By Sharon Lewis, Tuesday, February 7, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Comments following the NYHRPS 2nd Millennial Forum, October 6, 2015

On Oct 6, the NYHRPS organized a follow up Forum to the one we held in July on the subject of Generational Diversity in the Workplace: Myths and Realities.  Gratitude to Monica Chan, Manager of College Recruiting at HBO for skillfully facilitating the discussion.

  • A key point of differentiation between the two events was the number of millennials in the room participating in the conversation.
  • One of the most telling statements made by a millennial participant: “I have had my quarter-life crisis.”
  • Two overwhelming commonalities in the take-away from both Forums: Avoid generalizations and “Give something new a chance”

Avoid Generalizations

When our multi-generational Forum attendees were asked how many of them check their phone within 30 minutes of waking up, there was an audible gasp in the room. “Thirty minutes–try immediately”, was the response from all generations.

  • There are 80 million millennials in the US, outnumbering 78 million boomers. Within 15 minutes of waking up, 89% of 18-24 year olds check their mobile phones. (Source #1)

This is a simple but powerful example of the downfalls in making generalizations – EVER. Generalizations in the workplace can impact productivity, engagement and overall trust.

Give Something New a Chance

A millennial manager shared his surprise upon receiving an email from a Boomer asking permission to take a vacation day and further notating such on the manager’s calendar. “That was helpful in my daily planning” said the millennial. Many at the table chuckled: “What other way was there to inform you of my need to take a vacation day?”

A Porous Career Path

If millennials look at their career track as porous, with no expectations other than an ability to try new things, what are the implications for the corporate career path model exemplified by sequential steps within a functional bandwidth?

Again, the consideration becomes: Give Something New a Chance. How do you transition to new profiles for filling open reqs across functions? Millennials are demanding this assortment of opportunities…and non-millennials are realizing that such opportunities might indeed be an attractive career option.

  • Career mobility and loyalty is less generationally driven and more a function of the individual management team to provide growth and workplace options.
  • Consensus at the table was that people do not hop across employers because they are/are not loyal to a particular employer. Rather the environment was not conducive to providing them with new opportunities. Too many managers pigeon-holed staff members in roles that were no longer of interest to them.

Attitudinal changes, driven by millennials, technological capabilities and the realization by non-millennials that some of these new approaches make sense will have HUGE implications on training. We were reminded that those managers who suggest “that you have no experience in that line of work….. What makes you qualified to do that job”…..will soon find themselves at a crossroads.

Good people can be trained in anything. Our millennial participants commented on their appreciation for a variety of online training tools and their use of such programs to expand their skillset.

  • On-going bursts of new learning are likely to be appreciated by all career-focused individuals, regardless of their age
  • Especially important in the framing of training modules is the upfront declaration of “What is in it for me to take this training?”

Communications is the Root of All Evil

Embedded across our conversations was the importance of clear communications. This is a subject that is readily generalized and assumed to be easy to deliver.

  • For example: If a millennial staff member leaves you a message about their late arrival on your personal cell phone, are they crossing the boundaries of professional and personal outreach? Or does it imply that you are likely to check your personal cell phone as often as your business cell phone…and the personal messages left for you during the day may be fewer than those received on the professional cell phone. Hence the millennial staff member felt that using your personal phone to inform you of their altered schedule had a higher likelihood of being noticed????

Technology has forever altered the fine lines in the way we communicate. Across the generations, we hold many common human values and goals. Yet, we view others through a lens that says ‘what experiences have we shared” and in turn, we apply judgements that are often broad brushed and untrue when we see behaviors that appear unfamiliar to us.

To truly be effective, we need to utilize IQ, EQ and SQ skills (Intellectual, Emotional and Social Intelligence skills). Society uses the word transparent to describe a level of honesty in today’s exchange of information. That means that all generations need to be willing to share their preferred style of communications, as well as the clarity in that knowledge transfer taking place.

  • Kudos to our participants who recognized the importance of instilling this sort of sharing in their own work groups — nurturing the expression of individual communication preferences — a situation that benefits all generations, all participants and is invaluable for present and future group dynamics. The simplicity of this ask can clarify situations previously assumed.

Ask Yourself to be Part of the Solution

Participants reflected on the conceptual value of approaching a conversation with “an empty cup”. The cup gets filled with the pertinent facts that are uncovered in the specific interaction versus a pre-filled cup of generalizations and assumptions that alter the conversation before it even begins.

In closing, we share some key questions that HR practitioners need to ask themselves in an effort to consciously reverse the human tendency to generalize. Here are a few:

  • How can we provide mentorship or training to our high-potential staff so that they can transition into another skill set?
  • How can I ensure that everyone involved in the conversation “is on the same page”….going beyond the use of similar words. What can I do to validate the internalization of the intended sentiment?
  • As the industry seeks to identify new forms of performance feedback and career pathing, is there a better way to develop and communicate a clear list of competencies that one must acquire to move their career into new spheres of influence? One of the participants suggested a rating of “not yet there” which would be accompanied by a prescriptive set of competencies that allows someone to “get there.”

Thank you to Monica Chan, the Forum participants and the NYHRPS Forum Event Team.

Take a moment to review the post event blog post from the July Forum and take a moment to note your reflections on the topic.

(Source #1) 100 Youth Market Statistics by Graham D Brown and Total Youth Research

Sharon Lewis wrote this post: Sharon Lewis is an independent consultant specializing in branding and communications strategies. Sharon sits on the Marketing Committee of NYHRPS and has an appointment on the Executive Council of AARPNY. Follow her @sharonlewisnyc.

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Performance Management on Trial: “To Keep or Not To Keep

Posted By Sharon Lewis, Tuesday, February 7, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Comments following the NYHRPS Forum, March 22, 2016

Some 20 HR professionals gathered on the morning of March 22 to discuss Performance Management on Trial; an intimate Forum led by People and Strategy editor Anna Tavis. Participants ranged from senior executives in the corporate world to leaders in smaller entrepreneurial environments to those currently consulting to both of these businesses structures.

Are today’s performance evaluations enhancing both the employee experience and the business results?

As the group discussed today’s business environment and the current work being piloted by industry leaders such as Deloitte and Adobe, consensus was that the key question is not “Should we keep the performance management system?” Rather the first question today is “How does the performance management systems tie to the needs of the business and how does individual performance get measured at the business dashboard level?

The rise in collaborative teams used in the technology and service driven industries is a strong factor in this shift in focus, further ignited by social media, economic dynamics and the new cultural norms of conducting business. HR teams must be ready to support the business leaders with tools that can be readily created, piloted and adjusted.  Cookie cutter, off the shelf solutions, have gone by the way of the manual typewriter!

Hence today’s pioneering programs are designed to maximize the feedback that will motivate individuals to achieve their personal best within the organizational focus.  The science behind motivational behavior is playing a large role in today’s strategies. Designers are further doing everything possible to minimize the rater bias which historically played a negative role in the evaluation process.

What are the critical success factors emerging from today piloting PM systems?


Three of the key points that emerged from our pre-reads and our Forum dialogue depend on how you answer these questions:

  • How do you ensure a direct link between business objectives and individual contributions?
  • Is it possible to eliminate the inherent bias in the PM process?
  • What are the key success factors to allowing performance feedback to be continuous, collaborative and transparent?


Deloitte is piloting a program that addresses these objectives with a four-question performance snapshot1. The snapshot looks to uncover how best to utilize the individual moving forward as opposed to a snapshot of the individuals’ past performance. Conceptually, Deloitte asks the leader to consider:

  • If it were my money, would I award this person the highest possible compensation increase and bonus?
  • Given what I know of this person’s performance, would I always want them on my team?
  • Is this person at risk for low performance (potentially jeopardizing service delivery?)
  • Is this person ready for a promotion today?

The Deloitte pilot is providing thoughtful input for the industry and impressive results for their own business.

Other organizations are considering rating-less systems while others are striving to create programs that recognize the necessary agility and forward thinking behaviors demanded from today’s top leaders. The group agreed that the annual rating system developed by GE in years gone by, is indeed a program that is no longer relevant.  The business is demanding real time feedback loops that provide coaching; the cookie cutter solution no longer works. The business needs and cultural norms demand customization and personalization; an approach that is surely in keeping with the way we manage every other part of our lives from shopping to investments to healthcare.

Where are we going?

As Anna Tavis summarized, we are living in a new reality. To be effective we need to start outside the box. Even if we have a roadmap to manage change and we follow the process to a successful end, we need to be prepared for disruptions anywhere along the way. Ask yourself, “What is the new reality?” More importantly, “What is your organization’s new reality?”

When once we sought to replicate the GE methodology, it is no longer the gold standard for management and leadership. Rather GE has become a fast, lean machine that tries something and tests it on the go. The new organization seeks to be agile and follows scrum and sprints (not waterfalls) as teams adjust their strategy in the middle of implementation.

person

Is your organization becoming a federation of businesses when once it was a hierarchy? As businesses customize products and services for their customers, they become uniquely different from the other businesses in their organization. When the variations become significant, and the hierarchy doesn’t work to improve performance, performance management evaluations need to be changed to meet new requirements. Such new requirements may be providing real-time performance data for individuals who come on and off multiple teams during the year, goals that change quarterly, work that gets done horizontally and evolving technology that takes new competencies to master and requires real-time feedback to learn.

In addition to these changing models in the business world,   the new reality is taking place amongst the military units stationed in Afghanistan. The old military model of handing off knowledge of new territories, cultural nuances and local game plans no longer work. The new reality is guerrilla warfare where one unit hands off intelligence to the next while on the run.

Closing Thoughts

Change management roadmaps are helpful in keeping organizations up to date with the shifting economy…. But be prepared for disruptions and agile shifts or you will miss the market, the financial opportunity, or the customer’s needs.

1Marcus Buckingham & Ashley Goodall, “Reinventing Performance Management” Harvard Business Review (April 2015)

Sharon Lewis wrote this post: Sharon Lewis is an independent consultant specializing in branding and communications strategies. Sharon sits on the Marketing Committee of NYHRPS and has an appointment on the Executive Council of AARPNY. Follow her @sharonlewisnyc.

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Performance Management on Trial: Let’s Get Specific Using a Mastermind Format

Posted By Sharon Lewis, Tuesday, February 7, 2017
Updated: Thursday, July 20, 2017

Comments following the NYHRPS Forum, May 3, 2016

How does the performance management system tie to the needs of the business and how does individual performance get measured at the business dashboard level?

This question provided the big picture challenge addressed at the March 22 NYHRPS Forum facilitated by Dr. Anna Tavis.  While previous practice sought to replicate the GE methodology, it is no longer the gold standard for management and leadership. Rather today’s leaders have become fast, lean machines that try something and test it on the go.

Intrigued by the case studies presented by Dr. Tavis, NYHRPS members wanted to continue the dialogue with specific action items that they could take back to their offices.  And so, on May 3, NYHRPS Board Member Deb Seidman facilitated a Mastermind Group amongst a small group of members who had participated in the earlier Performance Management discussion. Participants brought case studies that reflected their current work. As a Mastermind group, questions were posed and advice was given, allowing the NYHRPS member to leave with an agenda that they could develop in their own organization.

Cultural Changes at the Grassroots Level will Impact the Success of a New Performance Appraisal System


While a wide range of questions came up during the discussion, case study conversations focused on three specific themes across organizations

  • How does a small company take the best of the processes followed in a large enterprise while keeping its entrepreneurial spirt and nimbleness?
  • How do you create of a culture of feedback at a grass-roots level?
  • How do you create a common line of sight across organizational and personal missions…..so as to improve performance and achieve common goals?

With Forum participants representing both the for-profit and non-profit sectors, Dr. Tavis asked:

  • How do employee motivations differ in for-profit vs a non-profit entity?
  • If non-profits are mission driven, what does the concept of top down goal setting look like?
  • Is a bottom up approach to goal setting more applicable to the non-profit where grass-roots programs and local area relationships are critical in meeting the organizational objectives?

One group considered what they would do if they were starting a performance system from a clean slate. Lessons learned from previous discussions provided the important anchors for building a new system or revising one in place.

  • First and foremost end with a positive impact on the business strategy
  • Focus on a simple method to identify good performers
  • Create a culture of constructive feedback to accelerate and sustain high performance
  • Get buy-in by incorporating the employee perspective
  • Include customization for significant groups by division, generations, etc.

Another interesting moment in the conversation focused on finding champions to support those spearheading the organizational changes. Both the General Counsel and the Marketing teams were singled out as strong partners.

The Mastermind meeting structure was a new format for the Forum Committee. It brought nuances to the meeting that can only be discovered when individuals share the specifics of their individual stories in the spirit of trust, confidentiality and peer advisement. The Forum Committee thanks both Anna and Debbie for their contributions in facilitating these programs and to our participants who came prepared to share and to learn.

NYHRPS Break-Through Innovation Series of Forums provides a platform to discuss emerging issues among thought leaders, peers and HR decision makers in intimate settings limited to 15 participants and 2-3 experts.

Sharon Lewis wrote this post: Sharon Lewis is an independent consultant specializing in branding and communications strategies. Sharon sits on the Marketing Committee of NYHRPS and has an appointment on the Executive Council of AARPNY. Follow her @sharonlewisnyc.

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Do HR Best Practices Stifle Innovation?

Posted By Sharon Lewis, Tuesday, February 7, 2017
Updated: Thursday, July 20, 2017

Comments following the NYHRPS Forum, July 26, 2016

NYHR|People & Strategy was thrilled to welcome back Eric Hieger, Psy.D, Senior Director, Change Leadership and Global Business Transformation at ADP, to facilitate an Executive Forum for our members on the subject of Innovation.

Why is innovation important in today’s corporate agenda?

Today’s business leaders cite innovation as one of their top three global challenges and link it to the probability for future growth[1]. Not surprisingly, the ability to create the transformational innovations desired by today’s investors is not just a function of the R &D budget or the technological capabilities. Transformational innovation is taking place in those work cultures where the expression of curiosity and the acceptance of honest, smart, fast failures are encouraged; where innovation is the responsibility of every single person on the payroll.

Where does HR fit into the goal of innovation?

If the role of HR is to ensure consistent policies and practices, recruit people with similar backgrounds, align the culture to the business model, and ensure consistent treatment, where does HR fit into the goal of innovation?

  • Can HR drive innovation for business results and leadership?
  • Can HR be innovative in delivering on its’ acknowledged mandates

stifle innovation

Transformational innovation is a game-changer and it starts with cultural changes

Referencing the Forum pre-reads, Eric acknowledged that the word innovation is somewhat overused today, coming to represent activities far different than those originally intended by the creators of Disruption Theory. While innovation may be true genesis by which a product or service is delivered, it is important to evaluate change and transformation in the context of the business environment.

  • For example, waves of change, which eventually prove to fundamentally alter the business processes, might not meet the strict traditional criteria of an innovation or a significant business disruption. Despite this, they are indeed worthy of praise nonetheless. Care should be given in how we define expectations and success within the context of the applicable environment.

Does size inhibit risk tolerance? Should company size even matter?

More than once during the session, the group queried whether the size of the company impacted the tolerance for change and innovation – specifically how organizational size might impact the delivery of pilots, first stage launches, or other smaller scale models. Two notable, summarized comments from our dialogue:

  • Many established companies are creating Innovation Labs within which to identify new approaches to the business, existing processes, and organizational design. These Labs often work in parallel or independently of many business-as-usual initiatives.
  • Reality Check: with the mindset of the people in the room, regardless of company size or cultural style: “If you want to change the culture of a company, start with the very people that are in the room with you now.” Change always begins with one small step, one person at a time, before the one becomes many. A few people around a table can begin to clear the path to change.

Culture is King

This last reflection – the reality check – in particular, brought us all back to the definition and expectations that we put around the word: innovation. An ‘a-ha’ moment for the group appeared when the following sports analogy was made: instead of asking your team to make home runs, focus on strengthening and improving the fundamentals of running, hitting, and catching. The better these skills, the better your chances of scoring multiple base hits and scoring runs the metric that matters. This is step one.

Do this in a culture that sees (1) innovation as everyone’s responsibility and (2) which both encourages and rewards honest failures as positive learning……and you create an environment where transformational innovation can take place.

With this in mind,

YES. HR can drive the culture to support innovation for business results and leadership.

YES. HR can be innovative in delivering on its acknowledged mandates.

[1]HR as a Driver for Organizational Innovation” KPMG HR Transformation (2013)

NYHRPS Break-Through Innovation Series of Forums provides a platform to discuss emerging issues among thought leaders, peers and HR decision makers in intimate settings limited to 15 participants and 2-3 experts.

Sharon Lewis is an independent consultant specializing in branding and communications strategies. Sharon sits on the Marketing Committee of NYHRPS and has an appointment on the Executive Council of AARPNY. Follow her @sharonlewisnyc.

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The GIG Economy – Top Talent in a Temporary Role

Posted By Sharon Lewis, Tuesday, February 7, 2017
Updated: Thursday, July 20, 2017

Comments following the NYHRPS Forum, November 15, 2016

Per a McKinsey and Co. report titled Independent work: Choice, Necessity, and the Gig Economy, some 162 million people in Europe and the United States—or 20 to 30 percent of the working-age population—engage in some form of independent work. Also known as freelancers, contractors, members of the gig economy or the contingent workforce, this employment style is real and it is here to stay. On November 15, members of an NYHRPS Forum discussed the impact this work model is having on the HR function and the workplace dynamics.

 The Gig Economy

Technology is Enabling the Growth of the Gig Economy

Managing complexity. Being agile and able to quickly respond to change. A wider variety of workplace skill sets than needed in previous years. Companies of all sizes are looking at ways to maximize the blending of a traditional employee workforce and non-traditional working relationships. Technology is a big enabler in creating the gig economy, however, these workforce changes are no longer a nuance to the technology functions. Rather, technology is creating platforms by which to acquire, engage and keep track of the work requirements and work deliverables.

Appropriate Cultural Changes will Ensure the Success of a Contingent Workforce

Key to making such a culture successful is understanding the scope and requirements of the work to be done. From there, leaders can determine how to hire such talent and “the time to competency” for such hires. Competency, however, is not enough. In a team-based organization, the culture is equally critical and the ability of the team to truly succeed is based on levels of trust that encourage creativity as well as an understanding of the corporate brand that will resonate in the work output.

Talent Development – Who Owns What?

The Disney Corporation was mentioned as a company that devotes a lot of time to the orientation and on-boarding of all staff and all contractors. As such, they have achieved a level of consistency in their ability to deliver customer happiness, superior customer experience, and a global brand.

In an environment where job descriptions quickly become obsolete and new specialty areas are demanded, where can members of the contingent workforce be trained? Within the concept of hiring top talent for temporary roles, should people be hired for their aptitude or their proven experience? And, as talent is brought into the business for varied periods of tenure, how does the employer capture and preserve the corporate knowledge that has been transferred in the process? In other words, who owns the training and development functions for temporary talent?

The Evolution of the Workplace

As leaders, we acknowledged that never before has the creation of a workforce planning discipline been more important; the requirements of the work to be done can be approached in such a broad variety of ways. Likewise, never before has the team culture been more important with the C-suite serving as the chief cheerleader of the culture and the facilitator of a team focused on an aligned purpose.

The NYHRPS Forums aim to deliver industry knowledge and thoughtful business considerations to be taken back for debate within our employer and client circles of influence. In closing, we walked away from the Forum thinking about four major categories of conversation that will improve the integration of a contingent workforce.

  1. The concept of good work vs good jobs expands the horizon for – who- delivers the outputs. (See John Boudreau article on the Employee vs Contractor Debate
  2. A holistic concept of individual aptitude and time to competency presents new options in delivering a truly diverse workforce.
  3. “Garbage-in Garbage Out” applies to the onboarding process of today’s contingent workforce. Embracing the contingent worker with the same level of orientation and an understanding of the company ethos is critical to getting the best outputs. Consideration should be given to what, if any, differential is made in the onboarding of employee vs a contractor.
  4. Delivery models for health insurance, long term savings and overall benefit programs are changing; while the individual need for these programs remain strongly intact.

We invite you to keep the conversation going by responding to this post and telling us what you have done with your Forum insights.

NYHRPS Break-Through Innovation Series of Forums provides a platform to discuss emerging issues among thought leaders, peers and HR decision makers in intimate settings limited to 15 participants and 2-3 experts.

Sharon Lewis is an independent consultant specializing in branding and communications strategies. Sharon sits on the Marketing Committee of NYHRPS and has an appointment on the Executive Council of AARPNY. Follow her @sharonlewisnyc.

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