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Three Key Leadership Lessons For Promoting Cultural Cohesion

Leadership is more than a role or an office occupied by an individual by way of happenstance, appointment or willpower. Leadership equates to influence. The leadership style, behavior and rhetoric of any given leader — and the values represented therein — can direct the culture in which the leader operates.

Here are a few key lessons on the elements of leadership that can promote cultural cohesion and drive sustainable success in an organization.

1. Cultivating A Culture Of Diversity And Inclusion 

Diversity cannot be viewed as a box to check or a measure undertaken for the sake of demographics reports or stakeholder expectations. Diversity can be a key element in ensuring that a culture remains fertile with creative potential. In fact, research published in Financial Management found that organizational policies focused on building a more diverse workforce are linked to higher levels of innovation. Creating an agile organization in competitive, highly disrupted markets may require that leaders embrace a workforce with employees who come from a range of backgrounds and can bring to the table the differing opinions, life experiences and areas of expertise that promote innovation.

 

What’s more, Gallup found that "engagement and inclusiveness are closely related." This is likely a result of engaged employees also feeling valued at work. When employees sense that their opinions matter and that leaders care about their input, they typically feel more committed to helping the organization achieve success.

Organizations with higher than average diversity and inclusion rates not only can achieve elevated agility through innovation, but they also can gain a greater sense of cohesion and may see higher overall rates of employee engagement — which, according to Gallup, can translate to higher productivity and 21% higher profitability.

2. Fostering Loyalty

Loyalty is of paramount importance to most leaders. When members of a group remain loyal to their leader even through times of decreased performance, doubt or struggle, leaders may feel confident in persevering in their duties to achieve desired results.

However, the method by which leaders attain loyalty is no insignificant matter. Commanding loyalty through positional power tends to guarantee only temporary advantages. By leveraging their positional power, leaders maintain loyalty only by virtue of their office — not thanks to any particular personal strengths, abilities or righteousness. As it is, positional power is easily abused and can morph into scare tactics, manipulation and unilateral control that's exerted in order to obtain allegiance that they haven't earned. Members of the team remain loyal out of fear, coercion or incentives rooted in power-related promises.

Conversely, persuasive power inspires loyalty by way of a leader’s influence — the virtue of their vision, decency and transparency. Loyalty that's built organically, rather than coerced or artificially contrived, is rooted in the authentic commitment of team members. This kind of loyalty can promote purposeful engagement at work that's driven by a dedication to realizing the leader’s vision and the desired outcomes of the group. As such, it can require less oversight during periods of crisis as team members remain assured of their leader’s abilities regardless of circumstance.

3. Reactivity Versus Proactivity 

Overcoming both anticipated and unanticipated challenges is a daily requirement for most leaders. How they choose to handle these hurdles can send a clear message to the teams they head — indicating whether the organization should act or react in the face of an obstacle.

In response to their leaders’ approach to meeting challenges, team members can form beliefs about how they should think and act in high-stakes situations. If a leader is faced with a challenge, he or she sets the precedent for beliefs and conduct for the rest of the organization.

A pattern of reactive responses can create a belief in the workforce that reactivity is the correct method by which to handle challenges. Ultimately, the blame game is given free rein over an organization, which can deplete team members’ faith in their leader while undermining confidence in one another, both within and between teams and departments. The result? Internal silos, splintering loyalties and a lack of team cohesion that can inhibit productivity and performance.

On the other hand, proactive leaders react with grace and effectiveness: They recognize a problem when it arises, take psychological ownership for the problem, mobilize creative problem-solving efforts to create a meaningful solution and deploy the most effective solutions in order to overcome the challenge seamlessly.

Closing The Gap With Strong Leadership

Leaders can create a sense of strong collective identity and promote increased innovation by championing diverse opinions, skill sets and backgrounds. At the same time, fostering loyalty through the positive influence of demonstrated honesty, tenacity and vision can create a deeper commitment to achieving shared goals. Finally, leaders can meet challenges head-on with a proactive approach to problem-solving that illustrates a high degree of accountability for delivering positive results.

When leaders foster diversity and inclusion, build loyalty through authentic virtue and overcome challenges with grace and agility, they set a precedent for the rest of us. When we all buy into and embody beliefs that contribute to our collective good, we can mobilize meaningful change and achieve greater success together.

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5 Ways to Help Your Team Be Open to Change

More than 90% of CEOs believe their companies will change more in the next five years than they did in the last five. Having a workforce that’s ready and able to harness that change will make the difference between success and failure.

Leaders at every level need to embrace and model how to engage in and affect change. Personal leadership and engagement, however, is not enough. For change to be operationalized, you need to inspire your team to be creative and enable them to innovate. But innovation only happens when people are able to work in the gray space — where ambiguity is okay and business principles, rather than hard and fast rules, apply.

Here are five daily practices you can put in place to inspire and enable your team to become change makers:

Tell stories about others who moved beyond the status quo. Asking people to work in the gray space often creates uncertainty. They need reassurance that moving into uncertainty can create positive results. Success stories provide tangible, memorable examples of what moving beyond the status quo looks like. To craft a compelling story, ask yourself:

What is meaningful and important to the people I’m working with now? What is the core idea I want them to take away? What essential parts of the story invite them to come along on the journey?

For example, early in my career, I was leading a part of a project that aimed to transform the patient care delivery model in a hospital. To design key parts of the new delivery model, we were asking a cross-section of staff to work in design teams. This had never been asked of them before and they were nervous. We gathered the 50 people together in the hospital auditorium to introduce them to the project and their role in it. I knew they were nervous about what was being asked of them, so we closed the kick-off with a scene from Dead Poet’s Society, where Robin Williams asks his students to stand on their desks and see the world differently. The scene ends with Williams telling a student, “Don’t think that I don’t know this assignment scares the hell out of you.” Afterwards, a nurse walked up to me and said, “How did you know that is me?” We talked and I shared my confidence in how much her knowledge and experience was going to help her with this task. She went on to be one of the highest contributors to the design effort.

Ultimately, your stories should share a common message — it’s okay to step up and out. Powerful stories create psychological safety, letting people know that making change is good and will be rewarded. Share how the individual(s) in the story, as well as the company, benefitted from stepping into the gray space.

Create dialogue, inviting others to ask questions and share emotions, experiences, and insights. Change stirs up emotional responses that often cause people to pull back rather than to lean in. Inspiring and enabling your team to affect change requires having conversations that move people from reaction to action. Try having 30-minute meetings to discuss both the emotions related to change and the actions participants can take to affect change. I call these “listening posts.” Listening posts were originally facilities that monitored radio and microwave signals to analyze their content. Like that original definition, your listening post can help you understand key information, and can help others take action. Listening posts consist of:

Table setting: Define the purpose of the meeting for your team. Encourage them to discuss how change is affecting them. For example, “We’re here to talk about the change we are experiencing and understand how it’s impacting you personally and us as a team.” Invite everyone to define actions that the group will take to influence how change is happening. Listening: Encourage individuals to start the conversation by sharing their experiences by using metaphors or adjectives. This gives them a safe way to talk about emotions. Share your metaphor first to break the ice. For example, you may feel like a juggler trying to keep all the balls in the air. Share that with your team. As people share their metaphors, remember to listen for who is dissenting or significantly challenged by the change. The voice of the outlier can provide key insights. Consolidating: Ask the team what common themes they are hearing. Use questions like, “What does it seem like we all have in common? What is different for each of us?” Summarize key themes and confirm what you’ve heard. Acting: Identify actions. These ideas need to come from the team, with you as the facilitator. Ask questions like, “What do we control or can we influence?” “How do we want to change this?” “What role will each of you play in making this happen?”

Ask “what if?” questions in one-on-one and team meetings. This is your opportunity to help your team be bold. Don’t ask what-ifs that only look at slightly different solutions or behaviors. Role model testing the boundaries — what are the guardrails and how can you push up against them?  Questions like “What if we were all freelancers? How would we think about this?” “What if we built this process from scratch?” or “What if our lead product suddenly became obsolete?” push people to think boldly. People may be unsure just how far they can push at first. Recognize and reward initial steps and continue to ask for more. Reinforce ideas by saying “That’s a great idea. Let’s push that idea even further.” Or “That’s a good start. We need to be asking ourselves these questions continually.” This will reinforce the message that being a change-maker should be the norm, not the exception.

Set expectations that everyone (including yourself) should acknowledge, and take responsibilities for mistakes. And then, treat mistakes as opportunities for learning and growth. Michael Alter, former president at Sure Payroll, made making and acknowledging mistakes a core to operationalizing their business strategy. When he joined the company, he needed employees to become change-makers and take more risks to meet accelerated growth goals. After trying personal stories, analogies, and other techniques without enough success, he formalized failure. He created the “Best New Mistakes” competition, rewarding employees for providing the most unique and interesting mistakes. Rules included that employees could only nominate themselves and it had to be a new mistake. Entries were discussed, and prizes were given at company meetings. Six years later, it was still one of their most innovative learning initiatives.

 

Champion cross-boundary collaboration and networks to open up thinking and gain new perspectives. To become change makers, your team needs to hear a variety of voices and get a variety of perspectives. Urge them to work across boundaries by asking questions like:  

Who else do we need to involve? What other parts of the organization could help with this? Who has perspective on this topic/issue/area that we don’t or can’t have? How should we connect with them? What can I do to help create that connection?

Organizations that succeed are no longer the ones that change top-down, or where innovation is expected only from certain people or roles. Winning teams build change agility into the heart of their culture. That’s why change leadership is no longer just something you do. It’s a large part of who you are. And that means building “change muscle memory” in yourself and your teams. These five everyday practices are a great way to start.

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Will AI Help Close the Skills Gap?

Experts say the skills gap is here to stay, at least for the near future. Some employers are turning to AI to help close the gap — but where does that leave L&D?

Forty percent of HR leaders believe artificial intelligence will help fill the skills gap. That’s according to a new study by Learning House and Future Workplace, which surveyed 600 U.S. HR leaders.

More than half of those surveyed acknowledged the skills gap and more than a third believe it’s harder to fill open positions now than it was in 2017, but some critics say companies are not doing much to fix the problem. The study found that 74 percent of companies are only investing $500 per employee on learning and development.

Jeremy Walsh, senior vice president of enterprise learning solutions at Learning House, said he was shocked by the low amount of money being spent on L&D. “It’s just ridiculous to see that amount of money being spent,” he said. “I think we will start to see a shift in how much they’re willing to invest in skilling and reskilling.”

Walsh did note that while $500 was the average amount spent among all companies, the larger companies spent more — closer to an average of $1,500 per employee. Further, more than half of employers noted a lack of budget as their most significant obstacle to upskilling employees.

“It takes a lot of time and money to fix the problem,” said Dan Schawbel, research director at Future Workplace. “Companies are moving very fast, and they may believe they have other priorities right now.” Instead of investing money on reskilling current employees, Schawbel said companies would rather just outsource the jobs or invest in AI. Indeed, 40 percent seem confident in AI.

“When people see a stat like that, our immediate posture as human beings — none of us want to be replaced by a machine — is thinking, ‘Wow, 40 percent of HR people think we’re going to be replaced,’” Walsh said. “But that’s not really what it’s saying. It’s saying it’s going to help us do a better job of finding the right people for the right jobs.”

AI Efficiency

At some level, this is already happening. Walsh pointed to LinkedIn algorithms that help recruiters find people with the right skills to match them with employment opportunities.

Walsh said one reason for the 40 percent finding is that companies want to invest in AI because they know it will become more stable and usable. “They realize it’s going to change the jobs that people need to do,” he said. “And so the idea of training a bunch of people for jobs that don’t exist — that’s hard.”

Schawbel said AI is also appealing because machines can work longer hours without requiring employee benefits or compensation. “They can also increase efficiencies that will enable organizations to grow without adding additional headcount,” he said.

For example, the average wage of a Starbucks barista is almost $20,000 per year, while a robot designed to make 120 cups of coffee per hour costs $25,000. “Robots can work seven days a week, you don’t have to pay the robot overtime and there’s no employee benefits,” Schawbel said. “So even at the basic level, if robots can do things more efficiently, it saves a company money.”

While coffee making may be a fairly trainable skill, some skills are more dynamic. Google Brain, for example, is a deep learning AI research team at Google that has been focusing on using AI to build software that can design machine learning software.

Walsh said that frees up the data scientists from hours of coding to focus on developing more sophisticated models and better applications of how to use the software. “It just takes the work that they’re doing to a higher level versus kind of punching the keys, which is what a lot of data scientists end up doing right now,” Walsh said. “They’re so ingrained into building the machine that they can’t think about how the machine is being applied.”

AI is changing marketing too, as it can already send emails, schedule posts and analyze data. A Forbes article reported that this is forcing marketers to be “technology gurus with a depth of social and emotional intelligence to complement their abilities.”

Schawbel said AI is still in its infancy so it’s hard to tell what the long-term productivity and labor impact will be, but there are estimates that it could cause a 35 percent growth in productivity.

Necessity or Choice?

Schawbel noted that since companies aren’t investing enough in employee training and thus don’t have the right pool of candidates, it might be out of necessity — not choice — that they are using AI in this manner.

Walsh, on the other hand, said companies that are constantly looking toward the future are going to adopt AI regardless. “Because many believe that AI is going to play a huge part in improving efficiency and improving a company’s ability to compete and meet customer demand, they’re naturally inclined to be investing in AI anyway,” he said. But he said the compounding pressure of fewer “work-ready” candidates — people who understand the exact skills needed in today’s workforce —is probably also expediting the adoption of AI.

Schawbel said this issue comes with its own implications, such as bugs, privacy issues, complaints and, most important, a lack of training for current employees in using AI. Schawbel said this dilemma could create a different skills gap scenario, where employees that retain their jobs are not going to be able to work with AI because of a lack of training. “You have to learn how to use these tools and machines, otherwise you’re going to be irrelevant too,” Schawbel said. “There’s going to be a training cost either way.”

Walsh said everyone is trying to wrap their heads around what the jobs of the future look like and one way to get ahead is to train employees to be digitally fluent in AI and machine learning. “The more comfortable we can get people with those concepts and get them fluent with working with those types of AI bots, the better and more efficient we’re going to be,” he said.

Schawbel and Walsh agreed the skills gap isn’t going away any time soon, as jobs and skills are constantly changing and technology is speeding up.

“We’re going to see more collaboration between educators, between companies and between the government to step in and provide training options to reskill and upskill individuals, for those whose jobs are going to either be eliminated or enhanced by AI,” Walsh said.

 

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Firms risk alienating staff with disruption plans

Organisations mustn't overlook their people when undergoing changes to prepare for the future of work, according to research from Mercer

Its Global Talents Trends 2019 study found that nearly three-quarters (71%) of UK executives predict significant disruption in the next three years, compared to 23% in 2018. 

But as executives focus on making their organisations 'future-fit', significant human capital risks – including the ability to close the skills gap and overcome employee change fatigue – can delay transformation progress, the research warned. Addressing these concerns is paramount given that less than one in three (29%) of executives rate their company’s ability to mitigate human capital risks as very effective, it stated. 

In today’s uncertain economic climate employees seek stability, the research found. Job security was revealed to be the top reason employees in the UK join a company, and also the main reason they stay. Yet close to one in three are concerned that AI and automation will replace their job (28%), with 66% of companies planning to automate more work in the next 12 months. 

Ilya Bonic, president of Mercer’s career business, said that employers risk not taking employees with them during a transformation. “Over the past few years organisations have moved from anticipation to action in preparing for the future of work. But they risk bewildering people with too much change, ignoring the values individuals admire, and inundating them with endless process,” she said. 

Mercer's study found that 62% of UK HR leaders are involved in planning the rollout of major change projects and 44% in executing those plans. But only one in three (31%) participated in the idea generation stage of transformation initiatives, it found. 

“These findings point to the need for transformation efforts to focus on people-centred design and better talent metrics to understand how people are experiencing and embracing change,” said Bonic. 

The research also found that around two-thirds (62%) of employees wanted curated learning to help them evolve their skills and prepare for future jobs. 

It found that high-performing employees are nearly four times more likely to work for an organisation that enables quick decision-making (68% vs. 18%) and seven times more likely for one that provides tools and resources for them to do their job efficiently (69% vs. 9%); and that high-growth firms are three times as likely as moderate-growth firms to provide a fully digital experience for employees. 

Kate Bravery, partner and global practices leader for Mercer's career business, said that organisations should focus on developing well-connected workforces. “The future of work is about connectivity, creating a work environment that appeals to today’s workforce by building a coherent sense of identity, sparking connections, and using data to personalise the experience,” she said. 

Mercer's Global Talent Trends 2019 study surveyed more than 7,300 C-suite executives, HR leaders, and employees from nine industry sectors and 16 geographies around the world.

March 2019

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Key Steps Women Can Take Toward Strong Leadership

Women have learned that career success is not about adjusting to the male-dominated status quo. It's about changing that status quo by embracing what makes diverse perspectives unique, and overcoming the doubts that keep you from reaching your full potential.

"Once I heard that I shouldn't expose my feelings at work, because this represents weakness, especially coming from a woman," said Mayra Attuy, a marketing head at Oath. "I see emotion, passion and compassion as valuable assets, not things to be ignored or hidden."

The importance of leaving your comfort zone

A commonly cited Hewlett-Packard study on internal hiring practices found that men often apply for a job when they meet 60 percent of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100 percent of them. Reshma Sujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, said that while girls are taught to play it safe, smile pretty and get all A's, boys are taught to play rough and swing high.

"In other words, we're raising our girls to be perfect, and we're raising our boys to be brave," she said in a TED talk. Even when women are ambitious, the socialization of perfection often leads them to risk aversion, Sujani said.

Devoreaux Walton, owner of Distinct Personal Branding, believes success is found outside of one's comfort zone, but is often hindered by the fear of the unknown.

"Every successful entrepreneur and business leader did what they were afraid to do instead of just letting the fear rule in their personal and professional lives," she said.

She recommends the best way to overcome fear is to acknowledge it; recognize it's there, but do it anyway. If you're too rigid, you could miss one of those serendipitous 'aha' moments that could inspire a creative solution or force a different approach.

Angie Hicks, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Angie's List, had to face her fears when she was approached about starting the now-national customer review service as an introverted college graduate.

"My biggest challenge was combating the fact that I was really shy and quiet," said Hicks at the inaugural American Express OPEN CEO BootCamp in 2013. "In starting a business, you have to get out and talk to people. I was doing door-to-door [subscription] sales, which was the last thing I ever thought I would do."

Leaving her comfort levels paved the way for Hicks to take advantage of opportunities that never would have arisen otherwise.

"Don't miss out on opportunities that come your way," she said. "Put yourself in a position to have those opportunities; know when one is facing you and take it."

Seeing equality as a reality

Many women have felt the effects of the gender gap during their careers, whether it was a pay dispute, a lost promotion or just a snide comment from a co-worker. Even if your work environment champions equality, it's not uncommon to encounter people who have faced some kind of discrimination, subtle or not, because of their gender.

It's difficult to think this way when cases of gender inequality are talked about in the news and on social media every day. However, if women want to be viewed as equal in the workplace, they must stand their ground and demand the respect they deserve – and it starts by behaving as if the gap has been closed, said Paula Stephenson, director of marketing at Smoke's Poutinerie.

"I have noticed that if you act like there's equality in the workplace, then there will be," Stephenson said.

That's not to say that people should pretend inequality doesn't exist. Acknowledging the need for change is important, but more important are your actions and attitudes in the workplace.

"Being a working mom in the corporate world is a daily challenge," Attuy said. Despite the struggle to find balance, Attuy considers her most proud professional moment when she returned from maternity leave. She believes that the fulfillment of her simultaneous personal and career success has made her a stronger marketer.

For women just entering the workforce, Attuy recommends leading by example while being open, supportive and collaborative with others. With advancements like the #MeToo movement, discussions have been ignited, but there are still many barriers to overcome.

"The big challenge is to keep our perspectives top of mind in conversations at the corporate level, and also among family and friends, so the mindset shift can happen," Attuy said. "Be resilient that change will come."

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What Is Accountability in the Workplace?

Achieving high levels of accountability in the workplace is the key to improving your organization’s top-line performance. 

When organizational performance is stagnating — or worse, declining — leaders are forced to confront a difficult question: why aren’t we getting the results we need?

Leaders often attempt to correct course by adjusting strategy and optimizing operations. They may re-frame their budget to allocate supplemental resources to struggling projects, shift their strategic approach to a business relationship, or on-board new talent in the hopes of closing performance gaps.

While these efforts can improve efficiency and may even lead to short-term successes, they often fail to sustain top-line improvement because they do not address the underlying culture. If leaders commit the same level of dedication to building a Culture of Accountability® as they do to developing an effective business strategy, they will be better positioned to deliver sustained organizational results.

Defining Your Desired Results

The first step to building accountability in the workplace is establishing a set of clear organizational objectives. This is especially important considering that, according to our landmark Workplace Accountability Study, nearly 90% of employees report that organizational results within their company are not clearly defined or understood. To make matters worse, 84% said that priorities within their organization are constantly changing. With no clear, set targets, how can employees be expected to drive meaningful progress towards organizational goals?

In order to avoid confusion surrounding top-line priorities, leaders should pinpoint and articulate their company’s Key Results — the three to five meaningful, measurable, and memorable “must-deliverables” that define organizational success. Only once leaders have clearly communicated these targets with their employees and created alignment across the organization can a company begin to build accountability in the workplace.

Taking the Steps to Bolster Accountability in the Workplace

While many people conflate accountability and responsibility, the differences between these two concepts are significant. While responsibility is associated with clearly defined duties and roles, accountability is the proactive, dynamic, and forward-facing process of exercising one’s agency in order to achieve a goal. According to the New York Times bestseller The Oz Principle, accountability is the “personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary for achieving desired results.”

Achieving Key Results through accountability requires that all employees take four crucial steps: See It, Own It, Solve It, and Do It (SOSD®). 

See It® – When employees See It, they ask themselves, What factors can I control and what factors are out of my control? They recognize the hurdles that exist and what must change in order to overcome those hurdles. 

Own It® – When employees Own It, they refuse to place blame on others and instead internalize the problem, asking themselves, What am I doing to contribute positively or negatively to current results? 

Solve It® – Once they have taken personal, psychological ownership for the problem, they Solve It by demonstrating creative problem-solving and asking themselves, What else can I do to help create an effective solution? 

Do It® – Finally, accountable employees Do It by asking themselves, What results am I accountable for and by when? 

Ultimately, establishing a culture of accountability in the workplace depends upon every employee’s willingness to See It, Own It, Solve It, Do It.

Nurturing Accountable Attitudes and Behaviors

When employees See It, Solve It, Own It, Do It, they are taking personal accountability for Key Results. However, accountability in the workplace demands continual psychological work — because it can be difficult to maintain an attitude of open feedback, ownership, innovation, and commitment. Sometimes, it’s easier to ignore or deny the problems at hand, offer excuses, justify underperformance — or worse, point fingers and blame others. 

Cultivating a flourishing culture of accountability in the workplace requires that every employee is constantly striving to reject these bad habits in favor of positivity, ownership, and solution-seeking — and to help others do the same. By taking personal ownership for problems and solutions rather than externalizing blame or making excuses, employees maintain a proactive approach to Seeing It, Solving It, Owning It, and Doing It every day. Accountable thinking and behaviors enable an organization to achieve its Key Results.

A Culture of Accountability Generates Better Results

According to The Oz Principle, “Only when you assume full accountability for your thoughts, feelings, actions, and results can you direct your own destiny; otherwise someone or something else will.” 

While this rings true on a personal level, its effects are magnified on the organizational level. If an organization fails to keep its workforce thinking and behaving collaboratively toward its objectives, it will fall victim to circumstance — allowing external factors such as fluctuating market conditions and competitors’ ability to determine its fate. On the other hand, when teams come together to take accountability through SOSD®, they control their destiny — and are able to reach and surpass their desired results.

February 2019

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Why working into your 70s or 80s needn't be a bad thing

A later retirement age and staying in the workplace for longer will create a demand for extended careers that follow multiple paths

For more than a century, what demographers call “best-practice life expectancy” has increased at the remarkable rate of two to three years every decade. That means that a child born today in a developed country has more than a 50 per cent chance of living past 100. In fact, people aged over 100 are already the fastest growing demographic group in the world. While this is good news for individuals, there are significant implications for every aspect of society and the environment. In 2019, we will work out ways to respond to the challenges of our ageing societies.

Longevity has profound implications for our personal economics. Unless we have saved more than 25 per cent of our income through our working lives (which few of us do), it is probable that we will be working into our 70s or 80s. Yet, under the conditions of the traditional “three-stage life” (full-time education followed by full-time employment followed by full-time retirement) that will prove to be virtually impossible. Instead we will need to start living a “multistage life”, with much more time out – for sabbaticals and periods of retraining – and many more transitions from one job to another.

This new way of structuring life is already beginning to emerge. People in their 30s are taking time out to explore their options and change the way they work. Those in their 40s and 50s are seeking to build a more fluid, portfolio way of working, and some are becoming entrepreneurs. People in their 60s and 70s are being forced to engage with the idea of working for the next ten to 20 years.

However, the institutional barriers they face are significant. Corporations tend to favour graduate recruitment and are ill-equipped to hire people in mid-career. Educational institutions are strongly focused on young adults and find it hard to integrate the over-30s. And many governments still base their policies for housing and social support on the three-stage-life framework.

In the workplace, alternative ways of earning a living, particularly freelance work, are flourishing – jobs that are capable of delivering greater autonomy, which will be crucial for making a multi-stage life fulfilling. And corporations are already exploring ways to make work more flexible and to counter age stereotypes (which, in my view, have been shocking) and retain employees over the age of 60.

Traditional educational establishments are struggling with life-long learning, but online Massive Open Online Courses (Moocs) are flourishing. Today, around 78 million people are learning this way and that number is growing by 20 million every year. Organisations such as General Assembly, which runs work-related technology courses, are enabling students to learn new skills in as little as 12 weeks, opening up the possibility of many educational breaks throughout the working life.

And LinkedIn Learning, built through LinkedIn’s acquisition of the online training business Lynda, will increasingly deliver content curated to suit an individual’s working profile. Most importantly, these programmes are age-agnostic – anyone of any age can take them.

Government response has been slow, but, not surprisingly, it is currently led by Japan, where 27 per cent of the population is over 65, half is over 50 and deaths have exceeded births for more than a decade. The country is promoting a narrative that focuses on the positives rather than the negatives of longevity.

Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe has assembled and personally chaired a council of ministers, business leaders, union representatives and academics (including myself) to develop policy proposals that will enable people to flourish across the whole of their longer lives. It has called for a range of measures including significant improvements in long-term care workers’ pay and a dramatic expansion of lifelong learning to support mid-career employment and enable people to work into their 70s and 80s.

In 2019, other countries will follow Japan’s lead. And, instead of relying on technological determinism to inform us about how we should see the future, we will realise that it is demography that has the most profound impact on shaping the context in which we live.

Lynda Gratton is a professor of management practice at London Business School and co-author of The 100-Year Life

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Change in the Workplace

How to Protect Your Career When Senior Management Changes

Change makes most people uneasy. When that change is in your workplace and threatens your livelihood, that uneasiness can become abject fear and it may, if you let it, tremendously impact your career. Your response can make a significant difference to the long-term effects. Find out how to respond effectively when your employer is undergoing a major transition, such as one to its senior management team.

What Changes May Occur 

Changes to organizations' senior management teams happen all the time. They are often the result of entities merging, being spun off, or getting acquired by private equity firms that buy up companies as investments. 

Changes to an entity's management team may also occur for reasons that are unrelated to mergers and acquisitions. Boards of directors may decide to bring in new talent to replace underperforming CEOs, or upper-level managers may leave on their own. New chief executives, in turn, could bring in new mid and lower level managers to help them turn things around. Regardless of what precipitated it, a management change will alter your workplace in some way.

The Impact of Management Change on Your Workplace 

A new management team may institute new rules and procedures, especially if your small, casually run organization is bought by a larger, more formally operated one. For instance, employees may have to follow processes for calling out and or requesting vacation time that were not in place before. Where limits on taking time off may have been somewhat lax, the folks running your company could stipulate how many sick and personal days they will allow. Your somewhat flexible old boss who didn't care what time you showed up as long as you worked a full day may have been replaced by a strict one who expects everyone to show up at a specific time every day.

The effect new management will have on the company culture—an organization's personality based on its values and underlying philosophies—may be subtle or quite noticeable. A casual workplace may become formal, or vice versa, for example. Your new boss may frown on the big birthday celebrations that used to happen in the break room at least once a week or may encourage parties when your prior boss didn't allow them. A workplace that forced you into wearing business attire every day may now allow casual dress.

While going from a strict boss to a more laid-back one may sound good, it can also be disconcerting.

Even though adapting to revamped rules and procedures, and even a new company culture may be a bit unpleasant, you will probably be able to adjust to them with some effort. Other changes, however, are less pleasant, and can significantly affect your career. When one company merges with or is acquired by another, there will be duplication in lines of business and departments. An organization doesn't need two accounting and human resources departments, for instance, and therefore some employees will be excessed.

Elimination of lines of business will also result in layoffs.

When new leaders come into a company, there is a trickle-down effect on those members of the organization who report to them including lower-level managers and the rank and file. You may someday find yourself facing challenges due to workplace changes like this. Your reaction to these transitions could have profound consequences on your career. Follow these dos and don'ts to cope with changes in your workplace that come about when new senior management arrives on the scene.

Tips for Facing the Challenges of Workplace Change  Become an Expert on the Changes: The more you know about what is happening, the better you will be able to react to it. Do company research to learn about the nature of the merger or acquisition or whatever else is at the root of the management change. If your employer is a publicly-held entity, it is required to make this information available to shareholders. That means it must file documents about it with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). It will be more difficult, but not impossible, to find information about a privately-held company. Consult trade publications and other media that publish business news. Get to Know the New Management Team: Attend any events your company may hold to introduce the new team to the staff. When you encounter an unfamiliar face around the office, initiate a conversation. Continue your online research to learn about new personnel. Your professional network can also be instrumental when gathering information about your new bosses. Be Realistic About the Changes: People, in general, bristle at change, but it is important to note that not all changes are bad nor are they all good. Some may lead to improvements that may increase your job satisfaction, but others may make you dislike going to work. Approach this transition with an open mind. Understand some changes may require time to get used to and some may continue to make you feel uncomfortable no matter what you do. Have a Plan In Place: Unfortunately, a workplace change may lead to your having to look for new employment. It may be for reasons beyond your control, for example, an organizational restructuring that results in the company eliminating your position or a manager bringing in his or her own people to replace you. Start preparing for a layoff as soon as whispers of the transition begin and activate your plan when necessary. Better to have it ready and not have to use it than to be blind-sided by a layoff. If your job is secure, but you decide to move on anyway, your plan can also help with that.

January 2019

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8 Top eLearning Trends For 2019

eLearning Trends For 2019: Which Form The Top 8?

Let’s look at the top eLearning trends for 2019 that will become stronger as we move forward:

1. Adaptive Learning Going To The Next Level

In my last year article on eLearning trends for 2018, I had predicted that adaptive learning will become stronger with greater adoption. It seems to head that way, as many new players are emerging. Adaptive learning, supported by confidence-based assessments and strong analytics and measurement of training effectiveness, is taking learning to the next level.

Very soon, in 2019, adaptive learning will make further strides in the eLearning marketspace. Organizations and learners will benefit as organizations ensure that there are better competition rates, and learners will enjoy the learning process as they get to see only that content that is personalized to them. Using effective assessments, learners can skip the content that they are completely confident about.

LMSs are slowly gearing up to compete with platforms that are offering adaptive learning. Hence it will be an important and interesting trend to watch out for in the coming year. My gut feeling is, adaptive learning is here to stay and the experimentation phase is over, and it will all about action in 2019.

2. Microlearning

Microlearning was a strong trend in 2018. I have seen that organizations are increasingly looking at microlearning as an important solution. It is a great method of implementing learning in small chunks that are objective driven and can be easily and quickly deployed within organizations.

Organizations that are looking to take advantage of microlearning will continue to benefit from this interesting and innovative mode of learning.

Learners benefit too as they get through the modules quickly and can repeat the learning many times as well. Retention is better, and they are less fussy about going through a boring hour-long module.

Microlearning can be implemented as videos, small games, quizzes, and infographics.

The great advantage of microlearning is that it can be implemented on any device. I feel microlearning will continue to be a strong trend in the year 2019 and beyond.

3. Artificial Intelligence And Learner Assistance

Artificial Intelligence assistance has picked up in the eLearning space. Organizations are now offering innovative solutions where bots are able to guide learners both on the learning path, as well as during the courses.

Artificial Intelligence will be used to predict learner behavior, as well as help personalize the learning. Based on the modules that were taken by learners and the difficulties or challenges faced, better personalization will be brought about. Voice-guided bots will also help learners to search for key content in modules. As I see it, organizations will be implementing newer methods of Artificial Intelligence support for their learners in both the learning process and during the moment of need. An example of this could be an intelligent chatbot that can act as support for technical queries.

Added to the mix is the use of robots for helping kids and people with special needs to learn new skills, and help them in the moment of need.

My take is that Artificial Intelligence will continue to be a very strong trend, and that it is something that will change the learning landscape in 2019 and beyond.

4. Gamification And Game-Based Learning

Gamification and game-based learning were strong trends in 2018. Organizations are increasingly looking at investing in game-based learning to empower and engage their learners better. It has been observed that gamification has improved retention rates and better application of the subject matter learned at work.

Organizations will look to implement more game-based solutions, as they see them as value adders for the organization-wide learning. Games that are well thought out, well designed and address the needs of learners engage them effectively. It has been proven through numerous implementations that games help in releasing happy hormones, such as dopamine and serotonin.

A learning organization is one that takes advantage of game-based learning.

In my opinion, game-based learning is here to stay, and will continue to be a strong trend in the year 2019 and beyond.

5. AR/VR/MR

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are both growing rapidly as important modes of implementing learning content. It has been observed that K-12 has adopted Augmented Reality in a rapid way to teach various subjects, such as Science and Math.

The great thing about Augmented Reality is that it can augment the existing content through interesting overlays of graphics and images that can pop out and thrill the learners. More than the thrill, it is the experience itself that helps learners connect to the content better.

Virtual Reality continues to grow as it is used in teaching various safety-related procedures. Organizations are now looking at Virtual Reality as an important solution, as eLearning companies use effective Instructional Design strategies to enhance the VR experience. Using a mixture of 360-degree photographs, interactions, and many more elements, VR is becoming a useful experience. Organizations are also investing in cognitive learning products that are augmented by VR especially for children and people with special needs.

Added to AR and VR is the exciting new modality called Mixed Reality or MR. Already big players are making investments in MR which combines AR and VR to a great effect.

Organizations will continue to take advantage of this interesting trend in the year 2019 and beyond.

6. Video-Based Learning

Videos are one of the hottest modes of training right now. The popularity of video-based sites like YouTube have forced organizations to adopt more videos into their training. Be it Instructor-Led Training that is interspersed with anecdotal or contextual videos, or eLearning where videos play an integral part in disseminating information, videos are here to stay.

The focus is on decreasing the load time and the size of videos using various tools. Video-based learning will continue to grow and will be an important trend to watch out for in the year 2019 and beyond.

7. Social Learning

Social learning involves collaboration between individuals at the workplace through various modes, such as forums, informal chat sessions, sharing sessions, and learning circles. Social learning has picked up in the last few years thanks to the emphasis on building a learning organization. As more collaborative tools are developed, social learning will continue to grow and leave an impact in the year 2019 and beyond.

8. Content Curation

Content curation has found a lot of support from the learning community and professionals in 2018. What will the year 2019 hold for this wonderful method of curating information and providing the learners with just-in-time information? I feel LMSs will continue to grow and offer content curation as an important method of sharing information, and provide the right experience to the learners. I see that content curation will continue to be a strong trend in the year 2019 and beyond.

Conclusion

These are the trends I foresee as preferred modes of learning in the coming years.

I would love to hear from you with suggestions on what other trends can contribute to enhancing the eLearning space during 2019.

 

December 2018

November 2018

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The world of accountants is evolving and professionals in the field must take stock of those dynamics, or risk becoming marginalised.

  The changing world of accountants

Expectations on the profession are increasing. Growing regulations and governance, globalisation, and increased use of digital technologies together mean the world is a more complex place for the professional accountant. As a result careers can look very different from those of the past but skills remain vital to on-going development.

At the same time we are increasingly adopting more flexible career paths. We are moving from the traditional, so called ‘ladder’ path to a more dynamic path or lattice where we make career choices aligned to our personal growth agendas.

Individuals are also taking control of their own development - actively acquiring the new skills to progress rather than waiting for employer-led development opportunities.

Four dynamics of change in workplace learning

Why 'learning to learn' is the key to unlock potential

The choices of how we learn are increasing. There are more providers and more content is readily available, in more accessible and just in time formats. As learners we need to understand more about how we personally learn and what activities we can undertake to achieve the performance level that we are seeking. Making the right choices to remain successful in our careers.

"a pivotal event [for the organisation] was embracing the fact that learning was for all, no matter what your role was, your age or your length of time at Boots, understanding this brought about a brand new way of thinking about learning"

Charles Beddington, Boots, UK Building a culture to support learning 

Embracing continuous learning requires both a certain mindset and, probably, a kind of paradigm shift for many. Organisations therefore need to ensure that they foster a culture of openness to developing by embracing the learning strategy as part of the overall business strategy. 

Download the full report 

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Training or Learning – More than Semantics?

Training can be mandatory, learning is always optional. That’s my answer when asked to explain the difference between training and learning. It’s a common question and one that all learning and development professionals should be able to answer. (Not that we all have to agree on the answer.) Some L&D professionals believe that learning is a long-term process related to development and change while training is developed for a specific task – learning about emotional intelligence as opposed to being taught how to operate a piece of machinery. It may be a matter of semantics, but words are powerful. The term learning gets more traction in leadership circles in organisations than training – so why do most of our colleagues still talk about training not learning? Training for most people in an organisation is something that is done to them whereas learning is something that they actively participate in – ‘they’ learn. That semantic ownership ensures that learners engage. By being ‘trained’ colleagues allow others to take control and ‘instruct’ them in what needs to be done, specifically and within a structure and format that they do not have ownership of nor influence over. There are many reasons why training fails to deliver learning, they include:

There is no contextualisation The content doesn’t flow The training method doesn’t resonate  The environment isn’t conducive There’s no real life application There’s a lack of follow-up 

Learning is being conducted everyday through informal networks within organisations where colleagues exchange information. It is not necessarily classed as formal learning – as most of it isn’t – and it is distant from formal training. It is the responsibility of the L&D professional to recognise the value in these informal learning networks – where no formal learning objectives have been set – and leverage it for the organisation. Learning networks happen everywhere at work where colleagues interact, they are also formed digitally through the utilisation of non workplace reference sources, search engines and communities. “Just Google it” is an invitation to learn in an unformatted, non-formalised self-directed manner embraced not only by by Millennials but by all colleagues. No-one is afraid of the web anymore. (Who among us hasn’t looked on Youtube to learn how to do something?)  There is of course still a requirement for specific formal training, but is has to be part of a greater mix of opportunistic learning options that are flexible and agile to suit individual learners. If your organisation introduces a new project management system you will still need to train people to be able to use it (via instruction, retention and repetition), but beyond that you will need to allow opportunities for them to continue to learn how to get the most out of the new system as they become familiar with it – how to apply critical thinking and creative applications to various situations – beyond the narrow operating requirements that training will deliver.

The goal of your organisation, regardless of what type of organisation you work within, is to achieve results. Whatever those results might be – profit, attendance, membership, votes, lives saved, goals scored – there is a need for all members of the organisation to be able to deliver their part in achieving those goals and it falls to L&D to ensure that they are equipped with the knowledge and skills to do so. It is therefore incumbent upon us as learning professionals to drive the culture of learning within our organisations beyond designing and delivering training. It is understood and widely accepted that for organisations to grow they must become agile in how they operate and relentless in how they innovate. This is also true for L&D. 

An agile L&D department is commercially savvy and strategic in thought. It is operationally focused and responsive in delivery. It promotes and accommodates ongoing and continuous learning. It also does a bit of training here and there. An agile L&D department is always asking itself:

Why do we work in this way? (Challenge everything.) What can we do to improve? (Exclude nothing.) How can we drive the learning agenda? (Ask everyone.)

Challenge everything. It’s simple and scary and the single most important thing you can do to understand your current situation. Exclude nothing. Everything is up for grabs: ways of working, systems, processes, environments, technologies, timings, formats, audiences, objectives and rationales. Ask everyone. The knowledge needed to improve your learning culture, offer and outcomes is there, you just have to ask the right person. 

It’s okay to train. But be aware that it won’t always result in learning. That’s out of your hands, but you can give it a nudge by making your training:

Relevant to the individual Specific to their role Focused on a goal Contextualised to assure impact

If you want to super-size the learning opportunity make your training agile and responsive to the needs of those being trained:

Self-paced and self-managed with optional guidance opportunities Bite-sized, micro-sized and immersive content Easily-accessible across multiple platforms and environments Informal and/or formal instructional delivery as requested Allow for self forming learning networks to support one another Reward learning with recognition and opportunity

Finally, if the goal is to deliver learning, L&D professionals must stop accepting every request for training as an edict. (Challenge everything.) Learning solutions are varied and should be responsive to an identified business need as opposed to being a knee-jerk training product developed because a stressed-out manager thought it was a panacea to poor performance (Which it never is). Training can be mandatory, but it should be focused on addressing an identified problem where the solution adds organisational value in a specific and measurable way that is easily applied by the learner, maybe then learning would be an option that more people would choose.

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Continuous Improvement in Learning – an Organisational Challenge.

Compromising on the quality of learning in an organisation cannot be justified by the need to do things faster or cheaper. But invariably – in organisations that do not value learning – quality is less of a priority than cost management. This is both short-sighted and a threat to organisational performance. In any other area of an organisation when cost savings are sought, quality of deliverables is a non-negotiable when it comes to identifying where savings can be found. Instead, many businesses employ continuous improvement processes – Lean ways of working – and strive to find process improvements to save costs without compromising quality. Learning organisations understand the importance of applying the principles of continuous process improvement in developing, delivering and evaluating learning. 

Continuous process improvement is not new. Kaisen, Kanban etc are all Lean process improvement methodologies that have been used globally for many years. The term refers to the task of identifying opportunities for improvement, implementing changes, and robustly measuring the impact of those changes. There are three key principles that support continuous improvement in L&D:

Continuous process improvement is a mindset not an event Buy-in to the mindset is needed across the whole organisation The process is recursive – Plan, Do, Check, Act

The mindset of continuous improvement refers to the ongoing search for ways to improve organisational efficiency and effectiveness – it is the belief that there is always room for improvement and a way to do things better. When this mindset is championed and encouraged across all functions and at all levels in the organisation the opportunity to focus on activities that add value and to reduce everything else drives business transformation, results in productivity improvements, growth opportunity and increased profitability – goals that strategic learning departments should be aligned to and measured against.

The notion of the continuous process improvement mindset fits well with what Stanford professor Dr Carol Dweck called the Growth mindset where individuals who continually learn and embrace challenges improve their overall intelligence and opportunity for greater personal success. (She identified having a fixed mindset as being self-limiting with little opportunity – or desire – for personal improvement where challenge and effort is needed to be successful.) An L&D professional must have a growth mindset in order to creatively deliver when their organisation is under cost pressures and to ensure that they are able to challenge what they do and how they do it in the search for continuous process improvement. 

Learning professionals need to drive the conversation by asking questions of themselves and others in the organisation, eg:

What can we do differently? What does good look like? Why do we do it like this? Where are the pain points? What is the saving here? Where can we add value? Where can we strip cost/time? How can we leverage our current system/processes? What is our measure of success?

Asking questions is the first step in understanding where we can make improvements to services, products, and processes. The process is enriched when others in the organisation outside of the learning department are involved and allowed to contribute without judgement or qualification. There are a number of principles that can help us to work with the outputs of our initial questioning conversations in the search for improvement to our learning: 

Value everyone’s contribution – especially the learners in the organisation. (Encourage them to identify what small things would improve their learning experiences. Or ask them what bothers them about the current way of doing things.) Look for improvements based on small changes - large changes can often be met with fear and negativity. Look for incremental improvements – they tend to be low-cost and low-risk and therefore easier to establish and embed. Check-in regularly. Open communication and constant feedback are  important aspects of continuous improvement. Have a measure. Be clear of the impact that any improvement will make – and tell people.

Once a potential improvement has been identified, take action.

By continuing to cycle through these steps, improvement is always being worked on and evaluated. Each step builds on the previous step, and then feeds into the next.

Plan - In the planning phase, the L&D team will drive the conversation – ask the right questions - to measure current standards, come up with ideas for improvements, identify how those improvements should be implemented, set objectives, and make the plan of action.

Do - Implement the plan that was created in the first step. This includes not only changing processes and ways of working, but also providing any necessary communication and engagement across the organisation. 

Check – This is where the L&D team need to evaluate what impact the changes they have implemented have had against an agreed measure of success. It is at this step that any corrective actions need to happen to ensure the desired results are being achieved.

Act - All the data gathered from the change is analysed by L&D and presented to the organisation leadership team to determine whether the change will become permanent or if further adjustments are needed.

The goal of continuous process improvement for the L&D professional is ultimately the provision of efficient and effective learning aligned to the organisational goals – which is why changes are measured and presented to the organisations leadership. The principle of The Aggregation of Marginal Goals made famous by David Brailsford and his team at British Cycling back in 2003 is a great example of how continuous process improvement can make a difference to performance in an organisation. It is the notion of looking for lots of little improvements in what you do – tiny margins of improvement everywhere. When Brailsford took over British Cycling he looked at everything about the sport, the bikes and the cyclists in the search for those improvements. He and his team redesigned bike saddles, rubbed alcohol on tyres, taught team cyclists how to wash their hands (to minimise the risk of infections), changed the pillows they slept on and the socks that they wore as well as changing their training regimen and diets. Applying the principles of the aggregation of marginal gains saw the team go from relative obscurity and mediocre performance to winning the Tour De France and dominate cycling at the 2012 Olympics – and beyond. Applying the same principles to learning and development can only result in improved organisational performance - find the 1% improvement in every aspect of L&D. Adopting a continuous process improvement mindset can only lead to growth in the success of learning that may be cheaper and may be faster, but that will not compromise on quality. 

Learning is continuous, and so therefore should be the search for improvements in how we approach it within our organisations.

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Why Sky needed a radical rethink of L&D

The concept of workplace learning today bears almost no relation to what most organisations were practising even a decade ago. Classroom cohorts have given way to user-centricity. Textbooks have been replaced by smartphones. Peers are as likely to take the lead as trainers.

But while it is easy to talk about reinventing L&D roles, the reality of initiating such a shift is daunting, even in an organisation as inured to change as Sky, Europe’s largest media business with 30,000 employees and revenues of almost £13bn.

Five years ago, says Tracey Waters, the business’s head of people engagement and development, it took 12 months to design a leadership development programme before it could even be piloted. Most soft skills and onboarding was handled in classrooms. In a business that had begun a broad digital transformation, that meant learning was in danger of lagging behind. “It wasn’t responsive,” as Waters puts it.

The L&D team set out to shift the way learning was delivered, doing away with cohort-based, scheduled programmes and instead introducing a mindset focused primarily on solving employees’ problems, where staff could take control of their own development. 

That meant L&D had to borrow both processes and practices from digital development, going from what Waters calls a ‘waterfall’ mentality of cascading information, to an agile world where ideas are prototyped and iterated to succeed fast.

“We needed to embrace a mindset around user-centricity, data-driven decisions and iterative development,” she says. “That is so far removed from how most L&D teams work. You have to get used to products that might feel a lot less polished, rather than delaying a release until it is a complete solution.”

The new vision was necessary because Sky was facing a fresh array of nimble rivals – not just the likes of Amazon and Netflix taking on its core TV business, but YouTube and social networks competing for customers’ attention. The business had also recently launched Sky Mobile and was continuing to grow its other divisions.

“We need to be fast, and so does our L&D,” says Joanna Lewis, director of HR for the UK and Ireland. “That’s not easy in such a varied business. We’re a creative business, a customer service business, a technology business. We are constantly innovating.

“The wrong answer would be a development offering that takes people away from their work for long periods – it’s not effective and it would be almost impossible, and impossibly expensive, to create a learning catalogue that covers all the company’s existing and future skills requirements.”

The primary answer is to identify and target ‘points of need’ rather than broad topics. Instead of creating a management development programme, for example, the L&D team focuses on a specific pinch point such as onboarding a new team member or having a positive end-of-year review conversation, and backs this with digital resources and small group coaching workshops.

Automation helps too. Emails target newly recruited or promoted managers to show them the depth of resources available in their first 90 days. Specialist content, meanwhile, is mostly covered by third party, on-demand solutions.

“We’ve tried to remove the bottleneck that L&D can become,” says Waters. “The idea that in this day and age you can have an L&D team who are experts in the learning needs of a company like Sky is a recipe for failure. We have to unlock a whole company of people who are much better informed about their learning needs than we are.”

Sky has been helped in this by working with its own UX lab and consumer psychologists to help hone digital products. And the HR team has approached its work with a marketing mindset, helping encourage the adoption of products.

This measurability piqued the attention of HR industry analyst Fosway Group, which praised Sky’s focus on metrics: “Without tapping into data that examines user behaviour and usage of resources, and going beyond traditional completion rates, organisations cannot start to measure engagement [from L&D initiatives].”

The overall aim, says Waters, is to put the onus on individuals to learn in ways, and at times, that are comfortable for them. But that isn’t straightforward: “A digital learning solution is much harder to help people navigate than you expect. We thought we’d switch this thing on, people would have amazing access and they would get on with it. But it’s a product, and you have to market that in the same way as you would market to your customers.” 

For Lewis, what’s also becoming clear is that much traditional L&D activity doesn’t deal with ‘real’ problems. Instead, she says, it is used as a proxy to solve a lack of recognition or issues around status or networking. By making learning about real, definable skills and behaviours, some of these other issues are now being solved.

The human-to-human is still critical at Sky – popular 90-minute seminars bring together groups of six to eight people to learn from each other through appreciative inquiry, for example – but it’s clear being more employee-centric and data-driven has struck a chord with a progressive workforce. Already, engagement surveys are showing employees feel they have more development opportunities, and L&D is looking at how it can add genuine value in a role where it isn’t at the centre of the learning experience. It’s a process that’s never likely to end – and they wouldn’t have it any other way.

October 2018

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A Holistic Learning Approach for Organisations

The term “holistic” often brings to mind non-scientific therapies and alternative lifestyles featuring scented candles and self-help strategies involving chanting and meditation. (Not that there is anything wrong with any of those things.) However, from a learning perspective there are benefits to be gained from taking a holistic approach to the development and deployment of learning in organisations. We can approach holistic learning from two perspectives – educating the whole person; and a strategic design approach.

1) Holistic Learning – educating the whole person

A key proposition of Experiential Learning Theory (Kolb & Kolb) is that learning is a holistic process of adaptation. It is not just the result of cognition but involves the integrated functioning of the total person – thinking, feeling and behaving. Itaddresses and involves the learner's whole personality.

Cognitive (Thinking) – learning facts, theory, logical relations Emotional (Feeling) – playfulness, feeling connected to others, experiencing positive and negative emotions by being challenged, emotions regarding values and intellectual concepts Practical (Behaving) – turning ideas into decisions and actions, practicing skills and experimenting, learning by doing

Holistic learning encourages the use of meaningful content that relates to authentic tasks/situations to engage learners, it focuses on building knowledge and critical thinking as opposed to teaching facts/figures, and it continually encourages learners to develop and find the application of what they’ve learnt. There are different methods that can be used:

Practical Experience:  Role-playing games, independent work on tasks, simulations, working with experts, presenting their experience and expertise Acquiring Knowledge: Involving experts, sharing expertise among participants, text work, media work, analytical tasks Reflective Evaluation: Collaborative feedback, independent evaluation by participants of the experience and outcomes, facilitating skills to identify personal criteria for success, discussion

Holistic learning provides a range of learning opportunities that can be applied to create a complex and deep learning experience. When the learning objectives are aligned to the operational goals holistic learning maximises the opportunity for individual and organisational performance improvement. 

2) Holistic Learning – a strategic design approach

High-performing organisations foster a culture of continuous learning and take a much more holistic approach to learning and development. Holistic approaches to learning recognise the connectedness of mind, body and spirit. When we take a holistic approach to learning in the workplace we need to be aware of the physical, personal, social and emotional wellbeing of the learner as well as focusing on the operational objective of the learning. There are three key elements to consider in developing a holistic learning approach:

The learning context: The strategic alignment of the learning with the operational and commercial goals of the organisation The framework within which the learner receives value  The establishment of learning standards and methods of measure The link to performance management and talent development The learning environment: The infrastructure to plan, develop, deliver and evaluate learning The management of the physical space  The opportunity for social interaction and personal reflection The importance of continuous learning The learning blend: Varied content delivery Self-directed and facilitated options Clear catalogue or curriculum navigation and learning paths

Taking a holistic approach to learning is crucial in our fast changing working environment. Technology has disrupted work and learning. We need to respond to the changing requirements – and expectations – of today’s organisational learner. Flexibility, mobility and on-demand learning within a strategic delivery framework are key to ensure engagement. 

Research by Deloitte has linked on-going, holistic learning in the workplace to increased employee productivity and improved employee retention. A holistic learning approach which offers opportunities to the ‘whole person’ through a varied delivery offer empowers employees to gain the knowledge and skills they need to advance their careers within the organisation. This offers the opportunity for a different kind of self-help from that usually associated with the term holistic – self-directed learning with immediate value. Scented candle and chanting optional.

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Making L&D Relevant – Again.

Is it provocative to ask if L&D is valued in your organisation?

If value is measured in curriculum content, availability and training attendance then perhaps not. But if the question is framed around the currency of relevance and commercial impact then it becomes harder to be positive about the perceived value of L&D as a strategic partner. 

Mounting evidence tells us that L&D needs to change if it is to remain – or some may challenge become – relevant as the future of work unfolds and creates new demands on how organisations need to develop to secure their existence. In the 2017 report Driving the New Learning Organisation (Towards Maturity & CIPD) clarity of purpose is identified as a “central connecting characteristic” of a learning organisation. If we believe that this is true for organisations as a whole then it must also be true for L&D as a function. It is this lack of clarity of purpose that often creates a culture of confusion about the value of L&D evident in how senior leaders view L&D professionals within their organisations. 

The Open University Business School reported in 2017 that two-fifths of international organisations didn’t have a global strategy for learning and 42% of L&D decision makers voiced concern that leadership teams do not value learning. Some of the blame for this lack of value must sit with L&D. In order to define their clarity of purpose, L&D professionals must decide if they are merely a support function that jumps to respond to the whim of a manager or a strategic player capable in playing their part in contributing to the four critical levers of business – growth, transformation, productivity and profitability?

L&D professionals need to align their value proposition within the frame of their organisation’s currency of relevance – operational priorities and commercial imperatives. Work by the Institute for Employment Studies as far back as 2009 identified the three core skillsets for an L&D professional as business understanding, technical L&D skills and consulting or business partnering skills. Today’s L&D professional while aware of the need for their own continuous professional learning are still falling short in demonstrating their value through partnership and understanding.

If the ambition is to move from being viewed as a cost center to gaining traction as a business partner and to align to the future needs of the organisation there has to be a shift in skillset and mindset in order to deliver core and strategic L&D.

From To Through

Transacting 

Transforming

Delivering the currency of relevance

Fixed

Growth

Embracing the discomfort of uncertainty

Create

Curate

Accessing the multiverse of content

Push 

Pull

Giving learning customers choice and control

Pedagogy

Heutagogy

Facilitating self-determined learning

Owner 

Custodian

Making content easy to find and access

Knee-jerk

Insight

Learning strategy driven by data analytics

Tick-box

Bottom-line

Learning with an overt commercial measure

Educate

Enrich

Stimulating content in a vibrant environment

To move from being viewed as a cost center to a strategic partner L&D has to become enabled through a new combination of skillset, mindset and outlook changes:

Develop commercial thinking in L&D professionals - challenge the value of the learning and organisational customer experience. Challenge operational legacy – connecting what has been and is being done to new model learning. Develop an agile mindset – give permission to try. Think creatively – be active in developing non-conformist solutions. Value L&D as a strategic partner – develop a tone of voice within the Leadership and HR environment so as to be a driving partner not a functional servant. Strengthen the proposition - blended teams of L&D, OD and Talent specialists collaborating on projects aligned to the 4 critical drivers.

L&D need to be able to tell their story of worth, the rationale of why they need to have a seat around the strategic decision making table. They need to look inwards at their structure, skills and mission to ensure that they can become more relevant and be recognised as a value-add function that is able to align and deliver through the organisation’s currency of relevancy. To paraphrase Jim Collins, L&D professionals need to preserve the core of what they do while stimulating progress to secure their future.

Is it provocative to ask if L&D is valued in your organisation? 

Leave a comment to let us know what you think.

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Make Learning a Lifelong Habit

 

I recently worked my way through Edmund Morris’s first two Teddy Roosevelt biographies, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt and Theodore Rex. Roosevelt wasn’t without flaws, but he was by nearly all accounts fascinating and intellectually voracious. He published his first book, The Naval War of 1812, at 23 and continued to write on everything from conservation to politics and biography. According to Morris, at certain periods he was rumored to read a book a day, and all this reading and writing arguably made him both charismatic and uniquely equipped to engage the host of topics he did as president: national conservation efforts, naval expansion, trust regulation, and a variety of others.

Roosevelt was what we might call a “lifetime learner.” Learning became, for him, a mode of personal enjoyment and a path to professional success. It’s a habit many of us would like to emulate. The Economist recently arguedthat with all the disruptions in the modern economy, particularly technology, ongoing skill acquisition is critical to persistent professional relevance. Formal education levels are regularly linked to higher earnings and lower unemployment. And apart from its utility, learning is fun. It’s a joy to engage a new topic. Having an array of interesting topics at your disposal when speaking to colleagues or friends can boost your confidence. And it’s fulfilling to finally understand a difficult new subject.

But this type of continuous and persistent learning isn’t merely a decision. It must become a habit. And as such, it requires careful cultivation.

First, developing a learning habit requires you to articulate the outcomes you’d like to achieve. Would you like to reinvigorate your conversations and intellectual activity by reading a host of new topics? Are you looking to master a specific subject? Would you like to make sure you’re up-to-date on one or two topics outside your day-to-day work? In my own life, I like to maintain a reading program that exposes me to a variety of subjects and genres with the goal of general intellectual exploration, while also digging more deeply into a few areas, including education, foreign policy, and leadership. Picking one or two outcomes will allow you to set achievable goals to make the habit stick.

Based on those choices, set realistic goals. Like many people, each year, I set a series of goals for myself. These take the form of objectives I’d like to achieve over the course of the year (e.g., read 24 books in 2017) and daily or weekly habits I need to cultivate in accordance with those goals (e.g., read for more than 20 minutes five days per week). For me, long-term goals are tracked in a planner. Daily or weekly habits I monitor via an app called momentum, which allows me to quickly and simply enter completion of my habits on a daily basis and monitor adherence. These goals turn a vague desire to improve learning into a concrete set of actions.

With goals in hand, develop a learning community. I have a bimonthly book group that helps keep me on track for my reading goals and makes achieving them more fun. Similarly, many of my writer friends join writing groups where members read and edit each other’s work. For more specific goals, join an organization focused on the topics you’d like to learn — a foreign policy discussion group that meets monthly or a woodworking group that gathers regularly to trade notes. You might even consider a formal class or degree program to add depth to your exploration of a topic and the type of commitment that is inherently structured. These communities increase commitment and make learning more fun.

To focus on your objectives, ditch the distractions. Learning is fun, but it is also hard work. It’s so extraordinarily well documented as to be almost a truism at this point, but multitasking and particularly technology (e.g., cell phones, email) can make the deep concentration needed for real learning difficult or impossible. Set aside dedicated time for learning and minimize interruptions. When you read, find a quiet place, and leave your phone behind. If you’re taking a class or participating in a reading group, take handwritten notes, which improve retention and understanding, and leave laptops, mobiles devices, and other disrupting technologies in your car or bag far out of reach. And apart from physically eliminating distractions, consider training your mind to deal with them. I’ve found a pleasant impact of regular meditation, for example, has been an improvement in my intellectual focus which has helped my attentiveness in lectures and ability to read difficult books.

Finally, where appropriate, use technology to supplement learning. While technology can be a distraction, it can also be used to dramatically aid a learning regimen. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) allow remote students to participate in community and learn from some of the world’s most brilliant people with the added commitment of class participation. Podcasts, audiobooks, e-readers, and other tools make it possible to have a book on hand almost any time. I’ve found, for example, that by using audiobooks in what I think of as “ambient moments” — commuting or running, for example — I can nearly double the books I read in a year. Good podcasts or iTunes U courses can similarly deliver learning on the go. Combine these tools with apps that track your habits, and technology can be an essential component of a learning routine.

We’re all born with a natural curiosity. We want to learn. But the demands of work and personal life often diminish our time and will to engage that natural curiosity. Developing specific learning habits — consciously established and conscientiously cultivated — can be a route to both continued professional relevance and deep personal happiness. Maybe Roosevelt had it right: a lifetime of learning can be a success in itself.

September 2018

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Jordan Peterson and the Future of Work

This is a long answer to a question on Quora about how to dismiss Jordan Peterson's ideas pithily. Having just read his book, I thought it was worth trying to answer that question to help me sort out my thinking about his work. It became longer and longer, so I thought I'd post it here as well. 

You can’t dismiss his argument pithily. To even try is to lose.

Peterson's Analysis of Modern Western Society

Peterson’s strength is in his analysis of the problem of living a good life in the modern world. There are very few people who have reached his level sophistication. In a nutshell, he captures the tensions and anxieties of what it feels like to try and live a meaningful life in a fragmenting system. He clearly illustrates how the foundations of the social fabric that inform and constitute the Western modernist project, as exemplified by its poster-child - the USA, are fragmenting and liquefying.

The basis of this is about as mainstream as it gets. Sociologists such as Zygmunt Bauman, Anthony Giddens, Ulrich Beck and Richard Sennett have been making similar arguments for decades. You see it in debates about VUCA in management literature and the paradoxical concept that change is the only constant. To try and even argue with this leaves you open to broadside attacks.

You have to accept his sophistication and accuracy in this space. You also have to realise that the way in which he has phrased and explained it is massively powerful, being clearly and elegantly articulated with a strong affective component. It explains to people why the lives they are living seem less than meaningful and comes with an emotional cannonball to the brain. Don’t even try and debate this. You will lose.

What you can debate is his solution, which is a little over-simplistic, albeit one that follows similar solutions from thinkers previously wrestling with the same space. I’ll try to explain.

Three Perspectives of Social Evolution

There are three perspectives on the social evolution of contemporary, or modern, society. Although there is no agreed upon delineation, let’s call them cyclical, utopian, pragmatic.

1: Cyclical | the idea that all societies get born, grow, peak, decay and die. Social turbulence suggests that the end of a cycle is at hand.

2: Utopian | the idea that our turbulent times are an inevitable blip on the road to social perfection

3: Pragmatic | the idea that we must deliver better coping methodologies to help us flourish in and despite this turbulence

Peterson follows the cyclical interpretation and is horrified by the utopian one. He draws from a number of cyclical thinkers - Frye (who follows Spengler), Kierkegaard and Nietzsche spring to mind. These thinkers would have it that the turbulence and grotesque excess we experience is evidence that we are in a decadent society that will soon decay, die and be reborn. The rebirth will necessarily reconnect us to our religious/spiritual roots, and return us to our true nature. For thinkers such as Vico and Kierkegaard, that was a “truer” or more authentic interpretation of Christianity. For Nietzsche, it was a return to the joyous Dionysian spirit of Ancient Greece. Peterson needs to be read as investigating what that return looks like for modern North American, or Anglo-Saxon, societies.

His horror of the utopian form draws from previous attempts to perfect Western society, notably Nazi Germany and Communist Russia in the 20th Century. Writers who believed that Western society could be made perfect include Hegel, Durkheim and Marx. Peterson regards postmodernism as an updated, possibly polluted, version of Marixism, which is trying to continue that project of social perfection through the labelling of all categories into things that are understood, have their place and can be measured and controlled. If labelling is the core of modernist thinking, relabelling lies at the core of the postmodern. What it also does is subjugate the individual to the system, so the idea and practice of living an authentic, meaningful life as determined by the self are taken away from you. You become what the system says you are. His reaction to the students in the YouTube video that made him famous illustrates his horror at this when he reacts not the labels related to LGBTQ, but the idea he should be compelled to use the labels or accede to an external authority for him to be allowed to question them.

To combat his horror of the utopian solution (and I fully agree with his fear of its event horizon), Peterson asks us to reconnect to our natural state which is, for him, determined by biology and religious-style practices. He argues that all societies were naturally patriarchal, as determined by biology (men are stronger, women need to bear children), and the order-creating element of such societies is masculine, as exemplified by a father god. The order-destroying element of such societies was naturally matriarchal, as exemplified by Eve in the Eden story. His concerns are that the feminisation (or emasculation) of modern American society is disconnecting its people from meaning, and delivering a utopian horror of forced equality, in which both genders are artificially constrained by societal labelling.

Peterson sees this utopian order, in which everything that can be possibly labelled is labelled, through a paradoxical lens - such order can only bring chaos with it. What happens if you still don’t fit? What then? Are you seen as waste or excrement, to be discarded, expelled or executed - the inevitable strange scapegoats of the modernist project pursuing an impossible end-goal, in which every individual must fit into a category of one. There is nothing more chaotic than an ordered system that needs to have 7 billion categories, so certain things that don’t fit simply have to be expelled. And here chaos lies.

Until this point, I have no argument with anything he writes. The modernist project has failed (yup, Bauman had that pegged in the 1990s) and the postmodernist project’s event horizon is non-achievable nonsense (yup, Bauman again, in the 2000s). So, there needs to be a viable alternative. For Peterson, as discussed above, it is the rebirth of a biological and religious interpretation of what it means to be human.

This is where I think he falls down, and reveals the simplistic one-dimensionality of his preferred solution in his own writings.

Complexity, Thought & Collaboration

He perceives the feminisation of modern society as the descent into postmodern utopian/chaos, positing that the female god protects what it knows by tearing apart the unknown - the “mother grizzly, all compassion to her cubs, who marks you as potential predator and tears you to pieces.” This undoubtedly occurs in postmodern debates. Question a brand new label and see those who birthed it come at you all guns blazing. Again, I have little to complain about here. I have seen it happen in academic conferences. It is neither pretty nor civilized.

But he also argues that there is a positive interpretation of the female god - in which “chaos is possibility itself, the source of ideas, the mysterious realm of gestation and birth.” This takes us to the third interpretation of the social evolution of contemporary society - the pragmatic.

The pragmatic interpretation argues that the fragmentation of society is an unexpected, but actual, consequence of the modernist project. Where it promised certainty and durability, it delivered uncertainty and impermanence. Given that it rests on assurances and promises it can’t deliver or keep, we must abandon it and pragmatically discover better ways to live within the conditions it has delivered.

For Peterson, the discovery necessarily relies on the rediscovery of biological and religious interpretations of what it means to be human, or our lost essence of humanity (at least that’s how I read him). For me, they are but two possible interpretations. There are other interpretations that we have either partially discovered or are yet to discover, which those interpretations necessarily obscure or eliminate. The feminine as the source of ideas, gestation and birth enables us to be hopeful that such ideas will emerge and encourages us to develop methodologies that might help pursue and actualise them.

Peterson’s methodology is self-authoring, which ties it directly to Kierkegaard’s concept of authenticity, the existential philosophers, and, by extension, Socrates. This awareness of self, what it means to live an examined life, is, for me, an absolutely necessary method of surviving and thriving in a fragmenting, turbulent society. It originates with Socrates, who was dealing with the disintegration of Athens and how one can live a good life in such a turbulent state.

However, self-authoring, by dint of its connection to Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, is a precursor to the end of a cycle. It presupposes the endpoint. This is where I think Peterson gets trapped and why he delivers the alt-right uncivil ugliness he supposedly abhors. He is locked into a worldview that assumes some kind of lost natural state of being that self-authoring can help us return to, rather than a better state of being that it can help us deliver.

To return to the idea of the feminine, we can examine ideas about the future of work (which are, by extension, the future of modern society). In very simple terms, we can divide the future of work discourse into three things:

1: We must solve complex problems

2: We must deliver different ways of thinking to do that

3: We must deliver better ways of collaborating to do that

The complex problem is a very complex one. We are on a journey that has no endpoint. The growth of knowledge expands the field of ignorance, so with each step towards the horizon new unknown lands appear. We know the journey has no clear destination – and yet we must persevere in the travel.

In simpler terms, the more we know the less we know, yet we must keep on travelling. Like Peterson’s work, this statement fundamentally challenges the idea that we can label everything, so why try. Let’s take pleasure in the journey rather than trying to reach an unreachable destination.

How do we think better to help us travel? Self-authoring, living an examined life, or reflective practice (for it is nothing new), is one method. There are other different kinds of thinking that might contribute - creative, critical, cognitively flexible, analytic, deductive, synthetic, divergent, convergent, etc.

As the solutions are very complex, and too much for one mind alone to solve, how do we better collaborate, and become interdependent solutions engines? We might try to deliver psychologically safer environments, be kinder, more courageous, more civil, more candid. We might need to become more aware of interpersonal clues as to who isn’t speaking when they actually have something of worth to contribute, as disabling voice closes off possibilities. Research in this space clearly shows women are better at picking up on these clues and re-enabling constructive collaboration than men.

This is where I think Peterson falls down. He doesn’t pay attention to the value of these practices in helping the modern human live a meaningful and flourishing life because his attention is too much on the biological and religious, and too much against totalitarian postmodern politicizing. He might well disagree, as he does preach civility and the necessity of critical thought. For me, though, he doesn’t perceive the value of doing that in a more feminized thinking environment, because he conflates that with the postmodern project and as being anti-human.

Ultimately, I think the only criticism of his ideas is that he has too much faith in biology and religion, and too much fear of postmodernism and totalitarianism, to deeply investigate pragmatical alternatives to living a meaningful life in the contemporary world. However, I think what he says about American society and its dominant practices most definitely needed to be said. It’s now time for people to inhabit the space he opened up, rather than taking sides against each other in its sea of troubles. That’s going to take a lot of hard work.

August 2018

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Why Your Company Needs Millennials--and How to Foster a Culture to Retain Them

To attract Millennial employees and keep them engaged, leaders should establish a purpose-driven culture that prioritizes learning opportunities.

In 2016, millennials officially surpassed Gen Xers as the largest generation in the American workforce. This has come as good news for employers in the race to attract millennial talent.

 

Currently, in the first decades of their careers, millennials are the future of the global economy. It's a generation that delivers results efficiently, learns quickly, and helps organizations adapt to the digital age. That's why it's important for corporate leaders to create a culture that offers millennials what they need while engaging and maximizing their talents to achieve desired results.

Focus on Purpose

People will work hard for money, harder for a good leader, and hardest for a purpose they believe in. Companies winning the war for talent share one thing in common: they ensure that each employee is aware that the work they do every day matters. Purpose is more than just a feel-good buzzword; purpose is critical to survival and sustained growth. It is directly tied to an employee's motivation to engage deeply in his or her work. According to our research, when employees are happier at work, 85% say they take more initiative and 73% say they are better collaborators. This all impacts company results, since inspired and satisfied employees are almost three times more productive than dissatisfied employees.

And while millennials value work that gives them a sense of purpose, according to the research, this value increases across generation groups. Defining purpose is critical not just for attracting millennial talent, but retaining talent across your workforce.

 

When you create a strong sense of purpose in the workplace, employees of any generation pour energy and excitement into their work. Because positive engagement and enthusiasm are contagious, it's natural to want to be part of a team and company where that engagement is recognizable and is impacting results. Establish this critical link and yours will be the company that captures employees' hearts, minds, and talent for the long haul.

Keep Them Challenged

Because millennials grew up with social media and other digital platforms at their disposal, they are highly adaptable to the changing tech landscape. Multitasking has both limited our attention spans and rewired our brains to seek out new, innovative solutions. The millennial mindset is generally classified by a sense of urgency surrounding problem-solving that says, "There must be a better, faster, more efficient way."

As such, millennials maintain motivation by learning and developing new skills. Yet only 39% of millennials strongly agree that they've learned something new from their work in the past 30 days. It should come as no surprise, then, that this generation of workers spends an average of just two years at any given company. To engage and retain millennial employees, leaders should prioritize professional development opportunities and continually present new projects that allow their employees to use and develop their unique skill sets.

 

One of the key tenets of an accountable workforce is that employees take ownership over results. Put the skill sets of your millennial workforce to work by challenging them to find new solutions to problems--you'll be surprised by how many new ideas they come up with!

Be Flexible

Anywhere from 50% to 92% of millennials report that they would like the option to work remotely, while up to 87% want to work on their own schedules. For leaders, it's worth considering the ways in which flexible work schedules provide a stronger sense of work-life balance--a quality that can attract millennial employees to your workplace in droves, and keep them happier for longer than the two-year stint that has become the norm.

Contrary to a common misperception, millennials aren't lazy; but many do prefer to work outside the conventional expectation of a 9-to-5 shift. Millennials surveyed in a 2017 Deloitte study reported that flexible work schedules contribute to greater productivity, organizational performance, and employee engagement, as well as personal happiness, health, and wellbeing. The same study revealed that the more flexible the workplace, the less likely millennials were to leave the company.

 

To provide flexibility without losing accountability, employers must ensure that every employee feels a deep sense of personal commitment to the success of the organization. Here's how.

The Race for Talent Is On - This is How You Win

Foster a culture of clear purpose that allows for ample learning opportunities and a healthy work-life balance in order to engage and retain millennial employees. By investing in a few adjustments to your organizational culture, the payoff is clear: millennials will help scale your business and achieve your desired results

July 2018

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Pinterest Co-Founder Shares the Simple Step He Took to Transform His Communication Style

If you look hard enough, you can find inspiration everywhere. That philosophy is the driving force behind visual search engine and social network Pinterest.

Evan Sharp launched the company with co-founders Ben Silbermann and Paul Sciarra. Initially, they wanted to create a tool that would help them collect the things online that interested them in one place.

But the trio quickly realized that the most compelling use of the platform wasn’t storing things they already knew they liked, but being inspired by what others were posting, in categories such as cooking, literature and art, home and fashion design, gardening, fitness and travel.

Today, Pinterest receives more than 200 million monthly visitors. The company has raised $1.5 billion and acquired 15 companies. Its headquarters is in San Francisco, and more than 1,500 employees work out of offices across the U.S. and internationally.

We caught up with Sharp to ask him 20 questions and find out what makes him tick.

1. How do you start your day?

I often walk through the park next to my house on the way to the train. I’m so much my more myself at work once I feel that moment of connection to nature.

2. How do you end your day?

I look at inspirational quotes on Pinterest. It helps me feel more grateful for what I have, and appreciative of my own gifts.

3. What’s a book that changed your mind and why?

The Social Conquest of Earth, by E.O. Wilson. It opened my eyes to the rare and precious social nature of humans. It fundamentally changed my view on our species.

4. What’s a book you always recommend, and why?

Arctic Dreams, by Barry Lopez. It opened me up to how landscape inevitably shapes human culture, and the fact that land contains wisdom, if you just decide to stop and look.

5. What’s a strategy to keep focused?

 

I removed the Mail app from my phone. This sounded impossible to me, until I did it. The truly urgent things come in text messages, and I send more thoughtful responses to email if I wait to use my laptop.

6. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be an architect. I still do.

7. What did you learn from the worst boss you ever had?

Enabling people to take care of themselves outside of work ultimately leads to happier, more productive employees.

8. Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?

Jony Ive at Apple has taught me that the most impactful creative work springs from a deep sensitivity to humanity, in addition to technology and business.

9. What’s a trip that changed you?

My first trip to Japan helped open my eyes to how fundamentally different two cultures can be, even if they feel very similar on the surface.

10. What inspires you?

Pinterest. I’ve discovered ideas for gifts for my wife, design and architecture projects, gardening, style, and how to decorate the nursery for my daughter.

11. What was your first business idea, and what did you do with it?

Again, Pinterest. I built it as a side project, and it took off. Today over two hundred million people discover ideas on Pinterest each month.

12. What was an early job that taught you something important or useful?

I worked third shift at a pretzel factory during college. It taught me how difficult manual labor is and how unforgiving most work environments are of situations that inevitably arise in people's’ lives. It taught me to appreciate the many luxuries I have at my job now.

13. What’s the best advice you ever took?

To be myself at work [and] to double down on my strengths and to let my role and team take shape around me, rather than conforming to how I’ve been told a co-founder should behave.

14. What's the worst piece of advice you ever got?

As the co-founder of an internet startup, you’re constantly being compared to other similar companies. This means it’s easy to let momentum drive many of your decisions. Most of the worst advice I’ve received came from people looking at other companies and assuming our situation was similar or identical.

15. What’s a productivity tip you swear by?

For me productivity is about focusing on the outcome I want at all times. It find it’s often much easier to do short-term things that feel important than the harder, longer-term things that actually make a difference.

16. Is there an app or a tool you use in a surprising way to get things done or stay on track?

I use an old-school app called a journal -- it helps me stay off the phone and stay focused on the task at hand.

17. What does work-life balance mean to you?

My work is an expression of my creativity, and my creativity flows from my life experience. The two are expressions of one another. Balance means choosing to focus fully on each, in their time, and not let one override the other.

18. How do you prevent burnout?

I garden for several hours each week. Plants teach me patience and attentiveness.

19. When you’re faced with a creativity block, what’s your strategy to get innovating?

I find inspiration on Pinterest to get me past the block and back into creative flow.

20. What are you learning now? Why is that important?

Right now I’m learning a lot about parenting, as my wife and I are expecting our first child in a few months.

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5 Big Differences Between Training and Facilitation

Why this topic? 

The reason I’m addressing the topic is that many of us think that training done interactively is very close to or even the same as facilitation. It can feel like that but there is an essential and critical difference. This blog will cover those differences, talk about the benefits and when to use each mode. Also, I’ve made a short video for those of you who are thinking about when to hire a trainer versus a facilitator.

I have a bias, as I would say there are distinct advantages of using a process facilitator over a trainer in many more circumstances than you’d think. Yet I want you to know that I have great respect for many colleagues who are amazing interactive trainers and provide a great service to their clients. I also think I’m really good at training. However, there is a very specific time when trainers are best used and times when it’s better to use a facilitator. That is what I will try to clear up here.

If you are currently a trainer moving into the field of the facilitation, you might find this blog gives you the language to help your clients decide when to use you as a process facilitator versus a trainer.

We say this Blog is primarily for Stage 1 or the “Seeker” stage of the facilitator journey. However, I think it will be pretty interesting to the latter stages as well simply because you’ve wrestled with this. Many of us who own our own facilitation business or are employed within an organization to do OD work or process facilitation, are also called upon to clearly distinguish the difference between the two fields for prospective group work. It is up to you to know when one intervention is better than another.

What are the essential differences between training and facilitation? 

There are five. I’m going to start first with the main emphasis of each field then move on to some of the structural, outcome and tone differences. 

The essential first difference between the two fields is first and foremost that training is about passing on learning and content. The training provides theory, information and activities to share and help retain the information. On the other hand, process facilitation is about helping the thinking in a group. The main difference is in almost simplistic terms: training is about learning and facilitation is about thinking.

The second big difference is the trainer really has to offer quite a bit of content in large or small blocks. So the emphasis is on a hierarchical model where the trainer is the teacher and the learner is the student who supposedly knows less than the trainer. That might be the assumption of the student although it’s not necessarily the assumption of the trainer.

 

 

The facilitator model is based on collaboration. It is a group of peers who have come together who themselves have the content. They need a structure to think through the information they have in a way that will result in something new and different. The facilitator provides the tools, structure, flow, calm, presence and energy to guide the group.

The third is that the trainer is really helping the group to apply the content he or she has given them. So the training would ideally contain a lot of demonstrating, practicing, and reinforcing of the concepts that have been shared.

 

 

In the facilitator model the emphasis is more on communicating. It is about helping team members share their data points, understand one another, build cohesiveness of ideas and find ways to solve problems. It is not the role of the facilitator to reinforce any concepts.However, many training techniques can be applied in facilitation settings to help the group be more successful in “cementing” a decision, for example. 

The forth difference is in the design. I hope I’m not offending any trainers by my choice of words. But because training or education comes from a hierarchical model, there tends to be more of a linear plan in the trainers’ outline. You decide what the learning outcomes are, you design your activities and content accordingly. And likely you rarely vary up that plan once you’ve tested and finalized your curriculum. It works well!

 

 

In contrast, the facilitator always has to have a flexible agenda. They simply cannot predict what is going to happen as a result of a tool being used that changes where the group may need to go or decides to go. No matter how much you interview beforehand and how you do your research, your job as the process facilitator is always to remain adaptable. You are changing and adapting in the moment. You are helping the group do some complex weaving of their thinking. 

The final difference between the trainer and the facilitator I feel, is that the trainer is really focused on achieving a longer-term outcome. They know that one day or two days or even five days of training is not going to necessarily have an immediate impact. The concepts have to be continually reinforced, practiced, refined for each situation. If this is done well, in the long term, you will see some change. However, when the person and or the organization does not do anything to reinforce the concepts, then all that is taught is lost! 

The facilitator has more of an emphasis on the short term. The result may be e.g., an immediate decision or an immediate consensus. The result could simply be a profound discussion with your colleagues about something that needs to change. When you were doing planning, although the result is an immediate documented plan, it may take a number of years to implement. In general as a process facilitator, you’re looking for short-term insights and often immediate results.

June 2018

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Believe and You Can Achieve? Researchers Find Limited Gains From Growth Mindset Interventions

Despite all the promise surrounding “growth mindsets”—the idea that encourages students to see intelligence as something that can be nurtured and developed, as opposed to something that is fixed and innate—researchers are sounding the alarm bell. They say the intervention, at least as currently applied in today’s classrooms, isn’t shifting the needle on academic achievement.

So why do so many studies tout the transformative power of developing a growth mindset? And what factors need to be in place for these interventions to work? Professors from Case Western Reserve University took on these questions in a meta-analysis published last week in the Psychological Science Association Journal.

The two-part meta-analysis reviewed over 229 studies on growth mindset research and synthesized the data. The first study examined the correlation between growth mindset interventions and academic achievement on standardized tests. The second looked at the effectiveness of specific interventions, noting which teaching strategies showed the most impact on student outcomes.

Growth mindset enthusiasts may be disappointed to learn that although the authors found a significant correlation between growth mindset interventions and student academic achievement, the effect size was very small. Other education interventions, such as reducing class sizes or increased teacher training, had much larger effects.

“We looked at the growth mindset interventions to try to see what the overall effectiveness of them are. And here we get a very tiny effect,” explained Brooke Macnamara, an assistant professor at Case Western Reserve University and a co-author of the study, in an interview with EdSurge. “The effect was 0.08. To put that in perspective, a typical education intervention effect is 0.57. So again, this was significant but very, very small.”

Seeing that the correlation was limited, researchers took the next step—trying to identify where growth mindset interventions may be more effective, either for certain types of students or under certain conditions.

Their analysis found that age, the length, and type of intervention (meaning whether it was reading a simple article on changing intelligence, or doing a class activity) were not significant factors. However, they did see benefits for students coming from a low socioeconomic background. They also found a small effect for high-risk students, who failed a class or were at risk of dropping out.

But Macnamara notes that the achievement shown for low-income and high-risk students is both limited in statistical significance and in the number of studies covering these specific populations.

“In both of those cases, there was not a lot of information that went into that group. In other words, there were not very many studies that had examined those types of students,” Macnamara explains. “So both of those facts actually need to be interpreted with caution.”

Where Does All the Hype for Growth Mindsets Come From?

In light of these findings suggesting limited benefits from growth mindset interventions, researchers also asked, 'where does all the hype for the idea come from?' As part of their study, Macnamara and her co-authors looked at which papers on the topic were published and which ones were not. They wanted to learn if ‘publication bias’ skewed the outcomes.

There is often a bias where studies that show a strong effect, or studies that show a positive effect in a direction that’s expected or desired, are more likely to be published than studies that find no difference, or what’s called a ‘null effect.’ Brooke Macnamara, Case Western Reserve University

“Publication bias is something that’s really important to investigate when you conduct a meta-analysis,” says Macnamara. “There is often a bias where studies that show a strong effect, or studies that show a positive effect in a direction that’s expected or desired, are more likely to be published than studies that find no difference, or what’s called a ‘null effect.’”

To learn whether their meta-analysis could have been skewed because of bias, the team reached out to several outside researchers on forums and through email to learn why their work was not published and to gather data from their research. The results showed that the data from their first analysis (on the impact of growth mindset interventions on test results) might be impacted by unpublished studies, but the second analysis (on the effectiveness of specific interventions) showed no effect from possible missing studies.

“We were actually surprised that the publication bias analyses suggested that we weren’t missing anything [in the second analysis]. The reason I say we were surprised is because we knew of studies that we were missing,” explained Macnamara, noting that she spoke to researchers who declined to share their unpublished data with the team.

Macnamara says that in addition to publication bias, media bias also plays a role in how people perceive the effects of certain teaching strategies. She cites instances where reporters contacted her to write about her research, only to retract when they learned that the findings are not what they expected. From her perspective, research showing small or null effects do not garner as much attention, in the form of citations or media mentions, the same way more grandiose outcomes do. This might be what happened with growth mindset studies.

“Studies that are especially exciting or shows especially large effect often are the ones that are cited over and over again, so even if you’re just reading the published literature you tend to get a sense that these effects perhaps are very large,” says Macnamara. “Aggregating synthesized data gets you a very different picture.”

May 2018

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Seven mistakes that can trip up your business transformation project

01 Error: Fixating on distant goals

“A solid strategy must avoid all-encompassing initiatives without careful understanding and planning. Instead, taking on board ‘quick wins’ will help to bring a clear impact on operations and obvious benefits. This can be done by running multiple small projects in parallel to ensure the best ideas are progressed rapidly and the bad ones fail early.” 

Matt Jones, lead analytics strategist at data science consultancy Tessella 

02 Error: Failing to get internal buy-in

“Once I advised one of the major Russian banks on the process of blockchain technology implementation, and we encountered an enormous amount of problems even at the process development and planning stage. After two weeks of communication with the IT vice president of the company, it became clear there were two main reasons. First, 50 per cent of managers just didn’t understand why digitalisation is necessary and co-operated passively. The other 50 per cent realised the implementation of transparency and self-verification of transactions, operations, rights and responsibilities was not convenient for them and sabotaged the process. I believe that overcoming these two factors inside the company is far more critical than the technical or managerial skills of a particular digital transformation office (DTO) or its total absence. At the current stage of corporate readiness to digitise their processes, the role of a DTO is often not relevant at all.” 

Aleksei Antonov, chief financial officer of decentralised fog-computing platform SONM 

03 Error: Neglecting design

“An increasing number of fast-growth startups are founded by designers. The design course on Stanford University’s MBA is one of the most popular and it’s increasingly understood as a powerful strategic tool. That said, many businesses still don’t realise this and not only neglect to create a leadership role around design, but also fail to invest in growing design capabilities more broadly in the business. Done properly this will force a company to entirely rethink how it brings new products and services to market as well as how it runs and organises itself.” 

James Haycock, founder and managing director of innovation and change consultancy Adaptive Lab

04 Error: Rivalry between change leaders

“Herd instinct driven by the kind of digital disruption that is ubiquitous in today’s global economy can lead to confused, ‘me too’ efforts by businesses to transform. Nothing is more symptomatic of this failing than the bewildering cast of characters that variously present themselves as digital leaders – chief information, marketing, digital, data, customer, technology and digital transformation officers to name but a few. According to research by Digital McKinsey, a third of company executives do not know which leader is responsible for digital and technology functions within their business. In most cases these are either people who have successfully ‘made a play’ for the digital piece or they are brought in to spread some digital pixie dust across some previous perceived success.” 

Chris Porter, digital transformation director at cybersecurity and transformation consultancy 6point6

05 Error: Too top-down

“Today’s decision-making and development processes are becoming much more ‘bottom-up’ than ‘top-down’. Rigid hierarchies are increasingly taking a back seat and flatter corporate cultures based on collaboration have moved in. It’s important that the person responsible for transforming the digital capabilities of a business supports these changes, creating an atmosphere where innovation is encouraged across the whole organisation. Responsibility for digital change doesn’t stop with the executive committee, so it’s vital that companies as a whole are equipped to adapt to the challenges they face. Declarations of intent from the board are simply not enough.” 

Mike Blanchard, director of customer intelligence solutions at business software provider SAS

06 Error: Wrong qualities in leaders of change

“A common misconception is that the head of transformation needs to have a strong IT background. In reality, the ideal candidate should have a passion and curiosity for technology and all that it can deliver, but other qualities are essential. Leading digital transformation is all about inspiring change. And realising that, a lot of the time, people don’t actually want change. They’ll need to have hugely strong people and mediation skills to bring leaders on side and hold senior managers accountable. They’ll need a strong business and management background to build the business plan for change and argue the case for change. They’ll also need a strong constitution. It will require considerable investment, it will disrupt the status quo and it won’t be plain sailing.” 

Kieron McCann, director of strategy at WPP’s technology consultancy Cognifide

07 Error: Passive bosses

“Transformation should be championed by the chief executive, the front and centre face of the company who intrinsically understands how the business fits together, who knows how transformation tessellates with other priorities and who has the greatest sense of proprietary. To help them get ‘the plumbing’ right by implementing the right changes, the CEO needs a fine chief operating officer, someone who gets things done and isn’t afraid to get their hands dirty. And if the CEO isn’t all over the process of digital transformation, it’s simple – you get a new CEO.” 

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Why It’s Up to Us (to Create A Better Future)

When I look around the world these days, what strikes me isn’t just a lack of progress, but a blinding lack of vision. Dissatisfaction with the status quo. A sense of disappointment with how modernity turned out. Disillusionment with yesterday’s ways, ideas, systems, institutions. Anger and despair at elites, the powerful, the prosperous. Despair at impotence to fix it all. Would you say that’s a fair if crude and inexact summary of the world today?

Then let’s do a quick survey. Who has an agenda, plan, way towards a better future? One not so wracked with all the above? Can you name a single organization that does?

Political parties certainly don’t. In America, for example neither mainstream party has any idea how to fix the severe, possibly existential, threats of inequality, extremism, falling life expectancy, and corroded democracy. A cynic might even say they’re a feature, not a bug. But that’s true across much of the world, too. And not just for political parties — but for every single category of our organizations, whether macro or micro scale, whether they are giant corporations, mega investors, cities, towns, or even whole societies. No vision for a better future. No wonder there is widespread cynicism towards them and breakdown of trust in them.

Ah, but then right here is where we will continue to be, isn’t it? So. What does that failure of vision really tell us? Yesterday’s institutions aren’t creating the future because they probably can’t. At least not without us. But what part of us? What in us? We’ll get to that. First.

It’s up to us. Each of us. To create a better future. In whatever ways that we can, whether they are great or small, little or huge, touch a dozen lives, or a million. The future that we wish to create begins with us. Let me quickly offer you three principles for just such a future — what we can and should give from us, in us, through us, to the organizations we are a part of, whether they want it or not, especially if and when they resist and fight it, kicking and screaming.

The first is liberation. When we say “a better future,” what do we mean? The first thing that we probably mean is freedom. But in what way? Well, when we look around, people are still trapped in dysfunctional hierarchies. Now, hierarchy, on some level, will always be with us. But there is good hierarchy, and bad hierarchy. Good hierarchy is mentoring, teaching, educating, inspiring. Bad hierarchy is glass ceilings, bigotry, the quiet exclusion by race and class from the top. Bad hierarchy erases merit, accomplishment, talent, and skill — and replaces it with credentials, “fit”, and signals that a person has a pedigree.

So liberation is about freeing people from dysfunctional hierarchies. That might mean trying to create an organization that doesn’t have such a wide gender pay gap — or it might mean creating one in which purpose counts more than favours, the right relationships, payoffs, or it might mean creating one in which “bosses” are more like guides, visionaries, mentors and coaches than they are taskmasters and accountants. Whatever you can do, great or small, remember?

My second principle for creating a better future is transformation. This one I’ll explain in reverse. Consider Zuck and Bezos. Are they really changing the world? You might think so, but the answer is they are not. They’re taking us backwards to the past. To a Dickensian age of insta-delivery for the rich, by armies of menial labour — at the price of a thriving middle class. To an Orwellian age of surveillance and counterfeit democracy which is easily hacked with moral panics, hysteria, and propaganda. But the world has had both of these things, before, hasn’t it? So no change is really happening, if by change we mean something genuinely new.

So by transformation I mean a positive change, a genuinely new and improved state of the world, one where people are better off than they ever were, throughout human history. I know — that’s a high bar. But that’s exactly the point. If Facebook and Amazon don’t meet it, can you think of organizations that do? I can. The European Union, at a macro scale. Britain’s NHS, at a social scale. And perhaps something like Detroit, in its heyday, or even Silicon Valley, in the 1980s. All these genuinely changed the world — because by transforming lives, they made people better off than they had been throughout human history. But that is no longer true of most of our organizations — and that is precisely the problem.

My third principle is humanity. I know, I know. Allow me a sentence or two to make my case before you roll your jaded eyes.

Consider the example of hedge funds earning a thousand times what teachers do — while it’s teachers who create real value, by educating our kids, and hedge funds destroy real value, by creating nothing of use, and eroding a functional financial system, making it more volatile, speculative, crash-prone, and just pointless, detached from economic reality. How did we end up in such a world?

Well, we ended up in one because the theory, American economics’s crackpot, twisted notion, was that being terrible — mean, cruel, and horrible — was somehow good, because by being nasty and brutish, we’d goad, harry, and discipline each other into being the most productive people we could possibly be. Only it didn’t work out that way. Productivity rose, and then it fell.

Why? Because the costs of living in such a world are that the worst among us win the most. When the idea is that being nasty is good for us, that vice is virtue, then the least virtuous, the most amoral, thoughtless, and cowardly win. The bullies and the tyrants and the con men. And that’s exactly where we are, aren’t we? Why bother producing more when the least productive win the most, anyways? But the result is organizations that are demoralized, dehumanized, dispirited, crushed from the inside — ones with broken hearts, spirits, and minds — whether they are countries, cities, towns, or corporations.

So creating the future means turning all the above inside out and upside down. It means creating organizations that reward people for their humanity — not for a lack of it. What other kinds of organizations are going to able to fix the great problems the world faces today — or even think about them asproblems in the first place? How do we “reward” people for their humanity? Well, it’s pretty straightforward. Not just with money — which we must do — but also with recognition, with freedom, with the power to set purposes and missions and goals for organizations.

If you ask me, organizations that can cultivate these three qualities — liberation, transformation, and humanity — are going to be more creative, flexible, innovative, thoughtful, interesting, worthy, valued. More daring, fierce, persevering, and resilient. And as a result, they will probably be more loved, admired, and respected, too. In fact, they already are, if you look around carefully.

And in all that lies the tiny story of how to create the future. After all — wouldn’t you want to be a part of an organization brimming over with humanity, liberation, and transformation, too? Ah, exactly.

See the sand running through the hands above? That’s your life, in the hands of time, fate, dust, death. Your life is part of the world, isn’t it? So do you really want to spend your life taking the world — which means both — nowhere? Or do you want to build something with that very sand — which, precisely because the waters will wash it away too soon, too easily, is just for a brief, impossible, evanescent moment, beautiful and true? The choice is yours.

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Unleashing the Power of Mindfulness in Corporations

Volatile markets, challenging consumer demands, and the technological disruptions resulting from digitization and Industry 4.0 are producing unprecedented rates of change. In response, companies have worked to increase organizational agility, hoping to foster innovation and shorten go-to market cycles. Yet organizational experiences and sociological conditioning often impede true agility. As a result, many of these efforts fall short of their objective to manage the uncertainty generated by change. But another movement—mindfulness—will help companies overcome these challenges. 

Mindfulness is a centuries-old idea that has been reinvented to address the challenges of our digital age. In essence, mindfulness describes a state of being present in the moment and leaving behind one’s tendency to judge. It allows one to pause amid the constant inflow of stimuli and consciously decide how to act, rather than react reflexively with ingrained behavior patterns. Mindfulness, therefore, is perfectly suited to counterbalance the digital-age challenges of information overload and constant distraction.

The benefits of mindfulness are both clear and proven. Mindfulness programs help leaders and employees reflect effectively, focus sharply on the task at hand, master peak levels of stress, and recharge quickly. On an organizational level, mindfulness reduces sick days, increases trust in leadership, and boosts employee engagement. What’s more, mindfulness helps to unlock the full potential of digital and agile transformations. New processes and structures are just the starting points for these transformations. 

Not surprisingly, interest in mindfulness is growing, especially among digital natives: in the past decade, the rate of increase in Google searches for mindfulness has outpaced that of all Google searches by a factor of four. Furthermore, years of scientific research and modern forms of teaching have fueled its popularity. Now, mindfulness apps even come preinstalled on smartphones and tablets. 

Yet integrating mindfulness in the corporate context can be challenging. Some companies encounter vocal skeptics; others struggle with entrenched ways of working. Even leaders and employees who are eager to try out mindfulness find it hard to get started. To unleash the power of mindfulness, companies will have to embrace a holistic approach to corporate agility. 

AGILITY REQUIRES COPING WITH UNCERTAINTY

To support their agility efforts, many companies have applied “cosmetic” digital-age solutions, such as hackathons, agile meetings (for example, short daily standup meetings to discuss progress and obstacles), and new visualization techniques and creativity tools. 

However, most companies have not yet created an environment that truly prepares them to reap the rewards of agility. Often, their ways of working have been shaped by a tradition of emphasizing functional excellence over agility, as well as systems that favor expertise over open-mindedness. Two inhibitors stand out: 

Resistance to Change. As the pace of change increases, employees will have to continuously adapt to evolving circumstances. In most organizations, however, the existing ways of working leave employees unprepared to do so. They may therefore respond with reflexive resistance, a defense mechanism to avoid the discomfort of psychological uncertainty. Organizational politics and poor communication about the purpose of making changes only strengthen this resistance.  Overvaluing Expertise. Many employees think and interact at work by applying expertise that they gained before the digital age, when efficiency, not agility, was the overarching objective. Such an approach encourages closed-mindedness.

To overcome these inhibitors, leaders and employees need to abandon traditional management styles and linear ways of working. They must rewire their established mindsets, cultivating the open-mindedness and clarity required to navigate through unpredictable environments. They must acknowledge that their business involves elements beyond their control and develop the capacity for self-leadership in an unpredictable environment. And to gain mastery over uncertainty, they must learn to walk in the fog, open their eyes wide to detect signals from all directions, and feel empowered to trigger rapid action.

MINDFULNESS FACILITATES NAVIGATION THROUGH UNCERTAINTY

Mindfulness enables people to radically strengthen their ability to adapt quickly to evolving circumstances and ambiguous situations and to increase the speed with which they learn new things. It creates mental agility and helps people look inward to find answers. 

In their recent book, Altered Traits, Daniel Goleman, a Harvard psychologist, and Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, provide a scientific view of personal mindfulness benefits. They synthesize three proven benefits of mindfulness that, in combination, allow people to act more effectively in unpredictable environments: 

Staying Calm and Open-Minded. Mindfulness practices, such as breathing meditation, are associated with decreased gray-matter density in the amygdala, the region of the brain that initiates a response to stress. This reduces the inclination to interpret an uncertain environment as a threat and thus react defensively. In this way, mindfulness improves mental agility, allowing attitudes to shift from “But we have always done it like that” to “Let’s see what happens if we try a new approach.”  Cognitive Ability. Mindfulness improves short-term memory and the ability to perform complex cognitive tasks. It also frees people to think outside the box, which helps them cut through complexity. In the context of workplace performance, proven results include a higher quality of strategic decision making and more effective collaboration.  Focus and Clarity of Thinking. As Nobel laureate Herbert A. Simon observed, “a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.” This insight, first articulated in 1971, is more accurate today than ever before. Maintaining a strong focus in this time of digital information overload, therefore, is essential. The regular practice of mindfulness routines can reduce mental wandering and distractibility. Mindfulness strengthens the awareness of both one’s activities in the present moment and one’s mental processes and behaviors (known as meta-awareness). 

By delivering these individual benefits, mindfulness boosts the potential of corporate agility initiatives and agile transformations. It helps people to inspect and adapt their behaviors in short cycles, relax so that they can rewire established attitudes, and think clearly in the midst of overwhelming digital stimuli. In short, mindfulness facilitates navigation in the context of uncertainty and ambiguity. 

THE CORPORATE WORLD HAS TAKEN NOTICE

East Asian corporations, such as Panasonic and Toyota, have long understood that the personal benefits of mindfulness can support business objectives. Indeed, mindfulness is the “zen” in kaizen, the lean-management concept of continuous improvement. Zen, one form of mindfulness, emphasizes deep insight through observation over know-how. It is about discarding preconceptions and developing fresh ideas to achieve continuous self-improvement. 

For example, open mindedness through Zen underlies Toyota’s employee suggestion system and quality circles. The quality circles empower employees to adopt a “beginner’s mind” when observing work-related problems and to independently develop innovative measures to drive improvement. Unlike self-perceived expertise, which encourages closed-mindedness, a beginner’s mind is open and curious, with no preconceptions. The more quickly change occurs, the more employees need to adopt a beginner’s mind for problem solving.

A leading pioneer of corporate mindfulness is Jon Kabat-Zinn, who facilitated its democratization by designing a program called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. The course provides a simple and structured introduction to scientifically proven meditation practices. Similarly, Chade-Meng Tan has developed Search Inside Yourself, a course that combines meditation practices with emotional intelligence training—an approach he pioneered at Google. 

More recently, companies in the West have turned to mindfulness to promote employee well-being and productivity. The movement began among startups in Silicon Valley and has been implemented by long-established companies across the US and Europe as well as by government bodies. These include Aetna, Beiersdorf, Bosch, General Mills, Goldman Sachs, Intel, Royal Dutch Shell, SAP, Target, the UK’s Parliament, and the US House of Representatives. 

Many of these organizations embrace agility and aspire to cultivate a new form of leadership. Among the top executives who meditate and encourage their employees to follow their example, for instance, are Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, and Google cofounder Sergey Brin. In fact, attending a meditation class is a popular way to begin the workday at many Silicon Valley companies, including Apple, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. 

Over the course of many years, Bosch, a multinational engineering company that focuses on automotive components and consumer goods, has increased its agility through a variety of initiatives. These include creating flexible organizational structures, introducing agile development methods, and experimenting with new business models and technologies. In order to promote the success of these initiatives, the company realized that it needed to fundamentally change its approach to leadership. According to Petra Martin, who is responsible for leadership development at Bosch Automotive Electronics, “Mindfulness is an essential lever to shift from a culture of control to a culture of trust. Communication has fundamentally changed since we introduced our mindfulness training to more than 1,000 leaders in the organization.” 

At software company SAP, mindfulness has become a key ingredient of corporate life for employees and executives alike. More than 6,000 employees have taken two-day mindfulness courses that focus on meditations complemented by the practice of self-mastery and compassion. In addition, internal mindfulness trainers offer guided meditations during working hours and a multiweek mindfulness challenge, including meditation “micropractices,” such as tuning out of a busy workday for a few minutes to focus on one’s breathing. “For many managers, it has become the new normal to open meetings with short meditations,” says Peter Bostelmann, the director of SAP’s global mindfulness practice. Participants in the mindfulness program report increased well-being and higher creativity. What’s more, mindfulness has promoted significant measurable improvements in employee engagement and leadership trust indices. Bostelmann has seen a significant shift in how corporate mindfulness programs are perceived. A few years ago, some leaders ridiculed the concept of mindfulness at work. Recently, however, executives of other companies—including Deutsche Telekom and Siemens—have sought Bostelmann’s advice about how to adopt mindfulness concepts at their companies. 

Aetna, a US health insurer, has trained 13,000 employees on mindfulness practices, resulting in a reported reduction in stress levels of 28%. Annual productivity improvements, a secondary effect, are estimated at $3,000 per employee. Aetna launched the mindfulness initiatives gradually, starting with brief meditations in executive-team meetings and then continuing with yoga and meditation classes for all employees. “We have demonstrated that mindfulness-based programs can reduce stress and improve people’s health,” says Mark Bertolini, Aetna’s chairman and CEO. 

HOW COMPANIES CAN INSTILL MINDFULNESS

To fully capture the benefits of mindfulness, companies should customize their mindfulness programs. While it is valuable to begin by determining the objective of mindfulness interventions, many organizations have also achieved good results by starting with a small pilot program, such as providing a mindfulness course to senior leadership. 

For some companies, mindfulness will become a paradigm for organization design and employee well-being. In terms of adopting mindfulness generally, organizations can start by experimenting with four types of interventions: leadership training, meditation training, mindfulness micropractices, and mindfulness coaching.

Leadership Training. As management guru Peter F. Drucker observed, leaders need trained perception fully as much as analysis. Well-designed leadership courses address this need by combining actionable mindfulness and emotional intelligence practices. 

Even customized mindfulness leadership courses share common elements. Leaders should learn how to integrate formal and informal mindfulness practices into everyday life. Formal practices are often guided meditations, while informal practices include mindful listening exercises and simply paying attention to the task at hand. 

By instilling self-awareness, self-regulation, and compassion, mindfulness courses address the psychological root causes of multiple leadership challenges. And because these courses also encourage the natural development of skills for managing time, change, and conflict, training programs dedicated to establishing these skills might become obsolete. 

At Bosch, a one-year agile leadership-training curriculum involves three modules: leading oneself, leading teams, and leading the organization. The self-leadership training focuses on mindfulness and involves regular guided meditations, conscious-communication exercises, and courses to help leaders avoid the pitfalls of multitasking. 

At a multinational engineering company, some leaders openly expressed skepticism about the value of mindfulness. The company converted these skeptics into believers by explaining the concept in layman’s terms, sharing scientific research about its effectiveness, and inspiring senior leaders to become change agents. Today, mindfulness is the new normal for the company, and leaders pause for meditation in the designated silent room before making major decisions or having difficult discussions. 

Meditation Training. In addition to training executives, organizations should evaluate whether to offer training opportunities to all employees. Many individuals are willing to try out meditation but struggle to understand where to start. A half-day to full-day course can introduce basic practices, such as breathing or body scan meditations, so that employees can subsequently continue on their own. 

To reinforce their training courses, some organizations—including Google, LinkedIn, and Twitter—offer guided meditations during working hours. Google has also established silent lunches and silent rooms, where employees can go to readjust their mindsets in the midst of an intense working day. 

Mindfulness Micropractices. Repetitive practice of basic skills is essential to promote mastery: think of pianists playing scales throughout their careers or baseball players taking batting practice before every game. Similarly, employees who complete a meditation program need to continue practicing, through micropractices, to truly master mindfulness. Seasoned meditators report transformative mindfulness benefits once they have mastered the seamless integration of mindfulness practices into everyday life. 

Organizations should invest in creating a culture in which meditation micropractices are not just tolerated but are actively disseminated by mindfulness change agents. Small workshops can also help to integrate mindfulness in a nonintrusive way. These workshops can teach approaches such as Elisha Goldstein’s STOP practice, in which participants learn to stop, take a breath, observe (thoughts, feelings, and emotions), and proceed. Beyond promoting mastery for mindfulness practitioners, micropractices can serve as an easy starting point for skeptics, who often experience surprising benefits after a few sessions. 

Mindfulness Coaching. The principles of mindfulness can also help teams collaborate more effectively. For example, if team members master the ability to listen to one another with undivided attention and without interruption, they promote freer and more creative thinking. And a team culture that values appreciation over criticism helps to build transparency and openness. In her 2015 book, More Time to Think: The Power of Independent Thinking, Nancy Kline proposes that people offer appreciative comments five times as often as they do critical remarks.

Facilitation by a coach is essential to capture the benefits of mindfulness in teamwork. Agile teams typically already have scrum masters or agile coaches, and these individuals can become mindfulness coaches as well. Similarly, executive teams could benefit from mindfulness coaches to enable authentic communication and effective teamwork. 

UNLEASHING THE POWER

Companies that undergo a transformation through mindfulness are seeing positive returns both on an individual level and on an organizational level. As leaders and employees develop the open-mindedness and clarity required to navigate through unpredictable environments, the organization becomes well positioned to unlock the full potential of agility. For companies that have not yet successfully embraced mindfulness, the imperative is clear: follow a well-designed, holistic approach to implement this centuries-old solution to digital-age challenges. 

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When leading organisational change, don’t overlook the power of technology to help you increase employee engagement and deliver the right results, says Alison Young

The list of trends affecting the workplace today keeps getting longer: multiple generations in one workforce, digital disruption of business models, big data, the outsourcing of activities ever further up the value chain. The list goes on. And if more evidence were needed, the leaders of 77% of organisations say that, over the next five years, a major objective will be to further integrate processes and technologies on a global scale. As ACCA’s recent research Professional accountants – the future shows, professional accountants can’t ignore these trends. In fact, they need to be leading the change in many of these areas. But is traditional change actually working?

Reputable consultancies such as McKinsey and PwC, and credible academics like John Kotter, have for some years been pointing to a 60% to 70% failure rate of organisational change projects. Even if those figures are exaggerated, as some argue, that still adds up to a lot of lost investment and a lot of wasted management time – time and resources that could have dropped to the bottom line, or been devoted to sales or new product development.

So what is going wrong with change and why isn’t it delivering the results that we expect? To get some clues about what could help increase the success rate of organisational change and transformation, we need to look at the very trends that are causing change to happen in the first place. 

The increasing number of millennials in the workplace have different expectations from previous generations; they demand that leaders at every level in the organisation are accountable and transparent, and they expect two-way communication, particularly during periods of change. That can be hard on leaders who fear that bad news will be demoralising and will send loyal employees running for the door. After all, any change – even that based around ‘good news’, such as market expansion or new strategic opportunities – carries within it the seeds of disruption. This could mean a different job, a different location, a new boss, new work processes or a shifting organisational culture.

Any type of change means a step into the unknown. It’s part of the human condition to want to be in control of one’s destiny. If the change journey is the organisational equivalent of putting a blindfold on people and asking them to ‘follow my leader’ across unsure and rugged terrain to an uncertain destination, it’s not going to be a good experience. 

The path of the leader is different. While it’s true that they may be as uncertain about parts of the journey as the people they lead, they are at least in relative control, so their emotional state will be different. This makes it challenging for them to appreciate just how powerless others can feel during change.

Two-way dialogue

The goal therefore is to help employees become part of the change and not just the passive recipients of it – finding genuine ways to make sure people feel connected to what’s going on, are clear about their role in the change process and able to contribute ideas. There is nothing more demotivating for employees than not being able to have input into a solution that they will have to implement, knowing that it won’t work. In short, having a two-way dialogue about the changes taking place will increase employee engagement and potentially speed up the implementation of the changes, improving their sustainability over time. Even when the context is confidential, any kind of involvement from employees will make a positive difference to the ‘return on investment’ of change.

Because of this, no matter what their technical expertise, leaders need to be great communicators, authentic and transparent in their messaging, and prepared to listen. It’s not enough simply to broadcast the change messages. Instead, they need to listen and respond to the fears and anxieties voiced by their people. And with the rise of technology generally in organisations, and social media specifically, leaders need to be active participants in online discussions in order to engage directly with people on the issues that matter.  

A head of finance cannot hide behind someone in the corporate communications team to respond on their behalf to the comments and questions on the intranet or the corporate social media platform. Staff will soon figure out that it’s not the finance head who’s actually posting, and as a result, trust in that leader will diminish – a trust that will be hard to win back. It’s not a lot better if that leader delegates their posts in a transparent way, because people expect their senior leaders to be visible and authentic across a range of media.

Leaders need to keep in touch with what people are thinking and feeling to make their communications meaningful and useful. The annual – or even quarterly – engagement survey just doesn’t deliver information quickly enough to leaders on specific change issues. At best it’s a month out of date once all the data has been analysed and interpreted. Leaders need to react quickly (in, dare we say, as real time as possible) when there is employee resistance; and their response needs to be targeted precisely to where it’s needed. Most organisations’ legacy systems for collecting feedback on how people are coping with change feel slow, and are slow. That’s if they have them at all.  

Insights from big data

There is surely a place for a different approach to finding out the views of employees on change topics. Software can help us reach into all parts of the organisation to gather opinion and – just as importantly – get the insights to leaders as quickly as possible. This ‘big data’ can help leaders and their change teams respond directly to the issues that matter most to employees. Only in this way can leaders show that they are accountable and willing to respond.

How can we challenge the way we ‘do’ change? We have to review IT systems and work processes to make sure they are fit for purpose, while building in reviews of the way we work to give people their voice to build trust through change. 

Countless studies have shown that if people don’t get the opportunity to say what they feel and think, in ways that are intuitive and accessible, the risk of resistance is increased. High levels of engagement and two-way communication – along with senior-level involvement and sponsorship – is key to successful change. If we’re serious about increasing the return on change investment, we need to start thinking and acting differently. We don’t need to create another change management methodology; we just need to make sure that there is more consistency across the organisation, including the use of templates and language, and that managers are trained in how to use these. So rather than trying to reinvent change management itself, let’s invest in how we listen better to employees, using technology that matches their expectations and enables us to respond quickly to overcome resistance in authentic and powerful ways.

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6 Points Along an Entrepreneur's Journey to Change Management

Deliberate change management is hard, very hard. The familiar saying, “Change is easy -- you go first,” reflects the ambiguous feeling most of us have toward leaving behind our tried and true behaviors.

It's also the sentiment that explains why over 75 percent of culture-change efforts fail, despite the good intentions that typically accompany those efforts.  

Indeed, many culture-change initiatives start out with compelling rationales, committed leaders and zealous launches, only to have the wheels come off the wagon before promise can yield payoff.  When great starts have poor endings, change pioneers are left disappointed, hard-working organizers disheartened and skeptics certain they now have proof they were correct all along.

But at other times, change efforts can be salvaged: Spotting derailment hazards quickly and taking steps to counter their influence can mean the difference between simply a great intention and a superior impact. 

The lessons learned from the successful change-effort versus the unsuccessful one can also be instructive, especially to entrepreneurs eager for a return on their emotional and economic investments. Below are some of the more menacing hazards that can wreck a well-intentioned change effort.

1. The appeal of tactic overcomes the power of strategy.

Culture change requires a compelling vision and a clear set of strategies. It also takes concrete tactics. A vision is the picture of the destination, strategies are the major areas of concentration that must be coordinated and managed and tactics are the myriad of actions needed to implement a particular strategy.

Tactics are vital; they're also seductive. When executors become too enamored with tactics, they can lose sight of their original vision and strategies. They can wind up being highly efficient (doing things right) or highly ineffective (doing the wrong things). 

Culture-change champions, meanwhile, who have a map and a compass focused on what can be will likely trump culture-change mechanics with a wrench repairing what is. 

2. The critically urgent erases the long-term necessary.  

“When you are up to your backside in alligators,” goes the oft-quoted line, “it is hard to remember you were there to drain the swamp.” 

Organizations under pressure are fraught with alligators, aka those seemingly never-ceasing crises that keep leaders up at night. But, if all your energy goes into simply fighting alligators, there will always be alligators. Culture change is more about focusing on the source, not the symptom; on the cause, not the contest.

 

Focusing on the critically urgent is enticing because it is easy to see immediate results. However, the illusion of advancement is far worse than none at all. Unless the leader sees a link between “alligator fighting” and “swamp drainage,” he or she is likely to remain in a maintenance mode, and ultimately little will change.

3. Elegant plans convince us change is in the works.

Three turtles are sitting on a log in the edge of the swamp. One decides to jump in. How many are now on the log? Nope, not two; there are still three -- because deciding and doing are not the same thing. Until you execute, all decisions are just plain old intentions. 

Execution -- putting some skin in the game -- is the true test of commitment. “I believe, I support, I approve” are all just weasel words unless coupled with a visible demonstration. All that planning and preparing is “just getting ready to.” Plans, no matter how elegant and well charted, are simply maps of a journey that's yet to be taken.   

4. The familiar and comfortable rule the new and awkward.

Leaders sometimes achieve their roles through competencies other than superior leadership. While there are obviously administrative and process-management aspects to all culture-change efforts, the core of success comes from the effectiveness of leaders at inspiring, modeling, coaching, affirming and communicating with people. 

Consequently, any change effort requires all leaders to engage in behaviors that for some may not be not their best strengths. Leaders naturally want to demonstrate competence to their associates. Their self-esteem can sometimes cause them to be hesitant to rely on behaviors that are awkward. 

5. Naysayers have more proof than visionaries.

Culture change is disruptive for everyone -- employees and customers alike. After all, change implies “doing things a different way.”  And employees do not fast-forward from novice to master; there is an inevitable learning curve. What's more, old ways can die hard -- for employees and for customers. 

Even if the old way has been a negative to customers, they have learned to deal with it. They can also harbor some of the same cynicisms as employees and may actually work to sabotage change efforts. All of this provides cynics and naysayers with clear and present evidence that they were right to resist.

6. Entrepreneurs get tired before they get change.

Culture change is hard work, requiring enormous patience. Many leaders are by nature impatient people who want drive-by culture change, produced with the snap of a finger and completed by the end of the week. Some want drive-by culture change. But, culture change takes a long time, because it is complex and disruptive. 

Culture change also involves unlearning old habits and acquiring new ways of thinking and behaving. To get people to abandon their old ways and embrace new ones cannot be accomplished through an edict or “to all employees” memo.  And, the larger the organization and the more dispersed the employees, the more challenging and time-consuming the change effort.

So, what’s a change ally to do?

What then separates the culture-change winners from those that drop out of the race? Winning starts with a clear, compelling vision that is used both as the anchor for judgments and the lens for alignment. It requires strategies that, like pieces of a puzzle, fit together to ensure an aligned, coordinated management of divergent efforts toward a common end. And, it takes tactics that support the strategies and contribute to the vision. 

It also requires the active participation of those impacted; substantive and continuous communications; alignment of core processes and practices so they “fit” the new vision; and the selection, on-boarding and coaching of employees with the goal of ensuring consistent performance in harmony with the vision. 

But, the real make-or-break component is leaders who demonstrate congruence, consistency and courage. Congruence means leader actions are in sync with the culture-change vision. Consistency suggests leaders stay the course rather than simply engage in superficial pap and shallow pomp. 

Courage involves defying the skeptics by taking bold forward steps that depart from the more comfortable past. It means championing the vision even in the face of temporary setbacks and defeats.

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Why Change Doesn't Happen, and What to Do About It

We’re at that time of year where it seems like a new quarter has either just started or another one is just around the corner. This rhythm sets up a predictable pattern ripe for making change happen in your organization. Having seen my own fair share of quarterly cycles, I can attest that this is indeed the ideal time to institute companywide changes, particularly in terms of policies and procedures.

But, have you ever wondered why change doesn’t happen?

I’ve been there -- as the leader of a company, where a decision was made to update processes or refine a product offering, but for some reason, the change was unsuccessful and I couldn't get it to stick.

Change, despite how low-impact it may seem, shouldn’t be taken lightly. There’s a reason why people resist change, and that's because it’s often done so poorly. Even in those situations when it’s clear that change is needed and the results will be positive, various and common, pitfalls exist.

Here are the five reasons why the change you may be trying to implement doesn't happen and how to implement it better next time, just in time for a new quarter.

1. No decision has been made. 

Change starts with an idea; ideas, once vetted, turn into projects. Those projects are worked on for several weeks and then the business case is supported by data, forecasts and other projections. Time passes and nothing changes. What was once a great idea with momentum seems to die on the vine. The reason is that no real decision was made -- you missed a major step in there.

What to do about a lack of decision-making: To correct this, and avoid one of the biggest pitfalls when arranging a change in your company or department, find out who the decision-maker is. Or, at least find out how a decision will be made, should input be needed from more than one person -- a committee, for instance. Either way, you’ll need to determine who is making the decision.

Doing this means that you’ll know exactly whom to check-in with for an update on the project’s progress, which will dictate when to move everything to the next step, outlined below.

 

If it’s you who is the ultimate decision-maker, recognize the power in your hands and be respectful of the impact you can have on others’ livelihood or customer experience. Evaluate your options and move forward by weighing the tangible and intangible outcomes. The more you make big decisions, the better you’ll get at it. Just make sure that you’re making one of those decisions -- that’s the first step when implementing change. 

2. The change lacks buy-in from key influencers.

Buy-in is the notion that others must not only agree, but be supportive of positive change. In most organizations, it will be obvious whom you’ll need buy-in from. While buy-in at the C-level is sometimes referred to as "executive sponsorship," there may be others who have similar influence when it comes to executing the change.

For instance, ensuring that those in human resources are on board is always helpful because it is those internal experts who are responsible for corporate training. The key here is making sure that the right people are informed and are fully supportive.

What to do about a lack of buy-in: For executive sponsorship, establish the business case. From purchasing new software to changing a long-standing service provider, these decisions are often more easily made when supported by data. And, with more businesses becoming data-driven, you can eliminate guesswork and subjectivity by using tools such as a ROI analysis, a cost-benefit analysis or a payback period.

For process changes, develop a business case for the amount of time saved on a per-person basis and then multiply that across the entire company, to paint a picture of how the new way will result in a more productive workforce.

3. The change hasn’t been communicated.

No matter how great an idea is or how strong its business case may be, change that is decided on in the boardroom, but never communicated, may as well never have happened in the first place.

If you’re like me, you’ve sensed a palpable anxiety from your team members when they know change is just around the corner, but it hasn’t yet been formally communicated.

With change decided upon, it’s likely to come up informally in discussions. Unfortunately, such water cooler conversations result in soundbite explanations, which, in turn, have the potential to be misinterpreted and passed along as full-blown rumors -- and that is exactly how misinformation spreads across an entire organization.

The longer the time period between a finalized decision being communicated via a company-wide or even public announcement, the higher the risk of a leak, which could have lasting damage and undermine months of work.

Recently, I experienced this myself when a product-name change was in the works, and in several discussions and training sessions, I found myself struggling to remember to refer to the old name, not the new one, because we hadn’t yet announced the upcoming change. We really do such things to ourselves. The sooner you can communicate change, the less of a balancing act you’ll need.

What to do about a lack of communication: Determine who is saying what, when and how. As CEO, I take great pride in rolling out changes. I thoughtfully design the presentation, crafting a story to provide reasoning as to why change is needed and then explain the solution, process or procedure to be implemented. 

Giving a preview of the presentation to a trusted colleague to gather feedback is also necessary. Rehearsals help you refine the message and ensure that technical aspects of the presentation run smoothly.

Despite your best efforts to communicate change, brace yourself for the potential, “I never heard about that before,” or, “This is the first time I've heard of it.” Statements like these verify that you’ll need to do a better job communicating, even if you think you’ve already done so.

George Bernard Shaw famously said that, "The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place." Remember that you’ll need to communicate the same message, several times, in different formats (verbally, via email, and an internal messaging channel too, such as Chatter, Slack or HipChat -- or even via the corporate Intranet).

4. The change wasn’t followed by training

To reiterate -- because it’s that important -- the announcement is best done in a group setting, supported by a presentation, and promptly posted on your internal channels making it available for those not in attendance. Either as part of the announcement or immediately afterward, you must follow-up with training.

If you are changing a key business process or a familiar routine, training is also a particularly important part of the change. As they say, humans are creatures of habit, which partly explains why people, in general, dislike change. In my experience, it’s more appropriately stated as a dislike for the unknown. You can alleviate much of the nervousness that understandably comes with change by offering training and support to those affected by the update.

What to do about a lack of training: Loop in those responsible for training and give them a heads up. Because most people will seek out the expertise of the trainer, equip them prior to launch and verify that they’re prepared to give training on your new methodology.

After that, your next move is merely to pick a date. Select one as close to the formal announcement as possible for best results.

5. The change lacked a 'go live' date.

Sometimes, a gap may exist between the announcement, the training and what I’ll refer to as the “go live date” -- the date the change goes into effect.

Ideally, there is no gap, but should this occur, be clear as to when the effective date is. 

What to do about a failure to set a date: Commit to that go-live date. This could be the date that a new feature is rolling out on your website, the date you launch a new version of your product or the date that a new performance-review system takes effect.

For meaningful internal changes, providing the team with 30 days notice is not only a courtesy, but also, should there be an oversight, a sufficient time period to make small tweaks before the effective date arrives.

Making positive change take root

Change should not be feared. In fact, change is a sign of progress and should therefore be embraced. By making a firm decision on the best path forward, communicating the change to your company or external stakeholders and then following up with training, should it be required, you’ll be applying the best practices of change management.

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Managing Change, One Day at a Time

At a client’s off-site meeting a few years ago, I gave a talk on how companies can bring about dramatic cultural change—the focus of my firm’s consulting work. At the end, a man quietly approached and asked, “Are you a friend of Bill’s?” Seeing my confused expression, he attempted a clarification: “Are you a friend of Bill W’s?” “Who’s Bill W?” I said. The man explained that Bill Wilson was the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous and that members use the question “Are you a friend of Bill’s?” to discreetly inquire about whether acquaintances are in AA. “I’m not,” I replied. “Why do you ask?” He said that the methods I’d described to lead change reminded him of the methods AA uses to help people stop drinking—so much so that he’d wondered if I was a 12-stepper myself. I thought it was an interesting exchange but gave it no further thought at the time.

Soon afterward a senior executive at another client told me that the process we’d used to coach his team had inspired him to confront his alcohol abuse—even though we hadn’t, of course, discussed addiction during the coaching. This made me curious. So over the past several years, my team and I studied a variety of addiction treatment programs. We examined the methods and success rates of traditional 12-step programs along with less conventional techniques, from the regimen depicted on the TV show The Biggest Loser to therapies for troubled youth and training protocols for orca whales. We approached the endeavor with skepticism—on the surface, change management and addiction treatment seem wholly dissimilar. Over time, however, we saw many parallels between how the two bodies of work leverage human nature to modify behavior. In the process, we discovered a provocative lens and language to help change managers better understand their mission and methods.

At the simplest level, the comparison is this: Organizations can’t change their culture unless individual employees change their behavior—and changing behavior is hard. Many change programs focus on providing strategies, technologies, and training. But often that’s not enough. When it comes to modifying deeply ingrained behavior, 12-step programs have a superior track record. They use incentives, celebration, peer pressure, coaching to adopt new habits, negative reinforcement, and role models—things organizations can draw on. 

 

To Change the Culture, Change the Habits

Analogies are never perfect, and there are clearly points where the comparison doesn’t hold. For instance, AA relies heavily on spirituality, asking participants to put their faith in a higher power and to declare themselves powerless—sentiments that are generally not appropriate for driving corporate change. Still, in our work with clients including eBay, Dow Chemical, Accenture, AOL, and Lincoln Financial, we have found the comparison useful. Even people who have never attended a 12-step program know some of the basics from pop culture portrayals; making the similarities to corporate change explicit, as in the insights below, can help them understand the challenges of changing an organization’s culture and how to overcome them.

Nothing happens without a readiness to change.

John Kotter, the preeminent change management expert, has written: “People don’t change a minute before they’re ready.” In the AA canon, “hitting rock bottom” is often the catalyst, but for companies, change readiness doesn’t require failure. Sometimes a leader’s admission of vulnerability helps others recognize and address their failings (think of the sharing done in AA meetings). You can’t force people to change—you can only help them want to. AA’s process recognizes this truth; few managers do.

It’s important to replace old habits with new ones.

Many former smokers chew gum or toothpicks. AA serves coffee to give attendees a beverage in place of the ones they’ve given up. In change management, the goal is to replace negative habits with positive ones. At one restaurant chain, store managers used to begin the day by going over the numbers from the previous shift. Although analyzing numbers isn’t inherently bad, it is an isolating behavior, usually done in an office with the door closed—and data alone often don’t explain why sales went up or down. So we helped managers start the day with a different routine: talking with crew members to learn whether anything unusual had happened on the previous shift and only then going through the numbers. This increased managers’ understanding of business conditions and boosted employee engagement—and sales rose.

Peer support and pressure drive change.

One of the best ways to change human behavior is to gather people with similar problems together. This was first recognized in 1905 by the Boston physician Joseph Pratt, who organized groups for tuberculosis patients that emphasized the need for rest, fresh air, and proper nutrition. Over the past century research has shown that support groups benefit people with a wide range of medical and psychological conditions. In our work we find that bringing employees together in peer groups to discuss change initiatives can create accountability, mutual generosity, a judgment-free attitude, and increased pressure on reluctant employees to change.

Sponsorship deepens commitment and sparks results.

AA pairs experienced members, or sponsors, with newcomers for one-on-one support; research has shown that these role model relationships increase both parties’ ability to stay sober. The corporate version, called peer coaching or mentorship, has been widely embraced: For example, 70% of Fortune 500 companies use it with their salespeople. We find that identifying and celebrating early adopters of the behaviors a company wants to instill can create positive contagion. Pairing these role models with slower-to-adopt colleagues can be far more effective than coaching by outside experts. 

Community without hierarchy is a catalyst for change.

AA is famous for its organizational structure, in which local groups are self-directed. Addiction specialists sometimes raise concerns that groups without therapists or other formal leaders lack professionalism, but research has shown that this structure increases members’ security, comfort, and sense of mutuality in the relationships they form. Corporations will always require a hierarchy, but peer role models can successfully lead projects within a change initiative.

You are the company you keep.

Studies have shown that people with a close friend or relative who drinks heavily are 50% likelier to be heavy drinkers themselves. That is why AA discourages members from associating with their old drinking pals. Similarly, having an obese friend increases one’s own chances of becoming obese, and a person’s income can be estimated by averaging the income of his or her five closest friends. This knowledge can guide change managers, who should evaluate the ROI of helping particular employees to change in light of those employees’ potential to get others to follow suit. In our work we strive early on to identify influential employees; this can be as simple as asking workers which of their colleagues are informal leaders. Often it’s possible to leverage this influence in subtle ways: For example, by changing where employees sit, you can seed influentials throughout the organization.

Continuous introspection is key.

Early on in the AA program, members examine their past behavior and start trying to change. AA talks about continuously taking a moral inventory; we see this in effective corporate change initiatives as well. In the wake of the global financial crisis and General Motors’s bankruptcy filing, for example, the company practiced that kind of deep introspection, found its behavior wanting, and drew on its experience in total quality management to improve its relationships with dealers. Before the crisis, GM had managed those relationships by relying heavily on checklists, specifications, and mandated actions. Now it promised and demonstrated a new focus on listening and collaboratively solving problems as a trusted adviser to its dealers (who are, in the industry’s model of franchised dealerships, part of its customer base), and it achieved better solutions and increased buy-in. The new approach is proving helpful as the company deals with recent recalls.

Changes in practice may represent breakthroughs.

In the AA program, a profound transformation occurs when a participant shifts from an emotional framework of guilt, shame, remorse, and resentment toward a more positive, optimistic mind-set. But “mind-set” is hard to measure, and minds are hard to change; therefore, in our work we focus on identifiable shifts in practice. We coach new practices or habits that emphasize growth rather than cost-cutting, for example, or that grow profitability rather than revenue. When you spot such a shift, celebrate it; it’s an important marker of progress.

It pays to acknowledge small wins.

AA doesn’t ask members never to drink again—that goal would probably seem unreachable. It asks them not to drink that day, and it recognizes small milestones by awarding “sobriety coins,” usually monthly, for periods of abstinence. Change managers should take a lesson from this practice and find ways for employees to demonstrate and celebrate incremental achievements. One of the biggest reasons corporate transformations fall short, according to Kotter, is that managers fail to “systematically plan for, and create, short-term wins.”

The goal is progress, not perfection.

Ninety percent of recovering alcoholics relapse at some point. That’s hardly surprising: The newly sober are bombarded with sensory cues that their brains associate with their addiction—the smell of beer, the sound of glasses clinking in a toast. In organizations, too, change doesn’t always follow a straight line. However, this is an area where we diverge from many 12-step programs: Unlike AA, which takes away all a member’s sobriety coins as penalty for any relapse, we coach people to overcome setbacks and move forward to the next win. Celebrating the reversal of a relapse can help desired behaviors regain momentum.Change is hard—particularly when the situation involves chemicals the body craves. Neuroscience has shown that people’s emotional responses to work create their own chemical reactions, releasing powerful neurotransmitters such as adrenalin, dopamine, and serotonin. Successful change can be addictive in a positive way. No matter how habituated employees are to established business practices, they can adapt to new ways of working.

April 2018

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5 Ways To Amplify Your Change Management Strategy

Change, while intimidating for some, plays an essential part in business development at any ambitious company. Markets can change, talent pools can switch to contingent models, and technological innovations can become instantly available. So, knowing how to amplify your change management strategy can really make a difference in the long run.

But, every change management strategy comes with a certain amount of risk in some way or another. In fact, a 2013 Strategy&/Katzenbach Centre survey noted that major change strategies only saw success 54% of the time. Clearly, failing to successfully implement a proper strategy will cause financial issues as well as wasting company resources and damaging employee morale.

So, what kind of change management tools and tips are there to make your strategy a success? We’ve come up with 5 ways to amplify your change management strategy no matter how ambitious your plans may be. Read on to learn more or visit our Leadership page to see more of our articles.

Ask for feedback from the entire workforce before you begin 

Having a vision for your change management strategy isn’t a bad thing. But, failing to ask for feedback before you begin the journey isn’t the best way to start. Thankfully, you can very quickly iron out any potential issues by taking onboard feedback from colleagues and employees about your planned changes.

By getting feedback from your employees, you can learn how well received your changes will be as well as discovering what simply isn’t necessary. After all, what kind of major business decision doesn’t rely on data of some sort?

It’s fine when top-level executives pull off a successful change management strategy after planning everything themselves. However, if they don’t achieve their aims or if the whole process fails, the outcome will be extremely disruptive and the responsibility far harder to shoulder.

Keep things simple at first

There’s no denying that change management can require a deep and sophisticated overhaul of current processes and technology. Just remember that you don’t need to run before you can walk. Even if there are existing issues that need to be addressed, prioritise these issues and bring in changes to fix them in stages.

Failing to do this will probably result in your employees becoming overwhelmed and confused with so many new things to learn. Productivity shouldn’t ever be compromised and if it is, you need to slow down and simplify your strategy even further.

Honest communication with all your employees is crucial after implementing any changes

The biggest mistake you can make during the change management process is failing to speak with employees honestly. It’s vital that you get them on board with your aims as enthusiasm and cooperation is what will drive success.

There’s no doubt that there may be technical issues to deal with as well as trouble adapting to new processes, but you’ve got to be honest about anything that crops up. By creating a transparent environment, feedback can flow from your employees long after implementation.

This is a really important part of optimisation when it comes to your strategy and can affect the outcome in a positive way if handled correctly. There may be a temptation to keep the ‘creative’ planning and development process restricted to only senior-level employees. Sadly, this is a common mistake that many change management strategies fail to tackle.

When employees at all levels are invested in and involved with the changes at hand, more real-time information is likely to come to your attention. And it’s this time-sensitive information that can make or break your plans.

Cultural values in the workplace can be redefined 

A company’s workplace culture can really underpin employee satisfaction, productivity, and acceptance of change. But, is it really necessary to tread extra carefully when dealing with the established cultural values at your workplace?

Well, there’s no reason to dismantle what’s commonly accepted as this is likely to disrupt business and create resistance to what you’re trying to achieve. However, offering up ongoing, staggered improvements is a great way to loosen up even the most resistant employees when it comes to change.

Think about proposing ideas for new incentives

Obviously, one of the easiest way to get your workforce on board with your change management strategy is to offer up new and improved incentives. Simple employee recognition initiatives can provide the incentive and drive that less enthusiastic workers need to ensure success all round. But, this will also help management teams, as employees are left feeling valued by the company and more accepting of change in the future.

Are you looking to learn more about change management tools and tips? For more information, contact us now to get in touch with a member of our team. Or, find out how Saxons can help your strategy become a success with the latest change management tools by visiting the IT Solutions page now.

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5 Things We Learned About Creating a Successful Workplace Diversity Program

Companies today spend millions of dollars on workplace diversity programs and outreach, often with little to show for it. Research has found that most workplace diversity programs fail to produce meaningful diversity and inclusion, and some have actually increased biasamong individual employees. In STEM fields, both the private and public sectors continue to struggle with recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce. As of 2017, nearly 75% of those in computing and mathematical fields were men and fewer than 15% were black or Hispanic.

We kept this in mind when creating our own workplace diversity program. Three of us (Brinkworth, Aponte, and Young) work at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), a large, federally funded institute that focuses on producing research and supporting scholars in the atmospheric and earth sciences. Like many technical workplaces, UCAR, which has approximately 1400 employees, has struggled to recruit and retain women and people of color. But UCAR very strongly believes that diversity, equity, and inclusion are fundamental to producing our best science.

In 2015, UCAR appointed Brinkworth as the Director for Diversity, Education, and Outreach (DEO), (later called the Chief Diversity Officer), and was tasked with making UCAR more diverse and inclusive. Shortly after that, a small group of employee researchers led by Young asked about the lack of spaces within the organization to discuss diversity-related topics — a critical issue for employee development and retention. Brinkworth worked with these employees to co-create a diversity training program called UNEION, which stands for UCAR|NCAR Equity and Inclusion.

UNEION is now a routinely offered, four-part course that covers topics related to power and privilege, gender, and race, and includes a three-hour bystander intervention training. The goal of the program is twofold: first, to train participants on how to build inclusive teams, facilitate diversity-related conversations within their divisions, and identify other practices that can promote a positive workplace culture; second, the program serves as a community for those interested in fostering equity and offers a venue for action. More than 80 employees have completed UNEION, and 10 have participated as organizers or “lead learners.” We’ve found that UNEION has increased collaboration among participants, helped research labs create more inclusive environments, and made employees more actively engaged in diversity-related issues throughout the organization.

 

More About UNEION

While we still meet resistance from employees who do not understand how diversity and inclusion are related to their job in a scientific organization, this resistance is becoming less common as we continue to engage in change management and make the case for inclusivity across UCAR. After three years of iterating, evaluating, and improving UNEION, we’ve learned five key practices for how to implement a successful workplace diversity program:

Focus on intervention, not just bias reduction

Many workplace diversity programs have focused only on bias reduction. Studies have shown that when employers require bias reduction training, hostilities can actually increase. In voluntary programs such as UNEION, research suggests that those who elect to participate already see themselves as “pro-diversity.” That’s why we move beyond attempting to reduce bias and toward putting inclusion into action.

We learned that the majority of UNEION participants were already aware of societal biases and workplace barriers that women, people of color, and other marginalized groups face. Because research suggests having high levels of awareness before training can lead to more engagement in diversity-related programs, UNEION focuses on 1) equipping participants to intervene when they see bias or harassment unfolding, and 2) training people on how to talk to others about organizational diversity.

UNEION leaders dedicate one session to in-depth bystander intervention training, so people know how to step in when they observe instances of bias and discrimination. The training begins with a demonstration of different intervention techniques, with lead learners role-playing a scenario (based on real instances that had been reported at UCAR), asking the participants for interventions, then acting those suggestions out. For example, in one prompt, the group is asked to respond to a situation where a white researcher tells an Asian colleague that they “work well together because… well, you’re white in my book!” Participants then separate into small groups to review the scenarios, devise a strategy to intervene, and act it out in front of others.

Participants consistently report this session as the most impactful, having boosted their confidence to intervene appropriately with peers, supervisors, and upper management. Follow-up surveys have found that 80% of past participants reported they did intervene in inappropriate workplace situations after receiving this training.

While UNEION does include readings and activities designed to challenge participants’ views of workplace inclusion, the goal is to put those ideas into action. At each session, lead learners introduce community resources for improving diversity and inclusion. For example, participants not only discussed why systemic racial inequalities and sexism can lead to fewer women and people of color in STEM, but also how to improve UCAR’s student outreach programs and local organizations that could support those efforts.

Alongside these pieces, UCAR has made significant structural efforts to be a more inclusive organization, including undertaking a comprehensive workplace culture study, developing a diversity, equity, and inclusion strategic plan, expanding an outreach and mentoring program for underrepresented students, revamping hiring procedures, and reviewing policies to ensure they are equitable for all. These efforts have significantly shifted the conversation about diversity and inclusion at UCAR. An optional full-day retreat in November 2017 attracted more than 10% of UCAR’s staff and approximately 85% of our senior leadership to discuss future diversity and inclusion efforts and strategic planning.

  Invite non-managers to foster communication across the organization

Many workplace diversity trainings tend to target only managers. Because previous research shows there are benefits to recruiting diverse groups in terms of race and gender for trainings, UNEION lead learners also emphasize recruiting from all levels of the organization, including non-technical and clerical staff. Research has also shown that inviting non-managers to diversity and inclusion workshops can help organizations better identify points of conflict and possible resolutions. Approximately one-third of past participants have been research staff, and two-thirds have been administrative employees (many of whom have scientific training but are working in program or education-related roles). Over 40% of UNEION participants are in management roles. And over half of past participants we surveyed said they formed collaborations with people in different research areas or departments from their cohort.

At a recent Diversity Action Summit at UCAR, over 140 employees convened to collectively identify UCAR’s unique challenges and opportunities for diversity and inclusion, as well as develop responsive strategies and short-term action steps to create a more inclusive environment in each laboratory and workgroup. We followed up on these plans with customized workshops for each lab, program, and department to help them identify priority areas in order to see positive cultural change.

Keep the focus on workplace issues, not personal ones

Personal issues and career paths are inevitably intertwined. The lack of diversity and inclusion in workplaces can also be due to personal decisions or other non-workplace factors. For example, research from the Center for Talent Innovation shows that more women than men have to pause their careers to take care of children or aging parents. People of color and LGBT individuals also face additional challenges, both in and out of the workplace, to advancing their technical careers.

So initially, UNEION embraced the overlap between work and home and included readings and discussions related to topics such as childhood socialization and parenting. However, feedback from those sessions indicated that participants wanted the focus to be on workplace issues and inclusion at all levels of the organization. We also saw research suggesting that diversity training be solely focused on business issues.

The session was reworked to acknowledge external challenges that can impact work performance, advancement, and career choice, while keeping the conversation away from the explicitly personal, such as parenting choices. This kept the issues grounded in the context of work, an important feature of successful diversity programs, while maintaining a forum for people to discuss the ways in which personal identity can affect one’s experience in the organization.

Keep the conversation going to stay accountable

Research shows that the most successful workplace diversity programs are those with higher levels of continued engagement and accountability, such as task forces, diversity managers, and mentoring programs. So, during and after the course, lead learners began holding one-on-one meetings, workshops, and town halls, and encouraging participation in diversity-related outreach programs. Lead learners also promote a cohort mentality among participants by encouraging collaboration and informal information sharing.

Many past participants have ongoing relationships with UNEION leaders and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at UCAR. Nearly 90% of those surveyed who completed UNEION have incorporated diversity and inclusion into their team building activities, outreach efforts, and recruitment and retention plans. And we’ve found that many people get introduced to UNEION and other diversity-related programs at UCAR through UNEION alumni.

Be flexible, in both content and delivery

There is no one-size fits all curriculum for workplace diversity programs. Each organization and even each group of participants will have different needs, so facilitators should be flexible in their content, delivery, and structure.

UNEION is now designed so only the introduction has set content. The remaining sessions are developed by the lead learners based on pre-workshop surveys that provide information about the interests, challenges, and biases of participants. This means readings and activities vary greatly by cohort based on the needs of the group. For example, in one cohort, many people raised questions about so-called “reverse racism” in the pre-course survey, a concept not previously addressed in the course. The flexible structure allowed lead learners to change the content to specifically address “reverse racism,” which resulted in a 23% decrease in the number of people in that cohort who felt “reverse racism” was an issue at UCAR.

Each cohort brings new challenges and learning opportunities. Although we strive to both expand our course offerings and keep previous cohorts engaged, as a small office with resource constraints, we have to make compromises. We want to respect the time of our lead learners, who participate in UNEION in addition to their normal workplace responsibilities. Besides being the “right thing to do,” we know that building a more diverse and inclusive community of researchers, educators, and support staff will help UCAR produce more creative and innovative scientific outcomes.

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What's the key to a successful CEO-CHRO relationship?

CHROs who work well with CEOs have a lasting impact on the business. The role of contemporary CHROs continues to evolve as rapidly as the organisations they serve.

Strategic partner. Culture leader. Counsel to the CEO. Analytics visionary. Chief engagement officer.

CHROs today must be more than functional experts; they must be able to generate business value. And to bring the highest value to the company, they must partner closely with their CEOs.

To learn about what makes a CEO–CHRO partnership successful, we recently spoke with five experienced European CEOs and their heads of HR (conducting separate interviews so the leaders could speak freely).

The interviews, together with our work evaluating and recommending CHRO candidates for CEO and other executive positions, suggests that to have the most productive relationships with their CEOs, CHROs should aspire to the following three practices.

Be a practical strategist

According to our interviews, the most effective partnerships between CEOs and HR leaders happen when they align on a common vision and business strategy - and when the CHRO participates in both development and implementation. Indeed, as CHRO you can play a crucial role in scaling the company’s strategy and promoting it with employees, and such efforts do not go unnoticed by CEOs. 

In addition, as partners on the vision, you are in a critical position to offer a practical perspective that can balance the often-aspirational CEO.

Indeed, while visionary leadership is a hallmark of many a successful CEO, you are likely more in tune with the reality on the ground when it comes to the company’s current resources and capabilities - and you can use this knowledge to help CEOs see how to realistically achieve his or her vision by saying “yes, but in this way.”

Have a perspective—and share it

A common challenge among CEOs is the relatively limited group of people to whom they can turn for unbiased opinions.

As CHRO, you should be one of those people—but to do that, you must have an opinion to share as well as the confidence to share it and challenge the CEO’s thinking.

This means being unbiased but not neutral, even on matters that may not be your direct purview. Delivered tactfully, such proactive openness can create opportunities for you to be a valued adviser to the CEO on a wide variety of topics.

Offer an aerial view of the business

As CHRO, you need a strong understanding of what affects business performance and the bottom line. To this end, we have found that the CHROs who create the most successful partnerships, and careers, have worked in different parts of the business - from legal to operations to finance - and use this understanding to provide valued insight.

This knowledge can be critical to understanding the implications of major business decisions on core people strategies.
 
Regardless of your specific experience, you are in a prime position to advise your CEO on the impact certain decisions will have on employees throughout the organisation. You can use that knowledge to engage with the CEO on not only where the business is now but also where it should be in one or multiple business cycles.

As CHROs adapt and your role changes, how can you know your relationship with your CEO is healthy? The best metric of success, in our experience, is that your CEO can clearly see how HR plays a role in ensuring the company achieves its strategic and business objectives.

March 2018

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How Leading Tech Companies Use Learning & Development to Engage Employees

Companies with high employee engagement reap a number of valuable benefits: productivity and innovation flourish, employee retention and loyalty grow. One key way that companies can drive employee engagement and differentiate themselves in a competitive job market is through their Learning & Development (L&D) programs.

Millennials now comprise the largest segment of the American workforce, and a recent study shows that they rank training and development as the #1 most valuable benefit employers can provide. Leading tech companies today understand this and are creating new learning initiatives to drive employee engagement and job satisfaction. Pandora calls these programs their “B2E” (Business to Employees) initiatives. Salesforce, the thought leader behind Customer Success, has named them “Employee Success”

Here’s how five big names in tech use innovative Learning & Development programs to make sure employees are engaged at work, and how startups and mid-sized companies can borrow from their playbooks.

SALESFORCE: Innovative, Customized Learning Journeys

 

Salesforce customizes Learning & Development to the individual employee to increase productivity and engagement. Dan Darcy, SVP Productivity, runs enablement at Salesforce and describes his job as Customer Success for internal employees.

For Salesforce, Customer Success is all about putting customers first. It means actively working to increase customer happiness, engagement, productivity, retention and ultimate success. For Dan and his team, Employee Success comes first.

“My goal is to establish the best sales training program in the industry; and then roll out this framework for training across all Salesforce departments,” Dan says enthusiastically. Dan’s team polled employees and discovered that Salesforce employees wanted personalized learning opportunities that they could do at their own pace.

To deliver, Dan’s team is adapting Salesforce’s homegrown Trailheadinteractive customer learning platform for in-house employee training. Sales Account Executives still start their careers with face-to-face Salesforce Academy training at headquarters. Trailhead builds off this foundation by flipping the classroom model. Employees and managers design one-on-one learning journeys to meet each individual employee’s unique personal development needs and goals. With Trailhead, Salesforce is leveraging new training technology to increase both Customer Success and Employee Success.

YELP: Retaining Young Talent through Learning & Development

 

James Balagot, Head of Learning & Development at Yelp, uses L&D to increase engagement and retention. Yelp hires and trains hundreds of young account executives each year who quickly get pursued by other companies. As a former Yelp account executive himself, James understands that providing young professionals with valuable learning programs, a positive culture and meaningful advancement opportunities is the best defense against attrition.

Yelp’s strong commitment to promoting from within is the foundation for the company’s L&D efforts. To keep engagement and retention high, Yelp executives actively mentor young employees and tell managers that employee development is their key priority. James surveys employees regularly to assess their job satisfaction and engagement. Employee participation in L&D programming is optional but the message is clear. Yelp wants employees to succeed and provides daily opportunities for learning. At Yelp everyday can be a school day so employees can continually grow and advance their careers.

PANDORA: A Clear Focus on Manager Training

 

Pandora is another company that recognizes that mentorship and manager-employee relationships are key to employee job satisfaction. “The #1 reason why employees leave is because of poor relationships with their managers” states Matt Morgan, Pandora’s VP, Employee Experience and Development. His team carefully tracks two key employee engagement survey metrics to measure the strength of employee-manager relationships:

1) My manager really cares about me as a person

2) I would recommend my manager to others

Teaching new managers to coach, support, and manage their people effectively is Pandora’s primary L&D goal.

Matt’s team creates all its own B2E content and training tools for new managers in house to reflect Pandora’s values and culture. While the courses are required, Pandora makes all its manager training available online and on-demand, and makes sure each session takes less than 15 minutes to complete. Pandora successfully focuses their L&D initiatives on manager training to increase employee engagement and retention.

ADOBE: Online Leadership Training Drives Global Productivity

 

Adobe’s uses L&D to develop leaders. “At Adobe, when we talk about leadership, it’s leadership at all levels from our newest college grads to our senior leadership,” says Angela Szymusiak, Senior Talent Development partner. Three years ago, Adobe’s senior executive team identified five key leadership capabilities to cultivate in all employees:

1) Lead with Emotional Intelligence

2) Identify and hire top talent

3) Scale the business and drive growth

4) Innovate and drive change

5) Role model the Adobe Check-in approach by delivering meaningful, timely feedback

Adobe’s Global Talent Development team designed Adobe’s innovative Leading@Adobe curriculum to accomplish these goals across Adobe’s vast organization of +14,000 employees, in 40 countries and 70 locations.

Because of Adobe’s size, the Global Talent Development team relied on technology, Adobe’s web conferencing platform, Adobe Connect and on-demand resources to deliver scalable leadership programming. The company now offers a curated on-demand suite of leadership development e-learning tools globally. Moreover, Adobe gets the content right — its 60 minute virtual Adobe Connect labs consistently receive net promoter scores above 90% (eg: I would recommend this experience to my colleague).

Adobe has also reimagined its performance management model. It has replaced its annual performance review process with an innovative frequent feedback loop approach called Check-In. Check-Ins have been embraced throughout the company and are credited with improving communications, employee satisfaction and productivity.

FACEBOOK: Culture Is The Key for a Rapidly Expanding Workforce

 

“Facebook’s key Learning & Development objectives are to promote respect and foster a culture of continual learning,” says Mike Welsh, Learning & Development Partner and People Engineer at Facebook. The company’s approach to L&D was designed to appeal to its talented millennial workers who are hungry for autonomy, feedback, learning, and advancement. Facebook employees want personalized experiences so the company offers many avenues for individual learning through on-demand classes and career flexibility. At Facebook, most of the learning happens organically within functional departments and is peer-to-peer and employee-driven.

What Facebook’s L&D team is most known for are its innovative Manager, Leadership and Positive Culture development programs. For example, Facebook’s Engage Coaching Program provides new managers with one-on-one sessions with an executive coach to help them develop effective people management skills.

Facebook’s FLiP (Facebook Leadership in Practice) program also receives rave reviews. The FLiP program goes deep into leadership best practices, case studies, team-building and coaching circle exercises where rising leaders receive feedback and coaching from their peers and Facebook executive team members.

Finally, Facebook’s nationally recognized Managing Unconscious Bias program trains employees to acknowledge bias in the workplace and build productive working relationships with co-workers. Facebook successfully uses L&D to create a culture that puts people first, and fosters employee engagement, collaborative relationships and continual learning.

COINBASE: A Forward Thinking Startup

 

Some believe that L&D is a perk only big companies can offer. Three year old Coinbase, creator of the first bitcoin wallet, is proving that theory wrong.

Coinbase, a Series C company with just over 100 employees, is already using L&D to ensure high employee engagement. According to Nathalie McGrath, Director of People, Coinbase has created meaningful L&D offerings without a big budget and proprietary programs. To date, Coinbase has adopted Facebook’s coaching circles model, implemented Code School on Fridays and is exploring partnerships with Udemy in order to offer employees a variety of valuable on-demand courses. Coinbase’s goal is to empower employees and promote employee learning and continual personal development even when the company is in startup mode.

Five Affordable Ways to Launch L&D Initiatives

While large tech companies may have the money to invest in best-in-class, proprietary L&D programs, many of their best practices don’t require significant resources and budget. Here are five tips that companies of any size can implement quickly to bring L&D to their organizations without breaking the bank.

1) Promote in-house mentorship and coaching. Get informal mentorship meet- ups, coaching circles, and peer-to-peer learning off the ground.

2) Make on-line education an employee benefit. EdTech companies like Udemy, Udacity, Lynda.com and Coursera all offer a variety of affordable, turnkey B2B subscriptions for employee on-line learning.

3) Regularly track employee engagement and job satisfaction. Measure results and solicit feedback. Design and test new L&D initiatives. Strive to constantly improve these metrics.

4) Train new managers to lead, manage and give frequent feedback. Employees are more engaged and productive when their bosses are good people managers.

5) Treat employees like customers. Make employee engagement, success and advancement a key business priority. Leverage L&D programs to demonstrate your company’s commitment to its employees.

Learning & Development Will Drive Engagement, Retention and Productivity

“Employee engagement is the one key metric that business leaders can influence quickly to improve business productivity,” stated Jack Welch early this year. Salesforce, Pandora, Yelp, Adobe, Facebook and Coinbase have all demonstrated how Learning & Development programs can be used to increase employee engagement. True star employee performers care far more about learning and personal development than free lunches, gym discounts and ping pong. Earn their loyalty and increase their productivity and job satisfaction by bringing meaningful learning & development opportunities to your organization.

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Six Personality Types Involved In Business Transformation Projects (And How To Manage Them)

 

In business transformation management, it is typical that people pick a change management model and try to push everything into that formula. That’s why 70% of change management projects fail and why we need to rethink our approach. But no matter what changes or breakthroughs are made to the old systems, keep in mind that one constant will always remain: the different personalities of those at the helm.

When taking on a client, I inevitably find that my biggest obstacle is hardly which model to choose or augment -- it's the proper handling of the cast of characters on my team, where every interaction is critical to executing every strategy. This knowledge comes from 12 years of trial and error, first working with elite training organizations for the Central Intelligence Agency and then as a consultant, implementing virtually every single change management model.

My work with one global beverage company is what first gave me insight into this crucial human element. I realized how certain people on that team were some of the same people on each of my clients’ teams -- just by different names and faces.

The Sphinx

Impenetrable, mysterious, overly complicated and full of power plays. The sphinx is usually in a senior position with the most experience, someone who is happy to praise other people for their work but will not share information of their own, which sometimes creates friction among the team.

The solution: Put them on the defensive.

This is a sensitive operation and you must be careful to apply pressure slowly, but a power move is often the only method that works. How is this done congenially? One way is by creating work materials critical for a project goal, bringing them near to completion, then making the sphinx the final piece so the spotlight’s on them. Challenge the sphinx to share in meetings and conference calls with superiors, where they must then publicly reveal their reasons for stubbornness. (Bonus: this method is also how outsiders often gain access to inner circles.)

The Appendage

Protected in some way by the company culture, nepotism or simply through seniority or falling through the gaps -- this is the person everyone knows has little to offer, but nothing can be done about it.

The solution: Keep them busy, quickly.

It is essential that those who seem unobtrusive on a team are not ignored. What seems benign always has the potential for future damage. Task the appendage with things like formatting and proofreading long presentations. Also, make sure to invite them to everything, spreading them thin enough so they don’t have too much impact on any one thing.

Mr. Fantastic

These team members are overstretched, reliable, capable of quality work in a short turnaround -- a wonderful asset if not for others inevitably loafing on his or her abilities.

The solution: Set their lane.  

A leader has to delegate work to other people to move a project forward in any successful team, not just rely on one person to be the superhero -- or the Michael Jordan -- of the team. Always acknowledge their efforts and talents, but calibrate their tasks with their job description. A Mr. Fantastic IT developer, for example, should only be given technical work. And an internal communications Mr. Fantastic should stick to messaging specific audiences, not the entire web of communication that they so often get involved in.

The Credit Hog

This person tends to accept the congratulations without having actually contributed and can even unknowingly take credit for your work as a leader.

The solution: Give credit where it’s due.

The natural reaction would be to correct any individual, especially if the offense is rampant. Instead, I always make sure to privately acknowledge the true contributor’s efforts, either through email or in meetings with senior people, almost creating a behind-the-scenes feeling of camaraderie. This continues to let the credit hog get the empty public accolades while, at the same time, strengthening team spirit with no one feeling left out or in open conflict.

The Prom King

Whether through natural charisma, a wholesome upbringing or pure strategy, this type always makes a point to greet, encourage and connect with everyone on the team. Even you may genuinely appreciate their charms. The problem is, the quality of their work doesn’t always match up to the quality of their small talk.

The solution: See them for who they are.  

Don’t get frustrated or expect the prom king to have the same skills as the others may have. Simply delegate to them all the public presentations, networking and company social functions. The prom kind will generally thrive in that role, but if they feel underutilized, you can also provide them with small development opportunities, such as the task of creating a late-stage project plan or reformatting decks that the appendage likely botched -- a win-win.

The Spock

This team member is a strategic thinker who sees far ahead but might not have the temperament or patience to play nice or feed egos.

The solution: See them for who they are, too.

Spock is the introvert to the prom king’s extrovert, so use the same tactic in reverse, giving them analytical, qualitative and robust work. Also, take the time to provide them with low-stakes public interaction so they don’t feel relegated to the shadows. You can assign them a scripted and pre-recorded, one-way webinar or have them lead a meeting with one or two of the team members who most appreciate them.

What’s the bottom line? Effective change teams aren’t born, they’re made. Failing to adequately manage these common behavior types is majorly corrosive to effective transformations. So, no matter the model or strategy, remember the most pivotal predictor of success is how effectively you manage your own colleagues, starting with these six most common types. Some solutions may seem tricky at first, but for me, the payoff has always been extreme.

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5 Strategies to Manage Change In a Digital Workplace

While the digital workplace is here to stay, change continues all around us. The changes companies must manage and adapt to in a digital workplace are impacted by many internal and external factors including technology, budgets, business model, politics, location, processes, leadership, legal and tax barriers. 

In their 2017 digital workplace trends study, the Digital Workplace Group (DWG) describes seven dimensions of which companies should take note when trying to determine where they fit as a digital workplace. These dimensions are: 

Communication and business intelligence Collaboration and community Services and workflow Structure and coherence Mobility and flexibility, Strategic alignment and management Organizational readiness

Effectively managing change requires a clear understanding and thus the first step is to complete a full assessment of the state of your business. These techniques listed here can be used to effectively manage change. 

Related Story: Your Digital Transformation Won't Succeed Without Cultural Change

Recognize Change Must Be a Big Part of Your Strategy 

From the leadership team to the front line, it’s vital people recognize that change is important and necessary. Change plays a key role in strategy and is vital to establishing and maintaining a sustainable competitive advantage. “Technology adoption is faster than ever. Jobs are being replaced by automation, AI, and robotics —change is coming. Seventy-one percent of industries and leaders expect widespread adoption of AI and robotics in the near future,” said Mika Kuikka, President of Arcusys. 

As the nature of work changes, organizations need to accept that change is an inevitable risk and put in place a strategy that reacts quickly to change. Flexibility is key. Change avoidance or reluctance puts companies at a disadvantage in relation to competitors and creates an environment of stagnation. In the digital workplace where the pace of change is accelerated, the need to expediently managing those changes is amplified. Change management experts, project management office (PMO) leaders, and CIO’s need to be in sync in how and when to approach and address change. They should all play a key role in strategy and attend related planning sessions to avoid costly oversights. 

Related Story: Why Some Businesses Thrive in Times of Constant Change

Don’t Just Embrace Technology, Pursue It 

In almost every aspect, technology is transformative and enables the digital workplace. Technology is infused in every aspect of communication, collaboration, messaging, financial reporting, banking, and resource management, amongst many other areas. 

To give an example, customer relationship management (CRM) is one of the primary areas that has changed significantly over the years, with many successful digital workplaces automating a significant portion of this customer-centric role. This change has allowed companies to leverage cloud-based CRM tools like HubSpot and others to accelerate formerly manual face-to-face time-consuming tasks. 

From the start of the sales pipeline to handling all customer interactions, these tools streamline the customer relationship management process and release resources for deployment elsewhere. Changes are more readily managed through technology instead of manual processes. 

Technology has also advanced other key areas like financial reporting from being just crunching numbers to providing customizable high-value insights that leaders can use to make better, quicker decisions. Many companies are investigating and using cloud-based financial reporting tools like Intacct and others to help them transition to a digital workplace environment. “Today, new technology takes the mobile world completely for granted. The cutting edge of innovation around machine learning, analytics and edge computing is built on top of that advancement — and many others — as a deep foundation,” says Ross Smith, Chief Architect at PITSS. Accepting or embracing technology is no longer sufficient: companies looking to transition to a digital workplace or more effectively manage change in a digital workplace will need to actively pursue technology that enables strategic goals. 

Assemble a Digital Workplace Task Force 

A successful digital workplace is unlikely to have emerged by chance if some areas of your business are digital and others rely on manual processes. Transforming an entire company to a digital workplace requires intentional effort across the board. This means assembling a digital workplace task force that is responsible for working with all levels of your company to plan, execute, monitor and control digital initiatives and policies. Its focus should be on why, when, and how processes, technology, and resources will get the work done to enable company-wide goals. 

This task force should consist of cross-functional team members who can provide a 360-degree view of the business and reduce the chances of any blind spots. Smith explains a digital task force can, “drive digital change back into your operations and your bottom line. If you don’t make it an organizational priority to create such units, then you are leaving the opportunities of new technology on the table.” 

Build Your Culture Around Your Vision For a Digital Workplace 

Having only a digital workplace task force is also not sufficient by itself. Business leaders need to gain buy-in from all levels of your business. Transitioning to a digital workplace and managing change is unlikely to be successful if the general business culture does not support it. 

Employees at all levels will need to be on board. This is where leaders and change management experts can help to communicate, monitor, and manage the impact of changes on employees and processes. But saying “leaders” does not automatically equate with senior management — senior managers may be as resistant to the changes necessary as anyone else. Building a digital workplace culture works well when all employees have an understanding of the benefits to themselves as well as to the company. 

When it comes to building a culture that embraces the digital workplace, eXalt Solutions founder and CEO, Leslie Swanson says "don't worry about failure, it's part of innovation. Risk taking must be encouraged. Cultivate a "fail fast" culture". Quickly determine what works and what doesn't and move on". 

Conduct Frequent Process Reviews to Establish Best Practices 

Transitioning to a digital workplace and effectively managing it are two separate things. This is not a “set and forget” exercise. Changes are always occurring due to the factors mentioned previously, and these changes can create additional obstacles or risks. To address these, it is vital your company conducts periodic process reviews and establishes best practices to get ahead of any looming issues. 

The benefits of a digital workplace are many, provided your business can accurately conduct a maturity assessment and be successful at developing strategies to effectively manage change.

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Mistakes In The Workplace: When Change Management Goes Wrong

Change management, as a strategic company asset, only began to be openly valued in the 1990s. Since then the field, which surrounds including employees in company changes, has evolved and its importance has been formalised: bachelor and master degrees in change management emerged not too long ago, and HR departments now employ specialists in this area. It seems unlikely that this field's rise has nothing to do with a general trend in employee psyche: a poll carried out in the US1 supports what's now accepted as a general truth, that younger workers value happiness and inclusion at work, contrasting to older workers who value income and skill acquisition.

The value of change management is twofold. First, when done well, companies can pivot quickly to seize opportunities (a new technology, for example) or to minimise unforeseen threats like a CEO's departure, plummeting share price, or a tough new regulation. For example, Shell, amidst a crisis in 2004, hastily but effectively updated its processes and structure worldwide in order to preserve its market share. And second, keeping employees—especially the millennial generation, some of whom are into their thirties already—abreast of the when, why, and how of change keeps them committed, included, and energised.

As an HR professional, I have seen many mistakes when it comes to change management. My team and I, comparing notes on our various experiences, have put together the following list of three common pitfalls to be wary of.

1. Change for change's sake—or the perception thereof

Business gurus and conference hounds are constantly shouting about change, change, change—transform your technological capacity, slim down for increased competitive edge, plan better for regulatory changes! For the most part, they're right: you need agility to stay on top. However, such talk is mostly aimed at the C-suite. From an HR perspective, I would like to point out how easily talk of change can come across negatively to employees, who have plenty of daily concerns other than the company's exact position in the field. A CEO might be excited over a new robotic process automation solution, but employees will instantly assess its relevance to their own skills and livelihood.

For that reason, it's important to ensure that employees understand that change isn't happening for change's sake—that it isn't pointless—and to keep in mind that they will have a much lower threshold for perceiving it that way. (As they should, not being in the C-suite themselves. And many of them don't ever want to be. Remember that!) So don't overstress the efficiency that will be gained or the money saved at the company level. Frankly, they won't care that much, because these are C-suite concerns. Instead, through project sponsors who are motivated, visible, and effective, communicate honestly: show that this change is vital for the company's success and that you, as the employee, are best-placed to carry it out. Make sure employees know what's in it for them and that their effort is highly prized by the company. Indeed, it is.

2. Whitewashing your workforce

The faulty medium of language makes simplification easy: the people whose varied skills and experience collectively effect a company's success are easily referred to as "the workforce," "employees," "staff," "personnel"—but none of these terms does them justice. An IT specialist won't see herself as having much in common with an HR recruiter, so approaching them in the same way is a mistake. Not only will the messaging perhaps be less relevant to one than the other, but both will sense that they are being spoken to as part of a generalisation, and this is unpleasant.

Thus, when assessing the impact of your change programme, don't neglect the micro level. Will this team of four people become a team of three? Will this employee have to embrace a new role, that one not, and this other one a new method using new tools? Be clear about such changes: don't invite someone a meeting where learning new processes is even mentioned if he won't need to learn them. It will make a difference that each communication is personally tailored, that it's evident that each person's future was specifically brought up in the boardroom.

3. Thinking that the book of change has been closed

When you ask employees to change their ways, they'll never forget it. Especially if it's wholescale, intense, hard—people will still remember it five, ten, thirty years later. And why shouldn't they? Change is an interesting feature of life. This doesn't (necessarily) mean that they will resent the company forever or privately fight the change—but the best-case scenario isn't that the employee does what is asked, but that she owns her new role or methods. And embracing change doesn't happen when the change happens—the go-live is only the starting point.

For that reason, stay in touch with every team. Use pulse surveys, and capitalise on the work you did analysing each team before you communicated the change in the first place. Have people adjusted, or are they overworked? Has each team member embraced his new responsibilities? Reiterate messages, take corrective actions, or in the case of positive feedback share that good news as a company win.

Our methodology

For several years now, my team and I have been helping clients on different transformation projects, from implementing new IT tools to reorganising their activities globally. Our approach has been to customise our 4-step change management methodology, considering the specificities of each change programme and organisation. Turning an ambition into a successful and sustainable reality is our goal every time.

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5 Reasons that Electric Bikes Are Like Blended Learning

My new obsession is electric bikes. Not that I own one.

Being an academic, I’ll need to do 10,000 hours of research before I am comfortable contemplating any action. At this rate, I expect to be in the market for an e-bike purchase in spring of 2018.

Like all my obsessions, I understand electric bikes through the lens of learning and technology.

Here are 5 ways that electric bikes are exactly like blended learning:

1 - The Passion of Early Adopters:

A growing number of my colleagues are commuting to campus on an electric bike. They are replacing a drive to campus in a car with a ride to campus on an e-bike. Reasons vary. Some are riding their electric bike because they live too far away to ride a traditional bicycle. Others ride their e-bike to campus because they can arrive without getting sweaty, avoiding the need to shower. What all of these electric bike owning colleagues have in common is their passion for e-bikes. They are electric bike evangelists. They talk about how their e-bike changed their life. Not only do they get more exercise, they look forward to their morning and early evening ride. The purchase price of the e-bikes were justified by saving on the parking passes and gas, but these practical commuting decisions gave rise to a larger belief that electric biking is the future of transportation.

We hear much the same things from those educators who have gotten into blended learning. Talk to faculty teaching online courses, and they marvel at how the medium enables them to deeply interact with their students. The asynchronous nature of much of online learning creates space for all the students in the class to contribute to discussions and debates - through the mechanisms of discussion boards and blogs and wikis - space that is normally constrained and finite in a traditional 50 or 90 minute residential class. Flipping a mostly residential course, by having course content and curriculum be delivered before the class through online lectures, creates new space in the face-to-face discussion for active learning.  Class is invigorating when the teaching model moves from delivering content to coaching and mentoring.

2 - A Dedicated Community of Practice:

The small and growing number of electric bike people on my campus have started to find one another. They are meeting to talk about how they chose their e-bike, where they get it serviced, and what rides in the area (with big hills) they are now willing to tackle. These campus electric bike pioneers are starting to convert others. There seems to be many more of us who are talking about getting an e-bike than who actually own one.  The enthusiasm of these early electric bike owners is contagious.

This small group of e-bike converts reminds me of those faculty who were amongst the first to teach online and to use technology to flip their residential classes. The first professors to make the transition to online and blended learning faced a good degree of skepticism from their colleagues. Most were skeptical themselves. They wondered if technology would get in the way of what they love best about teaching. They worried about what would be lost when eye contact was replaced by screen time. When the give and take of a good lecture was substituted for recorded video presentations and discussion boards.

What most faculty found, to their surprise, was that online and blended teaching is pretty great. Maybe not better than traditional face-to-face teaching, but usually better than a straight lecture based (large enrollment) course. Online and blended learning encouraged, rather than inhibited, interactions with students.  The medium of online and blended learning still required all the expertise of an experienced educator. The difference being that now online faculty could teach students who were also full-time workers, who were unable to move to campus, and who relied on online learning to participate in higher education. For those teaching blended courses, the technologies of classroom flipping opened up more time for active learning and intensive instruction.

3 - The Potential to Convert Non-Participants:

One reason that I’m excited about electric bikes is the promise of getting my wife to ride one.  She is not a big bike rider, mostly because of all the hills that surround our town.  With an electric bike, we will both able to tackle longer rides through our hilly community.  The idea that e-bikes convert non-bike riders into enthusiastic cyclists is one that we hear often.  The new breed of pedal assist e-bikes are simple to ride.  You operate the bike like any other non-powered bike.  The electric assist only kicks in when you are pedaling.

The idea that e-bikes have the potential to turn non-riders into riders mirrors that of online learning.  Those taking fully online and low-residency courses would often be non-students if not for the flexibility that this method enables.  A fully online or low-residency student can work towards a degree while also working.  There is no need to quit one’s job and move to a campus.  A student can navigate online courses in smaller chunks, on their own schedules, freeing up the time necessary to work and care for family.

4 - Quality Is Expensive:

If you have priced an e-bike, you know that they are expensive. The price is dropping, but the average e-bike seems to come in between maybe $1,500 and $2,500. This is much more money than most recreational non-electric bikes. The reason that e-bikes are expensive is that the components are costly. An e-bike will be heavier, so better brakes and derailleurs are necessary.  The main additional cost of an e-bike comes from the electric motor. A quiet, light, powerful, and reliable electric motor is expensive - as are the controllers that and battery that make it work.

The extra expensive of a quality e-bike is really no different than the extra expense of a equality online or blended course.  In a good online/blended course, you are not taking anything away from a traditional residential class.  You are layering on top of this course everything that makes teaching at a distance or flipping the class possible.  This involves putting together recorded lectures, simulations, low-stakes assessments, and assignments that students interact with digitally.  Increasingly, quality online and blended learning is also mobile friendly - adding a new level of complexity.  Quality online and blended courses are best built by a faculty (subject matter experts and experienced educators) working with an instructional designer (an expert on learning science and learning technologies).  The extra inputs of high quality online and blended learning raise the costs of instruction.

5 - Costs and Growing Inequality:

The fact that high quality online and blended education is more expensive, not less expensive, than traditional face-to-face learning means that the benefits of these methodologies are not evenly distributed. Wealthier institutions and those that charge higher tuitions can afford to hire both faculty and instructional designers. The more affluent a residential campus is, the more likely it is that larger enrollment introductory courses are moving towards a blended and flipped instructional model. The quality of online education is directly proportional to the resources available to create the courses and invest in the student learning experience.

Will expensive e-bikes create the same sort of divide in cycling that we see in higher education? Will there be a class of wealthy riders who can afford the benefits of power-assisted riding, where those with less resources will be forced to struggle up hills unassisted?  Will quality e-bikes be reserved for the affluent, creating two classes of riders?

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Life Hacking With Behavioral Science

 Many of us are in the deliberate search for better, easier, faster, more effective ways of getting things done.  We look for optimization in all sorts of pursuits; fitness, cooking, business travel, finances, technology, and so on. The explosive business of Apps is, in great part, driven by our desire to optimize how we manage our lives. Some might say we are in search of the best and greatest “life hack.” What is a life hack, you ask?  Wikipedia provides this succinct summary:

Life hacking refers to any productivity trick, shortcut, skill, or novelty method to increase productivity and efficiency, in all walks of life; in other words, anything that solves an everyday problem of a person in a clever or non-obvious way….Coined in the 1980s in hacker culture, the term became popularized in the blogosphere and is primarily used by computer experts who suffer from information overload or those with a playful curiosity in the ways they can accelerate their workflow in ways other than programming.* If you explore the term “life hacking” on the internet, you will find that it covers a lot of ground. There are blogs, e-books, articles and entire websites dedicated to life hacking.  Not surprisingly, these sources vary a great deal in content and quality.  From them, you might gather information ranging from the fastest way to peel a banana (it models what chimpanzees do, in case you’re wondering) to tips on boosting your confidence and learning foreign languages at maximum speeds. You can learn how to decrease your anxiety, get the most out of meditation and make Barista quality coffee from your own home.  And, as is generally the case with online sources, it’s a buyer beware world.  Some of them are important behavioral practices that can genuinely enhance our lives, and others will make you wish you’d invested your time elsewhere. Like most, I have interests in maximizing performance for personal reasons but it is also an important aspect of my career as a behavior-based business consultant. 

One of my favorite aspects of the job is helping the best organizations get even better. Rarely do our clients call us to fix something “broken.” Certainly, behavioral science is a powerful and proven approach to mitigating problem behavior at the individual and organizational level. However, it is also an optimization mechanism, capable of producing the highest levels of creativity, quality, productivity and efficiency in what might already be high performance. It gives you the framework to target and systematically improve behaviors that are significant to you.  So, when it comes to managing the behavior of self and others, even just a basic understanding of behavioral science can be the ultimate life hack.  An understanding of a few core principles from behavioral science will help you separate the wheat from the chaff in the jumble of life hacks and personal improvement strategies out there while giving you the tools to build your own for your many ventures. The behavioral science tools and principles that can help you increase your productivity, creativity and expedite learning and fluency are many.  The creative and effective use of reinforcement alone is one of the most powerful life hacks I can think of.  To assess or develop your own behavior-influencing life hacks, consider this starter set of tools and concepts:

Shaping: This might be the most obvious source for a life hack and it is one of the most powerful and efficient ways to learn. Adopting a new skill-especially a complex one such as learning a new language- can have its share of frustrations. We might feel like achieving fluency is distant and the road there too difficult. Often we give up on our goal because it took too much effort to reach the target. This is where shaping comes in. It’s defined by breaking down a skill into achievable and reinforceable baby steps and systematically teaching (or learning) each one. This allows the learner to progress and build a solid foundation on the skill. It also allows them to contact plenty of reinforcement along the way which keeps them fully engaged and motivated to learn. You want your employees to use that complicated new accounting software? Learn how to separate and reinforce those baby steps and shape their behavior. You want to learn how to play an instrument? Learn how to shape your own behavior. Behavioral Cusps: These consist of identifying behaviors or skill sets that once learned will accelerate exponential growth into completely different learning areas. One good example of a cusp might be learning how to read. Once that skill is acquired, a person’s ability to develop in other diverse areas grows exponentially. Now they can read and learn about history, natural science, current events, etc… I see this as a particularly powerful and efficient way to help a new employee transition into their role; identify and then teach the most critical skills that once learned, will expedite growth in other areas that are important to their function. In essence, you could map out and lead them from one cusp to another- expanding the branches of their learning tree and truly maximizing the value they bring to themselves and your organization. PIC/NIC Analysis®: This proprietary troubleshooting tool can help you figure out why people make certain choices. It’s a great way to get into somebody else’s shoes and figure out what variables might be motivating them. If your objective is to change behavior, it’s important to know with precision what the influencing variables are that you need to change. Minimizing Response Cost: This is all about strategically decreasing the amount of effort for the desired behavior to occur. If you want the performer to engage in a certain behavior, it’s much more effective to decrease the amount of effort they need to invest in doing what you want them to do.   Although easily derived from behavioral literature, I first learned this hack from reading Ernest Hemingway’s tips on avoiding writer’s block (and yes…I used his tip to write this blog).  To quote him directly; 

“The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day … you will never be stuck.”

Hemingway decreased the amount of effort for getting into the flow of writing by always leaving a partially full page to begin with the next day. Although I use this for my writing, an understanding of behavior has helped me generalize this approach to several other tasks. For example, I get my workout clothes and equipment sorted, next to my bed and ready to put on for those much too early 5:30am workouts. If I need to get up and start a search for my workout clothes, fitness tracker and water bottle, I may end up slapping that snooze button instead. That additional effort might be too much to sustain the desired behavior. The point is to never start on a blank page. Set yourself up with a head start and increase the likelihood you will engage in the desired behavior. Think of behavioral interventions (including life hacks) as recipes for improvement. Behavioral principles are the ingredients that will produce the optimization you are looking for in your own as well as other people’s behavior. A solid understanding of a few behavioral principles will give you the ingredients to build your own recipes for behavior change. These days it’s easy to be overwhelmed with the limitless amount of information pitching us different approaches to improving our physical and mental health, relationships, and management styles, to name a few.  It’s a challenge to choose the most effective method in the face of so many options. Before we undergo medical treatment most of us expect for the methodology to have been tested through the rigor of the scientific method.  The above tools and concepts are derived from the systematic study and application of behavioral principles supported by over a century of research. When investing in a life hack intended to influence your behavior and that of others, why wouldn’t you rely on scientifically proven tools and principles to lead your way? You may also want to check out The 46 Most Brilliant Life Hacks Every Human Being Needs to Make Life Easier.

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This is Why People Leave Your Company

When Carly Guthrie was running HR for Per Se, one of the hottest restaurants in New York, the General Manager gave her a piece of advice: “You know, Carly,” he said. “If we’re doing our job as leaders, a performance review should only be two columns: Column A is what you do great and Column B is what you do not-so-great. Now, here’s how we move things from Column B to Column A.”

This approach stuck with Guthrie as she left the restaurant world to head up people operations for tech companies. It shocked her that these types of candid conversations were hardly ever happening, and people left as a result. “There’s a mercenary mentality in tech right now — an idea that there’s always going to be something hotter, faster, more groundbreaking,” she says. “And yet, there’s very little internal discussion about how to keep people.”

Guthrie has been watching employees take and leave jobs for over 15 years. Turns out, the reasons people love and hate their work are largely the same across sectors. Step one to retention: Understanding why and how it fails. In this exclusive interview, Guthrie shares what she’s learned about why people quit, and what startups can do after an employee’s first day to make sure they stay happy, engaged in their work, and committed to your company (and to deleting every email they are most certainly receiving from recruiters).

THIS IS WHY YOU LOSE PEOPLE

You don’t respect their time.

In Guthrie’s experience, employees will follow up with recruiters and other job offers if they're even slightly angry, bored or dissatisfied. “Usually the hours are wearing on them or their spouse is on their case because they’re never home,” she says. “A really good CEO thinks about the bigger picture and realizes people have lives outside of work. That’s the number one way to prevent people from feeling like they might want to be somewhere else.”

But it’s easier than you think to be thoughtless. For example, Guthrie has seen countless companies throw weekly happy hours that start at 4:30 p.m. every Friday. The result: People feel like they have to stay until 6 to be a good co-worker, then they get a slow jump on traffic, they get home later and they’re tired, when they really want to just go do their own thing. “Just moving the happy hour to Thursday would show a tremendous amount of awareness and make people feel that much better about the company and leadership,” she says.

On the flipside, there are many companies that like to emphasize their rigorous hours by hosting early-bird staff meetings on Monday mornings. Guthrie has seen these get as early as 7:30 a.m. “No one wants a Monday meeting at 7:30 a.m. No one. This forces people with kids to juggle like crazy to get them to school on time. And even if you don’t have kids, you want to get the most out of your weekend. You don’t want to go to bed early every Sunday.” Even if you don’t mean it, this kind of practice communicates that you don’t really care about employees as people.

From 5 p.m. on Friday to 9 a.m. on Monday should be people's own time, not the company's.

It should be people’s choice to work on the weekends or not. When you provide this level of freedom, it makes it that much more reasonable to say, “I’m going to ask the sun and stars from you the rest of the time.” If you’re worried that your startup needs to move faster than that, consider the following:

1) People who love their job and the company will work all the time anyway. If you’ve hired good fits, you’ll see this happen.

2) People do better work when they have lives of their own. “That’s not always a popular opinion, but I’ve seen how true it is over and over again,” says Guthrie. “It’s not just people with kids or spouses. Everybody has a community outside of the office. So few employers respect that — if you make it a point to, that will bind your employees closer to you.”

Some companies are beginning to take these best practices a step further and mandate one or two weeks of vacation time without access to company email or tools. That’s right, literally turn their email off for the duration of their vacation.

“It’s not punitive, it’s for good employees. You can remove the worry from spending time with your family or traveling abroad.” But what if something goes awry? “We’re all adults, we can problem solve,” says Guthrie. While this strategy might not work at the earliest stage, if you’re large enough, it shows a deep respect for an employee’s time. For most employees, “Time is more important than things.”

Employees usually don’t leave because of their boss.

There’s a persistent trope in the HR world that the main reason people leave is because they don’t get along with their manager. Despite its prevalence in the corporate zeitgeist, “That’s actually pretty rare,” says Guthrie. Generally, almost everyone gets a sense of mismatched chemistry during the hiring process. If someone leaves because of their boss, that’s a failure in the company’s hiring process — an employee didn’t get enough exposure to their boss during the process, or alternatively, if there’s a history of subordinates leaving, their boss was the bad hire in the first place.

There is, however, one big reason employees may leave on account of their manager: Loss of confidence — in them or the company. “Let’s say you’ve had a couple of pivots and you just don’t believe in the company or concept anymore. You lose confidence in the marketability or leadership,” says Guthrie. A company’s leadership needs to be aware of these potential undercurrents in their organization, and should deal with them head on. Otherwise, your best and brightest will be on the lookout for opportunities to jump ship.

If you’re making a counter-offer, you’ve probably already lost.

Often, to prevent brain drain, a startup will make a counteroffer to someone who says they might depart. But at that point, the battle for that employee is pretty much over anyway. “When you tell an employer you’re leaving, you’re saying, ‘I’m unhappy. You may be able to buy me for another six months, but mostly, it’s the end of the chapter,’” says Guthrie.

“If you're happy, you're not even looking at other jobs.”

Employers often forget that looking for a job is an exhausting process, and people only consider that route if they’re truly not content where they are. “If you’re really happy at work, you’re not interested in going down that road. You want to go home. You want to have dinner with your friends. You don’t want to figure out how to arrange your work schedule to take an interview. Nobody wants that if they’re already satisfied.”

THIS IS HOW YOU KEEP PEOPLE

Recognizing and protecting against employee departures is only one piece of the puzzle. The best retention strategy involves more than protecting against employee disaffection. You have to be proactive about cultivating happiness and good will. Below, Guthrie speaks to the strategies startups can employ, beyond the coarser (albeit necessary) foundations of money and equity.

Build a community with purpose.

First and foremost, you have to create a community where people want to spend a great deal of their time. “I’ve seen environments where people are so engaged in the product and with one another that they really do feel like they’re part of something bigger and important,” she says.

“Your goal should be to make people feel like, 'We're all in this together and have a huge opportunity as a team.'”

As head of HR and Operations at student network ReadyForce, Guthrie saw a team become incredibly bonded — to the extent that many are still good friends even though some eventually moved to new companies. This type of community enhances talent and collaboration and makes it very difficult to leave.So how did ReadyForce do it?

The same three people would interview everyone for a particular role so that they were comparing apples to apples. Then they would convene and show thumbs up or thumbs down. If there was disagreement, they’d talk about why and foster healthy debate about candidates. “This really forced everyone to form an opinion and be thoughtful about every person they met. Would they go to bat for the person? Why? What would it be like to actually work with them?” As a result, candidates were only selected if everyone was extremely excited about them joining.

One big difference is that the company didn’t approach recruiting from a purely skills-based perspective. “Honestly, we placed a high price on ‘hilarious’ and hired wonderful people, I think partially because we were willing to work with people who were awesome culture fits even if they had a steep learning curve ahead of them.”

Conversely, that meant filtering out people who may have been exceptionally skilled but not culture matches. Put bluntly, Guthrie suggests you ignore the “brilliant jerks.” Your company culture cannot be created by top-down edict — it’s always going to be a reflection of the collected personalities. Every single person you hire will make a difference. Also important to note: Brilliant jerks are harder to remove because it’s nearly impossible to justify their dismissal if they’re delivering good work. But they have a pernicious effect on culture that far outlasts their physical presence at the company.

On top of running a very detailed, comprehensive onboarding process, ReadyForce also adopted a unique attitude toward group activities. “At so many companies, you see this ‘mandatory fun’ thing happening whether anyone wanted to do it or not. At ReadyForce, I think a lot of our experiences were special because they were organic — they came out of people’s personal interests. And the leadership provided the resources and room to do more creative things based upon those interests.”

You have to balance the importance of community against the personal freedom of allowing remote work.

A popular retention strategy companies use to keep employees happy is flexible scheduling, particularly by letting employees — and especially engineers — work from home. But how can you reconcile “WFH” with the need to cultivate a sense of community and unified culture?

“There's no hard and fast rule when it comes to working from home. It really depends on your culture.”

While there’s rarely an easy answer, Guthrie offers two tips for companies looking to strike the right tone:

1) Make sure managers trust their employees. It’s human nature to think, ‘I don’t see this person in the office, so I subconsciously assume they don’t work as hard.’ Managers need to communicate clearly to employees (and themselves) that they are results-oriented, while employees need to trust that it’s important and justified when managers ask for them to be in the office. It’s all about both sides respecting each other’s time and abilities — and, perhaps most importantly, communicating this mutual respect.

2) If you offer “WFH” options for engineers, you should offer it to everyone. Employees often get resentful if a remote work policy is perceived to be unfair. “Can salespeople make calls from home too? Unfair treatment is what gets employees hung up,” says Guthrie. It’s best to craft a policy that preserves serendipitous camaraderie in the office while offering the opportunity for all employees to reap the recharging benefits of occasional remote work.

Structure a mentorship program that people actually want.

Providing a good mentor, and making that relationship natural and easy, goes a long way toward keeping people in a role. It shows the employee that the company is invested in their personal growth, and that there’s someone (other than their manager) looking out for their best interests. But you can’t force it. Like mandatory fun, pairing people with mentors arbitrarily rarely works.

“You definitely don’t want to just introduce your new hire to someone random and say, ‘Here’s your buddy,’ but that happens all the time,” Guthrie says. “It’s unclear what that even means or what you should do. Instead, look for skills that are outside of the new person’s wheelhouse that you know they want to learn. Find someone who has those skills to pair them with and explain the connection.”

“Mentorship needs to be more organic than we've typically forced it to be.”

“Think about people who wouldn’t have the opportunity to work or interact with each other otherwise. Would it benefit them to know each other from a learning perspective? Maybe pair them together. Ask every new employee, ‘What do you want to achieve in this job? What other skills do you want to learn or sharpen, and how can we help you do that?’”

Just asking this question can convince someone they made the right choice by joining your company. The critical thing is to follow through. If a marketing hire says they want to learn Ruby, or an engineer says they want to learn presentation skills, don’t let it drop. Record it somewhere, and then make the best introductions you can. Don’t stop there either. Go the extra mile to suggest how these people might work together to make learning possible. Perhaps advise that they meet a certain number of times a month for a time-bounded period. That makes it sound low-lift, and if they do become close and everything is working well, they can decide to continue the relationship. Keep in touch with the mentor on the progress the employee is making, and then give them a chance to show off their new skills where you can.

Mentorship can also become a useful vector for shortening feedback cycles outside of typical manager-to-employee relationships, which will help you spot potential retention issues earlier. During her time with the Mina and Thomas Keller restaurant groups, Guthrie says she grew to appreciate just how much instant feedback flowed between senior and junior chefs. “In restaurants, there’s just this instant loop. Items don’t make it to the pass at the same time? Not set up for service? You’re going to hear about it right then and there.”

“Good mentors have a very clear sense of what you're supposed to be accomplishing and won't wait to give you feedback.”

Startups could benefit from using mentorship as an opportunity to shorten their own feedback cycles, without making people nervous about their performance. Especially when there is no formal reporting structure involved, employees are also far more likely to be candid with their mentors and share if they're looking for other opportunities.

Bringing in good HR early can make a decisive difference.

“It’s a bummer that people think HR is all about rule thumping — it’s got a bad rap,” says Guthrie. “That’s why it’s even more important to have an HR person or representative who is relatable and trustworthy. People should feel like they can ask anything, even the really dumb questions. And you, as a founder or manager, should feel like you can trust them with the deepest, darkest secrets of the organization.”

“Who do you want in your bunker with you? That should be your HR person.”

“For all these reasons, you need to choose someone you like. HR is not about algorithms. There’s a whole lot of humanity involved, and that gets messy. You need empathy on your team. You need someone who can say, ‘I might not agree with your choices, but I will put myself in your shoes and try to understand where things went off the rails.’”

These are all great qualities, but the single most important trait a good HR person can have is the ability to effectively train managers to handle similar questions and issues, Guthrie says.

“The hallmark of a healthy culture is that people feel comfortable bringing up problems with and offering feedback to their leaders and vice versa,” she says. “There’s this joke that HR reps are like paid assassins, because if you walk into a room and an HR person is there, nothing good is about to happen. If this is the mood at your company, it’s management’s fault. They haven’t communicated clearly.”

The need to train management and provide a sounding board is a strong argument for bringing HR (or someone who fulfills these duties) into your company earlier than later.

“When your company is your baby, you've already lost perspective.”

The thing is, that’s okay, Guthrie says. “Hire or contract someone who has the ability to tell you hard things you don’t necessarily want to hear — someone you can trust to give you a good reality check when you need it.” Many times, HR is a good choice to serve this purpose given the confidentiality and bird’s-eye view of the business.

Sometimes, especially if you’re running an early-stage company with limited funds, contracting can be the best way to go because that person exists outside the company and has no skin in the game. “When that’s the case, this person is really there just to help you. Then, when you get to 40 people, you’ve already figured out what your relationship with People Operations should look like. Being a founder can get extremely lonely. I think it’s easy to forget that. But bringing in someone who sees the things you don’t, and who puts your people front and center can make it a little less lonely.”

TO SUMMARIZE

There are a number of ways to keep your best people, but no silver bullet. As you think through your own retention strategy, remember the following:

Recognize that employees have lives outside of work — cultivate a deep respect for employees’ time.

When employees leave because of their boss, it rarely comes from personality mismatches; it stems from a lack of confidence.

Counteroffers are (an expensive) band-aid; they won’t fix an employee’s fundamental unhappiness.

Building a genuine sense of community is crucial to employee retention. Make sure your hiring process incorporates and heavily weighs cultural fit.

Hashing out a concrete “work from home” policy can improve employee happiness/retention, but it’s largely dependent on your organization’s needs. Make sure you’re being fair across the board.

Good mentorship happens organically, and should be directed by employee interests and growth. It also creates another opportunity for a natural, short feedback loop you can definitely use.

It’s never too early to invest in good HR, whether it’s processes or people. This can absolutely include HR contractors. An outside perspective can be invaluable for founders who need big-picture reality checks.

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Sculpting Fog: Managing Change via Innovation

The workplace is rapidly changing. Globalization, millennials, mergers, acquisitions, regime changes, hyper growth, massive turnover, and technology all contribute to creating a “What now?” culture in the workplace.

Everyone is scrambling to ensure they aren’t left behind; all while managing their teams like a college football coach having to constantly adjust to losing seniors and baptizing freshman. Now, more than ever, systems are required to create, sustain, and maximize a high performing culture.

While technology, products, and services are constantly changing and evolving, there is one constant in all businesses:  people. So, if you’re going to put systems in place to sculpt the fog of change, it makes sense to ensure those solutions are anchored in your people.

That sounds nice, but is it practical? You bet it is. And it’s simpler than you might think...

When we hear the word “innovation,” it calls to mind highly technical advancements, scientifically ratified techniques, hyper progressive applications, and super complex machinations all working behind the scenes to make our crooked roads straight. Not so...

If you can fix your people problems, the rest is easy...

Innovation and change go hand-in-hand, especially when it comes to people. If you can understand what makes your people tick in order to ensure the best fit, you can make better decisions, build healthier interactions, prevent burnout, contextualize your approach to development, and drive success through talent.

If you want to retain your best people, then you need to become a learning organization, strengthen your talent development programs, increase employee engagement, and nip complacency in the bud. 

Only when your people are fully invested and engaged will you be able to respond faster to new business opportunities and threats, as well as increase the speed of workflow throughout your organization. 

It all starts with clarity. When you create a culture of clarity, everyone knows exactly what they are doing, why they are doing it, and who is responsible for what. 

Clarity starts at the top and permeates the entire organization.  Innovation requires that clarity is pervasive and penetrates deep. The better you understand your people, the more clarity you will have to accomplish your goals and harness change for your success.

If you can recognize who wants to advance (as well as who doesn’t), enable effective communication, eliminate bias that applies to different people (ages, background, etc.), and demonstrate a willingness to invest in your people, you can minimize the time and effort it takes to reach and maintain peak productivity.

Managing workplace change requires innovation. The innovation needed most is clarity. Clarity is achieved through understanding your people and using that information to inspire them across the entire employee life-cycle. 

A high performing team that can respond to change has limitless potential.

The need for people data has never been more crucial to success.

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What Do Successful and Talented Women Want From Work?

As more and more research confirms that gender diversity is key for organizations’ bottom lines(and healthy work environments), many leaders are now trying to understand how to recruit, retain, and promote more women at work. To help leaders do just that, CCL and Watermarkconducted a survey of more than 500 successful women leaders and aspiring leaders asking them about the most important things that organizations can do to attract and retain top-notch women. Here’s what they had to say:

Women Want to Find Their Calling

The most common reason women gave for staying with their current employer was that their job fits well with other areas of their life — followed by enjoying the work that they do, and believing that their job gives them the opportunity to make a difference.

Women were more likely to stay with their employer for these reasons over what might be considered more concrete, traditional reasons such as pay or benefits. Moreover, when women wrote in their personal answers to the question, “What are the most important things that organizations could do to make you want to work for them?” many talked about having personally meaningful work that connects to their values, purpose, and work-life balance.

Together, these reasons describe a specific type of employment that social scientists refer to as “a calling.” Callings are jobs that people feel drawn to pursue; find intrinsically enjoyable and meaningful; and see as a central part of their identity. Research shows that experiencing work as a “calling” is related to increased job satisfaction.

Women Want Flexibility in Where, When, and How They Work

When women were asked to rate the importance of workplace perks and benefits, flexibility concerns rose to the top of the list. Paid time off was rated as the most important perk, followed by healthcare benefits, paid leadership development, flexible schedules, and opportunities to move up in the organization.

Compared to a control group of men, women also rated paid time off and working from home as higher priorities. Flexibility might be particularly critical when it comes to retaining talented women who also want to raise families — women with children rated having a flexible schedule and being able to work from home as more important compared to women who didn’t have children. Flexibility was also a common theme when it came to women’s personal stories about the most important things organizations can do to retain them.

Women Want Real Leadership Opportunities

In our sample of (highly successful) female leaders, women were just as likely as men to be interested in raises, promotions, and leadership development opportunities. They were also just as likely to ask for and accept leadership opportunities.

But women expressed different reasons for turning down leadership opportunities compared to men. Men typically turned down positions because they didn’t want the role, like the supervisor, want to relocate, desire longer hours, or get offered enough money. While some women shared these concerns, women also mentioned confidence issues (not being confident in their qualifications, not being sure others want them in the role,) and concerns that they were being set up for failure.

Unfortunately, research suggests that these concerns among women are valid. Studies show that leadership opportunities for men often come with more resources (funding, supervisor support, team size) compared to women’s opportunities.

What’s more, women are more likely to get “glass cliff” positions — leadership opportunities that are high stakes, precarious, and have a high likelihood of failure. Thus, it might not be surprising that many women said that the most important thing organizations can do is to offer gender-equal opportunities for success.

 

What Can Leaders Do?

Based on these findings, here are a few things organizational leaders can do to help women — and people of all genders — get what they want out of work:

Help employees find meaningfulness and enjoyment in their work. Take the time to learn about their personal values, passions, strengths, and life goals. Brainstorm ways to integrate these things into their career. Small changes in how work is framed and executed can go a long way toward turning a job into a calling. When possible and practical, allow people to work remotely, and to work hours that make sense for their lives outside of work. Creative solutions such as job sharing (having multiple people share one role), virtual work teams, and limitless vacation options can help employers find the best talent no matter where or when they need to work. Explore the U.S. Department of Labor’s Workplace Flexibility Toolkit for more ideas. Give all genders equal opportunities to get promotions, raises, and develop their leadership skills —coupled with the resources and support system they need to achieve success. Effective leader development experiences need to be challenging, yet obtainable, with clear rewards for efforts and successes.
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5-Hour Rule: If you’re not spending 5 hours per week learning, you’re being irresponsible

“In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time — none. Zero.”
 — Charlie Munger, Self-made billionaire & Warren Buffett’s longtime business partner

Why did the busiest person in the world, former president Barack Obama, read an hour a day while in office?

Why has the best investor in history, Warren Buffett, invested 80% of his time in reading and thinking throughout his career?

Why has the world’s richest person, Bill Gates, read a book a week during his career? And why has he taken a yearly two-week reading vacation throughout his entire career?

Why do the world’s smartest and busiest people find one hour a day for deliberate learning (the 5-hour rule), while others make excuses about how busy they are?

What do they see that others don’t?

The answer is simple: Learning is the single best investment of our time that we can make. Or as Benjamin Franklin said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

This insight is fundamental to succeeding in our knowledge economy, yet few people realize it. Luckily, once you do understand the value of knowledge, it’s simple to get more of it. Just dedicate yourself to constant learning.

Knowledge is the new money “Intellectual capital will always trump financial capital.” — Paul Tudor Jones, self-made billionaire entrepreneur, investor, and philanthropist

We spend our lives collecting, spending, lusting after, and worrying about money — in fact, when we say we “don’t have time” to learn something new, it’s usually because we are feverishly devoting our time to earning money, but something is happening right now that’s changing the relationship between money and knowledge.

We are at the beginning of a period of what renowned futurist Peter Diamandis calls rapid demonetization, in which technology is rendering previously expensive products or services much cheaper — or even free.

This chart from Diamandis’ book Abundance shows how we’ve demonetized $900,000 worth of products and services you might have purchased between 1969 and 1989.

This demonetization will accelerate in the future. Automated vehicle fleets will eliminate one of our biggest purchases: a car. Virtual reality will make expensive experiences, such as going to a concert or playing golf, instantly available at much lower cost. While the difference between reality and virtual reality is almost incomparable at the moment, the rate of improvement of VR is exponential.

While education and health care costs have risen, innovation in these fields will likely lead to eventual demonetization as well. Many higher educational institutions, for example, have legacy costs to support multiple layers of hierarchy and to upkeep their campuses. Newer institutions are finding ways to dramatically lower costs by offering their services exclusively online, focusing only on training for in-demand, high-paying skills, or having employers who recruit students subsidize the cost of tuition.

Finally, new devices and technologies, such as CRISPR, the XPrize Tricorder, better diagnostics via artificial intelligence, and reduced cost of genomic sequencing will revolutionize the healthcare system. These technologies and other ones like them will dramatically lower the average cost of healthcare by focusing on prevention rather than cure and management.

While goods and services are becoming demonetized, knowledge is becoming increasingly valuable.

Perhaps the best example of the rising value of certain forms of knowledge is the self-driving car industry. Sebastian Thrun, founder of Google X and Google’s self-driving car team, gives the example of Uber paying $700 million for Otto, a six-month-old company with 70 employees, and of GM spending $1 billion on their acquisition of Cruise. He concludes that in this industry, “The going rate for talent these days is $10 million.”

That’s $10 million per skilled worker, and while that’s the most stunning example, it’s not just true for incredibly rare and lucrative technical skills. People who identify skills needed for future jobs — e.g., data analyst, product designer, physical therapist — and quickly learn them are poised to win.

Those who work really hard throughout their career but don’t take time out of their schedule to constantly learn will be the new “at-risk” group. They risk remaining stuck on the bottom rung of global competition, and they risk losing their jobs to automation, just as blue-collar workers did between 2000 and 2010 when robots replaced 85 percent of manufacturing jobs.

Why?

People at the bottom of the economic ladder are being squeezed more and compensated less, while those at the top have more opportunities and are paid more than ever before. The irony is that the problem isn’t a lack of jobs. Rather, it’s a lack of people with the right skills and knowledge to fill the jobs.

An Atlantic article captures the paradox: “Employers across industries and regions have complained for years about a lack of skilled workers, and their complaints are borne out in U.S. employment data. In July [2015], the number of job postings reached its highest level ever, at 5.8 million, and the unemployment rate was comfortably below the post-World War II average. But, at the same time, over 17 million Americans are either unemployed, not working but interested in finding work, or doing part-time work but aspiring to full-time work.”

In short, we can see how at a fundamental level knowledge is gradually becoming its own important and unique form of currency. In other words, knowledge is the new money. Similar to money, knowledge often serves as a medium of exchange and store of value.

But, unlike money, when you use knowledge or give it away, you don’t lose it. Transferring knowledge anywhere in the world is free and instant. Its value compounds over time faster than money. It can be converted into many things, including things that money can’t buy, such as authentic relationships and high levels of subjective well-being. It helps you accomplish your goals faster and better. It’s fun to acquire. It makes your brain work better. It expands your vocabulary, making you a better communicator. It helps you think bigger and beyond your circumstances. It puts your life in perspective by essentially helping you live many lives in one life through other people’s experiences and wisdom.

Former President Obama perfectly explains why he was so committed to reading during his Presidency in a recent New York Times interview: “At a time when events move so quickly and so much information is transmitted,” he said, reading gave him the ability to occasionally “slow down and get perspective” and “the ability to get in somebody else’s shoes.” These two things, he added, “have been invaluable to me. Whether they’ve made me a better president I can’t say. But what I can say is that they have allowed me to sort of maintain my balance during the course of eight years, because this is a place that comes at you hard and fast and doesn’t let up.”

6 essentials skills to master the new knowledge economy “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” — Alvin Toffler

So, how do we learn the right knowledge and have it pay off for us? The six points below serve as a framework to help you begin to answer this question. I also created an in-depth webinar on Learning How To Learn that you can watch for free.

Identify valuable knowledge at the right time. The value of knowledge isn’t static. It changes as a function of how valuable other people consider it and how rare it is. As new technologies mature and reshape industries, there is often a deficit of people with the needed skills, which creates the potential for high compensation. Because of the high compensation, more people are quickly trained, and the average compensation decreases. Learn and master that knowledge quickly. Opportunity windows are temporary in nature. Individuals must take advantage of them when they see them. This means being able to learn new skills quickly. After reading thousands of books, I’ve found that understanding and using mental models is one of the most universal skills that EVERYONE should learn. It provides a strong foundation of knowledge that applies across every field. So when you jump into a new field, you have preexisting knowledge you can use to learn faster. Communicate the value of your skills to others. People with the same skills can command wildly different salaries and fees based on how well they’re able to communicate and persuade others. This ability convinces others that the skills you have are valuable is a “multiplier skill.” Many people spend years mastering an underlying technical skill and virtually no time mastering this multiplier skill. Convert knowledge into money and results. There are many ways to transform knowledge into value in your life. A few examples include finding and getting a job that pays well, getting a raise, building a successful business, selling your knowledge as a consultant, and building your reputation by becoming a thought leader. Learn how to financially invest in learning to get the highest return. Each of us needs to find the right “portfolio” of books, online courses, and certificate/degree programs to help us achieve our goals within our budget. To get the right portfolio, we need to apply financial terms — such as return on investment, risk management, hurdle rate, hedging, and diversification — to our thinking on knowledge investment. Master the skill of learning how to learn. Doing so exponentially increases the value of every hour we devote to learning (our learning rate). Our learning rate determines how quickly our knowledge compounds over time. Consider someone who reads and retains one book a week versus someone who takes 10 days to read a book. Over the course of a year, a 30% difference compounds to one person reading 85 more books.

To shift our focus from being overly obsessed with money to a more savvy and realistic quest for knowledge, we need to stop thinking that we only acquire knowledge from 5 to 22 years old, and that then we can get a job and mentally coast through the rest of our lives if we work hard. To survive and thrive in this new era, we must constantly learn.

Working hard is the industrial era approach to getting ahead. Learning hard is the knowledge economy equivalent.

Just as we have minimum recommended dosages of vitamins, steps per day, and minutes of aerobic exercise for maintaining physical health, we need to be rigorous about the minimum dose of deliberate learning that will maintain our economic health. The long-term effects of intellectual complacency are just as insidious as the long-term effects of not exercising, eating well, or sleeping enough. Not learning at least 5 hours per week (the 5-hour rule) is the smoking of the 21st century and this article is the warning label.

Don’t be lazy. Don’t make excuses. Just get it done.

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” — Mahatma Gandhi

Before his daughter was born, successful entrepreneur Ben Clarke focused on deliberate learning every day from 6:45 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. for five years (2,000+ hours), but when his daughter was born, he decided to replace his learning time with daddy-daughter time. This is the point at which most people would give up on their learning ritual.

Instead of doing that, Ben decided to change his daily work schedule. He shortened the number of hours he worked on his to do list in order to make room for his learning ritual. Keep in mind that Ben oversees 200+ employees at his company, The Shipyard, and is always busy. In his words, “By working less and learning more, I might seem to get less done in a day, but I get dramatically more done in my year and in my career.” This wasn’t an easy decision by any means, but it reflects the type of difficult decisions that we all need to start making. Even if you’re just an entry-level employee, there’s no excuse. You can find mini learning periods during your downtimes (commutes, lunch breaks, slow times). Even 15 minutes per day will add up to nearly 100 hours over a year. Time and energy should not be excuses. Rather, they are difficult, but overcomable challenges. By being one of the few people who rises to this challenge, you reap that much more in reward.

We often believe we can’t afford the time it takes, but the opposite is true: None of us can afford not to learn.

Learning is no longer a luxury; it’s a necessity.

Start your learning ritual today with these three steps

The busiest, most successful people in the world find at least an hour to learn EVERY DAY. So can you!

Just three steps are needed to create your own learning ritual:

Find the time for reading and learning even if you are really busy and overwhelmed. Stay consistent on using that “found” time without procrastinating or falling prey to distraction. Increase the results you receive from each hour of learning by using proven hacks that help you remember and apply what you learn.
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10 Principles for Leading Through Change: A Navy SEAL's Approach

It wasn't long after I left the SEAL Teams, attended graduate school, and started my first company that I realized change is a consistent reality in today's more volatile and disruptive business landscape. It affects all businesses. All industries. Now more than ever before.

When I reflect on my many mistakes as an entrepreneur and business leader, I find solace in leaning into the core principles that forge SEAL culture: We are not perfect but we are lifelong learners. We crave peer-to-peer feedback. We are forced to move at the speed these wars require yet must remain vigilant in being guided by the very values we fight to uphold.

And one of the fundamental foundations of our fight club's culture is adaptability. We embrace the rigors of change and use it to our advantage. Our post-9/11 reality demands it. Our nation expects us to be physically harder and mentally tougher than our enemies. That is our burden of command and what drives our every deed. Resilience is the bedrock of our success both on and off the battlefield.

From my combat experiences in the SEAL Teams to navigating the murky waters of organizational change in my own companies, I have developed 10 fail-safe principles for leading through change. In fact, today marks the official launch of my new book, TakingPoint: A Navy SEAL's 10 Fail-Safe Principles for Leading Through Change.

These principles can help any organization more successfully lead lasting change. They aren't overly complicated but, in my experience, require focus, discipline, and accountability. All must be aligned behind a shared vision and concise mission narrative.

Principles 1-3: Building a Change Culture

1. Culture: The Chief Enabler of Change 

There is a common thread among the tenets most of today's great business leaders that culture beats strategy all day long. People always ask me what I would have done differently as a young entrepreneur, and the list is long. Four areas I initially got wrong when it comes to culture were (1) clearly defining the desired culture, (2) managing that culture, (3) aligning culture with strategy, and (4) leaning on cultural strengths during times of change.

Companies that prioritize culture -- especially when leading change - typically outperform their competitors in areas such as consistent growth, improved speed and efficiency, employee engagement and retention, customer satisfaction, and profitability.

2. Trust: Fueling the Change Engine

In a study by Human Capital Institute, employees who were surveyed from a wide cross-section of high-performance companies (consistent growth, etc.) believe their leaders, managers, and peers to be highly trustworthy. Organizations that don't manage and measure trust and its economic impact on the company typically suffer from high turnover and low morale. Organizational change can be intensely personal, and therefore trust must be a core foundation of the culture.

In SEAL training, we learned early on about the importance of team trust. Its how we build winning teams greater than the sum of their parts. We don't always get along, but we willingly run to the sound of gunfire -- together -- keeping the safety of those to our left and right in mind.

3. Accountability: Ownership at All Levels

In any high-performance organization (especially during transformation), accountability matters as much or more than anything else we do in our job functions. And it has a direct impact on performance, profitability, growth, and the ability to lead lasting change.

The concept of total team accountability as part of the culture is a core tenant of SEAL training and life in the Teams. From week one, you are taught to hold yourself and your classmates to the highest standard. Peer reviews play a pivotal role in a student's success. And we carry that concept over into the Teams as part of our peer-to-peer learning culture. Failure to execute is not an option.

Principles 4-6: Preparing for the Change Battle

4. Mindset: Belief in the Mission

Leaders on both literal and figurative battlefields must always believe deeply in the missions they undertake. Only then can that belief permeate the entire team and fuel engagement and participation in the battle.

In my experience, during any type of organizational change effort, leaders must first ensure they embody the appropriate mindset for not just leading in their organization's current reality but more so for also leading it into its new reality. To fulfill the transformation vision. To achieve any lofty goal, you usually have behaviors and activities you must stop, start, and continue to get you there. Mindset transition is critical.

5. Preparation: Gathering Intelligence and Planning the Mission 

Any SEAL mission starts first with intelligence gathering from internal and external sources. Without key data and insights, it's nearly impossible to plan not just for the mission but also seemingly endless contingencies. And that mission planning process includes everyone.

When organizations and their leaders and managers invite (and expect) the participation of as many people as possible in the transformation planning process, they accomplish two things. First, they are able to gathering critical "ground intel" from frontline troops who often get trapped in vertical or horizontal silos. Second, they are gaining buy-in, because everyone has a voice in what the plan looks like -- then all can celebrate the wins together as well as navigate the obstacles.

6. Transmission: Communicating the Vision

One area in which business leaders often fall short (I know because I have made this mistake) is in communicating a powerful vision for the organization -- especially when fulfilling that vision requires major changes. Leaders often undercommunicate the vision. Sometimes we communicate a misaligned vision, which is often even worse. It must be aligned and have an early-often-always approach through both formal and information channels.

Change communication must have an aligned narrative, be authentic and consistent, and delivered through multiple mechanisms. Storytelling plays a big role here, because it helps the team start to envision what winning will look like -- emotionally connecting them to the mission.

Principles 7-10: Winning the Change Fight

7. Inclusion: The Power of Participation and Engagement 

According to global Gallop research from last year, only 15 percent of the workforce can be defined as engaged -- meaning people who are emotionally connected to their work and understand how their behaviors and activities align with shared purpose and mission success. I always joke that the SEAL Teams have 100 percent employee engagement. All are connected to the mission of purging the world of evil and defending this great nation!

With 67 percent of the workforce defined as disengaged, there is both a problem and an opportunity: an opportunity for culture management and employee engagement to become (or remain) a top managerial priority. But ultimately engagement is a personal choice that requires discipline and sometimes managing up the chain of command.

8. Fatigue: Managing Fear and Staying Energized 

Let's face it. Organizational change can suck. In the SEAL Teams, we would say you simply have to embrace the suck. We leaned into the misery and pushed our comfort zones on a daily basis. Fear and what I refer to in the book as "change battle fatigue" can stall any change effort. But there are some tools to mitigate that fear and keep the team fired up.

First, maintain a powerful and aligned vision for a brighter future. Something the team can be excited about. Second, be sure to include the majority (if not all) of the team at all levels in the planning process -- grooming that buy-in. Third, identify and celebrate quick wins -- it's imperative for showing visible progress and keeping the team energized. Fourth, the storytelling process must last beginning to end so everyone can continue to connect with the vision -- even when things get tough.

9. Discipline: Focus and Follow-through 

Competing priorities will plague any change effort. Change usually takes longer and has more significant hard and soft costs than you plan for. That longer journey allows you to start questioning progress and considering other opportunities, even if they are totally misaligned with what you are trying to accomplish.

Fulfilling a change vision, like SEAL training or combat, requires discipline and follow-through. If data dictates course correction, so be it. But knee-jerk reactions and the chasing of shiny objects usually translate to mission failure.

10. Resilience: The Path to Lasting Change

Resilient teams are made up of resilient people. Resilient organizations think a little bit of paranoia is a good thing. They are constantly looking to the horizon for threats and opportunities. They learn fast and bounce back from adversity stronger than before.

Change is inevitable. Rather than just reactively deal with the changes our organizations face today, we must prepare for the change battle we will face tomorrow.

So go forth onto your battlefield and take the fight to the enemy. Through focus, discipline, trust, and accountability, you will win this change fight and many more to come.

February 2018

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How to build a learning culture - from those who’ve done it

How can you create a learning culture inside an organisation? More than 50 executives, consultants and academics responded when Raconteur asked this question. Here are an edited selection of their answers.

CULTURE COMES FROM THE TOP

When shifting the culture of any company, it’s important to first identify a clear sense of purpose beyond profit. There’s also an important role for leaders to play in creating a learning culture. Put simply: if you want to see change adopted within your company, you must first start exhibiting the mindset and behaviours you’d like to see from those around you.

Sue Siddall, partner and European managing director of design and innovation firm IDEO

Creating a learning culture can be difficult, and requires the endorsement of senior leaders. Investing in broader transferable skills, such as management and digitals skills, is still a crucial part of future-proofing businesses. If organisations can look past teething problems with the Apprenticeship Levy, they will find that it supports the creation of a learning culture, benefitting employee retention, motivation and productivity across the board.

David Willett, corporate director, The Open University

As Managing Director, I think it is essential for the team can see me reading every day, experimenting with new ideas and sharing what I’m learning. My job is to inspire… and to push. Working in digital marketing, the industry is changing at a rapid rate, so it’s important we lead as well as keep up with current trends. And there is of course the heavy hand of appraisals, where demonstrable learning is a prerequisite to career progression here at Hallam.

Susan Hallam MBE, managing director of digital marketing agency Hallam

ROLE MODELS MATTER

Microsoft research finds that less than a quarter of businesses are undertaking any form of major programme to change their workplace and organisational culture. This is a real concern; if organisations are to capitalise on this new era of digitalisation, it’s vital that employees understand the value that automation can bring and how it can free them of repetitive tasks to focus on more creatively-charged activities.

At Microsoft UK we have role models across the organisation who engage people by demonstrating the tangible benefits of digital transformation in the workplace, which speaks much louder to our employees than words ever can.

Clare Barclay, chief operating officer, Microsoft UK

“THE WORLD WON’T STOP FOR YOU”

As hard as it can be to accept it, change is the best teacher. One big change we will all be facing soon is artificial intelligence - this will have an enormous, disruptive impact in nearly all aspects of work. While the prospect of change on this scale can be daunting, it can also be an opportunity to change yourself for the better. In your work, you could look to embrace automation, and in doing so expand the judgement-based, human interaction-dependent and creative components of your job. The world is speeding up, and it certainly won’t stop for you.

Vinod Kumar, chief executive, Tata Communications

Employees will need to work alongside technologies like AI, and should expect to change jobs and even careers multiple times throughout their lives. The ability to adapt will be critical. Businesses should begin to adopt an agile learning culture today, promoting the value of ongoing learning at work and encouraging workers to gain new skills. Business leaders and HR teams should work to develop a forward-looking workforce strategy anticipating the needs of the near future.

Duncan Tait, corporate executive officer, senior executive vice president and head of Americas and EMEIA, Fujitsu

INSPIRE THE TEAM

We invite academics, tech luminaries, and others, to deliver inspiring TED Talks-style presentations. We want to raise awareness of digital technologies, methodologies and ways of working – looking at things from different angles. This has a business benefit and we’re seeing that, through these sessions, people are coming across new ideas and then bouncing these ideas off colleagues. Tangible business ideas are being taken forward.

Ella Jakubowska, digital innovation and culture manager, Rolls-Royce

BE PREPARED FOR FAILURE - AND LEARN FROM IT

 As children, we learn from our experiences, and the strongest way of learning what is safe and what isn’t is often driven more from painful events rather than any warnings our parents give us. While we would like to think that we’ve become much more intelligent and logical over time, as adults we also tend to learn in the same way. The leader of an organisation has to not only give permission for their teams to fail, but also admit failures of his or her own, and demonstrate how the learnings from any failure have been used.

Carl Reader, business advisor and author of The Startup Coach

It’s important to realise that failure is just part of the normal course of operation for an organisation, and yet something which can be monitored, proactively minimised, and learned from. Most crucially, organisations need to create an environment where failure is not instantly punishable. Learning from one’s mistakes is important, but this has to be done as a team and an organisation, not just as an individual. Ironically, the “swinging axe” above any potential failure can increase stress levels to the point where people are so scared of making mistakes that they end up making mistakes.

Prof. Vikas Shah MBA, honorary professor of business at the University of Manchester and serial entrepreneur 

HAVING THE APPETITE TO LEARN IS ESSENTIAL – ESPECIALLY IN THE TECH INDUSTRY

Rather than trying to teach everyone everything, we cultivate an environment in which employees have the headspace to learn what’s right for them, whatever their age or experience. This is especially pertinent in the technology sector, an industry that is moving at a million miles an hour. We encourage staff to use new technology, always ask questions, take risks and perhaps most importantly, not be afraid to show vulnerability.

Anne Allen, director of People Experience at online accounting software company Xero

First, get comfortable with not everything being about the bottom line, all the time. It’s a tough message – particularly in uncertain times, when training is liable to being deprioritised. But when devising a development plan, we simply cannot be governed solely by numbers.

Secondly, get comfortable with being surrounded by employees who are better than you. The characteristics of organisations who have achieved a good learning culture are remarkably similar. Authentic leaders will drive it, both by encouraging others and making sure that they themselves are continually learning – and are seen to be doing so. They’ll take risks, demonstrating their commitment to the cause by investing in new technology that enables the most effective learning. And ultimately, they won’t call time on learning; it’s a continued cycle of learning to learn as well as learning to improve.

Kirstie Donnelly, MBE, managing director at the City & Guilds Group, responsible for the City & Guilds, ILM and DigitalMe brands operating globally

NO EMPLOYEE LEFT BEHIND

There are two types of employees: those that are driven and take the initiative to learn new skills themselves; and those that are happy enough as they are or don’t think they have enough time. You need to ensure that your learning culture caters for both camps. Each employee should have a yearly allocated training budget and line managers should help and encourage employees to use it.

Jonathan Richards, chief executive at breatheHR

CREATE THE RIGHT LEARNING ENVIRONMENT

Make your employees forget they’re learning. By creating an immersive environment that stimulates true learning and conditioning – one that accepts “failure” as part of the learning process – employees will naturally be part of a learning culture. For example, telling someone not to click on a suspicious link in an email is unlikely to be effective if they can’t identify what is suspicious in the first place. Instead, by gamifying the learning process and creating simulations designed to change user behaviour and empower change through reporting, employees become much more skilled at recognising genuine malicious activity and buying into becoming a part of the solution.

John “Lex” Robinson, anti-phishing and cybersecurity strategist at PhishMe

HELP EMPLOYEES LEARN FROM ACROSS THE FIRM

Allow every employee to have full access to the company, so they are not “boxed in” to their role or department, and therefore can learn from the rest of the company.

Our 700 employees are invited to board meetings, allowing employees at any level to get an “all access pass” to the rest of the company and see how the board operates, along with how and why big decisions are made. At the board meetings, no topics are off the table – and people do ask uncomfortable questions. This expands all our thinking, it improves each individual’s skills and makes everyone a better leader.

Bipul Sinha, chief executive at cloud data management company Rubrik

“NO IDEA IS TOO WEIRD FOR US”

 We tend to hire a lot of interns with a view to bringing them on full time and we like them to grow and develop quickly by giving them autonomy and their own projects. This ensures that they work hard, learn quickly, and want to prove themselves, so are always thinking outside the box.

Another thing which feeds into our learning culture is our flat hierarchy and how we get teams to work together. People aren’t scared of getting it wrong and that means they are more likely to try out new ideas and learn from their mistakes. No idea is too weird for us – and we want everyone to be part of the conversation.

Simon Douglass, chief executive and founder, Curated Digital

 

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The Future of Work is Here — Here’s How Your Organization Needs to Change

New standards around workplace collaboration will require leaders to shift how they think about organizing their workforces.

The convergence of technological advancements and generational shifts are rapidly transforming the way people work.

From mobile and machine learning to analytics and automation, different technologies are taking over the workplace and drastically altering the capability requirements of the existing workforce. At the same time, the composition of the workforce is evolving: networks of contractors, partnerships and freelance contributors are intermingling with traditional full-time employees. Making this shift even more interesting are the digital automation tools that are further changing what work is done.

Traditional organizational structures from decades ago are ill-suited for how work actually gets done today and will be done in the future. This is because work is no longer a function of command-and-control hierarchical structures. Rather, most work today, regardless of your formal structure, is getting done in organic networks.

Though empowering, the digital age is confusing. As a result, employees have counterproductively adopted an assortment of different tools out of necessity for collaboration. If organizations leave employees on their own to answer the complex questions posed by the digital age, then not only can business performance suffer, but also talent will likely flee.

Collaboration Required

Doing nothing isn’t an option. The best talent won’t stay long where collaboration is weak. Leaders must evaluate how the company interacts with potential talent, current employees and the work itself to create a new environment where workers intentionally collaborate. Collaboration is a mix of virtual and physical participation and cooperation for a common overarching cause. Accordingly, as digital solutions drive an increase in employee and customer expectations, being intentionally collaborative is critical to aligning how work gets done across technologies, people and boundaries. When leaders are asked if their people collaborate, they usually answer “yes,” but if you ask if they are intentional in creating or fostering collaboration, they will usually respond “sometimes” or “no,” leaving their companies’ collaboration efforts to be inconsistent and largely left to chance.

Research published in 2017 by professional services firm Deloitte on how to create an organization where talent wants to be has found that meaningful work, supportive management, a positive work environment, growth opportunities and trust in leadership are key ingredients, while cross-organization collaboration and communication tie it together to make the organization “simply irresistible.”

What do the new ways of effective collaboration look like in practice?

Consider the story of one of our clients, an international bank with more than 100,000 employees. Unifying its global workforce had grown difficult. However, the bank’s new collaborative system is proving to be an impactful tool because it gives employees the ability to opt-in to forums and groups they want to be part of, rather than being on the receiving end of email distribution with irrelevant information for many employees. Leading collaboration tools are designed to create network-based groups that reduce the perceived distance between employees and foster collaboration. Moreover, these tools extend collaboration beyond the borders of the organization to include customers, suppliers and partners. Thus, having a collaboration platform provides a differentiated way of connecting and working across workforce generations, geographies and levels.

Another recent example is a large technology company working to define what collaboration means for its employees, what the right tools to use are and how to deploy them in the most effective manner. In its initial attempts to foster collaboration across its various sources of talent, the company placed an emphasis on geographic proximity. However, merely providing an area for the different types of workers to physically come together didn’t have an immediate business impact because the company was thinking about it more from a communications perspective rather than a collaboration perspective focused on fostering new ways of working. Workers who collaborate have figured out how to cross geographies, silos, hierarchies and cultures to create more innovative and effective work.

Aside from deploying a new collaboration tool or creating a geographic collaboration zone, what other tangible actions can an organization take to improve their talent through an intentionally collaborative culture?

Below are just a few of the multiple minimum viable changes that can help generate momentum:

Start staff meetings with a “collaboration moment” with employees sharing unique ways they are collaborating across silos, hierarchies, geographies and even with customers. Establish a Collaboration Center of Excellence to help employees use collaboration zones, collaboration tools and work collaboratively across organizational boundaries. Conduct an Organization Network Analysis, known as an ONA, to understand who, how and why certain people are connecting to generate more impactful work.

Doing Nothing Isn’t an Option

The future of work has arrived, and companies can’t afford to ignore it. Substantial changes in workplace technology, workforce demographics and worker preferences have drastically altered how talent is sourced, operates and is managed. Work across business and talent ecosystems is becoming increasingly complex and requires collaboration to be intentional not incidental. Not only do the majority of employees want to work for digitally enabled organizations, but also they perceive working for less digitally mature organizations as potentially harmful to their careers. By cultivating more effective collaboration, companies can fundamentally alter the way they work to find new ways to solve complex business problems, innovate and improve the overall employee experience.

Erica Volini is the U.S. human capital leader for Deloitte Consulting LLP. Garth Andrus is a human capital leader in Deloitte Digital and Deloitte Consulting LLP.

January 2018

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Forget About Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead.

We all have things that we want to achieve in our lives — getting into better shape, building a successful business, raising a wonderful family, writing a best-selling book, winning a championship, and so on.

And for most of us, the path to those things starts by setting a specific and actionable goal. At least, this is how I approached my life until recently. I would set goals for classes I took, for weights that I wanted to lift in the gym, and for clients I wanted in my business.

What I’m starting to realize, however, is that when it comes to actually getting things done and making progress in the areas that are important to you, there is a much better way to do things.

It all comes down to the difference between goals and systems.

Let me explain.

The Difference Between Goals and Systems

What’s the difference between goals and systems?

If you’re a coach, your goal is to win a championship. Your system is what your team does at practice each day. If you’re a writer, your goal is to write a book. Your system is the writing schedule that you follow each week. If you’re a runner, your goal is to run a marathon. Your system is your training schedule for the month. If you’re an entrepreneur, your goal is to build a million dollar business. Your system is your sales and marketing process.

Now for the really interesting question:

If you completely ignored your goals and focused only on your system, would you still get results?

For example, if you were a basketball coach and you ignored your goal to win a championship and focused only on what your team does at practice each day, would you still get results?

I think you would.

As an example, I just added up the total word count for the articles I’ve written this year. (You can see them all here.) In the last 12 months, I’ve written over 115,000 words. The typical book is about 50,000 to 60,000 words, so I have written enough to fill two books this year.

All of this is such a surprise because I never set a goal for my writing. I didn’t measure my progress in relation to some benchmark. I never set a word count goal for any particular article. I never said, “I want to write two books this year.”

What I did focus on was writing one article every Monday and Thursday. And after sticking to that schedule for 11 months, the result was 115,000 words. I focused on my system and the process of doing the work. In the end, I enjoyed the same (or perhaps better) results.

Let’s talk about three more reasons why you should focus on systems instead of goals.

1. Goals reduce your current happiness.

When you’re working toward a goal, you are essentially saying, “I’m not good enough yet, but I will be when I reach my goal.”

The problem with this mindset is that you’re teaching yourself to always put happiness and success off until the next milestone is achieved. “Once I reach my goal, then I’ll be happy. Once I achieve my goal, then I’ll be successful.”

SOLUTION: Commit to a process, not a goal.

Choosing a goal puts a huge burden on your shoulders. Can you imagine if I had made it my goal to write two books this year? Just writing that sentence stresses me out.

But we do this to ourselves all the time. We place unnecessary stress on ourselves to lose weight or to succeed in business or to write a best-selling novel. Instead, you can keep things simple and reduce stress by focusing on the daily process and sticking to your schedule, rather than worrying about the big, life-changing goals.

When you focus on the practice instead of the performance, you can enjoy the present moment and improve at the same time.

2. Goals are strangely at odds with long-term progress.

You might think your goal will keep you motivated over the long-term, but that’s not always true.

Consider someone training for a half-marathon. Many people will work hard for months, but as soon as they finish the race, they stop training. Their goal was to finish the half-marathon and now that they have completed it, that goal is no longer there to motivate them. When all of your hard work is focused on a particular goal, what is left to push you forward after you achieve it?

This can create a type of “yo-yo effect” where people go back and forth from working on a goal to not working on one. This type of cycle makes it difficult to build upon your progress for the long-term.

SOLUTION: Release the need for immediate results.

I was training at the gym last week and I was doing my second-to-last set of clean and jerks. When I hit that rep, I felt a small twinge in my leg. It wasn’t painful or an injury, just a sign of fatigue near the end of my workout. For a minute or two, I thought about doing my final set. Then, I reminded myself that I plan to do this for the rest of my life and decided to call it a day.

In a situation like the one above, a goal-based mentality will tell you to finish the workout and reach your goal. After all, if you set a goal and you don’t reach it, then you feel like a failure.

But with a systems-based mentality, I had no trouble moving on. Systems-based thinking is never about hitting a particular number, it’s about sticking to the process and not missing workouts.

Of course, I know that if I never miss a workout, then I will lift bigger weights in the long-run. And that’s why systems are more valuable than goals. Goals are about the short-term result. Systems are about the long-term process. In the end, process always wins.

3. Goals suggest that you can control things that you have no control over.

You can’t predict the future. (I know, shocking.)

But every time we set a goal, we try to do it. We try to plan out where we will be and when we will make it there. We try to predict how quickly we can make progress, even though we have no idea what circumstances or situations will arise along the way.

SOLUTION: Build feedback loops.

Each Friday, I spend 15 minutes filling out a small spreadsheet with the most critical metrics for my business. For example, in one column I calculate the conversion rate (the percentage of website visitors that join my free email newsletter each week). I rarely think about this number, but checking that column each week provides a feedback loop that tells me if I’m doing things right. When that number drops, I know that I need to send high quality traffic to my site.

Feedback loops are important for building good systems because they allow you to keep track of many different pieces without feeling the pressure to predict what is going to happen with everything. Forget about predicting the future and build a system that can signal when you need to make adjustments.

Fall In Love With Systems

None of this is to say that goals are useless. However, I’ve found that goals are good for planning your progress and systems are good for actually makingprogress.

Goals can provide direction and even push you forward in the short-term, but eventually a well-designed system will always win. Having a system is what matters. Committing to the process is what makes the difference.

December 2017

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How Emotional Self-Control Impacts Work

Emotional Intelligence remains a key ingredient in the development of corporate leaders. In this series, best-selling author and Korn Ferry columnist Dan Goleman reveals the 12 key skills behind EI. It is excerpted from Emotional Self-Awareness: A Primer.

Emotional Self-Control is the ability to keep your disruptive emotions and impulses in check, to maintain your effectiveness under stressful or even hostile conditions. This doesn’t mean suppressing your emotions. We want to control our disturbing emotions, not the positive ones (which make life rich, and come into play with the Positive Outlook and Achievement Orientation Competencies). With Emotional Self-Control, you manage your disruptive impulses and destabilizing emotions, staying clear-headed and calm.

Consider this example: The head of marketing at a global food company always tried to find better ways to do things, but had no regard for the people he depended on for that very success. He'd pounce on anyone who wasn't up to his standards. If anyone disagreed with him, he’d fly into a yelling rage. His direct reports complained behind his back, saying he was a terrible boss.

What that marketing executive lacked was Emotional Self-Control.

Cognitive science tells us that the more upset you are, the less well you can focus on what's important, take it in deeply, or respond nimbly. Being “hijacked” by your emotions sabotages your ability to make good decisions or to react skillfully. Other research indicates that emotions spread from the leader of a group outward to the members of the group. Research done at the Yale School of Management shows that if the group leader is in an upbeat mood, people in the group catch that mood and the team does better, whatever it's doing. If the leader is in a really negative mood—abrasive, whatever it may be—the team members get into a negative mood and their performance plummets.

Australian researchers found that leaders who manage emotions well had better business outcomes. I think that's true globally. Does it matter if a boss blows up at an employee? You bet it does! Additional research shows that employees remember most vividly negative encounters they've had with a boss. They remember it much better than the positive encounters. But they also said that after that encounter, they felt demoralized and they didn't want to have anything more to do with that boss.

Emotional Self-Control doesn’t just matter for keeping the leader calm and less stressed, it impacts the emotions of everyone they interact with, and the productivity of the organization. Profits could be on the line.

November 2017

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The Golden Rules For Creating Thoughtful Thought Leadership

Firms large and small want to be thought leaders. Thought leadership extends from strategic differentiation, a proof point, a demonstration of differentiation. Amid the cacophony of corporate voices, those found to be additive to the dialogue, rather than distracting, can be considered thought leaders. Given our complex world, there are many things that need to be considered, so providing true thought leadership can be as valuable to a brand as the products or services it sells.

Successful thought leadership does not arrive with a published idea linked to a hope that someone will recognize brilliance and sweep your firm from obscurity into industry prominence. Establishing a firm or an individual as a thought leader requires consistent, diligent effort. Thought leadership is cumulative. Although thought leadership can and should have tactical elements that reveal the evolution of an idea from concept toward implementation, all thought leadership should be strategic at the onset. Thought leadership should be about a big idea that changes how people perceive the world.

If an organization invests in the communication or “creation” of thought leadership, it should know what it wants from those who will consume that thought leadership. Most of the time the answer should be respect and recognition, though marketing may well have greater revenue-related ambitions. Thought leadership should also be an entry point to a relationship. Thought leadership should intrigue, challenge, and inspire even people already familiar with a company. It should help start a relationship where none exists, and it should enhance existing relationships.

After many years of developing thought leadership for companies large and small, I have discovered these 10 golden rules that can elevate thought leadership, from an organization talking to a small audience about small things, to an organization using whatever platform the market affords them to shape people’s perception of their company, their products, even their shared futures.

1. Don’t sell anything except ideas. Selling during a thought leadership presentation, discussion, or post is the number one sin, and therefore, “not selling” is the number-one rule. The target audience for thought leadership represents the most sophisticated of information consumers. The consumer of thought leadership knows that the company delivering them the insight is a commercial firm, and that they are in the business of making money. Don’t tell them that during the course of an article about the future of health care that you have the best answer to the problem, and then rattle off a bunch of product names or put up a bevy of logos to convince them of your leadership position. If your ideas are valuable and meaningful, buyers will come to you. They will ask how you uniquely deal with the problems you illuminate. When that happens, the thought leadership conversation becomes a pre-sales conversation and then you can shift into a more traditional sales relationship. But remember, thought leadership delivered the relationship, it brought the person to you, so don’t abandon it once they knock on the door (see rule 9).

2. Always give it away. Thought leadership is not a revenue stream unless you work for a thought leadership company (like an analyst firm). For most companies, from banks to retail, from health care to energy, thought leadership should be freely available. I even cringe at using it for lead generation because that context broadcasts a future sales call. Create your thought leadership with an eye toward accrual of brand value, not revenue. The dividends may be intangible, but when thought leadership flips from push to pull (writers are seeking out your opinion, conferences are inviting you to present), then you will know that you have a thought leadership hit.

3. Have a unique perspective. Two rules in and we finally get to a content-oriented rule. A unique perspective means taking a position on something meaningful and interpreting it for others. That’s pretty vague, and it needs to be, because you don’t want to place narrow constraints on thought leadership. Apple doesn’t produce a lot of white papers on design, yet they are seen as a thought leader in hardware design. The result reflects their thought leadership.

4. Focus on one thing at a time. Individuals as thought leaders may be disjointed and avant-garde; companies, especially public ones, need to be focused. Companies need to focus on creating a new context or lens through which investors or consumers perceive the company, its brand, its products or its services. Microsoft, for instance, hosts the “Microsoft Home” on its campus, where it gives tours of a home where engineers demonstrate how software might change tomorrow’s living experience. The “Microsoft Home” doesn’t include how to use the next version of Excel to create grocery lists, but rather how interactive surfaces and software can integrate recipes directly into the cooking experience. The “Home” focuses on consumer innovation.

And this leads to one caveat for these rules when applied to conglomerates and holding companies: individual businesses or brands can and should demonstrate thought leadership within their domains, separate from whatever corporate thought leadership exists. Down the hall from the “Microsoft Home,” for instance, lies the “Center for Information Work,” which demonstrates future office scenarios.

Like Microsoft, GE clearly needs to convey different thought leadership across various units like medical devices, aircraft engines and energy generation. GE’s corporate thought leadership takes place at the imagination level. They want to be seen as innovative. On their website, innovation, which leads to stories and research, precedes their product menu. Again, those who want to buy wind turbines will go to the Energy page. But those who want to understand a potential supplier of wind turbines before committing will likely go to the innovation pages first–perhaps more importantly, people who only know GE as a light bulb company can start a very different relationship with the company through its innovation pages.

5. Address a specific audience. Thought leadership only matters if people read it. It is, therefore, created for people–and most people live a life, work in a job, and have very little bandwidth to take in new ideas unless those ideas improve their life or work. Thought leadership, therefore, needs to help people with their life or work. I often advise those developing thought leadership to “go vertical or go home.” There is very little generic thought leadership that is useful. The best thought leadership helps people in an industry, or more likely, in a role within an industry, do something better or gain insight that helps them better understand their market, or their job. Talking to banking people about manufacturing usually raises a big yawn. Good thought leaders know how to craft their messages for their audience. Like rule 4, you may want to concentrate on one, or just a few audiences, rather than get spread thin trying to find a way to attach to all markets, unless of course, you have the budget and the will to go big.

6. Get involved. If an organization cares passionately about something, then it should get involved in its passion. This does not imply just social issues. Project management companies need to be at project management societies. Workforce planning companies need to participate in workforce planning conferences. Electronics firms need to sponsor academic programs. You get the idea? And participate does not mean sponsor, not exclusively. It means run workshops, give presentations, host parties, run panels, lead societies, join standards bodies. But that is the easy stuff. Getting involved may also mean starting a not-for-profit that redefines an idea and creates a platform where other like-minded firms can invest. The bottom line for get involved: don’t just say, do.

7. Admit what you don’t know. Another way to say this: be humble. I’ve lost track of the number of times audiences award kudos to presenters who admit they don’t know something. I don’t mean uninformed defensive posturing–I mean the legitimate, sincere expression of uncertainty. A software company that admits it doesn’t know what the future of communications will look like, that actively and thoughtfully explores a number of possible evolutions does a much bigger service to the industry than one who places a shaky stake in the ground to align its vision with its product roadmap. Thought leadership isn’t about making the bet early and hoping you’re not wrong; it’s about actively pursuing possibilities and sharing that enthusiasm for exploration with customers and partners. Thought leadership should excite, and noting excites more than going on a journey into the unknown, be it to a cavern where a dragon named Smaug purportedly lives, or trying to figure out how people should work in the next decade.

8. Make your audience feel smarter. Thought leadership can be at its most effective when it is not only free, but has a perceived personal value. Think about a manager who attends a thought leadership session on social media in marketing and then comes back with some great ideas for his or her team. The person sharing his or her learning expresses a certain level of trust in the source, which they may well return to should any of the ideas stick, thus transforming a learning experience into a purchase. Those “transactions” can’t be counted upon, but if the recipients of the thought leadership don’t believe it somehow enhances what they know, then they are either the wrong audience, or the content isn’t valuable. And if the individual recipient of thought leadership doesn’t perceive value, they won’t pursue a relationship.

9. Market thought leadership like a product. This rule may appear at first to be counterintuitive because it seems so crassly self-serving. The fact is, thought leaders can’t be thought leaders if they aren’t heard. A single speech at a conference, unless it goes viral (and chances are it won’t), is much like placing a single advertisement on the television in one time slot and hoping that people catch it. Thought leadership needs to be turned into a campaign: tweeted, Facebooked, webinared, even advertised. Thought leadership shows up in the op-ed pages of the New York Times. Thought leadership shows up in the pages of Fast Company in executive interviews. If you have a thought leadership team that thinks the ideas themselves will produce uptake, they will probably be disappointed. Most thought leadership isn’t viral, it is marketing, and because it probably isn’t directly related to a product, it needs to be treated like a product, and marketed in its own right, internally and externally.

10. Hire thought leaders. Some, like Shel Israel (“What Makes a Thought Leader?”), believe that thought leaders are people, not companies. I disagree.

Companies create a context and they permit thought leaders to thrive, but few thought leaders end up running the company and leading industry disruption. The people who understand CEOs at IBM may be big names in their circles, but their thought leadership accrues to the brand. IBM, through investments in CEO Global Study, the Center for the Business Government, or the Center for Social Business, employ thought leaders, and the output of those thought leaders shapes the dialogue. Those individual thought leaders may bring their own disruptive forces inside a company, but part of thought leadership involves the risk of allowing new ideas to flourish, and being brave enough to have smart people challenge assumptions and chew away at the status quo.

OK, 10 isn’t enough…this one desires its own call-out anyway:

Thought leaders should be thoughtful leaders. Being a thought leader, is quite frankly, a term that one has bestowed on them. They may aspire to be a thought leader, but the consumers of their speeches, rhetoric and writing ultimately determine if they are one or not. Organizations, be they public sector or private, retail or Rotarian, need to be thoughtful leaders. Because of their position, those creating perspectives and content have a leadership role, what they choose to do with their platform defines how they are viewed by consumers.

Being a thoughtful leader also means being a patient leader. Thought leadership does not immediately increase retail transactions, software license sales, or fill the consulting pipeline. Over time, thought leaders build trust, and build a following, but how long that takes depends on industry, investment, and perhaps most importantly, the value of the ideas and their commercial success. Thought leadership also requires perseverance and dedication, as well as a willingness to honestly examine why something you think should work isn’t working, and then, to refashion the idea into something more consumable, or abandon it for a new, better position.

If you want your organization to be a thought leader, you need to make sure that what you create comes infused with the DNA of the organization, and that it finds its way back into that DNA. To extend the metaphor, thought leadership can be considered a way of introducing positive mutations into an organization. Individual thought leaders can, and often are, independent standouts against the status quo. Successful organizations that exude thought leadership attract and retain customers, drive revenue, and get invited to all the best parties (like Davos) because they not only express thoughtful ideas and act as a thoughtful leader, but because their organizations reflect the thought leadership in how they behave, what they create, and how they treat their customers.

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4 Questions to Ask When Thinking of Thought Leadership

Far too many people dismiss thought leadership as a buzzword devoid of real substance, which is unfortunate -- because it’s not just a buzzword. But, what is it really? When should you consider using it, and how do you balance the talent and experience of your team with the humility and authenticity that today’s audiences demand?

Let’s start by getting on the same page with these four questions: 

1. What is thought leadership?

At its core, thought leadership is a type of content marketing where you tap into the talent, experience and passion inside your business, or from your community, to answer the biggest questions on the minds of your target audience on a particular topic.

The source is not as important as the content. Thought leadership doesn’t mean a big name from a big school, it means you provide the best and deepest answers to your customers’ biggest questions in the formats your audience likes to consume them.

Thought leadership is a key component of content marketing, but it’s important not to fall into the unique-point-of-view trap. I have heard more than a few executives delay betting on content marketing by focusing on the unique point of view. They say, "There is so much noise in the marketplace. We can only compete if our content is differentiated."

Your audience isn’t looking for your content to be differentiated all of the time. They are just looking for the best answers to the questions. Or as Bryan Rhoads at Intel likes to say, “You have to win the internet every day.” Of course you want to differentiate your point of view when it’s appropriate. Differentiate with your visual design. But mostly, differentiate by becoming an authority and by helping your customers with different types of content, every single day.

We have to be careful with how we use the words thought leadership though. Wikipedia actually calls it business jargon and defines it as content that is recognized by others as innovative, covering trends and topics that influence an industry.

2. When should you consider a thought leadership approach?

One of the best ways to establish authority on your topic is to produce deep research on the subject. You have to present a depth of knowledge that no one else has.

You also have to define all of your customers challenges, and define the best ways to overcome them. Many brands think this is an opportunity to talk about their products and how they are better, but this isn’t an effective approach. As soon as you start promoting yourself, your audience will start to tune out, and you will lose the trust you worked so hard to build.

3. What are the benefits of thought leadership?

The benefits of thought leadership start with brand affinity. By communicating thought leadership, you become part of the conversation early in the consumer journey. You allow your audience to get to know you.

Ultimately, thought leadership is one of the outcomes of a solid content strategy. And content is bigger than marketing. Leaders are everywhere. Expose your thought leaders, and you begin the process of becoming a social business -- real people with real faces talking to real customers and buyers.

4. How do you create thought leadership that drives results?

Identify a topic that is closely associated with your brand. Are you an authority on that topic. A simple Google search can help you answer that question. Often we find that brands are not just competing with their direct competitors. You are competing with everyone. Anyone who publishes content in your space is competing for mind share and authority.

You also need to identify the questions your customers are asking. Identify them all, make a list and prioritize them. Answer those questions across multiple formats and multiple channels in a way that adds value to your audience. Start with the most important and work your way down the list. Seek to be the best answer to those questions.

Finally, create your thought leadership content in an engaging way. Viral cat videos and listicles are great, but you shouldn’t dismiss any content types that your audience might be interested in. You need to educate them, but we are all human and none of us mind a little humor. Use lots of examples, facts and quotes. I love the idea of interviewing customers to create content or curating content from other sources while adding your own perspective.

Your audience is looking for help. Are you willing to give it to them? And tell me, what do you think? What does thought leadership mean to you?

October 2017

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Building the Next-Gen Organization

Building a change-resilient and future-friendly organization is all about the right skills, right leadership and a culture thats conducive to change.

Change is the only constant, and this has never been truer than today, where businesses need to constantly reinvent the wheel to stay relevant for the present and future. Accordingly, the very “Future of Work” is taking a 360 degrees turn, and HR practitioners and business managers are forced to imbibe this new work paradigm. This significant shift is inviting a lot of talk about about the evolution of work and what it means for masses. Some experts have gone so far as to condemning automation and artificial intelligence as socio-economic destructors. Here is an objective look at the Future of Work, as it plays out for both employees and employers. 

The Construct of the Future Organization

On a broad level, a new order of work will emerge based on the following five courses of change: 

A truly connected world: The rise of connected devices and emerging technologies like the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Data & Analytics has enabled seamless connectivity at the workplace, breaking barriers like never before. Truly connected is giving rise to new work expectations and norms. 
  Social organization and reintegration: Emerging technologies are disrupting work norms, about 38-40 million skilled workers and 90-95 million low-skilled workers may be affected by automation. There is a notion that this will lead to the revision of key organizational roles, leading to imbalance. 
  Collaboration: Communication and collaboration will be two sides of the coin in taking organizations to greater heights in this complex environment. 
  More inclusive global talent: As a result of technology-infiltration, the nature of talent itself is changing. Consider the case of Topcoder.com, a talent platform revolving around the gig economy, today there are thousands of technologists, 5 years ago there were less than three thousand. The gig economy is here to stay, and future organizations must learn how to leverage this unique talent pool. 
  Employer-employee relationships: Relationships are no longer binary, they are highly dynamic. Going forward we will see a mix of various work-models- traditional, outsourcing, free agents, alliances and partnerships, talent platforms, volunteers etc.  A Changing Talent Landscape

In line with the above changes, the definition of work itself is undergoing a transformation. Work of tomorrow is moving away from ”leading the workforce” to “leading the work” itself. As a result, the talent landscape is moving from jobs to tasks, from collective to dispersed,  from relationship-based to virtual, from self-contained to associative, from rigid structures to malleable fluid structures, from permanent to impermanent, and from collective to very individualized. All of this can be summarized in a holistic shift- from traditional to imaginative. And to fit talent into this imaginative work concept, HR too must imagine the unimaginable. This starts with gearing up for the transformation- building a change-resilient organization. 

Making the right skills available at the right places will be extremely crucial going ahead, so as to control machine-outcomes on-time and accurately.  

An opportunity in the making: How to build resilience

As technology is evolving there also lie immense opportunities for organizations, only if they are ready to embrace change. Yet, most organizations struggle. The following elements need to be relooked at and revamped to make this possible. 

Build the right skills: The right skill-sets or competencies are what will help bridge the gap between today and tomorrow. This starts with understanding the challenge at hand, and by leveraging available technologies and tools like data and analytics. The right futuristic skills will ensure that we are more connected than ever before, and know our problems better. We have many more resources than before- data, access to people, etc. we must only harness these to create multiple avenues of driving business. For this, HR must work with business and develop a data-oriented objective approach to building talent capability. The key question should be, “How to harness digital skills?”
  Cultivate a conducive organizational culture: Building a change-conducive organizational culture involves thinking about talent differently. Analyse where the issues are and where talent is rare, rather than just hiring adhoc. Building resilience is all about giving talent the freedom, the leeway to experiment and to outperform without hiccups. Many organizations taste success with failures because it welcomes more learning, more opportunities to do something different. Building such an open and transparent culture is not easy, HR leaders must proactively enable talent to flow in line with their aspirations. A great culture often helps fulfill a business need, while establishing a connect with the right talent. 
  Lead by example: The CEO of CISCO once famously said, “The organizations of the future have only two leaders- CEO and CIO/CTO, everything else will be contingent”. Organizations must build leadership capability to deal with demanding business. Leadership roles are changing, they are not so much about the job description, but the problem at hand. Leadership roles are no longer “here and now”, they are highly future-oriented i.e. roles 3-5-10 years from now. Vision for the future and long-term planning are being looked upon in new light. It is important to assess people on their ability to deliver excellent results in the long run. This may require HR to create a “training JD” rather than a “role JD”, which outlines how to get “there”. From the org-perspective this should be an ongoing investment.


The future of work thus lies in creative intelligence, social intelligence, and ability to leverage digital. 

Worries about machines overtaking man in the workplace abound, but the fact remains that the future of work will comprise a shared model, where man and machine work together.

Ultimately, people are at the core of organizational success. After civilization, this is the fourth Industrial Revolution, and in every revolution, new jobs have been created. Worries abound that robots will take away our jobs, but the reality is that we still need someone to guide those robots. This calls for a new outlook, employees are used to thinking in terms of process and workflow, i.e. how things will be designed. The future need is to think of “flow of work to the right places”. What will make a real difference is not just letting work happen, but directing it correctly. And that is where the right human intelligence remain irreplaceable. 

(This article has been curated from the session conducted at the Singapore Human Capital Summit 2017)

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The Impact Of Leaders' Transformation Knowledge Gap

Too many transformation initiatives aiming at breakthrough performance hit critical roadblocks that can quickly spiral into costly delays or even a failed initiative. Why is that? The primary problem that afflicts initiatives is the knowledge gap in leaders’ understanding of the nature of the transformation journey and what it requires. The usual focus of discussion among leaders at the outset of a major transformation is “Can we do it?” This is the wrong question. Instead, the focus should be on “What will it take to do it?” Here are three tips (among many others) on what it takes.

Ensure Executive Ongoing Commitment To Complex Change 

There is no “silver bullet” for a journey in which your company will reconceive the value it delivers to customers and end users as well as how it delivers that value. Often, leaders believe that changing only one or two components of the business will drive the desired impact. Their mistaken mindset underestimates the scale, complexity and cross-functional nature of the necessary change. The level of change encompasses many elements of the business model.

Your company’s executives must identify the constraints that could prevent senior leaders and employees from acting on the change. The constraints will arise from company policies, company philosophies, organizational structures, personal incentives, organizational incentives, and a host of other things.

Senior leaders and executives must commit to challenging organizational boundaries as well as existing policies and processes to achieve the strategic intent. This commitment must continue through the entire journey. Lack of full buy-in from leadership and lack of stakeholder commitment for the ongoing journey is a common failure point.

Many companies don’t take the time at the outset to syndicate and discuss the strategic intent. Leaders need to robustly debate it and thoroughly discuss the implications. This debate is essential for uncovering what is necessary to drive the change. Without this robust discussion, the initiative will lack adequate support and executive commitment to overcome the status quo and stakeholder resistance as issues arise during the journey.

Executives need to watch for indications of inadequate support for the initiative – symptoms of unwillingness to challenge the culture, underlying assumptions and status quo. One such indication is individual leaders trying to adjust the initiative’s goals to align with their own goals and objectives. Their suggestions for “adjustments” will undermine the overall initiative and avoid the hard choices that are required for success.

Avoid Traditional Change Management Tools

Traditional change management efforts focus on minimizing resistance and maximizing engagement so projects can be delivered on time and in budget. Most companies attack the digital transformation challenge by using the same methodologies and tools they used in other change programs plus implementing new digital technologies. This leads to a failed initiative because the path to new digital models and performance breakthrough is not a predictable path.

A much more aggressive change management effort is required for digital transformation and breakthrough performance. Because many factors and challenges are unknown at the outset of a multiyear journey, it is necessary to use techniques that de-risk the journey. De-risking requires an agile approach rather than a rigid waterfall and detailed roadmap approach.

Due to the strategic intent, you will know the direction your company wants to head; but you won’t know precisely where it will land. Nor will you know how long it will take to get there, how much it will cost or what resources the journey will require. Funding the journey and managing the journey requires a flexible approach.

My advice is to take an iterative approach like the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) approach that is so successful today among software start-ups and venture capitalists. Instead of developing a detailed road map up front, they break a project down into a series of gates (or milestones or phases). The company goes through the gates or phases as the transformation journey evolves. They develop a detailed plan only for the range of where the company currently is up to the next gate. And they associate funding per gate.

Despite the typical executive mindset of wanting to accelerate the time to value, it is necessary to go slow up front to de-risk the journey. I’ve blogged before about the analogy of car brakes as a de-risking strategy.

Empower Teams to Attack Status-Quo Constraints

I mentioned earlier that leaders need to identify the potential constraints that can derail the transformation journey. The changes that will be necessary to the existing status quo are some of the unknown factors that cannot be totally understood at the outset and may not be understood until challenges arise on the journey. Therefore, it’s also necessary to empower teams to attack the status-quo constraints so your company can continue to progress toward its desired outcome.

Resistance to changing the status quo can block the desired outcome or, at the least, prevent moving fast. Status-quo issues can sap energy and momentum and can result in increased costs. If the leaders don’t manage these challenges, it can make the transformation objective unattainable.

The status quo locks people into their current behaviors, often due to a web of incentives and constraints ranging from organizational philosophies and policies to a common vision. Driving transformational change to a business model is likely to lead employees to feel their jobs are threatened. Similarly, managers may also feel personal risk, as they may be compensated according to factors that will change.

Again, I cannot overemphasize the need to spend time up front to understand what the journey will involve – what it will take to do it and what may be the constraints. Spend time at the outset to get everyone on board with the high degree of change. Aim to get employees making suggestions such as “here’s how we can do that” and coming up with ideas of how to get over the hurdles.

Resistance to change in the status-quo is a contributing factor to organizational fatigue, which often derails a transformation initiative midway in the journey. And the more disruptive the change is, the more resistance occurs. Stakeholders often want to slow down the pace of change. In addition, change is painful, so people naturally want to revert to the old ways unless they buy in at the outset to the need to change.

Achieving Anticipated Value From Transformation

Unfortunately, as the demand for digital transformation accelerates, I often see companies setting out on a multiyear transformation journey with leaders having a big gap in knowledge of the depth of change required to achieve the desired outcome. Typically, leaders start out with an idea of implementing digital technologies to gain new capabilities, but they lack understanding about how the business will need to change to achieve the promise of those technologies. Incorporate the above tips when designing the approach to the journey will eliminate many risks and failure points.

 

September 2017

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7 Corporate Learning Challenges & Ways to Combat Them!

Learning plays a key role in engaging and retaining your top talent. Leading organizations are now seeing the value of building strategies to improve capabilities and engaging their talent, with one-third of companies reporting an increase in their learning budget.

Nowadays the pressure is on the L&D and OD functions to be the champions of building lasting relationships with employees and making learning stick. 

Let’s explore some of the challenges L&D and OD professionals are facing, and ways to address them:

1. Tracking learning activity

Learning professionals are struggling to identify capability gaps and track individual employees’ development. Multiple and disparate learning systems, difficulty capturing on-the-job learning, and lack of alignment with other talent systems is making tracking nearly impossible.

Combat by: Managing learning through a centralised, integrated talent management solution. This will enable visibility to make informed decisions regarding your talent and their needs, and provide a single and accurate view of analytics across your organization.

2. Demonstrating ROI

Without quantifiable results, it’s an uphill battle winning buy-in from senior leadership on the impact of learning.

Combat by: Capturing all information in a single system, supported by in-depth people analytics.  The ability to analyse learning data, report on key metrics and develop insights regarding bottom-line value will give HR and L&D a seat at the table.

3. Ensuring easy access to learning content

Millennials on average check their phones 9 times per hourThe challenge is therefore how to be where the learner is. We have progressed from being location- and time-bound to being available anytime an employee accesses a smartphone, tablet or laptopDo not get stuck in a time warp of traditional learning.

Combat by: There are more mobile devices than people on earth, so start building mobile-optimised content to engage modern learners! After all, 99% of mobile learners believe that mobile format enhanced their learning.

4. Developing new hires quickly and efficiently

It’s no secret that new hires can take a few months to get their heads above water.  90% of new employees make the decision to stay with an organization within the first six months. Learning needs to happen right from the beginning of their employee lifecycle.

Combat by:  Nurturing new hires from the get-go through a fully integrated onboarding process accelerates speed to competency and engages them from the start of their journey.

5. Building leadership bench-strength

The talent pool for highly skilled leaders is shrinking…  Leading organizations are recognising this, with 68% of CEOs saying they intended to increase their investment in leadership and talent development as a result of the global recession.

Combat by: Developing leadership internally and building leadership pipelines through formalised, and on-the-job learning and training to engage leaders by enabling them to see a future with your organization.

6. Employees’ attention to learning

Modern learners say they currently only spend 1% of their time at work on learning.  It’s a challenge to get modern learners to attend, actively participate, and complete assigned learning activities because of packed schedules with shorter time gaps between activities.

Combat by:  Introducing micro-learning and gamification to reinforce information absorption in a bite-sized, engaging, and entertaining way. With adult attention span by shorter than a GOLDFISH… 8 seconds vs 5 seconds… These learning methods make it enjoyable, as opposed to being a chore, and contribute significantly in driving higher participation levels.

7. Compliance in the workplace

No two days are the same in the compliance world with the ever-changing regulatory terrain causing many L&D headaches.

Combat by: Implementing and managing compliance learning through an integrated SCORM compliant LMS. When adaptations happen, they can easily and efficiently be replicated across the workforce to ensure that all learning requirement Ts are crossed and Is are dotted.

To create effective learning strategies to engage talent, learning needs to be efficiently managed, implemented and measured.  With technology evolving as rapidly as the learning landscape, learning professionals need to be able to ‘speak’ the language of technology.  This becomes more apparent when sourcing and selecting a robust solution to deliver an organization’s training and development needs.

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11 ELEMENTS OF SUCCESSFUL ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE CAPABILITY

Over the last few decades, the discipline of change management has emerged and evolved. What was once an ad hoc approach consisting of perhaps a communication plan and training plan has grown into a discipline driven by structure, rigor, process and deliverables. 

Leading organizations are now beginning to make the shift from applying change management in a project-by-project fashion toward institutionalizing and embedding change management to build a true organizational capability. Prosci calls this effort Enterprise Change Management (ECM).

A major challenge change management practice leaders face is getting a clear and concrete vision of what they are trying to achieve through ECM. One exercise to help define this is called "standing in the future" - an exercise about envisioning what we would observe when an organization has built a change management capability.

Below is a list of the eleven most common attributes of organizational capability as identified by attendees of Prosci's Enterprise Change Management Boot Camp - a one-day workshop on building organizational capability. Use this list to help envision what you would observe when your organization builds a change management capability.

Use the statements below to "stand in the future," envisioning what a change capability would look like at your organization:

1. WE MEET AND EXCEED EXPECTATIONS IN CHANGE

For change initiatives happening in our organization, we routinely meet project ROI targets. We also routinely meet our stakeholder expectations, our customer expectations and our shareholder expectations.

2. WE HANDLE THE CHANGE IN OUR ORGANIZATION

We know that organizations are increasingly facing change saturation. However, by implementing Enterprise Change Management, we as an organization have the increased capacity to handle change and reduce change disruption.

3. WE EXPECT CHANGE AND ENGAGE IN IT

Instead of an attitude of fear, the teams in our organization expect change, get excited about change, and engage in it. This change agility and appetite for change permeates the organization and all employees.

4. WE SEE CHANGE AS PART OF OUR JOB

Employees throughout our organization have internalized their role in leading change. They see "leading change" as part of their job and have the skills to excel in their role as change leaders. In addition, metrics are in place to measure how well every employee is fulfilling their role.

5. WE SHARE A COMMON LANGUAGE FOR CHANGE

Employees throughout the organization have developed a shared change vocabulary. This vocabulary permeates the company culture at all levels.

6. WE HAVE A STANDARD CHANGE MANAGEMENT METHODOLOGY

We as an organization have adopted and deployed a common change management approach, including a full set of tools to support its common and consistent application. Whichever approach we have chosen is used on all projects.

7. WE BUDGET APPROPRIATELY FOR CHANGE MANAGEMENT

On each project, we have dedicated change management resources and a dedicated change management budget that matches the change management needed.

8. WE INCLUDE CHANGE MANAGEMENT AT THE START OF EVERY PROJECT

We include user impact in every project definition, and we evaluate the people side risks of the project. We are also careful to include change management activities in the project initiation process.

9. WE INTEGRATE CHANGE MANAGEMENT, PROJECT MANAGEMENT AND IMPROVEMENT PROCESSES

We embed change management activities into our project management methodology. And we have change management present in our improvement systems, including Continuous Process Improvement, Strategic Planning and Lean Six Sigma.

10. WE CREATE AN ORGANIZATIONAL FOOTPRINT FOR CHANGE MANAGEMENT

At the individual level, our organizational footprint for change management includes job roles and career paths. At the organizational level, our footprint could include a change management office, a community of practice, a center of excellence or change agent networks.

11. WE MEASURE THE IMPACT OF CHANGE MANAGEMENT

We establish metrics for adoption and usage upfront, and we measure these metrics during and after a project goes live. We focus on demonstrating the return on investment of managing the people side of change

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Ten Tips for Successful Organizational Change

If you have been given the assignment to implement major change, you will no doubt find it to be one of the most challenging assignments of your career.  Here are ten tips for implementing a successful organizational change effort.

1. Define what must change.

Major change must begin by first understanding the current level of performance that you find unacceptable and what must change to improve it. This is typically driven by a competitive disadvantage in the marketplace and/or unhappy customers, but can also include employees and/or shareholder dissatisfaction. It comes down to performance or condition that must be different.

  2. Articulate why change must occur.

Kafka once said “In a fight between you and the world, bet on the world”. Translated, this means that adoption of major change must be led by a compelling need for that adoption. The pain of not changing must be greater than the pain of the change itself for the change to be embraced by those most affected.

3. Identify the change constituents.

Every successful major change effort includes the identification of the key constituents that will impact the successful adoption of that change. Key constituents usually include the sponsor, the user group itself, those who will be impacted by the change, and the larger organization surrounding the effort.

4. Develop a vision for the adopted change.

Unlike the more common vague and lofty vision statement, a vision that articulates clear details of the future is more likely to drive change that will be successful. Key constituents must be given a clear understanding of exactly what will be different in the future and how the organization will operate once the change has been adopted.

5. Define the change strategy.

The change strategy defines the “what you will do” to adopt the change vision. It should include a statement of “what will change” or “what will improve” to implement the future state.

6. Develop the change plan.

The change plan defines “how you will do it”, that is how you will implement the change strategy. It should include actions, resources, time, communication and accountabilities.

7. Broadly communicate.

The communication effort must include a business case for the change, broad communication of the compelling need to change and the vision of the adopted change for the future. Communications much reach the front lines and carry meaning for those who are most impact by its effects.

8. Engage the organization. 

Even the most brilliant strategy doesn’t survive engagement. An absolutely critical element of successful change is to actively engage those constituents who are key to successful implementation. This involves regular communication, active discussion of the change status, confrontation with change resistors, and close monitoring of the change effort itself.

9. Monitor progress. 

Major change plan must include regular monitoring and accountability that provides feedback allowing for adjustments to be made. All change efforts face resistance along the way and monitoring and adjustment provides the basis to work through that resistance to a successful outcome.

10. Know when to call victory. 

Rarely does a major change effort end exactly where the vision anticipated. Therefore, it is important to know exactly what victory means for the desired change and to drive towards a successful outcome.

 

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8 Tips to Help Managers and Employees Deal With Organizational Change

Change proves to be a challenge not just for supervisors and managers, but for employees as well. This adds another dimension to the already difficult situation: guiding the employees through the change. After all, organizations don’t change, people do.

The following are eight suggestions that will help managers and supervisors guide employees through organizational change.

Involve employees in the change process. Employees are not so much against change as they are against being changed. Any time managers are going to implement organizational change, there is always a lag between the time the change has been discussed at the management level and the time the change is going to be implemented. Managers like to play like an ostrich and believe that they are the only ones who know about the changes that are going to take place. Unfortunately, while their heads are stuck in the sand believing that no one else knows, employees are effectively undermining the future changes with negative informal communication…the company grapevine. The sooner you involve employees in the process, the better off you will be implementing the change. A formal communication channel is more effective at implementing change than a negative informal one. Interview employees regarding their feelings. It is critical that managers and supervisors understand what employees are feeling regarding the change. It is only when you accurately understand their feelings that you know what issues need to be addressed. Implementing change requires the ability to market and to sell. It is difficult to effectively sell without understanding your buyer’s needs, concerns, and fears. Concentrate on effective delegation. Too often managers and supervisors feel they must use self-protective measures, especially during organizational change. They start by trying to police all activities. Don’t try to cover all the bases yourself. You should concentrate on effective delegation during the early stages of the change process. Effective delegation is particularly good for two reasons: first, it helps you manage and maintain your workload, and second, it gives your employees a sense of involvement. Involvement positions employees to share responsibility for change.  Raise levels of expectations. Now more than ever, you should ask more from your employees. It is expected that more work needs to be done during the change process. While it may be most practical to expect less in terms of performance, raise your levels of expectations and theirs. During change, employees are more likely to alter their work habits, so reach for the opportunity and push them to try harder and work smarter. Require performance improvements and make the process challenging, but remember to keep goals realistic in order to eliminate frustration and failure. Ask employees for commitment. Once the change has been announced, it is important that you personally ask for each employee’s commitment to successfully implement the change. It is also important that you assure the employee that if there are problems, you want to hear about them. If a negative employee does not tell you, they will tell other employees why the change will not work. Expand communication channels. The change process usually means that normal communication channels in the firm need to be enlarged. At this time, your employees will be hungrier than ever for information and answers. You can “beef up” communication. First, give employees an opportunity to give you input. Start by becoming more available and asking more questions. Get employees’ opinions and reactions to the changes. Maintain your visibility and make it clear that you are an accessible boss. More importantly, be a careful listener. Second, keep employees updated on a regular basis. Just letting your employees know that you have no new information is meaningful information to them. Strive to be specific; clear up rumors and misinformation that clutter the communication channels. Remember, it is almost impossible to over communicate. Be firm, committed, and flexible. As you introduce a change, it is important that you see the change through to completion. Abandoning it halfway through the change process accomplishes two negative impacts. First, it destroys your credibility. Second, it tells every employee that if you take the stance of a dinosaur, the change will pass by, even if you lose your job and become extinct in the process. Remain flexible, because you will have to adapt to situations to successfully implement the changes. Keep a positive attitude. Your attitude as a manager or supervisor will be a major factor in determining what type of climate is exhibited by your employees. Your attitude is the one thing that keeps you in control. Change can be stressful and confusing. Try to remain upbeat, positive, and enthusiastic. Foster motivation in others. During times of transition and change, try to compensate your employees for their extra effort. Write a brief note of encouragement on their paychecks; leave an affirming message on their voice mail; take them aside and tell them what a great job they are doing; listen to their comments and suggestions. Last, try to instill organizational change as a personal challenge that everyone can meet…with success!

 

 

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How to measure the impact of your L&D program?

Learning effectiveness is a two-fold assessment that evaluates the quality of the intervention itself, and its impact on business outcomes.

Today, employee capability development is under the spotlight, primarily because organizational success factors are rapidly evolving. Organizations are demanding new skill sets to cut through the intense competition.  Organizations are pouring billions into learning and development initiatives, in a bid to empower employees to be their productive best. However, HR leaders often shy away from justifying these L&D expenses. They measure the quality of the intervention itself but miss out on how it adds value to the top line or to business growth. In a situation where the HR landscape is wrought with constraints of time, budget and intent, a failure to justify the value-add of L&D to business can dissuade organizations from investing in employee development programs. It, therefore, becomes necessary to measure and showcase the impact of L&D programs. 

A number of traditional models for evaluating training effectiveness have made the rounds of HR textbooks, a renowned one being the four-level Kirk Patrick Model. Companies find themselves at various stages of evaluation i.e. reaction, learning, behavior, and results, with very few actually measuring results in line with the business strategy. Moreover, today we see a highly evolved L&D landscape, with diverse learning channels like online, mobile, classrooms, gamified learning, social learning and so on. Each of these demands a different training-evaluation approach i.e. a blend of quantitative and qualitative metrics to measure training impact. However, most companies continue to carry out standard evaluations such as happy sheets, testimonials, line manager feedback, psychometrics assessments for mapping behavioral changes and so on. None of these really assesses learning effectiveness in alignment with strategic functional and business goals. It is time HR professionals move beyond the obviously seen and delve deeper into the business impact of L&D initiatives. This is a must to win over the confidence of business leaders and contributes at a strategic level. 

Learning elements you must measure

We are no longer in the age when measuring feedback ratings and completion rates is enough. A data-backed training analytics mindset is a pressing need in L&D today. As a learning and development professional, the first step is to look at the core L&D outcomes in itself i.e. the key metrics that capture how your learners have changed as a result of a learning intervention. Here are some of the key aspects to think through: 

Skill attainment: This is a typical training evaluation approach that relies on measuring knowledge levels, both pre-learning and post-learning. Think of knowledge-gain in conjunction with the role and the deliverables the learner is expected to perform well in.
  Skill application: Skills without real-world application do not serve the purpose. It is, therefore, important to measure, to what extent the learner is practically applying the newfound knowledge/skill in his or her role. 
  Behavioural changes: Primarily this applies to culture and soft skills training. It is important to know how well the learner has imbued the organizational values or soft skills which are required to succeed at the job. Ideally, the personal values of the learner should be completely aligned with the organizational values. Behavioral changes must be assessed at both the individual and team levels for the learner. 
  Goal attainment: L&D outcome evaluation must be closely tied to goal attainment i.e. the role-based performance goals laid out for the learner. L&D effectiveness must, therefore, be intricately tied in with the performance management process. How to quantify outcomes in business terms

The above four-step assessment will help you arrive at an overview of your learning and development outcomes- whether they are giving you the desired performance results in the learner’s role or function? The next stage is to drill deeper into the fourth element i.e. goal attainment at an overall business level. For this HR professionals must evaluate the return on investment of L&D initiatives in quantitative business terms. Measure effectiveness both quantitatively and qualitatively is a necessary step to generate the necessary buy-in with the CXO suite. Here is what you should look out for. 

Sales growth: Training (especially sales-specific training) should result in sales revenue growth. Conduct a pre-training and post-training analysis of employees’ productivity and workloads to understand whether the training has improved delivery numbers.
  Cost reductions: An objective of training is to increase efficiency, thereby enabling cost savings. For example, employees may come up with cost-reduction projects when trained for opportunity-seeking. Monitor the relationship between skill enhancements / behavioral changes by the learner and reduced costs in the immediate function/team.
  Employee retention: The role of training is not just to improve business metrics, but also to indirectly aid business by providing the right talent. Training is an effective engagement tool that creates employee stickiness within an organization. It thus helps reduce recruitment efforts and costs. Track your learners for their retention levels and get to know whether learning initiatives are actually valued by your people, or do you need to change course in your L&D strategy? Embrace L&D analytics

Measuring the outcome of L&D initiatives and ensuring their effectiveness is a talent analytics effort. HR leaders must rope in the latest technologies and learning / HR evaluation systems and processes to make training evaluation an ongoing commitment. HR must move away from the mindset of one-off measurements and adopt a continuous process to improvise on learning methodologies. Evaluations must be real-time, data-driven and actionable to achieve the desired learning outcomes. Only then can organizations extract maximum value from learning and development interventions. 

The goal is to build organizational capability

The goal of learning and development is to build individual and organizational capability and help navigate the business conundrums of today and tomorrow. At the employee end, learning and development also serve as an engagement and retention tool, by offering career advancement opportunities. These dual-fold objectives can be achieved only when the L&D strategy is effective and optimized to the core. Every stage right from training needs identification to implementation to measuring effectiveness must be revisited and revised as per need. Only then, can HR professionals expect to create a sustainable change in the knowledge, skills, and attitudes and align talent with the organizational needs.

 

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Global Trends in L&D Analytics

All functions in today’s organizations face tremendous challenges to show value. As a result, the Learning & Development community is responding with changes in its approach to measurement, evaluation, metrics, and analytics.

Much has changed since the global recession. Budgets are tight, accountability is everywhere, and business results are expected routinely. All functions in an organization, including Learning & Development, face tremendous challenges to show value. The good news is that the Learning & Development community is responding with changes in their approach to evaluation. Here are seven metrics trends that are occurring globally and particularly in the U.S.

1. There is increased focus on the impact and return on investment (ROI) of major programs.

Although this trend has been evolving for years, the movement has been significant in the last five years—it is being driven by the recession itself. In 2008, many companies found themselves to be bloated, bureaucratic, and inefficient, and they began to trim their organizations during the recession, even if they were still financially strong. Senior executives and the chief financial officer are vowing to make sure their organizations are efficient, responsive, lean, and mean. This is causing major projects to be pushed to the impact and ROI analysis, showing a connection to the business and the financial ROI, the ultimate measure of success. In some cases, an ROI forecast is required before the program is designed, developed, or implemented.

Top executives crave impact and ROI data. A major study, supported by ASTD, showed that the No. 1 measure desired by CEOs from Learning & Development is business impact (“Measuring for Success: What CEOs Really Think About Learning Investments” by Jack J. Phillips and Patricia Pulliam Phillips; ASTD, 2010). With input from 96 Fortune 500 CEOs, this study revealed that the No. 2 measure is ROI. At the same time, these executives indicated that the current level of measurement is far from where they want it. Only 8 percent said that they see the business impact now, while 96 percent wanted to see it. For ROI, 4 percent see it now, and 74 percent want to see it in the future.

An important target for this level of analysis and accountability is soft skills, where it is more difficult for an executive to see the value. When the programs are important and expensive, executives especially want to see the value. In a study of 232 Global Leadership Development directors, 88 percent said there was an emphasis on ROI, and the No. 1 reason was the pressure for cost and efficiency (“Measuring Leadership Development: Quantify Your Program’s Impact and ROI on Organizational Performance” by Jack J. Phillips, Patricia Pulliam Phillips, and Rebecca L. Ray; McGraw Hill, 2012). This same study revealed that for leadership development, 34 percent of programs are measured at Level 3, Application; 21 percent measured at Level 4, Business Impact; and 11 percent at Level 5, ROI. These are the most ambitious numbers we’ve seen from leadership development.

2. The budget for measurement, evaluation, metrics, and analytics (MEMA) is increasing.

The Learning community has underinvested in measurement, evaluation, and metrics. Consequently, during the recession, many Learning leaders were not able to show the value of major programs and projects. Routine accountability at the level of evaluation sought by executives did not exist. Most organizations without a comprehensive approach to MEMA were spending approximately 1 percent of the budget on tools. Proactive Learning leaders are justifying additional expenditures by showing the value of current projects. Learning leaders are using the results to move to a best practice of 5 percent of the Learning budget to be spent on metrics and evaluation.

3. Responsibility for MEMA rests with all the team.

This trend has been shifting for some time, but it accelerated during the recession. Two decades ago, there was a move to centralize evaluation and have a core group of people with that responsibility. Although this appeared to be efficient, it often was ineffective. Every other member of the team— the designers, developers, facilitators, participants, and even managers of participants—would indicate that measurement and evaluation was not their responsibility, claiming the evaluation team should be doing this. Proactive Learning leaders have recognized that evaluation is everyone’s responsibility, and sharing the responsibility makes it much more effective. It reduces the resistance and keeps everyone accountable. Often, it is more efficient in terms of resources, because they all have their full-time job with part-time evaluation. Still, in large organizations, a small core group is available for very technical issues.

4. Finance, Accounting, and the CFO are more involved in L&D.

This trend has both good news and bad news, but is probably obvious to most Learning & Development functions. You don’t have to look far to see increased involvement of the Finance and Accounting departments, not only for Learning & Development but for other functions, as well. The CEO is pressuring the CFO to use the concept of ROI, which originally was developed to show the return on investing in capital expenditures (buildings, tools, and equipment). The concept now has moved to non-capital areas such as Human Resources, Marketing, Technology, and Quality. This has brought the CFO into the process as he or she implements ROI into these areas. According to Gartner research, many chief human resource officers (CHROs) are reporting to the CFO. Since most Learning & Development functions report to the CHRO, this brings the CFO into the reporting chain of command for some Learning functions. Proactive CLOs are stepping up to this challenge, making sure they have CEO- and CFO-friendly data, bringing Finance and Accounting into the process, and pursuing them as a colleague, not as an enemy.

5. Learning leaders are more proactive with impact/ ROI analysis.

Before the recession, many learning leaders would wait for the request to pursue a more rigorous analysis, particularly ROI. Unfortunately, the recession showed that approach to be disastrous. When the Learning & Development function is asked for this ultimate level of accountability and nothing has been put in place, it’s often too late. This places the Learning team on the defensive, with a short time line, and on the top executive agenda—not a good place to be. Proactive leaders learned their lesson and they are not waiting for the request. They are building capacity and experimenting with impact and ROI. They want to be driving the process, not reacting to it. They want to set the agenda, time line, and pace.

6. There are still barriers to impact/ROI use.

Although the concept of connecting learning to impact is all traceable to the early 1950s, and the use of ROI traces to the 1970s, the concept still does not enjoy the widespread use executives prefer. Some significant barriers must be overcome. Proactive Learning leaders are minimizing, diffusing, demystifying, removing, or going around those barriers. Here are the top five:

            Fear of results. As you can imagine, any program owner is nervous when someone is conducting an ROI study on his or her program and it’s negative. How will it affect me or my program, or my performance? Will it be discontinued, diminished, or not respected? While these thoughts are common, proactive leaders are managing the process. They use ROI as a tool for process improvement, not performance evaluation for the team.

            The perceived complexity of ROI use. Some proponents of ROI have created this fear by trying to develop complicated formulas. In reality, ROI is a ratio first encountered in fourth-grade mathematics.

            Perceived cost of an ROI study. Some think ROI costs too much, and they don’t have a budget or the time. In reality, costs are small. For a major program, the total cost of an ROI study is usually less than 1 percent of the program cost. It rarely goes over 5 percent, and that’s when a particular program is inexpensive. Proactive Learning leaders learn to manage this cost by building internal capability.

            They don’t know how to do it. This was a good defense 20 years ago, but not any more. Impact/ROI evaluation is now a part of the preparation for Learning & Development and Human Resource Development degree programs. ROI certification is offered globally, with more than 7,000 individuals having participated in the ROI certification offered by the ROI Institute.

            The client hasn’t asked for it. As mentioned in trend #5, this is a disaster. Proactive Learning leaders are reminding the team that we want to be in control of this issue.

7. Impact/ROI evaluations have many uses. Proactive Learning leaders are pursuing a more comprehensive measurement and evaluation system, linking Learning & Development to the business in credible ways and occasionally developing ROI studies for major programs. This proactive evaluation generates many great uses:

            Increase funding. Since the recession, this is the No. 1 reason for pursuing this issue.

            Satisfy executives in a request for accountability. Before the recession, the No. 1 reason for exploring impact and ROI was to meet a particular request from an executive group.

            Improve programs. This is the preferred reason for using impact and ROI and is the No. 1 reason advocated by the ROI Institute.

            Increase support. A key target for communicating results is participants’ managers. Showing the results at the impact level essentially ties the learning to the key performance indicators (KPIs) of these managers. That’s what’s needed for them to provide the level of support needed to make learning a useful process.

            Build business partnerships. To be effective, partnerships drive programs, funding, and new initiatives and make the process work smoothly. When executives see that L&D is making a contribution, they are more willing to be a viable business partner. Proactive Learning leaders are translating the business contribution of L&D to a successful business partnership.

            Improve client relationships. The ultimate client—the person who funds the program—has a much better image of learning and involvement when he or she sees learning as a valuable business contributor.

            Earn a seat at the table. For more than a decade, we have heard the comment that the Learning & Development leader (i.e., the CLO) should be involved in decision-making at appropriate high-level meetings. When a business contribution is clearly there, it’s much easier to earn and keep a seat at the table.

An expert on accountability, measurement, and evaluation, Dr. Jack J. Phillips provides consulting services for Fortune 500 companies and major global organizations. Dr. Phillips is chairman of the ROI Institute, Inc.; the author or editor of more than 50 books; and creator of the ROI Methodology, a process that provides bottom-line figures and accountability for all types of learning, performance improvement, Human Resources, technology, and public policy programs. For more information, call 205.678.8101 or e-mail jack@roiinstitute.net.

Patti P. Phillips, Ph.D., is president and CEO of the ROI Institute, Inc. She earned her doctoral degree in International Development and her Master’s Degree in Public and Private Management. While working for a large electric utility, she played an integral part in establishing Marketing University, a learning environment that supported the needs of new sales and marketing representatives. An accountability, measurement, and evaluation expert, Dr. Phillips is also the author and co-author of several books, including “The Bottom Line on ROI” (CEP Press, 2002), which won the 2003 ISPI Award of Excellence.

June 2017

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Can a different framework of value enable greater trust in business?

Defining the journey towards more effective measurement and reporting of valueThe world is changing at a rapid rate; business is fast becoming enabled with new technology which will mean faster and lower cost delivery of quality services.

This has led to a world of hyper connectivity, characterised by machine learning, autonomous vehicles and business transactions that are verified through the use of blockchain technology. But business is not only facing new technological enablers. Recently, we have seen radical shifts throughout politics and society.

Whilst all this is playing out, it is clear that we will need to invent new regulatory and ethical regimes. Current governance methods are already outdated and is not providing the assurance business and society needs. One of the key changes that we have detected is that intangible drivers make up a much larger percentage of organisational value. The current accounting standards do not support this trend.
 
It is against this backdrop that we, along with Cambridge University have undertaken an extensive study on how accounting and reporting could look in the 21st Century. Our findings indicate that investors and other stakeholders find little value in the way that companies report today.

We are proposing a long term value (LTV) model as a new way for companies to communicate their long term value-creating potential and are launching a major collaboration of leading academics, businesses leaders and institutional Investors to develop a roadmap for action.

This website provides access to our point of view and an accompanying white paper. These will form the basis of a series of pilots in 2017. We want to emphasise that this is a call to action as well as a potential way forward and we are delighted that so many investors, think-tanks and business leaders are actively engaging on this. In our capacity as a professional services organisation, we will be the catalyst to collaborate in tackling this challenge.

Understanding the challenge

Accounting as we know it has remained broadly unchanged from its conception in the 15th century by Italian mathematician Luca Pacioli.

In 1971, the first accounting standard was issued by the newly formed Accounting Standards Steering Committee. From 1971 to 1979, the principles of modern corporate reporting were established. During this time, manufacturing was at the heart of global economies and in 1975, physical and financially accountable assets were still the primary balance sheet constituents.

However, we are now witnessing the fourth industrial revolution — characterised by hyperconnectivity, data-informed decision-making, and automation — which is disrupting and reshaping entire industries. Additionally, globalisation, externalities such as climate change and calls for inclusive capitalism are leading to new operating challenges and requirements.

In view of the fact that the operating context and the business models organisations use have changed significantly in the last decade, we now need to question whether accounting principles and practices defined 100 years ago are still fit for purpose today.

Current approaches

No framework currently exists for Boards to consistently measure, manage and communicate the value they create across stakeholder groups over the long term and relate this value to investors and other stakeholders in a compelling way.

This plethora of activity is creating confusion at the Board level and is frustrating investors:

Companies — Multiple CEO-led fora are growing in influence and momentum as they look to build long term value but lack the metrics to operationalise it; Investors — mobilising around long term value and capital allocation but currently there are few commonly accepted investment grade metrics; Regulators and Accounting Standard Setters — showing interest but slow to respond with new accounting methods and standards; Influencing organisations — highly active in driving the call for more comprehensive corporate disclosure but most not addressing the complete picture; Professional Services — increasingly prominent around this agenda and positioning with key influencing organisations. There is innovation in measurement frameworks but these tend to have a bias towards sustainability.

These all represent important initiatives in their own right and the leadership shown across stakeholders is encouraging. However, without a unifying language of long term value to bind these stakeholders together there is a risk of further fragmentation and complexity across the investment chain.

Attributes of a new framework

We have held discussions with business leaders, academics, employees and investors, and made significant investment in understanding what attributes of a new reporting framework are required for 21st century companies.

In summary, a new framework must pass the following six tests:

1. The new way of reporting should be clear about context;
2. It must be material to stakeholders;
3. It is critical that the organisation describes its purpose in a meaningful process;
4. To be trusted it must be assured;
5. It should provide a more complete view of value; and
6. It must to simple to understand.

Defining the LTV model

We used the six tests identified to develop and propose a new model for reporting – the long term value (LTV) model. Our intention is to develop an approach to reporting long term value which:

focuses on identifying and communicating how organisations create value in the long term for all of their material stakeholders; aligns this with the organisation’s context and purpose, ensuring that the organisation is both realistic in its aspirations and trustworthy in its communications; reduces the regulatory burden of reporting by providing a structure that communicates the essence of the organisation without resorting to massive reports or regulations; utilises and provides assurance over new data sources to present a new view of the way the organisation creates value across multiple stakeholders; and builds on recent developments (most notably new concepts in reporting intangibles, strategic assets and integrated reporting).

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5 Keys to Building and Scaling Company Culture

If there is one area of your business to invest in, it's your culture. Culture drives employee engagement, leading to greater employee productivity and a stronger business overall.

But culture is an abstract concept that's difficult to define, and even more challenging to measure. Eighty-seven percent of organizations cite culture and engagement as one of their top challenges. With unclear metrics on the effect of culture on the bottom line, many companies are tempted to focus their efforts elsewhere.

However, while executives are unsure how to establish culture successfully, they are aware of its value. In fact, 91% of executives believe improving their company's culture would increase the company's value. Yet, only 15% of them say their company culture is where it needs to be.

That's why I set out to find out how top executives and human resources professionals establish a strong company culture and grow it. One of the top thought leaders on culture transformation, Hung Pham, is no stranger to struggles with culture.

Pham is the founder of Culture Summit, a conference that brings together hundreds of culture champions and thought leaders to share actionable insights and strategies on building culture from the bottom up. He founded the conference in 2014 to solve his own challenges with career disengagement.

Together, Pham and I worked to gather insights from HR leaders at top tech companies to understand what makes a great company culture, how executives can build it within their own teams and how to continue to grow that culture and improve over time. Here are five key takeaways from our research.

1. Focus on people

According to Janelle Gale, VP of HR at Facebook, "To scale company culture, you should focus first on your most important product - your people."

The people that make up your company are your most valuable resource. Yet, according to Gallup, only 32% of U.S. employees were engaged at work in 2015. You need to make sure your employees are the right fit for your team and feel like they belong to a community within your company, have what they need to thrive, and are focused on the success of your business.

For Facebook, this starts when a new employee comes on board. Gale says, "Each new person who joins the company goes through the same orientation program where they hear from our leaders and we tell them: this is your company now. This is a signature moment that connects every new employee to Facebook's mission, vision, values and culture."

2. Define your brand story

Your brand story is a powerful tool not just for attracting customers, but also for creating culture. A brand story shapes how your employees see the company and their place within it. It gives them a purpose for what they do.

"Employees want to be part of the story of your company - so you have to define that story through common language as you grow," says Dan Spaulding, VP of people & culture at Zillow Group. "Whether it is core values, company mission, or workplace norms, you have to intentionally make sure that people at all levels understand and embrace the concepts."

He adds, "They can't be words on a wall - they need to start every meeting, anchor business decisions and show up in your daily habits. Doing this well reminds your longtime employees of what they set out to do, and helps your new employees feel confident they know how to navigate your culture."

3. Establish a team mentality

Your culture brings all of your employees together and encourages them to think as a team, rather than as individuals. Especially when conflicts arise, it's important that everyone does what's best for the team and the company.

Tatyana Mamut, head of product at Amazon Web Services, believes having a common vision keeps top leaders aligned.

Of her own experience, she says, "We've needed to learn how to disagree productively and keep our teams moving forward in a unified way, even when our experiences and perspectives clash. No matter what our individual interests are, it's important to stay focused on a consistent culture in the face of fast growth, so the leadership has to have a unified vision and common set of values and principles."

4. Keep culture consistent

Change is inevitable, especially as companies grow and evolve. Your culture needs to be able to grow along with you. "While culture can and should be fluid, your company values should remain constant and consistent over the course of time," says Gina O'Reilly, COO at Nitro.

"Ultimately, your values will define your culture," she continues. "Since culture is the sum of how your employees behave, the right talent and team are crucial to shaping a positive culture. Rather than seeking good 'culture fit' during the hiring process, which can mean different things to different people, focus on how prospective candidates align with your core values in order to ensure you're making the best decisions for your business."

5. Prepare for growth

"The core of great culture is your values and the stories you tell," says Didier Elzinga, CEO at Culture Amp. "As you scale, one of the key things to do is make sure you actually listen to your people. Growing fast is really, really hard and can lead to what we call the 'Culture Crunch.' One of these effects is how people adjust to changes in the scope of their role as the organization changes."

Be prepared for things to change as your company grows and scales, and let your culture guide you and your employees through the transition. "You can't make your culture go up and to the right," says Elzinga, "but you can peer around the corner and see what challenges await you so you are better prepared for them."

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How to Communicate Clearly During Organizational Change

A former colleague liked to remind leaders of their impact by telling them, “There are children you’ve never met who know your name.” The point was simple: Their followers were also moms or dads who were going home and talking about their day in front of their children. And you, their leader, had a starring role in that story. As leaders, we are far more visible than we realize, and we are sending signals to followers all the time — even when we don’t realize it.

And while sending the right signals to our followers is important at any time, it is especially important during times of strategic change, when followers are trying to make sense of a new “ask” from the organization, in the context of all the existing asks they are grappling with.

Why, then, is it so hard for leaders to send clear, effective signals to followers?

In my experience of working with leaders, and in my research asking followers what they need during times of strategic change, there are three main ways in which leaders too often send confusing signals to their organizations. Get them right, and you can signal clearly and effectively; fail to pay attention to how and what you are signaling in these three modes, and you will have confusion at best — and at worst, the opposite of the strategic changes you’ve asked for.

Signal No. 1: Telling your organization what you want

You’d think this would be the easy bit, but the evidence suggests that this is where leaders most shortchange their organizations. Too many followers tasked with delivering strategic change report that their leaders weren’t clear enough about what they wanted the change to achieve or about what it would entail.

It seems the reasons for this are twofold: Leaders too often express what they want in terms not of outcomes, but of tasks, and they rarely, if ever, make clear the full extent of the change they are asking for.

One client I worked with recently — let’s call it Sales and Product Co. — was trying to make its business more customer-centric. Its leaders had expressed what they wanted as a list of activities that their middle managers would be asked to work on. There were nine projects. The list gave middle managers clarity about what to do, certainly, but it told them nothing about why they were doing it, or how their myriad activities might fit together to create a cohesive program. So we worked with them to re-express what they wanted as outcome-level targets. “Conduct exit interviews with all departing customers” became “reduce the customer attrition rate,” for example. A target to improve cross-selling rates through more outbound calls per month became, simply, “improve profit per customer.”

And because the middle managers now knew the targets outcomes leaders wanted, within months they were able to identify better, smarter, and cheaper ways to deliver them. Instead of nine projects, they settled on just two, which drove alignment across activities as well as accountability for them. And because the two were chosen by people close to the business, who understood the interactions of customer data and processes far better than the senior management team could (or should), the projects had a far better chance of delivering their outcomes. When asked why they knew it was these particular two projects they should work on, the middle managers said, “Well, we knew what the outcomes had to be. And we know how the business works, so it’s not that hard.” The importance of specifying outcomes for followers, rather than choosing activities for them, was clear.

Why is this signal so hard to get right? Leadership teams I’ve worked with have an almost primal urge to give their middle managers a list of activities. It makes them feel like action is being taken and that they are helping their hard-pressed middle managers by telling them exactly what to do. It’s also much easier to jump from “We need to change” to “Here’s what to do” than it is to thrash out the difficult trade-offs involved.

Left to their own devices, many leadership teams shortchange the questions of what they want the change to achieve, and why. When we work with leaders, we often have to push them to continue thinking about these questions and to answer them with sufficient clarity. But even as we do, we regularly have someone in the leadership team come up to us in a coffee break and say something along the lines of, “So, all this is great, but when are we going to get down to it? You know, talk about what we’re actually going to do.” It usually takes several conversations, and stubbornness, to help them see that this is what they as leaders needed to “get down to” — and, conversely, that until this is done, any scoping out of activities is premature.

In particular, there are four questions that senior teams often skate through too quickly:

Why do we need to change, and why now? What are the imperatives driving this change? Why is the previous strategy no longer good enough? Where on the P&L are we feeling, or anticipating, pain?  Are you sure you want X to change, even if it means you can’t have Y anymore? What is the full extent of the change we need? Don’t underestimate the extent of the change you need, either privately or publicly. However tempting it is to tell people that this is just an incremental change — when it is nothing of the sort — or however politically expedient it seems to underplay the extent of the change required, a lack of clarity about the extent of the change required will make subsequent conversations about resources and priorities much harder. If we figure out 1 and 2, what should improve as a result? How will we measure the improvement we’ve been targeting ? And perhaps most overlooked of all: How does this new strategy or change link to previous strategies? Answering this question is critical if leaders are to reduce the confusion that a cumulative overload of strategic or change initiatives — another year, another “strategy” — and their potentially conflicting targets can cause. If leaders can’t explain these links clearly, then you need to revisit the need for this change (Questions 1–3) or phase out some of the existing initiatives.

Once you have sufficiently clear answers to these four questions, you have the first ingredient for successful signaling.

Signal No. 2: Personally living the change you’ve asked for

Living the change you want to see means much more than modeling any behaviors you’ve asked for; it also means making a myriad of decisions that support the change. It is what David Nadler and Michael Tushman, in their 1990 exploration of how change becomes institutionalized, called “mundane behaviors.” It means changing how you spend your time. How you choose to use your most precious, finite resource (your own diary) is a critically important signal you send as a leader. If you’re not giving time to the change you’ve asked for, followers will interpret this as the latest change not really being important, and will act accordingly. For Sales and Product Co, this meant the C-suite routinely scheduling time to discuss progress, and leaving enough space in their diaries to be available to discuss issues and blockages as the need arose.

It also means changing the agenda of senior team meetings and board discussions. For Sales and Product Co, this meant putting “customers” literally at the top of the agenda for every senior team meeting. Before the seemingly tiny change, the C-suite had talked about customer issues after sales, products, and regulation, and just ahead of “any other business.” This order had often meant that customer issues didn’t get discussed at all, or were rushed through by tired execs eager to close the meeting. In an organization that sought to become more customer-focused, this couldn’t go on. Talking about customers early in every meeting gave them the priority, and attention, they deserved. It also meant that never again would followers ask their C-suite exec, “What did you discuss at the board meeting?” to hear the answer “We didn’t get to the customer stuff.”

Why is this signal so hard to get right? Two reasons. It’s partly because carving out time, and making sure you always have spare time in your diary for strategic issues as they arise, is so much easier than it sounds. You may also have to make this time available for years on end, given how long strategic change takes to embed. That means having to say no to a lot of other people and their priorities, if you are to keep time available for this priority.

And there will be many times when your old, “usual” issues will feel like such urgent priorities that you will be tempted to get them out of the way first, before turning your attention to the more important “strategic” stuff. This is a trap. Sort out the most important issue first — and sort it properly. Your business will then be in fundamentally better shape on the urgent issues.

But the second reason why personally living the change is a hard signal to send is that sending this signal effectively is a full-time job. Managing yourself — day in and day out, even when you don’t feel like it — is hard. One of the leaders I’ve worked with describes this as “an out-of-body experience,” where he is trying to be simultaneously in the moment with someone, listening to them and thinking about the issue, and also external to himself, deliberate about how he is showing up and conscious of the impact he is having on those around him. Like all mundane behaviors, it is very easy to not notice that you are not doing them — and that, of course, is precisely when your followers are looking most closely at you.

Signal No. 3: Resourcing and measuring the change you’ve asked for

How your organization spends its resources (capital, people, capabilities) and what it chooses to measure are the final critical ways it signals what is important. As a leader, you disproportionately shape these decisions, and therefore the clarity of these signals. This means finding the resources needed to deliver the change you’ve asked for. It doesn’t just mean money — though that is important. It also means allocating the right people, with the right level of seniority, experience, and political connections, to work on the change. These are all ways you can signal to the organization that the change is important.

It also means making changes to what you measure, and making these changes early on in the change. All too often, a new change spends its first few quarters being undermeasured because the existing suite of metrics the organization uses haven’t been overhauled to reflect the new priorities. If what gets measured is what gets managed, give the change its best chance by signaling as early as possible that new metrics will be introduced to measure, and therefore embed, the change you’ve asked for.

Why is this signal so hard to send? Part of the problem is that reallocating resources and changing metrics aren’t the glamorous work of strategic change. Rarely are mundane, instrumental, transactional leadership endeavors (such as resourcing or measurement) given much air time in popular management literature or airport books. The result is that these more mundane aspects of leading change are still regarded as less important by leaders — although they remain some of the most critical signals for followers.

And, of course, making changes to resourcing and metrics takes time. The announcement of the strategic change might have missed the annual planning and budgeting round. While it’s painful to face up to, announcing a major change might mean asking people to redo this grunt work. And while those asked to do it may not be immediately enamored with the request, they know the alternative is that they, and everyone else in the organization, will be second-guessing the change until this grunt work is done.

Now, it may take several months to define, agree, baseline, and then measure these new metrics, so start this work early (and just as important, talk about the fact that you’re doing it), that way you signal to the organization what’s coming and that the change is not a passing fad. Put your money where your mouth is, and send the signal that this change is your priority — and that it will be resourced and measured accordingly.

Signals matter to followers, so signaling needs to matter to you. Followers are looking for signals to help them make sense of what they should do. As a leader, you have disproportionate power to shape these signals — or not. And that’s especially important when you’re asking for change. So supply people with what they need to make sense of it. And be the story you want their children to hear.

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Model The Culture Change You Want

The Methodology For Changing Beliefs is one designed to stimulate dialogue focused on cultural transformation and alignment around desired results.

Culture change does not require a large personality, cunning manipulation, inspirational appeals, or giant leaps of faith. It simply requires honest intentions, conscious thought, and focused effort. What sort of effort? Effort focused on modelling the new culture for everyone in the organization. Yes, it is just that simple. Culture change is about shifting the Cultural Beliefs that are created through daily organizational experiences. These experiences create beliefs, these beliefs determine actions, and these actions produce results. So once you have identified the new experiences, beliefs, and actions that define the culture and results you want, start modelling the change.

Here’s how “modelling the change” works. Whenever you receive feedback that how you’re thinking or acting is creating an experience for others that is inconsistent with the new culture, apply the Methodology For Changing Beliefs. These five simple steps will immediately get people looking for evidence of your true alignment and sincere desire to model the new culture. Both individuals and teams can use this methodology to stimulate robust dialogue around the new culture and desired results.

 Identify the belief you want to change and say, “That’s not the belief I want you to hold.”

 Tell them the belief you would like them to hold by saying, “The belief I want you to hold is … ”

Describe the experience you are going to create for them by saying “Here’s what I’m going to do … ”

Ask them for feedback on the planned experience by saying, “Will that be enough; is there something else I need to do?”

Enrol them in giving you feedback on your progress by saying, “Will you give me feedback along the way?”

When leaders honestly execute each of the above steps, they launch the same thought process in those who are watching. Soon others get the message that “I ought to be thinking and acting like that too.” The result? Everyone in the organization begins looking for demonstration of the new belief (i.e., new way of thinking and acting), thinking about the new belief behaviour, and seeking that behaviour both in their fellow workers and, most importantly, in themselves.