Culture & Organisational Development

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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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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.

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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.

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How do You improve accountability

Leaders can improve organizational accountability — and drive better top-line results — by understanding the critical relationship between how employees think and how they act.

It’s true that optimizing operations and re-imagining your business strategy can help organizations see better top-line results. Unfortunately, these approaches often fall short because they only address employee behaviors, and not the underlying mindsets that drive these behaviors.

Ensuring sustained success requires a more challenging proposition: improving accountability in the workplace. 

Accountability, according to the New York Times bestseller The Oz Principle, is the “personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary to achieve desired results.” In alignment with this definition, achieving true accountability in the workplace depends on every employee’s personal and proactive commitment to delivering on team and organization-wide objectives. 

So how do you, as a leader, improve accountability across your organization — and in turn, drive better topline results?

Build Around Key Results 

According to the results of our Workplace Accountability Study, 9 out of 10 senior executive teams do not effectively clarify their organizations’ top priorities — leaving employees with a vague sense of direction and little understanding of how their daily actions impact organizational performance.

To compound this issue, nearly 85% of employees say that their company’s priorities are constantly shifting. One month, the company’s focus may be driving sales, while the next it may be funneling resources into better product development. When priorities regularly change, employees do not feel a sense of connection to the overall mission of the organization — and are thus are more likely to disengage from their work, hindering productivity on the whole.

Before leaders can effectively improve accountability in the workplace and lift top-line results, they must ensure that every employee knows exactly what objectives they are working towards. When employees are given clear targets and are able to see how their everyday duties contribute to the success or failure of Key Results — the three to five top-line results that the organization must deliver on in order to achieve success — they feel a deeper sense of purpose and pride in their work.

As such, it is the leadership team’s responsibility to identify and clarify the organization’s Key Results. These results should be communicated and reinforced across the organization by leaders at every level, guaranteeing that each and every employee understands and feels connected to the company’s primary objectives.

Master The Results Pyramid

Even if leaders have clearly defined and articulated the organization’s Key Results, they may not be able to improve accountability in the workplace until they understand the causal relationship between every employee’s experiences, beliefs, and actions.

According to the evidence-based Partners In Leadership model known as The Results Pyramid®, experiences shape personal beliefs, which in turn, influence actions. Finally, actions drive results — whether good or bad. As such, bolstering top-line results begins at the bottom layers of the pyramid: by purposefully shaping employees’ experiences and beliefs.

Take this example: a major healthcare organization was experiencing a worrying rate of medical errors and near-misses due to operational inconsistencies. In an attempt to curb these high error rates, the organization introduced a new initiative requiring two layers of patient name and treatment verification. This regulation created a new experience for intake employees by introducing a new step into their workflow.

In turn, the initiative promoted the cultural belief of patient safety by stressing the importance of verifying patient information. By following the new initiative and integrating the belief of safety into her daily work, a practitioner was able to catch a near-miss when one patient — who shared the same name as another patient — was called in for the wrong treatment. Because the practitioner took action to verify the patient’s full name and treatment plan, she was able to avoid a potentially dangerous mistake and achieve better healthcare safety results for the organization.

This example demonstrates that when leaders build experiences and beliefs that support their desired results, they are able to effectively cultivate higher levels of accountability in the workplace and ultimately, deliver on Key Results.

Maximize Accountability in the Workplace

When leaders clearly establish Key Results and understand the critical importance of the Results Pyramid®, they are prepared to improve accountability in the workplace.

Taking the cue of the healthcare organization that introduced new initiatives to shape cultural beliefs that in turn propelled meaningful action toward Key Results, leaders must focus on creating new experiences for employees. Whether it be a new set of regulations or an organization-wide training series, the experience must be purposefully designed to improve employees’ abilities to recognize the gaps between existing and desired results, take psychological ownership of the problems and potential solutions, employ creative problem-solving to close critical gaps, and fulfill their promise to deliver on Key Results.


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10 Leadership Resolutions for a Successful 2019

You can’t predict everything that will happen in 2019, but it’s a safe bet that change and uncertainty will continue to be major themes. It’s also safe to assume that your leadership will be critical for success. With that in mind, here are 10 leadership resolutions for the coming year.

Leading Yourself

Stay healthy. We know you hear this a lot around the New Year, and you probably think about it more, too. Your personal performance — and therefore your effectiveness as a leader — are heavily influenced by your health.

Healthier people have more energy, can think more clearly, focus for longer periods, and are less likely to get sick. There are 4 key practices:

Eat a healthy, nutrient-rich diet. Get adequate, high-quality sleep. Engage in physical activity regularly. Manage pressure so it doesn’t turn into negative stress.

Succeed at digital learning. Being a leader doesn’t mean you have all the answers. Leaders must continue to acquire new skills, new areas of knowledge, and new leadership tools.

With limited time and resources, some of that learning will take place via digital learning. So how can you make the most of your time?

First, make sure you commit. Set real deadlines and block out time on your calendar.

Second, just practice the new skill or find a way to apply your new knowledge. Real learning doesn’t happen until you actually use it.

And third, celebrate your success. This reinforces the value of ongoing learning.

Leading Others

Stop wasting time in meetings. We’ve all complained about time spent in a meeting that just wasn’t worth it. So how can you make sure that the meetings you set are productive? Here are 3 tips to start:

Only hold a meeting if it’s necessary. Can this be handled via email? Make sure all attendees are really present. Invite only those required and enforce behavior standards to keep everyone engaged. Decide in advance what the purpose of the meeting will be and how you’ll achieve its goals.

Make better group decisions. We’ve all heard — and many of us have said — that several minds are better than one. But actually making good decisions as a group is challenging.

Here’s how groups can make better decisions about things such as work processes:

Define the task. Choose the best fit for decision making. Set decision-making criteria. Brainstorm at least 3 alternatives. Select the best alternative using the agreed-upon method. Develop action plans. Take action. Evaluate decision effectiveness. Repeat until complete.

Support your employees in their development efforts. Professional development is important for everyone on your team. Our research has found that the primary predictor of the success of leadership development programs is the degree to which participants’ bosses support them.

So how can you support your people?

Set the stage for an effective program by discussing with your direct reports their goals — areas they should focus on and how they can get the most out of each opportunity. Give them permission to focus fully on the training by allowing them to fully disengage from normal responsibilities. Find out what support they’ll need when they return. Follow up after the training by meeting with your team members to discuss what they learned, how they’ll apply it and what you can do to continue supporting them.

Lead your team through change. Change is the one thing we can be certain of. For leaders, it’s also a virtual certainty you’ll need to lead your team through change.

Even when leaders and organizations know what the change is, they may still hesitate, fail to act, or act slowly. Here’s how to overcome the inertia:

Know what you want to achieve. Observe the current state of your team or organization. Accept that this is where things are and that change won’t happen unless you take action. Communicate your intent and why — again, again, and again. Demonstrate your personal commitment to the change. Offer a better vision based upon your intent. Reward those who move forward. Leading the Organization

Help frontline managers master their roles. In most organizations, frontline managers are critical.

A recent McKinsey study found that more than 70% of senior managers were unhappy with frontline manager performance, and more than 80% of frontline managers are dissatisfied with their own performance.

The first step in fixing this problem is to understand what skills frontline managers need. There are 6 they should master to be effective:

Self-awareness Political savvy Learning agility Influencing outcomes Communication skills Motivating others

These 6 skills should form the core of development programs for frontline managers.

Create an environment where women can excel. Research shows that gender diversity benefits the bottom line. So how can your organization attract and retain more women? The first step is to understand what ambitious, talented women want from employers.

Women want to find their calling. That is, they want their jobs to connect with their values and purpose.

Women want flexibility in where, when, and how they work. Women rated paid-time off and flexible schedules as 2 of the most valuable benefits.

Women want real leadership opportunities. But women are more wary of some leadership opportunities, perhaps because research suggests that they’re more likely to be offered roles with fewer resources or high-stakes, high-risk opportunities.

Understand and manage millennials. For all the commentary about millennials, younger workers are not a mysterious tribe that can’t be understood or managed by older leaders. Here’s what you need to know:

Millennials place a high value on their team, boss, mentors, and friends at work. They want to feel like their managers genuinely appreciate them. They also want their managers to coach and mentor them. Millennials want work to be interesting and meaningful — but they don’t want to be plugged in 24/7. Work-life balance is also important. Millennials want to grow. They’re interested in opportunities for development, promotion, and feedback. They want to advance, and they want help doing so.

Nurture innovation instead of squashing it.  Innovation is important, but few companies are really good at it. Why? In part because leading innovation is different from leading ongoing business operations.

Managers and individual contributors responsible for innovation need more emotional support to take the risks and give innovation efforts all their knowledge, skill, and energy.

Leaders must practice 3 critical behaviors to support innovators:

Demonstrate trust in innovators to empower them. Keep the purpose of the innovation front-and-center to motivate, inspire, and focus innovators. Partner with innovators as equals to contribute and share the risk.

If you can keep these goals in mind, or bookmark this list and come back to it, you’re bound to have a more successful and rewarding year!

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Ready, set, experiment: Learning at work fuels employee engagement

How flexible, informal professional development opportunities vastly improve employee experience

Few leaders have gotten to where they are without learning their way to the top. For all employees to grow, leaders need to turn every team and department into a learning organization that’s energized by change and well equipped to adapt. 

Building a culture of learning in the workplace is vital to retaining talented employees and facilitating meaningful digital transformation within organizations. According to Kelly Palmer and David Blake, authors of The Expertise Economy: How the Smartest Companies Use Learning to Engage, Compete and Succeed, 62% of CEOs believe that they’ll need to upskill at least a quarter of their employees over the next five years in order to stay competitive. Those employees also seek lifelong learning: 91% of Generation Z employees view professional development and employee engagement as leading factors when they’re picking a company to work for. 

Our own research shows that workers also crave greater transparencyacross the organization, particularly as it affords them more opportunities to learn about things like their company’s strategies and how their colleagues operate, and even to gain insight into their competition. Even if such knowledge is transferred passively, tapping into this information provides teams with greater context about factors that affect their decision-making and problem-solving. 

So how do you make your company a place where employees are engaged and excited to tackle the challenges they face every day? These tools and strategies will help you do exactly that.  

What it means to be a learning organization

The idea of the learning organization isn’t new—Peter Senge first proposed it in his 1990 book The Fifth Discipline. Learning organizations create time and space for employees both to acquire knowledge and think critically and to collaborate and share. Productive experimentation and inclusive environments empower employees to express their ideas, raise doubts, and make decisions. 

Research shows that an organization with 5,000 employees can save $12 million in lost productivity by making sure information is shared within an organization and overall team performance is prioritized.

But what does this look like in the modern digital workplace? The forced and formal classroom of old is out. Proactive leaders are increasing their focus on learning that is self-directed and integrated into their team’s daily workflow. Employees learn better when they are faced with a problem-solving situation rather than a dense textbook, so making learning and development interactive is important.

Some of the most valuable learning opportunities at work are also organic rather than organized. In his book Informal Learning, Jay Cross says that 80% of workplace learning takes place informally. It makes sense. Consider how much we learn simply by striking up a conversation, or how often we approach problems by consulting those around us. 

Informal knowledge transfer not only comes naturally to us but is also more cost-effective—research shows that an organization with 5,000 employees can save $12 million in lost productivity by making sure information is shared within an organization and overall team performance is prioritized. It just takes the right environment to foster this.

Winning ways to upskill employees

You can be the most open communicator face to face, but when it comes to sharing information around your organization, it helps to have some tools. Organizations like research firm Towards Maturity and online learning platform Udemy note that promising new innovations in learning and development can help companies implement successful learning strategies by putting more control in the hands of employees and making learning opportunities both flexible and integrated into people’s daily work. 

Live online learning and e-learning platforms 

One of the easiest ways to move away from a formal, text-heavy approach to workplace training is to make use of e-learning platforms. Degreed, Fuse, and Axonify are all great at breaking lessons up into small, mobile-friendly components so users can manage their own learning. Employees can access content that’s fun and easy to understand, whenever and wherever they are.

Team collaboration platforms 

According to Towards Maturity’s Learning Benchmark Report, companies are increasingly seeing how instant messaging and team collaboration tools facilitate shared learning. Encourage employees to have conversations around learning through these tools or share useful content with one another through dedicated channels. 

Online surveys 

To lead is also to learn—encourage feedback from your team to make your programs effective. Learning and development is a continuous exercise, and online surveys help paint a picture of exactly what kind of information employees seek.  

Use these tools to create a learning roadmap where the path is clear and employees have a part in shaping the journey. A career, after all, is a winding road: There’s a horizon at the end, and your team wants to know that they’re properly equipped to make it there. That’s why Salesforce created an internal version of its popular myTrailhead customer learning platform. It’s also why Pixar started Pixar University, with optional classes open to all employees, and why Airbnb uses the Degreed platform.    

Experimentation and the employee experience

Even with the right tools in place, leaders play an important role in shaping the culture of learning in the workplace. According to Lindsay McGregor, author of Primed to Perform: How to Build the Highest Performing Cultures Through the Science of Total Motivation, people are at their happiest when play is encouraged and problem-solving is at the forefront of their work. So instead of forcing employees to study, let them break out of their daily routine to try something new.

This is something Upworthy, the fastest-growing media site of all time, has taken to heart. As a believer in experimentation, the company has several tips for creating a culture of open communication and knowledge transfer:

Encourage divergent thinking. Don’t ask employees to come up with the right answer to a question—ask them to come up with as many different answers as they can. Testing should be a shared responsibility. Running tests and experiments are obviously important, but the key is to make employees responsible for their own tests. The same team that comes up with an idea should be the one that tests it. Embrace failure. Make sure employees understand that failure is not only OK, it’s the norm. If a company is going to experiment and set ambitious goals, teams must know that they may not make them all the time. Take the stigma out of failure by encouraging team members to view these occasions as an opportunity to learn. People will be more likely to take risks.  Make data generative, not conclusive. If experimentation exists only to come up with formal solutions that can be rolled out on a wide scale, the benefit of the whole exercise is lost. Experimentation should be an ongoing process; it’s a value, not a tool.             

These processes, combined with the tools above, will create an environment that fosters curiosity and growth among employees. You’ll never need to say “think outside the box” again.

How to spot a learner when you’re hiring

If knowledge is power, then you’re best off with a team of learners. Darren Shimkus, VP and GM of Udemy for Business, suggests looking for the following qualities to identify a dedicated learner during the hiring process:

Ask a question like “What skills have you taught yourself recently?” The answer will often reveal if someone is genuinely curious by nature. Assign interviewees a task and check how much effort they invest in it. Are they researching thoroughly and thinking creatively? Pay attention to the questions interviewees ask. Look for thoughtful and unexpected questions about the nature of the company and the role.

People want to work for a learning organization—they want to collaborate and engage with one another to solve problems and experiment. More important, they want to stay at an organization that puts them first. Companies win employee loyalty not with an iron fist but a helping hand. It’s good news, then, that we now have technologies that make workplace learning more convenient and effective than ever.

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Here's how you can make agile learning methods effective

Can agile leadership development, if done in a structured way, help scale up an organization?

"I am 29 years old. I spent three years in my father’s insurance firm. It has fifteen employees and it has grown steadily over the years. I spent three years being in the back office doing odd jobs. But today my father decided to put me in Sales, something that he has personally loved doing since the ‘80s. I remember he would often step out of a long drawn negotiation with a client and then tell me how much he enjoyed the negotiation. But I don’t think I could be like him and do the same job for three decades like he has. He has been giving me management books to read in order to get me to learn the new skill, but I don’t think I can learn like that. I learn by observing and then trying it out. I am starting the new job next week, and I am looking forward to it but I do not feel prepared enough. I guess, one day, I will be taking over the firm and being in Sales is a good place to get prepared.”

The Agile Learning Method: 4Es

Although a scenario like above is not unheard of and most of us have become leaders by learning on the job or through the help of management books, today’s business operating ecosystem demands much more from leaders as traditional or conventional learning methodologies do not make the cut. Organizations need to adopt the 4Es of agile learning to develop leaders in a rapidly shifting environment. 

Education: Structured learning of the basics helps in building skills at scale. Learning the alphabet helps us to form words. We combine words to craft sentences. Reading the theory helps the learner understand the design principles of the competency being developed. Being aware of the core body of knowledge prepares a someone to join a profession. When someone says, “I am a practical person. I do not read”, you know this person is proudly flaunting his ignorance. Reading is a sign of intellectual curiosity and openness to new ideas in agile leaders. Weak signals and early trends often show up in a new book or article. An early start of a year can help an agile leader capture critical mass in the market. 

Exposure: To be able to connect the dots, it is important to have enough dots to choose from. That is just what internships are designed to do. For example, being the apprentice of a top-notch practitioner gives a young surgeon the exposure to multiple variations and scenarios where they learn from the master surgeon. The Tata Administrative Service was designed for build leaders who had broad exposure to the business across geographies, whereas short-term assignments across geographies and functions over a two-year period was the basic principle of the Global 100 program of Wipro. Apple brought a leader from Burberry when they were launching their own stores. Agile leaders are able to adapt and implement ideas from other contexts. 

Experience: Education gives the leader knowledge, learning, and a head-start. A musician will be taught the theory of music and then given exposure to multiple interpretations and possibilities as they watch several maestros interpret the same piece of music in their own unique manner. The Indian army puts its officers through various assignments during their careers. Every two to three years, they have to uproot the family and move to a new location and assignment. This helps them put their education and exposure to use. This is also the phase when having a coach can step-jump the competency of the agile leader. When a leader takes on a new role in the organization, having a coach can enable them to become productive early. Firms often spend a lot more on hiring leaders but will forget to invest in a coach who can onboard the new hire. Transition coaching is one of the most effective methods of building agility in a new hire.

Expertise: I have often seen master craftsmen practice a single line of a composition hundreds of times till they get it right. “Don’t you get bored doing the same thing over and over again?”, I have asked a famous music director. “Until I can play the notes to perfection from muscle memory I am not playing the same piece. It may all sound the same to a novice but an expert will know each quiver and tremble.” The difference of one hundredth of a second can be the difference between an Olympic gold medalist and a silver medalist. While a lot of people claim to have a passion for what they do, until they get comfortable with deliberate practice, they only have a fleeting interest – not passion. When someone says that they are passionate about something, check to see their comfort with repetition. The best cricketers are often the ones who will wake up an hour earlier than their peers to retain their extra edge. The Grand Slam winners still have a coach who will polish their craft even if the improvement will not be visible to others.

How do we learn effectively?

Add new mental models and theories: Try to explain things to others by simplifying complexity. Find examples from other fields that can help someone else experience an “aha” moment. Create something to practice what you learn.

Build time chunks to think and reflect: Most leadership development programs are ineffective because organizations do not build time and space for reflection.

Without time to reflect, it is hard to learn from failure.

Warren Buffet blocks chunks of his time every day to read, think, and reflect. He uses this time to process information from the environment, simulate, and predict and then update his own predictions before taking action. Ask if you are creating new mental models.

Become a part of a learning community: Being a part of a community of practice helps us to learn more effectively. It helps you to know what good looks like. Having a mentor can be a very powerful way to accelerate your learning. Create a group of mentors who will challenge your thinking and question your choices. They will connect you to other people you can learn from. A novice can be a great source of learning too.

Agile organizations continuously stay in touch with the outside environment and change their internal processes and workings to stay in tune. Agile leadership development, if done in a structured way, can help scale up the rest of the organization. The organization moves at the pace of the weakest link. Agility comes from everyday actions – not one-off training programs. 

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A Distracted Workplace Costs Far More Than Productivity Loss

Distracted workers contribute to much more than simply a loss of productivity. Here’s how to fight back.

According to a survey conducted by Udemy Research — aptly named “2018 Workplace Distraction Report” — nearly 3 out of 4 workers (70 percent) say they feel distracted at work. As organizations place an ever-increasing focus on adopting new technologies to aid collaboration toward a more responsive, real-time business, we’re now on full-tilt communication overload.

A few years ago, research showed the average employee received 304 business-related emails weekly, took around 16 minutes to refocus attention after handling incoming email and checked email 36 times an hour. The same survey found the average employee lost 31 hours a month in meetings and was disrupted around 56 times a day, taking two hours daily to recover from these disruptions. Recent studies show the situation is only growing worse.

While the move from a manufacturing economy to the knowledge economy has been well-documented and well understood, approaches to improving productivity in the knowledge economy have some catching up to do.

Today, corporate success hinges on intellectual capability, and productivity is dependent on cultivating employee cognition — helping facilitate employees’ ability to synthesize information, to create and to innovate. To this end, employers must provide an employee experience that facilitates focused work emphasizing attention management.

Given the significant investment organizations make in the workforce, reallocating employee efforts to focus on meaningful work and devising strategies to diffuse the distracted workplace is quintessential.

Distracted Workplace = Disastrous Outcomes

Incredibly, upward of 40 percent of an employee’s actual workday is spent on non-productive efforts, costing companies millions in lost productivity. The distracted workplace contributes to a vicious cycle ending in employee dissatisfaction. Distractions lead to productivity loss, which leads to a longer workday, which leads to frustration and stress, which leads to a lack of engagement and motivation and eventually attrition. The previously cited Udemy survey revealed 34 percent of employees like their jobs less when in a distracting workplace.

Another study done by University of California at Irvine showed that people compensate for interruptions by working faster, and then experience more stress, pressure and higher levels of frustration. In addition to negatively impacting employees emotionally, businesses are also negatively impacted since even the briefest interruption can double a worker’s error rate.

A growing body of research is showing that workplace distractions even degrade employee IQ scores. Case in point: constantly fielding email has the same deleterious effect on performance as missing an entire night’s sleep.

Taking Control of Productivity and Performance 

To optimize human performance in this massively distracting work environment, “management by walking around” is being replaced by more sophisticated means of performance management known as people analytics.

Today’s tools of the trade for knowledge workers are computers — work stations, PCs and mobile devices — and business systems such as customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, as well as Microsoft Office applications. Through people analytics, the digital output of individuals and work groups is measured and analyzed to understand productivity trends and traps. Sophisticated software automates the collection of the digital signals that an employee emits and combines them with powerful analytics so that senior executives can make better decisions around what for many businesses is their largest investment: their workforce.

The harsh reality is most companies are only realizing 60 percent productivity of workforce capacity. People analytics offers to find the sources of productivity loss to inform and guide strategies to close this gap.

After working with companies worldwide and analyzing more than 500,000 hours of work data, best practices and strategies for winning the war against the distracted workplace emerge, including a concept called “the golden hour.”

Shining Through Golden Hours

The basic concept behind the golden hour is to remove distractions to provide an environment that encourages productivity by enabling employees to manage their attention and harness their focus. While collaboration is key to business success, it can also be counterproductive. The golden hour encourages a distraction-free work environment to enable employees to work on their own and practice focused work.

For the uninitiated, the golden hour can seem quite radical; for one hour, companies create a focused work environment devoid of distractions by asking employees to block apps, chat and notifications; curtail phone usage; avoid email; put the kibosh on meetings and deny outside visitor access, etc. We encourage companies to designate a certain time of day to observe this golden hour (or hours).

Following a successful implementation, employees should begin to feel more productive at work because the uninterrupted quality, focused work time enables them to double down efforts on core projects and get more work done. People analytics data can help organization identify optimal placement of golden hours, based on the natural rhythm of the team or teams.

Implementing strategies such as the golden hour, informed by people analytics data, can improve workforce utilization by one hour a day per employee. For a company with more than 5,000 employees, this can add $400 million annually to the bottom line.

While employees can sometimes be skeptical, they invariably come to embrace the golden hour as they take pride in their increased achievements, minimized stress and newfound peace of mind as well as the added benefit of more time for family or leisure. Providing a distraction-free work environment isn’t just a business performance management strategy; it’s a savvy strategy to support employee wellness, work-life balance, employee engagement and retention.

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How to Engage Your Multigenerational Workforce through Learning and Development

At a time when Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials (Gen Y) and Gen Z are all working together under the same roof, how can organizations leverage individual generations’ strengths to drive better business performance? In this wide-ranging conversation with Annice Joseph of SAP, we explore how organizations can leverage learning and development initiatives to cater to specific generational needs to improve morale, engagement and performance. 

For the first time in history, we have five generations working together in the workplace – traditionalists (born before 1945), to Baby Boomers (born between 1946 to 1964), Gen X (1965 to early 1980s), Millennials (early 1980s to mid ‘90s), and Gen Z (mid ‘90s to early ‘00s). This generational diversity presents organizations with a wide range of challenges (and opportunities).

Speaking exclusively to HR Technologist about the key challenges of having a multigenerational workforce under the same roof, Annice Joseph, Global Lead for Cross-Generational Intelligence at SAP, says, “There is a general lack of awareness when it comes to multi-generational differences and commonalities. Stereotypes can hinder transparent communication and have the grave potential to harm team productivity. Acting based on assumptions and ignoring commonalities between generations can deteriorate from team bonds and negatively affect collaboration, cooperation and camaraderie.”

To manage a workforce spanning multiple generations, organizations must help each generation understand the other and overcome barriers of ageism, unconscious bias and pre-conceived expectations. Building a culture of continuous learning helps break these barriers, boost morale and improve engagement and performance. 

“Inclusion for all is something that organizations should actively seek to enable in their environments as it is a way to bring people together.  One way to advocate for inclusion between generations is for leaders to encourage new employees to integrate with one another – for example, conducting open and appreciative communication within teams, aligning on goals and reserving time for knowledge transfer. By addressing challenges, surfacing unconscious bias, seeking communication and awareness and creating a community of trust and respect – leaders can play a large part in cultivating an inclusive culture,” adds Joseph.

Multigenerational learning helps employees of different generations collaborate better, and grow and learn from one another. Learning and development programs like mentoring and job shadowing are crucial to leveraging the skills and knowledge of workers across generations. Business leaders like former CEO of GE, Jack Welch, advocated methods like reverse mentoring all the way back in the ‘90s to help older generations learn IT and computer skills from their younger colleagues.

Today, major organizations like SAP, Xerox, Microsoft and IBM have rolled out reverse mentoring programs to encourage multigenerational collaboration, communication and knowledge sharing. One of the biggest advantages of reverse mentoring is that it helps build confidence in younger employees and inspires older generations to learn about new technologies, tools and digital strategies – all of which helps improve business outcomes.

3 Best Practices for Improving Multigenerational Learning:

Each generation has unique learning preferences as well as specific motivators for engaging in the learning process, largely shaped by the educational system, learning methods used at the time they were in school, along with available technologies and popular culture.

To build a productive multi-generational workforce, organizations must take proactive steps to address unique learning needs. “Today, the need for learning by itself is no longer a one-time effort, it is a continuous and comprehensive process. Understanding that today’s workforce is multi-generational, it is crucial that learning is inclusive of all generations – starting from the very beginning at the onboarding process,” Joseph opines.

She has identified three best practices that drive significant improvements in learning effectiveness, especially when taking generational differences into account:

1.Personalizing the learning experience

Personalized learning pathways improve retention and application of new knowledge and skills on the job. This approach considers various learning styles, and an employee’s habitual mode of learning. “The first thing organizations need to do is address the learning needs of specific generations. Companies need to ensure that these needs are recognized and considered at all stages of strategic career planning and project transitions. Also, of importance, today, learning is also not limited to course and institutional learning but extends to more interactive learning including e-learning like onboarding apps, gamification and podcasts,” says Joseph.

2.Embracing agile learning methods Agile learning methods focus on speed, flexibility and collaboration to drive better learning outcomes. Learning KPIs like ‘time-to-proficiency’ have become top priorities for organizations everywhere. Joseph believes that, “in addition to learning being a continuous process, it is also important to be agile when accommodating all learning styles. To be successful, organizations need to create environments where people can un-learn, learn and re-learn. For example, SAP takes into careful consideration all generations represented in its workforce and caters to their unique needs. For example, SAP’s newest employees receive a self-driven, interactive onboarding app (very different than a traditional classroom learning setting). In some cases, SAP offers a combination of e-learning and face-to-face instruction to ensure onboarding is respectful and inclusive of all generations.”

Combining learning technologies with complex cognitive needs are a great way to create agile learning models that can meaningfully engage generationally diverse employees with learning goals.

3.Collaborative learning

Collaborative learning methods have been recognized as one of the most effective methods to foster a culture of continuous learning. With segment-leading organizations already having deployed learning programs that encourage learning between generations, the trend is only set to grow. By shifting the collective mindset at work so different generations see each other as partners, they can all benefit from the mix of fresh ideas, fresh insights, tempered with experience and wisdom.

For organizations, providing a healthy mix of all three best practices outlined above is the best route to ensure greater learning efficiency and engagement for all generations.

Our bonus tip is: Ask your employees how they’d like to learn. Sometimes, a simple survey can help your organization save time and money when creating a multigenerational learning plan. After all, despite the differences, employees across generations have more in common than most organizations realize.

Annice shares four common denominators of employee happiness across generations:

Recognition: Employees from every generation want to be treated with respect and trust when it comes to the work they do. When people are valued for the work they bring to the table, it makes them happier, more motivated and engaged. Compensation: It makes sense that this is a commonly cited factor for employee job satisfaction because all generations seek financial stability and security. Despite the economic conditions of the world they grew up in, all generations seek to be compensated fairly. Therefore, it’s important for employers to reward their employees monetarily, as well as praise them for their achievements. Flexibility: Employers need to be conscious of meeting and suiting the changing needs and demands of employees in different life stages. Flexibility is a major commonality across generations. Employees like to have a choice of when, where and how they can do their work to the best of their abilities. Accessibility: Lastly, to deliver on promises of respect, fiscal rewards and flexibility, organizations need to give all generation access to the proper technology and tools. To support the operational needs of an inclusive, multi-generational culture, this piece is essential.

In conclusion, organizations must embrace the commonalities across generations to deliver targeted learning and professional development programs in ways that suits every learner’s style, and helps employees overcome the prejudices they may even unconsciously harbor about other generations. 

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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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Workplace mental health pushed to top of agenda

Increasingly, business leaders are speaking out about how workplace mental health issues, such as anxiety, affect their lives, even when they appear to be successful and at the top of their game, responsible for decisions that affect thousands of people.

Even when his business was doing well and his family life was contented, Adam Shaw struggled with his emotional problems. “I had a lot of anxiety over the business,” he says. “I got very down and my OCD just came crashing down on me.”

To the outside world, Mr Shaw was the highly successful entrepreneur behind a multi-million-pound legal services business employing 1,000 people. But behind the confident façade was a man whose life was dominated by crippling anxiety. His mental illness became so debilitating that he tried to take his own life, but was rescued by police as he prepared to jump from a bridge in Sheffield.

“There was no way out,” he says. “I couldn’t find safety, so I rationalised with myself that it was like a terminal illness and I would be in a better place.”

Mr Shaw’s anxiety was rooted in obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), which had a profound impact on his childhood and teenage years in the 1980s and 1990s. Because of the stigma of mental illness, he felt unable to seek help and he was not diagnosed until his late-20s.

Leading from the front to tackle workplace mental health issues

The business world was shocked when António Horta-Osório, chief executive of Lloyds Bank, took leave of absence as he struggled to come to terms with anxiety and sleep deprivation caused by the enormous effort of trying to turn around the bank’s fortunes.

Following his experience, he has now introduced a leadership resilience programme for the senior team at Lloyds, aiming to help executives manage the demands of being in high-pressure roles.

As with our physical health, all of us can experience periods of mental ill health when immediate treatment is needed

Mr Horta-Osório says: “The most important change needed is one of mindset. We must move to a way of thinking that recognises that we all have mental health just as we all have physical health. As with our physical health, all of us can experience periods of mental ill health when immediate treatment is needed, or we run the risk of developing long-term conditions that will need continuing support.”

Organisations introducing programmes to help employees cope with stress

Anxiety is typically described as a feeling of unease, worry or fear. When it becomes acute, the effects can be debilitating. Some people are more vulnerable to it than others, at different periods in their lives. Anxiety is not something we can ever wholly eliminate and it can, at times, be helpful in improving our performance. But too much and it can be corrosive, on occasion leading to alcohol and drug abuse.

Companies are introducing programmes to help workers cope better with stress and anxiety. Even in industries such as finance or technology that are intensely competitive, there is increased understanding that attending to employees’ mental wellbeing may be good for profits. Approaches to health and wellbeing explicitly reference mental health, and line managers are given training on recognising and managing workplace mental health problems.

Employee assistance programmes are devoting significant resources to workplace mental health support and are often the first point of contact for employees who feel unable to speak directly with colleagues in their workplace. Mental health first aid training has also become an important resource for organisations looking to do more for employees.

Initial measures are but a first step for workplace mental health

The Bank of England has been at the forefront of the transformation in the City of London’s approach to workplace mental health. Adam Spreadbury, a senior manager at the Bank, suffered from depression and needed time off. He commends the support of his line manager at the time, who helped with his phased return to work.

Mr Spreadbury played a key role in setting up a Mental Health Network, which has fostered a culture across the Bank to encourage discussion about mental health. This includes insightful events where staff speak openly about their experiences. “They are very powerful events in helping all employees to understand that having a mental health problem is part of everyday life,” he says.

Although there has been progress, much remains to be done. Last year a workplace mental health survey for Business in the Community (BITC) revealed that 15 per cent of employees had faced demotion, disciplinary action or dismissal after admitting a mental health problem. “This is simply unacceptable,” says Louise Aston, BITC’s wellbeing director.

Mr Shaw also believes that employers must do more. He set up the Shaw Mind Foundation, a mental health charity. His ambition is to introduce mental health lessons into the schools’ curriculum and wants employers to get behind him. “Currently, the cost to business of poor mental health is enormous,” he says. “It is in their interest to make sure the next generation is better prepared and more resilient to the pressures of the modern workplace.”

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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



Delivering the currency of relevance



Embracing the discomfort of uncertainty



Accessing the multiverse of content



Giving learning customers choice and control



Facilitating self-determined learning



Making content easy to find and access



Learning strategy driven by data analytics



Learning with an overt commercial measure



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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Stakeholder theory: helping business do good and do well

Chief executives are a busy bunch. For most, reading unsolicited “Dear CEO” letters is not top of their to-do list. But then it’s not every day one of the world’s most influential financiers picks up his pen to write.

So what was it that BlackRock’s Larry Fink felt so compelled to say? The basic message of his landmark open letter was simple: if you want your firm to prosper, it needs a “social purpose” and it needs one fast.

Finance sector waking up to the profitability of doing good

This is groundbreaking stuff, no question. Not so much the message itself. For the best part of two decades now, management gurus and business theorists have been arguing that corporations have to focus on more than just profit maximisation.

What’s remarkable about the letter is that it was written by the head of a multinational investment management corporation. This is no environmentalist fretting about saving the world’s forests. No, this is a man in charge of managing assets worth more than $6 trillion: a titan of hard-nosed finance, in other words.

The slow awakening of the financial mainstream to sustainability issues is as welcome as it is overdue. To quote the old adage, it proves that responsible business is as much about doing well as it is doing good.

Part of the argument for taking seriously non-financial issues centres around risk. Mega-trends such as climate change and population growth present huge threats to business as usual. Think of food manufacturers in a world of increasing droughts. Or transport firms in cities paralysed by gridlock.

But, as always with finance, there’s also the scent of juicy profits in the offing. Imagine the billions of dollars awaiting the company that works out how to tap methane from livestock, a major contributor to the greenhouse gas count. Or the fortunes in store for the firm that cracks global obesity?

Shifting the focus from shareholders to stakeholders

So far, so logical. But is the business world buying it? And, even if companies are genuinely trying to embrace sustainability, how are they getting on?

The verdict on both counts is mixed. On the upside, almost every chief executive these days is conversant on the importance of responsible business. Less positive is the gap between words and action, as events like the Volkswagen emissions scandal reveal only too clearly.

Stakeholder theory means putting employees, customers, communities, suppliers and the planet at the centre of business, rather than just shareholders. And this requires a total rethink, says Charmian Love, co-founder of B Lab UK, a pro-sustainability charity.

But it’s a rethink that more and more companies are seeking to make. “Around the world, we’re seeing the purpose of business being rethought so that it operates for people and planet as well as for profit,” she says.

Take Danone. With more than 100,000 employees and a market value of almost €70 billion, the French food giant is a business stalwart. Yet that didn’t stop its North American subsidiary recently qualifying as a B Corp, a certification issued by B Lab for companies practising stakeholder theory.

Other large-scale B Corps include the Brazilian cosmetics company Natura, which now owns Body Shop, and the iconic ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s, part of Anglo-Dutch consumer conglomerate Unilever.

Moving businesses to stakeholder model not straightforward

Gaining a reputation for sustainability can help firms edge ahead with consumers. Survey after survey points to the growing importance that shoppers place on social and environmental issues.

But there are other business benefits to be had as well. Lower interest rates on loans, greater operational efficiencies and a more motivated workforce are just some of the positive outcomes cited by Danone’s chief executive Emmanuel Faber.

Of course, shifting to a model based on stakeholder theory is not without its challenges. Business strategists aren’t stupid. If the economic case for operating sustainably was so clear cut, every company would already be doing it. When the payback isn’t immediate or obvious, it’s often hard for internal change agents to get a hearing.

Like ponderous oil tankers, global corporations built on shareholder primacy often find it hard to change course

That’s where leadership comes in. Without exception, the corporations leading the sustainability charge have people on their boards who, whether for reasons of head or heart, are fully behind this new way of doing business.

Stepping out so boldly takes guts, especially for a listed company with fiduciary duties to its shareholders. The sheer size of most publicly traded companies also adds additional complexities. Like ponderous oil tankers, global corporations built on shareholder primacy often find it hard to change course.

Smaller firms ahead of the curve with stakeholder theory implementation 

For both reasons, the stakeholder theory trailblazers tend to be smaller firms under private ownership. As well as being more organisationally nimble, many are specifically founded to meet societal challenges. Unlike traditional companies, therefore, social purpose doesn’t have to be retrofitted, it’s there from the get-go.

The UK fairtrade chocolate brand Divine Chocolate provides just such an example. Established 20 years ago, the business was set up to better the lives of African farmers. Today, it pays a premium to its cocoa suppliers as well as reinvesting 2 per cent of its revenue in community projects.

Giving stakeholders a voice is critical to keeping Divine true to its mission, says Sophi Tranchell, the firm’s chief executive. As such, its board includes representatives from the Kuapa Kokoo co-operative in Ghana, which owns 44 per cent of the company and supplies the bulk of the cocoa for Divine’s chocolate bars.

“With representatives of Kuapa Kokoo on our board, we are supported and encouraged to do business differently with more long-term objectives,” says Ms Tranchell.

Let’s not kid ourselves, shareholders remain king. But the rise of stakeholder theory is eating into their rule. That’s good news for society at large. And, if Mr Fink is to be believed, it’s in shareholders’ economic interests too.

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How Managers Can Prevent Their Teams from Burning Out

No organization wants to burn out its employees. And yet, according to new research, companies’ efforts to prevent prolonged stress among their staffs are falling short.

When Deloitte recently surveyed 1,000 full-time employees in the United States, we found that that 77% had experienced burnout at their current jobs, and more than half said they’d felt it more than once.  This was true even though 87% of respondents said they “have passion for their job.” In fact, among those highly engaged workers, 64% said they were frequently stressed. At the same time, nearly seven in ten people (69%) told us they feel their employer “does not do enough to minimize burnout,” while one in five (21%)—told us they don’t believe their employer offers any stress-reduction programs.

What more can organizations do?  Our survey pointed to a few potentially powerful interventions.

Encourage real weekends and holidays. Burnout happens when people aren’t given enough time to disconnect, rest, focus on other aspects of life and recharge. Unfortunately, nearly 30% of our survey respondents told us they “consistently work long hours on weekends.” Less than half (43%) said they use all of their vacation days. Even those that do might still check email or take phone calls, instead of making a clean break from the office. When we asked why, the top reason cited was, “I worry that issues would arise if I was away from my work,” followed by not being able to meet deadlines or manager expectations.

This is why it’s so important for leaders to create an environment where taking time off is not only allowed but championed.  German auto manufacturer Daimler set a bold example when it launched its “Mail on Holiday” program that autodeletes an employee’s incoming emails while on vacation so they can fully disconnect. The sender is then notified that the email has been deleted and given the option to reach out to a colleague or resend the email when the employee is back in the office.

Expand wellness programs and benefits. When we asked people what sorts of benefits their organizations did offer to help reduce burnout, between 28% and 32% cited family leave, “flexible work options,” or employee assistance programs. That’s a good start, but our survey respondents had many other suggestions, including office health and wellness programs and paid time off for “mental health” or recuperation days. Tonya Slawinski, director of education and training at the Employee Assistance Professionals Association, notes that some companies are now offering stress management training to employees in an effort to preempt burnout.  “It’s hard to teach the techniques to someone who’s already under tremendous stress. It’s important to have the programs in place, so when employees do begin to feel challenged, they have options for resources to turn to.”

One example comes from Aetna, which provides free yoga and meditation classes, on-site fitness centers, nutritious food options, and financial incentives for healthy living to its 50,000 employees. CEO Mark Bertolini — who in 2001 struggled through the stress of his son’s cancer diagnosis and in 2004 had to recover from his own near-death skiing accident — is a vocal proponent of these initiatives, setting an example for staff.  Employees won’t take advantage of the above benefits unless they see leaders doing so themselves. A separate Deloitte survey on workplace well-being and employee engagement found that nearly 40% of respondents said if they saw their direct managers and senior leadership prioritizing personal commitments over work, they would feel more comfortable doing the same.

Create a culture of recognition. Three in 10 of our survey respondents cited “lack of support or recognition from leadership” as fueling their burnout.  One way to fix that?  By encouraging people to simply say “thank you” when reports, colleagues and even bosses do their jobs well. Research shows that companies with high-recognition cultures benefit from less turnover and better performance, probably in part because the environments feel less stressful, or the expressions of gratitude enable people to better cope with the demands they face.

Organizations can also say thank you in bigger ways:  Last year, Deloitte U.S. announced a year-end shutdown for all employees. This “collective disconnect” between Christmas and New Year’s not only recognized employees for their hard work but also, because everyone was off at the same time, eliminated any potential guilt or fear about letting colleagues down. In February, to celebrate the 200th birthday of William Welch Deloitte, the company repeated the thank-you with another collective week off.

Stress is inevitable in the workplace and in life. But it doesn’t have to be pervasive. Organizations can and should play a more active role in preventing burnout.

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The Next Time You Want to Complain at Work, Do This Instead

I looked at my watch. It was 3:20pm. I had been on the phone for over an hour, almost all of that time listening to Frank*, a senior manager at Jambo, a technology company, complain about his boss, Brandon. Jambo is a company I know well — I have many ongoing relationships there from when I used to work with their CEO — but they are not, currently, a client. In other words, I wasn’t soliciting complaints or asking for feedback.

“He’s so scattered,” Frank griped about Brandon, “He’ll waltz into a meeting — late, mind you — and share his most recent idea, which is often a complete distraction from our current plan. Totally ignoring our agenda. And then he’ll micromanage everything we do, reorganizing our work — though we’re still accountable for the stuff he’s ignoring. And that’s not the worst. The worst is he’s completely clueless. He thinks he’s great. At yesterday’s meeting . . .”

This was not the only complaining I heard from people at Jambo. Earlier that week I had spoken to several others, as well as a few members of the Board. And they weren’t just complaining about Brandon — they were complaining about each other as well.

I also spoke directly with Brandon who, just as Frank said, thought of himself as a very strong leader. Meanwhile, he had a mouthful of complaints about Frank and some of the other staff. He also complained about the Board.

I added up all the time I’d spent listening to people at Jambo complain about each other that week: 3 hours and 45 minutes. And that was just the time they spent complaining to me.

This is, unfortunately, not unusual. My friend, the legendary executive coach Marshall Goldsmith, interviewed more than 200 of his clients and what he discovered matched previous research he read, but found hard to believe: “a majority of employees spend 10 or more hours per month complaining — or listening to others complain — about their bosses or upper management. Even more amazing, almost a third spend 20 hours or more per month doing so.”

And that doesn’t even include the complaining they do about their peers and employees. Which would be hard to believe if not for the fact that, if you pay attention to what you experience during your day, you’d find it’s pretty accurate.

Imagine the productivity gain of reducing all those complaining hours.

Why do we complain about other people?

Because it feels (really) good, requires minimal risk, and it’s easy.

Here’s what happens: Someone annoys us. We’re dissatisfied with how they’re behaving. Maybe we’re angry, frustrated, or threatened. Those feelings build up as energy in our bodies, literally creating physical discomfort (that’s why we call them feelings — because we actually, physically, feel them).

When we complain about someone else, the uncomfortable feelings begin to dissipate because complaining releases the pent up energy. That’s why we say things like “I’m venting” or “I’m blowing off steam” (But, as we’ll see in a moment, that dissipation doesn’t just release the energy, it spreads it, which actually makes it grow).

Additionally, when we complain to people who seem to agree with us — and we almost always complain to people who seem to agree with us — we solicit comfort, camaraderie, connection, support, and justification, which counteracts the bad feelings with some fresh, new good ones.

Complaining changes the balance of negative/positive energy and, for a brief moment at least, we feel better. It’s actually a pretty reliable process. Addictive even.

Which is the problem (beyond even the wasted time): Like just about all addictions, we’re feeding the spin of a destructive, never-ending cycle. The release of pressure — the good feeling — is ephemeral. In fact, the more we complain, the more likely the frustration, over time, will increase.

Here’s why: when we release the pent up energy by complaining, we’re releasing it sideways. We almost never complain directly to the person who is catalyzing our complaints, we complain to our friends and families. We’re not having direct conversations to solve a problem, we’re seeking allies. We’re not identifying actions that could help, we’re, almost literally, blowing off steam.

Why is complaining such a bad move?

Complaining creates a number of dysfunctional side effects (again, beyond the time wasted): It creates factions, prevents or delays — because it replaces — productive engagement, reinforces and strengthens dissatisfaction, riles up others, breaks trust, and, potentially, makes the complainer appear negative. We become the cancer we’re complaining about; the negative influence that seeps into the culture.

Worse, our complaining amplifies the destructiveness and annoyance of the initial frustration about which we’re complaining.

Think about it: someone yells in a meeting. Then you go to the next meeting (where no one is yelling) and you complain about the person who just yelled. Now other people, who weren’t at the initial meeting, feel the impact of the yelling and get upset about it too. Encouraged by their support, your brief, momentary release transforms into righteous indignation and, becoming even more incensed, you experience the initial uncomfortable feelings all over again.

In other words, while the energy dissipates, it expands. The amount of time you spend thinking about it extends for hours, sometimes days and weeks. And you’ve multiplied the people who are also thinking and talking about it.

Meanwhile, our complaining improves, precisely, nothing.

In fact, that might be the biggest problem: Complaining is a violent move to inaction. It replaces the need to act. If instead of complaining, we allowed ourselves to feel the energy without needing to dissipate it immediately — which requires what I call emotional courage — then we could put that energy to good use. We could channel it so it doesn’t leak out sideways.

In other words, let the uncomfortable feeling you have — the one that would otherwise lead you to complain — lead you to take a productive action.

What’s a better move when we feel like complaining?

Go ahead and complain. Just do it directly — and thoughtfully — to the person who is the cause of your complaints.

Talk to the person who yelled in the meeting. If that person doesn’t listen, talk to their boss. If you don’t like that idea, then, when it actually happens, say “Hold on. Let’s respect each other in this conversation.” If you missed the opportunity in the moment, then meet with them afterwards and say, “Please let’s respect each other in our conversations.”

That, of course, also takes emotional courage. It’s a scary, more risky thing to do. But it’s why it’s worth developing your emotional courage — because, while scary, it’s far more likely to be highly productive. It holds the potential for changing the thing that’s the problem in the first place. And rather than become the negative influence, you become the leader.

If you want to brave this route, let your urge to complain be the trigger that drives you to take action in the moment (or, if you missed the moment, then shortly after): Notice the adrenaline spike or the can-you-believe-that-just-happened feeling (e.g., someone yelling in a meeting). Breathe and feel your feelings about the situation so that they don’t overwhelm you or shut you down. Notice that you can stay grounded even in difficult situations (e.g., feel, without reacting). Understand the part about what’s actually happening that is complain-worthy (e.g., it’s not okay to yell and disrespect others in a meeting). Decide what you can do to draw a boundary, ask someone to shift their behavior, or otherwise improve the situation (e.g., “Please let’s respect each other in our conversations.”) Follow through on your idea (e.g., actually say: “Please let’s respect each other in our conversations.”)

It’s not nearly as easy as complaining. But it will be far more productive and valuable.

But wait, you might protest, the whole reason I’m complaining is that I’m powerless in this situation. I can’t tell the person to be respectful because they’re my boss.

You may be right. It’s true that most people complain because they feel powerless.

It’s also true that most people have more power in a situation than they believe they have, even with their boss. And, just maybe, it could be worth the risk to say something. You could say “I see that you’re very angry and I can feel how it’s shutting me down. Can we go a little more gently here?”

It’s a risk. Because the person may blow up even more.

Or it may gain you their respect and, in one sentence, change the direction of the leader and the organization. And transform what could have become weeks of complaining into a moment of productive engagement.

More than once I have seen someone gain the respect of everyone in the room because they were courageous enough to be direct — caringly, compassionately, and truthfully. And almost always, everyone is surprised by the offending person’s response, who, almost always, was more open to the feedback then they thought. Not always. But almost always.

Let complaining — and the feeling that leads to complaining — be the red flag that it should be: something wrong is happening and you are probably not powerless to do something about it.

That’s what happened at Jambo, when Frank shifted from complaining to acting and told Brandon about the impact he was having. At first Brandon was defensive, but soon enough he began to ask questions and realized that he had a blind spot for how he was impacting the team.

It won’t always work like that, but you may be surprised how often it will.

*Names and some details changed for privacy

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5 Compelling Reasons Organizations Choose Multiple Learning Management Systems

Organizations go for multiple LMSs when their current LMS is unable to meet their growing needs, or when they need a fairly simple LMS to train external partners. This article uncovers 5 compelling reasons organizations opt for multiple LMSs. Why Organizations Choose Multiple Learning Management Systems

With online training being extensively adopted by organizations, the next logical step is to go for a Learning Management System or an LMS to implement, track, and measure training effectiveness.

Organizations that have adopted an LMS to manage their training may discover, a few years down the line, that their current LMS has fallen short of meeting their growing requirements. Or they may feel that they need to opt for another LMS to meet certain unique needs of their business. In such situations, they are likely to opt for an additional LMS that will meet their changing requirements.

What are the reasons for companies deciding to go for multiple LMSs? We will explore a few in this article.

1. Access And Security Requirements

Organizations feel the need to go for an additional LMS when they have to provide training to external partners such as distributors, customers, and vendors. For security reasons, they would not be willing to provide access to their regular LMS, which may contain classified content.

Of course, the primary LMS an organization uses will have restrictions on permissions and may not be accessible to everyone. However, it could be an administrator’s nightmare to provide permissions to new groups of users every single time, after taking care of all security protocols. So a second LMS with specific content and the feature to add users belonging to specific roles will solve their problem and make training management easy. A second LMS will help the organization control access rights and meet security requirements.

2. Need For A Decentralized LMS

A common pain point in LMS use for an organization spread across the globe is the inability to meet the specific needs of geographical areas, Strategic Business Units (SBUs), or manufacturing units. The training content and tracking requirements are variables they have to deal with. They find it difficult to handle these diverse requirements from a single LMS, usually managed from the head office.

To solve this problem, an additional LMS is a better option because it can be customized based on the requirements of each geographical region, SBU, or manufacturing unit.

3. Different User Groups

Apart from access restrictions to the main LMS or the need for decentralization, some organizations may need an LMS to cater to the needs of small user groups. When organizations are looking at another LMS, it does not make sense to opt for an LMS with the same features like their current one because the features will be redundant and not required for catering to small user groups.

The cost factor could make a dent in the budget, and it would not be worth the investment. A wiser decision would be to opt for a lighter version LMS with limited features that can cater to the simple needs of small user groups.

4. Avoidance Of Additional Training Investment

Organizations with an LMS that has complex features will find it difficult when a new set of users is to be added. This is because they will have to train them on the LMS and invest time and money for the purpose. This will be a repetitive process, every time a new set of users is added.

Organizations can opt for a simpler add-on LMS with intuitive, user-friendly features that new sets of users can readily adopt and use. It also saves the organization the training time and cost.

5. Curtail Costs For A User Fee

Some LMSs charge a high per-user fee once the number of permitted users is exhausted as per the pricing plan the customer has opted for. It would make sense to choose an add-on LMS that charges a lesser amount for user fees or provides a higher number of permitted users in their pricing plans.

What To Look For When Selecting An Add-On LMS?

When opting for an add-on LMS, organizations are wiser, because they know their actual requirements. That said, let us reiterate a few things you need to look for when opting for one:

Consider your budget – have realistic expectations from the LMS matching your budget. Choose add-ons to the LMS based on a 3 to a 5-year outlook of what you will need. The costs versus benefits decision should accommodate the future perspective. Look for a vendor who can implement the LMS rapidly and implement the core functionality efficiently. Opt for a vendor who can provide quicker and frequent upgrades, so that your LMS stays up-to-date with the latest technology. Choose a vendor who offers a free demo or a trial period so that you can test drive the LMS and see if it will work for you.

Organizations opting for an additional LMS do so for various reasons. Analyzing your reasons for wanting to do this and choosing an LMS that will meet your changing needs will make it worth the investment.

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Discover Offers Employees Help With College Tuition

Discover recently announced its new program, The Discover College Commitment, which will help employees pay for college.

Discover employees have just received a new benefit: a free college degree. The financial services company recently announced its new program, The Discover College Commitment, enabling full-time and part-time U.S. employees (minimum 30 hours per week) to obtain a college degree by helping them pay for college.

Discover will cover full employee costs for books, fees, supplies, and tuition for the program. Workers are eligible for it beginning on the first day of employment and can complete their degrees on their own timeline.

Around 99 percent of Discover’s 16,500 employees will qualify with some potential appeal coming from its 7,000-plus U.S. call center workers: 70 percent don’t have a college degree, CBS News reported.

Workers can pick one of seven business or computer science degrees from three selected online universities. The degrees will include four business majors or a computer science, cybersecurity and organizational management emphasis through Brandman University, the University of Florida (via UF Online), or Wilmington University.

But there’s more to the benefit as it is also about Discover’s employee retention. The company said it has a two-fold motivation behind this perk: helping to recruit and retain good employees and "doing the right thing" by preparing workers for a broad spectrum of internal or external career opportunities.

To administer the program, Discover is partnering with Guild Education, an online education and tuition reimbursement platform that assists large employers with education benefits. Guild will offer coaching to Discover workers by assisting them through the application process and helping them determine a suitable degree.

If Guild sounds familiar, it might be from Walmart’s May employee education announcement. Guild is undertaking a similar role for the large retailer. This comes as offering education benefits to employees has been rising as the competition to obtain good workers is increasing.

More Companies Offering Education Benefits

In 2018, numerous companies have expanded tuition benefits. Besides Walmart, McDonald's, Taco Bell, and some hotel chains have joined the party, reported CNN. Also this year, Lowe's announced a contribution of up to $2,500 for employees to receive skilled trade education while Lyft began offering education discounts to its drivers last December.

This trend comes as a recent Harvard Business School study found that tuition assistance benefits rank high on workers’ desired benefits, surpassing child-care assistance and parental leave. Many companies offer up to $5,250 annually; anything higher can be taxed as income.

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How to Cultivate a Culture of Learning in Your Organization . . . and Yourself

Great things happen in companies where executives inspire people to learn. To name just a few . . .

An enhanced ability to compete in the marketplace, because people discover and apply the best information, solutions and ideas More effective leadership, because executives who love to learn inspire others to perform on a much higher level Improved job retention, because the work that everyone does becomes more stimulating and engaging Enhanced operations, because people aren’t required to do things . . . they want to try out the newest solutions and ideas

How can you cultivate a culture of learning and enjoy more of those benefits?

Become a Lifelong Learner Yourself – and Talk about It

It might work to say to people, “Go find out about the latest trends in our industry.” But in my experience, people are inspired to do that when company leaders are lifelong learners themselves. In other words, great learning leaders model the kind of learning behavior they would like to inspire in others. Then they actively share their discoveries in meetings, in casual encounters with people, on the company intranet, and more.

The more excited you become about what you are learning, the more people will follow suit. One effective approach is to start meetings by talking about something you have learned, and then asking other to contribute too. Another strategy is to start book groups where employees read and discuss important new books; provide the books and hold the sessions during company hours, not lunch hours, to reinforce the idea that learning is a “must do,” not a “nice to have” activity.

Open the Doors and Seek Information in New Places

When you stop to think about it, you are surrounded by people who can help everyone in your company learn. They include vendors, executives at other companies, members of professional organizations, and more. As I wrote in my book Ingaging Leadership, you can learn a great deal from companies in other sectors that are targeting the same customers you are – in other words, competing for the same dollars. How are they marketing, delivering customer service, and more?

To stimulate this kind of learning, create task forces that are charged with the responsibility of visiting other companies, attending conferences, reading business books, and then reporting back about the solutions and ideas they have discovered. One powerful suggestion is to have groups of employees evaluate your competitors and then their present findings to you.

The more you integrate learning with work, the more energized your organization becomes.

Let Employees Step out as Company Experts on What They Have Learned

When employees have learned a lot about a topic, find ways to let them share their expertise with everyone in your organization. You can encourage them to blog about what they know, write articles in company newsletters, and lead training sessions.

Those steps inspire your most enthusiastic learners to learn even more, inspire everyone to identify and master areas of learning that interest them, and further build a company culture where learning is a priority.

Become a Teacher and Trainer Too

Over the last few years, I have been giving more keynote speeches, posting videos on my company’s webpages, writing articles and a book, and taking other steps to share the lessons that I have learned during the decades I have spent starting, building and developing companies.

I believe that the more I share the hard-won lessons I have learned, the more I demonstrate my belief in learning.

Put Educational Resources on Your Company Intranet, Website, Publications and Elsewhere

You can publish a review of an important article or book on your intranet with a link to download it. Or put an educational video on your website, or publish an article in your company newsletter. The more you demonstrate that you value knowledge, the stronger your commitment to learning becomes.

Create a Personal Development Plan for Each Employee 

Instead of only conducting performance reviews, empower the process by creating a personal development plan for every employee in your organization. Discuss specific areas for growth and learning that they would like to investigate, then bring the process to life by adding specific target dates for learning.

Then get together with each employee monthly to review progress. I am a very big advocate for this process, because I have seen how powerfully it works to develop people. When people understand what they have to do in order to advance in your company, they are more motivated to learn, excel and serve as role models. Why review learning and growth only once a year?

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Between Organizational Culture and Organizational Development – What Gives?

Many people would agree that there can be potential conflict between organizational culture and organizational development. Before we go further, we need to understand these two concepts.

What is Organizational Culture?

Organizational culture is like the genetic makeup of the organization from which the organization’s image and brand is created. It embodies the organization’s mission, vision, philosophy, values, policies, principles, products, processes, market history and historical data. It is not a one-off idea; it is built over time and shaped by experiences shared over time. 

The culture of the organization usually determines the environment and mood of the organization and it can be created deliberately (if the organization’s management and owners need it to achieve certain set goals and objectives or if it is needed to steer the employees towards a set path). It may also be something developed unconsciously; it starts as an idea or a set of ideas. From there, it becomes embraced and repeated till it becomes part of the fabric of the organization.

Usually, the culture of an organization is built and nurtured deliberately. This is done to ensure uniformity of vision, mission and purpose and it is used to ensure conformity.

Key Identities of Organizational Culture Shared Identity

A good organizational culture creates an identity that connects every individual in the organization. This is what binds everyone to the core of the organization. It also creates a sense of belonging and inspires a desire to be part of what the organization symbolizes (Coca-Cola and its culture of ‘Sharing Happiness’)


In an organization where there is good and vibrant organizational culture, leaders and employees work towards a common goal or objective. No department is allowed to stray off course and no person is allowed to work contrary to the overall and mission; every project, every process, every idea is expected to add to the standing objective or lean towards the achievement of the organization’s purpose.

Work-Values Alignment

The correlation between work and the value system of an organization is an important element of cultural identity. A major sign that the culture of an organization is relevant can be found in the relationship between the organization’s values and the work practices adopted by its employees. In an organization where employees view organizational culture as important and relevant, they work in line with what the culture dictates; their work processes, practices, thought patterns and their response to work reflect the existing culture to varying degrees. If employees refuse to acknowledge the culture of an organization or are unable to define and articulate what the culture entails, there is high tendency for them to work contrary to what is expected or demanded by the organization’s leadership.

The Work Environment

An organization’s culture is usually reflected in the kind of work environment created by leadership. If the culture promotes communication, team spirit and collaboration, it will be reflected in the layout and aesthetic design of the work environment (there may be transparent glass barriers separating offices instead of the usual walls). Work area may be an open space with the work space of each employee nothing but table and chair. If the workplace does not promote relationship building or prohibits collaboration, employees will be kept isolated from one another as much as possible

Shared Language

Shared language is not necessarily restricted to the accepted language for communication within the organization, it also includes accepted code words, technical jargon, acronyms, terminologies, words and phrases (many of which are usually unique to the organization while others are unique to the industry). In other cases, the language may also refer to the slang used within the local environment in which the organization is located.

Can Culture Affect Organizational Development?

Culture is one of the strongest forces within any organization. It is designed to last for generations and is made up of interlocking entities (vision, mission, processes, ethics, values, behaviors, methods, etc.) – all of which come together to form a complex web that serves as a foundation for the organization’s internal and external structure. It is usually built to stand the test of time and as such, it is designed in such way that changing it becomes impossible. 

It is usually the binding force of the organization and this means that everything and everyone in the organization is connected to it. No reasonable change can occur or stand the test of time if it goes contrary to the culture of the organization; this means that any development that takes place within the organization has to be connected (directly or indirectly) to the culture of the organization.

This is why one-time attempts designed to change culture rarely work. This has remained a major challenge for change leaders who try to create new cultures or try to introduce changes that are contrary to existing culture.

Does this mean that culture is completely rigid and impossible to change?


Culture (regardless of how rigid it is) can be made flexible and accommodating to embrace change. It is largely dependent on the leader – his power of influence, his knowledge of what change management entails, his competence and skills as a change leader and his ability to foster cooperation between the major elements of change (the workforce).

To also achieve change, there is need to review existing culture identities and elements, identify what needs to change, communicate this throughout the organization, help followers see the need for the proposed change and work with them to carry out the change in a gradual, systematic manner. Development will not happen in a day and trying to force change-focused development will only work effectively where there is willing participation from all.

What gives?

Development can also be hampered or accelerated by organizational culture. 

To achieve organizational development, culture will be directly affected (positively or negatively). This, however, will only be achievable if the people within the organization welcome the proposed development. If there is higher preference for culture, introduction of new developments will be met with resistance.

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6 Ways Successful Teams Are Built To Last


It takes great leadership to build great teams. Leaders who are not  afraid to course correct, make the difficult decisions and establish standards of performance that are constantly  being met – and improving at all times.   Whether in the workplace, professional sports,  or your local community, team building requires a keen understanding of people, their strengths and what gets them excited to work with others.   Team building requires the management of egos and their constant demands for attention and recognition – not always warranted.   Team building is both an art and a science and the leader who can consistently build high performance teams is worth their weight in gold.  

History has shown us that it takes a special kind of leader with unique competencies and skills to successfully build great companies and teams.  In the sports world, the late John Wooden set the standard for great coaches, leading UCLA to 10 NCAA national basketball championships in a 12-year period — seven in a row.   His success was so iconic, Wooden created his own “Pyramid for Success” to help others excel through his proven wisdom. In the business world, we can look to Jack Welsh,  who was the Chairman and CEO of General Electric between 1981 and 2001. According to Wikipedia, the company's value rose 4000% during his tenure.  In 2006 Welch's net worth was estimated at $720 million and in 2009, he launched the Jack Welsh Management Institute  at Strayer University.

Building companies requires the know-how to build long-lasting teams.   This is why most managers never become leaders and why most leaders never reach the highest pinnacle of leadership success.   It requires the ability to master the “art of people” and knowing how to maneuver hundreds (if not thousands) of people at the right place and at the right time.  It means knowing how each person thinks and how to best utilize their competencies rightly at all times.  It’s playing a continuous chess match – knowing that every wrong move that is made can cost the company hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars (just ask BP and Enron).

As you evaluate the sustainability of the team(s) you lead and its real impact on the organization you serve, here are six ways successful teams are built to last:

1.       Be Aware of How You Work

As the leader of the team, you must be extremely aware of your leadership style and techniques.   Are they as effective as you think?  How well are they accepted by the team you are attempting to  lead?  Evaluate yourself and be critical about where you can improve, especially in areas that will benefit those whom you are a leading.

Though you may be in-charge, how you work may not be appreciated by those who work for you.   You may have  good intentions, but make sure you hold yourself accountable to course-correct and modify your approach if necessary to assure that you’re leading from a position of strength and respectability.

Be your own boss.  Be flexible.  Know who you are as a leader.

2.       Get to Know the Rest of the Team

Much like you need to hold yourself accountable for your actions to assure you maximize performance and results, you must make the time to get to know your team and encourage camaraderie.   In my “emotional intelligence blog,” I discuss the importance of caring, understanding the needs of your team and embracing differences and helping your colleagues experience their significance.  In this case, gathering intelligence means learning what defines the strengths and capabilities of your team –  the real assets that each member brings to the table, those they leave behind and those  yet to be developed.

All great leaders know exactly what buttons to push and when to push them.  They are experts at activating the talent that surrounds them.  They are equally as effective at matching unique areas of subject matter expertise and / or competencies to solve  problems and seek new solutions.

Fully knowing your team means that you have invested the time to understand how they are wired to think and what is required to motivate them to excel beyond what is expected from them.

Think of your team as puzzle pieces that can be placed together in a variety of ways.

3.       Clearly Define Roles & Responsibilities

When you successfully complete step 2, you can then more effectively and clearly define the roles and responsibilities of those on your team.  Now, don’t assume this is an easy step;  in fact, you’ll often find that people’s ideal roles  lie outside their job descriptions.

Each of your team member’s responsibilities must be interconnected and dependent upon one another.    This is not unlike team sports, where some players are known as “system players” – meaning that, although they may not be the most talented person on the team,  they know how to work best within the “system.”    This is why you must have a keen eye for talent that can evaluate people not  only on their ability to play a particular role – but even more so on whether they fit the workplace culture (the system) and  will be a team player.

For example, I once inherited an employee who wasn’t very good at his specific job.  Instead of firing him, I took the time to get to know him and utilized his natural talents as a strategic facilitator who could keep all of the moving parts within the department in proper alignment and in lock-step communication.   This person helped our team operate more efficiently and saved the company money by avoiding the bad decisions they previously made because of miscommunications.  He was eventually promoted into a special projects manager role.

A team should operate as a mosaic whose unique strengths and differences convert into a powerful united force.  

4.       Be Proactive with Feedback

Feedback is the key to assuring any team is staying on track, but more importantly that it is improving each day.   Feedback should be proactive and constant.   Many leaders are prone to wait until a problem occurs before they give feedback.

Feedback is simply the art of great communication.  It should be something that is part of one’s natural dialogue.  Feedback can be both formal and informal.    In fact, if it becomes too structured and stiff, it becomes difficult for the feedback to be authentic and impactful.

Remember that every team is different, with its own unique nuances and dynamics.  Treat them as such.  No cookie-cutter approach is allowed.   Allow proactive feedback to serve as your team’s greatest enabler for continuous improvement.

Take the time to remind someone of how and what they can be doing better.  Learn from them. Don’t complicate the process of constructive feedback.  Feedback is two-way communication.

5.       Acknowledge and Reward

With proactive feedback comes acknowledgement and reward.  People love recognition, but are most appreciative of respect.   Take the time to give your teammates the proper accolades they have earned and deserve.   I have seen too many leaders take performance for granted because they don’t believe that one should be rewarded for “doing their job.”

At a time when people want to feel as if they are making a difference, be a thoughtful leader and reassure your team that you are paying attention to their efforts.   Being genuine in your recognition and respect goes a long way towards building loyalty and trust.  It organically ignites extra effort!

When people are acknowledged, their work brings them greater satisfaction and becomes more purposeful.  

6.       Always Celebrate Success

At a time when uncertainty is being dealt with each day, you must take the time to celebrate success.    This goes beyond acknowledgment – this is about taking a step-back and reflecting on what you have accomplished and what you have learned throughout the journey.

In today’s fast-paced, rapidly changing world of work, people are not taking enough time to understand why they were successful and how their success reverberated and positively impacted those around them.    I have seen leaders fall into the trap of self-aggrandizement – because of what their teams accomplished – rather than celebrating the success stories that in many cases required tremendous effort,  sacrifice and perseverance.

Celebration is a short-lived activity.  Don’t ignore it.  Take the time to live in the moment and remember what allowed you to cross the finish line.

Leaders are only as successful as their teams and the great ones know  that with the right team dynamics, decisions and diverse personalities, everyone wins in the end.

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Prioritising staff wellbeing is key to sustainable business

In early-2018 Larry Fink, founder, chairman and chief executive of BlackRock, wrote a game-changing letter. His Annual Letter to CEOs: A Sense of Purpose calls on corporate leaders to re-examine their business’s sense of purpose in order to be sustainable in the long term. 

I was delighted to read it. The current business emphasis on short-term profits and quick returns have driven us to a world where a tiny minority have reaped rich rewards, while the majority face low wage growth, inadequate retirement systems and job insecurity. 

Mr Fink lays it out clearly: not looking after society, the environment and employees is bad news for asset managers looking for long-term, sustainable growth investments to match the requirements of owners of the capital invested, primarily pension funds wanting decades of stable growth. 

I was constantly drawn to his references on the treatment of employees.“Without a sense of purpose, no company, either public or private, can achieve its full potential. It will ultimately lose the licence to operate from key stakeholders. It will succumb to short-term pressures to distribute earnings and, in the process, sacrifice investments in employee development, innovation and capital expenditure that are necessary for long-term growth,” he says. 

Money talks but real value lies with workers 

Of course, Mr Fink is not the first, or only, person to say this. Many across the asset management world are starting to raise the alarm that the current system of investing is not sustainable. 

Organisations such as the Coalition of Inclusive Capitalism and the United Nation’s principles for responsible investment are also pushing for responsible and sustainable investing that takes into account how companies treat societies, the environment and workers. Attending meetings at both organisations over the past year, I can see pressure gathering to get “the money” – trillions of dollars under management – to change behaviours at a corporate level. 

While this money could talk loudly, there is common business sense to ensuring your service or product is sustainable, way past your next quarterly or annual reporting season. Inevitably, your product or service is dependent on workers; the value of a typical 2018 corporation is now largely tied up in its brand and its employees. A minority still own enough physical assets for these to be their core value. 

Investing in engagement tools key creates sustainable value 

As businesses continue to go digital and traditional businesses transform or risk vanishing in an online world, the mental, and therefore physical, impact on the leaders and workers within those organisations is huge. Where management has been able to draw breath and put in programmes to help staff develop the necessary new skills, and aligned these programmes with change and resilience coaching, we have seen success stories. These companies have been able to transition, keep talent while largely maintaining good brand values. 

Earlier this year I interviewed chief executives of organisations – Anglian Water, Aviva, Cisco, Swiss Re and Virgin Holidays – which understand the importance of employee wellbeing to the value of the business. At the time of the interviews Mr Fink’s letter had not been published, yet each of these CEOs echoed the business imperative of looking after the wellbeing of staff. 

Published in Employee Wellbeing Research 2018, these interviews describe the practical ways in which each business cares for its workers, including flexible working, resilience coaching, non-screen time, fitness programmes, health clinics and financial health education. 

These chief executives are not paying for these benefits and engagement tools to be nice, they are looking after the mental, physical and financial wellbeing of workers because it ensures their businesses are a valuable, sustainable asset to investors. 

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Why Humble Leaders Almost Always Lose Out to Autocrats

Humility long ago joined the pantheon of desirable leadership traits, elevated by authors like Robert Greenleaf and Jim Collins. Conventional wisdom holds that great leaders blend the will to achieve with self-doubt. They act decisively but also seek advice from others and admit their own mistakes.

But humility isn't a de facto best practice, some leadership experts say. In his new book Open Source Leadership: Reinventing Management When There Is No More Business as Usual, leadership guru Rajeev Peshawaria argues that "history shows that people love working for autocratic top-down leaders." He cites such examples as Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, Henry Ford, and Nelson Mandela.

Peshawaria's organization, the Kuala Lumpur-based Iclif Leadership and Governance Centre, surveyed 16,000 executives, asking them to choose from a list the top three leadership traits shared by people like Abraham Lincoln, Jack Ma, and Mahatma Gandhi. Overwhelmingly, respondents identified traits associated with dominance, such as challenging general opinion and remaining firm in their course of action despite feedback and resistance.

The juniors get nervous

Iconic leaders aren't the only ones admired for their autocratic styles. A recent study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology suggests that in some instances a more authoritarian hand works better, depending on the leader's status relative to his or her team. Specifically, low-level employees would rather cede control to the leader while higher-level ones prefer power sharing.

"Oftentimes, we forget that leadership is about relationships," says Jasmine Hu, an associate professor of management at Ohio State University and a co-author of the paper. "It is not just what team leaders want to provide to their members. It is also what team members want or expect from their leaders."

Hu and her fellow researchers studied 11 I.T. companies in China to see how power distributions within teams influenced worker expectations of leader assertiveness. First, they measured team members' perceptions of their leaders' humility, characterized by openness to advice from others, willingness to admit their limitations, and appreciation of others' strengths and contributions. They then assessed levels of knowledge-sharing and psychological comfort within teams and, finally, those teams' performance related to creativity.

They found that teams with humble leaders tend to share knowledge freely and be creative--so long as the leaders don't far outstrip followers in terms of power. On teams with yawning power gaps, however, humble leadership resulted in significantly lower creativity. Although the researchers did not look at things like productivity or morale, Hu expects those outcomes would be roughly the same.

On teams where leaders are much higher status, the propensity to consider others' opinions "could make team members nervous or uncomfortable, because they think that should be under the scope of the leader, not their own responsibility," Hu says. Under those circumstances, "leader humility actually can do harm to their teams' creativity."

Be the leader they want

Hu's best advice for leaders is to know what your team expects of you. If you are leading high performers, then you should eagerly solicit their thoughts and loudly credit their contributions. But don't replicate that behavior with junior employees. In that case, more dominant behavior will produce better results.

For very mixed teams--when the CEO addresses the whole company, for example--take an average. "You can't satisfy them all," Hu says. "But if out of 10 people six want you to be dominant, then you probably have to demonstrate more confidence."

The ideal, Hu says, is not to be a humble leader or an autocratic leader, but rather to be a flexible leader. However, if you lean autocratic there are a few ways to get your humility on. "When you realize you are not doing something well, admit it in front of your followers," she says. "And pay attention to each follower to see if there is something unique about that person's contributions. If there is, praise it in public."

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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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Engaging the disengaged leaders is key to employee engagement

Take a look at almost anything written about engagement and it is almost a given the words “staff” or “employee” will feature. Globally, 87 per cent of employees are not engaged, proclaims Gallup; employee disengagement costs the UK economy £340 billion a year in lost productivity, according to Hay Group; and so the list could go on. 

But the eagle-eyed may have noticed all these statistics ignore one key person – the leader. If employees’ engagement oscillates, it’s surely common sense leaders suffer the same ups and downs. But here’s the $64,000 question: how much does this really matter? 

“It’s absolutely the case leaders set the tone. It’s they who set the standard, so leaders actually need to be even more engaged,” argues Kate Cooper, head of applied research and policy at the Institute of Leadership and Management. “Even when things aren’t going well, they almost need to rise above this.” 

Even though academics have veered away from the great leaders’ mantra, preferring a holacratic, everyone-in-it-together approach to organisational design, what has not disappeared is the notion companies can either have inspiring leaders or leaders who inspire disengagement. 

A recent Bain & Company study found 60 per cent of employees didn’t know their company’s goals, strategies and tactics, so if leaders haven’t clarified this vital ingredient for creating engagement, responsibility for poor business performance lies squarely on their shoulders. 

“It’s interesting lots of leaders still don’t focus on their own engagement or what I call their own energy,” says Charlene Li, author of The New York Times best seller, The Engaged Leader. “Yet it’s even more important they maintain this over time.” 

According to Ms Li, the tale-tale signs leaders are becoming disengaged are when they go missing in action, take longer to return e-mails or calls, say “no” more often, and start to support and promote those who most agree with them. And when this attitude sets in, it can have a corrosive impact on the bottom line. Staff who are “actively disengaged” – around 20 per cent, according to Gallup – specifically say they do not find their work or their leader motivating. 

“Leadership is a contact sport,” says Chris Bones, professor of creativity and leadership at Manchester Business School, and partner at Good Growth. “Being an engaged leader is about being visible and present. What’s interesting though is that a reason leaders often become disengaged is because it can take time for staff to believe them. Paradoxically, leaders can become disengaged just at the point when their staff start to buy in to their vision.” 


One leader acutely aware of the power of engaged leadership is Ken Allen, chief executive of DHL Express, who in 2013 launched what business journal HR magazine described as the “world’s biggest engagement scheme”. In what was a do-or-die decision, as the company had lost €2.8 billion between 2002 and 2009, the business has since transformed itself. 

But according to Mr Allen, engagement starts from him and particularly from being imbued in the business. “I’m a company man,” he says. “I’ve been here since 1985. Today I see lots of leaders parachuted into businesses, but they will only inspire their staff if they embrace the good things that made the business successful and don’t try to do things ‘their way’. 

“Until every employee thinks they can grow personally too, leaders can’t grow their business, so it’s leaders who need to create stories. I take it upon myself to be in front of people all the time, delivering my message. I don’t want to be seen as a suit from head office.” 

Although Mr Allen admits leaders still “have to force themselves to be engaged”, Ms Li believes the very act of being in front of staff is not only engaging for employees, it’s engaging for the boss too. “When they challenge their people to be engaged, it’s engaging for themselves,” she says. “They reconnect; they rediscover their passion for the business.” 

A reason leaders often become disengaged is because it can take time for staff to believe them

Because human resources literature focuses on “authentic leadership” and about being honest with staff, Ms Cooper argues leaders can be confused about the sort of engagement they have to present to staff. For instance, whether they should admit they’re feeling low or whether being emotionally bare facilitates better “followership”.

She says: “Authenticity is about saying ‘I’m having a bad day’. That’s fine, but the best leaders still need to present control. What leaders must do is create a team around them, one that has their backing rather than waits for them to fail. 

“Engagement needs to be a strategic activity. Leaders need to recognise what sort of person they are. If they thrive setting businesses up and are engaged doing that, fine. But, if they also know their enthusiasm wanes, they need to know when it’s best to bring someone else in who has more energy.” 

The good news is as more leaders understand the bottom-line value of having engaged staff, the more leaders themselves are understanding their role in it. 

Eric Garton, partner at Bain & Company, and author of Time, Talent and Energy, says leaders need all three of these qualities, but it’s their energy or engagement that has the most power to transform. “All businesses suffer organisational drag, but the most drag is caused by lacklustre leadership,” he says. “Engaged staff are 44 per cent more productive than satisfied staff, but employees who are inspired are 125 per cent more productive than a satisfied staff.” 

Mr Garton argues engaged leaders “presume trust and empower accordingly”. He says: “Millennial companies have inherently more energy because their leaders don’t tend to micro-manage. While some leaders get worn down by their own organisation, the best don’t worry about people challenging them. The best leaders demonstrate engagement by owning it – simple as that.” That’s the challenge. Now it’s up to leaders to embrace it. 

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Why Great Employees Leave “Great Cultures”

“We have a great culture.” We have all heard it. We have all said it. But what does that mean?

Ping-Pong tables, free meals, and beer on tap? No.

Yoga, CrossFit classes, and massage chairs? I so need that, but no.

The promise of being part of a hip, equity-incentivized, fast growing team? Closer, but still no.

Culture is often referred to as “the way things are done around here.” But to be useful, we need to get more specific than that. I’ve been working in HR for over twenty years, and the best companies I’ve worked with have recognized that there are three elements to a culture: behaviors, systems, and practices, all guided by an overarching set of values. A great culture is what you get when all three of these are aligned, and line up with the organization’s espoused values. When gaps start to appear, that’s when you start to see problems — and see great employees leave.

These gaps can take many forms. A company might espouse “work-life balance” but not offer paid parental leave or expect people to stay late consistently every night (a behaviors-system gap). You might espouse being a learning organization that develops people, but then not give people the time to actually take classes or learn on the job (system-behaviors gap). Maybe your company tells people to be consensus-builders, but promotes people who are solely authoritative decision makers (behavior-practices gap).

Gaps like these are never solved by turning culture over to a Chief Culture Officer or pulling together culture committees. Likewise, inspirational leadership, the repetition of value statements, and letting people be themselves are important, but they are by-products of a healthy culture, not the drivers of one.

How, then, do we repair a flagging culture? A place to start is by reviewing the behaviors, systems, and practices in place in your company.


A common culture-building practice is the creation of value statements. But the real test is how leaders behave; how they enact these values, or don’t. People watch everything leaders do. If leaders are not exhibiting the behaviors that reflect the values, the values are meaningless.

Employees also need clarity, but of a different kind. Every employee I have managed would give up their so-called perks for one thing: clear expectations. Given your organizational values, which behaviors consistently get rewarded? Which behaviors lead to promotion?

Spend the time identifying the behaviors and skills that express each of your organizational values. For example, if I saw someone exemplifying the value of “teamwork,” what would she be doing? What would she not be doing? One organization might identify teamwork behavior as “collaborates effectively through helping others.” Another might interpret a teamwork behavior as “collaborates effectively through encouraging productive disagreements.” Both can be done, but which behavior is expected and encouraged at one company vs. another?

Clarifying expected behaviors for employees holds leaders accountable as well. Does a manager value face-time more than outcomes? Is a leader always ten minutes late to a meeting? How often does starting a meeting five minutes late roll into people showing up unprepared? These are the real-world behaviors of culture and values. Before we realize it, the organization becomes known for late meetings, face-time, or reactive and apathetic leadership. Employees become reactive. And then we wonder why we have an attrition problem.

When expected behaviors are clear, we can focus our time on practicing those behaviors rather than spending our time on trying to identify them. Accountability becomes easier to measure and success easier to attain.


Every process that is created, every system installed, every technology that is used, every structure that is designed, every job title that is given will reinforce or dilute the culture. There are five key systems that are important to the overall cultural system:

Hiring. Clarity around behavioral expectations allows us to bring much-needed clarity to the hiring process. Instead of the common default to hiring for “cultural fit” — which in practice is usually an excuse for hiring people we find likable or similar to us — we can look for behaviors that are cultural complements. This moves us away from the tendency to hire people who think the same and towards a company built on diversity of backgrounds, perspectives, and ideas that complement culture while also enriching it.

Strategy and goal setting. These activities do two things, culture-wise: rally people around similar goals while also providing guidance on outcomes employees are expected to produce.

Assessing. How are behaviors assessed? How often are they reviewed? Is feedback shared consistently, and is it weighted based on who said it? Lack of trust or questions about what behavioral standards will be used will create political and fear-based environments.

Developing. When employees feel that professional development, feedback assessments, or engagement surveys are irrelevant, it’s usually because the questions don’t tie back to what the organization actually reinforces and rewards. Culture problems can also arise when a “safe learning environment” turns into a way to punish employees for low scores rather than a way to help them grow.

Rewarding. What is the criteria to become a manager, director, vice president? What are the expected behaviors that earn a person said title? What technical and leadership skills are needed? These are all expressions of culture and values, but too often they are perceived as random. Employees do not have to be concerned about being friends with the CEO, competing with each other, and other political challenges when these processes are viewed as transparent and fair.

A good culture sets these processes up so they feed into and off of each other.


Practices include everything from company events, running meetings, feedback processes, to how decisions are made.

Do you have repeatable decision-making processes in place? Are meeting participants expected to be collaborative and consensus-driven, or is some conflict OK? What should managers talk about in performance reviews?

Practices need to change as the company changes — as it grows, reorganizes, or faces new threats. Once-useful practices can quickly become stale, meaningless, or even counter-productive. If the original intent of an off-site retreat was to help teams bond, what needs to shift now that the company has tripled in size?

Great organizations and leaders know that the culture stuff is the hard stuff. Culture takes time to define. It takes work to execute. Yet, if the time is spent (1) really understanding the behaviors expected throughout the organization; (2) identifying the systems and processes that will continue to help those behaviors be expressed and sustained; and (3) shaping practices that help employees and the organization become better, then you can close your culture gaps, and stop your best people from saying, “I know it’s a great culture, but I am leaving.”

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Does your company culture need a vitamin or an aspirin?

According to just about every resource available most companies have a “less than ideal” culture. What’s at stake when your culture is at risk? 

Well, most importantly – your people.  To quote valuation expert, Dave Bookbinder, the author of the best-selling book, The New ROI: Return on Individuals, “The value of a business is a function of how well the financial capital and intellectual capital are managed by the human capital. So, you better get the human capital right.” 

Let’s extend what’s at risk to bottom-line profits and shareholder value. We can beat the horse about how engagement hovers near an all-time low for the past decade, but engagement is only one component of what makes up a company’s culture. 

The cost to replace an employee can be as high as 213 per cent of an employee’s base salary

Let’s look at the entire life cycle of an employee, from hire to retire. On the talent acquisition/hire front, making a bad hire can cost companies potential earnings, replacement costs, ineffectiveness, or worse, cause a drain on morale. The cost to replace an employee can be as high as 213 per cent of an employee’s base salary. 

From a management perspective, ineffective leadership can result in stagnant growth, bungled initiatives and even corporate collapse. Attrition, team dysfunction, failed acquisitions or strategic initiatives, and lack of productivity are all directly attributable to a lack of leadership, mismanagement of people, and/or not putting the right people in the right roles. 

And when it comes to succession-planning and identifying the future leaders of your company, it’s hard to promote the right people when the top performers keep exiting for greener pastures. 

That begs the question: when your company is put under the microscope,  does your culture need a boost to stay healthy (a vitamin), or is your company’s culture a real pain point in need of some relief (an aspirin)? 

Let’s diagnose this further… 

What is the number-one concern of chief executives for 2018? According to Deloitte, 87 per cent say it is employee retention.

The economy is better and the job market has improved. It’s a talent-driven market, and 75 per cent of employees get at least one phone call a week from a recruiter looking to entice them away. 

And it’s not just about money; 10 per cent of employees will leave for more money. And if someone has stayed just for money, or leaves for money, whether they are a top performer or mediocre, they’re a mercenary. They’ll leave when the next highest bidder comes along. Not great for culture… 

New research from ADP shows that over 60 per cent of the United States workforce turns over each year, and 65 per cent of this is voluntary. Some 85 per cent of employees leave their job because of their relationship with their manager. So how do you improve that relationship? 

You need to find out what drives your employees.

When companies identify the key drivers of their employees, align them to the company’s goals, and determine culture-fit and job-fit, not only does engagement increase and morale improve, productivity and employee retention increase. As a result, bottom-line profits go up.

We tend to hire employees for what they know and fire (or lose) them for who they are. When we look at the entire life cycle of an employee, from hire to retire, we need to account for both. Analytics bring awareness. With awareness you can leverage the diversity of strengths within your workforce. 

Objective and scientifically valid workforce analytics can help take the guesswork out of what drives employees. And if you guess wrong, you could actively disengage an otherwise engaged employee. Actively disengaged employees are the epicentre of office politics, the source of gossip and purveyors of negativity. Misery loves company. They are not benign. They are malignant. There goes your culture…

Conversely, what does a superstar employee look like? They’re easy to spot. They’re in the flow. They’re magnetic.  They’re the “go-to.” They bring others up. They attract other superstars. They manage change, complexity, and adversity well. Therefore, they stick around when they face challenges. 

How do companies measure the results of an improved culture? There are the usual indicators, such as a decrease in turnover, increase in morale and engagement, etc… 

When employees are matched to a job and culture that not only fit their skills and experience (what they know) and their natural drives (who they are), they are in alignment and able to give discretionary effort. 

Therefore, the telltale sign of winning culture is discretionary effort. If you want to increase the “return on individuals” in any culture, then analytics (that reveal what drives employees and utilise that data to match job-fit and culture-fit) are the aspirin. 

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Helping HR build a case for talent management

Talent management, encompassing employee retention, is a top priority for most businesses. Yet the C-level continues to view HR as a cost centre. This is not helpful at a time when effective talent management is key to creating the kind of dramatic transformation businesses need if they are to compete on the global stage.

According to the Bersin Deloitte annual human capital report, ‘Talent trends: HR Technology Disruptions for 2018’, “Companies are increasingly operating as networks of teams—which puts team management at the center of organizational design”.

This flatter, less hierarchical organisational structure is typified by flexibility, as teams are created as needed from a global talent pool to respond to and lead the way in global market changes.

To support this wholesale cultural transformation, Bersin Deloitte predicts that organisations will seek “technology designed around teams, individuals, and networks – tools that implement agile talent practices and also help people be more productive.”

There is no doubt that HR professionals are seeking to source technologies and tools that will drive team collaboration, agility and productivity.

As a result of the demand for transformational HR technology, the latest Sierra-Cedar HR systems survey reveals that around half of large and medium sized business are increasing their spend on HR technology.

There is no doubt that HR professionals are seeking to source technologies and tools that will drive team collaboration, agility and productivity. These range from mobile-enabled cloud-based collaboration platforms through to videoconferencing and productivity apps, all integrated within a talent management system that in an ideal world encompasses learning and development and performance management.

Here are five tips to address the challenges of building a persuasive business case for talent management investment:

Quantify the issue. Hard statistics help and money talks. So, for example, if you are looking to create a business case for an enhanced performance management system, gather some hard evidence about how much the current outdated system is costing the business.

A straightforward cost comparison is a useful starting point. Multiply the number of manager hours being spent on performance reviews by the average manager pay rate, to come up with the current cost of carrying out performance reviews. If the time managers spend on this could be halved, then there is a clear cost saving.

Alternatively, you may want managers to spend more time on more effective performance reviews and the value of this may be measured by increased employee retention statistics or enhance customer service metrics.

Address current, specific business issues. The business case for investment in talent management solutions should not stop at providing value for money in performance management or training, for example. Outcomes should be clearly mapped against current business pain points.

If the organisation is targeting moving into new territories, be prepared to show how the talent management solution will help with this, by providing a talent pool of employees with the skills ready to move into that location. It is worth tailoring your pitch differently to appeal to individual members of the board.

The CEO will want to hear that you can get sales staff up to speed quickly, ready to take on a new territory or market sector, while the CTO will be interested in hearing that the proposed new learning platform will swallow up less IT support time.

Get the finance guys on side. Map out the shared competencies HR has with finance and find the common ground both roles serve in the organisation despite conventional thinking about the ‘people side’ versus ‘numbers side’ of the business.

Work with finance to understand the full extent to which your talent initiatives will impact the business. 

Acknowledge stumbling blocks. Anticipating objections and preparing to address them is the first rule of successful selling – and that applies to selling your business case to the C-Suite. It is a good idea to be realistic about problems you are likely to encounter and consider how best to address these at the outset.

At the same time, indicate clearly the likely repercussions of not taking action and of failing to invest in talent management. These issues might range from skill shortages to compliance failures.

Get to the point. Condense your talent management investment proposal into two or three sentences. Senior executives will expect your elevator pitch to be backed with detail and research, but their time is limited and getting them onside quickly is important.

A compelling proposition

The numbers are compelling; companies excelling in talent management can increase earnings by nearly 15%, according to research by the Hackett Group. However, HR will be in a better position to deliver a strong business case for investment in talent management if it is already operating as a strategic partner of the C level.

Ahead of going to the board with a request for funding, it is a good idea to build a relationship based on providing regular actionable insights to senior management. HR professionals who operate beyond the confines of the HR silo, collaborating with other departments from finance to marketing, will be best placed to cultivate perceptions of the HR function as a strategic partner.

That way, when it comes to presenting the business case for talent management, HR will be pushing at an open door.

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5 Benefits Of Collaboration In The Workplace

Business collaboration in the workplace is a vital factor when thinking about any thriving and effective company. When you break down what is collaboration in the workplace, it’s simple; it comes down to your employees utilising unified communication tools and collaboration technology in order to work together as an effective team.

While some benefits of collaboration will be restricted to certain industries or companies, most are there for all workplaces to enjoy. Effective business collaboration will enable every member of your company to work towards a successful future far more easily; no matter how complex or specialised a sector your company may operate in.

We’ve laid out five benefits of collaboration that you have to know about and should start taking advantage of as soon as possible. Read on to learn more or head over to our Workplace page to see more of our blogs. Alternatively, take a look at one of our previous posts to find out how you can avoid common collaboration mistakes.

Faster innovation and a better realisation of company goals

Fully utilising the diverse and varied experience of every one of your employees is precisely what will drive innovation at your company. And, fast-paced innovation is what’s going to take your company well beyond its existing goals.

An effective business collaboration model is hugely valuable as it will help to keep your team up-to-date on projects, developments and opportunities, and any issues that may be holding progress back. While there may be times that individual work is preferable, providing the tools for your employees to collaborate as and when they need to will greatly reduce project times.

The tools to help millennials succeed are already here 

There’s no denying the inevitable change that’s to come; millennials will make up the vast majority of your workforce. So, what’s the best method for getting the most out of this tech-savvy generation?

The answer lies in the collaborative technology that’s already available as well as the many products currently in development. Technology is an ordinary part of daily life for millennials and this makes adopting new technology far easier for them and more cost effective for your company.

Yes, there are industry-specific tools and programs designed for business collaboration, but many already exist in the public domain. For example, Skype and FaceTime are widely used and can be easily adopted for use in your workplace.

New hires can quickly inherit valuable knowledge

Getting your new hires up to speed with the way your company operates and in-progress projects is vital for delivering ROI. Thankfully, one of the benefits of collaboration revolves around how new employees can ask questions to company veterans as easily as they can be answered.

However, it’s the not just the handing down of knowledge that’s beneficial. By fostering mentorships through the use of collaborative technology, your long-term employees can gain inspiration from new hires. If you’re looking to avoid stagnation when it comes to innovation at your company then this shouldn’t be overlooked.

Business collaboration builds trust among your employees

Building trust among your employees is a crucial factor in overcoming obstacles when trying to achieve your business aims. Of course, it goes without saying that there will be some disputes between employees but a proper business collaboration model will enable them to be resolved.

By fostering this kind of environment in your workplace you can allow innovative ideas to be voiced freely and built upon by others. As cross-department projects are becoming far more common and simpler to organise this benefit shouldn’t be overlooked.

Unsurprisingly, the greatest teams draw on the skills of every member and share responsibility for failures as well as successes. At the end of the day, you want your employees to be utilising their expertise to their full capacity and what better way is there to do this than by building trust though collaboration.

Working becomes far more flexible

Flexible working schedules are a huge selling point for many jobseekers in today’s world. However, it’s not only that a flexible working schedule can greatly improve employee satisfaction; there’s also a huge benefit when it comes to business collaboration.

Thanks to the increased sophistication of mobile and tablet devices, remote, real-time collaboration between employees is more practical than ever before. This is an ideal solution for businesses that operate on a global scale or those that take on the services of freelancers for various roles.

Are you still thinking about what is collaboration in the workplace? To learn more about business collaboration, please contact us now.  Alternatively, you can find out exactly how Saxons can help your business to collaborate more effectively by visiting the Business Connectivity page now.

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Strengthening Employee Engagement Through Coaching

In many organizations, workplace coaching has found its way to the forefront of the employee engagement challenge. It is no secret that one of the most important (if not the most important) relationships in an organization is the one between manager and direct report. To accept this truth is to also acknowledge that this relationship is a significant determinate of employee engagement.

What is really meant by employee engagement, and what are the factors that contribute to it? This question can and often does have a variety of answers, depending on which research is chosen as a point of reference. Gallup, Inc., a historically noted and respected authority on the impact of human factors on workplace performance, published research in 2013 to provide greater insight into what contributes to high and low employee engagement, the cost of poor engagement, and strategies to help businesses address and resolve their engagement issues. There were several noteworthy findings from this study, but three stand out as solidly making the case for workplace coaching as both “good business” and a “leadership mandate”:

To leaders, Gallup chairman CEO Jim Clifton says, “The single biggest decision you make in your job – bigger than all of the rest – is who you name manager … When you name the wrong person manager, nothing fixes that bad decision. Not compensation, not benefits – nothing.” Engagement has a greater impact on performance than corporate policies and perks. Seven in 10 American workers are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” in their work, meaning they are emotionally disconnected from their workplaces and less likely to be productive.

What are the obvious consequences to organizations saddled with poor engagement? For one, the bottom line: Companies with a high percentage of workers who do not feel connected to their work, their managers or their employer take a substantial financial blow to productivity, customer satisfaction and overall profitability.

Secondly, today’s business environment requires that companies innovate faster than ever just to stay relevant and in existence. Low employee engagement, demonstrated by low morale and motivation, negatively impacts an organization’s ability to consistently and rapidly turn out high-quality, new products that both differentiate and reinforce competitive advantage.

So, how does workplace coaching fit into this dilemma? Coaching is not a panacea for all that’s wrong in organizational life or “the” fix to low or poor employee engagement. Workplace coaching, however, has gained prominence as one strategy for strengthening manager/employee relationships, which is a big step toward improving employee engagement.

In organizations, there are multiple workplace coaching strategies at play. Executive coaching is often used when a senior or high-ranking leader stands to benefit from working with a professionally trained external coach on a specific issue or challenge. Often, executive coaches are secured to help leaders grow and gain strength in a specific area, clarify purpose and goals, or to improve self-awareness.

Performance coaching tends to focus on fixing a problem or issue related to performance. These conversations, though crucial, are often difficult for both employee and manager. Taking a coaching approach can help to remove some of the discomfort. Additionally, when delivering performance coaching, it’s not good to take a one-size-fits- all approach. Tailor these conversations to the level of the employee performance: high performer, middle (or average), or low performer. Based on level, the conversations should be very different.

Coaching for Development

Coaching for development can be the big game-changer. When done well, it is a huge step toward strengthening the relationship between manager and employee. When this relationship is solid, employees, according to research, tend to be more engaged, feel valued and take greater pride in their work, all of which can lead to higher levels of productivity and stronger bottom-line results.

What does coaching for development look like? A prerequisite to any effective coaching relationship is mutual trust and respect. Once they are established, coaching for development starts with the manager’s becoming curious about what’s important to the employee. It’s about asking questions, not telling and supporting, not driving. It’s also important to let the employee guide developmental conversations, with the manager asking thoughtful, powerful questions that open the door to greater exploration of the employee’s needs and wants.

Another aspect of coaching for development is for managers to give employees the latitude to openly express themselves without judgement as they detail their concerns, frustrations, successes and opportunities. Positive reinforcement is always good, and negativity should be eliminated.

A huge benefit of developmental coaching and making coaching part of managers’ leadership arsenal is that managers need not have the answers, nor should they feel responsible for defining another’s path. As a manager, this should be very liberating. Coaching for development is about partnering with and empowering employees to frame their own future and visualizing and evaluating multiple options, knowing that their manager is a willing cheerleader and partial enabler of their success.

Coaching is a reciprocal engagement between two parties. When one wins, the achievement can cascade from the employee to the bottom line. The volume of research around this subject, and publicly available data that provides the benefits of coaching, should leave no doubt that managerial coaching is good business. Leaders who can transition to becoming a great coach can transform employee engagement and, potentially, bottom-line results.

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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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How Great Leaders Use Humor to Create Emotionally Safe, Fun Cultures

Today's work environment is nothing to joke about. Eighteen percent of American adults suffer from some form of mental illness such as anxiety or depression, and the impact is significant on an organizational bottom line. More than 16 million U.S. adults had at least one major depressive episode in 2016.

Globally, the annual productivity cost of depression and anxiety disorders was $1 trillion in 2017. Sixty-two percent of business leaders surveyed in the U.S. and Canada believe depression to be "prevalent" in their workforces.

This requires leaders to have more empathy than ever before. Organizations must be committed to creating emotionally safe, trust-based work environments, where employees won't be functioning in a continued state of heightened anxiety and stress. 

One of the most effective ways to accomplish this is to strategically leverage humor. Matt Kazam, a Las Vegas headliner and CEO of They Laugh, You Win, saystop-level executives must fully embrace the significant organizational benefits of humor. 

"The most effective leaders use humor to spark people's enthusiasm, deliver an honest message in a good-natured way, boost productivity, put people at ease, bring teams together, and see the light side of a situation," says Kazam.

"From wellness to mental health, humor provides a sense of community among employees and management," he says. "This is more than just planning and holding fun events. It is understanding how humor relates to human behavior, and it creates a more positive and productive work environment."  

Cultural icons such as Zappos, Virgin, and Southwest Airlines have mastered these concepts. Here are a few ways all leaders can implement a humor strategy:

Create Connection Throughout the Company. 

It all starts from the top. "When the CEO and high-level executives start using humor in their messaging and actions, they not only find deeper connections with their employees, but it will also trickle down and spread throughout the company." 

At my first company, Information Experts, we had a Good Times Committee (GTC) to plan fun events. Our committee took a lot of creative liberties, so we never knew what to expect. This became engrained in our culture. I believe that making fun a specific budgetary line item demonstrated:

I didn't take everything so seriously I recognized the need for employees to release stress and bond over something other than work I wasn't any different than they were I was committed to creating an environment where they loved to work, and I wanted them to play a key role in shaping that environment

Celebrate Achievements, Milestones, and Years in Review.

Humor as part of storytelling is a great way to elevate an achievement, work anniversary, or even a personal celebration. Personal employee stories are great examples. 

At one of our annual parties, our creative team presented a slide show that displayed the top 10 reasons people missed work. Excuses ranged from "my horse kicked me in the face" to "a ghost locked me in my hotel." 

Whenever an employee announced they were expecting a child, we held a baby shower in which I read Goodnight Moon to the company. Imagine 25 to 30 adults in your conference room intently listening to, "In the great green room, there was a telephone, and a red balloon.... "

Spark Creativity and Conversation.

When employees trade war stories over life events or stages, their company positions are irrelevant. Whether you are the CEO or a billable resource, everyone can relate to the sheer terror of someone's 16-year-old kid getting a driver's license. Humor around this topic can bridge any organizational divide. 

One of the most fun activities at our company was the White Elephant Gift Exchange. There were virtually no limitations to gift selection. The gifts that our employees presented, and subsequently stole from one another, were outrageous.

Diffuse Difficulty. 

Business provides a fair share of setbacks, disappointments, misunderstandings, pressure, and stress. Humor is the healthiest and safest way to help the entire organization collectively move through a situation. It lets employees know they are not alone in anything they are experiencing. 

Select Good New Hires. 

In your hiring process, it's essential to ask the right questions that will help you hire for cultural fit. Especially if you do have a high-pressure environment, it's important to hire people who don't take life too seriously. 

These are just a few ways an intentional humor strategy will keep leaders connected to their most important asset -- their people -- and create a culture that will attract and retain top talent for years to come.

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Creating a strong ‘office’ culture for remote workers

Andy Josuweit is the Austin, TX-based CEO you’re more likely to catch in a coffee shop than a corner office. The founder of Student Loan Hero, a solution for managing and repaying student loans, works remotely. And so do the 70 employees of his six-year-old company.

Josuweit graduated from college in 2009 during the recession and was unable to find work. Instead of heading down the classic cubicle-bound 9-to-5 career path, he found himself off to an internship in Africa, then Asia, to chase his entrepreneurial pursuits on a budget, followed by South America for an accelerator. “[Remote work] is all I know,” says Josuweit.

To keep everyone on the same page, Josuweit advises, “You really have to overemphasize the importance of communication. You need to figure out how you can create a safe environment to communicate and how you can allow for constructive confrontation and have healthy debates.”

He feels like this needs to be a priority because remote work diminishes access to nonverbal communication and provides limited opportunities to build rapport and trust with colleagues. “You don’t have the opportunities to sit down to lunch together or go out for happy hour with people.”

While Student Loan Hero does do two annual retreats to get their employees face-to-face, they’ve found an easy daily workaround for body language by using emojis and gifs “to share how we’re feeling on a deeper level.”

Jacy Cruz, who joined the company four months ago as their Customer Experience Manager, says sometimes she feels like she doesn’t use enough emojis. Cruz, who’d lobbied hard at her last company for more flexibility around working from home, did have some concern about going fully remote, “Because I’m shy and I thought that it was going to be even more difficult for people to get to know me.”

Fortunately, Student Loan Hero has several initiatives in place to foster connectedness. They have two all-company meetings each week. The Monday meeting is more business focused, but the Friday afternoon meeting is more laidback and functions as a “happy hour.” Colleagues can chat about their wins from the week and their plans for the weekend, just like they would on a Friday afternoon in the office.

Come see where we do our best work. Visit us.

Cruz also has her first Slack Donut bot chat coming up. The bot will do the work of pairing her with someone at random within her company for a 15 to 20-minute chat. Cruz likes this setup because she’s “not naturally inclined to reach out to people” she’s not working with directly.

But her favorite community building effort is the “Learning Rewards” program. The company has a pre-approved list of books they recommend employees read. Employees are encouraged to block out at least one hour on their calendar during the workweek to read and are rewarded with $15 for each hour they spend reading. “I love it because they recognize it’s a small amount of money for them to pay for their employees to do two things: One is to immediately begin applying whatever they’re learning to their jobs, but the second thing, that I think is actually more important, is to develop this habit, this thirst for learning.” Cruz continues, “And so many people are burnt out at work, what’s their incentive to go out and learn things unless it’s about trying to find a new job and get paid more.”

And what Student Loan Hero is doing is working. Shaun Moten, the HR Coordinator at Student Loan Hero who helps develop and manage employee culture, says, “Up until December of last year, we had a non-existent turnover rate. Then present day, we’ve had three employees to leave the company, so it’s still ridiculously low to have been around since 2012.”

Moten assists new hires in establishing a daily routine and conducts “stay interviews” to unearth and address any employee grievances early. For her, Student Loan Hero is “HR heaven.”

Josuweit, the CEO, predicts a more remote workforce will become the norm. “We’re going to see this demand in the workplace to create more work-life balance, or work-life integration. And I think remote work is somewhat inevitable. I think it’s kind of like fighting gravity.” But that doesn’t mean the future of work is without issue, says Josuweit. “It comes with its own unique challenges.” But for him and the entire team at Student Loan Hero, the extra effort is worth the reward.

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Schroedinger’s cat: how we are obscuring people’s potential in organisations

Ever heard of Schroedinger’s cat? It’s a thought experiment that poses if a cat is in a box, it can be simultaneously dead and alive because we don’t know unless we can see it. In other words, its status is affected by whether we can observe it or not. Or if you prefer a more fun definition, here are the loveable geeks from HBO’s TV series Silicon Valley explaining it (apologies for the poor quality):

What’s Schroedinger’s cat got to do with organisations?

I’m currently reading “Leadership and the New Science” by Margaret Wheatley, a book which applies some of the thinking from quantum science to organisations and leadership. As I was reading on my commute in snowy Stockholm this morning, I read the following:

“I realised I had been living in a Schroedinger’s cat world in every organisation I had ever been in. Each of these organisations had myriad boxes, drawn in endess renderings of organisational charts. Within each of these boxes lay “a cat,” a human being, rich in potential, whose fate was determined, always and irrevocably, by the act of observation.”

If a manager is told someone is a high performer, they’ll treat them differently, just like the teachers in the 1964 Robert Rosenthal experiment in which he picked several children at random and told teachers that tests had shown these had high potential. Rosenthal followed these classes over two years and those students the teachers believed to be especially talented had improved significantly more than their peers because the teachers had given them more time to answer questions, more feedback, and more encouragement.

Back to organisations. What if you’re viewed as a poor performer? Wheatley writes in her book that those employees who are viewed as “dead” by managers or peers are “thereafter locked into jobs that provide them with no opportunity to display any new potential.” They are, in effect, given a life sentence by the organisation never to reach their true potential.

Besides what managers are told or primed to think, how they view employees is predetermined by their worldview. And sadly, most managers today have been recruited and promoted according to an outdates way of thinking which we’ve inherited from the Industrial Age. As visionary former CEO of FAVI Jean-Francois Zobrist says, most managers have been conditioned to see employees as stupid, incompetent children who must be controlled and motivated. But of course, to treat employees like this means we will never release their full potential and the organisation will stagnate and ultimately die.

So what’s the antidote?

In my experience, these are some of the things we can do in our organisations to avoid creating a Schrodinger’s cat problem:

Use alternative tools to liberate people’s potential — I believe most managers don’t realise how smart people in their organisations are. Sometimes it’s because they don’t have the right tools or give people the right opportunities in order to see it. I recommend Liberating Structures, a collection of 33 alternative ways to facilitate meetings and conversations that taps into the collective creativity and intelligence of people through creating the right conditions for equal participation and purposeful collaboration. Create a culture of psychological safety and learning — Research shows high performing teams have this but in order to foster such a culture, trust must be cultivated and not assumed. Have a read of Amy Edmondson’s brilliant book “Teaming” for more on how to do this. Presuppose that people are inherently motivated and want to improve — Most people want to do a good job and get better. Of course, some don’t and you can talk to them about that, but on the whole, we humans are capable creatures. We run our whole lives without the need for someone to control or motivate us!
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10 Guiding Principles Of Organization Design

In the 18th annual PwC survey of chief executive officers, conducted in 2014, many CEOs anticipated significant disruptions to their businesses during the next five years as a result of external worldwide trends. One such trend, cited by 61 percent of the respondents, was an increasing number of competitors. The same number of respondents foresaw changes in customer behavior creating disruption. Fifty percent said they expected changes in distribution channels. As CEOs look to stay ahead of these trends, they recognize the need to change the organization’s design. But for that redesign to be successful, a company must make its changes as effectively and painlessly as possible, in a way that aligns with its strategy, invigorates employees, builds distinctive new capabilities, and makes it easier to attract customers.

Today, the average tenure for the CEO of a global company is about five years. Therefore, a major reorganization is likely to happen only once during that leader’s term. The chief executive has to get the reorg right the first time; he or she won’t get a second chance. Although every company is different, and there is no set formula for determining your appropriate organization design, we have identified 10 guiding principles that apply to every company. These have arisen from years of collective research and practice at PwC and Strategy&, using changes in organization design to dramatically improve performance in more than 400 companies across industries and geographies. These fundamental principles point the way for leaders whose evolving strategies require a different kind of organization than the one they have today.

1. Declare amnesty for the past. Organization design should start with corporate self-reflection: What is your sense of purpose? How will you make a difference for your clients, employees, and investors? What will set you apart from others, now and in the future? What differentiating capabilities will allow you to deliver your value proposition over the next two to five years? Answering those questions means letting go of the past. Avoid getting caught up in discussing the pros and cons of the old organization by declaring “amnesty for the past.” Collectively, explicitly decide that you will neither blame nor try to justify the design in place today, or any organization designs of the past. This type of pronouncement may sound simplistic, but it’s surprisingly effective for keeping the focus on the new strategy.

2. Design with the “DNA.” Organization design can seem unnecessarily complex; the right framework, however, can help you decode and prioritize the necessary elements. We have identified eight universal building blocks that are relevant to any company, regardless of industry, geography, or business model. These building blocks will be the elements you put together for your design. You may be tempted to make changes with all eight building blocks simultaneously. But too many interventions at once could interact in unexpected ways, leading to unfortunate side effects. Pick a small number of changes—four or five at most—that you believe will deliver the greatest initial impact. Even a few changes could involve many variations; for example, the design of motivators might need to vary from one function to the next. People in sales might be more heavily influenced by monetary rewards, whereas R&D staffers might favor a career model with opportunities for self-directed projects and external collaboration and education.  

3. Fix the structure last, not first. The org chart is the most seemingly powerful communications vehicle around. It also carries emotional weight, because it defines reporting relationships that people might love or hate. But a company hierarchy, particularly when changes in the org chart are made in isolation from other changes, tends to revert to its earlier equilibrium. You can significantly remove management layers and temporarily reduce costs, but all too soon, the layers creep back in and the short-term gains disappear. In an org redesign, you’re not setting up a new form for the organization all at once. You’re laying out a sequence of interventions that will lead the company from the past to the future. Structure should be the last thing you design: the capstone, not the cornerstone, of that sequence. Otherwise, the change won’t sustain itself.

4. Make the most of top talent. You might assume that the personalities and capabilities of existing executive team members won’t affect the design much. But in reality, you need to design positions to make the most of the strengths of the people who will occupy them. In other words, consider the technical skills and managerial acumen of key people, and make sure those leaders are equipped to foster the collaboration and empowerment needed from people below them. As you assemble the leadership team for your strategy, look for an optimal span of control—the number of direct reports—for your senior executive positions. Although many executives have seven direct reports, there’s no single magic number. For CEOs, the optimal span of control depends on four factors: the CEO’s position in the executive life cycle, the degree of cross-collaboration among business units, the level of CEO activity devoted to something other than working with direct reports, and the presence or absence of a second role as chairman of the board. (We’ve created a C-level span-of-control diagnostic to help determine your target span.)  

5. Focus on what you can control. Make a list of the things that hold your organization back: the scarcities (things you consistently find in short supply) and constraints (things that consistently slow you down). Taking stock of real-world limitations helps ensure that you can execute and sustain the new organization design.Constraints on your business—such as regulations, supply shortages, and changes in customer demand—may be out of your control. But it’s important not to get bogged down in trying to change something you can’t change; instead, focus on changing what you can. For example, if your company is a global consumer packaged goods (CPG) manufacturer, you might first favor a single global structure with clear decision rights on branding, policies, and usage guidelines because it is more efficient in global branding. But if consumer tastes for your product are different around the world, then you might be better off with a structure that tends to delegate decision rights to the local business leader.


6. Promote accountability. Design your organization so that it’s easy for people to be accountable for their part of the work without being micromanaged. Make sure that decision rights are clear and that information flows rapidly and clearly from the executive committee to business units, functions, and departments. When decision rights and motivators are established, accountability can take hold. Gradually, people get in the habit of following through on commitments without experiencing formal enforcement. Even after it becomes part of the company’s culture, this new accountability must be continually nurtured and promoted. It won’t endure if, for example, new additions to the firm don’t honor commitments, or incentives change in a way that undermines the desired behavior.

7. Benchmark sparingly, if at all. In theory, it can be helpful to track what competitors are doing, if only to help you optimize your own design or uncover issues requiring attention. But in practice, this approach ignores your organization’s unique capabilities system—the strengths that only your organization has, producing results that others can’t match. You and your competitor aren’t likely to need the same distinctive capabilities, even if you’re in the same industry. For example, two banks might look similar on the surface. But the first could be a national bank catering to Millennials, who are drawn to low costs and innovative online banking. The other could be regionally oriented, serving an older customer base and emphasizing community ties and personalized customer service. Those different value propositions would require different capabilities, and translate into different organization designs. If you feel you must benchmark, focus on a few select benchmarks and the appropriate peers for each. Your choice of companies to follow, and of the indicators to track and analyze, should line up exactly with the capabilities you prioritized in setting your future course.

8. Let the “lines and boxes” fit your company’s purpose. For every company, there is an optimal pattern of “lines and boxes”—a golden mean. It isn’t the same for every company; it should reflect the strategy you have chosen, and it should support the most critical capabilities that distinguish your company. That means that the right structure for one company will not be the same as the right structure for another, even if they’re in the same industry. In particular, think through your purpose when designing the spans of control (how many people report directly to any given manager) and layers (how far removed a manager is from the CEO) in your org chart. These should be fairly consistent across the organization.

9. Accentuate the informal. Formal elements like structure and information flow are attractive to companies because they’re tangible. They can be easily defined and measured. But they’re only half the story. Many companies reassign decision rights, rework the org chart, or set up knowledge-sharing systems—yet don’t see the results they expect. That’s because they’ve ignored the more informal, intangible building blocks. Norms, commitments, mind-sets, and networks are essential in getting things done. They represent (and influence) the ways people think, feel, communicate, and behave. When these intangibles are not in sync with each other or the more tangible building blocks, the organization doesn’t work as it should.

10. Build on your strengths. Overhauling your organization is one of the hardest things for a chief executive or division leader to do, especially if he or she is charged with turning around a poorly performing company. But there are always strengths to build on in existing practices and in the culture. Look to these strengths—whether formal or informal—to help you fix those critical areas that you’ve prioritized. Suppose, for example, that your company has a norm of customer-oriented commitment. Employees are willing to go the extra mile for customers when called upon to do so, delivering work out of scope or ahead of schedule, often because they empathize with the problems customers face. You can draw attention to that behavior by setting up groups to talk about it, and reinforce the behavior by rewarding it with more formal incentives. That will help spread it throughout the company.

A 2014 Strategy& survey found that 42 percent of executives felt that their organizations were not aligned with their strategy, and that parts of the organization resisted it or didn’t understand it. The principles in this article can help you develop an organization design that supports your most distinctive capabilities and supports your strategy more effectively.

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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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7 Components of a Comprehensive Talent Development Program

Although business is fast-paced all over the globe, working in the San Francisco Bay Area amid the ever-shifting tech industry, we at Future State often find ourselves on the forefront of emergent business needs. Today more and more of our clients and colleagues are talking to us about the need to build comprehensive programs for talent management. More than ever, companies are realizing that their people — and their ability to build diverse, flexible and versatile teams — are of the utmost importance to ongoing success. Talent management is changing, and that change is being driven by a number of trends; ATD research named these top trends influencing the next five years of global talent development: The need for an innovative workforce; more flexible organizations to adapt to our rapidly changing world; changes in skills needed for success in the workplace of tomorrow; employees demanding more of employers; and an increase in the strategic responsibility held by those responsible for talent development.

At Future State, we call ourselves a human-centered management consulting firm for this very reason: We have long recognized that people are the heart of any organization and the true drivers of innovation and ongoing success. We have years of experience helping organizations design and implement the processes, mindsets and behaviors to build a successful and lasting pipeline of talent — and our on-demand workforce and consulting services help augment teams and drive success as we roll out and build these critical programs.

Because I’ve been getting asked more and more about this process and what is needed for success, I thought I’d share the seven components of a comprehensive talent development program.

1. Define clear Talent Management Vision, Values, and Goals that support your business objectives. This serves as the framework to build and prioritize all other programs. This means looking beyond filling positions — it’s considering how talent ties in to the overarching goals of your organization and determining what roles are needed to make those goals a reality. It’s also defining the resources mix of your talent management plan: How many resources are you going to put toward internal talent development? How many toward recruiting? When might it make sense to bring in outside expertise to build systems or achieve specific goals?

2. Build an end-to-end Talent Development Framework that serves as the programmatic roadmap for how you attract, retain and build talent. Here, it’s important to consider having the right mix of workforce including skills and competencies as well as diversity in the talent pool, which may include gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, disability, age and other factors. A diverse talent pool opens up your networking capabilities, is proven to drive innovation, and helps attract top talent.

3. A Talent Gap Assessment that serves as the baseline of near-term competencies and actions that need to occur to shore up immediate gaps and guide long-term talent investments: This is where outside consultants and on-demand staff may be a useful investment. Bringing in individuals or teams with expertise can help drive projects to success while you’re in the process of developing long-term staff.

4. A Talent Succession Plan model that defines the roles, responsibilities and demonstrated capabilities needed for advancement: This should take into account your Talent Management Vision, Values, and Goals, and identify the prerequisite capabilities for various responsibilities and roles, and how internal talent can develop and demonstrate those skills.

5. An Employee Engagement Program that measures perceptions of the workforce and provides data to leadership on the true pulse of the culture and the workforce: Once you’ve recruited a stellar team, it’s critical to monitor key measures of employee satisfaction such as making sure team members have access to the resources they need, aren’t moving toward burn-out, and feel part of the workplace culture. We all know turnover is expensive. Aim to build in processes that help ensure employee satisfaction and retention, and help maximize the return on your biggest investment: your people.

6. A Diversity and Inclusion Strategy that promotes balanced hiring: We hear all the time that companies and leadership are concerned with and dedicated to creating this kind of strategy, but they’re not sure how and they know they’re not there yet. Building in accountability for diversity and inclusion is key to making sure this crucial component is met. Consciousness and accountability need to be built in all the way from recruitment to support at the executive level. As much as everyone may be on board, you’re much more likely to succeed if these measures are an essential component of something concrete, such as performance reviews or bonus structures.

7. An HR Talent and Tools Assessment to assess if you have the internal capabilities to execute, maintain and measure against your talent management goals over time: Once you’ve built and begun executing a plan, it’s important to continue to assess your team against your goals to make sure you are ready for whatever the future brings.

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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.


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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OEB Global: Education “Hurtling Towards Massive Change Without a Plan”

The global education and training sector has been warned that it is “hurtling towards massive change without a plan.” Astrid Jaeger, Managing Director of OEB Learning Technologies Europe GmbH, which organises OEB Global, Europe’s leading conference on technology assisted learning and training, said today (Wednesday) that the education sector will have to change “fundamentally and quickly” to cope with new demands created by rapid technological change.

“Technology is changing society. The way we live now, and the jobs we do, will never be the same again. Artificial intelligence is already allowing machines to replace workers on an unprecedented scale. Education must shape our response to the immense challenge of this new age. But education and training will have to change too. So will the nature of employment. To date, both educators and employers have been slow to come to terms with the implications of a new world in which the old jobs no longer exist. We need to think this through urgently and start planning for a radically different future. At the moment, we are hurtling towards massive change without a plan.”

Ms Jaeger was speaking at the launch of OEB Global’s new website, which provides details of this year’s conference, including a full list of themes for discussion. The overall theme of the event is ‘Learning to Love Learning’ and Ms Jaeger explained that it will encourage us to change our understanding of the role and importance of learning in our lives.

“Learning will no longer be a brief phase in life,” she said. “It will become a central part of our existence. In an era of constant and increasing change, we will discover a new appreciation of learning and an understanding of its place in the future. We will have to learn to love learning.”

Ms Jaeger’s concern, which is widely shared by many leading experts, is that the education sector has so far failed to come to terms with the fundamental shifts that are beginning to take place across society.

“What’s happening is going to mean that millions of people have more time on their hands. The world of work will change dramatically during the course of the next two decades. How will we cope with it? How will we enable people to live lives which are both meaningful and fulfilled? How will we equip them for jobs that require totally new skills, in a world with a completely different pattern of employment?

Participants in OEB Global will be asked to consider how institutions, organisations and employers should prepare themselves to meet the challenge of change. They will also ask how governments can create flexible, equitable education systems that are capable of adapting quickly to meet new demands. And they will look at how vocational training and further education can keep up with an ever-growing demand for new skills.

This year’s OEB Global, which will incorporate Learning Technologies Germany into the event for the first time, and which will be strengthening its focus on learning and development in the workplace, is likely to be “a highly significant event,” according to Ms Jaeger.

“It will be taking place at a moment of profound change in society, when every country is considering the implications of rapid technological change. We have to change our whole approach to learning and put it right at the heart of life in the future. We have to change the nature of education and inspire a new generation. How we do it is the subject of this year’s conference. It’s a very exciting subject and I think this year’s conference will be our most important ever.”

By incorporating the leading workplace learning event brand, Learning Technologies, which has two market leading events in Paris and London, a global digital community and the industry’s leading awards programme for corporate learning and development professionals, OEB Global will strengthen its position in this increasingly important sector.

OEB Global has launched a new website with full details of this year’s conference and exhibition. The website – – contains a guide to the conference and a full list of the topics to be discussed at it. The OEB programme includes a mix of plenary sessions, discussions, debates, learning labs and many other formats designed to encourage the exchange of knowledge and ideas.

The event organisers have issued a call for papers on the main conference themes, which include ‘instilling curiosity,’ dynamic learning and training, nascent technologies, skills development and data collection. A full list is available on the conference website. Anyone wanting to submit a paper for presentation at the conference should send a short abstract to the conference organisers, using the form available on the website. The call for papers will close on April 30th, 2018.

OEB Global is accompanied by a major international exhibition showcasing the latest technology-based solutions for learning and training, and the organisers are delighted that exhibition space and sponsorship has been booked at a record breaking high.

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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.


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


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


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


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


 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 


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


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


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


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


 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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How to bring company culture into the age of the digital workplace

It’s no secret that the digital workplace bolsters productivity. But beyond driving simpler and more efficient processes, it can also amplify workplace culture. And in our increasingly diverse and geographically scattered organisations, that’s a key benefit.

Good workplace culture isn’t simply regarded as a perk these days – it’s a business imperative with a demonstrable impact on the bottom line. As Gallup’s most recent 'State of the American Workplace' report revealed, workplaces with lower employee engagement scores suffered 18% lower productivity and 16% lower profitability.

For employees, a positive culture is so important that they prioritise it above material benefits such as a salary raise, according to a UK survey. And, in a survey of senior executives, 94% of them say culture is the most important element in driving innovation.

As the digital workplace continues to evolve, here are three ways to make sure your workplace’s culture keeps pace:

Involve HR, but put ownership on the CEO and leadership

Somewhere along the way, HR became responsible for all things people and culture. Yet this responsibility should not be relegated to one department – especially since organisational leadership has more power to make lasting changes.

Cultural improvement efforts require leadership buy-in – especially from the CEO. Getting CEO buy-in establishes a top-down precedent that will lead to broad adoption. If your CEO doesn’t already embrace culture as best as he or she could, illustrating the effect good culture has on the bottom line is sure to open his or her eyes.

Good workplace culture isn’t simply regarded as a perk these days – it’s a business imperative with a demonstrable impact on the bottom line.

After all, CEOs are tasked with running a profitable business above all other goals, so it helps to speak their language when introducing a new initiative.

Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, is a great example of a leader who does all he can to champion organisational culture. I think he puts it well in his book, 'Delivering Happiness': “Your personal core values define who you are, and a company’s core values ultimately define the company’s character and brand. For individuals, character is destiny. For organisations, culture is destiny.”

Align culture goals with what employees want from their workplace

With millennials establishing a larger presence at work, they’re bringing their own work styles to the office. For example, millennials are more apt to blend their personal and professional lives. They might keep in touch with friends and family throughout the day, but they’re also willing to answer work-related emails in their time away from the office.

Leadership should be open to adapting to these work style shifts rather than resisting them. Therefore, it’s up to workplace leaders to find out what their employees prioritise out of their experience at work so they too can prioritise it. If millennials feel supported in their varying work styles, they’ll be more likely to cite a positive culture, engage further with their work and stay loyal to the organisation.

Incorporate fun and creativity within the digital workplace where appropriate

The digital workplace came about for functional reasons, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a vehicle for the lighthearted and quirky parts of an organisation’s culture.

For example, many of our customers use a social wall in their digital workplace for employees to share fun and timely updates throughout the day. A kudos corner or shout-out zone is also a great way to highlight the efforts of employees who are going above and beyond.

These simple acts of recognition allow all employees, regardless of location or time zone, to share in celebrating the big and small successes. Commenting and sharing provides a social media-like experience and is a great way to remind your employees that they work in a community of other interesting, smart and funny humans.

Getting creative with how you can allow your employees to take a break from their daily routine says a lot about an organisation’s culture, and employees will take note of that. Basing all your processes in a digital space doesn't mean that your workplace culture has to suffer. In fact, the opposite is true. 

The age of the digital workplace makes the flourishing of workplace culture more possible than ever before and provides an avenue to extend some of the great aspects of your physical workplace culture into the digital workplace, if leadership is mindful about how to implement it.

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How to Build Trust with Colleagues You Rarely See

When you exchange pleasantries with a co-worker in the elevator, the two of you are building trust. When you stop by a colleague’s office and see their family photographs on a desk, you learn about that person’s life outside the office and, as a result, usually feel closer. Face-to-face meetings, office parties, and opportunities to socialize together after working hours can all contribute to the feeling that your fellow employees will be reliable in what they say and do and that they will act for the good of the team and the organization. You believe they are trustworthy because you’ve developed this feeling over time.

So how do you trust a co-worker you barely see in person? This is a particular challenge for global teams, where employees may only be in contact with one another over email at different times of the day and night.

With this in mind, there are two types of trust— swift trust and passable trust—that are useful to understand for people who work in global organizations. In addition, there are two types of knowledge —direct knowledge and reflected knowledge — employees must possess to make up for inevitable cultural and language differences that can hinder trust. Here’s how these categories break down, and how they work together.

Swift Trust. Swift trust is the notion that team members or co-workers can learn to swiftly trust one another from their very first interaction. People decide to trust one another immediately until proven otherwise — often because they have no other choice. Swift trust was first identified in flight teams and law enforcement teams who were brought together in crisis situations and expected to be working together for a limited amount of time. To effectively handle the nose-diving airplane or the threatening person wielding a gun, the team needed to trust one another immediately.

In addition to crisis situations, swift trust can be crucial for global teams, whose members are likely to originate from diverse cultures and countries, and who must immediately begin collaborating and coordinating.  Swift trust can develop early when managers endorse virtual team members during introductions by highlighting relevant or important experiences, or when team leaders explicitly set rules requiring frequent communication to reduce uncertainty and foster trust.

Passable Trust. Passable trust is a category that my colleague Paul Leonardi and I identifiedby looking at how employees behave online, especially on social media at work. Take, for example, a biologist named Marie. She sent a chat message to her colleague, Harry, about a new movie release, and then scrolling down his social media page, found that Harry had sent a message to Bruno about a new clinical trial. This piqued Marie’s interest. When she asked Harry about Bruno, Harry said Bruno was an expert on the subject. Next, Marie examined Bruno’s wall and spent time reading the messages that Bruno had exchanged with other company employees. From these conversations she deduced that Bruno was helpful and polite and most of all, trustworthy enough to contact with her questions. In other words, she had developed passable trust and felt comfortable reaching out to him.

Passable trust does not have to be complete or perfect. In contrast to swift trust, which is quickly established and may just as quickly evaporate when the job is done, passable trust can exist as a permanent state without anyone expecting that it must deepen or develop. The transparency of interactions on social media (work-related and non-work related) and the time spent messaging about personal information is enough. For global teams who communicate largely via electronic technology, passable trust is especially useful.

Both types of trust have their limits, however. For global teams, there are other factors besides geographical distance that complicate establishing and building trust with co-workers. Can you trust someone who, in addition to living in a far-away continent, speaks a language you can’t understand and sometimes behaves in ways that feel, to you, awkward or inappropriate? It’s easy to develop cultural stereotypes about your colleagues who originate in a different culture. Yet stereotyping handicaps trust building and instead leads to misunderstanding, resentment, and an unproductive “us versus them” dynamic.

To counter those tendencies, two additional means for building trust — direct knowledgeand reflected knowledge — are especially relevant for global teams.  Direct knowledge enhances your understanding of distant co-workers, be they geographically distant, culturally distant, or both, while reflected knowledge leads to feeling understood by distant co-workers.

Direct Knowledge. Direct knowledge is defined as learning about the personal characteristics and behavioral norms of distant colleagues. Learning that your teammate in France prefers to work uninterrupted when under pressure, or that your teammates in India use their tea breaks to actively collaborate are two examples of direct knowledge. One way to uncover this information is by allowing for unstructured structured time at the beginning or end of conference calls to encourage casual conversation. Another is to encourage your employees to travel to a distant collaborators’ site for a period of time.

Reflected Knowledge. Less obvious, but equally important for building trust among global teams is reflected knowledge, which is achieved by seeing the norms and behaviors of one’s own site through the lens of distant collaborators. My colleague Mark Mortenson and I identified reflected knowledge as a means for building understanding and trust. Here’s how this could play out:

Leah, a marketing manager from Tel Aviv, had always felt what she perceived as coldness from her colleagues who worked in the Danish office. At times, her direct questions over the phone were met with silence, which Leah found frustrating. In the Tel Aviv office, communication norms included a rough-and-tumble banter. If she said, “my four-year old daughter could do a better job than this!” to express dissatisfaction with a colleague’s subpar work, she knew her colleague would not be insulted.

However, Leah’s perceptions about communication norms changed after she spent time with her colleagues in the Danish office. There, she noticed that people spoke to each other quietly and politely. Interacting formally, to show respect for others, seemed to take priority. She saw an employee perform a shallow bow upon entering a supervisor’s office. In comparison, Leah felt loud and argumentative. She was able to see how her direct questions must have seemed aggressive or inappropriate to her Danish counterparts. She began to reflect on the norms of her home site: maybe they were too harsh with one another. Maybe they could treat each other with a little more respect. In any case, by the end of her visit, Leah felt closer and more able to trust her Danish colleagues — and had new ideas about how to run her own office to boot.

Trust is paramount for global teams, but it’s something you can’t force on people.  It’s a feeling that develops in various ways over time. That’s why it’s necessary to understand how different types of trust and knowledge can serve as the essential glue for global teams. This can not only improve teamwork and morale, but can deliver better results for organizations.

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People analytics reveals three things HR may be getting wrong

More sophisticated analyses of big data are helping companies identify, recruit, and reward the best personnel. The results can run counter to common wisdom.

Bill James, the factory watchman turned baseball historian and statistician, once observed, “There will always be people who are ahead of the curve, and people who are behind the curve. But knowledge moves the curve.”1Some companies are discovering that if they employ the latest in data analytics, they can find, deploy, and advance more people on the right side of the curve—even if the results at first appear counterintuitive.

Over the past decade, big data analytics has been revolutionizing the way many companies do business. Chief marketing officers track detailed shopping patterns and preferences to predict and inform consumer behavior. Chief financial officers use real-time, forward-looking, integrated analytics to better understand different business lines. And now, chief human-resources officers are starting to deploy predictive talent models that can more effectively—and more rapidly—identify, recruit, develop, and retain the right people. Mapping HR data helps organizations identify current pain points and prioritize future analytics investments. Surprisingly, however, the data do not always point in the direction that more seasoned HR officers might expect. Here are three examples.

1. Choosing where to cast the recruiting net

A bank in Asia had a well-worn plan for hiring: recruit the best and the brightest from the highest-regarded universities. The process was one of many put to the test when the company, which employed more than 8,000 people across 30 branches, began a major organizational restructuring. As part of the effort, the bank turned to data analytics to identify high-potential employees, map new roles, and gain greater insight into key indicators of performance.

Thirty data points aligned with five categories—demographics, branch information, performance, professional history, and tenure—were collected for each employee, using existing sources. Analytics were then applied to identify commonalities among high (and low) performers. This information, in turn, helped create profiles for employees with a higher likelihood of succeeding in particular roles.

Further machine learning–based analysis revealed that branch and team structures were highly predictive of financial outcomes. It also highlighted how a few key roles had a particularly strong impact on the bank’s overall success. As a result, executives built new organizational structures around key teams and talent groups. In many instances, previous assumptions about how to find the right internal people for new roles were upended.

Would you like to learn more about our Organization Practice?Visit our Human Capital page

Whereas the bank had always thought top talent came from top academic programs, for example, hard analysis revealed that the most effective employees came from a wider variety of institutions, including five specific universities and an additional three certification programs. An observable correlation was evident between certain employees who were regarded as “top performers” and those who had worked in previous roles, indicating that specific positions could serve as feeders for future highfliers. Both of these findings have since been applied in how the bank recruits, measures performance, and matches people to roles. The results: a 26 percent increase in branch productivity (as measured by the number of full-time employees needed to support revenue) and a rate of conversion of new recruits 80 percent higher than before the changes were put in place. During the same period, net income also rose by 14 percent.

2. Cutting through the hiring noise and bias

The democracy of numbers can also help organizations eliminate unconscious preferences and biases, which can surface even when those responsible have the best of intentions. For instance, a professional-services company had been nearly overwhelmed by the 250,000 job applications it received every year. By introducing more advanced automation, it sought to reduce the costs associated with the initial résumé-screening process, and to improve screening effectiveness. One complication was the aggressive goals the company had simultaneously set for hiring more women, prompting concern that a machine programmed to mine for education and work experience might undermine that effort.

The worries proved unwarranted. The algorithm adapted by HR took into account historical recruiting data, including past applicant résumés and, for those who were extended offers previously, their decisions on whether to accept. When linked to the company’s hiring goals, the model successfully identified those candidates most likely to be hired and automatically passed them on to the next stage of the recruiting process. Those least likely to be hired were automatically rejected. With a clearer field, expert recruiters were freer to focus on the remaining candidates to find the right fit. The savings associated with the automation of this step, which encompassed more than 55 percent of the résumés, delivered a 500 percent return on investment. What’s more, the number of women who passed through automated screening—each one on merit—represented a 15 percent increase over the number who had passed through manual screening. The foundational assumption—that screening conducted by humans would increase gender diversity more effectively—was proved incorrect.

3. Addressing attrition by improving management Too often, companies seek to win the talent war by throwing ever more money into the mix. One example was a major US insurer that had been facing high attrition rates; it first sought, with minimal success, to offer bonuses to managers and employees who opted to remain. Then the company got smarter. It gathered data to help create profiles of at-risk workers; the intelligence included a range of information such as demographic profile, professional and educational background, performance ratings, and, yes, levels of compensation. By applying sophisticated data analytics, a key finding rose to the fore: employees in smaller teams, with longer periods between promotions and with lower-performing managers, were more likely to leave.

Once these high-risk employees had been identified, more informed efforts were made to convince them to stay. Chiefly, these involved greater opportunities for learning development and more support from a stronger manager. Bonuses, on the other hand, proved to have little if any effect. As a result, funds that might have been allocated to ineffectual compensation increases were instead invested in learning development for employees and improved training for managers. Performance and retention both improved, with significant savings left over—showing yet again the value of digging into the data at hand. When well applied, people analytics is fairer, has greater impact, and is ultimately more time and cost-effective. It can move everyone up the knowledge curve—often times in counterintuitive ways.

Content was really clear 447 Content hit the target 359 Thanks for the learning boost! 344

Learning Organization Profile

This 25-question survey is used to determine if your company is on the correct path for becoming a Learning Organization.

Instructions: Below is a list of statements. Read each one carefully, and then decide the extent to which it actually applies to your organization by using the scale below: 

4 = applies fully 3 = applies to a great extent 2 = applies to a moderate extent 1 = applies to little or no extent 

Be honest with your answers as the goal is to identify where your organization is presently at so that you can make improvements.

Learning Dynamics: Individual, Group or Team, and Organization

1_______ We are encouraged and expected to manage our own learning and development.

2_______ People avoid distorting information and blocking communication channels, using such skills as active listening and effective feedback.

3_______ Individuals are trained and coached in learning how to learn.

4_______ Teams and individuals use the action learning process. (That is, they learn from careful reflection on problem situations, and then apply their new knowledge to future actions.)

5_______ People are able to think and act with a comprehensive, systems approach.

Organization Transformation: Vision, Culture, Strategy, and Structure

6_______ Top-level managers support the vision of a learning organization.

7_______ There is a climate that supports and recognizes the importance of learning.

8_______ We learn from failures as well as successes.

9_______ Learning opportunities are incorporated into operations and programs.

10_______ The organization is streamlined--with few management levels--to maximize communication and learning across all levels. 

People Empowerment: Employee, Manager, Customer, and Community 

11_______ We strive to develop an empowered workforce able to learn and perform.

12_______ Authority is decentralized and delegated.

13_______ Managers take on the roles of coaching, mentoring, and facilitating learning.

14_______ We actively share information with our customers to obtain their ideas to learn and improve services and products.

15_______ We participate in joint learning events with supplies, community groups, professional associations, and academic institutions. 

Knowledge Management: Acquisition, Creation, Storage and Retrieval, and Transfer and Use

16_______ People monitor trends outside our organization by looking at what others do--for example, by benchmarking best practices, attending conferences, and examining published research.

17_______ People are trained in the skills of creative thinking and experimentation.

18_______ We often create demonstration projects to test new ways of developing a product or delivering a service.

19_______ Systems and structures exist to ensure that important knowledge is coded, stored, and made available to those who need and can use it.

20_______ We continue to develop new strategies and mechanisms for sharing learning throughout the organization. 

Technology Application: Information Systems, Technology-Based Learning, and EPSS (Electronic Performance Support Systems)

21_______ Effective and efficient computer-based information systems help our organizational learning.

22_______ People have ready access to the information superhighway--for example, through local area networks, the Internet, ASTD Online, and so on.

23_______ Learning facilities such as training and conference rooms incorporate electronic multimedia support.

24_______ We support just-in-time learning with a system that integrates high-technology learning systems, coaching, and actual work into a seamless process.

25_______ Electronic Performance Support Systems (EPSS) enable us to learn and do our work better. 

_______ Total (Maximum Score 100)


81 - 100: Congratulations! You are well on your way to becoming a learning organization!

61 - 80: Keep on moving! Your organization has a solid learning foundation. 

40 - 60: A good beginning. Your organization has gathered some important building blocks to become a learning organization. 

Below 40: Watch out! Time to make drastic changes if you want to survive in a rapidly changing world.

Content was really clear 448 Content hit the target 361 Thanks for the learning boost! 361

The learning organization: principles, theory and practice

The learning organization. Just what constitutes a ‘learning organization is a matter of some debate. We explore some of the themes that have emerged in the literature and the contributions of key thinkers like Donald Schon and Peter Senge. Is it anything more than rhetoric? Can it be realized?

Many consultants and organizations have recognized the commercial significance of organizational learning – and the notion of the ‘learning organization’ has been a central orienting point in this. Writers have sought to identify templates, or ideal forms, ‘which real organizations could attempt to emulate’ (Easterby-Smith and Araujo 1999: 2). In this sense the learning organization is an ideal, ‘towards which organizations have to evolve in order to be able to respond to the various pressures [they face] (Finger and Brand 1999: 136). It is characterized by a recognition that ‘individual and collective learning are key’ (op. cit.).

Two important things result from this. First, while there has been a lot of talk about learning organizations it is very difficult to identify real-life examples. This might be because the vision is ‘too ideal’ or because it isn’t relevant to the requirements and dynamics of organizations. Second, the focus on creating a template and upon the need to present it in a form that is commercially attractive to the consultants and writers has led to a significant under-powering of the theoretical framework for the learning organization. Here there is a distinct contrast with the study of organizational learning.

Although theorists of learning organizations have often drawn on ideas from organizational learning, there has been little traffic in the reverse direction. Moreover, since the central concerns have been somewhat different, the two literatures have developed along divergent tracks. The literature on organizational learning has concentrated on the detached collection and analysis of the processes involved in individual and collective learning inside organizations; whereas the learning organizations literature has an action orientation, and is geared toward using specific diagnostic and evaluative methodological tools which can help to identify, promote and evaluate the quality of learning processes inside organizations. (Easterby-Smith and Araujo 1999: 2; see also Tsang 1997).

We could argue that organizational learning is the ‘activity and the process by which organizations eventually reach the ideal of a learning organization’ (Finger and Brand 1999: 136).

On this page we examine the path-breaking work of Donald Schon on firms as learning systems and then go on to explore Peter Senge’s deeply influential treatment of the learning organization (and it’s focus on systemic thinking and dialogue). We finish with a brief exploration of the contribution of social capital to the functioning of organizations.

The learning society and the knowledge economy

The emergence of the idea of the ‘learning organization’ is wrapped up with notions such as ‘the learning society’. Perhaps the defining contribution here was made by Donald Schon. He provided a theoretical framework linking the experience of living in a situation of an increasing change with the need for learning.

The loss of the stable state means that our society and all of its institutions are in continuous processes of transformation. We cannot expect new stable states that will endure for our own lifetimes.

We must learn to understand, guide, influence and manage these transformations. We must make the capacity for undertaking them integral to ourselves and to our institutions.

We must, in other words, become adept at learning. We must become able not only to transform our institutions, in response to changing situations and requirements; we must invent and develop institutions which are ‘learning systems’, that is to say, systems capable of bringing about their own continuing transformation. (Schon 1973: 28)

One of Schon’s great innovations was to explore the extent to which companies, social movements and governments were learning systems – and how those systems could be enhanced. He suggests that the movement toward learning systems is, of necessity, ‘a groping and inductive process for which there is no adequate theoretical basis’ (ibid.: 57). The business firm, Donald Schon argued, was a striking example of a learning system. He charted how firms moved from being organized around products toward integration around ‘business systems’ (ibid.: 64). He made the case that many companies no longer have a stable base in the technologies of particular products or the systems build around them. Crucially Donald Schon then went on with Chris Argyris to develop a number of important concepts with regard to organizational learning. Of particular importance for later developments was their interest in feedback and single- and double-loop learning. 

Subsequently, we have seen very significant changes in the nature and organization of production and services. Companies, organizations and governments have to operate in a global environment that has altered its character in significant ways.

Productivity and competitiveness are, by and large, a function of knowledge generation and information processing: firms and territories are organized in networks of production, management and distribution; the core economic activities are global – that is they have the capacity to work as a unit in real time, or chosen time, on a planetary scale. (Castells 2001: 52)

A failure to attend to the learning of groups and individuals in the organization spells disaster in this context. As Leadbeater (2000: 70) has argued, companies need to invest not just in new machinery to make production more efficient, but in the flow of know-how that will sustain their business. Organizations need to be good at knowledge generation, appropriation and exploitation.

The learning organization

It was in this context that Peter Senge (1990) began to explore ‘The art and practice of the learning organization’. Over 750,000 copies of The Fifth Discipline (1990) were sold in the decade following its publication – and it is probably this book that has been the most significant factor in popularising the notion of the learning organization. However, as Sandra Kerka remarked in 1995 ‘there is not… a consensus on the definition of a learning organization’. Indeed, little has changed since. Garvin (2000: 9) recently observed that a clear definition of the learning organization has proved to be elusive.

Exhibit 1: Three definitions of a learning organization

Learning organizations [are] organizations where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to see the whole together. (Senge 1990: 3)

The Learning Company is a vision of what might be possible. It is not brought about simply by training individuals; it can only happen as a result of learning at the whole organization level. A Learning Company is an organization that facilitates the learning of all its members and continuously transforms itself. (Pedler et. al. 1991: 1)

Learning organizations are characterized by total employee involvement in a process of collaboratively conducted, collectively accountable change directed towards shared values or principles. (Watkins and Marsick 1992: 118)

We can see much that is shared in these definitions – and some contrasts. To start with the last first: some writers (such as Pedler et. al.) appear to approach learning organizations as something that are initiated and developed by senior management – they involve a top-down, managerial imposed, vision (Hughes and Tight 1998: 183). This can be contrasted with more ‘bottom-up’ or democratic approaches such as that hinted at by Watkins and Marsick (1992; 1993). Some writers have looked to the learning company, but most have proceeded on the assumption that any type of organization can be a learning organization. A further crucial distinction has been reproduced from the use of theories from organizational learning. This is the distinction made between technical and social variants (Easterby-Smith and Araujo 1999: 8). The technical variant has looked to interventions based on measure such as the ‘learning curve’ (in which historical data on production costs is plotted against the cumulative output of a particular product) (op. cit.). There is a tendency in such approaches to focus on outcomes rather than the processes of learning. The social view of the learning organization looks to interaction and process – and it is this orientation that has come to dominate the popular literature.

According to Sandra Kerka (1995) most conceptualizations of the learning organizations seem to work on the assumption that ‘learning is valuable, continuous, and most effective when shared and that every experience is an opportunity to learn’ (Kerka 1995). The following characteristics appear in some form in the more popular conceptions. Learning organizations:

Provide continuous learning opportunities.

Use learning to reach their goals.

Link individual performance with organizational performance.

Foster inquiry and dialogue, making it safe for people to share openly and take risks.

Embrace creative tension as a source of energy and renewal.

Are continuously aware of and interact with their environment. (Kerka 1995)

As Kerka (1995) goes onto comment, the five disciplines that Peter Senge goes on to identify (personal mastery, mental models, shared vision, team learning and systems thinking) are the keys to achieving this sort of organization. Here, rather than focus too strongly on the five disciplines (these can be followed up in our review of Senge and the learning organization) we want to comment briefly on his use of systemic thinking and his interest in ‘dialogue’ (and the virtues it exhibits). These two elements in many respects mark out his contribution.

Systems theory and the learning organization

Systemic thinking is the conceptual cornerstone (‘The Fifth Discipline’) of Peter Senge’s approach. It is the discipline that integrates the others, fusing them into a coherent body of theory and practice (1990: 12). Systems theory’s ability to comprehend and address the whole, and to examine the interrelationship between the parts provides, for Peter Senge, both the incentive and the means to integrate the disciplines. Three things need noting here. First, systems theory looks to connections and to the whole. In this respect it allows people to look beyond the immediate context and to appreciate the impact of their actions upon others (and vice versa). To this extent it holds the possibility of achieving a more holistic understanding. Second, while the building blocks of systems theory are relatively simple, they can build into a rather more sophisticated model than are current in many organizations. Senge argues that one of the key problems with much that is written about, and done in the name of management, is that rather simplistic frameworks are applied to what are complex systems. When we add these two points together it is possible to move beyond a focus on the parts, to begin to see the whole, and to appreciate organization as a dynamic process. Thus, the argument runs, a better appreciation of systems will lead to more appropriate action. Third, systemic thinking, according to Senge, allows us to realize the significance of feedback mechanisms in organizations. He concludes:

The systems viewpoint is generally oriented toward the long-term view. That’s why delays and feedback loops are so important. In the short term, you can often ignore them; they’re inconsequential. They only come back to haunt you in the long term. (Senge1990: 92)

While other writers may lay stress on systems theory, in Senge’s hands it sharpens the model – and does provide some integration of the ‘disciplines’ he identifies.

Dialogue and the learning organization

Peter Senge also places an emphasis on dialogue in organizations – especially with regard to the discipline of team learning. Dialogue (or conversation) as Gadamer has argued is is a process of two people understanding each other. As such it is inherently risky and involves questioning our beliefs and assumptions.

Thus it is a characteristic of every true conversation that each opens himself to the other person, truly accepts his point of view as worthy of consideration and gets inside the other to such an extent that he understands not a particular individual, but what he says. The thing that has to be grasped is the objective rightness or otherwise of his opinion, so that they can agree with each other on a subject. (Gadamer 1979: 347)

The concern is not to ‘win the argument’, but to advance understanding and human well being. Agreement cannot be imposed, but rests on common conviction (Habermas 1984: 285-287). As a social relationship it entails certain virtues and emotions.

It is easy to see why proponents of the learning organization would place a strong emphasis upon dialogue. As Peter Senge has argued, for example, team learning entails the capacity of members of a team to suspend assumptions and enter into a genuine “thinking together”’ (1990: 10). Dialogue is also necessary to other disciplines e.g. building a shared vision and developing mental models. However, there are significant risks in dialogue to the organization. One factor in the appeal of Senge’s view of dialogue (which was based upon the work of David Bohmand associates) was the promise that it could increase and enrich corporate activity. It could do this, in part, through the exploration and questioning of ‘inherent, predetermined purposes and goals’ (Bohm et. al. 1991). There is a clear parallel here with Argyris and Schön’s work on double-loop learning, but interestingly one of Bohm’s associates has subsequently suggested that their view was too optimistic: ‘dialogue is very subversive’ (Factor 1994).

Some problems and issues

In our discussion of Senge and the learning organizationwe point to some particular problems associated with his conceptualization. These include a failure to fully appreciate and incorporate the imperatives that animate modern organizations; the relative sophistication of the thinking he requires of managers (and whether many in practice they are up to it); and questions around his treatment of organizational politics. It is certainly difficult to find real-life examples of learning organizations (Kerka 1995). There has also been a lack of critical analysis of the theoretical framework.

Based on their study of attempts to reform the Swiss Postal Service, Matthias Finger and Silvia B?rgin Brand (1999) provide us with a useful listing of more important shortcomings of the learning organization concept. They conclude that it is not possible to transform a bureaucratic organization by learning initiatives alone. They believe that by referring to the notion of the learning organization it was possible to make change less threatening and more acceptable to participants. ‘However, individual and collective learning which has undoubtedly taken place has not really been connected to organizational change and transformation’ (ibid.: 146). Part of the issue, they suggest, is to do with the concept of the learning organization itself. They argue the following points. The concept of the learning organization:

Focuses mainly on the cultural dimension, and does not adequately take into account the other dimensions of an organization. To transform an organization it is necessary to attend to structures and the organization of work as well as the culture and processes. ‘Focussing exclusively on training activities in order to foster learning… favours this purely cultural bias’ (ibid.: 146).

Favours individual and collective learning processes at all levels of the organization, but does not connect them properly to the organization’s strategic objectives. Popular models of organizational learning (such as Dixon 1994) assume such a link. It is, therefore, imperative, ‘that the link between individual and collective learning and the organization’s strategic objectives is made’ (ibid.: 147). This shortcoming, Finger and Brand argue, makes a case for some form of measurement of organizational learning – so that it is possible to assess the extent to which such learning contributes or not towards strategic objectives.

Remains rather vague. The exact functions of organizational learning need to be more clearly defined.

In our view, organizational learning is just a means in order to achieve strategic objectives. But creating a learning organization is also a goal, since the ability permanently and collectively to learn is a necessary precondition for thriving in the new context. Therefore, the capacity of an organization to learn, that is, to function like a learning organization, needs to be made more concrete and institutionalized, so that the management of such learning can be made more effective. (ibid.: 147)

Finally, Finger and Brand conclude, that there is a need to develop ‘a true management system of an organization’s evolving learning capacity’ (op. cit.). This, they suggest, can be achieved through defining indicators of learning (individual and collective) and by connecting them to other indicators.


It could be argued that the notion of the learning organization provides managers and others with a picture of how things could be within an organization. Along the way, writers like Peter Senge introduce a number of interesting dimensions that could be personally developmental, and that could increase organizational effectiveness – especially where the enterprise is firmly rooted in the ‘knowledge economy. However, as we have seen, there are a number of shortcomings to the model – it is theoretically underpowered and there is some question as to whether the vision can be realized within the sorts of dynamics that exist within and between organizations in a globalized capitalist economy. It might well be that ‘the concept is being oversold as a near-universal remedy for a wide variety of organizational problems’ (Kuchinke 1995 quoted in Kerka 1995).

There have been various attempts by writers to move ‘beyond’ the learning organization. (The cynics among us might conclude that there is a great deal of money in it for the writers who can popularise the next ‘big thing’ in management and organizational development). Thus, we find guides and texts on ‘the developing organization’ (Gilley and Maybunich 2000), ‘the accelerating organization (Maira and Scott-Morgan 1996), and ‘the ever-changing organization’ (Pieters and Young 1999). Peter Senge, with various associates, has continued to produce workbooks and extensions of his analysis to particular fields such as schooling (1994; 1999; 2000).

In one of the more interesting developments there has been an attempt to take the already substantial literature on trust in organizations (Edmondson and Moingeon 1999: 173) and to link it to developments in thinking around social capital (especially via the work of political theorists like Robert Putnam) (see Cohen and Prusak 2001). We could also link this with discussions within informal education and lifelong learning concerning the educative power of organizations and groups (and hence the link to organizational learning) (see the material on association elsewhere on these pages). Here the argument is that social capital makes an organization more than a collection of individuals. (Social capital can be seen as consisting of ‘the stock of active connections among people: the trust, mutual understanding, and shared values and behaviours that bind the members of human networks and communities and make cooperative action possible’, Cohen and Prusak 2001: 4). Social capital draws people into groups.

This kind of connection supports collaboration, commitment, ready access to knowledge and talent, and coherent organizational behaviour. This description of social capital suggests appropriate organizational investments – namely, giving people space and time to connect, demonstrating trust, effectively communicating aims and beliefs, and offering equitable opportunities and rewards that invite genuine participation, not mere presence. (Cohen and Prusak 2001: 4)

In this formulation we can see many of the themes that run through the approach to the learning organization that writers like Watkins and Marsick (1993) take. The significant thing about the use of the notion of social capital is the extent to which it then becomes possible to tap into some interesting research methodologies and some helpful theoretical frameworks.

Quite where we go from here is a matter for some debate. It could be that the notion of the ‘learning organization’ has had its ‘fifteen minutes of fame’. However, there does seem to be life in the notion yet. It offers an alternative to a more technicist framework, and holds within it a number of important possibilities for organizations seeking to sustain themselves and to grow.

Further reading and references

Easterby-Smith, M., Burgoyne, J. and Araujo, L. (eds.) (1999) Organizational Learning and the Learning Organization, London: Sage. 247 + viii pages. A collection with a good overview and some very helpful individual papers. The opening section provides reviews and critiques, the second, a series of evaluations of practice.

Schön, D. A. (1973) Beyond the Stable State. Public and private learning in a changing society, Harmondsworth: Penguin. 236 pages. A very influential book (following Schön’s 1970 Reith Lectures) arguing that ‘change’ is a fundamental feature of modern life and that it is necessary to develop social systems that can learn and adapt. Schön develops many of the themes that were to be such a significant part of his collaboration with Chris Argyris and his exploration of reflective practice.

Senge, P. M. (1990) The Fifth Discipline. The art and practice of the learning organization, London: Random House. 424 + viii pages. A seminal and highly readable book in which Senge sets out the five ‘competent technologies’ that build and sustain learning organizations. His emphasis on systems thinking as the fifth, and cornerstone discipline allows him to develop a more holistic appreciation of organization (and the lives of people associated with them).


Argyris, C., & Schön, D. (1978) Organisational learning: A theory of action perspective, Reading, Mass: Addison Wesley.

Argyris, C. and Schön, D. (1996) Organisational learning II: Theory, method and practice, Reading, Mass: Addison Wesley.

Bohm, D., Factor, D. and Garrett, P. (1991) ‘Dialogue – a proposal’, the informal education archives.

Bolman, L. G. and Deal, T. E. (1997) Reframing Organizations. Artistry, choice and leadership 2e, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 450 pages.

Castells, M. (2001) ‘Information technology and global capitalism’ in W. Hutton and A. Giddens (eds.) On the Edge. Living with global capitalism, London: Vintage.

Cohen, D. and Prusak, L. (2001) In Good Company. How social capital makes organizations work, Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Dixon, N. (1994) The Organizational Learning Cycle. How we can learn collectively, London: McGraw-Hill.

Easterby-Smith, M. and Araujo, L. ‘Current debates and opportunities’ in M. Easterby-Smith, L. Araujo and J. Burgoyne (eds.) Organizational Learning and the Learning Organization, London: Sage.

Edmondson, A. and Moingeon, B. (1999) ‘Learning, trust and organizational change’ in M. Easterby-Smith, L. Araujo and J. Burgoyne (eds.) Organizational Learning and the Learning Organization, London: Sage.

Factor, D. (1994) On Facilitation and Purpose,

Finger, M. and Brand, S. B. (1999) ‘The concept of the “learning organization” applied to the transformation of the public sector’ in M. Easterby-Smith, L. Araujo and J. Burgoyne (eds.) Organizational Learning and the Learning Organization, London: Sage.

Gadamer, H-G. (1979) Truth and Method, London: Sheed and Ward.

Garvin, D. A. (2000) Learning in Action. A guide to putting the learning organization to work, Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business School Press.

Gilley, J. W. and Maybunich, A. (2000) Beyond the Learning Organization. Creating a culture of continuous growth and development through state-of-the-art human resource practices, Cambridge, Mass.: Perseus Books.

Habermas, J. (1984) The Theory of Communicative Action Volume 1, Cambridge: Polity Press.

Hayes, R. H., Wheelwright, S. and Clark, K. B. (1988) Dynamic Manufacturing: Creating the learning organization, New York: Free Press. 429 pages.

Hughes, C. and Tight, M. (1998) The myth of the learning society’ in S. Ranson (ed.) Inside the Learning Society, London: Cassell.

Kerka, S. (1995) ‘The learning organization: myths and realities’ Eric Clearinghouse,

Leadbeater, C, (2000) Living on Thin Air, London: Penguin.

Malhotra, Y. (1996) ’Organizational Learning and Learning Organizations: An Overview’

Maira, A. and Scott-Morgan, P. B. (1996) The Accelerating Organization: Embracing the human face of change, McGraw-Hill.

Marquandt, M. and Reynolds, A. (1993) The Global Learning Organization, Irwin Professional Publishing.

Marquardt, M. J. (1996) Building the Learning Organization, New York: McGraw-Hill.

Van Maurik, J. (2001) Writers on Leadership, London: Penguin.

Pedler, M., Burgoyne, J. and Boydell, T. (1991, 1996) The Learning Company. A strategy for sustainable development, London: McGraw-Hill.

Pieters, G. W. and Young, D. W. (1999) The Ever-Changing Organization: Creating the capacity for continuous change, learning and improvement, St Lucie.

Senge, P. et. al. (1994) The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook: Strategies and Tools for Building a Learning Organization

Senge, P., Kleiner, A., Roberts, C., Ross, R., Roth, G. and Smith, B. (1999) The Dance of Change: The Challenges of Sustaining Momentum in Learning Organizations, New York: Doubleday/Currency).

Senge, P., Cambron-McCabe, N. Lucas, T., Smith, B., Dutton, J. and Kleiner, A. (2000) Schools That Learn. A Fifth Discipline Fieldbook for Educators, Parents, and Everyone Who Cares About Education, New York: Doubleday/Currency

Sugarman, B. (1996) ‘Learning, Working, Managing, Sharing: The New Paradigm of the “Learning Organization”’, Lesley College,

Sugarman, B. (1996) ‘The learning organization and organizational learning: New Roles for Workers, Managers, Trainers and Consultants’, Lesley College,

Tsang, E. (1997) ‘Organizational learning and the learning organization: a dichotomy between descriptive and prescriptive research’, Human Relations, 50(1): 57-70.

Watkins, K. and Marsick, V. (eds.) (1993) Sculpting the Learning Organization. Lessons in the art and science of systematic change, San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass.

Watkins, K. and Marsick, V. (1992) ‘Building the learning organization: a new role for human resource developers’, Studies in Continuing Education 14(2): 115-29.

Content was really clear 440 Content hit the target 355 Thanks for the learning boost! 370

What You Can Learn From the Success of the Sharing Economy

Be efficient, trustworthy, innovative and community-centric.

The sharing economy, or collaborative consumption, has quickly overtaken many business sectors. Most people have, or know someone who has, tried Airbnb, Uber, Etsy or another share-based business. To be successful in the sharing economy, your brand must be efficient, trustworthy, innovative and community-centric. 

These principles aren’t just indicative of successful share-based businesses; they also play an important part of any successful entrepreneur.

Always strive for better efficiencies.

The most obvious example of the sharing economy using increased efficiencies to dominate a market is Uber. Uber entered the commuting sector in 2009 and focused on improving the inefficiencies that existed with taxi cabs.

Taxis have a limited inventory of cabs, so Uber developed a way for any qualified person to sign up as an Uber driver, aiming to eliminate inventory deficits. Uber also created an intuitive and data-based pricing model to solve issues with outdated taxi fare estimates. Uber continues to use technology to make it easier to pay, hail a ride and increase the overall user experience. By focusing on being more efficient, Uber has built one of the most recognizable brands in the transportation industry.

While you might not be running a disruptive business like Uber, you can still look for inefficiencies in your business or industry. One common problem with a lot of entrepreneurs is an inefficient use of technology. There is a technological solution for almost every day-to-day operation. However, many entrepreneurs struggle to invest in technology because they fear the upfront cost. Keep in mind, spending a few thousand dollars on a new technology to increase your total output or cut down your lead time can save you much more money over the life of your company.

If you operate a brick-and-mortar store or office, you can increase employee efficiency by improving the workplace environment. Work can be exhausting mentally and physically, so simple tweaks like rearranging the office for improved air-flow can make your employees more productive and improve their health and satisfaction.

Trust is key.

For the sharing economy to work, trust must be established between the buyer and seller. This can be extremely difficult because most sharing-based businesses simply facilitate the transaction and do not control the inventory or seller.

Take Airbnb for example. They have a network of rental properties throughout the world that are all controlled by individual homeowners or renters. This no-inventory model serves as a marketplace for managing all elements of the transaction between supplier and purchaser. To accomplish this, Airbnb must establish trust in the platform that will also be transferred to each supplier.

Fortunately, most entrepreneurs manage their product or service directly and don’t have to transfer trust from their brand to individual suppliers. This makes it easier for you to build and maintain a trusting relationship with your customers. The first step to building trust is to understand your customers. Spend time collecting information about your current clientele so you can mold your communication to speak directly to that consumer profile. You can also improve trust with customers through marketing and advertising. If you’re bootstrapped, there are several affordable ways to use digital marketing to increase consumer trust.

Trust isn’t just administered from business to customer, you must also work to develop trust with your employees. Great entrepreneurs are leaders in the workplace. They are willing to get their hands dirty and coach their team. A title or job description isn’t enough to warrant trust from your employees; you must earn it through hard work. 

Don’t be afraid to innovate.

Innovation is an important characteristic of successful companies in the sharing economy, but it is also a critical part of traditional businesses. In fact, many companies use innovation as the framework for their brand identity -- think Apple.

Not all innovation requires a brand new idea. In fact, you can use resources and knowledge from other industries to innovate within your sector.

For instance, Ofo is a Chinese bike-sharing startup trying to innovate the way people commute in big cities. By using a mobile app, consumers can locate, unlock and ride available bikes anytime. The business model isn’t much different from Airbnb or Uber, and using bikes to commute in the city isn’t unique. However, its ease, affordability and convenience make this idea noteworthy.

Innovation keeps your company relevant in an increasingly competitive global marketplace. You’d be hard-pressed to find many successful companies that don’t innovate. Even local restaurants are working on new recipes for their menu.

As an entrepreneur, you must not be afraid to try and fail. Look for blue oceans with minimal competition that you can enter and control. Think of solutions to relevant problems in your industry, look at your product from different vantage points, and think outside the box to find opportunities to grow your product. Innovation requires versatility and risk. Don’t be afraid of it.

Build an active community.

If there is one element you take away from successful businesses in the sharing economy, a thriving community should be it. The share-based business model is built around dissemination and scalability, which isn’t possible without an active community. They created a platform and marketplace that is designed to recruit, vet, satisfy and retain a community of suppliers and buyers. They are successful at community development because they use due diligence, a communication feedback loop, marketing and data-based strategic decisions.

As an entrepreneur, you should focus on building an active and stable community of customers and leads. Obsess over customer satisfaction and retention. It’s estimated that acquiring new customers can cost upwards of five times that of retaining an existing customer. Customer retention will increase the customer lifetime value, which will result in more revenue and increased business.

One of the easiest ways for entrepreneurs to build a community is through active engagement online. Use platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat to grow and interact with your community. Remember, the communication shouldn’t be one direction. Encourage questions and handle customer issues when they arise. If you can convince customers to invest themselves into your brand, you’ll develop an active and thriving community.

Trust can help you get users into the door; an active community is what keeps them coming back.

The sharing economy is a thriving ecosystem that affects us as entrepreneurs and customers. The most successful sharing-based businesses have focused a lot of their efforts on improving efficiencies, building trust, growing their community and innovating. These four basic principles should be at the top of your priorities list as an entrepreneur.

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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, 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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Psychometrics: Using multiple assessments for more predictive analysis

Psychometric assessments have already proven their objectivity and reliability in various HR decision-making processes. But their current way of use proves lacking against the evolving organization HR challenges, like the emergence of new skills and occupations, perennial dearth of talent, and more than ever diverse working environments.

Recruitment mistakes remain a reality and despite the proliferation of selection methods its success rate stands at only 54%. That means a recruiter makes one bad decision for every two recruitments.  

According to a study by the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), the cost of selecting the wrong person can run up to five times of a bad hire’s annual salary. And higher the position and longer the person remains in that position, the more it will cost to replace them. It is also known that in 89% of the cases, the failures are explained by behavioral factors and not by a lack of technical know-how.1 

Psychometric assessments have already proven their objectivity and reliability in various HR decision-making processes. But their current way of use proves lacking against the evolving organization HR challenges, like the emergence of new skills and occupations, perennial dearth of talent, and more than ever diverse working environments.

Better target potentials through multi-criteria assessment approach

Human behavior is incredibly complex with each person having a unique set of characteristics. So, trying to predict how a person is going to behave and perform at work is not an easy task. That is why making a good recruitment decision is not anymore based on “gut feeling” or “liking the candidate”; it is about combining multiple data for a more accurate and predictive analysis of a candidate’s potential.

Due to their construction and scientific validity, psychometric assessment matches well the "big data" approach and provide accurate and unbiased insight into people’s behavior and potential.

However, it is well known that psychometrics is not a crystal ball. Psychometric tests have surely shown to have a predictive value in relation to job competencies and overall performance, but their success rate depends significantly on the how well the assessments are used.

Recruitment decision cannot be based solely on cognitive skills evaluation or just a personality test alone. As research has shown that the predictive ability to use a single assessment tool is often moderate. However, when multiple assessments are combined, their predictive analysis enhanced significantly.

This is precisely what Harvard Business School study shows2, the combined use of personality and intelligence tests increases recruitment efficiency by 15% compared to a non-test recruitment process.

These significant findings corroborate the Schmidt & Hunter study, which highlighted the predictive values of several selection methods including intelligence tests and integrity assessment. Thus the use of intelligence tests in addition to the structured interview allows to increase the success rate by 12% compared to maintenance alone. More generally, this study shows that the combination of selection tools, when they are relevant, is always more predictive.

“In terms of recruitment algorithms do better than intuition.”

Since the results from different psychometric tests complement each other, they can ensure a more accurate assessment. For example, one can combine a personality test, a sales aptitude test with an emotional intelligence test for a more precise and comprehensive evaluation, when it comes to hiring for a sales position.

The only limitation with this approach is that the assessors need to juggle report results of different assessments to obtain one complete analysis of the candidate’s profile.

A psychometric test creator Central Test, understood the challenge and developed a tool called TALENT MAP that uses the multi-criteria approach to psychometric assessments. 

It relies on a powerful algorithm to analyze the results of multiple assessments in a single competency framework and job referential.

TALENT MAP offers decision-makers the power to match a candidate profile with 36 competencies and 138 occupations, with just one click. Fully customizable, the tool can adjust to your own criteria and you can define the competency estimated according to your expectations.

The multi-criteria approach redefines the use of psychometric assessments and will significantly increase the success of your recruitments.

In summary, psychometric tests are excellent tools for decision making in recruitment, even though there is no quick fix. This predictive accuracy could be further enhanced by an optimized use of psychometrics, notably through the promising multi-criteria approach.


 1 "Hiring for attitude”, Mark Murphy, 2012

  2 "Discretion in hiring", Harvard Business School, 2015

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Emotional Agility

Sixteen thousand—that’s how many words we speak, on average, each day. So imagine how many unspoken ones course through our minds. Most of them are not facts but evaluations and judgments entwined with emotions—some positive and helpful (I’ve worked hard and I can ace this presentation; This issue is worth speaking up about; The new VP seems approachable), others negative and less so (He’s purposely ignoring me; I’m going to make a fool of myself; I’m a fake).

The prevailing wisdom says that difficult thoughts and feelings have no place at the office: Executives, and particularly leaders, should be either stoic or cheerful; they must project confidence and damp down any negativity bubbling up inside them. But that goes against basic biology. All healthy human beings have an inner stream of thoughts and feelings that include criticism, doubt, and fear. That’s just our minds doing the job they were designed to do: trying to anticipate and solve problems and avoid potential pitfalls.

In our people-strategy consulting practice advising companies around the world, we see leaders stumble not because they have undesirable thoughts and feelings—that’s inevitable—but because they get hooked by them, like fish caught on a line. This happens in one of two ways. They buy into the thoughts, treating them like facts (It was the same in my last job…I’ve been a failure my whole career), and avoid situations that evoke them (I’m not going to take on that new challenge). Or, usually at the behest of their supporters, they challenge the existence of the thoughts and try to rationalize them away (I shouldn’t have thoughts like this…I know I’m not a total failure), and perhaps force themselves into similar situations, even when those go against their core values and goals (Take on that new assignment—you’ve got to get over this). In either case, they are paying too much attention to their internal chatter and allowing it to sap important cognitive resources that could be put to better use.

This is a common problem, often perpetuated by popular self-management strategies. We regularly see executives with recurring emotional challenges at work—anxiety about priorities, jealousy of others’ success, fear of rejection, distress over perceived slights—who have devised techniques to “fix” them: positive affirmations, prioritized to-do lists, immersion in certain tasks. But when we ask how long the challenges have persisted, the answer might be 10 years, 20 years, or since childhood.

Clearly, those techniques don’t work—in fact, ample research shows that attempting to minimize or ignore thoughts and emotions serves only to amplify them. In a famous study led by the late Daniel Wegner, a Harvard professor, participants who were told to avoid thinking about white bears had trouble doing so; later, when the ban was lifted, they thought about white bears much more than the control group did. Anyone who has dreamed of chocolate cake and french fries while following a strict diet understands this phenomenon.

Effective leaders don’t buy into or try to suppress their inner experiences. Instead they approach them in a mindful, values-driven, and productive way—developing what we call emotional agility. In our complex, fast-changing knowledge economy, this ability to manage one’s thoughts and feelings is essential to business success. Numerous studies, from the University of London professor Frank Bond and others, show that emotional agility can help people alleviate stress, reduce errors, become more innovative, and improve job performance.

We’ve worked with leaders in various industries to build this critical skill, and here we offer four practices—adapted from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), originally developed by the University of Nevada psychologist Steven C. Hayes—that are designed to help you do the same: Recognize your patterns; label your thoughts and emotions; accept them; and act on your values.

Fish on a Line

Let’s start with two case studies. Cynthia is a senior corporate lawyer with two young children. She used to feel intense guilt about missed opportunities—both at the office, where her peers worked 80 hours a week while she worked 50, and at home, where she was often too distracted or tired to fully engage with her husband and children. One nagging voice in her head told her she’d have to be a better employee or risk career failure; another told her to be a better mother or risk neglecting her family. Cynthia wished that at least one of the voices would shut up. But neither would, and in response she failed to put up her hand for exciting new prospects at the office and compulsively checked messages on her phone during family dinners.

Jeffrey, a rising-star executive at a leading consumer goods company, had a different problem. Intelligent, talented, and ambitious, he was often angry—at bosses who disregarded his views, subordinates who didn’t follow orders, or colleagues who didn’t pull their weight. He had lost his temper several times at work and been warned to get it under control. But when he tried, he felt that he was shutting off a core part of his personality, and he became even angrier and more upset.

These smart, successful leaders were hooked by their negative thoughts and emotions. Cynthia was absorbed by guilt; Jeffrey was exploding with anger. Cynthia told the voices to go away; Jeffrey bottled his frustration. Both were trying to avoid the discomfort they felt. They were being controlled by their inner experience, attempting to control it, or switching between the two.

Getting Unhooked

Fortunately, both Cynthia and Jeffrey realized that they couldn’t go on—at least not successfully and happily—without more-effective inner strategies. We coached them to adopt the four practices:

Recognize your patterns.

The first step in developing emotional agility is to notice when you’ve been hooked by your thoughts and feelings. That’s hard to do, but there are certain telltale signs. One is that your thinking becomes rigid and repetitive. For example, Cynthia began to see that her self-recriminations played like a broken record, repeating the same messages over and over again. Another is that the story your mind is telling seems old, like a rerun of some past experience. Jeffrey noticed that his attitude toward certain colleagues (He’s incompetent; There’s no way I’m letting anyone speak to me like that) was quite familiar. In fact, he had experienced something similar in his previous job—and in the one before that. The source of trouble was not just Jeffrey’s environment but his own patterns of thought and feeling. You have to realize that you’re stuck before you can initiate change.

Leaders stumble when they are paying too much attention to their internal chatter and allowing it to sap important cognitive resources that could be put to better use.

Label your thoughts and emotions.

When you’re hooked, the attention you give your thoughts and feelings crowds your mind; there’s no room to examine them. One strategy that may help you consider your situation more objectively is the simple act of labeling. Just as you call a spade a spade, call a thought a thought and an emotion an emotion. I’m not doing enough at work or at home becomes I’m having the thought that I’m not doing enough at work or at home. Similarly, My coworker is wrong—he makes me so angry becomes I’m having the thought that my coworker is wrong, and I’m feeling anger. Labeling allows you to see your thoughts and feelings for what they are: transient sources of data that may or may not prove helpful. Humans are psychologically able to take this helicopter view of private experiences, and mounting scientific evidence shows that simple, straightforward mindfulness practice like this not only improves behavior and well-being but also promotes beneficial biological changes in the brain and at the cellular level. As Cynthia started to slow down and label her thoughts, the criticisms that had once pressed in on her like a dense fog became more like clouds passing through a blue sky.

Accept them.

The opposite of control is acceptance—not acting on every thought or resigning yourself to negativity but responding to your ideas and emotions with an open attitude, paying attention to them and letting yourself experience them. Take 10 deep breaths and notice what’s happening in the moment. This can bring relief, but it won’t necessarily make you feel good. In fact, you may realize just how upset you really are. The important thing is to show yourself (and others) some compassion and examine the reality of the situation. What’s going on—both internally and externally? When Jeffrey acknowledged and made room for his feelings of frustration and anger rather than rejecting them, quashing them, or taking them out on others, he began to notice their energetic quality. They were a signal that something important was at stake and that he needed to take productive action. Instead of yelling at people, he could make a clear request of a colleague or move swiftly on a pressing issue. The more Jeffrey accepted his anger and brought his curiosity to it, the more it seemed to support rather than undermine his leadership.

Act on your values.

When you unhook yourself from your difficult thoughts and emotions, you expand your choices. You can decide to act in a way that aligns with your values. We encourage leaders to focus on the concept of workability: Is your response going to serve you and your organization in the long term as well as the short term? Will it help you steer others in a direction that furthers your collective purpose? Are you taking a step toward being the leader you most want to be and living the life you most want to live? The mind’s thought stream flows endlessly, and emotions change like the weather, but values can be called on at any time, in any situation.

When Cynthia considered her values, she recognized how deeply committed she was to both her family and her work; she loved being with her children, but she also cared passionately about the pursuit of justice. Unhooked from her distracting and discouraging feelings of guilt, she resolved to be guided by her principles. She recognized how important it was to get home for dinner with her family every evening and to resist work interruptions during that time. But she also undertook to make a number of important business trips, some of which coincided with school events that she would have preferred to attend. Confident that her values, not solely her emotions, were guiding her, Cynthia finally found peace and fulfillment. It’s impossible to block out difficult thoughts and emotions. Effective leaders are mindful of their inner experiences but not caught in them. They know how to free up their internal resources and commit to actions that align with their values. Developing emotional agility is no quick fix—even those who, like Cynthia and Jeffrey, regularly practice the steps we’ve outlined here will often find themselves hooked. But over time, leaders who become increasingly adept at it are the ones most likely to thrive.

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Email and Calendar Data Are Helping Firms Understand How Employees Work

Using data science to predict how people in companies are changing may sound futuristic. As we wrote recently, change management remains one of the few areas largely untouched by the data-driven revolution. But while we may never convert change management into a “hard science,” some firms are already benefiting from the potential that these data-driven techniques offer.

One of the key enablers is the analysis of email traffic and calendar metadata. This tells us a lot about who is talking to whom, in what departments, what meetings are happening, about what, and for how long. These sorts of analyses are helping EY, where some of us work, by working with Microsoft Workplace Analytics to help clients to predict the likelihood of retaining key talent following an acquisition and to develop strategies to maximize retention. Using email and calendar data, we can identify patterns around who is engaging with whom, which parts of the organization are under stress, and which individuals are most active in reaching across company boundaries.

Understandably, there may be privacy concerns about examining an individual’s email or calendar, even in a work context. However, you can also get powerful insights using anonymous metadata, where the individual names and specific content are removed. It’s possible to analyze the metadata for content themes and frequency of contact between departments, and to correlate this data with more traditional indicators of process effectiveness, cycle time, right-first-time, and so on. What this gives us is hard data on how processes fail in the organization. We no longer need to rely on anecdotes or employee surveys — instead, we can pinpoint precisely where the breakdowns are occurring just by examining data on day-to-day workflows. We can say precisely what behavior change is needed to make a new process work, and then monitor improvement in real time.

An early example comes from an organization restructure we have been working on. These sorts of projects are usually motivated by a desire to improve strategy execution and reduce costs. Traditionally, only the financial element was measurable, which could easily drive decision-making. For one EY client, we are using data science to make organizational design decisions that accelerate strategy goals. The client wanted to increase collaboration across units, for example, between sales and product development. We used an analysis of anonymized email and calendar data to predict what impact the number of direct reports a manager had on the ability of specific teams to collaborate. That helped us to optimize work design to achieve the result the client wanted.

The potential of these techniques is to change the way managers interact with employees. Today, most managers are doing their best to engage and motivate employees. However, we have to wait for “formal triggers” before we can respond, such as an employee survey or a one-on-one with a manager. Analyzing activity in email traffic might allow us to intervene much faster and find out whether what we are doing actually works. This can become a sort of “real-time employee sentiment analysis” that would transform the quality of insight managers have at their disposal.

Let’s take the example of the recent executive order in the United States that imposed a travel ban on seven mostly Muslim countries. This was a major concern for many technology companies that have a large number of employees on H1-B visas, both from the countries involved and from their neighbors in Asia and the Middle East. If companies were using an artificial intelligence solution that provided real-time insight, they would be able to monitor the level of concern in the organization, perhaps even anticipate the sorts of concerns that employees were having. Many employers set up dialogue sessions with employees to answer questions and attend to their concerns. The only evidence we have on the impact of these sessions was anecdotal. With a “real-time employee sentiment” system, we’d be able to say precisely and respond accordingly, and measure the impact of those responses.

We will always need professional change managers to interpret this data and to design the right sorts of ways to work with employees during transformation or external emergencies, such as the travel ban. What these data science tools can do is make our responses faster and more targeted and tell us what worked in a faster, more reliable, and less invasive way than was previously achievable. In the organization restructuring referenced above, it took only three weeks to analyze a year’s worth of behavioral data to be included in the design of the future processes and structure. In the past, we would have relied on invasive techniques, such as interviews and employee surveys, that not only take up time but also introduce all kinds of bias. Our advice for the change manager of the future is to make data your friend; never reorganize without it.

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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.


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Top 10 LMS Requirements For Corporate Training

Ready to move your corporate training online but aren’t quite sure what your LMS needs are to get the job done? In this article, I´ll share the top LMS requirements for corporate training that you need to know about when choosing a learning management system for your organization.

LMS Requirements For Corporate Training

In many ways and in the simplest of terms, an LMS is a lot like a puzzle. It must have all the key pieces in place, all of the functions and features your organization needs, if you truly want to get the most return from your investment. In this article, you’ll discover the top 10 LMS puzzle pieces that you’ll need to create a whole and effective corporate training experience for your employees.

1. Site and Online Course Customization

Are you going to be able to integrate your branding into the LMS? Is the LMS vendor providing you with your own online training website that employees can log in to access their online training modules? One of the most important LMS requirements for corporate training, particularly for organizations who want cohesive branding, is a product that allows you to customize virtually every aspect of your online course and of your online training site. This can add value to the online training course by increasing its credibility, as well as its aesthetic appeal, which enriches the online training experience as a whole.

2. eLearning Course Building

When considering LMS requirements for corporate training, effective eLearning course building tools are a must-have. Not only should the LMS provide a wide range of tools you can use to create the online training course that you have in mind, but it should also allow for both usability and design freedom. In other words, it should be easy enough for your design team to use, while still providing the features they need to take full advantage of their skills and talents.

3. Multimedia Integration

Videos,interactive scenarios, and multimedia presentations are all key ingredients to an immersive online training course. This means that one of the major LMS requirements for corporate training is that it has to offer you the ability to integrate multimedia into your eLearning design quickly and conveniently. Can you upload your own videos into the eLearning course, or integrate links that your online users can click on to access online presentations hosted elsewhere? Determine which multimedia elements you will be using regularly and then ensure that the LMS supports these media.

4. Updating Capabilities

Chances are that you may need to update your eLearning course contents on a regular basis. This is especially true for compliance online training courses or those that focus on product knowledge. Online assessments will also need to be updated on a regular basis, as well as certifications and links to other online resources. As a result, your LMS should give you the power to modify and add elements to your eLearning course design with relative ease.

5. Multilanguage Support

Even if you aren’t planning on delivering training to international audiences at the moment, you may need to do so in the future, particularly if your organization is considering going global. Does the LMS offer you the opportunity to add subtitles or captions to your eLearning course, or to create eLearning templates that can easily be modified to accommodate for other languages?

6. Online Assessments

Online assessments are on the most effective ways to gauge the effectiveness of your online training program. They give you the power to determine if your corporate learners are actually absorbing information and skills or if your eLearning strategy may need to be fine-tuned. As such, having a learning management system that allows for easy test, quiz, or exam integration is fundamental. Do they have a database of questions that you can use? Are there any online templates that will help to make the development process simple and straightforward? Does the LMS enable you to create interactive assessments?

7. Tracking Reports

Learner performance, progress, as well as strengths and weaknesses are just some of the items included in online tracking reports. Having a LMS that features online tracking capabilities offers insight into how your employees are faring and whether your training strategy is achieving its goals and objectives. Some LMS providers offer dashboard reports, while others may deliver them directly to your email inbox.

8. Compliance

Failing to meet compliance requirements can lead to a variety of negative consequences. Therefore, one of the LMS requirements for corporate training should be that your LMS should be able to track compliance training results and help you to ensure that every member of your staff is meeting the standards. Some may even be able to issue compliance certifications that your employees can earn by completing specific online modules.

9. Feedback tools

One of the powerful tools you have at your disposal is learners' feedback. Having a LMS that has built-in poll, survey and questionnaire online tools can make the data collection process more efficient and streamlined. You can find out which aspects of your online training course you may need to improve and which are offering your corporate audience the most value, without having to use third party poll sites.

10. eCommerce

If you are planning on selling your online training courses, in addition to offering them to your employees, it’s wise to have a built-in eCommerce platform. There are certain LMS vendors who offer you the opportunity to set up a virtual storefront, while others allow for shopping cart integration directly on your corporate site. If you are going the eCommerce route, then you may also want to look for a learning management system that also has marketing and social media features integrated, so that you can promote your product online.

Keep these LMS requirements for corporate training in mind when selecting your next LMS to ensure that you get the most value for money and that you provide your employees with the skill set development they need to achieve professional success.


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Is Yours a Learning Organization?

Leaders may think that getting their organizations to learn is only a matter of articulating a clear vision, giving employees the right incentives, and providing lots of training. This assumption is not merely flawed—it’s risky in the face of intensifying competition, advances in technology, and shifts in customer preferences.

Organizations need to learn more than ever as they confront these mounting forces. Each company must become a learning organization. The concept is not a new one. It flourished in the 1990s, stimulated by Peter M. Senge’s The Fifth Discipline and countless other publications, workshops, and websites. The result was a compelling vision of an organization made up of employees skilled at creating, acquiring, and transferring knowledge. These people could help their firms cultivate tolerance, foster open discussion, and think holistically and systemically. Such learning organizations would be able to adapt to the unpredictable more quickly than their competitors could.

Unpredictability is very much still with us. However, the ideal of the learning organization has not yet been realized. Three factors have impeded progress. First, many of the early discussions about learning organizations were paeans to a better world rather than concrete prescriptions. They overemphasized the forest and paid little attention to the trees. As a result, the associated recommendations proved difficult to implement—managers could not identify the sequence of steps necessary for moving forward. Second, the concept was aimed at CEOs and senior executives rather than at managers of smaller departments and units where critical organizational work is done. Those managers had no way of assessing how their teams’ learning was contributing to the organization as a whole. Third, standards and tools for assessment were lacking. Without these, companies could declare victory prematurely or claim progress without delving into the particulars or comparing themselves accurately with others.

In this article, we address these deficiencies by presenting a comprehensive, concrete survey instrument for assessing learning within an organization. Built from the ground up, our tool measures the learning that occurs in a department, office, project, or division—an organizational unit of any size that has meaningful shared or overlapping work activities. Our instrument enables your company to compare itself against benchmark scores gathered from other firms; to make assessments across areas within the organization (how, for, example, do different groups learn relative to one another?); and to look deeply within individual units. In each case, the power is in the comparisons, not in the absolute scores. You may find that an area your organization thought was a strength is actually less robust than at other organizations. In effect, the tool gives you a broader, more grounded view of how well your company learns and how adeptly it refines its strategies and processes. Each organization, and each unit within it, needs that breadth of perspective to accurately measure its learning against that of its peers.

Building Blocks of the Learning Organization

Organizational research over the past two decades has revealed three broad factors that are essential for organizational learning and adaptability: a supportive learning environment, concrete learning processes and practices, and leadership behavior that provides reinforcement. We refer to these as the building blocks of the learning organization. Each block and its discrete subcomponents, though vital to the whole, are independent and can be measured separately. This degree of granular analysis has not been previously available.

Our tool is structured around the three building blocks and allows companies to measure their learning proficiencies in great detail. As you shall see, organizations do not perform consistently across the three blocks, nor across the various subcategories and subcomponents. That fact suggests that different mechanisms are at work in each building-block area and that improving performance in each is likely to require distinct supporting activities. Companies, and units within them, will need to address their particular strengths and weaknesses to equip themselves for long-term learning. Because all three building blocks are generic enough for managers and firms of all types to assess, our tool permits organizations and units to slice and dice the data in ways that are uniquely useful to them. They can develop profiles of their distinctive approaches to learning and then compare themselves with a benchmark group of respondents. To reveal the value of all these comparisons, let’s look in depth at each of the building blocks of a learning organization.

Building Block 1: A supportive learning environment.

An environment that supports learning has four distinguishing characteristics.

Psychological safety.

To learn, employees cannot fear being belittled or marginalized when they disagree with peers or authority figures, ask naive questions, own up to mistakes, or present a minority viewpoint. Instead, they must be comfortable expressing their thoughts about the work at hand.

Appreciation of differences.

Learning occurs when people become aware of opposing ideas. Recognizing the value of competing functional outlooks and alternative worldviews increases energy and motivation, sparks fresh thinking, and prevents lethargy and drift.

Openness to new ideas.

Learning is not simply about correcting mistakes and solving problems. It is also about crafting novel approaches. Employees should be encouraged to take risks and explore the untested and unknown.

Time for reflection.

All too many managers are judged by the sheer number of hours they work and the tasks they accomplish. When people are too busy or overstressed by deadlines and scheduling pressures, however, their ability to think analytically and creatively is compromised. They become less able to diagnose problems and learn from their experiences. Supportive learning environments allow time for a pause in the action and encourage thoughtful review of the organization’s processes.

Supportive learning environments allow time for a pause in the action and encourage thoughtful review of the organization’s processes.

To change a culture of blame and silence about errors at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, COO Julie Morath instituted a new policy of “blameless reporting” that encouraged replacing threatening terms such as “errors” and “investigations” with less emotionally laden terms such as “accidents” and “analysis.” For Morath, the culture of hospitals must be, as she told us, “one of everyone working together to understand safety, identify risks, and report them with out fear of blame.” The result was that people started to collaborate throughout the organization to talk about and change behaviors, policies, and systems that put patients at risk. Over time, these learning activities yielded measurable reductions in preventable deaths and illnesses at the institution.

Building Block 2: Concrete learning processes and practices.

A learning organization is not cultivated effortlessly. It arises from a series of concrete steps and widely distributed activities, not unlike the workings of business processes such as logistics, billing, order fulfillment, and product development. Learning processes involve the generation, collection, interpretation, and dissemination of information. They include experimentation to develop and test new products and services; intelligence gathering to keep track of competitive, customer, and technological trends; disciplined analysis and interpretation to identify and solve problems; and education and training to develop both new and established employees.

For maximum impact, knowledge must be shared in systematic and clearly defined ways. Sharing can take place among individuals, groups, or whole organizations. Knowledge can move laterally or vertically within a firm. The knowledge-sharing process can, for instance, be internally focused, with an eye toward taking corrective action. Right after a project is completed, the process might call for post-audits or reviews that are then shared with others engaged in similar tasks. Alternatively, knowledge sharing can be externally oriented—for instance, it might include regularly scheduled forums with customers or subject-matter experts to gain their perspectives on the company’s activities or challenges. Together, these concrete processes ensure that essential information moves quickly and efficiently into the hands and heads of those who need it.

Perhaps the best known example of this approach is the U.S. Army’s After Action Review (AAR) process, now widely used by many companies, which involves a systematic debriefing after every mission, project, or critical activity. This process is framed by four simple questions: What did we set out to do? What actually happened? Why did it happen? What do we do next time? (Which activities do we sustain, and which do we improve?) In the army, lessons move quickly up and down the chain of command, and laterally through sanctioned websites. Then the results are codified by the Center for Army Lessons Learned, or CALL. Such dissemination and codification of learning is vital for any organization.

Building Block 3: Leadership that reinforces learning.

Organizational learning is strongly influenced by the behavior of leaders. When leaders actively question and listen to employees—and thereby prompt dialogue and debate—people in the institution feel encouraged to learn. If leaders signal the importance of spending time on problem identification, knowledge transfer, and reflective post-audits, these activities are likely to flourish. When people in power demonstrate through their own behavior a willingness to entertain alternative points of view, employees feel emboldened to offer new ideas and options.

When leaders demonstrate a willingness to entertain alternative points of view, employees feel emboldened to offer new ideas.

Harvey Golub, former chief executive of American Express, was renowned for his ability to teach employees and managers. He pushed hard for active reasoning and forced managers to think creatively and in unexpected ways. A subordinate observed that he often “came at things from a different angle” to ensure that conventional approaches were not accepted without first being scrutinized. “I am far less interested in people having the right answer than in their thinking about issues the right way,” Golub told us. “What criteria do they use? Why do they think the way they do? What alternatives have they considered? What premises do they have? What rocks are they standing on?” His questions were not designed to yield particular answers, but rather to generate truly open-minded discussion.

The three building blocks of organizational learning reinforce one another and, to some degree, overlap. Just as leadership behaviors help create and sustain supportive learning environments, such environments make it easier for managers and employees to execute concrete learning processes and practices smoothly and efficiently. Continuing the virtuous circle, concrete processes provide opportunities for leaders to behave in ways that foster learning and to cultivate that behavior in others.

Uses for the Organizational Learning Tool

Our online diagnostic tool is designed to help you answer two questions about the organizational unit that you lead or in which you work: “To what extent is your unit functioning as a learning organization?” and “What are the relationships among the factors that affect learning in your unit?” People who complete the survey rate how accurately a series of brief, descriptive sentences in each of the three building blocks of learning describe their organization and its learning culture. For the list of statements in the complete survey, information about where to find it online, and details about how it works, see the exhibit “Assess the Depth of Learning in Your Organization.”

There are two primary ways to use the survey. First, an individual can take it to get a quick sense of her work unit or project team. Second, several members of a unit can each complete the survey and average their scores. Either way, the next step is to compare individual or group self-evaluations with overall benchmark scores from our baseline group of organizations. The benchmark data are stratified into quartiles—that is, the bottom 25%, the next 25%, and so on—for each attribute, arrayed around a median (see the exhibit “Benchmark Scores for the Learning Organization Survey”). Once you have obtained your own scores online, you can identify the quartile in which your scores fall and reflect on how they match your prior expectations about where you stand.

Having compared individual or unit scores with the benchmarks, it’s possible to identify areas of excellence and opportunities for improvement. If employees in multiple units wish to take the survey, you can also make the comparisons unit-by-unit or companywide. Even if just two people from different parts of a firm compare scores, they can pinpoint cultural differences, commonalities, and things to learn from one another. They may also discover that their unit—or even the company—lags behind in many areas. By pooling individual and unit scores, organizations as a whole can begin to address specific problems.

Holding Up the Mirror at Eutilize

Consider how managers from a major European public utility, which we will call Eutilize, used the survey to assess their company’s readiness for and progress in becoming a learning organization. In the summer of 2006, 19 midlevel managers took the survey. Before learning their scores, participants were asked to estimate where they thought Eutilize would stand in relation to the benchmark results from other firms.

Virtually all the participants predicted average or better scores, in keeping with the company’s espoused goal of using knowledge and best-practice transfers as a source of competitive advantage. But the results did not validate those predictions. To their great surprise, Eutilize’s managers rated themselves below the median baseline scores in almost all categories. For example, out of a possible scaled score of 100, they had 68 on leadership, compared with the median benchmark score of 76. Similarly, they scored 58 on concrete learning processes (versus the median benchmark of 74) and 62 on supportive learning environment (versus the median of 71). These results revealed to the Eutilize managers that integrating systematic learning practices into their organization would take considerable work. However, the poorest-scoring measures, such as experimentation and time for reflection, were common to both Eutilize and the baseline organizations. So Eutilize was not unusual in where it needed to improve, just in how much.

The portrait that emerged was not unexpected for a public utility that had long enjoyed monopolies in a small number of markets and that only recently had established units in other geographic areas. Eutilize’s scores in the bottom quartile on openness to new ideas, experimentation, conflict and debate, and information transfer were evidence that changing the company’s established culture would be a long haul.

Eutilize’s managers also discovered the degree to which their mental models about their own ways of working were inaccurate. For example, they learned that many people in their firm believed that “analysis” was an area of strength for Eutilize, but they interpreted analysis to be merely number crunching. The survey results helped them to understand the term analysis more broadly—to think about the degree to which people test assumptions, engage in productive debate, and seek out dissenting views. Each of those areas was actually a weakness in the firm. This revelation led Eutilize’s managers to understand that without a more open environment buttressed by the right processes and leadership, the company would have difficulty implementing a new strategy it had just adopted.

Eutilize’s experience illustrates how our organizational learning tool prompts reflective discussion among managers about their leadership and organizational practices. Without concrete data, such reflection can become abstract and susceptible to idiosyncratic assessments and often emotional disagreements about the current state of affairs. With the survey data in hand, managers had a starting point for discussion, and participants were able to point to specific behaviors, practices, or events that might explain both high and low scores. The results also helped Eutilize’s managers to identify the areas where their firm needed special attention.

Given that the survey-based scores derive from perceptions, the best use of the data at Eutilize was, as it would be at any company, to initiate conversation and self-reflection, not to be the sole basis for decision making. Discussions had to be conducted with a healthy balance of what scholars call “advocacy and inquiry.” The communication allowed people the latitude to assert their personal observations and preferred suggestions for action, but it also ensured that everyone took the time to carefully consider viewpoints that were not their own. In addition, managers learned the importance of using concrete examples to illustrate interpretations, to refer to specific practices or processes, and to clarify observations. Finally, the participants from Eutilize identified specific actions to be taken. Had they not done so, the discussions could have deteriorated into unproductive complaint sessions.

Moving Forward: Four Principles

Our experiences developing, testing, and using this survey have provided us with several additional insights for managers who seek to cultivate learning organizations.

Leadership alone is insufficient.

By modeling desired behaviors—open-minded questioning, thoughtful listening, consideration of multiple options, and acceptance of opposing points of view—leaders are indeed likely to foster greater learning. However, learning-oriented leadership behaviors alone are not enough. The cultural and process dimensions of learning appear to require more explicit, targeted interventions. We studied dozens of organizations in depth when developing our survey questions and then used the instrument with four firms that had diverse sizes, locations, and missions. All four had higher scores in learning leadership than in concrete learning processes or supportive learning environment. Performance often varies from category to category. This suggests that installing formal learning processes and cultivating a supportive learning climate requires steps beyond simply modifying leadership behavior.

Organizations are not monolithic.

Managers must be sensitive to differences among departmental processes and behaviors as they strive to build learning organizations. Groups may vary in their focus or learning maturity. Managers need to be especially sensitive to local cultures of learning, which can vary widely across units. For example, an early study of medical errors documented significant differences in rates of reported mistakes among nursing units at the same hospital, reflecting variations in norms and behaviors established by unit managers. In most settings, a one-size-fits-all strategy for building a learning organization is unlikely to be successful.

Managers need to be especially sensitive to local cultures of learning, which can vary widely across units.

Comparative performance is the critical scorecard.

Simply because an organization scores itself highly in a certain area of learning behavior or processes does not make that area a source of competitive advantage. Surprisingly, most of the organizations we surveyed identified the very same domains as their areas of strength. “Openness to new ideas” and “education and training” almost universally scored higher than other attributes or categories, probably because of their obvious links to organizational improvement and personal development. A high score therefore conveys limited information about performance. The most important scores on critical learning attributes are relative—how your organization compares with competitors or benchmark data.

Learning is multidimensional.

All too often, companies’ efforts to improve learning are concentrated in a single area—more time for reflection, perhaps, or greater use of post-audits and after-action reviews. Our analysis suggests, however, that each of the building blocks of a learning organization (environment, processes, and leadership behaviors) is itself multidimensional and that those elements respond to different forces. You can enhance learning in an organization in various ways, depending on which subcomponent you emphasize—for example, when it comes to improving the learning environment, one company might want to focus on psychological safety and another on time for reflection. Managers need to be thoughtful when selecting the levers of change and should think broadly about the available options. Our survey opens up the menu of possibilities. 

The goal of our organizational learning tool is to promote dialogue, not critique. All the organizations we studied found that reviewing their survey scores was a chance to look into a mirror. The most productive discussions were those where managers wrestled with the implications of their scores, especially the comparative dimensions (differences by level, subunit, and so forth), instead of simply assessing performance harshly or favorably. These managers sought to understand their organizations’ strengths and weaknesses and to paint an honest picture of their cultures and leadership. Not surprisingly, we believe that the learning organization survey is best used not merely as a report card or bottom-line score but rather as a diagnostic instrument—in other words, as a tool to foster learning.

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Why 'ghosting' is becoming a problem in the job world

Speaking up for yourself if a hiring company "ghosts" you is important says Jane Ashen Turkewitz.

Jane Ashen Turkewitz has been a recruiter in the advertising and tech industry for more than 15 years and has become increasingly appalled at how rude hiring companies can be to prospective employees after interviewing them.

Turkewitz now runs her own recruiting firm,, in part because of the level of insensitivity she saw. "I was sick of it all. I thought that we needed to do it all in a more empathetic way," she told Business Insider.

Case in point: she recently wrote a post on LinkedIn that has gone viral. In it, she dared to suggest that if a hiring company "ghosts" you after putting you through multiple interviews, you should speak up for yourself and let them know it's not ok.

By "ghosting" she means that:

1. You've already done multiple interviews and perhaps completed sample tasks for them; 

2. They were previously responding to your emails;

3. You've sent multiple polite emails or made multiple phone calls for about a month after your last interview, and no one has responded to any of them.

4. You've given up on the job and are ready to move on.

Make yourself feel better ... or not?

If you are feeling dejected about such a situation (and really, who wouldn't be?), sending such an email won't help you get the job. But it might make you feel better, "and that's a valid reason right there," Turkewitz says.

The email should be polite but firm. Here's her suggested text:

I hope one day, if you are in my shoes, interviewing for a new, exciting job, that you are not treated in such an unkind manner. Wishing you and yours continued success as I find success elsewhere."

"I would like to thank you for the opportunity to interview for the role of X. I was surprised, after my 7 rounds of interviews, to not hear anything regardless of my attempts to stay engaged.

Due to the lack of response, it's a fair assumption that you have decided to move in another direction. While I am disappointed, I certainly respect if someone more qualified entered the picture.

That said, isn't it common courtesy to let a candidate know where he stands in the process, even if it's a difficult conversation? A rejection is disappointing but 'ghosting' shows a lack of leadership and empathy.

I hope one day, if you are in my shoes, interviewing for a new, exciting job, that you are not treated in such an unkind manner. Wishing you and yours continued success as I find success elsewhere."

This post with her sample email has been shared over 165,000 times on LinkedIn, liked by over 1,100 and received nearly 200 comments, which confirms to Turkewitz what she's seen in her own career: that "ghosting happens a lot," she says.

Turkewitz says she's been surprised by the comments. Many people didn't agree with her that they should speak up in this way.

"I definitely think ghosting is poor etiquette, but I would be cautious about sending a passive aggressive response. I think it's best to chalk it up to a loss (or possibly a gain) and move on," one person responded.

But Turkewitz believes that if you're ready to kiss the job off anyway, speaking up is ok and might do the next person some good.

"If it were me and somebody wrote me a note like that, I would be mortified. I wouldn’t be angered as if someone burned a bridge. I would be thinking, 'They met with 3 or more people and nobody got back to them? That’s a problem. Something is broken here,'" she said.

Turkewitz does caution not to be quite so firm if the company never responds after a single interview. While that's still rude of them, in her opinion, it is also very, very common. 

She suggests a note more like this: "I would like to thank for opportunity the interview. I’m assuming you are moving forward in another direction."

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Not just nice to have: nature in the workplace makes employees happier and healthier

Bringing nature into the workplace can help reduce stress and increase creativity and focus, research shows.

Some researchers suggest humans have an innate need to be connected with nature. This is called biophilia. But as housing density, commute times, and office hours increase, we are spending less and less time in natural environments.

Workplace stress costs American businesses up to US$190 billion every year in healthcare costs alone. This is why bringing nature into the office can have such a big impact on employee wellbeing.

Incorporating nature into the workplace can take many different forms including living green walls, indoor trees and planter boxes. Even views of nature on television screens or art can positively impact mood and wellbeing.

Your environment has a huge impact on mood

Just being able to see nature has been shown to increase both self-esteem and mood, particularly among younger people.

Attention restoration theory suggests that looking at nature can cause the brain to shift into a different mode of processing. Researchers studied brain scans of people who were randomly assigned to look at pictures of a green meadow or a concrete roof for 40 seconds. Even this brief glimpse of nature was enough to shift the brain into a more relaxed mode.

Researchers also got the participants to do a task that measured their attention. The ones who had seen the picture of the meadow performed significantly better than the others, making less mistakes and getting less distracted.

Several other experiments and studies that included sounds of running water and forest smells also show that exposure to nature not only improved subjective measures of stress, but also physiological factors like heart rates and blood pressure.

Nature and the workplace

Researchers in America looked at the connection between environment and employee sickness. They found that 10% of employee absences could be explained by office design that did not include views of nature or sufficient daylight.

Another study from the United Kingdom found that bringing plants into workplace not only increased productivity by 15%, but also increased concentration and workplace satisfaction.

But even where there aren’t windows onto nature, and it isn’t possible to bring in plants, some of the same effects can be achieved. Simulated views of nature, using high definition televisions, have also been shown to create positive effects, such as lowering heart rates and blood pressure.

But it’s not just the sights and sounds of nature that are beneficial. It’s also good to create spaces where employees can go to take time out, such as indoor gardens. These spaces provide opportunities for restoration, privacy and retreat from noise.

The importance of well designed spaces such as these for employees appears particularly relevant with the rise of open-plan workplaces where employees may have little respite from noise and distraction.

When I started my working life, the only plants in the office were the occasional dusty, limp palm. In recent years, it seems as if every new office, cafe and public building has a green wall. The research shows this is not just another office design fad. There is a business case for bringing nature into the office, in terms of reduced costs and increased employee wellbeing and happiness.

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How to Develop the Future Employee

It used to be that being an employee was a fairly well-defined process: people joined a company and stayed with that organization for their entire career, working their way up the ladder and building a nice retirement package. However, that career path is fast becoming the exception rather than the norm, as the idea of what it means to be an employee is constantly changing. Today’s employee often forgoes the traditional contract between a single organization and has more freedom to change their career. Employees can be full time, part time, or contractors and often move between organizations multiple times during their careers. It all boils down to the fact that an employee is a member of the team who contributes on a daily basis to the success of the organization, and to whom the organization also contributes to their success.

The changing mindset for the future employee is an area where many organizations struggle because it throws out most of the traditional ideas about how to hire, train, and promote employees. Although every organization must make its own decision about how to operate in regards to employees, the most important trait is to have an ever-evolving mindset, according to John Sigmon, chief human resources officer at AARP. One of the biggest obstacles for organizations is how much time, effort, and training to put into an employee that could leave the company and go work for a competitor in just a few years. In theory, that training and knowledge would eventually go to help another organization. But the flip side also remains–what happens if a company doesn’t put in very much training or development and the employee ends up staying with the organization? It could come back to hurt the company if employees aren’t well developed. It is often to a company’s best interest to develop their employees to showcase their trust in them. That way, no matter where employees go or what their next career steps are, they can always be ambassadors for your organization.

An employee’s worth is often based on how much they contribute to the company, but the new wave of thinking highlights that organizations must also contribute back to employees. This happens through more than just a paycheck and basic benefits, but through career development and building marketability and strong skills. Developing strong employees helps the organization and the industry as a whole, no matter if the employee is a long-term full-time employee or a contractor who will move on to a new project in a few months.

Today’s employees want to develop and continually challenge themselves, which is one of the reason they move between organizations faster than employees have in the past. Many organizations have found that their employees are hungry for ways to build their careers, not only to plan for the future but also to find new ways they can contribute in their current position. AARP runs a series for employees about “Building Your Presence” that brings in experts from around the country to train on various topics and answer development questions. The program has been incredibly well received by employees and provides them the opportunity to push themselves and gain more skills. And although AARP knows that not all of those employees will work at AARP for their entire careers, it is the price the company pays to build its employees and turn them into the best people they can possibly be.

Addressing the modern employee definitely takes a changed mindset, which can be a challenge for some organizations. While employees can act as a catalyst by making their voices heard, true cultural change must come from the top with management leading by example and embracing all kinds of employees.

As the future of work evolves, we’ll likely see more changes in what it means to be an employee, especially in regard to customization and flexibility. However, organizations should continue to change alongside their employees and develop them into well-rounded people who can contribute to the company’s success every day.

This article was taken from an interview on the Future of Work Podcast with John Sigmon. You can listen to the full episode here.

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We need to talk about employability, not employment

To measure this key graduate outcome, we must better understand what it is, what it is not and what it could be, argues Johnny Rich.

In the very first paragraph of its Green Paper on English higher education, the government declares an intention to “provide greater focus on graduate employability”. Yet this rhetoric is not matched with any proposals to assess, let alone enhance, employability.

Take, for example, the issue of metrics. Having failed to introduce differential tuition fees in 2012, the government’s plan B is to allow fee rises for universities that offer “excellent” teaching, as assessed in the teaching excellence framework. This will be judged using “common metrics”, but none of the three proposed so far relates to employability. Sure, there is the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education survey, which records the proportion of graduates in employment six months after graduation, but this is a measure of employment, not employability. The words must not be confused. In a recession, for example, employment can crash, but employability may rise as people need to compete harder for available work.

Employability is that set of attributes that makes a graduate worth employing: how well a student’s learning matches with what the labour market needs. It is the number one outcome that, in increasing proportions, prospective students expect to get from higher education. It is also integral to the cost to the public purse of student loans that are never repaid.

In a paper that I have written for the Higher Education Policy Institute, “Employability: degrees of value”, published this week, I suggest ways to create a metric of employability for the TEF. Key to this is agreeing a common definition that cuts through the Babel-like babble that currently prevents students from recognising the attributes they need to acquire, academics from supporting their development and employers from identifying the graduates who meet their needs.

My definition comprises three elements. The first is knowledge, the teaching of which is higher education’s speciality. The second is more controversial. I have provocatively called it “social capital”, but I accept that that is too narrow a term to cover a huge range of attitudes and behaviours – not to mention attributes such as class, gender, age, ethnicity, accent and appearance – that, rightly or wrongly, make a person attractive to employers. But it at least highlights the inherent advantage that some universities can gain in this area through their selection processes – and the deep implications that this has for access policies.

The third element is skills. Higher education has a better record than many realise in developing students’ hard (job-specific) and soft (transferable) skills. This is evidenced, apart from anything else, by the fact that employers stubbornly pay higher wages to graduates even though the supply has been rising steadily for decades. Different courses develop students’ skill sets differently. But that’s no bad thing. Not all careers require every skill in equal and superlative abundance. Having a distinctive skill set can aid employability, helping graduates and employers achieve a better match with each other. My proposed metric for employability focuses on a scoring mechanism for the diverse skill sets that different courses can develop.

Above all else, it is the raising of students’ self-awareness about employability that develops it. Therefore, being more transparent about employability as a clear, simple and deliberate goal of a degree course will help. Since it is a form of personal development, helping students to understand the various ways they have benefited should be a welcome feature of any course, whatever the students’ initial reasons for studying it.

In particular, being more upfront about employability could ease the scandal of students undertaking certain degrees based on course titles that suggest they will lead to particular careers, but where there are simply not enough jobs in those sectors to go around. Putting students “at the heart of the system”, as the last government phrased it, creates a supply of courses based on the demand of students, not of employers. Meanwhile, some labour market sectors have gaping skills shortages.

Raising awareness helps academics to engage with employability, too. It is a topic many are uneasy with at best, seeing it as an instrumentalist intrusion on the pursuit of understanding. Having a simple and common language to describe employability will help them better embed the development of the relevant skills, attitudes and behaviours into their programme design without forcing anyone to change their course content.

In the UK, the Higher Education Academy has already been leading a programme of embedding employability into the curriculum. Meanwhile, Push (the not-for-profit organisation I run) has created some innovative initiatives to build students’ enthusiasm and engagement with what employers will want from them.

But the sector needs to do more to overcome students’ tendency to see a degree merely as a career passport – a proxy for employability – and connect them, instead, with the thing itself: the real value that they will be able to offer to an employer. Dry though the word sounds, employability, at its heart, is about having a rewarding future. And that is something we neglect at our peril.

Johnny Rich is chief executive of Push, an organisation that supports students’ choices and skills. He is also a director of the Higher Education Academy.


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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:


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.


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.


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.


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.


Employees throughout the organization have developed a shared change vocabulary. This vocabulary permeates the company culture at all levels.


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.


On each project, we have dedicated change management resources and a dedicated change management budget that matches the change management needed.


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.


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.


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.


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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There’s a Data Analyst on the L&D Team?

Employees and their managers want to know if training measurably improves performance. CEOs and senior leaders are asking, “Where’s the evidence for learning and development’s impact on business results?” CFOs are asking, “What’s the return on investment for the dollars we spend on employee development?” There’s a rise in demand for L&D talent who can answer these questions with evidence and proof.

Data Analysts: A New Breed of L&D Talent

A new breed of L&D talent is using data and analytics to answer questions about learning’s impact on business results and employee performance. L&D data analysts use analytics to inform decisions about learning strategy and data for learning solutions design, deployment and investment. And while the titles may be different from company to company, the focus on learning and development analytics is the same:

“Ability to negotiate data sourcing agreements with stakeholder partners” – Learning & Development Analyst “Uses data analytics to offer Leadership/Strategy Committee insights from across the Learning and Development portfolio” – Learning & Development Measurement & Analytics Data Scientist “Leverage the workforce analytics knowledge base to promote an evidence-based approach to all things Learning” – Associate Director, Learning Analytics

“Research,” “analysis” and “measurement” describe the focus. “Data collection” and “visualization” describe the skills. Experience with SPSS, SAS, Tableau, xAPI and learning record stores (LRS) qualify the specialized expertise. These are capabilities that just a few short years ago, you would not have seen on an L&D team.

The combination of learning, development and analytics talent is unique and creates an opportunity for established L&D professionals to reinvent themselves. With the rise in demand for talent with strong L&D backgrounds and expertise in analytics techniques and technology, there’s a brand new function in learning and development. The future for L&D analysts is bright!

What’s Driving the Rise in Demand for L&D Analysts?

Learning analytics expert Mike Rustici with Watershed suggests the rise in demand for L&D data analysts comes from increased accountability and transfer of best practices. “Just about every group, department and function across the enterprise is held accountable for using data to demonstrate results. You’re seeing an increased desire from senior leadership for that level of accountability throughout the organization. You’re seeing people coming into L&D leadership roles from other parts of the organization. They’re bringing their expertise and best-practices with them including the infusion of data and analytics.”

Christopher Yates, head of learning and development at Microsoft, sees L&D data analysts as a critical part of the digital transformation. “It’s essential. I can’t imagine having an L&D team today that is not supported by dedicated data analysts. Without L&D analytics, you’re basing your decisions on luck or the way we’ve always done things. Without insight, all you have is a guess, a hunch or a feeling in your stomach about what’s working or not working.”

L&D Data Analysts Are Here to Stay

There’s technique, technology and, now, talent for L&D analytics. The dynamics of complex learning ecosystems require data-driven design for learning solutions and analytics for insights on L&D performance. We don’t have to cross our fingers and hope learning and development fulfills its purpose. We have the data and the L&D analysts to prove it.

L&D data analysts are changing the way learning and development leaders build their teams. As L&D is increasingly held accountable for evidence that shows impact, so will the rise in demand for talent who can use data and analytics as proof for results. Yes…there’s a data analyst on the L&D team, and they’re here to stay!

Kevin M. Yates is creator of The COURAGE Model© and advisor for measurement, evaluation and analytics for learning and development. Connect with Kevin on his website, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.


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3 Reasons Millennials Don't Get Promoted

Fix these, and you'll climb fast.

You don't get promoted for attendance. You get promoted for impact.

There is a huge misconception around how promotions work in our economy. For the most part, people assume that promotions are the result of time. The more time you spend at a company, the more likely you are to get promoted.

As my mother used to say about practicing the piano, "I don't care if you practice for ten minutes or ten hours, as long as you get it right."

Any boss, manager, or decision-maker does not base their decisions off whether to promote you or increase your pay based on how long you've been at the company. That might be a variable in the pie, but it's absolutely not the defining factor.

Instead, here's what they look for:

1. How often do you move the needle--and by how much?

Promotions really aren't pay increases. They are the "green light" for you to take on more responsibility. More responsibility (as many seem to interpret it) does not mean that you get to boss people around. More responsibility means that when things go wrong, you're the one at fault--and responsible for fixing it.

Receiving a promotion is like getting called up from the minor leagues to the major leagues. If you don't perform, you're gone. If you cost the team a win, you're gone. Promotions are based on results.

Which means, if you want a promotion, all you really have to do is show your value. Every company has measures for success. How much do you impact those measures? And I don't mean, "I was in the room when it happened." You didn't actually do anything. I mean, did you put the deal together? Did you land the client? Did you own a huge portion of the project? Did you succeed?

People who move the needle and help the team reach those measures for success, faster and more effectively, get promoted.

2. In achieving your measures for success, what was your attitude?

Contrary to popular belief, being good at what you do is only half the equation. The other half is how you do what you do, and how you make others feel in the process.

Do you lift others up, and help them perform at a higher standard? Or do you tear others down, and negatively impact the morale of the team?

The way you reach your achievements is a huge indicator that decides your fate at any given company. A company is a team, and one bad apple (no matter how talented) can ruin the overall performance.

3. Will you abuse your leadership privileges once you have them?

And finally, no real leader of a company wants to promote someone to any sort of leadership position that they think will misunderstand or abuse their newfound status.

Being a leader has very little to do with the title you wear, and everything to do with the way you walk your walk. People don't follow talkers, or false promisers, or big dreamers who lack followthrough. They follow shovelers, brick layers, those who aren't afraid to get their hands dirty and show how it's done--by doing it.

If your aura is that of an entitled employee who feels they deserve a "seat at the table," you will never get promoted. At least, not to the level you desire. Leaders don't want more egos seated around them. They want the opposite. They want doers, grinders, strategists, people who make an impact and understand that in order to effectively lead with instructions, you have to first live by those very instructions yourself.

It's astounding how many people expect to be promoted or given more opportunities simply because they've "been there for a long time."

I have never had that mentality, at any job or on any team I have ever played on. I have always believed in earning your way, and proving your worth through actions and results--and I have climbed every ladder extremely fast.

Stop judging your value based on how many hours or months or years you've spent at a job. Instead, ask yourself how you can start moving the needle the same amount as the very person whose position you want to have, yourself.

"I don't care if it takes you ten minutes or ten hours, just get it right."


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To Grow Your Business, You've Got to Know Your People

If you expect the best out of employees, you'd better take a real interest in who they are.

Engaged, enthusiastic, and loyal employees are pivotal drivers of growth and health in any organization. The key to creating such workers in your business is as simple and cost-free as it is overlooked. It comes in the form of giving them what they want, need, and deserve more than anything else: to be known.

Yes, known. And not in some esoteric sense. Known in the way that all people want to be known, by friends and family. Who they are. Where they come from. What makes them tick. How their life is going.

When employees feel anonymous in the eyes of their managers, they simply cannot love their work, no matter how much money they make or how wonderful their jobs seem to be. But when they are known, they work harder, promote the company enthusiastically, recruit other good people to the organization, and make greater sacrifices for customers. All of which is more effective than any PR or marketing campaign will ever be.

Consider the practical approach a top executive at one of America's largest, most successful companies takes to ensure that his organization hires managers who will be actively interested in the lives of the people they lead. When he interviews managerial candidates, he asks about the largest number of direct reports they've led. Assuming he wants to understand their potential span of control, the interviewees often proudly explain that they've bossed 15 or 20 people. The executive then asks them to list those employees by name. If they hesitate and make excuses for not remembering, they're on thin ice.

Next, the executive chooses one of the people from the list and says to the interviewee, "OK, let's take Harriet. Tell me what was going on in Harriet's life while you were managing her." If the interviewee stammers and provides some generic answer, that thin ice breaks. In this executive's company, knowing employees is an inviolable requirement for all managers.

I got a hard-hitting reminder about how rare it is that managers truly care about their workers after I'd spent a few days with a pro football team at its preseason training camp. I was shocked by the relatively dour attitude of the players, who I thought would be giddy with joy given that they make so much money playing a child's game for only part of the year--then I figured out why they weren't.

The team had just traded for a famous, wildly talented, but troubled young player. So I asked the coach, "Are you going to have this guy over to dinner to get to know him and find out about his challenges and what makes him tick?" The coach, a very nice person, looked at me like I was a little crazy and said, "Pat, this isn't college or high school. It's professional football. We don't do that. This is a job." No wonder so many pro athletes are miserable, and so destructive off the field.

When leaders throughout an organization take an active, genuine interest in the people they manage, when they invest real time to understand employees at a fundamental level, they create a climate for greater morale, loyalty, and, yes, growth. If you doubt this, talk to someone at Southwest Airlines, Chick-fil-A, or the San Antonio Spurs. But don't ask one of the executives; ask an employee. You'll be told that the boss, and probably the boss's boss, knows about his or her passion for cycling or talent in woodworking or child with diabetes.

What exactly is the ROI of this? All the MBAs on Wall Street couldn't justify it on a spreadsheet. But that doesn't stop the best companies from doing it anyway.

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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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How 1% Performance Improvements Led to Olympic Gold

When Sir Dave Brailsford became head of British Cycling in 2002, the team had almost no record of success: British cycling had only won a single gold medal in its 76-year history. That quickly changed under Sir Dave’s leadership. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, his squad won seven out of 10 gold medals available in track cycling, and they matched the achievement at the London Olympics four years later. Sir Dave now leads Britain’s first ever professional cycling team, which has won three of the last four Tour de France events.

Sir Dave, a former professional cycler who holds an MBA, applied a theory of marginal gains to cycling — he gambled that if the team broke down everything they could think of that goes into competing on a bike, and then improved each element by 1%, they would achieve a significant aggregated increase in performance.

I recently caught up with Sir Dave to learn more about his success in cycling and what lessons his experience holds for managers in other arenas. An edited version of our conversation follows.

HBR: Can you share some examples of your marginal gains approach?

Sir Dave: To give you a bit of background, when we first started out, the top of the Olympic podium seemed like a very long way away. Aiming for gold was too daunting. As an MBA, I had become fascinated with Kaizen and other process-improvement techniques. It struck me that we should think small, not big, and adopt a philosophy of continuous improvement through the aggregation of marginal gains. Forget about perfection; focus on progression, and compound the improvements.

By experimenting in a wind tunnel, we searched for small improvements to aerodynamics. By analyzing the mechanics area in the team truck, we discovered that dust was accumulating on the floor, undermining bike maintenance. So we painted the floor white, in order to spot any impurities. We hired a surgeon to teach our athletes about proper hand-washing so as to avoid illnesses during competition (we also decided not to shake any hands during the Olympics). We were precise about food preparation. We brought our own mattresses and pillows so our athletes could sleep in the same posture every night. We searched for small improvements everywhere and found countless opportunities. Taken together, we felt they gave us a competitive advantage.

HBR: What was the process for identifying these opportunities?

We had three pillars to our approach, which we called “the podium principles.” The first one was strategy. The second was human performance; we weren’t even thinking of cycling, but more about behavioral psychology and how to create an environment for optimum performance. The third principle was continuous improvement.

For strategy we analyzed the demand of each event and spent a lot of time trying to understand what it would take to win. So as just one example — what is the power needed off the line to get the start required to achieve a winning time, and how close is each athlete to being capable of generating that power? For this and other metrics, we looked at our best athletes and identified the gap between where they were and where they needed to be. And if it was a bridgeable gap we put a plan in place. But if it was not a bridgeable gap we had to be pretty ruthless — compassionate, but ruthless. Not all athletes are destined for the podium and we weren’t interested in fourth place.

And then we progressed with a brainstorm and tried to break down the optimal preparation for our athletes to eventually reach their peak. How would they need to train? What should their diet be, and so on. But the whole point about our approach is that it was meant to be continuous. We learned as we went.

Interestingly, when I moved from the track to the Tour de France, we didn’t get it right at all; our first few races were well below expectation. We took an honest look and realized that we had focused on the peas not the steak. We tried so hard with all the bells and whistles of marginal gains that our focus was too much on the periphery and not on the core. You have to identify the critical success factors and ensure they are in place, and then focus your improvements around them. That was a harsh lesson.

HBR: You’ve spoken elsewhere about how the success of marginal gains can be attributed to culture as much as anything else.

Perhaps the most powerful benefit is that it creates a contagious enthusiasm. Everyone starts looking for ways to improve. There’s something inherently rewarding about identifying marginal gains — the bonhomie is similar to a scavenger hunt. People want to identify opportunities and share them with the group.  Our team became a very positive place to be.

One caveat is that the whole marginal gains approach doesn’t work if only half the team buy in. In that case, the search for small improvements will cause resentment. If everyone is committed, in my experience it removes the fear of being singled out — there’s mutual accountability, which is the basis of great teamwork.

HBR: Do you think the marginal gains approach can prove as successful in other settings?

I do. Recently I met Britain’s cabinet secretary, who is our most senior civil servant. We discussed whether marginal gains could be applied to improve outcomes for our national health service. I think the British government is already very much clued in to novel management approaches. We have a “ministry of nudges,” and they stay very much on top of behavioral sciences and the like. I think there are ample opportunities in the corporate realm to apply the marginal gains approach, but I personally am more interested in how it can help public services.

HBR: Professional cycling has been plagued with doping scandals. How can we ensure athletes don’t look for an illegal advantage?

I moved from Olympic to professional cycling right when a major era of doping was coming to an end. But as we’ve seen in the car industry recently with the Volkswagen scandal and banking before that — when people compete, they will always look for an edge. And I think it’s naïve to hope that people will self-regulate. So there must be effective enforcement, in cycling as in any competitive arena.

But I can tell you from personal experience that you can satisfy this hunger to find an edge in legitimate, legal ways. If you make competitors feel that you’re giving them access to a uniquely effective performance program, if you give them access to the best training, the best nutrition, the best science and technology — it goes a long way to blunting their desire to find an illicit edge. People want to win. But they would prefer to win fair and square than win at all costs.

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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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How to Effectively Harness Behavioral Economics to Drive Employee Performance and Engagement

How to Effectively Harness Behavioral Economics to Drive Employee Performance and Engagement


The Incentive Research Foundation’s (IRF) Using Behavioral Economics Insights in Incentives, Rewards, and Recognition presents new insights—and challenges long held assumptions—on what makes employees work their hardest.

Offering practical takeaways to apply immediately in incentives, rewards, and recognition (IRR) programs, the IRF’s report highlights proven behavioral economics approaches that make sense of—and capitalize upon—the powerful role of emotions in employee performance.

Emerging in recent years as a discipline in its own right, behavioral economics has long been overshadowed by the more readily accepted traditional economics which suggests, among other things, that:

            People tend to act rationally and in their own best interests when making decisions

            Money is the most effective motivator of employees

However, because behavioral economics recognizes that 70% of human decision-making is emotional—as opposed to rational—it proves to be a more useful tool than traditional economics in helping employers understand what actually motivates employees, why some incentives are more effective than others, and how they can strategically apply these principles to their own businesses.

Studies indicate that typically only about one-third of employees care about their work. But companies that incorporate proven techniques from behavioral economics into employee motivation programs and other aspects of their business models have a competitive edge and enjoy higher levels of productivity, engagement, and retention among employees than those relying solely on traditional monetary incentives. In most cases, an understanding of the person being incentivized and an appropriate experiential or merchandise reward will result in a far more memorable and impactful reward than cash.

How do IRR professionals decide which rewards to use and how exactly to use them? It’s hardly a surprise that factors like an employee’s age, income, and family status all play into how strong an impact a particular reward has on that particular employee. For a truly effective incentive campaign, IRR professionals should also give careful consideration to these subtle, though perhaps seemingly inconsequential variables:

            Ease of selection:  Is the incentive system user-friendly for the employees being rewarded? Do employees need to make multiple decisions or fill out multiple forms? Are there too many rewards to choose from? Are there enough?

            Reward type: e.g., experience, merchandise, or monetary

            Motivation type: e.g., internal vs. external; cooperative vs. competitive

              How can the reward be made most meaningful for and therefore most effective at motivating this particular employee? Who does the recognizing? Does the recognition seem to come from an HR representative, an executive level manager, direct supervisor, or the rest of the team?             How frequently should rewards be given? What time of year is best to recognize employees? Does it depend on the type of reward? Should the employee know about the reward in advance or should it be a surprise?

            Desired impact: What are the long-term goals of the IRR program? How will these be tracked? How can employers and IRR professionals work together to achieve these goals?

The IRR community might be astounded by some of the IRF’s findings, many of which are downright counterintuitive. However, the study also sheds light on how to best use these findings and proposes numerous ways to successfully apply these insights in the constantly evolving workplace.

Top Recommendations

Here are the top recommendations, and the rationale behind them, from Using Behavioral Economics Insights in Incentives, Rewards, and Recognition:

Ease of Selection

            Incentive programs should focus on using nudges (subtle incentive tools/practices) to make the reward system user-friendly and to maximize the program’s emotional impact. Emotionally compelling rewards hit the mind harder, are remembered longer, produce quantifiably better results from employees, and influence the internal brand the most.

Reward Type

            Employers need to move beyond programs that rely solely on monetary rewards. For large rewards in particular, experience-type programs involving travel tend to generate warm memories and appeal to more than two-thirds of an IRF survey’s respondents over the cash equivalents.

            IRR programs should offer material items and formal recognition more frequently while using intense experiential rewards more sparingly. Experiential rewards (e.g., a tropical getaway or box seats at a premiere sporting event) and material rewards such as plaques each have their own unique value as reward types and should be used in strategic combination to complement each other. One type tends to deliver more intense happiness, while the other serves as a more permanent reminder of appreciation.

Motivation Type

            Reward a top performing team as opposed to using a system in which members of a team all compete against each other for a single reward. In today’s workplace, cooperative incentives are more effective and valuable than competitive incentives. Emotional pressures cause people to do things they don’t really want to do; but it doesn’t cause them to do those things well.

            Don’t underestimate the value of rewards that reinforce internal motivation. Intrinsic rewards increase the recipient’s self-esteem by establishing or affirming a sense of purpose, fueling a desire to live up to expectations of peers and social norms, or helping the recipient master new skills. Intrinsic rewards create a long-lasting desire to perform well. For instance, simply celebrating reward-earners publicly by listing their names has measurable, favorable effects on productivity.



            Employers need to depart from a generic, one-size-fits-all model and incorporate creativity and personalization (based upon what matters to the individual and his or her peer group) into rewards. For instance, a “working vacation”—toiling, for a fee, at a family farm, bakery, vineyard, brewery, or in another romanticized trade—is an increasingly popular example of a reward that incorporates both intrinsic and extrinsic elements. These “vacations” which include mentoring by experts and impart a new specialized skill upon participants are often a far more appealing choice to individuals who might get restless and bored on a beach vacation.

            Who does the recognizing and how personalized or public that recognition is can have an impact on the employee’s emotional response and ultimately the employee’s productivity. One employee may value and appreciate public recognition while another might respond more favorably to private acknowledgement from an esteemed colleague.


            Surprise the employee with the reward after the goal has been achieved to avoid the entitlement effect and make it more meaningful. A reward that is explicitly promised in advance to an employee if he or she achieves a particular goal loses its impact much more quickly than a reward received unexpectedly by the same employee in recognition of reaching said goal.

            Use hyperbolic discounting to determine the optimal distribution of bonuses. Hyperbolic discounting refers to humans’ tendency to prefer smaller payoffs now over larger payoffs later. In other words, individuals tend to disregard the future when it requires sacrifice in the present. IRR professionals can make the most of this nearly universal phenomenon, by offering initiatives with titles such as “fast start" which accelerate payouts of incentives in the first few months of the program, making the incentives more tangible and generating more early excitement about the incentive opportunity.

Desired Impact

            Implementing emotionally meaningful incentives in IRR programs has benefits that extend beyond just improving employee productivity. The more valued a company’s employees feel, the better the internal brand impression. Internal brand impression will be talked-up on social media and thereby attract the most talented employees. Eventually, high-performing employees turn into brand ambassadors who extoll the company’s virtues to non-employees—including current and potential customers, vendors, and media.

            Ideally, every incentive and reward program will align to purpose and meaning in some way. If employees believe in the company and its purpose, freely invest in the company, trust their leaders, and develop caring relationships with the people they work with, then the employer becomes an asset in the employees’ ledgers that they will instinctively protect. In this situation the employee feels like an owner as opposed to a renter and will act accordingly.

            Rewards programs that prove you truly care about your employees are the most effective ones. This last insight from the paper ironically draws upon a principle of traditional economics—nothing ventured, nothing gained. Many of these recommended practices for designing a rewards system based on behavioral economics require employers to actually care about their people—something that can’t be faked. Pulling off emotionally meaningful rewards, in other words, may require a cultural change and a mind-set change on the part of the board, executives, managers, and superiors.


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5 questions that reveal if a company has a healthy workplace culture

Everyone says, “It’s great working here.” But is it really?

“How do you know if a company’s culture is good?”

Last week, a friend who’s looking for a new job asked me this. She’d been doing a few interviews, and was trying to figure out what questions to ask during her interviews to discern if a potential employer’s workplace culture was healthy.

In each interview, she’d ask a version of: “What’s it like to work here?”

Without fail, the person on the other side of the table would tell her: “It’s great!”

But is it really?

How do you know if a company’s culture is what they say it is?

Instead of asking “What’s it like to work here?” these five questions are what I recommended she ask at the end of her next interview…

#1: When is the last time you had a 4-hour block of uninterrupted time?

Our most productive, creative work happens when we have a large block of uninterrupted time. Yet how many workplaces make that a reality regularly for their employees? Ask a question about the last time your interviewer had an uninterrupted period of time to get work done and listen closely to the answer. Your interviewer may scoff and tell you: “We like to stay busy, busy, busy — meetings all the time, messages constantly on Slack…” Or she may sit there, a little stumped by the question, before slowly answering: “Hmmm… I’m not sure.” Both bring to light a clear truth: The company does not have a culture that values a calm environment where employees’ time is protected for them to do real work.

#2: When is the last time you argued about something with someone?

Healthy company cultures have a penchant for heated debate. People who are a part of them are not afraid to voice dissenting opinions and they treat opposing views with consideration and care. You want to dig to see if this is the case at the company you’re interviewing with. Do they suffer from a “culture of nice,” where everyone is conflict-averse and afraid to step on anyone’s toes? Or are people abrasive, tone-deaf and handle conflict without any tact? Arguments are unavoidable. They will happen in whatever company you work in next. What’s important is figuring out if those arguments will be handled well. You want a culture where people are upfront and honest when they disagree, and come to a resolution civilly.

#3: When’s the last time you had a conversation with the CEO one-on-one?

(Or, if you’re interviewing with the CEO, you can ask her: “When’s the last time you had a conversation one-on-one with [a person in your role]?”)

As an employee, you want to gauge the accessibility of the leadership team — and of the CEO in particular. Sure, when you’re in interviews, many companies will point out how their CEO’s desk is out in the open with everyone else’s, or that her office door is never closed shut. Does that mean she frequently gets up from her desk or out of her office, and seeks out perspectives from the front lines? If you have a concern, will it be difficult or seen as uncouth to try get a hold of her? Asking a question about the last time the interviewer spoke one-on-one with the CEO will give you an idea of how seriously the company takes openness, access to leadership, and a desire to hear from everyone in the company.

#4: When have you felt most proud to be at the company?

This question can uncover what people at the company truly value. For example, someone might say in an interview, “Everyone here is a team-player and we all care about accomplishing our company’s mission.” But if you ask them, “When have you felt most proud to be at the company?” they might tell you their proudest moment was hitting a personal sales goal and winning an individual award in the company. While that’s no doubt an accomplishment anyone should be proud of, it does reveal a fondness for individual recognition. Compare that to, say, the interviewer telling you their proudest moment was when the company won an industry-wide award or when a customer raved about the company, etc. Either way, you’ll learn if what makes people proud to work there is about themselves or about the company. And it will give you a sense of if the same thing would make you proud to work there too.

#5: When’s the last time someone went above and beyond the call of duty at the company?

When people across departments and disciplines are willing to do favors with one another, pitch in to resolve an issue, and not worry about who’s getting credit for what — that’s the kind of company culture you want to be a part of. If you’re in a bind at work, you don’t want selfish office politics to get in the way. To clue into whether this is true for your prospective employer, ask about a time someone went “above and beyond the call of duty.” In your interviewer’s answer, you may hear her struggle to think of even one instance of this (uh oh) or you may hear her rattle off a whole list. From this, you’ll gain an understanding of how people at the company actively help and support one another… if at all.

If you’re on the job hunt, try a few of these questions at the end of your next interview. You’re bound to learn so much more than asking, “What’s it like to work here?”.

But if you’re not — if you’re an employer who’s actively recruiting new hires — ask yourself these questions.

Do you like your own answers to them?

Your company culture may not be as healthy as you’d like to say it is.




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Translating the Neuroscience of Behavioral Economics into Employee Engagement

It typically takes ten years for science breakthroughs to influence real world applications.  The Incentive Research Foundation’s paper Using Behavioral Economics Insights in Incentives, Rewards, and Recognition: The Neuroscience aims to expedite this process. Offering practical C-suite takeaways, the IRF’s report describes some of the unifying behavioral economic principles connecting the powerful role of emotions in employee performance. 

As productive employees are more readily recognized as playing a vital role in maintaining a profitable business in today’s competitive marketplace, effective businesses now require a systematic, strategic use of motivation and recognition in practice. Incentive, Rewards, and Recognition (IRR) professionals help all business types design and implement motivation programs to improve productivity, performance, morale, and retention with their employees and channel partners.

Behavioral Economics
Behavioral economics proves to be a more useful tool than traditional economics in helping employers understand what actually motivates employees, because it recognizes the majority of human decision-making is emotional as opposed to rational. It integrates social, cognitive, and emotional factors to more fully explain human decision-making biases and challenges long-held traditional economics assumptions such as:

People tend to act rationally and in their own best interests when making decisions and Money is the most effective motivator of all employees

Behavioral economics helps explain why some incentives are more effective than others and how they can strategically apply these principles to their own businesses. 

Neuroeconomics provides an additional powerful layer of proof by exploring the biologic underpinning of decision-making. In many ways behavioral economics and neuroeconomics are like a tag team trying to wrestle neoclassical economics out of the ring for its failure to accurately capture how real human beings think and make decisions. 

Technological advances allowing researchers to probe the brain in unprecedented detail are powering an explosion in neuroeconomics research. For instance, brain-imaging technologies now allow us to see which brain areas are active during economic decision-making and which are not.

The most powerful neuroeconomics finding is that all forms of reward – monetary or otherwise – are processed in the brain’s master reward center, the striatum, and are experienced as rewarding feelings. For example, when research subjects are offered various forms of reward – ranging from their favorite food to a compliment to a monetary gift – neurons in this structure fire. This means rewarding employees intrinsically by treating them better or rewarding them extrinsically with money are treated equally in the brain, with both causing rewarding feelings emanating from the striatum and the dopamine reward system. This important finding is at the base of helping organizations craft more effective, rewarding environments. 

Using Emotional Reward Units to Craft a Rewarding Environment
Consider two employees, A and B. Both make the same monetary salary and benefits—let’s say $50,000. We will assume that this amount of pay creates positive feelings in the striatum equivalent to 10 emotional reward units, or ERUs. Employee A unfortunately works for a toxic manager who makes his life a nightmare. Employee A receives constant criticism, is threatened and disrespected, and never gets a kind word. The pain experienced by employee A creates a reward deduction of let’s say 5 ERUs. The emotional take home “pay” for employee A is therefore only 5 ERUs (10 ERUs–5 ERUs). 

Employee B is luckier. She works for an emotionally intelligent manager who understands human nature, takes a personal mentoring approach, believes in coaching employees and recognizing their achievements, and tries to encourage their development and success. Employee B loves coming to work and therefore gets a 5 ERU bonus on top of her monetary pay, which results in an emotional take home “pay” of 15 ERUs. 

Who do you think will want to work harder to meet the organization’s goals: the employee earning 5 ERUs or the one making 15 ERUs? The answer is obvious – the more rewarded employee will be more engaged and more productive. This is why considering engagement as a system, versus an individual intervention, is crucial to organizations. 

Applying Brain Principles for Better Business
As Nobel-prize winning economist Daniel Kahneman discussed in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, our brains form thoughts in two ways:

System 1: A fast, automatic, involuntary, subconscious system (sometimes called the old brain) which harnesses all of our life experiences to date and where decisions are initially made (and feelings emitted) within milliseconds of encountering a situation. For example, driving to work on “autopilot” without giving it much thought or getting a “gut feeling” about a situation.  System 2: The “conscious” system where we think about, deliberate, imagine, and analyze the world around us.  

It is most important to know that System 2 is more energy-intensive on the brain, so the brain therefore offloads as much work as possible to System 1. This is why after much deliberation we will select the easy, automatic solution because it ‘feels right.’ In sum, finding ways to work in tandem with System 1 can help us create more effective engagement solutions. Five examples are below:

The Associative Machine and Halo Effect: The associative machine takes all of the information we know about something (such as “bird”) and stores it under a filing for fast recall. If we come across something in an unfamiliar situation, the associative machine pulls up whatever facts it has in memory (wings, nest, egg) to instantly provide an explanation of the situation at hand and provide a feeling of confidence. For ease of processing, the brain will also combine and connect what it deems as relevant connected experiences – called the halo effect. This is how fuzzy, pink bunnies or dancing fruit can cause things as mundane as batteries and underwear to emit positive emotions within us. This holds true for the workplace as well. 

Implications: The more highly positive, emotional experiences, throughout the lifecycle of employment an organization offers from hiring to retirement, the more positive emotion one associates  with the company.

Emotional Stamps: Given the amount of information we must process each day, the fast part of our brain does much of our thinking. All of our memories are marked with an emotional stamp that controls their storage and retrieval. The stronger the emotional stamp, the easier the memory recall. 

Implications: Simply put, if we want people to remember things, we must tap emotions in some manner.

Frequency Bias: Our brains employ a frequency bias, which means ideas, thoughts, images, and awards that we see more frequently “feel” more familiar and therefore “feel” more positive. Hence, more frequently mentioned awards or destinations will have an automatic, emotional edge over the less-known alternatives. 

Implications: The more reward and recognition happens within an organization, the more often it will continue to happen and “feel” like a normal part of business. 

Temporal Bias: We remember short, peak emotional experiences more than average ones. This finding means at most, that short, highly impactful reward experiences may be more memorable and at least, that all reward experiences should conclude with the most emotional part of the event (or the big reveal) as the final portion. If it happens at the beginning of the day, quarter, year, or event, that time frame will be less likely to be perpetually stamped with the positive emotion. 

Implications: Meetings and incentive travel programs should always end on a high, emotional note. 

Harnessing Human Drives for Better Business

In Driven: How Human Nature Shapes Our Choices, Harvard researchers Paul Lawrence and Nitin Nohria propose four social drives that complement our biologic drives and regulate virtually everything happening in the workplace. If we learn how to work in tandem with these productive drives, our companies will enjoy maximum productivity and our employees will experience maximum engagement in their work.

The social drives create pleasant and painful feelings that push and pull on us during the course of a typical workday, subtly encouraging us to inquire, invent, achieve, and cooperate as a corporate team. Based in neuroscience, psychology, anthropology, and biology, Nohria and Lawrence found they serve as motivational “hot buttons.” When pressed individually, motivation rises marginally, but when pressed all together motivation grows exponentially within an organization – causing even larger impacts to engagement, retention, and commitment. Reward and recognition provide organizations a powerful tool because, in a single intervention, they help activate all of these four drives: acquire, bond, innovate, and defend.

Drive to Acquire: Employees are driven to acquire tangible goods (money, property, cars) as well as intangible skills (expertise, new abilities) and status. Dopamine is released into the brain anytime we anticipate achieving a goal or we achieve it. Likewise, companies provide compensation to employees and want them to be competent, confident experts. Ideas on activating include:

Make goals clear with defined implications for achieving Train managers and each employee to recognize and reward positive, productive, aligned behaviors Set high, yet achievable, targets that are broken in to sub-goals, then reward their realization Make recognition public and provide status to recipients Provide rewards (tangible or intangible) as close as possible to the desired behavior Make recognition spontaneous, personal, and heartfelt (not on auto-pilot or auto-schedule) Provide down time after long periods of extensive effort to achieve a goal Provide tangible rewards to supplement intangible recognition from managers and peers Provide group goals and celebrations

Drive to Bond: Employees are driven to have authentic caring relationships not just with family and friends but with their workmates and supervisors (their tribe) and to experience the warm, friendly feelings that come with them. Humans are also the only creatures which bond to abstract concepts such as ‘team’ or ‘nation.’ Bonding is supported by the release of the neuropeptide oxytocin in the brain. Likewise, companies want employees to collaborate and cooperate as a team in order to solve difficult problems. Companies that provide rewards for group achievements are working harmoniously with the drive to bond. Ideas on activating include:

Have employees create online profiles that are socially available for all to see Create randomized dyads of employees and encourage mutual-mentoring where they work together to solve problems  Ensure each instance of reward and recognition has a face-to-face element

Drive to Innovate: Employees are naturally driven to learn about the world around them and create new thoughts, systems, process, relationships, and goods based on these discoveries. Studies show how opioid receptors in the brain help create a “Eureka Pleasure,” meaning it feels good to satiate curiosity, think up a new an idea, solve a difficult problem, or comprehend a difficult concept. Likewise, companies also want their employees to learn and innovate. Ideas on activating include: 

Give all employees at least a small amount of time to innovate within their sphere of knowledge Ensure each instance of reward or recognition helps the employee learn the exact behaviors that are valued and important to the organization Encourage managers to have an “open door” to hear new ideas Continue to encourage employees when an idea does not pan out Organize dedicated “skunkworks” teams to promote radical innovation

Drive to Defend: Employees are driven to feel safe and secure and to defend the objects, people, and ideas they hold dear. The brain’s prefrontal cortex is an active participant in activating our defensive mechanisms, causing us to feel irritated, frustrated, angry or scared when we believe a closely held relationship or our status is at risk. Likewise, organizations want to minimize the activation of this drive and the inherent stress and negativity that arises when employees are in active-defense mode. Ideas for mitigating this drive: 

Maintain openness and transparency in all communications regarding determination  of all organizational incentive and rewards Gather employee input on incentive, reward, and recognition efforts to ensure they are perceived as fair Remind employees often of their importance to the organization’s mission

If when collectively activated, these drives have a compounding effect, then well-executed organizational incentive, rewards, and recognition programs hold a crucial opportunity for organizations, since they present, in a single instance, the opportunity to hit on all four drives at onceIn a single instance of giving an employee a reward or recognition, the organization allows an employee to acquire status (and potentially good or services), to bond with their team or the person giving the recognition, to more deeply comprehend what is important to the organization, and to defend the very deeply held belief that he or she is good at what they do and has chosen the right organization for employment.

From studies on oxytocin to dopamine to the pre-frontal cortex, there is no shortage of emerging neuroeconomics research on what makes humans, and employees, tick.  By working in tandem with the brain, however – and considering concepts such as the associative machine, the halo effect, emotional reward units, and the four drives –businesses will craft organizations that are not only highly productive and competitive, but better for employees overall. 

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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.