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What’s Critical for You?

Institute for Corporate Productivity

The Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) released the results of its 2014 Critical Human Capital Issues Survey . The survey shows that creating change-ready organizations is still the top priority for high-performing companies. One of the key takeaways from the study is that most companies simply do not have the internal bench strength to enable sustained high-market performance.

Working with companies that are tackling rapid growth and change, this rings true for me. When I work with clients and we are identifying bench strength for key roles, we often see that the bench strength for those roles is limited. Our challenge then is to proactively begin to develop talent and identify talent sourcing strategies to fill the gaps.

If you see this in your company, you’re not alone. Here are the survey’s top 10 human capital issues for 2014 for high-performance organizations:

1. Succession planning
2. Leadership development
3. Knowledge retention
4. Coaching
5. Managing/coping with change
6. Non-executive succession planning
7. Measuring/rewarding behavior
8. Talent shortages in critical areas
9. Measuring/rewarding results
10. Internal communication

  
  

About Edith Onderick-Harvey
Edith Onderick-Harvey is a highly regarded consultant, leadership and talent expert, and speaker. Edith is frequently quoted in the media including The New York Times, CNN.com, HR Executive, and American Executive. As the President of Factor In Talent,  Edith works with leaders to take performance — their own, their team’s and their organization’s — to the next level.

Coaching a Superstar

Coaching a SuperstarThe spectacle of the closing ceremonies have marked the end of another Olympics.  Personally, I love all things Olympic.  Every time I watch the Olympics I’m struck by the stories of how the athletes  got there. Each has his or her own journey but the one thing they all have in common is a coach who got them there.  And, for many of them, that coach was never an Olympian.  They were never as good as the person they coach.

All of us, at one time or another in our career will manage a superstar.  You know them, that person who you know is more talented than  you and who you know will probably surpass you on the career ladder.  Some people don’t think they have anything to teach this person.  Nothing is further from the truth. 

Even superstars need coaches. And, all superstars have coaches.  Coaches add value by being able to see what the superstar doesn’t.  You are able to watch them and see the blind spots.  You can see how if they made a slight change here or a big change there, they will reach even higher levels of achievement.  You can provide them context and be a safe sounding board for new ideas.  You can push them when they need pushing and slow them down when they need to think before they act.

Who is your top athlete?  What coaching will take them to the next level of performance?  

What Do You Have to Offer Top Talent?

Hiring is ramping up and as always, highly talented, successful job candidates are in high demand. There never seem to be enough. Even in the depths of the recession we heard that companies had openings they couldn’t fill because they couldn’t find the right candidates.

What if it wasn’t the candidates but the companies? What if those candidates stayed away because they couldn’t see value in what the company had to offer?

When we hire, we tend to look at hiring as a one way street, i.e. I have a need and I need someone who meets my specifications. That’s a problem. Hiring is a two way street. We have a need for someone to meet our specifications. As we should, we always want the best. The most talented candidates also have needs and specifications that they want companies to meet. Top talent has the upper hand in the hiring scenario. They know that what they have is in demand in the marketplace. They can be selective about where they will work.

To attract and hire the best you need to know what you have to offer that’s attractive to a top tier candidate. While money is important to them it is by no means the only thing that’s important. For many, it ranks third or fourth most important.

In order to compete for top talent, define an employer brand. Ask yourself:

  • What are the values, mission and purpose of your organization? Top talent want to be part of a company that is going somewhere that resonates with them. They want to work for a company whose values align with their own. 
     
  • What’s the culture? How do people talk about what it’s like to work for you or your company? Is it a family? Are you at war? Do you work hard, play hard? Cultural fit is a key indicator of a candidate’s long term success. Top talent look for a sense of community. If they can’t identify with your culture or if you can’t define your culture in ways that speaks to them, they don’t want to be part of it.
     
  • What opportunities will they have to grow and develop? Top talent doesn’t want to stagnate. Even if they’re in the same role for five years, they want to know that there is opportunity to grow within that role, to take on new challenges and build their capabilities. 

During the interview process, candidates will ask “what’s the best thing about working here?” Don’t let your answer be just ‘the money’ or some vague answer like ‘the opportunity.’ Be able to articulate a strong brand and provide examples that can bring the brand to life. Show top talent why working for you and your company is the best decision they can make.

He Seemed Such a Perfect Fit in the Interview

 

“…But, he seemed like such a great candidate in the interview…”

 

 

 

Anyone who has hired people over any length of time has had this experience. The person seemed so perfect in the interview only to be far less than perfect once he was on the job.

Truthfully, if we conducted any other part of our business the way we approach hiring and interviewing, we would be fired. I know very few people who approach interviewing with the structure and focus it deserves. We start with a list of job duties and solicit resumes for people we think may be able to perform those duties. We then schedule interviews. We may include some other people to also interview the candidate. We often choose those people because they are who is available that day. Some people may spend a few minutes before the interview thinking about what questions they will ask the candidate others will wing it. We talk with the candidate for 30 minutes, maybe 45. After the interview, the feedback tends to be a quick hallway conversation about our general reactions to the candidate. We don’t really spend any time talking about what we are looking for in the candidate. We don’t talk about what kind of experiences we think they need to be successful. We don’t talk about the factors that really make someone successful in the job but aren’t in the job description — things like collaboration or teamwork or being a self-starter or one of a hundred other possible things that really make someone successful.

If you’re going to be hiring this year, turn the usual process on its head and actually approach it like a critical business process.

    • Plan for the interview. Identify what will make someone successful in the role. This should lead to a list of characteristics, competencies or experiences that set a successful candidate apart. When combined with skills and educational requirements, these become the criteria you’ll use to make the decision.
    • Involve people in the interview who will interact with this person in a meaningful way once he or she is on the job. They should know something about the role and what people do in that role.
    • Prep the people who will be interview the candidate with what types of things you want them to look for in the interview. Tell them what the most important characteristics, competencies or experiences are that you want to see in the person you will hire.
    • Ask questions in the interview that give insights into how the candidate has approached a similar situation to what he or she will face on the job. What was the situation? What did he do in that situation? What was the result or key learning from what he did? Ask for examples and then ask for a few more examples. You’ll find out a lot more about what the person really brings to the job than with questions like “Tell me about your last job.” and “Do you prefer to work with people?”
    • Go back to the criteria you set before the interview. Meet with everyone who talked with the candidate and talk about how the candidates stack up against the criteria.

Do this for every interview you conduct.  It will lead to fewer situations where you’ll find yourself saying, “But she was so good in the interview…”

Issues 2012: Retention and Engagement

Workers in America are an unhappy lot. In 2010 The Conference Board reported that only 45% of workers are satisfied with their work, continuing a two-decade trend of increasing dissatisfaction. Think about that. Nearly six out of ten people in our organizations are not bringing anywhere near their best to work.

This statistic tells me that our #1 leadership issue in 2012 needs to be retention and engagement.

Wait a minute. You’re thinking, “In this economy, no one is going anywhere.” Maybe not in the current situation, but it’s beginning to turn around and soon resumes will be hitting the streets. What you do now will impact how many resumes from your team will be in the mix.

What we know about people who are dissatisfied in their jobs is that they will leave — either physically or sometimes worse, mentally. Usually, our best performers are the first to go when they are dissatisfied. They are highly marketable and they know it. On the other end of the spectrum, our poor performers will often not leave but simply continue to be dissatisfied. The bulk of our workforce won’t be the first out the door but will begin mentally shutting down. They will begin to only do what absolutely needs to be done or only what will impact their merit increase. They will come in at 8:00 and walk out precisely at 5:00. And once they see top performers leaving, they too will begin to look toward the door.

As a leader, your new year’s resolution should be to retain and engage the performers on your team. Here are some things to think about: 

      • Look at your team. Who’s a flight risk? Whose departure would significantly impact the business or the team? Who’s not going anywhere but at the same time not as fully engaged as they once were? Create re-engagement strategies and contingency plans if a performer leaves.
         
      • On the chance that a poor performer leaves, how attractive is it for a strong performer to join your team?
         
      • Look at yourself. How satisfied are you? As a leader, your team takes direction from you.
         
      • What vision have you developed and communicated for your organization? Does it make people say “I want to be part of this?”
         
      • People are satisfied when they perceive they are doing something meaningful, have a choice in their work activities, feel they are performing competently, and are making progress. As you set 2012 goals with your team, how meaningful are they? Will the person have a sense of progress?
         
      • Are you giving people a choice in how they run their business or manage their work?
         
      • Do they have the skills and knowledge to perform competently? Are they able to use their strengths? Are you helping them build their capacity through coaching?
         
      • Have you spoken with people about how they perceive their current work and working environment. What interests them about it? What frustrates them? Have a conversation and create a plan together to build on what’s good and address what can be changed.
         
      • Finally, don’t throw money at it, unless that is the real issue. Money will only work in the short term. Meaningfulness, choice, competence and progress will motivate people in the long term.

Re-recruit Your Top Talent

Re-recruit Top Talent

 

The recent job numbers show that hiring is on the rise, which means that some of your best people may be starting to look for their next big opportunity. Now is a good time to think about re-recruiting your top talent.  When it comes to your top performers how recently have you:

 

  •  Explained your vision for your company/group/department and told them what role they play in achieving that vision?
  • Told them that they are a valued part of the organizationand why they are valuable?  I’m not talking platitudes here.  I’m talking about genuine respect for the talents and contributions they bring. 
  • Asked them what they find interesting or engaging about their work?
  • Asked them what concerns they have about their current work or career?
  • Discussed where they want to take their career in the next few years?
  • Engaged them in solving a significant business issue?
  • Given them the opportunity to take on additional responsibility? NOTE:  This does not mean that you’ve heaped more and more work on them simply because you know they’ll get it done.  Is it the opportunity to take on additional, meaningful responsibilities?
  • Given them a break if they need one.   It’s possible they’ve carried a heavier load than others because of their talents.  Do they need the opportunity to have a slightly lighter load for a while?   
  •  Done a pulse check on their engagement level?  Is it waning?  Are they as energized as ever or feeling beat up by the work environment of the past couple of years?
  • Told them why this is still a great place to work?  You want to do this with a heavy dose of realism in it.  Nothing sends them running for the doors more than a manager who seems to have no sense of reality and who is cheering a little too loudly.

If it’s been too long since you’ve asked at least some of these questions or said some of these things, you should consider having or scheduling this conversation today.  Don’t just save it for your top performers.  Soon after they start leaving, others will take the cue and you could see more people walking out the door than you’d like. 

 

Changing Feedback

Changing FeedbackRaise your hand if giving feedback is not one of your favorite things to do.  Okay, you can put your hand down now.

Feedback is one of the core skills taught to anyone who goes through leadership training — along with goal setting, coaching, delegating, conflict management and team development.  I have trained hundreds of managers in a very specific formula for giving effective feedback.  The problem with feedback is that we don’t like to give it and for many people, receiving it is not something they look forward to.  It feels judgmental, critical, evaluative.  That’s not to say that knowing how to improve isn’t essential– it is.  It’s that feedback tends to put too much emphasis on what you’ve done in the past that needs to improve rather than on how to improve.

Last week, I was reminded of the power of Marshall Goldsmith’s feedforward process.  I was with a group and we engaged in a feedforward activity that went something like this.  You approach someone you don’t know in the group and describe a behavior you are trying to change or something you need to do better.  You then remain quiet while your partner provides you with suggestions on improvement.  Your job is to listen.  After the other person finishes with his or her suggestions, you don’t evaluate, you don’t critique, you don’t assess.  You simply say, “Thank you”.  We were able to approach three different people with the same issue and receive three perspectives on improving and making change.

The results: I walked away with several terrific ideas about how to make the behavioral change I was interested in making.  When we debriefed this activity as a group, we all had the same response to it.  It was very valuable and it felt good.  It felt productive.  We didn’t have the feeling of being beat down.  We weren’t tense going into the conversation. Why? Because we were focused on building the future rather than focusing a lot of time on the past.

Everyone needs feedback from time to time because we’re not always aware of what we are doing that needs to change or improve.  But once we know, the conversation should focus on feedforward — what ideas can we generate to create the future rather than spending time focused on the past.   An even better idea, rather than starting the conversation by providing your feedback, ask the other individual what he thought went well and what needed to improve in a situation.  You’ll probably be quite surprised by how aware he is and then you can both focus on what’s really important — moving forward.

What Millennials Want

What Millennials WantPricewaterhouseCooper’s 2011 Global CEO Survey says that money is not going to buy  you love with the brightest of GenY /Millennials.   According to the survey, the Millennials biggest retention drivers are training and development and the ability to work in communities of mutual interest and passion.

As a generation who grew up using the internet and social media, they want to connect with other bright people to work on challenges and business problems that are meaningful and important.  They also understand they are being hired for a job, not for a lifetime.  They are keen on building and refining their skills so that they are able to take advantage of opportunities inside the company, and when and if the time comes, outside the company. They have a strong desire for coaching and mentoring.

This reinforces the findings we published last October about leadership in the next decade.  In order to successfully lead this workforce, leaders will need to be highly skilled at:

  • Creating and communicating a compelling vision that will attract the best Millennial talent by connecting with what they find meaningful.
  • Creating collaboration by breaking down silos and utilizing social media and collaboration technologies.
  • Leveraging resources from across the organization to address significant business issues.
  • Managing talent by providing them with cultures that focus on developing talent and careers, building capabilities and capacity through formal and informal development opportunities.

What’s your organization doing to attract and retain the best Millennial talent?

Results-based Performance in a Virtual World

This posting is co-written with my colleague Stefanie Heiter, Strategies in Play, LLC.

In the emerging virtual workplace, do you miss the comfort of walking by an employee’s desk and feeling confident she or he is working hard and doing a good job? If you can’t see them working, do you wonder what they are really doing? Are you baffled by how to set expectations  that will drive results when you are not working in the same place? Are you concerned about whether your talent has the right competencies to hit the ground running when it all turns around?

Today’s workplace is characterized by people working in dispersed locations,  within matrixed structures,  with colleagues from multiple functions – even multiple organizations. Gone are the days when high performance was assessed by how much time someone ‘put in’ at the office. We are less likely to be ‘going to work’ and more likely to be ‘working’. Technology affords 24/7 access from almost anywhere. ‘Do more with less’ is now a mantra heard across countless companies via all communication media.

Despite these changes, managers are still expected to manage performance, regardless of location, time zone, function, or even language barriers, and often in the face of decreased budgets and reduced labor force. Successful managers have learned to overcome the challenges of virtual leadership, and move to results-based performance management. Here are strategies and tips successful virtual leaders use to create an effective results-based performance management approach:

Focus first on intentional, consistent relationship building.  Create presence with employees by checking in (not checking on) frequently.  Use more real-time technologies like telephone, instant messenger, chat, or text.  When you check in, ask questions focused on getting to know their locations, resources that are needed, what else is happening, sharing information and decision-making whenever possible, and asking about their lives.  Presence involves being available to people so they don’t have to make up reasons to be in contact.

Slow down to speed up.  Take time upfront to define how you are going to stay in touch, share status, keep people in the loop, and when and how you will ‘meet’.  Considerations here are protocols for high use technologies such as email (i.e., names in ‘to’ line means action required whereas ‘cc’ line means information only, when to ‘reply’ versus ‘reply to all’).  It means agreements about when and when not to use technologies, defining who should be included and NOT included in particular categories of information and meetings.

Discuss both the ends and the means.  Clearly understand the expectations you have of the individual.  What does success look like?  Make sure your definitions of success focus on the results the individual is achieving, not just the activities.  Think about using the SMART criteria – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound – to both set and communicate goals.  A goal of “Have 5 customer satisfaction meetings each month’ focuses on what you want someone to do.  The goal “Increase annual customer satisfaction by 10% through improvements identified in customer satisfaction meetings” focuses on the result.

Another thing to think about is how the individual will achieve the goal. What behaviors will they exhibit?  When people work virtually, they don’t have the opportunity to learn the culture and the way things get done.  Explicitly help them understand what works and what doesn’t in your organization.  How are people expected to behave?  How should they be working with others to meet their goals?  Sharing stories of how others have been successful is a powerful tool for communicating expectations. It paints a picture of the type of results and behaviors you expect.

Create a game plan.  Once you’ve set clear expectations, staying connected and establishing accountability is essential.  Specifically discuss which technologies you will employ for different communication needs.  Is status best delivered through email?  Do you utilize Sharepoint as a repository for different types of documents?  How should time sensitive conversations occur?  How should the individual communicate with others on the team?  When should they make a decision on their own and when should they make sure the two of you talk first?  Determine the most effective mix of ‘old’ and ‘new’ technologies.   A client recently shared that their geographically-dispersed sales team is using a private Twitter site to share product information, market intelligence and sales tips in real time.  They credit the site with increasing the effectiveness of their sales efforts.  Determine what suite of technologies you will use to assess progress against goals. Real-time conversations will be part of it but also consider the use of technologies that allow for asynchronous communication.

 Create a feedback and coaching loop. Feedback on performance is most effective when it is timely and about performance that you’ve directly observed.  In a virtual world, the ability to physically see someone’s performance is not always possible.  Create processes that allow you to gain meaningful information about an individual’s performance.  For example, a sales director uses a survey with customers to get input into a sales person’s performance.  While she created the survey to get direct feedback from customers who interact with her salespeople in live situations that she is unable to attend, it has created better customer relationships.  The customers have told her that they are thrilled to be asked because it allows them to be heard.  Also use technology to coach.  For example, virtual meeting software could allow a less experienced team member to simulate a client presentation to you, providing you with the opportunity to coach them in real time.

Maintain the relationship. Our first tip was about relationship building.  Once you’ve built the relationship, take steps to maintain it.  When we primarily use technology to communicate, we often feel like we need to have a reason to communicate.  Develop a culture that says it’s ok to just check in – not check up on – by calling or initiating contact without a specific need.  Make it clear that you don’t see this as a sign that someone doesn’t have enough to do.  Also, make a point to communicate the positive.  Say thank you, recognize an individual’s achievements and results.  If we are in the habit of using technology as a vehicle for only task oriented communication, we miss an opportunity to use it as a vehicle for building capabilities and engagement.  Model this behavior with our team and you’ll find that when you do need to communicate because of a specific need, those conversations are more productive.

Effectively leading performance in a virtual world is similar in many ways to effectively leading performance in a more traditional workplace.  Leaders need to communicate expectations, monitor behavior and results, and establish an effective relationship so that we can work through the invariable issues and problems that arise.  In a virtual world, we have an ever growing toolkit to help leaders be more effective.  By understanding how to use each appropriately, leaders can get strong performance in any of the many work arrangements we find today.


The Leadership Multiplier Effect

A third of all CEO’s surveyed by The Conference Board say the most pressing issue they have is attracting, developing and retaining the right talent. Two of the biggest factors in engagement and retention are trust in senior leadership and the relationship people have with their managers. With 75% of employees in a recent Gallup

Organization survey reporting that they are unengaged or actively disengaged at work, leadership is not successfully addressing this issue.

Leadership excellence has a multiplier effect on organizations. Investing in developing leaders, increasing the leadership multiplier effect, is a short-term and long-term strategy that allows your organization to adapt and thrive in various economic circumstances by attracting, retaining and engaging your human capital.

What is the leadership multiplier effect?

 Resources spent on leadership development have a cascading effect throughout the organization. The effective leader creates exponential value for the organization through his or her influence on the strategy, people and processes in the organization. One leader’s effective decisions and actions has a ripple effect that can impact dozens or hundreds of employees, positively changing business performance for the entire department or business unit. Likewise, the impact of poor leadership decisions and actions can lead to the decreased ability to attract, develop and retain the right talent.

In addition, effective senior leaders model behaviors and skills for other leaders in the organization. They set the tone for the leadership practices that define the organization and its culture. They demonstrate the business skills that address business issues and create innovation. They define and operationalize high performance through their interactions with each other and the entire organization.

As others mature in their leadership roles, their effectiveness is increased for having been effectively developed and for the role-models presented by senior leadership. A cascade is created. With more effective leadership focused on the right things at all levels in the organization, factors impacting business performance improve. Groups led by effective leaders are more engaged resulting in higher productivity rates, increased willingness to give extra effort, and greater acceptance of change. In other words, effective leadership creates an environment that attracts and retains high quality talent.

Ensuring the effectiveness of your leaders is critical whether your business is expanding or contracting. When your business is expanding, bringing on new people, introducing new products, serving new customers, leaders need to integrate and assimilate the growth. They need to plan strategically for growth, effectively develop their teams, establish business practices and maintain the engagement people feel in those initial few months on the job.

When business is contracting, leaders need to manage the change brought on by staff reductions, reduced revenue streams and increased cost constraints. They need to maintain the remaining staff’s focus and morale. Need to maintain customer service levels, identify how to do more with less.

Optimizing the Leadership Multiplier Effect

 For the leadership multiplier effect have its maximum impact, leaders must be developed effectively. Effective development includes:

1.  Identifying the core of effective leadership. What makes leaders effective? One way to start thinking about leadership effectiveness is to identify what results you want the leader to achieve and use this to identify behaviors that are effective in achieving those results.

2.   Communicating what is expected of a leader. This communication is not always in words. It’s important to understand that how you select, how you assign resources, what people are held accountable for and how you recognize and reward say a great deal about your expectations of leaders.

3.   Assessing your leaders against your model of effectiveness. If some are less effective than you need, identify a strategy for addressing it. It may be development, assignment changes, or an exit strategy. No matter what strategy seems most appropriate, it should start with a frank conversation with the leader.

4.   Identifying potential leaders within your organization and outside your organization. Do you have the bench strength you need? Also remember thatleaders aren’t just those with formal titles but also those in roles that are pivotal to business success.

5.   Developing leadership effectively. Formal learning experiences, business-driven assignments and projects, coaching, mentoring and other leadership development experiences need to align with the business strategy and the expectations you’ve communicated about leadership within your organization. Utilize a suite of development activities that build leaders throughout their careers. Developing leaders is process not an event. You must take a planful approach to leadership development, not one that only addresses obvious flash points that may be ignoring underlying causes.

By taking advantage of the Leadership Multiplier Effect, you will optimize talent and create competitive advantage.