Making HR Technology to deliver desired ROI: Times Internet Case Study

Comparing the features of a traditional with cloud technology, it seems clear that cloud-based is the far superior choice. However, for many moving off the traditional to a pure cloud-based approach is a bit challenging. Implementing a cloud technology is not just a technology shift; it first and foremost requires a very different set of skills and cultures than a traditional approach. A recent study by Capgemini outlined five critical challenges from conventional to a cloud-native approach:

A skills challenge
A cultural challenge
A cost challenge
A technological challenge
A governance challenge
A study by KPMG found that 63% of organizations expected greater value adds to their business from cloud HR software implementations than the returns they achieved.

Be it due to the risks of data loss during migration, uncertain user adoption, painfully sluggish timelines, enormous efforts needed toward change management or just overall process re-engineering- implementing a new HR technology is never an easy project. Organizations are getting stuck in the implementation phase for 6-12 months, but a well-planned HR implementation can reduce the time by half and double the ROI from the solution.

Ratan Chugh, CHRO, Times Internet shares how the company company adopted a SaaS platform and achieved a greater adoption rate and enhanced candidate experience.

Making a case for change
Ratan Chugh, Chief People Officer, Times Internet shares, the challenge is not implementing technology but how do you link the adoption of new technology to the business agenda.

It is critical to establish the vision and objective of the technology implementation beforehand. For Times Internet, it was enhancing the employee experience with the technology to attain 100 percent technology adoption.

Planning the perfect implementation
According to a study by KPMG, 39 percent of the organizations are not adequately prepared for the process transformation required to implement an HR solution. Chugh shares that, “One of the major pitfalls of why a process transformation fails is that most organizations are too rigid to change or customize their processes.”

The journey of every company and HR system towards adapting to HR Technology will be personal and unique. In the light of this, here are some critical aspects that HR and business leaders must consider while leading any HR Tech transformation:

1.  Accepting new practices and processes:

Think about the specific problems or issues that the technology has to address or solve. Many projects fail because the ‘drivers’ for the project are not clear and fully understood by the business and those involved in the project. Do not restrict yourself to your process. Explore best practices and adopt changes to maximize your success.

2. Planning and documenting the process:

Do not start implementing the project without planning out in advance all the tasks involved in the project. Mentally walk through each step of the technology implementation, highlighting and resolving any problems that could arise.

3. Investment in employees’ skilling:

Train new users and new administrators. Also, offer continuing education for existing users who need additional support, or for those employees who want to learn more about how they can maximize all that your HR Tech solution has to offer.

4. Dedicated team to drive transformation:

Have a dedicated project team that can provide insight into practices outside your area of expertise. Team members offer knowledge about business requirements, system limitations, process improvements, and operational needs that will ultimately impact the success of your HR software solution

5. The readiness with the data:

Lack of a clear and historical data bank can prove costly regarding both time and effort. To make the most of your partnership with the technology partner, make sure you have a clean master data bank.

Ensuring execution:
Did you know that 44 percent of the organizations stated lack of sufficient and capable internal resources as one of the top three challenges during HR Tech implementation?

One of the biggest challenges of an HR Tech implementation is the fact that employees, managers, and executives are resistant to change. Successful implementation requires establishing and communicating realistic expectations for your management team and employees.

HR Tech will affect every employee in your organization at some point during their tenure. That’s why it is essential to work as one team. In an attempt to execute your implementation strategy without fail, explain to each employee the challenges and need of implementing the technology. Maintain transparency and constant communication.

Following is a checklist you can follow to ensure execution:

Consider a phased approach, particularly multiple modules to be implemented.

Plan, celebrate and communicate success along the way. This builds confidence amongst the project team and instills a sense of belief in the new system within the business.

Communicate progress regularly both within the project team and to key stakeholders within the business.

Keep track of issues and risks as they arise and deal with them promptly.
Go live and adoption:
Technology is only useful when it is adopted. How did you drive and encourage adoption post you go live with the technology?

For Times Internet, the aim was to get 100 percent employees to complete their performance reviews within the stipulated timeline.

To achieve that goal, the company hosted workshops that educated employees on using technology. Alternatively, they recorded employees experience and feedback on the technology and accordingly reconfigured it to align it with their needs.

Once the system is in production, you must ensure that it is easy for employees to use it to accomplish their duties and meet organizational objectives. Further, the organizations created videos to educate employees on the various steps to use the technology.

Measuring Success:
According to a study, 70 percent of the organizations admit they feel the pressure to demonstrate ROI from HR Technology implementation. But only 6 percent collect metrics to the same.

HR software solutions are often one of the most significant investments HR leaders make during their tenure, not because they are expensive, but because they change the way a company operates. Hence, HR is under increasing pressure to connect investment strategies with measurable, bottom-line results.

Here are the top three critical metrics adopted by Times Internet to measure the success of their HR Tech implementation:

Financial Aspect:  How much the technology has been able to deliver on the goals and objectives?

Efficiency: Whether the technology improved the overall efficiency of the process for which the technology was adopted.

People: This includes how many employees adopted the technology. This can be measured by tracking usage rates, issues, and requests for help.

If done well, a successful software implementation can be a bright spot on an HR department’s list of. But when things go wrong, it can be the issue that creates negative perceptions about HR’s ability to positively contribute to the business.

To know more on how to make HR Tech implementation to deliver the desired ROI, watch this webcast hosted by People Matters and Darwinbox, and get access to more insights! You can further download the case study here to know more about how Darwinbox helped Times Internet in implementing an HR Tech solution successfully.


4 ways CHROs and their teams can bust through the HR AI hype

HR AI is here — the panacea to solve all your recruiting and talent management challenges!

That’s what the HR AI hype seems to be saying. The reality is this: Even as straight-shooting vendor reps and analysts expound on the advantages that AI brings to HR technology, a number of them caution that the idea of incorporating true AI into HR software is a long-term proposition.

In fact, many professionals believe the state of AI in HR should be viewed in context. Today, they contend, machine learning and other areas of AI are primarily used for advanced data analysis and automation. In the long term, they have no doubt AI will have an enormous impact on human capital management (HCM) but predict its evolution will be both lengthy and complicated. “What we see now is what’s possible,” said John Sumser, principal analyst at HRExaminer and a widely known observer of HR technology. He made the remark during a conversation at the 2018 HR Technology Conference and Exposition, where everyone from big vendors, like ADP, to more specialized firms, like time-and-attendance tool developer BioGrp, were touting the integration of AI into their products.

But Sumser also said this about AI’s effect on HR: “The impact is going to be big. You can’t avoid it, and you better get prepared.”

So, although the HR AI hype is real, the promise is too. The trick is balancing the two.

Here are four ways to do just that.

1. Understand HR AI hype vs. today’s reality
Currently, AI in HR focuses on implementing more powerful mathematical tools, analytics and automation that help the HR function do its work more efficiently, according to Sumser and other experts.

At its simplest, Sumser observed, today’s AI usually comes into play when systems integration forces practitioners to spend their time doing what he called “stupid stuff.” For example, “there are teams of people whose job is effectively to copy information out of this piece of software, copy information out of that piece of software, then put it into a spreadsheet and tell a story.”

Such chores can be simplified through robotic process automation, he said, adding that RPA “is really just sort of advanced scripting with conditions built into the scripting.” That aside, he sees such technology appearing anywhere where there are those ineffective tasks, such as having a human being manually copy data from one system to another.

However, that technical environment is quickly changing, Sumser said. Not so long ago, programmers worked to preserve storage and minimize processing capabilities to optimize a machine’s performance. Today, technology has advanced to a point where developers don’t have to worry so much about making tradeoffs among processing power, memory and performance. As a result, “things that people used to imagine but always thought were impossible are possible,” he explained. Currently, those possibilities are mostly being realized in advanced mathematical search. “So, what’s in the market today boils down to complicated regression analysis expressed as probabilities of this happening or that happening.”

2. Prepare for a complex transition to HR AI
Increasingly sophisticated people analytics is sure to lead to a huge challenge in managing not just data, but the models it generates. Five years from now, Sumser believes, HR departments will have to manage millions of data models. “Every employee is going to have 15 or 20 data models pertaining to various aspects of their work and personality, and those models won’t necessarily come to the same conclusions,” he predicted. “The impact of that will be extraordinary.”

Not only will organizations need to maintain “data model farms” containing all of its models, they’ll have to develop alternative models as data capabilities and the workforce evolve, an effort Sumser compared to changing a flat tire while a vehicle is in motion. As the role of AI in HR grows, he said, “the business of managing the AI will probably be the most complicated bit of it.”

In addition, “one of the most important things to understand about AI today is that, where machines used to deliver facts, they now deliver opinions,” Sumser said. What he means is that technology such as analytics that predicts future scenarios or sensors that can take action — such as “decide” to call for help based on manufacturing flow — are essentially offering “opinions” that may or may not be accurate. In such cases — and for most scenarios in the foreseeable future — humans will still need to make decisions.

Users of AI tools must learn to work with a machine’s strengths, even while being aware of — and knowing how to utilize — its weaknesses, Sumser said.

3. Cut through HR AI hype with savvy questioning
Such dynamics led a number of people in the industry to caution against being drawn into AI hype, particularly with the buzzword-driven talk that, ironically, may often reflect a lack of knowledge about AI’s true meaning, potential impact and possible unintended consequences.

“Anybody who you can talk to sensibly about artificial intelligence is going to be less than fully informed,” Sumser said during his presentation on AI at HR Tech 2018. While the discussion around AI indeed has depth to it, he said the industry is still at the point where “almost anybody who insinuates that they’re an expert is overstating the case.”

In other words, AI may have such potential that even “experts” don’t know what they don’t know.

“Anytime we have a new technology, it tends to get really noisy. That’s inevitable,” added Jonathan Goodman, the San Francisco Bay Area general manager for The Starr Conspiracy, a marketing agency that focuses on HCM. Because there’s so much AI hype and because AI isn’t a software category in and of itself, he encouraged HR and IT leaders to drill down into how AI makes a particular product different. They need to understand how one vendor’s application of AI truly differentiates its product from its competition’s, Goodman said.

4. Understand how small HR AI efforts add up
Today, AI in HR is often discussed in terms of relatively narrow areas, such as screening candidates, analyzing the employee experience, predicting workforce needs and delivering more effective learning. However, many analysts believe that, in the end, the greatest impact will be more widely felt. “I actually think the biggest promise of AI has more to do with the entire employee lifecycle rather than one specific area,” said Dani Johnson, co-founder and principal analyst at RedThread Research.

It may be that such wide-ranging impact will occur when narrower efforts come together. Stacia Garr, Johnson’s co-founder at RedThread, sees AI as having an exceptional impact on diversity and inclusion. “If designed and used properly, AI can help reduce biases that impact how people assess each other — be it during candidate selection, performance appraisal or leadership or high-potential assessment,” she said.

The cumulative result generated by such tools “is much larger than improving individual processes,” she said. “The AI would instead be enabling the creation of a workforce and organizational culture that can drive better business outcomes across the entire company.”

Also, bear in mind that organizations have begun to think more holistically about their workforces, Johnson said. Where once learning and development, career planning and performance were three separate discussions, today, they’re addressed together. “The promise of AI is not just more data, but better information about any one employee and her goals and preferences, as well as how those align to organizational goals and direction.”


What We Often Get Wrong About Automation

When leaders describe how advances in automation will affect job prospects for humans, predictions typically fall into one of two camps. Optimists say that machines will free human workers to do higher-value, more creative work. Pessimists predict massive unemployment, or, if they have a flair for the dramatic, a doomsday scenario in which humans’ only job is to serve our robot overlords.

What almost everyone gets wrong is focusing exclusively on the idea of automation “replacing” humans. Simply asking which humans will be replaced fails to account for how work and automation will evolve. Our new book, Reinventing Jobs: A 4-Step Approach for Applying Automation to Work, argues that while automation can sometimes substitute for human work, it also more importantly has the potential to create new, more valuable, and more fulfilling roles for humans.

The intense emphasis on automation eliminating certain jobs for humans often stems from a fixation on near-term economic outcomes, particularly a focus on a traditional “lift and shift” equation that measures success according to the reduction in labor costs resulting from having fewer workers. While most organizations also look for gains like improvements in speed, quality and service, the focus is still on economic outcomes. Such a narrow focus overlooks some of the most important and vital benefits of optimizing work automation. Indeed, we have found that automation often results in higher compensation for workers, with those costs often being offset by greater productivity. However, the benefits go beyond strict economic accounting. By reinventing jobs to optimize work between humans and automation, organizations can attract a larger and more qualified applicant pool and achieve better retention, greater safety, and increased diversity.

The reinvention of work in the oil and gas industry provides an excellent example of the more nuanced approach to optimized work automation, as well as the array of benefits that lie beyond the more obvious economics of reduced labor costs.

Work Reinvention on the Oil and Gas Rig
Traditionally, oil rig workers must be on-site, doing hands-on, manual labor that is often dangerous. However, rapid advances in technology now make it possible to create a completely autonomous rig. The traditional, economically-motivated way to envision the benefits of this technology is to imagine how many workers doing today’s oil-rig jobs could be removed from the operation if the rigs were fully automated.

In contrast, the CEO and leadership team of one organization that worked with Ravin’s firm, Willis Towers Watson, adopted a more deliberate and inventive strategy. First, they refocused their strategy to provide a more comprehensive extraction solution, envisioning the rig as a platform for services beyond simply drilling a hole in the ground, with automation driving that transformation.

Second, instead of fixating on eliminating human labor, they set out to optimize their human talent, shifting employees away from repetitive, physical, isolated, and dangerous work and toward more variable, mental, interactive, and less hazardous work. They reinvented their rig crews to provide many of the services that before had been provided by third parties, offering a complete oilfield management solution.

Third, they recognized the fundamental value of deconstructing the existing jobs into work activities, to more clearly reveal where automation would eliminate some work, augment other work, and create entirely new work that was previously not possible. The reinvented work activities fell into several categories:

Activities centralized (sensors and AI monitor operations and transmit data to human workers in a control center)
Activities shifted to other roles (e.g., maintenance previously done by teams on each rig are shifted to shared-service teams)
Activities augmented (e.g., AI assists with monitoring rig performance, and sensors allow more precise directional drilling)
Activities eliminated (e.g., robotics now perform pipe running and other dangerous and dirty work)
Activities created (e.g., previously lesser skilled rig workers can now perform some electrical/mechanical engineering work)
These newly reinvented jobs required increasing pay levels by between 7% and 15%. A traditionalist aiming to cut labor costs with automation might see that as a losing proposition, but a more complete analysis reveals the benefits that easily offset the increased labor cost.

The Increased Profitability Payoff
Converting the rig into a platform for multiple oil field solutions and optimizing the core drilling performance produced a 45% increase in profitability and a significant reduction in performance variance between rigs. This substantial increase in overall rig profitability easily offset the increased labor cost. That profitability gain was partly due to envisioning the rigs and their workers more strategically — as part of a whole oilfield solution, rather than simply a drilling service for hire — and optimizing the role and impact of human labor. These results are impressive, but this strategic approach to work automation also produced two additional, unexpected gains.

Better Workforce Retention/Attraction
The reinvented jobs required very different skills. For example, the job of a “derrickman” was reinvented into a new job of “technician”; this shift eliminated the need for many basic manual skills, but added several new competencies, such as advanced electrical and mechanical knowledge, and enhanced communication and collaboration skills.

As we noted, acquiring and training workers with these new skills required increasing pay levels between 7% and 15%. The increased pay levels helped address the significant industry challenge of attracting and retaining skilled talent. With the reinvented jobs, this company could better compete for top talent, not only with higher pay, but also with more desirable work, because many dirty and dangerous tasks were automated.

The organization expects to see more highly-skilled job applicants apply, join, and stay.

The Diversity Dividend
The other surprising benefit from automation was an increase in workforce diversity. The traditional rig work was physically demanding, isolated, and dangerous. It attracted and retained workers who were overwhelmingly male, with family situations that allowed them to spend large blocks of time on the rig. After the organization reinvented this work, many activities that formerly were performed almost exclusively by men stationed on rigs in remote locations were now performed in a centralized control room in a major metropolitan area. The applicant and worker pool now included more women, and those with more diverse family situations who possessed the cognitive skills required to perform this reinvented work. The diversity and inclusion of genders, family structures, regions and ethnic backgrounds increased so much that for the first time the organization achieved its long-sought diversity goals.

Beyond the Organization
Debates about the impact of automation will rage on for the foreseeable future, but this example illustrates many positive outcomes available through the careful and collaborative reinvention of jobs. This reinvention is not only vital to optimizing work and automation within a single firm; it is also important for empowering organizations to participate in the social conversation about future job creation and work. Political, social, economic and regulatory debate typically relies on concepts like “good jobs,” “lost jobs,” and “preparing a workforce for the jobs of the future.” By adopting a systematic approach to work automation, organizations can better shape these debates by more clearly illuminating the full array of benefits and costs, both within the organization and for society more broadly.


Are New Managers The Most Neglected Group In Business?

As to the question above, I’d argue, yep, you can make that argument.

The transition to management, as I’ve discussed before in this space, is by no means simple. It involves a whole new way of looking at the business world, new skills, new responsibilities, new kinds of relationships, and so on. New managers have to wear many hats and sometimes they don’t fit too well. One study showed, not surprisingly, that 60% of new managers underperformed in their first two years on the job, not achieving the results expected of them.

To compound these natural challenges, with today’s almost-religious zeal for leanness, companies are often jettisoning new-manager training faster than you can say “rightsizing.”

I always found it odd, and I once did a Harvard Business Review piece focusing on this subject, that I received far more training (leadership development) in the last five years of my career than I did in the first 20 years combined. I really needed training at the beginning of my career (when I could barely find the water cooler, much less figure out how to manage other humans beings), but I got most of it at the end of my career. When truth be told I didn’t really need it and was pretty set in my ways.

Not to date myself, but my early management career was in the pre-internet days and I remember going to various small Western Massachusetts libraries in a roundabout search for books that might help me solve my myriad of management problems.

They didn’t.

Only experience did, a harsh and sometimes painful though diligent teacher.

Grooming (or not) tomorrow’s talent

These thoughts were on my mind recently as I was putting together an online new-manager course for Udemy, and trying to dissect the attributes that were most foundational for managerial success. Suffice to say, when you deconstruct the role of manager, you quickly realize there are many layers and components to it, a combustible mix of technical, people and political skills, stirred together with dashes of diplomacy and authority, that don’t always come easily to people.

Which is why good managers are valuable. And hard to find.

Small wonder that national employee engagement stats show chronically dismal numbers, macro-level disengagement hovering consistently around 70%, a testimony to the serious challenges of the management role.

When you think about it, as odd and bizarre as it may sound, I believe you can reasonably make the case that the transition to new manager is often more difficult than the transition to CEO. Not to say it’s a harder or more important job, of course. But to say that many new managers are less ready for it. CEOs generally move into the position with a formidable institutional support system in place: an experienced C-suite of capable lieutenants, an HR department and legal assistance to help with thorny and delicate issues – plus years of leadership development training and perhaps an MBA or other advanced degree behind them. New managers, on the other hand, are often just tossed into the role with limited guidance and training and sometimes without any preparation whatsoever. (Which is why some years ago I named my company Howling Wolf Management Training — because so many new managers are just thrown to the wolves.)

Front-line management is not an easy job.

Yet it’s critical to an organization. Front-line managers keep productivity humming and the trains running on time. They’re vital to smooth operations.

To totally neglect this group is shortsighted. Since this is the playoff season, baseball and the Boston Red Sox are (too) much on my mind. To use baseball parlance, your new managers are kind of like a company’s farm system, the players and stars of the future. Would you run a minor league team without coaches, when the players need to learn and develop?

Yet that’s what we so often do in business. Leave tomorrow’s talent to fend for itself.


HR strategy needs to focus on management techniques

Amid a growing shortage of talent, effective recruitment and human resources management, as well as fostering engagement, have become essential to the future success of global businesses. New analysis shows the kind of people management techniques that are effective at attracting, supporting and retaining key people.

As a key demographic shift takes place, with an increasing number of people approaching retirement age, and falling birth-rates over the past fifty years making them harder to replace, the ageing population many leading economies face is of key business importance. Companies also face a host of other challenges to recruitment in this scenario, including increased competition for talent, and tightening borders in key markets restricting the flow of labour.

However, there are a number of ways which businesses can navigate this series of challenges. Most obviously, they could devote more time to engaging communities which they have historically neglected to boost their dwindling human resources. Workers whose sexuality, gender, ethnicity or class have previously been barriers to employment represent a major pool of under-utilised talent, as well as the UK’s growing number of graduates, nearly half of whom still reside in jobs that don’t require graduate skills.

In this context, new analysis from McKinsey & Company, titled ‘Winning with your talent-management strategy’, explores trends in the talent management space. The report is based on survey of 1,820 participants across global industries and regions.

Talent management
According to the survey respondents, talent management is a key driver of business performance. Companies, the ability to attract and retain talent in addition to having an effective talent-management programme, were found to support organisational performance. The survey identified organisations that have performed somewhat or much better than competitors over the past three years, based on the effectiveness of their talent-management practices.

Respondents tended to cite improving the overall performance through talent management as very effective, compared to a small percentage who said that it was ineffective. The attraction and retention of talent and skills needed to realise strategies was cited by most organisations as very effective, at around 80% respectively, while smaller numbers cited the technique as very ineffective.

In relation to the overall effectiveness of talent-management programmes, the most prominent factor was noted as the ‘movement of talent among strategic projects as priorities arise and dissolve is fast or very fast’. That was followed by ‘HR functions ensure positive employee experiences across the employee life cycle’, while the third most strongly correlated factor was having HR leaders with comprehensive understanding of the organisation’s strategy and business priorities. Weaker correlations were noted in ‘employees understanding organisation’s overall strategy’ and ‘organisation’s executive team being moderately involved in talent management’.

While the top three have individual correlation on improved business performance, the study also found that organisations that engage all three top most correlated talent management attributes, are correlated with more effective talent management overall – which contributes significantly to financial performance in reference to outperforming peers. The survey noted that 17% of the surveyed organisations exhibited all three attributes, with as a result higher performance and TSR. They were also 2.5 times more likely to say that their organisation’s overall talent management was effective.

Around 39% of organisations noted that they are ‘fast or very fast at reallocating talent as strategic priorities arise and dissolve’, which is correlated with 1.4x outperformance. The factor is a key aspect of the outperformance of a business, with two thirds with the factor saying that their talent management efforts improve overall performance.

In addition, the study considered the factors that influence the ‘fast or very fast reallocation of talent as strategic priorities arise and dissolve’, and found that around 59% of organisations deployed talent effectively based on skills needed, while 51% said that their executive team were moderately or very involved in talent management, while 51% of organisations said that employees work in cross functional teams that arise and dissolve as projects do.

Executive involvement in talent allocation is a key part of likelihood of an organisation having a fast talent allocation strategy. For organisations that have a quarterly review (31% of companies), 31% said that they have a fast allocation strategy, while those that do a twice-yearly review (18%), 22% said that they have a fast allocation strategy. Meanwhile, 62% of organisations without fast allocation do not involve executive teams at all (30%) or do so only once per year (32%).


Employee Experience vs. Engagement: What’s the Difference?

What is the employee experience?
Due to a tightening labor market and a competitive global economy, highly talented individuals have a lot of freedom in where they choose to work.

Pay isn’t the sole criteria that attracts and retains the best people.

Employees want jobs that fit their lifestyle, give them opportunities to grow, and connect them to greater meaning and purpose.

At the same time, the workplace is more transparent than ever.

Interactions at work can quickly go viral, and former employees can leave reviews about past employers on social media. The consequences for employer brands can be severe.

For these reasons, many employers have begun focusing on improving their employee experience.

Employee experience constitutes the entire journey an employee takes with your organization. This includes everything from pre-hire to post-exit interactions and everything in between.

So what does that have to do with employee engagement? And how does that all fit into the employee life cycle?

Engagement Within the Employee Life Cycle
Out of all the interactions an employee has with their employer, Gallup identifies seven critical stages that have the most influence on an employee’s perceptions of your organization.

The majority of an employee’s time with your organization will be spent in three stages:

Engagement describes the basic psychological needs that must be met in order to perform your work well.

This includes things like knowing what’s expected of you and having the materials you need.

But it also includes emotional and social needs, like doing work that you are good at and connecting your work with a higher purpose.

Engagement Comes Mostly From Relationships
Engagement is not an event, an incentive program or a fun perk.

While being engaged at work does feel good, it’s not a feel-good, team building activity. It is created on a daily basis through one’s work environment and relationships.

In Gallup’s framework, engagement comes before performance because it is foundational to consistent excellence.

Even a highly talented but disengaged worker may outperform his or her peers, but they will never truly reach their full potential until they feel supported at work.

Not surprisingly, managers play a central role when it comes to employee engagement.

In fact, 70% of the variance in employee engagement is due to the manager.

With the right training, managers can provide the conversations, recognition and feedback that drive employee engagement, which in turn drives a great employee experience.

How Engagement Influences the Employee Experience
Your employees’ level of engagement — their mindset and behavior when they come to work each day — has a major impact on what they think about your company.

That may sound simple, but the truth is that many employees today do not have their basic psychological needs met.

Only three in 10 employees strongly agree they have the materials and equipment they need to do their work right.
Four in 10 employees strongly agree that when they are at work, they have the opportunity to do what they do best every day.
Three in 10 employees strongly agree that in the last seven days they have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
Globally, only 15% of employees are engaged at work. In the U.S., 33% are engaged.

Clearly, highly engaged organizations have a competitive advantage when they can get significantly more out of their workers.

Beyond Engagement
Modern employee-employer relationships are complicated.

Leaders have to think about everything from culture to well-being to purpose and meaning — and make it all come to life in a personalized way for employees, both in person and through digital channels.

Naturally, employee engagement alone is not enough to address all these aspects of the workplace — but it also shouldn’t be overlooked.

You can spend a lot of money on internal branding, but if an employee has no friends at work, they are likely to feel disconnected from your culture anyway.

You can create a beautiful office space, but if people don’t see how they can grow with you, they are still likely to leave.

It may be tempting to skip the obvious (but perennially challenging) basics and focus on something more exciting.

But if you don’t meet the minimum expectations of today’s employees, nothing else matters.

Ultimately, highly engaged workplaces feel different.

And that contributes significantly to how employees choose their employers, why they stay, and what they say about your organization long after they’ve left.


Stop Being So Cold! How Being Considered A Warm Person Can Boost Your Career

What effect do warmth and competence have on your career? Historically, being considered a warm person hasn’t been an attribute that senior leaders strove to develop. More emphasis was placed on being competent. Books and articles published in past decades that have described effective management have emphasized the importance of business acumen, technical knowledge, being results driven, taking initiative, and strategic thinking. However, competence alone is career limiting.

In a previous article, I shared Zenger Folkman’s research on how these two competencies effect women and senior leadership. In this article, I will share our research on how warmth and competence influence high potential ratings and employee engagement.

Our data for this analysis comes from 360-degree assessments with feedback from managers, peers, direct reports, and others with whom the person has had extensive contact. We utilized a global database of over 70,000 leaders and performed a factor analysis that forced the data into two factors.

Potential Ratings

What is the interplay of warmth and competence when it comes to selecting those who are deemed “high-potentials” in an organization? We analyzed a dataset from an organization where we had potential ratings for 4,915 leaders in addition to 360-degree feedback evaluations of their perceived competence and warmth effectiveness.

For the assessment of their potential, these leaders had been rated as:

Ready now—currently ready for a promotion.
Not ready yet—good performance but not fully ready for promotion.
Needs improvement. The graph below confirms that being perceived as warm is correlated with being perceived as being ready for promotion. Competence alone does not correlate as highly with perceived promotability.

Those responsible for developing leaders who are ready for promotion may want to emphasize development of the leader’s effectiveness in warmth in addition to competence. This reinforces the old saying, “soft skills are the hard skills.” Learning to communicate more effectively and to collaborate, inspire, and develop others are obviously of high importance.

Impact of Warmth and Competence on Employee Engagement
Finally, we wanted to determine the impact of these two traits on a leader’s overall effectiveness. We needed an independent variable with which to measure the impact. Fortunately, we had collected employee engagement data from the direct reports on 63,916 leaders for whom we had measured both warmth and competence. From prior research we knew that there is a significant positive correlation between leadership effectiveness in general and employee commitment.

To assess the impact, we divided the total group into four quadrants by categorizing each leader according to their high/low score on each of the two dimensions. We then analyzed the employee engagement scores for the leaders in each quadrant. The graph below illustrates that the combination of higher scores in both warmth and competence results in higher levels of employee engagement. The differences between all groups are statistically significant.

Most leaders have been taught to value competence over warmth. Warmth seemed to be optional; a personal choice. The data paints a different picture. Competence alone is career limiting. The combination of warmth and competence helps leaders advance to higher levels and is correlated to higher levels of employee engagement. We strongly suspect that other business outcome measures, such as customer satisfaction, overall productivity, and profitability, are also highly correlated with the combination of warmth and competence.

While warmth has more of a positive impact on the engagement of employees, competence also has a significantly positive impact. What we have discovered in this analysis is while competence seems to be most critical early on in one’s career, over time and with promotions, balancing that competence with warmth is critical for leaders to be promoted and to create a highly engaged team.


You Conducted an Employee Survey. Now What?

One recommendation internal communicators hear often is to conduct employee surveys to learn their communication preferences. And it absolutely is an effective way to learn more about what employees want to hear and how they want to receive those communications.

The problem is, most articles or experts don’t go too far beyond recommending a survey and perhaps a few questions to ask or avoid. But once you have the survey data, the interpretation, analysis and resulting actions can turn out to be a lot more complicated than one might think.

With that in mind, here are five tips to ensure you get the most from your survey efforts:

1. Communicate at every step of the way.
If employees only hear about your survey while you are running it, you are missing out on engagement opportunities. Your survey is intended to help you communicate better down the road, but why not use it as an effective tool to communicate better now?

Get employees involved in the entire process and make sure they understand the process steps from feedback to analysis to change management. Immediately after the survey, let people know how many people participated, thank them for it and let them know when you expect to have some results.

2. Avoid analysis paralysis, cherry-picking and lemon-dropping.
Communicators and executives can sometimes glance over survey results and draw conclusions from the most cursory of data – and then act far too quickly. Cherry-picking and lemon-dropping are examples of confirmation bias, confirming the best and worst assumptions. They’re where you handpick just a few positive or negative results to make a conclusion. Statistical analysis requires careful, detailed math. What appears to be a cause or effect at first glance may not prove to be a valid conclusion when the statistics are applied.

3. Celebrate the positive; don’t just target problem areas.
Isolating or targeting divisions or programs with lower engagement only serves to further disconnect them. First, identify what is working and promote those behaviors. It will take far less effort to get everyone aboard those bandwagons than fixing what is broken and addressing weaknesses.

It’s also important to create actions plans that touch every area of the organization at all levels so everyone can grow and improve together, not separately.

4. Involve employees in planning for change.
Stephen Shinnan, director of marketing and business development at TalentMap, puts it very directly: Having little or no employee participation in action planning after a survey is the path to failure. Instead, work the 80/20 rule. Develop an employee engagement steering committee that can identify a few opportunities for improvement, the top 20 percent, and set improvement goals. Then focus your efforts on achieving those goals rather than trying to do everything at once, and you should see 80 percent of the benefits of doing more.

5. Make actual change.
Doing nothing with your survey results may actually be the worst decision you could make. Employees make an effort to provide feedback, and they expect and want improvements to come after; otherwise, why even participate?

When it comes time for your next survey, it would be ideal to kick that off by being able to point to improvement and changes made as a result of the last one. As more people see the feedback loop working, the more people will participate in the virtuous loop.


How Meditation Can Boost Your Career

These days, American employees are more stressed out than ever. They’re underusing vacation days and overworking themselves, to the point where America has become the most overworked developed country in the world. In fact, 85% of men and 66% of women report working more than 40 hours a week. This is all despite the fact that productivity has risen 400% since the 1950s, meaning it should take Americans a quarter of the time to accomplish the same tasks. Yet there they are, shooting off emails at all hours of the day, working hard and gaining stress.

As a career coach and the creator of a job hunting e-course, I’m surrounded by honorable workers who want to get ahead, but please note that burnout is real… And you cannot dodge it.

Needless to say stress has a negative impact on your career, leading to poor time management, lack of focus, and overall burnout. And when you’re burnt out, you’re not working to your full potential. So all those extra hours you’re putting in when you’re already burned out and overwhelmed aren’t actually serving your career, they’re hurting it in the long run.

So what can you do about it? The answer may sound silly, but it’s been proven to improve anxiety, stress, and even physical pain.


Meditation has seen a rise in popularity, from accessible smart phone apps to packed yoga classes. It makes sense… in a society so packed with overwhelmed and overworked employees, everyone’s looking for a way to de-stress and get back into their work flow, so their careers can skyrocket.

There are many different types of meditation, so no matter what your preference or availability, you’ll be able to find something to at least try. Here are four popular forms of meditation that you can try at home or even at work (yes, you an actually meditate in the office).

Mindfulness. This is all about being present with your thoughts, and being fully aware of your surroundings. You can practice mindfulness by focusing on your breathing. It only takes a few minutes!
Guided. This is where those smart phone apps come in. You’re being led by a guide to visualize relaxing images or situations to create a sense of calm.
Chakra. For chakra meditation, many people will light incense or use crystals in order to help them concentrate on their chakras, different centers of energy in your body.
Yoga. Grab your mat and start stretching. Yoga is one of the most popular forms of meditation, and involves poses and breath work to promote calmness.
I know that when I first started getting into meditation, I didn’t really know where to begin. Luckily, I stumbled across some amazing experts who really helped me understand meditation and how it can work for me. Here are my favorites!

Emily Fletcher, Ziva Meditation

Emily’s practice is all about decreasing stress while increasing productivity through the “three m’s”: Mindfulness, Meditation, and Manifesting.

Sarah Anne Stewart, Sarah Anne Stewart

Sarah is a holistic health coach who focuses on using meditation for body positivity, weight loss, and health.

Sarah Blondin, Live Awake

Sarah is host of the Live Awake Podcast, all about gaining perspective and using reflection and guided meditation to ground you. She’s also featured on Insight Timer, one of the most popular meditation apps.

Chandresh Bhardwaj, Break the Norms

Chandresh is a spiritual advisor who comes from seven generations of Indian spiritual healers. He’s the founder of Break the Norms, a nonprofit meant to spread spirituality and guidance to everyone.

Hopefully, having some insight into the benefits of meditation, the different types you can practice, and some leading experts in the field, you can begin your journey to de-stressing and boosting your career.

When was the last time you took a moment out of your day to refocus your mind, your breathing, and your body? Are you ready to start now?


Why businesses need to learn the art of retaining talent

What is employee engagement? Is it merely some team activities conducted a couple of times a year? Or an annual bonus? Is it a generic motivational speech delivered annually by the senior leadership? Or is it the process of rolling out extensive surveys, having the data documented by human resources and then just moving on with the day to day functioning of the business?

There is no single answer to this question and not even all the answers together can sum up the prospects that employee engagement can have for an organization. Engagement is not simply a policy but is in fact, a process, a culture, a state of being for an organization. Employee engagement in today’s world is the employee experience, and when this is favourable, engagement levels invariably rise. From perks to team building activities, from surveys to developing leadership approachability, from keen observation of employees to delegating responsibility and allowing creative or intellectual freedom – these are all an integral part of keeping employees happy, engaged, and, well – simply keeping them.

When companies constantly focus on hiring, they lose the ultimate long term goal of retaining talented employees. So, what are the various ways of creating a culture that makes employees feel secure and happy?

Perks and other benefits
There is inevitably a high degree of redundancy in perks and benefits when the policies are not constantly reviewed. A periodic review ensures that policies are implemented in a somewhat personalized manner. Benefits such as insurance policies and provident fund deductions, for instance, need to be considered from the perspective of the average employee age group, marital status and health issues individual employees may have.

Company perks like in-house gyms and free food and benefits such as education assistance are very valuable to millennials, even if they may be less useful to senior employees. On the other hand, the allowance for disability insurance and retirement plans can massively increase the engagement and commitment of the senior workforce, giving them a sense of stability and security. With perks and benefits, the cookie cutter approach is counter-productive as one size does not fit all.

Recognise compensation
Appreciation goes a long way in motivating and encouraging employees to aim higher and better. When employees feel that their efforts are recognized they strive to grow and learn, and contribute even further. Recognition from the leadership on a continuous basis in terms of rewards, employee-of-the-month initiatives, and other appreciation drives, are extremely important.

However, a pat on the back is not always enough, and employees can feel taken for granted if the acknowledgement is not backed up with enhanced remuneration. Bonuses reassure employees that the organization is willing to invest in them. Merit-based incentives, holiday bonuses, and periodic pay hikes in reasonable increments can mean a lot to those who hold up the company. This is what symbolises the significance of individual growth along with organizational growth.

Culture is what culture does
Culture solidifies and amalgamates. Activities for team building, for stress management, celebrations of festivities across race and religion, off-site events, workshops, and group corporate social responsibility initiatives, are all ways to achieve a strong positive work culture. Such programs ensure that employees feel a part of the organisation while having a work-life integration.

With different festivals being given equal importance, employees get an important life lesson in diversity and inclusion. Even CSR initiatives, which companies often conduct without much employee involvement, are a truly beautiful way to let them know that while business is a priority, it is equally important to give back to society. Whether it is a session on mental health, or on teamwork and collaboration, employees hugely benefit from being treated as individuals, rather than a faceless workforce.

Connect the dots
A hugely underestimated aspect of employee engagement is the connection between employer and employee. When the senior leadership of an organization takes the responsibility of reaching out to employees, it instils a sense of belonging and reinforces the approachability of the leadership. Leadership should involve more than just assigning tasks and delegating roles. When leaders learn to be mentors, only then an employee-employer connect is established.

The leadership needs to be open to feedback and constructive criticism. Leaders may have reached top positions, but they can always improve, and who better than their employees to provide productive inputs. This reciprocal system not only increases involvement but also develops a sense of ownership in each member of the company – one of the most important factors in employee retention.

A holistically positive and growth-oriented culture is the gateway to effective employee engagement. Considering all the above-mentioned facets of work life, assessing the levels of current employee retention, and implementing effective processes, are important steps to keeping your employees happy. Involvement, ownership and engagement in general, do seem abstract in nature. However, with emerging tools such as calculators that measure the return on engagement (ROE) after factoring in turnover and average salary, we can now quantify the seemingly unquantifiable.