How to get superior employee experience: AI, robotic process automation can help reach desired goal

HR function traditionally has been geared to create and implement HR policies aimed at smooth functioning of the business with a long-term perspective. As a result, all its activities around HR administration, training, recruitment and other employee life cycle are mostly designed for steady-state business. With the onset of the digital era and the business dynamics resulting in the need for agility and quick adaptation, HR function needs to redefine its functioning and orientation to business needs. The fundamental premise around customers, customer needs, business model, competition landscape and offerings is undergoing changes in the context of digital transformation and hence HR function too needs to become agile and supportive of the dynamic needs of the business. Building a culture of flexibility and shift in the focus towards delivering solutions has become important in order to be counted as reliable partners to the business.

Just as businesses are recognising that customer experience is central to their success, delivering delightful employee experience has to become the core of HR function. As a partner to business, HR function has to play an important role in propelling the organisation to digital workplace. Use of appropriate digital technology required for its own function should be thought through carefully including the use of digital tools such as AI and robotic process automation to deliver superior employee experience. Learning support has to go beyond the current approach towards learning or content management system.

Artificial boundaries prescribed for learning should cease to exist and static content for learning should be replaced with dynamic and personalised content, based on customised learning paths, encouraging continuous learning by providing access to innumerable learning resource inventories that could be curated on the digital platform from multiple avenues.
With talent continuing to be the key differentiator for businesses, the tasks related to acquiring, grooming and retaining quality talent for growth and sustenance of the business would have to be managed with extreme care as resources would expect personalisation and customised employee journeys during their association with the organisation.

HR heads have to therefore be willing to revisit all dimensions of the traditional HR model and using design thinking approach, visualise the new-age employee journey. What this may lead to is the necessity to relook at systems that may be working in silos to facilitate seamless functioning of individuals and functions.

IT systems in HR have traditionally mirrored the processes followed prior to automation. Most benefits of automation for HR have been on account of reducing labourious work and time in administrative processes such as payroll, compensation and benefits and attendance management. HR function should embrace digital tools empowering HR professionals and the employees and help design customised services as per the preferred mode of access with respect to place and time of their choice.

Organisations can respond to queries of employees with speed and accuracy with the help of AI bots, have the opportunity to proactively address employee concerns and or initiate timely steps regarding motivational issues or likely attrition in critical roles. Employee life cycle and their journeys throughout different phases in the organisation need to be considered as a continuum and an integrated approach is required for serving and supporting employees such that the success of the individual and the business are synchronised. Developing analytical capabilities within HR function and developing useful insights juxtaposed with business parameters would enable HR function to actively contribute to the strategic trajectories of the business.

The insights drawn from analytics could go a long way in deciding effective spend on employee engagement as well as in building linkages with learning and development for maximising performance management. HR function also has an important role to play in fostering innovation in the organisation. Building communities of practice within the organisation to nurture best practices, new ideas and innovation and connect them with the expertise available in academic institutions and other organisations in the ecosystem would be essential for sustaining its competitive advantage in the marketplace.

The writer is CEO, Global Talent Track, a corporate training solutions company.


15 Things Leaders Should Be More Cognizant Of In The Workplace This Year

Now that 2018 is here, leaders need to become more aware of the workplace environment they are creating for their employees. More emphasis is being placed on providing a workplace that is safe for employees and free of discrimination and harassment.

According to a report by U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission, there were 12,860 sex-based harassment charges alleged in 2016 and this number has continually grown since 2014. With the recent focus on exposing sexual harassment in the workplace, 2018 is a year that all can agree should emphasize reducing this type of behavior.

In order to ensure your workplace doesn’t come under fire for these or other claims, 15 members of Forbes Coaches Council share the one thing all leaders should be cognizant of in 2018 when it comes to the workplace and why. Here is what they had to say:

1. Boundaries Are Key

The landscape is changing and so is the conversation. More than ever, it’s important to be clear on what’s appropriate in the workplace and work environment. Right now, sexual harassment is a key topic, but it’s also a starting point. As conversations continue, it’s important to listen, take appropriate action, establish policies and consistently adhere to them. – Gina Gomez, Gina Gomez, Business & Life Coach

2. AI And EI Need To Be Developed Simultaneously

Artificial Intelligence systems will enhance the way we work and will be a major way forward for large organizations to be more productive. Crucially, we need to be cognizant of our need to be balanced during advancement, by helping employees and leaders become more emotionally intelligent in equal measures to create optimum results for organizations, society and humankind. – Caroline Stokes, FORWARD Human Capital Solutions

3. Multiple Generations In The Workforce

Multiple generations (baby boomers, Generation Xers, millennials) require different leadership approaches. In 2018, leaders must be cognizant of not only the differences inherent within each generation, but also of the leadership needs of each generation. A one-size-fits-all approach will only serve to frustrate those in the workplace, preventing organizations from experiencing real growth. – Dr. Stephen Kalaluhi, The StephenK Group

Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches. Do I qualify?
4. Diversity Is Nothing Without Inclusion

Over the past decade, there has been a steady push towards creating a more diverse workplace; however, many companies still struggle with inclusion. Thriving workplaces understand diversity and inclusion must go hand-in-hand. It isn’t enough to simply hire more women and minorities if these marginalized groups still don’t have an actual seat at the table and a voice in how things are done. – Niquenya Collins, Building Bridges Consulting

5. Equality On All Sides

In case you missed the memo, the boys club is dead. Whether you’re a male or female leader, it’s time to embrace equality on all sides. Men aren’t more qualified, and women shouldn’t be put on a pedestal for being female. We’re all capable of performing at a high level, and as a leader, it’s time to hold everyone accountable and on equal footing. There’s no room for special seats at the table. – Jeanna McGinnis, ReResumeMe®

6. Successful Workplaces Adopt A Coaching Culture

Many organizations are making the shift to developing a coaching culture. A coaching culture promotes employee engagement, ignites top performance, brews effective communication and cross-team collaboration, and delivers better customer service. Learn coaching skills, this can have a large impact. Watch this trend and adopt coaching as a leadership competency. – Debora McLaughlin, The Renegade Leader Coaching & Consulting Group

7. Personality Trumps Skill Set

The workplace is an ecosystem of personalities and responsibilities. The more character-neutral employees, the higher chance of productivity among your team. Hiring for skill will continue to lead to high turnover and dissatisfaction among employees. You can always train for skill but you can’t alter someone’s personality to make them a team player. – Jeff Shuford, Tech From Vets

8. Employees Want To Be Part Of Something Great

Employees are inundated with examples of things organizations are not doing well. These examples provide them with a barometer to compare their experiences at work. While that is natural, another path is turning the focus in an authentic way to the difference the company is making to their customers or in the world. Being a part of something great should be the new barometer. – Lesha Reese, Lesha Reese, LLC

9. Space For Culture Is A Must

With all of the headlines, the workplace has become the backdrop for discussing how we treat each other. Despite virtual teams, many of us still have to show up and share space with people. Make time for conversation to help your team develop the skills to communicate through 2018 headlines and beyond. Consider scheduling regular retreats to build momentum! Be proactive, it’s your culture! – Meredith Moore Crosby, Leverette Weekes

10. Change And Disruption Will Accelerate

As we continue in the early stages of the Fourth Industrial Revolution there will be wider adoption of new technologies in your business and by competitors. Exponential technologies will enable competitors to seemingly come out of nowhere. Be ready. Be aware. Be nimble. – Larry Boyer, Success Rockets LLC

11. Embrace Changes So You Can Prevail

Leaders should be cognizant of the fact that the rapid pace of multiple, simultaneous changes makes business uncertain and business leadership hard. Technology, diversity and globalization are just a few changes happening at once. Business leaders cannot control the pace of changes; however, they can understand them. When leaders embrace the changes, they can position their companies to prevail. – Kelly Byrnes, Voyage Consulting Group

12. Leading In 2018 Is All About Acceptance

In order to lead their team in an ever-changing climate, leaders need to openly embrace new practices and ideas, as well as create an open door of communication. When teams feel supported, they have the confidence to move beyond the tried and true methods, and get creative without feeling judged. – Dominique Anders, Dominant Media/Dominique Anders Coaching

13. Employee Disengagement Is The Dog That Will Bite You

Disengaged employees are an enormous hidden cost. There are costs associated with lost productivity, poor quality or poor service. But the biggest costs come from a disengaged workforce in three areas: missed opportunities, unsafe work practices and cyber carelessness. Without full employee engagement, a leader runs the risk of losing their job or losing the company. – Randy Goruk, The Randall Wade Group, LLC

14. Better Messaging Is Critical

Communication skills are critical. We often overlook them, both in terms of time and effort, by not spending enough time thinking about our message and the best way to deliver the impact we want. We often break trust without realizing it by using poor language. Then consider, do we listen to understand, to connect rather than defend? Better dialog begets better decisions begets better outcomes. – Jennifer Long, Management Possible®

15. Neuroleadership’s Transformative Approach To Performance

Neuroleadership is an organizational and leadership development tool based in science that enables leaders to improve performance, manage diversity and create a learning culture — which are all essential to business success. The people side of the workplace has long been seen as “soft,” but now that there is hard data on how collaboration and relatedness influence success, it will be key in 2018. – Loren Margolis, Training & Leadership Success LLC


HR’s Guide To Leadership Succession Planning

Senior leaders are critical in any organization. So what happens when they leave? A recent leadership shakeup at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) brought this question into full focus. When top-level leaders come on board, companies hope they will go the distance. However, we know this isn’t always the case—especially in high-growth companies where needs are ever-changing.

In the midst of onboarding and goal-setting, it falls on HR to think about what might happen if a leader decides to move on. Without the right planning, succession can be a challenging and fraught process. We spoke with Namely’s Senior Director of People Operations, Julie Li, to get insight into how HR can plan ahead for leadership succession.

What is a succession plan, and why is it important?

JL: We all know that having the right talent in place is critical to a company’s success. This includes a strong leadership team that can drive the strategy and vision forward to sustainable growth. As your company matures, it is important to start thinking about building a succession plan for the most critical roles.

Though some view succession planning as a way to mitigate risk in case of adverse events, I view it as a critical component of a comprehensive talent strategy that focuses on building a pipeline of talent within the organization. For C-suite roles, it is critical to engage the CEO, Board of Directors, and the leadership team in the review of potential candidates.

Think outside the box when you are building a succession plan, and make sure you have a slate of diverse candidates. A robust plan can ease the process of identifying individuals who are ready to take on the role immediately—and others who are a few years out.

By holding regular talent reviews with your senior team, there should be no surprises when the critical time comes to fill an open role.

Should the successor be internal or external?

JL: Promoting from within is great practice. It offers strong performers an opportunity to grow their careers at your company and usually reduces ramp time. However, if you find that there are no internal candidates who have the required skills and experience to take on the role, you may need to look externally. Going through the succession planning process also enables you to identify any gaps in talent on your team so you can proactively work to fill them while the incumbent is still in the role. Succession planning is about being proactive versus reactive, so your company is prepared for any changes, both expected and unexpected.

If a longer selection process is needed, who should fill in temporarily?

JL: If you don’t have a succession plan in place and a leader steps down unexpectedly, don’t rush to fill that position with the next person “in line.” Conduct a critical assessment of the attributes necessary for success in that role so you can paint a holistic picture of the ideal successor. If there is no internal candidate that is ready to step up, and it’s not a role that you can leave open for any period of time, you can appoint an interim internal successor. Make sure that there is a clear understanding on both sides that this individual will be performing the duties for a brief period while you search for the permanent successor.

How can learning & development or mentorship programs prepare employees to move into leadership roles?

JL: Successors for critical roles should be set up for success. Consider engaging with a transition coach if they are taking on high profile roles in the C-suite. Expectations of what “good” looks like change as a person advances in their career, and often require a slightly different skillset or mindset. Make sure you communicate the expectations clearly to the individuals assuming the new leadership roles and provide them with the appropriate resources needed to onboard successfully.

Workforce planning takes time and thoughtful preparation. Get our expert tips for making the best hires and helping them succeed.

Whether it be entry level talent or C-level executive staff, HR can get ahead by building out a robust talent pipeline. With the right talent, training, and recruiting processes in place, you won’t be caught off-guard if the time comes to fill an important role in the company.


Want to build a purposeful organisation? Sharpen your risk strategy

When global leaders congregate in Davos for the World Economic Forum meeting next week, they will be focused on a collective concern: the rising economic inequality that is making an already fractured world order even worse.

While there is no easy solution to this challenge, there is much to learn from the enduring success of organisations that have pioneered and nurtured the idea of inclusive capitalism. While these companies focus on profits, they are also driven by a higher purpose – whether it is to “preserve and improve human life,” “promote women’s empowerment” or “keep people happy.”

Given the intuitive appeal of this proposition, most organisations have now embarked on the “purpose” journey. According to a recent EY study, 95 percent of the nearly 1,500 global business leaders surveyed said they have a corporate purpose. However, only in 40 percent cases did the purpose aspire to contribute towards society at-large. 21 percent of these cases represented truly purposeful enterprises – where the aspiration to make meaningful societal contributions was deeply ingrained into the organisational ethos and fabric.

What makes these purposeful companies tick is their ability to align their organisation’s purpose with its risk strategy – which involves making bets that can help capture opportunities while mitigating losses.

For instance, when the board of a leading global pharmaceutical company approved sales of a tuberculosis medicine in Japan – which at the time was suffering from a severe outbreak of the disease – the company did not immediately make profits. Doing the right thing, however, enabled the company to establish itself as the dominant player in the Japanese market. This company’s risk strategy was guided by its larger purpose of promoting healthy living.

Sometimes, a purpose-led risk strategy may call for sacrificing revenues in the short-term. Consider the example of a healthcare products retailer that decided to stop selling tobacco as this contradicted with its purpose of helping people get healthy. The company lost over a billion dollars in revenue on account of this decision. However, over the long-term, this strategy helped cement its market-leadership position as a company that truly cared about the health of its customers.

The defining characteristic of purposeful organisations is that the alignment of purpose and risk strategy is entrenched and pervasive in the organisation. Consequently, employees across the board are excited about “living” the purpose. It helps them find greater meaning in their work and serves as a compass for making key decisions.

For instance, in the case of an e-commerce job portal company, the founders articulated its purpose as improving people’s lives through better employment. The company’s mojo stemmed from this empathy for jobseekers. However, after the founders departed, the new management announced that its sole focus was to increase the stock price. The organisation’s purpose took a back seat and morale plummeted. The company rapidly lost key employees and market share. It was eventually acquired.

Given the risks associated with building purposeful enterprises, what can business leaders do to make such an ideology thrive?

First, boards must ensure that their company’s purpose is authentic. This means that purpose goes beyond delivering to the narrow brand-building or corporate social responsibility agendas. Once a purpose has been adopted, it must be embraced with utmost sincerity and deep-rooted passion. This could mean revisiting the company’s risk appetite, making tough commercial calls and convincing investors that the realization of organisational purpose can even mean foregoing profits in the near term.

Second, CEOs and executives should introspect if the organisational purpose aligns with their market offerings and risk culture. Doing so can help leaders reassess the company’s strategic positioning and spur innovation to develop products and services that better support the company’s purpose. In order to enable this, perverse organisational policies, controls and incentives should be identified and dismantled. Guarding against anti-purpose behavior is especially critical – as this can destroy corporate reputation built over many years of hard work.

Third, managers should regularly communicate the importance of purpose to drive employee engagement, especially when the company encounters and manages new operational risks.

Purpose can serve as a catalyst in transforming companies as they compete in today’s complex and increasingly disruptive business environment. Purposeful companies can in turn help build sustainable communities, inclusive economies, and indeed, a better working world.

– By Nitin Bhatt, Global Leader of EY’s Risk Transformation Advisory Practice. Views are personal.


How Do You Develop Leaders On A Budget?

Here’s a problem we hear frequently from CEOs: My new managers aren’t prepared to lead.

You probably experience this all the time. You promote a talented individual because of his or her technical skills, but that doesn’t mean they know how to lead others. Someone may be a great salesperson, engineer, accountant, or marketer, but put them in charge of a team and suddenly their technical expertise doesn’t matter as much as their ability to influence others.

Leaders everywhere experience this problem, but it’s especially acute for executives within small and mid-size companies who don’t have an in-house leadership development program. Assuming you can’t hire a talent development department tomorrow, how can you turn your individual contributors into exceptional managers, or prepare your managers for executive leadership, quickly and on a budget?

We have four ideas that can fit most budgets:

  1. Start a book club.
  2. Practice focused mentoring.
  3. Use team meetings for learning and discussion.
  4. Invest in targeted education programs for select leaders.

Before You Start, Consider This:

We’ll elaborate on these ideas below and share some resources, but first, a comment about the conditions that are necessary for any leadership development program to be effective. At a high level, three conditions are necessary. First, senior leadership has to make people-development a priority. Being a people-centered organization is one of our building blocks of culture, and it requires investment. Stop reading now if you, as the leader, aren’t prepared to put some elbow grease into this.

Second, it takes accountability. True leadership development cannot happen overnight. Whatever plan you pick, make sure you build in an accountability mechanism.

The final condition is that leadership development strategies must align with your organization’s purpose and values. You can’t teach new managers to delegate work, or to have difficult conversations with kindness, unless it is modeled in their experiences with more senior leaders.

Now, we can return to our four strategies for leadership development on a budget.

#1: Start A Book Club

Leaders are readers. In almost every remarkable company we study, we find the leadership team makes good use of their library card. Develop your own in-office library of great books and encourage people to read your favorites. Better yet, pick a book of the quarter and buy a copy for every manager. Hold discussions at staff meetings or over a brown-bag lunch. Ask people to test drive the book’s ideas and report back on what worked, and what didn’t. Just pick your book carefully and read it first, so you can make sure the book’s tone and topic align with your company’s culture and current needs.

Need a list of recommendations to start? Check out our curated list of books for leading change, or our book list for women in leadership.

Leaders are readers. Develop leadership in your organization with a book club; ideas via @ValuesDriven.

#2: Practice Focused Mentoring

While the book club can be done at the group or organization-wide level, focused mentoring can help new leaders develop in a one-to-one context. Pair an experienced and admired manager with the new kid on the block, then give them a focused topic for their conversation. For example, ask them to talk about how they prioritize their time, how they offer feedback that gets heard, or how to best “manage up” within the organization.

This focus is important: it ensures that your new managers are getting insight into the leadership topics that most matter to you. Just by asking the question, you raise the importance of the topic. Having a focused mentoring session also means you can play matchmaker, selecting the best senior managers for specific topics. Alternatively, you can establish longer-term mentoring relationships (start with a three-month commitment) and offer different topics for focused conversation on a biweekly basis.

#3: Use Team Meetings for Learning And Discussion

If you gather your team for a weekly or monthly staff meeting, you’ve got a ready-made leadership development event on your calendar. As little as 15 minutes can be enough to get started.

How? Consider using short videos (10 minutes or less) followed by 10 minutes of conversation. Plan questions to start the conversation and help your team apply the concept to their work. Close by asking how they’ll test the concept in the coming week.

For example, new managers might benefit from this 3-minute video on coaching team members to find their own answers. (Bonus: this video comes with discussion questions.) Watch the video with your team, then ask people to answer the questions together, applying the concepts to your company’s work.

Where can you find good, short videos that address leadership development? Try TED Talk’s business section, or our video series from the Return on Values Initiative.

#4: Invest in Targeted Education Programs For Select Leaders

For the right person, it’s worth spending some money. Investing in leadership development pays big financial dividends: it illustrates your commitment to the individual leader, and to people-centered culture, and exposes your company to valuable ideas from outside your four walls. Short-term solutions like books and videos are great starts, but they aren’t transformational experiences. If you really want to grow a manager into an exceptional leader, or prepare them for senior roles, it will take a longer term, concentrated investment.

Finding the right program takes work. Our advice? Don’t make a decision based on the name of the school or the title of the program. Take a good look at the curriculum, so you find one that builds true leadership capacity at multiple levels (self, one-on-one, team, and organizational) and aligns with your organization’s culture and your team member’s work schedule.

We’re partial to our own program, the executive master’s in values-driven leadership, but there are thousands of degree and non-degree programs to consider.

Start Somewhere

No matter what approach you take to leadership development, start now. Leadership capacity cannot be developed overnight, and every day you delay is a day of wasted potential. Investing in the development of your organization’s emerging leaders is likely to decrease turnover, increase retention and engagement, and improve your company’s bottom line. Plus, the more gifted your team members are at leadership, the less time you’ll have to spend on solving their problems.


Staffing: Attracting and retaining top talent

How does the candidate recruiting experience impact a company’s ability to attract talent?

Brad Beckner: Overly complicated application processes, lack of response to resume submittals or applications, or extensive interviews can cause a potential candidate to take a pass on a company. Conversely, simplifying the process for individuals who express interest in jobs, ensuring good follow-up and leveraging phone or video interviews prior to an in-person interview can create a positive candidate experience and increase a company’s pipeline of new potential talent.

Describe the role that corporate social responsibility has in retaining and attracting talent.

BB: As workforce demographics change and evolve, corporate social responsibility is playing a more critical role in attracting and retaining top talent. Mounting data suggests that traditional drivers of employment such as compensation, standard of living and the acquisition of material wealth are giving way to noble purpose, social benefit and more altruistic considerations. As a result, corporate social responsibility becomes a more significant differentiator when candidates evaluate employment options. It also has the benefit of leveraging an eager workforce that seeks to contribute beyond a formal job description for a greater good.

Are the recent increases in local minimum wage and mandatory sick pay having any impact on current recruiting and retention strategies in the Chicago area?

BB: Yes. Businesses in nearby suburbs are re-thinking their short- and long-term incentives for talent. The reality is a candidate can cross the street and earn $1.75 to $2.75 more per hour. Given these incentives and continued low unemployment rates, businesses need to align their wages with market demands to compete for talent. If they don’t, jobs could go unfilled, or valuable employees could leave their organizations.

Beyond increasing compensation, how can employers retain their high performers in today’s tight talent market?

BB: Compensation is only part of what top performers consider. The new generation of employees seek three things: development/growth, flexibility programs, and reward and recognition. It’s essential to make it clear to your top employees that they’ll have opportunities for advancement. If they don’t see a future with your organization, or if they think that they’ll have to wait too long to advance, then they’ll look for opportunities outside your company. If there’s a flat hierarchy, then expose them to a broad and varied range of assignments so they’ll have what they need to become effective contributors. Flexibility is no longer a “nice to have” but a “must” for so many employees. While reward and recognition fall under employee engagement, it’s the visibility of achievement and successes that are attractive to the newer talent generation.

How does technology and social media impact how companies attract and recruit talent?

BB: Technology isn’t just something everyone’s using to get work done and to stay connected; It’s also impacting how employers recruit great talent and how great talent finds the right employer. Social media-employee branding enables companies to engage with and recruit talent. Applicant tracking systems give organizations the ability to manage a large pool of job-seeking candidates, and create an engaged talent community, beginning with a candidate’s first interaction with a company. Platforms like LinkedIn offer an easily accessible online summary of a candidate’s background and social/professional profile. Mobile recruiting technology offers job seekers speed and ease to express their interest in job opportunities.

How important is an organization’s culture in attracting and retaining high performers?

BB: Hiring based on culture and values increases retention immensely. It’s not just about what’s right for the company; it’s also about what’s best for the candidate. Employees will thrive more in an environment that suits their beliefs and values. They’ll feel that they’re contributing, and will be more engaged. They’ll develop a sense of loyalty that’s based on the right fit.


How to Ride the Performance Management Wave, All the Way to Great Leadership

Keeping a close eye on your employees’ performance and using the data wisely, can help managers reach the next level in leadership. We look at how best practices in team and performance management can create inspirational stories

If there is one aspect of HR that’s especially ROI focused, it’s performance management. After all, what can be a better indicator of productivity and efficiency, than performance?

What often goes unnoticed is the potential of performance management as a continual, one-on-one channel for exchanging feedback, constructive criticism, and appreciation. These, in turn, involve middle management and team leads into organizational processes, and equip them with the tools needed to harness the workforce.

The result? Managers are set on the fast-track to becoming true leaders – visionaries, and the source of possible inspiration for juniors or even peers.

Effective performance management entails more than pushing employees to improve and meet targets. Most discussions on performance management stress on the output side of it, while done right, it can also promote great leadership.

This is key to sustaining performance in the long run, beyond immediate goalposts and the horizons at hand.

While exceptional leaders can prove to be a real asset to your organization, managers who are just getting by can have a detrimental effect. One of the major causes of voluntary employee turnover, this leads to unnecessary costs, poor employer repute, and weak branding for your business.

Effective leaders, on the other hand, are willing to take risks – they go beyond what’s on their plate to ideate, innovate, and contribute to the organizational bulwark.

Here’s a look at how to foster motivational leadership in the workplace, using performance management strategies:

Improve the lines of communication between employees, team leads, and senior management.

When an employee is promoted to a managerial post, it’s often assumed he already has the tools, skillsets, and knowledge base required for the role. This isn’t true in all cases – while the result of appraisals is generally deserved, there could be a learning curve involved.

A robust performance management system elicits feedback and commentary from the new manager on a regular basis . It also includes training mechanisms to help him understand the bigger picture behind team discussions, critical questions, and approval needs.

Performance management platforms that support dialogs – whether real, virtual, or real-time – can significantly add to a manager’s communication skills.

The art of communicating with stakeholders is taking center stage today, and can smoothen relationships within the team. As trust between employee and manager is reinforced and the latter is made aware by senior management what’s required from his role, he becomes more and more comfortable in his new post.

Increase honesty and transparency across the board.

Does your organization encourage candid conversations on the floor?

Increased transparency eliminates siloes and encourages collaborations – a must for modern organizations. Gone are the days of firmly divided teams dedicated to absolutely disconnected tasks. Today, employees are expected to wear several hats at once and managers are no exceptions.

Generally the first or even only touch point to the larger ‘enterprise’ for company foot-soldiers, managers must clearly communicate needs, vision, and strategies, without losing anything in translation.

It’s like an extremely high-stakes game of Chinese Whispers, and it works best when the business is like an open book.

Applications like Sarahah and EightSpokes are helping employers gather accurate feedback on performance, which can be incorporated into stand-ups, weekly discussions, and appraisal meetings.

Begin with providing enough context – employees should be aware of how his role fits into the organizational ecosystem, how he can upskill, and add to the overall journey. Other than pushing the bottom line, this is essential for an empowered workforce.

Also, informal comments bring a relaxed approach to performance management. Employees don’t feel pushed to work – rather, they’re motivated to succeed, by a leader whom they respect. And for performance management to go from the old-school ‘carrot-and-stick’ model to today’s collaborative paradigm, managers can’t just cascade targets downwards.

Transparent performance management pipelines encourage shared ownership – managers take their slice of the criticism pie, and employees get their bit of recognition .

Remember, the modern workplace is no place for fragile egos. Employees must be proactively encouraged to point out gaps, errors, and new opportunities – in the workflow, as well as workforce interactions. Managers who can welcome and imbibe this feedback as part of performance assessment can truly transform into leaders.

Which brings us to – Build a culture of equity and humility.

If there’s one element common to all effective teams, it’s that each team member is valued at par with the next. A reporting manager is only as valuable as the employees working with him, a sentiment that must be fostered across the organization.

An important aspect of performance management, then, is to set aside individual goals and embrace collective ones. At the end of the day, all employees – no matter the designation – are working towards one, unified vision. And as contributions to the bottom line add up, performance management processes should also be linked to recognition platforms.

A mark of a great leader is one that keeps his employees excited and engaged, even when the task at hand might be uninspiring!

Intelligent performance management makes great leaders

Building strong leadership at your company is often a mix of strategic hiring, innovative engagement schemes, and luck. But with a robust performance management system in your HR toolbox, what’s created is an environment ripe for collaboration, new ideas, and forward progression.

Equipped with the right tools, there’s nothing stopping average managers, from becoming aspirational faces of the organization.


Take Control Of Your Leadership Development With Five Simple Steps

Who is responsible for ensuring that you develop as a leader in your workplace? If you believe the answer is “My company or my boss,” you’re only partially right. Of course, your employer should play a key role, but their ability to be effective on your behalf really depends on their development philosophy and willingness and/or ability to invest in your improvement. If you aspire to progress as a leader, the buck stops with you — you must take control of your own learning and growth.

Here’s a simple five-step process to undertake that will help you create your own career development plan. As the saying goes, “A goal without a plan is just a wish,” so let’s get started.

1. Short-term goal: Consider where you want to be in one to two years. What kind of role do you want to be in? Maybe it’s an expansion of your current role, a new role or a promotion. What level of responsibility is the role? What skills are required?

2. Long-term goal: Think about what you want to be doing in three to five years. This might be very specific, like “I want to be the president of the company,” or maybe it’s simply a description of the function or type of work you want to be doing. Be bold. What does that goal look like? Is there a path to leadership within your current organization, or will you need to move on in order to move up? What leadership attributes will be important for your success — and what work do you need to do to attain them?

3. Strength and opportunity: Determine a strength you want to leverage and an area of opportunity that you need to improve. If you’re not quite sure what to focus on here, get feedback from others who know you well. I always tell clients that feedback is the currency for successful leadership development. You can never get enough of it (see step five), as long as you listen, take it to heart and act upon the input.

4. Action plan: For both your strength and area of improvement, write down one to three steps you can take in the next year to make progress in each one. Commit to paper when you will complete each step and how you will know you’ve met the objective.

5. Stakeholders: Identify a small group of stakeholders and share your plan with them. This might include your boss, current or former co-workers, members of your team and/or close friends. The important thing here is that each person is invested in your success and in a position to observe your behavior on a regular basis. Ask them for input into your plan and to hold you accountable for what you’ve committed to doing. Most importantly, ask if you can check in with them periodically to get feedback and suggestions on your progress.

Now that you’ve completed your development plan, it’s important to remember that it’s a living, breathing document, meaning it’s never final. It’s an ongoing process. As you grow and evolve, so will your plan. Keep it out and visible so that it remains top of mind. Review it regularly to ensure that you’re tracking against your action plan. Update it at least annually, and be sure to share the most current version with your boss. If you can control it, separate your development discussion from your performance review so that you can focus on career aspirations and the future. Don’t stop there — ask your manager if you can discuss your plan two levels up with your boss’s boss. This will give you invaluable exposure and perspective and signal to the influential leadership above you that you mean business. This simple, five-step process will put you right where you want to be: in the driver’s seat of your own leadership success.


The art of benefits? Immediacy


Pensions -tick! Health insurance – tick! Discounts for brands or services – probably! This is all pretty standard fare when it comes to employee benefits. Some are obligatory, of course, and are undoubtedly sensible and beneficial incentives for employees, but are they offering your talented team the immediate hit they need to feel valued, or indeed supported, in their demanding role? Truth – probably not.

Healthy employees = happy employees
The rise of well-being programmes in recent years goes some way to demonstrate the appetite for instant-hit benefits. Access to counselling services, for example, are on the rise, and many organisations are introducing healthy eating initiatives, doing away with the omnipresent fizzy drinks and chocolate bar dispensers. Discounts to local gym memberships have also been present on the periphery of employee benefits recently – which is great – but time-poor employees can’t clear their lunch diaries long enough to spend an hour away from their desk. “It’s not rocket science to understand the importance of retaining talented employees,’ explains Rebecca Myers explains Rebecca Myers, founder of Work In Your Work Out (WIYWO), that brings 30-minute fitness sessions to your place of work, “longer term benefits are great, but an employee who is experiencing stress, anxiety, or would simply like to include exercise in their week, but can’t find the time – would benefit from employee engagement services they can make use of right now, not years down the line when collecting their pension.

“Yes, you absolutely need things like pensions and ‘hard’ benefits in place, but, as an employer myself, I also looked at what soft benefits we could offer – and what other companies offered that our candidates were impressed by. Over time, softer benefits have become more important to candidates than harder benefits.”

The instant appeal of soft benefits
Soft benefits are increasingly important factors in employee retention strategies, and, Rebecca says, a key part of negotiations when placing a new candidate within a company. Examples of soft benefits could include: extra holidays, flexible working hours, loyalty or bonus plans and courses to quit smoking.

“When it came to introducing soft benefits to our recruitment business,’ explains Rebecca, ‘I immediately thought of fitness sessions. It’s something that is close to my heart – I firmly believe that the healthier a person is, the more energy they have, the more productive and better able they are to deal with the day-to-day pressures of a busy job.

“The sessions I introduced worked really well, and over time more local businesses joined us. It was this that spurred me on to establish Work In Your Work Out. We take the stress out of the whole process – we manage the admin, it’s easy for HR teams to implement, and the costs are fixed and transparent. Our qualified personal trainers deliver sessions designed for all levels of fitness, and inject lots of fun and energy into a regular working day.

She continues, “The real innovation though, is the ability for remote workers to access the session on our secure online portal, or watch the sessions later when convenient to them. Employees simply book their slot online, and we manage the rest. We come to you – and all we need is a little indoor or outdoor space. Interestingly, most people prefer getting outdoors – even with UK weather!”


Five Reasons Why Managers’ Careers Go Wrong

With the Christmas and New Year holidays being a traditional time for taking stock, many aspiring leaders will be assessing their career progress and deciding on next steps. A useful starting point might be a look at a recently-published book by Carter Cast, a professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and a venture partner with Pritzker Group Venture Capital. The Right And Wrong Stuff: How Brilliant Careers Are Made And Unmade (Public Affairs) was born of Cast’s own self-appraisal, which, rather than being voluntary, was forced upon him by a negative assessment of his prospects by a superior early in his career.

Describing the experience as an “aha moment”, he writes: “Success, I started to understand, wasn’t just about working hard and having a skill advantage, being industry-savvy and highly motivated. Even among the smartest and most talented people, there are behavioral problems that end up stalling careers.” Seeing others going through slumps, being demoted or fired led him to investigate what it is that really impedes the progress of these people. In the course of this research he discovered that many are closer to career derailment than they realize. Because most bosses are not like Cast’s and often deliver feedback in opaque terms, many people do not become aware of a performance issue until it’s too late, he says. He reckons that a half to two-thirds of careers of managers and leaders will derail, with more than a half at some point being fired or demoted.

Believing there are five common reasons for this, he explains them through archetypes in order to humanize a subject many will not be comfortable talking about and which is not generally considered in those how-to personal development books. And, in case, any reader does not think they resemble any of the characters he describes, Cast has a warning: Look past their specific characterizations and into their behaviors – “and chances are you will find a few gold nuggets that you can address to improve your performance”.

The five archetypes are:

1. Captain Fantastic. These are the people, says Cast, who suffer from interpersonal issues because of their “unbridled ego drive and dismal listening skills”. Their energy and ambition may lead them to rise quickly initially but once they are in broader roles that require the support of others their tendency to alienate others leads them to flame out.

2. The Solo Flier. These are often strong individual contributors who “not only deliver the bacon, they cut and wrap it as well”. They are “self-starting, self-contained, multitalented achievement dynamos”. But when they are promoted into management positions they have problems building and leading teams and tend to resort to micromanaging or doing the work themselves. Their teams become dissatisfied and eventually rebel.

3. Version 1.0. Such people are comfortable in their routines and highly suspicious of change. They resist learning new skills that would help them adapt to the changing environment, hold back from adopting new technologies that might help them do their jobs better and when new management comes in often refuse to change how they do things. Such caution does not generally serve them well and often leads to their demise.

4. The One-Trick Pony. These are the people who are so good at doing a particular job that they are seen to have just one skill and so become unpromotable. Unlike the previous group and their resistance to change, people in this category do not realize they need to change and that they have become overspecialized. They cannot move up because rather than having a diverse set of work experiences they have done the same thing over and over.

5. The Whirling Dervish. These are the people running around the office, constantly late for meetings and complaining about their workloads. The fact is that they lack planning and organizational skills so that, while they may have lots of ideas, they are seen as liable to “overcommit and under-deliver”, with the result that bosses and co-workers cease to count on them completing tasks and start avoiding working with them.

Cast asserts that there are people with these traits in every organization, from large corporations to small start-ups. The archetypes also occur irrespective of gender or seniority. So if the problem is so common, why do organizations not go to more trouble to deal with it? The answer, Cast believes, lies in the focus on accentuating the positive. In particular, focusing on strengths at the expense of weaknesses.

Perhaps this holiday period is the time for aspiring leaders to forget all that talk from teachers and parents about them being “special” and instead think a little about those times when they might not have entirely done as their boss wished or where their co-operation with fellow workers was not as beneficial as it could have been.