Is Your Manager An Ally Or An Adversary?

I have recently been struck by a set of observations regarding the way employees elect to utilize their immediate manager. A pattern has emerged that has a strong impact on both individuals and the organization for which they work.

Some individuals, at all levels of the organization and in different functional areas, choose to treat their manager as an unwelcome intruder. This is generally acted out in genteel and polite ways, but the outcome is the same. The individual’s relationship with their manager is kept at arm’s length. Any efforts the manager initiates to gain a better understanding of what is happening in their employee’s domain, or to provide coaching and guidance, are gently rebuffed or ignored.

In contrast, I experience others who see their manager (plus other executives in their organization) as assets whom they can utilize to augment their success. They seek for opportunities to float ideas, seek advice, and engage these individuals.

Each approach has a significant and extremely different consequence. My hope is that all readers will ponder their own predisposition regarding the relationship they are currently building with their immediate manager.

Here are three examples:

I have spent most of my career in the world of leadership development. One of the most powerful forces to becoming a better leader is the degree in which individuals involve their manager in planning, supporting, and being intimately involved in their journey to becoming a better leader. I have seen leaders who can’t wait to tell their manager what they’ve learned and what they plan to do in the future, following through with frequent conversations about their progress.

While seldom does anyone overtly expresses their plan to keep their manager at bay, in practice, some individuals do nothing to bring their manager into the picture. They talk with their peers and direct reports about what they learned and what they plan to do, but stop short of truly engaging their manager in any meaningful discussion about their personal development as a leader.

The outcomes of these two approaches are measurably different. At Zenger Folkman we have tracked the data regarding the degree of change a manager makes as a consequence of a development experience, determining that managerial involvement is one of the most powerful elements of success.

The employee who asks for and listens to feedback is far more likely to have a manager who is truly engaged. The consequence of that deeper engagement is a greater likelihood of the leader making important changes.

Zenger Folkman collects 360-feedback data describing the behavior of leaders, from senior executives to middle managers. Our global database now has over a million 360-degree feedback responses that pertain to about 80,000 leaders. We often ask participants two important questions to help them measure their progress:

Do you feel that during this development process you have improved, stayed the same, or declined in your effectiveness during this intervening year period?
To what degree has your manager been involved in the development process?

If a company wants to greatly increase the ROI from their learning and development budget, then the immediate manager needs to be much more involved in their direct reports’ development. However, when we ask leaders to assess their efforts and success in involving their manager, they invariably give themselves low grades in making this happen.

2. Lately I’ve encountered several executives who privately admitted to stonewalling their manager. Worse yet, they tell their direct reports to hide information as well. These leaders prize their autonomy and believe that informing those higher up will invite greater micro-management. Inevitably, this forces those at higher levels to find other ways to keep informed, often via back channels that are less accurate and far less positive.

In contrast, I also see executives who seek opportunities to keep those above them fully informed. They use their manager as a sounding board for their ideas, taking advantage of their longer experience and battle scars. Their results speak to the wisdom of that strategy.

3. Some salespeople are more successful than others. A variety of factors combine to make a salesperson succeed: No one thing guarantees success. However, one consistent factor I have observed is that the most successful salespeople use every resource available, including their manager. They do not hesitate to involve senior people and company experts who can help them make a sale. Rather than keeping them at a distance, they consult with them and invite them to interact with important clients.

In contrast, the less successful salespeople are reticent to bring anyone else in. There is a time for independence and autonomy—but making a sale that could benefit both the company and the salesperson may not be the best time to emphasize “I want to do it myself.”

Determine to what extent you have been involving your manager in your development. Consider the following suggestions that every employee—no matter what level in the organization—could implement to utilize their manager more.

Actively seek feedback. If you’ve been sent to a development program, find out what your manager hopes you will gain from it. Seek their advice and opinions regarding major projects you’re working on.
Schedule regular sessions to discuss both your performance and your career. Ask simple questions, such as “What’s the one thing I could do right now that would improve my performance?”


76% in APAC agree AI has helped to generate higher-quality candidates

In the latest survey by Korn Ferry comprising nearly 800 talent acquisition professionals, 76% cite using artificial intelligence (AI) as a sourcing tool generates higher-quality candidates. Additionally, almost two-thirds (64%) of APAC respondents say AI has changed the way recruiting is done in their organisation.

Comparing the quality of candidates today to five years ago (when AI was still in its infancy), 65% said candidates are more qualified today. Despite this, more than half (56%) agree more roles are filled through internal candidates compared to external candidates, which demonstrates a growing focus on home grown talent.

In addition, 75% of companies surveyed shared that they have an internal mobility programme. Previous training on the company’s protocols and procedure, as well as the understanding of the company’s culture, puts internal candidates ahead of the game when coming up to speed in learning a new role in a new division or geography.

According to the survey, talent acquisition professionals are welcoming AI as a tool. In fact, half (51%) say big data and AI are making their roles easier, with 40% saying the top way it helps is providing valuable insights, while 34% saying it has freed up their time. However, of the 14% of respondents who say AI has made their jobs more difficult, the majority say they have too much data and they don’t know what to do with it.

Pip Eastman, Korn Ferry managing director APAC Regional Solutions.

“This is particularly true in emerging markets where there are many potential candidates, but niche skills are in short supply. Looking ahead we’ll see more leaders finding ways to reskill and promote existing employees,” she added.

Meanwhile, Franz Gilbert, Korn Ferry vice president of product innovation, commented: “Data for data’s sake is not a solution for smart talent acquisition practices.”

“Recruiters need to refine their skill sets and work with the right kind of AI tools that will provide them with critical information such as compensation analysis and supply/demand reports on particular job categories in specific regions. We use AI to provide hiring managers with tangible insights, not simply industry rules of thumb or anecdotal stories about similar searches,” he continued.


Progressive joins list of companies banning salary history inquiries

Dive Brief:

  • Progressive will no longer ask for job applicants’ salary history, it announced in a press release. The move adds the company to the growing list of employers making such decisions.
  • The company says it has always used market data to set pay but that it hopes the change will give candidates confidence that they will be paid based on what they bring to the company, regardless of whether their previous employers paid them fairly.
  • In 2018, the company says it is looking to fill 7,500 IT and analyst roles, corporate functions, and customer care and claims roles.

Dive Insight:
Progressive joins companies like Amazon, GoDaddy and Bank of America in eliminating requests for salary history from the hiring process.

Some, like Amazon, have noted that the move is largely in response to state and local mandates. So far, there are 13 salary history bans in the U.S., with many more proposals pending. The bans are aimed at assuring employees are paid for the work they’re being hired to do, rather than past employment history.

For some, the laws have required changes to job applications and interviews. They’re also reportedly forcing businesses to rely more on market data, to discuss salary expectations earlier in the hiring process and to consider more transparent compensation plans.


What It Takes to Win the Talent Game

What distinguishes the companies that always seem to be able to recruit and retain top job candidates? A new study from Deloitte Consulting’s Bersin offers some insight, finding that organizations with high-performing talent acquisition teams share six common traits.

Companies with what Bersin calls “high-maturity talent functions” exhibit 18-percent higher revenue and 30-percent greater profitability compared to companies with low-maturity talent functions, the report finds. “The talent acquisition practices mastered by high-performing companies – performed on a journey we call talent acquisition maturity – are game changers for their business,” says Bersin’s Robin Erickson, vice president and talent acquisition research leader.

The six traits of high-performing companies identified in Bersin’s report (based on a survey of 1,220 talent and business leaders and 50 in-depth interviews with TA practitioners and thought leaders) consist of the following:

High-impact talent acquisition teams build the workforce through integration with the business. Senior execs at these companies view TA teams as essential players in executing strategy, which helps the teams better anticipate business needs and better partner with hiring managers.

Internal mobility is a part of the company culture. Hiring managers and recruiters know their internal talent’s capabilities and work together to cultivate talent from within.

Candidates are evaluated for more than skill and past experience—they’re assessed for values, work ethic and potential as well. The report found that nine out of 10 high-performing companies use workplace values as a basis for hiring. This results in a stronger corporate culture that’s reinforced with each new hire.

The candidate journey is personalized. High-impact TA teams market the role to specific candidates as a way to strengthen the organization’s employment brand and promote its culture.

TA professionals are encouraged to focus on their own development. These organizations regenerate their TA teams because of dedication to upskilling, informal learning and professional growth.

They make use of artificial intelligence and predictive data analytics. These tools are used not only to help TA teams better source and assess candidates but prevent false judgments caused by bias or false logic.


Five skills everybody will need for the jobs of the future

Work—the very meaning of the word—is undergoing metamorphosis. In a few years’ time, traditional office employees all over will find themselves suddenly working for themselves, working freelance, or perhaps out of work entirely and seeking a new path forward.

What’s a person to do? To answer that, the Institute for the Future, a California-based think tank, paired up with the talent-management software company Cornerstone OnDemand to identify certain core traits and attitudes that workers will need in order to prepare for the next wave of “work,” whatever it means and however it comes. Five skills recommended in their Feb. 22 report—broad, but helpful as launching points for further thought and consideration—are summarized below.

1. Make yourself known
“Brands aren’t for celebrities anymore,” the report notes. One’s résumé need not stop at a piece of paper: A digital presence, engagement inside and outside of one’s desired industry, and a distinctive voice or perspective are all ways a person can catapult themselves from one job to the next.

2. Make sense of loopy, complex systems
The nebulous jobs of the future will require mental flexibility like never before. Traits like “thinking outside of the box,” “coloring outside the lines,” and “connecting the dots” will begin to crop up as requirements. So workers should flex their creativity as much as possible. (That’s one reason why liberal-arts degrees are still excellent college paths.)

3. Befriend the machines
Coding skills will not necessarily be a requirement for every job, but a thorough understanding of computing—even just on an abstract level—is almost a guaranteed prerequisite. You don’t have to know how machine-learning algorithms work, but you do have to understand the general ideas of automation and artificial intelligence, and the benefits that they pose. Rejecting digital devices is out of the question at this point.

4. Build your tribe
No matter how rapidly industries and institutions change, personal networks do not. Keep an awareness of your community and stay involved in what’s going around you, whether that means maintaining advantageous social connections or reaching out to new people, particularly if they are involved in businesses related to your preferred realm of work. Contrary to popular belief, automation will actually make human relationships more crucial than ever.

5. Keep it going by building resilience
Commit, and recommit. The “safety net” of employment may be “frayed,” per the report, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be rebuilt. Leaving an outmoded role must be thought of not as a loss but as an immediate opportunity for another, newer role. Workers in the new economy must recognize that the upside of job insecurity and impermanence is that, potentially, anything is possible.


3 Reasons Diversity Does Not Solve For Inclusion

After catching up with a former client on the phone, I found myself recalling a powerful conversation I had after one of my keynotes a few years ago. A gentleman approached me proudly stating how his leaders had “passed their cultural training, and now they are suited to deal with diverse populations.” I remember him smiling, expecting me to praise his forward thinking on the issue. He was sadly mistaken. I told him I admired the intention but not the result: He wasn’t bringing people together; he was further siloing them. By focusing on diversity and not inclusion, he was promoting disconnection, marginalization, and even victimization.

The gentleman looked confused, so I explained that when we put words like Hispanic, African American, and Asian Pacific-Islanders in front of people, we think more about the words and less about the people. These words close our minds to embracing how people communicate, think, and add-value differently. So we don’t include them – we push them, their unique differences, and the innovation mentality they bring even further to the margins of the company.

They get lost as a cost-center, rather than an influencer to drive growth.

“But our chief diversity officer led the training,” he protested.

“Exactly,” I said. “If that work falls on a single marginalized chief diversity officer, that practically gives most companies license to ignore the marginalized diversity trainings that officer leads, corporate social responsibility programs, and employee resource groups. All of those things have good intentions but are seen at your company and many others as cost centers linked to compliance and political correctness rather than profit centers to drive influence in the workplace and growth in the marketplace.”

So why did I recall this conversation? My former client was applying for a job as a Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer.

Here we go again.

Why does the term diversity still need to exist in a title when you’re solving for inclusion? Does the addition of the word inclusion mean companies think diversity solves for inclusion? Or that if you add inclusion, you are therefore inclusive and not just diverse? Are we sending the wrong message?

Yes, we are. Focusing on diversity does not solve for inclusion. Focusing on diversity:

Creates silos
The irresponsible use of the word “diversity” by businesses over the years has converted the original intentions into politically charged agendas that make people feel uncomfortable and drives them into silos. As organizations attempt to recreate growth, their focus should be on solving for inclusion in order to find new ways to maximize the full potential and contributions of all individuals (both diverse and non-diverse). The workplace and marketplace are changing too fast for leaders to pretend they have all the answers. They need to find like-mindedness in differences not assimilate those differences or force them to the margins. Which brings us to the next point.

Promotes a compliance mindset
A compliance mindset happens when organizations place an emphasis on ensuring that diversity initiatives are in place to celebrate employee differences. While there is certainly a place and can be a space to do this, those places and spaces do not solve for inclusion. They solve for embracing differences but not for amplifying influence. All individuals want to feel valued and heard But what individuals want more than anything else is to know that they work for an organization that knows how to leverage individual differences in ways that allows the individual to influence more and seize opportunities previously unseen. But while (diversity and) inclusion is housed in human resources, this will never happen. It belongs in corporate strategy where growth lies, not the human resources departments that have historically focused on compliance.

Makes people feel judged not valued
People want to be part of an organization that encourages them to be themselves and allows them to challenge the status quo. Leaders and employees are tired of being told to what to do inside the box they are given. Diversity doesn’t solve for this; inclusion does. As diversity continues to be the corporate narrative, and platforms such as CEO Action and others attempt to strengthen that narrative, diversity initiatives will never solve for inclusion and individuality. The will never solve for growth. They will solve for reputation management, contributing to the compliance mindset and fostering the silos. They will solve for divisiveness and only add to the confusion around how all of this “diversity work” contributes to driving revenue. In fact, my organization has developed an assessment tool that can measure an organization’s readiness to lead inclusion as a growth strategy.

If individuality is going to continue to shape present and future business models and if inclusion is the platform for leveraging the collective intellectual capital in all people to drive business growth, why do we allow diversity to stand in the way? When we do, it feeds the old narrative that continues to be repackaged in other forms that promote disconnection, marginalization, and even victimization.

Yes, of course, we all understand (perhaps more than ever) that people in the US come from diverse backgrounds. But are these people defined by their diversity? Is the affinity to diversity – the business defining the individual or the individual defining the business?

It’s the business (company) defining the individual. Those diversity trainings, corporate social responsibility programs, and employee resource groups? They are seemingly doing the right thing without much thought about what they are solving for, let alone who they are for, why we are doing it, or if what we are doing is actually right for the people they are supposedly serving – or anyone else really.

Do people need a label or a reason to justify their existence? Do you need to say diversity for people to buy in to what you are selling? Will an employee resource group make people feel more included? Diversity as a platform doesn’t empower different individuals, give them influence, make them feel valued, and strive to find like-mindedness in our differences – inclusion does. Being labeled as “diverse” makes people feel judged.

In other words, by focusing in the words, we ignore the people. Diversity reaffirms a culture of marginalization, victimization, and compliance. This is especially true if the chief diversity and inclusion officer is part of human resources.

Inclusion should be in corporate strategy focused on driving growth. That’s how we create inclusive cultures to anticipate change, innovate, and grow. Which is exactly what America needs. Organizations are focusing now on recreating growth and must have a mindset of continuous renewal and reinvention to survive. When you consider that businesses were focused on managing growth at the start of the century and now have to recreate growth, they must become more employee-centric and focus on individuality and inclusion.


Log in to the new era of talent management

We’ve all been there, implementing new systems to keep up with the times and demands of the incoming digital natives. Jerene Ang speaks to HR leaders from Essence and Otis Elevator Company to examine how you can best put a solution in place and get returns from it.
The younger generations such as the Millennials and Gen Z are known for being digital natives. By 2020, 50% of the workforce will be Millennials, while Gen Z, who were born just after 1995, will also be entering the workforce.

Being digital natives, these employees are going to have high expectations of the technology at work. In fact, according to the 2016 Future Workforce Study by Dell and Intel, 82% of Millennials believed that workplace technology would influence them when deciding to accept a new job.

With the workforce having such high expectations in terms of technology, it is necessary that HR is able to speak the same language and leverage on the right technologies to engage, and effectively manage the life cycle of these employees – from recruitment to performance management to learning and career development.

Hence, in this feature, we speak to HR leaders from Essence and Otis Elevator Company to find out some of the best practices of successfully leveraging on technology to manage their workforces.

Essence: Actionable data at the heart of decisions
As a digital-first media agency with a proud history of using technology, data and transparent media buying to advance the digital advertising industry, it is no surprise that Essence also significantly leverages on technology to manage aspects of its workforce.

When it comes to talent management, some top issues for Essence include scaling the organisational culture as it expands; and scaling its learning and development interventions and making them available, accessible and of the highest standard. Apart from that, the media agency aims to curate meaningful career paths across its teams to continue attracting and retaining top talent.

As many HR leaders can attest to, keeping employees satisfied and engaged is one of the best ways to retain them. Veli Aghdiran, regional learning and culture director for APAC at Essence, shares that while the firm has been taking a very survey-based approach to measuring employee satisfaction for more than five years, the outputs of its in-house efforts often left them with more questions than insights.

“When the insights aren’t clear, confirmation bias starts to become a more significant risk factor,” Aghdiran says.

Even though there’s no way of entirely mitigating against that, technology systems are better able to provide insights on what has a causal effect on employee satisfaction scores.

“This makes it much easier to prioritise and focus on action. When we do that, our employees see that the leadership proactively addresses the issues that come out of surveys, and they’ll probably take more time and care in responding when they’re next asked,” he says.

Turning data into actionable insights

As such, Essence has partnered with Glint to turn its six-monthly employee satisfaction surveys into insights that leave the leadership teams clear on actions and next steps. The media agency has also invested in HappyOrNot terminals across its offices to have a minute-by-minute pulse of how Essentials are answering the question “How are you feeling right now?” all over the world.

“From an employee engagement perspective, we’re constantly iterating how we use technology to not just collect data, but to efficiently turn it into actionable insights.”

Owned by the learning and culture team, throughout the process of the implementation the team has been very focused on articulating the “why” behind these investments, both to leadership stakeholders and to Essentials.

“Data is truly at the heart of everything we do for our clients as an agency. As a result, our people are very engaged with our efforts to collect and generate insights on employee satisfaction, and we’re relentlessly transparent and people-focused in our approach.

“As we transition from small company to not-so- small company, our senior leadership is very aligned behind the need to rigorously get a sense of what’s going for our people so that we can take meaningful and impactful action.”

Though senior leadership buy-in came fairly easily for Essence, the implementation wasn’t without bumps.

“Whenever you partner with a new supplier, there’s always a need to invest time and energy in the implementation. The two main areas of focus were stakeholder communication and data import and hygiene.”

When it came to the employees’ response, he notes it was mostly one of curiosity as well as positivity.

On the benefits of the programme, he reveals: “From a people perspective, the biggest impact so far is that we’ve been able to drive incredibly productive conversations with our leadership.

“Our investments have also enabled us to ensure accountability sits with those empowered to effect change in the organisation.”

Aghdiran adds that while the people functions play an important facilitative role, Essence relies on the engagement and leadership of senior management to drive the change that it wants to drive for its people.

“When it comes to business impact, these investments have coincided with a significant period of change and transformation at Essence, making the insights gathered even more valuable.

“Ultimately, our intention is to maintain high retention rates as we grow and scale. These investments in technology enable us to take timely, focused and impactful action, so that we can address problems quickly and effectively, and also turn up the volume on things that make our people happy.”

Otis Elevator Company: Taking technology usage to the next level
Amid a constantly changing industry, evolution is critical for organisations to stay competitive – even if the organisation is already one of the world’s largest manufacturer and service providers of elevators, escalators and moving walkways.

As Otis Elevator Company continues to expand with a more globalised and diversified workforce, Sandra Lee, HR director, Otis Southeast Asia, reveals: “Attracting, cultivating and retaining top talent is one of our top priorities, as we’re always looking to enhance our infrastructure and processes.”

As a company, it has continually reinvented itself. Today, it is changing the game again. “We’re approaching the transformation of our service business by putting the focus on people, including our mechanics, to improve their experiences in an increasingly urbanised world,” she says.

“Our approach isn’t just about utilising predictive maintenance, IoT, or new mechanic tools – more than that, we want to develop a connected, globalised digital ecosystem that will keep our users informed, while improving uptime.”

The company is doing so through introducing digital solutions such as a spare parts app to allow mechanics to search for parts even while on-site with their customers; an inspection app that replaces expensive and heavy equipment; a safety app which offers an extra layer of protection for mechanics; and more than a dozen mobile apps to put the control in its mechanics’ hands as well as to further open the lines of communication with customers.

At the same time, Otis’ HR programmes will also undergo digitalisation, allowing for a more flexible, forward-looking and mobile workforce – this includes the use of a new performance management system sans ratings to allow it to focus on dynamic goals and work towards milestones that are in line with business strategies; as well as a new employee survey tool powered by Glint.

Lee further reveals that Singapore has been selected as one of the countries to pilot the launch of Workday – its new HR system – to help the HR team achieve better business outcomes.

A bottom-up transformation

“When it comes to digital, we always start with our people and our customers. We lead from the bottom up – more specifically, we lead our transformation from our field employees.”

In line with that, Otis has established a “champions network” – an internal network made up of a group of Otis service engineers and leaders to front the service transformation effort and provide a stream of continuous feedback around the new tools and apps. These champions will then go on to support global teams to develop and deploy these new technologies.

Lee explains: “This process directly involves the HR team to ensure that all parties are aligned for the successful implementation of the transformation.”

During implementation, the HR team was responsible for mapping out manpower demands, reviewing incentive planning and establishing new policies and procedures, among other things.

“Our new digital programmes are fuelled by 67,000 employees – and accelerated with the strength of United Technologies Corp (UTC).”

Acclimatising to new technology

However, with the implementation of new technology comes its challenges. For Otis, this came in the form of encouraging line managers to adopt a new way of working with the HR team.

“In order to successfully execute the programme, line managers had to be able to examine the data behind our employees’ engagement drivers, and interpret them to plan the next actions.”

To help the organisation get acclimatised to the changes, training and support was provided to help managers and employees adapt to the new technology.

“We rolled out an employee communications programme that clearly explained the initiatives, along with its benefits to the business. We encouraged employees to initiate more discussions around their career development with their line managers, and put an increased focus on coaching and training to ease them into the transition,” she says.

Returns on every level

On the measurement of success, Lee says: “We measure our success by observing how significantly equipment uptime has improved, along with how satisfied our workforce is with the additional autonomy they’re given to carry out their work.”

Among others, the digital tools have benefited employees by minimising, and possibly removing, the non value-added activities Otis’ mechanics are doing today, providing mechanics around the world access to the same resources, as well as giving them more autonomy, hence, keeping them engaged and invested in the organisation.

For the managers, traditionally paper-heavy admin processes such as overtime submissions and reimbursements have become more organised and convenient, enabling them to increase productivity during approvals of the claims.

For the HR team, the service transformation programme has revolutionised the dynamics of the HR team, as well as the way it functions.

“The shared service support across the rest of UTC’s businesses has helped us streamline our processes to uncover different perspectives, which puts a focus on transformational HR work and business partnering. This has also paved the way for our team to utilise data analytics to drive more efficient business outcomes.”

As for the business, the programme has enabled Otis’ field employees to shorten the lead time previously needed to repair lifts, while improving equipment uptime, hence, increasing customer satisfaction.

“In fact, we’ve noticed an increase in customer satisfaction, leading to higher customer retention.”

Tips to get started
After looking at these inspiring best practices, here are some tips for you to take control of implementing and using technology to manage your workforce.

“Why” is just as important as “how”
Be clear about the reason for implementing the new technology. Ensuring the “why” is aligned with your organisational purpose will help stakeholders to buy into it.

It’s not just the implementation, but also what happens after
As a HR professional, you need to be much more focused on being able to draw insights from the data and use it in the day to day business partnering in an objective way.

Quality over quantity
When using a system to gain insights into your workforce, the quality of the data is just as important as the quantity of the data you have. Remember the phrase – “bad data in, bad results out”.

Technology is fast, but implementing a system is not as fast
Don’t be discouraged if the system is not working as well as you want it to at first. Remember that employees need time to get used to the new working processes. Be prepared to sink in resources, behaviour change, and investment in training and upscaling before you reap the rewards of faster and better decision-making.


How a ‘lab mindset’ can empower and develop your employees

When it comes to continuous learning and innovation, companies who are willing to take the biggest risks are often those who reap the biggest rewards. We teach our children that the path to knowledge is fraught with mistakes; yet, as adults, we’re unwilling to fail. A new approach — a “lab mindset” — is emerging that not only allows for mistakes, but considers them opportunities for growth.

When a workplace culture encourages a lab mindset, employees are driven to experiment with new concepts and processes to better understand concepts and promote learning and innovation.

The digital transformation will either hurl a business forward or leave it in the wake of its competitors. Advances in tech will require companies (read: their employees) to continuously learn and innovate to succeed. But a new study by Mercer, Thriving in an Age of Disruption, shows that only 52% of companies are committed to helping their employees thrive at work. So what can be done?

What is a lab mindset?
A lab mindset is about “infusing an appetite for data and experimentation across the organization to not only stay ahead, but also to engage the full force of the people closest to your customers,” Kate Bravery, global practices leader for Mercer’s career business, told HR Dive.

While that thinking is typically associated with startups and disrupters, she finds established businesses are using the concept to speed up the product engine and navigate uncertain waters.

“The overarching aim of a lab atmosphere is to create an engaging and interactive environment for participants to easily connect, collaborate, and share learning practices around a topic, be it a conundrum they need to solve or how to engage in emerging innovative practices,” MJ Hall, content manager at ATD Forum, told HR Dive. And then you take those insights and “use a disciplined approach to turn ideas into processes and actions that make an impact.”

Model experimentation
Practicing what you preach is important for a company that wants to create a lab mindset. If you expect staff to climb out on the limb with the most fruit, you should be right behind them. Bravery warns that you may get a “cacophony of great ideas, but none that people are willing to back and this can be highly demotivating.”

She recommends companies reward risk-taking, and implement performance management that sees failure as learning. It’s also important to give people “time for innovation and access to data and analytics to help them set up and evaluate experiments.”

Hall suggests a lab-mindset environment should be ingrained in corporate culture. “Modeling a culture of experimentation means constantly focusing on ‘getting better at getting better’ with cycles of improvement, innovation, and adaption,” she said.

But too few employers create a culture of learning and experimentation; only 31% focus on such according to ATD’s Building a Culture of Learning: The Foundation of a Successful Organization.

Take the risk out of risk-taking
Once you take away the “you’ll never work in this town again!” risk, employees will be willing to experiment. Extended Stay America hotels, for example, made headlines a few years ago for its “get out of jail free” cards – a gesture that showed workers that if they took a risk and failed, they’d still be on the payroll.

You can start small, with “micro-experiments.” Look for a challenge and brainstorm solutions. Then test the ideas to see what works, and, as importantly, what doesn’t and why.

Hall suggests that an experimental attitude requires the “patience and know-how to play around with an idea, the courage to take risks, and the willingness to be vulnerable and fail.” Employers will need to cultivate trust and strong relationships for employees to be comfortable discussing ideas individually, as teams or organization-wide.

Deconstruct failure successfully
To encourage employees to experiment more, de-stigmatize failures by turning them into knowledge opportunities.

“Think of a ‘lab mindset’ as a one that enables exploration, testing and learning for today and tomorrow. Organizations need to be open to change, prepared to take calculated risks and willing to fail fast,” Lory Antonucci, senior talent management consultant at Right Management, told HR Dive.

She warns that resistance to new ways or feeling overwhelmed too frequently prevents business from riding a digital trend that could catapult them ahead. For the lab mindset to succeed, that resistance must be set aside. Employees need to be able to dissect an unsuccessful process or idea into its separate parts fearlessly in order to learn the lessons and opportunities it provides.

Critical process reflection also applies to successes; employers need to identify what they can learn or build upon from those experiments. For companies to capitalize on a lab mindset, they’ll need to identify and nurture transformative leadership.

HR’s role
For HR, adopting a lab mindset helps the department speak the same language as business leaders, Bravery said. “What are our biggest business issues, what might be done and what value do they return? By asking the right questions, providing the right support and creating the right conditions, the collective energy of the workforce can be channeled to ensure the enterprise thrives.”

Employees want to be part of the innovation process just as much as HR and business leaders want new solutions. This means there’s a lot of room for collaboration as these two needs fuse together, Bravery said; “It’s a match made in heaven to allow organizations to tap into their people’s ideas and energy, while keeping employees motivated and engaged.”

When employees are free to fail, they’re willing to explore and innovate. When they’re paralyzed a mistake could mean a pink slip, growth and change can never occur. And for businesses looking remain competitive, an inability to change can mean disaster.


5 Reasons Why You Won’t Get Promoted

Today’s managers and leaders live in an era of unprecedented change, with rapid rates of technological innovation and in a culture that celebrates every win. Focusing on what we do well, rather than shoring up our shortcomings, is widely adopted across organizations large and small.

But organizational cultures that focus on worker strengths at the exclusion of identifying and addressing weaknesses have a dangerous downside. As candour disappears during performance feedback, people remain unaware of skill gaps or interpersonal tendencies that hold them back. What you don’t know can hurt you.

This lack of self-awareness is truly epidemic. One study shows that as many of 67% of today’s managers and leaders, from the c-suite to middle management, will be fired, demoted, or simply plateau below their expected level of achievement. This statistic is just one of many about career derailment that started me on a path to find out why so many talented people were going off track.

My motivation initially was self-interest. Twenty-five years ago, I was a young, rising (so I thought) manager at Pepsi Co when I received a poor performance review. While I was confident that I was poised to succeed, I was suddenly to learn otherwise. My boss told me I was ‘unpromotable’ because I was difficult to work with and didn’t follow his direction. He even called me ‘insubordinate’. It was quite the wakeup call. A 2×4 to the head.

I managed to course correct over the next few years; I moved to another assignment and gained an understanding of how I needed to manage by own behavior. Over time, as I worked across different organizations large and small, I became increasingly interested with this idea that it may be what we don’t know about ourselves that’s most likely to hurt us. Derailment often afflicts talented managers who are either unaware of a debilitating weakness or blind spot or are arrogant enough to believe that developmental feedback doesn’t apply to them.

Along with the academic research on the subject, I conducted another study of my own, surveying 100 people, aged 25-45, whose careers had derailed, and interviewing 60 people, from managers and leaders to executive coaches, recruiters, CEOs and C-suite executives.

I found that when capable people derail, they frequently fall into five major categories, which I depicted through the following characterizations or archetypes:

Captain Fantastic: With sharp elbows that bruise you on their quest for the Holy Grail of the corner office, these people form interpersonal issues due to their unbridled ego and dismal listening skills. As a result, they have poor working relationships with coworkers.

The Solo Flier: Often strong individual contributors, these folks are very good at executing their initiatives. But when promoted into managerial positions, they have difficulty building and leading teams. They tend to either micromanage or revert to trying to do the work themselves. Their teams become dissatisfied and eventually there’s a coup d’état.
Version 1.0: Comfortable in their routines and highly skeptical of change, these people resist learning new skills that would help them adapt to the rapidly changing business environment. Their ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ attitude will not serve them well over time and eventually their dinosaur-like tendencies may lead to extinction.

The One-Trick Pony: This employee does a good job at some part of his or her job. But, that signature skill—over time, unbeknownst to them—makes them one-dimensional and unpromotable.
The Whirling Dervish: Perhaps the most recognizable of all are those that run around the office like their hair is on fire, late for the next meeting and muttering to themselves about their workload. They lack planning and organizational skills and are known to overcommit and under deliver. Their boss and coworkers can’t count on them to complete their assigned tasks, and eventually people try to avoid working with them.

If you see bits of yourself in one or more of these archetypes, it’s important to remember that this isn’t a personal indictment. We all have strengths, weaknesses and areas of vulnerability. But digging in and having the courage to understand them, we can adjust our behavior and become even more effective. To paraphrase Carl Jung, ‘There’s gold in the dark.’ Our personal excavation leads to self-knowledge and increased performance.



Train Today’s Workforce for Tomorrow’s Tech

CEOs are investing more in advanced technologies such as AI, but they aren’t planning to invest in retraining their workforces for this technology. A new report from Accenture recommends taking a different approach.
Is your workforce ready to compete in a data-driven, cloud-enabled, digitally transformed environment? That was the question that AT&T asked itself a few years ago when internal research found that 100,000 of the company’s 240,000 workers were in roles that the company probably wouldn’t need in a decade. Instead the company needed workers who were trained and ready for the technologies that would drive tomorrow’s business — artificial intelligence, machine learning, data science, and more.

It was a math problem, according to AT&T CEO John Donovan who recounted the challenge during a panel discussion at World Economic Forum in Davos last month. The percentage of the company’s workforce that was highly technical needed to evolve from where it was a few years ago at about 50% who were highly technical, to some number close to 85% or 90%, according to Donovan.

“You do the basic math,” said Donovan. “You can’t hire your way there and you can’t acquire yourself there. You really have to start with the workforce you have.”

That’s the basic problem that many companies are facing as they look to evolve their businesses for a new era. If they don’t have the trained staff today, it’s not really clear how they will get to where they want to be for tomorrow.

Ellyn Schook, chief leadership officer and HR officer at Accenture said during the Davos panel discussion that companies invested 60% more in AI in 2017 than they had the year before. But only 3% of CEOs are investing in training people in new skills, even though the skills shortage is a top concern for CEOs.

To address the challenge, Accenture, which sponsored the Davos panel, is recommending enterprises follow three steps to move from where they are today to where they need to be. The company published the full advice in its new report, Reworking the Revolution, but at its most basic level they are reimagining work, pivoting the workforce, and scaling up “new skilling.”

Reimagining work requires you to move from workforce planning to work planning, according to Shook. Pivoting the workforce means taking the human resources that you’ve been able to free up by applying technologies to those tasks and applying those workers to new areas of growth. Then companies should focus on helping workers acquire new skills. Shook said that’s not being done to the extent it should be in a lot of companies.

But it is part of AT&T’s plan. Donovan said AT&T invested $250 million a year for its education program for its current workforce of 260,000.

“I think that’s a right-sized investment for the pivot that we want to make as a company,” he said.

Those workers completed 2.6 million courses. Some of them were online, some were leader-led, some were in-person training courses that lasted a few days, he said. In all 56,000 workers earned 178,000 “Badges,” which is a new competency that matches to a job in the company, according to Donovan.

In addition, the new system lets employees access an HR system that shows a career path to a future job they may want and lets them plot their course to that job and then map the curriculum needed to get to that job.

“I have to establish competencies along the way just to stay in my current job,” Donovan said. “Then I can add a badge that certifies I’m competent in a new skill. I can add a nano-degree. A nano-degree in Big Data stapled onto a math undergrad degree from 25 years ago — that’s a solid combination.”

The program earned AT&T a place on Fortune’s list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For for 2017.

As for other companies embarking on an effort to add move advanced technologies to their business processes, Accenture has the following message: “Companies can achieve more with less, but only if they are willing to innovate their training methods.”