More leaders sooner: 5 ways to accelerate your leadership pipeline

Over the past two decades, the changes in business practice have completely redefined what leadership means today.

We’ve come a long way from when leadership used to be just about a senior executive directing their team in the pursuit of an organisation’s goals. That kind of leadership was personality-driven – propelled by whatever an individual’s dominant traits and characteristics were. Companies can’t survive with that kind of leadership today.

We’ve all heard of leaders and companies that didn’t want to change with the times and weren’t able to revive themselves from the downfall they had steered themselves to. The pace of disruption is high and the demands for time, results and output are picking up – plus the models of leadership and leaders have changed to emphasise effectiveness and shared focus.

The modern workplace needs a different leadership style and mindset from leaders where everyone in the company can look at themselves as a leader and be able to contribute in ways that help the team and move the organisation forward. Managers can’t just be managers anymore – they’re also expected to inspire their teams and develop them for the future.

For instance, in this disruptive age, the responsibility for innovation can’t remain solely with top management. Organisations need innovation to come from everyone and realise that they need to have a culture of innovation. However, to build that culture, they need to have leaders who understand this and can engage their teams to innovate.

Successful leadership is no longer synonymous with achievement; it’s not just about business growth anymore. To be effective in today’s fast-paced and complex world, a leader needs to be agile; have a sense of purpose; have a strategic vision; be inspirational and engaging; be able to deal with ambiguity and complexity; be able to coach and build teams; and be innovative – all at the same time.

Leadership acceleration is essential
Have you taken a look at recent statistics on the future of our global workforce? Eighty-four per cent of organisations today anticipate a shortfall of leaders in the next five years. Ten thousand baby boomers (born 1946–64) retire each day and nearly half of all millennials (born 1983–2000) will occupy the workforce by 2020.

How can organisations create leaders who have the knowledge, skills, experience and wisdom to close the gap that the baby boomers will leave? Effective leadership is the only way to manoeuvre through this and prepare for the future.

Organisations need to be able to define what leadership means for them and to have both sturdy existing leadership and a solid pipeline of capable executives, who have the skills and the character needed to take up leadership roles in the future. This is what makes leadership acceleration not only essential but also indispensable.

Leadership – how to develop and coach individual leaders and leadership teams, and build organisational capability – needs to be made easy and simple for leaders today who are busier than ever.

Advancement can no longer be left only to those who have years of experience, as in the past. Though rising budgets for corporate learning and development signify that many organisations realise the need for accelerating leadership development, not many organisations are using those budgets to accelerate leadership development at all levels.

The need for more leaders sooner requires us to think differently about how leaders are formed and will require that we think differently about talent readiness, essentially, replacing some of the work-based experiences and time for growth we once relied on to populate our succession plans and leadership benches.

More than ever, organisations need to rely on all available talent to step up and step into leadership. This means leadership is now synonymous with inclusion. Gone are the days when leaders learned about ‘difference’ in basic diversity training or simply took for granted that there is a dominant ‘way’ to lead that is representative of most top management.

5 ways to develop your talent now
All leaders, with an eye on developing future leaders, will need to question deeply held assumptions about what leadership looks like and how to facilitate ways for everyone to step up. Specifically:

How we interview, coach and review the performance of diverse talent must be grounded in bias awareness and an insatiable curiosity and openness. We can’t afford to shut out those who can’t – or won’t – lead. This means thinking differently and openly about everything from where and how we get work done to the kinds of communication practices we employ, making room for different styles and approaches.
How we think about ‘readiness’ and ‘risk-taking’. We know women, for example, are still promoted based on performance, while men are promoted based on potential. To accelerate leadership, we need to first become aware of beliefs that may be causing constraints, and then take more chances on not only women but also other members of underrepresented groups who may not look or act the way those in many leadership positions do. We need everyone.
As leaders, when we try to develop the individual talent available in our teams, we need to follow the ‘teach-do-feedback-do’ cycle to accelerate development. This is where you show the ropes to your team members, make them do what is required of them, give them feedback, and then make them do it again. This cycle should repeat itself until they have become confident and an expert at it.
When we do elevate any talented leader in an accelerated fashion, we must ensure the leader has strong support and sponsorship (advocacy, just-in-time coaching and development) if we want them to succeed. This applies to women especially, because of the perceived risk often associated with these appointments as well as some of the ways women speak about themselves (often offering a full picture of their capability, complete with areas they may not feel as confident in).
Coaching skills (early, often and just-in-time feedback) for leaders will become essential. We know that underrepresented populations receive less feedback – ultimately doing them and the organisations they work for a disservice regarding the full value these groups can add to leadership.
To be successful and meet the future head-on, organisations must adopt a mindset that grasps the need for the development of its leaders, challenges conventions and recognises the learning styles of the modern workforce, to accelerate leadership and create a stronger bench strength that is ready for the next level. Remember, we need everyone.


Why Companies Should Publicly Disclose Their Workforce Policies

Human capital issues are becoming increasingly important to modern day corporate success. Over the last several years, some of the biggest U.S. corporations have enacted better workplace policies, from making efforts to narrow the pay gap (Salesforce and Microsoft) to providing better training (JPMorgan Chase and Walmart).

Even investors are starting to pay closer attention. Recently, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Investor Advisory Committee responded to petitions by institutional investors to incorporate human capital management into its corporate reporting and disclosure regime by recommending the SEC examine the case for better disclosure. This will only up the ante for human capital performance measurement and encourage companies to signal their leadership on transparency around the issues most important to the American people—their treatment of their workforce.

At JUST Capital, we spent the last year analyzing 890 of the largest publicly traded U.S. companies on their approaches toward key human capital management issues identified as priorities by a representative sampling we conducted of over 80,000 Americans. This assessment of the current state of worker-related policies across corporate America revealed a sobering picture: It’s still the wild west of workforce policy disclosure with little direction on how to best measure issues like pay equity, paid time off, paid parental leave, flexible work, diversity and inclusion policies and targets, provision of day care services, worker training policies, and tuition reimbursement. The lack of standards on this also means investors are unsure of how to evaluate the information once it is disclosed. These results support three major takeaways:

The first is that public information on these workforce policies is incredibly difficult to find. We found that only 2%—or specifically 18 of the 890 companies we analyzed—disclosed their workforce policies on all the nine issues we studied. This suggests that either the majority of companies have not committed to creating these workplace policies, or that they are reluctant to reveal results. Whatever the reason, this first step seems to be the hardest right now. Public disclosure, however, can pay dividends to those that commit to it: The companies that disclosed their workforce policies generated up to 3% higher return-on-equity than their peers.

The second takeaway is the lack of consistency from companies who do disclose such policies. Absent any mandated guidelines or reporting requirements, there are wide differences between the quantity and quality of information provided—meaning that the information, while not useless, is significantly less impactful. There’s no clear way to identify leadership and best practices for all companies to emulate and not enough data—therefore little research—to assess if leadership on workforce policies is delivering on investment.

Take pay equity: The actual disclosure varies widely from employer to employer. Different companies use different terminology, ranging from gender wage gap to pay disparities to gender equity. Most make generic statements representing adjusted pay gap figures like, “Women are paid on average 95% of what men are paid,” or that the company has achieved “100% pay equity for women and men.” With agreed-upon standards, and then agreed-upon ways to measure them, the market would be able to create apples-to-apples comparisons and understand where the leaders and the laggards actually are on these topics.

Finally, it is unclear what progress is actually being made beyond the declaration of policies. Even though companies had made public pledges to improve their workforce policies, it was nearly impossible to tell whether those pledges translated into tangible change for workers (such as whether companies are actually hitting their diversity and inclusion targets or whether workers are experiencing a greater work-life balance through flexible work hours, paid time off, and parental leave). With reporting standards, those assessments could be made.

The market, and indeed society, cannot begin to benchmark and incentivize enhanced performance on these critical workforce issues until more companies disclose their actual policies as the first step. Companies can establish themselves as leaders by providing greater transparency and investing in their workforce as their most valuable asset. Their workers, and their shareholders, will benefit.

Martin Whittaker is the CEO of JUST Capital.


Five key ways to foster employee engagement through L&D

Employee engagement has never been more critical, the lack of which has devastating results for a business in the form of attrition, low productivity, and a stunted organizational growth. Although part of the solution lies within L&D, engaging employees is a complex and often strategic process that needs to evolve with technology and the way we work.

According to the 2017 Gallup State of the Global Workplace report, 85% of global employees are disengaged at work (18% disengaged, while 67% not engaged at all), which means that although employees are giving organizations their time, they are not necessarily performing their best. And this has resulted in dire financial outcomes for global organizations, with nearly $7 trillion in lost productivity.

The APAC countries, especially Southeast Asia, have an engagement percentage of 22%, with the average engagement percentage in India amounting to as low as 13%. According to Dale Carnegie’s recent online survey of 450 employees in India, only 35% of respondents felt they were engaged at their workplace and that their organization provided them with effective training, while 19% were negative or neutral about effective training. The survey also revealed that 51% leaders felt that engaged employees were more productive, while 31% agreed that engagement made their work easier; all of which make an obvious case for investing in employee engagement initiatives.

Employee engagement is not to be taken lightly, especially in today’s competitive markets, as the Gallup Q12 Meta-Analysis report indicates substantial improvements in retention, productivity and profitability in organizations that have a highly engaged workforce.

For many organizations, the most obvious question is how can they boost engagement? The good news is that the most obvious answers are well within reach and can be found within Learning and Development (L&D). For most organizations, training programs are the primary communication tools to reach employees and give them the necessary knowledge to perform better.

According to Deloitte, ‘Learning opportunities are among the largest drivers of employee engagement and strong workplace culture – they are part of the entire employee value proposition, not merely a way to build skills’. Learning in itself is more engaging, and if it is delivered in an effective manner, it can certainly improve productivity and performance.

Here are five key ways in which organizations can foster employee engagement through L&D –

Promote a Culture of Learning
Conversations around employee engagement are almost always devoid of ‘what exactly do organizations want their employees to engage in/with?’ Employees need to connect with something (their jobs, teams etc.) and feel they’re a part of something larger (leadership, growth, and progress).
L&D professionals can work alongside business leaders and identify organizational values that employees can engage with, which can then be weaved into the training programs to create a sense of belonging and pride within the organization, thus fostering a larger learning culture. Organizations must work with L&D professional to identify the kind of learning culture they want to develop, one that is in sync with the organizational values and larger business goals. Learning culture can be facilitated by tools and systems that enable continuous learning that’s accessible, just-in-time, relevant and personalized for the learners.

Emphasize Onboarding & Training
Employees are often frustrated and annoyed when they are not aware of their responsibilities since the beginning and end up playing catch up. Newly appointed employees need to be properly oriented into the business processes. Here, employee onboarding programs are one of the primary steps organizations can employ.

A Glassdoor research suggests that organizations with effective onboarding programs improve employee retention by 82%. In an age where unemployment is decreasing and job opportunities are increasing by the day, candidates have numerous employment choices, which make it highly important for L&D professionals to engage their employees from the get-go and thus maximize their retention rate. A negative or less than effective onboarding experience leads new employees to look for better opportunities as per Digitate, effectively doubling the cost to hire a new employee.
Along with a strong onboarding program, training programs upskill and help the employees stay competent and the business, successful. According to long-term research conducted at the Middlesex University for Work-based Learning, 74% participants assert that lack of training is the biggest hurdle in achieving their full potential at work.
L&D professionals can thus not only help the organization retain employees but also help them learn faster and become (and stay) more productive.
Prioritize Employee Growth & Development
According to a Gallup poll, 87% millennials and 69% non-millennials value career development in their jobs. Employees desire both professional and personal growth opportunities while deciding to join an organization. They want to learn new skills and seek newer challenges, which in turn lead to higher engagement, as employees are constantly productive.
L&D professionals need to set up effective training programs to engage their employees in their job roles and the workplace as a whole. Training programs ensure that employees are aware of their KRAs and have the required skill-set to achieve them, and progressively upskill them to meet the demands of the evolving workplaces and technological advancements.
L&D professionals can offer a variety of training programs that enhance employees’ skill set and add more value to their daily tasks. The learning can further be incentivized to reduce boredom and ensure there is more scope for growth in that position. Many organizations also offer educational assistance, which shows employees that their organizations value their professional growth.
Leverage Social Learning & Collaboration
Engagement is not a standalone term. It is an amalgamation of many factors ranging from interest, involvement to collaboration and consultation. And, L&D personnel can take this as a cue for promoting social learning and informal learning.
According to Bersin by Deloitte, organizations with a workforce of 10,000 employees invested thrice the amount on social tools from the previous years, while a Brandon Hall Group report suggests that 73% of organizations are set to prioritize social learning in the coming years. This clearly indicates that L&D professionals are increasingly seeking out social learning initiatives for corporate training & development in order to leverage their subject matter experts’ (SME) knowledge throughout the organization.
Apart from leveraging social learning tools like LMSes, L&D professionals also need to be the icebreakers and jump-start the conversations within different teams and groups, just like in any social setting, and encourage ways to foster online discussions and collaboration; and leverage an LMS where employees can share, like and comment and engage in true social learning.
Use Learning Technology as the Enabler
Last but not the least, L&D professionals should also focus on employing the right kind of learn-tech tools (LMSes) that fit their specific training and engagement requirements. It is the correct mixture of content, learning, and technology that will produce long term results and help achieve the collective learning goals.
Corporate training has gone through drastic evolution over the past decade, moving away from the very limiting classroom-based training to a more flexible online process. Learning technology, with innovations like virtual classrooms, Gamification and Artificial Intelligence, has transformed training delivery strategies. Where organizations end up spending 40% of classroom training budget on logistics, a learning technology-based approach is more cost effective and drives learner engagement and knowledge retention.
An LMS with innovative features like Gamification, Blended Learning, Virtual Classrooms and more, can go a long way in boosting learning engagement. Learning analytics has recently emerged as an irreplaceable tool when it comes to improving engagement, as it enables organizations to analyze the data (learning behavior, patterns, completion rates etc.) and customize the training programs to suit the needs of the employees.
Organizations need to invest in the L&D function and provide them with the right learn-tech tools that can become an effective driving force behind improving employee engagement. An innovative LMS can pave the way for organizations to finally address the issue of employee engagement, thus improving productivity and building a great learning culture.


Why Lateral Career Moves Are Actually Power Moves

Sometimes, the field you studied in school doesn’t turn out to be the perfect career fit. Or you spend many happy years in a certain part of the business, but eventually you’re no longer fulfilled.

It’s easy to feel stuck, and making a big career change can be daunting.

But Lisa Alteri, Chief People Officer for Kraft Heinz U.S., is a firm believer that big career changes are possible at any point. The keys to success: Lean into your curiosity, and embrace the power of the lateral move.

“It’s hard to quell that evil ego,” Alteri says. “In general there’s an obsession about titles because title is associated with status, and that’s where the ego comes in. But you as the individual care so much more about the title than your current or future organization does. And those lateral moves can bring so much more than a title.”

Alteri knows that well: She started her career decades ago in the finance organization and enjoyed great success. Then she pivoted to sales and rose quickly through those ranks, too. And most recently, in October 2018, she moved to the people function in her current role as U.S. chief.

“It’s something I try to encourage within people when it comes to their performance: Don’t think of moves as just about moving up — think also of moving laterally,” says Alteri. It doesn’t have to be as hard as you might think, she adds. Here’s how to make that big career move (or moves), and feel fulfilled at work again.

Follow your curiosity.
This is Alteri’s key piece of advice throughout your career-change journey. “If you’re really interested in something, chances are you’ll be good at it,” she says. “So you’ll have the perseverance and drive to keep learning.”

But how can you discover that curiosity, especially if you’re feeling uninspired in your current position?

For Alteri, the answer lay in her exposure to different parts of the business while working in finance. Among other positions she served as an analyst at General Electric’s manufacturing finance division, and later in operations finance and regional business management at Kraft.

“I did almost every possible rotation in finance, and the more I did that the more curious I became about those other aspects of the business,” Alteri says.

Your job may not offer that kind of exposure, so it’s also smart to seek advice from trusted managers or mentors. They may be able to place you on cross-functional projects, or at least offer advice about how to explore your next step. In Alteri’s case, a mentor at Kraft served as the catalyst for her first big career move. Had Alteri ever explored other functions, he asked, such as sales?

“Nobody in finance ever considered a functional move to sales,” Alteri says, laughing. “It was known as ‘the dark side’!”

Related: Switching Jobs Internally — How to Apply & How to Manage the Transition

Don’t fear a lateral move — or even a step (or two!) down.
After the conversation with her mentor, Alteri made connections with senior leadership in the sales function, and she ultimately accepted a role that was two pay grades below her finance position.

“I realized that I didn’t have the experience in sales that I did in finance, so I shouldn’t expect I would be at the same level there,” Alteri says. “To be honest, even as I think now about all the different roles I’ve had over my career, that was the hardest, scariest step to take.”

Alteri had to start all over, but once again, she proved herself in Kraft sales: She rose from roles like customer business manager positions at different grocery chains, to national director of sales planning & strategy of the entire grocery business unit, and ultimately to vice president of sales for the beverage business unit.

“It just shows that it’s OK not to know everything at first,” Alteri says. “There’s a rush of excitement when you make a change, and that can carry you through.”

Be honest with yourself about whether you want that promotion.
That feeling of excitement — or lack thereof, at times — can be another important guide, Alteri says. As she had risen to sales VP for Kraft’s beverage, the obvious next step was for Alteri to become the head of the U.S. retail operation.

“It was the natural progression, but I’ve never managed my career in a linear fashion,” Alteri says. “My sanity check has become: Does this give me an adrenaline rush, the butterflies in my stomach?”

So don’t simply work toward, or accept, promotions in your current field simply because it’s “just how it’s done.” At each point, assess how you really feel about the role and whether you feel excited to continue down that path.

For Alteri, the U.S. retail chief role just didn’t feel right. She reflected instead on what gave her those adrenaline-fueled butterflies.

“At this point and level in my career, every role I’m in is really a people-managing role,” Alteri says. “That thought gave me butterflies because I recognized functionally I didn’t have the people experience. I’m lucky to work for a company that truly does live by pursuing your curiosity, so it was a good time to have that conversation with senior leadership.”

Make the case to leadership.
Kraft ultimately created the role of U.S. Chief People Officer for Alteri, who stepped into the position in October 2018.

But not all companies may be as receptive to conversations about 180-degree career moves, Alteri notes. In that case, it’s on you to make your case.

“Especially if you’re in a traditional, hierarchical organization, you need to show you have a track record of delivering, of success,” Alteri says. “But that’s just the first step, the table stakes that are the price of entry.”

To convince the company you’ll likely need to go several steps further, explaining why the move makes sense for the organization at large and how you’ve built colleagues’ trust in your capabilities over the course of your career there.

But before you march into the boss’ office, ask yourself a few questions first — and be very honest with the answers, Alteri says.

“Can you look at yourself in the mirror and state what your legacy is?” Alteri says. “How is this organization better for you having been there? That’s the gut check. If you can’t confidently state your legacy, you likely need to do that work before you move to the next step.”


When I Negotiate My Salary, I Bring Up These Three Essential Things

It can feel like a daunting task to negotiate your salary. We have been told that asking for more money isn’t polite. As a millennial, however, I firmly believe you should always negotiate your salary when you’re starting a new job, as well as when you’re up for a promotion with your current company. Though this can admittedly be a challenge, it can make a difference of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

That said, sometimes it isn’t possible to negotiate your base salary. There may be a wage freeze, or the company may simply not be able to offer more for that position. If you find yourself in a situation like this, there are other items that make up your total compensation that you can negotiate instead.

By bringing up these three things during salary negotiations, I’ve been fortunate enough to get higher compensation. Now it’s your turn.

Vacation Time
If you’re anything like me, you’d kill for another week of vacation. It may surprise you that you don’t need to go to extremes at all; this is probably one of the easier items to negotiate. In my experience, most companies would rather give you another week off than increase your base salary, especially if they have compensation costs they are trying to keep under control. So, don’t hesitate to ask.

Signing Bonus
If your company can’t increase your base salary, or if you have costs that you have to pay back to a former employer, it can definitely be worth it to ask for a signing bonus. Keep in mind, though, when you have costs to back, it’s really important to give your new employer a firm number. I’ve found a new employer typically doesn’t want you to pay anything out of pocket for taking on the new job, so they are willing to find a way to make this work.

Tuition or Tuition Reimbursement
If you’re planning on pursuing education to further yourself in your new role, you might want ask your new company to cover the cost of your education. It’s all in how you frame it. Remember, in many situations, covering this expense will mean a tax deduction for the company. Plus, you’re furthering your skills as an employee, making you a better asset to have. It’s a win-win. If you can spin it as a positive to them, they are more likely to pay for what you’re asking for.

This May Surprise You: McDonald’s Offers Serious Tuition Benefits for Employees

Regardless of what you’re asking for, it can be scary, but know that you will be in a better financial situation for doing so. So, when you’re feeling those nerves, remember that your future self will thank you for fighting for your ability to increase your income.


How a Focus on People’s Strengths Increases Their Work Engagement

Two wrongs don’t make a right, but four rights might negate one wrong.

When companies achieve a 4-1 engagement ratio — four engaged employees for every one disengaged employee — they reach a tipping point where engaged employees can more consistently counteract the impact of actively disengaged employees.

Companies need engaged workers because they’re the ones who vastly outperform the disengaged — organizations in the top quartile of engagement have 4x greater earnings-per-share growth, better customer engagement, higher productivity, better retention, fewer accidents and higher profitability than their competitors.

So, achieving that ratio — and then surpassing it — is a way to accomplish organic growth.

And how, exactly, does one go about increasing the ratio of engaged to disengaged employees? It turns out, doing so requires ongoing, intentional employee development.

An extremely effective approach to development is to focus on strengths — strengths refer to an individual’s innate patterns of thought, feeling and behavior. Strengths-based development helps people apply their strengths to increase productivity.

Many research studies allude to strengths-based development’s links to engagement and productivity, but a very comprehensive Gallup study showed that strength-based development leads to:

10% to 19% increased sales
14% to 29% increased profit
3% to 7% higher customer engagement
9% to 15% increase in engaged employees
There’s a connection between strengths and engagement that’s fundamental to the employee experience.

Though strengths-based development can’t replace engagement education or manager conversations, a strengths-based education is a powerful catalyst that managers can use to create an engaging environment for their teams.

When even one person knows and uses CliftonStrengths …

Strengths-based development starts with first understanding what strengths contribute to performance. Every team is the sum of its parts, and different challenges call for specific abilities.

Some teams need conflict resolution, some need to be kept on task, others need to help aligning the work with the organizations’ purpose. The people with the talent for the distinct job aspects have an intrinsic ability to do them and, when coached, do them with excellence.

When employees are explicitly encouraged to use their talent in pursuit of a goal, individual engagement improves (from 9% to 15%) as does team performance and the company’s business metrics as well.

Indeed, Gallup studies have found 8% to 18% performance improvement and 2% to 10% increases in customer engagement among strengths-based organizations. Companies like those leave the desired 4-1 ratio in the dust. Their ratios are closer to 8-1. Even 11-1 or higher.

Organizations benefit when even one person — or one team — knows and uses CliftonStrengths, but Gallup research has shown that the benefits significantly increase when organization-wide strengths interventions (including education and coaching) are deployed. These benefits include the aforementioned marked gains in sales, customer metrics and profit, and significant reductions in employee attrition.

To reach the 4-1 ratio and then surpass it, leaders should:

  • Use an employee engagement approach that is simple, clear and involves employees. The measurement needs to be about things they can control day-to-day.
  • Make sure employees can be specific about what they do best and what makes them unique. Increase their self-awareness about their unique strengths and how they can apply them.
  • Build manager competence for coaching, specifically coaching employees around what their strengths are and how to leverage them for success.
  • Change and complexity demands more and better conversations. Make such conversations — particularly coaching conversations — an expectation in the workplace among peers and partners and among leaders, managers and employees. Hold people accountable.
  • Make coaching conversations more effective.

    Designing Your Organization’s Employee Experience
    Download to learn how to create a consistent employee experience that improves individual, team and business performance.
    Clearly, getting the optimal engagement ratio is not effortless. And the truth is, to succeed in this effort managers can’t ever stop trying. Engagement is never complete — it’s made fresh every day.

    But managers who engineer the employee experience around strengths find it much easier. One Gallup study found a 60-to-1 engaged employee-to-disengaged employee ratio with managers who focused on strengths, and a 2-to-1 ration of engaged to actively disengaged employees when managers focused on weaknesses.

    Where managers ignored both strengths and weaknesses, employees showed a 1-to-20 ratio of engaged employees to actively disengaged employees.

    While a strengths focus won’t replace the importance of having ongoing coaching conversations, it does give managers a leg up on engagement. It amplifies the “I care about you” message that is implicit to an engaging management style. And it directs performance toward excellence.

    People want to feel they’re performing with excellence. And managers who focus on strengths create the conditions that allow people to do so — and contribute to high-performing cultures, too, the objective of the world’s best-led companies.

    For those managers, the 4-1 ratio was just the first sign they were on the right track. Whether or not they meant to — though talented managers always mean to — they created an extraordinary employee experience along the way.


How Much Are Your Disengaged Employees Costing You?

Here’s the good news: Employers who have struggled with employee turnover in recent years may experience a bit of a reprieve. According to data from Achievers, just 35% of employees are planning to look for a new job, a drastic decrease from the 74% who answered affirmatively to the same question last year.

But not so fast. Don’t confuse the fact that your employees have no immediate plans to leave as a sign of their loyalty or engagement. On the contrary, the same study found that only 21% of employees report that they are highly engaged at work. They’re just there for the paycheck, which means they’re doing enough to avoid being fired but aren’t likely to go above and beyond their primary responsibilities.

That complacency is costing you. How much? According to Gallup, disengaged employees have 37% higher absenteeism, 18% lower productivity and 15% lower profitability. When that translates into dollars, you’re looking at the cost of 34% of a disengaged employee’s annual salary, or $3,400 for every $10,000 they make.

Let’s play a game called fun with math.

The average annual salary in the United States is roundabout $47,000.
34% of $47,000 is $15,980.
A single disengaged employee at the average salary level is going to cost you almost $16,000 per year. Raise their salary to $60,000, and they will cost you $20,400 per year. Increase their salary to $80,000, and their disengagement is costing you $27,200 a year. You get the idea.

Now, here’s where it gets really scary: Let’s apply this formula to a whole organization.

You lead a small business that employs around 250 people.
Using the Achievers data (which states that only 21% of employees are engaged), we can calculate that around 198 of those 250 employees are disengaged and complacent in their work.
Let’s say the average salary of those employees is $47,000.
That means your employee complacency is costing you $3,164,040.
It just got real, didn’t it? Of a total payroll of $11,750,000 utilizing the average salary, your employee complacency is costing you over $3 million a year. Play with the math and apply these numbers to your business. If you aren’t shocked by your results, perhaps you should question your own complacency!

So, what do you do about it?

The first step towards fixing your engagement problem is acknowledging the problem exists, and committing to taking proactive steps to fix it. This may be a more significant stumbling block than you might think! According to the same Achievers study, just 9% say the leadership in their organizations are very committed to culture initiatives, and 58% of respondents say that their leadership either takes no action regarding culture or are merely reactive instead of being proactive.

If an organization’s leadership is complacent about creating a great place to work, then why should they have the expectation that their employees will be anything but complacent about their day-to-day responsibilities?

Once you’ve acknowledged the problem, the next step is to get the team involved and make them a part of the process. Part of the problem is that many managers and leaders leave a lot to be desired when it comes to soliciting, listening to and responding to employee feedback. Achievers’ Chief Workforce Scientist Dr. Natalie Baumgartner explains that engaging with employee feedback doesn’t always need to be time-consuming: “Employees want to be heard and understood, even if the action [on the part of managers] is as simple as saying ‘I hear you and understand you.'”

Of course, taking the next step to show real change on the feedback is just as important as acknowledging that it’s been heard. Say you’ve just run your employee engagement survey, and your team members have taken the time to give you thoughtful input on what’s going well and what could be done better. Taking that data and keeping it closely guarded, only visible to a select few in the organization is one of the worst things you can do because you’re creating a context in which it’s very easy for your team to perceive that nothing is being done with it.

Instead, show the team overtly that you are taking action by getting them involved in the process. In my presentation The Ultimate Employee Engagement Survey at the 2019 Society for Human Resources Management Talent & Development Conference, I suggested the following process:

1. Be transparent. After you collect your data, be it through a formal survey for your whole organization or an informal conversation with members of a specific working through, analyze your results and make them transparently available to your team as soon as possible. Resist the urge only to present the good news and hold back the bad – your team will be able to sniff out the inauthenticity.

2. Get them involved. Once you’ve given your team some time to think about the results (about a week or so), bring them together to have a discussion. Your goal is to help the team decide on 1-3 committed actions that can be taken to improve. This makes everyone accountable for participating in the process. This part tends to work best in working groups, rather than in a company-wide meeting, to allow people more opportunity to contribute.

3. Increase accountability. Check in with the team regularly to share what you’ve been doing, and hold them accountable for contributing what they said they would. You could also utilize pulse surveys to take the current temperature of the team by asking a few quick, focused questions about the areas you are most interested in.

4. Measure for continuous improvement. Complete your broader evaluation of your progress again in 4-6 months to see if your efforts have moved the broader needle. There’s no reason to check in on your employees only once a year. If they know that you are taking action and things are improving, they will be more than happy to provide their thoughts.

Employee engagement is a fluid concept that is influenced by many factors ranging from compensation to doing exciting work, to work/life balance. That’s why it’s so essential to make it a process of continuous improvement in which you’re consistently and actively looking for ways to improve rather than merely reacting to things as they come.

Does it take an investment of time and resources to do that? Yes. But is that investment higher than the 34% percent of the annual salary of the employees working for you that are actively disengaged and complacent in their work? It doesn’t come anywhere close to it. The value of employee engagement is unquestionable, with slight gains in a more engaged workforce resulting in a significant return on investment when compared with the costs. The hard numbers make it a no-brainer for leaders interested in maximizing business performance.


How to predict and prevent employee turnover

Calculating the cost of employee turnover
Everyone agrees that turnover is expensive, but the exact cost is widely debated, falling anywhere between 30%–200% of an employee’s salary. Plus, it can be hard to put an exact number on the impact that turnover can have on employee morale and productivity.

Here at Culture Amp, we have access to a dataset that leverages the collective intelligence of thousands of companies. This means that companies of all sizes—whether you’re an early-stage startup or a large enterprise—can now better understand which factors contribute to employee turnover, anticipate which groups have a high likelihood of leaving, and course correct before it’s too late. Since our data provides insights into which employees are likely to leave according to department, gender, age, and tenure, you may be able to more accurately calculate the anticipated cost of turnover in the near future.

The real reasons people leave
At Culture Amp, we’ve been collecting employee data since 2011 and we have insights from millions of people from the moment they join an organization through to the time they leave. Here’s what our data has taught us about the real reasons people leave an organization.

Lack of belonging

A sense of belonging is crucial for people when they join a company. People who had an early sense that they didn’t belong were three times more likely to leave within the first six months.

Lack of confidence in company leadership

Despite the common myth that people leave managers and not companies, we continue to find in our data that although some people leave because of a manager, they are much more likely to leave because they don’t have confidence in the overall leadership of the company.

Bad first impressions

We’re seeing a growing number of people making decisions about leaving companies early in their tenure. In recent Culture Amp research, we found that around 10% of people were leaving within six months of starting a new job—and many were making the decision to leave within their first six weeks.

Forecasting and reducing employee turnover
At this point, you may be wondering what you can do to keep your employees happy and extend their tenure. We know that waiting for people to resign and chasing them out the door with a better offer doesn’t work—at least not for long. Smart practitioners have always flagged turnover risks, but many haven’t known what to do to avoid regrettable turnover. Instead, they’ve invested in succession planning (or hoping for the best).

While many employee engagement metrics have traditionally told you what happened in the past, there’s now an opportunity to predict what might happen next. Culture Amp’s predictive analytics uses machine learning to identify the people who are likely to leave in the future—and why they’ll leave. Our platform brings together metrics from employee engagement, turnover forecast, manager effectiveness, and diversity & inclusion. We highlight the groups of employees with the highest risk of turnover and our algorithms suggest ways you can intelligently solve these challenges.

Knowing what’s driving turnover empowers you to make critical changes in your organization. Rather than making last-ditch efforts to retain employees who have already made the decision to leave, you can focus on efforts and initiatives that will keep employees engaged and extend their tenure.


Have we finally outgrown HR?

Several weeks ago, I was moderating a panel of chief people officers in San Francisco. The discussion spanned career paths, the future of work, diversity and inclusion, and a host of other topics germane to leading people teams in today’s world of work.

One of the more spirited exchanges was during a discussion about the term “human resources” (HR). None of the panelists had HR in their title. None of their teams were titled HR. The shared view was that just as the field had moved beyond “personnel,” the term “human resources” no longer reflects the discipline’s broadened scope and strategic value.

This evolution in nomenclature is not unique to HR. Software engineers used to be programmers. Account representatives used to be sales reps. Even within the field of HR, we’ve seen the gradual shift from “recruiting” to “talent acquisition.”

Historically, the field of HR heavily focused on compliance and operational support. Responsibilities mainly centered around ensuring employees got paid, employee relations issues were minimized, and the organization’s exposure to risk was minimized.

The scope of responsibility was rarely given the respect equal to its importance in building a successful organization. In a quest for the proverbial seat at the table (and equal footing with executive peers), some HR teams became more focused on their legacy mandates and earned a reputation (fair or not) as internal cops–often avoided, and occasionally feared. This perception has been shifting over the last decade.

The evolution of HR can be traced back to a decision by one of the pioneers of modern HR, former Google SVP of people operations and current Humu cofounder and CEO, Laszlo Bock. He explained to me in an email exchange why he reframed Google’s team as “people operations”:

When I joined Google in 2006, it was clear: Conventional business language wouldn’t fly in the engineering-driven culture. While “HR” would be seen as administrative and bureaucratic, “operations” suggested the ability to get things done and use math. So people operations it was. To illustrate the point, on meeting Urs Hozle, then SVP of infrastructure and one of the first 15 employees of Google in my first week on the job, he took one look at my bio and said, “Great title.”

We built people operations around the principles of using data-driven decision making, of relentless experimentation, and of enriching the field of people management with the best ideas from across disciplines: psychology, economics, technology, and academia.

And the name suited us well–it was the start of a movement in management that I’m proud to have been a part of. But the truth is, the name doesn’t matter. What does matter is the commitment to rooting decisions in science, in being respectful of the privacy of individuals, and of approaching people management in a truly human way–which at Humu we refer to as a little bit of love.

As a career HR practitioner, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard that phrase. I’m not alone. The legacy perception, driven by the compliance focus, is that HR’s job is to police employees.

Workable VP of customer advocacy, Matt Buckland, sums up this view and why it might be time for a change:

The Truth is HR did themselves a disservice in the pursuit of a “seat at the table.” They became police for the org and lost the respect/trust of workforces. Any name change that implies some employee advocacy or treats “people” as people should be welcomed.

While there are indeed HR teams that earn that policing stereotype, the reality is there is a new camp within HR that’s far more focused on driving strategic business outcomes. Yes, compliance is still necessary, but it’s no longer the leading capability or contribution.

These 21st-century HR teams bring a much broader skill set to their role. People leading these functions possess business acumen on par with their peers across the C-suite. Their teams leverage data that inform their strategy and allow them to address people challenges before they become a crisis. They’re embedded in the business and embraced as part of the teams they support. Rather than striving for ownership with centralized command and control structures, their decentralized business partner models focus on empowering and enabling.

I was keen to start a conversation with my peers on whether the term “human resources” has become outdated, and there were passionate arguments on both sides. Many HR practitioners are currently struggling with this very question in their organizations.

The leading alternative, one we already see a lot of, involves the word “people.” There are a range of variations: people team, people & culture, people & places, people operations. Some prefer variations of talent: talent, talent & culture, talent operations. Others are partial to employee experience and human capital. Moreover, of course, some feel strongly that the field should remain human resources.

To some people outside of HR, the idea that we refer to our employees as “resources” feels, well, a bit inhumane.

Rob Harol, a product management executive, resents the notion of being referred to in the same manner as the servers that run his company’s website. “The term ‘human resources’ has always felt so cold and mechanical to me. If companies truly value their people, they should refer to us as such.”

Ultimately, what’s most important is elevating the impact and capabilities of the field. A name change without that shift would be cosmetic and not likely to change perceptions.

So what’s changed? That answer depends on whom you ask. There is a significant delta between the capabilities and impact of best-in-class teams and those still rooted in 20th-century views and practices. As you might expect, your experience within that spectrum will largely dictate your answer to this question. For illustration, and with the caveat that 21st-century HR is just emerging, let’s explore some of the capabilities of modern HR.

Analytics and data. Modern HR teams are armed with data. Lots of it. They also understand data alone can be meaningless. Extracting insights from data that allows HR teams to adapt people strategies can be transformative. From Virgin Media to Capitol One, companies are turning to data to solve problems ranging from workforce planning, turnover, recruiting, and more. According to the Corporate Research Forum, 69% of large organizations have people analytics teams. Many modern HR functions have people analytics teams (or individuals) who are tasked with extracting insights from an increasingly complex HR technology stack.

Employer brand. A study by the Harvard Business Review showed that a bad reputation can cost as much at a 10% premium per hire. The maturation of employer brand has transformed HR into a creative field. Leading HR organizations have employer brand strategies that mirror their peers in marketing, complete with conversion funnels, persona maps, and personalized digital engagement strategies. Companies investing in enhancing and actively driving their employer brand are seeing significant impacts on metrics including cost of hire, time to fill, quality of hire, and retention.

Diversity, inclusion, and belonging. The business benefits of having a diverse organization is well documented. A report by McKinsey showed that companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. Leading HR functions are driving cultures that embrace “culture add” mind-sets and proactively tackling topics spanning pay equity, inclusion, and belonging.

Regardless of where you stand on the best name for the function, great HR is transformative. As the sophistication and impact of leading teams continue to drive the evolution of the field, we may soon be in a position everyone can agree on–the name doesn’t matter because the work speaks for itself.


37% of workers would leave their job if not offered this essential tool

A new report shows that there’s a skills-training gap in many U.S. workplaces. Employees who need training on various skills aren’t getting it, and employees who want training on various skills aren’t getting it either. This all, of course, affects internal advancement and building yourself as a more desirable candidate when it comes to looking for your next job.

The report, called “Future of Work and Employee Learning,” was from the Sitel Group, a customer experience management company.

The most surprising finding was this: a full 37% of employees would leave their job if they weren’t offered training.

And yet, 92% of employees say that learning something new at work makes them more motivated and engaged – so employers would do well do offer as much training and new opportunities to skill up as they can.

In addition:

30% of employees say they have avoided asking their employer for training on a certain skill because it would make them look bad
46% of employees believe their employer penalizes them for not having certain skills at their job.
79% say that when looking for a job, it was important that the employer offers a formal training program to their employees
There is a training gap, Aaron Schwarzberg, COO at Learning Tribes USA, part of the Sitel Group, told Ladders. “Employees aren’t necessarily sure how to ask for their employers to address that gap. There is an issue of employees needing additional training, additional resources, additional support and they’re not a hundred percent sure how to ask for it.”

Employers need to step up
The responsibility, he says, lies with the employers. “I think it’s incumbent upon the employers to take responsibility for the dynamic and to provide comprehensive learning and development for employees,” Schwarzberg said. He suggests that employers reach out to employers to “proactively find out and uncover what additional services and needs there are” by conducting research and internal studies, for example.

In the report, it was found that 51% of employers don’t offer soft skills training. And while 33% of employees say they have had training on technology skills, only 17% say they’ve had management skills training.

When looking for a new job, candidates should be explicitly asking prospective employers about what training they offer employees.

“That’s one thing that employees should frankly feel very comfortable asking their prospective employer,” Schwarzberg told Ladders. The question can be asked directly: “What are they doing currently to invest in their employees? It’s OK to make it an open-ended question because they more pointed [employees] make it, the easier it is on the employer to speak to the direct question asked versus speaking generally.”

Other questions could be, “What are you currently doing right now to address development, to address training, learning, and development needs?” and “What practices are in place currently?”

If an employer spent a little time getting to know each candidate and their strengths and weaknesses, it would be a step in the right direction, said Schwarzberg. Nearly 35% of employees felt their employer did not take the time to get to know them in terms of their skills and how to help them advance.

“Without actually taking the time to ask someone what they need, or what resources they need, or where they feel that their gaps are, people feel powerless, they feel unimportant, they feel like a cog in the wheel – versus an important piece of the puzzle to each organization.”