What Organizations Need to Survive a Pandemic

Much of the organizational thinking about disease outbreaks, and about crisis management in general, has focused on preparation. With the sudden emergence of a deadly new coronavirus, organizational preparedness is key. In recent years, many companies, for example, have created risk management teams to develop detailed contingency plans for responding to a pandemic. This is necessary but not sufficient. In the complex and uncertain environment of a sustained, evolving crisis, the most robust organizations will not be those that simply have plans in place but those that have continuous sensing and response capabilities. As Darwin noted, the most adaptive species are the fittest.

Consider the organizations described below. Which one would fare better in a sustained crisis such as a pandemic?

Policy and procedure driven Guided by simple yet flexible rules
Organization 2 is clearly better positioned to respond to evolving, unpredictable threats. We know from complexity theory that following a few basic crisis-response principles is more effective than having a detailed a priori plan in place. In fires, for instance, it’s been shown that a single rule—walk slowly toward the exit—saves more lives than complicated escape plans do.

I’m not saying that companies should not have comprehensive risk mitigation plans. They should be asking questions about their supply chains and internal organization like, “What’s our response if one component goes down? What’s our response if two components go down? Do we have redundant computer systems?” But just as important, companies need to ask, “What real-time sensing and coordinating mechanism will we use to respond to events we can never fully anticipate?”

Companies shouldn’t rely solely on a specialized risk management team to see them through a sustained crisis. What if the team gets taken out? Instead, they need to develop the ability to rapidly evaluate ongoing changes in the environment and develop responses based on simple principles. This means that companies need a global network of people drawn from throughout the organization that can coordinate and adapt as events unfold, reacting immediately and appropriately to disruptions such as lapses in communication inside and outside the organization and losses of physical and human resources. (If a main office overseas suddenly drops out of a company’s network, who is going to jump in?) This network needs to quickly cycle through a process of sensing threats, coordinating, responding, and then sensing again. It needs to engage in creative and collaborative yet disciplined problem solving on the fly, even as members of the crisis network move around or drop out.

This is exactly what marine expeditionary forces do, to great effect. One reason the marines are so nimble is that they practice. Companies should do likewise. A firm could establish a globally dispersed group with shifting membership that would devote, say, half a day every other month to engaging in crisis simulations. What would the group do, for instance, if 30% of the company’s factory workforce in Asia dropped out? What if the United States closed its borders? How would the team respond to an “unthinkable” scenario? The goal is not to create specific rules for responding to specific threats but to practice new ways of problem solving in an unpredictable and fast-changing environment.

As for the two organizations described in the table, advantage in a crisis will go to the one that can leverage its capabilities and cooperate with other members of the community—even competitors. Companies should think about applying an open-source model to crisis response. Just as they invite partners and competitors to codevelop innovative products, they should look at whether codeveloped crisis responses would be better than proprietary ones. If they’d lose certain capabilities in a crisis and competitors would lose others, are there mutually beneficial opportunities for trade and collaboration?

Finally, many leaders think crisis management is not their job. That’s why they hired risk mitigation and security experts. But creating organizations that are strong in the face of uncertainty requires a new mind-set—and that must be driven from the top down. By developing a culture and mechanisms that support superior adaptive capability, companies will inoculate themselves against a range of threats, not just pandemics. They’ll become more resilient and competitive in the complex and uncertain business of business.

Source  : https://hbr.org/2020/01/what-organizations-need-to-survive-a-pandemic

Feedback on employee strengths rather than weaknesses deemed more valuable

Feedback on employee strengths could have more of an impact on their performance than focussing on their weaknesses, according to co-founder of Act2Manage Robert Dobay

Speaking on day two of the MERIT Summit in Seville, Dobay argued that the way employers give feedback needs refreshing.

“If you correct somebody on their grammar they may not continue to write as they have become disheartened,” he said, “However, if you praise their writing ability, they are likely to carry on writing and perhaps even finish their novel.”

Dobay argued that managers usually give feedback when employees do something extraordinarily good or bad and small things don’t make for feedback, but the evidence that this improves performance is lacking.

He added: “It is very hard to monitor how, as a person’s mistake is often an outlier and they will return to their average state of work.”

Dobay also described the feedback expectations of different generations, with Millennials and Gen Z (18- to 38-year-olds) in need of feedback even more than other workers because they are more accustomed to social media gratification.

He said: “Why did Facebook not include a ‘dislike’ button on its range of emojis? Perhaps it is attention and not feedback that these generations crave.

“Similarly, Snapchat users receive no feedback at all from using the platform. I do believe our culture surrounding feedback needs another look.

“HR’s job is to strengthen the experience of employees and it should do so by examining the whole picture, and not only half of it.”

Source : https://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/article-details/feedback-on-employee-strengths-rather-than-weaknesses-deemed-more-valuable

6 Hottest HR Trends For 2020

1. Context is Changing..
Someone said, “Content is king, but context is the kingdom.” The HR profession must appreciate, anticipate, and adapt to changing economic, political, social, and technological contexts. In particular, HR helps deliver the digital business agenda and HR enacts a digital HR agenda.
2. HR is Not About HR but About Creating Value for Others
Value is not defined by what HR does but by how it impacts others. I like to ask, “What is the best thing HR gives an employee?” Answers generally include a meaningful job, purpose, colleagueship, fair pay, opportunities to learn and grow, and a good work setting. While I agree, I think the best value HR gives an employee is a company that wins in the marketplace. Without winning, there is no job.
3. HR Stakeholders are Broadening
Traditionally, the HR customers were within the organization: employees who are more productive and line managers who design and deliver the right strategy. Increasingly, HR stakeholders are outside the company, including customers who buy products, investors who finance the business, and communities who validate reputation
4. HR has Unique Contributions
To serve internal and external stakeholders, HR traditionally contributed talent (“human” resource): right people, right place, right time, right experience (today’s shiny object). However, in our research, we found that “organization” (culture, capability, workplace) has four times more impact on business results than “individual” (talent, competence, workforce). Leadership bridges individual talent and organization capability. Thus, in any business dialogue, HR partners could continually ask, “Do we have the right talent, organization, and leadership to add value, deliver strategy, serve customers, gain confidence from investors, and build reputation with communities?” HR could provide unique insight into talent, organization, and leadership to deliver value. HR needs an organization guidance system to determine how to make progress along each of these three paths (my personal focus in 2020).
5. The HR Department Should Reflect the Logic and Governance of the Business
The structure of an HR department varies by the structure of a business: more centralized businesses have more centralized HR departments; more decentralized businesses have more decentralized HR departments; more matrix-like businesses have more shared services / center of expertise HR departments. With ever more digital HR, what was outsourced becomes insourced.
6. HR Professionals Need to Reinvent Themselves (20 to 30 percent every four to five years) to Deliver Value
The skills for personal credibility, serving stakeholders and delivering business results vary and evolve over time. HR professionals need to continually reinvent themselves, with an emerging focus on creating capabilities at all organization levels (new research in 2020).

So for 2020, these are my 6 views of what’s next for HR and how HR continues to deliver value. Your views?

Source: https://www.hr.com/en/magazines/hr_strategy/january_2020_hr_strategy_planning/6-hottest-hr-trends-for-2020_k5q74pp8.html

Planning Your HR Transformation

My career started as a high school teacher and then a college instructor. Some of my class lessons were ones I could do in my sleep. When I started to teach, I would occasionally skip the detailed lesson planning because I could discuss the topics with ease. Surprisingly, though, at the end of those lessons, I felt inadequate because I had not planned out the learning experiences or potential questions the students would have. The classes were chaotic and ineffective. I quickly learned that detailed planning was essential to my success as a teacher and my students’ success in learning and applying the information taught.

In an HR transformation, many leaders shortcut their planning and move right to action. They take comfort in remembering previous changes they led, yet they overlook the importance of aligning on the uniqueness of this transformation initiative. Planning must remain a required step of all transformations and needs to cover purpose, stakeholders, success criteria and then deliverables.

HR Transformation
The first part of the plan clarifies the purpose for the transformation because this dictates all other aspects. Is the purpose to focus on increasing resourcing in one area of HR (e.g., learning and development), to move to a more strategic emphasis or to reduce staff and increase affordability? That purpose will be the “true north” for all other discussions.

REPORT: The State of HR

The future of HR is requiring HR teams to move from predominantly administrative tasks to a more strategic business driver model. In 2019, I helped lead our HR transformation with this purpose in mind. We initially were 70% administrative/30% strategic and needed to move to a minimum of 50% strategic intentionality. That shift impacted all of our internal stakeholders (our HR team) and their future impact on our external stakeholders (all business functions in the system).

The second planning discussion targets the stakeholders. In my previous article, I discussed getting input from the voice of our customers—the other functional areas in the system (e.g., Finance, Nursing, Operations). Those are the external stakeholders we hoped to impact in a positive way through our HR transformation. Our purpose of becoming more strategic as a business driver required us to list each of the external areas we needed to impact and then to determine ways to engage them throughout the process and through a changed HR structure. One key external stakeholder we leveraged was our legal team to ensure we were reducing any organizational risk as we finalized our severance policy and determined which teammates we might impact through reductions or reorganizations. Another external stakeholder was the executive team, and we consistently kept them abreast of the plan, the timing and the expected results. That cross-functional partnership garnered support and provided us with that continued connection to the voice of the customer, a key focus to ensure the change we were initiating would truly provide positive business impact.

The next stakeholder group was the internal one—our HR team itself. Transformation will fail if leaders view it as an opportunity to enact change on its internal group instead of building change within its internal group. For instance, initially we as the HR leaders met and planned out the process for transformation and soon realized that we were missing a few key internal stakeholders who could help guide our plans toward success. One of those was our HR communications leader who had more historical understanding of the organization and past HR changes. She also provided superior guidance on the timing and details of communications we would need to deliver to ensure appropriate transparency and clarity through each stage of the process.

Another internal stakeholder was our CHRO. As an HR leadership team, we met repeatedly to gain alignment on the approach and expected outcome. Then we presented our plan to the CHRO who provided feedback that helped ensure we executed with proficiency and the right degree of urgency.

Success Criteria
The third focus of our planning documented our expected success criteria. One obvious one is the move toward at least a 50% strategic focus as HR team. Another success metric is the increase in our customer satisfaction score. If pre-transformation feedback stated that HR was too compliance-focused, slow to respond and complex, our post-transformation feedback needed to include recognition for purposeful policies, clearly met Service Level Agreements and ease of interaction with HR. That feedback can come through an annual Voice of the HR Customer survey, through executive 1:1s and through functional focus groups.

INFOGRAPHIC: The Analytics of the HR Digital Transformation

To take the success metrics to a sustainable level, we also adopted an HR scorecard with metrics that matter from an HR perspective (e.g., diversity, internal promotions, engagement scores) and from a business bottom-line perspective (affordability targets, vacancy rates especially in hard-to-fill units, , first-year retention). Those metrics will then be tracked quarterly and reported through HR Quarterly Business Reviews for increased transparency of the transformation’s impact on the enterprise.

One key deliverable for HR transformation is the future-state organizational structure. The purpose (drive toward more strategic impact), stakeholders (internal and external) and success criteria (HR-related and operational) required us to adopt a three-pillared organizational structure that placed the appropriate amount of teammate resources and budget for strategic focus. The predominantly strategic business driver teams fit under the pillars of Strategic Business Partners and Centers of Excellence. Centers of Excellence groups include Learning & Organizational Development, Talent Acquisition, Total Rewards, Teammate Relations, etc. They provide the superior-quality solutions that align with the organization’s strategic direction and operational excellence needs. We also looked at the actual work each team would do and then determined the number of teammates needed in each team to complete that strategic work.

The third pillar (Shared Services) focuses on more administrative tasks. This group includes an HR call center for handling low-level HR questions regarding benefits, HR forms, learning requests, etc. That group enables our Strategic Business Partners and Centers of Excellence teams to spend their main focus on that strategic business driver work needed to move the organization in a proactive way instead of taking so much of their time handling administrative, low-level HR items. All three HR pillars are equally essential to HR’s success in transforming to become the true strategic business driver the enterprise needs as it seeks to become the industry leader.

A second deliverable is the implementation plan for informing HR of the changes, the severance plan for impacted teammates and the communication plan through each step of the process (initial announcement, periodic updates during the transformation and post-transformation calibration with all stakeholders). Each of those deliverables (and others not discussed here) need to be tracked in a project plan with milestone timelines so the project leadership team can communicate the progress, potential pitfalls and risk-mitigation tactics. Those three pillars must also work closely together and hand off work interchangeably between the Shared Services, COEs and Business Partners so that HR is providing an aligned, consistent, sustainable solution and not a disjointed, siloed, reactive response.

Putting It All Together
Without proactive planning, the HR transformation will likely fail. Even with detailed planning, alterations will occur as the transformation is implemented; so the leadership team needs to continually align on the pre-determined purpose, stakeholders and success criteria to ensure that all deliverables will help reach sustainable success without adding complexity or confusion. The planning ahead will reap long-term results that other functional areas can use a best-practice model for their own strategic transformation.

Source : https://www.hrexchangenetwork.com/shared-services/articles/planning-your-hr-transformation

The Talent Textbook: It’s a candidate’s world

Recruiters: You have approximately 15 minutes to engage a candidate as you begin the recruitment process. Why? Because in today’s market top talent picks you, you don’t pick them.

“[The candidate] has only 15 minutes because not only are they employed, 42 other companies are after them,” Tara Wolckenhauer, vice president of global HR strategy and planning at ADP, told me in a phone call.

I had an enlightening conversation with Wolckenhauer about adapting to a candidate-driven market, including non-traditional ways of recruiting. But before we get to the details, a little background on jobs.

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In December 2019, U.S. employers added 145,000 new jobs, which was less than the 160,000 economists expected. Still, the final jobs report for 2019 reflected 10 straight years of job gains —​ a tough market for employers.

The pressure for recruiters is on. Before candidates decide to accept or reject an offer, they consider the quality of the recruitment process and their impressions of the recruiters, according to December 2019 survey results from career site Zety.​ More than half of respondents said they expect to hear a final decision from an employer one to two weeks after a first interview.

Adapt to technology
To stay competitive in a tech-driven landscape, non-traditional methods of recruiting are becoming the norm.

“I just did a FaceTime interview on the platform waiting for a train,” Wolckenhauer told me. “Do I prefer that? Absolutely not. I’d rather see anyone in-person. But can I accomplish it and be able to give feedback and move it along? Yes.”

From the use of smartphones to social media to AI technology, a recruiter’s tool box may need to include a charger.

Wolckenhauer said that nowadays “we run into challenges” in terms of technology and “what the experience needs to be [due to] the new generations entering the workforce, especially Gen Z.”

Gen Z, those born after 1997, is native to technology, according to Pew Research Center. The older members of the population are now finishing college and entering the workforce. Gen Z employees will be “your resident tech experts,” according to a January Nintex report; “They know it, and so do their employers, who proactively adopt technology and tools suggested by Gen Z.”​

But recruiters need to acknowledge that maybe one size doesn’t fit all and have “very nimble solutions,” Wolckenhauer said. “Appealing to everyone is really becoming the complexity of attraction in today’s market.”

She explained that at ADP, when recruiters are seeking a tech-savvy candidate, the process often is very digital, perhaps even featuring a virtual or AI experience.

“I think we have to understand the expectations of the base … we’re trying to attract to our company,” she said. For example, one candidate might prefer to talk over the phone or in person. “I’m recruiting right now for one of our most senior positions, and we’re still going to dinner,” Wolckenhauer​ said.

Meanwhile, another candidate could want a “self-service” recruiting process that includes a virtual experience showing what work might look like at ADP, she said. “Your solutions have to fit both of those [methods], otherwise you’re not going to get the candidate. The competition is too high today.”

And sometimes, recruiters must strike a balance. With the emergence of ​hybrid jobs, many employers need candidates with a blend of technical and soft skills.

I asked Larry Clark, managing director of global learning solutions at Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning, how this changes the process. In these situations, Clark said recruiters need to think differently about “job fit.”

“The standard recruiting practice is to look at proven experience in similar roles and drill into past performance,” he said in an email. However, “recruiters need to look for someone who has a track record with some of the skills, an aptitude for the others, and a hunger to learn.”

Hybrid roles, like all roles, will change depending on business needs but “recruiters need to find those uncommon people who can take on a broad role, and the desire to grow as the role grows.” To that end, Clark predicted that there will be growth in the use of pre-employment assessments and other tools that allow employers to evaluate both current skills and learning agility.

Keep an eye on the fundamentals
Although it’s 2020 and the world is more digital that it has ever been, some things have stayed the same. The flying cars predicted in “The Jetsons” remain unrealized, and hiring professionals still have to keep the basics in mind.

“There are fundamentals of business that are never going to change,” Wolckenhauer ​said. “I don’t care if you’re a Baby Boomer or a Gen Zer. The way that the markets and economies work is not going to change in any foreseeable future.” She said it’s essential, for example, for a recruiter to know how the company they work at makes money as it is “critical for attracting and retaining the right person for that company.”

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“If you don’t understand how a company makes money, if you don’t understand how that translates into the dynamics of the market, you are no way going to be able to find me the right candidate,” she said. “It’s mandatory.”

Wolckenhauer explained that a recruiter or talent acquisition professional that is “really schooled in business” will be able to match the career growth expectations of the candidate, which will ultimately increase engagement, thus supporting the company’s needs.

And here’s another fundamental that likely won’t change: interpersonal communication.

According to that Nintex report, many Gen Zers want actual face time. “We found weekly, in-person check-ins to be the optimal cadence for both employee happiness and productivity,” the report said. As many companies continue to fine tune how to make a candidate’s experience positive throughout the hiring process, recruiters who stay in-the-know remain the best line of defense.

Source : https://www.hrdive.com/news/the-talent-textbook-its-a-candidates-world/571526/

The mindsets and practices of excellent CEOs

The CEO’s job is as difficult as it is important. Here is a guide to how the
A company has only one peerless role: chief executive officer. It’s the most powerful and sought-after title in business, more exciting, rewarding, and influential than any other. What the CEO controls—the company’s biggest moves—accounts for 45 percent of a company’s performance.1 Despite the luster of the role, serving as a CEO can be all-consuming, lonely, and stressful. Just three in five newly appointed CEOs live up to performance expectations in their first 18 months on the job.2 The high standards and broad expectations of directors, shareholders, customers, and employees create an environment of relentless scrutiny in which one move can dramatically make or derail an accomplished career.

For all the scrutiny of the CEO’s role, though, little is solidly understood about what CEOs really do to excel. McKinsey’s longtime leader, Marvin Bower, considered the CEO’s job so specialized that he felt executives could prepare for the post only by holding it. Many of the CEOs we’ve worked with have expressed similar views. In their experience, even asking other CEOs how to approach the job doesn’t help, because suggestions vary greatly once they go beyond high-level advice such as “set the strategy,” “shape the culture,” and “get the right team.” Perhaps that’s not surprising—industry contexts differ, as do leadership preferences—but it illustrates that fellow CEOs don’t necessarily make reliable guides.

To show which mindsets and practices are proven to make CEOs most effective, we studied performance data on thousands of CEOs and revisited our firsthand experience helping CEOs enhance their leadership approaches.

Nor has academic and other research on the CEO’s role done much to illuminate how CEOs think and what they do to excel. For example, recent studies that detail how CEOs spend their time don’t show the difference between a good use of time and a bad one. Academic research also demonstrates that traits such as drive, resilience, and risk tolerance make CEOs more successful. This insight is helpful during a search for a new CEO, but it’s hardly one that sitting CEOs can use to improve their performance. Other research has tended to produce such findings as the observation that leaders are effective in some situations and ineffective in others—interesting, but less than instructive.

With this article, we set out to show which mindsets and practices are proven to make CEOs most effective. It is the fruit of a long-running effort to study performance data on thousands of CEOs, revisit our firsthand experience helping CEOs enhance their leadership approaches, and extract a set of empirical, broadly applicable insights on how excellent CEOs think and act. We also offer a self-assessment guide to help CEOs (and CEO watchers, such as boards of directors) determine how closely they adhere to the mindsets and practices that are closely associated with superior CEO performance. Our hope is that all CEOs, new or long-tenured, can use these tools to better apply their scarce time and energy.

A model for CEO excellence
To answer the question, “What are the mindsets and practices of excellent CEOs?,” we started with the six main elements of the CEO’s job—elements touched on in virtually all literature about the role: setting the strategy, aligning the organization, leading the top team, working with the board, being the face of the company to external stakeholders, and managing one’s own time and energy. We then broke those down into 18 specific responsibilities that fall exclusively to the CEO. For example, setting a corporate strategy requires that the CEO make the final call on an overall vision, a set of strategic moves, and the allocation of capital.

Focusing on those 18 responsibilities, we conducted extensive research to determine what mindsets and practices distinguish excellent CEOs. We mined our proprietary database on CEO performance, which is the largest of its kind, containing 25 years’ worth of data on 7,800 CEOs from 3,500 public companies across 70 countries and 24 industries. We also drew on what we’ve learned from helping hundreds of CEOs to excel, from preparing for the job and transitioning into it, through navigating difficult decisions and moments of truth, to handing their responsibilities over to a successor.

The result of these efforts is a model for CEO excellence, which prescribes mindsets and practices that are especially likely to help CEOs succeed at their particular duties (Exhibit 1). What follows is a detailed look at these mindsets and practices. Although our findings are most relevant to CEOs of large public companies, owing to our research base, many will also apply to CEOs of other bodies, including private companies, public-sector organizations, and not-for-profit institutions.

Exhibit 1

It’s incumbent on the leader to set the direction for the company—to have a plan in the face of uncertainty. One way that CEOs try to reduce strategic uncertainty is to focus on options with the firmest business cases. Research shows, however, that this approach delivers another sort of outcome: the dreaded “hockey stick” effect, consisting of a projected dip in next year’s budget, followed by a promise of success, which never occurs. A more realistic approach recognizes that 10 percent of companies create 90 percent of the total economic profit (profit after subtracting the cost of capital), and that only one in 12 companies moves from being an average performer to a top-quintile performer over a ten-year period.3 The odds of making the jump from average to outstanding might be long, but CEOs can greatly increase the probability of beating those odds by adhering to these practices:

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The mindsets and practices of excellent CEOs
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Vision: Reframe what winning means. The CEO is the ultimate decision maker when it comes to setting a company’s vision (where do we want to be in five, ten, or 15 years?). Good CEOs do this by considering their mandate and expectations (from the board, investors, employees, and other stakeholders), the relative strengths and purpose of their company, a clear understanding of what enables the business to generate value, opportunities and trends in the marketplace, and their personal aspirations and values. The best go one step further and reframe the reference point for success. For example, instead of a manufacturer aspiring to be number one in the industry, the CEO can broaden the objective to be in the top quartile among all industrials. Such a reframing acknowledges that companies compete for talent, capital, and influence on a bigger stage than their industry. It casts key performance measures such as margin, cash flow, and organizational health in a different light, thereby cutting through the biases and social dynamics that can lead to complacency.

Strategy: Make bold moves early. According to McKinsey research, five bold strategic moves best correlate with success: resource reallocation; programmatic mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures; capital expenditure; productivity improvements; and differentiation improvements (the latter three measured relative to a company’s industry). To move “boldly” is to shift at least 30 percent more than the industry median. Making one or two bold moves more than doubles the likelihood of rising from the middle quintiles of economic profit to the top quintile, and making three or more bold moves makes such a rise six times more likely.4 Furthermore, CEOs who make these moves earlier in their tenure outperform those who move later, and those who do so multiple times in their tenure avoid an otherwise common decline in performance. Not surprisingly, data also show that externally hired CEOs are more likely to move with boldness and speed than those promoted from within an organization. CEOs who are promoted from internal roles should explicitly ask and answer the question, “What would an outsider do?” as they determine their strategic moves.

Resource allocation: Stay active. Resource reallocation isn’t just a bold strategic move on its own; it’s also an essential enabler of the other strategic moves. Companies that reallocate more than 50 percent of their capital expenditures among business units over ten years create 50 percent more value than companies that reallocate more slowly.5 The benefit of this approach might seem obvious, yet a third of companies reallocate a mere 1 percent of their capital from year to year. Furthermore, research using our CEO database found that the top decile of high performing CEOs are 35 percent more likely to dynamically reallocate capital than average performers. To ensure that resources are swiftly reallocated to where they will deliver the most value rather than spread thinly across businesses and operations, excellent CEOs institute an ongoing (not annual) stage-gate process. Such a process takes a granular view, makes comparisons using quantitative metrics, prompts when to stop funding and when to continue it, and is backed by the CEO’s personal resolve to continually optimize the company’s allocation of resources.

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Organizational alignment: Manage performance and health with equal rigor
Ask successful investors what they look for in portfolio companies, and many will tell you they’d rather put money on an average strategy in the hands of great talent than on a great strategy in the hands of average talent. The best CEOs put equal rigor and discipline into achieving greatness on both strategy and talent. And when it comes to putting great talent in place, almost half of senior leaders say that their biggest regret is taking too long to move lesser performers out of important roles, or out of the organization altogether. The reasons for this are both practical (good leaders provide the CEO with important leverage) and symbolic (CEOs who tolerate poor performance or bad behavior diminish their own influence). Many CEOs also say they regret leaving adequate performers in key positions and failing to realize the full potential of their roles. The best CEOs think systematically about their people: which roles they play, what they can achieve, and how the company should operate to increase people’s impact.

CEOs who insist on rigorously measuring and managing all cultural elements that drive performance more than double the odds that their strategies will be executed. And over the long term, they deliver triple the total return to shareholders that other companies deliver.

Talent: Match talent to value. Many CEOs have confided to us that they worry about asking the same few overstretched “usual suspects” to take extra assignments because they can’t trust the people who would otherwise perform them. The best CEOs take a methodical approach to matching talent with roles that create the most value. A crucial first step is discovering which roles matter most. Careful analysis typically produces findings that surprise even the savviest CEOs. Of the 50 most value-creating roles in any given organization, only 10 percent normally report to the CEO directly. Sixty percent are two levels below, and 20 percent sit farther down. Most surprising of all is that the remaining 10 percent are roles that don’t even exist.6 Once these roles are identified, the CEO can work with other executives to see that these roles are managed with increased rigor and are occupied by the right people. Robust talent pipelines can also be developed so that important roles remain well staffed. The best CEOs ensure that their own role is included so that the board has viable, well-prepared internal candidates to consider for succession.

Culture: Go beyond employee engagement. Vendors of workforce surveys like to say that employee engagement is the best measure of “soft stuff.” It’s not. While employee engagement indeed correlates with financial performance, a typical engagement survey covers less than 20 percent of the organizational-health elements that are proven to correlate with value creation. A proper assessment of organizational health takes in everything from alignment on direction and quality of execution to the ability to learn and adapt. In the largest research effort of its kind, McKinsey found that CEOs who insist on rigorously measuring and managing all cultural elements that drive performance more than double the odds that their strategies will be executed. And over the long term, they deliver triple the total return to shareholders that other companies deliver.7 Doing this well involves thoughtful approaches to role modeling, storytelling, aligning of formal reinforcements (such as incentives), and investing in skill building.

Organizational design: Combine speed with stability. “Agility” is one of most widely used and misunderstood management buzzwords of the past decade. For many leaders, agility evokes speed in decision making and execution, as opposed to the deliberate pace dictated by the stable, standardized routines of large organizations. The facts show that agility requires no such trade-off: on the contrary, companies that are both fast and stable are nearly three times more likely to rank in the top quartile of organizational health than companies that are fast but lack stable operating disciplines.8 Excellent CEOs increase their companies’ agility by determining which features of their organizational design will be stable and unchanging (such features might include a primary axis of organization, a few signature processes, and shared values) and by creating dynamic elements that adapt quickly to new challenges and opportunities (such elements might include temporary performance cells, flow-to-work staffing models, and minimum-viable-product iterations). A services company CEO, for example, better enabled her “one company” strategy by shifting the profit-and-loss axis from products to geographies, reorganizing the back office according to an agile flow-to-work model, and creating a new agile product development group.

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Excellent CEOs increase their companies’ agility by determining which features of their organization design will be stable and unchanging and by creating dynamic elements that adapt quickly to new challenges and opportunities.

Team and processes: Put dynamics ahead of mechanics
The dynamics of a top team can strongly influence a company’s success. Yet more than half of senior executives report that the top team is underperforming. The CEO is often out of touch with this reality: on average, less than one-third of CEOs report problems with their teams.9 The efficiency and effectiveness of a company’s core management processes also can change a company’s fortunes, yet less than a third of employees report that their company’s management processes support the achievement of business objectives.10 Why the disconnect? The problem is not an intellectual one, but a social one: individual and institutional biases and clunky group dynamics can diminish with the effectiveness of the team and its processes. Excellent CEOs acknowledge this reality and counteract it in several ways.

Teamwork: Show resolve. The best CEOs take special care to ensure their management team performs strongly as a unit. The reward for doing so is real: top teams that work together toward a common vision are 1.9 times more likely to deliver above-median financial performance.11 In practice, CEOs swiftly adjust the team’s composition (size, diversity, and capability), which can involve hard calls on removing likeable low performers and disagreeable high performers and on elevating people with high potential. CEOs should also calibrate individual relationships, maintaining the distance to be objective but enough closeness to gain trust and loyalty. Further, they commit to making the team productive by regularly taking stock of and improving its operating rhythm, meeting protocols, interaction quality, and dynamics. They also firmly prohibit members from putting their interests ahead of the company’s needs, holding discussions that consist of “theater” rather than “substance,” “having the meeting outside the room,” backsliding on decisions, or showing disrespect for one another.

Top teams that work together toward a common vision are 1.9 times more likely to deliver above-median financial performance.

Decision making: Defend against biases. Cognitive and organizational biases worsen everyone’s judgment. Such biases contribute to many common performance shortfalls, such as the significant cost overruns that affect 90 percent of capital projects.12 We also know that biases cannot be unlearned. Even behavioral economist Dan Ariely, one of the foremost authorities on cognitive biases, admits, “I was just as bad myself at making decisions as everyone else I write about.”13 Nevertheless, CEOs sometimes feel as though they’re immune to bias (after all, they might ask, hasn’t good judgment gotten them where they are?). Excellent CEOs endeavor to minimize the effect of biases by instituting such processes as preemptively solving for failure modes (premortems), formally appointing a contrarian (red team), disregarding past information (clean sheet), and taking plan A off the table (vanishing options).14 They also ensure they have a diverse team, which has been shown to improve decision-making quality.15
Management processes: Ensure coherence. The CEO typically delegates management processes to other executives: the CFO looks after budgeting and sometimes strategy as well; the chief human resources officer (CHRO) looks after talent management and workforce planning; the CIO looks after technology investment; and so on. However, sensible individual processes can cohere into a clumsy system that results in more confusion and wasted effort than accountability and value. Managers pushed to agree to stretch targets find at year’s end that they are being held accountable for full delivery; sandbagging ensues. Long-term strategies are set, yet talent promotions are based on near-term results. Urgent product ideas are approved, only to get bogged down in long technology queues and one-size-fits-all risk-management processes. Excellent CEOs don’t allow one management process to foil another. They require executives to coordinate their decision making and resource assignments to ensure that management processes reinforce priorities and work together to propel execution and continual refinement of the strategy.

Board engagement: Help directors help the business
The board’s mission on behalf of shareholders is to oversee and guide management’s efforts to create long-term value. Research shows that sound corporate governance practices are linked with better performance, including higher market valuations.16 An effective board can also repel activist investors. Despite these upsides, many CEOs regard their companies’ boards in the way one CEO described his company’s board to us: as a “necessary evil.” The chairperson leads the board, and even in cases where that role is held by the CEO (as is common in North American companies), the board’s independence is essential. Nevertheless, excellent CEOs can take useful steps to boost the quality of the board’s advice to management such as the following:

Effectiveness: Promote a forward-looking agenda. To get the most from their time with the board, excellent CEOs collaborate with board chairs on developing a forward-looking board agenda. Such an agenda calls for the board to go beyond its traditional fiduciary responsibilities (legal, regulatory, audit, compliance, risk, and performance reporting) and provide input on a broad range of topics, such as strategy, M&A, technology, culture, talent, resilience, and external communications. Board members’ outside views on these topics can help management without compromising executives’ authority. In addition, the CEO should make sure that the board and management take up related activities, such as reviewing talent and refreshing the strategy, at the same times of year.

Excellent CEOs promote a board agenda that goes beyond traditional responsibilities to cover a broad range of topics, such as strategy, technology, talent, and resilience.

Relationships: Think beyond the meeting. Excellent CEOs develop and maintain a strong relationship with the chair (or lead independent director) and hold purposeful meetings with individual board members. Establishing good relationships and a tone of transparency early on enables the CEO to build trust and to clearly delineate responsibilities between management and the board. Building relationships with individual board members positions the CEO to benefit from their perspectives and abilities, and privately discuss topics that may be difficult for the larger group to address. Excellent CEOs also promote connections and collaboration between the board and top executives, which keeps the board informed about the business and engaged in supporting its priorities.

Capabilities: Seek balance and development. Excellent CEOs also help their boards help the business by providing input on the board’s composition. For example, the CEO might suggest that certain types of expertise or experience—be they related to industries, functions, geographies, growth phases, or demographics—would enable the board to better assess and support the business. CEOs can also help improve the board’s effectiveness by ensuring that new members complete a thorough onboarding program and creating opportunities for the board to learn about topics like changing technology, emerging risks, rising competitors, and shifting macroeconomic scenarios. First-time board members usually benefit from a structured introduction to what it means to be an effective board member.

External stakeholders: Center on the long-term ‘Why?’
Every CEO should know their company’s mission and values. Good CEOs know that these statements need to amount to more than slogans for office posters and use them to influence decision making and day-to-day behaviors. Excellent CEOs go further: they reinforce and act on a corporate purpose (the “Why?”) that involves not just making money but also benefiting society. This posture, along with a granular approach to prioritizing stakeholder interactions and a sound corporate resilience plan, lets CEOs minimize the company’s exposure to customer- and stakeholder-related risks, and capitalize on new opportunities.

Good CEOs ensure that their companies have an effective risk operating model, governance structure, and risk culture. Great CEOs and their boards also anticipate major shocks, macroeconomic events, and other potential crises.

Social purpose: Look at the big picture. Many corporate social responsibility programs are little more than public-relations exercises: collections of charitable initiatives that generate good feelings but have minimal lasting influence on society’s well-being. Excellent CEOs spend time thinking about, articulating, and championing the purpose of their company as it relates to the big-picture impact of day-to-day business practices. They push for meaningful efforts to create jobs, abide by ethical labor practices, improve customers’ lives, and lessen the environmental harm caused by operations. Visible results matter to stakeholders; for example, 87 percent of customers say that they will purchase from companies that support issues they care about, 94 percent of millennials say that they want to use their skills to benefit a cause, and sustainable investing has grown 18-fold since 1995.17 And not demonstrating such results isn’t an option—wise CEOs know they will be held to account for fulfilling their promises.

Interactions: Prioritize and shape. Excellent CEOs systematically prioritize, proactively schedule, and use interactions with their companies’ important external stakeholders to motivate action. CEOs of B2B companies typically focus on their highest-value and largest potential customers. CEOs of B2C companies often like to make unannounced visits to stores and other frontline operations to better understand the customer experience that the business provides. They also spend time with their companies’ 15 or 20 most important “intrinsic” investors (those who are most knowledgeable and engaged) and assign the rest to the CFO and the investor-relations department. Other stakeholder groups (such as regulators, politicians, advocacy groups, and community organizations) also will require a portion of the CEO’s time. The efficacy of these interactions isn’t left to chance. Excellent CEOs know what they want to accomplish, prepare well, communicate audience-tailored messages (always centered on their company’s “Why?”), listen intently, and seek win–win solutions where possible.

What makes a CEO ‘exceptional’?
Read the article
Moments of truth: Build resilience ahead of a crisis. Good CEOs ensure that their companies have an effective risk operating model, governance structure, and risk culture. Great CEOs and their boards also anticipate major shocks, macroeconomic events, and other potential crises. There’s good reason to do this: headlines that carried the word “crisis” alongside the names of 100 top companies appeared 80 percent more often from 2010 to 2017 than they did in the previous decade. Excellent CEOs recognize that most crises follow predictable patterns even though each one feels unique. With that in mind, they prepare a crisis-response playbook that sets out leadership roles, war-room configuration, resilience tests, action plans, and communications approaches. They seek opportunities to go on the offensive, to the extent they can.18 And they know that stakeholders’ anger will likely center on them, in ways that can affect their family and friends, and accordingly develop a personal resilience plan.

Personal working norms: Do what only you can do
CEOs can easily become overwhelmed, which is understandable given the sheer breadth of their role. As the dean of Harvard Business School, Nitin Nohria, has said, “CEOs are accountable for all the work of their organizations. Their life is endless meetings and a barrage of email.”19 Plenty of research also suggests that many CEOs are beset by loneliness, frustration, disappointment, irritation, and exhaustion. While no CEO can escape these emotions completely, excellent CEOs know that they will serve the company better by taking command of their well-being in these ways:

Office: Manage time and energy. The most successful CEOs quickly establish an office (often including one or two highly skilled executive assistants and a chief of staff) that makes their priorities explicit and helps them spend their scarce time doing work that only CEOs can do. For example, a CEO’s office should carefully plot all aspects of the CEO’s meetings: agenda, attendees, preparation (including “alone time” for the CEO to reflect and get ready), logistics, expected outcomes, and follow-up. CEOs should limit their involvement in tasks that can be dealt with by others and reserve time to deal with unexpected developments. The best CEOs also teach their office staffs to help manage the CEO’s energy as thoughtfully as their time, sequencing activities to prevent “energy troughs” and scheduling intervals for recovery practices (for example, time with family and friends, exercise, reading, and spirituality). Doing so ensures that CEOs set a pace they can sustain for a marathon-length effort, rather than burn out by sprinting over and over.

Leadership model: Choose authenticity. Exemplary CEOs combine the reality of what they ought to do in the role with who they are as human beings. They deliberately choose how to behave in the role, based on such questions as: What legacy do I want to leave? What do I want others to say about me as a leader? What do I stand for? What won’t I tolerate? CEOs answer these questions according to their strengths and motivations, as well as the company’s needs, and create mechanisms to track how they are doing. Further, by expressing these intentions as part of the rationale for their decisions and actions, CEOs can minimize the risk of unintended interpretations being amplified in unhelpful ways. The importance of this can’t be underestimated. As a consumer goods CEO told us, “You are speaking through an extraordinary amplification system. The slightest thing you do or say is picked up on by everyone in the system and, by and large, acted on.”

Perspective: Guard against hubris. It’s easy for CEOs to become overconfident. While they must push ahead in spite of naysayers at times, they can also tune out critics once they learn to trust their own instincts. Their conviction can increase because subordinates tend to say only what bosses want to hear. Before long, CEOs forget how to say “I don’t know,” cease asking for help or feedback, and dismiss all criticism. Excellent CEOs form a small group of trusted colleagues to provide discreet, unfiltered advice—including the kind that hasn’t been asked for but is important to hear. They also stay in touch with how the work really gets done in the organization by getting out of boardrooms, conference centers, and corporate jets to spend time with rank-and-file employees. This is not only grounding for the CEO, but also motivating for all involved. Finally, excellent CEOs keep their role in perspective by reminding themselves it is temporary and does not define or limit their self-worth and importance in the world. Whereas Steve Jobs advised college graduates, “Stay hungry, stay foolish,” we urge CEOs to “Stay hungry, stay humble.”

Excellent CEOs form a small group of trusted colleagues to provide discreet, unfiltered advice—including the kind that hasn’t been asked for but is important to hear.

Gauging CEO excellence
CEOs have many ways to gauge how well they are doing in their role. A criterion used in virtually every “best CEO” ranking for public companies is how much value a CEO’s company creates. Value creation makes it possible to sustain the pursuit of other goals. But financial measures of CEO excellence have a serious shortcoming: they are heavily influenced by factors outside the CEO’s control. For example, the “endowment” a CEO inherits (for example, the company’s revenue base, debt levels, and past investments in R&D) accounts for 30 percent of what enables a company to move from average to the top quintile of economic profit. Industry and geographic trends account for 25 percent.20
The remaining 45 percent that the CEO can control is what we’ve endeavored to illuminate in our model of CEO excellence. The gap between excellent CEOs and lesser ones is wide, as many directors know firsthand (analysis of our CEO database shows that 30 percent of top-performing CEOs take over from bottom-performing ones and 23 percent of bottom-performing CEOs take over from top performers). One thing to keep in mind: we are not suggesting that an excellent CEO is one who excels at every one of their 18 unique responsibilities. In fact, we’ve yet to meet one who does. Rather, we’ve observed that the best CEOs are ordinarily excellent in a few areas, able in all others, and challenged in none. The more areas a CEO excels in, the better their results tend to be.

What’s more, the emphasis that CEOs should place on individual responsibilities will change over time. Time spent setting the corporate strategy early in a CEO’s tenure will normally give way to fine-tuning and driving execution, and then to highlighting tangible results that build credibility with stakeholders. At some point, however, it becomes important to look at the company with fresh eyes and to decide on the next set of bold moves, realign the organization, refresh the team and processes, and so on.

S0urce : https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/strategy-and-corporate-finance/our-insights/the-mindsets-and-practices-of-excellent-ceos

Making the leadership leap

How can organisations make sure that leadership transitions – both within and from outside the company – are successful?

If anyone can appreciate the need for a successful leadership transition it’s the British electorate. With the dust settling on a third election in four years it’s hard to imagine how any organisation could survive such a tumultuous time.

Thankfully, leadership transitions in the corporate world are much more controlled events that happen across various levels of the business, with the new year especially seeing many leaders step into new positions or organisations.

When done right a smooth transition can help to propel both the leader and the organisation to further success. However, the reality is they often fail.

The reasons behind a failed transition will depend on the type of transition it is, explains Michael Watkins, co-founder of leadership development consultancy Genesis Advisers and professor of leadership and organisational change at the IMD business school in Switzerland.

He cites eight common transitions most leaders will encounter in their working lives: promotions, leading former peers, corporate diplomacy, onboarding, international moves, turnaround, realignment and business portfolio.

In the case of onboarding transitions – where the leader is not making an internal move – Watkins says the difficulty lies in the fact that organisations can act much like an immune system.

“The culture is the organisation’s immune system and sometimes when new leaders come in they behave in ways that are not viewed as acceptable in the culture… and a reaction begins to take place,” he says. This tends to happen when leaders move too fast or don’t take time to build alliances with key stakeholders, he adds.

Modelling poor leadership behaviour is another surefire way to cause a transition to fail, says Jonathan Endean, head of learning and organisational development at Pay.UK.

“Poor leadership behaviour at the top gets modelled through the ranks, and where you don’t have a development programme in place the problem becomes systemic,” says Endean.

Leaders often find transitions quite uncomfortable, according to Alison Maitland, director of research and product at Lane4. The challenge is that leadership transitions are essentially identity transitions, she says.

“Leaders need to have a bigger perspective where they understand their own purpose as well as the organisation’s. You need an interconnected world view,” says Maitland.

“As you become a strategic leader there comes a change in identity. That is sometimes the hardest thing for leaders to shift.”

And when leadership transitions fail it can have significant ramifications on the organisation. Research from McKinsey cites a 15% reduction in performance where leadership transitions are unsuccessful.

With so much at stake what can HR do to ensure successful leadership transitions, and what role does the function play?

Watkins asserts that whether a transition is a success or not ultimately rests with the individual. But that’s not to say that HR can’t and shouldn’t take a proactive role.

HR should assess the risk and support leaders accordingly, says Watkins. The bigger the transition, the bigger the risks associated with it.

“If you’ve got someone who’s relatively young and taking on a substantial role maybe that’s someone you want to get some transition coaching for,” advises Watkins. “Whereas for someone who’s making an incremental move to another department it may not be needed.”

Maitland agrees that coaching support is where HR can be most useful, pointing to Lane4’s research that found coaching was seen as the most important tool for leaders moving into new roles, particularly when those roles require skills the leader may not have developed yet, like adaptability.

“HR teams can help people be better educated about their strengths, weaknesses and derailers,” she says. “We often think [adaptability] is a fixed trait and that you can’t learn it, but with coaching you can.”

The importance of high-quality leadership development programmes comes into play here, feels Endean. “You’re focusing on communication styles and the ability to influence from the outset of someone’s career, and that [in turn] feeds into later successful leadership transitions,” he says.

Line managers of newly-transitioned leaders can also play a coaching role, which means HR supporting managers in supporting their teams.

“HR should be training people in what coaching conversations and coaching approaches are,” says Kate Cooper, head of research, policy and standards at the Institute of Leadership and Management. But Maitland points out that such direct support can be harder to find for more senior leaders.

“If you’re a strategic leader and you’re working with the CEO you’re not going to get much of their time,” she remarks. “That’s why HR needs to work with leaders before they even transition.”

Watkins agrees that HR shouldn’t wait until a leadership transition has happened to put in place support and development opportunities. He suggests HR in many large organisations can prepare for the annual promotion cycle by provoking introspection among leaders likely to transition.

Giving the example of a survey he did with managing directors who had been promoted the previous year, Watkins explains that leaders should be prepared for the changes that come with a new leadership role.

“In some ways it was just the title that changed but, for many, all of a sudden their visibility went up substantially and they were expected to be a firm-wide player,” he says.

This increased visibility is accompanied by more scrutiny, which leaders are often ill-prepared to cope with, adds Cooper.

For her it all comes back to HR creating a space where leaders can think about how they will navigate the various challenges they will face as they transition into their new role.

“We’re watched all the time to see if we walk the talk, but rarely are we asked to sit down and think about how we are going to inspire, behave, and manage upwards as well as downwards.

“The starting point for any successful transition is self-awareness.”

Source : https://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/article-details/making-the-leadership-leap

How Companies Can Make The Workplace Better

The workforce is changing, and with that, the workplace needs to change as well. It’s not about creating a workplace that works for Millennials and Gen Z, it’s about creating a workplace that works for everyone across all generations.

How can you create a better workplace? It starts with getting buy-in from people at all levels of the organization, from executive leadership to management to each and every employee. From there, it takes work to build and shape the workplace culture. Here’s how to get started:

Promote understanding.

One of the biggest issues in today’s multi-generational workplace is conflict. Conflict arises when people don’t understand each other. This is why gender, racial, and generational issues are still common in today’s workplace. It’s easier to see differences rather than similarities, but that doesn’t mean that the similarities aren’t there. It just takes a bit of work to find them.

Create opportunities for people to connect and get to know each other. That can come in the form of employee resource groups, after work activities, or simply putting people together in groups that are different than the ones they usually work in. The more opportunities people have to connect with a diverse group of people, the more likely it will be that they start interacting with each other and finding natural opportunities to find common ground.

Today In: Leadership
Have tough conversations.

You can’t shy away from talking about the big issues. Find out what the most pressing issues are in your workplace and talk about them. If you see discrimination, harassment, or any other inappropriate behavior, don’t stay quiet. If you’re in a leadership position, you have the power to address these issues head on. If you’re an employee or not in an authority position, bring the issue to your manager so they can deal with it. Silence will only ensure that the bad behavior continues, or worse, escalates.

One on one conversations are effective for individual issues, but to really drive progress and address things that are widespread, get everyone involved. Hold a town hall meeting to address major issues and allow ample time for people to ask questions and participate in the discussion. Open it up to be a safe space where people can feel free to speak their mind and ask questions they might otherwise feel uncomfortable asking.

Make it truly inclusive.

An inclusive workplace doesn’t mean that you have simply checked off the boxes on your diversity hiring checklist. It means creating a space where people truly feel comfortable at work. Make sure that you’re catering to the needs of your team. Not sure what they want or need? Ask them.

Give everyone a voice.

All employees, regardless of their position or role, should be able to contribute and share their ideas. Encourage employees to share their ideas and give them a way to do so. You can create a suggestion box and put it in the lunch room, hold ‘open house’ hours where employees can drop in and share their ideas in person, or create an email address used specifically for people to send their ideas.

Improving the workplace can only happen when companies and leaders understand what it is that they need to change. It starts at the top with senior leadership but it’s up to everyone in the workplace to continue to drive that change. It’s time start taking action, rather than just having conversations.

Source : forbes.com/sites/ashiraprossack1/2020/01/31/how-companies-can-make-the-workplace-better/?ss=leadership-strategy#5fd485201aa0

How to get onboarding right

The first few weeks can make or break a new employee’s career with you – but not all organisations pay enough attention to this critical period

It’s day one of your new job. It’s a role you were super excited about landing, and you’re keen to make a good first impression on your new boss and colleagues. But on top of the usual day-one jitters – and the disorientation of acquainting yourself with new equipment and processes, and a perhaps labyrinthine building – another concern is becoming increasingly urgent… Not only are you starving, as no one has told you where to get food – they’ve also not bothered to give you directions to the loo.

Unfortunately this was the very real experience of one new starter, whose anecdote was included in a survey by software provider Webonboarding. It was by no means the only onboarding horror story shared. Others detail an onboardee being given a full body physical (including an internal examination) in a case of mistaken identity, another being sent back and forth between various far-apart buildings for the first few hours before they found their team, and another being invited for a coffee by a colleague, only to then be fired for leaving their desk.

Clearly, many organisations still get this vital part of the employee experience drastically wrong (see our reader horror stories on p49). Nearly four out of 10 employees surveyed by Webonboarding said they had encountered problems during this process.

Jon Ingham, HR and organisation development consultant at Strategic Dynamics Consultancy Services, says HR teams can often be seduced into thinking onboarding is basic stuff and so neglect carefully considering how to get it right. “It’s not rocket science but it can be tricky, and I don’t think HR spends enough time working out what really good onboarding looks like, rather than simply dealing with the basics,” he says.

This will be to an organisation’s detriment, he warns, with this vital first impression potentially going on to colour someone’s entire time with a company. “They will frame all other experiences going forwards in the light of that first day. They are much more likely to focus on the ongoing negative experience than the positive,” he says.

Or they could of course decide to leave altogether, with this not only a serious waste of recruitment costs, but something that can undermine team morale and managers’ confidence too. Failed onboarding can “hugely hurt a manager’s pride if they see it as a [personal] failure”, says Ellie Brown, head of people operations for Oodle Finance.

Then there’s the added imperative of getting people up to speed as quickly as possible, given the growing number of organisations and individuals deciding to go down the ‘gig’ working route. If someone is only going to be with a company for a few months, say, waiting several weeks for the right support could deal even more of a devastating blow to their overall productivity.

Yet, as Ingham eludes to, onboarding doesn’t have to be complicated. David D’Souza, membership director at the CIPD, says it can actually be “dead simple”, and ultimately just entails “one human thinking for five minutes about what another might need to feel settled in an organisation”.

Experts stress there is no exhaustive, tick-box list for getting onboarding right, with this very much individual and context-dependent. But there are some simple tips and common pitfalls HR practitioners should consider.

Get joined up
Successful onboarding starts with knowing who the stakeholders are in the process. HR and talent acquisition specialist Mervyn Dinnen says organisations often get onboarding wrong because of poor communication between different departments within HR. Describing the process as a relay race, he explains the baton is often “dropped” when recruitment hands a candidate over.

“There’s a question over ownership and who has responsibility, as often the hiring manager will assume HR and recruitment have it figured out. It is important that all stakeholders, such as recruitment, talent acquisition, HR, L&D teams and the hiring manager, are aligned,” he says.

D’Souza agrees that a lack of clear ownership can lead to a disjointed employee experience. “We still trip up on the basics all too often. Sometimes that is [down to] not working effectively with other departments across the organisation, and sometimes it’s identifying the process, but not thinking about the experience people go through,” he says.

Plan start dates carefully
Planning ahead to ensure everything is in place on day one is critical, experts agree. Onboarding works best when people quickly feel busy and useful within their new organisation, but that can only be achieved where they’re given ample guidance from line managers. A classic mistake, according to D’Souza, is existing staff being too busy to lend new starters their support and time. “You finally have a resource but people treat them like an inconvenience, and eventually they start to feel like one,” he warns.

D’Souza highlights some classic mistakes, including someone’s start date clashing with their line manager’s annual leave, equipment and system logins not being ready, and starting someone in the middle of a big project when no one has time to get them up to speed.

Ingham says there are no excuses for leaving new employees without the proper equipment to do their job. “In this day and age if people are turning up and finding they have no desk or IT equipment, no one is there to greet them or their manager is on a business trip, that is simply unforgivable,” he says.

Start things off before day one
If onboarding starts on the employee’s first day, then it is already too late. For those who commit the common blunder of resting on their laurels after the job offer is made, the horrors of ‘ghosting’ potentially await – a phenomenon involving a candidate who accepts an offer but never shows up. (The phrase derives from that coined to describe the internet dating scenario of someone suddenly ending a relationship and, without warning, stopping all communication.)

“Ghosting should reinforce the need to get onboarding right. The deal is not done until they show up, so you’ve got to stay connected with candidates,” confirms Gary Cookson, director of EPIC HR.

Ken Brotherston, managing director and founder of TALiNT Partners, says candidates often get caught up in the “euphoria” of a job offer and so forget to ask important questions at this point. So HR needs to make clear the communication channels are open for prospective employees to get in touch as and when questions spring to mind.

“No matter how senior you are, changing jobs is an emotional experience and having someone communicate with you regularly before you join makes a huge difference, and reinforces why you took the job,” says Brotherston. “There are multiple channels of communication open to employers to stay in contact.”

It shouldn’t, however, be just HR leading this pre-onboarding communication. HR tasks, such as DBS and right to work in the UK checks, can often “turn people off” instead of making them feel welcome, Cookson warns. So it’s important that less formal, more personalised and sociable contact from line managers balances this out. “Where onboarding is successful is despite the things HR does, and not because of them. It is because of what line managers and the team do,” he says.

Don’t overdo it
But Dinnen warns that if there are several stakeholders in the process (especially external recruiters) then the old adage ‘too many cooks’ could ring true. “If a new employee is contacted every day it will be overkill. Regular communication should only happen in the first few days, then it needs to scale back to weekly check-ins,” he says.

Similarly, Ingham warns businesses trying to make employees fully productive from day one risk asking too much of their new employees. “Some organisations are seeing this trend [of early onboarding] simply as an opportunity to save costs, get ahead of the game and get the employee’s value quicker,” he explains.

This is also a danger in pre-onboarding, he says, where an organisation is so determined for a new employee to hit the ground running as soon as they arrive, they bombard them with information and requests to meet and attend events before their start date. “That is the wrong way of seeing it, but there is an opportunity to use that pre-onboarding process as a way of motivating, engaging and connecting individuals,” says Ingham.

Give a warm welcome on day one
There isn’t a silver bullet with onboarding, according to Brotherston, but a positive business culture supported by the right processes and tools should lay the foundations. He says day one should consist of “rudimentary stuff” such as a tour of the building and its facilities (the canteen and – crucially – toilets), information on what to wear, getting someone set up with system logins, time with their line manager and introductions to their team. “You should involve people in the rituals and routines of the workplace as quickly as possible too,” he adds. “Whether that’s a get-together or people being part of the birthday collection.”

Brown agrees that day one is about creating an “amazing first impression and covering the basics”. “From there it’s all about regular communication with your manager and making sure your expectations are clear on both sides so they can be met and hopefully exceeded,” she says.

Review performance regularly
Brotherston says getting a new employee up to speed and settled during the first few months can be done in a number of ways, such as by putting them on an induction programme that gives them ample opportunities to meet key people and understand how the business operates.

This part of the onboarding process should be structured like a performance management review, with regular meetings between a new starter and their manager, says Dinnen. “There has to be regular check-ins,” he says. “There is no point starting someone and the first time they have a review with their line manager is at their probation meeting.”

A successful onboarding experience, he reiterates, makes employees feel supported from the moment they accept an offer until their probation review. And, of course, beyond.

Your real life onboarding horror stories
“Who is this guy?”
Will, 29, chef de partie

I turned up for my first day as a sous chef at a restaurant in Peterborough. A couple of hours into my shift, the area manager turned up and gestured towards me, saying: “Who the f*** is this guy?”

I tried to introduce myself but he completely ignored me, wouldn’t shake my hand and then spent two hours calling various people to find out why I was there, who gave me the job, etc.

He then asked all my coworkers why I was there, but did not once look directly at me. Finally, he decided my presence was legitimate and offered me his hand – he had a stupidly strong handshake. I didn’t go back for day two.

“Just run with it; see how you get on…”
Laura, 26, marketing executive

Fifteen minutes into my first day, my line manager told me she had handed her notice in because she wasn’t given the promotion she wanted. They hadn’t started hiring a replacement, and her boss was going on maternity leave within six months.

I had no fixed senior management to report to and ended up having five line managers in the space of just over a year. This wasn’t ideal as the structure of the business was strange and I needed someone to walk me through the different divisions. Instead I was given a handover spreadsheet and essentially told to ‘run with it and see how you do’. I left after 13 months.

“You’re not the right fit”
George, 44, HR consultancy director

After accepting a new position I went on a company away day before my official start date to meet my new team, and enjoyed getting to know them all. 
But a week before my start date, while on holiday with my family, I received a call from my new boss. She told me: “I’m just not sure you’re the right fit for this role. I saw the way you interacted with people at the away day, and I’ve heard things you’ve said about what you’ll do in this role and I just don’t think you’re right.”

When I asked: “How do you think I will feel on Monday when I turn up?” she replied: “That’s down to you.”

“How long have you worked here?”
Matthew, 30, events and promotions manager

I had a somewhat chaotic start when I took a job in the care sector. On my first day the Care Quality Commission (CQC) arrived for an unannounced inspection and so my induction turned into an interrogation, as I was included in the investigation with no support or guidance from my new managers.

The CQC inspector got angry when I couldn’t answer any questions and asked: “How long have you been here?” I told her: “An hour and 20 minutes.”

At no point did senior management explain to the CQC I was new and couldn’t tell them anything about a single resident or how the home was run.

“What’s that awful smell?”
Lolly, 23, sales assistant

On my first day as a jewellery sales assistant, my co-worker and I were told the previous members of staff were suspected of shoplifting. We assumed they had already been fired but they were still working.

We worked two very uncomfortable shifts with the previous employees, who were understandably disgruntled. A week after they were fired the sales counter began to smell extremely bad and we spent months trying to figure out the source of the stench. We eventually found a nook in the back of a cupboard containing a plastic bag full of rotting fish guts.

Source : https://www.peoplemanagement.co.uk/long-reads/articles/how-get-onboarding-right

Need to Engage Employees? Start with Yourself

The responsibility of full engagement does not fall solely on employees. An employee may be engaged in one organization or department and disengaged in another environment. Or, the employee may start off engaged and then slowly move into the disengaged, or transactional, category. Managers often hold the keys to whether employees are engaged or transactional because employees’ level of engagement often depends on the manager’s.

The transactional manager reduces the employer-employee relationship to a simple exchange: “I do my job. You pay me.”

The problem is revealed through the self-centered emphasis in the statement “I do my job.” Without understanding how his performance affects others, the transactional manager goes through the motions, doing what is minimally required to collect the paycheck. The transactional manager is territorial, reminding everyone what his job is and, more important, what it isn’t. He resists accountability by throwing blame to others. He will point out others’ mistakes to make himself look better. When a transactional manager says, “I’m sorry,” he undermines the apology by adding the word “but …”

By contrast, an engaged manager is “you-focused.” He will speak and act in ways that suggest employees’ success or failure is his success or failure. It’s the way a lawyer represents her client as if the lawyer’s freedom is on the line or the way a financial advisor gives advice as if his money is at risk.

Engaged managers ask, “What are your goals, needs and priorities? What problems can I help solve? How can I best use my skills to help you? Where can I add value?”

If you need to move your employees from transactional to engaged, start with yourself. Five keys separate an engaged manager from a transactional one.

Steps to Engagement

Why, not how. Transactional managers tell employees what to do and how to do it. Engaged managers focus on why and trust employees with what needs to be done and how to do it. Engaged managers create a big-picture context for work responsibilities. They convey why the employee’s work is important to the company. When that message is received, the employee believes and performs as if the work is worth more than a paycheck. It becomes a mission rather than a job.

Open information flow. Many managers take a transactional approach to providing information, taking the attitude “I’ll tell them what they need to know when they need to know it.” Translation for employees? “Our manager tells us the minimum amount of information necessary because he doesn’t trust us.”

Transactional managers usually don’t seek information from employees, either. In both directions, information flows in a trickle.

Engaged managers know that an open information flow helps employees do their jobs effectively and adds to their sense of belonging. And, engaged managers use information from employees to inform how they do their jobs.

When appropriate, engaged managers use a consultative decision-making approach. The manager asks the employee what he or she would do. If the recommendation is adopted, the manager gives credit. If not, the manager explains why and thanks the employee for the suggestion. “Although you suggested ‘A,’ I’m going with ‘B’ because …. However, your idea was helpful in my thinking.”

Direct recognition. Transactional managers are I-centered. Common sentiments include “My bosses never praised me, so why should I praise my employees? I knew I was doing my job well because I still had one. Your recognition is your paycheck.”

Engaged managers have wisely learned that giving direct recognition of a behavior worth repeating tends to increase the likelihood of such behavior.

Direct recognition is when the supervisor communicates directly to the employee, pointing out a behavior, acknowledging its value and thanking the employee.

Forward-focused. Engaged managers look forward. Instead of looking at who’s to blame, they ask what can be learned from mistakes and how to improve.

Engaged managers give “forward feedback.” They use the past as a springboard. These coaches dispense advice to maximize opportunities for employees.

Discipline and discharge. Transactional managers deal with transactional employees in a vacuum, not comprehending how their behavior affects overall productivity. The truth is, your workforce will never meet its engaged potential unless you’re willing to get rid of your transactional employees.

It comes down to the right fit. If you follow the first four keys and the employee is still mired in transactional behavior, he is miserable. Termination is not so much a “firing” as mutual recognition that the employer and employee will be better off once the latter transitions to employment that better suits him.


Practicing the keys of engagement will turn you into an engaged manager of an engaged workforce. Engaged employees will become more highly engaged under your transformation. Transactional employees willing to transform will move into the engaged category. The rest will either transition to employment better suited for them or drag down someone else’s workforce.

Source : https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/people-managers/pages/need-to-engage-employees-start-with-yourself.aspx