Training Managers in “Situational Doing” Can Pay Big Dividends

In our last blog post, “Is There a Missing Piece in Your Leadership Development Program?,” we explained why more managers today are expected to continue to do a significant amount of professional work themselves while also managing their team. And we made the point that many of the hands-on managers we coach and train across a multitude of industries tell us they are frustrated with current leadership training, because the context of the training assumes that they should let go of the work they used to do and delegate. If they still spend time doing work themselves, they are accused of being unable to let go, of being poor delegators, or worse, of being ineffective managers.

What can we, as L&D professionals, do to help these hands-on managers master strategies that will enable them to do and delegate work in ways that further their leadership agenda and develop the capabilities and capacity their organization needs?

In our book, Becoming a Can-Do Leader: A Guide for the Busy Manager, we note that a very useful addition to traditional leadership programs is providing training in “situational doing,” which means helping managers who have responsibilities for both doing and leading learn how to use situationally appropriate strategies to address the following issues and concerns:

Caught in the Delegation Conundrum: Managers who are responsible for both leading and doing are often not sure when it is situationally appropriate to do work themselves instead of delegating. Does your leadership training provide managers with strategies for determining when it is best to delegate and when it makes sense for these managers to do work themselves in ways that will leverage their skills and provide on-the-job opportunities for developing their team? Hands-on managers often need what we call a “sit-do protocol” to help them make these decisions.

Too much on your plate having to be both a leader and a doer: Does your training help your managers learn how to engage in activities in ways that offer the promise of simultaneously achieving more than one desired objective? We ask hands-on managers to try a technique we call multi-impacting to help them discover creative ways to advance their leadership agenda when they are doing professional work with their team.

Not sure what to focus on when leading and doing? Do your managers know how to consider the task, people, and learning (TP&L) issues that might need to be addressed while they are engaged in situational doing? When managers are trained to take what we call a “power pause” and use the Think TP&L mantra, learning is moved to the forefront of their thinking.

Need a good strategy for encouraging on-the-job learning when working alongside the team? The secret to eliciting truly effective continuous improvement is making sure your managers know how to unleash their team members’ can-do spirit for learning. Do your managers know how to identify their team members’ key motivators by knowing how to assess their values, interests, talents, ambitions, longings, and style? Helping your managers learn a strategy for Checking Employees’ VITALS will help them discover ways to unleash the can-do spirit for continuous learning.

Add situational doing to your leadership development program. Instead of feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, and guilty when having to both manage people and do work themselves, your hands-on managers will embrace their hands-on manager role and become your best line-of-business partners for workforce development.

Coming up next: Want to learn more about how these situational doing strategies could be woven into your current leadership development program? Next month’s Can-Do Leader blog post will focus on just that.

Want to participate in an interactive session that will deepen your understanding of strategies you might use to fully integrate situational doing for hands-on managers into your current leadership development program? Please join us at the ATD 2019 International Conference & Exposition for the session, “Hands-On Management: The Critical Missing Piece of Today’s Leadership Development.”


5 Ways Technology is Transforming the Employee Experience

Technology has caused significant disruption in people management and employee experience a whole. The post covers a few of the most awe-inspiring ones

As human beings, each of us is uniquely different. This makes people management one of the most complex functions in the world. In a professional context, human dimensions like gender, education, geography, age groups, and skill sets add further intrication. While organizations attempt to manually tackle people management with a handful of HRs, they end up further knotting up this already entwined process.

The good news is that technology is best in solving such complex scaling up problems. Today – with the advent of AI, Machine learning and lightweight applications- technology can be used to deeply understand every employee’s aspirations and grievances without having to build a large HR team. The data and analytics from these products can provide the management dynamic and invaluable insights to frame proactive people policies.

This way, technology can help drive organizational changes organically and seamlessly through the fabric of the organization. Seems utopian, but globally, many organizations are already in the process of approaching this pinnacle.

Since the turn of the century, analysts across the world have been fantasizing about this concept of the ‘firm of the future’ and dissecting it to help organizations get ready for it. Yet, the change did come crashing upon organizations who were fencing it – with the sudden upsurge in applications of technology in business. Today, the need to digitize the workplace is a grappling requirement for firms to survive the labor and user markets.

Technology has caused significant disruption in people management and employee experience a whole. Below are a few of the most awe-inspiring ones:

1. Recruitment: Age of the Human Bot
Artificial Intelligence has extensive applications in the recruitment process and the candidate experience. The very iterative recruitment screening processes are now being taken over by AI. Smashfly, for instance, provides a personalized and extremely human-like interaction with prospective candidates. Emerson, Smashfly’s AI, sends follow-ups and reminders to the candidate – more efficiently and accurately than even human HR personnel. These help each prospective employee to feel that the company is keen on their candidature and that they are highly valued.

Similarly, Tech Mahindra has an AI-enabled talent marketplace and this AI has been taught to nudge dormant talent on the company’s opportunities. These judges will be customized as per the unique strengths and career interests of the candidates. These machines are ensuring that not only are active candidates appeased, but also are the latent prospects.

2. Learning and Development: on-demand and dynamic
Technology has transformed the learning and upskilling process of employees drastically. The marketplace format of learning is being used by online learning platforms, like Udemy and Cousera. These help in developing a dynamic learning environment in organizations by making the learning ‘on-demand’. The digital learning platforms are also using gamification- the use of e-badges, social leaderboards, etc – to achieve momentum in their learning initiatives. This has helped employees to experience learning more as an organic process than as a prescribed one.

For the manufacturing segment, demonstrative learning and simulations take an upper hand. Augmented Reality elegantly fits itself into this purpose by providing real-time instructions and helping to expedite on-the-job training. GE Healthcare, recently had a fantastic case of using Augmented Reality for their OTJ training. They let a batch of new trainee workers perform an assembly operation and they completed it 46% faster than their standard assembly time on their very first trial. They did this by using smart glasses that overlayed augmented instructions to the assembly that even included visualization of the steps.

3. HR helpdesk: Human Intelligence
‘How do I avail a leave?’ ‘What is the process of reimbursing travel bill?’ These are iterative but critical queries that need immediate redressal. Failure to receive a correct or timely response to such questions can affect the employee experience drastically. HR bots are being widely used by organizations to not only attend to these helpdesk queries but also to engage and understand the well being of the employees. For instance, Genpact uses AI enabled chatbots to help in their HR self-service and employee engagement. They also use analytics and machine learning to interpret the communication patterns to predict performance and preempt attrition.

4. Work Tools: Augmenting the workforce
O’Reilly Media’s collection of talks in mid-2015 coined the term, ‘the Augmented Worker’ that currently has an ever growing significance. The term articulates how employees are augmented and enabled using technology and its by-products. A typical example is when Boeing used wearable technology to simplify their electrical wiring process. Instead of browsing through ‘phone book’s full of diagrams and schematics, their technicians now use a voice-enabled search and overlay schematic that takes them through the process step by step. Similarly, Accenture alone has over 30 organization-wide softwares that help in digital enablement, collaboration, and productivity.

Even management roles have evolved at the advent of technology. Harshvendra Soin, the Chief People Officer of Tech Mahindra speaks of how AI is helping their managers take the right decisions and receive real-time updates. Alexa and their inhouse chatbot nicknamed ‘UVO’ provide analytics and information and responds to voice-based commands.

5. Employee Engagement: Tech that drives culture
Lazlo Bock, ex-senior vice president of Google, co-founded Humu that solely aims to ‘make work better’. Humu helps drive behavioral change using data and algorithms by determining and nudging the top drivers of happiness, productivity, and retention.

The Xoxoday platform is a stark example of how technology enables employers to intuitively design employee engagement and the employee to uniquely choose how to engage back. The platform uses social media-inspired elements of technology like feeds, groups, chats, etc and e-commerce inspired extensive global catalog that makes rewards truly aspirational.

Tech Mahindra reportedly uses facial recognition technology that not only eliminates swipes but also helps to capture and measure their delight quotient and send engagement index to leaders and managers.

These innovations signify the importance companies now place on employee engagement. These softwares facilitate employees and companies alike to have a transparent, collaborative and engaging work environment.

A Deloitte study predicts what is in store for HR in 2019 and each of its functions was envisioned to have technology as an important ingredient. The study speaks of how HR will use technology to reconfigure how talent works, do organizational network analysis to get macro workforce insights, to look beyond hiring to nurture talent and motivate employees. Technology has become ubiquitous in HR and at all the employee touch points.

The greatest takeaway of these more efficient processes, more responsive environments, and more sensitive interactions is that these make employee experience a more wholesome and purposeful journey. This, in turn, should aim to create better workplaces, better communities and truly better livelihoods.


Exercise and Engagement, Not Money or Apps, Keep Us Happy, Engaged At Work

In today’s competitive environment, almost everyone is always stressed or, at least, tired. With technology blurring the definition of working hours, glancing at the mobile screen has become a habit of sorts. We use the same device to check our levels of productivity and steps taken in a day—all in the hope that our work and health will improve.

Research, however, says we don’t need technology to achieve either.

A study, led by Curtin University in Australia and published in the European Journal of Work And Organisational Psychology, says people who have the ability to shape their own role, work collaboratively with their colleagues, and participate in mindfulness activities are more likely to stay engaged at work.

Give it a Rest

The research, “Work Engagement Interventions Can Be Effective: A Systematic Review”, which was co-authored by researchers from Sheffield University Management School in the UK, examined the different ways organizations can help their employees stay physically, cognitively and emotionally involved in their work roles.

Given the several advantages of work engagement, companies across the world invest heavily in it. Lead author Caroline Knight, from the Future of Work Institute based at Curtin University, says, “Employee engagement has been linked to increased wellbeing, organizational commitment, and work performance, but can also contribute to decreased burnout, sickness absence and turnover. It is essential for organizations to have engaged employees in order to remain competitive in the workforce.”

Part of the university’s research looked at whether work initiatives driven by organizations and senior managers such as leadership training, increases in staffing, or improved communication and feedback systems, were as effective on employee engagement rates as those initiated by the employees themselves.

What Really Matters

It found that employees who were encouraged to “proactively craft their own jobs, such as by taking on a challenging new work project, learning a new skill, or brainstorming with a colleague to problem solve, were more likely to stay engaged at work”.

The research also found that employees who participated in health activities such as mindfulness, stress management, exercise or relaxation programs were more likely to stay engaged at work, as these activities helped to reduce symptoms like stress, anxiety and depression.

Knight says it is important for managers to be supporting and endorsing activities that encourage engagement, as employees may be reluctant to give up their working time to take part in something which they are not sure is endorsed by their manager. “In addition, work engagement research suggests that employers and managers who are able to provide social support, feedback, and development opportunities for their employees, and help them manage their workload, time pressure, and emotional demands, are more likely to see positive outcomes.”

A 2018 study, based on data from 1.2 million people, by researchers from Oxford and Yale Universities, says exercise can boost mental wellness even more than earning a higher income. Published in The Lancet, it found that while those who exercised regularly tended to feel bad for around 35 days a year, non-active participants felt not good for 18 days more on average.

There was another interesting finding in the study: people who are physically active feel just as good as those who don’t do sports but earn about $25,000 more a year.

Clearly, money cannot buy you happiness or engagement.


The Business Case For Belonging

Many companies focus on diversity and inclusion, and that is a great start toward building a workplace where employees from different backgrounds can grow and thrive. However, there is an important next step that is required in order to truly reap the benefits of a diverse and included employee base, and that is fostering a sense of belonging.

Belonging involves developing a deeper connection with others by sharing your authentic self and receiving acceptance in return. To truly foster belonging in the workplace, we first have to understand what stands in its way: namely, corporate norms that are not multi-cultural. These norms can include communication styles, language patterns, approaches to conflict resolution, appearances, and even the ways people have fun and unwind. When there is one narrow norm that everyone in a company is expected to adapt to, fostering a sense of belonging can be challenging.

Creating space for employees to feel truly valued for their cultural differences will help to enable belonging, and that has some significant business advantages.

Cost of Assimilation

Employees who do not naturally fit in to established corporate norms will often times try to assimilate to those norms – or put themselves “on guard” – in order to avoid potential biases or discrimination. A 2018 study from Catalyst found that 42% of women and 40% of men cited being on guard in anticipation of racial bias, and 40% of women were on guard in anticipation of gender bias. Other reasons included physical appearance, physical ability, age and spiritual or religious beliefs.

This feeling of needing to assimilate in the workplace takes considerable mental energy, and in turn, that is energy that is not spent on our core jobs. Despite an employee’s strong aspirations to succeed and contribute, this mental tax may result in less productivity and slower career advancement. By creating a culture of belonging where employees do not feel the need to downplay their identities, everyone can be more successful. In fact, Catalysts’ report found that a feeling of belonging can be connected to higher creativity and a higher likelihood to speak up and contribute.

Comfort Speaking Up

Research clearly shows that incorporating diverse viewpoints results in better decision-making. If a diverse set of employees is hired and then invited to the table to help make important decisions, but there hasn’t been an investment in creating a sense of belonging, many of those employees may not feel comfortable expressing opposing ideas. Having a seat at the table is not enough—we must create the psychological safety to speak up from that seat.

Hiring and retention

Fostering belonging in the workplace directly affects the retention of great employees—and hiring of new employees. When employees feel a sense of belonging in the workplace, two things happen: they want to keep working there, and they share that sense of belonging with their communities, which can attract more diverse talent. A recent LinkedIn study found that 47% of professionals value working at a company where they can be themselves. As Glassdoor Chief Economist Dr. Andrew Chamberlain explains, “By building a culture of belonging, underrepresented employees can feel more at home in the workplace emotionally and culturally—so that they’re more likely to stay, be engaged and creative at work.”

Creating a culture of belonging takes intentional, long-term focus, and there isn’t a simple program that can be implemented or box that can be checked. But this investment results in happier employees and more effective and successful business outcomes, and so it is well worth the effort.


The Real Digital Transformation In HR Tech: How Talent Leaders Can Manage

In today’s interconnected world, your Google search from last night becomes a targeted social media ad today. Data about what you research, buy and post has become a valuable commodity and a topic of increasing attention. As big data and personalization have gained momentum in marketing and customer acquisition, the same ideas are catching on in talent acquisition—especially as power shifts in the employment marketplace.

A new and powerful trend is emerging that recognizes the mutual benefit of collecting and returning data to job seekers and employees, thereby widening access to the insights that stem from the data. You deserve to know about you, especially when it can help advance your career and work life.

Sharing Data Builds Reciprocity

There’s value in giving individuals their own data. Whether they’re an entry-level applicant or a longtime manager. Some information like our birthdate or college major are readily known to us, but many others are not. Behavioral data like weekly screen time may be passively collected. It may gain value only in aggregate like, for example, data about travel speeds on your commute. Other data requires context and analysis to be informative, like our responses to questions in a survey or assessment.

Giving back previously untapped personal insights helps people make smarter decisions and can improve quality of life at work. What could that look like? A data analyst reads insights from her own personality assessment and learns that her pattern of personality pairs with successfully completing a leadership development program—which the company is able to glean from aggregate insights. She gains motivation to enroll in this training herself and becomes more effective in her job.

Sharing this data cultivates a stronger workforce from pre-hire onward. Job seekers hone in on the right position, new employees onboard more seamlessly and current workers engage long-term in career development—all while attributing substantial goodwill to their employer.

Democratizing Career Development

With a streamlined candidate experience, personality assessments can democratize career development. Hourly workers and those in positions of less seniority stand to benefit considerably from insights about their workplace habits, challenges and compatibility with others. Yet these positions often garner only low-level screenings like background checks. Organizations that help workers understand their tendencies and where best to apply their talents will drive a more motivated, better-performing workforce and higher retention—yielding better outcomes than a context-free background check.

Applying personality data insights puts organizations many steps ahead. From person-specific insights to collective workforce data, companies gain advantages in recruitment, candidate experience and selection, onboarding, career development and retention. Consider some questions that can be addressed:

What personality markers in applicants are higher risks for problematic behaviors?
Which dimensions are common among developing leaders?
Is this well-credentialed candidate really a good fit for our culture?
The array of insights used on both sides of the marketplace has far-reaching power.

Person-Centric Digital Transformation

“Disruption, in the end, is a shift in power in relationships,” explains Analyst Charlene Li in providing perspective on major business practice transitions. Quantified personality data that is shared can be the fuel that powers such a shift. When companies capture this data quickly and at scale, these surveys can provide value to both workers and organizations.

HR and talent leaders are beginning to speak of digital transformation, but this term is often misused or misunderstood. It doesn’t just mean using SaaS to run HR processes in the cloud via an HRIS or ATS tool. It means acknowledging that data is collected and stored in disparate systems. And, to unlock true value the data cannot be isolated. True modern day talent tech platforms must have APIs to allow for the collection, storage and insights derived from data to work within any primary system-of-record.

API-centric platforms that facilitate portable and integrated ways to gather data present new opportunities: to move personality data and accompanying career development from a series of one-offs to an ongoing process that companies can adapt to their own changing needs and those of their workers. In this case, personality assessments and the resulting data serve as an example, but this logic applies consistently to other talent technology solutions.

Put Your Data Where Your Mouth Is

Here’s a quick framework for how HR and talent leaders can embrace the digital transformation:

Know how your systems-of-record work and be sure you invest in the one(s) your team actually uses.
Before buying, ask vendors how they get data (from other vendors) into and out of their platforms. Do they have APIs? Can they easily accommodate collecting and storing “people data” that’s not fundamentally part of their system today?
Consider how your decisions will affect your candidates and employees. Think through how data you collect will help them personally.
People reside at the core of what makes a company strong. By putting people into the equation at every step, businesses build value and invest in their futures. That means collecting and using data in user-friendly ways. Organizations can have their cake and eat it too—engaging people while gathering data, improving efficiency and developing strategy through data-driven decisions, and finally returning data to individuals to reap more benefits.


From buzzkill to benefit: How IBM rebranded its HR department

IBM knew that its HR department was perceived as the compliance wing of the company — and that had to change.

As disruption became the new norm for the 100-year old tech giant, it became clear that a shift was needed, Carrie Altieri, IBM’s vice president of communications for people and culture, told HR Dive in an interview. “We looked seriously at how the work of digital business actually gets done and recognized shifting to agile at scale was the change we needed to make,” Altieri told HR Dive.

The company needed self-directed, empowered teams that could assemble and disassemble as necessary without management check-ins slowing things down — meaning leadership behaviors had to change as well.

“The traditional days of a leader saying ‘trust me, I got this’ were over,” Altieri said. “We needed transformational leadership that empowered teams to move in an agile manner. And more than telling leaders to empower their teams, we needed to know how well they were taking signals from the group, from the market and putting them into practice.”

Were leaders creating opportunities for employees to speak openly? Was feedback being acted upon? These questions, a focus on employee experience and a renewed commitment to “servant leadership” has translated directly into revenue during the past five to six years, Altieri said.

Rebranding HR and revising reviews
To remain robust and relevant in a world where many HR and learning and development functions can be automated or at least digitized, employees need to be viewed as clients.

In 2015, IBM began a complete redesign of its performance management system to align with its new leadership model. Old performance review models weren’t attuned to “client need” and provided too much of a backward view, Altieri said; the reviews needed to be more fluid and aligned to the way people worked today. IBM’s CHRO Diane Gherson convinced senior line management to abandon the old review process and pioneered an approach that asked employees to be stakeholders in the process.

IBM asked more than 350,000 employees to collaborate on the update via an internal social platform. The responses revealed staff wanted to shift the emphasis from assessment to feedback. “The old IBM would have gotten HR experts together and spent months producing something, written it up and issued it to employees,” Altieri said. “The new co-creation approach measured sentiment and logged wish-lists. Comments were exposed to everyone — even when they were openly critical. Employees voted on what would change.”

The result? Employees get the feedback they want, leadership behaviors have changed and IBM holds managers more accountable. With mini-pulse quarterly feedbacks and an annual engagement pulse — four to five questions plus comments interpreted by a machine language tool — IBM assesses how employee clients are doing. Are they getting quality feedback from their manager? If not, Altieri said, HR nudges the manager to do better, even recommending management development training from the company’s own library of classes. And leaders and managers are held accountable for their feedback results.

The view from outside
Michael Schrage, a research fellow at MIT’s Initiative on the Digital Economy and an MIT Sloan Management Review guest editor, has been following IBM for many years.

The employer’s biggest challenge was to ensure its strengths didn’t become its weaknesses due to the sheer size of the organization, he said. “First and most obviously you can’t “make” an image,” he told HR Dive. “Without a shift in substance, nothing will change. HR must commit to being a resource as opposed to being an enforcer or box ticker.”

Digitization is changing every part of organizations, Schrage said, particularly HR. The Review published research on the IBM performance ratings shift, and Schrage said he believes HR as a profession must develop a more analytic mindset that allows professionals to better engage with employees and managers. “HR is in a unique position that’s theirs to lose for mediating feedback, assessments and quantification between managers, employees and associates,” he said.

HR also must become a champion of professional development and be an ally to employees as they maneuver through the organization, he added. “Do you want to be a risk messenger or an enabler messenger?” Schrage said. “HR needs to get into the tech business just as much as marketing; performance management must be a service that illustrates the value a company puts on its resources.”

IBM has always been in tech but for HR, the challenge is to combine both. The amount of data at the disposal of HR professionals is only beginning to be mined, Schrage noted. For everything from candidate selection through succession planning, information is as important as the people it describes.

“How can you use the data, not just as a resource but as an asset?” he said. He believes the digital transformation, which is supposed to remove rote tasks, gives HR an opportunity to rebrand as a resource rather than the department that just ticks off boxes to stay robust. “You can’t stay a fax machine in a Google world,” Schrage said.

AI-driven people power
AI has been a driving force of innovation for IBM’s HR team. Cognitive talent alerts mine for patterns; it searches for employees who’ve been in a job longer than usual (which could signal flight risk) and can determine whether they need more training to move up.

“The data we have allows us to do early intervention, and possibly change the outcome trajectory,” Altieri said. “We look at education consumption, comparing career paths and looking for data points that might be a talent concern the manager isn’t addressing.”

AI allows managers to “cut through the noise” by crunching through the dozens of data points at a manager’s disposal at any given time, including market conditions, talent scarcity, skill forecasts, salary ranges and raises — and it can explain its analysis, Altieri said.

“Managers now have a foundational knowledge to make their decisions based on data collected personalized to each person on their team and are better equipped to have informed conversations to explain their decisions,” she added. “Equipping managers for that transparency was a key design point.”

AI also can personalize learning and development for each job role and lead the way in making learning a central aspect of a company’s culture. Altieri said that more than 45,000 learners are visiting IBM’s learning platform every day and 98% of employees access it each quarter. While the company requires 40 hours of learning per year, staff average around 50 hours, regardless of tenure. Learning is a huge part of the culture at IBM, she explained, and the new system gives managers the tools to have more intentional discussions with staff.

Communication by design
Even the way HR communicates with staff has changed. “In the old days, you’d get a message from HR that said ‘you need to do this,'” Altieri said, “but every little thing you do, even the tone, communicates a message.” IBM’s HR team shifted language from “you have to do” to “did you know that if you did….” to be more client-centric. The team also reviews messaging for tone, language and even visual interest to make sure it’s more user-friendly. “We’re trying to take cues from The Skimm for a better experience,” Altieri said.

The HR team issued a formal playbook on design, tone and best practices so that its members put the end user experience first. Quoting a popular designer aphorism: “It’s not about designing for a minimum viable product. It’s about designing for a minimum delightful product.”

“How we lead has to be different for this point in time, so different from that command and control era I grew up with,” Altieri said. “Now it’s about leaders creating the conditions for employees to tell the uncomfortable truth and empowering them.”


How to increase employee engagement using AI, machine learning, and other methods

Employee engagement is “the level of an employee’s emotional connection, involvement, and commitment to their organization,” according to G2 Crowd. Making employees feel valued increases their enthusiasm and dedication to their job, coworkers, and the company; retention rates, performance, and productivity also improve. On the flip side, when employees’ job satisfaction and engagement levels are low, companies can suffer.

Gallup reported that in 2018, 34% of US workers surveyed felt engaged, while 13% felt “actively disengaged.” The report also found that companies with high levels of employee engagement and low levels of disengagement achieved an earnings-per-share growth four times higher than competitors. Additionally, these companies reported having 21% higher profitability, better customer engagement, higher productivity and retention, and fewer accidents.

The G2 Crowd EE survey found that over half (57%) of HR employees strongly agree that employee engagement initiatives will help their company retain a productive staff. They also found that “the majority of employees surveyed overall believe that employee engagement is important for a thriving company culture.”

What are ways companies can improve employee engagement?

In addition to utilizing employee engagement software, companies can increase employee engagement through education and training, career development, employee recognition initiatives, and creating wellness programs focused on physical, mental, and financial health.

Forbes lists additional ways to encourage employee engagement:

Don’t skip onboarding and training: Companies have less than six months to engage an employee in their role. This time period is when new employees have the opportunity to ask questions, offer ideas, voice concerns, bond with coworkers, and develop a connection with the company.
Set company goals: Reaching goals encourages employee engagement; companies should set monthly, quarterly, semi-annual, and annual goals so employees have something to work toward. Setting goals for each department and the company overall can give employees a sense of how their work is having an impact and helping the company succeed.
Don’t micromanage: Not providing employees with enough freedom to do their jobs can lead to active disengagement; it can also dampen employee morale and decrease productivity. Allowing employees to make decisions about their work and develop their own techniques for problem solving creates higher levels of engagement. Executives should focus on the bigger picture and leave the details up to employees.
How can artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) help engage employees?
AI and ML enhance the employee experience starting with the recruiting process and continuing through offboarding. According to, by using artificial intelligence, companies can:

Engage on-site and remote employees more effectively;
Provide continuous assistance and support to employees;
Monitor organization-wide performance in real-time;
Improve learning and development activities; and
Streamline conflict resolution.
By analyzing email conversations and biometric data, companies can more easily promote a sense of belonging among employees, identify red flags, and create an engaging work environment.

SEE: Managing AI and ML in the enterprise (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)

G2 Crowd predicts that AI-driven HR technology usage will increase by 35% in 2019. By utilizing AI and machine learning as a service, HR reps can streamline processes and enhance the overall employee experience.


What is Prescriptive Analytics in HR?

From static to descriptive and finally predictive, HR analytics has come a long way. Now, we are positioned at the next bend, with conversations around prescriptive analytics and what it could do for HR. We share insights from Accenture’s report and consider what a business leader from Workday has to say.

In the last few years, analytics has emerged as a major buzz-word in the HR segment. From simply static reports, HR teams are now looking forward to deploying various analytics models and making better HR decisions. Among the different analytics techniques available today, descriptive analytics is probably the most common (it tells us why an event happened) and predictive analytics is the one most talked about (it sheds light on what will happen next). A third category and this is still in a nascent stage of discourse, is prescriptive analytics.

Prescriptive analytics combines the historical capabilities of static and descriptive models, with a forward-looking perspective. As a result, users can gain insights on not just what will happen next, but also on what they should do next. While this sounds promising on paper, research suggests that the discussion on prescriptive analytics is yet to take off.

What’s Holding back the Application of Prescriptive Analytics in HR
Prescriptive analytics is already being implemented in media and entertainment, by technology disruptors like Netflix and Spotify. The technology processes massive streams of consumer data and looks at past usage patterns, to predict future needs and preferences. The prescriptive layer then intervenes to suggest which recommendations should be displayed, how a particular promotion can be tailored, and if any specific messaging can be deployed to engage the user.

In HR, this can be translated into a data-driven workforce planning strategy where every element of allocation, optimization, and addition (hiring) is guided by a pre-defined roadmap. However, current workforce planning strategies often depend on insufficient data and legacy tools. The opportunity for applying prescriptive analytics is immense. It will help integrate new data streams, enabling employers to go beyond a holistic picture of what’s coming and actually identify future movements.

Given these benefits, companies should ideally be eager to early-adopt and explore how prescriptive analytics could transform their HR functions. But concerns around data quality and the sheer disruptive impact of this technology is holding back implementation. The garbage-in/garbage-out principle means that the insights generated through prescriptive analytics are only as good as the data feeding into it. Companies without the basic analytics capabilities as discussed above (static, descriptive, and then predictive) will find it difficult to take the leap.

Another issue is that the prescriptive analytics output must be carefully evaluated and fine-tuned to decide on the most relevant action areas. For companies lacking in-house data science capabilities or robust strategic talent, this can be a challenging process.

Key Use Cases and the Way Forward
In an enlightening study, Accenture found that applying prescriptive analytics could help companies find areas where its field workforce could perform better, contributing more to the bottom line. While it sounds simple on paper, the model analyzed over 4,500 field engineers, three million pieces of equipment and seven types of products to locate actionable insights in over 12,000 potential scenarios.

The scale and the specificity of this initiative are simply massive – prescriptive analytics has the ability to break down data stacks into its most granular details to suggest ideas for handling myriad workplace scenarios. From workforce planning to internal transfers, from shaping training programs to incentive packages, prescriptive analytics could turn every existing model on its head.

“Think of it like Netflix for business. It predicts a film based on what we’ve viewed in the past,” said Rob Wells, managing director of Workday, Australia and New Zealand. “And like the simplicity of Amazon or Netflix recommendations, all of these recommendations will be easily delivered to managers in a simple interface – without the assistance of IT or data analysts.” To make this vision a reality, overcoming the challenges detailed earlier, we need major strides in technology, innovation, and a focus on improving HR tech accessibility to employers of every size.


Who is responsible for professional development? Ask HR

Johnny C. Taylor Jr., a human-resources expert, is tackling your questions as part of a series for USA TODAY. Taylor is president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, the world’s largest HR professional society.

The questions are submitted by readers, and Taylor’s answers below have been edited for length and clarity.

Have a question? Do you have an HR or work-related question you’d like me to answer? Submit it here.

Question:What do you do when upper management shows no interest in sending employees to training programs, continuing education or conferences or in providing opportunities for advancement? They seem too busy to want to do anything that helps make their employees better or prepares them for a higher level of work. – Anonymous

Johnny C. Taylor Jr.: Brace yourself for my answer because it may not be popular: Your professional development is your responsibility.

My mother always reminded me that knowledge, once acquired, is something no one can take from you. The truth of the matter is, given that employees today switch jobs every three to four years, employees – not employers – stand to benefit the most from career development investment.

With that said, many employers choose to pay for training and career development programs as a way to recruit and retain talented workers. In fact, when we asked HR professionals about recruiting for hard-to-fill positions, more than half said providing training opportunities for employees was the most effective strategy.

So, start by asking your manager specifically what training and development opportunities are available and how you can be considered for them. Be prepared to do some homework in advance so you can offer cost-effective solutions that will benefit you and the company. Keep in mind there are many options, including technology seminars, continuing education classes, community college courses and industry-specific training.

Most people want opportunities for professional development and advancement. Unfortunately, two-thirds of employees are not very satisfied with their employer’s commitment to their development. The result? When employees are discontented, they often leave and find an employer who does care.

Workplaces that make an investment in their people are investing in the company and the company’s future. I believe it is critical.

Finally, keep in mind that some employers might refuse to honor your request for legitimate financial reasons. Outside opportunities such as seminars and conferences might be too costly for the company at the time you ask. If this is the case with your employer, consider internal training opportunities and online classes that can be less costly and just as effective. And who knows, your manager might even offer to mentor you, which would be amazing!

At the end of the day, if professional development is not available or supported, you have choices, including:

• Looking for an employer that does believe in and is committed to professional development; or

Developing your own plan at your expense and asking your manager for time away from the office to attend.

Remember, this is about your career, your development and what’s right for you.

Q:A company requires employees to wear personal protection equipment – aprons, gloves, hairnets, etc. It charges each employee $6 a week for the laundry of aprons. I thought OSHA guidelines said maintenance of personal protection equipment is to be paid by the company. Is the $24-a-month laundry charge to employees legal? – Patrick

Taylor: Generally, it would be illegal for an employer to require an employee to pay for the maintenance of personal protection equipment (PPE). But before assuming the employer is mishandling this situation, three questions must be answered.

First, is the apron, for example, really PPE?

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), an item is PPE if it protects employees from job-related injuries, illnesses and fatalities – and if it meets OSHA standards.

A rubber apron that protects an employee from chemical spills would be considered PPE, for example. But an apron used solely for keeping clothes clean would not.

If an apron qualifies as PPE, an employer is required to provide it, cover the cost and maintain it. Additionally, an employer is responsible for replacing worn or damaged items and training workers on how to care for them.

Second, what does the laundry expense entail? Regular, basic care and cleaning of PPE – such as machine washing and drying an apron – usually can be the employee’s responsibility. But when care and cleaning require greater attention and expense, such as professional dry cleaning, the extra cost and care fall to the employer.

Finally, is the fee a required charge or a service provided as a convenience? If the employer is providing a service for employees to have their aprons cleaned voluntarily (often at a discount from a business vendor), it is usually acceptable for an employer to collect a regular fee, but not to mandate one.

When dealing with PPE, businesses must consider state law requirements in addition to federal guidelines.

Some employers cover the reasonable costs of maintaining PPE as an employee benefit, especially when the item is required. This ensures the equipment is being treated properly and shows the employer’s commitment to cleanliness and safety standards.


Technology Is Critical To Recruit And Retain A Workforce That Is Only Getting Younger

Generation Z has officially entered the American workforce. Anyone in the workplace is aware of this, as publications continue to trumpet their arrival and the inevitable impact they’ll have on how businesses operate. Gen Z accounts for more than 60 million people , making up over 30% of the U.S. population and outnumbering millennials. This generation grew up on Google Maps and SnapChat, and their expectations of employers vary more dramatically than perhaps any generational shift before.
With an always-on mentality and a globally connected upbringing, it’s no surprise that Gen Z expects the same easy access and instant gratification at work as they have in the rest of their lives. Artificial intelligence (AI) designed to offer instant access to workplace information is not just a luxury but an expectation. Gen Z likely expects AI to automate the daily grind of tedious tasks and streamline the necessary evils of the paper-pushing world because 88% believe it will improve their jobs. They have operated in a primarily paperless world throughout their education, and the notion of filling out a TPS report would raise eyebrows.

Technology is crucial in order to transform your business into a place where Gen Z wants to work and would like to stay.

Outdated Technology Could Be A Pain Point For New Employees

As members of Gen Z join your company, outdated technologies that might have been tolerated by previous workforce generations may quickly become a thorn in the side of younger staffers and, in turn, drain employee morale.

In fact, the Center for Creative Leadership, which surveyed 483 executives, managers and professionals, found that at least three-quarters of respondents complained about how their company had unnecessary meetings and emails and inadequate technology. A 2016 survey from Paychex polled 2,000 U.S. employees to see what affected their decision to stay or leave a current employer. Unsurprisingly, reason No. 2, with 63% of respondents agreeing, was constantly being overworked. This could largely be due to those mundane daily tasks that end up eating away workers’ days.

Current Technology Is Critical To Recruiting Gen Zers

Technology-focused employment opportunities have seen a huge surge in recent years, gaining about 200,000 new tech jobs each year since 2010. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (via Business Facilities) indicates tech occupations will increase by 626,000 jobs by 2026, with the total potential tech workforce reaching almost 1.2 million.

With Gen Z making up the bulk of new workers, it’s not surprising that the vast majority want to work in the tech field. And regardless as to which field a member of Generation Z enters, 80% of Gen Zers want to work with cutting-edge technology. When technology professionals search for a job, they ask and consider what technology companies have adopted, which is why businesses need to constantly strive to meet and exceed the tech expectations of Gen Z.

What Tech Should Your Firm Consider To Recruit And Retain Gen Z Workers?

Streamlining work and providing the most innovative technologies available is necessary in order to appeal to Gen Z. Today’s fully integrated workplace means there is a multitude of opportunities to show tech prowess and prioritization, from operations to culture-driven initiatives.

The first thing you can do to attract (and keep) talent is by making sure you have a smart-enabled office. This means incorporating internet of things (IoT) and machine learning technologies to help boost productivity and reduce energy consumption. Virtualized onboarding and digital benefits platforms would also be great additions to attract tech-savvy Gen Zers.

Chatbots and virtual teammates could also help alleviate frequent pain points and mundane administrative tasks, ultimately freeing up employee time, increasing productivity and a company’s bottom line. And there is a connection between automating administrative workloads and a company’s employee retention. According to a 2018 study by Harris Interactive and, which surveyed 1,000 C-Level executives (including chief human resource officers), 44% of respondents cited AI as the solution to improving both the talent acquisition process and talent retention.


The truth is, your company needs to implement new technology to recruit and retain new talent. Businesses can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines when it comes to implementing technology in the workplace. Make the most of your employees, and give them the best tools to get their work done quickly. The right investments will pay for themselves in increased efficiency and employee retention.

As the talent war continues, and Gen Z keeps demanding a great enterprise experience, a company that ignores tech tools in the workplace does so at great risk. But don’t take my word for it — ask your youngest employee if they have more experience with WhatsApp or TPS reports.