To face a changing business world, managers need better training

The role of managers in the American workplace has shifted dramatically. Gone are the days that managers watch over employees, assessing their every move and correcting every mistake. Today’s manager has to do more to meet the needs and expectations of a talented, independent workforce.

They must serve as coach and mentor, be accessible and remain communicative. Their responsibilities are larger than assuring the work is performed; they have to ensure that workers are content as well. The level of responsibility and accountability placed on managers is greater today than it has ever been.

But for most, the level of training provided to managers hasn’t kept pace with their changing responsibilities. The expectation has been that they will hit the ground running with all the communication, coaching and supervisory skills needed — but that’s proving to be untrue.

What do employees think?

A survey by Ultimate Software and The Center for Generational Kinetics found the number one driver of satisfaction in the workforce is the employee-manager relationship, yet 80% of employees said they could do their job without their manager. The survey also highlights the differences between the perception and experience of managers and staff:


  • 80% of managers think they’re transparent with direct reports; but,
  • Only 55% of employees agree.


  • 75% of employees say approachability is the most important quality in an effective manager; and,
  • 50% of employees say they have an approachable manager.


  • 71% of managers say they know how to motivate their team; but,
  • Only 44% of employees agree.


  • 45% of managers report they have never received formal management training.

Many companies provide initial training to new managers, but as the scope of their work and relationships grow, so does their need.

“I think a lot of organizations invest in training for new hires, providing the basics — enough to get employees started in their roles — but then never really follow up from there,” Adam Rogers, Ultimate Software’s chief technology officer, said. “We’d all be better served by our employers if the focus was on continuous learning and development, rather than one-time training.”

Millennials and management

Many millennials in management roles are in a position most have never encountered before: managing workers older than them. Seasoned employees may believe younger managers lack real world experience. While the millennial manager may have more technological ability, older direct reports may hold more institutional information, leading to problems with credibility and trust. These roadblocks can make it even more challenging to excel in the management role.

The flip side is managing millennials, who have a different set of priorities in the workplace. In a survey of this large and diverse generation, 72% said they want to be their own boss. But if they do have to work for a boss, 79% want their boss to serve as a coach and mentor. Comprising 75% of the world’s workforce by 2025, meeting the needs of this generation will be necessary to keep businesses productive.


The Eight Letter Word that Will Excel Your Career in 2018!

“To determine the significance, worth, or condition of usually by careful appraisal and study” is how Merriam-Webster defines the word EVALUATE. While the holiday season is a time of giving thanks, we should also use this time for career evaluation. Taking a few moments to carefully study where you are in your career relative to the goals you set could mean the difference in you getting that pay increase or that promotion. This post will lay out effective steps to help you in your career evaluation.

Evaluate Yourself

Self-evaluation is the most important and most neglected step. For whatever reason, self-evaluation always seems to take a back seat to other priorities. Busy schedules, family obligations and Netflix are some prime suspects as to why finding time is so difficult. So, how do you break the cycle? First and foremost, you must MAKE the time. Earmark at least one hour on your calendar for this exercise. If you do not have time during the normal course of the workday, try waking up an hour before work or perhaps reserving an hour before you go to bed. If that is difficult because of other commitments, try using the time you have for lunch. The key here is making sure that you give yourself dedicated time to focus on asking yourself a few questions:

1) Based on where I thought I would be five years ago, am I meeting that standard or am I far off? If I am off, how far off the mark am I?

2) Do I see myself progressing in this career or is it stagnant?

3) Does the industry I am working in still give me pleasure? Is there another industry that I could more effectively use my skills?

4) Where do I want to be in the next five years and how do I get there?

You may not have thought about some of these questions in a long time. If you don’t have a goal, then you will need to establish one. Several studies have proven that unwritten goals will not be achieved. Sit down, make time and outline your objectives. You are the only one in charge of your career and nobody will or should care more than you.

Evaluate Your Management

There is an outdated notion that management chooses candidates and management is the one in control. In today’s marketplace, the dynamic has shifted. Top talent chooses where they want to work based on several factors. Companies and their managers need to find new and innovative ways to interact with their workforce, or they will sustain high attrition rates and a poor industry reputation that ultimately will lead to a decrease in the bottom line. Managers are rarely taught, so finding a good one is really the luck of the draw. I’ve heard of some managers who believe that moving employee’s seats around the office every six months is a way to “see everybody,” or “get the juices flowing.” Clearly moving seats around the office is not a long-term strategy. Management should be committed to ensuring that business objectives are achieved and their employees are happy. Here are a few things you should be looking for when evaluating your management:

1) Is management encouraging a culture of openness and honesty that allows for varying viewpoints?

2) Does management listen to the people they hire?

3) Is there diversity in culture and thought in your organization?

Companies that rely on the old homogeneous way of doing things will be left behind.

Evaluate Your Options

Finally, after going through the exercises above, it is important to evaluate your options and devise a plan. If you have reached the conclusion that you need to switch industries, you will need to determine the best companies in that industry. Seek them out and develop relationships with managers. If you are in a toxic culture, find your way out! You will only hurt yourself in the long run if you spend too many years being infected by management that is not truly invested in your career growth and development. If you conclude that additional education may be in the best interest of your career, begin the process of considering those options. Find out if your company has tuition reimbursement and if they do – utilize it!

Evaluation is something that should be integrated into your work life as well as your personal life. Once you complete an evaluation, you may find that a change is necessary. If so, devise a plan and act! Inaction and complacency is where most people fail. They choose to stay in a situation that is not good for them because they are comfortable. You control your career and you control what happens.

There is no excuse for your career not to take a huge jump in 2018. This is YOUR year. Attack it!


On Leadership: What keeps leaders from blossoming?

Leadership is the “perennial issue,” at least that is how Deloitte described it in its 2015 Global Human Capital survey report. No matter the survey, such as PwC’s annual CEO Survey or Willis Towers Watson’s annual Global Workforce Studies, leadership emerges as both a problem and solution. Research details how businesses spend billions of dollars on leadership development, only to be disappointed with the results. Why aren’t these leadership development initiatives producing the expected results?

Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal sheds some light. He was the keynote speaker at a Veterans Day event I attended this year as the guest of Matt Mayer, an Army veteran and attorney at Leisawitz Heller. McChrystal possessed an unmistakable executive presence as he delivered a master class on public speaking, seamlessly transitioning between levity and gravitas. And his advice, to lead like a gardener, vividly contrasted the mental images of traditional military generals to that of humble gardeners.

McChrystal said that leaders are like gardeners, someone who tills the earth, pulls weeds, and waters the plants, providing a healthy garden for those plants to grow, develop, and thrive. Accordingly, a primary role of leaders is to cultivate an environment where people grow, develop, and thrive. I left hopeful that the gardener approach to leading would resonate with the audience.

But my hope was quickly dimmed by the realization that, even if people did want to change, they might be returning to organizations and realities that unintentionally inhibit this ‘gardener’ approach to leading. Think about it: time pressures and deadlines, the need for results, pay-for-performance programs, constant crises, and ‘wicked problems’ that need solving. Who has time for leading like a gardener? Sounds interesting, but seriously, there is real work to accomplish! And it is this mindset and these realities that quickly grow into weeds, choking off good intentions and blocking leadership development initiatives from delivering intended value. McChrystal shared a story that provides insights useful for facing such realities and overcoming these mindsets.

McChrystal described how the U.S. military of old, effective for combating the adversaries and problems of that time, was no longer effective for facing contemporary challenges. Over time he realized the real issue was the inefficiencies from the structure, systems, and processes. Recognizing the problem, he adapted from a command and control model, one with a rigid reporting and information flow structure, to one that promoted a ‘shared consciousness’. And according to McChrystal, this made all the difference.

The applicable takeaway for our purposes is that organizational structures systems, and processes are often the invisible hand stifling the success of leadership development initiatives. Research suggests that part of the invisible hand stifling the success of leadership development initiatives are poorly designed strategic talent management plans. Strategic management plans include talent acquisition, onboarding, training and development, performance management (job descriptions, performance reviews, pay-for-performance), compensation planning, succession planning, and offboarding. If designed and implemented correctly, these plans focus people’s attention and drive behavior by introducing, measuring, and rewarding the things important to organizations. They help create direction, alignment, and commitment and encourage people to get the right results, the right way.

Leadership development initiatives can produce the expected results if organizations bake them into strategic talent management plans. And adopting a gardener approach to leading that emphasizes creating an environment that allows people to grow, develop, and thrive makes sense. An environment of continuous learning, dialogue, and useful feedback not only produces an organization of high performers, but also delivers an organization better equipped to manage the realities and pressures of business. n

Travis A. Berger is an assistant professor of business and leadership at Alvernia University, and the founder and managing partner of Vide Consulting Group, a regional leadership and management consulting firm.


Employee Stock Options 101

Offering stock option plans could boost retention rates, help maintain cash reserves, and shape truly transformative experiences. Discover what makes employees like Starbucks barista, Kaycee Kiesz, happy and motivated for over two decades

Are you looking to take advantage of your company’s established market footprint, and offer senior executives incentives without impacting liquidity?

Or are you a young business, trying to retain and motivate top talent without dipping into the precious seed funds earmarked for innovation and expansion?

The last few decades have been a virtual rollercoaster ride for stock options as benefits. After a sudden surge in popularity during the 90s, the dotcom bubble burst, making millions of shares worthless and disappointing a large workforce.

Yet, success stories like Starbucks keep the dream alive. The company is famous for giving employees in every tier, from the humble barista to management, a chance to be compensated in kind. The upside is that it helps foster investment and ownership at every level – something Starbucks knew and even accentuated by calling all its employees ‘partners’.

In fact, employee stock options place talent at the heart of your business, giving them a very real stake in the firm’s success.

Here’s how it works – right at the recruitment phase, a specific number of company stocks are offered at a ‘strike price’ or an ‘exercise price’ to be purchased after a ‘vesting period’. The exercise price is usually the market value at the time of recruitment.

Once the employee has been part of the organization for the stipulated period, he can buy shares at the original market rate, back when he had joined. If the price has increased substantially, he makes a solid profit.

Employee stock option plans could lead to several benefits for employers:

1. Employee Stock Option Plans come with a lock-in period called the ‘vesting period’:

At Starbucks, for instance, early baristas had to log in 360 hours of work before they were eligible to exercise their stock options. This means that while the plan comes into play at onboarding itself, the employee can choose to buy or not buy the shares.

Lock-in periods encourage employees to stay, be part of the company’s forward journey, and while retention rates soar, the workforce stands to gain from the time they’ve spent your organization.

2. Instill a sense of ownership:

Unlike manufacturing, healthcare, education, and a handful of other sectors, several industries don’t involve ‘hands-on’ labor. This has a fatal side-effect: workers often struggle to connect efforts and outcomes, resulting in a basic absence of fulfillment.

When employers become shareholders, they are directly impacted by the company’s fate.

And as a rise in stock prices means a larger windfall in the long run, employees are more focused on larger value creation – not just their slice of the job pie.

3. You can disburse in kind, instead of cash:

Stock options are a good way of rewarding employees in kind, freeing up cash reserves for other investments like acquisitions, office space & infrastructure, recruitment, and most importantly, new products.

Here’s an unlikely example – Jeff Bezos, the owner of and temporarily the richest man on earth, owns very little in cash and assets. In October this year, his net worth jumped to a whopping USD 93.1 billion, pivoted on his company’s performance – each Amazon stock then cost around USD 1120.

Of this, his non-Amazon assets were to the tune of USD 3.7 billion only. His individual success is clearly linked to the company’s and by not liquidating the remaining USD 89.4 million, he ensures that the business continues to hit it out of the park.

A 2014 survey revealed that while 71% companies have some form of employee stock option plan in place, there are major gaps across the paradigm.

The leading segment is technology and IT with 37% respondents in the category, while service sectors lag behind at a wide margin. Also, 87% companies go for a selective plan – rewarding only high-level employees: a different, more biased reality from the Starbucks ideal.

And among the 29% with no stock options for employees, over half said that they don’t intend to put one in place in the near future.

Tax regulations and statutory norms are the first to cross. Start-ups also run the risk of having individual employees straight out owning equity, and since the stock options have to stay in action for a while even after termination, complaints from disgruntled alumni are always a possibility.

That’s why companies are looking at alternatives that blend the pros of employee stock options with secure, more predictable incentive schemes.

You could go for a restricted stock option, where the stock is granted outright with a few restrictions in place – this could be in the form of tax breaks, ownership conditions, and so on, designed to iron out some of the complexities of regular plans.

Stock appreciation rights (SARs) are also a smart option, popular among companies trying to prevent an excessive employee share in the business. They work just like stock option plans, only after the vesting period is over, the incentive is equal to the increase in the stock price – and not the stock itself. Again, this stops the company from becoming too and could be paid out in cash, stocks, or any combination of the two.

Several employers are also opting for ‘phantom stocks’ – as in SARs, no real stocks are allocated. However, here the employee is entitled to the original stock price, and not just the uptick value.

There you have it – employee stock options are a changing animal. From the mythical Wall Street execs looking to cash in, to children of the Silicon Valley riding the wave of good products in a dynamic market, this is an incentive plan with clear, human outcomes.

Done right, the plan is so effective that it kept Starbucks barista Kaycee Kiesz with the company for 22 years. This allowed her and other long-term employees to gain from the stock’s 13,000% increase over the period – growth that’s fostered by a motivated, engaged workforce.


Why I Stopped Doing Annual Employee Reviews

When my company Phone2Action launched in 2013, we tried to manage employee performance with annual reviews. It was pointless. Why wait months to discuss problems that matter now? In a startup, we needed to move faster and calibrate more often than annual reviews permitted.

Related: Want Your Employees to Be High Performers? Tie Goals to Rewards Like Extra Days Off or Cold Hard Cash.

We scrapped reviews and implemented a performance management system developed by Martin O’Malley, former governor of Maryland. He “disrupted” conventional management techniques well before Agile and Lean Startup methodologies swept through Silicon Valley.

Today, many companies use “data-driven” management techniques. However, they struggle to find a balance between team and individual accountability, transparency and privacy, and actions and goals. O’Malley’s approach may help you find the sweet spot.

The CitiStat story
When O’Malley become mayor of Baltimore in 1999, the city suffered from chronic absenteeism, excessive overtime and poor response times. He implemented a data-tracking and management approach called CitiStat, inspired by the New York City Police Department’s CompStat crime analytics. Between 1999 and 2007, CitiStat saved Baltimore an estimated $350 million yet the program cost only $400,000 per year (spent mainly on staff salaries), according to the Center for American Progress.

Related: Stop! You’re Demoralizing Employees With Reviews! And Frequency Isn’t the Reason.

CitiStat required city departments to track performance metrics unique to their responsibilities. The Department of Transportation, for example, recorded how quickly it filled potholes after being alerted.

The department heads met with the CitiStat team every two weeks to review the data. If it was trending in the wrong direction, the CitiStat team and department head would brainstorm and test a solution. At the next meeting, the data would reveal whether the follow-up actions had made a difference. By 2007, the Department of Transportation was filling 97 percent of potholes within 48 hours of notification.

“CapSTATs” were intense accountability meetings that gathered all the agency heads. When an initiative hit delays, there was no place to hide. The numbers, the colors (green for on track, yellow for delayed and red for behind) and mapping revealed the status of everything.

Having observed the effectiveness of CapSTAT, I wanted to create a version for Phone2Action. We called it ActionSTAT.

Why it’s different
There are different schools of thought in performance management. ActionSTAT addresses three conflicts that arise in most performance evaluation systems.

1. Team v. individual

Traditional employee reviews often happen in isolation and emphasize individual achievements. In contrast, ActionSTAT holds both the team and individual accountable by measuring how people spend their time. The system connects individual actions and goals to departmental and company goals.

This kind of “systems thinking” is hard to achieve in government but comes naturally in technology companies, which have standard measures of success. In software-as-a-service (SaaS), these could include annual recurring revenue (AAR), monthly recurring revenue (MMR) and gross retention.

For example, let’s say we ask each salesperson to make 40 calls per day. The salespeople who perform this “leading action” close more deals than those who don’t. The action appears to work, so we keep doing it. If salespeople made the 40 calls but didn’t close more deals, we’d test other leading actions. Ultimately, we trace the salespeople’s work to AAR and MMR.

2. Public v. private feedback

One of the hardest aspects of performance management is giving and receiving feedback. When a manager gives an employee feedback in private, the company doesn’t gain institutional knowledge. Only two people learn from the experience. When performance management is a team activity, a culture of continuous learning, improvement and transparency can emerge.

Phone2Action holds ActionSTATs every Thursday at 10 a.m. The meetings are open to everyone but focused on one department each week. We start ActionSTAT by reviewing a dashboard that shows the most important metrics of company health. Those include our load time, conversion rate and retention rate.

Next, we look at the department’s lagging indicators (marked green, yellow and red, just like in CapSTAT) followed by its “leading actions.” Often, we look at individual leading actions, too. The data sparks questions, conversation and feedback from across the company.

Over time, a few things happen:

Everyone in the company gets used to providing and receiving feedback.
Everyone gets used to discussing performance publicly.
Everyone sees what people do in other departments and therefore learns how each team member contributes to the company’s goals.
The health metrics never change, but how teams spend their time can. By discussing the leading actions of each department, we set and correct behaviors.

Related: 3 Steps to Help Employees Understand Your Objectives and Expectations

3. Actions v. goals

ActionSTAT distinguishes between how people spend their time (leading actions) and lagging indicators (goals defined by metrics). This is crucial because companies that manage solely by objectives cannot address the behaviors that drive the outcomes.

If we want to lose weight, jumping on the scale everyday won’t change anything. What we eat and how much we exercise will. The same applies to companies. If we measure lagging indicators but not the activities that influence them, we will not identify what works.

Every ActionSTAT becomes a chance to refine leading actions. If we wait one full year to evaluate an employee, we see if she hit the metrics, but we cannot correct behaviors along the way. Performance management is about continuously identifying the actions that produce desirable outcomes.

A thing of the past
Every tech company wants to be “agile,” but traditional employee reviews hinder that culture. Annual reviews exhaust managers and stress out employees who might have spent months working tirelessly — in the wrong direction. Neither the company nor the employee can afford to wait a year for the feedback.

Today, people choose work environments where they can learn continuously and understand how their actions contribute to the company’s success. Annual reviews are thing of the past.


Where Employee Surveys on Burnout and Engagement Go Wrong

To tackle employee burnout, companies need to assess just how burned out their staff members are—and why. Many organizations conduct surveys to gain this sort of insight, but serious flaws in how those surveys are designed often lead to bad results. Well-intentioned leaders, following an inaccurate roadmap of where the problems lie, end up wasting time, energy, and resources on the wrong things. For example, they may ask people if overwork is an issue and then try to reduce the load, when the real problem is more psychological.

A seminal paper in the Journal of Vocational Behavior defines burnout as “a reaction to chronic occupational stress” characterized by emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and a “lack of professional efficacy (i.e., the tendency to evaluate one’s work negatively).” So it’s multifaceted. But when you take all those things together, the researchers found, the polar opposite of burnout becomes clear: It’s engagement.

That certainly aligns with my consulting experience. Working with hundreds of companies, I’ve observed that managers can counteract burnout by shoring up engagement—that is, helping employees feel more connected and committed to the organization and motivated by the work they’re doing. This includes addressing challenges that make it tougher for people to do their jobs, such as a lack of support from managers, a lack of confidence in teammates, and daily work that doesn’t line up with employees’ own values and goals.

The trouble is, even at companies that try to step back and assess engagement as an underlying factor, questionnaires often run into psychological hurdles that skew results. Here are two of the biggest culprits:

Social desirability bias. When employees are asked to complete surveys, their responses can be shaped by social desirability bias—the impulse to present themselves in a positive light so their bosses will think well of them. The survey becomes an exercise in “impression management” rather than a tool for change, because respondents don’t want to suggest that they personally have a problem or can’t handle their work. Even when workplace surveys are administered by third parties, as they often are, studies have found that anonymity does not completely erase the social desirability response bias. That’s in part because people don’t want to think of themselves in a negative light.

If you ask them to respond to a statement such as “I feel overworked” or “I feel burned out,” they’re more likely to say no than yes. It puts the focus on them and their feelings, rather than how the organization or the work is structured. It’s better to ask them to respond to a statement like this: “Generally, I believe my workload is reasonable for my role.” That way, people are assessing the firm or the role, not themselves.

Similarly, I’ve found that “we” questions can be more effective than “I” questions. For example, you might ask employees to rate the accuracy of this statement: “We are encouraged to be innovative even though some of our initiatives may not succeed.” By referring to “our initiatives” rather than “my initiatives,” you can remove judgment about the individual from the equation—and elicit more candor.

Acquiescence bias. The other psychological hurdle, acquiescence bias, is the tendency to say we agree as a default response to survey statements, particularly when our knowledge is limited or none of the available answers fit.

Consider this example: Some organizations ask people whether the executives are great role models for employees. But many employees don’t have enough access to the executive team to form an accurate judgment. If that’s not one of the options in the survey, people who feel that way may simply select “agree” or choose a “neutral” response. And that’s not telling you anything meaningful about role-modeling in the organization.

Those psychological factors aside, here are two other flaws to look for in workplace survey design:

Double-barrel questions. I see these frequently. They’re statements with two components that may be totally unrelated, such as “I am motivated to perform my best work and we are good at holding people accountable.” Those are separate observations; one doesn’t hinge on the other. So people should be asked to respond to two distinct statements: “I am motivated to perform my best work in this organization” and “We hold ourselves and our team members accountable for results.”

Ambiguousness. Sometimes questions are downright confusing because they’re indirect. For instance, surveys may ask “Do you have a best friend at work?” in an effort to measure how much employees enjoy being there. But that question can mean different things to different people. Is it asking whether you’ve chosen someone to be your “best friend at work”? Or whether one of your best friends in the world happens to be a colleague? Also, some people have one or two “best friends,” while others have a dozen or more. And the response won’t give managers any clear or actionable information. After all, you can have a best friend at work and still be disengaged and burned out.

Other sources of ambiguity include double negatives that leave people unsure what the question even is (“I don’t feel that my company fails to provide adequate resources to enable me to do my job”) and rating systems that switch directions partway through (where “5” means something positive, then something negative).

By addressing these flaws in survey design and asking questions that give employees the freedom, clarity, and psychological safety they need to be fully honest, organizations can get more accurate results and identify the right problems to fix. But even then, there’s another pitfall to watch out for. In hopes of gathering as much information as possible, some companies make engagement surveys mandatory or offer incentives for participation. I always discourage that.

Explain to employees why their responses are important, and then see what happens. If participation is particularly low in one unit and high in another, that can be a sign that certain parts of the company are engaged while others are not. Whether an employee chooses to participate is, in itself, an important piece of feedback.


Are agencies doing all they can to attract talent?

Agencies may be underutilizing creative payment structures and incentives that could help them attract and retain employees.

In a report released Dec. 14, the Government Accountability Office reviewed the uses of seven special pay authorities used by the 26 Chief Human Capital Officer agencies. The report was launched at the request of former House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, now a Fox News analyst, and current Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).

Government recruiters are allowed to take advantage of special pay rates for less-desired geographic areas, recruitment incentives, relocation incentives, retention incentives, qualifications-based incentives, student loan repayments and critical position pay.

Auditors reported that in fiscal year 2016, at least one of these pay authorities were barely used — for fewer than six percent of 2 million civilian employees.

“GAO’s report confirms that special pay authorities are an important way to recruit and keep the best of the best in our government,” Cummings said in a statement. “Gaps in mission-critical skills continue to be a big challenge for federal agencies — not because they don’t have the authorities they need, but because they don’t have enough resources to fully utilize them.”

Agencies cited special rates and recruitment incentives as the most commonly used authorities — used for about 74,000 and 13,000 employees each year, respectively. The least common authority was critical position pay — used for “as few as seven employees” in each of fiscal years 2014 and 2015, and limited to “a few senior positions,” according to the report.

Agencies told GAO these compensation incentives had positive impacts in attracting higher quality applicants and improving retention, and that manager training would likely make their uses more effective. However, to use these authorities more often, agencies say they need more funding.

Based on agency feedback, auditors found that the far and away most frequently cited obstacle to increased use of pay authorities was insufficient resources. Burdensome documentation and a complex approval process were also cited by agencies as a common challenge.

Auditors pegged agencies’ spending on recruiting, relocation and retention incentives and student loan repayment around $805 million across fiscal years 2014 and 2016. Roughly 40 percent of that figure was spent on retention.

STEM and cybersecurity occupations were the most-commonly targeted skills gaps agencies used these authorities to fill.

While agencies generally reported that the use of these authorities had a positive impact on recruitment and retention, most did not document assessments of their effectiveness.

Auditors also reported the Office of Personnel Management does not track their use government, and cannot not analyze the effectiveness of the authorities. As a result, OPM may be missing opportunities to promote their strategic use.

GAO recommended the director of OPM work with the Chief Human Capital Officers Council to track government-wide data to analyze how effective the special pay authorities are and determine if any changes may be needed to increase their effectiveness, as well as to provide agencies with guidance on best practices or frequently asked questions,

GAO also recommended OPM and the CHCO Council to establish procedures to assess and periodically review special pay requests that require OPM approval to make them less complex.


How HR Leaders Can Win a Seat at the Table

“Our people are our greatest asset.”

These feel-good words have decorated countless company walls, websites and mission statements.

But let’s be real. Most organizations don’t treat their employees like assets.

Think of it this way: An organization that owns land and buildings ensures those assets are well-maintained — it protects its investments. So, if employees are assets, why are less than one-third of U.S. workers functioning at peak performance efficiency?

Gallup analytics reveal that just 33% of U.S. workers (and 15% of global employees) are engaged at work — meaning they are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their job and workplace. When employees are not engaged, performance suffers, and most human resources leaders are not doing what it takes to help their employees reach their fullest performance potential.

HR leaders — especially those who want to assume more participatory roles as strategic business partners and key decision makers — should proactively address this problem like they would any other low-efficiency asset. With the right human capital approach, HR leaders can produce performance results that bolster their credibility and earn them a seat at the table.

Here are four strategies that can help HR leaders maximize their human capital potential and position themselves as prominent organizational leaders.

Analyze What Matters

In a data-driven world, it’s easy to get data-greedy — on a never-ending quest for more or different employee data. The truth is that many companies have all the data they need; what they’re missing is the right analyses. To generate meaningful insights that drive performance, HR leaders need analytics that generate discoveries, not bigger data. They need to properly mine and process the human capital data they have.

For example, analyses regarding basic outcomes (such as employee retention) reveal only limited insights (such as factors that help retain employees). But HR leaders who go a step further in their analyses can determine what high performers do differently, where their best employees come from and how to drive exceptional employee behaviors. Powerful discoveries such as these make all the difference because they reveal outcome-driving actions; they help leaders translate raw data into improved operational effectiveness.

Stop Viewing Employee Engagement as the Goal

Employee engagement is not the final product; it’s the necessary foundation for building a work environment that includes high productivity and performance. HR leaders should view employee engagement as one component of a holistic strategy for building exceptional workplaces.

This is especially true in today’s fast-paced, tech-driven world with shifting workforce demands. HR leaders need to invest in their people in multiple ways, from prioritizing employee well-being to positioning employees based on their innate strengths to adopting leading-edge performance development practices. Leaders who implement a comprehensive, data-driven approach for optimizing human capital can attract, engage, develop and manage unstoppable workforces.

Own Your Role in Realizing a Culture of Engagement

Gallup has been studying organizational culture for decades. We’ve learned that in the world’s highest-performing organizations, HR leaders are the stewards and keepers of the work culture, while executive leaders are the architects who cast the vision for an ideal culture.

It’s on HR leaders’ shoulders to identify which factors foster the desired culture, which successes come from that culture, and how that culture enables organizational objectives and outcomes. Put another way, HR leaders are responsible for transforming words into actions — for inspiring the desired employee behaviors and beliefs. By understanding and owning their pivotal role in creating and sustaining an aspirational culture, HR leaders can promote cultural transformation and stand out in executive leaders’ eyes.

Connect HR Initiatives to Customer Initiatives

Optimizing employee productivity is only part of the equation for organizational success. HR leaders need to think big-picture, discovering which employee strategies most effectively drive organic growth and prioritizing their efforts accordingly. It’s all about aligning employee goals and customer goals, as these critical outcomes predict one another.

For example, celebrating employee successes with frequent recognition can dramatically grow employee engagement. But, when HR leaders take it a step further and celebrate employees who deliver excellence to customers, they encourage customer centricity and demonstrate to senior leaders that they are focused on growing customer outcomes.

HR leaders who aren’t doing something about organizational performance will inevitably stay in supporting roles. But those who look beyond conventional HR agendas and connect employee engagement to customer goals can help leaders tackle burning business problems and emerge as influential strategic advisers.

Learn more about how Gallup helps HR leaders position themselves as strategic business partners.

Inquire about our workforce analytics solutions that connect HR data with growth and performance.

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Here’s what HR leaders think will be the top trends of 2018

The year 2017 was a roller-coaster ride for the jobs and human resource space. Be it artificial intelligence, robotics or digital workforce, the message was clear to the existing workforce: ‘Shape up or ship out’. The emphasis was on learning and upgrading one’s skills to meet the expectations of the changing workforce. In 2018, there could be another wave of changes in the space. Top HR leaders list them out for Moneycontrol:

Data analytics

Research conducted by Accenture Strategy shows 80 percent of HR and other business leaders are convinced HR should shift its mandate to become a driver of workforce performance. Through data-driven insights, HR now has the opportunity to directly tie workforce-related decisions to tangible business outcomes.

Sunit Sinha, Managing Director, Accenture Strategy – Talent & Organization, Accenture in India said that these range from the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and other technologies that augment people’s capabilities to workforce management, succession planning and leadership development.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning

Chhaya Sharma, Team Lead-HR, Capital Float said that the biggest HR Trend in 2018 and the years to come is the integration of new technologies in the HR Space & digitalization of the workplace.

These, said Sharma, will bring more transparency ranging from talent retention in HR, productivity in operations, data-driven decisions in finance, improved employee engagement and so on.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are already being used heavily in some sectors. The thrust, according to HR leaders, is expected to rise further.

Shraddhanjali Rao, Head of Human Resources, SAP India said that in 2018, one of the key HR trends will be changing the operating paradigm using technology, not only to simplify process implementation and create operational efficiency but also to focus on providing hyper personalized experiences to employees.

“Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning will play a strong role in recruitment and career development processes. These technologies will help employees map and chart their career path with an emphasis on diverse experiences,” she added.

The overall turnaround time for hiring is also expected to go down with the use of these technologies. Savita Hortikar, Head of Recruitment, ThoughtWorks India said that with these technologies, the time taken to ‘mine for candidates’ is drastically reduced, the search is also narrowed down to only the best talent that match job requirements, apart from removing biases.

With mundane job searches being handled by technology, the role of a human resource official is also expected to change. Shefali Mohapatra, Chief People Officer, Atria Convergence Technologies said that automation is a must in HR not because it’s the latest buzz but because it minimizes time and effort on transactions and allows HR professionals to focus on higher value adding activities. She added that this also allows us to craft more meaty and enriching roles for our employees.

Other technology-led additions will also add to the existing ones. Achal Khanna, CEO, SHRM India said that the time for HR Chatbots is coming soon. 2018 might be the year when this trend picks up. She said that it could involve chatbots who guide employees on career moves or even do preliminary interviews.

Liquid workforce

Sinha of Accenture said that another trend is the emergence of agile, liquid and adaptive workforce structures with an increasing reliance on crowdsourcing skills, contracted employees and ecosystem partners for skills. This creates an imperative for HR to think end to end about the experience for all parts of the workforce.

Chaitali Mukherjee, Partner – People & Organisation, PwC India said that in 2018, bring your own device will morph into bring your own people–for the right job. She added that the Liquid Workforce will continue to grow in an effort for organisations to manage costs, get the best talent for the job and leverage ‘just in time’ skills.


In sectors like IT, upskilling was the biggest differentiator to choose whether an employee was to be retained or let go off. In 2018 as well, this is expected to continue, for hiring as well as retention.

Mukherjee said that learning intelligence will be the key differentiator when it comes to hiring across levels. Organisations will increasingly focus on hiring employees who have a wide breadth of experiences and skills, and will focus on their ability to learn fast and adapt quickly, rather than their subject matter expertise alone.

Adding to this, Khanna of SHRM India explained that learning will no longer be a function of what is needed or when it is needed, but will be more of an active, employee-driven process which is constant rather than as per a training calendar.

In sectors like IT, specialised skill-sets will continue to be in demand. Alka Dhingra, General Manager, IT staffing, TeamLease Services said that as the industry moves away from traditional IT technologies like Java and Selenium to modern cloud-based applications & frameworks that offer scalability and inter-operability 2018 will also see a huge demand for re-skilling.

“Some of the skills which will be in demand in 2018 are including Google Tensorflow, Apache Mahout, Python, R, Dockers and Spark among others,” she added.


Do Your Measures Make Employees Mad? Or Motivate Them?

Fear. Anxiety. Stress. Anger. Not exactly the emotions we’re hoping to invoke in our employees, right?

Not exactly the key to motivational management, anyway.

Unfortunately, those are the emotions many people feel when it’s time to discuss their work metrics. Employees dread the idea of their manager reducing them to a number. A number that might be accurate and important but doesn’t accurately reflect all they bring to their job.

And no matter the niceties of how it’s all delivered, people get defensive and deflated.


“The very act of measuring communicates distrust, power, control and dehumanization.” That’s what one fellow student said when the topic of performance measurement came up in my Ph.D. class.

He was right. And he was wrong.

He was right because measurement can be dehumanizing. Managers, intentionally or not, end up using measurements negatively in an attempt to motivate people. But it doesn’t work. Instead, it makes them fearful, stressed, anxious and mad — it makes them feel like they’re never good enough.

He was wrong because measurement itself does not mandate those effects. And employees want measurement.

Measurement is a positive pillar for developing employees, holding them accountable and giving good, specific recognition — three performance objectives employees say they need from their manager and organization, according to Gallup’s Re-Engineering Performance Management paper.

Measurement is also the key to helping your employees become stars — the key to helping you create them. Think of any award-winning famous movie star or athlete — how did they win those titles?

Someone measured their performance. Then recognized them for it. And repeat.

Employees who strongly agree that their manager holds them accountable for their performance are 2.5 times more likely to be engaged in their job, according to Gallup research. And employees who feel adequately recognized are half as likely as those who don’t to say they’ll quit in the next year.

Measurement used in the right way is motivating.

Measurement used in the wrong way shifts your employees’ mentalities away from improving their performance and toward whether you, their manager, is trustworthy and qualified to judge their performance.

I know it’s tempting to think you’re not making the typical management mistakes that result in anxious employees — that your measurements must be right if your intentions are good and you give recognition often enough. But there are two clear signs that you’re not:

1. Only three in 10 U.S. employees strongly agree that in the last seven days they have received recognition or praise for doing good work.

2. Just one out of five employees strongly agree their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work.

If you measure to motivate, not control, you should have no problem giving meaningful, specific recognition on a regular basis.

There’s no way around it. We need to measure performance. But we need fair measurements that truly capture the person, not just the output.

We need ways to use measurement to positively motivate, not to cause heart attacks.

So, how do you know if your measurements are motivating your employees or making them mad? Here are six questions to ask yourself:

1. Do you measure everything? We hope not. Current technology, an emphasis on lean management and other systematic performance approaches provide the ability to deliver metrics on all kinds of measurements. But don’t fall into the trap of assuming that just because you can measure something means you should.

2. Can your employees directly influence the work you’re measuring? If employees can’t connect performance metrics with concrete actions they can take to improve, then toss the metrics. Employees won’t accept that a metric is fair if they don’t believe they can influence it. Allowing employees to participate in goal setting is a great way to give them some control and ownership of their output.

3. Does what you measure focus on the individual’s greatest abilities and contributions? You can create a strong buy-in with a measurement if it aligns with your employees’ strengths. Take into account the unique capabilities, responsibilities, expertise, experience and aspirations of each team member — one size does not fit all, does it?

4. Are your discussions about metrics future-focused and growth-oriented? Managers need to be aware that employees can’t change the past, so focusing on past experiences isn’t productive without discussing a clear path forward. A “glance back so we can excel moving forward” mentality is important because it allows for both constructive criticism and encouragement.

5. Do metrics come up in your discussions often? Performance metrics tend to feel unfair because they’re usually discussed only once a year. A lot can change over the course of a year, even in a few months — new tasks or projects pop up, or a person’s family life may require more attention for a season.

Touching on metrics more frequently reduces fear, enables managers to focus on recent accomplishments and introduces necessary performance corrections before problems become unmanageable.

6. Do your measurements tell a story? Do the numbers you’re collecting have an accompanying narrative? Two people may produce the same results according to key performance metrics, but they may have different contextual situations, make a different impact on their colleagues, or hold different value for internal or external customers.

The discussion about your employees’ measurements and goals means as much or more than the actual numbers. So, take a focus off the numbers improving, looking instead at what the numbers’ improvement means.

Motivate Your Team to Achieve Great Things Through Measurement

Reflecting on the six questions above will allow you to greatly affect the emotional encounters your people have with their measurements. That is not to say that you will find a way for everyone to “measure up” and be a star in their role — some may not be.

But if you take into account the whole person, whether or not the measurements come back great, you’ll both feel satisfied with the outcome. And perhaps on the path to finding another role where a formerly failing individual can excel.

Measurement used in the right way can reduce your employees’ negative emotions.

But more importantly, it can help you create a whole team of stars — people who are motivated to achieve great things, not just prodded to improve a little.

Learn how Gallup can help you motivate your employees through the right measurements and high-performance practices:

Register for our Leading High-Performance Teams course to discover how the world’s greatest managers yield higher levels of performance from individuals and teams.
Listen to our webinar, “How to Make This Year’s Performance Reviews More Effective for Your Employees,” to gain practical tips for improving the performance review process.
Download our Re-Engineering Performance Management paper to uncover Gallup’s greatest insights on the state of performance management.