Dealing with the dreaded self-evaluation

A written self-evaluation submitted to your manager seems like a cruel trick question, or at the very least, a hard line to walk. If you’re too self-congratulatory, you come off as a delusional blowhard. But if you’re too negative, you risk undermining yourself — and your career prospects.

Some companies such as General Electric and Adobe have dropped the traditional annual performance review altogether in favor of more frequent check-ins, says Dan Schawbel, research director at Future Workplace.

Jaime Klein, founder of Inspire Human Resources, has also noticed a change.

“We’ve seen the overall performance management process shift from one goal-setting meeting and one performance appraisal meeting to year-round check-ins, flexible goal-setting, and increased employee input. Self-reviews create the conversation that results in the formal review that is used to evaluate salaries and promotions.”

Whether your appraisals are annual or occur more frequently, here’s how to make sure you’re getting the most out of these forced career checks.

Do your homework

If your supervisor hasn’t explained already, ask how self-evaluations are used. “This helps to connect the dots between your personal view of your contributions and the company’s performance,” Klein says.

Often, documented self-evaluations are usually saved with performance appraisals, and are taken into consideration when decisions about bonuses and promotions are made.

“When an employee understands the weight that their self-evaluation carries, and the impact it can have on things that matter to them, like bonuses and promotions, it usually increases the effort they put into its preparation,” she says.

Gather ammo year-round

Sorry, but your manager probably doesn’t keep track of your wins. To snag a promotion or a raise, you have to remind him or her — and your self-evaluation is the perfect opportunity. Over the course of the year, keep a log of all your achievements and how each one has translated into revenue for your company. “If you’re preparing a month before self-evaluations are due, you’re doing it wrong,” says Schawbel. “Any time someone sends you an e-mail saying how great of a job you did, log that. Go into that self-review meeting with case studies.”

Be brutally honest

Take a hard look at yourself and your performance. What are your strengths? What could you have done better? Ask yourself what you uniquely brought to a project or task, Klein suggests.

Consider getting feedback from your co- workers to inform your self-evaluation, says Schawbel. And don’t just write what you think management wants to hear: “Full honesty is key to getting the most out of the self-review process,” says Klein. “If you’re considering being dishonest about your performance, chances are your manager is already aware of some issues that need to be addressed. Being honest demonstrates professionalism on your part, and allows your manager to review your strengths and opportunities for growth from your point of view. It also gives them a chance to offer career-path insight and identify potential training needs.”

Phrase it right

Self-reviews give employees a voice. “This is your chance to shape your performance appraisal, and highlight the contributions that you consider to be most impactful,” says Klein. “This is the perfect opportunity to discuss career goals with leadership, and make a correlation between your accomplishments and your immediate and long-term career goals.” Schawbel suggests quantifying your achievements — did they lead to an increase in revenue, an increase in savings, a more efficient process, an award for the company, or an improvement in customer-service ratings? Just don’t bash your manager, your company, your clients or your co-workers. Aim to be 90 percent positive, and save the remaining 10 percent for “areas for improvement” comments in order to appear well-rounded. “If you mention any weakness or setbacks, you immediately have to say, ‘But I did this differently the next time,’ ” says Schawbel. “Show that you’ve improved or corrected the error.”

Be pro-active

This is imperative. Your supervisor expects you to ask questions, says Klein. “To demonstrate your commitment to your personal and professional development, ask questions with suggested answers,” she suggests. “For example, instead of just asking, ‘How can I help to make your job easier?’ consider the tasks that your manager is already undertaking and ask if you could assume some of that responsibility to alleviate their workload. They’ll appreciate your proactive gesture, and you’ll get an answer from your impressed manager.”


3 Ways You Unconsciously Disrupt Employee Engagement

A recent article, Three Things That Sabotage Employee Engagement by Dr. Rick Goodman says that your company culture (every habit, every rule, and every practice) affects your employee engagement whether for good or bad. So, even team leaders who have the best intentions can unconsciously sabotage their own efforts to keep their employees engaged.

Here are three ways you can unconsciously sabotage your employee engagement.

1. Micromanaging your employees. You hire your employees to be part of your team in an agile office space because you believe and trust them in their talents and skills. But when you assign and delegate some tasks to them and yet they have no liberty to achieve them on their own terms, you sabotage their engagement and confidence.

You need to trust your people otherwise you shouldn’t have hired them in the first place.

2. Criticizing your employees. We make mistakes, it’s our natural tendency as human being, but it is one way in which we learn and grow. If you criticize or blame your employees for every little mistake they make instead of offering support, you restrain that growth potential. Instead of casting blame, you can call a meeting with your team in a meeting space to discuss their issues and concerns and how to improve their performance.

3. Failure to appreciate your employees. Don’t take all the credit for yourself. Give to your employees the credit due to them. Make sure everyone feels valued and appreciated. Your team should share successes as well as defeats. And if the team achieves something, everyone should feel good about it.


Employee engagement should stem from all aspects of your company. Thus identifying the areas where you’re coming up short and taking action about them is vitally important. Having an awesome office space and location is also very essential to keep employee engagement. Thus if you’re looking for workspace solutions in Philadelphia, YourOffice Philadelphia offers you a wide choice of office and workspace solutions: small office space Philadelphia, executive suites Philadelphia and meeting space Philadelphia. You’ll have access to a complete array of office support and concierge services as well as state-of-the-art business technology.

Case study: Managing HR tech transformation in a rapidly-growing business

Amid a clear mandate of complete re-structuring for business verticals, Prakash Balakrishnan, group HR director and HR strategic committee head, TH Group, analyses the steps in the path to successful HR transformation.
Q. You’ve had a wide portfolio of HR experience across geographies, first in India, then Qatar, and now Vietnam. What makes the HR role in Vietnam so distinct?

I spent more than 15 years in the armed forces in India and other corporations across India, Middle East, North Africa, and South East Asia; handling large and diversified business verticals.

Moving to Vietnam was a great challenge to accept. From a professional point of view, Vietnam is an emerging market with a lot of local players moving outward and other MNCs moving in. The business landscape as well as the HR vertical is rapidly changing, beyond just staffing and personnel management.

The HR role is fast moving towards a business partner role. The domain is fast evolving to catch up with the advanced countries. In recent times, with some major events like being a member of TPP and more FDIs coming in, the HR challenges in Vietnam have become multi-fold.

Q. Having been in the HR space since 2002, after you exited the Indian Air Force, what were the big differences and similarities in the HR and the national defence role?

The defense services have a very rigid vertical hierarchical system. Civil and private entities are much more complex, competitive in nature and sometimes, the changes and growth are exponential. Changes – be in terms of practices, technology, etc. happen much faster.

But I think the most differentiating factor is the career planning. The armed forces have very clear, long-term career planning since the staff remains with the system for a span of 15 to 20 years; whereas in other corporations, people move their career quite often.

Top of the priority list were arresting the high employee turnover rate (36%), improvement in employee productivity, and overall organisational capability.
Further, we do not encounter competitive products and services in defense. Meanwhile, civil entities are very aggressive in their strategies for products and services, customer service, quality standards, and on top of everything, maintaining their brand value. The scope of key facets of HR (talent management, performance, retention, etc.) becomes their priority.

Q. When you joined TH Group in August 2013, what was your key mandate?

I had a clear mandate of complete re-structuring for three major business verticals; which was extended to six; including two acquisitions. Preparation for listing in Singapore Exchange and Dow Jones Sustainability Index were additional responsibilities. Top of the priority list were arresting the high employee turnover rate (36%), improvement in employee productivity and performance, and overall organisational capability.

TH Group has six major businesses in Vietnam, spread across five geographical areas with field and operational staff. The accuracy of personal data and payroll had been a major challenge when you operate in such difficult conditions. When I formed TH Group as a shared service centre, my first priority was to centralise payroll and digitisation of personal data and attendance system. It was a great success to bring six companies and 6,000 employees under one system and most importantly, reporting.

I had set up an action plan to bring down the turnover rate from 36% in 2014 to 18% in 2016. We did a lot of research to make TH an employer of choice and I am proud to say that we won the Asia Best Employer Brand Awards in 2016. Of course, we drastically changed all our people practices, and made ourselves competitive in terms of total rewards.

Q. One of the recent focuses for TH Group is on leveraging technology for the HR function, where you are currently involved in an implementation of SAP SuccessFactors. Tell us about the journey behind your HR tech transformation, and what it entailed?

TH Group is in a fast growth and expansion mode with more products and services coming in, and more industries added to our business portfolio (pharma, sugar, education, healthcare, etc.). In 2016, we expanded our operations to the US, Russia and in 2017 to China. To manage such complex business expansions, you need a great deal of technological support.

Keeping the cost factor into consideration, we chose a hybrid version of SAP on-premise and SuccessFactors.
In 2014, I started looking at and deliberating on an HR technology platform to support our requirements. Finally, SAP SuccessFactors was chosen; it is a great on-cloud HCM solution. Keeping the cost factor into consideration, we chose a hybrid version of SAP on-premise and SuccessFactors.

It is a real honour for me and TH to be the first to implement SAP SuccessFactors in Vietnam and one of the few in Southeast Asia. It was a risk, but I managed to get the project implementation fast-tracked to six months, with a very young team who had never worked on any ERP packages.

Q. Since the adoption of technology, what best practices and innovations have you undertaken to reimagine business as well as workforce experiences?

After going live, I have given more empowerment through decentralisation. Our performance management has improved and become much easier to monitor. Line managers have been trained to keep a watch on the departmental goals and objectives through dashboards. Currently, we are trying to install a kiosk, where employees can access their personal information, salary details, etc.

Q. What considerations did you have in mind in the selection of a technology vendor?

Since we had SAP in place for other business areas, we chose SAP for HR as well, with SuccessFactors being one of the best on-cloud solutions in the market. One key factor is that SAP keeps updating the system, which is made available to customers at zero cost.

Q. What do you envision as the future of work – any next steps pertaining to your organisation’s digital HR transformation journey?

TH Group plans to implement HANA in 2018. From the HR point of view, we will upgrade our system to SAP Employee Central, in order to make it an end-to-end process, including approvals and HR analytics.


How are AR and gamification reshaping the learning and development journey?

Innovations such as augmented reality and gamification are helping to deliver new learning and development experiences that cater to the individual needs of the learner.

Businesses seeking to remain at the cutting edge when it comes to their learning and development approach are constantly having to update their methods to account for the latest technologies and innovations.

In recent years, the training and development paradigm has been shaken up significantly by augmented reality (AR) technologies and gamification techniques – two advances that are leading to major changes to the way that learners engage with training, and are yielding significant benefits for companies with enough foresight to invest early.

With both of these concepts having already proven their worth, it’s time for organisations of all shapes and sizes to get to grips with what these innovations have to offer, and understand how they can play a crucial role in revolutionising their training activities.

How does augmented reality work?
As the name suggests, AR is conceptually similar to virtual reality (VR), but with a few key differences that give the technology unique advantages as a learning and development tool in many cases.

VR is based on the principle of fully immersing the user in an entirely virtual space, usually through the use of a special headset and software that recreates a three-dimensional environment. AR, on the other hand, is geared around transposing virtual elements over the user’s real-world surroundings; sometimes, this can be achieved using dedicated headsets such as Google Glass or Microsoft’s HoloLens, but it can also be achieved using a regular smartphone camera, as the success of the mobile game Pokémon Go has demonstrated.

The benefits of using AR technology in corporate training are considerable. They allow learners to engage with the material in a more tactile way, with relevant information and guidance popping up as virtual elements in their field of view as they work through a task. Moreover, since AR applications work with most camera-equipped smart devices, they are often cheaper to utilise than VR systems, with the added benefit of providing access to real-time information within a practical, functioning workspace, rather than a virtual one.

What is gamification?
Gamification is another new advance that transforms learning into a more interactive, enjoyable experience, and it’s designed to take advantage of the fact that an increasing proportion of modern workers were raised as gamers.

Essentially, this principle takes many of the mechanisms that make games so fun and rewarding, and applies them to learning programmes. In a gamified training experience, users will be able to progress through different levels, unlock badges and achievements, and compare their performance to others via competitive scoring systems; sometimes, they can even involve a narrative element, with interactive storytelling helping to enliven potentially dry activities such as compliance training.

By embracing gamification, learning and development professionals will have a range of new tools at their disposal to keep users feeling interested and inject an element of fun to the proceedings. With this in mind, it’s little wonder that gamification is expected to be widely adopted by most industries in the coming years.

How do these advances deliver a more user-centric learner journey?
Although AR and gamification are very different techniques, what brings them together is the way that both are able to place the needs and preferences of the user at the centre of their own learning journey.

With both approaches, learners will benefit from a significantly more engaging experience than a basic lecture-style training session could ever deliver. Instead of simply reading about a subject, users can take part in sessions that provide rich, memorable media-driven material, thus bolstering retention; they can also enjoy an increased sense of progression and accomplishment, with the gamified aspects of the learning structure helping them approach training with genuine enthusiasm.

What’s more, the nature of the technology means that these experiences can be delivered more flexibly than ever before. Many AR applications and gamified systems can be viewed and accessed at any time from a smart device, allowing learners to absorb and revisit the material at their own pace, whatever their location. At a time when home-based and remote working is becoming more common than ever before, this is practically an essential requirement.

As such, organisations that have not yet invested in AR and gamification should start giving serious consideration to the matter. Integrating these advances into your learning and development strategy may require an initial investment of time and effort, but the rewards could be significant and long-lasting.


5 Feedback Questions to Help Employees Grow and Improve Engagement

It’s no secret that companies worldwide are looking to boost employee engagement. A Gallup report found that just 15 percent of employees globally are engaged at work. While there are a myriad of factors that contribute to that number, the lack of effective development is a major issue.

A survey found that professional growth and development was the top factor for retaining Millennials. And because the group now comprises the majority of the workforce, that’s an issue worthy of attention. But it’s not just Millennials who are suffering from lack of employee engagement. Nearly 70 percent of non-Millennial workers rate development opportunities as an important factor in job satisfaction.

Many companies are meeting those needs, with managers taking ownership of employee development and performance management, where they become coaches instead of traditional bosses. This type of development is built on regular employee feedback and conversations that help managers elicit the best performance from their employees.

At the core of any conversation are questions. Before I was in my current role, I spent years as a facilitator and executive coach. I learned that questions are key tools to not only obtain information but also induce deep inquiry about yourself personally and professionally.

Questions spark curiosity, and curiosity can lead to creativity, innovation, and problem solving. In the context of employee engagement and development, the questions you ask can unlock the type of development an individual needs to reach their potential and obtain their personal goals for work.

In my organization, I’ve earned the moniker Question Master for my penchant for poignant inquiries. Here are some questions we like to ask our team to help support their growth and spark work motivation.

What New Thing Did You Learn This Week?
They say that effective CEOs read 60 books per year. That’s more than a book a week! You don’t have to expect your employees to burn out their Kindles reading, but exposing yourself to new ideas in this way can greatly enhance innovation and employee performance. By asking this feedback question, you let employees know that you value learning and development, and it may entice them to increase their knowledge.

Have You Taken Any Risks Lately? What Did You Learn?
There’s a saying in Silicon Valley that could apply to the entire business world: “Move fast and break things.” Risk taking often leads to innovation and personal growth. But encouraging calculated risk taking only works if you don’t come down hard on people when they fail.

Employees will be less likely to step out on a limb if they’re ostracized when a project goes south. Get curious about the innovation and iteration process, and bring it full circle by cataloging what you and your employees have learned. It is during this time, too, that you can offer examples of constructive feedback to help improve employee performance.

Are We Providing Enough Growth Opportunities for Your Role? If Not, What’s Missing?

There’s a common saying in the business world: “People don’t leave their jobs; they leave their managers.” While it’s true that your direct manager is responsible for creating a positive employee experience and work culture, research suggests that many people leave companies not over relationships, but because they think they’ve stopped growing.
A Deloitte study found that 71 percent of Millennials expect to leave their jobs within two years because they’re dissatisfied with how their leadership skills are being developed. Want to stop your talent from looking at the exit door? Ask them this feedback question to determine what’s missing.

What New Skill Do You Want to Have by This Time Next Year?

Sometimes employees have a desire to grow their skill sets (whether personally or professionally), but they don’t know how to get there. They also may not have the resources.
The first step of an effective employee satisfaction survey is to ask them how they want to grow. You, as a leader, may be able to allocate resources, make a connection, or otherwise support their continued growth and boost employee performance.

What’s One Project You’d Love to Focus on for an Entire Week but Don’t Have Time to Accomplish?

Cal Newport, author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World , says deep work is when you focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. But in today’s world, it seems nearly impossible to carve out time amid distractions like email, Slack, and meetings.
Research shows that staying focused and getting into flow states greatly increases productivity. Three hours in flow is far more productive than six half-hour work sessions. Every time you come out of flow for something and ramp back up afterward, you lose, well, your flow. Finding out what an employee wants to focus on and helping them get there aids their growth and work motivation.

While this is just a sample of general, open-ended feedback questions, there are an infinite number of queries you can use to probe your employees. The idea is to get your employees’ wheels turning to uncover their deep needs and desires. Asking questions about employee performance and mindset not only gives you a better understanding of them, but also helps you become a better leader by gathering information and strengthening relationships.


How To Create A Culture of Engagement, According To The CEO Of Kronos

What’s the secret to creating a company that the best talent wants to work for?

Employee engagement is paramount to creating a successful company. Without it, employees feel unconnected to your company goals, and are more likely to seek out other opportunities. Employee engagement is also notoriously difficult to measure and implement. So how can a company, large or small, create a culture that attracts the very best?

Aron Ain is the CEO of Kronos, a company that provides workforce management software. He joined right out of college in 1979, when there were just a few employees. And today, he leads the company, which has over 5,000 employees, does 1.3 billion dollars in revenue. Kronos has been named a best place to work by The Globe and Mail, The Boston Business Journal, the Boston Globe, The Montreal Gazette, and Great Place to Work. He’s personally one of the highest rated CEO’s on Glassdoor, and recently won the Ray Stata Leadership and Innovation Award.

I recently interviewed Ain for the LEADx Leadership Podcast, where we discussed the finer points to engaging employees, the secret to great one-on-one’s, and what Kronos is developing next. (The interview below has been lightly edited for space and clarity.)

Kevin Kruse: How are you getting such high engagement levels in a large organization?

Aron Ain: It starts with communication. It starts with asking our people what’s motivating them, and what’s upsetting them. Then it’s to take that information we get, and do something about it. The reason we have over 90% employee participation in our engagement surveys when we ask employees about it, they say, “It’s because you do something about it. We can tell if we gave you feedback, that my manager sits down and talks to our group about something that came from our area, and then we take action to correct it, and do better going forward.” That’s very motivating for people.

We also clearly understand that to be a great company, we have to have great people who work here. To have great people who work here, we need to be the kind of environment that people want to come to work and stay at. We focus deeply on these areas, and that includes trust, and collaboration, and transparency, and communication. It also includes being successful and making good decisions.

Truth and honesty is a big important part of what we do, and perhaps most importantly, I believe people join companies because they hear about the company, but they leave companies because they’re not happy with who they work for. We have a high premium on our manager effectiveness. In fact, we survey that on a regular basis. We hold our managers accountable to that, we reward the ones who do really well. We focus on all these dimensions that Kronos being a great place to work, and all the things that make that possible.

Kruse: What are your thoughts on manager one-on-one meetings?

Ain: I think communication is critical, and how you choose to communicate with the people who are on your team can be done in different ways. I tell people at work that silence is not an effective form of communication. You need to communicate, have conversations. For me personally, even though I have very senior people who work for me, I have scheduled one on one’s every week with my direct reports, no agenda. We just come in and catch up with each other.

In addition, I have a scheduled group meeting of my executive leadership team once a week, where we sit around the table. Again, no agenda, catch up with each other. It’s a form of communicating, so we make sure that we’re aligned with what’s going on, so there’s no surprises. It’s very informal, but from my perspective, very effective.

Kruse: When it comes to Kronos, what are you most excited about these days?

Ain: We’re always thinking about what the future looks like, and I think in particular right now, with Workforce Dimensions, our new Flagship Enterprise Product that we’ve spent three years, 600 people, 150 million dollars developing, whose intent is to revolutionize the workforce management business. I’m particularly motivated, and really excited about what this product will represent not just for our company, but for the workforce management business. This product that we’ve built is future ready, as I describe it. It’s built for a modern Cloud, that uses things that haven’t typically been seen in applications like artificial intelligence, machine learning, responsive development design, and all these other areas.


Ain has moved from janitor to CEO, and grown a massive company, by keeping a close eye on the pulse of the organization. From company-wide surveys to weekly no-agenda chats, constant feedback is key.


How top-tier businesses retain talent

Best-in-class analysis shows top-performing companies employ similar tactics for health care cost control, HR management.

Companies heading into the new year short-handed might want to consider how top-performing peers are snagging talent.

Insurance, risk management and consulting firm Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. last month released its annual Best-in-Class Benchmarking Analysis looking at how large and midsize employers in the U.S. are managing benefits costs while recruiting and retaining labor.

“What we’re trying to do is help folks find the right path forward, (with) improved health cost control and attraction and retention,” said Stephanie Bauman, Gallagher area senior vice president and one of the report’s authors.

The data came from Gallagher’s 2017 Benefits Strategy & Benchmarking Survey, which collected benefit and human capital strategy findings from 4,226 organizations of all sizes.

The Business Journal reported on the results of that 300-question survey in September.

The best-in-class analysis shows top-performing large employers (1,000 or more full-time employees) are spending less while boosting employee protection and productivity.

It also reveals best-in-class midsize employers (defined as 100-999 employees) are reining in costs without shifting the burden to employees.

According to Gallagher, both groups have shifted to considering compensation and benefits an investment rather than a cost — and are taking a long-term approach.

Bryan Hirn, Michigan area president for Gallagher’s benefits and HR consulting division, said the best-in-class report — published in two separate documents Nov. 30 — is meant to satisfy the companies that want to know what is going on at the top.

“When we released the original data set … our prospective clients (came) back to us and said, ‘This is great because it tells me norms and averages of competitors, but I want to know what the best companies are doing,’” he said.


In the report, best-in-class employers were defined as those that ranked in the top quartile for controlling health care costs and managing human resources.

Factors for measuring best-in-class companies in the health care cost control category included health plan premium increases at the most recent renewal; health plan premium increases one year prior; health plan premium increases two years prior; and the effectiveness of self-assessed health care cost management strategy.

Considerations in the human resources management category included turnover percentages; success of employee communication efforts; assessment of workforce satisfaction, motivation and commitment; and completion of a workforce engagement survey within the past two years.

Those that scored in the top quartile of both categories were identified as exceptional performers or the “best of the best.”

While Gallagher did not disclose the names of companies that participated, of the 4,226 organizations of all sizes that responded to the survey, 315 large employers responded to the entire set of questions in the two categories and were ranked in this analysis, and 1,192 midsize employers responded and were ranked.

Key findings

While large employers spend more than midsize employers on benefits, the best in class in the large group leveraged their scale to keep a tighter lid on their financial outlay. Sixty-two percent spent less than $10,000 per eligible employee on benefits, compared to just 42 percent of large employers overall.

Compared to other midsize employers, the best in class were less likely to increase employees’ contributions to health plan premiums (43 percent vs. 57 percent). Instead, the best in class experimented with other ways to manage total health care spending, such as offering fewer plan options — often choosing to self-insure their medical plans and carving out pharmacy benefits.

The best in class for both employer sizes were more likely to view total compensation as an investment in maximizing workforce performance to achieve business outcomes and prioritize objectives that support production and productivity, such as employee health and well-being.

In the large employer group, actions that defined the best of the best included long-term planning and strategy, employee communication and engagement, and promoting employee well-being and accountability.

In the midsize employer group, the best of the best also focused on long-term planning and strategy, as well as measuring progress toward health and wellness goals, actively controlling health care benefit costs and focusing on employee satisfaction and affordability.

Evolving strategy

Hirn said part of a responsive cost-benefit strategy has to do with abandoning a one-size-fits-all approach.

“For a long time, the thinking was, ‘We will attract and retain the employees we want, and part of that strategy is having a rich benefit plan.’ But rich benefit plans are expensive. Very few, if any, employers will pay the whole freight; they will expect employees to share that,” he said.

“When you’re dealing with a multigenerational workforce with millennials, Generation X and baby boomers who are often empty-nesters, those three groups are very different.”

For instance, he said, younger employees don’t have as many health problems, so a rich benefit plan would be a net negative for them.

“A progressive employer would say, ‘We’re going to offer more than one plan so the employee can determine which they need.’ That way, a person doesn’t have to pay half their paycheck for rich benefits they won’t use,” he said.

To supply more choice, Hirn said many employers are turning to private exchanges that allow them to offer as many as eight or nine plan options with an education platform to help employees decide which plan best fits their needs.

“It will ask you, ‘How old are you? Are you married? How many kids do you have? How much money do you make? What are your health issues? What’s your risk tolerance?’ By answering those questions, you will narrow it down to fewer options,” Hirn said.

Balancing act

Bauman said one intriguing result in the analysis was midsize employers are showing more concern about doing it all.

“Sometimes, when you put costs under control, you have to sacrifice benefits,” she said. “But they weren’t doing that; they were trying to do both.”

She said large and midsize companies are learning to be proactive.

“One of the big themes is a longer-term planning cycle, so they’re not stuck in a reaction cycle,” she said. “(They’re) looking ahead to communication and well-being in a longer-term perspective. They think of employees as an investment rather than a cost.”

In addition to providing more choice, allowing opt-outs and defined contributions, offering retiree benefits and ensuring employees are educated about health plans and wellness strategies, the best of the best companies also focused on social well-being initiatives, such as volunteering.

Hirn said while Gallagher did not split the data into Michigan and West Michigan figures because the sample size was too small, the state is on par with the overall trends.

Year ahead

Heading into 2018, Hirn said it will become even more essential for companies to benchmark their strategies against top performers.

“One of the challenges we have here in Michigan is we have people leaving to go somewhere else. There is a true fight for talent here in Michigan,” he said.

“Organizations will have (to follow) the lead of the best-in-class employers if they’re going to be cutting-edge.”


What does 2018 hold for HR?

2017 has been a time of immense change for the modern workforce and HR professionals. The rise of the gig economy, huge developments in technology and a new understanding of employee experiences has already made waves throughout the industry. Below are four of my predictions for areas that will be significant in the HR landscape in 2018.

1. The future of work will evolve

The modern workplace and workforce is changing, affected by factors such as global expansion, demography (millennials entering), societal expectations/behaviours and economic factors. These changes are initially stimulating first adopters at the individual level, and then permeating slowly at an organisational level.

In 2018 the nature of work will shift via cultural change. Employees will demand a more flexible way of working from their employer. For example, retention of key talent necessitates that organisations be conscious of a positive work experience. In order to be competitive, some companies are introducing the concepts of unlimited leave, flexible hours and working from home whilst ensuring business outcomes are met.

Adoption of digital tech will also be a key factor in the future of work. Organisations acknowledge that they need more productive, knowledgeable and happy employees when servicing their clients. To achieve this, many are turning to digital tools to enhance employee productivity and leadership decision making. Statistically 70 per cent of the Australian workforce is service/labour based, so this provides great scope to upskill our workforce and enhance productivity.

Creating a great place to work is also achieved by having a culture of innovation and engagement. Transformation is continuous and we must prepare for the future now. Australian companies need to embrace flexibility and really look at how they engage with contingent talent. The contingent workforce (gig economy and contractors) still want to be part of a workforce culture and employee value proposition, with access to development opportunities.

2. Digital disruption will continue

Technology can enable new ways of solving problems, creating unique experiences and accelerating business performance. Digital disruption is affecting business models, work practices and staff lifestyles.

Organisations now see that putting up physical or technical barriers to insulate an employee’s quest to learn, share, collaborate and engage in meaningful ways is no longer viable to retain high performing employees and stimulate innovative thinking. Social tools and sites like Facebook, Linkedin and Glassdoor may not be corporately owned applications, but they are used by prospective employee candidates to filter those organisations that have a strong purpose and vision for the future.

Leadership is also being disrupted now. Organisations are looking for younger, more agile and diverse leaders that understand all things digital, such as adopting technology to help enable continuous feedback as a way to learn and accelerate decision making. Digital leadership makes companies more effective, creating rapid talent mobility, collaborative learning and pushing to deliver products faster in an iterative way.

Disruption is also coming from companies prioritising their own employees over their customers. There has been a widespread realisation that retaining key talent helps retain customers, and prevents a churn of new employees. This has led to a digital emphasis on enhanced internal communication tools, engagement and survey capabilities. This keeps organisations well informed about the health and well-being of its employees on a daily, weekly, monthly basis, and not reliant on once a year surveys and appraisals.

3. Datasets will be leveraged to drive business outcomes

Organisations are finding it difficult to boost employee education and skills training fast enough to keep pace with change. By understanding people, we are better able to influence their own career journey within the company. This is not just about vertical promotions but moving horizontally throughout the organisation, ultimately to get to where their goals and ambitions reside. Whilst the outcome is retention of key talent, it is also about the influence these people have on their peers as a determinant of creating and maintaining a high-performance culture and engagement.

By adding personalised, mobile friendly, and employee-centric digital learning capabilities, this approach addresses the needs of both companies and learners – putting employees in control of their career development and allowing for learning to occur in more natural ways as part of a daily work flow. Aligning the right learning content to the right person at the right time in a “Netflix-style” user-experience will simplify discovery, browsing of courses and enable predictive search, all designed for self-directed learning and creation of learning paths. The intelligent platform will automatically identify and recommend courses based on a user’s interests, preferences and aspirations, via a machine learning algorithm. Importantly a platform such as this will automatically identify the best learning paths by role or career trajectory to help employees pursue their ambitions.

4. Employee experience will be used to drive productivity and talent management strategies

The modern workforce want to know that their organisation is seeing the world through the employee’s eyes, staying connected and working with them on their major career milestones. Investing in them with meaningful training and development based on their current and future needs, aspirations, even though they’re not sure where they want to be in 2-5 years’ time.

Anecdotally, job satisfaction is most influenced by having a sense of empowerment, feeling appreciated and being able to do meaningful and interesting work. This means choice of employer and clear articulation of values. Digital HR strategies will be driven by those expectations. We’ve found that with our customers, when they have defined their core values, their success comes from walking the talk. Cornerstone OnDemand’s Unified Talent Management solution enables this strategy by linking the end to end employee lifecycle, from recruitment, performance, learning and core HR. All of the processes, assets, and people data are all intrinsically connected to improve both the employee user experience.

Companies and HR departments are going through a change in both mindset and behaviour. Most HR departments start out as delivering compliance functions, such as payroll, benefits and meeting legal requirements. Organisationally, we find that there is a potential strategy conflict now between compliance (low risk) and innovation (high risk). They don’t necessarily go together but we need to do both.

Innovation creates an engaged workforce, which means that people work harder, are more productive and more creative. Culture also creates innovation, and teams succeed when people are connected, engaged, have a common purpose and there is open and transparent environments.

In the 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report, David Brown from Deloitte Australia said 85% of Australian HR professionals say fostering a better employee experience is their most important priority. “At present Australian HR professionals are closely focused on retention through improving the employee experience, such as setting up systems to help employees deal with the volume of communication and level of administration in their lives,” said Brown. “If employees are happy, a company will see better productivity, greater collaboration, less turnover and greater retention of corporate knowledge.”

Consequently, Australian companies must understand and elevate digital HR as a priority in 2018.


The Emperor Has No Clothes: Recasting Leadership in the Open-source Era

The digital age has democratized the workplace. Now employees can wield just as much knowledge and voice as their managers. It’s a profound change that is forcing an evolution in leadership. Rajeev Peshawaria, who heads the Iclif Leadership and Governance Centre in Malaysia, explores the idea in his new book, Open Source Leadership: Reinventing Management When There’s No More Business as Usual. He contends that leaders must learn to do things differently if they want their companies to innovate and survive. Peshawaria has held senior leadership positions at American Express, HSBC and Goldman Sachs, and he was chief learning officer at Coca-Cola and Morgan Stanley. He discussed his ideas on the Knowledge@Wharton show, which airs on Wharton Business Radio on SiriusXM channel 111. (Listen to the podcast at the top of this page.) The following is an edited transcript of the conversation.

Knowledge@Wharton: How has leadership changed in this open-source environment?

Rajeev Peshawaria: If you look at what technology has done in the last five to six years with the way we live at home and at work, there are two major things. One, ordinary people today are much more empowered than ever before because everybody has a super-computer in their pocket. I can join any debate I want to. I can say whatever I want to. Ordinary people are really empowered. Leaders, on the other hand, are totally exposed to the extent of being naked.

The second thing is that the 21st century is facing both amazing opportunities as well as daunting challenges related to basic things like food, water, jobs, environment. When it comes to leadership in the 21st century in the open-source era, just showing up to work and telling people what to do is not enough. Just creating shareholder return is not enough. Leadership today has to be about a burning desire to create a better future and to not give up in the resistance that you’re going to face when you decide to do something different.

Knowledge@Wharton: You have noted that Uber, the world’s biggest taxi company, does not own their taxis. The world’s largest hotel chain, Airbnb, doesn’t own the properties it rents. From that perspective alone, businesses are dynamically changing because of technology. Do you think that change is going to continue significantly in the years to come?

Peshawaria: Absolutely. It is just the tip of the iceberg. Two things that mark the open-source era, one of which we are talking about right now, is uber connectivity. Everything and everyone is super-connected, and that is why these new business models are emerging. Old business models are obliterating at a rate faster than ever before. I think the next five to 10 years are going to be incredibly exciting. Just take cancer, for example. Right now you take chemotherapy or any other treatment, and the good cells are killed along with the bad cells. Very soon there’ll be bots running through your veins where only the bad cells will be attacked. It’s unimaginable the stuff that is coming. People have to be prepared for that.

“The problem with leadership training is we’ve been confusing followership with leadership for a long time.”

Knowledge@Wharton: These are changes that are happening in a majority of sectors, not just a couple of areas.

Peshawaria: Yes…. The question is, are large companies’ management practices keeping pace, and are they prepared for what’s coming?

Knowledge@Wharton: There has been tension at times between millennial employees and their managers, who may be in the baby boomer generation and not willing to accept what they bring to the table. Is that changing as millennials are providing more, partly because they’re the largest segment of the workforce?

Peshawaria: Correct. I hear things like, “these millennials don’t have the work ethic that our generation had. They want everything easy. They want it now just because they can have it.” When people talk like that, I ask them, “do you use Google Maps or Waze when you drive?” If they say yes, I say, “well, why don’t you keep an atlas in your car? Is it because it’s easier? Is it because you can have it? What’s the difference between when millennials want something easier and they can have it when you’re doing the same thing?”

Secondly, I look at college kids today. I don’t remember our generation having the kind of pressure that current college kids are going through with their coursework, etc. To say that they don’t work hard, to say that they don’t have the right work ethics, in my opinion, is dead wrong and not helpful.

Knowledge@Wharton: It’s not that students aren’t working hard, it’s that there is sometimes a mismatch between what they are learning in college and what they need to be the next generation of leaders.

Peshawaria: You’re absolutely right on that because we are in the fourth industrial revolution. If you look at the other previous revolutions in history, education takes a little bit of time to adjust to create what is needed in terms of skills and attitudes for the next wave. That’s the period we are going through now. We are not preparing them enough for the next generation because nobody knows, because it’s still unfolding as we speak, which is why learning agility is probably the biggest competency that’s needed in the next 10 years.

Knowledge@Wharton: You also discuss something called autocratic leadership. What is that?

Peshawaria: If you look at any literature on leadership, chances are you will find that when it talks about leadership style, most books idealize the democratic, all-inclusive style of leadership. You must get to consensus, you must love everybody, you must take everybody along with you. On the other hand, you have people like Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and if you go east, the former prime minister of Singapore. These people were all autocrats, and they’re the ones who rocked the history of the planet in recent years. So the question is, which one of them is true? All the books that idealize democratic leadership or autocratic?

We asked over 16,000 people in 28 countries what’s common between great leaders. We gave them a set of behaviors to choose from, half of which were autocratic and half were democratic behaviors. Without exception, all 28 countries in our global study overwhelmingly agreed that to create breakthrough innovation and success in today’s high-speed world, you need autocratic leadership. That was the most surprising part of our research. But there was absolutely no difference by country across the world in terms of people’s agreement on which of the two was needed.

“Group innovation within the company and crowdsourced innovation from outside … are going to be the way to go.”

Knowledge@Wharton: Many companies are trying to bring more groups and subsets together within their organizations to focus on innovation. Do you think this trend will continue?

Peshawaria: I think so. I think group innovation — getting people together to put their heads together to innovate — is what it will take because the world is getting way too complex for any one person to have all the answers. I also think that the speed and the frequency of innovation is going to make a difference in terms of whether a company survives or not. Besides just creating collaborative environments within the company for group innovation, companies are going to have to get better crowdsourced innovation, opening it up to billions of people as to who has an idea to solve this problem or to exploit that opportunity. Both group innovation within the company and crowdsourced innovation from outside the company are going to be the way to go.

Knowledge@Wharton: How will this change the structure of companies and the traditional corporate ladder?

Peshawaria: Some people are predicting the death of the corporation in the next 20 to 25 years. I don’t go that far. But there will be profound changes. You will still have traditional research and development departments within organizations, and some of the work they do will still be secretive. But a huge amount will also shift to the crowd, as it is already doing in many industries. To that extent, it will have its bearing on organizational structures.

Knowledge@Wharton: Where do you stand on the state of leadership training?

Peshawaria: The problem with leadership training is we’ve been confusing followership with leadership for a long time. As parents, we love kids who listen to us and obey, and we sort of whack them into submission if they don’t. Then we reward them. In school and college, teachers’ pets are the people who do exactly what they’re told and they’re rewarded.

In big companies, my bonus partly depends on whether I get a good score on my employee engagement survey, which makes me a pleaser, not a leader. And in the boardroom when I present a great strategy, the first question they ask is, “Where is the McKinsey Report that says 10 best-practice companies have already done it?” Right from childhood all the way to the boardroom, we reward followership with leadership. That’s one problem.

The other problem is we equate title and position with leadership. The president is automatically the leader of the country. The prime minister is automatically the leader of the country. The CEO is the leader of the company. These ideas are not going to work in the 21st century. You have to have a burning desire to create a better future, and you’ve got to find inner energy, inner strength to keep going. Something that kept Nelson Mandela going for 27 years. It’s about finding that energy and not about competencies, not about case studies, not about personality tests and what have you.

Knowledge@Wharton: Do you expect more companies will open to accepting innovative ideas from the lower rungs of the corporate ladder?

Peshawaria: Absolutely. Many companies are already doing it. I also think this has bearing on how succession planning and future leaders are identified. I think the days of identifying a pool of high potentials and developing them with a special development diet, as was the case in the 20th century, are over. Let me give you some psychometric tests and assessments and then decide whether you’re a high potential or not. And if you are, we’re going to treat you special. Those days are over.

“Let me give you some psychometric tests and assessments and then decide whether you’re a high potential or not. And if you are, we’re going to treat you special. Those days are over.”

I think today we have to open it up to everybody to say, “Who has a good idea? Who wants to contribute in what way? Submit your projects.” Then make it no barrier to entry and see where the innovation comes from. The people that raise their hands every year and come up with great ideas and are able to back it up with their energy, they’re your future leaders. Your innovation takes places in an organic way, and future leadership development takes place in an organic way. The cream rises to the top naturally.

Knowledge@Wharton: What are the greatest changes you expect to see in leadership?

Peshawaria: We were talking about autocratic leadership before. The biggest change that I see is the fact that leaders are totally exposed and naked, and ordinary people are really empowered. The big dilemma is that our data says that you’ve got to be autocratic if you want to create quick and breakthrough success. The time for consensus is over. But how can you be autocratic in today’s day and age when everybody is so empowered, and somebody can destroy your reputation in just a matter of seconds? That’s the 21st century leadership dilemma.

I think the big change is going to be for leaders to understand what it means to live in the open-source era totally exposed and naked, and practice what we call positive autocracy. You’re going to have to earn the right to be autocratic by living the right values and by pursuing a purpose at all times. You’re going to have to master what we call the dance of a naked autocrat, which means to be completely autocratic about your values and your purpose because you thought through that very deliberately and slowly, at the same time being completely compassionate and humble and respectful with people.

Third, provide freedom within a framework. Don’t just box people up into rules, policies and procedures because the world is working too fast these days. Instead, build a culture based on values. If United Airlines employees had acted according to values rather than procedures, they probably would not have dragged David Dao off the airplane in a bloodied state. That’s the idea of creating culture based on values rather than rules, freedom within the framework.

You’ve got to keep listening and learning and reflecting continuously. That’s fourth. Learning and reflection is something that has to become part of the DNA of leaders.

Finally, if you want to create a culture of innovation, you’re going to have to create a lot more forgiveness within the organization. Why forgiveness? Not because it liberates the soul, but there’s a business reason. If you want your company to innovate, you’re going to want people to take risks and try new things. If they try new things, they’re going to fail a lot. If you forgive failure and celebrate it, you’re going to get a lot of innovation. If you are a no-tolerance culture for mistakes and failure, you can say goodbye to innovation in the open-source era.

Knowledge@Wharton: More companies are giving more employees the flexibility of working from home. How does that fit with innovation?

Peshawaria: Any extreme is not good. You cannot have every job working from home and people never interact. You need some group interaction for innovation to take place. I think what will emerge is a hybrid model where leaders will decide. The key is not whether you’re working from home, the key is how much flexibility and freedom you give to your employees.

By some estimates, 40% of the U.S. workforce is already a free agent, like an Uber driver. The kind of freedom that these people have, you cannot afford not to give a similar kind of freedom to the employees who are full time. Whether that comes purely from working from home or in other ways, leaders are going to have to invent ways in which they can give the freedom that is best suited in their environment.


Could Your Business Benefit from an HR Audit?

In 2018, we are seeing businesses of all sectors invest in HR. Understanding the impact HR can have on recruitment, company culture and employer branding, we are proud to offer a string of solutions to the businesses of Wales. If you are looking to place HR as a focus for 2018, then we highly recommend conducting an HR Audit. As an activity that reviews your company’s policies, procedures and strategies to safeguard the company, the employer and its employees; there are many benefits for businesses to explore. Below we have detailed just a few.

Ensure your documents are in place and compliant
Whilst many companies will have HR literature to simply tick a box, it is essential that documents such as Employee Handbooks and Employment Contacts actually serve a purpose.
Our HR Audit is a perfect opportunity to review your current documents and offer a pragmatic solution if anything needs changing. By doing this, you make sure your documents are compliant and in line with current legislation, as well as your business’ goals!

A happy workforce
Many associate HR with being legally sound when running a business and effective HR practices can have a huge bearing on employee morale. By operating in sync with modern practice and having the correct documentation, you immediately communicate the message that you are a responsible, trustworthy employer. Leading to a positive company culture, having the right HR documents can be the difference stale workforce and a high-performing one.

Pin-point risks and potential problem areas
The main purpose of conducting an HR Audit will be to help identify weaknesses in your business. These weaknesses may be unnoticed until you face an issue in your company, such as people management, under performance, appraisals and dismissals just to name a few. Freeing the businesses from politics, blame-games and excuses for non-performance, bringing in a strong HR structure can encourage a new culture of professionalism.

Bring fresh thinking into the business
The HR Audit is completely free of charge and you are under no obligation with us once completed. It is an open and honest service to help your business pinpoint any issues, if you have any and offer a practical resolution to ensure your employment obligations and responsibilities are being met.

The audit is an opportunity to meet new businesses and engage with you and your business where we can gain an understanding of your values. For more information on our free BOSS HR Audit service, as well as our other products, contact us today.