How Relationship Management Impacts Strategy Execution

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<www.expersoft.com

<www.expersoft.com>

I recently stumbled across an oldish (late 2015) but excellent executive summary of a Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies (CAHRS) sponsored event examining the changing role of the HRBP. You can read an overview of what the event covered here (and the full executive summary here), but one of the things that stood out to me in the overview was the following section:

Knowledge

^This section jumped at me because – in as much as the focus here was on HRBP knowledge transfer – the highlighted section is really true of *any* leadership role. Whether an organization has centralized decision-making processes or more decentralized ones, to execute on any activity of importance a leader has got to understand the socialization and organizational alignment process (to both ensure support from other key stakeholders and to flush out any institutional issues that might otherwise disrupt a change midstream). Understanding the knowledge level/needs of key stakeholders and making sure the message flows upward and outward to them in the right way is also key. And doing this wells means understanding how each audience differs, what they care about, and what knowledge they do or do not have. From there, the message must be tailored appropriately for each intended stakeholder.

…So at this point you may be thinking “this is table stakes stuff”, and in many ways it is. And yet when I think about the most effective teams and organizations I have worked with compared against those that have been more dysfunctional, for a surprising number of teams within the latter group some combination of effective relationship management/streamlined decision-making was missing. That lets me know that addressing this issue is easier said than done.

Okay – so I suppose my thought questions to readers today would be as follows: Do teams need to discuss information flow and decision-making as part of the onboarding process for new hires? If so, at what level does that start? And on a related note how explicitly does the socialization effort and communication strategy required to advance an idea need to be called out when working through key project milestones? I would argue that maybe it needs to be called out fairly explicitly, because in a lot of cases at all levels I believe this stuff is being considered tacitly understood knowledge when it really isn’t.

Let me know what I have wrong here…

Happy Wednesday.

Best,

Rory

How Cultural Norms Around Work and Family Life are Impacting the Gender Pay Gap

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Happy Tuesday all.

…So I recently read a great article by Ben Casselman at FiveThirtyEight here that talks about why women are no longer making material progress towards narrowing the pay gap between men and women. Long story short, there are a number of variables that drive the pay gap (such as men’s tendency to opt into high earning careers at greater rates and women’s tendency to negotiate less often), but the one I want to talk about today deals with the article’s primary focus – namely that as a society we are increasingly compensating employees at higher and higher rates for working longer hours – regardless of exemption status. From the piece:

Men make up a bit more than half the full-time workforce, but they account for more than 70 percent of those working 50 hours a week or more. So as wage gains have gone disproportionately to people working long hours, they have also gone disproportionately to men, widening the earnings divide between men and women overall.

The effect being denoted above is illustrated really well in the below chart:

<http://fivethirtyeight.com/

<fivethirtyeight.com>

…Essentially, men work more hours than women because women disproportionately shoulder home-life / childcare duties. And because men work more hours than women, over time their earnings start to diverge progressively more from their female peers who are more likely to take a step back in work hours and/or opt out of the work force entirely.

Of course, this begs the question: What role should organizations – particularly HR – be playing in addressing the cultural legacy issues that leave women disproportionately shouldering home-life issues at the expense of their careers? Should the private sector look to play a greater role in changing expectations around gender roles through more balanced parental leave policies? There are companies that have taken this view, with the outcome of such policies leading to more work-life balance for both genders and a more balanced workload between men and women in the office. And yet anyone arguing that dramatically expanding parental leave policies has the potential to be costly to net workforce productivity would be right; accordingly, implementation of any new leave policy must to be done with the demographics and operating environment of one’s organization top of mind.

…That said, I will close by asking if trying to tackle gender imbalances in the workplace by making it easier for *everyone* (regardless of gender) to work more hours is the wrong way to even think about the issue? Does anyone *really* need to consistently work 80+ hour weeks? What does the data say? I am not sure, but have a sneaking suspicion that if societal expectations around work/life balance shift that much the pay imbalance we see today will shift with it.

Please share any personal/professional experiences and/or studies in the comment section below.

Best,

Rory

Why People Leave Their Jobs (and How Their Reasons Should Shape Your Organization’s Talent Strategy)

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<www.teambonding.com

<www.teambonding.com>

Happy Monday all. 

 

…So I spent the weekend reading about turnover and engagement, and this HBR article had some really good insights that got me thinking about talent attraction and retention strategy – specifically how Managers/HRBPs can use human capital data to improve turnover and progression outcomes. The below section particularly resonated with me:

 

“New research conducted by CEB, a Washington-based best-practice insight and technology company, looks not just at why workers quit but also at when. “We’ve learned that what really affects people is their sense of how they’re doing compared with other people in their peer group, or with where they thought they would be at a certain point in life,” says Brian Kropp, who heads CEB’s HR practice. “We’ve learned to focus on moments that allow people to make these comparisons.”

 

^In support of the above quote, anecdotally speaking I can say that my sense of how ‘successful’ I am is in many ways driven by how I am doing compared to my peer group (and most of my friends and associates at similar career stages feel this way as well). One moment, I might feel good about where I am in my career. But if a close friend is promoted to a level that is comparably much higher than mine in their organization and/or their total comp jumps materially higher, I suddenly find myself wondering “Am I working as hard as I could be? What is wrong with me? When will it be *my* turn?”

 

…In some ways this is a healthy line of thinking – focusing on the next milestone and benchmarking your performance is a good way to stay focused on your career and developing yourself. Along these lines, I have had candid discussions with peers around just this topic, and the consensus is that wanting to lead the pack/be the best doesn’t take away from our feelings of happiness for one another’s success – it just sets a new bar for the group and causes everyone to keep pushing one another to get the next title/pay/span of control progression.

 

That said, from a talent management standpoint I believe that understanding this relatively common line of thought around careers means organizations need to be really deliberate about where they source talent and how they retain them. For example, recruiting from a school where the median pay is 20% higher than that at one’s organization, or where potential advancement opportunities are limited against a graduating cohort’s expectations is a recipe for high turnover and disengagement. And I would note that I think many organizations have done some good work identifying what schools/opportunities/managers/profiles are correlated with high internal retention and promotion rates (and reflecting the outcome of this data in their recruitment strategies).

 

…I also wonder if there may be an opportunity to take this work a step further – can we use the same datasets driving our recruitment strategies today to be pre-emptive in the way we communicate and engage with talent? Who is a flight risk and why based on historical data? What sorts of outreach is necessary to retain these people? In some cases do we even want to? Being really deliberate in the sorts of discussions our managers/HRBPs are having with our talent around career expectations could be a fantastic way to drive turnover down and re-direct languishing talent to areas where they can be more successful – either inside or outside of the organization. 

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how we can all use analytics – be that through a new HRIS or different reporting (Deloitte has a third party tool available that can do much of the work outlined above) – to develop actionable data that facilitates proactive discussions with key talent that might otherwise be a flight risk. 

 

Best,


Rory

A Few Thoughts About Winning

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…So I have made a career out of existing in the top-right quadrant of the Thomas-Killman conflict resolution spectrum (see image below). Given two (or more) competing objectives – no matter how far apart – I figure out a way to bring everyone together and leave (mostly) happy about the end resolution… whatever it may be.

I have been nothing else if not patient, persistent, and perhaps even relentless in the pursuit of this goal. One of my personal mottos has been that anyone that believes you can’t please everyone simply isn’t trying hard enough.

Thomas_Kilmann_Conflict_Modes

…That said, what the past year(ish) has taught me is that often times there should be losers. I don’t necessarily know that there have to be – given enough time almost anyone can reach a compromise – but the emotional, physical, and capital investment required to get everyone on the same page is way-more-often-than-you-might-think not worth it.

Kris Dunn wrote a few days ago here that the best HR leaders are as assertive as the salespeople in your organization. He notes that in our function the need for comfort with confrontation continues to escalate. This is as true as anything I’ve read all year.

Frankly, as our workforces have become more global, company investments in long-term retentive benefits such as pensions become less prevalent, healthcare access becomes less tied to enterprise employment, and skill-sets become more transferable, the tension between talent management and business priorities have become both more interlinked and in conflict. Today’s business leaders need HR Business Partners that will push back on human capital strategy when the current state doesn’t make sense for organizational health, whilst also being willing to let go of their agendas and/or the present agendas of the function when it/they don’t align with the needs of the business.

Winning and success don’t always mean everyone walks away happy. And sometimes it means everyone walks away more or less pissed. That conflict – that tension – is an integral part of success.

…I think. I will keep you posted.

Happy Wednesday,

Rory

The Importance of Cultivating Good Judgment (and How to do it)

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<www.warren-walker.com

<www.warren-walker.com>

…So this morning I read a great piece from CIPD here that examines the changing role of the HR Business Partner, and why some organizations have been more effective at cultivating the talent pool required to be successful in these roles than others. From the piece:

In many cases, however, there has been a failure to understand the business partner role and how it differs from the old HR model and then match this to existing HR capability. The simple fact is that the ‘ask’ has risen faster than the capability of many people in HR to deliver it. As a result, many HR business partners have been unable to deliver what is required in the role or have dumbed down the role to a level they are comfortable with but which doesn’t deliver what is required by the business.

and:

This isn’t just about a competency framework; it’s about being realistic about the level we are asking people to operate at. It’s become unfashionable to use tests of verbal and numeric reasoning skills, but perhaps we should look at more sophisticated and rigorous ways of assessing what level a person can operate at. We are letting our people and the business down if we recruit people to do a job they simply can’t do. Levels of work suggest that by far the best predictor of success in higher complexity roles is judgment – but this is rarely assessed.

and finally:

It is very difficult to send someone on a programme that develops their intellectual capability or their systemic thinking ability. But these capabilities can be more swiftly developed through a broader career-pathing approach which tries to develop perspective (for example across different functions) and hence judgement. But this takes time and our research shows that this kind of development is the least often used by HR.

…So what’s powerful about the above is that it frames the matter of experience in a different way than I normally see it talked about. By instead tying the importance of good judgment to performance, the author (1) highlights the reality that not every person can develop the capabilities to be great at every role, and (2) highlights the reality that developing the capacity of talent can only come from giving them the high volume of ‘reps’ required to get good.

This may all be a roundabout way of saying that each organization needs to (1) recognize its talent’s strengths / weaknesses and (2) give its talent the targeted development opportunities required to reach their full potential. *But* this advice is easier said than done. It requires an organization to (1) really knows its people and (2) really understand what drives success in every role and what someone needs to be exposed to properly develop.

Best,

Rory

Understanding Your Audience is Key When Communicating Employee Benefits Programs

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Finding-your-audience-on-Facebook-INFOGRAPHIC

…So this evening I read a really interesting predictions piece from Josh Bersin here and want to share an interesting takeaway that from it (see page #8, excerpt below):

Bersin1

Bersin gives non-total rewards examples above, but from a benefits standpoint this is powerful for me because it drives home the point that – regardless of how value added our total rewards programs can potentially be to our employee population – for our employees to realize said value, our offerings must be easy for them to use and easy to understand.

This means it’s important to always consider how colleagues across all segments of our workforce are engaging with our HR platforms… and also to think about how accessible the information housed on them is. Because if an employee doesn’t understand how a benefit works (or it isn’t otherwise intuitive to use), the most likely action that they’ll take with regards to said benefit is no action. This harms (1) the employee because they may be underutilizing a product that could significantly improve their health, engagement, or retirement/financial security outcomes. And it (2) harms the Company because we’re paying for a benefit that isn’t being used by our population (resulting in unnecessary expense and a failure to realize what might otherwise be an offering’s retentive value).

The above is in many ways common sense, I suppose, but as I read this article it struck me how often I assume my audience knows things that they may not. After all, just because a communication or SOP is sent out doesn’t mean it was read. And just because it was read doesn’t mean it was understood.

My big takeaway? Regardless of the platform I am working from in 2016, I want to be mindful to stop and ask myself three questions when communicating/explaining a benefit to someone:

  1. What is this audience’s current level of knowledge about the offering? If I don’t know the answer to this question for sure I need to clarify it before communicating anything.
  2. How can I augment my audience’s knowledge in such a way that they (1) feel confident about how the offering works and (2) empowered to use it to improve their lives in some way?
  3. Does my audience know who to contact if they have additional questions about the product / offering?

Simple, yes. Value added, hopefully?

As always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Best,

Rory

Benefits That Employees Value More than Pay Increases

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Employee benefits definition highlighted in green

Thanks to HLBR for sharing this Glassdoor survey highlighting the perks that employees most value. The benefits valued more than pay raises, in order are:

•Healthcare insurance (e.g., medical, dental): 40%
•Vacation/Paid time off: 37%
•Performance bonus: 35%
•Paid sick days: 32%
•401(k) plan, retirement plan and/or pension: 31%
•Flexible schedule (e.g., work from home): 30%
•Office perks (e.g., free lunch, casual dress): 19%
•Employee development programs (e.g., on-the-job training, professional development): 19%
•Tuition reimbursement: 18%
•Employee discounts: 17%
•Gym membership or wellness programs: 16%
•Stock, stock options and/or equity: 16%
•Paid parental leave (e.g., maternity leave, adoption assistance): 13%
•Childcare assistance (e.g., on-site childcare, financial assistance): 13%
•Commuter assistance (e.g., company shuttle, commuter checks): 9%
•Diversity program: 3%

^Of note 401K/Pension is 5th on the list at 31%, meaning that just under a third of employees value retirement benefits from employers more than increased salary. That isn’t 50%, but it shows that this is an issue that is top of mine for a lot of employees. Also ranking highly are PTO and sick leave, which are fast becoming government requirements and may become less of a potential differentiator for employers over time. Health insurance and performance bonuses also top the list, the latter of which employers may want to consider as performance bonuses are only prevalent in most industries at the management ranks.

…Just some interesting data I wanted to share.

Happy New Year HR Pros.

Best,

Rory

Only One in Five Workers are on Track to Retire at Age 65…

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<Forbes.com

<Forbes.com>

…So this evening I came across a white paper from Aon Hewitt here that shows only 1/5th of the workforce is putting away enough earnings to retire when their parents did. The article goes on to highlight that employers are putting in place increasingly generous 401(k) matches *and* auto-enrolling employees into their plans to rectify the issue… but most workers are still a long ways away from where they need to be in order to obtain financial security. And with the average employee needing an average of 11 times their final pay to retire with dignity at 65, many workers are going to need to take a more hands-on approach to saving for their future.

To this end, I said in my last post that I think a big part of helping employees make the decisions they need to in order to grow here will come in the form of employers helping them visualize the consequences of not saving, and the data supports that. According to a Prudential survey that analyzed women’s financial experiences and behaviors:

…the results indicate that women are more confident in their ability to manage day-to-day finances. And they have advice for financial services firms about how to help them achieve their long-term financial goals: simplify the process, stop using so much jargon, look out for the customer’s interests, and maintain a strong code of ethics.

^But I also don’t want to dismiss the role of the employer here, and believe they may have an even bigger role to play going forward. In fact, going forward I think that a big part of the solution is redefining the total rewards picture in organizations to place a greater emphasis on retirement savings as a core component of compensation. Don’t get me wrong: When I say this I’m *not* suggesting that employers go back to investing in DB pension schemes. With flat rate and variable rate premiums continuing to go up for single employer plans through law changes such as the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, that ship has long sailed. PBGC premium aside, running large DB pension plans simply has too unpredictable an effect on company financial statements (and the liabilities too great with mortality increasing) for employers not move away from them.

That said, companies are doing all sorts of creative things via 401K/DC plans to position their employees to be in good financial shape at retirement. Companies like ConocoPhillips have matches as high as 9% of pay, while companies like Philip Morris contribute in excess of 15% of pay to employee 401K accounts (see the full list from Bloomberg here for a clearer picture of the most generous 401k plans). To be sure, these are very profitable companies that can afford to make these sorts of plan contributions… but I would also submit that at least some of these monies might otherwise make their way into employee pockets in the form of base salary if not for these companies setting those dollars aside for retirement contributions. With this in mind, is part of the solution here to have a total rewards design that funnels more of the dollars normally allocated for pay increases into more generous match components in DC plans? There is an argument to be made that this is perhaps overly paternalistic, but I would say to this that so to is auto-enrolling employees into DC plans at X% of pay, and so to is forcing employees to diversify retirement holdings in company plans, which after the Supreme Court’s decision in Dudenhoeffer I suspect more employers are going to start doing.

…Obviously, the decision to allocate more salary increase dollars towards DC plans in the form of employer contributions is one that should be made carefully (contingent on a host of factors including 1. how it impacts an employer’s pay competitiveness in the marketplace relative to peers, and 2. the demographic breakdowns and current savings patterns of the workforce). But I *do* think the shift might be right for some employers.

Just a Wednesday evening thought stream…

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Best,

Rory

The Importance of Helping Employees Visualize Mission When Implementing Change

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Mission

…During the summer of one of my first HR internships, my HR manager told me a change management story that has stuck with me ever since. She recounted how several years prior, she was the HR Manager for a struggling manufacturing plant with numerous production and quality problems… and if those problems weren’t resolved in short order then the business was in danger of losing a big customer whose departure could mean the facility’s closure. Changes needed to be made in the way employees and managers were held accountable, long standing expectations around hours and work needed to change… and as part of this process a re-organization would need to take place that would mean layoffs. Almost none of the needed change was of the ‘feel-good’ variety, and delivering this message to the workforce in a way that didn’t cause people to dis-engage would be challenging.

Ultimately, after a lot of hand wringing the leadership settled on a novel way to deliver the message that significant changes were required in a way that would both resonate and engage the workforce: For the better part of the week, empty boxes were brought into the primary facility warehouse and stacked along the walls. No one knew why the boxes were being stacked along the walls, and no one knew when it would stop or what it all meant.

^After 4 days, with more than a quarter of empty warehouse space dedicated to the boxes, the Plant Manager shut down all of the lines, scheduling an all-hands meeting in the warehouse. The Plant Manager faced the entirety of the workforce; and the boxes were his back drop as he delivered the message that – unless the facility dramatically changed the way it did business – the boxes behind him represented the monthly volume of product that the facility would lose in business. Losing that amount of business, he said, would potentially place the job’s of everyone standing there that day in jeopardy. He then laid out the general framework of a large scale change management effort that would re-define the way the business operated – from the organizational and decision making structure to its quality controls to the production schedules and beyond.

The workforce responded to the message, embracing the changes the facility needed to make and – so her story goes – the plant was saved. The leadership laid out a difficult vision for the future that the workforce accepted… but to do so they needed to help employees clearly visualize why change was necessary.

…I share the above story after reading a fantastic Aon Hewitt blog post titled “Why Retirement Models are Perfect, While People are Not.” It highlights that 60% of workers will not have enough money saved to retire at 65 (the new normal will be 68), and that 16% of workers won’t even have enough to retire by 75. Hewitt goes on to highlight the many reasons that this is the case despite the median retiree needing to save just 7.3% of their income per year over 40 years to retire at 65.

^There are lots of very good reasons that not everyone is able to have this sort of consistent savings over their lifetime… but for many people in the workforce the primary reason they don’t hit their savings goals is because putting away 7%-8% of one’s income just feels like too much when one is in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and even 50s. By the time most workers begin earnestly thinking about saving for retirement… it’s increasingly becoming too late (particularly as employers move away from lifetime annuity based pension plans).

…Re-visiting the lesson of the story I shared above, I think that to really help workers today make smart retirement savings decisions that employers have to help them to really start thinking about the consequences of saving today, and help them visualize what that looks like in the future. Because to have the willpower to make smart savings decisions in the first half of one’s life, I don’t think that giving worker’s access to financial planning tools and expecting them to always make the right decisions is enough. Planning for the future has to be a mission, which requires I won’t power, I will power, and I want power:

^Or maybe an idea like this is too paternalistic (or idealistic)? If so, why? If not, what would a program that helps employees paint a picture of retirement look like?

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Best,

Rory

Solving the Right Problems

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hammer-and-nails

…It’s 6:32 PM here, so I want to keep this short. But I wanted to share a great article I read this evening because it inspired a bit of a ‘eureka’ moment for me. From Peter Bregman at the HBR (article here), who was trying to figure out how to get his kids to stop fighting in the morning:

It was 6:45 am and my three kids were already fighting.

My wife Eleanor and I have tried everything. We talked to them about how important it is to have a good relationship with your siblings, made clear what we expected, and developed rules for living together. We trained them in respectful communication and taught them how to breathe and manage their anger. We meditated with them and mediated between them. We rewarded them, punished them, reasoned with them, and begged them.

and when none of those solutions worked;

…If my kids didn’t have a sibling fighting problem, what else might it be? I thought through a number of different possibilities and landed on what turned out to be a simple problem with a very simple solution.

My kids didn’t have a sibling problem; they had a morning problem. They woke up tired and with low blood sugar.

Which means the solution wasn’t to teach them how to speak nicely to each other. In fact, that just exacerbated the problem because after we lectured them, they felt worse and now they weren’t just mad at each other, they were mad at us.

The real solution? An earlier bed time and a glass of orange juice when they woke up.

Those two interventions decreased the morning fighting by 90%.

^In HR (and in general, to be fair), we often times try and solve challenges by focusing on process management. Whether it’s hiring a boss for a poor performer (instead of performance managing them), trying to change undesirable behaviors by simply exercising willpower, or trying to fix a broken business model with new technology, we often times misdiagnose the problem when looking for a solution for something causing us personal or business pain. But, by periodically taking a step back and revisiting our assumptions when a challenge is particularly sticky, we’re more likely to identify a misdiagnosis to the problem if/when it exists.

There are all sorts of applications of this idea, but it’s helpful for me just now because there are a myriad of different nails that I have been trying to apply a hammer to when a claw would have been more appropriate.

…Not rocket science, obviously, but I hope this is value added for someone. Think about the problem you’re trying to solve and ask yourself if you are solving the right problem!

Happy Tuesday.

Best,

Rory

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