Mid-Year Crisis

We have all heard of the proverbial mid-life crisis where people in their 40’s or 50’s start to take stock of their lives, celebrating or lamenting what they have or have not accomplished.  Many of us go through the same feelings, albeit on a smaller scale, when the mid-year hits. It signals that it is time to take stock of what we and our teams have accomplished to date and determine how to prioritize our goals over the course of the rest of the year to ensure that we finish where we want to be, having accomplished everything we set out to do in January.  

Take stock

For those without an automated goal planning platform or for those of you have a platform that you don’t check into and update very often, now is the time.  Review what you committed to in January, update what has been accomplished and decide now what shouldn’t still be on the list. Business priorities change constantly and initiatives that seemed critical in January may not be so any longer.  Or, conversely, there may be projects that need to be added.

Prioritize

Align with key stakeholders in the organization to ensure that you understand not just HR priorities, but organizational priorities.  Where can you make the most meaningful contributions?  Whose buy in do you need? Ensure that you communicate these priorities to your team so they clearly understand which projects have the most visibility and are in a critical path.  

Assess resources and expertise

If there are significant changes to the plans that were carefully laid out in January, you will need to re-assess both the resources you have at your disposal and the expertise that exists within your team. In most cases there will be options.  You will be able to make a case for leveraging external resources if required to get the job done.  If it a training and expertise concern, now is a good time to explore additional training opportunities for your team members to ensure they are better prepared in the future.  

Develop Training Plans

To ensure that everyone on your team is prepared to tackle their new assignments for the remainder of the year, you may need to add “Training Plans” to your own goals. Assigning responsibilities to employees who are not adequately trained is a lose lose proposition.  No one wants to appear incompetent. Remember that training and development is a process that takes place over time. The plan itself is not the end, but rather the means to achieving a skill set or competency.

July 1st, just like January 1st, is a time to take stock of what has been done and what is still to come.  Re-assessing our priorities now assures that we finish out the year proud of what we and our teams have accomplished on behalf of our organizations!

Employee Engagement in Action

Employee Engagement must be close to the top buzz word for 2019 or perhaps even the last decade.   While everyone can speak eloquently about the benefits of encouraging employee engagement and the importance of it to producing top business results, ask more specific questions and those once vivacious people go silent.  Few actually spend the time to detail the specifics of what activities actually do increase employee engagement in the workforce. Before we increase our spending in 2019 by 45% on increasing employee engagement as predicted by G2 Crowd, let’s figure out exactly how we should be allocating those additional dollars.

Productivity 

Productivity yields employee engagement. A novel concept as most would argue that it is the reverse; a previously engaged employee yields better productivity.  However, this gives us a significant opportunity to ensure that we provide our employees with every opportunity to not only produce, but to understand how what they do fits within the framework of the organizational objectives.  Establishing waterfall goals is an easy an effective way to assist employees at every level to understand their ability to accomplish objectives and feel proud of their contribution to the organization, thus yielding more productivity.

Employee Recognition

Employee recognition can come in many forms, individual, team or even Company.  We use a peer to peer recognition program called Good Gotcha’s. Anyone can nominate anyone else for doing something good.  A subset of those are then chosen and announced at our quarterly all hands meeting. We also have quarterly awards structured around our Guiding Principles, an annual President’s award and Community service award.  Don’t forget about company awards, there is Great Places to Work and the corresponding Fortune awards, AON Top places to Work and many local awards.  Employees feel proud to work for a company that is recognized nationally as one of the best places to work!

Promoting Wellness

Healthy employees are happy employees!  While only about 10% of employers have implemented a formal wellness platform, they provide opportunities across a host of health initiatives for your employees.  We use Vitality and could not be happier.  Employees have the ability to earn points for individual or team fitness challenges, for taking healthy actions like getting a physical of biometrics performed, buying healthy food and participating in physical, mental, emotional and financial wellness opportunities offered by the company.

Continuing Education/Learning

Almost all employees want the opportunity to develop their skills whether that be through lattice, vertical or ladder, horizontal learning opportunities.  We offer a three fold approach to learning that encompasses action steps, which are specific projects an employee can tackle to enhance their value to the company, internal training opportunities through custom content and courses and also through Franklin Covey’s All Access Pass and external training courses or certifications.

The list is likely endless.  Almost anything you do with the employees’ best interest in mind can be utilized to enhance employee engagement, and, ultimately, company performance!

(Forbes) – “Meet the New Breed of Inspirational Leaders”

Sherrie Suski was recently featured in Forbes, commenting on the next generation of inspirational leaders. See below for an excerpt of the piece, and click here for the full article.

 

“In an organization, the word ‘mentor’ conjures up the image of a wise person offering sage advice — someone who has lived through ups and downs while learning valuable lessons along the way. Those early in their career are frequently told to seek out a mentor, someone experienced who could take them under their wing and provide the tutelage needed to navigate the fast track to success, while sidestepping the landmines.

While mentors still have a role in the workplace, the concept is giving way to a new breed: the idea of the inspirational leader. Employees today are looking to be part of companies that are giving back, and not just to employees, but to their communities and to society as a whole. The inspirational leader brings that broader impact and perspective.”

Continuous Feedback

sherrie-suski-reviewAn increased number of organizations are moving away from the annual review process to a feedback process that incorporates more frequent or real-time feedback. How frequent the review process depends on the scale, culture, and needs of the organization.  Although the process sounds simple enough, there are a number of considerations to be debated prior to implementing this type of change, from systems and platform changes to training associated with the new process.

Quarterly Feedback

Some companies choose to take an interim step between annual reviews and real-time feedback.  Enter the quarterly review. Quarterly reviews can be as simple as creating a comment box where each of the managers composes a brief summary of accomplishments for the preceding quarter or as complex as an annual review process, with ratings against core competencies, and comments for each conducted quarterly instead of annually.  Whether simple or complex, this process alleviates the employees’ common concerns around being surprised at the end of the year with feedback that they had never heard.

Real-time Feedback

The end goal in giving real-time feedback is to be able to provide continuous feedback to the employee so they can course correct in real time.  Normally this will be a two-way street where the manager can give feedback and the employee can ask for feedback on a specific project.  Many real-time systems will also provide an avenue to create Individual Development Plans ( IDP’s) in conjunction with the feedback to address any skill gaps that are identified so that training needs can be identified and a plan built to address

360 Feedback

Moving to 360 feedback, which entails feedback coming from the employee’s manager; peers; and subordinates, and is the most comprehensive of the feedback systems.  360 reviews should never be introduced without a training plan that encompasses all levels of the organization. Employees need to be coached on how to solicit feedback, how to give appropriate feedback and how to handle the feedback once it is received.  Criticism that is not truly constructive and offered with a pure heart, is almost never internalized.

Compensation

Organizations are frequently perplexed when it comes to implementing compensation reviews without an annual rating process that drives a matrix to calculate the percentage increase earned. After all, pay is one of the primary reasons employees show up to work each day. If you’re fundamentally redesigning how you determine their pay, then you need a clear plan that’s clearly communicated.  Many organizations have moved to a simplified approach where each manager is given autonomy to make pay decisions. Each manager is allocated a budget and is responsible for determining the pay/bonus of direct reports.

Ultimately, whichever review process and compensation model you choose to implement, your people leaders need to be trained to take an increasingly more active role in the management of their teams.  They need to understand that managing their people to be the best they can be is fundamentally what leadership is all about!

Driven to Succeed

sherrie-suski-motivationWhy do some push themselves to deliver the best and others are good with good enough?  What is it about the human psyche that pushes some to strive beyond good to excellent? Psychologists tell us that it is a convoluted web of past experiences, motivation and neurological make-ups that churn out individuals who constantly go above and beyond in every role they have in life, who are driven by achievement and being the best.  There are multiple reasons for this drive to excel and not all of them may be what you would initially think. 

Some psychologists tell us that these individuals are not so driven by the need to succeed, but by the need not to fail.

In fact, it is not the actual failure that they are so opposed to, but the shame that accompanies it.  These are individuals who usually care deeply about what others think of them. Certain messages are conveyed to the self when failure occurs, which motivate success in an attempt to avoid acknowledging them. Failure can lead one to have a sense of unworthiness and an expectation of abandonment or an unrealistic fear of complete ruin. In a paradoxical way, the desire to avoid a negative state or emotional experience is the impetus for achievement of your goals and great success.  

Neurologists provide us with explanations that are rooted in the brain.  When it comes specifically to motivation, one of the most important neurotransmitters is dopamine. Dopamine is one of the chemical signals that passes information from one neuron to the next. When dopamine is released from the first neuron, it floats between the synapses. Since dopamine is released before we ever receive a reward, its real job is to encourage us to act. It motivates us to achieve, while avoiding something negative. A team of Scientists at Vanderbilt found that the “go-getters” simply had higher levels of dopamine in the reward and motivation portions of the brain.

Those who do not hold advanced degrees with the letters Ph.D. or M.D. after their names suggest that the reasons for success are much simpler. People who are successful make decisions and choose to take action more quickly.  This increase their chances of success simply because they have tried more options.  They convince themselves to take on tasks they don’t want to do. Instead of avoiding them, they just power through them.  Inevitably this increases their odds of a successful outcomes. Just getting started in half the battle. Prioritization and focus also play a role.  Those individuals who are able to look down a list of to-do’s and quickly prioritize what is the most important, and then able to focus their attention on that task until completion, again increase their odds of success. Distraction is a key reason many people don’t succeed.  They choose to be a little bit accomplished in a number of different areas, but never follow through to the end on the one important goal.  Lastly, a big dose of positivity can go a long ways to accomplishing what you set out to do. People who are successful see themselves as successful at the beginning of the project.  They begin with the end in mind and have a good grasp on what success is going to look like.

Whether you believe success is driven by the fear of shame associated with failure, the amount of dopamine in certain centers of the brain or by the simple decisions you make on a daily basis, remember, if you are not willing to risk the usual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.  Jim Rohn

A Workforce of One

I can find no single person to credit for designing the term “The Workforce of One” but it is a concept that has intrigued me since I heard it 5+ years ago.  It reminded me very much of the concepts that Todd Rose espouses in his book “The End of Average”.  When you design a system, a training program, a performance management program for the “average” employee, you design it for no one, because, in fact, there is no average employee.  It talks about embracing individuality and using it to our advantage in a world where everyone strives to be the same. The applications for this approach in Human Resources are enormous.  Human behavior is fluid, not fixed, which means we must accommodate individuality into our programs. That uniqueness can mean different employees or it can mean the difference in one employee over time.

Companies and marketers have long understood the need to treat their customers as individuals, thus the practice of dropping cookies, so that the car you looked for yesterday shows up in ads on other websites you visit today.  Your buying experiences are personalized for you. However, organizations have been primarily engaged in a one size fits all approach when developing their training programs. People now expect—even demand— customization in the workplace because they’ve experienced it in their everyday lives as consumers.

The benefits of customizing for employees are many including:

  • Increases in workforce performance and productivity
  • Enhanced employee engagement
  • Increase in the skill set value of the existing employee base
  • Attraction of the most talented employees
  • Access to a more diverse candidate pool
  • Use resources more effectively through targeted investments of HR dollars
  • Adapt more quickly to changes in the environment

HR professionals will need to develop the kinds of skills that marketers use currently to excel at customization, and they’ll have to become just as adept at using technology to support the customization. Finally, they will need to find new ways to unite employees behind the organization even as employees have more diverse, personalized experiences in the workplace. HR may have a dedicated analytics group, just as marketing does, as well as people and resources focused on coaching employees in how to make the most of their customized work experiences. HR staff dedicated to represent the needs of each employee segment may also emerge, a guide so to speak chosen for that particular type of employees.

Measuring the Employee Experience

There are many tools on the market that purport to accurately measure the customer experience.  They focus on such topics as action management, customer segmentation, feedback management, sentiment analysis and trend analysis, just to name a few.  Then there are whole CRM systems whose goal it is to manage a company’s interaction with current and future customers. The CRM approach tries to analyze data about customers’ history with a company, in order to better improve business relationships with customers, specifically focusing on retaining customers, in order to drive sales growth.  If we want to understand the employee experience, we have to pursue it with the same gusto and metrics that we do our customer experiences. In general, great experiences don’t just happen, they have to be consciously designed.

We need to start with the belief that a strong correlation exists between the quality of the employee experience and work productivity, which ultimately drives engagement and, hopefully, the delivery of more value to your end customer.  However, there are challenges around measuring workforce experience because no single person, department or function owns the whole experience. Organizations use many tools to understand the experiences, positive or negative, their employees are having — pulse surveys like Waggl, annual employee surveys, quarterly or annual performance reviews incorporating self-reviews, weekly management meetings, talent and succession planning, town hall meetings and so on. The issue is that these tools and the feedback received from them can offer a fragmented and often misleading view of how good the employee experience is.

Forrester has a Workforce Experience Model that is worth reviewing.  It is built around Engagement, Productivity and Impact.  The only issue I would take with their assumptions is that I believe productivity actually drives engagement and not the other way around.  

Productivity

Being able to measure productivity assumes that you have done studies to understand what acceptable levels of productivity are by function.  It isn’t the measuring piece that is difficult, it is understanding and creating the “what” to measure and the scale that makes it challenging

Engagement

An engaged workforce willingly invests time and energy in the success of the business and the degree of engagement will impact business results. Everyone has discretionary engagement that they may choose to deploy at their job or elsewhere. Your mission is to ensure that it is deployed at the job to the benefit of the customers.  To my point, Daniel Pink’s secret to high performance and satisfaction  – the deeply human need to direct our own lives (autonomy), the desire to get better at something that matters (mastery) and the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves (purpose).

Impact

The positive business outcome of productive, engaged employees is a loyal customer. Customer-facing employees, customer service, for example, have the greatest potential direct impact on the customer experience and satisfaction. What about those employees that don’t usually engage with customers directly, like Accounting, Finance or HR, where the potential for positive impact on customer experience is harder to quantify? They know how the processes really work in your organization and may be the best ones to identify and rectify problems for customers quickly.

The conventional eNPS  (Employee Net Promoter Score)  is a standardized tool that you could benchmark your organization against year over year and,  benchmark your ratings against other companies of your size or in your industry. The issue is that it is one question and for most of us, does not really provide value when wanting to delve into the specifics.  There are also multiple surveys you can conduct through Fortune, OC Register or other organizations, but they are quite expensive and questions can be tailored so they do not provide an apples to apples comparison across organizations.  Eventually, it would be great to have an industry accepted employee engagement scale that could be used to drive the employee experience and, ultimately the customer experience.

(From Forbes) “Want To Get Noticed By Recruiters? Honing These 10 Skills Can Help”

I was recently featured in a Forbes article on recruiting. You can find an excerpt from the article below. For the full article, click here

 

6. Automation

In order to stand out, you need to be ahead of the trends. Experience in and being able to talk intelligently about AI and RPA ( Robotic Process Automation) is important in any field to which you are applying. Ensure that you have some examples of how AI has streamlined a process, created efficiencies and delivered measurable results. Discuss what you were able to achieve by freeing up resources. – Sherrie SuskiTricon American Homes”

Workplace Certifications

We recently embarked on a fact-finding mission around workplace certifications.  I felt strongly that we had done an amazing job internally creating a world class work environment for our employees who are spread out over 10 states and 19 different locations, but few outside of the company were aware of that.  In today’s competitive global job market, being a well-known organization or having a famous consumer brand name is not enough to attract and retain top talent. Organizations need to build an agile and connected workplace, create amazing employee experiences, nurture feedback and dialogue, actively focus on innovation, and embed their businesses into the future.

Types of certifications

Great Place to Work

This is a certification connected to Fortune. The survey is actually conducted by their research partner, Great Place TO work.  The survey is made up of about 60 questions and an additional lengthy questionnaire needs to be completed by Human Resources.  They tell you 4 hours, but we easily spent 5-10X that. Should be fortune- ate (😊) enough to be certified, this opens up the door for you to participate throughout the year in a number of other certifications including:  Top 100 Companies, Best workplaces for Diversity, Best Workplaces for Parents, Small & Medium companies, People’s Companies that Care Best workplaces for Millennials, just to name a few.

Aon Best Employers

The program salutes the achievements made by organizations that create sustainable competitive advantage through their people. Aon Best Employers program looks into the health of your organization from the inside, using the most objective measure possible – your employees’ opinion. Backed by more than 18 years’ worth of data on employee experience, Aon Best Employers program measures and recognizes extraordinary employers. It differentiates on people factors which are the key to success: high employee engagement, profound agility, engaging leadership and maniacal talent focus. Aon looks at 4 key areas:  Engagement, Agility, Engaging Leadership, and Talent Focus. They offer both a ready to use on-line survey, as well as a tailored engagement survey that you can customize.

Glassdoor Best Places to Work

Although considered a necessary evil by many to whom I have spoken, there is no arguing that prospective employees turn to Glassdoor to see what others are saying on the inside.  Glassdoor automatically selects those employers that obtain the highest average number of stars given in the reviews by their own employees.  I am proud to say we are at a 4.6, but 1/10th lower than we needed to be to win a Best Small & Medium Places to Work for 2018.  

Next time we will talk about the reasons why, both internally and externally it makes sense to participate in Work Place certifications.

Candidate Success Models

Predicting a candidate’s success on the job used to be primarily focused on whether they had experience doing the job you were interviewing for and whether you could accurately discern if they had been successful. Little thought was given to behavioral or cognitive attributes or specific job competencies that differentiated one position from the next.  Fortunately, those days are far behind us.

In today’s world we have a vast array of tools to better predict candidate success including assessments, behaviorally based interview techniques, established company core competencies.  While these tools are valuable in terms of prediction capabilities, we also need a model to evaluate whether our predictions are accurate or not and allow us to tweak the models going forward.

Behavioral assessments

There are many behavioral assessment tools on the market today.  Some have been around for decades like the DiSC. Others are newer onto the scene like the Predictive Index.  Some are a quick 10-minute assessment which give a solid overview of the candidate’s personality match to the position and others, like the Hogan are in in-depth 3 hours assessment that enables employers to assess personality in the workplace. Additionally, these assessments measure personality characteristics, characteristics under stress, risk of career derailment, core values, and cognitive style

Cognitive assessments

Cognitive assessments are not necessarily appropriate for every job. While they are not IQ tests, many measure the candidate’s ability to quickly learn information and to adapt to changing circumstances.  The general pre-employment aptitude test that measures problem-solving abilities, learning skills, and critical thinking. The thought being that the quicker a person can get up to speed in a job, the more quickly they can start contributing to the organization.  

Behaviorally based interviews

Structured or behaviorally based interviewing has long been thought to be a better predictor of success on the job than either yes/no types of questions or those that do not require a candidate to tell you what they did or would have done in a specific situation. Behavioral interview questions focus on how you handled various work situations in the past. Your response will reveal your skills, abilities, and personality. The logic behind this interview tactic is that your behavior in the past reflects and predicts how you will behave in the future

Core competencies by position

Not all positions require the same set of competencies to be successful. That is why it is important that interview guides be developed for each position that specifically state and ask you to comment on and rate a candidate’s suitability for the position relative to each core competency.  

Once the candidate has been selected for the position, additional work needs to be set in motion to assess whether they are truly successful on the job.  Success can be measured by your Performance Management systems, your talent or succession planning platform, which measures potential, or a combination of both.  Once data has been collected over time, you will be able to better predict an individual candidates’ likelihood of success in a particular position.