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HR Systems Needs and Desires Part III: Data and Dashboards

7 Oct

It’s amazing to me how many HR pros are now so focused on data. Not that I am surprised, I have lived by data for the past 10 years, it is just that until recently the HR data discussion was reserved for really big companies. These companies were using SAP, Oracle, PeopleSoft or some other system to inform them about the thousands of global employees they were trying to keep track of. Small and medium sized businesses neither had the systems or the desire (my impression) to track data. Now it’s all anyone can talk about, regardless of the size of your organization.

Why is data so important?

Two relevant, personal examples immediately come to mind. The first was when I was working for an organization that was looking to double the size of the organization over a 2 year period. Let’s say that organization had 500 employees and a 20% annual turnover rate. To get to 750 after the first year they would need to hire 350 employees (250 new heads and 100 backfill heads for the 20% that left). In the second year to get to 1000 they would need to hire 400 employees (250 new heads and 150 backfill). If the organization can cut its turnover in half, it would need to backfill 125 fewer employees over the two year period. At an extremely conservative cost of $25K per turnover (made up number, well below the actual cost) the company would save $3.125Mil over the two years. That’s a huge number. That is exactly what happened.

The second example was when I was trying to convince the CFO and CEO of a company to invest more money into getting employee referrals. There is a lot of research and literature that suggests that employee referrals are the best source of hire, but they wanted their own data. After aggregating data from a couple of sources we found that given a set period of time (we looked at 24 months post hire) referred new hires were twice as likely to still be with the company than non-referred employees. That’s a pretty important piece of information to have!

So what’s the issue?

Personally, I have always loved data. I love looking at hiring data and analyzing the success of an interview process.  I love deploying surveys, calculating the results, setting benchmarks, creating action plans and trying to get the numbers to move. I love correlating data and seeing how making an organizational change can make a significant impact on survey results and ultimately your people.

And I love dashboards more than anything.

As an HR person there is nothing like being able to log into a system and seeing at your fingertips: open roles, costs, candidates in the pipeline, new hires, employee satisfaction, attrition or anything else related to your people.

It’s really too bad this doesn’t exist.

Crazy as that may sound, all I hear about is the frustration HR folks have trying to get accurate data so that they can make critical decisions. For example, if you wanted to measure the efficacy of a group of hiring managers based on a couple of factors, let’s say: time to hire, performance of new hires, satisfaction of new hires and attrition, you would need to log into multiple systems (ATS, Performance Management, HRIS), pull the data and try to put it all together in some kind of spreadsheet. In all likelihood none of those systems is providing the data in a clear way that make is easy to pull that spreadsheet together. Definitely, none of those systems allows you to integrate or easily pull data into so that maybe you could have one system of record and create one report, but that is for a different post.

While some might point to Workday as exactly what I am describing, that might be true from a dashboard standpoint, but where is the data? Companies are not using Workday for all of their talent management needs (They don’t have an ATS yet). Workday is also incredibly expensive to implement and maintain so clearly it is not for everyone.

Bottom line is the HR market is wide open for a company that wants to be the system of record for anything and everything HR related, has clean, configurable dashboards (think Salesforce) and creates great reports. Looking forward to seeing that sometime soon!

Why Great Feedback is so Hard to Give

5 Oct

FACT: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS BAD FEEDBACK. There is feedback that is poorly delivered (we’ve all experienced that boss) but all feedback is good feedback, and definitely better than no feedback. There can, however, be positive and negative feedback. Both are equally important for high level performance.

Positive – Nice shirt and nice pants. Negative – But they don’t match.

Feedback is one of the most critical requirements for sustained high-level performance of any human. – Ferdinand Fournies

It’s pretty easy to understand why it’s hard to deliver negative feedback. You don’t know how it is going to be received, you don’t know how your employee will react and it makes you feel really awkward. However, any employee who has had even a modicum (look it up) of success will tell you that one of the secrets to their success is the feedback they received. Many employees I speak to tell me their favorite managers were the ones who gave feedback whether it was positive or negative, they just appreciated getting it.

So why is it so hard for managers to give feedback even when it is good feedback?

Here is my theory. Unfortunately, much of the feedback we get is poorly delivered. Even when it is positive many managers do an inadequate job of delivering it (Tip: they key to effective feedback is 1. timeliness 2. specificity). Therefore feedback generally has a negative connotation associated with it. The word and meaning cause a negative emotional reaction based on our own personal experiences. That sucks. It’s like we are doomed for a life because the first few times we got feedback someone did a crappy job. So, like most things we have a bad emotional reaction to, we choose to avoid it.

Avoidance is our #1 defense mechanism and we use it often.

So what is the solution? Simply put – change the pattern. Anytime you have a consistent emotional reaction to something it means there is an established pattern. You may not even mean to react that way, maybe there isn’t even a good reason, but it happens. Patterns are a killer to break, but they can be broken. Think about a food you never used to eat and now just discovered you actually like. For years whenever someone even mentioned the name of that food (i.e. spinach) you cringed. Then one day you were convinced to try it, and it wasn’t so bad. Now you probably still have the same emotional reaction when you hear the worked or see spinach but you have learned to overcome it with your positive experiences.

They key is to start by doing at least one thing differently whenever you are in the same situation again so that the pattern is disrupted. You have to recognize the behaviors you exhibit whenever you are faced with the situation and consciously change the way you react, even if it is only one little thing. If, for example, you typically push off scheduling a meeting to deliver feedback, change the pattern by immediately scheduling the meeting. You have not even delivered the feedback but already you are changing the pattern about how you deliver feedback. Sometimes something as simple as changing the location where you usually deliver the feedback can lead to much bigger change.

These small changes will lead to better experiences (or at least experiences that are not as miserable). Over time (sometimes a long time) creating positive experiences will create new emotional reactions. Soon you’ll be an expert at delivering feedback and gain a reputation as an awesome boss. Who doesn’t want that???

Best Consulting/Coaching/Mentoring/Meeting Question

13 Sep

Last week as I was perusing the aisles of my local supermarket (I went for rye bread, perusing was for cake), I bumped into a former colleague of mine, a really talented couples therapist. We started talking about couples therapy and various styles, mine is pretty distinct (strategic therapy). She mentioned that she had recently been to a workshop by Terrence Real and he brought up the key question he starts each session with and she thought it was right up my alley.

It was. Here’s how it goes, “What would you like to have accomplished by the end of this session?” In an advanced form (maybe after the relationship with the client is established)  this can be asked as, “What will be different at the end of this session?”

Think about it. Setting the expectations that way from the start of the session removes all the need for exploration as to what the issues are. In fact, it removes the need for negative reinforcement typical in therapy that requires the parties to complain about each other. (ok, it’s not required, but that’s what happens). It starts the session off on an optimistic note and allows for positive potential outcomes to be imagined.

When mentoring or coaching an employee, using this type of questioning at the outset can expedite the process by beginning with the end in mind. What are you hoping tot get out of this relationship/meeting? The onus is now on the employee to make the most of the session by providing a well thought out answer.  It may even be best to send the question to the employee prior to the session so they know what to expect and are not thrown off.

In meeting settings this type of questioning can lay the ground work for a mutually beneficial outcome. Parties have the opportunity to share what’s important to them prior to getting down to work.

I think one of the most important implications this question has is that it pushes for a results orientation. Once hopes have been established it is up to the parties involved to make it happen.

Dealing with Millenials in the Workplace

8 Sep
This is a copy of an email I sent to my executive team a few weeks ago. The goal was to help them better understand a majority of our workforce and what makes them tick.
  • Millenials don’t see themselves as needing money in a traditional sense. For many; food, rent and basic necessities are not as important as the opportunity to focus on personal goals. They are willing to live at home or crash with friends to pursue dreams. Money is a sign of progression, but not an end all.
    • Manifestation: Will leave a job for not getting the raise they wanted, and potentially even take a lower paying job, on principle. May go back to school if education is what interests them.
  • Have many friends who are successful in non-traditional ways (start ups), therefore do not see a need to follow a traditional career path. Many of their friend’s will not start careers until they are in their 30’s. Are likely to make a complete pivot career-wise if they feel that personal success will come through a different avenue.
    • Manifestation: Unpredictable behavior in terms of thinking about their careers. See requests as “need to haves”.
  • Expect rapid career advancement, this is non-negotiable. In elementary schools today, children advance levels within a grade multiple times a year (a 4th grade student is expected to advance 4-5 reading levels within the year).  Our current interns were in 4thgrade when Undertone started.
    • Manifestation: Will leave for a title change even if it means less money. Expect career change or advancement at least every 2 years.  Expect to be at the executive level by early 30’s.
  • Expect recognition for each success, not just the end result (remember, they are part of the “everyone’s a winner generation”). Need to hear praise weekly if not daily. Lesser failures are also considered successes in their eyes.
    • Manifestation: Performance reviews or bonuses paid bi-annually are not enough, they need to see/feel something much more regularly. Will leave or performance will drop if they don’t feel recognition.
  • Their respect is earned and lost easily. They are not easily impressed by others and value their own opinions as much as the opinion of someone with many more years of experience.
    • Manifestation: Don’t assume that they accept what you say just because of who you are. They will accept if they believe. Sincerity and empathy often outweigh facts. They expect to be listened to and responded to immediately. They hear “I’ll get back to you soon” as “I’ll get back to you within the hour”.
  • Are comfortable with failure. They grew up in a generation where failure was acceptable. Have a high level of comfort with risk.
    • Manifestation: Never want to be told they did not do a good job, but are ok with being told they can do better. Want the bar set high, but want their efforts to be recognized even if they do not achieve the top level.
  • Are incredibly dedicated to things they believe in. Emotional connection is a critical part of working for or staying with a company or manager.
    • Manifestation: Always want to know about strategy and direction so that they can decide whether or not they are on board. Being “on board” is a key motivational factor.
  • Expect communication in real time, particularly when it affects them personally. And everything affects them personally.
    • Manifestation: Will always complain about lack of communication. This will continue until executive communication flows in a twitteresque fashion. It doesn’t have to, that’s just the expectation.
  • Are overly socially aware. Are constantly looking at others and comparing themselves to others. Very little is kept private between millennial’s.
    • Manifestation: Will ask for career advancement or compensation based on the fact that someone else got it. Know everyone else’s compensation information. Follow each other’s careers and decisions on LinkedIn and Facebook.

Amelia Bedelia and Managerial Power

13 May

Just to clarify,  I am not breaking my rule about sensationalistic blog post titles, there’s a good connection here.

In a communications class for managers I facilitated yesterday we had a great discussion about how your communication changes when you go from being an individual contributor to becoming a manager. Whether you like it or not your communication is more authoritative when your a manager.

Case in point:

As Bill returned to his office, he overheard Judy, the accounting department assistant, comment to a supplier on the telephone.

“Yes Mr. Goodwin,” Judy said, “Lucy will definitely call you early next week.  I know how important that financial report is to you.”

“What’s going on?” interrupted Bill.  “Where is Lucy?  I gave her last Monday off, not the entire week!”

“That’s strange,” replied Judy.  “Lucy told me you gave her the week off.  And because of your suggestion, she was going to Jamaica with her boyfriend.”

“You’ve got to be kidding,” said Bill, annoyed.  “Last week she asked for Monday off.  I felt she had taken enough vacation time in the last few months and sarcastically told her ‘Why not take the entire week off and go to Jamaica with your boyfriend.’”

“Well, Bill, I guess she took your advice literally and did just that,” said Judy, laughing.

When you are a manager, your direct reports and others take what you say much more literally. As we were discussing this yesterday the Amelia Bedelia books by Peggy Parish came to mind. (Peggy died in 1988, but my kids still love her books today. I actually just ordered a bunch after my 7 year old read the original book and loved it). If you remember the character, Amelia Bedelia takes instructions literally, extremely literally. Dress the chicken, draw the drapes, steal home etc. My kids get a crack out of seeing how Amelia will misinterpret all of the instructions and come up with her own interpretation.

This is ok in a kids book, not at work. Managers need to recognize that what they say now carries weight and is taken literally. If you make a flippant, sarcastic comment like “forget about it” the odds are now greater that it will actually be forgotten. You can’t expect to then follow up the next week and say “what are we doing about ABC?”

As Uncle Ben told Peter Parker, “With great power comes great responsibility”.