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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!


Reinforcing Behaviors and Changing Patterns: Lessons from My 3 Year Old

7 Sep

I recently had a conversation with a manager who was relating to me a complaint that one of their employees had. This is not the first time I have had this conversation. Since this particular complaint included something I could have done differently I asked the manager why the employee did not come to me directly. Then I changed my tact and told the manager that I could not respond unless the employee came to me directly. I wanted the pattern to stop.

If I did respond I would be reinforcing the pattern instead of improving it. Employee goes to manager, manager comes to me, I respond to manager, manager goes back to employee….

This reminded me of when my 6 year old, Tzvi, first started school as an almost 3 year old. The school rule was that he was supposed to be potty trained in order to be able to go, and he pretty much was, but then he had an accident. So the school called my wife, she went to the school, changed him and came back home. Sure enough, the next day the same thing happened, he had an accident, she showed up, changed him and went home. Almost everyday for the next few weeks this happened and either me or my wife (or a great grandfather once, no joke!) went and changed him. What was troubling was that the accidents were not happening at home at all. I tried explaining to the school director the pattern we were getting stuck in and suggested they not call us one time and see what happens, but she wouldn’t hear of it. Eventually we got the inevitable phone call, the school wanted us to take him home, he wasn’t ready for school.

I decided it was time to play my trump card. I called the school director back and made her an offer. I would pay $20 for any teacher that was willing to change Tzvi when he had an accident and I would pay as many times as necessary. I asked her to try it for a week. The only stipulation was that we could not be called. $20 was just enough money to make it work and she found a teacher who was willing to do it. The next day I waited for the phone call letting me know how much I would have to send in, it never came. Or the next day. I never got another phone call. As soon as Tzvi saw that no one was going to come visit him of he had an accident it was all over. He knew how to go to the potty, but the one time he had an accident and his mom came to visit him he figured out a new pattern to get to see his mom.

Next time you need to respond to a negative situation and it seems all too familiar ask yourself why. Why am I doing this again? Will my response reinforce that this is the right behavior and keep it going? What can I do to stop the pattern?

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.

Performance Management, A Stamp in Time

4 May

Recently a number of HR professionals have been raising the idea of getting rid of the performance management process and the appraisals that come with them. There argument is that feedback does not happen on an ongoing basis because managers are waiting for mid year or end of the year reviews to provide feedback. They would prefer the focus be on an ongoing basis and not just twice a year.

Of course, I agree with the notion of feedback being an ongoing conversation, but I think the notion of “doing away” with the entire performance management process is throwing out the baby with the bath water. The issue is not with the review process, the issue is that managers are not giving feedback to their employees in a timely, consistent manner. Perhaps they are using mid-year reviews and the performance management process as an excuse for not meeting with their employees more regularly, but that is a separate issue.

One solution is to build “check-ins” into your performance management process. Most software out there will allow you to schedule reviews throughout the year and not just 1-2 times a year. Technology helps if used properly

The reason I like the performance management process is that provides that much needed “stamp in time”. It’s hard to measure performance on an ongoing basis, how will managers see and measure growth and performance? Remember when you were a kid and your mom would measure you and your siblings on the back of a door? There was not point in doing that every day or every week was there? Measured at the right intervals and you could, hopefully, see some significant growth.

I am all for coaching and feedback as a continuous process, but don’t take away my end of the year appraisal. It’s when I learn if and how much I’ve grown this year.

Hey HR, Wanna Influence? Change the Way the Game is Played

3 May

What do Zappos, Netflix and Amazon all have in common? If you guessed cool, new companies you wouldn’t be wrong, but their is something even more fundamentally amazing about them. They have all changed the way the game is played within their respective industries.

Look at Netflix for example. Netflix shares are up 130% (Over $100 now!) over the past year while Blockbuster is down to over 50% (now trading at $0.40). Netflix did not look to just get into the DVD rental business, CEO Reed Hastings set out to change the way the game is played! His company is now worth over $5 Billion while Blockbuster is worth under $100 Million. Netflix continues to focus on innovation by now working on streaming video through multiple platforms.

When you look at most HR organizations, processes and systems today they look a lot like they did 50 years ago. Recruiting looks the same, performance management looks the same and little has changed in the way that training, compensation or benefits. HR, unfortunately still looks a lot like Toby on The Office, outdated and out of touch.

If HR really want to become influencers we need to innovate. We need to come up with a better way to recruit, develop and retain people. We need to find better ways to develop talent. We need to work in real time as the last few years of economic uncertainty have shown that long-term planning has little value.

I love to hear and read about innovation in the workplace, but the last few conferences I have gone to have been disappointing. The presentations I am seeing today the same things I was seeing from HR pros 7-8 years ago. It’s time to innovate.

If you are innovating or have seen some innovative HR initiatives that work drop me a line, please!

Lessons in Management from PeeWee Hockey

23 Nov

This past Sunday I took my 7 year old to his weekly hockey game.

That’s him in the middle. At this age it’s basically a helmet with a stick running after other helmets with sticks for an hour. Not pretty, but they gotta start somewhere! My son’s team is, unfortunately, not very good.

As we watched the teams warm up before their game this Sunday, the vision of the other team taking on-target slap shots from the point while our boys struggled to have stick meet ball, had one parent reminiscing about the Mighty Ducks movies and how while the other team always looked so good, the Ducks won in the end. (btw has anyone seen Emilio Estevez?) No such luck, we lost 1-0 and are now 0-4 on the season, but we have come really far over the past 4 weeks. The kids know where to go, the position they play and what direction to shoot. This was not the case the first week when we lost 7-0.

I did not put too much thought into the improvement the team has made until I was walking out the door with my son, going over some of the key plays he made and trying to distract him from asking me to take him for the obligatory post game treat. As we were about to leave, his coach came running over, crouched down next to him and spent the next 15 seconds going over all the great things my son did during the game. He got up and ran to the next kid and did the exact same thing. Then another.

I was amazed at what he was doing, not that I haven’t been amazed by the coach before. Last Saturday he had a baby and was still at the game on Sunday. This Sunday he made a Bris in the morning and was at the game in the afternoon. What was amazing was that the coach was not only making each kid feel special, but he had figured out the key to elevating his team, recognition. Nothing is more of a motivation to repeat a behavior then being told that said behavior was the right behavior. When a kid hears that he did right, he can’t wait to come back the next week and do it again.

Employees are like kids, except for the whole paycheck thing. The best way to motivate an employee and get them to repeat the great things they do is to recognize them for it. As managers we need to get our from behind our desks more often and recognize our employees accomplishments in real time, not at performance review time. It doesn’t have to be a lot, just a timely, detailed message about something they have done well. Once they see and hear that they have been recognized there is little doubt that they are incentivized to do it again.

After the first game my son asked if he could switch teams, he couldn’t handle losing 7-0 every week. Since that first week he hasn’t asked again. Now he looks forward to having the chance to show his coach what he can do. They say the number one reason employees leave an organization is their manager. I’m sure this is true, but what part of management is it? I know one thing is for sure, if an employee feels like they are doing a good job and no one is noticing they are going to find someone who will notice. As long as they feel like their work is being recognized they will definitely stick around.

Volunteer to be Fired

20 Nov

Interesting post this morning for HR peeps on AOL’s asking for volunteers to be fired. AOL has asked 2500 to apply. Clearly they are asking for applications, because they don’t want some people leaving. So you apply to get severed, get an acceptance/rejection letter and, apparently, move on. In their offer, taking severance is a lot better than the getting fired option.

It can’t be that simple. Think about all the issues this system brings up.

  • What if you application gets rejected? Are you a loser? Winner? Both? How awkward is it going to be working for your manager after you get rejected?
  • What if 10,000 people apply? What does that say about your org? What does that do to the 7500 who will have to stay?
  • Why would they do this? Lack of talent planning? Do they not know who they want to leave? If they don’ t, they need to fire HR. Hey, maybe that will get them to 2500.
  • What if your on the fence about whether they’ll keep you, aren’t you more likely to apply to get the better deal?
  • Are they really so sure that enough people won’t take the offer? Is AOL such a great place to be right now?

Clearly, I think this is a terrible idea. Whoever thought it up should volunteer to get fired. Tim Armstrong made a huge mistake by accepting this proposal. He should know better having gone through the Google/DoubleClick acquisition. If you need to let people go, take the time to figure out who you need to let go and make it happen. The last thing you want to do is destroy the morale of your org in the process. Huge Fail!

Top of Mind

18 Nov

Any great sales person will tell you that one of the keys to sales is always being “top of mind”. This refers to a sales person or organization’s ability to be the first one thought of to provide a solution for a client’s challenge.  The goal is to be the first email or call the potential client makes to have the best opportunity to win the client’s business.

This past Halloween one of our sales people took this to a whole new level. He dressed up as Superman and went around to all of his clients dropping off candy. Just a great excuse to stop by and see how business is doing and if they needed us for anything. A great way to stay top of mind.

There is a great lesson to be learned here by training and OD professionals. How do we stay top of mind to our clients? How do we position ourselves to be the first one’s thought of to provide a solution? What can we do while not training or consulting to better understand the business and our client’s needs so that when they have a challenge they see us as a solution. That’s the key to being top of mind.

If you want to be consultative and strategic (I am not sure I know what they mean, but everyone seems to want to be) you need to figure out how to become the go to person or department. When your employees are chasing you down for help you’ll know you’ve made it.

So, Did we Ever get a Seat at the Table?

22 Oct

For years the big HR conversation was about HR getting a seat at the table. The goal was for the HR head  to be  considered an equal partner within the executive team. I don’t hear as much chatter about it these days, so what happened? Did HR get the at the table?

Here is my though on it:

I don’t think it ever happened. My litmus test? How many CEO’s do you see that were former heads of HR? To truly have an equal seat at the table means you need an equal say, which means you have enough knowledge to be able to potentially be the CEO. That’s typically the head of sales, CFO and COO. Why not HR? Because HR has never acquired enough knowledge.

HR should be able to produce, sell and support whatever the business sells, if you can do that then you are an equal partner. The only way for HR to be taken seriously is to really understand the business and how it functions. HR continues to fail to provide ROI beyond hiring, retention and employee satisfaction/engagement. When HR starts to show how it contributes to the business success we’ll have made it.

The opportunity is still there, HR needs to be seen as not just a contributor, a knowledgeable asset too.

The Sales Chromosome and the Wildcat

14 Oct

Every few months I’ll get the question, “Hey Avi, aren’t great sales people just built differently?” This is typically asked in a session where I am discussing coaching, feedback or motivation. The individual is basically asking why we need to coach, provide feedback or motivate employees, either they have it or they don’t, right? The simple answer is yes, top sales people, engineers or managers do have similar characteristics. The top sales people and any given company have remarkably similar skills that make them great. So why don’t we just look for those individuals when hiring? Why don’t we just let people go if we find that they don’t have that skill or competency set? Why do we bother trying to find individuals of varying backgrounds to fill roles that we should easily be able to fill with our cookie cutter model?

The other night I was watching the Jets/Dolphins game. The Jets, who have been a great defensive team so far this season, struggled whenever the Dolphins went into their Wildcat set. The Dolphins therefore ran the Wildcat 16 times for 110 yards. The Jets defense is designed to get after the quarterback, it’s built for sacks. They didn’t record one sack the entire night, because the Dolphins didn’t even give them the opportunity. The Dolphins could have done what most other teams do, run your basic combination of passes and runs with your quarterback on the field for every play, but they would have lost. They would not have beaten the Jets by just passing and running the ball, the Jets defense would have eaten them up. They beat the Jets because they had plays where there were 4 running backs on the field and no quarterback in sight.

What happens when you have too many employees who have the exact same make up? Complacency, limitations, ceilings. You are only as good as they are and can pretty much predict how far you will get. So what sets you apart? Doing something that no one else is doing, toeing the line and breaking the mold. You’ll never know what else you could have built if you don’t hire an engineer who is just a little different than everyone else. You’ll never know the potential your sales team has if you don’t hire a few sales people who are atypical. So the next time someone asks you why you don’t just hire out of the mold, ask them if they are comfortable with the limitations that come with it. Ask them if they want the opportunity to win some of the time or do they want to have a chance to win every time, even against the better team.