Monday, December 28, 2009

A New Year's Resolution for HR Volume 2

Last year when I wrote the first New Year's Resolution for HR, our country was in a very uncertain, unprecedented place. This year, we seem to be moving slowly out of that place. I still believe the resolutions for HR from 2009 still hold for 2010: (and beyond)

1) Are there processes that can be streamlined or that can leverage technology without negatively impacting the customer? (HR processes and company processes)

2) Are we getting the most bang for our salary buck? Is everyone performing at a "high-performing" level? If not, why and what is the game plan to get those not performing up to speed or out of the organization?

3) If a reduction in people expenses is necessary, HR should present every option to management with pros and cons and COST IMPACT of each option. (i.e. layoffs,. furloughs, shortened schedules, job shares, etc)

4) Is there training that can be delivered that will make the organization more competitive when the economy does pick up?

5) Can HR be restructured in a more cost effective, efficient way? (generalist vs. specialist, shared services vs. field personnel)

6) Are there tasks that can be outsourced both in HR and company wide to save money?

7) Review benefits philosophy and utilization to see where potential costs savings can be gained. Determine impacts of those decisions to the workforce. Make recommendations before management asks you to cut the benefits budget.

8) Make sure customers are put first in all decisions. Make sure customer service does not suffer from any of the above.

I do feel that HR will have other areas of focus as we move out of recession into a slow recovery:

1) Talent Management still matters. The disgruntled and disengaged will begin to have choices.

2) Pay attention to health care and what is going on in Congress.

3) How can HR best poise its company for the recovery? Is compensation and performance management linked to organizational goals?

4) How do you counsel senior management on when to rehire, cancel furloughs, reinstate salary freezes and cuts?

What are other areas that HR should be focused on for 2010? What are you priorities for 2010? Would love to hear from you!

Happy New Year to all of our loyal readers!
Please email me at with any topics you would like me to write about in the upcoming weeks.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

HR's Mantra for 2010 - HR as a Business Resource

What a year!  I would have never believed it if someone said that in 2009 the following would occur:
1) Big named companies like Lehman Brothers and Circuit City would be no more
2) Companies would cut benefits, paychecks and staff to the bone
3) The ratio of qualified applicants to the number of jobs available would be 6:1, unemployment would be over 10%

So as an HR professional I think about what have we learned through this and what can we do differently.  Our profession has been the brunt of negative press for years but with a renewed focus on engagement and productivity I believe we are well-positioned to turn the negative press into a more positive discussion.

So first question, what have we as HR professionals learned through these unprecedented times?
1) HR is resilient.  We have had to conduct layoffs, slash paychecks and be the bearer of bad news.  We have had to listen to countless employee personal stories.  This takes a huge toll.  We have done allthose things and have done it professionally.
2) HR is still a very needed service.  Companies have learned that in down times you depend on fewer people to get the job done.  HR has been instrumental in identifying those people and keeping the remaining staff motivated and informed on how things are going.
3) Employee engagement is important.  Engagement is everyone's job and keeping people engaged in good times and bad is critical.
4) HR needs to be in the business not outside the business. Recession impacts all aspects of the business.  HR needs to be present and engaged in all business issues and problems because the people have deliver on the solutions. 

Now for the second question, what has to be done differently?  I don't have a crystal ball, but just like with other departments there will be a NEW NORMAL.

1) I am not sure there will be as many top level HR jobs after recovery.  It seems that many SVP's and VP's have been let go and that work has been trickled down to Managers and Directors.  Will SVP's be replaced or will Managers and Directors now be promoted? 
2) What will HR keep inside and what tasks will be outsourced? Will functions continue to be outsourced and what will remain with HR?
3) I believe this recession has forced some HR professionals to understand that their survival depends on how they impact business results.  I believe the smart, savvy HR professional that really has a business slant will be the ones to be successful in 2010 and beyond.
4) I believe HR needs to focus on productivity and talent acquisition, retention and development.  Those areas add value to the organization. 
5) Compliance is always important and will be over the next few years as new legislation is added in the area of unions and pay practices. 

What are your thoughts for HR in 2010?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Just 2 Little Questions Will Tell You What You Need to Know

This week's post is written by Barbara A. Hughes, ICC's Co-Founder.
Here we are at the end of a very turbulent and uncertain 2009. I’ve read a plethora (Cathy’s favorite word!) of articles and papers throughout the year, all containing a lot of information, “helpful” hints and top five/seven/ten tips to create programs that will improve engagement/loyalty/commitment…I think you get the idea.

So, as we click on the page of a new calendar and look forward to 2010, we could simplify all of our searching and inquiring and boil it all down to two questions:
1. How smart do you want your employees to be?
2. What grade do you want your customers to give your products and services?

This suggestion is not snarky. We are absolutely drowning in data and starved for time. None of the information, however good, makes any difference if your human capital – employees AND customers – is disconnected from business results. What is driving most people around the bend (and driving up disengagement and attrition) in many companies is a message that says one thing and behaviors that say quite another.

Don’t start one new program, even if it’s a New Year, until you answer those two questions. If you want A+ business results, you need smart employees and a customer strategy that fits those outcomes. However, if you’re happy with okay employees and a C grade from customers, don’t waste time, effort and resources on programs that don’t fit your needs. The point is: be honest about the results you want and execute on that platform.

If your results are dependent on:
· Profitable growth
· A defined competitive advantage
· Building a sustainable business system
· Retaining valuable employees and customers and
· Resilience in the face of the inevitable ups and downs of business

Then smart employees and high marks from customers are what you need. You won’t get those results long term from “okay” and C grades so don’t try.

Employees get smarter when you:
· Share relevant business results and future plans for the company with employees

· Listen to their ideas about process improvement and customer needs and other areas of

the business in which they are engaged day-to-day
· Facilitate learning by creating a dialogue about why one idea was adopted and another


· Eliminate the old “command-and-control” style and walk your talk

If you want customers’ report cards about you to be A’s and B+’s:
· Understand what they need and deliver it
· Create an experience that exceeds expectations and delights them
· Train front line employees to be knowledgeable about your products and services and able

to resolve problems without continuously escalating up the chain
· Hire employees who have the traits that support excellent customer service

I don’t have an exhaustive list here so how are your companies developing smarter employees and working on “A“grades from your customers? What is working for you? We’d love to hear your stories.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Leading the ENGAGED Company

Over the last 18 months, there has been truckloads written on the importance of employee engagement during this recession and keeping focused on it as we crawl out of the recession.

Our company believes that engagement is NOT a program but it is an integral part of the culture and leaders should encourage and reward "engagement" behaviors. We also believe that you must look at employee engagement along with customer engagement due to the relationship between the two, known as the Service Mirror or Spillover Effect.

So, if engagement is not an event or a program, but an integral part of the culture of the company....How do you LEAD an ENGAGED company?

1) You must understand what engages YOUR workforce because although there are many simlar engagement drivers from company to company, your strategy and culture are different. The order of those drivers may also be different. In other words, clearly defined expectations may be number one in your company and number six in another.

2) You must measure those drivers making sure you are delivering on those to your employees.

3) Understand what drives your customers engagement and align your deliverables around those.

4) You must measure those drivers making sure your are delivering on those to your customers.

5) Design rewards and performance management systems with engagement in mind, making sure engagement of employees and customers are a component of both.

6) Engagement is EVERYONE'S job. It's not just HR's job, it is not just management's job. Everyone is responsible for both employee and customer engagement.

7) Allow employees to make customer recovery decisions at the point of service failure. This gives the employee the authority (influences engagement) and potentially saves a dissatisfied customer from telling all their friends about the experience.

8) Leaders must communicate and behave in a way that lets employees know that the customer is first and is the center of everything you do....the KEY is walking the talk. Employees know the difference. They can sense a service culture.

This list is not exhaustive by any means, please help me add to this list from your own experiences in leading engaged companies.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

How Does HR Add to Profits?

Sometimes, I get asked a question that really makes me stop and think.  I have had the pleasure of teaching and speaking at least 25-30 times per year.  A few weeks ago, I was teaching an HR Essentials class.  We were discussing how HR adds value to the organization when a very smart young lady asked me, "Well how does HR add to profits?"

I believe she cut to the chase...adding value really means adding dollars to the bottom line.  So, of course I threw the question out to the class and asked for their input.  Here is what they said:

1) HR prevents lawsuits
2) HR hires good people
3) HR saves money by implementing cost effective benefits programs
4) HR makes sure salaries are competitive thus saving compensation dollars

I believe all the above are true, but with the exception on number 2, those are cost saving activities.  These activities are great, but it still doesn't answer the question of ADDING to profits.

So after weeks of contemplation, I have a few to add to the list:

5) HR adds to profits by designing and IMPLEMENTING true pay for performance systems that incent those people that are truly meeting and exceeding expectations thus adding to profits by increasing revenues and reducing costs. 
6) HR adds to profits by making sure the organizations strategy is communicated and cascaded to the lowest level of the organization.  This activity makes sure that all employees know what is important, what is expected and how they will be measured.  This focus allows employees to direct their activities that lead to goal attainment and bottom line results.

I had others but you tell me what you think.....I would love to create a good list of how HR adds to profits and then create metrics to correspond with each item, thus creating a blueprint for an HR scorecard that points to what our CEO's care about...PROFIT!

Here is a motivator....I will share the results with all of please send me your comments on this subject!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Say "Goodbye" to Engagement Programs and "Hello" to Engaged Companies

Last week we discussed why "Good Programs Fail." Thank you for the your comments on the subject. This week, I would like to discuss why engagement is not a program, but a key organizarional outcome.Employee engagement has been getting a lot of press lately. Companies are in uncharted territory with this economy so some are being reactive and trying anything to survive. (program of the month).

I would argue that your employees are where your revenues are made and lost. Specifically, where employees interact with the customer and then the customer decides whether to buy, re-buy, refer or seek another provider. We refer to this interaction as the service mirror or spillover effect when customers reflect employees engaged behaviors and vice versa.

I believe engagement is not about an employee survey program but about how the entire company is engaged with the organizational strategy, how the employees are engaged in their work, how the customers are engaged in the products and services and how leadership inspires employees, engaging them with the company via their heart and their mind.

Engagement is an outcome leading to desired business results such as profitability, revenue, market share or cost reductions.

How can you tell if your company is engaged?

1) Measure engagement levels in each of the 5 key organizational areas: strategy, leadership, culture, employee and customer.

2) Identify engagement gaps

3) Create action plans that address the gaps

4) Drill action plans down to individual level

5) Create Metrics that Matter to your company tracking performance

6) Communicate goals, metrics, success and progress

Do you have an engagement program or an engaged company?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Why Do Good Programs Fail?

We have so many programs at work.  The list is long and varied...

1) Change Management Programs
2) Employee Engagement Programs
3) Team Building Programs
4) Customer Service Programs
5) Six Sigma Programs
6) Pay for Performance Programs
7) Putting Customers First Programs
8) Going Green Programs
9) Casual Day Friday Programs (attempt at humor, not serious about this one)
10) Wellness Programs
12) Process Improvement Programs

And so on.....and so on.

I have to ask myself, why do well intentioned programs like the ones above fail to deliver on their original promises?  In case there is some skepticism about my premise, consider the following:

  • One-third of all change management programs fail
  • One half of customers leave within a five year period
  • At least 50% of surveyed employees report being disengaged or ACTIVELY disengaged at work
In our experience, programs fail due to failure to execute.  But why do we fail to execute?  In my experience we have very detailed procedures that go with our programs, there is usually quite a lot of effort and expense associated with them, we may have training around the programs and we often times have a lot of hoopla and excitement.  We buy t-shirts and coffee mugs.  What is the problem?

So to restate the question, Why do we fail to execute on well intentioned programs?

I have some ideas on this, but would LOVE to hear from you on why you think programs fail.  To incent you to participate, I am announcing ICC's Blog Commenting Program.  It is very easy, the 1st, 10th and 25th person to comment will win a very cool prize.  (to be mailed to you)

To start you off, here is a reason why I think we have failure to execute:

1) Employees are unsure of the reason for the program to start with

Now it's your turn!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Is it Change Management or Strategy Implementation?

So many times we are asked to address a change issue with a client. Every time when we as consultants do our homework we find that yes a change is occurring but a program is not the answer. As an HR professional now for more years that I would like to admit, I have had a fundamental issue with change management. It’s not an event that we can express on a coffee mug or a t-shirt, it is about a new desired business result. Either we are looking to increase revenue, increase profit, or to be more efficient. To be able to SUSTAIN any of these results, doesn’t change have to be continuous? And really, couldn’t we just substitute the words STRATEGY IMPLEMENTATION instead of CHANGE MANAGEMENT?

In my experience change management initiatives were almost always the result of a shift in strategy. In typical organizations the leadership communicates the new strategy, sets goals, and monitors results. At the same time HR conducts change management workshops that teach employees how to prepare and accept change. I think those events should be combined.

Why do most programs fail including change management? We fail to execute. So what we need to do is assist leaders with execution.

Before all the OD consultants out there fire off responses to me, I do feel that the principles of change like buy in, resistance, communication of desired and current state, and all of those are critically important when woven into the bigger conversation of the NEW BUSINESS RESULT.

In these times of HR really having to prove their existence, should we be talking about change management initiatives or is strategy implementation/execution the right conversation? This question came to me after having a very good conversation with a client last week regarding a very large shift in strategy at their organization.
Sometimes, organizations just get stuck, so a discussion needs to take place about what is desired in the 5 key areas of the organization and what the current state is in the following areas:
1) Strategy
2) Leadership
3) Culture
4) Employees
5) Customer

Next, a discussion of the gaps need to take place and how we plan to CHANGE in the context of strategy.

Or, you could just order some t-shirts…

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What Are You Doing to Engage Your Employees, Today?

We had the pleasure of attending the SHRM-Atlanta Fall Conference this week. At the conference, we had the opportunity to ask HR practitioners what they were doing inside their companies to engage their employees. Check out the YouTube videos below:

The HR professionals we interviewed discussed a common theme of "making connections" regarding employee engagement. The examples are summarized below:

1) Make sure employees know they are valued. (Connect with employees on an emotional level)
2) Take care of your employees, so they take care of your customers. (Happy employee-happy customer connection)
3) Engaged employees are in the right job, they love their work! (Teela at Talent Connections loves making connections)
4) During tough times, make connections with employees on a social level. (gets people connected and out of the day to day grind)

I heard an interesting statistic at the conference. 50% of your employees would consider leaving, if jobs were available. That is astounding to me. I can understand it, as we are stressed, stretched and scared! Those are the reasons why you need to be focused on engagement as a company today. Engagement is not a program or a policy. Engagement is about leadership. Do your leaders, lead an engaged company?

Let us know what your company is doing TODAY about engagement!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Employee Engagement in One Minute

Sometimes, simpler is just better. I am a management consultant and I find myself making easy things more complex from time to time. I guess we feel the more complex something is, the more we know about a subject.

My business partner ran across this YouTube Video on engagement. It is the best one I have seen. Simple, yet so true!

According to Drewberry LTD, the 3 tiers of employee engagement are:
1) to understand
2) to reward
3) to communicate

All very easy, yet we as managers and business owners can't get this right. We are terrible at asking our employees what they think, or how they would solve an issue. When it comes to rewards we often use a "one size fits all" approach. That doesn't work in blue jeans, nor does it work to motivate ALL employees.

Communication is the real tough one. Our company has been conducting employee surveys for almost 13 years. On each survey we have analyzed we always see/hear the same thing; "They don't communicate to us." "They" meaning managers and supervisors.

Do I think that these are the only 3 things we need to focus But, the 3 tiers are the basics and if we could get those right, we would have more engaged employees. I do believe what drives engagement differs from one company to the next depending on leadership, culture, and the employees. By examining drivers of engagement through well thought out surveys and making sure the basics are right, you can really focus on what makes your employees more productive in turn making your customers happier, which ultimately makes your checkbook bigger!

Tell me what has worked for you in your company regarding the basics. How do you communicate effectively? How do you understand employees? How do you design reward systems that really motivate? I would love to hear from you!

Monday, October 5, 2009


I have been giving a lot of thought recently to the topic of change. It seems that most of our clients are currently going through some kind of change, like:

1) I want to take our business to the next level in terms of revenue/growth
2) I want my company to be performance driven where decisions are more data driven
3) I need to change our company's culture from _______ culture to NEW culture

As a management consultant this is fun and exciting work. But inevitably, we get to a certain point in the project and leaders/stakeholders begin asking questions such as:

1) Do we really want to do this?
2) What if our employees don't want to change?
3) What if this doesn't work?

So I then start thinking, what if you don't change what happens to your company? We often get answers like, "our competition will beat us," "we will lose market share," or "we may go out of business." So really what we need to be discussing is not how we change, because 9 times out of 10, it is vitally necessary that the change happens. We really need to have conversation on how to sustain the change.

After all the hoopla is over, the mugs have been passed out with our new mission and vision on them (little sarcasm here), how do we keep the "New Change" going?

Of course, I have a bias and feel that change is very dependent on employees carrying out that change and that HR programs and infrastructure can impact employee behavior. So, what can HR do to SUSTAIN the CHANGE?

1) Make sure you are a part of the change from day one
2) Align reward systems that incent new desired behaviors
3) Communicate what change means down to the individual level
4) Track progress over time setting clear milestones COMMUNICATE PROGRESS
5) Align performance goals to organizational goals
6) Pay for performance and mean it
7) Make sure the right people are performing the right jobs
8) Create clear career paths so individuals see where they fit today and in the future
9) Serve as a coach to leadership when they get stuck in the change effort, keep the momentum going

I know many of my readers have gone through change or are going through change right now. What else can HR do to SUSTAIN the CHANGE? (I think I need to make some T-shirts!)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Engaged Companies: Are You Serious? Really?

Today’s post is written by Barbara A. Hughes, Co-Founder, Intellectual Capital Consulting:

I’m impressed – and frankly amazed sometimes – at the sheer number of blogs, articles, posts, etc. that turn up in my Google Alerts on the topics of employee engagement and customer engagement. Some of the information is interesting and occasionally, it is thought-provoking. But, I wonder how many of these ideas are actually applied in organizations?

Here is my problem with this stuff: it often mirrors what doesn’t work in organizations. We have silos of data, knowledge, know-how and information gathered, hoarded or used as our personal or departmental power bases which cannot move the company toward its strategic objectives when it’s so fragmented. Thinking along these lines is like a Chinese menu – 600 items somewhat related but never integrated. And, like Chinese food, disparate discussions about engagement often leave us hungry for real answers after a couple of hours.

I read a blog post recently suggesting that companies create a new C-level position for Engagement because top level executives are too busy doing other things and middle managers don’t know enough about organizational strategy. As they say on Saturday Night Live: Are You Serious? Really? I’m not denigrating the idea of an Engagement Champion but I’ve held similar internal positions and it is a recipe for failure unless this position is accountable for bringing together resources and managing the execution of complex, enterprise-wide initiatives and not the dog’s body who has the thankless task of being the one who is “doing stuff to us”.

Inside-out, bottom-up, outside-in and top-down, it is our ENTIRE organization that must be engaged in order for any single factor to be engaged to a degree that makes a difference. Here is how we at ICC view the design of a successful engagement model:

Leadership: engages through continuous communication of strategy and vision; sets the tone for an engaged culture; creates resilience. Is relentless about linking business results to employee and customer experiences.

Strategy: engages by instilling a clear and compelling vision of the company’s purpose and future direction. Motivates by setting goals that link to each person’s contributions.

Culture: engages when there is transparency of thought, ideas and information; and when there is flow among units, departments, functions and individuals.

Employees: engage with an understanding of their work and how it furthers organizational strategy and goals. Give their best efforts to a company that values their contributions, and the customers they serve. Link their personal view to the organization’s view of success.

Customers: engage with an organization that is designed to provide a unique combination of product, service and experience they would find difficult to get elsewhere.

Linking and integrating the key engagement factors strengthens the process of delivering on your brand promise to both employees and customers. This model is your organization’s unique competitive advantage and will attract and retain the relationships – employees and customers alike – that drive business results. It’s not about copying Zappo’s culture or GE’s lean processes or Amazon’s analytics. It’s about discovering what you want “engagement” to mean in your company and then designing the five key factors to create the results you want.

I know that there are engaged companies out there. Will you share what is working for you?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

HR as Rock Stars!

Over the last week, I have had some very interesting discussions in Social MediaLand.

I have had many lively discussions regarding my last post, "Dear Job Seeker in HR." Some of the comments were left on my blog but most were either emailed or communicated to me in person, which I find interesting. Some of the comments were around the idea that recruiters are using social media to make decisions on non-job related criteria. There are definitely two schools of thought around this issue. I have heard:

1) Recruiters should have a process and a framework to evaluate social media content as it relates to the job
2) Whatever is on the internet is fair game and if it is in the public view then recruiters can use that information however they wish.

This topic has really sparked a lot of discussion and thought., I have a colleague, Brent Churchwell, that suggested a panel discussion on this topic for the SHRM-Atlanta conference. We are in the process of organizing that event now. Stay tuned for details; it should be interesting! Now, this is how social media can be effective...keeping the conversation going.

What are your thoughts on the role Social Media should play in the selection process? How do you BRAND yourself as a ROCK STAR online?

After the Social Media discussions, I joined another discussion on "Is HR Dying" over at Punkrock HR. Laurie Ruettimann, a well known HR blogger posed an interesting and thought provoking question. (please read the comments, and yes there are many, but worth it). The net, net of the post was that many people had various opinions on the subject, but at the end of the posts bloggers agreed on one thing; HR bloggers do not do a good job of talking about the GOOD that HR does. We need to talk more about how HR has made a difference and highlight the ROCK STARS!

So, I decided that as a follow up to my post from last week, discussing what HR Manager candidates did wrong, I would discuss how the final candidates were ROCK STARS.

In my opinion, we had some of the best talent out there interviewing for an HR Manager's job for a client. Here is what made the finalist ROCK STARS:

1) Well prepared: They knew more about the client than I did.
2) Leave behinds: They had designed a brochure, a folder or another "marketing" tool to leave with the client. Excellent idea
3). Followed up: Sent an immediate "thank you" email and expressed again, why they would be a great fit for the job.
4) Asked GREAT questions.
5) Tied HR initiatives back to results: Discussed the value of HR programs in terms of ROI.
6) Listened
7) Asked for a tour of the facility
8) Used real examples of situations form their experiences that were relevant to the client.

So, what are your thoughts on being a ROCK STAR in the interviewing process?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Dear Job Seeker in Human Resources

Over the last few weeks, my colleague and I have been conducting a job search for an HR professional for a company here in Atlanta. I have been so surprised by a number of things as it has been awhile since I have conducted a job search for an HR professional.

The first surprise came when we sent out 2 emails to our email network and received over 100 resumes, just in the Atlanta area. The resumes for the most part are for very talented individuals. Many applicants are coming out of some of the biggest corporations in this country. So, the number of talented HR people out of work really hit home for me and that worries me.

I wasn't sure whether to be excited that we had such a great applicant pool or to cry because of what that says about my profession in Human Resources. The scarier idea is that I am not so sure all those big SVP HR jobs will come back as the economy recovers.

My next surprise was around what I will call interview basics. I would think that given the current economy everyone would be on their very best behavior. NOT! Here is just a sampling of what we experienced over the last few weeks:

1) We actually had a no show. I mean the interview was scheduled and confirmed. The phone screen went well and then nothing. Blew my mind!
2) When you phone screen please do not wash the dishes I can hear that in the background. I know it shows you can multi-task but I could not hear how strategic you were from your bowls hitting your frying pans.
3) Please do not name your resume attachments anything other than your name___resume.doc. The HRsuperstar.doc and everythingandthekitchensink.doc does not get my attention.
4) Study your alphabet. It is FMLA not FLMA. It's not URISA it is ERISA.
5) When asked a question about HR strategy do not respond with, "I was very strategic at my last job, when I started tracking turnover for several departments"
6) SPELL CHECK-IT MATTERS. We all make spelling errors, I do it all the time, even in my blog. But in a resume that is your one chance to get noticed; get someone to proofread it for you.
7) Be careful of the language you use. "Our morale sucked" is not what I would call professional speak.
8) If you have a linked in profile make sure it matches your resume. If not, that sure does throw up a red flag.
9) Do a Google search on yourself. We do. Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, YouTube all come up and they are all very interesting. (HRsuperstar sure can party!)
10) Be prepared to send samples of work documents. "They are in the garage on a floppy" does not make me think you are technically savvy or current.

As an HR professional myself, I know I am overly sensitive about some of these things. But, these are the basics that should be common sense. I also felt a lot of desperation with some of the candidates. I hate that, it is a terrible feeling to need a job and the number of available jobs being so scarce.

The competition is tough out there. You have to articulate your value proposition to the company. Don't let some of the things above get in the way.

Don't let the interviewer see you sweat, be confident and be professional, that is the entry to the next round of interviews!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Can you Incent Your Employees to Innovate?

Over the last few days I have read two very interesting articles on the topic of innovation. The first one is from the September 2009 issue of HR Magazine, Motivating Innovation, How to Get and Grow Great Ideas. (Must be SHRM member to view) The Author, Kathy Gurchiek, discusses how HR professionals can create a culture that supports innovation. Gurchiek lists the building blocks needed for innovation to occur according to Judy Estrin.

1. Curiosity and a natural ability to question the status quo.
2. Risk taking and willingness to learn from failure.
3. Openness. Organizations with strong silos tend to be less innovative.
4. Patience, tenacity and the sense of giving an idea a chance to grow.
5. Trust, underpinning the other values.

I began to think about how you keep these ideas flowing? How do you recognize and reward new ideas, idea implementation, and the resulting new best practice or product.

Then, a blog magically appeared in my inbox, Daniel Pink and the New Building Blocks for Engagement. The 18 minute video is definitely worth the time. I thought is was very interesting that Pink discusses why the typical forms of rewards and recognition do not work for innovation. He states that creativity and innovation is a right brained activity, which is hard to put inside a box. By using typical carrot and stick rewards that focus you on some specified end result, you can limit yourself on idea generation. The traditional type rewards actually may have the opposite effect on innovation. WOW! That makes perfect sense to me, and I am a very left brained person.

The theory is that if you are engaged in your work, you are more apt to be creative and innovative. Pink discusses that what motivates people to high performance is intrinsic (from within). He discusses purpose, autonomy and mastery.

Phillip Blount, with Phillip Blount and Associates, a compensation consulting firm based in Atlanta, states, "I believe that for employees to be creative and innovative you really have to create the "right" environment for it. By that I mean you can't be too quick to "punish" mistakes if you really want employees to "take a chance" on making something better. You want to recognize and reward the "behavior" you want almost more than the actual results of the correct behavior. "

So do we as HR professionals have our rewards model all wrong? Are we rewarding the correct behaviors more than the actual results? Do we reward for taking a chance? These are all very interesting points brought up by Phil.

The question becomes how do you reward and recognize innovation?

Would love to hear your thoughts and perspectives on this topic. I will keep the conversation going in future blogs. (There will be a reward for your participation! :) )

Monday, August 31, 2009

5 Ways HR Can Poise a Firm for Growth?

I have the great pleasure of working with many small to medium size clients over the past few years. As my partner and I were discussing their similarities, we concluded that the firms we had been working with had very aggressive growth goals, yes even in this recession.

So that really made me stop and think...

Sometimes companies are doing just fine, making similar profits and revenues year to year. Then, something happens, someone desires to "get to that next level." In our experience the next level requires a different mindset and tools from operating under the status quo.

How can HR assist their company when growth is the goal?

I think HR is key when growth is the mantra. To grow means to perform higher and better. In order to perform better you need infrastructure and tools to be able to do that assuming motivation and engagement are high.

So HR's job becomes:

1) Growth plan communicator-After the CEO has set his/her vision for the future HR needs to make sure everyone knows what that means for their role. How does their role fit into the plans for growth?

2) Pay for performance czar-All performance management tools and salary structure has to reflect new growth goals and objectives. Commissions may need to be adjusted, performance appraisals rewritten and policies adjusted.

3) Talent scout-Make sure the best talent is acquired and retained. Understanding who the high performers are an making sure their experience is positive.

4) Manager's Coach-Provide managers tools, feedback and training to become GREAT managers. Times of growth are chaotic, a manager's job becomes one of coach and communicator. Make sure they have the skills and abilities to be successful.

5) Engagement Monitor-Track and take action on engagement data understanding who is committed to the organization and why. Also, find out why employees are disengaged and fix those issues quickly. In growth mode, there is no time for poor performance or morale busters.

What other roles for HR have you observed or served in when in growth mode?

Monday, August 24, 2009

What Does the CEO want from HR Today?

We seem to be hearing signs that our economy may be heading for recovery.  I wonder what our "new normal" will be for businesses in the aftermath of the worst economic situation our country has ever gone through.

I then think about if  the expectations for HR will be different than they are or have been.  Does the CEO need something different from HR?  Over the last month I have spoken to many HR professionals on the topic of HR Metrics that Matter.  I always ask the question, "Which metrics are important to your CEO?"  Last week, one student said, "I think the CEO will have a different mindset for HR post recession."  Of course, that comment sparked a healthy and lively discussion.  I wanted to summarize our thoughts and see if you had any to add or debate:

1) The CEO will expect HR to make sure high performers are taken care of and the non-performers are fixed or fired.  The idea here is that we will still be trying to do more with less and we want to make sure we retain the best of the best while making sure motivation is not sacrificed when poor performers are kept too long.

2) The CEO will expect HR to measure its performance.  All other departments do, so should HR.
3) The CEO wants HR to make sure that the most productive people in the industry are hired and retained.
4) The CEO expects the top level HR person to also be a business person that understands the customer, the competitive landscape and the company's financials.
5) The CEO wants pay for performance and HR must design all systems accordingly.
What do you think your CEO wants from HR.  I would love to hear your comments and observations. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Can Employee Engagement Lead to Job Growth?

I read a really good article in BusinessWeek, titled, It's Not the Economy StupidI found the excerpt below to be the most interesting:

Based on extensive, long-term research, Gallup has determined that less than 30% of the corporate workforce is truly engaged in its work. That's less than 30% of employees who work with passion and feel a profound connection to their companies. Yet employee engagement leads to increased customer engagement, which leads to real revenues and, eventually, more job opportunities for others.
This article really made me stop and think.  I have always known that a high level of employee commitment/engagement leads to increased customer loyalty which increases revenues.  But I never thought about taking that equation one step further to consider the ramification in our current economic situation.

By enjoying increased revenues through increasing engagement, companies can then hire more people.

So, in today's economic situation it makes perfect sense to PAY ATTENTION to your employees commitment to the organization. 

Another strong argument for paying attention to engagement is that innovation and creativity is higher with engaged employees.  Better innovation and creativity leads to better and improved solutions for customers and the organization.  As a result of the improved solutions, organizations then can sustain a competitive advantage over its competition.

So with the benefit of increased revenues and competitive advantage, why wouldn't you measure and track employee engagement/commitment?

GOT ENGAGEMENT?  What are your thoughts on this topic?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Implementing Strategy Through Employees

Recently we have been involved with several companies that are changing their business strategy.  Whether it is to become more competitive in a once monopoloy like industry by becoming customer focused or if the desire is big growth plans, the bottom line is you depend on employees to switch gears.

The strategy development piece is almost the easiest piece.  You get all the executives in a room for a few days and the new direction is decided.

The hard part is implementing the decision.  Execution is where I think HR can really add value to the organization regarding strategy.  Of course, HR was involved in the strategic planning discussions so that plans can be proactive in nature rather than reactive. 
I think the execution piece is challenging, we have all heard that the best strategies fail due to poor or LACK OF execution.

Listen below to my conversation with Nancy Vepraskas, SPHR regarding how to execute on a customer service strategy.  She uses an effective sports analogy to simplify a sometimes vague concept making it very understandable. (This was an interview conducted outside at a Starbuck's so please excuse the background noise!)

Nancy reminds us that we need to:

1) Make sure employees understand where the company is headed
2) Make sure employees have and understand the skill sets needed for the new strategy if those have changed (look at gaps)
3) Have conversations instead of communication around goals, progress, and performance and do that continuously.
4) Use easy to understand goals that allows employees to know "when they may be losing ground" so they can get back on track. 
5) Understand what excellent customer service looks like in your organization from the customer's perspective. 

What is your experience in this area when changing strategies?  What has worked for your organization?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Should We Care if Employees Find Meaning in Their Work?

YES, I do believe we need to care if our employees find work meaningful.  This is not a verse from a kumbaya handbook either.  There are real tangible benefits to employees finding meaning in their work.  Here is why I care:

1) People by nature need PURPOSE.  Research has shown that when employees understand their contribution in their role to the overall success of the organization they become more committed to the company.  Commitment, as we have been discussing over the last few weeks, leads to higher performance.

2) According to HR Consultant and Blogger, Mike Haberman, employees will commit to their work, if and only if that work is meaningful.  Again, when you have a committed employee, you have one that is performing at a higher level.  This can usually be seen in customer interactions.  We want our employees to be committed and engaged, so that enthusiasm is reflected in the customer experience.

3) Employees need to understand how they are doing.  To keep the work meaningful to the employee they need to understand how they are performing, what they can do to improve, and receive the appropriate reward and recognition for performing in a way that leads to increased results for the company. 

Check out this YouTube video of my conversation with Nancy Vepraskas, SPHR a thought leader in the area of strategic HR and Chairman of the Board for SHRM-Atlanta.  Nancy discusses the concept of employee engagement and how HR can assist with designing meaningful work.

What are your thoughts on employees and meaningful work?  Should we be paying attention?  How have you helped in designing meaningful work for your employees?

Friday, July 31, 2009

Promises, Promises

To continue or conversation from last week on employee commitment, I wanted to share a customer experience I just had on vacation this week.

Our family goes to Gulf Shores, Alabama just about every year on vacation. We have stayed at many properties in the area. This time we had enough points for us to stay at a well known national chain, so we did.

On our way down, we called for an early check-in and the front desk clerk said, "Well , we can't promise that we can have that for you as we are booked, so we don't want to commit to that." Those words perked my ears right up. I thought wow, "promise and commitment" that employee is very engaged.

We arrived at the hotel and the staff were beyond friendly. We got to our rooms and I saw a laminated card that read:

We promise to:

  • Always make you feel welcome

  • Always give you a room that's clean and reflects the highest quality

  • Always respond promptly to any need you might have

  • Always give you the service that will make you want to return

They were absolutely living the above statement. So, of course, I had to ask the question, "How does everyone in this hotel seem to rally around your promise?" The employee responded to me by saying, "Because the company does the same thing for us." BINGO

This is an example of a company that understands commitment is two-way and that the company delivers on its promises to the employee and the employees in turn delivery on its promises to the customer. So simple, yet so IMPACTFUL.

Next time I go on vacation, I will stay at the same hotel, EVEN THOUGH IT IS NOT RIGHT ON THE BEACH!!!!

How do you think HR can design a customer experience like the one above???

Check out our video on the difference between employee loyalty and employee satisfaction.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Commitment is a Two Way Street

We used to track employee satisfaction and we got really excited when we learned that 85% of our employees were satisfied. The bad news was that yes they were satisfied, but they still were apt to leave when a better offer came through or they were NOT performing at their peak.

So, then we got smart and said we have to measure engagement. We then did a lot of research and found what drives engagement. Things like accountability, career development, mission and vision awareness, trust, culture, pay and the list goes on. We also measured how loyal an employee is, but that measure today is skewed because I will argue we have a lot of loyal employees due to our economic situation. So, the question is, are our employees that are loyal and engaged really performing at their potential?

I now believe that commitment drives performance. Think about being committed to something and how that affects your behavior. I am committed to my volunteer work because I want homeless men and women to find a job and become self sufficient. I am committed to the organization and the people, so I volunteer many hours a year to assist in the cause.

What do our employees commit to at work?

1) They can commit to the organization

2) They can commit to the team they are on

3) They can make commitments to co-workers and bosses

4) They can be committed to all, some or none of the above

What is commitment?

I believe that commitment is 2 way. Employers have to commit to their employees and vice versa. Just like in marriage, you can't have one person that is committed and one that is "sorta committed."

The definition of commitment is:

"The state of being bound emotionally or intellectually to a course of
action or to another person or persons"

The key words are "emotionally" and "intellectually." So, you either have their heart or mind or both. I would argue that you need both to drive high performance.

Now, the big question is, "How do you get your employees to commit?" How can organizations commit to its employees? (this is where I would love your input!)

What are your thoughts on gaining commitment? More to come in next week's blog...

Check out the video below on 5 levels of employee commitment:

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

HR Trends: What is in Store Post-Recession?

I have been asked to speak to a group of up and coming HR students. The topic is, "HR Trends" for our next generation of HR professionals. WOW and YIKES!

For this first time in a long time, I have had to pause and really think about what I want to say to this group. As many of my readers know, I have been adamant about HR being strategic, and forgetting about the illusive executive table. But, with all that said, what do you say to a bunch of bright-eyed, smart young individuals who are considering HR as their career? (Especially in these crazy times).

I have posed this question many times to colleagues, and on Twitter, etc. I get answers ranging from, "They should switch majors immediately" to "they must be business savvy to be effective."

So, here is my short list (work in progress) of trends for HR post recession:

1) Compliance will be front and center-With new legislation like Lilly Ledbetter and updates to existing legislation like FMLA and ADA, HR professionals will need to focus on the impacts these changes have on the organization. Pending legislation is another area that HR should be concerned with, especially laws like EFCA.

2) Social Networking-what does this new and exciting medium mean to HR? How does it affect the way we recruit, retain and engage our workforce?

3) Perform or go home-Companies are going to be very serious about performance. Gone are the days where you could carry the dead weight/marginal performers hoping to get rid of them during the next restructuring. HR needs to lead the effort on making sure all tools are in place to make sure high performers are rewarded, identified and retained and that low performers are coached to improvement or terminated.

4) HR must measure its own performance-Instead of focusing on the usual metrics like turnover and time to fill, really start measuring items that really matter to the organization. Metrics like revenue/employee and average performance rating of new hires really get to things like efficiency and effectiveness rather than high level metrics like turnover that do not mean anything unless you know who is leaving and why.

5) HR competencies are very different today-This is not my mother's HR department!  Today HR professionals need very different skills to be effective in today's environment.  I believe business acumen, financial acumen, analytical skills, change agent, and relationship builder are a just a few competencies that  are needed.  Do you have others?  Please comment below.

This is my short list of trends, please feel free to comment and let me know what you think. I know the students will be gratetful to hear many perspectives on this topic.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Why Aren't People Working While at Work?

My son recently began his first job. He is doing mostly manual labor in a retail environment, but he is excited about the opportunity. He knows that I am in business as a consultant and I work with helping companies be better performers. So, he naturally has had many questions for me:

  1. Who is FICA and Medicare and why are they getting my money? What if I dont want Medicare when I am old? I directed him to ask that to our current President and his Grandmother who is currently collecting on both.

  2. Why do people get to read magazines at work and others don't? Interesting question, which I respond with insights into motivation, work ethic and accountability.

  3. Why are people lazy at work especially when we are in a recession? Another good question which I refer back to number 2 with some added thoughts on leadership.

  4. Why do we turn customers away because the lazy people reading magazines can't get to their jobs out in less than 2 weeks? I told him to give his manager my phone number.

In all seriousness, I began to think about why these individuals are not engaged in their work. And then it dawned on me. People like to be held accountable. So, yesterday I dusted off my old MBA textbooks on Motivational and Work Behavior to see what it had to say. (plus I needed some facts about this blog, that I was mulling over).

Without going into a lot of theory, basically the authors (Richard Steers and Lyman Porter) discuss determinants of commitment:

  1. Goal Setting-Individuals like to have goals and it doesn't really matter who sets them. They can or management can. In a research study when employees set their own goals they were similar to those set by management

  2. Group Influence-Peer pressure matters in the workplace

  3. Values, incentives and rewards-need to encourage production and have value to the worker

  4. Interactiveness-active participation in the workplace.

  5. Internal factors-Expectancy of success and self reward. These definitely have to do with the psyche of the employee. Simply put, does the employee expect he/she can reach the goals and do they give themselves credit for reaching the goal?

So, what can the company mentioned above do: (for very few dollars)

1. Make sure all employees have measurable goals that are attainable, they like that. (see 1 above)

2. Put in some kind of incentive for good performance perhaps a contest on customer feedback that is tracked visually. (incentives plus peer pressure)

I am sure there are many other areas that need attention, but these screamed at me as being some low hanging fruit they may want to try. What are some other areas you feel drive employee commitment? I have a few ideas what are yours?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Can Engaged Employees Sell More Soup?

The answer is definitely yes!  SOUP's ON at Campbell's. 

In a recent Forbes article, Douglas Conant, the CEO of Campbell Soup Co. discussed the importance of employee engagement and how their strategy to pay attention to this metric paid off for their company. 

Conant took over when Campbell's was close to a takeover and its soup sales were nothing to brag about.  He had a very uncomplicated strategy to turn things around:

"To win in the market place, we believe you must first win in the workplace."
Conant then began studying engagement levels at Campbell's and took action on the results.  He stated, that of all the elements related to culture that engagement was the most highly correlated to shareholder returns.  He discusses other benefits of paying attention to engagement like:
  • revitalization of the entire culture (#1 benefit, according to Conant)
  • better financial performance
  • better market performance
  • more innovation
  • more self governing
So, I ask myself after reading articles like this, why don't more companies pay attention to engagement?  The logic and research is there, so why don't we just do it?  (Please feel free to comment, I really want to know!)

I have heard many reasons for not tracking and measuring engagement like:
1) We are too busy (see benefits above)
2) We don't know how (many firms specialize in this)
3) We are in a recession (perfect time, so when we turn around, you are ready!)
4) Not sure what to do with the data (take action on it!, form improvement teams!)

So, do you want to sell more soup?  Try a little engagement!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Date Your Employees and Customers

Just when we thought we had the customer experience figured out and were rolling out customer loyalty strategies in our companies, current thought leadership now focuses on making an emotional connection with your customers.

What do customers want today anyway?

  • They want an experience with you that delights them
  • Their needs are met
  • Their expectations are exceeded
  • They are treated as unique and special
  • The experience they have with your company is about them – not you
  • They want things to be easy and they want help fast.

When you design an experience through the eyes of your customers, you will be rewarded with profitable buyers who are unwilling to leave. Anything less leaves you vulnerable to switching and churn.

So, what drives the customer experience is a combination of emotional and rational drivers – hearts and minds – but the most important from your point of view is winning the customer’s heart…every single time, at every point in your customer experience.

Who delivers the experience? Your highly engaged employees that want:
  • An employment experience that delights them
  • Their needs to be met
  • Their expectations to be exceeded
  • To be treated as unique and special
  • They want things to be easy and they want help fast.
  • A job that is challenging and offers learning

So it looks like you need to have an emotional connection with both your customers and your employees.
How can you recognize whether you’ve got their hearts and minds? Ask them, with well thought out customized surveys so you know where to improve both experiences. Just remember it is all about the Service Profit Connection, engaged employees delivering an exceptional customer experience leading to increased revenue.

The company should always be in "date" mode with its employees and customers making sure that all interactions are like first dates, where you are always trying to impress each other!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Employee Engagement: In or Out?

Should we be worried about employee engagement during this recession? After all, we are all trying to survive, should we be concerned if our employees are engaged?

I read a very interesting article in BusinessWeek on the subject. The authors made some very good points. Paul Hebert states that the managers are at the root of our employee engagement problems and that "they need to be improved.". Where Gregg Lederman discusses the link between engaged employees and a better customer experience. By paying attention to engagement and by increasing engagement, you will reap the rewards in customer loyalty and revenue.

I believe both ideas are important. It is true, employees don't leave companies they leave their manager. The manager plays a pivotal role in engagement of their employees. There is a ton of research that discusses this relationship and the importance of communication, job expectations, job content and training have on engagement scores. All of which the manager has "control" over.

Maybe managers do need to be improved, but they may need to be engaged as well. They are employees as well. Perhaps, they need leadership and direction from their own managers. So when we discuss employee engagement it should be for ALL employees including our managers.

We have always believed in the relationship of engaged employees and loyal customers. We define the relationship as a "service mirror" or "spillover effect", where customers actually reflecting your employees engagement.

So to answer the initial question should we be concerned about engagement now, I say absolutely yes! I believe the companies that are paying attention to engagement will definitely weather this storm.

So what are some steps you can take to understand who is engaged and who isn't?

1) Make sure your employee survey measures engagement as well as satisfaction
2) Look at your data in a granular way, In other words, slice and dice your data so that you can see which departments, managers, divisions have high and low engagement.
3) Conduct follow ups to get ideas for improvement. Ask your employees they have great ideas.
4) Do this in the spirit of continuous improvement and not a "witch hunt"
5) If possible track customer engagement data to see changes over time after improvements in the employee experience have been made.

What are your thoughts? Is employee engagement so yesterday or is it still in?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I Will Take an Order of Great Customer Service Please

I have been surprised over the last few months by several customer experiences that I have had. I wrote about one at the Tag Office that was a great experience, and quite frankly a huge surprise. It was refreshing. I would think that most companies during a recession would be in the business of hanging on to the customers they have. I believe this starts with hanging on to the high performing employees that you have.

Mike Haberman, at HR Observations wrote about, Employee Attitude or Management Attitude? or both? which I found to be very accurate with regards to Kroger vs. Publix as I have had a similar experience myself. He discusses how attitude affects the customer experience both from the employee and the manager. I believe it is both. I have been very frustrated by Comcast over the last 4 months regarding their absolute disregard for the customer. I got so upset I sent an email to Rick Germano, Their head of Customer Experience. See below for the email I received back:
Thank you for taking the time to share your feedback regarding your experience with Comcast. Your feedback will assist us in our efforts to continually improve the Customer experience. To respond as quickly as possible, I have asked members of my leadership team to join me in addressing all "Ask Rick" messages.
Thank you for being a Comcast Customer. Regards, Rick Germano, Senior Vice President of Customer Operations
Now, that was exactly what I expected. But then about 15 or so minutes later his staff member called to discuss my problem and she did not even have my history in front of her. She did not have any clue why I was upset over the last four months. So, I ask myself what sets the truly exceptional customer experiences apart from the ones like Comcast? I believe it comes down to:
  • Customer loving employees with customer loving managers
  • Customer complaint resolution given to customer facing employees
  • Customer loyalty recognition
  • Customer feedback that is collected and acted upon
  • Service culture that puts the customer first
  • Management support
  • Effective and streamlined processes
  • Integrated technology that allows customer data to be accessed by those that need it
  • HR practices that reward, hire and retain those that understand the "service profit connection"
From a customer's perspective you can feel a "good experience" almost when you pick up a phone or walk through the door. I know when I go to Nordstrom's, it will be a great experience. My son had to have minor surgery at Wellstar Cobb hospital a few weeks ago. They understand every one of the bullet points above. I felt it when I walked up to register him for his surgery. In my own experience, Comcast does not have an integrated approach to customers and needs to work on the areas listed above to improve their experience. One day, they too will have competition and consumers will have a choice... How do your customers feel about your experience at their first touch point? Is your experience monitored and measured from first touch point to last? Are you a Nordstrom's or a Comcast?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Hey HR...Please No More TABLE Talk

I have been to several events over the last month geared towards HR professionals. At each event the inevitable is brought up....that illustrious strategic table and why HR has received a seat or why HR does not have a seat.

I think we need to stop discussing the table and just get on with executing value added work for our organizations. If you are delivering service that is of value then you do not have to worry about the table, you have earned your right to be there.

We have been discussing this table now for about 10-12 years. I can remember having this same discussion in 1995 as I was beginning my MBA. Here we are 12 years later and we are still rehashing the same old stuff. That table has been a key topic for many years, but so misunderstood.

The goal is for HR to be strategic, adding value to the organization. The prize for this is to be invited to participate at executive level strategic meetings. The invite is key have to do something to be asked to the party. Now, I believe we have come a long way since 1995, unlike others that write so many unkind articles.

However, I think now is the time for us to shine and not whine.....We have a huge opportunity to assist our companies with getting through the recession, plan for recovery, and to get poised for growth. Now, that sounds like value added work.

What if you are able to identify you most productive and most engaged employees so that you can develop a strategy for retaining those individuals through the hard times? That's valuable

What if you have redesigned your performance management system and compensation structure so that you are only rewarding those that are performing? (Thus saving compensation dollars) That's valuable

What if you analyzed your current benefits packages and were able to save the company 20% and the employees like their new coverages better? That's valuable

What if you were able to identify the 10 behaviors most valued by your customers and designed recruiting, performance, and training tools around those behaviors? That's valuable

If you are able to deliver on cost saving or performance enhancing programs, I don't think you would have to worry about any table ever again...Thoughts?
Check out ICC's new and improved website:

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Does Google Have a Retention Formula?

I read an article in the Wall Street Journal this week regarding Google and their need to get a handle on their turnover issues. I thought I was dreaming. Google and a retention problem? We are in crazy times.

The article states that in true Google fashion, they are tacking this problem like any other. They are using math, in particular a very complex algorithm that will predict which employees are at risk for leaving.

I find this fascinating as a person that loves HR Metrics and as a person that loves predictive HR Metrics.

Google is not explaining the details but say, "the inputs include information from surveys and peer reviews, and the algorithm already has identified employees who felt underused, a key complaint among those who contemplate leaving."

Because many of their top executives have recently left, Google felt the need to understand why people were leaving and who is vulnerable, so they could intervene prior to departure.

One of the comments on the Wall Street Journal online community from Gregory Lynn states that, "Google needs to develop a human touch versus always looking to technology." Great point, Gregory!

While the algorithm may give you who is vulnerable, you have to actually do something about the issues that caused disengagement with the company. (human touch)

So while I love the idea of using predictive metrics in HR, you have to balance that with the fact that you are measuring people and they are complicated. And sometimes, you need a little insight with your data. I think when you marry good data with company insight you get some great intelligence to use for better decisions.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Survey Says....

You are so excited to get your employee/customer survey results back and you read through the 110 page report and you have no idea what to do next. Sound familiar?

Many times, our clients have asked us what should we do as a result of their survey results. Employee surveys can yield an overwhelming amount of data. You can have the data sliced by geography, supervisor, tenure, department and so on. The possibilities are endless. What you really want to know is, WHAT DRIVES EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT. Because if your know that answer, you can continue what you are doing well and improve what you are not doing well to increase engagement.

The same is true for customer surveys. You need to know what drives their engagement as well. As you have read on previous posts, we believe that there is a direct relationship between employee and customer engagement. Going one step further we feel that a "service mirror" exists where your employees commitment is directly "reflected" (felt and understood) by your customers.

So why stop with the drivers of employee and customer engagement, take it one step further and see how those drivers impact your business results. See model below:

Yes, this driver and impact analysis uses more complex statistics such as correlations and multiple regressions, but the intelligence created is priceless. Wouldn't you like to know which employee behaviors are valued by your customers that impact repeat business? (instead of endless pages of mean scores that do not tie to anything?) I would!
Looking at the circles in the middle of the model containing, leadership, strategy, culture, employees and customer, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Those are the areas that are very hard for your competitors to duplicate, they are your competitive advantage. Because these areas are unique to your business you need assessment tools that are unique as well. An off the shelf survey product will not give you the data you need to make better business decisions.

So the next time you start a data gathering exercise make sure you customize the survey tool and analyze the results to get to what drives YOUR desired business results. Your thoughts?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Win a Complimentary HR Audit

Could your company be the lucky winner of a complimentary HR Audit to be conducted by Cathy Missildine-Martin, SPHR? ICC is conducting its first ever WIN AN AUDIT contest. Here is what you need to do:

1) Tell us why you are in need of an HR Audit. What challenges are you facing?
2) How many employees do you have and what industry are you in?
3) Where is your location? (must be within 4 hours of Atlanta or travel must be paid by winner)
4) Company name
5) Be creative; send us pictures, a video, anything!

Here is what you will receive:

1) A comprehensive HR audit that examines the following areas:

a. HR Strategy and Metrics
b. Policies and Procedures
c. Compliance
d. Recruiting procedures and metrics
e. Performance Management
f. Career development
g. Benefits
h. Compensation
i. Recordkeeping

2) A detailed report will be provided with findings and recommendations in order of priority

3) Consultant will come on site for one day and provide winner with a list of items needed prior to coming on site (copies of policies, handbook, etc.)

4) Consultant will phone interview 4 key executives to understand how HR is perceived and how services are being delivered.

Rules of entry:

1) Deadline to enter is May 18, 2009

2) Each company can have only one entry per company

3) Travel outside of Atlanta must be paid by winner

4) ICC will judge each entry based on challenges faced, and business case presented.

Why you should do this:

 You can use this information to prioritize what HR should focus on in the next 12- 18 months.

 Understand opportunities to be considered strategic vs. transactional.

 Make sure your policies are in compliance with new legislation like COBRA, FMLA, I-9, etc.

 It’s NO CHARGE!!! But this service is a $7500 value!!

Email all entries to: