Here are my takeaways from the CIPD Employee Engagement Workshop held on Jan 25, 2012, at the beautiful Holborn Bars venue in London. The workshop was expertly conducted by Emma Bridger of The Communications Lab (http://www.thecommunicationslab.co.uk/). Emma is a member of the UK government Employee Engagement Taskforce (EET) guru group. See http://engagingforsuccess.org/.
- Firstly, Emma settled on a definition for engagement originating with John Smythe: ‘Employee engagement is a process by which people become personally implicated in the success of a business’. Notable because this is only one of 56 definitions of engagement which the EET has identified so far.
- Emma’s epiphany from working on David McLeod’s landmark 2009 report ‘Engaging for Success’ was that there are two levels of employee engagement in organisations: transactional engagement and, the more powerful, transformational engagement. The former is more reactive – actions are taken as a result of survey results, for example. The latter is proactive and embedded in the values and behaviours of the organisation and, further, employees are an integral part of delivering the business strategy. CIPD CEO, Jackie Orme, estimates that 75% of engagement strategies operate at the transactional level and just 25% at the transformational level.
- Provocatively, Emma declared that she does not like employee engagement surveys. She feels that the survey process is dry, has low buy-in from employees, suffers from dwindling response rates and the ROI is low.
- Emma’s focus instead is on a more considered approach, rooted in positive psychology. At a practical level, she recommends first winning over champions within an organisation, then having those educate the leaders/line managers and, finally, the line managers engaging with the employees. Among other tools, Emma uses ‘appreciative inquiry’ in working with groups, encouraging participants to remember positive engagement experiences through storytelling and through envisioning what an engaged workplace would look like to them.
- In one of the group exercises, we were asked to exchange stories of episodes in our careers when we were most engaged. Then, the whole room was asked to share the characteristics of these experiences. There was no shortage of them. Included were: measurable progress, autonomy, having development opportunities, organisational values, empowerment, challenge etc. Interestingly, neither MONEY nor INCOME was volunteered as a factor by any of the delegates. Emma said that in her 10 years of conducting engagement workshops, money has only been offered once as a factor.
- What role does leadership play in companies? This was elegantly illustrated in a chart from John Smythe, showing the ‘four approaches to leadership’:
- Telling the many what has been decided by the few
- Selling to the many what has been decided by the few
- Inclusion – driving accountability down by giving people the time and space and resources
- Co-creation – judging who will add value by if included in decision-making
These approaches may be suitable in different circumstances, for example, ‘Telling’ might be appropriate in a crisis. The most enlightened approaches are the latter two and are appropriate when deep understanding is needed or where individuals can add value in decision-making respectively, resulting in willing collaborators or personally committed collaborators, again, respectively.
- What of the conversations on the floor? A prominent theme in the conversations I had was the problem many organisations are experiencing in the retention or recruitment of skilled people. The skills gap rears its ugly head again in our knowledge economies. It was clear that companies are having difficulty finding or developing skilled people. Interestingly, in a number of notable instances, the employees under discussion were skilled field technicians who had little or remote interaction with head office and management. Consequently, communication was poor and the sensing of peoples’ needs was difficult. However, these same employees increasingly tend to have access to mobile devices, such as laptops or iPads. The opportunity to stay connected with these employees in a meaningful way would appear to lie with taking advantage of the mobile technology they have and the delivery of support services to them in real-time and online.
- Overall, very positive feeling on the floor about the workshop. Thanks to Emma!
In the hit movie Cars, the rookie Lightening McQueen attempts to win the final race of the Piston Cup without any change of tires, a policy descibed by the racing commentators as ‘short term gain for long term pain’ that untimately costs McQueen the race when two of his tires explode on the final lap.
Career assessments are often described using the analogy of racing pitstops. Formula 1 is perhaps the fastest sport on the planet but no driver would expect to win without regular pitstops. Likewise with our careers, taking time out to review where we are, consider how we got here and decide on where we are going can make the difference between career success and failure.
But what are career assessments, what do they actually assess and which ones should we consider? Career assessments are tools designed to help us understand how a range of personal attributes such as values, skills and interests can impact on our success and satisfaction with our career. These assessments help us make better career decisions.
Career assessments may be quantitative in nature, designed to measure attributes that influence our likelyhood of success, or qualitative in nature, designed to help us clarify our preferences and career objectives. Common career assessments and the theorists associated with them include:
- Values: what is important to us in our work (Dawis and Lofquist’s, 1984, Theory of Work Adjustment)
- Skills: what do we enjoy doing and what are we good at (Gottfredson, 1986)
- Interests: what work environments are we best suited to (Holland, 1985a, Theory of Vocational Personality)
- Learning Style: how do we best learn (Kolb, 1984, Experiential learning)
- Lifeline: what has happened in our lives to date (Goldman, 1992)
- Limiting Beliefs: what is stopping us reaching our potential (Neenan, 2008)
- Authentic Success: what would a truely successful outcome look like (Abraham Maslow)
- World of Work: what is happening around us that impacts on our choices
- Information Network: who do we know that can help us achieve our career goals
Together these assessments provide a holistic view of the factors to consider in making informed career decisions. The key ones are values, skills and world of work. When we are doing work that we enjoy and that we are good at, and we are adding value to our organisation then we are most likely to be satisfied with our careers and performing to our potential.
I prefer to avoid learning too much about films before I see them.
When Jean-Pierre Darroussi, the lead actor, appeared pre-show to state baldly that we would not find anything to laugh at in this film, I started to wonder if I had made a wise choice for my evening’s entertainment.
Early One Morning starts with Paul, a banker in his 50s, arriving in his workplace and gunning down his boss and a younger colleague who was threatening his position. Through a series of flashbacks the film explores what has brought this man to take such a desperate act.
The proximate cause is straight forward enough. With the banking crisis underway, Paul’s employer BICF has brought in new management to squeeze more results from the operation. Paul’s results are poor and he comes under pressure. Once a high flyer, Paul is now sidelined to a low status position and routinely humiliated by subtle and less than subtle mechanisms of corporate politics. For example the new boss invites Paul to boardroom meetings at inconvenient times, only for Paul to arrive, flustered, to an empty room.
The root causes are of course more interesting. Leaving to one side the question of what has created a corporate machine capable of chewing up and spitting out someone like Paul, the film focuses on Paul’s story and his choices. Paul has given everything to his career, neglecting his family and friends to the extent that he has nothing to fall back on when his work life falls apart. We are shown glimpses of what could have been. Paul’s family life had been better in the past and he and his wife did charity work, supporting a family in Mali and building a school. In scenes of Paul building the school he is completely engaged in the work and a picture of satisfaction.
It seems that Paul had important values that he suppressed through his single minded focus on his high status job. Rather than seeking to live his values in his work, it seems that Paul was seduced by the effortless rise through the ranks earlier in his career (and the status and money that went with that) and failed to ask the question, ‘Is this work intrinsically satisfying for me, is it aligned with my values?’.
This is a story about how a man was driven to desperate measures by a ruthless corporate machine, with unenlightened management and a corrosive culture, but it also shows how some of the responsibility for what happened is shared by the protagonist who failed to live a life true to his values.
How to hire and hold great people to drive your business in 2012 – Dublin Chamber briefing, Jan 18, 2012
This event was hosted by the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, this morning, Jan 18, 2012. The subject is an important one and was skillfully presented by Peter Cosgove, director of CPL Resources. Here are my takeaways:
1. People are not your #1 asset !
Peter’s point with this attention-grabber was that, despite the repeated claim by top management, this statement is not backed up by the behaviour of companies in practice. Often, few metrics are in place to measure the value of people to the organisation. One obvious reason for this is that it is difficult. People are complex and they do not behave the way that classical economists like to think.
Another point to support Peter’s claim is that the salaries of the executives in charge, i.e. the HR directors, of the supposed #1 asset are about half that of the directors of other functions. So, there is a gap between the talk and the walk!
2. Hiring the right people
Peter pointed out some of the pitfalls of hiring and some of the remedies. He also made clear why this issue is important: as the complexity of the job grows, the cost of hiring the wrong person escalates to multiples of the new hire’s annual salary. The Good to Great mantra of ‘Get the right people on the bus and the wrong people off the bus’ applies. Things to pay attention to when hiring:
- the responsibility and accountability should not be with HR but with the business, most critically, with the line manager.
- focus on getting the right people. Do not be distracted by urgency or deadlines or inflexible screening procedures which may reject the right candidate when he/she is available. Pay especial attention to CHECKING REFERENCES! Regarding psychometric tests, they can be successful if part of a recruitment process but they need professional interpretation and are not useful alone.
- involve your existing team in the recruitment process. They will have to work with the new hire. Look inside your company too when filling positions. Your people know who the best people are.
- be conscious of your company’s brand, the potential hiree’s perception is the reality not what you are trying to project. Be mindful of the touchpoints with your candidates. Remember what Donald Burr of People Express airlines said ‘Dirty trays in our planes tells our customers that we don’t maintain our engines’.
4. Retaining people
Recent data shows that job satisfaction in the depressed economy in Ireland is generally low and that the percentage of people who have indicated an intention to seek a new position when the economy recovers is running at very high levels.
What is the top of the wish list of high performers in organisations ? According to new data, it is a MENTOR. Additionally, high performers want to see accountability in the workplace.
5. The role of social media
Social media is not going away. Peter predicted that we will be unable to resist using social media in business and will be drawn in to using it even if it is against our will. He illustrated this with a show of hands at the meeting – those who had been resistant to Facebook 5 years ago had all succumbed by now and had established accounts. In response to a question about the effectiveness of blogging, Peter reported it has worked very well as a tool for CPL and has directly led to them winning new business.
6. The war for talent
Consistent with what Deloitte has spoken of their Human Capital Trends Report 2011, Peter pointed out that the war for talent is not likely to subside any time soon and remains a vital issue for companies. He identified one causal factor as the likely shrinking source of available workers in Western Europe consistent with the decline in birth rates in the region.
Overall, excellent and relevant content. Mentoring is something we strive to facilitate with our online career management product, at www.careergro.com. I have some homework to do following Peter’s talk – to search out and study that new data which puts mentoring at the top of the wish list for high performers in companies. Finally, Paul’s slidedeck is available here: http://www.cpl.ie/blog/post/98226532/how-to-hire-and-hold-top-talent.
‘The Coaching Organisation’ – A briefing on Executive Coaching organised by the diploma in executive coaching program at UCD Smurfit School of Business, Dublin, on Dec 7, 2011.
Presented by Dr. Geoff Pelham and Colm Murphy.
Very interesting evening. The 50 or so attendees included many with an interest in coaching or learning and development. Colm Murphy did an excellent job in involving the audience in the discussions and in soliciting their inputs. The noteworthy takeaways were:
- What ROI metrics can be used to justify spend on executive coaching or executive coaching training? This problem has not been solved. It has been a challenge for the industry to find accepted metrics and none were identified during the discussions. Some participants recounted that stories of personal transformations arising from coaching make an impact on senior management and decision makers, one participant liked comparisons of employee behaviours before and after the coaching engagements. Colm Murphy suggested looking at before and after engagement scores since engagement is highly valued by companies and is regularly measured. Conclusion: no consensus and a challenge to identify hard ROI metrics.
- Coaches should avoid trying to solve the coachee’s problems and should focus on giving them the space to find their solution. There is tension between expectations of companies who want to see outcomes from the coaching in terms of actions and individuals who need to reflect and develop an understanding of how they can best improve. The coaches warned of moving to action too quickly and cautioned that much of the effectiveness of coaching programs is down to the commitment and mindset of the organisation towards coaching.
- Coaching should be future focused, looking at improvement opportunities. In the past, coaching was seen as an intervention i.e. coaches were brought in when there was a perceived problem to be solved.
- Are there true ‘coaching organisations’ in Ireland (i.e. where management by coaching is pervasive in the organisation)? Not in the experience of the attendees. Even in the best companies there are only pockets where coaching is embraced. In these instances, the situation is most likely influenced by a department or group manager’s affinity for coaching. The practice of managers having informal coaching conversations with staff rather than formal, semi-annual events was lauded.
- Diageo was praised as an organisation that handles employee relations well in a downturn. Joan Hodgins, VP HR Supply, was cited for presenting case studies on Diageo’s approach in recent times.
- Reference book on leadership development: Leadership Coaching – From Personal Insight to Organisational Effectiveness, by Graham Lee
Thanks to UCD Smurfit for organising the event. The link to their website and course details is here: #mce_temp_url#
Deloitte Human Capital Trends 2011 – Takeaways from a Career Development and a HR SaaS provider perspective
In Deloitte’s new and impressive publication, they analyse twelve trends in the field of Human Capital Management, six of which they say are revolutionary and six of which are evolutionary. The twelve trends are:
- Workforce analytics
- HR in the cloud
- From ladder to lattice
- Emerging markets
- Diversity and inclusion
- Next generation leaders
- Talent in the upturn
- COOs for HR
- Leading in a regulated world
- Collective leadership
- Contingent workforce
- Employer health care reform
I am choosing to highlight the first three of the revolutionary trends, as I found them to be particularly relevant to the provision of employee-focused career development services using Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) technology.
1. Workforce Analytics: Opportunities abound to build predictive capability in workforce planning, recruitment, retention, leadership and development. Companies will often already have a lot of data available to them. Now, due to falling technology costs and an increasing awareness of the power of data, companies can move from reactive to proactive personnel planning. Companies should start with real business problems and focus on building their analytics capabilities from the outset.
2. HR in the cloud (SaaS) – it’s inevitable!: SaaS technology is evolutionary but its business implications are revolutionary. SaaS has already demonstrated value in scalability and flexibility. SaaS can offer a middle ground between in-house tech people for HR and full-scale outsourcing. For clients, SaaS vendors will have to demonstrate that they can meet their security, QoS and integration needs.
3. From Ladder to lattice: The workforce and the workplace are changing, for example, organisations are becoming flatter, much work is project-based where the ability to collaborate is highly valued, there is increased diversity in the workforce, staff definitions of success in their careers vary wildly and many people are using virtual workplaces. In today’s world, the one-size-fits-all definition of career success no longer holds true.
Deloitte promotes the concept of Mass Career Customization (MCC) where careers are personalized and in-tune with each individual’s life. Deloitte presented what they identified as the top talent concerns of their clients in the following bar chart:
The future importance of analytics is a recurring theme in the document. Deloitte’s clients say that there is a worldwide business leadership shortage. Analytics may be used to fill the talent gaps internally in organisations. Deloitte asserts that the traditional command-and-control model of leadership is waning and getting organisations to work as one requires new ways of thinking, for example, employee engagement and commitment have to be harnessed. Collective leadership in organisations is required. Deloitte also calls for a more prominent role for HR in business. They say that HR professionals are well suited to the development of business-focused, HR metrics the development of reliable data for analytics and to take responsibility for HR compliance issues and risk management. Step forward HR!
The full publication can be viewed on Deloittes website at: #mce_temp_url# or downloaded as an app.
This post presents some of the key points from Professor Tony Watts excellent briefing on ‘Why career development matters’.
I found the original article on the web at: #mce_temp_url#
Career development is the lifelong process of managing progression in learning and work. The quality of this process significantly determines the nature and quality of individuals’ lives. However, in the modern era:
- Organisations are exposed to change
- Security lies not in employment but in employability. Individuals have to be ready to learn new skills.
- Careers now are increasingly being seen as not chosen but constructed.
Career development is a public good.
- It is important for effective learning
- It is important for an effective labour market (for finding jobs, for motivation and productivity)
Career development is crucial to the success of lifelong learning policies
- Schooling can be designed as a system but lifelong learning cannot, it needs to embrace many forms of learning in many different settings.
- It is the individual who must provide the impetus (it depends on the individual)
- Therefore, the country’s future is dependent on the quality of decisions and transitions made by individuals.
If individuals are to manage their career development effectively, they need support:
- Developing career management skills
- Information on the opportunities open to them
- Support in reviewing the options and converting information into personal action
Prof. Watts cited reports from the OECD which indicate that career management may play an important role in economic growth. [Eu Commission report on lifelong learning (2000) and career guidance and public policy (2004)]
 Watts, A.G, 2004, ‘Why career development matters’, CareersEngland.