Category Archives: career development

Take My Employees, Please

Jolt CEO and co-founder Roei Deutsch doesn’t necessarily want his talented young employees to stay.

Deutsch, who heads the San Francisco-based career development start-up, started experimenting with “charterships” about a year ago; an arrangement in which workers would leave the job they were hired for after two years. At that time, they would either find a new internal role that would get them closer to their ultimate career destination or they would leave to pursue that dream elsewhere.

Earlier this year, Business Insider’s Matt Weinberger explained the key tenets of the chartership concept:

“After two years, your job is done, no matter what,” Weinberger wrote. “At that point, you can either leave the company with no hard feelings or find a new two-year ‘mission’ at the company.”

An employee’s exit “doesn’t mean I’m firing you,” Deutsch told Business Insider at the time. “It means, ‘Let’s find something new for you to do.’ ”

Jolt also goes against the start-up grain by not offering an overabundance of perks, and Deutsch “cops to the fact that he’s paying employees below market rate,” according to Weinberger.

The idea, he wrote, is to instead reinvest that money into what Deutsch calls “employee success,” meaning that new hires “come in with a list of things that [they] want to learn,” and Jolt devotes resources to helping them reach their professional goals, and assigns them a manager to co-pilot the journey, wherever it takes them.

Business Insider recently followed up with Deutsch to see how this experiment is playing out.

So far, things haven’t gone exactly according to plan.

Part of the problem, he says, is that some millennial workers aren’t sure where they want their professional path to lead them.

“People have no idea what they want to do next,” says Deutsch. “Therefore, it’s hard for them to prepare for it.”

He’s staying the course, however, and Jolt’s embrace of charterships hasn’t seemed to affect its ability to attract talent. In fact, the company has added five new employees since February of this year.

Instead of abandoning the chartership philosophy, Deutsch and the organization are making some tweaks to it.

“Originally, Jolt’s managers were responsible for making sure that the workers who reported to them were sticking to their career development plans,” according to Business Insider. “But the company came to believe that arrangement was unsustainable. The company was essentially asking managers to prepare employees to leave the company for their next jobs at the same time it was requiring them to get the employees to do their current work.”

That approach included a “built-in conflict of interest,” Deutsch told the news website, “that makes helping your employees prepare for their next chapter harder.”

So, in addition to giving employees more time to create their personal development plans—they now have a year, as opposed to the three weeks they were allotted when the experiment started—Jolt has also begun bringing in career coaches to meet with workers in confidential sessions every two weeks.

I don’t know if Business Insider plans to check in on Deutsch and his chartership program again, but it would be interesting to see where this first group of Gen Y workers find themselves when their two years are up, and how much this experience helped them get there.

“Basically, a huge part of helping millennial employees,” he says, “is actually helping them figure out what they want to be.”

Jolt and Deutsch might be focusing on younger talent, but that seems like it would be true enough for companies looking to help develop employees of all ages.

GE is Reinventing Talent Management

The Sept.-Oct. issue of the Harvard Business Review has an interesting package of articles on the 16-year tenure of recently retired G.E. CEO Jeff Immelt (including an essay by the man himself on what he learned during his time leading the company). One of what may be among his lasting impacts on the company is the campaign to use algorithms to transform the way GE develops and retains its 300,000 employees.

As writer Steven Prokesch notes, GE is now positioning itself as a tech-focused industrial company and has hired thousands of software engineers and other digital natives. These employees tend to have little patience for bureaucratic processes and a thirst to grow in their careers. As a result, GE’s HR team is coming up with a raft of analytics-based applications to help them develop their careers and networks, identify high potentials and match them up with training opportunities. “It’s GE’s version of Match.com,” James Gallman, who helped lead the effort at GE and is now Boeing’s people analytics director, told Prokesch.

GE’s analytics push is focused on six areas of talent management: career and succession planning, training, high potentials, networks, talent retention and cultural change. The tool for career and succession planning is the furthest along, writes Prokesch. It uses data on the “historical movement of GE employees and the relatedness of jobs (which is based on their descriptions”) to help users identify potential new opportunities throughout the entire company, not just in their own business or geography. The app is also intended to help leaders do a better job of succession planning by identifying “nonobvious candidates,” for example. “When we’re thinking about who could possibly fill a particular role, we have a technology that helps us come up with additional possibilities,” HR exec Paul Davies told Prokesch.

GE’s training app, still in the prototype stage, recommends training to help an employee do a better job and advance in his or her career. The company plans to connect it to an existing performance-development app for GE’s salaried employees that provides them with a steady stream of constructive feedback from their managers (Under Immelt, GE did away with the forced-ranking model implemented by former CEO Jack Welch, which has fallen out of favor in most of corporate America).

GE’s HR team is also building an app that uses a technique called the “Pareto frontier” to draw on “outcomes” data such as salary increases, bonuses, promotion rates, etc., to identify high-potential employees. It’s also building an app for networking that’s designed to  help employees identify others within the company they can go to for help or advice on a particular problem.

The team is also testing an app for talent retention that’s designed to predict, within a six-month window, when managers and employees in a given function are likely to jump ship. It will identify certain circumstances — such as when a team member leaves — under which people often quit, so that managers can intervene by, for example, talking about the next roles they might play.

Finally, GE’s “cultural change” app would help it identify factors within its organizational structure that may affect its efforts to become a nimbler, more customer-focused entity. For example, the app — still in the early stages of development — would measure whether people serving on large teams feel differently about the company than do people serving on smaller teams.

As Cade Massey, a professor at Penn’s Wharton School, tells Prokesch, although none of these apps will be a magic bullet for talent retention and development, they will give GE much more to rely on than intuition and bias in terms of what works and what doesn’t. “As analytics progresses, it offers a chance to make more rigorous those intuitive methods and to de-bias some of that judgement,” he says.

The Rise of ‘Side Gigs’

Have you ever taken a stroll through your company’s parking lot and noticed an Uber decal here and there on some of the vehicles? It may be that the employee drives for the ride-share service during nights or weekends, and if so he or she is far from unusual: Nearly a third of all U.S. workers (32 percent) have a “side gig” — a job outside of their regular work hours — to supplement their income, according to a CareerBuilder study released today.

Side gigs are prevalent throughout the workforce, the study finds, although women are more likely than men to have them (35 percent vs. 28 percent) as are workers younger than 35 (41 percent to 27 percent). African-American workers (46 percent) and Hispanic workers (40 percent) are more likely than Caucasian (29 percent) and Asian-American (26 percent) workers to have a “side hustle.”

Selling Amway or performing some consulting work after (or even during) work hours has long been a way for Americans to supplement the take-home pay from their regular job, but the ease of downloading an app such as Uber, Instacart (which lets you sign up for jobs delivering groceries and the like on your own time) and TaskRabbit have made it easier than ever to find side gigs. Plus, record-high levels of student debt and stagnant wages are also contributing to the allure of side gigs.

“While we continue to be at what is considered full employment, the quality and pay of jobs isn’t always what workers want, causing them to seek out new ways to supplement their full-time income,” says Rosemary Haefner, CareerBuilder’s CHRO. “We’re no longer in a world where there’s just one employee-employer relationship. It’s easier than ever to download an app that allows you to drive around passengers, pick up babysitting gigs or sell your unwanted furniture, and employees are willing to take on these extra responsibilities for cash.”

Although they’re more common among relatively low-paid employees, the appeal of side gigs spans all pay levels: One in four workers making more than $75,000 annually hold side gigs as do 19 percent of those making in excess of $100,000. Thirty five percent of workers making less than $50,000 and 36 percent of those making below $35,000 are working side gigs.

Money is not the only attractant for side gigs — dissatisfaction with one’s regular job is also a factor. More than eight out of 10 of the 3,696 full-time workers (82 percent) who participated in CareerBuilder’s survey say they’re not in their dream job, and 33 percent of those workers have side gigs. With that said, most of those with side gigs (67 percent) say they’re not looking to turn their side hustle into a regular full-time job, while 42 percent say they’re more passionate about their day job than their side gig (32 percent).

For employers, the reality of employees with side gigs would seem to be a bit of a double-edged sword: Working a job on the side leaves less downtime for the employee and could lead to greater stress and exhaustion, not to mention distraction. Then again, the nimbleness and initiative required for successfully managing a side gig could ultimately lead to a more-valuable employee, not to mention the chance to pick up more skills that can be applied to one’s regular job. Regardless of the ultimate impact, this is clearly a trend that isn’t going away anytime soon.

The Trouble With Leadership

Unless you’ve been hiding under a fairly large rock lately, you’ve no doubt heard that Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was asked to resign from the company he co-founded, which went from a mere prototype in 2009 to a monster with a market valuation of $70 billion earlier this year. Of course, along with that (paper) wealth generation a whole lot of other things went on, including a series of ethically questionable decisions and allegedly rampant harassment and disrespect of workers by managers, including Kalanick and his direct reports.

Mr. Kalanick has plenty of company: Senior leaders in general are failing the grade, at least according to the employees who work for them. Less than half of U.S. employees (45 percent) have trust and confidence in the job being done by their organization’s top leaders, according to Willis Towers Watson’s latest Global Workforce Study. That’s down from 55 percent who expressed trust and confidence in their organization’s C-suite denizens for a similar study in 2014. Only 47 percent believe leaders have a sincere interest in employees’ well being, while just one in four (41 percent) think their organization is doing a good job of developing future leaders.

These low scores don’t bode well for an organization’s long-term success.

“The fact that a significant percentage of workers don’t believe their leaders are as effective as they can be is worrisome, given that strong leadership is a key driver of employee engagement,” says Laura Sejen, WTW’s managing director for Human Capital and Benefits. The Global Workforce Study includes survey responses from 3,015 U.S. employees from 441 American companies, out of a total of 31,000 employees and 2,004 companies from around the globe.

Employees tend to view their immediate managers much more favorably, the survey finds: 81 percent of U.S. workers say their managers treat them with respect, 75 percent say managers assign them tasks that are well-suited to their skills and abilities and 60 percent say their managers communicate goals and assignments clearly.

Unfortunately, there’s much room for improvement as well: Just a bit more than half (56 percent) say their managers make fair decisions about how performance is linked to pay and only half (50 percent) say managers have enough time to handle the “people aspects” of their job. Only 40 percent say their managers coach them to improve their performance.

What’s the solution? No clear-cut one, obviously, but it might be wise for HR leaders to help their organizations get serious about building a stronger pipeline of future leaders and helping current managers become better coaches.

“Given the increasingly important role that managers and supervisors are playing in defining the work to be done, motivating workers and ensuring a sufficient talent pipeline, many organizations are taking a keen interest in how manager behavior affects engagement and how managers can build more engaged teams,” says Patrick Kulesa, WTW’s director of employee research.

Yet More to Know About Millennials

We’ve certainly seen our share of divergent reports about millennials in the workplace.

483717656-blue-collar-millennialWe’ve all seen and read the ones suggesting they’re a privileged generation with a less-than-stellar work ethic and an eagerness to jump ship on the smallest of provocations.

More recently, we’ve seen research that disputes those reports, such as one study from Project Time Off, mentioned in an HREOnline story on this demographic by Senior Editor Jack Robinson just last month. That study finds many millennials not only want to contribute and stay with their companies, but are putting in extra time — some even being referred to as work martyrs — to prove themselves as committed, loyal employees.

As Katie Denis, a senior director of the U.S. Travel Association, puts it in that story:

“People really do have this deeply ingrained assumption that it is an entitled generation, [but] if you look at the totality of their experience, you see something very different. Millennials do have a desire to grab a job, hold a job, prove themselves.”

Just late last month, an emailed release from the newly launched Levo Institute, a website run by and dedicated to millennials, introduced me to another often-overlooked faction of millennials: blue-collar millennials — more than 80 percent of whom say their employers are not providing them with the tools needed to appropriately scale their careers.

They want very much to work and stay with their companies; they just need help.

“As blue-collar workers make up 20 percent of the U.S. workforce,” the report states, “Levo’s study found that nearly 15 percent of its respondents are actively working as full-time blue-collar employees,” which is significant considering millennials will make up 75 percent of global talent over the next seven years. It goes on:

“Additionally, while nearly 60 percent of the millennial generation graduated from a four-year college, the perception is often that hiring a younger worker means lack of core professional skills, such as [energy and commitment], communicating effectively and working in teams.

“As the economy has continued to add [blue-collar] jobs in construction, manufacturing and transportation over the years, these findings are particularly important, especially as millennials [in these jobs] are not experiencing companies taking a vested interest in their development.”

In many cases, millennials are saying no to four-year college degrees altogether to avoid the miseries of having to pay off huge student loans for a significant chunk of their working lives, according to this story in the New York Post. They’re also pulling down some of the biggest salaries and best benefits while their fellow four-year graduates take up residence in their parents’ basements.

And there are plenty of four-year graduates turning to trades too. According to the Post, there were an estimated 1,000 who got in line in July in New York City for applications as apprentice plumbers.

Recruiting for the Cloud

Millions of people around the world use Amazon to find everything from light bulbs to rare works of art. Now, thanks to a new service offered by the Seattle-based behemoth, companies will soon be going to Amazon to find and recruit cloud engineers.  The Seattle-based company’s AWS Educate division will be offering free, self-paced  online courses and learning modules through its new Cloud Career Pathways program. Students who successfully complete the offerings will be matched with relevant internships and job openings via the AWS Educate Job Board, which in addition to Amazon itself features employers such as Cloudnexa, Splunk, Instructure and Udacity.

“We built AWS Educate with a vision of helping to cultivate a cloud-enabled workforce,” said Teresa Carlson, AWS vice president for worldwide public sector, in a statement. “We’ve designed Cloud Career Pathways that will help students get targeted experience and skills, and placed those side by side with relevant jobs from some of the most in-demand technology employers today.”

TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden notes in a post that Amazon’s move could make it a potential competitor to LinkedIn, which is using its Lynda.com acquisition to offer training in areas such as coding to professionals looking to acquire more skills. Amazon’s decision to offer the courses for free fits with its overall business model, Lunden writes, in which it “prices competitively — or not at all — to bring in more users, who either represent a sizeable revenue opportunity in aggregate, or (in free cases) lead to the potential of paying for other goods and services down the line.”

The Cloud Career Pathways are aligned with four over-arching “job families”: cloud architect, software developer, operations-support engineer, and analytics and big-data specialist, says Amazon. Each pathway includes a minimum of 30 hours of content designed to build core skill sets across the four job families. Once they’ve successfully completed the coursework (delivered via instructional videos, lab exercises, online courses, whitepapers and podcasts), the students will receive badges and certificates that appear on their AWS Educate profile, which they can use in their job applications. They can also apply directly to jobs and internships posted on the AWS Educate Job Board, says Amazon.

Just How Bad Are We at Engagement?

dv2171020Engagement was certainly on the minds of speakers and attendees at the recent HR Tech Conference in Chicago. (Here’s a link to the conference site, FYI, which already has information about next year’s event.)

From this session covered by Mark McGraw, Engaging the Talent of Tomorrow, to this one covered by David Shadovitz, What’s Driving Engagement, there seemed to be a lot of buzz about what’s working at some companies (especially in McGraw’s post), what needs to be happening in terms of technology, training and the treatment of employees (particularly in Shadovitz’s post), and a whole lot more.

One study released at the conference but not mentioned yet came from Saba, showing just how bad companies still are at simply carrying out the basics — not only in terms of engagement, but overall management tactics too. That survey, completed in August, shows most businesses are “not in tune with their employees’ perceptions of engagement, training and career development,” according to Saba’s release.

With so much attention being paid to the need for keeping employees engaged, retained and productive, you’d think most companies are at least asking for more feedback, or figuring out better ways to ask for more feedback. Saba says no, that is not happening much at all.

For the most part, the report says, companies do not have continuous channels for engagement and feedback because the majority of employees are rarely asked for their feedback — less than a few times a year. Other highlights of the August survey of 1,200 U.S. HR managers and employees include these two points, suggesting some troubling gender issues wrapped up in all this:

  • Sixty-eight percent of baby boomers and 61 percent of female employees indicated they were rarely asked for feedback, versus 56 percent of male employees.
  • At the same time, women were also less comfortable giving their input. The survey showed only 56 percent of women are comfortable giving feedback, compared to 63 percent of men. “This implies a statistical disconnect that needs to be immediately addressed by HR and learning teams,” the report says.

Another gem from the release:

“Based on these statistics and anomalies in engagement, it’s understandable why more than half of HR leaders (51 percent) and employees (52 percent) believe their organizations do not have a good employee-feedback process.”

In terms of initiating better training programs to keep employees producing and staying put, companies aren’t doing so good there, either. Only 22 percent of employees believe their organizations are very effective in providing easy access to training and development.

What’s more, 86 percent of millennials, often the highest flight risk in the organization, indicated they would be more inclined to stay at their current company if they were given access to quality training and development. So what’s the holdup here? As Theresa Damato, vice president of global marketing at Saba, sees it:

“While most organizations will agree that talent is their most important asset, [this] survey highlights the struggle many have in effectively engaging, assessing and developing their people.

“Organizations need to focus on the critical role continuous development plays in employee engagement and retention. They also need to find new ways to improve effectiveness of talent programs through more frequent and consistent feedback channels.”

And for the most part, she and others at Saba indicate, that is hardly happening at all.

Except, it would seem, in the handful of success stories — or at least stories of successful starting points and strategic approaches — shared at HR Tech.

My guess is, if we’re doing this bad at the feedback basics, then this engagement conundrum/roadblock is  going to be on the minds of attendees and the agendas of many conferences to come.

Gender Parity: Lead the Way, HR

For a study to find that women are underrepresented at the chief-executive level is not at all surprising. That much we already knew.

New research from Korn Ferry provides more evidence of the disparity between men and women in the executive ranks. The same study, however, finds one segment of the C-suite where something resembling gender parity may actually exist: HR.

Overall, the Los Angeles-based people and organizational advisory firm’s analysis found just 5 percent of the CEOs at the top 1,000 U.S. companies by revenue were women; a percentage that remains flat from 2015.

By industry, the highest percentage of female CEOs can be found in the consumer sector (9 percent), followed by energy (6 percent), financial and technology (both 5 percent), industrial (4 percent) and life sciences (less than 1 percent).

The numbers aren’t much higher throughout the C-suite. For instance, just 12 percent of CFOs across industries are women, while 19 percent of women occupy the chief information officer’s seat, and 29 percent of chief marketing officers at the top 1,000 revenue-generating companies are female.

You get the idea. There aren’t a lot of women holding the top spots within the top organizations. Except in HR, where 55 percent of CHROs are women, according to the Korn Ferry study.

“In our research, we find that women rank higher on key competencies needed in the CHRO role, such as collaboration and negotiation skills, the ability to balance multiple constituencies and an appreciation for the dynamics of the overall business,” says Joseph McCabe, vice chairman in Korn Ferry’s Global Human Resources Center of Expertise, in a press release highlighting the firm’s recent C-suite analysis.

“Interestingly, other Korn Ferry research shows a distinct correlation between CEO and CHRO competencies, but women are still not making it to the very top spot at the rate they should.”

In the same statement, Peggy Hazard laments the glacial pace of progress on this front.

“Study after study shows that diverse senior teams provide better corporate results,” says Hazard, managing principal at Korn Ferry. “Having more women at the top is a priority for our clients. However, the needle is not moving as quickly as any of us would like to see.”

A collaborative effort will be required to get things moving more briskly in the right direction, in HR and elsewhere, she says.

“In every industry we analyzed, there’s a tremendous need for improvement to bring more women to the C-suite. This is a joint responsibility of the women to seek out experiences and development that can help them lead and succeed, and for organizations to create an environment where women feel empowered to progress in their careers at all levels.”

Hope Reigns Supreme in the HR Suite

As a good HR leader, you probably have a handle on hiring trends within your organization’s industry.

But what about your profession? What’s the employment forecast for HR?

At the moment, the prognosis is pretty good. And the younger the HR practitioner, the brighter the outlook, according to the 2016 HR Jobs Pulse Survey, recently released by the Alexandria, Va.-based Society for Human Resource Management.

The SHRM poll asked 365 U.S.-based HR professionals to gauge their faith in their own job security and ability to find work if they were to leave their current employer.

Overall, 75 percent of all respondents reported confidence in their job security, with that number climbing to 85 percent among early-career HR professionals.

Those at the earliest stages of their careers were found to be “particularly confident” in the stability of the profession, “which suggests that new entrants to the profession are feeling optimistic about their future as HR practitioners,” says Alex Alonso, SHRM senior vice president of knowledge development, in a statement.

Some of these younger professionals, however, are a bit unsure about their chances outside their current organization, at least in comparison to their more experienced colleagues. Sixty-three percent of early-career respondents said they were “somewhat” or “very” confident that they could find a new job. Overall, 88 percent of respondents described their prospects the same way.

Regardless of age, most of these HR practitioners intend to stay put anyway, as just 19 percent of those polled said they were looking for a new job.

The roughly one-fifth of those pursuing other opportunities have their reasons for doing so, of course. Not surprisingly, money tops the list, with 42 percent citing “more compensation/pay” as their primary motivation for seeking new employment. Thirty-seven percent said they were in search of “better career advancement opportunities.”

Just 27 percent of those surveyed said their companies were hiring for HR positions, however. That percentage remains unchanged from 2015, according to SHRM.

What kind of talented HR practitioners are organizations looking to find? According to the SHRM survey, HR generalists continue to be in the highest demand (49 percent), followed by HR professionals with employment and recruitment skills (31 percent).

Ultimately, while hiring remains fairly flat for HR positions relative to last year, the findings suggest an air of optimism in the HR suite, says Alonso.

“Confidence in the stability of the profession has increased slightly,” he says. “The vast majority of HR professionals … had some level of confidence that they could land a new job if necessary.”

 

 

Farewell to Performance Ratings at GE

While performance rating systems are still the norm at many organizations, it’s not really that surprising to hear that a company has abandoned the concept.

But it’s a little more noteworthy when that company is General Electric, an organization that helped pioneer the practice.

Yesterday, GE informed its workforce that 200,000 salaried employees will no longer be given one of five labels—ranging from “role model” to “unsatisfactory”—as part of their annual performance reviews, the Wall Street Journal reports.

This farewell to performance ratings has been in the making for at least the past decade, during which time the Fairfield, Conn.-based conglomerate has eliminated the famous (infamous?) forced-ranking system championed by former CEO Jack Welch.

Still, the new rating-free approach—which GE previously piloted with roughly 30,000 employees—marks a departure from a practice the “longtime standard-bearer for corporate management” has relied on “in some form or another for the last 40 years,” the Journal notes.

In its place will be a performance-management system that asks employees and managers to exchange feedback via a mobile app known as PD@GE, which compiles messages and forms a performance summary that’s delivered at the end of the year.

According to the Journal, the company is hopeful that the new approach fosters more nuanced pay and bonus decisions. High performers, for example, can still receive annual raises and bonuses, while managers are able to make “finer distinctions” with respect to middling employees, for whom more detailed feedback may serve as inspiration to improve.

The organization is also training managers to improve regular feedback conversations, the Journal reports.

At least one of those managers, Brian Finken, is confident that doing away with employee ratings will enable employees to focus more on review discussions—what they’re doing well and where they can improve—and less on scores that don’t really paint a complete picture of their performance.

Finken, a Florence, Italy-based operations leader in GE’s oil and gas business, also looks forward to implementing the new dialogue-driven approach to performance reviews, telling the Journal that he’s “glad I don’t have to spend time codifying feedback into one score. I can focus on the conversation instead.”