Category Archives: HR analytics

HR Tech Trends to Watch in 2016

“Nobody comes here anymore, it’s too crowded” is one of dozens of quotes from the former New York Yankees all-star catcher Yogi Berra who passed away earlier this year at age 90. The shelf-life and trendiness of many Yogi-isms will sustain due to their classically oxymoronic and clever nature.

ThinkstockPhotos-176693623Unlike Yogi’s quotes, which adorn many a wall and office desk, the factors that influence the appeal, stickiness, impact and longevity of industry trends are a bit more complicated to hypothesize about. In the HR technology domain, for example, some trends take longer to get adopted and explode than others, even when the expected business impact is comparable. Case-in-point: Contrast the take-up of mobile HR technology with that of predictive HCM or people analytics. Both of these trends get much attention, but degree of deployment and usage across organizations varies considerably.

Various operational dependencies can drive which trends take off or not. These include competencies on-hand—e.g., the ability to properly interpret and analyze data and build related frameworks in the case of people analytics adoption; and ability to expertly market a “case for change” if an HR transformation effort is in order. These seem straightforward, but trend adoption dynamics also extend to how the trend is being promoted, and by whom. A grass roots promotion by HR customers and professionals who are positively impacted by a certain trend, combined with effective marketing campaigns by vendors, is a surefire way of giving a trend legs that are both quick and sustainable.

Below are two trends I’ve excerpted from a new White Paper I co-authored entitled “HR Technology Trends to Watch in 2016.” The paper contains nine such trends that are poised to pick up considerable steam.

Technology-Enabled Talent-Management Science. Sierra Cedar recently found that 39 percent of organizations were now involved in some form of talent-management analytics. Great news, but not a panacea, as the lack of analytics-related competencies (e.g., to define the frameworks, interpret data, identify predictive relationships, etc.) persists in most HR departments. That dynamic aside, we should expect to soon see HCM systems guide users as to where to look for relationships across their data ecosystem.  Case in point: An increase in employee turnover might have the system highlight factors that have contributed to higher turnover in the past; e.g., a change in compensation or benefits, cutting back on management training, retirement or even restructuring activities that should perhaps not be counted as regular turnover, using less effective sourcing channels or more aggressive time-to-fill target metrics, etc.

Personalized Engagement and Retention Plans. With three generations working side-by-side for the first time, it is more critical than ever to personalize how employees are managed and through what rewards and recognition levers, basically to the extent of having personalized engagement and retention plans for all key employees. What each employee values in their work experience and career journey over time, in addition to personality tests and team culture or compatibility indicators, might soon become staples within enterprise HCM solutions going forward. Letting a high-potential employee be exposed to different parts of the business might cost almost zero, but, in the end, could be a more effective engagement driver and retention hook than a larger bonus for many.

Steve Goldberg, a principal within Ramco’s HCM practice, has been a global head of HR systems, vice president of HCM product strategy, change-management firm co-founder, industry analyst and HR tech advisor.

Google’s Deeper Dive into HR Transparency

In case you missed it late last week, Google unveiled a new site titled  re:Work  with the motto “Let’s Make Work Better” and the promise of sharing “practices, research, and ideas from Google and other organizations to put people first.”

According to this piece on the Washington Post, “the new site will feature research-backed examples of how Google approaches things like hiring and anti-bias training, providing free public tools such as slide decks and checklists that the company uses internally.”

(Details about the site were shared first with the Washington Post.)

While other organizations have been more forthcoming with their internal data than in previous years, “the breadth and level of detail that Google is publicly putting out there—as well as that it is inviting other companies to share—isn’t common,” the story notes.

“What’s especially unusual about it is Google is not only sharing what they’ve learned, but actually trying to get other organizations to do it better too,” said Adam Grant, a professor at the Wharton School who has worked jointly with Google on research in the past.

But the Post also notes there may be some skeptics who are questioning the efficacy of Google’s policy, especially in light of their less-than-flattering diversity numbers released earlier this year.

So, to possibly allay those concerns, Google’s senior vice president of people operations (and HRE‘s 2010 HR Executive of the Year) Laszlo Bock writes in an intro to the new site that “we don’t want to just talk about Google, because we know we don’t have all the answers and have gotten a lot of stuff wrong along the way.”

Here’s hoping this new site will indeed help companies get the right stuff right the first time when it comes to HR issues.

Report: HR Really Is Becoming More Strategic

Back view of businessman
Back view of businessman

We’ve all been hearing and talking about HR professionals becoming better strategic leaders and business partners for years, so there’s no real surprise here.

But in this report from the Cranfield Network on International Human Resource management, in collaboration with the Society for Human Resource Management and the Center for International HR Studies in the School of Labor Employment Relations at Penn State University, we do have new numbers. And they’re worth noting.

The report, Human Resource Management Policies and Practices in the United States, outlines the results of a survey of almost 700 senior-level HR practitioners in organizations with 200 or more employees.

It finds HR is more often on an organization’s board of directors or executive team and taking sole responsibility for major policy decisions than in years past.

Specifically, in terms of leadership, 70 percent of responding organizations said HR has a place on the board now, compared to 63 percent in 2009 and 41 percent in 2004. Also, two-thirds of responding organizations (66 percent) said they have a written HR-management strategy. As the report states:

“The HR department appears to be moving away from working jointly with line management in terms of where the responsibility lies for major policy decisions across a whole range of HRM activities such as pay and benefits, recruitment and selection, training and development, industrial relations and workforce expansion/reduction.

“In most cases, there has been an increase in either the HR department taking sole responsibility for these activities or line management taking responsibility (but at a much lower absolute level), with a concurrent reduction in the number of cases where both parties collaborated on the activity led either by HR or by line management. On average, line management is most active in the area of training and development, and least active in establishing pay and benefits policies.

“This trend implies that HR and line management roles may be becoming institutionalized, with each party focusing on its own responsibilities. The increasing regulatory environment may be playing a part here, with firms needing clear guidelines around responsibilities to ensure compliance with regulations and standards.”

This last sentence certainly underscores what we’ve been hearing lately as well!

The report also confirms the use of technology as a foundation for increased strategic HR leadership, with 83 percent of organizations using HR-information systems or electronic HR-management systems and 67 percent using employee self-service options.

Interestingly, according to the report, HR departments remain involved in the development of business strategy, either from the outset or through consultation, although their involvement has declined slightly (ranging from 80 percent in 2004 to 78 percent in 2009 to 76 percent in 2014/15).

Also, interestingly (and it’s hard to pinpoint what’s behind this), there was a decrease in the percentage of HR departments not consulted when the organization was going through a merger, relocation or acquisition between 2004 and 2009 (8 percent in 2004 and 4 percent in 2009); however, in 2014/15 the percentage returned to 9 percent, a level similar to that reported in 2004.

On a more positive note, though, the report states …

” … more than one half of HR departments report that they are consulted from the outset in such situations, which has remained stable since 2004 at 54 percent to 61 percent (depending on the type of organizational change), an indication that HR continues to be involved in processes vital to the success of organizations.”


How Managers ‘Game’ Performance Reviews

I just came across an interesting piece by Alfredo Behrens on Harvard Business Review’s site that takes a troubling look at how managers can (and apparently do) misuse employees’ performance reviews. Many times, he says, such trickery — albeit unintentional — can come back to hurt a company’s bottom line.

In his piece, the author, a professor of global leadership at Faculdade FIA de Administração e Negócios in São Paulo, Brazil, recounts how he joined a large U.S. organization and was assigned an employee who provided “the worst secretarial assistance I have had in my entire life.”

After realizing his predicament, he spoke with a colleague about how to best handle the situation.

The advice he received? “Her performance review is coming up. Give her the highest possible rating.”

Why? Because, the colleague told him, “It’s the fastest way to get her invited to work in another division.”

I am ashamed to admit it, but I followed her advice and, sure enough, the secretary was snatched up by a manager in another division. Evidently this kind of dysfunctional behavior is not uncommon; in Brazil there is even a term for it, “people trafficking.”

Behrens says managers also use similar techniques when trying to hold onto the talent they wish to keep for their own little domains, by giving talented employees low-to-middling reviews with the hopes that such workers’  talents will not be discovered and taken away from their department for use elsewhere internally.

“This kind of behavior can badly hurt the company,” he says. “All those low-ranked but highly valued employees were at risk of jumping to a competitor, of course, just as my incompetent secretary was moved around the company instead of being removed completely, as she should have been.”

And while there is a growing  chorus calling for the end of annual performance reviews entirely (see HRE Senior Editor Andrew R. McIlvaine’s recent take on the topic, for example), Behrens offers a question for companies that “aren’t quite ready to throw out” their performance-review processes:

If performance-management systems are so often reviled, ignored, or gamed, do we really know how well we’re managing talent? How many good people are being held back by bad managers?

Those are certainly two interesting questions to ponder the next time  you’re filling out a direct report’s performance review. Are YOU the bad manager who is holding talent back?

Rethinking a Few of the Millennial Myths

At the risk of exceeding our quota for stories about millennials (both our Jan./Feb. and upcoming April issues explore different aspects of this workforce demographic), here’s some new research coming out of IBM yesterday that’s worth a closer look.

485373695Not surprisingly, the study titled “Myths, Exaggerations and Uncomfortable Truths” identified the difference between millennials and older employers when it comes to things like digital proficiency. But on issues such as career goals, employee engagement, preferred leadership styles and recognition, the study shows that Gen Yers share many of the same attitudes as their Gen X and baby boomer counterparts.

More precisely, the IBM research took aim at the following five myths:

Myth 1: Millennials’ career goals and expectations are different from their elders (i.e., unrealistic).

Rather, millennials want financial security and a diverse workplace just as much as their older colleagues.

Myth 2: Millennials need endless praise and think everyone should get a trophy.

For Gen Yers, the idea of a perfect boss isn’t someone who pats them on the back, but someone who is ethical and fair, and shares information. Thirty-five percent of boomers and millennials listed this as the top quality they seek in a boss. (Someone who asks for their input is last on their list of priorities.)

Myth 3: Millennials are digital addicts with no boundaries between work and play.

Not really. The research reveals that they are less likely than older generations to use their personal social-media accounts for business purposes. Twenty-seven percent of millennials said they never do so—compared to only 7 percent of baby boomers.

Myth 4: Millennials can’t make a decision without crowdsourcing.

Millennials value others’ input, but the research suggests they are no more likely to seek advice when making work decisions than Gen Xers. (Even though they think gaining consensus is important, more than 50 percent of Gen Yers believe that their leaders are most qualified to make business decisions.)

Myth 5: Millennials are more likely to jump ship if a job doesn’t fulfill their passions.

The IBM research suggests that millennials change jobs for the same reasons other generations do and are no more likely than older colleagues to leave a job to follow their passions. In fact, millennials, Gen Xers and baby boomers are all two times more likely to leave a job to enter the “fast lane”—i.e., to make more money and work in a more innovative environment—than for any other reason, including saving the world.

In light of these findings, IBM’s advice to employers is to stop relying on generational stereotypes when planning and serving their workforce. Instead, they should be pursuing more robust, nuanced talent strategies and analytics to better understand employees as individuals to make the most of their skills.

Considering the source, it’s no surprise IBM might offer up such advice. But that said, there’s no denying that placing entire generations in single buckets is never a good practice and treading carefully as you formulate strategies like this usually is a sound idea. (As most of us know only too well, there’s often another study lurking just around the corner that could turn the latest one on its head.)

Intuition vs. Analytics

executive thinkingFor all the talk about data and analytics driving big business decisions, it seems most executives still rely primarily on their guts (and the guts of those around them) when it comes to crunch time.

That’s according to a new survey report by the Economist Intelligence Unit, sponsored by PwC, which found 58 percent of 1,135 senior executives from around the world saying that intuition or experience, and the advice and experience of others, were their decision-making modes of choice.

In addition, the study saw 94 percent of respondents saying management is prepared to make significant decisions about the strategic direction of the business, but just one third said they relied mainly on data and analytics in making their last big decision. (Incidentally, the 43 percent of executives who said their companies are highly data-driven also reported the biggest improvements in decision making over the last two years.)

All of this isn’t to say that leadership is completely dismissive of data and analytics as decision-making tools, of course.

“While executives say they continue to rely on experience, advice or their own gut instinct, they also see investment in data and analytics as critical to success,” says Dan DiFilippo, global and U.S. data and analytics leader at PwC, in a statement. “The challenge is how to marry the two.”

Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents indicated their companies are taking on that challenge, with 63 percent saying the use of data has already changed how their company makes decisions, and will likely have an even greater impact in the future.

The top three adjustments senior executives anticipate making in terms of their organizations’ approach to decisions include evaluating the number of people involved in making a decision, relying more on specialized and enhanced analytics and data analysis, and using dedicated data teams to inform strategic decisions.

“Experience and intuition and the use of data and analytics are not mutually exclusive,” says DiFilippo. “Executives know the right questions to ask. Now they need to know how to get the right answers from external and internal data they’ve used over the last two years.”

Hiring Slows Despite Economic Revival

The Wall Streets Journal recently published a story about how employers are still dragging their collective feet when it comes to hiring, even though the economy seems to have fully recovered from the recession.

According to the piece, employers are taking an average of  25 working days to fill vacant positions, based on information Dice-DHF Vacancy Duration Measure which, the paper reports, is an index created by University of Chicago economist Steven Davis.

And, according to Davis’ figures, larger companies (those with at least 5,000 employees) take even longer to fill vacant positions: 58.1 days.

The story goes on to lay out a few possible reasons why hiring is taking so long, among them:

On one hand, companies are feeling sunny enough to post jobs—openings reached 4.7 million in June, the highest number since 2001—but, fearful the economy could falter, they are finding it hard to commit to hires.

Another reason:

Thinner staffing in HR and recruiting departments may be another factor, since recruiters are taking on a larger workload as employers post jobs. “Depending on how many hiring managers [company recruiters are] dealing with, it’s impossible” to fill jobs quickly, says Mark Mehler, co-founder of staffing strategy consulting firm CareerXroads.

Meanwhile, when HRE Staff Writer Mark McGraw reported on the phenomenon back in March, Glassdoor reported the average time-to-fill a vacant position in 2013 was 23 days.

Typically, this latest WSJ story says, a longer time between employers advertising a job and having an offer accepted is a sign of a thriving economy, suggesting there are more openings than job seekers to fill them.

“But with nearly 10 million Americans currently unemployed, that doesn’t describe today’s labor market,” the story notes.

“Slow” would likely be a better way to describe it.

Time with the Boss

Have you thought much about the amount of time you spent with your boss this week? Or this month? Or perhaps more importantly, how much time your direct reports spent with you? Probably not. But if the findings of a new study by Leadership IQ are correct, these may very well be important questions to ask.

122399147On Wednesday, Leadership IQ released research, titled “Optimal Hours with the Boss” (downloadable here), showing that employees who spend six hours per week with their bosses (either in person or through phone and email) are 29 percent more inspired, 30 percent more engaged, 16 percent more innovative and 15 percent more intrinsically motivated than those who spend only one hour per week. For each added hour of interaction, the study found, inspiration, engagement and motivation increased. Until the six-hour mark was reached, that is—at which point, with the exception of innovation, the trend line reversed direction.

And what if you happen to be a senior executive or middle manager? Surprising to me, the study found these executives experienced their highest levels of inspiration when spending seven to eight hours per week interacting with their leaders, while middle managers felt their highest levels of inspiration when spending nine to 10 hours per week doing so.

To arrive at these findings, Leadership IQ surveyed 32,410 American and Canadian executives, managers and employees from January through May of this year. Respondents were invited to complete an online assessment that included seven-point-scale questions, such as “Working here inspires me to give my absolute best efforts” and “I recommend our company as a great organization to work for” and “I keep generating great ideas every week to help the organization improve.”

This morning, I spoke with Leadership IQ Founder and CEO Mark Murphy about the findings, and why the percentages jumped as noticeably as they did, but then, for the most part, declined once they hit six hours.

Murphy suggests things such as coaching, mentoring and other forms of interaction are only good up to a point—in this case, around six hours—but then begin to feel to the subordinate like micromanaging. “Yes, I need your coaching, I need your mentoring, I need you to talk to me, I need you to fill me in on the organization’s strategies,” he says. “But once you’ve done that, I don’t necessarily need you to stand over my shoulder.”

And why is the ceiling so much higher for executives and middle managers?

Murphy suggests one possibility could be that, because of all of the downsizing and elimination of organizational layers that have taken place in recent years, executives and managers feel they’re now at greater risk. If there are fewer executives and managers (and layers in organizations), he says, the decisions being made are going to have a greater impact, and “executives and managers are going to feel there’s going to be a higher price to be paid for any mistakes that they make.”

With this in the back of their minds, he says, “it’s likely these executives are going to want a little more time with the CEO, other executives and the board to be sure that what they’re about to do is the right action—that it’s completely aligned with the organization’s strategy.”

Obviously, there’s no easy way to way to address this issue. But Murphy suggests HR might want to do the following: Re-evaluate how your organization addresses interaction time. “Do we know that leaders are having conversations with their employees?” and “Do we have a way to measure this?”

Not that you’re looking for another question to add to your engagement and satisfaction survey, but finding some way to take the pulse of such interactions might not be a bad thing.

Measuring Outcomes Still an HR-Analytics Conundrum

Interesting post recently by Frank DiBernardino on The Conference Board’s Human Capital 459059493 -- measuring outcomesExchange site. Leads me to believe HR still has a long way to go in being able to apply meaningful metrics to its profession.

The problem, DiBernardino points out, comes down to a long-standing lack of agreement by HR leaders and analytics experts on what the measurable outcomes should be.

He quotes Ed Gubman, former executive editor of People & Strategy:

Our field — HR — has been pursuing better human capital metrics for a long time now, but despite some real creativity, we are hampered by lack of agreement on the big outcome measures. We have trouble getting metrics to capture mind share and popular usage because we have nothing comparable to finance’s ROI, net income and the like.  And, without accepted outcome measures, deep-dive, HR analytics leads us further into the trees without knowing where the forest is. Until we do these things, we will have sequoia-size measurement aspirations and sapling-size realities.”

Unfortunately, writes DiBernardino, “most of the contemporary approaches to human capital analytics do not effectively address [such] criticism.”

Here’s his description of what’s been going on so far:

Several prominent organizations in the analytics space describe a continuum that goes from anecdotes to descriptive metrics to predictive and prescriptive metrics. While worthwhile in understanding the relationship of the metrics, this continuum, by its nature, lacks a coherent context for a systemic, integrated, business-centered approach to human capital analytics. To make matters worse, all too often, many of the analytic projects are one-off exercises designed to solve a single problem. These problem-specific projects occur frequently, requiring the discovery process to restart again and again — a very inefficient, time-consuming and expensive approach.”

He also provides a game plan for improving this current inadequate state of HR analytics. He calls it his “RBI method … for all you baseball fans” … making sure your approach includes: Recurring human capital financial performance, Business-strategy alignment and Issue-driven situations. Worth a read to get clear on what those are.

And for a different take on the state of big data and HR analytics, read HREOnline‘s news analysis posted today, Jan. 7, here.

‘What Does the C-Suite Think HR Does?’

57571241--exec alone in officeWe get an awful lot of consultants chiming in regularly on the things HR professionals need to be doing to be doing their jobs better … and I often give them shorter than longer shrift.

But this release from HR Daily Advisor caught my eye today, not just because of the catchy headline, “What Does the C-Suite Think HR Does?” but because of what follows.

The piece, by Steve Bruce, quotes Andrew Botwin, founder of SPC Consulting, who offered the following tips — I’d like to call them talking points — at BLR’s 2013 Strategic HR Summit held recently in Scottsdale, Ariz.

For starters:

What the C-Suite Thinks HR Does

  • Says  “No”
  • Hires  and Fires
  • Controls  with rules and enforcement
  • Generates  costs and overhead
  • Gets  in the way

What HR Really Does

  • Looks out for the company
  • Makes sure bad things don’t happen
  • Engages in risk management
  • Makes money
  • Saves money

Talk about competing — make that conflicting — perceptions.

According to Bruce, Botwin then went on to quote a recent Forbes article, “It’s time to  fire HR,” reminiscent of the now-famous Fast Company‘s “Why We Hate HR” from 2005. This latest article “says HR is a necessary evil, a dark force that revels in red tape and gibberish,” according to Botwin, who adds that yet another indicator of HR’s less-than-stellar reputation “is that top students are not thinking about HR as a career.”

Without vouching yay or nay for this being today’s real perception of the HR profession (I see both truths and exaggerations in the notes above), I thought Botwin’s recommendations for curing the misperceptions were worth sharing. In short, they include taking unconditional responsibility for things that happen; talking like a business person and problem solver; looking for ways to create analytics, but never relying exclusively on one metric; developing programs that foster engagement, but remembering that programs don’t engage, people do; and a few other gems.

His concise, straightforward explanations for all these “tips” are worth the read. So is the comment from reader Barb: “Unfortunately, HR usually is not for the sensitive. You need a tough skin to deal with the perceptions of both the C-suite and the rank and file.”