Category Archives: talent management

When It’s OK to Fake It

grin“Be authentic!” today’s leaders are urged. But what if they don’t know how? Worse yet, what if — in being authentic — they bare their soul to their direct reports in a way that causes them to lose confidence in said leader?

Herminia Ibarra, a professor of organizational behavior at INSEAD, tackles this subject in the cover story of the Jan/Feb Harvard Business Review, “The Authenticity Paradox.” Today’s leaders are under pressure to be “their true selves” as an antidote to the record-low levels of trust and engagement among employees today, she writes. However, new leaders also have a relatively short time frame in which to gain the trust and confidence of their direct reports — should they unwittingly alienate or lose the confidence of those employees within that time by failing to adapt their leadership style to the situational demands, then their goals will be that much harder to achieve.

Ibarra cites the examples of “Cynthia” and “George.” Promoted into a high-visibility role that included a 10-fold increase in the number of her direct reports, Cynthia sought to establish her role as a leader who valued transparency and collaboration by sharing with them her trepidation and need for their help.  But her candor backfired when she lost credibility with people who were looking for a strong leader. George, an executive at an auto-parts company where chain-of-command and consensus were paramount, felt conflicted when the company was acquired by a firm with a much more freewheeling culture: Urged by his supervisor to sell himself and his ideas more aggressively, George felt he was being pressured to be a “fake” by subsuming his modest nature.

Career advancement requires most of us to move beyond our comfort zones at some point, writes Ibarra. Yet, because going against our true inclinations can make us feel like impostors, “we tend to latch on to authenticity as an excuse for sticking with what’s comfortable,” she writes.

However, moments like these can help us grow into better leaders — if we take advantage of them, writes Ibarra:

The moments that most challenge our sense of self are the ones that can teach us the most about leading effectively. By viewing ourselves as works in progress and evolving our professional identities through trial and error, we can develop a personal style that feels right to us and suits our organizations’ changing needs.

Learning often begins with behaviors that may feel unnatural and fake to us, says Ibarra. But the only way to avoid being pigeonholed and to ultimately become better leaders “is to do the things that a rigidly authentic sense of self would keep us from doing.”

 

Twitter It!

Gazing Into the Crystal Ball

As 2014 draws to a close, folks — as you might expect — now have their eyes set on 2015, and are figuring out what might be in store for their organizations as far as HR and the workplace are concerned. For this final post of the year, I did a quick search of the web to see what  people are predicting for next year. For your reading pleasure, here are a few of the things I stumbled upon. (Feel free, of course, to click on any of the links to see the sources’ full list of predictions.)

159188661Establishing a “chief of work.” Peter Andrew, workplace strategy director for Asia at real-estate company CBRE, predicts in Fortune the addition of a new position: chief of work. Most C-suites have not added new roles since the chief-information-officer title took hold about 20 years ago, but CBRE’s research suggests that’s about to change. For one thing, Andrew writes, companies today have human resources, IT and real-estate all acting separately and, often, unwittingly working against each other. He suggests that a chief of work would coordinate all that, with an eye toward building a culture that attracts top talent. Finding the most efficient balance between full-time employees and a growing army of independent contractors, he adds, will also be in that individual’s wheelhouse.

The rise of mobile assessments. From website CPA Practice Advisor: Mobile assessments will be increasingly tapped for selection, performance management, and training and development decisions. Technology, including social media and social collaboration, is changing the science and practice of selection, recruitment, performance management, engagement and learning, the article says. And I-O psychologists, it continues, will work to design assessments that are valid and reliable, regardless of how and where they are delivered.

Every child born in the next 12 months will learn coding as a core subject. Increasingly, Samsung writes, governments are recognizing that computer literacy is a fundamental, basic skill and are incorporate coding into their curriculums. For example, the UK, it says, launched a new computing curriculum during the current academic year, in which children as young as five are taught programming skills. In 2015 and beyond, Samsung predicts, such education innovations will gradually become the norm, with businesses, educators and governments working together to raise skills across Europe. Longer-term, it says, this trend will help spur the use of internships, as businesses recognize that they can benefit from welcoming young, computer-literate people into their organizations. “The need for employees to be computer literate,” Samsung says, will result in a wave of coding schools that will help longtime employees learn coding quickly.

Honesty will become a revered leadership trait. In a Forbes article, contributor Dan Schawbel predicts that “companies are going to start embracing transparency more next year as younger generations are demanding it.” Leaders, Schawbel writes, won’t just have to be good at inspiring and educating; they will have to be able to instill trust through honesty. “It’s only natural that people would want to work under leaders who are open about what the company is doing [and] where it’s heading in the future, and give honest feedback regularly,” he writes.

Niche becomes the norm. Korn Ferry’s Futurestep unit predicts “niche will become the norm” in talent acquisition.Now that organizations grasp the power of data,” Futurestep says, “next year, the challenge will be to prove ROI on all activities using analytics.” Organizations, it notes, need to be clear on the touch points that fit best with the types of candidates they are looking to attract. To that end, it says, interest and demand in creating functional talent communities is becoming top of mind as businesses strive to target hard to reach groups.

“Niche talent requires niche strategies,” says Chong Ng, president of Futurestep’s Asia- Pacific operation. “Whether it is businesses seeking high-demand talent such as STEM candidates, or organizations located in high-potential growth locations looking to specifically attract local talent back in the country, employers need to be more sophisticated in their attraction and retention methodologies in order to find and keep candidates.”

Companies will set new hiring priorities. Website Customer Think predicts employers will pay a lot closer attention to soft skills in 2015. “In the past,” writes Marcelo Brahimllari, “candidates were hired for open positions based primarily on their skills and experience. The ability to ‘do the work’ was traditionally valued over other skills.” But with more competition for jobs and deeper talent pools today, Brahimllari says, many employers are considering candidates’ so-called “soft” skills just as much, if not more, than education and experience. Employers, he writes, want to hire applicants who fit with the culture of the organization and share in its values. Traits such as honesty, flexibility, positive mind-set, creativity and leadership skills, he says, are being looked upon as being just as important as the ability to crunch numbers or write code.

Look forward to seeing you back here in 2015! Happy New Year!

Twitter It!

2014’s Top 10 Posts

Here at The Leader Board, it was another interesting year covering the HR arena, with issues ranging from the controversy surrounding the HR certification, to lawsuits based on a worker’s commute, to HR leaders’ efforts to ensure their organizations’ compliance with the Affordable Care Act and various other legal requirements, just to name a few.

Below are links to the top 10 most-read posts of 2014, according to Google Analytics.

When viewed together, the posts create an accurate mosaic of the issues HR leaders are faced this year and are likely to continue dealing with into the new year.

Enjoy!

  1. SHRM Rolls Out New Certification (May 13)
  2. HR Plaintiffs Build Their Case Against Lowe’s (Jan. 24)
  3. Google Tackles Incentives and Rewards (April 29)
  4. More Restrictions on Criminal-Background Checks (Feb. 10)
  5. Employers Missing ADA Coverage in FMLA Cases (June 30)
  6. Friedman Shakes It Up at SHRM (June 23)
  7. ‘The 27 Challenges Managers Face’ (July 28)
  8. Who’s Leading the Way? (Nov. 13)
  9. Woman Sues Ex-Employer Over Commute (July 2)
  10. Giving HR the Boot (April 9)
Twitter It!

A Blockbuster Hack

By now, I’m sure most of you are quite familiar with Sony’s data breach, which has occupied headlines over the past couple of weeks.

176217375As you might expect, much of the attention surrounds the hacker’s decision to post some of Sony’s yet-to-be-released movies, including a remake of Annie and a new film titled The Interview — a comedy about two American journalists who are recruited to assassinate North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un. A group named Guardians of the Peace have taken credit for the cyber attack, but some have speculated the North Korean government could be the real culprit here, since it’s none too pleased with The Interview’s storyline. (Others doubt this is the case, and North Korea has publicly denied its involvement.)

Tom Kellermann, chief cybersecurity officer at the private security firm Trend Micro, told the New York Times after the story broke that “unlike stealth attacks from China and Russia, Sony’s hackers not only aimed to steal data, but also to send a clear message. ‘This was like a home invasion where, after taking the family jewels, the hackers set the house ablaze,’ ” he said.

Though it certainly has been well covered in the mainstream press, just a tad less attention has been paid to the non-creative information liberated from Sony’s computers—employee Social Security numbers, healthcare records, salary information and performance reviews. Sure, Sony isn’t the first to experience such an HR data breach, but there’s little question the scope and nature of the information made public (which includes salaries of executives) make this breach especially noteworthy.

I can only imagine the kind of disruption this is likely causing at Sony—and the toll it’s taking on productivity. Not to mention the financial toll it’s going to have.

I also have to think more than a few CEOs, after reading the various stories appearing in the press, were once again wondering, “Could something like this occur here?”

Yesterday, I asked Gordon Rapkin, CEO of Archive Systems, an HR-document-management firm based in Fairfield, N.J., for his take on what happened at Sony.

“My impression is a chunk of the Sony HR breach has to do with people there who kept things on their computers that shouldn’t have been kept there,” he said. What the field, he adds, calls “shadow files.”

What’s more, Rapkin said, the fact that all this information was unprotected and unencrypted and seemed to be available in the same trove that was pilfered is pretty surprising. “Usually,” he said, “[the information] is carved up in different systems and kept in different files—with salary information in one place, benefit information in another, and employment and performance in a third. But here, it looks as though all of this was accessible in the same place. That’s surprising, especially when you consider HR information represents some of the more sensitive data a company possesses.”

Lisa Rowan, vice president of research at IDC in Framingham, Mass., agrees. “It seems odd for [these] to be stored together,” she said.

At a recent records-management conference he attended, Rapkin said his company surveyed attendees on how many felt HR followed their organization’s information-governance policies. One-third of those queried, he said, responded that HR didn’t follow those policies and procedures. Hardly a vote of confidence.

Perhaps Sony is the latest company to get hit, Rapkin explained, but, he added, “I think the problem may be fairly common.”

(Looking for more thoughts about this topic?  You might want to check out “4 security takeways from the epic Sony hack.“)

Twitter It!

TMBC Welcomes Averbook, Secures Funding

Jason AverbookJason Averbook has designs on reinventing workplace performance and employee engagement.

Earlier today, Averbook—recognized HR technology expert and former CEO of Knowledge Infusion—was announced as the new chief executive officer of The Marcus Buckingham Co. In the new role, Averbook plans to help the Beverly Hills, Calif.-based provider of leadership development training and tools “create an organization uniquely positioned to turn the world of talent and leadership inside out,” according to a statement announcing Averbook’s arrival at the company.

Averbook, who officially took over as CEO at TMBC on Oct. 31, won’t be alone in this task, of course. The same press release highlighted TMBC’s completion of a $5 million Series A fundraising round led by SurveyMonkey, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based online survey development company.

With Averbook at the helm and this funding secured, TMBC has lofty goals, according to founder Marcus Buckingham, a best-selling author, researcher, motivational speaker and business consultant.

The firm aims to “fix what is broken in the process of talent performance assessment and management,” says Buckingham. “TMBC’s vision is to deliver companywide and individual team leader visibility into employee strengths, engagement and performance; and its content aims to help the team leader build on the strengths of each employee.”

At the moment, “no such tools—designed explicitly for team leaders—exist,” according to Buckingham, who says the funds provided by SurveyMonkey will go toward “serving this pivotal but unserved market segment of true talent engagement, performance and real-time progress tracking.

On the eve of the announcement of his arrival at TMBC, Averbook echoed those sentiments in a chat with Human Resource Executive, during which he discussed the role of the company’s StandOut integrated performance and engagement platform in rethinking how workplace performance is measured and improved. The first round of funding from SurveyMonkey, he says, is tied to enhancements to StandOut, a strengths-based performance management system that includes a strengths profile for employees, pulse surveys designed to gauge employee-engagement levels and trends in real time, and talent reviews geared toward workforce planning using local talent data.

“The challenge has always been getting [the right] technology into the hands of team leaders,” says Averbook. “We want to [enable] real-time team building and measure engagement at a team level. We want to look at employee performance and engagement in a new way.”

Twitter It!

Who’s Leading the Way?

leadingIdentifying what makes for a great leader isn’t an exact science. But, each year since 2001, Aon Hewitt has done its best to pinpoint the traits shared by the best business leaders—and the companies that excel in cultivating them.

The Lincolnshire, Ill.-based consultancy recently unveiled its 2014 Global Aon Hewitt Top Companies for Leaders list, a group of 25 organizations selected and ranked by a panel of independent judges, including experts from Wharton School of Business, the Indian School of Business, PUC Minas and Ivey School of Business.

The panel relied on a number of criteria, including strength of leadership practices and culture, examples of leader development on a global scale, alignment of business and leadership strategy, business performance and company reputation to compile the list, headed by GE, IBM, Hindustan Unilever Limited, General Mills Inc. and ICICI Bank.

What got them there?

According to Aon Hewitt’s analysis, the top companies for leaders shared five key characteristics in their approach to leadership:

  • Assessment. Top companies assess the whole leader early in their careers, evaluating leaders’ experiences, competencies, values and organizational fit, which helps organizations “understand the unique needs of their talent pipeline to fuel the right development solutions that move people forward faster,” according to Aon Hewitt.
  • Awareness. These organizations have leaders who demonstrate tremendous self-awareness by understanding their personal strengths and weaknesses, and using this information to become more effective leaders.
  • Resilience. Those atop the 2014 list build resilience in their leaders by creating inclusive cultures “where multiple perspectives and ideas are expected and fostered to help the organization meet continued business challenges.”
  • Engaging leadership. Leading firms focus on identifying and building engaging leaders who “are stabilizers, demonstrate versatility and stay connected to people and events inside and outside their organization.
  • Sustainability. Top companies for leaders also concentrate on building talent programs “nimble enough to respond quickly to the market demands, yet sustainable [enough] to deliver superior business outcomes.”

This year’s top companies have shown a knack for nurturing talent in an ever-more competitive marketplace, says Michael Useem, professor of management and director of the Leadership Center at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, in a statement.

The Top 25 firms are “especially notable for the detailed tracking and comprehensive building of their talent pipelines, with special emphasis on strategic thinking, broad engagement and personal resilience—all increasingly critical given the companies’ changing and complex markets,” says Useem, who also describes “the direct personal involvement of senior managers and even company directors in their leadership programs” at top companies as “striking.”

What it takes to be “striking” in terms of leadership has changed greatly in the 14 years Aon Hewitt has compiled its leader list, and “what was exceptional [just] two or three years ago … has now become table stakes for top organizations,” adds Lorraine Stomski, a partner and head of Aon Hewitt’s leadership consulting practice.

“Those companies that rest on their laurels and rely on practices that have previously brought them success will no longer thrive like top companies do,” says Stomski. “Change and innovation are a must.”

Twitter It!

Veteran Hiring, Revisited

Just last week, President Obama authorized the deployment of another 1,500 American troops to Iraq in the coming months, doubling the number of Americans meant to train and advise Iraqi and Kurdish forces.  But headlines aside, the fact remains, as we celebrate Veterans Day 2014 tomorrow, there are more veterans returning than soldiers being deployed. Indeed, the churn’s a steady one, of veterans leaving the military and seeking employment—and employers looking to add them to their rosters.

475000847Indeed, on the latter front, a CareerBuilder Veterans Day Job Forecast released earlier today found 33 percent of employers are actively recruiting veterans over the next year, up from 27 percent in last year’s survey and 20 percent in 2011. Further, 31 percent have hired a veteran who recently returned from duty in the last 12 months, up from 28 percent in 2013.

HRE has published its share of stories in recent years about companies that have made huge commitments to employing vets, and some of the policies and practices they’ve put in place to help achieve that objective. So I’d like to think businesses are beginning to gain some serious ground on this issue.

If we’re to believe the findings of a RAND Corp. survey released earlier today (also just in time for Veterans Day), however, there’s still a lot more work to be done by all parties concerned.

On the employer side, RAND’s analysis found companies still need to do a better job educating managers on the value of veteran employees, making themselves known to veteran job candidates and taking advantage of federal resources, such as the Veterans Employment Center and SkillBridge.

According to the researchers, many employers also fail to understand how military experience translates to the skills needed for civilian jobs and they lack the ability to track and measure relevant recruitment, performance and retention metrics.

The report, titled “Veteran Employment: Lessons from the 100,000 Jobs Mission,” explains …

“Many companies respect that their veteran employees want to be treated the same as non-veteran employees, but these organizations are investing resources in veteran hiring and could benefit from information about the return from that investment. Although companies perceive their veteran employees to perform well, they do not tend to collect metrics about veteran performance and veteran retention.”

Despite all of the attention workforce metrics has been getting lately, many companies, according the RAND report, are apparently falling short when it comes to measuring the effectiveness of their efforts in these areas.

Veterans, meanwhile, according to the researchers, too often believe their talents apply only in the security or defense arenas and employers (as mentioned above) struggle to make that military experience-civilian job connection.

Kimberly Hall, lead author of the study and a senior project associate at RAND, points out that “military members need to know that defense contractors and similar businesses are not the only places they should look for work, [and they can] contribute valuable skills and experience across the spectrum of American industry.”

One silver lining in the report (which is based on interviews with representatives from 26 member companies in the 100,000 Jobs Mission): Those interviewed volunteered that post-traumatic stress disorder was not an issue. This finding contrasts with an early study on veteran employers, in which more than one-half of the companies interviewed reported concerns about PTSD, suggesting that “employers’ initial concerns have been allayed by their experiences.”

In any case, you might want to carve out a little time this Veterans Day and check the report out, especially since it does include some good recommendations for employers, as well as veterans and federal agencies.

Twitter It!

Psst … Gossip Isn’t All That Bad

More than a few times in your career, I’m sure you’ve walked by the watercooler and witnessed two folks talking in a whisper. Were you to assume the participants were engaging in some gossip (hopefully not about you), you’d probably be right. We all know gossip is one of the most popular of sports—one most of us have engaged in at some point in our working life (perhaps more times than we’d like to admit).

148242887Gossip, typically, is seen as something that’s unhealthy and counterproductive—and therefore something that should be discouraged. (Remember, no one likes a gossip, right?) But I recently ran across a just-released study (published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin) suggesting that being on the receiving end of gossip can actually be beneficial, helping individuals adapt to their social environments, illustrating how they can improve or revealing potential threats.

To reach these conclusions, the researchers at the University of Groningen (in the Netherlands) conducted two studies. In one, they asked participants to recall an incident in which they received either positive or negative gossip about another individual. They then were asked questions intended to measure the self-improvement, self-promotion and self-protection value of the received information.

It turned out that the individuals who received positive gossip had increased self-improvement value, whereas those who received the negative gossip had increased self-promotion value. (Negative gossip also increased self-protection concerns.)

In the second study, participants were assigned the role of a sales agent and given either negative or positive gossip about another’s job performance. (Not boring you with the details, this study specifically looked at the differences between those with a “salient performance goal” and those with a “salient mastery goal.”)

Like the first study, positive gossip in the second study had more self-improvement value, whereas negative gossip had greater self-promotion value and raised self-protection concerns. Negative gossip, meanwhile, elicited pride due to its self-promotion value since it provided individuals with information that justified their self-promotional judgments.

The researchers said they figured the participants would be more alert after receiving positive rather than negative gossip because they might find positive gossip provides a source of information they can learn from. But to their surprise, alertness was high in both positive and negative gossiping situations, probably because both forms of gossip are highly relevant for the receiver.

In a press release on the findings, lead researcher Elena Martinescu also noted some gender differences in the studies. “Women who receive negative gossip experience higher self-protection concerns, possibly because they believe they might experience a similar fate as the person being the target of the gossip, while men who receive positive gossip experience higher fear, perhaps because upward social comparisons with competitors are threatening.”

Of course, no one, including myself, is saying employers and HR leaders might start to design workplace initiatives that encourage gossiping. (I’ll leave it to you to imagine what such an initiative might look like.) But Martinescu and her colleagues suggest that we might want to be more open-minded about such behaviors, noting that being on the receiving end of gossip about other people might provide a valuable source of knowledge about ourselves.

Richard Marcus, a business psychologist and executive coach based in Philadelphia (who I recently shared the two studies with), agrees the findings offer a few insights worth considering, including the notions that discussion about an individual’s performance could have a positive value whether he or she is there or not;  informal communication about performance could help to raise the bar by getting everyone involved and staying focused on performance; and that indirect criticism could have value both for the individual who is the subject of the criticism and those around him or her.

But Marcus also adds that the findings don’t diminish the fact that gossip can also have some obvious negative consequences, including putting too much focus on the individual and not the team; breeding distrust among co-workers; and wasting energy worrying about how individuals are being perceived and judged.

All points that are also well worth considering the next time you head in the direction of the watercooler.

Twitter It!

Google’s CHRO on Resume Mistakes

Laszlo Bock, the senior vice president of people operations at Google — and HRE’s 2010 HR Executive of the Year — recently weighed in on LinkedIn on the five biggest mistakes he sees on resumes and how to correct them.

When you helm HR at one of the most-admired, most-envied tech companies in the world — one that can reportedly receive more than 50,000 resumes in a single week — it should surprise no one that Bock says he personally has seen more than 20,000 resumes himself.

 “I have seen A LOT of resumes,” he says.

While the five mistakes Bock shares are not exactly earth-shattering — typos, length, formatting, sharing confidential information and lying — his insight adds a certain gravitas to the conversation, especially on the topic of confidentiality and who you can trust to keep your company’s secrets once you let them in the door:

I once received a resume from an applicant working at a top-three consulting firm. This firm had a strict confidentiality policy: client names were never to be shared. On the resume, the candidate wrote: “Consulted to a major software company in Redmond, Washington.” Rejected! There’s an inherent conflict between your employer’s needs (keep business secrets confidential) and your needs (show how awesome I am so I can get a better job). So candidates often find ways to honor the letter of their confidentiality agreements but not the spirit. It’s a mistake. While this candidate didn’t mention Microsoft specifically, any reviewer knew that’s what he meant. In a very rough audit, we found that at least 5-10% of resumes reveal confidential information. Which tells me, as an employer, that I should never hire those candidates … unless I want my own trade secrets emailed to my competitors.

While Bock’s post is of course more intended for the job seeker than the hiring manager, it is nonetheless heartening to see such advice earnestly dispensed by the top HR person at one of the hardest places on the entire planet to get hired.

Twitter It!

Taking Talent Acquisition Up a Notch

If you’re looking for additional proof that talent-acquisition capability matters, check out the latest research coming from the Bersin by Deloitte unit of Deloitte Consulting LLP.

452269237According to Bersin by Deloitte’s study of 300 U.S. organizations, titled High-Impact Talent Acquisition: Key Findings and Maturity Model,  employers with mature talent-acquisition strategies perform, on average, 30 percent better than their peers as far as business outcomes are concerned, including the ability to meet or exceed customer expectations, create new products and services faster than competitors, and meet or exceed financial targets.

So what are the key drivers of talent-acquisition performance?

The Bersin by Deloitte research puts developing strong relationships between recruiters and hiring managers at the top of the list. At organizations with lower levels of maturity, the study found, recruiters are basically order takers for hiring managers. But for those organizations with higher levels of maturity, the relationships between recruiters and hiring managers typically were strong and, in turn, the performance outcomes greater.

Other influential talent-acquisition drivers, according to the research, include developing candidate pools, giving employers the ability to find “just-in-time” candidates; and leveraging social media both as a recruiting vehicle and as a way to promote the employer brand.

On this latter front, some mature organizations have gone so far as to hire dedicated strategists whose purpose is to “curate” social-media content.

When I asked Robin Erickson, vice president of talent-acquisition research at Bersin by Deloitte, what surprised her most in the findings, she pointed to the significant role building strong relationships plays as a driver of talent-acquisition performance. “We didn’t expect the relationship with hiring managers to be four times more influential than everything else—more influential than social media and more influential than employment branding,” she told me.

To be sure, there are no shortage of vendors out there working hard at developing tools aimed at helping employers get their hands around the three major drivers cited in this research. If you’re planning to attend next month’s HR Tech Conference in Las Vegas and walk the floor of the expo, I’m sure you’ll come across lots. But whether you’ll be there or not (and I certainly hope you will), I’ll be sure to keep my eyes open and let you know what I find.

Twitter It!