Monday, 30 November 2015

Core Values - Moving from Laminated to Lived

I also had this article published on Workstars blog earlier this year.

These are the five suggestions I make for improving the use of Values in an organisation:
  1. Use the values to integrate management and HR processes
  2. Embed values in development centres
  3. Gain senior level sponsorship
  4. Consider the key moments of truth in the organisation and to ensure these reinforce the values
  5. Make the act of recognition a social activity. 

Details are on the Workstars blog.

I'll be having another couple of articles up there soon too.  So do check out the blog and the recognition system too.

Workstars is a sponsor of my Strategic HCM blog and so you’ll be reading more about them here over the rest of the year.  But in brief:
Workstars' mission is to make your business a better place to work, and crucially, get your business working better. 
Workstars are innovating beyond the very tired, self serving $47 billion reward industry. We are focussed on the future, and the future of employee recognition is social.
A true cloud based business that wraps people services around the market leading employee recognition application, where every line of code is shared by every client, very large or very small.
The first global SME and Enterprise provider to master a free to launch model. Our significant application investment continues to expand our business. We work with HR and when it comes to employee recognition, we are a plug and play innovator.
Workstars bring enterprise level infrastructure and thinking, designed to make managers great and boost engagement across any business.

Also see:

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Happiness, Reward and Work Life Balance

Earlier this month I had some comments published on employment happiness, relating to my comments last week on reward:

“Whilst it’s interesting to see which professions pay the most money, it could be a fruitless goal for those setting out on their career path as there is far more to work than money alone. Much as we want to have a strong standard of living, for many employees a work life balance is far more of a priority. 
Employee reviews on our website show that on average they reported a work life balance satisfaction rating of 3.2 out of five. This has steadily declined from 3.5 in 2009 which isn’t the direction we’d like to see it move in.  
Working 24/7 in high pressured environments is highly rewarding on many levels for some people - but it’s not a one size fits all solution for all. Our research has shown that jobs such as a web developer, commercial manager and a research assistant are rated the highest for work life balance. These jobs might not offer the highest salaries but if it leads to happiness at work it’s priceless.”

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Friday, 27 November 2015

Talent Killers (Speaking in Cyprus and Ukraine)

My main trips for the last two weeks have been to Nicosia and Kiev where I’ve been speaking about talent management.  However I’ve noticed that although much of the focus in the conferences has been around talent, most of the conversation has been around the broader societal factors which constrain or enable talent management.

IMH / PWC - 14th Management & Human Capital Conference

So in Cyprus, a panel following on from my two keynote sessions came up with the problem of what they described as talent killers - cultural practices which stop companies being able to manage talent as they would like.

In Cyprus, the main talent killer was seen to be the family culture of the country.  So it doesn’t matter if a company wants a certain employee to focus on a certain area or work in a certain way, if this doesn’t align with the perspectives and needs of the family it isn’t going to happen.

I enjoyed the conversation, and particularly since my brother in law’s in-laws are Cyrpiot, have some direct experience of the family culture people were discussing.  So I can understand the issue, but still tend to feel there must be some good opportunities for addressing it.  Perhaps by interviewing a candidate together with representatives of the family for example, or by giving a contract to a family unit, reducing emphasis on which member of the family will be delivering it (a bit like McDonalds’ Friends and Family approach built up further for this even more for this more family oriented environment).

Of course you’d also need to avoid any tendency towards nepotism and I’d suggest here more focus on creating the organisation as a complementary family type unit, not to replace the real family but to take on more of its attributes in order to feel more resonant for employees.

PRP / Mondelez - Kyiv Employer Branding and Engagement Forum

Then in Ukraine, the panel following my keynote there seemed to focus heavily on the difficulty getting people to take responsibility for making things happen, especially in government.  One of the panel even suggested the culture seemed almost infantile, with people wanting to have everything taken care of for them.

To an extent that resonated for me too.  Eg I remember when I worked as an HR Director based in Moscow (and covered the Kiev office which I visited several times) that we had a couple of people whose jobs included organising holidays to the Russian sanitariums (and I stayed in one in Sochi myself.)  I always thought that this travel agency function within the HR team, supported by broader Soviet traditions, contributed towards HR being seen in a very administrative sort of way.

Ukraine has clearly developed a lot since I was last there, though there seems still to be quiet a lot which hasn’t, eg there still seemed to be almost as many notary offices around as I remember.  But I can accept a legacy reluctance to accept responsibility could be a significant talent killer there.

I think it’s also a harder killer to deal with than Cyprus’ family culture one.  But I was interested to hear about some of the new leadership schemes operating in the country, taking high potentials away from the broader environment for a year and helping them to develop new values, which it is believed will be maintained through peer pressure as these people progress as business or public leaders within the country.

At home in the UK / in the US etc

These two experiences have got me thinking about the talent killers back at home, and in other Anglo Saxon cultures, too.

I think one of these  is the high pay ratios I posted about yesterday.  (Whilst these are designed to recognise talent I think they play a bigger role in distorting and destroying it.)  

Another is probably a focus on dressing firms up to look more valuable rather than worrying about creating that value in the first place.  The best example at the moment is Pfizer’s planned acquisition of Allergen to enable an inversion into Ireland’s lower tax regime.

Most M&A’s are a diversion away from the true value which could be created by a better focus on talent management.

However Pfizer’s latest transaction doesn’t even try to argue a case for synergies and hence value creation.  As long as we remain more interested in moving bits of business around rather than investing in people and creating new products and services, I think we should expect that talent is going to continue to die.

But moving away from this culture is going to be even harder than addressing Ukraine’s lack of responsibility is going to be.  But perhaps George Osbourne’s new Apprenticeship levy in the UK will be one part of rebalancing the economy in the UK, helping to tilt focus away from easy options to develop the right talent a company needs to build the business for the future?

What about you, what’s the main talent killer where you live, and what needs to be done about it?

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Wednesday, 25 November 2015

ATD Talent Management Handbook - Pay Ratios

A new provocative report has been published by the High Pay Centre - Pay Ratios: Just Do It.

The report argues that companies should report the ratio of CEO pay to that of those in the middle of the organisation and that this would help understand their attitudes to pay.

That would seem to be quite important, particularly given John Cryan's remarks that as the CEO of Deutsche Bank he "doesn't understand the way additional excess riches drive people to behave differently".

"I promise you I will not work any harder or any less hard in any year, in any day because someone is going to pay me more or less."

Perhaps Cryan should check out the ATD 's new Talent Management Handbook where my chapter focuses on reward and tries to provide some of the missing understanding.

Here are my comments from the handbook on pay ratios:

Reduced Pay Differentials

Organizations have increasingly recognized the differentiated performance of their employees over the last few decades.  Some organisations suggest that their high performers are worth several tens or even several hundreds of times their low performers.  The result of this is that pay differentials, in Anglo-Saxon cultures at least, have increased substantially. For example FTSE 100 CEOs are now paid around 180 times as much as their average employees.  However, and perhaps because of this, there is also a growing belief, supported by the points raised earlier, that we have gone too far in incentivizing and rewarding talent and high performance and in increasing executive compensation disproportionally compared to other employees.  There are also rising society demands for increased equality and these are likely to grow stronger if we see more pay transparency.

However the most important reason to reduce differentials is that this can improve overall business performance.

High pay differentials make perfect sense from a perspective which emphasizes the contribution of individual employees, which is the case with most talent management practices, particularly those that might be described as being focused on human capital management (HCM) ie which are concerned with creating and accumulating human capital as an outcome of talent management practices.

However these activities can also destroy the social fabric of our organizations.  This can be shown by reviewing one of the other findings  of the Edelman Trust Barometer which suggests that one of the few relationships which has seen an upswing in trust over the last decade is what Edelman call a Person Like Yourself, or PLY.  This is somebody you have a personal connection to that brings you together as humans, for example you come from the same home town, you have a similar taste in music, or you support the same football team.  The concern about high differentials is that if your CEO is paid 180 times as much as you are then you are very unlikely to see them as a PLY and you are less likely to trust them as a result.

Organizations might therefore be much better off with a less well paid CEO even if this person creates less dazzling business strategies since at least people will be more committed to support the strategies they do come up with and a well implemented average strategy is much better than an amazing one which is left on the shelf!

This is the reason that Whole Food Stores limits the reward of its highest paid executive to just 14 times that of its average employee.

It is also why increasingly organizations need to take not just a human capital based perspective to talent management but a social capital based on as well.  In this perspective there is no point undertaking reward or any other talent management process which increases human capital if it destroys social capital in the process.  This does not negate our increasing understanding of a growing gap between the contribution of high and low performers  but recognizes that this difference is often the result of relationships with and the support of other people.

As well as reducing pay differentials I would expect to see the coverage of benefits and share schemes being extended so that all staff including executives are rewarded in the same sorts of ways, even if the proportion of these, compared to other total rewards, varies according to position.

I'll be featuring more comments from my chapter on Reward and reviewing chapters from the rest of the book covering over areas of Talent Management over the next few weeks - check back soon.

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Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Innovation and the Future of Work - Milan

Last week I was in Milan speaking about HR Innovation:

I shared some examples of innovated practices but also emphasised that innovation generally comes from understanding what we need to within a particular organisation, breaking free of traditional best practices and understanding new best fit opportunities.  Once we have developed this new mindset, it’s generally fairly obvious what we need to innovate.  (Of course coming up with the right innovation is still difficult, but it’d be no fun if it was easy!)

Supporting this idea, we need to get away from the idea that there’s a set and predictable future of work.  For one thing, this would just be replacing one set of best practices with another, and that’s unlikely to be useful.  Secondly, the main shift that’s take place over the last couple of decades is that people are now the main source of competitive success.  This means that we need to create new business strategies based upon our people (not just using our people to execute new business strategies!).  But it also means that we need to differentiate our strategies from our competitors and other organisations since if a strategy isn’t differentiated it’s not really a strategy.  So a strategy that aims at helping us prepare for the future of work isn’t really a strategy either.

So instead of innovating based upon the future of work, we need to understand the tools and approaches which can help us innovate the way we manage people, and perhaps some alternatives which we can pick from or tailor to support what a particular organisation requires.

An example I’ve been thinking about recently relates to the way we respond to digital business and its impact on jobs which I posted about on Friday, and also in this post on Symposium Event’s blog which reviews Tammy Erickson's inputs at the Drucker Forum in Vienna the previous week. 

Erickson also made some observations about how we need to respond to this environment which I thought were quite smart:

  1. Increasing our ability to change organising by tasks and projects rather than individuals in roles - and therefore removing job titles etc.  I don’t completely agree with this - also options for developing around people (creating value)
  2. Enabling us to take action in real-time rather than planning and co-ordinating in advance of actions.  The key for this is understanding humanity (and that real value will only come from discretionary effort from people - the stuff you can’t command them to do) and creating an environment which will stimulate this.
  3. Understanding people and the way they want to relate to work - developing multiple relationships with people in your portfolio, including contingent workers, in a sophisticated way.

These are all good ideas but they’re not the only options, or even the only good options.

Eg organising around tasks makes sense but its not very people centric.  An alternative, and perhaps even better idea is still to organise around people, but to sculpt jobs around the people rather than fit people into existing boxes in the way we tend to do now.  After all, anything which can be organised into standard tasks is going to be better performed by robots.  So the areas that we need to concern ourselves with are those based on relationships, values and change.  And these can all get done best for focusing on the whole person, not just applying part of that person to a specific piece of work.

I think some organisations will want to do this, but many won’t, which is fine.  And it is why innovation always need to be focused on what a particular organisation has to and needs to do.

See my blog post on career partnership.

And also see this post at HR Zone about preparing for the futures.

Sketch notes from SketchandTweet /

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Friday, 13 November 2015

Business Partnering and Workforce Technology

I posted a few week's back about Symposium's HR Business Partnering conference this week but wasn't intending to be participating in it this year.  However a slot came up and I stood in to talk about technology enabled business partnering.

It'a topic which was well suited for me as I speak, train, write and consult a lot about this area but I was also able to take some time to think through what I wanted to include in the session during the 7th Drucker Forum in Vienna which focused on Managing in the Digital Age which I attended virtually.

This was the result:

It's interesting to see the theme about job losses taken forward in Management Today today.  They've used a picture of Robocop who I didn't think about including, but as well as opening up with James Bond, I did close with a picture of Arnie, and finished the presentation with a quick "Hasta La Vista!"

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Friday, 6 November 2015

Speaking on HR Innovation

I'm looking forward to speaking about HR Innovation next week at Business International's European HR Director Summit in Milan on 10 November.

I'm really looking forward to this as it's one of my favourite topics - yes, technology is important but boosting innovation is most fundamentally about understanding people, and it's us that can help people and therefore their organisations get better at it.

So it's a shame that HR gets associated with blocking innovation more often than it does with enabling it.  Particularly as there are some fairly simple things we can do to make a difference to that...

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Thursday, 5 November 2015

HR: more Geeky and Feely

I provided the editorial for this month's edition of's Strategy and Planning Excellence which focuses on workforce planning and analytics.

You may be interested in having a read of this or of the other articles contained in the publication.

Remembering that this month marks a year since the Artof.HR conference in Croatia, I also took the opportunity to emphasise the need to complement HR science with an increased focus on artistry:

"To me, the shift is not art to science, or feely to geeky. It’s a move to science and art, geeky and feely. There will always be things which algorithms can’t transform and these areas are often the most valuable aspects of what we do. But there’s also no doubt that analytics are rapidly increasing the scope of HR they can inform, and that therefore geeky HR needs to take a more central role in most companies people management strategies, processes and operations."

It does, but I wish I'd see more in's and other publications on HR's role in relationship management and intuition.  Some of the authors would see this as more evidence of a supposed fear of analytics, but I think I"m starting to see more signs of a return to a more balanced view across the main part of HR.

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Friday, 30 October 2015

#GCETD - Miguel Lobo on Relationships

Human relationships were also a big focus of the Global Conference on Training and Development in Saudi Arabia last week.

I talked about them in my session on talent and noted how bias can lead to poor identification of these people as well as the passing over of those whose contribution is more social in nature, ie though other people rather than directly relating to their own objectives.

George Houston from CCL noted the importance of relationships within the Arab States and Sardeek Love reference the idea of unconditional trust (or love!) which I think is a measure of the quality of relationship.

Arthur Shelley and David Gurteen both talked about the social nature of learning and knowledge management.  I think they made important points but to me, the real value of these social processes is the social outcomes - relationships - they create.

But the most in-depth focus on relationships was provided by Miguel Lobo from.  He suggested that as information, knowledge and coordination all flow through relationships that these are the source of creating value in a complex economy.  We therefore need to talk about intuition and emotion.

The focus on intuition means we need to be careful about our own biases.  Lobo provided some good examples of anchoring bias though to me, it's the way these biases impact on the way we identify and treat particular people which is most interesting and important - see also my recent post on the gender pay gap.

The focus on emotions means that we need to pay attention to people as well as to content eg people will naturally collaborate with people they most like, not with those who have the best ideas.

Whether we like someone is based largely on reciprocity, and on homophily, or 'like of same'.  This doesn't have to mean cloning - a good leader creates new group identities rather than reinforcing existing categories.  Diversity is essential for performance.

Leaders also need to create excitement as the activation of our emotions is more important than their tone.  A positive tone based on homophilly leads to an enjoyable experience but potentially an over confidence bias too, so it doesn't do much for organisational performance.  High excitement predicts whether you'll want to work with someone later on and is much more important for performanve.

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Photo credits: Al Harkan, Aisha Foad, Arthur Shelley

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Credible Activist / Friend in Business / HR as Human Relationships

Building on my post on Dave Ulrich's new HR competencies yesterday you might be interested in this recent post on relationships (at Symposium Event's blog) - the core focus of my Friend in Business, or Dave's Credible Activist competency.

Dave is writing a lot about our relationships with our business colleagues at the moment, but as the post suggests, it's the relationships between our business colleagues we need to focus on this most.

It was interesting seeing the above tweet from HR Tech World yesterday as well.  Yes - HR needs to be framed much more about Human Relationships than Human Resources these days.


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