Friday, 19 May 2017

Skillsoft / Sumtotal EMEA Perspectives 17




I was up especially early on Tuesday to attend Skillsoft's European conference , mainly to participate in a pre-conference roundtable reviewing new research from David Wilson from Fosway. There were a few quite interesting findings in their report, including that:

  • 87% of HR practitioners see skills gaps continuing to increase. This includes soft skills just as much as it does digital. Leadership skills are seen as slightly less lacking, probably because the people completing the survey saw themselves as leaders.
  • Learning will therefore continue to increase in importance, becoming the most important part of an employment value proposition.

Most of the roundtable focused on the need for employees to learn more quickly, which I agree is a growing requirement. However I think a still deeper need is to learn more, and more deeply. To me that puts a focus on 'search to learn vs learn to retain' and the evolution of mini into micro and now nano-learning in some doubt. I'd have liked to have raised this point.

Unfortunately, as it turned out, I wasn't there to participate in the roundtable at all but just to report on it (so I suppose I'd better do so). That led to my second main insight from the event which was a reinforcement of the importance of giving control of the learning agenda to the people wanting to learn, and involving them in steering their own learning process. Having a small group of people speaking and another group listening and asking a few questions at the end strikes me as rather bizarre in today's social world.

The speaking group also talked quite a bit about the need to give HR credit for the learning that people do as this is not often recognised. Really? I think that as long as HR / Learning acts strategically and effectively it will get the credit it deserves. More metrics may help but they tend not to be the main cause of business concerns about learning, or  a main way of dealing with them.


Learning and the rest of HR also need to be less siloed, which I completely agree with. However I disagree that using reward is the way to deal with it. Start with organisation design, linked performance objectives, whole group meetings - that will sort the problem in the vast majority of cases.


And a lot of the change is being driven by millennials, who value meaning and like taking sabbaticals apparently! (Actually we all value meaning and I took a sabbatical in 1990.)

There was nothing wrong with the research but I didn't enjoy my role in the session and so didn't hang around for much of the rest of the conference to see whether 'Percipio' would have much impact on any of the above, but the Twitter stream looked quite positive.




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Friday, 12 May 2017

Tucana People Analytics World 2017




I’m late in providing my summary of Tucana’s People Analytics World 2017 and have struggled to find a topic that others have not already written about. However I think one useful perspective may be the level of variety within analytics at the moment.

This applies firstly to analytical approaches. Most of the presentations, not unnaturally, focused on quantitative analytical approaches. My favourite from these case examples was Microsoft’s use of social traffic metadata to suggest best practice behaviours of the most effective managers. Becky Thielen and Jeremy Tyers explained that this has shown, for example, that effective managers maintain larger networks than their reports:
  • Employees reporting to managers with large networks are 7% more engaged and have networks up to 85% larger
  • Employees with networks 110% larger than their managers are 50% more likely to be disengaged.



However, I also enjoyed the qualitative examples, eg Adidas’s analysis of employee experience during key moments that matter, following the same approach used for the company’s customers, and applying across HR / management activities, workplace and the digital workspace. This involved an an automated employee response system providing a Net Promoter Score, but also open text comments, and textual analytics to help see summaries and patterns across the business. Stefan Hierl suggested that to really need to understand what’s going on for people you need to read this stuff and hence gave leaders access to the comments of their people. He often talks to leaders about the numbers but you also need an equal focus on the qualitative side - what’s in the minds of people as this provides a better feeling for what’s going on. At Adidas, listening to people is a core competence of HR - we should not outsource this.

Similarly, some of the presentations focused on very data oriented approaches. I liked Experian’s example of flight risk modelling, taking data on over 200 employee attributes from multiple sources and plugging it into Experian’s business modelling tools. This has delivered circa 20 key statistically significant attributes.

But what I really liked about this particular conference was its heavy focus on a strategy based approach. This started with Alec Levenson’s session noting that the tasks and behaviors that do not improve strategy execution vastly outnumber the ones that do. Therefore analytics needs to start with strategy not data. The point was at least partly supported by Peter Howes noting that incremental improvement on traditional data reporting tends not to work that well.

Even more important than this level of variety about analytics was the variety about people management itself. This includes different views about the direction of causality between culture and behaviour, and engagement and performance. Peter Howes asked us whether we are making decisions about people with the same intellectual rigour as our decisions about other business factors: Finance, Sales, Production, Supply Chain. Whilst we don’t even fully understand the role of something as central as engagement this struck me and at least some other delegates at the conference as a rather ludicrous suggestion.

I think the amount of variety I have described above has a couple of important consequences.

1.   There cannot be a single maturity curve which all organisations need to follow. I much prefer Deloitte’s and 3n Strategy’s approach of identifying different aspects of analytical maturity each of which can be strong or weak independently of each other (eg Deloitte’s categories of strategy, people, process, technology and data).

However, for many organisations, the best approach may be a combination of the various approaches. For example, Eden Britt at HSBC presented a heavily quantitative, data oriented  approach, involving, for example, several smart analytical approaches for providing insight on attrition:
  •    Clustering - which are the areas of high attrition?
  •    Machine learning - who will leave?
  •    Text mining - where will they leave to?
  •    Markov models - when will they leave?



But Britt also emphasised the importance of deciding upon:
  •    What is the question you are trying to answer?
  •    What is your hypothesis?
  •    What data do you have?



His suggestion when requested to provide yet more data is to always ask: “How’s that data going to help you make a better decision or to do something in a different way?”

2. I think the variety in our approaches also raise broader challenges to emerging or prevailing wisdom:
  • It means there is limited use for standardised taxonomies. These may be OK for whether someone has a driving licence but not for eg employee engagement, or for analytics itself. These may help keep the lights on cheaper but they also interfere in the search for competitive advantage.
  • It may also mean there is limited use for benchmarking models and tools. For example, when comparing cultures, is hierarchical opposite to delegating?, or professional the opposite to social? - they’re not in my view of the world.
  • It means that setting up a professional body for people analytics would be largely unhelpful. At this point in the evolution of the people analytics field we need to encourage conversation on different perspectives rather than to see these constrained.



Thanks to Tucana and all the speakers for sharing their various approaches.


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Thursday, 13 April 2017

Future Models of HR




One of the areas which seem to have produced quite a few ideas this year is the future of HR, supporting the broader future of work.

My favourite report in this area is probably Henley's: HR with Purpose: Future Models of HR - partly but not just because I contributed to it.

A lot of the report emphasises the need for HR to act more strategically. Eg the diagram above suggests that creating an HR strategy is one of the most important needs for HR and is also an area of low capability.

I really like the value chain model which is proposed, particularly the split between people and 'HR' (or what I call human capital). Though, as the report points out, these HR capabilities may increasingly be provided by non-humans (robots, AI etc) too. It's also interesting to see HR capabilities identified as belonging to both individuals and groups (the groups part being the focus of The Social Organization). I believe the use and understanding of models like this can really help HR develop a more strategic role.




The key to doing this is to focus on the human capital and other outcomes an organisation wants to achieve. And further back than this, the core business strategy, often expressed through its values and purpose etc. And then developing HRM activities to support these.

I like these questions about capabilities provided in the report (though to me chemical engineering is an operational core competency not an HR capability):


This incorporates both strategic aspects of capabilities (such as chemical engineering  or engagement) and tactical delivery of programmes and processes to deliver capabilities (such as recruitment and retention) and raises some substantive and useful questions, such as:
  • What capabilities? How can we de ne the required capabilities? What are  the criteria for the capability? Can we substitute a capability that might be  easier to build? 
  • Why do we need that capability? What does it add to the organisation? Can we  know when it has added the predicted value?
  • When will the capability be needed? 
  • Where, and how, can we acquire key capabilities?
  • Who owns the capability? Is it necessarily a human capability or can it be built  via some other mechanism?
  • How much of each capability will we need? How can we know when we have  enough, or not enough? How can we maximise the utilisation of the capability?
  • How can we build, acquire, nurture and retain our key capabilities? If the  capability provides competitive advantage, then how can we protect it from competitors?
  • Do we already have capabilities that might contribute to our strategy or even suggest modi cation to the strategy?



The same applies to OD and the report includes one of the figures from my recent article with Dave Ulrich, in which I take each of the core structures from my OPM model and show how these impact upon HR:




I don't agree with everything in the report, e.g. it suggests separating out strategic HR from business partners' account management role. I think it's vital that HRBPs act strategically (i.e. are focused on capabilities), not just the centre.

The report also suggests that it is easier for a business person to learn HR and carry out HR strategy than it is for an HR person to acquire the required business knowledge. This misunderstands HR strategy which whilst acting in the context of the business needs to be fundamentally about people. It also under estimates the amount of people/HR related knowledge people need in order to act in this strategic role.

Other than this, the report contains some great thoughts about potential future models of HR.


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Thursday, 23 March 2017

A synopsis of The Social Organization




Sorry for the lack of posting here recently, but I've been busy on my new book, The Social Organization.

Actually, I finished writing this in January, and completed the main edits a few weeks back, but I've also been suffering from a bit of a blogger's block. I guess that writing 100,000+ words had used up most of the words I wanted to write.

Also, I have been busy on other things, including some consulting work related to the book. You can find out more about this at my new site I've been developing: Organisation.Social.

The site also includes a synopsis of the book if you want to find more about it now. You can pre-order the book already too.

But there has been loads of interesting things happening in HR whilst I've been away and I'm feeling increasingly motivated to write about them. So I'm going to spend a couple of weeks catching up, and should then be helping you keep up to speed with developments in strategic HR as they happen.

Oh, and I'll be celebrating this blog's 10th anniversary this June too!


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Tuesday, 21 February 2017

HR Carnival



Back in the golden age of social of social media, I used to contribute to the monthly HR carnival, a collection of posts from different HR bloggers, providing a great access point into the HR blogosphere.

I'd occasionally host the carnival on Strategic HCM as well, usually with a picture from the Notting Hill Carnival, like the one above.

The HR carnival is still going and has just celebrated its tenth year anniversary - and it's still well work a look.

Carnival of HR - 10 Year Anniversary Edition!


Tuesday, 24 January 2017

HRExaminer's Executive Conversation




I'll be speaking to John Sumser on HR Examiner's Executive Conversation on Friday, 24 March, at 3.00pm GMT, 7.00am US pacific time.



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