Archive for Business

Another View of HR ‘Big Data’

topdown3Last week I read this article explaining that “Big data knows when you’re going to quit your job before you do.” The article relates how VMware is using Workday to predict when and/if certain employees are in danger of leaving the organization. Workday’s Insight Applications, summarized here, are rolling out in 2015 and are designed to predict future business outcomes. Leaders with access to both internal and external data should, of course, be able to take advantage of opportunities while also cutting risk levels using the data patterns, predictions and recommendations that are embedded within the Workday system.

As the original article pointed out “By combining company data on employee hiring, promotions, relocations, compensation, employee satisfaction surveys, managerial decisions and job cuts with public data sets like the standard of living in the region and workforce demand for certain skills, Workday can spot patterns. Businesses can input decades of historical staff data into Workday to inform and customize the system’s recommendations. In one case, Workday analyzed more than 1 million data points for 100,000 employees across 25 years to come up with employment suggestions. To train the software, companies must look back on worker-retention predictions and give the software an electronic pat on the head for ones it got it right and a virtual swat with a newspaper for those it got wrong. The system learns over time how each company works and, like an experienced HR employee, develops a gut feeling for which people the company needs to keep a closer eye on.”

The evolution of HR. The stuff many of us get giddy reading about, discussing and exploring. For those HR practitioners who are able to realize the benefits of technology and big data, such as this, it’s like a whole new world; we feel like we’re sitting with the big boys (finally) when we have this information at our disposal.

Unfortunately though, when Ginormous Corporate Conglomerate A and Large Regional Bank Holding Company B start using this sort of technology, it doesn’t set so well with Sally Lunch Bucket and Joe Six Pack.

Using absolutely no data, algorithms, or regression analysis whatsoever I present to you, unedited, a few of the reader comments (505 as I type this) from the original article:

  • “It’s not a problem for those rare companies that actually value their employees properly and compensate them fairly.”
  • “Yeah, like they care if you’re going to quit.”
  • “Pay your employees better, train them well and treat them well and maybe they won’t quit!”
  • “This will only make employees less trusting of their employers.”
  • “A better idea might be to figure out WHY someone is going to quit… and how to fix the problem they’re quitting to get away from. Bosses won’t like that, though, since 90% of us don’t quit our jobs, we quit our bosses….”
  • “Does it also predict when your company quits you?”

There’s also lots (and lots) of HR bashing….

  • “HR becomes less human everyday”
  • “Over the last few years HR “professionals” have been trying to gain more and more power and influence in the corporate world. They sell unproven or ridiculous ideas and philosophies to upper management or board members and then completely destroy a company from within.”
  • “HR has ruined getting a job in this country, They created a cottage industry on uselessness.”
  • “HR = a parade of clowns”
  • “The ironic part of this whole thing is that this machine will probably be operated by someone in “Human” Resources.”
  • “How about HR just do their jobs? There is no need to rely on a program, they just have to get off of their butts and be active.”
  • “Human Resources. Neither human, nor resourceful.”

Ouch.

So how do we prepare for this tsunami of distrust when rolling out a new technology such as this? Something that brings to mind, for a fair number of people, an Orwellian society?

We pay attention to keeping the human element in mind, that’s how. We communicate across the organization – not just with the C-Suite execs who have given the blessing to our endeavor. We share the why, what, and how with Joe and Sally. And then we share it again.

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Earlier this year I had a conversation with a VPHR for a large regional company that was looking to hire a Regional HR Manager. This position, based in a large metropolitan area, has HR responsibilities (primarily employee relations) across a 3 state region and also serves as an HR Business Partner for a company-wide line of business.

Big company. Big data.

And, as part of this movement to using data to more effectively manage initiatives and projects, the VPHR outlined her expectations that her HR team be viewed as, well, business partners. She didn’t believe a need existed for her HR team to travel to company sites or meet with employees. Unless, of course, it was necessary as part of an investigation.

“We’ve got the technology and the systems and the data,” she summarized. “I don’t need the HR Managers spending their time in the field.”

I wonder what Joe and Sally would think of that? “Human Resources. Neither human, nor resourceful.”

 

Work Factors and Retention Outcomes #EWS2014

Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 5.50.56 PMI’ve been partnering with my friends at Spherion to share some information from their 2014 Emerging Workforce Study; see below for full disclosure details.

As 2014 draws to a close, HR professionals from hither and yon are pulling together end of the year reports and reviewing their dashboards to recap ‘the year that was.’ The historical data being reviewed covers the entire employee life cycle from number of hires to time-to-fill all the way to turnover and retention.

Beginning to end.

But the information that lies within and underneath the numbers is often never gathered. We don’t do a very good job of evaluating why our time-to-fill rate has moved from 39 days to 41 days. We also, sadly, don’t do a very good job of understanding the work factors that drive retention. We may toss up our hands in frustration when yet another key employee resigns, but are we asking “why do employees stay…and why do employees leave?”

And leave they do.

According to the 2014 Emerging Workforce Study findings, 25% of workers are likely to look for a new job in the next 12 months. Can you afford to lose 25% of your employees? Oh sure, maybe no one will mind if Bill in Sales hits the road (he’s kind of a jerk), but what about that new .NET Developer you hired? Or the Director of Marketing you successfully wooed away from a competitor? What if they leave?

We know it’s something we need to think about yet companies report they’ve only put in minimal effort to retain their workers. Or, perhaps, those efforts have been misguided and not in alignment with the work factors that matter to employees.

The #EWS2014 study finds that employers believe that the management climate (89%), an employee’s relationship with his or her supervisor (85%) and the culture and work environment (81%) are most important when retaining employees.

On the other hand, the work factors that matter most to employees include financial compensation (78%), benefits (76%) and growth and earnings potential (71%).

Why do employees stay…why do employees leave?

The big questions, am I right?

And the HR professional who can answer them for her organization will be a 2015 winner.

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Disclosure Language:

Spherion partnered with bloggers such as me for their Emerging Workforce Study program. As part of this program, I received compensation for my time. They did not tell me what to purchase or what to say about any idea mentioned in these posts. Spherion believes that consumers and bloggers are free to form their own opinions and share them in their own words. Spherion’s policies align with WOMMA Ethics Code, FTC guidelines and social media engagement recommendations.

(Check out the full infographic for some interesting information.)

Diving Deep on Complacency

scuba diveComplacency: a feeling of being satisfied with how things are and not wanting to try to make them better; a complacent feeling or condition (Merriam-Webster) 

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This week has turned into my week for writing about words/concepts that frequently make their way into the conversations held between HR folks and organizational managers.

One of the go-to-things we often say, particularly when an employee or group of employees, seem to lack zing-spirit-zip is “s/he just got really complacent.”

Yup. I’ve said it too.

And then, more likely than not, we go down one of two paths:

Path 1: We fall into the ‘Engagement’ rabbit hole (Let’s do a survey! Let’s put a ping pong table in the break room! Let’s survey again to see if employees are engaged now that they have a ping pong table!)

Path 2: We label the employee with a moniker which will, sadly, stick to her during the duration of her employment (She’s not a go-getter. He’s content to just do the minimum. They’ve all just retired-in-place.)

Heading down either path is not right. Or fair for that matter.

The step we often fail to take is diving down real deep to ascertain why, exactly, we have an employee or group of employees who have gotten into the mode of clock-in/clock-out and “just let me do my job.”

HR professionals and leaders who sit on high in a tower or segregate themselves behind walled-in offices need to do some pretty serious self reflection about the institutionalized dynamics that have become embedded over time. Employees may have moved into the complacent mode for any number of organizational reasons:

  • Lack of feedback from their supervisor or manager
  • Lack of communication across the entirety of the enterprise
  • Lack of clarity around the meaning and purpose of their actual work/job
  • Lack of recognition and appreciation
  • Lack of mechanisms to raise issues, solve problems, and have input on decisions that affect their job and/or scope of responsibility

I’ve seen all of these. I’m sure you have too.

Next time you’re quick to characterize an employee as non-motivated, lazy, or not-on-the-bus-with-the-rest-of-us…take some time to look beyond the surface.

Dive deep.

I Want it Now: Entitlement in the Workplace

Veruca SaltEntitlement: the condition of having a right to have, do, or get something; the feeling or belief that you deserve to be given something (such as special privileges) Merriam-Webster

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I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the damage that can be done – unintended consequences for the most part – when organizational leaders or well-intentioned HR professionals devise activities, reward programs, benefit packages, or other conditions of employment that create a feeling of entitlement amongst employees.

These sorts of things often start off quite innocently and are usually designed to address a critical business need. Countless HR directors have rolled out Attendance Bonus programs designed to ensure employees get to work on time and them scratched their head in wonderment when the only employees actually receiving any Attendance Bonus payouts are the same employees who have always reported to work on time.

And that’s not the only one that’s a favorite for HR folks to turn into some sort of ‘program’ – they’re also quite fond of over-thinking and over-crafting things like providing free snacks in the break room, running employee referral programs, and providing employer-covered supplemental benefit programs. I’ve seen HR professionals run in circles to provide free monthly car washes in the employee parking lot. I watched an HR manager wear herself out managing the logistical nightmare created when she decided to provide on-site flu shots for, at the end of the day, a meager percentage of her company’s employees.

So why do it? Oh sure, sometimes there’s a strategic reason related to talent attraction/retention. Or so company executives and talent acquisition leaders will say.

But seriously? At what stage did we enter this alternate universe where stuff like ongoing access to sleep-pods and the correct type of kale on the (free) salad bar in the cafeteria is expected in the workplace? Demanded by applicants? A reason whether an employee will prolong the employment relationship with a specific company?

Crazy.

Now I’m certainly not saying we should never strive to do the extras or provide added enticements to either attract candidates or enrich the employment experience for employees. If the pay is where it should be (or better) and the working conditions fit the talent pool and meet the needs of the business, then go  as wild as you want having pizza day, putting bean bag chairs in the conference rooms and providing pet insurance at no cost. Knock yourself out.

These sorts of things are nice and fluffy and let over-worked and under-appreciated HR ladies feel good about themselves. Of course it’s quite likely they’re not much more than window-dressing even though they land you a spot on some local “Best Employer List.” It’s also highly probable these initiatives are doing nothing to ‘impact the bottom line’ (which you like to tell your executive team at the quarterly staff meeting) since I bet you’re not performing any sort of cost-benefit analysis.

And maybe that’s OK; sometimes within a manageable scope and scale we just like to do nice things. Or maybe everyone in HR just wants to be able to bring their dogs to work too.

Just remember …  Yahoo ended work from homeBest Buy cancelled ROWE and that worn-out HR Manager cancelled the annual flu shot extravaganza.

So ask yourself this: “If, one day, we need to eliminate this activity, reward program, benefit package, or other condition of employment, how will that play in Peoria?”

THAT – my friends – is the million dollar question.