Tag Archive for communication

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.”

 

Using Employee Feedback to Drive Breakthroughs

guy at concert .. armsLast week I teamed up with the folks at ClearPicture to present a webinar on “Using Employee Feedback for Business Improvement.”  As we were speaking to an HR audience we focused on what many in human resources are familiar with – gathering employee feedback as part of an employee engagement survey.

We who work in the HR sphere can scarcely turn around without hearing, reading and talking about employee engagement yet even though we discuss this topic ad nauseum we still struggle to come up with a common definition ourselves; for purposes of the webinar we opted to use a definition from author Kevin Kruse “Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals.”

While we used the employee engagement survey as an example our webinar was not about engagement. Rather we talked about how HR professionals should approach any feedback process with a goal of gaining insight that can lead to business breakthroughs. Desired results are organization specific of course and will depend upon one’s industry, customers and organizational strategies.  Organizational goals often include revenue growth or cost-savings but could just as easily be superior project performance, better decisions or even, for government entities or non-profits, how to solve problems that concern citizens/constituents.

Our goal as presenters was to ensure that HR professionals view an employee feedback process in a holistic and enterprise-wide way – whether they have 200, 2,000 or 20,000 employees.

Five Step Process

Clarifying the purpose – At this stage it’s important to set the context and clarify the purpose for gathering feedback.  Answer the when, why and for what reason questions at the outset; include the compelling needs for gathering the data and explain how those needs are tied to organizational goals.

Gathering feedback – Determining the manner in which feedback will be gathered is critical in order to meet the needs of the audience. Several things come into play at this stage including determining the mix/types of questions (i.e., open-ended vs. closed-ended) as well as encouraging employee participation by thinking ‘like a marketer’ – crafting the right message and going to where the employee audience gathers which may include mobile, social or via some sort of gamified technology.

Analyzing the data – For the most part HR practitioners are not trained statisticians but they must put on their statistician hat (or work with someone who can assist them) at this stage in order to accurately review quantitiave vs. qualitative data and also to ensure they don’t fall into traps around causation or correlation or making invalid comparisons between seemingly related pieces of information.

Correlating the data – Remember how we talked about this feedback process having an enterprise-wide focus?  This is the stage where it truly becomes one. HR professionals should look beyond their traditional sources of HR data (HRIS, ATS, LMS, etc.) and link not just HR data and the feedback data but also see how data gathered from other parts of the business fits into the whole.  Questions to ask may be: What are the sales numbers for the company and how does that match up to the organizational hierarchy? What about customer or service trends?  How is shipping of product handled?  Do we have a call center where number of calls per day, customer satisfaction and time-spent-on-calls is tracked?  HR practitioners know that in those functional areas the leaders are tracking it all and now is the perfect opportunity to dive into the human/people elements related to these business operations.

Taking action – The biggest complaint from employees is that whenever feedback is asked for nothing is ever done so this final step is where communication should go into hyper drive.  While taking action includes setting goals, monitoring progress and holding people accountable it also includes ensuring that employees get answers to:

  • “what do we (leaders) know now that we didn’t know before” and, most importantly
  • “Who will be responsible?  When will it happen?  How will we monitor it?  WHO will do WHAT by WHEN?”

Three Key Items

Throughout any feedback process (such as an employee engagement survey) it’s important to:

  1. Have a purpose that is aligned with organizational strategy
  2. Communicate and clarify
  3. Take action by following through and following up

You can check out the presentation slides here. As an HR professional you can guide and influence organizational leaders in meaningful ways that can lead to successful business outcomes, improvements and breakthroughs.

From Informing to Engaging: Communicating Effectively in Organizations

colour office chairs 3dThe Trickle-Down Method

Once upon a time the flow of information in organizations followed a fairly predictable course; executives announced a new program, initiative or product and dictated the content to an administrative staffer who passed it on to a corporate communication staffer who fine-tuned the announcement. The memo (remember paper memos?) was typed up and cascaded down via the organizational hierarchy. Then, depending upon the strategic importance, an all-employee meeting might be called after which individual managers followed up and answered questions within their teams and departments.

After digesting the news, most employees simply went back to their jobs and decided that they would worry about the new initiative when it affected the work they needed to complete. “That’s a sales program,” an employee in the Accounting Department would think. “It has nothing to do with me.”

In this scenario both leaders and employees failed to understand that employees, no matter their role, are business partners for the entire enterprise. We wouldn’t withhold critical information from an external business partner, fail to ensure their understanding, or clarify their role in meeting goals yet many time we have done just that with our internal business partners – employees.

We’ve always known that engaging with our external business partners is necessary for success and now – finally – we understand that engaging with our employees is just as important.

Making Communications Employee-Centric

More organizations now understand that internal communication is an integral component for the reinforcement of their organizational culture; when, where and how they communicate with employees supports the organizational values by which they say they live. When company leaders focus on the manner of their internal communication and take steps to do it with intent, their employees/business partners are much better equipped to understand their role in driving strategy and attaining goals.

When defining an internal communication strategy designed to engage employees there are a few key things that will make sure employees are at the center of the process:

Ensure communication is targeted and timely. Focus on providing the right information to the right employees at the right time. Technology platforms can assist in targeting message by location, language, work groups, or other areas.

Promote interaction. To strengthen a culture of transparency and engagement ensure that conversations are two-way and not just top-down. Effective use of social business tools allows dialogue to open up and encourages informed and relevant conversations between leaders and employees and across organizational silos.

Consider format and platforms. Ensure that communication platforms are easy to access and tailored to the internal audience; desktops, tablets, and mobile-enhanced platforms can all be used to further goals of promoting conversation and encouraging feedback.

Measure engagement and interaction. When launching an internal communication strategy the most important step is determining how it aligns with strategy and how success will be defined and measured. There are numerous ways to monitor, measure and track not just consumption of information but also interaction and ultimately engagement.

While leaders may outline strategy, the employees are the ones who execute on the strategic vision or initiatives of the organization. Having genuine, honest, two-way dialogue allows individual employees to truly understand their role in furthering business goals and strategies.

 

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This post originally appeared on Bizzuka’s Big Idea blog.  Bizzuka provides custom Web site designinternet marketing, and intranet development services for small and medium sized business throughout the United States. In addition, Bizzuka is developing a syndicated messaging system which allows workforce communications to cut through the noise and deliver information effectively and promptly.

Strengthening Corporate Ethics in the Age of Social Sharing

binocularsLong gone are the days when a statement of ethics was merely a pithy saying written on a placard in the lobby of the corporate headquarters, part of the pre-amble in the employee handbook, and something that was discussed only during the on boarding process for new employees.

Organizations are now exploring ways to ensure ethical behavior is a core business competency and pursuing ways to ensure understanding and adherence amongst all stakeholders.

A recent article in the Baton Rouge Business Report listed 7 tips for creating an ethical workplace; Linda Fisher Thorton, author of 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership described that doing so can improve business and organizational culture. And while leaders may feel they have enough to do, spending time and effort building an ethical workplace culture is neither a feel-good exercise in futility nor merely a nice-to-do activity.

A foundation of strong ethical practices is also the foundation for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR); many of us have heard of this type of corporate self-regulation that is integrated and embedded within an organization’s business model. Corporate CSR programs have been shown to impact recruitment and retention of highly talented employees, provide brand differentiation and unique consumer value propositions, and, according to some, increased long term profits at organization. According to research from the Cone Millennial Cause group as highlighted in the book The 2020 Workplace, more than 50% of workers aged 18 – 25 said they would refuse to work for an irresponsible corporation.

So where, exactly, can organizational ethics, internal communication, and effective social collaboration interest? There are many ways in which you can make ethics, and by extension any CSR programs, part of your ongoing conversations:

  • Clearly define what ethical behavior means and communicate it continuously; a definition I frequently use is “doing the right thing even when no one is looking.”
  • Share you organization’s successes and stories on internal social channels and encourage employees to discuss them with each other. An example might be an occasion when a business relationship was ended due to the questionable ethical practices of a partner or client organization.
  • Ensure your HR Department clearly articulates and broadcasts that employee reward and incentive programs do not have the unintended consequences of rewarding unethical behavior. This is particularly true of sales incentive programs which may be unintentionally designed to reward the wrong behavior ‘just to hit sales quotas.’
  • Create a video series to share across internal social channels which clearly shows employees what ethical and socially responsible behavior looks like; film common and challenging scenarios that your employees may encounter and show them how to handle them.
  • Provide internal online resources so employees can learn how to deal with unethical behavior by 3rd parties; this can take the format of an FAQ series with questions such as “what do you do when a customer ask you to circumvent a company policy or procedure?” Allow your employees, manager and leaders to answer and discuss in order to enhance your social learning environment.
  • Consider gamifying the experience around ethics or CSR activities by using social technology and make sure, in particular, that your managers and leaders are recognizing the desired behavior. You can create an online space where employees receive kudos, earn badges, or aim to make it to the top of the leader board for “Doing the Right Thing.”

Creating a strong and culturally relevant ethics program that is clearly communicated and shared will ensure your stakeholders understand what it means to “do the right thing even when no one is looking.”

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This post originally appeared on Bizzuka’s Big Idea blog.  Bizzuka provides custom Web site designinternet marketing, and intranet development services for small and medium sized business throughout the United States. In addition, Bizzuka is developing a syndicated messaging system which allows workforce communications to cut through the noise and deliver information effectively and promptly.