Can People Analytics Strengthen your Internal Communication Strategy?

One of the largest challenges experienced by companies who grow quickly and broadly is that of communication.  It’s like the old childhood game of telephone. After it has been repeated 8 times, the message is no longer the same. It’s not on brand, it has lost its intent or worse yet, it is simply no longer factual.  Some companies are turning to People Analytics, a subset of Organizational Network Analytics (ONA),to start to solve these problems.

People Analytics allows organizations to visually see the flow of information within the company.  There are three main kinds of communicators, according to the Deloitte consulting firm, one of the main proponents of ONA. Central communicators are influential people who seem to know everyone, are up to date on important news, have lots of information to share and willingly share it. They can be located anywhere in a hierarchy and often times may be in lower level positions. Knowledge brokers, in contrast, facilitate information sharing by serving as bridges between nodes. These are people who are situationally connected based on a work product or short term project.  Peripheral communicators are low-profile people with poor or nonexistent connections to the organization. In order to have an effective communication strategy is has to be defined and executed with all three types of communicators in mind.  

Uses for ONA

For example, knowledge brokers often have important connections, not only situationally internal to the organization, but external to the organization as well.  This outside information and expertise can go underused if the broker lacks strong internal ties. Peripheral communicators are at risk of leaving the organization, which can be a detriment if their skills are highly valued. The insights from ONA may also reveal that people with formal authority and titles are not the real leaders of the organization. Identifying the leaders can, for example, speed buy-in and adoption of new initiatives.

Most companies have a strong focus on diversity and inclusion initiatives and companies can use ONA to spot exclusionary tendencies that might indicate discrimination or bias. Consciously creating project teams to ensure that there is diversity of experiences and thoughts goes a long way to securing the best outcome.  ONA can also help identify internal candidates for job openings and promotions. Strong communication skills are necessary at almost all levels in an organization.  

Workforce planning is another talent management function that can benefit from ONA. Managers can use the analysis to decide where to reassign people so they collaborate more effectively using the least amount of resources. ONA can help identify where work is being done and who is doing it, which can affect decisions about hiring, promoting and developing employees.

While not the only answer, ONA and the use of People Analytics can be one strategy to employ when contemplating your communication strategy.  Knowing where your starting point is, who your informal organizational leaders are and who you need to spend extra time with to ensure optimum levels of engagement is a big step forward!

Why you shouldn’t post a job description

sherrie-suski-descriptionsJob descriptions most certainly have their place.  Written accurately, they spell out the specific requirements for each position within the company, list essential job functions, any physical requirements and the education or certifications necessary.  However, few individuals are compelled to join a company based on a very dry outline of what the job entails. Employees today are looking for the story behind the company. What do they stand for? What is important to them?  Are they aligned with a candidates’ personal values? And how do the employees fit into that equation?

Zappos is a perfect example of a trend setting company that has done away with posting job descriptions altogether.  Instead of applying to specific jobs, their careers page allows candidates to opt-in to the Zappos community. People get to know the company on an informal basis instead of focusing on a job.

Here’s how they describe it on their Insights blog:

Anyone coming to our new careers site will see information about each department — our employees, the department’s unique culture, and which roles that department typically fills. Job seekers will have an opportunity to make an introduction to that department rather than apply for a specific position. The whole concept is to “take a look Inside Zappos.” Job seekers will get to take a look “Inside Finance,” “Inside Merch,” etc. If they look inside and like what they see, they can introduce themselves and become a “Zappos Insider.” Without the ability to apply for specific roles, we will no longer need to send inhumane rejection templates. Instead, we can begin to focus on long-term engagement.

Focusing on the company and attracting people who are aligned with your values is critically more important than sourcing for a specific skill set.  Often times, the skills for the jobs being hired for can be taught, but it is an uphill battle to convince someone who is not aligned with your culture that it really is the best way to do things, treat people, speak with residents etc..

Think for a moment about the difference in these two statements:

  1. Responsible for developing, enhancing, modifying and/or maintaining applications in the Global Markets environment
  2. Launch new trade application in the Global Markets environment

Which one is a call to action?  Which one says something about where the company is going and what is important to them?  And which one has the better chance of attracting a driven, high potential candidate?

This is a great picture of a skill set that was almost certainly not outlined in a traditional job description.  

Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want and to emphatically state who you are.  The old adage :if you don’t stand for something, you stand for nothing” is an immediate turn off to today’s top candidates!

Talent Optimization

sherrie-suski-optimizationI was recently nominated as a finalist for Optima’s Talent Optimization awards. As I was completing the forms, I stated to think about what really constitutes talent optimization.   How do we, as HR professionals, ensure that we are getting the best that each of our employees have to give each and every day?   At Tricon American Homes we truly have a people first strategy. Our contention has always been that if we treat our employees well and show them, not just tell them, that we truly care about them as whole individuals, then our employees, in turn, will show that same care and concern towards each other and our residents.   Our Purpose Statement “to go above and beyond with our time, care and service, so that lives and communities are enriched” says it all.  

Acquiring Talent

Optimizing talent begins with acquiring talent.  If you can’t get the right people in the door, you will never have the opportunity to optimize.  Therefore, external branding from a candidate perspective becomes important. While not the biggest fan of Glassdoor, we do have a rating of 4.7, one of the highest on Glassdoor.  Candidates will constantly tell us that the reason they applied is because our employees routinely rank us so highly on Glassdoor and they are looking for a culture that supports the employees.  This year we also won Fortune’s Great Place to Work designation. This designation means so much to us as it comes directly from our employees’ hearts and is completely anonymous.  Website design is another area of focus. Career pages should tell a story and be ever changing and engaging. Potential employees are looking to engage with current employees to find out what it is like to work there before they actually apply.  

Employee Programs

Our people first strategy has a number of different components.  Every employee participates in a 90 day on-boarding program that covers the basics as well as our culture and philosophy.  We ensure that each employee is given feedback on no less than a quarterly basis from their manager. This keeps the lines of communication open and helps to resolve small issues before they become big issues.   We have both ladder (vertical) and lattice ( horizontal) training opportunities for our entire workforce. With over 1600 course online that are all aligned to our performance-based core competencies and to our potential behaviors aligned with our talent planning programs, there is truly something for everyone!  Our Wellness program is another way we show our employees that we care.  This program focuses on social, emotional, financial, and physical wellness with opportunities for individual goals and team contests with prizes all around.

Results

The results of this approach speak for themselves.  We have driven turnover down from a high of 45% four years ago to under 20% today and under 10% in the professional level positions.   That is no easy feat in today’s economy where there are more jobs than there are people for the first time in 50 years.  This people first strategy has helped us to drive our time to hire down to under 21 days for non-exempt positions and under 30 days for exempt level positions.  With over 25% of our hires coming from internal promotions, our employees know that we take their career growth seriously.

 

The bottom line is that can’t go wrong treating people right!

Past Performance and Future Results

sherrie-suski-businessYou know those caveats that are posted on every website about every investment transaction?  The ones that say, “past performance is not an indicator of future results”. Those same warnings should be adequately displayed on every employee.  Past performance in one role, does not necessarily predict future performance in a different role or even the same role at a different time

 

Looking backwards- Performance Appraisals

Performance appraisal do a decent job of reflecting backwards.  What did an employee accomplish during the year? What goals were met? Where were their biggest wins?  There are a number of ways to conduct them, some infinitely better than others.

Annual- Annual performance appraisals are quickly, but not quickly enough, in my opinion, going by the wayside.  They have a tendency to really only be focused on the last quarter because asking any manager to remember what accomplishments their 5-10 direct reports had a year ago is a hefty task.

Quarterly- Many companies are taking steps in the right direction and moving to quarterly reviews.  These have a few benefits: They decrease the time between action and remediation if necessary, allow for more frequent communication between a manager and his/her direct reports and help to align individual objectives more closely with ever changing company objectives.

Realtime- a few companies have successfully mastered real time feedback. An open social media type platform where feedback is given on a continuous basis, sometimes daily, sometimes weekly, but it an ever-flowing stream of communication similar to a SnapChat streak, but without the pictures- don’t want to miss a day!

360- the really advanced organization have mastered the art of 360 feedback. This is quite a bit harder than it seems because the landmines are around accepting feedback, not just giving it.  For this method to be effective, you have to have a self-actualized workforce who is mature enough to handle and disseminate meaningful constructive feedback at all levels throughout the organization.  

 

Looking Forwards- Talent Planning

Organizations have realized that doing an annual performance appraisal and setting a few goals for the next year is far from a perfect process.  They know they need to develop leaders to be able to assume increasingly complex roles, but how? In steps Talent (sometimes known as Succession) planning.  Talent Planning looks forward.  It asks the question- what skills do I need to be able to have a greater impact on the organization? What is my potential?

Impact and potential are defined differently depending on who you talk to and what the organizational culture is.  In general terms having greater impact can be defined as having characteristics of Intellectual Curiosity, Critical thinking, Innovation, Agility, Change Management and Collaboration.  It is those traits that allow an individual to go beyond where they are today and tackle projects that will have a greater impact on the organization going forward. Not everyone who is a top performer will automatically score high on potential, nor should they.  Every organization needs a core of employees who are content being specialists and growing horizontally and not vertically!

Executive Coaching

Does Executive Coaching deliver on the promised results? The answer to that question lies in setting the appropriate expectations at both the organizational and the individual level.  The best coaches in the world cannot affect change with an unwilling participant and/or in an unsupportive environment. But what about a willing participant in a supportive environment?  What is needed in the process to not only affect immediate change, but sustain long lasting change, the kind that can make or breaks careers?

Most executive coaches are, in fact, behavioral coaches. If an executive is displaying behaviors that are in conflict with the organizational values or are simply not in their own best interests as a leader, then a coach versed in behavioral theory may well be an effective solution. Coaching works best with high potential people who are willing to make a concerted effort to change. This effort requires hard and sustained work on the leader’s part.  Most executive coaches will not take assignments that are less than 6 months and many run for up to 18 months with longer check in times.  That’s because change takes awhile before it becomes a habit that is repeatable without having to think about it. The leader has to truly want to change.  There is no magic bullet an executive coach brings that will allow the leader to succeed without putting in the effort.

The organizational environment has to be supportive as well. Organizations are made up of people, all with their own agendas, some noble and others not so much.  It sounds simple enough, but everyone involved in the coaching exercise has to want to person being coached to succeed.  If a senior member of the management team secretly hopes the coach returns after the initial assessment to say that the leader is not coachable, unwilling to participate or that it is some innate character flaw that cannot be addressed through behavioral change, then the likelihood of success is low.  For this reason, it is important for the coach to take the time needed to ask the hard questions and to continue to probe until he/she is satisfied that the coaching exercise is being pursued for the right reasons.

The Benefits of Executive Coaching

Enhanced Productivity

An effective coach can assist the leader in prioritizing multiple initiatives ensuring that the focus remains on those most critical to driving the business forward.  The coach can also serve as another person to hold the leader accountable for deliverables and can push back when excuses are given.

Empowered Decision Making

Executive coaching focuses on what is important and can support the leader in making empowered decisions that they may hesitate to make otherwise. Executive coaching assists in gaining clarity and helps to develop plans to minimize distractions and focus on actions that align with the business mission, vision, value, and goals.

Effective Feedback and Communication

The key to evaluating performance and driving change is truthful feedback, and there can be no better way for you to get quality feedback than by using a coach. Effective communication and collaboration in a business setting are key areas that drive the business outcomes. Good coaches will solicit feedback from 4-6 constituents across the organization to gain a well rounded view of the leaders communication style.

Emotional Intelligence and Empathy

Emotional intelligence is the “the ability to recognize your emotions, understand what they’re telling you, and realize how your emotions affect people around you. It also involves your perception of others: when you understand how they feel, this allows you to manage relationships more effectively.” In other words, your own emotional self-awareness serves as an aid to understanding other people’s emotions; furthermore, you respond with empathy to their needs. You can see why emotional intelligence is so crucial to leadership positions. A coach can point out areas where they think leaders are misreading or ignoring situations calling out for EQ.  

In closing, executive coaching can be extremely useful in situations where the leader and the organization are willing, honest  and hopeful participants in the process.

Organizational Culture

sherrie-suski-cultureWelcome to 2019! It’s hard to know where to begin on your journey toward improving organizational culture if you don’t know where you are currently.  There are a number of different ways to measure culture……… satisfaction surveys, pulse surveys, MBWA, but it is sometimes helpful to have a framework in which to fit your feedback results.  Do you know what your end goal looks like and the steps needed to get from here…. to there?

The journey toward assessing and improving your organizational culture can be roughly broken down into the below five stages.

Functional

Learning and talent are often separate processes. Both are regarded as necessary for HR operations, but they are distinct from how business is done. Most employees do not regard the culture as engaging. Culture is frequently hierarchical. HR may conduct an engagement survey periodically but the inertia behind addressing some of the engagement challenges is low.

Cross- functional

Executive support for learning and talent is more evident but the culture is still principally characterized as a top/down command and control philosophy. The organizational structure is fairly hierarchical, but employees see opportunity for career advancement and mobility. Senior leaders are not purposefully driving efforts to enhance the culture or the level of execution and engagement among employees.

Building

Learning and talent begin to converge based on an awakening of how they can be leveraged to achieve better business outcomes. It is frequently at this stage that the organization becomes focused on quarterly or annual goals.  Employees recognize a shift toward more people-centric strategies as executives support more initiatives that strengthen the culture. Key to success in this phase is the degree of middle management support. Information flow becomes more organic.

Enhancing

An inspired, growth-minded organization is recognized as a true learning culture with a people-first philosophy. The organization is innovating and responds quickly to market changes, often seizing first-mover advantage and outstanding talent. Execution and engagement studies are regularly conducted to measure the tempo of the employee culture and there is wide-spread support for adjusting tactics when signs of engagement begin to drop.  Goals and a goal-based philosophy are adopted across the organization and embedded into the culture.

Optimized

A self-developing ecosystem drives change at individual and organizational levels. Collaboration and transparency in career and development abound. Employee ideas are valued and encouraged regardless of level. The organization is agile and consistently at the front of its field. The people culture is at the heart of the organizational philosophy. As such, multiple measures of employee engagement are used and there may be a dedicated function aligned to the candidate and employee experience. Highly sought after employer.

Not every organization will achieve the optimized state, but it is, nevertheless, a worthy goal.  The closer you can get, the better your organization will be from both an employee and investor perspective!

Wellness Programs

 

Bring up the word Wellness and what immediately jumps to mind is usually ways to improve the physical health of the workforce.  However, true wellness covers a broader spectrum and includes, not only physical, but emotional and financial wellness as well. Especially at this time of year when the urge to overspend is likely, a targeted approach towards financial wellness makes all the sense.  Similar to overeating and alter regretting it, over spending comes with its own regret and last log after the start of the new year and take much longer to rectify than losing a few pounds.  

The most effective Financial Wellness programs, however, are not a one size fits all.  A new study by Prudential Financial, Inc. examined differences in the financial needs and attitudes of various underserved groups in the workplace and the income inequality that affects each set. The 3,000 U.S. respondents included women, African Americans, Latino Americans, Asian Americans, caregivers, and members of the LGBTQ community.

Among key findings in the survey, African Americans across all income levels were more likely than the population at large to prioritize helping others financially, including caring for parents or other family members, paying their children’s college tuition, leaving an inheritance to their heirs, and giving to charity. Women in the survey earned an average annual income of $52,521, compared with $84,006 for men. Half of women said they were the primary breadwinner in their household. Almost 40% of caregivers don’t think they’ll ever be able to retire, compared to just 25% of non-caregivers, and caregivers were more likely to take out a loan or hardship withdrawal from their 401(k) plans.

In a statement, Lata Reddy, Prudential’s senior vice president, Diversity, Inclusion & Impact, said a person’s path to financial wellness is deeply personal. “While there are common experiences that tie us all together, there are also distinct factors that are unique to our individual journeys that impact the ultimate destination,” she said. “These factors need to be clearly understood for true progress to be made.” Reddy recommended that employers listen to the people in each community to understand their needs.

This ties in nicely with the Workforce of One approach that I am so an advocate of.  Programs created for the “average” employee are serving no one, because no one is the “average” employee.  Just like the Target page that pops up with different recommendations depending on who is logging in, we need to design our HR programs to ensure that we are meeting the needs of individuals.

Corporate Wellness Programs

 

There is some truth to the saying that “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.   And more employers are taking a holistic approach to their employees’ health and well being.  Not only is it good for the employees, it’s good for the company’s bottom line! To effectively integrate an approach toward health and wellness into the workplace, though, requires planning, education and a platform.  Enter the new breed of Wellness portals. Wellness portals are a critical piece of a total wellness solution.

Wellness portals are online platforms designed with responsive design in mind so that they can be accessed from any device at any time.  Wellness Portals offer a place for every member of your workforce to access secure, personal information having to do with their particular paths toward wellness. They will be able to track their progress in a wide variety of different program activities, set goals for themselves, and see these goals achieved which creates motivation to set new goals.

The Best Wellness Platforms Should Be Able To:

  1. Conduct a confidential Personal Health Assessment
    2. Educate (videos, books, webinars, biometric results)
    3. Track program participation and activity
    4. Make engagement easy with a mobile app
    5. Track and administer incentives and rewards
    6. Demonstrate how to be healthy
    7. Provide the tools needed to be healthy
    8. Deliver behavior change campaigns and challenges
    9. Encourage social support
    10. Create a health promoting culture

If you choose, Biometric screening can be integrated with your wellness portal so that the results of any screenings your employees have done can be accessed through their own portal and they can keep track of screenings year over year to track progress.  

Although a wellness portal is a fantastic, some employers believe that having an employee wellness portal is the same as having a wellness program. They mistakenly assume that all their company needs to improve employee health and reduce health care costs is get their employees to go online. A wellness portal is not a wellness program. It’s a computer software program that can be used to help deliver wellness programming and help manage the process. They have all of the features and benefits that come from the computer coding and programming and are tools to encourage and promote a healthy lifestyle!

The Decision Process versus the Outcome

Consciously or unconsciously, we all tend to associate good decision-making processes with good outcomes and bad decision-making processes with bad outcomes.  This philosophy allows us to feel in control. All we need to do is to ensure that we hone our decision-making skills and we can nearly guarantee a positive outcome.

Unfortunately, this just isn’t always the case.  When we uncouple the decision from the outcome, we know that we say it’s a bummer or call it unfair when what we consider a good decision process, results in a bad outcome and good luck when a bad decision process results in a good outcome.  

“Don’t be so hard on yourself when things go badly and don’t be so proud of yourself when they go well.” I think this is one of the hardest pieces of advice to follow. Chance, timing and place are important contributors to any outcome.

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Success is what is called a lagging indicator. We can only report on it after it has happened.  Decision Processes, on the other hand, are leading indicators of success. Well-honed Decision Processes establish some degree of repeatability in a world where chance roams freely.  So, spend your time focusing on the quality of your decision processes and not your outcomes.

Your Context Determines Your Results

sherrie-suski-context

Imagine for a moment that two people are attending the same event.  One walks into the room with the excitement of meeting new people and networking.  She is excited about what may unfold; the other, feeling insecure, dreads the event.  She fears it will be awkward and that small talk will not come easily. Strangely enough, that is exactly what happens.  The first person has a fabulous time, meets dozens of new people, is memorable and leaves the event feeling exhilarated. The 2nd person, chooses to arrive late and leave early, to spend as little time as possible in an uncomfortable environment.  Oddly, each person experiences the exact same event differently, but exactly as their initial context would have predicted.  Why is that?

Context

It is because our context sets off a whole chain of predictable events.  Our context is what we believe about something, it is our internal speak, our expectations that we set about something or someone.  The funny thing about context is that it works in a very predictable way to create results.

Assessment

When we assess a situation, we look at it form our particular point of context.  What we see and hear, our assessment, depends on our context.  In our example, the first person walks in and sees everyone smiling and laughing and is excited to join the conversation.  The second person walks in and assesses the situation whereby everyone already has a group and she is not a part of it. She doesn’t know what they are talking about and believes she will not fit in.

Emotions

The emotions are created based on our assessment of a situation.  The first woman feels emotions related to excitement, energy, enthusiasm and, perhaps, most importantly, belonging.  The second woman feels emotions related to insecurity, fear, loneliness and lack of belonging. Both set of emotions have been reinforced by their assessment of the situation.

Behaviors

Behaviors require action.  However, the actions we choose are a direct reflection on the context, behaviors and emotions that preceded them.  One woman spends time moving from group to group, contributing to each conversation.  The other woman joins one group, quietly listens, does not feel comfortable contributing and decides to escape the uncomfortableness and leaves the event early.

Results and outcomes

Last in the chain of events comes results.  Results are what we make happen or allow to happen to us- the choice is ours.  In both cases, the initial context has been reaffirmed. The first woman is likely to go to another event- she perceives that everyone liked her and she made new contacts.  The second woman confirmed that these types of events are uncomfortable, that groups form quickly, and she does not possess the social skills to join in.

Think, for a moment, about the recent results in your life and the context you have that precedes them.  Could the results have been changed if your context had been different? Don’t you owe it to yourself to try?