Your Context Determines Your Results

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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?

 

 

Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

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Diversity is not just the range of human differences, but acknowledging, understanding, accepting, and valuing differences among people including, but not limited to, race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, social class, physical ability or attributes, religious or ethical values system, national origin, and political beliefs.  Diversity and Inclusion programs are developed in the workplace to ensure that people of all types are included at all levels of the organization and can draw on each other’s strengths and experiences.

The world’s increasing globalization requires more interaction among people from diverse backgrounds. People no longer live and work in an insular environment; they are now part of a worldwide economy competing within a global framework. For this reason, organizations need to become more diversified to remain competitive. Maximizing and capitalizing on workplace diversity is an important issue for management.

Managers need to recognize the ways in which the workplace is changing and evolving. Managing diversity is a significant organizational challenge, so managerial skills must adapt to accommodate a multicultural work environment.

Effective managers are aware that certain skills are necessary for creating a successful, thriving, diverse workforce.

First, managers must understand discrimination and its consequences.

Before we can truly embrace a diverse workforce, managers must understand that discrimination hurts us all, not just the person who is of a different ethnicity, but those who have to witness it.  It creates a divide in the workplace and is counter to the desire to collaborate.

Second, managers must recognize their own cultural biases and prejudices.

Each individual is unique and does not represent or speak for a particular group. When creating a successful diverse workforce, an effective manager should focus on personal awareness. Both managers and employees need to be aware of their personal biases. Therefore, organizations need to develop, implement, and maintain ongoing training because a one-day session of training will not change people’s behaviors.

Finally, managers must be willing to change the organization if necessary.

Organizations need to learn how to manage diversity in the workplace to be successful in the future. When dealing with diversity, managers must promote a safe place for associates to communicate. Social gatherings and business meetings, where every member must listen and have the chance to speak, are good ways to create dialogues. Managers should implement policies such as mentoring programs to provide employees access to information and opportunities. Also, employees should never be denied necessary, constructive, critical feedback for learning about mistakes and successes, due to concerns about a person’s differences.

Managing diversity is about more than equal employment opportunity and affirmative action. Is it about embracing each of our unique differences.

Performance Management is not an Annual Exercise

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There is a dwindling focus on the traditional annual performance appraisal and a there is a growing trend toward developing feedback loops that give continuous, real time feedback to employees. According to the 2018 State of Continuous Performance Management Survey,  conversations about aligning business goals, check-ins on progress and periodic feedback should be used to manage and continuously motivate employee performance.

HR respondents in the study identified their top three goals for their performance management program as creating and maintaining feedback and coaching cultures, retaining high performing talent and training the workforce on needed skills. To better manage and motivate workers, Betterworks said, employers can help employees find purpose and direction among change, connect employee contributions to the organization’s larger goals and identify and reward top performers.

In a Wakefield Research study, more than 60% of employees said they feel the traditional performance review is outdated, and nearly all respondents said they prefer that managers address performance issues and development opportunities in real-time. Frequent, informal assessments allow workers to improve or correct their performance with immediacy.

Ideally, having a robust performance management platform can assist in giving and receiving real time feedback, create an environment where information is sought out and shared, build engagement and detail plans for talent learning opportunities and enhancements.  Employees want to know not only how their past performance has been, but the plans for their future as well. Consider the below:

  • More than 90% of 18 to 34-year-old workers say a clear succession plan would boost their level of engagement
  • 94% of employers report that having a succession plan positively impacts the entire workforce.
  • 32% of people say they’d quit if there was no room to learn, grow, or advance at their job.
  • Succession programs have been shown to have a positive impact on employee retention. By preparing high-potential and high-performing employees for progression in the organization, and investing in their development, you demonstrate an organizational commitment to them that will most often be reciprocated.
  • Companies with sound succession plans are correlated with better long-term performance.

Succession Planning or Talent planning, which refers developing plans for the whole organization, are a primary outcome of a solid, on-going Performance Management approach that many companies are moving toward today. It is a win-win scenario for both employees and employers alike!

 

Sensationalism in the Workplace

Usually when we hear the word “sensationalism” our thoughts immediately turn to some form of media coverage be it through the internet, TV, or radio.  The news is often blamed for sensationalism. Wikipedia suggests “Sensationalism is a type of editorial bias in mass media in which events and topics in news stories and pieces are overhyped to present biased impressions on events, which may cause a manipulation to the truth of a story. Sensationalism may have reporting about generally insignificant matters and events that do not influence overall society and biased presentations of newsworthy topics in a trivial or tabloid manner contrary to the standards of professional journalism.” However, are we often guilty of the same type of sensationalism in the workplace?

In the workplace, it is likely that the same motivations are at play, minus the advertisers’ dollars perhaps. People probably sensationalize in order to attract attention, promote an agenda, or distract from an issue.

To Attract Attention

There are two primary reasons that people feel the need to attract attention to themselves:

Lack of self worth can be a cause for attention seeking behavior. Some people think that they are overlooked and so they think that the only solution to restore their balance is to bring back the lost attention. The attention they will get in this case will provide them with reassurance and will help them think that they are worthy.

Arrogant & overconfident people may seek attention because they have the feeling that they deserve to be in the center of attention. Because they aren’t mature enough they still think with their inner child’s mentality which makes them believe that they are the center of the world.

To Promote an Agenda

People often feel if they can appeal to the emotions of others, instead of having to put in the hard work of creating a case using data, that they can push their ideas through.  This approach is often used in combination with the desire to distract from real issues

Distract from an Issue

In most circumstances, sensationalism is used to distract from or deflect the real issue.  It is created to serve a small subset of the population, or, in the worst cases, only the person creating the sensationalism.   When someone starts asking logical questions, asking for data to back up the accusations, it falls apart quickly and the person will respond with additional emotion or accuse you of not wanting to deal with the problem.  Staying calm and continuing your quest for the data is usually the best approach.

Sensationalism in the workplace is driven by hidden agendas, self-serving  scenarios and egos. Let’s make sure we approach discussions with open agendas, data based decisions and a calm demeanor.

Identifying Lead Measures

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Many organizations go to great lengths to track and report on lag measures.  A Lag Measure measures the ultimate goal you are trying to accomplish, such as an increase in sales or profits, or a decrease in turnover, however, it is always in the past.  While useful, the challenge, and benefit, comes when we spend the time to figure out the lead measures. How do we impact turnover or how to we move the needle on cost per hire?  It is impossible to reliable impact your lag measures without understating all aspects of lead measures.  Lead measure are the measures of the activities most connected to achieving the goal.

Lead measures have two advantages, they are both predictive, meaning they lead to the accomplishment of the Lag Measure or goal, and they are influenceable, meaning you can do something about them. Lead Measures are about narrowing your focus down to the 2 or 3 things that “trigger” success, or your end goal.  If you understand your lead measures, you can more consistently and predictably replicate your success

In the example of employee turnover, a lag measure, what might influence that?  If our goal is to decrease turnover to 10% per year, what leading measures do we need to focus on to achieve that goal?  Some examples could be employee satisfaction, employee engagement, time to respond to an interview request. All of these need to be measured and focus needs to be given to 2-3 that can reliably be shown to have a positive impact on reducing turnover. Choosing only 2-3 will allow you the best chance of success.

Spend time thinking about where your focus lies.  Does it lie on a lag measure that is out of your control or on a lead measure(s) that you can actually control?  Lead measures track the critical activities that drive, or lead to the lag measure.  They predict success of the lag measure and are influenced directly by the team. A common example of a lag measure is weight loss. Which activities or lead measures will lead to weight loss? Diet and exercise! Proper diet and exercise predict the success of weight-loss and they are activities that we can directly influence. Simple enough but be careful. Even the smartest people fall into the trap of fixating on a lag measure that they can’t directly influence. This is because lags are easier to measure and they represent the result we ultimately want

In summary, Lag measures give you the score, but Lead measure tell you how to win!

Locus of Control

Most recently I heard Locus of Control referenced on an episode of Bull I was half watching on my way to Tampa.  The question he posed to prospective jurors was “Why do you catch a cold?”. Those with an external locus of control answered “ because I was exposed to germs” or something along those lines.  Those with an internal locus of control answered “Because I let myself get run down”. You can quickly discern the difference. One believes things happen to them and the other believes they are in control and they make or allow things to happen

Locus of control is a psychological concept that refers to how strongly people believe that they have control over the situations and experiences that affect their lives. A person with an internal locus of control believes that he or she can influence events and their outcomes, while someone with an external locus of control blames outside forces for everything.  Infrequently does anyone fall exclusively in one category or the other. Most people fall on a continuum somewhere between the two

Your locus of control can influence not only how you respond to the events that happen in your life, but also your motivation to take action. If you believe that you hold the keys to your fate, you are more likely to take action to change your situation when needed. If on the other hand, you believe that the outcome is out of your hands, you may be less likely to work toward change.

Think about that for a minute in terms of your workforce:

Those With an Internal Locus of Control

  • Are more likely to take responsibility for their actions
  • Tend to be less influenced by the opinions of other people
  • Often do better at tasks when they are allowed to work at their own pace
  • Usually, have a strong sense of self-efficacy
  • Tend to work hard to achieve the things they want
  • Feel confident in the face of challenges
  • Tend to be physically healthier
  • Report being happier and more independent
  • Often achieve greater success in the workplace

Those With an External Locus of Control

  • Blame outside forces for their circumstances
  • Often credit luck or chance for any successes
  • Don’t believe that they can change their situation through their own efforts
  • Frequently feel hopeless or powerless in the face of difficult situations
  • Are more prone to experiencing learned helplessness

Which set of characteristics do you believe yield more motivated and productive employees?  Perhaps we should add to our long list of questions during interviews, “Why do you catch a cold?”

How to Handle a Workplace Bully

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We have talked about how to identify a workplace bully.  Now, how do you handle the bully that you encounter? Bullies, in general, prey on people’s insecurities and emotional nature.  The key is to remain calm and portray an air of confidence.

Don’t respond to emotionally criticism or offer explanations

Although this sounds counterproductive, the bully will often make outlandish claims in order to reel you into a fighting match.  You don’t want to give them fuel for their fire.  Instead of defending yourself in an emotional manner, simply state the facts.  “I don’t believe that happened” or “that is not how I recall the events” When your reply emotionally you let the bully know that he/she has gotten to you.

Do ask them to clarify and to speak slowly

The bully depends on being able to throw out accusations at record speed without anyone actually questioning them.  When forced to slow down, repeat themselves or offer actual facts, the bully will often feel deflated.

Document

If the bully is really out of line, no one deserves to be harassed.  Document the conversations, the way someone looked, what was said, threats made, etc..  All of this will be necessary if you ever have to claim a hostile work environment which will require that you have multiple examples. 

If you happen to be in a state that is a single consent recording state, record.  It is legal for you to record any verbal exchanges you have with the bully to be used when you make a formal complaint.

Teach People how to Treat you

In other words, don’t teach people that you are someone who will allow unprofessional behavior to occur without consequences.  If someone is yelling at you, calmly state “ I am not going to allow you to yell at me. We can continue this conversation when you have been able to calm down” and walk out of the room. 

Use your Allies

Everyone in business needs allies. Build them early and spend time reinforcing those bonds. They will serve as a double check that you are not doing anything to instigate this behavior and help provide support the next time the person is out of line.

Unfortunately, bullies are found in all walks of life and at all ages.  Educating yourself, in advance, on how to handle a situation before it occurs is one of the best ways to be proactive and ensure that you will look back on the situation, proud of how you handled yourself.

The Workplace Bully

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The word bully conjures up many images.  Perhaps, an elementary or middle school playground and physical intimidation. Maybe, in the technological age in which we live, bullies, the cowards they are, hiding behind social media and conducting their campaigns with anonymity but no less vengeance.  Seldom, though, when we hear the word bully, do our thoughts turn immediately to the workplace. And yet, bullies exist in the workplace as well. These bullies are a bit more calculating than their schoolyard counterparts. Not often will you find a workplace bully who comes up and pushes you to ground.  Instead, these types of bullies take great care to plant the seeds that they hope will 1) lead you to fall in line with their own selfish initiatives or 2) lead to your demise.

The most effective bullies employ a skillful blend of charm and aggression that can carry them to the top of their profession.  The below are the basics of how most bullies operate:

Intimidates through verbal aggression and spreads rumors

This verbal aggression could be directed at you in an angry voice but could also be something more insidious said about you that is intended to plant a seed of doubt in someone’s mind.  Bullies will often use words such as “obviously” and “you can’t possibly think…” to undermine your credibility and have you second guessing yourself.

Play Mind Games to distort the thinking of others

They keep people off-balance through half-truths, hearsay and misstatements. Their distorted version of events is intended to obscure and confuse the truth.  The only truth the bully is interested in is their own that will further their personal initiatives.

Blames Others

It is a very rare bully that will utter the words “I was wrong”.  In their mind, it is always someone else’s fault and there is no one quicker to point it out than a workplace bully.  They will often claim that they understood all along that the path being pursued was incorrect.

Disguises their true intentions

A bully puts on a good act to gain your trust and respect. They never reveal their true intentions, which are self-serving and at most times harmful to others. They conceal their innermost attitudes and emotions, which are self-absorbed and disrespectful of others. They maintain an image of strength, vision and leadership, and thus avoid exposing their underhanded, manipulative nature.

Pretends to Care

The bully will pretend to care about the employees and the workplace, but their actions will speak louder than words.  The bully will make suggestions and want you to carry out actions that are not in line with a strong employee culture built on trust.

Bullies have no place whether it be on the playground, on social media or in the workplace.  It is imperative that Human Resources be vigilant in identifying and addressing bullying behavior before the ramifications of high turnover or stress related disabilities start to take their toll.

The Employee Experience

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There are a multitude of ways, and just as many reasons,  to design a positive and unique employee experience. Developing a strategy to create an employee experience should takes into account the physical environment your employees work in, the tools and technologies that enable their productivity and learning to achieve their best at work. All of this is part of continuously evolving our employee capabilities. The Future Workplace and Beyond.com study entitled “The Active Job Seeker Dilemma” found that 83% of HR leaders said “employee experience” is either important or very important to their organization’s success, and they are investing more in training (56%), improving their work spaces (51%), and giving more rewards (47%). 

Companies are also forced to focus on creating a compelling employee experience as the war for talent heats up. With unemployment rates at less than 2% for 25+ year olds with college degrees, the experience you are offering becomes more important than ever.  Mercer predicts that 90% of employers anticipate more competition for talent, especially in India, North America and Asia. So, making the workplace an experience allows companies to embed their culture and values in the workplace and use this to their advantage.

Branding

Define your employment brand. Just like a company brand that helps customers understand who you are, how you act, and how you differentiate, companies also have an employment brand, whether it is conscious or not. It’s best if your employment brand is created consciously. Define your employee brand and deliver on your promise. Be sure that if your recruiters are promising a fun-filled work environment, the new employees won’t find drudgery and old technology awaiting them.

Work Space design

Most workplaces are “designed mostly for extroverts and their need for lots of stimulation.” Introverts are highly talented individuals with a very different set of needs and characteristics. So, companies should ask, “How can we accommodate both our introverts and our extroverts in our work spaces?”  Spaces should be designed to allow employees a choice of where and how they work. Some may choose high cube walls, where they can recoup form the pressures of interacting with others all day. Others may choose a very open environment where they are bombarded by noise, chatter and stimulation.  Both types of employees have much to offer but will be more highly engaged if allowed to meet their individual needs.

Free to Share

Gallup’s data revealed that just three in 10 U.S. workers strongly agree that at work, their opinions seem to count and matter. However, they found that by moving that ratio to six in 10 employees, organizations could realize a 27% reduction in turnover, a 40% reduction in safety incidents and a 12% increase in productivity.  Reason enough to conduct regular Pulse Surveys on a variety of topics, ensuring that you feed back the results and the follow up action plan.

 

Trust in Leadership

Little else matters to employees if they don’t trust their leadership and the leadership of the company.  In the old adage “actions speak louder than words” we need to say what we do and do what we say. Trust is built a little at a time over a long period of time yet can be destroyed very rapidly.  Employees know when you truly care about them and their lives in and out of work.

There is no magic to creating an employee experience.  It’s all about understanding what your employees want and need and then finding a way to consistently deliver.

Predictive Analytics in Human Resources

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Unemployment rates across the nation are at 3.9%, the lowest we have seen since 1969. Unemployment rates in the college degreed 25+ age group are even lower hovering around 2.1%.  In this kind of an economic environment, it becomes critically important that we can retain our good employees and attract the kind of talent that can ensure we stay ahead of the competition.  The question is HOW??

Enter the world of Predictive Analytics. It is, at its core, a technology that learns from existing data and uses this to forecast individual behavior. This means that predictions are very specific.  Instead of predicting turnover as an aggregate number for the end of the year, using PA, we can stat to predict which employees have a greater chance of turning over. Predictive analytics involves using a set of various statistical (data mining) techniques used to predict uncertain outcomes.

People analytics today brings together HR and business data from different parts of the business and is now addressing a wide range of challenges: analyzing flight risk, selecting high-performing job applicants, identifying characteristics of high-performing sales and service teams, predicting compliance risks, analyzing engagement and culture, and identifying high-value career paths and leadership candidates.

To put theory into practice, we first need to gather clean data.   This may prove more difficult than you originally thought but stick with it.  You need to identify as many variables as possible. Think of basic pieces of information like homes address, to calculate driving time and distance to work, gender and pay grade and comparatio.  Think also about collecting more obscure data like number of vacation hours or sick time used, personality or behavioral assessments and whether or not they elect health insurance through your company.  You are looking for any data where you would find a stronger correlation between that variable, or set of variables, and employees who terminate versus employees whom you retain. Once you have designed the algorithm, it will be time to put it to the test.  Give yourself at least 6 months to collect data and test the validity of the algorithm.

Although 79% of organizations consider people analytics to be an important trend, according to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends (2016) report, only 8 % of the organizations had this capability in 2015.  It is one of the best tools we have for bringing HR out of the emotional, gut feel realm and into the world of  data based decision making, yielding quantifiable and sustainable results.