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Archive for February, 2008

Encourage Job Hopping

Posted by Amy Wilson on February 25, 2008

resume.jpgI am adding some thoughts to Mark and Meg’s posts on talent mobility.

Let’s suppose the following three statements are true:

1) people do better when they change jobs every 2-3 years

2) organizations benefit when people do better

3) managers get more money when organizations benefit

So, why do managers hoard talent? Why do employees feel stuck in their position and the only way out is to leave the company? Why do organizations have a policy of internal mobility, but not a culture of internal mobility?

All of the leading organizations I meet with have a policy in favor of internal mobility. The policy usually says something like “Employees that have been in their positions for one year and have satisfactory performance are eligible to apply for another position.” That’s nice. But, where’s the policy that encourages managers to transfer their employees after they have worked successfully in their current role for 2-3 years?

Few of the leading organizations I meet with have such a policy or even the encouragement of such an idea. That said, those few are doing some very cool things, mostly around emphasizing statement 3 above (more money!): calling out leaders that are “talent producing” and making this a key factor for promotion, tying incentives directly to giving away talent, ensuring that managers will get what they need (resources) to meet their objectives.

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

What’s in a name?

Posted by Mark Bennett on February 25, 2008

Seth Godin’s idea about changing the name of “HR” to “Talent” might work best when combined with the notion of branching HR into a professional practice (“HR”) and a decision science (“Talent”.) “Talent” would focus on what Seth describes – doing “something amazing” by figuring out how to get the most out of talent. “HR” would focus on delivering the best programs for making that happen. Each is important in what it focuses on and they depend heavily on each other, This focused approach also helps address Seth’s point that a name change can end up just being spin unless you change what you do.

The idea of branching HR into a professional practice and a decision science has been getting more attention recently and more companies are beginning to adopt this approach. Mercer Human Resource Consulting published a 2006 point of view,HR Transformation v2.0: It’s all about the business” that suggested “bifurcating” HR as a way to provide better focus on both the strategic talent decision needs of the company as well as the continued needs of the company for improved programs and services. “Beyond HR: The New Science of Human Capital“, by John W. Boudreau and Peter Ramstad, discusses the development of a decision science for talent, evolved from the HR professional practice, with the objective of improving organizational decisions regarding talent. It draws a parallel with the development of the finance decision science from the accounting professional practice and of marketing from sales. Both finance and marketing have enabled more effective decision making, while accounting and sales continue to improve delivery of programs, measures, practices, and so on.

What’s interesting that Boudreau and Ramstad note, and relates to Seth’s (and others’) observation of what needs to change in HR, is that the development of the finance and marketing decision sciences occurred when the markets they work in started to become an increasing source of competitive advantage. Many recognize that we are now at the stage in the history of business where the talent market is becoming more the source of competitive advantage. While some can question whether a name change can help at all, Seth is correct that a name change can trigger the change in thinking required in order to focus on what needs to be done differently. That change, with the right leadership, could be best done in the context of a new Talent department that functions in synergy with the HR professional practice.

Posted in hr transformation | Leave a Comment »

Love is in the Air

Posted by Amy Wilson on February 21, 2008

valentinesday.jpgI first fell in love with “my job” when I joined Peoplesoft in the 90’s.  I didn’t realize why at the time, other than the fact that I got paid more and could fly home from my assignment on Thursdays instead of Fridays.  Years later, I find myself intoxicated by the research area of employee engagement and I know exactly why:  I was valued (and optimally leveraged), I was developing new skills, and I had a strong sense of community and pride.

Over the years, “my job” and I have had fights and I’ve even considered leaving on occasion.  But I’ve always been able to re-ignite that spark through new, exciting projects, rewarding relationships, and opportunities for growth. 

“My job” and I recently celebrated our 10th anniversary.  We’ve never been happier.

(Happy Valentine’s Day … err Week)

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

Thoughts on Retention

Posted by Meg Bear on February 19, 2008


While I anxiously anticipate my Valentine posting from Amy (and my President’s day one, and my St. Patrick’s day one…) I thought I’d venture into the world of job retention.  Specifically, how you can take an active role in retaining your own employment with a company.  Yes, yet another reminder that you are personally responsible for your own career.

Of course, much of the thoughts I have on this subject are not necessarily based on things I’ve done right.  In fact, I’ve only just recently passed the five year mark at Oracle and that isn’t 100% accurate given that two years were spent at PeopleSoft before being acquired. 

One of the many surprises I found upon joining the development team at Oracle, was how many people have over 10 years with the company.  In high tech, this is very unusual.  In fact, I have encountered more seniority at Oracle then even at PeopleSoft which had an excellent reputation for retention.  This joins a long list of merits of Oracle as an employer that were not widely publicized, probably a subject for another blog.

So what is the secret?   I’m probably not giving away any trade secrets when I say that its probably not the pay, nor is it an environment without conflict or setbacks.   I think that a key element is opportunity for personal development.  Environments that attract smart people are excellent places to grow.

In fact, when I talk to people who have had long careers (10-20 years in high tech) with a single company, they are often quick to point out that they had held several different jobs, roles or focuses over their tenure.  So, if you are wondering about how to keep yourself retained in your current company and engaged in what you are doing, you might want to consider giving yourself new job challenges to keep yourself growing.   While it is great if your job is already setup to challenge and grow you, even the best jobs will have dry spells.  It is at these times you will need to find your own path.

Suggestions: take on a side project, contribute to a cross-functional team, [gasp] start writing a blog, offer yourself up as a mentor and, of course, start setting goals for your personal development so you keep it top of mind as you progress.

Posted in engagement, goals, personal | Leave a Comment »

Yes, We are All Individuals

Posted by Mark Bennett on February 12, 2008

Number 6: What do you want?
Number 2: We want information.
Number 6: Whose side are you on?
Number 2: That would be telling, we want information, information, information.
Number 6: You won’t get it.
Number 2: By hook or by crook, we will.
Number 6: Who are you?
Number 2: The new Number 2.
Number 6: Who is Number 1?
Number 2: You are Number 6.
Number 6: I am not a Number, I am a free man!

The Prisoner (1967-1968)
We know that part of being able to improve business results through talent is being able to measure talent in the first place. There are challenges not only in being able to do that, but also in the resistance to doing that. A recently published book, “How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of Intangibles in Business” by Douglas W. Hubbard, covers three common objections to the measurement of intangibles. The first, and perhaps only truly valid one from a business perspective, is the obvious economic one where the cost of measurement exceeds the benefit. The second is based on the common misunderstanding of statistics that it can be easily manipulated (“Lies-damned lies-and statistics”), which can be addressed through better understanding of statistics, probabilities, and risk. The third, and perhaps most relevant to the topic of talent management, is the ethical objection, based on the perception that it is dehumanizing and threatening to measure certain things about people, such as their value to the company (current and future), their risk of loss, and other touchy subjects that are often brought up in HR predictive analytics.

Hubbard argues that decisions are still being made regardless and that making those decisions under intentional ignorance could be worse, so measurements need to still be made. Of course, the question is which measurements are really useful and pertinent to the decision. That at least gets the ethical discussion going in the right direction. In fact, it bolsters the argument that:
  1. The decision should be connected to achieving business goals (i.e. the impact on success).
  2. The decision in turn should be driving what measurements are needed.
If the measurements are pertinent to the decision being made and the decision helps achieve business goals, there is at least a logical purpose to the measurements and therefore the benefits can be weighed against the ethical issues. This is better than mindlessly gathering data for its own sake, especially if the data sheds unflattering light on the population being measured.

What gets people upset is if the measurements have an error factor (and almost all do), then a member of that population runs the risk of being described unfairly or worse yet, completely false. In addition, if there are correlations between the measurements made on a person and some undesirable outcome, condition, or risk factor for the population, then people are afraid of being pigeonholed, ejected, or otherwise unfairly labeled.

The problem is not in the measurements themselves, assuming they meet the criteria of being pertinent, but the way in which they are acted upon, which is usually management’s fault. For instance, a company might find that certain factors correlate highly with employee theft across a sample size of the company’s workforce. Used properly, that would help the company develop effective programs, policies, etc. that would lower the amount of employee theft. Used improperly, managers would target or otherwise treat employees differently who, while they might exhibit some or even all of these factors, never stole from the company. The point the managers missed was that the measurements and correlations were useful tools to see if the programs and policies were effective and that’s where it ends, period. They are not about predicting any one individual’s behavior, nor set them apart as “high risk”, etc. That’s the marvelous thing about people. They’re all different and managers have to remember that fact when they study population data. There is no shortcut in managing people.

Posted in analytics, management | 3 Comments »

Hurry up and innovate

Posted by Meg Bear on February 8, 2008

edison3.jpg I have to admit, I’ve always excelled more at the perspiration vs. inspiration side of the innovation equation.  And if Edison was correct, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. 

I personally do not tend to have many ideas but, I like to think I am quick to recognize them when others have them.  So you can imagine my dismay when I actually had an idea myself about a year back.  Turns out that it was a pretty obvious one though, since immediately after I started thinking/talking about it I found that others had not only been thinking the same but were already building it (doh!).  So maybe it was less an idea and more of a memory of something I had read but not really understood or something.  A bit like when you have seen photos in your youth and later are not sure if you actually have the memory or if you have just inserted yourself into someone elses memory from looking at the photo and hearing them tell the story.

Anyway, lately I’ve been thinking and reading a bit on the process of innovation.  I was even fortunate enough to attend an event specifically intending to foster innovation (and ideation, which was one of the key things I brought back from the event, a new word in my vocabulary, which, while dictionary.com assures me this is a word, I still feel that it sounds a bit fake). 

It turns out that I am not alone in my feeling that I am not innovative.  If you ask people to rate themselves as innovators the results are pretty low.  On the other hand, if you ask us if we are problem solvers we are more inclined to say that we are.  And really what is invention if not creative problem solving?  So maybe it is not really innovation we should be pushing for but problem identification.  Here is where it gets interesting (at least to me).  Maybe what we need to be spending more time on is identifying problems that we need to solve and then let loose our creative tendencies toward solving them.  Of course, there are some flaws with thinking it is that easy.  There are some basic human tendencies that stifle us from finding new solutions, even when presented with a problem.

  1. Our education process has taught us to stifle innovation.  As we enter school we are trained that we need to find the “right answer” not the “right question”.  This gets in our way of looking at problems from different perspectives
  2. We are very hierarchical about ideas.  Evidence shows that more senior managers are often unintentionally dismissive of solutions brought forward from those who are lower in the hierarchy
  3. Innovation is often at odds with the rest of our job requirements and especially for managers, we are often dis-incented to support innovation

So how do we foster innovation that is so important for the strategic success of our companies?

  1. Look at our incentive structures.  Are we leveraging goal alignment to help gain visibility and track progress toward innovation?  What we want to do, is make sure that innovation is focused and aligned with our corporate objectives
  2. Identify the key problems that you want to solve.  Essentially putting some structure around where you want to innovate and leveraging the inherent problem solving skills in your staff.
  3. Consider offering some “structured down time” for people to ideate.  Bringing people together, with focused problems to solve, helps to encourage the process 
  4. Leverage social networks and the new web to break down the hierarchical biases so that the organization benefits from the wisdom of the crowds and ideas from all levels are heard
  5. Build on success.  Sounds obvious, but often where we are innovative we do not do a good job in congratulating ourselves and building upon the success.  This lack of recognition and acknowledgement will stifle future innovators from coming forward.

A few weeks back I did have a WIBNI (wouldn’t it be nice if) idea I’m happy to give away for someone to consider bringing to the market.  I had an idea to leverage GPS and cellphone tracking technology to the ski slopes.  Today, you can rent devices to help you track how far you have skied in a day, a season, etc.  I was thinking it would be great if technology was available from my PDA to:

  • Help you find your friends (and kids) on the mountain by giving you a map of the mountain and tracking them on it
  • Help those of us who are “directionally challenged” to easily see the trail-map (and our location on that map) at any time
  • Keep track of your ski stats over time

Anyway, on the off chance that someone out there is thinking of building this kind of plug in application for a mobile device please let me know as I would love to have one.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: | 3 Comments »