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This past week we welcomed the first day of spring here in NYC.  You wouldn’t know it by looking at the weather which is still hovering somewhere in the 40 degree range, but it’s true, its spring. 

While some may follow Tennyson and believe that spring is meant to turn one’s thoughts to love, I of course think of spring and ruminate on similarities between this time of year and establishment of successful employee programs.  I know, it’s so sad, I must have some sort of sickness – but then again, hear me out…

One of the predominant activities of springtime is gardening, and as every gardener knows the absolutely most essential element of a successful garden is healthy soil.  And so it goes with people programs, if the ground you’re planting your people program seeds in is essentially ‘bad soil’, you can’t possibly expect anything to grow.  Makes sense, right?  Of course right.  Now let’s dig deeper (sorry, couldn’t help it).

As I said, soil is arguably the most important component in a successful garden.  Soil is generally evaluated on fertility and texture. Fertility is a combination of essential nutrients and a pH that makes these nutrients available to the plants.  Texture refers to the size of the soil particles and their cohesiveness.   So too an organizational culture can serve as the ‘soil’ for your people programs.  It, like soil, also needs to be evaluated to see if anything can grow.  While soil focuses on fertility and texture, you might want to evaluate your culture for engagement issues such as team cohesion and trust in management. 

So how do you know if you have bad soil?  The only way to know for sure is to have it tested.  As in a garden, a quick guestimate of your soil’s health can be made by looking at your plants (i.e. employees).  If they are thriving, don’t fix what isn’t broken.  If they are languishing, it would be worth testing your soil.   Then focus on preparing the ground – aerate and provide nutrients to your cultural soil through ongoing communication, weed out issues that can poison the well water, and nurture and tend your culture on an ongoing basis…etc.   I could find a dozen more analogies but you get the point.   

The bottom line is plants won’t grow in bad soil and neither will your people programs, and in truth, ultimately, neither will your employees.  Take the time to create healthy soil and you’ll be reaping the rewards of your garden before you know it. 

Oh and remember, “Gardening requires lots of water – most of it in the form of perspiration.”  ~ Lou Erickson
Happy spring!

You may or may not have heard that Vlogs (or video blogs) are ‘the new black’ of internal communications. If you haven’t, then you heard it here first!  Hooray for me.   Anyway, I know first hand that Vlogs or video blogs can be a very powerful tool to engage and inform your employees.

I have actually produced a few internal Vlog initiatives with great success as part of my communications plans. Based on that experience, here’s list of things I think need to be considered before picking up a camera and popping some powder on your boss’ nose:

  1. First, ask the obvious question – what’s the goal? For example if your goal is to heighten transparency, get your time-strapped leadership out in front of the troops more often, keep the team informed and engaged during a complex time or simply want to demystify an initiative – a Vlog might be the perfect tool.
  2. Is this the right platform for your particular leadership? I can’t emphasize this enough. Focusing on the ‘right’ platform and content for your leader(s) is absolutely critical. Honestly assess your leadership and maybe do a test run or two to ensure they’re fully comfortable in front of the camera. Remember that successfully positioning your leadership will result in greater trust in your judgment, and ultimately in stronger support for your communications initiatives. Don’t let them fail or God forbid be embarrassed, or I can guarantee they’ll never trust you again.
  3. If that panicked warning caused you to take pause, don’t lose heart. Vlogs can be very effective in other ways – think of community building initiatives like employee vlogs, a regional series, philanthropic event reporting and on and on. A casual home movie style of a vlog could be just what you need to create a sense of team in your organization.
  4. Ensure a clear purpose and commitment to transparency. Make sure employees know why you’re doing a Vlog (vs. email etc). And differentiate this platform as representing the height of transparency and ‘unfiltered’ communication.
  5. If measuring viewership is key – send to web link vs. access via email. Natch.
  6. Openness to two way dialogue. As with most platforms, ensure folks know how they can get in on crafting the content, and basically ‘being heard.
  7. Maintain an archive – and share the link periodically. Folks that are late to the party might want to see what they’ve missed. I’ve also found this useful when I’ve received requests from other internal organizations that were seeking to mimic this platform.
  8. Be creative, have fun. Fairly obvious, I know, but still worth mentioning. See Pt. 3 above – find unique locations to film – rotate featured speakers – choose a large topic and break it down into a chapter series etc. etc. Remember, this can be a very fun, inexpensive and powerful tool if used correctly…AND you’ll be the creative genius who made it all happen.

If you have any questions, are still unsure if a Vlog is the right tool for your needs, or have some practical questions on the actual filming process, feel free to ping me. I love talking about this stuff!

Wow, has it really been over a week since I posted last!? Unbelievable how quickly time flies. Too much stuff going on I guess. Not the least of which – I was asked to manage publicity for an Off- Broadway show entitled ‘Friction’ which is opening here in NYC on November 5th. I’ve never done work like this before, and I love learning new stuff, so its been an interesting few weeks. So far I’ve supplied the play’s tagline, the synopsis, press release and am organizating the opening night. Here’s the website if you’re curious or even better, in town, on any of the performance dates! www.frictiontheplay.com

Now to the topic of my post – developing a talent management program. I’ve found that this can, in general, be a daunting task for most organizations. First of all – if you’re embedded in a group, or division etc – you are in reality a team within a team. You need to manage your talent within a larger talent construct. If its the opposite and you’re at the top of the house, you need to corral the cats and ensure the folks down below fully understand and leverage what’s being provided to them in the larger structure. It’s tough any way you look at it, and more often than not the reality falls just a tick short of glory.

To help, I’ve included this one pager/graphic I’ve cobbled together over the last few years that for me continues to provide a blueprint and guidepost for the kind of program I always seek to create when positioned in a ‘talent’ role.

Generic Talent Model by ThePeopleStuff.com

I think its robust, cohesive, and flexible and, when I’ve been able to fully execute on it, it has worked for me a like a charm. Here’s why:

Other than quickly organizaning my thinking and allowing me to accurately assess a current state, this model helps to ensure a few key things:

1. I am addressing all phases of the employee lifecycle – Attract, Develop, Retain and Retire
2. I am ensuring close alignment to the overall business strategy and keeping management in the loop through creation of a Workforce Planning Committee – which consists of the senior management team
3. I am clearly indicating that ‘I can’t do it all’, nor should I, by outlining where responsibility sits with HR, and where it sits with my function

This can all, of course, be modified to suit each unique group and situation, but by leveraging a model of this kind – I assure that I don’t miss the important stuff AND it allows me to communicate clearly to all my key stakeholders in a simple and straight forward way.

In upcoming posts I’ll expand upon each component of this model – so please subscribe for the latest updates. Oh! And if you think you can make this better, or have a model of your own you’d like to share – please do!   I love feedback and believe as Emerson did that “Our best thoughts come from others.”

A few years ago, while working at another investment bank, I received a random call from the head our division (I ran global communications for him). He told me that our CEO had just communicated his vision for a new aspirational culture which was to be based upon several core principles – all of which began with the letter ‘I’. These words became known as the ‘Five I’s’. Rigggght.

Anyway, at the time I was tasked with making sure that EVERYONE in our division knew what these Five I’s were. As ridiculous as the premise sounds, we did come up with some creative ways of accomplishing our goal – but that’s not really the point of this post. (If, however, you are curious about some the methods I used, shoot me a note and I’d be happy to share.)

No, the point of my post is actually this…. it just happened again! Today, I am at yet another large investment bank and was just told we’re going to use yet another set of words all beginning with the same letter, to describe our aspirational culture. Sure there are bigger problems in the world – war, hunger, poverty, global warming – but seriously folks, this must stop!

So I say this to all my tens of readers, please don’t lean on schtick or gimmicks when seeking to develop or improve a team or corporate culture. Rather, lean on honesty and transparency, talk about the real problems and how you’re going to address them, talk about how you’re going to engage employees in helping to solve the problems that are of concern to them, talk about the kind of place you want to be, and about what’s genuinely important to you and about what you value…I could go on, but you get the drift. Define your culture using conversational words that you can stand by through your actions and that (very important) your employees truly understand, can relate to and feel they can follow.

Rather than this…

Our core principles are…
Invigorate!
Innovate!
Investigate!
Inspire!

Work on developing something like this…

In our company we believe in respecting each other above all else, in working hard for our clients, in collaborating to solve problems and in taking care of our people.

Just put down the dictionary and the thesaurus and TALK to people, in a genuine way, about the kind of place you’d like to become. Then once you’re done, work to ensure you are living and breathing that vision, and make decisions that lead everyone down that aspirational path (i.e. don’t preach ‘communication’ and spend all day in your office with the door closed) What’s the point of that?

If you can start with a statement that people can relate to, I guarantee your folks will feel way more Invigorated and Inspired by that than by all the ‘I’ words you can dig out of the dictionary.

Except maybe ‘Ice Cream’ – which actually works every time.

p.s.  I made it to Freshly Pressed today!  So exciting!  Thank you all for reading and if you like what you read please comment, subscribe or share via the links below.  Thanks again!

 

A week or so ago I posted an invite for a seminar with Marshall Goldsmith. I just now perused the notes (or as an old friend used to call them – ‘wisdom nuggets’) I captured from that session and thought I would share them here:

First of all, the talk featured a great thought leader – Jim Kouzes – who I frankly had not heard prior to this talk, but now I’m an official fan. Here’s his website.

My favorite quote: “Pity the leader surrounded by unloving critics or uncritical lovers.” Ha! Love that.

(His) Research indicates that despite the ‘generation’ – all people believe that when it comes to leadership, what matters is ‘what you do’.

Leaders should focus on the fundamental, forever truisms, of leadership

Focus less on the challenge which will shift, and more on what to always do.

Leaders are now tougher on themselves in self assessing than even their 360s. This is owed to the fact that there is a greater awareness now of what it means to lead.

Honesty was revealed as the #1 most valued characteristic of leadership. Vision was #2 (ie. what would you, the leader, like the future to look like?) and 3rd (I think) was Trust.

As a leader, its useful to imagine its 2020 and wonder what the leaders you influence today might say they learned from you

As a leader, you should spend 25% of your time focused on the future and less time working as an individual contributor

The best predictor of managerial success is the person’s capacity for, and interest in, learning

To become an ‘expert’ you need to dedicate yourself to something for 10,000 hours – hich equates to 7 hours a day, 7 days a week for 10 years (note: I have not checked the Math on this!)

Leaders should do something every day, and then work to measure it

Finally always remember that high Trust = high Performance

Happy Friday!

I’m currently putting together a post on Vlogging or Video Blogging as an employee communications vehicle – and am debating whether to film an actual video/vlog or just write-up a post as per usual. Anyway, until I decide here’s some food for thought on the topic of leadership. (By the way, if you have a thought on the Vlog please feel free share. Otherwise check back in a few days to see what indecision, procrastination and frustration finally led me to).

The following article is reprinted from the Financial Times. Aside from agreeing wholeheartedly with the author on many points – for me the key takeaway was simply that Steve Jobs knows who he is, and he knows/feels/breathes, with crystal clarity, Apple’s purpose and mission. This is so often not the case with leaders (or ourselves even), and yet there is so much power in that simple concept.

Time to spit out more praise for Apple
By Lucy Kellaway

Published: September 26 2010 18:14 | Last updated: September 26 2010 18:14

Last week, at the very moment I was writing a column praising Apple for its plain way with words, Steve Jobs was entering into an e-mail exchange with a young woman who took plainness to a whole new level.

Chelsea Isaacs, a student from Long Island University, had got in touch with the Apple press office to get some information about the iPad for a paper she was writing. Six times she tried, but no response. So she e-mailed the chief executive to complain.

“Mr Jobs, I humbly ask why Apple is so wonderfully attentive to the needs of students, whether it be with the latest, greatest invention or the company’s helpful customer service line, and yet, ironically, the media relations department fails to answer any of my questions which are, as I have repeatedly told them, essential to my academic performance.”

Mr Jobs replied: “Our goals do not include helping you get a good grade. Sorry.”

Chelsea composed another long message in which she argued that Apple should have answered out of common courtesy.

This time he responded: “Nope. We have over 300 million users and we can’t respond to their requests unless they involve a problem of some kind. Sorry.”

So she pointed out she was a customer and did have a problem.

He replied: “Please leave us alone.”

It is just possible that Mr Jobs himself didn’t write these e-mails. Indeed, Apple’s media relations department has no more replied to queries on that score than they have to Chelsea’s.

Yet whether he did or not, the world is judging him badly. “Profoundly unhelpful,” says the Guardian. Various Apple-hating readers have gloatingly forwarded the exchange to me, inviting me to swallow my words of praise.

But I’m not going to swallow them. I’m going to spit out some more. Mr Jobs may be a slightly unpleasant piece of work, scary and arrogant. But if these messages are his, I congratulate him on his clarity, his tetchiness and on being entirely in the right.

Chelsea is to be congratulated, too. By goading the head of Apple, she has unwittingly stumbled on a much better topic for a journalistic paper than some nonsense about the iPad.

The first lesson is about brevity. Her initial message was 473 words. His was 12. His words were short and sharp and easy to understand. Hers less so. Even in the one unwieldy sentence quoted above, she makes three elementary mistakes. She uses the word “humble” when she isn’t. She refers to irony when there is none. And sarcasm is always a mistake in an e-mail, especially if you are trying to get your own way.

The next lesson is that it is OK for a CEO to be rude to a customer. The customer need not always be king, especially when he or she is behaving like a spoilt, tiresome brat. So long as the rudeness doesn’t involve a loss of dignity and it isn’t being used, Michael O’Leary-style, as a tiresome stunt to get attention for Ryanair, then it is fine.

Moreover, in this particular case, Mr Jobs’ grumpiness was in the public interest. He was making a vital, though unfashionable, point about priorities. If I were an Apple shareholder I’d be reassured to know that the company’s top priority did not include helping out Chelsea.

The point needs to be made harshly, because modern students simply don’t get it. I often get e-mails from them saying: “I’m doing an essay on marketing. Can you please send me everything you’ve written on this subject?” Next time I’m going to tell them straight: “No, I can’t. It’s not my job.”

When Mr Jobs was a student, if he needed help I daresay he did what we all did back then: ask a teacher, or work it out yourself. But Chelsea’s generation has been duped by the self-esteem movement into believing its development is a matter of general concern, and then duped some more by the internet, which has taught it that the world is democratic and it can have everything right now.

Alas, these beliefs sit so deep, that Mr Jobs’ forceful messages have not struck anywhere near home: Chelsea was last week still indignantly waiting for the busy head of one of the world’s most remarkable companies to say sorry.

“I have nothing against him,” she said magnanimously. “I hope he gives me a call.”

I trust she will have to wait an eternity for that call, and in the meantime will grow up and get a job and discover that working life is not a democracy and there is a hierarchy, and being just a little humble isn’t a bad way to start.
lucy.kellaway@ft.com

Trying to come up with a creative idea to address a particular talent challenge? Whatever solution you propose – ensure that you can measure your success, and if you can’t – don’t do it. Don’t waste your time on activities that undermine your contributions. And by undermine I mean chip away at your credibility.

Let’s face it, when you work in a business environment, you have to speak the language of business. And the language of business is numbers.     Smiling happy faces are great, and for my money, the real goal.    I mean, just look at them.

BUT if you want to be taken seriously, and have the opportunity to continue to impact larger and larger organizations, and more importantly the people who lead them – you’re going to have to demonstrate real results which leverage real metrics.    So I say, if you can’t measure it, don’t do it.

Generate performance metrics in any way you can and be sure not to limit your approach to surveys.   I mean, surveys are great, don’t get me wrong, and they provide awesome data -but without solid response rates and follow through they will fall flat (more on that in another entry.)

When crafting talent solutions, be creative, target your efforts and measure in any way you can.  Then be sure you’re communicating out your activities and your results on a frequent basis to the most senior folks you can.   Oh and be sure you’re making a connection to the business strategy!

Do this consistently and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll create a broad based realization that ‘the people stuff’ is the real key to your company’s success.

RESOURCES:

Free online survey tools:

http://www.surveymonkey.com

http://www.zoomerang.com

August 2017
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