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Work and Workers Are Changing

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I’m a big fan of the SHRM Foundation. The resources they put in the hands of HR professionals all over the world are impressive. They do this by funding academic research in areas of interest to HR and business leaders, they provide scholarships for HR professionals to further their professional development and credentials, and they partner with organizations like The Economist Intelligence Unit to provide deep dives into the most pressing people issues of the day. I like that. A lot.

While attending the SHRM Foundation’s most recent Thought Leader Retreat in the fall, I picked up this nifty piece of thought leadership from 2014: What’s Next: Future global Trends Affecting Your Organization; Evolution of Work and the Worker. Published in partnership with The Economist Intelligence Unit, this report discusses the outcomes of “a rigorous process of surveys, expert-panel discussions and analysis” to identify key themes that look at What’s Next in the evolution of work and the worker.

The executive summary lists nine key findings – some are just what you’d expect in considering how work is changing and how the role of workers is changing. Some, however, might be surprising to you:

  • Demographic shifts post conflicting challenges

  • Young populations neither in education nor employment will elevate concerns of a lost generation and the potential for social and political unrest in the near future

  • Burgeoning workplace diversity requires sophisticated managerial response

  • Disconnect between educational standards and organizational demand

  • Services sector on the rise globally at the expense of agriculture and industry

  • Technology transforms workforce composition and culture

  • Wage expectations conflict with increased focus on shareholder value

  • Inequality on the rise as technology decimates the mid-skilled tier

  • Companies balance pros and cons of investment in new regions of development

The discussions in this 48 page report are fascinating and cover a lot of ground. Each topic has graphs from a multitude of sources – if you just read the graphs you’d start to develop a new awareness of the global challenges we face in providing sustainable people strategies for our organizations. This one tells a pretty interesting story:

EIU SHRM Foundation 1

Another one that takes an interesting look at global competitiveness – and perhaps an outcome of the chart above – is here:

Eiu SHRM Foundation 2

I encourage you to pull down this report. It’s a little more than a year old, but it highlights the global issues with which organizations are grappling. HR professionals need to have meta data like this top of mind. Whether you’re leading HR in a one-location organization, or an HR team member in a large, global organization – work is changing. And workers are really changing. And some of the reasons they are changing have to do with what’s happening in other places in the world. It’s not enough any more to only know what the trend data are for your pocket of the world. We – especially HR professionals – need to understand all the levers that are pushing on our people, our industry and our work. This report could assist in developing a broader understanding of why this is important.


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Filed under China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, Demographics, Economist Intelligence Unit, Effective Practice Guidelines, Employment Data, Global Human Capital, HR Data, Human Resources, SHRM Foundation, Uncategorized

Cuba and Maslow

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Last week I wrote about some of my experiences on a recent HR study delegation to Cuba. My comments were pretty tough. With another week of reflection behind me, I want to write about the people of Havana, not the systems and political infrastructure of Cuba.

As we look forward to greater cooperation between the U.S. and Cuba in the future, we should be prepared to invest more than money in business opportunities. We should be prepared to invest time, training and social support to a struggling nation of people who want, as I said last week, “to be productive, to live happy lives and provide for their families. In that way they are no different than we are and they are a potential gold mine in the challenging global talent pool.”

It seems to me that the Cuban population falls into two categories: those who are “believers” and those who are “non-believers.” Believers still feel the revolutionary zeal of Fidel, Che and Raul and they are mostly at the top of the food chain. They are the “They” to whom average Cubanos refer when talking about the 630 +/- government decisions makers – whether we talked to university professors, high ranking Ministry officials, grassroots CDR (Committee for the Defense of the Revolution) members, high ranking union leaders, grassroots community organizers, workers in state-owned restaurants or owners of paladares (privately owned/run restaurants) – each talked about “Them” as far removed and somewhat unknowable. Not so different from average citizens in our or any other country: disenfranchised, at the mercy of forces they don’t really understand (despite ongoing, artful propaganda), and yearning for a good life, for economic and social stability for themselves and their families and the ability to find meaning in their work and lives.

Think Maslow’s hierarchy:

Maslow 2

Cubanos hover between physiological and safety needs – the State tries to provide for social and esteem needs but that’s hard to accomplish when it is a nation whose people live with ration cards for the most basic food supplies, whose people live in homes that are barely standing – many with no windows or real protection from the elements, but whose leaders proclaim a 100% literacy rate, education and healthcare systems the envy of other third world nations, and an employment system where people aren’t fired, they just “become available.”

As many business leaders around the world are dealing with talent shortfalls and struggling with how to ensure their competitiveness in the global marketplace, Cuba’s government leaders are trying to feed, clothe and shelter their talent – whom they also employ. More than 95% of all workers in Cuba work for state-owned enterprises, educational or healthcare institutions, or the government itself. It’s hard for even the unions to be effective championing worker rights when the employer is the government.

Cuba isn’t the proverbial riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. It makes no effort to hide the reality of its challenges.

It’s pretty clear that Cuba needs significant policy changes at the top in order to bring a chance of prosperity to its citizen workers. If Cuba ever expects to play on the global stage, as an employer it needs to create a culture that moves up Maslow’s hierarchy. Subsistence living conditions do little to build loyalty, or motivate high levels of performance, innovation or learning. The U.S. doesn’t have to be the model. Use the Czech Republic, Hungary or Poland – all of whom have entered the global economy and are making economic and social progress benefiting all of their citizens.

Cuba Street

Cuba could be at a crossroads. Raul Castro has said he will not stand for re-election in 2016. It’s hard, however, for both the believers and non-believers to envision a more free society and economy. The future is looming large and unknowable. But we saw a glimmer of hope that perhaps incremental freedoms will soon come at a faster pace and allow for the advancement of a society, economy and people that are all past ready to bloom. This would be good for Cuba and its people – and good for the global economy.

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Filed under China Gorman, Cuba, Data Point Tuesday, Human Resources, Human Resources in Cuba, Uncategorized

Cuba: Jerry-rigged To Fail

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Gerry Crispin and I led a delegation of 21 senior HR executives to Cuba last week. I’m still processing what we experienced and learned, but wanted to share some high level observations for you. First of all, read Laurie Ruettimann’s blog post from yesterday here. Her take is, as always, captivating and profound.

Second, let me set the stage for you. With recent developments in the relationship between Cuba and the U.S., it seems important to begin to understand how work happens in Cuba. It may not be long before U.S. employers can open up businesses or begin to invest in Cuba’s infrastructure. And understanding the history of work since the revolution would be a critical step. Additionally, understanding the social context of the revolution and the subsequent U.S. embargo and their impact on the people, careers and lives of Cubans would be another critical step. And finally, understanding how Cuba works (or in many cases, doesn’t work) would be the ultimate learning.

So, 21 hardy HR executives set out on the 14th of November to get those questions answered. Our delegation was made up of CHROs, heads of Talent Acquisition, consultants, bloggers, job board owners, academics and other senior HR types. Age-wise we ranged from early 30’s to early 70’s, so we were an amazingly diverse group from every angle.

Because this was an education-focused delegation we met with senior level government officials in the Ministry of Work and Social Security, the Foreign Ministry, the national workers union, the Ministry of Tourism, the national Jurists union, and several other senior government representatives who could interact with us about work and employment in Cuba. Additionally we met with members of a local Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, a sort of “neighborhood watch” group that provides social activities as well as a way for the party to watch over citizens at the most grass roots level.

Our interactions were fascinating, challenging, and disturbing. I’ve been to developing nations and seen abject poverty in places like India, China, Jamaica, Uruguay and others. And in those places I’ve been aware that the governments were working hard to lift up their economies and their people. But not Cuba. And that is kind of insane. There’s an insistence that the Revolution is working and that the hardships their citizens have endured – particularly since the collapse of the Soviet Union – are all for the good of the populace in service of their communist/socialist ideals. The insistence that unemployment is 2.7% when only 4 million of their more than 11 million citizens are working seems completely out of touch. The fact that the Cuban government just raised the salaries of doctors to 1,600 Cuban Pesos a month (about $60 U.S.) is noteworthy because it was used over and over again as an example of how the government is loosening its grip on worker compensation and embracing a more market-based approach to “business.” The anticipation/fear about what will happen in the next Presidential election as Raul Castro has declared he won’t stand for reelection is palpable. In short, the world of work in Cuba is tenuous at best. Everything in Cuba is tenuous at best.

Cuba 1

It seemed to me that the people we met with – officially and unofficially – fell into two camps: those who are true believers in the revolution and those who would like to leave Cuba this very minute and never return. Unfortunately, the true believers are all in official government positions with perks and influence, and the ones who would like to leave and never return are everyone else.

The infrastructure of Cuba is decrepit. It truly is as if time stopped in 1960. The classic cars from the 1950’s are something amazing to behold (and held together with duct tape, wire and glue), but they are the perfect example of life in Cuba: sometimes things work, but mostly they don’t. And when they do work, they don’t work like they’re supposed to and only do work because they were jerry-rigged.

Cuba 2

Despite all of this adversity the Cuban people are warm, lovely and eager to be hospitable – particularly to Americans. Most Cubans have family in the U.S. who fled during the revolution or who left in the subsequent mass migration. More than one Cuban joked with us that the “real” capital of Cuba is Miami. These people want to be productive, to live happy lives and provide for their families. In that way they are no different than we are and they are a potential gold mine in the challenging global talent pool. The Cuban government declares 100% literacy in their population and if that’s true, they could add significantly to the global economy. If they can get to it.

Gerry Crispin said something really profound early in the trip when I asked him how he was doing. He replied, “Wonderful. Because that’s the only option.” I think the same is true for Cubans. How is life in Cuba? It’s wonderful, because to admit it isn’t is to cast aspersions on the revolution, Fidel and Che – and most importantly, because it makes the future far more terrifying than it already is.

Our trip to Cuba was fascinating, interesting, challenging, more than a little heart-breaking, and disturbing. Whatever is next for its economy, social and political structure, and its people – they need help. Lots and lots of help.



Filed under China Gorman, Cuba, Gerry Crispin, Global HR, Global Human Capital, Uncategorized

Our Shaky Millennial Education Foundation

data point tuesday_500It’s the definition of a counter-intuitive statement: the Millennial generation has attained the highest levels of education of any previous American generation, yet on average demonstrates weak skills in literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in technology-rich environments compared to their international peers. This is a tough realization to stomach for a number of reasons. Not only is it disheartening to hear, and confusing considering the exorbitant and rising costs of education in the U.S., but Millennials are estimated to make up 50% of the employee population by 2020 and will shape the economic, political and social landscape for years to come (so their skills are important, to say the least). What though, will the impact of the predicted skills shortage look like? A new report by The Educational Testing Service (ETS) begins to answer that question, bringing to attention a topic that is of growing interest to a broad range of constituencies.

ETS’s report uses data from the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) to explore this topic. ETS asks why we should we pay attention to these findings, when some argue that comparative international assessments do not yield valid results. The PIAAC though, is not the only study to raise these concerns. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) as well as organizations such as The College Board and ACT, all report similar findings. In 2013, the NAEP found that 74% of U.S. 12th graders were below proficient in mathematics and 62% were below proficient in reading, and the College Board reported that 57% of SAT takers failed to qualify as “college ready.” Additionally, ACT recently reported that close to 31% (1 out of 3) high school graduates taking the ACT exam failed to meet any of the four college readiness benchmarks in English, math, reading, and science. These findings – besides the fact that any question of inadequate education or skills for our nation’s youth and future generations should always top of mind – tells us that yes, we should pay attention to such findings.

The PIACC is unlike school-based surveys (which focus on specific ages or grades of in-school students) and was designed as a household study of nationally representative samples of adults age 16-65. ETS’s report disaggregates the PIAAC data for Millennials (young adults born after 1980 who were 16–34 years of age at the time of the assessment). Let’s take a closer look at some of the top findings.

U.S. Millennials scored lower in literacy, numeracy, and PS-TRE (problem solving in technologically rich environments) than their global counterparts. Out of 22 participating countries, U.S Millennials:

  • Ranked above only Spain and Italy in literacy
  • Ranked last in numeracy (alongside Italy and Spain)
  • Ranked last in PS-TRE (alongside the Slovak Republic, Ireland, and Poland)

March 24 2015 PIAAC Proficiency Levels

ETS compared top-performing and low-performing U.S Millennials with their global counterparts and examined the inequality in score distribution and found that:

  • Top-performing U.S. Millennials (90th percentile) scored lower than top-performing Millennials in 15 of the 22 participating countries (only scoring above Spain)
  • Low-performing U.S. Millennials (10th percentile) ranked last along with Italy and England/Northern Ireland (scoring lower than Millennials in 19 participating countries)
  • There was a higher gap in scores (139 points) between U.S. Millennials at the 90th and 10th percentiles in the U.S than in 14 other participating countries (signaling a high degree of inequality in the distribution of scores)

March 25 2015 Numeracy Score Gaps 10th-90th Percentile

ETS also explored how Millennials with educational attainment perform over time and in relation to their peers internationally. They found that since 2003, the percentages of U.S. Millennials scoring below level 3 in numeracy (the minimum standard) increased at all levels of educational attainment.

ETS’s data highlight that despite rising levels of higher education attainment by U.S. young adults since 2003, the numeracy scores of U.S. Millennials, whose highest level of education is high school and above high school, have declined. ETS additionally found that:

  • S. Millennials with a 4 year bachelor’s degree scored higher in numeracy than their counterparts in only two countries (Poland and Spain),
  • The scores of U.S. Millennials whose highest level of educational attainment was either less than high school or high school were lower than those of their counterparts in almost every other participating country, and
  • Our best-educated Millennials (those with a master’s or research degrees) only scored higher than their peers in Ireland, Poland, and Spain.

Demographics also play a role in the performance of U.S. Millennials, and ETS noted that:

  • There was a strong relationship between parental levels of educational attainment and skills in all countries
  • Across all levels of parental educational attainment, there was no country where Millennials scored lower than those in the U.S.
  • The gap in scores between U.S. Millennials with the highest level of parental educational attainment and those with the lowest was among the largest of the participating countries.
  • In most countries, native-born Millennials scored higher than foreign-born Millennials (however native-born U.S. Millennials did not perform higher than their peers in any other country)

As ETS puts it, their “…primary concern is not to bemoan the nation’s declining status…. [but instead to] highlight deeper social issues concerning not only how we compete in a global economy, but also what kind of future we can construct when a sizable adult population—especially the millennials—lacks the skills necessary for higher-level employment and meaningful participation in our democratic institutions”. This report contains tough, but extremely meaningful data, and should be a huge indicator to the business, academic and political leaders of the U.S that our policies around education need urgent and major overhauling. As a business leader, I can’t grow my business unless my team has the skills needed to grow my business. It’s that simple. The sustainability of business in the U.S. is built on an unsustainable and very shaky educational foundation. We all need to ask ourselves: “what are we doing about this?”

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Financial Stress? What Financial Stress?

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What are organizations doing to help employees manage financial difficulties? SHRM (in collaboration with Elevate) explored this question in their recent survey “Employee Financial Stress.” They found that 61% of HR professionals would describe their employees’ financial health as no better than “fair,” where 38% would describe theirs as “very good” or “good.” Organizations that had more full time hourly employees were more likely to have a response of “fair” compared to organizations with fewer full time hourly employees who were more likely to report better financial health amongst employees. 50% of HR professionals reported that the age group most likely to experience financial stress was 25 to 34 year olds, though 29% reported that 35-44 years old experienced more financial stress. This makes sense as both age ranges reflect periods of significant life changes, such as starting a first job, buying a home and having a first child.

If 61% of HR professionals would describe their employees’ financial stress as no better than fair, it begs the question as to what efforts, if any, organizations are making to help employees become more financially literate and skilled. SHRM and Elevate’s survey found that 70% of HR professionals report employees being “somewhat financially literate,” and while 17% of employees are described as “very financially literate,” an additional 17% are considered “not at all financially literate.” We can cycle back to the initial question, then, of what organizations are doing to help employees manage financial stress?

The research finds that 19% of organizations offer employees loan products from a third-party provider, and 18% of organizations offer payroll advances. Almost three quarters of HR professionals report that offering third-party provider loan products have a positive impact on employees’ overall ability to manage their financial difficulties. Slightly over one-half of HR professionals reported pay advances having a positive impact. When it comes to common services that organizations offer to employees to help manage their finances, retirement planning and consultation takes the top spot at 81% followed by financial literacy training for investing at 42%. Some, although few, organizations also offer financial services including financial literacy training for basic budgeting (25%) and credit score monitoring (8%).


The fact that a combined 61% of HR professionals describe the overall financial situation of their employees as no better than fair (50% fair, 10% poor and 1% very poor) may hint that organizations should take a look at their financial benefits program and tailor it to the needs of their employees – for example, if an organization has a high percentage of Millennial employees, and the data suggest Millennials are experiencing the most financial stress, this could be a starting point. We can highlight too, that if this is the case, it could be a point for inter-generational workplace tension – if there are highly perceived financial differences amongst different demographic groups. Organizations might also consider some of the positively received but less prevalently used financial benefits. Understanding the personal financial stress points in your workforce will be a first step in providing meaningful support for a stressor that can derail productive employees.

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Employee Wellness: It’s All About Control

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June is National Employee Wellness Month, so let’s focus on some current workplace health and wellness stats. We know that a workplace culture based on Trust creates happier, engaged and higher preforming employees on all levels. And health and well-being should be considered an important factor towards this overall goal because employees who experience poor health and wellness are likely to (amongst other things) experience higher levels of stress, miss more days of work and experience less productivity – all important determinants in an employee’s overall engagement. With Employee Wellness Month in mind, let’s celebrate the health and wellness of those around us, and consider the wellness initiatives at our own organizations – are there programs in place? Do they work? Do employees know about them?

In “The 2014 Consumer Health Mindset StudyAon Hewitt has partnered with The National Business Group on Health (The Business Group) and The Futures Company to explore the “perspectives, attitudes and behaviors that employees and dependents hold toward health and health care as they interact with their employer-sponsored health plans and wellness programs”. When it came to respondents’ perceptions of personal health, there were some interesting takeaways, including that overall, from 2012-2013, the amount of people reporting that their “health is at least good” has slightly increased (from 87% in 2012 to 92% in 2013). However, respondents continue to fail to consider their weight when accounting for their overall health; with 59% of those reporting being in “at least good health” considered medically to be overweight or obese, up from 53%.

Wellness programs graphic

As far as actions that lead to good health, respondents ranked the most influential factor as “making smart healthy choices in my daily life”, which ranked over factors such as “getting regular preventive care,” “living and or/working in a healthy environment,” “having good genes,” and “having enough money to pay for all the care I need to stay healthy.” Those employees who do work in strong cultures of wellness, however, were more likely to say that they had control over their health. Additionally, related to culture at work, respondents ranked “work environment” as the 3rd biggest obstacle that kept them from getting and staying healthy (lack of time at 63%, affordability at 40%, work environment at 35%). When looking at health care costs over the last decade it comes as no surprise that affordability ranks amongst the biggest concerns for maintaining health – employees’ share of health care costs will have increased 125% from 2004 ($2,011) to 2013 ($4,542).

Interestingly, only 12% of respondents see health information from their employer as significantly influencing their actions (but this number is up 50% from 2012). This is interesting considering that we have seen a significant increase of companies instituting health and wellness programs as a whole; are these programs in place but just not being used? Are employees not interested in the types of wellness programs being offered? Aon Hewitt’s study states that 19% of respondents feel their employers encourage healthy behavior between a 0-3 range (on a 10 point scale), whereas 47% believe their employers encouragement of healthy behavior falls between a 4-7 point ranges. Given this, it seems less likely that companies don’t have any programs in place at all, and more likely that they are either programs employees aren’t interested in, or aren’t aware of.

So how can companies encourage employees to take advantage of health and wellness programs? Respondents indicated that two of the biggest influencers of feeling like their organization had a strong health-related culture were: that their employer seriously considers all actions that improve employee health, and that employees were actively encouraged to incorporate healthy activities during the work day. Additionally, employees want programs that they can personally relate to. 46% of respondents stated they would not participate in a wellness program that is not relevant to them or does not apply to their situation (the number one reason). Additionally, in terms of what makes wellness programs most appealing, financial rewards (even small sums like $50 or less) takes the top spot, followed by programs being easy to do or convenient. Lastly, remember that respondents perceive making independent “smart healthy choices in my daily life,” to be the biggest overall influencer on their health and wellness. With this in mind, perhaps the most successful workplace wellness programs are the simple things put in place to encourage employees to make these choices – sometimes it’s the little things. Happy National Employee Wellness Month!

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Core Employee Needs: Not All or Nothing!

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It seems as though we are consistently seeing data that show decreasing levels of employee engagement and feelings of fulfillment at work. This data can be, and has been, attributed to many factors, such as a lean post-recession workforce, an increasingly competitive talent landscape, and the uber-connected, uber-informed and uber-on business world in which we operate. I’d agree that all of these can create barriers to an engaged workforce, or challenge an already highly engaged workforce. There’s also data indicating (as I discussed in my post on what Millennials look for in a great workplace) that high amounts of stress, feelings of low-engagement or no work/life balance are not as significant as we may think. There are, on a positive note, data that suggest workplaces are doing much to negate issues of engagement and work/life balance, but much of this research comes from companies classified as “Best Workplaces” and considering the frequency of content reporting low levels of engagement, trust, and happiness, such companies may be few and far between. Ultimately, we can only take data at face value. The real importance of looking at such workplace statistics is to inform ourselves and build our “bigger picture” – know what’s out there, know what’s conflicting, and create solutions and approaches that are right for our own people, culture and strategic goals.

Some data I recently found interesting comes from an article published in The New York Times, “Why You Hate Work” which included research from The Energy Project, an organization that aims to increase employee engagement and sustainable performance for organizations and their leaders. The article, by The Energy Company’s CEO Tony Schwartz and consultant Christine Porath, discusses how “the way we’re working isn’t working” and that it’s increasing common for both middle managers and top executives to feel overwhelmed and disengaged. In an effort to understand what’s impacting people’s engagement and productivity at work, The Energy Project partnered with The Harvard Business Review to survey 12,000 + mostly white-collar employees across a range of industries and organizations. They found that employees are considerably more productive and engaged when they have the opportunity to: regularly renew and recharge at work, feel valued and appreciated for their contributions, focus in an absorbed way on their most important tasks, define when and where they get their work done, do more of what they do best and enjoy most, as well as feeling connected to a higher purpose at work. The study attributed these four areas to four core needs: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.

Energy ProjectIn terms of the core physical need at work, The Energy Project’s study determined that employees who take breaks every 90 minutes find themselves with a 30 percent higher level of focus than those who take one or no breaks during the day. These employees also report a 50% greater capacity to think creatively and a 46% higher level of health and well-being. Also interesting, is that when employees feel encouraged by their supervisor to take breaks, their likelihood to stay with any given company increases by nearly 100%.  For the core emotional need, feeling cared for by one’s supervisor has the biggest impact. Employees who noted having more supportive supervisors were 67% more engaged. The core mental need? Respondents that were able to focus on one task at a time reported being 50% more engaged (although only 20% of respondents reported being able to do this). Comparably, just 1/3 of respondents reported being able to effectively prioritize their tasks, but those who did were 1.6 times better able to focus on one thing at a time. In regards to the core spiritual need, the Energy Project’s research found that employees who derive meaning and significance from their work reported 1.7 times higher job satisfaction and were 1.4 times more engaged at work.  In a nutshell, this data show that how employees feel at work has a huge impact on their engagement and productivity.

One last valuable nugget of data to note from this study is that when employees have even just one of the core needs discussed above met, versus none, all variables of their performance improve (from engagement, to loyalty, job satisfaction, positive energy at work, and lower perceived levels of stress). This is good incentive for organizations to work on things one step at a time. It clearly isn’t an all or nothing proposition. Positive changes in employee engagement don’t necessarily happen from massive culture changes or vast implementation of new programs. Baby steps are okay folks; and the more core needs are met, the more positive the impact!

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#SHRM13 is underway


Fareed Zakaria is the opening keynoter on the big stage at SHRM’s Annual Conference in Chicago.

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June 16, 2013 · 1:58 pm

From the Archives: Memo to HR

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Until last week’s post about Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer’s decision to end telecommuting, the post below from March 18, 2011 was the most read of all my posts.  Interesting.

TO:                         HR

FROM:                  China Gorman

RE:                         News flash!

Date:                     March 18, 2011

Guess what?  Your CEO probably gets it.

I know HR pros like to kvetch about the C-Suite in their organizations:

  • “My CEO doesn’t get it.”
  • “The CEO and CFO run the business like people are widgets.”
  • “I can’t get the C-Suite interested in cutting edge HR solutions.”

Those days are over, friends.  I’ve met and talked with a number of CEOs lately.  CEOs from Fortune 200 companies, medium-sized companies and start-ups.  I’ve been struck by the conversations we’ve had.  Because in each case, these CEOs exhibit many of the behaviors HR pros are looking for from their CEOs.  Here are some of the signs:

1.       Talent acquisition/development comes up early in a conversation about their top challenges.

2.       They have done reading – or in some cases, writing – about corporate culture and are actively involved in leading a change in their organization’s culture.

3.       They have embraced the research of an OD or culture expert/guru whose work they are integrating into their culture and language.

4.       Succession planning is among the top issues on which their leadership team is working.

5.       Employee engagement is critical to them.  They know the scores of their organization’s most recent employee attitude survey and are peering over the shoulders of their operations leaders to ensure the opportunities for improvement are moving forward — in line with the culture change work they’re leading.

6.       Supervisors/managers are measured by how well they manage the performance and development of their people.

7.        Diversity/inclusion enters the conversation early when talking about culture.

But here’s the thing, HR.  This is a trend.  We’re going to see more and more of these behaviors from CEOs as we experience the pending generational shift in the ultimate C-Suite in organizations large and small.

So here’s the big question:  Are you ready? Are you ready to be evidence-based in your leadership?  Are you ready to base organization and business solutions on current research and analytics?  I hope so.  Because the next generation of CEOs – as well as some in the current generation as my experience indicates – while  they’re beginning to focus on what HR would say are the right issues, they’re still the CEO.  They’re still all about the numbers.  Outcomes.  Growth.  Quality.  They still need fact and data to support their decision making.  That’s not going to change.   And if they don’t get that fact and data from HR where are they going to get it?

CEOs don’t really make critical decisions much by “gut feel” and that probably won’t change.  Ever.   Sure, some may be more spontaneous than others.  Some may be more extroverted than others.  And some may actually sound like HR professionals.  But they’re still CEOs.  They still have to deliver top and bottom line performance this quarter and next.  And they have to have a plan for the longer horizon – a plan that is based on real data and supported by the current set of facts.

Where would the average HR professional begin to source useful research data and analytics?  SHRM, CIPD, ASTD, WorldatWork – all the large HR-related professional associations are investing more and more into their research capabilities.  They all conduct and publish top notch research in every aspect of the people domain in organizations. They want their members to embrace more rigorous and sound methodologies.  Heck.  They’re pleading with their members to be consumers of relevant research because they know the day of reckoning is approaching.

Other organizations like The Conference Board, the Corporate Executive Board and Bersin & Associates all publish extraordinary research that enable HR to make fact-based decisions and to get HR metrics aligned with financial metrics.  Free sources of actionable research-based data include the SHRM Foundation, the U.S. Department of Labor,  the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and innumerable non-profit organizations that cover the waterfront of issues and functions.

Since more and more CEOs are “getting” the fact that people and culture are critical to business success, is HR “getting” that in order to respond to this CEO movement in their direction, they need to be making movement into the fact and data-based world of the CEO?  I surely hope so.

It’s past time to get comfortable with research and analytics — and making them actionable.


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Merry Christmas!

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