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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Shaking off Manual HR Tasks with Technology

By Jen Stroud, HR evangelist, ServiceNow

If you’ve been in HR for very long, you may have noticed that your typical work week focuses less on meaningful human interactions than you probably expected when you entered the profession. You likely became part of the industry to be involved with developing people and helping your organization thrive, but perhaps time that could be spent on strategic projects is getting swallowed up in high-touch, low-value tasks—responding to routine questions, checking and rechecking email, and the like.

In a day and age in which a pizza can be ordered using a slick iPhone app, you can’t help but wonder why basic HR requests can’t be processed in the same automated fashion.

If you feel this way, you’re not alone. Recent research backs you up, and the numbers are telling. In an HR study conducted by Engage ESM and ServiceNow, respondents said that they focus just 31 percent of their time on strategic activities. That means that more than two-thirds of a typical work week consists of just trying to keep things moving.

The majority of the respondent workweek consisted of using labor intensive methods—drafting detailed emails, updating complex documents and making phone calls—to complete routine assignments like onboarding new employees, processing requests and fielding employee inquiries. 

These high touch, low value assignments use time that could be spent one on one with employees in a far more meaningful way.

More than 90 percent of the HR managers in the study believed that they could make a greater contribution to high-touch and high-value initiatives such as career development if they could break free from these manual administrative tasks.

Many routine processes are complicated and done manually, which provides minimal visibility to those involved. Just think of the administrative steps required to prepare for an employee’s first day in the office. The overwhelmingly manual nature of these steps in most organizations today as well as the possibility for delay and human error increases with each touchpoint needed to complete the on boarding process—from facilities and security to finance and IT. The result is an overwhelmed HR department, a frustrated hiring manager and a puzzled and discouraged new employee.

While most companies have invested heavily in HR technology, there continues to be gaps that lead to challenging outcomes. HR is still far too tactical, and employees lack a modern employee experience—an HR portal that allows them to manage all HR needs. Perhaps because of this, the study also found that a substantial 74 percent of HR departments plan to restructure within the next year. The next 12 months will be a time of progress for HR as more organizations explore how technology and service management can help transform the employee experience and how work gets done and is tracked in HR. Consider these results:
  •      The study found that streamlining technology is a priority for 63 percent of respondents
  •        Eighty-three percent believe that their department could add more value to their organization by employing a higher level of technology
  •        Ninety-one percent said that technology is the key to improving HR responsiveness, which keeps business moving and employees satisfied

What would you do with the time you could save by putting the right technology to work for you? The survey’s respondents unanimously agreed that they could make strategic contributions to their organizations. A well-run HR department is absolutely critical to the success of any organization and HR budgets are increasing year over year, a trend that is expected to continue.

As organizations continue to increase HR budgets and HR budgets continue to make technology a priority, these investments will help HR shed unnecessarily manual tasks and focus on projects that are high value. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Six key tips from the top 10 percent of mobility-minded companies

As companies move employees across borders to simultaneously achieve broader business goals and develop future leaders, many organizations face this talent mobility imperative with increased pressure—to reduce costs for global mobility programs and to show their return on investment. Some companies have a well-integrated process, while others struggle to demonstrate meaningful results.

What does today’s landscape look like? 

Each year, Brookfield Global Relocation Services administers a Global Mobility Trends Survey that gauges the developments and best practices in global mobility and related talent management activities. The survey, now in its 21st year, provides insights from 163 global companies representing more than 11 million employees. The report nets information for leadership and those in global mobility roles, and this year’s report echoed what’s heard from the business community: that there is room for improving alignment within many companies. Although many companies see evidence of talent mobility’s potential to attract and retain key talent, and have taken certain steps to align supporting business practices, the prevailing view is that the breakthrough— for most— has yet to occur.

Consider that 90 percent of multinational companies do not yet fully align their employee mobility efforts with their overall talent management goals. 

This means just 10 percent of multinational companies realize the benefits of closer alignment between global mobility and wider workforce planning goals. For illustrative purposes, this could include identifying individuals within the organization who have a high potential for using relocation as a tool for retention or additional professional growth. Yet, in most instances, performance metrics are not being consistently wed to decisions to move key talent. These successful companies are doing more to ensure their mobility programs have foundational practices in place to meet the needs of their mobile workforce and to deliver new levels of strategic contribution.

What We Can Learn from the Top 10 Percent 

Leaders, take note. These six key learnings are actions that companies can take to better align global mobility with talent, and obtain better mobility outcomes and greater ROI for global assignments.

1. Align with the Talent Agenda
The war for talent is real in many industries worldwide, and as human resource leaders attempt to increase effectiveness and transform their organizations, they are still often left out of key talent discussions. Case in point: 20 percent of companies in the survey report that they are unsure if they do, or do not, have enough internationally experienced talent to meet their business needs.

2. Track Costs Associated with Mobility
Nearly every multinational company is under pressure to reduce mobility costs. Yet despite the importance placed on cost efficiencies, there is continued evidence that many companies do not have some of the most basic cost quantification and management practices in place. Exact expenses related to international assignments are often neglected in the name of difficult accounting. The survey found 49 percent of companies do not consistently track the actual total costs of an international assignment, making it quite difficult to increase cost efficiency.

3. Maintain a Candidate Pool for Future International Assignments
A global mobility strategy should not go into effect whenever a position opens up overseas. Rather, companies must continually gauge employee interest and develop key skills to ensure global placements are successful. Unfortunately, there is a disconnect, as 73 percent do not maintain a candidate pool and 33 percent don’t even have a process in place for employees to say they would be willing to accept an international assignment. The crux of the problem is that a majority of companies say that international assignments are critical to careers, yet the system to support placement is often not there. In companies aligning mobility and talent, we see 81 percent have a formal way for individuals to designate themselves for international assignment. It can be twice as costly— or more—to send the wrong person on an assignment.

4. Provide Support for Acclimating to the New Culture
It is a common problem among employees of all industries placed on global assignments – to successfully adapt to the host location. In fact, nearly 20 percent of global assignees on average experience notable difficulty overcoming barriers to acclimation. In response to this persistent issue, companies must leverage external resources to accommodate their global talent’s needs. Intercultural training can help employees be as effective as possible as soon as they land in their assignment location. It can also prepare accompanying family to transition to the new location as well.

5. Focus on Candidates with the Leadership Attributes Necessary for Success
While it is essential to prepare and support an employee once they have accepted an international assignment, it is just as critical to develop talent prior to the placements so they can be effective in their new role. The survey showed 26 percent of global assignees taking on a leadership position did not possess the necessary skills to be a leader in the host country. Respondents cited a variety of skills these employees lacked, specifically negotiation, ability to lead others, and conflict management and resolution capabilities.

6. Engage Millennials for International Positions
Millennials have permeated the workplace and now hold the future of our companies in their hands. This generation is young, curious, and often less rooted than their more senior colleagues—making them ideal candidates for global assignments. Therefore, it is imperative for companies to understand the strategic value of this workforce population and how best to engage them in new positions abroad. The survey found a stark difference in how millennial global assignees were handled between the top 10 percent and those companies not viewing global mobility as a strategic driver of growth. The top leaders reported double the percentage of international assignees between the ages of 20 and 29, underscoring their ability to foresee the long-term effects of strategy alignment.

 Among the Top 10 Percent 

The top 10 percent of companies surveyed are at the forefront of utilizing candidate identification, selection and assessment tools, and they lead the way in integrating career management into the assignment lifecycle. They are also more likely to measure international assignment performance results against company metrics and align with results from other departments.

Does your company have what it takes to join the top 10 percent? By opening the conversation and bringing talent management into the global mobility conversation, you will open lines of communication, bring in new perspectives and, at the very least, identify opportunities for improvement in your company’s global assignment strategy.

—Diane Douiyssi, director of consulting services at Brookfield Global Relocation Services

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Five Reasons To Lead by Example

Successful businesses rely on infrastructures—systems, technology, policies, procedures, chain of command, and others. Businesses have an emotional infrastructure, too, made up of values, traditions, habits and attitudes. This infrastructure is to your corporate culture what plumbing and wiring are to your home, and employees are a huge part of it.

Some leaders are overwhelmed by the idea of emotional infrastructure. It's intangible—touchy-feely. Yet it's as important to success as any other infrastructure. You can tweak your financial infrastructure once a week and stay on course. But emotional infrastructure needs nurturing every day. Here are five ways that leading by example can provide the recommended daily allowance of TLC for your emotional infrastructure needs.

1. Example > Trust > Motivation > Engagement

People follow leaders they trust. If you want to test this, try saying one thing to your staff and then doing another. If you undermine trust, employee motivation and engagement will suffer, which will then negatively impact your bottom line. Leaders have to hold themselves to the same standards as everyone else, and maybe even higher ones. Trust isn't automatic—you have to demonstrate that you are trustworthy.

It's true that leaders' first responsibility is the fiscal health of the company. In most cases, employees' interests align with the interests of the company, but we all know there are situations in which interests conflict. If you have a robust foundation of trust, it will be easier for employees to understand and come to terms with unpopular decisions. Ultimately, you can't maintain a fiscally healthy company if your emotional infrastructure is diseased.

Here are some important best practices in leading by example:
  • Be present and attentive when interacting with others.
  • Respect others' time; don't be late, and keep meetings on task.
  • Respect others' ideas by listening.
  • Always follow through on your commitments.

2. That's Just the Way Role Models Roll

There are countless idioms and parables around the idea of leading by example, from "do unto others" to "walk the walk" to "be the change you want to see in the world." Leaders have plenty of opportunities to do this, for example, while modeling a proactive approach to self-improvement by getting involved in professional organizations. We heard another great example from a hiring manager recently: "Let candidates know that if I ask them to come in on a Saturday, they can expect to see me there, too." When times are tough, leaders should be seen fighting the fight. Julius Caesar wore a bright red cloak into battle for the express purpose of letting his troops see him fighting beside them.

3. Micromanagement is a Model T in a Maserati World

The landscape is constantly changing, and what worked before may no longer be effective. For example, more and more companies allow remote and telecommute options—and they should—but in those situations, you simply have to give up a degree of control. Values are changing as well. While it's always dangerous to generalize, the Millennials, who make up an increasing percentage of the workforce, see themselves as independent contractors, regardless of their employment status. It's part of their Me, Inc. mindset, and they expect to be empowered.

The best alternative to micromanagement is leading by example. We call it micro-training and macro-managing: hire passionate people, train them well in your vision and processes, provide them the tools they need, and step out of the way. Then provide guidance and reinforcement through role modeling.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

4 Things Executives Should Know About Intelligent Assistants at Work

By Rob May, CEO and co-founder of Talla

We are in the early stages of the cognitive revolution at work. Over the next five years, every knowledge worker will begin adopting intelligent digital assistants to help do their job more effectively and efficiently. In just over the last year or so, we’ve seen the possibilities explode. The two technologies that recently made this possible are the advances in machine learning and natural language processing, which enable a good experience with bots and the rapid adoption of conversational interfaces as the main method of communication within the workplace—the perfect home for those bots.

The ecosystem of products is developing rapidly, and the first ‘generation’ of assistants available currently automate various tasks. The major focus has been on creating reports, scheduling meetings,  and managing project reminders so far. These are no doubt useful, and we’ll see continued development of those types of assistants across every vertical within businesses, from HR, to sales, to customer support. A second useful case that is developing are bots that lighten your cognitive load. These extend and amplify employee cognitive capacity by freeing knowledge workers from remembering certain things, intelligently managing workflows or storing vast amounts of information, and retrieving it when needed. At Talla, we work on both of these for HR teams, so we think a lot about the considerations executives should make in adopting the new technology. Here are a few things to know:

You need to be on the right chat platform 

Some organizations will lag behind in getting started with intelligent assistants, not because they wouldn’t save them timeand free the team to focus on more strategic work, but because they’re lacking the platforms with the right bot integrations. Today, I believe all teams should be evaluating the various chat platforms that bots will live in and deciding what’s best for their teams. Slack, Hipchat, Cisco’s Spark, and Skype are some major players. While companies that build bots will wisely go multi-platform over time, the reality is that not every interface will be optimized for bot and human interactions. Simply put, if the Slack App Store, for instance, has all the best bots, but your team is tied to email—and only email—you’ll be behind.

The best bots will learn from your interactions

In a typical buying decision for a SaaS app, you look at what it can do for you today. But, the value of intelligent assistants is better assessed by determining both what it can do today (typically base-level automation) and the additional value added over time as it better knows your organization. If an intelligent HR assistant knows 15 things about our insurance policies on day 1 and 250 things by day 30, it’s value has increased significantly as an internal resource for the team. Intelligent assistants will grow, learn, and improve much like human employees, so when you judge them, think about the long term, not just how they perform on day 1.

Consider security and privacy when choosing your bots 

Can a bot be socially engineered the way a human can? How do bots know what information they can disclose and to whom? These are all problems that will be solved in the next couple of years, but for now, most companies building digital assistants aren’t thinking about them. Look for companies with mature founding teams who have built other companies in the enterprise software space and understand the importance of these issues. They will be the first to adopt high security and data access standards and will lead the way for the other bot companies.

Don’t be fooled by A.I. buzzwords

Does an intelligent assistant use deep learning, neural networks, probabilistic programming, bayesian reinforcement learning? It doesn’t really matter. Many of the early A.I. companies building digital assistants have taken a “technology first” approach, but as long as the product works for you, the underlying machine learning models shouldn’t matter. Algorithmic innovations in A.I. get open-sourced pretty quickly, so any useful advances should be adopted by every digital assistant company in less than a year. Buy the best product for your needs and don’t let a buzzword-filled sales pitch drive you into the wrong decision.

Advances in A.I. are enabling a new breed of application that can extend and amplify the cognitive capacity of all your employees. These digital assistants will revolutionize all areas of work, but the largest gains will be seen in human resources and related fields. The best way to prepare your organization for the cognitive revolution is to start dabbling in these new technologies so that you can understand and appreciate their use cases. I hope this guide can be your first step in that direction.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

What Makes the Ultimate Dream Job and Company?

By Anna Burke, Vice President of Marketing & Communications for HighGround

More than 80 percent of Americans believe there is an ideal job for each person, and it can ultimately lead to career happiness and satisfaction. Yet what constitutes a dream job? And what makes a dream company? Whether you’re an employee or an employer, the answer may surprise you.

Trendy office perks like foosball and beer Friday are great bonuses, but they aren’t creating long-term satisfaction for employees. According to a recent study, a dream company has three qualities:

-       It cares about employees’ well-being
-       It provides opportunities for employees to learn and grow in their careers
-       It promotes work life balance

Ninety percent of employees report that an organization’s overall commitment to professional development is important, including opportunities for growth and learning.

Companies like Starbucks and PwC are committing to just that. The Seattle-based coffee giant offers a job-specific training program for new hires called 70/20/10. As part of their professional development, new hires will receive 70 percent on-the-job training, 20 percent through mentorship and peer-based feedback, and 10 percent from an online curriculum. Meanwhile, PwC provides education subsidizing with $1200 for student loan reimbursement.

Why should your organization strive to be a dream company? Studies show that your employees will typically have higher job satisfaction, more confidence, lower stress levels, greater engagement at work and less odds of resigning. In fact, 25 percent of employees not at the dream company consider resigning in the first year.

According to the National Career Service, a dream job typically matches the following criteria:

-       It's something you truly enjoy doing
-       It allows you to achieve a goal or ambition
-       It's a role you’re confident in doing

So what if your company culture doesn’t currently fit the criteria for a dream company or dream job? The good news is that research shows that people who grow into a position end up just as happy on the job—or happier—as those who felt it was the perfect fit from the outset. Things like self-management, work/life balance, cultural fit and great benefits can better engage employees.

As you’re pursuing candidates, remember what shapes a happy, satisfied employee. That foosball table in your break room might look pretty cool, but it’s just not going to cut it. Investing in professional development and education will make employees more engaged and ultimately, better contributors to your business.

Anne Burke is the Vice President of Marketing & Communications for HighGround.  Ann has nearly 20 years of B2B technology marketing experience.