20 November 2014

Customer Success & Employee Engagement

Employee-engagement-survey-staff-surveyThis week I had the opportunity to do the favourite part of my job; I got to spend time with a great customer discussing their plans for 2015. This customer inspires me on many levels, first and foremost because they still make something. They make a tangible good that can be sold, and not only do they make things, they make goods in the US. Although a global organization, their roots are in the mid-west and they still run their corporation with mid-western values. When I think about this customer, I also think about employee loyalty or employee engagement. Some employees have been there for over 40 years and the majority of the team I work with are lifers.  Rather than becoming complacent, they are challenged daily and rewarded to stay at the top of their game and they are continually looking for ways to better the lives of their colleagues at their organization.

According to BusinessDictionary.com, employee engagement is defined as: an emotional connection an employee feels toward his or her employment organization, which tends to influence his or her behaviors and level of effort in work related activities.

The more I work with this customer the more I see how their values and principles certainly must drive employee engagement and loyalty. Although I have never discussed any survey results with them (I don’t even know if they measure employee engagement), I can see the passion and care that the employees with whom I work have for their colleagues and corporation.  These employees work hard and are rewarded for that work; they do it not only for their own good but also for the good of the organization. As an outsider, it is looks like a truly symbiotic relationship both entities doing what is right for one another resulting in each prospering.

I have been Lumesse for ten years, which is a very long time in the software industry. I clearly have an emotional investment in this company which is something that fuels my desire to see it succeed. In my role I have been blessed to travel globally, work with wonderful, international teams, hold various challenging roles and work with wonderful people; for all of that I am grateful. When I think about my emotional connection with Lumesse, it does not stop with my organization but it is extended to my customers. My employee engagement reaches my customers because I feel like part of their team. Through my job I have the opportunity to become engaged with companies - like my mid-western manufacturing organization - that inspire me to do the best I can to truly obtain customer success for them and my organization.

19 November 2014

Squeezed Middle

UntitledAn overused phrase of the recent economic recession and recovery in the UK has been "the squeezed middle". The opposition Labour Party has used this phrase to describe the middle class citizens who were hit by higher marginal tax rates with reduced spending power.

On 11 November I heard Sir Charlie Mayfield (Chairman of John Lewis Partnership), at the Telegraph Festival of Business, describe his version of the squeezed middle. He drew a picture of what the employment market will look like in the next 20 years. It will be shaped like an hour glass with a broad base, a broad top and a 'squeezed middle'.

Economic growth is creating low-level jobs, expanding employment at the bottom. Demand for technical roles is growing the highest skill/salary end of the market; the middle will suffer an unprecedented contraction in jobs and pressure on wages.

Sir Charlie estimates that 50% of current job roles will be replaced by technology by 2030. As the middle gets squeezed, the career path from entry-level to higher-level jobs becomes harder. As a result, productivity stays low and the economy ceases to grow.

This is a slightly different - but interesting - take on how technology will influence employment in the next decade (which I explored in my earlier post).

The UK is even more vulnerable as almost a quarter of all jobs require only primary-level education, compared to 10% of jobs in the US and 5% in Germany.

Sir Charlie's recommendations to survive this change are:

1) Businesses have a responsibility to define NEW roles which utilise unique human skills that complement new technologies. Drastic re-design of organisations is needed, and must start now.

2) Education has to be continuous and developed in conjunction with business. Finishing formal education at the age of twenty-one is no longer sufficient. Society and businesses must change to accept education during working years as normal.

3) Employee ownership of companies should be promoted. When given ownership, employees may be more engaged and productive. Compared to shareholders, employees may prioritise the long-term success of the business. The need for a long-term view in investment was emphasised by another keynote speaker, Nigel Wilson (CEO Legal and General).

In early 2014, Thomas Volk (CEO Lumesse) highlighted the rapid development of new job roles, as a 'storm' facing HR. Without change the UK will continue to suffer from stagnating productivity, a problem has characterised the economic recovery to date. It is a dark cloud that affects us all, let's hope our HR community can navigate successfully through the storm.

18 November 2014

Evil Stepmothers and Acquisitions

MergerNowadays lifetime employment seems to be almost exclusive to Japan. The new generations of employees are seeking challenging work, which offers flexibility - such as flexible work hours and home-offices - development prospects and the opportunity for (personal) growth. They will be more likely than other generations to change jobs if a better opportunity arises. Forbes Magazine’s article 7 Surprising Ways to Motivate Millennial Workers provides some useful tips on how to deal with the new generation workforce.   

Not only workforce is changing, organisations also need to be flexible and adjust quickly to an ever-changing market. These factors are taken into account when hiring employees, promoting internal mobility and defining succession management.

What if all of these factors are taken into account, but you still find a completely new workforce which has not chosen to work at your company and your company has not consciously selected these employees as assets to the workforce (as is the case when dealing with insourcing or with mergers and acquisitions)?

Mergers and acquisitions with other organisations can be extremely valuable to companies as it can often increase their chances of survival. Not only does it expand the client base but it also gives the company a desired new product line and increased organisational synergy.  To use the analogy of marriage when describing a merger or acquisition, ‘you will also get the kids’.  However, these kids - being the employees - did not choose this marriage.

The ‘other’ company might be perceived as an evil step-mother, interfering with the daily family life that the employees were used to before the time of the merger.

Deloitte’s article ‘Leading through transition’ describes how to deal with the people side of mergers & acquisitions. The article describes how transition starts at the due diligence. In this case, due diligence is not used only for getting the figures right, but also to assess the less tangible characteristics of the other company. Referring back to the other company as being the step-mother, the initial company can be thought of in the sense of being the father who is exploring how the step-mother runs the household along with what the curfews and dinner habits of their family are.

During the transition, it is important to bypass the hostility. This is the time where your step-mother gets introduced during a dinner on neutral ground; in terms of the workforce, it is where the parties meet and have the opportunity to get acquainted. The importance of leadership in this phase is stressed by the article. There is need for someone trusted, but this someone also has to have a firm hand as they will need to lead the employees through the transition. In the terms of the family unit analogy that we previously mentioned, if the dad is hesitant or if he gives the slightest sign that he will not go through with it, the children will take advantage of it to avoid the transition.

When it comes to these leadership qualities, talent management plays an important role prior to the merger or acquisition. It enables the support of choosing the right father in this play, based on his competencies, understanding of the company vision and of course, the people skills required. Preparing this thoroughly and having an involvement with HR business partners during the transition will most likely result in a ‘happily ever after’.

17 November 2014

Lumesse Earns Double Award!

Winner button1On 10 September 2014, we announced that Lumesse and Vodafone had been awarded Silver at the Brandon Hall Excellence in Learning Awards 2014. This week, the Learning Content team were in high spirits yet again with a double win at the E-learning Awards. The awards, which took place in London’s Mayfair on 6 November, showcased examples of great e-learning that is being delivered across the globe.

At this event, Lumesse and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) were awarded Bronze in the ‘Best e-learning project - public sector’ category. This award is a new category for 2014 and seeks to recognise where excellence across the board, in terms of content, use of technology, and matching design to user and organisational needs, has led to a lasting, measurable and positive impact.

The Management Development Programme seeks to mature managers at the CPS by combining face-to-face classes with e-learning and reflective activities. Completion of the programme can lead to a nationally-recognised qualification.

Lumesse and their client Vodafone with their partner Oxford SM were then awarded Bronze in the ‘Best blended learning’ category. This award is also a new category for 2014 and is awarded for examples of outstanding blended learning, in which e-learning and other strategies and media have been applied to complement each other to achieve an overall organisational goal.

The blended programme helped to revolutionise the marketing function at Vodafone, across 21 countries. The project used E-magazine introductions to generate excitement. Workshops and Deep Dive sessions reinforced practical application of the learnings as well as bringing groups of marketers and leaders together. In addition to this, the transfer to work was then supported by a Bespoke Learning portal and webinars. 

Andrea Miles, director of Bespoke Learning content at Lumesse said, “We are delighted with the awards and are very grateful to Vodafone and CPS for being such great Clients to work with.”

Congratulations to the learning team!

Big Data? Small Data? Whatever!

Image004Big data is on everyone’s Twitter feed, in the title of countless business articles from academic and business publications. It has become a bit of a catch-all term to promise that we all face brighter futures simply by having so much data available to us. Interestingly, the authors of the New York Times best seller Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work and Think concede “there is no rigorous definition of big data”.

At the recent HRTech Europe conference one of the keynote speakers - David McCandless - who lists his job as ‘data journalist’, which incidentally is another title to add to the list of jobs that exist today that didn’t exist five years ago! His presentation challenged the audience to look at how we visualise complex data sets. Some of his visualisations are fascinating and I would recommend his books, especially Information is Beautiful  which is a great coffee table book and perhaps a Christmas present for yourself or a gift idea for the data geek in your life.

So, is big always beautiful? Harvard professor Gary King was recently quoted saying “the big data revolution is that now we can do something with the data”. The key here being the possibility, as who hasn’t created or had reports created for us that leave the reader with no sense of what the data is actually telling us. These reports leave us with a sense of ‘whatever’ or, as our millennial generation colleagues would say, ‘meh’. When it comes to HR data we need to move beyond the inconsequential ‘whatever’ to understand the three key ‘whats’ of turning insights into action:

  1. What is the data actually telling us about our people and our organisation?
  2. So what are the implications of the data, be it in headcount, financial terms or ‘softer’ issues?
  3. Now what do we need to change, should we stop doing something, start doing something, etc.?

The buzz at HR Tech in the US and in Europe was about the possibility that Big Data could bring. I am really excited about this possibility but was challenged by this quote from the founder of the Open Knowledge Foundation, a UK non-profit, “size in itself doesn't matter – what matters is having the data, of whatever size, that helps us solve a problem or address the question we have”. 

Some organisations need to start applying the ‘three whats’ to small data first. Done at a local level, existing HR technologies reporting (where available) should be used to power development, compensation, learning and recruitment decisions and investments. Delaying this with a belief that more data will make life easier is to miss the benefits available today. As former industry analyst and current analytics firm VP Allen Bonde says “we need to do a better job of collecting the insight and content we already have, discovering their meaning in the context of the task at hand…”.

So let’s be excited and ready for a bright Big Data future but let’s make sure we master small data first!

Disclaimer: Craig is not sponsored by any book publisher – he just likes books! 

04 November 2014

21st Century Leadership – Is Your Organisation Ready?

Marketing - Chess & LogoAs you may remember from our blog post last month, the Lumesse Talent Akademie is offering a series of monthly webinars - covering all aspects of talent management - to industry professionals and other interested parties. Our third webinar in cooperation with Deloitte will be held on 13 November 2014 and is titled “Leaders at all levels – Close the gap between hype and readiness”.

The key findings that will be delivered in this webinar are:

Leadership remains the no. 1 talent issue

  • For companies around the world, a shortage of leaders is one of the biggest impediments to growth. This challenge is particularly acute today as the global recovery strengthens, companies seek to rapidly grow their businesses in new markets, and older leaders begin to retire at accelerating rates.

Leadership needs today are far broader & deeper

  • Companies face leadership gaps at every level of the organisation. These gaps can only be filled through a sustained and systemic commitment to leadership development that builds new leadership pipelines at every level of the company.

Succession programmes

  • 51 percent of organisations have little confidence in their ability to maintain clear, consistent succession programmes.

Not only are modern-day companies not developing enough leaders, but they are also not equipping the leaders they are recruiting with the essential skills and abilities that they require in order to succeed. Today’s market environment places a premium on speed, flexibility, and the ability to lead in uncertain situations. At the same time, the flattening of organisations has created a huge increase in demand for leadership skills at every level.

If you require more information surrounding the event, you can contact Julie Shekyls-Young or alternatively you can book your seat in the webinar here.

03 November 2014

Change – The Good And The Bad, And The One You Want

Change – the good and the bad, and the one you wantSome questions are asked with the intention of making a point. One such example is, “Is change good?”

“We’ve had so many changes over the last (choose your time) period, can we get a little peace and quiet so that we can do our job?”  Well, if you imagine an electrocardiography (ECG) diagram - the classic one from the movies - the one you see on a screen in the ER where there’s a green line jumping up and down in more or less regular intervals, that’s the clearest picture of why change is good. Because, what is the alternative, when there is no change at all? Flat line. And we all know what that means, a single blip and a monotone note signaling that the heart has stopped beating. So change is good, yes? Then why is it occasionally draining and sometimes even scary?

Somehow, every generation claims that the changes are coming much faster now than when they grew up. Are they? Or is that part of the change? The millennials have already or will shortly hit the workforce and we will all be fighting to get the best ones of the crop. Do they consider the changes going on as going too fast? Probably not. So speed of change is relative to what you are used to. Not better or worse than before.

Are changes bigger than before? Are they more abrupt, harder to handle? Some things make more of a mark on us, we can usually tell where we were and what we were doing when certain things occurred: the shooting of Kennedy, the televised moon landing, 9/11 (or pick your own) and those incidents meant something. We all knew that the world had somehow changed after these events but most of the changes are happening without us noticing until some time has passed and we look back to analyse what really happened. “History is bound to repeat itself” and it does. So we should know our history, how we got there and what brought us here. Whether you are riding on the train or sitting in the locomotive, would you rather be facing backwards or forwards?

What is your personal response to change? You are probably guided by previous experiences. Look back at your own major events, be it on the job or in your personal life. Because change is only as good or bad, major or minor, fast or slow as you decide. Some changes were scarier than others, some were long awaited and welcomed.

A crisis is defined as something happening that is:  

    1. Sudden or unexpected

    2. Threatening important values

    3. Requires resources that are not there

Without one of those three elements, it is not a crisis.

Are the changes in your company or your life also a crisis?

Then take a look at what defines a crisis and think about how you contribute to that crisis. Did you plan for the changes that would, inevitably, come? Did you have some sort of plan B or any plan at all? Are you conscious about what the important values are and how you support those values? What resources are you assigning to handling sudden or expected changes? Are your resources ready for change, or are you instilling a (false) sense of security by telling everyone that nothing is going to change?

“The plan is nothing, the planning is everything” is still true. The thrill is to find new ways to handle changes, new and improved, out-of-the-box, all engaging ways of handling changes. Making changes the life indicator they are supposed to be. Because you always have a choice - the choice is yours.

Until a flat line that is. What are your choices?

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