21 August 2014

When does HR start acting like a Business Partner?

LUM_Photography_Human_2011_133One of my team members recently told me that she learned a huge amount from me about the alternative ways on how you could approach Human Resources within a company instead of following the traditional HR role. Although hearing this had obviously already began to inflate my ego, I asked her to explain her point further. She told me that,. when she had worked in previous companies, she followed the guidelines and processes that had been set up in the company  in order to make sure that all of the HR topics were clear and everybody acts accordingly.

Although we don’t have guidelines for everything, I know these guidelines help the HR function and management for a large part but it’s true I don’t just follow the guidelines. I always assess the situation before I do anything else and then I talk with the different parties to make sure the guidelines or processes we have in place are a fit for the particular situation. If they are not suitable for the situation then we find a way without setting precedence nor using favoritism. It’s always backed with objectives and legitimate arguments as otherwise I still can go back to our guidelines. However, you can only do this when you truly know the business and the company’s objectives. This was the part the team member missed in previous companies; she was just working in the HR department, executing her HR role based on guidelines.

This was somewhat of a surprise to me. I know I’m not the typical HR professional, this may be due to my ten years of freelance experience, as I’m more organisation driven than HR driven. However, what I didn’t think about was that normality for me - acting as a true Business Partner, standing next to your senior management and making company decisions together - is (still) not true for a large part of my HR colleagues in other companies.

HR, start being a Business Partner today, by understanding the business, the business objectives and the challenges your managers (and employees) face every day.

Next time I’ll give some inside knowledge to situations where true HR Business Partnering can save a lot of money for companies when accepted by senior management. Look out for my next blog.

18 August 2014

Advances in Robot Technology

ASIMO_Conducting_Pose_on_4_14_2008In 1991, I completed a school science project in which I predicted the classroom of the future. I envisaged every student would have a laptop, the blackboard would be an interactive screen and the teacher would be a robot.

I didn't do too badly with some of my forecasts about IT in the classroom - but robot teachers are not commonplace, yet.

Robot technology is advancing more quickly than ever. Google's driverless cars and Amazon's delivery drones grab the headlines, but accelerating growth in smaller, cheaper robots that have applications outside of factories are likely to be more disruptive, the examples are many and diverse. Robotic arms that can automate small manufacturing tasks are being made in Denmark for less than €25,000. Japanese robots provide the nation’s ageing population with companionship in their homes and sell for €1,500.

For the first time outside of manufacturing, lower-skilled roles are being replaced by robots altogether.  TUG robots, created by Aethon (http://www.aethon.com/tug/benefits/), are now being used in 150 hospitals in the US to move around laundry, pharmaceuticals and beds. Logistics, transportation, retail and service sectors are likely to be transformed by automation in the near future.

What will be the impact on HR? A recent study by the Pew Research Centre concluded that expert opinion is divided whether new jobs will be created by the technology or unemployment will rise. In both scenarios, jobs and organisations will change - as they have done with previous disruptive technologies and HR will need to adapt to these changes.

Organisations will need to develop their human capital in order to maximise the potential productivity gains from improved technology. Demand for learning and development at work will increase; employees will have to adapt to changing roles or re-train completely. Individuals will need to continuously increase their skills to differentiate themselves from their peers and from advancing technology.

“Only the best-educated humans will compete with machines,” says internet sociologist Howard Rheingold.

Ultimately we're unlikely to have robot teachers in our classrooms any time soon because technology cannot yet replace the nuances of understanding and reactions between humans. But robots are definitely part of our future.

13 August 2014

The Big Bang Theory

Article-1051070-01AFBD460000044D-887_468x327I have recently had several conversations with customers about the roll-out strategy of their renewed talent management processes; some of them were moving from an old fashioned paper process to a new digital process, whilst others were just replacing old systems with new ones.

Systems involving Employee Self Service are a specific field of play when it comes to roll-out. The exposure of the system is huge and the risk of not being adopted is enormous. Often the deployment of the new system is supported by a business case based on labor savings and improved information.

Organisational DNA and phases

With this in mind we see completely different approaches when rolling out new systems depending on the client’s DNA. Harvard Business Review has written a great piece about The Secrets to Strategy Execution: The Idea in Practice, where the execution weaknesses of organisations are explained.

Passive-aggressive and over managed organisations tend to go for a phased roll-out based on the population that are using the system.  Often they start with a limited amount of departments which will start using the system. Typically these departments are considered to have a low risk roll-out and are not directly linked to any critical business processes. This approach enables them to have a small, defined and contained roll-out, limiting any (negative) exposure throughout the organisation. It gives the opportunity to fix any hiccups which might occur (or to even redesign a little if required), before rolling out to other parts of the organisation.

Centralised organisations

The downside of this approach is that it will not suit every organisation in terms of organisational structure and governance, although they might have the right DNA. For example, for organisations with centralised support units and centres of excellence (when deploying talent management), it might increase the burden of having to manage both the current processes, as well as the newly deployed ones; this risk is often overseen when building the business case for a new system. The increased required labor for the central organs is not always taken into account when calculating the required investments and efforts.

Big Bang and hourglass

But what about the alternative? If we take a closer look at a ‘big bang roll-out’, what would be the risks? As mentioned before, big bang roll-outs havegreat exposure. Thorough preparation is absolutely crucial for going live, either phased or via big bang. A big bang roll-out might, for example, increase pressure on your system’s performance; stress tests are crucial when deploying for a large population. You don’t want the first impression of your newly deployed system to be an hourglass in the middle of a non-responsive screen. 

In Memoriam: ‘Our dearest mainframe’

System performance is just one thing; also in this case any (centralised) support departments should be ready to deliver support in case it is needed. All these preparation activities might also lead to a higher cost of deployment.

But also be aware of how to communicate and announce the launch of the new system. Try to make transparent what the benefits are and how improvements are made by comparing to the old

situation. I even come across an organisation which held roadshows alongside the executive sponsor to announce the new system, but also wrote a memorial for the old mainframe to say a final farewell to the old system. 

Rollback or setback?

Naturally, you will always have a rollback plan. This plan contains the re-transition to your old systems in the event that the initial roll-out of the new systems has failed. You would then need your fallback scenario to ensure continuity. But having to fallback to it will also affect the delayed deployment of your new system. A new re- launch of the system would only be harder, as it is very likely to be welcomed with a dose of skepticism, because it has failed before.

I have even seen cases were organisations are so scared of a go-live failure, that they have parallel developed systems to take over when the actual systems fail thereby doubling the cost of their initial investment. It can happen that organisations become too focused on risk control that they forget the main goals in their project. Research conducted by McKinsey and the University of Oxford points out that a lack of focus and reactive planning are the main causes for cost overrun.

So what is a sensible approach in this manner? Well, there isn’t one right answer to it. No matter which approach you’d prefer, just make sure thatyou are well prepared and that you take all the effort into account. Cost of a new system is not just the time you spend designing and developing, it is also the time required for establishing and executing your launch. And, never forget to keep your eye on the goal!


12 August 2014

Less than 5% of companies use 70:20:10 as their learning mix

Untitled-3It’s the perfect blend that most experts say L&D professionals should be trying to deliver into the workplace, but for the vast majority of companies that have participated in our Learning Transformation study  so far, realise that 70:20:10 isn’t going to happen anytime soon.


50:26:24 is the average learning mix in most companies right now

It’s early days and we’ve got a long way to go, but when we crunched the first numbers on our new study, we could see that the current average mix of training in the L&D industry is actually:

  • 50% via ‘on the job learning’
  • 26% through ‘informal training’
  • 24% from ‘formal training’

What’s coming next?

It’s not just the absence of 70:20:10 in the workplace that is intriguing.  It’s the fact that most L&D professionals don’t seem to believe that providing learning support in these proportions is the priority for their particular business.

So far, the evidence that is coming out of our study suggests that:

  • Everyone agrees with the basic hierarchy established by 70:20:10
  • L&D professionals struggle to differentiate  between resources that will support formal learning outcomes and resources that will support informal learning outcomes
  • The actual training mix that exists  in organisations today differs dramatically between business sectors (some sectors are much closer to 70:20:10 than others)

Want to know more?

We’re gathering evidence from L&D professionals across the industry right now. If you’d like to find out how your organisation compares just click here  to take part in our simple survey. It genuinely takes under five minutes to complete.

To contribute to the Lumesse Summer 2014 Study, please click here.

11 August 2014

Should I attend yet another conference?

Christer's Post 11.08.14Is there anything left to learn from all of these trade shows and conferences?

I would say yes, just make sure you don’t always attend the same ones every year as, if you do, you are likely to see the same companies with almost the same speakers year on year.

A couple of years ago I attended a conference called ITEC; it is the best conference I’ve attended to date. Not because it was well organised, but because it showed me similar things to other events from alternative perspectives. The focus was learning but it was mainly aimed at the defence sector. As a result I got to see a wide variety of training interventions and software solutions that I had not come across before. However, it was easy to see how, with a few minor tweaks, these could easily be used in other industries.

I think that there is an awful lot to learn from looking at other industries than your own. Sure, attending a conference aimed at HR allows you to speak to other HR professionals, but due to it being aimed at HR in general the focus of the conference will be quite wide. If you were to attend a show with a more narrow focus on an industry different to yours I think that you will acquire some great insight which will allow you to bring back fresh ideas and new ways of tackling training in areas where you may be struggling.

At the ITEC conference I spoke to an L&D professional who had just delivered a learning programme by using a 3D simulator for his part of it. It was absolutely critical that it was as close to the real thing as possible and he was very pleased with the results. He did however, also point out that because he was using simulators a lot, he got caught out by using it in areas where there was little or no value added by doing so. He was so used to this method of delivering the training that he did it out of habit, without really thinking.

I think it’s very easy to do things because we are used to the way it has always been done. We deliver training as per the training pack designed by the previous trainer. We may bring in incremental changes over time to improve it but we never really do anything close to innovate.

I’ve found that by occasionally attending a trade show, or conference (not necessarily aimed at me), I make unexpected connections with my own way of doing things and learn something new and unexpected.  It’s always an opportunity to bring back some new ideas and despite what you may think, you won’t need a big budget to do so, just be prepared to try something new.

08 August 2014

Time Crunch! When time is of the essence for one region in a global recruiting implementation

Teamwork pic

You may recognize the name from their line of cars, but the Saab Group has been building airplanes since 1937.  In fact, they’ve been out of the automobile industry for a long time, selling a majority of their car division to General Motors in 1991.  

These days, the company’s primary focus is aerospace and defense.  With over 13,000 employees, they have operations all over the world including the Americas, Europe, India, and Asia.  In 2011 Saab acquired the US-based Sensis, an air traffic control systems company.

Saab chose Lumesse to implement and deliver talent acquisition technology for their global locations.  While the global implementation was managed from Sweden, they faced a local challenge in the US.  The contract with their US-based ATS provider was scheduled to expire 3 months before the global “go-live” date.

Faced with this challenge, Saab and Lumesse worked together to rapidly configure TalentLink and go-live in the US within 8 weeks.  

Read the full case study or contact us to become a TalentLink customer.

04 August 2014

No Man Is An Island - We All Need Allies

ConnectionIt’s not often that I use quotes from metaphysical poets in a blog post - and the truth is that I’m not sure I could tell the difference between a metaphysical and a non-metaphysical poet - but I love the opening quote (which mimics the same words as the title) from John Donne’s timeless poem, ‘No man is an island.’ Albeit written in the 17th century - when language was less inclusive - this poem still has the power to remind us of the connections that we all share. To live in the 20th century is to live in an age where communication and access to knowledge is faster and cheaper than in any time in history, we also have the potential to live in the most interconnected age.

Having a world of recruitment and talent management where contingent working and shorter term contracts become more common and the concept of a ‘job for life’ is a story from a bygone era, can lead to the creation of employees who believe they are free agents and that to pretend otherwise is kidding themselves; this can lead to disengagement and reduced team energy.  In a recent Harvard Buisness Review article, Reid Hoffman (the founder of LinkedIn) and other co-authors addressed this scenario. They suggested, that rather than pretend that we are bound to each other for the rest of our working life, we commit to be allies. This approach, they believe, will foster a working culture where “independent and autonomous players … voluntarily come together to work towards mutually agreed upon goals.” This build on Hoffman’s concept of work as being ‘tours of duty’ where our work context is limited but the effort is maximised. This approach sounds honest and quite freeing from cynicism; it will be interesting to see some case studies proving this in practice.

When Dr. Stephen Covey famously positioned in his seminal 1989 book “the 7 habits of highly effective people” that effective people move from independence to interdependence he was correct but even since the late 80’s the work context has changed and this interdependence may be more time-limited now than then but we should still be interdependent.

We can choose to try and live on an island but its more effective (and less lonely) ‘doing’ life and work whilst having people on our side.

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