Is Team Building Nonsense?

As I thought about interesting blog post topics over the last couple of days, a few rather surprising things happened.

  • I watched football. As I am generally known as ‘The One Who Does Not Care About Football And Stopped Pretending Even for Small Talk’, this is a huge surprise. The World Cup made it happen.  
  • I listened to the expert interviews and reviews after the Quarter-Final Germany/France, and found them really interesting.
  • The expert in these post game reviews on German TV, former footballer Mehmet Scholl mentioned team building in his analysis of the game.

Team buildingNow, unlike my colleague Tim O-Shea earlier in this blog, I am not expert enough to go into details of the art of the game to draw parallels to talent management. Luckily, Mehmet Scholl did that for me when he mentioned that he came across a lot of recommendations to focus on team building activities while training to become a coach, and his stance on team building.

Which is, in a nutshell: Team Building is nonsense. 

What surprised me about that wasn’t so much his negative stance on team building – I’d say this is rather typical outside of HR. It was that an HR or management topic got five minutes of fame in a football analysis! Normally, it is the other way round – we HR people use sport analogies to make a point. So even if it was a negative mention, I was weirdly excited about one of my favorite topics being discussed (to be honest, much of the excitement was probably also due to my team winning).

So why was team building said to be nonsense? The theory was simply and (surprisingly) convincing: Shared successes build a team. It is way more powerful to experience these successes in real life, rather than going rafting, canoeing, climbing, or training to build teams in other “artificially created” situations.

And on first glance, this seems convincing. And I’d agree team building events can be anything on a scale from awkward to painful. Even one of my favorite blogs’ authors shares the negative view as evidenced by this “hall of shame” post. More than 300 comments show there is a common dislike of team building.

Why is that so? I believe team building can lead to better functioning, higher performing teams – but only if done right. You can read many examples of “team building gone wrong” above, but there are just a few relevant points to consider in order “to do it right”:

  • Making it relevant – no silly games, but rather something that has to do with real life challenges.
  • Do not plan team building events during employees’ time off. A team dinner is fine, but whole weekend events forced on employees who might already struggle with work-life balance? Not such a fine idea.
  • Don’t even begin to think bad management can be saved by a once in a year event. As with everything talent management – ongoing effort makes the change.

Following some rules of thumb might lead to your employees being surprised by great team building events! Just try it out!

11 July 2014

What's New in HR

“Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for life.”

That same sentiment rings true in many aspects of our lives, including our business roles. You can slap a band-aid on a problem and fix it quickly and inexpensively, but also temporarily. Or you can dig in, find the root of the issue and solve it. It will probably take longer and cost more, but the solution is long-lasting, maybe permanent.

From cost savings through infrastructure to leadership decisions, this week’s articles are all about helping ourselves and those around us learn to fish.

If you have other resources you would like us to share in an upcoming post, please send them my way:

09 July 2014

How the HR Team Saved $1 Million

Million-dollarsLike so many companies, IAMGOLD, a global mining company, managed candidates and recruitment processes manually. Local HR staff in various countries did their best to facilitate the talent acquisition needs of their operation, and head office HR staff worked primarily with search firms to fill expatriate positions.

Knowing there was room to improve their approach and become more efficient, IAMGOLD decided to strengthen its talent acquisition capabilities globally by implementing Lumesse TalentLink.

The results and benefits speak for themselves.

  • Cost Savings: By creating one centralized system to manage candidates, IAMGOLD greatly reduced its need to use outside recruiters. Using a conservative formula, the TalentLink platform contributed to cost savings close to $1 million in 2013.
  • Quarterly Executive Summaries: IAMGOLD has a global talent position dashboard that reports to the executive management team on a quarterly basis. This information can support strategic talent decisions and inform IAMGOLD’s sourcing strategy.
  • Database Growth: In less than a year, the mining firm grew its global database to more than 10,000 mining via a variety of social media and job board sources.
  • Measure ROI: IAMGOLD can now measure the ROI on efforts to promote its employee value proposition globally. Engaged prospects can be converted to active candidates who are now captured in TalentLink.
  • Global Unity: Implementing a standardized global talent acquisition framework supports talent policies and global mobility and enables real-time reporting. By developing a global talent base IAMGOLD can share talent information across continents/ operations.

To learn more about IAMGOLD, read the full case study or contact us to become a TalentLink customer.

27 June 2014

What's New in HR

Catherine Rampell leads her Washington Post article by proclaiming good news that there is a spike in job openings, yet bad news that time-to-hire for those openings has slowed to a crawl. LinkedIn tells us that the top 10 cities for tech talent are all in India, the US and Australia. Glassdoor reports that sales pros are on the move, and TLNT reports that we’re hiring our own HR brethren.

Like most internet searches, recruiting and HR brings up a wide variety of opinions, trends and other information. You can make sense of it, though. Read a broad assortment, engage your critical thinking skills, apply what you know about your specific business, and form relevant and practical conclusions.

To do our part, here is a wide spectrum of information for your digestion and extrapolation pleasure.

If you have other resources you would like us to share in an upcoming post, please send them my way:

26 June 2014

Maintaining and Sustaining Change

Sustaining-successWe’ve all been there. We have all been the recipients of change as well as the instruments of change. When change is about to happen in our personal or professional lives, for most of us it creates undue amounts of stress and anxiety.

At the professional level, change in an organization can be broken down into four segments: 1) pre-change (or what happens before adoption takes place); 2) the process of change; 3) post-change; 4) The emotions connected with change.

This article focuses on what’s necessary to sustain momentum once a change has been implemented within an organization. The tips below are drawn from a survey conducted by the Forum Corporation.


Three key steps for maintaining and sustaining change


  1. Investment in time and resources are necessary to sustain change: 

    When change is implemented is oftentimes only the beginning of a project. Sustaining change is essential for the project to bear fruit. This includes regular and ongoing check-ins with employees, ongoing training when and where necessary, forums, discussions, avenues for feedback, etc.    

  2. Measurement and metrics are key when assessing the ongoing impact of change: 

    What are you trying to accomplish by implementing a new project? How will you measure that project? How will you show results that indicate progress is being made or that the change is having a positive impact on the organization? Clearly defined goals and metrics are a MUST when it comes ensuring the sustainability of a project after its implementation. Management and decision makers will want to know that the investment they’ve made was worth the effort.

    Metrics can be broken into short-term, mid-term and long-term milestones to show immediate progress as well as progress over time.

  3. Buy-in from management is crucial to maintain change

    Interaction with, and support from, management and people managers is essential to maintain change. If interest from an organization’s leadership in a project begins to wane, so will everyone else’s interest. If leadership continues to be supportive of a project or initiative, that will permeate the rest of the organization. 

25 June 2014

How far from perfect is your learning mix today?

Carole image.

This summer we’re getting to the heart of what Learning Transformation programmes really mean for L&D

Tell us if we’re wrong here, but from where we’re standing, much of the work L&D experts have seen on Learning Transformation so far has actually been about delivering change management.

Scratch away at almost any success story or analysis focused on Learning Transformation and you’ll usually uncover a process of L&D recalibration, with classic cost or time saving arguments used to add authority to the piece. All of this may well demonstrate effective, efficient change management, but can we really call this Learning Transformation?

We think “Learning Transformation” needs to be defined with a bit more rigour

Too many half-hearted attempts at definition in the past have resulted in bad planning, shoddy execution and wasted resource. Could it be that Learning Transformation is just yet another industry buzzword that will benefit from further definition? This summer we’re taking on the challenge. Here’s how we’re going to do it.

First, we’ll put 70:20:10 at the heart of the Learning Transformation argument

Industry wide, the 70:20:10 mix has become almost universally accepted as the most effective learning mix in the business. So we think it stands to reason that the best planned Learning Transformation programmes need to make achieving the right balance between formal and informal learning their end goal.

Then, we’ll establish the real learning mix that exists across the learnscape today

This is the challenging part. If we want to roadmap the best route towards optimising the learning mix, it helps to know where we’re all starting from. We’ll need your help, but the results we generate together via our study will, for the first time, establish the real blend that exists in the learning mix for most businesses right now.

Finally, we’ll pinpoint the key drivers that are powering effective Learning Transformation programmes towards 70:20:10 today

This is the clever part. Ascertaining how closely aligned to 70:20:10 most businesses are right now is useful, but being able to pinpoint the learning interventions that are supporting the most optimised L&D programmes is better.

Our super-simple collaborative survey will take just a couple of minutes to complete, but the findings it uncovers will inform Learning Transformation programmes for good. Why? Because we’re going to identify the real learning outputs that are most effective in the most optimised learning blends present in business today. The fresh insights we uncover will help e-learning professionals prioritise programmes and better define the Learning Transformation roadmaps we all develop.

Join us

Whether or not you’re starting a new Learning Transformation programme we’d like you to benefit from the fresh insights our summer study uncovers - and the good news is we’re just getting started. The “achieving perfect balance in L&D” launch date is just days away and will continue through the summer. Follow our blog or Twitter feed to keep up to date, and participate to be first to learn the new insights we uncover on the way.

24 June 2014

Evaluate Employees Like World Cup Players

World-cupWorld Cup Soccer Tournament is going on right now in Brazil and I’m blown away by the athletes who play this game.  To be a world class soccer player you need to have a combination of incredible physical conditioning and amazing technical skills. 

Tracking technology shows that the average player runs about 7 miles in a 90-minute game and the fastest players can break 21 mph in short bursts. Throughout the game they need to balance the speed and power needed to chase down an opponent with the skill and control required to make a good pass or score a goal.

As any sports fan knows, an athlete’s performance varies over the course of a game, tournament and even season. No single player can run all out all the time, make every pass or score on every shot. Mistakes happen, fatigue sets in, concentration comes and goes. 

That’s not just the way soccer players behave, that’s the way all humans behave. Unfortunately, in the world of business, we tend to measure performance based on the assumption of a long, linear, average state and rarely figure in the natural variation that humans experience.

Great athletes also have the ability to manage their energy, concentration and precision based on the circumstances in the game. Even more importantly, successful teams have the ability to synchronize their individual performance when it matters most.

The performance of individual players is not judged in any linear way based on any average effort level over the course of the game. It’s not judged based on the demonstration of any specific skills or techniques used during the game. Performance is measured by the ultimate impact of individual actions throughout the course of the game. The more important the moment is the more impressive the performance.

Another measure of performance is the ability of an individual or team to recover from adversity.  It’s not something that we tend to talk about or measure in HR, but in soccer it makes for some of the most exciting action. In HR, we tend to avoid discussion of adversity in an employee’s life or in our ongoing business cycles. I can’t imagine that an employee’s annual performance review would ever mention the rate at which an employee recovers from either personal or professional adversity.

A great example of the ability to recover came very late in the US vs. Portugal match earlier this week.  In the 81st minute of the game, Clint Dempsey of the US scored a goal to put the US ahead.  Down by a goal, Portugal faced elimination from the tournament with almost no time left.  Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the world’s best players had been relatively quiet throughout the match, but when it was needed most, he delivered a perfect pass at the perfect time to help Portugal score, pull even with the US and avoid elimination for a few more days. That’s the kind of player we all want on our team.

23 June 2014

The two faces of Recruiting

The two faces of recruitingIf you’re reading this post, chances are that you’ve heard about the importance of engaging candidates, how mobile is revolutionising the recruiting landscape, how analytics can dramatically improve your recruiting success and your quality of hire, or how user adoption, and the consumerisation of enterprise software will enhance all your recruiting processes.

All those statements are true of course. They are the progressive, forward-looking, sometimes groundbreaking thoughts, analysis, reflections, and initiatives of the recruiting strategists, bloggers, pundits, analysts, and technology vendors.

They allow the recruiting industry to always improve itself, to look forward to a better state of the profession, which will benefit all, organisations and candidates alike.

This is the face of recruiting you will see in all magazines. This is the voice of recruiting you will hear in conferences, and read in blogs.

But there is another side that is rarely discussed, but heavily practiced. Day after day, recruiters create requisitions, track hiring managers and their bosses for their approval, searches for candidates, schedule interviews, request and manage assessments, check backgrounds, call references, define questionnaires, review applications and compare candidates, convince those applicants and offer them a job, all the while tracking their cost-per-hire, diversity compliance, time-to-fill, and the ever-elusive quality of hire.

This is the face of recruiting that most recruiters experience.

The best reporting capabilities won’t improve the key metrics, if the workflows have plenty of bottlenecks. Recruiters won’t have any availability for engaging candidates if they are busy organising and re-re-re-scheduling interview sessions with multiple stakeholders, or reviewing the legality of the questions asked by managers in their application forms. Like the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, it is difficult to focus on the more value-creating activities, if your basic needs are not fulfilled.

The “System of Engagement” components of a recruiting infrastructure are all required, but let’s not forget that if they are not built on a solid foundation, a lot of their impact will be lost, if not destroyed.

A lot of the conversations today revolve around how Candidate Relationship Management solutions are where the value is created, how Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) have become a commodity, and how much organisations hate their ATS.

But, an ATS is more than just a necessary evil. Without this proper ATS, properly implemented, with proper processes in place, the value of these CRM will be inhibited.

It's time we recognise that an ATS is a critical component of a recruiting infrastructure - one that still offers significant value to the profession.

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