31 October 2014

How Standards Bolster Innovation

31-10-14 - How Standards Bolster InnovationTowards the end of the 19th century, electrical engineering became one of the core engines of the second industrial revolution. As Nicholas Carr put it in "The Big Switch", manufacturing energy provided factories "with a decisive advantage over other manufacturers. The company was able to expand the yield and efficiency of its factory. [...] Like other factory of the time, they were as much in the business of manufacturing energy as manufacturing goods".

This, of course, quickly changed as power plants started to rise and provide energy at a low-cost to everyone.

An aspect that is often overlooked in that story is that none of this could have happened without the emergence of standards.

At the time, each factory was producing energy its own way, and with different characteristics. From the voltage it produced to the way electricity was carried from production to consumption, each factory had a unique manner of doing it.

Recognising the lack of efficiency, most major players met and agreed on defining standards for all aspects of electricity: volt, ampere, coulomb, ohm, farad, and the shape and form of electrical outlets.  This standardisation process led the way to the electric grid as we know it nowadays.

Now that they no longer had to worry about manufacturing energy anymore, factories could at last channel their ideas and their capital, on what was their core business, manufacturing great new products! Moreover, this newly available - and cheap - energy quickly enabled anyone with a good idea to create a business and start manufacturing.

In short, it allowed new ideas and innovation to blossom.

Fast Forward to the ‘90s

Modern talent management solutions started to emerge at the end of the ‘90s, with a strong focus on talent acquisition. Each solution provider offered deep and innovative expertise in a particular process (e.g. recruiting, learning, performance). Customers, eager to get value from these innovations, were buying left, right and centre - for each process the best solution.

What they quickly discovered though, was that these best-of-breed offerings would not easily integrate with each other, which was becoming crucial to reap all the benefits of talent management. Therefore, organisations did the most logical thing, they turned to integrated suites.

The individual recruiters, learning specialists, and other HR professionals then made the discovery that they didn't get access to the same level of innovation that they were receiving with their best-of-breed solutions.

So, organisations were, and are still now, faced with two choices:

  1. They pick a few vendors that are best at what they are doing, and they compromise on the integration of their processes;
  2. They pick one vendor that integrates all processes, but they compromise on the depth of functionality.

In all cases, they pretty much forego all the innovation that is happening outside of their vendors, as those providers cannot invest in partnering and integrating with everyone that is out there.

A More Open World

Similar to the 19th century factories who were manufacturing their own energy, nowadays talent management providers focus a lot of their energy and capital on defining API (Application Programming Interfaces) that enable them to connect and integrate with other software providers.

The problem with this is that no two APIs are the same. This means that every time you want to connect two systems, someone has to adapt to the other party's API. And as you increase the number of parties involved, you also increase the costs of developing and maintaining those integrations. This is not an economically sustainable model, even for the biggest players.

This is why we need standards in the Talent Management space. Organisations of all sizes need to have an easy access to all the innovation that is out there. Small start-ups with great ideas need to have access to clients who could benefit from their new way of resolving new and existing challenges. These two worlds need to know more of each other so let's connect them.

Introducing HROS

The funny thing is, these standards for the talent management industry already exist. The HROS Consortium (stands for Human Resources Open Standards - used to be known as HR-XML), where I am a director on the board - hosts various standards for recruiting, payroll, screening besides others..                                                                                     

Many solution providers already support the standards, especially in some domains (e.g. screening or assessment), and in some regions (e.g. Europe, including European Commission’s projects).

However, for various and often counterproductive reasons not all providers do support them.

So, Why Standards?

  • Standards are an enabler for innovation by allowing everyone to focus on delivering additional value rather than re-inventing the wheel and wasting time on plumbing issues.
  • There are great standards in the HR space. You can check them out here! As clients of Talent Management solutions, why not request your providers to follow these standards?

28 October 2014

When does HR start acting like a Business Partner?

LUM_Photography_Human_2014_15322As I promised in my previous blog post, this piece should give you some inside knowledge into situations where true Business Partnering by HR can save money for the company. In the following example of a publishing firm, HR took the traditional role of ‘supporting’ and executing a management decision, without challenging either the manager or the company.  The consequences of this action that the company was forced to pay a large severance payment and they also lost a valuable employee.

This publisher is a true believer in management training programmes.  In order to find new managers for the future they hired ten new management trainees, all with different backgrounds, directly from university.  In the three years that followed, one of those 10, let’s call her Kate, was eager and enthusiastic to accept any challenging projects that were offered. Kate was a true example how successful management training can be.

After the programme Kate was offered a management position in which she would be building a new business unit in a niche market for the publisher. Kate was known for her enthusiasm getting people on board and excellent project and time management skills. By using these skills the new business unit was established and operational in the new market before the deadline. Kate worked really hard with her team and they made this project a success. Unfortunately, due to economic fluctuations and an organisational change, the company wanted to sell this business unit to a partner. Although she had to let go of her ‘business baby’ she just found out that she was pregnant and so it was agreed with her manager that Kate would work with the partner until  her leave and he would find her another project when she returned from maternity leave.

When Kate returned she heard about the challenge the publisher had finding somebody to lead their online business.  Fortunately for Kate, the Executive Manager employed her in this position and  she was working four days a week  in the most challenging job at  the company.. Although it was difficult, Kate and her team found a way to attract the target groups and increase the number of online sales.

The announcement of a new reorganisation and change of management changed everything and within a few months Kate was unemployed! What happened?

A new manager took over the business division and became responsible for Kate’s unit.  Within days he had acquaintance meetings with all the managers(including Kate) and his first question was  whether or not she was suitable for this role with her other responsibilities as a young mom. Kate was completely surprised about this as she had her annual performance review three months previously in which her former manager wrote down that she is an example for the whole organisation to follow.

In the weeks following, it was perfectly clear that this new manager had his mind set on the fact that Kate was not the person for the job. After a few other incidents  - such as him scheduling meetings on her part-time day, Kate requested a meeting with the new manager and HR but in her case it was the worst thing she could do.

Although she had been a valued employee for years, which was known by HR, they just agreed with the manager and didn’t act as a mediator during this meeting. This resulted in the manager coming out and saying that he could not work with Kate and sent her home with the remark that HR will contact her to let her know what’s going to happen. The next day she found out that he had already hired someone from another division, with no background in this position.

You would think this could not happen and that they would need grounds for such an action. I can see you thinking, Kate must have done something wrong or that there was something else going on, like headcount reduction, I can tell you, it was not. Kate reached out to her former manager and even he was disappointed to learn the news, he also gave her some insight into the workings of some managers and that sometimes you can come across a manager who doesn’t use the capabilities of an excellent employee for his own benefits, but instead feels threatened and makes sure that this employee is removed from the company – which was Kate’s situation.

 I think that the worst thing is, that HR could not act as a mediator and ensure the manager that employees like Kate are key to the progression of the company.

Naturally, this ended up in a legal situation which cost the company a large sum of money and a valued employee. Kate now has her own successful company which aids in advising and establishing strategies surrounding online marketing for companies.

23 October 2014

Company Glue

Professional-connectionsWhen thinking of talent management, it is common practice for organisations to focus on their high performers and high potentials when conducting talent management. These are the employees to keep abroad and will contribute to the future direction of the organisation. There is nothing new in this statement. Naturally there is also a need for a foundation, a steady group of employees who have the task of carrying out the day-to-day business. These employees are often referred to as ‘Core Employees’ and they usually make up the majority of the organisation. Tools for calibrating and reviewing the workforce in terms of talent provide a great insight in how talent is distributed. Talent grids, for example, provide a valuable insight on how employees are doing in terms of performance, potential and/or retention.

In the following case the organisation has played by the book. It has identified its talent, its core employees and has dealt with underperformers. This led to a restructuring of the organisation to ensure a focus on its top strength. The surprising outcome was that the performance of certain business units dropped dramatically. And after reviewing the performance of individual employees, it was noticed that the performance of some of the high performers had dropped dramatically too. Employees who were steadily exceeding performance in the past, were now performing below average. There was no easy way of identifying the cause of this decrease. Initially, it was assumed that the restructuring process  (which involved having to let employees go) affected the company moral, but as times passed, there seemed to be no improvement. Multiple talent reviews were held, but each resulting in the same outcome: the right distribution was applied; there was a steady base of core employees, a right amount of high performers and sufficient potentials.

So what has led to this unexpected result?
The company decided to consult an expert in group dynamics to see what other causes could be identified for the drop in performance; this has led to a remarkable outcome. It seemed that employees who were not performing up to par, or didn’t show lots of potential were actually contributing to the team effort. It was not shown in measurable results, but they seemed to be the glue holding the group together. It is known that high performers need other high performers to encourage each other, but this case showed that they also require colleagues who contribute to the team spirit.

At first glance it might not be the easiest task to identify these team contributors as it is not measurable in terms of individual results. However, a good practice is actually having a talent meeting when discussing the employee review. This will allow having a conversation not only about tangible results of the staff, but also discussing the individual contribution to the team and the necessity of keeping these employees onboard.

20 October 2014

The Key to Success

12The discussion around HR technology tends to focus on usability, flexibility, mobile enablement, and lots of other “adoption” type issues. Adoption is important, but the key to success is aligning HR technology to the strategic goals of the business and the personal goals of the user.

If HR technology does not simultaneously support both, the overall business and the individual employee, it doesn’t reach its full potential. That’s a pretty tall order and by this definition there are lots of HR technology implementations that are under-performing.

Those of us in the HR technology business, both vendors and customers, tend to get wrapped up in the urgent everyday issues that come with complex processes and problems. Sometimes it’s valuable to take a step back and look at the big picture. Here are three questions about corporate strategy and three questions about employees that can help you reset, reframe and reflect on your alignment.

Three Corporate Questions:

  • What are the strategic objectives of your organization?
  • What are the top internal factors that will impact those objectives?
  • What are the external factors that will impact those objectives?

 Three Employee Questions:

  • What are the personal goals of our employees?
  • How can the organization help employees achieve those goals?
  • What is the organization doing that prevents employees from reaching those goals?

By taking a few minutes on a regular basis to review these questions, you may be able to get yourself and your organization much more aligned with your strategic goals.

17 October 2014

Achieving the Right Learning Mix

1How do L&D professionals interpret the learning mix across their workforce? And what training activities do they focus on in order to best support the workforce?

Well, this is one of the things our research programme attempts to discover by taking the learning mix established by 70:20:10  and asking L&D professionals to estimate what this mix looks like in their organisation today. Later in the survey we ask the same people to estimate the amount of time they think that their training department spends supporting specific parts of the mix (formal, informal/on the job).


The final numbers from our collaborative research programme indicate that 49:26:25 is the average learning mix that most L&D professionals think exists across the workforce they support today. When the same people are asked to estimate the amount of time they think their HR department spends, supporting on the job, informal and formal learning initiatives, their answers are weighted 39:24:37.

When you take general work tasks out of the equation (most L&D professionals say they spend about 10% of their time doing general admin or reporting tasks), today’s typical L&D professional expects to spend 37% of the working week on activities that support the supply of formal training and 63% on activities that help facilitate informal/on the job learning.

It’s not about the numbers

Let’s be clear, we’re not trying to explain 70:20:10 (or any parts of the learning mix)tothe average L&D professional, we’re trying to work out how L&D professionals define 70:20:10 for themselves. From what we’ve discovered so far, many L&D experts get the numbers more than they get the idea (People Alchemy’s Paul Mathews makes this point too, in his recent blog).

The big picture that’s evolving from our study is one where L&D professionals seem to unanimously agree with the learning mix that underpins 70:20:10, but are much less sure about what they should be doing to achieve this.

  • They’re not sure that 70:20:10 is the optimum mix for everyone, regardless of the circumstances.
  • They’d like pragmatic guidance as they evolve and adapt their formal learning resources for the new “informal” ecosystem.
  • They want help clarifying their own role, in a business environment where the traditional L&D function is increasingly partnering and sharing learning responsibilities across departments, stakeholders and workers.

No single survey is ever going to address all of these difficult issues, but for the moment, we’re happy that our latest collaborative research project has raised them.

The final report will be released soon.

15 October 2014

Elevators, HR and the Butterfly Effect

Paternoster_kartouzska_empty1Why does Spain have more elevators per person than anywhere else in the world? And what has this got to do with HR?

The result of separate policies of the Franco administration post the Spanish civil war in the 1940’s onwards created the current conditions for apartment building, dwelling and home ownership. Lots of apartments equals lots of elevators. An outstanding 65% of Spaniards live in apartments and 80% own their home. In the EU, only Ireland has even slightly comparable rates of home ownership, but only 5% live in apartments, so not many elevators. The link between Spanish history and the current amount of elevators in the country was explored in this article on Quartz.com.

A high rate of home ownership has been shown, by a study referenced in the same article, to  have a negative effect on the labour markets, making them less flexible. Home ownership lowers labour mobility, increases commute times and reduces the number of new businesses; there was a significant time lag between the changes and their ultimate effects.

Spanish government policies, unrelated to the labour market, introduced external factors that prevented the supply and demand of labour to bring the right employees to the right jobs. The Spanish labour market has suffered rigidity from external factors and heavy labour market regulation. The Spanish economy has struggled to recover quickly from the 2008 economic crisis, in part, due to labour market rigidity.

A small, initial change within a system, such as the economy, that eventually leads to one outcome rather than another is popularly known as the 'butterfly effect'. It took decades for the policies of the Franco administration to affect the labour market.

In modern times, technology is the foundation of a large part of our lives, organisations and economies; labour markets are both linked to and involved in technology. The rate of technological change is constantly increasing (exponentially according to some), the time lag between a change and its effects is reduced.

Technology will bring significant change to HR but who knows what the ultimate result will be? Those who predict the future with certainty could be reminded of the incidence of elevators in Spain.

07 October 2014

Deloitte and Lumesse Talk Human Capital Trends

LUM_366_eDM_250x150_v01  LA BANNERThe Lumesse Talent Akademie offers industry professionals and interested parties a series of monthly webinars covering all aspects of talent management.

For these webinars Lumesse has teamed up with Deloitte to address the question ‘What top issues are HR facing?’ This is an important topic in modern times as companies who are looking to acquire and recruit new talent are faced with a battlefield which is shaped by global talent networks and social media. Employees with sought after skills now often have more of a choice in their employment than the hiring managers themselves. With instant access to the internet, candidates can now learn about companies instantly and decide whether the company deserves to employ them.

Nearly 45% of candidates now apply for jobs via mobile devices and, as a result, most companies are now entering into the world of social networking (i.e. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter) in order to market their companies to passive job candidates. Since the labour market is becoming increasingly in favour of the candidate, there is more pressure on HR managers to make the right decisions. Therefore, in our events, webinars and discussion forums, we cover the entire life cycle of HR from recruiting topics such as on boarding, compensation and performance evaluation through to leadership, leaving the company and succession management. We ran our first webinar on 25 September 2014 in which we covered the top topics from Deloitte’s global research giving fresh insight & practical advice to recruitment & talent management professional across the globe.

The next webinar will take place on Thursday, 16 October 2014 at 2pm (UK time) and the topic will be on Talent Acquisition revisited “Deploy new approaches for the new battlefield” and will last one hour. 

In this webinar you will discover:

  • Why companies that fail to adapt will likely be on the losing end when it comes to attracting and accessing the people and skills they need.
  • How social networks can build talent ‘communities’.
  • Why companies must move from recruiting to marketing.
  • Why big data tools are a must to access talent.

You can register for this complimentary webinar here.

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