Thursday, 28 April 2016

Simple and effective workforce analytics

The amount of commentary around HR analytics continues to grow, but in my view, a lot of it is misleading.  There's also a real lack of good case studies.  I've written about this in a post on Workstars's blog where I've also suggested that social recognition systems provide a great way into HR analytics too.

Workstars is a sponsor of my Strategic HCM blog and so you've hopefully been reading about them here already.  But in brief:
Workstars' mission is to make your business a better place to work, and crucially, get your business working better.  
Workstars are innovating beyond the very tired, self serving $47 billion reward industry. We are focussed on the future, and the future of employee recognition is social. 
A true cloud based business that wraps people services around the market leading employee recognition application, where every line of code is shared by every client, very large or very small. 
The first global SME and Enterprise provider to master a free to launch model. Our significant application investment continues to expand our business. We work with HR and when it comes to employee recognition, we are a plug and play innovator. 
Workstars bring enterprise level infrastructure and thinking, designed to make managers great and boost engagement across any business.

Also see:

Friday, 15 April 2016

BBC World interview on Equal Pay

I've been back on BBC World talking about the gender pay gap and equal pay.

The context was Equal Pay Day, set up 20 years ago by Bill Clinton, and Hillary's support for its continuation in Glassdoor's panel event.

I talked about Glassdoor's economic research confirming that there is a real gender pay gap, but that most of this is explained (or as Hillary suggested, explainable but not justificable) ie that we need to find a way to ensure that society doesn't divert women away from high paid to low paid jobs and get in the way of their progression.  I think it might even be deeper than this ie that some of the high paying jobs are only high paying because they relate to the sort of activities which men tend to value.  In a fairer world, jobs based on caring, service and education might be better paid, and those in casino banking a bit less.  That's not to say more women wouldn't benefit and be engaged from finding jobs in STEM, technology and other areas, but I do think the jobs that women currently tend to take deserve being more highly valued too.

However about a third of the gap can't be explained like this, is a result of real unequal pay, and more direct bias, conscious or unconscious, within the workplace.  The results matter because Glassdoor has used the actual salaries entered by people in its site, so this is a much more granular and therefore accurate analysis than we've ever had before.

I enjoyed the interview though I was a bit disappointed in not finding an opportunity to talk about pay transparency particularly as I followed on from discussion around Bob Dudley's rather obscene pay levels, tax avoidance, corporate greed and an interview with Dr Kim at the World Bank noting that transparency isn't going to go away.  Glassdoor's findings show that employees believe this will be an important means to move towards equality.

I also regretted not being able to get to see Iris Bohnet speak at the LSE as she also covers a lot of great research around gender equality.  Did you know for instance that politically correct language helps both men and women in a team to perform.  That's one reason why Isabel Hardman was right to call out the UK MP who called her the totty.

I also think Bohnet's ideas about nudging organisations to reduce the impact of bias are very sound eg women are more likely to give a good speech if they see a picture of Hillary rather than Bill Clinton, and are less likely to go into computing if this is promoted through pictures of Luke Skywalker.  I'm not sure how Princess Leia relates.

You may also be interested in some of my other BBC interviews for Glassdoor, eg:

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Tuesday, 12 April 2016

#EqualPayDay - David Cameron's tax returns and broader pay transparency

I'm booked on BBC World on Thursday evening (their Behind the Headlines feature at around 8.00pm BST) to talk about pay transparency.

When the interview was booked I wasn't sure how topical the agenda would be - and then wham! - Panama happened, David Cameron fudged and then published his tax returns, and suddenly it's a top of the headlines news item with many commentators asking how far the new expectation for transparency will go.

This is in the UK at least so of course it's a shame that BBC World isn't available here, but I'm sure the same type of pressures are building outside of the UK as well.  Because it's not just about Panama, it's just a signal of the new digital age.  In today's world why shouldn't we expect tax, pay etc to be shared openly and transparently when so much else is.

Plus this would be a huge enabler for better practice.  For example Glassdoor Economic Research's new survey has found that both men and women believe greater pay transparency would be one important factor in reducing the gender pay gap.

It's why it's also interesting to see Glassdoor running the equal pay roundtable with Hillary Clinton and others today.  If you're free do join in for this at 2.30pm BST today - it should be a great conversation.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Reward Transformation or Timid Tinkering?

I've previously shared some of my ideas on the opportunities for innovating reward, pulled from the ATD Handbook on Talent Management.  Here's why we need this innovation: 

The emergence of talent development as a new, more evolved form of training and development reinforces the scale of transformation that has been underway within this area of talent management.

New insights from neuroscience and behavioural economics and new technologies including social, mobile and cloud are just some of the drivers leading to a new focus on creating an environment in which talent can develop.

Looking back at the focus on delivering training ten or even five years ago and comparing this to the type of activities talent developers will be undertaking in another ten years time (learning app designer, content curator,  community manager etc) it is clear this has been a revolution, not just an iterative improvement.

Other areas of talent management reviewed within this book have been through similar levels of change.

Recruitment / talent acquisition is probably the most obvious example and the shift in focus from recruitment advertising to sourcing, employer branding and external talent communities has been just as radical as the change in the talent development space.

But most other areas have or are now seeing a similarly transformational scale of change.

But what about reward (meaning the topic and activity relating to compensating and engaging people through monetary and other exchanges)?

Well, although there is a lot of talk about the new pay, as yet, there is not that much difference between the new and the old!

Also see:

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Thursday, 31 March 2016

Moving from Reward to Recognition

There are some ideas on doing this in this post on Workstars's blog.

Workstars is a sponsor of my Strategic HCM blog and so you’ll be reading more about them here over the rest of the year.  But in brief:
Workstars' mission is to make your business a better place to work, and crucially, get your business working better.  
Workstars are innovating beyond the very tired, self serving $47 billion reward industry. We are focussed on the future, and the future of employee recognition is social. 
A true cloud based business that wraps people services around the market leading employee recognition application, where every line of code is shared by every client, very large or very small. 
The first global SME and Enterprise provider to master a free to launch model. Our significant application investment continues to expand our business. We work with HR and when it comes to employee recognition, we are a plug and play innovator. 
Workstars bring enterprise level infrastructure and thinking, designed to make managers great and boost engagement across any business.

Also see:

Monday, 28 March 2016

Strategic HR Training in Dubai and Muscat

As well as speaking at Fleming's Smart Workspace Design and Gamification in HR conferences I'll be running some training sessions in the Middle East:

Do come along if you're in the region, need to develop your strategic impact, and can make some time on these dates.

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Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Opportunities and Challenges in Digital Talent Platforms

John Boudreau has posted recently on the use of digital platforms (see my recent post) to transform employment and other types of work.  It's an interesting read though I'm not sure whether there are really four quadrants as in the model above - I think the transformation of work and the use of technology to transform it will pretty much go hand-in-hand.

Boudreau suggests that an increasing proportion of work will be undertaken through the use of freelance platforms along the lines of UpWork, Tongal, and Gigwalk (or any of these) helping to match talent with opportunites for work and organisations to gain access to talent often as part of the sharing / gig economy.

Further compelling evidence was provided in McKinsey's report on online talent platforms last year.  They noted that 30-50% of the working age population in inactive, unemployed or working part-time yet large shares of employers say that they can't fill positions.  McKinsey therefore suggest that 540 million individuals around the world could benefit from these systems.

I think that to a smaller extent at least, that's probably going to be the case, however I'm still not convinced it's a particularly attractive future.

In a post last year Boudreau suggested that "many examples show that the very best software coders, biochemistry puzzle solvers, media producers, and product designers are often available only as free agents on a platform like Topcoder or Tongal, and free agent workers often value periodic stints of work in jobs such as drivers, so that they can pursue passions such as music and art."

As a free agent for the last ten years I can understand some of that.  However I work for my clients and find work through my contacts, not for or through a digital platform and quite frankly, I don't want to do that.

Platforms do enable people to differentiate based on skills, performance (star ratings etc), location etc but the main determinant is cost.  They're commodity based marketplaces which tend to drive costs down and isn't an area I want to play in.

This is partly because I want to be fairly compensated for my work, but it's also because I want to be involved in co-designing the scope for my work - coming up with something that neither I nor my client could have come up with without each other.  And you can't (yet) do that on an app.

The best software coders may value being on Topcoder but IT's a much more transactional and tangible type of profession than HR (that's not to knock it, but it is - you can tell whether a coder has done a good job in writing a programe based on how it works.  That's not always so easy with a talent management programme.)  That's why there's a Topcoder but  no Toptalentcoach.

Plus of course any profession or job which can be defined and broken down to be managed through a platform is also going to be one of those which can most easily then be replaced by technology (Uber drivers by driverless cars etc).  Again, that's not a space I want to operate in.

That's the problem with talent platforms as I see it - they're not actually about talent at all, they're about volume roles, value for money rather than added or created value.

There are platforms which can help employees and other individuals providing work to create value, and I'm sure their number will continue to grow, but I think these are more along the lines of Linkedin and Glassdoor than they are similar to UpWork etc.

Of course I could be wrong.  I'm reminded in the week that Twitter turned 10 that my first reaction to this (9 years ago) was that I couldn't ever see myself using it.  Times change (they did - I was tweeting one year later, even if I didn't know how to spell it properly), but I'll take bets on never bidding for work on a Uber style digital talent platform.
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Monday, 21 March 2016

Digital HR at the Economist's Future Works 2016

Mark 21st June in your diaries for this Summer's pre-eminent Digital HR / Employment conference: Future Works

I've been honoured for Strategic HCM to act as the sole social media partner for the Economist's Talent Conference for each of the last five years.

It's been great to see the way that the agenda for the conference has evolved, especially with increased focus last year on digital business / digital HR (see Charlie Mayfield on Digital Talent and Developing Digital Savvy).

This year the event has shifted focus even more and hence Future Works as its new title.  This links to the Economist's series of excellent videos about new digital technologies:

Strategic HCM will continue to partner with the event and I'll be blogging from the conference, but do try to attend yourself if you can.

Also see: More on digital HR

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Wednesday, 16 March 2016

More on Digital HR

Digital HR has been coming up at HR Tech World again, largely as a result of Josh Bersin's presentation there and the focus on this in Deloitte's Human Capital Trends report.

(I'm not at HR Tech World or HR Tech Conference in Las Vegas again this year but I will be at Tech HR in Gurgaon in August.)

So what is digital HR?  Well I've been posting on this since 2008 and speaking about it since 2011) and have been trying to develop my own understanding of this since then.

I've previously suggested that it is primarily about technologies which help people be more productive, eg social, mobile, wearable and augmented (augmented / virtual reality plus augmented performance / augmented humans).  Social recognition is a great example.

It also includes a big focus on analytics, often through the use of embedded tools which can take the exhaust data produced once face-to-face processes are automated and digitised and produce insight from it.  And because digital systems make it easier to collaborate it includes tools like social network analysis to measure and analyse the extent and quality of collaboration.  Of course increasingly SNAs are being undertaken within or on the back of email systems and enterprise social networks too.

Digital HR doesn't include information technologies like HR or talent management systems as these are about managing people rather than enabling them to manage themselves.  And it doesn't include other exciting developments in technology like robots (especially humanoid robots / androids) and AI.


However the other thing it definitely does include which I didn't refer to previous is apps, increasingly available for download from internal app stores, discussed best in Bersin@Deloitte's Predictions for 2016, rather than Deloitte's HC Trends report.
"As one large company in India recently put it, this new world is focused on building HR “platforms”—infrastructure and technology standards that allow us to rapidly build new solutions, collect data about people and business processes easily, and quickly iterate and improve our employee digital experiences to make them perfect. Think about what happens in the App Store—apps are updated almost weekly. We need to follow this model. 
The best example I can give is the development of an exciting mobile application, Sidekick, by Commonwealth Bank of Australia. I learned about this app roughly 18 months ago and we recently wrote a case study on this platform. This app brings all employees’ HR, collaboration, administration, and support apps to their phones. Within two weeks of rolling out the app, 20,000 employees had actively adopted it. I do not know of a cloud or web-based app which has ever been that successful." 

The future of HR technology is about apps rather than big e-HR systems.  This shift is already well under way with the Big Three vendors SAP, Oracle and Workday and others appisising their existing HR systems.  There's also an increasing number of start-ups producing independent point apps which support small specific bits of functionality more powerfully or creatively than big systems.  I think some of these apps are amazing, however I agreed with the suggestion during HR tech World that employees will get weary of using many unco-ordinated applications.

Better would be a single platform which provides apps and even more importantly the design of bespoke apps.  That's exactly what Salesforce HR provides - core HR functionality (eg for social performance management), an HR app store and the ability to have an organisation's own 'citizen developers' (teams of HR, IT, managers and employees) using Salesforce's CRM platform capabilities to develop their own bespoke apps.

I think this is a really useful change, particularly as it challenges the existing move, resulting from the move of systems into the cloud, away from the ability to customise systems to simply being able to configure them.  That provides certain benefits but it limits the ability to design best fit approaches which I think needs to be part of the digital age.

So I'm surprised that Salesforce aren't pitching at conferences like HR Tech World as part of a new Big Four (or perhaps along with IBM Kenexa and Watson Talent Insights as a Big Five).


Bersin mentioned platforms in terms of technology based environments for development and delivery of apps etc.  The even more important type of platforms is those systems enabling employees and employees, plus others providing knowledge and skills, to connect and focus their work more easily.   A good example is PwC's Talent Exchange which has been in the news over the last few weeks.

However there's also the opportunity to use these platforms internally to enable employees offering skill and others to connect with managers or others offering work. 

McKinsey have been writing about this.  Their suggestion is that digital platforms can put the right person in the right job, identify gaps in skills, help employees as they gain new capabilities, chart career paths, and nurture the development of the next generation of leaders.

"The impact of digital labor platforms and tools is significant and measurable: on average, according to our research, companies can realize an increase of 275 basis points in profit margins. Of course, not every organization will reap the same advantages. The extent of a company’s benefit will depend on the mix of people and skills it needs in its workforce and on its specific operating model. The biggest winners will have a large share of highly skilled workers and a frequently shifting mix of project teams. But even companies with mostly low-skilled workers will benefit, since digital platforms improve the assessment, deployment, and performance of candidates and reduce attrition and the need for costly recruiting. 
Some of the largest gains online labor platforms generate will accrue to professional-services firms. Because they have so many client-facing workers and so few back-office ones, the productivity gains will be reflected mostly in increased output, which we estimate can rise by up to 9 percent, while employee-related costs can fall by up to 7 percent... In global firms, where expertise is dispersed across offices and client work spans industries and functions, digital platforms can help catalog individual expertise at a detailed level. Team-formation tools also take knowledge, interpersonal traits, timing, and geography into account."

These are both exciting, important changes for HR, however the biggest, highest impact and most difficult to implement changes come from within the HR arena itself.  As Josh Bersin suggested at HR Tech World, "digital is a new way of working and behaving - not just tech."

More on this tomorrow...

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Tuesday, 15 March 2016

#HCTrends - Networks of Teams and new Organisation Designs

Deloitte's Human Capital Trends for 2016 is interesting reading again this year (marred slightly by a few proofing errors such as referring to a third of the workforce being contingent even though the report is supposedly global in scope and the statistic only relates to the US workforce) and have prompted these thoughts, centred around the top trend: organisation design.

Firstly, I like the theme of the whole reports - different by design.  As people and organisation become more important so does its deliberate design, rather than just letting things happen, as has often been the case in the past.  But so does the need to create difference, rather than designing everything the same as other organisations.  And for this reason we do need to be careful about reports such as this - we can pull out common themes and possibly identify a single main journey of travel, but we also need to recognise that every organisation is different and should / must therefore do different things.

Secondly, I also like the increasing focus on experience, recognising the same shift in the importance of people, the creation of human capital, and therefore the positive management of the people who provide this.  But it's important we do't go to far - titles matter little but if an evolution from Chief Talent Officer to Chief Experience Officer marks a real shift in responsibility it isn't a positive one.  Experience isn't an end to itself.  Talent is - in the sense it can create value and lead to better business results.  Experience is only useful to the extent it informs improvement in talent, or directly in business results.

Moving on to organisation design itself, the report points to the rise of networks of teams.  And here I have a few more important criticisms of the thinking building on the research.

Firstly I'm not sure this type of organisation form is very new - to me it's just a continuation or maybe a partial resurrection of the well documented horizontal organisation form, with a newer focus on agile projects rather than end to end business processes.  The nature of the work and organisation is similar, it's just that people will move from team to team more rapidly and possibly work on more than one team at the same time.

This shift from waterfall to agile projects isn't a new organisation form, it's simply the introduction of new organisation principles (agile, decentralised, customer centred, empowered etc) and the consequent tailoring ('difference by design') around these principles.  Ie whether people are told what to do or set goals at the bottom depends upon these principles, not the organisation form.  So does the formality or informality of the structures in which ever form (functions or horizontal teams etc).

I'm not sure there's really a move from functional designs to 'networks of team's / horizontal designs (by the way we should never write or speak about moving away from a functional structure - it's the whole design including the structure but also the other elements of an organisation which need to change.  Anyway at least Deloitte doesn't refer to a move from hierarchies to networks which is very badly confused.  Changing the organisation chart isn't just a small part of the transition to a network of teams its pretty much inconsequential compared to the other changes which would be required.)

I agree there's a move from process to projects within horizontal forms.  The remaining trends are from functional forms to community and network based designs which I try to explain this in my organisation model below:

Also, despite Deloitte's findings (only 38% of companies are functionally organised) most organisations are still functional / divisional or a matrix based largely on functions and divisions with aspects of these other forms (and even if Deloitte believes matrices are unwieldly remnants of the 1960s they're clearly not).

This is the way McKinsey describe it:
"Agile organizations, by contrast, deliberately choose which dimension of their organizational structure will be what we call their “primary” one. This choice will dictate where individual employees work—in other words, where they are likely to receive coaching and training and where the infrastructure around their jobs is located. Day-to-day work, performance measurement, and the determination of rewards, on the other hand, are more likely to happen in teams that cut across formal structures. The primary home of employees remains an anchor along their career paths, while the crosscutting teams form, dissolve, and reform as resources shift in response to market demands. Sometimes these dynamic teams show up in the org chart, typically in the form of business lines, market segments, or product units. At other times, they don’t, notably in a holacracy or other start-up organizational forms."

The remaining prevalence of the matrix is why Deloitte find that most networks of teams are managed by expert team leaders not 'professional' / traditional managers.  It's because there's a functional (or possibly community based) organisation in the background where professional managers are still managing the development and the careers of their people (as in a professional services firm).  If this main matrix dimension wasn't there, project managers would take a more traditional set of responsibilities too.

Also note that a lot of the criticism of functional models is criticism of poor functional organisation, not of the organisation form itself.  Eg networks of teams apparently replace silos with co-ordination between teams.  Well well designed functional organisations avoid siloisation through co-ordinating mechanisms too.  And who ever said that leaders in a functional organisation could only operate out of corporate headquarters?  As for functional organisations focusing on making a manager happy rather than being someone whom the team would want back on the team that's just poor performance management.

It's interesting that Deloitte see the rise of digital technology as a key enabler for their networks of teams.  Actually it was largely the rise of ERP type systems which led to the decline of process based horizontal organisations as businesses found that ERP functionality meant they didn't need to take on the complexity of horizontal working.  It sounds as if digital is now making a further shift back to horizontal organisation (projects vs processes) more possible again.

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