Friday, 26 June 2015

#SSPerspectives the Self Developing Organisation




Yesterday I was at Skillsoft's EMEA Perspectives event where I was chairing a 'think tank' on the skills gap.

The best session for me was John Ambrose on 'the self developing organisation', being firstly what Skillsoft and SumTotal are trying to create through their integration of content and platform (and the demo of this looked compelling) but secondly, a response to the difficulty getting people to engage in learning as much as they're going to need to, and having organisations sponsor this.





Learning needs to be consumerised and collaborative - pervasive, multimodal, provided in the way that learners like to learn.

A key part of this is understanding the audience.  People undertaking learning need us to know, entice, improve and reward them.  The reward part of this attracted a few comments - I think the idea was mainly around making the consumption of learning easy and stimulating ('so good that people want to eat it') but the demo also showed how someone might be promoted to sign up for an additional 2 days vacation, as well as volunteering to be a mentor in their new skill area.

This understanding of the individual helps personalise the learning.  We talked about this in the think tank too.  That we don't have to think in terms of stereotypes like millennial etc, and develop learning pathways we suit particular groups, the technology is starting ot help us recognise individual needs and respond to these.

It's then about pushing content for you to use, recommending additional courses or other learning, a bit like sites like Coursera, Udemy, Lynda etc do if you use these.  Karen Moloney spoke about this in her session too, suggesting the key was to trouble people as little as you can.

One reason I liked the approach is that is seems to respond to one of the other things I've been blogging about which is the need to align not just with the business, but with the individuals engaging in learning.  See my posts on this (1, 2, 3) and Nick Shackleton Jones shared this post too - business alignment is killing you.

That's not the prevailing view, but as James Caan suggested, the future often isn't about doing more of the same and sometimes you have to go in the opposite direction ('observe the masses and do the opposite.')

Caan also provided a great example of doing some opportunistic recruitment and I thought it was a shame, though understandable, that one of the questions suggested attendees would be laughed at if we tried to do this back in the corporate ranch.

Because the same applies to opportunistic development - finding those hooks that can enable someone to move themselves forward and potentially transform their own capabilities.






I think the self developing organisation has the potential of being an important part of this people centric future.


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Thursday, 18 June 2015

#EconTalent Developing Digital Savvy




So after covering the way the world of work is changing we moved on to a final couple of sessions looking more specifically at the employment and skills challenges of the ‘new machine age’, building on Charlie Mayfield’s points in the morning morning.

But first, another summary of the change.  We’re moving into the third age of computing: tabulating, programming and now cognitive (eg IBM Watson.)  80% of people are going to be connected using digital devices by 2030.  And billions of these devices will be connected together.

We need to take advantage of these technologies - as Sir Clive Woodward has noted, talent is not enough - whoever wins in IT tends to win.

Ram Sundarajan from HCL Technologies suggested the main impact of these changes is about speed, and in particular the use of data to help us make decisions differently.

Kim Wylie from Google for Work suggested the number one goals for using them is improved efficiency.

Personally, I think the big need is Collaboration - the network performance piece of CEB’s enterprise contribution which is why I think the role of enterprise social networks is so key (link to venn diagram post)

I thought Kim got closer to the mark later on when she started talking about Google’s culture and needing to ensure all their employees have a sufficient level of Googliness.

“Technology enables transparency.  Our founders participate in hangouts every week  and there’s no question which is out of bounds.  Everyone shares their OKRs and employee feedback surveys - through technology - using our Google+ social networks.  Everyone knows who are our good managers, the people meeting goals.  Also voice - everyone can ask questions, challenge, provide feedback as a gift.”

Some of these changes are about culture, some of them about technology.  But they all involve some of both, i.e. OD, culture and technology all merge together.

But as Charlie Mayfield was suggesting, digital technology is also going to have a profound impact on jobs.  40-50% of jobs are threatened to disappear.  And Adrian Wooldridge from the Economist also suggested that as machines get smarter, more of the jobs open to people will be stupider than the machines, rather than smarter than the machines as has been the case in the past.

Despite this, panelists were optimistic about the new jobs appearing in the future.

Obed Louissaint from IBM Watson suggested that the key need is to develop the digital skills for the future.  These aren't all about technology and people don’t need to learn to code, it’s understanding the context which is key.

But it’s also about mindset eg openness, agility and focusing on experimentation.  And also understanding that traditional approaches around business cases, ROI etc won’t enable companies to evolve.

We need to look for these new skills in our workforce, for example what are candidates’ digital footprints - have they been blogging and tweeting?, what is their social eminence? (like Glassdoor, but for the employees.)

It’s about understanding the skills needed for the future and giving people the tools.  But it's their obligation and responsibility to keep themselves fit, i.e. to learn the digital skills they need.


HR needs to invest in our digital skills too, and I thought the conference made a strong contribution to the development of all conference attendees.


Also see:




And if you do still want to learn to code: Code in a day



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Wednesday, 17 June 2015

#EconTalent CEB on Enterprise Contribution




I've been following the CEB's findings on enterprise contribution for several years, often through presentations at previous Economist Talent conferences.

So in 2012, I think, they first noted that the proportion of work which is collaborative rather than individual in nature had increased over the previous decade from 20 to 50% - regardless of job level, job type or industry.  Given this shift, we now need people to be enterprise contributors rather than individual task performance.

Enterprise contribution is a combination of individual task performance and network performance.  Network performance isn’t about having 1000 friends on Facebook, it’s not the same as networking, it’s using and contributing to the success of others and the broader organisation.  It’s about the extent to which people use ideas, best practices, the insight of others for their own performance.  And contribute their insight to drive the success of others and the broader enterprise.


Brian Kropp at CEB has also been talking about this recently, suggesting that “The formula for great employee performance has changed forever. It is no longer just a case of doing well against your individual tasks. Those who work with and through others effectively are able to achieve far better results than those who work hard but with their heads down – ignoring what happens around them”.

His suggestion is that focusing on individual employee performance will only achieve a 3-5 percent improvement. However, enabling effective collaboration can boost profit growth by 11% per employee – with the average revenue per employee rising by £10,500.


So I was pleased to have another presentation from Clare Moncrieff at this year's Talent conference.

The level of contribution has apparently now gone up slightly since 2012, though the bigger shift has been the proportion of the workforce who are acting as enterprise contributors - up from 17 to 23% globally (but just 11 to 13% in EMEA!)

This includes a 50% increase in involvement in decision making compared to even three years ago.  A half of us collaborate with at least 10 people and one third with 20.

The issue is that we’re not holding people accountable for network performance eg 83% of employees’ performance objectives are based on individual tasks.  And two thirds of people receiving the highest performance ratings aren’t enterprise contributors.




A lot of this is down to leaders as they have a particularly critical role - 37% of people don't think they have the leaders needed for the required contribution.





I agree with all these points and also think they are important though I am probably a little less focused on leaders who I think are less critical to network than to individual performance, or at least the leaders need to act in a different way.  But perhaps that’s why people are saying they don’t have the right leaders.


I also talked to Clare at the end of the session.  During the panel she’s been talking about millennials and I remembered one of her comments from Changeboard’s Future Talent conference earlier in the year.  Apparently millennials are more not less competitive than older generations eg they are more keen to compare their performance agains others.  That has to put an additional challenge onto network performance.

Clare suggested millennials can still support network performance but they need to see the impact of their contribution on others eg to have a unique position in delivering to a bigger outcome and with others responsible for other parts of the outcomes.  Yes, although I still think there’s an issue here.  Although actually, I think they’re probably just so competitive because that’s what they think businesses expect from them.  Once we explain it's collaboration that's important, I think we can influence their perspective.

It’s a bit like with Matthew Schuyler later.  He suggested millennials won’t want to stay with them for long.  I think that’s more about them not expecting to be able to.  if companies used more of the new practices discussed by Fiona Cannon from the Agile Future Forum later, I think they’d be able to shift this.  The same for collaboration vs competitiveness too.


Also see:


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Tuesday, 16 June 2015

#EconTalent Glassdoor and Employer Branding




It's just after lunch and Diarmuid Russell from Glassdoor has been leading a session on employee branding in a social media world.

He kicked off by mentioning Sir Clive Woodward's suggestion from the morning that it should be everybody's responsibility to be involved in social media.  One of Glassdoor's surveys suggest:
  • 78% of people use social media as part of recruitment
  • 41% (13% of millennials) thinks it is important to stay in a job for at least 5 years
  • 77% of millennials value culture and fir with prospective employer
  • 76% of people change their perception of an employer when it is actively involved in responding to comments.


Most people in the room suggest they do check their company reviews on Glassdoor, though Diarmuid still explained it for at least one attendee who didn't know what it is.  Basically it's about putting the power to make decisions about employment into the hands of the people - based on the fact that people today trust the opinions of people like them rather than experts and company websites etc.  In fact two thirds of applicants are more sceptical about claims made by employers than they were three years ago, and that rises to 65% for millennials.

This supports the increasing focus on transparency implicit in Glassdoor founder's three laws of the web:





We also looked at Brandon Hall's definition of employer branding as a combination of reputation and image.

  • Image - an employer's public portrayal of the various elements of its unique employee value proposition - from the language used in job postings and advertisements to the message conveyed by recruiters across various channels and mediums.
  • Reputation - the combined sentiments of candidates, employees, customers and clients (past, present or future) regarding an organisation's viability as an employer of choice - usually (but not always) based on first-hand experience.


In todays' environment of transparency, Glassdoor helps employers manage, or at least inform, their reputations, which together with image provides the employer brand.

Glassdoor also supports employer branding through a free employer account, providing great analytics for companies:




Also see my first post from the conference: Charlie Mayfield on digital talent challenges


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#EconTalent Sir Charlie Mayfield on digital talent challenges





I’m at the Economist’s Talent Management summit, opened by Edward Carr, Deputy Editor of the Economist who suggestsed that AI and robotics will have a transformational although traumatic and disruptive impact on businesses and talent.

The first speaker has been Sir Charlie Mayfield, Chairman of John Lewis and also of UKCES who developed this theme.  John Lewis have been looking at existing hints in today’s world which may indicate business changes through to 2028.

This has been quite difficult as the technology, and roles and skills people will have then are very difficult to imagine today.  It's therefore very difficult to develop new technology products but once you have one it's very easy to take it to market.  Your firm will also be very high profile as many people will be using the new systems.  But hi tech alone will not play a large part of the required solution to economic and talent challenges eg Facebook only employs around 6,500 people

Also tech commoditises roles eg you can now use a John Lewis coffee machine and produce the same results as baristas in Starbucks.  There's the same shift in advanced manufacturing plants etc.

There is a positive too - tech frees up labour which may be very important given the aging workforce.  But anyone can do these commodity  roles so wages are likely to remain low.  There's a nbig difference between the bullseye and those people around the edges.  So the trajectory we’re on is one of rising inequality.

But there will be new exciting and different jobs emerging between the edge and the bullseye.  Uber and Taskrabbit creating something quite exciting - providing flexibility and opportunity for people to use their skills in different ways.

We'll also see the emergence of greater and greater personalisation.  Eg we'll see more people who can afford it having personalised nutrition plans vs weekly shopping trolleys - formulated individually for them and changing dynamically with their level of health.

One problem of our human characteristics is inertia which hasn’t mattered up to now, but as pace of change quickens, our innate skills and core ability to contribute may become redundant.  Eg men with elementary qualifications are already finding it increasingly difficult to find employment.

We need to work to create a meritocratic society where the workplace is part of a progression of social mobility.

There are three areas where we need a course correction:

1.   The deal around employment - 8 out of 10 people who will be in work in 10 years time are already in work.  By 2025, this may be 9 out of 10.  These people will need to learn more in the next 10 years than they have in the last 20.  We need not just jobs, but learning jobs.  Training and development is millennial’s top demand from employment.  So we need to deal with these people differently.

2.   Training will be delivered via online platforms.  All of John Lewis’ development is now online.  Needs a much more serious focus on development and progression, and more people practices pulling on insights from data and analytics.  For example John Lewis has looked at the last 7 years of pay data.  We need to bring in practices used for customer relationships into employment.

3.   The worlds of work and education need to become more integrated.  Academic qualifications are only losely aligned with the world of work.  And the placit assumption is that they’re all achieved by age 20 and then there’s no more need for learning.  There needs to be a much closer link between education and the more attractive parts of the dart board.  Employers therefore need to collaborate with government to plan the supply side of workforce.  And government needs to be a convener rather than just a deliverer.



We therefore need to focus on what we need to do to move from where we are now to where we need to go - setting the agenda for talent management, and today’s conference.  

More shortly...



Also see my recent post on Digital HR


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Thursday, 11 June 2015

No Ordinary Disruption - Labour Market Challenges in the Digital Age




I've been reflecting on the the 'new work order' in preparation for the Economist's Talent Management summit next week.  As part of this, I've been reading McKinsey's new book, No Ordinary Disruption, and today, got to talk to one of the book's authors, Richard Dobbs, Director of the McKinsey Global Institute (their research arm.)

MGI look at various long-term trends and you, like me, may have seen some of their previous reports on the labour market, social collaboration, technology and other areas.  However their clients wanted to know how these fit together.  And basically there are 4 forces, each one larger than what we’ve ever seen:
  • A shifting locus towards the East (taking HSBC with it of course)
  • The acceleration in the scope, scale and economic impact of technology
  • A dramatically aging global population, growing less fast than in the past
  • Flows of capital, people and information (increasingly South South.)

Sometimes the forces build together, sometimes they pull apart - leading to increased complexity and additional challenges.

Executives typically have a sense that the world is changing, but don't understand enough about how the change is working so we need to reset our intuition about the world going forward.  People don't reset enough.  The current changes are a bit like the British Industrial Revolution but ten times as fast, and 300 times the scale.

For example, Richard talks about Tianjin in China, which most Westerners have never heard of (I hadn't, despite spending 3 weeks in China last year) and compares its economy to that of Stockholm (but how will it compare by 2025?)


Resetting Intuition

I was pleased that even though McKinsey is well known for being very data based (and you can certainly see this focus in the book) the firm still sees a role for intuition.  To me, this is particularly important given the complex mix of forces suggested in the book.  I also think extrapolating data into the future is increasingly dangerous to do.  And in fact, the book notes that the 4 forces can "play havoc with forecasts and pro forma plans", but of course that's exactly what MGI has had to do.

Richard also described a balanced approach to using data and intuition:
"However data or analytically driven, many executives still reply on intuition.  And numbers never prove it 100%.  That can mean that executives leave a decision a bit or plan make it later.  The point is are they happy to make a decision on the basis of the data that they're getting?  It's a bit like what we think house prices are going to do.  Data underpins it in a way we're not even conscious of.  Over the last few years, asset prices have appreciated, driven by interest rates and global GDP.  We've got used to it.  So I won't make a good decision if I don't get a forecast, or by suppressing my intuition."

The idea of needing to rest this intuition recognises that our intuition which still underpins much of our decision making has been formed by "a set of experiences and ideas about how things worked and are supposed to work."

The difficulty is that this acts a bit like recency bias and the anchoring effect in psychology, or inertia in physics.  "However we identify it, there is a powerful human tendency to want the future to look much like the recent past."

So "if we look at the world through a rearview mirror and make decisions on the basis of intuition built on our experience we could well be wrong.  In the new world, executives, policy makers, and individuals all need to scrutinise their intuitions from first principles and boldly rest them if necessary."


I'm not quite sure about the suggestion that intuition anchors people to the current state - surely it depends on what people pay attention to?  And although I think Richard used the Tom Watson quote about there being room for 4 computers in his session at LSE this week, there are also plenty of examples of forecasts being well over the top, for example ones suggesting that we’d all be flying around with personal jet packs by now.  

However the book does provide a couple of good examples of anchoring, for example companies allocating the same resources that they had done in the previous year, even when things change drastically, for example in the global recession.

My remaining worry is that 'boldly resetting' is likely to be a bit harder to do than the words might suggest.  So I think the book is probably right in referring to executives needing to develop the capabilities to rest their own intuition.


Skills Challenges to meet the 4 Forces

Given that I've been blogging about digital, we focused mostly on the trend / force around technology:
"HRDs are seeing the impact of cloud systems like Workday.  They're not taking 5 to 10% out of their transaction costs but by a factor of 2 or 3 times as they move towards self service vs forms and people.  It's a strategic issue because it costs less and people get better service.   Employees find it more convenient. 
But as technology disrupts more jobs and people have to refocus.  How prepared is HR to help in that journey?"

That led us onto a conversation about employment and skills.  As noted earlier, global labour market growth is due to start falling, and finding talent in skilled positions will become yet harder.  However as robots and computers take on a growing role in performing activities, and undertaking knowledge work, less lower value roles will be needed.

This means that by 2020 "businesses could be short of 85 million workers with college degrees or vocational training; at the same time, 95 million lower-skilled workers could be unemployed."


Part of the solution to this problem is about better use of online talent platforms (see McKinsey's new research report on this.)

However there needs to be more action too, including better links between business and education.  I mentioned an earlier McKinsey labour market report I'd seen which described how South Korea (where Richard has just returned from) transformed their whole eduction approach to provide the skills that country needs.  But this is harder in a Western democracy like the UK.

Richard didn't have a complete solution to this but suggested that whilst the UK isn't as bad as other places, we need to do more to develop STEM skills, particularly in numeracy, computer programming and confidence in technology.
"I find it extraordinary that people can give up maths at 16 and go to university with just a maths GCSE.  But the coding in schools curriculum is great - every policy maker around the world I've mentioned it to has asked 'why aren't we doing that?'"

We talked about three other needs supporting this as well:
1.  Much more external focus.  Many execs are very internally focused.  That may have made sense during the last few years, to drive performance and productivity. But now they're still not spending enough time with customers, understanding the disruptions.  They need to go round Silcon Valley and meet the disruptors. 
2.   Ability to make companies agile.  It's difficult to get actions exactly right so you need to be able to respond.  It's amazing to see how some companies respond - for example long debates about cannibalisation. 
3.   Attitudes.  It's easy to see the four forces as a perfect storm where everything is negative.  but some of the changes will be very exciting, for example taking a billion people out of poverty, creating a consuming class of another billion people, creating a cancer drug that be tailored to your genome and so on.  We think the winners will be disproportionally the optimists.

I finished by asking about income inequality which I had noticed Richard had described in a session at LSE earlier in the week but didn't seem to come through that strongly in the book. 

Partly because of the impacts on employment that I described above, inequality is going to grow further too.  Some cohorts of the population have done badly from the changes.  In fact Richard suggested that because of automation, de-unionisation, immigration and trade or offshoring, male school leavers have seen salaries decline since 1995.

Well inequality isn't in the book because McKinsey are still working on their first research report on it but Richard agreed with me that the impact will be important to society and to businesses too.  If we're struggling for skills that last thing we want is more people with-holding their discretionary effort too.


I'll be posting on some of the additional challenges of operating in this complex, digital environment, over the next few days and weeks.

In the meantime, thanks to Richard for his time and insights - I do think the book presents a compelling outline of the need to reset.


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Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Humanising HR using Digital Technology - Employee Recognition




I provide more information on creating value HR technology on Workstars blog in my next new post there:
"The Future of HR Technology - Enabling not Controlling  
These new technologies include social collaboration systems, mobile apps, wearables, augmented and virtual reality, games and simulations. Some of the key benefits of these new enabling systems including fun, transparency, collaboration and analytics.
A great example of the new type of HR technology and of the sort of culture which supports it is social recognition. Traditional recognition was very transactional or value for money focused, usually involving limited amounts of recognition and perhaps once a year recognition ceremonies with awards being given to just a small number of employees. More recently this developed into a broader, adding value focus in which managers were responsible for recognising members of their own teams and the focus of recognition became a bit more strategic. 
This shift has now progressed even further with new-style social recognition systems allowing everyone in an organisation to freely express their appreciation of one another and to understand what it is about what they do which other people value. Managers can participate in this process of appreciation but the more fundamental focus is employee to employee, human to human."

More details are on the Workstars blog.


The basic point is that digital technology can help humanise organisations and their HR approaches, putting the H back into HR, by enabling people, freeing them up, to provide more of their potential contribution.

So for example, rather than making people follow automated processes which are designed purely to meet business needs, and then worry about their engagement, it provides people with compelling technology which enables them to do more, and be more engaged in the process.

Social recognition, like Workstars, is a great example of this technology, so do check out their site!


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:



Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Enterprise 2.0, Social Business and Digital HR




As I posted yesterday, I think we need to define digital business / digital HR quite carefully, or it risks just becoming a catch-all term for broader transformation, which I think is a shame, as you then miss the specific aspects which digital is about.

I guess one of the most easily confused topics which end up being merged into digital is enterprise 2.0 / social business - often because it's the same people who are concerned with the different aspects, and because of their obvious similarities i.e. that they're both 'not not about the technology.'

For example it's interesting to see the Enterprise 2.0 Summit morphing into Enterprise Digital:
'We have been thinking about the scope of the Enterprise 2.0 SUMMIT for quite some time. For a while now our beloved expert community has been telling us that “Social” has moved on, the “Enterprise 2.0” term is “dead” and that our conference heading doesn’t match the general “zeitgeist” of the current business landscape. 
While the term “social” is called “dead” – the digital transformation of work is in full motion. As part of the bigger picture of developing the “next-generation enterprise model” the re-modeling of work certainly cannot be treated singular – as it needs to fit into a new system of an open culture and a business model based on a networked ecosystem.' 


Now I wouldn't personally say that social is dead - far from it (and I hate the expression anyway) - but again, it depends upon what you mean.  The graphic above is my representation.

Social is one big trend, and a particularly significant one in HR, but one that was never really picked up in Enterprise 2.0 circles and is only now really being developed within HR and the rest of business.  The focus of this is about developing relationships rather than just people, or social capital rather than just human capital, and doing this through everything we have at our disposal within HR, as well as aligned fields, eg workplace design.

Digital is a largely independent shift, more focused on the way we do things, and using the creating value technologies which I referred to yesterday to improve the alignment, productivity, engagement and learning of employees.  This probably has the most relevance outside HR, particularly in terms of connecting employees and customers (although the HR aspects are still important.)

Enterprise 2.0 is (not was) the intersection between the two - the use of digital technologies to achieve social outcomes.

Now as we all know, Enterprise 2.0 never managed to live up to the hype. Altimeter's findings that only 36% of collaboration networks have many people using them absolutely echoes what I see happening in organisations.

However, it doesn't need to be this way - I know from my own experience working in an OD role on a big digital project that enterprise 2.0 systems can be effective, if they're introduced and managed in the right way - i.e. as OD, not as IT (a topic I tried to promote at many Enterprise 2.0 conferences, including the ones in the US, whilst these were still in fashion.)

So is social / enterprise 2.0 really dead?  Only if it's seen as the little bit in the middle of the venn diagramme i.e. the implementation of stand-alone enterprise 2.0 systems without social objectives.  But if it's seen as the connecting point of two critical trends - social relationships, and digital (both still very much alive) then it's still at a very early point in its evolution.

But social and digital can also be implemented separately and independently, and we shouldn't confuse one with the other, even if they're often going to be implemented as part of the same change.

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Monday, 8 June 2015

Digital HR




There's an interesting article in HR Magazine today suggesting that organisations are at risk from a digital delusion which is about seeing "digital as a synonym for technology and therefore about HR systems."

I think the point is a good an important one - 'digital' is hard to understand.  I agree it's not just about technology, but then if it's not, what is it about?

Well I'm going to be blogging on this later on today, but it's worth emphasising that one thing it's not is HR systems!

A few years ago I blogged here about different levels of HR technology based upon the value triangle I use as the basis for a lot of my consulting and training.

Whereas value for money technology focuses on data for HR (HR systems!) and added value systems looks at information and automation for managers, creating value engages and enables employees:
"In creating value, value comes from the organisation’s employees, rather than how these people can be managed to meet existing business needs.  Technology can create value by pointing to particular potentially valuable capabilities, but it is more likely to have this impact by helping employees to increase the value they can provide. 
This is why I’m so interested in social and mobile technologies – they get beyond HR’s system of record and the line manager focused talent management system to actually increase employee contribution.  So for example, a social performance management system can help employees get feedback from the people they work with, to share the reviews with these people and to participate in a review of a whole team.  It helps them take ownership of their own review and hence is likely to have more impact on their performance.  Of course, social technologies aren’t the only way of doing this – for example, I was involved in a self rostering system for train operating company staff a good ten year ago which had much of the same effect.  
You can identify opportunities for creating value from technology by focusing on the people in the organisation – their engagement, capabilities and other aspects of their human and social capital – and thinking about how these capabilities can be extended. 
This is why I’ve been commenting on the need to focus on people and behaviours, not on technologies or tools."


This is the basic insight we need to hold in mind in understanding digital business and digital HR.  Digital business / HR is about technology for people and teams, not to improve management or HR data.  And because it's for people and teams, it immediately becomes more complex than any other areas of technology we'll be more used to, eg HR systems.

The tendency then, as the article suggests, is to assume that digital is about everything we're seeing in today's business world eg fast pace, omi channel, flat / flexible structures etc (from the article) - which of course it can be.  But broadening the definition out this far renders the term to be largely meaningless and reduces the chance that organisations will do anything about it.

So we still need a way of thinking about digital which isn't just about the technology but also doesn't incorporate the whole world of business.


More later...

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Thursday, 4 June 2015

Culture - the solution or part of the problem?




You'll have heard the same adages - culture eats strategy for breakfast, culture is the new black etc.  And you'll have probably seen some of the recent cases of tech firms promoting the power of their own cultures, eg Netflix, Buffer, Airbnb etc.

Cheese added he was heartened that an increasing number of corporate leaders do seem to now be developing a better understanding of the importance of culture. “I spent a lot of time trying to talk to banks in the early 2000s about culture. They said ‘this is very interesting but we don’t have a problem'. Now we are in a different phase of thinking that recognises you can't change behaviour by writing more rules. We have got to really understand why people do the things they do.”  
“I would point the finger at HR too. We should be the function that understands the corporate culture and helps to educate the business and provide the levers to change it.” Speaking on the financial crisis, Cheese said: “We were not equipped to confront management and say ‘this is what’s going on in your organisation and it’s got to change'. HR has a massive role to play in this.”


I think it's interesting because to me, a focus on culture is often part of the problem rather than an aspect of the solution.

It's something I've changed my mind upon.  When I started in HR and change management consulting I used to find the concept of culture very useful because we hadn't previously had anything to address the most important elements of an organisation, or what Peter refers to as "the hardest parts of the iceberg below the water – the things that are much less visible.” 

These days I generally just find that the concept has been so overused, misused and abused, it tends to do more damage to our understanding of what is needed than it does good.

So when my clients talk about culture I always try to get them to explain what they're really talking about - either through Schein's onion, Johnson & Scholes cultural web, McKinsey's 7S etc, identifying the the elements of these models which will give us the greatest leverage.  Is it the way power is distributed, or the organisation structures, or the values, or what?  Often of course it's a combination of these, but that still provides more clarity than referring to a more amorphous concept of culture where different people can often be using the same work but are often thinking about very different things.

I often point people at the HCM value chain in which all three steps in the chain can be seen as aspects of culture, but because of their different positions in the chain, have a different impact in the organisation.

Things like the organisation's values are inputs - they don't change anything in the business by themselves but they allow activities to be conducted in the right way.  Activities include communication, recognition and other processes, practices and systems.  These are shaped by the inputs and lead onto the outcomes.  The outcomes, which I often disect into human, organisation and social capital, are the most important deliverables of what we in HR do.

In one sense, culture refers to all of the above.  But the one element in the system which probably is probably most central to what people mean when they talk about culture is social capital, is about the connections, relationships and conversations people have within the organisation.  That's why so much of my work focuses on helping organisations create this category of outcomes these days.

To me, it's by unpicking what people are really talking about within this system which offers the best hope of truly understanding what an organisations culture is now, and also how they hope to influence the way this grows.

Unpicking the value chain also provides the best way of measuring the important elements of culture, meaning that you don't need to go for a fishing trip in organisational big data.



Photo credit: Brian Chesky - Airbnb


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