Tuesday 26 July 2011

A Top 50 Human Resources Blog


   For the third year in a row, Evan Carmichael has rated this blog as one of his top 5 HR blogs.  This year I’ve even made it to the top of the post, just below Kris Dunn (pictured) and his team’s blog, Fistful of Talent – star billing indeed!  Thanks Evan!


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Thursday 21 July 2011

HR Technology Europe


  The second big HR technology conference I’ll be speaking at this year is this one, HR Technology Europe (http://www.hrtecheurope.com), taking place in Amsterdam in November.

Speakers include:

  • Andy Leaver, VP EMEA, Workday
  • Thomas Otter, Research Vice President, Gartner
  • Euan Semple, Web Evangelist, euansemple.com
  • Jon Ingham (MC), HR & Social Media Strategist, Strategic Dynamics
  • Jan Willemse, Senior Director, IT Value Program Manager HR, Royal Dutch Philips
  • Jason Corsello, VP of Corporate Development and Strategy, Cornerstone OnDemand
  • Mark Turrell, CEO, Orcasci
  • Row Henson, HCM Fellow, Oracle
  • Matthew Hanwell, Director HR & Social Media, Nokia
  • Richard Mutter, Group Head of HR Technology, HSBC
  • David Ludlow, Vice President SAP Labs, SAP
  • Andy MacGovern, VP Strategic Talent Group, Thomson Reuters
  • Cyrille Charpin, Director, Global Head of HR-IT, Hewlett Packard
  • Ian Bird, Social Networking & Informal Learning Leader, IBM
  • Jos Kayaerts, Head of CHR SLD SPMC, Siemens
  • Rob Visser, Global Head of HR IT, ING Bank
  • Lexy Martin, Director - Research & Analytics, CedarCrestone
  • Andy Moffat, Head of HR, Aviva
  • Jerome Ternynck, CEO, SmartRecruiters
  • Clinton Wingrove, CEO, Pilat HR Solutions
  • Andrew Winnemore, Head of HRD, Nokia
  • Michael Carden, CEO, Sonar6
  • Dirk Stoltenberg, Group Vice President HR Excellence, ABB Asea Brown Boveri
  • William Tincup, CEO, Tincup & Co
  • Ahmed Liman, HR Technology Expert.


If you’re going to book for this, you can use the discount code JIHCM11 for a 10% discount on the booking fee.



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Wednesday 20 July 2011

Sexy Software


  I thought that was an amusing title from the new Changeboard magazine.  But HR software really is getting more ‘sexy’ too.

Part of this sexiness is the look and feel of HR systems which have been improving dramatically over the last five years.

Part of it is the information and analytics that can now be extracted from the those systems with integrated functionality.

And part of it is the amount of change that’s happening in this space.  In fact it’s actually felt quite strange that there have been no major announcements about new systems and mergers of providers for a week or so now (although it’s quite possible that there have, and I’ve just not seen them!).  After all, here are some of the recent activities:

  • 26th June – BeKnown launch (followed by its clash with BranchOut)
  • 27th June - Peopleclick Authoria / PeopleFluent rebranding
  • 28th June – Google + launch
  • 29th June – SuccessFactors completes acquisition of Plateau
  • 1st July – Linkedin shuts off access to BeKnown and BranchOut
  • 7th July – SumTotal acquisition of Accero / Cyborg and CyberShift



All this change is one reason why I’m particularly pleased to be presenting at the two major technology conferences this year.


First up this October is Bill Kutik’s HR Technology conference in Las Vegas in October.  For further information on this, visit the site or download the brochure.

I’m sure there’ll be lots of other changes in the HR technology space by October, but I’m also aware how much happens, or is announced, during the conference too.  I’ll be doing my public service thing so you’ll be able to follow a lot of news from there right here.

And if you do decide to join me at the conference, use the Promotion Code STRATEGIC (all caps) when you register online to get $500 off the standard rate of $1,795. The discount expires on September 19.



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Tuesday 19 July 2011

My public service and a bigger brain


  Wally Bock (of Three Star Leadership) is one of my favourite bloggers, so I’m always encouraged when I see him commenting favourably on my blogs.  But I was amused to see this latest remark at Envisia Learning:

“Wally’s Comment: John Ingham is doing a public service reporting on various HR conferences and seminars. Here’s one about engaging those high potentials.”


Now I have to admit that public service isn’t my intent in posting to this blog.  In fact I’ve probably been though a number of phases supporting slightly different objectives in the four years that I’ve been posting to this blog.

Initially, Strategic HCM was simply (or at least mainly) an experiment enabling me to understand more about this strange new thing called social media (and ensure that I didn’t embarrass myself when a client mentioned their leadership ‘wiki’).

I suppose fairly quickly after this it also became clear that blogging provided a good opportunity for promotion, and conversation – initially aimed at supporting my Strategic HCM book, but fairly quickly for its own sake (I’m sure that a lot more people have read this blog than will ever take a look at my book).

And now the blog is pretty much at the heart at everything I do.  So one reason I blog from conferences is that this helps ensure that I get invited back and then to more conferences in future.  And that’s important to help me keep up to date with the latest case studies and more importantly to develop my own thinking based upon these and my own experiences to ensure I can offer the best possible insight to be clients.

The blog is also sponsored and this makes a small but really useful contribution to my overall business portfolio.

But actually at least as important as all of this has been that throughout these four years, I’ve found blogging an important part of my own learning.  I’d previously kept a learning log and my blog is basically my summary of my major learning.  I find that positing on the things I find most interesting / provoking firstly helps me link them into my existing schema, or on occasion to challenge these.  And the process of posting about these experiences helps me to remember them too.

I think this is especially the case at conferences.  I find that if I don’t blog I forget most of what’s been covered within a fairly short time.  But if I do, and particularly if I live-blog, I find that I remember much more content, and more newly created insight too.  And even if I don’t live blog, which is usually the case when I’m more focused on talking to people than I am in listening to the speakers, I find the additional time it takes to go through my notes and post based upon these (probably about an additional 20% of the time spent at the conference) to be a useful investment.

I’ve also found blogging easier to maintain than a learning log because I know that you’ll be expecting regular(ish) updates from me.  And I’ve often found your comments to be really useful in opening up different or additional insights too.

I’ve also found that as time has gone on that I’ve started to increasingly rely on these summaries of my major learnings.  My blogs act in a sense a bit like an extension of long-term memory, a detachable disc drive or USB stick I can use when my own long-term memory runs out of capacity or if a particular learning hasn’t been saved properly.

My blog provides me with a bigger brain, and that’s the main reason I keep it going, rather than any sense of public service.  But of course it’s great when you find it useful too.

So, if you blog, what benefits do you find you gain from this?

And if you don’t, don’t you think it’s about time you did?



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Thursday 14 July 2011

The Executive Guide to Integrated Talent Management


  I’ve mentioned this previously but would like to formally confirm the publication of this new book from i4cp and ASTD, which includes a chapter written by me:


People are the most important asset in any organization, yet managing talent as a cohesive strategy is surprisingly rare.

Far too many organizations are stuck in the tradition of letting human resource “silos” separate the components of talent management, rather than encouraging communication, cooperation, and effective integration of these functions.


Guidance from 20+ experts

This breakthrough new book - an immediate sellout at ASTD's International Conference & Exposition - paves the way to integrated talent management by assembling the collective experience and insight of 20+ experts who examine research-based theories and current practices in highly successful enterprises. The following contributors provide practical advice about how you can adopt effective, state-of-the-art methods in your own organization:

  • David Ulrich
  • Marshall Goldsmith
  • Peter Cappelli
  • Noel Tichy
  • Edward E. Lawler
  • Jon Ingham
  • Beverly Kaye
  • Sharon Jordan-Evans
Insights from the world's top companies

You’ll benefit from the different perspectives of these world-renowned thought leaders and practitioners as they explain how to develop a comprehensive strategy that aligns big-picture organizational goals with the challenges of finding and keeping talent. You’ll also learn firsthand about the best practices of corporations who have pioneered efforts to make their organizations perform better through people, including:

  • 3M
  • Cisco
  • GE
  • Hertz
  • Agilent
  • Edwards Lifesciences
  • Deloitte
  • Cincinatti Children's Hospital and Medical Center
  • General Mills
  • Novelis


The book was co-edited by Kevin Oakes, CEO of i4cp, and Pat Galagan, Editor of ASTD, and features a foreword by Tom Rath.


“The Executive Guide to Integrated Talent Management brings together essential disciplines to help companies to implement best practices holistically, concretely, and effectively, and with a strong return on investment.”

Michel Taride,
President of Hertz International


“As businesses continue to evolve, it is an absolute necessity to attract, develop, and retain the strongest talent throughout an organization. This book provides seasoned insights and practical application that will help make this journey smoother, faster, and successful.”

Michael Mussallem,
CEO of Edwards Lifesciences


“Makes a compelling case for integrating talent management across silos and advancing its practice beyond succession planning and executive development - a much needed occurrence if companies hope to acquire, engage, and retain the best talent.”

Dr. John Boudreau,
Professor and Research Director,
USC Marshall School of Business




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Wednesday 13 July 2011

Connecting the Dots in Employee Engagement


  I was delivering a training session on employee engagement today (focusing on ‘total engagement management’ rather than ‘kaizengagement’) and then this evening, catching up on the HCI’s Engagement and Retention conference again.

But I’ve also been sent a copy of some new HCI research on engagement, due to publication in September, ‘Connecting the Dots: Comprehensive Career Development as a Catalyst for Employee Engagement’ and am pleased to see the overlap with some of the key points I was making in today’s training.


Defining Engagement

A agree with David Zinger that there’s no need for a common definition of employee engagement – a point I also made at my presentation along with David Macleod.  But I also support the idea that each organisation should define for themselves what they mean by engagement.  This is how the point is made in the HCI’s report:

“William Costellano of the Center for HR Strategy at Rutgers, pointed to the pitfalls associated with improperly defining and assessing engagement: ‘If one does not know what one is measuring, the action implications will be, at best, vague and, at worst, a leap of faith.”


Social Engagement

Along with declining levels of trust and engagement post the recession, I think the other key change in business and society is an increasing focus on social connection.  This may not appear as a key focus in all engagement survey vendors’ summaries but it’s clear to me that it is having an increasing impact on engagement.

Here’s HCI:

“Typically, when we think about employee engagement and the drivers associated with it, we consider the traditional elements of compensation, benefits, and perks to be the most meaningful levers of engagement for employees. Not only does our research demonstrate that this is untrue, but it is increasingly difficult for organizations today to maintain these types of ‘perks’ given the fragile economic environment that we now live in, even in the postrecession economy. Taking these two factors together, we aimed to identify the true levers that impact employee engagement the most, especially through the lens of Top and Poor Performing Organisations  to gain valuable insights about best practices and differentiators from our respondent organizations.

This finding implies that engagement may be best created through the use of ‘holistic’ strategies that interconnect an organization’s talent with accentuating supportive interpersonal relationships, as well as working to foster a connection between employees and the strategic goals of the organization. Further demonstrating that Top Performing Organisations have a comprehensive understanding of what drives employee engagement in their organization, our research found that they are better prepared to implement several of these strategic offerings rather than relying on just one or two.


How effective are the following in regards to impacting employee
engagement in your organization? % Who Responded ‘Effective’


Furthermore, while the importance of fostering positive relationships to impact engagement has been frequently highlighted in past research studies, the fact that this is a significant differentiating feature for TPOs in our current study underscores the efficacy of this practice to impact employee engagement and retention. One research study remarked, “As organizations battle to get the most from their existing people in an environment characterized by skill shortages, the role of human resource practices in fostering employee engagement and commitment is paramount.

As mentioned above and perhaps a bit surprisingly, our survey uncovered that the least effective means for impacting employee engagement was ‘compensation, pay and benefits.’ While these benefits are certainly important to an employee, it is the “interpersonal relationships” and “ability to connect work to the organization’s strategy.”


Career Development

But HCI makes a point that I largely missed.  This is about the importance of career development (which I did discuss) and of the way this development has changed (which I didn’t).  But I agree with the research that this does now provide a new opportunity for engagement:

Leveraging Multi-Directional Career Movements

The final compelling distinctive element of TPOs versus PPOs relates specifically to career pathing or advancement. This is a particularly complicated process to define for today’s modern organization mostly because organizations are flatter than they once were, and the traditional concept of ‘moving up the career ladder’ is no longer something that is necessarily possible or even straightforward.

There is an emerging belief that effective career advancement is not limited to a linear progression up the ‘corporate ladder,’ and is rather defined by a series of lateral, as well as upward, moves to impact an employee’s career development. The increasing interconnectivity among organizational functions calls for a more interconnected method of movement within an organization and within individual career advancement, and ‘muti-directional career movement’ offers this flexibility.

The survey results indicate a prevalence of these “multi-directional” moves is taking place more regularly among TPOs. A combination of lateral moves and upward moves were mentioned more frequently by TPOs as a means for career advancement within their organization, as opposed to the standard ‘corporate ladder.’

This trend was first observed in 2001, and was described in the following excerpt, ‘Organizational career development programs started being developed in response to the changing nature of employees’ career expectations and desires. The traditional psychological contract between employers and employees in which lifelong employment was guaranteed has ended. Employers focus more on helping employees build employability so that they are able to make any number of career changes — vertically or laterally. The hierarchies that once made straight career paths simple are disappearing, and organizations have become flatter.’

It is paramount for organizations to embrace and capitalize on this shift if they aim to ensure that career development opportunities remain a key lever for increasing employee engagement and satisfaction.

By contrast, nearly 1 in 3 PPO’s continue to utilize the ‘corporate ladder’ to describe career advancement in their organization. This failure to change the development strategies to align with current workforce trends will arguably impede these organizations in the future and likely result in lower employee engagement and increased rates of turnover. As top talent continues to look elsewhere for opportunities and organizations that allow them to move more freely and advance their knowledge and skills more readily, organizations would be wise to adapt.”


It’s a good point, and I should have made more of it today.



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Tuesday 12 July 2011

Engaging the HiPo


  I’ve been dipping into some of HCI’s Engagement & Recognition conference in Chicago (and streaming) today.

There have been a number of great sessions including from Stuart Crabb at Facebook, and Joris Luijke at Atlassian – I may post on these later if I get time.  But I was particularly impressed by a session from Leah Haunz Johnson at the Corporate Leadership Council: The Disengaged Star: re-engaging your high potentials.

Stars?  Hi-po’s, the people who can be leading our organisations tomorrow, add nearly twice as much to company revenue and are 75% more likely to be successful in stretch assignments.

And disengaged?  Well in the past five years there has been a significant decline in hi-po’s emotional and rational engagement and in their performance. One in five hi-po’s are considering leaving their current company within the next 12 months.

The key point is that hi-po’s are particularly difficult to engage emotionally.  They tend to be uncertain about their career opportunities and unsupported in stretch assignments.

Leah Haunz Johnson listed four specifics managers can do to raise hi-po’s engagement (from HCI’s blog):

  1. Ask hi-po's to commit to the deal in return for recognizing their hi-po status.
  2. In return, increase hi-po’s certainty about their long-term career opportunity; this means id job families each hi-po has interest in experiencing.
  3. Hi-po’s are more engaged when managers deploy them in opportunities that match their career goals and when hi-po’s experience recognition and reward.
  4. Hi-po’s have an appetite for risk; give hi-po’s stretch opportunities, “crucible roles,” and fully support them, even in failure.



All good stuff but I do have concerns.  Firstly, over whether Hi-po’s really do have such a disproportionate impact on their organisations (vs Boris Groysberg research etc), and secondly, that even if they do, whether it’s really effective to try to engage them disproportionately.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are some easy and certainly effective things organisations can do to make their Hi-po programmes more effective – eg Leah’s point 2: asking Hi-po’s to commit to the organisation, as well as the organisation to them (as BT do) is a pretty obvious strategy.  But shouldn’t the deal always be two-way, regardless of the type of employee?

I’m struck by the fact that we didn’t mention Hi-po’s at all during David Zinger’s session last week.  And I suspect David’s belief is that organisations need to focus on engaging all their people to the best extent possible.  After all, people are engaged through other engaged people, so simply trying to engage one particular group in isolation is unlikely to work.

And I was also struck by Joris Luijke’s comments about teaming at Atlassian.  They’ve replaced their individual bonus programme by a common 8% addition to salary.  In Joris’ view, the previous arrangement just wasn’t worth the ‘disruption to society’.  Perhaps we’d get a bigger impact on engagement if we didn’t have Hi-Po programmes at all?



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Monday 11 July 2011

Twittersourcing / Social HRO


  I recently wrote this article for HRO Today (Global) and I thought I’d include it here as well.  Any thoughts?


What’s the Role of Social Outsourcing?

Attending HRO Summit Europe in 2010, I was interested to see that, other than the ongoing display of the Twitter back channel, there was little conversation and almost nothing in speakers’ presentations about social media. I found this odd because I see social media as one of the main influences on the HR function at this point in time. The omission got me thinking about the opportunities for, and threats arising from, using social media within an outsourcing environment.

The use of social media within business is not just about introducing new technology; it involves a new social approach and culture too. It necessitates a new mindset – one which is less focused on broadcasting information from a company to its employees, and instead is more committed to enabling productive conversation between all the people that the company employs. And it requires a shift in focus from the efficiency and effectiveness of individual transactions to the quality of relationships between these people too.

Taking recruitment first of all, the move to social media focuses on more than just seeing these platforms as another advertising or sourcing opportunity (for example simply seeing Linkedin as the world’s largest jobs board). The greatest benefits of social recruiting come from changing the whole paradigm of recruitment from one in which an organisation looks for people when it has a particular need to a more proactive stance in which it seeks to build relationships with key talent who might be valuable employees at a later point in time. The approach is based upon getting company representatives and potential recruits talking with each other. And the key people that these candidates will want to talk to are not recruiters but the people working in the relevant business area.

And in learning and development, the move to social learning prioritises the role of individuals sharing and collaborating together to support their own learning, often by using an enterprise-wide social collaboration (termed ‘enterprise 2.0’) system. This learning can be supported, where appropriate, by learning professionals orchestrating and shaping conversation and acting as ‘wiki gardeners’: pruning the content that employees have provided.

So social media implies significant change in the roles of these and other HR professionals. And to make these changed roles work, the existing requirements for these professionals to be in touch with the business, to understand what is going on and to be able to interject intelligently become more important than ever.

But what is the role of an outsourcing provider in this? There clearly are opportunities for outsourcers to make good use of these tools, for example by using them to improve dialogue about the outsourced service with client staff in charge of the outsourcing contract, and with users of the outsourced service too. Outsourcing firms can also use social media to improve the way they are managing their client relationships (an approach which is being termed ‘social CRM’). Another key opportunity for some firms will be in providing the technology that clients will use to conduct and enable the conversations between their staff.

But how will employees of outsourcing providers seek to intervene in the sorts of conversations that I described above when they are yet another step removed from what most of these conversations are going to be about?

And how will providers manage the cultural, procedural and contractual challenges of moving from an environment which priorities efficiency about all else to one which balances this with a focus on relationships – on proactively seeking to spend time with employees to improve trust and the quality of conversation rather than always looking to push this down to the place of the least transaction cost (usually to employee self-service or a low skilled call centre operator with little understanding of the particular business context).

I am still not clear what the answers to these questions should be, or even whether there will ever be good answers.

It is certainly true that social media helps to bring different groups together. One of the main reasons that social technology is being implemented in so many businesses now is to help them cope with the increasingly virtual, dispersed and contingent nature of their organisations. These social tools help people communicate together more effectively, especially when they can no longer see each other face-to-face. So social media may help integrate outsourcing providers within a more loosely defined organisation – one based on stretched-out boundaries and including more diverse groups of people operating within them.

But the other way of looking at this is to note that social media involves more than just growing the number of people who are connected together. It also focuses on building deeper relationships and more powerful conversations within a particular social unit, whether this is a team; a community of practice; some other form of network or community; the whole organisation; or part of the organisation and the outside world.

Whatever this social unit is, outsourcing providers are often going to find themselves outside of it. The threat to outsourcing is that just as social media enables organisations to build tighter social units; it will also lead to increasing isolation and marginalisation of those left outside of these.




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Friday 8 July 2011

With David Zinger on Employee Engagement


  On Tuesday I spent the afternoon with David Zinger, founder and host of the Employee Engagement ning community.  I feel David and I go way back as he was one of the few ‘HR’ people blogging when I started up, just over four years ago.  I also started my Human Capital ning group shortly after his, but mine peaked at about 50 people, whilst David’s has over 4000 members!

For David, the path to exceptional employee engagement travels through engagement mythology to the concrete grounding of tactical engagement (kaizengagement)

Debunking 21 myths of employee engagement

David's in-depth research has discovered that employee engagement has a number of myths attached to it (5 of them are here).  My other favourites, some of which I agree are myths, and others which I still believe are true are:


  • We need a singular definition of engagement.  No – I agree this is a myth, and talked about it recently during my presentation with David Macleod and Nita Clarke of the Employee Engagement Taskforce.
  • WIIFM is more important than WIIFU.  Organisations are more than just collections of individuals.  An organisation of engaged individuals who would sabotage each others’ careers isn’t going to be any more effective than a true team of disengaged employees.  We need to be thinking about engagement as a socially developed outcome rather than an individualised one.
  • Data trumps story.  Measurement has a limited role in HCM.  It’s fine for the transactional stuff, but the more important something is, the harder it is to measure.  Look at Gary Hamel’s triangle describing the range of behaviours people can use to involve themselves in their work.  Obedience at the bottom can be measured fairly easily.  Passion at the top is a lot harder, but it much more important today.  It can be measured – but mainly through pictures and stories, not metrics and analytics.



  • Engagement is a noun.  Yes, I think it is.  It can probably be a very as well as long as we don’t start believing we can engage someone else.  But we can engage ourselves.  But in the main, we’re best off thinking about it as a state, an element of human capital.
  • There are ‘drivers’ of engagement.  Yes.  OK, as I note above, I think it’s up to each individual to decide to be engaged.  But the things that we do to them, the environment we put them in, has a strong influence on this.  So ‘influencers’ rather than ‘drivers’ perhaps, but there are definitely levers we can pull.
  • There are external experts of gurus with answers.  Yes, there are.  These answers need to be chosen according to the specific organisational context, and tailored appropriately too.  But engagement (and HCM) is more than simply treating people well.  It’s also about your strategy, the organisational environment, your HR practices and other things as well.  Don’t be afraid to get outside help.


Kaizengagement: 6 tactical engagements

Kaizengagement, a term developed by David Zinger, is a fusion of kaizen and employee engagement.  In the workplace of the perpetual busy we need small, simple, and powerful tactics to continually improve our engagement.

David outlined six simple yet powerful research based approaches to improving employee engagement within an organisation.

  • Engage progress: from small wins to benevolently hacking our work.  Making progress is the biggest engagement driver for knowledge workers. Eg one reason gaming is so addictive is that it’s so easy to monitor progress.  So let people ‘hack’ their work to make more progress. See David’s post on this.
  • Engage co-created relationships: high quality interactions for optimal organisational energy.  The greatest single contributor to energy is high quality connection, even just for two seconds – ie it’s about whether people show up for each other.  Holding people accountable (check in with them, not checking up on them) counts here too.
  • Engage key moments and tactical behaviours.  David didn’t say much about this, but I agree with the point.  Despite what I wrote above, most of the activities covered within management and leadership are fairly straight forward, and apply pretty much the same from organisation to organisation.  People want to be listened to, be involved in their appraisal and to contribute to their development plans.  Get these basic, crucial conversations right, and you’re well on your way to helping your people be engaged.
  • Engage strengths: List, live and leverage your strengths.  Gallup suggest that if a manager doesn’t talk to an employee, there’s a 44% chance they’ll be disengaged.  If they only talk about poor performance there’s a 22% chance.  Ie just criticising them is better than not talking at all.  But if the manager talks about the employees’ strengths there’s just a 1% chance they’ll be disengaged.
  • Engage the community hive mind of organisations.  I think this relates to what I was describing earlier on.  Engagement is a social outcome and people are largely engaged by the people around them, and how well these people are engaged.  Engagement has to be something that people decide to do /to be together.
  • Engage moments and conversations: 45 seconds to engaged performance.  The one minute manager on steroids?  Anyway, it’s a good point.  One of David’s myths for engagement is about the future versus right now.  It doesn’t have to be.


I agree with these points, though I still think there’s more to do.  Engagement can involve big steps and strategic approaches as well.  After all, Kaizen is only effective when it’s part of a bigger approach to TQM.  And I think that given the engagement deficit in most organisations today, we need Total Engagement Management (TEM) too.  I might come back to you on this over the next couple of weeks, so check in again soon.  And I’d be interested in your thoughts (comments) too.


Anyway, a great session and wonderful to meet David irl.

Also see Doug Shaw’s write-up of the session here.

And my other posts on Engagement.



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Thursday 7 July 2011

HR Vision: Social media


  My interview with Siân Harrington of HR Magazine is now up at HR Vision:


Social media: business transformer or the latest business bubble?

In this month’s interview on social networking Jon Ingham, blogger and consultant, at Strategic HCM, talks to Siân Harrington.

Most businesses are using social media externally, but increasingly they are using it internally – and there is value in deploying it to help employees engage and collaborate, according to Ingham.

He says: “It is very early days, but there are starting to be some really valuable case studies which show improvements to efficiency and effectiveness of recruits [linked to social media].

“As soon as you put people into a social group and allow them to have conversations, it becomes much easier to learn and the learnings that staff develop through such a process are far more meaningful. But developing social media is about a culture change and if IT takes the lead in developing these tools, they are going to have less likelihood of success. And I don’t believe you can outsource the implementation of social media – it needs to be based on authentic conversations between organisations and employees.

“It takes time, but organisations are seeing the benefits and in any sector there are employers large and small taking advantage of social media.”


To view the video, go to http://www.hrvision.tv and select ‘click here to watch this feature’ (or if my interview is not at the top, you can select Jon Ingham from ‘select a speaker’, or Social Media from ‘select a topic’):




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Wednesday 6 July 2011

The Talent Race: Europe vs Asia


  My last post on Haier has generously been included in the current HR carnival posted by Abhishek Mittal on his Mumblr blog.   The theme of this carnival is ‘the talent race’, with a particular focus on Asia, although Abhishek hasn’t had many Asian bloggers contributing - the same problem I had when I hosted the ‘international HR carnival’ last year.  It’s strange, particularly given that many of the countries with the highest proportion of bloggers are in Asia.  So if you’re an Asian HR blogger, particularly if you’d like to increase your blog’s profile, do get in touch with us both.

Anyway, I think one of the best posts included in the carnival is from Laura Schroeder (Working Girl) writing at Compensation Cafe: Where has all the talent gone?.  And one of the reports Laura refers to it the Economist’s new Global Talent Index (GTI) report.  Amongst other things, this report concludes:

  • NORDIC AND DEVELOPED ASIA PACIFIC COUNTRIES ARE PROMINENT IN THE GTI TOP TEN. Australia and Singapore are strong performers, the former due, among other factors, to its high-quality universities and the latter to its openness to international trade and foreign direct investment.
  • CHINA OUTPERFORMS OTHER  COUNTRIES IN THE INDEX. China rises to 31st place in the GTI in 2015 from 33rd in 2011, but more notable is the five-point improvement in its score – the largest increase in 2015 of any country in the index. A major contributor is an expected increase in the country’s willingness to embrace foreign workers.


These conclusions aren’t much of a surprise, particularly as I’ve recently seen the Economist’s Robin Bew describing them at the recent Big ReThink and Talent Management summits.  Robin noted that whilst emerging markets will likely come off the boil, the trend was still definitely west to east (see pic).  More instability is forecast too, which I can definitely understand given the growing problems in Greece and its potential knock-on across effects across the rest of Europe and beyond.

So I can certainly relate to the perspectives of respondents to this recent survey by GfK NOP in HR Magazine.

“The GfK International Employee Engagement Study reveals the extent of the brain drain facing Britain, as it struggles to emerge from recession. More than a quarter (27%) of British workers are willing to move country to find a better job, possibly driven by a desire to escape the UK's soaring cost of living and static wages.

Our findings indicate Britain has a risk of 'brain drain' in the coming year, posing significant problems for companies looking to recover from the downturn. Both blue collar and white collar workers in the UK show a quarter of their number are willing to look overseas for work - and that figure rises for the higher educated workers. Even if only a fraction of these people actually make the move abroad, UK businesses will face a significant loss of talent, just at the time they most need it….

The findings highlight just how globalised and fluid the labour market has become in many countries. The truth remains that, for many employees, moving country is no more daunting than moving company. Companies looking to recruit, engage and retain the best staff need to compete, not just against rivals in their own nations and markets, but from right around the world.”


I’m certainly up for a move if anyone wants to offer an opportunity.

Perhaps that’s the solution to Abhishek’s Asian blogger shortage?



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Monday 4 July 2011

Finding a human capital niche: Haier’s horse race


  I’ve been chatting to a couple of clients over the last fortnight about the importance of developing a unique proposition for people management.

We tend to think that there is just one best way of doing HR, whereas in fact there is a broad variety of potential approaches open to us.

The key point is that people are all different.  This being the case, organisations can choose which sort of people they’re going to focus on employing and supporting.  The challenge then is aligning HCM strategy and HC / HR processes around this strategy in a way that will appeal to (deliver the deal for) the chosen group of people.

There’s a good example of this in Paul Evans and Vladimir Pucik’s book, The Global Challenge, which also emphasises the need for differentiation supported by internal consistency, along with the balancing of dualities (local and global) in international human resource management.

This is Haier, established as a refrigerator factory in Qingdao in 1920 and now a multinational consumer electronics and home appliances company which with over 6% share of the white goods sector is the market leader.  It is also credited with being mainland China’s (vs Hong Kong’s) only truly global brand.

Haier models its HR strategy on a race track in which case all employees, including managers, need to keep racing, and winning, in order to access rewards and responsibilities etc.  The company explains:

“Haier provides its every employee opportunities to develop and demonstrate talents.

It is not able people, but the mechanism to encourage able people development, should we be concerned about. The responsibility of a manager is to establish a ‘race track’, ie. personality development opportunity, for every employee to become a SBU.

The ‘Horse racing court’ requires three principles, firstly, fair competition; secondly, ability-based appointment; thirdly, reasonable job rotation. Under the contract labor system policy, employees are regularly evaluated and classified by performances, and the managerial personnel do not work at the same position permanently but rotate regularly in a fixed period. The significance of Haier’s human resource management is to stimulate the enthusiasm of employees. In this system, every employee can feel the pressure from both inside and outside the company and convert the pressure into creative motility. This is the key to success.”


Some of the main features of Haier’s approach include:

  • Each employee’s targets increase by 1% every day.
  • Every employee is subject to frequent and transparent performance appraisals (going against the traditional Chinese culture in which saving face is so important).
  • Low performers are ‘put on medication’ which means remedial training.  More serious cases are put on ‘IV use’ which includes demotion.  Three negative reviews placing an employee in the bottom 10% of the workforce, leads to ‘hospitalisation’, ie dismissal.
  • All employees can compete for job openings and promotions (‘races’) but have to keep on winning these to retain the title – there’s no such thing as a permanent promotion.
  • Managers performance is also reviewed every week with the results being displayed every month in the entrance to the company’s cafeteria.  This includes green or red arrow indicating whether the manager’s score has gone up or down that month.
  • Every quarter, those being judged ready to move are transferred into the company’s talent pool – but for that quarter only. Evans and Pucik note ‘there’s no philosophy of once you’re in, you’re in at Haier’.
  • Promotions and demotions are published in the company’s internal newspaper.
  • Chinese employees don’t receive a salary, but a share in the company’s profits, based upon their individual performance.


There’s also a good description of Haier in ‘OEC Management-
Control System Helps China Haier Group Achieve Competitive
Advantage’ (Thomas Lin, Managing Accounting Quarterly, 2005).

This notes, for instance, that:

“Each employee receives a daily grade for actual performance and progress toward achieving his or her target. Daily evaluation results are shown to workers the next day on the bulletin boards in the factory. The employees who are acknowledged as the best workers for three consecutive days have the honor of telling their experiences to fellow workers…

Small yellow 6-S squares are painted on the factory floor. At the beginning of each workday, team leaders stand inside the squares to give a briefing on that day’s work and relay any news to the employees. At the end of each workday, some workers will be called to stand on the footprints inside the squares to criticize themselves for making mistakes and share corrective actions taken during the day or to share some of their good work…

The company adopts a point system for production workers using the 3E card, and, if an employee earns more points, he or she makes a higher wage and bonus (this way, both management and employee know the daily wage and why).
The company also uses quality-check coupons to provide an additional incentive mechanism. Each employee has a quality-check coupon booklet with red and yellow coupons for rewards and penalties. The booklet lists all quality problems the firm has detected and provides guidelines for checking each defect. If an employee failed to self-check a quality problem that was later found by his or her team member during a cross-check or by the superior during a managerial check, the employee will lose a red coupon and receive a yellow coupon that will be counted against that day’s wage and bonus…

At the end of the day, all workers conduct a selfcheck of their own work with the OEC criteria, fill out their 3E (Everyone, Everything, and Everyday) cards with seven OEC criteria items, and submit them to their supervisors. All employees fill in a form daily and calculate their wage using the following formula: wage = rate 5 quantity + award – penalty.”


Now, we do need to be careful about stereotypes.  So for example, Evans and Pucik note that ‘while China has been a high power distance country, characterised by high in-group collectivism, young urban Chinese exhibit a considerably higher degree of individualism and a more modest level of power distance.  They are also more assertive than the previous generation.’

However I think most people would still agree that the US still has a more individualistic national culture and China a more collective one.

This makes it even more remarkable that Haier has managed to develop such a competitive company culture that it even strikes its newer US workforce as overly competitive (meaning that the company has had to adapt some of its HR practice such as giving out a brown bear or a pink pig, rather than assigning a red or yellow face to high / low performing employees).


I think this indicates very nicely and quite powerfully what can be achieved through differentiation.

The point here is that even a company as large and global as Haier (or GE or Aviva) can find a basis for differentiation, and enough people who will fit with this differentiated approach.  We don’t all have to implement the same ‘best practices’.


Contact me if you’d like to develop an approach that is best fit!



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