Preparing Tomorrow’s Talent: It’s Time to Take Action

Insights and Perspectives  

By Leighanne Levensaler, Senior Vice President, Corporate Strategy, Workday & Managing Director and Co-Head, Workday Ventures

There’s a lot of buzz these days about the outlook for tomorrow’s talent. Global businesses and higher education institutions acknowledge that change is happening and they need to adapt, but don’t know where to start.

We talk about the skills gap, and why so many jobs go unfilled even as millions of people can’t find work. We discuss intelligent technologies and how they’re changing jobs. We talk about college graduates with staggering loan debts struggling to enter the workforce.

Yet too much of this talk is occurring at the 50,000-foot level when we need to hit the ground running. People are the heart of our businesses, and talent should be at the forefront of business strategy.

Think of it this way: when an organization faces a new threat, what does it do? It prepares. If a competitor starts to take away market share, it develops an aggressive plan to get it back. If a business models shifts in its industry, it creates a strategy to adapt. We must recognize that lack of insight and preparedness around tomorrow’s talent is a threat to the success of our organizations and the health of our society.

Rather than talking about it at such a high level, let’s get more specific. For example, here are some areas all business leaders need to better understand and communicate:

  • Skills. What future skills do we need to support our business strategies and changes within our organizations, and what are our plans to acquire those skills or reskill workers?
  • Partnerships. Are we pursuing, or do we need to pursue, collaboration opportunities in the wider community with higher education, training, or workforce development organizations?
  • Infrastructure and resources. How will we fund and build the needed programs, and find the people to support them?

Some leaders are very in touch with these areas because their companies have had to reskill significant portions of their workforces to support new business models or adapt to new technologies. But the reality is many of us are still in the early stages of understanding the problem.

Working Together for Tomorrow’s Talent

At Workday, we’re in a unique position. We don’t just care about the future of talent; we’re also building technologies that will meet the needs of the current and future workforce, and help organizations attract and retain that workforce.

We’re also bringing together leaders from our different customer communities—from leading higher ed institutions to emerging disruptors to some of the largest global organizations—for conversations with non-profit organizations and policymakers on how to collaborate.

Here’s how we see a path forward:

  • Establish shared responsibility. Rather than pointing fingers at who should be driving this effort, it’s important we recognize that all of us must take responsibility. To be successful and identify strategies that work across industries and demographics, we need to be transparent about the reality and together, find solutions.
  • Have more productive conversations. By gathering stakeholders in the same room, conversations can start to move from worry to hope as everyone establishes a way to work together. At Workday, we have the ability to facilitate these conversations and recently had some great success at our first workforce development conference, Workday Opportunity Onramps. The event brought together businesses, non-profit workforce development organizations, and consulting firms to share ideas and results around programs they’ve implemented that provide career opportunities to nontraditional candidates. We’ll keep the productive conversations going next month at Bloomberg’s Tomorrow’s Talent: A Forum for Business and Education Leaders, a full-day symposium sponsored by Workday.
  • Build ethically. All of us involved in the creation of new technologies need to continually work on the question of how we build them in an ethical and responsible way. Rather than eliminate opportunities for people through innovation, we need to use technology to create new and better opportunities.
  • Rethink education. Starting early on, we need to create a culture of lifelong learners. To succeed in the evolving world of work—whether it’s the emergence of new technologies or growing importance of soft skills—education needs to be not just a diploma, but something that is provided at every point in the employee lifecycle. The responsibility to make this happen exists not only in traditional higher ed institutions but at the business leadership and policy level as well.

Now is the time to join forces and take action on behalf of tomorrow’s talent. We’re delighted to be a part of this movement at Workday, and hope you’ll join us in establishing a clear path forward.

Is employee recognition part of your retention strategy?

Deloitte/Bersin estimates that the recognition market is over $45 billion in size and is mostly focused on rewarding tenure. According to that research, 87% of companies have some type of tenure-based reward program, meaning that what employees are really being rewarded for is just “sticking around.”   Yet, we know that people are looking for meaning and recognition at work.  A 2014 survey from the Boston Consulting Group of 200,000 people in 189 countries found that “appreciation for your work” was the top driver of happiness on the job across the globe.

On our most recent podcast, my guest Peter Hart discusses his belief that there is a better and more effective way to provide people with meaningful appreciation for their work. Peter is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Rideau, a Canadian-based company that is pioneering a new, data-driven approach to rewards and recognition.

Since he became President of Rideau in 1978, Peter has shepherded the company through global expansion and a significant transformation from manufacturing awards to helping organizations rethink the way they recognize and reward their employees.  In my conversation with Peter, we talk about how recognition is an underutilized tool in many companies.  Peter has lots of great insights about how employee recognition can and should be used to drive better results.  You can listen in on our conversation about the following topics by clicking the player at the bottom of this post.

  1. What are employers doing wrong when they only tie recognition to tenure – what are they missing?
  2. What role can recognition play in engagement and in driving better results?
  3. What’s the difference between tangible and intangible recognition – and how do you balance the two for optimal results?
  4. How can recognition data help predict future performance?
  5. When people think of formal recognition programs, they envision a large corporation.  How can these same principles can be applied to small employers as well?

Why Your Employees Will Love the ’90-10 Rule’–and So Will You


At organizations like Facebook and, Jennifer Dulski amassed a toolkit of techniques for channeling individual workers into mass movements.

By Leigh BuchananEditor-at-large, Inc. magazine@LeighEBuchanan
CREDIT: Shutterstock

Jennifer Dulski is a veteran troop rally-er. As president and COO of, she energized millions to rise up against the status quo. At Facebook, where last year she became head of Groups, Dulski draws people together around shared interests and concerns.

So it’s not surprising Dulski chose engaging and mobilizing people as the subject of her book, Purposeful: Are You a Manager or a Movement Starter? Leaders of movements–entrepreneurial businesses included–incite followers to believe in a vision, in one another, and in themselves. To amass the power of many, they address the needs and dreams of individuals.

At the businesses she’s worked for, which also include Google and Yahoo, Dulski developed and adapted a variety of tools and techniques to maximize employees’ buy-in to the mission and satisfaction with their roles in it. She described several of them in a recent interview.

1. Customize motivation.

While managing a team of marketers at Yahoo, Dulski had a revelation. One woman explained candidly that recognition and rewards didn’t interest her. All she wanted for a job well done was more money. “I would never have guessed that,” Dulski says. “If she hadn’t told me, I would have tried to motivate her based on what motivates me, which would have been the exact wrong thing.”

The only way to know what motivates individuals, Dulski concluded, is to ask them. Hence: the Motivational Pie Chart. Dulski gives employees a drawing of an empty circle and tells them to divvy it up according to their personal priorities. Sixty percent might be personal development, 20 percent recognition, and 20 percent compensation, for example. “Sometimes, people will say something uncommon, like ‘I am really motivated by being in the spotlight,'” Dulski says.

Employees then color-code each slice to indicate current levels of satisfaction. Green if the company does a great job with that motivator. Yellow if the employee wants more. Red if things are bad.

Dulski says compensation assumes a higher profile when people feel they’re not being paid what they’re worth. Once financial needs are met, the three most common motivators become purpose, growth, and connection. “People want to know they are working on something that matters and their role in it,” Dulski says. “They want to work with people they respect, trust, and enjoy. And they want to feel like they are learning, growing, being challenged.”

2. Clarify decision making.

Despite empowerment rhetoric, people often feel helpless to move forward. Dulski suggests a rule of thumb: Employees should be able to make 90 percent of the decisions required by their jobs. To create a common vocabulary for discussing authority levels, she uses the same color-coding deployed in the pie chart: green for decisions made autonomously; red for decisions requiring permission; and yellow for decisions where authority is unclear.

Dulski says that without the 90-10 Rule, things tend to break down in one of two ways. “Either you are asking people to make decisions they should not be making based on their role, or a person is capable of making decisions, and a manager is getting involved when they really don’t need to,” she says. Both instances leave employees feeling stripped of control.

In tandem with the 90-10 Rule, Dulski suggests companies adopt decision logs to track who made which decisions and when, as well as their rationales and the people who were consulted. Such logs reveal whether decision making is being sufficiently distributed. “It also serves transparency,” she says. “When big decisions are made, everyone wants to be involved.” That’s usually not possible, but at least everyone can understand how and why a decision was made.

3. Lay out the long-term plan.

The adage “People don’t leave companies; they leave managers” is a bit of a canard. “My experience has been people leave when they stop growing and learning,” Dulski says. At, she learned a technique called Horizon Mapping to keep people motivated and guide their progress toward personal goals.

Employees begin by identifying their existing skills–relationship-building, for example–on the basis of their experiences. They then set five- or 10-year goals. “These tend to be big ideas,” Dulksi says. “I have had people say, ‘I want to run for elected office.’ ‘I want to be the CEO of my own company.’ ‘I want to invent something.'”

Finally, employees compare their current skill sets with those objectives on the horizon. Together with leaders, they then determine what roles or experiences will close the gap between them. “Sometimes, a project may seem uninteresting,” Dulski says. “But if they understand how it gets them to the next step, it becomes compelling.”

4. Get to know folks.

Strong personal relationships–between leaders and their workforces and among employees–make pulling together feel more natural and enjoyable. Dulski advocates helping workers learn about one another as people, not just as colleagues; and she recommends leaders dedicate at least a portion of events and offsites to that goal.

In one technique she uses, called Lifelines, Dulski will break up employees into small groups and ask each member to describe three to five experiences that made them who they are. “I have seen tremendous bonds coming out of this as people go a level deeper,” she says.

For leaders, particularly those who fret about losing touch with their scaling organizations, it’s a chance to attach a story to a face. It’s also an opportunity to model healthy emotional openness. When Dulski kicks off a Lifelines exercise, “I will share one moment from my life,” she says. “Something that is more personal or difficult, to make it appropriate and comfortable for other people to do so.”

In the interest of humanizing herself, Dulski also welcomes employees’ having fun at her expense. She’s let them choose her Halloween costumes. They’ve cast her in company musicals. “Once, I had to play the Wicked Witch in a parody of The Wizard of Oz,” she says. “I did a big cackle onstage that was widely imitated for weeks.”

When to Give the Right Kind of Recognition



Leaders, managers, and peers alike, can all get confused as to when to use their various recognition programs that they might have online.

This will be a quick guide to assist people with when to give the right kind of recognition according to the programs that you have.

There are some guiding principles I want you to keep in mind that should help you think about and narrow down what you should do:

  1. Level of Impact. This refers to the behavior, effort or action demonstrated and whether they would be perceived as being a low, medium or high impact on performance.
  2. Frequency of Occurrence. You can examine the nature of the behavior and consider if this was a one-off action, and isolated in occurrence, or whether this is an oft-repeated or frequent behavior.
  3. Number of People Affected. The employee’s action may only affect one person or may have affected many people by what they did.

Low Impact Action + Isolated Occurrence + Low # of People Affected

Let’s take the scenario where an employee carries out a low impact action that is a first time observation, which only affects one or two people.

This type of action would likely only warrant expressing recognition and appreciation via your program that uses e-Cards or by making a post on the newsfeed of a social recognition program.

Some recognition programs are using thematic social badges such as for demonstrating corporate values or specific business goals.

All of these types of recognition programs can be used without having to attach a gift or award to because you don’t have to give a reward when you recognize people.

High Impact Action + Consistent Occurrence + High # of People Affected

In contrast, an individual employee or team may have made a major achievement or completed a project that had a significant impact on the company.

They likely demonstrated consistent effort and hard work on this project over a period of time. And the number of people affected was significant – considering the improved processes developed that will help internal staff and the profitability projected because of the benefits to current and future customers.

For these kinds of actions, you would likely accompany any form of sincere expression of acknowledgment with a reward through a recognition program that permits giving points, monetary rewards or gifts.

Be mindful that some high impact actions may only be a one-time occurrence so you will have to use your best judgment on those ones.

Whenever you give people a reward don’t treat it as just a transaction. Always add some meaningful words of appreciation when presenting in person along with a written note or electronic message to reinforce the recognition.

Hopefully, this will give some structure when considering when to use the right recognition message for specific kinds of actions.

Optimizing Learning Experiences for Organizational Performance

December 07, 2017

Proper training is the backbone of any successful organization. This is a universal truth in the Learning and Development (L&D) world. Organizations know this but why isn’t every organization successful in implementing proper training? The answer is simple: intention doesn’t necessarily equate to action; Just because an organization tries to produce quality training doesn’t mean that they actually produce impactful learning. Then what is missing? What are the keys to developing a quality training and development program that produces measurable results?

Research supports five ways that produce verifiable changes in organizational performance, revealed in Valamis’ White Paper >Five Best Practices in Optimizing Learning Experiences for Organizations:

1. Make learning faster, more efficient, and consistent
Catering to a rapid pace and short-attention-span is paramount in getting information through to today’s adult learner. Therefore, organizations must get their L&D departments to capitalize on the learning technologies available to us: the benefits of digital learning and microlearning have never been clearer. By breaking down large pieces of information into bite-sized pieces and then making that information available at the learner’s discretion, organizations can cater their employee’s learning process to today’s global society without sacrificing a quality learning experience. The advantages of online learning include an organization’s ability to provide flexibility for those employees in a time crunch, while also providing a continuous learning experience for those who need to check-in multiple times for review or reference of the material.

As society becomes more fast-paced and attention-spans get shorter, it is pivotal to effectively capture the attention of learners by personalizing the learning experience.

2. Personalize the learning experience
The more an organization can make a training process intuitive, enjoyable, and applicable, the more likely it is that their employees will actually engage with the content, learn from it, and use it. In accordance with a widely-accepted adult learning theory, effective training must address both different styles of learning and provide individualized incentive and value for the learner. By leveraging digital learning effectively, organizations can cater to these adult learning principles and create experiential learning activities, personalized learning plans, and even personalized learning experiences. The key consideration here is that in order for this level of personalized learning to be feasible and efficient, organizations must utilize a quality digital learning platform that caters to this approach through features like integration, user profiles, workflow designations, etc.

Another benefit to the personalization of learning is a measurable increase in both the effectiveness of learning and the satisfaction of employees, which translates into long-term retention.

3. Minimize the loss of knowledge through turnover
There is a strong correlation between the employee retention rate and the quality of an organization’s learning experience. So, if the organization has created a robust, personalized learning experience that engages their employees and encourages growth, the turnover rate will drop. Of course, some turnover is inevitable—and it happens despite positive experiences like promotions or transfers. Therefore, a quality training program must also take into consideration how to effectively capture and reproduce a seasoned employees’ knowledge in order to pass that knowledge on quickly without any production loss after turnover.

The ability to provide metrics to track the effect these training features have on an organization’s bottom-line is of the utmost importance. Therefore, it is also pertinent that organizations know how to measure learning impact effectively. But what is learning analytics and how do you know which metrics to track? There are two considerations here: measuring and tracking the impact of learning on employees and job performance, and the impact of learning on the organization.

4. Leverage learning data analytics to verify the impact of effective training and determine the future way of learning
Measuring the learning impact on the learner is important because it is a great way for a company to assess their training efficiency. Individual training metrics can be used to further personalize the learning path and increase the personalization of the learning experience. By tracking an employee’s performance, training history, scores, and interests, you can design a highly personalized, extremely efficient training process for them. On a larger scale, capturing the right metrics can allow an organization to see what the gaps are between what their employees know and what they need to know. When paired with an integrated training platform, this data can be immediately leveraged to close that gap to increase organizational efficiency.

Running learning analytics in the entirety of the organization will also help you evaluate the impact of the learning process on the business outcomes.

5. Utilize learning analytics to gauge the effectiveness of the learning in the organization
One of the greatest benefits of online learning, when done correctly, is that even at this level of training optimization, there are still savings in the cost of training. When comparing the money spent on training to the money saved by investing proper resources into quality training programs, organizations must comprehensively review the variety of advantages gained in this venture. These benefits of optimized learning experiences include: an increase in customer and employee satisfaction, an increase in productivity, a reduction in time to competency and delivery time, and a faster speed for product and service rollouts. When taking all of this into consideration, the results are clear: the cost of training is worth it. Optimized learning experiences drive organizational performance. Using the right data analytics, organizations can present verifiable support to their key stakeholders. So, taking the time to go above and beyond to run and present these analytics at the macro level are well worth it to prove the value of optimized training. 

If you’re really interested in how to build a truly successful, robust, integrative learning experience at your organization, it’s worth looking at the research and support provided in Valamis’ Five Best Practices in Optimizing Learning Experiences for Organizations. The numbers are there. The research is there. The studies are there. The question is: is your organization there?

There IS a secret to unlocking your company’s potential: and these five best practices are the keys that open the door.

The Opportunities and Challenges of Going Agile In HR


  • Published on June 12, 2018
Enrique Rubio, PMP, CSM

Enrique Rubio, PMP, CSM

Founder of Hacking HR Forum | Co-Founder of Cotopaxi | Speaker | Human Resources & Technology 311 articles 

Organizations across several industries are transforming their hierarchical and stiff structures into self-managed and flexible, agile teams.

The motivation for such transformation relies on several factors:

  • The need to continually increase the organization’s ability to stay up to date with changes and innovations in their own industry and across the board. To do this, agile teams allows information to flow from and in in all directions, and not just upward and downward the corporate hierarchy.
  • The desire to keep teams manageable, working and motivated, without heavy decision-making layers that slow down work progress and make it difficult for individuals to make important on-the-spot decisions. In agile, smaller, self-managed teams, with clear business priorities (the why), but no micromanaged on the “how”, are considerably more capable of achieving their outcomes than highly “supervised” teams.
  • The need to empower teams with enough decision-making authority to make rapid decisions to incorporate customer (employees) feedback. This is important since those employees are also customers of other super user-centric organizations and they are used to having their problems solved in a matter of minutes or hours, not days. Agile teams are empowered teams. And they can make decisions on the spot that can significantly improve the quality of the products and services, without having to go through an entire multi-layered organization to get something done.
  • Agile teams can harness the power of ongoing collaboration. In such teams, individuals heavily rely on each other to deliver the team’s outcomes. Therefore, they have to have multiple touch points during their work journey to know what everybody else is working on, whether they need support or not, etc.

What does going agile mean?

Going agile means evolving from heavy and hierarchical structures where decision-making is concentrated on the top layers of a multi-layered, inefficient hierarchy, with little capacity to spread proper and important information across and with a focus on long-term “strategic thinking”, into a flatter (not totally flat – myth busted!!) organization composed by multiple self-organizing teams.

In such agile organization, teams are empowered to make decisions that very quickly respond to customer feedback and external conditions, innovation and change can be implemented at a smaller, yet impactful scale, and the focus isn’t on long term stiff strategic plans but on quick feedback, validation, iteration and learning loops.

An agile organization is extremely clear about two things:

  • Effectively communicating the “why”: the organization’s leadership provide business priorities. That would be the direction of the business, or the “why” or purpose.
  • Intentionally getting out of the way and letting teams discover the “how”: when leaders clearly communicate the “why”, self-organizing, agile teams will discover the “how” in a process of feedback, experimentation, quick iterations and learning. In a real agile organization, team leaders are not “managers” (as in “I am the one who makes the decisions”), but coaches and mentors (as in “I am here to support you, to guide you and to challenge you to get to the next level”).

Is it possible to have such an organization? You bet it is. And it is also becoming more evident that most corporate functions can go agile as well. One of them is Human Resources (HR).

HR can evolve from its current form, which in most cases is rigid and extremely focused on processes, to one that is more agile, innovative and focused on the “human”.

Such HR transformation can result in increased value-creation for the internal customers. And it doesn’t require heavy investments, but the willingness for a radical shift from where it is today to what agile entails.

Of course, going agile in HR means overcoming some important challenges.

The challenge

An agile transformation initiative will have to battle with the traditional, old-system thinkers who are tightly clung to hierarchical or obsolete approaches. Often, these kind of HR traditional thinkers are in “managerial” positions and therefore they have the power to either stop any agile initiative or simply make it fail by a de facto rejection of resources.

It is extremely ineffective when several teams at the bottom of the corporate echelon go agile, only to find stiffness and rigidity in the top layers that are fighting to keep their power intact and therefore betting for the failure of any agile initiative.

Creating agile teams within HR and then have them clash with the traditional structure can be extremely detrimental to the very core of the agile approach. It can also become disengaging and demotivating and create significant issues that would undermine the transformation initiative.

How to address this challenge: the transformation of HR must come from the C-level, including CHRO.

It can begin by switching smaller initiatives from traditional to agile, and bringing people from various “silos” within the HR structure to form an agile team. When that’s done, it must leverage on the positive results and organizational champions that were part of the initiative to convince the rest of senior leadership to continually evolve from traditional to agile.

If there’s not full or strong partial buy-in support from senior leadership, the agile initiatives are likely to fail when they crash against the big walls built up by those protecting the traditional approach.

The opportunity

The potential and positive opportunities of going agile in HR are innumerable. Some of them include:

  • Real collaboration: agile teams are tightly united by the common goal of the team, which is also part of the “why” of the organization. While each member in an agile team will have clear responsibilities, it is the collective effort put together that delivers the expected team outcomes. It is well known that HR is a fragmented function with sub-functions doing their work without much regard for the larger HR picture. By going agile it is totally possible to break the silos and promote real collaboration.
  • Continues feedback: most processes in HR are heavy and obsolete. Just think about performance management, leadership development and talent acquisition. Some of the current approaches in those areas have been in place for at least fifty years! By going agile, HR can leverage on the power of the collective intelligence of the organization. Agile teams critically depend on customer feedback to innovate and solve problems in creative ways. Why not unleash the potential of the untapped internal network of customers by constantly getting their feedback on HR processes and updating such processes as necessary?
  • Frequent delivery: agile teams are successful because they deliver workable products at a very fast rate. Traditional HR doesn’t. Improving processes within a traditional HR function can take months and even years. But the pace of innovation and disruption, and the cycles of change today are so extremely fast that HR doesn’t have much time to operate within the traditional approach anymore. The science behind frequent deliveries is this: instead of trying to solve complex problems by delivering end-to-end solutions, agile teams break those problems down in their core elements and then design products that solve individual pieces of the problem. By doing so, they can deliver those smaller pieces at a fast rate and innovate individually on each of them.
  • Real metrics: Eric Ries put it beautifully in his book The Lean Startup. There are real metrics and vanity metrics. When HR comes to senior leadership and says “we’ve delivered XX amount of training programs that reached out XX% of all employees”, that’s a vanity metric. Training people doesn’t create an impact. It is an output, not an outcome. Agile teams measure outcomes, which are real metrics. How much better the trained leaders are doing in their work? By how much have harassment and discrimination cases decreased? Agile teams measure real metrics, not vanity metrics.


If you liked this article, please share with your network! And, please, comment below… I’d love to hear what you have to say. Thank you!

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About the author:

Enrique Rubio is a Tech and HR Evangelist. He’s passionate about Human Resources, People Operations, Technology and Innovation. Enrique is an Electronic Engineer, Fulbright Scholar and Executive Master in Public Administration with a focus on HR. Over the past 18 years Enrique has worked in the HR and tech world. A lot of his research and work revolves around the digitization of the workplace and Human Resources. Enrique currently works as an advisor of the CHRO at the Inter-American Development Bank. He’s also the founder of Hacking HR Forum, an event to discuss the future of work, and Co-Founder of Cotopaxi, an artificial intelligence-based recruitment platform for emerging markets.

Why a More Productive Workforce is Still Possible: Start by Listening to Your Employees


Author: Tracey Fritcher, Global Director HR Transformation, ServiceNow

The gains in workforce productivity in the last 15 years are numerous. But there are still many organizations today that are filled with a great deal of administrative work to get a task done – much of this work falls into the unstructured category and is a huge time waster.


What if there was a way to look at work and build some structure and automation into processes to drive more productivity? Many organizations are looking at work and finding ways to add some guided insight so people can accomplish more in each day of work.


Searching the phrase “increase workforce productivity” will return approximately 84 million results…in .57 seconds – an overwhelming amount of information about recent improvements and many predictions about future gains.


Many of the articles revolve around management practices and what leaders can do to get to that holy grail of incremental effort – the kind of commitment that fills an employee with the drive to stay up late and take care of a customer problem or come in early when two nurses have called in sick on their floor. This is great when it happens, but people have lives outside of work and circumstances prevent doing any more than what is required for the job.


Smart organizations are seeking productivity gains by identifying the biggest time wasters — the work that often falls through the cracks, is highly administrative, repeatable and many times done via phone, e-mail or still on paper. Some great examples of this type of work are tuition reimbursement, charity gift matching, or following up on a paycheck error.


Employees spend significant time just trying to figure out where to go to resolve these types of issues. Once they think they have the right place to go, the next step is usually an e-mail or a phone call which sometimes lead to an out of office or voice mail. So the next step is another e-mail or phone call and soon more than 30 minutes has evaporated and the employee is still without an answer or resolution.


Automation, intelligent workflow, and guided choices for employees to complete tasks are the keys to future productivity gains within workforces. For many workers, having immediate and direct access to answers is far more high-touch than having to call a service center to speak with a representative. Employees want the power of information and technology at their fingertips – besides, a cloud-enabled portal doesn’t have hours of operations – it’s always open and answers are instantaneous.


Recently, a flight crew from a discount airline was waiting for a hotel shuttle bus and talking about where to go for a paycheck dispute. There were six people in the conversation and each person had a different answer of who to contact. Since the high-touch, phone-answering 1-800 number was only open 12 hours a day, there were lots of work around as far as how to circumvent the often 20 or 30-minute hold time for a representative to look into the situation.


If this even happened 50 times a day, for a global 24/7 operation, the cost implications are beyond significant. In this situation, one employee had a similar issue and was on the phone for over an hour resolving a problem…and on the clock the entire time. A paycheck question is one of the easiest things to solve through automated workflow – there is one place to go and technology helps the employee find the right person for that unique question.



Smart companies start by listening to their employees and finding out what tasks or procedures are causing the greatest frustration. Once you have a short list of “pain points” of high frustration tasks for employees, the work to automate can begin. The great news is that sizable gains can be made just by making information readily available and easy to find. Most companies are looking at overall search capability to serve up answers to an employee without that person having to know exactly where to go.


A search of tuition reimbursement should bring up the policy, a list of FAQs, the link to submit grades and transcripts, a selection of where the reimbursement should go and someone to contact in case of a unique situation (e.g., think of all the recent for-profit college closings in recent years – the right person should be reachable and available to assist in that situation).


When employees are frustrated and administrative items are ridiculously difficult to resolve, the greater productivity impact is around the stories being shared about the awful experience. When an employee’s life event is particularly sudden and there are delayed responses or confusing communications from multiple parties, the result is a worker who is frustrated AND upset.


Terrible experiences with HR cannot be ignored. People share them. It’s too good not to share…and vent…and complain about – and then others hop on the bandwagon of THEIR awful work situation that was confusing and took forever to resolve.


This is all solvable by getting employees used to going one place –one platform instead of multiple systems — to have their issues resolved. When there is a strong service delivery strategy and solution in place within an organization, it really doesn’t matter what the request is – the answer is easy to find, the employee gets a quick resolution and there’s no drama over a ridiculous process.


It is easy to start small and keep building out answers that keep people focused on their actual jobs. Employees should not have to spend a great deal of time and energy to be an employee. At least some of this time and energy can then be expended on real work — like completing projects, making deadlines and serving customers.

How an employee-as-customer mindset in HR can empower agile teams


How an employee-as-customer mindset in HR can empower agile teams


HR leaders can best support the empowerment of agile teams by thinking of employees as customers and expanding their focus on employees to include teams, writes Jeff Mike

In Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends survey, an overwhelming 90 percent of the respondents – 10,400 business and HR leaders across 140 countries – told us that creating organisations of the future was “important” or “very important” to them. In fact, they identified building new organisations as their most important challenge. Agility and agile teams play a central role in the organisation of the future, and as companies race to replace structural hierarchies with networks of teams, they are looking to HR for capacity and support.

Agile teams – nimble, entrepreneurial, cross-functional groups of employees that are already becoming ubiquitous at every level of organisations – are an essential component of tomorrow’s workplace. Fast-acting and purposeful, agile teams can not only navigate the vagaries of the marketplace, including volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA), but also mine them for opportunity.

Inside the makings of agile teams
What do agile teams need to achieve the empowerment necessary to operate at their maximum potential? They require a supportive culture and high levels of trust, inclusion, and accountability. When teams are imbued with trust, their members are better able to identify and act on opportunities for improvement, development, and innovation. Employee inclusion, both in teams and in the company as a whole, engenders an overall sense of belonging that helps enable employees to better connect with one another and to share their best ideas. And, high levels of accountability are necessary to help advance organisational strategies, with each successful encounter encouraging team members to seek out and accept more responsibility for their work.

“As companies race to replace structural hierarchies with networks of teams, they are looking to HR for capacity and support”

What can HR do to create agile teams
HR leaders can best support the empowerment of agile teams by thinking of employees as customers and expanding their focus on employees to include teams. This approach to enhancing the employee experience in agile teams can be accomplished by adopting a design-thinking mindset, creating personas, and mapping the employee journey.

  • Design thinking helps HR leaders to more intently focus on improving the experiences of team members – a fundamental break from the function’s traditional emphasis on compliance and processesDesign thinking studies the behavior and working scenarios of employee segments and then designs solutions that enhance their work lives. Design thinking is powered by empathy. By walking the proverbial mile in employees’ shoes, HR professionals can better understand, engineer, and deliver positive experiences.
  • Personas are constructed narratives that portray a typical employee’s experience on any given workday. Originally conceived by consumer marketers, personas give HR professionals a better understanding of what team members do by bringing their work to life through story. HR can use personas to identify and improve key attributes of effective teamwork that are embedded in employee attitudes, expectations, work habits, and goals.
  • Journey maps provide a step-by-step graphical depiction of the different aspects of a team member’s journey. They can be used to identify key moments in the work processes in agile teams. In turn, HR can use the insights derived from mapping those key moments to create experiences that maximise the engagement of team workers.

As companies strive to transform themselves into organisations of the future, HR is uniquely positioned to help.  Through the adoption of a employee-as-customer mentality and the tools of design thinking, HR leaders can better design the programs and solutions that agile teams need to become more engaged, more empowered, more challenged, and ultimately, more successful.

Image source: iStock

Solve Recognition Program Problems With Positive Action



If there is one thing I know from over 20+ years in the field of employee recognition, and that is that recognition programs always come equipped with their own set of problems.

You can guarantee whenever you introduce and implement an online recognition program that some challenges and issues will arise.

Hopefully, you will have others helping you administer your programs. However, even if you are the maverick, “Indiana Jones” of recognition programs, working solo on solving your challenges, the following suggestions should still help you.

1. Define your recognition program problem.

Make sure you clearly define the problem with your recognition program as clearly as possible. Write down the problem so that even a person unfamiliar with recognition programs in any way could easily understand the situation.

Take these typical examples into consideration:

  1. How to increase the participation levels and usage of our social recognition program
  2. A number of recipients of service awards have been notified where to order their award gifts online, but still have not gone online to select and order their gift.
  3. According to the latest engagement survey, our employees still don’t feel valued and appreciated even after we developed an incredible formal, President’s Excellence award program.

Make sure you clearly define the problem with your recognition program as clearly as possible.

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2. Generate alternative solutions for the problem.

For each problem statement above request alternative solutions and ideas from different people from a variety of departments, diverse backgrounds, and experiences. Brainstorm with the right people as many ideas and suggestions as is possible.

Increase participation levels

  • Start a communication campaign to better inform people of the program, its benefits, and set expectations of people to use it
  • Provide better measurement reports so managers know who is using the program and who isn’t to improve accountability
  • Need leaders to set a better example of consistently using the program in an effective way.

Not selecting award gifts

  • Accessibility of intranet website for all employees from different work groups to be able to order gifts online
  • Poor attitude of management in not presenting the awards in a meaningful way when the gift arrives
  • Selection of the gift awards is reportedly getting stale with poor options to choose from

Unappreciated employees on engagement survey

  • Evaluate what we’re currently doing across the three types of recognition (everyday, informal, and formal) and how they’re each perceived by our employees
  • What training do our managers and supervisors receive, on how to give meaningful and effective recognition?
  • Hold focus groups to determine exactly what our employees mean when they say they’re not feeling valued and appreciated

3. Evaluate and select an alternative solution.

Consider the different alternatives presented and determine what information and facts might be needed to validate the suggestion. Evaluate which solution is the least disruptive and most acceptable to the majority of people. Think about which alternative fits with our organizational culture and overall business strategy.

  • Conduct surveys of your employees to ask specific questions regarding the selected solution, that obtain quantitative, measurable responses as well as open-ended, qualitative input for improvement
  • Present proposed ideas to a sample number of employees in focus groups and ask for their pros and cons of the suggestions
  • Have leaders and managers rank order the different solutions against a pre-determined set of criteria

4. Implement and follow up on the selected solution

Involve as many people as possible in implementing the agreed upon solution to gain support with the needed changes. Provide monitoring, measurement of new steps and procedures, and ongoing feedback mechanisms for ensuring a successful implementation and ongoing quality improvement.

  • Assign a project manager, where possible, to the implementation plan for the selected solution or else create some realistic timelines
  • Create a 90-day action plan with 30-day follow up email reporting and a 90-day review meeting who you report to with a written summary report
  • Report back to executive, or manager, sponsor on the success of the solution in resolving the recognition program problem

Don’t let a problem become a sore thumb that ruins the success of your recognition program.

Don’t let a problem become a sore thumb that ruins the success of your recognition program.

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Get input from fellow Human Resource professionals or operational managers to help you solve the recognition program problems you’ve observed.

The sooner you address the identified problems the sooner you will benefit from the positive outcomes that recognition programs can bring.

There’s Value In Pulling Together Metrics


The hype about HR analytics is sufficiently disconnected from reality that it’s worth taking a step back and reviewing where we are.

Most of the work that companies are calling HR analytics is really just HR metrics. We’re getting good at reporting on head count, turnover, diversity and so on. Within a specific functional area like talent acquisition the metrics are operational numbers like positions open, number of applicants, and percentage of offers accepted. Each functional area has its own basic metrics that help set context (How many training courses did we do last year?) or help guide operations (How many people have yet to complete the compliance training? Are we on schedule?).

Metrics are good, and in a sense, this is the realization of a long-awaited attempt to ground HR in some core numbers. It’s great when a manager can finally open an app and get an accurate headcount for their unit. It’s great to be able to drill down into turnover numbers to see where the biggest problems lie. Let’s applaud that.

What we need to confront is that having good access to basic metrics is a far cry from HR being revolutionized by insights from Big Data.

There are some success stories around Big Data analytics, and for large, sophisticated organizations advanced analytics can be useful tool. However, these stories are relatively rare and not so relevant for average organizations.

This leaves us with the lesser publicized middle ground. There is a lot HR can do with basic data from the HRIS, other sources of evidence such as academic research, and Excel. The middle ground could be a typical HR professional pulling together a set of numbers in an afternoon or work by a skilled HR analyst (who is still by no means a data scientist) who can spend a couple of days on a project.

In my research, I’ve noticed that stories that start off sounding like advanced analytics (“We gathered and analyzed data using various methodologies to create predictive insights to inform strategies”) turn out to be middle level projects (“Actually, we just collected several reports, combined the data in one spreadsheet, and looked at the trends to decide what to do”). This doesn’t in any way diminish the value of the story, (i.e. that it’s mid-level rather than advanced). In many ways it’s more valuable because the cost was smaller and the time frame shorter. Let’s embrace the success while seeing it for what it was

There is a role for basic metrics, mid-level analytics, and advanced analytics. Let’s not confuse the three levels of work. Clarity around the level of work will lead to realistic expectations and better results.

Special thanks to our community of practice for these insights. The community is a group of leading organizations that meets monthly to discuss analytics and evidence-based decision making in the real world. If you’re interested in moving down the path towards a more effective approach to people analytics, then email me at


David Creelman

David Creelman, CEO of Creelman Research, is a globally recognized thinker on people analytics and talent management. Some of his more interesting projects included:

  • Conducted workshops around the world on the practical aspects of people analytics
  • Took business leaders from Japan’s Recruit Co. on a tour of US tech companies (Recruit eventually bought for $1 billion)
  • Studied the relationship between Boards and HR (won Walker Award)
  • Spoke at the World Bank in Paris on HR reporting
  • Co-authored Lead the Work: Navigating a world beyond employment with John Boudreau and Ravin Jesuthasan. The book was endorsed by the CHROs of IBM, LinkedIn and Starbucks.
  • Worked with Dr. Wanda Wallace on “Leading when you are not the expert” which topped the “Most Popular List” on the Harvard Business Review’s blog.
  • Worked with Dr. Henry Mintzberg on peer coaching, David’s learning modules are among the most popular topics.

Currently David is helping organizations to get on-track with people analytics.

This work led to him being made a Fellow for the Centre of Evidence-based Management (Netherlands) for his contributions to the field.