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October 31, 2006

Positive V/s Negative Metrics

"Measuring positive metrics means you move in a positive direction. Measuring negative metrics is like looking back at past failed relationships. It doesnt really get you anywhere."

Read the full post here. What do you think?

These are the thoughts I emailed to Alissa - (I just realised that this is the third consecutive post on my blog linking to her!)

"I like the distinction you draw between negative and positive metrics. I never really looked at them that way. And I think you are bang on when you say that whatever you measure must / can be improved - else its futile to measure it. However, I am wondering if we would be accurate in completely ignoring the negative metrics?

For example, in Sourcing, some common measures are "Offer to Joining Dropouts", "Interview Droputs", etc, all of which tell you at what stage of the recruitment process are you losing people. And this to me has often provided an insight into "why" I lose people and has led me to tweak / tighten the process for better outcomes. For example, a high offer to joinee drop out rate tells me that the candidate is getting excellent counter offers - so I need to figure out how I can counter that.

Ditto for Attrition - the most popular HR metric. Would you call that positive or negative?

Taking your relationship analogy forward, I would hate to dwell on previously failed relationships, but would definitely not like to commit the same mistakes! I think to the extent that they dont lead to analysis paralysis, negative metrics give you valuable inputs that you can build on."

Her responses to my email can be found here.

Her emphasis on "what went right" vis-a-vis "what went wrong" reminds me of the Positive Deviance Approach to manage change - focus on success and not failures.

October 29, 2006

The Myth of Talent

Alissa at HR Metrics Blog says

"Measuring talent is probably not the most effective use of your time

Talent is ability: I have the ability to clean my bedroom
Performance is actually getting the job done: My bedroom is a horrific mess

I have the talent for it, but when it comes to tidying, Im not much of a performer"

Great points!

And so what is it that makes you a great performer?

Hard Work and Practice!

October 25, 2006

Putting a Mirror to HR

According to this research conducted by Personnel Today on the HR function - the construction, catering and hospitality industries felt the profession added value to the business, while the banking, professional services, information technology, communications and social care sectors gave a thumbs down to HR. (Link via HR Metrics Blog)
You dont need to read this to find out why. Clearly, expectations of HR in labour intensive industries vis-a-vis knowledge intensive industries are different. The former seems to be pleased with HR's ability to pay on time and organize training programs effectively, while the latter is crying out loud "Do you even understand my business"?
Read this special feature for some even more distressing results on the value of the HR function. In a nutshell, HR professionals think "absenteeism" is the biggest problem on their hand (Question: Is absenteeism a problem, or a symptom of a problem?), Line Managers think HR is best known for General Administration and offers very little value for money.
And here are some highlights I reproduce from the feature: (The italicized sentences are my top of the mind reactions)
Women rate and value HR more highly than men. Is it because whatever little people know about HR - its mostly about touchy feely stuff?

The private sector values HR more highly than the public sector. Less bureaucracy, more innovation, flexibility permissible?

The smaller the organisation, the more highly its employees value the HR function. More visibility, greater impact?

The more senior the manager, the more highly they value the HR function. HR is often accused and legitimately so, of hobnobbing with senior management only. This one had to come back to us.

The construction sector values HR much more highly than IT. A function of expectations?

What are your thoughts? I would love to hear!

October 24, 2006

Drawing Parallels

You dont know driving - so you take lessons
You hate changing gears manually - so get yourself a car with automatic gear
You hate parking, especially, parallel parking - too bad....you gotta live with it!!!

Well not really!

According to this report from Fast Company Now, Toyota's Lexus LS comes with an optional Advanced Parking Guidance System that is designed to parallel park and reverse into a parking spot on its own.

I read this and go wow!!!! Parallel parking is any driver's BIGGEST PAIN AREA, and for me its one of the main reasons I dont take my car to places that dont make appropriate provisions for parking. And to think that this get done automatically (just some temperatmental issues to be taken care off, as the article says) is a big big delight!

And now Im wondering:
Do I know what the pain areas of my customers are? Or in Terry's words - Do I know what keeps my CEO up at night? And what have I done about it?

I, Me, Myself

Keith Ferrazzi, author of the book Never Eat Alone - on the five steps to brand yourself:

Talk about your expertise, with everyone you meet.
Prepare a formal one-hour talk with a deck of slides.
Write an article.
Write more articles.
Write a book.

And if you need help in making a great beginnning for your book, Kathy Sierra on Creating Passionate Users has some useful tips!

Teams - to work or not to work?

It goes back to school days when we would be separated from our best friend in class by the mandatory monthly shuffing of seats. Then came University, where project teams would be picked by our professors, lest we end up choosing our own friends. In every training I attend or take, some amount of time is always spent shuffling participant groups, lest people become comfortable with those sitting around their table.

“Don’t work in your silos”is what they are all essentially trying to say.

On her blog Evolving Ideas, Astha asks a very pertinent question – If silos foster greater team bonding skills and connectivity, then why do organizations resist their formations? She quotes examples of seating arrangements that play a role in building or curbing the formation of silos, both functional and non-functional.

Here’s my take:

Infrastructure in general, and seating in particular is a physical symbol of an organization’s culture. However, and I’ve said this
before, by itself it has no meaning.

What gives it meaning is employee experience.

For example, in the personal growth labs run by ISISD all participants & the facilitator sit on the floor to form a circle. There is a definite advantage in this kind of seating – all are one level playing field, there is an intimacy and closeness in the room that permits sharing, and this is in line with their principle of “learning through living” vis-à-vis “learning through theory”. Having said that, this seating only provides the context for change. For someone (like me) who has been unable to internalize the principles that the lab stood for, the seating had zero impact in triggering change.

I’m a firm believer in teams, cross functional or otherwise.

I’ve seen value in involving people who may seem like outsiders to your area, but end up giving you perspectives you may never ever have thought of. I also believe that two heads put together is anyday more powerful than just one head working.

So Yay to team work – but Nay to Exclusion.

Team work becomes counter productive when it fosters outgroup homogeneity, creates entry barriers, and promotes exclusion.

So how can we ensure this does not happen?

By being inclusive while being part of different teams.

This means respect for people, acceptance of different viewpoints, acknowledging the role of conflict in any process, and a willingness to learn from others. Quite a handful actually, but crucial nevertheless.

Another way of looking at this – organizations should encourage formation of networks – which are open, and allow for many interactions, and discourage formation of silos – which are watertight compartments.

Thanks Astha, for triggering off this post!

October 23, 2006

Whats your Golf Quotient?

You might want to push this upwards if its like mine - zero.

India's Premier Business School IIM Ahmedabad has introduced a course on golf - which includes practice sessions as well as theory classes, which will educate students on the link between golf, corporate leadership, business negotiation and networking.

Why? Because many crucial deals are struck on the golf course.

This brings me to the much abused word in corporates today "networking". Be it in campuses for getting jobs or in corporates for getting clients, networking is here to stay.

I recently attended a training program where we were given what the facilitator called a "Networking Stack". Very simply put, we were given 10 questions creatively woven into a story, which we could use every time we met a stranger in a social gathering. Basically, it was a memory aid, which each question serving as the trigger for the next question that you would ask the stranger.

Now this is where I think we get it wrong. Networking, at the end of the day is about having a genuine conversation, a dialogue, and too many times we get caught with "what next".

While organizations focus on provide tools for networking - (like golf, for example) - conversational & listening skills are what will help you actually connect, and that cannot be ignored.

October 15, 2006

Including the Whole Self

"Women came into the business as gatecrashers, but now its time for our own party. Lets not play the game, lets change it!"

Thats from Naked Truth - a book by Margaret Heffernan on business women and corporate reality.

I'm not as enticed by the whole "women" thing, as much as I am enticed by her approach towards "inclusiveness in a corporate culture"

Here in her article "Wise up", she makes an excellent point when she says that corporates only value skills like competitiveness, aggressiveness, dominance - all of which are traditionaly male dominated traits. So a woman, or even a man for that matter, who does not display these traits is quick to be passed up for that promotion or that plum assignment.

And in our struggle to be "that" person, what we are effectively doing is excluding our "whole self" from being taken to work. The doting father, the concerned mother, the emotional wife, are all left back at home because there is no space for them at work.

As Margeret says, the division of labour between work and home, also ended up dividing our intelligence, and we all ended up working with half our potential.

As Firms begin to embrace diversity, I think a key question will also be - how do we become more inclusive towards the "whole self" of the individual?

Structurally, there are many ways of doing this - flexi working arrangements, not scheduling meetings / calls after particular hours, work from home options, - basically allowing him to control his space. I guess this is what Best Buy was trying to do in their workforce experiment.

But i think this is just the tip of the iceberg. Real change is much more deep, and for that to happen, an organization has to truly embrace diversity in all kinds of abilities, skills and knowledge and know how to leverage the entire self and not just the partial self.

October 14, 2006

In the Business of Talent

I think most companies are beginning to realise that beyond the labels of "Banking", "Telecom", "Financial Services", etc - they are all basically in the business of talent. And that talent is what is crucial to the success of their operations.

Which is why investment banks and private equity firms are now focused on assessing the workforce of an organization before investing in it - says this article in Workforce Management

How does one do due diligence of talent? Some indicators I can think of:

Quality of leadership
Depth of leadership talent (does the Firm have succession plans?)
Employee churn
Diversity of talent - Organizations that make conscious efforts to inrease this show significantly better performance
Quality of people processes - whether it is around advancement, global mobility, cultural integration, job rotations

Not all of these will have quantitative measures, and the article also talks about how qualitative measures may be equally powerful in assessing talent. What all of this essentially boils down to is culture - and if you really look at it, it is the common thread that holds all systems together. A firm that encourages its leaders to think about who their successors will be is also telling that they would soon be moving into bigger roles and they should not pass those opportunities due to lack of planning. A firm that encourages global mobility is also giving a message about its commitment to cultural diversity. Culture is no longer writing on the wall - it is real, palapable, and a big diffrentiator for success.